The Flog | Book One | Chapter Five
Benjamin had never been this close to having an existential crisis in his entire life. What on Earth had his life become? Now that he was no longer in danger of being bitten by a zombie, it was really beginning to sink in for Benjamin that his life had just taken a hard-right turn into crazy land.
Zombies. There were actual zombies. Now, Benjamin had so many questions. If zombies existed, what else existed? Did vampires exist? Could vampires defeat zombies? Could vampires turn into zombies? Or zombies into vampires? Benjamin’s whole life had shattered apart, and he was now starting to wish he’d read more of that Supernatural porn. The plot had involved a succubus or something. Admittedly, Benjamin hadn’t meant to look at the file, but the computer owner had left it up. It had seemed well-researched.
The TV had flipped to a commercial for Viagra of all things.
“So now, we just have to clean this all up,” Amber declared.
“It’s going to take an act of God to get all that blood out of the carpet,” Alex replied, frowning. “Maybe we should just throw it out with Ted. Maybe we should’ve wrapped Ted in it. That would have made our lives much easier, and that would’ve been more respectful, anyway.”
“The blood won’t be hard,” Amber replied, with a dismissive wave. “Just a little bit of hydrogen peroxide, and it’ll come right off. No problem at all.”
“We don’t have any of that,” Elijah replied.
“We don’t have anything except rum and beer,” Alex said.
Amber rolled her eyes and waved her hand. “Come, come. I’ll take you all to the cleaning supplies. I have a ton of them.”
Obediently, Benjamin, Alex, and Elijah followed Amber into the women’s apartment. Benjamin glanced around. There wasn’t much to look at—furniture and stacks of half-opened boxes. In short, it looked just like it had earlier when they had all taken furniture in, but Benjamin had been too tired to get a really good look at it, then.
Once their arms were laden with cleaning materials of all kinds, they returned to the apartment. The place where Ted had lain was stained with blood and grime. Amber pulled on a pair of latex gloves and let the fabric snap against her wrist. “This is going to be a blast,” Amber said. “There is little more satisfying than cleaning up a really huge mess.”
Benjamin completely disagreed, but he also had a pretty good sense of self-preservation. That sense of self-preservation was telling him not to urge with someone who was covered in zombie guts.
Especially when Daisy was standing beside her and swinging the baseball bat. That had a way of making a man quiet and compliant.
Instead, Benjamin pulled on a pair of latex gloves. Amber grabbed the bottle of hydrogen peroxide and dumped a liberal amount on the carpet. It bubbled and fizzed as it came into contact with Ted’s zombie blood.
Everyone dropped the ground and began scrubbing. While most of Ted’s blood was pooled around where his body had been trapped beneath the table, it had spread all over the place and into the hallway.
Thankfully, it wasn’t really their problem if there was blood in the hallway. Or a decapitated body.
Benjamin scrubbed and scrubbed until his hand was swore. At some point, someone had turned up the TV, and the sound of the news lady became a persistent hum. Every few minutes, Benjamin would notice it and raise his head to listen. Presently, the woman was interviewing a man dressed in all camo with the thickest Southern drawl Benjamin had ever heard.
“Do you think this will be a one-time thing?” Alex asked. “Or do you think we’ll be fighting zombies from now on?”
“No idea,” Benjamin replied.
“At least, the fog has blown away,” Daisy replied.
While everyone else was scrubbing away with hydrogen peroxide, Daisy was mixing up some sort of special organic cleaner made of lemongrass and something or other. Benjamin had stopped listening after the fifth ingredient.
“It looks like it’s moving out west,” Sara said, nodding to the TV.
Benjamin glanced up. The news showed a large map of the United States with a white, foggy patch moving across it. Presently, the fog had moved away from New York City and appeared to be hovering somewhere over Michigan.
“The National Guard has been called in to help,” the news woman said. “People in the line of the fog have been asked to prepare for the worst and to remain indoors. Presently, scientists are trying to understand the nature of this fog, but there is currently no known cure for what is being called the “zombie virus.” Thus far, all reports of zombie sightings have been located on the east coast. Those infected are highly contagious, and the National Guard is recommending that anyone infected be quarantined.”
“So Ted probably won’t be the only dead body,” Alex said. “That does make me feel a little bit better.”
Sara stretched and pulled off her gloves with a loud snap. “Well, it looks like we got everything,” she said, grimacing at the rust-colored washcloths. “We should probably throw these out and buy more. Just in case the zombie virus is spread by touch or something.”
Amber shuddered. “No kidding,” she replied, gingerly picking up the rags and throwing them into a trashcan. “At least, they weren’t my nice ones. I’d have been really mad, then.”
“Mmhmm,” Daisy agreed. “God, I think I need—like—a whole twelve-pack of beer.”
“Hey, do you think we should take Ted outside, then?” Alex asked. “You know. Considering what the news lady said about quarantine. I mean, we don’t really want him decaying in the hallway anyway, do we?”
“That’s true,” Benjamin replied, grimacing.
“I suppose you have a point,” Elijah replied, sighing.
Reluctantly, the group headed towards the hallway. Benjamin’s stomach lurched as he stared at Ted’s corpse. Now that there wasn’t any present danger, it was beginning to sink in just what had happened, and Benjamin thought he really might throw up.
“I don’t think we’re going to be able to carry him down the stairs,” Amber said.
“Maybe we should’ve chopped him up and thrown him out the window,” Sara mused.
“I’m not going to lie,” Elijah said. “I never would have guessed that Ted would die by the zombie virus.”
“He’s not a zombie,” Benjamin said absentmindedly.
“What?” Elijah asked.
“Zombies don’t exist,” Benjamin pointed out. “It’s obviously something else.”
“Well, what would you call it, then?” Sara asked.
“I mean, I think it looks very zombie,” Daisy added.
Benjamin frowned and wrinkled his nose. If he managed to be the person to name whatever this was, he’d be famous. This could be his moment to really break into the field of biomedical academia!
“I say we call them Teds,” Alex replied, “As a way of…er, honoring our dead roommate.”
This zombie virus was not going to be called Ted. Benjamin would not stand for that.
“It might be easier to kill them if they’re named after Ted,” Elijah replied.
“I’m fine with Ted,” Sara replied. “It’s kind of fun.”
“But it’s not scientific,” Benjamin said.
“And what? Are you a scientist?” Elijah asked.
Elijah paused. “Uh…are you being sarcastic?”
“No,” Benjamin replied. “I majored in biomedical sciences, and the name should be something like homo sapiens morte.”
“That’s wonderful,” Daisy said, leaning her weight on her baseball bat. “We’ll call them Teds for short.”
“Agreed,” Amber said.
That wasn’t quite how Benjamin had wanted things to go, but they’d eventually come around to his name. He was sure of that.
“So we’re just going to leave Ted here?” Alex asked. “That’s going to smell, too.”
“Maybe,” Amber said, “But I’m sure the Center for Disease Control will probably have people out disposing of the Teds. We can try contacting them in the morning.”
“Good plan,” Alex said.
“Well, it has been a really long day,” Sara replied. “I’ve never had such an exciting move-in day in my life.”
“That’s right,” Elijah replied. “Welcome to the neighborhood. Feel free to come over and visit us anytime.”
Everyone walked back into the guys’ apartment, leaving Ted to decay in the middle of the hallway.
“I might take you up on that,” Sara said, throwing her gloves into the trashcan. “I doubt anything brings people together quite like killing zombies.”
“Maybe Tindr,” Amber joked.
Benjamin laughed and threw his gloves in after Sara’s. As he did, their eyes briefly met. Once more, Benjamin marveled at just how blue hers were. She had a boyfriend. Benjamin mentally reminded himself of that. She was off-limits.
“Why don’t you ladies stay over here tonight?” Elijah asked.
Sara arched an eyebrow and retrieved her long-abandoned steak knife from the kitchen counter. “I think we’ve proven that we’re more than capable of taking care of ourselves, Elijah,” she said.
“Definitely,” Elijah agreed, “But there’s still safety in numbers.”
“That’s fair,” Sara said.
The women settled together on the sofas. Benjamin went to join them, but then, he remembered that it wasn’t also his apartment. He lived somewhere else, somewhere all the way across New York City. Benjamin sighed.
“Oh, I guess we need to look at how we’re getting you home,” Elijah said, seeming to realize the same thing. “I almost forgot you don’t live here, too. Talk about the worst Uber ride ever, huh?”
“Hey! It was a great ride until the Ted’s showed up!” Alex protested.
“I’m sure it was,” Elijah replied, rolling his eyes.
Alex sighed and scratched the back of his head with the handle of his machete. “We can’t take my baby,” he said. “I probably shouldn’t move her until I hear back from insurance, and that Shakespeare troupe destroyed her anyway.”
“Shakespeare troupe?” Elijah asked.
“They were infected,” Benjamin explained.
“Huh,” Elijah said. “Well, I’ve got my bike, but that’s going to be cold. And if we were attacked by any Teds, it wouldn’t provide that much protection. How far away do you live, man?”
“I live miles away,” Benjamin said, slumping against the wall, “But I don’t know if I really want to go back anyway.”
“No?” Alex asked. “What’s wrong with your apartment?”
“My girlfriend. My ex-girlfriend,” Benjamin explained. “She lives there, and well…”
Suddenly, Benjamin wondered if Leslie would still be there and if she’d turned into a zombie like Ted had. Benjamin’s heart ached. Sure, Leslie had cheated on him, but that didn’t mean Benjamin wanted her to turn into a zombie. It might have been nice if a couple of zombies had keyed her car, though. Maybe slashed her tires. Benjamin briefly imagined the zombified members of the Shakespeare company just straight-up gnawing on the front tire of Leslie’s silver Porsche. Or maybe it wouldn’t be them. Maybe it would be a zombie dog. Or zombie Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton was still playing on Broadway, wasn’t it?
“She cheated on you,” Alex said, cutting into Benjamin’s increasingly outlandish revenge fantasies. “I see.”
“Cheated on you?” Elijah asked.
Benjamin nodded morosely. Something about Elijah asking about it made the situation suddenly worse somehow. “It was the most cliché cheating story ever, too. I came home from work early and found her in bed with another man,” Benjamin said. “That’s why I took an Uber in the first place. I just needed to get away for a while.”
And boy, had he.
“Ouch! I wouldn’t want to go back either,” Elijah replied. “Why don’t you—you know—stay here with us?”
“I mean, we could honestly use another roommate now that Ted is dead,” Alex said. “He was splitting a third of the rent with us, and now, that he’s dead, we’re kind of up a creek without a paddle.”
“Sure,” Elijah said. “We’ll eBay Ted’s stuff and move you right in. It’s the least we can do after—well—all of this.”
“Please, still give me five stars on Uber,” Alex said. “I ruined my precious baby in helping you escape from Ted’s.”
Benjamin laughed despite himself. Alex looked vaguely offended, like maybe he’d been deadly serious in his worries over his sky-blue Versa Note.
Elijah leaned against the door of his apartment and jerked his head towards the sofa, where Sara and her friends had settled. The women clinked their bottles of beer together. In the women’s other hands, they held their weapons—a knife, a pan, and a baseball bat.
“You’d get to see that any time you were home,” Elijah said, keeping his voice low.
Yes, that would be a definite benefit. Slowly, a grin broke its way across Benjamin’s face. He nodded and held out his hand for Elijah to shake.
“Sure, why not?”
“Perfect,” Elijah said, forgoing the shake and throwing an arm across Benjamin’s shoulders. “I’ll get some booze, and we’ll seal the deal.”
“Booze?” Daisy asked, peering over the sofa. “Any chance you have pickles? While you’re in the fridge anyway.”
“Uh…sure,” Elijah replied. “We might have some. I’ll look.”
As Elijah headed to the kitchen, Alex clapped Benjamin on the back. “Welcome to our humble abode!” he declared. “Castle Alex is officially Castle Alex and Benjamin! Teds need not…uh, apply!”
Benjamin plopped onto the sofa opposite Sara and her friends.
“So I guess we’re both new to the apartments, huh?” Sara asked.
“I guess so,” Benjamin replied.
“Oh, no!” Elijah’s shout burst through the air, loud enough to wake the dead.
Sara leaped to her feet, Amber and Daisy a half-second behind. Elijah ran from the kitchen, waving a bottle of wine. “It’s an emergency!” Elijah yelled.
Assuming it was another Ted, Benjamin climbed to his feet, placing himself firmly behind everyone else.
“What is it?” Sara asked, brandishing her knife.
“We’re all out of beer!” Elijah exclaimed. “We’ve drunk the apartment dry! All we have is this bottle of merlot!”
Everyone groaned in a mixture of relief and distress and dropped back onto the sofa cushions.
“This sucks,” Sara said.
“Definitely,” Alex added.
“What are we going to do?” Amber asked.
“Do you think The Queen Vic survived?” Elijah mused.
“There’s no way to know without checking,” Benjamin replied.
“Well, I don’t know about you all, but I could really use a stiff one,” Daisy said, swinging her bat into the empty air before her. “Onwards and upwards!”
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Check out the next installment here > Beer run.
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