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The Fog | Book One | Chapter Four

For a long minute, no one spoke. The room was quiet save to the sounds of the zombified Ted’s grunts and for Elijah’s music. It had been a very rousing rap song that Benjamin had never heard of, but that song ended. Instead, Frozen’s “Let It Go” filled the air. The absurdity of Disney music wafting through the air made Benjamin erupt into a stream of anxious, uncontrollable laughter.

Why did Elijah even have that song in his library? Benjamin wondered

“Well, he’s definitely a bit of a fixer upper,” Daisy quipped, waving a hand towards Ted.

“No one locked the door!” Alex blurted out, suddenly waving his arms.

“I thought you had it!” Elijah exclaimed.

“I thought you did!” Alex retorted.

“Who is that?” Sara asked, backing away and keeping the sofa between her and the zombie.

“That’s, uh, our roommate Ted,” Alex explained.

“He’s not an attractive man, but he normally doesn’t look quite so hideous,” Elijah added. “Green really isn’t his color.”

“Ugh!”

Daisy and Amber both scrambled away.

Benjamin stood frozen and alone between the zombie Ted and everyone else. There was a zombie right in front of him, and Benjamin’s heart beat so hard in his chest that he physically ached. But this was a zombie, and a morbid—or perhaps scientific—part of Benjamin was fascinated by the decaying impossibility before him.

How had this happened? Was it a virus? An act of ecoterrorism? Benjamin wondered.

With a fierce shout, Elijah suddenly bounded onto the sofa and lobbed the bust of Aristotle at zombie Ted’s head. The bust hit its mark. Ted’s head snapped back with a resounding crack.

“Aristotle!” Alex screamed. “No!”

There was a strange, mortified beat of silence, filled only by “Let It Go.”

“Honestly, that’s the most useful thing Aristotle has ever done for anyone,” Elijah said, crossing his arms.

Then, Ted tilted his head. He cracked his limbs, seemingly trying to straighten his head back up, but his neck appeared broken.

“Urgh! Aragh!” Ted exclaimed.

“Look, man,” Alex said, spreading his arms, “We didn’t mean to make you angry.”

“Why are you trying to reason with him?” Amber hissed.

Benjamin’s eyes searched the room, hoping—perhaps—for a bust of Plato or Socrates, something heavy that they could throw at Ted’s head again.

“Well, hey,” Alex replied, rubbing the back of his neck, “I mean, he knew to come home, right? The indicates that he at least remembers he lives here. Maybe he remembers other stuff, too.”

“Yeah!” Elijah exclaimed. “Come on, Ted. You’re—uh—great! I mean, we’re your friends. I know you’re in there somewhere!”

Dear God, Elijah sounded like he was repeating every sentence from every fantasy B-movie ever produced. Benjamin thought.

“I mean, this...uh, travesty couldn’t have happened to a nicer person,” Elijah added. “It’s tragic. So…uh, the power of friendship will see us through! Come back to us, Ted! I love the way you leave your dirty underwear all over the floor!”

“Ugh! Aargh!”

“I agree,” Elijah continued. “I have days like that, too.”

“We all do,” Alex added.

Benjamin felt his jaw slowly drop. There was a zombie, a real, groaning zombie, just a few feet away from him. No, no. It couldn’t really be a zombie. Whatever this was, there had to be a scientific explanation.

It was a zombie.

No, no, it wasn’t. Zombies only existed in horror movies.

But holy crap, it looked like a zombie. For some reason, that realization was taking a while to really sink in. Or maybe it wasn’t for some reason. The reason was because there was a zombie standing a few feet away from him. Benjamin pinched himself. It really hurt.

“And. Uh, I always kind of liked you,” Alex said. “And I’m never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down, or um…I can’t remember the rest, but the point still stands!”

“Yeah!” Elijah continued. “It’s so endearing the way you leave your dirty clothes to pile up in the shared hamper and refuse to do your laundry! And the way you cheat waitresses on tips!”

There was a thud and a pained grunt. Benjamin didn’t take his eyes off the zombie, but he suspected that Alex had kicked his roommate. Or maybe punched him.

One thing was clear, though. Elijah and Alex’s efforts to persuade their newly zombified roommate to be less of a zombie and more of a roommate were falling flat. They would probably have to fight this new zombie Ted, and because Benjamin was there, he should help. This was his grand opportunity to be a hero! This was finally a time for him to shine!

Benjamin’s pulse raced at lightspeed. His heart pounded like a drum in his chest. He imagined himself recklessly charging forward like the noble John Laurens at the Battle of Yorktown and helping the colonies earn their freedom. Benjamin imagined himself tackling the zombie to the ground and breaking it with his bare hands.

(Admittedly, Benjamin hadn’t really seen many zombie movies before, so he didn’t exactly know what zombie guts looked like. But a fantasy didn’t really need to be accurate, did it?)

Benjamin imagined emerging victorious, while Sara and her friends fawned over him. It would be the beginning of a new, beautiful future wherein Benjamin was no longer the under-appreciated science geek! He would be a hero! An icon! Then, the zombie took a hobbling step towards Benjamin.

All of Benjamin’s fantasies of herohood melted away. They were replaced with cold dread and hot terror. And oh, dear God, this was a zombie. An honest to God zombie! Benjamin panicked.

Although he would have denied it later, Benjamin screamed in an incredibly high-pitched manner that was quite reminiscent of a little girl.

He flew behind the sofa, nearly knocking over Alex in his attempt to escape the zombie. “Weren’t you prepared for this?” Benjamin screamed. “Weren’t you talking about machetes on the way over?”

“Oh! Right!” Alex exclaimed. “I have them, but I—I mean, that’s Ted! Our roommate! I can’t kill someone I know!”

“What do you mean you can’t kill someone you know?” Benjamin snapped. “You don’t even sound like you like the guy that much!”

“Haven’t you seen the movies?” Alex asked. “There’s always a zombie cure! I mean, like, nine times out of ten! I can’t kill Ted!”

“You can, too, kill Ted!” Elijah snapped. “We can all kill Ted! It’s about time that karma bit him in the butt for all the stuff he’s done to us!”

The men backed away as Ted ambled closer and closer to them. Sure, they could’ve easily outrun Ted, but Ted was also standing in front of the only exit that wouldn’t involve taking a swan dive out of a third story window.

“Remember last week when he ate all your Hershey’s bars?” Elijah asked. “You straight-up said that you wanted to kill Ted in his sleep! Here’s your chance! You can kill him, and he might not even feel it!”

“I didn’t mean literally!” Alex argued. “He pays the rent!”

“But is it really worth it? We pay the emotional rent of having to deal with him!”

Ted fell over the table, and everyone scattered. Benjamin floundered, lost in the sudden flood of movement. Elijah turned the coffee table on end and tried to use it as a makeshift shield to protect him from zombie Ted’s reaching claws. Alex ran into his room, hopefully to return with a machete. Benjamin ran back to the other side of the sofa.

Sara and her friends had vanished.

Benjamin had no time to worry about where they had gone. They weren’t dead, and Benjamin supposed that was enough.

“What do we do?” Benjamin screamed, his voice still in an embarrassingly high pitch. “He’s a zombie!”

“You think I know?” Elijah shouted, shoving the table against Ted.

“Let It Go” ended and was replaced with the very bass-heavy, loud boom of baseball victory music.

As if the music had summoned her, Sara, had massive kitchen knives in each hand, emerged from the kitchen.

Amber and Daisy flanked her, the former carrying a giant, iron skillet and the latter having settled on a baseball bat.

For a split second, time seemed to stand still. Benjamin imagined how, if this was a horror movie, the camera would have panned in. It would have gone right up the ladies legs and to Sara’s stunning face. A fog machine might have been placed behind them, just to make their appearance that much more awesome. “Ladies,” Sara said, “Let’s slay a zombie.”

Sara strode forward, like powerful femme fatale. She was glorious, like every computer nerd’s fantasy come to life and made a billion times better.

“I’m ready!” Alex exclaimed, racing in with his machete. “Ted’s going to be Ted’s dead soon!”

“Great!” Elijah shouted. “Stab him!”

Elijah slammed the table, yelling as Ted struggled to move around it.

“Hey, ugly!” Amber shouted.

The zombie slowly turned his head and ambled to the women. Sara took a fighting stance. With a groan, Ted dove for her, his clawed hands extended and swiping wildly at the air.

With a piercing scream, Sara lunged forward and drove a steak knife into Ted’s neck. Benjamin watched, mesmerized, as Sara pulled the knife back with a burst of blood and green-tinted gore. There should’ve been something threatening about watching a knife-wielding woman stab a zombie roommate, but Benjamin couldn’t help but think the action was incredibly hot. Smoking hot. He might let Sara stab him with a knife.

If there was a good reason, anyway. Not that there could be that many good reasons for stabbing another person with a knife, but hypothetically

Sara whipped her hand back.

Slowly, Ted turned around, and Sara stabbed him again and again, plunging and pulling the knife with a sort of discomforting ease. “Aim for the head!” Alex shouted, waving his machete. “That’s the only way to kill the zombies!”

Amber darted in and stuck a knife in Ted’s skull. The zombie moaned, but he continued thrashing and flailing and gnawing and spitting. Amber tried to retrieve her knife, but Ted kept trying to bite her, making it impossible.

“Stand back!” Elijah shouted.

Amber and Sara darted out of the way.

With a burst of energy, Elijah shoved the table forwards and onto Ted. Seemingly caught off-guard and unsteady, Ted fell, buried beneath the table. Only his head poked out. Still, his teeth and jaw moved, rocking from side to side. “Urgh! Aargh!” Ted complained.

Alex climbed over the table and brought his machete down on the zombie’s neck. Benjamin expected a beheading, something fast with a gratuitous amount of blood. That didn’t happen. Instead, the knife went partway through. Alex grunted and pulled it free.

Then, he looked down on his roommate. “Should we say a few words?” Alex asked, pausing with his bloodied blade. “I mean, this doesn’t feel right.”

“Just behead him,” Sara insisted. “I mean, he’s a zombie.”

“But he’s our zombie roommate,” Alex argued. “Besides, I tried, and my machete wouldn’t go through his neck.”

Sara frowned. “Well, try beheading him again!”

Elijah climbed onto the table and sat there, keeping the zombie in place beneath it. “Can we hurry it up?” Elijah asked.

Alex took a deep breath and raised the machete again. He brought it down as hard as he could, and with one final groan, Ted’s zombified head rolled away, spewing blood and gore over the floor.

Ted’s body twitched several times before it grew still.

“Now, what?” Benjamin asked.

He still stayed far away from Ted’s body. Benjamin was really sort of hoping that if he made a half-hearted attempt to take charge then, everyone might overlook the fact that he’d screamed like a little girl and done absolutely nothing to stop the zombie Ted from nearly infecting everyone.

Sure, Benjamin was deeply ashamed of that fact, but at the same time, it wasn’t like he’d had much experience in trying to fend off zombies that were trying to eat his brains.

“I suppose we have to do something with the body,” Sara mused.

“Maybe we burn it?” Alex suggested. “That usually works no matter what supernatural creature you’re dealing with.”

“True,” Amber mused. “I don’t really care, though, as long as we do…something. Ew. This is so gross, and I mean, just think of all the blood-borne pathogens! Ugh.”

“Maybe they’ll say something about it on TV?” Elijah suggested.

“They might,” Benjamin replied. “I imagine they’ll have non-stop coverage of this.”

Elijah silenced the music coming from his speakers and flipped on the TV. After a moment’s pause, Elijah sat on the sofa and propped his feet up on the overturned coffee table, still with Ted’s now decapitated body lying beneath it.

Slowly, Benjamin sat beside Elijah. Followed by Sara. Amber perched on the arm of the sofa, as far away from Ted’s body as she could possibly get. Daisy stood behind her, swinging the baseball bat back and forth. Benjamin nervously eyed the movements of the bat. Daisy caught his gaze and slowly smirked.

The news featured a different reporter, a brunette woman in a pop pink dress. “Again, we cannot stress this enough, if you see this fog, you need to get indoors. It does appear that the fog is moving locations and leaving zombies in its wake.”

Benjamin craned his neck and peered out the window. The sky outside was free of fog and appeared strangely and foreign benign with everything that had happened that night.

“We recommend that everyone take appropriate precautions. If you are in trouble and are in close vicinity of the fog, first responders will be unable to help you,” the news woman continued.

“Just tell us what to do with Ted,” Elijah said. “I swear. Even dead, he’s a pain. That takes skills. You know?”

“That’s not nice to say about a dead person,” Alex replied. “I mean, I do think we ought to say a few words.”

Elijah sighed and closed his eyes. “Ted always paid his rent on time. That was very gracious of him.”

“Yes, it was,” Alex replied, nodding sagely.

“And I don’t hate the way he would sometimes pitch in for pizza,” Elijah said. “It hardly makes up for the many other terrible things he did, but at least, he had his moments.”

“Amen,” Alex said.

Sara leaned forward and flicked a manicured finger across her phone screen. “I’m going to try calling someone,” she announced.

“Like who?” Alex asked.

“The police,” Sara replied.

A pause.

“They put me on hold,” Sara said, sighing. “Great.”

“Why don’t we just throw it outside?” Elijah asked. “I mean, we can’t keep it in here. We can’t call the first responders. Let’s just—you know—toss him out the window or something.”

“Out the window,” Benjamin deadpanned.

“He might have a point there,” Sara replied, standing. “The best course of action is probably to throw him outside and lock the door. I doubt it’ll be safe to go out with this zombie mess, anyway.”

Amber climbed to her feet and bolted to the door. The click of the lock seemed disproportionately loud compared to everything else.

Elijah removed his feet from the overturned table and pulled the table off Ted. “Well,” Elijah said, looking between Ted and the window, “I’d be lying if I said I’d never fantasized about throwing Ted out a window, but I never thought I’d get the chance to actually do it.”

Sara cracked her knuckles and crouched by Ted’s headless neck. “Well, let’s do it, then,” she said.

Alex crossed the room and pulled open the window. Sara grabbed Ted’s shoulders, while Elijah grabbed Ted’s feet. Together, they lifted Ted off the ground. A sharp crack sliced through the air. Ted’s spine had cracked in half, and he folded up like an accordion.

“I always told him he needed to take those multi-vitamins,” Elijah said sagely. “He clearly has a potassium deficiency.”

Once Sara and Elijah reached the window, they peered down. Then, they shoved Ted against the window. Again. And again. Several cracks sounded through the room as Ted’s bones splintered and twisted, but despite Sara and Elijah’s best efforts, Ted wasn’t going through that window.

With a grunt, Elijah tried to force Ted still through the window. Sara smashed a fist against Ted’s spine, trying to push him further out, but still, Ted refused to go through the window.

“I don’t think he’s going,” Benjamin said.

“Ugh, no,” Sara agreed, dropping her part of Ted.

“Maybe we should just drag him out into the hallway,” Elijah said. “Let the cleaning crew deal with him.”

“Maybe they’ll replace the carpet, then!” Alex exclaimed. “It’s hideous!”

“That’s true,” Sara said, shrugging. “I’m game.”

Sara and Elijah each grabbed one of Ted’s legs and dragged him across the floor. Amber opened the door for Sara and Elijah as they dragged out Ted. Once Ted was lying in the middle of the hallway, Sara and Elijah stood over his corpse for a couple of minutes. “Well,” Sara said, “Do you think we should just leave him or take him outside? We could take him downstairs.”

“I don’t really want to cart him down all those,” Elijah replied, scratching the back of his neck.

“Maybe the elevator?” Benjamin suggested.

 “Well, I think we should just leave him,” Elijah said, “Ted’s dead. I mean, it’s not like it really matters where we leave him.”

“Maybe we should get some more booze and then worry about taking him downstairs,” Daisy said.

“That does sound like a good idea,” Sara said.

They all returned back into the guys’ apartment. “Oh, we forgot his head!” Sara exclaimed, pointing to the decaying head still laying on the carpet.

Elijah crossed the room, grabbed Ted’s head by his hair, and lobbed it out the window. It fell like a very ugly, macabre shooting star and landed with a sound reminiscent of a smashed pumpkin. Ted’s dead.

***

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