Beadle and me schlepped home from school to work on a video game he’d invented. Funny how our parents didn’t allow video games, but let us make one. A few guys unloaded a casket from a hearse at the Linden Mortuary, and for reasons we didn’t understand, one of them opened it up to take a look.
I’d seen my grandpa and Al’s uncle at their funerals, but Beadle—that’s Harry’s nickname, remember?—had never seen a dead guy before and just kind of gawked for a minute. The body was a red-haired man with a respectable beard. He reminded me of that singer with the guitar my mom really likes. When the guy looking at it noticed us, he quickly shut it, and they rolled it inside.
“Kind of weird,” Harry said.
“I’ve never seen them do that before.”
We’d pretty much forgotten about it until three days later, me, Damien, Al, and Harry walked to school after shooting some baskets at the park next to the college, and Harry stopped in his tracks, face sheet white, his mouth hanging open.
“What’s wrong?” asked Damien.
I followed Harry’s eyes. My veins turned to ice because the dead man from the casket now walked down the sidewalk from Linden’s, some round container in his hand.
“He’s got to be a zombie,” I said.
“And he’s carrying a brain,” said Harry.
“Take cover now!” I hissed. We dashed into the 7-Eleven and hid behind one of the shelves to watch the man take step after lethargic step. ‘Lethargic’ is a word my mom uses to describe someone who’s sluggish. Harry and I explained to the others what we’d seen, and they came to the same rational conclusion. He had to be a zombie.
After he passed by, we couldn’t bring ourselves to go to school.
Damien snorted. “If he bites someone, this could be the beginning of the zombie apocalypse.”
“That’s right.” Al handed me the basketball and moved up to the window. “We’ve got to stop him.”
“Agreed,” I said.
“Let’s kick some zombie butt,” said Al.
“Maybe the brains in his jar will keep him from attacking live people for a while,” said Harry.
We crept out and followed him from a distance, down Spencer avenue until he turned into the woods across from the college. We followed him into the trees, familiar territory to us.
“At least he’s going away from people,” said Harry.
“Ssh.” Damien put his finger to his lips. “Listen.”
“What is that?” asked Al.
Harmonizing voices and a gentle guitar came from deep into the woods.
“The grass-eaters,” I said.
“You mean like weed-monsters?” asked Al.
“No. They’re back-to-nature campers,” I said. “We’ve got to warn them.”
“Agreed,” said Damien. “They’re sitting ducks. Probably singing around the campfire and ignoring their backs. One bite and it will be mayhem. There’ll be too many to contain.”
“Damien, you and Beadle keep following the zombie while me and Al warn the grass-eaters.” I always take charge in these situations. Not even sure why, but everyone seems cool with it.
The grass-eaters were still singing when me and Al got to their clearing. They had a good number of tents, but they gathered in front of a huge one in the middle.
Al broke in. “There’s a zombie in the woods.”
They stopped singing.
“You better keep watch in case he comes this way,” I said.
A man with dreadlocks set his guitar aside. “Zombie, ay?”
“What’s your names, boys?” asked a long-haired man
Al raised his hand. “I’m Al.”
“Jimmy,” I said.
He stood up and walked over to shake our hands. “I’m Gerald. Where’d you see him?” He had a kind of glint in his eyes, like they were always smiling.
I pointed in the direction I thought he was headed. “Somewhere over that way. Two of our friends are following him. So you believe us?”
He shrugged. “I haven’t found a reason to doubt you. That’s down by Nettle Creek. So where’d he come from?”
They explained how he’d come from Linten Mortuary.
“We better see if your friends are safe.”
About ten of them were about to head into the woods with us when Damien and Beadle came rushing into the clearing. They fell on the ground in front of us, gasping and panting.
“What happened to you guys?” asked Al.
“Is he coming?”
Damien shook his head and coughed. “We followed him to the creek. He dumped the jar into it, letting the brains wash away. Maybe he was still fighting against the disease.”
Beadle pushed himself up. “He turned back and came right for us.”
“Did he see you?” I asked.
“Not sure,” said Beadle. “We just started running.”
Gerald gave the boys some water. “Poured the jar’s contents into the creek?”
“Yes,” said Damien.
“You guys just keep safe,” said Damien. “We’ll try to pick up his trail again and warn the police of his whereabouts.”
They never did find him or his trail, so they assumed the disease got the better of him before he could make it out of the forest. It just didn’t seem plausible for a zombie to be on the loose with no deaths reported.
Harry went to Mr. Linden to discuss what we saw, and according to Mr. Linden, the dead man had a twin. But isn’t that just the kind of thing someone would say to cover up nightmarish occurrences in their business establishment so that people wouldn’t be scared away? We never had proof that there was a twin, and none of us saw the body go into the ground. So in my notebook under case number eight, I wrote the word ‘Unsolved.’