“Lazarus was the first zombie.”
— D. Hutchings
A final wrench at the gauzy wrapping, and he freed himself and rolled off the plinth at the same time. He landed mostly on his right arm, and would have screamed, but his throat felt as though full of rotten mush, and he breathed in new reek sharply. He pushed himself off the floor, all of his fingertips in agony and feeling as if the finger bones were poking through the too-soft flesh, then with one more helpless gasp threw himself past the foot of the plinth, towards what some part of him knew was the exit.
He was blind, in a stinking airless world with no light at all, but his ruined hands found a stone wall just as he noticed the sensation of his foot-bones sinking through the pulpy meat of his feet to the thickly callused soles. He pushed to the left, applying the weight to his palms, and felt the rock move a little under his left hand. With another gasp, each breath feeling like a poisoned spear in his side, he replaced his right hand above the left and pushed again. This time the rock moved half a hand span, and now he could feel fresh air and hear screams coming from without. He was still blind.
He pushed again, and now it seemed as if other hands were pushing from the other side, and the rock rolled enough to form an opening perhaps four hand spans wide. Navigating by placing a hand on either side of the opening, he pushed himself through to outside.
Past the stone, he swayed a little, and the screams he heard changed pitch and intensity. He tried to step forward, but his ankle was still caught in the shroud and he tripped and fell. His arms swung out uselessly to break his fall, and as his hands splattered against the ground. In the moment before the pain hit again, it occurred to him that although the stench had lessened it was still present.
The screams changed to wailing, and then he felt a presence come near and a hand touch his shoulder.
“My friend,” murmured a voice very low, but close enough he could hear it over the cries, “I’m so sorry.” And suddenly he was puking with no control or thought, puking where he lay, and something pushed from behind each of his eyeballs, and something fell from each of his lids. He blinked away thick muck from his eyes, and lo! He could see again. The first things he saw were two rotten eyes lying in a pile of entrails and awful filth, and that made him puke even more.
After what seemed an eternity, there was nothing left to vomit, and the hand that had stayed on his shoulder pressed while the voice said, “Come, stand up with me.” And as he stood the stench left, and as he leaned against the hand and arm for support the offal vanished from the ground where it lay.
And the wailing turned to whimpering, and he looked over, amazed, for it was his mother and sister prostrate on the ground nearby who were so inconsolable. And the voice said, “Go home and leave us. He will stay with me a few days, while you prepare for his return.” And his mother and sister leapt from the ground and ran away, veils covering their lowered heads.
And he looked in wonder to see whose hand it was that had stayed on his shoulder the whole time, and he saw it was a friend of his family.
He opened his mouth to speak, but the man said again, “I’m so sorry,” then looked away, as if ashamed. His friend drew a long breath, then looked him in the face again. “They begged me, and I wanted to know... if it’s any consolation, I will have to do it by myself not long from now.”
He finally found his tongue. “No-one should have to go through that,” he said, his throat thick as though still decayed.
“I’m sorry,” was all the man said, and led him away to meet his companions.
Re: D. Hutchings — Darren Hutchings does a lot of different things, but one of them is make zombie movies as a partner in Post-Life Productions. His first film, The Post-Lifers, has been released and screened in Canada, the USA, and Germany. His second film is almost done. Read more here.