It was a sunny day, with a slight breeze to relieve the heat. The streets were busy, as busy as it could be on a Wednesday afternoon. Some had places to go, others had time to enjoy the view. A few walked into the café, ready for lunch.
Inside a radio was blaring, a melody of love lost was coming to an end.
“And that was Betty Lamb’s Heaven. After her interview last week revealing that the song was dedicated to her husband, who had died in the Zombie Outbreak. It has flown up the charts to number 1.”
The man at the far end corner table, swallowed his tea. He nipped the droplet that fell on his lips with his tongue and flipped the page of a book he was reading.
“It’s been a year since the cure has been found by Dr. Ramonez, and the Government brought back our families and friends. Today, we got the honor of having Dr. Ramonez in our studio to talk to us bout the discovery and how it has affected our lives today. Welcome Doctor.”
“Thank you, James, please, call me Artz”
The cup in the man’s hand slipped. Ceramic hit ceramic, and a drop of tea escaped the cup. It landed on the little saucer, staining the otherwise spotless set. The man blinked away the vision of blood drying in the snow.
“Excuse me? Sir?”
He looked up to see his petite, black-haired waitress look at him shyly. Blushing furiously and fidgeting with her own hair, he read the label pinned to her chest.
“Please Jess, call me Matt.”
She frowned, blinked, before looking down at her label. Her mouth made a small little o as the realization hit. She smiled again.
“Well, Matt, would you like anything else?”
“No, thank you, I’m alright,” He gave her a reassuring smile, as he put his right hand over his left forearm.
“Alright” She gave a smile curtsy and left.
“Oh no wait!” He called back, remembering.
A few people in the street turned, with shock on their faces.
“ - Well to answer that question James, we have to go back to what the serum is made up of. When I initially created it, I was in quite the hurry, so I only worked with what I had and what was needed to have the serum working. It was crude and rudimentary. Created only to bring back the consciousness of the victim.
Of course in the past year we have been working on developing a better serum, we couldn’t really focus on adding chemicals that would make them forget what they have done. We have tried, but the more we added the more the serum wouldn’t work. Part of the serum's design is to bring the brain, in a sense, back to life. You can’t do that and suppress memories at the same time.”
“So there are some chemicals in the serum that try and prevent them from remembering.”
“Only a little, but yes, just enough to not work against the serum’s actual design.”
A little girl’s screams broke through the crowd. Matt looked up to see a small child sitting clumsily on the pavement where she fell. There were tears in her eyes, looking around confused and scared.
“Baby! Mommy’s here!” A woman’s voice called. “Let me through!” The blonde woman shoved her way through the crowd.
A man stumbled, another caught him. The sunny afternoon turned cold. Matt could hear faint screams, then growling. The man who stumbled was bitten by the one who caught him.
Another man grabbed hold of the victim, tearing at his arm. Snow traveled in the breeze, silent, unknowing. The attackers had become the crowd around the victim. Matt closed his eyes. He rubbed his hand over his face.
He slowly looked up. Jess was smiling at him, her face still red from shyness. The sun reflected in her eyes.
“So did it work? Do they not remember?”
“Well, we don’t know. The victims won’t tell us. Though we are worried that the chemical only muddled their memories, which we are trying our best to find out.”
“Yes, I did” His smile didn’t reach his eyes. He rubbed his left forearm as if it itched. “Could you bring me - ”
“Those damn zombies haven’t forgotten anythin’!”
Matt’s eyes flicked to the man two tables away. He was skinny and pale. His hair was a buzz cut, and his eyes were tear-stained and dark.
“Those assholes enjoy what they have done, why else won’t they tell us if it worked or not? They’re still zombies! They’re just faking it to keep us from killing ’em all!” The man shouted, pounding his fist on the table.
“Sir, would you please calm down? You’re upsetting the other customers.” The woman towered over him, not in length but in confidence. Her suit was neatly pressed, spotless, and a perfect fit.
“Although that is not your biggest worry right now, I hear?”
“No it isn’t, James. As much as I – we – would want them to forget what they have done, the more pressing matter now is the public -”
“I will not calm down!” The man stood up.
Matt inhaled sharply. “ – Could you just bring me the bill please, Jess?”
Jess nodded and left, her features frowned with worry.
“These ‘victims’, ain’t victims.” The man turned to face the now-silent crowd. “They slaughtered us all. They didn’t care if we were old or young, they killed us all! And you all are just going to let them into our lives? Into our streets and homes? What is wrong with you!?”
Matt slowly closed his book, keeping the man in his vision.
“Baby, honey, please sit down,” a plump girl with arm tattoos and a nose ring stood up to hold the man’s hand. Her blue eyes tried not to make contact with anyone. “You’re making a scene babe.”
“No! They should know! They should realize what they’re doing! I mean, one of them killed my mum!”
Matt tried to push the thought away, as he silently packed away his things, but it stayed:
Oh a mummy’s boy, of course. The man who wants to start a war all because his mother wasn’t fast enough on her skinny little legs. He frowned. Bad thought Matt, bad thought, a bunch of childish boys want to start a war and you can only make things worse.
“Sir, if you do not stop and sit down, I will have to ask you to leave.” The lady in the suit balled her fists.
“Here you go, Matt.” Jess had come back, the bill in hand.
“Ah, thanks.” He took it gently and looked inside as quickly as he could. He put it down on the table so that he could search for his wallet.
“Hey! I have freedom of speech lady! You want to oppress the people?”
A boy in the street passed by them. He had earphones on, listening to a tune he could bob his head to.
Matt tasted metal in his mouth. There were ringing in his ears that turned into screams. He faintly felt bones crushing in his mouth and hands. He blinked a couple of times, and it took a few moments before the feeling was gone. He found his wallet in his back pocket, and took out a few hundred-pound notes, grossly over tipping.
. “Here you go, keep the change.” he smiled at Jess, holding out the bill, with the money inside.
“But sir - !”
“Matt,” the corners of her mouth lifted a bit, “that is quite a lot more money than what is needed.”
Matt was standing up. “And you were a good waitress, Jess, and great company.”
“Still, at least take a bit back – ”
“Jess.” He smiled, picking up his bag, and slinging it across his arms. “Keep it. You did a wonderful job, and I’m sure you can use it in some way or form. Save it for Christmas if you like.”
She didn’t reply. Her eyes traveled to his arm, and they widened. He looked at his arm. In his hurry to get away, he had exposed his left forearm, where his skin never completely healed from some of the bites. Matt hurried to cover it up, lest someone else saw.
They both jumped, and turned their gaze to the skinny man, still making a scene.
“Where’re you goin’ mate?” The man asked, eyes wide.
“I honestly do not have to explain myself to you, sir,” Matt replied, hoping he kept the venom out of his voice.
“Are you offended by what I am sayin’ sir? Only one of them would be offended by what I’m sayin’.”
Great. He didn’t leave out the venom. Damn. Matt was silent for a moment before he spoke:
“No sir, I’m just your average man, hoping to get home in time for my mother’s visit.” Goddamnit.
“Are you mockin’ me sir?” The man was properly angry now.
Congratulations Matt. You’re a genius.
“No sir, only a terrible person would mock a man of such great stature like yourself.” Matt pushed in his chair and headed for the exit.
“He’s mockin’ me! Damn you! Only one of them would mock a man who lost his mother!” he shouted. “You’re one of them!” The man made a go for Matt, catching the back of his shirt for only a moment.
“Sir! I will have to ask you to leave now!” The manager had called her bodyguard, who was now holding back the man.
“He’s one of them! Let me go so I can kill him! He’s one of them!!” The man flailed, kicking and screaming for them to let him go.
Matt took a deep breath and kept walking, suppressing the urge to flash his scars to the man for good measure.
“ – Though the company has admitted that the outbreak was their fault, and have compensated a lot of people for the losses they have endured during the time, many still blame the victims of the outbreak.”
“The ex – zombies?”
“Well – yes, in a manner of speaking, yes.”
“But there isn’t an official way to tell who was one or not?”
“Not for the average man, no. Some have scars, some have been left disfigured, which we are doing our best to help, but most have had their body completely healed with the serum. Thus they could look exactly like the ones who were unaffected. The only way we know who was a zombie and who wasn’t is by the census we took after the outbreak. Though only the UN has that knowledge.”
“Yes, I’ve heard of that, they’re currently fighting over whether it should be released to the public or not. What are your thoughts on the subject?”
“I’d think rather not, we’ve all seen what happened in the past with such knowledge. And in a world where the average man wants blood to be paid, it could break civilization once more. Especially in the fragile state, it is in now.”
“But, Artz, the people petitioned to have it released.”
“Yes, that is true, and as much as I believe the guilty to be punished, as I too have felt the loss of many of my friends and family in the outbreak. I implore the people to stop -.”
“He’s one of them, LET ME GO! LET ME GO! He’s one of them -” The boy was still struggling against the bodyguard.
“- and think -”
Matt Readjusted his back as he walked out of the gate –
“- and not be remembered as the civilization, who punished -”
“He’s one – Kill him!”
“ - The victims of a terrible curse.”