Curran, Tim

Zombie Pulp

“ Bring me the Zombies!”

- Bela Lugosi, Voodoo Man (1944)



Doc told us to kill the electric lights because he didn’t want us running the generators anymore than necessary, so we were sitting around in the shelter by candlelight, drinking and playing cards, listening to the wind howling out in the blackness. That’s when Earl and Sonny came in. They’d been out sweeping the perimeter and they’d found something that turned their faces the color of old cheese, made their eyes swim in their sockets.

“ What is it?” I said.

Sonny swallowed maybe three or four times, said, “It’s time. It’s time again.”

For a second there, I didn’t know what the hell he was talking about or maybe I was just pretending that I didn’t. Earl had a sheet of paper in his hand. It had been tacked up to the back door of the shelter like a political flyer. In a scraggly, almost childish scrawl was written:


“What the hell is that? A joke?” Shipman asked.

The rest of us looked at each other, our eyes hooded and blank. It was no joke and we knew it. What would come to pass now would be dark and ugly.

“Who’s this D-person?” Shipman asked.

“Dragna,” Sonny said, but would say no more.

Shipman just didn’t get it. He was one of the newbies, came in that beat-up shitheap Jesus bus out of Scranton with his ragtag bunch of survivors the week before. He seemed like an all right guy. Lonely. Scared. Just like the rest of us. Just glad to have made contact with other human beings. But Murph, of course, started feeding the poor bastard from his private stash of Jim Beam. Some people can handle the sauce and some can’t. The more Shipman drank, the louder he got. He went from this mild-mannered wallflower in a bad suit to a two-fisted drinker looking for a good fight. He started telling dirty jokes, claiming that him and liquor were old friends. Said he didn’t have a drinking problem-he drank, he got drunk, he threw up on himself. No problem. Murph thought that was funny. So funny he decided Shipman was all right, his kind of people. He even stopped calling him “Shitman” and referred to him by the infinitely more chummy “Shippy.”

And now this. Now this.

“ This ain’t funny,” Shipman said. “Which one of you fuckheads think this is funny?”

“ Settle down,” I told him.

“ Fuck you,” he said, just plain as day. A couple hours before the guy had to work up the nerve to ask where the can was and now he was ready to punch my head off my shoulders. His eyes were bulging, pupils glassy and black like those a mad dog. He had bared his teeth and there was a foam of white saliva on his lower lip. “You better just shut the hell up, friend, and tell me what the fuck this is about.”

“ Easy,” Murph told him. “What you need is a taste of the Jimmy.”

“ The thirteenth is the day after tomorrow,” Maria said, her huge dark eyes mirroring the vast abyss where her soul had once been.

Maria and Shacks looked at me and I looked at Sonny. “You better get Doc,” I said.

Sonny took off down the corridor like he was simply glad to get away. I suppose he was. But Shipman was far from being pacified, Jimmy or no Jimmy. “Who the hell is this Dragna?” he demanded.

“ He’s the Devil,” Shacks said.


In the air, the tension held. Heavy. Electric.

Shipman kept looking at us in turn, wanting answers but our throats were so dry we could have spit sand. Even Murph wasn’t saying anything. No off-color jokes or pessimistic remarks. No wild, gamy tales about waking up in a cellar in Wichita with a half-dozen flyblown Girl Scouts dry humping him.

Shipman slammed his drink down and spilled it all over himself. “Hell is going on here? Somebody better tell me! Somebody better tell me right now!”

Murph lit a cigarette with a shaking hand. “Every now and again Wormboys demand fresh stuff. We give it to ‘em, they leave us alone. That’s all there is to it.”

“Fresh stuff?”

“Yeah,” Shacks said. “That’s what they eat.”

Shipman was shaking his head from side to side. “But they eat people, they goddamn well eat people.”

Murph blew out a cloud of smoke and smiled at him with yellow teeth. “That’s right. We offer up six of ‘em. Now it’s just a matter of deciding who stays and who goes.”

Shipman looked horrified. The way, I suppose, we all looked when we first learned about Doc’s rules of survival and what we had to pay Dragna and his army of the living dead so they’d leave us alone.

“Lottery,” Earl said. “We play a lottery. All of us.”

Shacks nodded. “It’s the only fair way.”

I shivered, thinking about the Wormboys out there trolling for meat.

My guts were knotting themselves into figure eights. Just the idea of what would come next made my blood run cold and the sap of my soul run lukewarm and rancid. Lottery. The idea of sacrificing our own to those things out there made me feel less than human, something that should’ve crawled through the slime on its belly.

We were all so wrapped up in ourselves and the possibility of “winning” the lottery, that we weren’t paying attention to Shipman. I should have seen it coming. I was in the Army once…I’d seen guys crack plenty of times towards the end. But I, like the others, had been too busy feeling sorry for myself. So nobody noticed that the blood had ran out of Shipman, left him white as ivory, that the muscles of his face were constricted and corded like a man who was on the verge of a massive coronary. And nobody noticed that mad-dog gleam or how he was pumping his fists until they were red as juicy tomatoes.

“Lottery,” he said under his breath. “Lottery, my ass.”

Then he moved.

And for a guy that was pissed-up and sassy and soft in the middle, he moved damned fast. He jumped up, knee catching the table and spilling drinks and cards and overturning the ashtray. Shacks made a grab for him. So did Maria. I hooked his arm and got a fist to the jaw for my trouble. Murph just started laughing. Earl didn’t even flinch. Shipman bolted from the room, jogged down the corridor and threw the locks on the main door and out he went.

Into the night.

And whatever waited out there.

I went after him. God knows why I did it. I pulled my ass off the floor where he had knocked me, found my

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