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Tales of the Zombie War



Stories of the zombie apocalypse.



Updated: 2015-12-16T14:46:02Z

 



FLOATERS AND BLOATERS by Kevin Fortune

2015-12-16T14:46:02Z

Paulie limped painfully across the broad tidal flats of this barren windswept bay and struggled to recall his Granny’s comforting voice. The simple act of breathing the strong salty air hurt his badly injured ribs. The tide had pulled the weak little wavelets way, way out; miles out it seemed to him – and hanging […]Paulie limped painfully across the broad tidal flats of this barren windswept bay and struggled to recall his Granny’s comforting voice. The simple act of breathing the strong salty air hurt his badly injured ribs. The tide had pulled the weak little wavelets way, way out; miles out it seemed to him – and hanging there, motionless above the grumbling of the waters, loomed a huge ochre moon. Beneath its baleful radiance the sea was nothing more than a distant threadlike slice separating sand from sky. The moonrise reminded Paulie of his grandmother. She always seemed so struck by it. When he was smaller his Granny was the only one who could handle his frequent tantrums. She could shut his raging angers down with just the power of her voice. It was like a spell she’d cast. Whenever he began to freak she’d wrestle him quickly out of sight to the floor, embracing him tightly to constrict the thrashing of his furious little limbs; a hand held over his mouth to muffle his enraged yells as she urgently whispered calmness in his ear. She’d tell him tales of the men who walked on the dusty surface of the Moon and even played golf across the blue-grey mare – just imagine that! – and how the native Moonlings would replace the Earthlings moon buggy wheels with concrete blocks while they were distracted collecting their rocks. As she spoke she’d feel his frenzy dissolve beneath the power of her lilting voice, her musical speech, until eventually he’d relax limply into her secure embrace. They’d remain quietly on the ground until the prowling corpses outside of the Commune fence, attracted by his howls, lost interest and wandered away. But as little Paulie grew bigger – and became more unhinged – trying to subdue him became a different matter entirely. ***** I think of her a lot, y’know; my Gran. I always thought it was kinda funny; strange funny that is, her and her thing with the moon and all. Weird how only she could calm me down by just talking about it. No one else could ever do that. Not until Booker came along, anyway. Just thinking of Gran and Booker must have made me slow my pace a bit ’cause one of my executioners shoved me firmly, but gently, in the back. “Keep moving, Paulie,” muttered Darren softly. My Gran once said I was born unlucky ’cause no one cares for the afflicted in this new world. If you’ve got no skills you’ve got no value, she said. It’s not enough that you read every book in sight like you do, it’s everyone for the community, or out you go and fend for yourself. She was telling me straight I had no future ’cause I just wasn’t right in the head. And if a person’s disruptive like you are Paulie, well just forget it. True, I could get a bit tetchy sometimes, but I wasn’t as bad as she made me out to be. So once I’m gone they may let you stay, just maybe, but you’ll be on your own for sure, she finished, satisfied that she’d made her point. My Gran was pretty well respected in the Commune, which was a fenced off grid of farmed streets down by the sea. She was my only living relative and when she eventually died I quickly became the outcast she said I would. First off the other kids were warned away from me by the adults, and then the adults warned me away from their kids. They stopped short of actually putting me outside of the fence, but maybe they should’ve, as they could barely put up with me inside of it. Y’know, not a single adult, not one of them, was willing to take care of me until Booker showed up. Now, Booker’s really great. I don’t know where he came from – and he never said [...]



HAZARD COMPANY by Patrick Turner

2015-12-08T15:26:24Z

MEMORANDUM FOR RECORD SUBJECT: Hazard Company Duty Appointment Orders 1) Harold Monroe, Captain, 173rd Airborne BCT, Fort Carson Colorado, is hereby ordered to report for duty as Commanding Officer of Hazard Company, Special Operations Battalion AUTHORITY 1) Captain Monroe is to transfer from current posting to Special Operations Battalion and assume duties of Commanding Officer […]MEMORANDUM FOR RECORD SUBJECT: Hazard Company Duty Appointment Orders 1) Harold Monroe, Captain, 173rd Airborne BCT, Fort Carson Colorado, is hereby ordered to report for duty as Commanding Officer of Hazard Company, Special Operations Battalion AUTHORITY 1) Captain Monroe is to transfer from current posting to Special Operations Battalion and assume duties of Commanding Officer of Hazard Company 2) Captain Monroe is authorized 10 days leave prior to deployment. 3) Further Orders upon Arrival… * * * Monroe crumpled the letter up and tossed it away in disgust. Hazard Company! How could they do this to him? Command of Hazard Company? Who would want it? Hazard Company was the dregs of the Army. Hazard Company got the nasty, dangerous jobs and was considered an expendable asset. That is why they were called a Hazard Company. It was practically a penal company. The worst offenders who hadn’t yet graduated to rape or murder were unceremoniously dumped there. Malcontents and thieves almost like Viking raiders of old. The men were known to be less than enthusiastic in their duties and had an unorthodox esprit de corps, as in none. There had been stories of some of the terrible shit that Hazard Company had been through, sustaining appalling casualty rates. They were in a way legends however, because the sheer Darwinian process of serving in Hazard Company ensured each man had brass balls the size of watermelons. They had the reputation of getting the job done, regardless of losses. Monroe had heard tales of the last such exploit. The entire company had been deployed into the path of a massive horde containing tens of thousands of Zekes in order to prevent an abandoned nuclear reactor from going into meltdown and contaminating half the state of Nebraska. Their job was to protect the team of nuke engineers while they went about the process of shutting down and cooling the reactor. It was supposed to be routine, and the company was there “just in case” shit went south. Well it did. It turned out that the area surrounding the plant was packed with thousands of survivors who were living off the nuke plant’s electrical generation. There was no way in hell the Army had the resources to airlift out a few thousand civvies within a few hours before the horde marched through the area, scouring all life before it. The unit was ordered to abandon the civvies once the reactor was scrammed. The Company refused orders and stayed behind. There was no other choice but to stand and fight. Supposedly the battle lasted for days as the massive tide of dead besieged the walled community. Supposedly there were so many thousands, that the walls collapsed from the weight and survivors were forced to spread out into the surrounding area. By the end of it, people were down to using spears and machetes. Only a couple hundred survivors made it through unscathed, mostly women and children. The men of the community were practically wiped out. Hazard Company itself lost half its men, including the CO. This was why Captain Monroe suspected he was now in his current predicament. Well, at least he could take the ten days off and go see his parents one last time, because he was almost certain that he’d just been handed a death sentence. * * * Ten days later, Monroe arrived at a special annex to Fort Carson far out in the boonies. It was a long drive deep into the wilderness and mountainous ridgelines along a treacherous mountain road. The Hummer the Captain was in was being driven by a stern faced and stone silent PFC who pretty much only answered “Yes, Sir” and “No, Sir” and volunteered no extra[...]



A NEW BOOK from one of our own

2015-07-15T14:23:57Z

Long-time contributor Justin Dunne has just published a collection of zombie fiction entitled TALES OF THE NOTHING MAN. You can pick it up on Kindle today. Congratulations Justin! Lead them to victory. -ed. Ryan

Long-time contributor Justin Dunne has just published a collection of zombie fiction entitled TALES OF THE NOTHING MAN. You can pick it up on Kindle today.

Congratulations Justin! Lead them to victory.

-ed. Ryan




NO MORE HALLOWEEN OFFICE PARTIES by Douglas Kolacki

2015-07-04T18:48:24Z

Books are like mile-markers in my history. I departed for Navy bootcamp reading Dante’s Inferno (“Abandon hope, all who enter here”–coincidence?). I discovered Lovecraft at the base library in Naples, Italy. Hemingway’s short stories in one volume bridged me back to civilian life after eight years of wearing the crackerjacks. And during my first and […]Books are like mile-markers in my history. I departed for Navy bootcamp reading Dante’s Inferno (“Abandon hope, all who enter here”–coincidence?). I discovered Lovecraft at the base library in Naples, Italy. Hemingway’s short stories in one volume bridged me back to civilian life after eight years of wearing the crackerjacks. And during my first and only October as a headset-wearing message-relayer with National Communications, I was in the middle of The Phantom of the Opera. In those days, I loved office Halloween parties. Really. I’d dress up as every historical pirate, Black Sam Bellamy, Edward Teach with the cannon fuses twisted in his beard, Bart Roberts with the gold cross around his neck. I had more pirate costumes hanging in my closet than regular clothes. And this party went well at first: people laughed, glasses clinked, music pounded from the boombox on the refreshment table. Then a cape-wearing, plastic-fanged Bela Lugosi look-alike wrinkled up his nose and said: “There’s that smell.” “What smell?” I asked through my fake beard. But I knew what he was talking about. The call center had always had this odor about it, just strong enough to be noticeable. Some employees thought it was mildewed carpet, or maybe that something had died under the building. One of the team leads, dressed as Scarlett O’Hara with a red dress and long black wig, ambled up to us, fanning herself with a Japanese fan. “I think it’s Elbert.” Now Elbert was a man. That much, we knew. And it was all anyone could know by looking at him. He kept strictly to himself, always wearing sunglasses big enough to cover half his face, and a red knit cap pulled over his head. Once, when I stood beside him at the men’s room sink, I saw every visible inch of his face plastered with flesh-tone makeup. He was also the only one who wore long sleeves and gloves regardless of the temperature, and the gloves covered even his fingertips. That had to make typing difficult, especially if you’re doing it over and over for call after call, taking messages. His voice never got too loud, barely a murmur, as if he wanted to hide that, too. I never knew much of his history except that, supposedly, he’d worked for the government on some kind of “chemical project.” I don’t need to tell you the name of it, because by now you’ve heard of it. Everyone has. Operator-assisted text messaging was waning by this time, and the place had more cubicles than operators. Elbert always sat in a deserted area, with empty cubicles all around him. I walked past him sometimes, and he always cringed and huddled up like a turtle withdrawing into its shell. I’d never actually spoken to him, and I got the idea that if I tried, he’d bolt. But now I, and Scarlett, and Bela, stiffened as the smell grew stronger. And a voice that had hardly ever risen above a whisper now crowed, “Hi everybody!” And for no particular reason, something from The Phantom of the Opera sprang to mind. It was a scene I’d read just that day. A costume ball like tonight, attended by the phantom. Every other time of the year he has to hide his deformity, the noseless death’s-head face that once got him a carnival job as “the living corpse.” But at a Halloween bash, with everyone in costume, he can come as he is, the one time he can emerge from his shell. Everyone would think his face was just a particularly grody mask… People stopped talking. The place fell silent. Eyes opened[...]



SCHRODINGER’S ZOMBIE by Melinda Selmys

2015-07-06T13:30:37Z

“Do you think that they’re intelligent?” Whispered, in the darkness. “Zombies are practically by definition unintelligent. They’re human beings minus intelligence. People reduced to their appetites and passions.” “No. Not passions. They’re entirely devoid of passion. That’s part of why we’re so afraid of them. That and the fact that they want to eat our […]“Do you think that they’re intelligent?” Whispered, in the darkness. “Zombies are practically by definition unintelligent. They’re human beings minus intelligence. People reduced to their appetites and passions.” “No. Not passions. They’re entirely devoid of passion. That’s part of why we’re so afraid of them. That and the fact that they want to eat our brains.” “This isn’t Plants vs. Zombies. The whole ‘brains’ thing is just a cheesy stereotype. They’re cannibals but they’ll probably take your arm just as happily as your frontal lobe.” The boys are huddled near a gabled window. One is an artist, dressed in a lovely pea-green coat.  is a Stoic, wearing an old cardigan and a worn t-shirt. It’s dark and they can’t see anything down below, but the fine spray of pin-prick starlight is somehow comforting. Besides, the window gives the impression that they are gathering intelligence, that if something happened down there they might see. “You’re deflecting attention away from my central point. They’re not just “human beings minus intelligence.” They are also human beings divorced from the capacity to love, to feel, to indulge in empathy, to appreciate the image of eternity in a wildflower. They are utterly indifferent to the works of van Gogh.” From the far side of the attic there is the sound of a trap door very quietly closing. The two fall silent, hardly breathing. A hunched figure picks its way across the cramped space. The artist readies his lighter next to a pile of kindling scavenged from around the attic. In the event that it becomes necessary, the house is old and dry. It’ll go up fast. “Who says they’re indifferent to Starry Night? Whenever I see a throng a zombies standing around in the street they’re always just looking straight ahead, staring, not really doing or saying much of anything. Maybe they’re sunk in aesthetic contemplation.” A human voice, their brother’s. He reaches into the pocket of his black leather jacket and take out a pack of cigarettes. The artist lowers his lighter and replies somewhat waspishly, “They are not. You can tell by the soulless expression on their faces. They’re not contemplating anything, just standing about waiting for prey.” The smoker lights his cigarette in a corner, far from the window. “Have you ever watched yourself draw? Half the time you’re looking off into space with an expression like a hollow turnip. Obviously if someone is contemplating the beauty of a landscape or the curve of a youthful thigh you can see that they’re engaging with their environment. But if they’re contemplating how the youth’s thigh is actually an expression of the beauty of the Laws of Athens and the cosmic splendor of the first cause, then they kind of look spaced out – not unlike a zombie. Maybe zombies are really the next stage in the evolution of humanity. Maybe they are actually more, and not less intelligent than us.” The Stoic looks pained. “That’s stupid. First of all, zombies are wholly irrational. “Prove it.” “I don’t have to “prove it.” It’s obvious. You can’t reason with a zombie. You’d be crazy to try.” “Sure, but you’re collapsing rationality to the function of dialectic reasoning through the medium of human language which is clearly limited and reductionist. I mean, when a severely autistic kid is sitting there staring out into space and contemplatin[...]



ORDERLY FASHION by Asher Ellis

2015-06-16T15:33:43Z

Clyde Thompson had been working as an orderly for only a month and a half when the outbreak burned through the hospital’s corridors like a fire made of flesh and teeth. “What’s going on?” Mr. Perkins kept asking him. “I told you I don’t know.” “Well, God damn it, get me out of here!” Mr. […]Clyde Thompson had been working as an orderly for only a month and a half when the outbreak burned through the hospital’s corridors like a fire made of flesh and teeth. “What’s going on?” Mr. Perkins kept asking him. “I told you I don’t know.” “Well, God damn it, get me out of here!” Mr. Perkins’ demand went without reply as Clyde was too distracted by the hellish scenes occurring through the open doorways of the rooms that flew by. In room 301, two nurses held down a helpless patient to his bed and snacked greedily on his arms and legs—the patient’s heart monitor’s releasing the endless whine of a flat line. In room 302, a doctor slashed out widely with a scalpel at two approaching patients, blood running from their mouths from the already devoured nurse on the floor. In room 303, all Clyde saw was blood. “Oh, heavenly father, have mercy,” Mr. Perkins whispered. He clasped his hands in prayer as Clyde wheeled him down the body ridden hallways. A heavy sweat ran down Clyde’s forehead, resulting from a combination of physical excursion and fear. While Mr. Perkins frail body offered little weight resistance, the still wet blood and other bodily fluids under Clyde’s feet made pushing the wheelchair a considerable challenge. Ka-thump.             The right wheel rolled over yet another splayed limb. “Careful!” Mr. Perkins shouted. “I almost fell out that time.” It had been several minutes since the old, crippled man’s incessant nagging began to rake across Clyde’s nerves. If it weren’t for the fact that Mr. Perkins’ wheelchair was serving as an effective battering ram to clear his path, Clyde would’ve ditched the old man seven irritating comments ago. But when the steel chair slammed open yet another pair of heavy double doors, Clyde found himself unwilling to let go of the rubber gripped handles. Once outside, Clyde planned to ditch the old paraplegic and peel out of the parking lot in the first unlocked car he found. He had no desire to hunt for a van with a wheelchair ramp, and carrying the handicapped codger was out of the question. The wheelchair had use. Mr. Perkins did not. Without it, he was merely deadweight, and Clyde had no intentions of being held down. The hospital didn’t pay him nearly enough to continue his job after the end of the world. Fortunately, Clyde knew the front exit of the building was just beyond the upcoming set of double doors. His hands squeezing the chair’s handles like two constricting pythons, Clyde prepared for the final gauntlet that separated him from escape. He didn’t know exactly what the last obstacle would be, but it was safe to say they wouldn’t be able to simply saunter out the exit. “Get ready, Mr. Perkins.” The old man said nothing back as the two slammed through the doors— —And stopped dead in their tracks. The situation was worse than Clyde had ever expected. The front doors were gone, completely blocked from view by a horde of the infected. Clyde stood frozen behind Mr. Perkins’ chair, dumbfounded by the extremity of their position. The zombies, as Clyde had come to accept them as, faced the front door but couldn’t seem to find their way out. They shambled against one another, some stumbling into the walls, others bent over and munching on scattered pieces of flesh and viscera. “Oh, God in heaven,” Mr. Perkins mumbled. “Shut the hell up!” Clyde’s voice slid through his clenched teeth like a hissing cobra. But Mr. Perkins ignored the order, clutching at his chest with a clawed hand. “Heart…can’t…take this.” Clyde’s eyes frantically[...]



FOREVER RUNNING by Big Bear

2015-06-16T15:34:07Z

Alex clasped his hands together and splashed the cool water over his face, pausing to let the beads of water drip off. The refreshing water was much needed after yet another uncomfortable rest. His back ached, his neck ached, his legs were still spent from the constant traveling. Another splash to his face was enough […]Alex clasped his hands together and splashed the cool water over his face, pausing to let the beads of water drip off. The refreshing water was much needed after yet another uncomfortable rest. His back ached, his neck ached, his legs were still spent from the constant traveling. Another splash to his face was enough as he traveled a few yards away from the river to where Beans was rummaging through one of their ruck sacks. The expression on her face was all that was needed to put Alex’s stomach into knots. He knew what she was thinking. As he walked through the green grass Beans looked up, and it broke Alex’s heart. She put her head down again, staring into the ruck sack. “We’re out of food,” she meekly stated. Alex knew this; they had been traveling for quite some time now. More times than not they had to stay in the trees to avoid those creatures. It had been close to two weeks now and Alex and Beans had not even left the outskirts of the city yet. Every time they thought they caught a break some feral zombies would stumble along. Alex tried to fight them off once but they seemed near invincible, and were very strong for how decomposed their bodies were. Refusing to kill them and take whatever life they had now, Alex and Beans ran, and continued to run away from the dead. It was all they could do. Alex had apologized, apologized time and time again for not wanting to or being able to kill them. Beans had just looked at him and said “it’s okay, I can’t either.” So the two had been running ever since, and they were tired. But now, with no food, they had to do something, and quick. “We’ve traveled down this river before, right?” Alex questioned. Beans, startled by the question, looked up at Alex with confusion. “Yeah, we have,” she claimed after a short silence. “Well I remember we went pretty far last time, much further than this, of course we had bikes back then. But I don’t remember it being much further down until we came to houses on the banks of the river. Maybe they’ll have some food, or even a place to stay.” Beans looked towards the river and down the path they had been taking. She smiled, remembering that day that seemed like ages ago. Or had it been ages ago, she couldn’t recall ever since life flipped everything on top of its head. But she remembered it just as well. Retrieving confidence from somewhere deep down inside she turned back to Alex with a stern face and nodded. “No, it wasn’t too much further. I remember it too.” She smiled sweetly at Alex who returned the gesture. With no time to spare they set off underneath the forest canopy, truly not realizing the change of color in the leaves. After a few hours of consistent walking they finally arrived to the houses they had once biked past. Ivy was rampant on the outer walls of the buildings, and some houses looked as though they had already been broken in to. Windows were smashed and outside furniture had been strewn all over the porches and back yards. Alex, knowing it could have also just as easily been years of neglect and the weather, moved on with a rock in his hand. The rock was smooth all around but large, which it needed to be due to the large size of Alex. Beans traveled close behind, clenching tightly to the straps of her ruck sack. Naturally, they turned to the white picket fence of the first house they came across. The paint was chipping off and the gate was leaning on its side, being held by only the bottom hinge. They both silen[...]



NEW WORLD by Michael Stroh

2015-06-16T15:33:14Z

Dying makes you stupid. It has to, right? I mean, there’s no denying it. That’s the only thought running through my head as I watch it fumble with the door handle with all the dexterity and grace of a mop. I should be screaming for my life, but I am just so shocked that I […]Dying makes you stupid. It has to, right? I mean, there’s no denying it. That’s the only thought running through my head as I watch it fumble with the door handle with all the dexterity and grace of a mop. I should be screaming for my life, but I am just so shocked that I am still alive, at least for now, that I can’t help marveling at its incredible inefficiency. Its stiff, lumbering limbs. All it wants to do is eat me. And all that’s standing in its way is a single turn of the key I left dangling from the door of this hatchback in my desperate struggle to get inside alive. Dying made this thing stupid, no doubt about that. So what does that make me? I look through the dirty glass at the key fob dangling there rhythmically like a hula skirt-wearing hood ornament. A blunder like that and maybe I deserve to die. Its hands accidentally bump the key ring every few seconds to keep the rhythm going. On the upswing, what’s left of its fingers smear the driver’s window with a brownish grease that makes me want to puke. Brandon said you get used to it after a while, but I haven’t. How do you get used to watching walking corpses wander the streets and eat the living? Brandon, he just called them the Dead, never the creative type. I wonder if he became one of them, after– I think its eyes see me for a moment, I mean actually look at me, but no. They more look through me and I look away. There’s not much going on behind those eyes except the virus rampaging through that brain, commandeering decaying bones and tendons and muscles against their will like the mad captain of a sinking ship. Making it move and reach and bite, to find fuel to keep going, all so it can spread. The virus has no consciousness to reason with, to tell it we can all just get along. It isn’t evil, though maybe its existence has created more of that. It’s just hungry. Kill or be killed. It’s only doing what it needs to do to survive. Just like us. Its rotting vocal chords vibrate and a low unnatural moan comes out, the sound muffled through the glass. It’s a sad, despairing sound. Reminds me of a child pouting over what he can’t reach on the top shelf. Sounds, almost, like it’s asking for help. I start something like a moan myself, anything I can do to block out the sound. It elevates to a scream and I rap my palms on the steering wheel. Trapped. I try to catch my breath, quiet myself down. Don’t want to attract any more of them. What do I do? I can’t start the car. Can’t even turn the radio on, not that any music plays anymore. But I would settle for a hiss of static that could drown out the moaning and the brittle fingernails trundling slow along the window like dying beetles. I can’t just stay in the car. There’s no gun, no food or water in here. And before long, more of them will gather like vultures. Before long they will get in, except this time it’s the carrion doing the eating. I could just go out the passenger door, and run. I could outrun this one, that’s never the issue. But then I would be out there, with no gun or supplies where those things roam the streets like blown litter. I could try for the keys. Stupid, sure. But stupid got me in this situation, so no sense changing the game plan now. But the delay has only made the thing more persistent, more eager. The second the door opens or my fingers peek over the rolled down window, it’ll be on me. And there’s no plan B from there. My options range from bad to terrible to certain death, and I’m hopelessly indecisive about what kind of toothpaste I should buy. White teeth, or no cav[...]



REAWAKENINGS by Robb Walker

2015-06-16T15:35:12Z

“Now, what kind of ceremony did you have in mind? Did you want a traditional burial or a reawakening?” The two women, mother and daughter, exchanged a look. “We’re very traditional people,” the mother, Elizabeth Reed, said. “I think we’ll just go with a burial.” I nodded. “I understand,” I said, keeping my voice soft […]“Now, what kind of ceremony did you have in mind? Did you want a traditional burial or a reawakening?” The two women, mother and daughter, exchanged a look. “We’re very traditional people,” the mother, Elizabeth Reed, said. “I think we’ll just go with a burial.” I nodded. “I understand,” I said, keeping my voice soft and even, trying not to show how desperately I needed this to work out. The rising of the dead had not been easy on my business. After the cemeteries had opened, sending the dead staggering out onto our grounds, destroying the property, most of the family had left. Once, we’d been Walters, Gambol, and Sons. Now, it was just me, Rebecca Gambol, not even one of the sons. It figured. “I understand,” I continued, “but I have to tell you a little about the burial ceremonies before we proceed. Now, I don’t mean to be insensitive, but you should know the truth.” I stood. “If you’ll come with me, I’ll show you what I mean.” Elizabeth and her daughter, an attractive but vacant eyed girl in her late teens, followed me into the showroom. I crossed the room to one of the coffins, a heavy stainless steel model, and opened it. Elizabeth gasped, and her daughter had to steady her. I felt a bit guilty about my theatrics, but I had to make a point. “What is that?” she asked. “This is a standard, government-sanctioned burial unit.” I tugged on the chains inside of the coffin. They clinked loudly. “These restraints are titanium,” I explained. “A bit more than is needed, the dead aren’t that strong, but the government is very serious about burial safety.” I was bluffing a bit. Actually, close-fitting leather restraints, not unlike an old-fashioned strait-jacket, or coffins fitted with a special lock were viable alternatives, but the chains and cuffs were showier. Elizabeth was beginning to weep, leaning heavily on her daughter, and I knew that my exhibition had worked. “Come,” I said gently. “Let’s go back and sit down.” We returned to my office. Elizabeth sat heavily in one of the overstuffed chairs, and I handed her a box of tissues. I waited in silence while Elizabeth regained her composure. “I’m sorry I had to show you that,” I said. “”But I need you to understand that burial isn’t the most humane option these days.” She shook her head. “How long does it take for them to…” she trailed off. “About a month,” I said. “They pass in about a month.” “They starve, you mean. They starve, strapped into a cold, dark metal box, all alone.” She began to cry again. “I don’t think I can take that.” I laid a hand on her arm. “I know, Mrs. Reed. Your husband deserves better than that. That’s why there are alternatives.” “But I don’t believe in cremation,” she said. “Nor do I.” Well, my father hadn’t, at least, and hadn’t ever installed a crematorium, which had forced me out of business for the months when the army had been enforcing cremations. Only in the last few weeks had I been able to reopen the funeral home, and even now I had to be creative to stay in business. “Which is why we now offer reawakenings for your loved ones.” “I’ve heard of those,” she said. “Aren’t they dangerous?” “It’s perfectly safe if done right. Your husband will be partially embalmed and heavily sedated, which will keep him docile. We can repair all the damage from the accident. A[...]