Zombie Diary 2: the story of In my last entry, I neglected to share my name. It is Janice Mabrook.
Last time, I tried to describe myself, but I know the curiosity of humans. I called myself a zombie, but that is not the technical term. Zombies are more along the lines of what my unintelligent, shambling cousins in reanimation are classified as. I prefer to call myself a reanimate. If you want to be crass, you may call me a ghoul. That fits just as well. The problem with calling myself a zombie or an undead is that Zombies are real creatures that are the product of some pretty nasty voodoo and African practices, and “undead” is a superstitious term that is better reserved for fairy tales and horror stories by the campfire. Science has no terminology for a state in between life and death. By their standards, I am alive. Therefore, “reanimated” is the most correct of all the terms that could describe my state of existence. I really did die, you know, and I did come back to a state of mobility and function, such as it is, even though I participate in almost none of the normal states of life’s processes. I suppose if I am going to write for the benefit of others, I might as well explain myself. You already know quite well what I look like. I suppose you haven’t yet met a reanimate, but that will change in the future I am sure. I am sure most people interested in a lifestyle such as mine are quite tired of hearing that there are things in this world that would blow the mind of mortals. I have found that to be false. I have discovered that the human mind can deal with just about anything, even being changed. What that statement refers to, however, is true. There are lots of things in the world that keep themselves quite hidden. These are living and undead things that have had ways to blend and hide for centuries. In my travels I have met some of them. Some of them even participate in human society. I do. That is the only way we can exist when humans have a way with their worldly and otherworldly predators. Actually, I was mutated by the product of human technology, so I think all of you breathing humans out there owe me. I never wanted to be reanimated, but it was more fun to go on trying to find better ways to kill, which is how I came to be the way I am.
You can hate me all you like; after all it’s a human instinct. I have no qualms about my favored prey. As I said, I am a fluke of experimentation. Officially I have a disease called Wilkinson-Myers Disorder, named after the American scientists responsible for creating the mess that made me this way. That's the simple answer. But what is worse is that I am not unique in being a member of the living dead. I used to be a housewife. Actually, a farmwife would be a better name. We had a little family farm in South Dakota, way back in 1942. It was a subsistence farm. We didn’t have electricity or plumbing, but we did have 2 horses, 3 jersey cows and a team of 2 oxen. We also had goats, rabbits, and chickens, so we had survived the droughts of the previous decade without too much trouble. The nearest phone lines were in town, about 12 miles away. It was not uncommon in those days to see places like ours. I think our little patch of heaven didn’t get electricity until about three years after the accident. It is hard to remember the exact dates anymore. What I do remember is that during that time, we used to see trucks only about once a month or so going up and down or little road. Usually it was for a delivery of some kind. Our road was minimally maintained, which means that the road was passable as long as you checked the weather. It connected with the highway just outside of town. Nobody came up our road unless they were either lost or on business. It was a driving rainstorm the night of the accident. It was midnight, give or take a few hours. The sound of a diesel engine roaring up our road woke us. We looked out the window just in time to see the truck tilt out of control right in front of our house. We scrambled to get presentable. It had wrecked onto our property, spilling out whatever these people were carrying. We all ran to help, you know, it would have been wrong not to. The driver and navigator were wearing chemical suits. Of course, none of us had ever seen chemical suits before, and we did get into contact with the stuff that spilled all over as we got the truck upright. The drivers were unconscious, and so we hauled them inside. I had six kids at the time; the oldest, my only daughter, was barely eleven. The men came to very quickly and I had my daughter help me get them comfortable while my
husband got the oxen to help haul the truck upright. All of us noticed the insignia of the Army on their truck and on their uniforms and so at that point we felt that it was only our duty as Americans to help them. They just stared, shocked, and said nothing. The next morning, all of us were violently ill. Even if we wanted to go to town to get the doctor, none of us could rise from our beds. By that evening, everything at the farm was dead except me and the drivers, and they would not let me leave the farm to get the coroner. It was strange to see all of my children, my husband, and the hired help all die right in front of me as I lay on my own deathbed. Of course I died as well, but I did not know it. I lingered in sickness for a couple of days before succumbing. After that, I woke up refreshed, whole and hungry. The drivers had risen before me, and they were in contact on their radios. When I approached, they turned their rifles on me and fired. I fell over, stunned. They returned to their communication without another glance in my direction. I sat, looking at the blood oozing out of my belly. When the drivers concluded their business, they helped me to my feet. My mind was reeling from the shock of being shot and surviving. They were resolute, but friendly. They had been ordered to stay put and clean up the area as much as possible. They had been assured that nothing would be coming up our road. At the time I was still shocked, especially when they told me that we were not alive. They showed me how to check for my nonexistent pulse and showed how the bullet holes were already healing. By noon, we had piled up all the bodies. By that time the hunger was creeping upon us. The heat had caused the corpses to stink, and the smell finally drove us insane. At that point, I cannot remember much until the sound of a whole caravan of military vehicles showed up. They came out in their chemical suits and brought their rifles up. The sound of human speech brought me back to awareness. I remember that I was holding the thighbone of one of my children and that when they recognized the nature of my meal, they opened fire. The force threw me back, but I did not feel the impact. All I knew was that it was making me hungrier.
After the hail of gunfire, I got up. The drivers also got to their feet. I started approaching again just as they were reloading. From the back of one of the trucks came the order to cease fire. I looked up at the truck as a gaunt man climbed out. He was a military scientist and he called to me as one would call a feral creature. “Help me.” I said. The man gave me a patient look and helped me into the back of the truck. My mind was not working well. They had to tie up the drivers, who were still snapping at anything with a pulse. I was kept under watch, but left alone. At last the horror of what I had been doing hit me. I looked at my hands and began to cry. What followed was years of tests. They were gruesome by human standards. I have been vivisected more times than I care to count. I have been exposed to chemicals and radiation. I have been injected with virulent, terrible diseases. I have been electrocuted until my eyeballs exploded. As I said before, I do not feel pain. The thought of it is only terrible when there is no hope of full survival. Everything they have tried to kill us with has failed. They never told us what exactly was in the stuff that made us this way, but it made us nearly immortal. They spared our lives, though. There were other people that had been experimented on. It was just that the three of us out of all the batches produced that became functioning, neutral members of the West Project, and they were keen to avoid anything that really would risk our lives. To them, we were too precious to destroy. The others were either mindless, feral beasts or conscious, virulent monsters. Sometimes, they were mindless, virulent horrors. Those ones were taken for extreme experimentation. Through those failed corpses, we learned what would kill us. We were forced to watch every test. The gaunt man that had kindly but grimly helped me into the truck was Caldwell Myers. He was a rail thin, tired man with a close cut and a simple mustache. He spoke with a droning baritone that flowed from his lips without inflection, as if his work had utterly drained him of his own soul. I know now that this was quite probably the case. Even the prospect of realizing his life’s work had no effect on his attitude or appearance. Beneath his genius and learning was merely a shell of a man that only just remembered that it should act like a human.
In time we were told that we were the unfortunate victims of some experimentation into the concept of reanimation and regeneration. Doctor Fred Wilkinson and Doctor Caldwell Myers had been working on it since the previous war. There was another man that started it all, but he went completely insane before the end of the First World War. Popular culture has come to know him as Herbert West, and so that became the public name of our project when it came to the attention of the conspiracy theorists. We cannot disclose the actual name of our project or the name of that original scientist. For the sake of communication I will refer to it as the conspiracy theorists and other writers have dubbed it. Wilkinson and Myers never suffered from West’s delusion, but they did participate in his heinous acts. Doctor Fred Wilkinson had gone to Russia to observe similar work in 1935. He never returned to us. This left Meyers in charge of the whole project. Unfortunately, Wilkinson was always the more unscrupulous of the two. When it comes to dealing with the reanimated, it is always better to have a scientist that won’t be shy when it comes to things that are beyond the scope of man’s perception. West’s problem was that he was eternally a man of his fears. Wilkinson and Myers never had such a disability, but at least Myers still treated us well. He recognized that we were once human, even during the long, grueling tortures we were put through. Wilkinson and Meyers had taken Dr. West’s work with actual corpses and turned his research upon the living. West could never find fresh enough bodies to produce a neutral specimen. Wilkinson and Meyers used that research to experiment with the horrifying theory that the reanimation process must begin in the closing stages of life itself. What West never realized was that a dying body was already too damaged for the serums that he used. What it took was for a healthy, living specimen to contract the agent. Wilkinson and Meyers succeeded where West failed. They turned the serum into a disease. Wilkinson-Myers disorder has two types. The second type was the agent that infected us. The agent is harmless unless it comes in contact with living human blood or tissue. People affected by it all die within two or three agonizing days. During that critical time, the disease it releases is virulent and spread by contact. It takes about
another day or two for the bodies to reanimate, but by the time they get up, the disease has run its course. We cannot pass on the disease. This strain was not supposed to be working. Apparently it had never produced even one of the reanimated during lab tests, but it had killed everyone it infected. As it turns out, we were lucky in our reanimation. They never did manage to recreate that batch, and so there will only be three of us to have contracted the best outcome of this disease. The other type is known as type I. This is always virulent, even after the corpse reanimates. Their disease is spread by saliva and blood. Fortunately, the reanimates from type I nearly always cease functioning within about a month, but during that month they are terrible, shambling, rotting shells of humans with only a single urge to consume and spread their disease. Sometimes, however, this strain also produces a conscious individual. As far as we know, we have suppressed all of the conscious ones. There might be some loose in other countries. Type I reanimates who retain their minds always survive the first month, but our American scientists always killed them after it was discovered that they could carry the disease. In other countries it was different. Nobody else had achieved the same success that had happened with the drivers and me. Somewhere in Siberia, there is supposedly a facility where the Russians kept the intelligent ones frozen, but we have never found it and their plague is always a shadowy threat to humanity. The project was abandoned right after the Allies started finding and recording evidence of the atrocities in Germany. The military was keen to cover up their own violations of human rights, and our facility was shut down. It was quickly determined that our state of existence would not be well received among the general population and so I was packed into a crate along with all of the other items in the lab. The problem was with my rights. Since I was dead by nearly every measure of life that we understood, I was classified as an object. Originally, we were to be sent to a top-secret facility. At the time we did not know that they would be unlimited, but we were not classified as living things. What happened was a paper SNAFU that sent me to a warehouse, where I was forgotten for years.
I do not like to recall that time. My crate was at the bottom of a huge stack of surplus and secret items. I exhausted my voice trying to scream, but all I succeeded in doing was tearing out my larynx. I scraped my fingers to the bone trying to claw my way out. For a reanimate like myself, the days and years crawled by as I lay in my tomb, unable to move, scream, or escape. I could not find the oblivion of sleep or the relief of true death. In time, due to the lack of food, my feral passions took over and I became insensible. To me that was a great mercy. The next date I remember was October 1952, the year I came screaming into consciousness. I stood in a pile of bones in a dark pit. I was covered in blood from recent meals, and I was fully recovered. Above me, the door to the pit had a viewing window, from which streamed sterile white light. I cannot see in the dark any better than a normal human, and that small amount of light was a blessing to me as well as a horror. By the end of the war, I had just begun to become familiar with my peculiar requirements in food. Looking at the carnage around me, I only felt numb. They looked in on my prison once a day, throwing rotten meat on my head and observing me while I consumed it. The two drivers had returned to duty as members of the Special Forces. Because of their special position they were the ideal pair to send into sensitive, dangerous situations. They were already part of the military, and their ongoing service to the country had never been questioned. They had always sought me, though, realizing that I did not turn up in the facilities they had prepared for me. They told me afterwards that when they discovered me I was very far gone, and they debated about the ethics of letting me realize my status once again. In the end their choice had been to see if my mind was even recoverable. I had been a mindless creature for so long that they feared I would not recover. Finally, they hauled me up when it was apparent that I was not lunging for the meat like a rabid animal. It took me a very long time to come to grips with my confinement, and to accept my life such as it was. For the next fifty years, I was drafted into service. I served during that time, and in the nineties, I thought I had finished with it, and was content to live out my existence in the peace that I had paid for, when the threat of WMD’s surfaced again. Now I have returned to service, but as a contractor rather than as a member.
I’m happy to say that the US no longer is trying to make undead. They stopped that shortly after Vietnam though I think they're wishing they hadn't. Russia still continues their program from all I gather. Unfortunately, the leak of information came from them. They taught the French, who taught Saddam in exchange for cheap oil, or something like that. Undead are classified as WMD's as well. So there you have my history in a nutshell. As a reanimate, or a zombie, ghoul, or whatever you would like to label me, I do not require food, water, air, or sleep. For me, food is merely the way I maintain my cognizance. Without it I become more and more bestial. I do not exhaust myself, I do not sweat, and I do not weep. I have blood, but my heart is still. I am exothermic, and I do regenerate quickly for some reason, unless I sever a part, and then I only need to consume the living or freshly dead equivalent of whatever I lost. I don't really believe it is magic, but the scientific explanation takes up over a thousand pages, most of which have been lost. As for Myers, he shot himself in the fifties, trying to end a lifetime of malpractice and cruel science, but a lifetime of exposure to his own research insured that he would have no peace from this world. He is the fourth member of our little band of immortal reanimates. The drivers have gone by many names in their service, but I knew them originally as Absalom Margrave and Tony Hall. In the future I will reveal more about myself and our service. For now let me leave you with the thought that I would not be writing this if I did not know that there is a crisis coming. I feel it in my old bones the way my contemporaries now feel the weather. Something is stirring that calls to the reanimated, and it is nothing that science can explain. It is something you must know if you wish to survive it with your current mode of existence intact.