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Hourglass face/Harry Caray glasses zombie. Word count: 22454

As long as I get to 25,000 tomorrow, I’ll be on track. Haven’t been this close to the minimum-count line during a Nano….ever? Life is too distracting anymore to do these things. Of course, I create most of the distractions myself, but this is beside the point.

So we finally get to the good stuff: Zach Graves is turning into a zombie. Stage III of Westphail described in detail. Take heed: graphic grossness and lots of swearing follow.

The mucous ran like a river out of my nose, down my face, and onto the floor. And I could see, by the light coming through the window, that the snot was tinged with red. Tinged with red. Blood. All the fluid in my body was trying to evacuate. Flee the sinking ship. Get the fuck out. Dimly, my mind realized what was going on. I’d seen and heard and read enough about the stages of Westphail to know that I had somehow jumped to Stage III. The virus was carving out space in my body to make room for whatever nefarious purposes it had in mind. I’d done so much reading and research that I’d become something of an expert on the subject and so I experienced a sort of clinical detachment of my own, a kind of out of body experience, hovering over my pathetic body: feet together, pointed back towards the bed; knees together; sitting back on my feet; body somehow upright, my hands outstretched towards the sky, towards my out-of-body floating mind’s eye, appealing towards something I didn’t even believe in, knowing there was no heaven, no help, no hope.

Even with all the reports I’d read — the Wikipedia articles; the autopsies; the newspapers — there were still surprises in store for me. Not one to make things boring, Westphail was a real champ at keeping everything interesting even as it was busy running its course. The runny/bloody nose was well documented, as was the bowel evacuation (details of which I am repressing for my readers’ benefit; you’re welcome) and the vomiting (like a fountain, I watched as my last two meals were violently ejected from my stomach) but nobody had ever mentioned the high-pitched ringing in the ears which was nearly drowning out the noises that all these other activities were making.

I felt strangely calm, thankful for the rational thoughts going through my heads, without which, I’d surely have been panicking up a storm, freaking out, knowing exactly what fate was about to befall me, screaming — if I’d been able to, what with all the vomiting — my head off. As it was, I felt surprise. Nobody mentioned a high pitched ringing! I’ll have to edit the Wikipedia page. Would this count as first hand research though? Would that make it an ineligible edit? Not to get too deep into my thoughts, but I was so far gone and so deep in my head that I was, in another layer higher, examining the layer of my brain which was observing the war taking place in my body. Look at me, being so calm. I’d make a great scientist. I missed my calling. Is there anybody else in the world who could be so rational and detached as they were going through this shit as I am? Above all that, I will admit, there was another train of thought going: FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK HOW THE FUCK ARE YOU NOT FREAKING THE FUCK OUT? BE MORE CONCERNED.

Conversation between the layers was limited, but there was some discourse, namely the other, calmer layers, telling the layer that was, to use its own words, “freaking the fuck out” to calm the fuck down. The scientific, rational layer was pissed that the freaking-out layer was making so much noise as to make its observations difficult to carry out. The self-conscious layer which was observing my rational observations adopted a somewhat more rational tone tapping into a heretofore unknown hippie-ish, peace-loving, flower-picking side of me. Come on guys, it said, can’t we all just get along?

Explaining this all now; finally writing it all down in one clear narrative, I have discovered that I am unsure as to how much time elapsed between my coming to realize that Stage III was in full effect and when I went down into Stage IV. As I recall these events, and remember all the various tracks of thoughts that went through my head, all the inner dialogue that went on, it seems like it went on for hours, and yet the strongest memories I have tell me that it all happened in an instant. Had a movie been made of my life to that point, the long boring years leading up to this moment would have filled reel after reel of film while the sudden violent transformation from normal, unproductive human being to freak of nature would have taken place in a series of tableaus, flashes of me at various stages; short, frantic images, hinting at the various disgusting moments which I was at that point experiencing, accompanied by some appropriate music like a moderately heavy Nine Inch Nails song or maybe that cover of “Mad World” that was so popular around ‘05.

Matter-of-fact zombie. Word count: 20649

Why is it that so many of my characters end up losing their shit, taking their turn for the worse, in a bar?

“You don’t look so good, friend,” Watson said suddenly. I looked up from the paper which I’d only been pretending to read and realized he’d been staring at me for some time. The jubilation I’d felt at being given a zombie-free bill of health had given me adrenaline enough to make it to the bar and get that first beer, but it was wearing off, and when Watson commented on my appearance, I suddenly felt the full weight of the cold again.

“Yeah,” I said, using humor to as a shield as I usually did, “I know. I never do.”

“That’s not what I mean.” He took a step back, nervously. “You look really… not good.”

I forced a chuckle. “Oh, that. Don’t worry. Just came from the clinic. I’m clear.” I produced a printout of the test results that had been provided me on my way out of the church. “See?”

Watson looked at the sheet skeptically but refused to come any closer. I slid it across the bar to him so he could get a better look. He examined the document, saw the official seal of the Department of Health in the lower right hand corner — there had been stories of fake lab results going around — then looked at the date, my name, the photo, the whole thing. He decided it was official enough and slid the paper back over to me. “Still, you might want to lay off the booze, yeah? Get some rest? Drink some OJ?”

“Eh, I dunno. Lotta time…” I was having trouble forming sentences; finding the right words. “…booze all that helps. You know?”

Watson rolled his eyes again. He certainly knew an alcoholic when he saw one. “Maybe you should get out of here.”

“Nahh,” I slurred. “I’m good. Real good, you know? Make me….” I trailed off, I guess. Silence.

“What?” Watson asked.

I guess I blacked out, because I came to face down in the newspaper. Maybe he had a point. Maybe it was time to find my bed, get some good rest. Something in me, though, wanted more.

“Hot toddy,” I managed.

“No, pal, you’re done. Don’t make me call the cops, alright?”

“It’s just a cold. A iddy biddy cold. Nothing worry about. Right?” But I knew I was losing it, and I wasn’t usually one to push this sort of thing. If I felt like crap, I felt like crap, and I’d rather take my lumps at home. Uncomfortable as it was there, I’d at least made myself a nest of sorts, and I knew I’d feel better being there. Still, there was something, inexplicably, making me want to stay.

“I’m just going to say this one more time, pal,” Watson said. But then he stopped. I think he saw something in my eyes. He decided to take a different tack. “Hey, it’s not that I don’t appreciate your business and your company, Zach” — he had seen my name on my lab result report, I guess. I remember being impressed that he knew my name — “it’s just that I’m worried about you. You might be clear of Westphail, but you look, no offense, like shit. And I don’t think another drink is going to help you.”

I’m not sure how I remember what Watson said to me that day, since at some point, everything became blurry, words and noises blending into a constant buzz in my head. It’s entirely possible that my brain is just filling in the blanks, patching up the holes in my memory just so I can paint a more complete picture. I could just say that I passed out completely and woke up, confused and bewildered with no idea how I got there, and that’s more or less true, but there are bits and pieces of memories, flashes of images that tell parts of the story. I know I protested mightily, and I know that Watson had seen something that made him scared of me, or very concerned for me at least. That I had somehow turned into something that put me in a position of power where he was no longer insisting that I leave because I was bothering him, but that he was suggesting I go because he was worried; either about my health or a threat to his own. I know I passed out a few times, sometimes for just a second or two, sometimes for a full minute, maybe more. That I spilled what was left of my beer, that I demanded a hot toddy, another beer, a bloody mary, a Balvenie on the rocks. That I knocked over bar stools. That Watson threatened to call the police and was deterred by my protests, but eventually his fear/concern outweighed anything I could have said to him and that the cops were called. I’m pretty sure that being overworked as they were, and rather loosely maintained what with all that was going on anyhow — much of the police force had been dissolved as the world started to circle the drain; there was a greater focus on military policing, and “public safety” officers such as the guard at the church/medical center — that they never showed up. Finally, I must have passed out completely, and Watson himself laid me over his shoulder — he was not a big or burly man, his appearance apparently hid strength I didn’t know he had — closed up shop, and taken me to my room. To his credit, he could have just dumped me in the gutter, or thrown me in the alley and been done with me, but he didn’t. He saw me safely home, and I woke up the next day in my bed.

Darkness and scary! Word count: 17,294

I’d forgotten how much I enjoy/am better at writing dialogue. Conversations just flow. 1200 words in the blink of an eye. Still a bit behind schedule, but only need to do this ridiciulousness once more (i.e. write 1200 more words) today to be back on track.

The following happens in the wake of a series of unfortunate events which cause the CDC HQ in Atlanta, GA to unleash a particularly virulent strain of Westphail which causes the true start of the zombie outbreak….. One bit I kinda like is the thought that even when the “enemy” is a virus, or a zombie, people who question the government will still be seen as “giving comfort” to the enemy….


Seismologists who still ply their trade agree that the earthquake that occurred 25 minutes after the shelling from Somerset’s unit stopped would have happened regardless of whether or not the young colonel had made the decision to call in the explosive artillery. The Bremert Fault which runs parallel to Cattahoochee River was due for a quake, there was no denying it. When it would have occurred is a matter of some debate with the more conservative of the earthquake nerds pinning it at anywhere from 10 to 25 years in the future, while the more renegade of the bunch saying it would have happened five minutes earlier had the bombing not happened to delay it.
“I’m not saying that Somerset is a hero per se,” Dr. Ralph Pitimin, spokesman for the American Seismologic Association, said in a news conference three days later, “but, I would say that he is a man of distinguished courage or ability, who should be admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities. If his admittedly ill-advised decision to drop 30 tons of explosive ordnance on a civilian area that was only experiencing a zombie incursion that by any standards could only be described as miniscule had come any later, this earthquake, which would have measured 8.8 on the Richter Scale and occurred 10 minutes earlier, would have been completely devastating.”
When one reporter, who had clearly done his homework, asked Dr. Pitimin how the earthquake which caused the wide dispersal of a virus which had previously been rather well contained could be called anything other than ‘completely devastating’ Pitimin responded:
“You, son,” Pitimin started — the reporter sneered; he was at least 20 years Pitimin’s senior, “are falling into the trap of a logical fallacy known as argumentum ad historium. You can not say with any certainty what would have happened had certain events taken place differently or not at all. Therefore, by assuming that the earthquake would have happened even if Somerset had not shelled the outlying land, you are following fallacious reasoning. All that can be likely said is that again, while I am not calling Somerset a hero, I would have to say that he is a being of godlike prowess who might come to be honored as a divinity.”
The reporter, wily veteran though he was, had never encountered such amazing double speak and question avoidance. Nevertheless, he dove back in.
“That’s not at all what I’m saying. In fact, it seems that you are appealing to argumentum ad historium by saying that if Somerset hadn’t shelled the land that the earthquake would have caused a complete disaster. What I am trying to say here is that the earthquake was in fact, a complete disaster.”
“Look, Mister –” Pitimin started, acting as if he were searching his extensive memory for the reporter’s name. The truth was that he had never bothered to learn any of the reporters’ names even though he had spent the last ten years as the Association’s spokesman and had given any number of press conferences, had allowed numerous reporters to buy him drinks and had slept with at least two of them and even more of their daughters.
“It’s Caesura,” the reporter started, for it was none other than Hitch Caesura, star reporter for the Atlanta Star-Tribune, the very man who had broken the story in the first place with his dogged investigation of Somerset’s incompetence. His research into Somerset’s background had lead to a three day front page report on the mishandling of the viral outbreak by the National Guard, the CDC, and the Atlanta Streets and Sanitation Division. “Hitch –”
Pitimin continued, not bothering to wait for Caesura to finish. “We could argue all day back and forth about who did what, but I don’t see how that could possibly change the fact that while I’m not calling Somerset a hero, I would go so far as to suggest that in the Homeric period, Somerset would be considered a warrior-chieftan of special strength, courage, or ability. And that your reports, while well-written and wonderfully edited by the fine folks at the Star-Tribune, might be actually, in some way, giving comfort and aid to our enemy.”
“Comfort and aid to the enemy?” Caesura asked incredulously. “The enemy is a viral! The virus can’t read!”
Pitimin smiled wryly. “I didn’t know you were an expert on the literacy of the Westphail virus, Mister….”
“It’s Caesura.”
“Yes, well, Mr. Reporter, I realize that you have done extensive research on this so-called viral outbreak” — Pitimin used air-quotes to diminish the legitimacy of the words — “but are you ready to stand here and insist to the world” — a sweeping gesture to the cameras and microphones that filled the room, the bearers of which were now engaged in an intense game of ping-pong in an attempt to capture not only Pitimin’s responses, but Caesura’s as well. Other reporters who, moments before had been eagerly awaiting their turn to ask their own questions now scribbled frantically to record Caesura’s queries. They knew that the conversation they were witness to was better than anything they could come up with. They knew when they were outmatched — “that the Westphail virus can’t, in fact, read?”
“Yes,” Caesura responded. “Yes, I am.”
Pitimin laughed sardonically, “Well then the rest of us can all relax tonight, can we not?” He threw his hands out to his sides, appealing  to the reporters, to his aides, all of whom were taking steps to separate themselves from the obviously deranged man. Nobody wanted his name to appear in a caption under a photo of Pitimin lest their reputation be completely destroyed by association.
“I wouldn’t suggest that any of us can relax anymore, not now that a rare and particularly destructive strain of Westphail has been unleashed upon the southeast United States due to the incompetence and nepotism of the Georgia National Guard and the subsequent earthquake which we came here to ask you about.”
Pitimin was unfazed, the singular quality that made him perfect for the job of spokesman. His superiors had always been worried that his tendency to go off-script, and to speak in circles like a politician had made him something of a loose cannon. However, his complete and utter lack of shame when spouting gibberish and the fact that no reporter had ever, or seemingly could ever cause him to trip up gave them comfort.
“So, Mister….”
This third time, Caesura simply let Pitimin pretend to search for the name, refusing to give the man the opportunity to cut him off again. There was a tense staring match for a matter of minutes before Pitimin continued. “Mister… Mister. You have questions about the earthquake? Go ahead and ask them.”
“I’ve already heard enough,” Caesura said, putting his notebook into his satchel which lay at his side.
“Surely you’d like to stay and hear what the rest of these fine reporters — your friends and colleagues — have to say, wouldn’t you?”
Caesura looked around the room. His journalistic brethren all shook their heads and shrugged. “I think they’re done as well.”
“Well then, if that will be all, I’ll just sum up here and say that Colonel Somerset, while certainly not a hero, could definitely be called a large sandwich, usually consisting of a loaf of bread of longroll cut in half lengthwise and containing a variety of ingredients such as meat, cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes. Good day to you all, gentlemen.”The subsequent publication and broadcast of this interview, though tangential to the matter at hand, were viewed and read possibly more than any other press conference in the history of press conferences. Government sympathizers used the material as evidence that the media had gone bonkers, publishing anything they could no matter how irrelevant the content. Those who still had half a functioning brain left in their heads pointed to the reports as damning proof that the United States government had completely jumped the shark.

Today's picture taken the next day. It counts. I'm a zombie, dammit. Word count: 15003.

Having trouble generating zombie photo. Or many words, really. But, am back on track. Thanks to Kip for this guy’s name.


I contracted H5N3P53 on April 19th, 2018. I know the day and I know the asshole that gave it to me. I was making a rare trip outside my room to the grocery store and some dickwad sneezed on me. That’s right. Me, the one who had lived in his loner castle, a hermit in a cabin in the middle of the city, eschewing human contact, keeping everyone at arm’s length, refusing to participate in society, in life, in anything, brought down by a single sneeze, from some douchebag named Tim Stimph. How do I know his name? Because six months later, I ate that asshole’s brain and stole his wallet.
I’m not even kidding. But, I’ll get to that later.
I was at the grocery store, buying a six pack of beer to get me through the night. It was going to be a hard night, I knew, because I had finished reading the only book I owned and there were nothing but reruns of Justin Bieber’s sitcom on the only channel my television could pick up. Beer was the only thing that was going to carry me through. As I wandered through the grocery store towards the beer and wine section, I noticed a thin, pale, waste of a human being about my age wearing a White Sox hat, looking through the adult diaper section.  I couldn’t believe someone as young as I could be so incontinent as to need to wear Depends, but from the way he was looking at the packages and reading the sizing information, I was quite certain that he was buying them for himself and not for anyone else. Also, there were the poop stains on his pants. I snickered as I walked past, thinking, amongst other things, “What an asshole.” Also, I was thinking, “This guy is a total waste of space. I wonder if he experiences oral incontinence as well. You know, diarrhea of the mouth and whatnot. I bet he does. I bet he never shuts up even when he knows everyone around him wants him to just shut the fuck up. But he never will.” I don’t know why I had such an immediate and negative reaction to this prick, but there it was, and I never second guess my first impressions because, more often than not, I’m 100% correct.
And, it turns out, my gut feeling was right once again.
Look, I don’t think I can impress upon you nearly enough what a total reject, retard, dickface, snotnose, asswipe, fucknut, halfwit cockmunch this guy is. Was. Remember: I ate his motherfucking brain. And you know what? I think it made me stupider. In fact, I’m certain of it. Prior to that, I knew how to do differential calculus. Afterwards? Not a bit. Before I ate that jerkwad’s brain, I could, with  my eyes closed,  field strip an M16 while I was being attacked by rabid dogs, my hair was on fire and my nuts were being squeezed by a 300 pound gorilla. Afterwards? Not even close. I know. I tried.

Terrifying! Wordcount: 11539

Ever since I finished up with my Patients One-Two, it’s been harder to get words. But, I know I’ll start to roll with Zachary Graves again. Right? Right.

More serendipity — I sorta aptly chose a random designation for the virus. P53 is a tumor suppressor that when mutated, causes cancer. What if a cure for cancer caused a weirder mutation…or something? Eh, the science is there…. Somewhere.

While Westphail’s body — and I imagine he was still alive, or reanimated, or whatever you want to call it — was being poked, prodded, and subjected to whatever tests the FEMA guys could come up with, cases were beginning to pop up around the world. During the next week, there were 23 documented cases of what had been identified as H5N3P53, a grossly mutated version of the H1N1 (and H1N2, H3N1, H3N2, and H2N3) flu viruses. It was the addition of a mutated P53 protein, normally a tumor suppressor. P53 (and the TP53 gene) had been an essential part of the cancer cure, and when a mutated version of it showed up in scientists’ microscopes, there were a few who smirked and uttered a quiet, “I told you so,” and went back to their work.
I uttered a “I told you so” of my own, but to be honest, I hadn’t told anybody, and I was all by myself in my room. The presence of P53, I was certain, meant that in curing cancer, we (they? I had nothing to do with it, but it had, in the intervening years, become one of those so-called “l’accomplissement de la population”  — an “accomplishment of the people”) had unleashed something so much worse that we would have been better off just leaving well enough alone, quitting while we were ahead, or at the very least, not so very very far behind. I had been working on my theories, mostly in my head, sometimes in the bars when I found a couple coins to rub together. I tended to get drunk — very drunk — and espouse my ideas to whomever would listen. I received a lot of crazy looks, but I noticed that more and more, there were people who would quietly nod their heads, perhaps not ready to voice their agreement, but they were there and that was all I needed.

Zombie at work! Word count: 10,015

Moving on from the events in Botswana, I have to say I miss it! Realized last night why everything was sounding so academic: reading REAMDE by Neal Stephenson, which is just getting into this ridiculous description of a whole ton of insane events, but is calm as can be, very academic, etc. It’s coloring my descriptions, but also turned me into a third-person narrator instead of the memoir-style it started as. Nice thing about NaNo is you can just say, “Oh well, fuck it,” and keep going with whatever. There’s no time or place to be going back and changing things…. So I’m somehow going to make it work out for my own sake, and keep on motoring. Passed 10,000 today which means this thing has some amount of weight and I will (most likely) stick with it enough to finish. (Word 10,000: best).

Moving on to the virus victim whose name was given to it: Thomas Wayne Westphail — the name Westphail is, I realized, a subconscious bastardization of the name of someone I saw a few days before NaNo started. Hilarious! Threw Wayne in as his middle name since he is a convicted murderer and as Philip Wayne Martin knows, everyone with Wayne as their middle name ends up in jail for murder at some point. It’s just a matter of time, Phil.

Three days later, scientists finally had their chance to look at a live one. Thomas Wayne Westphail, a 32-year-old Texas man who had been sentenced to death for the murder of a 9-year-old girl and was sitting on death row, went through Stage IV. He’d complained of a severe flu and had been moved to the infirmary of the Allan B. Polunsky Unit Supermax prison in West Livingston, Texas. Westphail was an incorrigible and difficult prisoner, so he had been handcuffed to the bed in the medical unit, a precaution which proved incredibly useful to the scientists, and most likely saved the lives of several of the staff in the building.
Westphail passed through Stage IV in the middle of the night, much like Basadi. The infirmary was empty save for him, and there was just a skeleton crew on duty, none of whom noticed the once-dead-to-the-world Westphail suddenly straining against the locked bracelet on his wrist.
At 6:30 that morning, the prison staff was surprised by the arrival of a FEMA team, some SpecOps types, and a half dozen Men in Black types along with a National Guard unit who’d been roused and dispatched from their garrison in Galveston. This last group formed a cordon around the prison, blocking it off from the rest of the world. Tower guards were now faced with the perplexing image of being guarded themselves — men in camoflage with automatic weapons patrolled uneasily outside the walls. The FEMA team set up in a large RV-type vehicle directly outside the main entrance to the prison building. They were deadly efficient, getting their portable generator running, their quarantine space ready to receive, their MOPP suits on. The SpecOps made ready to storm the building, while the CIA spooks (for they were obviously CIA spooks) stood around and spoke into their cell phones and generally looked as if they were running the show but had nothing to do.

Grrrr. Word Count: 7018

I had thought that writing about Patient Zero would be pretty fun, but it turns out that Patient One is much more interesting. Patient Zero came and went pretty quickly (bit someone at the Baker County Fair in Oregon, got shot up by some gun-toting fairgoers, and that’s all she wrote.) Patient One, however, well, it’s a bit of a sadder story (which I haven’t even finished yet!)


Surprisingly, it didn’t hit Oregon again for a while. You’d think that you’d be able to pull out a map of Baker County, plot all the outbreak locations and you’d see a huge mass of red dots reaching out from the fairgrounds as the virus spread. The next documented case was on the other side of the world, almost exactly: Ghanzi, Botswana. A 32-year-old woman named Mosetsanagape Basadi had been complaining of flu-like symptoms: aches, nausea, fever. The usual shit. Nobody thought anything of it. Turns out, that’s Stage I.
Stage II isn’t much more on the surface, really. It only differentiates itself from Stage I by the addition of a runny nose. Yeah, it’s a severely runny nose, one that doesn’t ever seem to stop, but a little Day-Quil and some tissue, and you’re still not all that concerned. It took a while before people realized this was something to get worried about. The scientists, they likened Stage II to the idea of rats streaming off a sinking ship. When your nose starts running and it just won’t stop? That’s the beginning of all your bodily fluids trying to get the fuck out. Westphail is so fucking scary even your snot doesn’t want to stick around. It was towards the end of her Stage II that Basadi decided it might be more than just a severe head cold that she was experiencing and headed down the A3 road towards the airport and spoke with a nurse at Ghanzi Primary Hospital. She was admitted, and cared for as if it was just a run-of-the-mill, albeit severe, flu. Three days later, when all the mucous had left her body, Basadi progressed to Stage III.
If you think seeing all the mucous go is scary, imagine when the blood starts following. It starts as a trickle: just a bloody nose to follow days of the worst runny nose on record. And then, man oh man, it just starts to flow. The doctors at Ghanzi Primary threw up their hands in defeat, loaded Basadi into the back of an ambulance and drove her 400 miles up the A2 to Princess Marina Hospital in Gaborone. The docs there didn’t fare much better than they did down in Ghanzi. To be fair, nobody did very well with it at first, and the eight hours it took for Basadi to make the trip more or less was all it took for Stage III to turn into Stage IV.
At first, before the Gooseman-Keane act was passed, the end of Stage III was considered the end of life. Once all the blood is gone, yeah, people are pretty much dead. But that does discredit to Westphail’s Stage IV, the mack daddy stage of all viruses everywhere. Ebola can’t hold a candle to it. HIV trembles in fear at the mention of its name. During Stage IV, the virus, having evacuated all fluid from what is now little more than the husk of a former human being, having basically terraformed the body to suit its own dark little needs, Westphail invades the brain and, like Hitler did in Europe, Westphail takes the fuck over.
Now, like all good invasions, Westphail takes a minute or two to complete its occupation. When Basadi arrived at Princess Marina, she was pronounced DOA. Her mother, who had made the trip with her, wept and wrung her hands and made preparations to bring her daughter’s body back to Ghanzi for burial. It’s a lot easier to transport a dying person than a dead body in Botswana; the only viable option was to go by train to Lobatse where a cousin who had an old pickup truck would meet her to take her the rest of the way home. The arrangements took some time; the next train to Lobatse wasn’t for another two days. The staff at Princess Marina allowed Leonor Basadi to stay in an unused room in the hospital, the kindness of their hearts bolstered by a general fear of allowing this woman who may have been exposed to what they were calling “Sweggrootgriep” — which pretty much translates to “Big Bad Flu” — to leave the hospital and potentially infect the rest of the town.

Texture Face! Zombie Wall!

The Day Two doldrums. The “This idea will not sustain itself over thirty days” moments. The “If I just sneak out the back door, will anybody notice I’ve stopped writing?” blahs.

Meant to write a short intro and then set up a series of flashbacks and whatnot but here I am just writing writing writing in the present, Zach rambling on about how much being a zombie sucks/is awesome.

Anyhow. Zach and a crew of 1500 zombies have stacked up outside Woodfield Mall….

You could tell there were people inside — hastily made signs, red paint smeared across sheets of plywood leaning up against the entrance announced a group of refugees hoping for government rescue. They’d taken to doing that, marking their hideouts on the off chance a National Guard regiment happened to be passing through and happened to feel like taking on a dozen or more hungry, whining mouths who were more likely to get the whole group killed than they were to be of any use to anybody down the road. The refugees — some even called themselves survivors; I always thought that was a bit like counting their chickens before they were hatched — didn’t know what I knew: Uncle Sam had stopped giving a shit about rescue missions a long time before. But, what the hell, right? Z can’t read, so what could it hurt? Except, you know, I can read. God, it was nasty, somehow worse than Milwaukee, which was just about the worst thing I’ve ever seen. And, I don’t know, I mean, the virus did a number on me too, nearly killed everything in me that was human, made me numb to that kind of stuff — like, I wouldn’t think twice about stepping on a kitten’s throat, you know? The word “cute” doesn’t have a place in my vocabulary anymore — but there was still that little thing, that little twinge, something sticking in the back of my throat, hiding behind that Explorer, waiting for my bros to do their thing. Something like, “Don’t you feel sorry for all those poor folks who are getting ripped to shreds right now? Don’t you remember when you used to be like them, afraid of the dark? Afraid of the unknown? Using every last resource at your disposal just to fight to live and breathe for one more day?” And I thought, Yeah, I remember. I remember how much it sucked. And you know how kick ass it is to be the dominant life force on the planet? And the voice, the sticking in my throat, the whatever, it was quiet, it was gone, because it knew I was right. We Zs might be a cancer on the face of the Earth, but, fuck, cancer was God’s equalizer, and when man finally figured out how to cure it, God was all, “Here’s something new, assholes.” Blam. Westphail. And every poor bastard who went Stage IV with it was now on the next step of the evolutionary ladder, kicking ass and not even bothering to take names, because why would a name matter to Z? That’s how badass Z is: he’s beyond the need for names.
It took all of three hours for my undead army to clear the mall. First the shooting stopped — a group of suburbanites is only going to have so much ammo, especially in the gun shy Chicago metropolitan area — and then the screaming stopped. A lone Z emerged from the shattered glass and wood of a formerly-boarded up Macy’s display window. He stumbled on a broken mannequin and took a tumble, tangled in broken plaster and lathe. I made my way across the parking lot and picked the poor guy up, put him back on his feet. He showed no gratitude — the bastard! — and kept shuffling off in the direction I’d pointed him.
“Hey, buddy!” I called after him, pointing over my shoulder at the mall. “Is it all good in there?”
He didn’t respond. Not even a moan. You’ve heard of feeling lonely in a crowd, right? Try being with 1500 of your brethren and they don’t even pay one bit of attention to you. That’s how you know you’re one of them, by the way — they don’t try to eat you. But anything they’re not trying to eat? They just ignore it. So here I am, hanging out with all these …things… and I still, I don’t know, I still feel that urge to have basic interactions, there’s still that thing inside me.
Look, in life, I wasn’t a very social person. I’d rather have stayed home on a Friday night, maybe watch a little TV, some football, whatever. I was cool with not seeing a single person all weekend long. If I ordered food? I’d do it online, as little interaction as possible. But here, now, without the option for any real human contact? It’s kind of a downer, really, rolling down the street with 1500 people, whatever, and nobody’s talking? Everybody’s focused on one thing, they’ve got their eyes on the prize, and that prize is more or less the total destruction of the human race. Yeah, it’s kinda a bummer. But, hell, at least they let me hang out with them. Smoothies don’t want me around anymore, and who can blame ‘em? I’m a constant reminder of everything bad in the world, and, to be honest, a constant threat. They don’t know when I might eat them.
So yeah, I’m the loneliest boy in the world, boo hoo.

22. A photo of your town. 10/30/04. First view of the Chicago skyline in a year.

What a moment. Returning to Chicago after a year abroad (New Jersey.) Hastily snapped photo of the skyline as I pilot the truck containing my belongings homeward. It felt amazing and surreal and humbling to come back. When I made the decision to leave, I actually uttered the words, “There’s nothing for me here.” Thoughtless words, those. There’s everything for me here. Except for Yuengling. That’s just out east.

Back up to a respectable daily count, which means I can actually share some numbers. We’re at 38,740 and climbing. That puts us at 77%. The month is 73% done. Still in the running.

Of course, the writing is weird. The story has completely gone out the window, so I am going back to old scenes and adding one those funny ridiculous stories that I love having characters tell.

“I did hook up with Susan though,” I continued.

“Oh yeah!” Paul said. “I’d forgotten about that.”

Susan was a former sales assistant who had left Cola about a week after I started. We flirted at her going-away party and since I had not yet had enough time to display my complete unsuitability as a mate to everyone through my unprofessional behavior, my petulant attitude, and my bad personal grooming, Susan had considered me fresh meat, viable and available, and had allowed me to escort her home.

I smiled, fondly thinking back to that night. “That was fun.”

“Wait a second,” Paul said. “That’s not what you told me.”


“Come on, Art, ‘fess up. There are no secrets or lies in the Cubicle of Truth.”

“I thought we had stopped calling it that,” I said. We had been going back and forth on the official cubicle name. Much work time had been devoted to the very important debtate. “I thought we had settled upon Plagueville.”

“Regardless of the name, Arthur, the fact remains. Once a Cubicle of Truth, always a Cubicle of Truth. As long as you reside here, you shall be bound by its laws.”


“So, tell the audience what happened, Arthur.”

“Alright,” I started, already warming to the story. My people love telling stories. It is in my blood and it doesn’t matter if the story shows me in a good light or not. In fact, the worse off I come across in a story, the more sympathetic (or just pathetic) I appear. Or so I thought. It was a Jewish thing. I think. “So Susan and I are hanging out at her party in the break room, and we’re both pretty tipsy….” Alcohol was normally forbidden at all company events, whether Cola-sponsored or not, but Susan was incredibly resourceful. Her brother was Cola’s legal counsel and had found numerous loopholes in the company alcohol policy. Ever since then, as long as the event took place on an odd-numbered day, within three days of a major holiday (of any nation, creed, or culture) and was not taking place near computers or heavy machinery, we could get away with drinking booze on site. It was known as the Susan Initiative, and we thanked her for it weekly. “So I said, ‘Would you like to come back to my cubicle?’ and she said, ‘Is that what you packaging kids call it these days?’ And of course, I was confused by that because what else does anybody call a cubicle. I mean, a cubicle is a cubicle, right? I suppose some people call them ‘cubes’ but that’s really more of an abbreviation than anything else.”

I could tell that I was losing my audience. Therese looked like she might fall asleep, Kate looked even less engaged than ever and even Paul, who normally listened with rapt attention to any story that I might tell seemed uninterested. He had turned back to his computer, and while I knew he was listening, I could tell from the back of his head that he was growing bored.

“Anyhow. I realize you guys are all busy so I’ll just cut to the chase. After a bit of witty repartee, a little back and forth, we cut out of here and head over to her place. Now I don’t know if you know this, but you’re about to: Susan has a dog.”

“We know,” Paul groaned. Of course they knew. We all knew. Susan talked about nothing but her dog, pretty much all day every day. I had only known her a week, but already I had been shown pictures of her dog and told stories about her dog a dozen times. I have a pretty strict “Don’t tell me about your dog unless he’s on fire or he cured cancer” policy, but, being new in town, and eager to make friends, I had listened intently.

You might notice that there is a link to the right of the page now that goes to “NaNoWriMo Past.” The page contains the 5 previous completed NaNoWriMo efforts that I have made. Read them with a grain of salt. Be kind in your assessment. Probably don’t bother with Narrative Voices.