Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Something is rotten in the People's Republic

Something is wrong.

I emerged from the subway station to find the Square completely devoid of people - no students, no people walking their dogs in the Yard, and most frightening of all no tourists. This is the prime season for dozens of tour buses to line up and down Mass Ave idling as they disgorge myriad sightseers from around the world who think of Harvard and MIT as the equivalent of the Magic Kingdom and Epcot Center, but there was not a one to be found this morning.

As I walked to the library where I work with ever-increasing panic I noticed that the security guards instead of opening the gates to Harvard Yard were actually closing them instead, so I broke into a run only to find a man shouting at me with his pistol drawn.

"Get back! Get back, you undead bastard!"

"Hey, I work here..." I tried not to piss my pants while I produced my ID card. The security guard cautiously lowered his gun.

"Jesus, kid. What are you doing here?"

"What are you talking about?"

"Haven't you heard - the dead are walking the earth!"

As the massive iron gate closed us off from Mass Ave, I looked at the man in disbelief.

"The dead?"

"Zombies, kid. Christ, haven't you been watching the news?"

I hadn't, of course. The train had deposited me and the other nervous commuters into North Station as always, but programmed as we all were to simply shuffle on to our daily grind it had never occurred to us to worry about the shufflings of the living dead as they too slowly worked their way towards the city.

Once I was on the subway I was completely incommunicado, and although I could swear I could see shapes moving in the pitch black tunnels once or twice as I made my connections to Harvard Square I just chalked it up to overactive imagination and a lack of sleep. Now as I listened to the security guard I realized how close I had come to meeting my maker:

"I just heard that the Red Line got stuck between Park Street and Charles. The tunnel was so full of ghouls that the train couldn't pass."

Oh, God. I thought. That was probably the next train after mine! I had always imagined what it would have been like had H.P. Lovecraft's creepy little story "Pickman's Model" had been true, but this was too much. I tried to keep my breakfast from coming back up as I digested the implications of what was happening.

"They're all over Boston now. They blew the bridges and tunnels in the North but the zombies came up through the Big Dig in the South. Waves and waves of living dead just rolled over the traffic and ate the commuters like sitting ducks trapped in their cars."

I thought of the Southeast Expressway at a dead standstill on a weekday morning at rush hour. Like a buffet for the taking...

So much for breakfast.

"Come on, we gotta get inside." The guard grabbed my arm as I finished retching.

I was confused. "Inside? Where?"

"The library, kid! It's built like a freaking fortress. If we're going to survive this anywhere, you at least came to the right place."

I nodded and let myself be lead towards the library entrance. But what about my wife? What about my daughter? What was going to happen to them in Gloucester? If they were smart enough to cut the connections to the mainland, then maybe Cape Ann would be okay. But we lived on the other side of the Cut Bridge. What if they hadn't made it across in time?

Desperate, I tried calling Mrs. Exile again, but the lines were jammed. I wanted to stay outside and keep dialing but then I heard a sound that made my blood run cold, a moaning howl that was like nothing my ears had ever heard in all my life. It was neither animal nor man, neither living nor dead, but I recognized it as a sound of hunger.

I looked at the guard and he looked at me. Suddenly there was a mass of bodies moving towards the large iron gate...

Tourists! Busloads and busloads of ravenous zombies in loud t-shirts, khaki shorts, and brand-new sneakers with their digital cameras and videorecorders still hanging around what was left of the flesh of their necks. I froze where I stood, but the security guard had enough presence of mind to squeeze off a few rounds at the undead horde of sightseers.


One slumped from a perfect shot to the head, splattering brains and blood everywhere, but ten ghouls moved to take his place at the gate as he did so. As we watched the old wrought iron strain under the inexorable weight of the undead, I knew that the gate wouldn't hold much longer.

I looked at my phone again - still jammed! - then at the zombie horde just paces away. We had no choice now. I said a silent prayer for my family as I went inside with the security guard and those who were already there closed and barred the door in the vain hope that it would hold against this unholy tide...

No comments: