Something happened tonight and for the sake of my sanity I….
I turned on The Preservation network channel again for updates on the situation, paranoid that my face may be thrown on the screen at any moment as being linked to the ANZ as a fugitive from the law, when the scheduled programming was abruptly replaced by a holding screen designed to display when the station goes off the air.
It remained in place for around a minute, before fading to reveal a dishevelled man, twiddling his black-rimmed glasses and scratching his rough, grey-white beard. When prompted by someone off camera the man, who looked in his 80s, spoke. I recognised him, but not to the extent that I could identify him.
He stared at the camera as if he was looking directly into my living room and began.
“I don’t have much time, so I’ll be brief.
“My name is George A. Romero. If you are viewing this message, it’s because we need you. I need you. You are part of something without even knowing it.
“There’s a flash drive on its way to you…. (knock knock)… now. Please follow the instructions.
“I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t important. The window of response is narrowing. Thank you.”
Then the feed cut to a ‘technical difficulties’ sign, then a blue screen, and back to whatever non-descript show had been there previously.
The knock at the door had arrived mid-sentence, so synchronised the bearded man knew to the second when it would arrive. I slinked toward my front door deliberately, slowly, to find a package lying on the inside of the letterbox. I examined it for any hint or clue as to where it could have come from, but the only marking was a crudely-scrawled inverted A on the front.
George A. Romero.
I first came across him about a year after the Blood Turned, when a Preservation colleague got in touch to ask me if I had heard about a new religion that had been established called the Church of Zombology. I hadn’t at the time, but a little digging around found that various facilities across the world had been created with the sole purpose of genuflecting before a new god – Romero.
In his previous life, Romero had been a film director synonymous with Zombies to such a degree that without him, their omnipresence in pop culture might never have happened. His 1968 film The Night of the Living Dead was one of the many pieces of Zombie media desecrated by the Purge Act as it was the first time the fictional Zombie we knew so well had ever been revealed. The fact that his creation barely differs from the Zombies we in turn faced made him interesting to a certain type of person, one who hoped that he was a modern-day Nostradamus worthy of adulation, rather than what most of us believed, that he was simply an unknowing accomplice in one of the most unfortunate coincidences in history. Either way, I found one of these churches near my office in London, so I paid a visit out of pure curiosity.
This particular ‘church’ was something else. From the outside it was more like a library than a place of worship, but inside the walls were adorned with what I can only describe as similar to the Stations of the Cross, the Catholic commemoration of Jesus’ last day on Earth split into different devotions. I collected an information leaflet from the foyer which explained that the church is permanently open to the public and described the murals around me as ‘the 10 stages of Zombie’, presumably as Romero depicted them. It appeared very professional and very… serious. The founders, whoever they were, clearly believed that what Romero had dedicated his career to was no accident.
There was no service scheduled for that day, so as interested as I was in what that might entail, I left the few other curious individuals to mill around and returned to the office. For weeks I thought nothing of it, until one day when I arrived at my desk I found a brown envelope addressed to me wedged underneath my PC monitor. Inside was a press release from The Preservation. I was practiced in receiving communications from them, but not in this underhand manner.
It was about Romero. As far as The Preservation was concerned, the existence of this church joined the list of banned topics under the Purge Act. The church could have amassed five million members before The Preservation would admit it existed. It was strange to me to receive such a particular edict; this church, despite its professionalism, just seemed to me to be a by-product of what we had been through and not in any way threatening. But as always, I did as they asked.
The church may as well not exist at all. They are still there, as far as I know, but there’s no record that verifies their creation. It certainly wasn’t going to lead the news.
And now Romero is here, on my TV screen.
I’ve been sitting silently with the package that came through the door for a long time. It’s still in my hands right now. I’m not sure what to do. I’m terribly alone. Not only can I not share this experience with anyone, I’m a little light-headed and were it not for the physical evidence in my possession, I would struggle to believe this actually happened.
Why does he need me?
Romero’s package is still sitting next to me. I daren’t even look at it; it’s more confusing for it to exist and verify that yesterday wasn’t a vivid dream, rather than give me the ability to shrug it off and forget about it.
But forget it, and then what? Where am I going at this moment? My therapy isn’t helping and I could well be under surveillance from the very organisation whose ruthlessness put me in this position in the first place.
I stare at this thing in my hands and despite all of that I’m frightened to open it.
I’m just frightened. I’ve decided to take two of Dr Chowdry’s tablets. I just want to sleep and dream of nothing. I hope that I can fall under deep enough to avoid Lucy’s detection.
My shakes have been overpowering today, though it’s most likely a result of undiluted fear rather than an ongoing symptom. Last night I experienced, by far, my most haunting nightmare yet and I’m convinced that the sleeping tablets played a part.
I was hunched on this couch watching TV, it wasn’t obvious what the show was, but I was aware that’s what I was doing. By the standards of my recent adventures it was welcomingly mundane.
I flicked the off button on the TV remote before heading to bed – within the dream – and relaxing under the sheets. As I lay there I could hear a creaking at the foot of the bed, so I sat upright to query the source of the sound. And there she was, in all of her horrible, rotting glory, as decomposed as the moments before I burned her. Lucy was scraping back and forth in an old rocking chair, the type we have never owned in any house we shared together, with pieces of skin flopping off her body and onto the floor. Her eyes remained white, but her mannerisms were a little more human, more methodical. She rose what looked like a cup of tea to her mouth and I could see the liquid sluice down her gullet to reside somewhere inside her.
Very carefully she placed the cup (and saucer) next to the chair, stood up, edged forward, not quite Zombie-like, more co-ordinated than that, and motioned to straddle me as I lay on the bed. She slid her decaying frame along the sheets, parts of her congealing onto the duvet as she moved. My mind had registered that this was a dream, but my eyes hadn’t woken up yet and so I was welded into position. Finally, my brain and vision fell in sync as she clamped her thighs either side of me and her maw plunged downwards towards my face.
I jolted awake. She has never made physical contact with me before. My sleep was so deep that I lost control of my ability to defend myself and presented her with an opportunity.
This can only mean bad things. I am psychologically destroyed, a human wreck, but at least I am aware of it.
It only means I have nothing to lose from opening that package.
Last Known Diary Entry, June 29, 2015