My intermediary, the professional drug dealer, explained my business plan, if you could describe it as such, and #46692 remained silent throughout. At the end, I asked him for his opinion and about three days passed as he sipped his coffee and gazed beyond me, like I had fucking vanished before his eyes, his dubious expression giving a hint of surprise that he was having to deal with a… well, me. Finally, he stretched out his hand and slid a card across the table. As I tried to lift it he maintained his grip. We endured a bizarre stare-off before he eventually relinquished the card, quickly gulped the rest of his coffee and left. On the front was a logo I felt as if I’d seen before, but couldn’t place, and on the back was his ‘name’ and an address for an industrial estate followed by a specific time and date when I had to be there.
So really, what else was I going to do other than turn up? I arrived outside a former manufacturing plant on the outskirts of the city that appeared completely abandoned. It was unremarkable enough from the outside – a shitty, fossil-fuel grey with hints of asbestos and unemployment. The inside, however, was quite something. It was one giant room at that point, a cavernous structure, with a tiny door at one end and a larger gate easily a hundred metres opposite that would have previously been used for the delivery of goods and raw materials. It would have been the menial surroundings for a few hundred poor bastards, transporting forklifts full of artery-hardening consumer items onto a truck every day of their lives.
Metal girders stretched along the roof with small windows allowing light to seep in, but well out with the reach of prying eyes. The room itself was completely empty save for lung-irritating dust, a few rats and #46692 standing almost directly in the centre, wearing his lab coat and carrying a silver briefcase. If this sounds nefarious or shady to you, put yourself in my shoes. Surreal doesn’t fucking cover it, frankly. I was shit-scared that I was out of my depth. Hell, I was out of my depth.
#46692 beckoned me and as I walked towards him my heeled shoes echoed through the vastness of the building, bouncing up off the rafters and back into my ears as I made each step. I stood before him. He stared at me silently – again – then pointed to the large industrial door and growled in a voice that clearly hadn’t had much use.
“Have a look through the slot.”
The click-clack sound followed my movement towards a small grate that became clearer with every step I took. There was a metal sliding instrument on the viewing window. I pulled it aside and immediately shuddered backwards. Once I had composed myself, I went back for more. I could see five free-range Zombies roaming around in a pen with a single bare-bulb light swinging just about their heads. It was fascinating, observing them. They seemed…. peaceful, content, at ease.
#46692 snuck up behind me and he abruptly returned the slot on the door back to the closed position, startling me out of my stare. He then opened his briefcase in the style that a gangster would if it were full of money and held it up in front of me.
There were five vials inside.
“A blood sample from each of the patients,” he said. He snapped the case shut.
“This key operates the door down there, at the far end. See you Monday, 9am sharp.”
And that was that, as if I’d just passed a job interview in fucking Asda. By the time I returned there was a small team of similarly white-coated men there, one of which was #46692. He gave me a simple instruction; accumulate business, by which he meant those willing to submit to a Zombie future. #46692 stated that to ensure his co-operation he required two customers per week. In turn, the facility would prosper with the staff and equipment available and I would be a key part of the process. He explained that the five Zombies that were already on site had arrived from another research facility and had provided us with the samples that we would need to commence this process.
I asked him what he meant by ‘research’ and though he seemed deeply offended that I had been allowed to speak, or perhaps been given a mouth by God in the first place, he claimed that the drug addicts, the junkies getting hooked on droplets of NZ, could have borne witness to the embryonic stages of a cure. What he required to test his theory were patients of all types. He was of the belief that under the right conditions, we would eventually find a customer that, upon receiving their NZ injection, proved immune. That was his goal. I may as well mention here that for the 97 customers we have provided services to, it hasn’t happened yet. #46692 has not been put off by that fact.
I knew at that stage that he had to be part of a wider organisation to get this equipment and facility up and running. I’m sure that he would have found test subjects in other ways but my enthusiasm was a convenient inconvenience for him; he had to tolerate me to get what he wanted.
As far as his politics goes, I don’t care. The Preservation, in my view, helps to perpetuate the misery we all endure, but there’s nothing you or I can do about it. And if it wasn’t the Preservation it would be another similarly corrupt, self-serving set of officials whose empty promises would eventually fucking dissolve as soon as they got their arses through the door. From that respect, it doesn’t really matter, does it? It’s the social construct that we’ve purposely built for ourselves that is so unbearable. #46692 got on with whatever he felt he needed to do, and I got on with answering my life’s calling. We both remain content with that arrangement.
I went back to my professional dealer and I got to work. I like to think I’ve become rather good at being invisible to the authorities – I don’t have any kind of official paperwork linking me to anything whatsoever – but be a consideration for those who need my services. I’d hang around in the most disgusting and desperate of dives because that’s where I found the ones I was trying to help, destitute, directionless, meaningless people who were too frightened of suicide but not willing to put up with this life for much longer.
After an initial discussion, I’d arrange to meet them somewhere a little more hospitable to see if they wanted to change their mind. It quickly became clear to me that if I wanted to make sure only those that detested modern life as much as me were subjected to this treatment, I had to draw up some ground rules. I’ll reiterate, despite the evidence to the contrary, I’m not a dickhead. I don’t go chasing addicts because they don’t know what they are doing and similarly I don’t welcome in brats who are pissed off at their parents and who then elect to become a Zombie as some kind of bizarre ‘fuck you’. I decided that I would adopt a policy of three consultations with each prospective client and install a strict age limit of 21 or over. I am vigilant and make it abundantly clear what this means. There is no going back. The ones that are just in a bad mood don’t get through ten minutes of the first meeting. I don’t care about kicking timewasters like that back out into the street because they don’t know anything about me and even if they have the temerity to blab about what we discussed, they don’t have a shred of evidence.
I conduct my meetings in the suburbs near to the facility. Cities are bizarre in their layout now; occupied areas are attached to reams of deserted properties. Some families are dead; others packed up and got out of here when things got really bad. Their gardens are overgrown, with grass and weeds snaking up walls and around drainpipes, while cars remain in driveways and windows are unbroken. Someone will get around to tending to them, eventually, when we need to put people in them. New Orleans post-Katrina is a general template for most metropolitan areas now. Some are thriving and indistinguishable from the post-NZ era. Others – we don’t yet have the resource to rebuild or reoccupy. That will take time. I continue to have my pick of the plots in my neighbourhood.