All their operations so far had been dismissed because of one reason or another until J.P. one day had shown up with a key card for the Tomb. Nobody knew, where he had gotten it from but here they were, making their way towards one of the high fences on the eastside of the compound. Nailz took out a bolt cutter and began working on the fence. From his trembling hands Zoë could tell that he was not keen on being here either. But none of them dared to say a word. The determination in J.P.’s eyes made it obvious that there was no backing out now. They were afraid of him. He had changed considerably during the last several weeks. Sometimes he seemed to be obsessed, getting aggressive during discussions, threatening people like a madman. Other times he just sat in a corner staring at an invisible spot on the wall.
“Hurry up, dude,” Glo said. “I don’t want to be caught hanging out in East Bumfuck with nothing but my dick in my hand.”
“I got it.” Nailz had cut out a hole barely wide enough for them to fit through.
“Let’s do this!” said J.P.
“Keep your gung-ho shit to yourself”, thought Zoë, but she did not say a word. Instead, she watched J.P. stepping through the hole and leading the way for them to follow.
It was the beginning of the third nightshift in a row for Dr. Kevin Meyers. Since the NHS had cut the budgets, his nightshifts increased significantly. But it was not really all that bad. When he started as a resident in St. James’s Hospital in Leeds, this was a different story but the patients in the Tomb did not get sick, they did not need any special care and nobody ever died around here. So nightshifts were pretty easy-going although he was alone most of the time.
Kevin was a member of the research department but not too much research was done here anymore. Back in ’78 when the Tomb opened and the first patients arrived, the search for a cure had the highest priority. But as time passed all hope faded.
“You know, Kev,” Dr. Probus, his former boss said about their patients on his last day before retirement, “they have been awkward bastards their whole life and they are awkward bastards now. They just refuse to accept the inevitable.”
Permanent quarantine was the best they could do at this moment. Sometimes Kevin felt more like a warden than a doctor. Now as he walked down the corridor towards Ward X, where they kept the most infectious residents, he felt that way more than ever. As he reached the door he heard the moaning from the other side, a sound he still had not gotten used to, even after all those years. Suddenly, something hit him in the back of his head and darkness swept over him.
“Why did you bring a gun?” Zoë yelled at J.P. “Where did you get this thing anyway?”
“This ain’t cool, man,” Nailz murmured more to himself than to anybody else.
“Wake up guys! We are at war! Or do you think the authority will step down without a fight?”
“War? Do you hear what you are saying? This is so fucked up. You are fucked up. I do not know who you are anymore.”
“I am awake. This is the only thing that matters.”
“Well this, and that you nearly killed a fucking rent-a-cop.”
“I am no rent-a-cop. I am a doctor.” Kevin’s vision was still blurry but he had been able to follow most of the conversation that was going on. He staggered to his feet. J.P. pointed the gun right between his eyes.
“Now listen, and listen carefully. You do exactly as I say or I blow your fucking head off.”
“Put down the fucking gun. He said that he is a doctor.”
“Well, whatever he is, he will now open that door for me.”
“You don’t know, what you’re doing, man,” said Kevin, his eyes wide with fear. “In this ward we have highly contagious patients. We must not let them out of quarantine.”
“Patients or prisoners?” The agonized growls could be heard again from behind the door.
“These people are dangerous.”
“What do they have?” Zoë asked.
“We still don’t know. It all started back in ’75 or ’76. Authorities first believed it was some sort of weird subculture but as the virus infected more and more people, the NHS opened this facility to quarantine the high-risk patients. You see, not everybody is affected by exposure to the virus and some infected get better after a while. But the people in here will never be cured and the most dangerous ones are right behind this door, in Ward Z.”
“I guess there is only one way to find out, if you’re telling the truth.” J.P. pushed Kevin against the door and forced his hand onto the scanner. The door opened and they stared into the darkness beyond.
“What are the symptoms of the virus,” Zoë wanted to know.
“Anti-social and violent behavior, severe damage to the brainstem, B.O.D.”
“Body Dysmorphic Disorder. After the infection, the patients regard their bodies as repulsive. They enter a phase of heavy body modifications – cutting, branding, self-mutilation, amputation of their own body parts. They are not able to stop.”
“Enough with this bullshit!” J.P. stepped through the door and the lights went on.
“Please tell me, this is just a bad dream,” Zoë said while she stared at the cell that contained the remains of the long gone punkrock icon G.G. Allin. He was totally naked, his whole body covered in neon-green feces. He had ripped off his own penis and had shoved it into a hole, which he had drilled into his forehead. With every heartbeat a grey substance pulsated out of his dickhead. He fletched his black teeth at them while he wandered up and down in his cell like a caged animal.
“Why isn’t he dead,” asked Nailz.
“This things cannot die or at least we don’t know how.”
Zoë glanced over to the next cell. The sign on the door read: Sid Vicious, hospitalized 2 February 1979. She could only imagine who or what was in the other cells. There were literally hundreds of them.
“Are they zombies?”
“For a lack of a better term, yes.”
“How does the transformation work?”
“Through contact with their skin. Within two minutes and twelve seconds the virus damages the brain stem and you become one of them. Assuming they don’t kill you before that.”
Suddenly, the alarm went off. Red light filled the corridor. Kevin looked over to the control panel and saw J.P frantically pushing buttons.
“What are you doing? How do you know the security overwrite-code?” Kevin stepped forward to stop him but J.P. fired a shot in his direction. The bullet was not meant to kill Kevin, it was just supposed to be a warning. Then, J.P. looked up from the panel and smiled. He pushed the last button and released the zombies from their cells.
It took the undead punks a moment to understand that they finally were free. Once they realized, all of them left their cells at the same time as if they were commanded by one single superior mind. Hundreds of them flooded the narrow corridor and tried to lay hands on their first victims in a very long time.
The first one they got was Nailz. He was cut into pieces by Dee Dee Ramone, who had razorblades and sharp iron spikes sticking out of his arms, legs and his chest. He basically just pogoed against Nailz and left a bloody mess.
“Run!” Kevin screamed and they all made for the door, except J.P. who just stood in the undead crowd with a dumb grin on his face. They hardly had made it out the door when Glo stumbled and fell. Zoë watched with horror as he got pulled up by the neck. A zombified John Macias ripped Glo’s head from his body. It was still connected to his spine and Macias swung it like a medieval weapon.
Kevin grabbed Zoë by the hand and dragged her to the elevator.
“Why don’t we just run outside?”
“We won’t make it. Our best chance is to reach the main office and call for a helicopter.”
The zombies were closing in on them. They were not running but they were not aimlessly stumbling around either. They moved with a cold, methodical determination.
“How can we kill them? Shoot them in the head?”
“Forget about this Hollywood bullshit! None of this works. I have already told you that this things will not die.”
“There must be a way.”
“I guess you could blow them to pieces or burn them to a crisp. At least I hope this would work.” The elevator door opened with a ping.
“Help me with the cupboard,” Kevin said after he had locked the office door from the inside.
“Why don’t you just call for the helicopter?”
“We have to barricade this door or nobody will be left to be picked up by the helicopter.”
After they were done, Kevin looked at the door and said. “This will do”. Then he went to the desk and picked up a red telephone. He did not dial, he just picked it up and immediately got somebody on the line.
“We have a 5150. Yes, broken arrow. Drop the shit on Ward Z. I’m in the main office. Negative. Yeah, what a fuck-up.”
After he had made the call Kevin just sat there in silence. Zoë could hear the zombies scratching and banging at the office door. The barricade would certainly not hold them back much longer.
“When will the helicopter arrive?”
Kevin did not reply.
“Maybe we should try to find a way out, hide in the woods and wait for help.” She went over to the window and tried to open it. It was locked. When she turned to face Kevin he was pointing a gun at her.
“You have not called for help, right? What did you do?” Zoë asked, slowly realizing that this was a trap.
“In case of an emergency, the protocol requires a nuclear first strike against the Tomb.” Kevin’s tone was emotionless as if he was reading the words from some sort of weird manual.
“So the cupboard was not meant to help keeping the zombies out but to…”
“Every person located in the Tomb during an outbreak is considered a level 1 security risk and has to be terminated.”
“But you don’t even know if your bombs will kill them. They might just kill us while this things survive!”
“It’s the standard procedure.”
“This is insane!”
“I think it is better for you to sit the fuck down and shut the fuck up or I’ll shoot you right now.”
At this moment the grille from the ventilation shaft fell down and Sid Vicious crawled out. He had gnawed off three of his limbs leaving him only with his left arm to drag himself forward. With his sharpened fingernails he had cut the word BLANK into his chest.
Kevin fired at him but that could not stop the former Sex Pistol. He let himself slide out of the shaft and landed right on top of Kevin. Both fell to the floor and began to fight. Zoë knew that this was her chance to escape, even if it was just a small chance. In a few minutes she will be trapped inside the office with one, maybe two zombies. She stepped back a few feet and then ran towards the window with full speed breaking through the glass and falling down several stories. She just could hope that she would survive with only minor injuries.
Unfortunately, she didn’t. The impact fractured both of her legs multiple times. She could hear the sound of her bones breaking and feel the shattered pieces ripping through her flesh and skin. The pain was so overpowering that it ruled out all of her senses. Her vision faded to black and she even could no longer hear her own screams.
When Zoë’s opened her eyes again she starred into the face of J.P., who stood hunched over her smashed body. He had still this silly grin on his lips, which gave him the resemblance of a sheep ready to be led to the slaughterhouse.
“What have you done, you dumb bastard?”
“The pleasantries are gone. We’re stripped of all we were”, he said smiling. In the distance Zoë could hear the engines of the aircraft coming closer.
It was still long before midnight in L.A. when the small, muscular, black-haired man closed the heavy, leather-bound book and got up from the floor. He stretched his aching back and once again whispered the words: “The pleasantries are gone. We’re stripped of all we were.”
Then he stepped out of the black pentagram and began blowing out all the candles. From the bedroom he heard the voice of his partner.
“Glenn, come to bed, baby!”
Glenn went into the bedroom, stripped off his clothes and sneaked underneath the blanket. He kissed his partner’s tattooed neck.
Then he closed his eyes and instantly fell asleep dreaming dreams of an army of his undead brethren taking the world in storm and starting a new era.