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Clawing Out

Ron had been looking forward to going up to the cabin and spending some time on the lake for a while now.  The weather was nice and he’d had to wait months to get a pass to leave the city at the same time as his friends.  Greg had gone up the night before, and would be waiting for them.

Ron arrived at almost the same time as Steve and Cathy.

             “Hey guys, you have no idea how much I’ve been looking forward to this,” Ron said, high-fiving Steve, and giving Cathy a hug as they parked their vehicles in the circle drive around the side.

                        “So how bad of a mess do you think Greg made of himself last night?” Cathy put to the guys.

             “What do you mean?” Ron frowned, puzzled.

                        “Greg didn’t respond to any calls last night or this morning,” Steve explained.  He grabbed a few items from the trunk, and unburdened a bag from Cathy’s already heavy-laden arms.  We’ve been trying to reach him all day.”

Ron only had the one backpack, so he stood by while they got their carry-in sorted, patiently waiting to walk in with them.

                        “Our guess is, he’s half in the bag,” Cathy added, hitching her purse onto her shoulder and extending the handle for rolling her lugging before heading toward the cabin.

Ron had enjoyed the scenery on the drive up, and upon arrival, as he always did in this place, hed busied himself with taking in the beauty around him; the animal noises in the forest, the variant shades of verdant greens, the vibrant hues of the flowers.  There were a lot of things he didn’t like about being a city dweller; missing out on nature was one of them.  He’d used all of his vacation time to come out here to the “wilds,” as Sophia called it.  He wished he could get her to come with him, but she was a tried and true urbanite.  Born and raised in the city, she never ventured past its borders, preferring to take her vacations within the limits and protection of the perimeter wall.

Ron had grown up outside the city on a successful farm run by his grandparents.  He was five when they moved from the farm into the city.  He remembered how excited his father had been to finally be getting off the farm.  Some part of Ron wished he could’ve stayed behind with his grandparents.


He heard Cathy scream and ran to the front door of the cabin.  Steve was just inside, cradling Cathy where shed collapsed.  She was crying hysterically.

Ron looked past them and there, in the open room, he saw that they’d found Greg, hanging from one of the rafters in the ceiling.

Ron’s stomach muscles convulsed into knots as he doubled over, braced his hands against his knees with his head between his legs, and breathed in deep, trying not to vomit or pass out.  He heard a vehicle crunching on the dirt driveway.

                        “Hey, guys, we’re here – you can start the party now!” Nick shouted from the open window, honking the horn as they pulled up.

                        “Woo-hoo!” Debbie hollered after him, punching the air a few times to punctuate her lover’s statement.

The group heard the car doors slam, and the sound of their friends’ feet shuffling along the gravel walk to the cabin.  Ron lifted his head, steadied himself against the door jam, and moved in towards Greg’s body.  Steve gingerly walked Cathy to the nearest chair and helped her settle into it.  He joined Ron as he moved hesitantly closer to the body of their friend.  Behind them, they heard the screen door open and slam, and Debbie emitted a loud gasp, followed by her boyfriend.

                        “No, bro…...!” Nick exclaimed as he rushed up to where Steve and Ron were examining the scene.

             “It looks like he came up here with plans to kill himself,” Ron sighed.   There was an overturned kitchen chair beneath him, and in front of the coffee table, there were six shovels.  Steve noticed a note poking out of his shirt pocket.  He pulled it out and read it to the group:



Dear Steve, Cathy, Ron, Sophia, Nick, and Debbie,

Things haven’t been going very well for me since I broke up with Claire.  I know that some of you are going to say this is a little overboard isn’t it, and you’d be right, if that was all there was to it.  But of course, she was only the last straw in a long line of disappointments, and in the end, I just couldn’t take any more.  I was tired of the oppression of city life and the stress of being constantly monitored.  I wanted to be able to come to the country and live out here (sorry about that I should have said ‘stayed,’ but you guys know what I mean).

We have talked about this before... you remember, right?  You know I want to be buried, not cremated, and I think this is the only way to get that done.  I hacked into the security system and declared we would all be arriving here on the 23rd.  You guys should all be coming in on the 22nd, like we planned, so the extra day will give you the time you’ll need to do what you gotta do without interruption.  I provided the shovels and you all know where I want to be buried.

I apologize for putting a dampener on your getaway, but please be assured that this is what I wanted, and know that I’m grateful to you for your help.  I hope you can still have a good time together this weekend.  Be good to one another.  Look after each other for me.

I love you all and I will miss you.

Greg


                “Oh my God, he killed himself so that he could be buried?!” Cathy yelled, unsure of whether to be devastated or incensed, feeling some bizarre combination of both.

     “It’s more than that,” Ron said, looking around the room. “It was a culmination of the oppression he was feeling... I feel it too... I think we all do... don’t we?”

                “Please tell me you are not planning on copycatting him, Ron!” Debbie pounced on him, staring him down sternly.

    “No, I wouldn’t think of it,” Ron asserted.  “I’m just saying, this didn’t exactly come from out of nowhere.”

Then he picked up a handful of shovels and began passing them around.


     “Nick, can you get the wheelbarrow from the shed so we can get him buried.”  Nick disappeared out the door in a flash, the screen swinging behind him.

Ron cut down Greg’s body while Steve held it, and the two of them together lowered their deceased friend onto the couch.  Nick came back in through the back door with the wheelbarrow, and the men loaded what remained of the man they’d known into it, then the group of 5 friends and a body headed out into the forest.


                “Is this the spot?” Steve glanced around, unsure of his surroundings.

     “No, the tree over there, at the edge of the meadow, right?” Ron said.

                “Yes that’s the tree,” Cathy confirmed.  “His ‘contemplation spot,’ — that’s what he calls it.”

                “Called it,” she corrected herself, looking down at her feet.

They each took a shovel and started digging at the foot of the tree.  They all knew why Greg wanted to be buried out here.  He wanted to be a part of nature.  He wanted a peaceful final resting place, something he could never have within the crowded confines of the inner city.

-------

No one was ever allowed to be buried in the city.  Everyone there was cremated.  Ron, Greg and Steve had discovered when Ron’s parents died that requests to be buried outside the city were generally not honored.

When Ron’s father died, it was in his will that he should be buried on the farm.  The services were to be held in the city so that his friends could come and wouldn’t have to bother with getting visas to travel out to the farm.  His Aunts and Uncles had come into the city from the homestead.

Ron’s cousins hadn’t been to the city before, and were amazed at what they saw there.  They had each told him how lucky he was.  He was too polite to disagree, and he was pretty sure they wouldn’t understand, so he just nodded, and thanked them for their respects.  Besides that, he was pretty sure whatever he’d have to say about the truth of city life wouldn’t go over that well with the monitors.  How he envied his cousins their freedom.

He should have known when the family was not allowed to view the body that something was wrong.

It wasn’t until his mother died and someone in the coroner’s office got some wires crossed so that he was mailed his parents’ cremated remains that Ron even found out neither of them had been buried.  Ron, Greg, and Steve had got special one-day passes so that they could bury the urns on the farm.  They were all shocked when they got there and placed the urns in the mausoleum.  It was lined with urns dating all the way back to more than 4 generations before Ron’s great-great-grandparents had even been born.

He and his friends had done a bit of covert research and found out that no one had been buried in the ground in more than 200 years.  The official reason for the government moratorium on burial was due to the practice being perceived as archaic, unsanitary, and a waste of valuable land.  The government held that doing so was an abuse of good real estate, better put to other uses, such as agriculture and building, and thereby outlawed interning of the dead.

Ron and the guys all knew that WWIII had been fought over global lack of resources and overcrowding.  No one wanted to go for number 4.  Only, Ron suspected there was more to it than the official story.  He recalled from his boyhood days
on the farm a conversation one of his great uncles had with his grandfather.  The two of them had been talking together about an incident that had occurred when they were both children.  Their grandfather had been buried on a family plot, and some sort of fight had broken out between the family and the city security forces.  In the fallout, their grandfather’s remains had been destroyed.

Steve had been hired into a government position in the health offices and had gained access to certain archived history records that were no longer publicly accessible.  What he found in his research was that some sort of worldwide pandemic had swept across the entire planet a couple of centuries prior.  The germs had something to do with dead bodies, he told Ron, Greg, and Nick.  They had discussed the ramifications, and they all collectively decided that they would be buried.  As long as they were in good health when they passed, and buried beneath the water level, there shouldn’t be any concern over the spread of any disease from centuries past.  What was more important was maintaining the human right to freedom of choice over the treatment of ones own remains.

-------

When the group finished burying Greg’s body, they said some words over the grave, and headed back to the cabin.  They were all sitting around watching old DVDs of their trips up to the cabin with Greg — it was weird hearing his voice, but not seeing him... he’d usually been the one behind the camera.

They were all pretty lost in their own thoughts when there came a sudden knock at the cabin door.  Debbie jumped, and Cathy screamed, startled.  By that time, her nerves were shot.  But they weren’t too flustered, and they were all able to calm down pretty quickly.  They had been expecting this.  They knew it would be the security forces there to check their visas.


                “Sorry to disturb you folks on your vacation,” one of the agents at the door said.  “But we have to check your visas... protocol, you understand.”

Each of the gathered friends in the group passed their visa to Steve, who’d answered the door, and he handed them over to the security agents.  The agents never asked about Greg.  The others supposed he would’ve hacked the records to indicate he wasn’t there... he was something of a wiz with that sort of thing, and they had all gotten beyond questioning what he could do anymore.  After the agents left, they all sat around and reminisced over the times they’d had with Greg, telling stories and tall tales, with a lot of laughter, a few tears, and a fair bit of booze.

-------

The next day was pretty uneventful.  They rowed out on the lake and swam a little.  The security forces stopped by in the afternoon, asking them questions about the farm up the road from the cabin.  Some people had gone missing and they were afraid they might have drowned in the lake.  The group said they hadn’t seen anything suspicious.  They all decided to leave that night and head back to the city.  Being at the lake now without Greg just didn’t feel right.

-------

Five months later, Ron and Sofia were headed back up to the cabin in a truck they had taken from the city, loaded with weapons and supplies.  They also had along a portable hard drive loaded with old medical and history records that Steve had procured before the end, and had turned over to them before his death.  It turned out, there was good reason for cremating the dead — a truth long since lost to the public over the passage of time, the details concealed by a government bent on an autocratic commitment to control and maintain, and twisted by their own power.

Hidden from the light of day, forgotten from general knowledge, the reality was actively remembered only by those who kept up the old traditions of families that had made it through the original happening.  The world had survived because of the process that had been put into place then, and had thrived because those procedures had been adhered to.  But, like outmoded instincts of domesticated animals, at some point, those traditions just no longer seemed relevant anymore, and if no one can remember why a thing is done, eventually, someone might question the necessity of even doing it at all.

And that’s why some secrets should never be buried.


Greg had not stayed buried.

He rose, scratched and scraped his way out of the grave that had been dug for him in the afternoon of the day his friends had left him to his resting place close to nature, and attacked some farmhands walking in the forest, killing one of them and wounding the other one severely.  The security forces never found the dead farmhand, even though they searched, but they did find the injured one.   At least they thought he was only injured.  But by the time they’d realized their mistake, it was already too late.

The truth was, there hadn’t been any World War III fought over dwindling global resources.  Yes, there had been a fight over
all the earth that had reduced her entire population to more manageable numbers, but it hadnt been fought by man against man — it was an outbreak — a zombie outbreak.  And now, it was happening yet again.  They’d never found a cure — they’d just fire-bombed whole cities, and had sent in specialized clean-up crews afterwards to sort through the damage.  The dregs of a vestigial government had stringently enforced a policy of cremating the dead to keep it from happening again, and — with a greatly decreased world populace whose proliferation hung in the balance — had continued to increase oversight and security measures as it grew.  That had worked, for more than two centuries.

Until Ron and his companions had buried their friend Greg.

And, like a corpse that just won’t die, the zombie apocalypse had risen once more.

Comments

( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
meridian_rose
Oct. 29th, 2014 12:41 pm (UTC)
That was unexpectedly creepy! :)
mamas_minion
Oct. 29th, 2014 10:41 pm (UTC)
Thank you.
bleodswean
Oct. 29th, 2014 06:12 pm (UTC)
Yes! I surmised where this was going 3/4 of the way through - I do ponder the wisdom of burying infected bodies as we are now doing in Africa. This was a GREAT Halloween tale!
mamas_minion
Oct. 29th, 2014 10:39 pm (UTC)
Thank you, I am in a Halloween mood right now and wanted to do something with horror bent and it also works with the current ebola issue.

Edited at 2014-10-29 10:40 pm (UTC)
rayaso
Oct. 29th, 2014 09:47 pm (UTC)
What a great zombie apocalypse story! This was very well done, and lots of fun to read.
mamas_minion
Oct. 29th, 2014 10:38 pm (UTC)
Thank you, I wanted to try and do something original with zombie apocalypses
halfshellvenus
Oct. 29th, 2014 11:52 pm (UTC)
And that’s why some secrets should never be buried.

Greg had not stayed buried.


EEeeeeee. No one expects the Zombie Apocalypse!

I liked that people had forgotten the reason for cremation, partly because it seems that the information wasn't preserved well enough for future generations.

Those who forget the past...

I'm sure poor Greg never intended to be an agent of destruction. :(
mamas_minion
Oct. 30th, 2014 02:41 am (UTC)
Greg just wanted to be closer to nature, If the government had provided the information instead of suppressing it, this could have been avoided.
eternal_ot
Oct. 30th, 2014 06:48 am (UTC)
Woot! *applause*..I simply loved the twist..Ha! What a spin! Marvelous work! Enjoyed it..:D
mamas_minion
Oct. 31st, 2014 02:17 am (UTC)
Thank you!
i_17bingo
Oct. 30th, 2014 07:41 am (UTC)
There was an overturned kitchen chair beneath him, and in front of the coffee table, there were six shovels.

Even as someone with a suicide attempt under his belt and a great deal of sympathy for those who ponder the act, I thought, Wow, what a dick.

And then the story took some weird, unexpected zigs and zags, ending with a surprising (for me anyway), pretty awesome twist. Well done! Happy Halloween!
mamas_minion
Oct. 31st, 2014 02:19 am (UTC)
Thank you, I wanted to start off having readers feel the story was going one way and then twist to something completely different.
jem0000000
Oct. 30th, 2014 09:51 am (UTC)
Oh no! There goes the neighborhood. And probably part of the city, once other zombies rise....
mamas_minion
Oct. 31st, 2014 02:19 am (UTC)
Some laws should not be broken.
karmasoup
Oct. 30th, 2014 09:58 pm (UTC)
This unfolded really well. Some part of you wonders why they didn't see it coming, but, I think halfshellvenus called it when she said "no one expects the zombie apocalypse." (Which of course automatically put into my head that Monty Python line, "No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!") But seriously, who really considers the possibility that their dead friend might come back to life and attack people?!

You've really captured the unpredictable nature of this particular string of events, and I love how you only vaguely allude to the semi-dystopian element of a world rebuilt in the aftermath here. Really nicely put together, this week! ;)

Edited at 2014-10-30 10:02 pm (UTC)
halfshellvenus
Oct. 30th, 2014 10:28 pm (UTC)
Exactly! Monthy Python probably owns a little too much of my memory. :D

mamas_minion
Oct. 31st, 2014 02:21 am (UTC)
Thank you, I was hoping the dystopian element would come through a little bit.
crisp_sobriety
Oct. 30th, 2014 11:18 pm (UTC)
Zombies, man. You can't raise just one.
mamas_minion
Oct. 31st, 2014 02:22 am (UTC)
Hehehehe, so true thank you for reading.
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )