Now with 50% more useless text Circulation: 179,788,606 Issue: 445 | 28th day of Hunting, Y12
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Zombie Nation: Part One


by herdygerdy

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Thaddeus Oldnose was dead.

      It was just one of those things.

      He’d been an apprentice sorcerer once, though he’d given that job up and become an artisan in the Haunted Woods. Things had never gone well for Thaddeus, and one of his patrons had killed him.

      An unremarkable end for an unremarkable Meerca.

      Yet it was only when he died that Thaddeus Oldnose really began to live.

      Death was not the end.

      It was only the beginning...

      Perhaps it was the latent magic in his body that kept his brain active and his limbs moving. Maybe it was the full moon. It could have even been the sandwich he’d eaten right before the unfortunate event that led to his demise.

      Whatever it was, Oldnose woke from the dead.

      His eyes flicked open and his chest heaved as he took a deep breath of air.

      Or... did he? Was that actually breathing, or just the thought that he should be breathing?

      He remembered dying, he was fairly sure of that. He’d been attacked in his own home by strange creatures... and now he was... where was he?

      The Meerca reached out with his hands and felt cold wood surrounding him on all sides.

      A sudden feeling of claustrophobia set in, and Oldnose found himself clawing at the wood in front of his face. It seemed to be made from the brittle wood of Haunted Woods trees, and quickly splintered as Oldnose began to strike it with more and more force.

      Eventually, the wood gave way completely, and what felt like soil seemed to fall in, burying the Meerca’s face.

      Was he underground?

      Oldnose scratched more at the wooden plank above him, gradually making the hole larger and letting more soil in.

      Once it was big enough, he began to squeeze himself up through the hole. It was a difficult process, as the soil pressed against his body and made moving almost impossible.

      Strangely though, as Oldnose moved up through the soil... he didn’t feel as if he was suffocating.

      In fact, he didn’t feel like he was breathing at all...

      His hand broke the surface above him, and managed to grab hold of a clump of grass that made dragging the rest of his body upwards considerably easier.

      Oldnose stood up, and dusted off the soil.

      He was in a graveyard, he immediately recognised that. Surely he hadn’t been buried?

      The Meerca fell to his knees as he noticed the headstone in front of him, the one on the grave he had just climbed out of.

      ‘HERE LIES THADDEUS OLDNOSE, MASTER ARTISAN.’

      Oldnose stared in disbelief, and then glanced down to his paws. They were pale, almost grey in colour. Like... a dead person.

      Oldnose glanced around. Candles had been lit by the side of his grave, and flower wreaths lain nearby.

      He knew why the candles were there. It was an old Haunted Woods tradition. The Baron would be drawn to them.

      Oldnose backed closer to his headstone. He hadn’t believed the stories about Baron Friday-Lunchtime when he was a child. The idea was laughable, that a zombie would come around the graveyard and claim other Neopets as his own.

      But now... Oldnose was dead, and things seemed just a touch realer.

      He thought he caught movement in the corner of his eye, away in the trees beyond the walls of the graveyard. When he turned to see, there was nothing there.

      A childish giggle seemed to be carried on the wind, and behind him Oldnose thought he heard the strings of a banjo being played.

      Oldnose wheeled his head around to the front, and almost died with shock... well, he would of if he’d been capable of dying again, of course.

      There was a Scorchio stood at the foot of his grave. He wore a finely tailored, if grubby looking waistcoat, and a top hat and tails. His skin had long ago turned pale.

      Skeletal face paints seem to have been applied to the creepy grinning features of the Scorchio, at least... Oldnose hoped they were paints. In one hand, the creature held an ancient looking banjo.

      He was exactly as the tales had described him. Tales that described how every night, Baron Friday-Lunchtime would roam the graveyards of the Haunted Woods, and claim the corpses there as his own. He was the first Zombie, and the Lord of the Dead.

      “Baron?” Oldnose asked, finding his voice was dusty and unused.

      The Scorchio smiled wider still. He nodded.

      “What happens now?” Oldnose asked.

      The Baron laughed, not quite a shriek, but not quite a giggle.

      “You live,” he answered as he sat back on a gravestone and began to play a tune.

     ***

      That had been six months ago, back when Oldnose was still in the Haunted Woods. The Baron had played a few tunes and proclaimed to Oldnose that he was his, forever, and then he had left the graveyard.

      Hardly the entrance or exit he’d expected of Baron Friday-Lunchtime, Lord of the Zombies. Surely there was meant to be some magic, or at very least an introductory pamphlet?

      Oldnose had tried lurking around the graveyard. He’d tried shuffling and groaning in the shadows... but his heart just wasn’t in it. He wasn’t that kind of Zombie.

      And the more time he spent dead, the more he realised that he wasn’t alone. There were hundreds of Zombies in the Haunted Woods, and hardly any of them ate brains.

      Oldnose was not happy as a Zombie. There was something missing, and he didn’t know what.

      It was one day when he was absentmindedly shuffling through the woods that he came across a discarded copy of the Neopian Times. Most of the paper’s sheets had gone, but the front page remained. Oldnose hadn’t bothered to keep up with current events since his untimely demise, but something about that particular paper caught his eye.

      The headline immediately sent shivers down his spine.

      ‘PROMINENT NEOPIA CENTRAL BUSINESSMAN DECLARES HIMSELF DEAD’

      Oldnose leaned back against a tree as he read the rest of the story. There was a picture of a Chomby on the front page, the one who had apparently died.

      He had been the director of one of Neopia Central’s biggest Insurance companies, and continued to be one even after his death. He had publicly declared himself undead, and by the wording of the article, he seemed to be the latest in a long line of upstanding Neopia Central citizens to become, as they put it, living impaired.

      Oldnose read the article once more. There were Zombies elsewhere that weren’t living by the old ways. They’d seen the backwards behaviour of their Haunted Woods cousins, and decided to do something different.

      They were carving out their own lives... or deaths, as the case may be.

      From that moment on, Oldnose knew that the Haunted Woods were not for him. He stopped only to say goodbye to the few Zombie friends he had made, and to tend to his grave, before setting out across the Endless Plains.

      The bright lights of the city had caught his imagination. He’d been dazzled by dreams of freedom and acceptance.

      Those dreams soon faded.

     ***

      The carriage rattled on through the night of the city. The green Grarrl atop it steered the Whinnies with force through the smog that hung in the streets of Neopia Central.

      As it came to a crossroads, he pulled the carriage to a gentle halt. He climbed down quickly, and knocked on the carriage’s door.

      “Thank you, Mr. Black,” a green Krawk said as he opened the door.

      Walking with a diamond tipped cane for support, the finely dressed Krawk made his way over to a nearby wall.

      It was a curious thing, when you stopped to think about it. Most people would look to the Neopian Times or a Neovision channel when they wanted to see what the people of Neopia Central thought.

      But here, at the crossroads between two of Neopia Central’s busiest roads, the Krawk knew he would find more information than he hoped for.

      It was where the poorer parts of the city met the richer parts. It was a boiling pot of all the fears and aspirations that the people of the city held. The graffiti on the wall told the Krawk more than any newspaper article ever could.

      He carefully ran his hands across it, memorising every last scribble, and discounting the ones he had seen on his previous visits. He chuckled as he saw one particular phrase, which was now fading from the brickwork.

      “Viva la Resistance,” he mused, glancing back to the Grarrl with a grin.

      The Krawk returned to his studies, and paused as he encountered the same phrase, more than once.

      “Friday Lunchtime is coming,” the Krawk read ominously.

      “Pardon, sir?” the Grarrl asked. “Doesn’t it always?”

      “Yes, my thoughts exactly,” the Krawk agreed, standing up. “Nevertheless, this seems to be important. We must pursue avenues of investigation immediately.”

      The Grarrl nodded, “Quite so, sir.”

      The Krawk stared once more at the wall. Something about the apparent innocence of the phrase bothered him. This needed to be dealt with, quickly.

      He returned to the carriage and shut the door firmly behind him. The Grarrl returned to his seat at the front, and cracked a whip at the Whinnies.

      The carriage rattled off along the cobbled streets. It wasn’t long before it disappeared into the thick night smog.

      The crossroads was left empty.

      Then, out of an alleyway, a figure emerged, shuffling ever so slightly. He reached the wall, and took a thick brush out of the can of paint he was holding. He pressed the brush to the wall and began to write in thick, violent red letters.

      The Meerca stood back and smiled when he was finished, before scuttling off into the night.

      The red letters dried slowly on the wall.

      ’Zombie Rights Now’

To be continued...

 
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