Zombie Nation: Part Two
Mr. Jennings almost snatched the newspaper off Mr. Black as he handed it over. The green Krawk pressed it out smoothly on his desk before looking back up to the Grarrl.
“Has there been any word from Mr. Vargo?” he asked.
The Grarrl shook his head.
“He’s still keeping quiet... the business with the Resistance seems to have got to him,” he replied.
“I doubt it will last,” Jennings mused.
He glanced down at a scrap of paper lying next to the newspaper on his desk. It was a list of four names, the first of which had been crossed out.
“We will need to be prepared if we are to deal with him,” Jennings added. “A long conflict with Mr. Vargo will not go well for us. It must be quick and painless.”
“Quite so, sir,” Black agreed.
Jennings nodded, and proceeded to read the newspaper. Mr. Black stood in silence as his employer read. He knew that he needed absolute concentration.
Jennings poured over every single story. Each sentence, each picture, was scrutinised to the finest detail.
Jennings had not gotten to where he was by not paying attention to the details. Where was he? Why, only one of the biggest crime lords in Neopia Central. He was certainly the only one with a controlling share of the Defenders of Neopia.
Jennings had come far from the day he was exiled from Shenkuu, and removed from his place as the General of the Armed Forces. He was making something of himself in Neopia Central. He was doing something important.
There were people like Mr. Vargo. People on the list, who wished to do Jennings harm. They stood in his way, and stood in the way of progress. Jennings would bring change to Neopia Central, one way or another.
He wasn’t a bad person, at least... not an evil person. People would never admit it, but the things Jennings did for the city actually ended up for the better. The Shenkuu immigrants he had brought in had tripled the output of Kau Kau Farms. The Insurance industry that he had helped was going from strength to strength. But there were always things, little details, which threatened to derail his plans.
This ‘Friday Lunchtime’ was one of them. It was important, he was sure of it.
Jennings leaned back after he finished reading the paper.
“Nothing,” he said dejectedly. “Absolutely nothing.”
That troubled him even more. If it was something trivial then there would have been at least some mention of it. If it was staying out of the news, it was dangerous.
“What now, sir?” Black asked.
“We wait, it is all we can do for now,” Jennings replied, leaning back in his chair.
Oldnose burst up through the water, a small piece of rotting driftwood in his hand.
“Got it!” he proclaimed proudly to the Wocky standing at the edge of the flooded area.
Slowly the stale sewage water that surrounded Oldnose began to drain away. The Zombie Meerca made his way back over to his overseer.
“Who knows why so many people are throwing this stuff away,” the Wocky commented as he took the log from Oldnose. “That’s the third blockage this week. If we keep up at this rate then the sewers are going to block up and we’ll have backlogs all over the city streets.”
He leaned down and took Oldnose by the hand, hoping to pull him up. A quiet ripping sound came from the Meerca’s arm as he fell backwards. The Wocky still had hold of his arm.
“Sorry about that,” Oldnose apologised as he took back the arm and hastily started repairs with his emergency sewing kit.
Sewing was one of those things you just got good at when you were a Zombie... in life Oldnose hadn’t so much as picked up a needle, but with limbs falling off at every opportunity, he’d had to learn fast.
Oldnose took the far safer route of the ramp back to meet his colleague, and together they made their way back through the service tunnels of Neopia Central’s sewer system.
It wasn’t high paid work, and it certainly wasn’t nice. The dreams Oldnose had been sold when he’d ventured into the city had evaporated.
It soon became clear to him that in Neopia Central, just like in the Haunted Woods, Zombies were second class citizens.
They were forced into the bad jobs, the jobs that no one else wanted to do. They were the jobs that kept them out of the public’s eye. No one wanted to be served in the Coffee Shop by a Zombie. No one wanted to trust their Neopoints to one at the National Neopian Bank.
So they lurked in the shadowy jobs, cleaning the city streets at night, working in the sewers, or in the factories of the Docklands. They’d been forced out of Kau Kau Farms by cheap Shenkuu labour. After all, no one wanted to know that a Zombie had picked the fruit they were eating.
Oldnose had found a job in the sewers, cleaning out the blockages. He didn’t need to breathe, so he could go deeper than a diver for longer, and just pull the blockage out. It was messy work, and Oldnose smelt.
Not that it made much difference; dead people smelt as a rule anyway.
Oldnose said goodbye to his supervisor at the foot of the ladder that led back up to the city. He emerged into the late afternoon sun. People were already staring at him and holding their noses, so he made his way down to the Batrin River that ran through the city.
Being dead did have its advantages. Oldnose was able to wade out into the middle of the river and completely submerge himself. The Batrin River ran straight through the heart of Neopia Central, so it could never be called clean, but it was better than the stench of the sewers, and Oldnose didn’t have to fear drowning or being washed away. He was clean by the time he emerged at the other bank, and continued on his path home.
The Old Quarter. That was where Thaddeus Oldnose lived. Once, it had been a rather dead area of the city... and in a way nothing had changed. A sizable graveyard filled most of the area, while shops devoted to morticians and undertakers filled the rest. The growing influx of Zombies had caused a shortage of space, and the poor people of the Docklands had flat out refused to have Zombies living next door to them.
So the living impaired had found homes in the place that most of them had been buried. The Old Quarter was fast becoming the Zombie District.
Oldnose had rented a small flat above a tailor that specialised in funeral attire. He stopped there briefly to change out of his work overalls and into something more respectable. Gone were the rags he used to wear in the Haunted Woods.
Oldnose checked himself in his mirror once before heading back out of his front door. Night had set in, and he got far less stares than usual as he crossed the city. The deep smog masked the identities of travellers in the night; few people could identify a Zombie.
The Meerca’s next destination was the darkness of the Catacombs. Burning torches lit the underground caverns that stretched on for miles beneath most of the Marketplace and Theatre District. Oldnose kept away from the Coffee shop and Storytelling area, instead ducking down one of the many tunnels that led away from the Art Gallery.
He soon reached his destination, a large cavern filled with other Neopets.
All of them were dead... or rather, undead.
Oldnose sat down at the back and greeted a few of his fellow Zombies. This was a meeting place for them, far away from the prying eyes of Neopia Central’s living inhabitants.
It wasn’t quite a secret society, but it wasn’t a club either. It was just a meeting for Zombies. A place where they could discuss the issues they faced in day to day death. They were a minority in the city, persecuted and marginalised, but here it felt as if they had a voice. In this cavern, Zombies were important.
“Hello again!” a voice at the front called out. “I said... I said... hello again!”
The general hubbub of the cavern died down and the Chomby at the front was allowed to continue speaking. Oldnose didn’t know him personally, but he knew of him. He had been the Chomby on the front page of the Neopian Times, the one who had convinced him to make the move to the city.
Arthur Munroe, owner of Neopia Central Insurance, Inc., was one of the richest men in the city. He was a jovial sort, and his large belly was a telltale sign that even in death he liked a good meal.
“I’ve been talking with some of you chaps,” Munroe continued. “It seems as though we’re getting less and less mention in the press these days. There’s far too much in the Times about this criminal war going on in the city or gold shortages, and not nearly enough about Zombie Rights.”
“Minimum Wage!” a voice shouted from the crowd.
“Exactly, exactly.” Munroe nodded. “Anyway, I can’t blame the reporters over at the Times; danger sells papers after all. However, we were thinking that it might be awfully nice if we gave them something to report about. We were thinking about a demonstration, perhaps? A march through the city, that sort of thing. Perhaps tomorrow afternoon?”
Murmured agreement came from the other Zombies, though to anyone passing it may have sounded like creepy groaning. The group seemed to be supportive of the idea.
“Good.” Munroe beamed. “We’ll meet in the Marketplace... say around... three?”
To be continued...