Tales from Neopia Central: Part Six
Night of the Living Impaired – the Zombie's Tale
Neopia Central had changed – far too quickly for Arthur Munroe.
Of course things had always changed, Munroe had lived and died in Neopia Central after all – and becoming a zombie had been a very big change for him.
As the owner of Neopia Central Insurance, Inc., he'd always dealt in the business of death and misfortune – but it all seemed so much more acute when it happened to him. He'd joined the zombie rights movement in the city, and by effective consensus had become their spokesperson to the media.
And now they were under threat. Mr. Jennings, a long time supporter of their cause, was dead. The situation was going from bad to worse within the city, and people were looking for someone to blame. Of course, they'd never dare blame themselves, so attention was turning to those were different. If the people in Little Shenkuu weren't fighting back, Munroe didn't doubt they'd be in danger – but as it was, the zombies were taking the heat. It would get worse, he was sure.
"Sir?" the voice of the Chomby's assistant, Mr. Jones, said. "Are you listening?"
Munroe turned back from gazing out of his office to the city streets below.
"Yes, sorry old boy," he replied. "Lost in my thoughts and all that."
"I quite understand, sir," Jones answered.
He felt the same fears as Munroe. The Skeith after all was affected by the same curse.
"Anyway, you were saying?" Munroe asked.
"Accounts say that we're getting dangerously close to a tipping point," Jones repeated. "A few more weeks of this claim level and we'll be officially bankrupt – we'll have no option but to call in the liquidators."
Munroe stared bleakly at his desk. "A few more weeks of this and I don't think it will matter what position we're in – there won't be much of a city left. Call a meeting of the department heads, but leave it as close to the line as you can. I don't wish to spread a panic."
"I will do, sir," Jones agreed. "There was one other thing, sir. A message from Miss Tobik. She says she's been robbed, and wishes to talk to you are her home in the Hills as soon as possible."
Munroe nodded. "I'll go at once."
The weeks passed, Miss Tobik and the population of the Hills left, and Munroe found himself for the first time without a sizable number of his peers. It seemed as though he alone remained – not that he minded, of course, he still had all the new friends he'd made in the city's zombie community.
The majority of the living impaired, as they liked to be called, made their homes in the Old Quarter of the city on the east side, near an expansive graveyard. Once it had been the home of morticians and tombstone manufacturers, but now it was colloquially known as the Zombie District. It was a matter of some contention to the other members of the undead who were rumoured to inhabit the area, such as ghosts, vampires and the occasional Werelupe. But that was, at least for the time being, a minor inconvenience given the sheer amount of zombies there were.
At the moment, there were even more than usual, as the zombies who dared to live in other areas of the city had fled there, fearing violence. At the moment, they were under the protection of Blackwing – a Wocky Defender with a dark persona. But it was unknown how long it would be until the looters plucked up the courage to challenge him.
There were weekly meetings for the zombies lately, and Munroe and Jones were in attendance for this one, with Blackwing watching alertly from the corner.
Munroe spent some time talking to the friends he had made in the city. The Yooyuball coach, George Beastbanks, the architect Thaddeus Oldnose, or the singer, Shirley Franklin. There weren't any real issues to announce to the crowd – after all, society was breaking down. The only thing that really mattered was the situation with the riots, and keeping themselves out of harm's way.
Blackwing received a message part way into the meeting, which seemed to take him quite by surprise, and he decided to make an announcement.
"Ladies and gentlemen!" he called out. "I'm sorry, but I just received an urgent message. There has been a breakout at the Defenders Headquarters, and I'm being called back for reassignment, as are all active Defenders. I hope you understand that we can no longer offer you our protection. Thank you."
A flurry of questions bombarded him, but he answered none, instead dashing off into the night.
Suddenly, even though they were in a room filled with hundreds of other people, the zombies felt quite alone – and scared.
"They'll be coming!" a voice from the crowd said. "They'll be coming for us and there's nothing we can do to stop them!"
Panicked whispers spread through the crowd, it was Munroe who claimed their attention next.
"If they come, we don't need to be here," he announced. "Everyone will be looking for zombies in the Old Quarter, so that's exactly where we won't be."
"But where can we go?" a voice asked.
"The Hills!" Munroe replied. "They are practically empty after the evacuation – we can all go to my mansion, it will be big enough. I'm not saying they'll never find us, but it will at least buy us some more time."
"Sir," Jones piped up. "We have that meeting, remember? With the department heads."
"We'll have to skip it, Mr. Jones," Munroe said dismissively. "This is important, much more important."
"Sir!" Wadsworth, Mr. Munroe's butler, greeted him. "Welcome home!"
Glancing to the legions of the undead shuffling up the drive to the mansion, he added, "Shall I prepare the guest rooms?"
"No, Wadsworth," Munroe told the Ogrin. "You are to find Mrs. White the cook and instruct her that both you and her have been given the night off. You are to leave the premises immediately and not look back. I suggest sticking to back alleys on your route home."
"Sir?" Wadsworth asked. "Am I being fired?"
"Not at all, my boy!" Munroe boomed as the zombies filed past into the house. "But please, follow my instructions."
Wadsworth nodded, and disappeared inside to locate Mrs. White.
"This is simply breathtaking!" Oldnose the architect exclaimed upon seeing the interior.
"Indeed," Munroe agreed. "It was designed by my father... the entire place was to go to my nephew, Gerald... but he's in jail now, so I doubt he'll be in line... after me, I guess this place will just be deserted."
"After you?" Oldnose asked. "You're a zombie, Mr. Munroe, there won't be an after."
"They might find us," Munroe said darkly.
"They can't kill us," Oldnose pointed out.
"No," Munroe agreed. "But they can do other things... and by the end of those we may wish we were dead."
They waited, crowded into the basement of Munroe's home. Crowded in the dark, hunted and hiding like monsters.
Then they heard the sounds. The smashing of the windows, the buckling of the great front door. The sound of jeers and insults.
"They're here!" someone hissed in the darkness. "They're going to find us!"
"Only if you keep talking!" someone else whispered. "Be quiet!"
"Why us?" someone else bawled. "Why is it always us? Why not Little Shenkuu or the vampires? Everyone hates vampires, don't they?"
"Because they fight back," someone else pointed out.
"Well, why don't we?" the bawling voice asked.
It was a question that in truth no one had an answer for. They were always the victims, but there was in truth no good reason for that. Always running, it had never occurred to them to stop.
"You're right!" Munroe boomed in a voice made even louder by the stone of the cellars. "This is my house and by Jove I'm not going to let some miscreants run about it! Follow me!"
The zombies emerged out from the cellar, finding momentary difficulty in the bottleneck the door presented. Once they were all back on the ground floor, they made their way to the great dining room, the source of the noise. They opened the door, preparing some sort of battle cry – but something very strange happened.
It was as if all the noise had been sucked out of the room. The jeers of the torch wielding crowd were silent, as was the groaning of the zombies. The moment of artificial silence came with a tingling that Munroe recognised as magic, and ended with a brief blinding green flash from outside, that illuminated the zombies in a horrible way and alerted the looters to their presence.
Then there was an explosion somewhere in the distance, a vast shockwave spreading out across the city that caused the windows to the dining room, and every other room in the building for that matter, to explode inwards, showering everyone inside with glass.
It hurt the looters, but the zombies could merely shrug it off. As the noise of the explosion echoed outside, the zombies charged at their new quarries.
That night, the zombies fought back.
The Krawk walked along the beach, carefully hobbling along with his makeshift walking stick. He had a target in his eyes – Aden's father, Dennan. The island Kougra was staring at the horizon and reacted uncomfortably when the Krawk came to a rest by his side.
"Aden is very keen that I not leave the hut," the Krawk ventured. "I managed to sneak out while he was sleeping. Thank you for your hospitality, Dennan."
"I know who you are," Dennan said bluntly.
"I read the newspapers," Dennan told him. "They think you're dead, you know?"
"I very nearly was," the Krawk replied.
"Neopia Central is tearing itself apart," Dennan added.
"All the more reason I should return," the Krawk pointed out. "I assure you, you wouldn't be betraying any island spirits to let me go."
"I don't believe in spirits," Dennan explained. "But Aden... after his mother died... I can't break his heart again. If believing in island spirits helps him get over it, I'll support him."
"So I can't leave," the Krawk surmised.
"Don't get me wrong," Dennan said, turning to him. "Once the witch doctor says you are well enough, you are leaving my home. I'll take you to the port myself. I know who you are, I know what you do to people and places. I don't want that in my home. I don't want that near my son. I'd have told him already if I wasn't afraid that he'd take it as a sign that he should help you."
"If you want me gone, the answer is simple," the Krawk said. "Aden is asleep. Take me back to this witch doctor of yours. Make him give me a clean bill of health and I'll be out of your hair forever."
Dennan considered this. "Alright. Follow me. But we'll have to be quick."
To be continued...