By Tony Schaab
Originally written: April 2009
Nobody seemed to know exactly how, when, or why the dead started to rise. Heck, for the first month or so of the news coverage, most of the major television networks even refused to use the term “zombie” on their newscasts. Like it was some sort of bad luck charm. Like not saying it would make the situation any less real.
As is normally the case with the general public in times of global uncertainty, many people reacted to the situation in many different ways. The myriad of different religions saw a dramatic increase in attendance and participation. While some minor looting did occur, it seemed that the general population was smart enough to realize that the crisis of a potentially unstoppable menace with a voracious appetite for human flesh couldn’t exactly be solved with a free DVD player or a stolen Bluetooth headset.
On the whole, most people reacted along the exact same way they had lived their entire lives: preachers kept on preaching, albeit to larger crowds and with a little more “intensity” to their messages; bankers kept on banking, using the crisis to raise rates and encourage more savings in the morning and more loans in the afternoon; teachers kept on teaching, although many classrooms’ content had shifted more to “survival tactics” than “singular trigonometry;” and inventors kept inventing, creating items and methods to help people cope with the new issues at hand.
I also kept doing what I had known all my life: I’m an entrepreneur, and I know people who stand to make the most profit in times of crisis are the ones who do something unique, something extraordinary, something the people can’t get anywhere else. And what is extraordinary in a strange new world like this? What are people fascinated with right now? The thing they are most afraid of, of course. The big “Z.”
There are already teams who have captured members of the undead legions and are performing a variety of tests, be they the scientific kind or the more “curious” sort. There already exist the garden-variety “zombie fighting” clubs, as well as the more underground, subversive variety. Any businessman can do anything with any old zombie. I knew what I had to get to draw the crowds. The unique zombies. The “one-of-a-kind” zombies. That’s right: I had to go out and get the celebrity zombies.
It was actually a lot easier than you might think to “collect” celebrities once they’ve turned undead. I began by heading up into the Hollywood Hills and just started stopping at the biggest mansions I came to, checking to see if anyone was home. Some mansions were empty, some were fortified by still-living celebrities, and a few held exactly what I was looking for – famous people, some more so than others, dead and shambling aimlessly around their large houses and nice cars and other once-proud status symbols of their “hard-earned” money. I wrangled up those I found and took them back to my ranch.
Others in my collection, I came across by pure luck. I heard on the news that an undead Peyton Manning had been trapped and left in an empty television studio; filming another ridiculous commercial, I assumed, but nobody seemed to mind leaving him there initially, and nobody seemed to mind when I came and took him. I came across Bill Murray on a golf course in Beverly Hills and, to be quite honest, it took me a few minutes to realize that he was dead and not just his usual, apathetic self. I found a zombified Roseanne Barr in my cattle pens, chewing on the carcass of one of my cows. Seemed oddly fitting.
So I made an “interactive living-dead museum” and started doing some underground marketing. It worked like a charm; what started out as curious teens and twenty-somethings who thought it was “cool” to be able to taunt a zombie Chuck Norris from behind a protective fence turned into an all-ages sensation. Sports fans came to “dunk” on Kobe Bryant (granted, he was chained lying-down to the floor underneath the basketball hoop, but it still counted), morning-news and talk show fans were excited to be able to “sit down” and have their picture taken with Matt Lauer and (a badly decomposing) Dr. Phil. I even put together a “reality show” of lesser-known celebrities; granted, the show was live and only consisted of watching zombies fight over a slab of meat tossed into their glass-walled room, but it actually became quite a hit. People unofficially named it “The Surreal After-Life” (which was much better than the title I had come up with, “Big Dead Brother”) and groups routinely gathered to watch the spectacle. They even started to place bets on who would get the most meat; Paula Abdul and Perez Hilton were surprisingly safe bets on most days.
Things were going well. Business was good and I was making more money than I ever had during the “Pre-Z” days. Life was sweet. That is, until the day I went to clean the reality show stage and miscounted how many zombies I had herded into their pens. While scrubbing the walls, I heard a gurgling noise behind me; I spun around, but didn’t have enough time to react before “Subway Diet” poster-boy Jared Fogle bit into my abdomen, hard. I kicked him off me and stabbed him through the head with my machete, but by then it was far too late for me.
I panicked and jumped in the car with the intent of driving to the hospital, but halfway there I could feel the virus taking over, so I stopped on the side of a lonely road on the outskirts of town. As I felt my body going numb and the life force leaving me, I found it ironic that my last thought was probably identical to those undead fools that I had worked so hard to surround myself with: “I wonder if anyone will remember me?”