Here is the original bio that accompanied this story in it’s various submissions: Tony Schaab returns with his second zombie short story, following the quirky “PaparazZombie” with an equally odd successor. “A Disagreeable Affectation” started it’s life as a scripted scene Tony wrote for a comedy show put on by IndyProv, Indianapolis’ only independent improvised-comedy troupe; Tony altered the writing of the scene to make the tale work in short-story form. Tony remains 31 years old. Tony still runs his zombie-centric blog, Slight of the Living Dead, and is proud to offer short stories along with zombie movie reviews, book reviews, game reviews, and more. Tony is contractually obligated to mention his friend and fellow short-story author Michael Sullivan in this bio.
A Disagreeable Affectation
by Tony Schaab
Originally written: May 2009
Billy and Jason ran through the door of the abandoned office, slamming it shut behind them. Out of breath, they were both silent for a long moment before Jason spoke. ”This shit be fucked up! There ain’t no way that this is actually happening…” His voice trailed off, unsure of exactly what to say next.
Billy caught his breath and answered, “I know. I spent my entire youth watching zombie movies…never in my wildest dreams would I imagine that zombies would become real and take over the world!”
“Well, at least we’ve done escaped from them,” Jason said, crouching and peering cautiously out the window. Suddenly, he stood up, rigid with fear. “Or not! Here they come!”
“Shit!” Billy yelled as five of the undead came crashing through the door. Three of them came shambling towards Billy, arms outstretched, as the other two closed on Jason, who had moved to the far corner of the room and was cowering there in fear. Not being able to come up with any other coherent thoughts, Billy yelped at his attackers. “Please don’t eat me! I have a wife and three children!!”
All five of the deceased attackers halted suddenly, stopped in their tracks with their arms in mid-air, as if contemplating some great secret. Confused but feeling opportunistic, Jason slowly said, ”Ye-yeah, don’t eat me neither! I’ve gots me a grandmother at home that I be taking care of!”
The zombies, as if awakening from a dream, roared as they all descended upon Jason and in a flash they dragged him, kicking and screaming, out the door of the office and around the corner, where his screams slowly faded. Left alone, Billy could do nothing but stand and shake in fear and confusion. While he was still deciding exactly what to do next, a woman came running through the door.
Billy jumped into action; unfortunately, that action was slamming himself up against the wall awkwardly while yelling, “Shit! Are you a zombie too??”
The woman stopped in the middle of the room, her hands up in front of her in the classic “non-threatening” fashion. “No, I’m a normal person! My name is Eliza…what’s yours?”
“Billy…I’m Billy…” was all he could muster as a reply.
“Billy…was that your friend that I just saw being dragged away by zombies?”
Billy, feeling slightly dizzied by the day’s events, replied, “Yeah, they were just here, but I don’t know why they took him and not me…” He let his voice trail off, not exactly sure what to say next.
The woman took the opportunity to speak, with an air of authority: “I think I may have the answer to that. I’m Professor Eliza Hollingsworth. I’m an English teacher at the local college, and our English department faculty was working with the local Army base on a top-secret experiment that was to combine their attempts at ridding the world of counter-terrorism with our attempts of ridding the world of people who can’t speak the English language very well. But, somewhere along the way, our efforts went horribly, horribly awry.”
Billy opened his mouth to reply, but Eliza, in full-on dramatic monologue mode, carried on with her speech. “You see, Billy, the reason the zombies drug your friend away but left you alone is quite simple: he must have used bad grammar in front of them. That’s the only time these zombies attack people: because we accidentally unleashed upon the world the sheer horror of…Grammar Zombies!!”
Billy’s brain, at this point, simply checked out. Not being able to process such fantastical information, he stood silently, his jaw slacked. Eliza continued, “I sense your confusion, and I know this is a lot to take in. The bottom line, Billy, is that we will be just fine as long as we don’t make any grammatical errors in front of the zombies. Whenever they might come back.”
In a robotic voice, Billy echoed her. “Yes…whenever they might come back.”
Another few seconds of awkward silence passed between the two, and then suddenly the undead came crashing through the other door on the far side of the office! With a freshly zombified Jason in tow, they lurched towards the two humans, who backed into a corner together as the professor bravely spoke.
“Fear not, Billy!” Eliza exclaimed theatrically. “As long as we don’t make any grammatical errors when we speak, we will be just fine!”
“You’re right, Professor!” Bill said, brazenly. He was feeding off of her bravado, making him feel more empowered, and more dramatic as a side effect. “I realize now, based on what you’ve told me, that there is nothing to be afraid of!”
The zombies stopped suddenly, slowly turning and staring with their undead eyes, fixating on Billy.
Eliza stared a Billy in horror. “Billy…did you just…end your sentence…with a preposition?”
A variety of emotions passed over Billy’s face as he slowly realized his mistake. “No…I said that I was afraid with…I mean, I…SHIT!”
Billy frantically looked for an opportunity to run, but it was far too late. The group of living dead tore Billy apart limb by limb, eating his insides and splashing Eliza with blood and guts and she stood by, frozen in fright and looking away in horror. The group, having finished their meal and having no reason to attack Eliza, began to shamble away aimlessly. Eliza, sobbing, couldn’t help but deliver one last dramatic line for her fallen comrade. “Oh, Billy! Hopefully your death will not be in vain!”
The undead zombies stopped abruptly in mid-shuffle and turned back to look at Eliza. She sneered at them. “Keep moving, you assholes. According to the American Writer’s Association as of 2005, using ‘hopefully’ at the beginning of a sentence is no longer considered a dangling participle.”
The zombies looked at one another, nodded and grunted begrudgingly, and continue their slow walk out the door of the office, leaving Eliza alone in the suddenly-quiet room.
Taking a moment to compose herself, Eliza wiped the gore off of her face and stood tall. Speaking to no one in particular, she dramatically stated: “I see now that it is up to me to save the world. However, instead of amassing guns and teaching violence, I know now I must amass English textbooks and teach proper grammatical contexts. We can win this war…with our mouths!”
Determined and with purpose, Eliza strode towards the door of the office. A few feet from the door, she tripped and stumbled over something unseen on the ground. Her dramatic trance broken, she looked down, exclaiming “Shit! Where did that piece of entrails come from?”
In the distance, she heard the pack of zombies groan and heard the shuffling of their feet approaching. Realizing her grammatical mistake made in a moment of panic, she tried to backtrack, stammering: “I mean, did this piece of entrails from come…where…oh, fuck it!”
She ran off to begin the resistance movement, knowing that she was a marked woman in the eyes of…THE GRAMMAR ZOMBIES!