Witch Doctor

Witch Doctor

A Chapter by Venompen
"

Visiting a dead doctor and learning about fungus.

"

According to Tucker, Doc had set up shop in an old clinic building, one of the ones that had been shanghaied into a lab to try to find a cure before everything went to hell.  It wasn't too hard to find.  I'd been there before back when I was alive.  Er... the first time I was alive.  It was about an hour's walk from the house, but I'm not complaining.  After all, no cars mean no rednecks with shotguns.  All things considered, it was pretty peaceful here.  Sure there are bloody bones everywhere and the air smells musty and rotten, but there's nothing to worry about.  The zombies didn't want to eat me, there was no one pointing a gun at my head, no traffic, no loud people on cell phones, no gunfire or sirens off in the distance.  Just my own footsteps and papers rustling in the wind like flattened tumbleweeds.  After a while I fell into a sort of trance.  Just one foot in front of the other,  my memories guiding my footsteps.  The buildings melted into one another each one bearing no real distinction until I reached my destination.

 

Unlike the other buildings, this one had obviously been recently modified.  There were yellow drums with hazmat symbols on them stacked outside.  One of them had been cut open, flattened, and hung up on the wall with big dripping letters added in blue spray paint: "LAB 13” I stepped inside, and a bell jingled brightly.  I was surprised to see that it was clean.  No bloodstains anywhere, the tile was shiny, the lights worked.  If it weren't for the dead woman face down on the receptionist's desk, you'd never know from here that there was a full-blown zombie apocalypse going on.  I rang the bell at the desk and the corpse jumped.  I screamed.  The corpse screamed.  We both screamed.  Then we remembered that we were zombies and came to our senses.

 

"Sorry about that,"  said the cor- zombie lady.  "It’s kind of slow here.  I get bored."

"No problem,” I said. "Didn't mean to scare you."

"Its alright," she said as she straightened her blonde hair.  She looked fairly... fresh.  Not quite as rotten as the other zombies I'd seen.  She couldn't have been older than 25 before she died.  "So what are you here for?"

"I'd like to see the doctor,” I said.  "I have some questions."

"Doc's in the back sewing someone up," she said. "What do you need to know?"

I thought about it.  There were a lot of questions swimming around in my head, but one seemed to sum up everything I needed to know.  "What am I?"

The woman gave me a sympathetic look. "I don't know..." she said.  "There's a lot I don't understand.  I was only halfway through med school when...” she trailed off.  Her face fell.  "Well, you know." she said with a false smile.  She propped her head up on one arm, and I could see jagged rows of stitches on her wrist.  She saw me looking and quickly hid her arm.  I'm sure if she had blood, she'd be blushing.

"It's okay,” I said, tugging down my shirt collar and craning my damaged neck. "I know."

"Seems to be a theme around here." a voice to my left said in a British accent.  I turned and was surprised to meet what appeared to be a teenager in a bloody lab coat, followed by a burly green skinned man with mass of stitches and bolts sticking out of his left arm.  "Almost everyone here offed themselves." the teenager said.

"Thanks for stitching me up Doc," said the green guy.

"Don't mention it."  said Doc.  "Remember to come in this December so I can take out those bolts."

"Will do," the green guy said over his shoulder as the bell jangled again.

"So," I said, turning toward the dark haired teenager.  "you're Doc?"

"I'm older than I look." he said, indignantly.  Apparently he got this a lot.  "I've been dead longer than you've been alive."

"Sorry." I said quickly.  "Didn't mean to pull your chain.  I was told you could tell me a few things about my... condition."  His face softened with sympathy.

"We've all been there, I suppose." he said, nodding.  "So how'd you snuff it?"

"How'd I what now?"  I asked, confused.

"Die."

"Oh, that."  I said, tugging down my collar again.  "Hung myself."

"Ah, the old human yoyo routine."  he said, chuckling.  "Might've guessed from how you've fucked up your voice."  He drew open his coat and shirt, revealing a small black dot where his heart was.  "I was shot myself.  My own dad did it.  Cried the whole time he was loading the gun.  Blindfolded me and fired.  Woke up an hour later when he was still digging my grave."

"I'm... sorry."  I said, not sure of what to say.  You never really plan on how to respond when someone tells you how they died.

"Don't be," he said.  "It was my bloody idea.  Thought it was the way things had to be.  Didn't want to put my sisters in danger or nothing."

"Does he know-"

"That I'm alive?" he said.  Apparently he's had this conversation before.  "Probably.  Probably thinks I joined the zombie horde." he was staring at the floor.  "Part of the deal I suppose.  Never getting to see your family or friends again."  He shook his head violently, as if he was trying to shake something loose.  "But, that’s in the past.  I imagine you'd need to know about your present and future." 

 

He launched into his well-rehearsed lecture.

"My first week as a zombie was a hard one.  I was living on garbage, hiding in alleys and under bridges.  I was gradually slowing down, getting dumber as my brain and body were depleted of power.  Then came the cravings.  Nearly overwhelming urges to attack people.  To crack open their skulls and eat their brains.  I began to wonder why the urges were so specific.  Why brains?  I asked myself during a rare moment of calm sanity.  The only thing that brain had that other muscles and organs didn't was a massive amount of electricity.  I figured there wasn't any harm in it, so I rifled through dead people's pockets until I found something with a battery. A pocket radio, I think it was.  I pried out the battery and swallowed it whole.  After about an hour, I felt like my old self again.  No urges to disembowel people, no odd fascination with brains.  I thought I was cured until I figured out I had to do it again.  Nearly ate a mailman."  He opened a cabinet behind the front desk and began pulling out folders.

"What are those?"  I asked, predictably.

"Research," said Doc.  He opened one of the folders and showed me a few photos.  They were of people's insides.  I could see the faces.  Most of them looked bored, but one of them looked like he was... screaming.  "You see those black growths?" he said, pointing out branching vines of black flesh.  It looked like plants growing out of their meat.  "That's Dunkler Marionettepilz.  It was originally bred in Germany during the third reich."  He took out another picture, this one of a large black growth with little windows of blue light.  "This is the mycelium.  According to my research, it possesses some primitive sentience."  He took out a picture of what appeared to be a cut open stomach.  The zombie in this picture was missing several limbs and a head. "These fungal growths in the stomach-" he pointed to several bushy nests of black fibers growing out of the stomach wall. "- are closely similar to human neurons.  They latch on to any source of electricity and deplete them before allowing the digestive system to process them."  He opened another folder, this one full of microscope photographs.  He pointed to a spiky black cell.  "These are viral spores." he said pointing to more slides. "They act like virus cells to any invading microorganisms.  They take them over and destroy it by producing more of its kind."  He pointed to a picture that looked like one plant that was growing out of another.  "This is a splice point, where the fungus has tapped into the host's nervous system." He took out one lst folder, rifled through some notes and pictures, and selected two.  "One of these pictures is from the brain of a sane zombie, the other from a cannibal."

"What's the difference?" I said, staring quizzically at the pages.

"There's not one," Doc said. "I've been trying to figure out for decades why some zombies come back to life as cannibals."  He began to reorganize the papers and place the folders back into the cabinet.  "Some zombies wake up sane, and they find electricity, turn to voluntary cannibalism, or die out.  The others wake up as brain-hungry demons from the get-go.  I just can't figure out why!"  He slammed a fist into the wall.  Judging by the dents, he'd been doing that a while.

"Is there anyway, I can help?"  I asked as he slunk back into the hallway.

"Not unless you've got a miracle in your pocket."  He said.  He didn't look back.

 



© 2011 Venompen


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Featured Review

Another strong chapter. Only a couple of errors :)

I liked your doctor's speech on fungi...really added to his credibility as well as laid another threat to the zombie race. You've got an interesting scientific theory going on here. Great, original take!

Posted 9 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.




Reviews

Another solid chapter in a very intriguing book! Much the same praise as I had the last time, the whole zombies-as-people thing is interesting, and the setting you describe is deliciously derelict and post-apocalyptic. My criticism, some of the dialogue is cliché and a little cheesy, 'don't mention it'. The phrase is a pet hate of mine! I love the Doc's technical explanation, although I got a little lost in the middle.

Posted 9 Years Ago


Another strong chapter. Only a couple of errors :)

I liked your doctor's speech on fungi...really added to his credibility as well as laid another threat to the zombie race. You've got an interesting scientific theory going on here. Great, original take!

Posted 9 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


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Venompen
Venompen

Los Alamos, NM



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I do not review your work unless you review mine. I hold this policy because, thanks to all the quick and easy poetry on this site, noone spares a second for a story author such as myself. If you've.. more..

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