Thursday, November 14, 2013

#AC


"What? You sure about that?"

That was Daniel's first sentence after Mike voiced his opinion. He went on to question the feasibility of the plan itself and whether it was even logical in the first place. What could four tiny humans like us possibly do and hope to achieve?

As much as I respected Mike, I shared Daniel's concern. There were after all only the four of us and so many of them. As my English teacher would say, we were the countable nouns while the zeds bordered on the uncountable. There was no way we could go against them head on and not become zed food ourselves. No matter how you look at it, there was no reason any of us should play hero. But still, I wanted to hear what Mike has to say. I was getting a bit bored of sitting around, after all.

"Is it because of your son?"

It was Julie. She had this intrigued look now, and if I can guess, I sense that she already has something in her mind.

Mike drew in his breath. He looked at each of us, moving his eyes from Julie to Daniel and finally to me; gave out a sigh and proceeded to explain his reasoning.

No, it isn't about his son, he clarified. He went on to say that it has nothing to do with personal reasons and everything to do with our survival as a species itself. If anything, it should be one of the priorities in our to-do list. He explained how he had observed the zeds ever since the outbreak began and noticed how strange the zeds were. Their behaviour may seem like typical zombies that The zeds attack  behaviour were pretty much similar to what was usually portrayed in the media last time; ruthless, violent and random, like a dog with rabies.

They swarm over you if you were caught in a horde but however they don't completely tear all of your flesh off. They would take a few bites but soon after they would stop. If his gut feeling was true, it would seem that the primary purpose of a zed attack was to infect, not to feed.

But that was not what that worries Mike the most. Because if the zeds were really the living dead, we could always wait them out. If we hold out long enough, sooner or later the zeds will rot away. All of them. Their skin, flesh and organs will ultimately fall off and together with it the entire zed population. And we would still emerge triumphant from the all of it. Humans would have still won. All we need to do is wait.

However, that was not the case in this apocalypse according to Mike. If anything, the zeds have proven themselves to be very different than the zombies we have usually seen and the contrast doesn't just stop here. They were regenerating, Mike said. Like living creatures, just like us.

He told us how he has been observing one or two particular zeds that hung around our block and made a disturbing observation. When he first came, he saw a female zombie, dressed in a blue office wear with bite marks on her arms and stomach. He saw her again yesterday and where raw flesh used to be, only scars remain. If it had been a human, he would have thought that the wound itself had healed; but she was no human. Her mouth still hung open in a perpetual growl, her eyes out of focus and she wandered aimlessly around the open field.

Mike told us of how he started to study the other zeds too when he noticed the female zed in blue,  hoping that he was wrong but came across similar if not more disturbing observations. Where gaping holes used to be in the zed's body, deformed pieces of flesh have started to grow in their place, like those tumours that grow outside of your body when one is stricken with cancer. Where chunks of flesh have been bitten off, some sort of growth taken its place.

In a way, the zeds were not rotting away as we initially believed. Instead, they were maintaining their numbers, staying alive, waiting for us. Even though we could hide for 5 years, 10 years or even 50 years, we would still need to face the zeds that are still alive and well. The zeds, like any living organisms, are seeking to prolong their survival. They are regenerating, repairing and recuperating. The option to outlast them in a patient survival game simply does not exist. At least that was what Mike said.

"Wait, you mean that they won't die unless we kill them? How are they staying alive anyway? They don't eat like us right? You said that." By now Daniel was leaned forward in his chair, concentrating hard on what Mike had said and I could feel that the question he had asked was now one out of curiosity, rather than of doubt. Julie was still listening to the conversation, and I couldn't make out what she was feeling.

I, on the other hand, felt the need to talk.

"If I may interject..." I begin, "As far-fetched as this may sound, I think I may have a theory behind Mike's observation." My mind was working up different scenarios as Mike laid out his points just now, to try and tie all of his observations together and come up with a coherent narrative. I don't know how much of it is true to the situation we're facing now, but it sounded believable enough to me in the context that we were facing.

Basing on the article from the German professor I have read a long time ago, I explained that in addition to generating energy itself from sunlight, the chlorophyll infusion itself may have turned the zeds into a whole new species together. They may not be the classical undead that we were familiar of, but rather something of a plant-human hybrid, as I would call it. It sounded absurd, I admitted to the rest, but somehow it was the most plausible explanation that I could manage. In a way, the cells of the zeds themselves were far from dead but instead well and alive, functioning like how a living cell would function. The tumour like growths that we see in the zeds were not a hostile takeover of the body or anything, but merely the new cells trying to replace the dead one.

The notion itself raises more questions than answers, but looking at the zeds as an entire different species rather than the dead of our species, like an invading alien species, seems to explain their behaviour in a more logical manner. One could say that the chlorophyll infusion seemed to have morph them to an entirely new species with different behaviours and characteristics; and I gave the analogy that if the zeds came on a spaceship, we would have readily classify them as aliens, given their grey skin complexion itself.

But there were still many things that we do not know, I continued. Questions on whether they reproduce or age for example, were not known. We could never know the answer for certain though unless we study them for a long period but one thing was certain, Mike was right. I explained that in the face of a competitive species that is out to destroy you while not decaying themselves, ignoring them is no different than sitting in a war and letting people shoot at you without retaliating. They would keep coming for us, they would not rot away and each of them possess the ability to turn one of us into one of theirs. As crazy as Mike's idea sounded, it seemed to make sense when you look at it from the bigger picture. Each one of them that we kill means the lesser zeds that we need to fight, and the lesser chance of a zed coming to infect us. It's something that I picked up from the World War Z novel that I once read a long time ago.

I was finished with what I wanted to say and waited for a response. An air of silence hung around us as I turned to look at Daniel and Julie, waiting for their reply. Daniel glanced at me, then to Mike and then finally back to Julie. His face had the eager look when one is all pumped up for action, but still he wanted to be sure with Julie first.

"So how dear?"

Until today, I couldn't forget how she reacted to Daniel's questions. I think she knew that he wanted to go after zeds too, like me and Mike, and she proceeded to roll her eyes. At all of us. Or rather in a way all of us could see it. Next, she proceeded to stand up, walked over to the other side of the table that was in the middle of us and began her speech. I call it speech because it reminded me of how a mum of my friend used to sound whenever she was scolding my friend. Stern, serious and in a tone implying no one else other than her knows best.

"Look, I know you guys, being guys, are aching to go save the world and be the heroes. Sure you have every reason to go after the zeds, with the bigger picture of saving humanity, the world and the universe. Yes I get it. But have you all ever think about the finer details of everything? Even if we decide to go zed hunting, how prepared are you? How far can you run before you run out of breath? How many of you are even trained in hand to hand combat?"

"Well technically I am, a few decades ago I think but..." Mike tried answer but was immediately cut off by Julie.

"Nuh uh, I know you are Mike, or were", she raised both of her hands and twitched her index and middle fingers to indicate the quote remark when she said 'were', "but have you three ever thought about what you would need first before you go? What are your chances of surviving? Your strategies? Or are you intending to just jump right in? Do you even have any idea of how the zeds operate? Like their basic behaviour, reaction, and such? Do any of you?” And with that, she ended her speech.

I sat there in silence as she let what she had just said float around. I turned to Mike, expecting for him to make an elegant comeback, but he just sat there, twirling the pencil in his hand. Daniel was staring on the floor, I guessed it was not the first time he had to experience this and having nothing else to say myself, I proceeded to look at the marble floor together with Daniel.

Julie, the girl whom I always thought was quiet and had nothing to say. Never once did I expect her to burst out with such a speech but she did alright, and now three men are rendered speechless by her. Even good ol’ Mike whom I thought would have something smart to say back.

Satisfied with the response that she was seeing, Julie proceeded back to her place and sat there. She did not have the triumphant look that one would usually expect to see from someone who had just won an argument though, instead it was a look of concern. A look that seemed to tell us how worried she was about everything, even without us voicing about our gung-ho ‘kill all the zeds’ plan. And how she was right in guessing that we were more eager in charging head first that to think of a more detailed plan.

It was Mike who eventually broke the silence.

“So what are you suggesting girl? That we stay here forever? Just keep raiding for supplies until god knows when?”

Clearly he was not going to go down without a fight.

“No, that’s not what I meant, ‘uncle’.” She said, slightly raising her tone to emphasize the uncle part. Mike grinned at that, and let her continued.

“I’m saying that before we make any hasty decisions, we should at least get to know our enemies. Other than the fact that they look grey and grow some blotchy stuff, we don’t exactly know how they function, how they react to environmental stimulation and even whether they have sight or not. Nothing. How are we going to win against them when we don’t even know them? For all I know you guys are just going to 送死.”Which in the literal translation meaning sending ourselves to death.

I have heard from Daniel once that Julie used to be a fiery member of her student council back in university, which I did not believe since she appeared quiet most of the time. Seeing her in action like this, it seems like Daniel was not bluffing after all. Perhaps she just did not see the need to express her opinions until now.

"Okay, you may be right. I suppose I could go to them and ask for their name cards tomorrow. But I assume that you may have a plan in mind already." This time, Mike sounded much less defensive and there was almost a playful look on his face.

Daniel almost burst out laughing when he heard Mike's response but decided not to instead after seeing how serious Julie still looked. I on the other hand, couldn't help but grin. After what seemed like forever, which is probably is like only one or two seconds, a smile appeared on Julie's lips. Mike's attempt to defuse the situation had worked. Seeing that his girlfriend had finally calmed down, Daniel finally laughed out loud.

"Very funny." Julie said, her tone much less defensive now.

"Simple." She added. "We do this how we were taught to do in school."

Mike raised an eyebrow.

"We conduct experiments." And she ended off her sentence with a wink.

#AD


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