by Georgevine Moss
Joel stood behind the kitchen counter and reached for the TV remote. Half-awake, a scruffy beard on his face and nothing on but a pair of boxers he held his coffee mug close to his face. The coffee was so hot he could only take sips but he hoped that inhaling some of that strong coffee smell would help do the job. It was 10 a.m. already and he wasn’t just sleepy, he was feeling as if someone had drugged him.
Some guy on the TV was talking. “For those who just tuned in, please be reminded. The dead have risen from their graves,” were the words that stood out among all the babbling.
Joel lost his job one year and six months ago to the day. It was the final blow of what must have been the worst decade of his life. Weren’t you supposed to have some of the most fulfilling years in your thirties? Divorced and with a low sperm mobility that prevented him from having kids, he was now simply eating away what little he had and was still his after the divorce settlement. Joel wasn’t feeling bitter though, just numb. As if that wasn’t enough, now he was also in a drug-like state, worse than a dreamlike state but probably better than being fully conscious. Maybe he had too much sleep?
After eighteen months of listening to directionless, pointless blathering from several uninformed talking heads, Joel was good at blocking everything he didn’t need out. He was his own search engine; looking for keywords in the sea of bullshit coming at him from those who were paid to talk to him through the TV. Like the search engines his system wasn’t flawless. He could be gamed, tricked by a headline that had all the right key words but the story was actually about something else. Maybe he had gotten too indifferent, but most of the times even useful things had to be repeated to get under his radar. No problem there, though. People repeated things all the time on TV.
The man on the screen kept talking to him. “The dead have risen and are taking over the streets all over the world,” he said.
Joel felt a flutter in his chest. Had caffeine performed its magic? Was his body finally waking up from its lethargic state? Whatever it was, it was working. The fog wrapped around his brain had started clearing up, and he could feel it, he was now capable of thinking. He panicked. Now that he could think what was he supposed to do? He had a whole day to fill. This wasn’t good. He had no drugs of any kind in the house and going back to bed would be torture.
He grabbed his net book and sat down close enough to the TV so he could hear. Now that he could think, browsing the net AND watching TV would be a breeze. Wasn’t multitasking considered a desirable skill in the job market? He should brush up on it, every employer asks for good multitasking skills, he thought.
He went on the first search engine he could think of and typed the phrase: “The dead have risen.” It got him lots of good results. He must have opened more than twenty tabs. He had a vague idea of what the man on the TV was blathering about. Now he went for the details. The first story he began reading was about a government website that gave instructions on how to prepare for a Zombie Apocalypse and as a result so many people visited that crashed the server. The headline was spot on. It read: “Zombie Apocalypse Campaign Crashes CDC Website”. That was before the dead had actually sprung up from the earth and began walking around and about. At least thousands of people were actually prepared for this, he thought. That was good, but theoretically it was too late for him. He went on reading the article anyway.
OK, now he was prepared for hurricane season come June. The info wasn’t useful for actual zombies anyway… First aid supplies? Evacuation routes? Really? That’s all you need to fend off the undead? Or should you feel relieved just because someone in position would do tests to find a cure for the virus that brought the dead back to life? Joel shrugged. He knew it was a fun article that only meant to pass on knowledge for real case emergencies, but damn, the dead were alive.
What was the best reaction in this situation? Trust the government to solve this mess while also providing you, along with millions of others, food, water and safety or go at it alone? For a moment he remembered the last horror/comedy movie he had watched, Zombieland. For some reason, getting a shotgun, putting on a cowboy hat and start roaming the streets appealed to him a lot more than flocking with all the so-called healthy ones in some camp like a prisoner.
Joel moved on to the other articles about Judgment Day. He skimmed through all of them. The gist of it all was that on May 21 2011 an earthquake would shake all the dead bodies out of their graves. (Joel never felt the big quake but he WAS a pretty deep sleeper and dead people had risen from their graves, so that part sounded reasonable enough to him.) Next, after all these people went on and littered the earth, the true believers would go straight up to heaven like, say, when you’ve reserved a table at a busy restaurant; you get seated before all the others who weren’t prudent enough to call ahead. The other dead bodies would just lie there, feeling ashamed. All that would happen at 6.00 p.m.
Joel saw several inconsistencies with all of this. First of all, it was only 11.00 a.m. Also, the dead that remained on earth were not just sunbathing in shame. They were walking around. Now, that was a biggie. What could the dead do and not do? For example, say they could feel and they felt hungry. What kind of dietary needs would they have?
The man on the TV did some more talking. “The dead have risen. Nobody believed this would happen but it did. It’s happened. Judgment day is happening. Right now, in front of our very own eyes.
“That’s’ right,” another talking head said. “It’s happening. This morning my father- in-law surprised me at the doorway on the way to work—he is dead by the way—I freaked out. I didn’t know what to do. Started yelling and swearing at him, you know to scare him away, I mean that’s what you do to keep wild animals away, right? Yell at them? Anyway, I managed to lock myself in the car and drive off, but man was that scary.”
“Yeah,” a female talking head said. “I heard that those who remain might try to visit loved ones…or just people they know... you know, something like that.”
Joel was glad his father-in-law was very much alive. That guy was big, mean and knew his way with a gun. Not that he needed one. Also he loathed Joel. The only dead person on his ex-wife’s side that perhaps could show up was the granny. She had Alzheimer’s toward the end of her life and always confused Joel with her beloved son. But that was OK. The granny was small, frail and had no teeth.
As far as his own family was concerned, he needn’t worry. Joel was an orphan. His mom had left him sleeping on a seat in a big, lavish church when he was a baby. She and his father never showed up at the church-sponsored orphanage they put him in when they found him on that pew, several days later, crying from hunger.
Perhaps his mother couldn’t support him and being the caring, responsible person she was she decided to dump him there so a nice, decent middle class couple took him as their own. Such couples did occasionally pass by the orphanage for a tour. Many kids did get adopted. Joel had to wait till he was old enough to walk himself out of there. Good then, maybe he’d finally find out who his parents were. Oh, shoot, they had to be dead to come looking for him. He did not wish such a thing but if they were dead…they were welcome.
The last Rapture-related article he skimmed over was the most worrying. Those who survived would live an agonizing life full of horrible earthquakes, a life rife of horror and chaos. Not only that, but each day until October 21st people would die one by one. Then after those horrible five months the earth would be destroyed and all who survived would die too.
All this was just terrible, but Joel could not feel bad about any of it. Joel wasn’t a bad person. He knew that. So, in order to figure out why he couldn’t feel bad about the imminent end of the world, he decided to make a mental list of all the terrible things that had already happened in the world.
Let’s see. Stock market crash? Done. Major earthquakes? Check. Violence-ridden riots all over the world? Yup. City-wiping tsunamis? Uh-huh. How about a nuclear disaster? That too. Say what? People are dying every single day?
Joel processed all the info in his mind and came to a satisfying conclusion. If what was happening on May 21st 2011 was the beginning of the end, then that day was the equivalent to the perfect murder. Judgment Day was the perfect act of terrorism. No matter whether you had the antivirus or not, whether you were a believer or not, it didn’t matter. Nothing mattered. This was happening and it was not up to you to stop it. The free will bottle, uncorked all these years ago, had been resealed. The higher power used its veto vote. There’s NOTHING you could do.
Joel felt better about himself. He wasn’t a bad, miserable man. Perhaps everyone should feel better. Someone hit the reset button. But if what was happening today was NOT Judgment Day… they were all screwed.
That last thought made Joel feel really, really bad. Then he remembered that if the Rapture wasn’t happening then that meant that the free will bottle was still wide open. Theoretically, the living could do something about all those horrible, terrible things that were happening…maybe there was still time to fix things until the real end of the world DID come.