Rick Grimes numbly laid back in his tilted-up hospital bed. The sheriff's deputy was having a really hard time believing what he'd just been told. Actually, if it'd been anyone else but his wife Lori, he would've had serious doubts about their sanity. The first thing she'd explained to him sitting by his bed today was startling enough. Mainly, how because of unforeseen complications during the operation for his gunshot wound acquired in the line of duty, the surgical staff was forced to put him into a temporary coma to save his life. This medical necessity had lasted for two solid weeks where he'd been out cold through it all.
Fortunately, he'd come through it perfectly fine. A second operation performed while Rick was still unconscious ended in complete success, and his injuries were now just about healed up. He'd then been carefully brought out of the coma to find his wife and child waiting at his side in the hospital room. After a few more weeks of rest and rehabilitation to be mostly spent at home, this police officer could shortly go back to work.
That, however, was when Lori broke to him the totally unbelievable news of what'd just been added to his law enforcement duties. It was a good thing then that their son Carl had left them a minute or so earlier to happily get a soda from the vending machine further down the outside corridor. For this little boy, all was right with the world. Daddy was okay and he'd be home soon.
Except, Daddy was also seriously freaking out at the moment.
Gaping in sheer disbelief at the woman next to his bed, Rick croaked, "Zombies?"
"Yes," Lori sighed. "You missed it all: the first few cases, the start of the full-blown panic, and then the entire big letdown. Now, though, it's being taken care of here by your friends on the force, the garbage men, and other county health employees. Just like around the whole country, really. People got used to it pretty quickly-"
Rick blurted out, "Wait! People got used to zombies? Are we talking about the same thing? Dead people from the horror films who can still move around and want to eat other, living peoples' brains?"
"Well, kind of."
Lori's lips twitched in the beginning of a faint grin which Rick thankfully noted with an inner pang smoothed out the recent lines of worry in her face. She continued with genuine humor in her voice.
"It was actually a lot scary then at first, until the Walker Granny tape came out on YouTube and went viral. After everyone who saw it stopped laughing, the whole zombie problem didn't seem so bad."
"Huh?" was all Rick could manage.
Lori looked around until she saw a remote for the hospital room's television set resting on the small side table by Rick's bed. The woman picked it up while offhandedly assuring her husband, "Oh, they re-enacted it for the public-service message that runs full time on one of the cable channels. It'll be there…"
Trailing off in the face of Rick's evident bewilderment, Lori aimed the remote and with a press of her thumb, she turned on the television to next spend a few moments surfing through the channels. Finally, she stopped at one particular channel with a triumphant "Aha!"
Following her gaze, Rick saw there on the television screen a sweet-faced elderly woman, the true embodiment of anyone's favorite grandma, slowly make her way down a tree-lined suburban sidewalk. She was moving with some difficulty due to her frail body, with this old lady's wrinkled hands carefully lifting and pushing ahead her aluminum walker which provided the necessary support to stay upright during her journey.
Suddenly, from out of the left side of the screen, a ghastly figure lurched into sight. Staring in astonishment, Rick felt his neck hairs rise in instinctive loathing of what he knew to be utterly impossible. It wasn't any kind of special effects or makeup; this was a for-real animated corpse who wanted nothing more than to feast upon the flesh of the living.
Bestially snarling, the zombie staggered closer to the elderly woman who'd frozen in what seemed to be well-justified terror. Reaching out with grasping hands, this dead person now got near enough to grab and devour its latest meal-
With perfect aplomb, the grandmother once more lifted up her walker, but this time she swung it hard against the advancing zombie's right knee. The foremost light metal leg of this framework cracked sharply against that part of her attacker's decaying body.
In turn, the zombie promptly went ass over teakettle backwards like a toppled tree, landing onto the concrete sidewalk with an audible "Thud!" sound coming from the television. Lying there supine, the frantic zombie next began to uselessly claw upwards at the air with both hands, never stopping at all for the rest of the scene. As for the elderly woman, after judiciously skirting the flailing corpse, she continued down the pathway, again pushing her walker ahead all the while…
Lori turned off the television. She then dryly remarked, "In my opinion, the original video's still funnier because it's absolutely real."
Facing her stammering husband, Lori shrugged good-naturedly. She went on to explain, "The doctors and scientists studying them think it's a side-effect of what causes zombies. However they come back to a sort of life, there's still a lot less of what they used to have before in their heads - and one of those missing things is their balance. You saw it on tv with all the lurching around. They're so unsteady on their feet that the least little push or shove will make them fall down at once on the ground. And then, zombies will ignore everything else while trying to get up again. It can take them hours, and even if they manage to do it, the next stray gust of wind will probably knock them over. So can just about whatever's tossed at them. Right now, the record for flattening a zombie with the lightest possible thrown object seems to be just a single ping-pong ball. But I don't think it really counts, considering one of the wrestlers on the WWF did that-"
"I'll take your word for it," interrupted Rick.
He incredulously shook his head at a smirking Lori, before asking her, "What, people are treating it now like, I don't know, a rabies outbreak? They just stopped being afraid for their lives after learning zombies aren't so dangerous and can be taken down in a second?"
"Pretty much," she further commented. "There's been a lot of advice from everywhere - the Internet, newspapers, television - but it boils down to keeping out of arm's reach, throw anything handy at them, and run away while calling the cops. If you absolutely have to get close to push them over, do it with a pole or something like that. A rake, shovel, mop, whatever, then leave them alone. Like you might expect, the only ones getting bitten by zombies now are the really dumb or drunk people."
Rick rolled his eyes at his wife's cynicism, but given his own encounters with idiotic criminals and other ultra-low IQ members of society, she had a good point. He still picked up on what Lori had just said. "So, it's now our - my - job to deal with zombies?"
The mother of his child looked a bit rueful, before conceding, "Afraid so. You'll probably have to go through the same courses your friends at the station did a few days ago. Staying safe, how to finish them off, that kind of thing. Just like you told me you have to do with live roadkill."
The man lying in his hospital bed grimaced. One part of Rick's job he really disliked was when Animal Control wasn't around to put down a pet or some wild animal which had been hit by a car but not killed outright, and yet had no chance of surviving long enough to reach the nearest veterinarian. Usually, the first cop on the scene was forced to deal with the mess. Rick now knew from personal experience why every patrol vehicle carried within the trunk a piece of emergency equipment referred to as the humane-killer.
Right before he started to complain about this to Lori, a whirlwind burst into their room. Dashing forward to Rick's bed, Carl burbled at his father, "Daddy, here's your favorite! I got it just for you!" Skidding to a halt by the side of the bed next to his mother in her chair, the small boy proudly lifted up the soda can he was carrying.
"Thanks, son," Rick smiled at Carl. He glanced over at Lori, who was also fondly regarding their child. The deputy now ordered, "Give it to your mother so she can open it."
Carl willingly did so, watching how Lori then popped the can's tab. She prudently carried this out while holding the can so the opening faced away from her. Once this was done, Lori lifted an eyebrow in a silent question to Rick.
Waving an accepting hand, Rick acknowledged just as wordlessly he was still a little too weak to risk drinking it on his own. In response, Lori got up from her chair and next leaned over the bed to bring the can to Rick's mouth. Greedily taking several delicious sips from the icy Coke can, Rick beamed at his wife when he was finished. Taking one hand away from the can, Lori tenderly laid her moist fingers against his forehead, and she stroked his skin there several times in honest love.
Blinking back tears, Rick watched Lori settle again in her chair. He then looked at where Carl was eagerly waiting. The child had earlier been firmly instructed by his mother that Daddy wasn't to be jostled or hugged without his permission, because he still had a lot of owies. Knowing this, Rick held out his arms.
A second later, he was fiercely embracing Carl while kissing the top of his son's head. Inhaling the little-boy scent utterly familiar to him, Rick looked over at where Lori was unabashedly letting her eyes fill in total relief. The man inwardly vowed he'd never again let anyone shoot him. The next time undoubtedly wouldn't end as well as now.
Why, it might even result in the most horrible thing Rick could think of at this point. Assuming he woke up again in a hospital bed, someone would then surely tell him the world was currently filled not with zombies, but with vampires. Sparkling vampires, that is.
Author's Note: I'm sure somebody came up with this idea before, but I wrote it without being able to check for this in other story sites. So, here it is, and if you know where a similar zombie premise has been done by anyone else, drop by at the review section and clue me in!
As for the whole balance thing, people really do take it for granted that they're easily able to not only stand upon the extremely small portion of their body touching the ground, but they can also walk, run, skip, hop, dance, et cetera. If you must know, it's called equilibrioception, and I'm positive a zombie would have genuine trouble with this. So there, George Romero and Max Brooks!