Capture. Short Story.

Yesterday I went up into the mountains with a friend, it was pretty fun. She needed help with an art thing, so I volunteered. So basically we climbed around and I got to lie in strange poses on foresty floors. Also got to dunk my feet into freezing river water, yay! But I can’t be too mad, after all I wasn’t murdered by her, so that was a definite bonus.

It was a really nice day too, which helped a lot. Definitely want to go back there some other time and just explore for the hell of it. Seemed like it was a really cool place.

On with the show!

_______________________________________________________________________

Janice paused and put her hair into a ponytail, no good if something snagged it. She had important work to do, there had been a break out, again, and now she had to round everyone up. She got into the van and started it, it wasn’t the best job in the world, but it paid very well, of course it had to, what with all the biological hazards flying around. Bright side though, she didn’t have to wear a stupid uniform like some of the other companies. They mostly dealt with the public, Janice had a contract with most of the city morgues and storage points, she did freelance too, but they were only a small bonus on top of what she was earning.

As she drove, she pressed the call button, “Bob.”
The phone started to ring, she turned down the radio.
“Hello?”
“Hey, it’s me, how many do we have?”
“They’re not sure, they’re still counting, but at least twelve so far. Could be more. We’re sending some back up to you too, Joe and Sam should be there around the same time as you.”
“Pfth. I could take care of it all myself.”
“I know, it’s just insurance, if we don’t send others it’ll go way up due to your exposure to biohazards.”
“Suuure, that’s what they all say. I’ll be there in about five.”
Janice hung up then considered flicking on the siren, her hand hovered over the button for a second before she pulled it away. The siren was fun and all, but this wasn’t really an emergency and she’d get chewed out for using it. Again. She’d use it when she got there, brief blip for the distraction element, that was all.

Janice smiled as she past a billboard for her company, “The Zombie Wranglers!” she quite liked the cartoon picture of a confused looking zombie being lassoed, though she didn’t think the company ever used those methods. They were a smidge more advanced, stun guns, net guns, gun guns, all part of her arsenal. She rarely had to use the gun, or any of them really. There was some food in the back, most times she just had to open the doors, drop the ramp and wait. Not with twelve though, they wouldn’t fit. Well, technically they would, but it was considered “inhumane” Janice never really understood that line of reasoning. They weren’t human, they weren’t exactly a danger, but they were a far cry from cats and dogs. The Protect our Ancestor acts had breezed through, which was a bit of a shocker. Hell, it wasn’t like they hadn’t heard of zombies before and it wasn’t long before the undead were getting their heads blown off left, right and centre. Of course, that didn’t always stop them and it spread the spores all over the place. Shooting a zombie was now a crime, you had to call a clean-up crew and that was where Janice came in.

The group had appeared to have stayed together, Janice did a quick head count as she reversed the van, there were sixteen there, so a little more than the given number, but if most of them were here, that was something. She clicked the ramp down and gave the siren a quick blip, it wasn’t ok to trap them all in the van, but they’d crowd in and neutralise any threats until the others arrived. They turned around slowly and began to shuffle towards the ramp, two missed, going either side of the ramp, but the others made it, she raised the ramp enough to block them, but not enough to lock them in, then she hopped out of the van. She didn’t bother with the net gun, not much point, these were mostly older specimens, slow, difficult for them to manoeuvre. She pulled a pole from the van and casually walked up to the first one, she continued past it as it began to turn and used the hooked end to snag the things foot, she pulled and it crumpled to the ground, now, for the other one.

This one was a little more sprightly, the other was struggling to stand again, its upper body not strong enough to support it. She used the same trick on the fresh one and, once it was down, she went over and placed a foot firmly on its back. It would do for a moment. She pulled the stun gun from her belt and gave it a quick jolt, then, smiling, she stepped back. It would be down for a good half hour or so, spasming away. With the done, she went to the first and gave it the same treatment. She grabbed it by the legs and dragged it beside the first and then she set about cordoning off the area, two lines of steel rope, high and low, would prevent anyone wandering in or out. She stuck danger placards on each one and got back into the van to wait. There didn’t appear to be any others hanging around, but there was still a danger. She hadn’t been through decon herself, but she had seen it happen to others and she knew she didn’t want to have to go through all that bullshit. Five months of sitting on your ass in a tiny hospital room, no thank you.

The parasite had appeared about twelve years ago, Janice had never really bothered to learn much about it, after all the only thing she needed to know was how to avoid infection. Despite this, some information had managed to trickle through, from books, TV shows and the news. The parasite was mostly dormant in a human body, once it became settled, it released a bunch of offshoots, that would latch on to various parts of the body, then it played the waiting game. Once the person died the parasite would begin to grow at an alarming rate, replacing most the humans nervous system, allowing it to control the body. Then it would shuffle off and infect others. It fed off the rotting flesh until it’s final stage, it would find the nearest body of water, then plunge the body into it, releasing eggs and extracting itself from the body, Janice could never remember what happened to it after that. They creature didn’t eat living human flesh, sure the zombies would bite or scratch, but once that was done they’d shuffle away. Unless you were mobbed by them, sometimes when that happened they’d keep biting and clawing away at your body until you died. They were mostly harmless, there had only been a thousand or so deaths in the twelve years it had started. Though that didn’t include the disease they sometimes spread. If you were infected, treatment for it was long and drawn out. It had to be carefully done to avoid shocking the parasite into its active stage and if that happened, well you were screwed. It would painfully replace your nerves with itself, causing confusion, spasms, and death. Most insurance wouldn’t cover the treatment, deciding it was a harmless parasite, one that wasn’t a pressing danger. There had been no cases of spontaneous activations in the general populace. A surprising amount of people had caught it, but to work in a company like hers, you had to be clean. A law that was passed with the others, just in case the parasites had some kind of sensing mechanism which could cause them to attack and kill someone infected with the parasite to boost their numbers.

The second van pulled up just in front of the ropes, Janice waited in the van, the other two hopped out and strolled over.
“Get it contained?”
“Yup, most of em are in the back. There are two on the ground, they’ll be out for a while longer.”
“So how will we do this?”
“Lower your ramp and back up against me, I’ll lower mine and hopefully they’ll move into the new space.”
“How many?”
“There are sixteen that I saw.”
“Ok, were you onto Bob?”
“No, figured I’d wait until back up arrived.”
“Ok, well let’s get this over with.”
They moved the two spasming bodies into the back of the new van and did as Janice suggested.
“I think we got more than half.”
“It’s fine, we’ll just fudge the numbers a bit. No one will care.”
“Do you want to ring Bob or will I?”
“Eh. You do it. I already talked to him today.”
Joe pulled out his phone and dialled the number.
Janice looked around, keeping an eye out.
“It was only the sixteen, we’re good.”
Janice smiled, “Meet you guys back at the depot?”
The zombies had to be taken in for processing while the morgue was under review.

Janice started the van and drove away, it was a good haul, and she’d get the bonus for taking care of it herself. She’d have to buy the guys drinks or something to make up for it. She turned the radio on, in the back she could hear them falling about, not her problem. She rolled down the window, allowing the fresh air inside. It wasn’t really that bad a job at all.

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About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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