As I said last week, Jess Walter read a genuinely creepy zombie story at the Hugo House recently. It wasn't disturbing in the same way that all the other thousands of zombie stories published every year are disturbing; it was something completely different.
That particular day, I’d had a doctor’s appointment, a battery of tests, and was already late for work. I popped into the Starbucks-Financial near my office and who should greet me behind the counter but a guy with all the symptoms: translucent skin, rotting jagged teeth, skim-milk eyes, whole deal.
Full zombie. Voice like ice in a blender. “I help you.”
I sighed. “Grande. Soy. Cran. Latte.” I said it as clearly and patiently as possible.
He said back to me in that curdled grunt: “Gramma sing con verde?”
I stared at him. “Grande … Soy … Cran … Latte.”
“Gramma say come hurry?” His dull eyes blinked and he must’ve heard the impatience in my voice—“No!”—because he started humming the way they do right before trouble starts, “Gran-maw!” he yelled, and the manager, standing behind him, gave me a look like (Dude …) and I looked back at the manager, like (You’re blaming me for this?)
I understand the economics—I work for a multi-corp, hell, anyone with a job works for a multi-corp. More than that, I get the humanity of hiring zombies—listen: my ex-girlfriend started shooting Replexen after doctors announced it was dangerous. Andrea actually chose to go zombie. So I know how their brains work; I know abstraction and contextual language give them problems; I know they’re fine as long as you avoid eye contact, speak clearly; that as long as they’re not drunk or riled up, zombies can be as peaceful as anyone.
But come on? Gramma sing con verde? What does that even mean?
This is the best original work I've heard at a reading all year. Read the whole thing here.