_____ _____ _______ /\ \ /\ \ /::\ \ /::\____\ /::\ \ /::::\ \ /:::/ / /::::\ \ /::::::\ \ /:::/ / /::::::\ \ /::::::::\ \ /:::/ / /:::/\:::\ \ /:::/~~\:::\ \ /:::/ / /:::/__\:::\ \ /:::/ \:::\ \ /:::/ / /::::\ \:::\ \ /:::/ / \:::\ \ /:::/ / /::::::\ \:::\ \ /:::/____/ \:::\____\ /:::/ / /:::/\:::\ \:::\ \ |:::| | |:::| | /:::/____/ /:::/ \:::\ \:::\____\|:::|____| |:::|____| \:::\ \ \::/ \:::\ \::/ / \:::\ _\___/:::/ / \:::\ \ \/____/ \:::\ \/____/ \:::\ |::| /:::/ / \:::\ \ \:::\ \ \:::\|::|/:::/ / \:::\ \ \:::\____\ \::::::::::/ / \:::\ \ \::/ / \::::::::/ / \:::\ \ \/____/ \::::::/ / \:::\ \ \::::/____/ \:::\____\ |::| | \::/ / |::|____| \/____/ ~~ >¿ƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒŸ >≥≤≤≤≤≤±∞ F i L E i N F O ∞±≤≤≤≤≤≤≤≤≤≤≤≤≤≤≤≤≤≤≤≤≤≤≤≤≤≤≤≤≤≤≤≤≤≥ >¿ƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒŸ > ⁄ƒƒø ⁄ƒƒø > ≥≤≤≥ TiTLE......[ How to Train your Nec ≥≤≤≥ > ≥≤≤≥ GENRE......[ Saving the Motherfuckin’-World Docu. ≥≤≤≥ > ≥≤≤≥ RUNTiME....[ 43:18 ≥≤≤≥ > ≥≤≤≥ ≥≤≤≥ > ≥≤≤≥ AUDiO......[ MP3 48000Hz 128 kb/s CBR (2 chnls) ≥≤≤≥ > ≥≤≤≥ LANGUAGE...[ English ≥≤≤≥ > ≥≤≤≥ ViDEO......[ 916 kbps XviD 29.976 FPS ≥≤≤≥ > ≥≤≤≥ Q. FRAME...[ 0.193 bits*pixel ≥≤≤≥ > ≥≤≤≥ RESOLUTiON.[ 1920 x 1080 ≥≤≤≥ > ≥≤≤≥ DAR........[ 2.451 (49:20) ≥≤≤≥ > ≥≤≤≥ SUBS.......[ None ≥≤≤≥ > ≥≤≤≥ FiLES......[ 2 ≥≤≤≥ > ≥≤≤≥ SiZE.......[ 512 MB ≥≤≤≥ > ≥±±≥ SOURCE.....[ Self-shot on Panasonic HX-DC1 ≥≤≤≥ > ≥∞∞≥ ≥∞∞≥ > ¿ƒƒŸ ¿ƒƒŸ > ⁄Ƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒƒø
It was raining that day as well. One drop hit the pavement, and it was a day like any other. The next drop splashed down and everything changed. We all remember where we were last October 30, for most of us, it marked the first time we ran for our lives, the first time we barricaded our windows, the first time we jammed up the motorways trying to escape. I chose to stay. Looking back it was a decision which saved my life, which led to me being here 11 months later, sending this video to you all. The video which may put the odds in our favour for once.
Barely 12 months ago, when you saw the LFQ logo, it meant one thing: you were about to snag yourself some high-quality DVD-rippage. All of this with no cost to the tax-payer. Where are the rest of the corporate services now? Youtube, Vimeo, Facebook, Twitter, barely weeks after the Necs rose, the dollar signs disappeared from their eyes and then turned their servers off for good. So it’s up to you guys, to seed as if your life depends on it. From here to the eyes and ears of the ‘verse.
I’ve gotta do something to keep me calm while I wait for this to upload to the topsites, so I may as well tell you how me, Sanguine and Hobbes made the discovery which you’re about to see. Anything to distract me I guess. I could tell you our real names here, but it wouldn’t mean anything. Best case scenario, you hear my surname, and if you live really close you think: “Oh, I used to work with your father.” Then you have the awkward internal moment where you visualise my father’s face, then realise that he’s dead like 98% of everyone else’s parents. Worst case scenario, we survive it through all this, and I end up in jail in the established new order for ‘copyright-infringement’. So let’s just keep me as S1gnal2No1se shall we.
How does it start? The same way they always do, with a girl running down a corridor. That’s where Sanguine comes in.
The things we loved before, it was odd how they ended up being the things which saved us. Sanguine always loved to run. She said it gave her a zone where there was nothing but her and the path in front of her, the rhythmic hit of feet on pavement a hypnotic focus. I daresay she found it rather less zoney that night. Around twenty feet behind her, a Nec was closing in. They both hurtled through a circular tunnel, framed in metal and plastered in leaves. The moonlight cut through sporadically, dimly illuminating her steps. A circle of light lay not far ahead of her. Normal people, when being followed by a Nec, waste time and energy looking behind: as if that ever helps. Not her, forward and centre her focus was. Her hands cut through the air. It was still gaining on her. Its movements weren’t so graceful. The arms remained statically by its side, legs flinging the body awkwardly forwards as if it might stumble at any moment. The true tragedy was that they never did. This one had killed recently, its decaying flesh was almost human in appearance. This was when they were most dangerous, muscles healed, senses working, strength renewed. Its clothing was so stained by blood, dirt and gore that it would make tramps blush. It ran barefoot after her, the awkward angle of its gait cracking its toes with each step. Pain did not slow a Nec down when there was prey in sight. Very little did in fact.
I watched her approach. I had to hold my breath, it was too loud. Praying hadn’t worked for us so far, but still, “God, please let her get away.” It was getting too close, she knew it, she wouldn’t make it, I could see the look in her eyes. The one where her brain is running through sixty different scenarios all in one second. Seeing how they play out. I would have gone for a knife-throw: I’d probably be dead very soon too. She stopped dead. Standing side-on, she launched herself into the air. Her foot extended back towards the Nec. I saw its arms begin to react. It was too close. Her foot connected with its stomach. She propelled herself off the Nec for momentum and twisted her body mid-air into running position again. It doubled over, fell to the floor. Its fingers cracked and twisted as it tried to stop its descent. Within two seconds it was up and running again. Sanguine had bought herself an extra ten feet tops. Maybe it was enough. She neared the circle of light at the end of the tunnel of leaves.
“Clear!” she screamed.
That was our cue, but both me and Hobbes waited till we had visual confirmation first. From our positions either side of the tunnel exit, we pulled on the metal handles as hard as we could. A razor wire sprang up across the exit, tightening at around thigh-height. We braced for impact, hoping.
It ran right into it. Its weight pulled us over, but we held tight. Sanguine came to another abrupt stop and turned as the Nec’s torso toppled towards her. She grabbed the machete and can of accelerant which we’d left in position. “Legs off. Hobbes, light them up. Sig, make the arms disappear.”
Before the torso even stopped, she’d cut through one arm, the other quickly followed. Hobbes had sprayed the legs with his own can and set them alight just as they started to move again. The flames burned green. As the flesh, sinew and bone melted away, the movement slowed, then stopped. Then they were ash. I followed suit on the arms, moving them more than a cautious distance away from the torso first with the aid of my trusty kicking foot. Sanguine, for some reason had the hardest job again. Its torso was flailing around, trying to get its teeth near her. She watched her steps carefully. The manufacturers probably didn’t know it at the time, but yoga-trousers were made for this. Light, aerodynamic with nothing for the armies of Necrosapiens to grab hold of. All with the bonus of a great-looking ass to boot. For not completely unrelated reasons, me and Hobbes steered away from anything yoga-themed. Seeing her chance, she swung her machete, taking off its jaw in a few hacks. Just add accelerant, heat to around 3,000°C before allowing to cool in a small ash-pile. Hobbes’ hobby used to be blowing shit up. That came in handy.
Between the three of us, we bagged the jawless-torso in a kevlar-lined bag. I reckon they never advertised this as a use too: “Transport your zombies within minimal risk in this convenient reinforced duffel bag.” It still thrashed around, as heavy as fuck, but we didn’t have far to go. We made for the gate of the gardens, black-iron with – rather appropriately – large skulls decorating the bars. It was still fairly quiet around some parts, but one sighting would end it all. It took us weeks of planning and preparation to take down just one of them. There were millions more, and some of them were stronger than we could even imagine. Sticking to the shadows, we made our way back to HQ, formerly known as my house. No one had paid the mortgage for a while, so theoretically, it probably belonged to the bank now. Millions of corpses standing up in one moment and laying siege to civilisation tends to put repossessions to the bottom of anyone’s to-do list though.
Actual silence, I mean complete and utter silence: no birds, no cars, no aeroplanes, no humming of lampposts, it’s something beyond terrifying. Your ears are working overtime, listening for anything. Sometimes they make sounds up, just because silence seems so wrong. That’s what accompanied the 3½ of us on the way home. There is nothing worse than silence.
Except for noise.
A handset I had in my pocket beeped.
We were out in the open. “Shit!” Hobbes said. “What’s the range?”
I got the handset out and looked at the on-screen display. “50 metres.” We were either being hunted, or we were about to be very unlucky.
“Direction?” Hobbes asked.
It was coming from behind us, east, I told him. With our friend in the kevlar-bag, we had an albatross the equivalent of having to hold a baby during that horror scene where the girl with the huge rack tries to hide in a wardrobe. We couldn’t keep it quiet. Only our “baby” would happily rip us inside out within seconds. We had to hurry. I set the device to silent.
We ran as fast as we could without drawing attention. My eyes were glued to the device: “Refresh in 37 seconds,” it said. I don’t zone out when I run. Quite the opposite. Guys like me only run in circumstances like this.
“Refresh in 5 seconds.”
It’s like when you go for a cancer-scan, and the doctor comes to break the news. In those few seconds, you learn if you’re going to live or die. The odd thing is, you still pray, and bargain like the thing is Schrödinger’s cat, as if you can still change the outcome at that point. The truth is, it was decided for you long ago.
The handset ran another pingsweep.
We were safe. Maybe. Not all of them showed up all the time.
Regardless, we kept on going. Keeping to the shadows, not that there’s much light around here these days. The grids went down long ago. While everyone was fleeing to the motorways, lining themselves up for a massacre, we were loading up on supplies. Generators, fuel, water, tinned food, tin-openers, you name it. Let’s just say that in our idle moments, we’d spent more than a few hours planning our survival strategy for a zombie apocalypse. It wasn’t quite as good as our plan to survive a world without shrimp, but it came close.
As humanity’s numbers thinned, those trips got more dangerous. We had to have a compelling reason to leave the house, and this was one.
You’ll see it all in the video, but the pingsweep was an accident. It was something I built myself before the ZA to scan for free wifi and then to triangulate the broadcast location. A few adjustments and it could scan for any devices with an open listening port. The plan was to find any electronic devices we could use. Except one time we used it, it led us straight to a Nec. There were five of us before that day.
To say I was relieved to reach the house would have been an understatement. It was shrouded in darkness, windows barricaded with metal, but it was still home. We hurried inside. Locking, double-locking and triple-locking the door behind us.
We ran upstairs, to the study. We had all our computer gear up there. It was the only room we’d set up for power. Sanguine started the generator while me and Hobbes planned our next move. We looked at the bag which lay on the wooden floor. It was still moving.
“You wanna do the honours?” Hobbes asked me.
I really didn’t. But it beat the job the other person had to do. For some reason, chivalry had survived and neither of us felt right asking Sanguine to do it. My hands shook like Gene Wilder with advanced-stage Parkinson’s getting electrocuted.
I reached for the zip.
I chose the fast method.
I yanked it open with full force, pulling the bag a little as I did, it rolled over and the Nec spilled out onto the floor, face down. Hobbes was holding an adapted hat-stand, sturdy legs leading to huge-ass spike. He pulled it back and rammed it into the bottom of the Nec’s torso, skewering it through the organs and probably piercing up to its clavicle. It didn’t flinch.
Between the 3 of us, we managed to lift the thing upright. Then we got our first close-up of one of them, or a close-up which wasn’t followed by an immediate bowel-movement… for all of us at least.
This one used to be a woman. I stared at its eyes, just a yellow-tinged eyeball with anime-sized pupils. They weren’t coordinated, one of them was looking at me, the other, off into the ceiling, except they didn’t move. It was like looking at a corpsified doll. Blood congealed around its nose. Sanguine surveyed its jaw. “20% regeneration on the jaw. We have roughly 3 hours before this thing gets dangerous again.”
We ran our tests (see video) to figure out exactly why these things were pinging. It was only the Regen. We were about to give up when Sanguine asked me to check the activity log.
“.rsroot – last modified: October 30 by sysop BluSun.”
We looked at each other, it was so obvious. All this time, we thought it was a virus. The Necs woke up, they attacked people, those people died, then became Necs. Contagious deadocity. Except it wasn’t. The root file was encrypted, so I got to work. Fortunately they’d only used a 128-bit A5/3 algorithm. With a related-key attack, I could have it down within the hour on this computer. As you may have guessed, computers were my hobby. Sanguine and Hobbes were pretty impressive too mind; you don’t get into LFQ just for your good looks. Now all we could do was wait. Wait and watch the Nec thrash around like a rabid piñata.
Someone had done a number on the Regen alright. The operational parameters had been completely re-written. The switch to deactivate post-mortem was gone. The organic harvesting green list was changed. There was even something called a “Friendly Fire” mode on the file. This one’s was set to 7F.
We didn’t have time to explore any more of the files. Its jaw was almost half-way repaired now. We had to start filming.
I fired the camera up.
“People of Earth…” Don’t judge me. I was on the spot.
You can see all this on the video anyway. You don’t need a transcription. How many of us got the Regen injected into us over the last 20 years? It was supposed to harvest cells from healthy parts of the body, and use them to repair damaged, infected or missing tissue. It was supposed to have state-of-the-art security, not something a 21-year-old could crack in less than an hour on his – admittedly awesome – home computer.
The nucleus was pinging because it was listening for updates.
Signals over the air, they came down and turned us all against each other.
So what happened after we finished filming? Well, I started uploading, as I mentioned before. Then we waited. Only our POW didn’t have the same plan.
Its jaw finished regenerating about an hour into the 3 hour upload (mobile satellite u/l speeds do kind of suck). We knew better than to get near it, but that wasn’t the problem.
It sent a piercing scream ripping through the walls at a volume loud enough to wake the dead. Sadly, I’m not speaking metaphorically. We’d all seen Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and we suspected what the scream meant.
“No more tests,” Sanguine shouted. “Burn it, burn it NOW!”
We grabbed our cans and covered it in accelerant. Then lit it up.
It just stared, with those eyes, while its yellow and purple skin was filtered through green flames. Its face melted into a twisted smile before it fell into ash.
Not a word was spoken. We waited once more for someone to open the box on Schrödinger’s cat.
30 minutes passed, and nothing. 1 hour passed, still nothing. We were free and clear once more.
Until we weren’t.
With an hour left to go on the upload, the sounds began.
Knocking, tapping, scratching. Something was testing the perimeter of the house.
“It’s coming from the front,” Sanguine whispered.
“No, it’s coming from the back,” Hobbes said.
My head softly collapsed onto the desk in front of me. “You’re both right,” I told them.
“No, no, no, no, no, no, no. We’ve gotta get out of here,” Hobbes said. He was scratching at his face. Scanning all the ways in or out. He came up with one: the door. Like the front-door, it was reinforced with metal and had bolts running all the way down the side. We were prepared to hold out in any of these rooms, but we always figured if it came down to it, it would be this one; it got some special attention.
“What the hell are you waiting for?” Hobbes said. His voice was no longer a hushed exclamation, more of a subdued shout. “If we stay here, we’re dead.”
“We’ve always been dead Hobbes,” Sanguine told him. “How long has it been since we’ve seen anybody else. Months. Didn’t you realise? We were never going to make it out of this.”
“Shut the fuck up,” he shouted, far too loudly.
The noises from outside stopped. Sanguine sat down beside me, asking how long we had left. The estimate still read 45 minutes. She rested her head on my shoulder and for the 70th time in my life I covertly breathed in the aroma of her hair. It’s funny how happiness still flushes through you in moments like these, especially in moments like these.
She turned to Hobbes, staring at him with what seemed to be a mixture of pity, resignation and envy. “When a tree falls in the woods, and no one’s there to hear it, does a single thing it has ever done mean anything?”
I’m not ashamed to admit I was crying a little by this point. I didn’t even look at Hobbes as he stood next to the door. I just watched the numbers on the screen dwindle, as if my will alone could speed them up.
A sound came from the door, the inside of the door. Hobbes was opening it. I made a move to go stop him, but she held me back, just giving me a weak smile and shaking her head. I relented.
Hobbes pulled the door open and took a look out onto the landing. He turned back to us. “I love you guys. I really do. But when a tree sees a huge-ass dude with an axe coming towards it, it gets the fuck out of the forest.”
The door snapped shut behind him and Sanguine calmly stood up, walked over, and locked it again. She came back to the computer and sat down next to me. Our hands reached for each other, joining without either of us acknowledging the connection.
Another five minutes passed with only the gentle hum of the computer to keep us company. There are no conversations for times like this. Everything that comes to your mind is platitudes and false hope. We were both too old for either. So we waited, waited to see how long we had before the next sound.
42 seconds was the answer. It didn’t come from the door. It didn’t come from the window.
A pile of plaster, wood and dust fell from above.
A hole appeared, and then something came down through. Dropping into the room with us.
It looked at the hat-stand, then at us. Sanguine calmly picked up her machete. Both of them, standing 10 feet apart. Ready.
The Nec made the first move, charging at her. She raised her weapon and charged back. She struck it right through the middle of its face. Both of them fell to the floor. As she fell, she must’ve pushed hard. The machete cut right into the wooden floor, pinning it down.
She sat on top of it, holding it in place.
“Sig. Grab the accelerant,” she said.
I knocked about 30 things off the desk searching for a can and rushed over. “Quick, get off it,” I shouted.
“No. Both of us,” she said.
The Nec’s arm were still moving. It was only when I approached, that I saw. It was clawing at her. Her chest was a bloody mess and her insides were starting to spill out.
“Faster would be better,” she said, the pain beginning to register in her voice. “I’ve got Regen too. I haven’t got long.”
She forced herself down on the Nec, holding the handle of her weapon as firmly as her weakening grip would allow. I started to spray them both. Sanguine took a can out of her jacket pocket and put it between her and the Nec.
“Light it up,” she said. “Quickly!”
She didn’t look at me again. I grabbed a match, and ignited it, holding the tiny flame which would end her life between my thumb and index finger. This was the last moment I would ever see my friend alive, I told myself. Part of you tries to record every detail of it, but the truth is, I don’t want to remember any of this.
I threw it, and turned away. She didn’t scream. Why didn’t she scream?
The flames turned the walls of the room green and scorched it with heat. I watched the screen, letting a bit of time pass before I grabbed the extinguisher from the wall.
So there I sat, with 38 minutes to spare, a hole in the ceiling, one friend dead, the other almost certainly so too. What do you do to pass the time? You write.
The sounds started again not long ago. Now it’s my turn to be the cat.
Until someone opens the box, I am both dead and alive.
Part of the short story collection Necrocracy, further instalments coming soon.
Also available in this collection:
Personal Brand of Heroine