He could hear them whispering in the next room. A quiet but desperate plea in the woman’s voice, despite its muted nature. Berkeley tried to maintain a polite distance, but he could hear just enough that it peeked his curiosity. Dr. Little was always so composed, but even he sounded a little insistent. It sounded like he was trying to calm someone down, but the woman sounded fairly calm. Was he really trying to calm himself down?
Someone opened the door, but they kept talking. It sounded like the woman wanted to leave, but Dr. Little thought she should stay and rest. How odd. Apparently she had had an argument with her husband and it really upset her nerves. Poor woman. Must be hard living the 1% life. Going to a therapist because her sensitivities had been disturbed. Perhaps she wanted a Mercedes and he bought a Porsche.
Berkeley stood and leaned into the door into Dr. Little’s office. And then he heard something that made him take a double-take. Turns out, Doc Little couldn’t find a pulse on the woman.
And just like that, our world with its organized classifications, its houses in neat rows, the criss-crossed streets and funneled traffic. Even the crime that grew of a familiar frustration like the stagnant summer Detroit heat – all of it opened like a wound blossoming blood.
Of course, Berkeley tried to deny it at first. Play it cool. He sat back down just before Dr. Little came out a little shaken. “Hello Mr. Lang. I’m sorry I’m late for our appointment. I’ve had…some unexpected business come up. I don’t know if I’ll be able to attend to you in a timely manner. Perhaps you’d like to reschedule. I’m very sorry.” All very practiced. But Berkeley could see the jitters just under the surface, and that didn’t make him feel any better. He should have just turned and walked away. But something made him want to see for himself.
He answered, “Is everything alright Doc?”
“Oh yes, I’m sorry. It’s just been a difficult day…”
“Did you want to talk about it?” Berkeley said, the irony not escaping him, but really he just wasn’t ready to be brushed off. He must have heard something wrong, But Dr. Little wasn’t making him feel more at ease. And so it was that Berkeley peaked inside and saw a very ragged, but very normal looking woman. But her eyes, her eyes were hollow. Nothing was physically wrong with her, nothing visible at least. But something subtle was missing. It was like staring at a puppet, moved by some distance or alien force. Her movements were just a little rigid. Her voice was just a little too breathy, and not in a sultry or tired way. It was like the sound of grave soil settling.
Dr. Little was calling the police and left him alone with the walking puppet in the office. She clamored to be understood, “Do you know what’s wrong with me?” Berkeley shook his head while backing away, gripped by an unreasoning fear and discomfort. “No I can’t remember what I did last. I’ve been walking. Walking. I climbed out of the darkness. Scraped. I was drowning and then the blackness.” Pure gibberish, but her breadth smelled of maggots and wet soil. Berkeley practically climbed the bookshelf in an effort to get some space between him and the woman.
That’s how Dr. Little found him and helped to calm the woman down. Berkeley respected Dr. Little’s poise then. To hell with this. But the minute he had a little more space away from the corpse he could look at her with some pity, and noticed more closely details like her soiled clothing. She’d crept from the grave. He knew it. Officer Pederson came in a little while later, apparently having spoken to the woman’s husband. “The man said he buried her several months ago.” Berkeley distinctly hear him say. Now three men shared in the delusion. Berkeley called the only other person he could think of that could keep her shit in a pickle like this: Lisette Durant – an unlikely person to bring in, a homeless and sassy musician he met some months ago, but she shrugged off what nearly drove him insane At least for an hour. And of course she didn’t have the giant centipede nearly crawl over her face with its hundreds of haired legs…
But here he was again. Back in the Twilight Zone. Swearing he was cursed. Or imagining things. And he might as well have a friend to go along for the ride. She had to catch a ride with Dingus. The dude was prompt though, drove her over in his beat up Cadillac with his boxers and robe still on and nothing else. Now Officer Pederson had to clock out and this was all too much for the Detroit PD – or at least for how much he was being paid. Besides, no one was being hurt. There didn’t seem to really be any laws broken. No one was in any danger – neveryoumind the dead were walking.
“This is the part in the movie where that guy says, “Zombies? What zombies?” just before they eat his brains. I don’t want to be that guy.” ― Holly Black, Kin
Dr. Little knew a person who might be able to help. How he knew said person wasn’t clear. How this person would help, also wasn’t clear. But she dealt with such strange things. And with that Berkeley was starting to suspect Detroit was a cesspool for everything that should not exist. Be that as it may, the three remaining babysitters had few options. At some point Berkeley was trapped in the room again with Jenny Kokovich– as he learned her name was. He took Little’s chair behind the desk and started digging with some questions – found out that Jenny likely walked from Elmwood Cemetery. That was over a mile. A no one shot her in the head. She apparently drowned, but was also apparently attacked in Central District. Otherwise, it was also clear she didn’t know much.
They debated the merits of taking her to the hospital and making her someone else’s problem (not a good option, and they’d probably use her as a testing rat according to Dwayne Little) or keeping her locked in Dwayne Little’s office (not good for business and probably not safe) or letting her patch things up with her husband. But he’d already been in, and actually before Officer Pederson left. That was a total disaster. He wanted to divorce her before she died, well now he really wanted to divorce her. It was all some sick game on him because he’s so important and Jenny had to come back to life just to increase the drama. He dragged his two year old away in confusion, probably scarring him for life. That kid will definitely remember hearing his dead mom’s voice in the other room.
Berkeley peeked in on Jenny once more, who stood awfully still, looking out the window on the busy street below. She turned. Her face rotting in discolored peeling layers. Brown viscous liquid settled in deep recesses of her face. The rot had started.
They quickly decided Miss Jeanette would be the perfect, maybe the only person, they could get to help them with even a somewhat decent plan to hold Miss Jenny over – or as Berkeley took to calling her, Miss Daisy.
Driving Miss Daisy
They drove Jenny to Miss Jeanette’s, Berkeley calling shotgun faster than a headshot on Left 4 Dead 2. Miss Jeanette turned out, actually knew something about this. “This is no vodoun Mon’a’me,” she told Dwayne. But she did suspect there was some serious necromancy. But could she help us, Dwayne pressed. Yes, and together with Lisette Miss Jeanette was able to chop some animal parts, pick the right herbs in just the right measure, mix, boil, and apply the right poison to incapacitate that which should not be walking around in her work room. And she even promised to keep the corpse while they investigated what they could.
Berkeley couldn’t stand to be in the same room with her. Miss Jeanette asked him to leave, so he waited outside on the hood of the car, listening to the radio. He half-heard reports of a “copycat jumper” on the Ambassador Bridge. Just like the last one. Adbul Hotep-Penu. His cell phone rings and he get a call from Skeletor. An old DJ they knew was walked down 8-mile, broad daylight, despite the fact that he died two months ago in a drug related shooting. And he owed Berkeley money damn it. He tried calling the police station and leaving an urgent message for Officer Pederson. He knew Mike Pederson loosely from a while ago – shared a few drinks and a few stories. He was a good guy in his off hours, though not much for conversation. They needed someone who could investigate. And Berkeley knew that the three of them were not especially good at Sherlock Holmes stuff.
The DJ, Nightshade, would have to wait. They had to follow their leads. It took forever for Officer Pederson to call back, but he did come. They found nothing but an empty grave at Elmwood but he grudgingly suggested they try Mt. Olivette. They were just a bunch of laymen taking on work meant for trained law enforcement or the CDC or someone else. Anyone else. But the three of them seemed so tenacious about helping Jenny he gave in.
At Olivette they found Morrigan Mutubeesh’s empty grave and spoke with a very creepy Jerry Willamette. The groundskeeper took particular interest in their Scooby Doo antics. So much so that the group was ready to peel his mask right off and reveal him for the villain’s sidekick. …But that might have been considered assault. And even if Officer Pederson didn’t like the guy, he probably wouldn’t condone getting all up in his grill just because he talked suspiciously liked Igor. That didn’t stop Lisette from peppering him with questions while Dwayne stared at him with squinted eyes that seemed to see into his very soul. Unperturbed, Igor, that is, Jerry Willamette, wouldn’t let them look inside the morgue and eventually they relented and left, having found nothing.
Finally, Berkeley got a hold of the keys to the car and simply took a slight detour to check on his old DJ friend. The group didn’t exactly say no to the idea of checking up on it, and this was starting to feel like a regular zombie apocalypse. Berkeley made sure to tell them so.
At the house Lisette gave an Oscar performance as a devout Christian girl providing the blind grandmother’s meals on wheels. Berkeley investigated upstairs while Lisette learned that Nightshade came by with a friend, picked up something (later found out to be a gun) and went looking for trouble (probably revenge and/or money). Generously, the grandmother offered Lisette to keep her peanut butter sandwich that Lisette had made. The woman had said she was hungry. But unfortunately, she didn’t like PB&J. Lady Luck is a Bitch, thought Lisette.
“New York City in life was much like New York City in death. It was still hard to get a cab, for example.” ― Colson Whitehead, Zone One
At this time, Officer Pederson was pretty insistent on getting back to the station, and Hungry Lucy, or Miss Daisy, or Jenny Kokovich was going to start stinking Jeanette’s place up. So they:
1) Armed Officer Pederson to the teeth by stopping at the station
2) Picked up the corpse, tried to stuff her in an abandoned apartment project Berkeley finagled, but Dwayne and Lisette refused to be the soulless sons of bitches that Berkeley and Officer Pederson were
3) Drove off to god-knows-where until they started to see the chaos around them Word had spread about the virus in Detroit. Sick men and women biting, scratching, shrugging aside baseball bats to the head. And Berkeley had been shamed into sitting beside Jenny to keep her calm. Dwayne needed help keeping her from violently damaging herself or the car or him. In fact, just before they left, Lisette and Dwayne barely managed to keep Jenny from leaping several stories to the ground. Most people jammed the roads trying to get out, despite official warnings not to try and leave the city. Berkeley prayed they wouldn’t carpet bomb the entire metropolitan area. It would be the clean start Detroit needed, but he really did love its urban decay. They finally noticed something else – the zombies appeared to be moving Southwest.
No Mere Mortal Can Deny the Terror of the Thriller
The crew followed the zombie exodus to a two-story house in an affluent neighborhood. There, Jenny positively rabid. So Officer Pederson took pity on Berkeley who was losing his mind, handed him a gun, and nodded as Berkeley leveled it on her skull, shot and watched her ignore the explosion of her head. They all tumbled out of the car after that, half deaf.
The found the zombie horde beating on the doors of a house. Lisette couldn’t wait for the brain-addled Berkeley to find a way up the side of the house and took it upon herself to get a boost and get up, while Berkeley searched for something to help his friends out in a daze. There Lisette found a little boy in a window, and his mother, and calmed them both. Everyone climbed up the side of the house in a series of boosts, Berkeley last. Inside was a family fighting for their lives. Whoever they were, they were clearly important. These zombies had a special interest in them, so the crew had a special interest.
Officer Pederson aimed for the chest and held the clawing zombies at bay while Lisette came up with a plan of escape – to tie together bed linens and get a makeshift rope to climb to the next house. Perhaps there was some secret heroism in him after all. Together with Berkeley she got it attached to the chimney of the next house. Berkeley then proceeded to hopscotch across the five foot gap over and over, once with the youngest daughter in his arms. Lisette grabbed people as they came across. Lastly, Officer Pederson jumped over the gap to join the group, having made sure no one was left behind to be torn asunder.
With the last of their strength, and with the sun dipping in the West, they followed the family to a friend house to hear more about this family – a family that might somehow hold the secret to all the madness of the past 24 hours.