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Virus Spreading Zombie Cowboys

From the Pits of Hell

This is a rough draft I found, that I wrote in 2013. This is a the second or third attempt at writing down a story that I originally told to a friend over the course of a 4 hour phone call when I was 15. When I was done, he told me that he hated me, and that he would never forgive me. Sometimes, he still mentions it. He hasn't forgiven me.

Anyway, this is the gist of the story though. I hope you'll hate me for it.

Two men in well tailored suits sit in a sparsely decorated room. Everything is cold, anapestic. The room is mostly featureless, housing a few brushed aluminum chairs and a glass topped table. One of the men pushes a VHS tape in to a VCR. A small television crackles to life, full of static and hazy.

"I can't believe we could even find a VCR" one man says to the other. The other man does not respond. He is pale and quiet. He looks as if he might soon be quiet ill. "You better be glad we did, though" the first man said "this might just save your ass." He paused for a moment, thoughtfully "or condemn it further, I guess." he continued.

An image slowly resolves itself on the screen. The two men stare at it intently, as if the fate of the universe depends on the contents of this tape.

There is a man on the screen. He is talking in to the camera. He is thin and pale and his clothes are torn.

The man speaks:

I was on vacation in New Mexico when they invaded. "Zowboys" is what the media started calling them. Zombie-Cowboys, like it was a joke or something out of a comic book. How fucking stupid is that? The world was about to end, and everyone was talking about "Zowboys."

It's no wonder things were so easy for them.

It was March, I think. Hell, it might still be March. Time seems stretched and compressed and folded. Days feel like seconds, and seconds feel like hours and all I know is that I'm going to die if I don't figure out how to stop it.

Wow, that all sounds really dramatic and confusing. I feel like I'm getting ahead of myself.

My name is Walter. I'm from South Dakota. I'm keeping this tape so that...

I'm keeping this tape so that I don't lose my mind.

I'm in New Mexico. I'm here with my daughter. The zowboys are coming for us.

The image fades for a moment, before being replaced with another. Walter is there again. He looks even worse than he had before.

I'm going to tell a story. It's been a few hours since I tried, before. I still don't know what to say. I'm going to tell a story, and maybe we'll stay alive.

It was March. I was on vacation with my daughter in New Mexico. We weren't supposed to have stopped here at all. We were supposed to be going to [[PLACE]], but we missed a connecting flight. Jesus, I'm glad we didn't make it to [[PLACE]].

My daughter, Sara, was crushed when she realized we had missed our flight. I felt like an ass. I'm not a very good father. I'm timid and unreliable. I only get to see Sara every couple of weeks. This was supposed to be our time. A big trip to celebrate her upcoming entry in to middle school. I couldn't afford it, but I didn't tell her that. I didn't tell my ex that. I made promises I couldn't keep and I pretended to keep them.

"I'll make it up to you" I said.

"I'll buy you whatever you want." I said.

We went to dinner. Sara wanted pizza, so we had pizza. It was hot. Really, unpleasantly hot. We took a taxi in to town and wandered around looking for a pizza place. The streets were oddly deserted.

Well, maybe not. Maybe they weren't oddly deserted. I don't know. It was fucking hot, and I'd never been to New Mexico. Maybe it's like that all the time.

"Dad, it's March, why is it so fucking hot?" she asked me.

I didn't have the energy to tell her not to say fuck. Besides, she was right. It was fucking hot.

We found a pizza place and stumbled inside. A small bell rang. The lights were on, but there didn't seem to be any people around. It didn't get any cooler when we got inside, and the place smelled a bit.

I tried to ignore it, and we sat down at the counter.

The TV was on. It was tuned to some horror movie or something. (At least, that's what I thought at the time.) People were running through the streets. There were screams. There were these odd, shambling men in boots and vests and cowboy hats standing around not doing much.

Someone cut one of the cowboys in half at the waist. The legs continued standing, shuffling back and forth. The torso propped itself up on it's arms. It's face turned to one side and smiled a rancid smile.

I decided it wasn't a very good movie. Too unrealistic. (HA!)

Eventually a man walked in, dressed in a way that suggested that he worked for the pizza joint. He stumbled out of the bathroom clutching his stomach. It did not look like he should be preparing food. His face was thin and pale. He looked sickly.

It was gross.

The man just stared at us, not blinking often enough, until Sara began to get uncomfortable. He was shaking slightly, and was unreasonably thin for someone who worked at a pizza restaurant, with loose skin hanging off of his frame as if he had recently lost a lot of weight.

He opened his mouth, as if to speak. His mouth was toothless and tongueless. He made noises, but he did not speak. He stank.

"Let's just go, dad" she said to me. "Let's find a hotel."

I was hungry and hot, the stench in the room was growing. I didn't want Sara to be upset any longer. I wanted to be far away from this man. I grabbed Sara's hand and turned toward the door. As I turned, I could have sworn I saw several other people, with green skin too large for their frames, coming out of the kitchen.

"Run" I said.

And we did. We ran out the door, we ran around the corner and down the street and we kept running until we couldn't run any more. Between the heat and the hunger and the fear. The sun was setting, as we slowed. We wandered through the streets of an unfamiliar and empty city until we found a hotel.

The lights in the hotel were dim, but the air was running. I have to assume it was all running on backup power. Generators or something. I don't really know how those things work There was no one at the front desk, but I didn't care. There was a cooler in the lobby, and I grabbed two bottled waters from it. I handed one to Sara and greedily drank the other, sloshing the cold water across my face. Sara scoffed, put the water back, and grabbed a Coke.

That kid.

We just stood there for a while. Too long to justify, really. Trying to figure out what to do next.

Eventually, I hopped over the front desk and snatched a room key.

We stumbled up the stairs to the first floor, and in to our empty room. I was confused and scared and exhausted. I went to bed, and told Sara to do the same.

That is how we got here. That was three days ago. Walter begins to shake. God, has it only been three days?

Yesterday I found an AM radio, and managed to get it to tune in to a station broadcasting out of the east. They were making Zombie Apocalypse jokes. Apparently there was some kind of viral outbreak in [[Place]].

It started at a rodeo. One of the cowboys died, had been dead for days. No one noticed, until he started eating his horse.

That's what we had seen in the pizza shop, footage from the first outbreak. The virus... The virus makes it impossible for your body to process new food. It starts with simple nausea and indigestion, it ends with your body cannibalizing itself, leaving you a walking, insatiable ball of hunger and death with loose hanging green skin, and the inability to do anything except eat.

Apparently it spreads through the water supply, and from direct contact with the infected. Apparently, Sara and I are going to die, and all the people on the news want to do is laugh about the zombies. The shambling zombie cowboys.

We are safe in this hotel. For now at least, we are safe. We have some food, and some water. The emergency power seems to be holding. We're too afraid to go outside.

The screen flickers for a moment. The second man, the one who has yet to speak, shifts awkwardly in his seat. Walter appears on the screen again. Noticeably thinner.

It's been a while since I last spoke to the camera. Sara and I are running out of food. We're down to funions and diet coke. No one likes either of these things.

We've met some new people, in the hotel. They don't have any food either.

The news media has stopped making zowboy jokes. In fact, they've stopped broadcasting entirely. I think they're all dead.

I think everyone is dead, or will be soon.

I think there is no hope for humanity.

At this point, Walter begins to cry. There are screams and clawing sounds around him.

We're going out to look for some food tonight. I can only hope that we find something. I don't want Sara to die.

The screen fades to static again. The first man pauses it.

"I'm sorry, this just isn't looking good." he says to the other

"Please," the second man says "Please, let's just watch it through to the end."

The first man presses play.

A scream, loud and painful comes from the television.

The man, Walter, is on the screen again. His eyes wild. His face haggered. He speaks: Sara. Has. Been. Bitten.

The screen flashes briefly.

Walter peers out of the screen, staring unseeingly at the two men. He is in shambles.

Sara was bitten yesterday. She is progressing through the stages of the disease quite slowly, but she seems to be in a lot of pain. I broke in to a pharmacy and stole some medicine.

He holds up a bottle of pink liquid.

I can only hope that it eases her suffering.

The screen flashes again, and Walter disappears.

When the image returns, it is of Walter, looking fit and well rested, with a young girl on his knee.

"It's been three weeks."

"Sara is fine. The national infrastructure is recovering. I was even able to get a news station on my radio this morning. One of those fucking east coast radio programs, still making jokes about Zowboys, occasionally. More often, they are talking about the stench of the pits of hell.

I'll buy that, everything out here smells pretty bad too.

Fucking zombies. Virus zombies with a stench from the pits of hell.

Anyway, it turns out that pepto stuff works really well."

The screen fades to black once more, and a narrator's voice says "Nausea, heartburn, indigestion, upset stomach, zombie apocalypse. Nothing is tougher than pepto bismol."

The first man turns and looks at the second.

"That. That. That was the single greatest piece of advertising that I've ever seen. You're a genius. You were born for this stuff."

The second man sighs in relief. "I was worried that VHS would be too gimmicky."

"No. No. It was perfect. We'll pitch it to them tomorrow... you're gonna go far Walter."

So that was Virus Spreading Zombie Cowboys from the Pits of Hell. It's a shaggy dog story. It's a massive advertisement. It's a bad idea, and yet...

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© CC-BY - Andrew Roach