Chapter 2

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Before anyone could protest or Marija could fire off more questions, the group was ushered out of the room and into the hallway. After a brisk walk of about 10 meters, the Timely Magazine staff were directed out another heavy steel and glass door and guided to their seats, complete with zombie waiters. Each one shambled slowly but upright as much as they could, mimicking perfect servant posture.

"My colleagues and I are going to retire to our own quarters, briefly, to get out of these lab clothes and into something more comfortable," Schmidt explained.

As the guests from the mainland took their seats, a procession of serving zombies began to set the table and bring all manner of delicious smelling food and drink to the table. The corpses shambled in a row coming from behind a crop of palm trees, presumably from some sort of kitchen or dining building not visible from the vantage point of the table. The serving zombies were dressed in unique garb, alternating between butlery and tropical fruit hats like the Chiquita banana woman. Marija was bemused when she realized that it was the male corpses in the suits and female corpses dressed in stereotypical tropical princess garb.

The visitors were baffled at the sight of a table being set for a feast by undead corpses who would've feasted on them if they weren't under complete control of their robotic collars.

After approximately 30 minutes that felt like three hours, the group was rejoined by their hosts. Each of the men of science now wore bright flower-printed Hawaiian shirts, colorful flower leis, cargo shorts and sandals on their feet instead of the work boots they had been wearing previously. Dr. Schmidt was accompanied by an attractive platinum blonde, middle-aged woman in a light and poufy pale yellow sundress. Marija wondered when she would get a chance to change out of her clothes and get more comfortable herself. The vacation-clad scientists were also joined by a handful of the elderly and wealthy residents of the island, whose money had funded all of this plus Schmidt's undead research.

The sun had almost completely set. The group gathered around the dining table could only see a small red sliver of it still shining over the water. A red glow reflected across the ocean water and the white sand beach surrounding them.

Dr. Schmidt stood at the head of the table, on the far end from his guests. The table was lined with blazing tiki torches for light, positioned and lit by the shambling undead servants who showed none of the fear of flame that the guests had come to expect from observing "wild" zombies. The zombie servants continued shambling back and forth to and from the table, still bringing a seemingly endless supply of food to the table and trays with glasses of champagne along with them. The table was now covered in a large buffet: roasted pig, roast beef, pineapple, mashed potatoes, succulent coconut pies, the largest roasted carrots anyone unaccustomed to dining on the island had ever seen, and much more.

"WELCOME!" Schmidt proclaimed.

Schmidt, still standing with a grand sweeping gesture, introduced his crew and kin seated at the table before him.

"You've met Dr. Atlas Romero and my brilliant son Hugo. This is my ravishingly beautiful wife, Doreen!"

Romero and Hugo sat opposite each other at the table, both looking down the table toward their guests with grins on their faces.

Schmidt's wife Doreen was a little plump. On closer inspection, her hair had probably been a much darker blonde when she was younger; the white creeping into it gave her the appearance of having been a platinum blonde. At least that was what Marija guessed. Friendly looking, she blushed and grinned at her husband's compliments.

Schmidt raised his champagne glass in a toast to those seated at the table. His nose and cheeks were rosy, a sign that he had already been indulging in some alcoholic beverages before he had rejoined his guests for dinner.

"I'd like to propose a toast! To our friends from Timely Magazine, here to send news of our paradise to the rest of the world!"

Zeb and Jeremy sat next to each other at the table. A zombie arm jutted out between them in order to set a plate of chicken wings on the table in front of them. Both men turned their heads toward each other, eyes wide with horror, staring at the rotting zombie arm that appeared between them.

A zombie with a bowtie on and a serving tray in one hand leaned over Marija's shoulder to re-fill her champagne glass. This zombie was more decomposed than some of the others and had an aura of putridness hovering around him. Marija's face twisted with disgust. She stared at the oblivious animated corpse as she leaned away from the zombie who had invaded her personal space. She pulled as far from the zombie as possible and raised her arms in mock self-defense. The putrid smell had gone undetected until that moment when Marija wrinkled her nose and sniffed the air at the worst possible time.

As the zombie turned to walk away, Marija's eyes bulged in disgust from the smell. She quickly placed her hand over her mouth, stopping her from vomiting. One of the rich folk across the table from Marija, an elderly lady, was wide-eyed with shock. The woman wasn't appalled by the shambling corpses that she had become accustomed to, but at Marija's gagging noises.

"Urghhh . . . Hrrumph . . ." were the only thing close to words that came from Marija's mouth.

The socialite on the opposite side of the table regained her composure. She now had her head tilted up, sticking her nose in the air and gazing down it at Marija. Marija was still gagging and looking at the zombie sideways with panic-stricken eyes as it shambled away.

"Your sense of smell will adjust in time. They say it's like living on a farm," the snooty old woman consoled.

"Hurk" was the only response Marija could muster.

Marija bolted from her chair, running off into the darkness and behind the nearby outcropping of palm trees as the confused lady watched, looking a little puzzled.

"Guguk," Marija wretched in the darkness.

At the table, Zeb and Jeremy wore nervous grins due to the embarrassment caused by the sounds coming from Marija vomiting in the background as some of the hosts and other guests began to notice.

"HURUCK!" Marija lurched loudly.

Zeb stood and nervously addressed the table, trying to do what he thought he should, being the diplomat for their group, the way Marija would have.

"On behalf of our crew, I'd like to thank you for your hospitality and sharing your story with us for Timely Magazine," Zeb thanked.

"BLARRRG!" Marija vomited loudly from behind the trees.

Zeb, still standing and a little shocked, looked down at Jeremy. The photographer was now comfortably leaning backward in his chair, a tropical umbrella drink in one hand, taking of bite from a large chicken leg in the other as Zeb talked. A zombie brought a new bowl of mashed potatoes to the table to replace the empty one now sitting in front of Jeremy, who didn't seem to notice the shambling undead anymore at all.

"So when do these guys bring out dessert?" Jeremy happily questioned.

"HU-HU-HURAAAK!" gagged Marija in the background.

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