Chapter 4 - The Final Preview Chapter

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A few hours later, the sun rose, signalling to what passed for life on the tiny pile of sand to start a new workday. The rising sun illuminated a dusty barnyard, complete with a big red barn. Several patches of dirt were penned off, creating separate barnyard areas for different animals. Cattle wandered about the barn and in some of the fenced areas. Around the barnyard there were a few grassy areas and trees that would be considered strange looking by the island's populace; non-native species were made possible by the importation of rich topsoil. Like any farm, a large pile of manure sat next to the barn, composting in the open air. There was also a pig pen, where imported swine happily wallowed in the mud, offering some slight relief from the tropical heat. Zombies wandered around the barnyard, doing various farm chores and dumping pig slop into a feeding trough. One zombie wore farmer's coveralls, leading a cow out of the barn with a rope bridle tied around its head. A dirt road running by the barnyard next to the fence created a boundary between the tamed, man-made setting and the tropical jungle. After an early morning wake up call for coffee and a light breakfast, Dr. Schmidt led his guests on a walking tour of the island's facilities and attractions, explaining how each feature had contributed to his amazing accomplishments for society and man. The groggy group of tourists consisted of Schmidt, Marija, Jeremy, Zeb, Hugo and Doreen.

"Cattle and swine are brought by boat from a small farm we deal with in Port-au-Prince," Schmidt explained.

The group stood, leaning on a wooden fence, watching the farmer zombie pulling the cow on a rope into an open barnyard area. The zombie stared at the cow with wide-eyed bloodlust. Some of the other zombies had taken notice and watched the reluctant cow step hesitantly into the empty pen. Some of the zombies began to shamble toward it. The cow fidgeted, starting to look nervous.

"The zombies must consume raw flesh every few days in order to slow the decomposition process," Schmidt continued.

The cow now became more nervous by the minute, eyes wide, desperately tugging on the rope that held it. The farmer zombie held the rope with its left hand, using the right one to pull an old-fashioned steel bolt gun, the kind that blasts a retractable steel rod into an animal's head for slaughter, from the front pocket of his coveralls. The rest of the zombies came ever closer, circling tightly around the cow.

"So we allow them, by verbal command of course, to feed on livestock every few days, in order to remain in working order," Schmidt concluded.

"Gaah!" the farmer zombie groaned.

The group of onlookers stood next to the fence, the mainlanders dumbfounded into silence. Only Marija, thanks to her thick skin and professional experience, mustered the will to question the doctor. She had a judgmental, questioning expression, her eyebrows arched skeptically. She held up her small digital recorder.

In the background, as the group watched, the farmer zombie delivered the killing blow with the bolt gun. The cow's body went limp and fell. The zombies began to pounce on it immediately. Hugo leaned on the fence, watching the slaughter indifferently. Zeb looked slightly disgusted, face scrunched with contempt. Jeremy was wide-eyed, like a kid who just found out that Santa was real. He fumbled in amazement with the large telephoto camera hanging on a string around his neck.

"And I'm sure this is all done humanely, Doctor?" Marija asked.

"Uurrr!" The zombies moaned and growled as they devoured their bovine meal. "GRAAH!"

"Of course! I assure you the animals don't feel a thing. Now let's head to the research center," Dr. Schmidt replied.

The group of disgusted journalists, contrasting with their indifferent scientist escorts, walked away from the carnage, down the dirt path leading away from the barnyard. The thick wet noises of the undead feeding behind them still audibly filled the air but did fade as they walked farther away. The entire group tried to put the memory of the gruesome scene that they'd just witnessed behind them; all except Jeremy. While others focused on the path ahead or engaged in idle chit-chat, Jeremy kept looking back at the shrinking scene of bloody devastation, the look of revulsion on his face not slowing him down from quickly snapping photos. Schmidt schmoozed Marija, giving her the great scientific advancement sales pitch that he relied on being quoted in her article. Jeremy's face scrunched in comically exaggerated disgust to see Dr. Schmidt being so overtly friendly to his love interest.

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