At lunchtime, Fred locked the receiving room door and unlocked and slid up the fume hood. His attention was immediately caught by the 24-hour incubated sample.
"I've fucking done it," he whispered.
That single plate was covered in zombie flesh growing up like the cap of a giant speckled mushroom. Like it knew what it was going to be. Genuinely new zombie flesh combining cells from both donors. Fred's elation withered as he looked closer. The tissue was already beginning to lose its integrity, dry up, and break apart at the edges.
I was right, a successful transplant will need human blood. But will topical application be enough, and will the host fully revert and need to consume flesh?
A loud knocking made Fred straighten suddenly and the top of his head collided with the edge of the fume hood. Fred gathered himself, slammed the hood down and closed the padlock with shaking hands.
The knocking was from a sliding hatch to an internal waiting room they no longer used very much. Fred felt the back of his head with one hand as he unlatched and slid open the hatch.
In the dusty room beyond was a red-curly-haired woman in the informal uniform of township security, a dayglo orange vest with the name 'Marcy' in Sharpie on the left side.
"Them upstairs told me to bring this down 'ere." She dropped a damp cardboard box on the narrow counter between them. Then she reached in and pulled out a large freshly-severed zombie forearm and cheerfully waved the meaty hand at him. "Ello there!"
Fred sighed. "Do you have a divestiture form?"
"I can't accept this without a form indicating where and how it was located." Jenny had created the form based on dog rescue intake forms for animals – stolen, lost, stray... abandoned. And I'm working on the adoption option.
"Right well," she replied, flopping the arm back into the box. "This stupid bastard ran over some old dear outside the Big Thrift downtown. She's upstairs but they say she's broke up enough that she's got the fades. He ran off and left this jammed up under the dash. Happened about noon. If that's not enough for you, you can stuff this where the sun don't shine."
"Yeah, okay, okay." Fred pulled the box to his side of the counter. "Say, do you security guys work much with reservation officers?"
She shrugged. "Sometimes. They bring us trespassers, poachers, so we can do their forfeits. But y'know what they say: they protect what others want to serve. They mostly stay over by the res. Though we have been seeing them about a bit in the empty suburbs down by the river lately. Why do you ask?"
"I think I might know someone who's up to no good with some humies."
"Yeah, well. You've got to ask yourself. Is it worth it?"
"Well, it's still considered a crime isn't it?"
A rattle of the receiving door presaged Jenny's return from her usual lunchtime trip to check on her dogs.
The security officer shrugged again. "Humans are as screwed as the dodo, and once they're gone we're screwed with no way to reproduce. So maybe just focus on having a nice long peaceful zombie life and don't borrow trouble."
"Right. Well, thanks for the pep talk, Ronald McNihilist."
Marcy ambled off back towards the stairwell that led up to the ER.
"What was she on about?" Jenny asked as she hung her coat on a hook.
"Security don't seem much worried about crimes against humans."
"Yeah well, she's got a point. "Fuck humans, I don't care. Unless it's noshers. Fuck noshers even more. They kill dogs to fake them up as a bit of fresh."
"How can you..."
"Don't even start with that shit." Jenny held up her hand. "Everyone's got fucked up priorities. At least I know what mine are. You know what you need? Get a dog, or be one. Pick a lane, man. Pick a lane. You want to save the humans, knock yourself out. Just don't expect anyone else to care."
Mid-afternoon they had a no-show. Jenny said she planned to spend the time doing intake on the arm, and then an overdue stock-take on what she called the toes-and-tackle room ("Some of them are hard to tell one from the other"). Fred felt strangely uneasy at the thought that she might be touching the dick he hoped would be his own.
Not wanting Jenny to pick up on his freak-out, Fred put on his rarely used white coat with his hospital ID clipped to the pocket and excused himself.
He walked quickly, with the look of a man who'd just accidentally flushed his favorite Rolex down the toilet. He knew that by doing that he could go pretty much anywhere in the hospital without being challenged. Fred took advantage of this fact to track down Mrs. McAddams-Smith (wouldn't want to lose that Smith). The ER intake board showed that this was the name of the hit-and-run victim.
She was a mosaic of person, only partially reassembled under a threadbare white sheet in a darkened hospital room. Her chart said nothing that wasn't obvious. Her skin was starting to slide into dust, her end was near. The appearance of her flesh, at the margins, was identical to his half-successful experiment.
As he stood there she opened sad-blue eyes that were already too clouded to focus on him.
"I hope you got the bastard who hit me," she said.
"Well, part of him," Fred responds.
"We're all just parts of people now."
It can't be this simple, Fred thought. He had this intuition now. That not only transplants but reintegration of patients like Mrs. McAddams-Smith would be possible by the combination of two simple elements. His cultured proliferative keratin, and human blood. He could probably save her life if he had some blood right now. Topically would be sufficient I think but in large quantities.
But what would happen if that became common knowledge?
"Can you help me?" she asked.
"No, I can't help you."
"Then what fucking good are you, sonny?"
Fred smiled. "You remind me of my mother. She survived the outbreak but got locked in her own basement was eaten by ravenous Siamese cats."
"Still a better way to go than this."
Fred walked across the room to look out the window into the night. Most zombies thought they didn't need humans anymore, and considered them little more than inconvenient vermin. Ghouls were looked down on for needing fresh and noshers considered perverts.
What would happen to humans if he was right about what could be done with keratin and blood? It would be a whole lot worse. They'd be hunted, or they'd be farmed. They'd be wiped or come to live lives far worse than death.
So, I'll pick a lane. Get a dick, be a dog. I'll only make the world worse if I try to save it.
YOU ARE READING
ZOMBIE lost & foundScience Fiction
Blurb: Fifty years after the zombie apocalypse, things are starting to return to normal, for the zombies at least. Fred is a former heart surgeon reduced to running the zombie lost and found department. He has a secret plan to carry out the first z...