12: Afraid of the Fades

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Hank's shower had washed off maybe a third of the paint on his skin, leaving him with a cosmetic case of zombie vitiligo.

The human was dossed down on a rough mattress made from hospital blankets, hidden behind the boxes of the autopsy room. He would be out of sight from anyone who didn't enter the room, and Fred had the key. That's wasn't to say there weren't a few other keys knocking around—but no one had a reason to use one and they couldn't get in without going through the lost and found suite where he would see them.

"So, this is going to sound like an odd request," Fred said. "I mean after, how the last few days have been going for you."

"Yeah, what?"

"There is an old lady upstairs who got a terminal condition. I have a treatment that would work on her, but it requires some human blood."

"I guess it's easier to donate blood than brains," Hank quipped.

Fred leaned on the autopsy table with one hand and closed his eyes. "If I am going to save ol' Mrs. Roadkill without giving the game away, I need to do it before the morning shift comes on."

"So-orry. Too soon for zombie jokes? Sure, okay assuming you don't need a bucketful." 

Hank seemed to have lost his fear of Fred and it was a mixed blessing. "About ten mils, probably." Fred got a syringe from the equipment closet.

"How much is that?"

Fred shook his head. "Homeschooling has really gone to hell since the apocalypse," he muttered. He held up the syringe as he fitted the needle. "About half of this. You could donate fifty times as much and still be fine."

It had been a long time since Fred had done a blood draw. Hank has an unusually prominent basilic vein so he just put a thumb on it and inserted the needle. He was quietly pleased at how easy it went, as he pressed a gauze down on the site as he pulled out. "Hold that."

"Wow. That was cool," said Hank. "The lady, what's her actual name?"

"I don't remember. I want to save her life to have fireside chats and swap pie recipes." He started to go back to the main room and Hank made to follow. "Stay here," Fred reiterated. "Try to get some sleep and I'll find you... something humans can eat." And hopefully nothing that eats humans.


Fred contemplated the concept of 'enlightened self-interest' as he filled the rest of the syringe with his keratin culture. The lady upstairs, if she was still unlive, she wouldn't be for very much longer. So obviously she was in urgent need.

On the other hand, before he was going to use this potion on himself he would prefer to test it on someone else – in case of untoward side-effects.

It's a win/win, Fred told himself as he hurried up the fire-escape stairs and let himself into the palliative ward. Which didn't explain why he took just enough blood for proof of concept and probably not enough for a truly attention-grabbing reversal of her condition.

McAddams-Smith, that's right. He went past the door plate outside the room. The Fades Arcade only had one resident right now and so it was quiet in the pre-dusk. The chart at the end of the bed marked half hour checked and suggested he had a good twenty minutes before another nurse appeared.

McAddams-Smith was still unlive, albeit barely. The chart marked her as unresponsive since about midnight. Gingerly peeling back the covers, Fred looked at the woman's face, which was starting to disintegrate at the edges of her mouth like it was made from damp papier mache.

Not wanting to have someone burst in and find him messing around with an old lady's nightgown, he squirted his concoction down her cleavage, aiming for the center of what remained of her body. He shuddered and settled her covers carefully back in place.

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