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The air that night was thick and warm, a little unusual for October. An aggressively average man by the name of Bob Smith (yes, that really was his name) was taking out his trash when he heard a whistling sound. He looked up just in time to see the tiny meteor fragment zooming for his face. Bob, being not the sharpest tool in the shed nor the quickest kitty in the litter, let it strike him right between the eyes.

The meteorite itself only did a minor amount of damage to Bob's average face. It was merely the size of a peanut, after all. It nearly knocked him out, and did knock him down, causing an immediate, immense headache. Bob's face no longer looked average.

After writhing on the ground in pain for a few moments, Bob gathered his average wits again and sat up. He crawled over and examined the rock that had ruined his night. It was hot and steaming. Part of it glowed. It smelled of burned ozone. He leaned his face close to it to examine it more in detail. That's when he accidentally breathed in a small cloud of dust that surrounded the tiny meteor fragment. 

Bob recoiled, as the dust burned his nostrils like a very powerful nose spray. He sniffed and aggressively rubbed his nose. He then let loose a very colorful string of words, echoing them off into the night air. 

"You look like hell," Bob's coworker Joe told him the next day at the accounting office where they worked.

"Thanks for the compliment," Bob quipped. Indeed, both his eyes were black and blue, there was a big welt between them, and his eyes were bloodshot. Of course it was a Monday and Bob was having the worst case of the Mondays he'd ever had. In addition to his injuries, Bob had contracted some type of awful cold. He realized it was not a cold, though, when he took his temperature when he got home. One hundred and three degrees. 

"Maybe it's the flu," Bob said. And those were the last four words he ever spoke. He dropped the thermometer, and then he himself fell to the floor into a fit of convulsions. His wife came into the bathroom yelling "Bob, what's wrong?!" Those were the last three words she ever spoke. Well, except for the screaming that soon followed.

The only reasons we know about those events are Bob and Sheri's home security system and in a later police interview with Joe, who told them what Bob had told him about the previous night. This is the absolute truth, how it all began. But unfortunately, not everybody believed it.

The third person to be turned into a vicious, mindless, flesh-eating zombie was Clara, the neighbor, coming over to let Bob and Sheri sample some of the lemon bars she’d just baked. But unfortunately for her, they weren’t hungry for lemon bars.

And so it went from there.

Ground Zero was that usually quiet neighborhood, where the most controversial thing to ever happen there was when the Maldens, in 2002, defied the HOA and put some pink, plastic flamingos in their front yard. But now the most important acronym was DOA, as one by one the residents succumbed to the plague, usually after a pithy and insincere friendly greeting, and words to the effect of “Gee, you don’t look so good.”

It took nearly a whole 24 hours before the local authorities began to notice something was wrong. But by then it was too late. It began to spread to the whole town.

The blaring Police and ambulance sirens took over the air throughout the town. Social media posts from all over the town started to crop up in everybody’s feeds. Some were even live videos on Facebook, Twitter, or any of the others. State and local authorities, in an effort to contain the spread, urged all citizens in the affected area to stay indoors, practice strict social distancing, and if they absolutely had to go out, make sure they wear thick, protective clothing to protect against bites. And of course anybody who had a fever had to quarantine, or call for an ambulance if things got dire.

There was a huge problem, though.

Since the zombie pandemic started in the United States of America, the citizens there had a right to do whatever the hell they wanted (at least, according to them, or their Aunt Karens on Facebook), so not even half the citizens of the town, and then the state, and then the rest of the country, heeded the warnings and CDC guidelines. Besides, according the the President, via multiple press conferences, the pandemic was a hoax, started by liberals and Democrats to make him and his administration look bad.

He held these press conferences from the very deepest room of his emergency bunker.

”The President says it’s all a HOAX!” yelled a sweaty, clearly feverish man at a Costco one day about two weeks into the pandemic. He had just been told by an employee that before being allowed to enter the store he had to have his mask on, a special thick mask that would prevent you from being able to bite anybody in case you suddenly turned. The video of his temper tantrum went viral on Facebook and Instagram. Conservatives all over social media praised the man standing up for his freedoms and vilified the Costco employee. Liberals, on the other hand, made fun of the moron. It didn’t matter, though. He and his whole family later that night would all become flesh-eating monsters before any of them ever saw the posts.

”Oh, daddy, the President’s gonna be on Facebook live again soon!” said little Katie excitedly, before her father growled, leaned down, and then bit into her skull.

The Confederate flag outside their house fluttered in the night winds, coldly indifferent to the family’s screams inside.

”This whole virus shit, it’s all fake news!” screamed a man named Jack into his dashboard-mounted camera the next day, streaming his rant on a live Instagram post. “These damn liberals, they just want to control us, make us wear masks, they fascists, that is what they are! It’s eye rony, cuz they always saying we are the fascists!” Then he wiped some fever sweat off of his brow, even though his air conditioning was on high, the noise of it making it difficult for people to hear him. “One of those liberal bastards even bit me yesterday! They are actually starting to pretend to be these zombies, trying to spread this hoax! Well I’m not fallin’ for no makeup sold at those Halloween stores. Well I ain’t gonna just sit here and let them do this shit! I’m calling on all of my followers - and spread the word - to go downtown tonight and protest this liberal hoax! WHO’S WITH ME?!”

Unfortunately for Jack, he would not live to see his fever dream of that large gathering downtown that indeed happened. Jack’s followers, and followers of his followers, all grabbed their guns, but not their masks, and flooded the streets of Jacksonville, Florida. They carried tiki torches, guns, and signs that said “LIBRUL HOKES” or “I AIN’T WARING NO MASK!”

The local police left them alone, as they were busy tear-gassing some liberals nearby who were protesting yet another police murder of an unarmed black man. Luckily, the liberals were wearing their masks. Well, most of them were. Sure, they were liberals, but they were still Americans, after all.

Yet another group of people started to emerge from the alleyways, at first seemingly to join the anti-mask protesters. They all cheered, welcoming their new followers who finally decided to stop being sheep and see the light. For, they also weren’t wearing any masks!

”That’s right, come on over!” yelled a man into his loud speaker. After he did so the newcomers began to shuffle towards them a little faster.

”Oh my god!” screamed a latina woman, half out of the front door of the flower shop she ran. “It’s the zombies! RUN! It’s a whole horde of them!” She quickly went back inside and slammed the door. She quickly flipped the “OPEN” sign to “CLOSED.”

Some of the protesters, all of them white, most of them men, erupted in laughter. “Stupid liberal sheep!” one of them yelled. This caused even more, louder laughter.

”Hey brother!” said one rotund man, extending his hand out to one of the newcomers. “Welcome to—!”

But he could not finish the greeting. The male zombie grabbed the man’s hand, and he did shake it... with his teeth. The man screamed as blood sprayed out of his hand as the zombie dined on some finger sandwiches.

”Frank! God damn it!” yelled Frank’s buddy Clay. “The liberals got to him! He’s pretending to get bit! He even got fake blood for the show! FRANK, YOU ARE DEAD TO ME! YOU HEAR ME!”

Oh, how correct Clay was.

”These liberal scum are here to ruin our party!” screamed Cheryl, one of the few female protesters. She walked right up to one of the zombies. “Nice fucking makeup!” She really felt like owning this stupid pro-mask liberal.

But the zombie was not owned.

It was, instead, Cheryl who was owned, starting with her face, as the zombie began trying to chomp it off.

As she screamed, as her blood sprayed, as her arms flailed about, the protesters were once again disappointed as another member of their ranks had fallen for the liberal conspiracy.

And this kept happening. One by one members of the protest began falling for that liberal conspiracy. Well, they were falling anyway, into big pools of their own blood.

Finally, like failing incandescent light bulbs in their heads, barely buzzing into life, some of the protesters finally began to correctly contemplate what was going on. But for most of them, it was too late. The initial zombie mob was undeterred, and then their fallen comrades began standing back up, sometimes their guts plopping out into the street as they did so, no longer craving deep-fried Twinkies, but rather tasty, juicy, human flesh.

The protesters who’s brains were a bit faster than their compatriots, they got out their guns and started firing at the zombies. The bullets slowed them down a little bit, but did not stop them. Even when the protesters shot at the zombie’s heads, it didn’t stop them, a contradiction to what they’d learned from zombie TV shows. The entire group of people were completely and utterly screwed.

In stark contrast, when the nearby liberal protesters saw what was going on nearby, they scattered, calling off their protest. Only a few of them became zombie feasts. But the other protesters were decimated. Only three of them made it home that night. But, sadly, two of those three immediately posted on social media about a horde of liberals dressed as zombies coming out to ruin their fun.

Events of carnage like that night repeated many times, in many different cities, in the week that followed. The zombie apocalypse officially got completely out of control. The President, still in his bunker, declared that it was under control, though, and that the death toll was going down. Somehow, in all the madness, he had somehow forgotten that the whole thing was supposed to be fake. No matter, though, as the death toll was certainly not going down. It was going up, up to a staggering number: over 200,000.

But this was America. Most other nations of the world had it under control. They followed the rules, wore their masks, and social-distanced. Well, all except for Australia. They let the crisis get almost as bad as America did. They weren’t putting another shrimp on the barbie. It was human flesh. And there was no barbie.

This tale isn’t just about zombies and liberals and conservatives. Moderates had their say. Take Jonathan, for example, who had his own podcast called “Both Sides Can Be Right.” He was doing a live Facebook post one clear, but cool late-October day, imploring his fellow citizens to overcome the partisan divide that had appeared over the pandemic. “Now, friends, fellow countrymen,” he began, “we can all come together and peacefully sort things out. Maskers, and anti-maskers alike. It is important to wear your protective suit and your mask like my liberal friends say, but, see, I understand the frustration over the masks, my conservative friends. I get tired of my glasses fogging up, too. I get it. I don’t want to wear my mask, either. But you see—“

But Jonathan didn’t get to finish telling everybody what they should see. Because what they saw was his girlfriend rudely interrupting him, by coming up behind him and biting a huge chunk out of his neck, spraying blood all over his webcam lens. He couldn’t even scream, nor finish his thought. But his girlfriend got to finish her lunch, in front of hundreds of Jonathan’s horrified followers.

Canada, after having some initial problems with the pandemic, got it under control. Helping this endeavor was closing the border to the United States, as some of their outbreaks had began with Americans crossing over, already starting to turn. They had to post more armed guards at the border, as Americans started to rush the border, demanding to be let in.

”Please, help us!” pleaded one Michigan woman to the guards, her three children with her in her car. “There’s a huge horde behind us! You have to let us in!”

”A horde, eh?” said the guard. He looked down the road behind her. It did look like a small gathering of some folks were approaching, off in the distance. “Well, I’m sorry, ma’am. I really and truly am. But we are under strict orders, no Americans allowed!”

Later, that guard and his friend watched as the family got devoured by the zombie horde, as they ate some poutine for their lunch break. They truly and really did feel bad about it, and they apologized profusely in between bites as the family screamed, but there was nothing they could do to help. Canada, as with all other nations on Earth, even Australia, had passed strict “No Americans allowed” laws. There was just too great of a chance that they were all infected with the mysterious virus.

The President was angered by this, of course. For he, too, wanted to leave the country. He gave one last press conference from his bunker. It was mostly word salad. At one point he rambled about a cure for the virus, something about injecting Lysol into your veins. The few viewers who were left to watch the press conference thought that surely he was now infected, suffering from feverish delusions. But no, he was just being his usual self.

”We have heard that the death toll is reaching 300,000,” said one masked remote reporter over Skype. “Do you still contend that the death toll hasn’t topped 400?”

”The death toll now stands at zero!” The President loudly declared. He held up a triumphant fist to emphasize his point. “Stop listening to the liberal fake news! We have conquered this virus! And—“

But that was the last bit of bullshit that would ever escape his orange lips. One of his nearby aides grabbed that fist and began feasting on it, as the President screamed in horror. As the zombie tackled him, secret service agents tackled them both, and after some fountains of blood rushed up into view, the feed was cut.

The next day, the Vice President was sworn in as President. He had a much more somber approach to the pandemic. In his first, and last, press conference as President, he quoted Bible verses and offered “thoughts and prayers” to all those affected by this tragedy. He urged all Americans to pray to God to get rid of the virus. And then he blamed all the homosexuals and feminists and abortionists for probably being the cause of the pandemic, theorizing that this is all God’s wrath upon the nation for its wicked ways.

Moments later he met a similar fate that the President did the day before.

The Speaker of the House was next in the line of succession. After she was sworn in, the first female President, she immediately signed an executive order mandating masks and protective suits nationwide. It was still a long, dark, bloody tunnel America was in, but, finally there was a light at the end of it. Helping the cause was the fact that most of the dead were people who didn’t take the pandemic seriously. It was a sort of Pandemic Darwinism, you might say.

Many years later, life began to return to normal. Unlike some zombie movies and TV shows, civilization did not end, although it was quite crippled. Scientists wearing hazmat suits finally identified and studied the meteor fragment that had killed Bob Smith and started the pandemic. They determined that the zombie disease was extraterrestrial in origin. It was very difficult working with the alien DNA but after many years and trials they were able to make a vaccine.

Of course large numbers of conservative and liberal anti-vaxxers refused the vaccine, leading to a weak herd immunity and many more smaller outbreaks of the zombie virus.

But that controversy is a tale for another day.

For Send More Paramedics: The 2020 Halloween Horrorquest

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