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It’s movie night.
We’re about four years out from Hylara, and one of the things keeping us all sane is movie night. Tal insisted on the name and it stuck, even though we also share audio, holograms, books, and occasional games. Every six days, one of us (we have a rotating schedule) picks some form of entertainment that they like, something between one and four hours long, and we all experience it together. It ensures crew bonding time, gives everyone motivation to find good entertainment in their own leisure time (so they’ll always have something to share), and puts us on a convenient six-day schedule that’s easy to map other ship duties around. Tal keeps a tally of how many things we can expect to share before our journey is over, but I’ve asked kem not to tell me what the number is – I think I’d find it too overwhelming, and it’d make the journey seem longer rather than shorter. (Anyway, our timeline is an estimate, because once we reach our destination we have no idea how long it’ll take to get us in orbit around the planet.)
It’s my turn to pick something for movie night. And tonight is a very special night. I’ve been peppering some of my old horror favourites into the mix, and the reception hasn’t been too bad, so tonight I’m taking the plunge.
I’m introducing my crew to my zombies.
The ship doesn’t have a copy of the original Dawn of the Dead, of course. Nobody does. While the movie does predate the end of the pre-Neocambrian age where people started storing their media almost exclusively digitally, leaving us with almost no media or news from that era at all except that found in recovered books and magazines, Dawn of the Dead’s age wasn’t all that great at long-term media storage, either. They primarily used chemically fragile materials to store things through light impressions, magnets, or readable etchings into a physical surface, which tends not to hold up well to decades of flood and fire where people have more important things to worry about than preserving old movies. (Indeed, the ‘preservation’ of such things usually meant making digital copies, which… well, we all know how that turned out.)
What the ship does have is the remake, reassembled from partially recovered scripts and from references made to the movie in later media. I’m sure there are a few inaccuracies here and there, and there’s probably some nuance lost in the decision to make it in the modern Interlingua instead of the dead language it was originally produced in, but I don’t care.
“Have you seen the version they dubbed in it original English?” Tal asks as I set up the projector that Denish built from stuff in storage. (We quickly learned that trying to crowd seven people around a computer terminal wasn’t the best viewing experience, so now, we have a projector in Recreation and Medical Ring 1, positioned so we can sit in the grass under the tree to watch it.) Ke is literally bouncing on kes heels with excitement, a long lollipop between kes teeth.
I frown at the lollipop. “You guys perfected refining sugar from honey, huh?”
“Perfect? No. Good enough to make lollipops? Yeah.”
“Didn’t your mother ever tell you not to eat too much sugar?”
“Didn’t have a mum. Had three dads, though.”
I roll my eyes. Tal’s right to correct me; I seem to get lazier with the Interlingua every day. I used to write sociology books in this language, but a year in space and I’m already forgetting that the Interlingua was created by people from a very different culture to mine, and that they have unusual generalisations in things that Arborean has specific words for, and make specific distinctions that an Arborean wouldn’t consider needing a new word for.
But I’m educated. I know that a ‘dad’ is just a fancy word for a mother who is a man.
“Didn’t your parents ever tell you not to eat too much sugar?” I correct myself, although to my Arborean mind that’s not what I intended to say at all. To a Texan a mother is a type of parent, though, so it’ll do.
“Nope!” Tal grins and bites the lollipop with a crunch. “Do you have it in English?”
“No, I don’t have it in English! Who speaks English? How did you learn to speak English?”
“Oh, it’s actually pretty easy. English is the mother language of Texan, so you can trace a fair few of the words just from Texan, although you gotta be careful doing that.”
“I don’t speak Texan either!”
“You should learn. It makes it way easier to learn English.”
I get the movie going and we all settle back with snacks. It’s not the first pre-Neocambrian bit of entertainment we’ve watched together, but there are still a few genre-specific details that some people have trouble with.
“So this plague,” Lina says, frowning. “It’s a virus? I just don’t think that this is a particularly effective mode of transmission or action.”
“I’ve never been sure about that,” I admit. “Like, yes, it’s supposed to be a virus, but I don’t know if that’s a mistranslation in the remake – because a lot of stuff made after it turned it into a ‘zombie virus’, and maybe originally it was a curse or transmission beam or something – or if Romero just didn’t know much about viruses.”
“It looks a bit like a variant of rabies, perhaps,” the Friend says.
“Okay, but taking over inanimate flesh… why does it specifically require a dead body to work? This simply isn’t a good transmission process for something like that; how did it evolve?”
“More important: can it be waterborne? Because if so, they really are not taking enough biohazard precautions.”
“Wait, where are they now?” Tinera asks. “That’s a hub zone, like in a moon colony. Why would there be hub zones on Earth?”
“It’s called a mall,” I explain. “It’s a bunch of shops together for discretionary spending.”
“And that one they’re going into now?”
“That’s a bear trap shop. North America – Texas, as you guys would know it, it was bigger before the flooding – used to have a lot of bears in it.”
“Oh, so they’re gonna bear trap the zombies. Neat!”
“Didn’t bears live on ice?” Adins asks. “I’m sure bears lived on ice.”
“Polar bears lived on ice. But there were other kinds of bears. Grizzly bears, black bears, sunbears, drop bears… all kinds of bears.”
“I’m pretty sure that drop bears weren’t bears, actually,” Tal corrects me. “They were like koalas. You know… canines.”
“Could you kill a drop bear with one of those traps?”
“No, they were arboreal ambush predators. I mean they lived in trees, not in either Arborea. They’re from Australia.”
“How could something that ambushed from trees come from Australia?”
“Back then Australia had forests around the outside.”
“What outside? It’s a ring!”
“Back then the inland sea was just a big desert.”
“You’re making that up.”
“Something is weird in this movie.” Denish stares at the screen hard for a bit. “Ah! Where are brennans?”
“There were no brennans in pre-Neocamrbian times,” I explain.
“Wow, thanks,” Tal says.
“I meant that this culture had a binary gender system, not a ternary one. If we went back in time, they would consider Tal, our Friend and I to be basically the same, gender-wise.”
“That doesn’t make any sense,” Adin frowns.
“So… they’d consider you all brennan, or…?”
“Most of them would try to figure out if we were men or women. The rest would lump us together as a sort of ‘weird people’ category.”
“To be fair, you all are weird people,” Tinera points out.
“The cultist and the obsessive sociologist are weird,” Tal says. “I’m normal.”
“Did you of all people just call someone else ‘obsessive’, Mt. ‘I name all my AIs after an evil supercomputer’?”
“Tal, you are the weirdest person I have ever met.”
“What a creative way to admit that you’re terribly lonely and don’t meet many people.”
“Wouldn’t the brennans just tell everyone they were brennan, though?” Tinera asks. “They’re like a whole fifth of the population. How can people not know?”
“Fifteen per cent,” I correct her. “But if you grew up in a culture with no concept of what a woman was, how well do you think you’d be able to explain your gender to people? How would you even know you were a woman in a world that doesn’t know what that is?”
“Ugh, guys, they’re up to the stupid part,” Tal moans, covering kes eyes with kes hand.
“Ugh, the part where they find the dead security guard’s titoplastic platinum laser gun and – ”
“ – and Steve uses it to take out that zombie before it can get Fran, even though the crystal should already be discharged!”
“I would’ve thought you’d like that part, it’s the most zeelite thing to happen in the whole movie.”
“Yeah, and in a zeelite movie that would be fine! This movie is supposed to be realistic!”
“A… a dead person just tried to eat a woman’s face,” Lina points out, puzzled.
“Realistic apart from that!”
Truth be told, I don’t mind that part too much, because it’s important setup for how the crystal in the laser gun gets burned out, which leads to the best part in the movie. And it’s a nice payoff for Roger being a police officer, since pre-Neocambrian police officers would obviously have to know how to recharge and replace the power crystals in their early laser weaponry.
I can see Tal is as excited as me for the payoff during the biker scene; as Stephen fights off zombies and bikers alike to give Fran and Peter a chance to escape, we lean forward, and we leap to our feet as he throws the overcharged laser gun into the mass of attackers and chant his signature catch phrase with him as it explodes – “Yippee ki yay, motherfuckers!”
Tal holds out a fist. I bump it. We sit back down.
“Does incest tie into the virus somehow?” Lina asks, puzzled.
“No, it’s a taboo-invoking insult,” I explain. I pick up my coffee and take a sip.
“Oh,” the Friend says, understanding. “Like you might tell someone to go cut a treenode?”
I choke on my coffee, spraying it everywhere. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard you swear!”
“This friend swears.”
“Not like that, you don’t!”
“If only they’d saved some bear traps,” Tinera says, shaking her head sadly, “it might not have come to this.” She lays her head against Denish’s chest. He puts an arm around her. “If I were pregnant with your child and running through a mall of zombies, would you explode your only gun to help give me time to escape, Nish?”
“Yes, if we suddenly encounter zombies on spaceship, I promise to do that.”
“Don’t make promises you can’t keep,” the Friend warns.
Denish snorts. “Ah yes, when the zombies attack our spaceship – ”
“How many people do we have in chronostasis whose brains have been badly damaged by synnerves now? If there is a way fro them to wake up safely, do we know what they’ll be like?”
Aaand that pretty much kills the mood for the movie. Yeah, no more zombie stuff for awhile.
I open my mouth to attempt to lighten the mood again, at least for the remainder of the movie, but I’m cut off by an ear-piercing, extremely urgent-sounding alarm shrieking through the ship.
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2 thoughts on “045: ZOMBIES”
Hey, I discovered your work yesterday and just couldn’t stop reading it. Amazing story, decent hard sci-fi is difficult to find so this was a treat. Very curious about where you’re gonna take this. Thank you for the great entertainment.
Glad you’re enjoying it! You have great timing, as we just hit a new patreon goal and from now on there’ll be 2 chapters a week instead of one. You got here just in time to not have to wait a week between updates. XD