Home > Zom-B Underground (Zom-B #2)(2)

Zom-B Underground (Zom-B #2)(2)
Author: Darren Shan

I tried to close my eyes but nothing happened. If I furrowed my brow it forced them partly closed into a squint, but they wouldn't move by themselves. I reached for them to pull the lids down. Then I saw the bones sticking out of my fingers and stopped, afraid I might scratch my eyeballs.

"Good call," Reilly said. "Revitalizeds all come close to poking out an eye - a few actually did before we could warn them. Most reviveds instinctively know to keep their hands away from their eyes, but you guys..." He snorted, then told me how to administer the drops.

I stare at myself in the mirror again and wipe streaks from the drops away as they drip down my cheeks - the closest I'm ever going to get to tears now that I'm dead. My eyes look better, but still not as moist and sharp as they once did. I can see clearly, but my field of vision is narrower and the world's a bit darker than when I was alive, as if I'm staring through a thin gray veil.

I open my mouth and examine my teeth. Run a tongue over them, but carefully. I nicked it loads of times the first few days and I still catch myself occasionally.

After Reilly had given me the drops, he told me why I couldn't talk.

"Your teeth have sprouted. When you returned from the dead, they thickened and lengthened into fangs. That's so you can bite through flesh and bone more easily." He said it casually, as if it were no big thing.

"The bones in your fingers serve the same purpose," he went on. "They let you dig through a person's skull. Better than daggers, they are. We're not sure why it happens in your toes as well. Maybe the zombie gene can't distinguish between one set of digits and the other."

I wanted to cry when he said that. I don't know why, but something about his tone tore a long, deep hole through my soul. I made a moaning noise and hung my head, but no tears came. They couldn't. My tear ducts have dried up. I can never weep again.

Reilly went on to explain how they were going to file my teeth down. They'd use an electric file to start me off, but after that I could trim them with a metal file myself every day or two.

"It'll be like brushing your teeth," he said cheerfully. "A few minutes in the morning, again at night before you go to bed, and they'll be fine." He paused. "Although you won't really need to go to bed now...."

It's been hard keeping track of the days, but by totaling up Reilly's visits I figure I've been here at least a week, maybe longer. And not a wink of sleep in all that time. They gave me a bed, and I lie down every now and then to rest, but I never come close to dropping off.

"The dead don't sleep," Reilly shrugged when I asked him why I couldn't doze. "They don't need to."

I was nervous when a medic first filed my teeth down. I always hated going to the dentist, and this was a hundred times worse. The noise was louder than any dentist's drill, and splinters from my teeth went flying back in my throat and up my nose and into my eyes. My teeth got hot from the friction and my gums felt like they were burning. I pushed the medic away several times to snarl at him and give him an evil glare.

"Just don't bite," Reilly warned me. "If you nip him and turn him into one of your lot, you'll be put down like a rabid dog, no excuses."

The medic wiped sweat from his forehead and I realized he was more nervous than I was. He was wearing thick gloves, but as I'd seen in the room when the woman bit the tall guy in leathers, clothes and gloves aren't foolproof against a zombie attack.

I tried to control myself after that, and didn't pull back as much as I had been doing, even though every part of me wanted to.

The medic left once he'd finished. I ran my tongue around my mouth and winced as one of my teeth nicked it.

"I should have warned you about that," Reilly said. "Doesn't matter how much you file them down, they'll always be sharper than they were. Best thing is to keep your tongue clear of your teeth."

"Thash eashy fuhr you tuh shay," I mumbled.

"Hey, not bad for your first attempt," Reilly said, looking impressed. "Most of the revitalizeds take a few days to get their act together. I think you're going to be a fast learner."

"Shkroo you, arsh hohl," I spat, and his expression darkened.

"Maybe you were better off mute," he growled.

It took me a while to get the hang of my new teeth. I still slur the occasional word, but a week into my new life - or unlife, or whatever the hell it's called - I can speak as clearly as I could before I was killed.

"B Smith went to mow, went to mow a meadow," I sing tunelessly to my reflection. "But a zombie ripped her heart out, so now she's a walking dead-o."

Hey, I might be dead, but you've gotta laugh, haven't you? Especially when you're no longer able to cry your bloody eyes out.

Chapter Three

Lying on the bed, staring at the ceiling, thinking about Mum and Dad.

Reilly hasn't told me anything about the outside world. We've spent a lot of time together. He chats with me about all sorts of things, soccer, TV shows we used to watch, our lives before the zombie uprising. But he won't discuss the attack on my school or any of the other assaults that took place that day. I've no idea if order has been restored or if the soldiers and medics here are the only people left alive in the whole wide world. I've pushed him hard for answers, but although Reilly's been good to me, he can play deaf and dumb to perfection when he wants.

I've said a few prayers for Mum and Dad, even though I'm not the praying type. For Mum especially. It's strange. I thought I loved Dad more. He was the one I respected, the one I wanted to impress. Mum was weak in my opinion, a coward and a fool for letting her husband knock her about the place. I stood up for her and always tried to help when he'd lay into her, because that's what you do for your mum, but if you'd ask me to name a favorite, I'd have chosen Dad, despite all his flaws.

But she's the one I miss most. Maybe it's because of what Dad did the day I died. He came to rescue me. Risked his own life to try to save me. But then he made me throw Tyler to the zombies, turned me into a killer, and since then...

No. That's a lie, and I don't want to lie to myself anymore. I've done too much of that in the past. Be truthful, B. Dad didn't force me. I threw Tyler to the zombies because I was scared and it was the easy thing to do.

Dad hated foreigners and people who had different beliefs. I never wanted to be like him in that respect, but to keep him quiet I acted as if I was, and in the end it rubbed off on me. I became a monster. I don't ever want to allow that to happen again, but if I'm to keep the beast inside me under control, I have to accept that the guilt was mine for doing what Dad told me to do. You can't blame other people for sins of your own making.

I sit up, swing my legs off the bed and scowl. No use worrying about Mum and Dad until I have more information. I'm sure answers will be revealed in time. They can't be keeping me alive just to hold me in this cell forever. I have to be patient. Explanations will come. If I have to mourn, I'll do it once their deaths are confirmed. Until then I need to hope for the best.

To distract myself, I focus on the throbbing noise. It's constant, the rumbling of machines in the distance, AC, oxygen being pumped in for the living. It never ceases. It drove me mad for the first few days, but now I find it comforting. Without a TV, iPod, or anything else, it's the only way I have of amusing myself when Reilly's not around. I tune into the hum when I'm bored and try to put images to the noises, to imagine what's happening outside this cell, soldiers marching, medics conducting their experiments, the teenagers in leather....

Hmm. I've no idea who they were. I'm pretty sure, judging by the green moss on the tall guy's cheek, that they're like me, zombies who can think and act the way they did before they died. Reilly refers to us as revitalizeds. The ordinary, mindless zombies are reviveds. But why were the revitalizeds in that room with weapons? Are they prisoners like me, or are they cooperating with the soldiers? Where did they come from? Why are they - we - different from the others? Is there hope for us? Can we be cured?

I sneer at that last question. "Of course you can't be cured, you dumb bitch," I snort. "Not unless you can find the Wizard of Oz to give you a brand-new heart."

I get up and stand in front of the mirror. I seem to be studying myself a lot recently. It's not that I'm vain. There just isn't anything else to do. But I'm not interested in my face this time. I was wearing the shredded, filthy remains of my school uniform when I regained consciousness. That's been replaced with a pair of jeans and a plain white T-shirt.

I pull the T-shirt up to my chin and stare at my ruined chest. I never had big tits. Vinyl used to call them bee stings. I told him I'd do worse than sting him if he kept on saying that, but I liked Vinyl, so I let him get away with it.

My right boob is the same as it was before. But my left is missing, torn from my chest by Tyler Bayor. A fair bit of the flesh around it is missing too. And my heart's been ripped out, leaving an unnatural, grisly hole in its place.

Bits of bone poke through the flesh around the hole, and I can see all sorts of tubes inside, veins, arteries and what-have-you. Congealed blood meshes the mess together, along with the green moss that sprouts lightly all over the wound. Every so often a few drops of blood ooze out of one of the tubes. But it's not like it used to be. This blood is much thicker, the consistency of jelly, and the flow always stops after a second or two.

I quizzed Reilly about that. Without a heart, there shouldn't be any flow at all. The same way that, without working lungs, I shouldn't be able to speak.

"The body remembers," he said. "At least it does in revitalizeds."

"What the hell does that mean?" I frowned.

"When you recovered your wits, your brain started trying to control the rest of your body, the way it did when you were alive," he explained. "You don't need to breathe anymore, but your brain thinks that you should, so it forces your lungs to expand and collapse, which is why you can talk. You can stop it when you focus - if you shut your mouth and close your nose, your lungs will shut down after a minute or two - but most of the time your lungs work away in the background, even though there's no reason why they should.

"If you had a heart, it would be the same. Your brain would tell it to pump blood around your body. It wouldn't operate as smoothly as it did before - no more than a weak pulse every few minutes - but it would keep the blood circulating, albeit sluggishly.

"Now, you don't have a heart," Reilly said unsympathetically, "but the brain's a stubborn organ and it's doing the best it can. It's roped in some of your other organs and is using them to nudge your veins and arteries, to compensate for the missing pump. Some of the scientists here are blown away by that. They've never seen a body do it before. They think you're the coolest thing since sliced bread. They'd love to take you off to their labs to study you in depth."

"Who's stopping them?" I asked, but at that the soldier clammed up again.

I've poked my finger into the cavity in my chest a few times, dipped it in the blood and smeared it across my tongue. But I can't tell if it tastes any different. My taste buds have gone to hell. My mouth is dry - my tongue feels like it's made of sandpaper - and apart from a foul staleness that is always there, I haven't been able to identify any specific tastes.

I sigh as I stare at the hole. It shocked me the first few times. I couldn't believe that was really me. I turned my back on the image and tried to cry. Shook my head and refused to accept that this was what I'd become. But now it doesn't bother me that much. I don't let it. Why should I? After all...

"Heh," I laugh humorlessly at my reflection.

... life's too short!

Chapter Four

Reilly comes in with a bowl. "Grub's up," he says cheerfully, kicking the door closed behind him. I'm standing in one of the corners when he enters, so I spot the armed soldiers outside the door as it slides shut. Reilly must have been coming to see me daily for at least two weeks, usually twice a day, but they never take chances. He always has backup in case I make a break for freedom. The soldiers outside couldn't save him if I decided to bite or give him a playful scratch, but they can make sure I don't get more than a couple of steps outside the cell.

"What's on the menu today?" I ask sarcastically.

"Lamb chops."

"Really?" I gasp.

"No, you idiot," he grunts, and hands the bowl to me.

I stare at lumps of cold gray meat in a jellyish substance. It's the same thing he's given me every day.

"I'm sick of this," I mutter.

"You will be in a minute," he laughs, then scratches his head. "What difference does it make? You can't taste anything anyway."

"It has no substance," I sniff. "I might not be able to taste it, but I can feel it as I grind it up, and it feels like frogspawn."

Reilly winks. "Maybe it is."

He's never told me what the meat is, just that it's laced with chemicals that will help me adjust.

"What would happen if I refused to eat it?" I ask.

Reilly shrugs. "You'd go hungry."

"So? It's not like I'm a growing girl, is it?"

"Trust me," Reilly says, "you don't want to go hungry. The dead feel hunger even worse than the living. Makes sense when you think about it. If you're alive and you starve, eventually you die and that's the end of your suffering. But if you're dead already, the pain goes on and on and on."

"Do you feed the reviveds too?" I ask.

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