The Cautionary Tale of Edmund Zombie

The moon and the sun hang out in the sky.

“Men are such fools,” says the moon.

“Hm?” says the sun. He can’t tell yet whether the moon is referring to humans or to males.

“New Respite,” says the moon.

The sun looks down. He burns with the white-hot fury of a single sun. “Oh! The fools!”

The town of New Respite is still under construction. It has a revolutionary new approach to architecture. The entire town is made of massage oil, suspended in structural gel.

“Why are we doing this?” John Workman says, leaning against his shovel. It vibrates gently, soothing his back and shoulders.

“If a giant monster steps on this Respite,” Cynthia Foreman says, “then we want it to experience sensual ecstasy.”

“Charitable,” says John.

“Enh,” says Cynthia. “It is better to be of use to one daikaiju than to nobody at all.”

John goes back to work.

It was the opinion of the New Respite planning committee that it’s perfectly all right to build one’s city out of sensual massage oil suspended in structural gel. It’s moral, clean, safe, and smells nice.

They didn’t know that it attracts bugs.

“I hear that they’re building a city out of massage oil,” rumors Terrible Bug, in his spiny cavern beneath the earth.

Horrible Bug perks up. She stretches, popping her carapace. She flexes several spiky legs. “A whole city? But we love massage oil!”

“We do,” says Terrible Bug.

“Ordinary bugs hate it,” Horrible Bug admits. “They would stay well away from a city made in this fashion. It would be sanitary. But to us—”

They exchange a meaningful glance. Then they go to call the others of their kind. There are only a thousand Massage Bugs in all the world, but they are unusually dire.

“Corner Mart is your friendly neighborhood corner store,” says Frank Sales to the Mayor.

“Is it now?” asks the Mayor.

“We’d like to build our four thousandth storefront in New Respite.”

“You understand,” says the Mayor, “that we are primarily building New Respite out of the same numb resignation to our fate that prompted the Japanese to construct New Neo-Tokyo III?”

Frank Sales looks blank. “The Japanese are resigned to your fate?”

“I mean to say,” says the Mayor, “that a giant monster, or some other terrible fate, is bound to befall New Respite, as it befell Respite, Neo-Stress, Stress, Serenity, and Inchoate, the cities we indwelt before.”

“We will recruit management locally,” says Frank Sales.

The plans for Corner Mart’s occupation are quickly forced through the corrupt city council. It is built on an abandoned graveyard on a hill.

“The dead hain’t abandoned it,” says Marty Gravekeeper, as they shoo him out.

“‘Ain’t’,” corrects Emily Martthug. “Not ‘hain’t’. Now git.”

So Marty gits. They build the Corner Mart out of peppermint-scented massage oil suspended in construction gel. Its crisp minty scent stings the corpses in their deeps. Soon one of them rises.

“I am Edmund Zombie,” says Edmund Zombie to Emily Martthug.

“You appear to be dead.”

“I am.”

“Was the name awkward,” Emily asks, “when you were alive?”

Edmund Zombie looks impassively at her.

“You’re not allowed to be on this property,” Emily says. “You’re trespassing.”

“I am not bound by your mortal law,” Edmund Zombie says. “I obey a higher ethical principle. One measures a zombie’s worth not by statutes but by brain-eating.”

“How is one to tell which moral code is superior?”

“Empirically; I will eat your brain.”

He lurches towards her. They wrestle, there, on the hill, in the dark, in the parking lot of the Corner Mart. The shadows grow long, and the woman is bloodied, but it is Emily Martthug who proves the victor. She clasps Edmund Zombie in stocks. She places a muzzle on him. She stocks him in the store for the low low price of $119.99.

Edmund Zombie burns with the white-hot anger of 1.38 x 10^-8 suns.

In Terrible Bug’s spiny cavern, the thousand Massage Bugs have gathered. Each is as tall as a man and twice as deadly.

“We are ready!” cries Terrible Bug, lifting his standard high. “Let us march on New Respite!”

They swarm upwards to the earth. They march like an unstoppable storm. They descend on New Respite. It is John Workman’s house they infest first.

“Excuse me,” says John.

“Yes?” says Horrible Bug.

“It seems to me that this is my house.”

“I am not bound by your vertebrate concepts of property,” says Horrible Bug.

“Internal bones got nothin’ to do with this,” says John.

Horrible Bug is forced to concede the point. “Granted,” she says. “But it is my external bones that are razor-sharp.”

John considers this for a while.

“Fine,” he says. He stomps to the door. He takes down his hat. He puts it on, defiantly. Then he goes to Corner Mart.

“I need something to deal with bugs,” he says, to Melanie Service.

She shows him the Raid.

“Bigger bugs,” he says.

She shows him the katanas. They are only $59.99.

“Bigger,” he says.

She frowns. She looks him over. “If you want a gun, that’s in Sporting Goods.”

“Guns won’t save me.”

“I’ll have to think outside the box!” Melanie exclaims. She thinks. After a moment, she makes a bright dinging noise. “You could buy the zombie!”

John is desperate. He buys Edmund Zombie. Edmund Zombie glares at him.

“You’re kind of adorable,” John says. “Trussed up like that.”

Edmund Zombie moans something behind the muzzle that sounds vaguely like, “Spaaaain!”

“Right,” John says. “To business.”

John carts Edmund to his house. He pushes the zombie inside.

“Look,” says Terrible Bug. “It’s a stocked zombie.”

John triggers the remote muzzle and stocks release. Edmund Zombie is free at last.

“Uh oh,” says Terrible Bug. He writhes with the yellow-bellied fear of 2.7 x 10^-3 suns. Edmund Zombie begins his rampage.

“Help me!” cries Horrible Bug. She was having sex with Seductive To Other Bugs Bug in the massage oil. That made her the zombie’s first target.

“Nobody go into the woods alone!” cries Fruitless Warning Bug.

“God will save us!” cries Unrealized Deus Ex Machina Bug.

“Oh, yes, eat me, eat my luscious brain!” moans Disturbingly Inappropriate Bug.

Edmund Zombie eats the bugs. He eats their brains. Then he eats the rest of them, because he’s not entirely sure which part of a bug is its brain. Soon he’s round as a ball with bug meat.

“Brains!” he shouts. Then he hiccups. There’s few things more pathetic than a hiccuping zombie, and John is forced to laugh.

“I think I’ll keep you,” John Workman says.

6 thoughts on “The Cautionary Tale of Edmund Zombie

  1. “Was the name awkward,” Emily asks, “when you were alive?”

    This always bothered me about Piers Anthony’s Xanthish tendency toward alliteration. Were little Xanth babies named Z-names after being taken to some oracle who predicted they would be zombified upon their deaths? Is that how we got Zora Zombie?

  2. I would guess that a simple legal name-changing form filled out and submitted at the office of Jim Clerk or Dave Bureaucrat would have nicely taken care of Edmund’s post-mortem problems.

    In the case of Xanth, I would largely attribute the naming conventions to a case of petulant stupidity – people with Z-names /must/ be Zombies because their names begin with Z’s, and no one’s going to tell them otherwise. But I’ve got no love lost for Piers Anthony, so…

    – jasonk

  3. “Oh, yes, eat me, eat my luscious brain!” moans Disturbingly Inappropriate Bug.

    That’s … it. It.
    Things have been delightfully odd in recent days. I hope everything’s OK, but regardless, I appreciate the output.

  4. Moral: just because that dead stock isn’t moving now, doesn’t mean it will never move? :shock:

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