“Goddammit! There has got to be a better system of getting a cab in this town,” I yelled out to my interns, Paul and Ashley, standing on the curb behind me. “I feel like Hitler here with my arm out like this, yet all these freaking empty cabs just pass us by like they have some place better to be!”

[If all the zombies were to escape from the holding site, I hope they go after the cabs first…]

What seemed an eternity later, we found a cab gracious enough to stop and we all climbed in the back. The moment the door closed and we buckled up, I somehow already owed the cabbie $7.00. Sometimes I miss the zone system.

Soon we were on our way to the Grand Opening of The Marion P. Barry Re-Humanization Center in Southeast, D.C. Nothing like an early summer field trip.

I’d received a press release yesterday about the event, and while it didn’t really explain anything about the Center, like, what it did for example, it did promise to rehabilitate zombies back to humans:

“Alternative Solutions for Zombies”

“Intensive Third Party Monitoring”

“Collaborative Empowerment”

 “Zombie Rehabilitation Services”

“Holistic Engagement And Learning Techniques (H.E.A.L)”

These were all the methods and promises made in the brochure for the Barry Re-Humanization Center. Promises are just words. How the hell do they suppose to change a zombie back into a human through “Collaborative Empowerment?” More importantly, who the fuck is paying for all this mess?

“Ashley, get out a notepad.” I barked, “Research project: find out who the fuck is paying for all this mess.”

We pulled up to the Center with 10 minutes to spare before the ceremony. Camera crews were already lined up and waiting. The crowd was huge – chairs lined up ten back and twenty deep, all filled with people who I felt I should be able to identify by now. Council members, reporters, agency heads, and constituents – those loving and loyal constituents. Say what you will about him, Marion Barry knows how to draw a crowd, one way or another.

It was hot, and I was sweating through my dress shirt already. Nervously, I scanned the crowd looking for Dr. Cadore, or anyone that might know more about this spectacle. The truth is, since I became Acting Director of DDUM, I hadn’t been contacted by anyone in DC Government. No requests for reports, no briefings on the zombie holding site. Nothing, just calls from reporters and residents asking me questions I wish I knew the answers too. I was starting to get suspicious. I was still getting paychecks, but as far as I could tell, no one in the Government knew we still existed.

********

It was 3:15pm and Barry took the stage unannounced, followed by several men in dark suits who stood behind him, motionless. The crowd hushed down and he began his monologue. It almost was more than I could handle. More vitriolic than before, more damning of the Government and what the City has become.

“I started this Center for Re-Humanization because no one else would. No one else cares about this City’s Lost Children. Not like I do! Shame on everyone who isn’t here. Shame on all the folks that call Washington D.C. home but live in comfort and zombie-free safety in Virginia. Shame on the Mayor! Shame on the District Department of Undead Management! You’re all to blame!”

I swallowed hard and slumped in my seat. This was NOT how I was hoping to be recognized. Then again, I hadn’t exactly done anything worth recognition.

“I started this Center because we all deserve hope that our future will look better than it does right now. Zombies were people – just like me. Are you telling me I don’t deserve a future in this City? I won’t stand for that kind of ridiculousity!”

“There is good work going on here at the Center for Re-Humanization, and I want you all to bear witness to what I have been able to accomplish!”

Two of the goons in suits promptly left the stage. Barry stood there, staring down the motionless crowd. Ashley whispered to me, “What are we supposed to bear witness to? He’s just standing there.” Doing my best to sound in the know I whispered back, “Just wait, you’ll see.”

The two men returned to the stage, followed by three 20 somethings in what I could only describe as cool clothes from the late 80s – rolled jeans, baggy sweatshirts. The three of them were visibly nervous about being on stage, mainly looking down at the ground, not making eye contact with anyone. They looked altogether normal, yet something was unsettling about them. Their faces looked completely human, yet they moved sloth-like across the stage.

“These are our shining stars!” Proclaimed Barry. “Just two short months ago, these three youngsters where brain-hungry monsters, terrorizing the quiet streets of our District.”

The crowd gasped almost in unison, like a thousand inflatable mattresses deflating at once.

“Now, now! Don’t be alarmed, they are perfectly harmless! Just watch.” Barry walked over to them, and called out:

“Hello there! Why don’t you wave hello to all the nice people that came to see how well you’re doing?” He made a giant Broadway gesture toward the crowd. We all waited, conserving our breath.

The three of them rolled their heads slowly towards Barry, then extended their arms out toward to crowd. “OK, now wave!” After a few seconds, they began to wave.

We were stunned.

“He has them trained!”

“This is amazing!”

“This is fantastic!”

“They can learn!”

People were whispering my exact thoughts to each other in the crowd.

ZOMG. He had actually partially re-humanized a zombie. Barry walked and turned back to the podium to bask in his glory…

A slow wind blew the hot air from one side of the crowd to the other. The third “partially re-humanized” zombie stopped waiving for a moment and turned his head to follow Barry’s motion. His outstretched arm turned too, grazing across the face of the others, wiping away what some now began to realize was makeup on their faces.

The guy behind us laughed out loud and pointed, this must be part of the presentation, he said. But those in the front row got a different perspective. The third zombie was clenching his fist, and as he lurched forward, the makeup was lifted from the other zombies faces, revealing their scourge.

Barry didn’t notice, he just kept up the act, extolling the virtues of the program and how this re-humanization could be shared with all of the afflicted (at minimal cost to the taxpayers!).

The restlessness in the crowd spread, and someone shouted out, “It’s just makeup! They’re still zombies!”

People began flashing pictures and newscasters began jockeying for position toward the front, blurting out questions and accusing the Center of fraud. One of Barry’s goons leaned over to say something but he couldn’t it hear over the crowd. He yelled back, “What?” and the goon leaned in and repeated himself twice, before raising his voice. This time Barry heard him, but so did everyone else, the microphone had picked it up: “The sedatives are wearing off, we need to use the tranqs!”

But it was too late for tranquilizers. The zombies had been startled by all the noise and flashes and commotion. Makeup or not, they were alive as they were going to be.

“Let’s get out of here,” screamed Paul the intern. People were jumping over the chairs and yelling like idiots. I stood there, motionless, watching, flashbacks of the Massacre at DuPont Circle streaming through my head.

The first zombie to wake up made it to Barry, grabbed him by the arm and bit him in the neck before the goon had time to reach for the tranquilizers. The other two fell off the stage and into the crowd of bewildered reporters – the zombie equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel.

Barry fell to the ground and began convulsing. He grabbed at his goon’s ankle, trying to get up. As he reached down to help him up, Barry grabbed his hand and bit it off, blood gushing over the remaining crowd.

I watched as the same thing happened to the news crew – the bitten began convulsing, then turned on each other.

“Now is not the time to be a hero Dingle,” I said out loud to myself. I’d never heard of it spreading this quickly. Now is not the time to ask questions and find out why. Now is the time to R

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