The Revival Operation

*Note from the author: This story was written in 2014. It was partly inspired by the innumerable hospital stays, operations, procedures, and treatments my son experienced after his brain cancer diagnosis. This story was in no way inspired by or relative to the current COVID pandemic. Any comparability is completely coincidental.


Patient 14527 

My case is the only one – the only one – that’s been successful. There were so many unsuccessful attempts, so many abominable screw-ups. Not that the victims were even aware of their predicament. They didn’t know the experiments to which they were subjected. I do. I didn’t in the beginning. But later.

Weeks, months, and years are erased from my memory. They weren’t erased. That’s incorrect. The memories were never there. They never existed because my brain was not retaining information. It functioned at only the most primal level.

I don’t want to remember those days. The Delphic Days they were called. A title bestowed upon that era by the then living poets before so many perished, or rather became exanimate. Survivors tell me it went on for years, decades even. Still, some remnants linger about-rancid, fetid corpses moving around in their rancid, fetid corpse way. 

I was fresh. Only the freshest were taken into captivity for experimentation. Some claim that experiments were even conducted on humans who were alive and in good health. Those test subjects were supposed to have been converted, on purpose, in desperate endeavors conducted by multiple countries’ government health agencies worldwide.

 It wasn’t any country’s government health agency that discovered a cure. That task was accomplished by a team of medical doctors, epidemiologists, biologists, chemists, and a myriad of other specialists working for a non-profit organization. The Revival Operation, almost solely funded by celebrities and other sorts of rich folks who still had money to spend and who didn’t want to morph into putrefying boogie men.

I’d like to specify that I use the term cure loosely. Sure, I am alive, in that I am not dead. It took years for me to reach any kind of semi-healthy state. Life support machines worked my organs, an external device helped regulate my body temperature. My lungs were replaced with lab grown versions. I have a pacemaker. My trachea was invaded by a tube, as was my stomach-for nutrition supplementation. Much of my colon was removed because of necrosis. I suppose consuming human flesh, some of it rotting, isn’t advisable for human digestive health. I’m just regaining my ability to walk without assistance. I’m subjected to ten hours of therapies each week. I’ve had fourteen brain surgeries. I’m partially blind. 

Speech therapy is my least favorite. I struggle to grasp language again, and the therapist spends hours force feeding me all sorts of healthy fare. I’d never lost my ability to chew or swallow, but I’d lost my taste for typical human cuisine. I don’t favor the flavored sprays, or lollipops, or even popsicles-too cold. Meat, that’s what I crave. Raw. Bloody, so fresh I could smell the copper scented hemoglobin as it squeezes through my teeth.  

They won’t give me any. I noticed the therapists are extra careful near my mouth. I’d only bitten once. It was reflexive, totally. Before our session, the therapist had hamburger for lunch. The primal part of my brain detected the scent. Like a captive reptile that  instinctively bites its handler if it smells the scent of its prey on their hands, I sunk my teeth into her soft, well-moisturized flesh. 

    I don’t remember attacking her. I just remember the euphoric taste of hot blood rushing across my wanting tongue, down my lustful throat. The feel of sinuous tendons and muscle tearing under the pressure of my jaws sent me into a frenzy. She screamed. There was chaos. Large orderlies subdued me while a doctor-or nurse or someone, I don’t remember-injected a needle into my thigh. Serenity followed.

All therapies were suspended for a while after the incident. I was moved out of the commons and into isolation. I understand. Research suggests the likelihood of relapse is ninety percent. 

After some time in isolation, I was cleared to resume therapies. My new therapist wears a chainmail glove, and a protective mask that includes a leather neck covering. Despite these necessary, and understandable, precautions the team’s tenacious in their efforts to make me well again. Everyone still living knows what we ghouls are capable of doing. I wouldn’t have blamed them if they’d decided to put a bullet in my brain after that incident. 

    Too much money is involved in my recovery, though. Too much is riding on my being human again. If I could provide proof that a remedy existed . . . it would be an unprecedented success for the Revivalists. And what a goal? To save the species from extinction. The possibility of regaining lost loved ones, giving parents back their children, and giving children their parents back. Spouses could be reunited. Friends, relatives, lovers could all be together again. 

    Our critics say we’re giving people false hope. However, hadn’t my treatment worked? I am irrefutable proof; even with my innumerable medical complexities, I am alive. I am human again. I’m handled with the utmost care because I was the Revivalists’ only surviving specimen. I’m given almost anything to make me happy, almost. They even afford me limited freedom, as far as safety allows. 

Other patients, many battling their own scars-both physical and psychological-caused by my kind are less than amiable. Animosity, name calling. Monster. I can’t argue with them.

*****

    “You belong on a leash,” spits Mrs. Humphrets, a withered, elderly white woman with long white hair and yellowed teeth and skin.  At all times an unlit cigarette rests between her lips. Even with my auditory deficit, I hear the COPD rattling her aged lungs. “Look, this thing is out again.” She points at me with a crooked, pale finger.

    “Put a muzzle on that thing,” says Jeffrey, a middle-aged dark haired man. He still wears his wedding ring even though he’s many years widowed. 

    “You should be euthanized, like a dog.” Mrs. Humphrets again. She’s standing nearer to me. Her lungs rattling in their bony cage with each breath.

    “Please,” I say, demure. “I understand. I do. Please, don’t be afraid of me.” I reach my hand out, but she slaps it away. 

    “Eat it, Bitch!”

    “Don’t tell her that, she just might,” laughs Jeffery. “How’d my wife taste, Mongrel? Was she good?”

    “Jeffrey, I am sorry about your wife. And your family. I had nothing to do with them . . .” 

    “How dare you mention my family,” he sneers, closing in on me. 

    I look around for the orderlies. They aren’t supposed to be far away. They’re supposed to be close by when I’m out. 

    “Why are you here, anyway?” asks another patient. I think his name is Frank or Fred. “You belong in prison for what you’ve done.”

    “I haven’t done anything.” Out of the glass double doors I see the orderlies smoking, far into the parking lot. Too far away from me.

    “Oh, you haven’t?” asks Mrs. Humphrets. “Liar. You’re a murderer!” She reaches out and shoves me with her feeble arms. Had I been my former self, her slight assault wouldn’t have affected me. In my own infirm condition, however, it’s enough to knock me backwards against the wall. 

    Rage churns inside my chest. My extremities become numb as adrenaline fills my veins. “You will not shove me!” I growl and lunge forward. Jeffrey or Frank or Fred takes me about the waist and hoists me into the air, slamming me down hard onto the floor. My head strikes the tile with so much force my nose starts to bleed. I hear shouts, maybe the orderlies. Someone’s hand is in my face, another one around my neck. 

I do the only thing I think to do; I bite. The hand near my face pulls back, blood drips from it. Its flesh is mangled, muscle exposed. Something hits me hard in the head again. I feel a strange deja vu sensation, but I don’t lose consciousness. My eyes fight against my brain’s instinct to shut down. I look at my attackers’ faces.. I look over their shoulders at the staff. A security officer struggles with a man. A nurse screams into a phone. I gnash my teeth again, but this time I don’t make contact. My defensive act is interrupted by a tremendous pain in my back, left side. My shaking hands reach around to feel the wound, warm fluid flows over my fingers. An object is in my body. I pull it out. My brain gives into unconsciousness.

*****

Termination Report: In reference to  Patient 14527 “Jane Doe” compiled by Dr. Theodore Zurich, former Revival Operation Specialist

The efforts of The Revival Operation, although initially successful, proved fruitless. Due to the dangers involved in the research, The Revival Operation was served a cease and desist order signed by the sitting POTUS. The threat of patient relapse is too great. Upon the expiration of the above mentioned patient, she returned to her former feral, cannibalistic state and was terminated via separation of the brainstem and cerebellum from the temporal lobe.

The Revival Operation has been disbanded, and all future experimentation will be conducted by the U.S. Government Sector Z, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba as per H.R. Bill Z 001 passed by the 116th Congress of the United States of America.

Achievment Attained: Zombie

New Orleans City Park the day prior to the Zombie Run 5K New Orleans City Park the day prior to the Zombie Run 5K

As those of you who’ve been with me longest know, my interests lean toward the macabre. I’ve been interested in horror films, books, and culture for as long as I can remember. My mother even tells stories of my napping in my toy box as a kid and pretending it was my coffin (because I was a vampire, of course). It probably goes without saying that many of my friends share my interests. Like most nerds belonging to any genre, we would have lengthy discussions about certain things in movies and what not, and one of those things we’d discuss in-depth was the matter of zombie-ism. These were days long before the zombie culture was accepted in the mainstream-or maybe it’s just that more of us have crawled from our crypts to claim our rightful place among everyone else. During these discussions, I’d always declare that in the case of a zombie invasion (this was before the term “zombie apocalypse” was even widely used or even coined, possibly), I would want to be a zombie. I’d rather be one than be eaten by one, you see. Because zombies scare THE EVER LIVING SHIT OUT OF ME! I won’t lie. If I watch a zombie movie, I WILL without doubt have nightmares. I’ve had many detailed nightmares about zombies, and I will probably have nightmares tonight just writing about zombies right now. I love to watch zombie/horror movies and read scary stories (and write them!), but in real life, I am a big old ‘fraidy cat once the sun goes down. I was, until very recently, terrified of the dark. When I used to work dayshift, and I had to leave early in the morning while everything was quiet and everyone was still asleep, I would get into my car with a quickness as I would terrify myself with the thought of a Dawn of the Dead scenario. The problem with zombies is that they’re like cockroaches. If you see one, you know there are more.

zombie_sign

For some reason which I can’t pinpoint, over the last several years zombie culture has become quite popular. Not only with horror fans, but with people who wouldn’t normally be into “that kind of thing.” I don’t know why this happened, but as you can all imagine after having read my first paragraph that my brain constantly being bombarded with zombie related information caused me some unease. It did in the beginning, then like most things, I became immune to the constant bombardment, and the nightmares stopped-mostly. I would like to note that in my nightmares, I have always been the victor. There hasn’t been one yet in which I was the victim of a zombie bite, although in one my husband was bitten, and it ended with us shutting out the zombie hoards and my looking at him with the knowledge that I would have to kill him. I mean. It’s the only way. Also, I was once a zombie crime scene investigator who had to eat the remains of the victims of crimes in order to discover their means of death and catch their killers. Or maybe I was just hungry. I dunno. Analyze that, okay.

La moi La moi

When I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in late 2012, and after battling pediatric brain cancer alongside my son for nearly ten months, I was almost totally unable to do more than move around a little and then lie back down again. I was fatigued beyond explanation, and I was in pain. Lots of it. I decided it was time to get serious about my health. I knew I wouldn’t be able to care for my son otherwise. My body was in a very bad state then, physically, mentally, emotionally. My rheumatologist prescribed me medicine to help control the fibro. I started doing yoga again. I started eating well again. Eventually, and slowly with time, I was able to do more than yoga (and am doing much better with my yoga poses now). I’ve lost a significant amount of weight.

Somewhere in last few months information came across my Facebook feed about a 5K zombie run. I’d never done a 5k, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to really run a 5K (not yet, anyway). Even though I am getting into much better shape, I have to be realistic about my limitations. I decided, though, there was no better opportunity for me to be a zombie and set a goal for myself. After all, folks with fibromyalgia feel like their stricken with rigor mortis most of the time, anyway. I know I do. I am fortunate in that although I do suffer from fibromyalgia, I don’t suffer from some other-and far more detrimental-ailments that people with fibromyalgia can have. Lupus and rheumatoid arthritis are just two of those. I do have osteoarthritis, early onset of osteoporosis, and mild scoliosis. But, they’re not going to be crippling in the way rheumatoid arthritis or other forms of rheumatic diseases are. Fibromyalgia, for what it’s worth, doesn’t get worse over time. This keeps me positive that I can give myself a better quality of life by taking care of myself-eating right, exercising, sleeping. I stopped drinking (sad face), but it really is for the best, and as the bottle of Amaretto in my pantry whispers my name, I remind it that not only have I stopped drinking but I’ve also given up eating or drinking anything with a lot of carbs after a certain time in the day. (Bad Amaretto! Bad! Bad!) I digress.

Pre-zombie. We had to arrive at 5am for our transformation, so I had to leave home at 3:30am. Yes, I did this willingly. Pre-zombie. We had to arrive at 5am for our transformation, so I had to leave home at 3:30am. Yes, I did this willingly.

I wanted to register for the zombie run because it seemed like fun and I got to set a goal for myself and I got to be a zombie. Win. Win. Win. During the months leading up to the Zombie Run, I trained hard. I knew if I didn’t work hard that I wouldn’t even be able to endure the heat and running after the, well, runners. (Honestly, I let a lot of them go because really, they were in great shape. I told one guy, “I’m not out-running you. Go ahead.” He had like 2% body fat and looked like he ran everywhere just for fun. Free pass from this zombie.) And although I sprained my ankle during that time, I noticed that it became easier for me to lift my son and that I was in less pain after moving him and his equipment around. My fatigue has all but diminished, and I really only sleep in the day when I don’t get enough sleep the night before. (The CPAP machine helps a lot, although it’s left a bald spot on my baldness. In other words, the strap that goes across the top of my head has rubbed some of the hair completely away. I sleep with a handkerchief between it and my scalp now, but it might be too late for that one spot.)

My bald is bald. It's not too bad, but it is noticeable and I can feel the difference when I touch my head. It's like a big divot. On my head. My bald is bald. It’s not too bad, but it is noticeable, and I can feel the difference when I touch my head. It’s like a big divot. On my head.

Zombie Run day came, and I was up with the vampires at 3am since we had to arrive at City Park at 5am. I live a good ninety minutes away. I drank a protein shake with some yogurt and did some yoga and went on my way. My friend, with whom I’d have the zombie discussions years ago, and her stepson joined me for the race. We didn’t really know what all to expect, but we knew some stuff. Like we got professional zombie make-overs from some of the best make-up artists in the area.

makeup Me getting airbrushed
I gave the artist complete creative freedom. I told her she could do something on my head. She was all about it. I gave the artist complete creative freedom. I told her she could do something on my head. She was all about it.
Look out for those fat zombies. They really like a lot of braaaaaaiiiinnnnsss. Look out for those fat zombies. They really like a lot of braaaaaaiiiinnnnsss.
xie&masonzombies Xie & Mason zombies

The artist who did my make-up works at the 13th Gate, a haunted house attraction located in Baton Rouge.

She did a pretty awesome job, I'd say! She did a pretty awesome job, I’d say!
zombieface2 Post-race. My shirt was white. As you can see, it’s a little bloody.

There were also members from the House of Shock involved in our zombie training and blood spattering. When I was up to be spattered, they said no one wanted to roll around in the blood on the big blue tarp that was catching the burgundy puddles. So, of course, I said I would. Then my friend’s stepson did it, too. Because we’re cool like that. It was fun, but I had fake blood squishing in places that were bordering on unsanitary. Still totally worth it.

Blood spattering station Blood spattering station

While we knew we wouldn’t be running the entire 5K behind the runners, we didn’t know where we’d be or that we’d be set in a cordoned off area and not allowed to leave our assigned zombie stations. We got onto a bus and were sent to a part of the park that is just an open field, and it made for some really good chases. I did a lot more running and with not as much effort as I thought I would. I survived the heat and the physical activity, although after a few hours we’d transformed from Dawn of the Dead super-bath salts-zombies to straggling, moaning, slow-moving zombies. All in all, I was very proud of myself for being able to actually chase and keep up with some people. I felt bad going for the kids, so I just hung back and some people were visibly exhausted so I told them to hide behind a tree because I might be an undead brain eating abomination, but I’m still sympathetic.

walkingzombie2walkingzombieIt’s suffice to say we had a great time. We were too tired and hungry to stay around for the after race activities, so we went out to eat where we freaked out no more than everyone. (One lady thought we’d been in a bad accident. I guess she feels the Golden Corral’s breakfast buffet is just that good, and it’s on the way to the hospital anyways?) It was my first time doing anything that physical, at least since I was a kid when I ran around for the hell of it all the time just because, and I was famished beyond words. I was glad the breakfast buffet had two types of bacon (yes TWO types). I was a good girl, though, and my second plate consisted mainly of fruit, even though I was eyeing that chocolate fountain pretty hard.

I just look like I still have zombie make-up on because I was awake for like 20 hours. I just look like I still have zombie make-up on because I was awake for like 20 hours.

I definitely plan to attend next year if there is another Zombie Run. As a zombie, of course. I’m also pretty interested in another 5K that is taking place just two days before my birthday, and it looks pretty intense. The Nola Zombi  run is set-up with a military style obstacle course. I haven’t registered, yet. Yet. According to their website, I still have 84 days 1 hour 58 minutes and 51 seconds.

allthreezombies Zombies do to where sunglasses. A lady tried to steal mine. After I left them in the grass on accident after someone took our photo, my friend spotted them on the lady’s head. She was a real life zombie it seemed, because she was zoned out on something. I got the sunglasses back though. Because they were $4, and zombie don’t play that.

Rise Up, My Love

Surge decore meo. Sit vita tua conplebuntur sanctí sedere carinae.” The queen raised her hands above her head; her smile was hard and resolute. “Surge dilectione mea.” She took her scepter. The amethyst at its tip ignited. Indigo phantoms waltzed on the chapel’s stone ceiling. “Erige te amica mea. Simus unum iterum.” Purpurescent flames sparked from the scepter’s amethyst and landed at the queen’s black velvet slippers. Her gown created a current of air that wafted to the tiny purple flames and aroused them as she moved. They rose and swelled, licking at the draft to consume its life giving oxygen.

“Surgere et iungere vobis regina.” The queen approached the alter, and she placed her scepter on a stand near the head of the sarcophagus there. Laying her hands on the sepulcher she spoke, “Surge rex meus et adiunge regina vestra. Rise my king and join your queen!”

Rain pelted the stained glass windows. The wind whirred through the windows’ colored inlays. The queen could hear the birds in the belfry flapping their wings. “Rise my king!” she shrieked with passion.

The queen’s hands leapt from the stone lid of the king’s tomb, as if burned by a terrific heat. She stood paralyzed as the stone shifted then slowly slid in a diagonal motion away from the grim enclosure. She recognized her husband’s signet ring on the decomposed finger attached to the near skeletal hand that now crawled from the shadows of the sarcophagus and clenched the edge of its lid.

The king, having been roused from his years long rest, pushed the stone to the floor and stood from his tomb. The queen jumped at the sound the stone made as it struck the floor. She saw something she did not recognize. The eyeless sockets found her, and as if the king could see without the ocular orbs, his putrified lips turned upward in a grisly smile.

“My queen,” he groaned, though it was barely audible as his tongue was thoroughly deteriorated.

The queen screeched and fled from the alter, but her king pursued her. The rotting flesh of his legs sloughed off the bone and struck the concrete floor with a wet sound. Maggots covered the bits of flesh left behind. They inhabited the king’s arms and legs- and in his exposed nasal cavity.

The doors of the chapel were immovable, and no matter how the queen fought with them, they remained fixed. She could hear the king approaching, the sound of his feet shuffling on the floor and the sodden sound of the maggot infested flesh falling from his body.

The queen turned and pressed her back to the chapel’s great doors. Rigid with terror, she could not move as the king moved in on her.

She wept.

The king pressed his body against his queen’s. He put his infested hands through her hair and pressed his fetid loins against her. She could feel the worms livid and squirming through the material of his threadbare burial attire.

“My queen,” the king groaned again pressing his decaying lips to her neck.

She wept.

“My queen.”

What Two Year Old Isn’t Scared of Monsters?

The answer: Mine.

I’ve come to notice in the last two years that my son (I call him Scoots), the person produced by me, the fruit of my womb, my offspring, is not like other kids his age. He isn’t a weirdo or anything, although some who know us both may argue that point and state the weirdo gene is hereditary. Ever since he came into the world, it’s been apparent that he has a very singular personality. I foresee much creativity in the future. I’m glad about it. I intend to cultivate his small mind and teach him the wonders of a vivid imagination.

Many times I realize, though, he will be too smart for his, and my, own good. And other than creativity, I foresee a lot of worry in my future caused by this little person as his ideas sprout and thrive, and he acts on them. I envision a mad scientist child, in the bathroom creating concoctions and elixirs to later test on the family pet. Or a tiny adventurer, in the backyard wrangling local wildlife and examining the intricate workings of bee hives and ant hills.

Last October two things happened that I think changed Scoots forever. The first thing was Halloween. He was born in October and already has three Halloweens under his belt, but this year was the first year he was aware of what was really going on. He was observant of the television shows, movies, and decorations. I have a Halloween tree, a small black Christmas tree that I decorate with small skulls, pumpkins, and skeletons. Scoots loved the tree. He wanted to be outside with the tree all the time and would sit at the window looking out at the tree. We had to say hello and goodbye to the tree, skeletons, skulls, and tiny pumpkins every time we left and came home. It doesn’t hurt that Halloween is my favorite holiday. And that he received a Hallmark book of the Monster Mash fully equip with buttons that play sound effects and part of the original Monster Mash song. He is infatuated with it, and we read it nightly. That was until he went all Incredible Hulk on it and tore about five pages in half – with his mouth. And so he is not allowed access to the book. For his birthday I made some CD’s of children’s music. I also added the Monster Mash. We dance to it almost daily. He’s even memorized parts of the song.

The other thing that happened was our trip to Walt Disney World. We left right after Scoots’ birthday, and we were there on Halloween. One of our first rides was Pirates of the Caribbean. Before this, Scoots was vaguely aware of Jack Sparrow and pirates in general. But after that one experience, riding the ride one time, he was hooked. His grandparents bought him a toy pirate gun that when the trigger was pressed emitted a light in the shape of a skull and crossbones. It was his favorite toy. And even though he loses interest half-way through Toy Story, he will sit through two and a half hours of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest with nary a squirm. On one of his CD’s I included the album Pirates of the Caribbean: Swashbuckling Sea Songs. Scoots calls it Jack and we also listen to it often.

We attended the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween party at Magic Kingdom on Halloween night. Scoots was excited about the festivities – parade, live shows, fireworks. The only thing I wanted to do that night was ride the Haunted Mansion. I was a little concerned since the day before Scoots was frightened on the ride with Figment and screamed bloody murder on the Finding Nemo ride.

My fears were unwarranted, of course, because he wasn’t at all afraid of the Haunted Mansion. He was excited and yelled “Boo!” at the ghosts and was excited when a skeleton popped out of a casket, shouting “Skeleton!”

Which brings me to the incident that occurred last night that led me to write this blog. Another movie Scoots enjoys and of which I was at first concerned is Hellboy. I was concerned because I thought it would frighten him. Especially during the scene where the dead zombie Nazi (otherwise known as Kroenen) gets up from the table and reclaims his gear.

The aforementioned scene was on and I, fearing it would frighten my toddler, stood in front of the television to shield his innocent mind from the creepy monster. I’ll admit it creeps me out. Scoots noticed before I moved in front of him and exclaimed “Skeleton!” then proceeded to wave me out of the way.

“Mooooom,” he said waving his hand at me.  I stepped out of the way. “Is that scary?” I asked him. He nodded. “Does that scare you?” He nodded. “Do you want me to turn it off?” He shook his head no, eyes glued to the screen. Oh well, I thought. Apparently he’s not that bothered by it.

In the scene the dead zombie nazi otherwise known as Kroenen, puts all of his gear back, part of which is a mechanical hand. Scoots was elated by this. To Scoots it’s not just a skeleton, but a skeleton-robot! Mind. Blown.

Late last night, actually early this morning, Scoots woke in his bed. I heard him talking over the baby monitor, but he wasn’t crying to come out or calling for mommy. He seemed to be playing with the stuffed animals I keep strategically positioned in his bed. I heard him repeating “Ghost! Ghost!” and assumed he was hearing the wind. It was extra eerie sounding last night and loud. I heard it howling passed the windows, and so I figured Scoots heard the “Whooooo!” of the wind and mistook it for “Boooo!” Because that’s what ghosts say. I then heard Scoots growling and shouting “Rawr!” which means he was probably scaring the ghost. Yes. My toddler scares the ghost; they don’t scare him. I’m to thank for that. Right before our vacation I bought him some new clothes at Target. One of the shirts I bought him was a long-sleeved Ghost Busters t-shirt, and he learned to say “I Ain’t Scared of No Ghost.”  After a few minutes, he was making “Pew! Pew!” sounds indicating he was pretending to shoot his pirate gun and saying, “Argh! Pirate!” I lay back down and listened to him talk to his toys until he eventually got tired enough again and went back to sleep.

These are the reasons I’m apprehensive about the future. My fearless son, a savage pirate, navigating the Queen Anne’s Revenge through the back yard and wielding his cutlass, and goading supernatural beasts to their ultimate demise by his own hands.