Aphelion Issue 279, Volume 26
December 2022/January 2023
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Zombie Charades

by Susan Stec

Albert Einstein said, "I don't know what weapons will be used in world war three, but in world war four people will use sticks and stones."

Plato sighed. "Only the dead have seen the end of war."

William Shakespeare shouted, "Cry 'havoc'! and let loose the dogs of war, that this foul deed shall smell above the earth with carrion men, groaning for burial."


The commander of the newest addition to Area 51, 'The Pine Box', pulled out his military-issued, over-priced, completely inadequate computer chair, carefully sat, and with shiny shoes, heeled the chair under his metal desk. He booted up the computer, and clicked on the folder that contained a standard, fill-in-the-blanks form, with the six basic military steps taken in all development plans.

His superiors in Washington were expecting it in their in box in the morning. Fully determined to get it there on time, he began reviewing the steps he'd completed.



Dr. Stanley Simmons, nicknamed Doc Frank, short for Doctor Frankenstein, trained as a genetic engineering research scientist; specializes in biochemistry, embryology and microbiology.
100 Libyan corpses.
10 scientific assistants.
Three personal military assistants.
Biological and biochemical apparatus and supplies as required.

The commander deleted the nickname, realized he'd forgotten to add an assessment, and typed:

Assessment: All tools and equipment ready and operational.
Libyan cadavers: 75 in fairly good condition, 25 damaged beyond repair.

Happy with his effort, he picked up a Cuban cigar, resting in an glass ashtray on his metal desk, took a long drag, exhaled, blinked away the noxious smoke, and read on.


Current condition: 75 Libyan corpses on ice. The team, though reluctant, shows promise.

Desired condition: 75 IUKs (Infiltrational Undead Killers). Educate to attack and destroy particulars, using visual aids, sound recognition, scent, and a basic reward system.

He took another drag, carefully laid the cigar in the ashtray, ran a hand over his gray flattop, and placing his stubby fingers on the keys of the computer, deleted 'on ice' and typed 'frozen' in front of Libyan, then moved on to the next two steps.


Assessment measures: Unresponsive.

Indicators: Simmons unreceptive. Personal assistants, uncooperative.


Action: Assemble staff. Introduce persuasion tactics.

The commander rocked his head from side to side, stretching his neck muscles. He rolled his shoulders as he gazed out the only window in the eight-by-ten room. The small window, sealed shut, was framed in dark gray, surrounded by walls that were a lighter shade of gray. Acres of airstrip and dry desert landscape, lent a bleak setting for the lavender and orange shades of a luminous sunset. He shook his head, index finger tapping the down arrow on his document.


Assigned: Task force to apply persuasion tactics and report results.

Recommendations: Forceful indoctrination. Re-animate corpses, and educate.


After reading the last step, the commander picked up an SD card lying on the top of a pile of papers on the corner of his desk and plugged it into the appropriate slot on his PC. A window popped up and he clicked, 'open file'. Fifteen graphic pictures appeared on the screen.

After careful consideration, his breath shaky, he clicked on a picture to attach to the file. Twenty five upright cadavers, in various degrees of decay, were frozen by the camera; reanimation unquestionable, given the gore covering the walls and floor of the metal walled room that held them captive during a feeding frenzy.

He attached the picture to the folder, and then filled in the box under the last step, his fingers moving swiftly over the keys as he typed:

Feedback: Persuasion tactics successful. Vaccine developed, yielding 25 animated corpses. Subjects ready to move into the next segment of operation; training begins 08:00 hours, February 6, 2011.

He picked up his cigar, chair creaking as he leaned back, and then hit the send key.



February 10 2011 08:00

Area 51- Edwards Air Force Base

First week -- day five:

Technical Sergeant Smith and Chief Master Sergeant Jackson stood behind a metal gate watching twenty-five zombies play bumper cars in the eight-by-ten sectioned off cubical of the training room.

The IUKs (pronounced 'yucks') staggered past electrically operated stainless-steel bins mounted at chest level along the east wall, heads tilted, puffy black tongues lolling, arms covered with decomposing skin and rancid smelling sores, randomly reaching with no apparent direction. Each bin door had a laminated picture of Gaddafi or one of his military minions stapled above.

First Lieutenant Montgomery strutted into the room, his shoulders almost touching the sides of the door frame. "You fill up the food bins?" He stood three inches over six-feet, arms bulky, shaven head sporting three days of black stubble, electric blue eyes hiding mischief, always alert.

"Ya, but we need to start givin' 'em, smaller chunks," Smith said. "I'm down to the last of the Libyan corpses and after that all we got is Kibbles n' Bits."

"So, defrost more." Jackson was short and thick, his ash blond hair squared off in a very impressive flattop.

"Ain't any more in the freezer -- a torso here, a brain there and, Jesus--"

"Well, at least we're not talkin' a big chunk out of the military budget," Montgomery quipped. "Toss 'em a little militant carnage and they just keep going and going like a bunch of friggin' Energizer Bunnies. Hoo-rah!"

Dr. Simmons entered, pulling a cart with large laminated pictures and several noise making tools on the top. He opened the lower compartment, pointed inside, and said, "Suit up, gentlemen, it's time for a little zombie charades."

Montgomery grabbed a suit and shoved a black-booted foot in one of the leg holes. "Charades my ass. Those mother-fuckers sure as hell ain't Hooked on Phonics."

"No shit, and we're running outta body parts." Smith pulled his suit up a tall thin frame, zipped it to his throat and grabbed his headgear.

Doc Simmons pushed his horn rimmed glasses up his nose, gave his toupee a quick inconspicuous tug, stubby fingers pulling a few strands over his forehead. "More incoming tomorrow. Let's worry about today, gentlemen. It's a simple matter of instilling that the recognition of a specific image, and the direct attack of a like image on the wall will reward them with food."

"Yeah, well they aren't biting yet." Jackson pulled the headgear in place. "Damn, I hate the smell of this zoot-suit."

The suits and headgear were woven with metal threads in between two layers of pliable fabric and painted with zombie drippings to make them smell like one of the crowd.

"Patience, boys, they do seem to be responding to the sound portion of our training." Dr. Simmons walked up to the cage door that led into the zombie room, carrying a shiny round object attached to a short wooden handle. He shook the rattle like object and it pinged.

All twenty-five zombies turned in their direction.

"Remember, today we do not do the work for them," the doc said as he motioned Montgomery to open the cage door. "They will have to identify and rip the picture off the wall themselves."

Montgomery picked up an Ares Shrike 5.56, slapped in a NATO cartridge, and unlocked the gate, relocking it behind them. He made his way through the stumbling corpses and leaned against the only outside door into the zombie room, weapon ready.

Jackson began bouncing off IUKs, holding a picture of Gaddafi in front of their faces.

The walking dead sniffed the air and looked around with glazed over eyes and grinding teeth. Some of them pawed, or grabbed for the picture and Jackson was spinning in circles, trying to hold them off.

Montgomery fingered the safety on his weapon, eye in the scope.

"You're up," the doctor said to Smith.

Smith moved to stand beside Jackson and pushed the lever on an old bicycle bell. The dead guys all turned in his direction. He pointed at the picture Jackson was holding, his finger tapping Gaddafi's ear.

Two Zombies tapped their ears, eyes on the bins.

One tore off his own ear and shoved the foul appendage toward Smith.

"What the fuck!" Smith jumped back a step, eyes big behind his headgear.

"Aww, look at that, Smith," Montgomery chuckled, "the dead-head's trying to make nice."

"Dead-head -- ha -- I like that." Jackson laughed.

"Yeah, well how 'bout the 'dead-head' makes nice with your ass," Smith gagged out, glaring at Jackson. "Keep it up and I point the sacks of blood and guts in your direction, Montgomery."

"Repetition, gentlemen," the doctor interrupted. "They won't learn if we change up the program. You didn't point at the wall, Smith, although some of them are clearly looking at the bins. I'd say that's progress, soldiers."

"Jesus, it's not like we haven't done this before, ya think they'd remember it." Smith pushed away the insistent hand waving the ear in front of his face.

Montgomery barked a laugh. "Come on, man -- he can't concentrate -- grab the ear."

Smith glared at Montgomery for a heartbeat, rang the bell, pointed at the picture in Jackson's hand, then at the same picture above a bin on the wall.

The IUK with the ear in his hand grabbed at Jackson's picture, pushing the oozing ear at Smith.

"Still tryin' to slip you a pay off," Montgomery said. "I'd say that's progress, Smith."

"Goddamnit! You're all fucking idiots!" Smith shouted at the group of zombies. "Just walk over and rip this guy off the wall! This fucker. This bastard." He repeatedly hit Gaddafi's image and when it slipped to the floor, Smith reached down with a grunt of frustration.

One third of the group fell to the floor. A few stared at the wall while the rest stood drooling and grunting. The dead guy holding the ear, bit the lobe off and munched quietly while his eyes jumped from the picture in Smith's hand to the bins on the wall.

"Bastard's eating 'is own ear," Montgomery said through laughter, lowering the gun so he could wipe watery eyes.

"That's enough, Montgomery," the doctor said in a steady voice. "Try it again, Smith."

Smith rang the bike bell and slapped the picture, resting against Jackson's chest. Before he could point at the corresponding picture, three IUKs tackled Jackson to the floor. The rest became animated.

Montgomery clicked the safety off and rapid fired, blowing the heads off the three zombies.

Half of the rotting corpses froze, the other half began to fill mouths with pieces of their decapitated friends, some slurping brain matter off the floor.

Dr. Simmons puffed out the air he'd been holding in his lungs and shook his head.

"Oh-hell-yes, we got us a new zombie beverage, soldiers -- brain slurpies!" Montgomery laughed harder.

Jackson snickered when a zombie bit the corner off Gaddafi's picture, "Bon Appétit, ya stupid bastard."

Smith wrestled the picture away from the IUK and rang the bike bell in its face.

The zombies froze, some mid-bite, rancid blood dripping from their mouths, all eyes locked on the bell.

"Stay calm, Smith -- use the bell and the visual aids simultaneously, please," Doc said. "You're confusing them."

"Yeah, we're confusing them alright." Jackson got up off the floor, brushed zombie matter off is coveralls, then grabbed the picture away from Smith. "Christ, I'm staying off the friggin' menu."

"A very good idea, Jackson. I strongly suggest the rest of you consider that these men are weapons," Dr. Simmons said. "We don't play with our weapons, gentlemen."

Montgomery clicked the rifle's safety back on, shouldered the weapon, and leaned against the door.

Smith rang the bike bell. They all turned toward him. He took a deep breath and dramatically pointed at the picture Jackson was moving in a half circle, arms stretched out in front of him. Jackson snatched a dead-head's hand as it reached for his ear, flung it away, and then pointed at Gaddafi's picture on the wall. Montgomery assisted by walking over and slapping the picture on the wall.

A Zombie with mangy looking blond hair and dead gray eyes, reached out and ripped the ear off another zombie standing next to him and threw it. While the afflicted zombie attacked the abuser, half the group staggered after the ear, the rest continued feasting on the remaining body parts littering the floor.

The ear hit the picture of Gaddafi and slid a bloody trail down the wall. Two of the IUKs fought over it, the rest ripped pictures off the wall and began to shove pieces into their mouths.

"What a cluster-fuck," Montgomery said.

"Good enough for me." Dr. Simmons raised his hand and squeezed a small metal object between his thumb and index finger several times. A clicking sound echoed around the room.

Twenty-two decaying head's jerked anxiously toward the bins. The one under Gaddafi's picture sprung open and a human head rolled out and onto the floor.

Zombies dove for it.

Montgomery shouldered the weapon, and laughed. "Well they sure got the clicker part down pat. Hope we can get the ear part out of their itty-bitty minds. Can't kill a man with an ear."

Hands clawed, teeth bit, growls filled the air; bits of zombie flesh, mingled with human brain matter flew around the room.


Military release:


FEBRUARY 23 2011 15:42

Muammer Gaddafi, Libyan leader, vowed to fight until his last drop of blood was spilled. He will not step down. He labels anti-regime protesters as 'rats' and 'mercenaries' working for foreign agendas. In his threatening speech this week, delivered from the ruins of his former home, he asked for supporters to step up and 'cleanse Libya house by house'.





April 2 2011 08:00

Seventh week -- day seven:

The team stood behind the gate in the cage, everyone ready for the next test run.

To get the IUKs attention, Dr. Simmons shook the rattle that pinged.

Seventy-five zombies turned toward the cage in unison.

Smith rang the bike bell to signal that they were receiving an assignment. Jackson slapped a picture against the cage of a man with dark hair, brown tinted glasses, a turban wrapped around his head, dressed in camel colored clothes. The military team pointed at a newly installed red light flickering over the same picture on the wall.

En masse, pasty colored faces jerked toward the wall and barked grunts of partial understanding. Some schlepped their way to random bins snatching down the pictures that hung over them, shoving them in their mouths.

The doctor clicked the clicker.

All of the zombies immediately froze, hopeful eyes directed at the wall as it vibrated with a mechanical buzz. Human remains rolled out of the bins and the zombies were tearing them to shreds before they hit the floor.

"Hoo-rah! Feeding time in the shark tank." Jackson slapped Simmons on the back.

One IUK lost a hand in spray of blood when he tried to hold on to his piece of the prize. The offending zombie shoved the whole hand with the prize still in its grasp, into his mouth, and started chewing.

"Shit, sucker's got him a Libyan in a blanket." Smith pointed at the zombie as it swallowed hard.

Moving corpses slid around, painting the floor with foul smelling bodily fluids as they tried to scoop up left over human flesh.

"Well this ought to put a smile on those fuckin' bureaucratic faces," Montgomery said. "Sons of bitches got a nice little holdin' tank'a flesh operated idiots that take a lickin' 'n' keep on tickin'."

"I don't know what's happening to me," Smith said in a squeaky girly voice. "I'm not alive -- I'm not dead -- I'm a flesh-a-holic."

"One bourbon, one scotch, one beer," Montgomery sang with his best Thorogood twang.

"No," Jackson corrected with a chuckle, "That'd be, one brain, one penis, one ear."

"I'm just glad I'm not next up on the cleaning roster." Smith plucked a clipboard off the wall near the cage and slapped it against Montgomery's broad chest. Before Montgomery could come up with a snappy rebuttal, Doc Frank nipped the celebration.

"I wouldn't get too excited, gentlemen," Dr. Simmons said with a deadpan look on his face. "A few more weeks of this and we bring in the scarecrows."


Military release:


MAY 3 2011 15:42

AL-UQAYLA, Libya (Reuters) -- Libyan rebels pushed west, extending their grip on a key coast road as Muammar Gaddafi received a warning he would be held to account at The Hague for suspected crimes by his security forces.

Venezuela said the Libyan leader had agreed to its proposal for an international commission to negotiate, but Gaddafi's son, Saif al Islam, said there was no need for any foreign mediation in the crisis. The Arab League said cautiously that the plan was "under consideration."





July 19 2011 08:00

Twenty-third week -- day three:

Dr. Simmons entered room and stepped up to the door on the cage.

Jackson stood at the entrance, holding the door to the cage room open, while he monitored the action in the hallway in front of the door leading into the sectioned off area where the hungry IUKs waited.

Montgomery and Smith, accompanied by five US military airmen, made ready, each awkwardly holding a Libyan cadaver dressed in military gear.

The doc shook the rattle and smiled as the zombies pulled newly hung pictures from the wall, devoured them, while pulling at the sealed bins.

"They're ready, Doc Frank," Jackson announced from the hallway.

"Give them the signal after I make the clicking noise."

Jackson raised his arm at the men in the hall.

Dr. Simmons shook the pinger. The zombies heads whipped in his direction. He held up a picture of a Libyan in military garb and rang the bike bell.

The zombies turned toward the barren wall and what was left of the laminated images scattered on the floor, and then back to the doctor.

The doc clicked the clicker and pointed at the door. Jackson flagged the men in the hall.

The zombies clawed the bins. The door to the room opened instead.

They all stopped, heads tilting, nostrils flaring, eyes locked on the cadavers the men held.

Before the men in the hall could react, the whole group leapt at the bodies, landing half in and half out of the room, staggering the military men back into the hallway.

Montgomery barked, "Push the dead-heads back in, damnit."

Bones popped. Slurping, growling, and chewing noises filled the air.

Dr. Simmons hammered the clicker.

A few zombies turned to the wall, but most continued to feast, while the men tried to push them back into the room.

Smith ran down the hall, yelling, "I'll motor up the bins."

The doctor clicked, finally getting the attention of part of the group. The red lights started blinking and the empty bins began to vibrate open. The zombies moved toward the bins, some carrying body parts, others empty handed. Montgomery slammed the door shut and locked it.

Dr. Simmons took in a deep shaky breath as Montgomery and Smith walked into the cage.

"What the fuck?" Montgomery spat, ripping off his head gear.

Quickly gaining his composure, the doctor said, "That was close, gentlemen, but practice makes perfect."

"Screw that!" Smith unzipped his zoot-suit.

"How many more times are we going to repeat this routine?" Jackson asked, rubbing the back of his neck.

"Until they get it right," the doctor said. "We need to establish that the reward is not always behind a bin."

"Christ," Montgomery said, "next time I'm laying the fuckers on a gurney and pushin'em in."

The doctor said, "That will work... next time... but not when we have to begin making them comfortable with spontaneous surroundings."


D-day: October 30 2011 24:00

The doctor stood thirty feet from the helicopter, one hand holding his horn-rimmed glasses, the other hand holding his toupee in place. His lab coat billowed out behind him. US Military soldiers walked the last of the seventy-five IUKs up the loading dock as the Boeing CH-47 Chinook powered up on the secret military airstrip.

The zombies were pushed against the wall on the right side of the helicopter, and a chest-high netting was rolled out, securing them in place while the transport made its trip from Edwards Air Force base to McGuire Air Force Base where a Boeing C-17 waited to transport them to Libya.

One of the eighteen crew members clicked a switch to close the loading dock. All of the zombies turned toward the crew member and then swiftly toward the loading dock, eyes feral while they watched the ramp click and vibrate its way up with a mechanical buzz.

As the ramp slowly rose and the helicopter lifted off the ground the zombies became more irritated. Their heads jerked around the loading area, loud grunting noises filled the air and the dead-heads began to pull at the netting.

Airmen scurried to open coolers and toss chunks of meat at the highly disgruntled zombies dressed in Libyan militant uniforms.

The helicopter headed north-northwest while the IUKs shoved body parts in their mouths and Airmen stationed themselves along the left side of the aircraft.

While the helicopter moved at a steady speed of 160 knots about seventy-five miles north-northwest of Edwards Air Force Base, ticking noises, followed by short spurts communication came from the cockpit. The zombies came to attention. Their heads mistakenly jerked toward the switch that was earlier used to raise the loading dock. Then they turned toward the closed ramp.

Several things happened at once.

Zombies climbed over the netting.

Military men clicked off safeties.

Zombies turned toward the clicks.

Rifles rapid fired.

Several of the walking dead connected with military men and were rolling around on the floor of the aircraft.

"Abort!" the Lieutenant Colonel shouted.

"Let's bail 'em!" an unknown caller announced.

An Airman First Class hit the switch for the loading ramp. "Son-of-a-bitch!" he yelled, finishing off his clip. He threw the weapon at the approaching zombie.

Twenty-seven genetically animated corpses headed for the cargo ramp that was clicking its way open. The rest continued toward the armed men, bodies jerking from the rounds of ammunition spattering the cargo area. Friendly fire dropped airmen as it ricocheted off the walls.

The helicopter alarms went off. Zombies turned in all directions.

The copter banked hard, losing altitude as it turned back toward Edward Air Force Base, and all twenty-seven IUKs in front of the loading door slid effortlessly out into the night.


83 miles (133 km) north-north west of Edwards Air Force Base

Las Vegas Strip: October 31 2011 12:56

Twenty-seven zombies fell from the sky and peppered the fifteen-acre tropical oasis of the Flamingo Las Vegas, scattered in four pools, amid pounding waterfalls with bits and pieces embedded in luscious foliage. After several minutes of stunned animation, more than half began to rise and group together. With nostrils flaring, arms outstretched, and heads nodding, they stumbled toward the doors and the noise coming from the casino.

Inside the casino a clatter of pings, bells, and the clicking of one arm bandits and roulette tables filled the air. The festive atmosphere was cluttered with hundreds of humans, most of them lavishly dressed in costumes to celebrate the Halloween theme. A virtual zombie smorgasbord of deliciously wafting pheromones, vivid color, and familiar sounds.

As the animated cadavers entered, comments were tossed:

"Oh, look, terrorists!" (Clapping hands)

"Don't they look authentic?"

"That stump on that guys shoulder looks real! Hope that's stage-blood." (Chuckle)"Wow, George, that bunch is right off the set of the Walking Dead! Great makeup."

"Hey, al-Qaeda militants -- clearly walking dead. Ha! I just love it." (Squealing giggles)

"That one looks like Gaddafi."

The zombies jerked their heads in all directions as the sounds of pings, clicks and bells assaulted them from every corner of the room.

A red light flashed over one of the one arm bandits and a bell rang, drawing the attention of four zombies who scuttled toward the machine. They stood behind an Asian woman who was jumping for joy, dressed in a camel colored turban and sarong. Four sets of zombie eyes locked on the bin at the bottom of the machine. When it didn't open one of them shoved his arm half way into the bin. The machine spit out a voucher and another zombie grabbed it and shoved it in his mouth, not looking at all satisfied with the offering.

The woman tried to retrieve the voucher. "Don't you dare swallow that! Open. Open. Give it up!"

The IUK spit the voucher in her face, feral growls burbling deep in his throat. He ripped a handful of her hair out, sniffing it. One of the others plucked her arm off as easy as removing a turkey leg on Thanksgiving, and promptly began chewing. The other three dragged the rest of her body to the floor and her screams abruptly stopped.

Sounds associated with fear broke out in other areas of the casino.

Batman's cape went flying as four zombies literally tore him in two. Three IUKs held a screaming Scarlett as she lost her gown and one arm. Her black thong didn't look like it came off the set of Gone With the Wind. A zombie ripped Mario's foot off at the ankle and sucked at the black shoe like removing the meat from a lobster claw; the video game hero screamed as five more IUKs jumped him, fighting over body parts. Lilly Munster lost her long black wig and her head. Two zombie militants pulled a man out from under a roulette table by his bright blue pants. There was a loud pop when Popeye's arm deflated.

Suddenly everyone was running, screaming, pulling out cell phones, and falling over each other, as they headed for the doors in a panic.


November 1 2011 09:00

Dr. Simmons sat in his quarters at the military base, a cup of coffee moving slowly toward his mouth, a plate of half-eaten scrambled eggs, bacon and hash browns in front of him as he turned to the news broadcasting from the small television sitting on the counter in his kitchen.

At two AM, military troops cordoned off the casino at the Flamingo Las Vegas where an attack, believed to be the work of Libyan terrorists, claimed the lives of fifteen tourists before the militants could be subdued. Government investigators are still not commenting on the helicopter that burst into flames after crashing into...

A knock on the door interrupted, and the doctor shouted, "Enter."

Montgomery walked into the kitchen and glanced at the television. "Back to square one?" he asked.

Dr. Simmons reached out with the television remote and silenced the news broadcast. "Einstein said, 'Insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting a different outcome'."


© 2011 Susan Stec

Bio: Susan Stec is the author of a number of short stories and a trilogy of novels (the first, The Grateful Undead: They're So Vein, was published in April 2011). She lives with her husband and three King Charles Spaniels on 50 acres in Michigan; hunts deer with her Ruger or crossbow, and when not at her computer, she's often in the woods searching for fairies or chasing butterflies with the pups and grandkids.

Favorite quote: One's real life is so often the life that one does not lead. (Oscar Wilde)

Amazon.com page: Susan Stec

Website: The Grateful Undead

E-mail: Susan Stec

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