Dead Writings – Amputations


Back in my youth amputations were the staple of swashbuckling yarns. The crack of the bone saw, the smell of tar and the sizzle of flesh was all you needed to transport yourself to the Spanish Maine or below decks at Trafalgar.

But along the way, something happened. Suddenly it was happening to all our heroes. Luke Skywalker, Dr Lawrence Gordon, Ashley J. Williams, and even Hiccup. Amputations are cool again.

It doesn’t take a huge leap in logic to see how this could apply to the zombie genre. The occasionally brilliant Last Blood webcomic sums it up in a single page. In a bid to halt zombification, cut out the bitten area. It might work, you’re desperate and you’ve got little to lose.

Of course Romero demonstrated this in Day of the Dead, but it was never determined if it had been successful. Braindead, Marvel Zombies and especially the Walking Dead present amputation as a simple moral choice. You lose a limb, you save a life.

Of course it’s never that easy. How many sterile rooms are left? Doctors would be some of the first groups decimated by the infected. Then there’s blood loss, shock and infection.

On the more practical side you’ve got little to lose and much to gain. Even if they do die and reanimate as a zombie, a zombie missing a limb is a much less terrifying foe.

I mean it’s not really the perfect win/win situation but it’s worth a shot.

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Inside NECRA (Part 13)

For the twentieth time today I find myself staring at SCUGS, the stuffed Eagle on my workstation and wonder what the hell is going on. Today he is dressed as an Elizabethan merchant.  I have no idea who keeps on doing this.

My desk is clear. There are no reports waiting to be filed. I have nothing left to do.

The radio crackles again, the familiar voices echoing through my headset. There is no reason I need to get involved. Ration breaks and barricades are run like clockwork. Veteran survivors know their jobs.

The standard check in messages are now long gone. Most days all I do is broadcast my call sign and the word “Problems?” over the airwaves. The static is my only reply.  

The map on the wall is now covered in safe houses. Most of the handwriting is my own. No one else had bothered to rescue even half the number of survivors I did. The other night Peters suggested that it must be nice having my own personal army. I tend to think of it as a village. Maybe it’s even a blueprint for the future.

I check my emails. A few “I saw your safe house messages” pop up, as well as a “Please don’t kill me” message.

I flip through the public broadcasts channels. Fewer, more knowledgeable voices remain. To me they are the fourth or fifth cohort. Training seems to be getting better. Certainly less of them are shouting,

One hundred and forty of survivors sit in a string of safehouses now, resting and recovering from a day where I asked them to do nothing. I call up a few safehouses and we chat for a while, try to come up with a plan. No one seems to have a good enough reason to venture outside again.

For a moment I catch sight of Robert Hatch sitting at his workstation. He’s coordinating sweep and clear missions, carving out a green area in the heart of LA. To me it seems a fruitless gesture.Like a tide the zombies always return.

I power the console down and go to sleep on my bed. Lying there I realise these survivors are becoming more like me everyday. Locked up in safety, well stocked and free from fear, they aren’t alone, individually they aren’t important anymore. But, I’m not important anymore either. They don’t actually need me.

I pick up my NECRA pad and start reading a novel, written by Ray Bradbury.

I don’t even bother setting my alarm for the morning.

For now in my own personal apocalypse, everything is fine.

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Old Heroes

cityJames Grubb blinks and again tries to focus on the people talking to him. For the hundredth time he wonders why he agreed to do this.

The veteran zombie hunter is sitting in an old office block, looking at the fog encircling the city. Along each wall are scores of posters, all showing his face.  He tries to avoid eye contact and turns his attention back to the discussion. It seems there’s a lot to discuss when you’re running for Mayor.

On reflection, there’s little competition. The previous incumbent has done nothing to halt the rotting crowds roaming the streets. These days her public appearances are fleeting and her power seems feeble. While Grubb was marshalling triage centres and leading counter attacks at the height of the crisis, she was nowhere to be seen.

But now the warrior is stuck in meetings, wearing a tie. Out there, he’d never be caught dead wearing a tie. It’s exactly the kind of loose clothing a corpse would cling onto. It’s also yellow, a colour he hates. Around him the advisors discuss him, like some kind of imaginary idea. He feels lost as they bounce questions off each other, none of them really listening to each other.

“Will the southwest alliance endorse us?”

“What did the focus group say was important to survivors?”

“We need to focus on keeping our supporters alive on Election Day.”

In this strange new world the rain is easing off, but the mist still thickens. His thoughts drift to the past, full of blood and unseen death.

On days like this he dreams of slipping out into the gloom, pistol and toolbox in hand. He wants to reclaim something from the decay swallowing the city, but he never has a chance. He is never alone, whether posing for pictures at the Army Base or praying at the tombs of other old heroes, they follow him everywhere. His own personal horde of speechwriters and consultants are stopping him from doing anything.

When he wins the election he knows he can get rid of them, he can unite the factions. He can give the scattered people hope. He doesn’t need a communication director to tell him that.

The windows are now useless. He can’t see three feet. He imagines what is happening in the smothering gloom. He wants to be outside, he wants to feel the adrenaline kicking in again.

Powerless, he turns back to the meeting. Someone is talking about “Synergy”…

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Survival Stories #12 Statistician

dieThe library is silent. No one dares speak. Now is the most difficult time.

Spread across three large tables are maps, photographs and forms, hundreds of neatly completed forms. Beyond the blizzard of paperwork are three anxious faces. They know it’s decision time.

The problem for me is that this is no longer gambling on the Brazilian Grand Prix, now these are people’s lives I’ve been asked to evaluate. The odds I give won’t be used for a quick vote or to make someone some money, now they forecast the likelihood someone will die out there.

I wasn’t bad before, when I just gambled with money, but where it comes to death I’ve developed a real knack for knowing if a raiding party will come back alive.

And, with this gift, comes real power. It’s not just numbers, but politics too. The hothead and the reckless always got the shorter odds. I’d rather the foolish and stupid took the risks. There are others, like the three in front of me I try to protect.

It’s a good plan. It’s well researched and stands up to my questioning. It gives me more insight into the outside world. I’m too scared to leave, so I stay in the library. Every piece of information I’ve been able to save is jammed into this room with me. These piles of raw data are what I need to make my decisions. These hard numbers are my life; emotion has to be stripped away from the process. This is just statistics. I cannot think of it any other way.

In the end I give them odds of 8 to 1 in favour. The Board will no doubt rubberstamp my decision; they’ve never dared argue with me before.

The Board sometimes call me “The Brain” although I always think it’s an insult. I’m one of the few people left alive who doesn’t have to get his hands dirty. It’s not my fault my skills lie elsewhere, making decisions that cost human lives. It’s not something I’m proud of.

I’ve got another appointment in ten minutes, for a proposal I’ve already heard three times. Again it’s going to get long odds. It’s a terrible plan. I try to make them see that.

It seems you can’t stop some people gambling, even with their own lives…


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Dead Writings – Braindead

braindeadYou know that Lord of the Rings fellow? Peter Jackson? Well back in the day Peter made a bunch of films without Hobbits or giant Gorillas.

Meet the Feebles and Bad Taste were some of his first, but his real triumph was Braindead (Dead/Alive in some countries).

To summarise, a Sumatran Rat Monkey is sent to a zoo in New Zealand, where it bites our hero’s mother. Slowly over time she decays, developing a taste for raw meat, as her mind goes and her ears start falling off.

But after she succumbs to her infection, she returns to life, eventually breaking free and siring a small army of the living dead. It’s up to our hero, Lionel to save the girl, wipe out the undead menace, and most importantly, stand up to his mother.

It’s a pitch black comedy, and a period piece. These things alone set it apart from almost every other film in the zombie genre. These things are important, but not as much as the films major selling point; which is the gore. Some of the prosthetics and special effects are unbelievable. The dismembered corpses, the gallons of blood and the unrelenting army of undead party goers never fail to surprise. This is a film produced in an era where real, practical effects had yet to be superseded by flat, unrealistic computer graphics.

It’s obvious this film has vision. You can tell that the cast and crew sat down and worked out the most extreme ways to slice and dice their characters, and it’s a joy to watch. I don’t want to single out any part for praise above the rest of the film, but the graveyard scene is hilarious. Watch it, and then look at how unoriginal most modern zombie movies are.

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Inside NECRA (Part 12)

I’m sweating heavily, but Peters just laughs at me. I try to focus on what’s going on, but I’m not quick enough…

I’m starting to hate Peters and I’m starting to hate Ping Pong. 

I miss another return and the ball bounces out the door and down the corridor, before rolling along the hallway. Peters flashes a pearly white smile and goes off to hunt for the ball. I seize the opportunity to sit down and catch my breath.

Now we’re no longer falsifying Phillips’ reports there is a lot more time for us. It amazing what we’ve found in the storage areas down here. The sporting equipment was the first thing we unearthed. 

There’s another reason why we have more time these days and it something I’ve feared for a long time;


Information is sketchy at best, operatives who had survived for months turned overnight. Outbreak news trickles through to us along with all kind of talk about mutations. Some squads seem unscathed whilst others have suffered a hammer blow. 

No one knows what to do, no one knows the risks and few are willing to fight something they don’t understand.

Units are shutting down and building the barricades high, resting on their laurels and looking to NECRA for guidance. It seems some veterans had been planning for this and have implemented a simple plan.

They’re called food factories, warehouses stocked with scavenged goodies, emergency gardens and condensers running day and night. Most of us higher level operatives have them, it’s an insurance policy and I’m not ready to cash in on mine yet. This is only the beginning of our descent into hell.

NECRA aren’t helping. Orders are becoming increasingly complex, first where to find items, and now we have to coordinate with the research facilities. I’m not sure if it’s another test. Maybe this new development may have made them even more desperate to find a cure.

Peters hasn’t come back. Something must have distracted him.

I pray it’s not another bitten squad member. Suddenly I think of Emogene again.

I get to my feet and hurry to the control room. I hope there’s something I can do.

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The Staircase


I sit at the top of the staircase and stare through the darkness down in the direction of the front door.


My ears strain to hear any noise. For the last four nights I’ve sat here, knees pressed against my chin, and just watched. This is a new record for me. For a very long time I never imagined I would survive this long in one place ever again.

Sitting here I remember that long night when I waited up for Kate. Even now I hope I’ll hear her key slide into the unfamiliar lock and enter my latest safehouse.

For the first time in a month my eye has stopped twitching. I’m feeling alive again, and I take a moment to gather my thoughts. The flight instinct is slowly being beaten back by more logical thoughts.

I hear some glass breaking somewhere up the street. I don’t know if it’s caused by the wind or something sinister and deceased. I check my supply bag; everything is ready for a swift exit. It’s almost time to run again, but I don’t want to enter that nightmarish world again. I want to stay here.

The desire is childish and impossible. Any minute now they could force down the door and surge up the stairwell to strip the flesh from my screaming face. My fear is gone now. It has been replaced with a deeper desire, a need to call somewhere my home again.

The creaking stairs are the only way up here. As long as I stay awake, I will be safe. I can do this. I can stay awake another night….


I wake up with a snort, finding the contents of my supply bag strewn over the steps, but against all the odds I’m still alive. For a few seconds I feel safe, but then the zombies force themselves back into my world.

Gunfire echoes from across the avenue. I curse whoever is stupid enough to loose off rounds in such an undisciplined way. Soon every corpse still able to drag themselves onwards is going to be knocking on the door of my new dream house.

I repack the bag in silence. Pausing behind the door I squirt lighter fluid over the piles of abandoned letters and newspapers. The temptation to return must be destroyed, I need to get away from here, and never return. Throwing a flaming matchbook over my shoulder unbolt the door and run as fast as I can.

I don’t look back.

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Survival Stories #11 Firefighter

bluzMcQueen signals he’s ready to go. He counts down; three, two, one…

Now we’re through the door and into the house, securing rooms, clearing fallen furniture and moving onwards with practised ease.

Kitchen. Clear.

Utility room. Clear.

Dining room. Contact.

Shifting my grip I drive my axe firmly into its skull, forcing us both forward into the room. As it falls its head makes contact with the edge of the dining table, and it explodes in a shower of bone and gore.

A second figure appears from a side room, grabbing me by the arm and latching onto my shoulder with its teeth. The thick yellow Turnout Coat again saves my life, as the teeth fail to break the material, and I slam us both into the wall. As I try to bust out of its deadly grip I thank God I’m wearing my mask; foetid breath on my neck is the last thing I want to smell.

I catch it in the jaw with my elbow, and it makes a satisfying crack. As it spins away from me McQueen hits it square in the nose with his crowbar. It spasms, falling to the floor in a jumble of uncontrolled limbs sprawling between two chairs. I stove in the brain with my axe.

The room is cleared. No more of these things are downstairs. We pause at the bottom of the stairs. McQueen counts down; three, two, one…

What do I think about all this? Nothing. I’ve got no time, and I don’t care. I’ve got a job to do. I don’t have time for morals.

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Dead Writings – Community

dandWelcome to the internet. It’s great. Twitter, Facebook, email and newsfeeds. You can find out what’s happening on the other side of the world right now. I know all about Bruce Campbell’s movements. This is technology at its finest.

It also creates a world of consequences. You’ve never met Ted Bundy, but you can find out pretty much instantly that it wouldn’t be a good idea to invite him to a barbeque.

This is just the latest in a series of communication steps that allows humans to function in the modern world. Strip away all the technology. How many people do you actually know? How many do you really trust, or rely on? It’s probably not a lot, certainly less people than you went to school with.

Robin Dunbar, the noted anthropologist espoused that the maximum size of a close knit community is about 150 people. So let’s look at that figure in relation to final transmissions’ focus, the zombie apocalypse.

There’s no power or computers and even a walk across town is a life threatening prospect. You’re stuck in a dangerous, stressful world. Meeting new people may not just be impossible, it may be extremely dangerous.

In this scenario it’s more likely our groups will be more akin to a tribal society, focussing on friends and family groups. Dunbar’s number is just the most common example of how a community may develop. In such a community you can know people quite well and hopefully remember all their names. That’s going to be important.

It also makes more sense in survivalist terms. It’s quite easy to scavenge or grow enough food to keep yourself alive, or collect enough wood to keep your family warm for the winter. It’s another problem entirely to do this for a town of 10,000 people.

When zombies stalk the earth, civilisation will be fractured, out of necessity and because of suspicion and fear.

We will all find out who we can truly call our friends. 

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Inside NECRA (Part 11)

Confusion reigns.

Schultz is screaming at Peters whilst Heche sits in the corner next to the dishwasher, his face pale and his hands shaking. Hatch wanders blearily into the kitchen unit wearing a dressing gown and slippers and asks if there’s any breakfast. Different attitudes to stress, but they all need an explanation. The gunfire, the blood spilled in the corridors, the smoke and ash in the air. None of this could be described as a typical wakeup call in the bunker. 

I lay it all out for them. The infection protocol messages, the hidden gun, my loyalty test. Hatch sips his coffee and nods, Heche stares open mouthed and Schultz looks like he’s going to kill every NECRA employee he can, starting with me.

Moving Phillips’ body had been the hardest part, I explain. After all this time he’d frozen solid in the freezer unit and as I slid and dragged him across the floor I feared he would shatter. It took over 3 hours with both space heaters to thaw the body. I wondered what the others would have said if they’d discovered me in the middle of the night with the corpse. Yet another chance I took in a long line of risks. 

After that it was simple. Gun and silencer, two shots to the head and a couple of quick photos, before sliding the corpse back into the frosty embrace of the freezer, slush, blood and skull leaving a gruesome trail. 

Next was the gun. It took only a few minutes to strip it down to its constituent parts and take a hammer to the firing pin and other delicate pieces. The silencer resisted only a single blow before it became flattened and useless. 

This left only the ammunition. Returning to the entrance hallway I filled a bin with shredded reports, petrol and old pieces of wood. I placed the bullets in the centre, threw in a lighted match and ran like hell. 

It was the ammunition cooking off that finally woke the others. In the enclosed space the noise was like an artillery barrage. I have no idea what the others thought was going on. Did they hope it was a rescue team, or fear it was a clean-up squad? Which one did they expect?

Which one did they really want?

It was all very gruesome, but I had everything we needed. 

-The pictures of my own hand I took last week, when it was still red and angry. 
-The corpse of Phillips publicly executed. 
-The records of the missing drugs, both morphine and amphetamines added more detail , showing exactly what an infected operative would use to manage his affliction. 

The puzzle is complete. 

We can stop falsifying the reports. We have a story. Phillips was infected and I dealt with it. NECRA has no reason to suspect us. There are no more secrets. 

NECRA will never question our loyalty again.

An emergency radio call breaks the tension. This isn’t over, but it should be easier from now on. We have a job to do. Peters hurries to the control room to find out what’s happening. Schultz and Heche start making breakfast whilst Hatch helps me mop up the blood smears along the corridors. The air filtration system is already dispersing the smoke, by tomorrow there will be no sign this ever happened. 

Finally the tiredness hits me, like a brick wall. I spend a few minutes checking that none of my squads are going to starve today before going to bed. 

For the first time in months my sleep is nightmare free.

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