One-Shot Week, Part 1: Re-Deanimator! Prologue
I’ve let this go for a while again, and in the meantime I have been kicking around an idea for something new. For the next week, I will be making one post a day of material from my fiction. To start with, here’s an unused vignette from a new project, intended as a “reboot” of my Walking Dead mini-franchise. The rest of what I have so far is available as the story “Meg and Greg”, featured on the fan fiction page for the “Walking Dead” TV show. This scene was to introduce a character dubbed “Indian Joe”. He’s modeled after a real individual I have heard of, who previously was the inspiration for Carlos Wrzniewski’s companion Old Adoni. I was able to give him a good entrance in a subsequent chapter, but this is a nice vignette I think deserves to be seen somewhere.
The scene could be timeless. It is the desert, in the twilight just after dusk. Stretching in every direction is a blanket of sparse, thorny underbrush, broken by the occasional cactus. In the midst of it is a clearing, and in the clearing, a village. There are only ten buildings: Nine mound-like hogans, made only from wood and earth, eerily well-preserved, and a tin-roofed shack, utterly decrepit. A vintage Willys jeep next to the shack would spoil the scene, if the jeep were not in only marginally better condition than the shack.
Eight of the hogans are clearly in long disuse, their wooden door frames boarded up and partially buried. The people who built them and those who know their ways will know the reason: Each house has been the scene of at least one death, and been reckoned accursed. But one door is unobstructed. A crude effigy with an oversized head or mask, decorated with feathers and somber geometric patterns of somber black and white is perched upon the lintel. Through the open door comes the glow of firelight- that, and the tinny strains of “Yes, We Have No Bananas”.
The music stops with a contralto snarl. There is muttering, and the winding of a crank, and the music resumes. The song ends, and another begins. But then it is cut off with the audible lifting of the needle. The glow of the fire is briefly obscured, and then is hastily put out.
There is a rustle, a scrape, and then a crash of splintering wood and a patter of cascading earth. In the midst of the hogans, just visible by the light of the rising crescent moon, a figure like a man rises from the earth. Yet, even in silhouette, it is but an effigy, even more imperfect than the idol at the hogan. For, though it has the size and shape of a man, it does not move like a man. The feet do not rise in strides, but drag in a strangely rhythmic shuffle, resembling nothing so much as a penguin. The shoulders slump limply, and the head lolls and droops utterly unnaturally. And when the Jeep’s headlamps suddenly shines directly in the figure’s face, the effigy does not avert or cover its eyes, but only turns vaguely toward the jeep.
A gruff voice calls out. The speaker calls out again, then again, again and again, going through the major dialects of Navajo, Hopi, Zuni and Apache. The figure shuffles toward the Jeep, while the speaker gets to Spanish: “Su es muerte! Vaya con los muertos!” A limp arm suddenly raises as stiffly as a tree branch, groping at the hood. The Jeep’s lights flicker. At last, the speaker says: “You dead! You belong dead!” Fingers touch the windshield, just before the effigy gets an arrow through the eye.
It staggers back in three long lurches, still oddly measured, and drops like a puppet with its strings cut. Moments pass, then minutes, before the effigy begins to rise, its motion all the more like a marionette on invisible strings. Its lolling head tilts toward an orange ember in the darkness. “You dead,” a voice says firmly. “You belong dead.” Then a flaming arrow shoots into its midriff, and the effigy ignites like a water balloon filled with kerosene.
David N. Brown