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Dead Camp
(© Biswapriya Purkayastha)

Page 1

My first day as a trainee zombie didnít start off well.

"What do you call that?" the zombie sergeant shrieked. "Do you call that a proper parade stance?" He leaned at me so alarmingly that I was afraid he would topple over, his spittle spattering my face. "I said stand at attention," he screamed. "Do you call that standing at attention? Slouch, damn you. Slouch, you bastard, or Iíll have your guts for garters!"

He looked as if he would do it, too, and since I still possessed my intestines and wanted to hang on to them, I did my best to slouch as well as the best of the battle-hardened veteran zombies. I bent my knees slightly, allowed my head to drop forward, and opened my mouth to let my tongue loll out. He still wasnít satisfied.

"Iíll see you afterwards for punishment drill," he hissed, the wind escaping from his torn larynx. "Just because youíre dead, you think you can get away with anything, do you?"

"No, sergeant."

"No, sergeant," he tried to mimic me, but the air leaking from his larynx made him sound like a whistling pressure cooker, so he gave that up. It just made him even madder, though. "Look at your teeth," he said, after staring me up and down. "What about your teeth, hey?"

"My teeth, sergeant?" I had no idea what he was talking about. "What about my teeth?"

"No back talk!" he snapped, his jaws clicking together. "Look at this oneís teeth," he complained to the world in general. "I told them once, I told them a hundred times, we have a tradition to uphold here! Look here, you," he said, suddenly back to me again, "what the hell are you doing with clean white teeth, hey? We zombies need black teeth, see?" He bared his gums, a maggot squirming enticingly in the gap between his upper incisors. "Didnít you ever watch the fucking zombie movies?"

""Iíll do my best, sergeant," I said.

"You do it," he said. "Not Ďyour best.í Youíll do it. Weíre trying to teach you how to hunt down humans here, and thereís no Ďmy bestí to it. The humans wonít give you a second chance." He stepped back from the line of us, uh, fresh recruits. "Now, parade... right turn! By the left...forward march! Left, left, left right left. Left, left..." And then he was rushing up to me, screaming again. "You. What the fuck is wrong with you?"

"Sorry, sergeant." Quickly, I attempted to copy the others, letting myself sag and did my best to stumble out of step. It didnít save me from a clout in the back of the head that almost knocked me on my face. "Donít look at me, idiot! Face forwards and stick your damned arms out before I tear them right off!" I stuck my arms out at right angles, and waggled my wrists as the others were doing. "Thatís better, moron," snarled the sergeant, dropping back. "Parade...left, left, left right left. Left, left..."

Left right left.

It was evening by the time I got off punishment drill. I had been rolled in mud, made to crawl through barbed wire, and one of my ears dangled loose, only just still connected to my head by a thread of cartilage, before the sergeant professed himself satisfied. "Tomorrow," he said, "make sure you look the way I expect you to look. You understand?"

In the last of the dayís sunshine, the camp looked oddly peaceful. The barracks for those of us under training were separated from the quarters of the camp staff by the breadth of the red earth parade ground. The parade ground was divided down the middle by a tall barbed wire fence, which stretched from one end of the campís outer perimeter wall to another. That was the border between the menís and womenís camps.

Out through the main gates, I could just see a motley group of both sexes, waiting. They would be todayís new crop of recruits, who would be made to wait, accumulating numbers, until the next intake of trainees. Until yesterday I had been waiting there with them, faintly apprehensive of what was to come.

Well, I thought, now I knew.

My barracks was dark and filthy and noisome, and a great deal of effort went into making it dark and filthy and noisome. Every morning, new recruits had to bring in dirt from the muddy patch outside the camp and slather the gunk over the walls and the floor. Dust had to be packed into all cracks and crevices and clothes carefully rumpled and dirtied. The sergeants would come and check, and woe betide any zombie who hadnít done his duty. The sergeants had ultimate power over the trainees, and there was no court of appeal.

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Genre:Living Dead
Type:Short story
Rating:4.76 / 10
Rated By:92 users
Comments: 3 users
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