What is this somethingpunk, you ask? Let me quote Mr. Wendig:
The literary subgenre -punk contains, as I see it, a couple key features –
a) A world taken over by the technology or fuel source or by humans (often in an authoritarian role) attempting to control the utilization and implementation of that tech or resource.
b) Characters who represent an anarchic, rebel “punk” vibe in this world.
So, here is my entry for today’s flash fiction challenge. My selected Genre is ZOMBIEpunk.
Right to Die
I met my father in the mine today.
He was coming up from the deep part of the mine, where your ears get blocked due to extreme high pressure, where you feel blood rushing to your head, where you feel dizzy and disoriented and you stumble around like you’ve just woken up from a disturbed sleep in an unfamiliar bedroom.
Of course, none of these things would have bothered my father. He died thirty three years ago, when I was fifty two. His body would not have felt any discomfort in the mines. That’s one of the good things about being a zombie, or “Vitally Disadvantaged” as some of the smartasses like to call them. I always felt that the sobriquet was in faintly bad taste, but still smiled when my son used the term to describe one of them.
It did not seem so funny now.
I don’t think I’ll be able to take the elevator down to the mineshaft any more. My body has stopped cooperating with me. Standing in an elevator is becoming impossible when every jolt, every shake sends unbearable pain through my whole body. I have no idea why they haven’t shifted the IT room to the surface yet.
My doctor’s assessment is: three to four months till bed-ridden, seven to eight months till vegetable and not more than a year till come back and work in the mines. Good server admins are hard to come by, otherwise they would have put me to a brief sleep by now.
Not really. I just like to tease my doctor. I pretend to be afraid that every needle contains that deadly venom that will finally kill me. It drives her nuts.
Hey, there’s a funny phrase. Put me to a brief sleep. Heh heh. I would have to tell that to my son.
Riddhi dutifully chuckled when I used my new-fangled witticism to describe the death undeath cycle. But he got serious when I told him about meeting my dad.
“That was bound to happen someday, wasn’t it?”
“What? Meeting my dad thirty years after his death?”
“Ma! You know what I mean. The odds are that it would have happened to somebody or other. It’s just that we never think of ourselves as one of those somebodies.”
“I’ve never heard anybody meeting their dead parents.”
“That’s because the ‘mancers are supposed to make sure that people coming back from a brief sleep…” he paused and nodded his head (thank you, Riddhi) “are deployed far from their hometown.”
“Then why is my dad working in the mine for the last seventy years?”
“Somebody must have been sloppy. It’s not really illegal. What can you do, sue them?”
That’s a good question. What can you do?
Councilman Joseph was a small, mousy looking fellow. He had bad teeth and fidgeted awkwardly in his oversized chair, sitting in front of his oversized table in his slightly oversized clothes.
“This is a very strange request, Mrs. Shaw. I don’t think that it is in our power to consider it.”
“I don’t understand, Mr. Joseph. Do you mean that you cannot consider this request because it is a strange one?”
“That’s not what I meant. I mean that this is a very strange request and I do not have the power to consider it.”
“Very well. Then can you tell me who does?”
“Nobody, Mrs. Shaw. Only the president can, at his discretion, grant a request for a body to be handed over to the previous owner’s kin after death. I presume that’s what you want? Your application lacked some details.”
It was frustrating to talk to somebody who did not understand sarcasm and insisted on speaking this way. Frustration got hold of me. “Mr. Joseph, I don’t give a fuck what you do with my body after I die, as long as you don’t hand it over to the fucking ‘mancers.”
The profanity upset him. I could see that. He wet his lips with the reddest tongue I have ever seen and said, “Mrs. Shaw, kindly refrain from using that word. The reanimators do not appreciate being called that.”
“Yes, that word.”
“Tell you what, you promise not to re-animate my body and I promise not to call your precious wizards that.”
“Sorry, Mrs. Shaw. As I said, only the president can grant that and even he does not grant that wish to anybody other than his cabinet.”
I wanted to storm out, preferably after breaking the chair or at least a window or two. My body permitted me to get up slowly and shuffle out. It was the most undramatic storm-out in the history of people storming out. At least I did not wish him a good day.
I saw my dad at the mine again the next day.
I did not have the clearance to go near one of the zombies. Still, I tried to focus my eighty five year old eyes on him. From what I knew about zombies, he was very near the time when the body will be too deteriorated to be useful. Then he will be mulched, along with dozens or hundreds of others.
My doctor was of no use, as usual.
“Bonnie, your death certificate will NOT say death from small pox. I am sorry, but that will be completely unethical.”
“So you think that death by cancer and twenty years of zombiehood is better than a small, white lie on a death certificate. Even when that small lie will ensure that my body gets cremated instead of dragged out of my grave. Good to know that I have such great friends.”
“That’s not fair, Bonnie. You know I cannot do that. Please don’t ask me again. Please!”
I was startled to see tears on my friend’s face. I don’t think I have seen her cry in seventy-odd years.
I try to come down into the mineshaft when my dad’s shift gets over. Zombies usually work the same shift every day. It helps the controlling reanimator to have a regular schedule.
Dad was not here today.
I tried to imagine how they must have led him to the warehouse and how they must have guided them to the open maw of the machine. One by one by one.
Then I tried to imagine how Riddhi will feel if he gets to know when my body reaches its usability limit and it is turned into compost, twenty to twenty five years later than it should have been.
I sent him a short message. “I love you, my son.”
Then I looked at the yellow elevator with its open side. I threw myself over its side and tried to aim towards a cluster of machines below.
At least they will have one less body to work with.
Our rebellions are as small as our life. But it’s a rebellion.
It’s a start.