In looking at all possibilities for my collection The Third Bear (cover above), I found a very old story I wrote when I was 16, “A Report on the Living Dead,” which is up on my parody of author sites, VanderWorld. Given the popularity of zombies, here’s the first bit and a link to the rest. I, um, abjectly apologize to the French for this piece. In my defense, I was very young. It’s pretty silly. (Erm, not right for the collection, either.)
“I dream badly–accursed kings and queens and nobles visit me. And as I wake, I see the dead; they walk under the noon sun, waving and laughing and calling me ‘friend,’ though I am loathe to join them…” – Moliere, on his deathbed
I. In Which A Problem Is Brought to My Attention
When spies first reported incidents of flesh-eating zombies, I threw my hands up in disgust and said, “Sacre bleau! Next it shall be a plague of locusts! Will I have no rest?”
I banished my lieutenants with a snarl and brooded from behind my desk.
July 7, 1768, the hottest day, the hottest month, of the year. Grapes fermented on the vines beyond our walled city. Farmers fell from heat stroke—causing the price of legumes to rise to ridiculous heights. The garbage in the streets moldered and stank and added to the oppressive moistness. Garments clung to the skin, despite the application of powders and liniments. Dogs expired almost as frequently as peasants and the nobles rarely staged masquerades, for the heat ruined the painted disguises. On the Rue de Diablo, fanatical Jesuits traded insults with equally fanatical Jansenists. One learned to let them kill each other off, rather than risk the lives of gendarmes, who were in short supply.
A week before, a troupe of Hannibal’s elephants had trumpeted their way through the mountain passes of the Southern Alps and down to our gates. Lost twenty centuries or more, Carthage long since razed and salted. Who could imagine such a thing—except, perhaps, our esteemed philosophe, Monsieur Applecart, who had devised the theory – and yet, there they were, stomping about and threatening to bring down the walls.
Mice appeared to be our salvation, and so my secret police combed the sewers and collected ten thousand of the rodents. We let them loose among the pachyderms…to no avail. Can you imagine the consternation? Quelle vacherie! The mayor—who prefers the title, “Chevalier”—almost had my head.
But I snatched victory from defeat, as I have done so many times before: giant rats, specially bred in Romania, drove them from our door, to roam toward Avignon, and from Avignon to Paris.
But I digress.