A translucent calm has fallen upon the city, as the sun slowly climbs to 10:17am EST. Silent shadows shrink away from balmy, desolate streets. Somewhere, in the distance, a dog barks, its woeful cry reverberating off lifeless buildings and down empty alleyways as it calls for and loyally awaits a master that will never return.
Towards the city’s center, a guard is waved aside at the barricaded entryway to a once prominent department store, which fell to pointless looting and wanton destruction. An irrelevancy to current residents, who have no interest in decimated display cases or misappropriated merchandise. Their concerns: centralized location and readily fortified ingresses.
Inside, others step aside as they are hastened past. Rapid footfalls precede a door being flung open. What had once been the manager’s office has been converted into a command center of sorts. Maps and diagrams litter the walls, marked and noted with Sharpies and brightly colored post-its. The room’s sole occupant, a stately, white-haired man with matching bristled mustache and colonel bars on his drab-green shoulders, turns to address its recent out-of-breath arrival.
“Dagwood, what is it man?” Catching his breath, Sergeant Dagwood, a stocky 30-something (formerly of the local constabulary) responds, “Colonel… we’ve got incoming!” Not one known to panic, Colonel Theodore Russell smooths his mustache and nods for continuation. “About 2 miles out, there’s a massive horde, hundreds strong, heading our way. We’ll be overrun if we don’t…”
Russell’s raised hand brings pause and response. “Two miles out? With the way those things shamble about, we’ll have time to prepare before…” Dagwood interrupts, “No sir, you don’t understand, these aren’t shambling they’re …jogging!” Russel raises a brow, “Jogging?”
“Yessir,” Dagwood affirms, “they all appear athletically undead and making good time.”
“Sergeant, how do you presume ‘athletic’?” the Colonel queries. “Well sir, they were all wearing tracksuits.” replies Dagwood. “Tracksuits?” Russell scoffs, “Outfits don’t equal athletic. For all we know there was an 80’s rap flashback marathon going on… did you see any Beastie Boys bling or LL Cool J bucket hats?” “No sir,” Dagwood replies, “and you’re right, the tracksuit doesn’t make the man… err person… umm reanimated corpse.” “Exactly,” Russell retorts, “and your respect for acknowledging equality among the zombified sexes in time of dire crisis is appreciated.”
Over the store’s P.A. system: “Attention all personnel. We have… joggers? Coming in fast… or at least at an aggressive trot.”
“Dear gawd, they’re already here,” Dagwood moans, “Sir does sexual equality really matter at this point?” “Sexual equality among the living impaired always matters,” Russell scoffs, “Unless it pertains to…”
“Colonel Russell!” a female civilian bursts into the room, “the outer guards were taken down by cadaverous calisthenics.” “Hmm,” ponders Russell, “so they’re just getting warmed up.” Drawing their sidearms, both men follow the woman into the hallway.
“Colonel,” Dagwood whispers, “do the rules of sexual equality apply to transgender joggers?” “That depends on whom you ask and how they define reanimate sex and gender.” Russell says thoughtfully, “If someone chooses to gender transition after death, would it make them more or less sexually equal? And to whom? When does an undead society override the desires of an individual corpse?”
Screams of lost cause echo down the hall. An unspoken decision to retreat passes between them. “Sir,” Dagwood persists, as they head for an exit, “is the balance of equality shifted by race… by religion? Is one’s undead sexuality defined by…” The Colonel interrupts him, “Sergeant, sex, race, gender, religion, they’re irrelevant to those damned souls. They’re dead and want to eat us. In that, they are all equal.”
Wailing joggers pursue them, at a moderate pace, out of the building, where they find themselves surrounded by the encroaching horde. Dagwood, in an act of brave stupidity, throws himself into them, allowing for the others’ escape. Russell protests, but the once Sergeant only smiles “I go to equality.” as he is devoured.
As darkness falls, the two survivors find shelter and a small, hungry dog in an abandoned apartment complex. While the woman fawns over the beastie, the Colonel steps out onto the fire escape and looks across the evening of the jogging dead in contemplation. “There is equality among the dead,” he thinks, “too bad we couldn’t find it when we were all still living.”
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