The rotten excuse I called a father, horrible though he was, taught me everything I knew. He taught me how to hunt, how to trap, how to shoot a gun, everything. Then he left. I was twenty-two at the time, my sister was six. A mother had never been a part of my father’s life, so it would make sense if it wasn’t a part of ours. He came home from work, got drunk, grabbed a few shirts, and left, disappearing into the forest.
When I found out, I knew someone had to handle the debt my father had left, even if it was with the mob. The bastards came around sometimes even after my father’s disappearance, asking about the money that was rightfully theirs. Once, I came home from work to find one of them in the house, ransacking the place. We tangled, and he nicked off a piece of my ear with an ivory-handled switchblade. He demanded that the money be repaid, or next time, he would hurt my sister. Late that afternoon, after the man left, I told my sister (who was at school at the time) that I had been attacked by a dog, and told her not to worry about it. We went out for pizza afterwards like nothing happened. As far as my baby sister knew, nothing had.
The arrival of zombies in my life turned out to be a bit of a blessing. I had learned a thing or two about keeping pets from the various toads and stray dogs I had raised in secret, afraid of my abusive father’s wrath. Zombies were no different than a stray dog: feed them, discipline them, you’ll get along just find. I learned the hard way to be more careful around zombies, when one bit my finger two years ago. I self-amputated it before it spread, but the close call had me concerned. If I had died, then and there in that cellar with that freak groaning and rotting next to me, what would happen to my sister?
To ensure survival, I started a business. The years of quick thinking thanks to continuous home invaders left me a hardened soul. For that, customers were willing to pay for my services, which were unique. I would go out, sometimes with friends, sometimes alone, and find zombies. Always under the cover of darkness, always silent. That was how you didn’t get killed. You would trap the beasts, using a variety of methods.
Once captured, you would gag them; to be sure they couldn’t bite you, and then hog-tie their limbs together, so they couldn’t get away. It was a lot like trapping a deer, only if the deer wasn’t dead and wanted to bite you and turn you into another deer. You (and/or some friends, who came in handy at this point if you bagged multiple undead fuckers) would then load up your catches in a horse trailer. After driving them to a set location, usually an abandoned house, you would unload them in the cellar, still tied.
I had learned with the first zombie I caught, who I had taken to call Freddy Finger on account he had a finger (of mine) in him that the zombies could be trained, and could even be made relatively intelligent. With Freddy, I experimented with reward and punishment. When he would do something I wanted him to, I would reward him with the proper, formerly homeless human prize. When he would try to bite me, I would blow a dog whistle, which, thanks to the disease affecting him, would make him cry out in pain like any dog.
Eventually, Freddy became my first employee. When I first opened for business, people didn’t take me seriously. It took me multiple meetings, accompanied by my undead associate, with various functions to convince them. Often, Freddy would get a free meal out of these meetings, which both he and I learned to enjoy. Soon after, I started getting calls.
My first job went as smoothly as planned. With help from Freddy Finger, I took out a squealer who, if he squealed, could get several mob soldiers killed. I was paid handsomely, and put on the don’s retainer. I’ve been called back since to deal with other problems. Over the years, I managed to amass a respectable business, completely under the noses of the cops. They don’t even know what happens when my employees are involved, and consider it just another zombie attack. They even have a police code over the radio now for such attacks.
To keep the business fresh and lasting, some targets are killed, chopped up and fed to the zombies, but if one of my guys is compromised in the venture, the hits are quickly turned into mindless, decomposing thugs. It’s the cruel but effective cycle of business. My zombie hit men are known all over the planet in the world of organized crime, as well as in some above ground markets. They are sold, bought, even bartered. The best part of it all? The green flows like a river into my pockets and those of my employers.
I’ve since retired, after a second close call with one of my “employees” caused a third heart attack. I’ve handed it over to some trusted friends, and even gotten family involved. A few years back, my nephew Gordon approached me, looking for work. Of course, I helped him out, he’s flesh and blood. Now, he’s a major figure in the operation, and has even brought younger, more energetic men to the table, which he’s begun replacing all of the original workers with, ones that started alongside me thirty years ago.
Upon reflection, I recall many things about my business that I now miss and formerly loved. It seems that even an old, monstrous gangster like me still has feelings. Some of the past jobs stick with me in my mind, but one especially so.
About a year before I retired, one of my live employees discovered a man named Randall “Whitey” Sheets living in a retirement home outside of Atlanta. Wily for his age, he often snuck out to drink and gamble with his old buddies. In his prime, he worked for the mafia, and was known for his violent tendencies and assured results. Often, the mob sent him out to collect debts, discovering his knack for making such debtors either pay or find a nice new home in a hole somewhere.
Turns out, one of those debtors was the dirty bastard I called “Dad”. Sheets would visit, I learned, long before my sister or I was born, and would take it upon himself to punish the drunkard via torture. That was when the missing mother piece in my fucked-up family puzzle disappeared. She couldn't stand his constant, threatening presence in her life, so she left, just like my father would do so many years later. Sheets even visited the children of the debtors, and had a pension for threatening them with his weapon of choice…an ivory-handled switchblade.
I paid Mr. Sheets a visit one unusually cold November day, claiming to be a cousin. I drove my Cadillac; two of my men drove a battered Dodge truck with a horse trailer attached, crammed full of my employees. I met with Sheets, who looked awfully terrible, though he was not that much older than I was. I wore a hat to both protect myself from the cold and hide my ears. I convinced him to meet me later that evening, for a wild night on the town. He readily agreed with me.
That night, he snuck out as planned and met my men and I at the location I told him. We exchanged words for a moment, before I asked about his switchblade, and I said I admired it. He told me a story about it that I had heard once before, when I was in it. I took off my hat as my men grabbed him. I showed him my ear as I told him how well I had fared since our last encounter, and told him about my business. I opened the trailer as my men let him go. Sheets ran off into the woods, followed by some close, undead friends of mine.
I never saw him or those zombies again. The nursing home where he once lived, convinced Sheets had finally rid them of his awful presence, never filed a police report, as Sheets had no family except of the organized crime variety. It seemed his disappearance was a blessing in disguise for almost everyone he was involved with, including his mobster friends, who never even asked questions regarding his disappearance. His body was never recovered, although I heard a story when I returned to Georgia later in life about some kids finding a blood-smudged, ivory-handled switchblade lying in their barn, surrounded by pieces of flesh, scraps of clothing, and a large blood stain that looked like something was dragged out of the barn.
The handle of the switchblade was engraved with a simple “Whitey”.
My success story is not typical, that much I know. I’ve made my fortune in a most unsavory way, and openly embrace my approaching time in Hell for my horrifying deeds.
Why, you ask? Why eagerly await damnation, even get excited about what will happen when I arrive?
The answer, dear reader, is simple. I’ve already survived hell on Earth, my undead hit men came from this place. I've prospered from such. Now, my sweet sister can live comfortably when I am gone, sure to do so for many years after, and thus, so will her children, and their children, and their children, and so on. I said it before, I’ll say it when I die, the zombie epidemic was a blessing for a poor boy from Utah with an abusive father and an absent mother.
I’ve beaten the Devil once.
Why not get excited to do it again?