THE REAL MR. NEZ
“Yes, the Fountain of Youth,” a voice behind us said. “And a world where humans and zombies can live peacefully together.”
I turned to see that Mr. Nez had returned to the main room of the zombie hide-out under Olvera Street. He had evidently heard the last of Pearl’s explanation to me about the purpose of Mission Poderosa.
“And that is why we keep it secret,” he continued. “If the Oñate group were to find out about Mission Poderosa, they’d make it a priority to stop us.”
“I guess that would get in the way of their plan to breed humans for food, “ I said, putting it together in my head. This new zombie world that I was now a part of seemed to have surprises galore for me.
“Come on,” Mr. Nez said turning out the lights in the room. “Time to get to bed.”
Mr. Nez led us down the steps into a the corridor I had seen before. We walked past several open-door offices and then to two small rooms at the end of the hall. Each room contained a small cot with a blanket and towels on top, a table and chair, and a stand-up lamp.
“This one’s for you, Pearl,” Mr. Nez said indicating one of the rooms. “And this one’s for you Lazaro,” he said pointing to the another room across the corridor. “Sorry it looks so much like prison cell but I wasn’t really expecting company. There’s a bathroom right around the corner. It has a shower but you’ll have to wait a few minutes for the hot water to kick in. Sorry.”
“Is this going to be our new home?” I asked.
“Goodness no!” Mr. Nez replied, sounding a little offended. “We have an early start tomorrow. I’m hoping I can get you over to the lab without anyone following us. I’m hoping that will become your permanent home.”
“The lab?” I asked. This sounded interesting.
“That’s where we carry out the research for Mission Poderosa. You’ll meet some of the scientists working on the project.”
An hour later I was lying with my eyes wide open, unable to sleep in the cot of my cramped bedroom.
It was not really surprising.
In the past twenty-four hours I had been bombarded with a lot. I had discovered that there were thousands of zombies living in the world, all of them having one thing in common–Native American ancestry. I had been welcomed into the inner circle of La Familia, a secret zombie society that had existed for more than five hundred years, and had learned that was I born with a mutant zombie gene that had made me a zombie when I died at age five.
I had also learned of an on-going war between the Juan de Onate zombies, bent on subjugating the human race and breeding humans for food. And, on the other side, was La Familia, led by Mr Nez, who were working to unlock the secret of the zombie gene to benefit humankind.
The apartment where I lived with my mother had been broken into and ransacked, and I had been threatened with a sign written in human blood that said “Die Mutant!” Mr. Nez had whisked away my mom–who knows where–for her own protection. And now I was trying to go to sleep in a secret zombie hideout under Olvera Street, a hideout that had existed since the 1870s.
No wonder I couldn’t sleep!
The next morning, as promised, Mr. Nez rousted us early. I let Pearl have the bathroom first. She knocked on my door when she was done and I went into the bathroom, showered and was putting on my clothes when I noticed my skin color. The pasty whiteness was almost completely gone. I was beginning to look more and more like a real Mexican kid, without any of the make-up I had been forced to use to cover my ghastly zombie pallor for so many years. I made a mental note to ask Mr. Nez about this zombie puberty thing.
I found Mr. Nez and Pearl having breakfast in the main room of the underground safe-house. Raw cow eyeballs and cat gut. My favorite combination!
“I’ll let you out the front door of the Olvera Street shop I use as a cover,” Mr. Nez explained over breakfast. “I’ll go for my car and you can wait for me at the corner. Don’t speak to anyone. I’m pretty sure this place is safe, but you can never tell. Oñate is a clever zombie, remember he’s been around almost as long as I have.”
At this Pearl gave me a questioning look. I realized this was a good time to bring up a question that Pearl and I wondered about.
“Mr. Nez,” I said, washing down my food with a glass of cat blood. “Pearl and I were wondering, how old, exactly, are you?”
Mr. Nez was quiet for a moment. His eyes acquired a far away look. He was remembering something. Something that I could tell was painful.
“I was born in what we know today as 1402. April 28th to be exact. My parents were of the Alcolhua people who lived in the Valley of Mexico. I grew to be a powerful king of the Aztecs. I was known as Nezahualcoyotl,” in our language, “the coyote who fasts.”
“Oh my god!” Pearl gasped. “THE Nezahualcoatl?”
“El mismo.” Mr.Nez replied matter-of-factly.
I didn’t get why Pearl was so worked up. Evidently she knew more about this Nezahualcoatl guy than I certainly did. I had never heard of Nezahualcoatl, and wouldn’t even attempt to pronounce his name the way Mr. Nez had.
I made another note to myself to look up Nezahualcoatl. Then, just as quickly as the revery had come, it was suddenly over. Mr. Nez was back to his business-as-usual self.
“Come on, let’s get going!”
A few minutes later. Pearl and I were standing on the corner of Main Street and Cesar Chavez Boulevard waiting for Mr. Nez to pick us up.
And then all hell broke lose.
One moment, we were joking about how surprised the people of Los Angeles would be to discover there was a secret zombie hideout under Olvera Street when I suddenly heard a sharp zing go past my ear and a thunk on the telephone pole next to me. A metal dart, a foot long and about an inch in circumference, was embedded in the telephone pole. It had missed my head by only inches!
“Lazaro!” Pearl cried out.
I looked all around. Where had the dart come from?
“Duck!” Pearl cried.
She dragged me to the ground next to a city trash container. I landed next to her just in time. Another metal dart hit the telephone pole, landing exactly where my head had been. Thump, thump, two more metal darts hit the trash can we were hiding behind. Pearl and I looked at each other.
We were under attack!
Copyright 2013 Lazaro De La Tierra and Barrio Dog Productions Inc.