I was walking behind Lazaro when Mr Neza stopped reached out and grabbed him by the arm. As Lazaro turned to him I saw something that stopped me in my tracks. Lazaro’s face was completely white, like all the blood had drained form his face. Then it hit me–he had reverted back to his zombie appearance! I could see the drool coming out of his mouth and instantly sniffed a whiff of that signature smell of death that had followed me and Lazaro and countless other zombies throughout our childhood.
All of that had gone away with our zombie puberty, when we changed and began to look like normal humans. But now here it was again.
Lazaro’s eyes looked madly erratic. I could see that Mr. Neza was immediately alarmed “Lazaro,” he asked, “how are you feeling?”
Lazaro’s mouth began to foam with spittle. He looked suddenly awful but the tone of his voice remained normal “Oh, I’m just fine Mr. Nez,” Lazaro replied. “Don’t worry about me, you can count on me for this attack on Amboy!” And then his eyes rolled upward and he suddenly started to fall.
“Catch him!” I called out. “He’s fainting.”
Filomino Brancos, standing nearby, immediately swooped in and caught Lazaro before he hit the floor. Suddenly my Lazo was in convulsions. His body shaking. His mouth foaming and his eyes looked like they had rolled back inside his head.
I grabbed a pen from a nearby table and ran to Lazo’s side. I stuck the pen in his mouth. Making sure his teeth were biting hard on the pen. It looked like an epileptic attack to me and I knew that epileptics could hurt themselves by biting on their tongue.
“Get them out of here,” Filomino barked.
In a second I was lifted aside by two of Filomino’s men. The other zombie guards pushed me and the other raiders down the hall, away from Lazaro’s prone body. I looked over my shoulder and saw Mr. Nez leaning over Lazaro.
“Get him up to emergency now!”
The last I saw of Lazaro before the door closed behind us was two of the zombie guards lifting his quivering body off the ground. Suddenly we were back to being herded into the long corridor away from the main commons area. Once again I felt the nuzzle of a dart propelled rifle nudging the back of my head and pushing me forward.
We were taken down ancient narrow wooden steps which I never knew existed and into a long corridor lined with doors. It only took an instant for me to recognize this locale. It was a prison facility. On each side of the corridor were single doors leading to cells. It made me stop to wonder.Why were these cells here, at the bottom of the County General Hospital? The walls looked ancient. Fading two-foot thick adobe walls. The doors to the cells were made of ancient wood. The claps and locks were of an other era. These cells had been here long before the County General hospital had been built.
“Welcome to your new home,” Filomino said as he caught up with us. “You’re wondering about these cells. Yeah, they been here a while. Remember, we’ve been fighting this zombie war since the 1600s, and yes, these cells have held Oñate’s prisoners many times over. That’s why we maneuvered to have the General Hospital built over the cells in 1933.”
The line of Joshua Tree raiders had come to a halt before the corridor of cells.
“These cells will do for all of you until we find out who the hell this damn traitor is.”
I was thrust into the darkness of a tiny room, the ancient wooden door grating shut behind me.
One by one, I could hear the other Joshua Tree raiders being placed in separate cells.
Alone in my dark tiny room all I could think of was Lazo. What had happened to him? He seemed to be under some kind of malady, some physical seizure. I closed my mind to the obvious thought hammering at my head. Was Lazaro really the spy among us? Was the one person that I loved a traitor to me and the other Mano Poderosa zombies?
I refused to believe it!
Instead I began to wonder about what kind of malady might be affecting my dear Lazo. He had seemed normal all day long and then all of a sudden this attack. It must have something to do with his unique genetic make-up. Perhaps this attack was linked to that. If what Mr.Nez has told us was true, then both Lazo and I were unique among all the other zombies in the Mano Poderosa family.
Should I be concerned that maybe I would also suffer some kind of seizure? That thought worried me for a while. Was there something inside me that I was ready to spring out and surpirse me without me even having a clue? Pearl, I thought to myself, this is not productive thinking. Let it go.
Instead, I thought back about my life with Lazaro. How we had first met when we were only eight years. He had invited me to his birthday party but my parents fearing that my zombieness might be discovered refused to let me attend any social activities outside of school. I had felt terrible about letting hin down and I had told him so. I made up a lie about my uncle being arrested, something that would let Lazaro know it was out of my hands, that I really wanted to be there for him. I knew even then that Lazaro was someone special to me.
And then, a few weeks later, my parents feared we were about to be discovered by a snooping school nurse. The woman was wondering how I had gotten a doctor’s note to be excused from physical education. She wanted know more about my earlier childhood and why my completion seemed to vary from a day to day. My parents knew we’d be discovered soon so we moved out of Lincoln Heights and into El Sereno. That meant I was transferred to a different elementary school, away from that prying nurse. I felt terrible that I didn’t even get a chance to say good bye to Lazaro.
Years passed before we saw each other again.
Then, one day in my senior year of high school, I was walking down a hallway at Woodrow Wilson high school. I saw this young man approaching. I recognized him instantly. That, of course, is when we really connected. And of course, we soon discovered that we were BOTH zombies.
But now Lazaro was unconscious somewhere in the floors above and I was stuck in a dark cell. And Mr. Nez and Filomino and even La Señora Falcón were all thinking that any one of us could be the Oñate spy that had given away our planned attack on the Onate mountain compound. I settled down onto the cold cot they had provided for us to sleep in. But I couldn’t sleep.
I realized I was hungry.
Suddenly, I thought of a moment long ago, when Lazo and I were just eight years old. I had accidentally stumbled on Lazaro as he was eating cow brain tacos at school. I had feigned that I knew they were cow brain tacos because my uncle was a butcher but the truth was it exactly what I ate at home. The tacos looked so scrumptious all I wanted to do was grab them out of his hands and eat them! Of course, I had walked away with my friends–I had to protect my zombie identity.
Now, as I drifted off to sleep, all I could think of was how delicious those cow brain tacos had looked. And how tasty they would be right now!
Copyright 2014 by Lazaro De La Tierra and Barrio Dog Productions Inc.