“A zombie dog?” I asked.
It was a few minutes after our arrival at the underground chambers of the Mano Poderosa laboratory, secretly situated underneath the Los Angeles County USC Medical Facility. Mr. Nez and Mr. Brown had gone off to confer with security concerning the vicious attack on us by the Juan De Oñate zombies. Dr. Martínez had volunteered to show us around the lab and to our living quarters. Vida, the pit bull mix, followed close behind us, wagging her tail and seeming totally in charge of the situation.
“Yes, Vida is our first successful resurrection,” Dr. Martínez explained as she led Pearl and I through swinging double doors into a vast laboratory complex. We walked past lab technicians busy at pristine white tables. Some pored over electronic microscopes, others adjusted centrifuge settings, still others conducted tests with rows and rows of petri dishes. I could see this was really a full blown operation.
“As you know the Mano Podreosa project is dedicated to finding a viable way of utilizing the mutant zombie gene that both of you, and the five progenitors, possess. We hope to convert it into a way of bringing human beings back to life, ending human mortality.”
“And you’re starting with dogs?” Pearl asked.
“Not exactly,” Dr. Martínez replied with a smile. “Let me backtrack. In the early 1980s we were able to isolate the mutant zombie gene that you two and a few others were naturally born with. This mutant gene that is part of your DNA, it’s unique to you.”
We continued walking among the lab technicians.
“When you die,” Dr. Martínez went on, “that gene contains a “trigger” that goes off and reboots your dead body, bringing it back to life. Of course that comes with the unique zombie properties we’re all familiar with–no heartbeat, the residual odor of death, the ghastly white pallor. Till what we call the “puberty” phase passes. Then you begin to look more and more human.
“Like you,” I said. I kinda of wanted to state the obvious, just to be sure. Dr. Martinez instantly understand what I was asking.
“Yes, Lazaro,” all of us here are zombies. I am a zombie.”
“But you look so human!” Pearl blurted out.
“Yes, but we’re all descendant from one or another of the five family bloodlines. You two are the only ones that have a distinct and unique bloodline of your own. That’s one of the reasons we want you here. To help us solve our puzzle.”
“The puzzle being how to isolate the ”trigger”effect that rises us from the dead.” I ventured.
“How to isolate it, and apply it so it works on human beings who have died by natural causes and have regular DNA.”
“So it can work on just anybody. Right?” Pearl asked.
“That’s our goal,” Dr. Martínez replied.
We had moved from the lab area, through another set of swinging doors, and into what was obviously living quarters. We came into a large living room. It was comfortably furnished with couches, chairs and tables and even a pool table. A few zombies were seated watching TV while others played a game of chess.
“We started experimenting with the usual lab subjects…mice,” Dr. Martínez continued.
“In this case it was dead mice. We tried unsuccessfully for more than a decade. Oh we thought we had early successes. But the mice that came back to life didn’t last very long. A day at most. Their bodies seemed to overheat inexplicably. They died again and there was no further resurrecting them. Some of them seemed to be in terrible pain before they died again. It made us really consider what we were up against. We didn’t want to try that on humans till we knew for certain all the parameters of the effects of the genetic material we were using.”
There was a moment of silence as we took this in. The idea of bringing dead people back to life only to suffer terrible pain before dying again was unsettling to say the least.
We had now moved into a hallway of what appeared to be a dorm. Each door had a name on the door and some were even decorated with clippings and photos.
“This is what we call the hotel. We all have a room here. We even get a private shower and bathroom.”
“But what about Vida?” I asked, scratching the dog under her ear. She had obviously taken quite a liking to me.
“Vida was a fortuitous accident,” Dr. Martinez replied, leading us further down the hallway.
“Accident?” Pearl and I said in union.
“Her original name was Lucy. She was my dog and I would bring here to the lab to keep me company on days I worked late. One day, she wandered into one of the sample rooms–that’s where we keep various genetic extracts of the zombie gene. She seems to have made a meal of some of the petri dishes. By the time I discovered her, she was dead. I examined her and as near as I could tell it was a heart attack–the effect of the alien material in her system. Of course, I was heartbroken. I thought that was the end of her. And then, an hour after I had pronounced her dead, she popped back to life. As you see her now, a zombie dog. That’s why I renamed her Vida.”
“So now you know how to bring people back to life, right?” I asked.
“Not so easy,” Dr. Martínez replied as she opened a door revealing a modest but quite attractive bedroom. “This one’s for you, Lazaro.”
She indicated the next room down the hall, “That one is your room Pearl.” Then she remembered what we were talking about.
“We don’t know exactly what it was that Vida consumed that night. There were several experiments in the works at the time and we don’t know how much of whatever she may have drunk. For the past few months we’ve been retracing our steps, trying to figure out what the combination of genetic material may have been that brought her back to life.”
“But eventually you’ll know, right?” Pearl asked.
“We can only hope. The good news is that Vida is living proof that our eventual goal is obtainable. The bad news is it may take us many years before we rediscover the particular combination that makes it work, at least for dogs. Then the much larger question remains, how to make it work for humans.”
Dr. Martínez glanced at her watch and a concerned look came over her face.
“I have to go now,” Dr. Martínez said, “late for a meeting. Dinner is at six–I hear we’re having fresh roadkill. Explore. There’s a swimming pool and exercise room at the end of the hall. And if you have any questions just ask anyone. We’ve all been briefed about you two and how important you are to the project.”
She started to leave and then noticed that Vida had other plans. She plopped down on the bed in my bedroom.
“I guess you have a new roommate,” Dr. Martínez said. “Just don’t offer her any meat.”
“Huh,” I said. This sounded strange.
“Vida is a vegetarian. We’re not sure if it is particular to her or something that applies to any animal resurrected by the mutant zombie gene.”
Copyright 2013 Lazaro De La Tierra and Barrio Dog Productions Inc.