It was first good sleep I’d had in several days. I awoke to the sound of someone jamming a piece of paper, loudly and persistently, under the sill of my bedroom door. For a moment I was at a loss, where was I? Then instantly it all came back. I was in my bedroom at the secret laboratories of La Mano Poderosa zombie laboratory. The lab was located under the General Hospital in East Los Angeles. I picked up the scrap of paper as I glance at the radio clock on the end table next to my bed. It read 6AM.
The note read: “Breakfast is in the dining area at 8AM. Be in the library at 9AM for your first lesson. N.”
I showered in the tiny but serviceable private shower adjacent to my bedroom, and then dressed in the only other set of jeans and t-shirt I owned. I had hastily thrown the clothes into a bag at my apartment in what seemed as a lifetime ago but was actually only three days. For a moment I thought of the attack on our modest El Sereno apartment by the Oñate death squad and then my ‘ama being taken away for her own safety. Mr. Nez had assured me that she was safe, that was all that mattered for now.
I met Pearl at the cafeteria. She was already seated and downing what looked like scrumptious cat entrails.
“Looks good,” I said.
“Oh Lazaro, the food here is great! Try the cat entrails with cow brain waffles! And don’t miss the tripa syrup for the waffles! “
I made my selections from the breakfast buffet and joined Pearl at a long cafeteria table where lab techs, doctors and computer nerds were all eating full blown zombie breakfasts and engaging in lively conversation on a wide variety of topics.
“…the chromosome factor only applies when the body is already dead…”
“…I still think the mice can work as a model…before we move on to cats.”
“…whether we apply binary or traditional, we still have to create a language that can be migrated to new developments–string theory for example.”
For the first time in years I felt truly at home.
“Did you get a note…” I began.
“…about the 9AM first lesson,. Yeah,” Pearl responded. “Wonder what they have in store for us.”
“Beats me,” I replied. We munched in silence for a while.
As I looked at Pearl eating breakfast. I realized how much I really was in love with her. She ate quietly, skimming the front page of the LA Times which she had pilfered from a stack of papers at the front entrance to the commissary. She was really absorbed in her reading and it allowed me to study here and appreciate how really beautiful she was.
I wondered about our future together, as I had several times since Mr. Nez had told us about how we were the progenitors of two distinct zombie bloodlines. Did that mean that my love for Pearl was precluded? Could we ever have a normal romance? Heck, I didn’t even know for sure how she felt about me.
For a moment I wished that neither of us were zombies. I wished that we were not being hunted by the Juan de Oñate clan of zombies and that we didn’t possess the special gene that neither of us really cared about or had even asked for.
For a long moment all I wanted was for Pearl and I to be just to normal human-being-teenagers. So that I could tell her how much I loved her. And so that perhaps some day we might be able to fall in love the way normal humans do. And even…get married.
“That’s not going to happen,” Pearl said abruptly.
“Huh?” I replied. Had she been reading my mind?
“Sez here, in the paper, that the city council is considering an ordinance that would set up drunk driver sobriety check points randomly at undisclosed intersections in the city three times a week.”
“ Oh” I said, catching my breath. “Why do they want to do that?”
“Those fatal accidents last month. Too many drunk drivers. What bothers me is what if one of us gets stopped.”
I got her point immediately.
“The smell,” I said.
“Right, “ Pearl said, “nothing like the smell of death on the breathalizer to let you know this driver is impaired.”
We both laughed at that.
“Lazaro, what do you suppose this “Lesson “is all about?”
“I don’t know, ” I replied. “But I guess we’ll soon find out.”
And a few minutes later we walked into the library and did find out.
The room was really large. Obviously the site of a lot of research. One whole wall was dedicated to computer stations with monitors and on the wall was a giant size super rectangular screen, perhaps twelve by twenty feet. In the middle of the room were numerous wooden tables with chairs, like you might find in any library. Against the other three walls were floor to ceiling bookshelves and large computer storage structures– a lot data was being mined in this room. From the covers of the books on the shelves, it looked like some were really old.
“Right on time for your first lesson,” I heard someone say behind us. We turned to find it was Mrs. Gonzalez, my librarian friend from the Lincoln Heights library. Standing at the doorway with an armload of books and a computer in her arms.
“Mrs. Gonzalez!” I said with a smile. I was really glad to see her.
“And I’m happy to see you, Lazaro, and you, Pearl. I’m even happier to say we’re going to be seeing a lot of each other in the next few weeks. Mr. Nez has assigned me to be your…I guess you would call me your teacher.”
“What exactly are you going to be teaching us?” Pearl wanted to know.
“Well, we don’t want you to get behind on your regular classes–Algebra, History, English–the classes you might be taking if you were back at Wilson. But there’s also a lot of information you need to know about that I think you will only find here.”
“Like what?” I asked.
“Well, let’s start with the this.” She deposited her armload on a table and then walked over to one of the shelves and pulled out an ancient looking manuscript. She brought it back to the table. It was big and thick, about a foot wide and a foot and half long. The pages, I could see, were not made of regular paper. They looked like heavy parchment, each page about sewn to the binding with thick leather thread. The writing on the cover of the “book” was in some language I didn’t recognize.
“It’s called a codice,” Mrs. Gonzalez explained. “It’s one of the ancient books written by the Aztecs.”
“Right,” said Pearl beginning to leaf through the pages. “I’ve heard of this.”
“This one is titled “Teomoxtli nemiliztli miquitli,” Mrs. Gonzales continued. “I guess you could translate it as “The Book of Life and Death.”
“Life and death, wow!” I said. “Nothing light weight about this, eh.”
“What? Are we supposed to read this,” Pearl asked. “And if so, why? And how?”
“This book was originally written in Aztec hieroglyphic writings about 700 years ago. It was written by the very first human being to be born with the mutant zombie gene that resurrects you when you die. It has since been translated into Spanish.”
She indicated the center portion of the manuscript which was also in parchment but I could see Spanish scrawling on the pages.
“And then…” She indicated the back part of the manuscript where I could see normal pages were attached.”…into modern English. We make it easy for you.”
“Who wrote this?” Pearl asked.
“He was a very gifted poet and king of the Mexica people,” Mrs. Gonzalez replied. “His name was Nezahualcoyotl
“Nezalhualcoyotl. We’ve heard that name before, from Mr. Nez.”
Mrs. Gonzalez gave Pearl a quizzical look. Then she smiled broadly and chuckled.
“I guess you guys don’t get it, eh?’
“Lazaro, Pearl,” Mrs. Gonzalez said patiently. “Mr. Nez IS the ancient Aztec king Nezahualcoyotl. He is the very very first zombie. And this book is a record of our zombie people.”
Copyright 2013 by Lazaro De La Tierra and Barrio Dog Productions Inc.