Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Chapter 2, part 1: The Z Word

Caleb liked playing Xbox. He had a 360 in his spit of a living room, and it was the central hub of all his entertainment. Mark liked the streaming movies function it had. He liked it more than Caleb, since it was Caleb’s Xbox, and Mark was more or less a permanent fixture on the couch. Mark considered himself a movie expert.

“OK, the movie Wanted. Right?” Mark shifted excitedly in his seat, “You watch the first scene. And he’s all like, ‘I’m an assassin,’ and she’s like, BOOM shot through the effin’ head! And then he—jumps,” This part Mark spaced out for effect, every word getting louder, “out—of—a—skyscraper, flying across to the other side, screaming and firing bullets into everyone’s head on the opposite side.”

Mark paused there, catching his breath from all of the pantomiming, “And he lands on the other side to be killed by an impossible sniper bullet. And we, the audience, are OK with that. But once they strap explosives on a rat or introduce a loom of fate, everyone hates it.” Mark threw his hands up as if his point had been made.

“He jumped… out of a building… across an entire city block,” He was even louder this time, “At the very beginning of the movie! If you accept that, then you should accept the whole damn thing. You knew what you were in for, they already warned you.”

Caleb hunched in the sofa chair across the room, staring longingly at his currently-in-use Xbox.

“I don’t care. Curving bullets is dumb, and Angelina Jolie is a slut,” said Dana, obviously relishing the chance to rub Mark the wrong way. She brushed her dark bangs out of her eyes and smiled triumphantly at the TV, avoiding Mark’s vacant stare.

“Girls.” Mark said as conclusion to the argument.

Caleb continued to act like a slipcover and will them out of the room so he could save the world from the Russians. Or aliens. Or robots. Or Russian alien robots. Mark skipped through the streaming movies cue, looking for something good. “28 Days Later?”

“Why can’t we watch Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist? You’re an artist, it’s indie.” Said Dana.

Mark scoffed. “First off, indie and independent are not the same thing. Second, chick flick is chick flick. You watch a chick flick with a chick, and you do so in the hopes that she’ll put out. You know how many dudes went to New Moon with dreams of a BJ dancing in their heads?”

“You went to New Moon.” Caleb spoke up from the far reaches of the living room.

“Yeah, and I loved it. Team Jacob forever man.” Mark made several thrusting motions while smiling deviously and howling at Caleb.

Dana sighed from the other corner. “Why do I hang out with you?”

“Because we’re fucking awesome!” Mark waved an arm toward Caleb, slapping his knee.

“I’m inclined to agree with him,” said Caleb.

“Anyways, zombies are very relevant to today’s day and age.” Mark was mounting his high horse again. “Regardless of their impossibility, there are certain concepts that they are built upon. Consumerism, the inability to think, only to act, the thought that our own government would fuck up, and then we would be reliant on them. Healthcare!” Mark stopped and raised his eyebrows in a very ‘hello?’ gesture. Dana scoffed, and it sounded like she sprang a leak for a second. “They are a blood letting escapist fantasy painted on a very real message.”

“Which is?” said Caleb.

“Brains taste good.” Mark looked very pleased with himself and started the movie. “Same guy who did Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire, it’s good,” Mark pointed at the screen, “Popcorn?”

After the movie Mark told Dana that if she was bitten he would make it quick for her, as long as he had a good sharp hatchet, otherwise he would have to use a spoon. “I would feel really bad about it though.”

Caleb kicked them both out with the pretence of having to study for class, and then promptly got to shooting things online. That little platypus whisper came into his ear though, asking him why he was wasting his life for nothing. Video games were worse than dreaming, it said, you play, you stop, and you are weary for it. They are parasites.

Caleb didn’t like that very much at all, and promptly shut off his console. Caleb went into his room to clean it and study, and did neither, opting to stalk his friends on Facebook. Dammit, he thought. This is helping even less. Wait, Jenny is in a relationship?

Caleb went to his evening classes, got some slop from the cafeteria, and drove his teal Berretta back to his apartment. He decided that high level math was like cursive, impressive to see, but utterly useless most of the time, and really just a way to look cool in front of your friends. Caleb also believed that no English major needed it.

When Caleb got home, he opened the door and jumped out of his socks. This is actually very hard to do, and Caleb was impressed with his own dexterity. Mark was on the couch, wide eyed staring at the screen.

“Shit,” breathed Caleb, “You scared the ba-jesus out of me!”

“Oh hey,” was all Mark said, still staring into the boob tube.

“How did you get in?”

“I told you, man, you need to lock that door.” Mark finally broke his line of sight with the television. “Have you ever seen Blue Velvet? Most malevolently weird movie you’ll ever watch. It’s like being beaten to death by the Coen Brothers while on acid in a time machine that only sends you back to the eighties.”

“That doesn’t make any sense.”

“Neither does the movie, not once.” Mark turned back to the T.V.

“Is that what you’re watching?” Caleb perused his refrigerator for kool-aid.

“Nope. Zombie Strippers. Awesome.”

Caleb sat down on the couch and sipped at his Capri-Sun. So good for so little time, he thought, watching Jenna Jameson stuff pool balls into her vagina. "This is really gross."

"If by gross you mean awesome," said Mark, still entranced.Caleb figured he was warmed up enough: "I saw a girl today. She was pretty cute."

Mark turned and stared at Caleb. "You saw a girl. I see them all the time. It's almost like they live among us. Did you say hello? Get a number? Cop a feel?"

"Well, yeah. Not—not the feel part. I said hey. Her name is Erica."

Mark turned back to watch another stripper get hit by one of the pool balls and fly across the room. "Well good. When you get her number you tell me." He looked down at his watch. "Shit! I got my review!"

"Your what?"

"Review! Like, yes you can still go here you don't suck review. Gotta run dude."

And with that Mark was gone. The zombies continued to do gross things on screen. Caleb turned it off and made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

There was still the matter of making an impression. Saying something Important. Caleb had bought another notebook earlier that week (Miley Cyrus notebooks were on sale, it wasn't like anyone else would see it). All of his blogs he copied into the book.

In the past, few people were given microphones to shout their opinion. Only those few were able to shape history. Now, everyone with a connection and a computer could speak to potential thousands. A homeless man with an IMac in a Starbucks could write sermons to move the masses. And no one would ever meet their savior.

If he was born today, Christ would have blogged. The question is, with so many voices and opinions and thoughts, would anyone have heard him? Maybe they would have simply subscribed to his Twitter and prayed for the best.

Fossils were flawed, this Caleb could understand. They were too passive. No one was cured by a museum display, or moved to tears by a dinosaur bone. Caleb had an Action to take, and it was his mission to find it.

But he also liked girls. And girls, if anything, were more interesting and complicated than any Thing Caleb could perform. If Caleb made a masterful tome of poetry, it would be infinitely easier than wooing the right woman. He spent three years trying to get Dana, and that ended with him in a bathtub of cement. Well, more or less.

This girl Caleb met in class, though, she was something. Oh, Erica, light of—

The door made a loud thump noise as something bounced off of it very hard. "The hell?" Shouted Caleb, stuffing his notebook away and walking to the door. He unlocked it and looked through the peephole. Mark was on the ground, clutching his arm.

"Mark! What was that?" Caleb picked Mark off of the ground and dragged him inside.

"You locked it." Said Mark, pale faced and shaking.

"What happened? How did the review go?" Caleb stared at his friend worriedly.

"The review? Oh, uh—fine. Fine." Mark swallowed hard, his hazel eyes dancing in his head. "I've been bitten.

"By who? Er—what?" asked Caleb. All the undead violence Caleb had watched flashed through his head.

"A squirrel."

"You got bitten by a squirrel." Caleb blinked once, stupefied. "How?"

"Well I caught him." said Mark matter-of-fact.

Caleb touched Mark's forehead and frowned. "Why did you catch him?"

"It was really close to me, and I thought, damn, he's really close to me, I bet I could reach out and catch him. So I did. And it bit me." Mark obviously thought that squirrel catching was everyone's favorite past time, and that wild animals would never bite their captors. "Do you think it was sick? Have you seen Outbreak?"

"Calm down," Caleb said, "Wild animals bite whenever they are being attacked. It’s a defense mechanism. Wait, was that the one with Dennis Hoffman?”


“Oh. It was O.K. I don’t think it would stand up well today. And you shouldn’t worry. That was some crazy monkey virus.”

“Squirrel flu, dude. Heard of it?”


“Not yet you haven’t!” Mark was obviously on the warped side of logical. “But seriously, it might have had rabies. I might have rabies. I don’t want rabies. Or a crazy monkey flu virus.”

They were both about to laugh nervously, but then Mark coughed. A deep, lung rattling cough. Caleb backed away slightly, and Mark looked less amused with himself. “Shit. I should go to the doctor.”

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