Last Generation: The Book of Zane

Prologue

A Brief History for the Unaware

Chapter 1

Things changed about ten years ago.  Just when we thought we’d all adapted to that change, things changed again.

I’m talking about the zombies.

Unlike we’d all read about in books or seen in movies, there was no mutant virus, no clumsy lab worker, no toxic spills, nothing like any of that.  It was as simple as a rock from outer space entering our atmosphere and landing in the Atlantic Ocean.  The astromoners told us the meteor was coming, and the governments prepared for it.  If there had been devastating floods, cities laid to ruin, or anything else out of a movie, the human population would have been well prepared.  Civilization would have been saved with little effort, and life would have gone on as normal.

Instead, a collision in space with a second rogue rock destroyed the meteor, with most of the debris managing to end up somewhere other than on Earth.  Unfortunately, one rock about the size of a compact car ended up at the bottom of the ocean, almost exactly halfway between the Statue of Liberty and the Canary Islands.  I realize that calling it a rock is an understatement, but that’s how it’s been referred to since the day it splashed down.  It’s called “the rock.”  No capital letters.  You can go anywhere in the world and mention “the rock” and people will know what you’re talking about.

Nobody noticed the zombies at first.  It took a week or so before any Z’s were reported.  Z’s.  That’s what people call zombies.  Lame, I know, but I didn’t name them.  See, real zombies aren’t like fictional zombies.  Those zombies are mindless, wandering, braindead, rotting corpses that are simply reanimated dead people.  In the movies and books, there were slow, clumsy versions and there were fast, agile versions, but they were all just that- versions.

Actually, I guess zombies aren’t really real.  I mean, we have zombies everywhere, but people just took a word previously used only in fictional works and applied it to what came as a result of the rock.  The Z’s we have today.  Z’s aren’t anything like the ones from tales of horror.  No rotting flesh, no blind eyes, no stumbling around looking for “braaaaaainssss.”  No, none of that.  Z’s look and act just like you and everyone you know, but I’ll get to that soon enough.  For now, let’s go back to how Z’s are…made, for lack of a better word.

The first reported Z was a woman with terminal cancer.    A few days before the rock came, she’d been sent home to die because there was nothing else they could do for her in the hospital.  Home was a beach house in West Virginia.

One afternoon, she closed her eyes and stopped breathing.  Her son, a widower, was sitting with her.  He sighed, torn between relief that his mother was out of pain and grief over his loss, along with a just a little bit of happiness that he wouldn’t have to take care of her anymore.  He left the room to call his sister, to let her know that their mother was gone.  No sooner had he said the words to her than he heard his mother’s voice behind him asking if there was anything to eat, because she was starving.  What he saw when he turned around killed him.

Standing in the door to the kitchen was his mother.  Not only was she alive, but her skin had a healthy pink glow to it, her eyes were bright, and for a brief second, he noticed she was almost bouncing where she stood. Which was surprising since, for months, she’d been unable to stand on her own, much less walk (or bounce).  He noticed all of these things for just a brief moment before he died.  Some readers might assume that, since this is a tale of zombies, his mother attacked him.  I’m happy to say that isn’t the case.  The shock of seeing his dead mother alive and well was just too much for his heart, and the poor man died of a massive coronary event.

His once dead mother promptly dialed 9-1-1.

He stayed dead for about fifteen minutes before he opened his eyes and asked for something to eat, which shocked the hell out of the paramedic who had just told his partner “this guy’s worm food” a second before.  A quick once over by the emergency room doctor revealed that both mother and son were as healthy as could be.  A few early tests revealed a healthy heart in the son, and no cancer cells present in the mother.  Many more advanced tests later, it was revealed that large parts of their brains had no activity present.

Stories like this started popping up slowly around the country.  Within a month, thousands upon thousands of these miracles were reported world wide.  It took almost a year before medical experts discovered that the moment people died, something in a small part of the brain caused the body to immediately start repairing itself.  As the body healed, the brain stopped.  And, even though the brain stopped, the body continued functioning normally.  Almost normally, anyway.

Three noticeable things happen when a person dies, then un-dies.  First, they stop aging.  Hair and nails stop growing, as does height.  The second thing noticed is that pregnant women who die, then un-die, gave birth to live children.  No explanation for that has ever been discovered.

The third thing that happens is that a person who has un-died is overcome with a nearly insatiable hunger.  Now, this is one thing our Z’s have in common with make believe zombies.  Our Z’s crave flesh.  Not brains, necessarily.  Just flesh.  Any kind of flesh, other than the flesh of another Z.  Most will admit that there is a stronger craving for human flesh, but it’s easily overcome simply by eating a meaty meal.  A rare hamburger, a juicy steak, a fried chicken leg, a hot dog.  Anything made of flesh of any once living being.  Once the hunger is sated, the desire for human flesh disappears.

It just…disappears.

Any Z will tell you that.

Chapter 2

In the beginning of all of this, no one put the rock and the Z’s together. They had no reason to.  Most research done wasn’t to find a cure, as there was really nothing to cure.  It was mostly done to find a cause, because with a cause there would be understanding.

A couple years later, the population stopped growing.  Just like the rock is called “the rock,” and just like the Z’s are lamely called “Z’s,” the very creative people in charge started calling this point in time “the end of births.”

The change was noted in the oceans at first.  When the idea of Z’s was still new, it was believed that only humans were affected.  At first, no animals showed any signs of being affected by whatever was causing it. There were no animal Z’s.  Then, fishermen around the world started reporting a disturbing drop in the numbers of fish in the waters.  As it turned out, marine animals were affected the same way humans were, after all.  For some reason, it just took longer for it to hit them.

Marine animals in the oceans, lakes, rivers, and other bodies of water started dying, then un-dying.  As they un-died, they had the same hunger for flesh that human Z’s had.  However, unlike a human Z that was able to order a hamburger, these animals gave in to their cravings and turned on their own kind.  Numbers dwindled and never rose again.  It was discovered that the closer in proximity to the rock, the more drastic the drop in marine population.  It was at this point that two and two were put together to make four.

Just as scientists discovered that fish were no long giving birth, pregnant women worldwide stopped giving birth.  For those fortunate enough to have their babies delivered through surgery, their children became known as “last generation.”  For the rest, their fetuses died, then un-died, inside of them.  Many women lived the rest of their lives with these unborn, un-died babies inside of them.  Many others couldn’t live with the pain and ended their own lives…only to un-die.

And that was what we now call the end of births.

Chapter 3

Dying and un-dying can happen more than once.  Someone who has un-died can un-die again if something happens to him.  In order for Z’s to die, the body has to be burned or the head removed.  This is similar to the death of movie zombies.  And vampires.  But, vampires don’t really exist.  Z’s do.

For a period of time, as you can imagine, there was chaos.  We had no words for this new type of human.  Did laws apply to someone once he died?  Once you die, then un-die, do you still have to pay taxes? (This was an actual question posed before Congress, believe it or not.)  What about inmates on death row?  Once they un-died, did they have to remain incarcerated?  After all, they had been sentenced to death, and they had died, thus carrying out their sentence.

New laws were made concerning Z’s, and smartly, all of the governments of the world decided to uniformly place these laws into effect.  Yes, human laws did still apply.  Yes, Z’s did still have to pay taxes.  As far as death row inmates, they were still to be executed.  However, once they un-died, they were transferred to a special prison. Alcatraz Island was reopened for the purpose of housing these types of inmates.

As I mentioned earlier, there is a craving for human flesh once you un-die.  It took some time to get it all figured out.  Sadly, there were some Z’s who turned on those close to them to satisfy that craving.  They claimed it was their nature and that denying them their nature was cruel and unusual punishment.  This was an argument that ended up before the Supreme Court of the United States.  The Court ruled, unanimously, that live humans health and safety took priority over that of the Z’s.  As a result, a universal law was passed worldwide that stated any Z that consumed human flesh would be decapitated without trial.

There was unease for quite a few years.  Z’s felt that they were being denied their rights, that they were being treated as second class citizens.  Protests, uprisings, and riots became common place.  It wasn’t just Z’s fighting for their rights, either.  Many live humans fought alongside them.

For a long time, there was something that neither side considered.  It was a simple question asked by a child that stopped the fighting.  She asked “What would happen if the President died and became a Z?”  During those fighting years, there were lawmakers who died and un-died, and it was kept secret.  The simple question that little girl asked made people realize that Z’s were a part of the government, and even though things were difficult, the government managed to continue functioning reasonably well.  At that point in our history, things settled down.  Humans and Z’s lived side by side and worked out the problems that arose now and then.

Since then, life has pretty much returned to normal, almost as though nothing has changed from pre-Z times.

Chapter 4

Since then, life has pretty much returned to normal, almost as though nothing has ever changed from the time pre-Z.

That’s what they want you to believe.  They don’t want to acknowledge that there are sides, both human and Z, that are so full of hate that they can’t live in peace.  There are humans that want all Z’s destroyed.  They want to make it law that the moment a live human dies, the head is removed so that no more Z’s will un-die.

On the other side, there are Z’s who are tired of being treated the way they are.  These are the ones who think they should not be denied their hunger for flesh.  If these Z’s had their way, humans would be rounded up and kept like cattle.

Kept as slaves.

Kept as food.

Chapter 5

My name is Zane and I am last generation.

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