Monday, June 20, 2016

Pastor Bryce's Sunday Message: The Moral Imperative of the Living in the Zombie Apocalypse

Yes, I know it’s not Sunday. I was laid out with a stomach virus yesterday. And all these days before, I’ve been adjusting to living in a small hotel room with my wife and four cats as we wait to close on our house. Yeah, I know. No reason to complain, and my lack of posting is all on my scatterbrained, easily flustered self. With that out of the way....

One of the things I’m most proud of regarding Grace Among the Dead is my refusal to play the Evil Preacher stereotype. I’m not at all religious, but I know a few good-hearted Christians, and I’m not throwing them under the bus for a cheap, easy trope that’s long since been done to un-death.

Besides, I remain convinced that a mega-church (or even a fairly large, but not stadium-sized church) with tight organization and well-run “smallgroups” is probably your best bet for surviving any kind of an apocalyptic crisis. Being a lone wolf works only so long as you haven’t broken an arm or a leg, or gotten sick. Whether it’s zombies or a high-altitude EMP taking out the power and utilities, you need people at your back, even if you share nothing else but a common interest in survival. A church shares a Belief, and that Belief will inspire unity and cooperation—a necessary leg up when all the others have been chewed off.

Pastor Isaac “Zack” Bryce is the classic trope of the Reluctant Hero elevated to his current station by the crisis at hand, who may be in a little over his head. If that trope never gets old, it’s because that’s every damn last one of us when the shit hits the fan. Pastor Zack understands the moral imperative of survivors of a zombie apocalypse better than most, though, and his mini-sermon to main protagonist Derek Grace is crucial to the book—or anyone who is paralyzed into inaction by guilt, etc.:
“There is one thing you, me, and everyone else privileged with breath and life needs to understand—that if you’re privileged with breath and life, you’re obligated to take arms against this mockery of nature, and do what you can to push it back.
“And pardon me if I sound like some sort of preacher or something, but I’ve got the Good News: It’s never been so easy. If you blame yourself for people losing their lives, then go out and save as many as you think you lost, and then some. Save so many the numbers of your lost become insignificant. There’s no excuse not to go out and get your redemption. It’s money on the table.
“It’s that, or you can turn into those lost souls who were going to kill you. Or their prey.” Pastor Bryce raises his eyebrow at that last one. As if he knows that’s the worst thing to be, we just don’t say so in polite company.
“If you’re worried about those children,” Bryce continues, “they weren’t yours to save. They were ours. And may God forgive me if this is wrong, but I’d rather have you here working with us than you dead, and Deputy Grayson and his sidekick still out there.”
“Did Wyoming tell you about them, too?”
“If Wyoming knew anything about that gang, it would have been awfully nice if they’d have warned us. We lost two men on our first and last trip into Falcon. Deacon Walsh was there for that one. One of the deputies approached and declared him and his party under arrest for looting and trespassing. Walsh got his gun off first and was just able to get out of there, but not before someone in a second-floor window dropped David Whitman and John Ross.”
“There were more than two deputies?”
“Walsh didn’t stick around to take the census. He knows he killed him, though. Hollow point rounds leave extra-large exit wounds, but they won’t do as much damage to anyone standing behind the target.” Pastor Zack Bryce sighs, and his face relaxes back into that of the guy I first shook hands with, only sadder. “I didn’t know stuff like that until after all this got started. I really wish I didn’t know now. It doesn’t help me do my job.”
“But that’s what I’m here for,” I say. “Because a doctor I talked to twice in Natalia and a colonel I’ve never met thought I’d be a good fit at this survivor’s outpost.”
“You have a lot of heavy hitters promoting you. It was the provisional governor of Kansas who spoke most glowingly of what you did in Natalia. It was her calling me about you that was the first we learned of what was going on in the outside world.”
“Kansas has a governor?”
“Governor Rebecca Donaldson was appointed the morning after you left. One of the first things she did was leave a text on my cell phone telling me to get to my desk phone and wait for her call.” Bryce looks at the landline phone on his desk. “Mr. Grace, can you imagine? After the busiest, most emotional week of your life, you get this text from a number you don’t know, with the caller ID announcing themselves as ‘Prov Gov of KS.’ I thought it was a sick prank at first, but she knew who I was. She knew I was at this number.”
“Rebecca?” A huge, painful throb of headache rattles my skull. “As in, ‘Special Agent Rebecca Anne Donaldson’?” I’ve got my hands on my temples, the pounding of blood palpable beneath my fingers.
“Well, I don’t know about the ‘special agent’ part any more than I do her middle name. Although I did make the mistake of calling her by her first name in the course of our very brief, rather one-sided conversation, and she nearly took my head off.” I open my eyes in time to see a sly smile crease his boyish face. “You don’t have that problem, I take it.”
“Oh, I probably do now.” Nearly took my head off. Dr. Hearn had called her the Mantis, and said I was blessed among men if I slept with her and got away alive. 
“Well, whatever’s going on between you, she credits you with single-handedly cleaning up the city.”
“Look, Zack, I didn’t ‘single-handedly’ do sh—”
“That’s exactly what she said you’d say. Yes, of course, you had people helping. Still, you’re a legend among the worker bees they had bunked at the high school. They’re the ones who gave you your name, if I’m not mistaken.”
“My name?”
“The Dead Silencer. Wherever the Unclean soil the air with their unnatural cries, you’re there to shut them up with carbon-coated steel, a hammer, and a gun.”
So this is what Rebecca, a.k.a. Rebecca, Queen of Hell had meant by cursing me with success. I’d thought she was just being cute. No, Dr. Hearn’s Mantis was simply outsourcing having my head chewed off. 
“You need some water?”
“Yes, please.” Although I’m convinced nothing short of a bullet to the head will take me out of my misery now.
Like most, Derek Grace is resistant to the message. To be fair, he’s somewhat stressed out, what with being hit with a tranquilizer dart to bring him in. Like every one of us, he has to learn the hard way, and why not? I’d have no book, otherwise. It’s a tale of Love and Redemption, the Living Dead and a Monster Truck. And just wait until you meet the lady driving that truck. Mind you, she’s no Manic Dream Pixie, just blood and guts with baggage all her own.

If this isn't a mess, it'll do til the mess gets here. What are you waiting for?