I don’t really recall the early days of the plague – I was only a kid – but I’ve been into zombie racing ever since it properly got going. Once the craziness died down and the zoms were pretty much all rounded up into the exclusion zones folk started to think rationally again, though most everyone still carries a baseball bat or a claw hammer these days, just to be safe.
Why they didn’t just kill all the zoms, I don’t know – some folk think The Man is still experimenting on them, trying to figure out the cause of the plague. I don’t care, really, because they make me some decent money. Early on a few enterprising folk realised that zoms would basically run in a straight line towards food, so gambling rings started setting up underground events with a live runner and a zombie pack. They’d take bets on which zom would be first, which would be last, how many limbs would come off over the course of the race, whether the runner would trip – that kinda thing.
There were raids and arrests in those early days, but then the professionals got a hold of it and suddenly it was legit. They turned it into big business, with licensed courses, bookies; the works. My pop would take me, and he’d sneak me a beer and we’d eat chilli dogs while we watched the races and bet on the results. My favourites were the sprinters, the real fast zoms who scooted after the runner so he had to take off like a jackrabbit, but Pop liked the slow races where the tension would build and the runner could practically walk the course as the pack stumbled along behind him.
Big bastards were employed as stoppers at the finish line, dressed head to foot in half-inch leather so they couldn’t be bit, with the job of felling the zoms. Not killing them, though – at least, not the good ones. They were hauled away before they came round, dumped back in the pits and eventually brought out to race again. Any who’d left too many limbs on the track or who’d gone beyond racing again – well, they could be finished off. They sure enjoyed their work, those big bastards.
Of course, there were safety issues – there were a lot of incidents in the early days when runners misjudged the pack and got caught, but the crowds loved it. Also, the stoppers at the end of the race used to carry shotguns to drop the zoms who couldn’t race again, and attendance went down some when a gun misfired at a track somewhere in New Mexico and a woman in the front row by the finish line took a chest full of pellets. These days the stoppers have shock-sticks and baseball bats.
Pop bought me my first zom when I was eighteen. She was a real bitch; wiry and evil, and she won me a few races before her left leg dropped off and she couldn’t race no more. I was sorry when we had to put her down, but by that time I had a couple more, bought with Evil Bitch’s winnings and kept in the secure pit at the track.
My string grew slowly; I bought when I won, sold when I lost, and after a couple of years I had ten or twelve zoms which I entered in races. Pop used to come with me most times and we made a bit of cash, which I used for beer money and the occasional treat for Mom.
This particular night, though, Pop wasn’t there – thank fuck, because he never would have let me go back if he’d seen what happened. It was a small meet with a gate of just a few hundred on a muggy mid-week night in June, and I’d already had a win. The other owners had clapped me on the back and laughed while we’d put our leather gauntlets on and hauled our twitching unconscious zoms away, and one made me an offer on my winner. Didn’t take it; I figured he had four or five races left in him. I’d ditch him in a couple races’ time, just before he got too broken. That was the skill – knowing when to hold on to a good one and when it was time to sell.
I also had a racer in the next event – well, more of a shambler, really. He weren’t expected to do much except finish, and I had my doubts about that. I was hovering near the start line looking at my zom and idly sizing up the competition when I noticed something familiar about one of the other racers stumbling around in the starting enclosure.
He was about my height, dark hair (what was left of it, anyway) and wearing a tattered Bring Me The Horizon t-shirt. It was that caught my eye, really, since I’d bought one the same for my buddy Al, who’d left to go to the city some three weeks previous. Least, I assumed he’d gone to the city; I hadn’t heard from him since, but that weren’t unusual. While he was flush we’d hang out, drink cheap beer and play cards, and then his money would run out, his landlord would get antsy and he’d take off. Sometimes he’d be gone for weeks on end, but he’d always turn up eventually with no explanation or excuse, just a pocket full of grubby cash and a big grin. He’d done it forever, as long as I’d known him.
I squinted at this zom as he lurched against the wire fence, trying to get at the spectators on the other side. Bottom half of his face was gone, just jagged flaps of flesh with his teeth showing through, but his eyes glowed crazy bright and he had all his limbs, mostly pointing in the right direction. Might put some money on that one, I thought…
Do YOU want to put some money on Sunny, with a Chance of Zombies? If so, head on over toKnightWatch Press and order yourself a paperback copy. US customers can also pick one up from Amazon. Prefer a Kindle version? You can snag a UK copy here or a US copy here.
‘Run, Rabbit’ is just one of our twelve tales of anarchy, heartbreak and revenge; leavened with a little bit of of love, life and laughter. Snag the lot in Sunny, with a Chance of Zombies. I think you’ll like them.
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The stench of frozen flesh is in the air! Welcome to the Winter of Zombie Blog Tour 2015, with 40+ of the best zombie authors spreading the disease in the month of November.
Stop by the event page on Facebook so you don’t miss an interview, guest post or teaser…and pick up some great swag as well!
Giveaways galore from most of the authors as well as interaction with them!