Edited by Julianne Snow
Copyright © 2011 Joshua Cook
Television sets across America flicked on almost simultaneously. The country collectively held its breath out of sheer anticipation. Few times in America's history had one moment brought all her people together; this was one of those times. This moment would go down as one of the most important events in human history.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, do not adjust your television sets.” The voice on the television was firm, yet possessed a calming quality, the hallmark of a veteran anchorman. “We are intentionally not showing tonight’s guest yet. With the amazing shock to the country that Mr. Lohman’s buzz has already served to spawn, we thought it best to try and ease our viewers into what is about to come.”
Tom Laudner finished speaking and the previously blank screens flashed to life, showing his face, but not that of his guest. “This interview is taking place at an undisclosed location for the safety and security of all who are involved. I am speaking with William Lohman, a former employee – of sorts– of Roslun Global. Within the last five years, Roslun has seen major growth and has become the leading pharmaceutical company in the United States of America. Mr. Lohman’s recent announcement has helped to explain why.”
The screen cut to black again and broadcast nothing but dead silence for almost two minutes. A collective nation held its breath yet again; imaginations ran wild in the heads of every man, woman, and child watching. Finally, Tom's face returned, and the sounds of last-second scuffling could be heard in the background. Tom glanced to one side, his eyes throwing an "Are we back on?" look at his producer. He gave a slight nod of acknowledgment to his unseen producer and turned his attention back to the camera, but before Tom could welcome the nation back to the broadcast, a sound came across the airwaves. It wasn’t quite a voice, though words seemed to be carried by it.
“Hello.” Rusty. That was the only way Bob Johns could describe what he heard in his Duluth living room that night.
“My name is William Lohman.” Hole. A hole in your larynx, to be exact. That is how Phyllis Weidmar would later describe what she heard during her Wednesday bridge game in Miami.
Tom took back control of his broadcast. "Welcome, Mr. Lohman." Tom's butter-smooth voice set the viewers at ease, though not because of its perfectly groomed diction and pitch; that night it made people happy simply because it was not William Lohman’s rasp. “We are going to pan over to Mr. Lohman in just a few seconds. I want to be perfectly clear on this matter." The camera zoomed in on Tom's eyes which expressed the gravity of the situation better than the words he uttered next. "What you are about to see is not for the squeamish. That cannot be emphasized enough. Please leave the room or turn the channel if you are afraid of what you may see.”
The camera stayed focused on Tom, giving everyone ample time to ponder his warning. With a nod, Tom gave the cameraman the sign to start to pan over to the hot seat - ever so slowly. Sources have since claimed to have observed much vomiting for the remainder of the interview.
William Lohmans’ skin was heavily blackened and blotchy, making it appear as if he had been on the losing end of an extremely bad beating. Around his eye sockets and orifices, it was sickly receded. Gashes along his neckline were partially draining pus and had to be wiped every few minutes, drawing even more attention to the deep cuts around his throat. They looked to be made in haste, with many stops and starts. William’s teeth seemed large in his mouth, next to the receding, blackened gums. On his head he wore an expensive looking hat, helping to draw some of the attention away from the grotesqueness of his face.
“So why don’t you begin to tell us what your announcement is, Mr. Lohman.” Tom’s voice came across again, but this time people were not happy as they were still forced to stare at William Lohman’s face of death.
“As you have said, Tom, I was formerly employed by the Roslun Corporation. I was their salesman for special projects. I was a shining specimen of their progress and was made to prove it in secret meetings all over the globe.” The rasping voice coming out of that gut-wrenching face was worse than any horror film, yet his clothes seemed to match his 'salesman' title - an expensive, dark suit with a bright red power tie. “As far back as the sixties, the powers that be have been seriously experimenting on ways to beat death. Their first breakthrough came in 1968, when they managed to partially reanimate a corpse. By partially, I am referring to the fact that Specimen Zero could only wave his arms and legs, but they were dead - and moving - nonetheless.”
Camera 2 cut to Tom Laudner’s beautiful face; he was a handsome man, but compared to Lohman he was a Greek God. “What proof do you have that this 'Specimen Zero' even existed? I find it hard to believe that, even back in the sixties, something this big would not be leaked at some point.”
“Oh it was leaked, Mr. Laudner." Lohman gave Tom a look like an adult gives a child when they are about to impart a life lesson; even through the oddly hanging skin and deathly pallor, that look was unmistakable. "And it was just as quickly covered up. Writer and director George Romero has become the Father of the Modern Zombie, and that is truer than most realize. Mr. Romero actually worked at an underground testing lab in Pennsylvania in 1968. That lab had managed to somehow ‘misplace’ one of the confidential observation videos from the night of Specimen Zero’s second birth.”
“George being the quickest on his toes that night proposed they film a cheesy horror movie to cover up these film reels of Specimen Zero. One month later, Night of the Living Dead was finished. What nobody ever expected was the success of this new genre, and the fascination of the American people with the idea of bringing the dead back to life.”
“Now wait a second,” Tom sounded a little agitated this time. “You expect me to swallow that…that…that Night of the Living Dead was a cover-up?” He spit out this last part like it was burning his throat.
“You may swallow whatever you wish, Mr. Laudner, I expect nothing. I am telling you the truth, and that is all I am doing.” William was doing his best to smirk, but succeeded only in making his features more disgusting. “As I was saying, this rise, though unexpected, was a godsend for the Second Birth project, as it had come to be known. It enabled them to keep producing these low end horror films, which helped a little financially, but mostly it cast doubt on every single piece of evidence ever brought to light. With so many of these films coming out, and the technology so dated, there was no way to prove authenticity.”
“So the Second Birth project just kept on going. The major players would switch every so-often, but the goals and practices would remain the same. With the boom of the pharmaceutical industry during the seventies, drug companies became more and more interested in the Second Birth technology. Roslun came into the game during the late eighties under the generic title Danko Drug Co., due to the Civil Liberties protests and controversy surrounding Second Birth rumors. The early nineties brought an end to the rumors and provided the first concrete proof as the technology finally reached the point to see through Second Birth’s cover-ups once and for all.”
“Mr. Lohman!” Tom almost screamed at his guest, his practiced air of composure definitely shaken. “I have been in the news for thirty years, and I have never heard of any of this!”
“Have you never discovered new information years after the actions had taken place? I’m dead and even I understand that is how cover-ups work. It was decided in most of these cases that public safety was more important than public knowledge. After a particularly nasty incident, Danko Drug Co. was dissolved and Roslun emerged as themselves; quickly becoming a powerhouse in the Second Birth project. Roslun Global was the first one to bring Zombie A.C.R.E.S. to the idea table.”
“Animated Corpses Reintegration Experimental Subdivision. The Second Birth experiments have gotten to the point of actual moving and thinking zombies. Roslun wanted to take the experiments out of the underground labs and into a small gated-community. After much debate and great monetary cost to Roslun, powerful benefactors were convinced of the merits of the program and Zombie A.C.R.E.S. was built in 2005 in the desert of Nevada."
“So for the last six years, there has been a zombie housing program in Nevada? And who are the major players involved in this Second Birth project? The government?”
“The government had knowledge and closely followed Second Birth, but no government ever once got involved in any actions or projects.”
“IMPOSSIBLE!” Tom screamed, his journalistic professionalism gone for the moment. “That’s just outrageous! You’re saying that no government ever had anything to do with these zombie projects and cover-ups?”
“Other than possessing knowledge of the program, that is exactly what I'm telling you. It may be hard to believe, but again, I'm just telling you the truth, that’s all.”
“So why have you decided to come forward now, six years after this all started? Did your conscience come back to life all of a sudden?”
“Yes, that is exactly what happened. Before 2010, zombies could not feel.” That word - zombies - came out even more heinous than most of William Lohman’s words. “Early experiments only resulted in a lot of screaming from the zombies, whose ability to speak was just beginning. By summer 2010, feelings were brought back online, and things were smooth. The zombies said they only felt minimal pain, but there only seemed small traces of any indication to a conscience. This is when my second birth occurred. I had only been dead a week when I was discovered. At first, I felt nothing inside. Just empty. The more they toted me around, the more I learned. That is when I started to feel something: Anger. That was my first emotion. I wanted to get them for what they have done to us. How dare they play God?!”
“But these experiments are to ultimately help the living, aren’t they?”
“At this point, who the hell knows? I have heard some talk of helping people, but much more it has been of war and weapons. Who knows where…”
Instant darkness. All of the video feeds carrying the simulcast went dead. After what felt like an eternity, two news anchors were smiling at the viewers.
“It seems there has been some technical difficulty with our live feed. We thank Tom and his...guest for their time and work. We will keep you informed as this story unfolds. Tonight was unfolding well for these women as the annual Laundry Folding Competition was starting…”
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(Published here by permission of author)
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