Certainly, I didn’t mean to leave the young undead frozen for such a long time but Father was impossible to convince. Now, tucked away and shaded beneath our garden canopy sits our ice cube of a competitor, trapped motionless within Father’s state-of-the-art cabana. In all honesty, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen the man quite so unimpressed with my behaviour.
Sure, it sounds like a hefty sum but come on, Father! It’s not like the Australian dollar is worth anything during the apocalypse. And he’s worth every penny of it, you certainly cannot deny that level of skill when you’ve witnessed it yourself. I—
All things considered, perhaps Father just feels I can no longer be trusted with access to his personal funds or, perhaps, it’s that the senile old bastard has already forgotten the results of the battle we enjoyed not two nights ago. For a creature of such small stature, I found his level of survivability incomprehensible and much too unique to just ignore.
We approach the structure in tandem; it is honestly rather impressive, even if the wood panelling on the outside leaves much to be desired. Built by our faithful Groundskeeper, it’s supposed to look a bit like a Granny Flat but the timber is stripping off at the corners, revealing the back of the climate-controlling steel interior. You can feel the chill with even the quickest of glances but that doesn’t stop Father from getting right to business.
Yes, okay. I’m at fault for the whole ‘frozen’ business but the qualities of a warrior run deep in the cold, cold veins of this little chap and a little skin fragility shouldn’t do a whole lot of harm. Once it has been defrosted to the core, it’ll be sure to impress him. The creature surpassed our expectations under stress but it’s the free will on display that I can appreciate more than anything else I’ve personally witnessed.
As expected, Father is having none of it. He flicks the security system off and pops the door open; cotton-tissue wrinkles pull an invisible string from the Zed to himself, beckoning it to ‘come hither’. Of course, my wrist watch indicates the artificial chill may have wreaked a bit of havoc on the Creature’s intelligence or, perhaps, Father’s own.
I’m not quite sure what Father expected, it would take at least a minute-or-two before the Zed could function. Much like Father’s morning persona, there was a momentary grace period where — to others — he did not exist.
Soon, the fingers began to twitch and the creature’s last remaining eyelid fluttered. It steps forwards albeit with a careful jitter, movements less slick, slower to react to stimuli like Father’s quiver of piercing gazes. With that guarded eye, the nameless Zed ceases its shuffle ahead of a line of bee-stripe tape hidden in the pseudo-mist.
The test begins; a silent order to stop. Humans, we’ve got a sixth sense for signs that we’ve developed over our extended existence but them? Father believes the loss of this factor delivers substantial evidence that the Zeds have reverted back to a primal state and, obviously, they’re not actually undead because that would truly be preposterous.
In the frothing vapour and liquid nitrogen hurricanes, clouds cascade and camouflage the half-adhesed, stick-thin gauge of humanity lost. Our previous experiments had no such luck, the creatures simply continued on forwards, activating the following pressure-plate and wasting our time.
A guillotine drops, bifurcating the failure.
Our bated breath returns to the regular intake as this ‘detective’ shuffles onward. Father’s face slips down his hand, embarrassment causing it to melt in the tundra. His fingers rest in an uncomfortable position against his glabella where thin, monobrowic hairs strangle chewed fingernails.
My eyes stray from the important point-of-interest in strict disappointment. A certain, unspecific emotion grips my chest as I catch annoyance gripping Father’s face. A look of failure, it goes through a full spectrum of evolution before developing and morphing into something unusual for the crevices of Edwin Algernon: a smile, of sorts.
Those enormous, bushed eyebrows raise and I turn back to our ever-rotting property. Understanding symbolic language is one thing, certainly, but the creature appears to be studying it on his hands and knees! It wafts away the vapour for a closer look!
Father’s expression takes its final form and the dimples in the flesh of his cheeks reform after months of absence, greeting clusters of new freckles and old skin tags.
“What are you thinking, Father?”
Confidence and vigour, Father places his hand on the back of my neck and squeezes. “My boy,” he said, gracing me with a pleasant sense of wonderment for the first time since childhood. “Off with the electricity.”
The solar-fuelled flow dissipates at my command, allowing the guillotine to fall to the ground below, no longer held back by its electromagnet. Unprotected in the cold, it shatters in thirds when it lands but the creature reacts not.
“What is your name, son?”