Author : Donovan Pruitt

“It itches,” the soldier complained, scratching at the data socket on the back of his neck.

Seated across the table, the doctor offered a sympathetic smile. “That’s normal for a new download, Sergeant Jax. Just don’t think about it. Think about something else.”

“Like what? I wasn’t recruited for my thinking.” Jax continued to fidget.

“Why don’t you tell me the last thing you remember?”

Jax pondered briefly. “Inter-continental orbit hop between Houston and Moscow. Cargo transfer for the space program. I don’t remember the ship name.”

“The download is intermittent,” the doctor explained. “If we dropped everything in at once, your mind would, well, explode.” His eyes darted aside as he solemnly reflected on this concept with apparent regret. “The name will come to you.”

Jax’s face turned uneasy as more memories downloaded. “Did I crash?”

“You did.” The reply was hesitant. They didn’t tend to react favorably to the news.

“Well, shit,” Jax replied unexpectedly, chuckling after a few moments. “So how am I alive?”

It was a fair question. “Technically, you’re not, yet,” the doctor admitted, though he looked pleased. “We downloaded your brain and are attempting to parse it correctly so you can be re-appropriated.”

“Re-appropriated, huh?” Jax repeated the clinical term. “That would explain this tan,” he joked, raising his foreign arm into the light. His personality was returning. “So technically, I’m not alive?”

“Not exactly.”

“But I’m not dead?”

“Well, no.”

“So I guess, scientifically speaking, I’m undead.” Jax erupted with laughter.

Pursing his lips with subtle amusement, the doctor offered a nod. “I suppose so.”

Turning pale, Jax straightened his posture. “Sir, I have a question.”

“Go ahead,” the doctor replied, still distracted by the comedic nature of their exchange.

“Did the Zs take the Moon Base, or do we still have control?”

The doctor blinked, focusing on him with narrowed eyes. “The Zs?”

“The zombies, sir,” Jax clarified matter-of-factly.

Turning from the table, the doctor rubbed his thumb and forefinger into his eyes to release the tension. “Undead,” he said aloud, identifying the trigger word. Sighing, he reached into the folds of his lab coat as he turned back, producing a pistol that he easily leveled at the man’s head and fired. Gore splashed against the wall and the body collapsed forward on the table, lifeless. Tilting his head to the ceiling, the doctor stoically spoke his report, “Subject twenty-seven terminated due to faulty data transfer. Download incomplete.”

The main door opened into the room, giving way to an officer dressed in a formal uniform with numerous trinkets shining proudly on his chest. Casting a disapproving look at the fallen soldier, he redirected his disdain to the doctor. “What happened this time?”

“General,” the doctor offered a lackluster greeting. Replacing the pistol, he braced both hands atop the table with a heavy, weary push to his feet. “The system still isn’t able to separate actual events that the subject experienced from dream sequences that he perceived as real. He apparently remembered a dream fighting zombies on the Moon. The word undead must have caused the server context recognition to give him a packet of information that he thought was real.”

“Well, fix it,” the general demanded, turning around to exit. “We’ve got plenty of vegetables left for you to practice on, but let me know if you run out of bullets.”

Frowning after the general, the doctor took a moment to recuperate before looking up to the ceiling again. “Sally, send in someone to make arrangements for the body, please. Then contact the coma ward. We’re going to need another blank disc.”

Discuss the Future: The 365 Tomorrows Forums
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows