Prose Header


by Ásgrímur Hartmannsson

The body just lay there. Nobody seemed to care. Of course, not many were around to be awfully bothered, but the two or three cars that drove by while I was there did not even slow down. One driver appeared to be busy speaking to someone on the phone.

I approached the body. There were flies swarming about it. The last flies of summer. One was a hornet. It just walked about on the sidewalk, uninterested in the body.

I called the authorities myself. Not touching that body with a stick. No way.

“Emergency, how can we be of service?”

“I’d like to report a person lying dead on the sidewalk,” I said.

I told them where I was, and described the body as dead, with flies already coming in. It was quite smelly already, I told them. Then I said goodbye and thanks, and hung up.

This ought to be good, I thought. I walked across the street and waited for the police to arrive. A smelly body lying on the sidewalk had to have been placed there. Unless it was a bum — but I had only ever met those at the bus stop, and they weren’t as clean-looking. And less dead.

A couple of cars passed by. Minutes passed. Then a van appeared. A perfectly normal white Ford Transit. It came to a stop next to the carcass, and two men stepped out. They picked up the body and threw it in the back of the van. Then they were off.

To be truthful I was more expecting an ambulance. My curiosity was raised, so I walked to my own car, which was parked nearby, and I followed the van. Strangely enough, it went directly to the hospital, and the two men carried the corpse inside the basement.

* * *

“The public demands something be done to counter the increasing violence downtown,” said a voice on the radio. I flicked to another channel, bored with the violence paranoia.

“...must be banned to counter increasing violence downtown.”

I switched to a different channel. I live downtown, and I have never noticed the violence they claim goes on down there. It is definitely not my neighbours.

* * *

I spotted another body on my way back home. I parked the car and waited for someone else to call it in. Fifteen minutes later a man with a dog could be bothered to pick up the phone and call the emergency hotline. He waited for the white Ford to arrive, and the two men to pick up the body. He became very agitated when the men came to pick up the body, and there was a loud altercation. It ended when the men held him down, injected him with something and threw him into the van.

The van went right to the hospital, as before, and the men unloaded the bodies. I snuck closer to watch, and saw men in lab coats roll the bodies deeper inside the hospital basement on trolleys.

I waited for the van to leave before going any closer. The door was locked. Damn!

* * *

“Jesus don’t want me for a zombie,” sang Sam along with Nirvana on the radio.

“I think it’s ‘Jesus don’t want me for a sunbeam’,” I said.

“Sunbeam? Are you sure?”


“Well, I like my version better.”

We drove around for a while.

“When do you suppose we’ll see a body?” asked Sam.

“I don’t know,” I said, “but I have seen two of them just this week, in this area. Just a question of time.”

“And you think it’s some kind of a conspiracy?”

“Of course I do,” I said. “I think med students are playing around with the bodies in the morgue. Got your camera ready?”

“Of course. And the power drill, right there in the back seat.”

* * *

There it was, another mysterious dead body, just lying there all dead. There were a couple of kids standing by it, kicking it. They did not flee when we arrived, so I did not think they were responsible for its general deadness.

“Hello, why are you kicking that guy?” I asked them.

“To wake him up,” said one of the kids and grinned.

Sam took a picture of them. They smiled and posed for several more pictures with the dead man. Then I called it in, and we all waited for the white transit van. It appeared in fifteen minutes and picked up the body. We waited until the van drove off and then hurried to the hospital.

We arrived about the time the van did but could not find a space to park until five minutes later. Then the men were already leaving. We went to the door and checked it. It was locked. That was what the drill was for, and we made short work of the lock.

We went in with some old keys Sam had. He checked them until one fit, and he could open the door. Strangely, the place looked exactly like a hospital basement. It was white, with bags of stuff by the walls, some trolleys and a wheelchair in the distance.

“Should we really go in there?” asked Sam.

“Only if we want to find out why they are picking up dead bodies in a white van,” I said.

So we walked in. There was the usual hospital ambience: the smell, the sound of electricity and hot water in the pipes. We could also hear voices. We homed in on them. The door to the room they were emitted from was not closed, so we took a peek inside.

There was the body, lying on a table surrounded by four men in lab coats getting ready to apply a defibrillator.

“Clear!” said the one with the device.

The body jerked. The guy checked the pulse, and nodded.

“He’s alive, give him a cup of coffee and drive him home.”

We got the hell out of there. They heard us running and came after us. We reached the door where we came in, threw it up and barrelled straight into the two guys from the white Ford van.

* * *

“Don’t worry, we won’t hurt you or anything,” said one of the guys in labcoats. The one who had just defibrillated a dead man back to life.

“What are you doing?”

“Haven’t you been listening to the news?” he asked.

I shrugged.

“Well, if you did, you might have heard about the government’s new plan to get rid of violence.”

“What violence?” I asked.

“What violence? Haven’t you heard? The whole downtown has become a war zone.”

“I hadn’t noticed,” I said.

“You can get accustomed to anything,” said the doctor. And he continued: “Well, we have found the solution, something that will make people more law-abiding: this.” And he showed me a bottle.


“No, not poison. This is a drug that only needs to be administered once to make people more compliant for their whole life. All it needs is a small drop — a pinprick — and that’s it.”

“What? How?”

“We just put some in the coffee at their workplace, in the water in jail and into the apple juice at school. We only need to do it once.”

He looked at the bottle for a moment, then put it back before he continued:

“Of course there have been some start-up problems — some people fall down in the street and appear dead. We have to go out and revive them.”

“I think they are already dead,” I said. “The ones I’ve seen smelled like something left inside the fridge too long.”

“No they are not dead — just in a coma. We just have to adjust the dosage a little, to make it more personal. We were thinking of having a mass innoculation so as not to leave anyone out.”

“You can’t do that,” I said.

“Why not? Would you rather have rampant crime?”


“Don’t be silly.”

He gave a signal, and his cronies came and released both me and Sam. I stared at the guy. He smiled, looked at his fingers, then back at me and said: “We will get you. It only takes a drop.”

We looked at him. He smiled again and said: “Just a pinprick.”

* * *

I will never drink anything again. Anything. I’m gonna boil seawater and drink that. I can’t believe people actually asked for this. But they did. I read it in the papers. There was even a rally outside the congressional building, asking for exactly this!

Come to think of it, now that they are all zombies, they aren’t much different than before.

Copyright © 2009 by Ásgrímur Hartmannsson

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