Later Days: Amblers

on February 25, 2011 in Horror

Whatever the first sign was, however big or small the first change might have been, it was the amblers that made the world sit up and take notice. Zombies had long since become accepted shorthand for “end of the world”. You couldn’t have a zombie uprising without it seeming like the end of the world, and conversely, it almost wouldn’t have seemed like the end of the world without zombies.

The amblers aren’t really zombies, of course. Even in the changed world of later days, a plague of zombies per se wouldn’t work for many reasons. The amblers are as close as we were going to get, and they’d been close enough to provoke a true panic.

The bugbites got people worried, but before the amblers it was only the first ones that ratcheted up the fear. As more and more people died but did so in less terrible ways, the fear actually began to subside. They confirmed what we all wanted to believe: the initial reports must have been exaggerated. A bug could make you swell up and die, but not literally explode. Or melt.

Then more and more people were reported to survive the bites, and it seemed like the initial fatalities were just isolated incidents. We relaxed. The bugs were still big news, but it was like Y2K, or SARS, or bird flu. The world kept going and so did we.

Then the first confused reports started to come out about a lot of the initial survivors showing strange new symptoms… was it fatal, or wasn’t it? It seemed really hard to say.

Kit likes to point to the amblers as evidence of her invasion theory. Sometimes she believes that invaders living among us started or encouraged the zombie craze in order to precondition us to fear the amblers. Sometimes she believes that they engineered the amblers in order to take advantage of the zombie craze.

I can’t disprove her invasion theory, but I believe she’s overthinking it a little. Invaders wouldn’t have had to engineer a fear of zombies, or come up with a weapon just for our unique and special fear of them. Any race of living, thinking beings would fear the amblers no matter what.

Who wouldn’t? They look like us, but they’re not us… and it’s not even that they look human in general. Each of them used to be somebody. Somebody’s neighbor, somebody’s friend, somebody’s family or lover. Now that person is dead, and there’s a monster shambling around wearing their face, and if it catches you, you’ll become like it.

And the people who became amblers are dead, no matter what anyone says. The media, acting at the behest of the government in what would prove to be one of the last coherent actions of both groups had labored to convey the fact that the “ambulatory victims” are not, in fact, dead.

This is true. An ambler isn’t dead exactly. It fulfills some biological definition of life.

The person who was bitten by the bugs, though? They’re gone. You can’t even say they’re just brain dead, as the brain is gone. It’s the first part to be converted. Bugbite victims die-die, and then the thing that kills them starts rearranging their bodies into something it can use to come after the friends and family of its first victim.

We’re lucky to be such a tight-knit group, and we’re lucky that none of us got bugbit. The others all had friends and family outside our little Pentad, but they also had the Pentad. No matter who anyone lost… to the amblers or any of the bugs or the chaos that followed… we would survive, as long as we had each other.

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4 Responses to “Later Days: Amblers”

  1. Luke Licens says:

    Is this a followup, or a re-boot?

    On the one hand, it’s nice to know a little more about what ‘the End’ was. On the other hand, the personal touches on the first one are what make it really interesting.

  2. genericintent says:

    Wow, what a tease! Good stuff as always.

  3. beappleby says:

    A good short.

    One typo that I noticed: a missing period.

    We all have to admit that Sometimes she believes that invaders living among

  4. AE says:

    @Luke: It’s a continuation. Both things are part of a larger story that’s been bouncing around my head for a while. I’ve been writing bits of it, and the better/more interesting bits I decided to post as flashes.

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