Silent Minds

Copyright 2018 by Chris Benedict

So. The zombie apocalypse happened.

The zombies ate those who had huge brains first — the scientists, the geniuses of wall street, commission sales people, computer geeks, you know. They took the tech industry next, and teachers, and anyone with a “knack” of any sort, like the guy who could always catch fish where nobody else could get them to bite. Then the upper and middle class, gobbled up by the ever increasing legions of decaying undead.

The supply chain broke and there were no more stores that hadn’t been looted. Lots of folks ran and hid in isolated places, thinking that would save them. Compounds in the desert. Mountain top cabins. Stolen boats sailing with the trade-winds.

It didn’t matter — the zombies were ruthlessly efficient. They would appear and surround the shelter. No matter how far people ran, or how deep they crawled, or how much ammo they’d stockpiled, eventually their brains would be eaten.

My enclave was one of the last. We were hidden deep in the desert, in an isolated valley with a strong spring. Our oasis bloomed and we had all we needed; apart from the rest of the world. We grew what we ate, and labored with our bodies in the old ways to provide for all of our needs. We prayed and were purified, and we trusted Thomas, our leader, when he told us that angels would keep us safe.

We monitored news reports of the chaos in the outside world, until the radios went silent. The rest of humankind had been consumed and there was nothing else to sustain their insatiable appetites. They wandered, starving, in the lonely places of the Earth — looking for us, the survivors.

Then Thomas died. The next day, Joe and Carol took the old pickup that we used to carry hay, and made a run for it. They went to search for their daughter, who’d been away at college when the plague began.

But it didn’t go as planned. They were back within twenty-four hours, and the pickup was thrashed. It must have been them who led the zombies to us, because suddenly our idyll paradise was surrounded by hordes of stinking, rotting zombies.

And so we covered the windows of our sanctuary with boards. They came swarming upon us, their stinking bodies pressed wetly against the boards until they splintered. We thought we were goners, for sure.

Suddenly a group of people, dressed in identical orange robes and shaven heads, appeared upon the road. We waited for the zombies to fall upon them, but it didn’t happen. The zombies acted confused when they were around — as if they could smell brains nearby, but couldn’t actually find them. We were so surprised that we unbarred the door and let the orange-robed people enter.

“How did you do that?” Granny Linda asked, her voice hushed with amazement, when we’d barricaded the doors again.

“Zombies are attracted by thoughts, correct? This is how they find brains to eat?” the lead monk ventured.

We nodded — it was common knowledge.

“Then the secret is to have no thoughts,” the monk instructed us. “It is called meditation, and we can teach you.”

Fred, a big bear of a man, threatened to kill them. “No way you practice your damned brainwashing techniques on me. I’ll die first.”

The monk shrugged. “As you wish. We will teach all those who wish to learn. The rest may do as they like. We only ask that each person be allowed to choose for themselves.”

About half the men, and a few of the women and children, went back to grimly protecting the boarded windows. The rest of us huddled together and learned the monk’s strange ways.

To clear the mind and think no thoughts — it is harder than it might sound. Especially when every gunshot and scream from the defenders distracted our concentration. It was no more than half an hour before our defenses failed under the reeking assault, and zombies breached our sanctum.

“We must go now,” the monks told us. “Remember what you have learned.” They stood calmly in a circle around us, chanting as they meditated. Nearby zombies paused, mystified. The rest were tearing at our remaining defenders, whose piteous screams rocked our souls.

I tried my best to clear my mind of the horror, and the terror, and the grief. A monk grabbed my hand, and joined mine to Timmy’s. He was only nine, and looked terrified.

“Remember your training if you want to live!” the lead monk shouted. He used his staff to push a few of the stunned zombies out of our way and clear a path.

“Close your eyes and trust us lead you,” the nearest monk. I did as I was told, and — joined together in a chain — we emptied our minds and let our guardian angels guide us safely through the shambling hordes of putrid death, and into the clean, desert sunshine.