Copyright held by the author.
FOLLOW ME on this one. Okay? We were really in the zone. Both of us. This means me, Zander, and my son Zachariah, which we never called him, but it’s on his birth certificate dated January 1st, 2000; 12:000001 a.m. Yes, he was the first baby of the New Millennium at the old Brampton Memorial Hospital. Sometimes he was called Zachary when he was bad, otherwise just Zach. And we were doing like we always did, celebrating his birthday and the arrival of the New Year, not always at night though. The two of us were having a blast.
Right now we were getting the chill out of our bones in one of the “warm-up” busses set up for this occasion. There were a couple often ad-plastered town busses, but we were letting our blood thaw in the fire-engine red Züm bus. Züm doesn’t rhyme with cum, but zoom; don’t ask why. Zach looked at all the people. I read the new transport promotionals. The buzz word was be, not bee. You know: With Züm: Be Quick; Be On Time; Be Prompt & Be Professional; Be Sure; Be Here & Be There; Be Certain, and even the eco-friendly; In Red Be Green. “Thus Spake Züm-aster” was graffitied underneath. What was that about? Nevertheless, Züm was the bus to be.
We were waiting for his mom, my wife, Zooey. Before you go saying anything, I know. That’s how we met initially, both teasing each other about always being picked last with zed names. It didn’t help matters my last name was Zane. We decided to go with the flow. Zooey would be bringing our youngest, daughter Zuzzana, once she had a nap at Granny’s and Zooey was off work. They would “Be” zipped in. It would be a short night after that, but we would welcome the New Year together as a familial unit — again.
Heck, it was a free party and the place was a zoo. We always claimed it to be Zach’s B-Day Party put on by the town first, next the New Year’s Eve Fest. The plethora of multi-coloured lights illuminated Gage Park and City Hall. It was a wonder they didn’t have festive lights up the tall crane for the City Hall extension. Vendors had booths set up to sell snacks, but the municipality provided free hot drinks to all. There was no booze being sold, but it was strange how people’s water bottles didn’t freeze in the cold. There had been a thaw since Christmas and the snow melted, but two days before today there was a substantial snowstorm; a winter wonderland once more.
A throng was skating around Gage Park. (There had been no media mention of the mysterious cadaver of Christmas Eve the week before. So far it was inexplicable. I only knew because I had a friend in forensics. They moved quickly to get that body up and gone.) They kept a big fire burning in a pit, so the skaters could warm up quick if needed.
Across from the Four Corners, rotating carolers, still sang seasonal songs, but tried to focus on the winter–only themed ones, as Xmas, for most, had passed. They sang loud and clear in front of the huge Christmas tree in front of the Rose Theatre, microphones, loudspeakers, and all. Auld-Lang-Synge would be sung by the entire troupe at midnight, or noon-night as some were tweeting it now. I hoped no elderly people were hoping to sleep in the nearby apartment complexes. Lotsa luck there old-feller-me-laddie-buck-lassie-doe.
Zach was too caught up in the festivities; after all he was only 12, at least for a short bit more. I on the other hand was starting to get a bit worried. I had hoped to see my wife and daughter by now and my cell-phone was zonked out. There was zilch coming through. How annoying was that?
The good thing was that we were still hale and hearty. All of us were alive. I’m just teasing about the hoopla and flumadiddle concerning the so-called eldritch Mayan prophecy regarding the end of the world as we know it in 2014; recently adjusted. It could still happen in the next hour if an asteroid on steroids fell out of the sky and cracked the planet in twain. I had doubts on that happening. Mind you I was anxious for the other half of our family to show up so we could start off the New Year as one. Without our long standing tradition, it wouldn’t seem the same. Things would be dead.
Zach and I went over across from the Züm Shelter in front of the PAMA building where Zooey and little Zuzzana would get off the bus, having come up Hurontario. They would cross at the light and we would be the Zany Zanes back together again and when the clock struck midnight we would all scream, “Happy New Year” and exchange hugs and kisses. Zounds, and gad-zooks, for us Zanes.
It struck me the bus, not the bus itself, but the thought struck me, that I hadn’t seen the Züm transport recently. Was that because it was a free ride to all this night? It ran north and south from what once-was Flowertown and quite far, east and west. The Brampton Four Corners was the crossroads. I scanned up to Queen Street and couldn’t see any of the Züm reds up there either. Normally you couldn’t help but spot that brilliant crimson behemoth, day or night.
Zach yanked at my cuff and pointed with his gloved hand up to the large clock above City Hall. It would have to be soon. Things were really getting cut short. The music went quiet, the people stopped skating, and talking. All was still. New Mayor Funnel, er, Joffrey now, was over at the Rose Square, but hooked-up speakers broadcast her talking about something indistinct. Face it, even when she was clear it was indistinct.
Zach tugged at my sleeve again. They were getting ready for the count-down. Where was the female half of our cozy quartet?
Everything happened at once. It was like how they talked about time seemingly slowing down. That was true, and not. Was this in the zoning laws? This was an alternate zone.
The Züm busses came to the Four Corners. Not just one, it seemed like the entire fleet of them from all four points of the compass. The countdown began for midnight. A few simple white fireworks were set off the roof of the City Hall, just to light up the sky. The Züm had fulfilled their marketing campaign to, “Be” — just.
Züm doors opened opposite us on our blind side and the vehicles disgorged their riders, who surged out. I couldn’t see my wife and daughter through the windows, but they came around the bus first and rushed across the street heedless of lights or any oncoming traffic.
I focused my eyes on them as the count-down had just started. Why didn’t my wife stop Zuzzana from racing across the road ahead of her? And what the hell was she wearing? That was no winter wear for a five year old, a light red holiday dress, and no coat. Zooey was no better; she was in sweat pants and a bra. Weird, Zooey didn’t drink, or do drugs.
Zach was jerking frantically at my sleeve and pointing with his free hand. The countdown ended. The clock struck midnight. Fireworks exploded above us brightening the sky in a multitude of colours. I didn’t hear the throng shout “Happy New Year,” but they screamed something. It may not have been enthusiasm.
Zach yanked hard again and let out a yelp. Wife and daughter, mother and sister, were near upon us. What was that sloppy lipstick they had on their faces? A five year old in make-up?
Zach summed it all up in one word. It wasn’t a word I expected. Then his mother snatched him up, just as Zuzzana leapt right up into my arms. They gave us hugs and kisses all right, but not the type we were expecting.
The Mayans were right; crackpots too. The world had ended in 2014. My son had just become a teen, an unlucky 13, for a brief moment, in this New Year, a New Era, of 2015.
My senses were leaving me as my daughter bit into my flesh. My wife gave her aghast and horrified son, an inhuman kiss for his birthday. We would not be the Zany Zanes, but the insane Zanes. In death, my son and I would re-animate like Zooey and Zuzzana.
I couldn’t say what had happened. But they say Satan waits at the crossroads. The Four Corners are the crossroads. The Züm buses had come in and with their “Be” promise and had infected 2015 with Züm-bies. These weren’t the Walking Dead slathering staggering kind. These were, my wife and daughter, soon my son and I, a fast kind of undead. We would zoom out from Gouge Park contaminating the rest of humanity, Züm-Züm-Züm. 2014 was the end of our world. This baneful New Year was now for the newly undead. Brampton was now Zümbie-town, Züm-by central.
The Züm-boni continued to groom the ice surface — smeared red.