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Hungry Hearts

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What am I doing with my life?

 

I should clean my fur up cause it’s a real mess. I probably smell pretty rancid as well. I need a bath, a shower, or something. Mammals might respect me more if I cleaned up my act a little bit. All I want is a little conversation: a little back and forth, an exchange of wits, a simple tête-á-tête if you will. But, no matter how much I try, I can never seem to make a connection. Why can’t I connect with anyone?

 

Oh yeah. It’s cause I’m dead.

 

Kind of hard to talk with anyone when everyone you know is dead. See that rat over there? He’s dead. This deer over here? He’s dead too. That giraffe, she’s dead. That weasel… ouch, wow. Yeah, he’s way dead. I really shouldn’t be so hard on myself.

 

Wish I could introduce myself, but I can’t remember my name. Pretty sure it started with an ‘N’, but that’s all I got. Can’t remember my parents or my home or my job—although this green hoodie would suggest I was unemployed. At best, I was a drug dealer. Though I like to imagine I had a job that required some inter-mammal skills, like a bartender or sales manager. That might explain why not being able to chat bothers me so much.

 

Sometimes, I’ll look at the others and try and guess what they did before they were dead. That panther was a limo driver, going by the hat. Either that or an airline pilot. That lady with the horns must have been a singer or dancer since her pink skirt is still sparkling after 8 years of deadness. She’s not much to look at anymore though, none of us are.

 

That’s because we’re all ‘Walkers’ now. Zombies. Undead. Walking corpses. Pick a name, they’ve all been used before. I’m still a little fuzzy on how this whole end-of-the-world thing happened in the first place though. Some of the newspapers that haven’t rotted away yet say things like “Plague” or “Vaccines Ineffective”, which makes it sound like some kind of disease. But since I haven’t had any real food or water in 8 years, I’m gonna go with the ‘no more room in hell’ theory.

 

‘Walkers’ is the only name that makes sense to me, because that’s all we do: We walk. I mean, those of us who still can walk. That guy on the park bench hasn’t moved for a few weeks now, so I’m guessing he’s dead-dead. Yeah, it doesn’t really make sense to me either, but this is the way the world works right now.

 

I’d much rather be a Walker anyway, rather than one of those guys…. Eughh. Stop staring at me, jeeze. Okay, see that boney furless creep? The one with the white eyes and the pasty pale skin? Yeah, we call them ‘Savages’, and we all become one of them eventually. They don’t bother us Walkers, but they’ll eat anything with a pulse. I mean, so will I, but I still feel shitty about it. Those guys seem to be angry about everything. Can’t even recognize what species this one was. I wanna say groundhog? Maybe a badger? ‘Naked drooling monster’ is the only one that makes sense now, and it’s what I have to look forward to. One day, my fur will fall out, I’ll switch to moving on four legs, and whatever is left of my mind will be kaput. Thank god I still have my fur.

 

Not sure why I mostly stick around this part of the city. Maybe because it’s changed the least? Pretty sure this place was a dump before the world went sideways, so now it’s just a dump with Walkers in it. I’ll venture around from time to time to the areas that used to be nicer. Thankfully all the signs and subway maps are still up, making it easy to find your way around.

 

Savanna Central was once this beautiful, clean, bustling center where mammals would go about their daily lives and drink smoothies and play in the park and stuff. The Rainforest District had all this lush plant life and water flowing through it. Tundra Town used to be packed with snow and ice every day of the year. Sahara Square was…. Actually, I’m pretty sure that place was always hot and dry, but that used to be on purpose. Downtown was full of rich mammals and important folk doing important things, or so I Iike to believe. Now there are abandoned cars, the occasional raven pecking at bones, and a healthy dose of Walkers just sniffin’ around for something to munch on.

 

I wish things were different. I wish I was different. I’m lonely and tired and I just want to talk with somebody. But it’s just not in the cards for me. Such is the life of a dead guy.







 

 

Hungry Hearts Title

 

 

 

Hungry Hearts

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 1: On Melancholy Hill

 

The fox in the green hoodie meandered beside a familiar medical clinic and then lazily down a long staircase towards a large warehouse along the docks. Rusty cars and weeds were scattered all along the roadways, and practically every window in the area was broken. It was a sad, decrepit, and likely condemnable building that held no life inside whatsoever.

 

This place is my home. Pretty sure it was an amusement park at some point, considering the rollercoaster, foam pit, and carousel. The sign up top says ‘Wilde T —… Something’. Not sure. The rest of the sign fell off. The doors work, though, so it’s a good place for a little privacy.

 

I like it here. Mammals were the most alive when they were having fun at places like this, so maybe I’m trying to see if any of that life is left over. Keep a collection of random shit I come by in the office upstairs. Music, pictures, porcelain statues that make a satisfying ‘crunch’ sound when you break ’em—you name it, I got it. The rest of the place is built for the living, so it’s not much use to me. That carousel is where I’d have fun, if I knew what that word meant anymore. This foam pit would be where I would sleep, if I could sleep. Pretty sure that diner over there might have a few things I could eat, if I ever got hungry for anything besides brains.

 

Oh yeah. I eat brains, by the way.

 

I’m not terribly proud of it, but, to us Walkers, brains are the only thing that give us any hope. Whenever we chow down on some cranium cake, we get to experience that mammal’s memories like it was happening to us. For a brief, undeniably blissful moment, we’re alive again. Even if the memories are bad, the feeling is real. Once I got a piece of an elephant that the Savages left behind. It felt nice being tall and wide, but I have to say the trunk was an odd experience.

 

My last meal was a few months ago, when a few racoons scuttled into town looking for… I don’t even know. All I know is that Barry, who was my unlucky meal of the night, had very poor taste in TV. Spent his early years studying and keeping his nose clean, but did a few too many drugs in college and flunked out. Lucky for him the world ended, because he made something of himself. He had a small group of loyal survivors who would follow him anywhere. I guess all those zombie video games made him think he could actually pull off the brave hero act. Not sure why he came into Zootopia, another Walker got that part of his brains. But the memories of food, music, and all those nights getting high to Guns and Rodents felt like the most fulfilling life I could ever ask for. I was satisfied for days, re-living Barry’s life.

 

But that was months ago, and I’m starting to feel extra-dead these days. Gotta get me some grub, before my fur starts falling out and I go Savage. Guess I’ll go see if my buddy is around.

 

The fox made his way to the rear of the building where a van was parked halfway up the curb. The windshield was cracked and the sides had been graffitied poorly, but behind the grime and spray paint were parts of a mural that depicted a brave hero rescuing a helpless vixen.

 

The Walker moaned as he approached the rear of the van. He could faintly hear the sound of music playing through the van’s stereo. The slow and bright electronic beat hummed a little louder as he found the rear doors. He wavered a bit and stumbled as he shakily rapped on the van’s window. Another groan came from inside, this one deeper and grumpier. After a minute of fumbling, the door creaked open and another fox appeared from the dark van. He was much smaller, and his eyes were bloodshot. A bit of dried blood ran from his mouth down his neck, and his shirt was torn to pieces as well. He had a bit of one of his large ears missing—bitten off by something bigger than him.

 

This is my best friend. And by “best friend”, I mean we occasionally grunt at each other and stare intensely trying to say something. He was smart in making this van his home. Living mammals will sometimes wander inside, hoping to start it up and drive to safety. That’s when he pounces. As a result, he’s had a healthy dose of brains for a Walker his size. I usually trade him whatever music records he likes in my collection for whatever leftover brains he was able to nab. It’s a love-hate thing for sure—in that I’m pretty sure he hates me, but loves the music.  

 

The fennec fox grunted and scowled at the newcomer, who did his best to smile, revealing yellow teeth and bloody lips. They stared at each other for a moment, occasionally moaning but not doing much else.

 

Oh, he’s pissed. That’s good, because it means he’s as hungry as I am. I know it looks like I’m not doing anything right now, but trust me, we’re both trying our best to communicate. He’s better at it than I am, probably because of all those brains. He gets words out before I can even squeeze out a syllable.

 

Hungry,” the fennec fox grumbled. The other fox in the green hoodie nodded slowly, his slitted eyes widening.

 

“B… bb--brainss?” the bumbling fox managed. The fennec groaned and shook his head slowly, keeping his intense stare the entire time.

 

Damn. If he’s out, that means we’ll have to hunt and see if we get lucky. There are a lot of Walkers in this city, and lots of them are bigger than we are. So we’ll just have to get there first.

 

“Ss—station,” the fennec said with a nod. The other fox nodded back and revealed a few more teeth in anticipation of another meal. The two of them left the van behind and started a long journey through downtown towards Savanna Central.

 

Savanna Central Station. That place was a train station a long time ago, but it’s now a mess just like everywhere else. Me and my buddy are smart enough to know that whenever the living venture into Zootopia, they usually come in through the train tracks. A few other Walkers still have the capacity to realize that as well, but the mindless Savages can’t think that much, which gives us an advantage. It’s clear across town from here, so we’re gonna have to walk a ways. But who knows? Maybe we’ll get lucky.

 


 

 

Judy checked the pistol on her belt again, making double-sure she had the rounds she needed. The shotgun that was slung over her back was ready to go as well. The knife strapped to her leg was sharpened and weighted for throwing. The military-grade truck rattled back and forth as they rolled along towards the drop-off point. The look of sheer focus and determination on her face was evidence of one fact: She was ready for anything. Anything except for an otter named Kris jamming a wet finger into one of her ears.

 

“D’uaaghhh! Cut it out, Kris!” Judy swatted at her laughing friend.

 

“I’m sorry, I couldn’t help it!” she said between laughs. “You just looked so serious.”

 

“This is serious, Kris. We’re almost out of penicillin. So if we don’t bring in a good haul today, we’ll lose dozens this winter to pneumonia.”

 

“I know that, dummy. I’m a nurse, in case you forgot. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun. Besides, last time we went into the city, we sidestepped every Walker we came across without any problems at all,” Kris argued.

 

“We were lucky. Don’t count on that happening again.”

 

“Well, if we see any Walkers, I’ll be sure to run faster than you,” Kris jested.

 

“As if you could.” Judy shot her an arrogant smile. This made Kris’s eyes light up and she leaned forward in her seat.

 

“Oh yeah? You wanna race to the station?”

 

“Oh, you’re so on, otter-girl,” Judy dared.

 

“Hey!” an aggravated voice called from the front seat. “That’s enough chit-chat. We’re approaching the drop-off point, so look alive.”

 

Judy groaned and folded her arms across her chest, leering at the rabbit riding shotgun. He had grey fur with black stripes across his cheeks, along with a distant look in his eye as he gazed at the city coming into view. Barking commands let him feel like he had some kind of authority, even though he took orders from Judy’s father.

 

“Speak for yourself, Jack,” Judy grumbled under her breath.

 

It was hard to believe this was the same Jack who would hold her paw while they walked between the burrow and the training grounds a few months earlier. What had started as a heartfelt relationship with the buck had soured after he’d joined up with the military. Judy was still willing to go on search parties with him because he was a decent shot, but she could do without his authoritarian ego.

 

“This is good, right here,” Jack instructed the driver.

 

They came to a stop and gathered their weapons. The search party of six mammals disembarked from their transport and squinted their eyes as they came into the sunlight. They were perched on top of a bridge which spanned the massive river that separated Zootopia from the outer burrows. Judy could see the green mountain-sides and lush forests behind them that divided home from hell. Turning around, she saw the black, desolate underworld that was Zootopia. One of the taller skyscrapers was leaning up against another, looking like it would fall at any time. The tracks ahead stayed suspended above the ground for a few more miles as it snaked its way around the city and through each district. Judy had never been to the city before the deadrising, but she imagined it had been beautiful.

 

“Good luck, and god speed.” The driver turned his car around, heading back down the tracks and towards the safety of home.

 

Search parties like this were rare, but necessary. While the farms back home could adequately feed the survivors of the deadrising, keeping them healthy was more difficult. They mostly relied on simpler treatments and whatever stockpiles of medicine they had. But whenever they ran out, they were forced to send brave young mammals into Zootopia to find what was needed. Judy was not, strictly speaking, part of the military. She had training, and was more than willing to help keep mammals safe and alive, but she did not fancy taking orders from her father.

 

“You guys ready?” Judy pulled the shotgun strapped around her shoulder a little closer. The others nodded, her friend Kris even giving her an eager smile before falling in behind her. She let Jack go first, since he’d insisted on being the leader. Plus it was easier to have him out front than to have another argument about who was in charge.

 

“Okay then. Next stop: Savanna Central Station!” Judy said confidently, and they began walking.