The Area 51 Option
by Michael A. Kechula
Three weeks after the Second Zombie War ended, the Alpha Party held their national convention in Las Vegas. They nominated Esther Church as their party’s candidate for the November presidential election. Church was the most radical politician in the Amalgamated States of America.
During her acceptance speech, Church electrified the nation when she said, “On the first day that I’m the President of this great nation, I will issue an executive order to release all zombie prisoners of war and grant them full civil rights.”
Five thousand party delegates cheered wildly for two minutes.
“It’s time for change in Washington. It’s time for love and compassion.”
More cheers and applause.
“We all know there hasn’t been an ounce of love or compassion in Washington since Harlan Kirk became President. The fact that we’ve had another zombie war in which forty thousand zombies were massacred and ten thousand were captured is stark proof. There’s only one reason why this nation went to war: President Kirk and the Omega Party are warmongers. They started this war to fatten the wallets of bankers and the military-industrial complex.”
The audience booed and raised their middle fingers.
“Yesterday, I called the President and asked him to reveal where he’s hiding ten thousand zombie war prisoners. He hung up on me. Do you know why? Because he fears love and compassion. And he doesn’t want you to know that the POWs are being brutally tortured.”
“Fortunately, we’ve been able to discover where they’re imprisoned. In a salt mine. Without lights. Without food. Without water. Without sanitary facilities. And soon, they’ll be executed without trials.”
Sounds of anger and dismay filled the convention center.
“This is not the first time in the history of this country that zombie POWs have been horribly mistreated. A film recently discovered in government archives shows what this nation did fifty years ago to four thousand zombies captured during the First Zombie War. I have that film here today. Before I show it to you, I want you to remember what our history teachers taught us about the fate of those four thousand zombies. Does anybody remember where they were sent?”
“To a beautiful Pacific Island,” shouted a delegate from Ohio.
“That’s right. And we were also taught that they were allowed to live out their lives on that island. Further, we were told every attempt was made to transform them from brain eaters to vegetarians. Our history books said the transition was successful, and the zombies lived happily ever after. We were even quizzed on this episode of our nation’s history. Well, guess what? Our teachers lied!”
Sounds of shock filled the convention center.
“So much for our pitiful educational system. But teachers weren’t the only liars. Several weeks ago, the Historical Channel ran a program on TV about the last zombie prisoner held on that island. What her life had been like. And how she died in her sleep in that lush, island paradise. That too was a bunch of lies. So, if you’re wondering what really happened to four thousand zombie POWs after the First Zombie War, here’s the answer.”
Several large screens descended from the ceiling. When the lights dimmed, delegates and millions of the nation’s TV watchers gasped when they saw thousands of naked, emaciated zombie POWs jam-packed inside an open-air sports arena. Their decaying hands were raised overhead, as if begging for mercy. A silver-colored blimp approached the arena. When it was directly overhead, the crew opened portholes and dropped hundreds of baseball-sized napalm bombs onto the zombie hordes. Close ups of the crew showed them laughing, as they rained destruction into the arena.
Delegates shouted, “Killers! Murderers!” Many screamed at the sight of the zombies bursting into flames and tearing each other to pieces as they attempted to flee the holocaust.
When the five-minute film ended, Esther Church said, “Brothers and sisters of the Alpha Party, these horrible images will haunt my dreams for the rest of my life.”
TV cameras panned the delegates. All looked shocked. Many were weeping.
“Unfortunately, I am the bearer of some very horrible news. As you know, our most recent zombie war ended just three weeks ago. Since then, ten thousand zombie prisoners have been held in very desperate circumstances in a salt mine. Brace yourselves for what I’m about to tell you. President Kirk plans to execute them the same way you just saw in the film. By napalm bombs dropped from a blimp.”
Raising a clenched fist, she shouted, “We must never allow zombie genocide to happen in this nation again!”
The audience screamed, “Never again…never again…never again.”
Someone ran onto the stage with an effigy of President Kirk. When Church set it on fire, the roaring crowd could be heard a mile away.
Harlan Kirk and members of his Cabinet were watching the proceedings in a White House conference room.
“She’s a rotten, lying, psycho bastard,” said the Attorney General. “That film’s a total fabrication. Nothing like that ever happened.”
“But you have to admit,” said Kirk, “it’s an extremely effective piece of propaganda. Did you see how those nuts in the convention center were crying and pulling their hair out over lies? Why aren’t our public relations people dreaming up dynamite stuff like that?”
The Secretary of Defense said, “I never thought I’d see the day when Americans would carry on over a bunch of bloodthirsty, brain-eating zombies. To show what a liar she is, I think we should release the film that shows what really happened to the POWs after the First Zombie War.”
“If we do that, we may cause an even bigger uproar,” said the President. “If that crowd went insane over a lie about napalming prisoners, imagine how they’ll react to the truth about them being nuked on a Pacific atoll, fifty years ago. Hell, the minute they find out we plan to do the same to our POWs, the opposition will tear this country apart. We better destroy those damn zombies some other way. Any ideas?”
“Why not napalm them like we saw in Church’s phony film?” asked the Secretary of the Air Force. “We have a plenty of napalm bombs.”
“If we do that,” said the Secretary of the Army, “we’d give credence to Esther Church’s ridiculous lies. Need I remind everyone that the press, which is so hostile to this administration, would immediately broadcast the time and place of the executions. The opposition party would bus in rent-a-mobs to surround the stadium. They might even try to shoot down the blimp. Things could get worse if our supporters showed up. Both sides might start shooting at each other. The last thing we need is Americans killing Americans over brain-eating zombies.”
“So, what do you suggest as an alternative?” asked the President.
“Since the POWs are being held in a salt mine, let’s pump in napalm and fry the bastards.”
“How soon can that be done?”
“In a matter of hours.”
“Good. Let’s do it tonight at midnight. The sooner those damn POWs are out of the way, the sooner I can begin concentrating on my reelection. Now let’s watch more of that blasted convention to see what else that idiot has on her twisted, bird brain.”
“This nation’s fed up with Harlan Kirk and the Omega Party,” Church said to her spellbound audience. “Where has their warmongering policies gotten us?”
“Nowhere,” delegates shouted.
“If things don’t change drastically in Washington, we face the real possibility of a third zombie war. We cannot let that happen. It’s time for change. Time for new ideas. Time for new leadership. Time to give zombies love, compassion, and a piece of the American pie.”
The audience yelled, whistled, applauded.
“And now, as your nominee for the highest office in this nation, I want to offer you a new symbol for our party. Though a dove has served us well for so many years, it no longer represents the invigorated spirit and aspirations of this magnificent party.”
As a band played a fanfare, Esther pulled a golden cord. A red, white and blue curtain fell revealing a huge painting. Sounds of appreciation filled the auditorium at the sight of a little blonde girl facing a tall, smiling zombie. Both wore white, flowing robes reminiscent of ancient Greece. In the girl’s hand was a cuddly, stuffed koala bear, which she extended toward the zombie.
Hundreds of ushers quickly passed out stuffed koalas to every delegate, as a particularly moving arrangement of "Love Is Everything This Cruel World Will Ever Need" filled the auditorium.
Hugging their koalas, teary-eyed delegates sang the party’s official song.
President Kirk cursed aloud. “Zombies in flowing robes. Good grief. What next? Don’t they know that anybody who tries to hand a zombie a stuffed animal will get his fool head torn off? Esther Church is not only a damn idiot, she’s the most dangerous woman in this nation. She must be stopped.”
“Consider it done,” said the Director of GIA, the Global Intelligence Agency. “With your permission, I’ll implement the Area 51 Option.”
“Terrific idea. Yes, by all means do it. Oh, this is going to be rich.” Raising his glass of fine bourbon, the President added. “Let’s toast the geniuses of the GIA who created the Area 51 Option.”
After they drank, the Secretary of the Treasury asked, “What’s the Area 51 Option?”
“The ace up our sleeve,” said the President, chuckling.
At midnight, the Army secretly napalmed all ten thousand zombie POWs, as they loitered in a salt mine deep below the Nevada desert.
The next day, Kirk held a press conference. “I’d like to make an announcement, then I’ll take some questions. In the spirit of bipartisan cooperation, I’ve offered Esther Church, the Alpha Party’s presidential nominee, an opportunity to personally meet with zombie POWs so she can explain her aspirations to them. She has accepted. A plane will be provided so she and members of the press can fly to the site where the POWs are being scrupulously cared for. The reporters who accompany her will also be granted time to interview the prisoners. I’m pleased to tell you that she has agreed. She’ll visit them tomorrow.”
The journalists applauded.
As to the zombie POWs, we intend to handle them humanely, just like President Holmes did at the end of the First Zombie War. They’ll be transported to a Pacific island where scientists will transform them from brain eaters to vegetarians. Isolated from the rest of the world, they’ll be allowed to live out their lives in peace and dignity.
I know some in the Alpha Party have claimed that zombie POWs were never treated humanely, and that our history books and teachers have lied. That’s not true. Frankly, I’m concerned over the politicization of the zombie wars and POWs by the opposition. I think they owe an apology to every teacher in this nation for calling them liars. I call upon the leadership of the Alpha Party to do so as quickly as possible to ensure our citizens retain faith in our educational institutions.
Meanwhile, we are still trying to determine which nation recruited, trained, equipped, and transported the zombies who attacked our nation last Christmas. Rest assured, we will find out. And we will take appropriate action against the nation or nations that perpetrated this unprovoked sneak attack on the Amalgamated States of America. And now, I’ll take some questions.”
“I’m Harry Smith of World International Press. Esther Church says the zombie freedom fighters are being held as political prisoners in a salt mine under primitive and inhumane conditions. If that’s true, this nation has violated every treaty we’ve signed regarding the disposition of captured combatants.”
“First of all, I don’t know why you called them freedom fighters. They’re vicious renegades who would’ve torn off the heads and eaten the brains of every man, woman, and child in America, if our magnificent troops hadn’t stopped them. Secondly, Esther Church is dead wrong about the conditions under which zombies are being held. They are being kept in very pleasant surroundings above ground where every facility is available to them. I assure you that the Omega Party has just as much concern about the welfare of zombie prisoners as the Alpha Party.”
“Exactly where are they being held?” asked a female journalist from the Philadelphia Times.
“For security reasons, I don’t think it’s wise to identify the location at this time. Especially since Esther Church will be going there tomorrow. My concerns are that some rogue zombies might have evaded capture, and might still be hiding. In fact they may be listening to this press conference at this very moment. And if any are, I strongly urge all zombies who have not yet surrendered to do so as quickly as possible. They can turn themselves into any military facility, fire station, or police station in the nation. They have my personal guarantee that they’ll be treated fairly.”
“I’m Sally Saunders of the London Afternoon Daily. I’ve heard a rumor that the zombie POWs have already been executed.”
“Well, you can ask Esther Church about that after she visits all ten thousand of them tomorrow.”
While a few in the press corps chuckled, President Kirk tried to visualize what it might have looked like inside the mine hours earlier when all the POWs they were now discussing were destroyed by napalm.
“Mr. President,” said another reporter. “When the war ended last month, you claimed the zombies were a new type that had never been seen before, and that they were parachuted into Arizona on Christmas Day from unmarked, stealth aircraft. You said only a demon nation would so such a thing. On the other hand, Esther Church said nothing like that every happened. She claims this new type of zombie has actually been residing in Arizona for several years, and that they arrived on foot by crossing the border from Mexico. And because of that, they should be considered undocumented aliens, not hostile zombie invaders. Since nobody has found any parachutes, or ever reported seeing any aircraft dropping zombies, will you admit that she’s right about where the zombies came from, and that they should be treated like undocumented aliens instead of POWs?”
“She’s dead wrong on all counts. Approximately fifty thousand zombies parachuted into this nation on Christmas Day. None of the stealth aircraft transporting them was detected by our defense systems. Our Global Intelligence Agency is still investigating to determine where they came from. And while we’re on the subject, the demon nation that did this to the American people will pay a terrible price.”
“I have a follow-up question, Sir. Let’s say it happened the way you’ve described. And the GIA determines that the so-called demon nation was Switzerland. Exactly what would you do to Switzerland?”
“That beautiful, mountainous country would be transformed into a bleak, flat-as-a-pancake desert situated several hundred feet below sea level.”
“Thank you, Mr. President,” said Kirk’s Chief of Staff to signal the end of the press conference.
The next day, Esther Church and six reporters, who championed her causes, were picked up at their Las Vegas hotels by a limo secretly owned by the GIA. When they entered the limo, the driver, who was separated from them by a glass panel, pressed a button that released exotic gases into the passenger compartment. In twenty-three seconds, Church and her entourage were in a pleasant stupor. Independent thinking became impossible and would remain so for at least ten hours.
This was the most dangerous part of the GIA’s top secret scenario. If random, unprocessed, contaminated information were inadvertently introduced from outside the limo, Esther and the reporters could react by committing murder and unspeakable atrocities upon each other.
An Army liaison officer sitting next to the driver pointed a satellite-monitored laser pen at Esther’s forehead. A soft beep verified her brain’s readiness for satellite input. He did the same to the other passengers.
In the deluded minds of Esther and the reporters, they thought there were driven to the Las Vegas airport where they boarded a plush government jet for a two-hour flight. But they never left the limo.
Later on, they’d remark among themselves about the delicious hors d’oueuvres they were served on the jet, as it headed to Camp Pleasant. None of them would ever learn that Camp Pleasant was a nonexistent location. Nor would they discover they had never left the limo. The two-hour flight they experienced in their chemically induced delusional state was, in reality, a twenty minute limo ride from downtown Las Vegas to a vacant warehouse on the outskirts of Vegas.
When the limo reached North Las Vegas, it entered a vacant warehouse owned by the GIA.
“Welcome to Camp Pleasant,” said the GIA agent who opened the limo doors. “I hope you had a pleasant flight.”
“It was very nice,” Esther said, “except for some turbulence over New Mexico.”
Viewing what appeared to her as wonderfully manicured, tropical surroundings, she added, “How gorgeous. I had no idea the Army has such a delightful military base. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear I was in Beverly Hills.”
As her words echoed throughout the empty warehouse, she made a mental note to make Camp Pleasant her Presidential Retreat after she was elected President.
“America has always honored and cared for its enemy prisoners in special ways,” the agent said, “especially when they’re zombies. Would you like a snack before meeting them?”
“That’d be nice.”
“Let’s go to the gazebo, which is just to the left of the rose garden. The zombies have prepared some treats for you.”
Though they stood in the same place in the warehouse the whole time, the visitors saw themselves walking toward a nonexistent gazebo. Several remarked about the beauty of the roses on both sides of the immaculate walkway.
"Yes, they are quite remarkable," said the agent. "Several zombie volunteers maintain the gardens.”
The visitors saw two zombies in tailored, sky blue jump suits waving from the other end of the rose garden where they were weeding. Both were guarded by American soldiers who carried flamethrowers.
Inside the gazebo was a table loaded with treats fit for a king.
“Oh, what are those big, luscious looking powdered things?” a female reporter asked.
“Jelly donuts,” said the agent. “They’re baked right here by our prisoners.”
“I never saw jelly donuts the size of cantaloupes.”
“Well, zombies will be zombies,” he chuckled. “They tend to exaggerate everything. To expand their very limited outlook on life, we encourage them to be creative. By the way, they baked these especially for you. Try some. You’ll find them quite delicious. So are the éclairs they made.”
The visitors couldn’t get over how wonderful everything tasted.
After a leisurely repast of things imagined, Church said, “May we please interview the zombies now?”
“Certainly. They’re eagerly awaiting your arrival.”
One of the male reporters grabbed a donut to carry along. He screamed horribly when it transformed into his four-year old daughter’s bloody, severed head.
“Dammit,” the agent yelled to a panel of GIA doctors who were monitoring the proceedings. “You assured me there’d be no anomalies in the Delusional Scenario.”
“Sorry about that,” a doctor said, as she sprayed a fine mist into the reporter’s eyes. It’s one of those gremlins that show up from time to time. Could be a solar flare interfering with satellite transmissions. No way around it. He’s okay now. This’ll erase whatever he just saw, from his memory.”
“What do you think he saw?”
“Oh, there are dozens of possibilities. None are pleasant.”
“You sure he won’t remember the unpleasant image, but will remember everything else in the Delusion Scenario?”
The visitors engaged in pleasant chatter as they approached a large field where they saw ten thousand zombies in blue jump suits sitting quietly in padded folding chairs. The field was surrounded by hundreds of soldiers armed with flamethrowers and chainsaws.
As the visitors approached, the zombies stood up and applauded.
Esther mounted a stage equipped with a lectern and several microphones. In reality, she hadn’t moved from the place in the warehouse she’d occupied since leaving the limo.
“Ladies and gentlemen of the zombie community, I greet you as a friend,” Church said.
The zombies applauded again.
“You are the ugliest bunch of bastards, I’ve ever seen!” she yelled. “I’m getting the hell out of here!”
A doctor quickly sprayed mist into Church’s eyes. Others made notations on their clipboards. Another medic pointed a laser pen at her forehead. The pen beeped softly when it received feedback from an orbiting GIA satellite. Within seconds, appropriate sections of her memory banks were erased.
“That’s the second anomaly in the Delusional Scenario,” said the agent. I hope there aren’t any more.”
“The fact is,” said a doctor, “we usually need at least three months to program a scenario. The White House only gave us twelve hours for this project. I’m amazed worse things haven’t happened.”
Church spoke again to the assembled zombies that existed only in her deluded mind. “I’m Esther Church. I was nominated by the Alpha Party to run for President of the Amalgamated States. I expect to win the election in November. When I do, I promise to do two things for you. First I’ll grant you amnesty. Second, I’ll grant you full civil rights. That means you’ll become automatic American citizens.”
A one-armed zombie raised his hand.
When Church acknowledged him, he asked, “What’s amnesty.”
She spent several minutes explaining.
Another hand went up.
“What’s civil rights?” asked a female zombie whose head was half missing.
This lead to an exchange between the zombies and Church about the Alpha Party’s ideology, peppered with heavy doses of her radical social ideas.
Meanwhile, the reporters took down every word.
Twenty minutes later, Church said, “Thank you for your kind attention. And now members of the press will interview you.”
“What’s the press?” asked a zombie.
“I’ll let Harry Zimmer from the New York Daily Bugle explain it to you. He’s the dean of the White House Press Corps.”
“What’s the White House?” a zombie asked.
“What's up with these dumb questions?” the GIA agent asked doctors, as he read the script of what was occurring only within the minds of the visitors.
“Some of our whiz kids decided to inject a bit of humor,” a doctor said. “It sounds ludicrous to us as we read the paper script, but it sounds perfectly normal in the minds of our visitors and what they are experiencing.”
“Damn jerks!" the agent said. "Make sure you mention all this clowning around with the script during the post mortem meeting when we get back to Area 51. If you don’t, I will.”
When Church finished her discussion, she gave the floor to the reporters. They interviewed the zombies and thanked them for being so candid.
A woman’s voice rang out from the audience. “Hi, Esther.”
“Geez,” Church said, “that sounds like my mom.”
“It is your mom,” said the voice. “I’m in the second row, sitting on the lap of this nice zombie.”
“What are you doing here, Mom?”
“Just visiting some of the folks you’ve promised to make citizens. I sure hope this nice zombie man moves next door to me.”
Suddenly, the zombie tore Mom’s head off. Holding her head by the ears, he placed the severed neck over his lips and drank the blood. Then he jammed his hand inside the neck, as if it were the opening of a cookie jar, tore out every bit of tissue within the skull, and ate it. Muscle, veins, brains, everything.
“Hey, don’t be a hog,” yelled the zombie next to him. “Pass her head around so we all can have some of those goodies.”
“Help! Church screamed. “Somebody do something!”
The soldiers guarding the zombies didn’t move.
“You cowardly bastards! As my party’s nominee for President, I’m ordering you to attack. If you don’t, I’ll have you jailed.”
The soldiers opened up with flamethrowers. The stench of burning zombie flesh filled the air.
The visitors saw themselves rushing back to the limo. Though the actual trip from the warehouse to the hotels on the Las Vegas Strip took only twenty-five minutes, in their heads they experienced a two-hour return airplane flight.
Church’s script varied slightly from those of the reporters. Hers called for her to go unconscious from the moment the flamethrowers started, until she woke up in bed in her hotel room.
When she woke, the exotic sprays and gasses had worn off, and she was back to normal. But she was far from what psychiatrists would call normal. Every time she shut her eyes, the scene of her mother’s decapitation ran through her head. No matter what she tried, she couldn’t shake the horrible images. The Delusional Scenario had been so deeply imbedded in her brain, the images would never leave her.
Terribly distressed, she called the hotel operator. A doctor was dispatched to her room. But, before he arrived, an overwhelming impulse—one of many imbedded into her psyche by the scenario--drove her to the hotel window. Her body fell fifteen stories and slammed onto the roof of a passing cab.
The world’s major newspapers carried the story. The banner headlines of the New York Daily Mail screamed, “TEN THOUSAND ZOMBIE POWS MASSACRED. CHURCH ORDERS THEIR DESTRUCTION, THEN COMMITS SUICIDE.”
The memories that had been implanted in the visiting reporters’ brains were identical. However, their script diverged from Church’s, starting at the point where her mother appeared. They never saw or heard her mother. Instead, they saw Esther Church ask a zombie a question. When he didn’t answer, she left the stage, slapped his face, and called him a dumb-ass zombie who deserved to die.
The zombie responded by spitting on her. Enraged, she demanded the soldiers do something to teach the zombie some manners. When the soldiers didn’t act, she called them cowardly bastards. She grabbed one of the soldier’s portable flamethrowers, pointed it at the nearest zombies, and torched them.
All hell broke loose. Zombies rushed her, forcing the soldiers to blast them with their flamethrowers. By the time it was over, all ten thousand had been destroyed. Esther Church was heard cackling and saying, “That’ll fix the ugly bastards.”
Before long, billions around the world, who heard the news, branded the late Esther Church as just another lying, hypocritical, petty politician who got what she deserved.
When Harlan Kirk and his Cabinet met, the President said to the Secretary of the Treasury, “That was the Area 51 Option. Wasn’t it fantastic?”
No one outside of the Global Intelligence Agency, including President Kirk and his Cabinet, knew about the ultra-secret Area 52 Option. The option that would be exercised soon after GIA whiz kids debugged the final version of the scenario. The option that would make the entire nation see that which wasn’t there.
Michael A. Kechula is a retired tech writer. His fiction has won first place in eight contests and placed in six others. He’s also won Editor’s Choice awards four times. His stories have been published by 108 magazines and 30 anthologies in Australia, Canada, England, India, Scotland, and US. He’s authored a book of flash and micro-fiction stories: “A Full Deck of Zombies--61 Speculative Fiction Tales.” eBook available at www.BooksForABuck.com and www.fictionwise.com Paperback available at www.amazon.com.
What inspires you to write and keep writing?
I've been writing fiction only six years. Prior to that, I made my living as a professional writer of self-study textbooks and task-oriented instructional manuals for industry. By switching to fiction, I've found new outlets for my unquenchable urge to write. Frankly what inspires me to keep on going is the fact that I've been able to get an average of 1.7 stories accepted per week for thirty-seven months straight. During that time, my work has been accepted by 138 print and online magazines and anthologies in England, Canada, Australia, and US. With that kind of success and continuous reinforcement, the impetus to write even more is quite powerful. If my fortunes were suddenly reversed, and my work was constantly rejected, I'd write anyway. Perhaps it's a compulsion. But it's the o ne of the most rewarding compulsions anybody could hope for.