Take me to a...
Enter any portion of the author name or story title:
For more options, try our:
Sign up for free daily sci-fi!
your email will be kept private
Get a copy of Not Just Rockets and Robots: Daily Science Fiction Year One. 260 adventures into new worlds, fantastical and science fictional. Rocket Dragons Ignite: the anthology for year two, is also available!
Publish your stories or art on Daily Science Fiction:
If you've already submitted a story, you may check its:
Not just rockets & robots...
"Science Fiction" means—to us—everything found in the science fiction section of a bookstore, or at a science fiction convention, or amongst the winners of the Hugo awards given by the World Science Fiction Society. This includes the genres of science fiction (or sci-fi), fantasy, slipstream, alternative history, and even stories with lighter speculative elements. We hope you enjoy the broad range that SF has to offer.

Zombie Elixir

Lawrence Schoen is a Hugo and Nebula award nominated author. He wrote the critically acclaimed Barsk series of novels. He also is the founder and proprietor of Paper Golem press. Lawrence and his wife, Valerie, live just outside Philadelphia in scenic Blue Bell, PA.

The zombie apocalypse started and ended in Atlanta.
Most people blamed the outbreak on the CDC--an experimental pandemic drug gone wrong. But no one could have anticipated that a beverage company would save the day. That's where I worked, as a food sciences chemist in product development. When those first infected bastards started roaming up and down every Peach Street clamoring for brains, I was heading up one of the teams trying to find something they might settle for instead of snacking on frontal lobes and bits of brain stem. You know the old adage that when you and a friend are escaping a bear you don't need to run faster than the bear, just faster than your friend. Now swap out mutant, cerebrally-peckish zombies for the bear and everyone else in Atlanta for the friend.
And we did it. My lab had captured four zombies--losing two interns in the process--and tested dozens of flavors on them. I know it sounds improbable, but a year ago so did zombies. From that perspective, a soda pop company scrambling to develop flavors that these infected monsters might prefer to biting into people and eating brains wasn't quite so ludicrous.
Three weeks in, I had developed half a dozen syrups modeled to approximate the flavor of different parts of the brain. We moved on to phase II and painted trails around the facility--always leading to inescapable pits, we weren't totally clueless--to test our best efforts. Temporal lobe root beer, occipital orange, parietal pop. We tried regular and diet options--Dr. Henderson was convinced, mistakenly as it turned out, that aspartame would carry the day. We tried creme versions--and don't get me started on the challenge of making a creme-lobe flavor syrup. We tried fruity versions, everything from peach hypothalamus--hey, Atlanta--to cherry medulla.
In the end, none worked, but we eliminated them, one by one, because that's how science works. We clung to that kind of rigorous methodology, even in the face of the public health crises and the entire facility being locked down like a prison. Despite the losses to our team resulting from the process--I still miss Henderson--empiricism led us to the answer.
Advertising campaigns had set the tone of the cola wars for decades, and while old ads about teaching the world to sing were heartwarming in these difficult times, other slogans about how the company's signature project "adds life" had come back to bite us in our collective ass. But it was reference to those ads--or more specifically the product they were pushing--that led to success.
I went old school. I took Pemberton's original 7x formula and tweaked it with an isomerization that approximated the flavor of the corpus callosum, that switchboard of the brain that lets the right hemisphere talk to the left. The thinnest trail of syrup painted on the road outside our lab caused every zombie within a half-mile to come running, drop to all fours, and lick the asphalt.
That flavor syrup didn't end the zombie apocalypse though, it only gave us a chance to control it.
Our entire facility began pumping out thousands of gallons of syrup. The national guard used it to herd the city's zombies in an attempt to contain and destroy them. That bought us time, but a few zombies always escaped. The public had been lulled into a false security, which in turn made them easy targets, and the plague continued.
We'd used syrup because it was easier than taking things to the next level and actually producing a drinkable product. No one had thought to offer the zombies a refreshing beverage, but in the end, that's what saved Atlanta
The solution was, pardon the pun, a solution.
On a lark I added carbonated water and created corpus callosum cola. I left a bucket of the fizzy stuff out for a zombie to find. Soon one came along and chugged it. A minute later and it began to panic. It was the first time anyone had seen a zombie show physical distress. Seriously, you could shoot off a zombie's arm and it wouldn't care, but something about the cola had it in agony. A minute later, it exploded!
That's when we learned that along with whatever other changes the virus caused, zombies had lost the ability to burp.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, August 22nd, 2022
Become a Member!

We hope you're enjoying Zombie Elixir by Lawrence M. Schoen.

Please support Daily Science Fiction by becoming a member.

Daily Science Fiction is not accepting memberships or donations at this time.

Rate This Story
Please click to rate this story from 1 (ho-hum) to 7 (excellent!):

Please don't read too much into these ratings. For many reasons, a superior story may not get a superior score.

5.4 Rocket Dragons Average
Share This Story
Join Mailing list
Please join our mailing list and receive free daily sci-fi (your email address will be kept 100% private):