Michele Lee delivers a compact little horror story in Rot, a novella that goes into the ramifications of people in society being able to bring back loved ones from the dead–only in this case, rather than true resurrection, it’s the capturing of a living spirit inside an otherwise still-dead body. Yes, folks, this is a zombie story, but one where the zombies retain sentience for as long as their bodies retain enough physical cohesion for their brains to work.
And this opens up a host of unhappy results as nursing homes for the undead crop up as locations to dump your resurrected zombie loved ones when you no longer want them. Not to mention the myriad unpleasant excuses for reviving your loved ones to begin with, such as Patrick, a gay young man who’s brought back by his fundamentalist Christian parents who promise to put him back in his grave if he’ll “repent”.
With this as a background, the story’s protagonist, Dean, a watchman at one of these zombie retirement homes, discovers that certain ones of the residents are going unaccounted for–and as he’s moved to investigate, he discovers that these zombies, already rendered pretty much non-people by the sad circumstances of their existence, are helpless prey for even darker motivations than the ones that put them there to start with.
What circumstances give society the ability to create zombies is only glossed over, but really, that’s fine; this story is short enough that that really doesn’t need to be explained in depth. The focus is where it rightfully belongs, on Dean, on Patrick, and upon Amy, who is the latest of the zombies in the facility to go missing. Dean must bring himself to trust Patrick enough to take him out of the facility with him as he tracks Amy down, and the dynamic between the two is very nicely done indeed.
All in all, it’s a tight little tale and worth checking out. Four stars.