Robert had no idea that there was a ginger tomcat sprawled across the drive of number forty-three, right in the path of his car. If he had known about it, he would have been horrified and would have put his foot on the brake far sooner than he did. As it was, he only became aware of the cat because of the soggy bump he felt as his onside front wheel ran over it, accompanied by a wet squelching sound which was audible even above the spluttering of his car’s pathetic one litre engine. At that point, he had no idea what he might have run over, but he was aware that he must have run over something. He put on the handbrake and pulled his key from the ignition and got out to investigate.
What Robert saw on the drive made him feel quite ill. It was a ginger cat which had a smug expression on its face, in spite of the fact that everything between its front legs and its hind legs had been squashed completely flat. There were the tell-tale tread-marks of Grip- Performer tyres running across the plate-like middle portion of the cat. Grip-Performers were the cheap brand of tyre which Robert always bought. A red pool was slowly forming beneath the body of Robert’s feline victim. The pool was circular and about two feet in diameter, and it was steadily getting bigger.
Robert felt guilty, almost as if he was now a murderer. He desperately wondered how he might be able to hide the evidence of his slaying of someone’s beloved pet. He noticed a privet hedge running along the side of his uncle’s half of the drive. Because Robert’s uncle was somewhat other-worldly, it seldom got trimmed and had become somewhat overgrown. Robert realised that he could conceal the cat beneath the privet hedge for the time being, and he thought that he might perhaps find a better way of dealing with the situation later, when he’d had more time to think.
He looked around to make sure that no-one could see what he was doing, and then he bent down to pick the cat up. He hesitated, because he didn’t like the thought of touching Henderson and possibly getting blood on his only suit. He straightened up and decided on a different approach.
Robert had been a promising winger when he’d played football at school. He now put his old footballing skills to good use. He quickly dribbled what remained of Henderson up the drive, and with a deft flick of his left foot, he booted Henderson under the privet hedge, where the dead cat was concealed beneath a patchwork of leaves, branches and shadows.
There was a zig-zag trail of blood pointing towards Henderson’s temporary resting place, but Robert reasoned that the blood would soon dry out in the evening sun, and would become almost invisible against the black tarmac of the drive.
Robert wiped his shoes clean on his uncle’s overgrown lawn and went up to the front door of the Victorian semi that his uncle lived in. He rang the bell and waited. He rang the bell again. He waited some more. He wasn’t worried by the length of time that his uncle was taking to come to the door. It was always like this. Uncle Ted found it so difficult to tear himself away from his projects that Robert sometimes had to pound on the windows and even telephone his uncle before he’d be let in. As it happened, on this occasion uncle Ted appeared at the door after only the fourth ringing of the bell.
When he saw Robert, he grinned and embraced him.
“Robert, my dear boy,” he said. “How delightful it is to see you. Do please come in.”
Robert followed his uncle into the gloomy hallway of the house. It smelled of damp, and, so far as Robert knew, it had never been decorated, at least not by his uncle. Everything in the house that wasn’t an item of technical equipment looked old and shabby, except for the basement, which his uncle had converted into a laboratory. That, at least, always looked freshly painted and was kept spotlessly clean.
“I got your text message, Uncle Ted,” Robert said. “It sounded like exciting news, so I thought I better come and see for myself what you’ve been up to.”
Uncle Ted led Robert through the hall to the dark kitchen at the back of the house.
“Thank you for coming to see me, Robert,” he said. “It is very exciting news. I can’t wait to show you my machine. I don’t know who else I’m going to show it to, though. I don’t know whether the world is ready yet for this sort of innovation.”
“The world probably isn’t ready, Uncle Ted,” said Robert. “It’s best to keep your discovery under wraps for now. There’s no telling how people would behave if they knew you could raise the dead. They’d probably all come clamouring to your door, wanting you to resurrect their dead friends and relatives for them, and that’s the last thing you want.”
“Good thinking,” he said. “I knew I could rely on you for sound advice, Robert. Would you like a cup of tea?”
Robert was bursting with curiosity about his Uncle’s invention, even though he thought it wouldn’t work. He didn’t want to waste any time on tea and idle chatter, because he couldn’t wait to see the machine in action. However, he still wanted to appear sociable.
“Yes, please, Uncle. I’ll have it white with no sugar.”
While Ted was brewing up, Robert took advantage of the opportunity to study him.
He was bald on top and had clumps of white hair sprouting from the sides of his head. He stooped slightly, and was wearing a white lab coat. Most importantly, he seemed no madder than Robert had remembered him from their last meeting, so perhaps there was just a glimmer of hope that Uncle Ted might not be completely out of his mind, and that he might even be onto something.
“Here you are, young man,” said Ted, putting two cracked and grubby mugs on the table.
“Thank you Uncle,” said Robert.
He raised one of the mugs to his lips then noticed the stains around the rim and put it down again.
“Now, about this invention of yours, The Lazarus Engine,” Robert said. “You’ve obviously finished it. How do you know that it works?”
“Because I’ve followed the scientific principles necessary to make sure that it will work,” said Uncle Ted.
“What I mean,” said Robert, “is this: have you tested it? If so, who have you raised from the dead?”
“No-one, of course,” said Uncle Ted. “You can’t go around raising people from the dead, can you? It wouldn’t be right, would it? There’s no telling where you’d end up. It’s like you’ve said, the next thing you’d know is that half of Croydon would be hammering at my door wanting me to resurrect their dead relatives.”
Robert’s heart sank. Now that he knew that the Lazarus Engine had never been tested, he knew that his fantasies of success in the TV industry would remain just that: idle fantasies.
Still, he was so desperate to hold onto his job that he felt he ought to push his uncle into testing the machine, even though he knew, deep down, that it was doomed to failure.
“I agree,” said Robert. “I’m not suggesting for an instant that you should go around raising all and sundry from the dead, but don’t you think you should conduct at least two full tests of your machine, in secret, to make sure that it works?”
“I suppose you’re right, Robert,” said Uncle Ted. “But why do we need two tests? Why not just one?”
“Well,” said Robert, “It wouldn’t be right to test it on a person straight away, because the process might go horribly wrong and cause distress. What we ought to do is to test it on an animal, a bit like the big cosmetic companies do with makeup. Then, if it all goes wrong, at least it’s only an animal that you’ve messed up, and you know not to test your machine on a human being. On the other hand, if it works on an animal, and the animal suffers no harm, we could go ahead and test it on a person.”
“Jolly good,” said Uncle Ted. “I like your approach, Robert. Now all we need to do is to find a dead animal.”
“I’ve already got one,” said Robert, helpfully.
Celebrity Chef Zombie Apocalypse is the story of the dead celebrity chef Floyd Rampant, who rises from his grave aiming to create a zombie army of chefs who will rule the world, using the human species as the main ingredient in their cordon bleu meals.
It is dark, original, and so funny it should carry a government health warning.
It is a gourmet feast, an unmissable read, and a black and poignant joke. Part horror story, part political and social satire, it gives the reader a fast-paced entrée of dread, a main course of panic and a dessert of distress.
CCZA, as it's known for short, has a cast of unforgettable characters, most of whom meet with gruesome ends. The action begins in Croydon, moves to London, and reaches its explosive climax in the author’s home town of Huddersfield.
This smart, witty and profound modern day classic works on many levels.
Reclusive author Jack Strange signed for Kensington Gore Publishing in early 2016 in blood, no-one is sure whose. He has a wife, poor woman, and two lovely daughters who can’t be named for legal reasons. Oh, and besides all that, Jack Strange lives in Huddersfield West Yorkshire. Need we say more?