The hunter was a sturdy man with brown hair and a mustache. His spectacles made him look like he belonged in a library yet his frame was built for the frontier.
A rainstorm earlier that day turned the forest floor to mud. He trudged along for awhile until he saw it – a fresh bear track.
He knelt down and examined it. “Hmm. Yes.”
He pushed a finger into the dirt then sniffed it. “Fresh. You couldn’t have gotten far you rapscallion.”
The hunter rose to his feet and pressed on, deep into the forest, rifle in his hands at the ready.
Surrounded by nature, he felt at home. At peace. He stopped momentarily to close his eyes and allow the fresh air to fill his lungs. Alas, his respite was interrupted.
“Master Roosevelt!” called an old man. “Master Roosevelt!”
Disgusted, Roosevelt did his best to ignore his unexpected visitor and followed the line of bear tracks.
“Master Roosevelt!” the old man called. “Please take pity and slow your pace, sir!”
Roosevelt did no such thing. Eventually, the old man caught up to him and huffed and puffed as he struggled to keep up.
“How did you even find me, Humphrey?” Roosevelt asked.
“Your esteemed father, sir,” Humphrey answered. “He bid me to find for you and not to dare show my face at your family’s estate until I do so. I’ve made inquiries at every trading post and tavern in the vicinity until I finally met some fur traders who did some business with you and pointed me in this direction.”
“Blasted Frenchmen!” Roosevelt said. “And what news do you bring, man?”
Humphrey withdrew a crinkled up piece of paper from his pocket and started to read. “A letter from your father, sir. Dear Theodore…”
“Summarize the most salient points,” Roosevelt said.
“In short,” Humphrey said. “Your father bids that you cease these adventures that you are always going on, that you stop, and I quote, ‘trying to be the wild jungle man from Borneo’ and come home to take your place at the family business as you were always meant to.”
“Balderdash!” Roosevelt cried. He stopped, which provided Humphrey with great relief, as he needed a rest. “Look around you, Humphrey. Have you ever seen a land as beautiful as this?”
“It was beautiful for the first few moments, sir,” Humphrey said. “But between the multiple blisters on my feet and voluminous insect bites on my person, I must say the beauty has lost its appeal to me.”
Much to Humphrey’s chagrin, Roosevelt started walking again. Humphrey continued his pursuit.
“Well, you’ll just have to disappoint him, Humphrey,” Roosevelt said. “For I shall never return to New York. My home is here in the great outdoors.”
“Master Roosevelt,” Humphrey said. “Most assuredly, it is beyond my lowly station to say this but I have served you since you were a mere babe so might I inquire, am I wrong in feeling that you and I have a rapport that would allow me to speak freely?”
“You are correct in feeling that way, Humphrey,” Roosevelt said.
“Excellent,” Humphrey said. “Sir, might I then inquire as to whether or not these expeditions of yours are more about proving to the schoolyard bullies of your youth that you are no longer the asthmatic bookworm they so enjoyed making sport of and that you are instead, now a specimen of vim and vigor?”
“Of course not, Humphrey,” Roosevelt replied. “Don’t waste my time with such poppycock.”
“I apologize, sir,” Humphrey said. “My only point was that I hope you know that you have proven your worthiness to all who love you and therefore opinions of those from days long gone by should be of little consequence.”
“I’ve never given those ruffians a second thought,” Roosevelt said.
The forest floor ended and turned into a ten foot drop which in turn, became a steep embankment that went on for as far as the eye could see.
Humphrey persisted. “Even so sir, I must insist…”
“Shh!” Roosevelt spotted it. A majestic black bear resting on its hindquarters straight below.
Roosevelt dropped to the ground, flat on his stomach in a prone position.
Without taking his eyes off his prey, the hunter reached up, grabbed hold of Humphrey’s coat and pulled on it until the old man relented and joined his master in the muck.
“Sir, your father will be very cross…”
“Not another word,” Roosevelt whispered angrily.
The hunter trained the sights of his rifle at the bear’s head.
“I’ve got you now, bear.”
Roosevelt pulled the trigger. Click. Nothing. His gun was jammed.
“Blast,” Roosevelt said as he stood up.
“Most unfortunate, sir,” Humphrey said. “But if we could now make our way to the nearest train station…”
Roosevelt drew a long knife out of a sheath on his belt, then rested his free hand on his man servant’s shoulder. “Take care of yourself, Humphrey.”
Without giving it a second thought, Roosevelt threw himself off the cliff and landed on his quarry’s back.
The bear roared as Roosevelt grabbed hold of its fur. “I’ll have none of your back-sass, bear!”
Roosevelt raised his knife high in the air only to drop it when the bear bucked about wildly. The hunter held on with all his might until the bear reared backward and threw his attacker off.
The bear hauled a paw back and swiped at Roosevelt, who rolled out of the way just in time.
Roosevelt rolled up his sleeves and took a boxer’s stance. “Ahh, so it’s fisticuffs, is it?”
The bear rose up on its hind lags to stand at its full length, then slapped its two front paws down at Roosevelt, who dodged certain death yet again.
“You’ve asked for it now, bear!” Roosevelt shouted as he landed a punch right into the bear’s nose. “Don’t say you weren’t warned!”
The bear’s roar echoed throughout the forest. It’s teeth were sharp. It’s breath reeked. Roosevelt was unfazed as he sailed an upper cut right into the bear’s jaw, followed by a good solid left hook.
“Relent, bear!” Roosevelt shouted. “This will only get worse for you!”
The bear charged. Roosevelt ducked out of the way then grabbed hold of the bear’s side and climbed onto its back.
The embankment grew steeper and steeper. The bear kept running until it reached such a fast pace that it was unable to stop. With Roosevelt holding on for dear life, the bear just kept running until…SMASH!
The bear’s face planted into the side of a brick wall. Its neck snapped. Its body collapsed. It was no more.
Roosevelt inspected his kill. Moments later, Humphrey arrived on the scene.
“Oh Master Roosevelt! Thank goodness you’re all right.”
“What do you think, Humphrey?” Roosevelt asked. “Shall I just mount the head on the wall in my den next to the wild boar or turn the entire carcass into a lovely throw rug?”
“Your wall is already cluttered with many the head of a wild beast, sir,” Humphrey said. “And I thought you said you weren’t going home.”
“I never said I wouldn’t visit.”
Roosevelt looked up at the wall. It went on farther than he could see.
“What in God’s name is this monstrosity?”
“Oh yes,” Humphrey said. “You’ve been away from civilization for quite some time. You see, the West has been zombed sir and…”
“What?” Roosevelt asked. “It’s been what?”
“Zombed,” Humphrey repeated. “Filled with dead men who continue to walk long after they’ve expired.”
Roosevelt squinted his eyes at Humphrey. “Preposterous!”
“Indeed, yet quite true, sir.”
Roosevelt looked around. Hundreds of workmen hustled about, carrying tools, bricks, lumber and building materials. Twenty feet down the wall, a large scaffold had been erected and workers were building the wall even taller.
The hunter and his servant walked along the side of the wall for awhile until they saw two soldiers manning a post at the top of the wall.
“Hold on,” Roosevelt said. “I’ll get to the bottom of this. You there!”
The first guard turned around. “Who goes there?”
“Theodore Roosevelt,” the hunter replied. “As a citizen of these United States, I demand to know what’s going on!”
“Fuck off,” was the first guard’s reply.
Outraged, Roosevelt grabbed a long ladder that was resting against the side of the wall and straightened it so that it reached where the two guards were standing.
“Hold it steady, Humphrey!”
“Master Roosevelt, I do not think this is such a good idea.”
As he watched his master climb up the ladder, Humphrey gave up on arguing and held the ladder with both hands.
Roosevelt reached the top of the wall and stood up. “Gentlemen. This fortification has blocked my passage to the Mississippi River. I demand you remove it at once!”
“Can’t,” the first guard replied.
“Why not?” Roosevelt asked.
“Zombies,” the second guard said.
“Zombies?” Roosevelt asked.
The first guard handed Roosevelt a spy glass. “Have a look see.”
Roosevelt peered through the spy glass at the shoreline, where three particularly disgusting zombies tromped toward the wall. The guards opened fire, bursting their hideous heads open.
“You’re killing them!” Roosevelt said.
“They’re already dead,” the first guard said.
“We’re just putting them out of their misery,” the second guard added.
“My word,” Roosevelt said. “In all my life I have never seen such wretched creatures. How did this happen?”
“I haven’t got the time or the patience to explain it to you,” the first guard said.
Roosevelt looked through the spy glass again. A young couple, a man and a woman, drifted across the river on a raft made out of logs tied together.
“Turn back!” the first guard shouted.
“We can’t!” the young man shouted from his raft. “There’s fucking zombies over there!”
The first guard fired a warning shot that landed in the water a foot away from the raft. “The next one’s at your head!”
“What are you doing, man?” Roosevelt asked. “Those people are in need of help!”
“We’ve got our orders,” the first guard said. “Everyone from across the river is either a zombie or a suspected zombie and is to be treated as such. No exceptions.”
“This is an outrage,” Roosevelt said.
“Climb back down or we’ll throw you off,” the second guard said.
“No,” Roosevelt said. “Sirs, I shall have you know that as a member in good standing of the Republican party, I protest what you are doing here.”
“Oh for fuck’s sake,” the first guard said. “A Republican!”
“Bunch of bleeding heart do-gooders,” the second guard said.
“Yes!” Roosevelt said. “Bleeding heart do-gooders are we, for the Grand Ole Party carries the mantle of Lincoln, who fought boldly and gave his life to abolish the dreadful institution of slavery. Our party cares so much for the downtrodden masses that we lobbied for equal rights protections for them in the Constitution.”
“I don’t got all day to listen to your Republican nonsense,” the first guard sense.
“And yet listen to it you shall, sir,” Roosevelt said. “For the Republicans have earned their status as champions of all poor, unfortunate souls and so ingrained is our place in the American psyche that I dare say that even one hundred and fifty years from now, whenever people ask, ‘Who will help those in the minority?’ the answer will most assuredly be, ‘the Republican party!'”
“I’ve heard enough,” the first guard said. “Down you go.”
“This is not right, sir,” Roosevelt said. “The people across that wall need our assistance. The proper response for government is to utilize its resources to help them, not to build a wall and turn them away.”
The guards pointed their guns at Roosevelt.
“Fine!” Roosevelt started to climb down the ladder, but not without adding. “But do not think for one moment you have heard the last word about this from me, sirs!”
Moments later, Roosevelt reached the ground. He did not skip a beat. He stormed off. Humphrey followed.
“Something amiss, sir?”
Roosevelt turned around, stared at the wall, and tossed his hands into the air. “I have now found my true purpose in life, Humphrey. As God as my witness, I shall rise through the ranks of politics, ascending even to the Presidency of the United States if need be and I shall not rest until this wall has been torn down and the full might of our army is dispatched to bring an end to all zombies from sea to shining sea.”
“A most noble calling, sir,” Humphrey said.
“Indeed,” Roosevelt said as he walked away. “Skin my bear and meet me at the nearest train station, will you?”