Editor’s note: This is the 14th segment of “Earbud Evil,” a fictional story the Collegian is publishing daily until spring break. It follows Alex, a fictional K-State student, as he deals with a hidden threat to the university.
Though the names of real people will accompany made-up characters, all events are fictional. This is intended for entertainment and is not factually based.
Steven explained the situation to Wefald while Mattie and I peeled off the tape. The president took it pretty well for a man who’d just regained control after a day as a puppet.
“So, why are you releasing me now?” he asked. “Am I safe?”
We explained that he was cured, that something Lucas said had de-programmed him. The hard part was figuring out which words.
Mattie cracked open a window and repeated the miraculous sentence for all the Jayhawk zombies to hear.
“I get plenty of quail and deer,” she yelled. “Coyotes, too.” The crowd ran up to the windows and began smashing against the glass and screaming. A few panes were broken, and bloody hands reached through the holes and grabbed Wefald’s assistant. She screamed and wrangled her way out of her jacket while we pulled her to the center of the room.
We retreated into Anderson’s main hallway – which was empty, thankfully – knowing we didn’t have long before the mob would get inside.
“Mattie, say ‘coyote!'” I ordered.
She looked confused, and I said it again. She complied.
“Lucas, what’s the name of a wild animal that’s like a wolf but smaller?”
He also gave a confused look, but quickly obeyed.
“Coyote,” he said, and I realized the problem. Mattie was from the east coast, and though she was the daughter of two Kansans she didn’t have the accent of one and pronounced it “Kai-yo-tea.”
Lucas, however, was a Kansan and an ag major, and he said it the way non-urban Kansans say it: “Kai-yote.” The Kansan accent was the key to breaking the spell.
I grabbed Lucas and marched him back into the office. One zombified student had made it halfway into the room. I told Lucas to say it again. He didn’t hesitate.
“Coyotes!” he yelled. “Coyotes! Coyotes! Coyotes!”
The mindless crowd ceased its advance and fell to the ground. There wasn’t time to stick around and explain everything. We had to cure the rest of campus.
The rest of our crew had waited for us in the hallway.
“All right everybody, we need a way to make sure everyone on campus hears the word,” I said. “Ideas?”
Steven suggested the radio station, but we decided it wouldn’t work because no KU-loving zombie would tune in to hear “the Wildcat.”
Mattie said we should try the campus TV station, but it was nixed because no one watches that channel, period.
Wefald pointed to the floors above us and spoke with a spark in his voice.
“The carillon,” he said.
The man was right. Anderson’s electronic carillon wasn’t just 98 bells, but loudspeakers that amplify the sounds they make. If we could get to the microphone, we could cure anyone in the tower’s massive range. It took us several minutes once we’d reached the second floor before we found the staircase that led to the carillon. I stopped when I was about 10 paces from the door; there was a light coming out of the room.
I crept closer to the door and peered into the crack. There was a pair of young men in there. One tall and thick, the other short and gangly.
They were whispering into a little box that was wired to the microphone. I listened closer.
“Go now and find your friends, tell them to try out the podcast,” the thin one said. “Tell them it’s perfect for real K-State fans.”
We’d found the puppeteers. It looked like we’d get our second and third objectives at the same time.
I whispered the find to Steven, Mattie and Lucas. We knew what we had to do.
I went in first with one baseball bat and put it into the big guy’s shoulder like I was going for left field. Steven came in next with the other bat and did the same thing to the tiny guy’s hands he’d done to the assistant’s telephone.
The large one grabbed his arm and made a break for the door, where his groin was introduced to Mattie’s knee. He staggered and fell. His partner had already been on the ground, clutching his shattered digits.
“Lucas, get in here,” I said as we prepared the microphones. “You’re a politician, so start talking.”
Talk, he did. The student body president launched into a mindless story with only one purpose: every tenth word was “coyote.”
The big guy must have felt better about his pummeled privates, because he stood up and shuffled down the stairs.
“He’s getting away!” Steven, master of the obvious, yelled as we ran after him.
A fist caught the fugitive square on the nose when he reached the base. He fell backward, hit his head on the floor, and took a nap.
“You have no idea how good that felt!” Wefald yelled from the base of the stairs, shaking the sting out of his hand.