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  • Doc { Great read, hope there's more soon. } – Jan 02, 6:51 AM
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    All The Dead Are Here - Pete Bevan's zombie tales collection


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    WARNING: Stories on this site may contain mature language and situations, and may be inappropriate for readers under the age of 18.

    AMERICAN NIGHTMARE By Lilah Wild
    May 2, 2013  Short stories   

    The first thing I saw was pink satin, bunches and bunches of pink satin, and I raised a fist covered in white lace and rotting flesh and, oh, damn you Mom, damn you, you always took advantage of me when I was at my most vulnerable and you knew the only time you could dress me up like a pretty little princess was when I was DEAD, at my FUNERAL, not the fuck-you blaze I wanted to go out in at all but I couldn’t stop you, could I…I’m really hungry.

    I pushed against the coffin lid, shit, for a corpse, I’m pretty strong. Dirt tumbled in but I didn’t need to breathe anymore and I swam up through it, burst through cemetery grass. All around me, other heads twisted and turned in a morbid ocean. Some of them had climbed all the way out and were staggering around the graveyard in tuxedos, pissing formaldehyde through satin gowns. A few more pushes, and I was up there with them.

    I looked at my tombstone. Trisha Bell, Beloved Daughter. Yeah, right. Whip up the waterworks, Mom, center of attention, oh what a fucking tragedy.

    First order of business: Find Sammy, who would be in here. Then Soraya, who would not. Not yet, anyway.

    Sammy. My man. Perpetual cigarette in his heart-shaped mouth, slicking back his hair like a direct descendant of the T-Birds, the world’s most beautiful snarl. Mine all mine.

    It happened on Soraya’s first night skating with the Rochdale Rollergirls. Our newest recruit, Number 33, ladies and gentlemen, give it up for DURGAAAAA DESTRUCTIOOOOOON! Soraya in the limelight, making fists and gliding around the rink to Slayer. Cheers from the home side, howls from the Danfield DevilDolls. I was three weeks away from turning eighteen and joining her, after a summer scraping our knees in her driveway, laughing and falling down, gradually streamlining our bodies into fierce, clean speed down her street. She was all business that night, gritting her teeth among her fellow blockers, crowding up the other team’s jammer while ours flew ahead, racking up lap after lap of points and delirious applause. Sammy and I were cruising to the victory afterparty in his Mustang. The top was down, the Black Widows were howling from the stereo as we recounted all the brawls. Life was good. Ahead of us, an SUV full of yahooing fratboys lost control and jerked all over the road. Ka-POW! That’s the last thing I remembered.

    I looked down at myself. The first thing that had to go were the puffed sleeves at my shoulders, pure Cinderella, barf. Then, let’s shorten up that hem a bit, shall we? Clawed a hand inside a wad of fabric, ripped myself a nice tattered miniskirt, goth chic. Ran a hand through my hair. The clot that came away was dyed brown. So they’d taken away my skunk stripe, too. Damn them all.

    Sammy and I had been to a few zombie proms in our lives, some club made over with spiderwebs and stage blood streaking down from everyone’s mouth. Tiny ice brains in the punchbowl and there was always raw meat floating around somewhere. Bands from the west coast whipping up the crowd with standup basses and bad attitude, moshpits full of reincarnated greasers, the stage slicked with globs of tobacco juice.

    This: a full moon shining on the well-kept lawns of Rochdale Cemetery. Richly attired bodies shambling forward like drunks at a wedding reception, gaping mouths and twitching limbs. Fluids splattered along the flagstones along with castoff body parts. And there was an unholy amount of groaning. A blue-haired matron slammed her hands angrily against the ground, unable to pull herself up from her burial plot. Teenage girl in a dress just like mine (what, was some funeral fashion boutique having a fucking sale?), gunshot wound bloodying the back of her blonde head. Pretty white lace to cover it all up. And there were infants. Squirming like plump grubs along the earth, wailing for bottles of blood.

    I looked up at the sky. Space accident? Chemical gas? We walked above the ground once more. Who fucking cared?

    I tried not to trip over coffin lids sticking up from the grass, puddles of torn finery littering the paths, some bones too, people who’d been in here a lot longer than me. I smacked my parched mouth, wanted something alive and struggling in it. Scanned the landscape for any hint of my man.

    And there: short blonde hair, pinstriped suit (they’d dressed him in a pinstriped suit? The fucking nerve…), even in death, that bad-boy strut. Oh! My heart would have jumped if it still beat. And as I tottered towards him, I could feel everything I was missing: strappy heels beneath my feet, the swing of silver rhinestone hoops against my cheeks. The weight of my bowling bag on my arm, little portable world of lipstick, gum, smokes, all my vices. Gone. We fell into each other, just like we’d done at hundreds of shows. Opened my mouth to speak but only moaning came out.

    (Trish!)

    Sammy!

    (We live!)

    We are zombies!

    (Braaaaains!)

    Fuck yeah, baby.

    A squeal of rubber erupted across the road below. An Iroc-Z, trying not to hit the zombies who had wandered out of the cemetery gates and into the street. Firehouse red with the stereo jacked, AMERICA: LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT sticker plastered across the back bumper as it jumped the curb and crashed into a fence. A big burly guy in camo sweatpants and a mullet smacked the door open against a tree. Dance music spilled from the wreck of his car, honey just love me, honey just hold me, dance with me all niiiiiiiight…the kind of guy who had given me and Sammy crap on our walks home from the club, speeding by safe from any retaliation, hey skunk-girl, Halloween’s in October, haw haw haw!

    Gym-sculpted monster chest all puffed up ready to kick some ass, “Alright! You in the road, who’s gonna pay for this? Who’s…oh my…God…”

    He’d been so lost behind his tinted windows he hadn’t noticed the pedestrians were dead. He started backing away, into the car, like that was gonna help him now, backed himself into his little death trap and the entire graveyard ran over. The scent of live frightened meat in the air was irresistible, and I was surprised by how fast I could move when I wanted to. Rotting bodies swarmed the driver’s side, we pushed around the hood, trying to find a space, discovered motion in the passenger seat. A shake of frizzy curls, sparkling gold chains, her French manicure pressed to her cheeks as she screamed her head off. Twin sister to the big-haired rich bitches who tripped me and Soraya with hockey sticks during gym glass, who scrawled SKANK SKUNK on my locker, screaming out the car windows right along with their musclehead boyfriends. Smirks and giggles as noxious as their floral perfume. Floating on daddy’s money, safe in their cliques and their social-climbing and that wasn’t enough, they had to rip down whatever we had, too.

    I smashed my hands through her window, glass like thin ice, and I pulled her out of the car by her throat, threw her against the ground. The kind of face that usually held disdain, now contorted with sheer terror, snobbery withered helpless and pathetic at my feet. A delicacy.

    Sammy went for her head as I bit into her stomach. Skin that had spent months lying in tanning booths, no idea she’d been getting herself ready for us like gift wrapping. Joyous wash of hot blood against my face, boiling with fear, as I gnawed her belly open, cracked her ribs, caught her internal organs between my teeth. Her screams died out as others came, pulled her apart with crabbed hands, opened her torso into a gruesome buffet. Zombies too far away to get a taste moaned ravenously as we worked her down to a slop of gore and bones.

    Honey just love me, honey just hold me, you’re all I’ll ever neeeeeeeeeeed…

    Sammy raised his head, mouth stained crimson. Quick flash back to all the nights we’d painted our eyes hollow, danced in a rain of corn syrup while a guitar wailed on. Nothing left.

    We wandered away from the crowd, through the fence, into someone’s field.

    (Second chance.)

    Life.

    (Yeah.)

    Sammy. Profane, opinionated, you can’t back down, baby, you have to stand up to those fuckers or they’ll never stop pushing you. We were gonna fly away in his ghost-white Mustang. He’d spent our junior year restoring it, grease-stained and grinning, we’ll get the fuck out of here, we’ll go to California. He would play guitar in a death-psycho-surf band, and I would ink the most amazing tattoos, and we would road-trip to whatever college Soraya ended up in.

    Now, shambling around with our flesh falling off was the closest we’d get to happily ever after.

    It was like we’d been sleeping for the past couple months or however long we’d been dead and we were getting a bonus round. It wouldn’t last long, I knew that. Already a couple more cars had crashed into the mess behind us.

    Soraya.

    (Soraya.)

    Miss her.

    (She’s not far.)

    Let’s go.

    #

    A herd of cows up ahead, chewing grass and mooing softly in the dark. Didn’t hunger for them at all. I wanted to run my hands along their smooth backs, warm life, but they ran away from us, scattered. Can’t blame them. I would have scared me, too.

    We went back, me and Soraya. The quiet girl in my Social Studies class, shyly asking to borrow my CD’s, swapping me Bollywood techno for Joan Jett. Keeping each other in a steady supply of kohl eyeliner, our arms accumulating a gradual friendship-bracelet fusion of jingling glass bangles and pleather studded cuffs. Sharing textbooks, lunches, dance moves. The same unfortunate luck to be born in Rochdale.

    Enemies, too.

    I knew what kinds of problems would be crawling out right now, I’d seen all the movies. Mass hysteria. Doomsday scenarios. Scapegoats, inevitable. The mob always had to have someone to blame, no matter how farfetched. I had Sammy by my side, now I had to find out if Soraya was doing alright in this mess.

    We reached the woods at the end of the field. Nice and dark, good cover. There was a trail through the trees that connected everybody’s backyards and would get us to Soraya’s place unseen. Lights in windows as we walked on down, telltale blue flicker of TV sets. A large flat-screen up in someone’s bedroom was tuned to a talking head. A news graphic beside her face: UNDEAD?  No, our time up here wouldn’t last long at all. We hauled ass, pieces of rot flying off as we went.

    CLICK-CLICK!

    (Fuck.)

    “Well if it ain’t the greasy greaser and his little skanky skunk. Ha, ha! Look at them now, real zombies!”

    Eric and Doug. Bullies, smirking creeps, the worst kind of assholes – their swagger was a total pose, spoiled suburban lowlifes who treated hiphop like a brand new wing of the mall to shoplift from. Sitting on Eric’s back porch with the police scanner, laughing over the domestic violence reports, walking around the woods taking turns sticking Doug’s gun in their waistbands, their turf war never escalating farther than unlucky housepets.

    Doug got on Soraya the first time she put colors in her hair. Blue streaks braided into all that long curling black, what, are you tryin’ to be punk rock now? muttered in the back of class, You think that makes you look cool? Doesn’t matter what you try to hide in, you’ll always be a terrorist pig, and I turned around, no wonder you’re flunking, you ignorant dumbfuck as I smashed him across the face. I got detention for a week but he never said shit to her again.

    Doug pointed the gun at us.

    “Bitch, I have been waiting for this day –”

    I sprang at him, knocked the gun from his hand, pushed him to the ground. Savored the look of pants-pissing fear in his eyes before I tore out his throat, chewed down to the telltale voice that would rat us out. Oh, so fucking good. Wet heavenly red spattered my face, spiced with the acid sting of adrenaline. I drew muscle from bone, slaughterhouse sized for a serving of one, submerged my face in the gushing paradise of his spinal cord.

    (No! Tri–)

    Two gunshots in fast, frightened succession.

    Chunks of flesh hit my cheek. I looked up.

    Sammy lay across the trail, headless. Eric’s hands trembled around the gun as he swung it in my direction. I rose up above Doug’s cooling body, bared my teeth at the toady.

    You killed my man.

    Eric fired, but it hit my shoulder. Worthless sniveling scum, Sammy deserved better than to get taken down by a two-bit coward like you and I jumped him, threw my arms around his neck and smothered him with grave dirt, rotting skin, Doug’s innards, choked him on the pungent grime of my body. Down he went, yelling, heaving as I banged his head on the ground, shut up, shut up, shut your worthless shit-spewing mouth, years of rage streaming into my fists until one furious slam bashed his skull apart. His brains leaked out across the dirt like a hearty stew. A mind that hated me, now cracked open and beckoning me to the sweetest feast of my life. I bent down, as if to kiss his forehead, and buried myself in his cranium.

    I was licking the blood from my hands, delicate as a cat, when I heard sirens, off in the street but not that far away. The crosshairs were drawing closer. I would not let myself get wasted by a cop or somebody stupid.

    Get moving.

    #

    Still that giant flag on the side of Soraya’s house, fuck, it’s been there for years now, ever since the death threats.  We’re good Americans! Don’t hurt us! I remember my mom’s snotty pointed questions, well, how do you know they’re just Hindu? DIY panic rooms, duct tape, plastic sheeting. Rochdale protected itself from the axis of evil. Soraya’s family protected themselves from Rochdale.

    I tripped up their back lawn, up to Soraya’s window set above the rose beds. We’d spent an afternoon helping her mom plant them, mango lemonade, Pat Benatar on the rock station, bronze lawn Ganesh presiding over our hard work. I stretched my hands up, come out Soraya, Sammy’s got the new Grave Babies CD, it’s a beautiful night for mischief, come out and play…

    The memory shattered as I smacked my hands against the glass. Bulletproof, I remembered the workers installing it, no chance of breaking my way in.

    The curtains parted like a little stage. Past my smeared handprints, everything looked just as I’d remembered it. Her room swathed in jewel toned fabrics, a nest of silk veils she sometimes conjured her clothes from. Books and CD’s thrown everyplace, as always. Beloved skates hanging over her closet door. She stepped into view.

    I went wild. I wanted to hug her as badly as I wanted to bite her. Blood glowed in her face. Her eyes were wide, shocked, framed by fuschia curls. New colors. I was dying to know how her life had gone on, even as I hungered to snap her fingers off and eat them.

    She backed up, wearing her ROLL OUT WITH YOUR HOLE OUT shirt that she hid from her folks. Which meant she was alone. Oh, how I wanted to leap up into her room, barricade ourselves in the house with shotguns and radios and endless strategizing. Call all our friends, all the greaserpunks and derbygirls, pool our food, stockpile ammo, survive.

    But I was the monster now.

    Distant shouting, more gunshots. Dogs barking. I was among the hunted tonight, on borrowed time that was fast running out.

    And then I saw it. The helmet. It sat on her bed, Rochdale’s signature black with a huge silver star on the side. The jammer’s crown. You sure as hell don’t earn that little piece of equipment if you’re afraid of getting hurt, when your job is to break through sharp-elbowed packs of skating amazons. Soraya hung out with women who risked knocking their teeth out every time they practiced together. A new gang was getting her back.

    I saw her chest heave with breath, tantalizing me with the circulation of her blood. And then my eyes stopped at the gun in her hand. Shit.

    There had been rumors, amid the alarm systems, the self-defense classes. I’d never asked. Bullies that big, after Soraya’s family, it was their business how to handle them.

    Still, the answer glinting in her hand, it broke my heart they’d been pushed that far.

    She put one hand on the window, up against mine. Summer sunshine, uncontrollable laughter, our hands grasping together before our kneepads hit the driveway yet again, all of it just a flicker before cold concentration took over her eyes. The face set for the Erics and Dougs of the world. And for whatever else might come oozing up to her house tonight, survivalist assholes or gawping mouths of the undead. I was so glad to see the steel in her features. Even if it was me she had to point the gun at.

    If she could kill me, she’d be OK.

    And if anyone was going to kill me…

    Goodbye, Trish, she whispered, and kissed her side of the glass. Lip prints. I dragged my hand across them.

    Her thumb slid over the window’s lock, and she slammed the pane open, three shots bang bang bang straight into my skull. Final thought as my brains splattered all over the roses: it wasn’t some wannabe thug that aimed for my head, Soraya, I’m glad it was you.

    15 Comments

    1. Bravo!

      Comment by Max rockastansky on May 2, 2013 @ 4:43 pm

    2. And if I may. I would like to second Max’s remark, Bravo Sir.

      Comment by John the Piper's Son on May 3, 2013 @ 1:30 am

    3. I enjoyed it, two of my favorite things. Zombies and Roller Derby.

      Comment by Gunldesnapper on May 3, 2013 @ 6:50 am

    4. Outstanding!!! Best piece I’v read so far. WOW!

      Comment by Matt on May 3, 2013 @ 11:23 am

    5. One of the best zombie POVs I’ve ever read. Damned good stuff, Lilah. More, please!

      Comment by Craig Y on May 3, 2013 @ 3:32 pm

    6. Terrific! Great pacing and strong, likeable main character. Nice terse descriptive passages. Hardly a word wasted. Bravo, indeed.

      Comment by KevinF on May 3, 2013 @ 4:11 pm

    7. These zombies are pretty smart…
      and highly eloquent too.
      I have the writer to thank for that.

      Comment by bong on May 3, 2013 @ 4:11 pm

    8. Loved this story. The links to the human world, the memories of friendships doing battle with natural impulses made for a really heart felt emotional plot . Love your work.

      Comment by Craig on May 3, 2013 @ 6:16 pm

    9. What an excellent tale! Nice!

      Comment by abe on May 4, 2013 @ 3:33 pm

    10. So visual! Really enjoyed this. It was gory but because of how it was written is was kinda beautiful? Does that make sense? The words played so nicely.

      Comment by Justin Dunne on May 5, 2013 @ 7:41 am

    11. The Richland County Regulators are my favorite derby team here in South Carolina. They are a bunch of wicked women who go out and put on a great performance when they have matches. My kids love them and they are always gracious to their fans. Having said that, the use of roller derby girls and terminology in this piece made me feel right at home.

      So many writers mess up when they use this style of writing, that thought pattern style. It is not easy to pull off, but you did a terrific job of giving us Trish’s thoughts without all the extra fluff that wouldn’t have been there in real life. It was so easy to read and follow and feel–Trish’s angst at the beginning and her sadness at the end were palpable. Very good writing.

      Now I do have one question for you: do you roller derby?

      Comment by A.J. Brown on May 6, 2013 @ 11:42 am

    12. This is amazing!

      Comment by Brandi on May 7, 2013 @ 8:44 pm

    13. Great short story Lilah! The attitude of the protagonist really came through. Looking forward to reading more of your work.

      Comment by David on May 10, 2013 @ 3:29 pm

    14. Haven’t been on in awhile, nice to see some great stories up and running….er, rotting. And roller derby to boot! Very nice!

      Comment by Retrobuck on June 10, 2013 @ 10:40 pm

    15. This sounds like a different, more eloquent take on the ‘aware zombie’ angle. I’d like to see more of this, definitely!

      Comment by JohnT on July 28, 2013 @ 9:38 pm

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