Below is an excerpt from my short zombie story EMINENT DOMAIN.
Mitchell Leyritz couldn’t believe his luck. There was one box of green tea facial mask left in his mother’s bathroom cabinet. The last time he invaded her stash of beauty supplies to cull together a zombie ensemble, she promised if he tried it again, she’d ground him for life.
But Mom was out of town and Mitchell knew he’d have plenty of time to replace the pasty green gunk. He also knew there would be scores of kids slathered in white grease paint, fake blood and latex. Mitchell wanted to stand out. He hoped as the mask dried it would become cracked and crusty, rendering the putrescent look of decay he desired.
Mitchell had been on a college tour and missed out on the last Zombie March, the big one held each year on Halloween. If the newspaper was right and Shorefront Equities had its way, the city permit’s department would put an end to the twice-yearly tradition. In a full page editorial, Jerry Mumphries was quoted as saying, “A lot of people already think of Asbury Park as a zombie. It keeps coming back to life only to falter time and time again due to a lack of brains. We don’t need our citizens running around as reanimated corpses, reinforcing that image.”
Today’s rally of the pretend undead was intended as a giant “fuck you” to Mumphries and all the developers who were wielding a sledge hammer of change in the community, with little regard for anything other than lining their pockets. What better way for the restless and politically conscious youth to rain on the asshole’s parade, than to lurch their way through his ribbon cutting ceremony. Because the organizers had been denied permission to assemble and were already threatened with hefty fines, word of the march spread off-line, via text messages and breathless cell phone calls.
The small but enthusiastic group, maybe one hundred total, gathered in the morning chill on a beach just north of the Asbury city line. Like Mitchell, they arrived in various states of decomposition. There would be no special makeovers today, no vendors or brain eating contests. Not even a Thriller dance. Today’s mission was simple: disrupt and dismay the powers that be.
Chad Hiller, the lead zombie marcher, addressed his fellow ghouls. “We’ll stay on the beach, cut underneath Convention Hall and access the boardwalk on the other side. If we run into any rent-a-cops, just shamble on by them and try to get as close as you can to the ceremony. ”
Chad’s girlfriend Amy raised a prosthetic limb and asked, “And if we run into any real cops?”
“Eat their brains!” someone yelled from the back.
Chad and Amy were superstars in the world of zombie marchers. Chad had given Mitchell the idea of burying his clothes in the backyard for four days prior to a walk in order to give his costume an authentic risen-from-the-grave aroma. Mitchell made sure he was in the front of the crowd so he could walk beside the couple or at least be as near as possible.
“If a real cop stops you, follow their orders,” Chad advised. “There’s a difference between undead and real dead. We don’t want anyone getting hurt.”
Convention Hall loomed ahead as the march kicked off. While the zombie marchers knew there was a specific goal set forth for them today, most were happy just oozing their synthetic body fluids and flaunting their rubber wounds. A few found staying in character a bit challenging. Being a zombie on asphalt and concrete was one thing, but trying to lurch with realism in the sand was another.
“That’s weird,” Mitchell overheard Chad say to Amy. “I thought they’d have at least a few security guards patrolling the boards.”
Chad was looking toward the boardwalk, where it intersected with the south entrance of Convention Hall’s arcade. Even with the arcade closed for the ceremony, normally there would at least be people from the condos walking their dogs or taking in the ocean view. There wasn’t a living soul in sight to greet them as the parade of zombie marchers advanced through the sand.
Mitchell cleared his throat and offered, “Maybe Gifted Zelda and friends are kicking up a shit storm on the other side of the Hall, and the cops needed all units to respond.”
“Yeah, maybe,” Chad said, glancing over. “Nice job with the mud.”
Mitchell’s heart leapt in his chest.
“Next time, add some maggots or a couple of worms.”
“Thanks, I will!” Mitchell envisioned himself hanging out with Chad and Amy at the after party. He quickly edited the fantasy to include a girlfriend for himself. Maybe if he had one before the next zombie march, it could actually happen. If there was a next zombie march.
“What the hell is that?” Amy asked, pointing her limb toward the arcade entrance.
Mitchell and Chad looked over and saw a figure standing in an open doorway. From a distance, it looked like a tall naked man wearing a red cap.
A middle-aged zombie marcher standing behind Chad shouted, “Looks like someone’s trying to bring back streaking!”
Chad shrugged, “Whatever,” and gestured for everyone to follow him. Abandoning their lumbering gait, the group moved quickly from the sand and onto the boardwalk.
As they got closer, Mitchell could see the man in the doorway wasn’t just sans apparel. It appeared he was missing all of his skin as well. What Mitchell thought was a red cap on the man’s head, now had the definite appearance of an exposed brain.
Chad called out to the skinned man, “Dude, if we were having a best effects contest, you’d so totally win.”
Jealous, but none-the-less impressed, Mitchell muttered, “How did he do that?”
“I don’t think he’s one of us,” Amy said with caution in her voice. “I mean, how did he get inside the Hall? And where is security?”
“I don’t know,” Chad said, a huge grin cracking the pancake make-up on his cheeks. “But that is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.”
The skinned man stepped back from the doorway and let the zombie walkers through. The participants bringing up the rear tried the other doors, but found they were locked. The sun was out, but the late March breeze was icy and they longed for a respite from the elements. Patiently, they waited to enter the arcade single file.
In the swath of sunlight beaming down from the windows above, Chad stood in front of the skinnedman and looked him up and down. Pointing at the scrotumless testicles dangling like earrings from either side of the skinned man’s penis, Chad laughed and marveled, “That’s some pretty sick attention to detail.”
The skinned man lunged forward and grabbed Chad’s head with both hands. “What the fuck?” Chad protested, still half laughing.
The expression on the skinned man’s face remained unchanged. His glassy eyes stared ahead, and the raw muscles and tendons on his cheeks and jaw line remained frozen in place. The bony tips of his fingers dug into Chad’s skin, instantly drawing blood. Chad screamed in pain. The onlookers realized this wasn’t a joke.
Frightened and confused, Mitchell stood motionless and watched as Amy rushed to Chad’s side. Two zombie marchers flew past him and tried to help her free Chad from the skinned man’s grip. Chad continued to scream as he watched real
blood drip to the floor.
From the shadows along the rows of closed storefronts, two shapes emerged. One was a man in a police uniform, looking at the crowd of zombie marchers with the same blank expression as the creature yanking on Chad’s head. Beneath the bloody tatters of the blue uniform pants, large sections of flesh were torn from the policeman’s calf and thigh.
The second figure was the baseball player from the Objects in Motion exhibit. With the baseball still in his hand, he walked gracefully on legs streaked with blood. But the baseball player wasn’t bleeding. The blood dripped from chunks of fresh meat stuffed into the spaces where his own tissue had been removed. The patched holes seemed to match the wounds on the policeman’s legs.
Still, the baseball player remained less than whole. One large section of muscle, four inches wide and two inches deep, was conspicuously missing from his left glute. Letting go of the baseball, he grabbed one of the zombie marchers and tore at his left butt cheek.
The policeman went for the legs of Chad’s other would-be rescuer, using fingernails and teeth to cut through layers of skin and fat to get to a thick, fibrous thigh muscle.
Still unable to move, Mitchell saw out of the corner of his eye the rush of zombie marchers retreating for the door. Only they couldn’t get through, because the zombie marchers who were still on the boardwalk were pushing to get in.
Mitchell’s thoughts were sluggish. He wondered why they would be trying to get inside where people were screaming. Then he saw through the window. The zombie marchers outside were also being attacked — by three men wearing Safe and Sound security guard uniforms.
One guard was missing an ear. He was clawing at heads.
Another had an open hole where his kidney had been. He was reaching for mid-sections.
The third guard, who had strands of dangling sinew instead of a jaw, tackled the middle-aged zombie marcher who was trying to flee to the beach and tore the bottom of his face off in one robust stroke.
Standing on the boardwalk behind the crowd, passively observing the chaos and horror, were three more specimens from the Objects in Motion exhibit. The well-endowed football player stood holding a warm kidney in his hand. The gelatinous
obese woman from the Endocrine Room was trying to attach the security guard’s jaw to her featureless face. The Maestro looked partially restored with a tattered ear placed over the small hole where his own ear had been.
Inside the arcade, Mitchell’s state of shock deepened as he watched a pattern emerge around him. As the zombie marchers succumbed to their injuries, they immediately reanimated and attacked the nearest living zombie marcher in range. The focus of attack was always on the body part where the deceased zombie marcher had been wounded.
Mitchell was so transfixed, he didn’t notice the slutty woman from the Reproduction Room dragging Amy, kicking and screaming, into a darkened alcove. It was Chad’s final cry for help that got Mitchell’s attention. Turning toward the entrance to the concert arena, Mitchell saw the skinned man still holding Chad by the head, bashing Chad’s skull against a brass stanchion post. Blood began to spurt from Chad’s forehead, creating a spontaneous red carpet at their feet.
Mitchell felt something rise in his throat, but before he could vomit, everything went dark and he fell in a heap on the floor.
Copyright 2011 by Lori Bonfitto. All rights reserved.
“Eminent Domain” is available for download to read on your computer or Kindle here. (For Nook and other devices coming soon)
You can also download these other short horror stories that take place in Asbury Park and read them on your computer, or your Kindle:
“Wonderful Pinto” by Lori Bonfitto – read on your computer or Kindle (for Nook and other devices coming soon)
“Harbinger” by Lori Bonfitto — read it on your computer or Kindle (for Nook and other devices coming soon)