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Dead Stay Dead
THE ZOMBIE FEED BOOKS LEXINGTON, KENTUCKY
This novella is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are either fictitious or are used fictitiously. DEAD STAY DEAD Copyright © 2011 by Paul Jessup Cover Design by Justin Stewart Interior Design by Jason Sizemore Cover Art by Chris Harvey All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce the book, or portions thereof, in any form. The Zombie Feed Press is an imprint of Apex Publications, LLC PO Box 24323 Lexington, KY 40524 www.apexbookcompany.com thezombiefeed.biz
First Edition, February, 2011 ISBN: 978-0-9845535-9-4 Novella #2 of the TZF novella series
This book is dedicated to people who like things. The people who dislike things can go to hell. There, I said it. It needed to be said.
9:00 p.m. There was something different about this ghost. It was meaty, wet and moist. Three-dimensional. Natasha saw it near the entrance to her dorm and stared at it. She tried to register why it felt more real than the other ghosts she’d seen on campus. It wasn’t transparent, and it wasn’t like a shadow or a memory or a hologram. It looked like she could just reach out and grab onto an arm or a leg. And that arm or leg would be there. Really there. Not like a ghost at all. The ghost walked toward her. It shuffled as it walked, its body shaking. An old man shuffle. A drug addict shuffle. She felt pins and needles all over her arms like she did whenever a ghost or a demon was around. But, somehow, this was different. This was new. And she didn’t like it. She moved backwards, just a little. Step, step, step. Her Hello Kitty Converse high tops smacked the pavement loudly. Where was everyone else? It wasn’t that late, yet the campus sidewalks were eerily empty. She felt so alone. And the emptiness gave the whole scene a surreal feeling, like she was in a place that was both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. She had felt this way once before, when her brother had closed his eyes and became invisible. He had never come back. Not ever. She still felt him, sometimes. Like a ghost, but unseen. The ghost shambled closer to her, the light revealing several holes in his chest. Ribs stuck out from the holes. Hello, ribs. She pulled her cell phone from her pocket and brandished it like a neon orange gun—or a cross to ward off vampires— ready to dial for help the minute she had to. If he was a ghost, she had to help him pass over to the next life. That was her gift. That was what she did. She saw ghosts that people couldn’t see, and she helped them. No matter how badly they scared her, she had to do it, even if no one believed her.
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“Hello,” she called out. The ghost grunted and drooled and moved closer to her. It had something in its hand—something small and moving. “Hello? Listen, I can help you move on. Onward and upward to whatever lies beyond. But before I do, I need you to do me a little favor, okay? Can you do that for me? All right, I just need you to tell me what’s keeping you here in our world. Can you tell me that now? Pretty please?” Closer. Closer. It held what it had in its hands up to its mouth. The furry thing squirmed, tiny tail whipping between ghostly fingers. “I know it must be hard. But I can help; I’ve helped others just like you.” Crunch. The sound of meat tearing, of bones breaking and grinding into dust. And then the furry thing meowed. Natasha felt a sinking feeling in her stomach. Like the floor had dropped beneath her and left her floating and weightless. “Oh God, oh no. You’re not... what are you? What are you doing?” The ghost held up a kitten. With a big bite taken out of its side. That wasn’t a ghost. It wasn’t an echo or a memory. This was real. This was happening. A dead man up and walking about eating a cat. Natasha had never seen anything like it, and her heart was racing and her thoughts were going a mile minute. Part of her thought she should run away, part of her thought she should scream. But her thoughts failed to translate into actions. Her thoughts couldn’t reach out to legs or lungs. She was frozen still and solid. Why couldn’t she move? Was it fright? Was it shock? She wasn’t sure. That poor kitten, she thought, as it squirmed and tried to escape from the zombie’s hands. Zombie. That was the only word she could think of. It wasn’t a ghost, not at all. This was a
real, moving ghoul. “Okay, I see you don’t need my help after all. How about, um, let me see. How about I just go past you a little, how’s that? Just let me on past so I can go into my dorm. I won’t even tell anyone I saw you, how about that?” She tried hard to keep her voice from trembling, but it was impossible. Her voice shook, her words quivered. The zombie finished its cat snack and threw it on the ground with a wet splat. It cocked its head, looking at her quizzically, like it understood the words coming out of her mouth. Shit, she thought. “Look, me want walk over there. To dorm. Okay? Me not tasty. Me kind of gross. Stringy. Yuck. You no eat, okay?” She groaned internally at the tumbled from her lips, catching on her teeth and tongue. She sounded like an idiot. It was undead, not Tarzan. Talking like an idiot would not make it understand. The zombie seemed to understand on some level, seemed to register this in some part of its brain. Its dead eyes twinkled and it shuffled backwards. Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle. Held stiff arms out, bowed its head. Natasha was surprised, but, maybe, speaking to ghosts helped her communicate to the living dead? She walked past the corpse. Which then swung its head round fast, fast, faster then she could have thought and then gnashed its teeth and leapt on all fours. She gasped as it moved so quickly now, so quickly it was a blur. It sniffed the air, making snorting noises. She didn’t stop, didn’t stand still, so she booked it. She ran. She moved like hell on two legs. No way was she going to be a midnight snack to that thing. Only problem: It was a fuck load lot faster than she was. She stumbled a bit, tripped on a branch. The door to her dorm was there, double wide glass doors, light streaming out. It was right there in front of her. She was practically breathing against it as the corpse leapt through the air, snarling as it ran
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toward her. She saw a crowd of people behind the doors, loitering in the hall, talking to each other, facing the other way. She picked herself back up as the zombie grabbed her ankle and she screamed. Faces turned and looked at her. They stood still and it seemed like an eternity before they turned around and ran screaming the other way. Thanks guys, she thought, I’ll remember your shining moment of bravado. She shook off the cold rotting hand from her foot and grabbed the door, swinging it open with both hands. She then ran inside and slammed it shut on the zombie’s face. WHAM. The zombie regrouped and slammed right up against the glass. She held the door shut with her two hands, clasping tightly as the zombie pounded and moaned hungrily, licking the glass with a maggot-covered tongue. Bulletproof glass, motherfucker, she thought. Good luck trying to break your way through that one. She realized that the zombie didn’t need to eat, or sleep, or go to class. It had the advantage of time over her. Eventually she would have to let go of the door and then she would be lunch. She didn’t like that idea. Not at all. The zombie would come in the minute she got tired. And then? She was fucked. “Hey Tasha, what you got there?” Ty’s voice echoed, deep and booming and bouncing cavelike around the hall. “Zombie,” she said, still holding the door handles together, even though her fingers ached and her knuckles were white. “You don’t say. Want me to call the campus blue?” She tried not to shrug. Shrugging would mean letting go of the door. “No. Do you think they would know what to do? They’re worthless enough as it is. This zombie would just make them into a snack.” “Still,” Ty put his hand on her shoulder, “At least they’d be
a distraction and you wouldn’t have to hold this door shut anymore. Anything I can do?” “Got a gun?” Laughter. “No, I’m a vegan and a pacifist. What the fuck would I have a gun for? To shoot a wild eggplant for dinner?” She swore under her breath. “Look Ty, it’s nice catching up with you and all that. But unless you can hand me something I can use to bash this son of a bitch’s head in until he stops moving, you’re really just getting on my nerves.” Ty moved his hand from her shoulders. “All right princess, all right. Let me take a survey of the surroundings.” A pause was filled with the sound of rifling through drawers. “Oh hey, how about this?” Footsteps behind her. Then she felt something cold and metal against her back. “What the hell is that?” “Crowbar.” “Crowbar?” “Yup! Crow. Bar. You know, like the bird. Caw, caw, caw.” “Where did you get that?” He sighed. “Behind the desk… isn’t there supposed to be someone there? You know. Keeping people out?” “People like you?” “No. People like that fucking zombie. What was her name? She’s supposed to be there all night. Ah, Barbara, right, that’s her name. Wonder where she’s at?” Tasha’s hands started slipping. The zombie pushed harder, sensing he had the advantage. The doors rattled, tinkled as glass struck brick. Not breaking, no. But that didn’t matter. She couldn’t hold on any more. “Ty, look, I need to let go, okay? When I do, you have to whack this shithead in the skull. The minute I open the door, got it? Don’t stop until he stops.” He whistled. “Aye, aye, princess. I’m ready to go.” She let go. The zombie darted in but Ty was already on the
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move. He kicked the zombie in the chest, and the corpse flew back. He then landed on its chest and pushed it down, whacking it in the head over and over again. The crowbar glinted in the moonlight with each blow. Blood splattered and stained his shirt bright red. His face was covered in droplets of it, as though a spray can had attacked him. Yet the zombie still moved, twitching, trying to bite and claw at him hungrily, claws digging into his skin, breaking through, touching ribs with its ice-cold corpse flesh. Ty yelped in pain. “Shit, shit, shit. Tash? Hey Tash? Can you lend me a hand here? This fucker really wants to take a bite out of me and he just won’t stop moving! Come on, please? Pretty please with sugar on top?” She leapt over Ty, trashcan raised above her head, howling. She slammed it down with a wet clang as flesh and brains and blood leaked out from underneath it. The sidewalk looked like a Jackson Pollock painting. When the zombie finally stopped moving, Ty stood up, wiping blood from his face. His shirt was ripped, and he was bleeding. “Holy fucking shit. That was awesome! What a rush!” Tasha was out of breath from fear and adrenaline. She leaned over, panting. “Yeah, you okay? Looks like he got you pretty good.” Ty looked down and touched his wound. “Oh this? Oh yeah. This is nothing. Don’t even feel it right now, you know? I… I….” He fell over. Collapsed. Shuddering, trembling. “Oh fucking hell. Ty? Ty?” She pulled out her cell phone and called 9-1-1. Probably something she should’ve done awhile ago, But she had been too scared and too nervous to even think about. She waited impatiently as they took down her information. Odd, she thought, they didn’t seem to be too surprised to hear about a zombie attack.
At least Ty will be taken care of, she thought. They seem to know what they were doing. The cops kept reassuring her that he was going to be all right, even though he had blue foam caked around his mouth, and he was bleeding and twitching. He was going to be all right. And for some reason, she believed them.
9:45 p.m. Tasha walked into her dorm room and was hit with the rank stink of patchouli. And underneath that she caught the faint smell of weed. Damn it. That meant her roomie, Melissa, was still here. Tasha had hoped that she would have the room to herself, but no such luck. Melissa (or Lady Mel as she liked being called), sat on the floor laughing. She wore a pair of pajamas covered in cartoon mice. The mice had giant black cartoon eyes and white gloves on their hands, and they fought monkeys who rode on rainbows. “Shh,” Melissa said. “What?” Melissa pointed at a mannequin head on the bookshelf. It was an old Barbie makeup head from the sixties. It had been covered with all sorts of Day-Glo paint and some of the fake skin had peeled off. It reminded Tasha of a doll she’d had when she was six, a doll she had let slip into a campfire and burned her hands trying to rescue. Afterward, it was half bald and its face drooped. “I’m concentrating.” “On what?” “Shhh. Just be silent for a moment, okay?” Tasha sat down as quietly as she could. Melissa closed her eyes and hummed under breath. The humming got louder and louder—fever pitched humming. A small waft of smoke sprang from the mannequin head, then a spark, followed by the smell of burning plastic and rubber and cheap makeup. Melissa opened her eyes. “Close but not quite.” “What the hell are you trying to do?” “I’m trying to make the head explode. PSHEW. Like in Scanners.” “Never saw it.”
Mellissa giggled. “Sweet ass movie. Anyway, thought it would be fun if I tried it, you know? All I can get is some smoke and a bit of flame. Then nothing. I want to watch it burst. Kaboom. You know?” “Yeah, I guess.” Melissa pushed her blonde dreadlocks away from her face. “What’s bothering you, eh? I thought Ty was looking for you— that would put any other girl I know in the best of moods and yet you’re all sulky. And is that blood? Jesus. What happened?” Pause. “Wait, did you kill Ty?” Tasha didn’t respond. She didn’t know how to. “You did, didn’t you? Oh how awesome! I mean, it’s not, but it is, right? So how did you do it? That looks pretty messy. Did you like go all Last House on the Left on him with a chainsaw? Brumumumum, brumumumum!” She made a chainsaw gesture with her hands. Tasha sighed. “No, he’s at the hospital. We got attacked by a zombie.” “Get out! A Romero zombie or a 28 Days Later zombie?” “Those weren’t zombies in 28 Days Later.” “Oh says, who? They sure looked and acted like zombies to me, you crazy purist fuck.” “They weren’t dead, were they? Zombies need to be undead.” “Pfah. Traditional zombies from Haitian folklore aren’t really dead either. They were like made into mindless drones with a puffer fish or something. I don’t know, like in that old Hammer Horror flick, Plague of Zombies.” Melissa paused for a moment. Her eyes widened in excitement, and she flapped her hands rapidly. Tasha thought she looked like a spastic Muppet, like Kermit the Frog having one of his happy seizures of joy. “Oh! Oh! Did the zombie look like Christopher Lee? That
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would be hawt, hawt, HAWT. Especially if he was munching on Ty. Oh, damn, I love me some guy-on-guy zombie action.” “What the hell are you talking about? Look. Ty is hurt. Really badly. This isn’t a joke, okay?” Melissa’s eyes went back to normal. Her hands calmed down. She made a noise like a sad puppy. “Shit. Is he going to be all right? He’s probably infected now. Zombie city, here we come!” “I don’t know. The guy on the phone said Ty will be fine, and he told me not to worry.” “And you believed him? Aw, come on! That’s classic horror show, right there! Don’t ever listen to that claptrap. Ty’s a goner for sure. I’d keep an eye out for him, make sure he doesn’t come up and try to snack on you.” Tasha groaned. This conversation was wearing her thin and leading her nowhere. “He’s fine, I don’t know why I trust those ambulance guys, but I do. Something about them, you know? Trustworthy.” “Yeah, I dig, I dig. So how many zombies were there?” “Just the one.” “Really? Not a horde of them? Just one?” “Yup.” “Well fuck me with a pogo stick. Those goddamned movies lied to me. Every movie there is like a horde of zombies. Like a million of them. That’s what makes them so fucking scary! One? One zombie? That’s like fighting a geriatric having epilepsy. Nothing scary about that shit.” “Oh, he was scary all right. Scared the hell out of me and hurt Ty something fierce.” Tasha thought about all that blood. You could lift up the flap of his skin and see his ribs. She remembered one of the ER guys doing that, looking at a chart, nodding to her saying “Everything’s going to be all right. Everything’s going to be just fine.”
“Yeah, well, was he fast or slow?” “What do you mean?” “Like, did the zombie shuffle and moan and move slowly like Night of the Living Dead? Or was he chasing after you and making raptor noises like DeadLand?” Tasha thought for a moment. “Little bit of both, really. At first he was slow and zombielike. Then I walked past it, and it sniffed the air. And the moment it caught my scent, it went berserk, like completely crazy, and then was moving so fast I could barely see it. “ “Huh. Well, that’s a new one to me.” “Yeah, I thought it was a ghost at first.” “You and your ghosts.” “Shut up. How can you believe the zombie thing and not the ghost thing?” Melissa paused. Her eyelashes fluttered and her grin turned sour. “Because I’ve seen a zombie, but I’ve never seen a ghost before.” Tasha put an arm around her friend. “You saw a zombie?” Melissa was quiet. She shivered, like she was cold. “Yeah. Don’t want to talk about it. Anyway, it sounds different than this, that’s for sure. So you only saw one? That’s so weird. I wonder if there’re more out there.” Tasha glanced out the window. “Don’t think so. Although, it is really weird that no one seems to be out on campus. I find it hard to believe that everyone’s studying.” She then realized that the building was silent, and the silence crawled under her skin and crept into her bones. There were no machines whirring and buzzing, no television shows blasting loudly, no punk music MP3s at odd hours. No talking, no chattering, nothing. She felt goose bumps rise up all over her body. Melissa laughed. “Maybe they’re all zombies?”
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Tasha smacked her on the arm. “Shut up.” “Ow. All right, sorry I said that.” Melissa rubbed her arm. “So did you guys fuck it up? The zombie, I mean. Tell me you gave it a licking for snacking on Ty. No one should chow down on someone that good looking without getting a face full of bloody horrific death. You know?” “Yeah. Ty bashed him in the skull with a crowbar, but it kept on coming, so I pounded its head into the sidewalk with a trash can.” Melissa’s mouth flung open and hit the floor in shock. “You did what? I can’t believe that! You! Sweet little innocent Natasha. Brutal zombie killer. And not just a little brutal, hell no, not for you. You had to go and fuck it up something fierce. Give me a high five.” “No.” “Come on, don’t leave me up here. It’s getting lone-ly.” “No.” Melissa reached over and hugged Natasha tightly. “Sniffle, sniffle. My little girl. She’s all grown up now. One moment she’s practicing ballet in the dorm while I smoke some ripe-ass chronic, the next moment she’s bashing in the head of a zombie with a garbage can. Oh, I’m so proud off you!” A sound broke through conversation. A knocking on the door. Pound. Pound. Pound. Melissa spun around and scowled at the door then gave it the middle finger. “Get lost, fuckwit. We’re having some womanly alone time. And no, you can’t watch!” No response. Just silence. Then: Knock. Knock. Knock. Melissa huffed and opened the door. The reek of rotting things flowed into the room. Vegetable rot, body rot, mold and wet earth. Nasty smell, overpowering smell. There was a sound that followed it like wet gurgling, a drowning sound. And standing there, still knocking, was Barbara. Barbara,
who was always the goodest of the goodie good girls. She was like a walking, talking Sandra Dee Barbie Doll. Blonde hair in a ponytail, a virgin until marriage, never did any drugs, straightA student. Go Team! Always waiting for her best bud at the soda shop to take her down to the sock hop. The kind of girl who snitched on her friends. The kind of girl who lied and cheated and stabbed people in the back. The kind of girl who would never be a woman in any sense of the word, because mentally speaking, she could never be a grownup. She had been too sheltered her whole life, too used to sucking up to authority to think for herself or take any risks. Daddies would always take care of good girls like Barbara. Barbara, who was supposed to be watching the front door behind the desk, for bad boys, for drug dealers, for zombies. Perfect snitch girl gone missing. Here she was, except she was different somehow, broken somehow. Her neck tilted at a strange angle. Her skin was a pale blue color, and her eyes bugged out. Her throat was bright red. Seaweed clung to her perfect ponytail and her too-tight sweater. Tasha tugged on Melissa’s arm and point. “Oh, um, hey, Melissa, are you seeing this?” Melissa did a double take. “Yeah, I see it.” “You see it, and I see it. So that means she’s not a ghost.” Melissa shook her head no. “No. Not a ghost. Most definitely a zombie.” “Yeah, I think that’s about right.” Zombie Barbara gurgled at them. In the far distance behind her they heard howling pain. Barbara gurgled some more as they listened, the howling cranking up to the kind of sound that set your teeth on edge. The kind of painful, mournful torture of a sound that made you want to run and help whomever was in trouble. Barbara stared at them with hungry zombie eyes as the howls continued on, daring them to run past her. And then silence. Zombie Barbara smiled. Her teeth were
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all wrong. All sharp. Her eyes twinkled with a dead twinkle. Tasha gulped. “Shut the door, Mel. Come on. Do it.” Melissa reached over, swung it shut. Slam. They looked at each other, not able to say anything, but expecting the other person to say something. The fear was rising in the air between them, threatening to choke and drown them in the tension. Knock, knock, knock. Wet throaty voice from behind the door said: “Up. Past. Curfew. Ten. Demerits.” Melissa turned to Tasha, wide-eyed. “Holy shit! She’s even snitching on us as a zombie!” Pound. Pound. Pound. “I have. Your key. Open up.” She talked like someone drowning, every word coming up for air. Exhale, inhale. Then chin under water again. Then silence again. Then head up, another word. And another. And another. Tasha looked quickly around the room, searching for a way out. She saw the window and looked down to the empty campus below. She heard more screams—far off, vague screams— and wondered who was dying now. The drop from the window was four stories—too far too jump to escape. They were trapped. Barbara was going to come in and eat them, and they had no weapons, no way of escaping. “What are we going to do?” Melissa bit on her lip, a habit she had picked up in eighth grade, the same year she had started smoking and hanging out with the bad crowd, reading poetry, doing drugs, watching horror films until four in the morning. She missed those days, so easy, so simple. Not like college. Zombies and textbooks and jackass, horny professors. Snap. Snap. “Earth to Melissa! Wake up! Come on, tell me now. You said you had an idea?” “Whoa, sorry. Spaced out a bit there. Yeah, I got one. Open
that door and stand back.” Tasha was worried, but was too frightened to ask any questions. She just hoped whatever Melissa was planning worked better than the one Tasha herself had so hastily planned earlier—the one that had tried to kill Ty. She swung the door open as quickly as she could and stood back. Barbara was still there, of course. She smiled again and the smell of rot and fungus grew stronger making Tasha want to throw up. She resisted though. Not now. Now was not the time. Melissa plopped to the floor and shut her eyes. Barbara stared at her, intrigued. Not stepping forward to kill just yet. Waiting. Watching to see what would happen. Melissa started humming under her breath again. Hummmm. Hummmm. Hummmm. There was smoke and then a hole appeared on Barbara’s head. The zombie’s head franticly spun around, trying to find the source of this new pain. Her arms twitched in the air trying to stop it, to make the pain stop. Her mouth was slack in pain, like she was going to scream, but had forgotten how. Tasha knew what Melissa was trying out, and she only hoped it worked. Pop. The head exploded. Like tomato soup and beef and random bits of bone thrown everywhere. The room was coated in gore. The zombie’s body collapsed. Knees. Then torso. Then arms on the floor. It twitched on the ground like it was practicing a new dance, a rag doll vibrating on the floor, spurting blood like a fountain. Melissa opened her eyes, face coated in brain matter. “Holy shit, it worked. That was so fucking cool!” She stood up, pus and blood oozing off of her body. Tasha didn’t look too much better. “I mean, did you see that? Did you see how awesome that was? I did that! Me! Bask in the super coolness of me! Oh yeah, oh yeah. Who’s your momma now,
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you snitch bitch? Huh?” Melissa pointed at the twitching, headless corpse. “That’s what you get for ratting me out! It’s none of your fucking business who I have in my room, now, is it? That’s right! Woohoo! What a rush! I can’t believe I did that.” Tasha smiled. “You really think this is a good time to celebrate? Come on, let’s scat. In case she’s got zombie friends following right behind her.” “Yeah, you’re right. Let’s get the fuck out of here.” They carefully jumped over Barbara’s headless corpse. Tasha didn’t want to look down, but she couldn’t help herself. Bones stuck out. Blood was everywhere. The body still kicked like it was trying to snap itself back to life. This was Barbara, she thought, at some point. That was her, with her dumb boyfriend who played cricket and pretended to be British. Headless, twitching, yet still Barbara. Tasha felt an odd sense of disconnect, but kept on walking. She couldn’t stop. Not now. The hallway lights went flicker, flicker. Darkness. Flicker, flicker. Then bright red lights coating everything. Like a submarine in the bottom of the sea. Alarm sounds followed the flickering lights, fire alarm sounds, and then the rush and gush of the sprinklers drenching them from overhead. They ran toward the elevator sopping wet and slipping. Down the hall came the sound of a hundred shuffling bodies moving slowly their way.
10:10 p.m. Ty woke up dizzy-headed and floating. He couldn’t remember what happened right away, his mind was sinking in his thoughts, his memories bobbing just above him, just out of reach. The room was streaked with colors, vibrant moving halos, reflections of light. It was like coming out of the pool with chlorine eyes and seeing the world turned prismatic. He saw he was on table and tried to move his arms. Arms were so heavy. Legs so heavy. Eyes and mouth so heavy. He smelled something strong, like bleach. He could taste it, sharp and chemical in his mouth. Two tall men paced around him. Grey coats. Grey faces. Long fingers like spiders. In each hand was a scalpel. In the distance he heard the steady metronome beat of a heart monitor. Beep. Beep. Beep. “It’s too bad. I really liked this one. He has such a pretty face.” Deep voice. Growly voice, like a hungry bear. This made Ty laugh, and he realized he wasn’t laughing. His mouth wasn’t moving, his lungs weren’t sending air out of his mouth—no movement at all. Yet he felt like he was laughing. What was happening to him? He felt more frightened than ever before in his life. “You and your pretty boys. What about the ugly ones? Aren’t they worth trying to save as well?” Ty felt like he was moving his arms and his hands, yet there was no movement. The world spun in a circus of light as one of them cut open his stomach. Nothing more than a slight pressure against his skin and then a sighing of his blood. “Oh, you act like we can save any of them at all. You know this one’s going to have to go into the furnace with the others. Just to make sure. Although, I might take a keepsake, just to keep close by, to remind me of him. How pretty he was.” Ty felt a pulling on his arm, and he wanted to puke. He
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retched. His body didn’t move, yet he knew he was retching. He looked down at his arm and saw it moving. His fingers grasped, released, all outside of his movement, like he was trapped in his body and someone else was moving. “Shit, do you see what happens when you waste time to admire the corpses? It’s starting to move already! Let’s get the hooks out and put him in the furnace before he becomes hungry and dangerous.” Ty saw delicate spider fingers caressing his face, the man’s sad face above his, tears streaming down cheeks. “Oh, but he’s so beautiful. Can’t I just stay with him a little bit longer?” Ty felt fear and disgust. He yelled at the man to stop touching him, to get his hands off his face, but no words came out. No shouting. He felt like he was floating upward a little, drifting like a ghostly balloon. A memory bubbled into his thoughts as he went up, up. The zombie tearing him apart, reaching into his ribs. So, Ty thought, I’m dead. This is what it feels like to be dead. No cone of light. No family members and pearly gates and floating angels. No rings of fire, no dragons of the ego. No bardo thodol. Just a distant fuzzy feeling and colors everywhere. It was more like an overdose of cough syrup, and less like the bad acid trip he expected death to be like. “Come on Harold. You know what happened last time you wanted a few minutes with the body. We had to rush you to surgery right away. I’m not sure if any of those scars will ever heal properly. That zombie bit right into you like you were a hamburger. Nasty, nasty thing. Can’t let that happen again, you know.” A sigh. “I know, I know. So do we know what causes it? Is it a virus?” Ty floated up further and further, spinning like a corkscrew. He saw his body below him twitching., starting to rise to life. His corpse eyes opened and he looked at himself—a dead self looking back at him, smirking and hungry.
“No, it’s not a virus. All the corpses out there are coming back to life, hungry, even the ones in the cemetery, the ones that have been dead for a few years now. No one knows what it is, though Jack downstairs has some theories he’s testing out. Hopefully he can find out before we’re all dead.” Ty realized he could direct himself. It was a bit like swimming, except the water was thick, like soup, and his body wanted to go up, so he had to keep it down. Think of himself like a stone. Like a stone going down. Falling down. Sticking to the floor. He had to make his own gravity now. The two men left the room. The one had his arm around the other, who was sobbing quietly to himself, muttering about wanting a keepsake of this one, such a pretty one. Ty felt disgusted and creeped out and was glad that his corpse was coming to life. Maybe my zombie will eat the bastard, he thought. Maybe he’ll peel his skin like cellophane, and then rip into it with my dead man’s teeth. This thought made Ty’s ghost smile as he sunk downward, through the floor, into the foyer below.
” “True.” They stopped and looked up again. Melissa motioned Tasha to come over to her. messy hair. Then he started bellowing like a whale. So far. ducking in and out of shadows. Tasha trailed right behind her. I need your help!” “Damn it. about four stories up. stopping in another shadow. “I think he wants out attention. Melissa ran across campus. “Come on! They’re on their way here. listened. hot stuff? Catch you when you jump?” . Shook her head. When he got no response he started making owl noises. and tiny John Lennon glasses over his eyes—was caw-caw-cawing down to them. Tasha ran. Should we just keep moving?” They stopped. I can hear them. making sure no flesh could be seen reflecting off street lamps. Waiting. A person in the northwest tower of dorms.” “So? He’s just going to bring the zombies over here.m. “What the hell do you want us to do there. no zombies in sight. and realized it was someone making that sound. The two of them staggering between shadows. still hidden in shadows. but not responding and not sure they wanted to.10:24 p. They looked up. There was a sound of breaking glass and struggling. arms outstretched. They heard a cawing of crow. blaring through a window where a head—male head. Then he started jumping around howling like a monkey. come on you two! I know you can see me. “What’s up?” she whispered. Can’t you do something. toward Melissa. anything to help?” Melissa sighed. He watched them for a moment. There was only one light on in the entire building. “Aw.
you do that. right? Okay lettuce head.” “Nothing we can do? That’s a bit fucking cold don’t you think?” “Cold or not.” “You do?” Screams emanated from the building. there’s an idea. The guy leaned his head out again. like someone dying slowly and painfully.” “Thank you. kind of. “Look.” “A pun? How is that a pun?” “A German one.” Tasha said. we’ll try and save you. “Hey. “Maybe? I don’t know. “Um. 21 .” “Yeah. how close are you to being a zombie snack?” “Princess? Why’d you call me a princess?” “Cause you look like Rapunzel. “Come on. But if it gets to be too much. “Hey wait. What do you want to do? Run inside. Hey. you dipshit. I’ll explain later. wait.” Tasha groaned. you’re on your own. okay? I just. I think?” Melissa started walking toward the glass doors. her hand still on Melissa’s shoulder. panicked. it’s the truth. fight off the zombies and save him?” Melissa laughed.” Melissa turned and looked at Tasha. “Hey. Let’s get going. Melissa. I just…. There’s nothing we can do. “I don’t have enough. Why do you keep calling him lettuce head?” “Cause it’s a pun. Rapunzel! Rapunzel! Let down your hair!” Silence. I’ve got an idea. I don’t know.Paul Jessup He looked around. Tasha grabbed her by the shoulder. You got that? I’m not risking my life for a dumb-ass lettuce head that gets himself locked in a tower full of zombies. “It was worth a shot.” She looked upward. and then paused for a moment. princess. I can’t.
“Get out! That’s a great idea! Hey. Lettuce Head?” Lettuce Head paced back and forth.Dead Stay Dead could you like. shimmy down and jump. “Don’t want to. beds pushing. Dangle it out the window.” “I don’t know. can’t you. There was a loud banging sound coming from his door That could be heard it all the way downstairs. hurry it up or something? I think I’m pretty fucked. What it if it takes too long and they eat me before I’m done?” Tasha pinched her nose with her fingers then shook her head.” Melissa laughed. What if I screw it up?” Melissa sighed. forming a rough and ripped ladder.” “Hey. knocking on their door—zombie Barbara with her head exploded—and she shivered at the memory. “Do you think it’ll be long enough?” 22 . you can be Rapunzel after all. thought it stopped about halfway down. “Should we stick around in case he needs our help?” Melissa smirked. Sound of sheets ripping.” Sheets tumbled down. I’ve never made a bedsheet rope or anything before. Just shut up and do it. “You sure that will hold up? I mean. Splinters. “Come on. to be honest. lettuce head. Lettuce Head.” Tasha shouted up. Then take your roomie’s sheet and tie it to that one. Tasha looked at Melissa. “You don’t have any other choice! Just tie your sheet to your bed. Piece of cake. “You got sheets on your bed? You think you can tie them together to make like a rope or something?” Melissa shoved Tasha playfully. Then a panicked yelp. Lettuce Head! Go Rapunzel! You can do it!” Sound of door breaking down. But I guess we probably should. “If you keep talking it will take even longer. Tasha remembered Barbara.
growling. tick. oh fuck me. Poor Lettuce Head. “Oh God. hungry then another. 23 . Falling straight toward them. cut out the palaver and look up. He was hyperventilating.” Lettuce Head grabbed hold and shimmied down. “Help! Help! Help!” Melissa yelled up. growled and reached out. “Um guys. tick. tock. covered in zombie blood.” Melissa closed her eyes and started chanting. He fell. Tumbling and moaning and hungry.” Melissa tapped him gently with her foot. One grabbed the rope and started shaking. They rolled him over. “What. His eyes were closed. Tasha and Melissa ran over. Six zombies now. “I don’t know! Kill them? Save my ass from zombie death?” Tasha nudged her. He was screaming. knocked lettuce head. of all shapes and sizes. Zombie on the bottom. Corpse tumbled down. “What the fuck do you want us to do?” Lettuce Head yelled back. Now!” They all turned and looked up.” “I can try. “Make their heads blow up or something. twists. Above him. clinging onto the sheets and swinging like a human pendulum Tick. Fast. and another.Paul Jessup “It’s going to have to be. Oh that really sucked. One zombie head exploded. tock. “You all right?” He spat out blood and opened his eyes. back and forth. Let’s just hope he doesn’t break his leg. tock. splat. tumbled. a zombie head leaned out. no thank you?” “Thank you for what?” Tasha pointed upwards. The zombies were throwing themselves downward. The zombies shook harder and Lettuce Head swung back and forth. and another.
and the one with the knife who wanted to cut him. like he was floating at sea. Somehow. He could move up and down.11:30 p. He tried to see through the zombody eyes. waiting. gone. The place he’d been in with the two tall men. His zombody. It was there. the who-knows-where-it-was place. Ty drifted.m. His reflection. like an amputee’s phantom limb. Hello. waiting for him to move it. the hospital. That thought made him sad. He thought of his zombody and got the willies. He was out of the place now. change the currents with his arm. It would be as depressing as breaking his mirrors. his body that was now a zombie body. Yes. his corpse. Psychology was all that was left him—a phantasm of thoughts. Floating through cars. female form. He wondered if those brutal scientists would kill his zombody. It was thick and sticky. old zombody. the morgue. Hello body. He floated into houses and caught sight of women undressing and stopped to watch for a moment. Even in death he was still curious about the female form. Through people who shivered and had no idea why they were shivering. the air around him like molasses. He felt his zombody twitch in happiness somewhere. He guessed the connection was only psychological. floating. Sad Ty. He was a ghost now. still connected somehow. floating. He moved through streets. Sad ghost. He thought of drifting and swimming and floating back to . he thought. but nothing came to him. after all. he still felt attached to it. roaming in the shape of Ty. but the sea was air and he swam in the air. He wished he could stop them somehow. And his body. They seemed like the type who would waste a perfect body just because it was hungry and restless and wanted to eat them.
His destiny. his CALLING was to go forth and rescue those poor souls. Ah-ha. and that sucked. whatever. Except one person: Tasha.. Something he was meant to do since the beginning of his life. He tried talking to her.Paul Jessup the hospital. like Patrick Swayze in Ghost. But how was he supposed to communicate to them? On the way to the college he stopped in front of an old lady waiting for a bus. Ty began floating as fast as he could back to the dorms. That body was that body. The physical world was off limits to him. He was getting nowhere like this. That was it! He felt it. couldn’t materialize. all the people that were left to save. And now: he was a ghost. pulling him toward the college. Nothing. It was like he was still invisible. He tried to materialize himself in front of her. Nothing. and then realized that was stupid. Nothing. Like something he was born to do. He had to go back and save them. verily. and even in death he wasn’t stopped from doing it. Nothing doing. 25 . Let them trash and throw it.. She didn’t scream. Punching her. He couldn’t let them be munched and crunched on. He had something else to do now. couldn’t speak. Nothing Dancing and howling and making monkey noises. Nothing. It felt like his calling. He had to. He had to. She saw ghosts. now. Getting on all fours and barking at her. Slapping her. He had to save all of them. But how? He couldn’t talk. Didn’t do anything at all. He couldn’t let them be eaten alive. now. Nothing. He only hoped the zombies hadn’t munched on her yet. burn it up. to warn them of the oncoming zombie plague. it wasn’t Ty anymore. It felt like his destiny. Didn’t make out with him. He needed to help people. Yay. but without the implied lesbianism.
Together. It wasn’t a virus. He guessed he had to just make sure no one new died somehow. meteorite falling from the sky and smashing your face in. and help her help everyone else. Tasha. faster than they could. Look out. maybe. I’m coming to help. Every time someone died. It was the literal dead rising from the grave. Together maybe we can save everyone. You were going to come back and kill. he thought as loud as he could. 26 . He would talk to her. He wished he knew how he was going to do that. Being noncorporeal had its distinct advantages. they would come back now. no matter what the cause. we can set this whole world right again. Damn. car crash. The doctor’s had said that much.Dead Stay Dead that she was still alive and kicking. It didn’t matter how you died: zombie bite. And not being forced to obey the laws of physics was a huge plus in his book. Come back hungry and lonely and wanting to rip and tear and devour. He could get to places no one else could.
but it was distant. Not ever. her face covered in blood from all the exploding heads. “Oh fuck. They were in the back entrance of the main cafeteria now. They weren’t going to open it. “Don’t want to pass out. She looked worn down. unscratched and unmauled by the zombies. oh fuck. He knew he should feel pain.” Tasha didn’t say anything. oh fuck. locked it tight. Next to him was Tasha. Too fucking close. . It had been Melissa’s idea to run here. bang. but from the looks…. He didn’t seem to notice that the back of his shirt was soaked in his blood and sticking to his back. Not now. We’ll all be cool. twiddling her dreadlocks in her fingers. Bang.11:52p. uneaten. Next to the two of them was Melissa. She just stared off down the hallway toward the flickering red lights of the alarms. Don’t want to pass out. bang. or how bad it was. Slam! Lettuce Head’s fingers were barely inside the door. She was the only one who remained untouched. “That was too fucking close. like a tiny flock of butterflies just out of his vision. They had shut it tight. burnt out.” Lettuce Head said over and over again. bleeding badly from her arm.” he whispered. He didn’t seem to notice that his skin was pale and growing paler. to make a jump for it. She wasn’t sure if it was an artery or not. like someone who knew she was bleeding to death. fluttering on the edge of his vision.m. From outside of the door they heard the hungry moaning of the living dead and the soft scratching of corpse fingers on the steel door. Tasha looked stunned. all right? We’ll all be fucking cool. and he was huffing and breathing fast. or that his eyes were dilated and that he looked like he was going to collapse. “Look.
” Her words echoed.Dead Stay Dead I just need to get to a first aid kit. The only other sound was the hungry moan of zombies and their pawing.” “My name’s Todd. Nothing left laugh. “Who the hell is Ty?” Melissa held a finger up. looked at Tasha. clawing fingers on the steel doors. Not for him.” “Like I give two fucks and a dime. and here you are. I mean. Void of all things laugh. and your ass is going to go up like a Roman candle. Use some antiseptic on you guys. being sarcastic? Toward me? All I have to do is close my eyes and hum. Lettuce Head looked around at the dim dark halls that seemed to stretch on forever. patch you up nicely. this doesn’t have shit to do with you. 28 . that sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach.” “With what?” Lettuce Head snapped. “What’s your grand plan? Run out and get us all killed? So far all of your plans have been shit. No guts though. He was too chicken shit. there has to be one around here somewhere. The laughter shut them both up. He wanted to get out of here. baby.” “Oh shut the hell up!” Melissa barked back. He wished he wasn’t such a pansy-ass fuck. “Hush up Lettuce Head.” Melissa turned. Ty is here. to turn tail and run. He wished he didn’t have to have girls save his ass from the fire. There it was again. Your name’s Lettuce Head. now shut up. “What you talking about crazy girl? Is this another one of your ghosts? You trying to tell me Ty is dead?” Tasha looked around wearing a spooky look on her face. It was that crazy shell-shocked laugh people get when they don’t know what else to do. Now.” Tasha laughed. “You guys. That laugh of options run out and run dry. “Why do you care? I didn’t even want to save your ass. Then we can get the hell out of here.
Oh. and his sister playing a zombie game with him and her friends. Anything was possible with that look. Weak spots where the dead had probably already breached. yeah. but I’m going to take off. too.” Tasha smiled and laughed crazily again. “Yeah. shame. Ty says he’s dead. Lettuce Head guessed the ghost of Ty was there hiding in the darkness 29 . “Destiny? It’s his destiny to what again? Help us out of this place? So what does that make him then? The chosen one? Or what. he said he knows what’s causing this. just syllables slipping out of his lips and tripping in the air—clumsy half words. He didn’t like that game. broken words falling away. not now.” “Destiny?” Melissa coughed. the chosen ghost?” “Look. to help us survive.” Tasha turned.” Lettuce Head looked down the halls and at the doorways. about four or five. and he blushed when you said. That’s why he came here. and he’s here for us. “You… you? You can see ghosts?” Tasha nodded. worriedly for a second. looked at a space. Memory: time when he was young. and that scared the hell out of Lettuce Head. “So… Ty is dead then. He didn’t like being hunted. Before he got eaten. “Ty says he knows. He says it’s his destiny. his words not forming. Guess he says he used to have a crush on you before. Didn’t like this.” Melissa looked around. had already started coming toward them. this is great and all. an emptiness. I guess he is another one of my ghosts. Not then. Well. Shame. That look of wonder fear and sheer insanity. He gulped. It’s only a matter of time before we get eaten.Paul Jessup Like the look most kids have on the night of Halloween after trick-or-treating and right before bed. Such a fine hunk a man. you know. “Hey. that’s right. “What? You guys can’t see him? Oh. “Can he hear me? Did he just hear that?” Tasha nodded.” Lettuce Head sputtered.
” “Well. Her heart beat faster.” She paused. She wanted to scream but realized that would just attract attention. “What the fuck is that supposed to mean. “He says it’s the Aklo Letters. guess what? It’s come in pretty handy in the last few hours. “tell him to lead the way and let’s go.” She was going to pout for longer. Right now what’s important is that we get out of here. Jerk. Ty. Her skin tightened around her body. the wrong kind of zombie attention. 30 . oh! I know this! And you guys thought I was nuts for being obsessed with horror films. to really show them how angry she was. harsh and abrupt. Instead.Dead Stay Dead and the shadows. her dreadlocks bobbing with the movement. Well. They’ve broken some windows and doors. following the others following the invisible ghost of Ty.” Tasha paused.” Lettuce Head said. the Aklo Letters?” Melissa held up her hand like an eager straight A student..” Melissa pouted for a second as the others walked slowly down the halls “I do know what the Aklo Letters are. He’s going to lead us to a safe spot where we can all talk. but then pounding. “Oh. started on the door behind her. Her look of quiet insanity went away and was replaced with fear and terror. she turned tail and ran. “What.. “Oh. “He says it’s not important. He says that the zombies are coming for us. is that true? We need to get going. don’t you think?” Tasha sighed. you know? Tell me! What’s causing this?” A pause.
cracking like snapping bone. “Shhh. “Ty says shut the hell up.m.12:15 a. He felt his skin ache and suddenly felt alert. they were all going to probably up and die. Tasha was in the front.” Lettuce Head looked wounded. Stop. They stopped abruptly. “Guys. nervous. hopping shadow to shadow. Poof. .” “What a jerk. “Yup. Where did they all go?” Tasha turned around. If Melissa was showing emotion. shambled and writhed.” She didn’t say anything in response. I don’t know. It’s just. a little bit ago we were close to being zombie chow. her body like a whip in the night. She pulled her hand back and shot him a dirty look. Melissa grabbed Lettuce Head’s hand in a moment of a weakness. hand outstretched. He blushed. “No. “He said that?” Tasha shook her head and pushed her hair behind her ear. looked at her sidewise. Guess that was it. Yes.” Tasha said. Lettuce Head felt his heart in his throat. Shadows further down the alley. Guess this was it. really alert. that hurt!” He rubbed his sore spot. Are you really complaining that we’re not being eaten alive?” “Ow. They moved further. anxious. If Lettuce Head listened closely enough. “Shut up. The others watched her. A twig broke. They were out crawling in the paths between buildings. shadow to shadow. he thought. waiting. Okay. Sparse yellow light shot out from lamps buzzing overhead. he swore that he heard the sound of ghostly footsteps scraping on the concrete and kicking pebbles. doesn’t this seem too… I don’t know. And now? Nothing. empty? Where are all the students? Where are all the zombies?” Melissa punched him on the arm. not knowing if she was really following the ghost of Ty or if they were all going on some wild goose chase.
“Um. what the hell? When are we going to do something? Or should I cover myself in steak sauce right now and let them have at it?” Melissa laughed. He gulped. Melissa stood firm.” Melissa bit on her lower lip. Moving toward them. Making hungry lip-smacking sounds. like a slowly moving inkblot of rotting flesh. bloated and fly-filled. Tasha sighed. Not when the dead caught whiff of their living flesh. but he’d seen the fast ones go. I was afraid you’d say that. Shoving open doors.Dead Stay Dead pushing out of windows. larger and larger. He was happy that these beasts were mostly slow moving. arms were outstretched.” The mass of undead grew. but if we want all this to stop. They sounded like an army of leaves scuttling. Starving mouth and outstretched hands. Ty says you’re our big gun. Lettuce Head shook. and I agree with him. reaching. “Don’t waste a drop on that pale useless flesh unless it’s A1 Steak Sauce. Not until we’re in the clear. still. Howling. Moaning. Howling mouths clamped with rotting teeth. Not when the dead sensed the fire that burned inside of the living. Bodies crawled across lawns. Lettuce Head watched as the group spread. and the three of them wouldn’t last even a second. “Ty said it gets nasty up there. guys. we need to get past them. Says he doesn’t want to have to do this. One or two recent dead jogged as they came toward them. Our zombies are picky eaters. “Shit. really nasty. You’re what’s going to keep us alive. “No. grabbing. Eye holes stared empty and soulless and maggot filled. “Can I explain? Please? Please? Can I?” Tasha sighed.” 32 . dispersed… so many zombies coming after them. Not yet.” “The what?” Melissa grinned. That’s where the Aklo Letters are. fell from rooftops with wet splats only to get up and move on and onward.
She stomped her foot impatiently. The whole world’s gone crazy. Go haunt someone else. that means you’re crazy too. That’s where the Aklo Letters are.” Tasha turned back around. Tap. “All right. Tap. I don’t care. Ty says the Aklo Letters are down there.” Melissa tapped her foot. “Ty says that’s exactly where we need to go. Tap. Her faced contorted into an angry glare. She spoke. numbnuts. She nodded. “Still. “We’re all a little bonkers. did you? Well. Look at that! It’s not going to be long before we’re running down.” A pause. like she was waiting for him to take a breath. and then bam! We’re a snack. Yeah. and there is no way I’m doing this alone. I don’t give a shit what you think. We need to find a way through them. I say we need a fucking army to break through that mob of zombies. right?” 33 . here’s the deal. Let me ask him. with me. And the fact that you’re here. She looked impatient. Uh huh. Not going to happen. Lay down the plan so we can go on living. you died saving my ass. you know we can’t do that. I don’t give a shit what your destiny is. Get used to it.” Lettuce Head gave a look to Melissa. She looked pissed off. a pure ghostly infodump. “Okay Little Miss Sixth Sense. a bit on edge. Oh. and they’re the key to stopping this whole thing. “You just said an army. so that she could finally speak her piece.Paul Jessup Tasha looked back at them. That moment came. It looked like she was on the receiving end of a long-winded explanation. discussing how best to avoid a zombie invasion with a girl who sees ghosts? Well. “Look. Well. I’m not going to risk my life for this shit. Melissa shrugged. No. I’m all ears. Seemed to be listening to something speak.” Tasha turned. Ty.” “A plan? Ty mentioned something about a plan. and a lot of confused. Any thoughts from the peanut gallery?” Lettuce Head smiled.
let’s go. “Hell to the yes. trying not to fall over.Dead Stay Dead Tasha nodded. “Get out! How the hell do you know an army?” Lettuce Head regained his balance. Tilted her head back toward the zombie mob.” “I might just know of one. I don’t think those zombies are just going to shamble about for much longer. “It’s simple.” Melissa laughed and shoved him. And this army is on campus and not on the way to the zombie doom squad over there?” Lettuce Head grinned. I’d say at least an army. “You see that? Yeah.” 34 . “Uh huh. okay? No questions until we get there. But it’s going to be a surprise. Come on. Time’s a-wasting.” Tasha cocked her head.
how much farther?” Stench of zombies overwhelmed.m. buzzing in a veil of shadow around them. Flies swarmed along the zombies. but Tasha grabbed her. Right there. The zombies dripped and howled and leaked and exploded with shit and pus. . and then it became a thing. That kind of thing. these zombies sure as fuck were real. This was not a question that needed answered. She wanted to laugh. Somewhere where all of this could stop. Zombies were everywhere. Lady Mel. “Hey Lettuce Head. Looked like Lettuce Head had some good ideas after all.” Melissa smiled. could she? No. and the Aklo Letters weren’t behind shit. Melissa bent over. Because even if the ghost of Ty was wrong. “There. A myth. But she couldn’t tell them that. A bit of nonsense that some old dude wrote a long-ass time ago in some short story. But it wasn’t a thing. Melissa only hoped Lettuce Head was leading them somewhere safe. And then Lovecraft stole it.12:47 a. They all had to keep moving. The Aklo Letters were a joke. It wasn’t real. Didn’t want to look and see into the sea of the dead. Aklo Letters. and they were charging and hungry and violent. “The SCA building? Damn man. Lettuce Head pointed. They had to keep moving. and then everyone stole it. Their combined smell was like rot and garbage mixed with formaldehyde and preservatives. Running and running and out of breath. It was like something out of a Hammer Horror film. making her keep moving. That’s where we’re going. issuing forth from all of those dead bodies—all of them so moist and wet and nasty. Old-school pagan hysteria. She wondered how many of these corpses were the recent dead. And she just didn’t want to deal with this. out of nowhere. pulling her along.
” Tasha wasn’t even talking. they call me.” The sound of moaning filled the air from all sides. “Yeah. I could kiss you. 36 . Lady Mel. They were surrounded. An army of rebel dead. He left around five or so tonight to do a tourney of some sort. They were going berserk. Smell was getting to her again. With Lettuce Head and Melissa right behind. armed to the fucking teeth. And the zombies had caught their scent. wheezing. And those fuckers are well armed. Melissa spun around. She was already running down the hill. I’ve been hovering around those guys since I started school here. my buddy Mark is in it. Shit. “But I’m not going to kiss you.Dead Stay Dead You’re okay.” Lettuce Head nodded. light scattering around here as the zombies charged. “You’re right about that. I figured that’s as good as army we’re going to get. insane and fast.” Melissa patted him on the back. Let’s get the fuck in there and hope for the best. not now. running toward them. Guess there’s a whole bunch of people in there.
The room was a large windowless gym lit by candles and hanging hurricane lamps. either.1:03 a. covered with banners and heralds. pasting his clothes to his skin. “Yeah Ty. still wet. The walls. trembled. far away from here in Renaissance Europe. The high ceiling gave away the illusion. beating the living shit out of each other with medieval weapons and shouting insults and taunts at each other. “It’s the SCA. They were too wrapped up in their own world.” Lettuce Head said. violently trying to come inside. slow. Blood was still sticky. They dress up in Renaissance outfits. however. and flat. another banging and fingers getting caught. and he had tears and bites along his skin. They did not notice the ragtag group. In the center of the room were about five or six groups of men in circles. His body still shook. They hoped it would hold. while a group of women danced complicated whirls and circles. since it was high. They did not look around. They did not turn. The wailing of the hungry zombies was drowned out by the clash of steel on armor and the delicate music of the troubadours. guys? What the hell is this? Did you take me to some whacko cult or something?” “No. were painted to look like stone and textured with sand. and had no beams criss-crossing it. Them holding and panting and keeping it there. their own place. Society for Creative Anachronism. I see it too. bar across it now. Where the fuck are we. holding the door closed against the violent and disrupting force of the dead. regaining his breath. did not see the group panting.m. at least for a few moments. melodic. A group of musicians played medieval music. Another door slammed shut. Door was locked now. cold corpse falling to the ground. Tasha looked around. He was covered in sweat. study . The dead outside hungry and wanting to come inside.
Panting. “Let me explain. Louder than the acoustic instruments. you mind if we use you guys to fight off a horde of zombies and save the campus?” The weapons dropped to the floor.” Tasha laughed. “Remember me? Lady Mel! Hey. It was fear itself. wiped the brains from her pajamas. It was an all-encompassing bang. Like a Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s court. once upon a time. “Hey guys!” Melissa shouted.” Lettuce Head said. The three of them stuck out like a sore thumb. Clang. Knocking on the door behind them. I just bought these. She collected her thoughts. I don’t know if I’ll get the chance. I had thought of joining. Oh well. though I never really got into it myself.” She huffed.” 38 . glaring look. Dancers turned and stared. The banging echoed louder than the clash of steel. Everything stopped. “I’ve been going to a few meetings here and there. The musicians stopped. Accusing looks. “I guess they’re our best bet for surviving though. As if they had destroyed their carefully created escapism and brought reality crashing down around them with undead hands. bang. bang. It seems really cool. Clang. too. “Okaaay. the internet and cell phones. A little too much like the Boy Scouts for my taste.” Melissa closed her eyes. It’s pretty cool. Clang. Voices silent. like they had just interrupted the greatest moment in existence.Dead Stay Dead the history and the past. I bet they could last almost as long as the Amish in a world without electricity. Everyone stared. Their instruments silent. Everyone in the room turned and looked at them.” Bang. Learn to fight and dance and sing in the old way. “Damnit. All eyes were on them now. But with the zombie apocalypse. right? I mean not just the weapons and stuff.
once the dead are nice and dead again. They were ecstatic. For this. you strange people who come from our future!” Some people laughed at this joke. slowly. No more cell phones. as they went and grabbed weapons from all over. the world around us will be in shambles. It will all be gone. Even Tasha. Everyone was armed. requesting silence. A tittering. Please.” Even the zombies outside were silent. They were cheering and hooting. nervous laugh. let’s have a moment. my family. The zombies knew that this speech was for them. Everyone got something big and sharp and pointed to crush zombies’ skull with. No more cars belching exhaust or satellites overhead polluting our souls with instant maps and Google Earth. No. They were the heat death of the universe. even they were silent. What these people ask us to do is a great honor. who normally hated such violence. The leader of the SCA walked forward once everyone was armed.m. Hushing. Civilization as we know it will be gone. The object of destruction. no more television. No more internet. The only sound was the banging on the walls and the hungry cries of the restless dead trying to get in and failing. even you. “Now that it has passed.1:30 a. away. A soon-to-be-eaten-by-zombies laugh. They were entropy and death and black holes sucking everything away. silence ebbed over the crowd. And so. enough joking. but she figured it was better to crush skull with. whispering. Music was happy music. He held out his hands. “Now. “Greetings. happy dancing. then nothing. this moment . now. And yes. Sure. let us move on. And afterwards. A part of what was making it happen. away. They were change incarnate. no. salutations my friends. They knew they were a part of this epoch. Slowly. it was heavy. A second or two of silence to mourn the passing of an era. eagerly took a long spiky mace and swung it. Dancing.
all of us. Breathing. and he continued. my brothers. even Lettuce Head and Melissa and Tasha. We can take it back to a time when honor. Tasha looked 40 . He glowered down below at everyone in the room.Dead Stay Dead my friends. The time has come. his sword in the air. We can return to that point before our world was taken over by the nattering noises of machines and free ourselves from the electronic leashes of our world! This will be like a living Renaissance Faire! All of us. The sounds died down again. huzzah! Hip. He waited. louder! Hip! Hip! Hu-zz-ah!” Everyone was shouting along. hip. It is our time!” Someone yelled Huzzah! And everyone turned and looked. my family. they all cheered and hooted and hollered. the room filled with it. no! He is right! Huzzah! Huzzah! Say it with me. The leader. “We can make this world over in our image. pride. He looked like a slightly overweight Braveheart with a shock of red hair and a big bushy beard. “No. this moment is ours! We have waited our lives for this exact time. hip. The sound of the zombies sank under the cacophony. Even the zombies erupted once more outside. Trampled under it. let this usher in a new Dark Ages! Where we shall be nobility! We shall be the ones with peerage! We shall rule everything around us!” Shouts of Hear! Hear! And Melissa howling right on! And preach it brother! In her chronic-stained scratchy voice. The air so thick with the power and strength of his speech. Like the moment had been destroyed. It was a moment of pure adrenaline. Like the fall of Rome. loyalty and trust mattered. we have studied for it. who some called “His Grace” and others called “Your Lordship” and still others called “Mark Mothersby” raised his hand in salutation. a part of it. huzzah! Come on now. Drifted under it. We have prepared for it. my sisters. hip. a tasty turkey leg in his other hand. When they were done Huzzaing.
And where did that tool get his turkey leg from? I’m starved and that looks damn fine. Women were property. They all had bloodthirsty eyes. they are great zombie fodder. I bet you they will once they’ve been in charge for while.” 41 .” Tasha smirked.” Melissa grinned.” Tasha shook her head.” Melissa looked out at the screaming chorus. Just send them out in the front line and let them get lunched on while we stroll around in the back. “I guess we don’t have much of a choice. “Listen to them. I think he’s right about this one. making it hard for anyone but Melissa to hear them.Paul Jessup at Melissa and shouted. like the moment for war was at hand. “Well that’s a buzz kill. “Even the subservient women part?” “The who in the what now?” Tasha nodded. “Ty says we let them do what they want. we get the hell away from them. “Why for? This is awesome! I love a good Ren Faire. scot free. When we’re safe and sound. don’t you know anything about the period these guys want to replicate? It’s not just The Hobbit and saucy wenches and corsets. and hopefully they’ll help us live for a bit. Personally? I find these guys to be super-duper-a-one-awesome-sauce-incarnate. I can’t wait to sign up for it.” Melissa shrugged.” Melissa frowned. barely audible two feet from each other. even if you don’t buy what they’re selling. “So what if they are? Look. What should we do?” Tasha put her hand on her friends shoulder.” “Don’t you think that’s a bit calloused?” “That’s just one way of looking at it. “I’m starting to have second thoughts about this. Property! Even if they don’t think that right now. The cheering and clashing covering her voice as she spoke. They were all probably drunk on cheap homemade mead. They sound completely nuts. Even Ty thinks so.” “Shit. “Lady Mel.
Clang.Dead Stay Dead Right as she said that. 42 . Clash. The fire alarm went off. the door burst down. and in swarmed the army of the living dead.
Lettuce Head and Melissa hung back. Look at all that. It makes them easy pickings.m. “Don’t know. “Fuck! He got me! Oh shit. Oh damn oh hell I’m bleeding and I can barely move my arm. They have an advantage right now: the zombies need to come in one at a time. Shields up in the air. Oh shit. But we can’t just stay in here forever. corpses dropping to the ground in a messy splat. “So. Someone screamed. their bodies far away from them. Eventually these dudes are going to get tired and drop like flies. They saw awards and deeds and portraits carefully painted in exquisite detail. loud. The mob of SCA rushed forward like a medieval inkblot and swarmed on that zombie. and keeping munching zombie maws at bay. ripping off arms and fingers. someone do it soon. But could be awhile. blocking zombie hands and zombie fingers. bashing and cutting and destroying. pulling out intestines and waving them in the air.” And then he collapsed. “Good boy. steel heavy and quick. that’s using your noggin. . away from the fray. But they did not see another exit. oh shit.2:00 a. They saw tapestries and candles and wall sconces.” Lady Mel patted him on the head like a puppy. an angry zombie jumping up and down on his body like a victorious orangutan. the sounds of bones crunching and squishy meat splashing as it was ripped off. Six eyes scanning. Is there any other exit to this place?” They looked around. Maces smashed into zombie skulls exploding. Swords flashed. angry. Tasha. The sound of disarticulated limbs flopping like fish out of water. how long do you think they’ll last?” Lettuce Head smirked. arm sputtering blood. while another with a lute began to sing a war song. The moaning zombies. It was hard to concentrate in the chaos. Someone screamed and ran to the back. he got me! I’m a goner guys! Someone kill that fucker. Not a single other door.
” Lettuce Head smirked. They ran as the dead eyes all turned and saw fresh moving bodies. Hummed. shrugged his shoulders.” All eyes turned and looked. Some were armless. Hungry. Melissa closed her eyes.” Lettuce Head pointed. hummed.” They ran. “What the hell happened?” Melissa shook her head. “Look. her eyes wide and glazed over in a mixture of fear and adrenaline. “Fuck. “What the hell is that?” Tasha nodded.” More screams. Their skin being ripped off. that is kind of cool. “I think we just watched the death of super zombie. They turned and saw more people down.Dead Stay Dead It took out two more before it was no more.” 44 . without thinking. right toward that back door. Tasha screamed. were four or five zombies. messy stumps for legs. “Yeah. Nothing happened. The zombies all turned. Starting sniffing the air. “I think I’m all out of psychic juice. trying to drag her back. swarming like ants on a wasp corpse. Others were being torn apart. faced them. These nerds turned their fire exit into a fucking secret passageway. look at that tapestry. wet and warm flesh. One girl in a blue dress crawled on the ground. Behind it was a dim red glow in a square shape. Behind her. Their arms flailing. “Fuck fuck fuckityfuck. living. screaming. Tearing apart the screaming. They came in through the front door now. “Oh that’s brilliant.” Melissa jumped up and down and clapped her hands. “Holy shit.” Melissa said. Scenting them. That’s the exit sign. “Ty says you’ve got a good eye. Their intestines being pulled out.” Tasha looked pale and grim.” Melissa said opening her eyes. “I think our time’s up. Let’s get the hell out of here.
Ty. “Fuck you. They hadn’t noticed them yet. locking the zombies inside. into the streetlamp light. get back here. Melissa and Lettuce Head held her to them.” Door open. Not smelling them.Paul Jessup Lettuce Head tugged on their arms. “Ty. We need your help Ty. without thinking. others dressed in funeral best. “Oh Ty. Come on! Stop this bullshit right now and come and help us!” She collapsed screaming and sobbing to the ground. Tasha glanced around. as if they were waiting for them. Dragging them toward the exit. Hello? Ghostly boy? Olly olly oxen free! Come out. When they turned around. Some naked. Melissa pulled in Lettuce Head. where have you gone? Ty? Come on. looking at the zombies meandering about. Standing there. Zombies. Right there. Outside the air smelled like death and gunpowder and vomit.” She said. “You can go to hell. But they. “Who the fuck cares? Let’s get out of here. They ran. remember? You said you were destined to save us Ty. some recent and chewed-on corpses. This stopped being funny like two seconds ago. More than they had ever seen before. Ty. come out. hugged him tightly against her.” Tasha whispered into the sidewalk. shuffled. Others had no teeth and crows still pecking at eyes. wherever you are? This isn’t funny anymore. the living dead. Shuffling about. She pulled at her hair and howled insanely. Not seeing. Jaws dropped. He almost choked on it. Now. Some were bloated and maggotfilled to bursting. maybe long enough to give them a chance to escape. Smothering him against her.” 45 . This is your destiny. slamming the door behind them. they couldn’t believe what they saw. She smelled like stale pot smoke and body odor.
fly-filled. Careful. Lettuce Head and Melissa looked as well. eyes rolling in its head. Sniff. was still cautious and mute. Nobody said anything.m. that the zombies didn’t notice. Behind him was Melissa who strolled through it all like it was just a walk in the park. Next to her was Lettuce Head. Don’t slip. and her blood felt hot and ready to boil in panic. Bodies turned. The zombie sniffed. Fat. Everyone stopped. And then turned around and kept walking. a buzzing from deep down in the gullet. who seemed to care less. walking between. Even Melissa. like a wooly mammoth trapped in ice. She wanted to scream and run but was frozen. Not smelling. showed teeth—rotting teeth—and a nest of flies in its mouth. They did not want to feel the bite or the claws again. like a waltz. Couldn’t dare move. careful. They held their breath as best they could. eyes not seeing. Like nothing special was happening at all. ready for the thaw a million years later. looked directly at Tasha. don’t touch. Slowly. If the dead picked up their scent. don’t fall.2:20 a. they were goners for certain. it opened its mouth. It was a game of tiptoe around the zombies. Sniff. Maggots on the tongue. Tasha let out a sigh of relief and kept walking through the shambling mines of the living dead. He was nervous and sweaty and shaking. and it was like she had no reason to worry. She couldn’t move. They’d seen what the dead could do firsthand. Death kept them frightened and on edge. Making sure they didn’t get too close. A zombie turned. Not watching. She was practically skipping. Her heart was racing and thundering in her chest. Tasha held her breath. careful. That . not at all. Careful. Moving as quietly as they could. Tasha wanted to throw up. bloated.
.Paul Jessup was a close one. All these corpses. waiting for her. the air was empty. Too close. She did not run. She could escape now and find some place without zombies to wait this whole thing out. All these people dying. It was a void of spirits. She stayed. Melissa and Lettuce Head walked carefully. Yet. talking to her. But could she leave Melissa? She wasn’t sure. She was used to seeing ghosts everywhere. She reached the edge of the sidewalk and looked behind her. hungry. dead. Tasha realized she was out of the thicket. slowly between the hungry corpses not far behind. ignoring her. Yet there were none. one thing caught her eye right away: there were no more ghosts. Where had they gone? All this dead. As she walked through the moaning. Any closer and she’d be a zombieburger fresh off the grill. She could run now. Eventually they would have to decay and collapse and fall apart. There should’ve been more and more and more ghosts. So she waited. 47 . They seemed to up and disappear the moment Ty left her.
no. devoured? Taken somewhere else and used like supernatural batteries for some dead god? .” Melissa said. Not ever. So did Ty say what he needed us to do? You know. She choked up at the thought of Ty going poof again. glowing? Is that the word? Like an aura or a circle of light around them. wide wall of thick stone painted white. They would catch up soon. Inhuman. Broken. Not on purpose. The symbols seemed to specify all things at once. Lettuce Head nodded. panting. “So these are the letters. He felt so driven. Distracted. Had felt the need to come and he felt compelled to help them. platonic concepts or simple verbs and nouns.2:45 a. The trio had barely gotten out of that alive. Ripples through time flooded toward them as they stared at the high walls. And a little. had been spray painted perfectly with expert hands. The dead seemed sluggish. eh?” The dead weren’t far behind. “Yeah. they stood in front of the long. She saw it in his eyes. no. hands still on knees. alien letters. Scraped thin. different. Tasha wondered why things were different now. The Cafeteria. They were constructed of a math not born from five fingers and toes. Were they being ground up. And all the ghosts were gone. Across it. ten feet tall at least. Someone had stolen him away. and bend reality with their very being. “These are the letters all right. before he abandoned us?” Tasha shook her head no. huge yellow. at a time when the ghosts should be crowding her and drowning her with requests to move on to the next life. He would never leave them. The letters looked odd. Tasha thought he looked worn out.m. just like they had stolen away the other ghosts. They felt a dilation in the fabric of reality. Built up from a world not built on Euclidian geometry. Panting and bent over. No. well.
“I don’t get it. “No. and these aren’t them. The Aklo Letters were all made up by some old hack short story writer in the thirties.” Tasha nodded. “I don’t feel it. okay?” “Look. So obviously these letters are doing something. I wonder what they are. you know? I’ve seen what people think the Aklo Letters should look like. Nothing real to them at all.” “Okay. I don’t know. you know?” Tasha groaned. Didn’t you say you knew something about these letters?” “Well. They really aren’t makebelieve at all.” “Inert?” Melissa said. But these. how they can do what they’re doing? You know?” Melissa nodded. walking forward a little. Lovecraft borrowed them for his Cthulhu stories and it kind of made them famous. The lights flickered along the walkways. Do you remember anything important?” Tasha looked into their eyes. “He said we needed to render the letters inert. these aren’t how they’re supposed to look. that’s thing. it’s all nonsense. Lay it out for us. Is this weird to anyone else? Like. making it stick up on end. his fingers stretched out like a fan. see. based on descriptions in the short stories. That doesn’t help us at all. moving in and out of her vision. “Very dizzy. Melissa. I feel really weird right now. These letters aren’t supposed to exist. “We need you with us right now.” Lettuce Head said. whatever the hell that means. Blue sparkling lights shot up and down his arm. “I feel… I feel dizzy. He moved just a little more. inert. right? Just a story thing. fluttering like a butterfly. “Yeah. so yeah.” Melissa snapped her fingers with a loud snicketysnap.” The world danced around her. He stopped and rubbed his black hair. come on. are they? I just wonder. not as much as you guys 49 . They’re completely make-believe.Paul Jessup “Tasha? Earth to Tasha.
so we can stop this craziness and get back to school. 50 . But her body moved back. like my arms are tingling. her soul burning. Then she felt a wave of fire and light fall over her. long time. Inert. Or maybe she didn’t? She couldn’t see anything but light anymore. She felt untethered from her meat for a second.Dead Stay Dead are. “Ta-da! I’ve got the keys to the art building’s store room. I guess removing them would make it stop. She jangled them in her hand. But how do we get close enough to the letters to paint over it? Whenever I get too close my body just says no. Man. “I seem to be perfectly fine. “I know where we can get a whole bunch of spray paint. If that makes any sense.” Tasha smiled. her body burning. held up some keys.” Melissa gave them a thumbs-up. She threw up. if that would do it?” Lettuce Head nodded. Her eyes swam. I mean if the letters are really what’s doing all this. Her meat tried to run far away. and my body just starts moving backwards on its own accord.” She reached into her pocket. I never thought I’d be the one saying that. She hit the ground. Her mouth felt too big for her face. It’s like I can’t control it anymore. Jingle. the letters dancing.” Tasha moved forward. Probably ‘cause I’ve got the super mojo powers of doom! So I can do it.” She held her hand out further. But I do feel something. “Looks good to me. Let’s just go and get this paint. One of the benefits of being a teacher’s pet.” Lettuce Head smiled. Nothing but blinding light. How could we make them inert? I wonder if we spray painted over them. “Inert. Felt the wall of air vibrate under her fingers. jingle. Like the barrier doesn’t touch me at all. I guess. The wall vibrated. “That could. then snapped back in. right? If that’s what it is. But she did hear a voice she hadn’t heard in a long. Walked toward the letters.
51 .Paul Jessup It was the voice of her brother who went missing. Who had turned invisible when he closed his eyes. Her brother spoke to her in a voice so caring. Her brother. who she missed and cried about and dreamt about but never saw again. and then never came back. so loving yet so full of malice.
I’ve been trying to contact you for so long. Yet now.3:00 a.” Her brother’s shadow moved like a wall of crows. Is that really what it takes for you to love me? The world ending?” Her brother was an outline of shadow in the wall of light. Not really. She felt like she was floating around and vague and weightless. In a way. You’re assuming I still have the capabilities of interacting with the physical world. I wish it were that simple. Invading your dreams. “How pedestrian. All these years of trying to reach out to see you and nothing. She didn’t feel real right now.” “Yes. What? You seem surprised. How you’ve come to disappoint me. or a letter or something. Those letters over there? They took me almost a year to create. Natasha. discarding them when they were all used up and no longer of use to me. you know that?” “Well. I am dead. sending crows to your windowsill to whisper my secrets in your ears. “You could’ve sent an email. Listening to me.” The shadow moved around. Like prisms around them. blocking light. Where was she? Tasha couldn’t tell. Just writing some sacred letters and getting this whole ball rolling was such a pain in the ass!” “So you’re behind this. letting halos of other light in. I thought you were dead. Like a million black wings beating against the light. I never actually . I never actually died. “I mean. the world’s about to end and here you are. or a text message. You didn’t want me in your life anymore. You know? Something a little more physical. not tethered to anything. Possessing random freshmen.m. because you didn’t come to me. You didn’t see me. It seemed I was barking into a void for all it mattered.” “Not surprised. Rogue electrons to scatter messages of light at your retinas. “Oh. Finally. you know that? I’ve tried various little tricks here and there.
his shadow almost collapsing into a wall of light.” He paused. I have become what so many strive for all their lives. I shook off the chains of meat that bind you poor fools to this messy. for which I’m terribly sorry.” “So human you couldn’t write me a simple letter. something was unleashed. I need you to. a shadow into your world. But this had to be done. A shadow from this world. I need you to. I need you to be the final note in my masterpiecethe defining moment of this movement. But you could spend months defacing this wall. and what you have to do is stop him. Static. I have no animal side. I transcended. By the sound of chains. I have become what so many religions promise for over and over again. too. Tonight’s the night.” A pause.” “This wall was partly a message to you! And it’s finally brought you here. no messy sexy body anymore. but we might have missed our window of opportunity. “I can’t hear you! Speak up! What’s going on? Dylan? Tell me what’s going on? What do I have to do?” “I can’t do this. The zombies were a bit of a side effect of that. I am the most human of the human.” More static. What might be too late. I can deal with that. Sound moving in and out.” 53 .” “What are you talking about?” “The letters were a message. After I ascended beyond space and time. Static and light. Even though it means I die. I am reason. to this spot. He is. explaining. I need your help finishing what I’ve started.Paul Jessup had a corpse. I have become pure and immortal. You’ll know. disgusting physical realm. “And walking soon. I am spirit. “It took so long to get a hold of you. no emotional side. A bad psychic reception? What was going on here? “You’ll know him by the chains.” Static. I can’t stop him. We’ve traded places. a way of bringing you here. His movement stilled.
She was getting pissed.Dead Stay Dead More static. 54 . You’ll know him by the sound of his chains. Remember that. “The chains.
That gave her goosebumps all over. All right I guess. She would know him by the sound of his chains. unmoving harvest moon. The large clock at the center of the walkway had barely budged. Tasha sat up. She felt like she had been in that place forever. What would she say to the others? That her brother had accidently caused all the dead to rise to feast on human flesh. n.3:05 a. Not one bit. “Just. Gave her the willies something fierce. But I’m here now. Her whole body vibrated like she was being electrocuted. They’d dragged her away from the wall. so I guess that’s good. Had a vision of . like a bad cell reception or a television turned to a dead channel. She didn’t like that feeling. yet she knew not much time had passed.” Should she tell them? She wasn’t sure. just so he could talk to her? She didn’t buy that. How could she tell them what her brother had told her? Had that all been a dream? She didn’t even know what she was supposed to do. There was something else going on here. Scared the living hell out of me and Lettuce Head here. talking with her brother for hours. plump. She felt her head filled with pain. Colored lights dotted her vision. She remembered the one clear thing he said. “Tasha? Tasha you all right? You were just talking for a minute there and then you collapsed. Wanted to throw up so badly. yeah. Let’s get the fuck away from those letters. Kind of pale.” Tasha nodded. There had to be. The moon was in the same spot—large. What happened to you?” She shook her head. She leaned over and dry heaved. Not sure if that’s quite the word for it. Melissa slapped her. not one bit. I don’t think they’re good for me. yet she felt like she had been there. He kept getting cut off whenever he said it.m. I don’t know. “You don’t look so good. “You all right?” Now it was Lettuce Head talking. “All.
Grabbing the spray paint. but almost stumbled. hoss. Look where it got half those guys from Greek mythology or any of those stupid time travelers in science fiction films. Lettuce Head. That vision doesn’t change a damn thing. Hungry. Strong body kept her upright. As they walked. “That’s an interesting way of putting it. the three of them heard sounds of shuffling. And probably full of shit for all I know. She tried to stand up and almost fell over. “Visions are nothing but trouble. But you’re right. And you got to learn to crawl before you walk. still. It felt incomplete though. unable to float away. Melissa grabbed her arm. calling ships in from the sea.Dead Stay Dead some sort.” Tasha nodded. Let’s get gone. almost fell. They looked across campus and saw corpses lurching toward the yellow letters just like a beacon in the night. “Now? Now we go and do what we’ve been planning on doing. You got to learn to walk before you can run. kept her clinging. The yellow letters glowed and hummed and pulsated like they were calling out.” Melissa helped her hobble with Lettuce Head following right behind. kept her anchored to this reality. and letting Lady Mel make these damned things inert. I don’t trust it all. Coming right for them.” “What about your vision?” Tasha tried walking a bit on her own. coming back here. And no.” “Right. Heard sounds of a million flies swarming. signaling to something else.” Tasha said.” Lettuce Head took in a deep breath. “Yeah. Open mouthed.” Melissa nodded. “So now what?” Tasha leaned against Melissa. I know. Someone else. “Woah there. 56 . I guess.
Melissa had her psychic mojo. kablooey was slow going at best. Big spike-covered stick. and the three human meat sacks were just something in their way to be disposed of. bash. She felt like he was pulling her in one direction. Or a small nuclear warhead. A lot of the dead coming toward them were old dead. The zombies were going to the letters.m. Dead . Anything that could take out multiple clumps of the dead at a time. their meaning. Brittle dead. not speed. kept moving. Even though Tasha longed for the weapons the SCA had before. And so. crumbling. What could they be going for? What did the letters really mean? She had a feeling her brother was lying to her about their purpose. when she really should be going in another. The kind of dead that broke fingers and nails digging through the ground. The only boon they really had was that the zombies didn’t seem too terribly interested in them. waiting for the call of life. It just figured that the art department was on the other side of the campus. that was. Or napalm. She still had the crowbar from before. They seemed to munch and claw and bite and pinch and shove only as a last resort. These dead were unpreserved. anything could be a decent weapon. not this dead. kept fighting. That was something. She sighed. they did okay. These dead were a tap away from falling apart.3:30 a. This bash. In the end. A grenade would’ve been best. A gun would’ve been better. which for some reason seemed to be working again. the one Ty had on him before the ambulance came. The dead could overwhelm you with numbers. but not strength. she figured she could make do. and at the worst moments gave that shambling dead an advantage over them. coming back to life—that kind of dead. Dead that’d been rotting underground. Lettuce Head had a mace that one of the SCA members dropped. Or a flamethrower.
The bodies made sounds like sighing old men when they burst. like they were letting out one last complaint against the unfair laws of decay. rotting guts and dried-up blood exploding in a gory symphony of flies.Dead Stay Dead faces pressed up against her. about ready to burst. Some of them did burst. 58 . A sea of moving corpses squirmed with maggots and buzzed with flies.
We need three of us to work in tandem. Between the two of us. “Okay. looked back at the bodies moving. Tasha remembered a toy she had when she was really little. Goldilocks. lay it on out there. gets them to start coming toward him. Danced just like her brother used to make them dance. The toy was old when she got it. How about this? Lettuce Head here creates a distraction. She would be alone then with the zombies. She was frightened of this toy.3:52 a. with pale dead skin and ratted hair. That work?” Tasha shook her head. and her brother knew this. “That would be stupid. It was from the old world. they danced just like that toy. I would be alone with all those zombies. They walked like puppets pulled on by an unseen string. It was a little marionette. With all those dancing toys. you should be able to sneak in unseen and grab what we need. “If you got a better idea. She didn’t want to do that again. Right? Like a spy game or something. She thought about the toy dancing.” They saw bodies moving in the well-lit corridors. If . It smelled of linseed oil and stale vomit. More like an observation. That toy was the toy of nightmares. second floor.m. and would make it dance as it came toward her. that’s not much of a plan. She hadn’t been alone since the first zombie attacked her. Pointed up to a second floor window. Should we all just run in?” Melissa shook her head no. She remembered that so clearly. And those bodies. I create distraction number two on the other side of the building. “They’re up there. I got all the keys we need. She felt cold and alone and wanted to throw up. She’d almost died. “What’s the plan then?” Tasha nodded. those zombies. And she would howl and scream and hide. That dance was a dance that haunted her worst dreams.
Talk. Let’s cut out the shit and get going. isn’t it? And yet here we are. talk. “Stop fucking talking. “Look you jackass. checking him out slowly. “I don’t know.” “Yeah. I just think I lost more blood than I realized.” he said. His face looked like a skull in that lamp light. We all talk too fucking much.” Melissa said. pushing his head up gently with her hand. yeah” Lettuce Head nodded. “This doesn’t sound like a good plan. no it’s okay. I’m starting to care for you. He had that “I’m going to puke my brains out” look crossing his eyes. I don’t want you dying on me and coming back to eat me.” Melissa clucked her tongue. okay? I need to know if we can count on you. you here? One undead zombie friend is enough for one day. I’ll be fine. It’s the end of the world. Tasha looked around. attract them to us. watching the doll zombies dance in the building. “Where’re you bit? Come on and show me. And besides. the zombies in there are going to spot us soon enough and come on down to snack on us. it could be like a shark.Dead Stay Dead not. “You okay man? You don’t look so hot. Can we?” Lettuce Head shot her a look that was as grim as death. Death was coming for them. Some of his color came back. “No. Right? We’ll be good. “I’ll be okay. So you have to be honest with me. Just give me a minute. kissed Lettuce Head on the forehead. you know? The smell of my blood could bring them out. this is what we’re going to do. “Look. okay? So sue me if I 60 .” Lettuce Head looked green. We need to see how serious it is. Not much longer now.” Lettuce Head laughed.” Melissa bit her lip and put her hand on his shoulder. you know?” Melissa eyed him. I swear it. Let’s just get this party started already.” “Yeah. eyes disappearing into shadows of his skull. bullshitting. Melissa leaned in. his body shaking. talk.
” “I do too. “I don’t?” He laughed. Just call me Lettuce Head. “Yeah?” “You’re so full of shit.Paul Jessup don’t want to see you become a zombie midnight snack.” “Look guys. But why don’t we get that spray paint and go and do what Ty suggested? We might be able to survive this whole thing. You don’t even know my name. His skin was still green and sickly.” She looked heartbroken.” 61 . “Let’s get this plan into place. “Yeah. “No you don’t. Hopeful eyes. And Melissa?” She looked at him.” Tasha said. It’s Matt.” Lettuce Head held up his hand. “Fuck it. You don’t care about me. “This is really sweet and moving and all that. His hair covered his face. tapping her foot. “Come on. It’ll be easier for you when I die. let’s go.” she said. right? Or Tad?” He shook his head.” Tasha pulled on Melissa’s arm.
Like they were pawing at the door. three. out. She felt cold. to think. Right. she was going to be attacked. what would happen? Where would she go? The living dead were everywhere. So then why was she hesitating? Why couldn’t she just reach over and pull open the door? She heard fingers scraping against it. the night breeze blowing softly over her pajamas. like a beam of light. She opened them. It would be too easy to get side tracked now. Tried to steady her nerves. One. Melissa ran over to the south entrance of the building. All of her mind and body were screaming no and stop and don’t do it. Breathed.4:17 a. distracting them from Tasha. Breathed. She had to stay focused on the whole mission. She was going to get herself killed. She swallowed.m. Inside the building she heard the faint sounds of zombies moaning and shuffling and moving. frozen in time. She closed her eyes. And if she didn’t do this. she felt the cold air on her sweat-slicked skin and shivered. This was their only chance. forever and ever. trying to get out. and damnit. Calming down. She couldn’t. This would be death. to calm her racing heart. gulp. She knew that the minute she opened the door. This would be the end of her. wasn’t it? Draw the zombies out into the open with Lettuce Head. steady. she didn’t want to end! She wanted to keep on going. yet it didn’t make her feel any less on edge. In. She couldn’t do it. . This was a stupid plan. Gulp. and now that she had a moment to breathe. Steady hand. It was the point. two. Until now she’d been almost running nonstop. and why? What for? So they can grab some spray paint and spray over some letters? What would that solve? She had to ignore these pestering little asides. Getting attacked was the point.
She ran back. looking down at the ground. one at a time. how much longer does he have? “Come on you undead motherfuckers! Come out and get me! Don’t I look yummy? Don’t I smell dee-ee-licious? Come and get it! Supper is on!” Melissa nodded and watched as bodies started shambling. so could she. She saw several zombies wandering around in the halls. she thought. It didn’t. toward the tree line near where Lettuce Head stood. She looked at Lettuce Head. Shirtless. and she screamed at the top her lungs. If he could do it. looked over toward Lettuce Head. “You’re going to do this. He waved his shirt over his head. If Lettuce Head could risk his life. and he was walking across the lawn. How much blood had he lost. We’re going to be all right. He has to. His whole chest was scraped open with flaps of skin. too.Paul Jessup “”Get your shit together. She turned quickly. Blood stained everything. blood spraying from the shirt. everything will be okay.” She hoped saying it out loud would make it easier. she could do it. He’d already opened his door. she thought. I’m going to live through this.” she told herself. He’s going to live. She reached over and pulled open the door. “Come on you slack-jawed corpsesicles! Time for dinner!” She only hoped that this wasn’t going to be the dumbest thing she’d ever done. That would be her mantra. I’m going to survive. 63 . lurching through the slim open doors. If we get him to the hospital soon.
to keep going. no. to open that door. holding her breath. “It doesn’t matter anymore. This was ghost Ty. All of you run. Ghost Ty had large chunks of him missing. Here’s hoping her friends sacrifices weren’t all for nothing. Everything is going to be fine. She counted slowly under her breath. And even then…even then! It wasn’t a guarantee that this was going to work. “No. that was for certain. She waited right there. And ghost Ty was barely there. devouring us. She could go over. One part of her brain thought that this was selfish. the one who was bait? She knew the place well. grabbed the handle and gave it a gentle pull. Ghost Ty had only one eye. and they would go running over toward her two friends and she could sneak in without anyone noticing. and his face slouched and spun like it was on a potter’s wheel. Tasha heard the screams. Before she made it back to the Aklo Letters. She reached over. replaced with night. No. right next to the side entrance. that she should be more worried about her friends. But what does that say about her? Sacrificing her friends? And for what? She would probably end up zombie chow before the night was over. that the bait would be perfect. Here’s hoping the bait worked. Now. The ghosts don’t have much longer. no. When Ty popped up right in front of her. Why wasn’t she out there.” . he was not zombie Ty.” Ghost Ty said. She only hoped this worked. calming herself down. Ghost Ty flickered in and out. He’s here. spray paint to her heart’s content and still be screwed. no. The cat calls and shuffling of zombie bodies got louder. now was her time. Now she had to run. the tantalizing calls to the zombies. like a bad reception.4:30 a. Just run.m. He’s come for us. not.
He was gone as quickly as he came. Tree branches crushed skulls. no time. That’s how survives. She looked over. Tasha had three choices: —She could run. Run for her life. —Or she could go over and help her friends. Run Tasha. shining in the night. he wants everyone in it dead. I have to go hide. his chains drag across the bones of the world. Just run and leave and never look back.” she said. —She could hope he was wrong. run into the building and grab the spray paint. Before he comes here. and ran over toward her friends. The crowbar spun in her hands. reached through him. I can hear him. you know? He feeds on ghosts. For him to devour. Staring at him. “Ty how did you? Where did you? What happened?” Ty flickered. “Fuck this. run. Still the wave of the dead moved on. run like Ty said. 65 .” Tasha reached out. Before he destroys me. This world. He’s devoured all of the others.Paul Jessup Tasha stood. Candle flame. He’s coming. He’s already eaten most of me. “No time. He feeds on the spirits of the dead. completely ignoring her. Heads exploded. He wants a world of ghosts for him to feed on. Lettuce Head and Melissa were fighting off the horde of zombies.
The most gorgeous aria she’d ever heard. She wasn’t even closing her eyes. She couldn’t stop now. keep the momentum going. this was beautiful music. save him. And he wasn’t looking too good. The only thing that dropped these fuckers was bashing in the head. wasn’t even humming. Corpses were big balloons of diseases. but he was probably . In front of her. Melissa was blowing the shit out of zombie heads. He was using a big branch as a weapon and it wasn’t faring too well. Her mind raced and she felt like she was going to collapse if she kept going on. She must’ve gotten much better at it. jumping on the backs of corpses. skittered across the pavement. It’d broken several times already. just holding out her hands like she was conducting an orchestra in symphony of violence. She had to keep going. This was not a weapon meant to fend off a horde of the living dead. skull shattering and sending bone fragments. Yet she couldn’t stop. She moved quickly. it wasn’t even a weapon meant to fight off a horde of fifth graders. Loose skin flapped behind him like a flag. Hell. of death. making her way through the ocean of the dead. She had to push it and keep going. brain and a blood all over her. her heart bruising her chest it pounded so hard. She hoped she didn’t get an infection from this. Coming right from her psyche. Tasha held her breath as she continued on. swinging her crowbar— WHAM—like a golf swing. of gore. Eyeball flew out of crushed skull. Wave after wave of them pulling and pushing and trying to bite down. Tasha felt sick to her stomach looking at him. Tasha was going toward him. Lettuce Head wasn’t doing so well. She couldn’t stop.m. Bash! Crowbar into skull.4:45 a. even with them clawing and tearing at her. She wanted to run over. To Tasha.
Poor Lettuce Head. The smell alone would’ve had her vomiting. Zombies pulled and ripped at him. Unlike Ty’s corpse. Any other time in her life and the sight would’ve made her sick. still. The nameless one was now on the ground. like two strands on a double helix. and it made her soul melt. She could not move. skin ripped. She trembled gently.” She started exploding 67 . Bones crunched under her feet. She couldn’t save him now. howling and eyes crazy and wild. Damn. Death had become her sole meaning in life. She didn’t want to think about that. like two pieces of time looping together. horrified. Head burst. reflecting the other. but not now. There was no way to save him now. Not at all. maggots pouring out of the wound like white blood. because all of the dead were up and walking about. She remembered that. almost dropping the crowbar. I am death now. Just like Ty had. bashing in a skull. She jumped over a zombie. Seen too many corpses. And yet still. Would’ve made her throw up. bloated corpse ran toward her. but it would be too late. She wanted to run over and fight off the zombies. He screamed. this one exploded in a show of maggots and gore. She leapt into the air. Leapt onto another.Paul Jessup close to death already. She saw ribs sticking out. His skin peeled away like sheaths of rolled paper. No. frozen in the moment. kicking the corpse down. Tasha stood still. Death and her life were now to be forever intertwined. She was covered in gore. That was when she heard a scream and turned around. though. Lettuce Head. walking along the spine. Blood lay beneath. If he died. felt like these moments were connected somehow. then he would be a zombie. I am vengeance now. A fat. Now it was her world. kicking the head in from behind and jumping until brain leaked out of the ears. she’d seen too much death. she did not throw up. Fuck that noise. Melissa turned and screamed “NO.
just like they were a crowd of people forcing her back. pulled her apart.Dead Stay Dead heads. Tasha watched as he went up to Melissa. eyes filled with endless hunger. unable to pull her eyes away from all of it. unable to stop looking. grabbed her by the face and then bit down. and shambled toward Melissa. She wanted to move. He moaned. Lettuce Head stood up. but it was too late. wasn’t bursting heads anymore. She wasn’t concentrating anymore. to start the world back up again. them scraping and biting and pulling her apart. His mouth moved. dead. tore at her. skinless and twitching. but no words came out. Tasha watched. She was trying to push through the zombies. 68 . ripping back cheek with teeth as she screamed. Mouths bit down and pulled back flesh and strings of blood and muscle. She watched as Melissa screamed. Melissa’s eyes filled with tears as she tried to push forward through the living dead. teeth clacked. It was all in slow motion. Melissa tried to run toward him. hungry. But it was all in slow motion. His eyes rolled back in his head. just like she was. Tasha saw that Melissa was dazed and unthinking. as the zombies pushed her back. He was on the ground. and left a trail of bloody footprints behind him.
just a little over the hill. Like maybe a steak? Yeah.” . It was too much right now. She felt cool and chill and shivered.” Tasha laughed. She sat down at the top of the hill. Why did you do those letters anyway? Tell me the truth. it all seemed so pointless. It was a crazy sound. Did they still shamble about? Or were they resting? Did the zombies rest during the day like vampires? The sun was rising. She leaned over. He smiled and his face seemed to stretch on forever. and watched blood pooling down around her on the ground. Was she laughing or crying? She didn’t know. Looked around the campus. I’m sick of being lied to. She laughed. torn. How could she know these things? “Fuck you. When this was over. You didn’t stop him.5:30 a. she was going to take a long bath if there was any running water anywhere at all. She had her crowbar at her side and a bag filled with black spray paint bottles. Red sky in the morning. The letters were right there. Sailors take warning. and maybe have something nice to eat. The whole thing was too much right now. This spray paint would do her no good anymore. wrung her hair out. The dead were awfully quiet now. She wondered what they were doing.m. She thought of Melissa and shoved that thought out of her head. rocking back and forth. “You didn’t do what I asked. With Melissa dead. She shook when she laughed. Lot of good this would do her. A steak dinner would be good. Would anyone survive? How the hell had she survived this long? Her brother appeared in front of her. Tasha wiped the blood from her forehead and out of her eyes. standing in front of the letters. He seemed ripped. Melissa was the one who was immune to the strange properties of the letters. Over there. like a sheet of paper attacked by a puppy. Mist rolled across the ground.
” Tasha jangled her bag of spray paint. I wanted you to be the first person I saw. the more powerful he becomes. “Shit. “I wanted to be real again. I thought he could help me. It burned at first. Shit. She got up. When I became real. “Maybe?” Flickered again. She had to make sure Melissa and Lettuce Head hadn’t died in vain. Tasting me. clink.” “And?” “The unnamed one didn’t want to help me. The spell he gave me was a lie. I think. not yet. Every gun on the mantle needed to be fired in the third act. clank. Flies still hovered and buzzed like a living funeral shroud over the streets. Wow. This was her moment. She had something do first. the unnamed one. her brother really fucked up. I thought. So many dead. She couldn’t have that. savoring me. I missed you.Dead Stay Dead He wavered in and out. Crawl into a bed on campus somewhere and go back to sleep. She walked up through the wall of reality. Clink. She was so tired. and she didn’t want that.” And then he was gone. “Will me writing over these letters stop the spell?” A pause. Flashing. I did it here. She needed meaning in her life. to carry an importance of some sort. She needed everything to add up. Kept moving through the fire of the 70 . He tricked me. She sat for a moment looking at the sunrise over the campus and watching the mist roll. Their deaths had to mean something. She just wanted to lie down. Or else it would all be meaningless. well. and not a ghost in sight. but she closed her eyes. This was her gun. The more ghosts he can eat. The power to kill and raise the dead. It gave him endless power. She needed happy endings and plot that made sense. She couldn’t do that though. because. He’s been nibbling at me too. I thought he. all of them walking and hungry.
The wall was right there. and she hoped that the zombies wouldn’t wake up and come for her while she did it. Kept walking in through the pain. She opened her eyes. 71 . reached in. She unzipped the bag. This was going to take a bit. She felt her skin loosen. slacken.Paul Jessup soul. fall away like an exoskeleton. grabbed a can and started to spray paint.
cold. running toward the sky. She gasped. He saw her and hugged her. on the campus. She rode on the back of the bird. She dreamt of a bird covered in fire. singing to the sun. The sound of chains dragging on concrete. She felt something like a cold hand gripping around her heart. burning up as they fell through the atmosphere. She heard it in the distance. like being carried away by a wave. her eyes shut. The letters were covered in black X’s and large splotches. shivering. still slick with blood and gore. It instead felt fluid. Her eyes snapped open. Her face was tight. and watching the stars drop to Earth. With each spray. slackening.m. The air no longer felt tight or claustrophobic. slowly sucked away into the ocean.6:00 a. . she’d felt the world loosening. Ty was on the moon. She lay beneath the new letters. one at a time. In her dream. firing a bow and arrow at stars. She’d felt the universe slipping. rode it up and up. cold fingers digging down into ventricles and closing around the veins. mouth twitching. And then she woke.
. and I like to thank them here—Jonathan Wood for putting up with my stupid as I wrote this and Jason Sizemore for not stabbing me with a spork after he read it. Lots of people helped.Acknowledgments As usual this book wasn't written in a vacuum. it was written in a dustpan.
.com. He can be contacted through the other side via his website. http://pauljessup. a hot medium (who looks a lot like Whoopi Goldberg) and a game of ghostly castanets.Author Bio Paul Jessup has reached out from beyond the grave and dictated this story to his poor widow through an Ouija Board.
a young college student is dragged to his first gay club by his best friend Jimmy for a night of dancing. a male stripper. a pretentious gay couple.Don’t miss book #1 in our zombie novella series —Asylum by Mark Allan Gunnells— Curtis. a Vietnam vet bartender.biz . drinking and sex… at least until the dead start to rise and attack the club. and an unstable DJ. Trapped inside the Asylum are a small band of survivors. Will this motley crew survive the hungry undead rattling the sealed-off doors? Will they survive each other? Will they survive their own personal demons? TZF Press — thezombiefeed. including a drag queen.