ZOMBIE WALK • by Lise Colas

Oct 31st, 7pm

I met up with Zara outside The Slug and Lettuce. Purple hair this year, but still that effortless rank look, wild and matted. Nice ragged slash along her throat, exposing the carotid and lots of gore splattered around her cleavage.

“I slapped on a bit more–” she confided, adjusting the neckline of her velvet top, “last time was a disaster — too lilac and turquoise, not enough vermilion.”

“Yeah, like Monet’s bloody garden.”

She leaned in close to inspect my face. “Ooh Terence, I adore your mad staring eyeball and is that a garotte mark? Sweet.” I took her arm and steered her into the pub. I was dying for a drink.

The international brigade was already there, a cluster of droogs in party bowler hats and white long-johns, knocking back pints of craft beer and chatting amongst themselves. Kinky Scandinavian blonds, all nice and lean — but not for me. No blood and guts, far too clean-cut. I couldn’t honestly see the point, their own mothers would be proud of them. There was a lull at the bar, so I took the crumpled note from my pocket.

Usual pint of Darwin for me and half a dry cider for Zara. A beefy bald guy barged past in a pink bustier and black lycra cycling shorts, a tiara of razor blades stuck into his scalp. “Watch it, princess!” I hissed, as beer slopped over the sleeve of my best jacket. A small punk girl with blackened lips, her snub nose pierced by a massive safety pin, scampered in his wake. Ah, the Rocky Horror mob — hence the torn fishnets.

“Hey, look — there’s Elvis!” Zara squawked, pointing at a thick-set chap in shades, dark hair swept back from a widow’s peak, flared trousers and satin cape, droning into a mic set up on a small stage.

“Nah, that’s just a pimped-out Bela Lugosi.” I took another swig from my pint.

Zara began to cackle in that inimitable way of hers.

“Hey, behave yourself!” I hissed, pulling her over her towards a dark corner.

10pm

We’d been walking the bloody walk for more than an hour or so. From the North Laines the main pack turned into Queen’s Road. Passing by the charity shop, I spotted a black plastic sack dumped outside. Curious, I ambled over, still in character. Alas, someone had also deposited a stinking pavement pizza right next to it, so I did a neat side-step and joined the stragglers preparing to puff their way up Mount Zion. By this time I had lost sight of Zara.

There were the usual show-offs of course, eager for social media notoriety. Some were even crawling about on all fours, gnawing away at their stupid plastic bones. I recognised Bethany and her boyfriend Steve from last year, done up as a ghoulish bride and groom, liberally smattered with gore — a shotgun wedding, at a guess. Also Monster Martha with her gang of four — they had chosen a Downton Abbey theme by the looks of it — and I spotted Nick, of course. Unfortunately, he had seen me and ambled over, best zombie foot forward.

“You look the worse for wear already,”  I said.

“Good turn-out this year,” he replied, crooked mouth curling into a grin.

“What’s the concept then?”

“Pirates of the Caribbean. Davy Jones’ Locker. Sort of.”

“Nah, don’t get it. Looks more Damien Hirst to me.”

“Part of my eel-infested rib cage came adrift in Duke Street. I went back to look for it, but the street sweeper got there first.”

“Sorry to hear that, old chap,” I said, trying to sound upbeat. Then I spotted Zara over the road, standing under a street lamp by the Quadrant pub, looking unsteady on her feet. A pair of community support police officers in high visibility vests were approaching from a side alley nearby.

“Where the fuck have you been?” I called out.

“Need–a–bite–to–eat–starving–” She was swaying about, looking far too grotesque under that yellow light. I crossed the road and in my best stage whisper said, “we don’t want to miss the prize-giving, do we, darling?” Grabbing her by the arm, I pulled her towards the main thoroughfare. “Christ! What were you thinking?” I muttered, dabbing more blood around her mouth with a handy tissue.

11.25 pm

The pubs were about to close. At last, we would get something to eat. The prizes had been given out at The Druid’s Head. Bethany and Steve got best couple and they duly celebrated with a Screaming Skull Jaegerbomb and a pint of Bloody Mary. A special newbie prize went to a girl with a half-open zipper embedded in her face.

“Clever job,” said Nick, “must have looked that one up in an anatomy book.”

“Geez, they’ll be awarding honours degrees soon.” I muttered.

The three of us watched as half-cut zombies emerged in dribs and drabs from the various hostelries. I must say they were staggering around the street in a much more convincing manner than at the start.

“I suppose it’s bye-bye time–” said Nick.

“Don’t fancy joining us then?” I said.

“Uh, not that hungry to be honest.”

“Aha, dropping by that mortician bird of yours at St George’s to get patched up by any chance?’

He just grinned. “Cheerio, see you next year!” Then he lurched off, a dead eel stuck to his shoe.

I linked arms with Zara as we headed for the old municipal market. She seemed a little tired and emotional. After going through the bins, she would probably need a lie down in the cemetery, on one of those big oblong graves covered with little green stones, good for the back, therapeutic you could say.

Why do we never get a bloody prize,” she sniffed, wiping her nose on my jacket, “it’s always the same smug dilettantes every year!”

“I know, I know,” I said, giving her a brief hug. “Pisses me off big time too. Completely mental if you think about it — all those glib idiots are just faking it, while we are the real deal!”


Lise Colas lives on the south coast of England and writes poetry and short fiction. She has a BA (Hons) in Fine Art and used to work in the archive of Punch magazine. She has a poetry blog at lisecolas.wordpress.com.


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Rate this story:
 average 3.5 stars • 31 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

    So–like, really–what’s their motivation? Existential question: when does a catalogue of special effects turn into a story? For me, it never did, since the ending was apparent from the first paragraph. One can make a case that a zombie tale is inherently an anemic romp, but still. Two stars.

  • Paul A. Freeman

    I expected a bit of gore at some stage as a Halloween payoff. Apart from a couple of typos the story’s well written, but just lacking that oomph.

    • Joseph Kaufman

      Feel free to email us about any typos you find so we can fix them…

  • To have to explain the story in the last line what was obvious from early in the story demonstrated a critical writing weakness.

  • Mariela

    Great story. I didn’t see that ending at all. Well done!

  • S Conroy

    I’m not sure I got it all. Are they zombies looking for decaying meat in the bins? Would this mean the people they recognise are also zombies?
    One thing that occured to me is that they could be homeless people living in the graveyard, but then it’s unlikely they’d have that kind of access to the make up and special effects.

    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

      I suspect the intent here is not profound social commentary.

      I do think it’s supposed to be the zombies’ annual opportunity to mix, mingle and munch pretty much under the radar.

  • Carl Steiger

    Can’t vote, I just assumed from the beginning that they were real zombies, and since I have a deep-seated prejudice against zombie fiction, I just skipped to the comments.

    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

      Because it’s Halloween, just force yourself to watch “Shaun of the Dead” and “Fido.” Fortify yourself with as much candy corn as necessary. Report back afterwards…

      • Joseph Kaufman

        I also recommend “Warm Bodies”. Very fluffy, but a nice departure from “normal” zombie films.

        • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

          Saw that recently and thought it was charming. But didn’t want to overfeed Carl until he’d worked up a tolerance…

  • Meh,
    the cast was far too large for me to care about any of the characters. or their motivation. It was a who’s who of Halloween costume name dropping extravaganza, but not much else, for me.
    I did guess right off what was happening, as it is a common theme, but even knowing what was going on, I’d have likely enjoyed it as a character study, rather than just dialogue stating everything they saw whilst walking.

  • Stan Bollivar

    The subtleties of this one seem to be outfoxing a few here. So many great little nods and references in this that I get something new on each reading.

    One typo spotted, doogs should be droogs, otherwise a charming and different zombie story for smart people. Not something you see that often.

    • S Conroy

      Ah, for insider zombie fans. That makes sense. As a non-smart on the outermost circle, any chance of an insight into a nod or wink or two?

      • Stan Bollivar

        More literary nods eschewing the old zombie tropes. But seems a bit crass to point them out. Like I said this won’t be for everyone, but then nothing is.

        • S Conroy

          Ah well. There goes my yearly opportunity for a deeper zombie understanding.

    • Camille Gooderham Campbell

      Typo fixed — thanks, Stan! For future reference, you can use our contact form to let us know about typos and small errors, as it reaches an editor faster than waiting for a comment moderator to check the thread. I’m glad you enjoyed the story.

  • Edgar Allen Poeface

    Nice easy read. Set in Brighton? This could “brighten” any Halloween…
    Penultimate par – Zara wiped her nose on Terence’s jacket… S’not funny!… 🙂

  • Samantha Memi

    Lovely story, Just right for Halloween.

  • Paul A. Freeman

    a) St. Trinian’s was a girls’ school. b) It was a fictional girls’ school. c) It was a fictional girls’ school which did not offer teacher training.

    Apart from that, your comment has oomph.

  • Darius Bott

    And a nice cosy safe space in which to display them!

    This is the one site I’ve found where the comments section is unmissable. It’s surprising how much can be learned (just as a reader, let alone as a writer) from these sorts of honest discussions by experienced writer/readers.

    I wasn’t going to read this story until the comments made me curious. (Note to Mariela: no publicity is bad publicity — your proposed
    bell-jar treatment of disliked stories is in fact a more cruel option.)

    For me, Zombie stories are as zombie creatures do — drab, plodding, ugly damn things that never end. Mutton dressed up as a rotten carcass. I just know there’s a link between the current popularity of tattoos and zombies. An ugliness obsession for an ugly age.

  • Mira Taylor

    Thanks for the comments, folks. Yes, it’s set in Brighton, but I’ve probably taken a few liberties with the street map etc. Glad to see my droogs have got their ‘r’ back–yay! I guess my zombies aren’t the brain eating kind–perhaps they are from a different tribe that didn’t get mixed up with ghouls in their past history. Yes, they are outsiders, scavenging on the outskirts of society and doing the annual zombie walk is a chance to participate, etc. And why do they care about not winning any prizes? I guess they still crave some kind of recognition, some acknowledgement that they exist and they matter–which is very human. Cheers, Mira (Lise Colas)

  • GiantSoldier

    Fun story! I saw the motivation for the characters as soon as I finished the story – of course a couple of zombies are going to participate in a zombie pub crawl. Of course they’re going to get cheesed when fake zombies win the costume prizes – as they probably would.

  • manjina

    I really enjoyed this one. Simple and the writing was brilliant. I guessed she would be the creepy one, turned out they both were. Haha, nice story!