White Zombie ‘More Human Than Human’ (Warlord of Mars Megamix)…
“How did you know this room was even here?” I ask the strange zombie, as it tears its one remaining eye off the sight of the pickled baby in the crib, and starts to fluff pillows and blankets around it, in a proprietary fashion. “I mean, surely Crispin would be down here all the time, looking for clues – if HE knew about it…”
At the name ‘Crispin’ the zombie moans, sympathetically. I look at him more carefully, in the torchlight.
There does appear to be a family resemblance…
“Do I have the pleasure of guessing correctly that you are Mr. Dry, Senior?” I say at last.
The zombie nods, patting and polishing the jar a little.
“No wonder,” I breathe. “But why the body farm tag? Is it the equivalent of a summer festival pass, to a zombie? An excuse to lie around in the open air at weekends, meet laid-back girls, catch a few flies – nobody bothering you…?”
The zombie shrugs and nods again, waggling his hands in the universal gesture meaning ‘Pretty much, yeah.’
No wonder they know so much about me already, I realise, blushing fiercely. Eavesdropping on my private one-sided conversations, no doubt, with Mr. Wheelie-Bin under the silver birch tree…
“So who was… is this?” I ask, more gently. The baby’s thumb is in its mouth, a forelock of blonde hair waving slowly in the suspension fluid.
The zombie points to the head of the crib, where an engraved brass name plaque becomes obvious.
“Higham Dry,” I ponder, and the zombie nods again. “The youngest?”
The Zombie shakes his head, and holds his hand up above his head, as if measuring.
“The eldest?” I whisper, shocked, and am rewarded with another nod. “I’m not surprised that Crispin and Homer felt they failed expectations, then… having a stillborn elder brother who might have fulfilled everything…”
Mr. Dry Senior just shrugs again, and reaches under the blanket. Feeling around for a moment, he produces a pink and white felt rabbit toy, and offers it to me.
“I, er, don’t understand…” I falter.
The zombie thrusts the stuffed toy under my nose. It is wearing a red waistcoat, on which is appliquéd a pocket-watch and chain, in golden thread.
“It’s the rabbit from Alice in Wonderland, yes,” I agree. “She fell down a hole – I fell down a hole. I get it…”
“Noooo,” the zombie replies, and prods the felt rabbit in the chest. The sound of an air-squeaker inside it makes me jump.
“And it squeaks,” I add. I’m at a loss. “I don’t know what you mean…”
I find myself staring at the rabbit toy’s chest, as it is held even closer. The word SWISS is embroidered on the white watch-face.
“Is it a clue?” I ask. The zombie’s shoulders slump, and he slaps his free hand over his eye in resignation. “Do you want me to take this?”
“Yessss,” Mr. Dry Senior groans, and shoves it into my own hands. It’s surprisingly heavy. “Go nowww…”
“Back the same way?” I say in dread, thinking of the naked Frittata brother, with his frog fixation and dubious golden ball in the wishing-well, and the giant monitor lizard in the underground hen-house.
I follow him back out into the study, where he glances sadly back at the nursery before closing the door behind us.
“Up,” Mr. Dry Senior says simply, and points to the corner of the wall, above the desk.
A couple of ribbons flutter from a large aluminium air-vent. Aha…
I step up onto the desk and start to open it, but he stops me with one hand on the leg of my pyjama-bottoms. I look down to see him closing the leather-bound diary, buckling it shut, and offering it to me as well.
“More clues?” I query, taking it, and tucking it into my waistband.
“Duhhh…” The zombie slumps in the chair, and looks defeated, dropping his head into his hands and shaking it slowly.
I think he’s deteriorating rapidly. Probably too much time spent outdoors on the body farm at the weekends, experiencing alternative forms of decay.
* * * * *
The ventilation shaft is wide and smooth, and the only sound is the echo of my own hands and knees as I crawl along. But I don’t trust it. The aluminium throws dark reflections and moving shadows at every turn, and I’m sure that behind me – although I could be imagining it – I hear the scuttling of claws.
What could Mr. Dry want by giving me his stillborn son’s toy rabbit, and an old diary full of sketches and drawings? I can only imagine he wants me to pass them on to Crispin – with all his modern technology in the bunker below the stairs, surely he’ll be able to decipher it? And maybe find that special hereditary clockwork hand, which will save his home from the clutches of the National Trust…
As I’m thinking this, I suddenly become aware of a smell creeping up on me slowly, along the air-way. The smell of burnt feathers, and rotten eggs. And the mental image of something that stalks chickens on their nests, and devours them whole…
I hear the scaly scrape of a reptile tail against aluminium behind me. Before the echo has even formed, I’ve never moved so quickly in my life.
I know I don’t have a hope in Hell.
Out-crawl a monitor lizard in a low passageway? I might as well try turning around and seeing if I can out-bite it…
But my fear drives me forwards, even knowing that I’m doomed. And around the next corner, my heart jumps vertically up into my throat, and makes a desperate grab for my epiglottis…
Leading straight up!
Almost crying with relief, I propel myself forward quickly, using the slippery silk of the pyjamas to surf the aluminium floor, and clutch at the rungs of the upward ventilation shaft. No more than six or seven feet up, I feel the violent vibration as a powerful claw twangs the bottom of the ladder, and make the mistake of looking down – into those hungry, poisonous jaws.
God help me… I redouble my efforts to climb, the latticework metal grille at the top a blur as I ascend.
“Help!” I hear a shriek, and then recognise it as my own, while I batter my knuckles and palms of my hands on the underside of the grille. “Let me out! Help me!”
And then I’m punching nothing. Something clamps around my wrist, and I’m dragged bodily out of the vent. I scream again, trying to identify the sensation. Do monitor lizards drag their prey, or bite first? Am I out of the frying pan into a fire?
Then I find myself dangling at eye-level with Carvery Slaughter, and realise that yes – quite possibly I am…
“Why am I always catching you hanging around me at the moment?” he demands.
“Wishful thinking?” I suggest, my voice a mouse’s peep.
“Not mine, I think you’ll find,” he remarks, and deposits me back on my feet, before kicking the grid back over the hole in the floor.
It’s a stonework tunnel similar to earlier – I must be back on the level of the secret passageways inside the house. A glance at Carvery does nothing to settle my stomach. Even worse, he seems to be alone.
“Where are the others?” I ask. “And what have you been up to?”
He’s covered in blood, for one thing. My hope that it’s his own, is quickly dashed.
“Well, Homer won’t have to worry about returning that blonde wig to Mrs. Frittata now,” Carvery shrugs, and the next thing I note is that he’s now in possession of a shotgun. I glance at it nervously, as it rests on his shoulder.
“Why is it that you always pick on the women, and not the men?” I want to know.
“I think that last one was debatable,” he grins. “You didn’t see her. Nightmare.”
He takes a step closer, eyeing me up and down.
“Anyway,” he continues. “What are you hiding behind your back? Been collecting a few souvenirs of your own?”
“No!” I cry, holding out my empty hands to show him.
“You’re a terrible liar, Sarah,” he says. The muzzle of the shotgun is suddenly under my chin. “Turn around and face the wall.”
My hands now in the air, petrified, I do as he orders. I let out a whimper, as I feel his own hand go up the back of the pyjama top.
There is an ominous rip. I close my eyes, expecting the worst…
“Hmmm,” he says at last. “I put only one hand up there, so why did two come out?”
“What?!” I yell, and try to turn, flinching as the shotgun barrel jabs me in the ear.
The felt rabbit drops on the floor with a last regretful squeak, dissected beyond playroom resuscitation.
Carvery is examining something shiny in the darkness, glinting with polished gemstones.
“This is that clockwork hand thing he was going on about earlier, isn’t it?” he says. “What are you doing with it?”
“That was given to me to look after!” I say indignantly. I’m such a dork. It was the actual hand that Mr. Dry Senior was entrusting me with! Not the toy at all. “Give it back!”
Carvery looks at it a moment longer, then holds it out.
“Sure,” he says, dismissively. “Take it.”
Cautiously, I do so.
Then he changes his grip on the gun, and aims it back at my head.
“Now YOU give it back, please,” he says, and with a sigh of defeat, I hand it over. “Well done. Remember – never try to negotiate with an armed man, unless you have something bigger up your sleeve.”
I wonder if the leather-bound diary counts as something bigger. Knowing my luck, he would find it only mildly less offensive than the contents of my own diary.
But I’m glad it has stayed hidden, in my waistband at the front. Maybe Crispin will still be able to decipher something useful from it.
“Right,” Carvery says, as I nod my acquiescence. “Let’s go and find the others.”
Phew, I think, as I fall into step beside him, pausing only to pick up the remains of Higham Dry‘s toy rabbit, sentimentally. I hope that means they’re still alive…
Trailer for the original above – one of my favourite creative film trailers – enjoy 🙂
More mindless mayhem: The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum
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