Britney v. Rihanna – Take a Piece of Me mash-up…
I wake up eventually. It’s already Monday morning.
I can hear my housemate, the newly-christened Frankenminky, singing in the shower. I strain my ears, suspiciously. Is that Somewhere Over The Rainbow she’s murdering in there? I’ll definitely have to watch her…
By the time I had recovered the Pizza Heaven scooter, it was covered in sticky finger-marks, candyfloss, bogeys, and several thoughtful parents and dog-owners had used the insulated top-box as a diaper/baggie bin.
It still runs though.
I check my phone, which I’ve left on charge all Sunday, by the look of things. Holy Hell – a hundred and seventy-one requests on Draw My Thing? I don’t really have that much of a social gaming problem, do I?
And one voicemail – from Dry Goods, Inc.
Well – he can definitely wait. I have no idea how I’m going to explain the loss of the clockwork hand this time…
I peel myself off the bed, and go to push Miss Nipple-Nuts out of the shower.
* * * * *
I ride to the Body Farm in a blue funk. Passing Bumgang & Sons’ Breaker’s Yard brings my mood even lower. And as for the D.I.Y. store, with its advertising billboard announcing a sale on patio slabs and cement – I can’t even look at it.
I enter the code at the gate for the Farm and let myself in, leaving the scooter to trudge up to my favourite silver birch tree, and even more comforting wheelie-bin. Eyeing some of the exposed body tags warily en route.
“Hands up any zombies here?” I say, but they’re all either asleep, or very good at play-acting.
I lift up a tarpaulin to check. Pooh. Maybe a zombie with a hygiene problem. If it’s true where we get half of these subjects from, that wouldn’t be unusual. I think we have the highest rate of scrofula victims per capita of the entire civilised world, on our little smallholding. Where do tramps go when they die? They get an open-air burial in a different sort of park.
Slumping down under my favourite tree, I take out my sandwiches and unwrap them. The sight of limp white crustless bread and lemon curd makes me want to burst into tears. No chilled monk brains. No cheese made from billy goat. Just plain old bread and sickly sweet yellow goo.
“I’m glad none of you are zombies,” I say out loud. “Too damn noisy by half, they are.”
I munch on my sandwich, and pull out my phone, with another gaming notification.
ANONYMOUS HAS SENT YOU A CHALLENGE ON DRAW MY THING. CLICK TO ACCEPT.
I tap on the screen, glad for another slice of reality as I know it.
An inverted triangle appears on the app, covered in scribbles. Five letters.
Dubiously, I count on my fingers. Most likely another illiterate twelve-year-old being rude.
I stick the remainder of the sandwich in my mouth, and send a request for a letter clue.
P appears as the first letter. Ohhhh – maybe they’re just really bad at drawing… I enter the letter E, and click on Send.
WRONG. GUESS AGAIN.
“Huh?” I try looking at the scribble from all angles. “Illiterate and crap at drawing?”
While my mind boggles, the message reminder on my phone flashes up again. Comforted and emboldened by the proximity of my beloved Mr. Wheelie-Bin, I switch to Voicemail to listen.
“I think we have some unfinished business, Sarah Bellummm.” The sound of Crispin’s disembodied voice on my phone still manages to send shivers down my spine. “If you would like to drop by my office at your convenience, we can conclude the interview.”
“He’s still serious about offering me a job?” I remark, to Mr. Wheelie-Bin. “I have a feeling that losing the clockwork hand won’t go in my favour… Mind you, trying to shove a giant squid up my bottom doesn’t exactly go in his…”
I look at the Draw My Thing challenge again, and to pass the time while considering my options, type in the letter N.
WRONG. GUESS AGAIN.
“It’s nice to know he’s alive, I guess,” I ponder, dubiously. “And that he’s checking up on me too…”
I glance in frustration at the game screen, and completely at random, try a letter T.
WRONG. GUESS AGAIN.
“Crap,” I mutter, and send a request for a hint. “I mean, it’s not every day a girl meets an eligible bachelor – dead or alive…”
HINT: LETTERS 3 AND 4 ARE THE SAME.
There is a noise, beside me. I freeze.
Did I imagine it, or did the wheelie-bin just rattle?
Putting my phone away, I sidle a little closer.
“Um…” I say, looking around quickly for any other evidence of undead activity or pranks in the Body Farm, but there is only the usual rustling of dead leaves, dead skin, beetle-husks and rotted clothing on the breeze. “Er… Mr. Wheelie-Bin?”
The square plastic garbage container vibrates again, followed by a definite scratching sound from within.
Bravely, I find the longest stick I can (which, being in over two acres of conservation woodland, is pretty long), and use it to poke the lid open.
Nothing… well, I suppose it would be more conclusive if I actually looked inside…
I drop my eight-foot branch, and creep closer, clearing my throat.
“Is anybody home…?”
The smell hits me first. It’s… it’s… well, I was going to say indescribable, but as it happens, it’s a lot like the barracks in the Six a.m. Lounge. Sleeping-bag farts, I think Higham Dry Senior described it. With a hint of coffee and dead thing, whoever said that as well.
It’s not as if I’m unused to it. Just that it seems particularly ripe and pungent today – or maybe some of that is me, and my nervous tension…
I’m just about to peer over the edge, when there is a glooping sound, and a dark, rancid slime bubbles out and over the side.
“Gosh,” I say, politely, looking down into the upturned eye-sockets. “I hardly recognised you…”
Barely holding together at all, the skeleton gropes its way out into the sunlight. A t-shirt hangs apologetically from his twisted torso, and one of his legs seems to be locked into a foetal position from his stay in the bottom of the garbage container.
The only thing that seems to have lasted the ravages of decay and exposure is that wonderful shock of copper hair, hanging from his scalp as it flaps on the side of his battered cranium, and my pity goes out to him.
Domestic violence is a terrible thing. Hmmm. Carvery Slaughter is probably better off wherever he is. Being a garden gnome somewhere, I suppose.
“You’re looking well,” I say, encouragingly. “In fact…”
I frown, as he lists weakly in the wheelie-bin, like an X-rated, morning-after Oscar the Grouch. Or Davros on a bad day – in need of a pampering session.
Doesn’t his hair look a little too bouffant for this stage of deterioration…?
I take out my Cramps University notebook, and flip back through the pages.
Hair – no change… hair – no change… hair – no change…
I look back up at him, in growing disgust.
“Your hair…” I begin, and watch as the breeze has no effect on its uplift and pattern at all. “…Is a wig!”
All this time! A badly-attached toupée!
It doesn’t even cheer me up that I will be getting an ‘A’ for my research, that I have spotted one of the mythological corkers that the academic staff like to test out on the Forensic Anthropology undergraduates.
I feel cheated. I feel conned. The rose-tinted scales have fallen from my eyes.
“You, sir,” I announce. “Are a liar and a cad!”
And I storm off, head in the air.
I’m not sure what ‘cad’ means, but I always assumed it was a golfing insult, implying that they weren’t good enough to play, just to hunt for the more qualified men’s balls. It feels appropriate right now, as fuming, I head back for my scooter.
Perhaps Crispin can make me a better offer, after all…
* * * * *
I recognise Debbie, Brain-Dead Blonde Mk II, in the Customer Services lobby of Dry Goods, Inc, but she doesn’t recognise me.
I suppose the yucca plant pot on her head, smashed deep into the front desk isn’t helping, but her left arm flaps out anyway and buzzes me through, as I ask to see Crispin.
His office door is already open at the end of the corridor when I show myself through.
“Sarah Bellummm,” he greets me, rising to his feet behind his own desk. “So glad you accepted my invitation…”
But I freeze in the doorway, staring at the opposite wall.
“What is THAT?” I demand.
He looks hurt.
“My art, Sarah Bellummm,” he reminds me. “High-Velocity Spatter. I thought you liked it.”
“Not the painting.” I point. “That… him.”
Alongside the painting, is the black onyx Carvery Slaughter, complete with shotgun.
“Ahh – Mr. Slaughter.” Crispin gestures for me to sit on the black leather sofa by the coffee table as before. “I rather like him as office décor, don’t you? You can hang your coat on him, if you want.”
“I got dressed in a hurry,” I say, stiffly, taking the seat ungraciously. “This is all I have on. Er, underneath. Just me.”
“Intriguing,” he echoes, in a low voice. “Would you like anything from the vending machine? Let me get you a coffee. Or – is it too early for a Sloe Gin Sling?”
“Definitely too early,” I say, pleased with my self-control, although the nape of my neck is itching in paranoia at sitting with my back to Carvery Slaughter. Stone statue or otherwise. “Um. How is Homer?”
“Having the time of his life, the precocious trollop,” Crispin grumbles, hesitating over the keypad of the state-of-the-art black vending machine. “Mother’s wardrobe hasn’t seen so much action since she posed for the Ancient Egyptian equivalent of Hello magazine.”
“Er, Crispin,” I say, twiddling my keyring in an embarrassed fashion. “There’s something I need to tell you…”
“No, Sarah Bellummm,” he interrupts. “Let me apologise first…”
“It’s not that…”
“…Lady Glandula de Bartholine was my greatest inspiration – more so than the munitions business that the male line in my family dominated, as you may have guessed,” he blurts out, and turns to face the window, unable to meet my gaze. “I was her star pupil, her brightest hope – and her devoted patron…”
I don’t know how much more icky and uncomfortable this monologue is going to get, so I sneak occasional peeks over my shoulder at Carvery, just to check he’s still a statue. Still a man-beast, but still a statue.
Mmmm. Pity you can’t get DNA from onyx…
“…It was my honour to serve her and keep her in the manner to which she was accustomed…”
If only I hadn’t lost the stupid clockwork hand – if I’d known he was going to end up displayed back here…
“…Provision of certain sacrifices, at regular intervals…”
My phone buzzes inside my fleece, with a notification. I pull it out.
ANONYMOUS SAYS: DO YOU NEED ANOTHER HINT?
“…Now with Homer, I imagine those services will become redundant, except for…”
I tap on YES to pass the time, and wonder if Crispin has forgotten about the coffee he offered me.
HINT: YOU EAT THIS.
“…At least once or twice a year, usually at the solstices…”
My brain slowly unfreezes as I stare at the app on my phone screen.
Inverted triangle. Covered in random scribbles. Five letters beginning with P. Letters 3 and 4 are the same…
My hand shaking, I feverishly type in the letters I, Z, Z, A after the P, and hit Send.
“…Of course, fulfilling the role of secretary would be neatly killing two birds with one stone, if that doesn’t sound too selfish of me…”
Before the app can respond, a text message arrives. My heart pounding, I open it.
IF YOU’RE OFFERING, MINE’S A CHINESE MEAT FEAST.
“…You don’t need to give me your answer straight away…”
It’s from Ace Bumgang.
I squeal out loud.
“Hmmm?” Crispin turns and looks at me. “Are you quite all right, Sarah Bellummm?“
“Yes!” I gasp. Both of my hands are shaking now. He’s alive! Oh my God! “Er – I think I just need that coffee, Crispin. If you wouldn’t mind…”
“Of course, how foolish of me.” Crispin turns back to the vending machine. “Cream, sugar?”
“Yes, please.” How can I keep him distracted? “And perhaps some fresh air in here? And – do you have anything to eat? Maybe I just feel a little faint.”
“Anything my lady wants,” says Crispin, gallantly, typing away on the keypad, and reaching for the remote control for the windows and blinds. He suddenly seems very pleased with himself, although I can’t think why.
I reply quickly to the text.
MAYBE LATER. AT CRISPIN’S OFFICE. HE’S GOT A STONE COLD CARVERY SLAUGHTER ON DISPLAY. JUSTIN TIME HAS THE CLOCKWORK HAND.
“…I understand you might want more time to think carefully about my proposal,” says Crispin, a strangely intimate tone in his voice. “But your knee-jerk reaction has given me great hope already…”
Ace replies immediately.
I’LL SEE YOUR STONE CARVERY, AND RAISE YOU A MRS. TIME. SHE’S KICKING UP A NICE FUSS IN THE TRACTOR TYRE INFLATION CAGE HERE AT THE BREAKER’S YARD.
Ace has General Lissima hostage! And she most likely still has the little leather-bound diary! How did he manage that…?
Actually, not that hard to figure out – if he wanted to take me hostage, all he’d have to do is blow gently in my ear…
Crispin sets out a lovely arrangement of coffee and cream-filled strawberry jam scones on the low table, on a tray decorated with a single pink-and-white Oriental lily, reflecting the edible colours of the scones and filling the room with its spicy perfume. But my mind is racing.
Who is the most likely person to track down that thieving rickshaw pilot?
Yes! His wife!
And then – we’ll have the clockwork hand. And then – I’ll figure out how to change Carvery Slaughter back into a human being. Which might be necessary, I justify the idea smoothly, for if my housemate Frankenminky turns out to be a bit too little of Miss December, and a bit too much of Summer Jaundice…
I send a quick reply, under my napkin.
I’LL BRING YOUR PIZZA ORDER AT 5PM.
“…And then, we will take a tour of the premises, so you can find your way around,” Crispin is saying.
Ace answers again, promptly.
COOL. BY THE WAY – YOU WERE WRONG. THE ANSWER ISN’T PIZZA. X.
Eh? I frown at the message before closing it, and the app screen pops up again, with its response to my guess on Draw My Thing.
WRONG. GUESS AGAIN.
“Crispin,” I say, to hide my confusion and images of triangles with scribbles now dancing in front of my eyes – besides, I feel as though I haven’t really contributed much to the conversation so far, and should make it at least look as though I was paying attention. “It’s my turn to apologise. I’m afraid Justin Time has run off with the clockwork hand…”
“If it’s not one thief, it’s another,” Crispin shrugs, and treats me to his lopsided smile. “And Justin Time is just a great big pussy.”
Hmmm… I put my phone away, and sit back to enjoy my nice coffee. Of course, I’ll have to accept the job of secretary now – if only to keep an eye on Carvery, and ensure access to him when I get hold of the clockwork hand. I wonder how grateful he might be, if I was the one to save him for a change? There’s always a chance Justin Time might turn up here too. Negotiating some holiday, or another… But Ace Bumgang is alive! And wants pizza! And – is drawing very rude things on Draw My Thing!
‘You eat this’ he said! I have to hide my blush behind my sticky napkin, and get my phone out to re-read his last text message just to make sure. And I notice the ‘X’ on the end of it for the first time – and my brain swims alarmingly.
“I think I really should be going,” I smile, my mind now just pink fog. “Thank you for a lovely – er – interview.”
“Promise me you will consider my proposal carefully, Sarah Bellummm,” Crispin says, gravely.
“I will,” I promise, sincerely, and hope he repeats it at some point soon, so I know what he’s so serious about.
But until then – I have other priorities. I drop my napkin into the waste basket, and before I get to my feet, I do a double-take.
All that the waste basket contains otherwise, is a note saying:
TAKE OUT TRASH.
Strange… isn’t that what was in his other waste basket, in the cellar…?
I recall the deep cellar under the mansion, and its refrigerated collection.
Dry family members in suspended animation, infected with the zombie curse. Waiting for Crispin to come up with the definitive cure, tested out on Homer – now fully recovered, and Queen of all he surveys… but that’s not all the note reminds me of.
What about his supposition that take-out delivery boys and girls are a good source of virginal donor organs?
Am I still just potential Take-Out Trash to him?
I get to my feet slowly. My brain now feels like it’s whirring and clanking as much as Higham Dry Senior’s clockwork braaiiiinsss.
“Could I start work tomorrow?” I ask, coughing to hide the tremor in my voice. “Shall I turn up for nine a.m? Or is that a bit too – warlike?“
“I’ve always found that the working day is more civilised depending on the company one keeps, not the time of day,” Crispin beams, and offers me his hand.
I shake it, but have to resist the urge to snatch my own away too quickly.
As I hurry back outside to my scooter, a glance backward confirms that the seagulls have found some more pickings on the beach, outside Crispin’s office window. Looks like he gets through a lot of his own staff, not to mention other people…
Maybe with a shovel, and a plot marked out ready, at the Body Farm.
In fact, now I think about it – there’s a nice wheelie-bin going spare. Prime position.
Under the silver birch tree…
Trailer for the original ‘Deja Vu’ by the great Tony Scott… Enjoy…
THIS PARODY OF MANY SCENES WAS INSPIRED BY…
From film & television:
Secretary; 9 1/2 Weeks; Body of Evidence; Pretty Woman; Star Wars; Phantom of the Opera; Lara Croft, Tomb Raider; Dangerous Liaisons; Batman; Blade Runner; E.T, the Extraterrestrial; Home Alone; The Goonies; Raiders of the Lost Ark; Labyrinth; Romancing the Stone; Disclosure; The Chronicles of Narnia; Stargate; Jewel of the Nile; Return of the Jedi; Queen of the Damned; Pride and Prejudice; The Graduate; Pulp Fiction; Dirty Harry; My Fair Lady/Pygmalion; Death on the Nile; Octopussy; The Magnificent Seven; The Life of Brian; Big Trouble in Little China; The Men Who Stare At Goats; The Lost Boys; Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Shallow Grave; The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen; The Hunt for Red October; Crimson Tide; 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea; Splash; The Empire Strikes Back; Alien Resurrection; National Treasure; Beetlejuice; Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets; Lawrence of Arabia; Sex & The City II; Casablanca; District 13; Casino Royale; Saw; Fermat’s Room; ParaNorman; Mission Impossible; Journey to the Center of the Earth; A Town Called Panic; Jurassic Park; Death Race; Men in Black; M*A*S*H; Good Morning, Vietnam; Dad’s Army; Full Metal Jacket; Apocalypse Now; It Ain’t Half Hot Mum; Time Bandits; The Wonderful Wizard of Oz; Stardust; The Tourist; Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; Tomb Raider, Cradle of Life; Cowboys and Aliens; Frankenweenie; Iron Man; Transformers; Pirates of the Caribbean; The Chronicles of Riddick; Bedknobs and Broomsticks; True Lies; Déjà Vu… and many, many more…
From books (not filmed or produced for broadcast at time of writing):
Fifty Shades of Grey © Fifty Shades Ltd
The Magician’s Nephew © C.S. Lewis
Forever indebted to the work of:
Henry Gray F.R.S. and H.V. Carter, M.D. – for Gray’s Anatomy, 1858.
You have been reading ‘The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum’ now available in ebook from Amazon Kindle and Smashwords, and in paperback. Coming soon to Nook, Kobo, Sony and other online retail outlets. See the ‘Books’ pages (top of this blog) for details. Hope you enjoyed it, and thanks for all of your Likes and Shares over the last eight months! 🙂 xxx