“Sarah!” yells Giraldis, owner and head chef of Pizza Heaven. “One Chinese Meat Feast for Bumgang & Sons’ Breaker’s Yard with Garlicky Dough Balls!”
I drag myself away from the pizzeria TV screen’s 24-hour Disaster Zone News & Commercials channel, pull on my George & Mildred peaked open-face crash helmet, and go to retrieve the dark blue insulated bag from the counter.
“Do you think you’ll be able to deliver this one and return within eight hours?” Giraldis asks me, sceptically. “Whenever I send you over that way, you either break down, or get lost in the dark coming back.”
I try to control my blush under the shadow of the crash helmet. Surely I’ve never hung around for that long, on an official delivery? I mean – there was that one time with the puncture – okay, I had to drive up and down the unkempt verges maybe ten or twelve times before I got one, within motor-scooter-pushing distance of Ace Bumgang’s site office…
“If you weren’t my wife’s favourite nincompoop…” he grumbles, as I head for the door. “Why can’t she collect stray cats like any normal menopausal old baggage? Why do I get the one who loves village idiots…?”
I leave his familiar grouching behind, humming to myself, as I lug the full carry-all outside to my scooter and kick open the old top-box.
Fully sterilised top-box, I might add, since the incident in the park on Saturday morning. I even swabbed it for microbes at University earlier this afternoon. Although Professor Fauces said some unrepeatable things about the two-stroke oil leaking out of it onto the Forensics lab workbench.
I stuff the bag inside and slam the lid, the thrill of actually being summoned by Ace Bumgang almost outweighing the thrill of finding out that he’s still alive. I’d have been pleased to hear from him dead or otherwise, but finding out he’s alive and delivering a pizza to him on the same day is better than Christmas, as far as I’m concerned.
I swing my leg over the seat and slot the keys into the ignition, and am just about to turn them to start the engine when a crack on the back of my crash helmet startles me. I look over my shoulder.
“Braaaiiiinssss,” hisses the almost-skeletal zombie petulantly, cupping his bruised mouth.
“NO,” I say, firmly. “Bad zombie! Back to your wheelie-bin!”
He gives me a hurt glance with both eye sockets, and drags himself backwards a few feet, before hesitating. His right leg is still locked in a foetal position from the confines of the reinforced plastic dustbin, and he is using a tree branch as a crutch to aid his poor mobility.
I sigh. That’s all I need. A stalker of my very own, cramping my style.
“Look, I’m sorry what I said about your wi… your toup… I mean, your hair,” I continue. “We’ll catch up tomorrow. I’ll bring lunch. But right now, I have important things to do.”
He slumps a little dejectedly, and his incriminating scalp-merkin falls forward over one eye socket, as if dropping his chin and pouting with his non-existent lower lip.
Shaking my head, I start the engine and pull away, leaving Mr. Wheelie-Bin sulking at the kerb.
Perhaps I shouldn’t have led him on… how was I to know he was actually paying attention all that time, under the silver birch tree at the Body Farm? Such a good listener…
I glance back before I turn the corner, and see him trying to insert himself into the street-bin outside the pizzeria. Or perhaps just dry-humping it, as it rocks in a half-heartedly embarrassed fashion.
A good listener… but maybe not that intellectual…
I skirt wide to avoid the undead dog-walker dragging his definitely-dead dog across the road, still on a leash. Creatures of habit, the same as when they were alive. Some of them don’t even seem to know they’re zombies. They seem to be addicted to queuing, for one thing. Especially at cash-point machines and bus-stops, but with no idea what they’re doing there when their turn comes.
“Maybe the afterlife is full,” I mutter, overtaking a zombie in a mobility carriage, who has by now apparently forgotten how to dress himself. “One out, one in.”
The wooded country lanes outside of town heading for the breaker’s yard are quieter, but it’s the blood pounding in my own ears which is deafening. When I think how many times I’ve done this journey before, just to wait around the perimeter optimistically with a pizza-box, until Giraldis phones up to shout at me and ask where I am… this time it’s official…
I reach the gates in the ten-foot, barbed wire-topped fence, and find the padlock open. I push my scooter inside, park it up, and take the delivery-bag out.
God, my knees are knocking like castanets…
The many car-shells are stacked either side under the trees, forming an avenue leading to the static site office. Nothing like the zombie entrepreneur Crispin Dry’s swanky Dry Goods storage-container facility on Seafront West industrial park – but that hasn’t yet had the same effect on me that this place has.
Maybe it’s the fact that Ace Bumgang is very much alive compared to Crispin, which is what I’ve always found the most challenging part of human interaction to be. And I’m not sure Crispin can be trusted anyway. He certainly has some strange ideas about undead longevity, involving virgin organ donors, and calamari implants…
A crash sounds from beyond the pale green office unit, and a car body jerks into the air, which is then shaken like a pit viper’s rattle.
Yes – speaking of calamari…
The site office door swings open in response to the racket. Ace strolls out, pulling on some purple latex gloves with the sleeves of his khaki overalls loose, tied around his waist. My pulse rate goes supersonic at the sight of the white vest underneath, stretched taut across his impressive musculature, and I struggle to balance the pizza-box while my hamstrings try to liquefy.
Oh, boy – I’d trample the entire faculty to a pulp to get first dibs on his autopsy…
“Drop it!” Ace orders sharply, and terrified, I comply – before realising he’s not talking to me.
Hoping he hasn’t yet noticed, I recover the delivery-bag and totter towards the office door, while he heads around back. I wonder whether to risk a peek around the corner, or stay put and wait for his return.
A bent alloy wheel skims over the roof above my head and bounces, straight through a hitherto intact Volvo windshield. I jump, startled, and before I even recover, I feel the chin-strap of my crash helmet abruptly tighten and I’m jerked bodily off the ground, flying backwards over the office unit.
“You can drop that too, Liss,” says Ace at ground-level, mildly, while I flail about, twenty feet in the air, clinging to the Pizza Heaven delivery-bag. “That’s just dinner arriving.”
“Oh, it’s you, Sarah Bellum!” says General Lissima – Cutthroat Liss – and I find myself dumped unceremoniously on the ground again, my crash-helmet twisted almost at ninety degrees to my face. “I hear you let my husband get away with Swiss watchmaker’s special clockwork hand. Silly billy.”
“Quite,” I say, stiffly. I straighten my helmet and struggle to my feet again, while Ace rescues the Chinese Meat Feast and Garlicky Dough Balls. “Never employ a billy goat as a pursuit vehicle.”
Lissima’s alien sucker tentacle retracts back into whatever portal it occupies, leaving behind only the traffic-stoppingly beautiful General herself – still in her Nine a.m. Lounge uniform, and currently locked inside a large tyre inflation cage.
“You can let me out, Mr. Bumgang,” she says with a smile full of pointy teeth, as he passes her a slice of pizza through the bars. “I won’t run away.”
“You can come out when you stop smashing up the place,” Ace grunts, sitting down on a stack of wheels. “If I wanted a half-human wrecking-ball, I’d ask for one.”
Ooh – maybe he’s immune to her flirting! My hopes ascend a little.
“How did you get out of the Five a.m. Lounge?” I ask, once I’ve managed to unbuckle the George and Mildred and uncrick my neck. “I thought you’d drowned…”
“Higham Dry Senior dropped us back on the aircraft carrier, and then the bounty hunters gave us a lift in exchange for the flying carpets,” says Ace. “So what’s this about Carvery? Crispin’s using him as office furniture, or something?”
“More like office coat-rack,” I reply. “He’s got him on display, next to his art. High-Velocity Spatter.”
“Sounds like he’ll be right at home,” Ace grins at me, and all of my leg muscles quit at once, dumping me on my butt right into the hole in the middle of a tyre. “Don’t act all shocked, I’m kidding. So – looks like we’ll have to get the clockwork hand back if we want Carvery walking around and talking again?”
“Yes,” I grumble, trying and failing to extract myself from the rubber tyre. “What I was thinking exactly.”
“Cool.” Ace looks at his watch. “I’ll lock the place up when we’ve finished, and we can go.”
“What – right now?” My mouth, agape, could easily house a startled puffer-fish. “Tonight?”
“What?” Ace frowns. “Don’t tell me you’ve got better things to do.”
I look down at my Pizza Heaven work fleece, and my George and Mildred, looking forlornly back at me from the ground by my still-struggling feet, and shrug.
“Do I have a choice?” I ask.
“Well, not right now,” he points out, kicking the tyre imprisoning my posterior. “You’re going nowhere without a good greasing-up first.”
“Crispin Dry will be looking for it as well,” General Lissima reminds me cheerfully through a mouthful of pizza, while Ace’s words play havoc with my fantasies. “To stop his home from being bequeathed to the National Trust. Nowhere to store undead relatives without big old rambling estate.”
“Yeah, imagine what the National Trust would do if they got into all of the Lounges?” Ace muses.
I try not to picture it, but for some reason I’m thinking of school trips and gift shops…God… just imagine…
“The queue to visit the Tank in the Eight a.m. Lounge would be insurmountable. They’d have to bring their own toilet-paper…” I breathe, horrifying images crossing my mind. “And you’d have to stop children fishing for hatchling Squidmorphs in the Well of Our Souls, to hide under their teacher’s seat on the bus…”
“Exactly,” he nods. “I don’t think Crispin’s going to prioritise Carvery being anything other than a fancy stone sculpture to impress the office skirt with.” I feel myself redden, having just agreed to join the ranks of office skirt at Dry Goods House. If Ace knows about this, he’s obviously using it as a further dig. “So we need to catch up with Justin Time first. And Liss knows where all of his girlfriends live, so they’ll be the first places to check out, obviously.”
“Maybe not Miss February,” the General suggests. “My husband won’t want to catch her Ten a.m. Lounge jungle bottom.”
“So we’ll start with January and skip February,” Ace tells her.
“What are you saying?” I ask. “Justin really was dating the whole Playbunny calendar?”
Lissima snarls, and tries to swallow it down with another mouthful of pizza, after catching Ace’s eye.
My jealousy reflex twinges. I wish it would stop. She’s happ… well, married, and he’s not interested in anyone special yet anyway! If this wasn’t going on right now, he’d be off to Gentlemen Prefer Poledancers, just like normal… But I can’t seem to switch it off.
“Look at this way,” says Ace. “Poetic justice. We’ve now got to go and be nice to lots of women who might be concealing Justin Time and the clockwork hand, in order to help out Carvery Slaughter, who uses women as punch-bag therapy. Maybe he’ll appreciate it.”
“Yes,” I reply. “I imagine he’ll want to go round afterwards and thank them all personally.”
Good God, that would be Carvery Slaughter carnage… sounds like poetic license, not poetic justice…
From the corner of my eye, I see General Lissima looking at Ace more thoughtfully. Yes. Clearly thinking along the same lines, only with a different agenda…
“So, you going to eat up?” she urges. “You too, Sarah Bellum. Don’t want to get stuck with the catering en route.”
“Catering?” I gulp, and reach for a slice as Ace proffers the pizza box. “Not the caterers that Crispin was talking about? The vending machine competition?”
“Never know,” she grins, nastily. “Maybe you get Frogs’ Legs Special.”
* * * * *
…As to what I’ll be parodying, you’ll have to wait and see 😉
Buy the original on Amazon here: The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum
Also available on Smashwords for all other devices and online reading