Nine Inch Nails ‘With Teeth’ remixed by Reaps007…
I gaze helplessly into the dark stars of his eyes, as Crispin closes the piano-lid softly down over the keys. The final few bars of his piece are still fading away. Is he going to make the first move?
But before either of us can make that idea a reality, through the windows of the restaurant I see the lights of Cramps University Hospital suddenly flicker, and then go out.
“Oh no!” I cry. “A power-cut!”
Crispin turns to look. After a few seconds, it is evident that there is no emergency power to save the day. Even the street-lighting over the car-park starts to fizzle out, one by one.
“My housemate!” I gibber. “Whatsername… Cock-hazard… she’s in surgery!”
“We must go back, Sarah Bellummm,” Crispin groans sympathetically. “To ensure that all is well.”
He grabs his take-out box from under the piano, and helps me to my feet. The waiters barely take notice, as we hurry out of Hookah’s Restaurant.
We shamble as quickly as we can across the road, back into the hospital grounds. They are eerie and forbidding, without the phosphorescent lights.
The electronic doors are no longer functioning. But no matter – the glass in them has already been smashed – into a million pieces.
“What the f…?” I begin to say, thoughts of a siege appearing, uninvited. Crispin’s hand on my arm stops me.
“Emergency shatter,” he remarks – pointing to a device in the doorframe.
“What does it do?”
“It fires high-velocity metal ball-bearings into each panel of glass, from inside the double-glazed unit,” he shrugs. “It is old technology now, but effective, in corporate building fire safety.”
Aha. Clever. I seem to recall something like that having been patented, on Tomorrow’s World…
We step through the empty frames, feet crunching on the shattered fragments. I take another piece of old technology – by Trevor Bayliss – out of my pocket, kept attached to my keyring. Wind it up with its tiny handle for a few seconds to charge the battery, and switch it on. The bright LED torch beam illuminates the pale walls of the hospital corridor.
We head for the Emergency Room. Distant cries, and groans of distressed patients echo in the building. I wonder how many life-support systems have just been abruptly cut off.
More torchlight greets us, as we find the Reception desk, exactly where we left it.
“My housemate,” I pant, my nerves making me breathless. “Er… you know… looks like she lost a fight with a bulldozer. Bad taste in men. Talks like she still reads too much Brothers Grimm for her age. Miss Fuck-Knows. Went to have her thumb reattached…”
“Oh, yes,” the receptionist nods, her spectacles reflecting the torchlight. “The psychiatric biohazard case. Her bloods and swabs came back as positive for syphilis, gonnorrhea, chlamydia, T-parasites, ringworm, impetigo, herpes, HPV, and HIV – so she’s been put in the Isolation Ward following her surgery.”
“What?” I make a mental note to keep my toothbrush and toothpaste separate from hers in the bathroom, from now on. Preferably locked in a strongbox, somewhere else. Like Switzerland. “How on Earth could she have EVERYTHING?”
“Well, apparently, she never went to the GUM clinic, and always just took her boyfriend’s word for it when he said he didn’t have anything infectious, before having unprotected sex with him. Including the boyfriends who admitted to paying for sex, and to group sex in the past,” the receptionist shrugs, with an expression of ‘what a stupid twat’ that I fully understand. “You can go and check up on her – it’s at the far end of the hospital, lower ground floor, next to the morgue. You’ll have to use the stairs.”
Of course. Corpses aren’t at risk of catching anything. Makes sense to put the biohazard cases down there.
“Will you be all right on your own here, ladies?” Crispin asks, his voice concerned. The receptionist, and uniformed HCA on duty, look at each other and smirk.
“Sure,” says the receptionist. “Any trouble comes looking for us, they’ll be met with the almighty force of this armed and fully operational nursing station.”
The assistant twangs the fingertips of her latex gloves meaningfully. Ouch.
I think they’ll be just fine.
* * * * *
We avoid the WET FLOOR warning signs and head through the swing doors, down the stairwell. High above us, I can hear shuffling and groaning, about three floors up.
“Maybe a sleepwalker?” I suggest in a whisper.
“One can only hope,” Crispin admits, hugging his take-out box close to his chest.
We emerge next to the elevators – I blush in the darkness at the memory, glad that no-one can see – and follow the markers directing us past the morgue.
Crispin stops abruptly in front of me, so that I nearly bump straight into him. His head turns, angles questingly, and he sniffs the air.
“Not now, Crispy!” I hiss, startling myself at my own disapproving tone. As if I’m talking to a giant, upright, shaggy dog. “Stop thinking with your stomach!”
“It is not my stomach we need to worry about,” he remarks, still in his beautiful, resonating monotone. “They are on the move…”
“Who are on the move?” I ask, my heart trying to join my tongue, at the back of my mouth.
He raises the box briefly.
“Perhaps they objected to my carry-out,” he sighs.
I shine the torch beam on the box’s logo.
Fuck! I am SO stupid!
Even my housemate Shithead can read! At least, read juvenile stuff, like Beauty and the Beast…
“You didn’t go to research the vending machines here?” I explode. “You went stealing actual parts of other people? What the fuck for? Are you Dr Frankenstein or something, as well as a zombie?”
He hangs his head, a little more than usual.
“They will only look for replacements,” he says. “The nearest.”
He glances towards the darkness at the end of the corridor, after the morgue.
To the Isolation Ward.
“So now we’re going to have biohazard zombies carrying infectious diseases too?” I ask. “Well, that’s just lovely, knowing that everyone’s going to have to insist on prophylactics as well, before having their brains sucked out.”
He nods, sheepishly.
“You are going to tell me what you planned to do, with all those parts you’ve stolen,” I remind him. “But first, we’re going to check up on Miss Sperm-Bank Deposit Box down there, and see if there’s anything left of her to pay the rent that she owes me!”
But – as we turn towards the Isolation Ward, the sudden squeal of gurney wheels reaches our ears. Crispin Dry reacts, leaping and pinning me to the wall – just as an occupied trolley hurtles past, narrowly missing us. Several draped white shapes seem to be pushing it at once.
“Sarah – help me…!” a faint, weak voice cries, Doppler-ing away out of the transport entrance, at the other end.
“That’s her!” I shout, my adrenaline rendering me immune to his current proximity. “They’re kidnapping her!”
“To the Cadillac!” Crispin says, releasing me – and we lurch in pursuit.
The car park is a zombie convention. We watch helplessly as my housemate’s gurney is loaded into an abandoned ambulance. The engine starts.
“We’ll never make it to the car,” I tell him.
A zombie corpse flies past us at head-height, landing upside-down in a box topiary sculpture, and a local taxi brakes abruptly at the kerb. Its windscreen-wipers activate, trying to move the entrail smear out of the driver’s direct eye-line.
We exchange a look, and amble over.
“Follow that ambulance!” I order, as we squeeze into the back, the Human Tissues box between us on the seat. “Don’t let him out of your sight!”
“Yes, Ma’am,” the driver replies, and switches on his In Service tracker. He sounds oddly calm. “Is it a relative?”
“My housemate,” I say, choking up a little, at the thought of having to invent a name to go on her headstone, at the end of the day. Or maybe I’ll just find an excuse to rifle through her wallet at some point, and check her I.D.
“These patient transfers are always stressful,” he says, soothingly. “I’ll try and get us all there in one piece.”
“Quickly, would be preferable,” I gulp.
“Yes, Ma’am,” the driver chuckles, enjoying my little melodrama. My zombie companion squeezes my hand reassuringly.
“Stay on his tail, Luke,” Crispin orders.
“Luke? How do you know his name?” I ask.
Crispin points to the Nigerian Work Permit in the corner of the courtesy window, between the driver and ourselves.
GAYLORD LUKAN. WORKING LEGALLY SINCE 1971.
Our taxi rockets sickeningly after the hijacked ambulance, weaving in and out of the garbage-collection-night rubbish, piled up at intervals along the road.
“Go around the next crescent – see if you can cut them off,” Crispin adds, his monotone never changing. “Luke – trust me…”
Star Wars: Battle of Yavin (excerpt) Copyright/TM: George Lucas/Lucasfilm
More mindless mayhem: The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum
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