Transmogrifiers: A Zombie Parody

Nat King Cole – ‘When I Fall in Love’ original…

“Quite a nice patio ornament,” says Crispin, mildly.

That’s if you make it as far as the new body,” says Higham Dry Senior’s voice, from within the impressive exoskeleton of finest Swiss watchmaker’s armour. “Without becoming tapas!”

Only one of his arms armoured in the incomplete suit, he gives a yank on the captive tentacle, overbalancing the zombie Queen, and upsetting Beneficience’s careful dried floral display around my still-inert housemate.

Crispin’s cousin loses her tether, tosses aside the olive branch, and seizes a large knife from the altar, advancing on her restrained husband, Luke.

Is it too late to agree to mediation and couples therapy?” Luke suggests, as she raises the knife.

No!” I shout, and am dumbfounded, as Crispin echoes my cry.

Both of us dive to Luke’s salvation, with differing agendas.

Murderer!” I shout.

Not without the formal ceremony!” Crispin hollers.

While Crispin wrestles with his cousin for possession of the knife, I thrust the burning torch at the attendant with the clockwork hand, before he can intervene again. He dodges to the far side of the altar, causing me to collide with the body of Miss Air-Head, as I struggle to reach him.

Give that back!” I squeal at him, digging into Whatsername‘s ribcage with my elbow as I flail forwards. “It was given to me to look after!”

A hiccup beneath me almost goes unnoticed.

Sarah…” says my housemate. “What’s going on? Where’s Carvery?”

Oh, God – not now!

Get down, get down!” I hiss at her, pulling her clear of the plinth. “Sshhh! They want to use your body as a zombie Queen Squidmorph host! They mustn’t know you’re awake!”

That queen over there?” She points over my shoulder.

No, no – that’s Homer. Remember? He just wants to be a prom queen,” I reassure her. “That one, over the other side. Being dragged around by her tentacle, by the big angry cyborg. Long story.”

Why is there a goat and a donkey watching?” she asks. “And who is that man with his head under the rug? Where is Carvery?”

I really don’t know which of those questions I’d rather answer least.

I have to get the clockwork hand back, and try to get us home!” I whisper, hurriedly. “Ace is here somewhere…” Oh, yes. I spot him surreptitiously attempting to untie Luke from the wooden cross – while Crispin and Beneficience fight over his potential as a sacrifice – kicking out at any attendant zombies who interfere. “The man under the rug is…”

I have a brainwave, and hurry over to Justin Time. He is pinned to the floor by the booted feet of two of Higham Dry’s bounty hunters upon his driving cape and still at gunpoint by the Naval officer, resolutely hiding his head under the small mat.

I lift up one corner, and he screams.

Justin,” I greet him. “Can you summon the rickshaw?”

My wife smash all of them up already!” he rages. “I am grounded!”

But I’ve seen rugs, captive on the aircraft-carrier outside…” I begin. “Is that your wife General Lissima’s boat? The big Naval ship? Could we get away from here on just a flying carpet?”

You should be so lucky!” Justin scoffs. “You never sneak one past her! Believe me, every day I have tried! Sometimes four, no, six times a day!”

Lady Glandula is using her attendants as ammunition, seizing the poor helpless zombies by the legs and battering them against Higham Dry Senior’s armoured hull. He deflects them effortlessly, scattering spare parts. My housemate screams as a dusty skull rolls over her foot.

Perhaps you should be the one thinking about mediation and counselling?” Higham Dry’s robotic voice chuckles, as he gives her tentacle a whip-crack, causing her to drop the enormous urn she had been poised to throw.

The gods and I do not see eye-to-eye!” she spits.

Shouldn’t have declared war on him while you were alive, then, should you?” Higham Dry replies, winding her tentacle around a pillar to deliver a body-blow. “You wouldn’t have had to run away to Egypt in the first place. Or had the most important Incantations taken away from you.”

Atum took everything!” she roars, and the pillar crumbles as she contracts the tentacle, breaking free. “To the bottom of the ocean! Everything that was mine! My country! My culture! My business! My empire!”

I can see where Crispin gets his monopoly fixation from,” Ace’s voice joins us.

Ace!” I gasp. “Where’s Luke?”

Said he was going to sort out his marriage.” Ace looks dubious. “I hope that means he’s got a bigger knife than she does.”

I look across at the altar. Crispin and Beneficience are still tussling with the sacrificial tools. Having disarmed one another several times already, they are now down to the hooks and the leather belt-roll, in a stroppy Tug O’War that I can clearly see harks back to their childhood as merely playful cousins.

Of Luke, there is no sign.

I need to get the clockwork hand back,” I say. “I think it might be able to stop them…”

I have a better idea,” says Justin Time’s Naval officer guard. We look up in surprise, and she pulls off her dark peaked cap. Before I can react, she has twitched the little leather-bound diary out of my hand. “How about you all wait here with Higham Dry Senior’s men, and I’ll get the clockwork hand back?”

General Lissima!” I cry out. No!

I told you,” Justin Time groans into his comfort-rug, as his wife runs off with the precious diary, grinning. “I try to sneak one past her many times! She always one sucker ahead!”

Over by the pedestal, Crispin and Beneficience knock the remainder of the floral display off the altar, and roll around inelegantly on the floor.

Mine!” shrieks Beneficience, currently on top, with Crispin compressed beneath her suffocating bosom.

Yield!” Crispin manages to blurt out, before his head disappears again under an enormous polka-dot corsage.

Play nicely, kids,” Ace remarks, a statement which does something else weird to my ovaries. “Should we do something?”

Oh, yes, I’m thinking – but it’s probably not appropriate right now.

I wouldn’t even know whose side we’re on at the present moment,” I admit.

The one where none of us ends up with more alien squid tentacle butt plugs than we started out with,” Ace reminds me.

I glance up at the three bounty hunters guarding us, wishing I knew what their weaknesses are…

“‘When I fall in love, it will be for ever…’”

The tussle at the foot of the pedestal becomes a frozen tableau.

“‘Or I’ll never fall in love…’”

Beneficience raises her head uncertainly.

Gaylord?” she snaps. “Is that you?”

Homer, ever vigilant for a song and dance number, hurries to the foot of the steps leading up the pedestal, and gestures upward with his pom-poms.

At the top, his bow-tie and cuffs straightened, a single dead rose from the altar clutched between his hands, Luke is singing to the rafters.

Ooh, that lovely!” Higham Dry Senior the cyborg approves, windmilling an unfortunate zombie attendant in each hand like a nunchaku expert. “It take a hard woman to reject a man with great big lungs like those!”

Crispin struggles free from beneath his plus-sized cousin, and looks wildly at the vacant altar and suspended wooden cross of torture.

Nooo!” he cries, pitifully. “The ceremony – all ruined!”

No!” screams Lady Glandula, now using her tentacle to defend against Higham Dry’s attack. “Make him stop!”

Yesss,” hisses another voice, and I look in its direction to see Mrs. Time, General Cutthroat Liss, clockwork hand in her grasp and stripping the flesh from the zombie still hanging onto it with her own tentacle.

The gray skin and connective tissue slides off the bones easily, like a well-cooked spare rib.

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to watch Man v. Lunch again…

I’ll go after the General and the clockwork hand,” says Ace, close to my ear. “You stay here with Whatserface and find a way to distract the bounty hunters.”

How?” I demand, looking at my useless companions.

Justin Time with his head still stubbornly under the pointless rug. My housemate Shithead, huddling up between the drunk billy goat and the albino donkey. And an even less helpful Carvery Slaughter – turned to stone. My heart sinks.

I don’t think you can retrieve DNA samples from stone… what a waste…

Oh, Gaylord…” says Beneficience, a tear in her eye and clasping her breast, as Luke sings on. “Can you forgive me?”

The panels in the great wooden pyramid start to creak, and slide apart, allowing bright shafts of sunlight through. Slowly, the structure retracts into the deck of the giant barge.

You’ll think of something,” Ace assures me.

I give up. What do Higham Dry’s bounty hunters really want…?

As a last resort, I snatch the rug from Justin Time’s head, and spin it away across the deck as he scrabbles to retain it.

Justin Time is escaping!” I yell. “Trying to steal that doormat! Stop him!”

It works – the three bounty hunters launch themselves after the errant rickshaw pilot, and pin him to the floor. Ace dashes off in the other direction.

It’s nothing!” Justin Time protests, struggling. “A trinket! A souvenir! Nothing special! Not prototype, or anything important like that!”

The last of the panels is now flush with the deck, and my housemate squints up into the daylight.

Oh, no,” she moans vaguely. “It’s going to rain.”

Pop Quim, hopscotch!” says Higham Dry, throwing another unlucky zombie, javelin-style, at Lady Glandula. “If a man sing up a storm, who remember to bring umbrella?”

Nooo!” she shouts. “Make him stop singing!

I look up at the sky, into a gathering funnel of gunmetal-gray cloud. The Great Barge, usually as steady as a rock, begins to quiver.

Not bad, lovely boy…” I echo. My voice is barely audible, even to my own ears. “Louder…”

‘Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen’ trailer – Enjoy 🙂

Read on for more mindless mayhem – see below…

The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum

More mindless mayhem: The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum

Also available for all other devices, and online reading, on Smashwords

Ilium Resurrection: A Zombie Parody

Depeche Mode vs. Madonna – Like Jesus or Not mash-up…

“Eggs,” Crispin confirms. “But not Sea Centipede eggs. These are laid by another parasite – one that needs underwater carrion to incubate its clutch. The small amount of heat given off during decay accelerates the development process.”

“What are they from?” Ace asks, prodding another, with the toe of his boot.

“Hermit Squidmorphs,” says Crispin. “They go through a series of parasitic stages before becoming fully mature and independent.”

“Let me guess,” Carvery suggests. “The next stage after the eggs is the vampire face-hugging phase, yes?”

“No,” Crispin looks a little offended, through his diving-helmet. “Squidmorphs are not facially-orientated in the slightest. Quite the opposite, in fact.”

“Alien anal probing?” Carvery remarks.

The radio silence between us all becomes distinctly more unpleasant.

“I think we should keep moving,” I announce, my voice higher than Salvador Dali on LSD.

Ace and Carvery are both looking at the floor with concern now.

“Good idea,” Ace murmurs. “Don’t think I want to meet a vampire butt-hugger either.”

We try not to jostle one another in expressions of blind panic as we continue through the gut of the giant centipede carcass. A few more eggs get stepped on in the shambolic rush, releasing their premature black squid-ink into the water.

“Are there likely to be any more of those Rock Scorpions down here?” Carvery’s voice comes across the radio again, as it seems to get inexplicably darker. Damn this ink – it doesn’t seem to disperse at all…

“Er, no,” Crispin replies, from up ahead. “They will not enter the nursery when hatching is due. Hermit Squidmorphs are not fussy about the species of host they occupy.”

Holy Mother… I saw the armour-plated shells on those scorpions! Even Homer, in front of me, seems to double the pace of his mincing strut into an underwater scurry.

Thankfully, the knee-high eggs start to thin out from what I can see of the ground underfoot, and we start to climb a little as the terrain slopes upward.

“What?” Carvery wants to know, and I stumble into Homer’s back. “Why are we stopping?”

There is a pause. I glance behind us, my own insides fluttering with adrenal abuse.

“Underwater landslide,” I hear Crispin say, grimly. “Our exit is blocked.”

I push past Homer, determined to see for myself.

A wall of rubble marks the end of our path. Jagged segments of centipede armour are either side, allowing only a narrow current of water and silt to drift through.

“Let’s have a look,” says Carvery. “I’ve demolished almost as many walls as I’ve had to put up.”

I wonder how much of that involved the interment of his ex-girlfriends?

He assesses the slurry of mixed shapes and sizes of rock, before apparently picking a few at random and pulling them free. Dust clouds billow into the seawater, but the rest of the rock-face holds.

“That’s as many as we can safely move,” he says at last. “It’s like Jenga. Pull the wrong stone out, and the whole shebang comes down.”

“Man, we still won’t fit through there,” Ace tells him, patting the surface. “It’s like a cat-door.”

“How far are we from the surface, Crispin?” asks Carvery.

Crispin considers.

“Fifty feet – perhaps sixty,” he says eventually. “At a slight upward angle, through these rocks and out the other side. We will find a stone platform just beyond, with a steel ladder embedded into the rock, leading up to it.”

“Reckon we could make it without suits?” Carvery suggests.

“What?!” I gasp.

Take off our breathing apparatus? Is he crazy?

“It is possible…” Crispin ponders. “But during hatching, the Squidmorph eggs release acid into the water as well as ink. We will have to work fast.”

“Cool.” Carvery seems decided on the matter. Since when was he in charge? “Homer – you’re the thinnest of us. You go first.”

Ho-ooo-ome?” Homer asks, doubtfully.

“It’s quite all right, Homer,” Crispin reassures his zombie brother. “Mr. Slaughter is thinking clearly. Nice deep breaths first. Like Bette Midler, before a Vegas show.”

Gooooood,” Homer agrees, and we all hear his lungs creaking and whistling like a frog on a night out with the lads, as he dutifully exercises his diaphragm before reaching for the clasps on his suit.

“Fuck,” Ace curses. “Forgot about the kimono.”

Homer is still dressed as Madam Butterfly underneath the diving-suit. Between them, Carvery and Ace quickly pull apart the bulkiest parts of the sash, bow and bustle.

Finally down to a scrap of embroidery, Homer makes for the opening in the rocks, and darts through, with a kick of his heels.

God – not much of a gap there…

“You’re next in size, Sarah,” Carvery says, turning to me. “Deep breaths now.”

“Why is it in order of size?” I demand, feeling panic rising up my gullet like a victory flag.

“Smallest go first, less likelihood of dislodging any more rocks on the way through,” he reasons, with perfect logic. “Come on. Less talk. More deep breaths.”

I do as instructed, filling my last lungfuls of air from the gas-tanks. Blessed gas-tanks – how I will miss you…

“While we’re still young, Sarah,” Carvery prompts.

“Yeah – I think I just saw one of those eggs wriggle,” Ace chips in. “I think something else’s young might be joining us quite soon.”

“Aim for the ladder straight ahead as you exit the rock-slide, Sarah,” Crispin tells me. “When you feel the rungs in front of you, head straight upwards – do not hesitate.”

“No chance of me hesitating,” I say, and I mean it. “Don’t worry about that.”

I reach for my clasps. One – two – three on the front of the diving-suit. One – two on either side of the diving helmet. I brace myself – and I am free…

The cold water gurgles instantly into my suit, and slaps me about the face. Aargh! It’s gross… I dread to think what living or dead particles are finding their way into my eyes and ears and nose already…

Even more gross is feeling Carvery and Ace both shove me towards the opening in the rocks, and the grating of my Naval uniform gold-gilt buttons from the Great Nematode u-boat, as they scrape along the surface. With one last glimpse of Crispin out of the corner of my eye, I am fully inserted into the hole…

I have a little elbow-room, and can kick my feet to propel myself forward – but the channel through the rock-slide is longer than I thought. I squirm my way along, my throat burning as I struggle to keep what air I have in my lungs.

And yes! I can see a blue-tinged light at the far end! That must be what Crispin was referring to earlier – we are near the surface, at last. I push forward, dog-paddling my way through the tunnel.

My eyes must be suffering from the dirt in here. It’s getting cloudy…

…But then I see the cloudiness billow, and the opening at the other end of the tunnel turns briefly black…

Oh my God – parasitic alien butt-hugger squid eggs…

They must be on BOTH sides of the rock-slide!

I can’t go backwards in this channel. For all I know, one of the others is already behind me – and back there – no escape. Just a mile of Giant Sea Centipede alimentary tract, leading out onto the Deep Ocean Trench, populated by recently-armed Fish-Man. And me with no diving suit on…

I shut my eyes tight – and various other orifices that I can think of – and swim forward. As fast as I can…

Something hits my nose, and I almost forget myself by opening my mouth to scream. The taste of rank seawater and battery acid rushes in. My hands shoot up to meet my face protectively – and snag on a rigid metal bar.

The ladder!

Do not hesitate, Crispin’s voice echoes in my mind.

I kick my way up the underwater ladder, my fingers finding more rungs as I try to increase my ascending speed. Surely this is more than sixty feet from where I started?

Just as it seems my bursting lungs are about to tear their way out of my chest, the water breaks over my head – and my brain sloshes painfully at the unexpected loss of buoyancy.

Gooooood,” Homer’s voice greets me, grabbing my arm.

“Homer!” I cry in gratitude.

As manfully as he’s possibly ever done, the skinny gray zombie hauls me up onto the strange, livid green stone of the subterranean platform. We are still underground – but high overhead, daylight filters down from the top of a tower-like stairwell.

We’ve done it – we’re here. I’ve never been so glad to see the sky as I am now…

I’m barely taking my first full breath, dragging myself onto the cool and welcome flat surface – when something closes around my left ankle – still overhanging the edge – like a bear-trap.

“Owwww!” I yell, and try to snatch my leg in towards me – but whatever has me caught in its embrace is firmly anchored.

And it tugs

I look down in utter dread, in time to see a third coil of red speckled tentacle loop around and up, aiming for better grip below my knee. My foot is already obscured by some horrible, barbed, knobbly, eight-fingered, arachnid claw…

And boy – do I scream! Maybe because Carvery Slaughter is nowhere near – I really let one rip.

“Geddoff!” I shriek. “Off! AAAAAAARRRRRGH!”

Bless Homer – he bravely goes for the tentacle lashed around my shin, and bites and bites it. It squirts black ink over his head, and I promptly vomit in turn.

It tugs again abruptly, and I shoot backwards, suddenly back in the water up to my waist. Homer grabs my hand, as I scrabble for any purchase on the stone ledge.

“Please help me,” I beg, already knowing that Homer is losing the battle, with all of the undead power in his pathetic, weedy, cross-dressing physique. “I don’t want an alien butt-plug…”

Another lash of the horrible tentacle suddenly whips around my neck, and its barbed little hooks bite into my flesh like burning needles of red-hot ice. It makes the suckers on Lady Glandula’s weird appendage in the Five a.m. Lounge seem almost an attractive prospect in comparison…

“Homer…” I sob.

I see the despair in his black eyes, as I recede helplessly back into the deadly water. I feel it lapping at my ears, the smell of battery-acid already corroding the hairs on the inside of my nostrils…

Suddenly I feel my trapped leg jerk abruptly, and a mouthful of the vile seawater makes its way down my throat – before I realise that my neck is now free once more.

Homer gives a heave, and I progress forward slightly, like a Tug O‘War rope. Oh God – please let me live… I’ll never lick another pizza box again…

Another strange tearing sensation underwater, and my leg is also free.

Homer heaves again, and I slither the rest of the way back onto the stone platform. Thank God – thank God

“Thank you…” I blubber, not sure how much of the damp on my face is tears, sea-gunk or snot by now. “Oh, thank you…”

…And Carvery Slaughter bursts out of the water, hopping up onto the platform from the topmost rung of the ladder with ease.

“Carvery!” I gasp.

“Shotgun works underwater,” he remarks, brandishing the remains of the tattered waterproof holster. “At least, while it was inside this. That was one ugly calamari, Sarah.”

Ace appears right behind him – minus his jacket and shirt.

Oh, boy… I’ve gone from All Systems Panic Stations to All Hormones Conception Stations in four seconds flat.

“Tight squeeze,” he says, by way of explanation. He shakes the water from his spiky dark hair, like a Davidoff model. I’m glad I’m still sitting on the ground, as I don’t think my legs could stand the moral challenge of such a display. “I don’t envy Crispin, trying to squeeze through those rocks.”

“Did you see any more of those squid eggs hatching down there?” I ask Carvery, nervously.

“Too dark.” Carvery tips seawater out of the shotgun barrels. “Too much squid ink.”

We all look down at the swirling surface of the water, and wait.

And wait…

For old times’ sake – the original ‘Alien’ trailer – enjoy 🙂

More mindless mayhem: The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum

Also available for all other devices, and online reading, on Smashwords

50 Shades of Gray Matter: A Zombie Parody ~ Chapter One (Extended)

I look in the mirror. I do it every day. Pretty much most people look in the mirror every day.

I see a girl. That’s a relief. A girl with hair, two eyes, a nose, one mouth, and as I push the hair back as I’m brushing it to check – yes, still got two ears. Phew.

My housemate, whose name escapes me most days, has forced me into this, the reason I’m awake and brushing my hair at the ungodly hour of ten a.m. How dare she go for her abortion today, and pack me off instead to do her media studies homework? Couldn’t she have had her termination some other time?

I have to go and interview some vending-machine business mogul. The company is called Dry Goods, Inc, and the owner, Crispin Dry, supplies our University with all of its vending machines. He’s notoriously hard to get appointments with. When you ring his office, you have to press so many buttons on the phone to finally get through – only to be told that your selection is no longer available, and to choose an alternative.

Miss Whatsername, my housemate, says that she’s got to get this interview for the University paper. I don’t know why, they only use it to wrap take-out cartons in the refectory. Maybe it’s to promote a new drinks machine range.

So I’m having to forgo my weekly visits to the body farm and the morgue for my own research project. I don’t even know if I’ll be back in time for work later.

She’s going to owe me big-time for this. If I don’t get to see a corpse this week, I don’t know what I’ll do. There’s one I’m rather fond of in a wheelie bin under a silver birch tree at the body farm, where I like to sit and eat my sandwiches. He’ll have changed so much the next time I see him…

I leave Whatserface, my best friend, packing her nightdress for the clinic.

“Good luck!” says Thingummyjig, as I head out. “Make it a good interview!”

“I’ll bring you back some sanitary towels,” I concede, and slam the front door.

*  *  *  *  *

It’s a long drive to Seaford West Industrial Estate, but luckily I have my father’s trusty bullet-proof Hummer in which to navigate the rain-soaked roads. I don’t think my Pizza Heaven scooter would have made it. When I put my books in the insulated top-box, it always skids over in the wet. And sometimes nasty people put other things in there, when I’m doing a delivery.

Dry Goods House is a huge monolith of connected storage containers, converted into offices on the seafront industrial park, an illegal immigrant’s dream. Mirrored glass windows inserted into the corrugated steel keep out any prying eyes.

The revolving doors swish as I enter the Customer Enquiries lobby. A brain-dead-looking blonde is sitting at the stainless surgical steel counter.

“I’m here to see Mr. Crispin Dry,” I announce. “I’m Sarah Bellum. Miss Thing from the University sent me.”

“I’ll text him,” says Miss Brain-Dead, picking up her phone. “Have a seat.”

She eyes me as I sit down on the plastic chair between two vending machines, one for hot drinks, the other for snacks. I feel over-dressed. Maybe stealing my housemate’s Christian Louboutin studded Pigalle pumps and Chanel suit had been taking it too far. The receptionist looks cool and comfortable, in turquoise blue overalls and a neon yellow hi-visibility industrial vest.

“He’s on his way down,” she says, after a moment. She reaches under the desk. “You’ll have to put this on.”

I get up again to accept the hi-visibility yellow vest she hands me, which has VISITOR stencilled on the back. I pull it on grudgingly over my borrowed Chanel.

The adjoining door creaks, and I turn, still adjusting my Velcro.

I know, the moment I see him.

The black suit. The pallor of his skin. The attractively tousled, unkempt bed-hair. The drool. That limp… oh, God, that limp…!

“Crispin Dry?” My voice catches in my throat.

“Miss… Bellllummmm,” he moans softly, extending a dirt-encrusted hand.

My heart palpitates wildly, noting his ragged cuticles, and the long, gray, prehensile fingers.

“My housemate,” I begin. “Miss Shitface – she couldn’t make it today. Got the uterine bailiffs in…”

I grasp his outstretched hand in greeting. So cold… and yet so mobile… a tingle crawls deliciously up my forearm, and I snatch my hand away quickly, scared of showing myself up. His jet-black eyes glitter, equally cold, and his upper lip seems to curl in the faintest suggestion of a smirk. Or is it my imagination?

“Were you offered a refreshment, Miss Bellumm?” He gestures towards the famous vending machines.

I shake my head, and he turns to glare at the receptionist. She cowers visibly, and I’m sure I hear him emit a long, low, guttural sound. The receptionist scrabbles in her drawer and holds out a handful of coin-shaped metal tokens.

“I’m fine, really…” I croak, although in all honesty, my throat does feel terribly dry.

“Very wellll…”

My knees feel weak as he holds the door open, and beckons, his head at a quirked angle.

“This way, Miss… Bellummm.”

How he rolls my name around his mouth makes my own feel drier than ever. I stumble hazily through into the corridor, hearing the door creak closed again behind me, and the shuffling, shambling sound of his footfalls in my wake.

“Straight ahead, Miss Bellumm.”

His voice is like sandpaper being rasped over a headstone. It tickles my inner ear and the back of my throat, sends chills down my vertebrae. It resonates with my deepest darkest thoughts.

Things I had not even entertained notions of while eating sandwiches under the silver birch tree, beside my dear Mr. Wheelie-Bin…

His arm extends past me to swipe his security card in the lock of the next door, and a waft of his moss-like scent washes over my strangely heightened senses.

“Go through, Miss Bellumm,” he practically whispers in my ear.

The door clicks open, and I step through. Murky grey daylight filters through the tinted windows from the seafront, and I gasp. Another brain-dead blonde is banging her head repeatedly on the steel wall, not three feet away from the door.

“Debbie,” Mr. Dry says. Is that a tinge of disappointment, or disapproval in his voice? “Take Miss Bellum’s coat. You will not need the yellow site vest either while you are with me, Miss Bellumm.”

Debbie turns to look at us, her flat bleached-out bloodshot eyes registering nothing. She holds out her arms to accept the navy-blue Chanel and hi-visibility vest as I shrug them off, feeling exposed now in my Andy Warhol Marilyn Monroe t-shirt. Miss Brain-Dead Mark II takes my jacket with a soft grunt, but goes nowhere, turning back to face the wall instead, contemplating the smear where her head had been rebounding off it just a moment before.

Crispin Dry takes my arm to steer me past, the unexpected contact eliciting another gasp from me. Those long, cold, prehensile fingers, closing around the soft warm flesh of my tricep…! I trip along the next corridor, trying to keep pace with his rolling, loping gait, like that of a wounded panther.

“My office…” he hisses, swiping his security pass a second time, and ushering me through.

It is black. Everything is black, from the desk, to the leather seating, to the vertical blinds. The only colour in the room is a giant white canvas, on the wall facing the long window, upon which a modern meditation in red is represented.

“You like my art, Miss Bellummm?” he murmurs, seeing my open gape at the piece.

“It’s yours?” Wow – now I’m really intimidated. The only art I see is on custom car bodywork when passing the breaker’s yard, hoping to catch a glimpse of the fit mechanic. “It’s beautiful…”

“I call this one… ‘High-Velocity Spatter’,” he confides in a husky voice. “Sit.”

I plant my quivering haunches onto the soft leather, and start to take out my notes. The only sound otherwise in his office is the eerie call of gulls, from the windswept pebble beach outside.

Crispin Dry watches me, calculatingly. He circles around the sofa opposite, not yet seated.

“Would you like something to drink, Sarah Bellumm?” He moves languidly towards the huge, black, state-of-the-art vending machine in the corner.

The sound of my full name on his lips is like the opening of a beautiful white lily…

“I am a little parched,” I admit. “Yes, please, Mr. Dry. Thank you.”

“What would you like?” His hand hovers over the illuminated keypad. “Tea, coffee, hot chocolate? Iced water? Chicken soup? Gin and tonic? Bubblegum? Breath mints?”

Mmmm – a vending machine with everything!

“A chicken soup would be lovely,” I hear myself say, and my stomach grumbles in agreement, recalling the last slice of cold Pizza Heaven pizza I ate for breakfast, many hours ago.

“Chicken noodle, chicken and sweetcorn, Thai chicken and lemongrass…?”

“Yes please – the last one…”

I watch as his clever fingers dance over the keys. There is the faintest hum from the machine. In a trice, a large fine china mug appears, steaming, on its own saucer, garnished with fresh chives and coriander. There is even the traditional porcelain soup-spoon on the side, intricately decorated.

I wonder what sort of businesses he supplies this particular machine to. All that the University ones dispense, is various colours and temperatures of pond-water à la Styrofoam. We must be at the very bottom of their budget range.

He brings it to the low onyx table in front of me, and presents it with the gallant flourish of a red napkin. Something of the gesture, and the way he arranges himself laconically on the sofa opposite, makes my heart sink slightly.

Oh no. He’s so gay…the way he’s fidgeting his earlobe in that I’m-ready-to-listen way and stroking his knee with his other hand – that’s at least fifty shades of gay…

I struggle to focus on the list of questions that Knobhead has written out for me. I’m starting to worry that maybe I won’t enjoy finding out the answers to some of them.

“It’s very hot,” he says, in a warning tone. It startles me.

“Hmmm?” Am I always this jumpy?

“The soup, Miss Bellummm.” His mouth twitches in the corner, and his black eyes crinkle slightly. It’s as if he can see into the dark shadows at the back of my own mind.

“I can get started with the questions while it cools down,” I say, brightly, batting away the shadows in my head at his curt nod. Definitely gay. I look down at the sheet of paper. “Now… the first question. Is it true that you employ foreign child labour in the construction of your vending machines?”

“No.” The answer is as cold as ice, and as solid. “There are other ways of manufacturing our machines to a budget that is mutually beneficial, to the product consumers, and the workforce.”

“Right…” I scribble this down, in my best pizza-order shorthand. “And is it also true that you sub-contract your perishable goods supplies, for human consumption, out to companies who deal in black market foodstuffs and out-of-date stock?”

“Our sub-contractors are fully vetted,” he assures me. “If any sub-standard products are finding their way into my machines, it is usually the fault of the site owners, outsourcing to cut-price vandals who access the machines without our endorsement. Quality control is of paramount importance in this business.”

The aroma drifting up from the soup is certainly backing up his argument. But still…

“Are you saying that the recorded cases of food poisoning at Cramps University, and at other sites, is the faculty’s fault?” I ask.

“I am not saying anything, Miss Bellumm,” he muses, his eyes still faintly entertained, his head still quirked. “But you are, it seems.”

I stare down at the page. Twat. That last question was me, my stupid mouth running away with me. Not one of Miss Fucktard’s questions at all. Double twat.

“Moving on,” I say swiftly, aware that his eyes are mentally dismembering me. I look at question number three. “How do you explain your current one thousand percent increase in profits in the current financial climate, Mr. Dry?”

“With excellent book-keeping.”

I look up at him, uncertain whether this is merely a stab at humour. He is still lounging on the sofa, the jet black of his eyes resting on me steadily. My own eyes follow the line of his jaw, and the rumpled Bohemian mane of hair, still intact. His square shoulders in that black suit make me feel weak. What’s wrong with you, girl? He’s still walking around and talking! You’d be bored sick of him within minutes, same as all the others…

I press on with the questions, covering the various charges of tax evasion, pollution, carbon footprint, and illegal immigration, and he has a cool answer for every single one. I’m relieved to turn the page, and find the closing questions are brief.

“…Finally, Mr. Dry. Can you tell me your favourite colour?”

He indicates the décor of the office.

“Black,” he confirms. “With a little fetish for red, occasionally. And sometimes…”

His face darkens. He looks away.

“White?” I suggest, thinking of the painting.

“When black meets white, there is a certain shade – a very delicate and vulnerable shade – that illustrates humanity in its most primitive state.”

“You mean gr…”

He puts his finger to his lips.

“Best left unspoken.” Those black eyes burrow into my head. “A colour for the mind. Not for the lips. Only… under very special circumstances… should the matter pass the lips.”

He’s bonkers. Just what we need right now. Another gay eccentric. I return to the final questions.

“And what music do you listen to?”

“Soul.”

“And last question. What car do you drive?”

“I have a number of cars, all black, and a chauffeur, who drives very sedately. You must allow me to take you on a tour of the rest of my complex some time. I may have an opening for a new PR girl soon.”

Outside the window behind him, something turquoise blue and neon yellow crashes wetly onto the pebble beach from above. Without looking around, he produces a remote control, and closes the vertical blinds. Automatic halogen lights phase on overhead, so there is no change in illumination inside the office.

“Thank you, Mr. Dry.” I’m on my feet in that instant, suddenly wary of being in an enclosed office alone with him. Those dark shadows have all sprung to attention in the back of my mind, at the closing of those blinds. “You have been very accommodating, but really I mustn’t keep you any longer.”

“Indeed?” he asks in turn, rising out of his seat. For the first time I notice how tall and manly he is… was, I correct myself angrily. “Keep me for what purpose, I wonder?”

So arrogant!

I just nod, blushing fiercely, and head for the door.

“I will have to show you out,” he reminds me, taking out the security pass again, and lurching forward to accompany me. “It has been a pleasure, Miss Belllummm.”

His voice is driving me crazy. And his hand on my arm again, guiding me out of the door and into the corridor. I practically scamper ahead, snatching my coat back from Brain-Dead Blonde Mark II.

“Thank you for your time, Mr. Dry,” I say, back in the near-safety of the lobby. There is no sign of Brain-Dead Blonde the receptionist, and I can’t wait to get away. “It has been very educational.”

“I’m sure it will be,” he agrees, with a courteous nod. “Au revoir, Miss Belllummm.”

I run to the Hummer in my pointy Pigalle pumps, and lock myself in. I can see gulls flocking to the spot on the beach outside his office, on the far side of the building.

Those shadows in my head – I fight to control them. How dare he hijack my fantasies, my pure and innocent thoughts of the dead? How dare he make a mockery of it all by walking around in broad daylight and touching me??! There ought to be a law against that sort of thing…

As I drive home again, all I can see through the rain bouncing off the road in front of me, is his gray and amused, sardonic and demonically attractive face.

See the movie ‘Secretary’ (trailer above) for the original Mr. Grey, if copyright law is what lights your candle… and you may find a few more movie tributes, amongst those in the following zombie parody… 🙂

To read on, see the opening chapter ‘Filthy Shavings of Gray Matter’ in The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum:

The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum

Available on Amazon Kindle worldwide – click for Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.ca or Amazon.com

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