Thursday, July 07, 2005

vignette: zombies (for andrew)

The zombies in the darkness were restless.

Lothero, pumped up and resplendent in his acid green tutu, wanted to dance. He bent down, detached his left ankle with his huge hands, then straightened up, bringing his massively muscled leg above his head. “I want to dance,” he moaned. “I want to dance.”

Somewhere to his left, Sakamoto crouched down and picked up his nose, twirling what was left between his sticky fingers before popping it into his mouth, smacking his lips loudly afterwards. Around him, the stench of wet cardboard, ill cats and spoiled vetiver lingered. Only Lothero, of all the others, could stand Sakamoto's graveolent presence.

Agnes, who had the Quiet Boy, scowled at the twin interruptions. “No, Lothero,” she told the moaning man. “Stop that,” she hissed at Sakamoto, already hating herself all over again because of her temperament. “I can smell you from here. Go away.”

She wasn’t the nasty one, she felt. That was, indisputably, Moo Cow. But Moo Cow was elsewhere. Hopefully far, far away. Preferably forever. Besides, thought Agnes, it’s my turn. I’m holding The Quiet Boy.

Tita Joy’s stitched-together face, delicately powered with faux fairy sugar, surfaced meekly in the gloom. “Agnes,” she said timidly, her voice artificially pitched three octaves higher. “Might I have a turn?”

“Absolutely not!” Gasped Agnes, shocked by the request into an unwanted swivet. For a vertiginous moment, she thought she would lose control again.

“Selfish, selfish,” Lothero and Sakamoto whispered, covered in darkness, their position betrayed only by the unexpected flash of an acid green pirouette and the odor of cat droppings.

“I gave you my turn sometime ago, don’t you remember?” Tita Joy’s features began to crumble a miniature avalanche of ephemeral sweetness. She gripped the edges of the wheeled music box that enveloped the bottom half of her body and sighed deeply. “I thought we had an understanding.” She began humming the old song, attracting the attention of Lothero and Zakamoto, who moved rapturously to the familiar melody.

“We do not,” Agnes said tersely, willing herself to be calm. Around them the darkness shifted, muted greys springing into brief existence before flicking out to the same dull darkness. Agnes strained to extend her sight upwards, the rhythm of anxiety thundering in her ears. “Hush! Stop that. You’re disturbing him.”

Ongaku, itsumademo tzukuzu ongaku,” Sakamoto declared with surprising lucidity, suddenly aware of his own smell. “Music is for everyone.”

“Music is life,” added Lothero, susurrous as he spun on one foot. “Even for zombies.”

Tita Joy gave voice to the words of the old song, like a mantra, her tremulous soprano edging high into the darkness:

Show me something I've never seen
Like a river gleaming in the sun
Or the sea and sky kissing on the horizon

Then: The darkness moved. In the silence that ensued, all zombies froze in place.

Then: A sudden shift in position, a sensation of a half-spin or a quarter-turn.

Then: An impression of motion, like a trick of peripheral vision.

Then: “Fuck,” Agnes said, finally releasing her breath. Her entire frame was trembling.

“I’m sorry,” Tita Joy said with all the wounded dignity her crushed face could muster. “I just thought that we-“

“We did not,” Agnes interrupted hurriedly, worried about the recent twitching of the Quiet Boy.

“You’re a contumacious bitch, Agnes. Right now, I believe you could give Moo Cow a run for the Queen of the Zombies thing. But that should come as no surprise to anyone.” The cold voice belonged #4 Dao Street, the bald man who liked to watch fish.

Agnes turned to face the new arrival, her rage swelling pure and strong within her desiccated frame.

“How tragic then that you never seem able to utter a word when she’s around,” #4 Dao Street smiled his toothless smile. “Now give us a turn before T.Q.B. wakes up.”


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