Zombie Walk

“What America needs is a good zombie apocalypse.”
-An actual person I know, who shall remain nameless.

With a lead-in like that, I couldn’t help but write this story!  Zombie Walks are actually a Thing, in which hipsters use zombies – an anti-conformist anti-commercialist icon – to dress alike and buy t-shirts.  But they’re fun, so I can’t complain.  This story also offers a nice opportunity to lay out some of the rules about necromancy in this series, and exactly what a vampire or zombie’s role is in Vintage Soul.

This story takes place roughly three weeks after Blood Hound.

 

Usually I enjoyed Halloween, but I really wasn’t feeling it this year.  It might have had something to do with the murder demon that rampaged around town recently.  That kind of thing puts a damper on all the holidays.  So as soon as night fell, I went to the best vampire bar in town.  This was because I am a vampire.  I’m also a private detective.  And a Jew.  And a brunette.  And a Sagittarius. And a mom, or at least I was a long time ago, before my life turned into a strange, immortal blur.  It’s a long story.

The Front Line was a jazz club.  It had been a speakeasy during prohibition, and a saloon before then.  It was a place of hardwood floors, smoke in the air, spool tables, loud blues music, and more damn atmosphere than any number of the fetishistic gothy raves that people thought vampires went to.  And the owner was a friend.

“Now, I don’t usually pry,” Cole Spade said as he handed me my drink.  “But I kinda miss the sparkle in your eyes.  What’s bugging you, Little Lady?”

A tall, lanky man with a somewhat craggy face and silvering hair, he looked like one part rock star and two parts cowboy, which made sense, since he sang the blues on the side.  Had a voice like Leonard Cohen, too.  He was also one of the most dangerous and powerful vampires on the continent, but he was pretty chill about it.  I was used to his pet name for me.  Lots of people teased my height, which I didn’t mind too much.  People had thrown way worse slurs before.

“Nah, I’m fine,” I said.

“Sure y’are,” Spade took off his sunglasses and polished them on his shirt.

“Cole,” I said.  “May I ask you something?”

He nodded.

“Why did you hire Meg?” I asked.  “You know what she is.”

He smiled.  “She never tried to hide it,” he said.  “Megaera asked me if she could test her new glamour, and she wanted to find you.  Looks to me like she did.”

“She could’ve just looked up my number,” I said.

Cole winked, and put his shades back on.  “But which’d be more personal?” he asked.  “Calling you, or what she did?”

“Yeah,” I smiled a little at the thought.  “Good point.”

“Is that what was bringing you down?” he asked.

“I’m not down,” I said.  “I’m just not feeling the holiday.”

He gave me an incredulous look.  “Y’know, if you want some advice, I’ve got an idea.”

I sighed.  “Call Megaera, see what she’s doing for Halloween, and join in?” I asked.

Cole nodded, and pointed a finger at me, which he turned into a thumbs-up.  “You got it,” he said.

“Woo, eight hundred years old, and I still need a babysitter,” I joked, and hopped off the barstool to call Meg.

She answered on the first ring.

“Lucy!” came Meg overly-cheerful voice.  “I was just about to call you.  Like, I had the phone in hand, I hit star-eighty-two, and then you called.  Thanks for enabling my laziness.”

“You’re totally welcome, Meg,” I said.  “Hey, are you doing anything for Halloween?”

She laughed.  Meg’s laugh was normally light, cheerful, and delightful.  This was a full comic book evil laugh.

“That’s why I was going to call you, Lucy babe,” she said.  “Come and meet me on Guerrero and 19th Street.”

“What’s on Guerrero & 19th?” I asked.

“Something awesome,” she said.  “Just trust me.  See you in a few?”

I smiled.  “I’ll be there.”  My car was in the shop, so I went outside to get a cab.

Megaera was a beautiful, cheerful, witty, flirty little ray of sunshine.  She was also a blood-soaked celestial executioner.  The Furies are known through Greek myth, but beings like them have existed since time out of mind.    As Meg, she was a cute li’l redhead.  As Megaera, she was a winged nightmare with bloody eyes and jagged talons.  But who was I to judge?

Meg had been a friend of mine for decades – we had roomed for years after I moved to San Francisco – but we had fallen out of touch.  There were a lot of reasons for it, and after a disastrous Thanksgiving spent with her sisters, I had just let the friendship go.  By the time I began to regret it, she was gone.  Meg had reached out to me during my last major case, and we had picked up the pieces as if nothing had happened.  You know, Cole Spade was probably right.  Friends were a good thing, and if I really did need some cheering up, then I could do worse than Halloween with my old BFF.

I sensed the necromancy in the air before I had even reached the Mission District.  It wouldn’t have been noticeable to many, but since a form of the same energy kept me alive, I knew it when I smelled it.  And it was thick tonight.

Three things are illegal in San Francisco:  Plastic bags, foie gras, and practicing necromancy without a license.  That last one is not a joke, it’s really on the books.  Piddly little would-be necromancers popped up from time to time, but somebody usually stopped them before they could do any real damage.  Sometimes they stopped themselves.  But I hadn’t felt something like this in a long time.  I gritted my teeth and waited in the taxi.

I am a private detective.  Most of the time, my job involves spying on people and taking pictures.  But on rare occasions, when supernatural nasties reared their heads… you can figure out the rest.  This wasn’t a formal case.  Nobody was calling out for help, right?

But I could feel the energies of death coursing through the air, pregnant with potentiality.  I wondered if Meg knew.  She could sense things, even tell a man’s sins from afar.  But occult issues were rarely on her list.  It was odd – she could chase a man to the ends of the earth over a trivial sin, but something like the mass-murder demon from the other week was out of her pay grade.  I got out my phone and called her again as the taxi took me to my destination.

“I’m almost there!” she answered the phone.  “I’m just getting some coffee.  I’ll be there in a few.”

“Hey, Meg,” I said when she answered.  “I think something’s up.”

“Really?” she asked.

“Yeah, really,” I said. “You can’t sense it?”

Meg paused for a moment before answering.  “I’m trying,” she said.  “It’s on the tip of my tongue, but I’m not sure.”

I looked out the window, and saw where I was.  “I’m almost there.  See you in a few?  We can talk then.”

“Sure,” Meg said.  “And, uh, happy Halloween.  Or Shalom Halloween, or however you want to say it.”

“That’s wrong on like a billion levels,” I said.  “See ya in a few, Meg.”

The cab stopped, and I paid the driver.

“Guerrerro’s blocked off,” he said.  “You’ve got about another block.  You okay with that?”

“Sure thanks bye!” I shouted, and tried to gracefully hand the money to him.  I really did.  I failed.  At least I threw enough bills from my wallet at the driver that he got a good tip for his trouble.  At least I think so, I was already stumbling out of the car and running across the street before he could count any of it.

Necromancy in the air?  Streets blocked off?  I noticed a thick crowd gathered – another reason to be worried – and shoved through.  Nobody seemed to notice, which set off even more warning lights in my brain.  Meg, what did you get me into?

Describing necrotic energy to somebody who has never felt it before is like trying to describe a color to a blind person.  Yes, it feels cold and dark, but mostly it just feels dead.  More still than air in a sealed tomb, more wasted than the ash after a flame.  Fossils, not bones.  I know that there is an afterlife, but the power of necromancy is that of the void between and before.  But even with that stillness, it carries a crackling energy, a wavelength that numbs you to death.  There is a little bit of it fueling every vampire’s curse, but we didn’t feel it at this level of blunt strength.  Whatever was going on was less subtle – not a soul being held back, or even a ghost, but a body forcibly animated and empowered.

I reached into my coat as I ducked into an alley, feeling the comforting weight of my gun against my hand.  I had a concealed-carry license, and I abused the hell out of it.  But since I used my weapons to abuse Hell, it all worked out.  It’s amazing how many immortal nightmares went down when you shot them in the face a bunch of times.  And for the ones that shrugged off ordinary lead, I had other options.  Silver bullets were well and good, but when even they failed, I had a supply of holy, blessed ammo.  Sure, I had to wear gloves and treat the bullets like they were radioactive, but they worked.

A walking corpse shambled into the alley.  Tattered, bloody, its skin a corpse-gray pallor.

Holy hell, right in front of me, too.  Usually I had to go looking for these things.  I slipped the gun out of my holster, and then it spoke.

“Braaaaains,” the zombie moaned.

“Wait, what?” I frowned.  “Zombies don’t talk.”

“They do in Return of the Living Dead,” the zombie said.

“Oh, for crying out loud,” I hit myself on the forehead.  Unfortunately, that was the hand holding the pistol.  “Ow!”

“Woah, is that thing real?” the not-zombie asked.  I should have noticed it immediately.  The blood was too symmetrical.  The gray skin was stage makeup.

I stowed the gun.  “Look, I don’t know who you are,” I said, “but you really shouldn’t sneak up on people like that.  Dark alley, fake blood…”

“Lucy,” Meg said from the alley entrance.  “Please tell me you weren’t just about to shoot Todd.”

Todd.  His name was Todd.  George Carlin had a whole routine about people named Todd.

“Meg,” I didn’t answer her.  “What’s going on?”

“It’s a zombie walk, silly,” Meg winked.  She had on zombie makeup, too, only hers looked way more convincing than Todd’s.  And she still managed to be a total knockout, even when done up to look like a corpse.  Not that I was jealous, or anything.

“Wanna join in?” Meg asked.  She was carrying three lattes in a cardboard tray.

“Meg,” I said.

“Come on, it’s fun,” Megaera said.  “Just think, Lucy.  You can pretend to be undead!”

“Meg,” I said.

She handed me a latte.  “It’s dangerous to go alone,” Meg said.  “Take this.”

Meg,” I said, and took the coffee.

“Look, I know you’ve been down lately,” she said, dropping her volume to a don’t-let-the-muggles-hear level.  “But the demon’s gone.  You kicked his ass.  You can relax now.”

“Meg, there’s necromancy in the air,” I whispered.  “Can’t you feel it?”

She frowned.  “There’s always a little bit of something on Halloween,” Meg said.

I shook my head.  “This seems big,” I said to her.

She glanced over her shoulder.  More people had begun to join us in the alley, probably friends of Todd.

“Let me check,” Meg said, and began to concentrate.  The only way to describe it is that it was like connecting a phone to the network.  Her eyes lit up, but she shook her head.

“There’s definitely something going on,” Megaera said.  “But I can’t put a finger on it.”

Which made sense.  She could pinpoint mortal sins very easily, but supernatural stuff wasn’t usually on her list.

“I think you should still join us,” she said.  “At least until we get an idea of what’s going on.  C’mon, Lucy.  We can put some makeup on you, or you can be a victim, or one of the fake army guys.”

“Fake army guys?” I asked.

“Some people with toy guns pretending to shoot at the zombies,” she said.  “Just how out of touch are you?’

I muttered something about young whippersnappers that made Meg giggle, even though her age was in the four-digit range.

“That’s nice,” she said to me, and then turned to the rest of the hipsters.  “Hey, guys!  This is Lucy.  She’s an old friend.”

“Hi, Lucy,” Todd said, and we began walking.  “Jenna and I were just arguing about the best weapon for a zombie apocalypse.  She says a machete, but I say it’s the monk’s spade.  What do you think?”

I blinked, and looked at Meg for a moment.  “What’s a monk’s spade?” I asked Todd.

“It’s a Shaolin weapon,” he said.  “It’s got this crescent on one end and a big, flat blade on the other.  It’s in the Survival Guide.”

“Do you know any Shaolin monks?” I asked.

He seemed speechless.

“There’s a monastery on Geary,” I said.  “Maybe you could get one from them, but I don’t know if they’d have any.  I mean, where would you get something like that?”

“You’re not taking this seriously,” he said.

I drank some coffee.

“But what do you have in your kit?” Todd asked.

“My kit?” I asked, and sipped some more coffee.  Sweet, sweet, caffeine goodness.  Meg was a saint.

“Your zombie survival kit,” he said.  “In case there’s an apocalypse.”

“A zombie apocalypse is impossible,” I answered.

“But there’s fungus that turns bugs into zombies,” he said.  “And there’s like a real rage virus they’re making in labs, and GMOs, and stuff.”

I had a headache.  “Real zombies are animated through necromancy,” I said.  “And can’t spread without further expenditure of–”

Meg jumped in between us both, slinging her arms around our shoulders.  I almost spilled my coffee.

“Friends!” she said.  “Great discussion, isn’t it?  “So, let’s do a head count.  Do we have everybody?”

Todd frowned at me, but then looked around.  “Okay, there’s me, Meg, Jenna, Carlos, Matt, Heather, the new girl, and,” he hesitated.  “Uh, what’s your name?”

The extra person limped along with us, but didn’t say anything.

Todd stepped away from Meg to the edge of the group, and tapped the new shambler on the shoulder.

“Dude?  Do we know you?”

The newcomer turned his head, and I smelled blood in the air.

“Look out!” I shouted.  Todd gave me a confused look just before the real zombie lunged for him and grabbed him around the shoulders.

He really didn’t seem to register it as dangerous until the zombie bit him, dangerously close to the base of the neck.  Then he screamed, and that got everyone else’s attention.  Jenna, or maybe Heather, also screamed, and the little knot of friends broke into pandemonium.  I could smell Todd’s blood as it mixed with the walking corpse’s.

I shoved past the others, and threw my coffee.  The cup hit Todd square in the face and splattered all over him, and he stumbled back, coughing and sputtering – but away from the zombie’s teeth.  I clotheslined the undead thing, hooking my arm around its neck.  I felt the snap as the zombie staggered back, head flipping back, and then shoved it away from me before it could recover enough to bite.  Its head flopped uselessly from a broken neck.

The corpse snarled at us, and tried to reach for Todd again.  I put three bullets in its face.

Okay, now Todd screamed.  Kind of like a little girl.  I really didn’t blame him.  Meg was on Todd in a second, putting pressure on the wound and trying to calm him down.  I turned towards the others, and got the briefest glimpse of Jenna-or-Heather turning around a corner as the friends ran away.

“Oh no oh no oh no,” Todd started repeating.  “It’s real it’s real it’s real I’m gonna turn!”

“You’re not going to turn into anything,” I said, looking down at the zombie corpse.  It was done moving.  “Zombie bites aren’t contagious.  The worst you could get is an infection, because that ain’t sanitary, man.”

“You’ll be okay,” Meg said.  “Calm down, Todd.”

Todd did not calm down.

“That can’t be real!” he yelled.  “Zombies aren’t real!”

“Actually,” I said.  “They totally are.  Take a look.”

Todd, who was hyperventilating and bleeding from his neck, managed to compose himself enough to look at the zombie I had just killed.  The body was beginning to crumble, like dirt.

“What?” his voice cracked as he asked that.

“From dust you came, and to dust you shall return,” I said.  “The type of necrotic energy used to animate a zombie puts so much strain on a body that when it fails, the whole thing just collapses back into its component parts.  Instant topsoil.”

“That doesn’t make any sense!” he said.  Meg continued to dab at the wound.

“We need to get this guy to the hospital,” she said.  “That was a nasty bite.”

“No, it makes perfect sense,” I said.  “Look, Todd, I need you to take a few deep breaths and calm down.  Meg and I know what we’re doing.  We are here to help.”

“How do you know any of this?” he asked.  “I got bit!  I just got bit by a zombie! It’s real!”

“Todd, please calm down,” I said.  “You’ll be okay. Take a deep breath and relax.  We can handle this.”

“How can you handle anything?” he asked.  “I’m going to turn into a zombie!  I can feel it!  Someone help me!  Help me!  Help!”

Meg grabbed him by his good shoulder and wrenched him around to face her.  Her eyes changed, turning into bloody pools.  The voice that came from her lips was not human.

“You are going to shut the fuck up and let us think,” she snarled.  “You will trust us.  We know what we are talking about.”

Todd moved his mouth, too terrified to even wheeze at her.  And then, in an instant, Meg was back to being the same bouncy redhead as before.

“We’re gonna keep you safe and sound, okay?” she asked, her voice normal again, and winked at him.  “Just relax, Todd.  You’re in good hands.”

Meg let him go, and he swayed a little on his feet, as if about to pass out.  I moved in to intercept, and put my arm under his shoulders.

“Okay,” I said.  “The blood loss isn’t as bad as it could be.  Where’s the nearest hospital?”

“It’s thataway,” Meg pointed.  “We might as well start walking.  Todd, if you feel weak, just lean on us, all right?”
“Okay,” he squeaked, leaning away from Meg and against me.

“Todd,” I said, and let my fangs extend.  “I’m a monster, too.”

It took way too long to calm him down after that one.

“You’re cruel,” Meg said after he finally got a handle on himself.  We began to walk toward the mouth of the alley.

“Says the pot to the kettle,” I responded.  “You’ve got a log in your eye. Sticking out thiiiiiiis far.”

She shook her head, letting those red curls of hers bounce with the movement.  Todd took a deep breath. And seemed a little less shaky when he exhaled this time.

“You see,” I said to him.  “It’s what I said earlier.  Zombies are created.  One by one.  There’s no apocalypse or plague or anything like that.”

“Lucy,” Meg said.

“And it takes a lot of effort and energy to make one,” I continued.  “And you have to concentrate or they’ll start falling apart.  Harder and harder the more you make.  Zombies are really inefficient, and most necromancers can only manage a couple at a time.”

“Lucy,” Meg said.

“And even if you can make them, where are you going to find the corpses?” Todd was nodding along with me.  “The human body decomposes, and it’s hard to find specimens that are in good shape for a zombie.”

Lucy.

“What?” I asked Meg.

“Look.”

I looked.

“Holy Hell, Meg, what are we going to do?” I asked.

The walking dead filled the streets.  The zombie walk had begun, for real this time.  They shambled past us in a mob.

“We’ve got a problem,” she said.

“Are those all zombies?” Todd asked.

“I… I think so,” I said.

“I thought they were supposed to be really inefficient,” he said.

“Meg?” I asked.

“This is huge,” she said.  “And I didn’t even sense it.”

I looked at the zombie mob again.  None of them had noticed us the way that one straggler had.  And the lack of screams meant that they weren’t munching on anybody else, either.

“Meg,” I asked.  “They’re all going in the same direction.  What’s that way?”

Her eyes widened.  “The zombie walk,” she said.  “They’re heading to where it starts.”

Todd spoke up.  “So there’ll be real zombies in the zombie walk?” he asked.

Meg nodded.

“And if they reach them?” he asked.

“It’ll be a regular hipster holocaust,” she said.

I elbowed her.

“Ow!” Meg rolled her eyes.  “All right, all right.  It’ll be a regular hipsterpocalypse.  Does that sound better, Lucy?”

“Can you find the necromancer?” I asked.  “Or necromancers?”

“I’m not sure,” she said.  “This is huge.  I think if I saw the perpetrator – if I had line of sight – I could tell who it was, and maybe track him or her.  But this is insane.”

“What am I going to do?” Todd asked.

“Stick with us,” I said.  “You’re bleeding, so if you run off alone into the crowd of zombies, they’ll probably smell the blood and maul you.  At least with us, you’ve got a chance to get to the hospital.  And Meg, we are dropping him off there, okay?”

“It’s almost on the way,” she said.  “But Lucy, we need to find whoever’s behind this.  More lives are at stake than just one.”

Todd grimaced.

“And you’re going to be okay,” she added.  “If the zombie had bitten anything vital, you’d be dead by now.”

Todd grimaced some more.

“Hey, just think,” I said.  “If we find a monk’s spade, you’ve totally got dibs.”

“Less talk,” Meg said.  “And more following.  The necromancer has to be nearby to control a herd this big, so keep an eye out.”

“Why aren’t they attacking us?” Todd asked.

“We’re not a threat at the moment,” I said.  “And since this is in public and not in a back alley or something, they can afford to leave us be until it’s time to strike for real.”

He gave me a terrified look.  I responded with a friendly smile.

“We’ve got a problem,” Meg said.

“Yeah,” I looked around and agreed.  More undead had begun to shamble up behind us, effectively closing us in.  One of Todd’s hands grabbed my shoulders.  “If we get their attention, we’re dead.”

“And that includes trying to take them out before they reach the crowd,” Meg added.

“I think it’s too late for that,” Todd said.

“Yeah, I know,” I noticed some bystanders milling around, either ready to watch or join in the zombie walk.  A small knot of college students dressed in badly-faked military uniforms and carrying toy guns ran past.  They waved.  The three of us waved back

“This is going to suck,” I said through a fake smile.  “Meg, you’ve got a reading or something?”

“Not yet,” she said. A small knot of made-up fake zombies pointed to our group, and joined in.  “Well, one of those kids is a shoplifter, but that doesn’t help us much.”

“Huh?” Todd asked.  After the bleeding eyes, I was amazed he hadn’t just run away from Meg, to be honest.

“Meg’s… special,” I said.

“Long story, Todd,” she said to him.  “I’ll fill you in afterward, okay?”

“O…okay,” he stammered.

“Be strong, kid,” I said.  “And look for something to use as a weapon.  Some of the zombie rules do apply, and bashing a zombie’s head is the quickest way to take one down.”

He didn’t look reassured.

“We’re coming up to the main group,” Meg said.

“Yeah, I know,” I looked ahead of us, and saw a crowd of made-up zombies chilling and waiting for the walk to begin.  “Got any ideas?”

“I’m not sure… wait.”  Meg’s eyes narrowed.

“What?” Todd asked.

She grabbed us both by our collars and hauled us out of the mob.  Todd tripped, but I got an arm underneath him to steady him.  He clutched at the bite and grimaced.  Meg hauled us into an alley, near a dumpster.

“Meg?” I asked.  “What is it?”

“My sinner sense is tingling,” Megaera said.

“What? Where?” I demanded.

A zombie broke off from the crowd and shambled into the alley.

“Guys,” Todd said.

“Wait, wait, give me a second,” Meg said.  “I’m getting a picture.  A direction, kind of.”

The zombie shambled closer.

“Guys,” Todd said.

I opened the dumpster, just in case there was something useful inside.  The damn thing was empty.

“Okay, picture’s coming back now,” Meg said.

The zombie stepped up behind her, and began to reach.

“Guys!” Todd said.

Meg backhanded the zombie without even turning around.  Its head went in a different direction from the body.

“Okay, I think I know where to go,” she said, and stepped to the mouth of the alley.  “That way.”  She pointed.

I followed, unholstering my gun.  “What’s he look like?”

“Portly guy,” she said.  “Right at the front of the crowd, straight ahead.  Glasses, soul patch.  He’s been planning this for weeks.  He’s going to let the zombies go wild when the walk reaches its midpoint.  He’s based in… wow, he’s based in the hospital.”

“What?” I asked, scanning the crowd for a man fitting her description.

“In the morgue,” she said.  “That’s where he got all the bodies.  Entrance in the back.  He’s got some sort of ritual setup in there.  I don’t know why, but something’s blocking me from seeing the specifics.”

I frowned, and spotted the guy.  He was almost indistinguishable from the other nerds in the crowd, but even across the street I could feel the necrotic energy radiating from him.  He was cheering alongside his potential victims.  I started to take aim.

Meg put her hand on the barrel of my gun.

“Lucy, you’ll hit the crowd,” she said.

I lowered the weapon.  “Dammit.”

Meg took in a deep breath, and watched the zombies for a moment.  “Lucy, give me your gun,” she said.

“What?” I asked.

“Someone needs to start picking off those zombies,” she said.  “And draw them away.  I’m the only one who can aim into a crowd and not hit innocent people.”

I looked at the zombies and bystanders outside.  “Shooting them in public,” I said.

Meg nodded.  “I’m also the only one who can put on a different face.  You try that, and the cops will be waiting for you when you get home.”

“The media is going to throw around words like ‘terrorist’ and ‘spree killer,” I added.

Meg nodded.  “Better if it’s somebody who just disappears.”

“What are you two talking about?” Todd asked.

Meg sighed, and took a step back.  Her form became indistinct for a second, the briefest flash of what she really was showing through, before she changed.  Red curls turned into dark brunette hair, and she took on the bartender form that she had used when working for Cole Spade.

“Aw man,” Meg said.  “Do you have any idea how long it takes to make one of these glamours?  And now I’ve gotta use this one up.”

I handed her my gun.

“Godspeed, Lucy,” she said.

“And you too, Meg,” I said to her.  “Be careful.”

“I should say the same to you,” Meg smirked.  “He’s bound to have zombies stationed all the way from here to the hospital.”

I nodded, and turned to Todd.  “You’d better go find a place to hide,” I said.  “Shit’s going down.”

“You said I needed to go see a doctor,” he said.  “So I guess I’m going to the hospital, too.”

Meg’s eyes widened.  “Todd, babe, this isn’t a movie.  You’re probably going to die.”

“That… that thing tried to kill me,” he said.  “What if it had gotten Jenna instead?”

I sighed.  “I am going to hate myself for this, but I’ll keep you covered, Todd.  Just hide if things look bad, all right?”

“Okay,” he said.

Meg moved back to the mouth of the alley.  “I’m going to run out from here,” she said.  “And mix with the crowd.  Probably fall in with the fake soldiers and cops first.  When I leave, you count to three and then run for the necromancer, okay?”

I nodded.  “Gotcha.”

Meg winked, blew us both kisses, and then ran out from the alley.

“What is she?” Todd asked.

“Long story, kid,” I said.  “Just stick with me, but don’t be afraid to run if things get hairy.  We’re going to take the necromancer down, and fast.”

“What are we going to do when we get to him?” Todd asked.  “In public?”

“I have no clue,” I said.  “We’ll burn that bridge when we come to it.  Now, on three.  One… Two…”

We ran.  Unarmed, too.  At least I was a vampire, though I don’t know what Todd thought he was going to do.  We had made it about halfway across the street when the necromancer spotted us.  The tubby guy’s eyes widened like he had seen a ghost – har har – and he took off.

“He’s running away!” Todd said.

“I can see that,” I reminded him, and began shoving through the crowd.  “’Scuse me.  Zombie hunters, coming through.  Bite victim, don’t get near.”

The crowd laughed and parted when I used Todd as a human shield to get through.

“It’s all part of the show,” I whispered to him.  “How’s your shoulder?”

“Hurts real bad,” he said.

“You’re a trooper,” I stated, and spotted the necromancer ducking in between two buildings.  I gave chase again, Todd following close behind.

We turned the corner and ran into a knot of about three zombies.  Of course.

I shoved Todd behind me and kicked the nearest zombie back.  It tripped, giving us some space.  I moved to the side, putting myself between it, another dumpster, and Todd.

“The dumpster,” I said.  “Get in there.  Look for a weapon.”

He started to climb in, yelping a little at the strain on his bite wound, while I tried to go all kung-fu on the zombies.  They grabbed me before I could punch one, of course.  They bit.  I bit.  They clawed.  I clawed.  I had the advantage of healing wounds.  They had the advantage of not feeling pain.  I kept my throat protected while they blindly tried to tear into me, and I almost panicked.  But a couple of weeks ago, I had been mauled by a hellhound.  That was panic.  This was just corpses.

“Get off me!” I yelled, and flung a zombie off.  Another one grabbed me from behind, and bit into my neck, which was probably ironic in some crazy way.  Severe blood loss was bad no matter who dealt it to me, and this wasn’t a good sign.

The zombie jerked hard as something hit it on the head, and it tore its teeth from me.  I punched it hard enough in the face to smash its nose into its skull, and Todd struck it again with some sort of blunt instrument.

“These are the best I could find!” he said, and tossed me a broken yardstick.

“Great,” I said.  The ruler felt light in my hands.  I hauled off and swung it at another of the three zombies, catching it under the eye.  The yardstick almost splintered, and the zombie barely flinched.

“Great,” I repeated, and shifted my grip to spear it in the eye.  It worked that time.

“Help!” Todd yelped again.  I ripped the yardstick free and turned toward the dumpster again.  He was actually doing all right.  He had broken his yardstick, but had broken his zombie’s head open, and it was having trouble reaching for him.  I kicked it in the side of the knee and let it collapse.

“Come on, Todd,” I said.  The third took a lunge at me, and I stabbed the ruler through the base of its chin.  The yardstick splintered in half, but the zombie went down.

Todd gingerly climbed out of the dumpster, shying away from the only remaining one as it writhed, crippled, on the ground.  I pulled him a little further away.

I sighed.  “It’s not like the movies, is it?”

Two of the corpses had already begun turning to dirt.  The third one blindly clutched the corner of the dumpster and tries to pull itself up, but lacked the coordination.

He shook his head.  “I don’t get it,” he said.

“This used to be a person,” I sighed, took the remaining shard of yardstick in my hand, and stabbed the zombie through the base of its neck.  “Someone’s brother, or son, or husband.  Every single one of those shambling messes used to be somebody.  And that bastard’s been desecrating their corpses.”

“Can we go?” he asked.

“Oh yeah, right.  Chasing the bastard,” I nodded, and put a hand on my neck.  The wound was healing nicely.  “Sorry about that.”

“Are you okay?” he asked.

I nodded.  “I heal fast.  Wounds caused by undead things linger a little longer, but this was nothing.  Let’s go.”

It was harder to follow the necromancer’s trail without Meg acting as a compass (did I hear gunfire behind us?  You go, girl!), but I knew where the hospital was, so I led Todd in that direction.  San Francisco is a city of hills, and even I felt out of breath by the time we crested the next one.

“Are you okay?” I asked Todd.

“I’m fine,” he huffed.  “Look out!  Zombies!”

We had picked up another small crowd, and they were shambling after us from about a block behind.  I nodded.

“Let’s move it,” I said, and ran with him.  Cities these days just didn’t provide many weapons.  Even the trash cans were bolted down.  We needed to find somebody who had discarded baseball bats.  Or crowbars.  Or something.

“What are you guys?” Todd asked.

“Long story,” I said.  “Just accept that we’re experts.”

Someone screamed to our left.

“Dammit,” I said, and turned.  A few people, clearly in costume, came running.  I counted one one-handed sheriff, two redneck survivalists, and a couple of blood-stained yuppies.

“Someone’s gone nuts!” one of them shouted as they ran past.  “Tried to bite us!”  About five corpse-shaped silhouettes stumbled behind them the narrow street.  I also saw something else.

“More zombies,” Todd said.

“And weapons,” I stated, and ran at the zombies.  The people must have been carrying props when they were ambushed.

“Look out!” Todd called after me, but followed, anyway.

I ducked one zombie’s grab attempt, and snatched something that looked sufficiently weapon-ish and heavy from the ground.  I swung it low, tripping one zombie, and then brought it up higher to block another’s clumsy attempt to grapple me.  Then I went to town on them.  I made personally sure that none of the ones nearby would harm another hipster.  Todd stood back and gawked at the orgy of violence.

“Well?” I asked as I reduced the last zombie skull to jelly.  “Are you gonna grab something?”

I took a look at my weapon.  A big, flat, heavy wooden paddle, now covered in gore.

“That’s a cricket bat,” he said.  “Just like in–”

“I’ve seen the movie,” I said.  “Arm yourself, and let’s go before the crowd catches up with us.”

“Right,” Todd said, and then he blinked in surprise.  “Woah!  I don’t believe it!”

“Don’t believe what?” I asked.  “That a vampire and a Greek demi-deity need your help to kill demons?”

“No, not that,” he dismissed what I had just said about myself and Meg, and picked up a weapon.  It was some sort of weird double-bladed polearm, with a crescent on one end and a large wedge-shaped blade on the other.

“A monk’s spade!” he said.  “Just like in the Survival Guide!”

I facepalmed.  “As long as it works and doesn’t get you killed, it’s good,” I said.  “Come on, let’s go.  I think I hear moaning and shuffling.”

The mob was still a ways behind us, clearly having trouble ascending the hill.  I gave Todd a supporting arm when he stumbled, and he managed to catch himself with his new weapon.  The wound on his shoulder had reopened, and he was beginning to flag again.

“Todd?” I asked.

“Hospital,” he said.  “Almost there, right?”

“It’s down the hill,” I said.  “We just need to crest it, and then it’s smooth sailing from there.”

The horde behind us groaned and shuffled.

“If I turn into one of them,” he gasped.  “Would you put me out of my misery?”

“Wow, that’s grim,” I said.  “And I’d do one better than that.  I’d put the necromancer out of his misery.  Now come on, you can walk.”

We were close.  So close.  The medical center wasn’t that far from the zombie walk, and we could see it at the base of the hill.  Our tubby evil friend had probably made it by now, even with all that extra weight he had been carrying.

“Lucy,” Todd said.  “What if we get there and he’s, like, infected the whole hospital?”

I scowled.  “Then even Megaera will think my response was harsh.”

“Huh?” he asked.

“Don’t worry about it,” I said, and took his arm.  “Let’s go!”

We didn’t run full-tilt down the hill, because falling and tumbling would have been suicide, but we took serious advantage of the downward slope.  And since those zombies weren’t zoombies, they ate our dust.

Todd finally stumbled when we reached the parking lot.  He collapsed and leaned against a car, clutching the bite wound on his shoulder.

“I can’t do this,” he said.

“Yes, you can,” I said.

“I’m not some… I don’t know, superhero like you and Meg,” he strained.  “I’m a barista.  Those things are going to come down over the hill and they’re going to swarm us, and for all we know the hospital is filled with them.”

“Yeah, maybe,” I shrugged, and hoisted the cricket bat over my shoulder.  “But you’ve got your monk’s spade.”

“I have no idea how to use a monk’s spade.”

“Put the pointy ends in the zombies,” I said.  “You can do this, Todd.  You saved my life with the ruler.  You’re awesome enough to see it through.”

He sighed.

“Remember how your other friends ran off?” I asked.  “None of them had the guts to stand up to a real zombie invasion.  So let’s go.  If the coast is clear, we can get you patched up while I go kick some undead ass, got it?”

He nodded.

“That’s good,” I gave Todd a reassuring smile, and helped him to his feet.  “Now come on, we’ve only got a few more feet to go.”

That was when I noticed the car flying at us.

“Holy shit!” we both shouted, but I had the sense to yank Todd by his collar and pull him to the ground in time.  The car went sailing over our heads, brushing close enough to the one we had been leaning against to set off sparks on its way past.  It hit the ground in a deafening crash, flipping into another parked car.  Alarms went off, and the ghoul came into view.

If a zombie was one of those little clay ashtrays you made for your mom in summer camp, a ghoul was the pieta.  Necromancers created ghouls by using the human body as sort of a blank canvas, and testing it to its limits.  They came huge, bloated, bulky, stretched, and distorted.  Some were mindless savages, others remembered enough about who they were to beg you to kill them.  This one was nearly seven feet tall, had fingers like spears, and could throw a car.  The tattered remains of its clothing hung from its stretched, bony frame.

“Fly, you fool,” I said to Todd.  “This foe is beyond you.”

“Wha?” he asked, in shock.

“Tolkien joke.  Never mind.  Get the hell out of here, Todd,” I said.  “Scoot.”

Todd broke out of his stupor, and bolted.  The ghoul swiftly turned its head to watch him, and lashed out an arm, the claws extending, stretching into spikes.

“Oh, no you don’t,” I said, and ran up, swinging the cricket bat at its fingers.  I struck one and broke it off, bone shattering beneath the paddle’s heavy wood.  The ghoul snarled, stretching its jaw widely enough to dislocate it, and its eyes flashed red.  The best way to take out a ghoul was with firepower, and lots of it.  I had a cricket bat.

“All right, big guy,” I said as I stepped closer.  “I need to have some words with your boss, so it looks like I’m gonna have to go through you, first.”

It swiped a claw at me, moving a lot faster than anything its size had any right to.  I dove to the ground and rolled, bone claws scraping across the tarmac next to my head.  I found my feet immediately and leapt with all of my vampiric strength, sailing in the air and bringing the cricket bat down on the ghoul’s head.

The bat shattered, because Murphy’s Law is a bitch.

“Oh, come on!” I said, and dove to the side to avoid the thing’s claws.  Now that I was this close, I noticed how the ghoul’s skull was lumpy, thick, and armored.  Good to know after I already broke my weapon on it.

I ducked between the ghoul’s legs and kicked at its knee, forcing it to kneel.  I stood up and tried to strike at its neck, but the creature rotated completely on its waist, and backhanded me into a car.  I saw stars.  Then I saw a shadow as the ghoul picked up another car, and tucked into a roll just in time to dodge the second thrown vehicle of the day.

I got up just in time for the ghoul to spear me with three of its fingers.  You know, impalement hurts.  It probably hurts worse when you know you can survive it, and vampires can take a lot of punishment.  The bone spikes got me in the abdomen and shoulders, and extended until I slammed into another car, pinned against it like a bug.

I reached and tried to pull the bone claws out of me, but couldn’t get enough leverage.  The ghoul lifted its other arm, claws extending as it prepared to take my head off with its next swipe.

“I am never letting Meg have my gun again,” I wheezed.

Todd came in from out of nowhere, screaming like a karate champ as he swung the monk’s spade down on the ghoul’s wrist.  Its shovel-like blade struck against desiccated flesh, cleanly chopping the monster’s hand off.  It shrieked.

“Gotcha!” he said.  And then the ghoul batted him away with its wrist stump like he was a bug, and Todd toppled head over heels onto the pavement, dropping his spade.

I wrenched the severed hand out of my body and ran, my fresh injuries sending a whole new world of pain through my body as I forced myself to move.  I grabbed the Chinese weapon off the ground as the ghoul turned toward me, and twirled it around to shove the crescent blade against its shoulder.  The monster stumbled back, and I turned the spade around to chop into its shoulder worth the shovel blade.  I nearly cut it off with a single blow, leaving the arm dangling by a few strips of tissue.  The ghoul snarled at me, and I uppercut its chin with the crescent blade before jamming the shovel end into the thing’s throat, bringing it down.

The ghoul snarled at me before I stomped down on the blade in its throat, severing its head.

“What do you know,” I said.  “This thing really is useful.”

“I told you so,” Todd moaned.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

Todd stood up.  Now he was bleeding from his temple, too, but scalp wounds bled profusely even when they were shallow.

“I think I’m okay, I dunno,” he said.  “What about you?”

“I’m already healing,” I said.  “That thing didn’t get any arteries or my head, so I’ll be fine.  But there’s something worse.”

“What?” he asked.

“The cops aren’t here,” I said.  “Nobody’s run out into the parking lot.”

I looked at the hospital.  The lights were on, and I could see people milling around in the waiting rooms inside.

“That doesn’t make sense,” he said, and swayed a little on his feet.  I reached out a hand to steady him.

“I don’t think they can see or hear what’s going on out here,” I said.  “And I’m willing to bet that if we tried to go inside, it wouldn’t work.”

Panic began to wash over Todd’s face.

“We have to try the morgue,” I said.  “We’ve really underestimated what this necromancer can do.”

“What are we going to do?” Todd asked.

I began to walk, looking for a back entrance to the hospital.  “Shove this spade where the sun doesn’t shine,” I said.  “And then hurt him really badly.  I’d try to tell you to hide somewhere safe or something, but…” I gestured to the overturned cars.

“This is crazy,” he said.

“Totally.” I saw the morgue entrance.  “Well, you ready for this?  Stick behind me, and I’ll try to keep you in one piece.”

Todd nodded grimly, and rubbed at his head.

“Hey, when this is over,” he said.  “Do you want to–”

“Nope,” I said, but shot him a smile.  “You’d have better luck with Meg.  But I’ll visit you in Starbucks, okay?”

“I work at Peet’s,” he said.

“Heathen.”

“Hey, it’s the best coffee in the Bay Area,” he said.

“Gentile.”

He smiled.  “You’re nuts.”

“I know I am,” I agreed, and noticed that the trunk of one of the cars had been busted open.  I handed Todd the monk’s spade back, and opened the trunk.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“Looking for a tire iron,” I said.  “Okay, this is one better.  Now we’re in business.”

I extracted a crowbar.

“Wow,” he said.  “You could take on some headcrabs with that.”

“I have no idea what you just referenced,” I said.

The zombie mob had begun to crest the hill.

“Okay, time’s up, no more banter,” I said.  “Let’s go.”

There was a sign over the morgue entrance, but otherwise it just looked like another door, probably to keep from disturbing people.  Lots of people picture a morgue as a creepy, poorly-lit horror show, but most were just part of a hospital.  Filled with gurneys, tables, and person-sized drawers in the wall, but otherwise as sterile and bland as any other part of the building.

Of course, this one was ransacked, half of the lights were out, and blood covered the walls and floor.  Well hey, it had seen a lot of traffic lately.  I didn’t envy the janitor.

“This is really scary,” Todd said.

I rolled my eyes.  “Come on, Todd,” I said.  “We just beat up a giant car-throwing ghoul three minutes ago.  And I doubt there’s anything left in here, anyway.  The necromancer must have cleaned the place out.”

One of the drawers opened, and a zombie rose out of it like a deranged jack-in-the-box.  I smacked it on the head with my crowbar.

“Okay, now it’s probably empty.”

The rest started opening.

“They’re gonna get us!” Todd shouted.

“Todd!” I said.  “Monk’s spade! Survival Guide!  Use it!”

He stopped panicking and started swinging. I had to give him this much, the poor guy kept it up even with the bite injury.  He took the left side, I took the right, and we played the worst game of whack-a-mole ever.

“All right,” I said after a while.  “All right, all right.  I think the only thing we have to worry about now is the massive horde shambling toward us from outside.”

“Isn’t the guy supposed to be here?” Todd asked.

I looked toward the end of the room.  “Computer lab,” I said.  Todd raced to the door, but I intercepted and went through first.  I could tank more than he could.

Meg hadn’t been kidding when she said that the necromancer had rigged his ritual in there, though I don’t know how he managed it.  The room was dominated by a massive computer tower and three connected monitors.  Desks covered in equipment, both occult and technological, filled most of the space.  A silvery circle surrounded the perimeter of the room, crisscrossed with designs that seemed vaguely familiar.

And one rather familiar fat guy stood in the back, just in front of those monitors.

“Okay,” I said.  “It’s over.  Shut down the zombies, or I put this crowbar through your head.”

The necromancer turned around and pointed a gun at us.  At Todd, really, which complicated things.  If he had been aiming for me, I would have taken the bullet and jumped him.

“Not so fast,” he said.  “I don’t know who you are or how you made it in here, but you’re not going to stop me.”

“Lucy, he’s got a gun!” said Todd.

“Look,” I began to say, but he interrupted.

“Shut up,” the necromancer said, and looked at Todd again.  “You may think you’re some kind of hero, don’t you?  But you don’t understand.”

Aw hell, he thought Todd was the one doing all the zombie-fighting.  Well, he did have a monk’s spade.  And he was a guy.  I looked for a way to angle the sexism into a win.  Maybe if the necromancer tried to take me hostage, I could bite him.

“You don’t understand,” he said.  “What America needs is a good zombie apocalypse.”

If this had been a TV show, I would have given the camera an aside glance, and shaken my head.  He continued his rant.

“Everything’s commercialism these days,” he said.  “Big business squashes the little man, corrupt politicians make democracy a sham, and there’s no justice.  When the zombies strike, everybody will finally be equal.”

“Dude,” Todd said.  “I liked the Occupy movement, but you’re nuts.”

The Necromancer frowned.  “Shut up!” he said, and brandished the gun at Todd.  “You’re both gonna die now!”

I threw the crowbar at his face.  The necromancer didn’t even realize it before it struck him on the nose with a crunch, and he stumbled back, shooting widely.  I dove to cover Todd.

“Duck, Todd,” I said.  He gave a panicked nod and covered himself.  I felt a shot impact against my back.  Painful, but not as bad as the ghoul.

“I’ll kill you!” the necromancer screamed, holding his bloody nose.

“Excuse me, but may I join in?”

Meg was at the door.  Cute, cheerful, and without the zombie makeup.

“Who are you?” the necromancer asked.

Meg stepped into the computer lab.

“Here you go,” she handed me my gun.  I checked, and it had one bullet left.  I holstered it.  Meg turned toward the necromancer.  “Hmmm?”

“I said, who the hell are you?” he pointed his gun at her.

Meg smiled.  “I’m Judgment.”  And she changed.

Gone was the adorable little redhead.  Her hair hung in serpentine tendrils, her skin was leathery scales.  Her wings spread out decorated with metallic crimson feathers.  Her claws were jagged metal, and her eyes dripping pools of blood.  The Fury had emerged.

“I am vengeance,” she said.  “I am your nightmare.”

The necromancer responded very reasonably, which is to say that he screamed and fired like a madman.  She descended on him.  Jagged metal talons dug into the man’s arms, drawing blood.  He tried to pull away, but her wings closed around him.

“Timothy Dell,” Megaera hissed.  “You are guilty of murder. You have defiled corpses.  Your necromancy has called up beings from the darkness.  Your punishment will be just.”

“Help me!” the necromancer screamed.  None of us lifted a finger to help.

“Help me!  Please!  You don’t understand!”  He was hysterical.  I took a moment to check Todd for injuries.

Flames began to spring up around their feet.

“Please!” his voice cracked.  The stench of sulfur filled the room.

“I take you to your final destination,” Megaera said.  “Burn for eternity.”

The sulfuric flames sprang up, enveloping Megaera and her prey.  He screamed one more time, the sound suddenly become distant and tinny, as if coming from far away.  They both vanished, and the fire died down.

I took a deep breath.  “Well,” I said.  “That’s that.”

“What was that?” Todd asked.

“Meg,” I said.  “You can ask her yourself.  Don’t worry, she won’t hurt you.”

“Is it… is it over?” he asked.

“Yeah,” I started to say, but then I felt it.  Necrotic energy still filled the air.  “Wait a second.”

“What?” he asked.  “What’s wrong?”

“His spells should have unraveled when he died,” I said.  Something else had joined in.  The same type of feeling I had last felt a couple of weeks ago.  The symbol drawn on the floor began to glow, and I realized what was happening.

“Get out!” I yelled at Todd.

“What?” he asked.

I shoved him.  It was rough, and probably hurt the poor guy’s bitten shoulder, but it did the trick.  He stumbled out of the computer lab and fell on his ass just as the demonic circle flared to life, bathing the lab in a silvery glow.  I knew that symbol.  I had seen it before, though only in books.

The computers came on.  Faces filled the three monitors:  Human, gryphon, and wolf.  They spoke in unison.

“I am Bune,” the demon said.  “Duke of Hell.  The Triune Dragon.  He who moves the dead.  And who are you?”

Holy hell, it was Bune, and I was trapped inside his circle.  The last time I had faced a Goetic demon, I had come prepared and even then I only survived because I had gotten lucky.  Really lucky.  This time, all I had was an empty gun and a crowbar on the floor.

Well hey, they say a cornered dog bites the hardest.

“Bune,” I said, pronouncing both syllables slowly.  “I should have known something was up.  That guy was a schlub, he couldn’t have conjured something this complex.”

“A willing pawn,” Bune said through the monitor.

“So,” I put on a confident voice.  “I guess it’s time to kick your ass, Bune.  Just like Caacrinolaas.”

The three faces laughed.  I tried to force my heart to stop beating so fast.

“You?” the demon asked.  “You are nothing.  Woman.  Vampire.  Jew.  Inferior.  Defiled.  Corrupt.  The dead shall tear you to pieces.”

“I dunno, they haven’t so far,” I said.  “And you’re not my first demon.  Let me show you what I did to the last one.”  Oh God, help me.

Pain struck behind my skull.  I fell to my knees in agony, with a feeling like knives stabbing behind my eyes.  The pain came in waves, forcing me down.

“I control the dead,” Bune stated.  “Your body is no more than a plaything.  Shall I shrivel you brain?  Drain your blood?  Force you to devour your friends?”

“I’m not dead,” I said through the pain.

The three faces of Bune laughed again.

“Not… dead…” I strained.  “Undead!”  I focused, wrenching my thoughts and my will and my strength onto myself and my soul, on who I was.  Body preserved by the vampire’s curse.  Mind influenced by darkness.  But the soul was my own.  Lucy December, nee Belaset, human being.  Wife.  Mother.  Lover.  Warrior.  Zombies were soulless puppets, and I was no puppet.

“You should never have come here,” Bune said.

I forced myself to my feet.  Now I could see it.  Threads of invisible power coursed through the summoning circle to the computer systems, but nothing in the room took the demon’s shape.  And when I understood, he felt that much weaker.

“He never really summoned you at all, did he?” I asked.  “He just called you up for advice, and you’re possessing the computer.”

“Die!” the demon commanded in his triple voice.  I felt the wave of pressure, but my mind was stronger.

I picked up the crowbar.

“Undead, not dead,” I glared at him.  “There’s a difference.”

Three walking corpses materialized in the room, surrounding me.

“Aw, now that’s just not fair, I said, smashing one in the head before they had a chance to attack.

Its face splattered like a tomato, and the other two lunged to grab me.  Cold, strong hands wrapped around my shoulders and waist, and I threw an elbow into a rotting face, crushing its nose.  The other one behind me bit into my throat, and I swung the crowbar back at myself, embedding its hook in the zombie’s brain.  I ripped it free in a spray of gore, and the zombie whose nose I had broken snarled at me.  I smacked it on the backswing, sending it toppling into a table of ritual gear.

“I offer you knowledge,” Bune said.  “I grant wisdom, riches, honor, and the respect of others.  They are yours to take.”

“But people already call me a smartass,” I said.

The zombie on the table recovered, and its body jerked back in a spasm.  Spikes of bone burst through its back as its spine twisted, and its ribs began to sprout like teeth from its chest.

“Devour her,” Bune commanded the ghoul.

It jumped on me before I could move, those ribs extending to stab me in the gut.

Why didn’t people ever remember that I was a vampire?  Arteries, people.  Arteries or the head.  You didn’t need wood or crosses if you could just manage to decapitate me or bleed me out.  I smacked the ghoul on the head with my crowbar.  It recoiled, and clawed at my throat.  Dammit.

I jammed the straight end of the crowbar into its eye, embedding it with the squishy sound of metal against brain matter.  The undead thing shrieked and pushed of me, flailing for the crowbar in its eye.  Its tongue stretched, growing thorns and lashing around, wildly.

“Let me help you with that,” I said as I grabbed the crowbar by its hook, and kicked the ghoul in the gut.  It tore free, sending the monster toppling backwards.  More zombies began to appear in the room, surrounding me.

“That’s the problem with computers,” I said as I approached the computer tower.  “They crash.”

The ghoul stood again, joining the other walking dead in the circle.  I drew the gun from my coat and fired its last shot into Bune’s computer.  It rocked on top of the desk, and smoke began to pour from the bullet hole.  Bune shrieked something distorted and incoherent as the three monitors flickered, and the walking dead jerked back, as if struck.

I hit it with the crowbar, hard.  The screens turned blue just before the tower fell over, unplugging them.  The zombies began to fall, and I kept wailing on the computer, shattering its casing like an eggshell, crushing the hardware inside.

I knocked it to the floor.  The undead creatures crumbled where they laid.  I hammered at the computer again and again, scattering metal shards everywhere.  The silver circle went dark.  I kept smashing it.  I thought about the defiled corpses.  I saw the innocents gathering for their little walk, unaware of the danger.  I saw the necromancer, idealistic and duped into stupid evil.

“Lucy?” Todd asked, limping into the room.

I kept hitting the computer.  It was little more than a pile of broken shards, now.  I thought of Bune’s promises of wealth.  I thought of Caacrinolaas’s victims from not so long ago.

“Lucy?” he asked.

I became vaguely aware that I was screaming.

“Lucy, stop, it’s gone!” he put his hands on my shoulders.  “It’s over.  You’ve smashed it.”

I almost took a swing at him, but then remembered myself.  I dropped the crowbar onto the pile of wreckage, and clenched my fists.  Stars swam in my vision.  But Todd was right.  It was over.  The demon had lost his home.  The zombies were piles of mud.  The necrotic energy was gone.  Halloween could go back to being fake-scary again.

“Hey, guys,” Meg reentered the room.  “Sorry it took me so long.  I had to process him and all, and you know how that goes.  Oh, wow, Lucy, what happened here?  Did you get the blue screen of death, or something?”

I hugged Meg and laughed.  It let out some of the stress.

“Okay, Lucy,” she says.  “When you’re done being Little Miss Crazypants, I think we need to get Todd to a doctor.”

“Could we please?” Todd asked.

“Yeah,” I said with a deep, deep sigh.  “Let’s do that.”  I patted him on his good shoulder.  “So, how does it feel to have survived your first zombie apocalypse?” I asked.

“Urrgh,” he said.

“Agreed,” Meg added.  “Now come on, let’s go get you patched up.  I’ll get us some coffee.”

And to think, usually I enjoyed Halloween.

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