In a matter of a few minutes, the Sliders were devoured. The case sat empty, greasy splotches stained the cardboard. Our frenzied feast finished, we sat full and fat, no longer famished. I reclined in my chair and let a boisterous belch bellow from my gut. Onions coated my breath with a noxious fume. A tightness formed in my stomach, a hardened bulge. Bloated, I could feel how constrictive were my pants as the waistband seeming cut into my body. No doubt as constrictive as those tendrils were to Lindon in the great red sea of death. In a flash, I sat up and turned to him. We had been so consumed by our appetites that I hadn’t bothered to ask him what he encountered inside the orb. Looking at him square in the eye, I was about to ask him when a different question slipped out of my mouth. “Lindon… why is your face falling off?”
This surprised both myself and him. He shot me a look of confusion. I could only muster pained indifference, not too dissimilar to constipation. He brought a gray boney hand to his face and poked at the flesh. Sure enough, when he pulled back his fingers, his face began to peel and slip. It was sagging, just clinging to his skull. You could about see the muscle where the skin was pulling away. “Huh. Okay, that’s new. I don’t really remember the cuts being that deep.”
“I guess the people at the morgue didn’t do a proper job patching you up. Or maybe not at all. It’s not clean.”
“Like, it’s strips. It’s along the gashes from where he slashed you. Like ribbons.” Lindon didn’t panic. He didn’t flinch. If anything, this was the calmest I have seen him in his corpse-form. This was him at his most Zen. And it was eerie. “Oh man, it’s starting to peel. Like, it’s curling. It’s rolling up. Dude, it looks a rolled slice of meat.” Now his panic set in.
“Okay. Okay. Okay. Okay. What do we do? What do I do?”
“Just, uh… Fuck.” I barely moved at all. This was a new experience for me as well. What would one do if their flesh was coming loose? How do you keep it in place?
I got up from my chair and went to the utility drawer, the most ubiquitous draw in any home. They’re like Mary Poppin’s handbag: deceptively small, the contents are many and larger than you’d believe could fit, operating on the physics of hammer space (you know, like how Bugs Bunny could just whip out a hammer from nowhere but you think maybe he had it hidden up his ass). A few seconds of rummaging and I returned with the tool that would solve everything: A staple gun. “Ah-ha! Brilliant, right?”
“Dude, you are not taking that staple gun to my face.”
“Question number one: do you have a better idea? Question number two: can you really feel anything right now?”
“Okay, no and…” Lindon took a fork and stabbed himself in the thigh. “… No. Okay, fine. Staple my face.”
“You really went all in on stabbing yourself. I thought you’d at least just slap your arm really hard or pinch yourself.”
“Hey, if I’m gonna get staple gunned in the face, I might as well see if I can take a fork in the thigh! Let’s do this! Staple my face.”
“I’m gonna fucking staple your fucking face!” Without hesitation, I walked over to Lindon and took hold of his head. Gently, I held the curled flesh back in place and stapled where need. In all, I would say I only had to shoot in seventeen staples. Barely noticeable. Hardly noticeable. Okay, you could definitely notice. But it’s not like Lindon is really going to be a living corpse the rest of his life. I mean, this is probably temporary until we are able to avenge his death and bring his murderer to justice.
Stepping back to admire my work, like an artist their art, I give appraisal of the job. “Yeah, I’d say that looks good. It works.”
Lindon pats his face to make sure nothing else is coming loose. “It feels like everything is as it should be. Does it all look straight?”
“Kind of. It’s not crooked. Not totally. You’re fine. Oh wait. There’s a little piece that’s coming off. I’ll get it.” Guh-chunk! The staple exits the gun and punctures his flesh, piercing the skull, embedding itself into the bone. “You know, this is probably a temporary solution. I doubt this is viable in the long-term.”
“Well, you said this was the only solution.”
“No, I asked if you had a better solution. You didn’t. Neither did I. But maybe we should consider our options for treatment because, Lindon, you’re a rotting corpse. Eventually you’re going to fall apart into a pile of detached festered limbs. And that is not my idea of weekend afternoon fun.”
“What should we do?”
“I don’t know, but I think I know who might know what to do.” Reaching into my pocket I pull out my phone. I search my contacts for our mutual friend, Noel Cardigan. Noel was deep into lore and history of the strange and esoteric. Also, he spent a lot of time on the internet so perchance his knowledge of reanimated corpses might be vaster than ours. I press to dial; the phone is ringing. In a few seconds, the connection is made and I hear him on the other line. “Hello, Cy? What’s up man?”
“Hey, Noel not much. I have a couple of questions for you.”
“Shoot, man. I’m always available to have my knowledge tested but make it quick. I have something pressing at hand.”
“Oh, okay. Sure. Well, what do you know of the living dead or the undead?”
“No. Uh, reanimated corpses. Like, someone came back from the dead and they’re exactly as they were when they were alive but… they’re still rotting.”
“Well, it sounds like their body hasn’t been properly treated. Normally, if you’re reanimating corpses, you want to use the freshest corpses possible. The fresher the better. And no wounds, either. More wounds mean more openings for bacteria to get in and get out. That’s rot, my friend. Decay.”
“Okay, so say the corpse is a few days old, has numerous wounds, and the flesh is peeling.”
“Well, that sounds like trouble, my friend. Reanimated corpses are still subject to the same laws of nature as humans, just amplified. Changes in temperature, air pressure, climate, light… those can affect the condition of the corpse. Bumps and bounces, too. Even though they can’t bleed to death or anything, if you strike a corpse with the same force you would use on a living human, they’re more likely to break or damage something. So you might want to get the corpse treated post haste.”
“How would I do that?”
“I don’t know. I’m not a damn corpse mechanic. Say, isn’t Harold a mad doctor? Didn’t he get run out of the university for stealing corpses and experimenting on them?”
“Yeah, you’re right! He was doing all sorts of things to those corpses. Vile, twisted things I believe.”
“Do you have his number?”
“I think I do. At least, I hope it still works. I’ll give him a call. Thanks for the information, Noel.”
“Hey, no problem. Not even gonna ask why you need to know about why reanimated corpses still rot. Bye.”
“Later. Well, we have our answer.” I’m smiling. I feel warm. There’s chance of resolution to our continual decay problem. Looking at Lindon, all he could muster was the expression of an imbecile; dim and gentle mannequin of grotesque affectation. It is also quite possible that he had to take a massive shit. “Well?”
“Uuuuuuuuhhhh,” was all he could say.
“What is that? Sounds like a dear being drawn and quartered. Are you okay?”
“Sauce? You want sauce? You wanted to get sauced? Too much sauce?”
“EEEEEEEEEEE!” This was Lindon’s way of saying “Yes. I had too much sauce but most likely too much White Castle and now I’m going to explode in a violent blast of internal organs and assorted viscera. Hope you have potent chemicals to clean that shit off your walls and carpets otherwise you will never get your security deposit back.”
“Hey, if you gotta use the bathroom, go use it. Just… don’t… let it spill all over.” Lindon nodded his head and stood up. Turning away from the table, he ambled. He had a slumped gait as he walked and in this time; he truly resembled a zombie; all essence of his humanity was drained and left hollow. No anima, no emotion. Only a drive to fill a hunger that had nestled inside of him, burrowing deeper than in the gut, secreting itself into the blood, weaving throughout the body along the veins and arteries, infecting the heart and the brain. Now he only does to do, not for want or need. Maybe I’m projecting a bit. Maybe I need to do what needs to be done to save Lindon. Save Lindon. Is it even possible? He’s dead, past death. He’s post-dead, un-living, non-living, repackaged and 20% more free. Reduced fat, reduced circulation. I had to be honest with myself. Saving Lindon was not an option. Lindon needs to be dead. I have to kill my friend to ease his pain and for me to move on. I cannot carry on a healthy existence if I insist on socializing with the corpse of my best friend. No, it is not normal even for someone like me who defies the need to be normal. I knew what had to be done. I called Harold West.
“Hello, you’ve reached a number that is out of service. Please hang up and try your call again.“
“BLAST IT!” I chucked the phone out into the living room and plopped into the chair, slumped forward and began to cry. If you’re thinking that this is a rather dramatic response to not being able to reach out to a friend, then you do not know depression. Or desperation. All hope now must be cast away to the wind and fade from sight, from touch, from spirit.
Like a beacon to signal hope in the darkness of night, my phone chimed a chime I never knew it could. Most likely because I have it set on vibrate but perhaps the force with which I threw it had maybe changed the settings. That, perhaps the side of the phone with the volume buttons collided hard enough against something they actually applied the right amount of pressure. This is all a reach to suffice to say that I was indeed alarmed by the… alarm my phone gave. I walked across to the other side of the room where it laid on the seat of my lounge chair, screen side up, nary a crack or dent in the thing, and I picked it up. “Hey, it looks alright. Lucked out there. I couldn’t afford to buy another one this week.” Pure hyperbole on my part. I only purchased this phone as recently as last week and even then, it was only the… third phone? I think? The third one this year. Yeah, I’m sure of that. Anyway, I unlocked the screen and saw the alert of a new text message. It was from a number I didn’t recognize, but whoever sent it, they knew me because the first line said “Cy – Urgent!” I opened it up.
“Hello Cy. Thanks for attempting to call. That line isn’t disconnected; I use it for screening. All a part to protect myself and my work from nefarious groups who would rather see me hanged. If you wish to talk with me in person, please click the link provided in this message. Those are coordinates to my location. Don’t worry – everything is untraceable. See you soon. I’ll be waiting. HW.”
No doubt this wasn’t George Herbert Walker Bush who had texted me. It was Harold. Harold West. A long-time companion of mine and Lindon’s. I’ve known him since childhood, Lindon since high school. They went to university together for their grad work. Where Lindon excelled and was considered an expert in his field, Harold also excelled but was considered a loony. The stories were horrid but likely true. Clandestine experiments of gross and mad science conducted in university labs without their knowledge, or at least, conducted in their willful ignorance. No doubt they didn’t know Harold had been raiding the hospital morgue for subjects. And when the bodies went missing and it was harder to cover tracks, he found resources elsewhere. There’s always fresh bodies to be found on campus and no one will really lament their loss other than to say “Oh, another dropout couldn’t hack the pressure of their practicum. What wimps.” That’s where Harold stepped in. Many say he went mad but I would argue he was always mad and very good at blending in. That’s the trick, isn’t it? The ones who go crazy the fastest are the ones that looked normal the longest.
I called to Lindon. “Lindon, I think it’s time you made yourself look presentable. We’re going to town.”
“I don’t know if going to town is a good idea.”
“Okay, not literally town, but cover up anyway. We’re going to go pay our friend Harold West a visit.” My smile grew sinister and as luck would have it, there was a flash of lightning just outside the window. I waited a few seconds for the thunder to crash before I let out the mad cackle of a super villain and ushered Lindon to the door. I hummed a little tune of lunacy to myself. Had I finally come unglued? Had the fantastical phantasmagoria of the events that had unfolded finally broken my psyche to such a fractured state that all emotional and mental stability was thrown into disequilibrium and I was falling deeper into a madness that knew no end?
Probably. But I was cheerful. A deranged kind of cheerful. I kept on humming and even put words to the tune in my head.
“We’re off to see the wizard. The wonderful wizard of odd.”