Julian dropped the purple top hat over the side of the building. With an excited whoop, he whirled around and pumped his fist in the air. “That’s three for three, Missy! Take that!”
The day before, they had holed up in an old Halloween shop. They nailed the doors shut and started trying on costumes. They gallivanted about the store as vampires, fast food, super heroes, fairies, ghouls, and monsters. They had sword fights, complete with fake blood. They built a haunted house, danced to the Monster Mash, and painted each other’s faces.
When that got boring, Missy got it into her head that they should dress up the zombies. Of course, it would be a little crazy to walk up to one, so they took to dropping hats from the roof. Now, there were four dumb corpses ambling about wearing a purple top hat, a sombrero, and two witch hats.
“I didn’t think you’d be so good at this,” Missy grumbled, picking up a hamburger-shaped hat.
“You choose all the hard ones. How do you expect to land that one?”
She shrugged and tossed it over her shoulder, then snatched up one of the witch hats. “Fine. Since you’ve been so successful with these…” She marched to the edge of the roof. “Hey! Zombies! Get your lazy asses closer to the building, puh-lease!”
She didn’t have to wait long. Her shouting drew their attention. Holding the witch hat over the edge, she waited for one to position itself just so. But, as she released the hat, a gust of wind caught it and carried it across the parking lot. It tumbled across the asphalt, and they both watched it go.
“Should’ve waited for the wind to die down,” said Julian.
The witch hat stopped at the feet of a fresher-looking zombie woman. Missy crossed her arms. “At least this one touched a—what is it doing?”
The zombie had looked down at the hat. It seemed coincidental at first, but she then reached down and picked it up. Dumbfounded, Julian and Missy watched as she slowly lifted the witch hat up and fitted it over her matted hair.
“Missy, I don’t think she’s a zombie.”
“Of course she is. How else could she—”
The zombie witch waved at them, making Missy snap her mouth shut. Then, step after careful step, she began to shamble toward the Halloween shop.
“We have to help her,” said Julian.
“No way. We don’t know that she actually isn’t a zombie.”
But none of the other zombies seemed to mind her as she walked past them. Their heads didn’t turn at all. They were all still focused on the two humans peering down at them from the roof.
He ran back to the rooftop door. “What if she is?”
“What if you open the door and she eats us? Ya know, like a normal zombie?” Even as she argued, she hurried after him.
“What if she doesn’t?”
“I’m not convinced, Julian!” she shouted after him as they descended the stairs.
He started prying nails from the boards they had placed over the side door. Missy tried to stop him, but he kept saying they had to take the chance. There were few uninfected humans left. If the zombie witch had survived, they should help her.
As he freed the last board, Missy caught his wrist. “Julian, this is a really bad idea. Let’s just go back to the roof, throw some more hats around, and not die.”
“It will be fine,” he insisted and pulled his wrist away. Then, he opened the door.
Silhouetted in the bright light stood the zombie witch. For a split second, Missy thought she had been wrong. Perhaps the zombie witch had merely disguised herself to get to safety, but then, the putrid smell of decaying flesh filled Missy’s nose. The zombie’s hand shot out to grab hold of Julian. A garbled growl rose from her rotting throat.
Missy scrambled back as Julian brought the hammer down. The zombie’s skull cracked with a sickening sound, and the hat fluttered down from her head. There were more behind her. They rushed at the open door.
Julian didn’t have time to move the fallen zombie out of the doorway. They made a mad dash for the stairs instead.
“I told you, Julian!” Missy shouted as they slammed the rooftop door shut. “This is bad. This is really bad.”
They weren’t completely safe yet. Zombies struggled with stairs, but a few might find their way up. Their best bet was to climb down and make a run for it.
“Give me a break, Missy. Have you ever seen a zombie wave?” Even as he defended himself, his voice rose in panic.
“Come on,” she said, dragging him toward the ladder on the side of the building.
Most of the zombies had flooded the shop, leaving the path to escape clear. They dropped down onto the asphalt and ran without looking back.
That night, they broke into a mostly untouched office building and secured the third floor. They found a break room with sofas and a few cans of soup that had yet to expire. As they slurped down the Campbell’s knockoffs, Missy finally said what had been on her mind since they escaped the Halloween shop.
“They’re getting smarter.”
Thank you for reading! This is a fun little birthday gift for my friend, author Laura Mae.
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