Feb 24, 2011


The weather was starting to cool that day. They were working the last of the state fairs and local festivals before going south for warmer weather. Nicholas had some time to kill before he had to work, so he watched the crowds.

High school boys strutted around in their varsity jackets, intent on impressing their girlfriend or their buddies. They went on the carnival rides and knocked over rigged milk bottles to win prizes for their girlfriends. One arm around their girl, the other arm used for casually eating chili dogs and cotton candy. Seeming confident and care free, Nicholas wondered what it was like to be them.

He always stayed behind the walls and tents erected to separate the customers from the living quarters of the sideshow performers.  Watching families with children, he wondered what it would have been like to have parents. All he knew of his family was that they left him at the hospital. He was never taken home. If he had once been wanted, it was before his face saw the light of day.

As Nicholas watched young couples laugh and flirt with each other, he wondered what it would be like if people were not afraid to touch you, as if his appearance were a disease that he would contaminate them with.

“People watching?” said Grace.

Nicholas shrugged.

“Will you walk with me?” she said.

They walked aimlessly and in silence for a few minutes. Grace had begun coming over to Nicholas’s trailer almost every night. They would watch a monster movie and stayed on their own end of the couch. Then he would walk her home. Nicholas found that her presence was somehow comfortable and disconcerting at the same time.

Once they had reached the edge of the camp she said, “Will you take your mask off?”

“Why would I do that?” said Nicholas.

“How else am I supposed to kiss you?” she said.

Nicholas stopped walking. Grace turned to look at him. He seemed to be searching for what to say.

“I don’t think you would want to,” he said finally.

“I do want to,” she said, looking at him intently.

“No,” he said.

“What do you think is going to happen?” she said.

“Why is it so important to see what I look like?” said Nicholas.

“I want to know that there’s a chance,” she said.

“A chance for what?” he said.

There was always gossip and rumors among the sideshow, and among the carnies they traveled with. Many people speculated about why Grace would spend so much time with Nicholas, especially when he seemed so indifferent to her.

Most assumed that she was using him, but from there the stories varied as much as the tellers. Some speculated that she was crazy, or just looking for some novelty in her sex life.

“Would you rather I left you alone?” she said.

Nicholas took her hand in his.

“I don’t want you to go,” he said.

Feb 10, 2011

Getting Out

It was early evening, almost twilight, and Wendy had not said a word since the end of the contest. Nicholai had tried talking to her, but he didn’t know if he was saying the right things. He never did very well with women, and he always said the wrong things.

He told her that he knew this was hard and that she was scared, but he asked her not to give up. He didn’t know if she heard him, or even knew who he was, not that she knew much about him anyway.

“What are you going to do to me,” she said, and turned her head to look at him.

“Nothing,” he said.

“Don’t I belong to you, or something?” she said.

He shrugged.

“What are they cooking?” she said. The smell of roasting meat was obvious.

“We have to eat them,” said Nicholai.

Her eyes widened. “I can’t,” she said.

“You have to,” he said, “Or they will make an example of you.”

“So let them,” she said.

“You don’t want them to do that,” said Nicholai.

She was crying now. Again, Nicholai didn’t know what to say. He wanted to comfort her, to make things better, but he felt helpless.

“If you go along with it,” said Nicholai, “I will get you out of here.”

She looked at him with her tear stained face. “What?” she said.

“I’ll get you out of here, but I need some time, and in the meantime, you need to stay alive. That’s your part of the deal,” he said.

Feb 3, 2011

New Zombies

Nicholai was sitting at the breakfast table when Damien said offhandedly, “I think we’ll have a co-ed contest tonight.” Nicholai felt his stomach tighten into knots.

The “contest” was how new Zombies were chosen and initiated. Normally, men were pitted against men, and women against women, but Wendy was the only woman who had not already survived the contest.

He’s doing this to punish me, thought Nicholai.

Those new to the group were rounded up and loaded into three vans. The other Zombies followed in a caravan of various vehicles ranging from vans to pickups to small sedans. They all arrived at an empty blue and white stadium, decorated with eagles, which had once been used for high school football.

The empty plastic bottles and paper cups littering the ground reminded Nicholai that things were once very different.

There were almost twenty new people, and Wendy was easy to pick out from the others. She was by far the smallest. Some of the men were easily a foot taller than her and probably twice her weight. When she turned and saw Nicholai she gave him a pleading look, but there was nothing he could do.

The rules of the contest were fairly simple. A pile of knives, baseball bats, crowbars, boards, and other simple weapons were placed in the middle of the field. Whoever was still alive at the end of the contest was allowed to become a Zombie. The contest ended when Damien said it ended, and all Zombies were required to watch. Those who refused or turned away would be punished.

Once the contest began, she managed to get her hands on a baseball bat and immediately knocked the nearest guy out cold. Wendy was fast, and she swung the bat like a champ. Also, the men seemed to ignore her at first, which she used to her advantage.

The weapons were soon covered with blood, and those still in the game had to navigate around the bodies of those who were not.

There were four left standing when the contest ended, and Wendy was one of them. Nicholai ran to her immediately. She was shaking and staring blankly ahead.

He eased the baseball bat out of her hands and led her to the bleachers where medics were waiting to tend to her injuries. She had a cut on her forehead and started holding her left arm, but otherwise seemed surprisingly intact.

All the medics all had medical training from before. The woman he brought Wendy to had been a nurse practitioner. Once Wendy was patched up, he led her to his van and drove her back to camp, instead of letter her ride with the other new Zombies.

The entire time, Wendy did not say a word, or show any indication that she recognized him. Nicholai dreaded telling her about the next steps in initiation.