Happy holiday, my friends! I'll be at zomBcon over the 31st so wanted to give y'all a little sumthin' sumthin' while I'm schmoozing with the Undead. If you're in the Seattle area, I'll be signing copies of HUNGRY FOR YOUR LOVE at Barnes & Noble on Saturday at noon and on the author panel discussion at 4p for Zombies Are People Too. I'd love to see you there, come by and say hello!
Below is a nibble of zombie goodness for this Halloween week, I'll be back later in the week with a ghost tale or two.
The Hanged Man
by Stacey Graham
“Cecilia, really, it can’t be this bad.” Attempting to pace the room, Ian’s face creased into a scowl as he pulled one leg in front of the other. Why did he come back to this place? Dramatic sweeps of dark fabric hung over the windows, the illusion of mystery lost when the school bus let out the noisy gaggle of children in front of the ranch-style house. Cecilia rolled her eyes and shuffled the cards. Spreading them into a complex pattern on the TV tray, her fingers flipped the waxy cards into a semblance of his future.
“Ian, I’ve already told you.” Her voice raspy from the lack of Diet Pepsi and allergies to her small white dog, Cecilia coughed into the back of her hand, leaving a trail of spittle. “That taco stand was always iffy and you couldn’t resist, could you? That’s not indigestion, my friend, that’s the smell of the Undead. I thought it was me for a moment but…” Her voice trailed off as she saw his gaze travel to her dog.
“Look at the cards. They don’t lie.” Her hands waved above the tray, reliving the game show hostess of her younger years with fingers splayed though now tipped with yellow from too many cigarettes and bile green polish.
“The Fool, yeah, okay. New beginnings and all that crap. The Hanged Man? What’s he about?” Poking his finger at the card showing a man hanging upside down and legs crossed, Ian drooled a little bit as the dog came closer.
“An alternate reality. Get it? You’re one of Hell’s Handmaidens now, Sparky. You can’t go around pondering the meaning of life since you don’t have one anymore. Stop coming here and bothering my dog.” Exasperation tinged her voice. Cecilia had seen worse in her years in Hollywood. Everyone eventually came by her place for a tarot reading; it was like a right of passage for the fresh meat that hopped off the bus from Paducah-ville. Her fingers pulling frayed fringe on the lounger, Cecilia hoped she was right about this one. After his reawakening, he came straight to her for answers, she could only interpret the cards and hope the Zom-B-Gone kicked in after an hour. Any longer than that and they became cranky.
“I can’t believe I’m gone. I had so much to live for.” Melodramatic and whiny, that taco was the best thing that ever happened to him. He could focus on moving from bit roles on cable television to major motion pictures that featured sparkly bloodsuckers with similar acting skills.
“I know, I know.” Rising from the deeply cushioned chair, Cecilia led him to the door and away from where her dog nibbled kibble in the kitchen. Ian was becoming a handful, she thought, she needed to up the automatic spray of repellent to every thirty minutes. Patting his arm, she recoiled slightly as the maggots wiggled under the skin. “Cheer up, Sugar. Your afternoon snack just got off the bus.”