Short story: The Midnight Shuffle Part I & II

Authors Note:

Still going through a busy period at the moment, so I’ve re-written an old story of mine from 2016. This one was really a simple experimental twist on the zombie genre to see whether it was possible to address such a horrific, icky issue (I apologise for that, by the way) with a bit of humour. It’s written in the form of an ‘extract’ from Gemma’s bestselling novel “Eyes Open”.

I might be the only one, but I wonder what the true definition of zombies is, and how the human race would really cope if they turned out to be a lukewarm, occasional threat. Would we really be vigilant or would the human race do what it’s done before and will again – find another way to be self-destructive? 

PS. In case you were wondering, this is all fiction. I regret to say I didn’t even meet a shy human called Gary, or a sex crazed civilian called Gemma who inspired this story. It is just fiction. But thanks for reading it. 

It was inspired by my very talented friend Victoria Leybourne, who wrote the hilarious and clever “Bloody Zombies“. I’ve read it about four times because I love it so much. Freaking read it.

Part I

Extract from Gemma’s autobiographical book “The Midnight Shuffle”.

What do you do the morning after a one night stand when you cough and a decaying penis falls right out of your very own, very alive lady parts onto your shower floor?

Yes, you read that right.

I must admit, it wasn’t one of the highlights of my life. Up until then, the only really comparable moment was getting back from work and realising I’d left my house keys in my desk drawer. 

The same pause. The same panicked rummage. The second deathly pause, longer this time as you look up and reality dawns on you. 

I paused, and rummaged, and shouted. I slid to the floor in horror and watched it lie there brazenly, slowly rotating with the force of the water droplets from the shower; looking entirely like it had planned this moment. Memories of spring rolls jumped to mind and I had to readjust my sitting position so I had my face over the drain. My mind span with different possibilities – was this a trick? A dream? Was I a man all along? Is my hungover mind disguising the fact that I’d somehow had an unplanned sexual experience with a spring roll last night? 

I looked back at it. 

No, it was definitely a penis.

Before your gag reflex takes over and you drop this book to the floor to go and wash your hands, let me just explain the predicament as I understand it. Because unfortunately this is just one of the grossly under reported dangers of living in a zombie infected world. 

Don’t go out at night; keep your doors locked; don’t help those in the street who seem in need; keep tabs on the people around you and pay attention to their health. All this education – all the documentaries, the pamphlets, the inspirational talks – not ONCE did they release a poster or news article about what to spot if you’re accidentally having sex with one. 

I think it is safe to say that the majority of the adult female population on this earth has experienced, at some point, a bad one night stand. I’m talking about everything ranging from a two second hero to a passed out man-sack with no strength to move himself past the initial hurl into the bed sheets. From the puking potatoes to the ones who wear sunglasses in bed – from the fridge raiders to the ones who simply just don’t have any idea where to put it. The stories exist, so some poor Mary must have had to hump their way through them. 

I’m different. Gary was different. Well, he was a zombie.  

Part II

I think it’s important that I tell you how I got myself into this situation. 

For the majority of women, standing in their shower and looking down at the blotchy penis which has just fallen quite spectacularly from their cooter is not the usual morning activity.

To then stumble back to the bedroom after rotting Romeo has left — leaving behind his forearm — is possibly another thing which a well brought up girl like myself wouldn’t imagine being part of the night of her twenty-ninth birthday. 

That morning, I’d travelled across the city to visit my dad. 

The drive itself was pretty uneventful. The only point where I actually came into contact with a zombie was at the road works on the corner when it started washing my windows. 

From the second they were legally able, some employers had capitalised on the outbreak by employing zombies, who they found to be much cheaper than humans. God knows what they spend their minimum wage on.

Generally they’re kept harnessed by a metal chain or two and set on the most mind-numbing of chores. This particular zombie was wearing a soaked uniform and a rather sad looking tag which was smudged and so appeared to read “My name is KFDOOUHC. Huve o great day!”

As I watched, he was deliberately pushed in the direction of my car. I hurriedly wound up the windows and opened my mouth to protest as he dumped a bucket of dirty water onto my windshield. Reaching into his pocket, he brought out a dry cloth which he started rubbing into my windshield, groaning. This rhythmic movement went on for about 20 seconds so I took the time to study his face a little closer.

His skin reminded me a little bit of the forest I used to play in as a child; full of holes and protruding masses covered with dead things and dirt. Even from this side of the windscreen I was sure I could smell him – the ripe bitterness seeping through, into my car’s air conditioning. The water and soap might have helped a little but it wasn’t enough to cover the stench of death. 

My eye kept being drawn again and again to his jaw bone which hung loosely from the bottom of the skull, swinging in circles as he pushed the suds around. As his one eye came into focus, he opened his mouth a little wider and showed me his tongue, moving forwards and backwards with the effort of his work. While I watched he made a face of dissatisfaction, making the dry skin around his nose crack like tinfoil. 

I tried to look away from his rolling jaw and focus on his name badge. The uniform hung off his emaciated frame but only looked a few days old and was – though nicely soaked – still crisp with starch. I wondered whether they took the uniforms back at the end of the day to clean them and if so, how they got the zombies to undress. Looking at the way they moved, I doubt the workers had the focus or energy to attack anyone. I wondered if they drugged them.

Eventually, KFDOOUHC turned to look at me in the drivers’ seat. I held eye contact, watching with disgusted curiosity as a long string of black drool fell from his decaying mouth and into the suds, which he caught with the sponge and started pushing around the glass again. I saw the piece of spit elongate with the sponge’s movements and streak the glass while the suds moved around freely on top of it, not cleaning at all. I leaned forward and spotted some insect fragments and what looked like part of a feather, now dark and glutted with saliva. 

The supervisor moved from his passive position at the side of the road and came to knock on my window, showing his hand and gesturing for me to pay him. I shook my head at him and looked back at the hard-working zombie still perched on my windscreen. He’d now twisted on top of my bonnet to get a better angle and I found I was staring directly at his bottom which was unsteady and sharp with bones. 

The supervisor rapped on my window again. I rolled it down, annoyed.

“Seriously? It’s dirtier than when he started! I’m not paying for that!”

KFDOOUHC continued to sit like a trapped dog on my bonnet, looking into the distant traffic and beyond as if he wanted to jump off the car and go sprinting down the road. His whole body was poised and tense; from behind it looked as if he’d raised his face up towards the sky, meditating. I could feel the other cars pulsing alongside me and my own vehicle leaning forward with the weight of the tiny monster.

“Zombies are people too!” he protested back. “It’s doing the best it can!”

The noise of the supervisor caught KFDOOUHC’s attention and made him look around. His nostrils were flaring and I realised that far from taking a relaxed moment on the front of my car, he’d actually caught the scent of someone. I was suddenly very aware of my own position – sitting motionless in the car like a nicely packaged piece of meat – separated from him by just a plane of glass. Blood pumped through the vein in my neck and through to my head like a liquid alarm.

I decided to pay and get away. 

“Fine,” I said, fishing out a few pounds and pressing them into the supervisor’s hand. 

“Thanks,” he replied, gesturing at the worker in front who was now waving me on. “God bless you.”

The idea of a God seemed laughable, now. It wasn’t the idea of a fiery apocalypse that frightened me – the thought of the human race going out in a blaze of glory was quite appealing. The scary thought was that zombies had been sent to destroy us and we somehow managed to turn them into commodities.  

My thoughts were broken by KFDOOUHC making a loud, pained sound. For a moment I thought I saw his eyes turn from mindless curiosity to fear as the supervisor deliberately yanked the chain as violently as he could to pull KFDOOUHC off my bonnet backwards. His spine hit the ground with a crack. My gut reaction was to shout, before reminding myself that he couldn’t be hurt. And should I really care either way?

The supervisor hooked the chain back up to the wall to stop the zombie from taking a bite of his face before turning and smiling at me, throwing another bucket of water over my windscreen to remove the suds. I watched his face distort as the water ran down the glass in rivulets before turning on my windscreen wipers and clearing my sight. 

Revving the engine, I accelerated my now streaky, dirty car past the road works and carried on my way.

I wondered if it made me a bad human to hope that the supervisor would wake up that night and find KFDOOUHC on top of him in the dark with that smelly bucket raised above his head.

Gimme yo’ feedback!

This is only the first two parts (1,700 words), I’m keen to finish the rest and upload it next week. This short story is very raw still and hasn’t been improved a huge amount since my last big rewrite, so tell me what you like/hate about it and help me growwwwwwwww mannnnnnn.

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