This story is for SpAE, who said to me, ‘If you don’t write this story, I will.’ How could a girl resist?

 

Three figures circled the teenage girl, slowly closing in around her. They were shabby and dishevelled, clothing ripped and torn, shuffling, their feet scraping along the concrete ground. Their faces were twisted into horrible expressions, their hands reaching for the girl. Their faces and clothes were covered in dried, old blood. Some appeared to have eyes missing, and some had skin missing or just hanging off.

The girl was frozen. She had nowhere to run, no way to move. She couldn’t fight back, dressed only in a short skirt, thin midriff shirt and high heels. She just watched and waited for the inevitable. Their fingers grasped her flesh. They all leaned in, aiming for her neck and mouths, softly moaning, their mouths opening, ready to sink their teeth in-

CLICK! FLASH!

The figures instantly stopped and fell away. They smiled. The girl’s boyfriend checked the photo on his camera.

‘Great! Thanks guys!’

‘No problem, dude,’ one of the zombies replied.

The girl and her boyfriend disappeared into the crowd, his cape trailing behind them. It was SuperCon time again.

SuperCon was the highlight of the year for many people – a two day convention where fans of many things came together, dressed up, bought merchandise, and met their heroes. Wandering around the 10,000-strong crowd on day one were zombies, cartoon characters, caped superheroes, and robots, as well as people plying their wares – merchandisers, comic artists, authors and special celebrity guests. The day was packed with activities including costume contests, panels, signings, and performances. The exhibition centre was packed and buzzing with excitement.

Crowds waited in line to get their books signed by favourite authors, or handed over money to have pictures taken with their favourite stars. Crowds surged from place to place listening to seminars or watching competitions. Overworked volunteers and administrators in bright uniforms zoomed between the aisles, herding fans into orderly queues or getting coffee for a guest. The Artist Alleys teemed with traders and buyers, flipping through books and listening to increasingly desperate sales pitches.

Volunteer medics and ambulance staff also zipped through the crowds. It was hardly unusual – people wearing hot full-body costumes not drinking enough water, or a sexy comic book girl falling off her heels.

The caped superhero and his sexy cheerleader girlfriend spotted a lone zombie, in a quiet dark corner, almost hidden from view. He loved zombie movies and there were people around with such good makeup. The three zombies they took the photos with before were pretty good, layering blood and latex, taking care to make the skin colour to their applications. Some people had faces that looked like they slapped melted wax on, but the effort was still appreciated. It was a tough thing to do – faces sore and sticky by the end of it. The couple were determined to get photos with every zombie they came across, provided they finished in time for the cosplay competition, of course.

They approached the lone zombie. He was just standing there, facing the wall, seemingly in thought, contemplating quietly. The caped hero approached him.

‘Hey, do you mind if we get a picture?’

The zombie slowly turned around. In addition to his clothes being artfully ripped and bloody, his skin was an unearthly shade of purplish grey, mottled around his neck, where a wound gaped open. Underneath was a mass of tendons and veins, drained and bloodless. His eyes were red and splotchy, as if haemorrhaged. His mouth and tongue lolled open as he very slowly staggered towards the girl. Amazing accuracy, the hero thought. He even smelled authentic. But, it was a very hot day and he must be boiling under the latex.

The hero readied his camera.

‘Ready? One, two, three… BRAINS!’

‘Brains!’ the cheerleader called brightly. The zombie didn’t say brains, nor did he react to the camera flash. He just continued on his course, gripping onto the girl with his cold hands, his mouth zeroing in on her pale, delicate neck, unwavering…

‘Hey, let-’

The girl let out a harsh squeak, her face contorted with pain and fear. Blood poured from a small wound in her neck. She dropped to the floor. The zombie followed her. The hero pushed him away, blindly punching him in the face. He staggered and fell, and then started crawling towards the girl, who was lying in an increasing puddle of blood, twitching. The area suddenly flooded with hired security men and police, easily a dozen of them, all chattering away on radios, headsets and phones. The hero was confused by the babel as one security officer directed him out of the way. Paramedics swooped in and took the girl away. The hero tried to go after her.

‘No, son,’ the security man said. ‘You need to stay here. There’s nothing you can do for her.’

‘What? But I have…’

‘Stay here,’ the man said forcefully. ‘Don’t make me restrain you.’

‘What? I haven’t done anythin-’

‘Be quiet.’

One police officer stomped past him, his words discernible as he passed.

‘We have a level five biohazard situation…’

The hero didn’t even attempt to ask for an explanation. He could see the security officer fingering the Taser in his holster. He looked around. A wall of police and security prevented him from seeing the rest of the convention. The zombie was gone, presumably taken through an open emergency exit. One of the paramedics marched up to him.

‘Did he touch you?’

‘What?’

‘Did he TOUCH you?’ she snapped.

‘I- I don’t know.’

She then jammed the needle she held in her hand into his left arm. He was too shocked to even speak.

‘Just in case. Go to the emergency room if you have any symptoms.’

Then, just as quickly as she came, she left.

His head spun, his arm smarting from the force of the syringe. He had no idea what was going on. The zombie was gone, as was the girl. There was no trace of blood. Cleaners had already taken care of it. He obviously wasn’t allowed to ask any questions.

A police officer approached him.

‘Name and address.’

He gave it automatically. The officer wrote it down and put his notebook back in his pocket.

‘We will contact you in the next few days. Say nothing about what happened here. We will deal with the girl’s family. Clear?’

‘Yes,’ he mumbled.

The officer looked around. ‘We’re done here,’ he declared. The police and security disbanded, and melted back into the crowd. The superhero stood in the corner, all alone. No one was even looking in his direction. No one noticed. No one saw anything. He too then merged with the crowd, and said nothing.

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