Troy Jones, Grace Hanson, Alex Keeler, and Nick O’Hara were sitting in a small, family cemetery in the woods behind the Hanson’s farm. The full moon was slowly rising on the horizon, the landscape growing darker and darker with each passing minute. It was the perfect time and place for what the group had planned. What better place and time to try and raise the dead . . .
Of course, everyone except Alex thought it was a joke. Waiting to get started, they sat drinking the beer Nick had taken out of his old man’s fridge and smoking the weed Grace had provided.
“You know what we should do after we’re done with this sh . . . ” Troy stopped in mid-sentence when Alex’s elbow made contact with his stomach. “Hey, what was that for?”
“You were about to say shit, weren’t you?” she asked with her hands on her hips. “I can’t believe you are being such a dick.”
“Sorry, babe,” Troy said, trying to placate his girlfriend. “You know I don’t believe in all this supernatural, voodoo stuff.”
“It’s not voodoo,” Alex said, huffing and crossing her arms.
Troy leaned over and kissed her cheek. “I’m really sorry.”
Grace held a joint out to Alex. “Here, this will make you feel better and get you in the mind set for the ritual.”
Nick laughed and almost spit beer on them all, but covered his mouth at the last moment.
“Anyway, as I was saying,” Troy said. “I think after we get done with the ‘ritual’ we should go to the carnival in Dresden.”
Grace grimaced with disgust. “We aren’t babies anymore. Why would we want to go to some stupid carnival?”
“Yeah,” Nick threw in for good measure as he finished off his third beer.
“Because, we’ll be all messed up,” Troy said, grabbing a bottle for himself before Nick drank it all. “Everything will be awesome!”
Grace took the joint back from Alex and took a long drag.
“Sounds fine to me,” Alex said with a giggle. “I love cotton candy. Haven’t had any of that for a long time.”
Nick nodded eagerly. “You think they’ll have nachos? I could go for a big bowl of nachos right now. All covered with cheese.”
Troy laughed and took his turn with the weed. “They’ll have all kinds of food. We can eat ‘til we puke and then go on some rides or something.”
Nick stood up and made his way over to the edge of the woods, weaving back and forth the entire time. Unzipping his pants, he moaned as he relieved his bladder.
Grace giggled. “If we are going to go to the carnival, I guess we’d better get this thing started. I’ve got the munchies bad!”
Alex laughed, dug through her bag and retrieved a bottle of what she said was a “potion” that would bring the dead back to life. She also pulled out the book with the incantation, which was supposed to give the potion its “power.”
Troy rolled his eyes and winked at Grace. She covered her mouth with her hand to suppress a giggle.
They had been to various cemeteries and done the same ritual many times before. It never worked. But, for some reason, Alex was obsessed with the occult and raising people from the dead. She said she wouldn’t give up until she had done it. So being the supportive friends that they were, they went along with it. Besides, they always had a great time partying out in the middle of nowhere.
“You guys ready?” Alex asked as Nick sat back down. “Everyone join hands . . . ”
The ritual had begun. They said what they were told to say, chanted when they were supposed to chant, and lit the candles that Alex had set up in front of each one of them, around their chosen grave. After all that was done, Alex poured the “potion” on the grave, starting at the head, straight down the center, to the feet.
They waited, watching. Nothing happened, as usual.
“Okay,” Alex said with a sigh. “I guess it didn’t work, again. We did everything right. I don’t know what went wrong.”
Troy leaned over and gave Alex a one-armed hug, kissing the top of her head when she let it fall on his shoulder.
“It’s okay, babe,” he said gently. “We’ll try again another time. I’ll buy you the biggest bag of cotton candy we can find. Will that make you feel better?”
Alex giggled, rose up on her knees, wrapped her arms around Troy’s neck, and kissed him.
“I guess that was a yes,” Troy said with a grin, as she pulled away.
“Let’s get going,” Grace said, standing and brushing dirt and dry leaves from her butt. “I’m starved! I hope they have hotdogs. A hotdog with all the fixin’s sounds really good.”
Nick stood and grinned. “I’ve got a hotdog for you, if you want to eat one.”
Grace rolled her eyes and shoved Nick playfully. “That’s not what I meant and you know it. Quit trying to pimp yourself off on me.”
They were all standing now, and turned to walk back to Troy’s car that was parked behind a corn field where no one could see it.
“Hold on a sec,” Nick said, turning back. “I gotta leak the lizard again.”
Troy, Alex, and Grace shook their heads and kept walking.
“We’ll meet you at the car,” Troy yelled back over his shoulder.
Nick waved an acknowledgment as he unzipped and peed on the grave they had just been sitting around. He started singing and watched the lightning bugs that were flitting around him.
When he looked down again, he saw that one of the candles had fallen over and there was something white sticking out of the ground beside it. Zipping up, he knelt down to see what it was, thinking they might have dropped something.
Just looking at it, he couldn’t figure out what it was, so he touched it. It was hard and kind of smooth. Tugging gently, he extracted it from the hard packed dirt. It was a human finger bone!
With a yelp, he dropped it and stood up, wiping his hands on his jeans. His eyes scanned back and forth over the grave to see if there was anything else weird. As he watched, the earth shifted. He turned to yell to the others as the hand the finger had come from shot up out of the ground and grabbed his ankle.
Kicking and trying to dislodge his leg from the vice-like grip, he was shocked to see a head and a torso break through the ground. Bugs and dirt clung to the skull. The eyes were nothing more than hollow voids, staring out at nothing.
Nick was too paralyzed with fear to scream again. He just stood there in shock, watching the body pull itself out of the grave.
Holy shit, he thought, it worked!
As he came back to his senses, Nick tried again to kick free, but the grip was too strong.
The person they had brought back to life gave his leg a sudden jerk and a twist, throwing Nick to the ground.
“Maaaaaa,” it moaned, as it sank its teeth into the exposed skin of his ankle.
Nick cried out with pain, groping at the ground around him, trying to get away or at least find something to beat the thing off of him with.
He screamed again as he felt his flesh tearing, and looked back to see the zombie happily munching on what it had torn off. He started to cry, instantly sobered by what was happening to him.
He tried more frantically to get away, his hand landing on a rock. He grabbed it, and turned on the ghoul, slamming it down on its head. It took five hard whacks before the creature stopped moving. Its bug-filled skull now lay shattered around it on the ground. Insects swarmed and ran in every direction, trying to figure out where their home had gone.
Nick dragged himself away, out of the zombie’s grip, and fell back onto the ground panting and sobbing. After a moment, he sat up and looked at his ankle; it wasn’t as bad as he had expected. Only a small piece of skin was missing.
He glanced over at the skull, wiping tears from his eyes with the back of his hand. The ghoul was missing quite a few teeth, and that was probably why he hadn’t sustained a more serious injury.
Hurriedly, Nick stood and ran toward the path where the others had disappeared on their way to the car. He hobbled awkwardly because of the wound, but he wanted to get away from the cursed place as fast as he could.
Troy, Alex, and Grace were sitting in the car, waiting for Nick. They had the radio blaring and were rocking out to their favorite band while smoking another joint. The passing of time didn’t register to them.
They all jumped when Nick tore open the rear, passenger door and started ranting.
“We did it,” Nick yelled to be heard over the music. “We brought that bastard back from the dead, and he bit me! It was a zombie! The damn thing bit my leg! Look!”
He pulled up his pant leg and showed them all the two inch by one inch bloody wound where a patch of skin was missing.
Alex frowned, turning down the radio. “Are you making fun of me? Because I don’t like it. Is this some kind of a sick joke?”
“No, no,” Nick said, shaking. “I’m telling the truth! Come look, the body is still there.”
Grace said nothing, just watched as Alex bowed her head and stared at her hands.
Troy noticed Alex’s dejected posture as well. “Get in the car, Nick, before I decide to get out and kick your ass.”
“I’m serious you guys,” Nick pleaded. “Listen to me! There was a zombie, a real zombie, and it bit me!”
Troy slammed his fist down on the back of the front seat. “This is your last chance. Shut your hole and get in the car, or I’m leaving you here.”
Nick swallowed hard, glanced over his shoulder, and decided the safest idea would be to get in the car. He didn’t like that they didn’t believe him, but he could convince them, over time, he supposed.
Nodding silently, Nick slid into the back seat with Grace, looking at the floor board, shutting the door securely behind him.
Alex was sniffling in the front seat. Troy was trying to calm her down, throwing dirty looks at Nick every now and again. Finally Troy got her to stop crying and they departed for the carnival.
Grace leaned over to Nick and snarled, “Nice one, jackass. You shouldn’t make fun of Alex and tease her like that, you know she’s sensitive. Why do you have to be such a dick?”
Nick didn’t answer. He just looked out the window. Maybe they were right, maybe nothing had happened. It could have been his imagination. He had been drunk and high, after all.
The rocking of the car made Nick tired. He knew they had an hour drive to where the carnival was, and since no one was talking to him, he decided he might as well get some rest. His ankle was burning and he was feeling very lethargic. It didn’t take him long to fall asleep.
When they arrived at the carnival, Grace shook Nick, waking him. He opened his eyes with a moan.
“We’re here,” she said and got out of the car.
Nick caught another dirty look from Troy as he too got out. Apparently Alex had already made her exit, because she was standing in front of the car. Troy walked over and hugged her, rubbing her back in a comforting manner.
Nick felt bad for upsetting Alex, but if she would just listen, she would realize that she had succeeded and would be happy. He didn’t know how to convince her. Besides, Troy was very protective. Nick knew that he wouldn’t be allowed within five feet of her for the rest of the night.
As Nick stood beside the car, he became dizzy and disoriented. The world spun around him in a blur of lights and colors. Sounds faded in and out, and a couple of times his visions went black and he couldn’t see at all. Of all his senses, taste and smell were the strongest. He could smell all the people, all the food, all the exhaust fumes from the running machinery. He could taste a cheese burger like he had just taken a bite.
“You coming?” Grace asked.
“Huh?” Nick asked, licking his lips and shaking his head. On top of everything else, he felt like he had a fever.
“Are you coming? To the carnival? Or are you going to stay out here by yourself all night?”
“I’m coming,” Nick said and followed his friends as they wove through the mass of parked cars and made their way to the ticket counter.
It was hard for Nick to keep up. His leg hurt like hell. He had to keep stopping and rubbing his calf and thigh. The bite on his ankle was hurting worse, but he didn’t want to say anything, afraid he would piss everyone off more.
Nick dug out his wallet and grabbed Grace’s wrist as she slid her hand into her pocket. “I got this.”
She looked up at him and opened her mouth like she was going to refuse, but stopped. She frowned.
“You don’t look good, Nick. Are you sure you don’t want to go lay down in the car for a while?”
Nick shook his head, grinning. “No, I feel great. Honest.”
Grace was still frowning as he bought their tickets. She took the blue ticket that said ADMIT ONE, and shoved it into her pocket to keep it safe.
“You sure you’re okay?” Grace asked again, laying her hand on his arm with concern.
“Yeah,” Nick said. “Let’s go get that hotdog you wanted.”
Grace giggled. “Okay.”
Troy and Alex were already in line at the French fry stand.
Nick walked up to Troy and handed him a ten-dollar bill. “Grab me some nachos, and some fries for Grace. Do you guys want anything from the sandwich stand?”
Troy looked at Nick for a moment, his eyes hard, letting Nick know that he wasn’t forgiven just yet. “Sure. Get me a hotdog with everything and Alex a cheeseburger with just ketchup. Think you can handle that?”
Nick decided to ignore Troy’s sarcasm. “Got it. See you guys in a sec!”
Grace smiled as Nick joined her in line. He marveled at how pretty she was. It still caught him by surprise how much they had all changed over the last few years. It seemed only yesterday that they had been freshman, and in a couple more months they would be graduating high school. He had never thought that any of them would be attracted to each other, having been friends for so long. But when Troy and Alex started dating, he couldn’t help thinking that maybe he and Grace might get something started as well.
Nick smiled back. They talked and joked as the line slowly moved forward.
Finally, it was their turn to order. The smell of raw meat drove Nick crazy for a moment. He had a sudden urge to jump over the counter and stuff as many raw burgers in his mouth as he could. Closing his eyes and taking a few quick, deep breaths, he regained control of himself.
Nick quickly rattled off what they needed and then looked around for Troy, to see if he needed to buy drinks, too.
He found him and they made eye contact. Nick cupped his hand and tilted it up like he was drinking, then nodded yes, and shook his head no. Troy nodded back yes. Nick gave him a thumbs up and ordered drinks before paying.
Laden down with sandwiches and drinks, Nick and Grace joined Troy and Alex at the small table they had found. It was sticky from ice-cream drippings that had dried and left a pink and white goo, but after covering the mess with a couple of napkins, it was nearly perfect for the teens.
Alex wouldn’t look at Nick, but he was glad to see she was smiling and laughing. He still hadn’t figured out how he was going to convince her that he hadn’t been making fun of her, but had been telling the truth.
Soon, Nick forgot all about the misunderstanding as he felt Grace’s leg press against his under the table. At one point during their meal, she gave him a hug and kissed his cheek in jest. He couldn’t help but blush, which made everyone laugh.
After they finished eating, they decided to go on some rides. Taking their tickets to the ride booth, they got their wrist bands, and then made their way to the Ferris wheel, waited in line, and took their ride. Troy and Alex went in one seat and Nick and Grace went in the next.
They moved slowly as the empty seats were filled. At one point they stopped at the top for a long time. Nick looked behind them, ready to wave at Troy and Alex, but they were too busy making out to notice him.
Nick glanced sideways at Grace, wondering what it would be like to kiss her. He put his arm across the seat behind her, and was about to ask her if she liked him, when they started moving again. Grace squealed with delight and sat forward, and then back quickly, making their seat swing. They laughed and enjoyed the rest of the ride.
When it was over, Nick started to feel nauseous. He had never had problems with motion sickness before, in fact, he was the one that usually rode the wildest rides with no problem whatsoever, no matter how much he had eaten. But right now, he felt very sick.
Troy looked at Nick. “Are you all right, man? You look like you’re gonna hurl.”
Nick was about to say he was fine, but instead ran to the nearest trash can and threw up everything he had just eaten.
When he was done, Nick looked up to see Grace standing beside him.
“You okay?” she asked gently, rubbing his back.
Nick nodded and moaned. “I think I’ll live. I don’t know what’s gotten into me. I don’t ever get sick.”
But something was nagging at the back of his mind–the zombie, the bite. He had seen plenty of movies about the undead and he knew how it all worked, but he thought you had to die before you turned into a zombie. He wasn’t even close to dying as far as he knew.
He started to feel sick again, and stuck his head back over the trash can just in time. It was too dark where they were for him to realize he was now puking blood.
“I’ll go get you something to drink,” Grace said and rushed off.
Nick nodded and turned, letting his back slide against the metal barrel that served as waste disposal. He sat on the ground, leaning against it with his eyes closed, waiting for Grace to come back with a drink.
“I got you Sprite,” Grace said, kneeling down beside him.
He weakly lifted his hand and took the cup. “Thanks.”
“Do you want to go back to the car?” Grace asked. “I’ll go with you. I don’t think you should be alone right now, as sick as you are.”
“Okay, I’ll go and tell Troy and Alex. I saw them standing in line for another ride.”
Nick watched Grace’s butt as she scampered off, thinking it would be nice to be alone with her. He just wished that he didn’t feel so bad. Pushing himself up from the ground, he wiped his mouth on the wet napkin that had been wrapped around his drink and threw it in the trash. Stumbling along, he started toward the car.
Grace caught up with him when he was halfway there. “Why didn’t you wait for me? I would have helped you.”
She ducked under one of his arms and wrapped her arm around his waist.
He turned his head and smelled her hair. This was definitely a good idea, he thought.
Before long they were at the car. Grace helped Nick into the back seat, and went around the car and got in beside him.
He laid his head on her shoulder and moaned.
“Is that better?” she asked as she stroked his hair.
“Yes,” he sighed.
He was almost asleep when his stomach began to gurgle again. Hurriedly he sat up, opened the door, and threw up more blood. The dome light gave off enough of a glow for him to see that his vomit was red, but he was too weak, and his brain was too tired, to process what was happening to him.
Closing the door, he lay down, using Grace’s leg as a pillow. Soon he fell asleep. Not long after, so did she.
In her sleep, Grace didn’t notice when Nick stopped breathing and died. She didn’t notice when he opened his eyes again, or that they were now vacant and cloudy. But, she did notice when he started grabbing at her.
“Hey, what are you doing?” Grace mumbled as Nick’s rough handling woke her up.
“Maaaaaa!” Nick moaned, as he took a hold of her shoulders, violently pinning her to the seat.
“Get off me, Nick,” Grace yelled, beating on his chest. “You’re hurting me.”
He didn’t respond to her, just held her down and lowered his head toward hers. She thought he was trying to kiss her.
“No, damn it,” Grace said. “You’re such a creep.”
She brought her knee up and slammed it into his crotch, but it had no effect on him. Panicking, she threw open the car door and screamed; it was cut short as Nick clamped his teeth on her throat and tore out her windpipe.
Blood sprayed everywhere as he tossed his head back and forth, tearing off a chunk of flesh to enjoy. After chewing and swallowing, he bit off another, and another, devouring her until her blood went cold.
No longer satisfied with his kill, Nick staggered out of the open car door and followed his nose. He smelled blood–sweet, hot, living blood. People were close-by, and a lot of them.
His body was slow, not wanting to work like it used to. Inwardly he was frustrated at how long it was taking him to get to the food that he sensed was near.
Finally, he arrived at the ticket stand. The man behind the counter was alone, reading a book. He set it down without looking up.
“How many?” . . .
To continue reading ADMIT ONE, UNDEAD and read other zombie short stories by Rebecca Besser and Courtney Rene get your copy of Zombies Inside here:
Rebecca Besser resides in Ohio with her wonderful husband and amazing son. They’ve come to accept her quirks as normal while she writes anything and everything that makes her inner demons squeal with delight. She’s best known for her work in adult horror, but has been published in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry for a variety of age groups and genres. She’s entirely too cute to be scary in person, so she turns to the page to instill fear into the hearts of the masses.
Courtney Rene lives in the State of Ohio with her husband and two children. She is a graduate and member of the Institute of Children’s Literature. Her writings include magazine articles, short fiction stories, several anthologies, as well as her young adult novels, A Howl in the Night, and soon to be releases The Full Moon Rises, as well as the Shadow Dancer series (Shadow Dancer, Shadow Warrior, Shadow’s End, and a break away novel, Shadow Fire), published through Rogue Phoenix Press.