“Just look at them. Not a brain in their collective heads.” Cassie Peters propped her chin on her hands and leaned her elbows on the lunchroom table. She stared at the handful of jocks and cheerleaders milling around near the doors on the far side of the Frost High cafeteria.
“Bad date with George last night?” Ivy Frost ventured. She could see the football team’s tall free safety among the athletic cluster on the other side of the room. Most of the rest of the students had already moved on to their afternoon classes, but Cassie, Ivy, and this group had study hall in the lunchroom during the next period.
“Well, it didn’t turn out the way I’d hoped,” Cassie admitted with a sigh. “Coach wants his boys up for the game. Coach doesn’t want their concentration ruined. Coach made it clear that sex before Game Day takes off the edge. Coach wants them to be edgy tonight. He needs them to be animals. But you know what: I have animal needs, too.”
Ivy just shook her head and chuckled. She’d grown very fond of Cassie in the short time they’d been friends, but often it seemed like Cass had enough sex drive to take on the entire junior class.
“What’s the world coming to when a pretty seventeen-year-old girl can’t get laid in the middle of the week?” Cassie complained.
Ivy laughed. “That’s what you get for dating lunchroom zombies.” Cassie had coined the phrase to describe students who wanted to follow the leader and live “normal” lives. Or, as Cassie put it: “They want to eat your brains and turn you into slow-witted public school consumers.” Ivy and Cass, on the other hand, were the “Black Sheep Club”—nonconformists—Cassie due to her innate rebel temperament, Ivy because… Well, even among the rich, powerful, and eccentric Frost family, she was a square peg. Which is how she’d ended up here in public school, rather than at Haughton Academy.
“Maybe you should try dating someone with some smarts for once.” Ivy suggested.
Cassie looked theatrically forlorn. “I did. Smart about everything except when, where, and how to touch a girl. Last brainiac I went out with thought kiss was just a seventies band. He also seemed to think Clitoris was a city in Ancient Rome. Crack something other than a book once in a while, would you, Poindexter?”
“Maybe I should get you a vibrator for your birthday, Cass.”
“What would a virgin know about vibrators?” Cassie replied, rolling her eyes.
Ivy blushed. “More than you might think … Maybe.”
But Ivy’s best friend didn’t seem to notice her embarrassment or hear her reply. Cassie was in high dudgeon now; she was on a comedic roll and in no mood to stop.
How come it never sounds humorous when I complain? Ivy wondered.
“And what do I need another vibrator for?” Cassie continued. “Can a vibrator pay for dinner and a movie? Can a vibrator kiss you afterward and tell you you’re the best ever? Can a vibrator hold you in its warm arms as you fall asleep? Nope. Nope. Nope. I’m telling you Ivy, what I need is a nice, obedient zombie!”
“Rahr!” said a tall teenager in a letterman jacket as he bumped aimlessly into the table.
“Very funny, George,” Cassie scolded, scowling at the boy. “Halloween was almost two months ago. And it’s not funny, you eavesdropping on our conversation.”
“Rahr!” George repeated, reaching clumsily toward Cassie. He grabbed the shoulder of her angora sweater and pulled.
“Hey!” Cassie complained. “Cut it out! That’s expensive, you know! If you wanted to rip off my clothes, you had your chance last night!”
Fear clutched at Ivy’s chest. “Cass… I don’t think he’s joking! Something’s wrong with him!” Ivy hadn’t noticed it until he took a swipe at Cassie, but George looked very pale, and his eyes were almost entirely white, the pupils rolled back in his head.
“Rahr!” said George, still grabby.
“Cut it out!” Cassie barked. She yanked herself out of George’s grasp, and stood so fast that her chair toppled backwards with a clatter that echoed through the nearly deserted room.
Ivy stood, too. “Yeah! Quit it!” she said. “What’s wrong with you?”
George didn’t reply, but kept lumbering toward Cassie, pushing over more chairs as he went.
“What do you think this is, Night of the Living Dead?” Cassie asked. “Are you sick? Why don’t you go see the school nurse, or something?” Cass was starting to look scared, now, and Ivy couldn’t blame her.
Ivy scooped up Cassie’s lunch tray, scattering the dishes and cutlery to the floor. “No means NO!” she yelled, and smacked the big teenager in the back with the tray.
George wheeled on her, unhurt but angry. “Rahr!” And now Ivy couldn’t see the pupils of his eyes at all—only pure white orbs—and his skin looked almost gray. He reached for Ivy, his breath smelling sickly sweet, like rotten apples..
Ivy backpedalled, tripped over a chair, and nearly fell.
“Shithead! This isn’t funny!” Cassie said. Then, turning toward the clique of jocks and cheerleaders, she yelled. “Val, he’s supposed to be your boyfriend! Put a leash on him, or something!”
The other five kids who had been standing with George—Valerie, Zach, Tom, Victor, and Samantha—turned as one. Their eyes, too, had rolled back in their heads, and they looked deathly pale. “Rahr!”
“Jesus! Help!” Ivy cried as George flailed at her. His hands were clenched stiffly, like claws; his fingernails tore at her blouse. She kept backing up. He kept lumbering closer. She backed into another chair … tripped … went down.
George reached out, eyes staring blankly, mouth gaping hungrily.
Cassie smashed a heavy lunchroom chair into George’s back, and he fell forward.
Ivy rolled out of the way, and barely avoided him landing on top of her.
For a moment, his legs kept pumping and his arms kept flailing while he lay there, as if being flat on his face hadn’t sunken in yet.
“RAHR!” the other lunchroom zombies snarled. They lurched forward en masse toward the frightened girls. The zombies looked angry.
“Run!” Cassie said.
As George slowly got to his feet, Ivy and Cassie bolted for the exit.
“What’s wrong with them?” Ivy asked. “Are they on bath salts or something?”
Cassie shrugged, and something small—a lipstick?—skidded from under her feet and out the door.
Cassie lost her footing and nearly fell, but Ivy caught her just in time.
“Thanks!” Cassie said as the two of them hurried out the exit. They were moving so fast that they almost ran headlong into Vice-Principal Bassett, who had stooped to pick up the small item that Cassie had accidentally kicked into the hallway.
“Whoops!” Ivy said, as she and Cass skidded to a stop, their eyes level with the big school official’s chest.
Bassett scowled at the girls. “What the hell is going on here?”
“Lunchroom zombies!” Ivy blurted, and felt stupid the moment she’d said it. “Call the cops!”
“What?” Bassett growled.
Cassie quickly turned and slammed the lunchroom doors shut. Ivy found a janitor’s mop nearby and shoved its shaft through the door handles, effectively barring the exit and sealing George and the rest of the zombies inside the cafeteria.
“What my friend means,” Cassie explained, “is that something’s wrong with those guys. They’re acting like zombies.”
“Re-a-lly…” Bassett said, making it sound like three words.
“We’re not kidding, and neither are they,” Ivy said. “It’s not a joke! Maybe they’re on something. Look, they ripped my blouse!” She showed him the torn fabric where George had tried to claw her.
“And they almost ruined my angora!” Cassie put in.
The vice principal frowned, suddenly concerned, and then examined the small item he’d picked up.
Ivy saw now that it wasn’t a lipstick, but a finger-sized metal-and-glass vial, open on one end. She noticed a cloying, rotten-apple scent coming from the container.
Bassett sniffed the vial, and his eyes went watery. “What the hell is this?” he asked.
“How should we know?” Cassie replied. “It doesn’t belong to us!”
“It probably belongs to them,” Ivy said, pointing.
“Rahr!” said the lunchroom zombies, who were now clawing at the exit. The metal and reinforced-glass doors heaved outward, but for the moment, Ivy’s makeshift bar was holding.
Bassett frowned at the zombies, and then at the container. “Some kind of new steroid, I suppose,” he said, disgusted. “When are you kids going to learn? I guess this is a job for the police after all.” He took out a set of master keys and turned the deadbolt on the cafeteria doors, securing them for good. “I’ll handle things here. You two go to my office and wait there. I’m sure the police will want to talk to you, too.”
“But we didn’t do anything!” Cassie protested.
“Ms. Peters,” Bassett said, “in all the time you’ve been at this school, I’ve never known you to be entirely innocent of anything. And I’m afraid you’re having a bad influence on Ms. Frost here, too. Now, get going. I’ll talk to you both just as soon as the police, the school nurse, and I have this sorted out.”
Cassie rolled her eyes. “Yessir.”
Ivy pouted. “Shit!”
Bassett scowled and pointed down the hall. “Go! Now!”
Ivy and Cassie headed for his office.
As they walked, Ivy glanced back over her shoulder. Bassett had his cell phone out, calling either the school nurse or the cops. On the other side of the door, the lunchroom zombies continued to pound on the wire-reinforced glass.
“I’ve heard of ’roid rage,” Ivy said, “but that was ridiculous!”
“No kidding,” agreed Cassie.
“Do you think they’ll be all right?”
Cassie shrugged. “Who knows? I do know one thing, though…”
“What’s that?” Ivy asked.
“I definitely need to start dating a better class of people.”
THE (LIVING-DEAD) END
Happy Halloween 2014, Everyone!
Read the previous Frost Harrow stories:
“The Weeping Ghost” and “A Trace of Violet.”
This story and all contents of this site (c) 2014 Stephen D. Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.