Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Ambulatory Cadavers Excerpt

Chapter Fourteen: In Which Alice Joins the Buffet
A zombie soared through the glittering glass and flopped in a heap on top of the harpsichord. “Braiiiiiins!” it shrieked, and chomped into the harpsichordist’s forehead. Blood sprayed across the violist’s sheet music and the whole room screamed as one.
Alice clutched Clara as everyone started to run in all directions, screaming and falling and trampling one another. Viols and violas flew through the air as the musicians scrambled and the zombie polished off the harpsichordist’s nerve center.
The lady in the turban knocked Clara over as she went pounding by in the direction of the door. The two zombies lurched into the crowd from either side. The party population surged towards the door. Several fine ladies and gentlemen managed to trample Clara before Alice could peel her off the floor. She tried to fight the flow of gentry, but they were swept along on the screaming, fruitless attempt at the door.
For a moment, Alice hoped it would not be fruitless as the doors bowed under the pressure of frantic lords and ladies, but it held. Probably for the best, she thought; that many people trying to exit down the hall at once would have been deadly. Now the crowd scattered, pushing and shoving and wailing.
The zombies seemed to be peering through the masses, grabbing the odd guest and comparing them to a locket they each wore. They shoved most of the screaming people away, but randomly, they would snack on a brain here and there.
Asa Crimpton had come through the window at some point and now stood on the sagging harpsichord, wearing a black mask and surveying the melee with a pair of opera glasses.
“I’ll never read novels again!” Clara swore, crossing herself.
Alice dragged her through the confusion, trying to slip around the zombies towards the windows. The pocket watch zombie threw on elderly punch drinker to the side and made for them.
“Run!” Alice said, tugging on Clara. But there were so many other people running the opposite way and crosswise. Charles appeared out of the confusion and pulled them off towards the dining room, punching and shoving people out of his way.
“Women into the dining room!” he yelled.
He grabbed Lyra on the way.
“What are you doing?” she protested.
“That necromancer can’t keep track of everything in this mess!” he shouted back. “If Test goes for you or Alice, he might not see. Besides, if we get the women out of the way it’ll be easier to find Wickwood.”
“What?” asked Clara.
Charles pushed them into the dining room. It seemed that quite a few of the ladies had already had this notion. And several men who were hiding under the table. Lyra checked that none of them were Lord Wickwood then threw the tablecloth back down and tried to fight her way out of the room, but the ladies kept pouring in and she made no headway. Alice pulled Clara along the table to the center and opened the smelling bottle. The two girls bent their heads over it and struggled to remain conscious. Mrs. Crawft cowered in the corner of the room, clutching a candelabra.
Out in the ballroom, Alice could hear Charles rallying the men. “Let’s re-kill these bastards, eh?”
Then the door closed and the lady in the turban locked it and lodged a dining chair under the handle.
Outside, screams reverberated and the chomping accelerated. There were a few pistol shots and then another scream.
“My babies!” Lyra wailed. The other ladies looked at her in confusion.
They all huddled in the semi-darkness as the candles sputtered and the men under the table whimpered. Alice was sandwiched between Lyra and Clara. Lyra’s reticule was tied to her cord belt, dangling and clinking…
Shattering noises, wails, and trampling footsteps came from the ballroom.
Then the door splintered and the chair snapped. The ladies screeched and squealed, pressing away from the doors. Alice grabbed Lyra’s reticule and ripped it loose.
The wilted-looking zombie came groaning into the room, flopping its arms and grinning. It grabbed the turban lady and bit into her head. It came away with a mouthful of silk and spluttered. Spitting and grimacing, it threw the lady to the side and lurched further into the room. The ladies struggled amongst each other to get away. Many of them, including Alice and Clara, leapt onto the table, hitching up their skirts and dancing about as if there was a mouse.
The zombie grinned up at their undergarments and clapped. It started to pull them off one by one and split their heads open. The ladies got the idea and jumped off the table, fleeing back into the ballroom.
The corpse made his way down the buffet to Alice and Clara. Alice was paralyzed. Clara had lost her wits in the horror and danced a mad cancan. The zombie grinned and reached for her hungrily. Another lady of more fortitude picked up the epergne from the center of the table, dumped the flowers and fruit off and hurled it at the zombie’s head. The creature stumbled back and advanced again. Alice unlocked her frozen limbs and pushed the hysterical Clara behind her.
The zombie reached up and grabbed Alice’s wrist—the wrist of the hand that held the smelling bottle. As the zombie pulled her off the table, the bottle fell out of her limp grasp and shattered on the creature’s head.

The ammonia and salt trickled down his face into his mouth and he wailed, letting go of Alice. Alice promptly slid under the table and cowered next to Lyra’s looker. The zombie screamed, its terrible voice rising in pitch until the chandelier shattered and the mirror cracked. It fell to the marble floor next to Alice, its sightless eyes staring at her. She screamed and scooted back, bumping into a punch drinker, but the zombie did not move.

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