Ryan rolled his chair over to get a better view of the computer monitor.
Do you have a neighbor or co-worker who gets on your nerves and might benefit from a late-night visit from a flesh-eating zombie? If so, you can't afford to pass on this offer. For only $19.99, plus shipping and handling, you can purchase a spell to raise the dead in more-or-less the same condition in which they were buried. Rush delivery option available. Waiver absolving the manufacturer from litigation involving the use of this product must be electronically signed before shipping.
"That's off the hook. We gotta do this!" Josh said.
"YouTube, baby. YouTube. Use your noggin. If we can raise some zombies and put 'em on YouTube we're made men. The cable news stations will pick it up and next thing ya know, Katie Couric will be interviewing us. Chicks dig guys on tv and think of the coin." Josh grinned as he imagined movie deals and sex with super models.
"Back up a minute. This is a scam. There aren't any zombies and a spell can't raise the dead," said Ryan. "This company makes money off punkin dumbasses like you."
"I may be a dumbass, but your mom has some primo tits. If you still have her credit card number, we can order this spell and it won't cost us a thing."
"Whatever." Ryan rolled his eyes, fished his wallet out of a pocket of his baggy jeans and dug around until he found a slip of paper with the number on it. He handed it over and Josh filled in the blanks with a flourish.
Ryan, who had been smoking a bowl, took another hit, leaned back in the chair, closed his eyes and thought about his friendship with Josh. They met in kindergarten when he stepped in to prevent the small stranger with the big mouth from getting the shit beat out of him by a bunch of confused and outraged little girls. While chasing them around the playground, Josh had been shouting, "I've got a pee-pee! Show me your woo-hoo!" One of the five-year old future feminists stood her ground and flattened him with a haymaker. The rest of them piled on like football players going after a fumble in a championship game. Ryan waded into the melee and pulled each miniature Amazon warrior off the pile until he came to Josh. Behind the cracked lenses of his glasses, the frightened boy had a dazed look in his hazel eyes. Ryan gave him a hand up and Josh repaid him with a grateful smile and lifelong devotion. The principal of the elementary school gave them both a stern lecture and suspended them from school for three days. Ryan spent the next sixteen years getting Josh out of improbable scrapes.
"Ryan, think about it. If the spell arrives by Halloween I know the perfect place to use it."
"Forest Lawn. You've heard of it, right? It's the bone yard where a bunch of old actors are buried."
"Are you baked right now? I'm seriously wondering."
"Naw, man. I'm straight. Here's what I'm thinkin'. That new Paris Hilton horror flick 'That Zombie's Hot' is opening on Halloween and there's gonna be lots of people dressed like zombies. We can cart ours over to the premiere and record what happens."
"How the hell can we cart a bunch of zombies to a movie premiere?" Ryan asked.
Josh gave his bud a sly look and said, "Well, you do drive a school bus."
"No fucking way! I'm not boosting a school bus to take zombies to kill Paris Hilton, even if I do think that ho has to go."
"We wouldn't be boosting it - just borrowing it for a few hours. We can take it back after we get the footage and nobody's the wiser. Come on, man. It's a great plan."
"Except for the part about zombies not being real. Even if we could raise them from the dead - stealing a bus and being accessories to murder would probably mean some jail time. While you're ugly as a duck's butt, I'm so pretty I'd end up someone's bitch."
"Clucka-clucka-clucka," Josh squawked as he stuck his fists under his armpits and flapped his elbows.
Ryan laughed and said, "Okay, man. You're an idiot, but I'll go along with your lame plan. I got nuthin better to do on Halloween. You do realize if we raise a bunch of geezer zombies we'll have no idea who they are? It's not like Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt are buried there."
Grinning like a drunken virgin in a whorehouse, Josh said, "That's why you're my point man. Do the research and print out some pics and bios. Hell, you were always the bomb at research in school. Without you I'd still be sweating it out in history class. With your brains and my ideas, we'll be like those whatchamacallit guys on the news - investigating reporters."
"Shit, and here all I wanted to do was to look at porn."
Josh's grin slipped a bit and Ryan said, "Don't worry I'm on it."
While Josh spent most of the next two weeks ordering video and sound equipment with the stolen credit card number, Ryan researched the actors buried in the famous cemetery. He began watching Turner Classic Movies late into the night. At first he found the movies silly and boring. They had no digitized special effects, car chases, explosions, tits or sex, but the more he watched, the more he realized they had something special. He couldn't explain it. Ryan knew his friend would never understand the genuine magic contained in those old Hollywood films.
Three days before Halloween, while Ryan watched 'Duck Soup' Josh burst into the room triumphantly waving an envelope over his head. "It's here, dude!"
Annoyed at being interrupted, Ryan pressed the pause button on the remote. "So, open it."
Josh tore open the envelope and scanned the contents of the sheet of paper enclosed. The expression on his face went from that of a little kid on Christmas morning tearing open his present and expecting a video game, to that of one who behaved all year and got a box full of holiday homework assignments from a spiteful Santa Claus.
"What the fuck? This can't be right."
"What's it say?"
"Here, you read it and tell me if you think this spell will work."
Ryan took the paper, scanned it and started giggling.
Josh glared at him and said, "What's so damn funny?"
"C'mon. Didn't I tell you that you were gonna get punked? This is obviously a joke and a pretty funny one."
"I don't get it."
Ryan sighed. "They don't care if you get it or not - they got your money."
"It might work though. Right?"
"Even a moron like you should be able to read this and comprehend that zombies don't exist."
"It's worth trying. I've even come up with an idea how to protect us from the zombies."
"Plexiglass. We can put it behind the driver's seat. The zombies will probably try to get at us, but that stuff is practically unbreakable."
Ryan rolled his eyes and said, "That plan practically makes me feel safe, but since I don't believe we can raise zombies anyway - why not?"
* * * *
An hour before sunset on Halloween, Ryan pulled the borrowed school bus up in front of the Forest Lawn Cemetery guardhouse. He turned to Josh and said, "Are you sure the guard won't be here tonight?"
"Naw, he was cool about splitting with the weed I gave him."
"Doesn't seem like much of a bribe."
"Oh, I also told him your mom would put out for him. He got real excited when he saw what she looked like."
Ryan sighed. "Who'd you make her look like this time?"
"Some random chick off the Net who models bras. I told him she'd call tomorrow."
"Lots of idiots out there," Ryan said as he gave Josh a meaningful look.
"Ya got that right. Let's hurry and set up the sound equipment and lights around the graves so we can use the spell."
They began lugging Josh's online purchases to graves they'd selected from a map of the famous cemetery. While they worked, the dark settled around them like an unwelcome house guest. A perfect Halloween moon - blood red and judgmental - frowned at their arrogance. The wind seemed to sigh at the folly of man as autumn leaves swirled around their ankles.
"I guess it's time," Josh said. "Who's gonna do the honors?"
"Hey, man. This is your party. I'm just here for the booze and the chicks. Go for it."
Josh grinned and took a deep breath.
I will focus
On raising the dead.
"How long do you think it's gonna take 'em to rise, Ryan?"
"Got me. First they have to break out of their coffins and then claw their way through six feet of dirt. I'm pretty sure we'll have time to kill this six-pack," Ryan said as he offered his jittery friend a bottle.
They sat on a curb drinking beer and discussing the possibilities of becoming Internet superstars. Ryan admitted to himself the caper had been fun and a pleasant change from sitting around the apartment playing video games. His thoughts were interrupted by a shout from Josh.
"Look over there!"
Ryan squinted in the gloom as a grubby hand with chipped red polish on the yellowed and broken nails wiggled through the clods of dirt on Marilyn Monroe's grave.
"And over there! It worked!" Josh jumped around like a winning game show contestant.
Ryan took one step back before losing all feeling in his legs. The boogie man of his childhood nightmares punched him behind the knees and he abruptly landed on his ass. He managed to keep the camera focused on the unfolding horror show, unaware of his own verbal denial, "This can't be happening. This can't be happening."
Within a few minutes, the well-maintained cemetery became a war zone of flying chunks of dirt and crawling corpses. Each of them slowly rose to their feet and seemed to mingle. The two friends could hear them mumbling.
"What are they doing? Josh asked.
"Dunno. Getting reacquainted?" Ryan had regained some of his composure, but remained poised to run if any of the zombies approached him.
"Why aren't some of them talking?"
"Maybe they're extras. Shut up so we can hear what they're saying."
Josh ignored him and said, "That old dude is smokin."
"Are you whack? He's a geezer, not to mention being dead and kinda falling apart. Are you turning gay on me?"
"No, asshole. Look. He's smoking a cigar."
"Wow! That's Groucho Marx. That cigar was a trademark of his. I guess they buried him with it."
"And a lighter."
They watched with interest as Groucho shambled over to where Marilyn Monroe perched on a tombstone, her once shapely legs demurely crossed . He pulled the cigar an inch from his mouth, wiggled it and leered at the decomposed sex goddess. "Women should be obscene and not heard."
Marilyn's creaky giggle caused a scurrying of revulsion to run up Ryan's spine. "Oh, Groucho, you used that line on me years ago."
"Refresh my memory, doll. Did it work?"
She giggled again and batted her eyelashes. The unaccustomed activity caused them to crumble and spatter her ruined cheeks like bits of a tarantula's legs.
Groucho smirked and said, "I'll take that as a yes."
A few yards away, Fred Astaire looked at his most famous partner and said, "It takes time to get a dance right, to create something memorable."
Ginger Rogers replied, "Put a sock in it. I did everything you did only backwards and in heels."
"That's not even your own quote."
"Who gives a damn? It's true and I happen to like it."
Clark Gable interrupted, "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn."
In unison, Fred and Ginger shouted at him, "Shut up!"
Clark wandered over to the crowd of dead men in front of Marilyn Monroe and said, "Everything Marilyn does is different from any other woman, strange and exciting, from the way she talks to the way she uses that magnificent torso."
Groucho smirked. "That torso? The one with the missing tit?"
Clark replied, "Hell, if I'd jumped on all the dames I'm supposed to have jumped on, I'd have had no time to go fishing."
"I never drink water because of the disgusting things fish do in it," said W.C. Fields as he searched his pockets for a bottle.
Even with his disintegrating face, there could be no mistaking the famous voice which answered him, "The problem with the world is that everyone is a few drinks behind."
"Bogie, if I could find a damn bottle, I wouldn't be so far behind."
Josh and Ryan had a difficult time keeping up with the zombies' conversations. "They're saying some weird shit. I wonder what it means?"
"I think they're repeating things they said when they were alive," Ryan said.
"Who's that actress with the bug eye?"
"That's Bette Davis. Her eyes helped make her famous."
"Do ya think she can see out of the one stuck to her cheek?"
"Dunno. Why don't you go ask her?"
"I pass. But we better get them on the bus so we can get to the premiere. Hey! You zombies! Over here!"
As one, the dead turned their few remaining eyes toward the two and began to slowly approach the retreating young men, who scrambled into the back of the bus and raced to get behind the plexiglass. The zombies followed and pushed and clawed their way to the window seats.
As Ryan drove the bus, Josh took over the recording duties. "I told you this was a good idea. These dudes are harmless. Are you hearing this?"
Bela Lugosi, who had been buried in his cape discussed acting with Jimmy Stewart.
"Every actor is somewhat mad, or else he'd be a plumber or a bookkeeper or a salesman."
"I-I-I was g-g-going t-t-o be an architect."
Lugosi replied, "And instead you decided to make a career out of talking. Interesting."
Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau continued a discussion they'd never finished during their lifetimes when Lou Costello butted in.
"You look odd."
"No, you look odd."
"Who's on first?"
Jack Benny played a rotting violin and said, "Gags die, humor doesn't."
W.C. Fields looked across the aisle at Bette Davis and said, "Apparently nags don't die either."
Lucille Ball, whose hair dye had a longer shelf life than her face, said, "I'm not funny. What I am is brave."
Spencer Tracy snickered. "You're right. You're not funny."
Lucy slapped half his face off and wiped the rotting flesh off on the seat.
* * * *
The school bus pulled rank on the traffic jam of limos and inched its way to the front of the theatre. Josh hopped out and opened the door. The zombies tumbled out.
On the red carpet, Joan Rivers wore no costume, but still resembled a ghoul. Her shrill harpy's voice pulled reluctant costume-clad celebrities into her aura of gushing snarkiness. Nobody in Hollywood liked to be interviewed by the has-been comedienne, but a camera was a camera. Each succumbed to their agents' admonitions and their own ambitions and tried to remember not to roll their eyes.
She watched the bussed-in zombies shuffling towards her and mustered a botox grin as she zeroed in on the scariest looking one.
"Bette! Bette Davis. I thought you retired years ago and then you died."
The decomposing actress gave her a haughty one-eyed stare and said, "I will not retire while I've still got my legs and my make-up box."
"Honey, if they buried your make-up box with you, you forgot how to open it. You could use a good plastic surgeon. Call me. We'll talk." Joan stuck the mic in Bette's face and waited for a reply.
At the exact moment Joan made her fatal mistake, Marilyn Monroe approached Paris Hilton and peered into her purse. A yapping chihuahua wearing sunglasses and a bow tie emerged from its dark depths. She stumbled back and said, "Dogs never bite me. Just humans."
That's when the dog bit her.
Josh and Ryan recorded the mayhem. As if they'd practiced to ensure synchronization, Bette and Marilyn tore the heads off the two offending blondes. While Bette immediately began chomping on Joan's diseased brain, Marilyn hesitated and snatched the dog out of the dead celebrity's purse and shoved the yapping irritant into her mouth. Her misshapen teeth ground it to a manageable size so she could swallow it whole.
Blood sprayed the air like warm and wet party streamers once Paris Hilton's bodyguards realized the undead hadn't presented their invitations. The former mercenaries weren't fussy about who they shot. A faux zombie's exploding head satisfied their sick needs as much as the real thing.
Groucho Marx announced, "I had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn't it."
A bodyguard took careful aim and the most famous Marx Brother spun around and slammed into the windshield of a parked limo, causing a meteor shower of cracks in the reinforced glass. He slid down, leaving finger painted blood smears in his slow wake. As he died for good, he whispered to himself, "Always leave 'em laughing."
* * * *
"I don't feel guilty about Paris Hilton, do you?"
"Not really," said Ryan.
"How about her dog?"
"Yeah. Survival of the fittest, right?"
"Too bad the zombies all died again. I'm gonna miss them."
"Me, too, but we'll always have Paris."