Wednesday, June 12, 2019

An Excerpt from "Zombies at the Dollar Palace" from Strange Tales of the Macabre by E. Reyes

Here is a small excerpt from my story "Zombies at the Dollar Palace" from Strange Tales of the Macabre:

People were speed walking to and from the grocery store—Chip’s—that was right next to the Dollar Palace. Joey saw people pushing carts full of water bottles and canned food. It reminded him of the Y2K craze when he was twelve. Maybe they just had a sale on water? Joey cautiously walked past the crazy shoppers and entered the Dollar Palace.

The store was packed, but people weren’t losing their shit like the Chip’s customers. The story looked as it always did: post-apocalyptic. The floors were filthy with soda stains, shoe prints, and cardboard boxes that had been discarded. The boxes were set aside, piled in almost every aisle. The customers were the regulars: old lady’s, homeless people, and a few hood-looking people.

“Hey, Carla, how’s it going?” Joey greeted the cashier. She was five years older than Joey, 36, and she dressed like a punk rocker who had a very decent gift card to Hot Topic.

“Hey, Joey! How’s it going, dude?” said Carla as she scanned an old man’s warming, sensual massage oil, and some pills for erectile dysfunction. All for a dollar each, plus tax.

“Alright, I guess. Let me clock in so I can relieve you for your break.”

“I wish someone would relieve me from life,” said Carla as she handed the old man his change. She brushed back her blue hair with her hand.

Joey went to the register in the back of Carla to clock in. They had to clock in and out on the outdated computers at the check-out.

A cholo popped up in front of Joey, holding a bottle of rubbing alcohol to his face. “Ay, homie. Is this a dollar?”

Here we go again, thought Joey. “Yeah, everything’s a dollar here, man.” He pointed at one of many signs declaring everything was $1.

“Coo’, that’s what’s up. Thanks, homie.” The cholo was holding the side of his neck with the other hand. He had a blue wash rag pressed on it. He went to Carla’s register.

“Joe-Joe! So glad you’re here man!” Ben started toward the register Joey had clocked in at. He was holding Joey’s till for the cash register. He looked like a walking bowling pin; he even walked like one, waddling side to side.

“Hey, Ben. Joey is fine, really. How’s it going?”

“Pretty good! Got your till here, buddy.” And then the smell came with him like an annoying uninvited companion. The stench of unkempt body followed Ben around like the ghost of Christmas ass. Joey felt his stomach churning already. The smell always made him physically ill.

Joey held his breath as Ben came in front of him to give him the till. “Thanks, Ben.”

“Not a problem.” Ben’s pen dropped from out of his shirt pocket, hitting the floor. “Gosh darn it.” Ben bent over, revealing what had to undoubtedly be splatters of shit from inside his beige pants. The smell of ass wafted to Joey’s nose. Joey was seriously feeling ill now.

As soon as Ben picked up his pen, a young woman came to Joey’s lane. Joey looked over to Carla’s lane and saw that her line was now packed like it was the DMV. The people in line looked anxious and annoyed. “Are you open?” the young lady asked.

Ah, shit. She’s going to think I’m the one that smells like a dead cat’s ass. “Yeah! Are you ready?”

“Yes.“ The lady made a face like what the fuck is that smell? and started putting her items on the conveyor.

Joey kept sniffing and making faces to prove a point: that smell was not from him. Ben left to the office in the back, but his smell stayed around like a pesky poltergeist. It was as if his smell of ass was now its own intelligent entity that chose to stick around or be gone with the wind.

A loud sound of puking made everyone turn their heads.

“Manager to the front, please,” called Carla on the intercom.

Joey looked over to her register and noticed that something was going on with the cholo who was buying the rubbing alcohol. He was hunched over. There was orange vomit all over the conveyor belt. Carla was standing away from it. Did he smell Ben? thought Joey. Ben came waddling, sweating from walking to and from the office twice. His stench mixed in with the old stench that was already there. Joey sniffed and made frowning faces to ensure the young lady that the smell was indeed not coming from him.

“What’s the problem, Carla?” said Ben, out of breath.

“I need something to clean up the mess. This gentleman wasn’t feeling too good and—”

“My bad, girl, for real.” The cholo moved his hand from his cheek revealing a really gruesome wound. The wound looked infected and gross. He wiped sweat from his forehead and put the dish rag back on his cheek. His eyes rolled back, revealing only the whites, and he fell back, nearly knocking over an old lady with a green basket full of bandages, gauze, and rubbing alcohol. The customers gasped as the cholo hit the floor. His whole body started shaking.

“Don’t touch him!” said Ben. He waddled to the other side of the register, bringing his stink, and went down on his knees, grunting. “I’m going to do mouth-to-mouth, okay?” As if the cholo could answer him. The guy was convulsing like crazy. The wound on his cheek started to drip blood. Just as Ben put his hairy goatee to the cholo’s clean-shaven face, the cholo stopped moving. Ben pumped his breath inside of the cholo’s mouth and started compressing his chest.

How the hell isn’t the smell waking him up? Joey thought. He and the lady on his checkout lane were watching the drama unfold.

Ben picked his head up, eyes darting around wild. “He’s not breathing! Somebody call 9-1-1.” Ben dropped back down to give the man more of his hot bacon sandwich breath. Ben started screaming, his cries were muffled. Ben yanked his head up from the cholo’s mouth. He had to yank his head up because the cholo was biting his upper lip. The lips stayed between the cholo’s teeth as Ben shot up with a bloody mouth, screaming in horror. Everybody was screaming in the checkout line. Carla backed away and went to Joey’s register. The cholo started to chew on Ben’s torn lip. “He bit me! The bastard bit me!” The cholo sat up and started to rise to his feet slowly. Joey noticed that the guy’s eyes were gray now, the same color as the can man’s eyes from his apartments.

Joey looked over at Carla beside him. “Is he a fuckin’ zombie?” He chuckled in disbelief.

Read the full story in Strange Tales of the Macabre here

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