*special thanks to Lynda for the idea and to all the
other GGs for their help with this. Hope you enjoy :) *
A Halloween Tale
4247 Maplewood Dr
Monday, October 31,
“Lee, could you hand me that carton again?” Amanda asked.
“Sure, here you go,” Lee picked up the white carton from the coffee table and handed it to his wife. Kung Pao Chicken with lo mein noodles—he wasn’t sure about the combination himself, but these days Amanda seemed to want Chinese food on a daily basis. Still, he reminded himself, it was better than the month before, when she’d wanted sweet pickles on top Oreo cookies. Cravings were a natural thing at this stage of pregnancy—that’s what the doctor had told him.
“You better watch eating that at this time of night, missy.” Dotty warned as she came into the living room. “Food that spicy will give you nightmares.”
“I’m fine mother, I’m just hungry.” Amanda used the chopsticks to pick up a piece of chicken. Maybe she did have a point though— too much of this stuff could cause heartburn. She ate another piece of chicken and some more noodles before placing the carton back down on the coffee table. She looked over at her mother, dressed in a sleek black catsuit, complete with tail and ears. “Where are you and Captain Curt going, by the way?”
“The Annual Pumpkin Drop Masquerade Ball,” Dotty put on her coat and stood in front of the mirror, checking her makeup. “Where
are the boys?”
“At a Halloween party at Matt’s house,” Amanda said. “They should be home in a few hours.”
“Sounds good,” Dotty replied. “I’ll probably be quite late, myself, so don’t wait up.” A horn sounded outside. “Oh there he is now—right on time. You two have a good night.”
“We will, mother—you too,” Amanda said. Dotty went out the door and Amanda’s eyes returned to the television screen. A movie was starting—a black and white film—a car driving down a lonely country road. This didn’t look familiar at all, she thought. At that moment a title flashed across the screen—The Night of the Living Dead.
“Lee, I’m not so sure I want to watch this,” she told him. “I mean that movie about the fog was one thing, but zombies? Maybe we should change the channel.”
“Oh Amanda, come on,” Lee argued. “This is a classic.” Amanda said nothing in reply, her teeth chewing at her bottom lip—the way she always did when something was bothering her. “Hey,” Lee pulled her close. “You’re not afraid, are you?”
“Well,” Amanda glanced over at him. “You’re going to think I’m being silly, but something about zombies—the walking dead—” she shivered. “It’s always frightened me.”
“I understand, but listen.” Lee shifted his position slightly on the sofa and pulled her back against him, his hands resting on her burgeoning belly—their fingers intertwined. “I’m here, with you—we’ll watch it together—” his lips grazed the back of her neck, hitting the spot just behind her ear, making her shiver. “And it’ll be fine, I promise. No zombies will get you.”
“You think you’re so funny, Stetson.” Amanda replied. “Actually, I was thinking that there are other things that we can do besides watching scary movies.”
Lee chuckled. “I’m with you there.” His hands skimmed over her belly and that was when Amanda felt it—a quick, pulsing sensation deep inside.
“Feels like he’s kicking again,” Lee said.
“Yeah, it could be.” Amanda agreed. The sensation came again—a few seconds after the first. “Or it could even be—you know I think it might be a hiccup? Sometimes babies hiccup in the womb.”
“Really?” Lee kept his hands on Amanda’s belly as he felt it again—a slight flutter, followed by another—too regular to be the normal kicks he’d been feeling for the past month or so. “That’s not something that will hurt the baby, is it?”
Amanda shook her head. “No, it’s normal—Phillip did it all the time and he turned out just fine. And what makes you so sure that it’s a he? It could be a she, you know.”
“Either way, Mrs. Stetson.” Lee nuzzled his wife’s neck once more. “What I do know is that our baby will be beautiful and perfect.”
“I won’t disagree with that,” Amanda leaned her head back, their lips meeting in a brief but passionate kiss. On the screen the blond woman sat in her car, desperately trying to start the engine as the zombie picked up a rock and smashed it against her window—shattering the glass. Why was it that cars always refused to start in movies like this? “Any ideas for baby names?” she asked him, trying to take her mind off what was happening on the screen.
“Well I was thinking Carl if it’s a boy—after your father,” Lee said.
“Yeah, or Matthew, after yours,” Amanda countered.
Lee smiled. “Either one. And what if it’s a girl?”
“Emily, maybe,” Amanda said. “ That’s a nice name. Or maybe—you know I was thinking that Jennifer would be nice—or some variation of that name. We still have time to think about this, you know.”
“Yes we do,” Lee agreed. “Plenty of time.”
Amanda’s eyes turned back towards the movie. The woman had run into an apparently empty house —obviously in an attempt to get away from the zombie. Somehow Amanda didn’t think she was going to have much luck. Despite the growing tension in the movie she found her own eyes beginning to close—she leaned back against Lee as a pleasant weariness stole over her….
The shrill ringing of the phone shattered the silence. Lee grabbed the receiver.
“Hello?” he said. “I can barely hear you—what is it? You what?” Lee’s hand clenched the receiver tightly and Amanda could see that
little knot forming in his jaw—a clear sign that he was upset. “We’ll be there right away.” He put the receiver back down on the charger.
“Lee what is it?” Amanda asked.
“That was Billy,” Lee replied. “He needs us to get down to the Agency right away—he says it’s an emergency.”
“I’m glad you both came so promptly,” Billy sat behind his desk, a grim expression on his face.“Although considering the situation, Amanda—it might have been safer for you to stay at home.”
“Billy, I’m pregnant,” Amanda said. “I’m not that fragile. Besides, I wouldn’t have let Lee come here alone. What’s going on?”
Billy let out a sigh. “Well there’s where it gets difficult, Amanda—at this point I don’t really know. What I can tell you is that Beaman was debriefing one of the Eastern Bloc agents we recently captured—a man named Grigol Krivitsky. Anyway—he was in the middle of the debriefing when Krivitsky said that he didn’t feel well—Beaman was about to call for medical assistance when the man just went crazy.”
“Crazy how?” Amanda wanted to know.
“He jumped up from his chair,” Billy said. “Began snarling and trying to rip his handcuffs off like some kind of wild animal—I can’t think of any other way to describe it. Even cuffed the man managed to wrestle Beaman to the floor –even bit him on the neck before the MPs intervened.”
“Prisoners have gone crazy before and tried to attack,” Lee said. “It’s not good, but it happens.”
“Lee, by the time the MPs got there, the man was dead.” Billy rose to his feet and began pacing the length of his office as he spoke. “And before you try and tell me that the man must have taken something in the debriefing room, let me tell you this. According to McJohn, this guy’s been dead for at least twelve hours or more.”
“Twelve hours?” Amanda repeated disbelievingly. “How is that even possible?”
“It’s not,” Lee said. “There’s just no way, Billy—McJohn’s got it wrong. Have him run the tests again. Maybe the guy was hopped up on—I don’t know—PCP or something.”
“Dammit—don’t you think I’ve done that?” Billy snapped. “McJohn’s run the tests about three times and everything about the condition of the body and the rate of decay fits—it all points to the same conclusion. I wish it wasn’t true, but it is.”
“There has to be some rational explanation,” Lee argued. “It’s just not possible.”
Billy let out another sigh. “Believe me, Lee—I’m trying hard to think of one.”
Dead men attacking people— this couldn’t be real. Amanda found herself thinking back to the movie they’d been watching back at home. The zombies—only a movie, of course—only now it was beginning to feel more real all the time.
‘This can’t be happening,’ she thought. ‘It just can’t.’ Lee’s hand wrapped around hers and he gave her hand a gentle squeeze, reassuring her. “How’s Beaman doing after all this?” she asked Billy.
“Not too well right now,” Francine said as she entered Billy’s office. “He sustained a pretty bad bite to the neck even before the MPs managed to pull Krivitsky off—he hit an artery. They’re still trying to stabilize him.”
“You have a scratch on your hand,” Amanda told her.
“Do I?” Francine looked down at the wound absently. “Oh—I must have gotten that when I was helping them with Beaman—he was panicking pretty bad. I’ll put a band-aid on it in a minute. Something funny, Lee?”
“No, nothing, really,” Lee was smirking as he took in her outfit—the form-fitting white dress—the satin choker at the neck—the pale makeup, black lipstick and theblond hair swept up high and tinged with streaks of black. “Just wondering if that’s standard office wear—the Bride of Frankenstein look.”
“Very funny,” Francine replied. “It so happens that I was at the Agency costume party when all this happened—it was between me and Mrs. Marsden for best costume when I got called down here.”
Lee was about to ask what Mrs. Marsden had been dressed up as when the speakerphone on Billy’s desk buzzed. Billy pressed the button. “Yes?”
“It’s McJohn—I’m down here in the lab,” the man’s voice sounded frantic. “Beaman’s dead and he just—No! –No!” A scream, followed by a loud crash—and then nothing.
“McJohn?” Still nothing. Billy’s lips thinned and he turned off the speaker. “That does it—I’m going down there to see what the hell is going on. Lee?”
“I’m with you,” Lee replied. “Amanda you stay here withFrancine, okay?”
“Lee—no,” Amanda said. “I want to come with you.”
“Amanda, please.” Lee’s eyes looked deep into her own. “Look—whatever’s happening down there sounds pretty rough— there might even be gunfire. I don’t want to risk you or the baby. You’ll both be safer here. Okay?”
“Okay,” Amanda told him. “But you better be careful, Stetson—I mean it.”
Lee smiled. “Yes ma’am, Mrs. Stetson.” He kissed her briefly, and gave her hand another squeeze. “I’ll be right back.” Amanda whispered a silent prayer to herself as she watched them leave the office.
“I’m sure they’ll be just fine, Amanda,” Francine said. “They’re both very—oh—” She stumbled suddenly, placing her hand against the wall for support.
“Francine?” Amanda touched the woman’s shoulder. “Are you all right?”
Francine nodded. “Yeah—I just think that maybe it’s all catching up with me— still can’t believe that Beaman’s gone—oh I really need to sit down.”
“Here,” Amanda guided Francine to a chair and helped her to sit—even behind the pale makeup she was white as a sheet. “You just sit right there, okay? And I’ll get you a glass of water.”
Another nod. Francine’s eyes were closed now—her hand pressed against her forehead.
“Yeah, water will help,” Amanda took a plastic cup from the stack on Billy’s desk and filled it from the water cooler. “And I’m sure
they’ll be back soon—and then I’ll see about that cut on your hand. Francine?” The woman’s eyes were still closed—had she fallen asleep? “Francine?” Amanda repeated, raising her voice slightly. “Are you okay?”
Silence for a moment and then Francine lifted her head—her eyes opening but they looked strange now—the blue covered by a milky sheen—her mouth suddenly dry Amanda stepped back, the water from cup she held sloshed onto the carpet as her hands trembled—the cup fell to the floor.
“Francine?” Amanda said.
Black lips smiled, the strange eyes looking directly at her.
“A-man-da….” The voice came out in a whisper.
“Now, Francine—” Amanda backed away as the other woman rose from her chair and began to walk towards her, growling softly. Growling—part of Amanda was still trying to accept the fact that this was actually real. “Come on—you know you don’t want to do this. Look, why don’t you just sit back down and we can talk about this. Okay? Maybe over a nice cup of coffee, or—” Francine growled even louder as she lunged and Amanda ducked behind an office chair. “Francine—please.”
“A-man-da.” Francine repeated those syllables again, her smile widening. Even her voice was strange now, Amanda realized—like a record being played in slow motion. Talking wasn’t going to work—what she had to do was get out of here, and quickly. Some kind of weapon—the bookcase was behind her—on impulse she picked up one of the bookends and threw it—the marble owl hit Francine in the chest but it didn’t seem to faze her—she kept moving.
Something else—Amanda looked at the chair she now hid behind—it was on rollers. She pushed it in Francine’s direction, as hard as she could. The chair hit the woman in the midsection, causing her to stumble and fall. Before she could recover Amanda darted past her and out of the office, locking the door behind her.
Where to now? Breathing hard, she looked around the deserted bullpen—funny—she’d never seen it this empty before. Maybe everyone was still at the Halloween party? From behind her came a series of thumps—Francine trying to break out. Looking back Amanda could see the door start to shudder under the relentless blows. How long before she succeeded in breaking through? She wasn’t about to stick around and find out. Deep inside her the baby gave a small kick, as if reminding her that it
was there. Amanda’s hands closed protectively around her midsection.
‘Don’t you worry, baby,’ she thought. ‘I’ll get us out of this, I promise.’ First she had to get to the lab and find Lee, let him know what was happening before it was too late. Amanda left the bullpen and headed down the corridor towards the elevator that would take her up to the next level. She pressed the button—the door chimed softly and slid open. Amanda was about to step into the elevator when she saw her—a woman dressed all in pink and holding a wand. The woman stood facing Amanda—her head down—not
It couldn’t possibly be—not in that costume—but as Amanda took a few steps closer, she saw that it was. Francine had said something about a contest, hadn’t she? That the judges had narrowed it down to her and—
“Mrs. Marsden?” Amanda’s voice echoed in the empty corridor. “Can I help you?” No reply—she took another step. “Mrs. Marsden?”
The woman’s head lifted, the eyes looking directly at her—the same milky eyes she’d seen with Francine. With a guttural snarl Mrs.
Marsden sprang forward and Amanda stepped back into the still-open elevator, managing to shut the door just in time.
“Oh my gosh,” she whispered. Her hand trembled as she pressed the button for Level 5 and the elevator jerked into motion. A few moments later the door opened and Amanda stepped out.
The fluorescent lights in the hallway flickered on and then off again—making a buzzing sound that reminded Amanda of one of the bug zappers she’d bought for her Fourth of July picnic last year—the noise they made every timesome hapless insect flew into them. Only now she had bigger things than bugs to worry about. Amanda moved in the direction of the lab—her eyes scanning from side to side as she walked—her heart pounded so loudly that she imagined everyone must be able to hear it.
Should she call out for Billy or Lee? Probably best not to—she really didn’t want to attract the wrong kind of attention. Something squished underfoot and Amanda looked down—the grey and red stuff splattered on the carpet. That couldn’t be— it couldn’t possibly
be—she bent to look closer—
“Oh my—” Amanda’s stomach lurched and she stepped backwards. Without warning an arm grabbed her from behind and lifted her off the ground—Amanda screamed and tried to struggle but the grip was too strong—she felt teeth grazing the side of her neck— she closed her eyes as they bit down—
A shot rang out—the grip loosened and Amanda tumbled to the floor. She looked up as a tall shadow approached and a hand reached down towards her—
“Amanda.” A familiar voice—Lee’s voice. Amanda breathed a sigh of relief and grasped her husband’s hand—he pulled her to a standing position and enfolded her in a gentle hug. “Are you all right?” he asked her.
“Fine—I think.” her hand flew to her neck. It felt sore, like it was bruised but she didn’t feel any blood there—the bite hadn’t actually broken the skin. “Who was that who just attacked me, anyway? Beaman?”
“No— it was Fred Fielder.” Lee looked down at the unmoving body on the floor. “I knew I never liked that guy. But what are you doing here, anyway? Didn’t I tell you to stay in the office where you’d be safe?”
“It wasn’t exactly safe,” Amanda told him. “Francine must have been bitten by Beaman–she turned into a zombie after you left and then there was Mrs. Marsden— Lee, what exactly is going on here?”
“Wish to hell I knew,” Lee replied. “It must be a virus of some kind—when Billy and I got down here Beaman had McJohn on the floor—well, what was left of McJohn, anyway.” He shook his head. “There wasn’t much.”
Amanda shuddered, thinking back to what she had seen on the carpet. “I can imagine.”
“Yeah,” Lee’s arms tightened around her. “Anyway, Billy shot Beaman in the chest but nothing happened—and then Beaman pounced on him. I tried to stop him—but—”
“You mean that Billy’s— that he—” Amanda couldn’t bring herself to finish the sentence. Lee didn’t answer but his silence spoke volumes. “What are we going to do?”
“What we’re going to do is get out of here and contact someone—that’s our only hope.” Lee said.
“There’s a secret way through the lab to the underground parking garage. Are you with me?”
“I’m with you,” Amanda told him.
He grasped her hand. “I’ll get us out of this—I swear I will.” Together they made their way into the lab. The lights were still flickering on and off—some kind of a short in the power supply, maybe? Amanda could see more blood on the walls—and other stuff—she tried not to think what the other stuff could be, but somehow it didn’t make her feel as sick as it had before. In fact, it almost made her feel—her stomach rumbled slightly.
Hungry—that’s what she was. Her grip around Lee’s hand tightened—
“What is it?”
“You’re going to think it sounds strange,” Amanda told him. “But brains—do you think they might taste more like lo mein noodles or like chicken?”
“Amanda, stop that.”
“I can’t—I think the bite must’ve broken the skin after all—Lee, if I become a zombie will our baby be a zombie too?” She knew she was babbling now but she couldn’t seem to stop. “Maybe you should just leave me.”
“I’m not leaving you,” he said. “And you’re not a zombie,and we’re all going to get out of this. Do you trust me?”
“I trust you,” Amanda repeated.
“Good. Here we are.” Lee released Amanda’s hand as he grabbed a portion of the wall and slid it back, revealing a door. He tried to
pull it open but it wouldn’t give.
“Must be jammed,” he said, his teeth gritted.
“Lee look—” Amanda pointed. The zombies seemed to be closingin from every direction now. Mrs. Marsden, Francine, Billy—Dr. Smyth—even Frank Duffy—everywhere Amanda looked she could see them—there seemed to be no way
out. Lee continued to pull at the door as they drew even closer—they grabbed her--their fingers touching her face and Amanda screamed—
“Amanda—Amanda, come on— wake up.” Lee’s voice.
Amanda opened her eyes to see him looking down at her, his face concerned.
She was in her family room, she realized, sitting up. The closing credits of the movie still played on the screen.
“It was a dream,” she said aloud. “Lee, it was only a dream.”
“Must have been some dream,” Lee replied. “You were actually screaming. What was it about?”
“I dreamed we got called to the Agency,” Amanda said. “Beaman was turned into a
zombie and he ate McJohn—everyone got turned into a zombie except for us—Francine and Billy— Dr.
Smyth—Fred Fielder—even Mrs. Marsden.”
Lee shook his head bemusedly. “Dr. Smyth and Fielder I can
see—I don’t know about the rest of it.”
“Well believe me, it was terrifying—I even thought I might
be turning into one of them,” Amanda told him.“We were trying to escape through a back way when they all closed in on
us—I’m just glad it was only a dream.” Her eyes fell on the clock. “Where are the boys? They should’ve been home by now.”
“They decided to spend the night—Matt’s mom she’d take them
to school in the morning,” Lee told her. “But I think your mother was right
about the Chinese food, Amanda—you definitely shouldn’t be eating that stuff
before bedtime if it gives you dreams like that.”
“Listen, you don’t
have to worry about that—after this I
may never touch Chinese food again—especially not the noodles. And no more
zombie films either--oh, hello,
Mother,” Amanda said as Dotty walked into the family room, followed by Francine.
“I didn’t expect you back from the ball so soon.”
“We never got to the ball, unfortunately,” Dotty removed her
coat and hung it on the hook. “Captain
Curt’s car broke down and we were stranded on the parkway waiting for the auto
club. It was just lucky that Francine
happened along and gave us both a ride home.”
“No problem, Mrs.
West,” Francine replied. “I was glad to
“What exactly are you dressed up as?” Lee asked Francine as
he eyed the shimmering pale blue ball gown and the upswept hairdo.
“ I’m Cinderella, if you must know.” Francine said. “This costume won second
place at the Agency’s
“Who won first—Mrs. Marsden?” Amanda asked.
Francine looked at her strangely. “How did you know that? Apparently the Bride
of Frankenstein is considered more creative—though I don’t see why. Anyway, I
have to be getting home now. If I don’t
get my beauty sleep, I’ll be one of the walking dead tomorrow—did I say
something funny?” She asked as Lee and Amanda both burst out laughing.