Authors: Jeff Strand
Tags: #celebrity, #horror, #comedy, #humor, #satire, #zombie, #undead, #jeff strand
Brant gestured to a red vinyl recliner in the
corner of his office. "Have a more comfortable seat."
"I'm fine," Stanley said.
"That was not a request."
"Okay, look, I can see that you're on a power
trip. How about I come back later?"
"How about you sit in the recliner before I
Stanley gaped at him. "You didn't just...yes,
you did. You can't be serious."
"Let me explain something to you. Your mental
health was not guaranteed upon your return. We were not one hundred
percent sure what we'd be dealing with. Yes, we were concerned with
protecting our investment, but we were more concerned with the
safety of our staff. Therefore, we set up a contingency plan in
case you went berserk."
"What kind of contingency plan?"
"An injection, deliverable by hypodermic
needle or, if necessary, a dart gun. It's the reverse of the
injections that keep you alive. If I were to inject it into your
system, you would feel a slight pinch. And then you would feel as
if your skin were boiling from the inside. It would feel that way
because that's exactly what would be happening. You would probably
start to scream. And then your burning, boiling, melting flesh
would start to rip itself from your bones, which would hurt about
as much as one might expect. Within five minutes of the initial
injection, The Amazing Mr. Corpse would be reduced to a pile of
bones and scraps of sizzling flesh. I have both the hypodermic
needle and the dart gun here in my desk. Would you like me to show
them to you?"
, thought Stanley. He was tempted to
jump up and make a run for it, but he'd never make it to the door.
"You've got too much invested in me," he said.
"Indeed I do. It would be a terrible waste
and I would lose many weeks of sleep. So let's avoid that
particular lose-lose situation if at all possible."
"Works for me."
"Go sit on the recliner."
Stanley sighed. "Okay, I get the message. The
clowning around got out of hand. I'll be a docile little zombie
from now on."
"I will ask you one more time to sit in the
recliner. Please do not make me ask again."
Stanley pushed back his chair and stood up.
"You've already proven everything you need to prove. I get that
you're the boss."
"If I have to resort to the cliché of
counting down from ten, I will be very unhappy."
" Stanley walked over and
plopped himself down on the recliner. "Are you happy
"Put up the footrest."
Stanley pulled the handle on the side and
raised the footrest. "It's very comfy."
"I'm glad. I just don't want you to fall on
the floor and hurt yourself. Now, do I need to deliver this
injection by needle or dart gun?"
"You're gonna sizzle me? I sat on the
"No, I am not going to sizzle you. I'm going
to remind you what it was like to be dead."
"I already said you won. Lesson learned."
"The problem, Stanley, is that I don't
believe you. It's clear that you're terrified, but I don't know how
much of that will remain after you walk out of this room. You'll
start to convince yourself it was all a bluff, and then we'll be
right back where we started."
"I don't think you're bluffing."
"Unfortunately, I can't prove that, now can
I? So what is it going to be? Needle or dart?"
"Needle or dart?"
"An excellent choice." Brant opened a drawer
and took out a hypodermic needle, wrapped in plastic. "I regret
that I'm forced to take these measures, but I think we'll have a
much better working relationship as a result."
He stood up and removed the
needle from the plastic. Stanley's heart was racing. No, wait, it
couldn't be racing, since it didn't beat any more, but it
was racing. Pounding. Bashing against his ribcage.
What the hell was he supposed to do? Just let
Brant inject him? Try to overpower him? Start bawling and hope that
the whole scene became too pathetic for Brant to witness?
"Don't move," said Brant. "Trust me when I
say that trying anything remotely clever will turn out badly for
"What if this completely messes me up?"
Stanley asked. "Do you want to risk that? Think how bad it'll look
to maliciously destroy your project."
"Oh, I think you're plenty resilient." Brant
walked over to the recliner and without any sort of build-up jabbed
the needle into Stanley's upper arm.
"This room is soundproof. You're welcome to
Everything went dark.
Not dark as if somebody had turned out the
light or whacked him over the head with a baseball bat. It was a
complete blackness. Though Stanley was sort of aware of his body,
he couldn't see it, and there was a "going down the first hill of a
really tall rollercoaster" sensation in what he thought was his
stomach. The whole experience was not unlike rapidly sinking in an
ocean of oil. Or rising. He couldn't quite tell.
His head might've come off, but he wasn't
sure about that, either.
Still, it wasn't
bad. Not exactly
relaxing, but not exactly repeating the third grade.
Then he could see, sort of.
Just himself, floating/falling in the
blackness. Not a very good view of himself, but better than the
A piece of skin on his right arm tore off,
curling up as if it were a sardine can lid. It was
A slightly larger piece of skin on his left
arm did the same thing. Way-too-red blood began to jettison from
the wound, even though Stanley distinctly remembered being told
that he didn't have any blood.
Strips of flesh began to peel off each of his
legs. More strips came off his arms. The flesh on his chest joined
in, exposing rotting, misshapen organs.
Stanley decided to scream.
Then he felt something bite him. It was a set
of teeth, attached to nobody. The teeth bit their way up his leg.
More teeth joined them, forming a little trail of choppers biting
through the skin of his leg. He could feel them on his back.
Something was burrowing its way into what
remained of his arms. The pain was worse than giving rectal birth
to a school of hungry piranha.
Did this mean that when he died he'd gone to
The burrowing creature squirmed up into his
brain. He could see it in the back of his eyes. It was red and
slimy and had lots of pincers.
Stanley screamed some more.
And then woke up in the recliner.
He continued screaming as he flailed around
to get away from the teeth and burrowing creatures that were no
longer hurting him.
Stanley realized that his skin was all
intact, but he couldn't stop screaming.
"Stanley, it's okay now."
Stanley saw Brant standing over him. He
tightly gripped the armrests of the recliner and forced himself to
take a slow, deep, non-oxygen-delivering breath. It seemed to work.
After a few more moments, he was more or less calmed down.
"Did you enjoy that?" asked Brant.
Stanley elected not to tell Brant to go fuck
himself. "What was that?"
it? Is that how it
was like when I was dead?"
"You tell me."
"If I remembered, I wouldn't
be asking," said Stanley. He wanted to add the word "asshole" to
prove that his spirit wasn't broken, but if Brant had the power to
make him go through that again, then perhaps Stanley's
"Fair enough. But I'm not here to reveal the
secrets of life and death to you, Stanley. How would you like an
eternity-long replay of what you just experienced?"
"Good. Then my discipline was successful."
Brant smiled. "It may have been excessive, but I want to make sure
you realize just how important it is for you to behave. I'm not
asking you to behave like a robot. I'm asking you to behave in a
manner that doesn't inspire me to want to place a shotgun in my
mouth. Do you understand?"
"Yeah, I understand."
"Good." Brant's smile
disappeared. "Because believe me, Stanley, if I have to destroy
you, I will. I'll shoot that fucking dart right between your
fucking eyes. You
respect me. You will obey me. And you'll watch your fucking
language when I'm in the room. Do you completely
"I completely understand."
The smile returned. "Then it should be smooth
sailing from now on. You're not to discuss anything that has
transpired. You'll tell Veronica that I threatened to keep you in
the bunker until your behavior was in line with that of a Project
Second Chance employee."
"Y'know, that actually would've worked just
as well," Stanley remarked.
"We'll never know. Do you need a few minutes
to compose yourself?"
"Nah, I'm fine."
"Take a few minutes anyway. And Stanley?"
"Sign the contract."
"By the way, the security guard who shot you?
A religious zealot. We had to turn him over to the police because
we couldn't exactly make him disappear, if you know what I mean.
More people like that are out there, Stanley. Don't antagonize the
ones who are keeping you safe."
* * *
"So what did he say?" asked Veronica as
Stanley stepped out of Brant's office. She was a respectable
distance down the corridor, but Stanley wondered if she'd been
holding a glass to the soundproof door.
"He was a smidgen pissed."
"You look kind of shaken up."
"He threw me into a pit. Did you know he has
a pit under his office? Giant spiders and everything."
"Be serious. What did he say?"
"I dunno, something about my attitude needing
adjustment. I may turn over a new leaf. I'd hate for him to have to
scold me again."
"That's it? He just talked about your
Stanley shrugged. "He raised his voice. And
he sort of implied that he wasn't going to let me out into society
if I kept being my usual witty self. I guess I'll give him what he
wants; I don't really care."
"Well...good, I guess."
"I'm still going to be obnoxious around you,
"I wouldn't have it any other way."
Donald Mandigan kissed the photograph of Mr.
Corpse. Dear, sweet, precious, glorious Stanley Dabernath. His
savior. His meal ticket.
"I wish you'd stop kissing that thing," said
Missy the makeup girl, buttoning her blouse. "It's getting kind of
"You're lucky they don't have the Mr. Corpse
blow-up doll," Donald informed her.
And to think I was worried
about looking like an ass,
he thought. The
live resurrection special had been a ratings smash. It didn't top
or Oprah's interview with Michael Jackson, but it had been stellar.
And Donald himself had received good reviews, which was not
something he was used to.
His career had been going reasonably well
before, but now it was in another stratosphere. And in a couple of
days he'd get to conduct a live, one-hour, prime-time interview
with Mr. Corpse. Originally he'd protested the idea of the press
conference coming first, but now he was elated that his lawyers had
been unable to negotiate that in his favor. Mr. Corpse taking a
bullet at that press conference made this whole story even more
fantastic, and Donald's interview would set ratings records, he was
sure of it.
He kissed the photograph again.
"Why don't you just tongue the stupid picture
while you're at it?" asked Missy.
* * *
Stanley relaxed, therapy patient style, on
the sofa in Veronica's small but surprisingly luxurious office. She
sat in a chair next to him, a notebook on her lap.
"The most important thing is that you present
yourself as grateful for his miracle," she said. "I want you to
think of five reasons you're glad to be alive."
"I'd smell worse if I were dead."
"Say that in a positive way."
"I'm positive I'd smell worse if I were
"What about your current scent would you
consider an improvement over the way you smelled before you
"Think of something."
"Uhhhh...the flies are kind of cool when they
disintegrate in the air next to me."
"So your scent is entertaining?"
"Maybe we should move on."
"Maybe we should."
"But you know, I could probably get one hell
of a good endorsement deal for deodorant. 'Boffo Deodorant - Strong
enough for a zombie, but made for a human.' You should look into
"We already have. You'll be wearing Degree in
all of your public appearances."
"Wow. Think you can get me an endorsement gig
for Trojans? 'When decay strikes where it hurts the most, strap on
a Trojan and...', actually, I'm going to leave that one
"But it would be a cool endorsement."
"Well, nothing's impossible, unfortunately.
But let's get back to why you're grateful to be alive. You were
happy to see your parents again, right?"
"I didn't see them."
"I thought they were here."
Stanley shifted uncomfortably on the couch.
"I sent them away. I didn't want them to see me like this."