My Lovesick Zombie Boy Band
by Damien G. Walter
I am excavating an eight pointed star onto the pages of my text book when I catch the boy looking at me. I keep the pen moving, the shiny blue ink bubbling and frothing, soaking the pink paper. At the centre of the doodle I draw a lidless eye. It gazes up at me unblinking, forever caught in devotion and desire. The boy is looking at me like he owns me. Boys are so dumb. Don’t they get that beauty is a trap you fall in to by looking?
I hear voices whisper my name. Antonia, Jane and Elisabeth, the three bitches, are hissing at the back of the class. I used to be bitch number four, until I went from bitch to witch. There is nothing that teenage society hates more than an unauthorised image change. I turn to stare them down but they take cover behind perfect schoolgirl flicks that muffle their mocking laughter.
‘Alexander.’ Ms Holloway calls out the name in her frustrated drone. I suppose if I was an unmarried forty something school teacher I might be frustrated as well. Rumour is that Miss Holloway used to be the world’s biggest Harriet. Now she is making up for all that niceness with a bitch impression of the highest calibre. Hers is the face a person gets from having their heart torn still beating from their chest and brutally stamped on, not just once or even twice but over and over again. Her lesson for us is simple – there are no happy endings.
‘Alexander?’ The despairing face of Miss Holloway stares at the class. Our blank faces stare back. ‘Alexander?’
Alexander is only the latest absentee, and yet more proof if it were needed that this world truly is a phallocentric cockrocracy. Half the boys in the class are absent and no one seems to care. A boy misses school and it is taken as a sign of healthy development. A girl misses a day and she may as well have launched herself down the slippery slope that leads to teenage pregnancy, crack addiction and a career in hardcore pornography. Sometimes it seems like half the world is dedicated to keeping a girl’s legs together. Of course the other half is devoted to prying them apart.
‘David.’ Miss Holloway continues. Dear God, I promise to stop worshipping your competitor if only you will bring on this woman’s inevitable nervous breakdown. Now would be fine.
Burn. In. Hell.
He is looking at me, but I do not look back. I have his attention, but I am not an attention seeker. It is devotion I demand.
Adam is a perfect himbo. Blonde hair cut not quite long enough to break school rules, the beaming smile of a victorious athlete and the blue, blue, blue eyes that are gazing at me across the classroom. Rumour says he was the first boy in our year to get a tattoo. Rumour also says he has had every girl in the class. Except me. The heat of his gaze tells he must be looking to complete his collection.
I have no intention of becoming fuck-in-laws with Antonia, Jane and Elisabeth. But those blue eyes are throwing down a challenge. I have no choice but to accept, or I lose by default.
I turn and look into Adam’s blue, blue eyes. He smiles, and I smile back. A minute later the txt buzzes its way into my mobile.
The Pit. Tonite
Sukrod R Playing
The doodle progresses from the page onto skin. I switch from felt tip marker to fountain pen, scrabbling around in an overstuffed pencil case among Hello Kitty erasers and pencil crayons sharpened down to stubs. The sharp nib bites deliciously against skin. I imagine it as the buzzing tip of the tattoo needle I am forbidden from experiencing. Just a month more until I turn sixteen and then not even my father can stop me. I press down hard with the pen and feel a squeak of excitement as a bubble of glistening red blood pops up and mingles with the ink. It’s only then I see the sigil I have engraved on my arm, a single letter circled by a perfect ring, now in black and red.
A is for Adam.
I collect rings. Some people might mistake a girl’s rings for jewellery. The silver I wear is more like weaponry.
Monica takes us on a guided tour of retail installations after school. Us being the monster and I. Brothers are like nits, an uncomfortable inevitability of childhood. A year ago I was a foot taller than him. Now he is up to my shoulder. I am told he will continue to grow. The future looms before me like a death sentence.
‘I want mice.’ What His Putridness wants with mice, plural, he is not willing to say.
‘Your father says not.’ Monica replies timidly.
‘Mice!’ My brother screeches.
Monica is the family au pair. Swiss, brunette and fucking my father. I can’t bring myself to hate either of them for this. Father has the misfortune of being married to mother, and in her own words an escapist sex life may be the only thing keeping him alive. For Monica’s part I don’t credit the poor girl with enough willpower to have a say in the matter.
For some reason I am unable to comprehend Monica is suggesting I enter the shop. I explain to her in clear and succinct terms precisely why I do not shop at GAP. By the time I am finished she is on the verge of tears. I am merciful and allow her to escape with the monster, still set on terrorising the world’s rodent population.
I appear to have the run of the city. Wherever shall I go?
‘I am not a goth.’
Being goth is like being pregnant; best aborted at the first opportunity. I thought I was a goth for precisely one week after my thirteenth birthday, then I actually met a goth and that, as they say, was that. A goth is just a model B drone, as much a product of the cultural cookie cutter as any peroxide blonde bimbo. Goths are a shadow of a shadow. I am the shape from which the shadow is cast. Or so says my father.
‘Hey, nice goth outfit.’
I look down at my plain black tee, black skirt, black leggings and black boots. Yes, they are Doc Martins. Then I look up at the boy and manufacture an edged smile.
‘Oh.’ Dumb pause. ‘Right.’ Idiotic hesitation. ‘Sorry.’ How do boys get away with being so stupid?
I have accidentally strayed in to the guitar shop. A dozen adolescent males are staring at me as though I am the final representative of an otherwise extinct species. There are important philosophical reasons why my kind do not come in here. Why have I violated them?
‘Hub’ The boy sticks a hand out for me to shake.
Hub is the bearer of the tuffty blue hair that has drawn me unwilling into this hellhole of adolescent posturing. I saw it from outside and just couldn’t resist scouting out the owner. He has the typical loser chic of a young man with a fine future in stock replenishment. And what kind of name is that?
‘What kind of name is that?’
‘Oh right, yeah. Hubert. My parents didn’t like me.’
‘Mine don’t like me either.’
‘What did they call you then?’
‘Amalfrida.’ This is unprecedented. I never tell people my name.
‘Oh right, yeah. What does that mean?’
‘How should I know!’ I snap. He looks suddenly crestfallen and despite myself I feel guilty.
‘Look, mostly people call me Fred.’
‘Oh right, yeah. Fred.’
‘You say that a lot.’
‘Oh right, yeah.’ I parrot in my best dork impression.
‘Oh right, yeah.’ There is a pause and then we both burst out laughing. This carries on long enough that people start to stare.
‘My name.’ I say once things have gone quiet and we are just looking at each other. ‘It’s traditional. Gothic.’
‘I thought you said you weren’t a goth?’
‘Not goth. Gothic. My family. They’re like Ostrogoths? Going way back to the old country.’
‘You really do ask a lot of questions.’
‘Oh…wow. Um. So do you play guitar?’
I play clarinet and flute at grade eight, write musical notation as fluently as I read it and composed my first cantata at the age of nine but am forced to admit that no, I do not play six string guitar.
‘I know four chords.’ The moron tells me proudly.
His blue tufts have been waxed into unruly spikes, stiff like the blood crusted mane of a tribal warrior. I can’t help finding it cute.
‘So what brings you in here?’
I am utterly appalled to find my heart beat quickening as I consider my reply. I do not get nervous about boys!
‘Giving you the chance to ask me out.’
No sooner have the words left my mouth than the colour leaves his face and for a moment he looks like he might have just peed himself. What fun! To his credit he recovers his composure with a smile.
‘Where should I ask you out to?’
‘Dunno. What you doing now?’
‘Then ask me if I want a latte.’
‘Right. Do you want a latte?’
‘I’d love one.’
It turns out Hub is allergic to coffee. And milk. So he has lemon tea, then we end up just floating around the shops like ghosts, talking relentlessly about nothing at all. How we end up starring into the glass display cases I do not know.
I recognise the ring instantly, although I have never glimpsed it before. It is a circle of hand forged silver, twisted at its crown into the curved cross of the ankh. The tip of one finger presses against the glass, like the flickering tongue of a snake tasting the essence of desire.
‘Do you want it?’
‘No’ I lie.
He looks at me confused. Am I really that obvious? I suppose he thinks I am not able to afford it or some such.
‘Hey it’s OK, I’ll get it for you. How much is it?’
The trader is a Polak. I know him. He does not recognise me, or he would cut his own throat before selling such a thing to a daughter of my father’s family.
‘I don’t want it. I don’t want you to give it to me.’
‘But it goes with all your others. I have to get it for you. No big thing, right?’
‘Everything is a big thing.’
I turn and walk away, weaving through the sudden crowds that surround us.
‘Hey!’ He grabs for my arm.
‘Don’t touch me!’ I turn sharply and slap him across the face, hard. I don’t know who is more shocked, him or me. And then I bolt, running as fast as I can. I will not see him again.
I scrabble out of my window just after nine. If it was only the olds I had to worry about I would walk out the front door, but Bruno is on duty this evening. Of all the family’s bodyguards Bruno is by far the scariest. I could definitely charm my way around any of the others but if Bruno catches me leaving the estate then it’s Game Over.
The Pit is a factory shell in a run down industrial district. The taxi cruises past the gaunt shades of lost women offering themselves on street corners, eyes reflecting our headlights like cats. A further lesson if it were needed: there are no happy endings.
‘Sure this is the right place luv? I can take you somewhere proper nice if you like.’ I have the taxi pull up a few blocks before the club. The driver is a sweating bald man, grinning back at me through the dirty glass barrier. I don’t want to know what kind of nice he has in mind.
I lean forward from my seat. His grin grows even dirtier. Reaching out I touch one finger against the screen, and in the grime trace a perfect ring circling a phalic symbol. The driver’s eyes go glassy. In them I see a life unfulfilled and frustrated, a thousand stolen stares at legs and tits and arse but never even a smile in return. By the time I have inscribed the sigil he is gazing into empty nowhere. If only all men were so easy to enchant. It helps when they are as dumb as this one.
‘Oh my god!’ I exclaim ‘The faeries have stolen your penis.’
The man glances down at his groin. I put a cross through the phallus. His eyes panic deliciously.
‘That’s the problem with fairies. They get everywhere, the little blighters. Thieves and swindlers every one of them. You never know what they’ll disappear with next.’
‘I want m’knob back.’ He whines.
‘Oh dear. There there. Maybe if you ask them very nicely, they will bring it back?’
I leave a ten on the seat and slam the door behind me. The last I hear the driver is sobbing into his radio handset –they got me knob. The faeries got me knob. Over?
The Pit is like one of those deep sea vents, a hot place in the cold dark where all the strange fish congregate. Gangs of young goth kids float through the black, all swimming the same way.
I infiltrate a group of four boys and two girls. On my own the bouncers might bother to notice my age. In a group I’m just another tiny goth girl out to get wasted. These kids are already tripping and they don’t even flutter an eyelid when I appear among them. Five minutes later my new best friend is called Bethany and then we are in the club.
Sukrod prove to be every bit as foul as I had supposed, and not in a good way. The lead singer is a tattooed little runt who seems to have arrived at the idea that exposing his hairless chest in public is a sophisticated form of social commentary. His nasal whine is a prayer to a god he can not begin to comprehend. In the old country the elders sang and danced before battle, warriors swallowed sacred fungi to bring on the berserker frenzy and the priestess engaged in group orgies to cast dark sex magics at the enemy in the moment of orgasm. Now we have whining children, synthetic narcotics and teen pseudo lesbians. Pitiful.
How I end up with Adam’s tongue down my throat goes something like this. I’m just standing near the bar determinedly minding my own business when some third rate goth boy offers to buy me a drink. I let him get me a vodka coke. After a few moments of cold non verbal communication he gets the message and fucks off. This happens a few times. I’m having fun. Then things get swirly. Somehow I’m jumping around on the dance floor. A squealing Bethany goes flying past me and then I’m in the midst of this heaving, writhing bundle of flesh, sweat and leather. Some primeval part of me comes awake screaming and takes over. By the time Adam’s stupid, cute, blonde mop comes swimming through the throng towards me I’ve gone wild, like a leopard amongst the herd.
‘You seem so different from school.’
After about an hour we come up for air
‘No one at school knows the first thing about me.’
He looks at me with an enticing mix of awe and lust. This must be how God feels. Remember this the next time you settle to passionate prayer, the big guy is getting off on you.
‘I think about you all the time. All day and every night.’
God. I love this.
‘I got you a present. I saw it and knew I had to give it to you.’
The ring is a circle of hand forged silver, twisted at its crown into the curved cross of the ankh. Little more than a market stall trinket, but Adam has paid for it with far more than money. Looking at it, pale on the palm of his hand, I feel all the desperate longing and desire that he has poured into it, and all the pain and misery it is yet to draw from him.
‘I know you like rings.’
I expected to feel the sting of victory, but as Adam slides the ring onto my finger I am instead filled with an odd disenchantment. I expected more fight from this one. Power is so much less of a trip if people just give up and let you wield it over them.
‘I love you.’ Adam says with devotion. But I no longer want to hear it. Time to go. Fortunately fate presents me with my exit. A disturbance is spiralling across the dance floor towards us.
‘Oh fuck!’ I whisper under my breath, stifling the laugh that says I am more amused than scared. The disturbance across the dance floor has turned into a full scale fist fight, and at its centre stands the seven foot something figure of Bruno. The ruins of a designer suit hang from his shoulders, exposing his grotesquely muscular chest, flesh etched in centuries old tattoos. I’m guessing the perpetrator of the crime is the greebo hanging suspended by the neck from one of Bruno’s massive fists. The only thing Bruno really cares about are suits.
‘BRUNO…put him down!’
Everything goes like totally quiet. The lights come up. No one moves. Bruno says something in that voice that scares monsters. I get the impression he has decided we are leaving.
‘When can I see you again?’ Adam calls after me. Could this boy be any stupider? Don’t you get it Adam? You will see me every moment of every day with your eyes open or closed. You will think me in every thought, and dream me with every breathe.
‘I’ll txt you!’ I shout with a laugh as Bruno drags me home to my inevitable punishment.
Father orders me confined to my room. To add to my suffering Bruno removes my music and all of my books. I am to be left alone with my thoughts. Mother always said father was a sadist, and now I have to agree. A day goes by, and then a night which turns into another day. As the sun fails again my mind is eating itself, my thoughts like a starving cannibal tribe turning on one another. I refuse to eat or drink the food that Bruno brings for me. Then deep in the night a stone clatters against my bedroom window.
The long term effects of dehydration and starvation are not pretty to look upon. The human body, once denied food and water, begins to shrivel and decay at an appalling rate. After death the decomposition only becomes worse. Add to this the effects of keeping a corpse animated for any extended period of time and the sight that greets me at my window is entirely unappetising.
Beneath the full moon, looming from beneath the canopy of foliage that shrouds the family estate, Adam’s face is a wreck of hunger and longing, a sunken cheeked ghoul haunting my window ledge. Lost in the desperate blue, blue eyes is the faintest spark of life. More than is left to the others.
Six more linger, illuminated by starlight, flesh in progressive states of corruption. The stench is palpable. Alexander, David, Michael, Phillip, Gareth and Simon. I count the names off ring by ring. Poor Ms Holloway, registration must be close to impossible these days.
My boys stumble along in the gloom, eyes always blindly searching. When I appear in the window they let out mumbling moans of love. How sweet.
‘Pardon me? I’m afraid I can’t hear you. You will have to repeat your mumble.’ Their moans grow louder. The moment gets the better of me and I let out a small laugh of delight at my own joke. But inside I am far from happy.
‘Stupid zombies.’ Death has not improved my boys’ communication skills one jot. ‘A garden full of boys, and not a one to say I love you.’
‘I love you.’
A shiver like ice cubes pours down my back, fear and excitement one and the same.
‘Who are you?’ I glower into the night garden. My boys are all in gloom and I can not tell which one speaks.
‘One who loved you once. One who offered you a gift. One you turned your back on. One that would play for you.’
When I was eight I accidentally beheaded my teddy bear with a kitchen knife. I cried for an entire afternoon until Bruno sewed Mr Bumpkins fluffy bonce back onto his body. I really thought that was the worst I would ever feel about anything until I saw that tuffty blue hair staggering across the garden towards my window.
In one limp hand Hub drags the body of a six string guitar. Discordant tones echo as it bounces on every bump in the lawn.
‘You shouldn’t be here. I never let you give me the ring.’
‘But I did give it to you.’ He crosses one arm over his chest so that the hand rests over his heart. ‘In here.’
With that he hefts the electric guitar into his arms and brings one hand wind-milling down over the strings. A noise like tortured angels vibrates the night. For a moment I’m not certain what’s worse – having murdered Hub, or having to hear him sing.
‘Here’s a little song I wrote…’ He curls his lip up in an Elvis sneer
‘… ‘bout a girl named Fred.’
Four bars of cacophonous noise pass before I realise this is the intro, not the warm-up. When he starts to bellow over the racket I almost wrap my hands over my ears.
‘Her friends call her Fred…’
‘But they are all dead…’
‘Please call me, she said…’
‘Am – al – frida instead!’
‘AMALFRIDA! AMALFRIDA! AMALFRIDA!’ He shouts the last with extra gusto. A chorus I suppose. And I NEVER asked him to call me Amalfrida instead.
The shouting is replaced by a high squeaking as he goes into the solo whilst banging his head to the beat. Around Hub the zombies are going air guitar crazy, one of them is even pretending to play the drums, like some lovesick zombie boy band.
‘With this ring I thee wed!’
‘You get me crazy in the head!’
‘We could have had fun in bed!’
‘But you killed me…stone dead!’
‘AMALFRIDA! AMALFRIDA! AMALFRIDA!’ Hub strikes the last discordant chord and takes a bow. At some point I started to cry, and now my cheeks are soaked with tears.
‘I didn’t kill you.’ I shout, but the words come out in whispers. Even I don’t believe my denial. A beam of light arcs onto the lawn.
‘What in damnation is going on in here?’
My Father bursts into my room wearing only his boxer shorts and dressing gown. If you had asked me five minutes ago I would have told you in the most explicit details how much I hate my father, but at this moment I have never been happier to see his bald head and sagging gut.
‘Who the hell are these people Amalfrida?’
Even with the music silenced, the band are still jigging like string puppets, all except Hub. He just stands starring up at me.
‘Oh my great lord…’ Father has finally comprehended what it is he is looking at. He gives me a richter scale ten glower of disapproval.
‘What?’ I retort defensively.
‘What? What she says!?’ He waves his arms about, somewhat over dramatically in my opinion. ‘That!’
‘Oh. That. Like, don’t have a cow, man.’
‘I’ll give birth to an entire herd if you aren’t careful. What did we say after the last time?’
‘Last time wasn’t my fault daddy! You said so yourself. I didn’t know what was happening. And it was only two boys.’
‘Two boys who’s parents are still out there searching. You have no idea the favours I had to call in to get that little mess cleared up. Why Amalfrida, just tell me that. Why?’
I realise with some guilt that I have never really considered why. Sure it was fun enchanting the boys. Having them fawn all over me was a trip. But why did I have to keep them so long? Why did I have to make it all so painful for them? What does that say about me, as a person I mean? And why did I do this to Hub?
‘Just leave me alone.’ I say eventually.
‘That’s the best you can say for yourself, is it?’ My father says with disappointment. ‘Fine. Well, here we go again. Like I don’t have enough on my plate as it is.’
With that he closes his eyes, stands up straight as a post and waves his hand at the garden whilst muttering. My boys echo his pose, standing to stiff attention. Then they begin to shake and shudder and I feel an odd buzzing around the rings on my fingers, as though they are crawling with tiny ants. Then the boys just collapse. The old ones literally fall apart, piles of skin and bones and rags flopping onto our lawn.
‘At the very least you could have had them dispose of themselves.’ Father says with annoyance. ‘Poor Bruno will be digging all night.’
The sound of laughter, high and manic comes up from the garden.
‘Isn’t that the Goldberg boy? What’s he doing down there?’
Standing amongst the dust and bones is Hub, laughing so hard he is having to grip his midriff to stay standing.
‘Hey you. Get the hell out off of my lawn.’ Father calls out but Hub just keeps on laughing.
‘I know your parents young man, don’t think they won’t be hearing all about this.’
Hub just laughs. Then it hits me, a wave of poisonous anger soaking through every bit of my body, filling me with a brutal rage.
‘Don’t make me come down there.’
Waving away my fathers threats Hub swings the guitar onto his back, turns and walks away, still laughing every step of the way as anger seethes in my belly.
‘Kids’ says my father and then seems to notice me again. ‘You, young lady, are so grounded.’
I am doodling a wonky hexagram onto the palm of my hand when I catch him looking at me. Antonia, Jane, Elisabeth and I are sitting in the school library, now four witches together. In registration this morning Ms Holloway told us she was leaving our school to teach orphaned children in Ukrania. I don’t think she ever recovered after the remains of the missing boys were found in various states of decay around the county. I hope for the sake of the orphans that she gets laid eventually. Father went ape shit and said I couldn’t do any magic or stuff until I learned to be responsible blah blah blah. Bruno got a new suit. In all the excitement I almost forgot about boys altogether but then it all blew over and everything went boring again.
Tufts of blue hair appear across the desk from me.
‘You.’ I say. When I imagined this conversation I always started with the silent treatment. The best laid plans and all.
‘So like, how’s your assignment going?’
‘Fuck.’ I give him the finger. ‘Off.’
‘Come on don’t be like that.’
‘All,’ he searches his tiny tufted brain space for the right adjective. ‘Angry.’
I decide it’s never too late for the silent treatment and turn away, pretending to find a nice view out of the library window.
‘Look. I’m sorry I gate crashed your party, OK? But when I figured you were messing with enchantments I just couldn’t resist. And besides I…’
‘Why didn’t you just tell me your family know my family?’
‘Tell you my old man knows dark mojo and my mother has her third eye wide open? I don’t know about you but where I come from that shit ain’t considered polite to raise on a first date.’
‘Hold on. Besides what? What were you about to say?’
‘Well.’ Hub looks shy all of a sudden. ‘I was going to say, besides, I wanted to see you again.’
The most annoying thing is that without even bothering to ask permission my heart goes all bumpity bump and sends butterflies fluttering through my intestines. Am I really so easy to please? Apparently yes.
‘So, like, where have all your rings gone?’
I picture the silver, each ring buried in its shallow grave.
‘I got bored of them.’
‘Yeah. That’s what I guessed. So I brought you a present.’
Hub tugs something out of the pocket of his skin tight jeans. With a shy look he holds his hand out to me and there, sitting on his palm, is the weirdest looking ring I’ve ever seen. It’s bright mauve and violet and a few other colours too, moulded from shiny shiny plastic in the shape of a daisy and almost as big as my fist.
‘Its not very Gothic looking.’ I say.
‘I thought you said you weren’t a goth?’
I begin to correct him again but then don’t. Instead I reach out my hand, and let Hub put the ring on my finger.