“Oh, it’s on, shut up! Shut up!” Vicky scooted to the edge of her seat as the low budget effects of the local news flashed across the television. She saw Donovan check his phone again. With a sigh he stood up and left the room. “It’s about time he answered,” she mumbled under her breath.
“You know.” Noah tipped his head to her. “Mom says his family never really moved on. Like he just left a big hole in all of them.”
“I haven’t seen any of ’em since we graduated but I’ve heard some of the stories.” Vicky couldn’t help but feel sad for the decline of Donovan’s family, despite the excitement she felt about gossiping. “You know, I don’t like talking about it but the guy who does my hair says--”
“Do you even know what happened?” Jasper was on his feet now, towering over Vicky in her chair. “Did he ever tell you why he left?”
Vicky leaned back, eyes wide. She didn’t want to admit that Jasper knew more about Donovan than she did, but it had been a long time since they’d talked. She struggled to say anything that would sound like she was in on her friend’s secrets, but nothing came to mind.
“Maybe you should know the whole story before you start giving him advice?” Jasper disappeared after Donovan, leaving Vicky and Noah alone.
“Well, that was rude.” Vicky examined the bottom of her empty glass, wishing she had more wine. “Should I go make sure everything’s okay?”
Noah shook his head. “I think Jasper’s got it.”
“I should just... poke my head in there.” She followed in Jasper’s wake, not willing to let Noah slow her down. She crossed the hall and peeked into Donovan’s bedroom. He was sitting on his bed and Jasper had his arm around him.
“I... I could call Will.” Donovan’s voice was shaking almost as badly as his body.
“Just try your parents again.”
“They aren’t answering! I’ve tried over and over--”
“Uh.” Vicky creaked the door open a little wider. “Is everything okay?”
Donovan looked up at Vicky. She could easily see he was trying to hide his tears. “Yeah.” He sniffed. “Everything’s fine. My sister’s just playing a prank on me or something.”
“What do you mean? What kind of prank?”
“’They’re all dead.’” Donovan looked like he was on the verge of vomiting. Vicky had always played witness to Donovan’s weird panic attacks, she remembered a time when she’d be the one sitting there with her arm around him trying to bring him back down but now it was Jasper. “That’s what she said, ‘They’re all dead.’”
Jasper got up to close the door. “I got this, just go watch your memorial, or what ever,” he said to Vicky and the words stung worse than any insult. No wonder she and Donovan had drifted if this was the man he chose to be with.
Vicky went back to the living room, feeling excluded. “Noah, maybe we should head home. I don’t think tonight’s a good night for... this. What ever this is.” Vicky gestured to the room as if she could swim in the emotional awkwardness all around her. “Donovan’s crying and he’s thinking about calling his brother. His brother! Something big must have happened.” She noticed Noah was staring at the television. He wasn’t even listening to her.
“-- and with that in mind, I regret to inform you that the scheduled memorial for the victims of last week’s car accident will not be airing tonight.” Vicky’s attention was also drawn to the television now. The woman reading the news looked dishevelled and sweaty. There were smears of blood on her cheeks and forehead and Vicky couldn’t help but notice the antique looking gun in her hand.
“Instead I’ll be airing the story that should have been made public days ago.” The screen flicked and a poorly lit video took over. “What you are seeing now is footage of the man who caused last week’s accident.”
“Wait... what’s going on.” Vicky stood up to get closer to the TV. It was dark, but she could make out the pale, billowing flesh of half a man who greatly resembled a deflated hot air balloon. Everything from his waist down was gone, and black ooze was seeping from his flaps of loose flesh. What was worse, The man’s mouth was still gaping, his dead eyes still open wide. He was reaching towards the person holding the camera, but Vicky thought for a terrible second that the monster could actually see her and that she was his target.
“Every doctor, every nurse,everyone who came in contact with this man has subsequently ended up just like him. They get sick, they die, they come back! What’s worse is that we’ve just been over run with reports all at once. These things are everywhere! In the studio here, out in the streets, there’s probably one in your home right now!” The woman’s eyes grew wide. She got to her feet with a determined glare, she raised the antique pistol as the camera spun away. There was the sound of a shot being fired and it sent a jolt through Vicky’s body.
“What’s going on in here?” Jasper entered the room as the television cut to white noise and static.
“She said... she said...” Noah’s mouth gaped. He shook his head and laughed. “I don’t even know.”
“Dude!” Vicky gestured towards the now useless TV. “She just totally said that zombies are like, a thing.”
“It was a joke!” Noah protested. “Some kinda sick prank.”
“Seems to me there’s an awful lot of sick pranks going around tonight.” Vicky stared at Jasper. “What was it Donovan’s sister said to him again?”
Jasper paled but his jaw tightened. Before he could say a thing, a car on the street let loose a wild blast of its horn. Tires squealed and there was a crash, followed by a shower of sparks. It sounded for a second like the universe was tearing apart around her as a telephone pole smashed through the street facing wall of the living room. Wires whipped and sparked through the air and Vicky watched one sail towards Noah’s face but she dove for him. They hit the floor hard and rolled aside as the wooden pole crashed against the floor, which buckled under the assault. The gaping wound left in the hardwood became a black hole, sucking furniture and debris into the downstairs flat. Vicky scrambled away from the hungry wooden mouth and through the doorway, pulling Noah behind her to the safety of the more structurally sound hall.
“Vicky!” She heard Noah calling to her but she was focused on getting to safety. Jasper reached out to help, but she ignored his hand as she pulled her friend away from the terrible scene unfolding behind them. Noah screamed, clutching his chest as she tossed him against the sturdy wall.
“What the hell was that?” Vicky stared at the wreckage of Donovan’s living room. The power had gone out on most of the block, leaving nothing but blackness, save for the headlights of cars, which had become congested on the street below.
Donovan emerged from his room, wet streams still running down his face. He stopped and his eyes grew wide, looking assaulted by the sight of his ruined living room.
“And you were worried about spots on the floor.” Jasper was clearly trying to hold back a smile. Donovan turned on him and Vicky prepared herself for a fight but instead Donovan started to laugh. His face began to turn red and he leaned on Vicky for support. Jasper started laughing too, and finally Vicky joined in. They laughed together and pointed at the mess, unable to form words through their hysteria.
“Uh...” Noah was crouched in the corner, the only one not joining in the fun. He was gripping his chest with one hand and holding the other out towards them. “I need um. Do you have a, uh...”
Vicky cleared the tears of laughter from her eyes and noticed the red stains seeping through Noah’s fingers and down the front of him. She caught her breath and tugged on Donovan’s shirt until he was focused on Noah as well.
All of the laughter died as Noah showed them the piece of glass sticking out of his chest, just under his collar bone. His lips gaped uselessly for a moment or two before finally saying, “I could probably use a first aid kit.”