Happy Birthday Land!

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In the Pink

Three miles away, behind the façade of the Police Station, on the eastern side of a long district that has many names and many doubts surrounding its very existence, in a top secret laboratory seventy feet underground, a man sat and looked through his computer and slowly came to a very troubling realization.

“Doctor,” he said. “Doctor, get over here!”

Standing twenty feet away and sharing a beaker of champagne with his colleagues, Dr. Crappy Gilgamet excused himself and came over.

“Yes, mister Pook. What is it?”

“I don’t know how to say this…” Mr. Pook actually did, but he didn’t want to. But he had to, so he said, “You know Virus Z?”

“The thing we’ve been surveying in the Bogs for the past month nonstop?” Crappy said. “Of course I know it, idiot. If you have something to say, say it.”

Pook licked his lips and said, “Well…”

General Stooge got the message around noon and ran out his door, screaming and pulling his underwear up.

“Up and at ‘em, you bastards!” he cried. “Up and at ‘em! Code L, CODE L! Breach of the perimeter!”

All his men gathered, shuffling along and dressing and grabbing their guns as they’d been trained to do.

General Stooge led his men into the courtyard, where Dr. Gilgamet was ready to brief them. There was a big projector screen and a map of Apple City was on it, all twenty-odd districts including two that no one else but the highest of government employees knew about.

Crappy Gilgamet extended a telescopic pointer and indicated their location. The Zone. A two-and-a-half mile long, one mile wide area that stretched down from the center of Apple City, all the way to Prison Land.

“We are here, gentleman,” Crappy announced through a microphone. “As you all know, we have been monitoring a highly experimental and insidious new virus that recently evolved over here.” He pointed at the Bogs. Nearly three-thousand acres of experimental ground, half of it moist swampy area. It jutted out from the bottom half of the Zone, stretching eastward to the Apple City Public Pool and touching on East Town to the north.

“The exact nature of the virus has been top-secret…” Crappy said. “Until now. It is called Virus Z. It attacks the brain, turning the host into… Well! We’ve tested it on numerous prison inmates. The infection rate of those who come in contact with the virus has been estimated at ninety per cent, give or take.

“In our test subjects, all exhibited certain troubling symptoms within ten minutes of exposure. Chief among them…” He flipped a page on his clipboard. “Murderous rage and cannibalism.”

General Stooge spit a big stream of dirty brown chewing tobacco liquid and rubbed his gray-stubbled chin with the back of one huge, callused hand.

“Sounds like my kind of party,” he said.

“Lemme guess!” someone up ahead shouted. Private Shatsberg. “One of ‘em got out!”

“I find it unfortunate that you would jump to that conclusion so quickly,” said Crappy. “But even more unfortunately, you are right. We had a breach thirty minutes ago.”

General Stooge hefted his gun and nodded at his men. “Alright, looks like we’re getting some action!”

“We have been feeding prisoners to the virus constantly, at a rate of five every day,” said Crappy. “It has evolved at a very fast speed. Though we do have our insect repellant field, our sensors picked up an infected mosquito that managed to escape. So, we have probably less than ten minutes now before infection begins.”

“Yadda yadda!” Shatsberg called. “Where do we go?”

“The mosquito was headed northwest,” said Crappy. “Toward Happy Birthday Land.”

“Aw, shit, man,” said Cpl. Donahue, to Stooge’s left. “Zombie kids? Screw this, man.”

He turned to leave, but Gen. Stooge grabbed him by the sleeve and pulled him back.

“You keep your ass here, in my squad,” Stooge said. “You leave, and we have a hole. We have a hole, a zombie can get in it. You wouldn’t want our deaths on your conscience, would you Donahue?”

Donahue nodded. “Alright, man. But I ain’t shooting any kids man, screw that, they don’t pay me enough for that, man.”

“You ain’t a soldier Donahue.” Stooge pulled out a cigar and stuffed it in his mouth. “I’m a soldier, baby, and I’d do this stuff for free. You slack out there in the field, and I’ll be out one combat boot ‘cause I’ll be leaving it in your ass, got that?”

Donahue nodded. They moved on to join their battalion.

Harris B. Harrisben, an entertainer at Happy Birthday Land, had ducked into a little alleyway, behind the cardboard cutout of a dumpster with an evilly grinning homeless man peeking out of it. After four hours of entertaining snot-nosed kids, he was ready to have a sip off the old flask. And a cigarette.

“Damn kids,” he said, as the whiskey filled him with philosophy. “Well, I should blame the parents, and the administration. They just let the kids beat us up and throw burritos at us.” He was having bad flashbacks to a south-of-the-border themed Happy Birthday Land that had gone badly. And just today, some little punk had doused him from a squirt gun.

The cigarette was lit, and his lungs burned. He felt an itch on his arm, and went to brush off a mosquito.

Harris wasn’t an angry drinker, so he didn’t know why he started feeling so mad a few minutes later. His sense and logic started to leave him, and he realized he just wanted to find the kid and throw him off a building, stuff a burrito down his throat, or smother him with a big meringue pie. Harris stood and stomped back out into the street.

“I’m gonna go eat a kid,” he said to himself with a grin.

Cary had found a cool little playground off a side street. There was a maze here too, made up of wooden boxes painted to look like bushes. Some of them had glowing red eyes peeking out of the darkness on them. Others had big spiders, or lurking cats.

He was hanging upside-down by the jungle gym, trying to keep his shirt from falling down, when he heard a huge, screaming crowd coming up the street. He dropped down and watched.

A clown appeared ahead of them. He was riding a unicycle with a wheel that must be ten feet tall, and he kept looking over his shoulder with a scared look on his face. He had one hand up trying to hide something, but Cary saw anyway; a purple nose!

“Holy crap!” he said, and jumped through the bars to join the chase. He got to the street and looked down it. He was still ahead of all the kids! He had a chance!

He ran, but the clown was so fast. His big, floppy feet were pedaling like his life depended on it. But Cary knew he was a good runner, because dad said so.

“I’m gonna get you, clown!” he screamed.

He was starting to catch up a little. But a bigger boy suddenly came out of a side street up ahead and threw a toy fire truck. It hit the unicycle, and the clown let out a high-pitched shriek as he toppled ten feet to the ground and smashed into a pile of marbles.

“No fair!” Cary screamed. He wanted to run up and punch the bigger boy that threw the truck, but dad had said not to do that, so he sat down and started to cry instead.

The clown stood up slowly, grabbing his nose. There was blood dripping down off his face. One of the windows on the building next to him was busted out by a strong blast of air, and a screen inside said, “CONGRATS TO LITTLE JOHNSON MCTERNER! YOU WIN THE PRIZE: 10,000 CREDITS AT OUR GIFT STORE!”

Ten thousand credits! Oh man, you could get everything for that! Cary threw himself to the ground and started banging his fists.

All the others kids ran up and started beating up the clown. He shielded his head. Johnson McTerner kicked him over and jumped on top of him, waving his arms in the air.

Suddenly, the clown screamed really loud and threw Johnson off of him. The other kids tried to get away, but he grabbed two of them and threw them through the wall of the building. Johnson was too scared to move. The clown picked him up and started biting his neck.

Cary was too scared to move, too, until he saw the blood, then he ran back to the playground, and past it, all the way to an open building. He ran inside and hid.

For a while he sat under the stairs in the shadows, hearing other kids run by and clowns chasing after them, laughing and screaming like psychos. An older girl tried to get in the building, but she fell down and a clown dragged her out and Cary could hear awful sounds.

General Stooge and his squad were third on the scene, and they ran right in like badasses. The general himself was smoking a cigar, Pvt. Shatsberg had that mean look on his face like he was about to rip a zombie-clown’s throat out, and even Donahue managed to mask the fact that he was about to wet himself. Further back, Sgt. Dickson was brandishing his knife and PFC Giggle was singing a good song about killing.

There was a group of parents being held back by first and second squads. They’d already been given their orders; squads three, four, five and six were to take the four different districts of the park. They’d been shown maps on the way in, and they’d dropped two minutes after first possible infection.

“Looks like we’re in the pink, ladies!” General Stooge announced, stomping past the street sign and cocking his gun. “Look lively and kill some clowns!”

They had their chance a few seconds later. Two of the bastards were hunched over the body of a kid, smacking their lips.

“Sat down for a little picnic!” Stooge said.

“Aw, man, what the hell, man?” Donahue whined. “They’re eating kids, man? No way!”

“Die!” Shatsberg screamed, pounding the cannibals with twenty or thirty bullets from his rifle. They didn’t die right away, but their meal sure had been interrupted.

“Aw, man, they’re not going down!”

“Back off, men.” Sgt. Dickson came forward, licking his knife blade. It cut his tongue, and he sucked the blood off it. “It’s gutting time.”

He set upon the clowns, dancing around them and howling like a madman as he stuck them over and over. They were already bleeding out of ten bullet holes each, so it wasn’t long before they were dead on the ground.

Dickson came forward, and raised his knife to lick the clown blood off.

“Woah!” Stooge raised a hand. “You want that virus shit swimming in your body, Dickson? Wipe it on that bastard’s red afro, there ya go! Alright, men, let’s-”

There was a loud cackle, echoing out of an alleyway. Suddenly, twelve clowns were in the street, walking toward them in comical fashion, their shoes slapping away at the ground.

“Hyuk, hyuk,” one of them said.

“Booya! Booya!” another one kept saying every time he honked a little horn in his hand.

“Look at all the big kids!” another of them said, doing a cartwheel and laughing. “I need a big kid to fill my belly! Hyuk!”

“This ain’t good,” Stooge said, flexing his bicep. “Alright men, triangulate. Let’s show these clowns a good time!”

They went into formation. The clowns converged on them. Stooge blasted away, the vein in his bicep bulging and a stream of smoke rising from his cigar. Dickson’s knife flashed ten times a second, and each second a clown had ten new holes in his body he hadn’t had a second ago. Shatsberg fired and waved his gun around, sweat pouring down his face. PFC Giggle shrieked with laughter, imitating the clowns as he slaughtered them.

“Get some!” Donahue yelled, pumping his shotgun and widening the holes that Dickson left behind.

Stooge thought they had it in the bag. These clowns were used to making little kids laugh. They weren’t used to fighting tough-as-nails army men, zombie or no zombie.

He got his first inkling of the trouble they were in when Giggle stopped laughing and started screaming and bleeding. One of them had bitten a chunk out of his neck.

“Watch it!” Stooge said, turning his gun on his squad member. It was Giggle right now, but in a minute he’d either be dead or a kid-eater, and either way Stooge might as well send him packing. He let Giggle catch a few bullets, then dropped back toward a building with the others. Dickson stayed, covering their path. He almost got bit, but he managed to duck away at the last second.

They put their backs to the wall and entertained the clowns.

“You like that!” cried Donahue, reloading his shotgun.

“I like the feel of clown flesh,” said Dickson, “and so does my knife. Who’s next?”

“Kill ‘em all!” Shatsberg screamed. It seemed like he hadn’t even reloaded yet, but he must have sent out at least two hundred bullets.

Finally, all twelve clowns were down for good. The last clown gave one final toot of his horn, then his face hit the ground. Stooge went over to survey the carnage. He bent down and tugged Giggle’s tags off.

“I’ll make sure Suzie gets these,” he said. Then he saluted. “It was an honor to fight by your side!”

“An honor, man,” Donahue echoed, giving Giggle’s scrambled remains a quick nod. “Now let’s get the hell out of dodge, man, there’s more of those freaks around here, I can feel ‘em!”

Stooge heard the report of several guns, echoing from some other street.

“There’s plenty more noses to be honked, men,” he said. “Fall in!”

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