Now Entering Houdenville

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Episode 1
New Neighbors

Carl has some new neighbors. He’s not too happy about it.


Carl had been sleeping – albeit not very soundly – when the music woke him up. He didn’t want to, but he rolled out of bed and staggered to the window, lifting up one slat of the yellowed blinds to look out. It was a clear night, clear enough that the minimal light from the wan quarter moon overhead was enough to illuminate the field behind his house, and he shook his head, letting the blind drop again. Damned zombies. He’d told everyone there were bodies out there, hell he’d found corn growing wild in that field a few times, he knew it had to have belonged to the old Johnson farm at some point. But no, nobody would listen to him, and now there were zombies out dancing around in the field in the middle of the night.

He considered calling someone, then decided he’d rather go back to bed instead. Fuck all of them. It wasn’t his responsibility to watch a field nobody believed anything was going to come out of. And it wasn’t like the zombies were going to bother him except maybe with their music. He fumbled in the nightstand drawer, fished out a pair of earplugs and jammed them into his ears. There, problem solved. And fuck Old Man Johnson too, for killing a shit-ton of people and burying them in pits all over his farm. The old bastard had to have known the land was contaminated, but he’d done it anyway and now they had shit crawling up out of the ground all the time, wandering around, sometimes trying to get revenge – they were usually pretty upset when they found out Old Man Johnson’s kids had been his last victims and the first to rise and avenge themselves on his wicked old ass, some of them even just fell apart on the spot once they were told. One or two had decided to try out just avenging themselves on the living in general, but Houdenville had laws to cover that kind of thing and word had gotten around the undead population that wanton killing would get you locked up.

And if there was one thing zombies hated, it was being confined. Supposedly it was the whole ‘digging out of your grave’ thing, left them with some kind of claustrophobic complex or something. There were people who protested at the courthouse sometimes because of that, they said locking up even the more murderous zombies was cruel and inhuman punishment. Carl himself had never much cared about the issue. Sure, it was kind of hard on them, but going to prison would have been hard on him if he’d started wantonly killing people too – if you’re gonna do the crime, you’d better be able to do the time, that was how he felt about it.

He’d been just about to drift back off when a loud knock on the window penetrated the earplugs and he sat back up with a curse; that hadn’t been zombies. He went back to the  window, this time pushing the blinds to one side with a rattle of protesting plastic so he could glare at the pissed-off looking man on the other side of the glass. Carl rolled his eyes, unlatching the storm window and pushing it open. “What, Benny?”

The man’s mouth moved, and Carl made a show of pulling one of the earplugs out and shaking it at him. This time Benny rolled his eyes. “Don’t bullshit me, you don’t sleep in those,” he scolded. “Didn’t think you needed to, I don’t know, call the ‘catcher or something?”

“Don’t I remember you saying nothing was ever gonna come up out of this field, Benny? That it hadn’t been part of the farm?” Carl yawned, not bothering to cover his mouth. “Besides, they’re out there with a goddamn boom box, dancing the night away – ten to one they’re all gonna lay right back down once the sun comes up.”

“Lucky thing you’re not into gambling, you’d lose your shirt,” Benny snorted. “Where’d you think they got the tunes, moron?”

“I didn’t think, it was the music that woke me up the first time – I was half awake and pissed off.” Carl was plenty awake now, though. “Where’d they go first?”

“At least one of them was coming, not going,” Benny told him. “That one went through the Circle P and bought some batteries, then made tracks for the field. The rest of them probably rose here – and yeah, I did say this wasn’t part of the farm, so either I was wrong and so is the county map or the old man had been spreading out without telling anyone.”

“Well, fuck.”

“My sentiments exactly. We should probably re-survey the county, but they’ll never in a million years give us the money to do it – hell, you were at the last town council meeting, they want us to start buying our own greasepaint!”

“I thought your white was looking a little thin,” Carl observed. “I still think you boys should try to get one of the suppliers to sponsor the station.”

“I’d be happy to, if someone can figure out a way to make the proposal sound like it’s not written by crazy people.” One of the zombies came shambling up and he glared at it; it sort of shrank back a little. Another thing zombies really didn’t like, clowns. “You and your buddies are disturbing the peace.”

It made a face. This one had obviously been under long enough to rot quite a bit, so it wasn’t really obvious if it had been a boy or a girl – it was only obvious that it had been a hippie. “Man, we’re entitled to a little celebration,” it slurred. “Been down a long time…”

“Save it,” Benny cut it off. “You’re loud, either turn it down or it’s off to the tank for you.” It flinched again. “How the hell did you get out here, anyway? We didn’t think the old man owned this field.”

The zombie shrugged. “I don’t know nothin’ ‘bout that, man. We came out here to protest animal cruelty and unsustainable farming practices, thought we’d actually got the old dude to listen to us. He said he’d been thinkin’ about that, wanted to show us a field he’d been experimenting with some alternative fertilizer in and see what we thought.” It waved a ragged hand at the field. “Next thing I knew, we were in a hole and he was cackling like a cartoon bad guy. Is he still…”

“His kids got to him first, so no,” Benny told it. His black-circled eyes with their exaggerated lashes narrowed. “I know your buddy must have told you we have laws around here that apply to your kind, right?” he said. “So don’t go getting any funny ideas, got me?”

It considered him skeptically. “What’cha gonna do, kill me?”

Benny smiled, red painted mouth stretching way too wide, and the zombie drew back with a whimper. “We lock you up in a tiny little concrete cell,” he said happily, smile widening even more when it whimpered again. “I mean it, deathbag, you mind your manners now that you’re up, got it? No protesting, no sit-ins, no trying to convert people to veganism…”

“How did you know?!”

Benny didn’t bother to point out the rotting but still legible Meat is Murder, Kale is King t-shirt it was wearing, and Carl just rolled his eyes. Zombies were so stupid. “Old Man Johnson didn’t like protesters,” he told it. “Now if you two don’t mind, I’m going back to sleep – I’ve got work tomorrow. And you stay out of my fucking yard,” he told the zombie. “I’ll put up with having you for a neighbor, but if I catch you trespassing I’m calling this clown back out, got it? And he’ll bring all his buddies with him in a tiny little car.”

Benny nodded gravely. “We’ve got one. It’s got a squeaky horn and it’s painted with polka dots all over,” he said. “You really don’t want to know how many of us can fit in it, do you?”

The zombie shook its head, stumbling back a step. “We ain’t gonna cause no trouble. We’ll keep the music down from now on.” And then it turned and shambled back to its friends as fast as it could go, muttering to itself about clowns.

Carl closed the window before Benny could say anything else, letting the blind drop back into place and putting his earplug back in as he climbed back into bed. He had work in the morning, he needed his sleep – and he needed the hours, since he was still trying to make up the three sick days he’d taken during the last full moon.

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