The night was already not going how Lana had planned, and she was pissed.
“Come on!” her friends had begged her earlier that week. “A zombie pub crawl on Halloween night! It’ll be soooo much fun. Don’t you want to get all dressed up?”
“Not as a gross zombie. I want to wear my sexy Little Bo Peep outfit. I already spent, like, $50 on it. Plus, zombies are so totally played out,” she had pouted before finally caving in to peer pressure and forking over another $60 for the trolley fee.
Now, here she was, crammed into a packed Wrigleyville bar, bloated from overpriced Miller Lites while drunk dudebros got their fake blood smeared all over her white tutu. Her friends had all disappeared the second they arrived at the bar. No one seemed interested in talking to her, or even worse, offered to buy her a drink. The DJ lazily cut from a Bruno Mars track to “Monster Mash.” She crammed herself in near the bar to order a cocktail and got elbowed by a guy wearing a t-shirt that said “Free Mammograms: Place Boobs Here.” The night was officially a disaster.
As she turned to scan the crowd for her friend Nicole dressed as a sexy zombie nurse in a white spandex dress, an inebriated zombie cowboy dropped a cup of beer onto Lana’s heels.
“Gross, seriously?!” Lana said, disgusted, and stomped off to the ladies’ room to clean up. In her first stroke of luck, the bathroom was empty. She slipped off her white platform heels and held them under running water; the sticky beer rinsed easily off the cheap vinyl. She set them on the ground to dry, in no rush to return to the shitshow in the bar, and turned to the mirror to freshen up her hair and makeup. Once satisfied, she spent a few minutes taking selfies in the mirror, trying different angles in order to catch the most flattering light, then scrolled through various filter options before uploading to social media with the caption “Little Bo Peep has lost her sheep #wheremybitchesat #withfriendslikethese” and a sadface emoji. Served Nicole right.
While she checked for new likes on her photo, a loud scream erupted from somewhere in the bar. Though she suspected it was some sort of soundtrack or effect, it made her bare arms break out in goose pimples. She couldn’t wait for Halloween to be over.
After killing a good amount of time on her phone, she decided to return to the party to see if Nicole had seen the social media guilt trip. Through the bathroom door, she could hear the special effects soundtrack kick into high gear, peppering screams and moans over a Coldplay song. Lana put her shoes back on, straightened out her tutu, and pushed through the door back into the bar to find all hell had broken loose.
People were running in every direction, screaming in terror as blood spurted all over like a crimson fireworks display. A group of party-goers were crushed into a human knot trying to flee through the door, while others smashed the glass windows out with bar stools in an attempt to escape. At their backs, people in zombie costumes clawed at them and fastened their mouths to any exposed flesh they could find. The screams weren’t part of a soundtrack after all. Lana froze, attempting to make sense of what was going on. Was this some sort of choreographed show/holiday-themed entertainment? Was it Improv Everywhere? Whatever it was, their special effects looked seriously high budget. A trail of intestines on the floor appeared too realistic to be fake blood and plastic. They must be using animal parts from the butcher. That’s in poor taste, Lana thought, her stomach flipping in her Spanx.
Roughly half the people in the room had taken on a sickly greenish tinge and were turning on their friends. Those being attacked cowered in fear, attempting to defend themselves from the onslaught, but the sick-looking people seemed to have developed some sort of freakish strength allowing them to overpower even the largest, most swole bros. They tore into the flesh of their victims, chomping on limbs and severing arteries. The metallic scent of blood overrode the smell of uncleaned lines of the Coors Light on tap. Lana realized that no special effects could be this good; something had morphed these people into murderous, bloodthirsty animals. And she was trapped here with them.
A shrieking blond girl tried to run for her life, slipped on the blood-drenched floor, and was instantly pounced upon by three dead-eyed bros drooling on their popped collars. They latched their mouths onto her exposed skin and chewed away ravenously like it was hangover brunch after a 90-minute wait. One turned his head to spit out a mouthful of blond hair extensions before diving back in for more brains. The bartender, who only minutes earlier had been hitting on a zombie Tri-Delt, now picked meat from her ribcage. The DJ had disappeared from her laptop, and the playlist automatically shuffled to a Dave Matthews Band song.
Later, the Center for Disease Control would blame the random gruesome act of cannibalism on a tainted batch of Jaegermeister that had been laced with with an unidentified designer drug, creating a hysterical reaction and instant bloodlust. Standing in the middle of a Wrigleyville bar, watching the chaos unfold, Lana was not yet aware of this. All she knew was that she was not ready to die. She hadn’t yet met the corporate attorney of her dreams or adopted her dream Yorkshire terrier or her dream Asian baby. She hadn’t been to Paris or RPM Italian or seen the sequel to 50 Shades of Grey. Jenndolyn had finally gotten her highlights just right. She wanted to live.
“Oh hell no,” she said, yanking her teetering heels off her feet. In her peripheral vision, she saw a man charging at her; he was dressed as a strip of bacon and his face was the color of split pea soup, drool running in rivulets down his chin. Instinctively, she swung at his face with one of her heels and drove the stiletto deep into his eye socket. She could his eye give way as she applied pressure on the shoe, the sole making contact with his ocular cavity. The bacon strip groaned in pain and collapsed onto the viscera-soaked tile floor. Lana wiped his blood from her forehead with a piece of tulle from her tutu.
Another mutated freak shuffled towards her, his scaly hands outstretched, his Yeezys leaving bloody footprints. She swung her Bo Peep crook his head, but the flimsy plastic broke on his skull, barely causing him to flinch. Cheap Legs Avenue piece of shit, she thought, then quickly scanned the area for a new weapon. Grabbing a bottle of Miller Lite Lime in each hand from a table, she smashed them against the bar and slashed them through the air. Another mouth-breathing sicko wearing scrubs (“laziest costume ever” she thought) lurched at her. She jammed the broken bottle into his Adam’s apple with the force of 3 month’s worth of Pilates class behind it. Spinning around, she kicked her next attacker squarely in the chest, following through with the ball of her foot just like Kevin the kickboxing teacher at Equinox Fitness taught her. The assailant stumbled backwards and took down a phalanx of cargo-pants-wearing zombies behind him like bowling pins.
Lana felt the spike of adrenaline in her veins. Something inside her had unlocked, a deep-seeded place where she stashed her short lifetime’s worth of anger, resentment, and frustration, and now it burbled to the surface like a long-dormant volcano remember how to erupt. The girl-rage turned any object that she picked up into a formidable weapon. In a strange way, she had finally found her calling. Somehow, this felt more right to her than her degree in Communications ever did.
She grabbed a pool cue off the wall and held it poised, ready to take on whoever–or whatever–came at her next. A tube-topped brunette who had been dancing on the bar leapt at her, but she rammed the cue into its soft green guts. A rancid walking corpse tried to rip off her tutu; she whacked its head off with the gun from a Big Buck Hunter arcade game. Her muscles twinged in anticipation of the next attack; she was poised and ready. Around her, the carnage began to stack up as the whirling dervish in white slayed each opponent who dared to challenge her. Lana’s face was covered in spatter as red as her NARS semi-matte lipstick. She slicked hair off her face with a bloody palm. She was a #warriorwoman.
In the middle of the room, a zombie ripped the leg off a girl hanging from a lighting fixture. The limb fell onto the green felt of the pool table with a heavy thud, causing the reanimated carcasses who had been advancing on Lana to turn around, distracted by the scent of fresh meat. Seeing the opportunity for escape, Lana made a run for it. She bolted for a storefront window, launching herself through the shattered glass and barely feeling the crunchy shards that poked through her fishnet-clad bare feet.
Outside, emergency vehicles had blocked off Clark Street. Lana navigated her way through the police barricade while the bystanders outside were distracted by the sight of with cops swarming in wearing SWAT gear. Throngs of people had gathered outside the bar, pouring out of other watering holes to see what was going on. They were screaming, sobbing, and Instagramming. Amidst the mass confusion, she slipped into the crowd and disappeared from sight.
Survivors of the incident would speak for many years to come of the gruesome circumstances of that fateful Halloween night, and of a girl who took down 20 zombie mutants by herself, who seemed to be fueled solely on the rage of a trixie having a bad night out.
Kim Nelson is a Chicago-based writer and performer. She is a regular contributor and co-editor of the literary blog, DrinkersWithWritingProblems.com, and co-hosts their monthly live show, Lit Up. Her work has been published on sites such as WhiskeyPaper, Vignette Review, and StoryClub Magazine. Follow her on Twitter @ponytailup.