Friday, August 29, 2008

Night of the Living Hipsters, Part VIII

The undead hipsters were shuffling jerkily into the mall. Dead eyed, with blank, disenfranchised looks on their faces they scanned the area looking for their prey.

“Hey! Over here!” I yelled from the top of the escalator. “Hemp shoulder bags and hoodies for everyone up here!”

“Get him…” one mumbled.

“Get him…” another mumbled.

“Oh yeah, he’s cool,” a third mumbled sarcastically.

The moaning group shambled en masse towards the revolving staircase as I dashed back to the group huddled by the power outlet.

“Wait for them… wait for them…” Jim Daniels murmured. Dr. Porter nervously bit her lip.

“Now!” Kyle yelled as the undead neared the top. I quickly plugged the extension cord running from the escalator control panel into the wall socket.

Nothing happened.

I tried it again, but still nothing happened.

“It’s loose, over there.” Dr. Porter pointed to the wiring at the panel.

I cursed under my breath as I stood up to run over to it. Jim stopped me.

“I’m going,” he announced.

“But your leg…” I said.

“With a bum knee I’m still faster than you. Don’t plug it in until I’m clear.”

Before I could say anything else, he made a mad dash for the metal panel. His knee buckled halfway but that didn’t stop him from diving for his target. Jim began to fumble with the wiring and was almost done when he looked up to see who was at the top of the escalator.

The hipster formerly known as Officer Reed was bearing down on him.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Night of the Living Hipsters, Part VII

“Do you think Reed will come back here?” Dr. Porter asked with a shiver. “He’s around here somewhere.”

Dr. Porter, Kyle, and I were gathering up the food for our journey out of the city. Dawn was nearly upon us and the undead hipsters were loitering around outside the mall, gazing inside with sullen, dead eyes and smoking cigarettes by the curb of the parking lot.

“I don’t know,” I shook my head. “He – or it – hasn’t shown up since he transformed into that creature. I just don’t understand what’s driving their minds. Clearly, they’re trying to infect others to be like them but he’s not relentlessly attacking us like you think he would. Why do they behave like this?”

“I don’t know.” I saw a hint of a tear well up in her eye. “He was a good man, he didn’t deserve a fate like that. Whatever he was is gone now.”

“You guys forgot one thing,” Kyle piped up. “Even if we don’t see him in here, how are we going to get out with all of them outside like that?”

“Don’t worry, I’ll get you out, suckers,” a voice called out. I quickly reached for my pistol, but when I saw who it was, I relaxed.

“Daniels, what are you doing here?” I asked.

“I snuck in the back way.” He jammed his thumb towards a door marked employees only.

“Yeah but won’t those things come through that door as well?” Dr. Porter asked.

“Naw, I rolled a dumpster in front of ‘em,” he laughed. “They won’t get through that.”

“What about Eve?” I asked.

“Eve’s in the car in the tire shop waiting for us,” he replied. “The car’s ready to go.”

“You shouldn’t have left her alone in there,” Dr. Porter said.

“Don’t worry,” he laughed. “Those things are staying far away from that place.”

“She still shouldn’t be alone,” Dr. Porter insisted. “Poor girl.”

“I think I have an idea,” I said. “It’s risky, but it may be our only chance.”

Jim followed me down the escalator and I pointed out the undead congregating outside.

“It’s like they’re waiting or something,” he said.

“Yeah, I don’t know what for,” I shrugged. “But this is my idea. We can’t outfight them, they’re too many, but we can draw them back up this escalator here and electrocute them while they’re on it.”

“Think we can do it?” he asked.

“I think so, if I can get an extension cord or some cable, I can wire the whole thing,” I replied. “We can run the cord to one of these outlets.”

The four of us quickly went to work and rigged the metal stairway. Our work was soon done and we sat down for a quick break.

“I’ve been here a long time,” Daniels blew out his breath. “I grew up here in the city, you know. It was rough, it was a ghetto. I got that football scholarship and I ran away. I kept on running for four years, too. I was the best running back in college and I sure as hell was ready to do the same in the pros. I was gonna be big. My first big game and someone tackles me low… takes out my knee.”

Daniels let out a short laugh.

“That was it. Three surgeries later and I still can barely run on it. Nothing much else to do, so I moved back home and opened up that youth center. Lot of kids needed help, but then the neighborhood started to change. First all those artists and the musicians came in, then the developers. The area was gentrified and the people who needed my help the most got pushed further away. Maybe what’s going on out there is the city pushing back.”

Dr. Porter let out a short laugh as well. “Maybe you’re right. I opened that clinic to help people and the people who needed the help the most soon couldn’t afford to live here. Think about all those people who lost their homes when this mall was built.”

“Happy Valley, indeed,” I snorted.

“I was all in favor of this mall when it was being built,” Kyle stated flatly. “Big new shopping center, get rid of the lower income housing, bring money back to the area. I thought we needed it. I guess those politicians and land developers weren’t thinking of the little people when they were thinking of the big bucks. Makes you think, doesn’t it.”

Jim looked at Dr. Porter. “Our date may have been ruined last night, but I promise you that as soon as we get out of here, I’m taking you out for the night of your life.”

“You got it,” she smiled back at him. “Only no horror movies, I can’t stand watching them.”

We all started to laugh until we heard glass crashing.

“What was that?” Kyle asked.

“What do you think?” Jim answered.

“Here they come!” I yelled. One of the undead hipsters threw a garbage can through the glass doors and the whole group was awkwardly shuffling into the mall.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Night of the Living Hipsters, Part VI

“Wait a minute,” I said. “You just got a call from Jim.”

“Yeah, we have each other’s numbers on our phones,” Dr. Porter answered.

“So he’s on your phone there?” I asked.

“Uh yeah, he’s in my favorite five,” she added a little sheepishly.

“Did everyone in the youth center trade phone numbers?” I asked.

“Yeah, you know so we can keep in touch just in case…” he voice trailed off as she started to put together my next question.

“Do you have Reed’s?” I asked. “If you do, maybe I can track it.”

She nodded and showed me his number; I quickly programmed it into my Wristcomm. Luckily, the phone was still on and the screen pointed in its general direction.

With Dr. Porter right behind me, I followed the signal down a darkened side hallway to a corner. I motioned for her to step back, she did so and I dialed up his number. His phone rang from around the corner and I quickly jumped with my pistol drawn. The only thing that met me was the phone on the ground.

“Well, it was a nice idea,” Dr. Porter said, trying to be encouraging.

“What kind of a hipster would be caught dead without a cell phone?” I thought out loud. “Or caught undead, for that matter.”

“Guess he didn’t need it,” Porter shrugged.

Something didn’t feel right, something back down the hall we came from. I held my finger to my lips and the doctor nodded. I quickly threw myself around the corner again with my gun pointed out. This time I found myself staring face to face with someone who I couldn’t recognize.

“Oh my God, don’t kill me,” he quickly dropped to his knees and folded his hands together.

“Aren’t you one of them?” I asked.

“No I’m not, I swear!” he pleaded.

“What about the greasy hair and the neck beard?” I asked. “What’s up with that?”

“I’ve been stuck in here a week,” he said. He pointed to his neck beard. “Honest, this isn’t a hip, ironic beard, this is a slobby I’ve been trapped in a mall beard.”

“Is that so, huh? OK, what’s your name?”

“Kyle,” he answered without an ounce of hipness.

“Kyle, who won the Super Bowl last year?” I asked.

“Th-the New York Giants,” he answered very un-ironically.

“What’s your favorite coffee drink?” I grilled him.

“Just coffee,” he answered also very un-ironically.

“What do you think of my outfit?” Dr. Porter asked.

“Uh, it’s nice, I guess,” he answered with a slightly confused look on his face. “I mean, you look all right. I dunno.”

“He sounds OK to me,” she said.

“Yeah, me too,” I nodded. “Trying to find Reed turned out to be a wild goose chase. Let’s just figured out a way to get out of here, but keep your eyes out for any of them.”

“You mean they’re in here?” Kyle gulped as we walked back towards the food court

“Yeah but just one,” I said. Then I saw the throng of undead hipsters shuffling around outside. “So far.”

Monday, August 11, 2008

Night of the Living Hipsters, Part V

“Hey look a spork,” Dr. Porter held up the plastic utensil with a chuckle. “You have to love those things, huh?”

“Yeah, whatever,” Officer Reed shrugged noncommittally. “I’m getting real hungry. Here’s some mashed potatoes.”

The pair had made their way to the food court and were looking for anything that they could carry. Reed was eyeballing the food at a fried chicken stand while Porter was rummaging through a taco hut next door.

“Are you going to eat those?” she asked as she held up more flatware. “You want a spoon?”

“Heh, Spoon was cool ‘til they got on SNL,” Reed griped tiredly. “Now they’re just a bunch of sellouts.”

“I’m not sure what you’re talking about,” Porter smiled, trying to be friendly. “Hey, you want one of these Beano Burritos? They’re website says their 100% fresh guaranteed.”

“Their website sucks,” the policeman replied as he shoved his hands deep into his pockets and shuffled over towards the doctor. “I know some dudes over at the Coffee Barn who could make a way better site that that crap hole.”

“OK, that’s nice. You want anything here? Otherwise, I’m going to throw it in a plastic bag to take along.”

“I am really hungry,” he mumbled as he shuffled towards her. “I don’t think I want any of that stuff though.”

“Well our choices are limited,” she cocked her head towards him as she stuffed the plastic bag. “So what do you want?”

“Brains!” Reed made a surprisingly fast grab for her and held her tight. Bizarre tattoos twisted around his arms and his face looked surprisingly different than what it did just a short while ago, like some sort of twisted mockery of a human face.

Dr. Porter screamed uncharacteristically and tried to squirm away. Officer Reed held her tight in a supernaturally strong grip though, keeping her from pulling free.

“Bu---w—why?” she managed to whimper.

“Life sucks then you die,” he mumbled disinterestedly. “Think I’ll just help you along.”

“Hold it Reed!” I yelled. “Let her go.”

I was twenty feet away and I had my pistol aimed at his head. I slowly stepped to the side to try to get a better shot at him, but whatever was left of Officer Reed realized this and he turned himself to keep Dr. Porter in the line of fire.

“So hungry…” he mumbled.

“Please let me go…” Porter nearly burst into tears.

“So hungry…” Reed repeated. “Just one bite.”

“Drop her or I’ll drop you.” I twisted my head to the side and looked through the sites of Betsy sideways. You know, to look cool.

The doctor drove her elbow into his stomach and pulled herself free. As she slipped to the side I fired at the former police officer turned hipster zombie. I missed a kill shot though and he spun her in front of me and disappeared into the darkness.

“Where’d he go?” I asked.

“How could you let him go?” Porter replied.

“Hey, I’m not Annie Oakley over here,” I said indignantly. “I couldn’t risk hitting you.”

“Well I can’t tell where he is,” she said as she squinted into the shadows. “He was fast.”

“Yeah,” I nodded. “If these things are that fast, then we have something else to worry about now. They didn’t seem that fast earlier.”

The ringtone from a cell phone broke through the darkness. Porter quickly pulled her phone out of a pocket and put it up to her ear.

“Hello? OK. I’m here with Jon… Reed’s one of them now. They are? How could they….? OK. Damn.” She put the phone down and looked at me. “That was Jim, he’s just about done with his car but he says that a large group of the undead hipsters are gathering at the doors to the mall.”

“Here? Why?”

“I don’t know,” she shook her head. “It’s almost like they’re being pulled here. Like some sort of primitive function, Instinct or memory. Somehow something here was important to their lives.”

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Night of the Living Hipsters, Part IV

The car rolled up to the hidden access road as the passengers sat in uncomfortable silence, their nervousness hung in the air like a warm fog.

“There’s the road,” Jim Daniels grunted. “We clear out that brush and we’ll be on our way.”

“Except for the flat tire,” Eve added. “We’ll never get through that with a flat.”

“Don’t you have a spare?” I asked.

“Man, this is my spare,” Jim answered.

Officer Reed mumbled something from where he was hunched over.

“What did you say?” asked Dr. Porter.

“Nothin,’” he answered. “Just… I’m not feelin’ so hot.”

“You do look pale,” she said as she looked him over. “The scratch still bothering you?”

“Must be,” he mumbled as he lightly rubbed the bandage on his neck. “It’s been quite a day, you know.”

“That tattoo,” Dr. Porter looked at his arm. “I never noticed this before. Is that some sort of tribal tattoo?”

“What this?” Reed looked at the exposed marking on his bicep and chuckled weakly. “Yeah, that’s just a reminder from the ole Army days. Get a few beers in you on payday and stuff happens, you know.”

“I hear that,” I replied while thinking back to my Army days. “Heh heh, I remember one time… uh… nevermind.”

“So what are we going to do?” Eve seemed to grow more desperate as time ground on.

“There’s an auto center at that department store.” I pointed back to the darkened mall. “Let’s go there, replace the tire, and get back on the road.”

“Sounds like a plan.” Jim backed his car up, turned around and headed towards the service center. The doors were locked but Jim kicked in the glass of one and we were soon inside with the car up on a lift.

“It’s only 9:30,” I said while looking at a clock. “I can’t believe this place is closed.”

“Yeah well this place is pretty much abandoned,” Jim replied.

“Anyone who wasn’t turned into… one of them,” Dr. Porter tossed her head towards the general direction of the city. “Is long gone. Everything in the city is abandoned.”

“It gives me the creeps.” Eve hugged herself and shuddered. “I wish I was out of here, too.”

“Yeah, well we’ll be out of here in a minute,” Jim said as he worked the lug nuts off his tire.

“Anybody hungry?” Reed asked. “I’m starving. Maybe we can get some food over at the mall.”

“I don’t know if that’s such a good idea,” I shook my head.

“I am getting hungry,” Dr. Porter admitted. “Maybe we could stock up on something to take on the trip. It’s going to be a bit of a ride through the mountain.”

“Why don’t you and I go check it out?” Officer Reed pointed his thumb towards the main mall building. “We’ll be back in 10 minutes.”

Before I could protest any further, the two were out the door and heading towards Happy Valley Mall.

“I don’t like this,” Jim grumbled.

“Me either,” I concurred. “You two stay here. Find something to block that door and keep an eye on it. I’ll be right back.”

Before they could protest, I headed out the door and quietly worked my way quietly into the mall.