TRAILER PARK OF THE DAMNED
"I told you, Jimmy Ray . . . I don't like having that thing in here." Jolene slammed down a can of beans to make her point, turning to scowl at Jimmy Ray. "Them things is evil and I don't like 'em."
Jimmy Ray grinned and tapped ash from a half-smoked cigarette onto the floor. "It ain't hurtin' nothin, Jo. Look at it. It's too dumb to know it's even here."
Jolene reluctantly turned around. Jimmy Ray had caught the thing the last time he and the boys went out hunting. Damn if it weren't the ugliest thing she'd ever seen. Hard to believe it had ever been a woman.
"I don't want it in the trailer with me," she said, trying to make her voice sound less shaky. "What if it breaks loose?"
"It ain't gonna do nothin', Jo. Jesus Christ . . . " Jimmy Ray sighed and ran a hand through his greasy hair. "I thought I could have some fun with it, is all."
Jolene rolled her eyes, "I told you I don't like you bringin 'em here."
"Well what the hell else is there to do? Man's got to have some fun, don't he?"
Jolene couldn't look at Jimmy Ray as he grinned at her, disgusted by the man she'd had the bad luck to end up with. When that dead boy had gotten through the blockade and stumbled into the trailer park, Jimmy Ray and his fellas had strung him up and had a good old time with him. Like Jimmy Ray said, weren't nothin' else to do since them dead folks started getting up and walkin' around pretty as you please. TV didn't show diddly-shit anymore, and once they'd gotten the trailers into formation and arranged the guard watches and got all the details taken care of, there just wasn't nothin' to do. You couldn't even go to the Sav-Mart anymore. Jolene had heard that a bunch of them dead folks had camped out there in the parking lot, just waiting for living, breathing people to wander by.
Things were so much better back in the old days, when you could kill a person and by God they stayed dead.
But that was a long time ago, so long that Jolene had long since stopped keeping track of the days. Now every day was the same: wake up, kill dead folks, eat some godawful crap out of a can, kill more dead folks, and go to bed when the sun went down because there weren't nothing else to do. Most of the time she was bored stupid.
"Look at her," Jimmy Ray said, lighting another cigarette as he nodded toward the zombie chained in the corner. "Figure she knows what's goin' on?"
Some almost lost bit of intelligence shone in the woman's eyes as her mouth opened in a slanted, painful grimace and she moaned. Her skin was as glossy and slick as a snail's, her stomach a hollow hole beneath her tattered baby-doll t-shirt. She was fresh dead, not as stinky as most of 'em, and if you looked real hard you could tell she used to be pretty once. Jolene didn't feel like looking that closely.
"Go get me them pliers," Jimmy Ray said and crushed the cigarette out on the tabletop. "And the tin-snips. Ain't used them in a long while . . . "
Jolene sighed, glancing one more time to the heap of moaning flesh in the corner, and went to do as Jimmy Ray commanded. Wasn't much else she could do.
"Why the hell do I have to be the one to clean this up?"
Jolene stood in the entrance to the kitchen, grimacing as she stared at the remains of Jimmy Ray's handiwork. In the morning sun, the mess seemed even worst than before they'd gone to bed. Chunks of moldy flesh were everywhere, twitching independently of each other as the zombie's head sat on the kitchen table and watched with hungry eyes.
She turned towards the bedroom at the end of the trailer, stomping down the narrow hallway. Jimmy Ray was still in bed, the bastard. "And why the hell didn't you do her head like you said you was? Damn it, Jimmy Ray . . . you know I hate when they look at me."
Jimmy Ray rolled onto his back, one skinny, tattooed arm flung over his eyes. "Jolene, just clean the shit up and shut your mouth. I'm tryin' to get some sleep."
"What about me?"
"What about you?" Jimmy Ray cracked open an eye and stared at her.
"I'm getting sick and tired of staying home and cleaning up your messes all the time."
"I don't wanna hear that shit again, Jolene." Jimmy Ray's voice had gone dangerously soft. "Best watch yourself, girl."
Rage surged through Jolene, but she clamped it down. It wasn't a good idea to piss off Jimmy Ray. She knew from past experience that he wouldn't hesitate to come at her with fists swinging.
"Hell, if you're so tired of staying home," Jimmy Ray said lazily, "then you can take my place when they go to Sav-Mart in the mornin'. See how you like having to actually do some work for once."
"Screw you, Jimmy Ray."
"Might let you do that later," he said and rolled onto his side again, effectively dismissing her.
Bastard. Jolene slammed the bedroom door shut and turned back to the mess in the kitchen. Snapping on a pair of pink-tinged rubber gloves, she started gathering up the bigger pieces, tossing them into a garbage bag. The head on the table kept watching her, snapping every once in a while when Jolene got too close. And that irritated the piss out of Jolene. She grabbed the head by its long blond hair and held it up to eye level. There was something there in its eyes, som ething remaining deep inside its brain. Jolene could almost believe that it knew exactly what had happened to itself, that even now it realized that all was lost but refused to give up and just die.
"Life's a real bitch, ain't it?" Jolene said and smiled sadly, dropping the head into the bag. She had to get this cleaned up fast before Jimmy Ray woke up again and started hollering for breakfast.
"What's goin' on?" Jolene asked as she tossed the garbage bag onto the constantly smoldering bonfire. Her neighbor, a cow-like woman named Gerdie, was distracted by a gathering in front of Bill Varney's trailer.
"Somethin' about the Sav-Mart run," Gerdie said as she craned her neck to see over the crowd. "Jimmy Ray goin?"
"Nah . . . said I could go in his place if I wanted."
Jolene shrugged. "Might. Don't know yet. I'm bored as hell up in that trailer."
"Looks like y'all had somethin' to do last night . . ." Gerdie eyed the garbage bag as the plastic curled and melted away, revealing the zombie girl's head. Its jaw still twitched, still trying to take a bite out of something. "Ned brought one home a few days ago, just to play around with. You ain't never seen such a mess."
"Tell me about it. They don't care about messin' up the linoleum or nothin'." Jolene wrapped her arms around herself and shivered. "Whoo . . . feel that breeze? Gonna be winter 'fore too long."
"Heard we might have snow for Halloween. Prob'ly why Bill's wanting to do the Sav-Mart run sooner instead of later. Food supply's gettin' low . . ." Gerdie sniffed, then spat onto the burning pile. "Hell . . . might have to end up eatin' them things if we ain't careful."
Jolene made a face, could feel her stomach churn at the very thought of eating one of the dead folk. "I'd just as soon starve, thank you."
Gerdie flashed her a grin that wasn't entirely friendly. "We'd have to just eat you, then, wouldn't we?"
A chill trickled down Jolene's spine, but she forced herself to return the smile and keep acting friendly. Nowadays, it didn't pay to piss anybody off. You never knew when they might decide to cry zombie and blow your head off. Nobody was giving too much of a damn who got killed lately anyway.
"I'd best go talk to Bill about tonight," Jolene said and smiled again, making her exit. Gerdie barely noticed she was gone; the older woman was busy staring at the flames as they licked and ate the pieces of zombies who'd had the bad luck to cross into the perimeter last night. Jolene had heard the gunshots, but ignored them. After a while, you just didn't pay attention to it.
Jolene made her way across the commons area of the trailer park, remembering the way it used to be. Right after the dead folk started coming back, Bill Varney had gotten everyone together and proposed his idea of doing a wagon-train number with the trailers, circling them to keep the zombies out. He'd been real smart to do it before the dead folk found their way out into the boonies. By the time the first zombies popped up, the outer perimeter of empty trailers was in place and everybody was armed to the teeth, just waiting to kick some dead ass. Luckily, they were so far out of the way that they didn't have to worry about huge bands of zombies stumbling onto them. Nobody knew they were out there.
There were only fifteen trailers in the inner circle. Most folks had up and ran once they heard what was going on, thought it'd be better to be out on the road and take their chances. Jolene couldn't understand their thin king. Surely it was better to have one safe place, with lots of guns and men and protection, than to be out there on your own.
Things weren't really so different now than they were back in the olden days, when a gun and a man were all a woman really needed. Jolene grudgingly appreciated the fact that she had one of the biggest, meanest, son-of-a-bitches in the trailer park as her man, and she liked the status that gave her among the other women. They envied her because of Jimmy Ray, and Jolene never forgot it, even when he pulled stunts like he had last night. She knew she was lucky, and she knew that it wouldn't take too awful much to change that luck.
"Hey, Bill . . . ?" She caught herself sweetening her accent, softening her voice, because she knew all too well how Bill Varney felt about women. He liked them quiet, stupid, and obedient, and woe be unto any smart-mouthed bitch that tried to stand up to him. Jolene had felt the backside of his hand many a time. Bill simply would not abide a mouthy woman.
Bill turned around, hands stuffed into the pockets of a corduroy jacket that was at least two sizes too small for his huge belly. His face puckered into irritated distaste when he saw her. "What do you want, Jolene? Ain't you got dinner to fix?"
Jolene smiled and lowered her head, keeping her eyes downcast. She knew how to play him now: be polite and sweet and maybe let him take her back to his trailer for an hour or two. She'd been with him before, back when all the men were deciding which woman they wanted, and knew exactly what she needed to do to get her way.
"Bill . . . I was just wonderin' if maybe I could go with y'all . . ." She shyly glanced up at him. "On the Sav-Mart run."
Bill snorted. "Hell, no."
She knew he was going to say that. "Well, okay . . . but Jimmy Ray's not feelin' real good and he said if I wanted I could go and take his place and-"
"And since when is Jimmy Ray Baisden the boss of this place?" Bill glared at Jolene, his jowls wobbling as his cheeks darkened. She'd never seen him look so mad before, not even the time she'd mouthed off to his wife about how bad he was in bed. "Lord God almighty," he muttered. "I swear I ought to just feed some of you to the zombies and be done with you."
"I'm sorry, Bill . . ." Jolene took a chance and moved closer to him, being sure to push out her chest and keep her expression as sorrowful as possible. "I didn't mean to get you all upset . . ."
Bill didn't say anything, but Jolene could read the look in his eye. He wanted to see how far she'd go to try to get her way. She'd expected that, too.
"Well . . . hell . . ." He hawked up a gob of phlegm and spat into the dirt. "I don't like the position you're puttin' me in, Jolene. You know I a in't able to spare nobody on one of these runs."
"I know, Bill . . ."
Bill stared at her for a minute, narrow eyes squinting even more as he sized her up. "You show up in the morning with Jimmy Ray's shotgun and all the ammo you can carry. And I want you to know that I won't hesitate to put a round between your eyes if you so much as get scratched by one of 'em fuckers. You got me?"
Jolene smiled. "I got you."
Bill nodded , then grabbed hold of Jolene's butt, never changing expressions as he glared off into the distance. "Now get your ass up to my trailer so we can work out the rest of the deal."
Jolene's smile faltered, but she managed to catch herself before the disgust showed. "Sure thing, Bill . . ."
He gave her another squeeze, then walked away, not even bothering to look at her again. But that was to be expected. That was the way things were now.
Jolene went to his trailer and waited.
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