John Zero-Zero-Two had been dead for some time now, although he didn’t realize it right away. In fact, even when he did realize it, he was in complete and utter denial. Never mind his lack of pulse, his lack of circulation, his lack of breath…he remained animated, despite his horrific appearance when he caught sight of himself in a window reflection. His muddled eyes sat in deep, recessed shadows, and there was some sort of odd, dark liquid dribbling from his desiccated mouth.
He had no memories prior to waking up, other than that he knew that alive was alive and dead was dead. That much he could be certain of. He didn’t understand how he could be both at once, and not even remember what his own name was. The only clue to his history was embossed on his plastic wristband:
JOHN (002.), BLDG 8 RM 42
He had been awake for three days straight now, stumbling through back alleyways with his pale ass hanging out of his loosely-tied hospital gown. Other people noticed him, of course, but he could only groan disparagingly when people complimented his “costume” or accused him of being a meth fiend.
He found that it was more agreeable to come out at night, when there were others like himself roaming about. He would try to converse with them, naturally, but while they humored him for a time and exchanged groans with him, eventually they would laugh at him and then ultimately, ignore his odd, persistent behavior.
Through eavesdropping and abundant advertising, he learned that it was Halloween weekend in the college town of Fort Collins, Colorado.
It was an delightful place, he decided. The local men would offer him high-fives as he stumbled across the campus of Colorado State, and the women would giggle as they caught flashes of his exposed posterior.
Someone handed him a flyer for a Halloween party. It was for that very night, at one of the nearby fraternity houses. Immediately he had visions of popped collars and plastic cups, and realized he had nothing to wear. But then he reminded himself that it was Halloween, and he’d already been complimented numerous times on his current ensemble.
At sunset, he staggered up the front drive of the hosting establishment. He stood before the house for several minutes, gazing vacantly up at its massive façade. A deep, throbbing bass emanated forth, indicating the party was well underway.
“Hey bud, aren’t you cold?” someone laughed, pointing at John’s rear as they made their way up to the front door.
“Mrrrghh ungh,” he replied wryly. Slowly and carefully, he made his way up the steps as well. Once inside, he was greeted with enthusiastic cheers, and a cup of something was thrust into his hand. He sniffed it, but was otherwise unsure of what to do with it. It didn’t seem appetizing in the least. What he was really in the mood for, however, was some meat.
John Zero-Zero-Two had not eaten since he woke up. But as it were, the holiday party seemed to be a rather large production, and an impressive display of hors d’oeuvres had been provided. He made his way through the undulating throng, and found himself impeded several times by women who were hopeful to dance with him.
“Mrraaagh,” he politely declined.
He continued pushing his way through, stringing along bits of bloody spittle as he went.
“Great makeup job!” someone called out.
By the time he finally reached the snack table, he was completely ravenous. He sloppily grasped handfuls of cocktail weenies and meatballs, shoving them shamelessly into his mouth, sending the carrots and celery sticks scattering onto the floor.
“Hey!” someone shrieked. “Is this guy drunk, or what?”
“I personally love that he’s staying in character,” a young woman drawled, sidling up beside John. She was dressed in a sultry, provocative nurse costume, and was unmistakably intoxicated; she proceeded to drape herself all over him.
“Here, let me help you get that barbecue sauce off your face.” She gave the corner of his mouth a quick, seductive lick, then tried to hide her grimace.
“Ahem, well…I think I got a taste of that fake stuff. It all sort of looks the same, you know.”
“Oh, that’s just so funny! You’ve really got it down! That’s so hot, I’ve always been a fan of the zombie genre.”
John’s head lolled in agreement.
“What’s your name?”
He held up his wrist. The girl grasped it and held it closer to her face to read the plastic band.
“John, huh? You must be a forensic pathology student. I’m down the hall in that same building.”
John lurched uncertainly, and gave a wistful glance at the Vienna sausages that had rolled across the table. He was still hungry.
“So, John, my name is Caitlin, and I think you should come upstairs with me. I desperately need to check your vitals. You seem a bit under the weather.” The young lady grinned suggestively, then took his hand and led him to the carpeted stairway.
“Goodness, you’re cold. It’s no wonder with your cute butt hanging out like that. I think Nurse Caitlin can come up with a way to warm you up.”
John remained a little too in-character, perhaps, because Caitlin began to express her frustration with the length of time it took John to stumble his way up the stairs. When they finally reached the top, she towed him into an unoccupied bedroom and closed the door.
“Whew!” she breathed heavily. John stood hunched in the center of the room, gaping blankly at the unmade bed. The young woman came into his field of view, and looped her arms around his neck. “Oh my, you’re certainly going for the full effect, aren’t you…you’ve even got the musty stench going on…”
John leaned forward and latched his teeth violently into Caitlin’s shoulder. She screamed. Blood coursed forth as he ripped the flesh free, bits of muscle and connective tissue scattering in all directions.
The incessant screaming was becoming bothersome, so on the second lunge he went for her throat. She clawed at him, scraping off bits of his rancid face as he tore through her trachea and esophagus. The screaming dulled to a wet, gurgling sound. Much more tolerable, he decided. She fell backwards onto the bed and went still eventually, and John continued to eat at his leisure until he became disinterested in the gristley bits. He made his way to the soft flesh of her abdomen and punctured the skin with his fingers. He tore out handfuls of pale, wiggling flesh and delighted in the indulgent, delicate texture. He grunted with glee when he finally reached the intestines. He pulled out the ropey organ and gnawed through it, holding it taught between two bloody fists.
After a few clumsy attempts to open the door, John finally figured out how to turn the knob. He emerged from the room and descended a few steps until he was able to view the crowd below.
He groaned at the sight of warm, tender bodies. A feeling of exhilaration surged through him, and he let loose a terrific, throaty snarl. The heaving mob paused in their dancing and grinding, and turned to look up at him. Simultaneously, they all lifted their drinks and cheered at him in response.
Another young woman made eye contact and he held her gaze, willing her to come up. To his delight, she began to mount the stairs. This one was wearing a skimpy bunny costume, which he found mildly ironic. He also found it ironic that he could recall what irony even was.
“Hi there,” she crooned. “I thought you were busy up here already, but I guess you were just touching up your makeup, huh? Very realistic; I’m impressed.”
John Zero-Zero-Two was in a rather heightened state at the moment, thick ribbons of drool and blood oozing from his chin down the front of his hospital gown. He seized the girl by the wrist, and this time he was the one doing the towing into the bedroom. He slammed the door.
“Ewwwww!” the girl exclaimed upon seeing Caitlin’s disemboweled remains on the bed. “That’s the most realistic prop I’ve ever seen!” She turned to John. “So, what’s your n—“
He went directly for the throat this time, not wasting any time. Her carotid artery exploded in his mouth as he clamped down, showering his tongue with hot blood. He ate faster this time, more ravenously.
Something interesting was happening. Somehow…the more flesh he consumed, the more clear-headed he seemed to be getting. He drank the gore, he slurped the wriggling, fatty bits. He gnawed through tendons and nibbled on bone. He chomped on fingertips and toes.
And then, he abruptly stood up.
John Zero-Zero-Two flounced down the stairs, and gracefully plucked a pair of sunglasses off a bystander’s head. He donned them, and with a suave flourish, combed his hair back with his fingers.
“Hey, Jimmy!” he called, flipping the thumbs up to a familiar fellow.
“John!” Jimmy hollered back. “Where the hell have you been?! You haven’t been returning my calls! I was starting to get worried man, you haven’t been in class for like a week!” Jimmy maneuvered his way over to John.
“Oh, I was in class.”
“Don’t bullshit me, man.”
John held up his wrist. Jimmy glanced at it, and his mouth fell open. “Did you steal one of those for your costume? That’s disgusting. Zero-zero-two, isn’t that the criminal code for homicide?”
“Someone put it on me.”
“John, the coroner only puts those on the cadavers for class.”
John looked at Jimmy.
“You’re so full of bullshit,” Jimmy scoffed.
“Alright, whatever,” John shrugged. “Hey, where’s the keg? I lost the drink someone gave me earlier.”
Jimmy directed him through the house out into the backyard.
A few moments later, there was another guttural howl from the top of the stairs. Two girls, one dressed as a sexy nurse and the other dressed as a sexy rabbit, stood above the crowd, pieces of intestine hanging free and blood frothing from their throat wounds.