Chapter 1: One
“I don’t understand why Vyvyan doesn’t have to wear a costume!” Rick complained loudly from the top of the first-floor staircase.
It was 5:30pm, the sun very nearly set; the shared house was chilly with an autumn breeze, the kind that made sleeping uncomfortable. The culprit behind the house’s lack of protection from the October weather was the students’ failure to pay the gas money. Instead, they had opted to spend it on dress up clothes that they would only wear tonight – barring their resident punk, of course. Hopefully, the material would work well as kindling down the line.
“Because I’m already scary enough as I am!” Vyvyan announced equally loudly, directly behind Rick’s right ear.
Rick jumped about a foot in the air before turning around. He glared petulantly at Vyvyan, who was laughing at him.
“It’s because he’s already scary enough as he is, Rick,” Mike reiterated from downstairs, not really sounding interested.
“Told you!” the sadistic punk taunted him, “Even Mike agrees.”
Rick glared harder.
“Vyvyan!” he shrieked, voice apparently not yet recovered from his scare, “You could have killed me then – I almost fell!”
“That would’ve been funny. Wanna go again?” Vyvyan asked, that innocently psychotic grin of his beginning to spread across his face.
“No, thank you,” Rick muttered.
He pushed past Vyvyan in an attempt to return to his bedroom and get changed. After all, the party they had seemingly wasted so much money on was starting in an hour’s time. Missing it now would not only be disappointing, it would be stupid. There was even the possibility that some of them would pick up some chics- women and then the internal coldness of the house wouldn’t matter at all! Rick had just grabbed the doorknob when he felt a harsh tug to his blazer.
“What are you going as then, poof?”
There was humour in Vyvyan’s tone but it didn’t quite mask the genuine curiosity. What was someone as girly as Rick going to dress up as for Halloween? Rick faced Vyvyan once more, this time with an air of undeserved smugness.
“If you must know, Vyvyan, a skeleton,” he told him simply.
Vyvyan barked out another laugh.
“A skeleton?” he repeated.
Rick nodded, suddenly looking not so sure of himself.
“Yes, what’s wrong with that?” he snapped testily.
“It’s a bit… revealing, isn’t it?”
Vyvyan’s eyes themselves revealed all that Rick needed to know about where his mind had just gone: straight into the gutter! Honestly, didn’t he understand metaphors at all?
“It is, actually,” Rick agreed, causing Vyvyan to stare in shock, “Revealing of the blatant fascism that’s being inflicted on society today. Soon the kids will be but skin and bone!” He ranted with the distinct wit of someone who was definitely going to become a great thinker someday – if he wasn’t already – and certainly wasn’t going to get a cushty job with the rest of the middle classes.
Vyvyan rolled his eyes and waved Rick off. Typical lefty posturing; Rick was such a poseur.
“Ha! I got you there, you pervy!” the so-called anarchist cheered after Vyvyan’s retreating figure.
A ‘v’ was visible briefly over the stair rail as Vyvyan descended, not that Rick noticed.
Chapter 2: Two
Downstairs, the sight of a zombie reading the newspapers and the most pitiful sheet ghost there had ever been greeted Vyvyan as he entered the front room. He stomped over to the kitchen table and took a seat near the suspiciously suave reanimated corpse.
“I still don’t think zombies would wear aftershave and hair gel, Michael,” he confessed.
They all really knew that the only reason Mike had decided to go as something so traditionally gross was so that he could stumble into busty women’s chests without being kneed in the bollocks… although that was still probably going to happen regardless of whether he claimed it was part of his character. Mike cracked a grin, still reading.
“Halloween’s about looking spooky, not repulsive,” he explained, “Besides, they’re giving away a prize to whoever has the best costume so no expense could be spared.”
Mike appeared as though a professional had done his makeup with how eerily dead his skin looked. Anyone else but Vyvyan would have found it mildly disturbing.
Now, that was interesting; Vyvyan might have dressed up himself if he had known that.
“Yeah. I’m not sure what it is but it’s bound to be something good,” Mike told him.
“Like booze and cash!”
“With any luck.”
“Well, that’s where your plan, like, totally falls down,” Neil chimed in from underneath the sheet, “Nothing lucky ever happens to us so this has all been a huge waste of money. Next month is gonna be really heavy and tough…” he moaned, moving away from the kitchen cupboards to sit with the other two at the table.
“Relax, Neil, I look fabulous!” Mike assured him.
Vyvyan nodded in agreement before frowning at the depressed mound of hippie.
“It doesn’t look like you’ve spent any money, anyway!” he jeered.
Neil’s rather pathetic ghost costume consisted solely of his own bedsheet – noticeably dirty though it was. The material quivered as he sighed.
“That’s because some totally negative vibe merchant stole all my savings!” he complained, “I had to loan Rick’s biro out just to draw the face and he keeps putting the interest up.”
This was nearly enough to make Vyvyan laugh. Nearly. He was currently in the mood to laugh at Rick though, not with him – as indeed was the case most of the time. What if the stuck-up skeleton should appear in the room suddenly, content with the knowledge that he had succeeded in amusing Vyvyan? Such a turn of events was intolerable and not worth the risk. Not on Halloween. So Vyvyan just nodded with disinterest.
“Well you’ve made it look sad,” he informed him.
“That’s because he’s dead!”
“But you’ve always wanted to die!”
“Not in a horrible and super painful way, which is what has happened to him, actually!” Neil insisted, “Even though, right, that’s probably what’s going to happen to me anyway because it’s like I said: bad luck.”
Vyvyan rolled his eyes at the hippie’s pessimism before something occurred to him.
“Neil, where are the holes? Can you even see me?” he asked, waving madly at him with seemingly no concept of personal space.
“I’ve got to sleep on this later, Vyv,” Neil reminded him morosely.
Vyvyan didn’t much care; any excuse to slice and dice was enough to rouse his spirits. He got up, grinning devilishly.
“I’ll go and get the scissors, shall I? Or maybe a knife!”
And that was when the doorbell rang.
The three students glanced at each other in surprise… despite the fact that it was Halloween and someone ringing the doorbell shouldn’t have been so shocking, really. Mike was the first of them to recover, going back to his newspapers as if nothing had happened. Vyvyan scrunched up his face and sat down again.
The pitiful sheet ghost got up, bumped into the table and went to open the door.
Chapter 3: Three
Back in Rick’s room, the dress-up wasn’t going entirely to plan. Ten minutes had passed since his near miss with Vyvyan on the landing and yet, here he was, stood freezing in his shorts. It wasn’t that Rick hadn’t bought a costume – it was lying rather dejectedly on his bed as proof – it was just that… well… the skeleton might not have been the only costume he had acquired last week when he went shopping…
It wasn’t his fault; all property is theft, after all. If Neil had wanted to waste his money on his own costume, despite how awfully selfish this made him, he shouldn’t have glued the notes to the underside of his wallpaper where they stuck out like sore thumbs. The bills were practically screaming to be freed from their prison and spent on more anarchic ventures than whatever boring stuff the likes of Neil could think up! Rick knew – it hadn’t been easy tearing them off the wallpaper without ripping them beyond repair. Neil was simply a fascist.
Originally, of course, Rick had meant to use the extra cash to buy himself the best Halloween costume North London had to offer. He had thought that if it was good enough then perhaps the people at the party might have been impressed and he might finally have lost his virgini- no, no, wait, no! That was probably what someone else was hoping! Someone really pathetic who obviously wasn’t Rick. Rick’s only hope – although he hadn’t given it a lot of thought, honestly – was that Dr Morrison would show up and they could talk about grown-up, sociological things.
Maybe Dr Morrison would dress up too. But as what?
The People’s Poet was suddenly brought back to reality by an involuntary shiver, undoubtedly caused by the cold and nothing else. He blushed in mild embarrassment when he realised that he had been staring, transfixed, for a peculiar amount of time into his wardrobe at what he had actually ended up spending Neil’s dirty savings on: a princess costume.
Now, such a masculine man as Rick buying an item intended for the opposite sex hadn’t been a straightforward business. In fact, Rick was only about forty-six percent sure that the shop assistant had believed his clever fib about the frilly costume being for his girlfriend.
He had kept it hidden from his housemates for the past week, though he had excuses about it being a seasonal joke all lined up just in case. Still, now that the evening had finally arrived and both costumes were in view, Rick couldn’t lie to himself about why he had bought this one.
It slipped silently from the clothes peg and into his shaky hands. Soft, although it was only a costume; its skirts tickled over his toes in an elegant trickle. Rick had to know, if only for thirty seconds. Then he would bundle it away forever and try not to be tempted again. Properly try, this time. He just had to know what it felt like against his skin, how it would look…
Afterwards he would change into the black and white skeleton body suit, generic a costume though it was in comparison. No one would ever know.
Rick took a deep breath.
Chapter 4: Four
“Trick or treat!”
There was a small child at the door, which was one of Neil’s least favourite kinds – the others being medium child and big child because he didn’t discriminate. The child, covered from top to bottom in a dark wizard’s cloak and hat, grabbed their nose in disgust.
“Eww! You stink, mister! Where’re the sweets?” he – Neil was fairly certain from the blurry view he had under the sheet – demanded.
“We don’t have any sweets; we’re going out later.”
The child stomped his foot stroppily and glared in a manner not dissimilar to Rick.
“But my grandad said you’d give me sweets if I knocked on!” he whined.
Neil frowned in confusion. What kind of grandparent would purposely send their child trick or treating to a student house? Especially one for students of Scumbag College?
“Your grandad? Who’s he?” he asked.
“Jerzei Balowski,” the child revealed with an impish grin, “Your landlord!”
The colour left Neil’s face, not that anyone could see. He turned to Vyvyan and Mike – unsurprisingly, they hadn’t been paying attention to the events at the door – and cupped his hands over the sad mouth he had drawn over the sheet.
“Mr Balowski’s grankid wants some sweets!” he stage whispered at them.
They both barely moved.
“Well give him some, then!” Mike called back.
“We haven’t got any!” Neil replied, panic seeping into his tone.
Mike got up once he heard this, newspapers discarded across the kitchen table, and scooched around Neil to address the child directly. He was noticeably taller than the angry thing but the height difference wasn’t quite as intimidating as it could have been had he had Neil’s body. On the other hand, all that zombie makeup should have made an impression.
The child didn’t flinch.
“Look, kid,” Mike tried to reason, “You’ve come to the wrong house. Jerzei Balowski isn’t our landlord, you hear? Try that house – the one on the other side of London, alright?”
He tried to close the door but found it blocked by a doc marten.
“No, this is the right house!” the child insisted.
Mike sighed and opened the door again, gesturing for Neil to return inside. He was just going to have to lay it straight, wasn’t he? None of them had time for this and he didn’t recall anything about feeding bratty grandchildren in their rental agreement. Come to think of it, Mike hadn’t known the grandchildren even existed.
“What’s your name?” he asked in as friendly a voice as he could muster.
“Bobby,” the child replied, “Bobby Balowski.”
“Well, Bobby, it seems you and I have got an issue here because you want sweets and we ain’t supplying. Know what I mean?”
Mike was getting tired of this entire conversation; it was bad enough dealing with this kind of attitude from some of his housemates, he didn’t need it from outside sources too. Unfortunately, Bobby clearly wasn’t up for playing ball.
“It’s either a trick or a treat, dead man,” he threatened in the squeaky pitch of all pre-pubescent boys. Truly terrifying.
Once Mike realised that the disconcerting nickname was in reference to his costume, he laughed at the child and went to close the door for good.
“Do your worst, kid, just remember: I know where the biscuits are kept.”
“Wasn’t that a little, like, unwise, Mike? I mean, isn’t he bound to tell on us now?” Neil questioned fretfully once Mike was back in the kitchen.
“No, no,” Mike dismissed his worries with a wave of his hand, sitting down and collecting his disorganised papers, “I had to, Neil, he was irritating me.”
Vyvyan nodded sagely.
“Personally, I’d have stolen his bag of sweets and chucked them down the road. That way he’d be far too busy collecting all the pieces to bother us!” he cheered, laughing at his own ingenuity.
“I still think he’s going to tell on us…” Neil grumbled.
Nothing of note – in Vyvyan’s view – then happened until a few minutes later, when Neil unexpectedly dropped the cup of tea he had decided to make himself after dealing with the negative vibes from the Balowski child. This wasn’t quite important enough to gain the punk’s attention on its own, however Neil’s pathetic ghost sheet falling to the floor did attract his gaze long enough for him to notice something deeply and incredibly wrong. He scrunched his face up in confusion.
“Neil, how come I can see the kettle through your torso?”
An answer never came for it was at this moment that Mike decided to propel himself across the table, wrinkling his newspapers and groaning horribly. His hands were grasping at Vyvyan, almost clawing. Vyvyan stood up immediately.
“M-Michael?!” he stuttered out, in some form of shock.
Again, no answer. Mike continued to claw at thin air and groan like a pained animal.
“Oh my god, Vyvyan!” Neil wailed, “I think we’ve died!”
Chapter 5: Five
The noisy commotion at the front door had permeated upstairs but Rick hadn’t been aware. His ears must have registered it on some level but his mind was completely oblivious. There was a reason for this.
It hadn’t taken long to put on but it was obvious that the princess dress wasn’t meant for everyday wear, mostly by how extravagant it was – frilly lace and bows; multiple layered, poofy skirt and shoulders; that stitching across the chest that all the birds in medieval dramas seemed to have; silky sleeves. And it was pink. Very pink. Princess pink.
Everything was just so… soft… against Rick’s body. Soft and freeing, if he was honest. Rick felt calmer and yet somehow more excited in dresses. He had known this for some time now; it was his dangerous, little secret. It was especially the case, apparently, with this dress. Things never felt so bad when he had a dress on; it was only after he had taken it off and gone back to real life that the deep sense of shame and fear would kick in.
Why did he like wearing dresses? What was wrong with him? Rick couldn’t answer these questions, not at the moment.
The young poet was admiring his figure in the mirror – trying to ignore the scrawny, hairy legs and flat chest that shattered the illusion – when the noise downstairs finally reached a crescendo and interrupted his fantasies.
“Ruddy inconsiderate…” he muttered to himself.
He opened his bedroom door and marched over to the staircase, forgetting that his housemates couldn’t see him like this and that he was the one actually holding them up.
“I’ll be down in a minute! Blummin’ flip! Try some patience, why don’t you?”
Hmm… that didn’t sound right, did it? Was his voice cracking again? This wasn’t fair! Rick returned to his room hastily, attempting to clear his throat and not quite sure what had possessed him to leave in the first place.
Then he caught his reflection in the mirror and the universe froze.
“Cripes! What have I inhaled!?!” he panicked.
His voice sounded higher again. Feminine. This was insane! Vyvyan must have left some sort of naughty powder in his room for a joke. Or maybe it had been Neil? Yes, Neil’s revenge for Rick’s perfectly reasonable liberation of his money! He rushed towards the mirror and gawped at it. Well, at himself.
He had… jugs.
And hairless legs.
Or did he? On closer inspection Rick found that a pair of light coloured tights had miraculously slid up his legs without his knowing – and a pair of dainty, pink slippers to his feet! Bloody hell! He looked back up and very nearly yelled out in shock at his face: it was not that it wasn’t him, it was simply that something had changed. More than something.
For starters, those horrid spots had vanished. Rick brought an unsteady hand up to touch his cheek and found himself choking on a gasp at how soft it felt; it hadn’t been that way since his childhood.
Did this mean… he was… pretty?
His hair had changed too. No longer was it part greasy, part over dry from lack of proper care – no – it suddenly had a shine to it. A glossy shine. His ratty plaits seemed to have grown unnaturally quickly in the last couple of minutes, as well. Irrespective of the laws of causality, they had both thickened and were resting around his shoulders, tickling ever so slightly. By Cliff – even the poorly dyed strip of green hair at the front now radiated a sort of fashionable glow!
Rick couldn’t think. To be fair, none of this made any sense.
There was a soft thudding sound behind him. Caught off guard, he whipped around to see an unknown white object resting by the foot of his bed. What was it? His eyes were drawn upwards, on to the bed, where they locked on to one of the ghastliest sights the anarchist had ever seen.
“OH MY GOD! MURDER! HELP!” Rick screeched higher than he ever had before – and this was saying something.
Instinctively, not caring that the others might find him, he bolted from the room. He had to; he couldn’t stay whilst a human skeleton lay there grinning at him! It would give him even more nightmares than he was already going to have! Cold air brushed his tight-ridden legs as he dashed across the first-floor landing. This wasn’t such an unfamiliar feeling. The air rose up, up-
Rick stopped dead in his tracks and stumbled to the floor. Oh god. His stomach went all funny.
His knob was gone.
Chapter 6: Six
This was bad. Vyvyan wasn’t usually one for panicking – usually he was the one who had caused the panic in the first place – but then this situation wasn’t usual in any sense of the word. Mike was still groaning and moaning, not answering when his housemates tried to get him to speak. What the hell was wrong with him!?
“We are, Vyv, we really are dead!”
Neil was still wailing too, which was getting on Vyvyan’s already frayed nerves. The punk was a force of chaos; he wasn’t supposed to be the calming influence in a room! There was certainly no universe in which he could envisage himself being a reassuring force for… well, anyone! With some irritation, Vyvyan turned to the hippie and balked at how translucent he looked. Normally, a distressed Neil wouldn’t have bothered him but, with something clearly wrong with Mike as well, there was nothing funny about this.
“I’ve died and become, like, a-a-a ghost!” Neil told him hysterically, waving his arms around and through the cupboards as if to prove his point, “See?”
He stuck a hand into Vyvyan’s chest.
“Get off!” Vyvyan snapped at him automatically.
“But I’m not on you – I’m in you!”
Vyvyan stared down at the half of Neil’s arm he could see protruding from his Motörhead shirt and pulled away in disgust.
“Then get out of me!”
He shuddered, slightly from the nasty mental images their conversation had brought up but mostly since having Neil touch him – was that even the right word? – made his chest feel cold. It wasn’t the ordinary brr-I’ve-just-eaten-all-the-ice-cream-from-Tesco’s-freezer-section cold, it felt deeper than that. If he had been poofy – and he wasn’t – Vyvyan might have described the sensation as his soul shrivelling, if only temporarily. As it was, Vyvyan was sure he didn’t have something as girly as a soul so that line of thinking was completely pointless.
“UGGGHHHHHHRRRR!” said Mike, who probably didn’t have a soul either.
He had apparently just discovered that he could go around the table to reach Vyvyan and was now charging towards him… albeit rather slowly and with a pronounced limp.
“Mike, stop it!” Vyvyan almost begged him, despite how pathetic it was.
“He’s dead!” Neil reiterated, “He’s turned into a zombie for real! Oh god, this is such bad karma! I should have dressed up as a lentil.”
The true severity of the situation clicked for Vyvyan when Mike finally reached him. Up until that point, a part of him had been secretly holding out for the other man to start laughing and explain to him how this was all a joke.
But he didn’t.
The makeup that had seemed cool before suddenly reminded Vyvyan awfully of the pictures of decomposing corpses he had been shown in medical class. Mike’s eyes were unfocussed, as if he wasn’t really seeing anything. Vyvyan tried one last time.
“Michael?” he asked quietly.
The shorter man’s neck made a nasty cracking sound that made Neil whimper as he turned to look up at Vyvyan.
Alright, Mike could definitely see him. Query settled.
Vyvyan stumbled backwards, careful not to end up with Neil inside him – or with himself inside Neil – again.
“Y’know, I think you were wrong, Neil,” he remarked with a nervous laugh, coughing slightly as he inhaled the smell of rotting flesh, “I don’t think we are all dead. At least, not yet.”
Neil was too busy muttering about dark energies and upsetting the powers that be to have been paying much attention. He wasn’t even phased that Vyvyan was using his softer voice, the one he reserved for when things really were getting very serious indeed. To be frank, Vyvyan might as well have been talking to himself. This was made all the more worrying by Mike advancing faster than before towards the punk. He was being backed into a corner with limited options. A disturbingly feral hunger danced in Mike’s eyes.
“OH MY GOD! MURDER! HELP!” someone with a rather girly voice screamed from upstairs.
Vyvyan’s heart skipped a beat: Rick – Rick was upstairs, wasn’t he? Putting on his stupid skeleton costume. Oh no. Not another one. The sound distracted Mike for a moment, long enough for Vyvyan to grab an unwashed frying pan from the surfaces.
“Right, uh,” the punk started, cracking his knuckles, “This is going to hurt you a lot more than it’ll hurt me… I bloody hope…”
“What are you doing?” Neil asked, the last to catch on as usual.
“I’m not standing here and getting eaten is what I’m doing, Neil!” Vyvyan flared up.
Mike made one last lurch towards him and that was when he struck – hard and fast around the zombie’s head. Vyvyan did have to admit, the sound of metal on skull made him wince more than it normally did but then he hadn’t done something like this to Mike before.
“Vyvyan!” Neil admonished in horror, “That’s Mike!”
The punk took his opportunity and darted across the kitchen to relative safety. He glanced back over at the ghostly figure and scowled, purposely ignoring the louder sounding moans issuing from the mess of discoloured limbs on the floor. Did Neil think he had wanted to do that? It wasn’t like he had much choice!
“What did you expect me to do?! I didn’t hear any alternative solutions from you, hippie!” he spat.
“That’s because you never asked!” Neil fired back pitifully, “None of you ever ask for my opinion on anything ever, right, so I guess I should be used to it by now-”
Vyvyan yelled out in frustration – and to get Neil to shut up.
“Stop feeling so sorry for yourself for one second, bum-bag, and bloody move! He’ll probably be up in a minute!” he all but screamed at him.
Neil’s demeanour didn’t seem to change much but at least he obliged; Vyvyan was thundering up the stairs when the hippie’s sulky head emerged from the cracked wall on his right. The punk stopped in his tracks and stared as the rest of the body floated through after. Truthfully, it was one of the least discombobulating things that had happened this evening yet that still didn’t make it much more comforting than the uneasy sensation of reattaching your head to your neck. And Vyvyan would know.
“What?” Neil questioned touchily, “I’m a ghost, remember?”
Vyvyan nodded and carried on upwards, making sure to remain a good few inches away from Neil and his coldness at all times. This proved difficult when the ghost stopped suddenly at the first-floor. When Vyvyan peered through his midsection, the reason for this became a tad clearer.
“Vyv… there’s a chic,” he whispered.
Somehow, some way, through something – there was. Vyvyan jutted his head to the side to get a better look, temporarily forgetting the real danger he was and grinning. The ‘chic’, as Neil had put it, was wearing a fancy pink dress and was sat in the middle of the landing. If the way her legs were splayed out was anything to go by, Vyvyan would have bet that she had fallen over. But how did she get into the house in the first place?
At Neil’s voice, she had turned almost fearfully to face the two students. Vyvyan felt the grin slip right off his face.
His eyes met the mysterious girl’s and his stomach began to churn. He would have recognised that distressed downward turn of the mouth anywhere. He should do, he was usually the cause of it!
“Neil?” he intoned. His eyes never left the girl’s face.
Chapter 7: Seven
The thing about being discovered in a dress by one’s housemates is that it never happens in a predictable way. Rick had close to no control over this situation and that bothered him, perhaps even more than the unnerving yet glaringly obvious truth that Vyvyan had recognised him almost instantly while Neil had not. Useless hippie. Or was Vyvyan just too observant?
There was a silence between the three of them now where Rick couldn’t figure out what to say. He wanted to speak – Cliff knows he wanted to – but he couldn’t. There was no escape; no easy way out. He couldn’t bullshit his way out of this one. Not easily. Certainly not believably. Rick had been caught in the worst possible situation he could think of and now he would have to pay. Ruddy hell. Ruddy, ruddy hell!
“Oh, wow…” Neil eventually remarked, “You’re right, it is Rick!”
A spark flickered back to life somewhere inside the poet. Of course, it was a spark fuelled by anger.
“Shut up, Neil!” he snapped, rising somewhat shakily to his feet, “It doesn’t make you clever or anything, you know, there’s a perfectly rational explanation for… this…”
He gestured vaguely to himself, concerting all his effort into not cringing. Neil frowned. Vyvyan was still staring at him, humiliating though it was.
“Well… yeah,” Neil agreed, “I mean, you must have been dressed up as a princess when all the bad karma hit.”
Rick felt as though someone had shot him in the spine.
“No!” he protested squeakily, “That’s not true! It’s not! What on earth would I be doing that for!? The royal family are fascists!”
Ha! That was a good point, wasn’t it? Why would someone as rebellious as Rick definitely was try to emulate one of them? It didn’t make any sense! Unfortunately, Rick had forgotten that – being the complete teacup that he was – Neil didn’t understand sense. The hippie moved forwards and Rick gulped loudly when he noticed that he was floating.
“That’s not what I-”
“Why can I see Vyvyan on the other side of you!? Get away!” he demanded, hurrying backwards until he hit the shaky wall and flinched.
Neil crossed his sickeningly translucent arms in offence.
“That’s really zen of you, Rick – yeah, don’t worry about my feelings or anything, I’ve only died-”
“What!? And we still have to put up with your moaning!?”
“This isn’t a joke, man! I’m a real ghost!”
Neil sounded tremendously sorry for himself, which was typical of him. It was as if he thought he had the raw deal here! He was so focussed on his own self obsessiveness that he even had the gall to try and touch Rick’s exposed left arm. He shivered at the horrible sensation.
“You selfish bastard, I never consented to this! Help! Neil’s trying to suck the life force out of me!” Rick wailed like a baby.
Quite suddenly, Vyvyan sprang into action and stomped over – going straight through Neil. He shuddered violently but otherwise ignored the negative reaction he received from the dead hippie for messing with his spiritual boundaries. Rick watched Vyvyan suspiciously; the punk’s expression was indecipherable although he did look as though something was troubling him. Before Rick had the chance to ask what – wittily, of course - Vyvyan had lifted up his huge skirt and was grabbing his crotch.
Forget feeling shot in the spine, Rick might as well have been shot in the chest from the shock it gave him! It wasn’t as if Vyvyan was particularly gentle, either; in a way, Rick supposed he was lucky to be missing certain features down there! The punk’s face immediately morphed into a grin of sadism coupled with fascination and Rick could have sworn he heard him chuckle. He finally removed his hand some lengthy milliseconds later, allowing his victim to breathe again.
“I knew it!” he declared smugly, “You don’t have a-”
Then Rick pounced at him and the two knew nothing but dusty floorboards and the other’s angry limbs for the next few minutes. Vague pleas for them to stop were emanating from Neil’s general direction but there was nothing he could do about their fighting. Maybe he could have tried to freak them out again by sticking his hands through their waists or something but, in all honesty, Neil was fast discovering that attempting to touch the living wasn’t entirely painless for him either: they felt hot, only bearable for a short amount of time. Especially Vyvyan. Especially Vyvyan walking through him with no warning or apology or anything.
“Uh, guys?” he tried more desperately, “Guys, I hate to be the bearer of bad news but, like, I think you really should stop-”
“Aha!” Vyvyan cried out triumphantly, effectively silencing Neil.
The punk was sat on top of Rick, pinning his arms above his head as he struggled in vain.
“G-get off me!” Rick demanded.
He was unable to hide the slight tremor in his voice, something that made Vyvyan grin evermore wickedly.
“No, you big girly!” he cackled.
“I am not a girl!”
Tears and fire shone in Rick’s eyes. He continued his stubborn struggle against Vyvyan and somehow managed to free a knee so that he could bring it up swiftly between his tormentor’s legs. Vyvyan winced – although only slightly – and rolled aside. If Rick had managed to hurt him then the spotty bastard must have been quite riled up. Couldn’t he take a joke? It had been his decision to dress up like a poof!
Vvyvan stood up moodily – subconsciously noting that the prick’s spots had actually vanished along with his knob – and was about to restart with a verbal fight when Mike launched himself from seemingly nowhere on to Rick.
“ARGHHHHHHHH! WHAT THE RUDDY HELL IS WRONG WITH MICHAEL!?!?” Rick screamed, fully thrashing about now but accomplishing very little.
“That’s what I was trying to tell you about!” Neil panicked, “Oh heavy, heavy, heavy! Rick’s going to be eaten by Mike-”
“Neil, shut it-”
“-or even worse: turned into a zombie too!”
“WHAT!?!? VYVYAN!! HELP!! I’M TOO YOUNG TO DIE!!!!”
The punk rolled his eyes in frustration at how pathetic everyone was. It wasn’t brilliant that Mike had found his way upstairs so quickly but screaming about it until they were all dead wasn’t going to help. Or maybe it would? Being eaten to death was probably quite an exciting way to go, now that Vyvyan thought about it. That said, he would have preferred it happened to Rick than him… he also would have preferred that Mike wasn’t the hungry zombie doing it but that was a different matter.
“VYV-Y-AN!!!” Rick was still screeching like a banshee.
Was Vyvyan going to let Mike eat him!? The smell alone was enough to almost knock Rick out for the count and then he would be truly scuppered!
“BAHHHHHRRRRRR!!!” Mike growled at him.
He seemed uncomfortably fixated on Rick’s newly enlarged breasts.
“Yes, yes, here I am!”
The weight was suddenly removed and Rick could breathe more easily again. Vyvyan was holding Mike up by the scruff of his collar as if it was nothing, which was ever so slightly terrifying. He was trying his damnedest to appear nonchalant but Rick could see the contained nervousness in his posture. He could pick up on such little things when most interactions he had with Vyvyan involved being physically attacked.
“What are we gonna do now, Vyv?” Neil asked, “This is really starting to bring me down!”
“Oh, what a pity for you!” Rick snarked as he got up and dusted his dress off, scowling at the hippie.
Vyvyan took note of how dishevelled Rick looked – hair ruffled; face red; dress rumpled – and realised that Rick hadn’t changed all that much… apart from the obvious things. What was most concerning was that Vyvyan’s stomach hadn’t stopped churning since he had first seen him in that ridiculous dress. Was this weird curse affecting him too? He hadn’t even dressed up!
“URGHHHHHHHH!!!” said Mike.
Ah yes, he was still hanging there.
“Would someone be so considerate as to explain to me what in the name of Cliff Richard is going on!?” Rick snapped peevishly.
He was mainly aiming this question at the punk, arms wrapped around his larger than usual chest defensively. He always had to get so stroppy! Mike had barely touched him!
“It’s got nothing to do with Cliff Richard, Rick,” Neil told him with a confused frown.
That was all they needed: Cliff bloody Richard bursting through the door and Rick passing out in his arms like the soppy poof he was. The churning in Vyvyan’s stomach grew worse. Argh!
Rick looked poised to speak again and Vyvyan didn’t think he could bare anymore of this inane conversation – for starters, Mike was now attempting to twist himself around and bite off Vyvyan’s arm. Something had to be done. Now.
“Michael?” he sighed, “I’m incredibly sorry.”
With that admission, he threw the wriggling zombie into Neil’s bedroom and slammed the door shut behind him.
Chapter 8: Eight
Everyone erupted into shouts, directed at Vyvyan.
“BLOODY HELL! SHUT UP, YOU WHINEY GIRLS!” he roared back.
That silenced them, the sound of Mike pawing at the door the only other noise audible. Vyvyan sighed and tried to think. Only for a moment. Where did they go from here? Realistically? It was gone 6pm by now so there was no point setting out for the party now – not that there was a clock anywhere nearby to confirm this. Although, even if there had been, Vyvyan wouldn’t have been able to read it. And with no Mike here to come up with some solution…
“Umm-” Neil clearly wanted his attention, apprehensive though he sounded.
“What?” Vyvyan muttered.
“It’s just… why did you have to throw him into my room?” he moaned.
Vyvyan rolled his eyes until he thought they might fall out of his head.
“Well it’s obvious, isn’t it?” he told him.
“Yeah! Yours was closest, hippie!”
“That’s a lie, Vyvyan! You were stood next to Rick’s room when you picked Mike up!”
Rick spluttered in outrage.
“There’s no way I’m having horrible, pervy zombies in my bedroom, thank you very much!”
Vyvyan would have thumped Rick for speaking ill of Mike but – even he had to admit – the cool person wasn’t currently at his best.
“And he could have all sorts of girly things in there!” he pointed out.
“Mike would probably like it then!” Neil fired back.
“Excuse me!? Girly things!?”
This was probably not the best time for Rick to defend his masculinity… but try telling him that. The punk groaned and pushed the silly prick over to try and defuse some of his frustration.
“VYVYAN!” the People’s Poet screeched, not enjoying his third meeting with the floorboards.
“Look, just shut up! Both of you! Mike’s gonna break out of there sooner or later-” Rick and Neil both started squirming at this point, “-and I can’t figure out what to do with you two annoying me!”
There was a sniff of indignance from Rick as he got up. He glared at Neil, as if this was all his fault, dusting off his dress once more.
“It makes sense for Mike to go in your room anyway,” he sniped, “You’re dead.” He sounded proud of himself for coming up with this reason. “And – shut up, Neil – and we couldn’t possibly use my room because there’s a dead body in there.”
This snapped Vyvyan out of his hopeless attempt of forming a sensible plan.
“A dead body!” Rick repeated, suddenly mightily uncomfortable, "A skeleton!"
Ah yes. The whole reason Vyvyan had decided to come upstairs in the first place, not that Rick needed to know: he had heard screams of “murder”. A smirk danced across his lips.
“Finally snapped did you, poof? Your boyfriend say a few too many mean things about Cliff Wichard?” he teased him, unsure of exactly why he had suggested that Rick had a boyfriend but enjoying the confusing rush of adrenaline it gave him nonetheless.
“No, I don’t have a boyfriend!” Rick protested.
He was trying his very best to make his Rs actually sound like Rs but his failure to do so didn’t surprise him – or anyone else, for that matter – at all. The anarchist grumbled.
“I don’t know how it got there… I don’t even know if it’s a he, Vyvyan, so don’t be so sexist!”
“It’s probably just the one Vyv nicked from college,” Neil offered with unnatural optimism.
He floated over to the bedroom door and stuck his head through it; something that made Rick turn a shade greener and Vyvyan cock his head in fascination. It had to be said – now the hippie’s ghostlinesss had become a more established fact, Vyvyan's curiosity about the mechanics was growing. Could he pass through any substance? Were there other ghosts nearby? Could he conjure up green plasma and fire it at Rick? All equally important questions that deserved physical answers.
“Oh no! It’s not a fake – it’s a real skeleton!” Neil cried out, shooting backwards from the door as if it had scalded him.
Vyvyan furrowed his brow. Oh wait.
“This is such bad karma, you guys! Rick, man, why did you kill him!?”
The hippie seemed well and truly freaked out.
“I didn’t kill anyone!” Rick insisted, affronted.
“It’s true, he didn’t,” Vyvyan spoke up, not liking that was agreeing with the poet again, “Rick – be honest here or I’ll set Mike on you – did you buy a skeleton costume?”
A look of horror blossomed on Rick’s face. The kind that Vyvyan saw whenever he knew Rick was ready to shit his pants if necessary.
“I-I did, I swear, I-”
That was all the punk needed to know.
“Well, that explains it then,” he declared.
“God, do I have to do all the thinking ‘round here? You’ve all turned into the stupid costumes you were gonna wear to the party tonight, right?”
“I was not-”
“It doesn’t matter. All that’s happened is your skeleton costume’s been affected too,” he paused and grinned at the shocked looking Rick, “You should count yourself lucky you weren’t wearing it when this happened, bogey-bum, might’ve been a bit more revealing than you bargained for!”
A square would have assumed that it was Rick’s new genitalia and enlarged breasts that were causing him to swallow slowly and sway slightly on his feet at the realisation of the fate he almost had to endure. However, Vyvyan was not a square and he knew that Rick in any form would have reacted in the same melodramatic way. He ignored him. Neil appeared to have been thinking.
“Maybe we could use the bones as protection against Mike,” he suggested.
“Oh! And I suppose you think disrespecting human remains is perfectly alright do you, Neil?” Rick snapped at him instantly, proving that Vyvyan had been right not to worry about him.
“What do you mean, ‘we’?” the punk asked, “You can’t help!”
Neil sulked momentarily.
“Well that’s hardly my fault,” he reasoned.
“You could have bought a better costume!”
“No I couldn’t, Vyvyan, I told you – someone stole all my savings!”
Vyvyan did notice Rick looking suspiciously shiftier than usual in the moments before Mike rattled the door more aggressively than he had been doing. The punk and the princess caught each other’s gazes.
“Right. Do you wanna get the bones then?”
“Sounds like a terrific idea to me, matey.”
They dashed into Rick’s bedroom and began grappling over femurs and collar bones. The ribcage was cracked apart – by Vyvyan – and individual ribs divided more or less equally between the two of them. They were running out of places to store their ammunition when a fight broke out over who should get the skull.
“This is my bedroom and my… costume… I should get it, it’s only fair!”
“Do you want to die? If I let you have it, you’ll be too busy whimpering over how ‘scary’ it looks or something else that only virgins would worry about to actually throw it!”
“That’s not true! And- wait a second, what do you mean ‘something else that only virgins would worry about’!? What are you implying!?”
Rick’s impression of Vyvyan was less than stellar, at least in the punk’s eyes. This meant that it wasn’t half bad really. Still, fights over Rick’s obvious virginity could be kept for another day.
“Rick, you can’t even look at it! How do you expect to aim properly?”
The prissy anarchist exhaled rather angrily and made a point of looking above, below, to the left of and to the right of the skull, which was resting on his pillow. He turned to Vyvyan smugly.
The punk grabbed the skull and gave Rick an incredulous shake of the head. Rick was cut off from responding to this injustice by Neil floating into view by the doorway.
“Mike’s nearly out!” he warned them.
In fact, within the few seconds it took them to leave Rick’s bedroom, Mike was more than nearly out: he was out, out!
“Thanks a lot for the head start, Neil!” Rick berated him.
The sight of the fourth housemate eyeing at least two of them like Christmas dinner was disconcerting, to say the least. He was completely blocking their exit: the staircase. Not a great start. Was he drooling too? Vyvyan cringed for him. Rick was shaking in the punk’s peripheral vision but he didn’t call him out for it – after all, it was likely he was reacting to this in the same fashion.
Mike began his undead gamble towards them. He grunted.
“Now!” Vyvyan yelled.
A bodyful – literally – of bones soared across the landing. Some of them hit, some of them didn’t; it would be unnecessarily unfair to point out who was more successful. The one lucky break both did get however was when a lower spine to the head made Mike stumble to the side, leaving the pathway to the stairs unblocked.
“BLUMMIN’ RUN, VYVYAN, QUICKLY!” Rick basically screamed at him.
Not needing asking twice, he led the charge downstairs. Mike swiped briefly at Neil as he passed by, obviously gaining nothing. This didn’t stop the hippie from complaining about how cold Mike felt compared to Vyvyan and Rick and that this might be the worse sensation.
“Shut up, Neil!” both of them snapped.
Once the limited sanctity of the ground floor had been reached, leaving the house became the first prerogative. Vyvyan pulled and yanked at the front door whilst Rick banged and kicked at the drawing room windows. They wouldn’t open; they were trapped.
“I don’t understand!” Rick wailed, gulping in breaths after attacking a window so viciously and not even being granted a scratch, “Why can’t we get out!?” He was beginning to sound upset.
Neil moaned in an oddly phantom like way from next to the sofa.
“We really have been cursed!”
Vyvyan swore loudly and hurled the skull against the stubborn door – a mistake. It went flying off backwards, landing beyond his view.
“OPEN UP, YOU BASTAR-”
His voice suddenly died in his throat.
A chilly, almost moist hand had a firm grip on his upper right arm. His better arm. Vyvyan turned his head to see Mike with a rib sticking out of his nose. Truthfully, Vyvyan couldn’t tell whether this was hilarious or terrifying. He smiled uneasily at the hungry creature and felt a cold sweat break out along his back. Well, this wasn’t how he had envisaged himself going out.
The punk spoke in a very quiet voice. Some would say scared.
Chapter 9: Nine
Vyvyan’s heartbeat was a comforting sound to him most of the time. It was a reassurance that he was in fact alive and could feel; usually anger, if his heart was beating this loudly. It had been a long time since the thudding had signified fear in the punk. A long time indeed.
The seconds ticked by torturously slowly. Of course, this wasn’t helped by the fact that Mike was also moving torturously slowly. Surely, any minute now, something bad was bound to happen. What would it be like? Bloody. Painful. Exciting? Vyvyan couldn’t help it; violence was almost as natural to him as breathing, even if he was the one getting hurt.
It was just… he hadn’t ever imagined Mike would hurt him. Kill him.
Apparently, the universe hadn’t imagined that either. The grip on his upper arm was suddenly and somewhat violently released as the zombie went tumbling to the ground with a pained grunt. Vyvyan looked across the hall in shock to see an extremely pale Rick clutching remnants of broken skull in his hands. He was shaking, his chest heaving – and that observation wasn’t Vyvyan being pervy.
“I told you I should have taken the ruddy skull!”
Rick appeared to be screaming hysterically at him but his voice was too faint, like Vyvyan was hearing it through water. Maybe Rick had become a master of whisper yelling in the last few seconds or maybe it was the continuing thump of the punk’s heart in his ears that was blocking out reality? Who could tell?
“Don’t just stand there and gawp at me like a braindead pig, Vyvyan!”
The girly poof was right in his face now. How had that happened?
Why did his eyes look so shiny?
“Are you about to cry?”
It wasn’t the best first line to come out with to the person who had saved Vyvyan from the dinner plate – it sounded like he was insulting Rick, even if his voice lacked its usual taunting tone. Rick took the question in offence, as was only natural.
“I just saved your blummin’ life and you still try and tear me down! You bastard!”
No, there were definitely tears in Rick’s eyes, Vyvyan could see them. He didn’t understand why the wannabe anarchist was so upset. He hated Vyvyan. Shouldn’t he have found the prospect of Mike chowing down on him amusing at least? In fact, why had he stepped up to help at all? Rick was by far the most cowardly member of the house.
The thumping stopped and Vyvyan’s confusing thoughts cleared as if they had never been there in the first place. That had hurt. More than Rick’s knee to his bollocks earlier had. What was with him tonight? It couldn’t be the dress, could it? Vyvyan was certain that Rick had at least one more hidden away in that room of his and yet it had never produced results like this. Rick was angry.
Not just synthetically angry this time.
“Ow! What was that for!?” Vyvyan snapped at him, more by reflex than genuine annoyance.
His right cheek stung from where Rick’s hand had connected with it. The People’s Poet looked fit to burst with rage and Vyvyan didn’t know why he wasn’t punching him back even harder for the slight against him.
“Guys!” Neil yelled at them from across the room.
They both jumped. Why was everyone getting so wound up? Bit of a stupid question; not that it was Vyvyan’s first that night, he supposed.
“What, Neil, what!? Will slapping Vyvyan ‘round the head give me bad karma?” Rick mocked the hippie, “Will all the little lentils start to cry?”
Neil’s ever-present frown lines deepened considerably. He floated over to his roommates and it was only when he didn’t stop that Vyvyan realised what he was about to do.
“Right, you’ve left me, like, no choice!” Neil warned them, reminiscent of a parent reprimanding their children.
He passed through the both of them as if they weren’t there, causing Rick to shriek and Vyvyan to finally punch out. Unfortunately, his only victim was the already dented wall. Rick hurried away from Neil towards the sofa and Vyvyan followed him, if only because he preferred Rick’s unexplained fury and ear-shattering volume to Neil’s bloody freezing death magic.
“Neil, try that again and I’ll turn the hoover on,” Vyvyan threatened him in a low voice.
It was hypocritical for the punk to be mad when he had walked through the ghost earlier on but that had been on his terms so that made it okay. Probably. Rick didn’t say anything. Vyvyan noticed he was rubbing his arms in some desperate bid to warm up. Had he forgotten about their lack of gas?
“I didn’t do it because I wanted to!” Neil insisted, “I was trying to remind you that – even though, right, Rick hitting Mike with that skull sorta stunned him – he’s still only right there and he can just get up again and-”
Mike had gotten up again.
There was a whimpering sound that signified to Vyvyan that Rick’s uncharacteristic courage had dissipated. They were fast running out of options here with Mike; if they couldn’t get out of the house and away from him, they needed to somehow incapacitate him more permanently. At least long enough for Vyvyan to figure out what the buggering hell to do to fix this. He was, at the end of the day, studying to become a doctor of some sort… wait… what did that matter?
“I HAVE AN IDEA!”
And Vyvyan did.
“It’s about bloody time!” Rick shouted.
Vyvyan took a half-arsed swing at him but his heart wasn’t in it and Rick easily dodged.
“So what’s this great idea then?” the poet pressed.
“I never said it was great,” Vyvyan backtracked slightly.
Mike had almost reached the sofa; that rib, against all odds, was still stuck in one of his nostrils. Rick grabbed on to Vyvyan with some urgency.
“I don’t care! What are we going to do about Michael!?” he asked.
In other circumstances – ones where they weren’t about to be eaten alive and Rick hadn’t just saved his life – Vyvyan may well have laughed at Rick’s rather poofy knee-jerk reaction. As it was, having another body trembling against him reassured the punk that perhaps he wasn’t the most scared person here, which was a relief and a half.
“We’ve got to lock him in the cellar,” Vyvyan explained, backing away from the sofa now and taking Rick with him.
“What!? You mean we’ve got to… touch him!?” Rick spluttered.
“But what if he… bites me?”
Rick’s voice had grown unusually quiet, causing Vyvyan to sigh in exasperation.
“Then you’ll turn into a big, ugly poof who drools at the sight of human flesh,” he told him, “Really, Rick, what’s the difference from you now?”
This jibe seemed to irk Rick enough for him to let go of the punk. He glared childishly at him, though any retort he had in mind remained unspoken. A smirk blossomed on Vyvyan’s face. Sometimes it was too easy!
Evidently, not today. Vyvyan sprang into action and charged at Mike. There was a brief moment of relief where the zombie actually looked shocked at this sudden movement but as soon as Vyvyan was grappling to restrain his arms, the tables turned.
“Rick! Get over here and help me!” Vyvyan demanded as Mike attempted to bite his wrists.
The People’s Poet cowered from the other side of the sofa.
“B-but you managed just fine on your own earlier on!” he reasoned feebly.
It was pathetic. What, did Rick expect Vyvyan to do everything? Well, of course he did. People had been doing things for Rick his whole life, hadn’t they? Why should a situation where he could very possibly die change his mind?
“Rick, man, that’s really uncool,” Neil piped up from the hallway, “What if you don’t help him and then Mike bites his arm off or something, right, and then he bleeds to death and it’s all your fault. Then you’ll have blood on your hands!”
Vyvyan rolled his eyes at the implication that he would be stupid enough to let someone bite his arm off. If anyone was going to bite Vyvyan’s arm off, it would be Vyvyan himself. Besides, Rick wouldn’t be bothered if the punk died; he wouldn’t see it as his fault. That whole business with the skull had simply been a strange blip.
“Shut up, hippie! What if we both die and it’s all your fault for being a useless ghost with less presence than… than…”
“Than your knob?” Vyvyan supplied.
“Yes, than my- VYVYAN!”
Mike made a particularly aggressive sounding growl and Vyvyan almost lost his grip on him. Still unnerved but apparently in the mood for bucking trends, Rick grumbled yet made his way over them. The punk raised his eyebrows.
“What? I’m not a heartless bastard like you, you know!” Rick snapped at him.
The two of them took joint hold of the cool person and struggled to drag him over to the cellar entrance. He felt even more rabid, as if he knew they were about to lock him up.
“What are we going to do after this?” Rick grunted, “This situation might be hunky-dory for you but I’m still missing certain things!”
“Give me a minute, will you?” Vyvyan grunted back.
“I should think you’ve had quite enough minutes already!” Rick continued stubbornly.
“I mean, it must be gone 6:30 by now! This mess started ages ago and I haven’t heard a long-term solution from you, matey!”
“Well, I haven’t heard one from you either, bum-bag!”
There was a groan from Mike at this point.
“See, even he agrees!” Vyvyan declared.
“Don’t be ridiculous, Vyvyan! Mike’s lost his ruddy mind!” Rick reminded him, “Actually, in that case, maybe he is agreeing with you!” The poet snorted in that excruciatingly annoying way he often did when he had just said something entirely predictable and unfunny.
Vyvyan scrunched his face up and kicked at the cellar door. It opened with a bang.
“Just stop talking, Rick,” he advised him.
“No, I will not-”
The two went to throw Mike down the stairs when they discovered that he had somehow managed to grab on to Vyvyan’s denim. The punk went whack him off when the undead bastard lashed out and bit him. Right on the hand.
“ARGHHHH! GET HIM OFF!!!” he hollered.
Vyvyan was vaguely aware of Rick screaming again but the surprising amount of pain he was in did dull the external world a tad. It was as if Mike had grown zombie fangs. The punk tried to flap him off to no avail. God, he was really clamping down!
The next thing he knew, Vyvyan was lying on the floor and staring at his right hand – which was equal parts red and green, interestingly enough. The door to the cellar was firmly shut and both Rick and Neil were looking down at him in horror.
“That hurt…” he mumbled.
Then he passed out.
Chapter 10: Ten
It was an hour and a half later when Vyvyan woke up again. Rick was glad, in a way, because it proved that he hadn’t become a monstrous cannibal just yet. The People’s Poet had been fretting about the punk in the interim period – rather embarrassing, if he was honest. Neil was the only witness to this show however so it didn’t matter. It wasn’t like anyone would believe Neil if he told them that Rick had insisted on putting a pillow behind Vyvyan’s head after he had hauled him on to the sofa… or that he had tried wrapping his injured hand in a futile attempt to stave off the inevitable… or even that he had begun sobbing for a moment or two at the hopelessness of the situation.
Luckily, that could and had been blamed on the fact that Rick was soon to be the only member of the house left alive and therefore the target of two hungry zombies. He had always known he was the most succulent.
“Bloody hell, my head…” Vyvyan murmured, wincing as consciousness came back to him.
Rick and Neil hurried over to him, although not too close. Just in case.
“Are you awake, Vyvyan?” Rick asked carefully.
“What do you think, stupid?” the punk retorted.
Good: he was still himself. A tired version of himself but Vyvyan Basterd nonetheless.
“I was only checking!” Rick told him, exaggerating his indignance, “Do you… do you remember what happened?”
Vyvyan nodded and then groaned.
“Wait, why am I on the sofa?” he questioned.
The punk’s face was scrunched up, though whether this was from confusion or pain was unknown.
“Oh! I – um – I carried you there,” Rick admitted, hoping he wasn’t as red as he feared he was.
“You?” Vyvyan reiterated with some disbelief.
“Yes. Is that difficult to believe or something?”
“It’s true, Vyv, I watched him do it.”
“Yes, he did! Left me to struggle all by myself didn’t you, Neil!”
“I’ve told you, guys, it’s- it’s not my fault, okay!”
“Oh, shut up!” Vyvyan moaned.
The punk tried to bring his left arm over to his head to rub the throbbing headache that must have been brewing when he realised that he couldn’t move.
“Hey!” he cried out angrily, “What have you done, you bloody pervert!?”
Rick exhaled moodily. Trust Vyvyan to have absolutely no gratitude whatsoever.
“It’s to prevent you from attacking me when you… you know…” the poet trailed off, his words not quite having the firm impact he had intended, “I’m not the one who had four pairs of handcuffs in my bedroom!”
“You’ve been in my bedroom!?”
Vyvyan sounded pissed off. The lads all knew that their own bedrooms were effectively off limits to the others unless extreme circumstances arose – barring Mike, who could do as he pleased. Call him crazy but Rick had gathered that half of the house turning into walking corpses were extreme circumstances enough for him to break this unspoken rule. It wasn’t as if it hadn’t been broken for less! If Vyvyan could sneak into his room to plant his violent traps then why couldn’t Rick sneak into his to find possibly life-saving equipment?
“You’re the only one who had any handcuffs!” he reminded him.
“That’s only because you’re too girly to nab them off the pigs or go into a sex shop, virgin!” Vyvyan scoffed, “And if you did, you’d probably get your boyfriend to tie you up and do all sorts of pervy things to you!”
Neil glanced at Rick in mild disgust.
“I think he’s losing it already,” he warned him.
Rick shook his head. Vyvyan being crude was a sign of normalcy, if anything. Still, the anarchist wished he would stop talking bollocks about his sex life.
“I told you, I don’t have a boyfriend!” Rick complained, “And I’m not a virgin!”
Vyvyan pulled a face and went back to trying to escape from the handcuffs. Rick had had to cuff both of his feet and his good hand to three rather large and rather heavy metal spikes that had also been found in Vyvyan’s bedroom. Carrying them down the stairs hadn’t been easy, especially with the dress’ skirt getting under the poet’s feet. It was a miracle he hadn’t impaled himself by accident! Really, getting bitten by Mike had been very inconsiderate.
“When I get out of these, I’m going to kill you!” Vyvyan promised him spitefully.
“I know! That’s why I had to use them in the first place!” Rick fired back just as nastily.
To think, he had actually been upset at the prospect of the punk becoming a zombie – this just went to show that selflessness got you nowhere! Vyvyan sulked.
“Why’s my arm covered in lavatory paper?” he asked.
It was the only part of him that had remained completely still since he had awoken. Rick smiled one of his punchable smiles and – without consciously realising it – started twirling one of his girly plaits around his fingers. There were disgruntled sounds coming from Neil’s general direction, as if he had been deeply disturbed by something.
“It’s really heavy, Vyv…”
“Oh shush, Neil! Yes, well – it isn’t all that nice, you see. That’s why I wrapped it up,” Rick explained.
Vyvyan narrowed his eyes in suspicion.
“I can’t move it; I want to see how bad it is,” he told them both in an oddly calm tone.
Truthfully, Rick’s bandaging skills left much to be desired and rather than neatly wrapping the afflicted section of the punk’s hand he had engulfed almost the entire arm in the house’s limited supply of toilet paper. That said, he wasn’t the medical student here, was he? He also wasn’t too keen on watching the zombie virus spread. With a sigh, Rick ripped the paper from Vyvyan’s arm, choking on the pungent smell of rotting flesh the quickly violated his nostrils.
“Christ…” he whimpered – understandably, for once.
The blood around the bite mark had dried to a dirty brown colour now; the green that had initially spread around the nearby skin having faded too. In its place the flesh had paled beyond life, even taking on a slight purple hue. When Rick had first hidden it away, just under a couple of hours ago, the process had only reached Vyvyan’s wrist. Now it was at his elbow.
Vyvyan nodded and scrunched his face up momentarily.
“Right,” he said, still in that calm voice, “Get me the vodka.”
“What?” Rick and Neil replied simultaneously, which annoyed one of them enormously.
“You heard!” Vyvyan snapped, his usual fire returning, “I’m not going out bloody sober, alright? So get me the vodka!”
“But, like, we haven’t got any vodka,” Neil pointed out.
Vyvyan produced an exasperated groan.
“Then get me some babycham!”
“We haven’t got-”
“Aha! That’s where you’re wrong, Neil, because we do! It’s behind the fridge – part of the sideboard was loose and it looked like a good hiding spot.”
A tempestuous Rick crossed his arms.
“And I assume you expect me to get these for you, hmm?” he asked the punk.
Rick did as he was requested but maintained the air of superiority and disapproval he was famous for amongst his housemates. No one paid him any attention.
“I think it’s extremely selfish of you, Vyvyan-”
“Neil, how’s Mike doing?” Vyvyan cut across quite deliberately.
“Oh!” Neil perked up suddenly at being addressed directly. He floated a little closer to the sofa. “Well, the last time Rick forced me to stick my head through the door, right, he was stumbling around the bottom steps-”
“-and I think you should learn some ruddy maturity, that’s all!”
“-he’ll climb them eventually. The door’s locked but… well, you know…” the hippie trailed off with a shrug.
Rick stomped back over to Vyvyan with the babycham and turned his nose up at the smell. However, if the poet was under the illusion that this was going to offend the punk in some way then he would have been sorely mistaken.
“I suppose you’ll want your hand released for a while so you can drink this?” he inquired stiffly.
“Unless you want to feed it to me yourself then yes,” Vyvyan quipped back.
Rick appeared disgusted at the notion. He stuck his hand down the front of his dress and rummaged around before pulling out a small key. Naturally, Vyvyan couldn’t help but smirk at this and that only caused Rick to blush crimson and scowl at him.
“Don’t be such a pervy!” he muttered angrily as he popped the can and undid the handcuff.
Once it was off and Vyvyan had grabbed the can, Rick shot over to the window where he stared out at Codrington Road solemnly, like a prisoner glancing life outside the fence. Neil shrugged again and floated towards the cellar door to check up on Mike. As for Vyvyan, he finally let out the quiet grunt of pain he had been repressing and sipped at his babycham. It wasn’t as relieving as he had hoped it would be.
“If you think it’s really so selfish you can have a drink too, poof,” he said after a moment, fast realising that even arguing with Rick was preferable to dwelling on what was happening to him…
Rick turned around, still looking standoffish.
“That’s not what’s so selfish. I don’t want to drink! How is that going to help!?” he asked him incredulously.
Vyvyan didn’t really have a rebuttal there so simply took another sip. Rick sighed and wandered aimlessly back to the sofa, sitting on the rickety chair. Jesus, things must have been getting to him!
“No,” the People’s Poet insisted more quietly, “What’s selfish is… is… this!”
He gestured at Vyvyan’s state as if this explained his righteous outrage. The punk frowned at him whilst the pieces clicked: the cheeky bastard.
“What? Is it selfish of me to die, Rick?” he probed somewhat bitterly.
Rick nodded fiercely.
“Yes! Yes, it is actually, Vyvyan!” He seemed very sure.
“And why is that? You’re not the one who has to suffer!”
“Not now I’m not, matey! But what about when you decide to leave this mortal coil and I’m left with some vile creature who wants to eat my brains!? What about then!?”
“Then I’ll probably be disappointed since there’s nothing between your ears to eat anyway!”
Rick turned to stare at the window again and Vyvyan noticed that he was shaking like earlier. He was scared, wasn’t he? Self-serving, little toerag. The punk was about to try and insult him again – it was therapeutic for him, anyhow – when Rick spoke first. Tellingly, he wouldn’t look at him; he didn’t need to for Vyvyan to get the message.
“Look, I-I know that you or Michael are going to eat me or… or turn me or whatever but… this wasn’t supposed to happen! Not to me!” he lamented, “They’re going to discover me all decomposed with b-breasts and a… you know what – and then everyone’ll say ‘Ha ha! We were right! Rick is a big girl after all!’ and that wasn’t supposed to happen, Vyvyan! It really ruddy wasn’t!”
There was silence between the two of them for a minute. Well, nearly. The sound of Rick sniffling and trying to hide his sobs did carry over to the sofa. Vyvyan was stumped; he didn’t even drink his babycham. He knew better than most that Rick was a dramatic twerp at the best of times but this was different. This time it didn’t make Vyvyan want to laugh. That concerning churning in his stomach returned, which likely wasn’t ideal for someone mid-zombiefication.
“Michael and I won’t eat you,” he told him, despite having no way of knowing this, “We have standards, you know. I don’t wanna go anywhere near your ugly, snotty face.”
Now that was definitely a lie. Wait… what?
Surprisingly, Rick laughed. The poet faced Vyvyan once more and rubbed his eyes. Ah yes, there were the shiny tear tracks. He coughed, rather self-conscious of his little outburst now that it had happened.
“Are you… are you in pain, Vyvyan?” he questioned with an almost shy tone.
The punk’s eyes widened in shock before he got himself back under control. Was this a genuine question? From Rick Pratt? He didn’t quite know how to answer.
It was a bit of an under-exaggeration, if he was honest. Vyvyan didn’t want a lot of fuss. People didn’t fuss over him.
Was that sadness in his voice!? This was getting ridiculous! If he hadn’t been physically unable at this current moment to blush – what with dying and everything – Vyvyan was fairly certain his cheeks would be piping hot. And what was this!? Rick was coming over to sit on the floor next to him!?
“Wh-what are you doing?” he asked, internally cursing the stammer.
Rick either didn’t notice it or didn’t care enough to bring it up.
“I thought we could talk, it might distract us from reality of this fascist curse,” Rick explained casually, unnervingly casually, “If we’re all going to die tonight-” he sucked in a breath, “-I suppose nothing
matters much anymore.”
That was a point – nothing did matter, did it? Not if no one would be alive tomorrow to remember.
Vyvyan nodded at him. He was starting to feel tired now, his entire right side slowly but surely going numb. Rick regarded him with a look he would oft label as wariness on anybody else. On Rick, it just seemed like concern.
“You’re blummin’ freezing!”
Oh. Rick was touching his forehead now. Why wasn’t he experiencing the urge to kill him? Vyvyan never let anyone touch his studs.
“’s alright,” he slurred, accidentally dropping the babycham over the other side of the sofa, “I can’t really feel it…”
Chapter 11: Eleven
The passage of time was strange for the next few hours – both fast and slow. Neil didn’t move much, keeping his head stuck through the cellar door and his ghostly feet hovering a few inches above the floor. This must have been a little boring for him but then this was Neil and wasn’t he the most boring person Rick and Vyvyan knew? Every so often muffled groans and moans would sound from beyond the locked door, groans and moans that were best left ignored.
The poet and punk had surprised themselves by having a fairly amicable conversation. True, Vyvyan had nodded off a few times – Rick wasn’t sure how often because he was ridiculously wrapped up in whatever they were discussing but when he had noticed he had gone to cower under the kitchen table – though Vyvyan was going through a zombiefication process so sleepiness was to be expected, surely.
“-and then I found out that 1172 was actually in the 12th century… which just goes to show what fascists the people who designed history are! Years starting with 11 are part of the 12th century? It’s completely potty! Next they’ll be telling us Shakespeare couldn’t spell his own name-"
Arguably, Rick’s bid at distracting the both of them from their impending doom was getting more and more desperate by the minute. He was laughing and snorting like there was no tomorrow – which there wasn’t so that was fair enough. The horrible discolouration from Mike’s bite mark had long passed the ripped edge of Vyvyan’s denim jacket and had spread to Cliff knows where. Ruddy heck.
Rick had wanted to talk about something meaningful at first. He was a great thinker at the end of the day, wasn’t he? Besides, it was notable that despite having lived together for some time now, the four of them had never really gotten to know the others beyond the surface level. There were certain things about Vyvyan that Rick was sure he could pick up on that a stranger wouldn’t but there had to be more to the punk than that. He couldn’t just be entirely anger, destruction and vulgarity, could he?
What about the part of Vyvyan that joked around with Mike or the part that had tried to comfort Rick after his wobble earlier? Most importantly, why was Rick suddenly so interested in uncovering these parts of him? They were all going to die; that much was clear. If that was the only reason Rick had for wanting to know more at this particular moment then why was his stomach leaping and fizzing, almost expectantly?
He wished he had his knob back, that was for sure.
The jabbering anarchist was finally interrupted from whatever tirade of pointlessness he had embarked on. He exhaled in relief.
“Charming, Vyvyan,” he muttered, not having the heart to stop his blush or grimace of agreement, “What do you want to talk about, then?”
Vyvyan shifted minutely – to be fair, he wasn’t in any position to shift much more – and scrunched up his face in thought. He looked so… so dead. It was frightening. Vyvyan had always been pale but Rick hadn’t ever seen him like this: his eyes were dull where they should have been ablaze and his limbs were lying still where they should have been bouncing with restless energy. Rick could feel the People’s Poet within him stirring and quickly coughed.
“Uh…” the punk croaked, “How about you tell me why you’re wearing that poofy dress?”
He was finally losing it then. As if Rick was going to tell him that!
“I think you’re getting tired…” he suggested in an attempt to weasel out.
“I’ll say when I’m getting bloody tired!” Vyvyan snapped, more animated than he had been for some time, though Rick saw him wince at the exertion. “What were you doing dressing up like Princess Di, eh? Were you planning on going out in that after all?” There was a very un-Vyvyan-like giggle, “Was Charlie waiting for you?”
Obviously the questions were posed as taunts but oddly enough not malicious ones. Rick still rolled his eyes, an embarrassed smile creeping through.
“Of course not – I wouldn’t go out with the likes of Prince Charles!” he sniffed rather arrogantly.
“Prince Andrew then? You know what the papers say…”
Rick pulled a face.
“Indeed I do, matey! Eugh!” he whined, “You wouldn’t catch me with the royals anyway, Vyvyan, because I’m not a little crawly-bumlick.”
“You still haven’t answered my original question, Rick,” he reminded him smugly.
“Ah…” Rick panicked, “Well, you see, the thing about it is-”
“You were the one who said nothing matters anymore!” Vyvyan pointed out, “What? Was that just you being dramatic then? As usual?”
The punk was very clearly trying to goad Rick into spilling the beans. Why he was doing this was anyone’s guess – who would want to know why Rick had a private obsession with dresses? Perhaps he really was going round the twist, once and for all. Naturally, the poet fell for the bait.
“No, I meant it!” he affirmed with some indignance.
“Prove it. Why are you wearing a dress?”
The seconds ticked by in near silence. Vyvyan raised an eyebrow. Rick broke out in a sweat. Shit, shit, shit, shit, bollocks, shit-
“Because I like wearing them, alright!?”
Oh, BLOODY HELL! Why had he gone and done that!? Why couldn’t he keep his blummin’ mouth shut!? Rick had no idea what to say next; rooted to the spot, he stared in terror at the half zombie before him and internally begged Cliff to smite him dead. In fact, maybe dying before dawn wasn’t such an unattractive prospect! At least, not anymore. He felt as though he had just confessed to murder.
Vyvyan appeared to be about to say something. For his part, his face hadn’t given much by way of reaction. Anyone would have thought he wasn’t surprised to hear Rick liked wearing dresses or something! He had just opened his mouth when Neil beat him to it.
“Ohh wow!” he cried out, horror-stricken, “Mike’s right behind the door!”
Rick jolted back up at the shock of it all. What was Neil doing speaking after so long? What was Mike doing reaching the door after such a short amount of time? It wasn’t that late, was it? It had only been… well… actually…
“WHAT!?” the poet settled on, for shouting helped dispel some of his bottled up terror at what he had just admitted.
Neil floated over to his two remaining housemates and nodded. With him came the hint of foreboding that didn’t ease their predicament one jot and – most worryingly – Rick noticed that Vyvyan had closed his eyes again.
“Guys, we really need to think of something, like, quickly,” Neil told them.
The door started to shake.
“Oh, do we now, Neil? Do we need to think of something quickly?” Rick ranted at him as the door’s shakes became a continuous vibration, “Well, maybe you should have thought of something yourself if it’s really this urgent!”
What Rick was saying made little to no sense – of course this was urgent and of course they needed to think of something. The trouble was, the People’s Poet was way out of his depth and the hippie’s incorporeal status and general freaking out made him quite useless too.
Neil started blubbering pathetically.
“Shut up, Neil, don’t be such a baby!” Rick berated him, “You’re fine, you’ve already died – and it was painless, wasn’t it? What about me!? What about Vyvyan!?”
Honestly, Rick felt as though he had been arguing his own case of suffering for the entirety of the night, yet he couldn’t recall concern for the punk making an appearance until now. Everything truly was going horribly, disastrously wrong, wasn't it? He wasn’t ready to die!
“Stop whining, you noisy bastards…” Vyvyan grumbled from the sofa.
Somehow he seemed calm about this, peaceful even. He certainly looked as though he was ready to pop off to sleep and never wake up. Maybe he had resigned himself to it. Rick couldn’t have that.
Vyvyan was vaguely aware of a swoosh of pink hoving into view as Rick crouched down besides him once more. The world was blurry now and tinged with coldness… coldness and pain. The punk’s head was killing him, he could barely think straight. What did the girly tosser want now? Had he come to confuse Vyvyan some more? Come to reactivate those disgusting feelings of his right before the end, the ones he had worked so hard never to show to anyone? Selfish prick.
Rick was touching him now. No, again. What was it with him? Did he fancy Vyvyan or something? Probably, his dying brain told him, it would make sense. Would it?
“Vyvyan, you better not kick the ruddy bucket yet, I’m warning you!” Rick was saying in that strangely emotional tone he possessed.
Vyvyan growled at him in annoyance, which at first made Rick squirm away in fear of the worst.
“I’m not gone yet, ploppy-pants,” he assured him bitterly, “Is Michael out?”
“Nearly, Vyv,” Neil told him.
This was all a bit bloody depressing, wasn’t it? If Vyvyan had wanted to attend a funeral it wouldn’t have been his own – or Rick’s, come to think of it. In fact, why would Vyvyan want to attend a funeral at all? Why was he thinking about funerals? Argh!
There was a cracking sound.
“The- the hinges,” Rick stuttered.
“Rick, man, don’t cry. It’s really bringing me down,” Neil complained.
“SHUT UP!” Rick screeched.
Ah well. This was the end, was it? Moments from death and Vyvyan couldn’t even put up a good fight; if anyone other than Rick and Neil had been here this could have been tremendously embarrassing.
“And they all lived happily ever after…” Vyvyan murmured, “Pity I dropped my babycham.”
There was no doubt that Rick was about to launch into hysterical sobs about how inappropriate Vyvyan’s morbid sense of humour was and how upset he was that he had never got to see the punk naked- alright, alright, probably just the first one. Unfortunately, Vyvyan’s sarcasm had sparked something in Neil’s otherwise dark and dreary mind and all potential sexy talk had to be halted.
“Oh! Oh wow!” the hippie exclaimed, rising upwards in what Vyvyan had to assume was some form of ghost joy.
Then again, maybe Neil could normally fly when he was happy. None of them would know, after all. The punk grunted at him with mild interest. There was another crack.
“I just thought, right, considering Rick’s dressed up the way he is-”
“Do we have to degrade and humiliate me even at a time like this!?” Rick begged.
If Vyvyan could have moved, he would have butted the People’s Poet’s over-dramatic head.
“-and we’re all under some kind of heavy curse, right? Well, maybe it’s like one of those, y'know, goblin stories for kids! Maybe someone’s got to kiss the princess to break the spell!”
The look of complete shock on Rick’s face would have been enough to smash the ratings and then some of any reputable sitcom. It was quite unlike anything that had ever been seen before: flabbergasted and gobsmacked didn't cover it. This was a real doozy. Rick got up very quickly and rounded on Neil like lightning to a church pyre.
“Didn’t take long for your sexism to shine through did it, hippie!? You loathsome pervy! I bet you’ve been fantasising about me all night!” he spat venomously.
Neil, who had returned to the floor more or less by now, shook his head with an equally shocked and disgusted expression.
“No, man, why would I do that?” he asked.
Why indeed, Vyvyan mused to himself.
“Is there going to be a conclusion to this so I can die in peace?” the punk queried.
“Well, yeah,” Neil said, apparently surprised that the others hadn’t cottoned on, “You’ve got to kiss Rick, man.”