All of the SFDC stories take place in a different universe from RHGtM and it (as long as all the side stories) are a bit darker, so there are some content warnings I want to preface this with. There's going to be: violence, gore, body horror, rape (never graphically depicted), child abuse, and homophobia. Please let me know if there's anything else I should warn for.
There certain things I expected about moving to a new place. I expected to have a hard time fitting in at my new school. I expected that there wouldn't be a lot to do in a small town like Wisteria. I expected to miss my friends and my old home.
I definitely hadn't expected to be chased by a zombie!
And the guy chasing me down an unfamiliar dark street was a zombie. I had tried to come up with a million other possibilities when he had first started shambling towards me. A stupid prank, an insane method actor escaped from a backyard movie set, some kind of kinky role play I had inadvertently interrupted, but no, the large swath of skin missing from his face, the clods of dirt that rained from his suit, and the horrible feeling creeping up the back of my neck made me believe this was a genuine zombie.
So I ran.
The zombie followed, proving all of the horror movies wrong by being way too fast and way too smart. I couldn't shake him, not even with my award-winning history in track. Plus, I had no idea where I was going since I was the new kid in town. I yelled as I ran, but the cookie-cutter houses could have all been deserted with how many people noticed my plight. Not a curtain twitched, not one old man came out to yell about my youthful shenanigans. I was all alone with a murderous zombie.
Things were looking grim, but I had decided one thing, I so wasn't going to be ripped apart in a cul-de-sac. Talk about depressing and pathetic. I put on a burst of speed, making the zombie let out a blood curdling moan.
Heart pounding, lungs on fire, stitch like a blade in my side, I ran on, cutting between the two nearest houses. I could have sworn that I heard a laugh track blaring through one window. Behind the houses was a small playground, two swings and a pit of sand.
That damn sandbox was the end of me. I tripped over one of the wooden beams edging the overgrown litter box and down I went. I tried to break my fall with my hands, but I slipped and ended up getting a face full of sand and the first layer of skin scrapped off of my palms. All the air in my abused lungs was forced out with the impact.
Before I could even get my breath back, he was on me, the weight of the animated corpse choked the remaining air out of me. Nasty zombie hands grabbed at me, one found the back of my shirt and the other my hair and ear.
I heard it then, running feet. Oh, God, there were more of them! Every movie disembowelment I had ever seen came back at that moment to haunt me.
"Hey, zombie dude!" Before I could process the words, there was a loud whack and the zombie was off of me. I scrambled to get up. I got as far as my hands and knees, then someone was grabbing me again, hauling me to my feet.
I screamed and tried to pull away. I was not getting chomped on!
"Hey! Hey! Dude, it's okay, I got him." Wait, what, huh? I stopped trying to run away long enough to actually look around. The zombie was laying in the sand box, just a corpse. His head was bashed in. I turned around to see a non-zombie guy holding a bat. The adrenaline-filled fight-or-flight fear I had been coking on left me in a rush, making my legs feel about as sturdy as the ones found on cheap DIY assembly furniture.
Still slightly out of breath, I tried to find some words. "Ah, so you did." He just smiled and tipped an imaginary hat at me.
Now that my brain was open to processing something other than fear, I really didn't know what to do. What do you do when someone saves your life from a zombie? Send them a nice thank-you card and fruit basket? A complimentary blow job? If truth be told, I wouldn't be opposed to the latter option. I wouldn't be opposed to any kind of fooling around. Apparently my way of coping with almost dying by way of zombie was proving how very alive I was. It was better than hysterical crying. Especially since the nearest warm body was nice to look at.
I looked over my savior as he wiped his bat on the ground in an effort to get the zombie juice off. He was around my age—always a good start. His hair was dark and so were his eyes, he looked kind of Native. He was tall, a few inches above six feet, and from the way his t-shirt hugged his body, I could tell he was nicely built. Not body builder level ripped, but enough hotness to run my hands over. In conclusion, he was seriously sexy.
"I'm Skyler, by the way." Feel free to ravish me. I really hoped he wasn't straight. With my mental fingers crossed for at least a small case of the bi-curious, I crowded into his personal space, my body language all but writing "free to a good sexing" on my forehead.
"Max. You new in town?" He looked me up and down. The look was less falling for my obvious charms, and more judging. I self-consciously brushed my blond hair back, wrestling with a zombie couldn't have done anything good for it.
"Yep. I just moved here today. Can you believe it?" My opinions about Wisteria weren't all that positive so far. What with the nearly dying and all. Max still didn't seem about to play the dashing hero to my railroad tracks-tied heroine. I decided to kick things into high gear. "I would have totally been zombie food if it wasn't for you, really." I put a hand on his arm, trying to push the I-so-owe-you subtext into him through osmosis. "You're so brave." An -stroke never hurt anybody.
Max ducked his head than shook it. "Nah, it's just what...we do, you know?" I bet I could see him blushing if there were any actual lights back here. Score. Before I could heap anymore flattery on him—I mean it was pretty deserved regardless my flirting, the guy had freaking saved my life—he gave a little awkward cough and stepped back a bit, away from my touch. Straight, damn it!
"What school do you go to?" He asked with a blatant attempt at changing the subject. I just wasn't sure who it was for, him or me.
"St. Lucian's." Despite it's name, my new school wasn't a Catholic school. At least that's what my parents had said. I would have to wait until tomorrow to find out if they had been lying to shut me up.
"Ah, a private school boy."
I was about to make a pass at him involving an offer to check out my new school uniform—couldn't help myself—but an itch on my neck distracted me. I slapped a hand against my skin, then pulled it away to see a streak of blood. I could feel myself pale.
"You okay, man? You're not going to blow chunks, are you?" Max asked, worried.
I touched my neck gingerly and found a wound. The zombie had scratched me! "Oh my freaking God, I'm...I'm going to turn into a zombie! I'm infected!"
Max grabbed me, but the circumstances were too horrible to appreciate it. He smoothed my hair away from the scratch from hell while I cringed and tried to feel the zombie-ness take over my system.
"Ew, that looks bad. I'll clean it up and get you a super sweet Rex band-aid." Max was pretty calm about my impeding zombie-fication. In the movies, you don't often see the walking zombie-snacks offering the just bitten band-aids depicting retro, beloved cartoon dinosaurs on them.
I clung on to Max, specifically to one of his nice, strong, manly biceps that I managed to notice despite my almost-being-eaten-alive horniness leaving in the wake of the panic brought on by my impending doom. "Doesn't that mean I'm going to become a cannibalistic member of the shambling dead!?" I did my best to stifle the urge to shake the answer out of him.
He laughed. He fucking laughed. I let go of his nicely muscled arm.
"That's not how you become a zombie, dude. You gotta be buried in this one cemetery over on Finch Street. It's like...cursed or something"
"Yeah, you'll be fine."
I just looked at him. He didn't look like he was worried I was about tear his throat out with my teeth. Despite the ridiculous explanation—curse, really?—I decided to trust the fact he wasn't getting ready to bash my head in with his bat. Plus, who was I to argue with someone who apparently had experience with this kind of stuff? Speaking of this kind of stuff, I looked down at the dead zombie. "So what about him?"
Max shrugged and started back towards the cul-de-sac.
"Wait! I mean, won't people freak out if they find a dead body in their back yard? And... and I don't think anyone's going to believe that the guy was trying to eat me, so the cops will see this as murder, right?" I was getting more freaked out by the consequences of surviving a zombie attack than the actual attempted face-chomping.
Max looked back at me and then the zombie. "That's George Clark. He died like two weeks ago. So, it wouldn't be murder, it'd be...I don't know, stealing a dead body. That's illegal, right?" I mutely nodded. "But it's not going to be anything because the cops around here can't be bothered to do anything. So, come on."
I followed Max when he started walking this time, that I didn't have to take part in a dead body disposal plot. We retraced my path—well the last bit that wasn't a cracked-out beeline—the neighborhood still eerily quiet.
So quiet that I jumped like a foot in the air when it was shattered by squealing tires. A van whipped into the curving street, coming to a jerking stop right in front of us. The streetlights revealed that the van was bright purple and there was a gray rabbit painted on one side.
I was interrupted from wondering what the hell the rabbit was about when the driver's side door burst open and a chubby, scruffy kid launched out, a shovel in one hand, a heavy duty flashlight in the other.
"Max, I lost him on Emerson!"
"Got 'em, PJ." Max answered, then slid open the closest side door, and started to dig around inside. PJ was taller than both Max and me, he looked a bit older too, but I think that was just from the fact that he seemed well on his way to being able to grow a full on lumberjack-ian beard. He had slightly wavy brown hair that peaked out from the black beanie he wore. Speaking of things he wore, there was a green apron bearing a "Fredrick's Family Grocery" logo under his unzipped hoodie. Even after the night I had, I still thought that was weird.
PJ seemed to deflate in disappointment. "You couldn't wait for me, man? I never got a zombie before. You, and Tami, and Zoe have all gotten one. What's up with the zombie-blocking, huh? I mean…" He trailed off as he suddenly noticed me. "Who's this?" The shovel was instantly at the ready and he was staring me down with suspicious eyes.
"That's Skyler. George was about to him, so I couldn't wait." Max answered pretty nonchalantly.
The shovel was relaxed and the flashlight was thrust into the large pocket on the apron he wore, giving its presence a lot more sense. His glare turned into a friendly smile and he held out his newly empty hand to me. I shook it without hesitation as my surreal gauge had stopped working a while ago. "Are you okay?"
Before I could answer with anything more than a nod, Max straightened with a first aid kit in hand. "We can clean the wound, no problem. But, sorry, dude, we're all out of Rex band-aids. We just have Tinabellina ones."
"I have nothing against friendship fairies." I let him know.
"We're still going to Hola Taco, right?" There was way more concern in PJ's voice with that question than when he asked me if I had come out of a zombie attack in one piece. I couldn't fault him for that, though, they did make really good tacos.
So that's how I found myself at a taco joint at eleven at night, discussing the fact that I had just moved into weirdness central.
"Zombies are just the tip of the iceberg." PJ was saying, not caring that his burrito was dripping meat and lettuce all over the table of our booth or that there was a very bored-looking woman at the counter, easily within hearing distance.
"So what else is there?" I asked, only belatedly realizing that I had leaned forward in eagerness when the string on my jacket hood got dipped into my cup of nacho cheese. I sucked the offending cheese off and tried not to spazz out. But come on, there were real freaking zombies in my new town, what else were they hiding here? Once I had gotten over the initial shock, I was excited. The horror movie aficionado in me was tap dancing, logic trying to ruin the party by pointing out that I should be running for the hills.
"Lots of weird shit, like—" Max started, but was elbowed and shushed by PJ. An intense debate made up of pointed looks and eye rolling followed. In the end, Max went back to lining the inside of his burrito with the fries he had stopped for before we reached Hola Taco.
"Look, we're professionals." I just stared at PJ, not exactly buying it. He dug through his apron and came up with a stack of business cards. He handed one dotted with a greasy fingerprint to me. "See?"
It was white with a nice-looking stylized magnifying glass on one side. It read "The Spoon-Fed Dog Paranormal Investigation Agency" in bold. Underneath was the pitch. "Got spooky happenings? Creepy mysteries? Odd occurrences? Call the SFDPIA today! Open weekends and all major holidays (except Halloween and May 14th)." On the back of the card was an address and phone number.
"What's on May fourteenth?" Was the first thing out of my mouth. Again, since my scale for weird had been seriously fucked, that seemed like the strangest thing.
"Zoe's birthday, she refuses to work on it." PJ rolled his eyes.
"Or let us work on it, because she's sure we'll drag her into something." Max explained.
"Yeah, because saving the town from the forces of darkness isn't important or anything."
Max shrugged. "That's what she wanted for doing the pictures in the monster book."
PJ's exasperation ticked up two notches. "Pictures? They're not pictures, they're artist renderings of cyptids based on eye-witness accounts."
"Yeah, that." Max agreed easily.
"Anyway," PJ went on, "you get yourself into any more paranormal problems, you can call us. We'll handle it."
Yeah, no. I was not letting this go. There was no way I was living in a certified weird zone and pretending everything was peaches and cream. I didn't start arguing yet, though.
"Why is it called the Spoon-Fed Dog Agency?" That was the second weirdest thing on the card.
"That's what our band's called." Max answered. I almost glared at him. Of course! Of course the ridiculously sexy—most likely straight—boy would be a musician too. He was just hitting all kinds of squares on my bingo board of hotness.
"Why is your band called that?" It sounded like a drug thing.
"I used to have this awesome dog named Frank. He liked to eat stuff off of spoons." Okay, so it was a literal thing.
"PJ, stop handing out those fucking things!" PJ and I both jumped.
Entering Hola Taco were two girls. The one who had shouted was a tiny white girl in an over-sized flannel shirt and beat up jeans. The other was a tall black girl dressed in a classy fitted blazer and floral-print skirt. The dusty cowboy boots she was wearing kind of ruined the whole look. Judging by the scowl on her face, I doubt she would take kindly to me commenting on it.
"I'm trying to do business, Zoe. You know we—" PJ tried to argue, but quickly shut up as the shorter girl—Zoe apparently—stomped over and snatched the card out of my hand. I noticed she had some scratches and a nasty bruise forming on her forehead.
"Trying to kill my social life, is what you're doing."
The unnamed girl gestured for me to scoot over on the booth and sat down once I did. "By the way, 'run that way' isn't all that in a dark fucking cemetery, Max." She said, taking the rest of Max's fries.
"Hey, he took off running. I couldn't exactly stop and think about it." Max returned.
"So anyone going to say anything about the blond kid?" Zoe demanded.
I waved at her. "I'm Skyler, hi. I almost got eaten."
She gave a long-suffering sigh. "I don't care. Just get lost and ignore everything PJ told you."
The girl next to me threw a fry at her. "Stop being a bitch and sit down." She ordered. PJ snorted.
"No, I don't think I will. See you losers in hell." With that, she turned and stalked out of the restaurant.
"What crawled up her butt and died?" Max asked.
"Yeah, that seemed extra...Zoe-ish." PJ agreed.
The girl laughed. I had a feeling her scowling mood had come from the company of Zoe. "She's just mad because she ran into a tree branch like an idiot and nearly knocked herself out." That must have been what happened to her head. Ow.
"So why are you still here, Skyler?" She turned to ask me.
"Ah..." I said awkwardly. Did no one want me to hang around? I wasn't that much of a spazz, was I?
Before I could embarrass myself, she started talking again. "It's just that when we save someone's ass, they usually split as fast as they can. They don't tend to want to hang out and chat after nearly dying."
Suddenly, I realized they were all looking at me. Pseudo-Mexican food all abandoned. Apparently this was important. No pressure. Fuck.
"I'm curious. I mean, how could you not be?"
"You'd be surprised how much someone's curiosity wanes after encountering something that literally wants to eat them."
"Not mine." I said, a bit cocky. "Max said there was weird shit, I wanna know weird shit." I couldn't help but notice the encouraging smile Max sent my way.
"You want that on your headstone?"
She had a point, a great big, pointy-teeth point. The fact that I had definitely played damsel in distress during my zombie attack really rubbed it home, but...I still wanted to know. "I want to join you guys." I was already preparing a mental list of qualities that I could use in my case, but it turned out that I didn't need them. Which was good since it was a pretty short list.
"Fine. You can be an honorary member. "
There was a protest from PJ as soon as she spoke. "What about Turner, he—"
She rolled her eyes and interrupted him. "Turner can suck my dick." PJ snorted, but held up his hands in a surrendering gesture. She responded to it with a give-me gesture. PJ got out another business card since Zoe had walked away with the first one. She gave it to me, "Meet us here after school tomorrow. I'm Tamika, by the way. You can call me Tami until you piss me off." With a blinding smile, she stood and left.
"Looks like we're teammates, dude." Max seemed a lot more happy about it than PJ since he was just rubbing the bridge of his nose like he had a headache coming on. I wasn't that annoying!
"You know Turner and Tami are just going to bitch at each other the whole time, right? And Zoe will jump in 'cause she can't ignore a good bitching." He was obviously speaking to Max, who shrugged. I was a lot less apathetic about that. God, I didn't want to be Tami's fuck-you to whoever this Turner was. I just wanted to know what the hell was going on around here.
"Isn't that like, how it always goes anyway?" PJ laughed. I felt a bit better hearing that, but I was betting my presence wouldn't help things. I did my best to shrug it off. I'd just have to win them all over.
"So what's here?" I flashed the card at both of them.
"Your overview." PJ answered.
"My overview to what?"
"Weird shit." Max cut in.
I was about to pester them for details, but the cashier lady came over to kick us out since they were closing in ten minutes. Not really the best way to end an adventure. What with the lack of me getting ravished. If I was going to play the damsel, I thought I should get that at least.
But, alas, all I got was a ride home in the back of a rabbit van and a cheery "Try not to get eaten, yeah?" before they drove away.
I've more or less always had trouble sleeping. A while ago, I was sent to therapy for insomnia—well not for the actual insomnia, but the possible underlining psychological issues my doctor convinced my parents that I had—but quickly grew tired of it and quit. I also flushed the sleeping meds they gave me since those things just wrecked me.
The worst—and strangely, the best—it's ever been was when I would visit my grandfather who lived in Wisteria when I was . Without fail, every night I'd toss and turn for hours in the small guest bedroom, before exhaustion claimed me. Then the nightmares would start. I'd wake up sweaty and scared out of my mind, a scream caught in my throat that never made it out since, even half-awake, I knew how much grandpa hated yelling and screaming. After that, I'd drag a blanket into the living room and fall asleep on the couch. There, I would sleep like the dead.
I wondered if the nightmares would come back now that I was back in Wisteria. My thoughts whirled back to the zombie shambling at me missing half of his face. I had a feeling they would. Which made me sound kind of stupid for wanting to run into even more strange, nightmare-inducing things, but it was too late. I already knew, pretending I didn't wasn't going to help anything, I'd still sleep like a fussy baby.
I wandered into the kitchen to find a note stuck to the fridge with a plain black magnet. "Won't be home until late. Work. Pizza money on counter. Mom and Dad." I rolled my eyes and snatched it off of the fridge door. I hated that they wrote me notes that sounded like a telegram. Not home. Stop. Raise yourself. Stop. Always working. Stop. Science more important. Stop. Stop, really.
I wasn't all that surprised. We had moved here because of the Hunter-Rally Research Facility. My parents were certified geniuses, and when they got the call to join a biological research team at the HRRF, we had packed up and left. So of course they were going to spend even more time than they did at work.
I threw the note into the garbage.
If I ate take-out every time they didn't come home to make me a decent meal, I would have died from clogged arteries years ago. I could cook for myself. Hell, I was the reason the bills got paid on time. I didn't know which was worse, the fact that they were never around or that they couldn't even remember the person they had left behind.
Whatever. It had its perks. Like no curfew. And there wasn't anyone around asking me why it looked like I had gotten into a fight.
After cleaning my gross zombie wound again, I went into the living room and set up my old film projector. My enormous movie collection was filled with horror—everything from slasher films to psychological horror. Not exactly a soothing glass of warm milk. I put it on for the noise, not the screams or tension-building music, but for the noise of the projector itself.
I started with Sergio Gallo's gory, but still subtle 1970's Technicolor masterpiece, Sorrow. My eyelids started to get heavy as our protagonist began to realize not all was right with her creepy, middle-of-nowhere mansion. I don't think I even made it to the climax with the crazy cult, which was my favorite part.