Though October was a month away, Billy was already thinking of creative ways to get candy on Halloween night... as well as creative places to hide the bodies of trick-or-treaters, if necessary. Tall for his age, his neighbors assumed he was a high school kid and refused to hand out candy to him. At thirteen, he was just old enough to be too old for trick-or-treating, but still young enough to want candy from strangers. With puberty knocking at his door, he had acne all over his face, leading others to think he didn’t need any more candy. Though not fat, he was a bit overweight, which contributed to the myth that he ate nothing but candy all year long. In truth, he felt that candy was a Halloween tradition, and tried to leave it as such. Seeing how it was now September, the promise of candy in the following month now tempted Billy as he tried on different masks in the department store, which had premiered its selection of Halloween décor in mid-August.
Billy’s cohort Phil, a short lump of a tween wearing a World of WarCraft t-shirt, had grown tired of childish things such as donning a costume on Halloween. Instead, he had moved on to the man-childish habit of playing online video games. As his friend gazed at his frightening visage in a nearby mirror, Phil played Angry Birds on his iPhone. Billy shook his head at this behavior.
“I don’t see how you think you shouldn’t dress up for Halloween, but you should sit at home all night playing games instead,” he said, his voice garbled through the metallic skull-shaped mask. “Don’t you know video games rot your brains?”
Phil shot back without looking up from his game, “Don’t you know candy rots your teeth?”
Suddenly, as he was trying on a zombie mask, Billy heard a moan. He had noticed a frantic crowd gathered at the store that morning, but as he didn’t care for the news, he wasn’t sure why. “Did you hear that?”
Phil waited until his game was over to ask, “Hear what?”
“It sounded like something out of a zombie movie.”
“You watch too many horror movies.”
Billy scoffed. “You know you love video games about zombies, so shut up.”
Suddenly, a frightened young man backed into view, shielding his eyes. To Billy’s horror, a gush of blood sprayed the man’s arms and face as he screamed. Something reached out and grabbed the young man, who was too shocked after being splashed with gore to move. He was promptly taken to the floor and ripped to pieces by his attacker, which was now eating him.
It was a living corpse, already partially decomposed. Phil caught one whiff and dropped his iPhone with a clatter. By this time, Billy had already backed down the aisle. The zombie reached up with a growl and grabbed Phil’s t-shirt. As if it felt the design on the shirt, its eyes cast down to look upon it. Seeing the World of WarCraft logo, it loosened its grip on his shirt and shambled onward.
Billy, still wearing the store’s zombie mask, seemed not to notice that the zombie was now moving toward him. He chuckled lowly in spite of himself. “I told you video games rot your brain. Not even the zombies want it.”He was quickly frozen when the dead thing reached him. It stared at the mask Billy wore for a long moment… before wheezing its approval and moving past the boy.
Once they were alone on the aisle, Billy slowly walked toward his friend. The boys silently listened to the screams growing louder throughout the store. Phil asked, “What now?”
Billy moistened his mouth before saying, “They obviously don’t want either of us, which is more than I can say for the other shoppers and employees.”
“So what do we do?”
Billy smirked. “You do whatever you want; I’m looting this place of its Halloween candy!”
Phil laughed, though the tears in his eyes were not from mirth. “And I told you… candy rots your teeth.” After a moment’s thought, he said, “Then again… if my teeth rot, I’ll look more like them. Count me in.”
Though they had previously never done so, the two boys grabbed each other’s hand as they strode down the aisle. There was no attraction between them; it just felt like the encouraging thing to do. In the coming days until the full-blown zombie epidemic, there would be a lot of platonic hand-holding.