The dead girl sat up.
I squeaked. The EMT that brought her in made some odd sounds himself. We both stepped back from her and looked at one another. We exchanged an unspoken, invisible understanding, and nodded.
The dead girl swung her legs over the side of the gurney and stood, reaching for us.
The EMT patted me on the shoulder and held out his hand to me.
"James," he said, "do you happen to have any weapons?"
He had read my name tag: James Godfrey. I read his: Edgar Frog. We shook.
"Can you hold her off for a few minutes, Edgar?"
He glanced at the dead girl.
"Are the doors locked?"
"Always," I said.
"Then, yeah. I'll be good for a bit. I can always run around in circles."
I handed him a trocar. He gripped it like a stake.
"It won't do her in," I said, nodding at the long, pointed tube used in embalming an actual dead person. "But it might slow her down if she gets too close to you."
"Thanks." He refocused on the dead girl as she took one lurching step in his direction.
I left him to it and went to my secret stash.
The middle door of a bank of nine refrigerated body drawers belonged to me. I punched the access code on the number pad. The alarm disengaged, and a table protracted. A metal coffin that served as my toolbox slid out. I wiggled my fingers at the archaic keyhole on the top. I didn't need to make the hand movements to perform magic. Still, it made me feel more competent.
The lid popped open. A tray rose level to my chest. The array of knives warmed my heart.
I lifted out four similar broad blades and tucked them under my left arm. I closed up the tool chest and secured the locker to keep out prying eyes.
The weapons put a flounce in my step and a grin on my face.
When I entered the morgue, the embalming table lay on its side. Syringes, tubes, eye caps, mouth formers, and needles littered the white tiled floor. Embalming fluid gurgled down the drain in the center.
Edgar held the head end of the gurney in both hands. He used it to keep the poisonous fingernails of the dead girl far from his body. They danced around the room. Edgar nudged the gurney's foot end into the advancing zombie like he was playing a pinball game. He laughed as the zombie stumbled back, steadied herself, and came back for more.
"It's like Spookshow," he said. "Rob Zombie’s pinball without the flashing lights and loud noises."
I flicked the light switch on and off several times.
"Ping, beep, ping, ping, beep," I said.
Edgar pounded the pillow on the medical dolly, bent over, in a deranged bit of laughter. It wasn't that funny.
"You OK?" I asked.
He inhaled long and deep. His eyes flicked over to me for a brief moment.
"Sorry," he said. He pointed at the dead girl. "I hadn't expected a zombie. I dispatched my usual fare, three vampires, without a hitch." He bumped the girl again.
"I thought she was a real dead person."
"Well, you're in luck." I stepped around the dead girl, backing away from her. She seemed fixated on Edgar and paid me no attention. Wrong move on her part. I handed him two machetes, stepped back a bit, and twirled the two I kept for myself in a butterfly exhibit.
"Nice," said Edgar. "Looks like you know what you're doing."
"They don't call me Machete Jim for nothing," I said.
"So, you've dealt with zombies before?"
"On occasion," I said.
"Well, how about you take care of this one?" Another nudge with the wheeled bed. "I'm getting tired. It's been a long night. And while I am usually OK with the attention of pretty girls, I prefer them to actually be alive."
I snickered. He was kind of amusing. I never ran across anyone who had the same gallows humor I enjoyed but rarely expressed.
The dead girl grunted like she knew Edgar was talking about her. She lunged forward and knocked the gurney aside. She came within a hair's breadth of scratching his cheek with her virus-laden fingernails. I pushed him back with my left elbow while hooking my ankle around her knees. She toppled over backward and rolled from side to side like an inverted beetle. Zombies had trouble bending their joints, so rising from the ground was not easy for them.
"I gave you knives," I shouted. "Use them, man."
"I only know how to poke dead things," he pointed at his chest with one hilt. "Professional vampire slayer." He switched his grip on his knives and plunged them down. "Stake in the heart. Pinned like an insect in a kid's science project."
"Point well taken," I said.
"Man, you're funny, Jim." He snorted. "Point well taken,” he repeated to himself and shook his head.
Zombie girl got to her feet. I waited for her to rise because I didn't consider it sporting to dispatch the undead without giving them a fighting chance.
"Stand back," I said to Edgar. "This will get messy."
He moved back, machetes crossed in front of his chest like bandoliers and leaned against the wall, relaxed but watchful.
"Her name is Sophia."
"What?" I glanced at him over my shoulder.
"Her name," he said, "it's Sophia."
"Why would you tell me her name right before I kill her?" I shook my head.
"I thought you would want to know."
"You're not right, are you?"
"You should talk."
I licked my index finger and drew a hash mark in the air.
"See," he said.
Sophia tried to go around me to get to Edgar.
"She likes you," I said. "Are you sure you want me to do this? You could have a girlfriend for life."
"Is there a reason she considers you her sweetheart?"
"I saved her from the vampires. She's grateful. It's misplaced affection."
"Why would vampires want a zombie?"
"I don't know." He sounded frustrated. "Come on, man. Quit dicking around. We can ponder the question of vampire/zombie attractions later over a drink or breakfast."
"Fine," I said. I placed the flat of one machete on Sophia's cheek, turning her head, so she looked at me. Her body followed her vision. I spun around on my toes to increase the force of my strikes, extending my arms, a deadly dervish of undead death. My blades struck Sophia's neck, one after another. Her head slid off her neck following my knives, toppled onto her shoulder, and fell to the floor. It bounced once and tumbled, stopping in front of Edgar, dead eyes focused on him. Her body crumpled to the floor.
I surveyed the room. Cleanup would be a piece of cake, not.
"I could go for some cake," I said, "or pie." My stomach grumbled.
Edgar stepped over Sophia's head.
"I'll help you with the mess," he said. "Follow me." We went out to his ambulance, reached in the back, and pulled out the empty body bag next to three occupied ones. He slung it over his shoulder.
He laid the bag next to Sophia's body. We placed her torso inside, added her head at the top of her severed neck, and zipped it up. We loaded it on his gurney. He rolled it to the door, and engaged the wheel stops.
I cleaned off my machetes at the sink and dried them with a chamois. I wiped the blades with oiled cloths and put them back in my tool chest.
Edgar sprayed the walls and floors with water; the zombie blood and goo sluiced down the drain. He squeegeed the debris into one pile. He had most of it done by the time I joined him. Using snow shovels, we scooped up the damaged tools, tossed them in thick black trash bags, and hauled them to the medical waste dumpster. We righted the embalming table.
"Not bad," I said, as I reviewed the room.
"No one would ever know," he said. He wiped his forehead with a sleeve. He pointed at the body bag.
"Help me load her into my ambulance?"
"Sure," I said.
"Help me bury the bodies?" He grinned.