Horror Funny Science Fiction

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

His running outfit lay on the bed, with his number bib—ninety-four, a jab at his increasing age?—set to the side.

Edmund Lyndone sighed. He’d been at this running malarkey for years and had never cracked the top ten even once. Still, today could be his lucky day. What was it the kids said? You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. He pulled off his t-shirt and slipped his designer running shirt over his head.

Dena groaned from the doorway behind him. ‘You’re not actually doing another one, are you Dad? It took you almost two weeks to recover from the last one. Don’t you remember all the ice packs and heating pads? I can still smell the muscle-relief gel.’

Edmund sagged. His daughter had been supportive at first, but as the years passed, her interest had waned. He glanced at her as he picked up his shorts. ‘I have to, Dena. If I keep doing this, I’m bound to win one. It’s all a matter of averages. The more I enter, the greater the chances that one of them will be my lucky day.’

Dena looked at him with sympathy. ‘You can’t run forever, Dad.’

The only thing keeping him from reaching his goal was his pathetic human frame. It had begun failing him many years ago, and it would give up the ghost long before his spirit had faded. It wasn’t fair, damn it. In response, Edmund opened his mouth to say something but realised he had no retort. He closed it again and sighed. ‘Gonna try,’ was all he could manage.

Dena left him with one last sad smile. ‘Good luck. I’ll get the packs and pads ready for when you get home. Remember to drink plenty of water. Don’t want you coming home on a stretcher.’

Edmund’s stomach rolled over. He felt hopeless. And yet, he couldn’t stop himself. One—that was all he needed. He had to win one. Or come second. Or third. Or, hell, top ten. That would please him, and he could put the entire thing to rest. He put on the rest of his gear and pinned his number bib to his shirt. ‘Oh dear,’ he said to himself.

The car radio promised a crisp October afternoon, perfect conditions for today’s run. Van Halen’s ‘Runnin’ With the Devil’ came on, which the station’s DJ must have thought pretty clever. But halfway through the first chorus, the music cut out. ‘Ladies and gentlemen, this is an emergency bulletin from the authorities. There have been reports of an undead outbreak over on the east side of town. Police say the origin is the cemetery, and request that all civilians avoid this area. They promise they will soon have this threat contained, and that today’s marathon can still go ahead. They thank you for your cooperation.’

Edmund jerked the wheel when he heard. He couldn’t run forever. Not as a human. But as an undead? Yes. Yes, that might work out. Sure, he’d have to convince the vampire not to kill him, only turn him. But Edmund had no qualms about that. And yes, he’d have to attend night races from now on. But he’d be able to run on and on and on. For years. For decades. For centuries. At some point, he’d have to win something. And didn’t vampires have super strength and fast reflexes? Before he even knew he’d made a decision, Edmund flicked on his indicator. He drove away from the running event—toward the cemetery.

Police tape wavered back and forth around the cemetery gate. The wrought-iron fencing jutted towards the Heavens, black and rusted. But—for the time being—no police guarded the area.

Edmund grinned. The marathon must have exhausted the town’s resources. It was as if God was parting all the obstacles before him, like Moses and the Red Sea. He parked his car and ducked under the tape. The gate squealed and clanged shut behind him.

Rows and rows of wonky, weathered headstones stretched over the hill before him. Crosses and angels adorned the sleeping places of the dead. The stones ranged from square to round to ornate—a few hundred years of changing tastes. Moss and lichen clung to everything. The rain had softened the words to the point of illegibility. The vaults and mausoleums waited in the distance, crumbling and ancient.

Edmund shivered. These places always creeped him out. And knowing that there was a paranormal presence here didn’t disabuse him of this sensation. He crept forward, inspecting the earth underfoot. He found his first sign several metres into the cemetery. ‘Ah,’ he said to nobody.

A bloody smear streaked across the face of one tombstone. It had dried and darkened to the point of almost being black.

He didn’t know that vampires were that messy. But its usual elegance might have fallen by the wayside if it had been hungry. Edmund shrugged and passed the bloodstain.

Further on up ahead, more blood and speckles of gore beckoned him. The mess intensified deeper into the cemetery. The next stone had a complete handprint slapped on the side. And a few paces beyond that, a pool of purple intestines lay coiled like a slimy snake. Flies buzzed around the organs in a cloud.

Edmund inhaled through his nose. He was on the right track. Edmund followed the trail of mess, trying hard not to look at the bits of flesh and pools of blood. ‘C’mon, Ed,’ he said through gritted teeth.

The path led him deeper and deeper into the cemetery, right up to the descending steps of a mausoleum. The splashes of blood around the entrance gave the impression that a balloon of red dye had exploded. Cold breath yawned out of the crypt’s mouth, foul and decaying.

His stomach shrivelled, and his bladder tightened. If he were to turn back, now would be the moment to do it. But then Edmund remembered the sympathy on Dena’s face. He couldn’t face that again. No, he wanted to be a winner the next time he greeted his daughter. An undead winner, granted. But someone she could be proud of. Dressed in his running gear with his number pinned to his shirt, Edmund Lyndone descended.

The light was dim inside the vault, as if a hazy filter blocked the doorway, robbing it of its usual vivacity. From the outside, the rays of sunshine trickled down the steps. It moved like sludge, slow and gloopy.

Edmund blinked as his eyes adjusted. The cold—not kept at bay by warm clothes—penetrated his skin. It seeped into his bones and chilled him to the core. He looked around and crept further in.

On all sides, shelves of coffins waited as though this were an office for skeletons. Dust and cobwebs covered the walls, and a century’s autumn leaves decayed on the stone floor. The stone pulled the heat from his skin and released waves of ice in return.

He felt hungry eyes upon him, but that couldn’t be the case because vampires should be asleep during the day. ‘H-Hello?’ he called out. ‘It’s okay, I’m not a hunter. I don’t have—’ Edmund’s voice cracked. He cleared his throat. ‘I don’t have any stakes or holy water on me.’

Movement, slow and sluggish at first, stirred all around him. They crept out of the shadows like spiders responding to vibrations on their sticky webs. They came for him, all rotted and dead. Their putrefying flesh stank up the confines of the mausoleum. Their growing choir of moans echoed off the walls.

Edmund whimpered. No. Not vampires. Zombies. And zombies couldn’t run. He turned to flee and ran straight into a six-foot dead man. He bounced off the creature’s chest and flopped to the floor, screaming.

The undead fell upon him like seagulls on chips. They bit and scratched, tore and chew. Edmund’s screams fell upon dead ears.

Edmund punched and kicked and scrambled and shrieked. Even as the blood drained from every vein and artery, he struggled on. It was a testament to his fighting spirit—the same mindset that had kept him running all these years. He managed to break free and roll away from their cold, grabbing hands. Head swimming, he launched himself to his feet and scrambled up the stairs. He moved faster than he’d ever done in any marathon.

The zombies followed him, but—of course—they could only shamble and shuffle. They soon fell behind, unable to keep up with the living-but-soon-to-be-dead human.

Edmund sobbed as he ran, missing a few chunks of flesh. If he’d attempted the race without the use of paranormal enhancements, he might have won. Who was to say? But with the zombie virus squeezing his brain and stiffening his limbs, Edmund had no chance. If only he had not tried to trick his way into victory. In all his failure of a career, Edmund had run clean, with no cheats whatsoever. Why did he have to start now?

The graves passed by him in reverse, the gore lessening with each frantic footstep. The gates loomed up ahead. The police tape—which any sane human would have heeded—flickered in the light breeze. His car waited beyond.

He made it to the cemetery gates before collapsing and dying. Edmund woke up a short while later and limped out into the town. As fortune would have it, he shuffled into the race start, chasing the runners ahead of him. ‘Gurrrr.’

The people cheered and applauded. It didn’t matter if you were the best or the worst; having a go was everything. The crowd respected the older man—a war veteran of some sort—staggering and giving it his all.

At one point, he lurched towards the crowds, cheering beyond the barriers. ‘Raahhh!’

The onlookers, mistaking his death groans for dehydration, tossed him water bottles.

Edmund failed to catch any of them, and they pelted him like artillery. He recoiled from their barrage and stumbled on. Edmund resumed his pursuit of the fleshy, blood-filled runners. He made it over the finish line to a smattering of light applause. ‘Unnnnnh.’

The officials noted down his times with sympathetic smiles.

He had finished dead last.

January 28, 2024 15:35

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Alexis Araneta
12:44 Jan 30, 2024

The veering towards the supernatural was so unexpected. Hahaha ! Great job !


05:26 Feb 01, 2024

Thanks, Stella! Glad I caught you off guard, haha!


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Trudy Jas
21:59 Jan 28, 2024

True to form. Edmund's "Oh dear" gave it away. "-) Is dead last better than a lasting undead?


18:56 Jan 29, 2024

Thanks, Trudy! What can I say? I've found my niche!


Trudy Jas
23:25 Jan 29, 2024

Good for you. Don't lose it. :-)


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