BY FRANCIS CROT
Those murmuring and humorous shufflers at the outer gates, unlike the lurching huntsmen of the lawn, were only recently passed. They were dressed informally, as if unburied. The observant reader will spot Vanessa carrying a femur through them. These “Just Add Maggots” attendants in their muftis, Brenda theorised, though vaster in their number, were of a lesser order than those whose bones had long marinated in the sacred ground. Those who were not already in the church grounds at the instant of the Trump could not cross it now. They desired to enter, but were held, as though by a fierce wind, or invisible shield.
Fear Brenda finally knew united with its proper complement – not guilt, not its crushing delegitimations, the convulsions of a cosmically gauche rationality, but love – fear, and love – love for her Lord – for the line about the church grounds was not arbitrary, but acknowledged by the living dead! Howsoever mutilated, there was structural affinity between the unfathomable atrocity and the religious emancipatory wish which had preceded it various institutional elaborations. “Hallelujah!” she unbidden shouted [lit. “Get me out of here in one piece”].
Even those buried in the cemetary had not entered the chapel earlier. Its sanctity must be of an even higher repulsive order. It would be the ideal sanctuary, were it not full of meat.
This was the meat that Brenda then considered. Infested, overrun by whatever dark principle brooded here, the Deific germ had defended itself the only way it knew how – by secreting a cyst wall of Our Lord’s body, to await, beseiged, angelic reinforcement. Or perhaps the sorcerous airs themselves were the origin of the meat, blotting out this sanctified territory, abhorrent to it, with enveloping spongy tissue from Hell? Then might the holy building yet spit it out? Or perhaps some dark worm in the Divine psyche had agitated it to this abnormal surfeit of flesh, parasites oft are seen thus to disorient their Hosts. The girls were divided and soon Elisha was in trouble again. Its hands cupped her breasts like sinks full of kitchen knives, and came away snagging on the steak within them. Brenda overtook her own hysteric squeal and body-checked the zombie. Brenda and Elisha hated the disorientating zombies.
She had begun to recommend her yet-ramifying hypotheses concerning the meat to Elisha when the second girl darted rapidly off from her side, down the little slope at whose foot stood the clogged chapel.
Folicles, thick as children’s plaits, protruded at random from frank puckers. Elisha seized one of these with both hands and yanked it free. It was crowned with twitching roots of gory flab – plucked like a dodgy upturned rose. Elisha let it fall and clawed sensibly at the exposed pore. Brenda saw at once. They would carve slots in the chapel’s belly and embed themselves, defy the man-eating devil somewhat like snug snow angels.
Snow angels had made an impression on Brenda – ha! ha! – in that without ever really thinking about it, she’d always thought of angels as reptiles. Most people think ‘angel,’ they think, ‘big holy mammal.’ Not Brenda. The cold. This is off-message. Inside the meat, Brenda thought as she ran down the slope, God in His wisdom has given us security.
The zombies poured in a wedge downhill towards them. They would claw basins. They . . . would claw basins! Brenda envisioned herself snug in the meat, blowing a raspberry and having the tip of her tongue snipped, and giggled.
She tugged up a turf of epidermis an inch thick and shaped like Benelux. Before this rug had even quit pulsating Brenda had punched elbow-deep into the ham gauze. Fraying and scooping until she suspected the skin of her blood-drenched arms, face and chest was seeping empathetic river.
But by was by now absolutely certain that they would run out of time to claw basins (perhaps in a living being / superbeing?) suitable to cower in erectly. Same old same old – would Elisha and Brenda draw the line at also biting away the marshmallow soft fidgety carnage swirls? They would not. Like two Eves they took of it.
In the gelatinous, rich paste of pork tallow, it would be uncomfortable.
As the zombies neared, the girls were able to lead them around the corner of the chapel. Oh the shallow troughs for which they yearned. The flesh snug around their arms. With themselves as bait and liberators, a kind of pattern of movement transpired which seemed to promise triumph to the pair.
Each time the crowd rounded the north-eastern corner of the chapel, mad and leaping, the girls left off their fleshmasonry and begin another brisk clockwise lap. When they were certain they had been followed as far as the south-western corner they sprinted, their gaits by now scarcely less eccentric, the balance of the lap to the gibbous gate and prised more meat. It was then that fatigue took hold. They say sometimes, terrible trauma gives you access to reserves of strength you never knew you had. Perhaps that’s why the zombies endured. No, that’s not right. Brenda felt a funny sort of companionship with the dead. She had to claw thick flesh with her bare hands and so did they. They held this in common. Brenda furnished the meat, to her satisfaction, with the outline of a girl and tried to help Elisha up into it. The wounded girl swatted her and returned heavily to the second outline. Ghosts envy fish, and so on, down to you.
Brenda was off – but this time something was different. Over her shoulder she saw Elisha climbing exhaustedly up – too soon, surely? – into the cavity she had scuffed in the meat. Participants received feedback about their appearance that was either congruent with their self-appraisal, congruent with their reflected appraisal, or more positive than their self-appraisal. Elisha was half-in, half-out when a hand grabbed her thigh. Brenda yelped, so did Elisha and kicked clumsily loose, then she was inside the meat.
Inside the meat, for better or worse, to try whether or no the vagrants might force into the seraglio. With relish they consented. Little by little, they pressed the gelatinous fringe of the holy zone, whittling a crater in the face of Elisha, who shrank vainly into the solid unyielding chops. In seconds they had scrabbled off her breasts and nose. You said it not me. One knelt and tore ribbons from her toes with sharp, ostentatious fumbles. The waned moons of her eyes swivelled, directing bloody tears this way and that. A strange, incommunicative groan left Elisha’s lips.
Yet for all that the zombies tore and guzzled, her injuries might be restricted to the peeling of her superficies – depending where the holy line lay.
She was nowhere near deep enough. The men sanded down the front of her body, to a plane something over an inch behind her face. Brenda tired of screaming. Soon Elisha could not make sounds. When finally all morsels of dead Elisha jutting over the sacred shield were gone, the men moved drunkenly to surround Brenda.
She ran swiftly through their middle and leapt, twirling perfectedly mid-air to face the lawn. Her shoulders hit the meat. He makes me down to lie. As Brenda slotted into her hole, Elisha’s hollowed corpse stepped free. Brenda was pleased she had not followed her first impulse, to clothe herself in her dead friend’s casing. Overzealous solidarity. She saw the sense in leaving that niche unfrequented. The viscera pixie swayed before her now, all trace of their former love gone, and reached both hands towards Brenda’s face.
The others joined her pawing, evil mimes. Was the gutter deep enough? – would the chapel jerk and purge her? – Brenda hypocritically tensed her muscles – prayer must be to speech acts as speech acts are to the words which composit them, only pragmatics cubed can found a proper sense of prayer. Hallelujah, Hallelujah. The moaning men – Elisha, Henry, Corntrough, Mrs. Williamson, the others – reached and reached, and Brenda felt a little nick on her chin. A gallant nail snagged her T-shirt and drew away a thread. She sucked her tummy in. Their fingers tapped on the button of her jeans. Her feet were splayed, forcing her legs bandy. A mushy thumb snapped off near her throat, but tickled. Was it malice or rote, that made them try?
Her body was bent back by the meat, so her chin jutted out farther than her nose. Indeed, her crotch was foremost. And steadily, steadily they were shredding the fabric of her jeans. That they tried to swallow it showed Brenda that she had not exactly been outwitted. Yet perhaps defeated.
Body parts have a certain paradoxical lightness, wings in particular. The chapel of meat about Brenda's back had some of that.
“Give it up boys!” she muttered “I’m not gonna stage-dive!” But her chin took a deep cut; she shouldn’t move her jaw, unless for a very wise crack. Hallelujah, she cracked wisely in her head. A chaos of flesh, yes, the armless, legless torso of Father Jeremy, twitched and writhed with a horrible rapidity to the fore of her attackers and uncannily bit off her wart. The blemishing scarabæus swallowed, no part of her poked out among their attentions, and so, the little figurehead chewed up, and some further suckling by Father Jeremy at the little spray of blood his bite had brought forth, which soon dwindled, the zombies shuffled off to join their brethren at the outer gates, who had already begun to file off into the day.