Massacre on the Grass (Part 1)

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Citro probably shouldn't have opened her big mouth. Of the three antagonists slouching by the mailbox, the one in the middle, who we'll henceforth refer to as Alpha, now rose on his tip-toes and craned his neck so as to see over the shoulders of the advancing astronauts and catch a better glimpse of Citro and Spacekid.

"Ah now lookie here," Alpha drawled, his interest piqued. "Why you hidin' back there you purdy thing?" He turned to his friend. "I've a mind for the purdy one, John Boy."

John Boy nodded, licked his brown, flakey lips. He seemed more than willing to let Alpha claim first dibs and settle for the guy's leftovers.

Having each assumed an optimal position for eliminating the unfriendlies in a single synchronized blitz, the three male astronauts exchanged a look that was almost merry, then they made their move. Rehearsal lunged forward and thrusted his iron fireplace poker at Alpha's head; But Alpha, who had been expecting this, grabbed his cadaver friend and swung him directly into the poker's path. Apparently Alpha had brought along the cadaver strictly as a decoy! The metal poker punched through the cadaver's neck and-clunk!-somehow got caught in the neck vertebra. Rehearsal seemed much more upset at this turn of events than the cadaver itself, whose sallow, sunken face betrayed no emotion whatsoever; Rehearsal on the other hand unleashed a stream of expletives into his helmet's speaker.

Rowan, his ear ringing from Rehearsal's amplified exclamations, became momentarily disoriented and thus got caught up in the sloppy traffic jam of Rehearsal and pokered cadaver.

Sands, meanwhile, had more space in which to work. He gave a fierce, major-league swing of his hacksaw, aiming to plant the weapon's jagged teeth sideways into Alpha's head. No dice. Alpha, proving to be far more athletic than any of the astronauts could have possibly expected, managed to duck skillfully beneath the hacksaw a half-second before it warbled above his wispy grey hair, catching and uprooting quite of bit of it. Then, having survived the initial attack, Alpha and John Boy skirted around the cluster of confused men and escaped the immediate zone of close-combat.

"PROTECT CITRO!" cried Rowan, remembering Alpha drawling insinuation of a few moments earlier. In a frenzy he backpedaled and positioned himself between the two maneuvering cretins and Citro. Sands followed suit, leaving Rehearsal behind to deal with his poker problem (he still hadn't managed to liberate it from the slumped cadaver's neck vertebra). Rowan and Sands stood abreast and steeled themselves into a barrier, blocking off Alpha's path to Citro.

But here's the thing: Alpha hadn't actually been talking about Citro when he'd made those creepy, salacious insinuations; Turns out he'd been talking about Spacekid, who, in the recent pandemonium, had now been left unprotected and was standing quite a bit apart from the others.

"Here I come Purdy!" yowled Alpha as he swerved toward Spacekid and tackled him to ground.

"Wait, what?" Rowan said, flummoxed. "Spacekid!"

When Rowan and the others rushed to intervene on their young friend's behalf, the People known as John Boy leapt boldly into their path, clearly hoping to buy his friend some time to get his grub on. Sands, the most agile of the group, feigned to the left then swerved successfully to the right. When John Boy turned to go after him, Rowan stepped forward and started jabbing him in the back with the BBQ fork, puncturing his torso repeatedly, each time driving the weapon slipping cleanly through and thudding into the plate of John's ribcage. In seconds John Boy was gurgling blood.

Over John Boy's convulsing shoulders, Rowan watched in horror as one of the Peoples across the street strolled over to his garage, opened the door, and started shepherding out half-a-dozen cadavers. The People was carefully pointing them in Rowan's direction and then giving them a hearty nudge.

Much closer by, Alpha was gnawing fluffy gashes into screaming Spaceboy's spacesuit. Catching this in his peripheral vision, Rowan knew that Spacekid's suit's thermal padding would providing some manner of protection from Alpha's teeth. But with each gnawing bite, Alpha drew more of this buffering Mylar foam out of the suit's lining. Alpha was working his way pretty quickly toward the "purdy" flesh.

Citro was the first to get to Spacekid. "Wally, don't move!" She popped a squat and rather matter-of-factly commenced jabbing Alpha in the ribs with the space-aged "butterknife." The knife, a Low Earth Orbit (LEO) experiment sponsored by Wesley University's School of Engineering, its blade laser-sharpened at the molecular level and capable of lopping three inch columns of reinforced steel as if they were freshly boiled carrots, entered Alpha's body without making noise or even disturbing the clothing. The blade swam right through everything-clothes, skin, ribs, organs. Unlike Rehearsal's fireplace poker, the butterknife couldn't possibly get caught in any physical structure-it would just ease right back out, leaving a perfect negative-image of itself in the circuit board or the bowling bowl or wherever else you'd stuck it. Judging by the ease with which Citro executed her attack, the blade produced exactly zero friction as it punctured Alpha's side. It was like Alpha was made of out Jello or room-temperature butter. Bleeding didn't even commence until Citro was already on her seventh or eighth silky jab. Alpha was dead before he'd ever had a chance to acknowledge Citro's attack; Five stabs in and his head had already bopped down into Spacekid's helmet, blood smearing from his crooked mouth onto the curved glass.

Apparently satisfied that Spacekid was safe, Citro withdrew the butterknife and took a few seconds to catch her breath-it had been her first murder, after all.

Then, rather abruptly, the slumping Alpha lifted his head, his dead eyes ablaze with renewed blood hunger, a horrid hiss emanating from his gaping, blood gurgling maw. He picked right back up from where he'd left off, resumed he attack as if he'd finally caught his second wind. And he had. He was a cadaver now, dead flesh animated by some unknown, possibly alien force. Spacekid screamed anew when he recognized the hollow, empty look in Alpha's eyes. The kid knew he was being assaulted by something that by all known laws of the universe shouldn't exist.

As the cadaver sunk its teeth into the shredded patch of spacesuit, Spacekid screamed like he'd never screamed before.


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