I’m as excited as Riff Randall was in Rock N Roll High School to announce my guest for today (but it’s not the ghost of Joey Ramone). It is, in fact, the Funky Werepig himself, Mr. Gregory L. Hall, with a free read from his new short story collection, Werepig Fever. Details, story, and buy links below, good friends!
About: Writer. Comic. Werepig. For years, in one form or another, Gregory L. Hall has terrorized the masses with his stories, his wit and his radio broadcasts from the No Pants Zone. Here for the first time he’s gathered 20 of his favorite darkly funky tales. And then added 2 more at the last minute to make things difficult for his publisher. From gigantic babies who destroy Des Moines to alien spaceships that cook people like bacon to vampires who suffer from erectile dysfunction, Werepig Fever is full of surprises. With this mixture of humor and horror, the message is clear. Buy this book – or Greg Hall marries your momma.
Gregory L. Hall has a long history in comedy, improv and theatre. He’s a national Telly Award winner and produced the annual Baltimore Comedy Fest to support Autism awareness. His dark fiction can be found in numerous publications and anthologies as well as his novel At the End of Church Street.
Nowadays Gregory is perhaps best known as the host of the popular internet radio show The Funky Werepig. However, he still lists the time he was hugged by Pat Morita, Mr. Miyagi from the Karate Kid, as the biggest highlight of his career.
FACE YOUR FEARS
By Gregory L Hall
A zombie ate my momma. I was only eleven years old but I remember it like it was yesterday. She wanted us to check out the old family home. A rundown farm house on a piece of property we never used anymore. The Lord took Daddy and the bank was gonna take everything else. That chunk of land was the only thing we had left to sell.
So Momma went in the basement to see if the fuse box still worked. I waited at the top of the stairs. I saw the zombie move from the shadows. I didn’t scream in time. Momma got chomped.
We don’t do therapy in this part of PA and my aunt and uncle tried their best to raise me, but the nightmares of that day have never gone away. I can still see him. Ragged clothes. Tufts of hair sticking out on his ugly head. Black fingernails. All these years later and I can still describe his freaking fingernails. How screwed is that?
About as screwed as a kid who told everyone he saw a zombie kill his momma. Oh, sure. The cops went out there. Looked all around the house and down in the basement. They didn’t find nothing. Not even Momma. And the truth is deep down, I knew they wouldn’t. It would have verified everything I said and more.
Life don’t work that way. Even at eleven I knew that.
It was my girlfriend, Cootsie, that talked me into going back out to the house now that I’m grown up. She’s real brave about life. She’s a pole dancer. There ain’t nothing she won’t take head on or stare down. Since we’ve been together she’s made me go scuba diving, bungee-jumping and party at a real live Goth bar. People dressed up as vampires biting each other and acting all dark. I didn’t like it but I did it. That’s what I love about Cootsie. She’s always pushed me to be more than what I am. She’s taught me the golden rule to life.
Face your fears.
I sat in the truck for a long time. That old house hadn’t changed a bit. It was run down and falling apart then, same as now. Weeds and dead bushes covered up the base of the house. Most of the windows were long gone, busted out and the panes decaying. The steps to the front door were rotted away. I could still get in that way but it was much easier to use the concrete steps on the side of the house. They were cracked and covered in green mold but I wouldn’t have to leap up and hang off a doorknob to enter. Plus that door led right into the kitchen, or what was left of it. And the kitchen stood at the top of the basement stairs.
I started the truck and pulled it around to the side of the house. I bounced over the ruts and bumps but didn’t care. Nothing was going to give me a flat tire here. I mainly wanted my baby as close to that damn door as possible. I would go down there like a man and confront whatever ghosts haunted me. But if they were real, I wanted to be able to get the hell out as fast as possible. I left the truck door open a crack. I was a horror movie expert. I wouldn’t be fumbling with any jammed handles.
Cootsie wanted me to go out at night to truly conquer my fears but that got vetoed. First off, she was huffing Lysol and she never makes sense when she does that. Second, Momma wasn’t killed at night. It was in the morning. Broad daylight. Wasn’t like a werewolf attacked her. I didn’t need a full moon. A hungry zombie don’t give a shit one way or the other if it’s day or night.
Still, I had my heavy duty flashlight in my hand. Despite the cloudy sky, plenty of light was coming off the sun. And with half a roof caved in, the house wouldn’t exactly be blocking it out. But in that basement, there were no windows. Just stone walls and a dirt floor. I wasn’t going to be caught blind and helpless.
I felt the flashlight’s weight. Curled it a few times like a dumbbell. I could smash a skull in with this if I had to. I thought again that I should have brought my gun with me but that would have been cheating. Easy to fight nightmares when you’re waving a loaded pistol around an empty basement. No, I was doing this the way it had to be done.
I prayed I didn’t get turned to zombie chow.
The kitchen door creaked on its rusted hinges. If I was hoping to sneak up on anyone, that strategy was blown to hell. I stepped inside holding the flashlight like a billy-club. A few pigeons flew up through the hole in the roof. I didn’t even jump. I was as ready as I ever would be.
There wasn’t much to see. An old fashioned metal sink with two faucets. Raw plumbing hanging out underneath. The cabinets were missing most of the doors and the shelves were caked in rat and bird shit. The wall that connected to the living room had a huge section punched out of the middle of it. Looked like someone shot a cannonball through there. I peeked into the other room but it was in shambles and as deserted as the rest of the interior. Nothing to see. I was wasting time.
It was the basement I had to conquer.
I moved slowly to the top of the stairs and channeled my chi. Just do this and then you can go home, I muttered to myself. My eyes strained to get a clear glimpse into shadows. The base of the steps was fairly well lit but past that? He could be anywhere. Waiting for me to come on down like a fool testing his luck one time too many.
I wondered if he had been waiting for me after all these years. That little boy who ran off screaming and crying, never looking back until he was back in town. I had run the two miles out of the woods and Mr. Treherne picked me up at the main road. He was a teacher at the high school but he knew all us kids. He threw me into his car and brought me straight to the sheriff’s office. But like all the adults, he didn’t say much to support me once I told what happened to Momma.
Well, I was either going to prove them right or wrong today. If that undead flesh-eater was waiting in the dark for me, I’d find out soon enough. I grabbed a chunk of wood that had broken away from a window sill. Old military trick. I’d seen Bruce Willis do it in a hundred movies. The hidden attacker is so ready to jump you, he springs out at the first thing that moves or makes noise. I threw the piece of wood down the stairs.
Nothing. Smart zombie.
I clicked the flashlight on and took my first step. It creaked so loud I closed my eyes in disgust. I wasn’t going to get any breaks sneaking around this house. I decided the slow decent was stupid at this point and opted for ninja. I ran down the steps, taking flight from the last third and landed onto the dirt floor below. In my crouched position I spun around in a quick circle for a perimeter check. Nothing, nothing, nothing. All around me was nothing. Basement was completely empty. My brain caught up with my data intake. Nothing, nothing, man sized figure, nothing. I was in the clear.
He came from behind me and to my right.
“Zombie!” I heard him growl.
I collapsed not out of combat-trained reflexes but because my knees gave way. The zombie’s momentum carried him over me and his stomach landed on my face. I rolled to keep his rot from falling into my screaming mouth. He reeked of pungent meat and death. I grabbed his flannel shirt and it crumbled in my hands. I pushed harder and the zombie flipped off of me.
I scrambled to get my flashlight. He clutched my ankle. His grip was like iron. Voodoo enhanced iron. I kicked back with my other leg and caught him in the jaw. I saw something fly loose from his mouth. I kicked again but this time he dodged backwards and my leg struck air. Dirt flooded inside my shirt and my belly scraped the cold loose floor as he dragged me towards him.
My eyes darted wildly across the room, straining to adjust to the darkness. My fingertips spun the back of the flashlight around and the wall closest to me illuminated. A shovel. Propped up against the stone and mortar. Within my reach.
I lunged for it and it toppled over. The zombie wailed as he tore my flesh and into my calf muscle. I snagged the very end of wooden handle. My fingers wrapped securely around it. The shovel was mine. Yes.
I flopped onto my back and let it rip. I swung that shovel like a steroid pumped jock. I expected a metal clang but instantly realized that would be stupid. I wasn’t striking another metal item. I was smacking a skull. So instead I heard a loud crack. And then a plop as the zombie swayed for a brief moment before collapsing onto the basement floor like a huge sack of wet kittens.
I moved on my hands and knees as fast as I could and retrieved the flashlight. Spinning around on my butt, I shined the light at the creature. Not a twitch. Not a wiggling pinkie. He wasn’t among the Walking Dead anymore. He was among the Dead Dead.
Take that you son a bitch. You killed my mother. This is what you get when you mess with a Pittsburgh Steelers fan.
Now to finish the job. I couldn’t remember my monster rules. Do I cut off his head? No, that was vampires and serial killers. Zombies had to be lit on fire like mummies and chupacabras. Damn me for not thinking ahead. I should have brought gasoline and matches. I could have burned him to ashes right here in the basement. I guess I could have run back out to the truck and see what I had but I wasn’t about to come back inside once I left this house. I decided it was probably best to go with the chopping off the head.
Way I figure it, a headless zombie can’t do much damage. All he can do is grab at you but that’s no worse than one of the drunks at Cootsie’s club. And as long as you don’t step on his head, it’s not like he can bite you. Let this bastard try and come back. He was about to be seriously handicapped.
I took the shovel and lined up the thin edge to his neck. I rolled him over to get a better shot at the decapitation procedure. God, he was ugly. Sunken-in face. Bug eyes. Mangy beard. Blood was pumping out over those random tufts of hair I remembered.
Blood was pumping out…
Hmmm. I didn’t think zombie’s bled. At least not the reddish kind you and I have. They always have that gunk that looks like clogged motor oil. Come to think of it, you don’t see many zombies growing beards either.
I knew it broke every rule of monster movie caution but I leaned closer. I put my fingers against his cheek and neck. He was warm. And I could feel the blood pulsing under his skin. I leaned even closer and sniffed. He smelled like piss and two dollar wine. I stood straight up.
I may have made a mistake.
I quickly shined the flashlight around the basement again. Stone walls, dust swirling around, a garbage bag. It was next to what seemed to be the remains of a campfire. A recent one. There were tin cans in a small pile under the stairs. A half-empty box of cereal they don’t make anymore. A filthy blanket stretched out on the floor. And a bottle of Boones Farm Ticked Pink.
I looked back to the corpse. It couldn’t be…but there they were. The black fingernails. My childhood zombie was nothing more than some homeless idiot.
I acted on instinct. I didn’t question myself. Some people might have gotten the hell out of there and denied they were ever there. But I knew somehow that would backfire. I had to hide the body. Dirt floor. I had a shovel. It was an easy choice. In case he had some pinko liberal Samaritan who stopped by every month to bring him more cereal and booze, they wouldn’t find a murder scene. They just wouldn’t find him.
It was getting late by the time I packed down the last shovel full. I smoothed it out to get it as flat as the rest of the floor. Deep holes take a while to dig but I was playing it smart. Anybody ever ask me if I was out at the old family house, I’d finally admit there were no zombies. The world was right, I was wrong. Let’s all just have a beer.
I was actually pretty proud of myself.
As I reached the top of the stairs a weird question did enter my brain though. When he first attacked me, he yelled ‘zombie’. Why would he yell zombie? He didn’t know my phobia. He couldn’t have.
My eyes caught something move in the kitchen. She stepped forward into the pale light. Her head hung to one side. I could see her collarbone from where all the skin had rotted away. She limped towards me on a foot that dangled loosely behind her ankle. I looked into her one good eye.
She took my face into her leathery hands. And then bit deep into my forehead.