Old Detective Dandy lingered at the door of the Coroner’s office a while before knocking, smoothing his bushy white mustache down, working out some wrinkles in his grey suit. Finally, feeling presentable, he rapped against the glass. Inside, Dr. Monroe stopped filling out the papers on his desk and sat up.
“Come on in.” Monroe said. Dandy took off his old white Panama hat and entered the office. “Oh, you’re here.” Monroe cleared his throat. “Good.”
“You wanted me to take a look at a body?” Dandy asked.
“Well, that’s just the thing it’s…why don’t you come with me?” Dr. Monroe pushed himself out from his desk and stood in front of the Detective. “This way.” He led Dandy down a cold grey corridor, the lights shown brightly above. It wasn’t long until they stopped at another door, the room where Monroe explained, he examined new bodies.
“Just in here.” Monroe said. He held the door open for Dandy, who entered and looked around.
“There’s nothing in here.” Dandy said.
“That’s the problem, Dandy. Half an hour ago there was a body right there.” He pointed to a table, empty save for a sheet that hung half way off. “James O’Malley,” Monroe added, “age 49, he dropped dead of a heart attack. And he was right there until, uh, well…” Monroe trailed off, rubbing the back of his head. Dandy sensed that the Doctor couldn’t quite bring himself to finish his sentence.
“You mean that there was a body, and then there wasn’t.” Dandy said.
“You make it sound so simple…but yes. I—I turned around for a moment and he sat up. When I saw him sitting there, I let out a scream, but it was like the noise didn’t even register with him. He just sat there, staring ahead. Then finally he stood up and shuffled out of here. Before I could regain my senses, he was gone. I guess I was in shock.”
“So, the dead man has risen and walks again, does he?” Asked Dandy. He put his hands on his hips, imagining the scene as the Doctor had described it.
“I know how it sounds.” Monroe said. “But…with your field of expertise, with the cases I’ve heard that you’ve solved, I knew you were the only one I could call. The police, they would never believe me.”
“Oh, I know it.” Dandy said, nodding his head. “Everyone on the police force is a skeptic, they lack an open mind.” He put his hat back on and began to scan the room. First, he looked at the chart for O’Malley. Everything seemed in order. It offered no real insight, it was only compulsion to look everything over. He had, after all, been a detective for a long time. He did, however, help himself to the photograph of the dead man, which was attached to the chart. He studied it. O’Malley was a sturdy looking man, with thinning hair and a greying beard. He looked in good health. But of course, he wasn’t.
“So, you believe me?” Monroe asked after a while. He sounded relieved.
“I’ve seen a lot of strange things,” Dandy began, “Things that go bump in the night, you might say. After all these years, a walking dead man ain’t so hard to swallow.” Dandy knelt down beside the empty table, his eyes spotting a glimmering trail.
“What’s this?” he asked himself. He put a finger on the trail, it was slimy to the touch, cold. “Very interesting.” The Detective said.
“I had a look around too,” Monroe chimed in, “I was hoping you could find something that I had missed.” Dandy shook his head.
“Nothing much, just…” he trailed off.
“Can I ask a question?” Monroe cut in.
“I believe you just did.” Replied Dandy with a slight smile. “But I’ll give you another one for free.”
“Do you think we’re dealing with a…zombie?” Monroe swallowed hard at his last word.
“A zombie…I can’t say for sure what exactly we’re dealing with. If it is indeed some sort of reanimated corpse…well, it’s just too early to tell. Not much to go on here, but that’s never stopped me before.” Dandy walked toward the door. “I’ll keep my ear to the ground and do some good old fashion leg work, and I’ll find something.”
Exiting the Morgue, Dandy sat in his car, studying the photo of O’Malley. He always kept an open mind, after all he had seen, there was no way he couldn’t. But he was careful too, he needed proof, physical proof. He had to see it before he could give it a name, before he could do anything about it.
“Let’s see if we can find this handsome lad.” He said to himself as he began to drive away.
It wasn’t long before the old police scanner in his car picked up some chatter. He was a private detective, and though he didn’t work for the police, that didn’t mean that the police themselves couldn’t be of use to him. He sat listening intently as the scanner kicked to life.
“Any unit’s close to Jock’s Bar on Maple Street? There are reports of a naked man walking around. Seems to be in his late 40s, early 50s, likely intoxicated of on something, he’s staggering around.”
“This is Jackson,” Another voice broke in through the static. “I’m around that area, I’ll go check it out.” Jackson sounded perturbed, assuredly thinking this was no real matter for a policeman to handle. Nothing of real concern. But Dandy had some information that others didn’t possess. And it sounded exactly like the man he was after.
He pulled up to the neon sign that read “Jock’s.” It was a popular night spot for the people about town. He looked around slowly, scanning for anything out of the ordinary. There were people outside the bar chattering away, perhaps they had seen something. This thought was interrupted when he noticed the police cruiser sitting across the street from Jock’s. He walked over, hoping to find the officer, but there was no one inside.
“Hey, pal, stay away from my car.” Called out a gruff voice. Dandy turned around, and there stood, he presumed, Jackson. He hadn’t heard any footsteps or anything. Must be age getting to him, he reasoned.
“Oh, sorry.” Dandy fished around the inside of his jacket pocket and pulled out his ID. “Detective John Dandy, I’m working a case.” The officer studied the credentials for a moment. Dandy continued. “I’m looking for a missing man, he—” Dandy was cut off by a loud scream. Both he and the officer turned toward the source of the abrupt sound. It was coming from near the bar, two women stood pointing across the street. Dandy’s eyes followed. A naked man turned and stammered into the wooded area, as if he were deterred from his task to get close to the bar because of the scream.
“Hey, stop!” Cried Jackson. “Damn drunk.” He rushed off in the direction of the naked man, Dandy following quickly behind him. Dandy was trying his best to keep up with the officer, as it was now nighttime, and the forested area was dark. Wisely, Jackson had grabbed his flashlight. Thus the police officer was his only source of light in the woods.
“Officer hold on now,” Dandy began, “I think there’s more here than meets the eye, you—”
“Not now old man.” Jackson interrupted. “It’s just some drunk guy, or some guy on drugs. And he’s gonna fall in a river and I’ll have to fish him out.”
“I appreciate your willingness to do your job, to serve and protect,” said Dandy, “but if that’s the man I’m after, we must be very careful.” But it was too late, the officer wasn’t listening to him. Jackson, a younger man, big and bulky, scurried off into the darkness, leaving Dandy behind. Soon, the Detective could only see what was right in front of him. His eyes were taking their time to adjust to the darkness.
“Officer?” Dandy cried out, but there was no response. “This is the problem with young people,” Dandy said to himself, “Always so quick to run into everything headfirst.” He fumbled around in the dark for a moment, putting his hands out in front of him to ward of branches, then he stopped in his tracks. A deep voice let out a scream that split the air.
“Jackson?!” He was almost certain it was the policeman crying out. The scream was followed by the sound of gunfire. Dandy followed the noises. “Where are you? I’m coming to help!” Yelled Dandy. But it was only met by another scream. This time, though, it was louder, and Dandy knew he was getting close. There was a beam of light shining from somewhere on the ground, cutting through the darkness. Dandy stopped to catch his breath for a moment, his hands on his knees. Then he looked up.
The officer was on his knees, it seemed he had dropped his gun. He was squirming, doing his best to get away from O’Malley, who stood over him. He was gripping Jackson’s head, one hand on the forehead and one on the jaw. It looked to Dandy as if he were forcing the officer’s mouth open. Dandy found his voice.
“O’Malley, stop!” Dandy cried out. But whatever stood before him, the Detective could tell it was no longer O’Malley. The corpse began to wheeze, and before Dandy could process just what was going on, O’Malley bent over and let out a gurgling noise.
From his mouth shot a slimy white object, it looked like a fat worm. It landed on the officer’s nose and worked its way down, slithering slowly into his mouth. The policeman cried out in panic, and then was muffled as the worm made its way down his throat.
“My God.” Dandy summoned, unable to say anything more. He had seen a lot of unreasonable things in his time, but nothing quite like this. Nothing so vile. After a moment that seemed to stretch on for far too long, the officer stopped choking and fell flat on the ground. O’Malley shuffled away, his task completed. Dandy waited for the man to be far enough out of sight to rush to the Officer’s side.
“Officer, speak to me.” He said, picking the man’s head off the ground. Jackson’s eyes were rolled clear back into his skull, there was no response. “Come on, man!” Dandy cried, shaking the officer. He wasn’t even breathing. He laid the man’s head back down and finally began to process just what he had seen. It was some kind of parasitic life form. Could it be possible? Had that been what reanimated the corpse of O’Malley? He thought back to the trail of slime at the morgue. At the time he hadn’t a clue as to what made that trail, but now it was obvious. Whatever it was had crawled into O’Malley’s body, giving it new life. He knew he had to find O’Malley but a thought suddenly dawned over him. He had to get back to the morgue and warn Monroe. If there were more of those things, around even more dead bodies—
Suddenly Jackson sat up, his eyes still white. He made a terrible screeching noise, his arms flailing around savagely, as if he no longer had control over them.
“Damn!” Cried Dandy. He shot back to his feet and began to run before the reanimated body of Jackson got the chance to notice him. Luckily, the officer, once he stumbled to his feet, stammered off in the direction that O’Malley had gone.
Dandy picked up the officer’s flashlight and navigated his way out of the woods and back to his car. He leaned against the door, catching his breath. He had to warn Monroe, and he had to call the police. But he knew they would never listen. Even if he were to relate to them what happened to Jackson, they would think he’s a crazy old man, they always did. They would never believe his story of parasitic worms, possessing bodies living and dead. It sounded so ridiculous that even he had a hard time believing in, though he had seen it with his own eyes. He looked up at the neon sign, to the bar.
“Well, maybe I need a quick, stiff drink first.” He said, staggering across the street.
Dandy sat firmly gripping the wheel of his car. He shook his head. Just where had Jackson and O’Malley gone, he wondered. They ran off in the same direction, as if going by instinct. He continued to monitor the police scanner in case there were any hints as to their location, or, he feared, any more attacks. He listened intently as he sped back to Monroe.
“Jackson hasn’t reported back from the naked perp.” Echoed a voice from the radio. Dandy slammed his hand against the wheel.
“He’s a worm now.” He cried. He took a deep breath. This was no time to lose his composure, as strange as things were. He had, after all, faced his fair share of odd situations. He knew the most important thing he could do was keep his cool until he figured out just what to do. Even if this was one of the more disturbing things he had seen.
“Worms…orifices…it’s too much for an old man.” He said to himself, clutching the wheel tighter. The image of O’Malley puking up a worm into Jackson’s mouth wouldn’t stop playing across his mind. These thoughts, however, were interrupted as he got closer to the morgue. He leaned forward.
“Good lord.” He muttered. Stumbling outside all around the grey building were at least a dozen bodies, reanimated, no doubt, by the thick white worms. Out of desperation, Dandy fumbled around his glove box looking for his gun. He held it in his hand for a moment but then began to wonder just what bullets could do to the living dead. Anyway, one he might be able to handle, but he knew he didn’t have the bullets or time to take out the whole lot of them.
He locked his door and rolled up his window. Suddenly a thought dawned on him.
“Oh no, Monroe, what happened to—” He was cut off by a crashing noise on his passenger side. A bloody hand grabbed at him through the broken window. Dandy let out a yelp and looked to see Monroe’s lifeless eyes and bloodied face.
“I was too late!” the hand grasped at him desperately, but the arm attached to it wasn’t long enough to reach Dandy, who stomped on the gas. Monroe was dislodged and fell to the ground. Dandy let out a sigh of relief, but it was premature. Before he could drive away, another corpse jumped and latched itself on to the roof of Dandy’s car.
“Get off! Get off!” Dandy pounded on the ceiling of his car in a futile attempt to rid himself of the living dead thing. He swerved but the body refused to let go. Being clear of the morgue, Dandy formed an idea. He threw his foot down with all his might onto the break, stopping the car sharply and sending the corpse flying. The body landed on a dirt path and bounced hard. Unsure of what exactly he had accomplished, Dandy gingerly got out of his car, leaving the door open in case he needed a hasty retreat. He gripped his gun tightly and inched forward. He could feel sweat running down his forehead, but the corpse remained motionless.
Then, with a horrifying swiftness the body shot back to its feet and whipped its face toward Dandy.
“To Hell with it.” Dandy said, aiming the barrel of his gun squarely at the body walking toward him. He let loose a bullet, and hit its mark in the upper chest, near where the heart sits. Blood began to pour out of the wound, but there seemed to be no effect as the dead man continued to walk toward him. Dandy let out a groan.
“Well, I got a few more!” in desperation he fired off the rest of his round, but the living corpse still stumbled toward him. Whatever the worm was, wherever it called home, it didn’t feel any pain associated with the human body. Dandy fumbled backwards looking to get in his car. With lighting quickness, the undead being was upon him, grabbing him by the arm. Dandy thrashed in a futile attempt to get away.
“Let go, let go.” He cried. The thing had an incredibly tight grip on him. It was stronger than any man could be. He hated to admit it, but he couldn’t help but feel things were getting a little grim. He fell backwards into his car, and in his flailing his elbow smashed into the radio, pressing play on the cassette that he’d loaded into the car earlier.
“Tramps like us, baby we were born to ruuuun.”
The song came in loud and suddenly, filling the car. The grip of the corpse lightened. Suddenly it began to convulse. It reached up, grabbing its face, shaking more and more violently. A shrill shriek let loos from its lips. Dandy covered his ears and watched in horror as the fat worm came burrowing up from somewhere inside, launching itself out from the mouth, hitting the ground with a thud. The body that had been attacking Dandy crumpled to the dirt, dead once more. Dandy leaned out of the door and watched as the worm began to shrivel up and melt. It died with a hissing noise. Dandy sat up and adjusted his black tie with a laugh.
“Damn things can’t stand the boss.”
Not long after this strange encounter, Dandy had formed a plan. Knowing the nearest Radio Shack was only a few blocks away, he would find the biggest, loudest stereo he could find and arm it with the Bruce Springsteen cassette. From there, he knew, it would be a matter of luck. He hadn’t counted on one crucial element though: time. When he got to the Radio Shack it was nine o’clock and they were closed.
“Damn.” He muttered to himself. However, a private detective was not without his tools. He leaned over the passenger seat and popped open his glove box. From inside he retrieved his lock picking kit. He had learned to use these tools as a young man, and it had come quite in handy in his career since. Sometimes, he reckoned, there was reason to break the law. This, he concluded, was one of those times. He knelt and placed the tools into the lock, fishing around until he finally heard a the clicking noise that he was after. Unsure if he had tripped some silent alarm or not, he knew time was of the essence.
He looked left and right in the darkness, searching out for the stereo section. Finally, he saw what he was looking for. A large grey and black boombox sat out on display.
“This should do the trick.” He said. He picked it up under his arm and retreated to his car. After driving away from the scene of his crime, unaware if the police were on their way, he pulled the cassette out of his jacket pocket and popped it into the boombox. Pressing play, he found the system loud and assaulting, just the way he needed it. Hitting stop on the musical bombardment, he plopped the boombox in the passenger seat beside him and pressed down on the gas. He had to return to the morgue before any of the dead got away into the night.
When Dandy pulled back up to the morgue, he found the bodies still roaming around. In fact, even O’Malley and Jackson had showed up, as if they were called back to the building itself. But why hadn’t the others left? What was keeping them there. He thought for a moment. Maybe, he figured, if the worms were insect like, there was something inside keeping them there. A nest? Like bees swarming a hive. Perhaps O’Malley was some sort of scout. There was no way to tell from here, and all this thinking wasn’t getting him any closer to solving the problem.
That is, if he could solve the problem. He took a deep breath and swallowed hard.
As he opened the door to his old car, the bodies roaming around suddenly took notice of him. They began to stumble toward him.
“OK, Bruce,” he said, lifting the boombox up in front of his chest, “it’s now or never.” He hit play. As the music began to ring out, the creature nearest him started to convulse. Just as the first one had, it doubled over and regurgitated the fat worm from within, then dropped to its knees, awkwardly hitting the earth. The worm began to dissolve. Dandy held the stereo out in front of him like some sort of crucifix, trying to ward off evil spirits. Slowly he advanced, worrying that, at any moment the music may stop having its effect, as if it had been some kind of fluke. He felt sweat gathering up under his hat as another cold body approached him. It let out a horrible cry and puked up the white worm.
“What’s the matter?” he asked, allowing a small grin. “Can’t stand a little rock ‘n’ roll?” He involuntarily let out a laugh. He caught himself and regained his serious composure. The last thing he wanted was to let his guard down.
One after the other, the slow-moving bodies approached him, and one by one the music caused them to convulse, to flail and spit out the disgusting insects within. Before he knew it, he stood surrounded by the recently dead, dead once more. He let out a sigh, finally breathing for what felt like the first time in an hour. The lawn of the morgue was littered with bodies. He looked around.
“This is going to be a hard one to explain.” He said. But then he remembered, it might not be over. Whatever had caused this, it might still be in the building. It had to be in the morgue somewhere. He rubbed his chin. “Maybe I should just burn it down.” He mused. He thought for a moment. He didn’t want to cause any more damage and anyway what if he was wrong? What if there was nothing else in there? Walking toward the building, he stepped over the body of Monroe.
“I’m real sorry, Monroe. Maybe if I had stayed a little longer, or got back a little bit sooner, I could have saved you.” He paused, reflecting on the coroner’s grim fate. Suddenly he felt a surge of determination. “But if there’s anything left in there, I’ll put an end to it. For you.” He knelt and grabbed a ring of keys off Monroe’s belt. Slowly he approached the building and entered, carrying the boombox by the handle. His eyes flickered back and forth, looking for any signs of movement.
There were no hints of motion, no noises, it was eerily still within. Dandy awaited any sound, any hint of life. He gingerly popped his head into door after door, but there was nothing to be seen. He began to suspect that he had indeed been wrong. Then he came face to face with the last door he had yet to open, a door labeled, “basement.”
“It’s always the basement.” He mused aloud. He took a deep breath and flung the door open. It was dark and musty, as if no one had been down there in ages. He fumbled for the light switch and found it. When the light flickered on there was a sudden squealing noise, almost causing Dandy to lose grip of the stereo in his hand.
There at the bottom of the steps sat coiled a giant white worm, its body bloated, pulsating. It looked to Dandy as if it were pregnant, ready to spit out another batch of small offspring.
“Good god!” Dandy exclaimed. Without warning, the giant worm uncoiled itself and lashed out at Dandy. It was quicker than the old detective and lassoed itself around one of his legs. The worm gave a savage tug, and the Detective came tumbling down the stairs, thumping the whole way down. He felt the pain shoot throughout his body, and the panic began to swallow him. It was at the bottom of the steps that he realized he had lost the boombox. It had flown off in either direction. He looked around. There it was on the ground to the left of him, its big chunky batteries dislodged laying not far from the stereo. Then he felt something crawling on him.
He looked down, a fat white worm was working its way up his leg, he violently swept it off. He looked up and saw another coming his way. The Queen worm had him by the leg still. He kicked her furiously as another baby worm worked its way up his torso. He placed a hand over his mouth, hoping desperately to prevent any stray worms from getting in. He kicked again. The pointed toe of his dress shoe must have caught her in an eye or somewhere sensitive, because the queen let go with a howl of pain.
Dandy rolled over on his stomach and looked to the boombox. He knew he had one chance. Ignoring the pain that ebbed through his body he leapt for the stereo. His hands were trembling as he fumbled for the fat batteries that lay nearby. He trembled putting them back in, it’s as if he were loading a big gun. One of the batteries slipped from his shaking hand. He followed it and desperately grasped at it. He quickly put it back in to its place.
Suddenly the great white worm wrapped itself around his arm, pulling the Detective it her direction. He stretched his other arm out, and it was just short of hitting the play button. He panicked and began to thrash around. He began pulling desperately against the worm, but her grip was like a vice. He looked to the swarm of little white worms in who’s direction he was being pulled. Suddenly he began kicking furiously and out of sheer luck his shoe hit the play button.
Louder than before, somehow, the boombox began to ring out, the cassette picking up where it had left off. Bruce and his band filled the basement with sound. The Queen sat up sharply, letting go of Dandy, who fell to the floor and rolled to the stereo. He gripped it and elevated it above his head, turning the volume all the way up. The queen let out a terrible hiss and began to tremble horribly, violently.
Then there came an unnatural squelching noise, a horrible sound that Dandy would never forget. As the queen convulsed terribly, she suddenly exploded, white ooze filling the room and covering Dandy from head to toe. It looked as though he had been dipped in Marshmallow paste and the smell was rancid. This was followed by the hissing and melting of the smaller worms all around him.
Dandy stood wide eyed in shock. The boombox continued to play his cassette, though it too was covered in the remnants of the Queen. He stood silent, unblinking. After a moment he wiped some of the goo from his face.
Outside he threw the boombox in the back of his car, giving the cassette a kiss as he put it back into his own stereo. Sitting in his car he pondered for a moment.
“Well that was just…” he searched for a word but could only find one, “Dandy.”