My head hurt. Hmm. It really hurt. But why? I wondered. I meditated on that while a giant mitarashi dango danced the rhumba against a backdrop of bright, whirling lights.
Wake up, Robertson, it said in a serious tone. The music crescendoed and it did a fancy spin to match the rhythm.
I raised my eyebrows at the warm, delicious pastry. “What did you just say, giant mitarashi-dango?”
I said, you should open your eyes.
“What?” I asked, raising my hands. “Why should I do that? I’ll miss the show.”
Forget the show, Wayne. There’s more important things to think about right now.
“Oh yeah? Like what, specifically?”
The mitarashi dango bent down and met my eyes. “Like avoiding getting eaten.”
“Alright. If you put it that way,” I replied with a weak sigh. I waved goodbye to the dancing balls of tasty dough and forced my eyes to open.
A very large zombie who looked like he’d had his eyes baked out of his head lumbered into view.
Oh, right. Him.
The sumo roared and raised his giant foot in an effort to stamp out my face.
I rolled up onto my hands and knees, barely escaping his thunderous foot as it slammed into the asphalt. That seemed to disappoint him: the zombie didn’t have much of a face left, but what features he did have twisted into an ugly, mangled scowl.
I scrambled to my feet. The zombie howled again, then barreled forward, bits of rent flesh and fatty tissue trailing behind him. The giant heaved a Volkswagen-sized arm at my face. I moved, barely ducking his strike, then spun around and threw a roundhouse kick at his knee. The zombie grunted, completely unaffected, then pivoted around and grazed me with the back of his fist. If he’d taken his time to square it up, I would probably been launched back into mitarashi dango-land, but as it was, I was only knocked off balance.
When I’d recovered my footing I noticed the Mossberg lying on the pastry counter, suddenly well within reach. I smirked at the rotten corpse. “Sorry dude.” I flew through the front door and leaped over the counter, snatching the shotgun mid-air.
The sumo crashed through the entryway behind me, knocking over a rack of teacups. I turned and raised the Mossberg to my chin. “Time to shed a few pounds,” I said, flipping off the safety. I pulled the stock against my arm and squeezed the trigger.
A shotgun is a powerful thing. Really powerful. You never really realize just how powerful a thing it is until you’ve seen it liquify a target at point blank range. It’s truly an awe-inspiring sight.
Or, so I’ve heard.
The shotgun clicked, the sound of the firing pin snapping forward and finding exactly nothing in the chamber.
“Oh, what the hell is this?” I whined.
The zombie slammed against the counter. The sound of splintering wood and breaking glass roared in my ears.
“Shit! Shit! Shit!” I screamed, frantically racking the gun in the shower of debris. Again I raised the barrel to the sumo’s face, which was now just inches away, and squeezed.
“Telders, you bastard!” I screamed. “You gave me an empty gun!”
The zombie slapped the Mossberg out of my hands and waded into the rubble between us.
“Heel!” I yelled, tossing boxes of brightly colored pastries at the encroaching savage. I turned and hopped over the back counter, then swung around the east wall of the shop, scanning the racks for anything sharp and pointy. The zombie swatted a cash register and sent it flying into a rack of aprons just over my shoulder.
“Fucking Telders!” I cried, grabbing a bottle of sake from a shelf. I flung it at the zombie’s head but it arched wide and exploded on the opposite wall. “Son of a bitch!”
The sumo upended an island behind the counter and sent it flying sideways. At the same time a kitchen knife tumbled out of the chaos and hit the floor, skittering to a stop just inches from my feet.
“Well well well,” I said, snagging the blade. I immediately leaped forward and plunged the knife into the zombie’s right eye. He jerked back, arms flailing, as a spray of oily, black liquid spewed from the wound.
“Ack!” I yelled, ducking out of the way of the soupy ejecta.
I wasn’t far from the door. I clambered over a fallen shelf, tossing random kitchenware over my shoulder. I hit a patch of glass and skated past the main window before coming to rest against the front door. I jerked my head around. The zombie, who hadn’t bothered to remove the knife from his eye socket, seemed more intent on killing me than ever. He backed up to the rear end of the counter, then with a grunt, sprinted forward. And as if everything was suddenly playing out in slow motion, I watched as the undead sumo vaulted over the counter and floated through the air, a cloud of softly tinkling glass orbiting his gigantic frame. I stood paralyzed, a hollow “fuuuuuu” slowly escaping my mouth.
The sumo slammed back to Earth in real-time, the white tile floor crackling into a giant spider web under his weight. He straightened up, rivulets of black goo flowing out of its eye, and roared like an wild animal.
“Oh bloody hell,” I breathed.
I turned and ran.
Outside, I scanned the town for options. Across the road was the café, and to the left, the shamoji shop. Beyond that, a few unremarkable stores, and further on, atop the hill, the Buddhist temple where Telders was hiding out. Fucking Telders.
The ground shook as the zombie lumbered out of the store after me.
I backed up, trying to put together some semblance of a plan. I edged toward the café’s outdoor display case—the one filled with plastic food—and gestured to him. “Okay, c’mon asshole,” I said, slowly stepping back. “Let’s go!”
The sumo grunted and sniffed like a seething bull. I took one last step toward the display case, reaching back, to make sure I had enough room. The zombie broke into a sprint. “Come on!” I yelled. Then, at the very last possible moment, when I could smell the rotten flesh on his breath, I turned, pirouetting out of his path. The zombie slammed into the display case with a deafening crash. Plastic chicken teriyakis, colorful vinyl sushis, and tiny cups of simulated puddings went flying amid a shower of glass.
I frantically backed up on my hands and feet.
The sumo didn’t move. He stayed there in a slump, his head buried well inside the display case. Putrid, black visera slopped out of a fresh gash in his abdomen.
“That it?” I said, getting to my feet. I laughed a little. “That all you got?” I picked up a bowl of plastic noodles and lobbed it at him. They caromed off his back into the little stream on the side of the road. He didn’t move. “I guess so,” I said, crouching down for a breath.
“Jesus,” I said to myself. “What a fucking night—”
A sudden, ear-splitting screech of twisting metal rang out. I stood up with a gasp. The sumo lurched backward, ripping the display case into halves.
“Oh my Christ. Are you kidding me?”
The two pieces fell into twisted heaps at his side.
“TELDERS!” I screamed at the top of my voice “You fucking asshole!”
The zombie limped forward, his knees shredded from the collision, strips of rotten flesh literally dragging on the ground. He tried to scream, but his neck had been opened by the glass, and more of the dark yuck just gurgled out.
I swiveled around, searching for a weapon. Something. Anything.
Finally, something caught my eye. I darted over to the shamoji shop and wrenched the four foot, teak rice paddle out of the open air display case. I grinned. The oversized wooden spatula felt like a goddamn battle axe in my hands.
I turned around and nodded at the steadily approaching zombie. “Oh yeah,” I said, tightening my grip on the huge shamoji. “Bring it on, ass face!”
The zombie moved closer, staggering. It was a complete wreck: its neck was broken and cranked to the side, the kitchen knife was still protruding from one of its eyes, its knees were wobbling, and globs of fatty tissue and stripped flesh were hanging from its frame like dozens of exploded, oatmeal filled balloons. Zombie or not, I was amazed that it was even moving.
I cocked the big rice paddle on its edge.
The zombie took its final step.
“Sayonara,” I whispered.
Something exploded and I suddenly found myself flat on my ass in the middle of the street. I quickly sat up. The zombie, now headless, buckled, then collapsed sideways onto the road with a ka-thump.
“What the fucking hell?!” I screamed.
Stepping out from behind the shamoji shop in his camouflage hazmat suit, Michael Telders struck a pose. In his hands he held a smoking, sawed-off shotgun. He slung it over his shoulder and snickered behind his chemical mask. “Sorry, Robertson, couldn’t resist.”