Lest we forget about the real monsters in America.
The Magic Mega Mall Indoor Flea Market was neither magical nor a mall (at least not a mall in the traditional sense). For that matter, it wasn’t much of a flea market either, not since the pandemic had shut down all retail (and quasi-retail) operations in the city of Greenville.
It was, however, certainly mega, especially in respect to typical flea markets. Indoors or otherwise.
The shutdown—currently entering its seventh week—had proven devastating to the tenants of the flea market. Stalls were closed, merchandise either locked up or carted back to the owner’s residence, aisles empty and dark. Beneath the abandoned flea market, in a basement originally reserved for storage and other illicit activities one typically finds in third-rate retail establishments, three remaining tenants were facing struggles of a different kind.
At one end of the basement was a makeshift living room filled with second-hand furniture and a third-hand area rug.
A woman lay splayed across the threadbare couch, her arm dangled over the edge with a robust sense of lethargy. Her usual plump and rosy complexion was pale and thin. A flowing crimson top seemed not to care about the absent flowing air as it billowed around her.
“Uuuuuunnnnnggg …” she moaned. “I hunger!”
A figure popped his head out of one of the fenced-off storage units that lined one side of the basement. He clutched a fluffy orange tabby and offered it in the woman’s direction. “Cat?”
The cat hissed and swiped at him. He flinched, tossing the uncooperative feline back into the storage unit.
“I’m allergic,” the woman grumbled. “One sip and I’ll have the drizzly shits for weeks.”
With a lurch, the poorly-stitched-together-person closed the storage unit before sitting down next to the woman. He was much paler than the woman, black circles around his eyes where the flesh had simply abandoned all semblance of biological function. Across his forehead, haphazard staples held together two loose flaps of flesh. He wore a dark red dress shirt, black pants, and a matching black buttoned dress vest for extra support keeping his torso together.
“I know what you mean,” he said, his vocal cords raspy from death but still youthful in a decrepit sort of fashion. “The last time I had a bag of Brain-O tacos from Los Muertos Hermanos, I was shitting up a storm for three days.”
He casually leaned back and threw his arms around the back of the couch. “I didn’t even know zombies could do that,” he said in bemused wonder.
She rolled her eyes. “Pick up your arms, Zaphod.”
Zaphod Zombie sighed and got up to collect his dismembered appendages from the floor behind the couch.
The woman flailed with histrionic anguish. “I haven’t been this hungry in a thousand years.”
Another voice, this one so guttural it sounded like it came from someone eaten by a Sasquatch: “Don’t be dramatic. You’re barely even a hundred.”
Zaphod sat back down as the woman pushed herself to an anguished sitting position, elbows on knees, head cradled in hands. She said to the hulking figure sitting across from the couch: “You know, you’re a stout, virile young man. We could have just a little nip—”
Large, intelligent brown eyes glanced over the frames of a pair of comically-undersized reading glasses. “For the last time, you can’t drink my blood.”
“—just a tiny sip—”
She collapsed back into the couch. “Admit it, you want me to perish!”
Across from the couch, a hirsute finger the relative thickness of a rolled-up magazine picked at the edge of a local newspaper before turning the page. After a moment, the finger was licked and it picked again at the edge of the paper. An equally hirsute finger on the other hand nudged at that pair of comically-undersized reading glasses resting on the flat nose of Lincoln Squatch.
“No one wants you to perish—”
“Then help me eat now, you beautiful bastard,” V'Dara replied. She held a thumb and an index finger a small ways apart. “Just a little sip?”
Zaphod snatched his digits back from V'Dara. “C'mon!”
Lincoln sighed. It had been a few years since he had struck a deal with the mall’s manager—Lincoln worked night security at the mall in exchange for basement accommodations. Lincoln understood all too well the importance of a responsible, symbiotic relationship with the humans. He sympathized with his vampiric friend but he also knew that the dead don’t die—she could stand to be a little hungry until the situation was more tenable.
Lincoln looked back down at the headline in the newspaper. He shook his head gravely and tried to change the subject. “Says here the unemployment rate is worse than it was during the Great Depression.”
V'Dara’s head rocked gently in absent thought. “I remember the Great Depression,” she mused. “Wasn’t nearly as hungry.”
Zaphod looked up from screwing his fingers back in place. He was flabbergasted by Lincoln. “Since when do you care so much about how the meatbags manage this crisis? Last I checked, they’re the ones who hate us. Pretty sure that’s why we live in a basement, Link.”
V'Dara stared wistfully into the distance. “… meatbags. Bags. Full of blood. Blood bags …”
Lincoln took his readers off, folded them carefully and set them on the side table. “Where the ‘meatbags’ go, the monsters follow.”
V'Dara sneered. “I hate that word. Monsters,” she gagged.
Zaphod pointed at V'Dara. “Exactly. That’s what I’m talking about. We’re not the ones hoarding money, denying healthcare, or conducting ourselves in an irresponsible manner during a pandemic!” Zaphod’s righteous outrage was almost inspiring. “I mean, look around! I see a vampire, a zombie, and a Sasquatch the size of a Volkswagen Beetle—”
Lincoln frowned as he glanced down at his belly covered in dense, dark fur. It wasn’t that big.
“—if you ask me, we’re the original social distancers right here!”
V'Dara let out a forlorn sigh. “I want to invade someone’s social distance … with my teeth.” She bared a pair of extra-pointy canines and let out a weak, deflated hiss.
Lincoln shot Zaphod a sideways glance. “I’m pretty sure zombies aren’t hailed for their social distancing.”
“That is a stereotype and I’m offended,” Zaphod shot back without missing a beat. Softly, he added: “I don’t even like people. That’s the whole point of the kitten trade-in shop.”
Lincoln rubbed his brow. “Fine. Yes, you’re right. You’ve developed a respectable, self-contained food supply. And I’m perfectly content with my weekly forage in the woods.” Lincoln addressed the vampire in the room. “V'Dara hasn’t been so lucky. Where the ‘meatbags’ go, our kind will follow,” he repeated. “The lockdown sent everyone home but V'Dara still needs to be invited inside. A rush to re-open will flood the system—yes, V'Dara will be able to eat in the short-term, but if things go downhill again for the humans, it’ll put V'Dara right back into the same situation.”
V'Dara stewed in hunger and frustration. “… the unemployment rate is worse than during the Great Depression?”
Lincoln picked up his reading glasses. “And the financial markets responded with record gains.”
“And they say I’m the bloodsucking asshole.”
Lincoln shook the newspaper back open. “Where the meatbags go, our kind will follow.”
Zaphod stewed for a moment offered V'Dara a downward, apologetic glance. “… sorry.”
V'Dara shrugged a weak shoulder. “Screw it. Let’s order out.”
Zaphod perked up. “Oooh, Brain-O tacos?”
“I don’t care. Get whatever you want,” V'Dara said, handing Zaphod her phone to place an order. “I’ll have the driver.”
Enjoyed the story? Leave a few dollars in the tip jar!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jordan Krumbine is a professional video editor, digital artist, and creative wizard currently quarantined in Kissimmee, Florida. When not producing content for the likes of Visit Orlando, Orlando Sentinel, or AAA National, Jordan is probably yelling at a stubbornly defective Macbook keyboard, tracking creative projects in Trello, and animating quirky videos with LEGO and other various toys.