The Graveyard Slot

A Short Work of Horror Fiction

Richie’s TV was on the fritz, and Mom was parked in the living room watching her American Idol or The Apprentice or So You Think You Can Castrate a Dachshund or some other bullshit. He had to pull the old Magnavox from the back closet of the basement, its plastic belly bulging with tubes and capacitors. It was hidden behind three dusty boxes of old magazines that Richie relocated, swearing under his breath. When he wrapped his arms around the Magnavox, strands of sticky spider web clung to his hands like a mummy’s wrappings. They tore free with a sound like Velcro, and Richie swore he felt hairy legs scramble across the backs of his fingers.

Carrying the beast up the basement stairs was out of the question, so Richie set it on a plastic milk crate and cleared off the basement sofa. The thing smelled like an old sneaker full of potting soil. At some point Mom had hopes for the basement, which she to as the “rec room,” but the fourth time it flooded, it became a repository for the dreams Mom had given up on: boxes of skinny jeans that would never fit again, toys left from Richie’s childhood, reserved for the day he produced a grandchild, and a museum-quality archive of twenty-first century fad exercise products.

After attempting at least seven different configurations, Richie gave up connecting his DVD player to the Magnavox. There was no cable or antenna, either. Over-the-air broadcast had gone digital, in accordance with federal regulations, rendering the Maganavox as useful for watching television as a microwave. Richie could hear Mom upstairs, rocking with laughter at something on the HD screen. Digging through the shelves where the Magnavox was interred, he exhumed his Panasonic VCR and three shoe boxes of VHS cassettes.

These were the tapes he couldn’t bring himself to throw out, when he mothballed the player. Among them were movies, or alternate versions of movies, too obscure or unpopular to get a DVD release, like the pre-rerelease Star Wars where Han shot first, or stuff he’d taped off television, like the original The Stand miniseries or the TV edit of Blade Runner with extra footage and an alternate ending. There were bootlegs, their images blurry and dull from copying and recopying: the four-hour rough cut of Brain Candy, the subtitled and uncensored edition of Battle Royale, and the copy of Meet the Feebles he’d worked to obtain back when the movie wasn’t available in the US. These were treasures, or had been once, and while they may have lost their currency, Richie held to them like gold doubloons.

On one tape he found five classic episodes of The Simpsons, and two of The X-Files, taped off the air with the commercials paused out. Back in high school, he and his friends would trade tapes they’d recorded, trying to show each other up by finding the most obscure, sought-after material, but most of his friends had lost interest in underground movies when they discovered booze and sex and money. Only Richie and Phil, who worked the late shift at the Video X-Press — kept the dream alive.

As the night crept into the wee hours, the time TV networks referred to as “the graveyard slot” and filled with infomercials and public-interest programming, Mom moved from her assprint on the sofa to her assprint on the bed. Richie was too tired to move upstairs. He lay on the sofa, an open two-liter of Pepsi and a half-eaten package of Keebler cookies within arm’s reach, while John Carpenter’s remake of the The Thing unspooled across the Magnavox. It was, in Richie’s estimation, one of the finest horror films ever made, but the slow-thrum bass score and early-80s pace were better than a sleeping pill at that hour.

Richie slept through the end of the movie, and the whir of the automatic rewind, but he snapped awake around three fifteen, his mouth parched and sticky from the soda and the basement air. It was the moaning that woke him. The moaning, and the plaintive soft shuffling of slow feet.

On screen, a crowd of slow zombies dressed in tattered funeral rags slumped their way down a small-town Main Street. The image was black and white, fuzzy and darkened around the edges like a kineoscope recording. It popped and fuzzed with broadcast static, and Richie took it for Night of the Living Dead, a Midnight Movie staple, until he remembered there was no more Midnight Movie, at least not that the Magnavox could pick up. Was there something else on the videotape? No, the black plastic tongue of The Thing protruded from the VCR’s mouth, automatically ejected after being rewound. This was something else.

Richie blinked and squeezed his eyes to clear away his grogginess. The image was strange — there was no camera movement and no editing, just one steady shot, elevated as if from a crane, of the undead mob. The production values were totally wrong for the black and white era. Romero’s Living Dead had been light on the grue. Those first seminal zombies were basically ordinary people with pale makeup and a few wounds and scabs. These were state-of-the-art. Their skin sloughed off in greasy slabs, exposing stubs of bone that dripped putrefying black slime. Their eyes were bright and harsh, eyelids drawn and crumpled, the way their lips peeled back from brown teeth and jaws.

Richie knew every zombie movie ever made. There were a few he hadn’t seen, sure, but at least he knew of them. This was no 80’s Italian flick, no Fulci or Argento. It wasn’t a J-Horror, which rarely made use of the Western zombie. It wasn’t Tom Savini, Dan O’Bannon, or any of the recent zombie masters, Danny Boyle or Zack Snyder or Edgar Wright. Perhaps it was something new, some retro homage to Romero’s classic, but that couldn’t have flown under Richie’s radar. Not with production values like this. Not when Phil still read Fangoria cover to cover and frequented every horror message board on the web.

Richie thought about calling Phil, but Phil still lived at home and didn’t have a cell phone. His parents wouldn’t take kindly to Richie phoning at quarter to four in the morning. It dawned on Richie that he had the VCR connected. He shuffled through his tapes for a minute, settled on taping over The Simpsons, which was after all available on DVD, and popped the tape in. The moment the heads settled into place, however, the image went dead. It left behind a blank black screen that buzzed almost inaudibly with the electric charge of cathode rays. After a moment the static kicked in.

Richie was dying to call Phil, but he wanted to speak in person, so he forced himself to wait, chewing his fingernails as if he were the one hungering for human flesh, until 7 PM when Phil’s shift began. This meant several hours at home with Mom, who spent the time in her spot on the sofa dressed in pink sweatpants and a Mickey Mouse sweatshirt, watching TV and eating. There was one uncomfortable exchange, when they both happened to visit the kitchen at the same time, during which Mom asked, as she always did, whether Richie was looking for a job.

Finally, 7 PM arrived and Richie raced to the Video X-Press. Bianca was there with Phil, leaning on the counter and sticking out her ass in her ripped-up jeans. How Phil, twenty-two years old with the pimpled complexion of a fourteen-year-old and still living with his parents and a collection of Star Wars action figures, managed to keep a girlfriend like Bianca, Richie would never know. He must have a cock that needed to be strapped down, Richie thought. Bianca was no bimbo, either. She knew movies, she knew comics, and she knew gaming. Richie would never admit it, but he avoided discussions of Manga when Bianca was around, afraid she might make him look stupid.

Video X-Press was the last real video store in town, holding out even after the Blockbuster was replaced with a blue-and-gold kiosk near the grocery store checkout. The X survived thanks to its elderly customers, who hadn’t adopted the new technology, and to its extensive collection of VHS pornography. The back room of the X was at least as large as the rest of the store, its shelves jammed with white plastic cases that would probably light up like a dance club if someone ever brought in one of those CSI jizz black-lights.

To accommodate the customers who kept it in business, the X was open until 2 AM, except Sundays, when they closed at 11. Phil closed most nights, and since money was tight, he was left alone with the security cameras. The store got quiet after eight, and often served as a late night hang-out for Phil, Richie, and Bianca. The only customers were single men who moved straight to the back room with no chit-chat.

“I love how they don’t even make eye contact,” Bianca said. Making fun of the masturbators was a frequent pass-time, but it never got old.

“Sometimes I make it a game,” said Phil. “I stare hard, the whole time they’re at the counter, and see if they even look up once. Most don’t.”

“We should get a stopwatch and time how long it takes them to return their videos,” Bianca suggested with a smile.

“One guy who came back ten minutes later,” Richie said. “I swear. He rented like three videos, too.”

“Christ, I hope he washed his hands!” Bianca kicked her feet as she laughed.

“That’s not the worst, though,” Richie told her. “What about when they’re back there for like an hour, and then leave without renting anything?”

Bianca shrieked and clapped both hands to her mouth. “Ohmygod, no!”

“It’s not funny,” said Phil. “I’ve had to clean up after a few guys. I shit you not. Why do you think I always restock when some teenager slips back there alone?”

“I always figured you were hoping to see his boner,” said Richie.

Richie had waited all day to tell Phil about the previous night, but now found himself sheepish. Maybe it was Bianca’s presence, but he’d also begun to realize how crazy it sounded. He’d found a secret channel broadcasting underground zombie movies in the middle of the night. They’d say he’d dreamt it. That’s exactly what Phil did say, when Richie finally forced the story out.

“I wasn’t dreaming,” Richie said. “I stayed awake for like an hour afterward, flipping channels and trying to find that station again, but it was just static.”

“Of course it was just static,” Phil said. “There’s no more analog broadcast. Nothing that TV could pick up. Either you were dreaming, or it was something on the end of that tape that you forgot you had.”

Bianca was sitting on the counter, sipping a Diet Cherry Coke through one of the twisty-straws from the bin next to the popcorn and kiddie movies. “What about a pirate signal?” she said. “I’ve heard of pirate radio, why not TV?”

“Do you have any idea what kind of equipment you’d need?” Phil asked.

“Besides,” Richie added, “this wasn’t some low-budg homebrew flick. These were top-rate effects, and with the number of people in the shot you’re talking serious production cost. Hell, just getting that big a cast together would have gotten noticed. They’d have to close down a street, set up a crane. No, this was serious, not some college filmmaker.”

“Could it be a network thing?” Bianca asked. “Maybe they were calibrating equipment in the wee hours? Or somebody at a local affiliate having a little fun, turning the old equipment back on?”

Richie shook his head. “I’d have recognized the movie.”

“There’s ten million zombie movies,” said Bianca. “How do you know it wasn’t some old one?”

Phil and Richie just stared at her, as if they didn’t understand the question. After a beat, Phil raised his arms in gesture to their surroundings. “What do you think we do all day?” the gesture asked.

“It wouldn’t hurt to ask around,” Richie said. “I suppose it’s not crazy to think we could overlook one zombie flick. Someone will recognize it. Old school film, black and white, but top-notch effects, and somewhere in it is one long shot of a zombie mob crowding a suburban street.”

“I can’t think of anything,” Phil said. “But there’s plenty of people shooting vintage stuff these days, using eight millimeter and stuff. I’ll run it up the message boards and see if anyone bites. If you see it again, try pressing record instead of sitting there being dumb.”

Richie tried just that. He spent the next night in the basement, flipping channels in a vain attempt to find the signal. It was mind-numbing, spending hours watching static, so he brought his laptop downstairs and tried a few message boards and search engines. There were dozens of fan sites dedicated to reviewing old vintage movies, even the terrible type that wound up on MST3K, but none of the summaries or still images matched what he’d seen, not even close. He found a few online casting notices for amateur zombie flicks, but they were strictly no-budget affairs. “MUST PROVIDE OWN MAKEUP / OWN WARDROBE,” they all said. There was no way any production relying on actors for their own makeup and wardrobe was getting the kinds of results he’d seen.

He searched the next night, and the night after that, pushing himself to stay up later in hope that he might find something, but it was all just static and snow. Phil started playing the store’s zombie movies on the closed circuit system, in alphabetical order, keeping an eye out for even a single scene that matched Richie’s description. He called around to other video stores to ask about their inventory, wondering if some elusive movie had escaped their notice. He confessed to Richie that he’d set up an old TV and antenna and stayed up flipping through channels.

“Tried every UHF frequency,” he said. “Bupkis.”

Bianca was getting annoyed with both of them. She’d never been a fan of zombie movies, and she was bored to anger with Phil’s unofficial Video X-Press film festival. When Richie came to the store she left soon after, muttering about his and Phil’s new obsession.

Richie gave up watching hours of static. He began to spend his nights watching VHS movies, spinning around the dial as each tape rewound. He got used to sleeping on the musty couch. Mom complained that he smelled pretty mildewed himself, but he told her he was considerate enough not to mention what she smelled like. She asked when he was getting a job.

One night, after he’d fallen asleep to Scanners for the third time, Richie awakened to a familiar sound of moaning. Before he’d shaken off sleep he was stumbling to the VCR to switch the tape and press record. His heart leapt at the sound of the reels turning, the magnetic heads engaging. Finally he could show Phil and Bianca that he wasn’t crazy! Then the sleep wore off enough that he noticed what he was taping.

It was the same angle, the same crowd of zombies, but they’d changed. For one thing, the quality was much better. This didn’t look like some 1950s kinescope. It looked like TV from the 70s or 80s, like an episode of MacGyver or Sledgehammer, clearer and crisper and in color. He could see the exact shades of zombified flesh, green and gray and yellow like a blister about to burst, and the purplish black of the ichor that oozed from nostrils and beneath fingernails. Worst of all, he could see the vivid blues and greens of their sunken eyes which, despite their state of decay, were very much alive.

The broadcast quality wasn’t all that had changed. Last time, the zombies had done little more than shuffle down the street. Now, they’d found prey, and descended into mass chaos. There were living people among the crowd, their limbs flailing as the zombies surrounded them like wild dogs. Grabbing with rotten limbs, the undead tore the living into scraps, stretching their torsos taut before perforating the flesh with grime-encrusted claws, spilling hot entrails onto the pavement. Blood was everywhere. They smeared themselves with it like oil wrestlers. They crammed tattered flesh and slippery organs into their mouths, tilting back their heads and swallowing in jerking gulps like waterfowl. This went on, the supply of victims seeming endless, until the creatures began to swell, and then to burst, their putrefied bodies too fragile to contain their gluttony. Whole body parts spilled from their ruptured guts, sticky and slick with blackened undead humours.

Richie made sure the VCR was recording. This was incredible — one long shot, with no cutaways or visible special effects. The butchery on screen couldn’t be achieved with trick floors, fake limbs on amputees, latex dummies with air bladders, animatronics, or any other trick he knew. CGI had come a long way, but if this was CGI, it was the CGI War and Peace. Richie felt nauseous. He couldn’t conceive how any filmmaker could achieve this in a single shot. He couldn’t wait to show Phil.

Then he noticed him, in the middle distance, easily recognizable by his black-framed glasses, greasy hair, and pale pimply complexion. Phil was in the movie. He was being eaten.

Richie sniffed in betrayal. So Phil had known all along. He was so full of shit. He’d figured out where the signal originated, and kept it to himself so he could go be part of the action. Gnarled, blood-stained hands reached into Phil’s abdomen and tugged, fighting against the rope-like strands of his guts. At least now there would be an explanation, Richie thought. Tomorrow Phil wouldn’t be able to keep the shit-eating grin off his face.

Except there was something strange about the way Phil stared into the camera, and the way his mouth moved, the same pattern over and over again. There was no sound — the moaning had died away at some point, and the video gone silent — but Richie cocked his head as he studied Phil’s face. That horrified grimace kept spreading the same way, forming one short vowel, and one long.

Richie felt a chill when he realized what it was. Phil was staring straight down the barrel at the face of the friend he hoped was watching, and he was screaming Richie’s name.

The signal cut to static.

Richie didn’t sleep. He considered calling Phil’s house, even if it was two hours before sunrise, but there was still a good chance Phil had staged an elaborate prank, and Richie would only look worse if he made a panicked late-night call. He rewound the tape and watched it twice to be sure of what he’d seen. Phil appeared on screen a few moments before Richie first noticed him. He emerged into the zombie mob from some indeterminate point, looking around confused for a moment before the hands and teeth found him. At that point his eyes searched until they found the camera, and he commenced his desperate screams for help. It looked incredibly real.

It wasn’t real, Richie told himself. It couldn’t be. Phil was just an incredible asshole.

He phoned Bianca at eight. Unlike Richie and Phil, she had a day job — a long-term temp gig in the office of a an old folks’ home — and had to be up during normal human hours. It went to voicemail. Richie tried her twice more before noon, at which point his own phone rang, and Bianca’s irritated voice greeted him.

“You’ve been blowing up my phone all morning,” she said. “I didn’t think you ever got up before one.”

Richie told her what he’d seen. In hindsight, his tone was probably more dire than he intended. Going sleepless for twenty-four hours, six of them spent alone watching and re-watching your friend being devoured, had that effect. The longer he sat awake, isolated in those hours between night-owl and early bird when no one was awake but the insomniacs, the more his brain convinced him that what he’d seen was real.

“You’re being fucking ridiculous,” Bianca said. “I saw Richie last night before I went to bed, and for once he didn’t say anything about any zombie movie. Call him yourself, and stop being such a pussy about his parents.”

“You’re right, he’s probably just messing with me,” Richie said. “I’m sure it’s nothing.”

“He’s not messing with you, he’s not anything.” Bianca said. “You sound completely exhausted, and your mind is playing tricks on you. Think about it. There’s no sound, and you said yourself it’s not an HD screen. You probably saw some actor who looked like Phil, and your brain took it from there.”

“You’re right,” Richie said. “Thanks.”

“Don’t call me again,” Bianca said. “I already have one nerd boyfriend, I’m not looking for another one.”

Richie took her advice and called Phil’s house. While he did that, he played back the tape and paused it when Phil — or the actor who looked a lot like Phil — came into view. Recorded on an old VHS tape and paused, the image did suffer, but the Magnavox had a big enough screen, and damned if that didn’t look exactly like Phil.

Phil’s mother answered. She had her own special tone of voice for when Richie called, something between “Of course you would be calling in the middle of the afternoon,” and “You’re the reason my son is still living at home and working nights at a video store.” She told Richie she hadn’t seen Phil. She didn’t think he’d come home after work last night, and he wasn’t at home now. She suggested he call Bianca.

Richie did, leaving three more voicemails. He thought it would be best, he said, if they spoke in person when she got off work. Maybe they could meet at the X.

On the glassy screen of the Magnavox, Phil’s mouth was frozen on the long second syllable of Richie’s name. Upstairs, Mom shouted at the TV.

It was dangerous to keep a VHS cassette paused too long. It put tension on the tape itself, and if the tape ripped there was no easy way to fix it. Richie had to make sure that tape survived, at least long enough to play it for Bianca. Except when she met him that night outside the X, she had no interest in the tape.

“You look horrible,” she said. Richie was slumped against the brick of the X’s strip mall exterior when she pulled up in her Honda.

“You look nice,” he said, quite honestly. She’d come straight from work and for once, Richie thought, she wasn’t dressed like a comic book fanboy’s wet dream. She looked like a grown up, or at least like an actress in one of those office-romance pornos. The X stocked a bunch of those, though they weren’t especially popular with the masturbators.

“I mean it, Richie. Have you slept at all?”

“Not in about 36 hours, and not much for the past few weeks. I finally got the tape I wanted — but it’s not what I was expecting.” He held out the videocassette, but she drew back like he was offering a hot dog bun stuffed with hot coals.

“I’m not watching that,” she said.

“But Phil — ”

“It isn’t Phil.” Bianca wore a sneer of irritation, but something in Richie’s expression softened her expression. He realized, witnessing that change, how pathetic he must seem. “Phil’s mom told me you called. I know what you’re thinking, and you’ve got to get a grip. Maybe he is fucking with you. Maybe he’s fucking with both of us. Or maybe he just got a whim to take a drive somewhere. I’m not sure. The one thing I am sure of? He wasn’t fucking eaten by zombies.”

Richie offered the tape again, begging silently with his posture. Bianca smiled slightly as she shook her head.

“Go home and watch something else, Richie.” She picked up a pack of cigarettes and tucked one between her lips, squinting at him as she started up her engine again. “Put on some cartoons. My Little Pony or She-Ra or something. Sit with your mom and watch American Idol. Just no zombies. You need to chill out — and get some sleep.”

As Bianca pulled away, Richie held up a hand to stop her. He meant to ask her, if she talked to Phil, to have him give Richie a call. But she drove away.

When he got home, Mom was watching Maury. It was the wrong time of day, but she kept a backlog of episodes on DVR in case the only thing on was the news. Mom hated the news, which she only ever called “the Bad News.” Richie considered Bianca’s advice. There was room on the couch next to Mom, and they were just getting to the part where Maury announced the results of the paternity test, and either way a fight would break out. Mom’s fingers squeezed the remote control in white-knuckled anticipation. Richie frowned and headed for the basement.

He set the video of Phil — or Phil’s doppelganger — on top of the Magnavox and rooted through the boxes of tapes for something cheery. There were more Simpsons episodes, but he’d already watched them three times each during his hours searching the static. There was some Aqua Teen Hunger Force, but that reminded him of nights watching Cartoon Network with Phil, and a stone of worry settled in his belly. He settled on Bad Taste, which wasn’t exactly cheerful, but at least it made him laugh. Forty minutes in, he had to switch it. Yes, it was aliens instead of zombies, but a movie with cannibal themes was still a bad idea.

Richie tried The Big Lebowski. Like most of his friends, Richie could quote a good portion of the movie verbatim, and it was one of the few he owned both on DVD and on VHS. He just hadn’t been able to bear throwing the VHS out. A few of them had talked about a road trip to Lebowskifest, but that was back in the good days before everybody got girlfriends and jobs and apartments and was suddenly too busy to stay up watching B movies.

Lebowski turned out to be the perfect choice. Just when the Dude was explaining to Walter and Donny how his peed-upon rug had really tied the room together, Richie fell into an easy, undisturbed slumber.

He woke up to the click-thunk of the auto-eject. The TV showed static. Richie turned over on the sofa to go back to sleep, but the long shadows thrown by the light of the tube nagged at him. His mother used to call that static “ant races,” because it looked like a million black ants on a white background. Digital TVs didn’t show ant races. When they weren’t getting a strong enough signal, they just went dark, or showed a flat blue screen. When Richie was around fourteen, he and Phil stayed up with the volume down low, flipping through channel after channel of static becausethey heard sometimes the scrambling on the pay-per-view porn channels wasn’t so good and maybe you could see a set of tits, or even a pussy. He and Phil never saw anything, but Richie had jerked it once or twice, home alone, to ant races that he’d convinced himself were really naked porno babes.

The same way he convinced himself some actor was his friend Phil, Richie thought. He looked at the tape, resting atop the Magnavox. Richie stood absently and went to the TV, then started flipping through channels on the VCR. Static. Static. Static. Click, click click. He frowned and looked at the box of cassettes on the floor beside him, and that’s when he heard it.

The moaning started quiet, so quiet he could hear the dragging wet feet, and the soft sound of rotten flesh in motion, like someone squeezing a sandwich bag full of jelly. When Richie looked up, it got louder fast.

They were back, the whole horde of them, and they were clearer and more vivid than ever. Richie would have sworn he was looking at an HD screen. There seemed to be hundreds, pressed together on that familiar street. The sidewalks and gutters were red now, as red and clotted as the runnels of a decades-old abattoir. Within the burgundy muck were amorphous black blobs, some of them clumps of hair, some hunks of chewed bone or organ gristle. Others he had no hope of identifying. The zombies picked up objects from the gutters, worrying at them with loose teeth before tossing them away. One, near the edge of the screen, found a live rat in the storm gutter and tore into it, spilling wet pink entrails down its gray chin. The rat squealed in frenzied agony and tried to squirm away, twisting and biting at the gray face of its attacker even as it was being eaten alive. The zombie took an intestine in its teeth and yanked the rat away, drawing those guts out like a strand of elastic pink bubble gum. The other zombies fell upon their companion as if it were another victim.

Richie felt his gorge rise, but he studied the screen with intensity, looking for some sign of Phil. Would he resume his grand performance from the night before? Perhaps tonight he’d be in zombie makeup himself. Richie leaned in so close he felt electricity tickle the fine hairs on his face.

It was one of the zombies near the back who moved first, raising his eyes as if noticing the camera for the first time. His mouth fell open in a groan, and he raised a skeletal finger. He was pointing straight at Richie.

This is new, Richie thought. Breaking the fourth wall. Overdone, but creepy.

The others took notice, too. One by one they raised their gazes, until every one of them was staring at him. Richie first felt a chill, and then a sense of panic. Their moaning grew still more, until it seemed no longer to originate from the television, but from all around. Richie scanned the basement, expecting to find living corpses advancing on him, but he was alone. Still the moaning grew. He killed the power on the TV. The image vanished, but the moaning continued. Richie yanked the power cord. As he expected, it did nothing.

They were outside. He heard the drag of feet outside the hopper windows. Their putridity slithered through every crack in the foundation. Richie ran upstairs, where Mom was parked on the sofa, dreaming in front of the late-night infomercial that had replaced whatever program she fell asleep on. Richie shook her. She swatted at him like he was a dream. Couldn’t she hear the moaning? It was deafening, Richie thought, so loud it might have been inside his skull. Loud enough to wake the dead.

Richie grabbed his keys. The car, he thought. He had to make it to the car. He could drive away, drive until the horrible moaning was behind him. He could go to a place where they had no TV, and no VCRs. He’d live with the Eskimos if he had to — and if he had to, if it was necessary to make a life where there were no zombies on late-night TV, he would get a job.

Richie threw open the front door, ready to make a dash to the car, but they were on him immediately. Their gaunt hands, flesh falling away from the fingers like snow melting from branches, were astoundingly strong. Finger bones sunk into the flesh of his shoulders like hooks, pulling him through the open door even as he resisted. The smell of them was an assault, unimaginable in its offensiveness.

They dragged him off his feet and tore at him, ripping his clothes and his flesh with equal ease. Richie saw his own stomach laid open, his intestines vomiting forth like a cluster of slimy, fat earthworms. The pain was incredible, but he was too shocked, too lightheaded, to scream. As they pulled out his insides and began to eat him, Richie was dimly aware of his mother, in her spot on the sofa, cackling at something on the TV.

Christopher Keelty is a writer and artist from Philadelphia, living in New York City. He posts most regularly on Twitter and at

The Graveyard Slot first appeared in Big Pulp magazine’s Black Chaos Zombie Anthology.