Dammit; I wanted to publish this on Halloween, but I'm ten minutes late.
My knowledge of zombie lore is limited, and I only remember at the last minute that I should write a Halloween fic, so there was no time for research. Please humour me in my ignorance!
Sarah stood in front of the mirror, putting the finishing touches on her warrior maiden outfit. She wasn't going to go trick-or-treating, of course; she was far too old for that. And nor was she going to some dumb party where underage teens would be getting drunk out of their minds.
When Karen had heard that Sarah didn't have a party to attend she had clucked in disapproval and asked what was the point of dressing up, then?
But Sarah had ignored her. Everyone knew that Halloween—All Hallows Eve, the Day of the Dead, Allantide, Samhain—was one of the most magical days of the year, and if anything supernatural went down tonight, she wasn't going to miss out just because she hadn't bothered to make herself a kickass costume.
Smiling to herself, Sarah loosened her sword in its scabbard and left her room, heading downstairs. The house was empty, so she assumed that her father and Karen were already out trick-or-treating with the three-year-old Toby. They had tried to talk her into staying home to give out candy to other children, but she had steadfastly refused.
Halloween only happened once a year, after all; you couldn't just take it for granted.
Sarah was almost at the door when she stopped, staring at the floral beige wall paper in the front hall, which was decorated with a very realistic bloody handprint.
'I thought Karen said we weren't allowed Halloween decorations inside,' she muttered mutinously, turning to head on outside, but then she stopped once again: the door was wide open.
'And they call me irresponsible,' she grumbled, slamming it behind her as she stepped outside.
And then, for the third time in as many minutes, she stopped as she beheld the scene before her.
'What,' she said aloud, 'did everyone decide to go as a zombie this year? And here I thought that vampires would be more popular.'
She descended the front steps and walked down the street, surprised at how many adults were in costume, and at how realistic all of the costumes were. It was a good thing she had put so much effort into her own, or she would really look pathetic next to all of these hardcore zombie outfits. She continued to trudge along, waiting for the magic to start and absentmindedly wondering how the man stumbling towards her with his arms outstretched had managed to get his head at so odd an angle.
She thought about making a wish for something magical to happen, but decided against it; better to just let these things come naturally. It was a full moon; it seemed quite impossible for there to be a full moon on Halloween and for nothing magical to happen.
Suddenly Sarah noticed that there seemed to be even more people dressed as zombies than there had been when she'd left the house. And that they were all shuffling towards her, surrounding her.
'Guys,' she said loudly, 'your costumes are great, but I'm not in the mood.' They kept coming, and one of them actually grabbed at her shoulder with his slimy fake zombie hands. 'Get off!' she shouted, and pushed him back, hard. In what felt like slow motion, he fell backwards, crashing down onto the cement, and as he hit the ground the impact sent his head flying from his body.
And that was when Sarah realized that she didn't need to go looking for magic, because the magic seemed to have found her. It just wasn't quite the kind of magic she had been expecting.
'I'm disappointed,' she told the world, staring as headless body continued to move limply on the ground at her feet. 'This really isn't very creative.' Then she drew her sword and began to battle her way through the mob of very real zombies, careful not to let their faces anywhere near her body. Once, a greying hand caught her by the hair, and she turned and almost dropped the sword in shock when she saw that it was Karen: Karen, her clothes bloody and tattered, her eyes wide and glassy.
Well, now I know it's not just a Halloween prank, Sarah thought. Nothing could ever make Karen dress up like this. Recovering rapidly from the shock, Sarah lifted the sword and slammed the hilt down on her stepmother's head.
'I enjoyed that way too much.'
She cleaned her blade on Karen's shirt and head out into the darkness. It had hit her that if Karen was a zombie, and Karen had been with her father and her brother trick-or-treating, then the rest of her family must be in danger, and while the safest thing to do would be to go home and hide, or find a more defendable building to hole up in, she wouldn't even consider it until she found out what had happened to them.
As she walked along Sarah tried to remember everything that she knew about zombies. Unfortunately, the only zombie movies she had ever seen were 28 Days Later and Shaun of the Dead, so her information was lacking. What were their weaknesses, again?
Did they melt when you threw water on them? No, that was witches.
Garlic scared them off? No, that was vampires.
Holy water? Maybe; but she didn't know where to get any.
Hit them on the head with a blunt object? Yeah, that sounded right, but it would be nice not to have to resort to that.
Three hours later, Sarah was still trudging through the streets. She hadn't been able to find her father or Toby anywhere, and, worse, she had gotten herself so lost that she couldn't even find her own way home. And everywhere she went, zombies came slowly stumbling from the shadows towards her.
Exhausted and close to tears, Sarah saw an empty car sitting in the middle of the street with the door hanging open, and crawled in, after carefully checking the backseat, just in case. There was no one there. She slammed the door, locked it, curled up in a ball in the back and counted to a thousand. Then she repeated to herself, 'I am a strong, beautiful, powerful warrior maiden with a mission to save my people. I am a strong, beautiful...' twenty times. Then, feeling much better, she got back into the front seat and turned the key, which was still in the ignition. The radio crackled on.
'...melting icecaps,' a woman's voice was saying. 'We have not yet been able to identify the virus, but scientists are hard at work. Everyone remain calm, and stay in your homes. Make no attempt to reach loved ones, and avoid all contact with infected individuals.'
'Come on,' Sarah said, smacking the speakers. 'Tell me something useful.'
'I repeat, there is no need to panic. The army had been deployed, and will soon gain control of the situation.' Sarah glanced out the window and saw a man in an army uniform stumble past with only one arm, and turned off the radio. She considered going out to steal his gun, but decided against it; it really wouldn't go with her outfit.
It was very dark out. Sarah realized suddenly that there were no lights on in houses, and no streetlights—the electricity had gone out. A shiver passed through her, but it was interrupted by a yawn.
'I'm too tired to handle this,' she muttered, and once again she crawled into the back seat and stretched out across the bench. For now, she would sleep; in the morning, she would figure out what to do.
Sarah awakened with a moan, and winced at the stiff muscles in her arms and neck. She blinked into the semi-darkness, and for a long moment couldn't figure out where she was. And was that that thumping sound?
Then she looked up, and found herself staring into a pair of empty eye sockets that were pressed to the window above, and everything came rushing back.
'Toby,' she said, sitting up quickly. 'Dad. I have to find them!'
Only then did she take the time to look around, and saw to her horror that the entire car was surrounded by zombies. They were lethargically but persistently pressing their hands, faces and bodies to the metal outside, trying to get in.
Sarah took several deep breaths and resolved to think this through. If she opened the door quickly, it would throw the zombies directly in front of it back, and maybe buy her enough time to break through and make a run for it. But then, she had no idea how big the crowd around her was...the whole street could be full of them.
Maybe if she turned on the lights and honked the horn it would scare them away.
Or maybe... Sarah bit her lip and look thoughtfully at the steering wheel. Okay, so she had never actually driven before, but if Karen could do it then how hard could it be?
And at this point, she thought, the despair that she had been forcefully crushing down for hours beginning to creep back up, what choice did she have? She would impale herself on her own sword before she'd let herself turn into one of them.
Resolutely, Sarah scrambled into the front seat and carefully did her seatbelt. She took several deep breaths, then turned the key, put it into gear and stepped firmly down on the pedal. Too firmly, unfortunately. For a moment she flew, and a wild grin of triumph graced her face as the zombies were thrown back. But then she herself was thrown forward and she cried out in pain as the airbag exploded in front of her. Fighting it back, she looked up and saw in despair that she had crashed into a nearby building. The whole front and side of the car were crushed. Gritting her teeth and fighting back tears, she turned the key in the ignition, trying to get the engine to catch. It wouldn't. An involuntary sob escaped her and she slammed her fist down on the dashboard.
How could this be happening? How could this be her Halloween magic?
There was no way out for her, now. She was completely surrounded, and if she tried to break through the ranks of zombies she'd be bitten in an instant. All she could do was stay here, and slowly starve...because although she knew next to nothing about zombiekind, she did know that they were as persistent as wolves.
And perhaps worse, who could say what had happened to Toby? And perhaps her own father would be the one to bite her if she fled.
Sarah hated crying more than anything else. She took a deep breath, and then slammed her fist down once again.
'Oh, it's not fair!'
And then she froze.
It's not fair... Those words reminded her that there was a way out for her, one way out, if she chose it. All that remained was to decide what was worse: slowly dying of starvation, getting turned into a zombie, or calling on him for help.
'I hate my life,' Sarah said. She closed her eyes tightly, and slowly said, unable to completely keep the sarcasm from her voice, 'I wish the Goblin King would come and help me...right...now.'
'Goodness,' a distinctly British voice said in her ear. 'You took your time about that.'
Sarah opened her eyes, and saw Jareth lounging in the passenger's seat, his feet up on the dashboard, twisting a crystal between his fingers and smirking at her.
'Are you going to help me, or not?' she demanded.
'Only because you ask so very politely,' he replied, and then before she could stop him he rolled down the window and tossed the crystal out. She couldn't tell what it did, but the zombies all turned and shuffled away as quickly as their undead legs could carry them.
'Now,' Jareth said, his smirk fading as he turned to her and took her face in his hands. 'Are you hurt, dear heart?'
'No,' she mumbled. 'Thanks.'
'You should have called on me sooner. When I realized what was happening, I was terrified for you.'
'I can take care of myself,' she told him, and then they both took a moment to look out at the wreckage that had once been a working car. 'Well, mostly. Listen, you're magical. Do you understand what's going on? The radio said something about melting ice caps.'
'Many thousands of years ago, a great Faerie war was fought on Earth,' he told her grimly. 'A terrible virus was developed and mutated with magic. When the war ended, it was sealed beneath the ice, but something in the magic of Samhain must have released it.'
'Is there a cure?'
'No,' he told her sadly. 'It will die out on its own, given time, but for the infected, there is no return. My sources tell me that it has spread to all continents by now. It moves...very quickly.'
'So my father and brother are lost, then,' she said sadly. A great sadness that had been kept at bay only by denial descended over her. Jareth gently took her hand, and she squeezed it hard, forgetting for a moment who she was sitting with.
'Your father is lost, yes,' he told her, 'but Toby is safe.'
'He is?' Sarah said, looking hopefully up through tear-filled eyes.
'He is; I sent some of my subjects to watch over him.'
'Thank you,' she said, squeezing his hand again, this time in gratitude. 'Thank you so much.'
Jareth smiled. 'Come now,' he said, 'I will take you to him.' He opened the door, and helped Sarah crawl across the seat to get out.
'So what will happen after the virus dies out?' she asked as they began to walk down the center of the street.
'Well, Precious,' Jareth answered, 'I guess it's up to us to repopulate the Earth.'
He draped an arm across her shoulders, and they continued on towards the rising sun.
Happy Halloween, everyone! If you review, Jareth will bring you candy.