That same telephone repair truck was parked near the rear door, the one that opened on the athletic field. Archie hit his brakes.
There was a light on inside the school. And the rear door was wide open. Archie entered, with the ironic sense that this is what gets you killed in horror movies.
"Hello?" he shouted. "Anybody here?" From deep within the bowels of the building he heard a door slam. He kept walking. Into the locker room. The light was in the coach's office, at the end of a long double row of lockers.
Archie entered the office cautiously, like a movie cop without a backup. The office was empty, but on the desk by the telephone was a tool box of equipment. Open. Phone stuff. Next to it was a picture of Dwyer, in the middle of a ring of cheer leaders, smirking. Joanie was in the picture too. Stifling any morbid thoughts, Archie picked up the receiver and listened. There was no dial tone. He dialed 0 and waited. Finally there was an answer:
"Hello." It was a rough, mechanical voice.
"Hello!" said Archie.
"Hello! Is this the operator? I need the police. This is an emergency!"
"Who is that?" he queried. He pushed the button and dialed again. Again the mechanical voice:
"God!" said Archie to himself. "It's a machine!" In fact, what it most probably was, was the telephone repair guy doing some sort of diagnostic on the other end of the phone line. But another door slammed somewhere in the building. It was like Archie's options were gradually slamming shut.
Archie ran back through the locker room into the half-lit hallway. "Hello!" he called. He ran to a stairwell and looked down. There was another lonely light burning down there.
"Where in hell are you?" he asked himself. He ran down the stairs, through the darkened kitchen and through the cafeteria and up the back stairs. He emerged at last, breathless, into the front hallway of the school. He stood there in silence a moment, catching his breath, and then he heard the sound of a car, off in the distance. He sprinted the length of the main hall: headlights appeared at the other end.
Archie pushed at the crashbar with all his strength and found himself outside staring straight at the Deathmobile, bent, bloodied, but running, with Rog Davis at the wheel with a vengeance and Palumbo riding shotgun, just like old times.
Archie backed quickly inside before the double doors shut. He stared incredulously through the glass: the van's headlights jutted out at crooked angles, and the front of it was just hopelessly smashed, but there the Deathmobile sat, undead, like a custom-created steel hound from hell, with the Rolling Stones singing Let It Bleed.
Archie heard footsteps inside the school. Totally spooked, he turned and entered a very short hallway that led, he knew, to a utility closet flanked by two lavatories.
He picked the men's room. The only light came from outside, diffused through a bunch of small translucent window panes. He paused. He could hear the sound of movement outside the door.
Footsteps. Slow ones. Clumsy ones. Either the telephone repairman was drunk on his ass or the zombies were in the school. Archie ducked into one of the stalls. He locked the door and sat on the commode, breathless. Waiting.
There was the quick sharp sound of the john door being opened. Archie's heart raced. Someone entered the dark room. The footsteps paused momentarily, then started again, moving down the long row of stalls towards Archie's hiding place. One stall door after the other was opened and closed. Bang. Bang. Bang.
The slamming stopped. Too close for comfort. Under the partition, Archie could see a pair of feet in black dress shoes. Three feet away. There was a moment of perfect silence. And then the feet turned. They entered the stall next to his. Suddenly the toilet next to him flushed with an ungodly explosion of sound.
And again there was silence. Archie waited.
He could make out some graffiti on the partition next to him. The usual lack of creativity. Next to a small crude hole that had been drilled in the partition was the legend stick it here. Though he didn't put his eye up against the hole, Archie could see some movement through it.
In time there was a dribbling and a plopping from the other stall. And then a long, one might say satisfied, grunt. And then there was the sound of toilet paper unrolling. And unrolling. And unrolling. Archie looked down at the floor. A mound of two-ply was building up like ribbons of dread.
And then the unrolling stopped. The mound of paper—the scratchy institutional kind—was taken up, like a long moebius noodle, on and on, slowly and methodically until it disappeared. The toilet flushed again—not without some hesitation—and then there was silence.
Suddenly there was a metallic piiingg. A shiny object rolled under the partition and up against Archie's commode. Archie started reflexively and then recognized it for what it was: the long metal canula McCloud had used to drain Palumbo's thoracic cavity.
"Shit," Archie thought to himself. "It figures." He sat back, clenching his teeth, heart pounding.
He heard a zipper zipping. Then the door next door opened and the footsteps left the way they came. Bang. Bang. Bang. All the doors down the line. Palumbo, obviously a creature of habit, had left.
Archie clambered down off the commode. He made his way down the row of stalls, cautiously opened the door, and peeked out. It was dark and it was quiet, two things he couldn't get enough of.
He took a step carefully into the hallway and Palumbo karate chopped him to his knees. The world exploded like a lightning bolt and his ear roared where he'd taken the blow. Blood pulsed to it, ka thumpf ka thumpf. His other ear lay on the cool terrazzo of the hallway. He turned over slightly to see Joanie and Palumbo towering over him. He felt a warm liquid dripping down the side of his head. Palumbo and Joanie—who might have been arguing—spun dizzily around above him but he seemed to be unable to hear.
Archie tried to gain his feet, but it was impossible. He scootched away from the two zombies. They were like two kids playing with a wounded ant; they let him do whatever he wanted to do, watching with matchless curiosity.
He must have been unconscious a while, because as he backed away from Joanie and Palumbo, Archie heard a toilet flush in the men's room and then Rog appeared, large, lumbering, and advancing. His pants were still down around his knees, and he walked in short uneven zombie steps. He was cradling his Les Paul Anniversary guitar and its coiled electrical cord dragged along behind, snagging in the door when it closed.
From the corner of his eye, Archie noticed Palumbo, shoving with difficulty his Marshall stack down the hall. The speakers scraped heavily on the floor, marvelous acoustic cabinets resonating. Joanie followed enthusiastically, clanging a pair of cymbals from Palumbo's drum kit like a bloody monkey on LSD.
Last but not least, here came Roberta, pathetically beating her little tambourine against her hip with no sense of rhythm, as usual, but who could blame her now, really. Rog strummed a pretty decent E major chord. Over and over. It was the god-damnedest thing.
Archie got to his feet, jerked a fire hose off the wall, turned the red metal knob and water blew all over the hallway. He got control of the nozzle and aimed it at the zombies. Joanie and Palumbo turned their backs immediately, and the force of the water separated their grave clothes at the seam in the middle of their backs. Joanie's top came off. She spun around and Archie aimed for the two formerly beautiful breasts. (Well, still beautiful breasts, but, unh, well, it's complicated, isn't it?) She slid backwards on her butt, knees flailing wildly. Palumbo's suitcoat came down around his arms. His shirt opened, revealing a long pink gash like a side view of a spiral galaxy in the universe of his body.
They retreated, stumbling backwards towards the Deathmobile like homeless disabled veterans in Beverly Hills.
Archie turned his attention and his hose to Rog. He directed the heavy spray up and down the quarterback's body, but Rog stood his ground, strumming madly, demonstrating his amazing ability, once again, to endure the pass rushes of every defensive line in the league. Archie aimed the spray directly at his head, and gradually the stitches began to give way. A loose flap of scalp flew up like a straw hat in the wind, and a broken piece of skull catapaulted away. With it went pink and gray brain tissue, disintegrating, scattering and clattering down the hallway and against the walls. His IQ must have gone from 180 to 60 in a second and a half.
Roger, too, retreated, turning his back like a whipped dog, dragging the Les Paul sadly along behind him. Archie's spray ripped open the back of Rog's slumber suit. He clambered down the hall after the others.
Archie, sensing victory, turned off the water and raced down the hallway in the opposite direction, towards the gymnasium and Dwyer's car.
He crashed through the doorway to discover a figure standing there by the car. It was a man. A real human man, with a plaid shirt on, and a yellow hard hat that said Bell Telephone, and as Archie fell—in what seemed like slow motion—at the man's feet, he thought he might have seen the pulsating red lights of a police car—he hoped so—but at any rate he fainted dead away, there at the back door to Freeman Memorial High.
Next: Archie tries to explain all this to the professionals, who, of course, jump to conclusions.
are you on drugs or just having one of those days?
Freeman and me and the rest of the world