The Horror Zine
Jonathan Grey Chapman

The May Selected Story 1 is by Jonathan Grey Chapman

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Jonathan Grey Chapman


by Jonathan Grey Chapman

There I was again; about to kill. Damn me to hell; damn me.

But then I guess I was already damned. Isn’t that what a zombie is? Damned?  

And so here I was, proving it. The door was a wood plank affair with a metal window about an inch square to look out. The wood had been stained a light color, maybe a pine. The doormat said “Welcome, friends.”

I judged the lock and handle and raised my foot high, thinking of the angle. Right. There. If you kick a door at just the right spot on the door side of the lock it will almost always crack and pop open. I felt my muscles tense, and then kicked.

The door exploded inward in a spray of wood splinters and paint. I went in quickly; they would be awake now. But then, that was how the Master wanted it.
I had learned better than to resist the commands of my Master. The first time, if you are sent on something minor or easy, you don’t try too hard. Your mind is still reeling from what you’ve become, from the truth of what’s happening. So you just go along.
But then when you’re acclimated, you are commanded to kill someone. . . maybe a woman or a (God help you) an old person. . . then you do resist. And you learn. I had learned fast when, that night, the Master had sent me to strangle that old man, Josh Waters. I had fought it. My hands found themselves around the old man’s neck, his airway cut off, and he struggled.

I had stood, locked in battle with my new nature for twenty minutes, and all the while Waters had suffered: choking, gasping, and hanging on to life. And at last when the life had sputtered out of him, and his body had laid at my feet, limp and tired, I could see the horror of his death written on his features.

“Well done, Zombie,” the Master had said afterwards, praising my damnation.
And I learned the truth: there was no avoiding what my Master told me to do. Resistance made my work worse for the victim. My resistance slowed the killing process and caused more suffering for the victim, and for myself.

I was alive inside; my thoughts, my feelings. But I was not free, what I felt did not matter. What I wanted, what I loved, it all meant nothing. What did “Zombie” mean, anyway? I didn’t even know the meaning of the word.

And so my so-called life, which was really a form of living death, continued.


The most recent time my Master had given the Kill Order, the man I was to destroy fired a gun at me. I had to give him credit; most guys get the gun out and then drop it, shoot themselves by accident, or once, kill themselves when confronted with me. Almost none get a shot off.

But this guy did, one shot to my shoulder. I felt the distant thud of the bullet. The man squared himself, seeming to take on courage and strength through taking action. He fired again, three more times. I stopped walking and allowed the shots. The man ceased firing and stared, suddenly aware that the bullets were doing nothing. In the movies, the undead zombies die when struck in the head; real zombies, animated by a Witch Doctor, do not die. At least, not that way.

With my swiping motion, the gun flew out of his hand and struck the wall with such force that it imbedded there, sticking out like a wall sconce. With my other hand I swept forward, catching him by his shirt and dragging him forward. I swatted down hard, the way you would swat a basketball away. The flat of my hand caught him on the side of the head full on, snapping his neck instantly and spinning his head half around. He dropped like a puppet with the string cut.

I moved forward, catching a glimpse of myself in a mirror on the man’s wall. There I was, in all my loveliness. I was deathly white with black blotches where the blood has pooled; my hair was thin and wasted; my eyes limp, shallow pits; my throat was a skeletal rattling space with no pulse; I smelled of death; I was, and I am, a monster.
And so I had fulfilled my command once again. The Master had told me, “Kill the man in a vicious way.” But I had not done it in a vicious manner. I had done it as mercifully as possible.

We have our little ways to remain independent, we zombies.


One night, I ran back to the cemetery where I “lived,” using a series of back alleys and sewers.

Jackson, one of the other zombies owned by Fedor, our Master, was waiting for me.He was sitting with his back against the stone wall, smoking a cigar, staring at the stars.

“How’d it go?”

“You know,” I said as I sat down. 

“Yeah? You’re still decayed.”

“Yeah. What’s your point?”

“I can smell you, man.”

“I’m covered in crap anyway. I just climbed out of a sewer.”

But I knew what he was talking about. I should have been moving up towards Normal. We zombies could move from rotted to what is basically freshly dead; pretty much looking and seeming like a living person, even though we were technically still dead. In that form, we were able move amongst the living, undetected, unless someone studied us very, very closely.

“Why do you stay rotted all the time?” Jackson asked.

“I’m dead. Why live a lie?”

“Because you can go to Normal and walk around in the daytime; see people, movies, life. . . get the hell out of this graveyard. I’ve known you for years, and you never seem to leave the cemetery. Fedor doesn’t care where you go, as long as you do his deeds.”

“I’m dead, Jackson. No; undead. What good would it do to see the living, to remember wine, food, women and all of that? Family and home? It’s never for us again.”

“Try going Normal before you go crazy. Or before you drive me crazy. You can’t just kill and sleep forever. You can be almost alive; you can look like a living man, and you can smoke a cigar—” he held his up as an example—“or even get to know the living. You shouldn’t just be in your grave all the time. Like I told you, Fedor doesn’t care.”

I nodded. “Yeah. He does give us a lot of freedom. But—damn. If I ever screw up—what must it be like for Thomas?”

“Huh,” Jackson said. “Yeah, Thomas, the third zombie owned by our Master. Talk about damnation.”

“What did he do?” I asked. “I mean, I never knew and Thomas sure can’t tell me.”
“What do you think he did?  It should be obvious, even to you,” Jackson said. “He disobeyed our Master. Fedor ordered him to kill an old man in the hospital. The old man reminded Thomas of his dad or something, so he resisted. He fought pretty hard, if I recall. First he refused, then he fought his own body; then Fedor set his nerves to pain, and then let him decay. Thomas took it all, and never did kill the man.”

“But now he’s—”

“Silent,” Jackson finished. “Can’t move, can’t speak. But awake, alive and alert, lying in his coffin forever, unable to do or say anything.”

“What a horrible thing. I mean, even more horrible than what we already have to endure.”

“Well,” Jackson told me, “that’s why I’m giving you advice. The way you are right now, you’re only a couple of steps above Thomas. Get out; live as best you can. Try going for Normal.”

“Maybe. I’ll see you. . . ”

I went to my grave. I stood above it, staring at my coffin in the mausoleum, and I thought of the people I had killed. How many over the years? I had no idea. . . I drifted in my almost death; awake, yet there.

I pulled my coffin away from the wall and crawled into the tunnel I had dug through there after I had chipped away a portion of the concrete. It was only two feet tall, just enough to crawl through. It was a thirty foot crawl through the dirt, six feet underground, to the grave where Thomas Dean laid.

Thomas Dean didn’t get a mausoleum.

I had dug the tunnel a year before when I’d learned that Thomas was awake. I hadn’t known what had happened to him, but the horror of his situation had touched me.
I reached his coffin and pulled the wood I had left in place away and looked at the top of his head. We zombies see in the dark, if I haven’t said. I pulled the book from my jacket, The Lonesome Gods by Louis L’amour. The page at 134 was dog-eared and I began reading to my old friend.


The next day, taking Jackson’s advice, I crawled out, and focused until I appeared wholly human.

It was a bright, sunny day, blue sky over green, green grass.

I walked along the central area out of the cemetery, unnoticed. There was the maintenance man, Ernesto, who had some idea of what lurked in his cemetery but knew better than to say anything.

But over there. . . there was my Master’s house. In front of my Master’s house, a young woman was spraying water out of a hose at some wilted flowers. The nozzle of the hose was turned all the way but the spray was very weak. She was turning the round green handle on the faucet, trying to increase the flow, but nothing was happening.

“Oh, hello!” she said, stopping me in my tracks. I was startled that she didn’t appear afraid at the sight of me, but then I remembered: I had achieved Normal.

She was the mirror image of my Master, yet somehow she was totally different. High cheeks, cold blonde hair, bright blue eyes the color of a noon sky, and firm white skin. A mirror, yet with a mouth of red lips, she was all youth and smiles and softness where he was none of those things. 

“Uh, hello back,” I said. In my present form I was just like any other man. Only dead. But without a close examination it would be impossible to tell. Did she know? No, of course not.

“Can you help me with this hose?” She held it up to demonstrate the low water flow.

“Um, well, sure,” I said. I stepped onto the lawn and realized the danger of approaching my Master’s daughter and a thrill went through me. Yes, I was afraid of him. He might detect me talking to his daughter. He could inflict a grand punishment to make an example of me to other Zombies. And I could end up half dead in a grave six feet under for eternity, no mausoleum, cut off, in the dark, just like Thomas Dean. 
But in that moment I glanced at her and thought that it could do no harm. I was helping, after all.

“Um, sure. . . ” I repeated as I walked over and looked at the situation. Why would a hose have low pressure? Ah! The main valve that ran out from the house and branched off into three directions had a separate valve that led to the faucet. I reached over and twisted it and the hose jumped to life.

“Ah! It’s good now,” she said in a heavily accented voice as she adjusted the nozzle to spray wide and gently over the flowers.

“Well, good,” I said awkwardly. “I mean, it’s good that it’s good.” If I had been a living human, my face would have been very red. I began to make my retreat.

“Wait. Don’t go. Do you live around here?” She made a motion to indicate the city.
“Yes,” I said, stopping once again.

“My name is Illyanna. What’s your name?”

“Jack,” I said. “Jack Phoenix.” Not my name. But I doubted she would know what a phoenix was.

She surprised me. “Ah! Phoenix!” she said. “Like the bird that rises from the dead.”

“That’s right.” 

“Where are you headed?”

“Just walking,” I said. I felt the tension growing; this was real danger.

“Why don’t I go ‘just walking’ with you?”

And I agreed. Against all judgment. But she was beautiful, and she made me remember what it was like to be alive. 

We walked down the street towards the museum and the library, and I was careful not to touch her. She talked easily and openly; she had been away at boarding schools in Russia, England and France, visiting rarely. She had the exuberance of the well educated, and the naïveté of the young. I had not been much older than her when I died.

We stopped for hot dogs at a street vender.

“I have always wanted to try a real American hot dog!” she said gleefully. I paid; money taken from some kill somewhere.

“It’s so good of you so take this time,” she told me in her accented English. “But oh! I am so rude! I should have already asked you, are you busy? Do you have a jealous girlfriend who I am making you in trouble with?”

I laughed at her frankness and her odd way of talking. “No!  None of the above. You caught me on a day off.”

And then, at that moment, a hearse drove by, and the irony caught my attention. It was like a black reminder of who I was. It stopped near us.

“Oh, creepy,” she said, “Because I could not stop for death...”

He kindly stopped for me,” I finished her quote, and we laughed at both knowing Dickinson.

“You are so funny,” she said, and reached over to touch my hand.

I pulled away.

“So cold!” she said of my hand.

“The water from the hose—if my hands get wet, the circulation takes a while to come back,” I said hastily.

I turned away with what I knew. Inside, I was undead; a filthy thing of decay. If she knew what I was, she would be repelled, sick. I was a lie; I was taking advantage. And if this was found out, if she guessed and told her father, he could sentence me to Hell forever; and would do so, without doubt. I had already gone too far. Why was I doing this?

If Illyana didn’t go back to Europe, if she stayed with Fedor, she would mention me, and he would know. Inside, I knew it was not a matter of if, but when he would find out about this. My heart could not race with a pulse, but the same feeling was beating in my head.

Yet when she turned, and her long blonde hair fanned in the sunlight, and she looked at me like that. . . and I had not seen a woman’s face so young and beautiful in thirty years; it was magic, it was a pull that could not be denied.  

In all the years I had been a zombie, I had assumed that the idea of romantic love was not in me, not a part of a zombie, not possible. I had thought that there was no way that I could feel those emotions again. Like the fool that I was, and even knowing that this was doomed already; yet suddenly I did not care.

At that one golden moment, on that sunshiny, beautiful day, I was unable to care about consequences. I felt this was worth it all.

And so I spent the day with a young woman; beautiful, happy, joyful. I was laughing—and—I told jokes! With Illyanna, I watched the city run in all its motion and glory; and I was exploring both the city and my feelings. I looked into her eyes, smiled, and felt almost warm when she smiled back.

For a span of five glorious hours, I was not the undead, not living in a graveyard, and not a slave. For a span of five glorious hours, I was feeling. I was feeling love.
But it had to end. I had to take her back to my Master’s house. She went inside, almost skipping with youth, and with life.

And then the voice of my Master called in my mind, not ten minutes after I was back at the mausoleum. “Come. . . you will meet me in my study.”

And I knew that now I was going to have to pay for my moments of joy.


I stood stock still. The absurd thought I am so dead came through my mind. But it was not about being dead, now. It would be about suffering. It would be about being made to lie motionless under the ground for years, maybe for an eternity; not being able to move, but being able to comprehend my situation. Just like Thomas Dean.

If only I could run away; escape. If only I could deny my Master. Instead, I stayed in Normal, making my way back to his home and entering through the back door. It was awkward; Illyanna was in the front room, thirty feet away. I wanted her to see me but I knew I dared not let her see me. So I moved stealthily, and she didn’t know I was there.

And then I stood in front of Fedor, waiting upon his judgment. “My daughter has just come to visit,” my Master said. He was sitting at his big desk “She has been living with her mother for years, away at school. Now, here she is. But I suppose you already know that?”

I studied Fedor’s impassive face; thick, middle aged, showing nothing. It gave me no clue as to what to say.

I decided to tell the truth. He knew it anyway. “Yes. I met her.”

“I know you did,” he said; so it was just as I had thought.

Fedor paused, then continued, “Tell me about it.” As he was speaking, he drew a long straight dagger from his drawer. He placed the point against one finger, balanced perfectly. His green eyes were shrouded by long black lashes.

“I was walking. I walked past this house—it’s on the way to the museum.”

“You like the museum?” he asked in disbelief.

“Yes. And she stopped me—” I hesitated.

“And? Talk.”  

“I had no way to avoid her. She didn’t know what I am. She asked me to take her downtown. I thought that. . . that. . . she was safe with me. You would want me to look out for her.”

Fedor let out a short, sharp bark of laughter. “You thought I would want that, eh? I can feel your loyalty! You hold my family sacred, eh?”

“Yes.” My voice was thick.

“As you should. You have met my Illyanna. She knows you now. That is good.”

“I don’t understand.”

“There is a man, a fellow Brujo, Warlock, Voodoo Priest. Call us what you will. A fellow Master of the undead, of my cabal, who believes he has reason to hurt me and my family. You do not need to know the details. It is well beyond you anyway, Zombie Imbecile.”

I said nothing, merely looked at him. Fedor continued, “What you need to know is this: my daughter is visiting for four days before going back to Europe. While here, she is in terrible danger. Since you have met her, and she feels safe with you, you will make sure she is safe. You will spend tomorrow with her. You can even take her back to your museum, if that is what she wants. I need you near her at all times. And Jackson is under the house right now, also watching.”

“Jackson? Jackson is here?”

Fedor laughed again, scorning me. “He is not like Thomas Dean, if that’s what you’re thinking. At least, not yet. I have a use for him, and for you. If you both do everything correctly, neither of you have to share Thomas’ fate. It is, as always, up to you if you choose to be further cursed or not.”

He motioned me over, so I walked to his desk. “Lay your hand on the table,” he ordered.

I did. Fedor plunged the knife into my hand, the blade sticking into the wood beneath. I felt nothing.

“You do not feel that because you are dead. You are a puppet, and I pull the strings. Do you understand? If I want, I can change it so that you feel terrible things, but you are still dead. You are always dead.”

And suddenly I did feel the knife; the pain searing up my arm.

“I can make you suffer any time I want. When Illyanna leaves, we will talk again about what happened today. But for now, how well you protect her will determine my mercy. So if the Brujo feels he has to shoot someone, you will be standing in front of anyone who matters, taking the bullets. It all boils down to this: if the Brujo behaves, you will leave him alone. But if he shoots, you will kill him.”

I nodded, tears rolling down my dead face. I could not turn the pain off; could not become more rotted; could not disobey and pull my hand away. At best I could disobey by delaying a second before acting on an order from Master; but once in action, I was trapped.

And then he released me and I went numb again.

That night, Fedor had me stand in the closet of his office, hiding in the same house where Illyana slept, to be nearby in case of an emergency, all night long.

I thought of Illyana, and I knew I would never let any harm come to her, Fedor or not. It was not about Fedor. It was about Illyana.


The next morning I “arrived” at the house. Illyanna was out front again, and came running over.

“Oh! You! My new friend! I was worried because we didn’t exchange numbers or anything.”

“Yeah, I thought that, too,” I said. “I was hoping I could have another day with you.”

“Yes! Let me ask my father.”

Of course her father agreed to let me escort her that day. I was apprehensive at first, but once I looked at Illyana’s golden hair and lovely, round eyes, I didn’t care why I was with her, only that I was. The same emotions as the previous time washed over me, and I felt bewildered at the intensity of my feelings. What was this thing I was feeling?

And then. . . it was while we were walking through the Arden Faire Mall that I noticed him.

I do not pretend to know the ways of magic, despite being magic. But I can see it and feel when it is near me. I know it when it I see it. He was a man in the crowd; but so much more. He crackled with unseen energy. He was something like me, yet not. He had dark hair and a dark soul, and was standing a few stores away, watching us through the reflection in the window.

“Let’s get out of here,” I said. “We can go to a park. . . ”

“Of course,” she agreed.

I walked her outside, noting that the man followed. He put on deep sunglasses and wore a yellow shirt, too big, and unbuttoned half way. We turned a corner very quickly, and I was almost pulling Illyana along. She didn’t seem to understand that anything was wrong, and just commented about my cold hands once again.
I could not see the man following us any more. Were we safe?

Illyanna didn’t seem to mind my wandering. She was that way; she was happy to explore, to have no plan, no agenda. I took her to Graceda Park and we walked around the old bandstand. No one was around. I told myself I had made a mistake about being followed; I was just overly paranoid.

Relaxing, I began to actually enjoy myself once again. Illyanna was easy to talk to; she was literate, funny; the girl I might have dreamt of when I was a living man.

“Come here,” she called, walking along the edge of the bandstand.

I went over.

“No, here,” she said, pointing to the spot near her. “Hold my hand.”

I swallowed hard. My hands, at best, were cool; clammy. I reached out and took her hand, cringing inside.

“You still have cold hands!” she said for the millionth time. She smiled. “I’ll just keep trying to warm them up.” She was walking along the lip of the stage, balancing. I walked along below her, holding that soft, lovely hand of hers. I could feel the warmth, the life.

I had lived. . . before. I had once known when love was touching my heart. I had known a moment. I knew magic, as I said before. I did; and this was just another kind.

This was the moment a couple called their own, that started something; it was a moment you told your friends about, or kept secret. Either way, it was special. I could, at any time, reach out and take her in my arms. I could kiss her—

A terrible sadness suddenly overwhelmed me. I realized that it could never, ever happen that way. I was overcome with a sense of such a great loss, a longing that could never be realized.

And then a car drove up and parked on the other side of the park.

“We had better go,” I said quickly.

And we went. I had kept Illyana safe that day; I kept her alive, both in the real world and in my secret heart.


By evening I had slipped back into Fedor’s closet. Fedor was out on his patio, and by some quirk of architecture, I could hear him talking to Jackson.

“Watch and learn,” Fedor said. “This will be a challenge; the Brujo who is stalking me is powerful. He undoubtedly has sent a terrible entity to find me or my daughter. You keep her safe, and you will be rewarded.”

“And your other zombie,” I could hear Jackson say, “he’ll do a good job as well.”

“My other zombie has crossed a line,” Fedor said. “That he did cross that line helped him do his job, by accident. But once Illyanna is gone and we don’t need any protection, he’ll be joining Thomas in the ground. Forever. You just don’t cross some lines, Jackson. Learn that.”

I stared at the closet wall in the dark. A terrible dread washed over me. Oh, no. . . no.


In the morning, I acted out my routine; I went back to the mausoleum and changed clothes, then walked back to the front. I knocked, catching out of the corner of my eye the man from the day before, now parked up the street. Another car was the other way down the street, also parked with a dark-eyed stranger watching the home. Both were radiating some form of evil magic.

Illyanna answered my knock on the door with a flourish. “Hello!”

I held up a hand to stop her. Behind me, the car doors were opening.

“I need to talk with your father,” I said. “Now.”

“Wh—what’s wrong—”  Illyanna began. I pushed past her, rushing into the house.

Master!” I yelled. “Master!”

Illyanna stared without comprehension. “Is this a joke? It isn’t funny. You are calling my father your master? And how dare you push me!”

Ignoring her comments, I went back to her, pulling her inside the big front door, but not before I caught a glimpse of the two men rushing up and charging towards us. I slammed the door shut and threw myself against it to hold it closed.

From the hall behind me, I heard Fedor shout “Illyanna! Come here!”

There was a crash of force into the other side of the door. I was rocked away, and then I launched myself back into it, holding it shut, but barely. The lock was breaking, and wood was splintering.

“Zombie! Change!” Fedor yelled. From next to him Illyanna stared at me, at the door, and at the whole scene.

And I knew what Fedor wanted. I was stronger in my decayed, disgusting zombie form. I was much stronger. As a zombie, I would be able to hold that door shut longer, until a defense could be made. And Illyanna was watching.

I changed. I was again the obviously undead, and the pain of Illyanna’s comprehension washed over me. . . I was no more her handsome escort, her companion in the sunlight, her love; the game was over. She knew, and she would never love me again.

I held the door. I heard Jackson coming up behind me. Illyana ran down the hall into her father’s office, slamming the door behind her. My Master stood to the side, chanting.

One of the assassins burst through the window. In a second, he was inside. Jackson grappled with him, and the two fell to the ground, rolling, swinging. I noticed, too late, the way the door was slack. The other assassin was no longer trying to force his way inside. Was he was seeking another way in—the other window?


It all happened so fast. The man had gone back for the car and drove it through the front door. I was thrown like a rag doll, all broken and smashed, against the far wall. The debris from the door crashed over Fedor, who crumpled. The assassin got out of the car, not phased, and in seconds was on him. A silver dagger flashed, glinting, and it was over.

Fedor lay in a pool of blood. Jackson and the other stopped, unsure what to do, not fighting, not moving. For a terrible second it all stood still in time.

And then Illyanna opened the office door and came back.

“Daddy? Daaaaaadddeee!” she howled, moving forward. The man who had so swiftly sliced the life from Fedor stood, and in an easy step, was right on her.

“Stop!” I shouted.

The man looked at me, Illyana still in his grip.

“What is this? A zombie that speaks his mind?” The assassin holding Illyana glanced at his friend, who smiled in amusement. “You would have me spare this girl? Do you love her, then, Zombie?”

I struggled to stand, dead bones coming back together the way they do. “I do love her. Please. She is no use to you. Let her go.”

The man smiled broadly. “You are free, Zombie! Your Master is dead! Now you can walk away. Or—you can become mine. My slave. My property. Come into my thrall and I will spare this girl. Refuse and I gut her.”

I looked back and forth between Illyanna and the Wizard—for clearly this was no minion but the Brujo himself—and I nodded.

“I swear to you, if you will let her go,” I told the Brujo, promising my soul once again, and I felt the bonds close down around me the way they had before with Fedor. I had been free for less than a minute.

The man flipped his knife over in his hand and sheathed it. He released Illyanna and told her, “You are free, you lucky girl. Say thank you to your savior.”

Illyanna looked at me. Her face was all disgust and sickness. Trying to appease her, hoping to gain any amount of compassion, I changed back into my human form. I became the best Normal I could ever achieve.

Could she still care for me? Would there be any hope? I loved her so deeply, how could I lose her now? I moved towards her. She backed away in horror.

“Don’t come near me! You make me sick! I—I touched you! I can’t believe I—” and she turned and ran back into the office, with as much hatred of me as for the man who had killed her father.

“Back to your grave. I will call you,” my new Master said.

I had no choice. I went. It was just another life of slavery. But this time, there was a fresh pain because I had found something I had lost, all over again. I was the undead and I was damned.

And I was unloved.

Jonathan Grey Chapman has an MA in Psychology from St. Mary’s College, studied history at California State at Hayward, and received a BA in Business, again from St. Mary’s. He is a life-long comic book collector and an Ultra Runner (if anyone knows what that is). During the day, Jonathan’s job involves investigating child abuse in the San Francisco Bay Area. Anything more, he prefers to be a bit vague—so that everyone can imagine anything they want.