The series is being developed for film and TV by Lonetree Entertainment and Dreamstreet Entertainment.
1. Waiting for My Wee-Man
I reached into my jacket pocket for a Lucky Dragon once the shakes began. The undead arenâ€™t known for their dexterity so I had a bit of fun getting that hellfire stick. I was like a drunken mummy trying to do jazz hands. I burned off half the skin on my left index finger lighting the damn thing. That made three fingers now that were practically nothing but bone. If this continued, Iâ€™d end up a skeleton inside a cheap suit and fedora. I doubted anyone would notice.
I took a long drag on the Lucky Dragon, savoring the brimstone flavor. It warmed my throat but did little to curb my hunger. I coughed out black puffs of smoke and took another drag.
Being a member of the great unwashed dead isnâ€™t all bad, though. I was happy for my dulled sense of smell. The alleyway stunk like rotten cabbage and sour apples. I had tried everyone in downtown ShadowShade, but no one was holding. Out of desperation, I came here to Irish Town in search of Fine Flanagan, my old leprechaun dealer.
Hunger ate through my guts and brain like an vampiric piranha on spring break. My mouth watered as I watched dwarves enter the Fairy House, Irish Townâ€™s premier gentlemenâ€™s club. (It promised the â€œbest hoochie-coochie dancers in this dimension or any other.â€) Fairy dust is the only thing that can control my zombie appetite. Without dust, Iâ€™d eat half of ShadowShade (though Oswald thinks itâ€™s all in my head).
I had been waiting in the alley between the Fairy House and Finn McCoolâ€™s Pub for at least an hour before the leprechaun appeared. I remembered that the pub was also called Finn McCoolâ€™s back in the Other World. No leprechaun patrons, though, just rowdy Irishmen who worked the docks. After all these decades, I still marveled at how remnants of the Other World lingered in the Five Cities of Pandemonium, best described as New York City as imagined by Hieronymus Bosch.
Flanagan entered the alley, singing:
â€œThere once was a fellow McSweeney who spilled some gin on his weenieâ€¦â€
He isnâ€™t your stereotypical lep. First off, heâ€™s not that short. Maybe five-foot- two in his pointy shoes. Heâ€™s broad-shouldered, barrel-chested, and someone you probably donâ€™t want to mess with. He also has the saltiest mouth in all the Five Cities.
With a large sack slung over his shoulder, he swaggered past the reeking dumpsters full of what must have been hundred-year- old cabbage.
â€œJust to be couth, he added vermouth. Then slipped his girlfriend a martiniâ€¦â€
â€œSorry to interrupt that charming little ditty,â€ I said, slipping out of the shadows as I blew smoke out of all the holes in my face. All nine. Real bad-ass.
The lep stopped deader than my libido, like Iâ€™d caught him bathing naked in his pot of gold. (Leprechauns donâ€™t really have pots of gold, by the way, but they are known to carry sweet, sweet fairy dust, the closest thing to heaven in this godforsaken world. And Fine Flanagan had the finest.)
The sack jerked and the lep gripped it tighter.
â€œWhatâ€™s in the bag, Flanny? Someone didnâ€™t pay their vig?â€ I noticed the lepâ€™s fashion sense had changed since I last saw him. He wore a green duster that hung to the ground, but there was no pointy hat on his head. His curly red hair blew in the wind. Leps love hats almost as much as their shoes. And his shoes, I noticed, werenâ€™t even pointy. They were square-toed boots. What the holy hell?
â€œNone of ya fookin business,â€ the lep said. â€œNow, if you wouldnâ€™t be minding, I have better tings to do than conversate with a stinking zombie. I be needing to get to me apartment.â€ When the lep stepped forward, I blocked his way.
â€œLook, meat bag, I donâ€™t be wanting any trouble tonight,â€ he said.
â€œNo trouble. Iâ€™m just looking for dust.â€
The lep burst into laughter. He actually placed his hand over his belly. A genuine guffaw.
â€œYou fookin dust head. Oh, Jackie boy, I thought maybe you was on a case. I should have known what you was after. All you zombies are the same. You people are the dumbest pieces of filth in Pandemonium. Just soulless, corpse-faced, brain-licking ghouls.â€
I told you he had a mouth on him. â€œNope. Never licked a brain. Total myth.â€
â€œMouth-breathing, empty-husk, meat-headed, motherless bags of bones, the whole lot
â€œKeep going. I can take it.â€
â€œYer wasting me precious time.â€
â€œJust a gram, Flanny. The hunger is eating through my innards.â€
â€œYou have innards? Figured itâ€™s all just sludge inside you by now. Like ya fookin brain.â€
â€œThe last time I went cold turkey, it ended real bad for some fairies. I went wilder on them than a pack of weres. Iâ€™m probably still not welcome in the Red Garden.â€
â€œYou ainâ€™t threatening now, are you, you dead dick?â€ He smiled, exposing the four or five teeth left in his mouth. I heard he was quite the pugilist back in his day.
My hands shook and my bones rattled as I put up my dukes. Flanny probably thought I was trying to conjure a demon. I dropped the hellfire stick and ground it out with my shoe. â€œIâ€™m desperate.â€
â€œThen yer out of luck. I donâ€™t deal anymore. I have new opportunities.â€
There was a clink, like a glass bell, from inside the sack, and then it shot up in the air. Flanagan nearly lost his grip but managed to pull the canvas bag back down. The lep shot me a look so dirty I thought of taking my first bath in seventy years.
â€œWhatâ€™s in the sack, Flanny? A sentient beer keg?â€
â€œNone of ya fookin business, you filthy corpse.â€
â€œDoes Queen Dana know what youâ€™re up to?â€
â€œDonâ€™t you be talking about that blessed woman. This is none of ya business.â€
â€œWhat if I told your lep queen you were up to some unsavory stuff? She might just kick you out of the club. Unaffiliated leprechauns arenâ€™t treated very well in Pandemonium, are they?â€
The lep spit out a laugh like it was venom. â€œI donâ€™t have to be worrying about that, zombie. Yer the one who needs to worry. This is going to be yer last night in Pandemonium.â€ The fairy swung the sack into my crotch. I flew into the wall, and Flanagan took off down the alley. Fortunately, I have a dulled sense of pain so I easily shook off the between-the- legs shot. (As for my zombie genital situation, the less said about that the better.) Still, something in me snapped. Maybe my hunger had reached its apex, or maybe I didnâ€™t like the way he called me a filthy corpse. Either way, I pounced on him like a lycan on a moonpie. I donâ€™t even remember feasting on the little guy, I was in such a blood frenzy. I do remember him tasting damn delicious, though, like smoked sausage and sweet beer. Then Oswald, Pandemoniumâ€™s most obnoxious creature and my associate, appeared out of nowhere.
I sat on the ground, gnawing on a leg bone, when the alley filled with a blinding light. I continued eating. Like I said, it was damn good, and I hadnâ€™t eaten in so long. The light died out and I saw the Studebakerâ€•my Studebaker. The driverâ€™s-side door opened and out slid the homunculus.
The little bugger stared at me, not saying a word, his X-shaped eyes unblinking. This was supposed to shame me. But Iâ€™m a revenant (which is a fancy way of saying zombie). Iâ€™m beyond shame.
I took a bite out of Flanaganâ€™s calf. It was stringy, but I wasnâ€™t complaining.
â€œI cannot express how very disappointed I am in you.â€ Oswald tried to sound tough, but when youâ€™re all of eight inches and nothing but a marshmallow with a mouth, the effect is underwhelming. No one knows what Oswald is, or was. The best description Iâ€™ve come up with is a homunculus, which is another way for me to say I have no idea. I think Iâ€™d rather not know where he came from. It would most likely lead to trouble and Oswald is plenty of trouble already.
The sack rolled down the alley.
â€œWhatâ€™s that?â€ Oswald said.
I licked the lepâ€™s shin. Salty with just a hint of sweetness. It only made me hungrier. â€œHey, dummy!â€ Oswald shouted. â€œLet me remind you that youâ€™re eating a leprechaun in the middle of Irish Town!â€
I sprang upâ€•as best a zombie can spring up, which meant I awkwardly repositioned my bones into a standing position. I stepped over to the sack and picked it up. I opened it but wasnâ€™t prepared to find what I did.
Mr. Obvious said, â€œIs that a naked baby inside a glass jar?â€
â€œIâ€™m sorry for ever calling you a terrible detective, Oswald. You figured it out on the very first try.â€
The dope smiled.
I stood the glass jar up. The baby looked at us with curious silver eyes.
â€œMaybe this is like those ships you find in bottles,â€ I said.
â€œHow did you get in there, little guy?â€ Oswald asked.
The fact that he didnâ€™t cry should have alarmed me, but I was still high from my leprechaun buffet. I wasnâ€™t thinking straight.
The baby pointed at the top of the jar. He was a cute little fellow. Pink and soft and full of rolls. A mass of golden curls covered the top of his head.
The observant marshmallow said, â€œI think he wants you to remove the glass stopper and let him out.â€
The fact that the baby didnâ€™t pop off the glass stopper himself should have made me wonder, but Oswald distracted me with his prattling.
I removed the stopper.
The hole certainly didnâ€™t seem big enough for a baby to fit through, even a naked one,
but that didnâ€™t stop him.
He slid out of the bottle like he was a piece of taffy and, instead of falling onto the ground as a normal baby would, floated seven feet above the ground. The large, black wings that had unfurled from his back helped a lot with that, I think. The now-winged baby stopped just out of our reach, shot me a nasty look, gave me the finger, and disappeared into the blood-red sky of Pandemonium, going north. Bye-bye, evil baby.
I wasnâ€™t able to conjure up one of my famous ripostes, though, because at that moment two irate leprechauns barreled towards us.