Night of the Lively Dead

At the "Zombie Cabaret," where the beleaguered undead gain respite

As we talk, West moves closer to me, giving me a good view of his weeping wounds and cold, pasty complexion. So amiable is his manner, I am almost caught off guard as he reaches around my back holding a syringe filled with glowing green glop very near my neck.

"Wouldn't you like to try some of my serum?" asks West. "It might help with perspective on your piece."

I cringe and am relieved to see a woman who looks remarkably like Alicefrom the zombie-splatter video game Resident Evilapproach with a large firearm. With deft precision, she puts a bullet in West's chest; it's not enough to kill him, but is just enough to knock him off balance while I escape to the merch table to grab a Necro-Swab. "Neutralizes necrogenous pathogens. Not for use on living flesh," states the package. I take my chances, wiping off as I peruse the T-shirts, "Zombie Pinups" and "Got Brains" being the fashionable options. Dr. Kingfish approaches me with a comely female zombie who stares through me with a glazed eye.

"This is one of our most popular models," explains Kingfish as Eerie moves close enough for me to see the maggots falling out of her brassiere, if I were to look. "Say something to the reporter, Eerie."

"You look smart," says Eerie, edging closer, a twinkle momentarily animating her dead eyes.

"Yes, well, that's the thing about zombie girls," says Kingfish as he shoos Eerie away. "They're only interested in one thing: brains.

"This one, though, is highly trained and well-disciplined," says Kingfish, motioning toward Stephanie, a girl with a huge bite taken out of her head and a blood-soaked tank top clinging to her slim frame. "Stephanie can hold a brain in her hands for two to three minutes without eating it. It's really remarkable. She'll be performing later."


After the zombie parade -- which includes, among many other deceased delectables, a rotting boy leading his girlfriend by a noose -- Madame Zombique and the highly skilled technicians from Zombie Labs take the stage to prove that the undead can be just as entertaining as the living. A group of has-been performers is herded into a holding pen made of chain-link fencing and offered brains as incentive. The brains, cryogenically stored in an ice chest, are pulled out of sealed bags of blood and held aloft by Madame Zombique while the zombies sing and dance to the best of their ability. Those who don't prove their worth are quickly disposed of inside the NecroCorp 3000zombie shredder, a large machine that emits a soggy grinding noise. The "woman" who was once Kitten on the Keyssings an updated, undead version of the Scarecrow's song from The Wizard of Oz.

"If I only had a brain/ I could slice it/ I could dice it," she coos and gurgles before lurching at the tasty treat being offered by Zombique and shoving it into her already bloodied mouth. One of the zombie wranglers, protected by a bird cage on his head and a specially designed cattle prod in his hand, pushes the convulsing Kitten back into the pen.

Eerie's epidermal striptease is a favorite with the crowd, but many of the other performing zombies don't fare so well. Rick A. Mortis, who starts his tap-dance routine only to cough blood all over the audience, is quickly shredded, as are the former Cantankerous Lollies, who make the mistake of attacking Dr. Kingfish. By the time Stephanie takes the stage to juggle brains, the rostrum is so suffused with gore that she is unable to stay on her feet. The ensuing bloody slip-and-slide sideshow works the crowd into a frenzy of groaning. When the next striptease act pulls out her own intestines, several patrons rush the stage, shoving internal organs into their mouths until the wranglers and their cattle prods get things under control. As I flee into the night, the sound of the zombie-chopper still roaring in my ears, I notice two police officers leaving the DNA Lounge, site of this season's "Zombie Cabaret."

"Are you here to get the zombie menace under control?" I ask hopefully.

"You kidding?" says one. "If we were off duty, this is where we'd be hanging out."

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