It was cold when Martha left the office on that Tuesday night. It wasn’t much later than usual, but it was dark outside, as rain was pouring.
“Crap, I forgot the umbrella at home!”, she muttered, while searching through her computer bag.
She took a deep breath and she draped her scarf on her head, trying to protect her hair from getting soaked. With a second sigh, she left her office building’s covered entrance and she braved the storm.
It took her less than five minutes to reach the closest Grand Central subway entrance, yet even her face was dripping, from raindrops pushed in all directions by a ghastly wind. She had protected her bag with her right arm, so at least the computer seemed safe; her wallet too, as she appreciated when she swiped her Metrocard and passed the turnstile.
The air conditioning was blowing at full speed on the 7 train, as always.
“I will get freaking pneumonia.”, she murmured.
She closed her coat tighter around her chest, the only way to fight the freeze.
She exited the train at the first stop, Bryant Park, to take the B line and go uptown on the West Side, where she lived. Waiting for the B, she checked her phone and she found a text from an unknown number.
“Are you coming to the Halloween Party tonight? Jen will be there too!”
The only Jen she knew was a friend from college she hadn’t talked to in at least ten years, so she politely responded: “I think you have the wrong number.”
“Are you not Martha?”, a new message popped up right away.
“Yes, this is Martha.”
She shrugged: “As a matter of fact, yes, Martha Chambers. But I don’t think I know Jen.”
“Sure you do!”, the person on the other side responded. “Come to the party: 901 Driggs Avenue, Brooklyn. 8 pm.”
“Who are you?”, Martha texted back.
While she was waiting for a response, she checked the address on Google Maps: it was a grocery store. Maybe the party was in the store, a cool hipster location, or just in the building above it. It would take her almost one hour to get there from her apartment, she calculated in her head. She didn’t have a new costume, but she could definitely exhume last year’s John Snow furry cape and black dress-and-pants combo; her wet curly hair would do the rest.
She spent her subway ride thinking about Jen: did she know anybody else by that name? Maybe some colleague? There was one Jenny, but she was not close enough to her and she didn’t have her phone number, so she couldn’t confirm with her. She went through all the contacts in her phone, and there was no Jen.
“Isn’t it weird?”, she asked the John Snow-ish image her bedroom’s mirror was showing her.
“Should I go?”
The mirror didn’t respond.
“Who are you?”, Martha texted again to the stranger.
She invested five minutes of her time into cutting out a cardboard sword from an old Amazon box, which was still lying around in the kitchen.
“Whatever.”, she muttered.
She left her apartment, this time accompanied by a black umbrella.
It was a long journey: the B train to Broadway-Lafayette, then the M to Marcy Avenue, and finally a walk, rain crashing on her umbrella. She stopped in front of the grocery store: Quality Fresh Market. It looked close, all lights off, nobody in sight.
She texted the stranger, who had never responded to her: “Where is the party? I’m outside the address you gave me, but there’s nobody.”
She kept checking her phone for the following few minutes, but nothing happened.
She heard a noise coming from the grocery store entrance door, and she approached it in the dimness of the old streetlights. Someone unlocked the door from the inside, and she softly pushed it.
“Hello?”, she tried.
“This is nuts, even for a Halloween Party.”, she thought.
No lights were on inside, some luminescence filtered in through the opaque windows.
“Hello?”, she tried again, but no noise responded to her question. Nothing moved.
“Screw it, I will just go home.”, she decided.
She started to pivot on her heels to turn around, when a hand grabbed her arm.
She jumped with a shriek.
“What the…”, she frowned. A person was now standing in front of her. He, or she, was wearing a zombie costume, and didn’t say a word.
“Oh, hey.”, Martha smiled. “Is the party here? I’m Martha.”
The zombie smiled back at her, showing off a wide mouth of missing and broken teeth. A light smell of piss and wet dog came to Martha’s nostrils.
“Your costume is incredible!”, she couldn’t stop herself. “It looks like I’m John Snow and you are a Wight: should we fight it off?”
The zombie tilted his head and fixated his vacuous eyes into hers.
“You even have the ice blue eyes: where did you find the contacts?”, Martha marveled.
He didn’t respond, his eyes stuck in hers. She hysterically giggled. He seemed to really notice her for the first time.
“The exposed bones here look so real!”, she tried to touch the person’s arm to confirm the quality of the costume. Her fingers were almost brushing his skin, when he suddenly screeched, his mouth wide open. Dozens of ice blue eyes came out of nowhere, all fixated on Martha.
“Come on guys, where’s the party?”
She started to slide backwards, decided to get out and go home, but the person followed her, approaching her closer and closer. With a sudden movement, his hand was around Martha’s neck, his claws quickly closing in on her throat.
Martha gasped for some air, with the only result to convince the zombie to squeeze her even tighter.
She tried to ask for help, but she couldn’t breathe anymore. More and more eyes appeared out of the darkness, some of them approaching her and touching her with their bony hands.
One especially brave zombie grabbed her hand, he smelled it, and bit it. The fulminating pain of the teeth tearing the flash reached Martha’s mind like a dream, an echo of reality: her brain was shutting down due to the lack of air. As she passed out, hanging by the neck in the first zombie’s hands, more of his mates helped themselves with pieces of her body.
As soon as they were full and done, Martha’s body reduced to bones and few remains, the back pants’ pocket of the first zombie glowed. With jerks and twitches he grabbed the phone and read the message that had just arrived.
“Hey is the party still on? I just got here but can’t find a doorbell. Josh.”
A grimace lit up the zombie’s rotten face.