Old Clerks Don’t Die – Chapter 5

Sorry for another week-long delay.  As always, if you need to catch up on the story then the first book in the series can be purchased here, and the first chapter of this one can be found here.

Thanks as always, and enjoy!

Derek J. Goodman

Old Clerks Don’t Die, They Slay Away – Chapter 5

“Hey, Courtney!  How’ve you been?”


“How’s the other job been going?”


Phil waited, hoping that Courtney would realize the awkward pause in the conversation meant she was supposed to answer in sentences consisting of more than just one word, but she didn’t take the hint.  Instead she just walked into the store, went in back to punch in and put on one of the blue OneStop smocks, and then went about her job.  Caleb and Gloria said hi to her on their way out, but even though they were the closest things she had to friends she still didn’t give them anything more than a nod back.  In someone else Phil might have thought she was mad at everyone for calling her in, but he had learned to just accept her like this.  He didn’t see her often enough to know if she was like this all the time, but considering everything she had been through, it would have been unreasonable to expect her to just one day be happy and chipper.  That didn’t mean it would be fun working with her.

Still, on the few occasions she came in for a shift she was a hell of a worker, so Phil didn’t mind.  And Sue would probably be in sometime soon, which would brighten up the night considerably.

It was coming up on a year now since he had first met Sue, and although they hadn’t started dating (or doing the closest thing he could with someone who slept six feet under during the day) until after Valentine’s Day, it still felt to him like their relationship had been going on longer.  Of course, any relationship longer than a couple months was a long time for him.  He didn’t know if it was because of him or the girls he had dated, but after too long he’d begun to feel bored in his relationships.  He’d never felt the need to get close to any of them.

Sue was different, although he wasn’t sure why just yet.  Part of him wanted to say that was because she was a zombie and the novelty of the relationship hadn’t worn out yet.  But another, growing part of him didn’t want to think that.  He wanted something more than just a story of an interesting yet bizarre relationship in his history.  He wanted to believe that, if Sue hadn’t been among the breathing-challenged set, he would still feel the same for her.

Courtney came up to Phil by the registers.  “There anything specific you need me to work on right now?” she asked.  Her face showed virtually no emotion as she spoke.  There were a lot of people on the Hill with their own little creepy issues, but Courtney’s problem was one of the few that unnerved him.  Maybe that was because, unlike most of the strange customers, he actually knew what had made her like this.  Courtney had trouble showing emotion thanks to a combination of her condition and way too much makeup hiding the subtleties of her expressions.  At least she had gotten much better at the makeup since she’d first had to start.  Her face, her hands, and any other bit of exposed flesh once again matched her original light brown complexion.  Anyone looking at her would never guess that, under her clothes, she was green and had leaves growing in unseemly places.  She’d come from another universe where humans had fought a war against sentient vegetables and lost.  Her condition was the result of a virus the vegetables had used in an attempt to control her.  Now she was part plant.

“Um, no,” Phil said.  “Caleb got most of the work done before he left.  I’ll just need your help to deal with the bar rush in about an hour.”

“You mind if I take a moment to eat then?” Courtney asked.  “I didn’t get a chance yet.”

“Yeah, sure,” Phil said.  Courtney went into the back and pulled out a cellophane-wrapped chunk of raw hamburger that she’d brought with her.  She’d once told him she couldn’t eat vegetables anymore because it felt like cannibalism, although Phil thought sometimes she was more afraid that any vegetables she ate would try to rise up and kill her again.  Phil still didn’t understand why she had to eat the meat raw, but before he could ask the front door chime went off.  He went back to the register to see a girl in paint-spattered jeans standing in front of it with a worried look on her face.  Phil knew her face but couldn’t remember her name.  She was around here enough that he wasn’t surprised when she said his name.

“Hey, Phil?  You’re dating that zombie right?”
“Um, yeah?”

“You need to get outside.  Like, quick.”

Phil nearly forgot to grab his duffel bag of weapons from under the counter before he ran around the counter for the door.  The thought that Sue might be in danger almost trumped the common sense that, if something were happening to her, it probably wasn’t something mundane.  No one in their right mind would mess with a zombie.

As Phil got to the door and saw what was going on out in the street, he had to amend that thought.  No one in their right mind would mess with a zombie alone.

Phil unzipped his duffel bag as he ran out the door, trying to figure which of the many mystical weapons he could use for a situation like this.  He wasn’t certain immediately what was going on, but he thought maybe he got the gist of it.  A couple people were starting to gather at the street corner to watch, but they kept a safe distance as three men surrounded Sue in the middle of the street.  All three were white men that Phil guessed were in their thirties.  Two of them were overweight and kept some distance from Sue, but the third looked like someone Phil wouldn’t usually want to mess with.  Despite the cold weather, all he wore was a tank top and jeans.  Phil thought his head was shaved, but it was hard to tell between the poor lighting from the street lamps and the ragged cowboy hat on the man’s head.  While the two larger men saw Phil coming and took a step back, the cowboy didn’t pay him any attention.  Instead he shoved Sue backward.  Her balance wasn’t great even under normal circumstances, and she fell over and slammed her head against the pavement.  Phil wouldn’t normally worry about her getting hurt- she was already dead, after all- but head damage could still stop her cold.

Phil’s heart did a strange irregular beat as she hit the ground, and for a moment he thought the blow to the head might have actually hurt her.  Then she moved, a slow, confused sort of crawl away from the cowboy.

“Hey, get the fuck away from her!” Phil screamed.  He tried to blindly grab something from the bag as he ran at them, anything that he could use as a weapon, but his fingers kept touching bottles of holy water or spellbooks.  The distance closed before he could get anything useful, and as the cowboy turned to look at Phil with surprise, Phil made a quick decision and zipped the bag back up.  Before the cowboy had a chance to do or say anything more, Phil swung his duffel bag in an upward arc, clocking the cowboy right across the chin and sending him sprawling next to Sue.

“Oh shit, what the fuck?” one of the overweight guys said.  Both of them took a step back, although from the way their gaze went from him to the cowboy, Phil couldn’t be sure of which they were more afraid.

Phil kept an eye on all three of them as he bent low to help Sue up, but the cowboy was the only one who appeared to be a threat, and he was still groaning on the ground.  Phil gently grabbed Sue by the arms and helped her to her feet, taking care not to accidently pull too hard and take off any of her skin.  He’d done that once during sex and it wasn’t pretty.

“You okay, honey?” he asked.  She still had a shocked look on her face, but then her range of facial expressions wasn’t terribly wide.  She wasn’t crying, at least.  That was something most people never realized.  Zombies could cry, too.

“Fiiiiine,” Sue said.  Her head slowly moved back to look at the cowboy, and she backed away from him, almost tripping over her own feet this time.  Phil caught her and held her steady.

“You just messed up big time, boy,” the cowboy said.  One of the other guys tried to help him up, but the cowboy hit his hand aside and got up by himself.

“Fuck off and don’t call me boy,” Phil said.  “What the hell is wrong with you?”

“What the hell is wrong with you?”  The cowboy made a big show of dusting himself off, even though he didn’t have anything on him.  “This thing was trying to eat my fucking brains.”

Phil snorted.  In the whole time he’d known her, he had only seen Sue eat brains twice.  The first time had been the brains of a clown demon, and the second time had been a cybernetic elephant.  He’d had to help her pick pieces of circuit board out of her teeth after that one.  Never once had he seen her intentionally harm a person that hadn’t tried to harm her first.

“I highly doubt that,” Phil said.

“I don’t give a rat’s ass what you highly doubt,” the cowboy said.  “That thing is a menace.  If I had a gun right now…”

“You would be walking funny because I would shove it up your pasty white ass,” Phil said.  “I know her.  She wouldn’t attack anyone unprovoked.  So even if she did go after you, you must have deserved it.”

For the first time, the cowboy appeared to notice the way Phil held Sue.  He took a step away and wrinkled his face in disgust.  “Oh shit.  Boy, please tell me you’re not doing with that thing what I think your doing.”

“It’s none of anyone else’s business what me and my girlfriend do.”  He realized as the words came out of his mouth that he hadn’t hesitated at all in admitting their relationship.  Only a few months ago he’d been too embarrassed to show her any affection in public, yet now he could admit the truth to a complete stranger.  That certainly seemed to him like proof that she was more to him than just an experiment.  He smiled even as the cowboy cracked his knuckles.

“I’d heard rumors about the kind of people at this place,” the cowboy said, gesturing at the OneStop.  “But I thought it had to be bullshit.”

“Don’t try to look all threatening at me,” Phil said.  “If you’ve heard rumors then you’ve probably also heard that we can deal with a whole lot worse around here than a bunch of rednecks.”

“Is that a threat, boy?”

Phil unzipped his duffel bag and reached inside.  Now that he wasn’t running he found something threatening in it a lot quicker.  He pulled out a silver stake and pointed it at the guy.  The stake may have been designed as a dual weapon against vampires and werewolves, but it would still work just as well against a human.  “Yeah,” Phil said.  “It really is.”

The two larger men backed even further away.  The cowboy just looked at the stake for several seconds.  Briefly, Phil thought he might try something.  He wasn’t sure if he was comfortable with the idea of actually using the stake on a human, but a threat was a threat.  Sometimes the beasties weren’t the bad guys.

“You’re going to regret this,” the cowboy finally said.  He turned and walked away down 13th Street, angrily motioning at the other two to follow him.  Phil watched until they were nearly out of sight.  Revenge threats weren’t something to ignore around here, and he had no idea when it might come.  But for now, at least, they looked like they wouldn’t be a problem.

“Honey,” Phil said to Sue, “I don’t suppose you could tell me what that was about?”

“Aaaaai waaaaalk, theeeey pooooosh,” Sue said.  Her speech had gotten a lot better than it used to be.  There were a lot of mystical factors that had helped her along in that regard, but they couldn’t account for all of her improvement.  Once in a great while she was even able to speak in whole sentences, but most times he still had trouble figuring out what she tried to convey.

“You were just walking along and they started pushing you around?  Is that it?”  She nodded.  “Well there has to be more to it than that.”

“I saw them start it,” the girl in the paint-spattered clothes said.  She’d come up behind him when he hadn’t been paying attention.  “They just started harassing her, no reason or anything.”

“Do you know who they are?” Phil asked.

“I heard rumors that the dude in the hat runs a meth lab or something.  It’s not like she’s the first one he’s screwed with.  There was a story that he just went up to some vampire last week that was begging for change on 15th and just staked him.”

“The vamp didn’t do anything to him?”

“Minding his own business, from what I heard.”

Phil hugged Sue close to him.  “I’m sorry about all that,” he said.  Sue hugged him back, but the contact with her didn’t make him feel any more at ease.  He’d killed monsters on the Hill before, had in fact done it more times than he could count.  But every time it had been because the world was at stake or someone was in trouble.  There hadn’t seemed like any other choice.  To do like that guy and assume something was bad just because it wasn’t human was… well, the first word that popped in Phil’s head was racism, but that didn’t really cover it.

“Come on, Sue.  Let’s go inside where it’s warm,” he said.  He looked back over his shoulder as they went in.  The cowboy was gone.  Suddenly Phil wasn’t very comfortable letting Sue wander around the Hill by herself.

(c) 2010 Derek Goodman


1 Response to “Old Clerks Don’t Die – Chapter 5”

  1. 1 JackieH.
    April 7, 2010 at 12:40 am

    Raw hamburger and rednecks. Nice combo. XD

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