Kitty and Cadaver: Not the Zombie Apocalypse – Chapter 2; Part 2

by Narrelle M Harris

Chapter One: Pt 1 | Pt 2 | Pt 3
Chapter Two: Pt 1

Yuka paused in the foyer of the hostel to check her reflection. Well, ‘foyer’ was probably putting it grandly. The shabby sofas, chairs and tables were filled with a scattering of shabby travellers, and the battered reception desk, jammed to overflowing with brochures and notices, boasted a perky and chaotic receptionist festooned with piercings and bold tattoos.

Yuka wasn’t tattooed – she’d happily left the inking to Kurt all these years. Only her earlobes were pierced at the moment, and they remained unadorned. She had the slightly misshapen ear to prove that wearing too much embedded jewellery while battling an armed and armoured mermaid, for example, could be a very bad idea.

What Yuka did have were her wrist cuffs and now the necklace. Mementos of the dead.

Her leather wrist cuffs were decorated with the parts of smashed drum, keyboard and guitars she had retrieved a decade ago, all that was left of her band after they’d accidentally summoned a demon. Yuka was the only survivor of that mistake.

It was the first Yuka had ever learned of music magic, and had set her on this path – once she’d found a way to banish the demon again, of course. She had made the wrist braces to remind herself of what they’d called down upon themselves, what it had cost them, who she had lost, and that she had won that battle, alone and untrained. Then she had gone looking for others like herself, because there had to be others, or her life would be too lonely and dangerous to bear.

She’d found Alex Torni; or rather Steve Borman, Alex’s bass player, had found her, and here she was, still fighting monsters. Still trying to get even with them.

She fingered the necklace briefly; her new memento mori, made of the strings of Alex’s guitar and keys from Kurt’s keyboard. Chunky and heavy, the weight of it around her neck was like the weight of them in her heart. Yuka could have told anyone that grief was heavy, and that anger helped to hold you up. Her rage had been helping her to carry grief for ten long years now.

Well, enough of that. Yuka scowled at her reflection and stepped out into the fading early evening light. Food now. Rehearsal later. They would take their respite while they could by simply playing music that was music and not a weapon, and decide how next to move. They were no longer Rome Burning. Alex had forged that band when he’d become its leader nine years ago. Alex was gone and they needed a new leader, and with that leader would come a new name. That’s how this worked, and had worked, for hundreds of years.

The drummer’s short, fast stride took her away from the hostel and to the dying activity of the markets, in the final phases of closing up for the day. The plan had never been to do any actual shopping. For that sort of thing, they needed actual money. They had some, of course, but they’d become adept over the years at not spending it unless absolutely necessary.

Yuka walked through the undercover section of the markets that traditionally housed the fruit and vegetable stalls. Abandoned boxes not yet collected for disposal held discarded produce, still more or less edible but not strictly saleable. Yuka found some plastic bags and, keeping her movements swift but unobtrusive, filled them with salvageable refuse. Overripe, split tomatoes would make a good base. A couple of broken carrots; a chunk of cauliflower; a bruised eggplant: a beggar’s feast right there. A half-smashed watermelon would pass for dessert.

Down the road apace was a little supermarket. She’d be able to find rice there, oil, some spice. There’d be enough for dinner, at least.

Yuka carried the bags out into the street, wondering if she might splurge a little on a chicken, or a few fillets at any rate, and then she felt it.

The movement, under her feet.

Like pins and needles, but on a string, wound around her feet and wriggling. It felt a little like the pins-and-needles-string was tugging her to the east.

Yuka’s toes curled inside her shoes, but the feeling didn’t go away. She closed her eyes and breathed shallow, and her toes tingled and ached. Her arches, too. Everything still felt like it was pulling, mildly, but pulling, to one side. Even the weight of her necklace seemed to have a magnetic drag to the east.

Not good.

She opened her eyes again and the first thing she saw was the grey granite marker on the corner of the street.

Yuka took a deeper breath and followed the tug in her aching feet to look at the marker.

The marker told her that these markets were built on top of an old cemetery, and that 914 bodies had been exhumed and reinterred elsewhere by 1922. Only 914, out of what must have been many, many more dead buried here in the eighty years of the cemetery’s use.

The tingle-pull in her feet was stronger here. Not malevolent or dangerous, Yuka could tell that much, but restless.

The dead underneath the carpark over the road were certainly restless.

Yuka’s sigh was in part long-suffering resignation, in part annoyance, and another part determination. She crossed the mostly empty street to the even emptier car park and began to walk it, feeling the tingle in her feet become a more distinct feeling of lengths of string, or maybe now coils of thin rope, moving along and over her arches, heels, the balls of her feet.

These dead are long decayed, she reminded herself. They are not going to burst out of the earth in a zombie parade. There will not be enough tissue to hold the bones together. There are no minds under the tar. The bones are just remembering they used to be alive. That’s all. They have probably been rolling over in their sleep for a hundred years and no-one’s ever noticed before.

Yuka was reluctant to put the scavenged meal on the ground – the restless dead had been known to rot food before – so she tied the plastic bags together and draped them around her neck. Watermelon to the left; vegetables to the right. A balanced diet. Ha. The strong odour of overripe plant life rose around her face. Hers, Yuka reflected, was not a dignified life.

She crouched and put one hand on the asphalt, letting the ropey tingle move over her fingertips and palm. The sensation remained essentially harmless. There was no malice in it. The dead weren’t angry, and she sensed nothing angry attempting to use the dead as a channel. A frisson of longing, perhaps, but again, that might just be the component parts of the dead remembering what it was to be whole and alive.

Yuka crouched and patted the ground. Patpat. Patpat. Patpat. A little hushing rhythm. The restless tingle hesitated then resumed.

It was for times like these that Yuka always carried drumsticks. Living the life the band did, there was never knowing when they might be necessary. She pulled this pair from her belt and held them firmly in her two hands, feeling the power of them hum. The asphalt was not going to do the sticks one bit of good. Well, that’s why she had lots of drumsticks, she reminded herself, and why she went to the effort of singing every new set strong. For emergencies, like this. Besides, although she was on her own, Yuka didn’t think the whole band was needed. Her drumsticks and her voice should be enough. Bartos, of revered memory, had achieved more with just a rusty horseshoe, a tent peg and his own baritone.

Balanced on the balls of her feet, Yuka began to drum a tattoo on the ground. Taptap, taptap. Taptap, taptap. The rhythm of a heartbeat. It wasn’t an ancient piece, but it had been over fifty years in the repertoire, so it had a proven record. And these bones under her feet were old and not really a threat. All she had to do was send them back to sleep.

Asleep
The dust
And all
Your bones
Lay down

She knew the words in Japanese as well, of course, but sometimes the magic was stronger when sung in the original musician’s original words.

There’s no
Place here
For you
To go
Lay down

The heartbeat rhythm had the attention of the dust and bones. The taptap, taptap brought all that restlessness into focus. Yuka could feel it, almost like the dust had eyes, still, focusing on her.

Almost imperceptibly at first, Yuka slowed the heartbeat. Taptap, taptap. Tap-tap. Tap-tap.

You’re old
The world
Won’t know
You now
Lay down
Lay down
Lay down

And she could feel the things under her feet grow sluggish. She could feel them remembering not only the heartbeat, but how the heartbeat fades. Yuka could feel the dust and bones calming, settling. Tap-tap. Tap-tap. Tap tap. Tap tap.

Be dust
Be bones

She could feel them going back to sleep, forgetting they had ever once been alive.

Tap. Tap.

Tap.

Tap.

Be gone
Be gone
Lay.
Down.

Yuka held the silence after the last note, breathing as silent as a tree, and listened with her ears and heart and feet and hands.

There. Quiet. All silent in the graveyard. Much, much better.

The spike when it came was so quick that Yuka almost didn’t feel it coming. A sharp jab, like an electric shock, jolting out from the earth. Sticks resting on the ground, breathing easy, Yuka felt the stab of it just before it hit. Not something from the restless dead but a burst of rage and fire from something deeper, something she hadn’t felt. It burned up from the ground, across her feet, into the tips of her drumsticks on the tarmac.

But Yuka was an old hand at this, and she and the band had sung those sticks to might and potency over days. Her voice was in the wood, but so was Steve’s, so was Sal’s, so were Alex and Kurt’s voices, binding that wood and making it, if not impervious, then at least powerful.

As the burn of that old rage arched between the ground and her skin, Yuka felt it, raised her sticks and then punched them down, tips first, not beating but stabbing into the shell of tar and, through it to the soil below. The jolt of power pierced the sticks, but with the magic in her body and in her tools, she met it, blocked it, threw it back.

There was an explosion that was not an explosion: more like two concussion waves meeting and rebounding. The force of it threw Yuka onto her back and she laid there for a moment, gasping for air, feeling the ground with her whole body.

The whole quiet ground. Whatever had attacked her, it was gone now.

Yuka got to her knees, her joints creaking a little. She half crawled to where her sticks were buried in the tarmac and, with some effort, she pulled them free. The wood was split and frayed. No use for much now; certainly not for the drum kit. Fortunately, she had several sets still with her kit. None she had sung as strong, and they were all getting a bit worn. She’d lost her strongest set staking vampires in Budapest, and now these were ruined. New sticks it would have to be, and they’d just have to spare the cash.

She adjusted the bags across her suddenly aching neck with her numb fingers and went to finish her shopping at the little supermarket.

Yuka decided to buy the chicken anyway. The restless dead happened all the time. Actual meat protein for dinner was much less common.

Listen to me sing Yuka’s song, Down (mp3)

Read Chapter Three Part One

(Please feel free to post your responses to the story here: thoughts, speculation, whatever strikes you, good or bad.)

New to Kitty and Cadaver? Find out about the project in About Kitty and Cadaver or start from chapter one at Read the Book.

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Kitty and Cadaver: Not the Zombie Apocalypse – Chapter 2; Part 1

by Narrelle M Harris

Chapter One: Pt 1 | Pt 2 | Pt 3

“Six days,” said Sal, his Goan accent thickening with anger. The fact that he couldn’t seem to get his teeth unclenched wasn’t helping, “Six days to be ready to perform, without a lead singer and guitarist or a keyboard player. Without half our band.” The way he said it, it sounded like he was being asked to play without half his heart, which was much closer to the truth.

“We’ll work it out,” Laszlo assured him, “I’ve seen you do much more with much less.”

Sal’s brown eyes blazed. “Not with much less of the fucking band, you haven’t. Alex and Kurt are dead. How much less do you think we can get and still function?” He was looming over the older man, his dark skin flushing darker still with emotion. “We can only do so many miracles. Raising the dead isn’t one of them. That’s kind of the opposite of our job.”

“What do you want me to do?” Laszlo demanded, “You said we needed to be very far away. This is very far away. I’m sorry your friends are dead, but I’m not the one who killed them.”

You sure as hell didn’t save them.”

Yuka pushed her small body between the two men. Neither of them made the mistake of thinking that because she was small she wasn’t strong. She could probably have broken at least one of them in thirteen places with just her left hand and a well-aimed drum stick.

Laszlo, in fact, had seen her perform a similar feat in Budapest, against the undead, so when she glared at the two, much taller, men, Laszlo did the sensible thing. He took a step away, dropping his gaze to his feet.

“Sorry, Yuka.”

Sal had backed off fractionally, his expression still mutinous, his eyes glittering bright. He transferred his glare to Yuka.

“No, Sal,” she said, glaring right back, the accented syllables clipped and firm, “You know Laszlo is not the enemy.”

A shudder ran through him. Sal closed his eyes and the glittering brightness in his eyes escaped in wet tracks.

“I know. Sorry, Laszlo.”

“No worries, Sal.” He managed to tilt an awkward smile at Sal. He felt bad that it had got out of hand so quickly. They were still new to each other, Laszlo and the others. Two months acquainted, when Alex, Kurt, Sal, Yuka and Steve had been a team for years. When three of them were still mourning their murdered friends.

Laszlo is not the enemy, Yuka had said. It made him feel… he didn’t know. Sad. Determined. Afraid.

I am not the enemy, he told himself firmly, I never was. That felt like a lie.

I never will be again. There. That felt more like a true thing.

The sound of Steve clearing his throat garnered everyone’s instant attention. Their bass guitarist, the eldest of their group at nearly sixty, wasn’t into idle chatter, so if he had something to say, everyone was going to listen.

“You know,” Steve said in his slow Texan drawl, “We can do it as a three piece if we have to. You can sing lead and play lead guitar, Sal, you’ve done it before.”

“I…”

“Ain’t no disrespect to them that’s gone,” Steve said, “It’s wrong Alex and Kurt ain’t here, but that ain’t no-one’s fault but the fang-faced bastards what killed them. We got guitars and drums. We got singers. We can do this.”

“It’s not enough.”

“It’ll have to be. Hey, Laszlo,” Steve nodded at the Hungarian, “You played a mean fiddle when we needed you in the crypt. Ain’t half bad for someone who says he only dabbles in music.”

Laszlo’s left hand twitched involuntarily. “I dabbled in many things,” he confessed, “A long time ago, though. Apart from the crypt, I haven’t played in years.”

“Reckon you can learn some songs in a week?”

Laszlo shrugged, the gesture disguising the thrum of excitement in his nerve endings. “Sure. Yes. If you need.”

“We need, and it’ll be a lot easier to pick up the melodies when you’re not trying slay vampires at the same time, I promise you.”

Laszlo snorted a wry laugh. “Oh, but it’s so motivational.”

“I can give you motivation,” said Yuka darkly, and Laszlo couldn’t tell if she was joking. She grinned, somewhat savagely, which was not enlightening.

Steve just grinned at her and settled back into his previous taciturn demeanour, hip hitched on the corner of the small table in their dorm room. They were short on funds – nothing new there – so the four of them were sharing a dorm room at a backpackers’ joint at the north end of town. Beds were covered in duffel bags and instruments. A small, battered metal chest was shoved between two of the bunks.

“You teach Laszlo some songs,” said Yuka to the band, “I will get food.”

With that, Yuka patted her belt, checking that her drumsticks were still held in place by the leather, and left them to it.

Laszlo watched her go, and then turned to Steve. “I suppose we should go and buy a fiddle, then.”

Steve flicked a glance at the little metal chest. “Actually, we still have the other one.”

Chapter Two, part two

(Please feel free to post your responses to the story here: thoughts, speculation, whatever strikes you, good or bad.)

New to Kitty and Cadaver? Find out about the project in About Kitty and Cadaver or start from chapter one at Read the Book.

Kitty and Cadaver: Not the Zombie Apocalypse – Chapter 1; Part 3

by Narrelle M Harris

“Good morning, Kitty,” said Marcus Schumaker as she stepped through the front door. He was in his fifties, very buttoned down and respectable, softly spoken and kind-faced. He exuded an air of spreading peace and acceptance around him. Clients liked him, Kitty knew, because he made them feel safe.

“Good morning, Marcus. Beautiful day out.”

“It is indeed.  I have Maddie Driscoll’s parents and brother in the sitting room, when you’re ready.”

“I’ll be right in, Marcus. Do you want me to bring tea?”

“That would be lovely, yes. Thank you, Kitty.”

Kitty stowed her bag and went to the kitchen to brew a pot of fresh tea. She took her time with the fine china pot and the matching cups. She poured milk into a jug and made sure the silver sugar bowl was full. A few slices of lemon, for those that preferred it. A little honey in a dish, as well, and the elegant silverwear. A nice array of thin, sweet biscuits that didn’t crumble and were light on the stomach. People’s grief settled in their stomachs sometimes, when it was being held back from the voice and the eyes. Not many people ate the biscuits, but it was good manners to have them available in case. Some swallowed their grief, after all, and it was also true that not everyone mourned.

Kitty carried the tray into the sitting room – named for its faintly formal yet pleasingly cosy atmosphere. A couch that was comfortable but not squishy. It held people up when sometimes people couldn’t help themselves up.

She brought the tray in and Marcus introduced her to the family.

“This is Katherine Carrasco,” he said, in his wonderfully comforting baritone, “She’ll be looking after Maddie’s make-up and clothing for you.”

Maddie’s family were surprised at her youth. Most people were. Kitty didn’t let it bother her, and it certainly didn’t bother Marcus. He’d discovered her worth early on. Kitty just went about, calmly and kindly, greeting them by name, pouring tea, sitting in the slightly less comfortable seat opposite them.

“I’m so sorry for you loss,” she said, genuine sympathy in her tone, “She was a lovely young woman.”

Mrs Driscoll nodded, tears welling up already. “Yes, she was. My Maddie, she was…” And she couldn’t go on. Mr Driscoll patted his wife’s hand, and it was left to Jayden Driscoll, Maddie’s older brother, to speak for the family.

“We’ve brought some of her clothes. And her make-up. And I made up a disk of her favourite music. Like Mr Schumaker asked.” Jayden clumsily shoved an overnight bag towards her, “Oh. And. These.” A folder full of photos, mostly printed out from the internet.  They showed a bright teenager with a charming and slightly naughty smile, as though she was planning a prank on the photographer.

“Thank you,” said Kitty, with a warm, reassuring smile. “Anything I don’t use, I can give back to you, if you like, or we can manage it here. There’s no need to decide now.”

Jayden nodded miserably.

Kitty placed her fingers gently over one particularly lovely photograph of Maddie in a vibrant summer dress, vivid blue flowers splashed over a pale yellow background. Mrs Driscoll caught the movement.

“We’ve put that one… in the bag. She loved that dress. She was… She.”

Kitty nodded. “It suited her,” she said, “Would you like me to make her up like she is in this one?”

Mrs Driscoll nodded mutely.

“She looks very happy here,” said Kitty, still in that warm and reassuring voice. Gentle and open. Not expecting anything but leaving space for whatever might happen.

“She was,” said Mr Driscoll, “That was her eighteenth birthday and she’d just been accepted to Monash. That’s her best friend, Nicole, there.” He gestured. “And that’s her boyfriend, Mathias. He’s a good boy.” He blinked rapidly. “He made her laugh. So much. With those. What do they call them? The game with the birds and the pigs.”

Jayden’s laugh was sudden and a little brittle, but also genuine. “He got her those silly slippers, remember, the big red birds with those eyebrows.”

“And Jasper attacked them,” said Mrs Driscoll, with a similar bad-but-good laugh. She gave Kitty a watery smile. “Jasper’s Maddie’s cat. Had him since he was a kitten. He’s so lost without her. Breaks my heart.”

Kitty nodded gently. “Do you think… would you like to put something of Jasper’s with her? And something from Mathias, if you and he would like?”

In the end, Jayden said he’d come back with Jasper’s collar – for Maddie’s wrist – and if Mathias wanted to, the necklace he’d bought for Maddie’s birthday, or perhaps the funny little bird-with-the-cross-eyebrows on a tag she’d hung from her phone. That funny bird that made her laugh, especially when Mathias impersonated its enraged little cartoon face. Beloved things and memories to keep her body company, although her spirit was gone now.

The Driscolls thanked her when they left, and Kitty smiled a circumspect, kind smile and promised she’d look after their girl. Marcus saw them out, soothing them again with his air of gentle authority. After they’d gone, Kitty cleared up the cold, undrunk tea and the untouched biscuits and took the bag downstairs.

Maddie Driscoll was on the metal table still, her body almost ready for Kitty. Marcus’s sister Trudy was tidying up a few last minute things.  Very little reconstructive work had been necessary. The blow from the fall off the brick wall had crushed the back of her head, but left the nineteen year old’s face unmarred.

Kitty put the bag of clothes down on her workbench and walked over to the dead girl.

“Hello Maddie,” she said, as softly and as kindly as she had spoken to Maddie’s family, “I met your parents and your brother today. They’re lovely people. Jayden is really looking out for your parents, and for Mathias too. I’ll look after you, now. I’ll help them say goodbye to you.”

Kitty knew that Maddie couldn’t hear her, that she didn’t live in that house of bone and skin any more, but that was hardly important. The dead didn’t scare her, and she liked talking to them. The dead were very good listeners, after all.

Chapter Two, Part One

(Please feel free to post your responses to the story here: thoughts, speculation, whatever strikes you, good or bad.)

New to Kitty and Cadaver? Find out about the project in About Kitty and Cadaver or start from chapter one at Read the Book.

Kitty and Cadaver: Not the Zombie Apocalypse – Chapter 1; Part 2

Read Chapter One, Part One

by Narrelle M Harris

The cemetery looked particularly lovely this morning, with the crisp, blue autumn sky above and a few darkling clouds in the distance creating a fluffy counterpoint to the geometry of the headstones visible above the fenceline. Kitty stood at the sink, sipping her sweet, milky tea and looking at the view. A few sparrows hopped on and over the brick- and iron-work fence. Little sparks and speckles of life going on over the buried bones of the houses in which spirits had once lived.

Her grandparents’ bones were bedded down in the soil, over there. Well, not quite bones yet, no, but nature was doing her good work, reclaiming carbon and iron and all those other constituent parts of a house of flesh and giving them back to the world.

Kitty’s grandparents, who had raised her, had gone three months apart. Grandpa buried only two weeks ago. They were the only parents she remembered. Kitty had loved them, and she missed them. She was aware, though, of a sense of freedom now, too. Their love had been a support that never wavered, but it had been a bit of a cage as well.

She pressed the fingers of her left hand against the glass pane, tracing the distant outline of a Celtic cross that thrust up into the sky. Even at 21 years old, she had always sensed their life had been something of a cage to them, too. A wall through which they couldn’t walk and sometimes couldn’t speak. There was an untold story behind it. The thing that had happened to her parents. The thing that had silenced her history, and Grandma and Grandad’s memories, and even music.

With a sigh, Kitty placed the empty mug in the sink. Time for a few minutes’ rehearsal before she had to get to work.

She sat at the breakfast table and pulled back the tablecloth. She’d brought the table out from her own room a week after Grandad had followed Grandma into the earth. She’d successfully kept it hidden from them for five years, under a cloth and piles of books and stuffed toys, always carefully replaced after she’d used it. She knew they hadn’t found it, because if they had, they’d have made her burn it.

Kitty sat at the table and splayed her hands across the lines she’d painted on the edge of the table. The white keys and the black. She’d only seen a real piano a few times at school, but she’d borrowed a book and drew a diagram on a piece of paper she’d kept folded up in her shoe. With a tiny pot of white paint that Grandad had used to paint repairs on furniture she’d painted three octaves worth of white keys, leaving spaces for the black.

She’d learned the word ‘octave’ from a book. She’d heard the piano and hidden to watch the music teacher play it, and memorised, from those few glances, the notes that each key produced.

Then, every night for five years, she taught her fingers to play the painted piano while her memory told her mind what it should sound like.

For ten minutes she played one of her own songs. She’d hardly ever heard any other songs – though of course her grandparents hadn’t been able to completely ban music from her environment – so it was easier to compose her own songs in her head.

Her fingers stretched wide, her smile wider, Kitty Carrasco played her silent keyboard and heard the notes in her mind as she sang.

The grass is green and growing tall
Underneath it ants they crawl
My spirits high and then they fall
Like crawling ants who forgot what they crawl for

And it was high and low like that, thoughts like an itch under her skin. She felt like she was waiting for something, but she couldn’t have told anyone what that thing was.

Caverns broaden in my mind
Beginning till the end of time
Deception everywhere I find
Intentional revelation is the tree I climb

Most of the lies in her life were made of silence, Kitty knew. Silence where her history should be. Her parents, their deaths, the reason why music was never allowed in this house. Kitty thought she should have been angrier, but mostly she was just… waiting. For the silence to end.

I’ve softened my heart finally
For now it isn’t meant to be
Like self-sustaining energy
I hope you drift away and come back to me
Like crawling ants who forgot what they crawl for
I hope you drift away and come back to me.

She could wait, though. Silence had a way of being filled, if you listened hard enough.

Kitty got up, pulling the cloth over the lines out of habit, took her bag and stopped at the photo of her grandparents on the way out the door.

I know you never wanted music in the house, so I’m sort of sorry, but actually, I’m not, she thought, fingers brushing over their faces in the photograph, I never understood that. You were wrong. I loved you, but you were wrong about music. I don’t know how anything bad could ever come of it.

Then it was outside for the tram rides to Richmond and her job at the funeral home.

Part three

(Please feel free to post your responses to the story here: thoughts, speculation, whatever strikes you, good or bad.)

New to Kitty and Cadaver? Find out about the project in About Kitty and Cadaver or start from chapter one at Read the Book.

Songs: Crawling Ants by Jess Harris

Crawling Ants is the first song to appear in Kitty and Cadaver: read Monday’s blog to see the song in context.

In the meantime, here are the lyrics of Crawling Ants (music and lyrics by Jess Harris)

The grass is green and growing tall
Underneath it ants they crawl
My spirits high and then they fall
Like crawling ants who forgot what they crawl for

Caverns broaden in my mind
Beginning till the end of time
Deception everywhere I find
Intentional revelation is the tree I climb

I’ve softened my heart finally
For now it isn’t meant to be
Like self-sustaining energy
I hope you drift away and come back to me

Like crawling ants who forgot what they crawl for
I hope you drift away and come back to me.

**

New to Kitty and Cadaver? Find out about the project in About Kitty and Cadaver or start from chapter one at Read the Book.

Kitty and Cadaver: Not the Zombie Apocalypse – Chapter 1; Part 1

by Narrelle M Harris

Laszlo Kantor put on his blandest expression, which was also his most forbidding one, and met the promoter’s eye, stare for stare.

“This is it?” said Mr Malone, the promoter, his gaze flicking from Laszlo to Steve Borman to Yuka to Salvatore D’Souza, “This is the band? I thought you were a six piece?” Malone’s Australian drawl was just this side of rude.

“Normally, yes,” said Laszlo in his own heavily accented English, “Well, five piece, I don’t really play.”

“You’re the manager?”

“The roadie.”

“So you’re actually a three piece band now?”

“Just for the minute, yes.”

“Oh. Well.” Mr Malone’s dubious gaze flickered over the four of them again. “I was expecting the whole band. I hired a whole band. This is Melbourne, you know, not a crappy little pub out in the sticks that’ll put up with your bullshit. We have professional standards here at The Corner Hotel. Where’re the rest of you?”

Laszlo could practically hear Yuka grinding her teeth, and he didn’t dare look at Sal at all, knowing the tall Goan Indian man would be vascillating between a death glare and grief. Steve, he knew, would just be Steve: so laid back you’d think he was in a coma.

“Well, they’re dead,” said Laszlo, sounding prosaic and reasonable, “But don’t worry about it. We are a professional group and we deliver. We’ve got it sorted.”

Which was an outright lie. It was totally not sorted, and the band was a mess, and they needed someone to take over from poor Alex and Kurt, and a new name now, and, please god, a few days’ rest.

Not that they were likely to get it, even so far south, kilometres and continents away from the trouble they’d just fled. In his short time with the band – just two months, now, since they’d first come to Budapest – Laszlo had learned one unassailable fact. This group of musicians lived and moved under the guiding hand of fate. It can’t have been comfortable for anyone. But he had chosen them. It couldn’t be any more uncomfortable than his life before their arrival. Fate had put him in its sights long ago.

Besides, Laszlo had an unpleasant feeling at the back of his neck, pins and needles, like ice in the Hungarian winter. Shadows were following them and perhaps Budapest wasn’t yet done with them. Whatever it had already taken from them, they’d have to arm themselves and fight those shadows no matter the unhealed wounds they already had. No matter how far from them they’d run.

“I said, can you be ready by Saturday night?”

“Of course we can,” promised Laszlo gravely, lying even more spectacularly, “Don’t worry about us.”

Malone glowered at him. “You’d better come good on what they say about you lot. That’s what I’m paying for.”

“We will,” interjected Steve in his laid-back drawl, “Count on it.”

Part Two

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New to Kitty and Cadaver? Find out about the project in About Kitty and Cadaver or start from chapter one at Read the Book.