December 27, 2012 by Tiffany A. Robbins
The Masque of the Grey Death
a poetic, zombie parody of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death.”
by Tiffany A. Robbins
The time was New Years of two thousand twelve. The year’s wine was good and covered the shelves.
Grey zombies had eaten their pounds of flesh, and New Year’s brought celebration afresh. The maid’s job was cleaning and to prepare. Time had come for Prince Prospero’s affair. She entered the wine room to dust a rack. She stumbled, tumbled, fell flat on her back. She barely had noticed, such was her plight, the corkscrew it scraped her with all its might. Later that evening, despite all her skill, the maid went home early, feeling quite ill.
Ten days ago, zombie prions first raged, and Prince had stayed hidden – quite unengaged. Boredom took over – he had an idea, for a masquerade in his galleria. It had been awhile since he’d dated Ben, and this was his chance to taste many men. He thought before he again settled down, he wanted to try every man in town.
Gents and their dates came out for the party, for none else threw a party so smartly. Prince was happy, dauntless, and sagacious. No way’d the masque be inefficacious. He took all the necessary precautions to keep out all of the undead legions. His home was readied with gates of wrought iron; no one would enter with zombie prion. All men were checked ‘gainst a list of elite. Those without class were turned back to the street. Faces showed the display of opulence; beautifully masked was each man’s countenance. Masks of white feather and red paint of flame put even the Mardi Gras farce to shame. Staff at the door was helpful as ever. They stopped all those with skin slough or fever. The masque was a hit and all men had come else they stay home and be labeled a bum.
Zombies were outside and gay men were in, not in a closet as many had been. A safe place to play with plenty of brew. All they craved were decadent things to do. With champagne in hand, Prince greeted each guest with kiss and flirtatious pat on the chest. All who passed Prince’s fine entry dome, were aghast at his luxurious home.
Seven rooms he’d amassed with all delight. Each color-coded to fetes of the night.
First there was blue as the bell of the ball – for dancing, romancing, charming them all. Next, in the purple, all the games to play, with everyone laughing, tickled, and gay. Green held a feast of epic selection. Of every food, there was a collection. Fourth, there was orange for those bleary of heart. There they could relax and savor the art. Fifth, there was white and it catered desire. The love of the soul gave light to its fire. Violet for those whose tastes were more violent, lovers in leather, and ones kept silent. Last, the black room with red shroud on windows, where wine was kept, and the smell was musk rose.
In all of these rooms, not one light was lit; from outside the braziers flickered and spit. A ward to the undead, they served a sign. They’d taste no living, on no guest they’d dine. But inside, the fire’s light was adverse; its light shone brightly on those not accursed. Only in seven did lurid light shine, but there only help could access the wine. If across from the wine, one would but walk, three or four steps he would come to a clock. It’d clang and roar each hour it’d be stricken, each heart would stop and cold blood would thicken. After each echo when din finally ceased, laughter would follow and sound be increased.
To calm all the guests, Prince spoke out proudly, “At midnight we toast the New Year loudly!”
The gaieties went on with rooms crowded. The revelers in masks, features shrouded. Staff filled the wine room and corks were popped. With fizzle and drizzle, the flutes were topped. The staff spun around – a dance of their own. They waltzed about like the smell of cologne. Platters were filled with the best liquid grapes. All colors included to match the drapes. The glasses were raised and each man stood still, waiting – impatient – for midnight’s grand thrill.
At toll one of the clock, each glass raised high, expectance with fear in each heart did lie. Tolls finally ended and as the dread passed, terror replaced it as one man unmasked. Among the grand beauty of phantasms stood, grey zombie’s dead flesh sloughed beneath cloak’s hood. There in the room an ill sickness was found. From one sip of the wine, chaos unwound. It was a ghastly sight, unpermitted, for fear that prions would be transmitted. Prince, at first, overwhelmed with distaste, turned to the creature that had been debased. “Who dares” he began, his voice full of rage, “Who let him in? He should be in a cage! Seize him. Leash him. We must kill this disease. Quick, hurry now, before there is a breeze.”
But not one single man heeded his pleas for nobody would touch the dreaded sleaze. In room of blue, he ran from the bastard; yet poltergeist came, pushing him backward. From colored room to room he backed away, carefully grappling with games and buffet. ‘Til red the light grew, ’round wine casks they stood. Idly he wondered if he would taste good. A moment of clarity gave Prince pause, he reached for the corkscrew – fingers like claws. A jab to the eye was all it would take. With a lunge and a stab, he did not shake. The creature fell prone, quaking on the floor. Prince was satisfied right down to his core. He stood over prey with smile upon lips, until at his guests he did get a glimpse. Never had he seen a prettier sight – beautiful men with eyes dread in fright. He smelled their skin with brand new affinity, and wanted to taste each man’s salinity. At first, the people stood silent like deer. Then they bolted from the zombie in fear.
Grey death’s mask fell, forgotten and trampled. Prince was happy as each guest he sampled.