The Graveyard Slot (an excerpt)

A few days remain to pre-order Black Chaos, the new zombie anthology from Big Pulp! Black Chaos includes 25 new zombie tales from indie and small-press authors, including my brand-new story The Graveyard Slot.

As an incentive, I’m sharing the first few pages below. If you’d like to read the whole story, pre-order Black Chaos from Big Pulp. Note that the pre-order page is an Indigogo campaign, but the book is not contingent on reaching any financial goal. You’ll get whatever you order, no matter who else signs up.

Also note that my usual policies apply: I’m happy to sign anything you want me to sign, as long as you find a way to get it in front of me, and if you buy the book and tweet a photo of it (with or without you) at me, @keeltyc, I’ll reward you with some yet-to-be-determined prize. I’ve been thinking a drawing of your choice, but no one has yet taken me up on this offer so who really knows?

So that’s it for now. Enjoy!

The Graveyard Slot

By Christopher Keelty

Richie’s TV was on the fritz, and Mom was parked in the living room watching her American Idol or The Apprentice or So You Think You Can Castrate a Dachshund or some other bullshit. He had to pull the old Magnavox from the back closet of the basement, its plastic belly bulging with tubes and capacitors. It was hidden behind three dusty boxes of old magazines that Richie relocated, swearing under his breath. When he wrapped his arms around the Magnavox, strands of sticky spider web clung to his hands like a mummy’s wrappings. They tore free with a sound like Velcro, and Richie swore he felt hairy legs scramble across the backs of his fingers.

Carrying the beast up the basement stairs was out of the question, so Richie set it on a plastic milk crate and cleared off the basement sofa. The thing smelled like an old sneaker full of potting soil. At some point Mom had hopes for the basement, which she to as the “rec room,” but the fourth time it flooded, it became a repository for the dreams Mom had given up on: boxes of skinny jeans that would never fit again, toys left from Richie’s childhood, reserved for the day he produced a grandchild, and a museum-quality archive of twenty-first century fad exercise products.

After attempting at least seven different configurations, Richie gave up connecting his DVD player to the Magnavox. There was no cable or antenna, either. Over-the-air broadcast had gone digital, in accordance with federal regulations, rendering the Maganavox as useful for watching television as a microwave. Richie could hear Mom upstairs, rocking with laughter at something on the HD screen. Digging through the shelves where the Magnavox was interred, he exhumed his Panasonic VCR and three shoe boxes of VHS cassettes.

These were the tapes he couldn’t bring himself to throw out, when he mothballed the player. Among them were movies, or alternate versions of movies, too obscure or unpopular to get a DVD release, like the pre-rerelease Star Wars where Han shot first, or stuff he’d taped off television, like the original The Stand miniseries or the TV edit of Blade Runner with extra footage and an alternate ending. There were bootlegs, their images blurry and dull from copying and recopying: the four-hour rough cut of Brain Candy, the subtitled and uncensored edition of Battle Royale, and the copy of Meet the Feebles he’d worked to obtain back when the movie wasn’t available in the US. These were treasures, or had been once, and while they may have lost their currency, Richie held to them like gold doubloons.

On one tape he found five classic episodes of The Simpsons, and two of The X-Files, taped off the air with the commercials paused out. Back in high school, he and his friends would trade tapes they’d recorded, trying to show each other up by finding the most obscure, sought-after material, but most of his friends had lost interest in underground movies when they discovered booze and sex and money. Only Richie and Phil, who worked the late shift at the Video X-Press– kept the dream alive.

As the night crept into the wee hours, the time TV networks referred to as “the graveyard slot” and filled with infomercials and public-interest programming, Mom moved from her assprint on the sofa to her assprint on the bed. Richie was too tired to move upstairs. He lay on the sofa, an open two-liter of Pepsi and a half-eaten package of Keebler cookies within arm’s reach, while John Carpenter’s remake of the The Thing unspooled across the Magnavox. It was, in Richie’s estimation, one of the finest horror films ever made, but the slow-thrum bass score and early-80s pace were better than a sleeping pill at that hour.

Richie slept through the end of the movie, and the whir of the automatic rewind, but he snapped awake around three fifteen, his mouth parched and sticky from the soda and the basement air. It was the moaning that woke him. The moaning, and the plaintive soft shuffling of slow feet.

On screen, a crowd of slow zombies dressed in tattered funeral rags slumped their way down a small-town Main Street. The image was black and white, fuzzy and darkened around the edges like a kineoscope recording. It popped and fuzzed with broadcast static, and Richie took it for Night of the Living Dead, a Midnight Movie staple, until he remembered there was no more Midnight Movie, at least not that the Magnavox could pick up. Was there something else on the videotape? No, the black plastic tongue of The Thing protruded from the VCR’s mouth, automatically ejected after being rewound. This was something else.

* * *

Want to know what happens to Richie? Pre-order Black Chaos from Big Pulp and find out!

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