Zombie Mask (fiction)

Brian Keene, master horror writer and heavy metal fan, is dead. I killed him. It was for a good cause.

If you like zombies, murder, and mayhem, the link to Mr. Keene’s website will give you a list of amazing authors and their versions of Brian’s death (plus an explanation as to why we killed him over and over and over again).

Thanks for reading!


Life was good and right.

In a sea of simple grey uniforms and masks of purple and gold, people lived in content peace. Violence had been eradicated. Poverty destroyed. Humanity worked as a hive, a well-tuned engine, a utopia of decimated dreams and glazed, deadpan eyes.

Everything was right and good. Everything worked.

The skies, as grey as the simple pantsuits every human wore, hung low, threatening a storm. Riding on that storm, one man, Brian Keene, glowered behind his mask as he waited for a traffic signal. The light turned green and not a soul tried to rush through before he hit the gas.

He growled in frustration, slamming a fist down on the steering wheel. Gunning the engine, Brian blasted a u-turn in the middle of the intersection, heading back home. Not a single driver honked his horn. Two waved and wished him luck on whatever he had to do in such a hurry.

Brian burst through the front door, startling his wife. He raced up the stairs, two at a time, muttering to himself. At the top of the stairs, he yanked on the cord dangling from the ceiling, unfolding the access ramp that led up into the attic.

“Is there something wrong?” his wife asked.

“Very!” Brian scrambled up the narrow passage and shoved aside the insulation blocking his access to the rarely-used storage room. He tore through boxes, scattering old clothing throughout the cramped space.

“I have fresh laundry,” his wife said from the hole in the floor. She gasped at the mess, her dainty hand, blocking her mouth and fluttering at the mask that hid the full expanse if her reaction.

“Where is it?” Brian kicked over an empty box to reach another. “Yes!” he cried as he pulled the flaps open. With a grin worthy of the long-forgotten Cheshire Cat, Brian held his treasure aloft.

“No,” his wife whispered. “It is not good. It is not right.” She shook her head. She backed down the steps, watching him descend triumphantly.

Brain ripped off his mask and then yanked a black shirt over his head. He held his hands out and said, “What do you think, hun?”

She stared in horror, desperately trying to keep her reactions neutral and good and right. She couldn’t take her gaze from the block letters spelling out ANTHRAX on his chest.

Her eyes flicked up to his. “Put your mask on,” she whispered.

“No.” He laughed. The baby cried somewhere in the house. “No more masks. I am not some faceless drone. I am Brian Keene!” He laughed again but the baby quieted.

“Please, husband, do not break this Ultimate Good.”

“I’m going out,” he announced. He tossed the mask to her and strode down the stairs and out the door.

Humming a fragment of a memory of a song off-key, Brain walked through his neighborhood, painting each house a vibrant shade of anything but the required beige with tan trim. He shaved poodles. He slapped silly bumper stickers over the traditional black sedans in every driveway.

A plain, boring, but good car rolled to a stop in front of him, blocking his progress. He grinned and waved at the two men who climbed from the vehicle.

“Sir,” one said forcefully. “Return to your house. Resume protocol for good and right dress.”

“I will not wear a dress and don’t ask me to wear a mask.”

“What?” The men in grey exchanged glances, neither willing to admit they did not know how to handle the dissenter.

“I won’t. You shouldn’t either. Be yourselves!” Brian grabbed the mask from one, and then the other. He threw them in the air like confetti and then raced down the street with a wild whoop of delight.

A young woman shrieked and hid her child’s face from the scene. An older gentleman clutched his chest and sunk to the ground. A husband and wife stare wide-eyed at the strange clothing Brian wore and then, once the fearful creature had passed, raced back home as quick as they could while keeping with the Ultimate Good.

They say Brian Keene made it all the way to the town center, climbed up on the gazebo in the park, and head-banged to old metal tunes only he heard, before they took him down. No law enforcement had been necessary for years, but society knew the importance of fitting in and they feared a world without masks. A dozen or more grey-clad, purple-masked people dragged Brian laughing and singing from the roof of the gazebo and beat him soundly into the perfectly trimmed, just the right shade of lush green, grass.

Only when he stopped fighting them, did they peel his face from his skull and turn the skin over to form a proper mask for him to wear.

Brian still sits in that gazebo. His skin mask has long since slid away and his eyes are blank voids in his skull due to the crows that found him. He may be dead now, but he is still teaching young people that “Long Live Metal” is not the right slogan for change.

If you enjoyed this story, please consider making a small donation to The Shirley Jackson Awards. Also check out Brian Keene’s website for a list of amazing author’s and their versions of Brian’s horrible death.


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