Chapter 9: Wheels in Motion
I pushed the closest two rungs of the Venetian blinds apart and stared through the clear tarp as best I could. I was scanning for anything detrimental to my cause, like a pizza deliveryman who might come to the Mount to dispense a mouth-watering pie, only to learn of the gruesome specter that haunts the campus and dash away to reveal the news to everyone in the outside world. Everything needed to be contained; in essence, we needed to quarantine the entire college. And with most finals ending in a few hours, the chances of people spreading the rumor far and wide were astronomical. It was a doomsday scenario that couldn’t take place, lest I spent the rest of my days and nights hidden in the shadows like the bloodsuckers I so despised.
Shannon sat at her desk, her eyes plastered against her computer screen. She ignored the disturbing paper swan that stared at her from her pinup board and concentrated on searching for more anti-vampire measures to take, in order to Nosferatu-proof the dorm for the winter break. She had said something about not wanting to let any vampiric activity disrupt Kara’s plan, so she was going to “fortify the dorm” until we started our mission. For the first time in my life, I wished I hadn’t enlightened someone of the perils of careless window usage.
Kara was in her desk chair, looking coy. I hadn’t really talked to her since her return, but she and I shared a sort of connection where I knew what she was thinking sometimes without her having to tell me. By the look on her face – the slight upturn of her lips and the twinkle in her eye – I knew she was working out the final details of her master plan, the plan that would save me and end the deplorable rumors of my death once and for all. I really owed Kara, regardless of the plan working or not, for her dedication and concern. Perhaps some kind of fruit basket was in order.
Just as Shannon began rubbing garlic on the bedposts, Kara jumped up from her chair and walked to the center of the room. She commanded so much authority with her confidant stride that Shannon and I couldn’t help but stop what we were doing and follow her with our eyes.
“All right,” she began. Her demeanor was that of a president about to address the nation. “As far as I can tell, we’ve only got one chance to correct this before everyone goes back home and spreads the story of Matt’s death. For my plan to work, we need to split into two separate groups. Shannon, I want you to deal with containing anyone still on campus. Create a distraction of some sort to catch people’s attention as they try to drive away. And don’t let anyone come on campus either. The fewer people who come in contact with the rumors, the better.”
Forgetting the vampires for a moment, Shannon was swept up in Kara’s rousing directions. She accepted her role whole-heartedly. “Matt, can I borrow your car?”
“Sure,” I replied, “But why?”
Shannon smiled. “Because I feel that I’ll be getting into a little accident today.”
Since it was Mom’s car and not mine, I thought that idea sounded great.
Shannon continued, “I’ll tell everyone trying to come in that I’ve been bitten by a zombie and I could spread my disease to anyone who comes to the college.”
So far, so good. Kara’s plan to quarantine the entire school would work perfectly, as long as no one decided to use the other entrance. I wondered what Kara could possibly have come up with to fix my unsolicited, inaccurate case of death. I really hoped that it would involve rockets and ninjas, or at least a decent car chase.
Kara turned her attention towards me. “Matt, you and I have a lot of work to do,” she said, reaching for her book bag. She yanked out hundreds of charts, graphs (pie, bar, and otherwise), written plan proposals, a short video adaptation of her idea, and no less than 14 models of various locations on campus in 1/200 scale.
“Where the hell did you get all that?” I exclaimed. Kara was busy setting up the projector, so she could show us her slides. “Oh, I had a few minutes before the test, so I set a few things up to get my strategy across easier.”
The PowerPoint presentation and the guest speaker really aided in my understanding of Kara’s plan. First, we’d have to set up the soccer field to be the epicenter of our operation. Knowing that time was extremely limited, Kara said that we could just use the parts of The Dean’s loathsome assembly that had yet to be disassembled. Kara was going to be in charge of that, leaving me free to complete phase two. I was supposed to make a sign that read:
“GET FREE CANDY AND FIND TRUE LOVE!
Students! Faculty! Creepy guy who always stands by the garbage cans at night! Do you like candy? Sure, we all do, because if you don’t, you must be a terrorist! And you don’t want to be a terrorist, now do you? Everyone who loves candy, America and puppies should come to the soccer field at 4 p.m. today to receive their free 67-pound bag of sweets, being handed out by none other than Santa Claus! Shake his hand to find true love and make rainbows spray out of his eyes like the mighty Mississippi river. Tell your friends and don’t be late, or Santa will bring you something poisonous and leave it under your pillow on Christmas Eve. Sponsored by the Video Club.”
Then, I was supposed to sneak into the campus security building and use their copier to make 500 signs. If anyone stood in my way, I was to use my ghostly influence on them, so they’d run away and leave the coveted sign-maker all to me. It was a risky proposition, because if the plan didn’t work out for some reason, I’d have actually perpetuated the myth further. But at that point, I was willing to try anything. Seriously, what other viable options did I have, other than a possible career as an overlooked and underpaid television ghost, playing second string to Casper?
The signs were to be placed around campus on the walls of various classrooms and major hallways. Everyone on campus knows that if something is written on a sign placed in the hallways at school, it must be true. That was even our school motto – Doce Me Veritatum – “Teach Me Truth.” There was no way invalid information could be plastered on those sacred walls, because everything went through The Dean before it could be copied and distributed… everything, that is, except for this. Everyone would still be taking their final exam of the semester while I ran around and madly taped, glued or stapled the signs everywhere I could, so at least I didn’t run the risk of revealing myself to the entire school and causing mass hysteria.
Then all I needed to do was find a Santa suit and stand on the stage in the soccer field, waiting for the lambs to come to pasture. “Santa Claus” would tell everyone that it was all a mistake and that Matt was neither a ghost nor even dead, and the students would go their separate ways, spreading the truth like a righteous river across parched soil.
I couldn’t stop myself from grinning after listening to Kara’s brilliant strategy. This is why I always went to her when I needed help.
“Well, it’s a little light on the giant robots and heated hand-to-hand combat, but it’s still a really a great idea!” I said.
Shannon was equally impressed. I don’t think anyone could have come up with a better plan without resorting to unfeasible tactics, like mind control or telling the truth. We had very little time left, so Shannon jumped on her laptop (and into the unerring gaze of the demonic paper swan) to look up tips on how to act like she had just been hit by a car on her favorite insurance fraud webpage, and I threw my coat on so fast it was as if it had simply materialized on my body. Kara and I sprinted down the steps and out of the dorm, ready to put our plan into action. Old Man Time had his icy fingers around my neck, but there was nothing that could stop us now!
And that’s when we turned the corner of Kara’s dorm and ran straight into Joe Shurize.
* * *
Shannon watched her computer screen intently. After a little research, she was almost confident enough to go out and be the best fake accident victim/zombie virus carrier she could be. She had the keys to my mother’s car, plenty of ketchup to serve as “blood,” and she had just perfected her tormented whimpers. There was only a single question still on her mind, regarding the position she was supposed to lie in next to the vehicle.
But as she typed “fake car accident+victim position” into Google, an overwhelming sense of terror overtook her. Almost hyperventilating with fear, she desperately searched the room, expecting a dastardly vampire to burst from her closet with the kiss of eternity on his dead white lips. But instead, she caught the rancorous gaze of the malevolent paper swan.
She would not back down. She didn’t fortify the dorm with anti-vampire paraphernalia simply to be taken out by a spiteful, recyclable fiend. No, Shannon was a rock. She stared into the swan’s minuscule eyes, and they gazed into hers, trying to take over her soul with their overwhelming evil.
Shannon watched even harder. But the swan would not be deterred, increasing its gaze 20 fold! Shannon squinted her eyes, concentrating. The swan somehow did the same! Shannon had to do something, lest her body be stolen by the soul of the paper sadist and she be forced to spend the rest of her days wading in sub-zero ponds and ruling over all as Queen of the Swans!
“Stop lookin’ at me, swaaaaaaaaaaaan!” she exclaimed, tearing the terror from her pushpin board. She leapt from her seat and towards the tarp covering the window, swan in fist. In midair, she threw a colossal punch that tore a softball-sized hole in the vampire tarp, and the second her fist was completely outside, hovering 30 feet about ground, she released the horror swan into the cold winter air. It fluttered helplessly down, its diabolical plans shattered in the wake of the mighty vampire hunter, Shannon Morris.
* * *
“So I said to myself, ‘Joe, so what if Matt’s a ghost? He’s still damn good to talk to.’ So I came back to tell you about my new idea for a show. It’s called American Rooster and it involves this guy in a rooster costume who goes to college classes and lives in a really tricked-out dorm!” Joe stood annoyingly between us and carrying out Kara’s plan, yacking away and proving that nothing, not even fear of death or the supernatural, could keep him from his duties as the Video Club president.
“That’s good Joe, but I have a better idea for a show.”
Joe could barely contain himself. For the first time since our last film, I had suggested something first. If it weren’t for the fact that it would freeze to his legs and make a cold day even colder, I’m sure he would have wet himself. “What is it?!” he asked intently.
“It’s called American Guy Who Never Shuts Up and it stars you.”
Joe looked hurt, and I felt like a heel for losing control and saying what I had said. After all, Joe wasn’t a bad guy – he just had horrible timing. That is, until I realized that it wasn’t emotional pain he was experiencing, but deep thought. “Yes! That’s brilliant! Throw in a guy in a rooster costume who goes to college classes and lives in a really tricked-out dorm and you’ve got yourself a deal!”
Kara buried her face in her hands. I could tell that in mere seconds, she’d be searching through her pockets for anything blunt with which to dig out Joe’s eyes. I tried to come up with of a way to stop her, but I was interrupted by a peculiar fluttering noise above my head.
Kara and Joe heard it too. The two of them looked towards the sky to discover the source of the odd noise.
“What the hell?” Kara was flabbergasted. “Why did Shannon toss that out the…”
Horror flashed across Joe’s face. “Sweet merciful Jesus! The Mega-Swan Terror Squad has finally found me! The witness relocation program told me that I was safe! I have to get out of here and warn my pet fish, Benny!”
Joe fled screaming from the scene, waving his arms in the air like he was batting away hundreds of tiny, venomous beetles as he went. A small gust of wind propelled the sinister paper swan further in his direction, prompting another tormented cry before Joe finally disappeared into a nearby building.
“Well, you don’t see that every day,” mumbled Kara.
I watched as the wind carried the swan away, its paper wings outstretched like some sort of hideous archangel. “Why did Shannon…?”
“It’s all right.”
“It’s all right?”
“It’s all right.” Kara shook her head. “She moves in mysterious ways. Don’t think about it or it’ll give you an aneurysm.”
I said no more. Kara and I ran side by side, almost step for step, towards the soccer field.