MARK LONDON WILLIAMS
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MAX RANDOM AND THE ZOMBIE 500
We rounded the corner past some office bungalows and saw a giant wooden ship tilted over on a beach.
There was a lagoon of water around it. And there was a skull-and-crossbones flag flying from one of the masts.
I knew what this was. My mom had been working on it. They’d been making a new film version of Treasure Island when the zombie plague hit.
There were some little huts on the fake beach. There was a skeleton pinned to a tree by a sword going through its ribs.
“This looks like a good place to make plans,” Max said, pointing toward the little huts.
“Really?” I asked. “It’s all pretend, Max. It isn’t real.” Though I began to wonder if the skeleton was.
“That’s all right,” Max said. “I make good plans.” And with that, he drove right toward the pirate ship.
Max got back in the kart and headed down the street. We turned the corner, and there it was: A stranded, tilted ship in a few feet of water.
You could even see the name on the side: The Hispaniola. Like the book.
We stood by the edge of the pretend lagoon.
“We will have to walk it,” Max said. “The kart should stay dry.” He lifted a backpack out of it and stepped into the giant pool.
“Max! We can’t just … stay in those. They’re not even real. I told you.”
He pulled the goggles off and left them around his neck and looked at me.
“No. Just tonight. We have someplace to be.” He turned and began walking across the lagoon.
I stomped after him, mad because even though it was fake, we didn’t know how deep the water went.
Well, the first step was a “stomp.” That hurt my ribs too much. So after that it was like squishy tiptoes.
About halfway across, the water had gotten up to our waist. I bumped against something floating by and jumped, which made me hurt again.
It was a row of teeth. Dentures.
Even so, I didn’t want to know how they got there.
And just as I was about to wade over faster to Max, we saw the pirate.
He came out of one of the huts, with fuzzy gray hair and scraggly beard. He was holding a rifle, instead of a sword, and aimed it right at us. And told us to halt.
He even said it again. “Halt right there!”
Just like a movie. Except that it wasn’t.
Some tiny part of me was actually grateful, though. Grateful, at least, that he wasn’t a zombie
Max didn’t halt, though. He kept sloshing right on over to the man, until he was just a couple of feet from the end of the gun. “You should not be trying to scare us,” he said in his calm, exact way.
The man stood there, puzzled. He was a bit scrawny, with his frizzy hair, and had stained blue jeans on, with a checkerboard shirt, but no eye-patch.
After a moment, he lowered the gun toward the ground. “You’re not more of them hellions, after all.” He shook his head. “I saw you come up in that little car. Guess I shoulda figured hellions can’t drive.”
“What’s a hellion?” Max asked.
“Hellions don’t ask questions, either,” the man said.
“Then it’s good that I asked,” Max said. “Do you live here?”
That’s when I began to realize that maybe Max lived in a different world than the rest of us. Where maybe everything falling apart wasn’t unusual. Maybe it was the escape that was familiar to him.
“I wouldn’t exactly call it livin’,” the man said. “I got a big wall behind me and a little lake in front. I discovered water disorients ’em a little. So here I stay for now.”
I looked up and realized there was a giant blue wall behind the huts. It was the back of another building, and they’d painted it and put the fake island out in front. The blue background was so they could add the rest of the island in later, with digital effects, when they finished the movie.
But they were never going to finish. The wall had a new use now—to keep things from sneaking up on you from behind.
“We had hoped to stay the night,” Max said, as if we were checking into a hotel.
“Just one night?” the guy asked. “You got some particular place to be, in the middle of all this?”
“We are going to find my father,” Max said.
We were? It sounded like “father,” but I couldn’t be sure my head was working right. I was feeling pretty faint. And he hadn’t said anything about it before. But then again, he’d only saved my life about a couple hours ago.
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Mark London Williams is the author of the LA Times Best Selling Danger Boy time travel series, and a contributor to the anthologies Magical Mayhem and Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out.
He's also a senior writer covering Hollywood and its discontents to Below The Line and other outlets, and a former contributor to Variety, the Times, and other on and offline publications.
He teaches writing at Disney's Creative Academy, and storytelling workshops based on Two Tricksters Tango, his recent graphic novel done in conjunction with artist Douglas Potter.
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