Feliz Dia de los Muertos!

La Reine Rouge

by Alethea Kontis

His bones hit the stones with a crack as the guard shoved him to his knees. They weren’t normal playing cards; they all had strange metric road signs on them. And they spoke French.

Brian Keene,” said a terrible voice. A familiar voice.

The burlap sack was ripped from his head. On the throne before him sat the most beautiful woman in the world. Her blood-chestnut hair fell in a shimmering cascade below her generous breasts. Her short red skirt revealed several miles of leg encased in several miles of black-and-white striped tights. The ruby platform slippers matched her dress, the four-inch heels of which he knew masked the blood of men’s hearts exceptionally well. Her glistening diamond tiara reflected the bright sunlight and scattered rainbows around her, complimenting the fire in her eyes and the glittery flames that decorated her face, surrounding them. Her crimson lips parted in a gorgeous smile he couldn’t help but reciprocate, and he damned himself for his lack of willpower at her feet. Those perfect teeth had fed on many a meager soul before his own, and they would feed on many more when his time on Earth was finished. Which he imagined would be about five minutes from now, give or take.

She was the Good Fairy who had given him life. She was the Muse who’d ruined it when he’d asked her to. And now she was the Reaper, here to claim what was rightfully hers.

Five minutes or no, Keene decided to spend the rest of his life being true to himself. “You remind me of a princess I know,” he said without being spoken to.

“I get that a lot,” she said, sotto voce, and then, “My little Bunny Foo Foo. Whatever am I going to do with you?”

Keene winced. He hated when she called him that. He also hated rhetorical questions.

“Off I sent you, skipping along through the forest, with one warning. Do you remember what that was?”

“Something about field mice?” he asked.

The right shoe shot out and kicked him square in the jaw, the rubies on the toes scraping deep into the skin of his cheek. With his hands bound behind him he couldn’t assess the damage, but he could already feel the wetness, taste the blood. As suspected, her shoe still looked perfect, unmarred, and hotter than hell. “I said, ‘NO MORE ZOMBIES.'”

“Is that what it was? I’m so bad with French.” Expecting the shoe this time, he managed to peek up her skirt before his face hit the stones. Skull panties. The guards propped him back up on his knees.

“I should turn you into a goon,” she said.

Keene spat out a mouthful of blood; it shaped itself into a heart on the stones at her feet. “I believe that is the established method.”

“And yet, my dearest bunnykins, something about you compels me to go old school.” She rapped her emerald scepter three times and bellowed, “OFF WITH HIS HEAD!”

It all happened with a quickness that commanded respect. A playing card obliged and bent himself in half like a table so that Keene’s head could be pushed down upon him. He saw the giant shadow of the executioner behind him and had not even the time to wince as the sharp blade bit into his neck, snicker snack. Ninety seconds, he knew. Ninety seconds before he lost consciousness forever. Forever. She smelled like forever.

His head rolled in the pool of blood at her feet and he looked up at her, his new vantage point affording him quite the view, and with his last breath he did the one thing he knew she’d hate, the one thing that grated her nerves more than anything ever had. He’d miss that damn cat.

“Why are you smiling?” she asked Keene’s head. “WHY ARE YOU SMILING?!?”

He loved that it was a question she’d never have the answer to. As it happened, he did know a princess, one who had placed his name in a bag with salt and herbs and planted it at the base of her ivory tower by the light of the full moon. She knew a thing or two about magic. And he knew a thing or two about zombies.

He thought about that princess in his last 140 characters before the world went black. Now if onlyall her father’s horses and all her father’s men hurried up and got to him before he bled out completely he’d be home in time f–


Today is Brian Keene Must Die day. Brian will be killed in dozens of horrifying ways in blogs across the blogosphere for a very good cause. If you enjoyed this humorous little vignette, please consider making a donation to the Shirley Jackson Awards.