St. Patrick’s Day
The bagpipes. Oh, God, the bagpipes.
Sean Callahan had stayed home, purposely avoiding the festivities. He didn’t care much for and kilts and shamrocks. He’d always been irritated by the tradition that dictated you had to wear green on St. Paddy’s Day, or you’d get a pinch from co-workers or even strangers.
It amused others that he’d avoid the celebrations. But you’re Irish! they’d say. Then, looking at him again: Aren’t you? As if they’d know. All most people cared about was an excuse to watch a parade, to party, to put food coloring in beer and mashed potatoes.
At first, Sean thought the day’s parade had taken a detour to his neighborhood. The bagpipes bleated in the distance, then got louder. Shouts, and stamping of feet — a kind of drunken march sounding outside his home.
He looked out the front window. It was definitely a parade, of sorts. A few men in bagpipes led a long line of followers. But the marchers lurched, with the kind of flailing movements you’d expect only at night, after last call at the local tavern. Even on St. Paddy’s, people shouldn’t be this drunk, this early in the day.
He opened the window a crack, to hear better. Their speech was slurred, too, almost like they’d forgotten how to talk. Like they could only groan.
And their faces, covered with green makeup. Usually a few partygoers opted for this look, but it seemed like all of them today. Green hair, too, and green hands.
As they marched closer, the makeup appeared more like a skin condition. They seemed less like parade participants, more like a sickly horde of green zombies.
One of them picked up a rock, and threw it into a neighbor’s window. As if on signal, other green-tinted marchers ran to the house, lurching and groaning, breaking more windows and smashing at the front door.
Three kilted zombies pulled Jesse Barnet through a window, dragging her body over shards of broken glass. Others swarmed over her, tearing at the wounds, pulling the poor woman to pieces.
That’s when Sean ducked beneath his own window, praying the mob didn’t see him and attack his house.
He dialed 911 but only got an automated message asking him to wait. Zombie moans and screams of his neighbors drowned out the recording.
Sean opened his social media app, scrolled through reports of similar events all over. The green was the problem, according to the news. Somehow the ingredient to a common brand of food coloring got contaminated, a chain reaction spreading through the country via holiday festivities.
The moans and screams began to fade as the mob moved along, continuing their awful parade. Apparently they’d concentrated their attacks on the other side of the street, leaving Sean’s home untouched.
He’d tried again with the emergency call, but still couldn’t get through. Social media postings grew even more desperate and bleak.
Then a terrible sound reached him. His least favorite musical instrument, leading a return trip — but this time down his side of the street.
The bagpipes. Oh, God, the bagpipes were coming back.