Tales of Scream Street: The Legend of Rumpled Split-Skin
Jakrok sat in his bedroom and sulked. Scream Street wasn’t the new beginning G.H.O.U.L. had promised and today, in particular, was the worst day of his death.
Being a zombie had its plus points. You didn’t have to pay much attention to everyday matters such as personal hygiene anymore. What was the point in showering when your rotting skin was crawling with lice and maggots? And there was no advantage to brushing your teeth when you could simply discard your dentures when they decayed and pluck a new set from any nearby corpse.
There were, however, downsides too. You couldn’t remember who you’d been when you were alive, for one. Oh, sure, there were glimpses of memories from time to time; Jakrok had moments when he vaguely recalled a woman’s voice calling “Jack! Jack!”. Could this be his mother? Sister? No-one would ever be certain, but the word, coupled with the fact that he had to shift a large rock to climb from his grave, formed the basis of his single zombie name. Jakrok. Most of the risen dead gave themselves a single name in the same, basic way. Which brought Jakrok to the second problem with death after life: the housemates.
G.H.O.U.L. usually housed zombies together in trios – the theory being that there would always at least one dissenting voice if a pair of rotting corpses decided to head out on a killing spree together. That was how Jakrok had ended up with Septic and Green.
He wasn’t ungrateful, you understand. The house they had been given in Scream Street was impressive, even if The Movers hadn’t taken the trouble to shift out any of the previous family’s belongings. A household of mummies by the looks of it – everything was made of gold and carved with some kind of ancient hieroglyphics, and it glinted brightly under the gas lights.
“Jakrok! Where Jakrok?”
Jakrok sighed. Septic was looking for him. He wasn’t bad for a zombie, by any means, but he was a little demanding, coupled with being quite difficult to understand. The speech portion of his brain was being eaten away by a cluster of beetles, and his vocabulary was decreasing by the day. Yesterday he had referred to the moon as ‘shine ball’.
“I’m up here!” called Jakrok as he lay back on the sarcophagus he used as a bed. “What do you want?”
“Septic hungry!” came the reply. “Septic need not hungry!”
“You’re always hungry,” muttered Jakrok under his breath. “Where’s Green?” he shouted down the stairs. “Can’t she get you something to eat?”
“Green do pretty paint!”
Jakrok sighed again. Green had burst from her grave convinced that she used to be something of a beauty while alive. Although she now looked as though she’d stopped a speeding train with her face, she was rarely far from a mirror. The cosmetics she constantly applied made no difference, but then Jakrok was almost certain that her mixture of soil and rat wee couldn’t technically be called make-up.
With a final sigh, Jakrok made his way downstairs to see what he could do about dinner.
“Septic no like rat!” roared the zombie as he hurled the rodent carcass across the dining room table.
“Well, there’s not a lot I can do about it!” snapped Jakrok. “I tunnelled for over an hour this afternoon, and this was all I could find!”
“You’re wasting your breath,” said Green as she nibbled delicately on a mole’s eyeball. “His brain has decayed to such a state that he’s starting to make spoons look intelligent. Although, what I wouldn’t give to sink my teeth into juicy spleen, or taste the rustic tang of a crispy gallbladder myself!”
“Brains!” moaned Septic. “Brains!”
“If you don’t like my cooking, you’re very welcome to dig for your own food!”
“What, and ruin my looks?” demanded Green as she paused to wipe away a dribble of bat pee that ran from the brown clumps around her eyes.
“Septic could do it!” suggested Jakrok.
“No,” said the large zombie. “If Septic scratch on sharp stone, Septic burst everywhere!”
“Then you’ll have to eat what I give you!” said Jakrok.
“Septic want brains! Septic want brains!” chanted the big zombie, his green, pus-filled arms wobbling as he banged the gardening trowels he used for cutlery on the table.
“Well, I want some peace and quiet!” shouted Jakrok, storming out of the room. The young zombie thumped up the stairs and slammed his bedroom door. He flung himself onto the golden sarcophagus and wished that his tear ducts hadn’t been the first of his body parts to rot away. He felt like having a good cry.
“Over here and over there, something troubles the young sir?” came a voice.
Jakrok sat bolt upright at the sound of the voice. “Who’s there?” he called. “Septic, is that you?”
“Way down low and way up high, the answer to your prayers have I!”
Jakrok saw a movement in a shadowy corner of the room. “Who’s hiding back there?” he said. “Show yourself!”
“Here a bush and there a tree, are you ready to meet me?”
“I’m not scared!” said Jakrok. “Come out and tell me what you want!”
“Sometimes easy, sometimes hard, it’s what you want that’s on the cards!” said the figure as it emerged into the light.
Jakrok stared. The creature in the corner of his bedroom was another zombie, but in a much worse state of decay than any of the undead he had ever seen before. The zombie’s brown, creased skin was split open down the middle by an ancient autopsy scar, and the creature wore it like an overcoat. Inside the coat, the monster had multiple organs: twenty hearts, thirteen livers and at least a dozen kidneys – all crammed in beside each other.
“Who are you?” asked Jakrok.
“Cow and calf, sheep and lamb, the famous Rumpled Split-Skin I am!” pronounced the zombie, off-white bone showing through his tattered gums.
“Famous?” replied Jakrok. “I’ve never heard of you.”
Rumpled Split-Skin bowed. “Over there and back again, ’tis but my deeds that earned my fame!” The ancient zombie reached out and plucked a golden candlestick from the dressing table. As he ran his broken fingers over the ornate Egyptian carvings, the candlestick flashed with a light so bright that Jakrok was forced to turn away. When he looked back, Rumpled Split-Skin was holding a lump of quivering grey flesh in his hands.
“Th- That’s a brain!” stammered Jakrok as he took the jelly-like organ from the old zombie. “Is this for us to eat?”
“Farm the field and raise the beast, leave me know: enjoy your feast!” said Rumpled Split-Skin with another bow.
Jakrok was halfway through the door when he turned back to ask. “Wait a minute… Why are you helping me? What do you want in return?”
Rumpled Split-Skin tapped the side of his nose secretly, dislodging it slightly. “Could you please donate a toe? My tootsies dropped off long ago.”
Jakrok blinked. “You want one of my toes?”
Rumpled Split-Skin smiled and held out his hand.
Jakrok thought for a moment. Body parts broke off zombies all the time. It didn’t hurt; nerve endings were usually long dead by the time your decay reached that stage. Perhaps this crazy old man wasn’t very good with a needle and thread, otherwise he would have reattached his own toes when he’d lost them. That would also explain his still-gaping autopsy wound.
“OK,” said Jakrok, slipping off what remained of his shoe. “I’m sure I won’t miss one.” Snatching up a pair of scissors, he pressed them to his little toe and cut. The digit popped off like a dry twig and Jakrok tossed it to the old man.
“Hope and joy, smiles and bliss. Rumpled Split-Skin thanks you for this!”
Jakrok laughed at the zombie’s delight and raced off down the stairs with the brain clutched tightly in his hands. “Septic!” he shouted. “Grub’s up!”
You may think this is the happy ending to our twisted tale, but I’m afraid that what happened next is far from pleasant. For once Septic and Green had tasted the fresh brain, they wanted more.
Day after day, Jakrok returned to the old zombie in the corner of his room. Rumpled Split-Skin transformed dozens of golden objects into plump, tasty brains and – in return for each one – Jakrok had to donate a part of his own body. Before long, he was missing eight toes, three fingers and all but one of his teeth.
“This can’t go on any longer!” he announced as he hobbled to the table with a pan of brain stew one evening. He hadn’t told the others about Rumpled Split-Skin, preferring instead to bask in their praise of his culinary efforts. Things, however, had to stop.
“Septic want more brain!” boomed the giant zombie as he dipped a ladle into the scalding soup and slurped from it.
“But I can’t give any more- I mean, I can’t get any more brains!” insisted Jakrok. “This is the last one we can have!”
Septic rose slowly to his feet. “Septic want more brain! If Jakrok no get brain, Septic take it from neighbours!”
“I agree!” said Green. “If you’re no longer willing to keep us in the manner to which we have become accustomed, we shall simply harvest our meals from the vampires next door!”
“But, they’re innocent!” said Jakrok. “They haven’t done anything to us!”
“Nor will they once we consume their organs,” tittered Green. “More cerebrum, darling?” she said, turning back to Septic.
Jakrok had lost his appetite. After the others had finished their meal, he raced upstairs as fast as the stumps at the end of his legs could carry him to confront Rumpled Split-Skin. “I can’t let them attack the vampires!” he said. “If they get away with that, they’ll end up eating everyone in Scream Street!”
“Out of the black and into the blue, the answer is a part of you!” exclaimed the old zombie.
“I can’t give you any more body parts!” said Jakrok. “There’ll be nothing left of me soon!”
Rumpled Split-Skin hobbled back into the shadows. “Hustle and bustle, moan and groan. Your friends must find brains on their own!”
Jakrok grabbed the creature’s bony shoulder and spun him round. “There must be something I can do!”
As he watched, Rumpled Split-Skin’s eyes melted from their usual milky white to a fiery red. When he spoke this time, his voice was deeper and colder, and he no longer spoke in rhyme.
“If you can guess my blood type in just one minute, I will teach you the secret to convert gold into pure brains!”
Jakrok shivered for the first time since he had died. “And if I can’t guess…
Rumpled Split-Skin smiled wickedly. “Then I will take your entire body, piece by piece, for my special collection!” He tapped his exposed insides.
“Your time starts now…”
“No, I didn’t say I was going to-”
“One minute, no more!”
“Fifty six seconds!”
Jakrok’s mind raced. Blood types. How was he supposed to remember blood types when he couldn’t even recall his own identity?
Jakrok closed his eyes and begged for a memory. Any memory!
“Please!” thought Jakrok. “Let me remember! Please!”
Suddenly Rumpled Split-Skin’s grating voice faded away and was replaced by another, softer sound. “Jack? Jack?” It was the woman again. Jakrok opened his eyes. He was lying in a hospital bed. The voice didn’t belong to a member of his family; it was a nurse. “How are you feeling, Jack?” she asked.
Jakrok tried to reply, but couldn’t make any sound. He had no idea why he was in hospital, or how long he had been there, but he knew with certainty that this was his last memory. This was where he had died.
Gazing around the room, he saw colours as he had never seen them before. Fresh, white walls; the vivid green of the nurse’s uniform; beautiful, yellow flowers; and deep reds of the blood bags that hung above the beds. Jakrok couldn’t remember ever feeling so-
Blood bags. Each of the beds that lined the ward had a blood bag attached to a stand beside its patient. And each of the bags had a label stuck to it…
“Twelve seconds!” Rumpled Split-Skin’s voice rasped out as the hospital ward vanished and Jakrok’s bedroom returned. The older zombie’s eyes flashed with delight as the time ticked away. “Ten seconds!” cackled the monster, a vein pulsing at the side of his throat.
Jakrok explored his memory, reading a sticker on the blood bag hanging above his own bed. “A Positive!”
In his mind’s eye, he looked to the next bed along. “A Negative!”
“B Positive! B Negative!”
“AB Positive! AB Negative! O!”
“No! No! And no again! Seven seconds!”
“Er… You haven’t got any blood! It was replaced with embalming fluid!”
“Never buried! Still got blood! Three seconds!”
“Then there’s only one type your blood can be!” roared Jakrok, eyeing Rumple Split-Skin hungrily and lunging towards him. “And that’s delicious!”
“Septic like brains! And hearts! And kidneys!” The dinner table was piled high with dished laden with food. Roast lungs sat beside grilled appendix and mashed intestines accompanied the boiled stomachs.
“Eat up!” smiled Jakrok, all his teeth now wedged firmly back in place. “There’s plenty more where they came from! And I seem to have developed the ability to er, find brains whenever I want!” He dabbed blood – a unique mix of AB Negative and O by the taste of it – from his lips and belched.
“Speaking of finding things,” said Green through a mouthful of grey matter. “Has anyone seen my bedroom mirror? It seems to have disappeared. Been happening a lot lately.”
“I’m sure it will turn up,” said Jakrok as he grabbed one of the golden napkin rings and cupped it discreetly in his palm. There was a small burst of light and he dropped a fresh brain onto his plate. “How’s dinner?”
“Delightful, darling!” enthused Green. “I especially like the tablecloth!” The zombie ran her fingers over the brown, leathery fabric. “Where did you find it?”
Jakrok smiled. “Wash the pots and dust the broom, ’twas in the corner of my room!” His eyes flashed a deep, crimson red. “I must remember to iron it tomorrow. It’s looking a little rumpled…”