Her eyes wide with terror, Omega stares at the figures trudging towards her. They’re zombies, just like the ones in the movies she’s not allowed to watch. The living dead. “JesusChristandGodAlmighty!” thinks Omega, as every hair on her head stands on end. But she doesn’t budge. Her legs refuse to obey her. The zombies are getting nearer. There are six of them – wheezing and groaning, shuffling their feet, and stretching their arms in Omega’s direction. […] In a state of advanced decomposition, the skin is falling off them in strips, revealing slimy brown flesh underneath. The first is wearing what’s left of a steel-grey suit. In his desiccated face his sunken eyes and teeth are shining, white as piano keys. Behind him there’s a woman in a long, stained dress. Her long grey hair is as dry as a clump of ferns and her hands are like talons. Omega stares as if hypnotised. “This is the end,” she thinks. The zombies are only yards away.
“Waaaa!” roars the zombie man, and the rest chime in.
Suddenly a zombie woman in a dark-blue suit misplaces a foot. There’s a soft cracking noise, she wobbles and keels over.
“Oh drat!” she says.
“Are you all right, luvvie?” says the zombie man next to her, leaning down. “Have you broken something?”
“Just my heel,” she says, and starts awkwardly scrambling off the path. “I can’t think what possessed them to bury me in high-heeled shoes. Help me, darling, I can’t quite manage …”
“Quiet!” says the zombie leading the procession, turning abruptly to the woman sitting on the ground. “You’re supposed to howl, not chatter!”
“Woo-woo!” the woman replies obediently. “Woo-woo … oh for heaven’s sake, just look at that, I’ve sat in a puddle!”
[…] The zombies come up to Omega, making ghostly wailing sounds. The leader abruptly stretches his hands towards her, opens his jaws wide and bares his teeth.
“Aaaa!” he wheezes. “I’m going to eat you!”
Omega glowers at the leader.
“Run for it! Run for it!” chant the zombies.
“Go on then, run away!” says the leader, then lunges towards her, shouting: “Boo!”
Omega stands her ground.
“I’ll eat you, just you wait!” says the man, scowling horribly, but just then his lower jaw comes off and falls to the ground.
“Really?” replies Omega. “I can’t see that happening. Unless you’ve got a knife and fork.”
By Marcin Szczygielski
Translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones
Marcin Szczygielski was born in 1972 and has written plays and novels for adults, but his main success has been as a children’s writer. His most recent novel, The Invisible Children’s Theatre won the Astrid Lindgren Literary Contest 2016. His hugely popular fantasy-adventure novels include Behind the Blue Door (2010), which had been made into a successful movie, and his trilogy, The Sorceress on the Floor Below (2013), The Butterfly Farm (2015) and The Curse of the Ninth Birthday (2016).
Antonia Lloyd-Jones translates from Polish, and has twice won the Found in Translation award. She has translated works by several of Poland’s leading contemporary novelists and reportage authors, crime fiction, poetry, and children’s books. She is a mentor for the Emerging Translators’ Mentorship Programme, and co-chair of the UK’s Translators Association.