“This is my favorite Earth tradition,” historian Viktor Krasnoff declared. He patted a piece of fake dead skin back into place on his cheek. “You should have used the real deal for your costume, Greta. It’s more fun that way.”
Granny Greta adjusted the holo-projector secured under her chin. “This is less messy. And I still look good in these rags.”
“I'll concur with that.”
“Oh, stop it.” Greta examined a shoulder holster at a booth manned by a Tangooian trader.
“That’s for the zombie hunters, not the zombies,” the alien said. “Here, try a half-eaten arm.”
Greta shooed away the grotesque prop. “What’s a Tangooian doing at an Earth Zombie Fair?”
The Tangooian clicked her tongue. “I come every year. Zombies are big on Tangoo right now. I don’t understand how this tradition came to be, but it’s titillating.”
“We don’t understand how the Zombie Fair came to be either. Apparently, humans in the past were obsessed with the undead,” Viktor said.
Greta and Viktor walked past the booths and into a recreation of an Earth city ravaged by apocalypse.
“It’s silly our ancestors had such a fascination with the downfall of humanity,” Greta said.
“I think they got bored. Advancements in space travel and planetary terraforming gave them something fresh to dwell on,” Viktor said. He steered Greta towards a path marked “Warning: Real Zombie Experience Ahead.”
Misty fog swirled around their feet as they continued past the warning sign, past the laughing crowds, past the streetlights. It was dark, dank, and dangerous.
“This is a bit much, don't you think?” Greta said as a “zombie” hunched past her.
“You haven't seen anything yet.” Viktor smiled. “For once, you may have to let go of your control. Give up your free will. That's the primary characteristic of a zombie.”
“I’m more of a Frankenstein, dear. I never give up self-control.” With that she swooped the draping rags of her shirt behind her and with a haughty look of determination strode off into the darkness, managing to look like an avenging superhero zombie goddess.
Viktor stayed behind several paces. Oh, how he wanted to witness the indomitable Greta with her guard down. Not that he didn't respect her, but he thought she could use a bit of uninhibited fun. He didn't realize how much fun she had being herself.
As Greta strode down the Martian dirt path, with Viktor trailing behind, she noticed something unusual. Even more unusual, that is. The zombies were becoming more and more life-like, or zombie-like, more realistic. They dragged, screeched, and walked around aimlessly. A building rose in front of her signaling the end of the zombie walk, and while Greta's attention was on a tank affixed to the overhang above her spritzing a fine green mist over the crowd, a zombie lunged at her from a darkened doorway.
“Argh! Get off me! Are you insane!” Greta screeched. She pushed the disheveled woman back into the dark doorway of the shack beside the path. The woman was lost in the shadows.
“That’s taking things too far,” Greta complained as Viktor caught up to her. “What’s this spray?” She waved her hand in front of her face.
“It, ah, heightens the experience,” Viktor said.
“A drug? You should have told me, Viktor,” Greta waggled her finger.
Viktor gestured carelessly behind him. “There were signs. And the effects dissipate within twenty minutes of leaving the mist. Have a little fun, why don’t you?”
“I always do, no matter what.” Greta looked around the carefully constructed dilapidated scene. To her left a few small houses recreated a 21st century suburban block. To her right a wooden saloon and hitching post recreated what she thought was from several centuries earlier. The large building in front of her resembled a Greek temple.
“Or is that building Roman? No, it must be Greek,” Greta said aloud.
Shuff, shuff, shuff.
Greta still stared at the tall, white building framed by cylindrical columns. “Do you know, Viktor? I’m sure I’ve seen pictures of this building before.”
“Oh! It’s a government building from one of the pre-Unification countries. The United States, I think. Is that right?”
“Viktor?” Greta turned around.