Mr. Cope’s Cave: Halloween Treat

by

I wrote this last spring, after spending a Sunday evening switching the channel every few seconds between one show I just had to know the outcome of, and another show I just had to know the outcome of. I then submitted it to The New Yorker magazine for consideration in their short humor feature. Their website explained I would hear back from them in 90 days or less. It has now been more than 160 days and I am relatively confident I will never, ever hear back from them.

However, I am not one to let 1,500 words go to waste. So I have waited until today to put them to work in
Mr. Cope’s Cave. In the unlikely event I do hear back from The New Yorker, and that they do indeed want to publish it, remember, you saw it here first. I call it…

The Walking Downton Abbey Dead

On the grounds:

“It looks okay, dad. I don’t see any of them.”

“That’s what we thought about the prison, Carl. We thought it looked… ‘okay’, remember?” Rick wipes a bead of sweat off his cheek, wondering if he will ever again see another safety razor. “We can’t afford to think anything is ‘okay’. Not anymore.”

A few paces away, Michonne growls, “Not... anymore.” She squats, glowering through the legs of a ragged topiary. Possibly a steed, possibly a lion, she can’t be certain, the yew is in such desperate need of trimming. Her eyes soften as she imagines what she and her samurai sword could do for it.

“So, uh, what’ll we do?” Carl peers around Rick, who peers around a marble column. Corinthian, if Rick is any judge of marble columns. A hundred yards farther on, the great house itself juts out of the countryside like the last remaining tooth in a Yorkshire gum.

“Son, we clear. Room by room, floor by floor. And no firing. Not until we’re sure there isn’t a herd of them shuffling around in the servants’ quarters. Use your poker, Carl.”

Michonne hisses, “Rick, we should wait for Daryl and Glenn.”

“We can do this, Michonne,” Rick rasps. “We. Can. Do! This.”

Around the staff dining table:

“Lady Violet will be here within the hour, and in view of this infernal plague of... of...“

“Ambulant corpses, Mr. Carson. Or cadavers, if you prefer.”

“Yes, thank you, Mrs. Hughes... this infernal plague of vagabond cadavers, Lord Grantham expects that we will carry on as usual so as not to overly alarm the family. When Her Ladyship arrives, we will present ourselves on the drive as we always have. That includes you, Thomas, if you can tear yourself away from your scheming and your plotting long enough to attend to your duties. And I’m going to need you in footman’s livery, as it appears we have lost Alfred.”

“Took that job in London, did ‘e, Mr. Carson?

“No, Daisy. I’m afraid Alfred has been eaten.”

Thomas stiffens. “Mr. Carson, I remind you I have been made Mr. Branson’s valet. It is beneath my station to... “

“Save it for your friends down at the Cock and Bullocks, Thomas,” Mr. Carson rumbles. “Our duty today, as always, is to strive for normality. And until recently, it was most normal that you were a footman.”

Ivy and Daisy drop their gazes to the floor as Thomas surveys the staff for any hint of support. Mr. Bates hides a bemused smirk, turning to where his beloved wife Anna would be, had not Lady Cora been forced to split her undead skull with a Tiffany hand mirror a day earlier.

In the drawing room:

“P’pah, do you think it wise that Grandmother should be coming over this evening, considering the circumstances.”

“Mary, your grandmother will do what she will do, regardless of what I think. It is Saturday if I’m not mistaken, and on Saturdays, the Crawleys have dined formally for centuries. Mother insists we carry on, circumstances be damned. It is Saturday? I am right about that, aren’t I?”

Lady Cora takes Mary’s arm in hers. “Mary dear, your grandmother is having some difficulty adjusting to all of this rotting undead folderol. We must be understanding. And no, Robert, it’s actually Monday. I’m sorry to say we lost a day or two when Edith was eaten. But I see no reason we can’t adapt.”

Lord Grantham clasps his hands behind his back and gazes stoically through the drawing room windows, into the distance of the estate. “Sometimes, Cora, I don’t know how I would get by without you.”

Cora’s eyes twinkle puckishly. “This might not be the time to bring it up, dear, but if there is anyone left downstairs to choose from, I do need a new lady’s maid. And the next time you’re in London, you might pick me up another hand mirror.”

On the road leading to Downton:

Careening out of a curve onto a straight stretch, Daryl throttles the chopper up while Glenn holds on to his shoulders in panic. “Slow down, Daryl! You don’t know what might be around the next bend. Besides, Rick wouldn’t try to clear a place that big without us.”

“Ya’ll don’t know what Rick might try. Not after what went down at the prison. And don’t hang on so tight, dammit. M’ crossbow’s pokin’ me in the ribs.”

From the other direction:

Lady Violet regains her poise after the Bentley lurches out of a curve onto a straight stretch. “Do slow down, Molesley. You don’t know what might be around the next bend. And if it isn’t too much trouble, could you kindly tell me what happened to my normal chauffeur?”

Mr. Molesley meets her sagging eyes in the rearview mirror. “He was eaten, M’ Ladyship. By your gardener, if I recall correctly. And your gardener was eaten by Lady Isobel, who was eaten by Doctor Clarkson. And pardon me, Mum, but the faster I drive, the less chance there is of any bitey people catching up.”

Lady Violet crosses hands atop her parasol and sighs. “My, how I miss the days when staff knew what details are best left unspoken.”

In the foyer: 

“Look sharply now,” Mr. Carson booms. “When Her Ladyship’s motor car approaches, we will file out in two rows. Mr. Bates, you will lead on the right. Thomas, on the left. And Thomas... gloves, if you please.”

Lord Grantham paces nervously. “Mary... Cora, come now. She could be here at any moment. And we must all keep an eye peeled for those filthy cannibals.”

The staff nod solemnly. Mary and Cora exchange roguish glances, a sly secret they often share whenever the Earl feels the need to state the obvious.

On the grounds:

“Ready, Carl? Michonne? Remember. We. Can. Do! This.”

“Dad, I think I hear Daryl’s chopper.”

Michonne tenses and slides her blade from its sheath. Rick rubs his chin, thinking that, surely, a house this grand will have some aftershave lying about. “Yeah, that’s it. Let’s move. We’ll meet Daryl and Glenn on the driveway. Stay! Low!

In the foyer:

“Lord Grantham, if I am not mistaken, I hear the Bentley coming up the drive.”

“Thank you, Carson. Now everyone, put on your best face as we greet Mother. This all has been very hard on her. And keep an eye peeled for those... those...”

“Yes, dear. Those filthy cannibals.” Elizabeth’s eyes twinkle, ever puckishly, as she once again takes Mary’s arm.

“Lead the way if you would, Thomas.”

“As you wish, Mr. Carson.”

On the drive:

Even as Rick, Carl and Michonne come scrumbling across the open yard, the staff files out onto the drive. Mary and Cora strike statuesque poses on the portico while Lord Grantham strides out to greet his mother. Lady Violet hardly notices them. She has seen the chopper coming towards her Bentley, and even more-so, the scruffian astride it.

“Molesley, would you be so kind as to tell me what that is?”

Mr. Molesley cannot conceal his alarm. “I’m afraid it is a motor bike, M’ Ladyship. As if they weren’t bad enough already, now the bitey people have motor bikes!”

The Earl fumes, “What is this? Mary, are you expecting anyone else?”

“No, P’pah. But look there, scrumbling across the lawn. Do you see them?”

“Oh dear God. It’s those filthy cannibals! Carson, get Mother into the house!”

“Yes M’ Lord. Thomas, would you attend to the coach door please? And your gloves. Where are your gloves? I distinctly told you...“

Rick’s voice sounds like a rupturing lung. “It’s a herd! Michonne, cut us a path! Carl, stay behind me! And use both hands on that poker.”

“My apologies, Mr. Carson,” oozes Thomas with ophidian charm, “but I inadvertently left my gloves at the Cock and Bullocks.”

Against all convention, Lady Violet does not wait for a hand to steady her. The dowager clambers out on her own as though she’d been clambering out of Bentleys all of her life. She gains her feet just as Rick scrumbles around the boot of the motor car and comes face to face with her. “Hideous!” she shrieks, and whacks him with her parasol.

“Hideous!” he croaks as he drops to his knees, stunned. “As if they weren’t bad enough already, now they have parasols!

The chopper squeals to a stop and Daryl swings his crossbow into action. Mr. Bates is the first to fall, a bolt through his broad brow. Ivy and Daisy can no longer keep their poise. In spite of a disapproving cluck from Mrs. Hughes, they pick up their hems and run, but only until Michonne takes Ivy’s head off with one stroke and Carl puts a slug through Daisy’s eye.

“Carl! I said no firing! Daryl, where’s Glenn?”

“I’m no good with a poker, dad! I’ve been trying to tell you, but you never listen!”

“Glenn done must o’ falled off,” barks Daryl, taking aim at the back of Mrs. Hughes’ head. “I told ‘im to hang on tight.” (thwang!)

Lord Grantham surveys the carnage unfolding on his family’s estate. “Enough of this! Carson, fetch me my Webley!”

Eyes twinkling more puckishly than ever, Lady Cora turns to Mary. “Oh dear. Now he wants his Webley.”

Stay tuned for scenes from coming episodes of The Walking Downton Abbey Dead.