I guess you guys have noticed that I have been a bit hit or miss lately in this blog. Busy time of year with the family and the Poetry hasn’t been flowing like I like it to. Anyway, I thought I would fill in a few days of empty blogging by posting a few of my short stories that fit the holiday season. I know this is a departure from the normal blog activity, but I thought you might enjoy something a bit different and if you enjoy them feel free to support my self-published efforts by buying a couple of them. Might be a nice treat to fill up some of those new Kindles and E-Readers. Enjoy. Merry Christmas!
This short story is about Becky and Joe who are separated in a Zombie Apocalypse and risk life and limb in order to reunite for their New Year’s Eve kiss.
4 out of 5 stars: Short story of love and hope
The city of Raleigh stood dark and lifeless behind a small single-story home where a thriving family once lived.
Sleet was falling hard, and bouncing off the silent objects of this now-broken world.
Three men hurried their way up the porch steps of this house, as the sun started to approach the horizon, choked out by dark grey clouds. The men looked at each other, and then one of them reached down and tested the front door handle.
He slipped open the door to the sounds of a roaring fire, and bright light that covered the room where the woman they were chasing slept on a couch, unarmed.
The three men had been traveling up I-40 when they saw the girl walk up one of the exit ramps, a ramp that used to lead into the busy city of Raleigh. They hadn’t seen a prize like this in a long time, so they were more than happy to track her through the city filled with some of the thickest zombie hordes they had ever seen. They had fought their way through, just like the girl on the couch, surviving on instincts and human determination.
The man who had opened the door, turned back to his friends and gave them the okay sign, as he stepped into the warmth and out of the cold. The other two guys slithered in behind him.
Once inside, the door now closed and locked, they eyed their sleeping prize as she slept in peaceful slumber on the couch.
Hormones began to race, as common sense slipped from their brains and into their pants. They had worked hard to get this one this time, and they were going to enjoy her.
“Should we do it now?” Darren Ivy asked, standing close to the couch, looking her over, almost bursting with excitement.
“Let her wake up first,” Ted Jensen replied.
“It’s more fun that way. More sporting. You have to let her fight for it, think she has a chance,” Greg replied, warming himself by the fire.
Darren looked down at the girl, and back to his traveling companions. “We’ll I can at least help her wake up,” he replied, and sat down beside her. The girl didn’t move or stir, exhaustion acting like a sleeping pill, putting her into a deep slumber, so deep that her danger instincts hadn’t gone off with the weight of the man inches from her side. Seeing that she wasn’t moving, Darren lifted her shirt above her bra, exposing soft white skin. He ran his hand over her smooth belly, as the other two guys turned to watch.
The girl stirred a bit from the touch, but then slipped back into that coma-like sleep.
Darren eyeballed her bra, and realized he caught a break this time. Her bra unsnapped in the front, and not the back. He looked over at the guys, who were looking at her, and then he turned back to the girl, unhooked the bra, and let her breasts fall free.
The fire popped and cracked, warmed the small room while the three men waited for the girl to wake up, so sure exposing her twenty-two-year-old breasts would do it. No luck. She was still in that coma-like sleep.
“Strip her down,” Greg replied, ready to see the rest of her. “That might wake her up.”
“You think?” Darren asked, looking down at the button that held her jeans closed. “I’ll give it a shot,” he replied, and reached down to unsnap her jeans.
Becky Carter stirred on the brown leather couch, and opened her eyes when the man unsnapped her jeans, letting the top of her underwear show. Morning had arrived, and she realized a man with a heavy black beard and crew cut was sitting on the couch beside her. He looked like he was about fifty years old.
Their eyes locked. He smiled down at her with a “predator has caught his prey” smile.
“Boys, she’s awake,” Darren replied, allowing her to sit up.
Becky looked around the room, as she pushed her blonde hair out of her eyes, closed the bra, snapped up her jeans, and readjusted her shirt. The other two guys who were with the perv on the couch were decked out just like him in green camouflage, and heavy black combat boots. Becky noticed that they were all armed with all kinds of weapons. It looked like they not only knew how to survive, but they enjoyed it.
“So, where are we going to do this?” Greg asked, the youngest and tallest of the three, skinny, long hair in a ponytail, about twenty-five years old. He had moved from the fire, and was now standing by the window keeping watch.
“There are a few bedrooms in here. I figured any one would work,” Darren replied, looking at Becky, sexual hope in his eyes.
Becky tried to crawl into the couch, eyes darting for exits–none to be seen. She wanted to run. She wanted to hide. She wanted to be anywhere, but here.
“We haven’t checked the rooms; maybe we should before we get all crazy,” Greg replied, still eyeballing the yard and street. Zombies shuffled by, a lot of them, but none of them seemed to be interested in the four meals inside the house.
“I think the house is clean, Greg. We haven’t seen or heard anything since we got in here,” Darren replied.
“Greg’s right, be safer to check before we let our brains go for a bit,” Ted replied. He was the second oldest of the bunch, short and stocky, built strong. He had a pierced left ear, and a bald head.
“You guys just keep watch. I’m sure it’s okay,” Darren replied, standing up, taking Becky’s hand, and pulling her to her feet.
She stood up without a fight, as he looked directly at her. She met his eyes, tried to stay focused, and tried to think of Joe, who she had been dreaming about when she was woken up.
“Now, missy, we either we do this the easy way or the hard way. Your choice,” Darren replied.
“Better do as he says, girl,” Ted replied, and smiled. “Trust me on this one.”
Her eyes darted to Ted, back to Darren. “Just don’t hurt me, okay? You can have what you want. Free of charge,” Becky replied, terrified, but staying strong. All of this surviving had taught her how to fight, and she was sure she wasn’t going to let these guys have her without one. She just had to have a moment to game plan.
“Not going to hurt you girl, promise.” He smiled a serpent’s smile, and led her down the small hall by her hand.
Her weapon of choice, a very thick wooden baseball bat (splattered with dried blood), leaned against the wall next to her backpack and coat. She glanced at the bat without giving away its hiding spot, but it would do her no good right now. She had to think of something else. There was a knife in her boot, but she wouldn’t be able to get to it unless she could take her own boots off. This guy looked like the type who wouldn’t let her do that. Once they were in the room, it was his rules and not hers, she was sure of that. If she was going to make it out of here, unmolested and alive, she was going to have to think of something else besides that knife.
Darren stopped at the first door, which was a kid’s room in the world before the zombies. He listened for a moment, heard nothing, and decided it was safe. If he hadn’t been so jacked up on hormones, he might have heard the shuffles, but he was so focused on what he was about to do with Becky that this noise just passed right by him. He was thinking with his lower regions, making him sexually stupid.
Becky though, calm as could be, heard it. Zombies had caused her all kinds of trouble, might have even cost her the love of her life, but they were now about to save her. She was sure of that, so she started forming an escape plan in her head, running her thumb over the wedding ring on her left finger while she was thinking.
Black Sabbath came alive in the living room. The two guys waiting their turn had found a portable stereo and a stack of CDs. They jammed while they kept watch on the house.
Darren looked at them, back to Becky. He motioned for her to go in, as the zombies in the room thumped against the door. This thump was mixed with a loud drum beat, so Darren didn’t hear it; but Becky, keen on survival, jacked up on adrenaline, waiting on her chance to escape, did.
“No, after you,” Becky replied, hoping he would comply as “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” played loud in the living room.
“Probably best you go on in first. Don’t need you running away on me.”
“I’m not going to run away. Where would I go?” She threw him an “okay to have me the way you want me” glance, as she ran her hands over his shoulders, hoping to stroke his ego. Guys love to have their ego stroked, trust me on this one.
“Really not sure that is a good idea.”
“Go on in. Take your clothes off. Make sure the bed is all comfy for us,” she replied, not knowing where that kind of talk came from. It wasn’t like her at all. It was the voice of a much different woman, who was a college student before the zombies, and Ripley from the Alien series after.
Darren (the ego thing, told you it would work) ate up every line she was selling, as he reached down and turned the door handle, unlatching it from its hold. He started to pull the door forward, enjoying the music in the living room.
Shuffling from inside the room, drawing closer to them.
Becky tuned out the music, trained her ears on that zombie sound, and started inching towards her back pack and weapon. While she crept forward, she kept her eyes peered on the gloomy interior of the room, as it revealed itself in the ever widening crack of the door. Inch by inch the door opened, inch by inch she moved, seconds ticked like dripping honey, sweat formed a river.
Darren suddenly noticed how far she had moved away from him. He reached out for her, almost grabbed her shirt, and then the bedroom door opened wide. Three zombies (man, woman, teenage son–previous tenants of this house) shuffled out, pushing Darren up against the wall, knocking some pictures off of it–family portraits frozen in a happier time and place. He screamed, as the zombies started to tear apart his flesh, spraying blood, painting the walls and ceiling red.
His friends heard this scream over the music, and in the mad rush to save Darren, Greg and Ted Jensen paid no attention to Becky, who saw her chance, and bolted for the door.
She grabbed her gear, as she heard a gun go off behind her. She didn’t bother to turn around. She ripped open the front door, and let it go as two more shots rang out across the small house. The door slammed hard against the wall, knocking plaster free.
She hurried out onto the porch, and down the icy sidewalk. The zombies swarmed her when she reached the street. She managed to clear a path through them with her bat, busting heads open and knocking zombies sideways. When she found an opening in the zombie horde, she slipped on her coat, and moved towards the interior of the city. Hard sleet continued to rain down from the grey skies above, as Black Sabbath’s music trailed off behind her.
Back in the house, Ted realized their prize was gone.
“Where’d she go?” He asked, gun still smoking in his hand, as he looked from the three dead zombies on the floor to the wide-open front door. Zombies of all shapes and sizes were filling up the living room like a mosh pit. It wouldn’t be long before they started clogging up the hall.
A left hand reached up, and grabbed Greg’s leg before he could answer. Greg looked down at his friend sprawled out on the floor.
Darren was currently trying to hold part of his neck together, as the blood rushed through his fingers, and spilled out onto the floor. He was also ripped open on both arms, and the torso. “Just don’t let her get away. Give her a good one for me,” Darren replied, trying to be strong and brave, as he was bleeding out.
“We better get to stepping,” Ted replied, as he started to shoot the zombies that were now moving into the hall.
Greg took out his pistol; and, without even thinking about it, shot Darren in the head exploding his brains and blood all over the wall. No use letting his friend walk around as a corpse. He glanced around the place with quick eyes, sharp-shooter eyes. There was a door in the kitchen that led out into the back yard. He raced for it as Ted continued to make every shot count.
Greg reached the back door, and without hesitation kicked it open. He charged out into the icy morning with guns blazing, knocking off zombies with precision and skill. Ted joined him a second later, and they circled back to the front of the house, blasting their way through the zombies as they moved.
They saw Becky in the distance, and followed after her. In this weather and against this army of the walking dead, they were better equipped, stronger, and faster. As long as they kept her in sight, they would catch her in no time.
Becky ran into the city, which was cold and empty of human life. Only the dead made their home down here. They shuffled about, as she ran toward Cabarrus St., toward the place where the acorn dropped every New Year’s Eve in Raleigh, NC. She looked back over her shoulder. The men were gaining on her, and they were so close now that she could hear their crunching feet as they rushed across the sleet-covered ground. She had to find a place to hide, and quick.
On her left, an abandoned store with its windows and doors knocked out. She ran into it, into the darkness, into the depths of black. Zombies shuffled about too dumb to know they had a clear exit to the outside. Becky knocked her way through them, leaving busted heads in her wake, as she frantically tried to find a place to hide.
The men arrived minutes later and stopped in front of the building Becky ran into. They put their guns away (to save ammo) and started to game plan, knifing the few zombies in the head who dared to approach them.
Inside, Becky made her way deep into the store, out of breath, shoes damp, feet tired, and legs hurting. Mannequins, sporadically placed throughout the store, startled her, as she swatted a few of them thinking they were zombies. Their hollow heads flew off into the dark, bouncing and rolling across the cold tile floor.
Outside, Greg pulled his coat tight, and shook off the sleet.
“Maybe she’s not worth it, man,” Ted replied, shuffling about, trying to stay warm. He looked up and down the street. The zombies were a little thinner now, but it wouldn’t be long before they swarmed again.
“This isn’t about worth. This is about Darren. This is about making it right,” Greg replied, as he looked into the store. “Do you hear that girl? We going to make it right all over you! And the longer you make us wait, the worse it is going to be!”
Becky cringed back against a rack when she heard the voice, empty clothes hangers rattled like skeleton fingers causing her to jump. Zombies in the store honed in on the sound, and started moving in her direction.
“Okay, Greg, we better get inside,” Ted replied, looking up and down the street again. “Your big mouth is bringing out more of them.”
Greg turned to Ted. “Shut up!”
“Hey! Just because you’re trying to make good for Darren, doesn’t mean you have to get stupid about it. And besides, that little piece of ass inside there probably isn’t older than . . .”
“What, Ted? Just say it,” he replied, really getting up in his brother’s face, which he had been doing for most of his life. Ted was always the favorite with mom and dad. Ted was always the special one. Ted was always the good one and on and on it went. The one thing Ted hadn’t been good at was killing zombies. That had cost their mom and dad their lives, but Greg had stepped up when it counted. It was because of him that Ted was alive right now, and it was because of him that Ted knew everything he knew when it came to killing the undead shufflers who haunted this world.
“. . . your daughter. There, you happy? I fucking said it.”
Greg punched him, punched him hard. Ted went down on his butt, slid to a stop on the sleet filled ground. Greg looked down at him. “Don’t you ever, and I mean ever, bring her into this! Do you understand me! My family, may they rest in peace, is off limits! You got that? Brother!”
Ted realized he had gone too far. “Sorry,” he replied, spitting out blood. “Let’s just get inside, make this quick. I’m cold, I’m tired, and I don’t want to deal with what is coming our way.” Ted pointed back behind Greg. “It won’t take them long to get here.”
Greg helped Ted to his feet, and looked behind him. He knew they didn’t have enough man power or fire power for that kind of undead swarm. It was time to get inside, and get this job done before they were overrun. “All right, miss! We’re coming in! You can hide or not, your choice, but either way we are making this right!” Greg made his way inside the building after he said this. Ted followed.
Once inside, both men took out their flashlights and turned them on.
Becky watched the two lights for a moment. At first they were two beams side by side, and then those beams split–one went left and one went right. She decided it was time to get moving. While she moved towards the rear of the once popular clothes store, she could hear things being turned over, things smashing, and zombie bodies thudding to the floor. She could also hear cursing and inaudible dialogue between the men, as they tried desperately to find her.
When Becky reached the back of the store, she found a room concealed by a thick curtain. She held her bat high, reached out, and grabbed an edge of this curtain. She drew in a breath, as something shattered when it crashed to the floor. She jumped, and turned towards that sound. She heard this exchange of dialogue between the men a second later.
“Smooth move Ex-Lax!”
“Bite me! Now shut the fuck up and find her!”
The men fell back into their quite search mode, as Becky turned back to the velvet curtain still held in her hand. She bit her lip, pissed on fear, and yanked it back. No zombies shuffled out towards her, but the curtain had rattled when it ran across the bar. There was a momentary freeze on the advancing flashlight beams, and it sent a cold shiver up her spine. When the flashlight beams started moving again, maybe just a notch quicker than they were before, Becky hurried into the dark space, and hoped she would find a place to hide and not a bunch of zombies waiting to make her a meal.
Ted started pushing open the doors to the changing rooms, and stumbled upon a zombie while he was doing it. This zombie woman was currently trying on clothes. She turned towards him wearing a dress with a price tag still attached to it.
“That one looks great on you. Very slimming. Kind of hard to see in the dark though. Here’s some light,” he replied, smiling, shining the flash light in the zombie’s eyes. The zombie, now blinded, fumbled towards him. He gripped her around the neck in a head lock, her mouth biting, trying to get at his flesh. “I paid you a compliment. Couldn’t you at least say thank you?” Ted dropped her down onto the floor, put a knee into her back. She squirmed underneath him, but couldn’t slip free. He ended her shopping spree by putting a knife into the back of her skull. Her undead shopper days were over.
“Who are you talking to?” Greg asked.
“No one,” Ted replied, stepping out of the dressing room.
“Come on then. Stop screwing around.”
The two men moved towards the rear of the store, as Becky took a moment to check out the room she was in. She investigated it by inching her way around the room with her hands like she was blind. She was afraid to turn on her flashlight for fear of discovery.
In her blind search, she found that there was a table, chairs, coffee pot, microwave, fridge, and shelves with supplies. She also found a door that led out of this room, and a couple of vending machines, one for drinks, and the other for dry goods. She briefly turned on her flashlight, so she could scan the interior of the dry goods machine, which still had glass in the frame. She shut off the light, and looked back towards the noisy men. They weren’t moving any quicker because of her brief light, so she thought she was still hidden away in the dark. They would get back here eventually, she was sure of that, but for the moment she was still unfound.
She turned back to the machine. All the non-perishable junk food she could ever want was right there in front of her. But, and this was a big BUT, how was she going to get it unless she broke the glass? That noise would not only bring the guys to her, but probably the zombies still left alive in the store, if there were any still left alive.
“Think, Becky. Think. What would Joe do?” His name sent a momentary spike of pain across her heart. Joe, the man she had married right after High School, was out there somewhere either dead or looking for her. If he was dead–
“No. Don’t go there girl,” she replied to herself, as she turned the dark flashlight upside down in her hand, and held it like that for a moment. Joe was alive, end of discussion, and she just had to keep thinking that way whether she believed it or not.
She decided, once her brain cleared, that the best plan of action was to wait until one of the goons turned something over in the store, and try to synch up with that sound when she smashed the glass.
“Easier said than done,” she replied to herself, and that’s when she noticed a new problem–shuffling. Something was moving towards her. She could hear it as it lurched about in the dark; and, if she was right, it was very close to the break room.
“Food first,” she replied to herself, as she waited, shuffling getting closer.
After a few moments of waiting, she heard a loud crash in the store. She smashed out the vending machine glass, almost in sync. She scooped out anything that would fit into her backpack, and then smiled as she heard one of the guys cuss out the other one for being so loud.
Finished with her vending machine raid, she slipped her back pack on, and made her way over to the door she had found, which she wasn’t sure was locked or not. Shuffling again, one of the chairs slid a bit sideways, the table a second later. She gripped the door handle and turned it.
She opened the door, and jumped into the room, swinging her bat in the dark like a crazy person, aiming for any zombies that came after her. There were none, so she closed the door, locked it, and found a hiding spot just as something thumped against the frame.
Greg and Ted stopped their search when they reached the breakroom, taking a brief pause for a moment at its entrance. Greg peered into the black, shined the flashlight around. He saw nothing out of the ordinary, at first, and was about to leave when he saw the busted vending machine and the door that was closed. He also saw the zombie who had stumbled into this room after Becky. The creature shambled up to Greg who quickly put a knife into its skull, and dropped it to the floor. He motioned for Ted to follow him into the break room, and both men eased their way in.
The first thing Ted did was step over to the busted vending machine. His boots crunched on the broken glass, as his stomach rumbled.
Greg spun around with one finger up to his mouth. It was the middle finger, signaling to Ted several things at once.
Ted rubbed his belly, and flipped Greg off.
In the office, which was the room behind the door Becky had found, she heard the crunching glass of Ted’s boots, and her ears perked up. She slid out from underneath the desk, and walked over to the door. She put her ear against the shiny fake wood, and listened. She could hear the men shuffling about. “What to do?” ran through her head, as she walked back to her hiding spot, realizing there was only one way out and one way into this room. She was trapped, and knew it was time to get out the thing she hated to use. She grabbed her backpack, and very carefully unzipped it. Inside it there was a gun, which she kept for just in case situations such as this. She took it out, and made sure it was ready to fire. It was. She gripped the gun tight, prayed, slid underneath the desk, and waited.
Inside the breakroom, Ted finished his candy treat, and turned his light towards the sound he had just heard. A zombie appeared in the light, rotting flesh, shuffling slowly. This zombie had been a portly man at some point in time.
Ted scanned the room for Greg, who was now standing by the locked office door. Ted put his light back on the portly zombie, and that’s when he saw another one appear behind it–a woman this time, wearing a softball uniform, half her face was gone. Behind this woman zombie another zombie appeared, and then another, and then another.
Ted made his way over to Greg, as the zombies sauntered into the breakroom like employees on a break.
“We got to move,” Ted replied, softly in Greg’s ear.
Greg looked at him with annoyance. “Personal space man.”
“Go. We better start doing it,” Ted replied, turning Greg around so he could see what they were now facing.
Greg grunted, so close to getting his revenge for Darren; but no matter how bad he wanted that revenge he couldn’t give up his life for it. He had to leave, and he had to follow Ted who was now knifing his way towards the exit of the room.
Greg cocked his head sideways, and yelled this at the closed door before he left. “These zombies are going to feast nicely on you. You’d had a lot more fun with us. Good luck. Happy New Year!” He laughed, and followed after Ted.
In the office, Becky jumped when she heard Greg screaming at her. The gun held tight in her sweaty nervous hands almost went off because of it. She prayed again, and thought of Joe, thought of the day when they had been separated.
It was a beautiful, warm, sunny day, the day it had happened. The group she and Joe were surviving with had decided to investigate this town for food and supplies, which just happened to be overrun with zombies; and when the zombies saw them, they did what zombies always do, go on the attack. In the mad rush that followed, Joe had tried his best to keep them together. It didn’t happen. Like an ocean tide pulling them apart, their hands unlocked, Becky went one way with half the group, Joe went with the other half. The last thing she heard him say, as he drifted off into the distance was this–“Acorn Drop–New Year’s Eve.” Then he was gone, and she hadn’t seen him since.
She pushed the painful thoughts away, found her courage, and slid out from underneath the desk. She walked over to the door, leaned her head against it, and listened.
Outside of the breakroom, Ted and Greg paused for a moment. The store was now overrun with zombies, so they couldn’t leave the way they came in, too packed. They had to head towards the door that led into the stockroom.
Ted reached it first, and opened it. He rushed into the darkness of the warehouse, which was somehow zombie free, and found his way to the door once used to let delivery drivers and employees into the back of the building. Without hesitation, he opened the door and ran out into the sleet-filled day. He took out his gun as he ran, and started shooting anything undead heading in his direction.
Greg stopped for just a second before he entered the warehouse. He looked towards the breakroom, and found a little bit of comfort knowing the girl they were chasing would probably not make it out alive. Maybe the zombies could do what he couldn’t do. Maybe the zombies would have his revenge. While he stood there, a zombie came in for the attack, mouth open, rotting lips colored with dried blood. Greg grabbed this zombie by the neck, felt the flesh of the creature melt away in his hand, as the creature snapped at him like a shark. Greg put a knife into the zombie’s head, dropped it to the floor, and then followed after Ted.
In the office, Becky’s heart sank. She could hear zombies beyond the thin brown door, shuffling about, knocking things over; but, good news for her, they hadn’t found her yet. This gave her a few extra moments to think, as she walked back to the desk, grabbed her bat and slid the backpack over her shoulders. She tried to plan her next move while she stood there, and all she could come up with was this. Open the door, empty the gun, and start swinging until she escaped or she became food for the zombies. She wasn’t a fan of that plan, but she had no other options.
Becky grabbed the bat with her left hand, held the gun tightly in her right. She prayed again, thought of Joe, and then walked over to the door. She opened it the best she could with her hands full, stepped out into the break room, and started blasting her way forward, holding the flashlight in her teeth, spotlighting zombies, and popping them in the head.
Each time the flashlight showed her a zombie skull she blasted it open. Somehow she managed to get out of the breakroom in one piece, but the gun was now fresh out of bullets. She stashed it away, and tightened her grip on the bat. She scanned the store, which was filled with zombies. The same scene Ted and Greg had seen moments ago.
“Where to go?” She asked herself, as a zombie came at her from the right. She whacked it with her bat, and that zombie fell to the floor with a thump. She decided to make her way out of the store by the way she came in. She fought her way through the horde, ducking here and there, diving into and out of clothes racks, turning things over, bobbing and weaving like a running back, busting heads open with her bat; and when the bat didn’t work, she used whatever she could find to clear a path to the front of the store.
Finally, she emerged onto the sidewalk, and into the grey sleet filled day. She took a pause to think, and another issue presented itself. The two thugs chasing her were coming in her direction, blocking the way she needed to go. A zombie came up on her while she stood there thinking, she tripped it, and then stomped in its brains. She decided to duck back into the store until the men passed.
She found a round rack still filled with clothes, and slipped into the dark interior. She sat there a moment, too afraid to reload her gun for fear of being heard, either by the zombies or the men chasing her. Her ears would have to be her eyes as she waited in the dark, waited, and waited, and waited, until the sound of the men’s boots were a memory in her head.
When she thought the coast was clear, she slipped out from her hiding spot, and surveyed the scene. Most of the zombies had moved out of the store, and were now off to do their zombie thing.
She made her way back to the sidewalk, and stood there a moment. The men chasing her were gone, her ears hadn’t deceived her. It was now just her, and the zombies shuffling close by. Feeling a bit safe, she started to make her way towards the place where the Acorn dropped every year around this time.
It was a long tough walk, ducking into and out of buildings, re-loading when she could, arms growing tired from all the gunfire and swinging bat action; but finally, finally she made it to a large parking deck. She ran into it, and climbed the smooth ramps until she reached LEVEL 3, which she thought would be a good safe place to rest, recharge, and reload.
She found an empty car that was unlocked, and dropped into the back seat. She locked the doors, took out a blanket from her backpack, curled up like a baby, put her head down, and fell instantly asleep.
The afternoon sky hung dark and grey, and a soft snow had replaced the sleet that had been falling for most of the day, as Joe Carter fired a couple of shots into the crowd of zombies who were shambling after him. He saw one of them go down hard; and, even though he had missed the head shot on this zombie, its rotten left leg had no problem separating itself from its body when the bullet passed through it. The creature fell over with a thump, and seconds later started to crawl, instincts set so strong to feed that it had to keep going no matter what. The rest of the zombies were unfazed, and were still moving towards him, so he had to find shelter, quick. He saw a street, turned left down it, and ran past two large posts with black gargoyles sitting on top them. They had fake red ruby eyes set deep into the eye sockets, and they watched Joe as he ran by.
About half down this street, Joe turned to check on his pursuer’s progress. The zombies converged, and started to shamble down this single-lane asphalt road, which Joe realized was once a private drive. He looked to his left and right, pine trees dotted either side of this driveway, covered in a heavy white coating from this late December winter storm. He turned forward and eyeballed his destination.
The house he was moving towards stood all alone at the very end of this driveway. It was silent and dark, empty and fortress strong, at least three stories tall with an attic and basement (the kind of attic and basement where there was always something going bump in the night). It was Victorian in design with a wrap-around porch, circle driveway complete with fountain, and a three car garage. Two cars sat outside of this house, one a Porsche SUV, the other some kind of Range Rover. Several bodies lay on the ground close to these cars, partially eaten and frozen. Joe ignored the bodies as he moved up the porch steps, and turned his shoulder towards the front door. He hit the door hard, but it didn’t budge. Instead, the thick wood, rich man’s wood, held its ground, and planted him firmly on his butt. He looked around the porch, two windows on either side of him, shuttered up tight, impossible to penetrate. The zombies reached the circle part of the driveway and started coming towards him, some going left, some going right. They might have been dumb slow creatures, but when they horded together like this they were almost impossible to beat.
Joe got up and fired a few shots at them. A couple of heads exploded, but the rest of the zombies kept coming. He now had a decision to make–race through them, kill what he could in hand to hand combat, pray he didn’t get bitten, or find some way to get into this house even if that meant breaking a part of his body to do it.
A zombie shambled up onto the porch–an elderly woman with cat eye glasses, rotting from head to toe. Joe shot her right through the eye, shattering the glasses, and sending her sprawling back into the other zombies. This delayed their progress for a moment, as they had to find a way around the dead granny now laying across the porch steps.
Joe decided it was time to find a way inside and that hand to hand combat wouldn’t work against this massive horde of zombies. He took off towards the back, but somehow managed to trip over one of the expensive chairs on the porch. This sent him sprawling into the swing, which he fell into, and then off of. He lay on his back for a moment, as the swing moved wildly above him. He put his hand up to stop it, just as he heard a thump on the porch. He looked past his feet and he saw a couple of zombies heading in his direction–one a policeman in uniform with one eye gone, badge still on his chest, and the other a young woman dressed like a cheerleader. She had one arm missing, and her leg had been nastily chewed on.
He shot them both in the head, got up, and headed for the back of the house. He was moving fast when he saw the window which led into a mud room. This window had no shutter covering it, so he closed his eyes, shielded his face, and dove through. The window was strong, again rich people with rich windows lived here, but it did what it was supposed to. It broke into a thousand jagged pieces, as Joe flew through it like a stunt man in a Hollywood movie. He slammed into the floor hard, and rolled to a stop against the wall with a loud thud. Shards of glass and what was left of the window rained down on him, as he covered himself again. When he was sure the last bit of debris had fallen and that he wasn’t cut or bleeding, he got up onto his feet and dusted himself off.
“That was a bad idea,” he replied to the empty room, as he walked over to the door that led into the mud room from the outside. He turned the handle, and smiled when he realized it was unlocked. He locked the door, turned around, and tried the door that led into the house. It also wasn’t locked. He made his way inside and slammed the door closed. He clicked the dead bolt, and caught his breath for a moment.
While he stood there, he pulled a flashlight out of his backpack and studied the room he was in. It was a kitchen, a big kitchen, full of stainless steel appliances, stainless steel sinks and faucets, and granite counter tops. He walked over to the gas stove, tried it, didn’t work–this one needed electricity to make it function. He checked the cabinets and found plenty of dry food, canned stuff, pots and pans, dishes, cleaning supplies, and other kitchen items.
He heard noises inside the mud room and turned to face it. The zombies had arrived and were now finding their way in through the open window. It sounded like slabs of beef dropping onto the floor, as they fell into the room one by one. Seconds later, they started to paw at the door that led into the kitchen.
Joe decided he better get on with the exploration of the house, because he wasn’t sure how much time he really had. Something momentarily stopped him, caused him to freeze in mid-movement. He turned towards the sound. It was a rattle of silverware in one of the drawers, like someone was shuffling through them trying to find the right one to use for their meal.
He walked over to this drawer, opened it, and shined the light down. In the gloom of the room, he could see everything was in place, and as it should be. He closed the drawer (soft close), stepped out of the kitchen, and into a hallway.
He paused again when he heard the silverware rattle.
It was a bit louder this time.
“Happy thoughts Joe, happy thoughts,” he replied to himself, as he tried to make his brain think that the rattle was caused by the zombies in the mud room shaking the floors of the house, and not something else. Hard to do in a place this dark and spooky, but he managed to do it as he went back to his exploration.
The hallway he was in ran left and right. It wasn’t as far down to the end of the hall on the left, so he went in that direction. He found a half bath and a door leading out to the garage. He remembered the garage doors had been shut when he first saw them, so he opened up the door hoping to find another car.
The garage was massive, probably bigger than most people’s homes. He walked down the small set of brick steps and stopped when he reached the concrete floor. He scanned the place with his flashlight, cutting the dark with a single yellow beam. Nothing much in this garage except for typical garage stuff, shelves full of tools, paint in pails, yard equipment, and on and on it went. However, there was one thing that did spark an interest in him. It was a car, a small sporty convertible, Maserati, very expensive.
Joe ran his hands over its polished grey exterior and opened the car door. He slipped into the driver’s seat. With its leathered-up interior, it looked and smelled rich. He searched the car for a set of keys, but he had no luck. They weren’t there. He then looked into the mirror, towards the closed garage door directly behind this car. He thought about an escape plan–fling up the garage door, dive into the idling car, and race out of the garage before the zombie horde surrounded him. How far would he get in a car like this with the weather like it was? He wasn’t sure, but it was a solid plan.
Joe slid out of the car and closed the door. Something caught his attention. He spun the light up to the open door that led into this garage. He felt like he was being watched, but there was nothing there. Only a dark square opening that led back into the house.
“Shake it off, man,” he told himself, and then that Taylor Swift song popped into his head. “Great, I’m going to have to live with that song for a while.” He smiled, and made his way back inside.
He walked across the hall towards the half bath, and about halfway there, something stopped him for a second. He shined the light down the long hallway. He thought he saw something or someone there, but the end of the hall was empty when his light reached it. He listened in the dark, but he heard no footsteps, no noises that would tell him someone else was in this house with him.
He shook the scary thoughts free and made his way into the half bath. As luck would have it, there was a small kerosene lamp sitting on the sink. He turned off the flashlight and put it away. He grabbed the lamp, found a way to turn it on, and then the small square room flooded with light.
He checked himself in the mirror. His face looked haggard and worn, far removed from what a twenty-three year-old’s face should look like. His black hair was dirty, needed a washing, glasses needed cleaning. His clothes were filthy from the boots upward. Jeans, tee shirt, coat, all of it just needed to be trashed.
“What I wouldn’t give for a good shower,” he replied, turning on the faucet out of habit.
Nothing, of course, but there was a case of bottled water beside the sink. He grabbed one, drank some deep gulps, and then rinsed off his face with what was left. He used one of the fancy hand towels to dry himself, and then replaced his glasses. He stepped over and took a whiz in the commode, zipped up, and then leaned back against the wall.
He thought of Becky. He wondered how she was doing out there. She was in college before all this just like him, and neither one of them knew much about surviving until they were forced into it. It was sheer luck that they were both still alive–
“If she’s still alive,” that little voice inside his replied. That was a thought that haunted him each day. Alive or dead, he wished he knew, but in his heart he knew she was. It was just his brain that wouldn’t let him live with that answer.
A thump pulled him out of his thoughts. It came from somewhere deep inside the house. This didn’t sound like a zombie thump. This sounded like something else, something with more of a coordinated skill. He decided it might be time to check things out, to make sure the house was safe for him to be in for just a little while. He shouldered his backpack and loaded his gun. He grabbed the kerosene lamp and stepped out of the bathroom, which was covered in a white wallpaper.
He turned right and made his way back toward the kitchen. While he walked, he noticed the walls were filled with all kinds of family pictures. He shined his light over these images that were sitting in a cold house in dusty frames. He could trace this family through the years by looking at these photographs. It made him sad to see what this Zombie Apocalypse had destroyed, so he stopped looking and focused in on the exploration.
He stopped when he reached a small passageway that joined two rooms. The room on his right was the kitchen; the one on his left was a large dining room. He shined the light around the dining room for a moment, big table, lots of plush chairs, chandelier in the center of the ceiling, mirror on the wall, and a large window that was currently shuttered up. He turned to leave, and that’s when he heard it. He turned around, held the light up so he could see the chandelier. It sparkled and gleamed, and it was moving. Not wildly back and forth, but enough to make it clink and rattle.
A zombie thumped against the house causing Joe to jump. He took one last look at the chandelier, and then made his way back into the hall. He walked to the end of it and stopped. He shined the light in either direction. This new passageway went left to a front door and right into a large living room. In front of him was a large office, complete with all the necessary home office equipment.
He walked into the living room and explored there for a moment. The walls were white like the hallway and bathroom. A ceiling fan sat silent above him. The furniture was leathery cold. The solid glass coffee table showed a healthy abundance of dust.
Joe walked over to the wood-burning fireplace and put the kerosene lamp down. There was plenty of firewood stacked up on the floor, so he grabbed a bit and decided to kill the cold. It took him several tries; but, when he got the fire going, it gave him not only heat but light as well.
He warmed himself for a moment or two–thoughts again raced back to Becky. Where was she right now? Was she cold, tired, all alone, with a new group? Then the big question hit him again. The one that had stalked him since they separated–was she still alive? He pushed that last question quickly away and concentrated on getting warm.
When he was feeling thawed, he decided to raid the kitchen. He wanted to see if he could find a pot or pan that would withstand fire, maybe an old cast iron, best thing to cook with. If he could find something like that then he could have a hot meal again. How long had it been since he felt the warmth of food or tasted something that wasn’t processed with a thousand chemicals? How about a hot cup of coffee? All of it had been gone for too long now, and Joe missed it, missed it almost as much as he missed a hot shower or a warm safe bed.
A large bang upstairs interrupted his current cooking plans.
He looked upwards towards the direction of that sound. He would have to wait to raid the kitchen, because something was stirring, and he was almost certain it wasn’t a mouse.
He grabbed his pistol and the kerosene lamp, started to walk towards the exit of the room. That’s when his eyes spotted something, something once hidden in darkness now revealed with the firelight. He walked over and knelt down in front of a cardboard box. Two weapons were lying on top of it. A shotgun and a pistol. Beside this box was a case of bottled water. Five bottles were missing from the 24-pack.
He set the guns to the side, and popped open the box. Inside, he found toiletries and dry goods–enough to last him and Becky for days maybe weeks if they rationed them right. He rummaged through the box and found a pack of pop-tarts. He pulled out one of the pastries of death, and started to munch. He was about to close the box when he stumbled onto the note. He picked it up and took it over to the fireplace.
The note read:
If you find this, and we are nowhere to be seen, we are probably dead. Take the food, take the water, take what you can and get out! We stumbled onto this house, squatted for a bit, but then something went wrong. I decided to write this note while my buddies are trying to get the cars outside started, because I wanted to warn anyone who finds this box. Something lives in this house now, something brought up from the very depths of hell, something we managed to conjure simply by accident. Never play with Ouija Boards. We know that now, and are attempting to leave, but the zombies have us surrounded. Which one is worse, demon or zombie–I pray I never have to find that out.
P.S. We think the family who once lived here is still in the Master Bedroom. We dared not open that door, but we did hear a lot of thumping coming from that room before we conjured up the demon. If you don’t leave, and try to seek shelter here, at least leave that door alone. Good Luck.
Joe looked up from the note when he heard another bang upstairs. He walked over to the box, and dropped the note back inside. He put a pistol into his waist band, and put the other one into the box. He made sure the knife he carried was easily accessible from the pocket of his coat. He grabbed the shotgun, and checked to see if it was loaded. It was. He then walked out of the room to the foot of the carpeted stairs.
He held the kerosene lamp up. No good. He couldn’t see all the way to the top with its light. He could only see about half of the steep stairs, the other half disappeared into the darkness beyond the reach of his light. He tried not to think about what could be lurking at the top, maybe it was looking down at him now with unseen eyes.
Joe shivered, pushed away the cold thoughts, found his nerve, said a silent prayer, and started to climb with his pulse pounding and his body breaking out in a frozen sweat. Every noise, every thump, every bang, caused him to stop, pause, and listen; but nothing ever came down on him from the top or up at him from below. He remained all alone while he climbed, and climbed, and climbed.
When he reached the top of the stairs, he stopped and shined the kerosene lamp around. The wall to his left was solid and unbroken, no doors, white wallpaper, and more pictures in frames. To his right there were three doors, all standing open looking like dark toothless mouths ready to swallow him up.
He shined his light around in the first room, which held bunk beds, kid’s furniture and toys, and posters on the wall. He walked into this room and over to the non-shuttered window. From here he could look out onto the circled area in front of the house, the fountain, and the driveway that led back out to the main road. The zombies were still shuffling about, thicker now than when they were before. He also noticed the snow had stopped falling, and it was sleeting again.
Joe sighed, because he knew the sporty number in the garage was his only option. That car wasn’t equipped for weather like this. The vehicles sitting outside would be better for this kind of weather, but hording zombies and opened SUV doors meant those cars were a no go. For one, he didn’t have the man power to fight off the zombies in order to get to one of the vehicles; and two, the batteries inside each vehicle were probably dead, drained of their energy as they fought to keep the lights inside the vehicles burning or the headlights on.
“They’re probably out of gas as well,” Joe thought, and sighed again. He tried not to think of Becky as he stood there, but he couldn’t help it. His thoughts drug him back to Myrtle Beach, and their quick warm weekend honeymoon.
The closet door banged open, causing him to jump, and turn towards it. Something rushed out of the interior dark, rattling coat hangers as it moved. This something brushed past him ending his rambling train of thought. It was cold whatever this something was. Then the door to the room slammed closed, and the thing that had come out of the closet let out a sinister laugh.
Joe swung the lamp around, shotgun pointed forward, ready to fire on the intruder, but the room as well as the hallway beyond the closed door were silent. He tried to collect himself, as he stood there. It was hard to do with his heart pounding like a jackhammer.
When he was calm, he walked over to the bedroom door and thought about the story of Gideon in the bible. That was a story he always went back to when he felt the impossible odds stacked against him. He reached down for the handle, and didn’t hesitate. He turned it, held it for a moment, quick breath, and then flung the door open so hard that a couple of pictures fell off the wall. There was nothing in front of him but the empty hallway now crawling with night’s oncoming darkness.
He bit his lip, leaned out, and set the lamp down on the hallway floor. He jumped back into the room, before anything could reach out of the dim dark and grab him. He let the lamp stand there a minute and give off some light. He heard the zombies shuffling about outside, the tink tink tink of sleet on the glass, the fire cracking and popping below, as he steadied his nerves and gripped the shotgun with both hands.
“Would a shotgun kill a demon?” Joe for some stupid reason, asked himself. He tried not to think of the answer, but he knew that the answer was no. However, it gave him comfort to be armed, so he kept the gun pointed forward as he stepped out into the hallway, trigger finger itching to fire on the first sign of movement.
There was nothing there.
Nothing at all.
He spun around a couple of times, standing in the spotlight of the kerosene lamp. He was all alone, and whatever had come out of that closet was gone.
He lifted up the kerosene lamp with the barrel of the gun, let it dangle off the end, as he checked out the next two rooms.
One was another kid’s room that he spent only moments looking around in, and the next a bathroom. The shower curtain was closed, pulled tight.
He sighed, and crept over to it.
“All right Joe. One, Two, Three, Go,” he replied, and yanked it open. Nothing was there but expensive tile, shampoo, soap, and a soap dish. He let his pulse calm a bit before stepping back out into the hall. When he reached the end of the hall, he stopped at the edge of another hallway.
Went the bathroom door.
Went one bedroom door.
Went the other bedroom door.
The sound of the slamming doors echoed around the open house for a moment followed by more laughter, evil sinister laughter, as Joe dropped the gun, and planted himself against the wall, knocking a few pictures free. He could feel icy sweat run down his back, as goose bumps rose up on his arms.
He closed his eyes, found his calm, and pulled his body off the wall. He picked up the lamp and the gun, and stepped out into the unexplored hallway. He spun the light left and right, eyes darting about the place, ready to shoot on a moment’s notice; but there was nothing there to shoot. He was all alone.
Joe decided to go left where there was only one open door to check. He leaned into this room and saw that it was a library. There were shelves full of books, a couple of tables filled with books (some open and some closed), reading chairs, and dead reading lights. He could also see a spiral staircase that wound its way up to dark dingy shadows. He didn’t know what was up there, but he really didn’t care to know. Probably just a kooky reading area on a metal platform.
He turned around and walked in the other direction. First door he came upon was a large closet that was large enough to hide an army. He stepped into this closet and looked around. It was a typical closet with typical closet stuff, hanging clothes and coats, bed sheets, towels, stored holiday decorations–most of it Christmas based, and on and on it went.
Joe made his way back out into the hallway. He walked down to the last door on this level which was closed tight. He leaned against the wood, rich man’s wood, and tried not to think about the note or its warning about the Master Bedroom. He heard nothing shuffling in the room, so he drew in a breath, reached down, and turned the handle.
He pushed the door open, and it creaked inward, slowly, until it banged into the wall.
“Hello,” he asked, not sure why he did it. There was, of course, no answer.
He inched into the room, gun pointed forward, lamp dangling from the end of the barrel. He saw no shufflers, no activity of any kind. The room was empty except for typical bedroom material, which in this house was in the form of a gigantic king-sized bed that could hold five to six adults laying side by side, a place to sit and read by the window, dressers for clothes, nightstands, a huge TV, and not one, but two doors. One open, and one closed. He eyeballed the closed door for a moment, which he assumed was a large walk in closet.
Did he hear something moving in there?
He thought he did.
“Best to leave that one alone,” he told himself, and then made his way over to the open door. He shined his light around inside the room this door was attached to. It was a gigantic Master Bathroom filled with three sinks, a rain shower (no curtain, solid glass, thank goodness), a gigantic spa tub, rich looking floors, mirrors, faucets, and commode.
He stepped out of the bathroom a second later, and stood in the Master Bedroom for a moment listening to the tink, tink, tink sound of the sleet on the unshuttered window. He looked over at that closed door, and this time he was sure he heard something moving behind it. Joe ignored it, even though it was hard to do, and rummaged around the room for a moment. He found no keys to the car in the garage, but he did find a lot of expensive clothes and jewelry. One piece of jewelry, he thought, would fit Becky perfectly. It was not only her size, but the style she liked. He slipped it into his pants pocket, and started to leave. That’s when the closed door flung open, and that sinister evil laugh blasted into the room. It permeated the darkness, as Joe turned in time to see not one, but four zombies shuffle out of the closet.
He aimed the shotgun, as the bedroom door slammed closed. That sinister laugh erupted again, but Joe ignored it as he fired. The shotgun let out a blast of sound, and lit up the room for a moment in red light. The kerosene lamp on the end of the barrel swung wildly back and forth, dancing light all over the room in crazy patterns, as one zombie head exploded. It was the tallest of the bunch, probably the dad.
Joe aimed for the head of another walking corpse.
Something grabbed the shotgun, and then this something ripped the gun out of Joe’s hands, and flung it across the room. The kerosene lamp dangling off the end of the barrel, flew off as well. Thankfully, it didn’t break when it hit the carpet and rolled to a stop against the wall. While it lay on its side, it cast weird angles and patches of light across the room.
Joe pulled out his pistol, and popped two more zombies in the head–red flashes of light, perfect aim each time, heads splattered and exploded.
Now, there was only one zombie left.
He aimed, ready to send this room back to safety, and that’s when the demon pulled his aim away. The zombie went in for the fatal bite with Joe’s arm now exposed, stretched out and held tight by the invisible force.
Joe thought quickly, and it saved his life.
He balled his left hand into a fist, and punched the zombie as hard as he could with it. The zombie, the smallest of them all, was knocked sideways with a sickening crack. Its jawbone hung askew and disjointed, as the zombie found its center of balance, and went on the attack again.
Joe shook the demon free, and aimed.
The demon put a vice grip on his right arm, but he held his aim.
Joe kept his aim strong, as the demon tried with all its might to expose Joe’s arm again, an arm that felt like a thousand hot needles were being pushed into his skin all at once.
Joe wasn’t about to give in this time.
The zombie’s head popped like an exploding watermelon, and it fell over dead.
The demon vanished.
Once the room was silent, Joe grabbed the light and checked himself over. No bites, nothing, but his right arm was sore and it had a big bruise on it. He grabbed the shotgun, and made his way ever so carefully down to the living room. He stopped in front of the half-burnt fire, and let it warm him for a moment.
When he was feeling warm and calm, he grabbed his backpack and took out his bible. He read a few passages, and soothed his rattled nerves. He may not have been the best at being a Christian, but he tried to keep his faith strong, because in a world like this you needed it just to get you through each difficult day. When he was finished reading, he listened for the demon, but he didn’t hear it. All he could hear was the tink, tink, tink sound of the sleet, and an occasional thump coming from the mud room. The zombies trapped in there hadn’t found a way into the house, and it sounded like they hadn’t found a way out either.
Joe packed away his bible, and got his feet moving. He made sure all three weapons were loaded, and then took the box of supplies and the case of water down to the car. He packed up the car, grabbed the shotgun and lamp, and then made his way back into the house. It was time to look for the car keys, which he hoped were downstairs somewhere, because they weren’t upstairs. He was sure of that.
Joe made his way into the kitchen, figuring it would be the best place to start his search. He put the lamp and gun on the counter, and turned the lamp up to full power. The fire popped and creaked in the fireplace beyond, as he stood in the kitchen for a moment, and asked himself, where would keys be if they were indeed in here?
He walked over to a drawer and opened it up. It was mostly cooking utensils, rich looking, powerfully built, clean and polished, but not good for starting a car.
Something crashed above his head.
Joe, on instinct, ducked out of the way, and looked down at his feet. He saw part of a broken coffee cup lying there. He picked up a piece of it, stood up, and looked at it a moment. He turned around to see where it might have come from, and that’s when he saw a cabinet door standing open with ten to fifteen more coffee cups sitting on a shelf, like missiles ready to launch.
One of the cups lifted up, and while he watched, mesmerized as if in a trance, it came flying at his head. He managed to duck out of the way as another one lifted up into the air.
The demon wasn’t finished with him yet.
Joe knew now that he had to be quick, so he started flinging open drawers, and rummaging through them as fast as he could. Through the kitchen he went, frantically searching for the keys, dodging coffee cup debris.
When the demon threw the last coffee cup, it moved onto the coffee pot, then to the dishes, the silverware. Whatever it could make into a weapon, it did.
Joe did his best to dodge and weave through every weapon launched. He took a few hard hits on the back, a couple of nasty shots to the head (one that actually produced momentary stars), but through it all he stayed true to his course and was rewarded for his efforts when he ripped open a drawer and found the keys. He saw the Maserati symbol on the key chain, so he knew it was them. He snatched up the keys and took off for the garage, grabbing the gun and lantern as he went.
The demon flung the microwave at him, and it barely missed Joe’s head. That machine crashed into a glass cabinet, and destroyed itself along with tons of fancy china.
Joe could hear the racket behind him as he opened the door that led into the garage, and hurried down the steps. He made his way over to the car, and for some reason the demon didn’t follow. He was thankful for that.
“Okay, Joe, here we go. Let’s hope she still has gas,” he replied, as he climbed in and pushed the key into the ignition.
He turned the key, the car sputtered, and came to life.
He turned on the headlights, and they lit up the room.
He let the car idle for a moment, and the sports car purred like a pedigree kitten. It was anxious to be driven.
He climbed out and walked over to the metal garage door, pistol in hand. He thought of Gideon again, and how he had defeated an entire army with just 300 men. It gave him hope, and it gave him power. One more second, just a quick breath, hand on the garage door handle, ready to lift–he paused, something occurred to him.
He walked over and rummaged around near the lawnmower. He found a small red gas can, which was still full. He took the lawnmower and the gas can over to the garage door that was furthest away from the idling car. He searched himself, but he had no matches.
He walked over to the car and searched the box of supplies, no luck.
He sighed, cussed under his breath, because he knew he had to make one quick trip into the house to retrieve the matches by the fireplace.
He raced into the living room so fast that he almost tripped over the couch, but he didn’t. This trip would have sent him sprawling into the glass coffee table. Who knows what kind of damage that would have done?
He grabbed the box of matches, and paused when he heard a door open. It was the door that led into the house from the mud room.
That evil sinister laugh again followed by thumping and bumping moving into the kitchen, stepping on broken debris.
Joe watched in horror as the zombies started shuffling into the living room, blocking his exit.
He had no gun on him, but he had his knife and he had the matches. He took out his knife, and stabbed one of the zombies in the head when it came at him. He then fought the zombies until he reached the hall, but he couldn’t move forward. He backed into the office, and got cornered. He flung things at them, but it was no use. They were packing in tight.
Joe knifed a couple more zombies in the head, and then lit a match. The zombies backed up from it, as he tossed the match into the hair of a former male dressed in a dirty business suit. Its head lit up like a makeshift torch, and Joe raced up to it, pushing it forward like a burning battering ram. The other zombies, startled by this fire, scattered, as Joe pushed the dirty business suit zombie backwards down the hall with its teeth gnashing at him.
When Joe reached the door that led into the garage, he shoved the zombie into the back wall. He lit another match, and tossed it onto the zombie, who caught fire and started to burn. He smiled when he saw the wall catch, and the flames race up to the roof.
Joe made his way down the steps, and raced over to the lawnmower. He doused it in gasoline, and tossed the can away. He flung up the garage door, and the zombies outside noticed him instantly.
Joe struck a match.
“Come and get some,” he replied, and dropped it.
The lawnmower exploded with fire and started to burn. He pushed it out into the cold, as far as he dared to venture. The zombies retreated, of course.
He slip-slided back into the garage, ran over and flung up the garage door behind the car, jumped into the machine, slammed the car door closed, and threw the gear shift into reverse as flaming zombies started to come out of the interior of the house.
The tires left black marks on the concrete floor as the car sailed backwards. Joe knew he was moving too fast for the weather conditions, but when he realized this it was too late. He was now a passenger in the car he was driving.
The car slid sideways for a bit, collecting zombies that couldn’t get out of its way. Joe could see their miserable rotten faces smashed into the glass, jaws still moving, trying to get at his precious flesh. Then the car came to a sudden stop when it collected so many zombies they stopped the car’s sideways progress.
Joe was shoved into the passenger seat, and as he lay on his side, he heard a crack. He looked up, and saw the glass on the passenger window starting to fracture. He gathered himself, slipped back into the driver’s seat, as the window caved in.
One zombie managed to crawl about halfway in (a creature that looked to be in its early twenties when it was born into the zombie world, female, probably just a day-to-day office worker).
Joe kept his cool as he threw the car into first gear, but the wheels started spinning. The car wasn’t moving forward.
“Come on! Come on!” Joe screamed at the machine, as the woman zombie grabbed his arm. He shook her free, just as the wheels caught and the car rocketed forward.
The zombies started to fall away, all but that one who was about half way in and half way out. She grabbed his arm again, and started to go in for the fatal bite.
Joe took his left hand off the wheel, and let the car drive forward without his guidance. He shook his right arm free again, and the zombie tipped forward into the seat. This gave him enough time to grab his knife, and lift the zombie up by its hair. They were eye-to-eye for a moment, and then Joe shoved the knife into and out of the zombie’s skull. He gave her a push, and the creature fell off. He looked back to the front of the car, and he was heading straight for a tree. He turned the wheel to avoid a head on collision, which worked, but the car started sliding sideways. Again, he was a passenger in the car, as the machine slid until it made hard contact with the tree, shaking loose frozen debris from the lifeless limbs above.
The car sputtered and died.
Joe could see the zombies shuffling towards him as he tried to get the car started, and then he looked into the garage. Zombies on fire where now coming out of the house, and heading in his direction.
Joe kept trying to start the car, and it kept sputtering, not wanting to start.
“Please, please, please,” he replied, as the engine caught.
He pushed the car into first gear, and zoomed forward up the driveway, leaving the zombies, and the haunted house behind.
At the end of the driveway, he turned towards downtown Raleigh, as the lawnmower exploded in the distance. The house was now burning inside and out. It wouldn’t be long before it was embers.
Becky woke up hours later, and noticed that the day had drifted into the night.
She checked her watch.
It read 10 P.M.
She couldn’t believe she had slept for so long, but it had been a tough day. If anyone deserved to sleep like this, she did.
She opened up her backpack, trying to keep the blanket on her the best she could. It was cold inside the car, and her breath rushed out of her in a frozen white cloud. She took out a stick of deodorant, a clean towel, a bottle of water, bag of chips, tooth brush, tooth paste, liquid soap, mirror, clean underwear, and a clean shirt. She ate the bag of chips while she scanned the dark parking garage. There was no sign of anything or anyone lurking. That was good. That was hopeful.
She finished the chips, and washed out the artificial cheese taste with some of the water. She took what was left of the water and cleaned herself up. It wasn’t a hot shower or a thorough cleaning, but it was enough to make herself feel somewhat fresh.
She put on her coat and tied up her boots, sat there a moment, and collected herself. She prayed, and hoped Joe would arrive safely by midnight, which was now just a few hours away. Feeling ready, she slipped out of the car, slid her backpack onto her back, and gripped the baseball bat tight in her right hand.
She walked over to the edge of the building, and scanned the ground below with her flashlight. It wasn’t overrun with zombies as she had feared it would be. That was hopeful, but there was enough of them to cause a problem if she wasn’t careful.
She looked back towards the way she had entered this structure, the long circular ramp that wound its way up to each level of this place, it was clear and free of –
A zombie appeared in her light, then another, and another behind it. They were coming, and it looked like the once-empty deck was going to be full of walking corpses very soon.
She knew that she would have to use the stairwell to escape, which was the one place she hadn’t wanted to use, because the lights were off and inside that place it would be as black as night. She would be blind, alone, and terrified when confined within its concrete walls. Nevertheless, that was her only safe exit option, as the zombies continued to file into this parking structure like they were looking for their car.
She walked over to the stairwell door, and stood there a moment in front of its hard grey metal surface. She held her bat high, drew in a breath, exhaled, and then opened the door. Pitch black greeted her. The flashlight cut the dark the best it could, but that little yellow beam could only go do so much in darkness as thick as this.
Becky walked out onto the platform and over to the shiny metal rail. She leaned over it, and shined the light down. The beam didn’t reveal too much, but it revealed enough to let her know this small space appeared to be silent and empty. That was good enough for her.
“Okay, girl. Feet better start a moving,” she replied, as she closed the door and entombed herself.
She crossed the small platform, and then started to descend. The concrete stairs made a slapping sound when her boots dropped onto each one of them, as she moved quickly to the second floor landing.
She stopped there a moment, deep breaths, and again she leaned over the rail for a quick scan. There was nothing coming up at her from below, and it eased her mind a bit when she realized she could see the bottom floor much better from this vantage point.
A thump from above.
She jumped, turned the light in that direction. The door didn’t fall down even though it was a hard thump, but she knew she better get moving, and quick. She turned back to the stairs, deep breath, exhaled, and then slap, slap, slap went the boots as she made it to the first floor.
She raced over to the exit door and stopped. She put her ear up to the shiny metal object that led to the outside world. Her heart was racing, as she listened for zombies shuffling nearby, listened for cars, for people, for anything at all that disturbed the silence, but there was nothing to be heard. The world was dead.
She breathed in and breathed out, opened the door, and stepped out onto the sidewalk with her bat held high, ready to swing at anything coming at her. She wasn’t swarmed or attacked, and mercifully the bad weather had passed leaving behind an icy mess that only a North Carolina winter storm can leave.
She pulled up her coat, and made her way over to where the Acorn dropped every New Year’s Eve. When she arrived at the spot, Joe was nowhere to be seen. Her heart sank. It dropped down into the pit of her stomach and drowned.
“Get it together, girl. You know Joe; he wouldn’t just be out here waiting with the zombies. Where would he hide if he was hiding?” She asked herself, glancing around.
The place was filled with empty buildings and cars, along with a healthy abundance of zombies. She spied a place not far away from where she was standing. It looked like a place Joe would hide in. It was an easy in and easy out kind of building with windowless frames and busted out doors. She rushed over to this building, and peered into the dark interior with her light. Nothing much in there, but remnants of a world that use to exist. That world was gone now, but the litter of the human race still remained.
“Joe!” She quietly screamed, trying not to be too loud about it. “You in there?”
No Joe, but there was something moving on her right, and she turned in time to see a zombie shuffling and sliding towards her. It slipped on the ice, and she heard its left arm shatter when it fell. It tried to squirm towards her, as she stepped up, and smashed in its head with the baseball bat.
She turned from the now non-moving zombie to the buildings around her. She walked the sidewalk for a bit, peering into the black of each building, going inside when she could; and she tried really hard not to raise her voice when she called out his name. She also tried several of the cars, in case he was asleep in one of them (he was a deep sleeper); but all she found was emptiness, and no Joe.
She searched for a bit more, and then just gave up. Joe was just not here no matter how badly she wanted him to be. He was either dead, or he wasn’t going to make it before the midnight hour.
She found a bench and sat down, not minding the wet cold settling into her legs through the fabric of her jeans. Being quiet didn’t attract zombies, so she tried to remain that way even as the tears started to flow. The noises of her sobbing eventually attracted the shufflers nearby. They started to notice her, and she thought about not getting up, just giving in and letting them have her. At least as a walking corpse she would be in the majority and not the minority. The thought of that comforted her at first, but then it became too much to bear. She had no intention of becoming a mindless corpse drifting through the days like a sailboat with no breeze, so she got up off the bench, and went into a store nearby. She found a place to hide, to keep watch, and she told herself, as she sat there shivering and fighting back tears, that if Joe wasn’t there by the morning, somehow she would force herself to leave.
Joe searched the city, once, twice, and a third time. The storm moved from sleet to freezing rain, and then it stopped completely as he watched the clock on the dash click off the hours. New Year’s Eve was drawing closer, and there were no signs of Becky.
He had reached the outer limits of the city again, the residential section, and was about to turn back when the zombie stepped in front of the car. He swerved to avoid it, out of instinct, and the car started to slide. He tapped the brakes, tried to turn into the skid, but nothing worked. He was heading down a hill and picking up speed. A passenger once again in the car he was driving.
The car looped around a couple of times, and righted itself just as it slammed head on into the back of a pickup truck. Clothes and furniture from the bed of the truck covered the car, as the Maserati came to rest, smoldering and crumpled.
Joe, slammed into the air bag with his face (should have worn a seat belt even though it was a Zombie Apocalypse), and bounced back into the leather seat. He was temporarily dazed, as he sat there a moment and looked at the dashboard clock. There was still enough time to race back on foot to the spot where the acorn dropped each year at this time, but he would be cutting it close if he left right now.
He scanned for zombies. They were lurking, stalking his way, but he thought he had enough time to get out of the car before they arrived. He grabbed the shotgun, and opened up the box. He put a pistol into each pocket of his coat, zipped up, slid on his winter gloves and hat, and then stepped out of the car.
A zombie shuffled towards him. He stepped up to it, took out his knife, and slammed the blade right between the accountant style glasses it was wearing. He pulled out the knife, and dropped the zombie to the ground. He wiped off the blade, and turned back to the city.
“Need some help?”
Joe turned around, knife up, ready to slash and kill.
“I mean you no harm.”
Joe could see a man in the shadows with a flashlight, probably armed heavily. “I’m okay,” he replied to the man.
“Name’s Mike, Mike Beem. I saw the accident. I thought I could help.”
“Not really a good place for a chit chat, is it?” Joe asked.
“No, it isn’t,” Mike replied.
“I’m okay. Just got to get into the city by midnight.”
“It’s packed tight in there. Good luck.”
“Happy New Year,” Mike replied, as he left.
“Good night and Happy New Year to you,” Joe replied, and Mike was gone. Like so many things in this world, he was gone.
Joe’s thoughts turned back to Becky. Where would she be if she was waiting on him? He had no answer for that, as he heard three gunshots go off in the distance. They echoed out of the city, and disturbed the silence of this dead world. They came from the direction of the Acorn Drop, which was a lot closer than he thought it was. He knew inside it was her, fighting for her life, so he hurried off in that direction; and he hoped he would be able to save her in time.
Through tears and prayers, through hopes and fears, through anxiety and nervousness, Becky waited for Joe in the once-bustling store, as time slipped forward, drew closer to midnight. Through the big display window, she watched the street, and the bright white world, as she hunkered in the dark and waited.
A couple of zombies shuffled by, but they paid no attention to her. They just went about their zombie way.
While she sat there, arms wrapped tight, shivering, her mind drifted back to her wedding day. This was now her happy place, where she returned to when she was stressed out or in need of some relief. She had worn a soft white dress that day, sleeveless, cut low at the neck. The veil was made of an Italian lace, and her hair was pulled back into a braided pony tail. Joe and the groomsman had worn the traditional tux and tails. Her bridesmaids were in black to offset her virginal white. There were flowers, several rows of seats on the beach, family and friends spread throughout–most of them dead and gone now. She could see Joe smiling, as she walked down the makeshift aisle in bare feet. It was morning, the day was warm, and it was perfect.
She recited the vows in her head, hers and his, and thought about how “till death do you part” meant so much more in a Zombie Apocalypse. Her mind then found the memory of the reception after the wedding. The dancing, music, booze, the tent, the people, joy was there in that long ago place that now didn’t exist.
Around 11:20, she heard a car. Becky opened her eyes, stood up and looked. She saw lights breaking up the night. These lights also illuminated a zombie who was shambling close to the store. She made a mental note of it, and then put her eyes back on the car. It was obvious to her that with the speed the car was traveling, and the way the light was flashing out of the driver’s window, that someone inside this vehicle was looking for someone. Carefully, she made her way to the door, and pushed it open. The zombie (a rotten half decayed man in a business suit) lumbered towards her when she stepped outside. A quick whack of the bat, a busted open head, and the zombie shuffled no more. Becky quickly made her way to a spot where Joe could see her.
The car with the search light slid to a stop, inches from where she stood on the sidewalk. Moments passed as the person (or persons) moved around inside. She shielded her eyes and tried to look into the vehicle, but the car lights were blinding her.
The driver’s door opened, and Becky stepped up towards it, nearly bouncing with glee. She was just about to see –
Greg stepped out of the car, and eyeballed her. “Would you look at what I’ve found?” He then leaned back into the car. “You were right Ted. It was her coming out of that parking garage. You still got your eyesight even though you look like shit,” he smiled, and then leaned back out.
Becky took a step back. Her happiness spread into fear so quick that she almost fainted.
“Now, girl, I’m really going to make this right. You’ve cost us a lot of time, a lot of bullets, and a lot of effort.”
“Why can’t you just leave me alone?” Becky spit the words out like she was a trapped animal, unable to escape, and in this case, she was.
“I have a debt to settle. You have to understand that, plus you got me so hot and bothered that I have to take care of it. So – ” He left the door open and walked towards her. “ – If you climb on into the back seat this will go down real easy. I’ll get what I need, slit your throat, and then I will put a knife into your brain. You’ll be dead, no chance of turning. If you make me work for it, like you have for most of this miserable fucking day, then I will do my business, slit your throat, and let you turn. Your choice,” he replied, aiming the gun behind her. Three quick shots echoed out across the silent city, and three zombies were now without a head. “What’s it going to be?”
“You can have me. Just let me live, okay?”
“I can’t do that. It’s just a debt I have to settle. It’s nothing personal. You just have to die in order to make it all right. Okay?”
“Please. There’s no one to tell, no one to report you to. Why do I have die?”
“You just don’t get it, do you stupid? You killed a good friend of mine back there. I have to have an eye for an eye. So, come on now, what will it be?”
Becky stood there a moment–tried to tap into that survivor instinct. She really saw no hope here, and no matter how strong she could be or how much of a fight she could give, this guy simply outweighed her and outmuscled her. She would be no good in a one-on-one fight. He would have his way whether she wanted it or not.
A thump on the passenger side of the car, interior and not exterior. Greg turned towards the sound, and then walked around to the other side of the car. He gripped the handle, and pointed the gun towards the door. He opened it slowly.
Becky should have run for it then, but she was so caught up in what was about to transpire that she couldn’t move. For some reason she had to know what was beyond that passenger door.
A second later, the door opened, and Ted fell out onto the pavement with a thump. His entire left arm was gone, severed with an unskilled hand, stump burnt and black from a quick disinfection. Greg backed up, as Ted got up off the ground, and zombie shuffled towards him.
“I thought I caught it in time,” Greg replied, aiming the gun. “Guess I didn’t. Sorry to let you turn like this.” Ted stumbled into Greg’s arms, and Greg held him for a moment while his brother gnashed those teeth near his neck. He thought of the good times they had when they were kids. The good times they had throughout life. He couldn’t believe it was about to end like this. Becky watched, as Greg put the gun up to Ted’s skull. “I love you – ” Greg’s voice trailed off, as a trash can hit him from behind knocking the gun free. This sent him sprawling to the ground with Ted on top of him. Becky turned away, as Ted ripped open the flesh of his brother’s throat sending a geyser of blood into the air.
Two shots rang out, and the heads of Ted and Greg exploded into brain bits, as Becky turned towards the gunshots that echoed around the city, and stirred up the zombies.
She squinted her eyes into the dark, and she saw Joe racing towards her.
They embraced, kissed, let the tears flow. Life was good once again, because they were back together.
“Are you okay?” Joe asked, looking her over.
“Somewhat, a couple of close calls, but I survived.” She paused. “How are you?”
“We can catch up later. Too many zombies about. We need to start moving.”
“Damn walking corpses. I’m sick of them,” Becky replied, disappointed that their kiss would not happen at this spot, but understanding why it couldn’t eased the pain a bit.
“I couldn’t agree more, but we need to get out of town. It’s smarter and safer. At midnight we will stop. Celebrate together. Does that sound okay? I’m sorry it can’t be here. I wanted it to be too,” Joe replied, pulling out his pistol and firing at a couple of zombies nearby. The shots echoed out through the streets, as their zombie heads exploded.
“Sure. Let’s just go.”
“Promise, I will make it up to you,” Joe replied, as he made his way over to the car the two thugs had left idling. It was an all-wheel drive Subaru, perfect for this kind of weather. He was thankful these guys at least had good sense when it came to cars, maybe not about life choices, but at least with vehicles they were A-Okay with him. He moved Ted and Greg’s dead bodies out of the way, and helped Becky into the car. He closed the car door, and climbed into the driver’s seat. “How about some tunes?”
“Sure,” Becky replied, smiling, afraid to be happy, but knowing deep down where it counted that she could be. He was here, and he was safe–they were safe together again, and that was all that mattered.
Joe rummaged around in the CD holder for a moment–mostly metal stuff, Testament, Tesla, Megadeth, Five Finger Death Punch, DragonForce.
“Here we go. This should put us in a beach mood.” Joe took out the CD and slid it into the CD player. The sounds of Kenny Chesney filled the interior of the car, as Joe pushed the window down, and aimed the gun towards the front of the car. While “When The Sun Goes Down” played, he shot a couple of zombies in the head who were almost in front of the car. Once their heads were dead, he put the car into gear and drove over to the Maserati. He put the box of supplies, and his back pack into the Subaru. He then climbed back into the driver’s seat.
“Nice car. Where did you find it?” Becky asked.
“Long story,” Joe replied, pushing the Subaru into drive and pointing the vehicle towards what use to be a very busy I-40.
“So, where do we go Joe?”
“How about the Outer Banks? It could be safe.”
“Could be a lot of things, but sure, let’s go. It might be nice to see the ocean again.”
Joe took her hand, and kissed it. They drove without talking, listening to the music, until it was almost midnight. They stopped on the side of the road, and watched the clock on Joe’s watch, which had seconds ticking down on it.
It was 11:59 P.M.
Joe took out something from his pocket, and held it in his hand.
“What are you up to?”
“You’ll see. By the way, it’s going to be super cheesy when I do it. Just be prepared,” Joe replied, smiling, as Kenny played on.
He counted down, ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one. They kissed at the stroke of midnight, right on schedule.
“I love you, Becky,” Joe replied, opening his hand. An acorn lay on his palm. He picked it up, broke it open, and revealed what it held. There was a small ring inside it, perfect size for her finger. “Just a little something I found on the way.”
She smiled, and cried. They kissed again, and Joe reached into the back seat for his pack. From it, he pulled out a bottle of champagne and two glasses (individually wrapped in bubble wrap) along with crackers and chocolate.
“Might as well start the year off in a good way, right?”
He popped the cork. They drank and ate. Joe started the car a little bit later, and put it into gear. It was time to get back to the ocean; and maybe, just maybe, find a little happiness in this crazy zombie world.
HOPE YOU HAVE A HAPPY ZOMBIE NEW YEAR!