Tag Archives: Short Stories

The Office Christmas Party – The Tale Of A Festive Night Out That Goes Horribly Wrong

23 Dec

I was never a fan of the office Christmas party, but as I cowered in a decidedly rank cubicle of a pub toilet, feet braced against the door as three of my colleagues did their best to break it down, I couldn’t help thinking this had to be the worst one ever.

It had all started so normally, with the false joviality and bonhomie of people being forced to socialise with others they’d clearly rather never see once the working day was done. I mean, half the people there would usually cross the road to avoid having to speak to the other half if they saw them on the street. Yet, here they were, having to make small talk while clutching plastic glasses of cheap sparkling wine while we waited for the signal to move on to the restaurant. As usual, there was the core group, mostly made up of secretaries and personal assistants, who were full of the festive spirit, and probably quite a lot of the alcoholic kind too. They were the ones who organised the Christmas night out, meaning it was their type of evening, while the rest of us, those who didn’t really want to be there, floated around the edges, trying to avoid getting drawn into an apparently never-ending conversation with Mike, the office bore. If you did happen to get caught, the best tactic was to try to pass him onto someone else as soon as possible, since it seemed he was more interested in talking than talking to anyone in particular. This meant if you could draw someone else in, you could then make your excuses and leave, and he’d barely bat an eye-lid.

Just as someone tried to dump Mike on me, the cry went up from the organising committee telling us it was time to head off to the restaurant. The plan was to go for that most traditional of Christmas meals, a curry, before heading off for some drinks in whatever pub would let us in on what was known as Black Friday, or even Black-Eye Friday, because of all the trouble caused by overly-drunk office workers out with their colleagues on the last Friday before Christmas.

Even as we headed out into a night chilled by a biting wind and horizontal rain, I could see a few of my fellow workers were already stumbling and bumping into each other; others were bedecked with strings of tinsel around their necks and cheap Santa hands on their heads. Two of the PAs, both of whom I knew had partners at home, had their arms round each other in a manner that suggested it wouldn’t be long before they’d be all over each other.

Looking back, I remember thinking to myself at that precise moment, that, given previous Christmas nights out, it was all following the same old routine. As I snorted derisively at how wrong I’d been, the door under my feet me shook and shuddered as the people outside continued to throw themselves against it. I wasn’t too sure exactly who they were, but my best guess was a couple of the rugby players from the accounts department because the door was already starting to splinter and it wouldn’t be too long before they get through.

Everything seemed normal in the restaurant too. The food was ordered, a choice between having one of the usual curries off the menu or the special turkey curry which had been added just for Christmas. Predictably, almost everyone chose that, despite the fact that it sounded disgusting. I went for a chicken tikka masala, which caused Mike, the bore, to start rambling on, to no one in particular, about how this wasn’t actually a traditional dish from India, as you might at first think, but rather it was invented in Britain, most probably in a restaurant in Glasgow, in the 1950s. This would have been quite an interesting story, if he hadn’t told it at exactly the same point of the Christmas night out for at least the last eight years in succession. Looking across the table, I caught Mark’s eye. He nodded towards Mike and held up nine fingers forcing us both to stifle a laugh. You see, the reason I know that Mike has done this for the last eight years, well nine now, even though I’d only worked for the company for five, was because Mark had started keeping a count, and had told me about it on the first Christmas night out I’d been forced to go on. Mark was one of the good guys, and with a bit of luck, once we moved on for drinks he and I could find a table in the corner and amuse ourselves by watching the others make complete fools of themselves.

By the time the food arrived, we were all pretty well-oiled and the conversation had grown loud and boisterous. As I tucked into my tikka masala, I heard Mike launch into his story again, just in case someone hadn’t heard him the first time. Sam, one of the PAs who was sitting to my left, poked at his turkey curry. He spiked one of the lumps of meat onto his fork and sniffed it, ‘It doesn’t really look like turkey, does it?’ He gingerly nibbled a bit. ‘Doesn’t taste like it either.’ He took another nibble. ‘I mean it doesn’t taste bad, it just doesn’t taste like turkey.’ He took a larger bite. ‘Tastes more like pork or something like that. I thought turkey was meant to be white meat …’

On hearing this, Mike immediately switched seamlessly from talking about the origins of tikka masala to talking about the difference between brown leg meat and white breast meat on turkeys, and which he preferred to eat. To give him credit, it was a new story, but that didn’t necessarily make it interesting. Everyone turned to the food in front of them and did their level best to ignore him.

Soon enough the food was finished and we were heading back out into the night to find somewhere for drinks. Giving everyone the once over, I noticed that almost all of them seemed a lot more drunk than they should have been given how much alcohol they’d consumed: tripping over their own feet and hanging onto each other for support; even those who usually kept themselves pretty sober seemed heavily intoxicated. If fact, it seemed that Mike, Mark, me and the girl Sam was currently clinging to were the only ones who weren’t having trouble walking. We must have come across as a bit of a drunken rabble because we were turned away from the first five bars we tried.

Eventually, we found somewhere and trooped in out of the wind and rain. Inside, it was a real dive, but rather than head back out into the night to try to find somewhere else, we decided to stay put and make the most of it. While Mark commandeered a table where we could watch the rest of the bar, I got the drinks in and joined him there after a couple of minutes. We clinked out glasses.

‘Cheers!’ I clinked my glass against Mark’s, being careful not to spill too much as I did so.

‘Here’s to another easily forgettable night with some of the most banal people on the planet!’ Mark’s opinion of our colleagues was about as high as mine. ‘Although …’ He glanced around the room, ‘… they seem to be a lot more worse for wear than usual which might make it memorable after all. I mean, look at that,’ he pointed to the far corner, ‘Sam’s already passed out, and it looks like Janet’s about to do the same over there.’

No sooner were the words out of Mark’s mouth than Janet fell forward, her head hitting the table with an audible crack, but even that didn’t wake her.

‘Yeah, but some of them are up to their usual tricks.’ I nodded towards the bar, where Mike had two of the temps cornered and was telling, if I wasn’t mistaken, the tikka masala story for the third time that night as they swayed gently back and forth in front of him. ‘That’s got to be new a new record!’

‘You’d have thought so, but it’s not even close.’ Mark sipped his pint. ‘He’s still four short of his personal best.’

‘Should we go and rescue them?’

‘Nahhh, wouldn’t want to cramp anyone’s style.’ Mark tipped his head towards the far end of the bar where three lads barely out of puberty were trying to pluck up the courage to mount their own rescue mission in the hope of securing the girls undying gratitude – or at least a quick snog under the mistletoe before the end of the night.

By the end of the fifth pint, Mark and I had long since given up on all that was going on around us and had set out to put the world to rights. I think this is why we didn’t notice what was going on until it was too late. A sudden scream brought us back into the room.

‘What the fuck …’ Mark was staring across the room to where Sam was now clearly wide awake because he’d lunged at the girl sitting next to him and was all over her. The attention was obviously unwanted, but no one seemed to be doing anything about it. I cast my eyes around the room and that was when I noticed how many people were slumped over tables beside half empty glasses or on the benches that ran along two sides of the room. Mike was still rambling on to the people around the table where he was sitting, ignorant to the fact that they’d clearly been passed out for some time. The bar staff didn’t really seem to mind and were having their own conversation out the back, but the girl’s scream brought them running through, one of them grabbing a bat from behind the bar. He pointed this at Sam, ‘Oi! You! No means no around here!’

Sam ignored him and carried on pawing at the girl, and trying to kiss her despite her protests. The barman shouted again, but this only seemed to rouse the rest of our co-workers from their collective stupors: that was when I realised we were in big trouble.

As the barman vaulted the bar and started towards Sam, there was a cacophony of scraping and clattering of wood against concrete as the others clambered unsteadily to their feet. Almost immediately, it became apparent there was something not quite right about them. They no longer seemed drunk, but rather they appeared stiff and uncoordinated; yet with each passing second their movements became more fluid. As one, they rounded on the barman, taking him by surprise and pulling him to the ground. He tried to fight back, but there was little he could do against so many and within seconds he’d been ripped limb from limb, sending his head skittering across the floor. This attracted the attention of Maree, the slightly plump secretary of the managing director, and she chased after it.

Meanwhile, in the corner, Sam was still all over the girl, but it was now clear he wasn’t trying to kiss her; instead he had his teeth bared and was trying to bite her. That was when I noticed his eyes: rather than being clear and blue, they were now dark and dull, and they stayed still and lifeless despite his frenzied attack. I looked round at those attacking the barman and saw they were the same.

‘What the hell’s going on?’ I stammered to Mark, half under my breath.

He ran his hands through his hair, ‘I don’t know, they can’t be that drunk, can they? Maybe someone spiked something …’

I ran this scenario through my head, but there wasn’t any drug I could think of that would make people act like this.

‘Whatever’s happening, I think we need to get the hell out of here,’ I whispered across the table.

I glanced around the room. Our table was tucked out of the way and while we couldn’t make it to the main door without being seen, it seemed like we could slip into the corridor leading to the toilets and, more importantly the rear fire exit, without attracting too much attention. As quietly as possible, we got to our feet and with Mark behind me, we crept along the wall towards what we hoped would be our way out. We’d got no more than a few feet before the sound of breaking glass echoed round the bar. I turned and froze. In his inebriated state, Mark had bumped a table covered with empty glasses and bottles, sending several spilling onto the floor where they shattered into a million pieces. We looked at each other for a moment and he mouthed ‘Sorry’.

There was something slightly comical about it, and being quite drunk, I almost laughed, but then a roar brought my attention back to the rest of the room. I turned my head and was greeted by a bizarre tableau: most of our colleagues, dressed in their Christmas finery, complete with tinsel and Santa hats, stood over the bloodied and broken body of the barman, while Sam had finally looked up from where he’d been chewing through the face of the girl he’d pounced on. Further along the same wall there was another, smaller knot of people with blood dripping from their hands and faces. All of them were now staring at us with dark, soul-less eyes.

I felt Mark’s hand pushing me forward as he hissed one word into my ear: ‘Run!’

At the same time, the others surged towards us and we made it to the door way just ahead of the fastest of our colleagues. We sprinted along it as quickly as possible and, as we rounded the corner, seeing the exit ahead of us for the first time, it seemed like we’re pulling away from those who were pursuing us. We reached the door and, without even slowing, crashed into it, expecting to burst into the night – that didn’t happen; instead, we crumpled against it. Confused, we looked down and saw a heavy metal chain looped tightly through the handles and secured with a heavy-duty padlock.

‘Shit!’ I glanced down the corridor where our colleagues were just turning the corner, ‘What now?’

‘In here!’ I looked round and found Mark pointing the door to the men’s toilet. We pushed it open and leapt inside before throwing ourselves against it in case they tried to follow us in. For a moment, it seemed like we had got away, but then we felt the first of our colleagues hammering on the door. Within moments, there were so many of them trying to get in that we knew we’ll never be able to keep them out.

I turn desperately to Mark, ‘What now?’

‘The cubicles. The doors have locks on them.’

It didn’t seem like a great idea, but it was better than staying where we were. ‘Okay. On the count of three. One. Two. Three!’

We leapt to our feet and dashed across the grubby, tiled floor. The door crashed open behind us as we slide into the cubicles; me into the right hand one, Mark into the left. There was just enough time to get the door shut and the latch flipped before our colleagues reached it and started trying to break it down. I wedged my feet against the door, just in case the lock didn’t hold, but it seemed pointless as the door looked too flimsy to hold out for long.

I called out to Mark, ‘What the hell’s going on?’

‘I don’t know …’ He sounded as scared as I was.

For some reason, I had a flash back to the restaurant and what Sam had said about his food; about how the meat didn’t look like turkey. That’s when something occurred to me. ‘Mark, what did you eat?’

‘What?’

‘At the restaurant, What did you eat?’

‘What the hell d’you want to know that for?’

‘Just tell me.’

‘I was going to go for the turkey curry, but I remembered how bad it was last year so I went for a prawn makhani instead.’

‘Who else didn’t have the Christmas special?’

‘Only you, Mike and that girl Sam was chewing on in the bar. Everyone else had the turkey curry. Why?’

‘I don’t think it was made from turkey.’

‘What d’you mean?’

‘Well, Sam said it tasted more like pork.’

‘So it was pig not poultry,’ there was a confused tone in Mark’s voice. ‘Why would that make them act crazy?’

‘I don’t think it was pig; just something that tasted like it.’ I tried to think of what it might have been, but I couldn’t come up with any possible answers. ‘Whatever it was, I think it must have been tainted or infected or something …’

I heard the sound of splintering wood and glanced up to see the top hinge had separated from the door, and I knew it won’t be long before they’d break through.

Mark called through from the next cubicle again, ‘How the hell are we going to get out of here?’

I looked round for a window or some other way of getting out, but find nothing. ‘I don’t know.’

‘Shit!’ There was a brief pause before he carried on. ‘Knew I should have stayed at home!’

There didn’t seem to be any way we’re getting out in one piece, but I felt I needed to say something to lighten the mood. ‘Look on the bright side, we won’t ever have to listen to Mike’s chicken tikka story again.’
‘What d’you mean?’

There was another crack from the door as a second hinge gave way. Now the door was only held in place by the remaining hinge, the latch and my feet.

‘The last I saw of him he was being eaten by the managing director, two of the interns and that work experience girl everyone kept flirting with.’

‘Well, at least there’s a plus side then!’ Mark shouted back as I heard his door give way.

At almost the same moment, the final hinge gave out on mine and I knew it’ll only be seconds before the creatures that had once been my colleagues finally got hold of me and tore me to pieces, just like they had to done to the barmen, ‘Yeah, happy bloody Christmas!’

***

This is the second of the two Christmas stories I’m posting this year (you can find the first one here). It was inspired by the many office Christmas parties which I’ve been to over the years. Most of them ended better than the one in the story. Then again, some of them ended up worse!

A PDF of this story can be downloaded from here.
*****************************************************************************
From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.

To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.

My New Normal – A YA Flash Fiction Zombie Story

15 Jun

What is normal? Not normal for everyone else, but normal for you? Is it dragging yourself from bed and hurriedly pulling on your uniform before taking yourself off to school? Is it hitting the snooze button on your alarm so you can get another five minutes in bed? Or getting up and feeding the kids before feeding yourself? Is it racing for the train at seven am? Or sitting in traffic for forty-five minutes just to get to a job you hate? Is it watching day time television rather than going to lectures? Or partying all weekend, then spending Monday to Friday recovering and looking forward to the next one? Is it caring for your grandmother in her dotage? Or running five miles each morning before class? Is it yoga and meditation? Or kickboxing and spin class? Is it watching soap operas? Or reading gossip magazines? Or posting everything you do on Facebook the moment you’ve done it? Is it completing the Sunday Times crossword, in ink, in twenty minutes flat? Or corn flakes for breakfast, tuna sandwiches for lunch, and meat and two veg for supper, no matter what? Is it cuddling up on the sofa after a long day, and feeling all warm and loved? Or reading a book all by yourself? Is it being happy? Or sad? Or just being you? That used to be my life, too, all of them, at one time or another, but that’s not my normality now. Instead, normal is running and fighting, and screaming and shouting; it’s fear and terror, interspersed with hiding and crying; it’s losing all those close to you, over and over and over again; it’s smashing in skulls and chain-sawing off limbs, just to stay alive; it’s blood and gore, and the stench of rotting flesh; it’s struggling each day, all day, every day without a break or even a pause; it’s not sleeping a wink for months on end, or even daring to close your eyes for a second. This is how life is now that the dead have risen from their graves and walk amongst us, hunting us, consuming us, devouring our very flesh whenever they get the chance. For me, for all of us, this is now what normal is.

***

Author’s Note: My girlfriend has suggested this bit of flash fiction would make a great start to a YA zombie novel. YA is a territory I rarely stray into, but looking back on this, I think she could be right. Now, all I need to do is to come up with the rest of the story …



*****************************************************************************
From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.

To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.

Psychopomps – A Tale Of Stolen Souls And The Creatures That Consume Them

2 Sep

I can feel it closing in on me, hunting me down; no matter how hard I try to escape, I can’t out-run it, or evade it. I can’t even hide from it. I know that once one of them gets your scent, that’s it. Over. It’s just a matter of time. I don’t know how long it will take before it harvests my soul, but it will, and I’ll never see it coming. No one ever does. That’s what makes the psychs so terrifying. That and what they leave behind once they’ve taken what they are seeking.

***

We’d known about psychs for years, but we’d always thought they were just ancient scare stories which had become codified into mythologies and then faded away as the world developed. Psychs, or to give them their Sunday name, psychopomps, was the term that those who studied long-lost cultures gave to the spirit guides who were said to lead the souls of the dead to whatever hereafter a culture happened to believe in. For the Greeks it was Hermes who took the souls down to the banks of the river Styx and handed them over to the ferryman. For the Roman’s it was Mercury; for the Vikings it was the Valkyries who led men who died in battle to the eternal feasting hall of Valhalla. So many names, yet without fail each and every culture had one. That should have been our first clue that they might actually be real. All those names, they all referred to the same thing. Or maybe that should be things.

By the beginning of the twenty-first century, all those different names from so many different peoples and traditions had been consigned to the history books; few beyond the rarefied air of academia had ever heard of most of them, but we shouldn’t have been so hasty. There was truth in those ancient stories, and it was so terrible that it was no wonder people had chosen to mythologize them rather than admit they were real. It seemed that the psychs needed death and destruction, they needed those souls they took, they feasted on them.
In the past, they’d wait until someone’s body died, and then they’d sweep in and capture the departing soul before it could get away. They didn’t guide the souls they collected to some eternal afterlife, though, they held them captive, living off their fear, their pain, their misery until the soul they’d imprisoned evaporated away to nothing. Simply gone from the collective consciousness of the world, never to re-surface, never to be re-incarnated, never to inhabit another human body and awaken an intelligence within it.

That was before; then they changed. At first, there were just rumours: odd disappearances; tales of empty, soulless bodies, still alive but not human. Then we found out that they were real. The first clue was the empty vessels they left behind. They acted on instinct, fighting, attacking, feeding on any humans they could catch. They were brutal, savage husks that had once been human, but with their souls gone, there was no humanity left within them.

When they made their first appearance, there was talk of a virus, of zombies, of an upcoming apocalypse, but that wasn’t what happened, or what was really going on. Instead, it was the psychs. Hell made real right here on earth. No one ever quite worked out what made them change, why they started taking souls from the living rather than from the dying, but there was one reason which sounded more plausible than the rest. This was the one that said that now, with so many people on the planet and so much suffering, the psychs were becoming confused. Everywhere, there was death and destruction, so many souls being released from their earthly vessels all at once. When a psych was trying to capture a soul, waiting for the exact moment of departure before they’d pounced, they’d be distracted by the possibility of another, then another. With all these souls swirling round in the æther, they found it hard to concentrate on their chosen calling.

So much human suffering, so many dying needlessly each and every day. The psychs couldn’t cope, so instead they switched their attention to the living, harvesting their souls instead. It was easier and there were few distractions. All they had to do was select a victim and then take what they most dearly wanted, what they craved. Why they chose the ones they did was unknown, and unknowable, yet there was something about living souls that was different from dying ones. Their energy was different, it allowed the psychs not just to survive, but to thrive, to multiply until it seemed like they were everywhere, stealing souls and leaving behind the still-living human body to hunt those who still retained their humanity.

In many ways, the reasons the psychs had been released from their past confines was irrelevant. What mattered was that they were here, moving amongst us, unseen and unfelt until they locked onto you. Then you would feel something change deep inside. You’d feel your soul start to tremble within your body, and the closer the psych got, the more terrified your soul became. How it knew the psych was closing in, or what would happen to it once it had been harvested, was beyond me, but when I felt the change within me, I knew what it meant. From that moment on, I knew the fate which awaited me. I just didn’t know when it would happen. And ever since that moment, I’ve been running, trying desperately to escape the inevitable.

***

Suddenly, I feel my soul jolt, as if it has been electrocuted. It somersaults and twists inside me; I can feel the fear which is gripping it expand and take over my body. I know the psych is close. I turn this way and that, but I can find no trace of it, no indication of which direction it’s coming from. My soul starts screaming, the fearful, ungodly sound echoing through my body. Looking around, I wonder why no one else is reacting to the horrifying sound, but then I realise that only I can hear it. I am the only one who can hear my soul screaming, terrified by what is about to happen to it. Then I feel it, like an ice-cold hand on my chest. No, not on my chest: in my chest; thrusting deep within me. My soul wails and then it’s gone. The icy feeling disappears from within me, and with it goes something else. I look round and no longer do I see people. Instead, I see prey, and there are so many of them. I lick my lips with anticipation of what is about to happen. With my soul no longer present to keep my body in check, it does what it has always wanted to do and it attacks.

I watch, unable to resist, unable to stop it. As the blood starts flying, I feel my consciousness, all the things that made me me, start to fade, replaced by new, alien thoughts and unnatural urges. As I bite into my first victim, I feel a sense of elation run through me. Inside, the last of the old me blinks out and all that is left is my body, still living, still recognisable from the outside, but so different on the inside. For everything that was me has gone. The psych that stole my soul has seen to that. My body without my soul is not me, and neither is my soul without my body. I have been torn apart by something that I’d always thought never existed, that I’d thought were just old wives tales, but nonetheless they are real and I am no more.

***

I haven’t written a short story in a while (I’ve been concentrating too much on novels recently), but this mark a bit of a return to that art form. I’ll be the first to admit it is a bit of a weird one. I don’t usually do spiritual stuff, but this one definitely ventures into that realm. It was inspired by an episode of the British comedy panel show, QI, where I first came across the term psychopomp, meaning a spirit guide that lead the souls of the dead to the afterlife. What, I wondered, if such things existed and instead of waiting for people to die, they started targeting the living. And what would they leave behind?



*****************************************************************************
From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.

To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.

Win A Signed Copy Of ‘Zombies Can’t Swim…’ From Zombiegift.com

5 Apr

The nice people over at Zombiegift.com are currently running a giveaway of three signed copies of my anthology of short zombie stories called Zombies Can’t Swim And Other Tales Of The Undead. If you want to enter, you can click on this link here to take you to their page, but be warned it ends on monday the 7th of April 2014.

I’d also happily recommend that you either regularly check out their blog or follow them on Facebook as they have a lot of interesting zombie-related posts and giveaways on a regular basis.


*****************************************************************************
From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.

To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.

First Review For ‘Zombies Can’t Swim…’ Anthology

19 Mar

Zombies Can’t Swim … got its first official review yesterday from the nice people on the ZombieGift.com, where it got 4.75 brains out of a possible five.

Here’s a few of my favourite quotes from it:

‘The majority of the terse tales in this collection are so well written and so engaging they leave you yearning for more.’

‘I found these stories more realistic than many zombie novels I’ve read. I really liked the fact that Mr. Drysdale acknowledges the fact that the good guy doesn’t always win, especially when it comes to the apocalypse and the days of the undead roaming the earth. Things don’t always work out for the best. Sometimes the most logical or easiest conclusion to a zombie story isn’t always the prettiest or most desirable for the protagonist.’

‘A collection of short zombie themed stories is perfect for busy zombie fans that don’t have a ton of time to read. This is also the ideal solution for those with a short attention span. I loved being able to pick up this book and read a short story or two when I needed a break from my daily activities.’

‘The end of most stories in this book features an “Author’s Notes” section. It’s a very cool little blurb where Mr. Drysdale provides some deeper insight on things such as why a story was written, how the idea came about or simply a way to provide more information on a topic.’

If you want to read the whole review, you can find it here. Even if you don’t, it’s worth checking out ZombieGift.com for regular zombie-based giveaways (including signed copies of Zombie’s Can’t Swim … at some point in the near future).



*****************************************************************************
From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.

To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.

‘Zombies Can’t Swim And Other Tales Of The Undead’ – Free Kindle eBook Promotion

15 Mar

Front Cover For Zombies Can't Swim AnthologyMy anthology of short zombie stories, called Zombies Can’t Swim And Other Tales Of The Undead, will be available to download for free as a Kindle eBook from Amazon this weekend (Saturday the 15th to Sunday and 16th of March 2014 – the start and end of this promotion are governed by Pacific Standard Time).

Zombies Can’t Swim And Other Tales Of The Undead contains 23 stories, most of which were originally published on this blog, but there is one completely new story (The Dark Heart Of The Sea), which will only ever be available in this anthology.

From The Back Of The Book:

Zombies Can’t Swim And Other Tales Of The Undead is a collection of stories written by Colin M. Drysdale whose debut novel, For Those In Peril On The Sea, was released in 2013 to much acclaim. In this anthology, he explores a variety of zombie and post-apocalyptic related themes in tales ranging from ones short enough to fit in a Twitter posting, through flash fiction to full length short stories. They take their inspiration from subjects as disparate as the real life mystery of Flannan Isle through dilemmas you may face in a zombie apocalypse to why you shouldn’t try waiting up for Santa Claus.

As a marine biologist by training, it’s perhaps unsurprising that several of Colin M. Drysdale’s tales link traditional zombie stories and the sea to provide a new and unusual take on how to survive in the world of the undead.

Stories Included:

The Bookshop
I’m With The Band
Zombies Can’t Swim
Last Flight Out
Waiting Up for Santa Claus: A Cautionary Tale
Nightwatch
The Watcher
Leaving
The Lighthouse At The End Of The Road
The Wall
The Girl At Little Harbour
A Plague On Both Your Houses
When Death Came To Flannan Isle
Family
Three Men In A Boat
The Emergency Room
Survival Skills
The Custom Of The Sea
Winter’s End
When The Comet Came
The Labyrinth
Apocalypse Apartments Incorporated
The Black Heart Of The Sea



*****************************************************************************
From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.

To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.

The Awakening – A Short Story About One Man’s Fight Against A Zombie Disease

24 Feb

‘John, can you hear me? John?’

I feel someone rub a knuckle against my sternum. My eyes are heavy, but somehow I pull them open. I try to turn my head, but I can’t; instead I move my eyes, even though it hurts to do so. A shadow leans over me and I feel liquid dropping first onto one eyeball then the other. I blink to clear my eyes and find I can now move them without the pain; as things come into focus, I’m surprised to find I’m lying on a bed. No, not just lying on it, I’m strapped to it and there’s something covering my mouth. Standing over me is a man in a white coat holding an empty syringe; next to him is a young woman in blue hospital scrubs holding an eye dropper and a small bottle of clear liquid. Seeing them, I pull at my restraints, not knowing what’s happening and desperately trying to get away.

The man in the white coat smiles reassuringly, ‘John, it’s okay, your safe. You’re in hospital; I’m a doctor. Do you remember why you’re here?’

I think back, but there’s nothing. Well, not nothing, there are memories of my childhood, of going to university, of getting married, of having children, but then things just seem to peter out. I remember something about getting ill, or was it having an accident? I fight to bring the memory to the front of my mind, feeling like I’m trying to drag my brain through molasses just to recall this single event. No, it wasn’t an accident, I’d been attacked by something; or was it someone?

The man in the white coat steps to the side, revealing a tall, scared-looking woman, ‘John, do you recognise who this is?’

I nod, or at least I try to, but I can only move my head few millimetres because of the way it’s strapped down.

‘Good, that means it’s worked, we’ve got you back; at least for the time being.’ The man gives a signal and unseen people remove the restraints and the gag that had been strapped across my mouth. I sit up but as I do so, my wrists grazing against the side of the bed sending a searing pain shooting through my body. I glance down and see my forearms are raw and bleeding. The man waves to someone and the young woman in hospital scrubs scurries forward to dress on my wounds.

I turn my attention back to the woman beside the man in white. I smile at her, ‘Gabrielle?’

She steps forward, a tear running down her cheek and I notice there’s something different about her. Her once beautiful hair hangs limply and is flecked with grey; her face is drawn and gaunt, with worry lines etched across her forehead. I can’t understand how she’s changed so much in so little time. Only yesterday, her eyes sparkled with happiness but now there’s only pain and despair in them. can’t help but be struck at how much older she suddenly looks than her thirty-five years. I know that’s how old she is because it was her birthday yesterday, wasn’t it? We’d gone out for a meal, but something happened, didn’t it? But what? My mind’s starting to connect the random thoughts more freely, but still I’m confused. ‘Gabrielle? What happened to you?’

‘Life happened, just like it happened to you.’

‘What d’you mean?’

‘Look.’ She holds out a mirror and I stare at the grizzled face which stares back. Not believing what I’m seeing, I touch the side of my face, feeling the rough stubble that’s more white than it’s usual auburn. I struggle to understand what’s going on. ‘How long have I been here?’

The doctor examines his chart but it’s Gabrielle that answers. ‘Ten years. Ten years today. That was when you got attacked; when you got infected.’

I scowl, trying to remember, but failing. ‘And I’ve been in a coma all this time?

‘No, John, not a coma. You’ve been … You’re a …’ She struggles to find the words.

The doctor steps forward, ‘Maybe I can explain better. I’m Dr Walker, but you can call me Ben if you want.’

I shake the hand he’s holding out, feeling the weakness in my arms as I do so. He doesn’t seem to notice and carries on. ‘You won’t remember it, but there was an outbreak, a disease; no one really knows what it was or where it came from, just that it flared up briefly and then disappeared. This disease, it took over people’s brains and made them attack anyone who was nearby. That’s how the disease spread, through infected people biting others. At first people thought it was rabies, but there was no trace of the rabies virus and rabies doesn’t spread quite as fast as this disease did. The government managed to get it under control, but most of the people who were infected had to be shot because they were too dangerous to get close enough to restrain, but you were lucky, your wife,’ the doctor smiles at Gabrielle, ‘managed to get you here before you started showing too many symptoms and we were able to restrain you.’

I’m still confused. ‘But I don’t remember anything.’

The doctor cleared his throat. ‘That’s because the disease shut down the conscious part of your brain, but left the basal areas unaffected. You could move and sense the world, but you weren’t consciously aware any more; you weren’t in control of what you were doing. It made you incredibly dangerous, you’d attack anyone who came near, trying to bite and infect them.’

‘Are you saying I was like … like a …’ I try to think of what I’m meaning, and then the world comes to me. ‘A zombie?’

Gabrielle looks away and the doctor shifts uncomfortably. ‘Yes. In fact, that’s exactly what we call people like you.’

‘But I’m still alive, I’m not really a zombie.’ Then something the doctor had just said wormed its way into my consciousness, ‘People like me? There are other people who have this disease too?’

‘Yes. There are thirty-eight of you in all, spread throughout the hospitals in the city. All kept in isolation, in rooms just like this, so you can’t infect anyone else.’

I struggle to comprehend what’s happened to me. ‘But I’m cured now?’

Again the doctor shifts uncomfortably. ‘No, not cured; just temporarily relieved from the worst effects of the disease, allowing you to regain control of you body and become conscious again.’

A wave of fear washes over me. ‘For how long?’

The doctor glances at his watch. ‘Thirty minutes; maybe forty at the most. I don’t know how long the drugs will last this time. It’s a new one you see, never been tried before.’

‘This time?’

‘Yes. We’ve brought you back before.’

I wrack my brain for memories. ‘But I don’t remember.’

‘I’m not surprised. It takes time to lay down memories and we’ve never managed to bring you back long enough for that to happen.’

‘Why do the drugs stop working?’

‘We don’t know, it seems to be that the disease fights back and block off the receptors which the drugs stimulate. That’s why each drug only works once in each person.’

I try to take this all in, but I’m struggling. There is one question which springs to mind though. ‘What will happen when the drug you used this time wears off? Will I go back to being a zombie again?’

The doctor stares down at his feet. ‘Yes.’

I’m angry now. ‘So why did you bring me back if it’s not going to last?’

Gabrielle sits down beside me and hugs me. I remember her scent and the feel of her skin against mine. ‘Because I asked him to, because I wanted to see you, the real you, one last time.’ I feel her shake and realise she’s crying. ‘Because I wanted to say good-bye.’

I try to pull away, but she’s holding me too tightly. ‘I can’t go on like this, seeing you strapped down, struggling against the restraints. I need to move on with my life.’

I finally break free. ‘But Gabrielle, you can’t leave me, not now, not when I’m like this!’

This is the only woman I’ve ever loved and I thought she loved me too. I can’t believe she’s abandoning me, not when I need her most.

She holds my hand. ‘I’m not leaving you, John, you left me the moment you got infected. It wasn’t your fault, but I can’t keep doing this. In ten years, I’ve only been able to spend thirty minutes with you here; quarter of an hour there: maybe half a day in all. I can’t go on like this, with just brief snatches of the real you now and then; the rest of the time you’re as good as dead.’

Before I can say anything I notice my hand is shaking. At first I think it’s because I’m upset, but then I realise it seems to be doing it on its own.

The doctor sees me staring at it, and checks his watch. ‘Only ten minutes. Damn, I thought we’d get more time with this one.’

Gabrielle kisses me on the cheek and stands up.

‘Gabrielle? Where are you going?’

She bows her head and turns away from me. ‘I’m leaving. I don’t want to watch as I lose you all over again.’

‘But Gabrielle …’

‘No, John, not this time. This will be the last time. I’ve told them not to give you any more drugs. I won’t bring you back again.’

Anger rises inside of me; not normal anger, but something more consuming. ‘But why?’

At the door she stops and turns round to face me. ‘Because it’s unfair to you, John. I keep bringing you back so I can see you, spend time with you, hold you once more, whenever a new drug becomes available no matter how much it costs, but I realise now I’m being selfish; I’ve only been thinking about what I want, not what’s best for you. You don’t remember the times I’ve brought you back before; the anger you feel, the pain as the disease takes over again, the fear in your eyes as you know once more that you’re disappearing again. I can’t keep doing that to you just so I get to spend a few more minutes with you. I love you too much to put you through all that again just because I’d give anything to have you back the way you were, even if it’s only for the briefest of moments.‘

I feel my arm jolt and an urge rushes over me. Suddenly I want nothing more than to tear her throat out. I feel a hunger build inside me. I try to speak, but words don’t come out; instead there’s just a low guttural groan, sounding more animal than human. My eye sight starts to blur around the edges and the world starts to close in around me. I fight as hands from unseen orderlies grab me and roughly push me back onto the bed. I feel the restraints being attached again, but I don’t feel pain as they chaff against my wounds, turning the fresh dressings red as blood oozes from them. I shake my head violently, trying to stop them putting the gag over my mouth, not because I want to speak, but because I know that once it’s on I won’t be able to bite them, and all I want to do right now is sink my teeth into someone’s flesh; anyone’s.

The last thing I hear is Gabrielle saying goodbye, her voice cracking and filled with sorrow; then a door closes and everything’s slowly fading to black. In my mind, I’m frozen with fear, screaming as loud as I can into the darkness that’s engulfing me, but my body’s still moving, fighting as hard as it can against the restraints, and there’s nothing I can do to stop it.

***

You can download a PDF of this story from here.



*****************************************************************************
From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.

To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.