Tag Archives: Short Story

Santa Claus Versus The Zombies – A Dark Christmas Tale For Readers Of All Ages

24 Dec

T’was the night before Christmas, and all through the house, nothing was stirring, not even a mouse. The same could not be said, however, for the graveyard next door. Every year, Tommy stayed up for as long as he could, excitedly peeking out of his bedroom window, hoping to catch a glimpse of Santa Claus as he travelled the world delivering presents, and every year, Tommy fell asleep before Santa arrived. Tommy would wake next morning, his head freezing cold where it had drooped against the window pane as he dozed, to find a bulging stocking hanging from the end of his bed, but not a hide nor hair of Santa Claus himself.

This year, Tommy was determined to stay awake long enough for Santa to arrive. He was a year older now, and he was sure that this year he’d finally be able to do it. Yet, despite his best efforts, as the clock struck midnight, Tommy could feel himself starting to nod off. Trying to hold the inevitable sleep back for as long as possible, Tommy stretched and yawned. Then a movement outside caught his eye, and instantly he was wide awake. At first, Tommy wasn’t quite sure what the movement was, but one thing was for sure: it wasn’t Santa Claus. The ground outside was covered in snow, turning the usually scary looking cemetery behind Tommy’s house into a winter wonderland: frost coated the trees, and the grass, and the grave stones, making them glimmer in the moonlight, yet underneath the snow, something was stirring.

Suddenly, a long thin object thrust itself upwards through the snow. At first, Tommy watched the object curiously as it moved back and forth, then, to his horror, he realised it was a bony, wrinkled hand. The hand reach skywards, opening and closing as it grasped at the cold night air. A moment later, it was joined by another, and together the two hands pulled, first a skull-like head, then a decaying body from the ground. Tommy stared, both terrified and mesmerised by what was happening just beyond the end of his garden. As Tommy looked on, the bloated, rotting body finally pulled itself free of the frozen ground and staggered to its feet. It shuffled through the snow, dragging one foot behind it. Tommy watched it for a minute: it didn’t seem to be going anywhere in particular, just wandering aimlessly between the grave stones, touching each one as it passed. Then Tommy noticed the snow lying on another grave began to tremble, and a head started to emerge. Then another. And another. So shocked was he, that it took Tommy a few seconds to notice the pattern: every time the first zombie (and what else could it possibly be, but a zombie?) touched a head stone, the body buried in that grave clawed its way from the ground and started to follow it.

After ten minutes, Tommy found he was no longer frightened. Instead, he could feel laughter building inside him. When it had just been one stumbling re-animated corpse, it had been scary, but now there were so many of them, all playing follow-the-leader as they trailed after the first zombie, shuffling and staggering, bumping into each other, slipping on the ice and the snow, and falling over when they bounced off each other. It was hilarious and Tommy couldn’t help but think that if this was all that zombies were capable of, they weren’t really anything to be afraid of after all.

Then, off in the distance, high in the night’s sky, Tommy saw something else. At first, it seemed like it was just another twinkling star, but slowly it grew bigger and bigger, and Tommy knew that stars didn’t do that. Tommy wasn’t the only one to have notice the rapidly approaching object: the zombies were looking up, too, letting out mournful moans as they reached towards it.

As Tommy watched, the object came closer and closer until it was near enough for him to see what it was, and his heart leapt: it was a sleigh being pulled by eight powerful reindeer. With the night being clear, there was no need for Rudolph to be leading the way, and Tommy tried to remember the names of the other reindeer: there was Dasher and Dancer, Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid, Donner, and … what was the last one again? Tommy always had trouble remembering that last name. His brow furrowed for a moment and then it came to him: Blitzen! Yes, that was it. By then, the sleigh was close enough that Tommy could make out the plump man with the long, white beard and red suit who was holding the reins and shouting orders to the reindeer. Slowly the sleigh turned and started to descend, and Tommy realised to his delight that it was coming into land on the soft, fresh snow that covered his back yard.

A second later, and Tommy’s delight turned to terror: the zombies had seen Santa Claus too, and they were now racing towards the wall that divided Tommy’s yard from the cemetery. Hang on, thought Tommy, racing? That couldn’t be right. He closed his eyes tight shut and shook his head before opening them again: sure enough the zombies which had, until then, been bumbling around aimlessly, were now moving fast and efficiently across the frozen ground. What on Earth, Tommy wondered, was going on?

As Santa’s sleigh touched down, the first of the zombies made it over the wall and rushed across the snow towards where the sleigh had come to a stop. By this time, Santa’s head was buried in his big black sack, searching for something, and that was when Tommy went cold: Santa hadn’t seen the zombies. More and more of them were pouring over the wall with every passing second, and still Santa Claus was rummaging through his sack, unaware of the danger that was descending upon him.

Tommy knew he had to do something. He couldn’t, after all, be the kid who’d let Santa get eaten by zombies, he’d never live it down, but what could he do? The house was locked and he couldn’t reach the key to open the back door. Even if he could, what hope did Tommy have against all those zombies? Then it struck him: all he needed to do was warn Santa that the zombies were coming. Santa, after all, had flying reindeer, he could easily escape from the yard before the zombies got to him. Tommy banged on the window, but Santa didn’t look up. He banged again, still nothing. Finally, in desperation, Tommy pulled the window open and yelled at the top of his voice. ‘Santa, there’s zombies coming! They’re right behind you!’

Santa suddenly shot upright, and looked round. He saw Tommy and waved, a jolly smile on his rosy-cheeked face, still unaware of the rapidly approaching danger. Tommy shouted again and gesticulated wildly at the zombies, which, by then, were only a few feet from the back of Santa’s sleigh. Santa frowned for a second and then slowly turned. When he saw the zombies, he froze, but only for a moment, then he sprung into action, grabbing the reins and yelling to his reindeer, urging them on, but nothing happened. That was when Tommy realised his warning had been too late, the zombies had already got a hold of the sleigh and no matter how hard the reindeer strained, they couldn’t manage to pull the heavily laden sleigh and all the zombies that were now clinging onto it.

Tommy watched in horror as Santa looked round desperately for something he could use to defend himself, but he found nothing. This was unsurprising; after all, the worst thing Santa Claus usually had to deal with was when the elves drank too much eggnog as they were loading the sleigh and started fighting with each other, and drunken elves weren’t exactly difficult to deal with. As Santa started frantically digging through his sack of presents, searching for anything he could use to fight off the zombies, Tommy could see the fear in his eyes. Santa glanced up and seeing the zombies just a few feet from him, he gave up searching for a weapon and, deciding to hide rather than fight, he dived out of sight. The zombies weren’t fooled and they started clambering on to the sleigh as they hunted for their intended prey. Tommy was aghast: surely there was no way Santa could possibly survive? This, Tommy thought, wasn’t how Christmas was meant to end, for without Santa Claus to hand out presents to the children who’d spent all year being nice rather than naughty, what was the point of Christmas?

Then, out of the corner of his eye, Tommy saw a red blur streaking across the heavens and towards the ground. A moment later, it landed with a heavy thud behind the zombies and Tommy instantly realised who it was: it was Rudolf. The lone reindeer pawed the ground and snorted loudly, causing some of the zombies to turn and run towards him. Despite the undead that were rapidly closing on him, Rudolph bravely held his ground. Then, when the zombies were only a few feet away, Rudolf lowered his head and charged, running the closest zombie through with the tips of his razor-sharp antlers. Once he was sure it was dead, Rudolf threw the once-more deceased zombie to the ground, but he didn’t stop there. Rudolf charged again and again, throwing zombies this way and that, breaking arms and cracking skulls.

After what seemed like an age, but couldn’t have been more than a minute, the zombies realised they were beaten. Those that could still run, tried to retreat towards the safety of the graveyard, but Rudolph wasn’t about to let them get away so easily. He chased after them, slashing at them with his antlers and trampling the last of them under foot. Soon, nothing was moving that shouldn’t really be moving in the first place, and the lone reindeer, with his bright red nose glowing in the darkness, trotted across to the sleigh and let out a gentle whinny.

Tommy held his breath, wondering if somehow Santa could have survived, then he emerged, crawling out from under the seat where he’d been curled up in a desperate attempt to remain beyond the grasping hands of the attacking zombies. Santa straightened up, adjusting his clothes and brushing stray flecks of glitter from his beard. He patted Rudolph’s nose, before leaning forward and removing a withered arm that had become wedged in Rudolf’s antlers. Santa smiled, knowing his old friend had just saved his life, and tossed the arm into the snow. He looked up at Tommy, and tipped his fur-lined hat in thanks towards the young boy, before pulling on the reins and taking off once more, Rudolph following closely after.

Tommy watched until Santa, his sleigh and all the reindeer, including Rudolf, had disappeared into the night’s sky before turning his attention to the devastation which had been left in his back yard: there were bodies, or what was left of them, everywhere. That, Tommy thought to himself, would take a lot of explaining when his parents woke up and saw the mess, and he really wasn’t sure they’d believe him if he told them what had just happened. Maybe he’d be better off not telling them anything about what he’d seen, and instead left them to try to work out what happened when they got up the following the morning. Satisfied that this was the right thing to do, Tommy decided he’d better go to bed before anyone discovered he was still up and started asking awkward questions.

That was when Tommy realised that in his rush to get away after Rudolf had saved him, Santa had forgotten to leave him his presents. At first Tommy was upset, but after giving it some thought, he realised that one small boy missing out on his presents this one year was a small price to pay for saving Santa’s life from the zombies. Tommy sighed, and turned away from the window; that was when he saw the over-stuffed stocking hanging at the foot of his bed. He rubbed his eyes in disbelief: how on Earth had Santa managed that? Then it dawned on Tommy and he smiled happily to himself: while Santa might be just as scared of zombies as the rest of us, he’s still magic.

Happy Christmas!

***

A PDF of this story can be downloaded from here.

This is the third year that I’ve done a special Christmas-themed zombie short story for the readers of my blog. If you haven’t read the previous ones, you can find the Christmas 2013 story, titled The Office Christmas Party – The Tale Of A Christmas Night Out That Goes Horribly Wrong, here, and the the Christmas 2012 story, titled Waiting Up For Santa Claus – A Cautionary Tale, here.
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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.

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Waiting Up For Santa Claus: A Cautionary Tale

22 Dec

This is a very short story I put together for my blog readers to mark the holiday season (after all, nothing says Christmas like zombies – or is that just me?). Be warned, it’s not your usual happy festive tale. Then again, since it features the undead, this is probably not surprising! As you might have guessed, and despite its title, this is not a story for a younger audience. It’s just a quick piece I wrote to explore an idea that popped into my head a few days ago, but hopefully you’ll still enjoy it. If you’d rather read this story offline, you can download a PDF from here. Merry Christmas!

Waiting Up For Santa Claus: A Cautionary Tale

‘Look!’ The girl pointed excitedly, ‘It’s him, it has to be.’

The boy glanced at the clock on the wall, slightly confused, ‘But it’s not midnight yet.’

‘So?’

‘So it’s not Christmas Day, is it?’

‘But it looks just like him. And besides,’ the girl said knowingly, ‘It’s already Christmas somewhere. Maybe he’s just early.’

The two children were peeking through their curtains, trying not to be seen. Despite their mother’s frequent warnings that he wouldn’t come unless they were asleep, they’d been determined to catch a glimpse Santa Claus. They tried every year but they never quite managed it. This year it seemed they might have finally succeeded. At five minutes to twelve, they’d heard a noise and had scampered from their beds to investigate.

Outside, their front yard was covered with snow, the snowman they’d built earlier in the day still staring off into the distance. Beside him was a new figure, his red coat stretched across his portly belly. They couldn’t see his face, but curly white hair hung down below a hat edged with fur. Beside the man lay a large sack from which spilled brightly wrapped packages. He stood slouching, one arm around the neck of the snowman. The man wasn’t really moving, just swaying slightly from side to side.

The boy looked up at his sister. ‘What should we do?’

The older child scratched her head as she surveyed the room they’d shared for as long as either of them could remember. A Christmas tree stood decorated in one corner while home-made streamers were strung across the ceiling. Finally, her eyes landed on the stockings that hung expectantly from the ends of their beds and an idea popped into her head. She grinned at her brother, ‘Let’s go out and see if he’ll give us our presents now, before we go to sleep.’

‘Yeah, that would be really cool.’

‘We’ll need to be quiet though. We don’t want Mom waking up.’

The younger kid rubbed his backside, remembering how it had felt when he’d been spanked for getting into a fight at school. If she’d been mad because of that, she’d be madder if she caught them out of bed on Christmas Eve. She’d already shouted at them earlier in the evening when they were still bouncing round their room long after they should have been tucked up in bed. Twice. But this was an opportunity not to be missed. After all, how many other kids would be able to say they’d got their presents from Santa Claus himself rather than just waking up on Christmas morning and finding he’d visited them in the night?

They grabbed their stockings and crept to the door. The elder child inched it open, making sure it didn’t squeak. Once there was enough room, they slipped through and snuck down the stairs, remembering to jump over the loose one at the bottom, the one that always creaked loudly when anyone stood on it. At the front door, the girl turned to her younger brother, ‘You sure about this?’

He nodded enthusiastically.

She reached up and took the key from its hook before sliding it into the keyhole. It first turned smoothly and silently, then there was resistance followed by a quiet click that told her the door was now unlocked. The girl pressed down the handle and pulled it open, letting in a blast of frigid air. The two children shivered in their thin night-clothes. Outside the street was silent, the snow muffling the usual noises of the night. The man had moved away from the snowman and now stood on the far side of their front yard with his back to them. The snow round his feet was messed up as if he’d been shuffling through it rather than walking across it. His sack still lay open on the ground by the snowman, seemingly forgotten.

Leaving the door open, the girl stepped forward, feeling the snow crunch under her weight, the cold shooting up through the soles of her feet. For a moment she thought about going back for her shoes but that would take time and he might be gone before she got back. She’d just need to be quick. Running forward, she called out quietly, ‘Santa, don’t go, we’re here. Can we have our presents now?’

Just as the girl reached the snowman, the figure in the red suit turned and she saw his face for the first time. She skidded to a halt, causing her brother to crash into her from behind, and stared at the face beneath the fur-trimmed hat. The man’s pale, sallow skin was splattered with red and his white beard was stained by a thick dark fluid that dripped slowly onto the snow. His deeply sunken eyes were a dull black with no spark of life in them.

‘That’s not Santa Claus. Is it?’ There was a frightened tone in the young boy’s voice. He clung to his sister’s arm. He didn’t know why but the man scared him. Maybe it was something to do with the eyes and the way they seemed to stare right through him.

‘No.’ The girl was frightened too. She tried to think of what to do next, but it seemed her brain had stopped working. She wanted to run, but couldn’t; she was rooted to the spot.

Then the man started towards them, slowly at first but becoming faster with each faltering step. Suddenly, the girl was no longer frozen with fear. She turned and fled, pulling her younger brother with her, but it was difficult to run across the snow in bare feet. She glanced over her shoulder and saw that the man in the Santa outfit was gaining on them. As he moved, he let out a moan that sank deep into her soul.

The kids were almost back at the house when the girl’s foot slipped on a patch of ice. She tumbled to the ground, pulling her little brother with her and landing heavily on her back. She pushed the boy onwards, towards the safety of the front door. As he disappeared inside, the girl rolled onto her front. The snow crumbled beneath her as she desperately struggled to get back onto her feet.

The girl yelled when she felt the man’s hand close around her leg and start dragging her backwards through the snow. But it didn’t feel like a real hand. While it gripped her so tightly it hurt, there was no warmth in it. Instead, it felt as cold as ice. She turned and saw the man’s face again, this time much closer. His red hat had fallen from his head, but he didn’t seem to have noticed or even to care. While his eyes looked lifeless, maybe even soulless, his jaw moved back and forth, causing his teeth to gnash against each other.

The girl kicked out, trying to break his grip, but even though she hit him as hard as she could he didn’t seem to notice. She heard someone screaming. It seemed distant at first, but quickly grew closer and closer. For a moment, the girl wondered who it was, then it dawned on her that it was coming from her own mouth. She struggled frantically but it was no use, she couldn’t get away. As the figure in the red suit loomed over her, blocking out the stars, the girl felt his fetid breath on the side of her face and realised she was going to die.

The man sank his teeth deep into her neck, ripping at her flesh. Although the girl could see her own blood spraying across the snow-covered yard, turning it a deep crimson red, she felt no pain. As the life drained from her body, the girl wished she’d listened to her mother. She wished she’d gone to sleep instead of trying to stay awake until Santa arrived.

***

For those who have read this far, here’s a quick reminder that between the 26th and 31st of December, I’ll be posting extracts from the first three chapters of my new book, For Those In Peril On The Sea (available in the UK from the 3rd of January 2013 – I’m afraid it won’t be available outside the UK until March) on this blog. It’s a tale about post-apocalyptic survival in a world where the land is no longer safe, so if you liked the above story, you might like it as well.

The Creatures In The Fog – A Short Horror Story

9 Jan

The greyness swirls around me, so thick, it feels like I could reach out and grab it. It had been bright sunlight when we’d entered the forest, or maybe that should be when we were forced to flee into it, but within minutes the fog started to descend. At first, it was just the slightest tendrils of mist, snaking between the trees as we ran for our lives, but as time passed, the tendrils started to merge, forming ghostly islands that brought the visibility down to a few hundred feet. That was okay, it was still far enough to see the creatures that were pursuing us, allowing us to stay ahead of them, to stay beyond their reach, but then the misty islands began to drift together and coalesce into a fog that grew denser and denser until I could barely see my hand in front of my face.

In fog like this, running’s no longer an option: the forest floor’s littered with fallen branches, rotting trunks and gnarled roots, just waiting to trip the unsighted, twisting ankles and snapping legs; yet stopping’s out of the question, too. We can hear the creatures pounding feet as they close in on us, but we can’t make out each other, let alone tell whether the shifting shapes we can see moving amongst the fog are friend or foe. All we can do is blunder forward, hoping we’re heading away from our pursuers, and not towards them, as we grope our way, lost and disoriented, through the oppressive grey blanket which encircles and ensnares us. Voices echo through the woodland, muted by the fog, making it impossible to tell how near, or how far away, they are. You can tell the people speaking are scared, though; even the fog can’t swallow the fear with which their words are spat. Then comes the first scream: it sounds close and I can see shadows moving just beyond my limited field of view. Suddenly, it stops: the scream, I mean; it doesn’t fade out, it just ends, and that’s when I know the creatures are among us.

I search around for something I can use to defend myself, cursing the fact that the creatures had surprised as we slept. There’d been no time to prepare, not even time to grab the axe I kept under my pillow for just such an eventuality. They’d swarmed out of nowhere and over our camp in seconds, leaving us no choice, but to run or die. Now, it seemed this apparent choice had been an illusion: the real choice had been die there and then, or run and die later, enveloped by a fog so thick it seems almost unnatural; and for all I know, it is. I’d been a man of science once, but since the creatures had first appeared in my life, in all our lives, I’d been questioning everything I’d ever believed to be true.

There’s another scream, and the sound of someone struggling, fighting for their life. Unexpectedly, the fog lifts, and for a moment I can see them: a man I don’t recognise wrestling with one of the creatures, doing his best to hold it off, then another pounces on him and together they drag him to the ground. Just as the blood starts spurting from the man’s neck, the fog descends again and swallows the creatures that are now feasting on his still-writhing body.

I bend down, feeling around on the ground for something, anything I can use to defend myself. At first, I find nothing, them my hand fastens onto a stout branch, no doubt brought down in a winter storm. I don’t know how strong it is or how long it has been lying there, but it has to be better than nothing. As I straighten up, a shadowy figure races towards me through the gloom and I ready myself to swing. I strain my eyes, trying to work out if it’s one of my companions, or one of the creatures, but there’s no way I can tell: all I know is that it’s coming straight at me, fast. I watch it close: twenty feet, ten feet, eight, five, but still I can’t see what it is. In desperation, I swing, catching the figure across the side of the head. It yells as it goes down, and that’s when I know the figure is human: the creatures never make a noise, no matter what they’re doing.

I crouch down to help the man up, but as soon as I am close enough to see his face, I know there’s no point: the side of his head is shattered beyond recognition, and I can see grey, greasy flecks of brain mixing with the blood that’s seeping down his face. I’m revulsed and I feel my stomach heave, but I can see more figures moving through the fog all around me, so there’s no time to reflect on it, and I force the burgeoning feeling of self-loathing, sparked by what I’ve just done, to the back of my mind. I peer through the greyness, praying for another break in the fog, but it remains as thick as ever and still I can’t make out what the figures are. I raise my makeshift weapon again, but now I’m hesitant. I don’t want to make another mistake, to accidentally kill another person when there are so few of us left. My mind races: is it better to strike out before I’m sure, and risk killing someone else? Or, the next time one comes close, should I wait until I’m certain, and risk being attacked before I can react? Neither option’s palatable, but they’re the only two which are available to me.

Another figure starts to close, but what should I do? As I adjust my grip on the branch I’m holding, I feel it slip in my sweat-soaked palms. I call out, but there’s no reply. Does that mean it’s a creature? Or is it just someone running so hard that they’ve no spare breath to reply? The silence tells me nothing. I need to make a decision, but my brain just keeps going round in circles: to risk killing, or to risk being killed? Which should I chose? The fog swirls and flows around me, around the trees, around the approaching figure, but still I can’t make out what it is: human or creature? Creature or human? It’s now only twenty feet away, what should I do? Ten feet, I shout again – Still nothing. I need to make a decision one way or the other, and I need to do it now, but I don’t want to make another mistake. Eight feet. Do something. Anything. My mind’s yelling at me, but I’m paralysed with indecision. Five feet. It’s now or never. Three feet. Aaagghhhh!



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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 Creature – A Short Horror Story About A Sailor Lost At Sea

24 Oct

The rubber floor of the life raft ripples beneath me. It wasn’t the usual ripple I’d got used to over the last few weeks, caused by the waves, the one that undulates gently up and down as the raft is lifted, in turn, by each wave before being dropped again. This ripple is different: it’s faster, more purposeful, as if something big has just swum beneath the raft. Almost as soon as I feel it, it’s gone and the life raft goes back to conforming to the slow, laborious roll of the ocean waves. Maybe it was just my imagination; maybe I’m starting to hallucinate: after all, I haven’t eaten in more than a week, and the single sip of water I now ration myself to each day is barely enough to keep me alive, let alone sane. Then I feel the ripple again. This time it’s slower, more deliberate and I feel whatever it is pass under my legs as I sit with my back against the inflated rubber ring which forms the side of the life raft. I try to estimate its size by the time it takes to pass under me, but all I can tell is that it’s big: eight feet, ten, maybe fifteen or even twenty, who knows, but something that big and this far from land could only be one of two things: a shark or a whale. I feel around and open the side of the orange tent which forms a roof over the life raft, protecting me from the intense tropical sun during the day, and the rain storms at night, but it’s too dark to see anything. There must be clouds overhead, because I can’t see the stars. In fact, and I know this because I try it, I can’t even see my hand in front of my face. I listen, hoping to hear the tell-tale whoosh and whup of a whale breathing out and then back in again, but the only sound is that of the waves lapping gently against the side of the life raft. I zip the flap closed again, trying to shut out whatever it is that’s outside, and stare down at the floor. It’s as dark in here as it is outside so I know I can’t see anything, but I stare nonetheless, my eyes searching the darkness in the vain hope of seeing something that will tell me what’s underneath me.

I feel the ripple once more, and then I feel the floor of the life raft lift as if something is pushing it up from below. Whatever it is, it doesn’t seem to be losing interest and if anything it’s growing bolder. A few seconds later, something bumps against the side of the life raft, hard enough to make it shudder and throw me sideways onto the floor. I can feel the panic start to rise inside me, but I don’t break out into a cold sweat. At first, I wonder why; then I realise I’m too dehydrated. My body is shutting down all non-essential reactions to save what little water it has left, and that includes sweating, no matter how scared I am.

For a moment there’s silence, then I hear something slap against the rubber. It’s forceful and sends a shiver across the life raft, almost as if the raft itself is shaking with fear. I try to swallow, but I can’t, again because of the dehydration and my body’s response to it. I feel the floor of the life raft lift a second time as whatever it is pushes up from below once more. If it’s doing that with its head, then the creature which is stalking me in the darkness is truly massive, because I can tell by the movement that its several feet across. I clutch to the side of the raft, not knowing if I should try to move out of the way, or remain as still as possible. Eventually, the floor flattens out again and the creature moves away. Only then do I realise I’ve been holding my breath and I let it out with an audible sigh. A second later, the creature hits the life raft again: this time it’s not a gentle, exploratory push, it’s a full on attack, as if the creature is trying to break through the rubber floor. Somehow it must be able to sense my presence within the life raft and it’s determined to get me, but the rubber holds, thwarting its intent.

The seconds slowly tick by, and nothing more happens. They turn into minutes and still the creature hasn’t returned. Maybe it’s given up, maybe it’s realised it’s too difficult to get me and has gone off to seek easier prey. Maybe … My thoughts are interrupted by something ramming the side of the life raft, pushing it through the water as if it were attached to a powerful engine. I cling on for dear life, worried I might be tipped into the water, but thankfully this doesn’t happen. Instead, after what seems like an age, the life raft starts to slow, and then stop. My heart is pounding, but above the noise this is making in my ears, I can hear something else. It takes me a moment to realise that it’s the sound of air leaking from the life raft. Desperately, I feel around in the dark, trying to find the hole, but I can’t. All around me, I can feel the life raft getting softer and softer as it slowly deflates and sinks lower and lower into the water. Again, the creature pushes up from below, causing the rubber floor to bend and deform beneath me. It seems to be searching for me, trying to work out exactly where I am, and how it can get to me.

I cannot see it, but I sense intelligence in its actions. Not human intelligence, but something colder, more analytical and more predatory. This is a creature that’s used to getting its own way. I feel the first wave slop over the side of the life raft; it won’t be long before it sinks and I end up in the water. I unzip the flap in the roof again so that I won’t be trapped inside as the raft continues to collapse around me, but I’m unwilling to abandon it quite yet. It might not offer me much protection, but it’s better than nothing and outside in the inky blackness, it will be just me and the creature. Humans are used to being top dog, but out here, to it, I’m nothing more than prey. It bumps against the side of the life raft again, impatient to get at the tasty morsel it knows is inside. I try to think of something I can do, but my brain has frozen. I know I’m going to die, and my brain can’t cope with it. The creature rams the raft again, and I hear more air hissing out into the night. There’s now so little of it left in the raft that it’s not much more than a flaccid mass of rubber that’s barely keeping itself above the waves. I can hear the creature circling me, splashing the water with its tail as it turns. While I can’t see anything in the dark, it seems to have no trouble knowing exactly where I am. It’s toying with me, and we both know it. All I can do is hope that when the end comes it’s quick, but somehow I know that this isn’t the end the creature has planned for me. Somehow, I know it wants to make me suffer. The very thought of what’s going to happen makes me want to be sick, but I have nothing to bring up, so all I can do is dry heave. The longer the end is drawn out, the more I lose control of my body, the fear of what’s to come is tearing me apart, ripping at my very soul.

I hear myself yelling at the creature, alternating between begging with it to leave me alone and urging it to hurry up and get it over with. Unsurprisingly, the creature doesn’t respond, it just continues to circle. It’s in total control, and I know it’s the one who will decide when I die. All I can do is wait, cowering in the darkness, trembling with fear, until it decides that I am finished. I try to block out what’s going to happen to me, but I can’t. I can hear screaming, and even though I know it must be me, it seems like it’s coming from somewhere other than my own body. I feel the life raft finally start to sink beneath me and I claw my way out just as it disappears into the depths. Instinctively, I find myself treading water, but I don’t know why. The creature brushes against me, and I can feel the roughness of its skin tear at my flesh as it passes, but still I cannot see it. Death is coming for me and yet I’m blind to it. Somehow this makes it worse. If I could see it, I could prepare, but I can’t. I don’t know why, but suddenly a calmness settles over me and I lie back, floating on the surface, arms held out, almost as if I’m offering myself to the creature, giving myself to it as if I’m some sort of sacrifice to a god I don’t believe in. At least this way, death will be on my terms and not its, and I will meet my fate face on, with open arms. I know I won’t survive for long, but at least my death will be my own.

***

This isn’t quite my usual type of short story, particularly as it lacks even the slightest hint of the undead, but it’s an idea that has been floating around in my head for sometime and I finally had time to get it down on paper. I don’t know quite where it came from, but I liked the idea of a lone sailor being stalked by something unseen that’s lurking in the darkness beneath him. It provides an interesting perspective from which to explore the concept of our own mortality. Unseen, it haunts us, just as the creature in the story haunts the lost sailor, lurking in the darkness that is our future. Yet, we shouldn’t necessarily fear it, for a life lived in fear is no life at all. Instead, we should embrace it and use the knowledge that we will, one day, die to ensure that we make the most of whatever time we have left available to us: enjoy life, do good, be nice to others, make sure you leave the world a better place than when you arrived in it, and don’t let the fear of what fate might have in store for you get it the way of living your life the way you wish to live it right now. Happy Friday!



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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.

New Moon – A Flash Fiction Zombie Story

9 Oct

I stare out into the night, but it’s pitch black. While the sky is clear, it’s a new moon, so there’s no light to be had apart from the distance star-shine, and that’s so faint it’s of no help what-so-ever. When the moon is full, or even just a narrow crescent, you can see them as they creep towards you under cover of darkness, the light glinting off their sallow, sagging flesh, making it seem like they’re glowing from within. I know it’s just a trick of the light, but it still sends a shiver down my spine every time I see it. Even though they’re dead, it seems they still have some intelligence. They know we can see them in the daylight and they lie low, hiding in dark, damp places waiting for nightfall before they emerge. When the sun drops below the western horizon, the main sense that keeps us safe, our eyesight, fails us, and we are rendered blind as they are. This levels the playing field and makes it easier for them to catch us by surprise. The darker the night, the more actively they roam, moving amongst the trees and across the open ground, hunting us no matter how hard we try to hide, and nights when the moon is new are the worst. Those are the nights when they swarm through the inky blackness in unimaginable numbers, wearing the night like an invisibility cloak; they attack our defences, trying to overwhelm us, pushing forward, searching for a weak spot where they can break through. They attack in small groups, swiftly and silently. If the defences hold, they disappear back into the darkness to regroup before we have a chance to kill them; if the defences don’t, they make it inside. When they do, they howl with delight as they surge through, drawing more from far and wide. We know we have mere seconds to neutralise them and restore the barricades before we’re overrun, and yet we have to do it without being able to see our hands in front of our faces, let alone each other or those who are attacking us. These are the nights we dread, and yet they come, regular as clockwork, once every twenty-eight and a bit days. We don’t need to mark them off on a calendar, we can just watch the moon expand and contract as the inevitable night of pure darkness approaches yet again, knowing what is coming, knowing that each month we’ll be lucky to make it through that moonless night unharmed. Every time the new moon comes, our numbers shrink. Sometimes we lose only one or two, at other times it’s too many to count. We’re being whittled down, new moon by new moon and it seems there’s nothing we can do to stop it. How many more we will survive, I don’t know, but one thing is certain. Eventually, a new moon will come which sees the last of us wiped out, and when the sun rises the following morning, it will shine on a world where were we are gone, and all that will be left of humanity is them.



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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.

Stairwell – A Flash Fiction Zombie Story

25 Sep

There’s a noise above me, or is there? I know they’re coming up behind me, chasing me, but fear strikes deep inside me as I realise they might be ahead of me too. I look up, craning my neck, but I can’t see anything. The stairs twist and turn, and just as I can’t see those coming up from below, I can’t see if there are any in front of me. Am I running towards more danger, even as I try to escape from the danger which is following me already? I’d pause and listen, but if I do that I’m dead because those who are pursuing me will catch me and rip me limb from limb. I know this because I’ve seen then do it to others. That was when I started running, somehow ending up in the stairwell where I’d started to climb. I began on five and now I’m twenty floors up with maybe another fifteen to go. I’ve given up trying to get out. The doors which provide access at every floor only open from the other side, designed to let people out in an emergency and not let them in. This means I’m trapped on the stairs with only two options: up or down. I can hear the howls and roars of my pursuers echoing up from below, bouncing off the bare concrete walls, disorienting me, robbing me of the ability to tell which direction they’re coming from. Why on earth did I choose up? Was it some sort of innate instinct that told me up was best? Maybe it was a lingering primal urge from when we used to live in the trees that made me want to climb in order to escape. Whatever the reason, I know now that it was the wrong decision. I should have gone down. Why the hell didn’t I go down? I could have been out on the street by now. But then again, would the street be any safer? Surely they’d be out there, too? I reach yet another landing. The number on the wall says twenty-one. My lungs are screaming from the exertion, my legs aching, but I know I need to keep going. Now I’m here, I have no choice. I glance upwards. Was that a movement I saw? A flickering shadow indicating that they’re up there, too, waiting for me? Or was it just my imagination? I’m running on fear and little else. My mind’s racing, but I can’t think straight. I look backwards. From the sound coming up from below, I can tell they’re closing in on me, but I can’t tell how close they are. They don’t seem to tire, they don’t pause, even for a moment. As I slow with every step, they seem to speed up. I can’t see them, but I know they’re there; I can hear their feet pounding on the stairs. I start climbing again, no longer even knowing where I’m going or what I’m going to do once I get there. All I can concentrate on is trying to escape, on keeping them out of sight, hoping against hope they’ll finally give up, even though I know in my heart that they won’t. I hear the noise again. I can tell that it’s closer, but I still can’t tell where it’s coming from. What can I do, but keep climbing, hoping that somehow I’ll manage to escape, even if I know that I won’t? It’s either that or I give up, and there’s something embedded in my very soul that just won’t let me do that. So onwards I go, knowing I’ll keep running, keep climbing until I can go no further. With no way out of the stairwell, what else can I do?



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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.

ZeeTech Incorporated – A Dystopian Short Story About The Dark Side Of Corporate Power

10 Apr

‘So this is what it’s all about.’ I picked up the thin black tile which had been placed in front of me and flexed it back and forth, watching the numbers on the meter it was connected to change as I did so.

The man smiled at me. ‘It sure is.’

I watched the numbers again. It was impressive, electricity being generated with no moving parts, nothing to wear out, nothing to break. Yet there was an obvious problem. ‘But that’s hardly anything. You couldn’t even electrocute an ant with that.’

‘Ahhh yes.’ I saw a glint in the man’s eyes. ‘But it’s all about scale. That’s just a few square centimetres. Imagine how much you’d get if you had a square kilometre of the stuff.’

I did a quick mental calculation. ‘That would be enough to power an entire city.’

‘Now scale it up again to 100 square k.’ His eyes gleamed with anticipation.

I thought about it for a moment. ‘That could power the whole country!’

‘Exactly. And with no moving parts, there’d be almost no running costs once it’s all set up. We could under cut almost everyone else: solar, gas, coal, wind, nuclear; they’d all be way more expensive. We’d have a complete monopoly on power. We’d make a fortune.’

I could understand his enthusiasm, yet I could see a problem. ‘In theory, yes, but you seem to be forgetting something. To generate the electricity, you need to have something bending the tiles.’

‘I know, but we’ve got the perfect solution to that, too. We use people.’

I shifted uneasily. ‘Then you’d have to pay them. No one’s going to work for free.’

He grinned. ‘Now, that’s where you’re wrong.’ The man turned and headed for the door. ‘Come, I’ll show you.’

I followed him out into the narrow corridor and down a flight of stairs to where there was a security door with a yellow biohazard warning sticker on it. The man pulled out an ID card and swiped it through the reader. The door buzzed and he pushed it open. Seeing my hesitation he laughed. ‘Don’t worry, there’s nothing dangerous in here, not for you at any rate.’

Nervously I stepped inside and followed him as he set off once more until we came to a glass window set into the wall. He stopped in front of it and pointed inside. ‘There. That’s where we get the power. We created the technology ourselves and we own the patent. No one else can do it; just us.’

Curious, I peered into through the re-enforced glass and saw to my horror that there was an elderly man shuffling around inside. He was naked and hairless, and there was a strange green tinge to his skin. The floor was covered in the same black material I’d been shown upstairs. A digital display on the wall showed how much electricity was being generated by his movements.

I stared, aghast. ‘You can’t use old people like that!’

The man smiled at me. ‘That’s the beauty of it. He’s not just old: he’s dead!’

I recoiled. ‘But if he’s dead, how’s he still moving?’

‘A simple little microchip placed on the back of the neck, sending signals into his spinal column. Get it in the right place, and program it correctly, and you can get a body to do most simple tasks. There’s a tiny solar panel on it which gives it all the power it needs. You need to get them fresh, of course, before rigour mortis kicks in, but after that it’s pretty easy. You irradiate them to kill off all the bacteria in their body, then fill them with a special fluid which stops them rotting and which can carry oxygen to the muscles. Next, you inject this strain of algae we came up with just under their skin. It makes them look a little odd, but it lives there quite happily, generating enough oxygen and sugar from light to keep the muscles going. Humans don’t really need much when all they’re going to be doing is shuffling around.’

I was horrified, not just by what I was being shown, but also by the excited tone being used to describe it. ‘But surely it’s illegal to do that with a corpse …’

‘It used to be, then last year we got the law changed. Cost us a lot of money and favours, and it was hard to keep it quiet, but it was worth it.’ He pointed through the glass. ‘This is now an officially acceptable way to dispose of human remains. It’s called a living burial. Sounds nice doesn’t it? That’s why we chose the name. It’s just two words slipped in as an amendment, but it means we can do this to any body we want as long as we have the next of kin’s permission.’

I frowned. ‘How on earth did you get that?’

‘Well, in his case, his body was donated for research, but we’ve got others; come I’ll show you.’ With that he turned and moved further down the corridor. As he walked, he carried on talking. ‘Remember that other law which was changed last year? You know, the one that caused all those protests and riots, but that was passed anyway?’

I nodded. The Body Ownership Law was a simple enough piece of legislation, but it’s implications were mind-bending. It’s supporters claimed its intension was to provide more organs for medical transplants and research, a righteous enough aim, but it seemed overly heavy-handed. under this law, the moment you died, your body passed into state ownership. If your family had enough money, they could buy it back, but if they didn’t, then the state could do anything it wanted with it. In effect, it meant that after death, only the rich now had the right to their own bodies; for the poor it was the final degradation after a lifetime of poverty.

‘You see, we were behind that, too. We’ve got the contract for disposing of the bodies the government doesn’t, and that’s most of them. At the moment, we’re still cremating them and sending the ashes back to the families, but as we get the facilities built, ones like this one, we’re shifting over to living burials.’

He paused to swipe his card through another security door before opening it and stepping through. ‘Here, you can see for yourself.’

I followed him and gasped. I was standing on a metal gantry that lined the walls of a room which was about half the size of a football pitch. Bright lights shone down onto a sea of naked humans, each with the same strange green hue as the old man I’d seen minutes before. I could only see the small chips sticking from the necks of the nearest ones, but I presumed they’d all been fitted with them because there was a constant milling as they shuffled around, bumping into each other and off the walls.

I ran my eyes over them: Men and women, young and old, black, white, Asian. All naked, their hair removed, their skin green by the algae they’d been injected with. Each had a bar code stamped across its back. The man explained its purpose. ‘Just in case we ever needed to identify a specific individual. You know, sometimes a rich person’s body ends up here by accident, sometimes it takes a family a while to get enough money together to buy a loved one’s body back. We need to be able to return them if that happens. After all, you wouldn’t want a relative to end up here if they didn’t have to, would you?.’

I looked back at the milling people. Some were so fresh, they looked like they could be sleep-walking, but others had clearly been in the room for a long time. These were the ones with missing fingers, or even arms, snapped off when they collided with the walls or each other. Some had other wounds, too, and these oozed the thick blue liquid which had been used to replace their blood. A few had ragged and roughly sewn up incisions where organs had been removed before the bodies had been sent here for disposal, but all had the same dead, lifeless eyes and slowly nodding head, set in motion as their bodies lurched around aimlessly.

They were so densely packed that I could only catch the occasional glimpse of the black tiles, just like the one I’d held in my hands, which lined the floor and the lowest five feet of the walls. High above them, a large display showed exactly how much electricity was being generated by these re-animated corpses and it was phenomenal. My companion saw me looking at the meter. ‘It’s enough to power this entire neighbourhood!’ There was excitement in his voice. ‘This is our new vision for cemeteries for the 21st Century. Up above, we have a nice green area, with a few trees and plaques and things like that for the relatives to visit, but they won’t know that below, we have rooms like this, hundreds of them, all generating electricity which we can then sell cheaper than anyone else and still have massive profit margins. And there’s no carbon dioxide produced, that means we can say it’s green so our customers get a happy feeling from thinking their doing something good for the world.

‘Once we get a room like this up and running, there’s almost no on-going costs since we generate vastly more electricity than is needed to power the lights. We need to change the occasional bulb and of course they,’ he waved his arm in the general direction of the mass of people shuffling below us, ‘wear out eventually, but it’s easy enough to throw in some more to replace them. We don’t even need to remove the old ones because … well look.’ He pointed to where the badly-damaged corpse a teenage boy shuffled unsteadily as it was jostled by those surrounding it. After one collision too many, he fell, but none of those around him noticed; they just kept on shuffling, buffeting his body within their feet. Within minutes, the teenager’s head had become detached from the body and was being kicked around the room by the others as if they were playing a grotesque game of football. I looked back at the body: it was quickly being broken apart by the constant movement all around it. ‘That’s the beauty of the system, no matter what, they just keep on going until they fall apart, and that can take years. The whole floors on a slight slope and we can flush it out whenever it looks like things down there are getting a bit choked up with broken parts. Each time we do that, we strain out the chips so we can re-use them and all the rest is ground up and used as fertiliser in the gardens up on the surface.

‘Now we’ve proved the technology, and we’ve got all the laws we need in place and all the government contracts to supply the bodies, we’re ready to go nationwide.’ He turned to me. ‘That’s where you come in. We’re offering a small number of hand-picked investors the chance to get in on the ground floor, and that’s why we invited you here for this exclusive behind the scenes tour. We want to offer you the opportunity to invest.’

I stared out at the horrific vision for the future which ZeeTech Incorporated were trying to sell. A vision where only the rich were allowed to rest in peace after they died. The rest would be forced to work on, continuing to line the pockets of people who already had too much money while getting nothing in return. It was a modern form of slavery. but yet it wasn’t illegal because the dead have no rights. It was all being carried out behind the scenes: all the public would ever see would be the well-maintained and landscaped grounds above, they’d never be allowed in here; they’d never get to see how the bodies of their loved ones were being exploited for corporate gain. I could see the company was going to make a fortune, as long as they could keep what they were actually doing with the bodies they were contracted to dispose of hidden from the public.

I smiled and shook the man’s hand, knowing what my role in the company’s future would be as I heard a voice in my well-hidden ear piece. They’d received my transmission and they had already posted the video on the web. I knew exactly what the camera hidden in my left contact lens had captured during my tour of the facility, and now, so would everyone else.

***

This short story grew out of a previous post on new technologies that could help you survive in a post-apocalyptic world. Here, I first introduced the subject of ‘kinetic pavements’ and how they could be used to build a zombie power station.

It was meant to be a fun little throw away idea, but for some reason it stayed with me, and gradually developed into a much darker critique of western civilisation and how much control the rich and the corporations have over the rest of us. What, I wondered, would happen if they started seeing our bodies not as something we own, but as a commodity which they could exploit for commercial gain?

At some point, I’m going to develop this into a full length novel – something along the lines of Coma meets All The President’s Men, mixed with elements of Spares. When this will happen, I’m not too sure, but it’s an idea I keep coming back to again and again.



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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.