Tag Archives: Short Zombie Story

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.

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.

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.



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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 Day A Zombie Came Into The Playground – A Dark Tale For Young Readers

11 Feb

‘Mrs MacKay, there’s a zombie in the playground!’

The teacher sitting at the front of the classroom didn’t even look up, let alone turn so she could see out of the windows behind her desk; she just kept scribbling away with her red pen.

Donald tried again, ‘Mrs MacKay …’

She cleared her throat. ‘I heard you the first time, Donald.’ She spoke with a dismissive and condescending tone. ‘You’re already being kept in for telling tall tales; don’t make it any worse for yourself!’

Beyond the teacher, Donald could see into the sunny school yard where a rotting figure was shambling around, chasing the children who, only moments earlier, had been enjoying the lunch break he’d lost as a punishment. He didn’t know where the zombie had come from, but he knew this was no figment of his imagination, it was definitely there now. ‘But Mrs MacKay, there really is a zombie in the playground. It’s chasing people; it’s trying to catch them and eat their brains.’

Still the teacher didn’t look up from her marking. ‘On Monday, you said you saw a werewolf, and that wasn’t true, was it?’ Her hair was tied up in a tight bun which wobbled ever so slightly as she spoke.

Remembering his mistake, Donald felt his cheeks turn a deep crimson. ‘But Miss, I wasn’t lying; when I shouted out, I really did think it was a werewolf.’

The teacher drew a large red cross at the bottom of the page she’d been reading and turned it over. ‘And what did it turn out to be?’

Donald shifted uncomfortably in his seat and mumbled, ‘It was just Mr Smith, the sports teacher.’

She turned another page. ‘And why did you think he was a werewolf?’

Donald let out a resigned sigh, ‘he’d grown a beard over the summer holidays.’ As he spoke, he watched what was happening in the playground. He knew he wasn’t wrong this time: this really was a zombie. As it continued to stagger around, Donald could see it was too slow to catch any of the kids. In fact, it was moving so slowly that the only way it was going to catch anyone was if they didn’t see it coming until it was too late.

The teacher closed the jotter she’d been marking and leant backwards. ‘And on Tuesday, you saw a pterodactyl swooping down into the playground, trying to snatch one of the kindergarteners from the sand pit.’

Donald kept his eyes fixed on the zombie. ‘I was sure it was a pterodactyl, I thought they were in danger; I had to say something.’

‘And what was it really?’

Donald started to answer, but the teacher interrupted him, ‘Look at me when you’re talking to me.’

Donald shifted his gaze towards the teacher’s narrow, pointy face which always looked like she’d just sucked on a lemon. ‘A black plastic bag the wind had blown into the air.’ As soon as he’d answered, his eyes shot back towards zombie as it stumbled around the now empty school yard, all the children having fled to safety.

‘And remind me what you thought you saw on Wednesday?’ There was a scraping noise as the teacher pushed her chair away from the desk and stood up. She paced back and forth, never taking her eyes off Donald as she waited for him to answer. The sudden movement caught the zombie’s attention and he started to lumber towards the windows, his arms reaching out in front of him.

Donald could barely tear his eyes away from the approaching monster. ‘I saw a mummy.’

‘No, you saw Miss Walker, the maths teacher; she’d had a car accident and had a bandage round her head. I’m telling you, Donald, you’ve got to stop letting your imagination run away with itself. It’ll only get you into trouble.’

Mrs Mackay rested her bony bottom on the window sill, keeping her back to the yard. Behind her, the zombie moved ever nearer. Donald could now make out its dull lifeless eyes, its sallow, sunken cheeks, the way its skin was peeling away from its left forearms. ‘But Mrs MacKay, I’m not making it up and I’m not mistaken this time; there really is a zombie in the playground!’

She folded her arms, a stern look on her face. ‘Just like you were sure there were aliens trying to land on the playing fields yesterday?’

The zombie was getting closer and closer with each faltering step, and Donald was becoming more and more agitated at his teacher’s refusal to believe him. ‘That’s different, I just got confused. I really thought it was aliens.’

‘Yes, I’m sure you did, yet it was only a helicopter flying over the school to take some pictures for the local newspaper. And what about the vampire you saw this morning? The one you were shouting about and disrupting everyone else in the class in the middle of a very important test; remember? The reason you’re in this room right now rather than getting to play outside with your friends. What did that turn out to be?’

‘The headmaster.’ Donald knew he’d been wrong, but he tried to defend his actions. ‘But the way his gown was blowing in the wind, he looked like a vampire.’

The zombie was now only a few feet from Mrs Mackay, its rotting fingers almost touching the thin pane of glass that was all that separated the classroom from the school yard. Its head loomed over the teacher’s shoulder, its jaws open, revealing blackened and blood-stained teeth.

‘And now, you’re saying there’s a zombie in the playground?’ The teacher leaned back against the window, shaking her head and tutting loudly. ‘Tell me, why should I believe you, this time?’

‘Because you have to, Miss, it’ll get you if you don’t. I know I was wrong about the werewolf, and the pterodactyl, and the mummy, and about the aliens landing on the playing fields, and the vampire, but I’m right about the zombie. Just turn round and you’ll see for yourself!’

Mrs MacKay narrowed her beady little eyes and stared at Donald over the top of her half-moon glasses. ‘Have you ever heard of the story about the boy who cried wolf?’

‘Yes, Miss, but that’s different. I wasn’t doing it for fun, I really did think the monsters were there.’ Donald sprang to his feet, unable to see why his teacher couldn’t understand the difference. ‘I really did think we were in danger. All I was trying to do was to warn everyone, to keep them safe.’

‘You know, I almost believe you, but when are you going to grow up and realise that monsters don’t exist? The dinosaurs died out millions of years ago, didn’t they? So there can’t be pterodactyls flying around now, can there?’ She’d uncrossed her arms and was now leaning forward, waggling a finger tipped with a claw-like nail at Donald. ‘You need not get it into your head, there’s no such thing as werewolves, or vampires, or aliens.’ Misses MacKay drew her skinny frame up to its full five foot eleven inches, trying to appear as intimidating as possible. ‘And there’s certainly no such thing as zombies!’

No sooner were the words out of her mouth than the zombie smashed through the glass and dragged her, kicking and screaming, from the classroom. Donald had done all he could to warn her, and he couldn’t help thinking that it wasn’t his fault that she was now zombie food. All she needed to do was give him the benefit of the doubt this time rather than assuming he must be lying because he’d got things wrong before. Teachers were always doing that, judging children from their past mistakes, not realising that they could change. After this morning, Donald had sworn to himself that he wouldn’t shout out again, not unless he was sure he was right. It just so happened that a real monster had turned up a few hours later and she had assumed that, yet again, he was seeing things that weren’t really there. Well, she was the one who’d ended up dead because of it and Donald felt she only had herself to blame.

At that moment, the classroom door flew open. There stood the headmaster, his black gown billowing out behind him, again bearing a striking resemblance to the vampire in the film Donald had watched the night before when he should have been tucked up in bed.

‘What’s all this racket?’ The headmaster spotted the broken glass littering the floor and turned towards where Donald was still standing in the middle of the room. ‘Did you break that window, boy?’

‘It wasn’t me, Sir, I didn’t do it.’ Donald saw the headmaster roll his eyes in response as he strode over to shattered window. Glass crunched under his size twelve shoes as he turned to face Donald, and his voice boomed out accusingly. ‘But there’s no one else here, boy, it must have been you!’

Behind the headmaster, Donald saw the zombie rise up, his teacher’s blood dripping from its face. He smiled at the headmaster, knowing what was going to happen next if the headmaster didn’t believe what he was about to say and thinking that it would serve him right.

‘No, Sir, it was the zombie in the playground …’

***

This is my first attempt at writing something in the zombie genre specifically aimed at children (late primary school age perhaps? or maybe early secondary school? I’m not really too sure). It’s a long time since I was a child, so I’m not too sure how well it would actually go down with younger readers these days, but it’s certainly the type of story I would have liked to read as a kid.

If you happen to be able to get your hands on a young reader or two who might be interested in this dark little tale, I’d be keen to get some feedback on what they think of it (after all, children are the best judges of what writing for children should be like). If you want a copy you can easily print out (or indeed put on an eReader), you can download a PDF of the story from here. I’m aware that this story probably has a particularly British slant (do school kids in other countries write in jotters?), but hopefully most of it is fairly cross-cultural.

In case there is anyone out there wondering about the title, it seems that one of the strongest memories almost every British kid has of being in primary school is the day a dog wandered into the playground, and the fuss it caused (this might just be a British thing, but then again, maybe it’s not). My own memories of an event like this was, indeed, the starting point for this story, and what might happen if it had been a zombie rather than just a stray dog.



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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.

Waiting Up For Santa Claus: A Cautionary Tale

23 Dec

This is the first of two festive zombie stories which I’ll be posting here over the next couple of days. If you’ve been with this blog from its very early days, you may have read this one when I originally posted it here last year. However, many of you will not have been following my work for that long, so I figured it might be worth re-posting it for those who haven’t come across it before. This is also one of the 23 stories which features in my recently released anthology titled Zombies Can’t Swim And Other Tales Of The Undead, so if you want to read it offline, you can purchase the Kindle ebook edition, which is only $0.99, and read it from there.

Tomorrow’s story will be a brand new festive tale which tells of an office Christmas party that takes a sudden, and unexpected, turn for the worse …



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.



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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.