A Zombie Christmas: Better Late Than Undead (A Work in Progress)

I’m not sure where this one is going, but since it’s been forever since I posted anything to my blog, I decided to give you a taste of what kind of stuff is rattling around in my head.  Enjoy!

 

She watched the snowflakes gently float to the ground, melting instantly as they touched the warm water oozing through the gutter. The air temperature was just below freezing for the first time in months, despite the promise of an ominously warm Christmas. Ever since Climate Change was finally regarded as an inevitability, the seasons had changed so drastically that snow in December was an exception rather than the rule. Evelyn was old enough to remember the words to White Christmas, even though she could no longer recall the melody.

Trudging through the barren countryside, Evelyn was not as vigilant as she once had been. She had lived a long life against tremendous odds to reach the age of thirty-four, and now considered this to be the twilight of her human existence. All that was left was the transformation. She just hoped that it didn’t hurt.

A man had once told her that humans were actually beings of energy hiding in a meat suit, that the transformation would free her, if she let it. Evelyn didn’t stick around long enough to find out if he was telling the truth or just trying to get close enough to rape her. That had been a lifetime ago, just past her nineteenth birthday, before the western seaboard of what had been the United States slipped into the sea – a result of a catastrophic earthquake culminating in a tidal wave of ungodly proportions due to rising sea levels.

Evelyn laughed out loud, unconcerned by who – or what – may hear her. Those people had been so sure that Climate Change had been a hoax all the way up until the sharks were knocking on their windows. She had known better. It hadn’t been much of a loss since that area had experienced more years of drought than anywhere else. The water did eventually return to its pre-tsunami level, but it had been just the slap in the face the deniers had needed to get them on board.

Not that it made any difference in the end.
* * *
“Unhhhh…” she groaned. All she wanted him to do is to carve the damn brain. It took forever to catch a fresh one of a decent size and she didn’t want it to be stale by the time the family dinner was over.

“Gaaaaa…” he responded murkily. He would cut the damn brain when he was good and ready. Jesus, didn’t he have enough to do, keeping the eyeball martinis fresh, and watching the game? He barely had time to put his foot up before she was squawking at him to do something else.

She lurched angrily toward him, losing a fingernail in the process.  Great! Just what she needed! Another fingernail gone, and here in the middle of a party. She would have been embarrassed if she wasn’t so dead.

He saw her lumbering his way and dragged his foot to the floor to stand. “Urrraahhh…” he puffed through the rotted stumps that used to be his teeth. In his peculiar hitching motion – owing to the loss of his left foot to the lawn sprinkler when he was newly dead – he rambled over to the rickety card table proudly displaying the main course, still partially encased in its previous owner.  Grabbing the cleaver caked in dried blood from being used to procure dinner, he threw a sour look her way and slammed the knife down into flesh. The pale salmon matter cleaved easily and the steel imbedded in the cardboard below. “Aaak” he quipped and snatched the severed piece for himself.

His actions had attracted the others and soon the sounds of grunting and slurping filled the small cabin until nothing else existed.

Kai’s Inquisition: The Blight of Shaddowfall, Season 1, Episode 1

Published on Jun 30, 2014

Author: Tawn Krakowski
Narrator: Tawn Krakowski

Kai Amari embarks upon her first mission as an Inquisitor of Naderu, but what she discovers threatens everything she holds sacred.

The only survivor of a ship swallowed by a sudden squall, Kai Amari was plucked from the Sevestrian Ocean by servants of Naderu. Her benefactors groomed her to be an Inquisitor of the faith, so that she might make use of her inner rage to bring justice to enemies of the dualistic nature deity. Armed with only a long bow, a slender, unadorned trident, and her wits, Kai begins a journey for which she can only hope she is prepared.

K is for Keraunophobia, The Fear of Lightning

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The wind had picked up in the last hour.  What was once a friendly ruffling of the boy’s sandy, blonde hair quickly became an insistent tugging at his clothes, almost shoving him forward as he hiked back to camp, as if the gusts were imploring him to seek shelter.  As he walked, he looked up through the bare branches of the Spring trees, and noted how the billowy, white clouds that had adorned the sky not long ago, were now piling up, and darkening into an irritable grey.

“Come on, son,” his father urged, his tone upbeat but strained.  “We’re almost there.  We’ll bug out and ride out the storm in the car.”

The boy didn’t respond.  His breath came in noisy, short, bursts from exertion and anxiety.  He adjusted the heavy pack to more evenly distribute the weight on his shoulders, his wide, hazel eyes never straying far from the darkness gathering on the horizon.

“Dad?” he panted.  “Are we…  Are we gonna be okay?”

The man abruptly stopped.  He spun around, crouched down, and held his child’s shoulders reassuringly.  Blue eyes locked with hazel.  “Yes, son.  I would never let anything happen to you.  I promise.”  He patted the 9-year-old on the head.  “We’ll be warm and dry in the car before you know it.  Now, get a move on.  We don’t have all day.”

The boy’s stomach tightened with panic in spite of the comforting words.  As he followed his father along the trail, a flash abruptly split the black, roiling clouds marching relentlessly toward them, making him jump.  He bit back his scream, but he knew he wouldn’t be able to contain it forever.

As far back as he could remember, lightning had sparked an uncontrollable fear within him.  He had spent many a storm hunkered in the dark recesses of his bedroom closet, cocooned within his soft “woobie,” rocking and crying as white-hot lighting arced across the sky.  Now, there was nowhere for him to hide.  No blanket with which he could block out the deadly zigzags parading across the heavens.  Nothing that could stop the lightning from taking him.

The storm clouds had almost reached the pair by the time their campsite came into view.  With a concerned glance at the sky, his father instructed the boy to go wait in the car.  “Oh, and James?  Your woobie is under the back seat.  I’ll be right there.”

Relief, gratitude and love flooded through James, forcing the fear to retreat just a little.  He threw his arms around his father’s waist in a rare show of emotion just as chilly, fat, drops of rain began to pepper the dirt around them.

His father returned the hug only long enough to wordlessly remind James of his promise.  He would be safe.

M is for Merinthophobia, The Fear of Being Bound

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“This is what you get for listening to your hormones,” she growled to herself. Rolling her eyes, she loudly proclaimed in a mocking falsetto, “Oh, Astrid! It will be so romantic! Just follow that gorgeous, complete stranger to some god-forsaken jungle teeming with all manner of dangerous creatures, and I’m sure all of your most depraved sexual fantasies will come true. Take a chance for once in your boring, little life!”

She let out a strangled sob. What could have possessed her? On impulse, she had followed the excruciatingly sexy man who would have looked equally at home at a surf competition or behind the wheel of a Maserati. He was polished, but with a dangerous, wild aura, as if he were not only up for anything, but prepared to lead the way straight to Orgasm City. If he had introduced himself as “Bond, James Bond” she wouldn’t have been surprised at all. In fact, she probably would have responded with a heartfelt, panty-soaked, plea to be allowed to stroke his 9mm semi-automatic.

But none of those things came to pass. Instead, she had boarded the bus–bound for Hell for all she knew–in some sort of trance and settled into the uncomfortable, ratty seat directly behind him. As she stared like an idiot, the sandy-blonde, blue-eyed god had begun speaking–in Portuguese?– with the man next to him. The conversation grew soft and heated until it was silenced with the kind of kiss only lovers shared.

Red-faced, Astrid stayed on the bus long after she should have gotten off, finally shuffling down the stairs in the middle of nowhere with nothing but the clothes on her back, her clutch containing her passport and some local currency, and her trampled pride. Although she was obviously a tourist, the driver must have assumed Astrid knew where she was going.  He didn’t even watch her traipse off into the rainforest before spewing dirt and rocks from the spinning tires in his haste to be done with his day.

Initially, she traveled with some confidence through the impossibly green vegetation, certain there would be a village where she could spend the night and pick up a bus ride back to the capitol. But it wasn’t long before the seriousness of her situation began to dawn on her. She was lost in the South American rainforest, and not another soul knew she was missing in the first place.

Astrid initially tamped down the panic crawling up her throat by reminding herself that she had experience camping in the woods. Unfortunately, the woods of Northern Illinois were nothing like this. There, the trees were farther apart, and the flat, even ground was covered in a soft layer of leaves, pine needles, and moss. Here, the flora fought for resources by coating every surface imaginable, creating a living maze of trees, ferns, moss, fungi, and vines. The feel of the oppressive humidity, the screams of monkeys and tropical birds, even the cloying scent of the jungle blooms hammered the differences home for her. If she didn’t know better, she would think this was another planet entirely.

It was the vines, though, that finally got to her. The thick, emerald ropes hung from branches like serpents slithering out of the canopy.  Each time the wind swept through, a sound–dry and sinuous–brushed against her ears, making her cringe as if slapped and ball her hands into fists. Her mind tormented her, imagining the vines as a single creature slowly surrounding her, intent on wrapping her in its tight coils. Binding her. Squeezing until there was nothing left.

They were everywhere. Coiled on the ground, entangling her ankles. Wound around trunks, snatching at her wrists. Swinging malevolently from above, grasping for her throat. She began to feel trapped, weighed down by her now overwhelming terror. The hope of adventure and passion that had filled her with a reckless abandon only a few hours before now crystallized into a frozen dread.

Crushing helplessness drove her to her knees, sobbing. Her only goal now was to escape the vines, but they had somehow encircled her with a writhing curtain of ropes. The circle tightened, sliding ever closer, weaving in and around as it snaked toward her, around her, over her. A breeze swept through the jungle, whipping the vines into a frenzy as they constricted around her limbs, binding her so tightly that she could no longer breathe.

“No…,” she exhaled as the jungle swallowed her whole.

 

L is for Lysssophobia, The Fear of Rabies

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“Ugh!  Get that filthy thing off the porch!”  Jessica squealed.  In one smooth motion, she hopped back behind Addie, and glared daggers at the small, furry creature scurrying about on the wooden deck.  As if realizing it had an audience, the beast turned, reared up on its hind legs, and peered sorrowfully at them through the screen door.

Addie rolled her eyes at her big sister and scoffed, “It’s just a squirrel, Jess.  They’re everywhere, for Pete’s sake.  Besides, that one’s just a baby.  It probably wants a walnut.  Hand me one from the bowl over there, will you?”

Jessica’s face collapsed in revulsion.  “You’re not going to feed that thing, are you?  They carry all kinds of diseases like malaria, plague, and… And rabies!”

“They do not!” the younger girl countered, shaking her reddish-blonde curls in exasperation.  “Well, maybe the rabies thing, but not those others.”  While it was true that she was mature well beyond her six-and-a-half years, she still could not fathom the depth of her sister’s odd obsession with rabies.  It was sickness like any other.  All you had to do is go to the doctor, and they would fix you right up.  Addie knew her sister wasn’t afraid to go to the doctor like she was, so what was the big deal?

“I forbid you to open that door, Adelaide Rose.  Absolutely forbid it!”  Jessica shouted, her normally pale face growing crimson in anger.  “Why, that awful creature is practically foaming at the mouth, and you want to let it mosey on in here like it’s the damn Queen of Sheba or something.  There ain’t no way I’m gonna let that disease-ridden, disgusting beast make us insane with its damn rabies!”

Addie’s mouth hung open.  She had never heard her sister swear before.  Maybe Jess really was scared.  “Uh… Okay, Jess.  I was just… Um.  I’m sorry.”

“You better be!” Jessica spat, shaking her long, dirty-blonde bangs from her eyes.  “Because if you’re not careful, you’ll end up just like Auntie Kay.”

“Auntie Kay?  Who’s that?”  Addie’s blue eyes clouded with confusion.

“Mama’s little sister,” Jessica said, her tone both matter-of-fact and conspiratorial.  “She went to the looney bin before you was born.  She got bit by a dog with rabies, and completely lost her marbles.  The doctors said there was nothing they could do.  She was so crazy from the rabies rotting her brain that she hung herself in the bathroom.  She died all alone in that awful place, Addie.  Mama was so heartbroken that to this day she won’t even speak Auntie Kay’s name.  Just up and forgot her.”

Jessica’s eyes brimmed with tears.  She whispered, “I don’t want Mama to forget about me like that.”

Speechless, Addie stepped into her big sister’s embrace and the two girls wept, silently clinging to each other for comfort.

Realizing that it no longer had the attention of the humans, the red squirrel flicked its tail twice in disappointment and returned to the task of searching for food.

 

 

J is for Judeophobia, The Fear of Jewish People

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She crouched by the window, and separated the wooden blinds just enough to allow her to observe the man loitering at the end of her walk.  He didn’t look like he was a Jew, but appearances were notoriously deceptive.  That’s why they used to wear the star, so that there could be no question of their contamination.

Her breath caught in her throat.  What if she had forgotten to bolt the door?  In a flash, she dropped the slat and raced to the door, certain that it would burst open before she could secure it.  It was locked.  She propped her back against it and tried in vain to quiet her breath, her knees weak and trembling.  After a moment, she spun around and peered through the peephole in the heavy, steel, entryway door, a faint hope fluttering in her chest that the man had moved on.

He had not.  He was now walking toward her house.

The world tilted sideways in her mind.  Lightheaded and sweating, she swore and backed away from the door, eyes wildly scanning the room for anything she might use to protect herself.  She no longer doubted that this man was a Jew, an abomination.  She could feel his hatred, his jealousy, the vile taint of his very existence.

She wanted desperately to flee, to escape his fury.  But where?  Her confusion deepened even as her focus on her fear sharpened.  Jews are dangerous animals, she told herself.  To that, her inner voice–which was oddly similar to that of her grandfather–calmly responded, What do we do with dangerous animals?  We put them down.

Suddenly, she knew what she had to do.  She sprinted to the hall closet–her bare feet slapping the tile noisily–and frantically searched through the coats, hats, and scarves for the Mauser.  Gasping with relief, and she pulled the pistol from the lower shelf and checked that it was loaded.

Ding-dong.  The bell ringing sent a jolt of adrenaline through her aching chest.  Armed, she shuffled back down the hall to the front door and once again checked through the peephole.  A victorious smile came to her lips when she saw the Jew’s back to her, retreating like a coward the way he had come.  She freed the locks with a shaking left hand and threw open the door.  The man didn’t even have a chance to turn to face her before she fired, splattering blood and bits of brain across the concrete.

It was only then that she noticed the package he had placed on her stoop, and the horrible truth of her error lanced through her madness like a scalpel.  With a suffocating remorse, she turned the Mauser on herself, adding two to the tally of lives snuffed out with her grandfather’s service pistol.

I is for Insectophobia, The Fear of Insects

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“Hey Stan,” the plump woman seated at the front desk called over her shoulder.  “I got a live one for ya.  200 East Elm.  The lady on the phone’s practically hysterical, so you better get over there right away.”

“All right, Doris,” Stanford Moye responded from the office with a weary sigh.  “I’ll take the new kid with me, show him the ropes.  Did she say what it was?”

“She was screeching like a monkey, Stan,” came the indignant response from the front room.  “I did catch the word basement, and something about a buncha tails, so I’m thinking silverfish.  It’s the right time of year to be seeing those little devils, right?”

“Sure,” Stan replied.  In truth, silverfish weren’t seasonal, but he wasn’t in the mood to get into it with Doris.  She could be a pain in the backside when corrected.  He gathered up his clipboard, phone, and wallet, and headed through the dingy office suite toward the front door.  As he passed his smartly dressed assistant, he noted her disapproving frown–she had commented many times in the past how his uniform had grown shabby over the years–and respectfully asked, “Please call up Trevor, will ya?  Have him meet me over there.”  As she picked up the phone, he trudged out the grubby, glass door to his van.

Trevor’s battered Honda was parked across the street from his destination when Stan arrived.  He pulled into the driveway of the neat, little cottage, parked the vehicle, and made his way to the front door.  Apprehension softly caressed his heart when he discovered the crisp, blue, door slightly ajar.  He hesitated, then pushed the door open wider while calling out “Hello?  Ma’am?  It’s Stanford Moye from Stan’s Pest Control.”

Silence.  The air suddenly felt heavy and still, as if all the world was holding its breath.  Stan shook off his uneasiness and stepped into the house.  “Trevor?  Are you in here?  Hello?  I’m coming in.”

The cottage wasn’t large, and he could clearly see into a majority of the rooms on this level.  Its pleasant, rustic decor did nothing to calm the sense of foreboding now crawling up his spine, and he had to bite his lower lip to stifle his urge to run.  Instead, he walked deeper into the house, stopping abruptly when he saw what could only be the door to the basement.  It was halfway open, and completely coated in silverfish.  The creatures were streaming up out of the basement like a tidal wave of squirming legs, metallic scales, and twitching antennae.

“What the–” The words tumbled out of Stan’s dry mouth only to be cut off when he caught a flash of pink amidst a mass of swirling, silvery, scales lumped together at the threshold.  He took an involuntary step forward to get a better look, and recoiled when he realized the deformed lump was actually a motionless, human hand wearing a glove of insects.

Immobilized by shock, Stan watched in horror as the bugs crawled toward him.  When he could feel them wiggling up his legs beneath his trousers, something within him shattered.  He screamed and spun around to escape the way he had come, but it was too late.  The army of silverfish had blocked the exit with their writhing bodies, and were advancing toward him.

Once they began biting, Stan slapped at his body in a futile attempt to knock them off, but it was no use.  His desperate screams were drowned out as the silverfish swarmed into his ears, nose, and mouth, suffocating him.  His last thoughts as he collapsed to the floor were a litany of regrets.