Monday, October 8, 2012

Tourist Visa by Katherine Tomlinson


Roddy’s eyesight wasn’t too good because of the diabetes so when he first spotted the woman in the bright pink business suit, his first thought was that somehow a migrating flamingo had gotten lost and ended up in the Van.

That’s strange, Roddy thought, which was about all he could muster by way of analytical thinking before he’d topped up his blood alcohol reserves with a morning snoot of Night Train.

As he got closer to the woman he could see she was Asian—Chinese or Vietnamese or Korean or something with slanty eyes anyway—and he wondered if she had decided to hit the beach on her way to work and had just gotten caught up in a reverie sitting there on the sand with her shoes off.

That happened to Roddy sometimes.

It bothered him that the woman had taken her shoes off.

He could see the sand around her was littered with bits of broken glass and scraps of rusted metal.

She’d put her purse down on a pile of bladder-wrack that still looked fresh enough to harvest. Roddy knew people who used the sea vegetable to treat a variety of ailments, including a broken thyroid.

Personally, he wouldn’t eat anything that came out of the Pacific at this part of the beach.

He’d heard that they’d found caffeine pollution in the waters off Oregon and figured it was only a matter of time before it showed up in Vancouver, like the mass of tsunami debris that was starting to wash up all up and down the coast.

He walked toward the woman quietly, his hand out as if approaching a skittish animal.

The woman turned her head as Roddy approached and smiled at him.

She was pretty, with delicate features framed by a veil of silky black hair.

The hair looked a little dirty, but it had been a long time since a pretty woman had smiled at Roddy, so he wasn’t going to complain.

Truth to tell, Roddy’s hair wasn’t that clean either.

She said something to Roddy that he didn’t understand and reached out her small hand to meet his.

He closed his fingers around hers and was ashamed of how grimy and cracked his hand looked.

She pulled him toward her with surprising strength.

Off-balance, he fell on the sand with a bone-jarring crack.

Damn woman, what is your problem? he thought and it was the last thought he had before she chomped down on his throat and tore it out.

The next thing Roddy knew, he and the woman were at the Seawall, ambling along like any tourist couple except that she was barefoot and his shirt was covered in blood from where she'd bitten him.

Roddy zipped up his dirty windbreaker and kept his head down and if anyone noticed that there was something peculiar about his gait or the awkward hunch of his body as he lowered his chin to cover the gaping wound in his throat, they’d politely averted their gaze.

Roddy and the woman walked the full length of the path and then stood there at a loss until a tourist approached them to ask a question.

The question had made no sense to Roddy, who was having more trouble than usual processing his thoughts. When the tourist repeated the question, he’d bitten out her throat, just as the woman in the pink suit had bitten him.

There had been screams and a lot of blood and some animal instinct buried in what was left of Roddy’s mind told him that he and the woman needed to move and move now.

Behind them, the tourist got up and lumbered after them.

It was mid-day by then and the path was crowded, but when the tourists saw the trio coming, they scattered out of the way and many reached for their cell phones. Some took pictures of the trio and others called 911.

The first couple of calls were dismissed as pranks but when a tech-savvy Iowan in an Edmonton Oilers jersey emailed a picture of the three, officers were dispatched to the area. By then Roddy and the tourist and the woman in pink were moving east through the park and headed for downtown. A mounted patrolman in the park spotted the three but when he tried to get close to them his horse shied and threw him. The cop landed hard, breaking his left arm and ankle and could only watch helplessly as they disappeared through the trees.

It was lunch time as the woman in pink and her companions emerged from the park. People on the streets were wrapped up in their own concerns, concentrating on running errands and going to the bank and grabbing a bite to eat. Fixated on their own trajectories, nobody really noticed the man and two women walking against the flow of pedestrian traffic.

Not until a man leaving a restaurant on Jackson Street bumped into the woman in pink. He’d looked at her and then at her bare feet, filthy now from walking, and he’d been confused. “Are you lost?” he’d asked her in English and when she hadn't replied, he’d repeated the question in Japanese.

The woman had nodded slowly in answer to his question but had made no sound.

Roddy and the tourist had exchanged glances with each other, then moved as one to flank the man from the restaurant.

He sensed no danger until they were much too close for him to run, and as Roddy bit into the succulent flesh beneath his chin, he heard the woman in pink say something short and sharp.

He turned to look at her and the tourist sank her teeth into the gory wound Roddy had opened.

The woman in pink said something else, something more urgent this time, and began walking toward the restaurant the man had just exited.

The glowing kanji of the restaurant’s signage hurt Roddy’s eyes but drew him in like a magnet.

The tourist followed Roddy and the doomed diner stood up, shook his head to clear it and after straightening his glasses, which had fallen off during his brief struggle with Roddy, he headed for the restaurant as well.

The raw fish odor inside was a visible stink, a sharp yellow-green briny smell that reminded Roddy of the beach at low tide. He’d always been sensitive to smell and now an olfactory tsunami assaulted him and he nearly staggered under its weight.

Roddy had never liked sushi. In his 20s he’d lived in Los Angeles where you could get sushi in any supermarket but nobody even knew what poutine was. He’d tried to make his own with frozen fries and large-curd cottage cheese but it really wasn’t the same.

Roddy and his group blocked the door to the street and the bus boy who ran out the back door of the restaurant had slammed it behind him in his panic and trapped everyone else inside.

What happened next happened fast and it wasn’t pretty.

The sushi chef, who also owned the place, attacked the woman in pink with a Bunmei Yanagi Sashimi knife with a ten and a half inch blade. The knife had cost him $149 and had served him well preparing lunch and dinner for his customers for the last ten years. It was, however, a woefully inadequate weapon when directed against the walking dead who had no longer had to worry about damaged organs and ruptured blood vessels.

His last thought was that what he should have grabbed was the cleaver on the counter behind him.

By the time the cops arrived at the Japantown restaurant, all that was left for them to find was a lot of blood on the furniture and a lot of dead koi on the floor, collateral damage from the broken fish tank that had supplied the ambience and inspired the name of the restaurant, which translated to “The Happy Carp.”

A bystander stuck his head in and snapped a photo of the carnage, which he tweeted to, which did not make the cops happy at all.

The woman in pink and her posse continued to make their way into the heart of the city, almost as if they had a destination in mind but by the time they reached the Vancouver City Centre Skytrain station, the growing group was nearly surrounded by heavily armed police officers who remembered the 2011 Stanley Cup riot and were determined not to let the situation get out of hand.

A line of officers sealed off the entrance to the station because the last thing anybody wanted was the mob to move out of the city into the ’burbs where it would be harder to contain.

Three different translators were rushed to the site to address the mob, including Hiroshi Jinnai whose father had worked at the Fukushima nuclear power plant and had perished in the meltdown following the earthquake there.

The woman in pink seemed to understand Hiro’s questions but did not react to his warnings that the police would use lethal force if attacked. As Hiro nattered on, she simply looked at him mildly, her brown eyes liquid with unshed tears, her face a pale oval in the gathering darkness.

The standoff lasted for only a few minutes, but survivors would later have a hard time saying how long those few minutes had actually been, with some estimates as high as half an hour.

All agreed, though, that it had been Roddy who’d made the first move.

The combined scent of all the meat pressing close around him had filled his nostrils with a gnawing hunger that took him to the edge of madness.

He’d looked toward the woman in pink for a sign or a signal, but she seemed lost in her own thoughts, or whatever passed for thoughts through her dead brain.

Roddy had lunged at the nearest cop, moving much faster than the young officer had expected.

The cop had pushed back with his riot shield but Roddy had three inches and nearly a hundred pounds on him and had simply steamrolled over him.

The shooting started soon after that and the cops had to turn on their own at a certain point as the group of walking dead created new corpses to deal with.

In all, 357 people died, which put the loss of life ahead of the Princess Sophia sinking in 1918.

Service on the Skytrain was disrupted for almost 36 hours until the bodies could be removed and the premises decontaminated.

The human body contains 5.2 liters of blood. Multiply that by 357 people and that’s almost two thousand liters of the stuff, all of which had to be siphoned up and destroyed like medical waste.

Most of the tourists were identified immediately because they had their drivers’ licenses and passports in fanny packs and rucksacks they were still carrying.

Roddy was recognized from news photos by a volunteer at the Rain City Housing office, who arranged for his body to be cremated and his ashes scattered in the Pacific. An autopsy had shown Roddy was infected with MRSA, a superbug endemic in Vancouver’s homeless population. That was listed as the cause of death because no one wanted to talk about what really had happened to him.

Mika Kimura, the woman in pink, was identified by the Juki Net card in her purse, which was wrinkled and faded but still readable, along with her address. She’d been missing since April 11, 2011 and her family was grateful to have her back after all that time, grateful enough not to ask too many questions that the coroner didn't know how to answer.

Three days after Mika was returned to her family in Japan, the car she’d died in washed ashore as part of a tide of tsunami wreckage that had completed its journey across the Pacific.

Her faded red Toyota Auris was bumper-locked to a black Nissan Serena with its driver’s door rusted open.

The owner of the Nissan, Chiho Kakizaki, would be found a month later when she wandered into a busy intersection of Portland and was hit by two cars from different directions.

She tore out the throat of the first EMT to respond to the accident and was killed on the scene by a traffic cop who’d read all about the Vancouver incident and didn’t hesitate to bash her brains in with his tactical baton.

BIO: Katherine Tomlinsons fiction has appeared on A Twist of Noir, Shotgun Honey, Powder Burn Flash, ThugLit and Luna Station Quarterly. Her most recent book of short stories, 12 Nights of Christmas, is now available. She lives in Los Angeles and sees way too many movies about zombie apocalypsi.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Brain Food by Katherine Tomlinson


They say when you die that hearing is the last sense to go. With me, it was smell. The last thing I remembered was the aroma of the blood gushing from my torn throat.
It smelled delicious.
When I woke up everyone in the lab was milling around like groupies backstage at a rock concert with no real objective except being there.
The researcher who’d killed me was chowing down on Dr. Lowenthal, whose field of research was schizophrenia.
I’d never liked Dr. Lowenthal. He didn’t really think that anyone who didn’t have a degree from Princeton belonged here doing research. My degrees from Duke and Stanford did not impress him.
I wondered if his brain was tastier than mine or if taste was even an issue to zombies.
The researcher who’d bitten me was a stranger; probably one of the Canadians who was doing research in the main hospital.
He wasn’t interested in anything but the man-meal he was enjoying.
I looked around to see if anyone was still alive.
They weren’t.
Trevor Pippen lurched by me, mouth agape, eyes vacant. He gave a grunt of what might have been recognition but it was hard to tell.
Poor Trevor. He’d been doing promising work; was on the verge of some important discoveries into the origins of autism spectrum.
There was a lot of grunting going on in the lab, which surprised me. Twenty minutes ago the combined brain power in the room had been equal to the entire faculty of a state university; now everyone but me seemed to have regressed to Neanderthal-level cognition.
I attributed my continued brain function to the Goji-berry smoothies I had every afternoon while everyone else was getting their Starbucks fix. You are what you eat.
And I was ravenous.
I left the lab and went looking for dinner.
The hallway was lined with shambling figures, most of them disfigured by bite marks and open wounds where eyes and ears and skin used to be.
Some grunted as I went by but none tried to stop me.
Once I got into the hospital proper, I saw it was mostly deserted.
I could see smears of blood on the otherwise pristine walls, and there was a pile of gently steaming viscera next to the entrance.
I hate to see people waste food.
I was still hungry after polishing off my snack, so I kept moving.
Somewhere alarms were going off.
I wondered if anyone would come in response.
It’s the end of the world as we know it, I hummed. And I feel fine.
Fine, but still hungry.
Have you ever had a hankering for something and only that something will satisfy? And if you don’t eat that particular thing, you’ll never feel full? Like if you want a Mrs. Field’s semi-sweet chocolate chip cookie but you have a handful of animal crackers instead? And then another handful. And then finally you go get the damn cookie you wanted in the first place. Like that?
That’s how I felt.
The viscera had dulled my appetite but I craved brain.
And not just any brain.
Like everyone else who worked in neuroscience study at Princeton, I’d paid a visit to a locked room to gawk at the two jars filled with neatly cubed pieces of what looked for all the world like gefilte fish floating in formaldehyde.
I’d been revolted by the sight at the time, but now those yummy morsels called to me. I could smell their savory succulence through the glass of their containers and through two closed doors.
Those doors had been torn open by the time I got to the room.
I could see a figure in a lab coat was hunched over one of the jars, his fingers deep inside, clutching a handful of cubes but unable to pull his hand and the brains out at the same time.
He turned around when he heard me come through the door and gave a ferocious, feral grunt.
His hand still trapped in the jar, he clutched it to his chest like a football.
I recognized him as a “brainiac,” one of the many post-grads who migrated to the campus every year to study Einstein’s brain.
I guess he was really into his research.
“Get out of here,” I said and he drew back, frightened by my voice.
“Go on,” I insisted and he shuffled toward the door.  Slowly.
“Leave the brain,” I said.
He grunted and shook his head.
I ripped his head off and threw it into a corner, grabbing the jar before the rest of his body collapsed on the floor.
Slow zombies…they’re at an evolutionary disadvantage.
I reached into the jar and plucked out a bite-sized morsel and popped it in my mouth like a cheese cube at a cocktail party. The texture reminded me of semi-firm tofu.  I’d been a vegetarian in my former life but that was no longer a lifestyle option.
Albert Einstein once said, “Hunger, love, pain, and fear are some of those inner forces which rule the individual's instinct for self preservation.”
I was going to have to work on “love.”
BIO: Katherine Tomlinson is a journalist-turned-fictionista. Her most recent collection of short fiction is Toxic Reality. A group of stories set in her paranormal Los Angeles, L.A. Nocturne II, will be published this spring.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Zomboid Spark by Richard Godwin


‘She always said necrophilia would be the death of her,’ Larry said. He paused to flick his Ronson lighter and held it smouldering to his Cuban. ‘And you know what? I agree. She liked a jump and she did it with all sorts. That was her joke. She was getting into some strange areas, bit like a junky needs a bigger hit.’

‘So what happened to her?’

They were sitting in Larry’s restaurant. Lovers Crumble appealed to everyone with its versatile menu, but it appealed particularly to those who loved deserts, especially crumbles. Mick was sitting with Larry at his private table and his eyes wandered around the immaculate shining venue in admiration.

‘Tracy is no more,’ Larry said, blowing smoke upward with a look of satisfaction.

‘Why do I think there’s something you’re not telling me?’

‘Because there is, and I will,’ Larry said.

He took a deep swig of cognac and motioned Mick towards him, watching as he slid his chair forward.

‘How come you gave up the lab?’ Mick said.

‘Tracy always liked a fuck. From the day I knew her she had this thing for waiters, her sparks she called them. The first time she screwed one I ignored it, hired a hooker, but I got madder each time she did it. She said they were a flame that kept her ignited, kept her pretty, well I can tell you she wasn’t too pretty when she fell apart and I mean fell apart.’

‘I figured something was going on with her. I thought she liked your money.’

‘I engineered the serum as you know, I could have retired on that.’

‘The new flesh serum?’

Larry nodded and took another drag.

‘I took Tracy away on a holiday to the Caribbean and hoped she would settle down and stop with her sparks. But there was this one waiter she liked and I found her in bed with him. He was tall and dark, he had the look, women used to turn and look at him. You know the type.’

‘What happened?’

‘I’ll tell you what happened. I shot him full of serum. I turned him into an android.’

‘So that’s how you made those extra millions.’

Larry leant forward and winked at Mick.

‘All the droids you see, they’re down to me.’

A waitress came over and filled Mick’s glass. He eyed her full figure wrapped inside her skirt and said, ‘She one?’

‘Yeah, she’s a gynoid.’

‘So what happened to this waiter?’

‘I thought I’d take control, see. Let Tracy have her fuck but use the fact that she was screwing an android to curb her dalliances.’

‘So she was fucking a robot.’

‘Not a robot, my droids have human skin, makes them appealing. Touch her.’

Mick reached out and ran his hand down the waitress’s arm.

‘I’d never know,’ he said.

Larry nodded.

‘And they’re good in bed. So I got it all set up, Tracy could get screwed by him but he’s just a machine, except I made one small error.’


‘I’d had too much whisky that night and I mixed the serum with another one I’d taken out there to develop. I created the first Zomboid.’

‘What the fuck is that?’

‘It’s a mixture of a Zombie and an Android.’

‘No shit.’

‘And what happened wasn’t pretty. You see the way it works is the Zomboid can infect a human and that human becomes a regular Zombie.’

‘Which can’t be destroyed?’

‘Oh, no, it can. No brains, no action. Tracy’s getting screwed by the Zomboid one night, I hear her screaming out into the midnight and the next morning she loses a finger in her breakfast bowl. That’s when I figure it out.’

‘So what did you tell her?’

‘I didn’t tell her anything. I let her get screwed again. I always said fucking would kill her in the end but she never listened to me. She was dancing one night, wearing this low cut dress and showing it off, and one of her legs flew off, raced through the air like a prosthetic limb and landed in someone’s desert, a most embarrassing moment. One minute she’s doing a salsa, the next she’s licking the floor. The final scene was tragic-comic, I saw her lying under the Zomboid and he was giving her the action and she was doing that scream she did aah hu aah hu, and, well, let’s just say the mouldy cunt split on us both.’

‘What did you do to her?’

‘I removed her brains, scooped ’em out of her hollow skull like stale scrambled eggs. No more Zombie Tracy.’

‘And what happened to the Zomboid?’

Larry pointed.

‘See that guy front of house?’

‘The good looking dude with the hair?’

‘Yeah. That’s him.’

‘No shit?’

‘Yup. Pulls all the women in.’

‘So you sold the lab?’

‘What do I need to work for now? I got hookers and gynoids.’

Mick stared at the Zomboid as he admitted more customers, shook his head and laughed. Larry flicked his Ronson and watched the sparks rise from his Cuban while he heard the sound of bones cracking beneath a Caribbean sun.

BIO: Richard Godwin is the author of crime novel Apostle Rising, in which a serial killer is crucifying politicians and recreating the murder scenes of an original case. The novel has received great reviews.

It has just sold foreign rights to the largest publisher in Hungary.

He is widely published in many magazines and anthologies and also writes horror and Bizarro as well as literary fiction and poetry. You can find out more about him here. His Chin Wags At The Slaughterhouse are popular and penetrating interviews he conducts with other authors at his Blog.

His second crime novel will be published in April of this year by Black Jackal Books as a paperback.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Review: Quarantined By Michael Moreci

My initial reaction to the ending of Quarantined was Noooooooo!

If you’ve read it, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

I’m going to try and do this review without spoiling it for those of you haven’t had the chance, in the hopes that you’ll get your hands on a copy and give it a whirl.

As I told Michael, two seconds after my initial reaction, my second reaction was, Always leave them wanting more.

And Michael does that in spades (and, fortunately, he has assured me that Book One is just the beginning).

The situation that the town finds itself in at the outset of the story is a typical zombie outbreak situation. No one is quite sure what’s going on and why there are these people that are into eating the flesh of the living.

By the time we meet a character by the name of Cormac, we are in a completely different story. We are in a world within a world, a noir world within a zombie world.

It was at this point that Michael revealed why it must be that noir/crime and zombie fiction are my two favorite genres.

As James Ellroy likes to boil down noir, that is to say, You’re Fucked, the same can be applied to zombie fiction. No matter how long or how far you run, eventually you have to face the horde.

The two genres are so very close in what they ultimately are about that this revelation really smacked me upside the head to the point of saying, Duh!

I was extremely happy to see the noir angle be played up in Quarantined.

But Michael wasn’t even close to being finished with the roller coaster effect. And the rug would be pulled out from under us when we learned the real reason behind why some people are eating other people.

I won’t give it away but I will say that I can’t recall this being used as a plot device before in any of the zombie fiction that I’ve read, comics or otherwise, or any zombie flick I’ve ever seen.

I’ve been a big fan of zombie fiction ever since a friend of mine (hey, Jeff!) turned me on to The Walking Dead.

And, for a while there, I loved The Walking Dead like it was a family member.

But somewhere along the way (I contend that it was issue 68 where the train left the rails), The Walking Dead went into the toilet.

Let me be clear about this:

Quarantined is not The Walking Dead.

Quarantined kicks The Walking Dead’s ass sixteen different ways.

Friday, September 9, 2011

At The Zombie Trailer-Park by Kenneth James Crist

Clark Simpson and Verna McBride—Derby, Kansas
The road was half-covered by blow-sand. That’s what they call it in Kansas. Ever since the dust-bowl era, when drought brought most of the Midwest and plains states to ruin, it’s been a term common to hear and easy on the ear whenever it gets dry enough. Blow-sand. Fine sand and grit that drifts and piles up and gets into everything, sneaks through cracks in siding and BB-gun holes in plate glass windows. Sneaks right up the crack of yer ass, if yer not careful...
I figured I was about to see some major blow-flies, too. I don’t know who invented that term, but I know what they are. And I’m very familiar with the term fly-blown, as in carcass.
There was nothing on this road but a trailer park. The sand ended there, at a turn-around where the land-lord’s trailer sat. I didn’t know if anyone lived here anymore, much less she whom I sought.
Verna had been atypical trailer trash, meaning she was, in fact, trailer trash, but not of the typical variety. She didn’t have the normal dirty-faced kids hanging all over her, as Keith used to say, “Two on the ramp, one at the pump and one in the hangar.” Keith had been Air Force before the shit went down and it definitely warped him. Napalming whole American towns after the shit went down finished the job, and he ate his Beretta one night after we tried to get through two cases of Mickey’s, holed up in a haybarn…but that’s another story and a sad one at that.
Back to Verna…She wasn’t fat and sloppy, far from it. And she wasn’t married to some over-the-road trucker and fucking around on him all the time.
She had been Keith’s for a while, then she was mine for a while longer, then…probably someone else’s, but I’m not sure. Verna was not the type to be without a man for long and her looks and body pulled ‘em outta the woodwork pretty regular. Hell, when she was all tarted up, she could pull ‘em off the I-135 doin’ 95 miles an hour…she was smooth, stacked and pretty, in a slightly grubby, careless and clueless way that fit the trailer park perfectly. She musta had three or four closets fulla whore-clothes, ‘cause that’s all she seemed to ever wear. No shoes that didn’t have at minimum four-inch heels, no jeans that didn’t hang so low that she had to shave her pubes or risk someone’s cigarette setting her on fire down there…no tops that didn’t show a mile of cleavage and I don’t think her belly-button had ever seen shade…plus rings, ankle bracelets, bangles, beads and just the right amount of makeup to get smeared when she was balling some dude…and it got smeared a lot.
She would never smoke because it would make her breath nasty, never eat anything that might put an extra pound on her frame, never drink to excess, because she might miss an opportunity to meet some really cute guy. Her one vice was sex and that was why I was here now. To see if Verna survived and to take her away if she still lived and if she would go.
I killed the engine a hundred yards out and shoved in the clutch, clicking the gearshift into neutral and letting the old Dakota pickup coast silently to a halt. I quietly clicked the door latch and slid out, taking the key and the shotgun. It was a Remington model 870 pump gun in 12 gauge, commonly called a “riot gun” even though it had been a good many years since the damn things had actually been used to quell riots, at least in the USA. I’d stolen it from an abandoned cop car after things started winding down. It was the only thing in the car that didn’t burn up and I took that as an omen.
Double-ought buckshot really does a great job on zombies. Pretty much sprays their heads all over and solves their problems permanently. Keith used to say there were few problems that couldn’t be solved through the proper use of high explosives…that was before, when he still had a sense of humor.
I made my approach, if you could call it that, as stealthily as possible, using the shelter belt to the north for cover. Shelter belt. That’s another Kansas term. They were rows of trees, planted to break up the incessant wind and to mark property boundaries. Consisting of “hedge” trees, really Osage Orange and in some cases cedars, most were left to grow rampantly and this one was no exception. The wind was from the south, so that was good. You wouldn’t think they could smell anything, as rank as they themselves smell, but it’s not so. They can smell fresh meat, as in people who are still alive and walking around. Maybe it’s because we still bathe…
When I got directly north of the trailer park, I could hear a radio playing, the sound drifting in and out on the slight breeze. I wondered if the power was still on here. Most places, it had failed a long time ago. No dogs barked and, other than the creaking of a door left ajar somewhere, the radio was all I heard.
I slipped quietly between the two trailers at the back and stood still for a full minute, turning only my head, using all my senses to see if I was alone, or about to die. One thing about this new world we live in—if you live for very long, you become sharp-witted.
Nothing moved. I looked at the tin box to my left, where the door had been ripped off and was lying on the ground. I made my decision to start there and I quickly moved up and stepped inside. It took me about two minutes to check the place. Finding nothing of note, I moved to the one on the right. Again, nothing to note except that someone had left a fan on and it was still running, mindlessly sweeping back and forth, cooling no one.
As I stepped out of the second trailer, I heard a woman scream. I froze in place, waiting to see if it would come again. Some of them had learned to do that, to suck you in so they could jump you. Most could only make low, strangling, guttural sounds, but some…
When the scream came again, it had a shrill, gasping quality that made it all too human and it was repeated over and over for at least a full minute. During that time, I made up my mind. It was human, it was alive, it was female and it was in pain. I moved my ass, shotgun at the ready.
Charging in like Batman is never a good idea, especially when you have no idea what you’re getting yourself into. I credit combat experience, quick reflexes and my own willingness to shoot, ruthlessly, anything that threatened me, with saving my life that day. As I ran south between the old, scabrous trailers, I was on high alert, every nerve fiber screaming, “Trap! Trap! You stupid bastard, it’s a trap!”
I didn’t care. By that time, the screaming had stopped, but I was sure of one thing. The voice I heard had been Verna’s and she was not one to scream just because a roach crawled across her toe.
When the first lurching, shambling form stepped out from between a trailer and an old, tin lawn building, I swung and fired, not even raising the shotgun to aim. I had done this enough I was becoming quite the cowboy hip-shooter. I had just a flash of a rotting face and black, syrupy stuff drooling from its mouth before the buckshot removed its face and blew its skull apart. Stinking brownish brains slid down the pocked wall of the lawn building. Just then a hand clamped on my shoulder and I smelled rotten breath from behind me. I dropped and rolled, firing as soon as I could bring the gun to bear, and while on my back, I cycled the action and fired again. The first shot was too low, catching the old dead woman in the breasts. Spectacular, but not effective. The second shot cleaned her off from the eyes up and I mentally congratulated myself. Two down—another million or so to go.
There were more coming and I would soon run low on ammo if I stayed there and merely killed zombies. I rolled again, this time up onto my feet and continued my run, now yelling, calling Verna’s name over and over. The time for stealth had definitely passed. Faintly, from my right, much deeper into the squalor of abandoned tin homes, I heard her feeble voice. She wasn’t screaming now. What I heard was a monotonous repetition… “Help me…somebody help me… please…help me…”
I zeroed in on the sound and at last determined that it was coming from inside the oldest and nastiest unit in the park. Through a broken window, I could now hear her clearly, though the window was above me and I was unable to see her. As I stepped up to the door, zombies were turning the corner less than fifteen feet away. Then another one came out the door, almost bowling me over. I stepped aside and he stumbled by. I cracked him across the back of his neck with the shotgun barrel and then fired two more rounds at the ones closing in.
Fishing in my vest pockets for more shells, I rolled in the door, looking in the gloom for Verna and at the same time shoving shells into the magazine of the gun. In a few seconds the five-shot magazine was full again and a round chambered.
I followed the sounds of whimpering toward the back of the trailer, down a hallway barely wide enough for my shoulders, conscious the entire time that I was now trapped back here—in a few seconds I would be cut off from any way out. In the semidarkness I stepped on something relatively soft and I kicked it ahead of me until it slid into a beam of sunlight coming through a crack in the wall. It was a human foot, size eight, toenails painted a lovely shade of lavender.
I heard myself begin to giggle, starting to lose it, and I clamped down mentally, something I’d learned to do early on, when all this crap started. I took a deep breath and steeled myself for whatever was coming next, then I stepped into the back bedroom.
Verna was bound to the bed. Which one of them still had enough smarts to tie knots, I was never able to determine. Her leg was bleeding from where the zombie I met coming out had cut off her foot. Getting himself a little snack, I reckoned. Her foot had been the last appendage she had left. For the immediate future, they would continue cutting off pieces and staunching her bleeding, saving her for food as live humans became more and more scarce.
The stench in the room was pretty incredible. Not everything that they had cut off her had been eaten and rotting flesh was everywhere. Apparently, she was not the only one they’d been stockpiling. Combined with the smell of urine and fecal matter on the bed, the odor was indescribable.
I reached behind me and quickly slammed the door and slid a dresser across to barricade it. I knew it wouldn’t hold them for long, but I didn’t need a lot of time. Verna wasn’t going anywhere.
The really wondrous part was that Verna’s face was as lovely as ever. Even in her pain, which must have been unbearable, she managed a weak smile and she whispered, “Hey, Sailor…where ya been all my life?”
“Looking for you, Dollface…” It was a greeting we’d used many times when we were still an item. When we’d spent our nights drinking Bud longnecks and humping each other’s brains out. Now, I looked at her and my heart broke as she said, “Do me a favor…lover…”
“Anything, Sugar…you name it…”
“Kill me?…kill me quick? Kill me good…so I can’t come back…”
I smiled at her, a totally false smile of camaraderie, as if we shared some great secret. And maybe we did. I bent down and, in spite of her awful breath, I kissed her one last time. Then I put the shotgun to the side of her head. She didn’t even close her eyes…she stared right at me as I popped her, nothing but love in her eyes…
Took me a while to fight my way outta there. I wound up kicking my way through a flimsy-ass wall and expending the rest of my ammo killing every walking dead piece of garbage I could. I did it through a veil of tears that made my vision swim and my usual deadly aim just a bit off. Once I managed to fight my way clear, I ran like hell for the truck and got away from there.
Back at my compound, I took a long shower while my three Bull Mastiffs stood guard, and while supper was cooking, I hoisted a long-necked Bud in a toast to my old lover.
There is something to be said for finishing things right and to honor. I toasted both as I toasted Verna…
“At the Zombie Trailer Park” was previously published in Yellow Mama, an online magazine from Fossil Publications. It will be one of the stories in a forthcoming book of similar sickening prose, called “Groaning for Burial, The Carrion Men Chronicles.” Kenneth James Crist is Editor Emeritus of Black Petals Horror/Science Fiction Magazine. He has published over 100 short stories in the small press and online in venues raging from Skin and Bones to The Edge, to Kudzu Monthly.  He has published two books of short stories, Dreaming of Mirages and The Gazing Ball, both still available from Fossil Publications.  Kenny is very active with the American Legion Riders and the Patriot Guard. He is an avid motorcyclist and a competition handgun shooter. He is also a retired Wichita, Kansas police officer. Email comments are welcomed at and his website is at

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Scent Of Rotting Leaves by Chris Rhatigan


That only three people were in the audience was testament to Jansen’s skill as chairman. Over the years he took pains to ensure the city council’s meetings were so opaque and meaningless that even the community activists and reporters quit attending.
He put on his glasses, glanced at the night’s agenda and spoke the only name on the list.
“Calvin Motts.”
Dressed in a gray wool suit with a plaid bow tie and hush puppies worn without irony, Motts approached the podium.
As he passed them, the council members murmured to themselves.
Was that dreadful sound his joints creaking? And that odor -- like leaves plastered to the bottom of a pool filter -- was that coming from him?
“Good evening.” He paused as if he were catching his breath. “Myself and the two other senior members of the reanimated community have urgent matters to discuss with this council.”

The murmuring from the council grew louder verging on cat calls and jeers – everyone knew they were out there, but to reveal themselves in public like this? Jansen brought down the gavel. “Silence, silence, silence! Please continue, Mr. Motts.”

“As you may be aware, a fully functioning reanimated community has been established about ten miles outside of city limits.” Motts blinked very, very slowly, eyelids like parchment paper. “We do not, contrary to popular opinion, sustain ourselves on human flesh. We are respectful of all others. Yet we have not been treated with respect. Our members have been murdered, tortured, kidnapped, harassed, even raped.”
The council rose as one, their voices strident.
Councilwoman Lambert said, “To listen to this, this thing is absurd. I know for a fact that we don’t have necrophiliacs here in Pine Valley.”
Councilman Bukis said, “And the accusation of murder? That isn’t even possible. Aren’t they already dead?”
Laughter and shouting erupted from the council. What do these corpses want? We give into them and soon enough they’ll take over the town!
The council was unsettlingly energized by this new development. Jansen gaveled repeatedly.
The Mayor chimed in, soothing Jansen’s irritation, “Might I remind the council that there is no action item on tonight’s agenda regarding the, uh, reanimated community. All the council need do is listen to Mr. Motts.”
“All we want,” Motts said before taking another eerie pause, “is for you to leave the reanimated community alone. To this end, we implore you to consider rewriting the laws so that they respect our fundamental rights.”

The rest of the meeting went by in a fog, Jansen’s mind exploring each permutation of where this new information might lead.

Many of these permutations were dissatisfactory.

Often the best strategy, Jansen found, was acquiescence. Make a series of meaningless concessions until the opponent grew weary.
But this case posed unique problems. If the council even placed such laws on its agenda, it would be a public admission that zombies were among them. The effect on property values alone would be catastrophic. Not to mention the inevitable demand for more police and firefighters and the hundreds of angry, stupid residents who would show up at every council meeting.
For more than a decade, Jansen and the Mayor had, with the utmost care and skill, constructed a machine that, above all else, was silent. The machine’s lubricated gears spun and locked and distributed its product without so much as a whir or a clink. Fifty years into the future – perhaps a hundred! – the machine would reign supreme. Pine Valley would be the same community it had always been, without crime or chain stores, without traffic or undesirable persons. The machine’s power, Jansen and the Mayor understood, was beyond mere legacy.

But now it was in jeopardy.

So immediately after Jansen said “Meeting adjourned,” he rushed to the Mayor’s office.

The Mayor closed the door and pulled the chain on a desk lamp. He spoke first. “Who can we trust?”

Jansen had discovered that the Mayor’s political instincts were stronger than his own. While Jansen fretted about the potential results of this calamity, the Mayor was already searching for allies. “Police Chief Myerson?”

The Mayor steepled his fingers. “This problem is too complex for him.”

“State Senator Mooney?”

“The incentives are inadequate. Pine Valley is less than a third of his district.”

Jansen smiled for the first and last time that evening. The one man with connections, discretion, and no official title restraining him. “Robert Ford.”

The Mayor said nothing. Picked up the phone and dialed.

Early the next morning, Jansen stood on a ridge ten miles outside of Pine Valley. He watched state workers in protective yellow suits use driptorches to set the woods and fields ablaze. Ford had called this a “controlled burn.” Other towns had this zombie problem in the past, and this was the method Ford (and, for that matter, the state) considered the most efficient solution.
Crude mud huts and structures made of trash and scrap plywood crackled, flickers of the intense heat nipping at Jansen’s cuffs. He looked left and then right, half expecting to see them swarming, sharp teeth posed to tear apart flesh.
But he saw nothing, just the flames in the distance. He tugged at his sport coat, shook away the sudden wave of emotion. The reanimated community apparently didn’t even want to live – or whatever it was they did – none of them bothered trying to escape the blaze.
Satisfied that things were under control, Jansen walked the trail back to his car. The sun was pushing away wisps of clouds, but darkness still reigned in the forest.
Jansen called the Mayor.
“It’s done.”

“You’ve seen it for yourself?”

Somewhere, a twig snapped. Jansen accelerated his pace. “Yes. Exactly as Mr. Ford described.”

“Good. Meet me in my office.”

Jansen reached a clearing. Bent over, rested with his hands on his knees, chest expanding, contracting, expanding, contracting. Not a young man anymore. Should see Dr. Phillips more often, like his wife told him to.

He pressed the button to unlock his Buick when an icy hand reached out, clamped over his bony wrist, blood in his veins screaming like a child locked in a closet.

Calvin Motts said, “We tried to be civil, Mr. Chairman. But that’s not the game we’re playing, is it?”
Behind Motts, in the growing dark, hundreds of translucent eyelids blinked slowly. Very, very slowly. And the scent of rotting leaves.

Behind Closed Doors: A Quarantined Story by Michael Moreci

*The following is taken from the notes of journalist Edward Walker
The doors to the furniture warehouse were not only locked, but they had been chained from the outside. I approached with extreme caution when I heard them banging—it was the slamming sound I heard first, not the screams. I figured there was infected within, pounding to get out, though I proceeded nonetheless, disregarding my judgment. It would have been better had I chose to stay away, assumed the worst, and kept moving. Because what I encountered within gave new meaning to what the worst could be.
I parked a good twenty yards away, thinking I could reach the doors undetected. Every banging caused me to jump, as if it was an unexpected sound bursting through an otherwise normal, peaceful night. It wasn’t until I got closer that I heard the screams—the articulated yells, cries for help. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past sixty hours, it’s that the infected have no control over language. They don’t communicate in any way I could see, and they certainly don’t plead to be saved.
Still, I was hesitant to make my presence known. There was a scaffold running alongside the building that allowed a view inside, through the windows that ran along the very top of the wall. I scaled the scaffold, my chest pounding; I hoped there were people within, but I feared it as well. My means of survival—alone, always on the move—had become, to me, a vital routine, and I trembled at the thought of interrupting it.
But then I saw. Through the smoky glass, I looked down to the source of the relentless, desperate, pounding, a pounding that had become so intense it was bound to shatter the hands and feet of those causing it. It was a group of teenagers, maybe fifteen of them, and they were trapped.
The chain around the door, I assumed, must have been a precautionary measure taken by the warehouse owner—an extra bit of protection in a time of chaos. At least, that’s what I hoped was the case, that people were being locked out, not in. As I approached the doors, instinct still told me to turn away, to run and not look back. The struggle between conscience and survival instinct is a contentious one; I’ve learned there’s no telling what a person will do when backed against a wall.
I fought the urge to flee and approached the doors.
“Hey,” I yelled, “you okay in there?”
The response was a unified burst of elation and ecstatic relief. One of the kids from the group, a stocky defensive linesman type who had been pounding the door, spoke above the cacophony.
“Get us out of here! We’ve been trapped inside for like three days. None of our cell phones work; we have no idea what’s happening.”
As much as I wanted to race off into the night with the singular task of rescuing this imprisoned lot, there was still a lingering something. A hesitation that, despite my best motivations, held me back from doing the noble thing without question.
“How did you get locked in there? I mean, why are you guys in a furniture warehouse to begin with?” I asked.
“What? We, um…”
In that moment of hesitation, my mind told me to run. It convinced me this was a trap, an elaborate set-up that I was playing directly into. As I backed away, the kid on the other side of the door must have felt me receding, because his next words rushed out of his mouth.
“We broke in, okay? We broke in three nights ago to party. That’s all we did. And when we went to leave, all the doors were, like, bolted shut.”
I was silent, weighing my options—help or turn away.
“Hello?” the kid called out, almost pleading. “Please, you have to get us out. We’re starving, we’re thirsty; we just want to go home.”
The word, the idea of ‘home,’ made me flinch—these kids had no idea, and I certainly wasn’t going to tell them. Not yet.
“Look, I need to go get some bolt cutters,” I said. “All of you sit tight; I’ll be back soon.”
“No!” a girl yelled from within. “Don’t—don’t leave us!”
“Listen,” I said, trying to buttress the group’s frayed nerves, “I’m coming back. Stay calm and stop pounding on the door—you don’t want attract any attention.”
“What does that mean?” the kid, the leader, asked.
I stammered. “Nothing. Just…keep it down.”
As I turned away, the kid called out one more time. “Hey!” he said. “You don’t happen to have any matches or a lighter or something, do you? Something you can slide under the door?”
I wasn’t thinking—my mind was too focused on my already building sense that, somehow, I betrayed myself. Helping these kids was a mistake, going out into the night to find bolt cutters a complete lack of better judgment. And for that, I was going to pay. I was busy silencing these ugly doubts as I slipped a half-used book of matches underneath the door, never considering what they’d be used for.
The thumping had grown louder. I carried a rhythmic pulse in my mind the entire trip to the abandoned farmhouse—looted for the needed tools—and back. It was a knocking, a call, a temptation; only this temptation wasn’t to enter, it was to leave. Thoom thoom thoom it went, a tell-tale heart in reverse. Not revealing what I’d done, but pushing me to what I was capable of doing—abandoning people in need, placing my survival above anyone else.
The actual sound coming from within the warehouse was different from before—it was a drilling, violent thud, louder, and more forceful.
I parked closer this time, and left the keys in the ignition.
“Hey,” I called out, standing five feet away from the door, which shook beneath every blow. “You kids in there?”
No one answered.
I took a step back even my feet were beginning to feel numb; I took in a deep breath and felt it quiver in my chest. Something, I knew, had gone terribly wrong behind that door. Everything become quiet, the thumping subdued as the world began to dim—and that’s when I heard. Heard the sound of water sprinkling of glass. I looked up and saw droplets raining onto the warehouse windows.
It immediately came to me: the matches were used to set off the sprinkler system, which in turn drenched the virus on the entire group.
Something took hold of me—fear, real, palatable fear clouded my thoughts. I climbed up the scaffold, trying to get a look inside. What I was looking for, I couldn’t say—there was no way I would ever open those doors, yet I was compelled to see inside nonetheless.
Not everyone had turned yet—two remained—a boy and a girl, a couple I assumed—two who evidently didn’t use the sprinkler system to quench their thirst. They were surrounded, backs against the wall. The last thing I saw were their hands joined together, fingers interlaced.
Quarantined is copyright Michael Moreci, Monty Borror, and Markosia Publications