Category Archives: The Sunday Serial

A running serial updated every Sunday, unless I’m dead.

The Sunday Serial, Vol. 1, Part 10: Tuesday Finale

Ryan’s  final, desperate attempt to reach Mel unfolds. Will he make it? Will he tell her he blew up her mannequin? And how do they plan to take down the virtually unstoppable Shotgun Zombie?

Sorry for the late post, but my internet provider decided it was too good for that whole “exchanging money for services” arrangement we had. Here’s hopin’ you’ll take me back, both of you. C’mon, baby, I’ll treat you right!

***

Long Weekend

© Copyright 2011
Sean Ganus

Part 10

Finale

            The morning started out sunny, but the beginning clouds of a summer storm are rolling in as we tense ourselves in readiness. It’s been raining for an hour now, even before the storm clouds arrived.

There is a clap of thunder as the Lowes truck roars to life. Let’s do this.

Shotgun Zombie barely lunges out of the way as Steve, surreptitiously hiding in the cab, guns the engine and rams the tow truck. Struts break, the truck spins, slides into the muddy common area. Puddles explode on the impact as the tires sink into six inches of soft mud.

The common area is always a mess when it rains. That tow truck isn’t going anywhere.

Rick, Zach and I look to the van. It is a full thirty feet away. Between it and us, there is a veritable ocean of rotting skin.

I breathe deeply from the damp, electrified air. My lungs spark, my body charges.

It is a beautiful, stormy, muddy Monday morning. It is the only beautiful Monday morning I’ve ever seen.

A thin line of the living dead has confronted us, and we open a blitz of gunfire that knocks them out of our way.

For a second, everything is still. Shotgun Zombie sizes us up, accepting the challenge we’ve laid down. The rest of the dead are still, waiting for the fight to rise as they did. Behind me, Meg Henderson continues to dance naked and chant in Old English.

The immortal fly comes at me from behind. I tilt my head, away from its annoying buzz. It misses me by a mile, flies its paper clipped body headfirst into my bug zapper. I’d left it on all weekend, and it is engulfed in an explosion of sparks and fried bug bits. The little zombie goes with a pretty impressive pop, the light of its demise striking brighter than lightning.

Shotgun Zombie and I look each other in the eye. Well, eye to eye socket.

I fire.

I hit Shotgun Zombie square in the chest, but the blast barely rocks it on its feet. It takes its gun off its shoulder, starts to load.

The remaining zombies pour in on us.

I swing the shotgun strap over my shoulder, Rick and Zach holster their pistols. All three of us crank the chainsaws Zach had brought, and we start in.

I hack through the veil of a lady who was buried in her wedding gown, and try not to focus on the dark brown stains soaking through the dress. She flails at me, her bouquet shredding when it hits the teeth of the saw.

Rick catches a particularly beefy construction worker in the gut. What looks like eight gallons of beef stew come pouring out like Niagara Falls.

A little leaguer comes at me, swinging a baseball bat wildly. He catches me by the hand on the handle of the saw. It doesn’t break, but it hurts like a bitch, and I drop it. The saw disappears under an avalanche of shuffling zombie feet.

I curl defensively, and he nails me on the broadside of my arm. I reach into my belt, pull out the machete, sink the blade through his temple. His eye pops like a moldy grape, but he readies another swing anyway. I wrench the blade loose, catch the bat in mid-swing. I kick the runt away, and he disappears in the crowd.

Shit. They’re spilling onto us too quickly. We gain less and less ground by the second.

Above the zombie mass, I see what looks like a cross between a man and a spider scrambling towards us. It has four arms, four legs, all of them nailed and stapled and welded in place. I almost wonder if that was what Shotgun Zombie was working on, but I don’t have time to finish the thought.

Steve is fighting them off the truck, but he can only chop so many fingers and hands before one of them gets a lucky grip and yanks him into the crowd. Sparks fly as his saw hits the sides of the truck, and it occurs to me that he is probably experiencing the most metal moment of his life.

Rick ducks down, shoulders his way through three of the fuckers, grabs Steve’s arm and pulls him free. We’re clear for the moment, but only the moment.

I undo the belt I have strapped around my chest, spin Mel’s mannequin out in front of us. The fuse of an M-80 sticks out of the back of its head, and I light it with Steve’s Zippo. Then I hurl it.

“If you wanna eat something, then eat this, ya stinky bastards!”

They fall for it, hard. Their voracious hands pull the peacock-feathered flapper girl to them, and they bite and chew without stopping to consider the taste of vinyl.

We double back, the zombies momentarily too distracted to notice us. We hit the ground at the sound of the blast, literally thrown off our feet by the concussion.

Fuck me. I didn’t know gasoline and cow shit could be that potent.

We look over our shoulders, see an empty space full of pulpy body parts. Dazed zombies lope about, trying to get to their balance after the blast.

We struggle to our feet, and I don’t see Steve. I scream for him: “Steve!”

I hear him cough, see him stand near the Lowes truck. “Shit,” he mutters.

A shadow falls over him, and he limps as he turns around to see Shotgun Zombie taking aim.

The blast from the pump action is far louder than it is from mine. A wet red stain is sprayed onto the pavement, and Steve falls. His opened stomach spurts sickeningly at the impact.

As Steve’s body goes slowly limp, Shotgun Zombie jumps from the top of the truck and lands directly onto Steve’s gunshot wound. A torrent of blood spurts from Steve’s mouth, and a gurgle is forced out of his lifeless throat.

Shotgun Zombie leaves a bloody trail of footprints as he approaches, cycling a new round into the chamber. I drop the chainsaw and whirl the shotgun in front of me, taking aim at Shotgun Zombie’s face.

The creature slowly takes aim. I hear Zach and Rick take off on either side of me.

We stand there like that, both of us knowing it will take a lot less to bring me down than it will for him.

My breath is shaky, and I slow it down, draw it out as long as I can. I try to settle every twitch in my arms, every tingle in my nerves.

Shotgun Zombie’s finger tightens around the trigger.

I dip the barrel of the shotgun, tracing the sight from an empty eye socket to the leather-gloved hand gripping the stock.

I let myself fall, just as he pulls the trigger. The shot goes overhead, and I fire.

Shotgun Zombie’s hand explodes, and the shotgun is thrown wildly into the air from the force.

I listen to the clatter of the gun as it bounces on the pavement. A shot goes wild from the gun at the impact.

I felt hordes of butterflies in my gut. Shotgun Zombie seems a lot less scary now that he’s Shotgun-less.

With his good hand, he reaches behind himself, and draws a sawed-off double barrel. Fuck.

He fires both barrels, hitting my gun out of my hands. With a flick of his wrist he opens the hilt, ponders how to reload with only one hand. His skull tilts to one side as he thinks.

Before he can take aim, though, a flashing glint of steel blinds me. I wince as Zach knocks the gun aside with his revving chainsaw. Shotgun Zombie turns to stare him down, then backhands Zach across the jaw.

From above the truck, the Spider-Zombie, missing two legs and an arm, appears. He reaches down, grabs Zach by the neck, hauls him into the air. Zach’s face goes purple as he gulps for air.

Rick cranks up his chainsaw, carves into Spider-Zombie’s shoulder. The monster drops Zach, elbows Rick with enough force to dent a car door. Then it looks to me.

I finger the handle of the machete tucked into my belt. Rick and Zach struggle to get up. Zombies who weren’t caught in the blast begin to shuffle their way to us.

I listen to Shotgun Zombie’s heavy boots as it stomps closer. This thing is pure muscle and leather. No way I can chop through it quick enough to take it down, much less help kill Spider-Zombie.

I take a swing, but Shotgun Zombie stops me casually with a forearm wrapped in chains. It punches me across the face, and I feel as though I’ve been clocked with a pillowcase full of cartoon anvils. I can’t even see straight anymore.

There is a squealing of tires, and an impact followed by a horrible crunch. I see the Shotgun Zombie’s black military boots thrown from the ground, watch its bulky body bounce along the pavement. I hear footsteps, feel hands on me.

I hear Zach shouting. “Ryan, man, get up!”

Shotgun Zombie is back on his feet in an instant, making his way to us. I try to regain my footing, but I have trouble. Fucker nailed me pretty goddamn good.

Rick is completely tangled within the grasp of Spider-Zombie, but he cuts through a strategic set of fingers ad breaks free. He runs to help Zach haul me into the van, but the spidery horror is up and after him. He turns just as he nears Shotgun Zombie, sends a spin kick into its chest. The creature doesn’t move, and the force of the kick sends Rick against the van’s bumper.

Zach drops me in the van and steps up, does his best to send a ninja kick to Shotgun Zombie’s side. Despite his newfound chutzpah, his effort is clumsy and embarrassingly underpowered. Shotgun Zombie wraps an arm around his ankle, grabs him by the collar, and spins, sending Zach flailing through the air. He lands before Spider-Zombie, and the creature immediately wraps its hands around his throat.

Rick moves to cut him down, but before he can take two steps the thing’s three hands twist horribly, and there is a God-awful crunch from Zach’s neck as his spastic body suddenly goes limp.

Spider-Zombie looks hungrily at the limp sack of meat hanging in its hands, licks its lipless mouth. Shotgun Zombie raises a finger, moves it side-to-side. Spider-Zombie considers for a second, then tosses Zach to the side.

It comes for us. Rick runs past Shotgun Zombie, slashing the ting’s arm when it reaches for him. The zombie pulls away, and Rick leaps over me and into the van.

I hear him shout “Shit! Where’re the fuckin’ KEYS?!” and I vaguely think: Of course…

Shotgun Zombie makes his way for the open van door, Spider-Zombie right beside him. Arms suddenly wrap around Shotgun Zombie’s waist, and something starts to pull him back. The monster tries to wrestle off his attacker, and while he squirms I see who it is who’s come to our rescue.

“Steve!”

Only it isn’t Steve. The guy who used to be our friend was gone. Welll…maybe not gone, not yet,  but definitely buried deep behind that hundred yard stare. I have the feeling that Steve may not be home right now, but he definitely has the remote.

I get up, try to shut the doors, but Spider-Zombie grabs them and tries to wrench them open. It folds its too-long arms in, gnashes its teeth at me. I kick with more strength than I thought I had, knock out most of its incisors. I grab my machete, hack off one hand, hack into the fingers of another. I’m able to loosen its hold long enough to shut and lock the doors, and immediately start hacking at the squirming hand it left behind.

Oh, fuck. An armless zombie apparently made its way inside, and I open the doors long enough to kick it back out. It tumbles clumsily into Spider-Zombie, and the two try to untangle themselves as I lock the doors again.

In horror movies, vehicles always take about five minutes to start in crisis situations, but the van starts instantly. Suck it, clichés.

Fuck, spoke to soon. The goddamn gearshift sticks, and Rick can’t get it out of park. I look in the rearview mirror, see Zach rise behind Steve and chokehold him. Steve fights, but his grip gives, and Spider-Zombie helps to haul him off. He’s pried off Shotgun Zombie, who pulls the machete from Zach’s belt and begins to hack Steve apart.

Finally, the fucking shifts goes, and the engine roars as Rick throws it in drive. We’re out of here.

Well, as soon as Rick takes care of a bit of business.

He fights it into reverse, and the van smashes into the zombie triad. I hear Spider-Zombie being shredded under the wheels.

“That was for my friend, you mother fuckers!” Rick yells, then throws it in drive. Now we’re out of here.

I look back, see Shotgun Zombie, mangled from Rick mowing him down, stand and watch us go.

***

            “What now?” Rick says.

“Mel,” I reply. “I need to get to Mel.”

We barrel down the interstate, mowing down zombies like we’re trying for the high score. Rick has to swerve to avoid abandoned cars. Christ, this shit hasn’t even been going on for a week. You’d think people could resist the urge to leave their shit abandoned for longer than that.

We take the exit near the station where Mel works, see it besieged on all sides as we approach. An armored SWAT van is fighting to break through, police shooting whatever grabs hold of the truck. Sparks between the attacker’s legs tell me the tires have been destroyed, probably as soon as it left the garage.

I reach my leg over and gun the engine.

“What’re you doin’, man?” Rick asks.

I wipe out a whole section of the things, crank the wheel to clear out a few more. I blare the horn.

Familiar blue eyes look out the back hatch, and the door opens. “RYAN?!”

It’s her. She’s alive. Thank fucking God, she’s alive.

But…still surrounded by zombies. Not enough room for them to squeeze between us, but that zombie-free Green Zone won’t last for long. I kick open my door. “Get in the van!” I scream.

A sharp, squeeling sound from behind. In the rearview mirror I see a zombie bury an axe into the side of the van.

“Hurry!”

The two cops in back get to the driver, who leaves her post to join us. The SWAT guys blast back zombies while Mel climbs in. She kisses me, too quick for any passion, too dry to pretend it’s anything other than a potential kiss goodbye.

It’s the sweetest kiss she’s ever given me.

She climbs in back, opens the sliding door for the SWAT guys and the driver. One makes it in, the other loses his footing. He tumbles, falls awkwardly, gets stuck between the two vans. Zombie hands grab him, pull him free, and into the crowd. I see an old lady with crooked dentures bite into his neck, severing his carotid and washing her face in his blood. Her dentures get stuck, are pulled out slightly when she tried to bite again. Others pour in to help finish her meal. I look away, and am thankful I do not hear his screaming over their moaning.

The other SWAT guy swings his gun, keeping an eye out as the driver makes her way in. Unfortunately, the zombie on the roof goes unnoticed, and he grabs her by the neck and hauls her into the air. She screams, flails, and the SWAT guy grabs for her. She is out of reach, though, and in my mirror I see her flung to the waiting hordes around the van. The remaining officer thumps the ceiling. “LET’S GO!” he shouts, still in SWAT command mode. Rick is busy trying to keep the passenger door closed, so I hop into the driver’s seat and floor it.

Before we move, though, something rams us. Something fucking heavy.

I look back, see a mud spattered tow truck behind us. Somehow it had been pulled from the mud. With one ruined hand tied to the wheel, his ruined body belted to the seat, Shotgun Zombie deftly steers it back into us, ramming us again. Mel and the SWAT guy hit the floor from the impact.

Rick screams. “Aw, fuck! Fucker won’t stay down!”

Shotgun Zombie floors it, hit us again. The back doors fly open.

Shots, controlled machine gun bursts from the assault rifle of the SWAT officer. The tow truck’s windshield shatters, and a chunk of Shotgun Zombie’s head disappears.

He rams us again, out of the patch of zombies. I floor it, peeling out of the parking lot and running for everyone’s lives.

Shotgun Zombie gives chase. Over the radio, I hear chanting. I switch it off, needing to concentrate.

He hits us again. The SWAT officer sits up, takes aim, fires. Another chunk of Shotgun Zombie’s skull vanishes.

The creature jerks the wheel, sticks a good arm out the window, takes aim with Mama Bear’s stolen .44, and fires a single, definitive shot.

The SWAT officer falls back, without any exclamation at all. Just fucking falls, his faceplate shattered, the glass tinted with blood.

Mel screams.

Something is wrong with the rear axle. I hear something grinding, and I can’t get the van to full speed. Even flooring it, we’re only making fifty. The grinding gets louder with every second. It starts to feel like I’m driving through slush.

The tow truck eases alongside us. Shotgun Zombie takes aim.

“Fuck you, mother fucker!” Mel screams, and tosses a flash-bang grenade stolen from the SWAT officer directly into Shotgun Zombie’s lap. The creature looks down just as it goes off. At such close range, it rips its skin to shreds.

The tow truck veers, hits a car in spectacular fashion, falls to its side. It slides along the road, firing sparks into the air before crashing into an abandoned gas truck. There is a plume of fire as leaking fuel catches and engulfs the tow truck. In seconds its own gas tank ignites, and there is a sizable explosion.

I crane the wheel and hit the brakes, so quickly I’m nearly thrown from my seat. I look over through the passenger window, breath in relief. My lungs burn at the breath, and my heart seems to flutter. Funny; I realize I’ve been holding my breath the entire time since the chase began.

Then, I see the impossible. The cab door of the engulfed tow truck is flung open, and a crawling figure tumbles out of the fire. Pulling itself along by its elbows, Shotgun Zombie, now more candle than zombie, crawls along the street, still coming for us.

I start flooring the van, when the SWAT guy sits back up, turns, and lunges for Mel. Rick hears her screams and intercepts him, and the two wrestle. They hit Rick’s door, and it pops open. They fall into the street.

I hit the brakes, pull the parking brake to keep the van from rolling away, jump out to help. The cop has a good grip, and Rick can’t shake him. Other zombies converge, drawn by the screams. Mel grabs her gun, jumps out, opens fire.

Several fall, but they’re coming closer, closer, fucking closer. The gunshots cut down the individuals, do nothing against the greater horde. They’re all closing in. Soon even fucking Shotgun Zombie will reach us, even though he’s slowing down. They’re thirty yards away, twenty-five, twenty…

The cop starts to strangle Rick. Rick makes choked sounds, like he’s trying to curse. His grip is loosening on the zombie’s armor. His fight starts to fade, so he plants both feet into the zombie as I dig my fingers into its shoulder. We throw it off, and it hits the wheel, tumbles, struggles to get up.

The others are fifteen yards away, and they’re not slowing down.

Mel leans against me, puts a free hand to my face. “Baby…”

I look over, catch her eyes. She’s crying. She’s beautiful, with perfect strawberry blonde hair and eyes bluer than I’ve ever seen any other eyes before.

Oh Jesus. I grab her, hold her. It’s all I can do now. “It’s okay. It’ll be alright…”

Ten yards away.

“I love you so much!” She’s practically sobbing as she says it.

“I love you too! I love you!” And I do, I do I do I do I love her more than anything and all I can do ALL I CAN DO is hold her hold her hold her…

I kiss her, and she kisses me. The hands begin to grab, the fingers hooking in our hair. The cop lunges for Rick again.

They’re all over us. We’re buried alive.

***

            But we’re okay.

We’re still okay.

We’re fine.

We open our eyes, squeezed shut from our eventual doom, and look around.

Everything is still, except for the distant fire. Smelly dead bodies are piling up against us, but they don’t move.

I hear something shuffle, turn to see Rick pulling himself out from under the cop. It’s not moving, not trying to hold onto Rick at all.

It’s dead. A dead fucking body.

That’s all it is.

Mel and I shove at the corpses burying us, and they slide off without protest. They thump to the ground, they roll over each other and loll in undignified poses. But they don’t move on their own.

Everything’s quiet.

Rick reaches over, flips on the radio.

We hear Meg Henderson’s voice.

“…ritual has been completed. If anyone can hear us, please contact the station. If we have been successful, contact the station. Please…”

I laugh, I sigh, I laugh again, louder than before. I don’t think I’ll stop laughing. Mel smiles vaguely in disbelief, staring at every dead thing on the ground like it could leap for her at any minute. Rick sits in the road and begins to weep, in joy and sorrow, mourning and celebration.

Shotgun Zombie just sits in the road, and burns.

And I laugh, I laugh, I laugh. After about five minutes I stop to catch my wind, text my parents.

“I’m okay, everything will be okay. Everything’s great. I love you guys with all my heart.” I forward the text to my sister. I need to tell her she’s short one stoner boy toy, but that can wait for a while, I guess.

Mel kisses me, along the cheek, making her way to my lips. She runs her fingers through my hair. Our heartbeats pound against each other as I pull her close to me.

We’re okay. We’re going to be okay. Rick’s alive. I’m alive. And Mel is alive.

She’s alive.

And Mel and I have each other, still, after all this. We two are still here, and with each other.

The repetition speaks to how unbelievable everything is. I can’t comprehend it, can’t process it. We made it.

“Fuckin’ miracle, man…” Rick manages through the hitching sobs. And he’s right.

It is, very simply, a miracle.

We kiss, and I think we’re just going to keep kissing for the rest of the day.

The clouds begin to break, letting little shafts of light stream through the drizzle.

All things considered, not a bad Monday.

But man. What a shit weekend.

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Heads Up

“Long Weekend,” first edition, will be concluded tomorrow in a special Monday edition. Sorry, sorry, a particularly beery Sunday night with my babe lulled me from my lackluster duties. See you playas tomorrow!

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The Sunday Serial, Vol. 1, Part 9

The penultimate episode, as Ryan and his friends plot a desperate campaign to escape the wrath of Shotgun Zombie

“Tar” may not come out for a few more weeks, so I’m going to try to bring up pics and back-story Wednesday or Thursday.  We’ll see how good I am at keeping promises. (Remember, I’m not.)

This is the second-to-last installment. It’s short, real short. Irresponsibly short, so hopefully the build-up will be worth it. Let me know what both of you guys think.

***

Long Weekend

© Copyright 2011
Sean Ganus

Part 9

I actually dozed for a little while. I wasn’t sure how to take that. Either I was becoming exhausted, or I was way too comfortable with the idea of sleeping among splattered zombies. I had a bad feeling it was a little bit of both.

I stretched, checked the time. It was a little after four. Huh.

Steve and Rick talked quietly, while Zach paced like he was on patrol. Something about the fight had awakened a something in him. The mellow he’d cultivated through years of, uh, horticulture, was gone, replaced with what I’m sure he thought of as a killer’s razor sharp instincts. He scanned the windows, the edges where truck met building, the lumps of zombie on the floor for signs of twitching. He was better than a freaking watch dog.

I walked to the bedroom. Meg Henderson had abandoned her shirt altogether, sitting at her desk in a white, lacy bra while she went over something on paper with another man, himself wearing suspenders over a bare upper body. Occasionally she would look beyond the camera and ask some unseen person “Do you think that’ll work?” It looked like they were planning something.

I wanted a cigarette. I wanted to build an alter out of cigarettes and worship the God of Nicotine. I needed a cup of coffee like a pregnant woman needed chocolate and Oprah. I rubbed my forehead, grimaced at how swirly things felt inside my skull.

I opened my phone, texted Mel. “You okay baby?”

I kept the phone in my hand, unwilling to let it go just yet. Maybe she would call. I’d need to be fast, before something, some urgent matter, might force her to disconnect.

I needed to think that. I did. I literally would have died if I even briefly considered the idea that she might not respond. That she might not be able to respond.

Melody…

***

            She’s really all I think about. Even while I typed all that out, she was the only thing truly on my mind. I need to know she’s out there, alive. Still with me, still one of us.

One of the living.

I close my laptop. I started writing everything down about nine hours ago. It’s nearly five in the morning now. Steve spent most of the night smoking a spare joint Zach had in his back pocket. I think he’s steeling himself up for what’s to come.

Zach, Rick, and I keep watch. Shotgun Zombie has developed an interesting strategy to get to those like me, those who are boarded up and out of reach.

I’m not sure where he got the tow truck, or where he figured out how to work it, but he’s been at it for three hours now. Hooking chains to doors and windows, throwing the truck into low gear, pressing the gas until the brick crumbles and the metal screams. He literally tears the entire wall down, opening up the apartments like mortal Easter eggs.

He’s done this to seven units. Each time there are screams. Sometimes people are able to run past the swarm, just for an instant, before Shotgun Zombie cuts them down in brutal fashion. He’s fond of aiming for the knees.

He’s making his way to us, slowly but surely. He knows there’s nowhere for us to go but to him.

Fuck.

He’s currently hooking up the chains to apartment #8. Gun barrels poke out between boards, firing relentlessly. Most miss, but several hit home. Shotgun Zombie just absorbs them, his heavy body not even flinching against the rifle bullets’ stopping power. I don’t even think he notices them. He is too absorbed in his methodical victory to care about trivial, superficial damage.

“Man, there’s no fuckin’ way we can stay here,” Zach mutters.

“No shit,” Rick snaps. “How the fuck do we get out, though?”

And that’s the million fucking dollar question.

I look around us. So far, I’ve been pretty good at using whatever I had laying around, but nothing I got left looks like it would take us far enough from this hellhole.

Apartment #8, labeled 1309, is torn open, and the dead file in. A man and a woman are pulled out, the woman quickly split down the sternum with a painfully old-looking sickle. Rivers of dark blood spill out of her, while the man is forced to his knees. Shotgun Zombie blows his head off like the guy’s brains are made of party poppers, and the awful, disgusting feasting begins anew.

I look to Mel’s mannequin, consider how well it would hold up against a twenty-mile march through pure, concentrated zombieness.

I think of the mannequin. I think of the extra bags of fertilizer Zach had in the back of the Lowes truck.

Suddenly, I fucking love that mannequin.

Sorry, Mel.

“Hey Zach,” I say, my distant voice catching his attention. “How much gasoline did you say you had?”

***

            I type a new status into Facebook: “Leaving today. Mom, Dad, Lyndi, Mel: I love you all.”

Send my parents a text: “Still safe. I love you guys.” No need to worry them for right now any more than I have to.

“This is fucking nuts,” Rick tells me.

“I second that.” Steve, in the back of the truck, loading the  .44.

“Admittedly, it has some flaws. But I kinda spun this on the fly, guys.”

“We’re gonna fuckin’ die,” Zach says flatly. There’s a weird Zen in his voice.

“One way or the other, yeah,” I confirm.

In the background, a rhythmic chant is heard on the TV. At WKRP, Meg Henderson is dancing naked on her desk, her arms held overhead, her eyes to the sky. Hey pert breasts jiggle with each jumping step, and she has an improvised tattoo of two snakes coiling around a rose on her right buttock.

Deep male voices repeat something behind the counter. One sounds like a chant, the other a random series of coordinates. It sounds like a code to other viewers.

Shotgun Zombie slowly sidles the truck into place, turning the wheel with a lazy monotony as though he did this all the time in life. He swings it around until its rear faces the building, throws the truck into park, climbs out to start attaching the chains. He has a heavy accent to his motion, a slowness only repetition can breed.

We’re all men at work. The weekend is over. It’s time to get serious.

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Self-Congratulatory Thumbs Up…

…for posting the story update minutes before midnight! Hoo-yeah, meetin’ deadlines!

Who’s awesome? I’M AWESOME!

BAZINGA, BABY!

– Sean

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The Sunday Serial, Vol. 1, Part 8

The zombies are growing more persistent, and Ryan’s defenses are faltering rapidly.

“Tar” finished filming recently, and my baby has the “Class Cut” wrapped up. She wants to tweak it a bit before she puts it on YouTube, but I’ll post the link soon, along with a mini-dcoumentation about the making of it. (You know, the thing I promised to do over and over again but never did, because I don’t understand the concept of obligation. I’m emotionally stunted, I’m sorry. Sometimes I have dreams about still being breastfed. It seemed relevant to add that last part.)

Hopefully, before she puts together the final “Final-Final Cut,” we’ll be able to film some extra stuff, violent-death related stuff, if I get my way, AHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! (We’re gonna gun somebody down on camera.) We shall see.

Meanwhile, what do you guys (both of you) think about posting another one-shot original story, like I did with “A Knocking at the Door?” Let me know if you’d like to see another like it, and if you guys vote yes I swear on the grave of that hooker I murdered the other night that it’ll be up by Saturday. I mean it, too. I killed a hooker. Me and like, thirteen football players. I can’t give any names, but let’s just say I’m gonna be making sweet money betting on Rothlisberger to fumble the next couple of seasons.

Aaaaannnnnd, on with the story:

 

***

 

Long Weekend

© Copyright 2011
Sean Ganus

 

Part 8

 

            I slept pretty soundly through most of Sunday morning. The boards held out pretty well, even though it was only a matter of time before the zombies busted through. Still, for right now, we were safe.

            It was nearly noon when I woke up. At first I couldn’t believe I’d slept that long, but really I hadn’t actually slept that much in the past three days, and I guess it caught up with me. Zombies or no zombies, a guy needed his rest.

            I stretched, texted my parents: “Still alive. No updates yet. Just got up. Will watch news in a bit to catch up. Love you, Ryan.”

            I called Lyndi. “What’s up?” she answered.

            “Well, Zach made it.”

            “Hah! Wow. Didn’t think he’d actually pull it off.”

            “Yeah. He’s pretty tactical for a stoner.”

            “I guess. So you guys on your way down?”

            “Not yet. The zombies hacked the truck’s tires apart as soon as he got here.”

            “Damn. Guess he’s out of a job.”

            “And surrounded by zombies. Don’t forget that part.”

            “You guys’ll be fine. Abby said her coven killed twenty more zombies, and that the other covens in the area have a plan for wiping out the rest.”

            “Awesome. Didn’t know coven’s made nukes.”

            “This is serious, Ryan.”

            “I know. It’s too serious. If I don’t piss and moan, I’m gonna go fuckin’ crazy.”

            “Well, Abby says it’s only a couple more days until they’re ready. Woulda been longer, but Nashville’s got, like, a lot of voodists in the area. Go figure, right? Think you can hold out till then?”

            “Maybe. Fuck, I might last a month, if I eat Zach.”

            “Funny.”

              “But then I’d get all twitchy like those old people in Book of Eli…”

            “Yeah, okay Ryan. I’ll talk to you later.”

            “Totally. I’ll probably be speaking zombie though.”

            “Look at that! More funny.” The sarcasm couldn’t have been thicker if it’d been wrapped in Louie Anderson. “Bye.”

            “Bye.”

            I tried Mel, like a dog looking for his lost mistress. No response.

            Damn.

            I looked out the window, saw with some suprise that Shotgun Zombie had set up some kind of workshop. He had what seemed like a pile of arms and legs on a table nearby, and a skinny, limbless zombie was strapped to a makeshift bench. Tools literally surrounded them both. Shotgun Zombie hefted a blowtorch, reached up, and pulled the shower curtain he’d rigged around his area closed. Suddenly the blue flare of a welding torch lit the little cubby. Well…shit. Things were just getting weird now.

            I wandered into the bedroom, where Rick and Zach were both smoking the remains of last night’s weed. The TV was still on.

            “Breaking: We have received confirmation of magic being used to stop the walking dead. Video evidence sent in from magic users has been overwhelmingly conclusive.”

            A video suddenly cut on, showing a stylized design painted on the ground. The camera then backed away, showing a swarm of zombies charging the group doing the recording. There was a girl…Abby, I realized, kind of proud of the fact that I recognized her from behind. Especially considering that, though I’d frequently imagined her naked, I’d never actually seen her as such.

            Which she was. Right there, on camera. Naked as fuck.

            “Damn.” I heard Zach say. “Is that Abby?”

            I didn’t answer. I was a little too mesmerized by her pert buttocks to properly process the question. Her right ass cheek had a tattoo of two serpents twirling around a rose. I felt like one of them was winking at me.

            “I would dive into that like a fat man dives into Thanksgiving,” Rick piped up.

            “But you are fat,” Zach replied, with the lack of concern over bluntness that a chronic high can give you.

            “Hence the severity of my cause.”

            Abby raised her arms overhead, causing her buttocks to tighten so that they resembled two hugging cantaloupes. She said something inaudible, and as the zombies charged past the seal, every single one of them collapsed into a limp pile. None of the ones behind them caught on to the phenomenon, either; they charged to the last dead man, until all of them were even deader than they were before.

            Abby turned around, fulfilling six years of wishful thinking on my part, and smiled at the camera. The image cut away from the supple, succulent feed and back to Meg.

            “Sources say that there is an effort to coordinate a magical offensive among multiple magical disciplines against the zombie hordes. A prolonged radio silence from government officials leaves little alternative to this current initiative…”

            Meg was hot, but dreadfully unnaked, and our attention waned.

            Zach peeled off his Lowes shirt, wiped his brow with it. “Man it’s fuckin’ hot.”

            “You’re keepin’ your clothes on,” Rick replied automatically.

            “Fine, whatever. Can I use your shower?”

            That wasn’t a bad idea. We all smelled like ripe skunk ass. “Totally. Towels are under the kitchen sink.”

            “I haven’t turned the hot water back on yet,” Rick told him.

            “Don’t care, it’s too hot for warm water anyway.”

            Zach sauntered off, closed and locked the door behind him. Probably wanted to secure some prime jack-off time. Couldn’t say I blamed him, though I was determined not to think about the fact that it was my shower he was about to hose down.

            “Fuck man, it is pretty hot.” I added.

            “You’re keepin’ your clothes on too.”

            I groaned. “Fine. But I’m eating the last of the ice cream.”

 

***

 

            Zach was still in the shower a half hour later. I was glad my water was billed at a flat fee.

            I scooped up the last of the Haagen-Dazs I kept hidden in the back of the freezer, bemoaning the injustice of a man denied the right to walk naked in his own apartment.

            What came next…it’s still hard to process how suddenly it happened. I guess they’d been working quietly for a while, weakening floorboards and pulling out nails. I wouldn’t have really noticed over the sounds of engines and gunfire outside, or the constant thudding footsteps above. But while I ate Haagen-Dazs, the roar of a chainsaw suddenly tore through the apartment. A second later, the blade was ripping through the beige linoleum, cutting a small, quick square through the kitchen floor.

            “Shit! Rick! Get in here!”

            He was already in the room at the sound of the saw, watching in shock as strips of plastic were spat into the air. In a second the saw blade dipped back down into the narrow, ragged hole, and a hardhat with a headlamp poked through the hole. It didn’t take more than the smell to realize what was coming up beneath the hat.

            Rick picked up the massive sledgehammer Zach had brought with him, gave a powerful over-handed swing. The hat caved, the pulpy, withered face beneath it suddenly exploding from the pressure. The body dropped, but another took its place.

            They were quick, fucking quick. One was out before Rick could swing again, and another from inside the hole grabbed the hammer and yanked it from Rick’s hands.

            POP POP POP. Three more from under the floor. They bumrushed us, and the fight was on.

            To his credit, Rick threw the fridge over the hole, effectively blocking it before the corpses of a teenage girl and a faceless cop tackled him. I revved my chainsaw, just as the fireman zombie in front of me revved his. Oh, fuck.

            I swung, the zombified boy scout taking a step back. The fireman swung back, missed me by inches. I went for his hands, missed, he swung for my throat. Near miss. Sweet fucking Jesus.

            We went for kill shots. I went to cut him in half, he went to saw me down the middle. We met midway, our blades sparking like they’d just borne lightning.

            I’m not gonna lie, it was pretty bitchin’.

            The force bounced the blades back, and we swung again. Another strike, the chains groaning in protest. Another, another, the motors sounding angry at the abuse we were heaping on them. The Boy Scout made an effort to charge, but I kept him back, slashing him across the chest and sending his bony ass crashing into the coffee table.

            Rick gritted his teeth, puffed his cheeks, and bounced his shoulders, throwing his attackers off. His hands free, he cranked his own saw, revved it proudly, and went to fucking town on the cop.

            “Try that DWB shit on me now, motherfucker!” he screamed, cutting the patrolman from the dick through his gut, before wrenching the blade out and decapitating the teenager in an unbelievably fluid swing of badassery. The body and head both whirled in different directions, and like a boss, Rick dismissively turned back to the cop, and plunged the saw back in. Cutting down from the shoulder, he shattered the collarbone and forced the thing to its knees. There was a snap of tissue and a crunching of bone, and both halves of the cop flopped to the floor.

            The girl wasn’t as down as he thought, though. With his back turned, Rick didn’t notice her pull a switchblade from inside her low rider jeans. She sank the knife into his leg, below the knee. Rick hit ground, grunting in anger.

            “Fuckin’ bitch!”

            The fireman was backing me into a corner, when out of nowhere I heard:

            “Cowabunga, mother fucker!”

            Zach hurled one-hundred and forty pounds of naked stoner against the fireman, wrapping his depressingly skinny arms around the zombie’s neck. The fireman whirled, trying to shake him off. Zach held out surprisingly long, his gangly, rubbery legs wrapped pretty tightly against the creature’s waist. Eventually the fireman gave a powerful shrug, thumping Zach against the wall, and my sister’s stoner fuck buddy crumbled.

            Free of the nuisance, the fireman advanced on me. Behind the air mask I could see his eyebrows creasing in concentration over its noseless face. It looked like it was snarling, through I’m pretty sure that was just a result of it not having any lips.

            The Boy Scout made his way to Zach, blocking his way to the fireman and me. Zach sneered. “I could take you, ya little shit!”

            The Boy Scout reach behind himself to the fireman, pulled the fireman’s jacket aside. Lodged in the belt was a fire axe, which the Boy Scout withdrew. It deftly swung the axe in its fingers, as though the thing didn’t weigh a gram.

            “Well…fuck,” Zach said.

            Rick sliced and diced the cop and the teenager, but the stab wound wouldn’t let him put too much weight on one leg. Nevertheless, he was doing his best to reach me.

            The fireman was backing me into a corner. I wasn’t going to be able to throw him off. Fuck me.

            A deafening shot rang out. Steve, from the doorway. He crawled in, took a shot at the fireman. The round caught him in the temple, distracting it enough for me to hack into it under the shoulder.

            It wasn’t enough to bring him down, but it was enough damage to weaken him. The fireman elbowed me in the chest, backed off my saw, tried to lift his own overhead. It succeeded, but it was noticeably slower at doing so.

            I thought then: Fuck this dude.

            I charged in, swinging like I was Captain Sinbad fighting the six-armed statue of Kali. I knocked his saw left and right. I chopped huge, ragged chunks of flesh out from beneath the fire jacket. I chopped into its knees, though its gut. I vaguely noticed the fly as it zoomed in for me, having somehow paper clipped its midsection together. It flew in a heavy, clumsy line, before quickly being batted away by my crazed blade. I went for the shoulder.

            It stopped me there, its saw catching mine before I could make contact. Then a miracle happened.

            The chain snapped. The chain on the zombie’s fucking chainsaw snapped. In a blur I saw it wrap around his neck and snag along my blade. We shared a moment. A quick, knowledgable moment. Then I pulled. I pulled like every bullied fat kid pulls when the only kid left on the other side of a game of tug-of-war is that needling little shit who always gives you a hard time at lunch. I gave it everything, everything. There was a satisfying ripping sound, followed by a dull snap.

            The helmeted head bounced against the floor. The headless body stumbled. The headless horror swung blindly, and I sawed through one of its knees to bring it down. It spun like it was dancing on its way down.

            The Boy Scout was keeping Zach pinned, swinging left and right whenever he tried to escape. Steve aimed, carefully, caught the kid in the back. The impact rocked its scrawny frame, and Zach seized the opportunity to snatch the axe and brain the kid.

            “Fuck you, you knot tyin’ little shit!” he screamed. “I fucking hated those goddamn Camporees!” The axe made low, wet sounds as it destroyed the kid’s body. Zach’s suddenly erect penis slung about in victory.

            I sat down, caught my breath while Zach moved in on the twitching fireman. I watched with no small satisfaction as he shattered the faceplate of the thing’s mask, collapsing the torn face underneath.

            Steve nodded to Rick. “You okay?”

            “Yeah man. Ain’t serious.” Rick reached under the kitchen sink, pulled out a dish towel and started wrapping it around his leg. “Should be fine. Fuckin’ bitch.” He gave the disembodied head a kick, and it rolled like a soccer ball until Zach split it neatly in two.

            I felt like he was getting a little too into this. The least he could do was show a little restraint when it came to chopping up corpses on my goddamn carpet.

            I sighed. Whatever. I refused to worry about it. I leaned my head back, let the spilled brain juices soak into the apartment company’s rug. My eyes felt heavy, so heavy…

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Filed under The Sunday Serial

The Sunday Serial, Vol. 1, Part 7

The zombies are getting smarter, and more determined than ever to feast on Ryan & Co.’s soft, soft giblets…

I know, I know, I’m full of empty promises, but this week has been killer busy. Look for a recap on the filming of “Tar” soon, and then a link to the video a couple weeks later when she posts it.

Also, we’re getting dangerously close to the end. I’m gonna need to get to work on another story before I’m caught with my wordy pants down.

On with the story:

 

***

 

Long Weekend

© Copyright 2011
Sean Ganus

 

Part 7

 

            Because I was busy battling the evil swarms of the walking dead, I forgot to text my parents. My mom called around two, in full-blown freak-out mode, despite the fact that I had answered in a calm and, noticeably I felt, living voice:

            “Hey Mom.”

            “Oh my GOD WHAT’S HAPPENED?!?!”

            “What?”

            “WHY DIDN”T YOU TEXT US?”

            “I was busy Mom. Y’know….zombies.”

            “YOU SHOULD HAVE CALLED IF YOU WERE IN TROUBLE.”

            “If I was in trouble Mom, how would I call?”

            “DON’T TAKE THAT TONE YOUNG MAN! WHY DON’T YOU WANT TO CALL?”

            “Mom, I’m fine, okay. Is Dad there? I wanna talk to him before we get back to securing the place.”

            “We?” Whew. Her tone was noticeably softer at the idea of people being with me.

            “Some of my friends made it, they’re in here with me now. So you don’t have to worry or anything…”

            “WHAT IF THEY’RE ROBBERS?!”

            Christ, she had her CAPS LOCK voice on again.

            “It’s not all ‘Mad Max’ over here, Mom. We’re okay. Is Dad there?”

            She called him. In an instant, he was on the line. “Hey, sport. You okay?”

            “Hey Pop. Yeah, I’m fine. Any news on your end about any progress on putting these things down? We’re kinda cut off here.”

            “No, nothin’ major. More whackjobs are saying they’re using magic to kill the creatures, but that’s probably all horse shit. Your Mom tells me ya got people with ya?”

            “A few friends. The band I write for.”

            “Ah. Well, that’s good, son. That’s real good. You hear from Mel?”

            “Not yet.”

            “Oh.” A pause, not sure how he was going to continue. Then: “I’m sure she’s alright.”

            “I am too. She’s in a fortress full of guns. She’s fine.”

            “Right. Well…” His only son was trapped and fighting for his life. “I love you, kid.”

            Sons never get used to hearing their dad’s voices shake.

            “I love you too, Dad.”

            “Be safe, kiddo.”

            “I will. Take care of Mom.”

            “Bye Rye.” Childhood nickname. It quivered in his throat.

            “Bye Pop.”

***

 

            I tried calling Mel again, got voicemail and left a message. I told her I loved her. I called my sister.

            “Guess what?” she answered.

            “What?”

            “My friend Abby told me her coven totally killed a bunch of zombies!”

            “Abby. Is she the Goth chick?”

            “Wicca, with a little bit of Hoodist. The one whose boobs you always used to stare at.”

            “Oh, her.” Abby. I briefly stopped talking, reminisced about a magical evening when I’d drunkenly convinced her to play a round of strip poker with me. She literally beat the pants off me, but not before her tank top fell to my pair of nines. “You say she killed some?”

            “Totally. She and her coven looked up some spells for vanquishing the unruly dead and drove up to Nashville to fight the zombies.”

            “You sure she didn’t just cast a spell on a dead person who, like, wasn’t going to get back up?”

            “You watched the news lately, Ryan?”

            “All the news people keep dying.”

            “Well, anyway, everything that dies around there gets back up.” Shit, that explained that fucking fly. “They drew a circle of life, and a bunch of zombies walked over it. Then, like, BAM, they’re dead. As in they STOPPED MOVING AND DIDN’T MOVE ANYMORE.” Everyone had their caps lock voice on today.

            “That doesn’t make much sense. Wouldn’t a circle of life make ‘em, like, more alive?”

            “It doesn’t work that way, Ryan. When the dead walk in defiance of nature, the Spirit of Life revokes their stolen energy upon confrontation.”

            “The more you know.”

            “Yeah, anyway, she says they’re working with other witches to figure out a way to shut the other zombies down. Like, all at the same time. Fuck, I wish I wasn’t in California. This all sounds so badass.”

            “You got school.”

            “Fuck school, man! THIS IS ZOMBIES.”

            “Well, I gotta go sis. Be safe.”

            “You too. Fuck I’m jealous.”

            “Bye sis.”

            “Bye.”

            I tried Mel again, got nothing, closed the phone. There was another BANG from the television. Meg Henderson paused for a couple seconds, then kept on with her report. Her voice was chronically shaky lately; at least she wasn’t getting too jaded by the level of suicidal violence around her.

            I opened my laptop, checked my Facebook. No responses. I posted another message: “PLEASE HELP. TRAPPED IN NASHVILLE. ADDRESS IN PROFILE.”

            Had a response on my Tumblr, however. “Ey mate. Been watchin ur shit on tha news, shit is CRAZZYYYYyyyy. Zombies man, fuckingg zombies ahhhhhhh. Nothing inetresting like that happens down ere. Cheers mate.”

            I closed my computer. I was shaky, badly craving either coffee or smokes. We needed to get out of here, like fast. Make a break for it. At least as far as the nearest Circle K.

            Rick was sprawled out on the floor. “Anybody feel like burnin’ some blunt?”

            It didn’t sound like a bad idea, though something was telling me that it wasn’t too responsible to…

            There was a loud, scraping WHUMP at the cheap aluminum door. In the far corner we all saw what looked like the curve of a broadside pickaxe blade. The blade wiggled, pulled out with an ear-splitting SKREEK!

            Another WHUMP, another awful SKREEK!

            Great. They were trying to chop through the door again. Luckily it was barricaded pretty well.

            Unfortunately, it was barricaded pretty well. That annoying shit was going to go on for hours.

            “Light ‘er up,” I sighed.

***

 

            The weed softened the annoying SKREEK a bit, but it was a problem we wouldn’t be able to stand for long. The zombie was infuriatingly persistent. It would take him less than a day to tear down the whole door, but he wasn’t showing any signs of slowing down.

            The dead have all the time in the world.

            “Fuck, man,” Steve groaned. “We gotta waste that dude soon.”

            “Can’t,” I remind him, hefting the shotgun over my shoulder. “We’re down to, like, ten shells. We can’t just unload on ‘em forever.”

            “Then let’s use this.” Steve held the stolen .44, looked it over, no doubt envisioned himself with the last name Callahan. “That big-ass zombie had like a hundred rounds on him.”

            “Let’s just be careful how many times we open that door, okay?”

            “Sure thing, man.”

            Then, a miracle. The awful, metallic grinding stopped. We heard steps thump down the apartment stairs, like the chopper had suddenly lost interest.

            “Ah, Jesus,” Rick said, his bloodshot eyes not blinking a bit as he spoke. “Thank Christ for that.”

            “Fuckin’-A,” I responded.

            Something small and thick was pushed through the hole. It was wrapped in grey strips of fabric, and hit the floor with a wet thud. It just sat there while we stared.

            “Did they just throw a meatloaf in here?” Steve asked.

            Jerome got up from his spot by the window, stepped over to the wad. He nudged it with the tip of his shoe, at which point the bundle gurgled. Then the wrap flared open, and something small scurried out. Whatever it was, it made a raspy, hissing noise as it moved.

            “Holy shit!” Jerome stumbled back as whatever-it-was ran for the kitchen, zipping under Steve’s seat. Steve leaped up, withdrawing the .44 and waving it at the grey-green blur.

            It climbed up the handles of the cabinets, using them as a ladder, then scrambled over the countertop and onto the stove. It rose up on its knees, stretched its chubby wittle-bitty arms, and wailed in a horrifying parody of a child’s crying.

            A baby. A fucking zombie baby. Bits of broken glass lined its gums like transparent fangs.

            Steve fired, missed, blew away the oven timer. The baby dived off the stove top, skittered across the linoleum.

            “Ah, look out! Fuckin’ creepy baby!” Steve fired again, blowing a hole straight through the floor. The creature feinted right, avoiding Steve’s aim to attack his ankle. The thin slivers of glass sank deep into the cartilage of his joint. He screamed, pointed, fired. Missed the baby, hit his foot.

            He screamed louder at that. The baby took off, leaving him to collapse on the floor, and went right for Jerome. Jerome shrieked, swung his axe, missed. Too quick for Rick, the baby just barely missed his machete and scrambled up Jerome’s leg.

            “SHIT!” He panicked, flailing at himself as the baby made for his face, chubby baby fingers going for his eyes. Jerome grabbed the kid, hurled it against the wall. It bounced off the drywall lile a sloshy basketball. A green stain was left behind.

            It recovered instantly, and was on the move again, all of us back-stepping to avoid it. Steve recovered enough to take aim, barely missed me with a shot to my right.

            “Watch where you’re shooting Steve!” I screamed. Steve fired again, his shot blowing out a chunk of drywall between me and Pete.

            “Steve, watch it!” Pete shouted, swinging my Louisville slugger at the savage infant.

            He fired again, barely missed Pete. The baby skittered behind Jerome, who swung wildly with his axe.

            “Steve man, be careful!” Rick screamed.

            Steve fired again. He was aiming for the baby. The baby was ducking behind Jerome.

            Jerome took the round right in the chest. Pulpy bits of his lung spattered the wall behind him. The slug threw him off his feet.

            Everyone was still for a second. Then the creature screeched in vicious glee.

            Steve popped off his last round. The baby’s chest popped like a watermelon thrown from a roof. The disembodied head went spinning through the air. The arms landed beside the legs in a disjointed pile.

            The legs continued to twitch, and the jaw worked in impotent frustration. The fingers were too chubby to send the arms scuttling away. It was down.

            So was Jerome. He made retching sounds as he tried to breathe. There were two valiant attempts at air, and then his whole body spasmed.

            Jerome didn’t move anymore after that.

            “GODDAMNIT, STEVE!” Rick whirled on him, taking massive, thundering stomps until he was close enough to slap the gun out of Steve’s hand. Steve just kept staring at the exploded baby, his face completely hollow even when Rick lifted him against the wall. “You stupid fuckin’ idiot! You killed him!”

            He thumped him against the wall once, then let go, and Steve just sat on the floor in a daze.

            We all heard something that sounded like a cantaloupe being stuck with a kitchen knife, and turned to see Pete staring at us in wide-eyed shock. Which was understandable, considering that Jerome had just split his head down the middle with his axe. His skull opened against the pressure of the wedge, like the wings of a particularly disgusting moth.

            He dropped my baseball bat, fell to his knees, slid off the blade with a queasy sucking sound, and spilled his split brains onto the carpet.

            Shit. They only needed one of their own in here. With each death, their numbers grew. The realization was like a punch in the balls: the zombies had now completely infiltrated our defenses.

            Jerome wasn’t home anymore. The shell he left behind was just another armed and dangerous corpse, ready to fuck some shit up for the living. He lifted his axe and charged.

            Rick was quick, damn quick, fucking quick, swinging the machete and parlaying Jerome’s swing. He elbowed the smaller man…uh, thing…zombie, and sent it stumbling backward. For a dude who looked like Marcellus Wallace’s pudgy brother, Rick was a spry guy.

            Shit. I looked over to see Pete start to push his way off the floor. Something thick and gray hung between his eyes and over his nose, dripping yellow liquid that looked like egg yolk. He hoisted the slugger, and shambled toward me. Not wanting to waste any shells, I stopped his swing with the butt of my gun, braced the barrel against his chest, and shoved. It felt like knocking over a really, really shaky lamp.

            Jerome swung at Rick again, but Rick ducked so that only a few of his dreads were mussed. He sprung like a coiled cheetah, lopping off Jerome’s head with a clean blow that didn’t even seem to slow when it hit the neck.

            The body didn’t slow either. Despite being short one neck, it swung back along the same parabolic arc, catching Rick under the arm. He winced, grunted, but didn’t scream.

            He didn’t really seem wounded, just more pissed off than anything else.

            “Fuck you, motherfucker!” he shouted, knowing full well he was fighting the exact thing that had killed his friend. He dropped the machete and yanked the axe out of the zombie’s hands. The blade didn’t look like it had caused anything more than superficial damage when Rick yanked the blade out, and Rick swung high and heavy, splintering the collarbone with his swing and throwing the headless monster to the ground.

            Pete came at me again. I grabbed Rick’s dropped machete, blocked the slugger as he swung it at me. Wrenching it free of the wood, I chopped through both of Pete’s tiny, mouse-like wrists. The bat bounced around on the floor, and I kicked it away to keep from tripping over it.

            The machete cut through Pete pretty quick. I thought there’d be more…resistance to dismembering somebody. I was wrong. Part of me understood how serial killers could be so prolific. Destroying a human body is a lot easier than one would think.

            When we were done, Pete and Jerome were nothing more than smelly, wiggling zombie bits. We sat on either side of Steve, who was now holding his blasted foot.

            We rested for a long while. Somewhere at the news station, someone else committed suicide. It must have been significantly more dramatic than the previous ones; there were screams and everything. Steve grew pale and got a cold sweat, so we splinted him up as best we could. Rick tore one of Mel’s favorite towels into thin strips and bandaged his ribs. I wondered how long it would be before my whole apartment was full of diced up zombies and people juice.

 

***

            Steve was out of commission, crippled and now higher than the fuckin’ Hubble to get his mind off the pain. Rick and I gathered the squirming pieces of zombie and stuffed them into a makeshift hobo bindle. I was pretty sure Mel wouldn’t miss the Playboy bedspread of mine that we used.

            We needed to get it outside before putrification made it a sanitation issue. Well, a bigger one, at least. The bindle was about three hundred pounds total, and getting it outside was gonna be a bitch. We had maybe two seconds to pull the barricade down and fling this putrid mess out before the swarm, well, swarmed us.

            We stood in front of the door, counting down together. “3, 2, 1…”

            A horn blared outside, followed by a repeated series of thumps and zombie screams, and the squeal of brakes tryinga little too hard to stop something that’s a little too big.

            Rick and I gave each other confused looks, looked out the corner of the door.

            A Lowes truck started beeping, and its diesel engine revved. Zombies were turned to oatmeal under the back tires as it reversed.

            The truck was coming faster than we would have assumed it was able to. The wooden steps splintered against the bumper, the porch started to break apart.

            Rick and I bolted, leaping away like our heels had rockets.

            Something heavy hit the door. The bookcases flew, clattered to the floor. Books launched like they’d been fired from a bazooka. The drywall around the door frame cracked, bulged, and the door flew open.

            “WHAT THE FUCK?!” I screamed, at the exact same pitch as a teenage girl would have.

            I brushed drywall dust off my face. Rick struggled to his feet, helped me up. Behind the door, we heard the sound of a delivery truck’s hatch door opening. A familiar face peeked in.  “Hey, Ryan! What’s up?”

            Zach. My sister Lyndi’s fuck buddy / not boyfriend. A Lowes driver. Shit, was he really delivering weapons?

            “What the fuck are you doing here, Zach?”

            “I got weapons man.” A pickaxe poked a hole through the steel wall of the cargo bed, but it had trouble getting back out. The truck perfectly sealed the door, so no chance of them sneaking inside. “I got, like, eight chainsaws and a fuckton of machetes.”

            It was a lot to take in, but eventually I was able to ask: “No guns?”

            “Can’t really get very many guns on short notice, man. But I got this.” He pulled a double barrel out from the back of his belt. “Kinda like to hold onto it, if that’s cool.” He looked past me, saw Steve with his shot foot. “Only three of you?”

            “Only three left, yeah.”

            “Cool. I brought some spare fuel so we can get out of here, man. Enough to get you out of Nashville easy, probably all the way to Atlanta even.”

            There was a loud, roaring hiss, and the truck started to buckle violently. Zach had to hold his arms out to balance himself.

            “Shit,” he muttered when it stopped. “What was that?”

            Rick listened to the receding hiss. “They slashed the fuckin’ tires.”

            I sighed. “Goddamnit.”

            The truck bed rocked side to side. The zombies were trying to tip it over. Hopefully it was too heavy to move. It’d better be; Zach had effectively busted all my goddamn locks.

 

***

 

            We moved the “weapons” inside, used the cache of particle wood Zach had brought to reinforce the windows. For a stoner, the guy was a pretty forward thinker.

            A very forward thinker, it turned out. Dude had a whole ounce in his glove box, and we burned our way through it while we watched the news.

            Things had gotten weird over at Channel 43. Reports of people using magic against the zombies were flooding the station. It seemed like it was getting harder for Meg Henderson to downplay the reports. Twice she forgot to include the phrase “allegedly” when referring to reports of zombies being magically shut down. Once our high got good and mellow she started reporting on claims purporting to build a “networked paragon” to combat the dead. I overlooked most of the details, admittedly a little too stoned to make much of what she was saying.

            She looked tired. Dark circles under her eyes, hair matted with sweat. I guess the A.C. was out at WKRP. Occasionally Meg broke down mid-sentence with sobbing exclamations of “Oh, God,” but she rather admirably composed herself, usually in under a minute, wiped her eyes, and went back to the report.

            She was pretty professional, despite the unusually high number of suicides at the station. “WKRP will continue to report these events, as they happen.”

            “Fuck man,” Zach said, his voice hoarse from smoke. “She’s hot.”

            “Aren’t you dating my sister?”

            “Yeeeah, well, not exclusively, man. It’s an…an understanding thing.”

            “I bet.” I fired my pipe, took a drag.

            It was getting late. I got up, staggered into the living room, looked over our fortified defenses. Everything was tightened pretty well; Zach worked part-time at Lowes, and had lifted close to two-hundred pounds of prime Yellawood. It wouldn’t hold forever, but it would keep ‘em back for a while. A damn sight better than the rickety mess my fortifications had become.

            I checked my phone. 10:49 p.m. I tried calling Mel, didn’t get an answer.

            This was becoming too much. I sighed, called 911. No answer there, either.

            Damn it.

            I stumbled back into the bedroom, but Zach and Rick had already passed out. I made my way back to the kitchen, used up the last of the turkey, tomatoes and cheese on a single, over ambitious sandwich. I ate the entire thing before I even had a chance to breathe, then sat down against the fridge and listened to the night.

            The night sounded a lot like zombies.

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The Sunday Serial, Vol. 1, Part 6: Monday Edition

In which Ryan and his allies face off against the unbelievably powerful, virtually unstoppable, and literally unkillable Mama Bear.

I didn’t make my deadline yesterday, which I’m okay with since I make it a point never to feel guilty about inconsequential stuff. However, that “but you promised” whine of integrity tells me I should make it up to my loyal readers. Both of you. So we’ll see how I do that in a day or two.

For now, I present the newly designated Monday Edition, for those Sundays where posting is absolutely impossible. Oh yeah, shirking responsibility! Oh, it’s sweet, like nectar from a flower.

Annnnnd…..story!

 

***

 

Long Weekend

© Copyright 2011
Sean Ganus

 

Part 6

 

            Despite everything, I slept rather soundly that night, much to the dismay of my friends, I’m sure. But you can only take so much horror before you decide to either shut down or keep going. I was going to keep going. I had to keep going.

            Mel was still out there. I knew it, and I had to see her again.

            So I slept. I slept so I could reawaken and continue to fight my way back to her. I slept, to the lullaby of fidgeting fear and pacing sneakers on slippery linoleum wet with gore.

***

 

            Saturday morning came with a bang.

            I jolted awake, shooting straight up like my spine was spring-loaded, as another bang rattled the apartment.

            Jerome and Pete were fighting off a zombie that had managed to wiggle the futon enough to the side so that it could squeeze most of its red, skeletal body through. The creature was emaciated, but didn’t look rotted. It looked more…chewed than anything, really. Like something had been gnawing on it not long ago.

            Jerome was pushing the thing back with an axe while Pete fired, blowing off one side of its head, then another, but leaving its gnashing teeth to continue to clack as it pushed forward. Pete took another shot, annihilating the chattering teeth, and hit it with the butt of the gun, shoving it back outside. Another zombie took its place, leaping into frame in an effort to blitz our defenses. Pete popped it right in the chest, the round blowing a hole trough its ribs and sending it flying through the air.

            I was up in time to shove the futon back, and hold it in place while Rick and Steve propped the bookshelf in place.

            “Fuckin’ zombies,” Steve mumbled past the burnt out butt of his smoke. He took a deep drag, his cigarette flaring a bright orange before going out. Steve made a face, flicked the butt through the air into the kitchen sink. “Where’re your smokes, man? I’m out.”

            “Me too.” I felt a surge of hatred for his newly engendered nicotine rush. “Hope that one’ll last ya.”

            He made a ticking sound with his tongue. “This sucks.”

            “No shit, Steve,” Rick said, making his way to the bedroom. The rest of us filed in when we heard him turn the volume up on the TV.

            “…our sincerest condolences to the families of Nicky Sullivan. A friend and loyal co-worker, Nicky was not only our most accurate and dedicated fact-checker, she was also a dear friend to everyone here at the station. At 3:36 this morning, Nicky was discovered dead, from what on sight appears to be purposeful hanging…”

            “Damn,” Rick muttered, sitting on the floor and leaning against the wall. “Everybody at that station’s droppin’ like flies.”

            I heard an annoying buzzing in my ear, as thought the immortal zombie fly had been waiting for a thematically relevant introduction before making its appearance. I swatted it away, sending it to Jerome before he, too, waved it off.

            “What’s with all the bugs in your place, man?”

            “Just the one bug, actually.”

            “The fuck?”

            “Don’t worry about it.” A fuckin’ terrible shudder suddenly rippled through the trundle bed frame buttressed against the window. Something goddamn huge had just body slammed it; we could hear whatever had done it slam back into the ground with a protracted, zomboid growl.

            “Raaarrrreeeggghh…”

            I heard Pete and Jerome start to slow their breathing, animal survival instincts telling them to listen to the predators outside.

            “We need to leave here, guys. We can’t hold them off forever. Not with those things as smart as they are.”

            “Shit man,” Steve started. “How smart can those things be?”

            We heard the roar of a motorcycle, and suddenly the trundle bed exploded out of place and clattered against the opposite wall. Mama Bear flew over her handlebars and flipped through the air, her massive body rattling as it crumpled against the carpet.

            Everything was still for a second. Mama Bear sat like a lumpy puddle of leather and splinters. The Harley, stuck in the window frame, sputtered and died. The front wheel, now warped and wobbling to a stop, slipped off with a metallic clink, bounced against the floor, and rolled out the bedroom door.

            There was a gurgling, rumbling sound inside Mama Bear, and the massive mountain of rotten flesh rose and stood to its full height. I heard loosened ribs grinding against ripped cartilage, muscles popping back into place as the massive zombie stretched and flexed. Mama Bear, the faceplate of her helmet shattered, looked from person to person. She only had one eye, a massive white bulb that twitched whenever it landed on a new face. I don’t know if she lost her lips before or after smashing through the window, but every time she looked one of us in the eye she clicked her teeth together, and gurgled deep in her throat.

            She still hefted the mace in one hand. Half of it was still stained from its violent interaction with Tim’s face the day before. There was a disconcertingly solid chunk of something still stuck in place between the spikes.

            With a flick of her wrist Mama Bear twirled the medieval weapon, then grabbed it with both hands and hoisted it chest high. She spun on her heels until she was facing Rick, then hoisted the mace high overhead.

           Rick grabbed the handle of the mace before she could swing, and did his best to wrench it loose. Rick was huge, a bear of a man. Dude could pick me up with one hand no problem. But Mama Bear punted him away with barely a breath, knocking him clear through the air with a swift boot to the chest. The drywall caved in under his weight, and he slid to the ground gasping for breath.

            Steve chopped heavily into its back with his machete, but didn’t even make the zombie rock in place. Mama Bear buried the end of the mace’s handle under his ribs. Steve folded and fell, and pretty quickly started to puke.

            Jerome swung, the axe head smashing into a particularly soft spot where her kidney’s should have been and sinking in deep. He pulled back, sending a spattering of grey-green slop and meal worms splattering against the wall.

            Mama Bear hefted her mace, hoisting it to the ceiling, and prepared to smash Jerome through the wooden floor. He was rooted in place, too terrified from watching his imminent death to even pee his pants.

            The shotgun butt rocked my shoulder. The shot was surprisingly muffled, like a plastic bag that had suddenly popped. Mama Bear’s eye exploded into nauseating chunks, and her helmet went spinning through the air, clattering into a corner.

            The back of Mama Bear’s grey skull was gone, but she still stood. Her teeth clenched together, grinding under the pressure. She turned to me, flexed her arms to swing.

            I fired again. Teeth exploded in every direction. I briefly thought of it as a particularly disgusting piñata. The spilt jawbone rolled through the air.

            I saw the ragged flesh around her nostrils flare, like she was smelling the air. Or maybe she was just pissed. She stretched, rose the mace, and prepared to bring the fucking rain.

            I saw Rick spring to his feet and go for the machete still lodged in Mama Bear’s back.

            The massive zombie didn’t budge, didn’t even notice him. She was focused solely on me. I was paste.

            With every ounce of weight he had, Rick sliced clean through the thing’s right shoulder. The cut made a wet, ripping sound.

            For a second, Mama Bear’s arm just sort of swung in place. Its grip slipped, and it thumped to the floor like a fat slug.

            She looked to her right, presumably not yet used to not having eyes. Or maybe she never even used them in the first place. I didn’t pretend to understand how these things functioned.

            Rick brought the machete down again. I heard it thunk against thick bone as it went through the left shoulder, and then that arm flopped off too. That heavy mace made a deep dent in the carpeted wooden floor when it hit.

            Turning to Rick, Mama Bear looked down to see him stab the machete through her gut. This time Rick was able to throw her off-balance, knocking the big lug against the wall. Mama Bear gave him another kick, the massive zombie still possessing enough power to send Rick flying through the air like a baby in the care of an English nanny, despite his size. Rick hit the ground hard, and Mama Bear made to take a step for him. Probably to stomp him into a smear of man-jam.

            But something was holding her in place. The zombie looked down, brown goo dripping from her blasted craw.

            The machete held her in place, and beyond her it was buried in a thick wall stud, probably a supporting beam.  Mama Bear tugged, tugged harder, determined to jimmy herself loose. She pulled, eventually pulling herself through with a wince-inducing sound that made me think of a spoon being pulled from the bottom of a full jelly jar. Stumbling free, Mama Bear looked to the ragged hole left behind by the blade.

            I’d been reloading the shotgun as she was pinned, and fired into her left knee. Once, twice, three times. Chunks of meat and bone were spat out of her leather riding chaps. The leg bent at an unsavory angle, and something deep inside the zombie’s leg whined and snapped. Mama Bear went down.

            Jerome, still hefting the axe, buried the axe head in Mama Bear’s other knee. The kneecap went with a sound like a crushed eggshell. Jerome hacked into the treelike leg, each blow burying itself deeper into the putrid tissue, smashing through brittle bone and tawny sinews. Eventually all he was chopping into was a balloon of leather and meat goo.

            I heard gunshots, turned to see Steve emptying my .38 into a swarm of zombies that were trying to squeeze into the window. The massive Harley was blocking more space than it opened, and the majority of the undead outside were doing their best to haul the metal beast out of the way. A few, however, clambered over their struggling cohorts and did their best to squeeze through to us. Steve emptied eight rounds into the nearest skeletal face he could find, punching a fairly neat hole through where its nose had been. Seemingly perplexed, the zombie clawed at its new orifice, as Rick swung a baseball bat he’d snagged from my closet and knocked it ass-over-teakettle back outside. Steve reloaded as Rick fought another corpse, trying to push it back despite the thing’s solid grip on the bike’s handlebars. Steve clicked the chamber shut, unloaded on the zombie’s hand. Fingers were blasted off, and Rick sent the zombie somersaulting back outside.

            With Mama Bear in little pieces and pinned to the floor, we turned our attention to sealing up the window. We had to get the goddamn Harley out of the way if we were going to close off the window again. The only thing is, pushing the bike back would leave a critical window of opportunity for the zombies to pour in. Rick, Jerome and I all shoved as the zombies pulled, while Steve and Pete reloaded behind us.

            The fucking bike wouldn’t move. “Fuckin’ push!” Rick shouted.

            “I am fuckin’ pushin’!” Jerome shot back. Then, suddenly: “Ahhh! SHIT!”

            He let go, and I saw him back away from the bike in what looked like a fuckin’ dance. He hopped on one foot, kicked out with the other. I looked down, saw what he was screaming at.

            Mama Bear’s left arm had him by the ankle.

            We didn’t have time to pull the thing off him. Another zombie was coming, better equipped to deal with the small gap. A little kid, a boy, probably five, scrambling over the putrid bridge to the window his brethren formed and making his way over the handlebars. His teeth were clenched, his eyes were flared, forming that bizarre, wrathful face little kids can effortlessly make when they don’t get their way. His cheeks puffed like he was huffing air.

            Steve pointed the .38, popped off six shots. The first shot took out the kid’s eye, the others picked away at his arms and legs. Taking a moment, Steve fired two more decisive shots, both in the chest, throwing the scrambling little shit off the mound.

            Another was already crawling forward in his place. A woman, young. Really young, our age young. Hot too, before. In the confusion I remembered her as a neighbor, one I’d noticed sunbathing occasionally before looking away out of respect for my girl. One cheek was entirely gone, and ragged little strips of red meat were stuck between her molars. Her green sports bra was stained a dark, sick color, and when she moaned at us, her breath smelled like blood.

            Steve stuck the .38 in her mouth, pulled the trigger about a dozen times, desperate to keep her outside. Only one shot was actually fired, and it rocked her head back from the gun. Steve stumbled back, started to clumsily reload.

            Pete pointed the shotgun, too far into pure survival mode to care that this was the chick he’d once begged me to introduce him to. He squeezed the trigger, the gun squirmed, and everything from her forehead up disappeared.

            I think her name was Sherry. I think. Sherry’s mouth opened, and luckily I was too busy pushing against the motorcycle to be sickened by the sight of daylight in the back of her throat. A high rasp emanated from her, and she reached out, grabbed the windowsill, pulled herself forward.

            Pete fired again, hitting her in the shoulder. Her thin arm was completely blown off, and Sherry, off-balance, tumbled along her side to the ground.

            But the arm remained. I shit you not, I watched it curl its fingers into a fist. When Rick looked down from shoving against the front wheel well, Sherry’s petite arm punched him right in the face.

            “Ow! GODDAMNIT!” he shouted, with a tone that implied surprised but honest pain. He plucked the severed limb from its perch and launched it outside. A zombie wielding a scythe swung at his head, but Rick dodged it, suddenly leaping away from window and floated through the air, Matrix-style.

            Wait, no, that’s not what happened. Rick had been pulled away from the window, and thrown to the floor. By Mama Bear’s other arm.

            Something dug in my eye, scratched at my eyelids. Something that buzzed.

            “AHHHH! Fuckin’ bug!” I roared, swatting at my face and only succeeding in slapping myself. The fly dug in deeper, forcing me to let go of the bike and dig at the ocular invader.

            The window was unguarded. I heard scratching fingernails grip the windowsill, the scythe chopping into wood, and a blast as Pete shot whatever was coming through. Another shot, and the thud of whatever was approaching hitting the ground beyond the window. I heard the metal scythe blade clattering to the concrete outside.

            The mother fucking fly was scraping away like I’d, well, fucked its mother. It would have bitten me if it could. Instead all it did was spit bug goo in my eye, until I could finally get my fingers around its spiky ass and wrenched it out.

            I took a minute to look at my personal zombie archenemy. I watched its buzzy legs twitch as it tried to pull free. Then I took it in two hands, and pulled it apart, quietly consecrating the moment with a soft: “Fuck you.”

            I shuddered with what, I won’t lie, was this close to religious rapture, and sighed with satisfaction.

            Another shot as Pete held the zombies back. A thud as Rick hurled the disembodied arm off his belt and into the wall. Jerome wailing, still having trouble getting free of the arm that held him. I dropped the bug bits, ran to the kitchen sink, sprayed my eye clean of the stinging goop the zombie fly had left behind.

            Another two shots, and Pete was empty.

            I stumbled back into the room, seeing Steve reloading the shotgun from a mostly empty box of shells. Pete was doing his best to hack away at the groping hands from outside with Rick’s machete, while Rick did his best to pull the arm off of Jerome’s pant leg.

            I ran in, grabbed Jerome’s axe, split the head of an invading hillbilly whose overalls hung over a gaping open cavity in his chest. Grey matter spurted through his split “Get Yer Shine On” cap. A red stain started to trickle through his beard. I planted a foot against his pot belly and slid him off the blade.

            The Harley lurched back, the wheel well grinding against the sill. More hands gripped the curves of the bike, tugging and pulling, but the bike wouldn’t move another inch.

            Rick hurled the arm off Jerome. “Rick! Jerome!” I shouted. “Get over here! We need to get this bike clear!”

            “Oh, shit!” Pete moaned. “They’re gonna pour in here when this thing is out. No way we can block this shit off in time!”

            He was right. They were coming too fast, and faster and faster by the second. I couldn’t blink without counting a few more out there than there were before.

            “What do we do?” Pete howled.

            “Hold on!” Rick let go, snatched his tool belt off the floor, and made for the double closet. Specifically, the right side of our double closet. He wrenched it open, immediately went to work on a pipe at the top of the water heater that sat tucked away in the back corner.

            Sherry was back, grabbing for my face. I swatted her hand away, shouted: “Rick, what the fuck you doing, man?”

            “Just hold on a goddamn second!”

            Sherry grabbed my collar, pulled so that the top two buttons were torn off. Fuck, I liked that shirt. I punched her in the face, ignoring the spurt of chunky blood that dribbled over my knuckles.

            She reached forward, grabbed my belt by the buckle. Under normal circumstances, I assumed I’d be flattered, but she gave a surprisingly firm yank, and I nearly flipped over the windowsill.

            “Shitlemmegoyafuckinbitch!” I screamed in a high falsetto, grabbed the frame, and pushed back. I nearly hauled her inside with me. I punched her again, cutting the knuckles of my middle and ring finger against her molars, and she fell back through the window.

            Steve fired over my shoulder, disconcertingly close to the side of my head. He fired again, and again. I wondered how concerned for my well-being he was through all of this.

            Skulls and ribs exploded around me. Fragments of bone rained down like gruesome confetti.

            The motorcycle shuddered, gave, and disappeared. We were clear.

            So were the zombies.

            “Get out the fuckin’ way!” Rick screamed. A torrent of boiling water suddenly shot out of his hand.

            Wait, that wasn’t right either. It looked that way in the confusion, but really he was just guiding it from an opened pipe, using his wrench as a handle. Steam quickly engulfed the room, and we listened as rotten skin started to bubble and burst against the pressurized jet stream of scalding death he had loosed.

            Sherry appeared, again, and she caught a boiling splash dead on in her formerly glorious bosom. In a second her skin, still surprisingly tan despite the pall death typically brings, blistered and cracked. Chunks where the water hit her directly started bunching up and sloughed off.

            Rick wrenched the pipe around to cook the old lady Jerome had tripped earlier outside. She screamed, making me wonder briefly if she was just some old lady the zombies had just assumed was one of them, when really she was just trying to get to safety like we were. Eh, whatever. She hissed, she clawed at the air, but eventually she fell back. Her skin wrinkled, even more than it had already, and fell off in a solid, wet flap. The flesh underneath looked like the skin of a pale, boiled chicken.

            “This shit’s hotter than boilin’!” Rick yelled at us. “Keep back!”

            I watched the stream arc across the room, too fast for the water to evaporate into steam before hitting the zombies. The old hillbilly was nailed right in the chest cavity, fell back clutching his steaming giblets.

            Some really fucking creepy little kid appeared. He had little teeth like a doll, and weird wrinkles around his eyes that I guess were the beginning stages of decomposition. He looked impossibly evil, like he wanted to stab me with the screwdriver he held while smiling the whole time. To support my point, I would like to point out that he did in fact stab at me with the screwdriver, while sporting the freakiest grin I’ve ever seen.

            The water nailed him in the mouth, forced its pressurized, steaming way out of his ears, his nose, his eyes. His eyeballs popped straight out of their sockets and instantly shriveled like steamed grapes. His whole head was enveloped in mist, his hair crinkling from the moisture. He fell back, trying to shield himself and simultaneously clutching at his throat.

            Rick kept spraying. A middle aged man in a suit, the suit shrinking from the heat and grabbing his body like fetish gear. A surprisingly hot zombie in her underwear, who looked like a pot roast after we gave her a boiling shower. A skinny kid in tennis clothes, blasted straight off his feet.

            The zombies backed off, cleared the window. Rick sprayed until there was a good four feet of clearance, then wrenched the pipe closed.

            “Get the bed up, hurry!” he yelled.

            We had the bed frame on its side in an instant, and Jerome and I helped him crabwalk it to the window. Steve fired a round apiece out the window into two zombies already starting back in, firing into their knees and sending them tumbling into the dirt.

            “Goddamn sonuvabitch!”

            Jerome stumbled, tripped by the same creeping arm that had snagged him before. It had slunk blindly around, looking for the one that got away.

            Jerome took a step, landed on the shattered shoulder, kept stumbling. A rogue hand, shielded from the boiling bath from the side of the window, ragged stumps where thumb and forefinger once were, reached in, snagged his chain, jerked.

            He  made a choked face, started to fall back. They had him in an instant. He was on his way out the window a lot faster than the Harley.

            Rick and I grabbed him, pulled with everything we had. Not surprisingly, living muscle tissue is a lot stronger than brittle, decomposed joints. A shower of snapped fingers spilled into the room, and Jerome stumbled headfirst into Rick.

            We blocked the window frame, held the bed in place with our body weight while Pete and Jerome worked the TV stand in place. The wood was too cracked to hold on its own, though.

            “Steve, get the fuckin’ desk!” I screamed.

            He was on it, fast, lightning fast. Too fast, actually, hoisting my desk into the air without even clearing it off. My printer cracked open and exploded like an inky bomb when it hit the floor.

            “My fucking printer!”

            Steve was heedless, threw the desk in place beside the stand.

            Another gunshot, this one from the TV. Meg Henderson gave a wide-eyed stare beyond the camera.

            We stepped back, listened to the desperate clawing against the mattress, the ragged fingernails ripping and catching against the tightly woven nylon.

            While we caught our breath, Mama Bear moaned through her ruined jaw.

            I felt something on my shoe, kicked the creeping arm off of me. I scanned the room; where was the other…?

            A deafening sound filled the room, and I felt like someone had just punched me straight in the eardrum. I looked down, saw Mama Bear’s disembodied arm hefting a .44 magnum pulled from under the zombie’s studded chaps.

            The shotgun was loud, like most guns, but it was a gas press operated semi-automatic. The .44 handgun, by comparison, sounded like a goddamn cannon someone had impregnated with dynamite.

            Another BOOM, and I realized it was shooting at me. Somehow, and I still don’t understand how, it knew where I was. I dropped and crawled away, looking back to see two massive holes punched into the drywall.

            Another bang, this one more refined, and the hand holding the pistol shattered. Stray fingers flew everywhere; one even tried to crawl when it hit the carpet. Rick crunched it with his steel toed boot, propping the shotgun against his shoulder.

            Lying helpless, a castrated powerhouse, Mama Bear groaned in what had to be outrage.

            “AAHHHHHHRRRRRRRRAAAAAAAAHHHHHRRRRRGGGGHHHHH!!!”

            Pete grabbed the mace’s handle, pulled with everything he had. The mace didn’t budge. He kept pulling, with every stringy fiber he had in his mousy body. His face turned a deep purple, and cords poked out of his neck. Finally, the mace was lifted off the floor, and Pete was able to hoist it, dangling, his hands chest high while he penguin-walked over to Mama Bear.

            Mama Bear let out one last whine, before Pete simply let the mace go. The rotten skull popped like a moldy egg.

            Mama Bear didn’t make any more sounds.

            We fell to the floor, as a man. We caught our breath, we relaxed our shaking bodies. Steve buried his face in his hands. “Jesus,” he muttered.

            “Yeah, man.” Rick let himself fall back on the floor, lost himself to staring at the ceiling. He didn’t say anything else, just breathed really heavily.

            On TV, Meg Henderson continued her report, albeit in a voice significantly shakier than from Wednesday.

            “…gunshot, camera operator Chuck Palanium of a self-inflicted knife wound, and, I have just learned, Susan Harper, of field operations, from an overdose of painkillers…”

            Jesus. I guess the station was building a monopoly on body counts.

            I heard an annoyed buzzing to my right. I turned my head to see the zombie fly dragging its disembodied hind end across the carpet. Too pooped to wanna deal with it, I simply sent it on its way with a flick of my finger.

            I kicked the mushy body of Mama Bear, which still wiggled grossly. Bits of the fucker were spattered everywhere.

            Our fortifications were failing fast. The undead were growing in size and power. Zombie juice was spattered all over the walls. And now the bedroom smelled like eggs.

            Awesome.

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