So … this is my response to a flash fiction challenge posted by Chuck Wendig last Friday. Through random selection, I got sub-genre: Zombie Apocalypse; conflict: family torn apart; and must include: a forbidden book.
Here’s the result (at exactly 1000 words):
The first time I’d done more than throw a punch at anyone, I levelled a rusted axe … at my mother’s neck. Then again, she had just tried to eat me.
What a mind-fuck. Despite the dire nature of my circumstances, I just couldn’t do it. I swung the axe a couple of times, half-hearted, backing down the hall.
Then, I turned and ran like all the the demons of hell were on my ass. Believe me, a zombie-mom qualifies. I took the stairs at a leap, one hand on the rail.
Mom tumbled down after me.
There was no point staying in the house, fighting a losing battle with a mother, who, though diseased, I refused to kill. So I’d have to take my chances outside. Until I found some better place to hole up.
I locked the door behind me, hoping to slow Mom down further. If she never got out of the house, I wouldn’t complain. Not only would I not have to kill her then, but nobody else would be able to either. Zombie or not, she was still my mom and I just couldn’t imagine Justin or Laur—or any of my other friends—taking a baseball bat to her head. That assumed that none of my friends had been infected.
Stop thinking about this shit. Just go!
The street appeared empty enough, the odd mail or news carrier shambling along would be easy to evade, but a quick look through the windows, cheerily lit for the evening meal, of the surrounding homes told me that no house on the street could be considered safe. Even if it was only a smear of blood on the wall, I wasn’t about to take the chance. Not after I saw Darcy’s dad sink his teeth into his daughter’s arm. I stopped looking in windows after that.
Skimming along the back fences of the yards, between the property lines, seemed a safe-enough plan and the school a possible destination. Old Larry, the crazy janitor, should be gone by now and I hoped the security guard had gotten “distracted” on his way in. Either that, or one of them saw what happened and raised some form of defence.
“Jesus Christ!” Someone barrelled into me from behind, her scream mingling with my profanity. Her light blue hoodie stood out in the darkness. She didn’t try to bite me. “It’s okay,” I said repeating the words several times, holding onto her shoulders, praying she hadn’t been bit, or lost her shit.
“Andy?” she said. Not bitten. Not shitless, but shaking like a Chihuahua. “It’s really not. Okay, I mean.”
“Sands?” Thank God I’m not alone. “Where’s Justin?”
“I don’t know.”
“Dead. Or undead. Justin told me to run. I couldn’t not—God! They got him, didn’t they?”
“Did you see him get bit?”
“Then he’s not bit. Where you headed?”
“I don’t know,” she said again. Calmer, but hopeless now.
“Come with me.”
Sands and I made our way around Barton Hill Secondary, checking doors as we went. All locked.
“Andy,” she said, voice made strange by the night, “if we see Justin and he’s one of them, you’d kill him, right?”
“I don’t think so. I could kill my mom even after she … I don’t think so.”
“It’s the right thing to do though, isn’t it? They wouldn’t want to be … that way.”
I had no clue what she wanted me to say, figured anything I’d say would go wrong.
“I’m not your friend. You barely know me,” she said.
“No.” I can’t. Don’t ask me.
“If something happens, you kill me.”
“No.” I don’t want to be alone.
Sands opened her mouth to speak again and screamed instead. I turned and saw Larry running at us with a real axe, one of the shiny, red ones in the cases with the fire extinguishers. The rusty axe made a hollow ‘thunk’ as it hit the ground. I followed, landed on my ass and elbows. Sands screamed again.
Larry lumbered to a stop, grunting, and then smiled like Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight. “Perfect,” he said. “Inside. You’re just what I need.”
Sands knelt beside me, dragging the axe back so she could get a good grip on it.
“Inside.” Larry pointed to the door. In the next moment, it opened and Laur poked his head out.
“Get your asses in here.” He looked again, his eyebrows rose, and he looked back over his shoulder. “Dieser, it’s your sister and Carsin.”
“Justin?” said Sands.
We scrambled up and ran to the door, Larry watching our backs with the shiny, red axe.
Inside the cafe-torium, Laur led us to a table where Justin, a security guard, and a wide-eyed and shaking woman sat. Laur and Justin were spattered with blood.
Larry locked the door behind us and joined us. “Seven’s the number we need to do this thing.”
“What thing?” I said.
“This thing,” said Larry. He threw something onto the table between us. A big, musty-smelling book. He reached between me and Laur, tipped the cover open with his finger, and leafed through the pages. “There.”
All I saw were a bunch of scrawling letters with a drawing that looked like a zombie.
“What’s it say?” Sands asked.
“Don’t they teach you kids Latin anymore?” Not even the guard and the woman nodded. “Jesus … Stole this from my uncle. Archaeologist, dug up a bunch of old monasteries in France. Said the church didn’t want to lay claim to this. I figured it was something special.”
“So?” said Justin.
“It’s magic. Spells. This one’s to stop the end of days.”
“The Rapture. Revelations? You think the Bible’s all metaphor? The dead walk. I’m sure it’s not what the Pope thought it’d be.” Larry laughed. “If seven of us say the words, we reset the clock. The dead go back to being dead and we get back to living.”
“What about our parents?”