Category: zombies

southern fried zombies

Did anyone watch Town of the Living Dead on the SyFy Channel? If not, it was a docu-series about a film crew in Jasper, AL who were struggling to make a full-length zombie movie.

I was excited to watch this show because 1)zombies and 2)I actually chased a girl to Jasper and that’s where I had my first kiss. So I have a special attachment to that city.

The show chronicled this group of amateurs as they struggled to put together scenes with no money, no special makeup effects, and no idea what they were doing. It was funny and endearing. It almost felt like I knew these people because I recognized their accents and southern colloquialisms.

Usually I cringe at southern representation on television because the shows always make the people seem like uneducated hicks. Maybe I’m in the minority on this one but I never felt the cast of the show were put in a bad light or made to look like white trash. Sure, they were country but that was a part of the charm.

But instead of showing these people farting in each other’s mouths or filling up the bed of a truck with water and using it as a redneck hot tub like you’d find on Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, Town of the Living Dead actually showed people with aspirations beyond drinking beer and mud riding. They were creative and passionate about their project.

One cast member, John, was the writer and director of the zombie movie. I related to him the most. He was a creative guy who dreamed of making a film but was stuck in a small town with very little artistic opportunities. While he worked on the film in his spare time, he earned money by working at RadioShack. Here I am, also a writer and also stuck in my own retail hell. I feel ya, brother.

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biting down

You know how, when you’re in a zombie apocalypse, you’re always struggling just to make it through the day? Sometimes you run out of food and fresh water and you watch the sun set with a pain in your stomach. Or sometimes you make friends and you think you’re safe, that you’ve finally found a family but they steal all your supplies while you’re back is turned or they leave you in the middle of the night because you’re just slowing them down.

But you press on because that’s what humans do. You’ve got to make some sense of this mess made of the world. You find an abandoned gun and gather up some bullets and you scrape by. It’s tough but you make due with what little you have.

And your days are spent as the tension tightens in your body and stress exhausts your limbs. You spend the day looking for edible food and sleep to pass the time. You daydream and wonder while you wander. Your mind is a nomad. You think of strategies to make it through the cruel world, worry your gun won’t last long enough or if you could beat off a group of ghouls with a dented baseball bat. Where’s the next meal going to come from? You hope you find someone to save you, someone to make you feel less alone in a world of monsters.

And sometimes when the thought of another grueling day of hiding and fighting brings you to tears, you wonder what would happen if you just stopped. What if you sat down and pressed your face to the dirt and melted into the ground? But you can’t bring yourself to give up so you go forward.

And then one day you’re lying down in an unprotected shed and a zombie shuffles in. With an unholy grunt, you’re startled awake to see the rotting corpse rip into your chest with its skeletal hands. Its serrated fingernails slice through your skin, pressing further into the meat of you. Is knuckles get caught in your rib cage as it squirms its fingers further down, nicking your heart with each grasp.

The pain grips your senses like a bear trap, a concentrated fire so deep and intense it chokes you. You can’t speak or scream. The strength gushes out of you like a broken dam and you lie there paralyzed. The burning is so great your soul screams to God to end you but the zombie doesn’t bite into your brains. Through the holes in the boarded up window of the shed, it spots a sprinting survivor and sets its milky eyes on a fresh kill.

The taste of copper covers your tongue and you hope a less sportsman-like zombie will shuffle over to you and finish you off or a random survivor will find you and put you out of your misery. But no one comes with a bite or a bullet.

Blood and saline pool around your body as the pain spreads to your limbs, tingling your fingers and circulating away from your body.

The moans outside are muffled by the sound of your heart beating, growing louder, the blood rushing in your ears in crashing waves. Your eyes are blurred by tears you cannot wipe away, only light and shadows dancing across your face. You turn tiny, shriveling inside yourself. You gasp and find no air. The nerves blow out and leave a numbness that spreads like ice water in your lungs.

You grasp at the grass and dirt and still no one comes.

And no one cares. The living sprint toward safety. All around you the world is still alive. But you’re beyond help.

You close your eyes as you give in to the gaping wound. You press your face into the dirt. You melt into the ground.

The beating eventually stops.

two corpses, caressing

for p.
two bodies traverse the expanse of a bleak surface
turgid tendons, split shins, flayed toes
but still walking
propelled by a hunger surpassing the stomach
as lidless eyes dance among the faces
desperate to find a hollowed out counterpart

two bodies come together with clanging cartilage and vacant stares
empty eyes and lolling tongues
tissue skin sheared from the friction of fingers
gnashing teeth reminiscent of romance
hollow hearts and hands, touching and tearing
clamoring for a clavicle
but only grasping guts
devoid of pleasure but programmed by dim memories
of what this once felt like

two bodies moaning in the murk
assuaging and assaulting, seething and writhing
falling away from each other in the blood wet world
trying to taste the truth of one body to another
but only tasting tin
drunk on the red wine of blood
full on necrotized flesh
satiated by nothing

one body gasps and screams
and shudders and stumbles
stops
then moves past the other
blood on the mouth, hole in the chest
seeking sanctuary in another skin

one body stands alone
and watches the other shuffle away
filled with a mud soaked memory of pain unidentified
flooding back from the faint fog
no marks on the skin, no bruise to the brain
only an internal hemorrhage

one person bludgeoned by the burden of belonging
recalls the ramifications of respiration
and dies again
then concedes to the cold dark

and crumbles

zombie vomit bag

“I have heard it said love endures all things, now I know that it’s true, 
stronger than the grave, death can’t put it out, here I am, the walking dead, 
still next to you…”
-Showbread, George Romero will be at our Wedding

We decorated Valentine bags at work so everyone could put goodies in them.  Everyone decorated their bags with sticker hearts and puff paint, which is all well and good but I wanted to do something a bit different.

 I designed my bag around the Showbread song George Romero will be at our Wedding.  It’s about a zombie who vomits up a wedding ring and realizes he ate his wife.  He eventually finds her, zombified, and they stay together, despite them both being dead.  It’s about how love can overcome all things, even death.  It’s actually a really meaningful message beneath all the entrails. 

I wanted to draw a vomiting zombie on the bag but then I thought I’d put Photoshop to good use and designed the zombie dude in the program and printed him out.  I taped him to the bag, which gave a nice 3D effect.  And instead of just drawing vomit, I made it interactive so you can spin the vomit around.

 I also created a QR code which links to the song and on the back of the bag, I printed the song lyrics.  So you’ve got your physical, visual, and auditory interaction, which I thought was pretty neat.

 

Here’s what the bag looks like.

Here’s the back of the bag with the song lyrics.

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book notes #5

I decided to go ahead and use the free proof copy on the novel I wrote for National Novel Writing Month last year.  I didn’t have time to edit it or even read over it but, as I mentioned, I thought it might be interesting to print it out just as it was written to see what I could do in such a short length of time.  Then, later on if I decide to edit it seriously, I can resubmit the novel and have it printed out again.  Then, I can compare the first draft to the final product.

The process was incredibly easy.  You just upload the work as a PDF, upload a cover or use their cover creator program, obtain an ISBN number and submit it.  They have to approve all the files before they are ready for you to order the proof.  They said it could take up to 48 hours but I think mine was done in a day.  I ordered the proof copy, put in my discount code and got it for free.  It’s usually around 7 dollars plus 3 dollars shipping but I only had to pay the shipping.  And in a few short days, it arrive in my mail!

I would have liked to have created my own cover but as I was pressed for time and running against the free proof expiration, I decided to go ahead and use the websites cover creator.  So, it’s not really what I envisioned it looking like (I don’t even know what I would envision it looking like) but I think it came out quite nice.  The overall quality is pretty good, too.  For the record, I’m no book aficionado but it looks just as good as something you can pick up at Barnes & Noble.  So, I’m pretty happy with the end result.  I’d be even happier if the book were entirely finished and I had my own cover but to have a physical copy of my first book practically for free, I’m pretty pleased.

Meanwhile, I’m hard at work on my memoir, which I am taking a bit more seriously than this experiment.  I hope to be done in the next few months so I can participate in this year’s National Novel Writing Month as well.  I already have an idea and a basic outline so I’m more prepared than last year when I made it up as I went along.  There will be a lot of editing and then I hope to publish it afterward.  As for this novel, I think I might release it online for free just for the fun of it and give the option of buying a physical copy if anyone wanted one.  Of course, I’ll have to let someone read it to see if it warrants being free or if it’s actually worth something.  But, that will come later.  I still have to read it myself!

book notes #3

I finished writing my novel last Friday night.  Because I had the day off, I dedicating it to finishing.  I will admit that I probably rushed it a little bit but that’s what the second draft is for, eh?

It feels good to know I wrote a book.  It’s bittersweet, though.  Anyone can write a book.  Not too many people can write a good one.  Am I one of the good ones?  I suppose time will tell.  For now, all I can do is try to make it as good as I can within my….uh, I hesitate to say…talents.  I think one of the reasons it’s taken me so long to write this book and even more so, what’s taken me so long to write my memoir, is because I am absolutely terrified that I suck.  It’s one thing to sit back and wish that I could be a great writer and animator and overall a great artist but it’s another to actually produce a work and put it out there and bomb.  It almost feels safer to wish for future admiration rather than go out and really try for it and fail.  Because what happens when I fail?  Where do I go from there?

I know I have low self-esteem and maybe I don’t see how…talented (there’s that icky word again) I am but in all honesty, I don’t necessarily think it’s my low self-esteem at work here.  I just genuinely don’t think I’m great.  Maybe I’m not the worst writer in the world.  But, I’m not amazing and for me, if I’m not amazing, what’s the point of even trying?  There’s so much garbage in the world and just about as much mediocre work clogging up people’s heads and I don’t really want to add to the junk pile.  Then again, not everything has to be amazing to be influential.  Or maybe I’m just a bad judge of good art.  But art is subjective.  Can you see how complex this whole thing is for me?

I just come across random blogs sometimes and I see how so many people are so much better than me and I think to myself, “These people deserve to have a book out.  Not me.”  But, I really enjoy writing.  And if I like it, why shouldn’t I continue?  And if someone else likes it, why shouldn’t I share it with others?  I guess it goes back to the fear of rejection.  But, people will criticize anyone.  Because art is subjective.  Not everyone is going to like the same piece.

I also hesitate to work on it too hard because I don’t want to put so much of myself into the project only for it to utterly fail and cause me to never write another word again.  I know that seems extreme but so are my emotions.  It would just seem like a huge waste to dedicate so much of my time and then I won’t sell but three copies.

I started printing out the novel so I could begin editing it but ran out of ink halfway through.  I thought I had an extra ink cartridge but it turns out it was color ink and not black.  It kind of irritated me because I had it all set up and everything but now I’ll have to wait until I can get some more ink sometime next week.  I guess it doesn’t even matter all that much since I’m going to now focus on fleshing out the characters instead of working on the actual content of the book.  Because I wrote the whole thing in a rush, I don’t think I was able to make anyone three dimensional…or believable…or even likable.  That’s kind of a big deal to have good, likable characters.

Then, I have to get into plot and dialogue and weave in the twist that I have at the end of the story.  Plus, my closing is kind of weak so I need to work on that.  I have a lot to do.  I’d love to post snippets of the story but because everything is so rough right now, I’d rather wait until it’s a bit more polished.

It has come to my attention that I might not have even provided a basic synopsis for the story.  I really thought that I had but I guess I have not.  It’s a pretty basic premise.  A guy named Chris and his girlfriend named Jenny are attending a Zombie walk when Chris is bitten by one of the attendees.  At first he and his girlfriend shrug it off as an overzealous zombie fan but then Chris starts getting sick.  As his health rapidly declines, he begins to think he was bitten by a real zombie.  And there you have it.  I didn’t want to go too far over my head so I kept it simple with two main characters and their situation.  I figured since this was my first foray into novel-writing, I shouldn’t include too many characters or interlocking stories because then I’d just be setting myself up for a big mess and most likely a big failure.

I just need some talent.  And motivation.  And Ritalin.

book notes #2

I wrote 5,538 words yesterday.  It’s about twice as much as I’ve ever written in a day.  I’m pretty proud of myself.  Of course, it did take all day.  I wrote a little bit, watched television, ate, surfed the web, wrote some more, and then repeated the process until falling asleep. 

Because I have been off this weekend, I suppose I haven’t been so stressed out and that has allowed me to have a clear mind to write.  That’s another reason I hate my job.  It’s so mind numbing and all consuming that even when my shift is over, all that residual anger and frustration and fatigue comes home with me and all I want to do is go to sleep, but I don’t go to sleep because the faster I go to sleep, the faster I’ll be back at work.  I need a bigger buffer zone than that.  But since I’m too tired to write, I just sit around and do nothing productive.  I hate that I’m that way but I can’t think of a better solution so I just kind of coast for now.

It seems that I can write until I hit some sort of wall with the story.  I’m kind of trying to let the story tell itself without putting too many restrictions on the direction, therefore the story is going its own way and that often leads to bumps in the road.  Depending on how much energy I have or if I’m thinking clearly, I can overcome those obstacles rather easily or I’ll step away from the writing and not come back until a week or two later.  I think the combination of work and hitting one of those rough patches made me hesitant to get back into the swing of things.  In fact, that’s why this whole process has taken so long.  I managed to write a little over 50,000 words just in the month of November last year and since then it’s taken me 4 months to write a little over 28,000 words.  That’s not very good.  I think if only I could have continued at that pace, I’d be done writing and well into editing by now.  I suppose I shouldn’t beat myself up about it too much.  It is my first book and I am battling outside factors.  Just the fact that I’m working on this thing almost consistently is a good sign.  I think I’m pretty close to finishing the story and it’s taken less than a year.  Way better than the memoir that I’ve been putting off for years now.

As I said, the story seems to be shaping itself and I like that.  I feel uncomfortable trying to change too much.  It’s almost as if maybe my subconscious needs to tell the story a certain way so I’m kind of letting it take the reigns.  I feel like if I get too involved, it might muck it all up and it won’t be as good as it would be had I just let it all happen.  Plus, so far I’m pleased with the way things have happened.  I’ll be writing and suddenly I’ll think, “Hey, this is the point where this needs to happen.”  And then it does and it opens up wonderful new avenues for the characters to travel and it all feels very organic and natural and I like it like that..  It’s actually kind of fun to see how the story unfolds as I write it instead of having this rigid outline that I have to strictly follow.

I was hoping to be super close to finishing by this weekend.  I was going to write every day this week and try to come close to the conclusion by tonight.  Well, I didn’t even start until yesterday so I’m way behind but I think I wrote just about as much in that one day as I would have over the week so it’s kind of worked out.  I just hope that today is as productive as yesterday was.

My only real problem now, and this is a minor one, is I have no idea what to name the book.  And that’s really weird because I am usually really good at coming up with titles for the stuff I write.  In fact, I’ll come up with a title in my head and then base what I write around the title.  I guess I’m a title first kind of guy.  I’m not saying I’m great at titles but I think I am.  I remember my nonfiction writing professor in college didn’t like any of my essays’ titles.  He said they were too cutesy.  I would agree with him but I like cutesy so it works for me. 

It is bothering me, though.  I’d like to think that maybe something will happen in the story that I can pluck a title from.  I love it when I read a book with a sort of obscure title that you’re not sure how it relates to the book but then toward the middle or end of the book the title comes up in a character’s dialogue with another or it comes from a memory or an observation and suddenly it all comes together and makes sense. I love that.  I hope I can recreate that. 

This is so lame.  The tentative title is Decay.  I will not be sticking with that if I can help it.  I feel like it’s hard to name a zombie book without stepping on the toes of every other zombie book title out there.  Anything to do with rotting or deterioration has pretty much already been taken.  And let’s not get started on how many …of the Dead titles there are.  Plus, there’s no zip to my title.  There’s nothing to hook the reader into reading it or buying it.  Decay?  Where’s the creativity?  It’s kind of frustrating because I’m normally so good at coming up with titles but this one is really escaping me.

There’s also a part of me that wants to discuss the book but at the same time that would spoil some of the surprises that pop up throughout the story.  I’d also like someone to read a rough draft just to give me pointers but I don’t want to ruin anything for anyone.  In a perfect world, the story would be perfect and ready for everyone to read and enjoy without having to point out my (probably numerous) missteps.  But, I really do think I need some outside help.  This is my first book and my first foray into the world of large-scale fiction so I’m probably making a nice mess of things without even realizing it.  Sure, I’ve written short stories but there’s a world of difference between short stories and novels.  I think I’ll try to push the story as far as I can until I feel like it’s decent enough to show and hopefully whoever reads it will still be entertained, even if they are proofing it for me. 

book notes #1

So far, I’ve written 6,8714 words and approximately 149 pages for my book.  Christmas kind of slowed me down and then I got out of the habit of writing daily.  I could be finished with the first draft by now if I never would have stopped.  Now, I’m finding it slightly difficult to get back into the mood of the story.  I’m also at a point where I don’t know how to continue.  I had an original outline but things have changed slightly and now I’m not sure if continuing in the intended path will make any sense.  Frankly, I haven’t given myself the time or energy to come up with a different direction.

So, I have to wonder, when you plan on writing something, how much should you stick to the plan and how much should you allow the story to tell itself?

I’ve always been a pretty big fan of natural, organically flowing material.  I’ve never been big into planning, whether it was with drawing, animating or writing.  Sure, I’ll have a general outline of what I want to happen.  I think some structure is important, otherwise you’ll run the risk of running way too long and getting off track of the intended message.  But, too much structure seems to stifle creativity and could possibly interrupt a certain flow as well.

I think the thing that drives me crazy is the unlimited possibilities that present themselves when creating something.  You can go anywhere, do anything.  While these endless possibilities are wonderful, they are also stressful because when you finally choose your path, you have to wonder if there was a better road out there.  Are you choosing the best possible scenario?  How will you ever know?  Art is an intricate maze of possibility.  There are trillions of ways to get out but which one will be the most gratifying?

As I write this story, there are several possibilities that are starting to sprout up.  I had originally intended the story to be about a guy who believes he is turning into a zombie.  I wanted to share the perspectives from the guy and his girlfriend.  Yet, as I wrote, I realized I was more inside the girl’s head than the guy’s.  It’s actually turning more into her story than it is his and I don’t know if that’s good or bad.

I think there must be some reason why my head decided to dictate the story the way it did.  If this is my creativity taking over, should I be so quick to negate it by trying to sway myself back to my original plan?  Sometimes plans are good until you are knee deep into the situation you had so carefully planned out.  You’re out in the trenches and you realize your plan no longer applies to your predicament.

The most appropriate solution is compromise.  I suppose I should put a loose leash on my outline.  I guess I’ll try to follow the basic elements while allowing the story to tell itself.  I don’t want it to feel manufactured.  I want it to flow.  I want the characters motivations and actions to be based on their experiences, conversations, feelings rather than just to get from point A to point B.

And the more I write, the more I’m having ideas, ideas that differ from the original plan.  Sure, that’s a good thing.  There’s no reason to stick to a plan if you come up with a better one but it also complicates things, causes things to have to be changed around.  Makes things messy.  Things are messy enough on their own.  And being such an amateur, these changes are scary.  My outline was safe and I felt good writing within the lines of what I knew I wanted to happen.  Exploring these new ideas, however, leave some situations open and unpredictable.

I guess I’m just scared.  Maybe this book has a lot of potential, some decent ideas, but if I don’t execute it right, I’ll fail and no one will ever believe I can write anything good again.  And I’ll always wonder, “Well, if I would have done things differently, had the characters do one thing instead of the other, it might have made all the difference.”  It’s very complicated to try to unfold a story, especially when it doesn’t come out how you intended, especially when you feel you’ve lost control of your own creation.  Then again, too much control is constricting.

All I can do is treat this first book as a learning experience.  Just get it done, make mistakes, learn from them and write another one and hope I can do better.

The Road in Red: One Flesh

“My will is at God’s hand, never within man’s teeth…”
-The Devil Wears Prada, Revive

Tears of joy flooded Noah’s eyes.  Relief swelled inside him like a warm bath.  He tucked the cane underneath his arm and put his face in his hands.  He had made it.  He had found his home.  Noah quickly wiped his hot cheeks with his palms and sniffed up the loosened snot from his nose.  No, he still had to go inside, still had to make it to the doors.  He hadn’t made it yet.  He wasn’t safe until he had passed through the threshold, until he had a solid barrier between him and the dead world outside.  The house was still half a mile away.  Being as sick and injured as Noah was, that half a mile felt like fifty.  The warm bath water relief turned ice cold as the realization that he might not make it came over him.  His heart could give out at any time.  Exhaustion was clawing at him.  Hunger was pulling his stomach into the dirt.  Put his home pulled him forward.

Noah walked as far as he could until the pain in his thigh took him to the ground.  It was as if someone had shoved a hot poker right through his flesh to the bone.  Noah tried not to scream, waited for the wave of pain to cease like it normally did, but it did not alleviate.  Sweat poured from Noah’s body causing the dirt to stick to his chest and stomach.  Noah rolled over on his back and could not hold in the hurt any longer.  The pain was not subsiding, only increasing in intensity.  He screamed out in absolute agony.  More liquid dribbled from the corners of his mouth.  The pain multiplied at an alarming rate and even worse, began to spread.  Noah could actually feel the disease of the bite worm its way down his entire leg and up into his groin, other leg and stomach.  It took hold of his testicles and intestines and squeezed.  It felt like everything was being blending in his body, liquified.  It was as if piranhas were inside of him, eating away at his insides, swimming and scurrying up and down the lower half of his body.

Noah fought the pain and turned over onto his stomach.  He began to crawl.  Guttural screeches of misery filled the clear sky and called the creatures to him.

Noah felt chilled to the bone despite the radiating heat of the sun.  The breeze was gone.  The rain was only a memory.  There was nothing and no one to help him now.  Goosebumps sprung along his body and raised the hair on his arms.  Noah continued to crawl, the dirt and rocks scratching at his nipples, his hair clinging to his forehead like a watery glue.  Noah crawled and crawled and seemed to make no progress at all.  He didn’t even know if he was moving or imagining himself inching closer to his home.  Noah’s eyes began to cross and his vision started to blur and go black.  The pain came in waves of terrible to excruciating.  The painful poison spread completely to Noah’s legs and up into his chest.  Noah involuntarily vomited a milky yellow bile.  It heaved up in ropey strands, his stomach contracted so hard a rip of pain sliced through his torso and accompanied the pain that was already there.  The bile bubbled in the dirt.  Small particles were floating in it.  Noah crawled through the substance.

In the distance, he could hear the people coming again.  The dead people.  The things.  Maybe one of them was the lady with the tongue?  Had the wicked witch melted in the rain or was she one of the survivors?  Had he shot her, stomped her with his foot or cane?  He couldn’t remember anymore.  Noah craned his neck back and with his limited vision, he could see the group lurching up ahead of him.  He was so close to home but he would never make it.  This was it.  They were all around him in every direction and he could not stand and fight.  He was practically dead.  What was going to get him first?  The existent bite mark or another bite from one of them?  Maybe they only wanted fresh meat?  Ever rational, Noah wondered if maybe they’d look over him as damaged, used up, and would go about their way?  Is it going to hurt when they bite into me? he wondered.  How silly a thought.  He was already in so much pain nothing would make it worse.   

Light me on fire, peel off my skin, pluck out my eyeballs.  It’s all nothing compared to…this.  This is how it’s going to end, after everything.  After making it so close.  God, why?  Why do you let me suffer so much?  Just let me go home or kill me now.  Take me before they do.  

Where are you?  Whereareyou…

Noah saw something dancing in his peripheral vision.  He looked over and it revealed itself to be a fairy.  The tiny woman’s skin was made of silk and her wings of glitter.  She was snow white and naked, her breasts heaving as she flew around him.  The wings buzzed in his ear as she flew around his head.  She caressed his chin and ear and quietly sang to him.  He reached out to touch her and as he did, she dissolved into a million particles.

I’m losing my mind, Noah thought.  The infection was starting to reach his brain.  Could he trust what he was seeing anymore?  Were these people even real or was he imaging them as well?  The moaning from the dead grew in range, twisting itself into a kind of song.  The trees above Noah danced and shook their branches to the morbid music that was going to be the death of him.  Sunlight came down, trickled through the moving branches, and resembled the sweeping points of light from a disco ball.  This was all a production, an elaborate musical number that would accompany his death.  The world was putting on one last show before he bowed out.  Noah turned onto his back again and slid his hand into his left pocket.  He looked up and saw a group of them heading his way.  The sun was shining directly behind them, their heads pitch black against the blinding sun, a halo of radiance setting their skulls aglow.

They looked like angels.

Noah blinked through teary eyes.  Three woman, one man and two that were indistinguishable.  They were fresh.  No missing body parts, no gashes or lacerations.  Some of them still looked human.  Maybe they were.  Maybe they were coming to save him.  But the groans told him different. 

Whereareyouwhereareyouwhereareyou…

Noah reached for the familiar lump and pulled it out of his pocket.  He raised the small box to his eye level.  He opened it and smiled.  The sun shone brightly on the elegant ring that sat safely tucked inside, untarnished.  The sparkle carried his mind off into his memories, the one place the sickness had yet to reach, the only scrap of safety he had left.

She was there, a mold made from his mind, a memory in flesh and love.  He saw her there at the coffee shop, at church, in his bed.  Black hair and bone pale skin.  Piercing eyes that fell in the color scale somewhere between emerald and sapphire, piercing him through and though.  Pink lips that he never tired of tasting.  A face that swelled his heart, a love that swelled his soul.  The way she understood the little things, accepted his flaws and transformed his life just by being in it.  The promise that he made to her when everything changed, when everyone died.  Two flesh becoming one.  A promise he feared he would not be able to keep.  His love for her had been strong enough to bring him to the home they shared, strong enough to carry him this far.  He only hoped his love would be strong enough for her to feel, whether she was in that house or wherever she happened to be.  He ran a finger over the smooth finish, the simple diamond that sat atop the ring.  A small, fragile tear worked itself up in Noah’s eye before snaking down his dirtied cheek.  The ring illuminated in the shining sun, mimicking the way she illuminated him, his godsend, his blessing, the only beautiful thing he had ever known.  His absolute everything.  Noah’s heart felt full, despite beginnings of failure.

The groaning brought Noah back to reality, back to the blood and dirt and pain of the world.  They were there and Noah’s resolve strengthened despite his body that begged him to give up.  He reached for his gun.

It wasn’t there. 

Panic temporarily overtook all other emotions as Noah plunged his hand into his right pocket, then his left.  He patted down his entire lower half.  It was not there, only pain.  It was gone. 

I must have left it back when I stopped to rest!  How could I be so stupid?  How could I have done that, God, how could I have done that?!  Whereareyouwhereareyouwhereareyou…

It was probably best the gun wasn’t there.  He would have used it on himself when they began to devour him.  He was pretty sure he had one bullet left.  He knew it was a sin but the pain was so unbearable.  He might go to hell but maybe he was already in hell.  Hell was the world and demons were people.  God brought people and people brought pain.  A bullet to end the pain of people.  A bullet to open the door, to create a path to some hopeful paradise.  It would be much faster, much less painful than being slowly eaten to death.  Noah had felt enough pain, pain that wracked his body so hard he shook.  Something wet came out of his mouth.  Maybe it was the last vestiges of vomit or maybe it was liquified lung.  He didn’t want to endure any more but it looked like he would have to, would have to watch and listen as they tore the flesh from his arms and legs with a wet, shearing sound.  They’d jam their fingers into his stomach and peel back the thick skin until they reached the rich, meaty center.  They’d spread out the slimy tubes of his intestines and bite into them, breaking the protective barrier of connective tissue and sucking out the thick substances inside.  The acrid smell of blood would douse the air in death.  The only question is would they leave enough for him to come back as one of them or would they tear him apart completely, so disassembled that he wouldn’t be able to get back up?  Maybe they’d tear his brain out so he’d never have to know the experience of eating someone else.  Noah began to giggle.

The people closed in all around him.  Noah closed the box and gently wept.  He slid the boxed ring back into his pocket so that no blood would get on it.  He clasped his hands together and prayed through his sobbing.  He tried to talk out loud but his throat was too raw.  He mumbled instead, his lips limping around his teeth.  He had lived in sin, no doubt, and he was being punished.  The pain overtook him.

******

Noah woke up bleary eyed and moving.  His eyes rolled from the back of his head to the sky above and all around.  He was gliding on his back.  Confusion joined the pain in his body.  He was getting farther away from the people in front of him.  The disappointed groans grew quieter and Noah thought he might have been floating.  The shards of light that fell from the trees passed over his skin and blurred his eyes.  He felt a tug at his wrists and realized his arms were being pulled.  Someone was dragging him away from the dead.  Someone was saving him.

Noah’s head was spinning, dizzy from the pain.  He wanted to throw up, to pass out again to relieve himself of the nausea and agony but he needed to see who was pulling him away from danger.  He looked up to see the identity of his savior.  Noah lost his breath.  Those piercing eyes.  That hair and skin.  The slender arms and body.  Even upside down and blurred through tears and delirium, Noah knew it was her.  She had come from the house to save him!   

Ah, you were there God, with her the whole time, protecting her.  Thank you, God.  Thank youthankyouthank…. 

Noah collapsed under the relief of it all and let himself sink into darkness that floated below him and offered peace and no more pain.  She was his darkness.  She would bathe him, dress his wounds and they would leave together, find safety, shelter, salvation.  Even if the darkness that was devouring him was death, he was glad his final moments were with her, that she was still safe, that she would carry on and and he prayed that God would spare her his suffering.  Noah’s eyes cleared and he looked up to see her.  She was staring at him, love in her eyes, relief that he was still alive, that he was all hers.  Her red lips were smiling.  Noah closed his eyes.

Noah’s lover dragged him the rest of the way, carefully avoiding the clutches of the dead.  With the tenderest of touches, she heaved him past the stairs to their home.  She pulled him through the threshold and then closed the door.

The sky reached its darkest dark as night spread across the land.  The collected dead began to disperse, defeated and hungry, blinded by the dark, scattered like marbles to find fresh meat.

****** 

The next morning, light shone on an even deader day.  The air was silent, cool.  Even the dead that stuck around the house were quiet this morning, staggering, lost.  There was movement within the house of Noah and his love, however.  The front door slowly opened.  The sun set its gaze on the lovers’ faces.  Two pairs of blank eyes stared ahead.  Hand in hand, and with one finger bejeweled with a simple diamond ring, Noah and his love walked out of their home, down the steps and back onto the road, ready to receive the world as their wedding feast.

Happy Halloween!

The Road in Red: Alone

“Oh, God!” Noah screamed.

Surrounded by dead bodies that were closing in all around him,  Noah realized there was no way to break through their rotted line of flesh.  The man and woman and their followers were closing in behind him and the new group wasn’t too far ahead of him.  Noah only had two bullets left, not even enough to put a dent in either group.  For a second, Noah thought that he should just take his chances and jump into the woods but quickly tore that idea from his temples.  The woods were too dense, too full of hiding places for those people.  They could be behind any tree, ready to grab him by the arm or neck and pull him down and that would be the end.  Noah then thought he could tackle them, break through their line.  The ones ahead looked a lot frailer than the ones behind him.  They had been dead for a long time.  Maybe they’d go down easily.  But what if they didn’t?  He could handle one but if two or three of them grabbed him all at once, he wouldn’t be able to fight them off, especially with the throbbing in his leg that was slowly crippling him. 

Noah stood there, not knowing what to do.  His mind raced but he couldn’t think of anything in particular.  In an attempt to come up with a split second solution, he froze as a trillion other things blurred past the eyes of his mind.  Looking down, Noah noticed there were no tree limbs or heavy rocks for him to use, nothing to help him.  The rain began to hit his head harder, fatter drops of water splashing off his nose and hands.  Noah pulled out his gun.  With no more time to organize a surefire strategy, he decided to shoot the ones closest to him and hope they’d go down.  With enough luck, they would create a hole large enough for him to squeeze through.  The odds weren’t good but Noah was battling a sudden onset of exhaustion, fear and tremendous pain that wouldn’t allow for a better plan.  The rain spread out and came down harder, drenching Noah and making visibility low.  The groans of the people were drowned out by the falling rain, splashing down on everything, turning the ground into slippery mud and stifling Noah’s concentration. 

One of the men approached, staggered, lunged his red hands at Noah, his mouth open, ready to receive Noah’s flesh. 

“Father, forgive them; forgive me,” Noah said and with a flash of light, he shot the man in the face.  The man went down in a wet heap on the ground.  Noah aimed for the next person in line.  It  was a teenage boy not much younger than him, his throat torn open, his Adam’s apple dangling onto his chest with every soggy step.  Noah raised his gun to the teenager and as he concentrated on the face of the person he was going to kill, Noah saw that the hair on his head was falling out, being washed away by the hard rain.  Noah’s eyebrows flared up in confusion.  In a matter of moments, the boy’s nose fell right off his face.  His lips and cheeks were next, sloughing off his skull like wet tissue paper.  Soaked lumps of rotted meat slid off the teenager, splattering on the ground that was turning into thick mud.  Splat, plop, splash.  His outstretched arm, wet and full of protruding veins broke off at the elbow and fell with another wet thud.  Around him, the other people were also feeling the effects of the falling water.  One severely decomposed man’s head fell completely off his body, sending him to the mud with a sickening plop.

It was the rain.

Suddenly, Noah remembered what his grandmother had told him. 

“The rain is only God’s tears, sugar.  It’s His way of letting us know He’s watching over us.  When the world has become too wicked, the Lord becomes sad and cries.  His tears fall from Heaven and those tears wash away all the bad.  When the rain dries up, man’s sin has been cleansed and everything is made good again.”

Wash away all the bad.

One by one, the dead people collapsed and did not get back up.  They tried but the muscles that moved them were disintegrating.  They were becoming skeletal, the hard rain stripping all the flesh from them, the rotting smell of death and fat melting in the mud.  The rain fell intensely and Noah thought he heard a clap of thunder.  Or maybe it was a faraway gunshot.  Out of the estimated fifteen dead people, all but three had fallen, writhing in the mud, bellowing, dying again.  Enough were down to allow for Noah’s escape.  He started to run through the mud and quickly slipped.  His legs flew out from underneath him and he fell on his side with a hard thud, right onto the bite wound.  Despite the softening blanket of mud, the ground beneath was still hard and provided no cushion for Noah’s fall.  Pain ripped through Noah’s leg like white hot lightning and Noah screamed with abandon.  Rain fell into his open mouth, momentarily choking him. 

After a few moments of cradling himself in the mud, Noah collected himself.  The three dead people were still after him.  He had to get up.  He looked behind him to see the dead slipping and sliding in the mud.  One wasn’t wearing shoes.  He couldn’t tell if it was a man or a woman.  It also slipped in the mud and upon impact, its left leg fell off at the knee and its left arm fell off at the shoulder.  The others slid clumsily, trying to gain traction while keeping their focus on him.  If the threat of being eaten wasn’t so close, Noah might have considered this comical.  If he weren’t so exhausted, he might have laughed.  The dead thing on the ground pulled itself through the mud with its one good arm.  The other two were still coming, their faces slowly melting under the merciful rain.  Noah got back up and continued to run.  Their bodies fell out of view but their moaning followed Noah the whole way.

******

The clouds were gone now and the beating rain was replaced with the beating sun.  Noah was sick.  The pain in his leg was so intense it made his stomach wrench in response.  Along the road, he had found a sturdy tree branch and after removing the small twigs and leaves, used it as a makeshift cane.  It helped take some of the pressure and discomfort off of his leg but not by much.  Noah’s face felt hot and cold at the same time.  His clothes became moist with the sweat that dripped from his nose and chin.  He was starving.  He stunk.  The pain and the hunger and the heat made Noah throw up.  Because his stomach was empty, nothing came out but an acidic froth that bubbled around his mouth and burned his cracked lips.  As much as he didn’t want to, Noah had to stop and take a break.  He fell to the dirt and cried.  In the middle of the long stretch of dirt road that never seemed to end, the tears mingled with his sweat, making his face a wet, red pulp.  How much longer was this road?  Noah peeled off his shirt and wiped his face.  His ribs felt like they were pressing against his back so hard they would break through his skin.  Noah cried until he ran out of tears, until the sobs became dry and burning to his eyes and throat.

As if a ghost had passed him, the air began to cool and a breeze brushed up against his back like a feather.  The air was cool on his skin and the wind felt calm after the rain.  Almost fresh.  Noah unzipped his jeans and attempted to take them off.  They became stuck on his thigh at the wound site.  Noah tugged at the jean carefully.  Whatever burst when he pressed on his leg earlier had now glued his jeans to his leg.  Noah slowly and painfully pulled the jean and the dried, crusty material attached to it, down his leg, ripping away at the scab and the hairs surrounding it.  Noah winced.  The wound was large and gaping now, red and glossy under the sunlight, like black cherry Jell-O.  The edges were rimmed in black and yellow with gritty puss.  Heat rose from the wound in pulsing waves.  Black veins branched off the wound in all directions and the redness had spread from his hip to his kneecap.  Noah almost threw up again.  The wound was getting worse, spreading, intensifying in pain.  It was now a race to see what would eat Noah first, the dead people or the disease that was slowly consuming him, sampling his flesh before diving in for the main course of meat.  Noah looked up.  Nothing.  Just dirt and trees.  No moaning or groaning.  No dead people around.  No life.  No birds or small animals scurrying around.  There was only him and the noise of wind through branches of trees.  Stillness.  Cold, unnerving stillness. 

Noah struggled to tear his shirt into strips, going for a frayed spot at the bottom of the material to aid in ripping it.  He didn’t have much success.  He put the fabric in between his teeth and yanked.  With a slight rip, he managed to elongate the small tear.  Noah was hungry and his strength was waning.  The combination of the heat from the sun and the sickness swirling inside him made his head feel like the Jell-O that was now his thigh.  He took two of the strips and wrapped them around the wound, not knowing if it would even do much good at this point, and tied it into a sturdy knot.  He wiped his face again with the rest of the strips.  He then put his jeans back on and checked the left pocket.  Still there.  Noah smiled, reassured, motivated and reminded of the purpose of his journey.  He got up and started to walk again.

It seemed like Noah had been walking for miles.  He hadn’t seen any of those people.  He only ran into a few disassembled bodies every mile or two but it looked like the rainfall from earlier had taken care of them.  Mostly.  Those that only had their limbs unattached were still twitching.  They craned their necks at the sound of Noah walking and started gurgling.  Noah was disgusted and horrified by the sight and sound of them.  They were pathetic, disgusting, scary, sad.  Noah’s head was a whirlwind of emotions and sickness.  Noah risked getting too close to the creature’s teeth so he could help them.  He went down the road, impaling their skulls with his homemade cane, squashing them into nothingness, easing their hunger.  He hated it, didn’t want to kill them but they were suffering.  Noah didn’t want to see anyone suffer, not even those things.  They didn’t choose to be that way.  They were just as much victims as he was, or so he tried to convince himself. 

Noah limped on until he was stopped once again.  This time shuffling creatures weren’t in his way.  No, nothing horrible was waiting for him at his stopping point.  Noah’s knees weakened and if it weren’t for his tree limb cane, he very well would have collapsed. 

The perspective lines from the tops of the trees to the edges of the dirt road all led to a single point off in the distance: his home.