Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Halloween Tale


They jogged down the street with their weapons held tight. He had a 9mm he'd taken from a twice-killed cop and she had a fire axe she'd grabbed from a fire station they'd broken into a few days ago. It was strange to think the world had ended only a week ago.

He glanced at her, with her brown hair cut short and her eyes alert but tired. They were both tired. They hadn't been able to stop running for awhile.

The sun dipped below the horizon. They'd need to find shelter and soon.

A nearby house stood with a slight lean, faded yellow paint and the windows broken out. He pointed. She nodded.

They scanned the area before darting across the street and up the porch steps. They put their shoulders to either side of the door and looked at each other. With a nod, he pulled open the door and stepped inside.

The first thing he noticed was the smell. Rotting flesh. He took a couple steps in, gun raised, checking rooms. She followed behind, making sure nothing could sneak up on them.

He cleared the kitchen and stepped around an island countertop. Something lifted its head from its kneeling position, looking up. A blond woman with stringy hair, sunken eyes and bloody mouth. Its eyes were red. It moaned. He put the gun to its forehead and pulled the trigger without thinking. The gun jerked. The head snapped back and the body fell.

"Hell?" She asked, moving into the kitchen. "What happened to not wasting ammo or making noise?"

He shook his head and shrugged. "Sorry. Just happened."

She sighed. "Let's clear this place and quick."

A moan came from upstairs along with heavy footsteps.

"Come on," she whispered, walking to the carpeted stairs.

He followed.

The stairs went up to a short landing, jack-nifed and then went up to the second floor. A heavy old guy with its eyes on the man and woman in the kitchen staggered down to the landing and hitting the wall.

"I got it," she said, taking a couple steps slowly and carefully, axe held with white knuckles.

Another moan came from upstairs and the railing creaked.

She looked up as a body dropped on top of her.

"Fuck!" The man yelled.

The body hit the stairs and slid down. The woman fell near the landing and didn't move.

The heavy creature standing on the stairs crouched and grabbed the woman's hair, pulling her head up to his mouth.

Without a thought the man raised and fired. The creature tipped, falling onto its back on the landing.

The man breathed a sigh of relief.

The body that fell grabbed his ankles and yanked.

He fell, banging the back of his head against the tiled kitchen floor and losing the gun.

The creature, a young man once perhaps, now a snarling beast, crawled on top of the man. He struggled, dazed, trying to keep the things mouth away from him until an axe split the things head in twain. It stopped moving and the man pushed it off him, gasping for breath.

The woman stood, bloody axe in her hands, eyes wide.

They looked at each other for a moment. There was no point in asking if either was alright. Of course they weren't.

"Me neither."

She gave him a hand up. "How many bullets you got left in that thing?"

He checked. "Three."

She nodded. "Let's finish it."

They cleared the rest of the house, glancing out windows and noticing movement outside. Their noise had drawn attention.

They moved quickly, searching the place for food and supplies. They found an old can of beans and a box of band aids, that was it. They slipped out the back while zombies broke down the front door.

The sun hung lower in the sky, a darkening purple leaching out across the blue sky.

They snuck from the house down the street a few blocks before sitting and taking a rest.

"We need shelter," he said.

"I saw something in the house. Picture of a school. I think its nearby."

"A school?"

"Might be a decent place. It was summer still is summer. Probably weren't many people in the school when the shit hit the fan. Could be safe."

He nodded. "Maybe food in the cafeteria too."

She nodded back.

"Good idea."

They headed through the town looking for the elementary school. They moved furtively, not down the street but through the backyards of houses, over fences and behind buildings, staying hidden as much as possible.

Meanwhile, he thought about her. He didn't know her name and she didn't know his. They hadn't known each other before the end of the world and they'd both decided it'd be better if they just didn't get attached in any particular way. They helped each other survive and that was that.

They'd been part of a larger group before, but that'd all gone to hell when a group of unliving had found them while they'd been sleeping. Whoever had been supposed to be watching had fallen asleep and the monsters had fallen upon the living like it a fresh meat buffet. In the chaos, he'd run into her and they'd escaped together.

They'd come to trust each other though. You couldn't survive together these days without saving each others' lives a few times. They depended on each other, they were comfortable, that was enough.

The school loomed up on a hill surrounded by sports fields and a short chain link fence. They spotted one lone body, wandering the field without purpose. They quietly went over the fence and up to it. She felled it in one clean blow.

Past the fields lay the back parking lot of the school, a few vehicles here and there, sitting abandoned, an ambulance, a town dump truck, 4-door sedans and a minivan here and there. Left to rust forever in the after-days of the apocalypse?

They spotted no movement and jogged to the back door as only the last dregs of sunlight remained. Darkness swiftly arrived, a pale half moon glowing above.

The back double door had a heavy chain wrapped around the handles but no lock. Must have been a rush job. It held the doors but all you had to do was loosen the chain and unwrap it, leaving the handles free.

They looked at each other, nodded. She would be first this time. They switched who went first every time, just to be fair.

He gripped a handle and pulled one door open. She watched, waiting. Nothing came. She entered.

He followed, wiping sweat from his brow.

The halls within were dark with shadows. Lockers lined the blue-and-white-tiled walls. They shut the doors behind them and the dark hall became impenetrable. A disgusting aroma filled his nostrils.

"Light?" He whispered.


They waited. Slowly, their eyes adjusted to the darkness to the extent they could see the vague shape of the hall. Nothing moved.

She moved forward, step by step, often stopping for minutes at a time, listening.

"Sign," she said.

He pulled a little penlight out and flicked the light on briefly, illuminating the sign. It had two arrows pointing opposite ways in a hall that crossed their own. Beside the two arrows were the words "Cafeteria" and "Gym." He turned the light off and they waited for their eyes to adjust again. They continued.

They came to the cafeteria without incident. The man could feel his pulse quickening. Nothing could be this easy. Nothing had been this easy. It made sense though, it was summer, the school could have been totally empty when the infection hit. It was possible. It could be untouched. But then, why was it locked? What was the smell?

They opened the door and peeked in. There were windows in the far wall but they appeared to have been covered up, moonlight only showing faintly around the edges. The large space within lay shrouded in shadow, impossible to discern anything.

They waited.

"Light," she whispered.

He pulled out a heavy Maglight which would illuminate the room much better than the penlight.

He turned it on. His eyes widened.

"Oh shit," she whispered.

Hundreds of stretchers stood in rows within. Dark smears covered the walls and floor. The stench seemed to spill out of the room, decomposing flesh mixed with human waste and blood, nearly overwhelming.

Bodies. Corpses covered the stretchers and the floor. All dead.

He vomited, causing the light to jerk up and down. He realized what must have happened. The school hadn't been deserted, it'd been turned into a temporary infirmary of sorts after the infection hit. He'd known hospitals had filled past capacity in many places and so other buildings had been used. They'd run into the worst possible place they could have.

They heard scuffling. He turned the light. One of the bodies was looking at them and crawling slowly across the floor. Other bodies were standing up, looking towards the door. A low moan could be heard from hundreds of voices. One scrambled quicker than the others, hurtling toward them on all fours.

He shot it in the face. It fell. The gunshot rang out around them.

"Gethefuckouttahere!" The woman yelled.

They both turned and ran. He kept the light in front of them, illuminating their path. He saw discarded medical trash littering the hall, blood smears on the floor, little things they couldn't have seen when the light was off.

They tried to get to the back door. The moaning behind them grew louder and they could hear bare feet slapping the cold tile of the floor.

They must have missed the turn. He saw a pair of blue double doors lying open and the gymnasium within. More stretchers, more bodies.

"Shitshitshitshitshitshitshit," he said. His heart thudded in his ears as the footsteps behind them grew louder and zombies began pouring out of the gym. "We're fucked." A corpse charged them and he dropped it with a bullet, his ears ringing.

"Here!" She shouted to his right.

He turned.

She was at a classroom door, fiddling with a stuck doorknob. She jerked it open and flung herself inside.

He followed as hands grasped at the pack on his back. He turned and put his hand against the door to shut it closed.

A creature pushed her head inside the room, her hair fallen out, her eyes bug wild and her teeth exposed.

He felt a pain in his arm and dropped the flashlight.

The woman was there, swinging the axe into the corpses' face. It fell back. He shut the door and locked it as fists banged against it.

The dropped flashlight illuminated the both of them, gasping for breath. They looked at each other. They both saw the blood drip. They both saw the bite at the same time.


She raised the axe.

The gun went off.

She fell back.

His body shook.

He put his back to the door and slid down to the floor. He could hear the dead outside. The door shook from their blows.

Her body lay just outside the pool of light. He saw blood seeping out in a dark pool beneath her.

He closed his eyes, took a deep breath. He checked the gun, knowing it was empty. It was. He looked at the bite, still bleeding, the skin red around it. He looked away.

Questions assaulted him. Was he feeling differently or was that his imagination, because of what he knew was coming? How long would it take? How would it feel?

He wished things had been differently. Why had he fired? He should have let her kill him. there was nothing.

He stood and went over to her body. He went through her pockets. He found a wallet in her back pocket. He brought it into the light.

Her name was Anne Mary-Smith, 32 years old, brown hair, brown hair, 5'9'', 140 lbs. His hand that held the license shook. Nerves or...something else? He put the license in his pocket.

He pulled his pack off his back. Inside was a shirt which he ripped and wrapped around the bite and tied tightly. It wouldn't matter but he couldn't think of anything else to do.

He picked up the flashlight and surveyed the room. A large classroom filled with desks, all stacked against the far wall. A blackboard took up most of a wall and a large wooden desk sat in front of it.

He went over and sat on the desk. He pulled out the license and looked at it. The picture looked very different from the woman he'd known, younger, happier, smiling about something. He wasn't sure he'd ever seen her smile.

He jerked, falling off the desk. His body shook uncontrollably.

He gasped for breath, coming back. He reached up to the top of the desk and pulled himself up. He took deep breaths.

He staggered over to the board. He felt...woozy. sick. He vomited on the floor. Bloody.

Thoughts came slowly, through a haze. Disconnected. He dropped the gun. Memories faded.

Was this it? One thought came through, clear. Was it over?

He put the license on the desk and grabbed a piece of chalk. He started writing on the board. He needed to leave something. Anything. Something to tell whoever came after that there were two people in this room who had fought and survived, who had a story. Who had lived. Who had killed each other...

Her....What was her name? He couldn't remember. Jenny...long blond hair, blue eyes, a sharp smile...

He smiled and then stopped, grasping his head. No, that was someone different, someone from before....before what? Saliva dripped from his mouth. So hungry. He needed something to eat. Anything.

He fell back against the desk and the chalk fell from his hand. He fought to clear his mind. At least he had written something, had left something for someone else to find...His mind cleared for a moment, looking upon the blackboard.

He'd written nothing. Gibberish in white chalk.

Why was he here? His stomach growled. He was starving.

A low moan escaped from his lips.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Spaghetti and Champagne

Just a little story I wrote for a fiction-writing exercise in one of my college courses. I forget what the prompt was, perhaps I had to use the two elements, spaghetti and champagne? I don't know, but here it is. 

Spaghetti and Champagne

            The water boiled, bubbles forming and exploding simultaneously in a chaotic cacophony of splashing. Dale dumped the spaghetti in, calming the chaos, and put the top back on the pot. In ten minutes or so, it'd be ready. Jen would be home by then. He started on the sauce, grabbing the jar of Prego on the counter, twisting off the cap and dumping it into a cast iron pan currently warming up on the stove next to the pot of spaghetti. He tasted the sauce, mushroom and basil on the label, and nodded his head. She'd be surprised, he'd sweep her off her feet. It'd be perfect.
            He went to the fridge and grabbed the bottle of Bollinger Ay champagne. He had no idea what the name meant, but it was expensive and that was good enough. He grabbed two flute glasses and brought the champagne to the small plastic kitchen table. It looked pretty enough with the flowery tablecloth he'd laid out. He thought it was her favorite, but wasn't sure. It would be enough though, that he'd simply thought to have it, or at least he hoped so.
            There were two places set and a tall candle in the middle. Their finest china, which had come from Jen's mother, and her grandmother before that. She would appreciate everything, all the effort he'd put in. It'd show her he truly cared about her, truly wanted to make the relationship work.
            He placed the glasses, popped the champagne, and poured, afterwards setting the champagne on the table. He took a moment, looking over the table set up. It was lovely. The dinner was only spaghetti, but he didn't really know how to make anything else, especially not chicken carbonara, the meal she'd ordered on their first date at that lovely Italian place. What was it called again? Oh well, it didn't matter. The simple fact that he'd done all this would be enough. It would be such a pleasant surprise. He grabbed a lighter and lit the candle. When she came home, he'd dim the lights. How romantic, a candlelit dinner. He couldn't wait.
            A hiss from the kitchen brought him out of his thoughts and he dashed to the stove, taking the top off and stirring the noodles. He tried one. Still a little hard, a minute or two more would be perfect.
            His cellphone buzzed in his pocket. It was Jen. His heart skipped a beat and he felt nervous, as if he was going on one of his first dates. He smiled and answered.
            “Hey honey,” he said, trying not to sound too excited, trying not to give anything away. “Did you just get out of work, are you on your way home?”
            “Hi Dale,” she said rather formally. She sounded tired. “I just got out of work.”
            “You sound tired, is everything alright?” He gulped. Was something wrong? It didn't matter, as soon as she got home and saw everything, it would be alright.
            “No, Dale, nothing's right. Nothing's working.”
            He hesitated, wiping his face with his free hand. “Well,” He said. “Well just come home and we'll figure it out. We'll work it out. Just come home and we'll talk.”
            “I'm not coming home, Dale.”
            “But-” He was walking around the kitchen now. “But you have to. Just come home, Jen. I'll...I'll make it alright. Just please come home.” He sounded desperate and he hated it. He wondered if he should just tell her, ruin the surprise. It wouldn't be a surprise anyways, if she never knew about it.
            “I'm sorry Dale, it's over.”
            “No wait!” He replied, smacking his hand on the kitchen counter, hard but not caring about the pain. “What about your stuff? Your mother's china? All your things? Just come home and get your things. We don't even have to talk if you don't want to-”
            “Throw my stuff away. I don't care about it anymore. I can't come home, Dale. I just can't. I'm-” She sighed. “I'm seeing someone else. I'm sorry. This is goodbye.” She didn't even give him a chance to respond, he just heard a click, her hanging up on him.
            He set his phone on the counter. The pot was hissing again, and the sauce was simmering, bubbles forming and popping at a slow rate. He turned off the heat to both, poured the pasta into the colander in the sink. He shook it a couple times. He brought the pasta over to the flowery clothed kitchen table with tongs, and set a mound of spaghetti on each plate. He set the colander on the table and went back for the sauce. He put an oven mitt on, grabbed the cast iron handle and brought the sauce over with a large spoon, spooning out a pool onto each pile of noodles. He set the pan onto the table.
            He took a seat, folding his white napkin onto his lap as was proper. He took his glass of champagne and clinked it against the other one. He took a sip.
            “It's good, isn't it? I wonder what Bollinger Ay means? Something in French probably.”
            She wouldn't have known either.
            He mixed the spaghetti and sauce around with his fork. He took a bite, slurping up the noodles that hung out of his mouth.
            Even though she wouldn't have said anything, he knew she would've been annoyed.
            “Sorry. I know you hate it when I do that.”
            He ate in silence for a few moments, sipping at the champagne.
            “I know it's no chicken carbonara.” He smiled. She would've smiled too. “What was that lovely Italian place called again?”
            She wouldn't have remembered either of course, but they would've had a good laugh remembering that first date. The recent past would've been forgotten. All would've been well.

Monday, October 15, 2012

I'm The Worst Blogger

Another week flies by and once again I'm a day late with my blog post. Does it matter if yesterday was my five year anniversary with my girlfriend? Or that I got demolished playing 80 minutes of rugby on Saturday? Nah, it doesn't matter. It's on me. Said I was going to post and I am. Just a day late. Again. Won't happen again. I mean a third time. I mean it's possible but...ah whatever. I'll get on with it.

I've been working more and more on the second half of the novel I started last Nanowrimo. It's becoming an altogether different beast, a creature with parts of its body hacked off and new limbs grafted on, an ugly thing, perhaps, but I think it's getting better and better. The story is growing, the cast is growing, it's becoming a deeper, fuller story. Each group with an agenda, each character with a motivation and I like it. Just need to keep on with it. Hopefully I finish it by November, if not, I'll probably start on the sequel anyways. Starting the sequel could give me some insight into the novel itself, so we'll see.

Working with children is a strange thing. I guess I could say working with people in general is a strange thing. It's not the same as working on an object or performing manual labor though let's be honest, in practically every job there is, you have to interact with people in one way or another. You have to gauge and guess their thoughts and feelings. I'm doing it constantly while I interact with my students. It's especially difficult because their feelings fluctuate constantly, super highs and super lows. I get frustrated because they get angry over what I see as little things but they can't see that. They can't see that mountains are molehills, all they see are mountains. It is important to note many adults have this problem as well. And it's not like I can just tell them something doesn't matter. I know it mattered to me back then and I remember it didn't matter what adults said, they didn't understand how I was feeling. It's true. There is this strange divide. I am one of those adults now. Through years of experience you realize the world is enormous, it's bigger than your petty problems, but right now their world is pretty small. It pretty much consists of their school and their friends and their family. I can see that.

I do my best but sometimes I just feel useless. There's just situations where I don't know what to do. How to stop a child from being mean. Sure I can make him stop for a moment or while I'm there but I know kids are cruel. They will be cruel. It will happen and not being able to stop every act of bullying or cruelty is frustrating, even though I know awareness and prevention of bullying has come a long ways, even from back when I was in elementary school. Kids have a very difficult time putting themselves in other people's shoes. Hell, adults have a difficult time doing that, which is something that kind of irritates me. It's tough, but that's the deal. It's impossible to totally know what someone else is thinking so every interaction is a gamble of sorts.

Despite all this ranting, I am enjoying the job. Interacting with kids is hilarious and crazy, and always interesting. Teaching a student a difficult idea can be incredibly infuriating but when you finally hit on the right thing to say and they finally get it, it's a really great feeling. Makes you feel good about what you're doing, despite the shit pay.

That's it for now, maybe I won't be a terrible blogger next time.


P.S. November is Coming

Monday, October 8, 2012

A Day Late and A Dollar Short...

Well, I promise a blogpost every Sunday and the first one flies by without a word! Whoops! The truth is I was barely home at all yesterday so I did not really have time to write one. Unfortunately, that's not a great excuse because I could just have written one earlier and then just published it yesterday...but oh well, we all make mistakes. We all miss deadlines, unfortunately. I'll try to make it up by writing one today.

It's Columbus Day, a celebration of the day Christopher Columbus discovered America...though he didn't really 'discover' it, there were plenty of people already here and doing just fine until he came along...But oh well, it's not a perfect holiday, or perhaps even one we should really celebrate considering it's basically a sham. I get the day off though, so that's all that matters.

For most of today, I'm trying to figure out what to do for my girlfriend on our 5th year anniversary. It's really difficult because I know for a fact she spent a large amount of money for us to take a trip to Provincetown for my birthday, so I really want to do something special. The problem is special = money and the fact is my rent just jumped up 300 dollars sooner than expected. That with school loans, health insurance, food and utilities is virtually killing my bank account. She's also buying all the new furniture for the apartment which I can't even help with because I can't afford to. It makes me feel worthless. I don't want her to pay for everything but I can barely pay rent on time. It's like what the fuck can I do? I'm already working two jobs. It drives me crazy. She does more for me than I do for her and I hate it. I feel like I should be the provider or at the very least, I should be able to provide half of our needs but I can't and it sucks. And I hate talking to her about it because I feel...weak...or just...incapable, like I said before, worthless. If I have to ask her if I can give her a check for rent a few days later when my paycheck comes, I fucking despise myself. It's the same feeling I get when I have to ask my parents for more money, despite how much they've already given. I feel like a disappointment.

But it is what it is, for now. Hopefully I can do more in the future while right now, I can just do as much as I can. I have a few ideas for the anniversary that, though it might not be as grand as a provincetown trip, I hope it makes her happy. Every few days or so, I get to thinking about it and get down on myself but eventually I get over it. That's kind of how I deal with shitty things. You do what you can and get over it. Feeling depressed about it isn't going to help things. I'm doing what I can and though it's not good enough, it is what it is. I'll just keep trying to make her happy. If she's happy, I'm happy.

This post took a strange turn, wasn't really what I expected when I started out writing. I guess I'll just say you can't always do everything you want for the ones you love, family, friends and all, but you just have to do what you can and hope they know you're trying.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Jumping Back In

I'm a terrible writer. Don't try to argue with me, I know it's true. No it's not because my actual writing is of terrible quality, though some of it likely is, no it's because a writer is some one who writes and I do that so very little of late. I don't write every day, I barely write once a week and it's not because I'm editing my novel or planning some new story out, I just am not participating in any kind of creative writing activity at all. I don't know why, I guess my enthusiasm flagged a little after writing a novel and then realized I had to actually work on it. I was past the fun part, the creation, now was the difficult work, re-creation, cutting things, realizing that my writing wasn't perfect or even very good, realizing that a first draft really is a first draft.

See, in school, you know how teachers always made you do a first draft, then a final draft, oftentimes with drafts in between? I wouldn't do that. My first draft would be my final draft and I always thought the whole draft-process was repetitive. I'm not trying to brag, I just didn't see the point in redoing something over and over. When time came for the first draft, I wrote it as I would a final draft, putting everything I needed into it. And, while not trying to brag, my writing was pretty good. The difference between my first and final were miniscule. Writing comes somewhat naturally to me, I guess.

And so when it came to time to read through my novel and see just how much work needed to be done, just how much of a rush job I did in writing it, it destroyed my motivation. Every bit I'd gained in writing weekly blogs and starting stories and writing a novel was brushed aside. Blogs were put off with excuses of 'not having a good idea of what to write that week'. As they came few and farther apart, it became easier to think of them as unimportant, unessential activities that I didn't need to bother doing. Editing became a task that I could ignore.

Now NanoWrimo looms once again. The event that really got me going before and I realize it's getting me going again. I know I want to finish editing the novel by November so I can begin the sequel for National Novel Writing Month.

So I need to get back into the swing of things and I'm thinking writing my blog will help. It forces me to write, to think and to put something out there.

So, once a week, every Sunday from hereafter to who knows when, I will write a blogpost. I can't say what they'll be about, probably whatever I happen to think about that day, but some thing will be posted! It might not be good or great or decent or even alright but it will be there.

Also, everyone should write a novel once in their life, so do NanoWrimo, it's a hell of a lot of hard work and fun.

...November is coming...