Friday, April 19, 2013

My Time in Zombie Writer’s Camp VI: The CONFEDERATION Project

Finally! Some good old fashioned humans vs. zombies combat!  Let’s run the boilerplate and get on with the show:

In 2008 James Robert Smith and I collaborated on a project we hoped would turn out to be the Winesburg, Ohio of zombie epics, a mosaic tale describing the communities coming together (and squaring off against one another) in the wake of the zombie apocalypse. For various reasons the collaboration fell apart. Bob took his part of the narrative — which included his idea of a border collie manipulating the other abandoned dogs and zombies—and crafted The Living End. I scuffled around for a couple of more years until I came up with The Saga of the Dead Silencer.

For the benefit of those readers who have been following
Bleeding Kansas and miss having something nasty-mean to read, here’s the sixth installment I wrote for the Confederation project. Of course, if you like this, feel free to pick up Bob’s completed work. Support your local architects of the apocalypse....


Only at the moment Daryl feared the glass would break with the insistent pounding of hungry once-people did Dozark deign to start cracking skulls. Even then Daryl feared the big stupid redneck would put one through the windshield, compromising the glass if not killing him too. Daryl was sure Dozark was thinking about it.

The dogs weren’t charging Dozark; they seemed to understand firearms. Enough dogs might have surrounded him and brought him down but they seemed content to bring the undead about Daryl’s minivan, barking and jumping at the rear of the vehicle and occasionally startling him and Chloe by jumping at the side windows. The children whimpered and squirmed under the quilt. It had to be hot as hell under there. It was all Daryl could do not to start the engine, turn on the air conditioning and make a break for it on the broken loop road to...

...nowhere, actually. Daryl had seen the road running past the campgrounds. It would be hard enough for a truck. The minivan would break an axle before he got a hundred yards. And that would be that. Not that there was a lot of gas to begin with...

...but the temptation to just do something! Daryl was surprised Chloe wasn’t already yelling this line of non-thought at him. Thank God she wasn’t speaking...

...but maybe she was only terrified. As was he. Two years since the first corpse rose to bite and tear at a nurse, a hospital orderly, some poor bastard just passing by...two years since the infection had spread from God knows where to everywhere, driving people from their homes, their workplaces...driving from work to find the daycare centers overrun with other anxious parents and the hungry dead...police cruisers driving as fast as they could from one mob and straight into another, firing wildly, learning the hard way that Tasers only animated these reanimated once-people even more....

Once-people. Even after two years that was the hardest to deal with. You looked, didn’t want to look, looked anyway because you had to, and saw the faces of accountants, fast-food workers, waitresses, firemen... many still wearing the remains of the clothing that marked them for their jobs. It was a man in a shredded business suit, the tie still dangling from his/its neck which feasted on Jake Patterson’s face. His daughter died screaming as she had been eaten alive by what may have been a roofer, a foreman, some kind of laborer. The fat woman sliding from the front of that truck was a poor somebody caught in her bed ...maybe just killed herself with pills as so many were said to have done so they could rise without the hideous tears and gouges that marked so many that...

...pushed and pounded and moaned about the minivan. Eyes dry, but open and aware, aware of living meat, meat they would push into long-inoperative gastro-intestinal systems to — what? It couldn’t possibly sustain them, didn’t sustain them. None apparently starved to death-beyond-death. They still walked, limped, shambled or crawled along the Interstate between the cities, still “lived” days, weeks, months and now two years after the last...meal.

The ones pushing and pounding and moaning here didn’t seem especially desperate to break through the hard shell to the chewy center. Just hungry. They would tear and bite and rend and claw and when the life was chewed through to nothing they would stop, rise, and walk on...

The dogs were no longer barking. Daryl heard the click and screech of their claws sliding down the long-dulled finish of the minivan and looked to see the animals disappearing into the surrounding trees and brush. The sudden quiet was unnerving. Even with two zombies still slapping like insistent toddlers at the minivan, that slapping seemed more of a minor nuisance than the insistent bark-bark-barking of dogs...

...the one he could see at his window was some mother’s sullen skate punk in his teen skate punk togs, too skinny to have been much of a meal for whatever got him. But then, all you have to be was alive.

So where was the other one?

There was a clumsy thump and rustle beneath the minivan. A scream, more rustling.

Daryl looked around. No dogs, no zombies. He looked at Chloe.

“What?” she said.

Daryl popped the lock and threw open the door. The skate punk tumbled backwards. Daryl brought the fire poker down on its head before it had a chance to rise. Daryl hit it two more times in quick succession before turning to see a pair of tiny legs wriggling from underneath the minivan. He grabbed them by the ankles and pulled.

Her face and shoulders were dusted white, peppered with bits of small rock. The gouges about her neck were still wet, bright red and fresh. Her dress might have fallen from her save that it was sticky-filthy, plastered where sheets of blood had poured over her chest and back.

Not that Daryl had much time to note all this. He flung little Carly away from him and the van as she bent upwards from her waist to snap at him with her tiny mouth.

The scream from beneath the minivan brought him out of his shock. He picked up his fire poker and met Carly halfway as she wriggled towards him.

For her arms were useless, the tendons chewed through, most of them in the throat and belly of the thing that lay in the leaves between Daryl’s campsite and what had once been the Pattersons. She couldn’t even properly move her head, only her spine and the muscles about that permitted movement.

Carly flopped to her belly, to her back, to her belly, kicking her legs, scrabbling forward on her tiny knees. She could not grasp, she could not even use her arms to push herself up. She could only flop and wriggle and kick her way forward, snapping her six-year-old baby teeth, driven by lizard-brained hunger to get at Daryl, at whoever had wedged his or herself underneath his minivan.

Daryl stomped his foot across the back of her neck, pivoted and swung the fire poker at the back of her skull. His swing went wild as she bucked beneath his foot with such force as he almost fell.

Carly twisted over onto her back as Daryl recovered his footing. He was surprised to see no fury in the little girl’s face. Just hunger. Dull-eyed hunger, made all the more stark by the tear-tracks dried black into the grime on her face. The tears she’d cried as the monster clutched her, tore the life from her....

She lunged for Daryl.

Daryl brought the fire poker down.

The first blow knocked her back. She lunged again. He swung, heard a crack.

He had to swing it once, twice more to finish destroying what was left of her six-year-old brain.

The shock of impact resonated along his arm in a way it hadn’t when it was him and the dogs. Repetitive motion disorder, he thought, looking away into the woods beyond their camp. Only now kicking in...he dared not look down at the tear-tracks framing her ruined face....

“Tol’ja that fire poker wudn’t worth a shit!”

Breathing heavily, it was all he could do to turn his head and look at Jim Dozark. The big bearded ass was standing just to the side.

“Then again, maybe you just don’t know how to swing that thang. S’whut your wife tole me, anyway.”

Daryl’s grip was whitening on the fire poker when he heard a scrabbling from beneath the van.


It was the voice he’d heard during his fight with the dogs. He’d thought it was Chloe’s.

Instead it belonged to eight-year-old Allie Patterson. The little girl, only a little bigger than her late baby sister, saw the look on Daryl’s face: “Mister, um, Kirkland. I’m sorry. I got, um, stuck --”

Her eyes scrunched shut and she began crying. Daryl went to her. “It’s all right, Allie. No one’s angry with you. How on earth could anyone be angry with you?”

She opened her eyes. Daryl moved to stand between her and the sight of her late sister.

“You better check to see she didn’t get bit!” said Dozark.

Daryl’s arm went up just as the sound of approaching engines filled the air. An eerie cry arose from the sites closest to the entrance.

Allie threw her arms around Daryl. Daryl crossed his arms behind her, conscious of the aching in his hand, the awkwardness of holding this newest orphan of The Thing with a fire poker clutched tightly in his hand. He wondered if he’d ever let it go.

“C’mon, just a taste! What were you using that skin for, anyway?”

Copyright © 2008, 2017 by Lawrence Roy Aiken

The Living End © 2017 by James Robert Smith