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Okay, so lets see. I want to start posting regularly and I want to get some followers to chat with about my writing and other things in the literary world. I plan to eventually get to a point where I can poll followers ideas on one word topics to write a short story about and then the highest poll gets the story the following week to read and tear up. Until then…I need followers. I’ll start this blog out with posting previously written things and personal thoughts until people care enough to start this. SO, I will begin with posting a short clip of the zombpocalypse story I’m working on. This clip was written for and submitted to my university literary magazine and accepted back in october. Let me know if it sucks, it’s a fun read, or anything else on your mind. I hope you’re at least entertained and I will post more like this as I go. Thanks!

STAY ALIVE

by Thomas Maxwell

Watch him instinctively draw his firearm, urged by the moans of the dead lurching just out of sight. The instinct had been drilled into him by his father and sixteen years of service to the United States Army. If only they had taught him how to make ammo from nothing. “Oh crap,” said Scott. His colt 1911, gifted to him by his war-hero father, had been out of ammo for three days. Scott surveyed the dilapidated room for weaponry. The ruins offered a five foot length of rebar and an overturned stool by the only window. Scott holstered the heirloom and pulled the rebar that sprung from a gash in the wall. Stooping low across from the only window in the room, Scott studied the doorway to his right. The room was dimly illuminated by shafts of light passing through the window and breaks in the walls.

Scott gripped the rebar with sweaty palms. His heart beat rapidly. He could hear the ghoul shambling down the hallway, pounding the wall as it marched closer. He imagined what it looked like; worms protruding from its eyes, teeth naked and menacing on its fleshless face, its tongue slapping the inside of its mouth. He silently prayed to God that it would shamble past and leave him be. The pounding on the wall ceased and the shuffling of its feet became ever-present.Its fingers coiled around the doorway. The flesh on them was golden in color and in some places bone was free of restriction. Scott began to shake the rebar, taming the adrenaline coursing through his body. Erecting himself in preparation for what was to come, Scott reminded himself it sounded like only one and he had this under control. The ghoul awkwardly shifted its body sideways through the doorway and before it could turn to face Scott, Scott charged and bashed it over the head with the rebar. The rebar broke, leaving Scott with a few feet of it left. He tried to regain the upper hand by jamming through the ghoul’s head with what was left of the rebar, but the ghoul swiped the air with respectable strength, sending Scott to the floor.”Son-of-a-bitch,” said Scott as he crawled on his back toward the wall, the rebar still in his grip. He noticed the thing must have been a farmer before. It was a lumbering beast, ugly and disfigured. It still had on work boots and a flannel jacket typical of Pennsylvania rough necks. It made its way toward Scott. Scott leapt to his feet and braced himself against the wall; he held the rebar with both hands, extending it outward in a defensive stance. The ghoul came closer, its grotesque abomination of the human form more noticeable with each step. Scott had no route of escape that he could see, so he held the ghoul back with the rebar as he thought of a plan.The ghoul’s large hands groped and tugged at Scott’s black Kevlar vest. It occasionally gripped him firm enough to bash him against the crumbling wall. Scott noticed the ghoul’s face. Its eyes were glazed with the emptiness of death, each eye looking in opposite directions, neither of them at Scott. It bit at the air wildly, its teeth gnashing. Dry cracked lips revealed thin and amber receding gums. The nose had been cleaved off leaving two holes in the face above the mustache. Its left ear was missing and there were human bite impressions all over.Fear took form in Scott’s throat. It worked its way up from his gut, leaving an empty shiver in its wake. He wanted to scream, but he knew if he did, the sound could bring more of them. The drywall supporting his back began to weaken and buckle. He could think of no escape. The image of teeth tearing his flesh and gnawing his bones took hold of his thoughts.The familiar boom of a .50 caliber rifle rang loud in the distance. Seconds later, the ghoul’s head splattered, sending blood, bone, and brain in all directions. The wall finally gave way to the pressure. Crashing through the wall, Scott fell outside on his back. The headless and decomposing corpse followed directly after, pinning Scott between its rot and the ground below. A surge of static coursed through his ligaments and knuckles, compelling him to frantically swat the thing off of him. He wiped the blood from his face and cleaned his hands on the dead farmer’s jacket. “Big son-of-a-bitch,” he said as he patted the farmer’s pockets. He noticed something solid.

“Don’t take this the wrong way, fella.” Scott discovered a set of keys in the pants pocket. A blue rabbit foot dangled from the chain. “Wasn’t much luck for you, huh?” He stuffed the keys in his vest and continued to find a box of matches and a pocket knife. “These should come in handy,” Scott said.

Gazing up from the corpse and to the northern hillside, Scott scanned for the shooter. The oppressive summer sun was on its way down. The calm and eerie aura enveloped the small country farm. The trees in the distance rustled in the light breeze. “Now, I wonder who shot your head clean off. I’d like to thank him for saving my ass.” Scott cleaned off his military issued cap with his knee and looked carefully around the house for the garage. He already searched the house and found nothing but the farmer ghoul.

He found it at the back of the house. A perfect condition, 1973, candy-apple-red, Cadillac Eldorado perched right outside with an ivory top and a chrome grill. It was rare to find a whole vehicle these days, let alone one like this. He hadn’t seen a decent car in years.

He entered the garage first. There was no need to check the engine until he finished rummaging around. It was too dark to see inside the garage. Luckily, there was enough fuel in the lantern hanging outside to keep a flame. The matches did come in handy after all. Inside the garage were a typical workbench, dirt floors, and racks of tools. Scott raised the lantern up and noticed a banister framing a second floor. The light of the lantern reflected off the glass doors of a gun cabinet above.

“My God,” Scott whispered as he retrieved the rabbit’s foot and keys and made his way directly to the gun cabinet. He could see there were guns inside and the excitement of it forced a smile. He placed the lantern on the railing behind him and used the smallest key on the keychain to unlock the doors. Inside remained a Remington 870 twelve gauge shotgun, a Winchester 30/30 lever action rifle, and a bucket full of random ammunition. Some of the ammo looked to be self-loaded, but these days any ammo was good ammo. Finding enough .45 caliber bullets to fill his three magazines, he loaded them and put the few extras in his pants pocket. He brought everything down to the Cadillac where he loaded the rifle and shotgun.

“Let’s see about that shooter with the .50 cal,” he said. The engine failed to start and he noticed the gas gauge read empty. After inspecting the vehicle, he discovered a single bullet had found its way into the car, putting a hole through to the gas tank. “And here I thought you were lucky,” Scott said to the rabbit’s foot. He ripped it from the chain and tossed it away. Scott found some duct tape to seal the hole but failed to produce any gas to fill the tank back up. “I guess I’m hiking it,” Scott said. He left the ammunition bucket and the shotgun in the car and headed north. Scott wanted to thank whoever saved him–he even hoped to find some gas–but more than that, he wanted some human contact. He was used to being a loner-before the event he preferred it that way but years of isolation warrants a conversation or two.

****

Nobody had a name for it. It wasn’t a plague. There were no CDC tents being set up along every coastal city. The dead could bite you. They could bite your damn arm off and it wouldn’t matter. It’s when they killed people that things went bad. That’s when people came back, different. The dead rose in all stages of decomposition. That first week, people believed they had hold of the situation. Maryland boasted, “We’re in the clear; no Zombies here,” like a tourism advertisement. But people got scared and more people started dying. Violent crime was on the rise and natural death was consistent as always. The number of risen became unbearable. It was the same on every continent. After two weeks, there were no more communications available for the people and any semblance of government went with it.

Scott was home on leave the day it started, to say goodbye to his father. Cancer had been sucking his father’s life for years and the oncologist said this would be the end. At the hospital, Scott watched his role model die. For the first time since he could remember, his father looked peaceful. His father was a hard man, a Nazi-killer, and a lifelong state trooper. After his father died, he woke up, and tore out the throat of Scott’s mother. Her blood quickly painted the hospital bed and floor a rich shade of red. Scott was in a state of shock. He pulled his mother from his father’s maddened hold, brandished the colt 1911 his father used in the war, and shot him in the head. Scott turned to help his mother, but she had already bled out. The idea that this could all be some crazy zombie nightmare didn’t occur to him until his mother stood up and attacked him. He shot her in the head, too.

Security guards ran into the room, yelling at him to drop the weapon. Nurses were outside screaming, “He’s got a gun” “and, “Oh my God!” People were frantically running down the halls to escape the mad man with a gun. They didn’t know. They didn’t know; by night’s end, most of them would be dead. That first day, hospitals were the worst place to be.

Scott dropped his colt and went to his knees. He wasn’t sure if he went mad or if he really murdered his parents. After all, he was diagnosed with PTSD after his second tour of combat duty. Before the guard could cuff Scott, an armless doctor ran into the room and closed the door. He had tubing as a tourniquet to stop the stump of his arm from bleeding; blood soaked his clothes. “He died! I screwed up his surgery and he died! His chest was lying wide open! My God, tell me how!?” The doctor sunk into the corner of the room, hitting his head of the wall and rocking back and forth to comfort his confusion.

A man, with his chest surgically folded open, stood outside the door. The same empty gaze of Scott’s parents was on his face. In his grip was the surgeon’s gnawed arm and he repeatedly slapped it against the door. The guard was not panicked. He told Scott to pick up the colt and reached for the doorknob, saying, “On the count of three.” Scott confirmed with a nod. “One…two…three…”

****

Everything was still and calm. The trees surrounding the farm would occasionally sweep in the wind. At the peak of the hill, he could see a sprawling valley below that gave home to an old red barn that fell into disrepair. Only one door could be seen and thin unpainted boards were shoddily nailed up where there were faults in the exterior. Scott made his way to the barn. A strange sensation tickled his spine and pinched his sides. It was only a short time ago one of the risen nearly tore him to pieces. The thought of being in close quarters with another one put Scott on edge. He needed to call out, to either the man who saved him, a barn full of walking dead, or nothing at all, but he wasn’t going inside.

“Hello,” he said. No response. He peered through the doorway; the single hinged door creaked suddenly. “Shit,” he yelled as he jumped and readied the lever action rifle. Nothing moved. He waited, frozen in place. The door creaked once more, pushed by the wind. He lowered the rifle, leaned against the barn, and looked out to the setting sun. He thought to himself he should head back to the car and either rest in it or on the roof of the garage. Soon it wouldn’t be safe to be outside and the shooter was nowhere to be found. This was as far as he would look.

“Drop the gun,” a muffled voice commanded suddenly, startling Scott.

“Who are you?” Scott asked.

“Drop the gun. I’ll shoot right through the damn wall,” the disembodied voice demanded once more.

“Now listen here,” said Scott. “I will not disarm myself out here in these woods. You’ll either have to shoot me or lighten up. I mean you no harm. I came to thank you for saving my ass down there in the farm hou…” A gunshot blasted; It shot through the wall to the right of his head, sending splintering wood into his face.

“Whoa! What the hell are you doing?” Scott yelled as he dropped to the ground and rolled to a nearby tree.

“I don’t like your tone. I asked you to drop your guns. You can have them back when I’m done talking to you. I don’t trust strangers and I ain’t having you mess with me mister. So leave now or drop your weapons,” the voice said.

After a pause to think, Scott said, “Alright, alright. I’m leaving the guns at the tree and then I’m coming out from behind it.” Scott leaned his rifle and pistol against the tree, put his arms out, and stepped out from behind its protection. A figure emerged from the shadow of the doorway. It was ghostly pale and thin where flesh shown. Long and black greasy hair flowed from behind a gas mask. The figure was wearing military issue BDU pants tucked into boots, the BDU jacket tied around the waist. The .50 caliber Barrett rifle was slung over its shoulder, and a Glock 23 steadied in Scott’s direction.

The figure stepped aside and motioned with the gun for Scott to enter the barn. He willingly complied. Something about this person made him trust they wouldn’t simply kill him without reason, especially after whoever it was rescued him.

“Take a seat,” the figure said. It motioned to a singular chair in the middle of the barn. Inside there were stacks of hay all around and a ladder that reached up to a loft that held a sleeping bag covered in hay and a duffle bag. He could hear the slide pulling back on the Glock, and he heard the loud smack it made when it was released. The figure stepped out in front of him, holstered the Glock, and pulled back the gas mask.

“You’re a woman,” said Scott.

He thought she looked beautiful in some savage Amazonian way.

“Is that a question?” the woman said. She hung the gasmask on a nail that stuck out from a support beam. “What’s your name?”

Scott stared for a moment and stammered the words, “Uh, Scott. Scott Baabriarn.

“Well, Scott, I’m Liza. Welcome to my casa. What are you doing here?” she asked.

“You saved me. I wanted to thank you and maybe grab some gas if you knew where I could find any,” said Scott. He looked around and found a gas can. “Is that full?”

Liza looked at the can. “It just so happens it is. What is it to you?”

“There is a Cadi down at the farm. If we go now, we can get there before dark and head out in the morning,” said Scott.

“Whoa, slow down, mister. I’m safe here. This place is safe. I ain’t going nowhere,” Liza said with confidence as she crossed her arms.

“Safe,” said Scott. “Safe is a word without meaning. It used to be a place you kept your shit locked up, a feeling of security. It’s a fleeting memory, lady. At most it’s an idea you can see in your head. Safe is a place where they can’t get you, and I haven’t found it yet.”

Liza shook her head and rolled her eyes. “That zombie I wasted for you was the first I’ve seen in a month. I’ve got food growing all around me. I’ve got a place up here to stay, a roof over my head. You can take the gas mister, but I ain’t going nowhere. As for making it by dusk, take a look outside.”

Scott looked outside and realized it was too dark to travel back to the farm house. “Mind if I bunk up here for the night?” Scott asked.

“Sure,” she said. “Get your guns. I’ll make you a bed and start a fire.”

****

They sat around a fire cooking in a barrel in the center of the barn. Liza prepared some corn in a metal pot of boiling water.

“So you never fired a shot since you’ve been up here?” Scott asked.

“No, never.” Liza picked some corn from her teeth. “I saw that one down there from time to time. It would pick up a shovel and smack the dirt a bit and then go back inside. I’ve seen him maybe four times since I’ve been here. I never had any reason to shoot him until you showed up.”

“Well, I thank you for that,” said Scott. “I was out of ammo and cornered. I’d be a dead man if you hadn’t. Were you in the military? I noticed you have lots of military equipment.”

Liza laughed. “Oh God, no. I’m not that stupid. These were my husband’s.”

“Hey now,” said Scott. “I served sixteen years in the Army. I’m not entirely stupid.” He laughed a bit. “So your husband was in the military? Is he dead?”

Liza’s face soured. “No, my husband was a military nut, but he was too weak to ever join up. He wouldn’t hurt a fly. He was a good man. His daddy was a rough man, a military man. He made Dave feel like he had to be a certain way. It just wasn’t in his nature. He loved these things and they’ve come in handy…for me.”

Scott nodded. “What happened to him, if you don’t mind me asking?”

“The local militia came sweeping through the town killing everyone outside their homes. At the time they didn’t know it wasn’t a disease. They thought everyone who was bit would be sick. They didn’t even know you had to shoot them in the head. They were just dealing death; people were scared and running wild on the streets. The dead started getting up and going into homes, eating everyone. Dave had a little bunker where he kept everything. He took his AR15, locked me inside, and said he would be right back. His eyes told me goodbye. After a few days, I tried getting out. The door was jammed. I managed to open them enough to wiggle through. I found him lying sprawled out on the doors. There had to have been twenty dead around him. He shot himself in the head, the rifle emptied.”

Scott looked Liza in the eyes. “I’m sorry for your loss. I took off to my cabin up by Lake Pymatuning after I watched my dad rip my mother’s throat out in the hospital room he died in. I didn’t know what the heck was happening. I thought I was going crazy.”

“Hey, we’ve all had some heavy shit to deal with. We’re still kicking for a reason, right? Why don’t we get some rest,” Liza said.

Scott shushed her.”You hear that?” Scott tilted his head in listening.

Something scraped against the barn. The sound of something being drug across the dirt startled them both; they looked at each other with alarm. Liza loaded a round into the Berrett and lay prone on the loft, aiming at the doorway. Scott grabbed the Winchester rifle and knelt above the ladder. Whatever was dragging came closer and closer to the doorway. The door jolted, causing a hair-raising thud to echo through the barn. The barn door slowly nudged open. A very decomposed corpse shambled through the door, dragging its broken right leg. Its eyes were bulging and floating in lidless sockets. The bottom jaw had been broken and stuck agape. Its tongue flapped freely, but lacking saliva it looked shriveled like a small potato.

Firing a round from the 30/30 Winchester, Scott shot the ghoul dead between the eyes. The corpse slumped back onto the ground. Before he could snap the lever down and back, another risen shambled through the door. Liza dispatched the second one, the Berrett resounding through the barn, deafening Scott temporarily. He rubbed his ears and ignored the ringing.

Two more entered through the barn. “What is happening?” Liza asked. Panic stained her face. Scott ran over and stuffed her belongings into her duffle bag. “We have to get out of here,” he said. “Your gunshot from saving me must have lured them to us. They must be leaving the cities to look for people like us.”

“Where will I go? What do I do?” Liza asked in a stupor. Scott shoved the duffle bag into her chest. “I’m going to Alaska,” he said. “You coming?”

“Alaska,” she said.” What do you mean, Alaska? ”

Scott grabbed the gas can and looked for another way out. “Because the last two winters they barely came around. As soon as summer hit, they were all over.”

“Why not just go north to Canada? It’s a lot closer than Alaska,” Liza said.

Scott kicked open the hay loft hatch. “There are none back here. We drop down and run straight for the Cadi. We can do this.”

“Why Alaska?” Liza asked louder.

Scott laughed. “Cause, it’s American,” he said, as he jumped out of the hay loft.

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