In November one of my giveaway gifts was a short story featuring the winner as a zombie apocalypse survivor. The giveaway is done through my mailing list which is at my website www.eloisejknapp.com.
For these giveaway short stories I ask the fan what their weapon of choice would be and if there was anyone they wanted to suffer a gruesome death. This time I also asked Paul, “Despite all the bad stuff, what would you look forward to most about the zompocalypse?” Part of his answer was to meet Cyrus V. Sinclair. I had to oblige. =)
Paul tried to ignore the noises coming from his coworker’s cubicle. If Aaron was sick, he needed to tell the boss and go home. No more of this groaning and wet wheezing to get attention. Sometimes people did that to set the stage for a more believable exit. They’d mention an upset stomach early in the day, or really play up on some sniffles. When the right moment struck, they announced they were feeling under the weather.
Everyone did it at one point or another.
Willing himself to focus on anything but his coworker, Paul instead focused on his weekend plans. It was Thursday. One more day to go until escape. His bonsai trees needed pruning and him and his wife Sunshine planned on having a relaxing, quiet weekend.
Wheeze. Hmmmffff. Wheeeezze hmmff.
Would the guy ever stop? Paul hoped Aaron would stand up and announce he needed to head out soon so Paul could get some work done free from distraction.
On cue, Aaron released a loud, shuddering wet cough.
A hush went over the office. Two cubicles over, someone called, “Is everything okay?”
No response. Paul shifted in his chair. He was the closest one to Aaron. People probably assumed he’d check. He didn’t want to, but something did sound wrong and he wasn’t a bad person. He stood and peered over the edge of the wall divider.
Paul’s breath caught in his throat. Aaron was dead. Stone cold dead. Paul knew it the moment he saw the ashen face, the glazed bloodshot eyes. There was a sheen of sweat across his skin. He was slumped forward at his desk, his face turned towards Paul.
“Is he okay?” a woman asked.
“Should we call 911?”
Just as Paul opened his mouth to answer, Aaron’s shoulder twitched. At first he wasn’t sure if he was imagining it, but Aaron did it again. This time it was a violent jerk, the force so intense it brought Aaron back into upright position like a demented puppet.
A primal instinct screamed at Paul to run, but another part made his body stone. He was afraid. Aaron had been dead. Now he wasn’t. That wasn’t right. It didn’t make sense.
Tina, the building receptionist, marched up to the desk. “What is wrong with you people? If–”
Aaron sprung into action, flinging himself at Tina. His mouth clamped onto her exposed shoulder and tore a meaty hunk from it. Blood spattered across the cubicle wall and covered Aaron’s face. He tilted his head up to the ceiling and released a ragged howl.
It was as though the world had been on pause and now everything—everything—was happening at once. The building shook as some kind of explosion outside rocked it. The electricity flickered and dust fell from the ceiling. People scrambled like cockroaches in all directions, Aaron the light source driving them away. Aaron spun and honed in on his nearest target: Paul.
Paul managed to raise his hands up before Aaron’s hurtling body could knock him down. His hands were firm against his chest, holding the wild dead man at bay. Aaron’s bloodied fists opened and closed as he reached for Paul’s face. His breath was putrid, saliva and blood seeping from his mouth.
Aaron pushed forward, knocking Paul flat against his cubicle wall. “Help! Someone help!”
Not a soul answered. In fact, most of his coworkers had already disappeared, leaving Paul alone to fight the…
Zombie. His mind offered the word quickly and he accepted it right away. Aaron was a zombie. The only way to kill one was to disable the brain.
He had to do something and quick. He scanned his desk and spotted a pair of bonsai pruning shears near a stack of papers. Paul always had shears somewhere near him. He shoved Aaron as hard as he could, sending his assailant tumbling to the ground.
In a flash he grabbed the shears and tried to take a defensive stance just as Aaron was up again and charging.
Paul dodged and let Aaron run straight into the wall. He pushed him onto the ground and set his knee on Aaron’s back to keep him pinned. Both hands on the shears, he brought them down with as much force as he could muster.
At first there was the resistance against the skull, but only for a moment. The shears broke bone, it sunk into soft brain matter. Aaron’s body went limp.
Adrenaline pumped through Paul’s body. His hands shook. He felt lightheaded. His survival instinct took over and helped get him to his feet. Paul had to get home safely to his wife at all costs. He wiped his bloody hands on some tissues at his desk and donned his jacket. The stairwell to the back of the building was his closest exit.
There was a blood trail in the stairs by the elevator. It went down three flights, a bright red brushstroke down the concrete. Paul stepped around it as best as he could. Who knew blood was so damn slick?
Finally at the bottom, he pushed open the exit to outside. White, wintry light blinded him momentarily before his eyes adjusted. As far as he could see was destruction. Flashing lights of emergency service vehicles, smoke from buildings, the popping of gunfire. All at once the apocalypse began. It was just like he thought it would be.
Oddly enough, that didn’t comfort him. The apocalypse he always thought of was full of terrible people, death, and hardship.
Two women ran by him, their faces streaked with blood and sweat. He didn’t recognize either of them. They made it a hundred feet down the road when three zombies came from out of nowhere and tackled them to the ground.
Paul forced himself to focus on the task at hand. His car was in a parking garage one building over. The newly arrived zombies were right in the way. He’d have to circle around the other side of his building.
As he turned the corner he saw a gift from heaven. A car was idling by a parking meter, the driver’s door open. On the sidewalk beside it, a zombie burnt almost to a crisp was leaning over what Paul imagined was the driver. Even from where Paul stood he heard the crunching and popping of the zombie eating human flesh.
Paul staved off a wave of nausea and rushed the car. He slid into the driver’s seat and slammed the door, bracing himself for the crispy zombie to attack.
Seconds passed. Paul couldn’t help but peer out the window. The zombie had absolutely no interest in him. The loops of intestines flopping around its hands and mouth were much more desirable.
Grateful for the find, Paul put the car into drive and stepped on it. Now he could add car theft to murder. If the world made it through this, would people like him be held accountable for their actions? Killing Aaron had been self-defense.
Hypothetical technicalities were the least of his worries. The streets were congested with people and zombies running about. Not as many cars as he expected were trying to navigate the streets yet. Sunshine would call the traffic ‘sluggish’.
Sunshine. He should call her and let her know he was safe. Make sure she was safe! He reached into his pocket for his cellphone.
Paul slammed on the breaks. He hit someone. The person in question was a few feet in front of the car. It must’ve been some kind of soldier. He was decked out in black tactical gear, helmet included, and had a combat rifle on his back.
The man shifted and got to his knees. Shit. Killing Aaron was one thing. Leaving this stranger who he hit was another. Paul got out of the car and ran over to him.
“Are you ok?”
“Ok? You fucking hit me.”
Paul went to help him up, but the man pushed his arm away. “I’m sorry. Maybe you shouldn’t have been running in the middle of the street?”
“There’s a horde of them coming straight for us. I suggest we get the fuck out of here.”
“Get in,” Paul said and returned to his stolen car.
As he walked he noted the direction the man came from. Down the road at least a dozen zombies were running straight for them.
Yet the man took his sweet time getting to the car and sliding into the passenger seat.
The second the door was shut, Paul sped out of the area and towards home. The man hadn’t spoken yet, though he had removed his helmet. He sported flaming red hat head and pale skin. He opened his backpack and was rifling through it. Paul caught glimpses of colorful packaging.
“Is that candy?”
“Yeah. Got a problem with that?”
Paul focused on the road. He didn’t notice any official markings on the man. He could easily be some insane fanatic gun nut.
“Make a right up here. My apartment is just up ahead.”
“No, I need to get home. I nee—”
The man deliberately pulled a handgun from his side and set it across his lap. “Make a right.”
Any detour from home did not sound appealing, but the guy had a gun. Paul didn’t. He was kind of crazy. Paul wasn’t. Doing what he said seemed to be the only option.
“Who would’ve thought it would be Zs, right?” The man tore open a bag of Sour Patch Kids and popped a few into his mouth. “Maybe economic collapse or world war. Not the walking dead. Left here.”
The pulled in front of an old brick apartment building.
“But no matter what the End was going to be, I could handle it.” He exited the car and pulled on his pack. He leaned down and grinned at Paul. “Cyrus V. Sinclair. The V stands for versatile, after all.”
He slammed the door and left, leaving Paul dazed. If those were the kinds of people who’d survive the apocalypse, the world was in trouble.
Paul got back on track and soon exited the city. Outside of the main urban area the roads were much quieter. Paul thought it looked like a normal Thursday afternoon. Only his morbid thoughts of killing Aaron and seeing all the zombies were out of the ordinary.
It took another twenty minutes before he was cruising into his neighborhood. Moments later he was at his house, running up the steps to his front door. It was locked—for which Paul was grateful—and the entire neighborhood appeared untouched from the chaos inside the city.
When he entered, he heard his African grey parrots Tucker and ILA excited ruckus that he was home. But other than that, it was quiet.
“Sunshine?” he called out.
Nothing. He yelled again as he moved through the house.
He was about to panic when he heard her coming downstairs. “Paul!”
The sight of her made Paul’s heart and spirit lift. She had the BFH—Big f’n hammer—clutched in her hands. It was obvious she was on edge, but when she saw him she set the hammer down. They met halfway embraced.
“I was down at the store when this lady went ballistic and started attacking people.” Sunshine turned her cheek onto Paul’s other shoulder. “It was terrible. I came back here and got the hammer. I’ve been trying to call you but none of my calls are making it through.”
He squeezed her tightly. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine. Just shook up. What happened to you?”
“I was at work and then Aaron turned into a zombie, and I had to kill him. I stole a car to drive back here, then there was this crazy guy with a ton of guns and candy.” Paul stopped. “It’s a weird story.”
They both were silent, still glad to be with each other once again.
“What are we going to do?” Sunshine asked.
Paul pulled away and smiled. “We’re home now. We’re safe together. I don’t know about you, but this is exactly where I want to be.”
Sunshine gave him a million watt smile. “Agreed.”
It seemed like that weekend Paul’s was dreaming about started early. And was never going to end.