In January 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 a couple questions to make the story personal and get the ball rolling. For this one I wanted to do something zombie-ish, but also with a little twist. Hope you enjoy!
MaryAnn drove down the highway towards town and admired the weather. The past week had been cold, cloudy, and bleak. Today the clouds broke and the open skies were blue. Being February with a clear sky, it was still bitter cold but she’d take the sun over clouds any day. The rolling South Dakota hills looked beautiful. She found herself grinning. It was one of those days where the simple things really felt good.
The town came into view and MaryAnn adjusted to the speed limit change, then went over what she needed to pick up. Food for the animals, food for the family. She had a hankering for chocolate chip cookies, so chocolate chips were a must. It would be a few months yet until the weather was nice enough for a barbeque, but she planned on having some friends and neighbors over soon. Maybe some steaks and mashed potatoes.
Her mood shifted as she entered town. She squinted as she scanned the block. There wasn’t a single person in sight. The town didn’t have that many inhabitants anyway, but on a Saturday afternoon, that wasn’t normal. The bright sun didn’t seem cheery anymore, but austere. MaryAnn couldn’t think of any local events that would draw the populous away.
No. Something was wrong.
Then she spotted something that made her blood run cold and her chest tighten. In the middle of the first intersection into town was a body. Based on the tight jeans and pink hoodie, she guessed it was a teenage girl. She was curled in the fetal position facing away from MaryAnn. There was blood pooled around her.
MaryAnn pulled off the side of the road and grabbed her Trucker’s Friend before she exited the truck. She wasn’t the kind of person to turn away from someone in need and she also wasn’t the kind of person to go into a strange situation defenseless. Her footsteps echoed loudly against the concrete. She checked around her for any signs of life as she moved, but the storefronts were empty. Not a soul walked the streets. There were cars parked, but no one in or around them. One was all the way onto the sidewalk nearly ran into a brick wall.
“Are you okay?” MaryAnn stopped a few paces away from the girl. Her stomach sank.
She’d seen the movies. She’d read the books. Her SHTF plan wasn’t anything to scoff at. Abandoned town, single unmoving body in the intersection? Whatever this was, she wasn’t going to be the character in the movie that died because of naiveté.
Yet the girl might need help. She had to check, then she was out of there. MaryAnn increased her speed and gave the body space as she circled in front of it.
The girl’s face was gnawed off. Her pink hoodie was torn in front and ragged bits of organ and flesh hung limply from the wounds. The rest of her innards were gone.
MaryAnn glanced down all four streets since she was in the middle of the intersection. To her right a little red truck and a sedan were tangled by a gas station. There were more bodies down there scattered around the mess. Left was a bar and assortment of shops. The bar windows were shattered. Glass glittered in the sunlight.
She spun around to face the street opposite her truck. A man leaned out from a windowless metal door next to a grocery store. He waved his hand at her, beckoning.
The guy wasn’t familiar. MaryAnn had her home waiting for her, her animals. She had to get out of there. Being stuck in a city was the last place she wanted to be. She turned to head back towards her truck when proof of her worst fears shambled towards her.
Blood coated their mouths, hands, and chests from the flesh they’d gorged. Some were missing limbs. Even from where MaryAnn stood she saw the glassy whites of their eyes. What shocked her was that they weren’t groaning. Besides the faint sound of their shuffling against the pavement, they were silent. She hadn’t expected that.
They had to have been drawn by the sound of the truck. There were six of them coming towards it. Four were already in front of it. How had they snuck up on her like that? Had she been so horrified with the scene around her she hadn’t heard?
There was no time to criticize herself. Now was time to survive. If she let them get closer, she could run around them and hop into the truck. No problem. She could use the axe hybrid Trucker’s Friend to take out a few if she had to along the way.
Behind her, the man began shouting. “You’re going to die out there! They’re coming!”
Of course they’re coming, they’re right in front of me! MaryAnn thought and ignored him.
“Seriously, you’re gonna…oh, shi—“
The door slammed. MaryAnn cast a glance behind her and realized the man wasn’t talking about the shambling undead. There were creatures running towards her. At first her brain couldn’t comprehend what she was seeing. They were humanoid but there were too many spindly limbs jutting from their torsos, their heads too bulbous. Monsters even worse than the undead.
MaryAnn’s only option was to run. She couldn’t fight that many and she didn’t even know what they were. The zombies near her truck were closing in and the fast mutants were closing in, too. She went down a street away from both of them as she looked for anywhere to hide. The mutants were quick and she couldn’t outrun them.
She followed her gut instincts and turned into a narrow alleyway away from her pursuer’s view. There were doors into the buildings on either side of her which she tugged at. All were locked.
“Here! Over here!”
A boy no older than ten peeked through a door up ahead. MaryAnn ran as fast as she could, not worried about who the boy was or why he wanted to help her, and darted into the building.
Her eyes had to adjust to the darkness of the room. They were in the back of a kitchen. It smelled like spices and meat, and MaryAnn realized she was in the kitchen of the roadhouse off Main Street. The boy flicked a deadbolt closed and put his finger to his lips.
“You have to be quiet. They’ll hear you.”
“What are they?” MaryAnn whispered. “What’s going on?”
The boy didn’t answer and lead her deeper into the kitchen. “Dunno. My brother said the fast ones are genetically mutated monsters from Area 51.”
“We’re nowhere near Nevada.”
He shrugged. “All I know is when they get one of us, they have a long tongue and they’ll sting you with it. Then you turn into a zombie. I’ve seen it happen a bunch.”
He sat down on a step stool by a rack of spices. There were bottles of pop and chips around him. It looked like he’d been there a while. MaryAnn sat down next to him, her ears still straining to hear anything outside. So far it had been quiet.
“Where’s your family? How long has this been going on?”
“Mmm…” he looked up at the ceiling as he thought. “Been here three days. We were getting ice cream on family night and the first one of those monsters came into the shop and started grabbing people and stingin’ ‘em. We ran out but there were a lot of them. They make nests in some of the shops, like webs and slime. I saw one yesterday.”
“And your family?”
Pain flashed across his face. “I don’t know.”
MaryAnn sat on the floor and rubbed her temples. She had to get herself and the kid out of town. This was the most dangerous place to be. She thought of the Ellsworth AFB not too far away. If this was something global, she had to think long term. That was a good place to bug out to. Worst case scenario she could drive any direction and be in the Badlands.
“We need to get to my truck. If we make a distraction we can run back and drive out of here. You can come with me.” She looked around the kitchen as she tried to come up with ideas. “What do you say?”
The boy didn’t answer. Finally MaryAnn looked at him and found him staring at the double doors to the rest of the restaurant.
One of the monsters stared in at them through the porthole. Eerily quiet, its head was twice the size of a human’s, with an extra set of poorly developed eyes adjacent to the normal humanoid set. Its skin was mottled and small spines poked out through it as though it were shedding its skin. The mouth was gaping and full of small sharp teeth.
When it realized MaryAnn saw it, it rushed into the room. Its extra limbs flailed as they reached out for them. One of its hands caught the boy and hauled him into the air.
MaryAnn gripped the Trucker’s Friend and swung with everything she had. The sharp blade edge cut through the spindly arm like it was nothing. The appendage fell to the ground and the boy scrambled away. The monster squealed in pain, disoriented and stumbling. MaryAnn took advantage of that and brought the hammer end of the Trucker’s Friend down onto its head. It cracked as it made contact and, to her surprise and relief, brought the monster down.
“There’s more! Run, come on!” The boy’s hand tugged at her shirt.
MaryAnn looked past the swinging doors. The group of monsters and zombies she ran from moments ago were filtering into the restaurant. She let the boy lead her through the back exit again. The alley was clear.
She headed the opposite direction they came in hopes of looping back to the truck instead of taking the same route. The boy was faster than her but stayed within range. MaryAnn was grateful for his presence. He’d saved her life back there. She planned on returning the favor.
As they exited the alleyway and headed back to her truck, she checked behind her. There were zombies shambling about now, perhaps drawn out by the commotion. None were close enough to pose a threat. She and the boy made it to her truck and she was glad they took a different route to it.
There were dozens of undead in the intersection where the girl’s body was. If they’d come that way, they surely would’ve died.
MaryAnn checked the truck before they entered. She wasted no time turning it on and turning around in the street before speeding out of the city. She checked her rearview mirror and saw more of the multi-limbed monsters following. They stopped just outside the city, pacing like animals. For reasons unknown to her, they did not follow.
Now that she was safe, she let out a shaky laugh. “It couldn’t just be a normal zombie apocalypse, could it?”
After a moment, the kid grinned. “Nope. I guess it couldn’t.”