SELF-AWARE - A Zombie Series With A Fresh Twist (Book 1)


Samples of Gore

Sample of Tension

Sample of Drama

First Fifty Pages Of Self Aware



In the gym-door window, she sees the bony fingers from one of the two female zombie's about to enter the gym. Stephanie looks around for the body bag she came out of, but can’t find it so she looks for any empty ones, but doesn’t see any.

'Something’s not right.' She thinks to herself as she glances one last time at the gym doors. Both zombies are starting to push on the doors, but the door’s resistance is pushing back.

In a few minutes they will push through, forcing Stephanie to hurry up with her plan. Her face grins in displeasure as she steps one foot into the body bag, and then the other as she sits uncomfortably on top of the little old lady.

She pulls the zipper up with some difficulty, but there’s not enough room for two bodies in this bag, even with Stephanie sucking in her stomach. She lays her back – flat against the little old lady while trying to zip up, but it still doesn’t want to zip closed.

From underneath her, she can hear the frail bones cracking under her weight so she tries to close the zipper again, but it’s too bulky and won’t zip up.

At the gym-door window, one of the zombies presses her face against the glass, slowly opening and closing her mouth; her tongue shriveled and black.

Grossed out, Stephanie struggles to zip the zipper, but it keeps zipping open. In order to fit in the body bag, she will have to pile drive all her weight down on top of the corpse. She stands up and turns around, looking down at the old lady.

‘Eeeeewwwwwww, I so don't want to do this!’ She thinks to herself, her hands flailing up and down quickly at the thought. She grimaces while looking at the door, as the zombies start coming in.

Stephanie throws all her weight downwards on top of the little old lady, causing her to explode in a bloody mess of fluids, organs and bones.


The liquid shoots three feet high and comes splattering down on top of Stephanie, coating her completely in a mix of dark red blood and guts.

She cringes in disgust, wanting to scream aloud, but it’s taking everything she’s got to keep her eyes and mouth closed, so not to get it in there.

‘Oh God… this is so disgusting!’

She pulls the zipper closed over her head as she feels the soupy contents of blood and goo slosh around inside the bag before settling on the sides of her cheeks.

There’s about a few inches of breathing room left from where the zipper is, to the top of Stephanie’s lips and nose as she struggles to keep her head above the liquid.

As she lies there motionless, she can feel her hair slowly lift up and float around the top of her head as the liquid begins oozing into both ear canals.

Stephanie tries to hold back the overwhelming urge of getting up and running away. Instead she clenches her fists in protest. With her ears submerged in the liquid, she can hear the zombies growls are muffled as they enter the gym. Her mind wanders back to the cold wetness she feels on every inch of her body.

‘This used-to-be someone's grandmother… now she’s a bag of liquid goo. I wonder what’s in this liquid?’ She ponders.

‘Don’t answer that! I don’t want to know.’

‘Blood, probably urine.’

‘Ugh stop it, stop it! La, la, la… Not thinking of how gross this is.’

Another Sample

“Good. Now about the cut on the neck… to answer your question, she's intentionally paralyzed from the neck down. While we may be zombies, I'd like to think that it’s a humane thing to do. By removing all feelings of pain, they won’t suffer.”

“What about the psychological or emotional pain?” Britney asks.

Without warning, Valerie quickly grabs the machete, draws it back and forcefully chops it down into the forehead, wedging it halfway into the woman's skull.


“Holy Shit!” Stephanie yells - freaked out.

“GAH!!!” Britney turns and hides her face in Stephanie's arms.

“I’m sorry… what about psychological or emotional pain?” Valerie snarks.

“What. The. FUCK?” Stephanie blurts out in disbelief.

“You both need to remember she's NOT a person… she's food. There is no future for her anymore. Her chances are good that she’ll be eaten by a zombie anyway, might as well be one of us so we can live.”

Stephanie stares with her eyes wide open at the woman with the machete wedged deep in her head. Britney is too grossed out to even look.

“Come over here and hold the handle, nice and tight please.” She instructs Stephanie who is in a daze at what’s going on. She walks around the table and hesitantly holds the handle.

“Hold it tight!” Valerie commands in a stern voice, “I don’t want this thing flying back and hitting me.”

Stephanie nods her head as she grips the machete with both hands. Valerie walks over to the box on the floor and grabs a small handheld sledgehammer. She uses the flat side of the sledgehammer and begins tapping the top of the machete, but the blade barely moves at all. Using a little more force, she hits it harder the second time, driving the machete all the way through to the table.

The skullcap with half of a brain inside wobbles onto the table before coming to a complete stop. The other half of the brain is still held inside the skull by the optic nerves still attached to the eyeball sockets.

“Oh gross!” Britney covers her mouth to keep from throwing up.

Valerie takes the skullcap and holds it in her hand like a cereal bowl, letting gravity pull the hair between her fingers, towards the ground. Using a fork, she cuts a bite size piece of brain before stabbing it to stay on.

“Here, try this! You’ll love it.”

Stephanie and Britney wince and decline so Valerie put it in her mouth and starts chewing on it.

“Mmmmm! So good and still warm too!” She says with a smile on her face as she cuts another piece and eats it too. “Oh my gosh… you’re missing out. Stephanie, want a bite?”

“Uh, NO! I’m good. Thanks.”

“How about you Britney? Just a nibble?”

“I told you already, I’m a vegetarian.”


“Lie to me again and I’ll blow yer frickin head off…”

Alayah yells back “Clyde, put down your weapon! Are you crazy?”

“It's ya'll whose crazy. They killed Kyle… it was one of them!”

“How do you know this? What proof do you have?” Alayah asks, challenging him.

“Look at them! They have been nothing but trouble since we let them in.”

“We didn't do it.” Britney says softly.

“DON'T LIE TO ME BITCH! I KNOW IT WAS YOU!” Clyde yells as he pumps his shot gun, and then points it at Britney's head. Britney squints her eyes shut tight, as she turns her head sideways in fear.

“I know it was YOU! It was YOUR FAULT that our friends died. YOU let the zombies in! I should just fucking blow your brains out right now!”

“Clyde, calm down. If anyone should be upset, it’s me… and I am, because I lost my only family member, but you don’t see me losing my cool. Let's work this out.” Alayah says with both hands gesturing to relax and put down the gun.

Clyde paces back and forth, trying to figure out which one to shoot first. Deacon Bert comes over after hearing all the commotion.

“Boy, PUT THE GUN DOWN.” Deacon Bert says in a very commanding voice.

“How about you shut the fuck up!” He says turning his shotgun in Deacon Bert’s direction. “I don't have a problem shooting a preacher or whatever the fuck you are.”

Alayah steps forward and tries to reason with Clyde, “Listen to him, if you want to live.”

Clyde turns his shotgun to point at Alayah's head.

“If I want to live? Bitch, I'm the one holding the shotgun at your pretty little head. It's your sorry ass that you should be worrying about!”

Deacon Bert chimes in “You'd better do as she says…”

“OR WHAT? I’m tired of her crap and yours! Do you know what? FUCK IT!”

Clyde takes aim at Alayah's forehead and pulls the trigger.


“Marrrruugghghhhhhh!!!” Tom quickly lunges forward from the back seat and bites deep into the side of Stephanie's neck! Blood squirts forcefully all throughout the cabin as the rig begins to dangerously swerve left and right as Stephanie tries to fight off Tom who’s sinking his teeth deeper into her neck.

Britney and Victor scream in fear, not sure what to do because blood is in their eyes and they can't see anything. Stephanie keeps hitting Tom’s face, but every hit is growing weaker as she feels herself slipping out of consciousness.

In a last ditch effort, Stephanie cuts the wheel sharply causing the whole truck to tip over on its side, sliding sideways on the driver's side for a good fifty feet. As the truck comes to a stop and the dust settles, Britney and Victor find themselves dangling from their seatbelts. Stephanie is also in her seatbelt, but is passed out from a giant gash in her neck. Tom is nowhere to be found.

“Stephanie... STEPHANIE... wake up. Come on... Wake UP.” Britney says struggling.

Blood continues to pool out of her open neck wound onto the ground below.

“What the hell just happened?” Victor asks.

“I think Tom turned into a zombie.”

“Are you serious? Holy shit... where is he?”

“I don't know, but we've got to get out of these seatbelts and help Stephanie.” Britney says as she tries to press the belt release, but nothing happens. “Damn it, it's stuck!”

Victor reaches around his side and pulls out a pocket knife attached to his belt. “Here, I'll cut you loose. Are you ready?”

Britney nods her head and takes a deep breath, letting it out, “Yes, go for it.”

Victor slices back and forth, slowly cutting through the belt. Soon it snaps causing Britney to fall to the ground, face first. As she gets up feeling dazed, pieces of broken glass stick out from the side of her face.

“I’m sorry! Are you okay?” Victor asks concerned.

“Yeah, I think so.”

“There’s several slivers of glass sticking out of your face! That looks like it hurts!”

Britney uses her hand and feels around her face, as her fingers find the sharp, pointy pieces. Without having to pull them, they push out on their own and fall to the floor as her face heals up right in front of Victor. His face turns to disbelief as his jaw slackens and his eyes widen.

“What the FUCK IS GOING ON?” He says sticking the knife out in front of him defensively. It takes a second for Britney to figure out what’s why Victor is freaking out.

“Oh… this – It's not what you think it is. I promise.”

“I just saw your cut up skin spit out a five inch shard of glass and heal right in front of me. Don’t tell me I didn’t see what I just saw. What are you?”

 “Put the knife down, please and I'll explain.”

“NO! I don’t know what’s going on. The guy in the back seat just chomped on your friend’s neck and you… your wounds heal like they never happened. What the FUCK is going on? Who are you people?

Stephanie moans and squirms uncomfortably.

“Victor, please.  Let me help my friend... she's dying.”

Britney examines Stephanie's wounds and sees she's not regenerating like she should. Her skin is turning yellow and splotchy as blood continues to drain.

What do I do Stephanie? I don’t know what to do… Ohhh” Britney asks while looking around the cabin for a solution. She notices the windshield is intact but spider webbed in a thousand pieces.

Using her shoulder, she leans into it – pushing the broken windshield outwards with several thrusts. She then tries to release Stephanie by pressing the buckle release, but it's not coming open.

“Victor, please hand me your knife – I need to cut her free.” He looks at her with hesitation and then reaches around his side, pulling it out to hand to her. Britney opens the blade and starts cutting the seatbelt, careful to not cut Stephanie whose weight is presses against the belt.

The belt snaps and Stephanie falls limp to the ground as Britney helps absorb her impact. She tosses the knife back up to Victor so he can cut himself out while she drags her body out of the truck.

She walks a few feet away, smearing a trail of blood from the truck towards Stephanie. She runs back and checks the center console and the glove compartment for anything she can use, like a first aid kit.

When she opens the glove box, a loaded pistol falls on the floor. Victor sees it and starts cutting his seatbelt faster, but Britney grabs it and says, “I’ll hold on to this for safe measure.”

“You’re the one I’m afraid of.” Victor says in a defeated tone.

“Hurry up and get free. I need you to help me find the first aid kit.”

Victor frees himself and starts checking around the cabin and under the seat where he finds a white metal box with a big red cross, after a few minutes, he finds it.

“Got it,” He says bringing it over to Britney’s side as she holds Stephanie's head in her lap. Victor takes out a large gauze bandage and applies pressure to the side of her neck.

“Why is she turning yellow?” Victor asks staring at her.

Tears start streaming down Britney's face when suddenly Stephanie’s eyes shoot open wide – revealing a yellow discoloration she’s never seen before as her body starts to convulse uncontrollably.

“What's happening to her?”

“She's turning.”

“Turning? Into what? A zombie?”

Britney nods her head while holding Stephanie’s head as she’s having a seizure. Foam starts to come out of her mouth as she chomps and thrashes her arms and legs, “Help me by holding her legs down.”

Victor moves towards Stephanie’s feet, facing Britney who watches Stephanie chomping her jaw open and closed repeatedly while tossing her head violently side to side.


“Is there anything we can do to stop it?” Victor asks.

“No, she’s turning because she’s gone too long without eating. She needs to eat and there's no food.” Britney says while tears stream down her eyes, feeling helpless. Then it dawns on Britney as she jolts her head up, her eyes wide open as if she just had an epiphany.

“What? What is it?”

“I'm sorry…”

“For what?” Victor asks.


Victor falls forward on his knees, staring blankly ahead before slumping over onto Stephanie’s lap. Britney lets go of the smoking gun like it's a hot potato and starts to sob uncontrollably because she feels horrible for what she just did.

Stephanie continues convulsing, snapping Britney back to reality that her friend is dying – unless she gets food in her. She pulls his lifeless body over by the wrist, close enough to bite into his flesh.

To help make it easier for Stephanie, Britney uses her own teeth to rip a chunk of meat from Victors arm, letting it dangle over her mouth like someone teasing a great white shark.

Stephanie swallows it quickly without chewing, as she rips into Victors arm savagely. Hoping to see any kind of improvement, Britney watches as he cleans this forearm down to the bone, to where you can see through it.

“Why isn't this working?” She asks while staring into Stephanie's eyes. Tears start falling faster, as Britney watches her friend continue to decay in front of her.

“Please don't die on me... You're all I've got.”


To the west of Eugene, Oregon, on a large ten-acre pasture of land sits an old two-story house next to a tall oak tree. Underneath the tree is a tire swing that gently sways in the breeze; it’s hung there for many generations, entertaining young and old alike. Some would say when you look at it and listen closely – you can almost hear children laughing in the wind.

     Just on the other side of the house is an old weathered barn that has stood the test of time. Built in the 1880’s, it has survived everything Mother Nature and man have thrown at it. Sure, it could use a fresh coat of red paint and a couple of nails here and there, but it
still stands strong to this day.

     Out in front of the house, standing on a tall ladder is an old man struggling with a giant ball of holiday lights. He yanks and pulls – trying to untangle the wires, but they stubbornly resist, bouncing in and out of an old cardboard box.

Off in the distance, the squealing sound of car brakes catches his attention, so he puts on his glasses to watch the mysterious car that is slowing down to turn off the pavement and onto the dirt road that leads up to his gate. Someone gets out of the car, opens the gate and drives on through before stopping again to close the gate behind them.

Moments later, the car starts driving up the long dirt road towards the house – with it, a long dust cloud that follows, as the distinct sound of tiny rocks and pebbles hitting the under carriage grows louder.

The old man steps down off the ladder and faces the direction of the car. He quickly grooms his long white beard with his hand and glances down at his blue overalls, brushing off any dust or hay before resuming his correct posture with his head held high. He quickly takes off his glasses and tucks them in the front pocket of his overalls, before carrying on with his pose.

The car drives up slowly and comes to a stop within ten feet of the old man. The mysterious driver stares at him from inside the car before turning off the ignition. All is quiet as the gentle howl of the wind picks up and fades away.

The driver side door clicks open as a woman wearing business-casual clothing and large dark sunglasses steps out of the car in a serious manner. The old man squints his eyes and leans his head forward trying to get a better look, “If you’re gonna sell me something, I’m not interested!”

“That’s too bad…” the brunette woman says while taking off her sunglasses. The old man tilts his ear towards her direction, recognizing that voice, “Stephanie?” he asks unsure.

“Hi Daddy!” She says, smiling wide, “Miss me?”

“Oh my goodness, Stephanie! What a surprise! Of course I missed you! Come here and give your old man a hug!”

Without hesitation Stephanie closes her eyes and dives into his warm, embracing arms.

“Ooooo! It’s so good to see you,” She says with a beaming smile. “Love the blue overalls too…very old McDonald-ish.”

“I’ll show you an old McDonald…” He says tickling her ribs as she tries to get away, but can’t.

“Okay! Okay! Ha ha ha ha…. I take it back, I take it BACK! Ack! Stop it; that tickles!” Stephanie says giggling.

“My eyesight might be going, but I can still move swiftly!”

“Speaking of, why aren’t you wearing your new glasses?”

“You know me… I can’t stand anything on my face… makes my nose itch! I only wear them if I have to.”

“But Dad, they help you see.”

“I can see just fine… as long as it’s just a few feet in front of me. Heck, I even knew it was you when you pulled up.”

“Oh really? I parked ten feet away because I know you can’t see that far.”

“It was your brakes that gave you away. You’re the only person I know whose car breaks squeal like a newborn pig. And, maybe I cheated a little, by putting them on for a second when you were still at the gate.”

Stephanie laughs, “Darn it… nothing gets past you.”

“What brings you from so far away? Shouldn’t you be in class right now?”

“Normally yes, but we’re on Christmas vacation until the third of January… and Dad, Portland isn’t that far away – it’s only a two hour drive. Since I’m off for two weeks and it’s been a while since we last saw each other, I figured I’d swing down and spend the holidays with you and mom… if that’s okay with you both?”

“Of course it is – you know that. Your mother and I were just talking about it over breakfast.”

“Speaking of mom, how’s she doing?”

“She’s doing good… moving a little slower these days, but still stubborn as a mule.”

“And grandma, still opinionated and crass?”

“Oh don’t you know it! Her Give-A-Damn meter broke long ago.”

“She’s how old now, ninety three?”

“Lord knows how old she is… she stopped counting after her seventy-fifth birthday.”

“Wow. I hope to live as long as she does.” Stephanie says looking towards the house.

“Careful what you wish for… getting old isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. Trust me, I would know.”

There is a short pause where neither of them says anything; they just look at each other.

“Well…” He says breaking the silence, “Want me to go get your mom, or grandma?”

“There’s no rush… I’m here for two weeks so I’m sure I’ll get my fill of seeing them. Right now I just want to look at you.” Stephanie says glancing over her dad.

“Your white beard, it’s getting so long!”

“Wha’? This old thing?” He lifts the bottom of his beard up to see it. “I call it my soup catcher because it’s always ending up in my soup or on my plate.”

“Ewww, gross Dad!”

He lets out a hearty laugh that brings a giant smile to her face, “That’s the one thing I’ve always loved about you daddy.”

“What’s that?”

“You’ve always had a way to make me laugh. I’ve really missed that. And this beautiful farm… so alive and green, all thanks to you.” Stephanie says.

“Yeah, I guess you’re right. I thought retirement was supposed to be all relaxing and drinking tea. It’s not. There’s always something to do. Work, work, work.”

“Well it keeps you young!” She says patting his beer belly. Would you rather do this, or go back to truck driving?”

“As much as I miss it, I think I’d rather be doing this. Twenty-five years driving cross-country is long enough. I did my time. Now the only thing I drive is my John Deer lawn mower!”

“Ha! I just thought of what I’m getting you for Christmas.”

“Oh – you don’t need to get me anything Stephanie. Save your money… buy something nice for you.”

“Dad…You’ll like it, I promise.”

“Okay, what is it?”

Stephanie smiles jokingly, “A C.B. Radio for your John Deer mower, so you can talk to all your trucker buddies while mowing the lawn.”

“Ha! Your mother would have a cow if she found out I was talking on the C.B. again.”

“I’m kidding, dad. It’s a joke. I know better, but it’s still funny to think about.”

“Speaking of Christmas… if you don’t mind?” He lifts up the string of lights to show Stephanie, “I could sure use a hand with these darn Christmas lights. They keep gettin’ tangled.”

“I can’t believe you still have these… Didn’t you buy them a decade before I was born?”

“That sounds about right.”

“Don’t you think it might be time to upgrade, Dad?”

“Lord knows I tried to get rid of these ancient things, but your mother likes ‘em and heaven forbid I try to get rid of ‘em. You know your mom… there’s no use in arguing with her… when she has her mind made up, it becomes law.”

“Yeah, but you know these run up your electricity bill sky high – yet you still use them. It breaks my heart because I know you guys have a limited income.”

“We’ll deal with it after the holidays, like we always do. Besides, we can’t afford to get new ones. How’s the saying go? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?”

“Hold that thought.” Stephanie says pointing her index finger upwards to signal her dad to stay put. She unlocks the trunk of her car and reaches in, “I got you something I think you’ll like.”


“No Dad, not beer… something even better.”


“DAD! Eeeewwww No… don’t put that image in my head!”

He scratches the back of his head in confusion, looking down at the ground, “Then what could it be?”

Stephanie slams the hood down and walks back towards her dad.

“I can’t believe you. Viagra… sheesh. Here, take this.”

Stephanie hands her dad a wrapped present with a shiny bow on it.

“What’s this?”

“A Christmas present.”

“Okay, I’ll go put it under the tree.”

“No, Dad… it’s for you to open now.”

“You sure?”

“Yes, go ahead, open it. I think you’ll like it.”

He starts to slide his finger along the edge of the paper where it’s taped, being careful not to ruin the wrapping.

“Good Lord, just tear into it already… we’re not going to reuse it.”

“But it’s good paper.”

“Geesh Dad… here let me help.” Stephanie uses one of her long fingernails to slash the paper from one corner to another.  “There, now you can’t reuse it. Now look inside.”

He holds the package at arm’s length away and squint’s his eyes.

“What’s this?”

“Well, what’s it say on the box?” Stephanie asks smiling.

“Lead lights? Never heard of those. They don’t feel heavy like lead.”

“Not lead lights, Dad. L.E.D. lights… they’re Christmas lights that are very energy efficient. They won’t use up so much electricity and risk burning down your house.”

“Don’t you think with all the crap we have that maybe a good burnin’ might be welcomed?”

“I know you don’t mean that.”

“I’m just saying… maybe if the house went up, it might be a good thing.”

“Well now you don’t have to worry about that any more… these are cool to the touch and last forever.”

“Thank you Stephanie, but do they twinkle? You know your mother likes them to twinkle.”

Stephanie laughs, “Yes Dad, they twinkle. In fact, if you look here, it says on the package that not only do they flash, but they have eight different settings.”

“Sounds complicated.”

“Trust me, it’s not. Wait till night fall, and I’ll show you how easy it is. It’s just a press of a button.”

He looks at them closely, “These sure are tiny. Will people be able to see it?”

“They will. I promise… all the way to the road.” Stephanie says walking over to the old box of lights.

“What are you doing?” He asks watching her reel in the string of lights.

“I’m retiring these for good.” She says carrying the box to her car.

“Retiring? What do you mean?”

Stephanie pops open the truck of her car, “I’m going to recycle them, Dad.”

“Those are still good – I can use them for something else!”

“No, these have got to go. Remember what we talked about… something called hoarding.”

“Are you sure? They’ve been in our family a very long time.”

“Exactly, they’ve served their purpose. You’ll like the new ones; I promise.”

“I might, but what about your mother or grandmother? They can be finicky about change.” 

Stephanie slams the trunk shut and presses the alarm remote. The car chirps and the lights flash once to show it’s armed, “I’ll explain to mom and grandma that this needed to happen. In fact, I’ll be happy to go talk to them now – any idea where they might be?”

“Your mother’s probably watching her soap operas – sitting in her favorite chair; Grandma is probably upstairs in her room. You know how she likes cutting out newspaper articles to pin them on the wall like she always has.

Stephanie makes her way to the front porch of the house and stops in her tracks, “Oh! I almost forgot something!”

She walks back briskly to her car and opens the passenger side door. She reaches in and puts a white square box on the roof of the car before closing the door. She walks back with a big smile on her face, holding it with two hands.

“What’s in the box?”

“What? This? Let’s just open it and find out, shall we?”

Stephanie lifts the lid slowly for her dad to see inside, revealing a fresh baked apple pie with a flaky golden brown crust - radiating steam out into the cool December air.

“Doesn’t it smell good?” She asks smiling.

He leans in and takes a big whiff of the fragrance escaping the box. Closing his eyes, he says “My, oh my… it smells so delicious!”

He then looks in both directions to make sure no one’s listening.

“You know… we can both take this to the barn and enjoy it ourselves.” He says quietly so no one else can hear.

“Dad… this is for the whole family.”

“Are you sure? Because this can be our little secret!

“Dad! No.” Stephanie says smiling.

“Oh, all right. You know me… I just don’t like sharin’”

“I know you don’t, silly. Now come on… let’s go take this inside so it’ll stay warm.” Stephanie says while walking back to the front porch.

 She stops at the old screen door and turns around to wait for her dad to step up the three wooden steps.

“I’m coming, I’m coming.” He says leaning his weight on the arm rail, taking it one step at a time.

“No rush. I’m not going anywhere.” She says smiling.

He pulls the screen door open and waits for her to walk in first. Stephanie heads towards the kitchen and strategically places the pie near the garden window so a gentle breeze can carry the fragrance throughout the house.

Moments later, her mother leans forward in her chair with a confused look on her face. She sniffs the air several times, “John, are you cooking something in the kitchen?”

Stephanie smiles and puts her index finger over her lips, signaling for her dad not to say anything – he nods in agreement. Since there’s no answer, her mom gets up and puts her quilt down so she can investigate.

Stephanie pops out from around the corner, “Hi, Mom!” she says with her arms open wide to give her mom a hug.

“Stephanie! What a nice surprise!” she says hugging her back.

“I missed you!”

“I missed you too. Shouldn’t you be in school? What brings you to this neck of the woods?”

“I’m on my Christmas break and thought I would come down and spend the holidays with you guys – if that’s okay?

“Of course it’s okay. You know our door is always open. In fact, your dad and I had a little bet to see if you would show up.” She says looking at John.

He frowns and reaches in his pocket to pull out a wadded up ten dollar bill. He hesitantly puts it in her waiting hand.

“Thank you, honey…” She smiles lovingly while giving him a kiss. From atop of the stairs an old raspy voice yells, “Who’s down there?”

Stephanie moves to the bottom of the steps and looks up at her old grandma. She’s hunched over, leaning her weight on a silver walker with two tennis balls on the front legs. Her glasses are so thick that the lenses cause her eyes to look like an owl.

“It’s me, grandma, Stephanie.” She says projecting her voice so she can hear.

“Stephanie? The name doesn’t ring a bell. Do I know you?”

“Yes grandma, you know me. I’m your grand-daughter. You know, the one in vet school.”

“You’re in the military? Hold on, I’ve got an American flag for you. I’ll just go and get it…”

“No grandma, not veteran; I’m in a Veterinarian school… you know – someone who helps animals get better.”

“Animal Goat Butter? Never heard of that. We used to have goats on the farm, back when I was a little girl.”

Stephanie looks at her parents in disbelief, “Is she wearing her hearing aids?”

“Maybe,” John says, “But who knows how long it’s been since she’s changed out the batteries. I’m pretty sure they’re dead.”

Stephanie looks back up the stairs, “Never mind. I’m in school right now.”

“No yer not. You’re right here, playin’ hooky. You’re not foolin’ me young lady!”

Stephanie puts her face in her palms and shakes her head. She takes a deep breath and patiently answers back, “No grandma, I’m on Christmas vacation and I came down to spend the holidays with you.”

“Christmas? Oh my… Is it that time again? I better go find my Black Friday coupons.”

She lifts and turns her walker to the left, shuffling slowly out of sight. Stephanie turns and whispers to her parents, “Should she be at the top of the stairs?”

“Of course not…” John says.

“Then why is she up there? She could fall down the stairs and break a hip!”

“We know. We know! It’s because she’s as stubborn as a mule; that’s why. You know how your grandmother is. She’s lived upstairs all her life and she’ll be damned if anyone tries to make her leave. Plus she’s got it set up where everything is in its place. Heaven forbid someone move something.”

“Someone her age shouldn’t be living on the second floor, that’s all I’m saying. Those stairs are steep and dangerous, especially with her eyesight being so bad.”

“You’re preaching to the choir, Steph. Your mom and I have tried everything to keep her from going up them stairs; We’ve tried boards, baby gates, rope, you name it, but she just grabs on and starts a rockin’ – back and forth until they come off the wall.”

“Has she fallen yet?”

“Are you kidding?”  John looks at Stephanie in disbelief. “If it wasn’t for that big hump on her back, she would probably be in the hospital with multiple hip fractures.”

“John!” Lorraine slaps him on the shoulder.

“What? It’s true and you know it! She’s like a turtle with that hump on her back. Every time she falls backwards, she flails her arms in every direction, rocking back and forth until she grabs onto something and rights herself up.”

“That’s your mother in law!”

“More like tortoise in law.” He jokes playfully.


Lorraine slaps him good. John laughs while raising his arm up to block any more hits.

“Don’t listen to your dad. I can’t believe you sometimes...”

Stephanie laughs at her parents, “It’s been forever since I’ve been up there. What’s so important?” She wonders.

“Her clipping room…” Lorraine says, “Four giant corkboard walls – lined with hundreds of newspaper clippings, magazine cut outs, you name it. She loves cutting things out with her scissors and pinning them up on the wall since before you were born. I can’t tell you how many of my favorite magazines have been destroyed.”

“Or my morning newspapers!”  John mumbles.

“Yeah, well… we need to remember this is her house and she’s been kind enough to let us move in with her rent free. A little clipping here and there is not much to ask for putting up with us.”

John instructs Stephanie, “Show your mom what you brought.”

“Is it what I think it is?” She asks smiling.

Stephanie walks over to the window and brings over the apple pie.

“I thought I smelled that! My Lord, would you look at that crust. It looks so delicious; I can’t wait to have some!”

“I know, right? I remembered how much you and Dad love it – so I wanted to surprise you both. Plus, you raised us girls to always bring something when coming over.”

“You’re right we did, and Thank you! Do you know what would go great with this?”

“What?” Stephanie asks.

“Homemade vanilla ice cream! We’ve made some the other day from the leftover cream, after milking the cows.” 

“Oh yum! I can’t remember when the last time was when I had farm fresh ice cream. Are you still using the old fashioned hand-crank bucket too?”

“Of course, we still use it.” Her mom says, as she walks over to the freezer and grabs a metal canister. She carries it back and places it in front of Stephanie – who lifts the lid to peek at the vanilla ice cream inside.

“Wow, talk about really old school.” Stephanie says as she swipes her index finger through the ice cream, but before she could lick it her mom swats her hand like a fly.”

“Speaking of old fashioned, I see some things never change.” She says staring down Stephanie with both hands on her hips. She looks back at her mom with a sheepish grin on her face, “I love you!

I’ll give you an I love you in a minute… Go grab some plates and silverware and help set the table. Silly girl…”

“Yes mom,” Stephanie says quickly getting up.

Her dad reaches in and starts scooping ice cream from the container, while her mother cuts into the flaky crust and serves the apple pie onto small white plates.

After everyone is served, they sit down and start to dig into their yummy dessert with their spoons. Stephanie takes a moment to watch how the apple pie melts the cold cream around it, causing it to pool on her plate. She quickly scoops it with her spoon and eats it.

“Oh my gosh… I’m in heaven!” Stephanie blurts out.

“Good stuff huh?” Her dad says, not paying attention to his beard catching some of the ice cream and pie filling.

“Dad… your beard!” Stephanie points and laughs.

“Dag Nabit…” He says looking down and wiping his frizzled white beard with his napkin.

“John… I swear one of these nights when you least expect it, I’m going to cut your beard with my mother’s clipping scissors.”

“Sorry…” He says, tucking his beard between his belly and the table. Lorraine looks at Stephanie, shaking her head left and right before changing the subject, “So… Veterinarian school… I thought you were still at the University of Oregon? When did this happen?”

“I told you several months ago, remember? I called you, asking about the paperwork I needed to enroll?”

“Oh, that’s right. I was under the impression it was a class at the University. I didn’t know it was a different school altogether. What made you leave? Were you being bullied?”

“No mom, it’s a great University, but I didn’t care for my business classes. I learned that in order to compete in today’s business world, you have to be aggressive and cut throat... and you know me, that’s not who I am.”

John adds, “We’re both glad you’re not. You’re a nice young woman and we hope you stay that way. Don’t ever change for anyone, not even your job.”

“Oh, speaking of job, don’t be giving everything away… nothing in this world is free.”

“Mom, when are you going to let that go? That was how many years ago?”

“I’m just sayin’… Money doesn’t grow on trees. Lord knows how many Girl Scout cookies I had to pay for out of pocket, because you kept giving them away to everyone on the street. Do you remember that? Free cookies… sheesh.”

“How can I forget? You keep reminding me!”

“Five bucks a box, that’s crazy. Back in our day, that would fetch five dozen. Now they charge more for less!”

John chimes in to change the subject, “So do you like working with animals better?”

“I do. You know how much I love animals. It only makes sense for me to be around them.”

“Your mother and I took that into consideration when we were thinking of moving here. We thought it was best to bring you out into the country.”

“I’m so glad you did. I really think this might be my calling.”

“Well good,” He says. “If ever my horses or cows get sick, I might need ya to come make a house call or two.”

“Tell you what – if you keep a good stock of vanilla ice cream in the freezer, you just might have yourself a deal.”

“Consider it done!” John spits in his hand and offers to shake Stephanie’s hand.

“Eeewww, Dad. You know I’m not a fan of that.”

“Yeah, but a man’s word is everything, especially if he or she shakes on it. It’s as good as gold.”

Stephanie looks at him and spits in her hand, pumping his arm up and down to seal the deal in a handshake.

Lorraine shakes her head and says in disbelief, “Now both of you, go wash your hands.”

They both get up and John looks at Stephanie, “Tell me something…”


“What’s with your fancy dress you’re wearing? Do you have to look like a secretary to be in vet school?”

Stephanie looks down at what she’s wearing and then back up at her dad, “You mean what I’ve got on? No, this is business casual. It isn’t what we normally wear. In class we’re usually in scrubs, but this morning I attended a fund raising event for our local animal shelter. They wanted us to dress professionally, and so I did.”

“Ah, I see. I’m just not used to seeing you all fancied up. I still see you in jeans and a shirt.”

They sit down back at the table and resume eating, “Oh… and Dad – they don’t call them secretaries anymore.

“They don’t? Well what do you call them then?”

“They’re administrative assistants. It’s more gender neutral.”

“You mean there are men who are secretaries?”

“Yes dad, there are male administrative assistants.”

“Lord, I can’t keep up with you kids and all your new lingo… LOL, BRB, SMH,” he says finishing up the last bite before pushing away his empty plate. He wipes his mouth with a checkered red and white napkin before tossing it down.

“That was some delicious apple pie, or whatever you kids call it these days.” John says as he stands up and takes his plate to the sink.

“It’s still apple pie, Dad!” Stephanie says smiling.

Stephanie’s mom reaches out to John as he walks by to get his attention, “Will you go check on Scotty? He’s awfully quiet.”

“Yes dear.” He says while leaning over to kiss the top of her head before walking out of the room.

“I didn’t know Scotty is here. Is Samantha here too?”

“She’s at work right now, till four.”

“Where’s Jack? Why isn’t he watching the kids?”

“Oh, you don’t know?” Lorraine has a look of surprise on her face.

“Know what?”

“Samantha and Jack had a nasty fight a few months ago. They broke up, and she and the kids are living here with us until she can get back up on her feet.”

“No, I must have missed that. What happened?”

“Jack, as you know, has a serious drinking problem. When he’s drunk, he’s very abusive and out of control… well, a few months ago he hit Rusty, and Samantha almost lost it! The boy is only 6 years old, for heaven’s sake. The only hitting you do to a kid that age is a good spankin’, but never on the face. Needless to say, that was the last straw. Your father warned him that if he ever showed up on this property, he would fill him full of lead.”

“Has he?”

“Showed up? Oh noooo. He knows better. He knows if John doesn’t shoot him, I will.”

Stephanie tries to hide the smirk on her face, but her mother notices.

“What’s so funny?”

You. I love that you’re so protective.”

“It’s a southern thing. You gotta stick up for the ones you love, and when someone gets out of line, you straighten them out. That or you call your special friends to bring shovels and tarps.”

Stephanie laughs.

“It’s true.”  Lorraine says with confidence.

“How’s Rusty doing?”

“Rusty’s fine. He’s outside playin’ in the back like all little boys his age do. He’s probably catchin’ frogs or grasshoppers. Scotty is in the other room, taking a nap.”

“Good. I’m glad the kids are okay and out of that abusive environment. So I take it they are getting a divorce?”

“Your dad and I want her to divorce, but she thinks that they can work things out. I’m like Samantha, this isn’t Jerry Springer - you can’t fix this. It’s not healthy and it’s a slippery slope that goes downhill fast. It won’t be long before he’ll be sleepin’ around and cheatin’ – then the next thing you know, you’re scratchin’ your cookie like a hound has fleas!

Stephanie bursts out laughing, “I’m sorry,” She tries to cover her smile. “Ha, ha, ha… I know this isn’t a funny subject, but I haven’t heard that word in a long time.”

“What, cookie or hound has fleas?”

“Cookie. You’re the only person I know who calls her vagina that.”

“It’s true! Once a cheater, always a cheater, and it won’t be funny when she’s pissin’ fire and wishing things were back to normal.”

Stephanie takes a moment to regain her composure, wiping the tear from the corner of her eye.

“Oh… I can’t believe you said that. Ha ha…so…. How’s dad taking retirement?” Stephanie asks using her spoon to cut a piece of pie.

“Oh… okay, I guess. He’s enjoying it. But, I know deep down inside he wishes he was on back on the road driving, or that you would follow his example and become a truck driver to carry on the tradition.”

“I know mom, but we both know that’s not going to happen. That’s just not my thing.”

Her mom takes a deep breath and lets out a quiet sigh.

“Before you were born, your dad and I didn’t want to know what your sex was. He was confident you would be a boy, and that’s all he talked about… was you driving an eighteen wheeler on the same road as him. He would lie in bed and talk about how neat it would be to be chatting with you on the C.B. radio, among other things. I guess he convinced himself you were a boy even before we knew and he set himself up for failure.” Lorraine says, stopping to reflect on that moment. “You should have seen his face the day you were born…”

“Mom, can we not talk about this, please? I know me not being a truck driver or not being a boy was a big disappointment to dad. I’m sorry, but that will never change. We already talked about this and it’s not my fault.”

“You know, he still loves you – even if you’re not a boy.”

“Can we talk about more upbeat things? Please? Did Dad tell you I got you guys some L.E.D. Christmas lights?”

“L.E.D? No. What’s that – and why would you do such a thing? We have perfectly good Christmas lights.”

“You and Dad sound so alike, do you know that?”

“Did you save the receipt so you can return them?”

“No, Mom… I’m not taking them back. The reason I got them is because they are very energy efficient and won’t run up your electric bill.”

“Yeah, but I like my lights to twinkle.”

“I know… and these have eight different twinkle settings. Darn it, now you have me saying it. These have eight different flash settings. After the sun sets in a few hours, I’ll plug them in and show you guys.

“You didn’t have to… but thank you.”

“You’re welcome, and yes, it needed to happen.”

Outside along the edge of the property is a long wooden fence that separates the property line. Rusty, who is bored of chasing bugs, finds a long skinny branch on the ground.

He picks it up and examines it, before swinging it left and right like a sword. He looks at the fence and decides to hold the branch out to his side, letting the branch tap every fence post along the way.

Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap.

Across the street just beyond the dense tree line, a tall bony man in his mid-twenties shuffles slowly through the woods. It suddenly stops in place when it hears tapping off in the distance. His head swings forward and quickly to the left, as it listens intently.

Tap. Tap. Tap.

A piece of flesh slowly starts to peel off from the man’s cheek, revealing decayed teeth now exposed to the air and drool seeping out of the new opening.

A fly lands on one of his teeth and starts licking the surface as he changes direction towards the sound of tapping. Rusty continues walking and then suddenly stops when he sees the man shamble out of the tree-line.

The boney man shuffles across the road and up to the wooden fence that holds him back from Rusty. He reaches out to grab the young boy, but he’s out of arm’s reach.

He swings his head left and right, as if looking at the barrier keeping him from what he wants most. Rusty catches a whiff of the guy’s decaying body, so he pinches his nose, “Pew wee, mister… You smell like rotting garbage!”


The creature leans in, causing the fence to buckle, but it still holds him back.

“Marrgh? You sure do talk funny. Do you have a cold or something?”

“Garrrrgghhhhhhhhhh!” The creature says, pacing back and forth along the fence – trying to get to the boy.

“Are you wanting someone to play with? Are you lonely?”


“That’s great! I’m looking for someone to play with too. How about we play… Tag, you’re it!”


“Okay, I’ll go first! Tag…”

Rusty quickly slaps the top of the man’s hand, knocking a large layer of skin off onto the ground and into the dirt.

“Eeeeewwwww, that’s gross!”

“Murrrraggggghhhhhhhh!” the creature lunges at Rusty, but again the fence holds him back.

“Okay, now you’re it. I can’t play outside the fence – so you’re gonna have to come inside to play with me.” Rusty says while lifting the handle up on the gate.

Moments later, everyone inside the house hears a boyish scream of agony.

“What was that?” Stephanie asks, alarmed. Her mom rushes over to the garden window and looks out towards the edge of the property.

“Oh my god…. Nooooo!!!” Her mom covers her mouth with both hands as tears start streaming from her eyes, unable to look away.

Stephanie looks at her and then out the window to see what she sees. In the distance, she sees the bony man attacking Rusty.

“Call 911! CALL 911!!!” Stephanie shoves her phone into her mom’s chest before bolting out the front door as fast as she can. The screen door slams forcefully shut behind her as she runs as fast as she can go.

“Get off of him. Get away. GET AWAY!!!” Stephanie yells frantically, almost out of breath. The man looks up and growls, showing his decaying teeth with chunks of flesh stuck between them.


He reaches into the chest and rips Rusty’s organs out, one hand at a time before shoving them into his mouth. After a few bites, he spits them out to make room for more.

Stephanie slows down running and starts to throw up in disgust. Unable to look away, she watches in horror as the creature bites into his heart, causing red blood to shoot in several directions. As she’s hunched over, rage starts to course through her veins as she clenches her fist tight.

With a mighty yell, Stephanie starts running full speed towards him delivering a kick into its ribs hard enough to lift him a few feet off Rusty. The man falls to his side unfazed by a kick that would have regular men wallowing in pain.

Stephanie’s eyes widen in fear when she realizes it didn’t bother him. In desperation, she scans the ground looking for anything that may be used as a weapon. She spots a thick broken branch from a nearby tree and swoops down to grab it.

She winds up and swings it with all her might, connecting with the side of the man’s face, sending hundreds of pieces of wood, splinters, and teeth flying in all directions. The whack was so loud it echoed off the barn house several hundred feet away.

The bony man looks at the ground dazed, as he crawls on his hands and knees; his lower jaw barely hanging from a small piece of flesh. He looks up at Stephanie and then starts crawling back towards Rusty.

Stephanie grabs him by the back of the shirt and struggles to keep him away, but for a skinny guy, he’s incredibly strong. She grabs onto the fence and hangs on with one arm, holding the man by the collar with the other.

One of the fence boards dislodges and the man starts pulling Stephanie behind him. She lets go and grabs the fence board with both hands, raising it high above her head.

With all her might, she swings it down, bashing the man’s head in, over and over until he stops moving. Soon, she can feel herself hitting the ground from the other side of his head. She stares at her nephew’s lifeless body in shock while sobbing uncontrollably.

Where his heart, liver, and lungs should be, is now an empty chest cavity, with just a piece of spinal cord sticking up through a dark pool of red blood. Stephanie’s mouth trembles as she drops the fence board next to her and she falls to her knees crying. She looks up towards the sky, pleading in vain.

“Please….no….. God…. no… me…. Please, someone help me…”

She lifts his lifeless body in her arms, softly caressing his hair with her trembling fingers. John grabs his loaded shotgun and makes his way to Stephanie as fast as he can, but he sees he’s too late. Stephanie slowly looks up at her dad with tears streaming down both cheeks, “Help us… Daddy…. Please?”

John’s stomach knots up inside as his heart breaks into a million pieces at the sight of his daughter weeping uncontrollably. He slowly takes off his hat in respect as Stephanie holds Rusty’s lifeless body in her arms, unable to do anything.

Lorraine catches up with John a few moments later… out of breath. John quickly grabs her and turns her away, but not before she catches a glimpse of Rusty’s lifeless arm dangling.

“My grandbaby… my grandbaby… what has he done?!? What kind of sick person would do such a thing?” She squirms and kicks in John’s arms, sobbing uncontrollably as he escorts her back to the house. Off in the distance, the faint sound of sirens slowly grows louder as Stephanie rocks Rusty’s lifeless body back and forth in her trembling arms.

“Hurry….please.” She begs, lifting her head in hopes of seeing the flashing lights.

Without warning, a sharp pain shoots through Stephanie’s left breast, causing her to reactively shove Rusty’s body away from her.

“OUCH!” She yelps out, while glancing down at her breast. Red blood starts to absorb into her white shirt, spreading in a circular pattern. She pulls her bra and shirt outward so she can see the injury and notices a dozen tiny teeth marks that pierced the skin.

“What… the?” She asks herself, while looking at Rusty, whose back is facing towards her. She covers her breast with her hand, holding pressure over it to stop the bleeding. Curious about what just happened, she rolls Rusty off his side to get a better look at his innocent, boyish face.

The first thing that draws her attention is the gaping large hole in his chest that causes her to squint her eyes shut. She focuses on his face and his precious little freckles that stand out on each cheek.

His eyelids are closed, giving the illusion that he’s sleeping peacefully. The sun begins setting behind the trees as the dusk turns the sky orange and red. Blue and red lights strobe brighter as the sky begins to turn darker. Stephanie stares at his precious little face and thinks, ‘Maybe it was an involuntary twitch?’

The sirens in the distance grow louder by the second, but now Stephanie is curious… Something inside of her wants to see his eyes one last time, but when she reaches out her fingers towards them, she hesitates.

She looks up and sees the blue, white and red emergency lights flashing in every direction as they speed towards her. Knowing that they will be here any moment, Stephanie takes a breath and lets it out, reaching toward his eyelids to peek one last time.

Rusty’s eyes shoot open and stare blankly back, causing Stephanie to retract her hand quickly while falling backwards on her butt as she kicks away.

“Oh my god, oh my god!!!” Stephanie says, crawling and kicking away as fast as she can. Rusty’s eyes are pitch- black, but at the same time, eerily reflective like cats’ eyes are in the dark.

As Stephanie gets up and starts running towards the house, pain radiates down her left side causing her to stumble to the ground.

“Aaaarrrgghhhh!!!” She yells out in agony, pulling on her shirt so she can see what’s happening. Black veins spider outwards in every direction away from the bite marks, extending down her arms and up her neck. The intensity of the pain causes Stephanie to curl up in a ball, holding her stomach. Her last thoughts ‘This is it… I’m gonna die!’

In a dimly lit gymnasium at Portland State University, two scientists wearing hazmat suits jot down notes on a clipboard while surveying a room full of black body bags.

They methodically unzip the bags to check the contents within before zipping up and checking the next one. Without warning, one of the helmet lights on the hazmat suit flickers erratically before going out completely.


“What’s wrong, Monica?”

“My third helmet light went out. I’m down to my last one and I don’t think there’s enough juice to last until sunrise this morning.”

“There may be some extra batteries in the desk.” Dr. Grant says while pointing to the office.

“I already grabbed those yesterday before we started. These are the last ones, unless by chance, you have any on you?”

Dr. Grant pats himself down over where his pockets are, “I thought I had some spares, but I’m afraid not. I guess work until you can no longer see and when it starts to go out, just hang out under those emergency lights until sun up.”

“I wish we didn’t have to work under the cover of darkness. I feel like we’re breaking the law or doing something illegal.”

“I understand Monica, but it’s for our own safety. In the day light it’s too risky to be spotted by wandering zombies.” 

“Yes, but at night, there are also the scavengers and marauders that come out, looking for food or whatever else. As a female, there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about what those monsters can and will do to me if they get their hands on me… and I’m not talking about the zombies. I’m just not sure how we’re supposed to do our research in the dark, that’s all I’m saying.”

“Well, I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. For now, let’s keep looking for number nine, hopefully before your light goes out.” Dr. Grant says bending down to check another body bag.

Monica lifts up a piece of paper on a clipboard to read something on the underside. Her eyes glance left and right quickly several times before stopping on something she wrote. She flips the paper up and then back down in confusion.

“Hmmm. This data doesn’t seem to add up.”

“To what are you referring?” He says, turning to look to Monica.

“The eight healthy individuals we found in the body bags.”

“What about them?”

“I’m just trying to make sense of this data, Dr. Grant.” She says, flipping back to the top page before taking off her glasses quickly.

“What doesn’t make sense is why did all eight of the people die within one week?”

“I don’t know, Monica. You and I saw them; they just did.”

“Looking here at my notes, they all appeared to be alive and well, nothing remarkable, no known allergies. All eight appeared to be healthy, in relatively good shape, some even with a sense of humor, despite surviving what appears to be the beginning of a zombie apocalypse.”

She continues to flip back and forth on her chart, “It says here when surveyed, ‘All eight shared an acute, insatiable desire for meat?’… even though one of them had self-identified as a lifelong vegetarian who was anti-meat all their life. Yet, even though they didn’t eat meat, they all met the same fate.”

“Acute rapid cellular decomposition.” Dr. Grant adds.

“Right, they all decayed into dust… even their bones dissolved into nothing. I’ve never seen or heard of anything like it. Skeletal bones don’t just do that.”

“Perhaps all eight had a unique medical condition?”

“They must have had something in common, but what? Also, what I don’t get is what were these healthy looking people doing in body bags to begin with? All the other bodies in this room are decayed corpses.”

“Perhaps they were hiding?”

“Who in their right mind would want to hide in a body bag? That’s just creepy!”

“Maybe someone who feared for their lives… or maybe they were running from something out to get them.”

Monica glances over for a second and responds, “Okay, for argument’s sake, I’ll go along with that, but what are the odds of all eight subjects waking up with the same symptoms: blurry vision, short term paralysis, and temporary amnesia?”

“That’s a good point, Monica. You may be on to something,” Dr. Grant says shaking his index finger at her. She steps over one of the body bags and snags her suit on a nail sticking out of one of the bleachers. The sound of the rip is loud enough for Dr. Grant to lift his head up and take notice.

He sees Monica staring back at him, motionless. Tears start streaming down her eyes from inside her suit. Dr. Grant rushes over and takes her hands in his. They both stare at each other silently before he mutters the words, “I’m. so. sorry…”

Monica looks down at her hip and sees a large gash in her suit as blood starts to outline the scratch in her skin.

“I’m infected now… right?”

Dr. Grant glances down at the floor and takes a deep slow breath, “I’m afraid so.”

“How long?” She whispers.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you.”

Monica takes her helmet off and tosses it to the side. She steps out of her suit and wipes her tears.

“I asked, how long before I turn?”

“I…I…don’t know. I’ve never seen someone turn into a zombie yet. I’ve only seen them already as a zombie.”

Monica smiles half-heartedly, “Well, I guess I’m going to be your first.” She says sarcastically.

Dr. Grant looks at her with watery eyes, “No, you won’t.”

He reaches up above his head and with both hands –twists off his helmet until a hissing sound is heard.

“What are you doing?!?” Monica protests.

Dr. Grant looks at his helmet for a second in reflection before tossing it away.

“What’s it look like? I’m joining you.”

Monica reaches down and grabs his helmet, “No, you’re not, put this back on!”

“Too late.” Dr. Grant says, while grabbing her wrists and nodding his head no. “In a room with this many infected body bags, I’m already exposed to the virus. It doesn’t take much. You know that, Monica.”

“You idiot, why did you do such a thing?!?” Monica says angrily.

“To show solidarity for my partner, and friend; besides, I’m an old man. There’s nothing left for me here. It’s not like I’ve got many years left.”

“Yes there is!” Monica says in protest, “What about the big speech you gave me about the importance of not giving up? That… that… even under the worst of conditions – when things are at their darkest, that one man or woman… can still make a difference in the lives of millions. You taught me that.”

Dr. Grant glances down for a moment and then looks Monica in the eyes, “Exactly!”

“I knew being clumsy was one day going to be my downfall. I just knew it! And what do I do? I go and scratch myself on a rusty nail in a room full of corpses! Way to go, Monica.”

“Well, maybe we will get lucky and find number nine.”

“We’re about to die and maybe turn into a drooling zombie… and YOU still want to do research?” Monica asks in disbelief. “REALLY?!?”

“If it’s inevitable that we’re going to turn into walking dead, then I rather hold out hope that we’ll find number nine.  And if we do, we can study them and maybe finding a cure. Who knows, if we do, then we’ll have nothing to worry about because we’re cured. And if we don’t, then maybe they’ll name a school after us.”

“Who’s they? Society has already gone to hell in a hand basket since the zombie outbreak. Life as we know it - is over Dr. Grant and like it or not, we’re about to be wandering around saying, Brainsssss.” Monica demonstrates by extending both arms out in front of her.

Dr. Grant turns his back and walks away, where he begins unzipping body bags as Monica asks, “What are you doing?!?”

“In case you’re wondering, I haven’t given up hope yet. There’s still time.”

Monica stares at him for a few minutes in disbelief. Her facial expression goes from anger to maybe he has a point.

She steps over one of the body bags and starts unzipping the body bags.

“I see you’ve come to your senses.”

Monica bites her lip, holding back the urge to say something sarcastic. Suddenly she’s overcome by a rotten stench coming from inside the body bag in front of her, causing her to turn away, violently gagging.

“Oh Gawd….Ughhh! The smell… I had forgotten how well those hazmat suits shielded us. This body bag…. is all liquid inside, and smells like spoiled beef stew... Gah!”

She steps far away, pulling out a handkerchief to hold over her nose and mouth for a few minutes. She braces against the wall and spits up, trying to get the smell out of her mouth and nose. Dr. Grant smirks and goes about checking the other body bags while Monica builds up the courage to go back near the horrible stench.

She hesitantly zips it back up before distancing herself several rows upwind.

“I’m going over here, far away from the smell.” She says, nudging the body bag in front of her foot to see if it will ripple. She squats down and slowly unzips it, squinting her eyes closed.

“Oh thank God… I never thought I would be so happy to see a solid corpse after the last one I opened.”

Dr. Grant looks up at her, but doesn’t say anything. He just resumes checking each bag.

“I’m sorry for freaking out on you.” Monica says sincerely.

“Don’t be.”

“No, you were right. It just all hit me at once… the reality of it all. I don’t want to turn into one of those… things! That’s not how I want to die.”

Dr. Grant stops for a moment and makes eye contact with her, “I know. I don’t want to either. That’s why I’m not giving up. It’s not what life throws at you, Monica… it’s how you chose to deal with it that defines who you are. We’re going to find number nine and we’re going to study her and find out why they are healthy.”

“Can I ask you a question?”

“Of course.” Dr. Grant says zipping up another bag.

“I was wondering… the zombies that are roaming around, do you think they are man-made or do you think that they are something from Mother Nature?”

“I don’t know. I’ve been wondering a lot of things since the beginning of the outbreak. Heck, there was once a time that if you had asked me if I thought zombies were real, I would have really questioned your level of intelligence –probably while slamming a door in your face.”

He says, moving on to check another body bag, “Who knows? I might have even asked if you were a fiction writer, because such non-sense is the stuff of make-believe… yet, here we are in the beginning of what many are calling the zombie apocalypse. All my friends, colleagues, and even family members are gone, presumed to be dead and walking around reanimated.”

He pauses to think for a moment, as his eyes slowly well up. “So, to answer your question, was it manmade or Mother Nature? I don’t know. I would guess Mother Nature since she has a way of throwing curve balls every hundred thousand years or so. Why do you ask?”

“Several years ago when I was finishing up my degree, I wrote a paper on how parasites and fungi create real life ‘zombies’ by taking over the bodies of insects. They would find a way inside, eat the creature from the inside out, and then control its body like a sock puppet. I found the subject fascinating, that they even called these infected insects zombie ants!”

“Interesting…” Dr. Grant adds.

Monica resumes, “Of course, there are also zombie bees, and a whole host of other bugs, but the term zombie ants for some reason stuck with me. They were either dead, near-death or alive, but animated by whatever was living inside them. I wonder what that must be like… to not have control of your body and still to be alive?”

“I would imagine… terrifying.”

“What blew me away was that even ladybugs could also be zombies! I read something like it can take up to 40 days for the process to occur, even while the ladybug is still alive! What’s stopping nature from moving onto larger vehicles like humans?” Monica asks.

Dr. Grant thinks for a second, “I think you might be onto something… Say that this zombie apocalypse is nature made and not a product of genetic engineering. Just like all life forms, the sole purpose in life is to reproduce and multiply, right? So to ensure the survival of the species; what if… somehow, it has evolved from insects to humans?”

“It’s very possible.” Monica adds. Dr. Grant continues, “What if…this what-ever-it-is, this thing… is lying in a dormant state – slowly reprogramming the human body? That would explain the thousands of mysterious deaths that have occurred… and would also explain the delay in some people reanimating.” He says looking at the ground as if he’s onto something.

“That’s why we’re slowly seeing more and more people waking up from the dead! Whatever killed all these people… how can I describe it… is learning how to drive the human body for the first time!”

“If that’s true, Dr. Grant, then you know what that means, right?” Monica asks with a concerned look on her face, “With thousands of dead bodies in this gym, we’re sitting on the equivalent of a zombie time bomb waiting to reanimate!”

“So, if that’s the case, it’s not a matter of if they become reanimated, but a matter of when. I just hope to God we’re not here when they wake up.” Monica says looking around the room.

“I suggest we hurry and find number nine then.”


They continue searching for the next few hours when all of the sudden, Monica’s eyes shoot wide open and her jaw drops in excitement.

“Dr. Grant! Dr. Grant!!! We found number nine!!! We found NUMBER NINE!!!” She yells ecstatically.

“Shhhhh! Shhhhh! Shhhhh!”

Dr. Grant rushes over to her side, his index finger over his lips to tell her to quiet down. “If there are any zombies outside of these walls, we don’t want to attract their attention!” He says looking at the body.

“Oh, Right! Sorry, Dr. Grant!  I’m just really excited… look! She’s a healthy looking woman, who’s alive! Look at her! I can’t believe it… number nine!”

“Well then, let’s not waste any time. Let’s get some vitals and information.” He says taking the pen and clipboard from Monica. “Whenever you’re ready, Monica.”

“Okay… let’s see. We have a female, late teens maybe early twenties, approximately five feet, eight, maybe hundred and fifty pounds. Respiration appears normal.”

Monica puts a blood pressure cuff on the woman’s arm and begins pumping it up while listening intently with her stethoscope. Several seconds pass as Monica tilts her head and presses harder down on the end of the stethoscope.

She turns the air release knob, causing the cuff to hiss and deflate before trying again. She re-inflates the cuff and listens with a look of confusion on her face.

“Huh... that’s very strange.” Monica says.

“What is it?”

Monica takes off her stethoscope, “I’m unable to get a BP reading. I’ve tried twice, but nothing. It’s as if she has no blood pressure.”

“Try placing the stethoscope over her heart – listen for her heartbeat.”

Monica puts the stethoscope back in her ears and listens to both sides of the woman’s chest for several seconds, observing it rise and fall with every breath. She then takes her finger and taps the end of her stethoscope to test the sound quality…

*thud* *thud* *thud*

Monica puts the stethoscope over hear heart and hears her own heart beating.

“That’s odd… I can hear her breathing, but I can’t hear her heart rhythm. I can hear my heart beating perfectly fine, but when I press it up against hers I hear nothing, except maybe one beat every thirty seconds.”

 “What? Here, let me check!” He takes out his own stethoscope and quickly puts it in his ears. He checks both sides of the woman’s chest, making sure the end of the scope is directly on the skin. He draws back in surprise when the woman starts to wake up. She blinks her eyes, slowly at first and then several times faster, trying to focus.

“That’s incredible!”

“So I’m not crazy, right? You don’t hear it either?”

“Her heart isn’t beating normally! Two beats a minute?” Doctor Grant says in amazement. “Incredible!”

“But how can that be? Look at her… clearly she’s alive… she’s looking right at us.”

“Wait a second… did we run vitals on the other eight people?”

“No, we didn’t because we didn’t have our equipment, remember? We weren’t expecting to find anyone alive in a room full of dead bodies.”

“Oh, that’s right. Darn it, I wish we did. Still, this is fascinating!”

“How can anyone be alive on two beats a minute? That’s crazy.”

“I know, Monica, but now zombies are real too, so I guess anything is possible,” Dr. Grant leans his head in, looking eye to eye with the woman, “Hello, can you hear me?”

There’s no response.

Dr. Grant turns and looks at Monica.

“Try the blinking method!” Monica says trying to help.

“If you can hear me, blink slowly for a yes.”

The woman slowly closes her eyelids for two seconds and slowly opens them.

“She did it! She can hear you!” Monica blurted out excitedly.

“Shhhh. I can see that.”

“Oh right, Sorry!” Monica said covering her mouth with both hands.

“My name is Dr. Grant, this is my assistant Monica. We’re here to help you.”

The woman’s eyes water up, causing a tear to stream towards her ear.

“We know you are unable to move your arms or legs, but don’t worry, you will regain complete use of your body soon. We promise! Before you know it, you’ll be up and walking around in no time. Monica, will you help grab her arm and help me lift her up, please?”

“No problem.” Monica says as she repositions herself up.

“On three. One, two, threeeee.”

They lift her out of the body bag and carefully carry her by both arms, over to a nearby office. They sit her down on the floor, back up against a wall. Monica sees a tear slowly stream down the woman’s cheek so she squats down to her eye level.

“Hey, hey… you’re okay now. Everything’s going to be okay. Trust me, you’ll be up and moving in no time.” She says while wiping her tears away. Monica turns and looks at Dr. Grant.

“I can’t believe we found number nine!” She says with a beaming smile. “I wonder what her name is or where she’s from? She looks like maybe an April or a Jennifer.”

Dr. Grant leans down and whispers in Monica’s ear, “Don’t get too attached. Remember what happened to the others?”

“I know. I’m trying not to… She just looks like a nice person.”

“Get some blood drawn, label it number nine. With any luck, maybe we’ll find a cure in her blood work. I’m going to step out of the room for a minute, just be down the hall.”

“Yes, Doctor.”

She pulls open a medical bag and ties a rubber band around the woman’s right arm. She exposes the crease of her elbow and slaps it a few times to expose the vein.

“I’m going to draw some blood, okay?” Monica says popping the cap off a needle.

“You’re going to feel a little prick.” She says as she inserts the needle. The woman softly yelps “Ouch!” which causes Monica to look at her in shock.

“Did you say Ouch?”

“Yes.” The woman replied softly.

“You… can talk! That’s great… whatever your name is.” Monica finishes drawing the blood. “What IS your name? Do you remember?”

“Stephanie.” She whispers.

“Well nice to meet you, Stephanie. We’re all finished drawing your blood.” Monica says, turning away to reach for a Band-Aid.

When she removes the cotton ball, Monica draws back her head quickly and then looks closer at where she stuck Stephanie in her arm. There should be bruising or a small hole, but instead, there’s nothing.

“Wow. You are a quick healer.” Monica says examining her arm, “You’re recovering a lot faster than the other eight. Keep it up! At this rate, you should be back to your old self in no time!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to run down the hall and take Doctor Grant your blood sample. Don’t go anywhere!” Monica says joking as she walks out the room.

Stephanie glances around hoping to find any clue to where she is, but her vision is extremely blurry. Unable to move much, she sits there and waits patiently, but notices a strange sensation radiating down the back of her neck.

Her whole body starts tingling like hundreds of little lightning bolts striking as she begins to feel sensation again in her arms and legs.

Her fingers spread wide apart and then clench together as she regains movement in her hands and arms. She wiggles her toes forward and backwards as she’s able to pull her legs in.

Stephanie cracks a smile as she rubs her arms and legs, happy to regain movement after feeling paralyzed. Several minutes later, Stephanie decides to stand up so she feels around with her hands for anything she can brace herself against.

She finds a smooth surface that she grabs onto, as she struggles to get to her feet. As she pulls herself up, she pulls a large, heavy bookcase down on top of her. It falls halfway over, dumping all its contents onto Stephanie and the floor.

“Oh my God!” Monica says running back into the room, “Are you okay? What happened?” She asks lifting the bookshelf partially off of her.

“I think I’m okay… just a little startled.” Stephanie said embarrassed.

“You’re lucky the wall kept the bookshelf from falling all the way on top of you. Were you trying to get up?” She asks while removing textbooks off Stephanie.

“I was. I thought it was the edge of a desk. When I felt it tip, it was already too late. I’m so sorry.”

Monica laughs, “You have nothing to be sorry about. I’m just glad you’re okay! Do you think you can stand up?”

“With a little help, I think so.” Stephanie reaches her arms out for Monica to pull her up.

“Okay, ready? Here we go.” Stephanie stands on her feet and then wraps one of her arms around Monica’s neck for support.

“Whoa… I’m a little dizzy.”

“It’ll wear off soon. Now that you can sit up on your own, I’m going to walk you over to the corner of the room. There’s a desk with an office chair behind it. You can sit there while you get your bearings.”

“I appreciate it.” Stephanie says as Monica helps her slowly make her way to the chair. She sits down and holds both arm rests tight.

“You’re one of the fastest recovering patients I’ve seen lately.” Monica says while picking up books off the floor to put back on the shelf.

“Patients? Are we in a hospital?” Stephanie asks.

“Well, ummm…” Monica finds herself at a loss for words.

 Stephanie tries to look at her hands, moving them near and far to her face, “Can you tell me what’s wrong with my eyes, why is everything so blurry? Did something happen to me?”

“Don’t worry, your vision will come back soon.”

Dr. Grant rushes into the room, “What happened? I heard a loud noise from down the hall? Is everything okay?”

Monica grabs Dr. Grants arm and leads him outside the room, closing the door so Stephanie doesn’t hear.

“She tried to get up and pulled the bookshelf down on top of her. She’s okay though.”

“Well it’s no longer safe for us here. The noise was loud enough that I’m sure it’s attracted unwanted attention. We need to move her to my office, down the hall.”

They open the door and walk back into the room.

“Stephanie, we need to relocate you to another room,” Monica says walking behind her chair. You don’t need to get up; we’ll just wheel you over. Okay?”

“You never said what happened to me?” Stephanie asks in a frustrated tone.

Dr. Grant walks over to Stephanie and examines her face, “How are you feeling?”

“Different. Kinda groggy and annoyed that no one’s answering my questions.” She replies, putting her hand on her forehead.

“I’m sure you’ll feel like yourself in no time.” Dr. Grant says patting her leg. “Usually it takes half a day, but you seem to be recovering a lot quicker than the others. We gotta go now down the hall.”

“Who are the others? And where am I?”

“Now, now. We’ll be happy to answer all your questions in just a minute. We’re just going to roll you in your chair down the hall.”

“Why won’t you answer me?!? I have a right to know!” Stephanie says bracing both feet on the ground to stop the chair from moving. “Where are my parents? Why can’t I see? I demand answers! I know as a patient I have certain rights and I’m not going anywhere until you tell me!”

“Calm down, there’ll be plenty of time for questions and answers.” Dr. Grant says with both hands out. “Right now we need to go to the other room.”

“Did you just tell me to calm down?!? No, I’m NOT going to calm down! You’re freaking me out and I’m not going to cooperate until you tell me what I want to know!” Stephanie raises her voice angrily. “Where’s my purse with my cell phone in it? I want to call my parents!”

Monica looks at Dr. Grant with concern, as he adjusts his glasses on the bridge of his nose. He signals to Monica by nodding his head; Monica nods back and begins pulling the chair, instead of pushing. Stephanie leans forward, gripping both armrests tight while trying to stop her movement with her bare feet.

Dr. Grant quickly takes the lead in front of them, opening the heavy gymnasium doors so Monica can wheel her out. Stephanie’s feet squeal loudly on the smooth floor, unable to get any traction. In a last ditch effort, Stephanie intentionally slides out of the chair and lies on the hallway floor.

Monica pleads, trying to pull her up. “Stephanie, please, we only want to help!”

“I'm not going anywhere with you until you tell me what's going on!”

Stephanie notices her voice echoes throughout the long hallways, “Where am I…?”

“You’re in the hallway of Portland State University, okay? Now please, Stephanie.”

“Portland State? I thought this was a hospital? Why on earth would I be here?”

Dr. Grant scouts the area quickly and returns, “We’ve got to go! NOW!”

“I’m trying!” Monica says in a frustrated tone. “She’s being so stubborn!”

He quickly leans down and grabs Stephanie by the arms, looking her face to face. “Listen to me, I’d be happy to explain everything, but first, we need to get out of this hallway right now and into my office. Do you understand?”

“No, I don’t understand! What’s the urgency? Why is it so important that we have to leave this hallway right now?”

Monica chimes in, “Please, just trust us.”

“Trust you? I don’t even know you! Why would I trust you? You’re scaring me and I don’t like it.”

From down the hall, in the darkness a throaty snarling grows louder.

Dr. Grant looks her in the eyes, only inches from her face, “Do you hear that? THAT’S why we’re trying to get you to safety. You don’t want that anywhere near you, so let’s go!” He tries to pick her up by the arms, but she jerks her arms away violently, “DON’T TOUCH ME! I’m not going anywhere with you, so leave me ALONE!” She yells while crossing her arms.


Dr. Grant and Monica’s eyes widen when they hear the menacing growl from somewhere in the dark, “Grab her arm! We’ll drag her if we have too!” He orders Monica as they each start pulling. Stephanie thrashes violently, kicking and twisting in a rage, “Let Me GO!!! SOMEONE HELP ME!!! HELPPPP!!!”

Instinctively, Monica muffles Stephanie’s mouth with her hand, but quickly retracts it when Stephanie bites it hard.

“Arrgggghh! She bit me!” She grips her injured hand, holding it close to her body.

“She’s not worth the trouble, let’s go before it’s too late!” Dr. Grant orders while running away.” Before she starts running, Monica looks down at Stephanie with disappointment all over her face, “You idiot… I was trying to help you! I hope God has mercy on your soul.”

Stephanie listens to Monica’s footsteps fade off into the distance, until a loud door slamming is heard, echoing through the hallway. Several doors rattle gently before all is silent.

She lays her head down slowly on the smooth, cold floor as she begins to sob uncontrollably. Her tears puddle onto the ground as she curls up into a fetal position, unaware that two zombies are slowly swaying towards her. She sniffs several times, trying to control the clear snot dripping from her nose.

With her eyes red from crying, she opens them briefly and notices two blurry outlines slowly approaching. She lifts her head up while squinting for a better look.

“Are you Security?”

All she can tell is that both of them have their arms extended out in front of them. Stephanie quickly wipes her nose on her shoulder, followed by the back of her wrist, trying to look presentable.

“There were these two people, an older man and a woman… who were trying to take me against my will! They said their names were Dr. Grant and Monica, but I’m not sure if they were really doctors or what. In case you’re wondering, they ran off somewhere in that direction” Stephanie points down the hall.

She sees one of the zombie’s arms reaching towards her, “You’re going to help me up? Thank you!” she says smiling as she grabs onto his arm.

Suddenly a loud *crack* sound is heard as Stephanie falls backwards onto her butt, still holding onto the arm! It takes a few seconds to register what just happened before she starts to freak out.

“Oh shit! Oh shit! Oh shit!!!”  She says, tossing the arm away before crawling backwards as quickly as she can. Her legs are kicking faster than her arms can keep up, causing her to stumble repeatedly. The zombies follow after her, snarling and growling.


She turns around and crawls on both her hands and knees, but the zombie with both arms grabs her ankle and starts pulling her backwards.

Stephanie reaches out in front of her, trying to grab onto the floor to get away, but instead is yanked closer and closer. She twists around and repeatedly kicks her leg to try and get free.

The zombie pulls Stephanie’s bare foot towards his wide-open mouth like he’s about to bite into a delicious sub sandwich. She avoids being bit by pressing the flat part of her foot against the side of his face, wiggling her toes against his nose and eyes.

Unexpectedly though, she causes his nose to swing open like a door, still attached to the skin. As he draws his head back, trying to bite her foot, Stephanie can see into his skull from where his nose was previously attached, causing her to look away in disgust. The zombie struggles to hold on as she repeatedly wiggles her foot to try and get free.

Without warning, he grabs her foot and chomps down, severing all four of her little toes in one bite! She throws her head back quickly from the intense pain, while letting out an agonizing scream that echoes loudly in the long hallways.

Out of desperation, Stephanie begins kicking with the other foot, using her heel to deliver several sharp blows to the side of the zombie’s head.

Each kick strikes harder and harder, causing one of the eyeballs to slowly dislodge until finally it pops out, but not before the optic nerve causes it to swing back and forth like a pendulum.

The zombie turns his head sharply, causing the attached eyeball to swing around and smack the side of his temple. On the swing back around, the wet optic nerve tangles itself around Stephanie’s big toe several times, with the eyeball facing towards her. Screaming even louder, she contracts her whole leg repeatedly, trying to get it off!

In the struggle, the zombie loses his grip long enough for her to retract her foot while yanking the optic nerve right out of the eye socket. With the eyeball and optic nerve still wrapped around her big toe, Stephanie turns and crawls away as fast as she can as the eyeball rolls along the floor like a cat toy on a string.

The second zombie decides to give chase, raising his one good arm out in front of him.  He takes several steps when suddenly he loses his footing, slipping on a long trail of blood oozing from Stephanie’s foot.

He crashes to the ground hard, causing the other zombie to trip as well. Still unable to see clearly, she pauses long enough to hear how far away they are behind her.

Confident now that there’s a considerable distance between her and the zombies, she resumes crawling on all fours down the hallway until she comes to a push-handle door.

She reaches up and grasps the metal bar with her hand, trying to pull herself up, but her right foot keeps slipping out from underneath her.

After some effort, Stephanie stands up and wobbles over to a nearby wall where she takes a moment to catch her breath. While looking down with both hands resting on her knees, she notices with her blurry vision the floor around her is all red.

‘That can’t be good.’ She thinks to herself as she pulls up her foot to examine it. Hoping the optic nerve and attached eyeball fell off, she feels her big toe with her fingers and is relieved that it’s gone. She checks her other toes and is alarmed when she feels stubby little bones instead! Stephanie begins to frantically feel around her toes, pulling her foot closer to see that her little toes have been bitten off! She looks at her fingers and notices they are covered in blood!

“Oh no… NO… this can’t be!” She says to herself in disbelief.

“Maurrrrgghhhhhh!!!” growls a zombie from somewhere in the darkness.

Stephanie looks up instinctively when she hears the noise, letting her injured foot fall back to the floor. Bracing her hand against the concrete wall for support, she limps away in the opposite direction as fast as she can.

As she makes her way down the hallway, she uses her fingers to feel the stone surface of the wall; paying close attention to when it changes textures. Her feet start kicking trash and debris left on the floor so she steps carefully, trying not to make too much noise.

Suddenly her fingers find a metal frame followed by a smooth texture, so she knocks on it. It’s the familiar sound of wood!

‘A door!’ She thinks to herself, smiling wide.

Using both hands to feel around for the handle, she quickly grasps it and pushes down hard to open it… but it doesn’t budge.

She tries lifting the handle up, still nothing! She desperately wiggles it up and down quickly in frustration, but it remains closed.

“Damn it!!! Why do you have to be locked?” she says aloud, trying one last time to open the door.

Stephanie hears the creatures shuffling her way, so she continues limping along the wall, feeling the occasional corkboard with papers, lockers, and even a large flag.

For a brief moment, she wonders if she can use the pole or flag as a weapon, but decides against it since her vision is still blurry.

As she makes her way along the stone wall, her fingers notice a change in the texture. Now she feels a cold metal doorframe!

Feeling excited and hopeful, she feels around the smooth, polished wood looking for the door handle. When she finds it, she looks up, closes her eyes and says, “Please open…please open!”

She looks back down at the door handle and quickly leans all her body weight against it, expecting it to be locked. Suddenly the door swings open, causing her to stumble into the room.

She quickly recovers thanks to not letting go of the handle. She notices the room is dark, with the only light coming in from the hallway behind her.

She turns around and feels with her fingers for a lock or turn knob, but is unable to locate it. She runs her fingers along the thinnest part of the door, noticing the door locks with a key from both the inside and the outside.

‘Damn it, why can’t this be easy?’ She thinks to herself.

Without warning, the door slams violently against her face as the two zombies suddenly push against it. Stephanie grabs her nose and face with both hands before doubling over in excruciating pain.

“Son… of…a….bitch, that HURTS!!!” She complains aloud while leaning her body against the door to keep them from coming in. She looks down at her bloody hands, knowing her nose is bleeding profusely.

“Maarrraaarrrrrrrracchhh!!!” growls one of the zombies trying to push his way in with little success. As Stephanie holds her nose with both hands, she doesn’t notice one of the zombie’s arms reaching through the one foot gap in the door. He grabs a handful of Stephanie’s hair and starts pulling hard.

“Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow!!!” Stephanie yelps, hitting his fist repeatedly in hopes he’ll let go.  Instead, he tightens his hold and begins pulling her head towards the gap in the doorway. The other zombie wedges his face between the door and the metal frame, chomping his teeth open and closed like a hungry shark.

She struggles to break free, but her head is yanked closer and closer towards the other zombie’s mouth where she can smell his horrible rotting-garbage breath only inches from her face.

Stephanie braces her left hand and arm against the metal doorframe and quickly yanks the door open wide enough to throw all her weight against it, causing it to slam shut on the zombie’s head and arm! The zombie’s face explodes in all directions, splattering Stephanie’s face, hair, and clothing with chunks of crushed bone and dark red and black blood.

“Ugh… GROSS!” Stephanie blurts out while wiping her eyes of the slimy goo. She spits several times to get the taste out of her mouth, using her sleeve to wipe her lips and the wall to wipe the slime from her hands.

She tries to completely stand up, but the zombie arm wedged in the door still has a tight grip on her hair! Stephanie peeks up and sees the skin and muscle on the forearm is peeled back, revealing nothing but two forearm bones.

She grabs onto the boney fist and arm for leverage, pushing towards the metal frame until it snaps loudly like a pair of dried twigs.

Now that she’s free of the door, she pries open the zombie’s fist from her hair, one finger at a time until finally she’s able to throw it away. Once freed, Stephanie ruffles her hair and massages her scalp, glad she’s not being touched.

With her back pressed against the door, she remains motionless, listening intently for any sounds coming from the other side of the door. She is relieved when all is quiet and lets out a big sigh of relief before sliding down to the floor to sit.

She reaches down to touch her missing toes and notices they are all intact. Using her fingers, she wiggles each toe and counts them individually, all the way to number ten!

“What the hell?!?” She says aloud to herself. It suddenly dawns on her to check her nose, so she squeezes it and notices no pain.

‘What is going on around here?’

As she’s sitting on the ground, she notices a tiny twinge coming from her backside. It tingles for a few seconds and then goes away. It’s enough for her to sit up and take notice, causing her to reach behind her back to feel what it is, but she doesn’t find anything.

‘Am I going crazy?’ She thinks to herself.

She feels the sensation again as she quickly jumps up off the floor, brushing her butt as if it was on a bug on it. Unable to see clearly, she gets down on the ground and sweeps her hand back and forth, trying to feel if there’s anything on the floor, but doesn’t find anything.

‘I must be losing it.’ She thinks to herself, sitting back down with her back to the door.

“Pull yourself togeth… Gahhhhh!!!!!!” Before she could finish her sentence, she feels something touching her butt! Stephanie jolts to her feet, turning around quickly as she looks down where she was sitting.

Underneath the door is a one-inch gap where three boney fingers are wiggling up and down. Instinctively, she draws up her leg and stomps down repeatedly on the fingers before twisting her foot like putting out a cigarette.

From the other side a loud “Marrrggguuuurrgghh!!!” sound is heard, as the fingers are retracted from under the door. Stephanie’s chest rises and falls quickly in fear as she steps back, eyes locked on the bottom of the door.

Her hands tremble uncontrollably as she tries to figure out what to do next. The only light in the room is coming from the gap underneath the wooden door where she sees a shadow moving left and right before completely disappearing.

Stephanie holds her breath, listening, but doesn’t hear anything. She bends down and puts her ear to the floor so she can look through the one-inch gap under the door, but quickly draws back her head when she sees the motionless body of the zombie whose head she’s flattened.

She takes a moment to regain her composure, taking in a slow breath and letting it out before looking back under the door.

Across the hall are dark blue metal lockers, some cups and trash on the floor, and high above the lockers are rectangular windows that open at an angle for airflow. She catches a whiff from the zombie corpse blowing into the room from underneath the door.

The smell reminds her of rotten eggs she would find on her parents farm that had sat for weeks in the sun. It suddenly dawns on her the level of detail she’s able to see now!

Stephanie smiles that her vision is coming back as she notices she can read the locker numbers on the door, see the tree outside the windows and tell the cup on the ground is from The Coffee People.

Stephanie grins widely, happy to see little details again. She closes her eyes for a moment and says ‘Thank you’ in a little prayer. When she opens her eyes again, she sees a decaying eye staring back at her from underneath the door.

“Garrrragggghhhhhhh!!!!” the zombie snarls as he presses his forehead as close to the door.

“Aaaaaggghhh!!!” Stephanie screams back in response while jolting back to her feet.

She stumbles backwards in the darkness, but she gets back to her feet, feeling around the wall for a light switch. Finally she finds one, flipping it up quickly.

The florescent lights hum for a second before flickering on, revealing an eyeball attached to an optic nerve underneath the door!

Without hesitating, Stephanie grabs a computer keyboard off a nearby desk and whacks the eyeball like a fly swatter, causing it to splatter in a starburst pattern.

The letters on the keyboard fly in every direction as she continues whacking it against the ground. The zombie growls and stands up outside the door, now completely blind as he waves his hands out in front of him.

He stumbles backwards over the body of the other zombie lying on the floor, disoriented and thrashing. Stephanie opens the door and glances in both directions before tiptoeing out quietly when she hears two more zombies approaching from opposite ends of the hall.

 Running back into the room, she closes the door and turns the light off in hopes they won’t notice. As she slowly steps away, she slips on the gooey brain matter from the exploded zombie head, causing her to fall forward on the ground - knocking the wind out of her.

“Owww!…” She moans in agony as she lies on her stomach for a good minute. Every feeling in her body feels amplified, even the cold floor pressed up against her cheek stings.

From her angle, she spots light coming into the room from under a different door. She lifts her head up higher to confirm.

“Oh thank you…” She says as she begins crawling on her hands and knees, but every inch of her body screams out in pain to stop. She puts her head down for a few seconds, not wanting to move.

Determined to make it across the room, she lifts her head up and pushes through the agony, slowly putting one arm out in front of the other.

Moving several inches at a time, she drags her body across the floor until she finally makes it. Once at the door, she rests her head on her arms while catching her breath.

From under the door gap, two shadows run past the door causing Stephanie to lift her head and take notice. She hears two people running down the hall, one of them with a distinct sound she’s heard before.

“Monica!” Stephanie says to herself, trying to muster enough strength to try to get back up on all fours, or at least high enough to reach the door handle. She looks up and reaches slowly for it, despite her body aching in pain.

Her fingers slip and fumble the tip of the handle a few times before she securely grabs it with her hand, using it to pull herself up to one knee before standing completely up. She leans against the door to rest for a moment, disappointed she didn’t get up in time.

‘Monica is probably long gone.’ She thinks to herself, ‘Damn.’

As she waits for her breathing to normalize, she mentally prepares herself for what may or may not be on the other side of the door.

Stephanie takes a deep breath and slowly lets it out before reaching down to turn the handle. As she turns it, the door doesn’t open.

“What the hell?” She wiggles the handle again, pulling on the door, but it doesn’t open.

She is taken back for a second as she tries figuring it out. It turns like it should open, but the door doesn’t budge.

Using both her hands, she feels around the door in the darkness until she finds her problem near the top of the door; it’s securely latched in a lock position! She tries to unbolt it, but it doesn’t want to unlatch.

“Oh come on…” She says aloud while yanking on the door.

“Arrgghhhh! Come on, just this once! Cut me some slack!”


Stephanie pulls the door open quickly and suddenly blinds herself from the bright, morning sun, glaring through the windows across the hall. The sudden transition from full darkness to daylight causes her to shield her eyes with her arms while squinting her eyes.

She retreats into the dark room for a few seconds to allow her eyes to adjust to the brightness. She looks around the room, seeing sun spots in front of her as she blinks quickly, trying to regain her vision.

After a few minutes, her eyes adjust enough that she can peak her head outside the door. She peaks slowly past the doorframe; looking in both directions for any signs of danger… the coast is clear.

She looks down at the floor and sees trash, debris and textbooks as if people dropped them in a hurry. Walking out of the room, she quietly shuffles her feet so not to make any noise that will draw unwanted attention.  As she makes her way slowly down the hall, the door she came out of closes loudly!

She freezes in place, horrified she’s attracted some unwanted attention. She waits, listening for any kind of response, but all she hears is silence. With a deep breath, she lets out a sigh of relief before running down the hall.

As she turns the corner, she recognizes the black chair from which she slipped out of in front of the gymnasium doors.

Her vision was fuzzy when she first came out, but she remembers enough detail to know this is where she was pulled from. Since this is a familiar landmark, she pushes the heavy gym doors open like a gunslinger entering a saloon.

They flap closed behind her as she freezes in place, horrified by the sight in front of her. Her eyes widen and her jaw slackens when she sees row after row of body bags, lined from one end of the gymnasium to the other.

 Having never seen a corpse before, she decides to walk up to one of the body bags and kneels down to open it. Her hand reaches for the zipper, but hesitates.

She wants to see what's inside, but at the same time is not sure if she's ready for the answer. Then she notices a light *tap* sound, so she leans her ear closer and hears,

 *tap, tap…*

 *tap, tap, tap, tap*

It sounds like individual rain drops – falling on the plastic body bag, but the sound is coming from the inside!

Being more curious than not, she quickly unzips the bag and unknowingly releases a black swarm of flies that buzz in every direction. She shoos them away, when one of the flies crawls up into her nose, causing her to press one nostril closed to blow the fly out the other.

“GAHHH!!!! Ewwwww!!!”

Seconds later, another fly enters her open mouth, causing her to instinctively spit over and over, “Blah! Pewt! Yuck!!!”

She wipes her mouth with her sleeve and then waits for the flies to dissipate before peeking once more at what’s inside the bag. She holds her breath and sees a corpse that has been decomposing for at least a month, covered with white maggots.

She begins to gag so she props open the gym door to get some fresh air. As she catches her breath, she hears something she didn't want to hear coming from down the hall.



COPYRIGHT 2017 - Steven Wolff. All Rights Reserved. None of this material may be published, copied, or used without the written permission from the author.