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Saturday, May 18, 2024

Forums, Lyrics and Cliffhangers (Oh My) , A Zombie Short

Hello geeks and geekettes. I know ( as you may not) that I’ve been somewhat absent in GP (minus the Podcasts ) for the last few weeks. This is due to an enormous amount of university work and various other projects (hopefully revealed soon). One of the other reasons is what you are about to read. The  short story below is something I stared two years ago, but only got to about 500 words before giving up. over the past two weeks I have written and finished it. Sorry in advance for any feels.

 

Forums,Lyrics and Cliffhangers (Oh My)

by Michael Orvis

There it was again. That feeling that his centre of gravity had shifted to his navel. Unsettling, unforeseen it had crept up on him, unexpected. Or so he wished. That was the problem; he could explain it. Every irregular heartbeat, every onset of panic. The tiniest fluctuation was a concussive blow to the head, sending him reeling backwards.

“I feel like I’m in danger, Daily life is strangled by my stress”

Normally he’d have taken his recommended dose of medication, benzodiazepines, anti-anxiety. An almost laughable thought now, assuming anyone had anything more than gallows humour left. Even if by some miracle he could obtain them, salvaged from an overturned ambulance or pilfered from a ransacked pharmacy or even in the hands of the dead. No, wait, no contact with the bodies. An imbecile suggestion. Even if he could get a hold of them, they’d be a waste. You can’t gas up a car with no tank.

“There is no pain; you are receding, a distant ship, smoke on the horizon”

He hadn’t eaten in days; any nourishment was rotten from weeks of neglect, most water supplies turned stagnant. You could tell that from the algae, or at least one used to be able to, algae being scarce these days. Was this affecting plant life too? Hard to tell, it being winter now and the whole sorry mess had started in September, when plant life was habitually committing seasonal suicide. He tried not to dwell on such questions; a mental tangent could have horrifying consequences, if not for his mental state then his physical. Guye knew one thing about the water he’d come across on his walk to Dover. It stank. That or the dozens of corpses littered along the railway, or anywhere one would care to look. The “Garden of England” had begun to compost.

On the train now, it’s midnight, a bumpy ride, sending sparks of electricity into the ether, illuminating the track akin to how lightning would. Flash: trees, flash: housing estates, flash: unconventional buildings, flash: maybe they were old railway buildings (it would make sense), flash… a face. Correction, half a face. A broken jaw, that ever familiar grey tint, an eroded nose. Those eyes. Dead doesn’t even begin to describe their appearance. At least the dead look like they housed a soul at some point.

“And can you keep your fear at bay when 1000 corpses block the way?”

That was the problem. People thought it could be reversed, in the beginning. Naive, to say the least. If they’d have been as prepared as Guye was, everything would have been fine. At most it would have just been another “zombie” sighting on undeadreport.com. This site, along with a carefully picked handful of others was where he would spend many an afternoon after uni, checking sources, double checking. Following link after link, desperate to prove his obsessions. The only people that would listen were there in the forums he “lurked”. He would of course have to wade through the “Cool Story Bro” and “OP is a FAG” retorts to his posts explaining his findings. These comments started to dissipate after the Iceland Incident. People started to listen. These online hours would work him up, and the benzodiazepines would bring him back down. What the pills never quite managed to do was untie the knot in his stomach every time he left the house. Guye wasn’t agoraphobic, He wasn’t scared of crowds of people anyway, and there wasn’t a term for crowds of things that don’t exist. Not anything that wasn’t derogatory.

“It’s in your head, in your head, Zombie, Zombie, Zombie”

Reeling back in surprise and disgust at the rotted head his whole body jerks alive and quivering, like a newborn. He is thrown from the train as the carriage collapses in on itself, the metal contorting into a monstrous mechanical face, gurning like a Cheshire cat, it roared.

“DO IT FAGGOT”.

“Do it Faggot”. One of the phrases he used to implement when “trolling” the suicide hotline forums. A couple of weeks alone on the internet, and ones moral compass began to somewhat malfunction. It was always weird when the life he used to live bled into the horrors of his new one. Forums and lyrics. Guye was hung up on lyrics. He would spend days with a snippet of a song stuck on repeat, and would find lyrics to some obscure band in people’s conversations. His friends hated it. His friends. Idiots. Geniuses. It had only been a few days but already he was starting to forget what they looked liked. Starvation had a funny way of giving you amnesia. The journey to Dover should have taken roughly 15 hours, If he had calculated it right, it was more Dean’s thing, maths. It had been hard when the sat nav on his phone crashed intermittently, to coincide with the recent network trouble, and he had only just worked it out when the device lost charge. It was stupid not to have asked him but it would’ve been too much of a risk. He might have tried to follow. Him or one of the braver lot, the less intelligent of them. Very pot and kettle to be calling them idiots; he was the one making this ridiculous trip. Instead of a hard 15 hours slog, it had so far taken Guye 4 days; he only moved when his increasing paranoia brought on by the fevered hour-long naps and emancipated body would let him. Each mile shattered the nerves past breaking point, listening beyond his capacity for the telltale moans, or shuffling of feet. He refused to be snuck up on, not by them, not by anybody. Even if he was unarmed, he’d use every ounce of strength to dive at them, grasp just under the chin (or what was left of it), and twist with everything he had until the sickening snap, the sound of safety. He burned the bodies, no longer a safety measure to stave off infection, but a habit, a way of marking HIS kills. A way of making sure the bastards wouldn’t get back up.

“Take you down now burns it all out throws you all around get your fuckin’ hands off me!”

He awoke with a start, finding himself facedown, a taste of iron in his mouth. He was bleeding again. He should have looked for some supplements on his last raid in a forsaken supermarket. Compared to his present condition he was a titan, and should have carried more than he did.

As much as this plague contaminated the ground he walked, the Lyrics had begun to infest his mind, breaking out of his subconscious. It seemed that whatever had been keeping this force in line had degraded over time, and now in the waking sleep that consisted of Guye’s night time reality had begun to bleed out into a mix of other people’s words. Having the ability (affliction) to recall a plethora of lyrics made it arduous at times to think originally.

After a quick and fruitless dust down, he began the steady slog along the railway tracks, each step punctuated with the scrape of shingle underfoot, mentally plotting his route and constantly reminding himself of why he had left the relative safety of the Sheerness docks less than a week ago. Her. It always is a Her, isn’t it?  The smile giver, that irreplaceable cliché that comprises of a “significant other”. In this case “Her” was being played by a 5”8’ brunette with dish plate eyes and a lip piercing.

“She loves you yeah, yeah, yeah”

No.

STOP.

How many more times was Guye going to let his mind wander like this? He cursed himself in a thousand unspoken words and pulled the slightly ragged hoodie around himself, aligning the zip and drawing it up to his chest. He still wasn’t used to how cold his newly shaved head felt with the frigid weather. He could see through a clearing in some birch trees that he was approaching a corner. He let out a breath and watched as it rose into the air, as if it contained some of his very life force. Unhinging the backpack from his left shoulder he let it swing round to the front of his body and inspected the two most prominent items inside; a pair of 18 “bolt cutters and an antique stiletto knife. The bolt cutters would certainly, as they had a dozen times before, deliver the blunt force trauma to destroy a human skull, but in his current state it would cost Guye too much energy to fully accomplish their secondary function. He needed to be quick, stealthy. Corners hid things; it’s why the Romans built straight roads.

Stepping on the muddy embankment he jogged towards the corner, stopping just before the meander. Craning his neck around the corner he spotted one of them. Partially decomposed, it seemed to be searching through some detritus. Guye crept over, sliding the stiletto from underneath his sleeve and took a slow deep breath. Closer and closer, until he could see the individual hairs on its discoloured head. He slid the blade back and with a small grunt drove it just under the back of the neck and up into the brain. The ghoul shuddered and with a guttural wet noise it fell to the ground, taking the knife from Guye’s hands. He gasped and scrambled for the knife when something hit him from the side. Raspy breath and gnashing teeth, another had lunged at him from god knows where. Clumsy! Stupid prick! Guye swung his knee up to his chest and with balled hands pushed at the assailant as hard as he could muster. He managed to shake it off and scrambled to his feet, rushing over to the flailing corpse he aimed a kick that separated its jaw. Fucking stupid be more alert!

He retrieved the knife, wiped it on what remained of the bodies tattered clothes and passed the blade over the flame from his lighter. In the pocket of his rucksack he took a Dr Pepper bottle. He poured half the contents of the bottle onto the bodies and set them alight. He sat by the corpses, alert but glad of the heat. As he watched the flesh boil and pop he wondered if he’d ever see anyone living again.

“I feel so alone, gonna end up a big old pile o’ them bones”

Nearly there now. The station was Shepherd’s Well. Guye had a little more energy, having raided the intact vending machines at Canterbury East for Coke and Boost Bars. He felt almost energised when his eyes met with Shepherd’s Well. One more stop. I’ll find her. Because why else would I still be alive?

It was dusk before Guye had stopped walking; He had managed about 5 hours straight walking with no incident. There was no point travelling at night, they don’t rely on vision, but he did. It was only once he’d sat down that he realised how far he’d travelled and how much the journey had taken it out of him. As he closed his eyes his whole body jolted and he felt as if he was falling.

That was enough to set it off.

Short, clawing breaths racked at his throat, he was drowning, but there was no water. The world closed in, his vision blackened and burned at the edges of his peripherals; everything was too hot and freezing. He convulsed and sweated and there was no one here, no one to help him calm down, he focused on her as much as he could, but this time it was too much. With heart thundering he let the blackness take him and prayed for life.

He awoke to wetness and choking. He had passed out with his mouth open and had somehow swallowed water. He sat up and spat it out as the world once again opened up. He had a biting headache but upon the realisation it was raining, Guye felt his spirits lift. It would mean no fire for a few hours, but it meant a relatively clean drink, and a shower. It was unseasonably hot this morning, so he stripped down and showered in the rain. Once naked he inspected his body, checking for anything new. Where it used to be lumps or cancerous moles, it was now any bites or scratches. He noticed a few cuts on his elbow, most likely from the fall he’d had on the shingle from the panic attack, but aside from the primary onset of emancipation, everything was fine. He dug out a change of clothes from a plastic bag at the bottom of his rucksack and got into them. The relatively clean fabric against his skin only added to his unnaturally good mood. As he pinned the wet clothes to the outside of his rucksack to dry, he was almost giddy with excitement. Today. Her. Finally. It had been almost a week since he’d left and now the rain had cleared, everything was warm and he was about a mile from Dover Priory.

As he reached Dover he could hear gulls, which shocked him. He’d just assumed everything had died…wait… maybe the fish weren’t affected? Ah. He’d let his mind wander again, but Guye wasn’t in the mood for flagellation. He was seeing Her today. This was the point. He hadn’t seen (or noticed) any dead for a while, maybe they were heading inland? One could hope.  The station was, simply put, a wreck. The dead were scattered everywhere, so he decided to not to take the front doors. He paced back 500 yards and used the bolt cutters on the fence to squeeze himself through. Still wary, he avoided the main town, and headed towards Marine Parade towards the docks. She loved the docks, and he just knew that’s where She would have gone. He practically sprinted down Jubilee Way towards the large white warehouse and the piers. He could grab some supplies there and begin his search for Her. As he approached the warehouse something caught his eye. Red. Crimson Red. A figure in some sort of crimson summer dress at the edge of the pier. No way. There was no fucking way. But he had to know. He dropped the rucksack and took just the knife; He had to be stealthier than ever, because even from this distance, they looked very much alive. As he made his approach (heel-toe, heel-toe, crouched down) the figure started to take shape. They looked completely unscathed, pristine and delicate. His heart raced as he figured out what to say. Holding the knife behind his back he made a short coughing sound.

“Sarah?”

It came out as a prepubescent squeak; having not used his voice in 6 days had taken their toll on his ability to speak. She turned around and sure enough, those moon eyes settled on him and she smiled.

“S…Sarah? Oh my fuck…Shit!”

Tears came quick and easy as she allowed him to take her into his arms. They both fell to their knees and Guye held her tight, taking in her scent, hoping that they could melt together and never be apart, he wept and shuddered, so damn relieved, so damn tired.

He tried to speak after they had stood up but she put a slender finger to his quivering lip and motioned towards the warehouse. Supplies, of course!  “Okay” He said with as much authority as he could muster “You take this and wait for me in that boat, I won’t be more than half hour baby I promise I’ll see you again soon” He had to stop; tears had begun to sting around his eyes again and he needed to be strong. He handed her the stiletto and watched as she pottered over to the boat. She gave him a thumbs up- the boat was clear. He almost strutted over to the warehouse door, a renewed energy about him. He’d fucking done it! Found her. He slung his rucksack over his shoulder after taking out the bolt cutters and set about entering the building.

The light of the morning had pierced its way through the windows of the huge, hangar-like building. Guye had not been expecting this; for some reason he had imagined a plethora of offices. There would be water coolers there, maybe even clean enough to drink. This was more of ship’s repair yard. There were however a few crates and a ladder leading up to a mezzanine. He decided to sweep the first floor, then tackle the mezzanine. Using the bolt cutters on the first container he found rotting fruit. The next one, more fruit. All five containers held the same cargo. It dampened his spirits a little, but the thought of Sarah waiting for him rekindled that flame.

After a somewhat lackadaisical perimeter check he began to climb the ladder. Pulling his own weight was a lot harder than he remembered and by the top of the 15ft mezzanine, he was gasping for air, chest burning and limbs aching. He had hardly noticed that it was coming for him. Whump. The ceiling became the floor and the floor made a strong comeback. He had belly-flopped the ground as he fell from the mezzanine and hit the concrete below, knocking all the wind from him. As he recovered, scrambling to his feet, furious, He looked around for the ghoul. He found it twitching on the floor a few feet from where Guye had landed, neck broken from the fall. He finished the job with the blunt end of the cutters and made his painful way upwards again. This time he was vigilante. He cleared each room with precision, finding the odd chocolate bar and soft drink; he even found tooth paste in the employee bathroom. After locking himself in a stall and enjoying the luxury of relieving himself (or as much as you could holding a weapon at the door with your legs in the air- out of reach of grabbing hands) in privacy. He had forgotten how soft Andrex was.

The top floor swept, Guye had amassed a small bounty. He’d even managed to refill his Dr pepper bottle with some left over fuel from a forklift. It was when he’d made his journey back down that he had run into trouble. At the foot of the ladder, attracted to the noise he was making, what seemed like a family of the dead had gathered, attempting to fathom the ladder? Immigrants, most likely Muslims from France. They had tried to escape in one of the fruit containers. Escape from a country that hated them, to claim asylum here. To no avail. This must mean that they it’s happening everywhere!

There really was no escape then. Dean’s Isle of Wight plan was doomed. He wished he could let Dean know. And the others. The thought of them made him ache a little, so he focused on Sarah and what must be done. Feeling cocksure, he leapt from the mezzanine onto the shoulders of what used to be presumably the father as he landed he shakily rolled forward and ignored the shooting agony in his legs. Standing up he began to run at the mother, clipping one of the children full pelt in the forehead. Guye knew the weight of that blow would have been enough. He shoulder-tackled the mother and made short work of the other two kids. The floor was slippery with gore as Guye back swung into a sickening slice at the neck of the father, who had regained its footing. Snap. Crunch. Squelch. Guye was a machine, he was a man. Right now, he felt metal as fuck.

Let the bodies hit the floor, let the bodies hit the floor, let the bodies hit the floor”

He swaggered out of the building and sauntered to the boat. She was inside, the morning light streaking through her hair making her look every picture of an angel. There was a bed inside the cabin, the sheets untouched. This was a rich man’s pleasure boat. Guye would no doubt find a mini bar. He’d look tomorrow. He’d only been up a few hours, but the day’s activities had overcome him. Guye was bone weary. He lay next upon the bed after securing the door and looked up at Sarah.

“Little spoon?”

It was how he’d always called her to bed. He’d be the big spoon and she’d nestle into him. Whenever they did that it didn’t matter what had happened, it was just the two of them, in their little bubble. She got in next to him and wiggled her way into the gap his foetal position had made for her.

The next day was weird. Sarah seemed to be suffering from some sort of PTSD, only in the way that she never spoke. Ghouls had attacked them after a short supply run, and although she seemed concerned (she had lost the knife Guye had given her somehow) she never screamed while Guye dealt with them. Her dress wasn’t even marked by it. They went back to the boat that night. While Guye made dinner she sat on the bow and looked out to sea. Guye was ecstatic, sitting there making bacon on an actual stove, while She looked out, every bit as beautiful as he remembered, almost unmarred by this catastrophe. He would plan what they would do tomorrow. Maybe she’d stop being so melancholy after a proper night’s sleep.

“The ocean of sorrow is you”

He awoke without her by his side, slightly groggy; the champagne had been a bad idea. He was also cold. Dawn light was penetrating the windows in thin bars. He sat up and scratched at the soft layer of fuzz that had begun to grow. He hadn’t shaved in days, odd of him to forget.  He realised that Sarah was nowhere to be found. There was a drop in his stomach, and the panic started to rise again. It had been days and the palpitations took him by surprise. She can’t be gone, not now!

He stumbled around the boat, making it rock. Franticly Guye searched, even in ridiculous places; under the bed, in the sink. He’d checked the front door about 10 times, how he’d missed the note at the bottom of the door before he didn’t know.

“Matthews, I’m at Fan Bay. The view’s awesome. Join me! <3
                                         Sarah”

He smiled, panic subsiding, a big grin taking over his face. He loved it when she called him by his surname. Felt official, if a little domineering. He liked that if truth be told. Sometimes there is peace is submission. He grabbed his back pack and headed towards the bay.

When he arrived she was standing near the edge of a cliff, sat upon a rock. She was so graceful, but not in the unapproachable way. She turned to look at him, eyes brimming with adoration. He looked a state, clothes ripped, blood splattered (none near the head, he always shielded his head) and smelling of burnt flesh.

“Sorry baby, I know I’m probably late, there were a few of them. But it’s fine, are you fine? Is everything cool? It’s probably cool. Are you hungry? “

She shook her head and opened her arms for a hug.

He hesitated, and walked over to her. She stood up so he could be on the rock, her on his lap. They sat in silence for a while, listening to the waves. Guye felt weird still. A little panicky.

“Can you stand up a sec Sarah?”

She stood.

“Look this is going to sound weird, I know you’re in shock, and I get that, I’m still getting panic attacks. But I’ve been through hell to get to you and you seem fine, except the whole not talking thing…If there’s anything I can do I will, you know that right? It’s just that everything I’ve ever loved is dust. Fucking dead and gone, I know you know this but you’re fine, and I just want to hear your voice, this note is great and all but I want to hear you Sarah”

She looked sad, all of a sudden.

“I’m sorry, I don’t want to upset you, I just… you can see where I’m coming from? Look… out here, all you can see is the water and all you can hear is the sea. But down there? Screaming. Moaning. And silence. Fucking nothingness” His voice was beginning to break “I just… need to hear you. Another human voice. I know that sounds weird but I need it Sarah. It’s been weeks since I’ve heard anything civilised. This entire place has gone to shit; I had to kill some French Muslims baby, that means its spread, right? So nowhere is safe! We are all alone. There’s no help, nothing, just please fucking speak to me, say something!” his eyes streamed, she looked blurry through the tears. He had fallen to his knees, hands clutching at the grass.

But she remained silent, just the waves and Guye’s staggered breaths and sobs.

And an understanding reached him.

“ This… I …I get it now. I’m such an idiot. I’m not gonna see anyone again am I? “
The week’s activity suddenly hit him all at once, weighing him down. So much death. So much loss. It was sobering, tears didn’t seem appropriate anymore. His lip quivered and he stood up. He knew how to make it all stop. He became aware of everything, the sea breeze played across his face, the waves blanketing his ears. He took off his shoes, followed by the rest of his clothes. The grass felt like suede against his throbbing feet. He gazed at his perfect woman. She beamed back at him. She understood why he was doing it. He looked down at her note, now blank. It was what he needed. It fell from his hand, the wind picking it up, pulling it upwards like a Chinese lantern.

His face pulled into a half smile.

”well… ha…. bye then, I guess. I… I love you.”

He knew she wouldn’t say anything back, but he was okay with their comfortable silence. He stood with his toes pointing outwards towards the sea.

And let go.

“Deeper I’m falling, into the Arms of Sorrow”

Thanks go to: Tamara Igleheart, Katie Fairfield, Becca Harper, Dream Theater, Pink Floyd, The Cranberries, A7X, Opeth, The Beatles, Alice In Chains, Killswitch Engage, The Morning After, Drowning Pool

The_Dark_Mike
The_Dark_Mike
Hailing from Kent, England, Mike is a writer, editor and podcaster who has just finished his degree at CCCU. He also is a drummer of 11+years, plays in several bands, and is available for session work. His other interests are Batman, music which doesn't suck and pizza. Follow Mike @The_Dark_Mike

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