Sunday, July 28, 2013

Hell Breaks Loose - Episode 5 - "What Doesn't Kill You..."

Last time on Hell Breaks Loose - Mitch watched helplessly as his neighbor was ripped apart by a wild pack of the dead.  Nearly out of food, his mother demanded he not leave the house in search of more.  Mitch, knowing she was sacrificing her health in favor of his, drugged her, and sneaked out of the house anyway.

After getting to the local grocery store, and filling his bag full of food and supplies for him and his mother, he was knocked unconscious by a strange dark figure, awakening later, how long only God knows.  A pudgy man, covered in fresh blood entered the room where Mitch was tied to a steel table, prepping him for something...for him to be served on a platter to the dead.

A group of zombies found their way into the IGA, attacking the butcher who was ready to serve Mitch up.  Mitch escaped after a brief struggle with the butcher, who met his end at the hands of his own customers.  Mitch, crying, ran home to find he'd forgotten to lock the backdoor after he'd left the home, leaving his mother in a drugged sleep up in her room...

Moving his way through the house, he found a familiar zombie, standing over the mutilated corpse of his mother.  Mitch, sick with rage, fought the zombie, shoving it out the window, splatting it on the sidewalk below.  It didn't take long for the horde to smell the spilt blood...for them to find their way into the house, for them to find their way up to the bedroom...with his mother's corpse crawling to him, Mitch has nowhere to run...and so we continue...
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Hell Breaks Loose - EP. 5 - "What Doesn't Kill You..."

A swarm of dead faces appeared from within the upstairs hallway.    Their eyes were empty, jaws drooping and spilling bloody saliva.    They fumbled over each other like wriggling maggots, trying to fit all at once through the narrow bedroom door. 
  His mother pulled at Mitch’s pant leg, trying to scale him to get a piece of his neck to chew on.
  Through the broken window, birds chirped and down the street, Mitch spotted Mr. Rickerson’s pickup at the end of the block.  If he could get to it, he could just drive and think about what’s next, but getting there was only half the battle. 
  The zombies had the hallway completely packed, more were shuffling up the stairs.  Their footsteps bounced through the bedroom door, mewling groans droned.  He looked at the window.  It wasn’t that much of a drop.
  I’m gonna jump, he thought.  I can’t believe it, but I’m gonna jump out the window!
An electrical wire connected the house, directly above the window outside,  to the power lines lining the street.
  I can grab that, but I’ll have to let go before I touch the ground or I’m fried chicken.
  His mother was now pulling herself up his shirt.
  “I hope you can forgive me someday.  I love you more than you’ll ever know,” he said, wrapping his hand around his grandmother’s hand mirror on the dresser beside him.
He thought about the silent promise he’d made in the ash-covered incinerator tube, the one that he’d never leave her again and he realized he couldn’t keep it. 
  God dammit!  I can’t keep it!  I can’t help you!  I have to help myself!  I’m sorry… 
  Mitch smashed it into the side of his mother’s head, snapping the handle off and jamming pieces of the mirror into her skull.  She let go of his shirt and fell face first into the floor.
  He booked it to the window, feeling the hot, funky breath from the horde against his neck, tight on his heels.
  He fixed his foot onto the window sill and leapt out in one smooth motion. 
  The wind whipped through his hair as he grabbed the power line, which was squishier than he thought it was going to be.  It snapped free from the house under his weight, which he was hoping for, and stole the momentum which would have broken both his legs if he hit the ground dead on. 
  He let go and free fell four or five feet into a roll before his goose would’ve been cooked in an electrical display of sparks and pops.  He finished the roll on his knees and turned his eyes upward.   
  Up in the bedroom window, a group of zombies hunkered.  They started spilling over the edge of the window, landing in bushes and on the sidewalk with blood splatters.
  Mitch hoppled to his feet and ran down the block, toward Rickerson’s pickup.  The wind scratched and dried his throat as he pushed his legs harder and harder.  They burned like battery acid pumped into his calves and ankles. 
  Behind, zombies continued to flop to the ground from the bedroom window, swishing into hedges, slamming into the yard.  The first wave that’d fallen rose to their feet and tore after Mitch, bearing their yellow and bacterial teeth, screaming and howling with hunger.
Mitch hopped the split-rail fence guarding Mr. Rickerson’s backyard and leapt over the turtle shell child pool just beyond, heading for the backdoor which stood atop a stoop of chipped and colorless concrete stairs.  When Rickerson came home with the kid’s pool two years ago, all the children in the block were instantly attracted to it, spending their summer days playing in it, though all the parents were wary of Rickerson, scared he might be a perv.  Mitch didn’t care about any of that.  He just wanted the truck.
  He remembered every morning before school, around 7 or 8, Mr. Rickerson would waddle from his front door, thermos in one hand and his keys jingling in the other.  Mitch knew there wasn’t a chance the keys would be so conveniently placed in the folds of the driver’s side visor, that luck is only written into film scripts.  Mr. Rickerson loved his pickup and Mitch wouldn’t be surprised if his dead hands were still clutching those keys, if he wasn’t running around with the dead. 
  The cries of the horde drew closer as Mitch stomped his way up the concrete stoop.  The screen door groaned while he yanked it open and fumbled with the backdoor knob.  It was locked, like his backdoor should have been.
  He pounded his shoulder into the door, still gripping the bouncing knob, but it held strong.
Around the corner, in a nook of the outside of the house, he’d seen a window low enough to hoist himself through.  Could be the only way I’m getting in, he thought.
Mitch let the screen door slam shut, shoulder throbbing in rhythm with his heartbeat, and scooped a loose chunk of concrete from the stoop.  It was nice and cold, and if it wasn’t for the coarseness, he’d be tempted to press it against the lump on the side of his head. 
He fought to catch his breath has he dropped off the side of the stoop and rounded the side of the house to the darkened window, reflecting the gathering thunderheads in the sky.    That’s when Mitch smelled it, not the rotting or dry roadkill smell, but the fungal and oily aroma of coming rain. 
  That’s just what I need, thunder and lightning, and to be soaking wet.  Maybe it’ll throw off the scent of blood, if that’s even how they hunt.
  “Just what I fuckin need,” he whispered to himself. 
  Mitch turned his head away and punched through the window with the concrete chunk.  He slid it around the edges of the window frame, making sure there were no jagged shards left and pulled himself in blindly. 
  With the rolling clouds above blotting out the sun, there was little more than a creamy glow with which to navigate about. 
  Mitch bounced off the kitchen sink, face-first, spilling a pile of stacked and dirtied dishes to the floor.  They smashed to tiny ceramic pieces around him while first his face then his legs slammed into the linoleum floor.  He lay for a moment on the floor, letting his head recover.  Then he picked chewed chicken leg bones and decomposed lettuce from his shirt and pants.  He stood up and swatted the tiny dish pieces from his hair.
  “Well this is just cozy…”
  Mr. Rickerson’s kitchen was tiny.  Lime green cabinets followed the floral patterned wall as it curved, stopping alongside a doorway that lead to the living room.  A card table, which looked like it had been used as a dining table, hugged the opposite wall underneath a Felix the Cat clock, still ticking away, eyes and tail bouncing back and forth.  Tick, tock, tick, tock.  Other than that, the house was silent, save the savage cries of the dead outside.
  The swarm of zombies vaulted over the split-rail fencing in Rickerson’s backyard, bumbling and knocking each other to the ground and into the kiddy pool.  The quicker ones cleared it with ease, splitting into two groups.  One headed for the backdoor while the others fought to fit through the kitchen window, pulling and prodding, each wanting to be the first one in. 
  Mitch sifted through empty food cans on the kitchen counter, slapping them away, searching for the pickup’s keys.  Bloodied and grubby hands slapped against the inside of the kitchen window, catching Mitch’s attention.  Decomposing faces bobbed up and down just outside.  Mitch scooped up a butcher knife from its wooden holder and sliced through eyes and noses, splitting lips and foreheads. 
  The backdoor jumped in its hinges as the zombies rammed it again and again.  Mitch paused to hear their nails scraping against it then resumed stabbing hungry mouths.  The blade sunk into a pudgy zombie’s cheek, down to the hilt, scraping its cheek bone.  When it stumbled backward, it jarred the knife from Mitch’s hand, nearly pulling him up and out with it. 
  Mitch staggered back, catching himself on the card table, jerking it in place.
  The card table!
  He lifted the table and shoved the dead faces in the window back, slicing off a set of fingers that were caught between it and the window sill.  He propped it up, setting the bottom set of legs in the sink.  If the zombies tried pushing it up, the top of the table would hit the top of the outside of the window, if they tried pushing it down, the bottom set of legs would catch in the rim of the sink.  It would at least buy him some time, hopefully enough to find the keys. 
  The smell of dirty laundry slammed Mitch’s nostrils as he raced into the living room.  A tube TV sat in the corner, next to a curio cabinet filled with military figurines from each war era.  World War I doughboys, World War II S.S. officers, Vietcong.  Mitch searched the end table beside a pleather couch, tossing TV guides and Reader’s Digests aside.  He found loose double-A batteries, but no keys.
  He stood upright, catching his breath and looking around the living room.  A carpeted staircase lead up to the second floor, dark and dust filled.  He didn’t want to go up there, but by the looks of it he’d have to since the keys were nowhere to be found on the first floor.  If the zombies broke through though, he’d be trapped and have to leap out another window, which was something he really didn’t want to do.
  The card table in the kitchen window skittered back and forth, knocking against the window and the sink.  The other zombie group was still ramming the backdoor.
Mitch ran up the stairs, figuring he was running out of time and burst through the first door he reached.
  A body slammed into him, causing his foot to slide out too far and sending him flopping backward into the door frame with a scream.  The body, wearing a tailored tux, swung back and forth, recoiling from the impact.  Mitch looked up at the body, strumming his hand through his hair and catching his breath. 
  Aw, Mr. Rickerson…
  Mr. Rickerson’s body swayed, hanging by a noose from a ceiling stud.  His weathered face was bloated, wrinkles filled with popped blood vessels.  The color in his cheeks had just started to turn blue.  He hadn’t been dead for long. 
  Mitch nudged Rickerson’s dangling feet, knowing full-well that he was dead but just making sure he wasn’t coming back.  The rope around his neck squeezed, stretching as it waved in tune with Rickerson’s body.  But there was another sound, a joyous, wonderful sound.  Key’s jingled, bouncing off each other in Rickerson’s pocket.
  Cold dead hands indeed, Mitch thought, reaching into the front pocket of Rickerson’s slacks.
  He dangled the keys in front of his face for a moment, feeling a bit of relief until Rickerson lurched at him, reaching out but restrained like a dog from a hanging leash. 
  Mitch tripped backward, through the doorway and into the upstairs hall, slamming his head into the wall, nearly shitting his pants with fright.  He nervously fixed his shirt and propped himself up straight. 
  You got me old man, you really got me a good one!
  Rickerson thrashed about, slicing his contorted arthritic hands wildly in the air, noose around his neck scraping through his skin while his body bounced with the rope’s tension. 
  The card table ricocheted off the sink, smashing into the kitchen floor while Mitch leapt down the stairs, two at a time. 
  He unlocked the front door and ripped it open.  Behind, dozens of footsteps slapped the linoleum of the kitchen floor, shaking the figurines in the curio cabinet.  Hungry grunts filled the empty halls of Rickerson’s home.
  Mitch locked the front door again and slammed it shut behind him.  He took a few steps back, eyeing the door as he backed down Rickerson’s front porch.  The door shook under the zombie’s pounding fists.
  Just as sturdy as the backdoor. 
  Content he had enough time now to make it to the pickup, he sprinted across the front lawn to the side of the road where it was parked, underneath a dying willow tree.  Mitch wondered if the tree would reach out and try to eat him as he unlocked the driver’s side door and hopped inside.
  He had a moment to himself now things had slightly slowed down, and that was more than enough for the sadness to well within his gut, filling it up like a balloon full of grief.  He thought of his mother, lying in her bed, fear gripping her eyes, dead, dead because he couldn’t remember to lock a fucking door.  Not only that, but he drugged her.  He made her helpless, an easy meal.
  Mitch rammed his forehead into the steering wheel, gripped it taut and rammed into it again, and again.  The pain stretched across his face, wrapping around behind his ears.  That wasn’t good enough.  He deserved to be dead, beside her.  She was willing to give him her food, to starve herself so he could live.  He thought about getting out of the truck and walking back into Rickerson’s house like a pig on a platter, apple in his mouth and all, when a childish giggle escaped from the backseat.
  "You're really funny," an animated voice laughed.
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Tune in Next Sunday for Episode 6 - "Burden of this World"

Saturday, July 27, 2013

What About Now? - Character Interview - Leiman

What About Now? - Interview with Leiman - First Appeared in Lonely Moon
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Me: Hello guys 'n dolls!  Today, I have a very special guest from my second novel.  He's so cool, I didn't even give him a first name (haha).  I'd like to introduce you to Ensign Leiman.

Leiman: Hello, Andrew.  I would ask you how you're doing, but that would seem a bit redundant, wouldn't it?  Ya' know, considering you made me up...

Me: Maybe, but it would be polite...just kidding.  This is very special for me, because, and don't tell Captain Hane this, but you are my favorite character from Lonely Moon.

Leiman: I can't make any promises that he won't find out, he is my captain after all, but that's a very interesting thing to say.  Why is that?

Me: Hey, I'm supposed to be asking the questions!  But, for our readers, umm...it's because I based alot of who you are, the things you value, the way you interact; alot of that came from me.  You are very much a reflection of myself, in more ways than I care to reveal.  Granted, you are a great deal smarter than I am, but you and I share so much.  We even both wear glasses!  Backpedaling a bit, but you're a very special character to me...and I'm glad you made it off Earth.

Leiman: Well, you should know then, I don't do well with this emotional stuff, so best to start with the interview, yes?

Me: Agreed.  Okay, first up, we've got - Let's say, just for a moment, that we're back on Earth, in New York City, where you were stationed before the invasion.  We're in your apartment, and you're doing some intense spring cleaning.  What do you keep and what do you toss?

Leiman: My apartment is pretty clean, so I wouldn't be doing any spring cleaning to begin with.  But, for the sake of the question...umm...the first things to go would be...well, you know how quickly technology changes in your time.  In my time, it changes almost daily.  I've got dozens upon dozens of old datapads and tablets that were obsolete weeks after they came out, but our recycling centers are backed up, at least before the invasion, by months out, meaning they don't take recycling until they're able to process what they've got.  It's a mess, truly.  So, would definitely get that taken care of.  There's a lot more I would keep.  My books on Aurans and Turgs, those have to stay, of course.  Especially now that we've got one of each on our crew.  Umm, (laughs) my mom gives me, (goes quiet) well...gave me...before the invasion...she liked to travel, frequently. I mean, she went everywhere.  Dubai, Australia, Iraq, France, Spain, Venezuela...she'd been all over.  But, the funny thing was, everywhere she went, she would buy a shirt from there.  You know, some real tourist-ey shirt that just yells I'm not from here but want to take a piece home with me; she would buy two, and send me one.  And every Christmas, we'd wear the newest one as we opened gifts.  Those are keepers...

Me: I'm sorry about your mother.  You must miss her a lot?

Leiman: Everybody lost someone when Earth was invaded.  I guess, I mean, I just keep telling myself I made it off for a reason, and I think Captain Hane was apart of that reason.  The work we're doing, it could really make a difference.

Me: I believe that.  We can move on.  What's one memory that's stuck with you since childhood?

Leiman: (Laughs) oh man.  Okay.  In high school, I think it was my sophomore year.  I was young, stupid, but who wasn't, ya' know?  Anyway.  I was a nerd, a geek.  I knew it, everyone else did too.  They weren't afraid to let me know, to remind me that I wasn't cool or popular.  And, to a kid who's teased and stuff, they just wanna' fit in, to be in with the crowd.  That's also the age where kids started getting into drinking and drugs and stuff.  Yes, even in the future, those things are still a big problem, probably even bigger than they are in your time, Andrew.  But, umm...one day, I was putting some things in my locker, and one of the cool kids, if I remember correctly his names was Ricky, he came out of nowhere with this look on his face.  He looked ready to shit his pants, he was so scared.  White face n' all.  He asked me if I could hide something for him.  This was probably the first time the kid had said any word to me that didn't involve the words 'ass' or 'pansy'.  It was strange, it made me feel important in a way, so, of course I agreed without even knowing what it was.  He pulled this little baggy out of his pocket and gave it to me.  I looked at it for a second, and I remember even thinking, 'He wants me to hide oregano for him?' It took a bit to sink in what it really was, and it was pot, of course.  So, I looked around, shoved it deep into my pants pocket, and when I got home that night, the first thing I did was hide it in between my mattress.  My mom, at the time, didn't clean my sheets until the weekend, and it was a Tuesday I think.  Well, what I didn't know, was that my Aunt was coming to stay that Wednesday and Thursday, and my mom was a bit of a neat-freak, so everything had to be clean.  So, the next day, when I got home from school, she was waiting for me with the baggy in her hand, standing beside the downstairs bathroom toilet.  I watched her drop it into the toilet and flush it away.  I mean, she knew it wasn't mine.  I didn't even have to defend that, but she did tell me, and I hadn't said a single word at this point, that I shouldn't stick my neck out for people who don't deserve it.  She knew, somehow, I have no idea how, she just did.  She knew I had trouble making friends, and I didn't really have a lot, still don't, and I think she understood how desperate I was to make that happen.  Desperate enough to do something stupid like hide weed for someone who didn't give two shits about me.  But, looking back, that's just part of being a kid.  It's all about the learning experience.  Some of us just pick up on it sooner than later.

Me: Let's say you're getting ready for a night out.  Where are you going?

Leiman: Look at me.  I'm a pretty simple guy.  I'm easy-going, not hard to please.  I can tell you, if I'm going out, it's not on a date.  Haven't had more than a handful of those...ever.  So, If I'm being honest, and I'm going out, it's probably to a movie, by myself.  Probably something obscure, something no one knows about, but in a few years goes crazy popular, and by that point I'm that guy that's been a fan of it for so long, I'm bitter to those people who are all 'gaga' over it.

Me: Did you just use the word 'gaga'?

Leiman: Don't make me sick Leo on you, Andrew.

Me: We have time for two more.  What is your Motto, Leiman?

Leiman: Shakespeare said once, 'I will follow thee, To the last gasp, with truth and with Loyalty.'  I first came across this quote when I was studying for my masters in physics.  I remember, I was scrolling through books about stars on my datapad, specifically red dwarfs, and there was As you Like it, out of nowhere.  To this day, I'm not entirely sure how it managed to get through the search filter, but out of curiosity, I read it, and happened upon this quote.  At the time, I knew it was important to me, the way a soldier knows a gun will become important to him someday, that he may use it, but not entirely sure what he will use it against.  The quote struck me the same way, that I would come to know and to understand the meaning behind this powerful set of words.  So, I wrote it down on a piece of paper and folded it up, and put it in my wallet, and there it has stayed.  When Earth was invaded, I took it out and read it aloud to myself, over and over, finally aware of just how profoundly it had rooted itself to me, that I could attest to the truth behind the sentiment.  It was wonderful, and I still feel it, and even now that I talk about it, it makes me think of the crew that I'm now apart of.  I guess, with it, it brought a sense of belonging, that I'm needed.  It's nice.

Me: Last one and I won't take any more of your time.  Favorite song lyric?

Leiman: There's this song, so hard to find in the time period where I'm from.  It's a song by this guy named James Taylor, that's probably hundreds of years old.  It's called Fire and Rain, and there's this line - I've seen lonely times when I could not find a friend but I always thought that I'd see you again. Like the quote, it seemed important to hold on to, to remember.  When Earth was invaded, and I realized my mother hadn't made it off-planet, those lyrics really hit me hard.  It just makes me think of her.  

Me: Thanks for your time, Leiman.  Again, this was good, very special.  Thanks for reading. :)

Andrew S.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Hell Breaks Loose - Episode 4 - "See Mitch Run..."

Last time on Hell Breaks Loose - Mitch watched helplessly as his neighbor was ripped apart by a wild pack of the dead.  Nearly out of food, his mother demanded he not leave the house in search of more.  Mitch, knowing she was sacrificing her health in favor of his, drugged her, and sneaked out of the house anyway.

After getting to the local grocery store, and filling his bag full of food and supplies for him and his mother, he was knocked unconscious by a strange dark figure, awakening later, how long only God knows.  A pudgy man, covered in fresh blood entered the room where Mitch was tied to a steel table, prepping him for something...for him to be served on a platter to the dead.

A group of zombies found their way into the IGA, attacking the butcher who was ready to serve Mitch up.  Mitch escaped after a brief struggle with the butcher, who met his end at the hands of his own customers.  Mitch, crying, ran home to find he'd forgotten to lock the backdoor after he'd left the home, leaving his mother in a drugged sleep up in her room...and so we continue...
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Hell Breaks Loose - Episode 4 - "See Mitch Run..."
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Mitch sprinted inside, through the garage and into the kitchen.  His forehead dripped with sweat and he felt the tears welling up behind his eyes again. 
  “No, no, no, no,” Mitch said to himself, denying what he feared may be true.  He washed his hands through his greasy hair while panic flowed through his veins and stiffened his joints.  He crouched low, having heard a slumping echo.  When it wasn’t repeated, he stood back up. 
  The kitchen was torn apart.  The cabinet they’d kept the dry foods, the little they had left, was open, bags and boxes of food ripped to shreds.  Uncooked ramen noodles crunched underneath Mitch’s shoes as he walked through the kitchen. 
  The dining table laid on its side, chairs overturned, some broken into tiny wooden pieces.  Fruit from the table’s centerpiece spotted the floor in intense oranges, reds, and neon greens, interlaced with crumbs and dirty, bloody footprints.  The tablecloth was bunched into a tight ball, fraying with smeared red handprints blotting the trim. 
  Mitch’s eyes wandered around the mess before a thump above his head startled him loose again.
  Mom, he thought.  Oh God…
  “Mom!” Mitch screamed.
  He turned the corner into the living room and stopped at the foot of the stairs.  He stared at the porthole window at the top.  The sun outside was in perfect alignment, as though the sun itself was the porthole window.  His gaze was empty but his ears were finely tuned to what was going on in his mother’s room.  He could hear it plain as day, the ripping of skin, the sloppy and wet chewing, the fleshy slaps.
  Mitch bounded up the stairs two steps, three steps at a time.  He blasted through his mother’s door and stumbled backward with a scream.
  A zombie, the one with no lower jaw, twisted its head, eyes wide like a kid with his fingers caught in the cookie jar, caught red-handed.  It towered over his mother’s shredded corpse from the side of her bed.  
  The jawless zombie shoved a hunk of what Mitch thought was a bloody steak directly into its throat and turned the rest of its body around.  Its tongue wiggled, dripping saliva from the tip.
  Mitch looked beyond the zombie, to his mother.  Her mouth was stretched wide, like she’d died mid-scream.  Claw-like scratches covered her cheeks.  Flaps of ripped skin hung from the gashes.  Her blood drenched nightgown clung to her starved body.
Mitch looked into her cold, dead eyes and cried.
  “Mom…” he said, starting to blubber.  He covered his mouth to stop from puking while tears streamlined down his puffy and hot cheeks.
  The jawless zombie’s knuckles cracked like popping popcorn as it contorted its fingers, readying itself to pounce.  A muffled howl burst from its throat as it rushed Mitch. 
Its fingers squeezed around Mitch’s throat as the two of them slammed into the wall behind.  His head bounced with a hollow thud and he felt the lump above his ear from the incinerator lids scream with agony.  Everything went white and hummed until his brain caught up with his body.   
  Mitch punched and pounded his fists against the zombie’s arms.  He pulled on the zombie’s hands, doing nothing more than peeling away its dead skin, scooping through rotted muscle and scraping against the zombie’s bones.  There was no give in its strength.  It was like punching a soggy tree.  Its muscles were stiff, bones brittle but rigid like bark. 
The zombie’s fingernails pinched Mitch’s skin sending tendrils of pain streaking up to his ears and around to the back of his head.  A warm dribble snaked down his neck, behind his shirt collar. 
  Mitch’s vision started to blur into a haze of whirring motions while pressure built behind his eyes.  His head pounded as blood constricted around the zombie’s grip. 
The zombie’s tongue lapped over Mitch’s cheek and nostrils.  Mitch’s stomach churned as he got a nose-full of its humid, sour breath.  He felt its sticky tongue leave a slimy wet trail as it went up and along his forehead. 
  He looked at his mom once more, lying motionless on the bed in a pool of her own blood, trying his damndest not to let the zombie’s tongue slide over his eyeballs.   God knows where it had been.  Her empty eyes welcomed him in.  The fear that was forever locked inside was contagious, infectious. 
  It was his fault, and he knew it.  If he hadn’t drugged her, she would have heard the noise from the kitchen and hid in the closet or the bathroom.  She would have had a chance.    Mitch doomed her.  He killed her...
  “Son of a bitch!” Mitch shrieked.  “Why the fuck aren’t you dead!?  Get your fucking tongue off me!”  Mitch planted the heel of his foot into the wall behind him, placed his palms on the zombies bony chest, and shoved using the wall as leverage.
  The zombie struggled to keep its footing in tune as Mitch charged it back, fueled by his self-hatred.
  “Why the fuck aren’t you dead!?  This wouldn’t of happened if you’d just stayed in your pine box!  She’d still be alive!” Mitch screamed as he steered the zombie toward the window, pushing him and the zombie harder and faster. 
The zombie clawed at Mitch’s face, abandoning its grip on his neck.  Its fingernails sliced through his cheek, scraping skin underneath its ragged claw-like nails.  Gashes on his forehead throbbed, pulsing a warm and dull ache.
  Mitch lowered his head to avoid the slashing, focusing his gaze on the floor, and screamed as he propelled the zombie through the bedroom window.
  Shards of glass sprayed over the top of his head.  His knees slammed into the window sill.  Blades of jagged glass stabbed his palms as he planted his hands against the sides of the window to stop himself from flying out behind the jawless zombie.  Blood dripped down the wooden trim underneath his hands. 
  The zombie toppled end over end, flipping in a cloud of glittery sparkles, hands flailing violently.  It landed neck first on the sidewalk in the front yard with a bony snap.  Its tongue hung over its face and wiggled no more. 
  Mitch huffed, catching his breath before the pain in his hands reached his brain like a freight train with a cargo full of agony.  He pulled his hands inward and curled onto his knees with a whelp.  Rivers of blood flowed down his palms, along his forearms. 
His fingers trembled like a sugar crash as he pulled chunks of glass from his hands  and tossed them aside.  He could feel the stiffness constricting his knuckles already.  A cold faucet would be great about now, he thought.  His palms felt like he’d dragged them across a berber rug for hours.  
  Footsteps clapped on the pavement outside, echoing into the bedroom.  Hungry, frantic grunts followed not far behind. 
  Mitch wiped his bloody hands on his shirt and stood onto his wobbly feet.  His legs were like cooked spaghetti noodles in a pair of shoes, unsure and with no whims of their own.
On the front lawn, dozens of the undead raced from the street, heading around the garage for the backdoor.  They’d heard the screaming, the window exploding.  They’d smelled the blood and they wanted it.  Their sprinting was without hesitation or thought.  Only hunger brought them closer like a school of piranhas, swift and without remorse.   
  Mitch blinked away the tears, not even realizing he’d been crying and looked at the bed.    His mother's last moments were stuck on her face.  It screamed pain and horror.  Fear rippled in her eyes where dried tears crusted into the corners. 
  A whimper shoved its way up his throat.
  “It’s my fault.  I didn’t know this would happen.  I didn’t know.  I just…I didn’t know.  I’m so sorry, mom.  I’m so sorry.  I’m sorry.  I’m sorry.”  The more he said it, the more it hurt.  A lump formed in the back of his throat, a lump of sadness and all the things he wanted to scream aloud.
  “I just wanted to help you.  That’s all I wanted to do.  I thought you’d be proud of me if I could do this.  I would’ve saved your life…but…”
  He squeezed his fist taut, burning his knuckles a fierce white. 
  “I never meant for this.  It wasn’t right for you to sacrifice yourself for me, starving yourself and giving everything to me!  I just wanted you THERE!” he cried.  “I just want you here.”
  Mitch kicked the mattress.
  “If you would have just eaten something, God dammit, I wouldn’t have left!”
  He kicked it again and again.
  “I wouldn’t have fucking left!”  Mitch’s scream twisted into a childish whining tantrum.
Paint cans crashed in the garage.  Their recycling bin spilled tin cans with hundreds of hollow clinks.  The horde was pouring into the house, following the blood trail.
Mitch looked into the upstairs hallway, hearing the sounds from the garage.  Any minute they’d be on top of him.  He looked back at his mom and fought to both stay and to go. 
  “What do I do?” he asked his mother’s corpse, half expecting an answer.  He buried his head into his hands and let loose the torrent of tears. 
  A dry wheeze scraped its way out from within his mother’s body, interrupting Mitch’s sobbing.  Her mangled fingers squeezed the comforter covering her lower half.
  “Mom?” Mitch asked, like a lost child in a department store approaching a stranger who looked like his mom, but wasn’t. 
  She sat herself upright and snapped her jaw back into place with a sharp bite. 
  “Oh my God, are you all right?” Mitch asked, taking a step closer. 
  His mother looked around the room.  She fixed her eyes on Mitch, grin peeling back rotted teeth.
  Mitch looked into her vacant eyes.  She wasn’t in there at all.  Something wore her skin, made her grin, and now made her crawl across the bed toward him.  He backed away and looked once more into the hallway.  Ramen noodles crunched underneath the horde’s fleshy, slapping footsteps in the kitchen. 
  His mother slipped off the edge of the bed and continued crawling across the floor.  Arid sighs squeezed through her dead throat.

  Mitch bumped into the closet door, rattling the loose, round knob.  He had nowhere to go, no one to hold him and say it would be ok...no hope.  His mother swiped for his foot to pull him to the floor.  Dozens of footsteps slammed up the stairs in the hallway.  
  The horde was here...                        

Saturday, July 20, 2013

What About Now? - Tilly Rose Parker

What About Now? - Tilly Rose Parker - First Appeared in -




Me: It is my esteemed pleasure to introduce you to, Tilly Rose-Parker.  It’s been a very, very long time, Tilly.

Tilly:  Oh, no…it’s…the pleasure’s all mine, Andrew.  This is pretty neat, and yes it has been a very long time.  What?  Little over a year, right?

Me: Tilly, you and I share a very special connection, don’t we?

Tilly: (nods) Yes, yes, I suppose we do, don’t we…

Me: Would you like to let our readers in on that or…?

Tilly: Oh no, I couldn’t.  You go ahead.  You tell them.

Me: You are the first character, ever, to be brought to life in a novel of mine.  You started it all, everything.  I used to spend hours sitting, and thinking about you…in a not-so-creepy way.  Ha!

Tilly: Ugh…okay…that’s nice.  It did come off a little creepy, but I won’t judge you.  I suppose it did all start with me, though, didn’t it?  Wow, that makes me feel important. 

Me: In all seriousness, it’s nice to see you again.  It’s been too long.

Tilly: Thank you.  You have some questions for me?

Me: Absolutely, we can go ahead and get started.  So, for those reading, this that don’t know, why don’t you go ahead and tell us a little bit about yourself.

Tilly: (sheepish) Well, My name is Tilly Parker.  I worked as a magazine editor.  That’s what I went to school for, publishing, but I was recently let go.  I…umm…I had to take some time off because of, well…anyway.  I took some time off, and I suppose I took too much time?  And I didn’t come back in the right mindset, at least that’s what the girl who took my position, that’s what she said.  So, I’m really struggling to pick up the pieces from what happened, and then with that on top, it’s…it’s becoming too much.

Me: Do you mind letting us know what happened?

Tilly: (silent) My…um…my husband, Jason.  He took his own life a couple weeks ago.  I came home from work, and I…I found him in the tub. 

Me: Oh, my.  I’m so sorry, Tilly.

Tilly: It’s…can we move on to something else?

Me: Absolutely.  What is your greatest fear?

Tilly: I guess, I’d say that I’m most afraid of forgetting what Jay, Jason, looks like, that I’ll forget what he sounds like.  Sometimes I…no forget it…it’s stupid.

Me: No, go ahead, this is an open forum.  No judgment. 

Tilly: I’ve been paying his phone bill so they don’t deactivate it.  It’s just nice sometimes to call it and hear his voicemail answer.  I know how that may sound to you, but just being able to listen to his voice, I still feel connected to him somehow.  See, it’s stupid.

Me: I don’t think that’s stupid at all, Tilly.  I think that’s actually quite sweet.

Tilly: Thank you.  My mom think’s it’s getting out of hand though.  She’s been sneaking my phone bills and is checking on how much I call it.  It’s a lot. 

Me: Okay…let’s move on.  On what occasions are you known to tell a lie?

Tilly: When I have to hide something I’m embarrassed of.  That’s pretty much the only time I feel the need to lie.  There’s something so unnerving about the way someone looks at you when you’ve got something to hide.  The worst part is, somehow, it seems the world knows it too, when you’re hiding something, like it can smell it.  I feel that way sometimes, that the world is staring at me, and that it knows what I’m doing.

Me: What is your most treasured possession?

Tilly: Um, after Jay’s funeral, I was going through his things in our closet, you know, sorting through his clothes and shoes and such.  Anyway, I was down on the closet floor, and I found this lockbox that Jay must have hidden.  It wasn’t like him to hide things from me, and I haven’t been able to open it, but right now, that’s my most treasured possession.

Me: Tilly, girl, I think you might be losin’ it.

Tilly: I’m not losing it, and if I am, it’s only ‘cuz you made me this way. 

Me: Touche’.  Well played, Tilly.  Last question, I wanna’ wrap this up.  What do you think about when you’re all alone?

Tilly: I think about Jay a lot.  We used to go to this cafĂ© a few blocks from our apartment building, and we’d sit and laugh for hours over muffins and coffee.  He had such a sense of humor about him.  That’s what really attracted me to him in the first place.  I remember that day.  It was my first time in the city, and I was standing on a street corner, lost as all get out, and he came up to me because he could tell I looked the part of the lost tourist.  He took me to my first interview, and from then on, we became inseparable.   Not a moment goes by where I don’t think about him.  The more I think about him, though, the angrier I get.  It’s such a selfish decision, don’t you think?  Jay made a choice, for both of us, on his own.  He ruined two lives for the price of one, and I’m having a hard time forgiving him for that.  Hopefully, one day I’ll be at peace with it, but I don’t see that happening.

Me: Thanks for coming, Tilly.  Very deep stuff, and it was nice to see you again.  And, thank you everyone for reading another episode of What About Now?

Friday, July 19, 2013

Crawling back into the Batcave...

John Lennon said that 'Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans', and I'm quite inclined to believe it because it rings very true.  It's been a crazy, crazy, crazy-ass few months for me.  There were interviews, a book tour, more interviews, some guest posts here and there, and it was all so much fun, and I learned so much, not only about myself as an author, but I learned a lot more about 'the biz'.  I'm grateful to everyone who's been following, tweeting, sharing, posting, liking, commenting, laughing, crying, and being there through the thick of those back to back to back promotional pieces.

I've got to be honest though, when I started out, I thought that the promotional thing was such a bore.  I didn't like doing it, and I think there's a post somewhere down there that reinforces my opinion.  But, like I've discussed so many times with people, it's a must, and so I did...and I liked it.  There, I said it.  I said the secret word...SNL reference...anyone?  Anyone?  Oh, come on.

With that said, like the title of this post declares, it's time to go back into the Batcave, so to speak.  I've got to take a brief hiatus (I like that word, hiatus, ha!) from doing the publicity thing so that I can focus on working on "A Velvet Kiss Goodnight" and all the other side projects I've got lined up.  There are a couple fun things I've got planned between now and then, and as always, I'll keep you guys "in the know", and come back from time to time for Hell Breaks Loose and What About Now?  Those two things have quite a long life ahead of them.  Thanks for reading!  Stick around!

Andrew S.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Hell Breaks Loose - Episode 3 - "Were you raised in a barn?"

Last week, on Hell Breaks Loose - 
Mitch watched helplessly as his neighbor was ripped apart by a wild pack of the dead.  Nearly out of food, his mother demanded he not leave the house in search of more.  Mitch, knowing she was sacrificing her health in favor of his, drugged her, and sneaked out of the house anyway.

After getting to the local grocery store, and filling his bag full of food and supplies for him and his mother, he was knocked unconscious by a strange dark figure, awakening later, how long only God knows.  A pudgy man, covered in fresh blood entered the room where Mitch was tied to a steel table, prepping him for something...and so we continue...
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Hell Breaks Loose - Episode 3 - "Were you raised in a barn?"
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“Please, my mom’s at home, waiting for me.  She’s alone...she…she needs me.  Please, I have to get home to her,” Mitch said.  His voice was weak, timid and empty.  He felt warmth building up behind his eyes and held the coming torrent of tears at bay.
       The man draped an apron over himself.  Blood smears stained the front of it.
       “Don’t say that!” the man said, slamming his hands against the ridge of the sink.  He planted his hands against it and stretched out his body, dipping his head low, frustrated.  “I don’t wanna hear that barrel of shit!  It ain’t easy, doin what I gotta, no, sir, but you see...someone has ta'.”
       The man appeared on the other side of the table, with a fresh smile.  His eyes blinked rapidly, abnormally. 
       “You can keep the cans, I swear!  I’ll never come back!” Mitch shouted.  “I promise, I will never come back!  You'll never see me again!”  Mitch tugged on the twine.  “If you just...untie me…please mister...please.”
       The man chuckled.
       “I’m afraid, it’s not about the cans, kiddo.”
       “Untie me!” Mitch begged.
       “No can-do.”
       “Please!” Mitch shrieked.  “Untie me!” he demanded.
       The man wheeled a tray of knives and hooks beside the table.
       “It’s about the customers.  I gotta give ‘em what they want.  And right now…”
       The man picked up a meat hook, eyeing it in front of his face.  He licked his thumb and forefinger and cleaned off a speck of dried blood. 
       “They want you.”
       Mitch’s throat closed and he couldn’t hold back the torrent anymore.
       “What fucking customers!?  Have you looked outside?  Zombies are eating what’s left of us!  You’ve fucking lost it!  We’re still alive, you can’t be doing this to people!”
       The man belted a jolly laugh.
       “A customer is a customer, dead or not!”
       Mitch fought with all of his might against the twine bindings, pushing through the pain, again.
       “Hey!  Cut that shit out!” the man yelled.
       “They’re dead…” Mitch sobbed.  “They’re all dead…”
       “They’re more like…” the man said, tilting his head to find the words he was looking for in his head.  “Rabid dogs.  And a rabid dogs gotta’ eat too.  I’ve been feeding them for so dang long, they always come around at the same time.  So, they’re more like…trained rabid dogs,” the man laughed.
       The man wiped a bead of sweat from his brow and looked at it.
       “We haven’t got a lot of time.  So, please stop your fussing and we can get started,” the man said, lifting a butcher knife.  The blade’s edge was serrated and worn.  Rust had eaten away most of it.
       “Help!” Mitch screamed over and over.  His vocal chords shredded the inside of his throat.  “Mom!” he screamed.
       The man cut down the middle of Mitch’s shirt and folded each side over onto the table top.
       Mitch sobbed quietly.  He’d done everything he could think of.
       The man pinched different places on Mitch’s chest with concerned eyes.  He placed the butcher knife back and traded it for a smaller, sharper knife.  This one was newer, more efficient looking.
       “Don’t wanna shred the skin now do we?” he laughed to himself.  “I think that’s their favorite part, kinda' like fried chicken, mmhmm.” 
       Mitch caught it, but the man must not have, the change in the air.  The swinging door swiveled only about an inch or so with a suction sound.  A door had been opened elsewhere in the store, shifting the pressure of the room.. 
       The man, lost in examination, found a good place on Mitch’s chest to start.
       The cold blade, near his belly button, sent goose pimples up Mitch’s flesh.  The nape of his neck tightened and he flexed his abs.  He squeezed his eyes shut.
       “Say!” the man stopped and hovered over Mitch’s squished in face.  “You’re not Mildred Fuller’s boy are you?”
       Mitch released his abs with a huff.
       “What?” he said, catching his breath, caught completely off kilter.
       “It’s been driving me crazy all night.  Thinking you might be, thinking you might not be.  Just thought I’d ask before you lose consciousness.  You have her blue eyes.  She used to come in like clockwork.  Said she loved my cold cuts.  I can churn out some mean cold cuts.”
       “That’s my mom.  She’s waiting for me,” Mitch said, sniffling a glob of snot back into his nose.  His voice was unsure, like he believed he was in a dream. 
       “You said that already, kiddo,” the man moved back, near Mitch’s belly button again.  “Glad I got that out, woulda driven me mad!” he said with a chuckle. 
       “Fuck you!” Mitch whispered.  He felt light-headed again.
       “You know, you’ll thank me when we meet again, in the big blue.  You’ll say, thanks Brian for killing me, it was a treat!  We’re both in the know, ya know?  There ain’t no living through this.  Unless you’re a flippin Swede in those underground bunkers, the ones from Dubbya Dubbya two.  That’s the only safe place left to make bread, if you’re buyin what I’m sellin.”
       Mitch squeezed his eyes shut again, readying himself for the knife to slide into his skin.
       “Yup, them Swedes got it right.”
       Mitch held his breath and let go of himself.  His mind floated away, escaping the unspeakable act about to be committed against his body.
       A thud against the butcher window pulled both of their attention.
       “No…no…no…no…” Brian said.  The joy in his eyes dwindled away.  His mouth hung like a wet bath towel.   
       Mitch opened his eyes and raised his head to look at the butcher window. 
       A stringy haired man, eyes blood-shot and vacant, dragged his bleeding tongue along the window, leaving a trail of spit and clotted blood behind.  His hands pressed firmly, palm open, against the window.  A tattered tank top clung to his drooping skin in patches of dried bodily fluids.
       Brian stood up straight, eyes as wide as doorknobs.
       “We’re not open for another hour!” Brian screamed.  His voicebox rattled as he shouted.  He dropped the small efficient knife back onto the tray with a clack and grabbed the rusty serrated butcher knife.   
       Mitch began to kick and punch the air, tugging at the twine.  He knew Brian wasn’t going to free him, even in the face of certain death.  Brian was gone, fruitier than a bat.  Mitch didn’t know what Brian had seen, what he’d been through, and he bet it couldn’t have been any easier than what he’d been through.  Or maybe there was nothing at all.  His dad used to say that there are some people who are born a little off.  Either way, Mitch watched as a living man screamed at a dead one.
       “Get out!” Brian screamed.
       Mitch maneuvered his teeth close to the twine on his wrist and shifted his body.  He got his teeth around a wad of it and bit down.  Strings of thread dug between his teeth, flossing and rubbing against his gums.  He tasted the salty rust of blood dribble into the back of his throat, but still he chewed and ground it between his chompers. 
       A snap bounced off his tongue and he felt the tension around his wrist loosen.
       Another zombie emerged from the darkness beyond the butcher window.  A female.  Her hair stood up in glossy spikes.  A cavernous, hollow hole stretched into the back of her head where her right eye should have been.  A slimy, pink strand of flesh hung from the open sore.  She bashed her forehead into the window, splintering it with web-like cracks. 
       Mitch pulled with all the strength of his jaw, slicing through the twine with his teeth.  The remaining strands he didn’t chew through snapped free, releasing his hand. 
       Brian was fixated on the window and the zombies less than three feet away.
       “Don’t move, kiddo'.  Be right back for ya',” Brian said to Mitch, keeping his steely vision on the zombies.  He disappeared behind the swinging door.  The door squawked and slowed itself shut behind him.
       Mitch’s mind was numb with focus.  He twisted and unwadded the twine around his other hand and his feet.  Then the thoughts came back, like a locomotive smashing into his brain. 
       Mom’s gonna kill me, if these zombies don’t, or this deranged butcher.
       He looked at the butcher window.  Empty.  The quiet darkness of the store beyond still remained, but not the dead.  Mitch cringed at the streaks of bodily fluids dripping down the window, left behind from the walking dead. 
       There was only one way in or out of this tiny room, through the swinging door.  Mitch sneaked over to the porthole window and peered inside.  The room was nearly pitch black.  Tiny slivers of light glimmered from steel shelving units holding dented cardboard boxes.  Scattered flies collected around ripped blue cellophane bags poking through the ruffled cardboard box flaps.
       As Mitch slid inside, he heard the air shift.  Another swinging door, at the end of this room, bobbed with a windy suctioned whoosh.
       The stench of stale blood and decay slammed his face and nostrils like a well-placed backhand.  He covered his mouth to hold in the puke and felt his way forward.
       His hand ran along a cold, metallic shelf, feet shuffling, lead by his wandering hands. 
       When his eyes finally adjusted to the dark, he realized he was in a long hall, which ran the length of the store.  He had come out somewhere in the center.  The hall sprawled in opposite directions on each side.  Rolling carts lined the far wall directly in front of him, beside the other door.  Two long chrome counters hugged the walls on each side.
       I must be in the backroom, he thought.  He remembered, as a kid, playing in the alley behind the grocery store.  He was John Dillinger, his friends the rest of Dillinger’s gang.  They tried to break in to…
       The backdoor!  There’s a backdoor!
       Mitch looked through the dark, leaning left then right to see around counters and carts.  He turned around, finding nothing in that direction. 
       Fuck yeah!
Sure enough, a thin line of glowing sunlight outlined the bottom of what could only have been the backdoor, way on the other side of the backroom.
Forget the fumbled shuffling.  Mitch started sprinting blindly.  The thin line of light bounced up and down, in a perfectly tuned rhythm with his heavy unsure steps.
Tears streamed down his cheeks.  His vision grew fuzzy behind a glaze of salty crying.  He blubbered as he thought about his mom, wishing he’d just listened to her.  His bag of food was the furthest thing from his mind.  Standing front and center in his thoughts was home, and the stagnant piss smell.  He’d take a yellow smell over rotting meat any day, as long as his mom was there. 
Brian backed into the hallway, between Mitch and his freedom, slashing at a group of zombies with his butcher knife.  His blade ripped through the throat of one pulling at his apron.  It grunted something wet and stumbled backward, shoved to the side by another reaching for Brian’s ears.
Mitch skidded, planting his feet forward to pivot and sprint in the opposite direction but his footing buckled.  He shoved his hands out to catch himself as he screamed the first cuss word he could think of.  His head was the first to make contact with something other than the floor.
A pair of metal coverings on the wall to his left rattled while his head bounced off, warmth spreading around his temple.  His wrist twisted trying to catch himself as his back slapped against the hard concrete floor.
I’m okay.  Just stings a little.    
He laid there for a moment, waiting for the room to stop spinning, clenching his eyes tight to ease the pain.  He felt along the side of his head, fingers dipping into something wet and warm.
Fuck, I’m bleeding. 
Mitch sat himself up and his wrist screamed in agony.  Pain shot through his forearn, up to his elbow, blinding his eyes with dancing spots and he wasn’t sure, but he thought he yelped.   
Brian shrieked and started running toward Mitch, clutching his cheek.  Rivers of blood poured through his fingers, intertwining with the folds of his face.  A zombie behind him munched on something fatty while he and the rest of them followed. 
Mitch looked at the metal coverings his head collided with on the wall beside him.  A label above warned against throwing combustibles inside, first in English, then in Spanish. 
An incinerator.  I can’t outrun them, not now.  Not only had Mitch become great at listening, but he’d become adept at hiding as well.  I could hide, wait it out. 
He looked back at Brian who was closing in and crying, zombies not far behind. 
Brian was losing his powerhouse stride.  Most of his right side was drenched in blood, more still cascading down his face.
“Don’t run, kiddo!  Come here!  They’d rather have you than me anyways!” Brian cried.  “Young and tough meat!”    
Mitch peeled the metal lids apart with a clang and slid inside, right into a mouthful of cardboard ash while hoping zombies didn’t know how to turn on the flames. 
Sorry Ma, went to get you food and got roasted instead!
The metal lids stopped short of slamming shut while Mitch crawled through the tiny shaft.  He felt a wringing on his left ankle and slid backward, face scraping the floor of the dark tube.
“Gotchya!” Brian laughed.  His hands scrambled up Mitch’s leg, pulling him closer and closer.  “Bon Appetite!”  The chunk missing from his cheek exposed threads of cheek muscles and the back molars of his jaw.  The blood oozing from the gnash glistened in the light pushing through the spaces between Brian and the metal lids. 
Don’t scream, don’t scream, don’t scream!  Those zombies will know someone else is here!
Mitch heard a crunch and a stringy ripping from behind Brian.  Brian’s shirt tightened against his chest, pulled from behind.  His grip on Mitch’s leg loosened as he shrieked, like when Mitch’s mom had seen that odd looking spider that appeared to have tiny little hands.
Mitch dug the heel of his shoe into Brian’s cheek and his screaming jumped octaves. 
“Let go,” Mitch whispered.  “Let me the fuck go, you crazy-ass buzzard.”
Mitch stomped his foot into Brian’s face again and again.  He gritted his teeth and squeezed his fists, forcing power into his heels.  The dried dirt on the bottom of Mitch’s shoes began to cake the exposed muscle of Brian’s cheek.
Brian’s eyes widened and his head slouched.  Mitch stopped walking on his face and wondered what Brian was doing.  He realized it only after a second, but he was staring into empty eyes.  Dead eyes.
He’s dead.  
Brian’s body retracted, metal lips clanging shut after him.  Mitch heard his body flop to the ground.  Slaps of flesh and blood spatters echoed from beyond the incinerator doors.  He heard chewing, grunts, and organs pulled free of veins and tendrils of tendons with wet snaps.  The slops sounded like a group feeding on an endless buffet of corn on the cob. 
Mitch held himself and tuned out the zombie’s feasting with his own thoughts.  He wept quietly, ignoring the chewing and tearing.  Rivers of hatred ran deep, not for Brian, not even for the zombies, but for himself.  He wanted to bury his fists into his own face, to knock the wind out of himself.  He bunched his fingers and knuckles, readying for a punch, but couldn’t do it.  Instead, he squeezed his fists, digging his nails into his palms, working out the hatred through tight agony.
I shouldn’t have leftThis will be the last time I leave, I swear, mom.   
After a few hours, the gorging stopped, replaced by sloppy footsteps searching for more.  Another few hours, the shuffling ceased.  The only thing Mitch could hear was his well monitored and controlled breathing. 
Can’t breathe too loud, they’ll hear you.    
He peeked through a slice of space between the two metal lids.
At the foot of the incinerator, Brian’s leftovers lay in a pool of bloody mush and ivory bones, picked clean.  Flies had already called dibs on the lumpy gristle.  His apron curled over in crimson folds by his shoes, feet still inside like metal fillers to keep the body of the shoe full. 
The backroom stood in harsh silence and the feeling that Mitch wasn’t alone didn’t dissipate until he reached the front door of the grocery store.  He felt empty stares from in between products lining the shelves. 
He stepped through the automatic doors into the orange glow of the late afternoon.  Pockets of plump clouds scattered the sky.  A fresh breeze carried a slight undertone of death over Mitch, but it was otherwise cool, which he welcomed after having spent hours in a charred shaft. 
Dark ash smudged his hands and clothes. 
He thought, for a moment, about going back inside for his bag of food.  It was, afterall, the reason he came.
Eff that, Mitch thought before starting into a run.
If going outside was a fool’s game, going out in the daylight was a death wish.  But he didn’t care.  He had a good pace with no zombies in sight.
When he rounded the corner to his street, he started to cry again.  His house just looked so good, so warm despite the boarded up windows. 
He couldn’t help but feel that something was off though.  His tears went dry, hushed by the same feeling.  The feeling didn’t disappear, but rather intensified as he walked up the drive and around the garage.  He stopped short of the backdoor, jaw dropped.
A tear of pure awe slipped down his cheek.
“Oh…my…God!” he said aloud. 
The backdoor glided back and forth with the whipping breeze, wide open...