Tag Archives: Sarah

Traditions (“Hindsight: Christmas Miracle” Revision)

“Oh, sweet baby Jesus,” Sarah says over and over to herself, teeth chattering. Her husband’s, Travis’s, old pickup truck didn’t insulate the heat well enough, in spite of the blankets they jammed throughout the interior, covering the windshield entirely. She looked out of the little peephole in the passenger side window, but there was no sign of Travis. Travis said he’d be back by sunrise. By sunrise, everything would be better again.

Her husband took the rifle but they kept a pistol in the glove compartment that he had taught her how to use. “Oh, sweet baby Jesus,” she repeated, huddled up in the old quilt her mother had made her when she was a child. It had animals painstakingly sewn into the fabric. She shivered. “Travis. Please be okay out there.”

Nights are the worst. Sarah sees creatures in the shadows, ones that are there as often as not. She usually never knows for sure until she can see the creatures well enough to hear their hooves crunch through the snow. One time, a squirrel jumped onto the windshield and tried to gnaw through it to get to them. Sarah thought, in a situation like that, that she would have screamed hysterically. But she just sat there, gun pointed at the squirrel, heart hammering against her ribs. Travis never woke up and she never told him about the incident, either. There’s enough terror in the daytime without Travis hearing about the sound the owls make when they’re dead. When undead birds sing, there’s no music in it. There’s just a low, long whistle. Sarah thinks that the owls sound deeper and sadder than anything she’s ever known. Nights are the worst, but Sarah chooses them. She’d rather stay awake through the horror than never wake up.

“Where are you, Travis?” the warm air leaves her mouth like a ghost. She huddles up in her animal blanket, hiding from the creatures in the night. Sarah feels warm in her mother’s patchwork. If the zombie outbreak had never occurred, she and Travis would be celebrating Christmas at her parents’ house in Michigan. They’d be eating ham and watching the wild turkeys hobble by outside the glass sliding window. One of their family traditions was to roast up chestnuts and eat them by the fireplace. She would always fall asleep there, feet toasty warm. Sarah dreamed sweet dreams back then…

* * *

It’s still night, but Sarah is following a star, almost as bright as the sun. It looks pale and lonely in spite of its light. She finds a barn where she can take refuge. There are people and animals inside. They’re all standing still, looking at something. Sarah has their pistol out; they’re quiet but they all look alive.

“What are you all looking at?” Sarah asks. No answer. She leans forward to see Joseph and Mary sitting over their child, looking every bit like the ones in her parents’ nativity set. “He’s our Lord and savior,” says one of the wise men. They’re all standing still and staring like in a painting. Sarah leans forward to look at the tiny child in the manger. Its jaw hangs loose. Its eyes are gray and dead. It reaches out to touch Sarah and she backs off. Mary’s neck is broken. Joseph’s jaw is missing. His tongue hangs loose onto his robes. One of the wise men, eye holes bleeding, lunges at her and she backs into a llama with filmy eyes and crooked teeth. It hisses and bites her.

* * *

“Sarah! Open up!”

She pulls out the pistol and points it at his head.

“Christ! Sarah!” he ducks. “I’m not a zombie yet! Put the gun down!”

She looks through the peephole. The sunlight is barely grazing over the trees, making the tops look yellow.

“It was a little farther than I remembered. But look!” He holds up the gas can. “It’s a Christmas miracle!

Sarah says nothing. “I think we have as much as three gallons, but the stations just tapped out now. We’re lucky that there was anything at all. People probably just haven’t used this one because of how far away from civilization it is.”

Sarah remembers her parents’ home, walking in and seeing the glass door broken, a corpse strewn out on the kitchen floor. Red entrails stretched out on white linoleum. She couldn’t even recognize it as her mother, or maybe she didn’t want to believe it at the time. Travis looks into Sarah’s glazed over eyes. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah…” she says, shaking her head. Those memories won’t do her any good. She has Travis and that’s all that matters now.

Her husband runs his hand through her hair and puts his lips to her head. “Check me for bite marks,” he whispers to her forhead. She shrinks back from his touch.

“God dammit, Travis! I don’t care if you’re turning or not.”

“Don’t say that.”

“No! No!” she swats away an arm aimed at comforting her. “It’s not like we can help it! I’d rather die too!”

“Sarah. This is important. It would kill me if I…”

“You’d already be dead. Just drop it.”

“All right. I just…”

“Drop it.”

They sit for a minute, looking out at the growing light outside. It’s a silent morning.

“I’m sorry,” Sarah says.

“For what?” Travis asks. Sarah has never apologized after these arguments, but then she wasn’t apologizing about the fight anyway. She made up her mind that she would stick with him when they got married, before she even knew that the dead could get up and walk again.

“I was asleep when you got back. I had… I had a bad dream.”

“Sarah, I’ve been thinking about something,” Travis says, clutching his gas can. “I don’t think we can do this anymore. We need to make good use of this last gasoline that we were given. We may be able to get close to the coast on just a few gallons. I don’t know why I thought we could hide out forever, but maybe immigration has settled down a bit. I mean, the initial scare is over, so I don’t think they’d shoot us unless we were the undead. Sarah?”

“Hmmm?”

“Sarah. What do you think?”

“About what?”

“Civilization.”

Sarah wraps her mother’s quilt around them both. “I think… I want to sleep together without taking shifts. I don’t care what happens today. I just want to sleep her with you.” She rests her head on his stomach.

“Merry Christmas,” she whispers.

“Merry Christmas,” he replies, setting the gas can at his feet.

Outside the window, the sunrise gives the snow a reddish hue. Just this one time, he pulls the quilt over both their heads and they dream sweet dreams.

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Filed under FEATHERTON III, Flash Fiction

Scars

May 1, 2011

I was looking at my scars today. For the first time, I felt a sense of detachment rather than horror. I wonder if I am ready to move on. I’d like to tell myself that it was only my flesh that was stripped away, only my bones that were broken–but I would be lying.

Then again, we’ve all suffered our wounds, be they physical or spiritual. No one has come out of this outbreak, apocalypse, rapture–whatever you call it–without their scars.

Sarah and her husband, Travis, made it out safely. Their child, however, did not. Luckily, it died shortly after it was born. If it was a stillbirth, the child may have torn apart her insides while still in the womb. She still hasn’t talked, even to Travis. He tells me that she’s always been afraid of the dark, but now she scratches at the walls and weeps, making animal noises from her throat. He confessed to me once that he thought about just letting her cut her own wrists one night. When they were first reunited, I felt such love and relief brimming from the man. Then, when he saw her, I think it dawned on him rather suddenly that he had lost the wife he knew that day she was kidnapped. I visit him from time to time. It was hard for him to accept my help at first. He’d believed for over a week that I had kidnapped her. But now I visit regularly to check up on him and Sarah. I believe he used to prefer being left alone. When I think of fortitude and perseverance, Travis comes to mind.

I see Toby from time to time, but he’s not doing much better, I’m afraid. The day after he found Sarah and I locked away, he looked for the bodies of his friends and buried them. Sometimes I see him passed out at their graves with a bottle of homemade brew in his hand. I’d give him blankets, food, the shirt off my back. He saved my life, after all. But Toby never accepts any of my gifts. He just wanders about town, completely lost. If he doesn’t find a purpose in his life, I fear he won’t stay alive much longer. I feel responsible in a way.

The zombies left town as quickly as they’d entered. I can’t explain it. They don’t follow any kind of a feeding pattern. Rather, they act somewhat like they did in life. The dog zombies hunt in packs; the people zombies stick to each other. I once told Eric about the novel Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein. He’d never read it before. It’s about a man raised by Martians. He brings their philosophies to Earth, including a practice/concept called “grokking.” To grok someone is to understand them completely. To the Martians, this includes consuming that person, taking them into your body. I almost think that the zombies feel incomplete, that they want to take humans inside themselves to… become human again, I suppose. Of course, this is all just speculation, barely even a theory. I wonder, but I’ve accepted the fact that I’ll never truly know the answer. The only thing I know for a fact is two truths: (1) nowhere is safe anymore, and (2) we must cling to the living if we hope to brave our dead.

~ Dr. Z

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Filed under FEATHERTON II, Flash Fiction

Hindsight (revision)

I don’t know why we thought it would be safe up here.

We fled to Canada around the same time that Celine Dion and Tom Cruise were both said to have flown up here. The celebrities mixed with T.V. programs and word-of-mouth all encouraged people to start heading north. Pretty soon, the Canadian government had to close off their borders. We heard they shot anyone who tried to come across, but that didn’t stop people from coming in after the folk had it in their heads that Canada was the place to be. Zombies started cropping up everywhere after that, even the animals. In hindsight, I suppose we should have tried to drive someplace else, but it’s hard to fill up a tank of gas when you ain’t got no money.

Yeah, not just us. A lot of folk who came up didn’t have a penny to their name. And even if they did, there’s not a lot of housing to go around. Some folk tried to build their own houses, buying materials from the city and cutting up the forests. BC residents have had a huge escalation in break-ins, robberies, and murders. A lot of people have died just for some squatters to have some food and shelter. Of course, the military has been cracking down on this, too, but there’s only enough of them to protect the richer burbs. For our own protection, I suggested to Sarah that we live in the truck. She agreed.

We came up in my ’04 Silverado. Bought her brand new. Now, she’s all dented up from stray deer and moose attacks. So far we’ve been lucky with ’em, but you never want a run-in with a moose. Run into one going to fast and your car’s totaled. Unless you’re driving a tank, it’s done. And if you’re stranded out in the wilderness with no car, well, you’re a dead man.

One day, driving down the rode, I saw one just standing there, its ribs all exposed and its face torn away. You see something like that, it’s hard to believe at first. Your reaction times slow a bit. I swerved out of the way, lost traction and almost hit a tree. After that, it was hard to get back on the road, what with the snow and ice. Lucky for us, the moose was so eaten up, one leg barely had any muscle holding it together. It was pretty much limping at us but fast enough. When you start looking at the skeleton of a creature, all the parts underneath that make an animal tick, then it starts looking less like a living being and more like a monster: eyes filmed, teeth rotten, ribs scraping at the passenger window. We almost didn’t make it that day. I know my wife still has nightmares about it most days, though she won’t admit it to me.

Sarah keeps me sane. She keeps the night watch because she says she has better eyes ‘n me. She says she likes to go to sleep watching the sun rise, which I’mm sure is a relief, but I think she’s simply too afraid to sleep at night. I can’t blame her. I have trouble sleeping sometimes, too, knowing that those creatures are out there. But if I wake up dead, I wake up dead. Man’s gotta sleep. And I trust her to keep me safe, wake me up if anything goes south.

It’s weird we didn’t think about the animals. It’s Hollywood, I guess. We always think of zombies as being people, you know? Then again, who thought zombies would be walking around at all! At least people would never stand the cold, but all the deer and wildlife out here have coats that just shed the snow like it was nothing. I hear people farther up north have to deal zombie polar bears. I don’t envy them, though they’re becoming more frequent down here. Depending on the amount of decay, those sonsabitches can rush you up to 40 clicks. And I’ve only heard rumors about the mosquitoes in the Bayou. They say on the T.V. that it’s just one big dead zone down there. I guess it could be worse, but it definitely could have been better.

Sometimes I think to myself that we’re being hunted here, that everyone sitting still is just waiting to die. At least we got this truck, though it doesn’t do us much good with no gas. If only we’d been smarter with our money a bit… ah, what’s the use of worryin’ about the past? You know what they say. Hindsight’s a bitch.

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Filed under FEATHERTON II, Flash Fiction

Conviction

January 15, 2011

There are two people who have been making quite a stir in Juneau today, a husband and wife calling themselves “Travis and Sarah Scarborough.” They’ve been living out in the wild in Travis’s truck for over a year now and the papers have eagerly dubbed them “The Scarborough Savages.” There has been speculation on their identities, but it hardly matters now. As long as they’re human, I hardly see cause for concern. They’re no less dangerous than any other settler or squatter who lives in this city.

I’d like to question them for my own personal reasons, but they are difficult to reach. There is a constant mob after them for questioning and I’m just a part of it. I understand through the local papers that they hate other people, though I don’t know how much to trust those rags. If I could, it would be much better to talk with them myself. More than anyone, they probably know more about the zombies. I don’t know if I can reach them, but I have to try.

January 17, 2011

After hitting the streets, as they say, I’ve found from some good doctor friends of mine that Sarah may be pregnant and that they’re staying under the protection of that cult, The Rapturists that believes the zombies feed off sin. It’s amazing how large the congregation’s become. They believe that we are responsible for the zombies, that they are our “children,” in a sense. Basically, we made our bed and now we have to sleep in it. It’s a hopeless idea, but it’s caught on surprisingly well among the city people, basically the polar opposite of the so-called Border Guard. I can’t say I buy either story and I’m not sure if these two newcomers have, either. I just need to interview them to know for sure.

January 18, 2011

I had to give up my identification, paperwork, even some of my publications in order to meet with the Minister of the Rapturists. It’s a pain, but I was able to land an interview with their minister. Mostly, he spat some propoganda at me, wanted to see where I stood. I merely stated that I wished to ask them some questions to further my research on zombie behavior. He said he would talk to them about it and give them time to think. I wish there was more I can do, but I just have to wait here until the Scarboroughs make their decision.

January 19, 2011

I’ve been storming about the place, trying to speak to the Scarborough couple or at least get my paperwork back. Nobody’s heard anything about it. Or they all know about it and are just testing my patience. I’ve been sleeping on a bench in their entryway. I’ll be damned if they ignore me. I have to learn anything I can about these creatures. I only have this memory of Eric, this mission to keep the memory of the only man I ever loved.

January 20, 2011

I am freezing. The lobby’s not the best place for camping out. Every time the door opens, I have to double my efforts to keep warm. Luckily, entry and exiting from the premises is forbidden at night, for warmth but moreso for security reasons. A young woman by the name of Lucia has given me a blanket fresh from the laundry and some bread to eat. I’ve talked to her a bit about the Rapturists. She seems new here and doesn’t know much about it. When she tells me about the faith, there’s little conviction in her voice.

January 21, 2011

Today, Lucia and I talked about movies we used to watch before the infestation. It keeps me from thinking about the cold and the hunger. She named a few romantic comedies that I owned and I told her that she was more than welcome to stop by and watch them. I gave her my address and I thought she wasn’t about to take it at first. She seemed ecstatic to hear that and then sad. I felt she had something weighty on her mind she was about to tell me. However, her less-than-amicable husband, Jesse, came along and yanked her away. He’s a very prickly man and very suspicious. I suppose that one has to be a bit suspicious to survive nowadays, though. It’s sad.

January 22, 2011

I was given back my identification and papers and told to leave. My arguments were only met with large armed men. All this work, only to get swept out the door!

January 25, 2011

A surprise visit! Lucia came to speak with me today. She said that she was, in fact, Sarah Scarborough! She has agreed to be interviewed and recorded, though she said she didn’t know how much help she could be, the undead being dead. I assured her, they’re called undead for a reason. Hopefully, I can gain some understanding of the behavior of these creatures.

Lucia – that is, Sarah – does not believe her husband will agree to come, but I consider myself lucky to at least have her perspective.

January 26, 2011

After listening to the recording several times, Sarah’s perspective on life reminds me much of Eric’s. Eric believed in fate, that events in life were going to happen with or without our permission. It’s our job to meet this obstacles in a way that we would be proud of. Sarah is married to Travis, there is no way out of that bond before God in spite of what she may want or wish. I believe she loves Travis more than anyone, but I also think she is tired. Unfortunately, she had little to say about the zombies, but I wonder about their convictions, whether they are more than just corpses yelling for brains. Maybe they do have a purpose like the Rapturists believe. Then again, maybe it’s our duty to at least try to beat destiny like the Border Guard believes. I am torn on this, but I have scheduled another interview with Sarah.

She lived over a year with minimal contact with human beings, out amongst nature and zombies. Perhaps, if I ask the right questions, I can learn what I need to know about them.

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Hindsight: Christmas Miracle

“Oh, sweet baby Jesus,” Sarah said over and over to herself, rocking back and forth in her husband’s old Silverado. She wanted to close her eyes but she couldn’t. If she closed them, she might miss one of those creatures sneaking up on the car. Travis said he’d be back by sunrise. By sunrise, everything would be better again.

Her husband took the rifle but they had a pistol in the glove compartment that he had taught her how to use. “Oh, sweet baby Jesus. Travis. Please be okay out there.”

Nights are the worst. Sarah sees creatures in the shadows, ones that may or may not be there. She never knows until she can see them get enough to the truck or hear their hooves crunch through the snow. One time, a squirrel jumped onto the windshield and tried to gnaw through it to get to them. Sarah thought she would have screamed hysterically, but she just sat there, gun pointed, heart hammering against her ribs. Travis never woke up and she never told him about it, either. There’s enough terror in the daytime without Travis hearing about the sound the owls make when they’re dead. When undead birds sing, there’s no music in it. There’s just a low, long whistle. Sarah thinks that the owls sound deeper and sadder than anything she’s ever known. Nights are the worst, but watch the nights than fall asleep knowing she might not wake up.

“Where are you, Travis?” the warm air leaves her mouth like a ghost. She grabs the extra blanket from the back and jerks back pointing her gun at the windshield. If her back was turned for a moment, something might sneak up on her. She has to be aware. Always aware. But she’s tired and it’s cold.

* * *

It’s still night, but Sarah is following a star, almost as bright as the sun. It looks pale and lonely in spite of its light. She finds a barn where she can take refuge. There are people and animals inside. They’re all standing still, looking at something. Sarah has their pistol out; they’re quiet but they all look alive.

“What are you all looking at?” Sarah asks. No answer. She leans forward to see Joseph and Mary sitting over their child. “He’s our Lord and savior,” says one of the wise men, though she can’t tell which one. They’re all standing still and staring like in a painting. Sarah leans forward to look at the child in the manger. Its jaw hangs loose. Its eyes are gray and dead. It reaches out to touch Sarah and she backs off. Mary’s neck is broken. Joseph’s jaw is missing. His tongue hangs loose onto his robes. One of the wise men lunges at her and she backs into a llama with filmy eyes and crooked teeth. It hisses at her.

* * *

“Sarah! Open up!”

She pulls out the pistol and points it at his head.

“Christ! Sarah!” he ducks. “I’m not a zombie yet! Put the gun down!”

She lowers the weapon and opens up the door. “Get in!” She looks around. The sunlight is barely grazing over the trees. “It’s sunrise. What took you?”

“It was a little farther than I remembered. But look!” He held up the gas can. “It’s a Christmas miracle!”

“There was still gas there?”

“A little. I think we have as much as three gallons, but the stations just tapped out now. We’re lucky that there was anything at all. People probably just haven’t used this one because of how far away from civilization it is.”

“That’s a relief. But I don’t want you to go on any more of these stupid suicide missions, y’hear?”

Travis runs his hand through her hair and puts his lips to her head. “Check me for bite marks,” he whispers.

“Travis! We’ve been over this. I don’t care if you’re one foot in the grave. I’m not leaving your side and you’ve got no say when you’re dead anyway.”

“Sarah. This is important. I want you to be able to go through with it if I’m lurking around trying to eat you.”

Sarah shakes her head. “Just don’t get bit an’ we won’t have to worry about it. Got it?”

“All right. I just…”

“Drop it.”

They sit for a minute, looking out at the growing light outside. It’s a silent morning.

“I’m sorry,” Sarah says.

“For what?” Travis asks. Sarah has never apologized after these arguments, but then she wasn’t apologizing about the fight anyway. She made up her mind that she would stick with him when they got married, before she even knew that the dead could get up and walk again.

“I was asleep when you got back.”

“Oh,” Travis says, clutching his gas can. “I don’t think we can do this anymore. We need to make good use of this last gasoline that we were given. We may be able to get close to the coast on just a few gallons. There’s probably people there. We couldn’t stay away from them forever and all this going out on the lam and taking watches in the truck… it’s not healthy for you. We’ve lived through another Christmas but it’s just borrowed time at this point…” he pauses. “What do you think?”

“Travis, I’ll follow you to the ends of the Earth.”

He smiles. “That’s what I’m worried about.” Before she can respond to that, he plants a big, wet kiss on her lips. “Merry Christmas, honey.”

“Merry Christmas,” she replies.

“Let’s get this thing gassed up and get the Hell out of here. Take the pistol and cover me.”

She gives a mock salute. “Yes, sir!”

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Filed under FEATHERTON SESSION, Flash Fiction

Hindsight

We thought it was safe up here. People said it would be safe.

When the outbreak occurred, there was a migratory boom moving up north. The Canadian border guard brought in the military and even they had to give up after a while. In hindsight, I guess they should have just started shooting to kill. But you know what they say about hindsight.

A lot of folk who came up didn’t have a penny to their name. And even if they did, there’s not a lot of housing to go around. Some folk tried to build their own houses, buying materials from the city and cutting up the forests. BC residents have had a huge escalation in break-ins, robberies, and murders. A lot of people have died just for some squatters to have some food and shelter. Of course, the military has been cracking down on this, but there’s only enough of them to protect the richer burbs. Overcrowded is a huge understatement. It’s like trying to squish a third of the Americas into a few tiny encampments.

I came up in my ’04 Silverado. She’s reliable. Only got a few dents in it from stray deer and moose attacks. You never want a run-in with a moose. Drive too slow and they’ll catch up with you. Drive too fast and you might hit one and total your vehicle. Moose ain’t pushovers. You get your vehicle stranded out here, you’re a dead man. One day, driving down the rode, I saw one just standing there, its ribs all exposed and its face torn away. You see something like that, it’s hard to believe. Your reaction times slow a bit. Almost hit it. Scared the crap outta my wife. She chewed me out good for that one. But come on! It’s a dead damn moose walking around!

My wife keeps me sane. She keeps the night watch because she says she has better eyes ‘n me. I know she likes to go to sleep watching the sun rise each morning. The real reason is simply that she’s too afraid to sleep at night. I can’t blame her. I have trouble sleeping sometimes, too, knowing that those creatures are out there.

It’s weird we didn’t think about it. It’s Hollywood, I guess. We always think of zombies as being people, you know? And people zombies’d never last out in this cold. But all the deer and wildlife out here have coats that just shed the snow like it was nothing. People farther up north have to deal zombie polar bears. I don’t envy them. Depending on the amount of decay, those sonsabitches can rush you up to 40 clicks. And I’ve only heard rumors about the mosquitoes in the Bayou. They say that’s just one big dead zone. I guess it could be worse, but it definitely could have been better. Ah, but you know what they say. Hindsight’s a bitch.

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Filed under FEATHERTON SESSION, Flash Fiction