Tag Archives: Christmas

Get a Kindle for Christmas? – Free Rebecca Besser Ebooks

christmas-promo-2016

Undead Drive-Thru by Rebecca Besser

Undead Drive-Thru by Rebecca Besser (Undead Series Book 1)

When Kyndra, Colleen, and Jose apply for jobs at a diner that has seen better days and is undergoing renovations, they have no idea what they’re in for.

Aunt-B and John have a horrible secret, and when it’s unleashed on the unsuspecting employees of the diner, things get . . . complicated.

Bloodthirsty and dangerous, a zombie awaits the opportunity to feast on them all. Who will be served first? Can any of them make it out of the Undead Drive-Thru alive?

Undead Regeneration by Rebecca Besser

Undead Regeneration by Rebecca Besser (Undead Series Book 2)

The zombie is gone…finally and truly dead.

John and Ky try to get on with their lives, but they can’t. They are haunted by the past and it’s tearing apart their future.

With no other options, they go undercover where Sam had worked before he came home…undead: ReGen.

They struggle with their circumstances, their fears, and their relationship as they fight to tame their nightmares and create a happy and healthy future together.

Zombies Inside by Rebecca Besser

Zombies Inside by Rebecca Besser

With a short story by guest author Courtney Rene

If zombies are what you crave, open the pages of this book for a wild ride!

The 12 zombie short stories within (equaling over 64,000 words) will make you cringe, delight your imagination, and possibly even warm your heart . . . so the undead can feast upon it!

Be brave and see if you can survive the Zombies Inside!

Heart of a Soldier by Rebecca Besser

Heart of a Soldier by Rebecca Besser

Zyle is being forced to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a military man. He has no desire to do so, even though there’s nothing he can do to stop his grooming to become one.

When a young woman comes to the Jupiter Mining Base for an education in medicine, he finds himself spiraling deeper into his father’s plans for him without realizing what’s happening.

Through helping her and others, he finds out that he really does possess the Heart of a Soldier.

Re-Civilize: Chad by Rebecca Besser

Re-Civilize: Chad (Zpoc Exception Series Book 1) by Rebecca Besser

Chad hates everything about life. He hates his sister for being a brat, his parents for being in denial and pretending life is perfect, and the world he lives in for the adherence to social pressures and norms. He wants it all to go away.

When the zombie apocalypse wipes out the world he’s used to, he’s left alone…and bitten. He’s sure he’ll die and become one of the undead. Instead, he becomes severely sick and recovers…still fully human.

Believing he can’t be the only exception, the only one immune to the zpoc virus, Chad goes out into the world to find others like himself. Once he does, he’s sucked into a plan to re-civilize for the good of all the survivors.

Chad and the other exceptions are expected to protect and provide for the weak and vulnerable survivors. He’s not sure he wants to take on the role expected of him in the new society, but he knows that if he refuses the survivors will die.

The fate of the human race weighs heavily on Chad’s young shoulders and he has to make a decision that he can live with in the new, re-civilized world.

©Rebecca Besser, 2016. All rights reserved.

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Indie Books are the Best Christmas Presents

Indie Books are the Best Christmas Presents

By Rebecca Besser

You’ll see many of us authors offering up our books as great Christmas gifts. And I know when you see us doing it, you’re thinking that you don’t know if the person you’re thinking about giving the book to will like it. So, I thought I’d write this article to help you pick the right book for the reader on your Christmas list!

**

Reason #1 to give an Indie Authors’ book to the reader on your list is that they aren’t likely to already have the book.

Why? Does the book suck? No. Most Indie Authors are either new authors or authors that have been around for a couple years, but aren’t well-known yet. They generally have some really cool, interesting books that aren’t popular to the masses. This means that their writing and books haven’t reached that many hands yet. Usually each Indie Author has a small to medium pool of loyal readers, but they aren’t usually more than a couple hundred to a couple thousand of the millions of people on planet Earth. That’s not for a lack of trying or even because of low quality work, or anything like that. It’s just hard to get people to pay attention to your book that isn’t in a brick-and-mortar book store or on the shelf at the local grab-all store. They are, however, plentiful in online markets like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, etc. You can find a lot of ebooks and paperbacks from marginally well-known Indie Authors at those outlets.

Reason #2 to give an Indie Authors’ book to the reader on your list is that you’ll introduce them to a new author.

I know you’re thinking that new authors can be scary or uncertain. I mean, what if the person you buy the book for doesn’t like it? There are a few ways to kill that uncertainty and make you a great book gift giver.

If you know who the person’s favorite author(s) is, you are in for easy shopping. Find out what genre that author writes and then look for books in the same genre; it’s really easy to do on Amazon. Why Amazon? Because after you’ve found the genre you want (which is fairly easy on that site), you can then use the “Look Inside” feature to read the first couple chapters of the book to check for quality of writing. You can also read through the reviews left by people who have already read the book. (Note: When dealing with a lot of reviews, throw out the best review and the worst review and focus on the middle reviews. This is where you find the most truth. If most reviews are negative, pass on that book. Also note when the book was released. Sometimes newly released books have less reviews because people haven’t finished reading the title yet, so newer books may still be really good, but have less reviews. Then look at the quality of the reviews overall.) Once you’ve narrowed down a couple of titles, check out other books by that author to see if their other books are getting decent reviews. That should give you a good idea of what authors are worth checking into further.

Once you’ve found a couple of authors, check out all their books to see if they have a series, because if you decide to buy something buy that author as a gift, you don’t want to give the book that is in the middle of a series, you’ll want to start with book one. You’ll also want to see if the author has other books that will appeal to the person you have in mind, or a book you didn’t know about that might be liked more than the one(s) you’ve already researched.

Reason #3 to give an Indie Authors’ book to the reader on your list is that the storyline will more than likely be more original than mass market books.

Originality is a big thing with Indie Authors. Sometimes the reason an author is an Indie Author is because they can’t find a mass market press that’s publishing their subject matter. It is often because Indie Authors are trying to create something new in their genre of choice.

Usually this is true. I say usually because there are some writers who don’t have original ideas and just try to copy someone else’s story. Unfortunately, this happens all the time. So all that stuff you went through checking out authors in reason #2 comes in handy.

From reading the first chapter or so of a book with Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature, you should have a decent idea of whether the book is boring and unoriginal. The summary of the book will as well.

General rule, look for subject matter you haven’t seen much of before. Or something you have heard of before that’s looked at in a different way, or expressed from a different angle.

Reason #4 to give an Indie Authors’ book to the reader on your list is because you can often get a signed copy of the book by contacting the author directly.

Unlike mass market authors that don’t have any contact information easily found anywhere, Indie Authors have blogs, Facebook pages, and are easily found on social media or through their website. Often, if you contact them through one of these channels and ask to buy a signed copy of the authors’ work, they’re more than happy to provide that option.

This allows you to get a customized gift for the reader on your shopping list. You can have the book signed to them. Not only did you give them a book, but you gave them something special and personalized! That’s usually a huge thing for presents.

Reason #5 to give an Indie Authors’ book to the reader on your list is that you don’t have to give it to them directly.

That might seem confusing, but let me explain. Say you do all the research I suggested in reason #2 and you find a bunch of books you think the person might like. At that point you might be unsure of what to get and that’s understandable. There are a lot of options and you want to be a great gifter.

So, here’s how you can be a great gifter without actually giving a specific book: make a list of the authors and books you found that you think the reader would like and give them the list with a gift card!

This is a great option for a reader that has an e-reader. Why? Because they can get a few of the books you suggest instead of one. They will more than likely at least look into the Indie Authors you suggested. And, possibly, they could grab a paperback from one of the authors they already like and maybe an ebook from a new-to-them author from the list.

That makes the giving of a gift card personalized and it still gives them options, if you’re unsure.

Reason #6 to give an Indie Authors’ book to the reader on your list is that you’re helping out an author, not feeding the big publisher machine.

If you’re someone who likes to buy from local, privately owned shops, stores, or businesses, that’s what Indie Authors are in the publishing world. Most of the time, Indie Authors are making little to nothing off their work because they aren’t well-known by the masses. That’s right, not all authors are making big money. A lot of them have full-time day jobs, most of them have families, and a few depend on their writing to support those families if they’re lucky enough to make what they need.

What am I saying? You would be making a purchase that matters to a person. The sales Indie Authors get are a big deal. They are truly, deeply appreciated. So, not only are you buying a book that someone you love might enjoy, you’re helping support small business. You’re helping people and families.

**

I hope this article has explained how and why to buy the reader on your Christmas list an Indie Authors’ book, and I hope if that reader enjoys dark fiction (zombies, creatures, horror, thrillers, suspence) that you’ll check me out as one of the authors you’d like to gift to that reader.

You can find me and my titles on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Rebecca-Besser/e/B004V3IIC4/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1480606749&sr=8-1

If you have any questions about my books, please feel free to contact me (I have a few on-hand I can sign):

Rebeccabesser.com

Rebeccabesser.wordpress.com

Twitter & Instagram: @BeccaBesser

Facebook: Author/Editor Rebecca Besser

 

©Rebecca Besser, 2016. All rights reserved.

Halloween = Horror Christmas

For horror authors and fans, Halloween equals Horror Christmas in that there are endless horror giveaways and events! We get to party in the scary world for a little while without people looking at us like we’re crazy.

As a horror author, I try to have sales and giveaways to contribute to the festive horror season. And I want to make sure you don’t miss out on anything I have to offer for Halloween!

Currently, both of my Undead Series Kindle ebooks are on sale, and they will be until the end of October.

undead-series-promo-2016

Undead Drive-Thru on Kindle ($0.99): https://www.amazon.com/Undead-Drive-Thru-Book-1-ebook/dp/B00PKK8INQ/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

Undead Regeneration on Kindle ($1.99): https://www.amazon.com/Undead-Regeneration-Book-2-ebook/dp/B00WYGTNGA/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

I’m taking part in the 13 Days of Hallowen #StrangeAuthors with Limitless Publishing.

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Nurse Blood will be on sale on the 28th, which is the day I’ll be featured in the Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/275200906207115/

Nurse Blood by Rebecca Besser
Nurse Blood for Kindle will be on sale for $0.99 from Oct. 28th-Oct. 31st! Click on cover pic to visit Nurse Blood on Amazon!

I will also be interviewed on the Speculative Fiction Catina on October 28th: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/writestream/2016/10/28/the-speculative-fiction-cantina-with-rebecca-besser-and-sf-edwards

My short story collection, Twisted Pathways of Murder & Death, will be free for Kindle on Oct. 31st & Nov. 1st for #AllHallowsRead: https://www.amazon.com/Twisted-Pathways-Murder-Rebecca-Besser-ebook/dp/B00E1LPQZS/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

Twisted Pathways of Murder & Death by Rebecca Besser

Then, for all of November, I will be on the Winter of Zombie 2016 (#WinterZombie) tour: https://www.facebook.com/events/1628937304088972/

I will be featuring a new zombie release for the tour that is available for preorder for Kindle. Re-Civilize: Chad: https://www.amazon.com/Re-Civilize-Chad-Zpoc-Exception-Book-ebook/dp/B01M0BG8QH/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1476997613&sr=8-1&keywords=re-civilize+rebecca+besser

Re-Civilize: Chad by Rebecca Besser

If you have any questions about what I have going on, let me know!

Happy Halloween (Horror Christmas!), everyone!

 

©Rebecca Besser, 2016. All rights reserved.

Santa Suit by Rebecca Besser – An Evil Christmas Story

Santa stepped out of the electronic toy factory and looked out at the other, surrounding buildings, each a factory that made different types of toys. He breathed deeply of the cold, dry, clean air of the North Pole as he watched elves scurry this way and that, getting ready for Christmas that was three days off. They were in the homestretch, preparing for their biggest day of the year and everyone was working hard.

He smiled as he stepped down off the landing onto the stairs leading to the courtyard. The smile disappeared when he slipped on the ice-coated concrete and his feet went out from under him. He fell hard, smacking his head off the edge of the landing.

***

Cinnamon Sparkle was coming out of the Cocoa House Café with her cart, ready to make her deliveries to each of the factories off the square. She glanced up just as Santa fell and knocked himself unconscious. For a moment, she just stood there with her mouth hanging open, not believing what she’d just witnessed. But the sight of his bright red blood leaking out of the wound on his head and freezing in long thin trails on the stairs as it met the ice convinced her what she was seeing was reality.

She darted back into the Cocoa House Café and screamed, “Get help! Santa’s hurt!”

All activity inside the café halted. Elves that had come to the café on their break, to enjoy some hot, fresh cocoa froze with wide eyes and mugs in midair to stare at her. Servers kept pouring cocoa into mugs, overflowing the dark, hot liquid onto the candy cane stripped circle tables. The workers behind the counter stopped what they were doing, oblivious to the workings of the machines they were using as they whined on.

As if as one being, waking up from a nap, all the motion returned to the café in an instant. And the name on every elf’s lips was “Santa!” in a single cry of concern and anguish.

The flurry of activity continued as everyone charged out of the café’s door, knocking Cinnamon Sparkle out of the way as they went by. The elves streamed through the door and spread out in various directions, some going to help Santa and others going to various locations to get the medical team and more elves to help if they were needed.

All progressive toy making and preparation activity came to a halt. Every elf in the North Pole was now concerned about their leader. Without him, there would be no Christmas.

***

Mrs. Clause sat beside the hospital bed that held her unconscious husband.

“There’s nothing you can do for him?” she asked Dr. Tinsel without looking up from Santa’s slack, expressionless face.

“If there were, I would have done it already,” the doctor replied. “He’s in a coma. He could wake up in an hour or a year.” Dr. Tinsel shrugged. “There’s no way of knowing.”

Mrs. Clause turned her eyes to the doctor; unshed tears clung to her white lashes.

“What about Christmas?”

Dr. Tinsel sighed, opened his mouth to speak, shut it again without uttering a word, and shrugged.

He turned and left the room.

Mrs. Clause looked back at her husband and let her tears flow as she sobbed.

***

Claws clicked and scratched against hard, hot rock as a lowly demon rushed into the throne room of Hell.

“Master, master,” he cried, coming to a halt at the feet of Satan, “I have news for you, master!”

“What do you want, you sniveling wretch?” Satan asked, annoyed with the intrusion of his sanctuary. He was planning out the regiment of torture to be dealt to the most recent souls sentenced to his lowly domain.

“Master, I have news from Earth,” the demon hissed out swiftly, knowing he’d better talk fast to save his own hide. “Santa Clause is injured.”

Satan lifted an eyebrow. “Why should I care about Santa Clause being injured?”

“My master, be kind to your servant and hear me out…” the demon implored and watched for a sign of permission to speak.

Satan sighed and waved his hand, giving the demon the go ahead. He figured the sooner he gushed out his pathetic thoughts, the sooner it would be over and he could get back to his evil business.

“Thank you, thank you,” the demon gushed, and then continued. “My master Satan, you and Santa have the same letters in your name, but in a different arrangement. Would that not give you enough name power to take over his identity?”

“I can only do that if the subject is dead,” Satan said with an air of speaking to someone simpleminded. “The soul must leave the body completely for me to take the possession I would need. I’m much larger than you mere demons and require more space, you know.”

The demon shifted his weight excitedly from foot to foot while wringing his tail in both his claw tips paws nervously.

“But, master, Santa is in a coma!” he squealed. “His soul has left his body for now. It’s the perfect time for you to destroy Christmas like you’ve always wanted.”

Satan stood from his thrown with a roar. “What?!”

Every demon present in the throne room cowered and whimpered. The demon in front of Satan, who had brought the news, threw himself prostrate in front of his master with a fear-filled cry of anguish. His entire body shook with terror.

“Is it true? Is it possible?” Satan asked the room at large. “Someone find out if it’s true and possible! Do I have the name power to take over Santa’s identity?”

A flurry of activity took over Hell as all available demons rushed to do his bidding.

“Rise up, lowly coward,” Satan said to the demon that had brought him the news. “If what you say is true and it’s possible for me to ruin Christmas, you will be promoted to an advisor’s position.”

The demon rose slowly, bowing every few seconds with many thanks uttered from his mouth.

It wasn’t long before the intel that Santa was in a coma was confirmed. However, the name power wasn’t 100% confirmed. The demons could only come up with enough information to confirm that there was a 72% chance of it being enough power, since all the letters were the same, but in a different order. With that percentage, Satan knew he could take over Santa’s identity, but his time allowance would be limited. If Santa started to pull out of the coma, in essence, his soul returning to his body, Satan knew he would slowly be pushed out again.

Satan decided it would give him just enough time to bring terror to the people of Earth for Christmas, and that’s what mattered to him.

Satan gloried in the news and rushed to get his “Santa suit” on, as he jokingly called it.

***

Mrs. Clause sat beside her husband’s bed, holding his hand and talking to him, hoping he would wake up.

She gasped when Santa squeezed her hand.

She looked at his face with a huge grin, overjoyed that there was a sign of life from him. The grin slowly melted away when she saw the malicious, twisted smirk on his normally merry face. His eyes darted all around the room, taking everything in before he lifted his head. His eyes finally settled on her, and while there was a margin of recognition, there was no warmth or love in their depth.

“I’ll get the doctor,” Mrs. Clause said in a hoarse voice, trying free her hand from his without making too much fuss. She was freaked out and she hoped the doctor would say this was all normal and she was overacting. She didn’t feel things were…right with Santa. He wasn’t himself – she was sure of it.

He let her go and sat up slowly. He focused his attention on his hands flipping them over and back, looking down at them while a grin spread across his face.

“Excellent,” he said in a husky, deep voice.

Mrs. Clause had a hard time not fleeing from the room. She was deeply disturbed, but forced herself to walk calmly. Once she was out in the hall, she stopped to catch her breath and compose herself. She didn’t want to seem frantic and scared when she spoke to the doctor. She didn’t want him to think there was now something wrong with her.

With each step toward the nurse’s station, she noticed the grim expressions on the faces of the elves that worked in the North Pole hospital. She took note for the first time how hard it was for them to smile at her when they made eye contact. It struck her how much Santa’s injury had drained the joy and Christmas spirit from all their lives. She just hoped that Santa’s return to consciousness would lift their spirits once more. She hoped the magic of Christmas would be re-sparked. The children of the world were depending on it.

***

“Santa,” Dr. Tinsel said as he entered his patient’s room, “how are you feeling?” He was smiling, excited that Santa had come back to them so quickly. He couldn’t wait for it to be announced that Santa was back and Christmas wasn’t going to be cancelled.

“I feel great,” Satan-Santa answered, grinning at the doctor.

Dr. Tinsel paused and his brow wrinkled as he looked at Santa. Something was off with his voice; he hoped it was just from the time of unconsciousness. It wasn’t that strange for someone in a coma to get a dry throat and have a hard time speaking when they awoke. But that was usually someone who had been in their coma for weeks or years, not a little less than twenty-four hours.

“Wonderful,” Dr. Tinsel said, extracting Santa’s chart from the foot of his bed. “A nurse is going to come in and check your vitals, and if everything is okay, I’m going to release you from the hospital.”
“In time for Christmas?”

“Yes, Santa,” Dr. Tinsel said, feeling relieved to see a glimpse of the Santa he knew; his face lit up when he mentioned Christmas. “You’ll be released before Christmas if everything on your tests looks all right. We wouldn’t want to disappoint the children, would we?”

Satan-Santa laughed. “No. We wouldn’t want to disappoint the children.”

The hairs on the back of Dr. Tinsel’s neck stood on end at the sound of Santa’s laugh. It wasn’t right. It wasn’t a merry, jolly sound, but evil and sinister.

He glanced over his shoulder and spied Mrs. Clause standing just outside the doorway, frowning. He could tell from her expression that she was noticing the differences too. When she glanced at him, he smiled. He planned to explain that a head injury could cause some temporary changes and they just needed to exercise patience until everything was healed and back to normal.

***

Satan-Santa stood at the window to Santa’s office with the fingers of both hands entwined behind his back. He was grinning as he watched the elves scurry this way and that, trying to meet the new demands he’d placed on them for the Christmas deadline. He couldn’t believe how much power he had over the entire work force. At that very moment, he was waiting for elves to bring him the naughty and nice list. He was going to completely reverse it all so the naughty children would get the presents they wanted and the nice children wouldn’t.

He turned at a brief knock at the door to watch ten elves bring in box after box of papers containing the naughty and nice list.

“Is this all of it?” he asked.

His assistant, the head elf, Hazelnut frowned and shook his head.

“No, Santa, this is just for the children whose last names start with the letter A.”

“Ah, yes,” Satan-Santa said, “I’d forgotten. My head injury… Things come and go for me, but it gets better all the time.”

Hazelnut smiled sympathetically and ushered the other elves out of the room.

“We’ll leave you to it. Let us know when you’re ready for the letter B section of the list.”

Satan-Santa nodded and they all left him alone with the list. In minutes he had it done, using his evil powers to make the changes quickly and easily.

He sent for the B section, then the C section, and so on and so forth until he had the entire list redone. He knew the delivery mix ups alone would cause chaos for the emotions of the children that believed in Santa, and that pleased him. He planned to go well beyond just the list though, to spread his evil on Earth, and he needed to hurry before Santa’s soul found its way back to his body.

While in the coma, Santa’s soul was essentially a balloon filled with helium, still connected by a thin string to his body. When all the helium made its way through the rubber as it aged, he would slowly sink back into his mortal self and Satan would be kicked out of the “Santa Suit” he was now wearing.

***

Christmas Eve dawned bright and cold at the North Pole. The elves were in a near panic finishing up their work in a surge of unbridled excitement. They’d even finished making the strange scary-looking dolls Santa had ordered them to make at the last minute. They didn’t like them, but they’d made them, figuring Santa knew what he was doing. He was their leader and had never steered them wrong before; they trusted him blindly even though he seemed a little…off.

Everything was prepared, just as it always was, right on time.

All the elves gathered in the square to see Santa off; they lived and worked their entire lives for Christmas and didn’t want to miss a single moment of the joy and excitement.

***

As Satan-Santa stood in the sleigh, waving at all the cheering elves, he couldn’t believe how easy it all was. He was positive that elves were the stupidest beings on Earth. He was going to enjoy every second of ruining Christmas. He was overjoyed that he would have access to countless innocent children to do what he wished with them. Never before had he had such broad access to human children all at one time. He was drunk with the power, and that drunken state came across as overwhelming joy and happiness to the elves. They thought it was Christmas spirit and that’s what he wanted them to think.

In minutes he was off, calling out the names of each reindeer in turn as he knew he was supposed to. He’d learned all of their names just for that purpose – he had to keep up his ruse.

As the sleigh took to the air and all the elves cheered, Satan noticed that his vision became blurry for a moment and he felt a mild weight settling over him. In that instance, he knew Santa’s soul was beginning its journey back to his body.

“Just wait a little longer, you fat jolly bastard,” Satan mumbled. “I have terror to unleash!”

He sailed through the sky, off to visit the houses where children slept, waiting for someone kind, loving, and full of Christmas Magic to bring them what they were hoping for.

The first house he stopped at was that of a naughty child. He left five presents for the child, since there was a surplus of toys from the original naughty and nice list – there had been more nice than naughty children then. That made it possible for him to be overly generous after he changed the list around.

The next house he came to, there were two nice children. For each, he left one of the strange dolls he’d had the elves make, after chanting a short incantation over them. As he turned his back to leave, their eyes started to glow red and their little arms and legs began to twitch. He knew that by the time he was off to the next house, two demons would inhabit his version of voodoo dolls and would torture the children and kill the adults in the house. Once their deed was done, the demons would be welcomed back into Hell, birthed to a new rank and position in his kingdom for their faithful service.

As the sleigh glided from the house’s roof, Satan-Santa heard the bloodcurdling screams coming from within. In his mind’s eye, he imagined the walls of the children’s room being painted red with their parents’ blood when they came to check on their screaming children. The children would be left alive, because their young innocence would deny him their souls. But the adults – most of them – would become his in Hell. And when the children grew up orphans, they would carry pain and sorrow in their hearts. One day, their souls would belong to him too, since most would fester in that pain for the longevity of their lives.

Satan-Santa went from house to house, repeating his gifts for the naughty children and the nice children. Each house he stopped at, he felt more and more pressure settling over him. Until, halfway through the night, he could barely breathe. He knew his time in Santa’s body was over, so he landed the sleigh in the middle of a city, spoke his incantation over all the remaining dolls, and left Santa’s body.

***

It took a little over an hour for Santa’s soul to return to his body completely. When he became aware of the world around him it was to the sounds of people screaming in pain and children calling out and crying with fear and loss. He didn’t know what was going on, but he knew he was in his sleigh, in the middle of it all.

He wasn’t sure if he should take off or stay where he was, but when thousands of little blood-soaked dolls with glowing red eyes surrounded the sleigh, he knew he had to leave; the reindeer kicking the evil dolls out of the way as they took to the air. He knew Christmas had to continue, that he had to move on. He didn’t know why he didn’t remember the last few days or how he’d gotten to where he was, but he didn’t have the time to dwell on it.

As the sleigh crested the rooftops, he was surrounded by war planes from the local military. While Santa was trying to figure out what was going on, below and in the air, missiles were deployed in his direction.

Santa had time to breathe the word “no” just before the missiles hit and the reindeer were blown to bits in the center of a fireball. Just as he realized what had happened, he was consumed as well.

***

Satan watched from Hell as Christmas was ruined forever. He hadn’t reached as many homes as he’d set out to, but the loss of Santa was more than he could have hoped for. He hadn’t counted on the households without children calling the police and the police calling the Air Force to take care of Terrorist Santa.

He wouldn’t make it to the rest of the houses, and that would let down the children that still believed. The news reports about the night would have ruined his reputation, but with no Santa at all, Christmas would have no hope except for Christ. But he’d fooled the majority of Earth’s population into not believing in Him long ago. Now Christmas had nothing left.

All the demons of Hell celebrated their master’s success.

©Rebecca Besser, 2014. All rights reserved.

Interview with Author Gregory L. Norris

Author Gregory L. Norris
Author Gregory L. Norris

Bec: Welcome to my blog once again, Greg! Please start out by telling everyone about you –

Greg: Greetings, Ms. Besser – it is always such a treat to be featured on your square of virtual real estate.  My name is Gregory L. Norris and I am responding to you and the world from one of the platinum sofas in my living room, in an old New Englander house in the mountains of New Hampshire’s North Country.  The house is called Xanadu, and it’s my favorite place on the planet.  Here, I write stories short and long, in a variety of genres.  I’ve been published – and produced a few times for TV and film – since I started sending my work out into the universe.  Writing I’ve often said is the heart that beats within my heart.  As we speak, writer pals from my local group are on their way over for a write-in.  It’s still National Novel Writing Month as of this interview, and I am deep into a fantasy novel called KINGDOMS BE DAMNED that has transported me far into the past, to Iliyand, one of the four kingdoms descended from a lost grandfather kingdom called Jiddoe.  I’m part Lebanese; Jiddoe, not coincidentally, is Lebanese for ‘Grandfather.’  I never knew my Jiddo on my father’s side of the family, but my Sitoo – my Lebanese grandmother, her name was Lovey – was one of the coolest, smartest people I’ve ever met.  She wrote poetry as a young girl, and I have every one of her original manuscripts safely archived in my home office here.

 

Bec: What is your most recent release(s)?

Greg: My soon-to-be-released latest is TALES FROM THE ROBOT GRAVEYARD.  It’s a collection of three novellas that is due out from the fine folks at Great Old Ones Publishing (www.greatoldonespublishing.com).  Each of the novellas concerns a facet of humanity’s relationship to the robots we’ve made in our image.  The first, “Ghosts and Robots,” has at its heart the theme of family.  The second, “Robot Kind,” explores religion.  The final, “The Long Frost,” touches upon mortality and even sexuality/reproduction and survival.  There’s a nifty bit of bling attached to TALES: it features an inaugural poem by my good friend, the widely-published poet Esther M. Leiper-Estabrooks, a cover by Eric Chu, the conceptual artist on the recent Battlestar Galactica that ran on the SyFy Channel, and a blurb by Amy Howard Wilson, who was the voice of “Nova” on the brilliant Japanese import from 1979, Star Blazers – that series helped define my world as a writer when I was young and struggling to discover my place on Spaceship Earth.  I also think robots are ridiculously cool.  Always have!

 

Bec: Tell us your favorite part of your most recent release –

Greg: There’s a scene in the opening of “Ghosts and Robots” that talks about the longest day in history, the last day as well as a coordinated attack by the mechanical men we’ve created ends the world that was and starts the world that will be.  I had the scene visualized – in the old Underdog cartoon from my childhood, there’s a memorable episode I love where giant robots with glowing light bulb heads storm into a city.  My version is considerably more visceral, as humans across the globe resort to huge sacrifices to win the war.  But during an afternoon when a TV crew was visiting Xanadu to do a segment on my career, the show’s host asked me to free-write on the spot.  I wrote that scene under the glare of the spotlight, and absolutely loved the results.  It kicks off the first novella in the collection.

 

Bec: How do you plan to spend Christmas this year?

Greg: We host a Christmas party for our writers’ group friends every year.  We have three big all day salons a year – May, September, and December.  In September, all of the partygoers were invited to select a prompt from a box.  All of the prompts were different.  Those prompts are the theme for the reading portion of the party.  I got “You’re digging in the garden when you find…” – my story, “Legerdemain in the Valley of Flowers,” is partly complete and I should have a first draft in time for the party.  We always do a huge buffet spread, and our Christmas tree covered in German glass bulbs and family heirloom decorations will be up for the Yankee swap.  At last year’s swap, I briefly held onto a year’s subscription to Poets & Writers Magazine.  This year, Santa already bought me a subscription, so no fear on having somebody else swap me on that count!  As far as Christmas itself, we host an open house on Thanksgiving with a huge dinner and homemade desserts, and last year a new tradition of spending New Year’s Eve at a fellow writer’s house with a sit down dinner and readings was born.  For Christmas, my husband and I enjoy a big dinner of prime rib and watch movies with our rescue cats.  And, of course, I write.

 

Bec: What is your favorite holiday food, and why?

Greg: That aforementioned prime rib!  It’s luscious and decadent.  Up here where we now live, there aren’t many choices for where one shops.  But we have a fantastic local butcher who provided the most amazing prime rib ever for our writers’ group’s September retreat, which was to a house set beside roaring waterfalls.  A second favorite are candy canes.  A few years ago, I snagged a couple of candy canes following the Christmas party and found myself enjoying them while I was working on finishing up various stories and a novel.  At this time of year, they just add that extra bit of joy when you’re writing!

 

Bec: If you could have one wish granted to you this Christmas, what would it be and why?

Greg: To be able to enjoy time with my other grandmother, who will turn 98 in 2015!  My Grammy Rachel once wrote for the magazine Highlights For Children and was mentioned in The Writer’s Yearbook for her literary excellence.  I used to visit her regularly, but since moving there’s a long distance between front doors – however, I’m heading south in just a few days for a visit!

 

Bec: If someone was going to buy you a book (or ten) what titles would you like to receive?

Greg: Well, I’m a huge fan of so many of my fellow contemporaries.  I just got a copy of David Greske’s Dark Tales For Darkest Nights – which is as disturbing as it is fantastic.  I read a little bit of everything, from copies of The New Yorker that my library puts in the ‘please adopt’ box at the front door to Harlequin romance novels to free reads online.  The first week of NaNoWriMo, I devoured one of the skinny Stephen King paperbacks from when he serialized The Green Mile way.  Last year at this time I ate up your novel, Nurse Blood, which was uncommonly good.  So I guess to answer your question, anything and everything!

 

Bec: If I were a Christmas fairy, do you think I would be a good or evil fairy?

Greg: I think your identity would depend upon the time of day, and whether the moon was full!

 

Bec: What is your most magical memory of Christmas from your childhood?

Greg: My Grammy Rachel always had numerous Christmas trees in her home, a magical house on Foster’s Pond in Massachusetts that no longer exists.  There was a tiny fake tree in her kitchen, another on a credenza, a small live tree, and then a huge live tree in the living room, covered in lights.  I always thought that was such a neat celebration, spread out over various rooms.  One year when I was young, she handcrafted a stuffed lion for me.  She’d started work on a stuffed dog but claimed she messed up the pattern, and wrapped him up for me anyway.  Those two stuffed animals are still with me, sitting with the other teddy bears from my boyhood in my wonderful office, constant companions over these many years.

 

Bec: Is there anything I haven’t asked you about that you would like to share?

Greg: Not really, you’re such a fantastic interviewer – and always such a treat to be interviewed by.  I will say this.  When we first moved here, I briefly attended another writers’ group.  Well, referring to that group as being for writers is a generous nod.  Mostly, people sat around and behaved cattily and waited for the business portion to be over so they could wolf down pastry.  Writing didn’t have much priority there.  One of the people in that group apparently didn’t take kindly to my presence and told people it was because she found me ugly.  To my husband and my Muse, I’m a centerfold.  Just saying.  I guess the point of mentioning any of this is that I love being a writer.  I love the writing.  Even at its ugliest, the writing is still beautiful.

 

Bec: Thank you for sharing a little bit about you and your book(s). Have a great Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year!

Find out how to stalk Gregory Norris:

www.gregorylnorris.blogspot.com

www.greatoldonespublishing.com

 

Read my review for Gregory L. Norris’ book: The Fierce and Unforgiving Muse!

 

©Rebecca Besser & Gregory L. Norris, 2014. All rights reserved.

Zombie Christmas Story – High Price for Hope by Rebecca Besser

Jerrold Brown sat by the small fire burning in a fifty-five-gallon barrel that had been cut in half. He watched his wife across the room, tucking in their son and daughter. Sighing deeply, he looked into the fire, thinking about Christmas. It was hard to believe it had been a year since the zombies had arrived. It was the worst Christmas Eve he’d ever experienced. He still remembered tucking the kids in that night–trying to get them to fall asleep so Santa would come. But he’d never arrived, just the rotting corpses of the animated dead.
With another sigh, Jerrold rubbed his face with both hands. His wife, Dawn, drew the blanket curtain they used to partition off the kids sleep area closed, and joined him by the fire.
“What’re you thinking about?” she asked quietly, her voice barely above a whisper.
“I’m thinking Christmas will be here in a couple of days,” he mumbled.
“And?”
“I think it’s sad that we don’t have any presents for the kids. Last year they didn’t get to open the presents we bought for them–we were too busy fighting for our lives. After a year of being sequestered in this basement we have lost all sense of hope.”
“What are you getting at?” Dawn asked, a suspicious look on her face.
Jerrold dragged his hairs through his hair, closed his eyes, and bowed his head. He knew she wouldn’t like what he was going to say next.
“I’m going to go out and get the kids presents. They deserve to have a decent Christmas, no matter what the condition of the world.”
He heard her gasp, but didn’t look up, just rushed on.
“We need food, too. I should have gone a week ago. You know it as well as I do. I might as well see if I can find some presents while I’m out there. Who knows, maybe all the zombies are gone, moved on to somewhere else in search of people to eat.”
Jerrold looked up at his wife, dreading what he might see in her expression. Tears were sliding down her sallow cheeks. It hit him again just how much they’d suffered–how much they’d had to go without. Clenching his jaw, he decided, be damned all danger, he was going to make this Christmas special for all of them, no matter what she said.
Dawn’s eyes were trained on the fire. The shifting light from the tongues of flame licking at the wood that feed it sent shadows dance over her features. She was upset. He could see that from the tightness of her jaw.
“Sweetie,” he said, caressing her wet cheek. “I have to do something. I can’t bear them not having some joy in their lives. What kind of existence is that for a child?”
Closing her eyes, she pressed her face into his hand and took a shuddering breath. “It’s too dangerous. I don’t want to lose you.”
“You won’t lose me,” he said, taking her into his arms and kissing the top of her head. “I’ll be careful. I promise.”
“I can’t bear even the thought of losing you,” she whispered and wrapped her arms tightly around him. “It’s not worth the risk. I don’t want you to go. Stay for me. Please.”
Jerrold took a deep breath and rubbed her back, tears coming to his own eyes at her pleading. He eyes fell on a stick that was jutting out from beneath the curtain to the kids sleeping area. It was crudely carved to resemble a human. He remembered making them for the kids for their birthdays. Their eyes had lit up and it was the only time he remembered seeing genuine smiles on their faces since they’d been down here.
Squeezing Dawn tight, he whispers, “I have to do it–for the kids. They should have sometime to play with, something to enjoy. All they play with are those damn sticks, or what they can draw on the cement floor with charred pieces of wood from the fire. They should have more. They deserve more. What kind of childhood are we giving them?”
She pulled back and looked him in the face defiantly.
“We are giving them the best childhood we can under the circumstances,” she hissed. “It’s not like we have a choice. We are doing the best we can with what we have. Those damn zombies took everything from us, but we have our lives and we have each other. That should be enough.”
“Believe me,” he said. “I am grateful that we are all alive and together, and I’ll never be able to express how glad I was that we found somewhere that had a good supply of food and water to stay, but it’s Christmas. I really need you to understand and support me in this, I need to do this, for all of us.”
Dawn clutched at the front of Jerrold’s threadbare shirt, kneading it in her almost skeletal hands. Tears ran freely down her face and dropped on her shirt, also threadbare and almost sheer in its overuse. Choking back a sob, she buried her face in his neck and whimpered. She took a couple of minutes to get herself under control before she spoke in a pained whisper.
“When will you go?”
Wrapping his arms around her and rocking her gently, he mumbled into her hair, “In the morning. It’ll be Christmas Eve. I’ll arrive back just in time to put the presents under the tree, just like Santa.”
He laughed at the irony of the thought, as he too choked back sobs.
She nodded against his chest and clutched at him, not wanting to let go, not wanting to think about what the morning would bring, when her husband would leave their den of safety and venture out into the world that held who knew what.
They sat by the fire, crying and holding each other for hours before they added a couple more pieces of wood to the fire and went to bed. Even though they’d been careful about sex, using condoms to make sure that Dawn wouldn’t get pregnant–which they’d run out of a couple of weeks ago–they made love that night, throwing caution to the wind. The action was full of desperation. They spoke to each other with their bodies, conveying their love and their need to be with each other, hoping that the bond they created would be stronger than the separation they would face in the morning, stronger than the fear of never seeing each other again.

*   *   *

The next morning Jerrold was up and dressed before the kids awoke. He kissed them gently on their foreheads, brushed back their hair and said a quick prayer for them. Behind him, he heard the sound of Dawn’s bare feet padding softly across the cement floor. She paused at the curtain and sighed heavily. He could feel the tension radiating from her. Turning, he stepped up to her and wrap his arms around her, burring his face in her hair.
“I’ll be careful,” he whispered. “I promise I’ll come back.”
With a quivering breath, she nodded and pressed her face into the side of his neck. “I love you.”
“I love you, too,” he said, pulling back and kissing her.
Wrapping her arms tightly around his neck, she stood up on her tip toes and put her soul into the kiss, making it clear to him one last time how much he truly meant to her.
Breaking away reluctantly, Jerrold picked up his 30/30 rifle and his bag, and headed for the door.
“Make sure you put these back up as soon as I’m through the door,” he said, taking down heavily pieces of lead pipe and angle iron they had at different levels of the door. “I’ll padlock the door at the top of the steps from the outside, instead of the inside. Do you remember the knock I’ll use when I come back, so that you know it’s me?”
Dawn nodded, but he was facing the door and didn’t see her.
Turning, he looked at her. “Do you remember?”
“Yes,” she said. “Three fast, two slow, three fast.”
He smiled and nodded, stepped back over to where she stood, and kissed her one last time. Looking deep into her eyes, he said, “I’ll be back tonight.”
She smiled weakly, nodded, and closed the door behind him as he picked up his rifle and bag again, and stepped through.

*   *   *

Jerrold stood in the shadows of the apartment building basement, waiting to hear the scraping of metal as Dawn replaced the bars on the boiler room door. They’d been lucky to find such a place to stay. They had heat, and had been draining the water out of the building’s pipes for months. He’d also feed them on what the building had to offer. Each apartment had provided canned goods and everything else they had needed. The zombies had left the building after the people who lived there had died or been turned into one of the walking dead. Now their supplies were getting low, which after a year, they couldn’t complain. But this time he would have to venture beyond the safety zone and into the unknown.
Satisfied after he heard the last bar being placed across the door, ignoring the sobs he could hear from his wife, he mounted the steps to their second defense–a padlocked metal door that lead into the main lobby of the building. Withdrawing a small, sliver key from his bag, Jerrold quickly and quietly unlocked it. Taking a deep breath, he pulled the door open slowly. The hinges screeched loudly and Jerrold froze for a moment. Deciding it would be better just to get it over with, knowing the sound would have already alerted anything in the area to his presence, he jerked the door the rest of the way open and jumped through. Whipping his rifle around from where it hung on his back with a shoulder strap, he held it at ready and spun in a semi circle to check the room around him. Seconds passed and all that could be heard was his panting breath. No danger presented itself.
Turning back to the door, he quickly shut it and attached the lock to the latch he’d installed when he’d gone on his first ‘raiding’ trip. They kept it locked from the inside when they were all at ‘home’, and when he went out, he locked it from the outside.
Surveying the room again, Jerrold noticed that the only thing that had changed since the last time he’d been here, was that more plants were growing through the openings of the vacant windows, which had been shattered long ago.
It was still dark, the sun was just beginning to rise, casting a light yellow glow to the backdrop and in between the buildings he could just make out beyond the vines. Stepping carefully, holding his rifle in front of him, ready to pull it up at any moment, he advanced to the busted out glass door that had once been a grand entrance. Pushing aside the greenery, he stepped out into the world, breathing deeply of the fresh morning air, something that seemed almost foreign to him since they’d sought haven below. The sweetness and crispness of it almost made him cry, and at the same time, overwhelmed him with joy.
A bird flitted past and called to its mate, which soon joined it in a tree that had once neatly graced the sidewalk of the city, but was now growing wildly. Old Christmas lights hung from the branches, providing a ladder for the vines to climb–the tiny, twinkle light bulbs looked like alien berries waiting to be picked.
With a grin on his face, Jerrold shivered as a strong wind blew, cutting through his worn out clothes. He’d forgotten how cold it was outside when fall gave way to winter.
“First things first,” he said to himself, heading down the street to where he knew a man’s clothing store used to operate, knowing he needed a coat, gloves, and a hat if he was going to stay warm long enough to hunt for gifts and food.
The sound of his voice startled a black squirrel who’d been searching through the weeds for the last of the nuts from a small walnut tree. It chattered at him angrily as it ducked inside a faded blue BMW that was parked at the curb.
Bending down slightly, Jerrold could see that it had made itself a nice little nest in the interior, where it had dug into a rip in the seat and was not living lavishly in leather and insulation.
Chuckling and shaking his head at the absurdity, yet genius, of the upside down world that they now lived in, he continued on in search of warm clothes.
Soon he reached the store he was looking for. But, to his chagrin, he noticed that all the showcase windows of the front of the store were intact. Smeared on the inside was a dark-brown substance that he knew was dried blood, which meant someone or something could still be inside.
Jerrold stood there for a moment, indecision warring in his mind of the possible dangers of breaking the glass and alerting any zombies that might be lurking somewhere, and the possible danger of going in period when something could still be in there. A strong gust of wind easily penetrated his clothes and bit into his skin with tiny, pin like teeth, made the choice for him. He had to have something more to wear, and if he didn’t go it there, he could waste hours searching for the right items, and then hope they would fit him.
Looking up and down the street, seeing no movement, he lifted the butt of his rifle and broke one of the windows. Glass hit the pavement with a tinkling of accusation, as if angry for having been broken and disturbed after so long a silence.
Jerrold held his gun at ready and waited for a ghoul to jump out at him. He’d had it happen plenty of times before and had always come away the victor. Nothing happened. No one and nothing came from the new opening. Glancing up and down the street again, not seeing any movement, he started knocking away the jagged remains of the glass so he could get through. His hands were so numb from the cold he didn’t feel when a small sliver penetrated his palm, breaking the skin and letting out a small trickle of blood.
Entering the store, he hurriedly located what he needed. He found himself a new pair of jeans, a shirt, underwear, socks, boots, a coat, gloves, and a hat, piling them in the center of the store, where he could see all around him. Quickly he shed his worn out clothes, donned his new apparel, and took out his old hunting knife, adding it to his new outfit in case he did meet a zombie. Leaving his old clothes laying on the ground where he’d taken them off, he grabbed some more clothes and shoved them into a shopping bag he found behind the counter. Knowing that he couldn’t carry them around all day because he would be collecting more items he decided to jog them back down the block and leave the bag outside the door to the basement sanctuary.
While Jerrold had been searching through the racks of clothing, the small sliver of glass had come free from his hand, but he still hadn’t noticed. Unknowingly he began a blood trail, starting with the glass, to the racks, to the clothes he left lay, and the counter where he’d gotten the bag. The gloves he’d chosen were thick, and they absorbed the red liquid, only to start dripping around the cuff after he’d left the bag at the basement door. He didn’t think anything of it, as now his hands were warm and his palms were sweating.
Jerrold decided that clothing and food should be top priority for this trip, even though he wouldn’t return without presents. He just knew that finding appropriate gifts would take longer, and if he got his ‘duty’ done first, then he would have more time to ‘shop.’
Turning to the right this time when he left the building, he went to a department store he knew would have clothes for his entire family. There were plenty of shopping carts sitting around, so he used one to procure clothing for his family. Having not seen any zombies for a while, he started to let his guard down. He assumed they’d moved on to where they thought people might be more numerous.
Christmas decorations and fake snow were on all of the displays, some still standing and some destroyed. Strings of lights dangled drunkenly from cash registers, and Santas that had been placed close to the windows had faded from red to pink, where the sun had bleached them through the summer months. Seeing these relics reminded him of last year–of what a disaster Christmas had been.
After getting all the clothes the cart could hold, he paused to think of anything else they might need. Batteries came to mind. He searched around the counters where he remembered having seen batteries when he’d shopped there long ago, but there were none. The empty racks stared back at him menacingly, as if mocking his stupidity for thinking he’d find something there.
All the snacks and candy bars were gone as well. There was nothing of use or value.
Pushing the overloaded cart out of the store was harder than he’d first thought it would be. There was so much stuff knocked over and in the way, the wheels kept getting stuck and he had to continually clear a path. It was at one of those times, while he was bent over pulling an inflatable snowman, that had deflated long ago, from beneath the wheels that a noise from behind him alerted him that he was not alone.
Slowly he stood erect, sliding his rifle strap off his shoulder he prepared to fire. Spinning suddenly, he brought the butt of the 30/30 tight into his shoulder, and looked down the sights with the ease that only comes from practice.
Standing no more than ten feet from him was an old woman and a young boy, but they were no longer human. The wasting of their flesh released a stench that he should have noticed and probably would have if he hadn’t been constantly moving. But the fact of the matter was, he was accustom to the smell of death, he’d been living with it for a year now, and it wasn’t something he noticed anymore.
They stared at him, the little boy holding the old woman’s hand like they still thought they were living and he was going on a shopping trip with grandma.
The stand off ended when the old lady hissed and her dentures fell from her gapping, rotted mouth. Her cheek split and her bottom jaw slid from its sockets to dangle below her face by loose, flapping skin.
She darted forward at Jerrold, as if it was his fault she was falling apart. Not seeming to realize that she was still holding the boys hand, she ripped his decaying arm off as she came for Jerrold, the only fresh meat she’d seen in months. It didn’t matter that she didn’t have any teeth, or that she could no longer bite, she attacked him anyway.
Not wanting to draw unneeded attention, Jerrold quickly side stepped the woman, and grabbed the long knife that was strapped to his thigh. As he spun, he brought the blade down into the back of the old woman’s head, penetrating her skull with a sickening squish. She was so rotten that she was literally falling apart.
Amazed at how easy it had been to kill her, for a moment Jerrold just stood there marveling at the corpse, and didn’t pay any attention to the boy.
Suddenly, a shriek sounded–it was high pitched and angry. Turning toward the sound, Jerrold saw the boy had climbed up onto an empty rack and was about to propel himself at the him.
Jumping back and losing his balance when he slipped in the black blood that had oozed out of the old woman, he landed hard on the marble tiled floor, the knife fell from his grasp and slid a few feet away. For a few moments he couldn’t move, the breath had been knocked out of his body, and he’d jarred his back.
In those precious moments, the boy took advantage of the situation. Hissing and clawing, he scrabbled across the floor on all fours. He was a wild beast and he smelled blood.
No sooner had Jerrold got his breath back, than he saw the small body pounce into the air above him. He frantically searched around himself for his knife. With the boy in the air, merely two feet from landing on him, Jerrold gripped something and brought it up at an angle in an attempt to knock the boy sideways. He succeeded, hitting him directly in the head.
The boy fell to the side with a whimper and didn’t get up. Jerrold looked over at the boy, slowly sitting up, forcing his back to stretch. He’d picked up a large plastic candy cane, and had, by a miracle, stabbed the boy in the temple with it, killing him.
Sadness gripped his heart. He was here to get things that his family needed to survive. He knew that the boy had been a zombie and there was nothing he could have done to save or help him, but he still felt bad about ending his existence.
It took Jerrold precious minutes to get his back to stretch enough to allow him to stand. After that, he hobbled his way out of the store. By the time he was half way home with the cart, his back was almost back to normal, with only a few spasms every now and again. Pushing forward and through the pain, he made it back and dropped off the cart, leaving it beside the bag he’d brought back earlier.
Now that he’d seen a couple of zombies, his guard was back up. Slipping off his glove, he wrapped his hand around the padlock, giving it a swift tug. Looking back over his shoulder when he heard a rustle in the rubble, he slid his hand back into his glove. Not seeing the blood he had smeared all over the padlock. Holding the rifle in front of him like a combat soldier creating a perimeter, Jerrold snuck over to where he’d heard the noise. A rat jumped up from a hole and scurried away. Startled by the sudden appearance of the rodent, he almost pulled the trigger.
With a deep sigh, Jerrold bent over and closed his eyes for a moment, still thinking about the boy he’d just killed. Mentally shaking off the thought, he reminded himself why he was out here, and left the building once again, this time going straight across the street, heading into a residential area, where he had the best chance of finding food and presents.
The first house he entered was small, and it looked like it had been the home of a young couple with a small children. Baby toys were strewn about the decaying, dirty carpet. They looked as if a small animal had decided to play with them. Having gotten brittle over time, the soft plastic and plush toys now sported holes and teeth marks.
Quickly doing a check to make sure there was nothing moving around upstairs–where he found a crib and a toddler bed in one of the rooms–he ventured back downstairs. Sitting under the Christmas tree were many presents. Jerrold knew his children would be too old for the toys, but he knew he could use the bright red wagon to haul food and gifts. Digging it out from beneath the packages, he was about to leave, but then thought he better check a couple of the woman’s presents to see if there would be anything Dawn would like.
Knelling down, he tore open a small, somewhat flat, rectangle box. The paper came off easily as the weather had broken it down. He discovered that it was a new cell phone. With an ironic smirk he tossed it aside–the once vital piece of technology no longer having a purpose. He dug through more of the pile and opened a few more packages, finding CDs, DVDs, and all kinds of other things that needed batteries or electricity to function. He was about to give up when he came across a small box far back under the tree. It held a dainty opal ring. He slid it into his coat pocket, knowing that Dawn would love it. Deciding to open one more thing and then check the kitchen, he found a collection of children’s books. They were too young for his children, but they hadn’t had much experience in reading and he knew that it they could use them to practice. He hoped he would find more age appropriate books at another house. It would be great for what little schooling and teaching they tried to provide.
A quick check of the kitchen cabinets yielded a couple of cans of soup and vegetables, bu not as much as he’d been hoping for. A door standing in the far wall of the kitchen was slightly ajar, and Jerrold decided to check it out, and was glad he did. It was a pantry, and all kinds of canned goods and dry goods where stored on the shelves.
Feeling like a kid at Christmas time, the thought of which made him laugh, he pulled the wagon close to the door and started to fill it.
He wasn’t paying much attention to what he was grabbing and when something warm and furry slithered against his hand, he screamed and dropped it. He looked down at a box of corn flakes that had a hole chewed through the side. The light tan flakes inside moved and wiggled. He knelt down and gently brushed the cereal aside to see a rat’s nest.
Standing, he kicked it off to the side and was more careful while loading the wagon. Once it was full to the point of over flowing, he set out for another house. Pulling the wagon with the hand that was injured caused it to bleed more profusely. Blood ran down the handle and dripped on the ground, but Jerrold didn’t notice, he was still on a high from finding so much food in one place. Now all he had to do was find a few more gifts and he could go home. He had plenty of time before the sunset.
The next house he entered smelled like muscle cream, even after the time it had sat vacant and open to the elements. He knew that an older couple had lived there, it was a smell that no other dwelling would have possessed. It reminded him of his own parents, and what it had been like to visit them. He didn’t look through the presents, but he did take the time to look through the medicine cabinet, taking anything that he thought might be useful.
Two houses later, he hit pay dirt. Quickly securing the house had shown him that a boy and a girl had lived here–there was a room for each. He took some of the decorations from each room for his children, so they could decorate their sleeping area. But he was mostly happy with the books he found on their shelves. After carrying them downstairs and putting them in the wagon, he knew he would have to find something to make sides for it. If he hit one bump on the way home he would lose everything.
With a little bit of thought and some quick innovation, he fashioned sides for the wagon out of shelves from a book case. He held them on and together with a roll of duct tape he’d found in a small tool box underneath the kitchen sink.
The family had purchased a live tree, which was now dry and bare of all needles. They lay on the floor of the room in a carpet of brown strands. Pushing them aside Jerrold dug through the presents and was disgusted when he had to throw more than half of the items aside. Electronics. They were so worthless now.
Finding a couple more books, he added them to the wagon, along with the other gifts he thought his children would enjoy. He left the house, focusing his attention on the wagon as he maneuvered it down the front steps. When he turned around to look forward, he noticed there were five zombies stumbling down the sidewalk toward him from the way he’d come.
Frowning, he wondered where they’d come from. Lifting his rifle, he shot the first zombies in the head. The bullet pulverized its rotting brain and still had enough power to hit the third one back in the neck, taking out enough tissues for its head to fall off–both fell to the ground at once.
The second, fourth, and fifth in the stumbling line up kept coming, ignoring their downed comrades lying in their path.
Jerrold clenched his jaw, hating to fire once, but hating even more to fire again, knowing now that there were still zombies around and they would come searching for the source of the sound. He wouldn’t be able to search for anything else, he would have to hurry home after this or risk serious danger.
Jerking the lever action of the rifle, releasing the spent casing and chambering another bullet, he took aim again. Hoping to do intentionally what he’d done by accident with the last shot, but it wasn’t to be.
After three more shots and a stab with his hunting knife, the zombies were all down. Hurriedly, he jogged in a round about way back to his home. It took him a half an hour, with all the curbs and debris he had to navigate through.
The sun was beginning to set now, as the apartment building came into view. He breathed a sigh of relief and increased his pace even though he was exhausted. The thought of seeing his wife, of holding her and the kids, gave him the strength he needed to make it back.
Fatigue made him lazy, and he didn’t even take the time to peer into the lobby before rushing in with the wagon clattering noisily behind him.
Twenty zombies were gathered around the door that lead to the basement, pushing and clawing at each other, fighting over who got to lick the lock. They turned, as shocked to see him as he was to see them.
Jerrold stood frozen in shock until the zombies started to cock their heads and sniff the air, inching closer and closer to him.
Raising his gun once again, he blasted as many as he could. Some of the zombies went down as legs were severed in a splash of thick, black blood.
Jumping over the reception desk, Jerrold took cover and reloaded the gun, when he stood, hands that had been stripped of flesh reached for him. Stepping back, he let bullets fly. The rotted corpses were so far gone that the bullets had almost nothing to stop them. They went through two or three zombies before losing momentum.
He caught glimpses of eyeballs dangling from sockets and grotesque figures with missing or damaged limbs. Face after face of hungry horror eager for him to fill their bellies or join their ranks.
After a couple more reloads and attacks, he killed fifteen of them, and the other five were wounded to the point where they were no longer a serious threat. Jumping back over the counter, he thanked God they hadn’t been smart enough to find the little swinging door, or the latch that held it shut, otherwise they would have gotten back there with him and he would have been trapped.
He finished off the last five with his knife, retrieved his bag from the wagon, and attempted to unlock the padlock. His gloves made him clumsy and he dropped the key. Biting one of the fingers of his glove, he yanked it off. Crying out in pain, his teeth parted and the blood soaked glove fell to the ground.
“That’s how they found me,” he whispered to himself. “I was leaving a trail.”
Knowing now that it was just a matter of time before more zombies showed up, following his trail of blood, he quickly picked up the key and unlocked the door. He threw his bag of clothes down the stairs, and then moved to the cart. Armload after armload of clothes followed the bag.
Heaving the cart out of the way, rushing to the wagon, and dragging his feet in a shuffle so he wouldn’t fall in all the blood and guts, he retrieved the wagon.
As he made it to the door, more zombies came falling through the entry way in search of the fresh meat they’d been trailing.
Rushing and panicking, Jerrold pulled the wagon down the stairs after himself. Scrambling, he struggled to reach around the wagon and close the door. He slipped and the wagon, with all its weight, shoved him down the stairs. He tumbled down the stairs, landing hard at the bottom, his head hitting the pavement just beyond the pile of clothes.
Dazed and fighting for consciousness he was only vaguely aware of what was actually going on. His eyes focused on the door to safety, to sanctuary, it was his only chance. Forcing himself to crawl, he made his way to the door to the boiler room where his family was safe from the danger that hunted him.
Knocking on the door, just like he had told Dawn he would, he was relieved to hear the metal bars being quickly removed. He sighed with relief and closing his eyes, he let his forehead rest on the cool cement floor, too confused to understand that there were now six zombies stumbling down the stairs after him.
Dawn opened the door and he looked up into her sweet face, smiling, but frowning quickly at the look of fear he saw there–her eyes were focused on something behind him. Half rolling onto his side he saw what she was looking at–a huge brute of a zombie stood over him.
The zombie growled, with what would have once been a grin on his decaying face. He lunged forward and overpowered Dawn in an instant.
Jerrold cried out weakly, holding his hand up as if pleading with reality, asking it not to be real. He cried out again, this time from physical pain as two of the other zombies bit into his legs, tearing flesh from bone.
As he bleed out, Jerrold stared into the eyes of his dead wife who lay on the floor in front of him. When death was about to overtake him and his eyes drifted closed, he heard the chorus of screams as his children were eaten alive.

 

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