Omega

[Friend and fellow blogger Emmie Mears is having another one of her flash fiction competitions, so I thought, what better time to flesh out an idea that’s been knocking around in my head for a couple of days?  I get to satisfy my urge to write without being committed to a full-length novel or story…yet.  Her contest isn’t quite open for submissions yet, but I just couldn’t wait to get a little feedback on this post.  Hoping it fits neatly enough into the dystopian/horror sub-genre…  Who knows, maybe I’ll be able to expand upon it at a later date.  *See notes related to story’s particular plot at the end of the post.]  

Omega-E spreads fast, but there is about a month from the identification of patient zero to the time when the dead start to outnumber the living. The CDC and the government try to manage the numbers, with mass cremations to control the spread of the disease and to keep the corpses from piling up. Americans are pissed. Until their fear trumps the need to mourn and bury their dead. The situation declines fast and martial law is declared, but it’s a token gesture, with soldiers stationed only where there are valuable resources the government deems “in need of protection.” In most of the cities and suburbs, there is no law anymore.

This makes gathering supplies a lot easier, but also a lot more dangerous. There are other dangers besides contamination. Looters, psychos. The marines guarding the supplies will shoot to kill with the slightest provocation. But the worst, other people like us, people whose desperate minds have turned black with panic. Sometimes you can actually see the madness, flapping around, like a bird with a broken wing, behind their too-bright eyes.

And then there are the Infected. Like zombies, only worse. They’re sick, shambling…and bleeding copiously. Omega-E is almost entirely hemorrhagic. Makes the cases of Ebola in Africa look like a head cold. The Omega virus dies more quickly outside of the body than it’s African predecessor, so chances of surface contamination are lower, but once infected…there is no recovery. The only upside is that incubation for Omega-E is brief, the tell-tale rashes, fevers, and vomiting appearing within 24 hours of contamination, with death only a few days later. This makes the Infected pretty easy to identify.

It also makes them very dangerous. Almost up until their last breath, usually dragged laboriously through lungs filled with blood, they are aware… and terrified. If the uninfected have a panic-bird behind their eyes, the Infected are infested with whole flocks. Like drowning victims, they’ll drag down anyone who chances close enough.

It’s easy to stay inside for the first week or so. As the pandemic ramps up, we make pilgrimages to the store and start setting supplies back. But eventually we’ll need to go out there again. We have a little girl. Even if we could live on next to nothing, she couldn’t. And although the electricity and water remain on for the moment, there’s no telling how long it will last.

I heard a rumor about the government instituting rolling blackouts to manage the power supply and “ensure continuity of service” for everyone. The pretenses are breaking down. Pretty soon they won’t even bother to lie to us.

We need a plan. A few more trips out for supplies. Right before dawn seems to be quietest. The pharmacy. The grocery. Guns if we can find them. And then we’ll go out into the country, or maybe the woods. Somewhere there are no people, where we can wait this thing out. It has to end sometime, right? Right…?

 *Due to the word count constraints imposed by Emmie, I didn’t get to delve too deeply into my desired plot  concept.  It may seem like “just another” zombie story, but what I really wanted to explore was how a couple like myself and my hubby would get along with our toddler in the midst of a pandemic crisis.  See, in horror films, you don’t often see many really young children portrayed and my guess is that it’s due to the “logistics” of trying to survive when you have to care for someone who not only completely dependent on you for their well-being, but also not yet cognitively developed enough to realize the necessity of basic evasive and survival skills.  For instance, how do you keep a frightened two year old quiet so you can hide from a passing zombie horde?  I want to follow a couple with no special skills (no ex-green berets or weapons experts here) as they endeavor to survive and protect what is dearest them, and I want to do it without taking the easy way out and “killing off” any characters that could be seen as a hindrance or potential “baggage” to the flow of normal horror stories/ films.  Of course, I have not gotten that far yet. 

How to Kill a Werewolf

artwork from Cycle of the Werewolf by Stephen King

“Silver bullets. How ridiculous…”

“You mean they don’t really work?”

He snorted. Pale yellow light from inside softly   illuminated their table through the cafe windows, and the ring in his lip glimmered, reflecting the glow, whenever he spoke. His teeth were very white. “Well, yeah. I guess they would…if any of those morons actually knew how to make them.”

Her mouth made a disapproving little moue, but her eyebrows betrayed her confusion and curiosity.

He set his cup of coffee on the tiny cafe table, leaned back in his seat, and settled his hands comfortably on his flat belly. “Well, you don’t think it’s like the movies, do you? Some high-school kid melts down some silver in shop class and pours it into a bullet mold? Loads it into a handgun?” He chuckled and shook his head.

“What?” She sounded slightly defensive.  That was pretty much exactly what she thought.

“You don’t know anything about guns, do you?”

“What do you mean?” Now she was definitely defensive.

He favored her with a bemused look. “How do you think a bullet fires? Magic? You can’t just put a bullet-shaped piece of silver in a gun and pull the trigger,” he said, mimicking the action with an imaginary finger-gun. “First of all, bullets come in casings. You need gunpowder to make the bullet go, to fire it out of the casing. And then you need something to ignite the gunpowder; that’s what the primer is for. The pin inside the gun strikes the base of the cartridge casing when you pull the trigger and –boom!– sparks the primer, which ignites the gunpowder. The energy of the explosion and the compressed gases force the bullet out of the casing.” He paused and lit a cigarette. “It takes skill to make that kind of thing. Not just any idiot can do it.” The hand holding the cigarette described lazy circles in the air.

She stared at him a moment, and then- “Well, wise-ass, do you know how to make silver bullets?”

artwork from Cycle of the Werewolf by Stephen King

“No-oo. But I know the principles behind it.” Then he added, with exaggerated patience, “you don’t need to be a chef to know if your food tastes good, do you? Or a professional singer to know when someone else can’t carry a tune in a bucket?”

Her eyes narrowed momentarily but she had no rebuttal. Finally, she said, “So if bullets are out, what’s the next best thing? Monkshood? Beheading? Silver-tipped arrows?”

He smiled thinly at her. “Did I say bullets were out? No, bullets’ll work-”

“But you just said-”

“I said homemade silver bullets wouldn’t work. That’s amateur kid’s shit. Real bullets would work just fine. They don’t even have to be silver, just aimed into the right major organ and big enough to do the job.”

“Really?” she asked, her annoyance momentarily forgotten.

“Sure.” He shrugged. “They’re freaks of nature…but they’re still just animals. Like people.” He reached for his cup and downed the rest of the coffee.

“What’s that supposed to mean? ‘Like people’?”

He leaned forward and butted out his cigarette in the glass ashtray on the table. “People,” he repeated, speaking slowly, as if to a child. “Man. Human beings. Homosapiens… Scientifically speaking, we all belong to the Animal Kingdom. We’re all animals.”

She rolled her eyes so he added, almost apologetically, “I only meant that they may have the strength and senses of a wolf, and the intelligence of a man, but they’re animals. All animals can be killed, and it doesn’t take a silver bullet to do it.”

“Right. Well, it’s getting late and I have to work tomorrow, soooo…I’d better jet. Thanks for the coffee.”

He only smiled and lit another cigarette, the flame from the lighter reflecting on his white teeth and his lip ring. She thought it was probably made of silver.

© alienredqueen (pencil and Prismacolors)

Diagram of typical

Diagram of typical “bullet” – more appropriately termed “cartridge”:  1-bullet 2-casing 3-gunpowder 4-rim 5-primer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Peach

I stand in the doorway, unnoticed, watching her while she draws.  Her head is bent low over her paper, the tips of her straw-colored hair almost touching the flat writing surface of the little school desk that her Nana rescued from a yard sale for five dollars.  Despite the slightness of her frame, the expression of extreme concentration on her unlined brow makes her look curiously studious as she hunches over her drawing, rendering each line painstakingly, and then attacking it with her giant gum eraser when she see something she doesn’t like.

I am overwhelmed with a species of muted sorrow.  She is growing so fast .  It seems like only last week she was  lining her stuffed animals against the wall to play “school,” teaching them the alphabet and scolding them in her nonsensical toddler’s vocabulary.   Only last week.  But maybe time is different now.  Four years have passed.  And I’ve spent every moment of them, every moment I can, watching her.

I try to speak to her, but she never answers.  Maybe I should have listened more when she was little.  Now I grieve for those moments, working at my laptop at night, when she would wobble over and try to insert herself onto my lap, dividing my attention from my work.  It seemed so important at the time…

I feel a tear slip down my cheek and I laugh softly at the irony.  “I love you so much, ” I say to her, for probably the thousandth time these past few years.  I have to make sure she knows.  I wasn’t ready to go.  My heart would have broken in half, had there been any life left there, at the thought of not being there to watch her grow, to tell her how special she was to me, and let her know everyday how much I loved her.  So I stayed for a while longer.

I drift soundlessly to her side and peer over her shoulder.  She has a colored pencil clutched tightly in her little hand -it’s Peach- as she surveys her art with all of a seven year old’s critical eye.  The three figures on the page stand in a line, linked together by their stick fingers.  Two large and one small one in the middle.  They stand in front of a white house with purple shutters and a lumpy brown dog frolics in the very green grass behind.  A huge yellow sun with long eyelashes and pink cheeks smiles down on them.

After another moment, she puts the Peach pencil down and picks up a red one the color of bricks.  I watch silently as she pencils a wobbly heart next to the figure in the blue triangle dress.  Then she begins to carefully print.  She prints the word “mommy”, and my eyes once again fill with phantom tears.  I can go home now.

The War Master’s Daughter: Interview with the Author

In depth interview with the author of The War Master’s Daughter (and my friend), Elly Zupko:

AlienRedQueen: First, let’s address the writing and publishing process in general. When you initially began writing your novel for NaNoWriMo, was historical fiction your intended genre?

Elly Zupko: The premise for The War Master’s Daughter (TWMD) is something I’ve been kicking around since I was about 15 years old. When I was a teenager, I didn’t think in terms of genre, or marketing, or any of the labels you ultimately have to put on your work as a “grown-up writer.” Continue reading

Things Not To Do

(sort of flash fiction piece based on common horror tropes.  possibly may still add to/revise it, but for now it is ‘finished’- 3-12)

THINGS NOT TO DO:

Don’t answer the phone. Don’t go into the basement. Don’t open the door. Never ask “Who’s there?” It’s never just the wind. Don’t go exploring. If you do go exploring, don’t split up. Don’t take the short cut. Don’t get out of the car. Don’t stay in the car alone. Don’t go into the woods. Never turn your back. Garlic doesn’t work. Keep your clothes on; cheaters and naked people die first. Never hitchhike. Never pick up a hitchhiker. Don’t scream for help. Don’t get bitten. Shoot them in the head. Grab the nearest weapon and don’t be afraid to use it. And for the love of God, DON’T drop the weapon after you use it! Be careful who you trust. Don’t come out of hiding; you may think the killer is gone but when you come out, he’ll get you. Don’t go near him, he’s not really dead. If you hit him and knock him down, keep hitting him until his brains are on the floor. Monsters exist. Usually the human ones are worse than the non-human ones. Don’t look back. Don’t stop running. Try not to trip. Hold your breath. Don’t make a sound. When the house tells you to “get out,” leave. Don’t open the chest. Don’t play the game. Don’t read the book. Don’t speak the words. You’re already dead.

Unwanted

—-> excerpt from a new story I am toying with, set in a post-modern dystopia, and involving a cast of society’s “unwanted,” tasked by the people in charge to do their dirty work.  This is the introduction to the character, 27 year old Angela, a homeless schizophrenic.   Continue reading

Why can’t a writer WRITE???

A (writer) friend of mine recently posted an entry in his blog asserting that “writers are lying bags of cat puke” when they claim writing is hard.  I had to respectfully beg to differ. I have been trying to write largely without success for about 3/4 of my life.  Oh, I can write reasonable well as far as quality is concerned.  That is, if you measured my ability to write based on the opinions of those who read and enjoy my work, I am a ‘good’ writer.  The problem is that aside from a handful of short stories (and a ‘novelette’ I wrote when I was 15 or 16 and saved on a 5 inch floppy-which was subsequently accidentally thrown out by my dad on a cleaning binge), I have never finished anything. Continue reading