Our Children

We sat together, you and I, with our families. We cheered for our children as they threw their caps in the air. We clapped until our hands were numb and we roared ourselves hoarse. Your son embraced my daughter, and they ran together into the night to celebrate.

They ran as far as they could run, to the edges of the world. She followed him as he ran, he was her guiding light. Why he ran, well, you likely know more than I.

They ran, and they stayed, and they put down roots. From such a distance, all looked gleaming, and happy, and lovely. No one knew.

He took her compassionate heart, and stewed it in pain, then slowly sliced off a little bit at a time to savor for his own needs, watching her writhe in his shadow.

I used to bring her to this park. When I heard she was gone, I would come here. I thought it would help.

I like it more when it is empty. We only have the crickets and dewdrops to keep us company. I don’t have to feel the echos of laughter and clinking of swings as chains binding my heart. I like it as it is now, when the streets are as empty as the churches.

That will change soon, when the dawn calls to the sleeping children and the families start moving about. I will leave you for now, but you will have company soon. Someone will come along and wipe the dew from your eyelashes, the blood from your mouth. Someone will clean you up before you go off into the darkness to be greeted by the monster son you made.

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Zombie Tarot prompt: Justice. More tarot stories.

P.S. – As part of my research, I’ve been studying Sexual Homicide: Patterns and Motives by John E. Douglas, Ann W. Burgess, and Robert K. Ressler. If the names are familiar, it’s because they’re bigwig FBI profilers. It reads a bit dry at times, it’s a little like an academic paper written for the general public.

However, it has the lovely side effect of making a Criminal Minds marathon into an audience participation event, and I’m having a blast with my “research”. In honor of this bliss, I’m going to start using another deck next week and start exploring more human monsters.

Savor: Ten of Cups

Horseradish. That would be perfect, just enough to give the other flavors a bit more punch. Usually she prefers pork seasonings, but the occasional hint of something good with red meat helps bring out the earthier tones of the dish.

Grandma would disapprove of such additions to her recipes, designed to be simple and enhance the natural flavor. Unfortunately, the difficulty of the hunt lately made it so that meat was rare, every effort must me made to maximize enjoyment. The prey were learning to protect themselves much better than they did in Grandma’s day.

She hummed as she worked, slicing turnips while a thigh soaked in the marinade. So many people undervalued a good roasted turnip. The flavor was so strong when raw, you would never expect it to turn so savory and mellow.

The repetitive task allowed her mind to wander, and she considered the satisfying catch and kill behind her. This one had been taken in his sleep, always better for the meat. She didn’t know why horror movies and the like talked about fear enhancing the flavor of meat, in her experience it made it taste a little off. This one never saw a thing coming, he was nice and cozy in his sleeping bag.

The park rangers are cracking down like wildfire, but they don’t know how to track something like her. They look for their trails on the ground, not in the trees. They would be aware, and so would the campers, but there will always be one or two that consider themselves to be safe enough to stray.

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Zombie Tarot Prompt: Ten of Cups. More tarot stories.

The Student

The love songs of the night gave way to the chatter of birds as the girl made her way across the prairie to the hut. Dew drops reflected the overcast sky, turning the field into a dreamlike silver, cut through with a green brush stroke winding behind her as her toes tickled the dew to the ground.

She watched a butterfly opening its wings in the rising dawn, fluttering lazily, enjoying a few more minutes in its silky floral bed. She was tempted to tease it on to her finger, but catching butterflies was a child’s game and she was too old for such things now.

Father had stopped howling. He was likely either dead or sleeping. The virus didn’t grant him much peace, she wasn’t sure which one she preferred.

Inside the hut, the smell had quieted down, grown more earthen. She would have expected something sour. Like when fruit turns to wine. This smelled more like mushrooms. He sat quietly, observing her as she observed him. He wasn’t breathing.

“I promised Mother I wouldn’t kill you. Do you remember Mother?” He was still enough to be made of stone. Except for those eyes, which were darker now. The irises were larger, large enough to be seeing rather well in the dim light. That explained why the monster had stuck to the shadows, his eyes were likely sensitive.

She opened the curtains, letting the dawn creep closer to the thing that used to be her father. The chains rattled as he shifted his weight away from the light, but there was no other reaction. Interesting. That implies physical distress, but not at a critical level.

“We never did spend a lot of time together, Father. I think I will remedy that. I propose a partnership. You shall teach me exactly how to defeat the plague. I pray I don’t cause you too much discomfort in the process.”

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Zombie Tarot Prompt: Page of Swords. More tarot flash stories over here.

Knight of Swords

“You do not seem to understand to whom you speak. I am my father’s sword. I am the one who crushed the backs of your elders beneath my war horses. I am the one who took your maidens and lit your homes aflame.

Look at your people. They should be throwing stones and curses at me, they should be crying out for my blood, as I have torn right through the heart of their village and left nothing standing.

Yet they are silent. Their eyes are upon you. They feel relief, not torment. It is not my blood they wish, I am the one who granted these people their freedom.”

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Zombie Tarot Prompt: Knight of Swords. More tarot stories.

Run

“Stop! Look at her! Look at her in the light!” I could see his face, he was older than I thought. I doubt he remembers where he got all those battle scars.

I turned to her, not trying to obey him, but wanting to make some comment, some suggestion, that I forgot as soon as I saw her face. I couldn’t understand what I saw, she was beautiful as always, but there was something creepy and whispering, like a mask was cracking and something gray and shadowy was underneath, but I didn’t actually see anything wrong with her at all.

She raised a hand and touched my face. “Shh, he speaks in lies and can make people see things.” Her whisper sent thrills of delight down my spine, and her touch was warm like sun glowing through honey. I calmed, and she grabbed my hand, and we ran into the shadows.

As we ran down the crumbling stone tunnel, our footsteps reverberated in my head with my heartbeat, weaving together to make a beat of panic, and I realized I could almost hear someone singing in the background. Was that here, was it real?

I realized I couldn’t remember what we were running from, or where we were running to. Then we left the tunnel and the moonlight hit her skin, and she was so beautiful. It didn’t matter anymore, so I followed.

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Zombie Tarot Prompt: Justice, and the Lovers. This week I decided to do a two-card draw to represent the predator and the prey. More tarot stories.

Regret

We never would have taken him for a witch. He seemed so steady, a reliable type, paying his bills on time and mowing his lawn. He never had any kids, his wife died young. He was real generous with the neighbor kids, helping out some to get their kids nice stuff.

We figured with all that hard work and no family to support, he probably could do that kind of thing because he had a stash of money somewhere. A guy like that probably invests and does responsible things with his money. He came home early when we were looking for a safe.

He came home right after we found some kind of altar in the basement, and he kind of came home by popping right into place, in this little circle on the floor right behind us. Scared the fuck out of us, but Kim, she never was one to freeze in fear, and she just started moving and got her knife right in his eye socket before I knew what was going on.

He didn’t die right away, he started twitching and all the lights flickered. Fucking electricity or fire or some kind of light started pouring from his fingers and his eyes glowed with it. I couldn’t move. I don’t mean I froze in fear, I tried to run but my feet were stuck to the floor, and Kim’s too.

He spoke, and it wasn’t loud but everything around us kind of rang with his voice anyway, I did too, I felt like a guitar string plucked deep inside me. And he says, right before he dies, he says, “Die from regret.”

I didn’t end up feeling a lot of regret right away. Kim, I was worried about her though, she was so eaten up by it, and that ain’t the first man she’s offed, but I never saw her so torn up. She ended up eating a bottle of pills.

I figured maybe it was a curse, but I was in the clear, ‘cause she did him, not me. But as soon as she went, the nightmares started. Every time I eat, I feel bad that man can’t taste anything anymore. Every time I get tired and cranky at work, ‘cause I can’t sleep, right? I get all tired and cranky and sore, but as soon as I think about how good it would be to go home and sit in my chair, I remember that dude was a hard worker, and he probably liked that feeling of relief too.

Today I got a headache, and I felt bad because that man would never get a headache again, even though it was pain. All those rough moments just make the smooth moments sweeter, and he can’t have either. I don’t think I’ll last out much longer.

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Zombie Tarot Prompt: King of Hazards, Reversed. More tarot stories.

The Moon, Reversed

The living room looked familiar, but when I stepped onto the carpet it felt like I had two sets of feet. One pair I could feel brushing the fabric, the carpet was soft and plush but my feet were definitely on it. Then it felt as if there were another pair over that pair, one floating a few inches off of the ground, toes dangling lazily and only just brushing the fuzzy carpet.

My stomach revolted from a sensation that reminded me of driving too fast in the country, hitting a dip that bounces the car just enough to unseat you and thrill you a little. I didn’t feel thrilled though, I felt a sense of dread.

Shadows around the room seemed to grow thicker, maybe a little undulating, as I realized I had seen this room before. This was the room in that dream I kept pretending wasn’t happening. That meant he was right behind me, and yes, there are the hands around my throat lifting me, and that’s not a thrill I feel.

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P.S. – I added a little guide to this game that I’m playing here, if you want to play along or get a better idea for how I’m coming up with prompts.

P.P.S. – Aunt Robin, if you made it here, this is the Guided Tour page. Make sure to see the brownie story I accidentally showed Mom (I did get out of her that I never told her what kind of brownie I wanted to be). Over here is the Staten Island post I was talking about. Maybe one day I’ll come stay in a haunted hotel near you and it won’t have to be twenty years until we chat in person again.

The Chase

The crunch of the snow was too loud. Yes, they could see my footprints, but they’d have to find what direction I went first. That would be easy to do when I’m clomping though the barren forest like a deer drunk on rotten apples.

There had to be a way, I had to have a chance somehow. They could see me through the winter trees, they can hear me on the snow, hell they could probably smell me on the wind. The lake. I could try the ice on the lake, it’s thick enough this time of year. It would be slow, but I could try moving like I was on skates.

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I remembered that the northern side of the slopes nearest the lake tended to be slippery, something to usually avoid but I could use to my advantage, dropping down to slide. Would they know to do this, or would they run at the slope too fast and be surprised by the treacherous drop? I could hope, maybe they navigate the woods by instinct rather than reason, they seemed more like animals, not rational enough to maintain a mental map of potential dangers in the woods.

That could be my advantage, my reason, my logic. I don’t jump to act with blind passion like they do, I’m not prone to fits of rage that cloud my ability to perceive. This could be my saving grace. I could run them through treacherous areas, navigating them safely, using my reason, my human advantage.

***

“There he is, the foul child murderer. He’s headed for the ice slopes.”
“Good, the weakest part of the lake’s surface is there. It is warmed by the current from the city’s drainage. He will break the ice with his fall. We will be on him in seconds.”
We ran, amazed at the foolishness of humans who considered themselves woodsmen, who hunt the innocent for sport and call us monsters.

 

P.S. – I am madly in love with my new book idea, so spending less time wondering about interesting blog posts and continuing the zombie flash thing is probably a trend that will continue for a while.

Zombies Just Wanna Be Loved

I am mortified at my lack of presence here lately. Every day I’ve been wanting to write, but couldn’t. Besides moving back to Tulsa (sigh), there were the holidays, and a few dashes of the kind of drama I don’t really want to go on about here.

And the unpacking, oh man the chaos. We left the trailer looking like a tornado went through it. I had to deep clean everything and start reorganizing before I could unpack. The two year old “helped”, so naturally it went painfully slow. I only found where she put my hair brush yesterday.

It wasn’t just that I couldn’t write, I couldn’t even find my coat and shoes for two weeks after we got back. I had to run around in my bathrobe and slippers that I was wearing for the drive down here. I’m still not done cleaning and unpacking. At a couple of points I was down with the flu. Also, with fibromyalgia, winter is always a struggle. And as I said in a brief update post, I didn’t even have a laptop cord for a while.

I’m throwing out a list of excuses, but there’s a point to it. I feel so guilty for missing so many posts, but the main reason is not how busy I was (that happens to everyone). It’s because I used up my emergency posts during the packing, move, and surrounding chores the first time we relocated in October. I figured my stash would build up again the way it was created, by occasionally writing an extra piece or two as relevant ideas occurred to me.

I mean, surely I wouldn’t need to dip into my extra writing folder too many times so quickly after depleting it, right? Sigh. I’m old enough to know better, and how tempted fates get mischievous. I want to be a professional writer and here I am skipping posts frequently.

So, I learned. I shall apply this lesson immediately. My next few posts will be brief, just a simple bit of flash, so I can focus on building up my stash again (during cleaning breaks). I’m going to pull a single tarot card out of my deck each week and use it as a prompt, posting the resulting story without any of my usual blathering on about aspects of my life that impact my writing, until I have a safety net back in place and my house is less chaotic. I mean, I’d say clean, but I love writing too much for that to happen.

P.S. – Post title is a song reference.

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Cake

I can hear their cries for the boy over the incessant banging. I know the ancient chest of doors barricading the door is heavy and sound, but I’m worried about the bookshelves covering the windows. Can they be tipped over the couch that locks them in place?

I smile at my new little friend, cold and muddy from his run through the forest. “No reason to worry,” I lie, “We only need to hold out just a little longer and help should arrive.”

“That’s what my dad said.” My heart sinks with grief at the insane cruelty of the human race. Whatever madness caused this mob, at least it will be easy to get justice for his family. “Well, help is even closer now. I tell you what, we don’t have to listen to them. Let’s turn up the radio really loud and go eat cake in the kitchen while we wait for the police.”

He held my hand and followed quietly, but I could tell that trying to turn his crisis into a party was a mistake. I didn’t know what to do other than to try and be chipper though, it’s what I’ve always done.

I pulled out the leftover cake I was fortunate to have on hand, and placed the chef’s knife next to it. “Would you mind setting the table?” I asked as I rummaged in the dishwasher for a pair of forks.

“M’am?” He asked shyly. I looked over my shoulder and froze as I saw the blade in his hand. “I’m not hungry for cake.” He smiled, and I realized I had been wrong to assume the blood on the corner of his mouth had been his own.

Crush: Also A Tarot Story Prompt.

This week, I will post just a little early, because this is my favorite day of the year, so I thought I’d show you a trick that might kick your inner muse in the butt if she’s being stubborn.

Seeing as how I have a little bit of the heavy flirtation with all things Goth in my well-spent youth, I seemed to have picked up the skill of reading tarot cards.

There is an ongoing dance of elemental archetypes going on in the cards, something that storytellers should be aware of.

If you care to start browsing well written books on the subject, such as 21 Ways to Read a Tarot Card, you might find that there is a magnificently complex dance of psychological archetypes throughout the cards. They are built to reflect the story of man’s spiritual journey from birth to death, as well as aspects of our intellect, passion, emotion, and material world.

They are built to remind us of different aspects of being human and the lessons we learn along the way, which is exactly what writers try to communicate.

Do I believe in the tarot? I’m not going to answer. It’s more fun for me that way.

I DO believe you can use the tarot for therapeutic introspection. I will always admit that.

Also, story prompts. Which you don’t have to know how to read the tarot to use, every deck comes with a little reference booklet. In the description of the spread, I paraphrase one of my booklet’s suggestions – my booklet is seriously awesome because it suggests how to best survive a zombie apocalypse and it has just the most wonderful everything.

I use a 3 card draw that some people interpret as “past, present, future”, but I say:
The Seed: 7 of Swords reversed. Theft, sabotage, deception. Beware of the person who keeps fondling your ammo.
The Tree: VI The Lovers. Romance, sex, blinded by passion. Warning: undead lovers may rip out your heart.
The Fruit: 6 of Hazards (Pentacles). Generosity, favors, rewards. Beware of false generosity; they may expect something in return later.

So what you do next is interpret the meaning in the context of the position. It may take a few minutes of brainstorming up a few and narrowing it down to your favorite. I came up with this as my prompt:

The Lovers grew from failed deception, then bore the fruit of false generosity and entrapment.

So I have:

Crush

He liked it when I didn’t call bullshit on his stories. He liked that I smiled demurely, and took it as flirting rather than modesty. He believed himself the cure for whatever it was I needed. With his magic wand.

He thought himself the hunter of me, he thought me kittenish and conquered. He thought I would lay down and be his prize, and in the morning, he would leave with my heart in his pocket.

He did not like it when I showed him I intended to leave with his instead.