Monday, December 22, 2008

"Mother's Day", a short story

Don't worry, friends, my calendar isn't off...I know Christmas is only a few days away. (Where the blue blazes does the time go, anyway? I know I'm not the only one to think time is running by too fast.) What I have here in this short story I wrote some time ago is a special tribute to mothers, but it's written in my own blood-soaked way. You'll get a good idea of what kind of horror and fantasy (not so much fantasy in this instance!) I like to write. Strap yourself in and enjoy...


A tribute written by Charles Spencer

The woman stared at the zombie horde without fear.

There were dozens of them shambling toward her on the field of the desolate, abandoned military base as she waited for them in front of a fortified bunker, and they could only be described as zombies. They were in varied states of decomposition, from some that could still be recognizable as human to those that were literally falling apart, bit by bit, with each step they took. Their stench preceded them and steamrolled the woman's senses like a freight train at full throttle. Those zombies that still had eyes, while the others who lost theirs to decomp used their sense of smell to compensate in searching for living prey, looked at her without humanity. Without soul. They were capable only of looking at the woman who stared back at them in turn with the pure, ravenous hunger for healthy flesh and blood that made them zombies. Of course their hunger was directed at those uninfected, like the woman they approached eagerly, for to feed on each other's rotting meat and gangrenous fluids would have provided little sustenance.

For this woman, for all the uninfected, these stupid yet deadly creatures could only be called zombies. It was the only way the uninfected could hold any form of order. Perhaps even hold to their sanity.

But the woman, a soldier who didn't overlook the irony she was about to face battle in this desolate base her superiors decided was to be abandoned in the frantic early days of The Global Plague so its personnel and resources could be directed to more strategic locations, knew no fear as the stupid yet deadly horde approached her, still about eighty yards distant. She was beautiful by the collective standard Humanity used to judge such things, her skin as pale as a DaVinci sculpture under strawberry-red hair shorn short close to her scalp. Her uniform, however, was dirty and worn from days of running since she escaped the uninfected enclave overrun by zombies, and obscured for the most part the rest of her beauty. She had been running for days, holding with her close nearly every waking moment (and especially when she allowed herself to sleep) what she valued the most in this ruined world. Here, finally, what she valued above all other things was in the bunker behind her, sealed behind an electronic lock. She wouldn't let the zombies even get close to what she valued more than her own life as she stood before the bunker.

She would have suffered anything before that happened.

The zombies seventy yards distant, she raised the carbine she held at her side to her shoulder, an M-16A2. On semi-auto, she began firing carefully at the creatures, willing her hands not to shake as she held the rifle. Nearly each bullet she sent was a headshot, one of the only ways known to truly neutralize zombies. (Another method, decapitation, wasn't so guaranteed since the infected rarely hunted independently...sometimes in pairs, but more often in groups that could number as many as hundreds. They held the rudiments of the pack mentality of animals searching for the same thing: food.) Her carbine went dry and she switched clips briskly as the horde attempted to quicken their pace with threatened, collective moans of effort mixed heavily with anger. The woman's ordinarily soft eyes stayed hard and narrow with intent as she continued to fire...every few seconds, the back of a zombie's head exploded violently into the air as a bullet sheared through their animal brain. But she was only whittling them a knife would slowly shave away at a thick piece of wood a bit at a time.

But she already had known it would take time, too much time, to destroy this horde that had been hunting her and what she most treasured for the better part of a day. Their numbers were their greatest advantage. But she was a few hours ahead of the things that wanted to feast on her.

That meant she had at least a little time, before the zombies arrived, to prepare for them. When she found what was at the base, she knew that she could. And she would do anything to protect what she most treasured. She would even die, and gladly.

The horde reached within fifty yards of her. Just as she realized it would happen at any moment, one of the shambling things broke the invisible laser beam that crossed its path. Before The Global Plague, what seemed to her a lifetime ago, she had received many commendations as a soldier...because of her proficiency in the fields of electronics and mechanical engineering.

In the little time she had, the woman put that proficiency to use.

The laser beam came from one side of the field where the zombies were, and the moment it was broken it triggered the .50-caliber Browning belt-fed machine guns resting atop three Humvees, which were left behind in the rush by those who abandoned the base long ago. They still worked, were still able to fulfill the purpose for which they were made, and did so by firing simultaneously on the horde, their barrels weighted down by the woman to guarantee their aim across the field would be stable.

The bullets ripped across the field, and literally tore the lion's share of the remaining zombies apart in the process. Limbs were sheared away from some...others seemed to explode under the withering assault and the air surrounding them turned into a gentle mist of crimson. Those that weren't destroyed immediately by the Brownings were put down by the woman and her rifle.

The woman, in her soul, couldn't afford to look at the creatures before her as once human. Once uninfected. Once alive and full of dignity and freedom and hope. She could only afford to see them as enemies, targets that had to be destroyed by any means. For the sake of what was left in this ruined world for her to protect. For the sake of her protection of what was closest to her heart, she could only see them as zombies.

It was the only way the survivors of The Global Plague could describe such infected, ever since a long-forgotten faction of terrorists who hated and feared a world that wasn't in their image unleashed their viral weapon. The biological agent, untried outside of the controlled conditions in which it was created before it was deployed into the lower atmosphere of the planet, was believed by the terrorists to be completely lethal. If only it had been.

But in this ruined world, as the woman approached the remains of the horde, she still had something she held more sacred than anything, even her duty to the remnants of her nation and those she swore her life to protect. She would do anything for the sake of protecting what was most important to her, as she surveyed the bodies of the zombies and had to use her .45-caliber pistol to execute the few that still twitched and moaned hungrily in spite of their being ravaged by the woman's trap. She would rather have gone to Hell itself if she couldn't protect what she most treasured.

When the woman was done, she returned to the bunker, knowing she would have to modify the trap she created considerably just in case more zombies searching for food came upon the base.

She bypassed the electonic lock for the bunker again, as she did when she first arrived, and she entered.

The woman's beautiful face softened the moment she saw the one she most treasured again.

The child, a little girl only eight years old, asked softly, "Is it over?"

The woman nodded. "Yes, it'll be okay. We're safe...and hopefully, it won't be too long before a rescue team comes for us." She had found a damaged SINGCARS in the bunker, and as she waited she repaired it and managed to get through to a field commander. It would be a few hours before help arrived, but for the first time in days she had reason to hope.

So did the little girl, who like the woman had red hair. Her pale skin was luminous. "Are you okay?"

The woman lowered on one knee in front of the girl and wondered if the child would escape freckles, like she did growing up. Her smile was soft when she answered, "As long as I'm with you, honey."

The little girl knew it was the truth, looking at the one she most cherished in turn. "And I'll be okay when I'm with you. Always." The girl's eyes became solemn and full of adoration. "I love you, mommy."

Again, the woman was so thankful for her treasure it threatened to bring her to tears. She wrapped her arms around her daughter and they held each other tight in the silent half-light of the bunker. "I love you too, baby. I love you so much."

"I know as long as I'm with you, the monsters won't get us," her daughter said, full of confidence.

"Oh, they will never get ahold of you," the mother said, not caring for herself but for the one she brought into this world. "The monsters will never get you as long as I'm here. Never."

They waited barely three hours together before the rescue teams arrived.

This story is the copyright (2007) of Charles Spencer, and is the sole property of the author. No part of this story may be reproduced or transmitted, by electronic means or otherwise, without the express permission of the author.

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