I don’t know about you, but Halloween/Samhain/Dia de los Muertos is kind of a big deal around here. We don’t buy candy because we live in the boonies—no one goes door-to-door with their kids. Tomorrow afternoon, I’ll be working with my dd to get the kids’ facepaint right. We have one zombie and one sugar skull to create.
All this made me wonder what sort of prep you do for the big date? Tell me about it and you’ll be entered to win a $5 Amazon gift card!
In the meantime, enjoy an excerpt from an appropriately scary/sexy tale, Zombie Love. It’s a short story and just $0.99!
A woman desperate to save her infected boyfriend from certain extermination faces her battle alone, in secret, until one day she has to trust he’s still inside the monster she feeds…
No one knew where the infection began. However, rumors abounded. It was a government experiment gone awry. Or an ancient plague released by melting icecaps. If anyone knew, they weren’t saying. Before long, no one cared about its origin. We were too busy trying to survive in our new world.
A bite…a kiss…was all it took to change everything. We eyed our neighbors with suspicion, held our families close, until, one by one, they were struck. The contagion spread, leading to panicked looting and murder. Businesses and homes boarded up windows, locked doors. Travel was limited. Curfews enforced. Silence settled over cities, interrupted only by the rattle of gunfire or the screams of sirens. Haunting but distant—someone else’s tragedy, until it arrived in your home. And then how did one face the horror? Well, there were regulations to follow, specific entities to inform. However, I chose a different path from everyone else I knew. One I hoped I wouldn’t regret.
Over the long weeks since Danny’s infection, I noted the mindless roars lessened in their intensity. He ceased slamming his fists and head against the walls and thick Plexiglas until they were bloody. His features, though coarser than they’d been before, and gray-tinged, were no longer frightening. Bruising faded. Split lips, cheekbones, and knuckles healed.
The clumsy jerking motions he made as he moved around the space where we’d trapped him eased into something less inhuman. Still unsteady on his feet, he used his hands to push off the walls or press against the ceiling to keep the wavering from sending him to his knees.
Physically, he was improving. I recognized him now beneath the dirty clothes and scruffy beard. But his eyes still betrayed his savage soul. They gleamed red. The darkening of his irises, one frightening red fleck at a time, had been the first sign the disease had struck. Red had eventually consumed the brilliant blue.
I’d defied the law, refusing to report him or quarantine myself, and instead, had locked him in the garage studio he’d built when he’d been an aspiring musician, but which now served as his prison cell.
I’d watched the news as the disease continued to spread. The virus which caused an unending hunger for raw meat, turned law-abiding citizens into mindless murderers. At first, the sick had been quarantined in hospitals then prisons. When those reached capacity, the infected were loaded onto train boxcars and sent to internment camps, or so the government said, until a cure could be found.
But rumors had started almost immediately that everyone who boarded those trains was destined to be “put down”—a humane solution, which protected the rest of the population. But still, the disease ran rampant.
Businesses operated, but only because people needed basic commodities and the money to buy them. There was a military presence on every street corner.
Hiding Danny had proven tricky. The need to purchase large quantities of fresh meat meant I spent a good part of the daylight traveling to grocers in other counties so that my buying habits weren’t noted. I couldn’t risk having my home raided and losing Danny.
I’d do anything to protect him from extermination. No one knew whether the illness was reversible, but I was willing to wait, and hoped the signs of improvement that I noted every day in my journal weren’t just my wishful thinking. I’d loved him since high school—the shy girl who’d fallen for the bad boy rocker. The engagement ring he’d given me days before he’d become ill was hidden away in a drawer—something I pulled out when I wanted to remind myself why I was doing this.
Today, his gaze followed me through the thick glass without blinking. The raw, intense hunger was tinged with something else. Regret perhaps? Was he remembering us?
As I did every day, I unlocked the door to the studio and carried in a fresh set of comfortable clothing, a towel and washcloth, soap, and a tall pitcher of warm water.
Unlike days past, he didn’t rush toward me only to be jerked back when he reached the end of his chain.
I slid everything as close as I dared, and then backed away from the door, all the while holding his smoldering gaze. “Please bathe, Danny. I’ll bring you food in a little while.” I reached the door and turned the knob behind me. “I love you.”
My life was reduced to this. Foraging for food. Cleaning the perimeter of the dirty enclosure where I kept him. He’d helped prepare his own prison, installing a toilet where the old mudroom sink had hung on the wall before he’d converted the space. Welding chain to a manacle and testing the length to ensure my safety when I entered. He’d removed his sound equipment and instruments. Placed a sturdy metal cot in the corner.
The morning he’d woken, feeling as though he had the worst hangover ever and rushing to the fridge for the hamburger I’d thawed the night before, he’d recognized the signs.
I’d awoken with him standing in the doorway, his eyes haunted.
“What’s wrong?” I’d asked.
He’d given me a tight smile, but then I’d noted the deep gray shadows beneath his eyes, the slick of perspiration on his forehead. The reddening irises. “Danny?” I’d asked, sitting up on my elbows as my stomach roiled.
No, it can’t be happening. Not to us. We’d done everything right. We’d stayed clear of quarantined areas. Used our own vehicles rather than public transportation to get back and forth to work. We never drank after one another. Didn’t eat out in restaurants where we couldn’t watch the cutlery and plates being sterilized. Didn’t kiss.
“How?” I’d asked, my throat thickening with tears.
He shook his head. “I don’t know, baby. But I have to go. I’ll walk to the center. Turn myself in. I won’t tell them where I live, but you’ll need to sanitize when I’m gone.”
My stomach tightened in rejection. “You aren’t going there.”
His sweet smile stretched, although his eyes watered with unshed tears. “I don’t have any choice. I’m already scared to death I may have infected you.”
I shook my head, the back of my throat burning. “You know what they say about those places. I won’t ever see you again.”
He spread his hands and gripped the doorframe, his head bowed. “I love you, Trish.” Then he backed away from the door.
I threw back the covers. “No! We’ll find another way. Wait this out. They’ll find a treatment.”
But he walked away, down the hallway toward the front door.
I scrambled from the bed and followed. Before he reached the door, I encircled his waist with my arms and held him back. “Don’t do this. Stay with me. We’ll find a way to keep me safe. You still have a little time.”
While he’d finished the raw hamburger and I’d drank a pot of hot coffee, we’d conspired. By the end of the day, I’d hit the hardware store two counties over, and he’d cleared his beloved studio.
That hug at the doorway was the last time I’d touched him.