Thursday, September 22, 2011

Zombie Tale from: Alex Bledsoe

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by Alex Bledsoe
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NOTE: The following takes place immediately prior to the beginning of my novel The Hum and the Shiver.

Aiden Hyatt didn’t know what woke him from his dream, but he knew he was really awake because he had to pee. At eight years old he was thankfully past wetting the bed, so he waited to see if the urge was too much to keep him from going back to sleep. It was, so he went quietly to the bathroom, then returned to his room.

The clock said three in the morning. He went to the window and looked outside at the yard, which was bathed in the pure Appalachian moonlight. Close to the house he saw the closed blossoms in his mom’s flower bed waving in the wind. The blue light made them look like figures in a black and white film, and he remembered the weird old zombie movie he’d watched online that afternoon. People trapped in an isolated farmhouse, just like his. The zombies shuffling closer through a warm night very much like this one. Blood that was thick and black like the used oil from the tractor. The people inside the house arguing instead of helping each other, until finally all of them were dead. The hero’s corpse tossed on a bonfire.

And then he saw the figure on the lawn.

He was glad he’d gone to the bathroom, because he would have wet his p.j.’s for sure. At first he thought it was Curnen Overbay, the area’s notorious forest-dwelling wild child. She raided garbage cans like a raccoon, climbed trees like a squirrel and basically made herself a nuisance all over rural Cloud County. But as the shape resolved in his vision, he realized it was no one he knew.

For one thing, although it was a woman, she wore the same desert fatigues as his sister. It wasn’t her, though; she was arriving tomorrow from Walter Reed Hospital, where she’d been treated for the injuries received in Iraq. This girl was shorter, broader, and had the same pale face as the zombies in the movie. She even shuffled forward in the same halting manner. His heart threatened to choke him as he watched, his sleepy brain insisting, It’s a zombie! Shoot it in the head! I don’t have a gun! Then run!

By now he saw her--it--as clearly as if it had been in the room with him. The flesh and bone from one side of its torso were gone, scooped away so that the dangling ends of flesh and organs looked like decorative ribbons. Inside the wound the ribs and spine glowed white in the moonlight.

It looked at the house, then with a slow deliberate move, leveled its dead gaze directly at his window.

Directly at him.

Aiden drew a breath to scream.

“Don’t scream,” his mother said directly behind him.

He turned and leaped into her arms before he even realized he’d done it. He squeezed his eyes shut and buried his face in her neck. She smelled of earth, soap and something he’d always think of as safety. If holding him up was difficult, she gave no sign, her lean arms encircling him and taking his weight with ease.

“It’s a zombie!” he whispered.

“It’s not a zombie,” she said calmly.

He drew back enough to gaze up at her calm, strong face. Then he looked over his shoulder, expecting to see nothing but empty yard. It had to be a dream, zombies weren’t real, he’d had a nightmare and now Mom was here to wake him up and calm him down.

But the girl, the zombie, was still there, plainer than ever.

“You’re choking me,” his mom said.

“It’s still there!” he hissed. “It’s real!”

She adjusted his arms so she could breathe. “Yes, it’s real, but it’s not a zombie. It’s a haint.”

He felt the apprehension shift and melt. Zombies were terrifying, but haints were just part of the world. “It is?”

His mom nodded. “I’ve seen her before. She’s not here for me, or for your dad. If it was for your big brother, he’d have sensed it and come back from college. Now we know she’s not here for you, either.”

“Then who?”

His mom smiled down at him, calm and serene, the strongest person he knew. “Who’s left?”

He realized who she meant, and nodded. His big sister, who’d joined the army and been horribly injured in Iraq. The girl who’d been rescued on live TV, carried off by Marines as the Iraqi hospital burned in the distance. The girl, known locally as “the Bronwynator,” who was returning home to Needsville tomorrow. “Bronwyn.”

His mom nodded. “Yes. Nothing we can do until she gets here. So just go back to sleep.”

Filled with relief, Aiden crawled back into bed. In moments he was asleep. He didn’t hear his mother hum a special Tufa song for protection, or see her shiver when she kissed the protective piece of jagged blue glass on his window sill.


Guest post created for September Zombies event by Alex Bledsoe, author of The Hum and The Shiver
© 2011. All rights reserved.

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Book Excerpt: PDF of first chapter

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by Alex Bledsoe
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The Hum and The Shiver
by Alex Bledsoe

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