Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Okay, I know it's not officially October (aka "Halloween Season") until tomorrow, but I couldn't wait any longer to post this piece that I wrote a few weeks ago. It has a distinct horror feel to it. Fair warning, there is a bit of bad language. Enjoy!

Title: "Preparations" (written September 2009)
Aaron M. Smith

“Oh man, I am SO getting this.”
I looked over to where Donny was standing, bent over the glass display case. Gingerly, as if it were a newborn child, he lifted a sheathed katana from the case and held it reverently in front of me.
“Will you get real, Donny?” Sam said, dumping the golf clubs out of an oversized golf bag. He hesitated for a moment, and then picked up a five-iron, gave it a test swing, and dropped it back into the bag. “That’s a fucking sword. You don’t know how to use one of them.”
“I know which end is sharp!” he protested. He unsheathed the weapon, laying the scabbard on the countertop. He gripped it just under the hilt with both hands.
“Look at ya, you're holding it like a fuckin’ baseball bat.” Sam rolled his eyes. “You’re gonna cut your fuckin’ leg off with that thing.”
“Screw you, you’ve never played golf!”
“Good thing we’re not goin’ ta be playing golf, then, iddin’it?”
“Will both of you shut the hell up!” I barked. In the back of the pawn shop, I’d found what I was looking for. The owner hadn’t lasted long; his throat was torn out, a mess of stringy gore that stretched from the shattered window to where he lay at the office door. Poor bastard tried to get away, maybe get to the phone.
On his belt was huge a huge ring of about forty keys. The key to the ammo locker had to be on there somewhere.
Like most pawn shops, this one had all the best sellers- handguns- out and visible for everyone to see. Also, like most pawn shops, they kept the ammo under lock and key so some psycho couldn’t start world war three if they broke into the shop.
“And it’s not like they have vital spots for you to hit,” Sam continued to argue. “They’re already dead, fer chrissake. A slashed artery ain’t gonna stop them.”
“Well neither is a concussion!” Donny defended.
“This ain’t fer concussin’! It’s for limb breaking. They can’t chase us if they legs don’t work, can they?”
“That’s what this is for. Limb slicing.”
“That old thing ain’t gonna cut through bone, you dip shit!”
I ignored them this time as I squatted in front of the huge steel cabinet concealed behind the front counter, trying key after key in the lock. It took nearly ten minutes of trying, but finally the lock clicked, and the cabinet drawer slid out.
“Got ammo here,” I said conversationally. Sam and Donny put aside their bickering long enough to walk around the ruined countertop to where I crouched. The three of us began to rifle through the ammunition in silence, setting it out in piles by the type of gun it went with. We allowed ourselves to get enveloped in the task, and for ten minutes everything seemed okay.
Until Donny said, “So why do you think we’re immune?”
Sam didn’t respond. He just continued to sort through the ammunition.
I said, “I don’t know. Maybe it’s like the flu. Some people just don’t ever seem to get it.”
“Don’t the flu mutate, though?” Sam whispered. “So it can get more people?”
“I didn’t say it was the flu,” I replied. “Just maybe like the flu.”
‘Well where’d it come from?” Donny asked. He’d made a pile of shotgun shells and had begun to sort them by gauge.
“Well, the flu’s always been around, I guess. Maybe this has too.”
“You really think it’s always been around?” Sam sounded skeptical. “Like, just waiting for when it could come around and get us? Come on.”
“Well, how do I know?” I was getting frustrated. “Maybe it has to incubate for a couple million years or something. Maybe someone found it in a jungle somewhere. Or maybe it’s a thing made by the government that went wrong.”
“That’s what it always is in the movies.” Donny mumbled.
“The government making zombies?” Sam’s voice was wry. “Yeah, that’s it. Those fuckers can’t close the borders or figure out health care, but damn, they sure can make some zombies.”
We all shared a small laugh at the image. It was like a glimmer of sunlight in a thunderstorm, hopeful for a moment, and then snuffed out as quickly as it came.
A few minutes later, I was fooling with the transistor radio that I’d brought from home, the only useful item in my entire household. The rest of my family had been out for the weekend when the shit hit the fan. I still hadn’t talked to them. Donny was staying the weekend with me (we were going to watch horror movies all day Saturday. The irony was not lost on us). Sam lived a few houses down. None of us could find any of our families. Living in rural Pennsylvania, we didn’t have many neighbors. We’d hiked all night, staying off the roads, to make it into town.
There was nobody left.
We’d camped out that night in the public library. We found this place early this morning. We’d only run into a few of them so far, and had mostly managed to avoid them. The one time we had been spotted, we managed to give it the slip. But there was only one of them.
I’d heard a broadcast on the radio this morning. They were setting up a rescue center for survivors in Pittsburg. That’s where we had to go.
“Did you ever take the online quiz?” Donny asked after a time. He was loading a 12-gauge and tossing extra ammo into a nylon fanny pack.
“Which one?” Sam said.
“Come on, you know. ‘Things you’d want to have around in case of a zombie apocalypse’?”
Sam laughed. “Heh, yeah, I did that one.”
“Well, what did you pick?”
“Chuck Norris.”
That elicited another quick chuckle.
“Come on guys, we need to keep moving. I got the dude’s keys. His car’s got to be outside somewhere. We’ve got a five hour’s drive to Pittsburg, and the sooner we get there the better.”
“Is it really safe to be on the roads?” Donny asked.
“What if it ain’t?” Sam asked. “What’re we gonna do, hike to Pittsburg?”
The three of us loaded up all the gear we’d found and walked into the parking lot of the strip mall. It was mostly full of cars. I guess when it happened this place was still pretty busy.
“How the hell’re we gonna find his car?” Sam asked.
I fiddled with the keys I’d picked off the shop owner. There was an automatic door unlock button- I pressed it, looking for blinking headlights.
Instead, I received a wailing car alarm from a Volvo three rows down.
“Mike, you ass!” Sam shrieked. “You hit the panic button! Turn it off, turn it off!”
I fumbled with the keys and dropped them to the concrete. My fingers trembled as I scrambled to snatch them back up, finally finding the door unlock button. The alarm stopped.
But the wailing didn’t.
An inhuman cry split the afternoon air, a sound like a cross between a hyena and the shriek of metal being torn apart. It seemed to be coming from everywhere at once, slicing through my brain and eliciting a primal terror in me that I never knew existed. Everything about the sound was just fundamentally…wrong.
“Go, go! Get to the car!” I cried, and the three of us ran for the Volvo, and for our lives.

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