Thursday, October 29, 2015

Casanoire - An Odd Zombie Story

This terribleminds Halloween challenge was to randomly pick one thing from column x and one from column y and create a 3000-word story. I ended up with Casablanca and The Walking Dead. I really wanted to write horror, but instead this story is just odd. Three thousand words was hard for me. It seems I either think in under a thousand words or in novel length. I'm sure there are a lot of scary and gruesome Halloween stories that were created for this challenge. Go HERE to find them.

Each night, the people with thoughts and ideas and life file into the abandoned tunnels of Casanoire's subway system. There is a routine to their filing and where they go within the system. Some areas are lively with youth, parents, grandparents, whereas other areas are void of joy with single people finding ways to disconnect from life. Their happiness is lost and is swallowed within the hoards of undead loved ones wondering topside the moment the sun dips below the horizon.
   Bean, one of the single souls, asks the dank air around him, “Why does the sun repel them and where do the go during the day?”
   “You've asked that question every night for the last three months,” says a bearded man sitting and leaning against a wall under a subway light reading a book. “This is a quiet area. Go to where your question will be answered by those who have tried to change these dark times.”
   “I am alone. It is not acceptable for me to go where there is laughter.”
   “Bah, if you are curious, then you have something left. Something in you that seeks human companionship. Go and leave me to my reading and my dark thoughts.”
   Bean wanders further down the darkened tunnel. Many who wander the tunnels hold a light through the darker passages where the subway lights have burned out. Before him, he can see spots and specks of light. He looks down another tunnel after becoming tired of hearing the single people mumbling to themselves about the past or the snores of those who choose to sleep away the twelve dark hours of life below ground. He seeks absolute solitude.
   He chooses to turn down a tunnel which doesn’t have specks of lights and the subway lights are so rare there is barely a glow to guide him. This lack of light and evidence of people reminds him of his life up top. He is always alone living in his parent’s house two blocks from the metro blue line. When the fog that change people into zombies descended on Casanoire, he was sixteen. He still wonders why some people changed and others didn’t. Why was he spared and his entire family changed?
   He stops when he hears a tune floating in the stale air. The music is followed by the sounds of voices. Darkness is before him and looking back all he sees is darkness from where he has entered the tunnel. He walks forward toward the sound. Recognizing the instrument that made the sound, he hesitates again. His mother did play piano every spare moment she had and the distinct sound of a piano being played bounces off the tunnel walls. Every day when he leaves the house to go to the tunnels, he walks by the piano. Bean has never been tempted to sit and tap the keys since the fog took his family away.
   A faint glow beckons him on and when he turns a corner the sound of revelry and a golden warm light is in front of him. He thinks the man with the beard is right about his curiosity and walks toward the noise and glow. Before anyone can see him, he puts his back to the wall and slithers closer. He isn’t quite ready to be seen.
  Before him are dazzling chandeliers hanging off poles, girls in beaded knee-length gowns, and food displayed on a table that he only remembers from his childhood. Since the zombie fog, he eats gray food for his morning and evening meal, which is served at state-run dispensaries.
  Bean watches a girl in a pink and silver dress moves about the room with ease talking to everyone in turn. Off to the side and almost out of the light, a group of musicians plays. Bean can see the piano and a man in a tux who plays it. The other three musicians play saxophone, oboe, and a standing bass.
  The melody draws a girl wearing long black gloves near the musicians, and she begins to sing. Her voice is echoing off the walls. The crowd stops their conversations and listen to her though she doesn’t sing words. She sings vowels sounds that punctuate the melody. People sway and drink out of cut crystal glasses.
  “You should join us,” says a voice. Bean is startled and bangs his head on the wall behind him.
  “I was only watching. I’ll leave now.” He starts to walk back down the dark tunnel.
  The girl catches him in two steps and grabs his elbow. “No, really join us. There’s plenty and the fun has just begun.”
  “I’m a single soul. I don’t have fun.” The laughter around her eyes makes him wish he wasn’t a loner.
  “We were all once alone after the fog. Now, well, join us and see.”
   She is the girl that moved within the crowd with ease. The way she invites him makes him feel it is ok that he isn’t in a tux or feel ashamed that he had been watching them.
   “I’m Snowflake. What’s your name?” she asks as she hooks her arm around his and pulls him into the light.
  “Bean,” he mumbles as his stomach growls when he catches a whiff of the food.
   “Yes, it does smell lovely.” She smiles at him and he relaxes a bit. “Grass, Stick. Come, meet Bean.”
   The girl finishes her song and the musicians begin a new tune. Two boys, who look like twins in their tuxes rush toward them.
   “Bean. Is it?” Bean nods and Snowflake lets go of his arm and is grabbed around the waist at the same moment the boy extends his hand. Bean shakes it. “I’m Grass and this is Stick.”
   Stick extends his hand. “Let’s get you a drink and some grub. You look like you’ve had too much of that gray gruel.”

   Bean drinks whiskey for the first time. He chews every morsel of food slowly enjoying the tastes and texture of food not ground into a paste. Most every one of the crowd takes a moment to say hi to him and their names float by him. He listens to conversations and even cracks a smile at a few jokes. Just when he thinks the evening couldn’t get any better, the girl who had sung walks up to him.
  “Hi, I’m Pineneedle. Snowflake told me you're Bean. I saw you watching me sing. Did you like it?” Bean nods and watches her take off the black gloves. “I wish I could come up with words to sing. A song will call to me and I must sing with it.”
   “It was lovely.” And as much as he was captured by her vocalizations, he is now entranced by her laughing black eyes. He is a full foot taller than her, but her presence seems to fill the entire lit space.
   The moment is broken when Stick stands on a chair and announces,“It’s time!”
   “Time for what?” Bean leans toward Pineneedle and asks.
   “Time to go up top.” She takes his hand and Bean curls his fingers around her hand. It is the first time he has felt the warmth of skin against skin since his mother kissed his cheek to say good night on the evening when the fog rolled over Casanoire. His head blocks out all other sensations and he can almost feel their molecules colliding.
   He snaps out of the sensation when the group starts to ascend the stairs.“The sun is not up.”
   “Hush, Bean,” Snowflakes says as she and Grass pass him. “The musicians are leading. The music will protect us.”
    After the Zombie Fog, those who were infected leave their houses on their morning routines and never return. Bean waited in his house for two weeks not knowing where his parents had gone. During the first two days, he enjoys his freedom of having the house to himself. He plays hooky from school not knowing that it had been shut down. The thrill of playing AfferentBoxY consumes his days. When he finally decides to turn on the TV, he is inundated with warning messages about how to live now that the zombie apocalypse has actually occurred. That night before dusk a van rides through the streets announcing that all citizen of Casanoire should head to the subway tunnels where they will be safe from the zombies.
   While these thoughts about the first days of living without parents and discovery of the horrors of zombies replay through his mind, Bean clasps Pineneedle’s hand tighter and pulls her closer to the musicians. He wants to make sure that he is well within the protection of the music. The group is ascending the last set of stairs before they will be on the street.
  “The first time I adventured out after dark,” says Pineneedle, “I saw my zombie brother, Dirt. He was sitting with a zombie dog. They were eating something so bloody that I couldn’t tell what it was.” She draws in a quick breath.
  Bean brushes away a tear from Pineneedle’s cheek and then keeps pushing forward to get directly behind the band. “Then, why leave the tunnels. Why? And, and, how did they discover that music protected people?”
  “Grass was the first. There were only five of us then and one was the Oboe player, Maize, who followed Grass. Maize was so nervous he couldn’t stop playing. That’s how they discovered that live music repels zombies.”
  “What about recorded music? You probably tried that, right?”
   They stepped out onto the street and Bean saw first hand how music pushes the zombies away from them. “It works! But, Pineneedle, why leave the subway tunnels?”
   “First of all, we did try recorded music and it works but not as well. They don’t go as far away from the sound as with musicians playing. And, Bean, we leave because look up.”
   The group has stopped at a park, which is next to the subway stop. Bean looks up and sees stars like he had never seen before. It was dark all around him. The city lights haven’t been turned on in years.
   “Yeah, It’s cool to see the stars,” said Stick. “But the real reason we leave the tunnels--”
   Grass is now standing next to Bean. "We don’t have a reason, Stick. It’s not to see the stars; it’s not to kill zombies like we did in the first few weeks, it’s not to find a way out of Casanoire, and it’s not to discover where the zombies go during the day.”
  “We leave the tunnels because living in the tunnels is boring,” finishes Snowflake.
   “But,” says Bean feeling confused. “You live in the tunnels? You don’t leave in the daylight?”
   Pineneedle smiles at him. “Why would we? To stand in lines for gray paste? Spend our days doing what? Civilization is dead.”
   “Let’s go, guys. We’re going to find Bean more suitable clothes,” says Snowflake.
  “And a bike shop,” says a boy Bean hadn’t met yet.
  The group organized themselves with an instrument at each corner. Stick pulls out a harmonica and begins to play and leads the group. Bean still curious about the hows and whys marches on thinking there might be answers in wandering the streets.

  Three weeks later, Bean is still with the group and each night they have a new adventure out among the zombies of Casanoire. He hasn’t been back to his house or back down to the tunnel where the old man sits reading. During the second week, when he sees a particularly gruesome sight of five zombies gnawing on bloody bits and recognizes one bit as a human foot, he thinks about telling the old man about his new life. He wants to play the man a song he has learned on the ukulele he found in an alley and explain how each night ended with Pineneedle asleep in his arms.
  Bean learns how the group acquires its food by bargaining with farmers who have started a black market on the edge of town. There is a new world that has developed since the five years he spent going from his house to the tunnels. The world that coexists with the zombies but hidden to the state and its method of dealing with the apocalypse. Tonight, he is particularly struck by how easy he has switched from one way of life to the next and wonders if anywhere in the world there is a ‘back-to-normal’ with schools and industry.
  Pineneedle bounds up to him and kisses him quickly. “We’ve finished it and just in time. It’s so lovely!”
  “Finished what?”
  “The cake, silly.”
  Cornhusk stands on the piano bench. “Tonight, is a momentous occasion,” The crowd hollers and claps. “Tonight we celebrate Snowflake’s birthday. Grass, Stick, please present our gift to the lady of the evening.”
   Grass and Stick walk in balancing a three-tiered cake decorated with pansies made of icing. There are dozens of candles, but they aren’t lit.
   Snowflake squeals and gushes, “It’s so lovely. How did you ever, oh thank you, thank you.”
  Grass and Stick set it on the table.
  “Light the candles and tells us what you want to do tonight,” says Grass.
  Stick lights one end of a foot long piece of thin wood and hands it to her. “Your wish is our command.”
  The band plays a dramatic song as she lights the candles and when she is finished they stop.
  Tears are running down her face. Grass goes to her side and puts his arm around her waist. She wipes away the tears. “I wish to see my house; I wish to see my bedroom.”
  “You know that’s not a good idea, right,” says Stick looking concerned.
   “Yeah, but that’s my wish.”
   “Alright. After we eat cake, we will go to Dooley Street.” Grass hugs and kisses her.

  Snowflake blows out a candle for each piece of cake she cuts which was the custom in Casanoire.
  “Dooley street is the street my house is on. I went there every day after spending the night in the tunnel. Why is it bad to go there?" Bean asks Pineneedle while savoring the first bit of cake.
  “Grass believes and I guess I do too that one should leave the past in the past. Snowflake hasn’t been back since two days after the fog when she met Grass in the tunnel. Didn’t it make you sad every time you entered your house void of a family?”
  “No, I just shut out all thoughts of my parents once I knew that most of the world was zombies. I just existed until I wandered down this tunnel. Now, I’m living.”
  “For five years you thought of nothing.”
  “Yeah, I guess it is how I dealt with it.”
  “Perhaps we shouldn’t go with them tonight.”
  “Why? It isn’t near your neighborhood, is it?” Bean sets down the plate and looks into Pineneedle’s eyes.
   “No.” Before she could explain further, Stick gathers up the group to leave.

  Once they are in the neighborhood, someone yells, “Speech from the birthday girl.” And several others yelled, “Speech, Speech.”
  Grass puts Snowflake up on his shoulders. The band quiets though they continue to play softly and a few zombies gather closer than Bean likes.
  “Thank you for this lovely evening. Behind me is my house. Isn’t it lovely? It has been in my dreams lately and I feel like if I don’t wonder through it one last time.” She sniffled. “I will-- it will haunt me. Thank you again.” Grass pulls her off his shoulders and Snowflake, Grass, and the Oboe player walk toward the house.
  Bean watches one particular Zombie lumber toward him. Staring at the gray face and bulging left eye, there is something familiar he recognizes in the face.
  When Stick says, “Band, a little louder, I think our zombie friends are getting too close,” Bean strums his ukulele and chokes back a cry.  
  “What’s wrong Bean?” asks Pineneedle.
  “That’s my mom,” he says in an almost inaudible whisper.
  His mom moves closer despite the music.
  Bean stops his strumming. “What is it, mom?”
  "It said piano. I swear I heard it say piano,” the boy nearest to his mom says.
  The Bass player moves his standing bass, which has a wheel attached to the bottom, toward it and plucks a riff. Bean watches his mom back away and then she moves toward his house.
  “Bean. She’s going,” says Pineneedle.
   Bean sobs, “Piano, she said piano. She played piano though not when I was home because I was playing it. I was a prodigy. I didn’t even look at it after the fog.”


Sunday, October 25, 2015

8 Sentence Sunday on Dieselpunks

This snippet is the start of things getting troublesome for Heather.
"Excuse me," said Heather, "any news about the building falling into the crevice?"
Three people replied and spoke at once.
"The hole has increased."
"No classes today."
"I am sorry to say they are starting to blame Mademoiselle Aphrodites," finished the girl by the window.
“There are rumors of other natural phenomenon have happened at other universities. They say if a building is being erected to accommodate mechanical and steam studies, the 
H.A.G.s have targeted these buildings," said the man with the newspaper.
The man in the corner who looked more like a professor than a student said, "Do not worry, Mademoiselle Aphrodite, it will all pass, rumours come and go, and they will find in the end, it is just a sinkhole created by an underwater river."

If you would like to participate or read other 8 sentence Dieselpunk sentences go here.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

A Halloween Tale - Walmart Christmas Ornament Kills

Here's a Halloween tale that I did last year at this time. Next week there will be another Halloween story. By the way, Halloween and Walmart are two of my least favorite things. I have had many tragedies happen to me on Halloween from car trouble to accidents to odd happenings. I hope this Halloween is boring! And, well, I just hate Walmart because it's Walmart.

The Walmart plastic bag containing red hair chalk her thirteen-year-old daughter begged for crinkled while it settled into the passenger seat. She slid into the seat and remembered the conversation which brought her to Walmart echoed in her head while putting the key in the ignition.

“Mom, please. I need it for my Halloween costume.”
“I haven’t been in Walmart in two years and I don’t want to break that streak.”
“I’d have ordered it if you had decided what you needed a week ago.”
“It’s not my fault we live..”
“I’m on my way.” She grabbed her purse, keys, and forgot her reusable canvas bag she rarely left behind on a shopping trip.

What I won't lower myself into doing for that kid, she thought. Waiting for the car to warm up in hopes of it not stalling for the hundredth time since the temperature dropped below freezing, she pops out one cd to replaced it with a hastily picked up Queen cd she spotted while waiting in line at check out. Queen was her favorite driving music. She couldn't believe she had purchased her third copy of the Greatest Hits. Queen CDs always seemed to go missing and at three dollars, she couldn’t pass it up. The last copy, she suspected, had been stolen by one of her daughter’s friends she had dropped off at camp this summer.

The radio automatically filled the silence when the cd was ejected. It blared out a hiss and two tones beeped indicating the emergency broadcast system warning announcement. She reached for the volume control to turn it down, but the announcement started. She expected to hear the same old this-is-a-test spiel but instead heard:

Warning all Walmart stores are being closed immediately. Do not enter Walmart under any circumstances.

The beep, beep signal started again and then the same warning repeated.

She shut off the radio and grabbed her phone. Clicking on the Huffington Post app, the 64 point font headline said; Christmas Ornament Kills. Her mind flashed to the quick stroll through the fully stocked Christmas section of Walmart. Previously, it had been a guilty pleasure of hers when she shopped regularly in Walmart. She liked the magical feeling of being surrounded by Christmas stuff even months before December. Since it would likely be another two years before she might have to enter the cursed store again, she indulged.

Clicking on the headline, she scanned the article. The words that stood out were - Christmas Ornament…off gassing…disease…instant...plague…

Looking up from her phone, she watched a large crowd exit the store. To her right was a blue truck, hair was smooshed against the window and droplets of red trickled down the inside of the window.

Her hand went to her head, and she combed through her hair with her fingers.

She coughed...and again… and again into her elbow. Moisture in her elbow started to move along the crook. She gasped at the sight of blood dripping from her elbow to her pants.

The car across from her started up and she recognized the face of a neighbor. Instead of a wave of recognition crossing the friends face, she saw terror.

She coughed and saw her friend cough.

Another coughed.

Sirens blared.

Her body slumped against the window and blood trickled out of her ears.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

8 Sentence Sunday - October 4

I didn't post an eight sentence Sunday from last weeks 8 Sentence Sunday on Dieselpunks. First is last weeks and then this weeks. Both are from a story about H.A.Gs (Hermetic Aphrodite Guild). The story doesn't have a title yet.

"There is a small gap between the western mountains, but it would only take the train to the uncivilized world," said Rudiger.
"A train track that just ends and goes nowhere else seems a bit unnatural," said Daisy.
Flint appeared suddenly and announced his arrival by saying, "There’s nothing natural or unnatural about a train. It is a mechanical marvel."
"A bicycle is a natural way to move," said Daisy.
Rudiger smiled."Steam is natural and steal is made from materials from the ground."
"Steam, steel, and metal are not alive," said Flint shaking his head.
Daisy stared at Flint not sure how to put her feelings about natural and unnatural and how her ideas had nothing to do with alive nor mechanical.

This weeks 8 sentences -

Daisy and Rudiger left the coffee shop and were walking to their bikes when the ground shook beneath them. Rudiger caught Daisy when she stumbled. People stream out of the buildings, looking up and down the street.

A boy came running from the train station and said to the townspeople, "The train is in a hole."

Daisy, Rudiger and the people around them started to run toward the train station.

"Please stay here," Rudiger asked Daisy when they reached the station. Two railroad workers walked the tracks trail towards them. Rudiger approached them.

"A boy said the train is in a hole!?" said Rudiger to the men.

To read more Eight Sentence Sunday excerpts here is the link - 8-sentence-sunday-on-dieselpunks