Love Is The Darkest Art Part 2

Love Is The Darkest Art

A Dramione Fan Fic Serial

Scene 3:

Draco Malfoy shoved his way out of the library. Rounding the corner he let out a long baited breath. Leaning against the wall, he looked at the palm of his hand, discerning the place Hermione’s lips had been against it as he held her mouth shut. He closed his eyes for a moment and he could almost see her image behind his eyelids. He shook his head as if he were trying to dislodge the thought from his mind. He opened his eyes just in time to see Neville leaving the library, a couple of books in his hands. Normally, Draco would have done something. Made fun of him, tripped him up, something. But instead he let him pass by unmolested. Once the boy was out of sight, Draco clenched his fists and returned to the library.

Hermione was gone. She wasn’t where he left her. He checked a few nearby aisles and there was no sign of her. This puzzled the Slytherin boy. She hadn’t left by the main doors. He’d been standing there. How did she manage to evade him? The answer was simple. She still had to be in the library. Somewhere.

He made his way back to the front desk. Perhaps she was checking out some books or something. But no one was at the desk. Even Madam Pince was gone. This made no sense at all. And so Draco wandered up and down the aisles. He thought of calling out her name, or at least whispering it. But he thought if someone else heard him they would wonder why he was calling her name. So instead he moved silently among the shelves, trying to catch a glimpse of where she’d disappeared to.

After some time he gave up. He returned to the divination aisle where he’d first found her. He started scanning the shelves though he knew Umbridge had removed a large number of books from the section.

“What were you looking for?” he mumbled to himself.

Just then there was movement to his left. It startled him, but he didn’t jump. After all it was Hermione. At last. With a toss of her brown hair she walked down the aisle towards him.

“You know,” she said, “the next time you come looking for me…”

“I wasn’t looking for you.”

She smirked. “Okay then, next time we meet..”

“This wasn’t a meeting.” Then he smirked back. He was better at it than she. “I don’t even like you, Granger.”

“And I like you even less,” she replied quietly.

He nodded, taking a step closer. So close there were only inches between them. “Then let’s keep it that way,” he agreed.

Before she could make another retort, he kissed her, full yet light on the lips. Hermione closed her eyes and let it settle there. This wasn’t the first time he’d kissed her, but it was the longest, his lips barely leaving hers before pressing them once again, his mouth pleasantly parting with hers, tongues briefly touching as he took her into his embrace, one hand touching her cheek, the other resting lightly on her throat.

Hermione wrapped her arms around his waist, gently pulling him to her so that even air couldn’t pass between their bodies. She leaned her face into his hand and imagined his long fingers lingering on her forever. The fact they were in the library seemed to fall away from her, replaced with the single thought of floating on clouds high up in a starry night sky, two lovers entwined in the darkness where no one could see.

Draco pulled himself slowly from her kiss. “You know I adore you, right?” When she nodded, he added, “No matter what I say in front of others, you are my true magic, mudblood.”

She smiled. While it seemed an insult to call her that in public, in private it meant something different to her. It was about her uniqueness, the strange, unexplainable blending of their two souls, one of purety, the other of fault.

“I…,” she tried to say. “I..I am so…”

“Shhhh,” he whispered and kissed her again. She couldn’t help but melt against him, the silence in the library contrasting with the steady, overpowering thrum of their hearts keeping time against the other.

TO BE CONTINUED?

Paul’s note: My apologies this part is so short. I’ll do better next time 😉

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Love Is The Darkest Art Part 1

Okay, it’s been awhile since i shared any writing, so here we go with something different, my Harry Potter themed fan fic project. I guess most aspiring or serious writers wouldn’t spend the time to write something they could never publish or monetize, but for me fan fic serves several purposes. For one, in writing fan fic you get the chance to celebrate and immerse yourself in something that obviously inspires you to be a writer. Two, it is awesome writing practice, helping you build on pre-existing characters and themes. And three, it has the potential to attract others who would not otherwise discover your other works.

So with that said, I have found myself attending a Hogwarts where Bad boy Draco Malfoy discovers he has a very soft spot Hermione Granger in year 5 and together they embark on a secret romance while new professor Dolores Umbridge would like nothing more than destroy them both.

It’s called “Love is the darkest art” , so let us begin, shall we? All comments, critique, and discussions about my take on this, or about Potter fandom in general is more than welcome. And yes, I know this isn’t for everyone, and there will be haters, but hey it’s just storytelling, folks…relax 😉

Love Is The Darkest Art

A Dramione fan fic serial

Scene 1:

“Granger,” the voice said, and she froze. Though her back was to him she knew that voice. The only one that gave her cold chills, that invaded her dreams with sweats of cruelty and irritation. She turned.

“Malfoy,” Hermoine scoffed, dismissing him with a glare. She looked first at Ron, then Harry, before she dared to meet Draco’s usual insult. Yesterday it was about her muggle parents, the day before it was about her secondhand wardrobe. Today it was probably her hair or something. Stupid insults from a sixteen year old immature scoundrel.

“Congratulations on becoming prefect,” he said, his tone dripping with sarcasm. “Perhaps now you can do what you do best and be snooty and boss others around.”

He looked at his two companions, Crabbe and Goyle and snickered. “Snooty,” snorted Crabbe. “Bossy,” agreed Goyle.

Hermoine didn’t even afford Draco’s cronies a glance. They were just mindless sheep. No she instead directed her ire at Malfoy himself. “Well at least i earned the title. Everything you earn comes as a gift from your father.”

“Ooh,” winced Harry, adjusting his glasses.

“Good one,” whispered Ron.

Draco Malfoy however was livid. The permanent sneer that was usually on his face disappeared. He looked at Hermoine with cold, vengeful eyes.

“One day Granger,” he snarled. “You won’t be around your friends. You’ll be alone and unprotected. We’ll see how funny you are then.”

He pushed past her, his shoulder bumping her own so hard it nearly knocked her down.

“Hey,” Harry shouted before both Crabbe and Goyle bumped into him in the same fashion. Harry staggered slightly but still protested. “We’ll turn you in!”

The trio of thugs just kept walking and didnt look back. Harry turned to Hermoine who was holding her shoulder where Malfoy had bumped her. “You’re a prefect now. You should report them.”

Hermoine shook her head. “It wouldn’t do any good. He’d just say I insulted his father. Lucius has the school in his pocket.”

Ron grumbled. “Yeah, and Umbridge would probably reward Draco with a free trip to…”

“Hello Harry,” a soft voice spoke as it passed. Seeing the blond wisps of hair flying in all directions, Harry knew exactly who it was. That, and the fact the person carried an open umbrella on a perfectly dry day, told him it was Luna Lovegood. But before he could even respond, she was gone, disappearing in the crowd of students who lingered outside of classes.

“Shes weird,” Ron said.

“At least she’s consistent,” Harry replied. After all, everytime she saw him she greeted him formally. He kind of liked the celebrity. This year, his fifth, had started out with the negative fallout from Cedric Diggiry’s death. Though it happened at the end of the previous school year, it was still much the talk among students and garnered Harry plenty of suspicious looks. So any kind of good greeting was fine by Potter.

“She’s not weird,” Hermoine said. “It’s just no one understands her.” She looked down the hallway where Draco and his pals had gone.

Harry patted her on her back. “Oh, don’t worry, Hermoine, we understand you.”

She smiled and turned to look at her truest friends. “I know, guys. You both are wonderful.”

Ron made a face.

Scene 2:

Hermoine turned off a corridor on the first floor and entered the library. At this time of day not many students frequented the great room that housed thousand upon thousands of books. Madam Irma Pince sat behind a large oak desk, sifting through some ancient parchments laid out across the top. She looked up and noticed Hermoine, who was a frequent visitor to the world of Hogwart’s volumes and tomes. Hermoine gives her her usual friendly wave and heads into the aisles. On an apparent search down the thin rows of shelves, anyone could tell she wasn’t just looking for any old book, or even something casual to picque her interest in her spare hours. She was on a serious mission.

She rounded a corner and went down the Divination aisle, hoping to find something useful to answer the questions in her head this particular morning, and many before. Looking at the titles on the shelf, she was confused. Where the books on divination should be there were very few titles. When she had last visited the library there were countless tomes on the subject. Now there were only a few dozen if that. There were still books on the history of the craft, or profiles on great teachers, but there no spell books, encyclopedias of incantations, nothing to instruct the student on practicing the art of seeing into the future and all its possibilities. This troubled her on several levels. For one, though she wasn’t into divining her own future, there was something she wanted to know, a curiosity that bugged her on things to come or not. But someone didn’t want the students to practice this. No one could have checked out all the books and then reshuffled the shelves to make it appear as if they had never been there. Was this Umbridge’s doing? She knew she’d changed the curriculum of the dark arts class and was no longer teaching defensive techniques, but had she somehow managed to remove books she didn’t want students to read as well?

Out of curiosity, Hermione thought she’d check other subjects as well. She walked briskly up and down other aisles, trying to determine what was missing until she finally came to the section of books for defense of the dark arts. In shock, she saw there were only two. What is going on, she thought to herself, reaching for one of the volumes. She lay her hand on it, started to pull it off the shelf, when to her surprise it pulled away from her and set itself back in line with the other books on the shelf. She reached for the other volume, touched its spine, and it jerked away from her as if it had a life of its own, or was enchanted by a spell. When she reached for yet another book, she hesitated and didn’t touch it. The book pulled away anyway. This was no spell she realized. The actions of these books had a human agent. And they were in the next aisle over.

She ran to the end of the aisle and popped her head around the corner. Charging into the aisle she stopped short. Someone was standing there, leaning against the shelf, arms crossed with a malicious smirk on his face. He turned to the shelf and slid the book he’d pulled from her side back into place. He took a step towards her, haughty and proud, and flipped a pale lock out of his face.

“Draco Malfoy,” Hermione whispered.

“You know, mudblood, that was a cheap shot earlier about my dad.”

“You know how I feel about your father,” she replied.

He shrugged. “And how he feels about you.” He waited a moment, and then added, “How I feel about you.”

Hermione closed her eyes for a second and then looked at Draco. She opened her mouth to say something, but in a swift motion he covered her lips with his hand. “Shhh, it’s Umbridge.”

He pushed her against the shelf, nearly pinning her to the wooden rack with his body. He was close enough that she could feel Draco’s breath at the side of her face. She felt it on the bare skin of her neck and she closed her eyes for a moment, struggling slightly for him to release her.

“Shh,” he whispered in her ear. “She’ll hear us. She’s been removing books for several days now. If she catches us, we’ll get detention.” Then he let out a quiet laugh. “Not only the damage to both our reputations.”

A noise shuffled from the next aisle over. Someone was looking through the books. The slow shuffle of their feet let Hermione know the person was moving off. But instead of moving away, the person came around the corner and Draco let her go, releasing her from his grip. She quickly put a few feet between them as Neville Longbottom stood there staring at them.

No one said anything for a moment, and then Draco glared at Hermione. “Watch your back, Granger,” he snarled. “I’m not done with you yet.” Then he pushed past Neville, bumping his shoulder as he went by.

“Nor I with you, jerk,” Hermione called after him.

Scene 3:

Draco Malfoy shoved his way out of the library. Rounding the corner he let out a long baited breath. Leaning against the wall, he looked at the palm of his hand, discerning the place Hermione’s lips had been against it as he held her mouth shut. He closed his eyes for a moment and he could almost see her image behind his eyelids. He shook his head as if he were trying to dislodge the thought from his mind. He opened his eyes just in time to see Neville leaving the library, a couple of books in his hands. Normally, Draco would have done something. Made fun of him, tripped him up, something. But instead he let him pass by unmolested. Once the boy was out of sight, Draco clenched his fists and returned to the library.

Hermione was gone. She wasn’t where he left her. He checked a few nearby aisles and there was no sign of her. This puzzled the Slytherin boy. She hadn’t left by the main doors. He’d been standing there. How did she manage to evade him? The answer was simple. She still had to be in the library. Somewhere.

He made his way back to the front desk. Perhaps she was checking out some books or something. But no one was at the desk. Even Madam Pince was gone. This made no sense at all. And so Draco wandered up and down the aisles. He thought of calling out her name, or at least whispering it. But he thought if someone else heard him they would wonder why he was calling her name. So instead he moved silently among the shelves, trying to catch a glimpse of where she’d disappeared to.

After some time he gave up. He returned to the divination aisle where he’d first found her. He started scanning the shelves though he knew Umbridge had removed a large number of books from the section.

“What were you looking for?” he mumbled to himself.

Just then there was movement to his left. It startled him, but he didn’t jump. After all it was Hermione. At last. With a toss of her brown hair she walked down the aisle towards him.

“You know,” she said, “the next time you come looking for me…”

“I wasn’t looking for you.”

She smirked. “Okay then, next time we meet..”

“This wasn’t a meeting.” Then he smirked back, though he was better at it than she. “I don’t even like you, Granger.”

“And I like you even less,” she replied quietly.

He nodded, taking a step closer. So close there were only inches between them. “Then let’s keep it that way,” he agreed.

Before she could make another retort, he kissed her, full and light on the lips. Hermione closed her eyes and let it settle there. This wasn’t the first time he’d kissed her, but it was the longest, his lips barely leaving hers before pressing them once again, his mouth pleasantly parting with hers, tongues briefly touching as he took her into his embrace, one hand touching her cheek, the other resting lightly on her throat.

Hermione wrapped her arms around his waist, gently pulling him to her so that even air couldn’t pass between their bodies. She leaned her face into his hand and imagined his long fingers touching her bare skin in other places. The fact they were in the library seemed to fall away from her, replaced with the single thought of floating on clouds high up in a starry night sky, two lovers entwined in the darkness where no one could see.

Draco pulled himself slowly from her kiss. “You know I adore you, right?” When she nodded, he added, “No matter what I say in front of others, you are my true magic, mudblood.”

She smiled. While it seemed an insult to call her that in public, in private it meant something different to her. It was about her uniqueness, the strange, unexplainable blending of their two souls, one of purety, the other of fault.

“I…,” she tried to say. “I..I am so…”

“Shhhh,” he whispered and kissed her again. She couldn’t help but melt against him, the silence in the library contrasting with the steady, overpowering thrum of their hearts keeping time against the other.

Scene 4:

The very first kiss had taken place not even a year earlier at the Yule Ball. It had been very awkward as she had been there as the date of Victor Krum, international Quiddich champion, and Draco had been there with another Slytherin, Pansy Parkinson. It was a strange event, as it seemed all eyes had been on her that day, but the ones she noticed the most were the astonished grey silver orbs of her nemesis. Or at least that’s what she had thought of him then.

When she had first descended the steps and felt everyone’s eyes on her, it was Draco in his black velvet dress robe who she noticed, though she tried not to show it. It wasn’t that he was dressed for success, in fact the high collar of his robe looked a little ridiculous. No, it was the fact that for once he was speechless in her presence. The boy who earlier that year had hexed her and given her huge horrid teeth. The boy she had slapped two years ago for laughing about Buckbeat’s impending execution. The boy who almost certainly hated her for not being pureblood. And yet now, he was nothing like his usual self. In that fact, he turned away from her as she passed by him and his date. It wasn’t a rude or baleful turn, but one of embarrassment for staring at someone so long.

And then later that evening as Victor left her side to greet some of his fellow teammates, for some strange reason she found herself looking to see if Draco were anywhere around. After all, it gave her a sense of satisfaction to see him so uncomfortable at the sight of the new her, the young lady in the periwinkle blue. Her eyes found him standing in a corridor doorway. He was alone, leaning against the frame, and his eyes seemed to be boring holes into her.

She didn’t quite know why she wanted a confrontation. Perhaps she would find it fun, or seeing how he’d been speechless earlier, to goad him into some new insult, so he would be back to usual Malfoy behavior. Either way, she found herself approaching him.

“What are you staring at, Malfoy?”

He didn’t respond at first, and when he tried to smile it came off more like a smirk, but she didn’t mind. “My doom,” he finally replied.

“Do I look that bad? No wait, don’t answer that. You are not one who would say something nice.”

Again the smirk. “I was going to say you look beautiful, but since my words don’t matter…”

He turned away from her in an attempt to walk off but Hermione took a couple steps after him. “Draco, I’m sorry…”

He stopped, but didn’t turn to face her.

“I can’t believe I’m apologizing to you for anything…” Hermione continued.

“I guess that makes us even, for I cant believe I think you look…ravishing.”

He finally turned to look at her, took a few steps closer, then changed his mind, choosing instead to walk away, his black velvet robes swishing in his wake.

Hermione, against her better judgement, followef him into a dark corridor, away from the sound of the festivities. “Draco, what has gotten into you?”

He turned to her, his eyes narrowing. “You have. But perhaps it’s just the season. I shouldn’t be thinking such things about a mudblood.”

She let the comment slide. “What kind of things are you talking about? If you are planning some trick or insult to embarass me on this night, I will….”

He kissed her. It was quick but still a kiss. His lips touched hers and it was long enough to make her close her eyes and enjoy it, even if it was Draco. But then the moment was over, the brief smooch done, and she slapped him.

“Draco!” She scolded. “What are you doing?”

He touched his cheek where she slapped him. It was red. But so was her own face, whether in anger or embarassment, no one could tell. They stood looking at each other a moment, neither saying a word, but then he answered her.

“I was just …wanting…needing…no…” He stopped and hung his head. When he raised it again, he couldn’t look at her. “Hermione, the greatest tragedy in my life so far is… wanting what I know I can’t have.” He finally allowed his grey eyes to see her. “Everyone likes you. Krum. Potter. Weasley…”

“Ron? Don’t be ridiculous…”

“But I am ridiculous. Ridiculously, hopelessly, ….” He let it hang in the air.

Hermione waited for him to finish, but he never did. Never even had a chance to.

“Are you okay, angel?” A deep voice interrupted. It was Victor Krum.

Hermione smiled at her rugged date. “Yes, I’m fine…Draco and I were just talking.”

Krum looked at Malfoy and raised a thick eyebrow.

“A disagreement as usual,” Draco clarified. He looked at Hermione, his eyes unreadable, but seemingly cold again. “No need to discuss this later.”

Victor seemed satisfied, but Hermione peered at Draco with different, kinder eyes. “No disagreement,” she answered, “just bewilderment.”

As she walked off, her arm linked through Victor’s, she dared to glance back with some satisfaction. After all, she’d felt Draco’s eyes upon her, and though it surprised her to think so, she liked his attention, and as the hours passed on further into night, she found her mind returning to Draco’s attempt at a kiss.

To Be Continued

Where the hell have I been?

Wow, long time no post! I’ve been horrible at blogging for quite a few months. I wish everyone a belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I have to confess that for me and my family the year has started out with difficulties, tragedies, sorrow, and strife. January has been very unpopular with us, that’s for sure. I won’t go into those personal details, but hey, if you have any good vibes to send our way, we could sure use them.

On my writing homefront, which is what this blog is supposed to showcase, I’m still putting pen to paper on the horror novel-in-progress “Zombie Drift” but it’s all out of sequence, so it’s kind of pointless to post it at this point. It would be very confusing for any reader. After it’s all in its proper sequence I’ll pick back up the story and share it with you. For those who were actively reading it, I apologize. It will return, I promise.

In my down time from zombies, I’ve begun a fan fic project for fun that I hope won’t cause litigation 😉 It is novella length heading into novel status fan fic set in the world of Harry Potter and its characters. It is called “Love Is The Darkest Art” and poses the question, What if Draco Malfoy and Hermione Granger had a secret romance in year five of Hogwarts (During “Order Of The Phoenix”) ? This popular pairing, known as “Dramione” among fans who “ship” them, has been done many times by fan fic writers before, but after looking at several of them and their extreme deviations from the HP canon, I thought I’d challenge myself and see if i could write something that would almost (I use that term loosely) fit in the original novels by JK Rowling.

But anyway, instead of telling you about it, I will begin posting it in mini episodes soon, as part of my new years resolutions to complete all my started (and stalled) novels. I feel like it’s a daunting task, but I’m hopeful to get at least half of them finished. We’ll see what the months ahead bring….

Happy writing and many blogging blessings to you all. See you soon 😀

Zombie Drift 6: Lynn

Six: Lynn

Lynn Billiot sat in a lounge by the pool. Her writing notebook sat in her lap as she jotted down three observations. One: life aboard a cruise ship hadn’t been what she expected. Two: Her parents didn’t understand her melancholy. Three: See observation one and two. The problem was this cruise was a long time coming. Meticulously planned a long time in advance, it was her parent’s present to her for graduating high school a year early. She guessed they thought the blazing sun and rolling sea would be a great reward and escape from their home of chill air and drifting snow. The truth was she missed Alaska. School in Anchorage, spending summers with her grandparents further north in Fairbanks. She missed how small life seemed to be. While others might be bothered by the isolation, the true isolation was being on a boat full of people and still feeling alone. She missed her best friend Jessica. She missed Ranger, her gray malamute dog. She missed the inspiration that came to her on early mornings while looking out the window on the Alaskan landscape.

The landscape on the St. Fitzgerald was much different. The sun back home was bright and blinding, but here it was burning hot. As such, both men and women seemed to don as little clothes as possible. She wasn’t used to that either. Clothing was a necessity where she came from, but here it seemed to be more an accessory, something to enhance one’s figure or draw attention to its shortcomings. Lynn really didn’t have to worry about that. She was a cute girl. At seventeen she was more woman that she ever felt before, with long dark hair and deep, knowing eyes, a dusky complexion that never seemed to need makeup, and a friendly nature that seemed to attract others back home. But she didn’t want to attract anyone here. Even the cute Asian boy standing at the ship’s railing staring wistfully out on the ocean.

What she wanted to attract however was a story. All her life she wanted to be a writer. She listened to stories of her Inuit people and longed to enthrall readers the way she herself had listened to storytellers weave a spell around the spoken word. She looked down at her notebook and a thought came into her head. Perhaps it was inspired by the episode of “The Walking Dead” she’d watched the night before, or maybe it was the feeling of foreboding that had dominated her time on the cruise. Either way she began to write.

“In the staggering crowd, Alisa ran. She didn’t want to be like everyone else. She didn’t want to be a zombie.”

She stared at the words and smiled, hoping this was the beginning of an exciting story. She put pen to paper again and was getting ready to write the next line when something caught her vision. A statuesque blond haired girl, wearing a two piece bikini that may have been three sizes too small strutted across the deck on the way to the pool. Though it seemed her goal was to attract attention to her golden bronze tan and her long shapely legs (and other body parts) it seemed she was attracting the wrong kind of guy. The man was following close on her heels. Solidly built, he wore khaki shorts and a colorful Hawaiian shirt. He was tagging so close that if the girl had stopped walking he would have plowed right into her. Lynn shook her head. She wanted to ask him if he’d ever heard of personal space, but then he zipped around the blond girl and was moving just as quickly away from her. Maybe he wasn’t following her after all she thought, but it gave her an idea for the next line of her tale.

“Someone was following her though. And this was no zombie. This man walked with purpose. This man was dangerous, someone on a mission. Maybe he was the one who would save them all from the zombie horde.”

Pleased with the few lines she’d just written, she looked up. Brushing hair out of her eyes, she saw both the man and girl were gone. There were others on deck, some just milling about around the pool, others on their way to other onboard destinations. The Asian boy still stood at the railing admiring the sea. She watched him for a moment, thinking to herself that his lithe, toned frame would be perfect for the upcoming protagonist in her story.

As if feeling her eyes on him, the Asian boy turned his head in her direction. Lynn immediately dropped her eyes in embarrassment. But before she did, she thought there was something very familiar about his face. He was strikingly good looking and could have been a model with his photogenic face. Small eyes, cute nose, perfect hair. His full, flawless lips looked as though if he opened his mouth, nothing would come out except the most beautiful melody. And that’s when it hit her. She knew where she’d seen his face before. Plastered all over her friend Jessica’s bedroom wall.

Lynn had always like the rugged Hollywood type, but a year ago Jessica had gotten bit by the k-pop bug. A musical genre from South Korea, it was an addictive blend of urban hip-hop, R&B, pop, and dance that had swept even Lynn’s part of the United States. And on Jessica’s wall was her favorite k-pop idol, New Yeong.

There was no way this could be the same guy though. Despite the similarity, why would a k-pop star be on an American cruise ship off the coast of South Carolina? Jessica’s dream boy was probably in South Korea getting ready for a photo shoot or TV appearance. Lynn laughed to herself, thinking it would have been something to get an autograph for her friend, but this boy was no….

She stopped. Did someone just say zombie? Lynn had pretty good hearing and she could have swore someone had just said the word her whole story was based on. Taking her eyes off the Asian boy, she cast a look around her, trying to find the person who’d spoken. It only took a second. There were two older women standing by the pool. One was showing the other her tablet. The other was exclaiming, “there’s no such thing as zombies!”

The first one was shaking her head madly. “Well, look for yourself! I’m not making it up! This is in Charleston right now!”

Lynn stood up. The hair was standing up on the back of her neck. She had to see what they were freaking out about. She looked back to the boy at the railing and noticed he was climbing it. What in the world is he doing, she thought. Before she could dwell on it much, the two women yelped and the one dropped the tablet. It momentarily distracted her, but something about the boy held her attention. He was nearly standing on top of the railing now. Oh shit, she thought. He’s going to jump.

TO BE CONTINUED

Zombie Drift 2018. Paul D Aronson. All Rights Reserved.

Zombie Drift 5: Aida

Five: Aida

Aida was in her dressing room, a small bathroom really, applying the last of her rouge. In another hour she’d be facing the morning crowd. She found it hard to believe that on a cruise ship people started drinking the moment they got up. She guessed without a job to report to or a home to take care of, there was nothing to do but to get sloshed and bask in the sun. And seeing this was the last day of the cruise, they would be flooding into the Starlit Lounge to have one last go of it. But if it was the mixed drinks that brought them in, it was Aida who kept them there. With her smooth, sultry voice she sang jazz standards and silky renditions of popular tunes, making the patrons, men and women alike, dream of lovers they’d never known or ones that got away. She often thought of things like that herself, which contributed to the emotion and soul she put into her vocal performances.

Pleased with her makeup, she stepped back to admire her long cocktail dress, off white against her dark ebony skin. Aida was from Ethiopia, one of Africa’s landlocked countries. As a child she was cut off from the sea so much she often dreamed of living on it, and now as an adult of twenty-seven it was her home. Both of her parents were long deceased and there was nothing to go back to other than a few scattered relatives. So much of her time was spent on the waves, while her off time was an apartment in London with a gig singing at a local club. The rest of the time she was here on the St. Fitzgerald fronting a small jazz ensemble that included her sometimes boyfriend, pianist Jerome Stipe from Brooklyn. ‘Sometimes’ because he had a bad case of the roving eye and living life on a cruise ship meant there was plenty to look at, especially on the decks and by the pool. Which was probably where he was now, she thought while she hummed her favorite Sade tune, “Nothing Can Come Between Us.” She loved the Nigerian born pop star and emulated her in style and fashion. She had tried to also emulate her hourglass figure but hadn’t quite made it there yet. Still, she swayed her hips as she sung her favorite lines from the song in a soft, lilting voice, “It’s about faith….It’s about trust…”

And then she stopped. Faith and trust wasn’t something she could expect from Jerome. If she could ever get that through her head she could make the break from him, but it was hard to let go. He didn’t want to let her go either. He liked the arrangement he made her tolerate. That’s why it had been good to see him get all jealous when she attempted to get the white man to come up on stage and dance with her the night before. No matter that the dapper gentleman had refused with an embarrassing shake of his head, it still gave her a sense of power to send the message to Jerome, You ain’t the only fish in the sea.

Now that would make a great song she thought, and switched from Sade’s jazz pop love song to singing that very line under her breath, “You….You ain’t…..You ain’t the only fish in the sea, fool…”

Suddenly she heard a noise out in the lounge. It was the sound of loud voices and not all of it sounded pleasant. At first she thought there was a fight going on right outside her bathroom come dressing room, but then she realized it was the big screen television over the bar. Shit, she thought, Jerome must be back, drunk as shit and cranking the TV again. She grabbed her high heels and walked to the door. She threw it open, intending to light into him for getting drunk so early in the day and less than an hour before showtime. But it wasn’t Jerome at the bar playing the television so loud. No, it was a trio of people. A man, a teenaged boy, and a young lady. She didn’t know if they were a family or other relations as they all looked different. The man wore a tacky Hawaiian shirt, the lady some kind of Indian saree or something, and the boy, well he was just typical teenager. Of course, hijacking the lounge’s television was anything but typical.

“I don’t think the lounge is serving yet,” she said, thinking it would startle them, but her voice had no effect on them. Their attention was glued to the television, and when she finally looked to see what was so engrossing, she dropped the shoes from her hand.

The scene on the television was pure chaos. People were running and screaming on a downtown street. Some were clawing at their hair, foaming at the mouth as if they were dogs infected with rabies. Those who weren’t running were lumbering along, limping and shuffling, reaching out and trying to grab those who passed by them. Their faces were sunken, haunted, and had taken on the appearances of corpses risen from the grave. A woman ran by one of these, and the haggard looking creature managed to grab her, dragging her towards him. She screamed and tried to fight back as she was bitten first on the arm, then the shoulder, as another one of these monstrous things joined in the feast.

Aida couldn’t watch it for long. “On my god, What is going on?!”

The man in the Hawaiian shirt turned to her and she realized it was the guy she had tried to coax into dancing with her last night. But that barely registered. Even though she turned her eyes from the grotesque scenes on the big screen, the images were already burned into her mind.

“I think it’s some kind of….I don’t know….mass hysteria, chemical attack maybe….”

“What is wrong with those people? They were eating that woman!”

He shook his head, just as dumbfounded as her, and returned to watching the scene. A reporter or someone had come on and was trying to shout over the din. “We don’t know exactly what has happened! But apparently there was an explosion at a nearby factory or facility some say is owned by the government, and it sent gases or some kind of chemical agent into the air!”

The man, whose clothes were dirty and disheveled himself, dodged one of the corpse like creatures and resumed shouting. “Military troops have arrived here in Charleston but they are having a hard time restoring order for it appears the city is overrun by…. Um, walking corpses…or something. I half wonder if these creatures dug themselves out of the grave for I saw one that was mostly bones and rags…oh my god, listen to me!”

He stopped and then looked right in the camera. “Stop watching me! Run for your life, or they’ll get you too.” Then he started reciting what sounded like a bible passage about the dead rising from graves. Then he made a little maniacal laugh in his throat. “Have we gone mad?”

Three of the crazed people grabbed him. He was so defeated emotionally he didn’t even fight. Even when they started to devour him, he just let them. Then the screen went black. Prisha had pulled the plug from the wall.

Tears were welling in the Indian girl’s eyes. “I can’t take this anymore,” she said. “What..what is….” She began to cry. “I just want to go home.”

Aida moved towards her before any of the males could. She took her into her arms and tried her best to console her, speaking to her in quiet tones that no one else could hear.

Ethan took Peter by the arm and ushered him away to give the women some privacy. They both appeared to be in tears now. “Listen up,” the man whispered. “Stay here with the ladies. I’ve got to find the Captain. If that’s what’s really going on…” He pointed to the now blank TV. “We can’t be taking all these people to port.”

“I’m not staying here. I’m going with you.”

“No, I can move much faster alone.”

“I don’t care. You are supposed to be protecting me from death threats. You can’t leave my side.”

Ethan almost laughed. “Death threats? You saw the television. The Instagram. I think we have something much worse than death threatening us…”

Zombie Drift 4: Blake

Four: Blake

Communications Officer Blake Travers had been bothered by the messages. They were coming in at regular intervals, static and garbled voices begging him to decipher. Every now and then, he picked up a word or two thanks to the noise cancelling headphones. Infect. Virus. Brain. They were just a few he could pick out but the truth started to seep through. On land, there was some kind of contagion. A virus infecting the brain. He had to know more.

He decided to go to Morse Code. There could be no mistaking those kind of messages. As long as the receiver tapped out the right letters the message would reach you accurately. So he sat down at the Morse Code desk and began tapping out his question. ‘Is it safe to dock?’

It took a few minutes. He ran his finger through his yellow blond hair as he waited. This was a nervous habit from childhood and though he’d shaken it in recent years, stress always seemed to bring it back.

He looked at his watch, starting to wonder if anyone would answer. He knew Morse Code was a bit outdated, and the only ones who were taught it nowadays was sailors he was hoping someone at the docks still knew how to use it.

Then it came. In a short burst. Two words over the archaic system. ‘Turn Back.’

Blake quickly tapped out his next question. ‘Why?’

There was no immediate answer, He waited a few moments and tapped again. ‘Need to dock. Have passengers.’

This time the answer was almost instant. ‘Don’t.’

Again he asked. ‘Why not?’

‘Contagion.’

‘Virus?’

A slight hesitation. ‘No.’ Then, ‘Nuclear.’

Blake was taken aback. A deadly virus was one thing to contend with, but something nuclear? ‘Terrorists?’

‘No. Accident.’

‘Radiation leak?’

The reply, when it came, was shocking. ‘Warhead.’

Despite his alarm, he felt he had to ask the next question, so he tapped it out quickly. ‘Intended for whom?’

There was a long silence. The military man Blake had once been was now on high alert. And then a new message was tapped out from the docks. ‘Who is this?’

Blake hesitated. He didn’t know why, but he could almost hear his old naval instructor telling him, Never reveal yourself to the enemy. He’d spent a tour of duty on a submarine, where stealth and silence was normal engagement. Perhaps that applied here as well.

A new message came through. ‘Is this the approaching cruise ship?’

Blake didn’t respond, but the Morse Code persisted. ‘Is this the St. Fitzgerald?’

Despite his better judgement, he tapped out a quick answer. ‘Yes.’

‘Come on in. You are cleared for docking.’

Blake froze. Hadn’t the first message been to turn back? Hadn’t the Morse operator said Don’t when he said he had passengers and needed to dock? So, why all of a sudden was he now messaging us to come in? Because it’s two different people, he answered himself. The first guy isn’t there anymore. This is somebody new. And with this thought came another one. If there was a contagion, chemical derived or nuclear, the military would be there. They silenced him. The first guy. They replaced him with their man. And now they want us to come in. But why.

This can’t be happening, Blake thought. There is absolutely no way this is real. Maybe it’s a training exercise. Some kind of war game with the marines and the navy to better prepare the country for things like this. But his mind screamed at him in his father’s stern voice, “This is things like this! It’s happening now!

He got up from the desk, picking up the sheet he had been jotting the code messages on. He crammed it in his pocket and headed for the door. He had to get to the bridge and show this to the officer on watch. He could bypass him and go straight to the Captain, but that wasn’t normal ship procedure. He knew the Captain was on inspections so locating him could prove difficult. All he knew was they couldn’t go into port without finding out what was really happening onshore.

Outside, he started heading in the direction of the bridge, but something caught his eye. On the open deck, an Indian girl being accosted by two men. He wasn’t sure that was entirely true, but one of the men was holding the girl by her shoulders and was leaning down in her face. The other guy, a boy really, seemed to be looking the girl up and down.

He headed toward them, but waited until he was nearly on top of them before alerting them to his presence. The man had let the girl go and the boy had a cell phone out. “Everything okay here, Miss?” Blake asked.

The man, who had been looking at the cell phone too, suddenly looked up. “Oh, Officer. I think we need to see the Captain.”

This was something Blake heard time and time again. On most occasions they didn’t need the Commanding Officer of the ship and Blake had gotten pretty good at deflecting them.

“The captain is a busy man. Anything I can help you with?”

“Yeah,” the boy shouted. “You can take….”

“Who are you and what’s your rank?” the older man interrupted.

This threw him off a second. “I…I’m Blake Travers, Communications Officer. “

The man smiled and held out his hand. “Ethan. This is Peter. And…” He looked to the Indian girl.

“I’m Prisha,“ she replied.

Blake took the man’s hand and briefly shook it.

“Since you’re in Communications, maybe you should look at this communication,” Ethan said.

Peter handed the cell phone to Blake so he could see. Looking at what was on the screen, he instantly wished he’d left these people alone and continued to the bridge.

“What…what is this?”

“It’s my Instagram,” Prisha said. “A friend sent that to me. She’s waiting for me in Charleston.”

Blake started thinking of the coded messages and how it applied to this. Contagion, the guy had said.

“I’m worried about Cherise,” the girl continued, bringing him out of his thoughts. “I haven’t heard from her since she posted this.”

Blake didn’t know how to respond. Normally, he would be trying to reassure passengers whenever there was a situation. But despite his training, he wasn’t quite prepared for something like this. Whatever this was.

“As the radio guy, you can call ashore, right?” Ethan asked. “Call her friend for her? Make sure she’s okay.”

“Yes,” Blake replied, distracted within his own flurry of thoughts. “Um, I mean no. No, I can’t. I have to get to the bridge. We’ll keep you informed..”

He handed the cell phone back to whomever would take it. Prisha took it from him, a dumbfounded look on her face that begged the question, why won’t you help us?

There was no answer forthcoming. The Communications Officer had stopped communicating and was now moving away from them so rapidly you’d think they were the ones with contagion.

From the direction of shore, the breeze softly blew…

TO BE CONTINUED

Zombie Drift. 2018 Paul D Aronson. All Rights Reserved

Zombie Drift 3: Prisha

Three: Prisha

Prisha stared at the luggage by the door. Packed and ready, she was dying to get off the ship. Despite the nice weather and exquisite food, the voyage had been terrible for her. Nothing had gone as planned and all she wanted to do was go home. She glanced at herself in the mirror. Her green and gold sari while exquisite was not what she was used to. She preferred jeans and a short sleeve top, a kurtis with leggings when cooler, but she knew her parents were waiting at the port, so something more traditional was required. They disliked how westernized she’d become, and had often threatened to return the family to Punjab, but for Prisha that would be even more alien than America sometimes seemed. They’d moved to the US when she was just nine. Now eleven years later, despite any pleasant memories of childhood with her cousins, America was home.

The cruise had been a disaster fifteen minutes after she boarded the ship. There had been some serious misunderstandings between herself and the guy she had planned to meet. After several years of Instagram, messaging, and e-mails, she had decided to finally meet the guy of her dreams, her online beau. They had planned to take the same cruise as a way of getting to know each other. That way they could have different cabins, yet still spend time dining and doing different activities the cruise offered. It wasn’t the way many of her friends would have arranged the first in person meeting, but as her parents had long alleged, Prisha was her own woman and quite headstrong when she wanted to be.

Desmond, the twenty-five year old Medical school graduate she was supposed to meet, and hopefully spend the rest of her life with, turned out to be a forty year old insurance salesman from Ohio. While age differences between couples didn’t really matter to her, the fact he’d been lying about it for years did. She’d been in university for two years studying medicine herself, and her hope had been to get married, move to New York, and join her new husband in his family practice. Now the only real thing about that was her studies, so once she disembarked she was going to throw herself into her work so much she wouldn’t even have time to think of men. Especially ones who expected you to come stay in their cabin five minutes after boarding the ship.

Prisha smiled in the mirror. She had to put on a happy face, the one that would tell her parents everything had went nice. Though she’d told her few friends, and older sister, the real purpose of the trip, to her parents she hadn’t been quite forthcoming. She told them she was going to meet some girlfriends from the internet on the cruise. She felt guilty for not telling them the truth, especially after she’d been lied to herself by Desmond. She was both ashamed and embarrassed over the whole thing. Maybe one day she’d confess to her mom and dad, but not today. They would be too disappointed.

She pinned her long dark hair away from her face and took a deep breath. She wanted off the ship but she dreaded to even leave her cabin. Desmond was still on board and out there. Since their argument over honesty within relationships and “no, I’m not going to stay in your room,” he’d approached her several times attempting to apologize, but she wasn’t having it. For one, in person he didn’t seem half as sincere as he did online. For another, there was something of a lecherous leer to his gaze that made her uncomfortable. She wasn’t about to….

Her cell went off. A notification. ‘Please, don’t be him,’ she said. She checked her phone. Instagram. She sighed in relief. It was a post from her friend Cherise at the College. It was a somewhat blurry picture. Prisha squinted her eyes, trying to determine just what she was looking at. Didn’t she know how to use the tools to make the image better? It appeared to be of a man on top of another man. None of her friends sent such things over the internet before and she was almost embarrassed to look at it, this image of a bulky man laying flat on top of a younger man. Never mind they were clothed, it was just that it didn’t look right or appropriate to her sensibilities. But then she saw what the guy on top was doing. He was eating the other man.

Prisha let out a scream and threw the phone down. Oh my god, he was really eating him! This wasn’t a photoshopped picture, nor a screenshot of a horror movie. This guy had pieces of the other man’s face in his freaking mouth! She looked down at the phone, Instagram still up and showing the gruesome image. She hesitated to even pick up the phone out of fear the man would come out of the cell and attack her too.

Bing! Another notification. She snatched up the phone and clicked on it. It was Cherise again. Another image. This time it scared her so bad she closed Instagram and made the mental note to uninstall the program as soon as she could think clearly. The image had been a close-up of a face. A woman. Maybe slightly older than Prisha herself. Her eyes had been blood red. Her nose twisted at an odd angle. Foam or something had been on her lips, which had been curled up in a canine like snarl. Her teeth had blood and what appeared to be human tissue on them. That’s what had prompted her to shut down the app so quickly. Most people feared common things like clowns, or spiders, or elevators, but hers was different. She feared zombies. Suddenly, the companionship of a jerk like Desmond didn’t seem so bad.

She shoved her phone in her purse, threw back the bolt on her door, and fled out into the hall. She had to show someone this. She needed someone to tell her that what she’d seen on Instagram wasn’t real. That she had been mistaken. Perhaps they would gently shake her awake and say they were at port and ready to leave the ship. Or that what she was looking at was a makeup screen test for a new movie they were filming. But there was no one in the hall. This was First Class. You usually had people coming and going from their rooms to onboard activities or dinner. That’s it, she thought. Everyone is at breakfast.

Or, her mind told her, everyone IS breakfast.

She raced down the hall and pushed a door open. She had to get outside. Get some air. She was starting to hyper ventilate. Coming out onto the open deck, the morning sun blinded her for a moment and she collided with someone. All she saw was a quick flash of palm trees and parrots as the person caught her from falling. Her eyes came into focus. The trees and birds were on a Hawaiian shirt and an older man with deep blue eyes was looking at her.

“Whoa,” he said. “You alright, miss?”

She tried to speak but was having trouble breathing.

“Maybe she needs the Heimlich,” somebody else said. She turned to the voice and saw a guy who appeared several years younger than she smiling at her. He had short ginger hair and was in a white polo shirt with colorful neon swim trucks so bright it made her wish she’d live long enough to enjoy Holi again.

The man who’d caught her was holding her by her shoulders at arm lengths away from him. He had his head slightly bent to one side in an attempt to look her straight in the face. “Hey, just try to relax. Breathe in slow, then exhale. Breathe in…breathe out. Are you okay? How many fingers am I holding up?” He put his hand in front of her face and held up a finger, then another, then four, followed by three, then all five in rapid fashion.

“You’re going too fast,” she protested, finally catching her breath.

The man smiled and let her go. “Good. You’re okay.” He straightened up his shirt and reached for his collar as if he were more used to suit and tie.

“I apologize, sir. I didn’t mean to…”

Before she could finish, the younger one laughed. “ Hell, we just want to know where the party is at. You was running like your butt is on fire!”

For a moment, she thought the guy was going to follow up his statement by staring at her backside, but thankfully he didn’t. She gave him a “you better not” look anyway.

“Forgive him,” the older man said. “He was born yesterday and has never seen a lady until a few minutes ago.”

Prisha wasn’t sure what to make of these guys. Were they trying to flirt with her or just being nice? Was the young guy checking her out? Was the older man trying to win her over with flattery? Desmond had really messed her up for the rest of the male population, she thought. And then she reached in her purse and pulled her phone out. She thrust it at the younger guy.

He took a step back and asked, “What? You want me to put my number in your contacts?”

“No, I don’t want your number. Pull up my Instagram.”

He had a disappointed look, but did as he was told. He stared at the screen for just a second before he looked at his companion. “Oh no Ethan…”

“What is it?”

“I don’t think that was a movie we saw.”

TO BE CONTINUED

Zombie Drift. 2018 Paul D Aronson. All Rights Reserved.