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Zombie Drift 13: Peter, Aida, & Prisha

Zombie Drift

Thirteen: Peter, Aida, & Prisha

Peter Evers stood at the door inside the starlit lounge. Being on the main deck it afforded him a view of the ship’s activity. People seemed to be rushing nowhere fast. Through the glass he caught snippets of conversation. Things about “dead people in water” and “speedboats”, and “the guy just slid down the chain.” With the last, it made him think of his bodyguard Ethan. In his mind it was just the showboat kind of thing anyone hired by his dad would do. While he didn’t wish ill on the man, he thought as soon as he could he was sneaking out of here and getting out from under Ethan’s restrictions. There was nothing worse than being seventeen and stuck under an adult’s supervision.

He turned to see what the girls were doing. Prisha had stopped crying some time ago, and the lounge singer Aida had turned the TV above the bar back on. Images splayed across the screen showing carnage everywhere. Most of it were single shot live feeds as if the cameraman had strapped his video to a tree and ran for it. What was left behind was a view of the street, zombies walking, crawling, sliding, lumbering, trying their best to find live food that wasn’t escaping. The images were bad enough, but it was the sound that sent chills up his spine. Screams, moans, the crunch and munch of flesh and bone as zombies feasted, sometimes on each other.

He couldn’t understand why the girls were torturing themselves by watching it all. Peter guessed it was like driving by a fatal traffic accident. You knew it was horrible, and people were dead, but you just couldn’t tear your eyes away. He tried his best not to be drawn to it that way. Other things bothered him. Like what was going on board. It was obvious something was happening with all the flurry of activity. Were the zombies here too? He hated being locked up and out of the way, which is what Ethan had done with him while he went off running to wherever.

He looked back at the girls again. They could handle themselves, he thought. How hard could it be to keep others out the bar? With that he decided he wanted out. He wasn’t going to be stuck in here one second longer, he didn’t care how hot he thought Prisha was. He put his hand on the door handle and prepared to open it when something smashed against it.

He jumped back from the frantic face at the glass. It was a man with jet black hair and wild grey eyes. He was trying to look through the door and when his eyes saw Peter they grew wider and he began to pound on the frame.

“Aida!” he shouted. “Aida! Let me in!”

Peter looked at Aida. She had heard the shouts and beating on the door frame. Turning from the TV, she frowned. Something in her face told Peter she wasn’t ready for this. Whatever this was.

“Aida! Tell this little shit to open the door!” He began to thump his palm flat against the glass. The door itself shook.

Aida sighed. “Open the door, Peter.”

The boy looked at her as if to ask, are you sure? When she nodded grimly, he shrugged and threw the latch.

The man outside didn’t waste time. He shoved the door open, nearly knocking Peter down, and headed acoss the floor of the lounge towards the girls. ‘Trying to lock me out, Aida? Again?”

“No one is trying to lock you out, Jerome. You chose not to return last night. Guess you found some other room to sleep.”

He grinned. “It was a good room too. Wish you could have been there. Well, on second thought, maybe not.” He eyes caught sight of Prisha. ” Now, you however….”

Aida slapped him. “You pig.”

He seemed unaffected and laughed. “You know everybody is going crazy on deck over something. The three of us could get crazy on something too, you know?” He turned to glance at Peter. “Sorry kid, there isn’t room for two guys.” Then he smiled at the girls again. “Lock the door.” When Peter didn’t immediately lock it, the man glared at him with dangerous, almost empty eyes. If Ethan was here this situation would be different, Peter thought. But he wasn’t here. He’d left them here alone to face their own survival. “Lock the door,” the man said again, returning his psychotic gaze to the now frightened girls. He listened for the sound of the latch clicking and then smiled. He undid the cufflinks on his shirt and began to take it off. “It’s okay,” he said. “About time you took your punishment, Aida.” His slid his belt out of his pants. “Now which one of you likes to get restrained?” He looked at Prisha, staring hard into her dark frightened eyes, and licked his lips. He took a step towards her.

The chair hit the back of his head so hard the wood shattered against his skull. Peter held the remains of it in his hands as Jerome dropped to the floor with a resounding thud.

“So like, who did I just knock out?” the teenager asked, after they had tied Jerome’s hands behind his back with his own belt. “I can hit him again if it would help.”

Aida frowned and nodded at the unconscious man. “He’s Jerome Stipe. My sad excuse for a boyfriend.”

Peter looked up. “Shit lady, i think you need a new boyfriend. My bodyguard Ethan is available I think.”

Aida laughed a little, as he was the same man she’d tried to get to dance with her during last night’s performance. “We’ll probably need a bodyguard when Jerome wakes up.”

“I think we should call security,” Prisha suggested. “I know he’s your guy and all, but….”

Aida had already picked up the phone and dialed the number. She had to be strong while she had the support of others. Last time she’d called security on him she had been alone and earned a couple cracked ribs for it.

While the Nigerian talked to security, the Indian girl walked over to Peter, who was making sure the prisoner’s belt was as tight as he could get it. “Thank you,” Prisha said.

“No problem. I couldn’t let him hurt either of you.”

“I was very scared,” she confessed.

He nodded and tried to be cool, but he felt the truth was better. “Yeah, me too.” He looked at her and smiled. “I saw Ethan headbutt a guy unconscious before, but I thought i should use a chair.”

She smiled back. “Good decision. Why hurt your cute head, right?”

Peter raised an eyebrow at the mention of cute, but when she turned her face away in embarassment he decided she didn’t mean anything by it. She was just being grateful.
“Well, here’s hoping he don’t wake up soon,” he said getting to his feet. “I’d hate to break another chair.”

Prisha offered a smile. “Well, thanks for protecting us. Not everyone would have done that.”

Peter was trying to think of a zippy one-liner to say that would make him sound like an action hero at the movies, when Aida said, “I can’t get the phones to work. Someone will have to go get security.”

They all looked towards the door. There was still a lot of activity outside. People dashed by running in both directions, but most seemed to be heading towards the rear of the ship, peering over railings as they went.
It wasn’t the same panic as what was occuring on television, but Peter felt nervous about it just the same. He looked at Aida. “I think we should move Jerome somewhere and then all of us go. I got a feeling it’s not going to be too safe alone.”

“There’s my dressing room. It’s a glorified broom closet really.”

“Can it be locked from outside?”

“No.”

“Well shit,” Peter mumbled.

Prisha walked over to the glass door and picked something up. “How about this?”
In her hands, she held a wooden doorstop, obviously used to hold the entrance open during peak hours.

“That will work. Come on Aida, help me get him back there.”

As they both bent down to hoist Jerome’s limp body up, Aida asked, “Where did you hit him?”

Peter looked at her strangely. “In the back of the head. Why?”

Aida looked at both her companions with a look of bewilderment. “Because there’s a chunk out of his arm.”

“Zombie Drift” 2019 P. D. Aronson. All Rights Reserved.

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Around The Corner (short story)

Authors note: This short story was created from a writing prompt on twitter. I can’t remember who posted it, but the first paragraph here was the prompt. The rest of the story is mine, inspired by it. Hope you enjoy it.

Around The Corner

The old homeless man didn’t talk to people. He was dead silent on the church steps, while the other street people pushed raucous carts and screamed obscenities. “You,” he said, lifting a gnarled finger, his eyes milky. “I see death around the corner.”

The woman with the baby carriage looked at him in shock, then horror. Quickly she pushed it in the other direction, hushing the baby within the whole way.

The homeless man put his hands in his lap and was silent again. A young couple, holding hands and giggling, crossed the street not far from where he was. Once again he lifted his gnarled finger and pointed. “You,” he intoned. “I see death around the corner.”

Very quickly, the couple hurried down the sidewalk, casting furtive glances back at him. Their hushed voices revealed to any passerby their uneasiness at being spoken to by this ancient, dirty faced wretch. Once gone however, they didnt think of him again, and the old man placed his hands in his lap in again.

Another old man, this one better dressed and groomed, hobbled down the walk with the use of a cane. Despite his limp, he seemed accustomed to it, and moved briskly on shaky, spindly legs. The homeless man pointed at him and gave his usual proclamation. “You. I see death around the corner.”

The old man stopped briefly, wobbling on his cane. He didn’t look at the homeless man, but just shook his head. Then he resumed his unsteady, but sure walk. He didn’t even see the man lower his hands back to his lap. Just another beggar, he reasoned.

On the church steps the homeless man remained, quiet and reserved between the occasional finger pointing and warning. Everyone either ignored or avoided his judgements as they went about their day.
A cab pulled up to the curb on the opposite side of the street. The old man watched its rear door open and a very well fashioned figure emerged. Dressed to the nines in a pressed formal tuxedo and top hat, sporting a polished silver tipped cane, the passenger paid the driver. The cab moved on and the smartly dressed gentleman stood on the opposite sidewalk. He pulled a pocket watch from inside his waist coat and looked at it. He nodded and smiled, looking up at the church building.

The homeless man sat undisturbed and watched the figure cross the street. Slowly, he lifted his finger and pointed at the stranger. “You,” he said, as the man stopped at the steps, and leaned nonchalantly on his cane. “I see death around the corner.”

The stranger smiled. “Of course you do,” he replied in a deep monotone voice. He looked at the homeless man who just stared back, neither one wavering from their half smiles. For the stranger, his smile seemed to suck the very joy from the surrounding air. For the homeless man, his smile was one of a person who had ran a race aimlessly only to find himself at the finishing line among friends.

The stranger held out a black gloved hand. “Shall we?”

The homeless man lifted his hand, his finger no longer pointing outward, and took the stranger’s gentle grasp. Allowing the stranger to help him stand, he got up. He slipped his arm inside the stranger’s and looked up into his dark eyes. “Thank you,” he said.

“My pleasure,” the stranger replied, and the two began to walk together down the walk. No one paid them any attention. The world went about its business. And the two figures disappeared around the corner.

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

Zombie Drift 11: Lynn & Yeong

Eleven: Lynn & Yeong

Lynn Billiot and Yeong, the boy she saved, stood at the railing, frozen in place by the events that unfolded in front of them. Down in the water below, the lifeboat seemed to thrash about on its tether. In reality, it was being pulled and jostled by the waterlogged zombies that had risen up from the ocean. The two men inside the boat were trying to fight them off, but it looked as if eventually they would find themselves in the water with the living dead, and then it would be all over with. Lynn knew they had to stay in the boat. There had to be something she could do. She looked over at the crewman operating the winch. Only he wasn’t operating it. He was trying to bring the lifeboat up but it wouldn’t budge. The chain seemed to be stuck. It was Yeong who pointed out the problem. A zombie had managed to climb aboard the lifeboat and stick his arm through the lower pulley causing the chain to pin his arm against the wheel, bringing the whole thing to a halt. Lucky for he and Lynn, they couldn’t hear the tearing of chain against flesh as the cogs of the wheel dug into the zombie slowly carving its way to the bone.

The lifeboat was at a standstill now, just inches above the water, as the zombies continued their assault on it, trying to tip the desperate occupants into the ocean. Now that the boat was stuck on its pulley this made it easier. Lynn, in desperation to help, looked all around, and in a flash of inspiration she ran over to the lawn chair where she’d left her books and pens. She didn’t bother with her writing, but instead picked up the chair and ran back to the railing with it. Looking over the side to see where the zombies were trying to tip the lifeboat, she let the chair go with a shout of “Fire in the hole!” She wasn’t sure what that meant, but she’d seen it in a war movie her dad liked to watch.

Luckily, the two humans in the boat knew what it meant. They had the common sense to get out of the way. Two zombies however had no sense at all and were hit by the chair just as they were climbing aboard the boat. They fell backwards in the water, and the pretty Alaskan girl turned to the Asian boy, who let out a whoop and gave her a high five.

“Awesome!” he exclaimed and turned around to look for some furniture of his own to throw. But three girls were rushing towards him. He tensed, knowing full well what was coming. He’d seen it before on the streets of Seoul, but he never imagined it would happen here where up until now he had enjoyed some anonymity.

One of the girls screamed, “It’s New Yeong!” The other two squealed in heightened excitement and started gibbering something about autographs and photos with their ultimate bias. They almost seemed to be getting in an argument about who got to have him when Lynn noticed them.

“You’ve got to kidding me,” she mumbled under her breath. She looked at the three girls, teenagers like her, and found them to be almost as frightening as the zombies in the water. Then she looked at the guy beside her. “You’re Yeong?” she asked, it finally hitting home that the boy on her best friend’s wall was the same one she just saved. In another circumstance, she would have been asking for an autograph too for her friend, but things had changed in the last fifteen minutes. “You’re really Yeong??”

The K-Pop star looked at her with what appeared to be fear, as if she too would be mobbing him like the trio before them. “Oh no, don’t worry” she exclaimed. “I’m not a fan.”

Before Yeong could even be put out by her statement, the three girls began to scream much louder. But they weren’t looking at the Korean idol anymore. No, they had finally seen what Lynn and their idol had been gawking at. The zombies in the ocean.

“What the hell is that?!”

“Oh my God! Are those…”

Neither Yeong or Lynn needed to answer them for one of the dead in the water emitted a loud moan that sent chills up their spine. It was trying to grab hold of the side of the ship below them but there was nothing for its broken, twisted fingers to grip. The zombie let out a string of moans and looked up, a brief glint in its eye.

“It’s trying to talk,” Lynn said.

Then the glint was gone and it was a mindless zombie again, trying desperately to get to where food was at. But Lynn didn’t want to be food. And though the k-pop fangirls looked like they wanted to eat Yeong themselves, it was apparent he wasn’t interested in them at all. He too busy looking forward towards the bow of the ship. Hanging over the railing, he had spotted something coming in fast, a speedboat that seemed to be trailing smoke behind it.

“Look!,” he shouted, pointing in its direction. Both he and Lynn could make out at least two figures in the boat. One was driving, the others was standing armed with what appeared to be an oar in his hands. As it drew closer, they saw the driver was a Hispanic man of sturdy build in gym sweats and a tank top. His standing companion was of African descent, wearing a white lab coat like a doctor. He shifted the oar to his other hand and raised it as if in greeting.

Lynn wanted to shout to them to turn back, to warn them of the zombies in the water, but then she realized they already knew this, for the speedboat accelerated and headed along the ship towards the lifeboat under siege. The occupants of the lifeboat also realized something was coming. Zombies and human alike turned to the boat’s approach.

Whack! An oar connected with two zombies as the speedboat rushed by, sending up a spray of water in its wake. The impacted zombies flipped off the boat, one of them minus his head from the blow of the oar. The two humans aboard, the bewildered crew member and Ethan, both looked on dumbfounded as the speedboat turned around and started to come in for another pass. A persistent zombie with one arm hanging loose tried to pull itself up onto the lifeboat. Ethan lunged forward and punched the creature in its face. There was a loud crack, followed by a spray of blood and gray matter. Apparently this one had been dead a very long time and its time at the bottom of the sea had weakened its bones. Ethan barely had time to shake his fist loose from the ruined skull when the crew member yelled a warning that’s sounded a lot like the words “Oh Shit!”

Ethan turned just in time to see another zombie climbing aboard. This one wasn’t wasting any time though. It bit down on the frenchmen’s arm, its half rotted teeth breaking against the skin. Ethan grabbed the living corpse and held it back at arm’s length. From Lynn and Yeong’s vantage point above, they could hear the horrid clacking of the zombie’s remaining teeth as it gnashed them together in a frantic attempt to bite Ethan again.

The speedboat came speeding by again just as Ethan shoved the zombie off the lifeboat. There was a sickening crunch as the thing nearly fell apart under the impact of the speeder’s bow. Ethan heard something splash behind him. He turned just in time to the see the crewman getting sick, retching overboard into the ocean. He grabbed him so he wouldn’t fall in after his own bile.

“It’s alright man, pull it together and…” He looked down. Water was covering his shoes. The lifeboat was sinking.

Zombie Drift 7: Yeong

Seven: Yeong

New Yeong never liked his stage name much. Loosely translated into English, it meant “New person of courage,” and right now he didn’t feel that way. Instead he felt alone. Completely. He hadn’t enjoyed the getaway trip aboard the St. Fitzgerald. Even mixed drinks and and pretty American girls didn’t distract him from the fact he didn’t even know who he was anymore. In fact, for most of his twenty years he had no idea who was Yeong, himself or the management company that had created his persona and image. Ever since he was twelve, and his parents signed the contract, he’d been trained to be a K-pop star. Handlers decided nearly everything for him. His life was like a big road map to stardom and they’d kept him on the route with no room for deviation. Even this trip didn’t give him much personal space, as there were handlers on board with him. They might have been in separate rooms, but they were like an endless presence helping him pick out meals, clothes, and even activities to do while on board. That’s why the first thing he wanted to do, the first organized thought, was to jump. Maybe then he would find himself, even if only for a few seconds before he hit the water and drowned.

Yeong couldn’t swim. Well, he could as long as his feet could touch bottom of the pool. But in the ocean he had no doubt he’d sink. He’d stuffed as many coins in his pants pockets as he could in an attempt to make him heavier. He’d also grabbed two paperweights from the desk in his cabin. And while everyone else on board was wearing sandals, sneakers, or even going barefoot, he had donned the heaviest shoes in his luggage, a pair of black dress shoes he had modified with steel taps on the bottom to help him sound out dance moves while practicing. He found it fitting they should go to the watery end with him.

He stood with one foot on the starboard railing. Looking out over the vast ocean he wondered how many people had chosen to go this way. If one were to scour the seabed how many drowned corpses or skeletal remains would be discovered. Such a morbid thought, and he felt horrible just thinking it. Feeling a twinge of guilt, he turned his head to see if anyone were watching him. Most people were engrossed in other things. All except one. It was a girl. She had dark hair and eyes and he couldn’t help but think how pretty she was. He saw she had a book In her lap and a pen in her hand, and he remembered the days he sat in his company owned apartment jotting down verses and things about girl he would never know. What was she writing about, he wondered. The thought passed when she quickly looked away, and he thought that perhaps the darkness inside him had scared her. Maybe she could see the large devastating hole that had almost engulfed him, except for these last few rungs of a ship railing.

He put his other foot up on the railing and returned his gaze to the waves. If he was going to do this, it would have to be soon. They were getting close to the ship’s home port. Soon they would be docking and everyone would be disembarking and going about their lives, reuniting with loved ones, kissing those they had missed while they had been on the cruise. A tear fell from his eye. There was no one like that for him. Sure, there were tons of fans back home who would do anything for him, but there was no one to cling to in lonely moments, to kiss every time he walked through the door. There was absolutely no one who could save him from this pale shadow of living. He stepped up another rung. And then another. He threw a leg over the top of the railing. He took a deep breath. Hesitated for a moment. He wanted to turn around and take another look at the cute girl in the lounge chair. If he was going to do this, he wanted something pretty to be the last thing his eyes would take in. But he didn’t turn. He just closed his eyes and pushed off from the railing.

For a moment there was a feeling of weightlessness, as if he were just hanging in the air, his body waiting to drop. And then gravity took hold. He began a prayer for his own soul, knowing he would never get it all out before hitting water. Suddenly there was a jerk. Gravity must have changed its mind because he was being pulled up by the collar of his shirt. Perhaps the gods had taken mercy on him. He was dangling in the air over the side of the ship, but they had hold of him. Whatever God had spared him, he wanted to know. He craned his neck up to see. It was the girl. She had hold of his shirt in both hands and was trying to pull him back up . A look of desperation was on her face as if she knew she couldn’t hold him for long. His shirt began to rip. He could feel the fabric coming apart in her hands.

She didn’t say a word, but readjusted her grip to get her hands under his armpit and haul him up more. Unfortunately he was kicking his legs under the side of the railing , causing his body to swing. “No!” she cried out. “Stop swinging!” He pulled up on him hard, bracing her body against the railing for leverage. His foot found the bottom rail and instinct made him push up on his heel. This allowed her to get a better hold of him and lift him just enough to get his other heel back on the low rail. When this happened, she yelled at him, “You have to help!”

When he looked back up into her face, all he saw were her dark, teary eyes. It reminded him of a line from one of his popular hits that went “only your ebony eyes can save me.” But then her eyes changed. They grew wide with a different kind of fear. But she was no longer looking at him. She was looking at something beyond his suspended body.

He looked down. There was a body in the ocean. A corpse floating face down. Had someone else jumped, he thought. And then the body turned over in the rolling waves. The face was something of terror, and the girl almost let Yeong go. He reached behind him with his hands and grabbed the railing. There was no way he wanted to fall down into that. The corpse’s face was scarred and serated. Blood and pus covered it with a thin, mucous like film. The clothes were tattered and seemed to be fashion from years ago. One of its arms was bent oddly at the elbow. A leg that was half missing. Thank God the eyes were closed.

Holding onto the railing with one hand, Yeong swung himself around so he was facing the railing and no longer looking at the lifeless body in the water. He scrambled up the railing, and once he got to the top, the girl helped haul him over and back onto the ship. He was getting ready to thank her when she let out a scream. Looking back down, he saw the corpse had opened its eyes and was now thrashing about in the water.

“What the hell is it?” she asked, looking at him like it was now his turn to save her.

“I don’t know,” he replied watching the creature thrash about helplessly. It didn’t even have the sense to try and save itself. All it was doing was throwing its arms and legs about as if there wasn’t a brain in its head to tell it what to do. “But here comes another one.”

They watched as another body came up from the depths to bob upon the water’s surface.

TO BE CONTINUED

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

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…”