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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.

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Zombie Drift 10: Edward Santos

Ten: Edward Santos

Edward Santos was tired of running. This wasn’t like the 25k he ran every morning as part of his exercise regimen. No, this was a run for his life. At just under six feet and being physical fit, the half Spanish, half Filipino gym instructor wasn’t afraid of much. Until he saw the zombies attacking the man and woman in lab coats. He’d left the gym early, not because he desired to, but because of the commotion coming from outside. Like all the gym patrons he went first to the windows to take a look. And then wished he hadn’t. It looked like the world was going crazy all of a sudden. People were attacking each other in extremely violent ways, vehicles were plowing over those on foot, with some citizens arming themselves and taking shots at others. And then there were the stumbling, shuffling ones. Edward wasn’t stupid. He was a fan of The Walking Dead, but he didn’t know he’d be living out an episode of it. As long as he didn’t meet Negan, he’d be fine. But instead of meeting a TV show’s villain, he met Dr. Wills and his assistant Camelia.

They had been in a hospital car when it was attacked by six shuffling zombies right outside the gym. Seeing their plight, Edward snatched up a long barbell whose weights had been removed from each end, and headed outside like a roman gladiator wading into an arena of man eating tigers. He made short work of the zombies as they were slow, mindless, and not much on personal defense. The two people inside the car were fine, but the vehicle itself would never make it through the zombie infested streets. Edward tried to talk them into taking refuge in the gym, but they were adamant that it wasn’t safe. The only safe place was off the mainland. They were close to the ocean. They needed to acquire a boat.

Edward had always been one to help his fellow human being, but this was situation was different. People were killing each other and then proceeding to dine on the flesh. It appeared to be every man for himself. But he couldn’t bring himself to abandon the ones he’d just saved. There was something about the African American doctor and assistant that told him their lives were important. And since he had no one waiting for him at home except his cat, Desperado, he felt like getting out into the water just might be the best course of action. And the fact he himself had a boat made things a lot easier as long as they could make it to the docks. He had a few things inside the gym that might have been useful as weapons, but by the time he got the pair out of their ruined vehicle, zombies had forced their way into the building. So armed with the unweighted barbell, he plowed through the crowds with the hapless doctor and beautiful assistant following on his heels.

It was only two blocks to the main ship port, but by the time they got there thirty minutes had passed and the situation had escalated to epic proportions. The docks were overwhelmed with both people and zombies. And both groups had become dangerous to deal with. On top of that, the military had attempted to take over. No ships were being allowed to leave, and some had become infested with the living dead. His own boat, a personal schooner, was one such vessel. Even if they could get past the zombies that had taken up residence, there was no way they’d make it away from shore in a private rig. They needed a military one.

Edward had the highest respect for the military. He himself had served a tour overseas before coming home to a tedious, and often lonely, civilian life. But the military on the docks were different. They were shooting unarmed civilians. And while some of the victims were these twisted versions of The Walking Dead, others were regular, unaffected people. Men. Women. Even children. So he didn’t have any qualms about taking out two guards who stood before a speedboat with military insignia. A third serviceman was loading some equipment on board when Edward struck. Thinking he was one of the zombies the man threw himself off the dock and into the water. There was no time to notice what happened to him next, as Edward and his lab coat refugees took over the boat.

It didn’t take long for others to figure out what had happened. When he pulled the speedboat out and away from the docks, another was in pursuit. That’s what these boats were for, Edward surmised. To chase down any stray ships trying to escape the military’s quarantine. If Santos had been inexperienced they would have caught them fast, but he had born in the sight of water and had piloted his first boat at age seven, so he was no stranger to the waves. Whenever the pursuing craft got close he swerved off course, and when they started firing rounds at them, it was a testament to his upbringing that they were able to dodge bullets. It was also helpful that both his passengers discovered one of the things the military had been loading on this boat. Guns and ammunition. Soon, they were armed and firing back.

When Edward saw the American Cruise ship a short distance away , he knew it was his best choice of survival. As long as it hadn’t been overrun by zombies as well. As both speedboats exchanged fire, he was getting antsy to reach that ship. It took Camelia taking a hit to the shoulder to make him get really desperate. Looking back at her, he could see the bullet, or bullets, had tore her shoulder up. The blood against her dark skin threatened to soak her white coat. She was going to need a tourniquet of some kind to staunch the bleeding. Alternating between driving and looking around the boat for sight of a medical kit, his eyes fell on the thing that would save them. A rocket launcher, seemingly armed and ready to rock.

“Hey doc! Can you pilot this thing?”

The doctor shook his head. He almost appeared to be going into shock. Had he been hit too? Before he could ask him, Camelia clambered to the wheel. She winced from her injuries, but she took the wheel. “I got it,” she said.

Edward nearly dove for the launcher as bullets started tearing up the side of their boat. He came up on one knee and checked to see if the weapon had a safety mechanism in place. He’d handled one or two before in his military stint, but this was a different model. Lucky for him it was easy to find and within seconds he was primed to fire. He took aim at the pursuing boat knowing they were close enough to see him and the weapon. They would either attempt to take him out with gunfire before he could launch the rocket, or they would change course to avoid the hit. Perhaps they would do both, but Edward was busy trying to calculate their path. Would they dodge left or right? He altered his aim and fired. Jerking it slightly to the right, the rocket left the hand held launcher. The enemy speedboat was already making its evasive turn. To the right.

There was a low whistle in the air as the rocket soared towards its target. It hit the craft squarely in the side. Edward wasn’t sure what kind of missile he just fired, but the explosion tore the boat in two, sending parts of it skyward in smoke and flame. Everyone in the boat was flung through the air and into the sea, some of them in pieces.

“Holy shit,“ he exclaimed, thinking if this insane situation ever got corrected he was going to be in deep trouble for sure. He hadn’t wanted to kill anyone, let alone half a dozen soldiers. He just wanted to get away from all the chaos and anarchy on land. If they’d just given up the chase, he thought, everything would….The boat jerked and he lost his balance for a moment. Camelia had slumped over the wheel. He rushed to the front and took over, easing her gently to the deck. Righting the speedboat’s course, he saw the Cruise ship looming in front of them. They were so close he could see people at the rails. He hoped they would let them on, but he was starting to have his doubts. After all, they may not even have a clue of what’s happening on land, he thought.

He came around on the starboard side and it was then he realized he’d been wrong. They knew what was happening firsthand. There was a lifeboat in the water. A dozen or so zombies, most of them looking to have been a long time under the sea, were swarming over it, trying to tip it so it’s two occupants would fall into the water with them.

“Hold on, doc!” he shouted and took a quick look at Camelia at his feet. She wasn’t passed out, but she was close. Her eyes were fluttering as if she were fighting to stay awake. He pushed the throttle as far it would go as they headed for the troubled lifeboat.

TO BE CONTINUED

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

Zombie Drift 9: Captain Walker

Nine: Captain Walker

“Would someone care to tell me why we are slowing down and turning off course?”

Having rushed from his morning inspections to the bridge, Captain Walker was irritated. After all, no one had cleared anything with him. Unless it was an extreme life threatening emergency, it was understood no changes in course were to be made without his okay, even if the person doing the changing was the ship’s chief navigator. But it was that crew member that answered. Or better yet, pointed.

Walker looked out the forward window. They were close enough to their home port they could see the docks. “What the hell is…?” He couldn’t believe his eyes. The docks were packed. Not with supplies, provisions, or other cargo. No, it was swarming with people. Even from this distance, he could see the crowds, though it looked more like an angry mob. They were still too far away to see exactly what was going on, but it was apparent there was a large altercation of some sort.

The navigator, a middle aged sailor named Rohrbaugh, handed him his binoculars so he could take a closer look. Walker took them and held it up so he could see through the dual lenses. “Holy mother of god,” he muttered.

Through the viewfinder he could see them. People walking or shuffling across the docks, stopping to attack others at random. Some people ran, trying to avoid the attackers. They appeared to be trying to find a hiding place, but the sheer number of people wouldn’t allow this. In desperation, those fleeing jumped off the wharf and into the sea. Others appeared to be walking off the docks as if it were a road that kept going. Walker watched a group step off the edge of a pier and disappear under the waves. The undertow sucked them down into the water and they acted like it was nothing. No screams or yells for help from what he could see. He panned the binoculars around and saw a small child pounce on a large dog. The animal tried to shake the child off to no avail. The kid bit down on the dog’s neck and blood shot out. Walker turned from the scene as an adult shambled up to the child and pulled him off the dog only to bite down on the kid’s head. The binoculars slipped from the Captain’s hands and hit the floor of the bridge.

“My god, what is happening!?”

Communications Officer Blake Travers spoke up. “Contagion, sir. I think.”

Walker turned to look at him. “What kind of contagion does this to people? They look like something out of The Walking Dead.”

“I don’t know sir. I’m not even sure that’s what it is. I was talking to someone at the home office and that’s what they said.”

“What else did they say?”

“Not to come in.”

Walker looked over at Rohrbaugh. “Is that why we are stopping?”

“Yes sir,” the navigator replied. “Based on Travers information and what we can see here, I felt it best to take caution.”

The Captain nodded. “ Good job. Carry on.” He took a deep breath and was getting ready to give his next orders when the door to the bridge burst open. One of the security offers, a rookie on this cruise, stood there breathless.

“Sorry Captain,” he interrupted. “We have some people overboard. Starboard side.”

“Did you radio your superior and inform him?”

“I couldn’t reach anyone sir, so I came here.”

Walker turned to Blake. “Are inter ship communications down?”

“Not that I’m aware of. I’ll check.”

Returning his attention to the security officer, he asked, “have any efforts been made to rescue them?”

“Yes sir, one lifeboat is in the water, but when I left it seemed there were too many people in the water. They were swarming over the boat.”

Walker raised an eyebrow, thinking ‘swarming’ was not a term many used in a positive way. In most cases it was like saying the boat was being over run.

“sir, you should see this.”

It was the navigator again. When Walker turned towards him. He immediately knew what it was his officer wanted him to see. Two speedboats had left the dock. One ran right over people in the water. The other followed in its wake.

“Now, who the heck is this?”

“Captain,” Travers said. “Our ship communications is down. There’s some kind of signal jamming it. I’d say its some kind of military grade.”

“Why would you say that?”

“Because they threatened to come out here and get us.”

The captain looked at him sharply. “What do you mean?”

“I was talking to someone from our home office. He said there was a contagion and for us not to come in. Then someone new got on the Morse and asked if we were the St. Fitzgerald. When I said yes he said to come in. It freaked me out, so I grabbed the message transcription and came to alert you.”

“Let me see the transcription.”

Blake handed him the papers. Before the captain looked at them, he peered out the front at the approaching speedboats. For a moment, they didn’t look to be together. One seemed to be chasing the other, for the first boat was not coming in a straight line, but weaved its way back and forth across the waves. Still, he didn’t think much of it and instead inspected the communication officer’s papers. He nodded a few times as he read and then passed them back to Blake. The captain seemed thoughtful for a moment and then spoke. “He said it was nuclear. I would assume if something had detonated, we would have seen it.”

“He also said it was an accident, sir. Perhaps it was a nuclear leak. A crack in the warhead or its casing.”

Suddenly there were some light pops in the air, like distant fireworks or a weapon going off. The people in the boats were shooting at each other.

“What the devil now,” Walker exclaimed, as everyone watched the exchange. The captain reached down and picked up the binoculars he’d dropped just minutes ago. Setting his sights on the speedboats he noticed the closest ones contained three people. Two men and a woman. The driver appeared to be hispanic, while the other man and woman were African-American. Civilians by the looks of it, though the African-Americans wore labcoats. The driver had on a flak jacket.

In the pursuing boat, it was easy to tell why it was having trouble catching the first one. It was loaded down with six men , all wearing military uniforms and apparently armed. Every last one, except the pilot of the craft were firing at the first boat. Wood chips flew off the side of it as a barrage of bullets made contact. The Hispanic driver swerved the boat, bringing it around as if he were going to face the gunfire head on. Soon it became apparent why.

The woman took the wheel, while the Hispanic lifted something from the bottom of the boat. It looked like a rocket.

TO BE CONTINUED

Zombie Drift 9. Paul D Aronson. 2018. All Rights Reserved.

Zombie Drift 8: Ethan Benoit

Eight: Ethan

Ethan Benoit had eyes in the back of his head. He also had them on the sides too. To some it would seem he was a paranoid individual, but he preferred the term “Vigilant.” One of his main life lessons was this: Be aware of everything going on around you. He came by this lesson the hard way and lost someone special in the learning. And while there wasn’t anyone special nowadays, he was vigilant, part as his penance, part because he was paid to be.

The life of a bodyguard didn’t come easy to him. He didn’t enjoy being responsible for someone else, but it’s all he knew to do now. After losing Veronique. The one time he’d failed to protect. And now all that was left of him was the vow never to let it happen again. He would forever be on guard, aware of his surroundings, potential trouble, and routes of escape, if the need should arise to retreat.

He was all these as he made his way to the ship’s Bridge. He hated leaving the others behind in the Starlit Lounge, but he had gauged it was one of the safest places to be topside. For one, it could be closed and locked down so others couldn’t get in. It was also in the center of the ship, meaning it wouldn’t be the first target of an attack. He wasn’t sure why he was thinking this, these tactical thoughts. Perhaps it was imbedded from his training, a natural by-product of his experience, but when one doesn’t know what is happening it was a good mode to be in.

He walked briskly to his destination. He’d been on plenty of ships before. He knew his way around. It had been a cruise ship like this where he’d lost Veronique, his bride to never be. It had been pirates then, intent on taking control of the ship and ransoming off its passengers. Veronique had been the first casualty and the last person the pirates ever killed. Ethan’s hands were stuffed in his pockets as he walked across deck, but if he pulled them out and dared to look at the open palms he knew his memory would show the blood of those who took her life. Perhaps it was his imagination, but his hands would never be clean again and his heart would forever be a hardened place.

He skirted around other passengers. No one paid him any mind thanks to the tourist attire he’d chosen to wear this morning. He passed by a girl in a large lounger writing in a notebook. She gave him a hard look, probably because he was nearly walking on top of the scantily clad blonde in front of him. Despite the fact the woman was in a bikini that appeared to be made of two pieces of string, he paid her no mind. She wasn’t Veronique. No one was. If anything, he just wanted the wannabe super model to get the hell out of his way.

An Asian boy stood at the starboard railing. He looked lost in thought and didn’t appear to be a threat to anyone. In fact, it almost looked like he wanted to jump overboard. It almost made Ethan stop, but he kept going. He’d hadn’t made it far though when a scream sounded in the air. In a split second he accessed the situation: alert the ship’s captain to things going on ashore or go to the aid of the screamer. He ran back the way he’d come. The notebook girl he’d passed just a minute ago was now at the starboard railing hauling the Asian boy back onto the ship. Ethan wasn’t sure he’d fallen or jumped, but he wasn’t the only one who noticed their plight. Others had been alerted by the girl’s scream. But in typical fashion, no one went to see what was wrong. Only in America would a crowd of people see someone in distress and instead of helping, pull their cellphones out and film it.

Ethan reached the girl and boy as they looked back over the railing and down into the ocean. “Hey, is everybody alright?” he asked. “What happened? Are you….” He stopped. Looking down into the sea, he saw what had made the young lady scream. There were several bodies in the water and they were all clambering for the side of the ship. Right away he knew this wasn’t a case of people overboard for it appeared they had been in the water a very long time. Their clothes, their very flesh was eaten away in places, revealing exposed muscle and bone. One who was desperately trying to claw the metal of the ship was missing an eye. Another had opened its mouth, it jaws making snapping noises, as if trying to chew something that wasn’t there.

He had seen this before. Not just on the television and Instagram. Yes, this was all connected it seemed, but something horrible was happening in the world. He’d seen something like this years ago in Haiti. He’d been there in service to a pharmaceutical company who wished its visiting officials around the clock protection from the area locals who had made threats to the company for harvesting plants from the region. Plants that were sacred to their shamans. After a few attempts to stop the company, other means had been implemented and one of the Witch doctors had sent zombies against them. Those zombies had been living men though. These that were in the water were definitely dead, or had been at one time.

“What are they, sir?” the girl asked Ethan hopefully. He couldn’t give her any hope, but before he could answer, she said it herself, “zombies.”

He couldn’t lie to her, even if it did cause a panic. “It would appear so. They are on land too, I think.”

“Oh my God,” the Asian boy said, and they looked at what he was pointing at. One of the dead things, having given up on trying to get on the ship, had attacked another. He was biting down on the others head. Even from where they stood, they could hear the crunch, and then several voices shouted, “Man overboard! Man overboard!”

Looking to his right, Ethan saw other passengers gathering at the railing. Many were pointing at the bodies in the water and crying out, “Somebody help them!” They obviously weren’t observant enough to see there was something wrong with those thrashing about in the waves against the ship. Suddenly there was a sound of a winch and pulley and he looked to the left. A lifeboat was being lowered down. Inside there was a crew member in a life vest.

“No!” Ethan shouted. “Stop! What are you doing?” He ran to where the guy was operating the lowering system. “Bring him back up!”

“Sir, you’ll have to step back! There are people in the water!”

“Those aren’t people! Those are….”

Just then, the pulley jerked, nearly ripping from where it was attached onboard. One of the zombies had managed to climb onboard the life boat and was grabbing at his would be rescuer. The crew member started yelling, trying to throw the thing off of him. He got the message really quick that these weren’t people in need of saving. But it was too late. The lifeboat was now touching water and two more were trying to scramble aboard.

Ethan shouted at the winch operator. “Pull him up, damn you!”

The guy was frozen. He didn’t know what to do. His training hadn’t included this scenario and as such he was at a loss. “I…I….,” he stammered.

“Oh fuck it,” Ethan muttered and kicked off his shoes, climbing up onto the railing. It was too far to jump he knew. The impact would take the breath out of him. So he swung himself over and grabbed hold of the pulley. This is going to hurt like hell, he thought. For a brief moment his mind whispered, don’t do it. Let the man die. But then that part of his conscious that asked him what would Veronique do kicked in. He slid down the pulley, the cables burning his hands the whole way. By the time he neared the end, they had started cutting into his palms.

The lifeboat was built for twelve or more. Ethan should have landed squarely in the middle but the idiot manning the winch above finally came to his senses and hit the up button. The boat rose to meet him with two zombie hanging on the side and two more in the boat itself. The one man crew was holding his own with an oar, pushing the flesh eaters back away from him. Ethan landed a little to the side and it caused the boat to tip just a little. He strong armed the other zombie and it flipped off the boat back into the water. Still, the two zombies hanging off the side decided to clamber in.

The guy with the oar swung it at one of their heads but it managed to grab the makeshift weapon and pull it out of his hands. Tossing it aside it grabbed the man and started to pull him towards his slavering mouth. The guy screamed and there was a loud pop , followed by an equally loud hiss. The zombie’s head exploded in a shower of red sparks. It fell backwards into the water, its head glowing red like someone had stuck a colored sparkler in its mouth and lit it.

Ethan stood there, the flare gun he’d gotten from the emergency box in the lifeboat still discharging smoke from its barrel. Three more zombie rose from the depths and climbed aboard.

TO BE CONTINUED

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

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…”