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Zombie Drift 5: Aida

Five: Aida

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No, I can move much faster alone.”

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

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

Zombie Drift 4: Blake

Four: Blake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Again he asked. ‘Why not?’

‘Contagion.’

‘Virus?’

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

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

‘No. Accident.’

‘Radiation leak?’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m Prisha,“ she replied.

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

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

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

“What…what is this?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the direction of shore, the breeze softly blew…

TO BE CONTINUED

Zombie Drift. 2018 Paul D Aronson. All Rights Reserved

Zombie Drift 3: Prisha

Three: Prisha

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or, her mind told her, everyone IS breakfast.

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

“Whoa,” he said. “You alright, miss?”

She tried to speak but was having trouble breathing.

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

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

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

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

“I apologize, sir. I didn’t mean to…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What is it?”

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

TO BE CONTINUED

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

Zombie Drift 1: Captain Walker

Zombie Drift

One: Captain Walker

Captain Charles Walker sat on the edge of the bed. Already dressed in his crisp white uniform, he took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, repeating the action twice before reaching for his cap and placing it on his head. Coming into port was always a nerve wracking experience. He preferred to be out in open waters and not have to deal with corporate bureaucrats and shareholders. He’d rather swim with sharks. It didn’t help that he was the youngest captain to be employed by Ever Sail Cruise Lines. And it didn’t matter that he’d come from a long line of sailors, including his great uncle Shelton who had guided boats onto the beaches of Normandy during WW2. This was only Walker’s second voyage as a captain, and though the trip to the usual Caribbean ports of call had been a success, coming home was always worrisome. Of course, home wasn’t really home to the Captain. Home for the ship was the port of Charleston, South Carolina, but the real home for Charles was Goolwa, a tourist town on the South Australian coast. It was there he first learned to sail as a boy on The Murray River as it wound its way into Lake Alexandrina, and indeed the ocean. And though his apartment in South Carolina overlooked the waters of the Atlantic, it was nothing compared to his childhood home.

With that memory hanging there in his mind, he stood up, adjusted his cap and looked in the stateroom mirror. He’d forgotten to shave. While it wasn’t a requirement, he knew his bosses preferred a smooth face. It was an American thing, he supposed. “Crikey,” he mumbled, using the phrase every American adored and most Australians never uttered. Walker said it rarely, but he knew he’d hear it five times or more before he ever put the ship into dock, so he might as well embrace it.

He left his quarters, shut the door and locked it. He headed down the corridor, now bustling with crew activity. Amid salutes and “Good day, sir” it lifted his spirits. He didn’t feel so lonely once he was among his crew and the scent of the ocean air. Today the St. Fitzgerald would dock into Charleston, unload passengers, pick up others, and then head up the coast where they would unload guests again, this time closer to the Nation’s Capitol. With any luck his sea legs would touch land soon and he’d be disoriented standing on a surface that didn’t sway beneath his feet.

He stepped out onto the deck to take in the full effect of the sea breeze, but before he could even take one breath, he saw Blake Travers, the ship’s Communications Officer, heading his way. The man’s yellow blond hair was a disheveled mess and the disturbed look on his face wasn’t much better.

“Morning, Cap’n,” Blake said with a salute. He was nearly out of breath and had to wait a second to continue. “Looks like Brekkie and Shine is going to be delayed .”

Captain Walker knew the young officer was trying to use Aussie slang to cover up for something. He appeared nervous, but that was no excuse to butcher his normal way of speaking. It was downright embarrassing. “How so?” he asked the young man.

“We’re getting some garbled messages from the port offices. It’s static mostly. Like there’s some kind of interference. But I caught something underneath it all. It was a message saying something about being overrun.”

“Are the docks full?”

“It could be, sir. Every cruise line likes to connect in Charleston. We will be in sight of the port soon.”

“Well, keep me informed, Travers. I need to make a few inspections be we arrive. Reps from the line are going to want to board and see what kind of fault they can find in my leadership on our second voyage out.”

“You’re a fine Captain, sir.”

Walker raised an eyebrow. “Just fine?”

“Well..uh..I mean, sir…”

The Captain smiled. “It’s okay, son. I thank you for your support and compliment. I will take it with pleasure…and possibly some coffee..”

The Com officer’s face lit up, for he was all too eager to please his chief. “Right away sir!” He saluted and dashed across the deck to a coffee station that had been set up for passengers.

Walker watched him for a moment. Because of his own age, it was hard getting used to the fact of having subordinates, those that were beneath him in rank. It was just a year ago that he was behaving in the same manner, bending over backwards to please his commander so as to earn a spot at the Captain’s Table. He usually picked one or two of his crew to join him for dinner, along with a few distinguished passengers. He made a mental note to include Travers this evening just as the young man returned with the cup of hot java. Walker took a hesitant sip to avoid the burn of the fresh brew, and then let out a satisfied sigh. One could always tell what kind of day it would be by the taste of his coffee. It was going to be a fine morning indeed.

Charles didn’t even give a thought to the Traver’s news of garbled messages. Things like this happened more frequently than not. Even with new equipment outfitted on a relatively new ship, problems arose with communications from shore. He was confident the next contact would not be garbled at all, but a clear message directing them where to dock because of the heavy boat traffic.

He went back inside. Descending two levels into the ship, he came out in the deck known as Reliant. Among the crew it was called Hungry Alley, as it housed several kitchens, sleeping quarters for the galley crew and waitstaff, as well as numerous food storage rooms and walk in freezers. It was here Captain Walker checked on his friend, the ship’s Master Chef, a man simply known as Wu. An Asian-American from San Francisco, with glossy black hair forever hidden under his Chef’s hat, he and his family were residents of the St. Fitzgerald. Along with his wife and two sons , they all worked on board the ship. His wife was the hostess of The Starlit lounge, a jazz influenced bar situated on the first deck down from the top. A popular spot for adults to while away the cruise while listening to a live jazz ensemble, the lounge was one of the Captain’s favorite public places on the ship, and it was there that Wu’s two sons tended bar and knew how to mix Walker’s favorite drinks in exact fashion.

“Morning, Chef,” Walker greeted his friend. While to some it may have seemed the Australian and Asian-American made on odd pair, they didn’t know the history. Of how Wu had befriended a young, and very seasick, Charles Walker, on his very first ocean cruise. Discrete and supportive, the older man had nursed the future captain back to health and informed him the open sea was a lot harder to get used to than a winding Aussie river.

“Morning, Captain,” Chef Wu returned, before noting the cup of coffee in the commanding officer’s hand. “You know it’s an affront to us when you bring the java of mortals into our domain.”

Charles laughed. He loved the informal way in which the chef spoke to him. No salutes, or standing at attention, just the ease of pleasant company. Here among the kitchen staff he didn’t feel like a captain, but as one of them, and he liked it that way. It was the one place he could go and…

He stopped before shaking hands with his friend. He looked above his head as if he could see up through the decks and into the open sky. And though most couldn’t tell it, he could. The ship was slowing down…

TO BE CONTINUED

Zombie Drift Episode 1 . Paul D Aronson. All Rights Reserved.

Drafting Zombie Drift

Okay, so I have been quiet here the past couple months, but I have been working behind the scenes to create new material. For one, I spent time bashing out the second draft for “Time Of Our Death”, my entry from NaNoWriMo 2016. That year I successfully completed the first draft. I was so proud of the achievement as it was my first time doing National Novel Writing Month. I also posted it here as it was being written, which was a lot of fun and cemented my love for Serial novels.

Speaking of which, another thing I’ve been working on is something called Zombie Drift. I’ve been spending some time in the Mirakee writing community, sharing my previously written serials for all the awesome writers and readers there. It has been very helpful to my writing and a great encouragement, and as a result of the international feel of the group, I have begun drafting a new Serial with an international cast of characters. It had been suggested to me to write a zombie story. Another reader added it should be at sea. And so the idea quickly formed in my head of a group of passengers on a cruise ship during a zombie apocalypse.

I have been posting chapters over on Mirakee first, and now it seems to be getting solid enough to start sharing them here as well. So stay tuned if you like zombies, or just follow my work in general, and I’ll start the process of bringing this tale in the making to my blog here.

By the way, just a little plug on where else to find me and my work. In addition to the Mirakee community (you can download the app at the google play store. Sorry not available for Apple), I am also on Wattpad and Twitter. My Wattpad ID is @PaulDAronson. Over at Twitter, I am Paul Writes and my ID is @pauldaronson. I would love to have you follow me. I follow back and try to support other writers, poets, and readers.

Vampire Boys Of Summer (revamped) Ep. 84

Vampire Boys Of Summer

84: While I Was Out

I dropped the letter opener and reached for my neck. I was hoping with the death of Colin that the place where he’d bitten me would be miraculously gone. But it wasn’t. It was still there. His mark. Did this mean after all I’d been through I was queen anyway? Was I going to become a vampire now? Or had he been a beta like Haru, and my wound would end up killing me the way Haru had accidentally killed his first love hundreds of years ago?

I looked at Haru with pain and horror in my eyes. My legs gave out and he caught me. I began to cry. Wouldn’t it be the cruelty of fate to defeat the one who had caused us so much pain, and then be defeated myself because of a bloody hickey?

He smiled. As always, my thoughts must have slipped into his because he said, “Hickey. That’s funny.” He kissed me softly on the lips, preventing me from asking what was so funny about it. In the end it didn’t matter. Before I passed out, I remembered thinking at least I’m here. At least I have this moment. I have my Haru.

When I came to, there was motion. At first I thought I was reliving the memory of Ryo carrying me down the street, then I thought I was in a boat bobbing serenely on the lake’s surface. The reality was I was in Haru’s car, bouncing down the dirt road with Chi behind the wheel. Well, Chi and Luhan actually, because when I managed to sit up from where my head lay in Haru’s lap in the backseat, I saw Luhan sitting on Chi’s lap behind the wheel. He was steering the car and she was working the petals. I realized he wasn’t tall enough to drive it by himself, but it made me wonder about the nature of their relationship. In the caverns when he had come to her rescue, she had called him ‘Master.’ Yet he had called her ‘sister.’ Did this mean he saw her as an equal, or had they been siblings in the ages before they became vampires? I looked over at Haru for answers. He just smiled and shrugged.

I returned my gaze to Chi. The wound in her throat was still there, but it now looked cauterized, as if someone had taken a hot flame to the skin and burned it shut. As beautiful as she was, I knew the imperfection would be a glaring reminder of her sacrifice for me. Someone was always paying the price because of Nora Williams, and this saddened me.

Haru reached over and grasped my hand, giving it a little squeeze, as if to tell me everything was going to be alright. I’m not sure I believed him. I looked next to us. Ryo and Angela also occupied the backseat. My bestie was sleeping or passed out, I couldn’t quite tell. Her head lay over on Ryo’s shoulder, and he had an arm around her protectively. His eyes were also closed, but from the rise and fall of his chest I could tell he was okay. I smiled, wondering what this would mean for them. I feared Angela wouldn’t be the same girl after her ordeal, and that we would never have our playfully snappy, yet Intelligent conversations again.

Ryo opened his eyes. Perhaps my thoughts had been too loud. He kissed Angela’s forehead and ran his fingers through her silver shorn hair. I couldn’t help but smile. But my happiness faded when I turned towards Haru. He also bore lasting scars of having to help me all the time. There was an angry red ring around his neck from where it had been in a noose for so long as he hung from the cavern’s ceiling at Colin’s sick whim. Colin. It pained me that I had to kill him. He had been okay and innocent once. A nerdy kid who didn’t do anything but aggravate the snot out of you, following you around like a lost puppy. But he had changed. Became something sadistic and evil. I had no choice. He had been responsible for my dad’s death. Or at least partly responsible. He may have been under orders, but he was still complicit in the deed. He had tortured Angela to the point of death, tried to kill all of us at one point or another. Hell, he’d even bit me in an effort to turn me into…

I reached up to my neck. I could feel the teeth marks he’d left in my skin. The gaping congealed wound. Mine hadn’t been cauterized like Chi’s. Perhaps they would get Ryo to heal mine, as he did once before when I was injured at the hands of the Trumps. So why not heal Chi’s too?

“Shhh, “ whispered Haru beside me. “You are thinking too much.” Then he smiled and took my face in both his hands. His kiss was warm and enticing and I couldn’t help thinking how I wanted to be with him now this very instant. “I know, “ he confessed. “Me too.”

I smiled and lay my head back down on his lap as we continued down the road. Chi reached over and turned on the radio. It was tuned to a rock station that began to play “If you want blood, you got it,” by AC-DC. “Nope, I don’t think so,” she said, and changed the station.

As we arrived back in town it was already mid day. I assumed we’d been in the cavern and labyrinth all night. I had been unconscious when Haru had put me in one of the boats and sailed us out through the hidden channel the vampire army had used to bring their captives in. When I began to wonder about the humans down there, Luhan informed me that because of my actions twenty-seven had made it out. I was pleased with this, but I wished there had been more. Twenty-seven meant there were still some down in the caverns with the remains of the vampire army. When I started to protest this, Ryo cut me off.

“We need to regroup and be more prepared next time,” he said.

“Next time?”

“My father will not take this so easily,” Haru answered. “…the damage we inflicted on his army. Unless all this has been a distraction for bigger things.”

“He will want retribution for the death of his lieutenant,” Ryo added.

“So it’s not over?” I asked, tears welling up in my eyes.

Haru hung his head. “No. We barely escaped.”

“We did accomplish what we set out to do,” Ryo chimed. It was odd that he’d be the one trying to bring in a ray of hope. “We rescued Angela.” He looked down at her as she slept peacefully against him.

“And your father’s death is avenged,” Chi threw out there. “We put a real hurting on the army that was being built. He’s going to need more recruits before he tries anything again.”

“What about the people we saved? Where are they now?”

“If I did my job right,” Luhan said, “they are confused as hell.”

“You wiped their memory?”

“Not all the way. But enough to keep them wondering if they just had a vivid dream. Of course, those still down in the caverns, I couldn’t do anything about them. I hate to say it, but they are either dead or vampires by now.”

I shook my head. Chelsea Valley would never be the same again. Despite this, the streets didn’t look any different. Shops were open. Kids were outside playing. Life went on oblivious to what happened the night before. There were an unusual number of people missing, yes, but no one seemed overly concerned. It was as if someone, Luhan maybe, had brought a fog over the whole town and it’s citizens. That made me wonder about mom. Had she been okay through this ordeal? How was she coping with the loss of dad? I knew she had been left in Tomoko’s care, and I trusted him with her life. He was a good man. I still hadn’t forgotten how he and the jigsaw man had saved my life when we….

“His name is Kaito,” Haru said.

“Haru! You need to stay out of my head.”

He gave me a teasing look. “Why? Is there something you don’t want me to know?”

I purposely sent a thought his way.

“Oh….really?”

I smiled. “Really.”

“Well then…good thing we are almost home.”

We both laughed at our secret little thoughts. Of course, when you are riding in a car with vampires, nothing is secret anyway. Ryo grinned. Chi smirked. Luhan giggled. And Angela slept on….

Continue toEp. 85 (last chapter!)

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Vampire Boys Of Summer (revamped) Ep. 83

Vampire Boys Of Summer

83: If You Want Blood, You Got It

Haru yelled, “No!”

Before he could even step forward to snatch me back, Colin’s teeth sunk into my neck. There was this sudden rush and I felt as if something was surging through me. Something electric. Something ecstatic. Yet I was feeling Colin, not myself. It was his exhilaration that made my eyes roll up in my head and unconsciousness swim around me like sharks. He lifted his head from my neck and I felt my own blood dripping from his fangs onto my skin.

“Finally,” he yelled in triumph. “I get the girl!”

“You already had a girl, asshole,” someone said and through my glossed over eyes I saw Chi’s fist connect to the side of Colin’s face. His head reeled to one side and he went down, dragging me with. We hit the ground with a resounding thud, and then there was screaming as the humans we were leading to freedom realized vampires were in our midst. And it wasn’t just Chi, Colin, and Haru. No, I could hear bad vamps snarling, coming up the corridor in an attempt to catch up to us.

Chi brought her boot down on Colin’s ankle. I heard a crack and he screamed, releasing me. I rolled off and away from him, scrambling to escape. Haru snatched me up and pulled me as far from Colin as he could get. Chi leaned down into Colin’s face. “You could have had it all,” she said. “All you had to do was wait.”

“You left me in the woods,” he snarled. “You said you’d come back and you didn’t. I waited..and waited..and then the master showed up and promised me everything. All you promised me was one night…”

For a moment it seemed Chi’s face fell. A look of deep regret was in her eyes. “I’m…I’m sorry, Colin…I came back for you, but you were gone…I am truly sorry..I never should have…”

“You’re right, you shouldn’t have,” he replied in a soft voice, reaching his hand up towards her face. I caught a glimpse of something in his hand. A glint of silver. His fingers were wrapped around it so I couldn’t see what it was. Before I could say anything, he jabbed it into Chi’s throat. With a stifled cry of alarm, she reached for it, stumbling back from Colin. It was then I saw what it was. An ornate letter opener of the brightest silver. He must have been carrying it with him the whole time.

Chi was making a gurgling sound in her throat. It looked like smoke was coming out from where he’d stabbed her, and I wondered how this was possible. I didn’t think Anti-vampire weapons of the west worked on my Asian friends. I’d been told garlic, crosses, holy water, and even sunlight to some extent, had no effect. So why silver?

“No!” Something whipped past Haru and I. It was Luhan, running down the tunnel to aid the fallen Chi. He reached her as she fell to her knees, struggling to pull the letter opener out. For some reason she couldn’t hold on to it for more than a few seconds. She was trying to speak, but couldn’t. Whatever warning she wished to convey was lost.

Luhan wrapped his fingers around the hilt of the opener. There was a horrid sizzling sound like that of flesh burning. I could smell the smoldering skin of his hands as they tried to catch fire, but he did not let go. Even as I wondered what kind of weapon this was, and Haru frantically tried to staunch my bleeding neck, Luhan was determined. He pulled on the weapon again and again despite the pain until it began to withdraw from Chi’s neck. She screamed as it came all the way out, and I saw what appeared to be green Japanese writing etched on the blade part of the letter opener. No, not green, I thought. Jade. And then it occurred to me. It wasn’t the silver that was causing such damage to my friends. It was Jade. A thing of beauty used in art and other creative ways to us in the west, but to the Asian vampire, it was burning death.

Luhan dropped the offending weapon and laid his palm against Chi’s throat wound. She was no longer gurgling from within, and the blistering of her flesh and Luhan’s had slowed down to a quiet sizzle. After a few attempts she found her voice and said, “master.” Luhan removed his hand from her throat. For the most part it appeared to be healing, though the wound was stained with blood and scarred by the charred flesh. “Sister,” Luhan said, unaware that Colin was not just standing idly by. In fact, Colin was coming right for him.

I jerked away from Haru. He had been applying pressure to my neck wound, but all that could wait. The way I saw it, Ryo had let Colin go and he ended up attacking Chi. Chi felt mercy for him and he had tried to kill her. I wasn’t about to let him go unchecked a second longer. I grabbed up the jade letter opener and intercepted him before he could reach Luhan. “If you want blood!” I yelled. “You got it!” I jabbed the silver into his own throat. At first he was surprised, then came shock, and eventually laughter.

He pulled the letter opener out of his throat, and blood poured from the wound. It seemed not to faze him and he handed the weapon back to me. “Try again, Nora,” he laughed. “Only real silver works on vampires. This one is fake.” He threw his head back. “So go ahead take your best shot.” I jabbed it at him again, and he stumbled back in mock fear. “Whoa, you can do better than that.”

I didn’t know what to do. There’s no way I could beat him like this with a piece of fake silver. I wished I still had some holy water. His face bore the mark of where it had burned him earlier. At least one of the common vampire fighting weapons worked on him. And then I realized I was going about this all wrong. It wasn’t about the silver, fake or real.

Colin was prancing around me like a leprechaun who was sure no one could find his pot of gold. He bared his chest to me, puffing it out as if he were invincible. He wasn’t. I swiped the letter opener across his chest. It may have been fake, but it had been sharpened enough to cut through his skin, making a horizontal cut across his chest. A near perfect line of blood trickled down his flesh. He chuckled. “It’s no use, little girl,” he said. “I can lose blood all day.” He made a gesture toward his neck, indicating that I was still bleeding and probably wouldn’t hold up much longer. He spun around in a circle, finishing it up with a silly ballet type flourish. “You might be good, but you can’t match me.”

I smiled. “Yes I can,” I replied, spinning around in a circle that was near identical to his, except for one difference. At the end of my silly ballet spin, I brought the letter opener across his chest again, this time in a vertical line that cut deep. He retreated again, spreading his arms in feigned surrender. Upon his face, a wicked smile that said he was enjoying this too much. And then he stopped. His smile was gone, replaced by a disbelieving look. He looked down at his chest and now it was my turn to smile. “It may not be real silver,” I said. “But it is a cross.” Across his chest, the two swipes I’d made glistened red in the form of a crucifix.

“You…you bitch,” he mumbled, before his chest burst into flames. He screamed in misspent rage and threw his arms in the air. The fire spread out from his chest and the flames engulfed him, surging up his raised arms, down his legs, burning as red as the blood the proud vampire had craved. He collapsed and hit the ground as the fire swarmed over his head, muffling his screams forevermore. And that, thank heavens, was the end of Colin Deeds. Once a nuisance, then an enemy, now nothing but ash.

Continue to Ep. 84

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And just for kicks…..

 

Vampire Boys Of Summer (revamped) Ep. 82

Vampire Boys Of Summer

82: Flight From The Cavern

The revolt of the humans had opened a window of opportunity for us. With the dwindling vampire army distracted, we climbed down off the stage and made our way to Chinatsu who was still fighting a small pocket of attackers. When they saw us coming, they hissed and ran away, fleeing into the melee between vampires and humans. I guess they thought their chances were better in the crowd.

Chi led us across the cavern floor and we rejoined Luhan, busy freeing the last of the mind controlled humans. A young girl went to run past Chi, and she grabbed her. “How were you brought here?”

The girl, confused and frightened, tried to pull away from her. “Let me go,” she pleaded, her eyes looking on us in abject fear. Perhaps she could see the fangs of my companions and she assumed they were part of the bad vampire clan.

“We’re not going to hurt you,” I said, trying to calm her down. Haru set me down and I touched the girl’s arm in what I hoped was a reassuring gesture. “We just want to know how you got here. How did everyone get in the cavern?”

I was taking Chi’s cue, because like her, I had figured it would have been near impossible to get all these people down the shaft we used. It would have taken forever for each person to be carried down the hole. I’m not even sure the new vampires could have made the jump into darkness successfully.

“By..by boat,” the girl stammered, nervously running her fingers through her long ginger hair. She was thin, almost to the point of Anorexia, and I wondered if perhaps vampires had used her as a vessel in the same manner as Angela. “I…I think…From the lake. A tunnel.”

“Where is it,” I asked.

“I can’t remember….i don’t know…please, please let me go.”

And then she pulled away and ran. I didn’t know where she thought she was running to, but she followed the wall around to the back of the stage and was gone.

Ryo watched her with a suspicious eye. “For someone who doesn’t know, it looks like she has a destination in mind.”

“She’s afraid of us. She thinks we are with her captors.”

“And now that she is free…” Chi pondered.

Luhan didn’t hesitate to finish the sentence. “…she is going back the way she came. Come on!”

We took off after the ginger girl, all six of us relatively intact. I was still limping from my bum ankle and Angela had to be carried by Ryo. She wasn’t talking much, aside from mumbling Ryo’s name. Luhan and Chi seemed in the best shape and they took up the charge ahead of us. We were just starting to go behind the stage when I stopped. We couldn’t just run away. Not like this. We couldn’t leave all the humans behind to be vampire food or hopelessly lost in this cavern. Once we took the boat or boats that the girl spoke of there would be no means of escape except straight up through a shaft that had no ladder or hand holds. I pulled away from Haru. “We’ve got to go back!”

Haru tried to grab my hand. “What? Wait, Nora…”

“No! We can’t just leave them! They are victims. They haven’t done anything. We chose to come down here. They didn’t.”

I waited for Haru to protest, to tell me we had this tiny opportunity of escape, and that if we didn’t find the boats we’d be down here forever, but he didn’t say a word. He just looked at the backs of our friends as they disappeared around the corner. Then he looked back at me and took my hand. “You’re right,” he said. “We’ll get as many as we can to come with and just hope…”

His voice dropped off and let the unfinished statement hang in the air. But I knew what he wanted to add. His hope that there would be enough boats to carry us all out.

It wasn’t easy convincing the awakened humans to follow us. Some of them believed us, while others thought Haru was among those who had lured them from their homes with the most pleasant of dreams and brought them here. It took some convincing on my part, including an embarrassing show of my teeth, before they would join us in our flight out of the cavern. First it was just a few, but then they managed to convince others, who in turn persuaded even more, until we had a number of about thirty or so refugees. I tried my best to get them to line up against the wall again, this time to head out for freedom. There were some who thought this was a trick, but what else could I do? I was just trying to save them and it brought me close to tears to see some of them rejecting a helping hand. On and on this went, we’d gain some, then lose a few, until finally I came to the realization I’d done all I could do. Maybe if they saw us leaving, they would follow us better that way.

Haru put a reassuring hand on my shoulder. “Nora, we have to go.”

“I know. I just hate to…”

“I know, baby,” he replied. “But we have to get to the boats or we are going to get left behind.”

As if to convince me further, Chi returned with the news they had found the boats, but there wasn’t an unlimited supply. “There were a few people on guard, but Luhan freed them. Ryo has taken those across.”

“Where’s Angela?”

She smiled at the worry in my voice. “She’s with Ryo. He wouldn’t leave her behind.”

And with that, I couldn’t leave the humans behind either. Following Chi, Haru and I led the thirty or so who would follow us. Along the wall we went, only leaving it to disappear behind the stage and follow the candle lit tunnel on our way to the boats. We walked a little ways in a hurried pace. I tried to encourage and usher our followers, and as they became further awake to their plight, they seemed more agreeable to the idea. Soon we were all running down the corridor, me limping along and noticing the candles in the tunnel wall were thinning out. We rounded a corner and straight into pitch darkness. No candles. There wasn’t a single sliver of light. I grabbed someone’s hand and urged everyone else to do the same. Lucky for us, vampires can see clearly in the dark. They aren’t hindered by human eyes any longer. Someone grabbed my other hand, and I could tell it was Haru by touch alone. I had held his hand so many times I knew the exact paths of his lifelines. He squeezed my hand and whispered my name, tugging me gently through the dark corridor.

As we eased our way through the pitch black, Haru periodically squeezed my hand for comfort, and I in turn squeezed the hand of the person behind me. I couldn’t see their face, but I hoped that it gave them some small measure of reassurance that things were going to be alright. They squeezed my hand back and I smiled to myself. It felt good to be leading others to safety.

Soon there was a small shaft of light ahead. I sighed in relief. I wasn’t too afraid in the dark with my hand in Haru’s, but I was still happy to see we were coming to journey’s end. “It’s going to be okay,” I whispered to the person behind, hoping they would pass the message down the line. Instead, they whispered back, “I know.”

I don’t know if I found their response strange, or perhaps it was the confident tone in their voice, but I turned to look at them. The shaft of light ahead had grown larger now, and for a brief moment it illuminated their face, just long enough for me to recognize them. My breath caught in my throat, and cold chills shot through my body. Before I could say a word, they had jerked me away from Haru’s grip, pulling me into their grasp. In an instant, they had pulled my head back and were going for my neck. I could feel their breath on my skin. “I told you you’d be my queen,” Colin hissed.

Continue to Ep. 83

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Vampire Boys Of Summer (revamped) Ep. 58

Vampire Boys Of Summer

58: Rabid Teacher Day

I did make it for the last day of school, but I was a little late. Time may stand still sometimes, but it speeds to catch up eventually. Because of that, I missed the bus. I could have gotten mom to take me, but Haru offered to give me a ride. I don’t think he was worried I would run into trouble on the way. I think he just thought it was the gentleman’s thing to do. He may have embraced a modern attitude about some things, but he still had this old world way of thought. I really liked that about him. It was a quality that no one else had, not even Ryo.

Haru kissed me when we pulled up in front of school and told me I didn’t really have to be there if I didn’t want to. We could just as easily go back home. He seemed to understand the dilemma of going to classes the morning after a parent has died.

“No,” I told him. “I need to do this. Dad wouldn’t want me to be sitting around and moping. He’d want to me to be preparing for the invasion he was talking about. We need to know if anything else happened last night and if any of the others involved in the attack show up for school.”

He smiled and nodded. “You always impress me, Nora. Your resilience and strength is to be commended.”

“I wouldn’t be strong without you,” I replied, getting out of the car. I walked around to the driver’s side and leaned inside his window. “A kiss for luck, please.”

He obliged me, his lips full upon my own. With Haru’s kisses I felt like I could face anything. But it made me wonder what he was going to face.

“What are you going to do today?” I asked.

“Ryo and I are going grocery shopping.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Grocery shopping?”

“Yes. It’s time to find that Bram guy your dad was talking about. It all started with that confrontation. If we can find him, maybe we can find the one behind your father’s killing and the attack on you.”

“Please be careful.”

“I will. Say hello to Angela for me.”

Angela. In all the madness of last night, I had forgotten about her. Last time we had spoke it hadn’t ended on good terms. I hadn’t wanted her to go see Ryo, but she had misunderstood my reasons. I had to admit now I thought my reasons had been stupid. I just wanted to protect her, but I should have stayed out of her attempts at a love life. Maybe I was jealous in a way. Maybe for once I had wanted to be the one to have a boyfriend, and for her to be the loner. I needed to stop being selfish and let her do as she wanted. She’d find out Ryo was a vampire soon enough. How she handled that when the time comes would be up to her.

I smiled at Haru. “I’ll tell her hi, but I don’t know if she’ll show up today. She’s notorious for skipping.”

“I don’t think you’ll have to worry about that.” He turned his head towards the school and nodded.

I followed his gaze and saw Angela come out the front doors to stand at the top of the stairs, as if she had been waiting for me to arrive. I gave Haru a quick kiss and walked around the car to start up the walk towards her. She came down the steps, a sympathetic look on her face. At first there were no words, just a hug followed by tears. I cried in her long blond hair, and she in turn wet the side of my cheek.

“I’m so sorry,” she said. “Mom saw it on the news this morning.”

I didn’t know what to say. “Thank you,” was all I could come up with.

“I should have been there for you,” she continued.

I pulled away from her. “I should have been there for you, too,” I replied, wiping my tears with the back of my hand. “I was a jerk to you the other day. I’m sorry.”

“I was a bigger jerk,” she replied. “Forgive me?”

“Forgive me first.”

“No, you forgive me first,” she insisted.

“Uh-uh, you first.”

She grinned. “No way, bitch. Forgive me first.”

We both laughed at our playful argument and knew there was no forgiveness necessary. We’d always be besties. Nothing was going to change that, not even boys.

Entering school together, we both noticed something was off. I mean we knew it was the last day of school, and some of our peers and classmates would be trying to start summer break early, but there was now a large number of students that were absent. I felt I knew the reason for this, but I couldn’t confide in Angela about it, bestie or not. I had promised Haru I’d keep their secrets.

The first ones we noticed missing were the football team. Of course, I knew that at least some of them had been part of last night’s attack on Haru’s house, but today the whole team was absent, including the coach and his assistant.

“That’s weird,” Angela said, and at first I thought she was talking about the jocks, but she pointed down the hall to Mr. Sharp’s math class. A bunch of students were standing out in the hall talking in curious, worried tones, strange bewildered looks on their faces. A few of them, girls mostly, looked like they would hurl up their breakfast any moment. We hurried down the hall to see what was happening.

Maneuvering through the crowd in the doorway, I managed to get a look inside the room. Mr. Sharp sat behind his desk. On your average day he was a well dressed, perfectly groomed kind of man. Suit, tie, clean shaven, not a hair out of place. Young and good looking, he was popular with the female students. Today however, he was different. He looked rough. Clothes disheveled, hair a mess as if he had pulled clumps of it out, unshaven beard with what looked to be bits of food clumped in it. But perhaps it wasn’t food in the normal sense, for he sat there with a half eaten rat hanging out of his mouth, gnawing on it like a ravenous, rabies infested dog.

“Oh My God,” Angela whispered under her breath, coming up alongside me. “What the hell is wrong with him?”

“I don’t know,” I muttered in reply, but all I could think of was Renfield in Dracula. Had Mr. Sharp been turned into a vampire’s servant? Or was this the ugly process of turning into a bloodsucker? First rats, then humans?

As if he knew my thoughts, the math teacher looked up and made eye contact. His pupils clouded over and a slow grin began to spread across his face. “Nora,” he garbled, his voice sounding like he was drowning in water.

“Uh oh,” I said and backed out of the doorway, just as he leaped on top of his desk. With a big gulp, he swallowed the rest of the rat and jumped off the desktop, heading for me. Students screamed and bolted in every direction. He came out into the hallway, snarling and foaming at the mouth. Angela shoved me out of the way and snarled back at him, like you would a dog that had run out of its yard to chase you on your bike. He was distracted long enough for me to get my back pack off and swing it at him. Laden with books, it connected with his head. The force was enough to knock him off his feet. He nearly did a somersault on his way to the floor. Angela took several steps towards him, her short black skirt swirling about her legs. She put a well placed kick right in his groin, and while it may have slowed him down, he soon recovered and was getting to his feet again.

“Ick-uh-rus,” he growled in a tone of contempt, pushing her to the side and launching himself towards me again. This time however, he was taken down by two teachers who had come running up the hallway. They tackled him and pinned him to the floor. He writhed and squirmed in their grasp, snapping his teeth at them. I figured it wouldn’t be long before he was up again and coming for me. The teachers were strong, but there was no holding a madman. He needed a sedative and I didn’t think the school nurse had anything like that. Still, she came running, along with our guidance counselor, Miss Thomas.

“What is going on here?!”

I turned to answer Miss Thomas, and the rabid math teacher broke free. Flinging the other teachers from him as if they were fifty pound weaklings, he was at me before I even knew it. He grabbed me by my shoulders and shook me. “Soon it will be your turn,” he snarled in a low voice only I could hear. “You will be the slave, groveling at the feet of my master.”

“Your master is a coward,” a voice said from behind him. Before anybody knew what was happening, the speaker wrapped their arms around Sharp’s head and squeezed. His eyes started to roll up in his head and he let me go. Chi tightened her grip, enfolding him within her arms so much you could barely see his face. You could almost hear the air escaping his body in a gasp for breath. Within seconds his body went limp and he collapsed in her arms. She eased him to the ground where he lay still and unconscious. Chi wiped her hands on her skin tight leather pants and with a toss of her long shimmering tresses said, “You’re getting to be high maintenance, Nora.”

Everyone in the hallway was stunned. Rendered mute, they all just stared at Chinatsu, until finally she shrugged and explained with a playful smirk, “I watch wrestling on the weekends.”

Continue to Ep. 59

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Vampire Boys Of Summer (revamped) Ep. 27

Vampire Boys Of Summer

27: Vampires 101

My room was quiet. I had the music on low. I was streaming j-pop through my laptop. Currently playing was a song by Mr. Children called “Be Strong.” I don’t think that was the actual title, but they did say those words in choice points throughout the tune. I’m sure it had some cool sounding Japanese name, but I didn’t have time to look it up. I was too busy researching vampire lore. I had so many questions about these vampire boys that I didn’t know where to turn. Websites on Japanese folklore and legends weren’t much help. I even tried looking up Japanese history sites to find out if anything significant had happened in 1281. I didn’t think I’d find anything about vampires. The only thing I saw was something about the Mongols invading Japan and getting repelled. This was in the age of Shoguns and samurai clans. But nobody sucking blood and sleeping in coffins.

The sun had long sunk behind the mountains, but it was still warm in my room. We didn’t have central air. We had AC downstairs and in mom’s room, but not in mine. I had a ceiling fan over my bed. Set up in one corner was a standing fan that oscillated back and forth, but all it gave you was a momentary breeze before continuing on its cycle. My palms were getting sweaty from typing on my laptop’s keypad. I was contemplating taking off my shirt to lounge around in my bra, when I heard a whoosh sound close to my window. I looked over and saw Ryo sitting in the windowsill.

“You know,“ he said, his voice a soft baritone, “you can’t always believe what you read on the net. A lot of false information if you’re looking up politics, religion, or vampires.”

“Don’t you ever come into a girl’s room the normal way?”

“This is normal for me,“ he answered, with a teasing grin. I noticed he too was sweating in the heat. His shirt was half unbuttoned. I could see the perspiration on his throat and collarbone, and it was starting to stir my imagination. I must have blushed a little, because he climbed out of the window and sauntered towards me. His slow movements may have been intended to be sensual, but it reminded me more of a big cat stalking its prey.

“What do you want, Ryo?” I asked, getting nervous.

He stopped beside me and knelt down beside the chair. “I want to help you.”

“Help me with what?”

“Vampires 101.”

I leaned back in my chair and relaxed a little. “You’ll answer my vampire questions?”

“If I can.”

I nodded and got my first question ready. The one that bugged me the most. “Okay, how is it you guys can walk around in the day, no problem?”

“Well, personally I hate daylight. It can’t hurt me unless I haven’t fed in a while though. Oh my, I just let out one of my great secrets. Now you know that if you starve me you can kill me with the sun. I guess I’m just going to have to trust you.” He put his hand on my leg. I didn’t move it away.

“But the others? Haru? Chinatsu? Luhan?”

He raised an eyebrow, as if he were surprised I had figured them all to be vampires. He sighed. “They love the sun a little too much I’m afraid.”

“But it doesn’t hurt them.”

“Their bodies have had a long time to adjust. You know, humans have evolved over time. If you look back, what maybe just seventy years, you’ll see the women had smaller feet, were shorter, and…” He looked me up and down, his eyes lingering a little longer on my chest area than I liked. “…developed much slower.” He took his hand off my leg. “So, wouldn’t it seem likely vampires would change over time as well? We have been vampires for like over 800 years. That’s a long time to just stand still. The short answer to your question is we have learned to tolerate the sunlight. It is still very uncomfortable, but as long as you feed before spending a considerable amount of time in the daylight, you’ll be okay. I’ve only seen a few of us that have incinerated in the sun.”

“So, you do have to drink blood?”

“Yes of course. Evolution doesn’t cover that little fact.”

“How often?”

“It’s different for the individual. I have to drink every three to four days, but I like to do it more than that. It’s just hard to find willing participants.” He looked at me, a curious look on his face. “You interested?”

“No,“ I answered.

“Aww, too bad. Well, the night is still young. There are other ways I could indulge myself.”

“I bet,“ I said, trying not to watch where his eyes lingered. “But you haven’t answered all my questions.”

“I never said I would answer them all; I just said I would help.” He shrugged. “I guess I thought we could exchange information of sorts. Tit for tat, as they say.”

“What kind of information could I give you?”

He licked his bottom lip as he contemplated how to answer. He stood up and began to unbutton the rest of his shirt.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“Don’t you think it’s getting warmer in here?” His shirt hit the floor, and I was graced with the sight of his sweaty, toned upper body. Across his chest, the tattoo that read ‘Loveless’ almost seemed to glisten. His muscles were taut; if I’d thrown a punch at his hard abs it would have broken my hand. But he was right; it was getting warmer in my room. Literally. It felt like someone had turned up the heat. I wondered if vampires had the power to control a room’s temperature. If so, and it got any warmer, I would soon be half naked myself. I tried to push that thought far back into my mind where it belonged.

“Do you sleep in a coffin?” I blurted out, trying to keep him from reading my mind or getting dangerous ideas.

“Nope,“ he said, moving over to my bed where he promptly sat down. “I sleep in a bed.” He lay back and stretched, his muscles pulled even tighter by the action. “Usually not my own.”

Subtlety wasn’t one of Ryo’s traits. He was like the guy who knows he’s hot, so he prances around like an underwear model in a girl’s locker room. He just knows it’s a matter of time before someone reaches out in fascination. I myself tried not to look at him. I turned back to my laptop in an attempt to concentrate on something else.

“You know it’s rude, even for a human, to ignore animal attraction.”

“Sorry, I’m not attracted to animals,“ I said, my voice cracking a little. I heard him laugh under his breath.

“But you’re attracted to me,“ he said. “I can smell it.”

“Smell what?” I asked, alarmed.

“Fear. Temptation. Curiosity. Desire. All these have distinctive scents to a vampire. How’s that for a little 101?” He rolled over on his side and propped himself up on one elbow. “Don’t you feel it?”

I shook my head. “No. N..No I don’t.”

“I think you do.” He got up. “That’s the feeling of sin.” He stepped closer. “It’s already in your mind. Now, we only have to wait for your body to catch up.” He knelt by my chair again. “You’ve wanted me from the moment you first saw me.”

I had enough presence of mind left to know he had it wrong. It was he who had wanted me from the beginning. And everything he had been doing up until now was to get to this moment. Typical guy, really. Except the vampire within him had some intense mental powers as well, giving him an irresistible sense of persuasion that was hard to fight.

The thing is I did want him. I wanted to touch him, kiss him, taste his skin, his blood, his mouth. These thoughts were so overwhelming that I felt like my very mind was being violated. I opened my desk drawer, as he placed his hand on my calf and began to slide it up my leg. I pulled out the razor blade I used for cutting. I knew cutting him wouldn’t break the spell. It probably wouldn’t even faze him. But I didn’t need to. I needed to faze me. With one hand I flicked open the razor and dragged it across my leg just inches above where his hand was. This was one time when I wasn’t numb to the pain. It shot through my leg and up to the nerve center in my brain. With a gasp, I winced and dropped the razor, shoving my chair back from the desk. The sudden movement and the breaking of his hypnotic chain made him jump to his feet and retreat. But only for a moment. Something came over his eyes and I swore it was death…

Ep. 28

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