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Love Is The Darkest Art Part 1

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

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

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

Love Is The Darkest Art

A Dramione fan fic serial

Scene 1:

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

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

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

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

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

“Ooh,” winced Harry, adjusting his glasses.

“Good one,” whispered Ron.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Shes weird,” Ron said.

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

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

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

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

Ron made a face.

Scene 2:

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

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

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

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

“Draco Malfoy,” Hermione whispered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scene 3:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I wasn’t looking for you.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I…,” she tried to say. “I..I am so…”

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

Scene 4:

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

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

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

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

“What are you staring at, Malfoy?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Ron? Don’t be ridiculous…”

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

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

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

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

Krum looked at Malfoy and raised a thick eyebrow.

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

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

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

To Be Continued

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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.

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 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…”