National Novel Writing Month

Sorry for the lack of updates, dear readers. I’ve been busy with NaNoWriMo as my friends badgered me into participation. I’ll get you some new material as I am able; in the meantime, here’s a bit of the novel I’m working on. You can cheer me on here.

 

“Errant”

Ralph’s eyes narrowed, and he raised his hand. Vesprin nickered. The party came to a stop.

Nita started to ask what was going on but was quickly silenced by Ralph. “Bandits.” he whispered, pointing to a nearby hill covered with brush. “You can see the sunlight glinting off their weapons. I’d say six or so. Vesprin and I might be able to handle them, but it’ll be ugly. If we backtrack, they’ll– HEY!”

Nita urged Thunderdoom into a gallop directly at the hill. She released the reins and held her arms over her head while chanting. A ball of black lightning formed in her hands, and just as the bandits stood to charge, she hurled it sizzling into their midst, where it detonated with a loud CRACK. The brush was scorched away, and six bandits lay twitching on the ground, the occasional spark of black lightning arcing from their crude armor.

Nita rode back to Ralph and Vesprin, beaming. “There we go. They’ll be out for a few hours, no blood shed.” Her smile faded as she noticed Ralph glowering. “What?”

“You didn’t kill them.”

“Of course I didn’t kill them. I don’t kill unless I am left with no other choice.”

Vesprin puttered. Ralph spoke. “Nita, Vesprin and I are Knights-errant. We took oaths. Bandits are a mortal threat to the lives of all around them. If we leave them alive, they’ll just attack someone else who cannot defend themselves, or join up with a bigger gang and sack a town. The sentence for banditry is death, and for good reason.” He drew his sword.

“But- but they’re defenseless!”

“Hence my disappointment. I am relieved to not be facing harm, but I take no pleasure in what I am about to do. Still, it is more merciful than what they had planned, I am certain.” Ralph started Vesprin forward.

“Wait.”

“What is it? We’re wasting daylight.”

Nita started digging in her pack. “You don’t have to kill them! I have an idea.”

“What are you going to do? Spank them?”

“No,” Nita emerged from her pack holding a few small bottles. “I’m going to curse them.”

“Are you mad?”

“Hear me out. There’s a simple but powerful curse called a ‘geas.’ It compels its victim to perform, or not perform, a specified action.”

“So you’re going to compel them to become farmhands or something?”

“I thought about that, but they could still be bandits. No, I’m going to give them a psychotic aversion to violence.”

“A what?”

“Just watch.”

Nita walked over to the crumpled bandits as she mixed the contents of the bottles. She stooped and smeared some of the mixture on each bandit’s forehead. She then sat down in the midst of them and began to chant while performing finger sigils. She cried out “PHOBOS” as her chants came to a climax. There was a bright flash of light, and the bandits began to stir and groan. One looked toward Nita, and called out to his fellows as they took to their feet.

“Nita!” Ralph and Vesprin charged toward the hill. Nita didn’t stir. The bandits circled her and one reached out toward her. Then his hand began to shake, and he collapsed, sobbing. One by one, the other bandits started trembling and sobbing, collapsing and rolling around the hill. One started crawling away, and stared up at Ralph as he rode up, sword at the ready. Then the bandit vomited.

“Gods, Nita, what did you do to them?” Ralph watched Nita carefully step between the bandits and their leavings, headed toward Thunderdoom.

“Oh dear, I think I linked them somehow. When one goes, they all go!”

“They ‘went’ all over the hill!”

“Well, you have to admit they won’t be bothering anyone anymore.”

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Scene from a Zombie Apocalypse

Tex looked up and down the street, then spit. “The coast is clear.” he called over his shoulder.

A small group of people emerged from the alley behind him. There was Daphne, a college girl of twenty-one; Mike, a grizzled-looking older man; Maria, the nurse, and Dex, the new guy. Dex had just awakened from a coma, and had been discovered by the group just fifteen minutes before, wandering outside a hospital.

“S-so, no zombies?” Dex was worried, as was appropriate for the New Guy.

Tex’s exes wrinkled as he smiled and adjusted his ten-gallon hat. “No zombies.”

Maria laughed and patted her shotgun. “If there were, we’re all ready!” The others nodded in agreement, all brandishing their weapons.

Dex looked up and down the street. It seemed oddly busy, with, small, armed groups walking to and fro, entering shops, carrying supplies, and in one case, feeding bread to some ducks in a small park.

“Who are all these people?”

Tex spat again. “Survivors. Day’s the best time to stock up. The rotters are harder to see at night.”

“There’s a policeman directing traffic.”

“There’s a lot of survivors.”

“I’ll say. There’s a bus full of them.”

“Yeah, the buses usually go to the Walmart on the south side. Easier to find parking. C’mon, now, we’re wasting daylight.” Tex waved the group forward, and they started walking down the sidewalk in tense silence. Tex took point, and Daphne and Maria watched the sides, with Mike bringing up the rear.

They reached their destination without incident. Dex looked up to see the storefront was labeled “Roy’s Market.” A cowbell on the door jangled as the group walked in. A cashier waved at them from a checkout lane as Tex gathered the group around.

“Alright, everybody, you have your lists. Grab a buggy and fill up, and we’ll meet at the checkout lane in fifteen minutes. Dex, you’re with- Dex?”

Dex looked around from where he was staring at a display of shotguns and crossbows. “Are- are these real?”

“Of course they’re real!” Tex spat. “Gotta be ready for the rotters! Now, Dex, you stick with Daphne. I’m going to go see if the cantaloupes are fresh.”

“I, er, right, sure.” Dex walked briskly to catch up to Daphne, who was headed for frozen foods.

“Here, Dex, you push the cart. I need my hands free.” She pulled out two pistols and began systematically clearing the aisles.

“Shouldn’t I get a gun?” Dex watched Daphne with mld concern. This was not how he imagined a zombie apocalypse happening.

“No. Look for pizza rolls.”

Dex sighed. “You seem awfully well-prepared for the, ah, current situation.”

Daphne brightened immediately. “I know, right? Zombie apocalypse planning was sort of my hobby. I even bought the official zombie bullets! I kept my dorm room full of canned goods and toilet paper. Drove my roomie nuts.” Her tone grew more somber. “I miss her.”

“Did she turn?”

“No, she transferred when she found the shotgun I hid under her bed.”

“I see.” Dex paused in front of a cooler. “Here are the pizza rolls.”

“Good. We need six bags.”

Soon, fifteen minutes had passed and they were all gathered at checkout lane eight. Tex started putting cantaloupes on the belt. The group made small talk as the items were scanned and bagged.

“$151.18, sir.”

Tex opened his wallet. “Y’all take platinum cards, right?”

“Yessir.”

“Oh, I have a shopper’s card, too.” The cashier scanned it with a soft beep.

“Everyone take a few bags, it’s a long walk back to my Escalade!” Tex slung his rifle over his shoulder and picked up some bags. Everyone else followed suit, and the group marched back the way they came. As they passed the hospital where they found Dex, he heard a familiar musical chime. He turned to see mike fumble with the bags and pull out a cellphone.

“Hello? Oh, hi hon. Yeah, I’ll be home for dinner. See you soon, bye.” Mike shoved the phone back into his pocket.

“So cellphones work.”

“Yep.” Tex didn’t turn around.

“And electricity.”

“Yessir.”

“And government services.”

“Indeed.”

“Right.” Dex rubbed his forehead. “Anyway, can I use someone’s phone to call my family? I am sure they’d like to know I’m awake.”

“Wait until we get back to the compound, it’s safer there.”

“Okay, fine whatever.”

It was a short drive out into the suburbs, where Dex noticed most houses had boarded up windows. They finally stopped at a large house, and Tex pushed a button on his steering wheel to open its garage door. No one opened a door until the garage door was shut behind them. Then they all started carrying groceries into a nice, well-appointed kitchen. Dex noticed three kids in the living room playing a first-person shooter game on a large-screen TV.

So, I can’t help but notice this zombie apocalypse doesn’t have much to offer in the way of zombies.”

Tex sighed. “Well, as you know, everyone has a zombie apocalypse survival plan. So most people were well-prepared.”

“Prepared to hold back hordes of flesh-hungry undead?”

“Well, about that, see, turns out there’s a narrow window of time after one dies where a body can become a zombie. Then the body deteriorates too much.”

“So how many zombies have you actually seen?”

The group exchanged nervous glances.

“Er, one.” Daphne said.

“That’s it? One zombie?”

“I shot it!” Daphne beamed.

“Well, so did everyone else.” Mike grinned. “The gunfire went on for like five minutes.”

“There must have been two hundred survivors in that mall!” added Maria.

Dex rubbed his forehead again. “So why bother? Just go about your lives!”

“We are not letting this opportunity slip away!” Tex bellowed. “ We’ve all waited far too long for it! Everyone in this country has longed for a zombie apocalypse, and now it’s here! I’m not going to let a simple zombie shortage ruin things for me!” The others nodded in agreement.

Dex looked between the boarded-up windows at the fading sunlight. “In hindsight, I am surprised the hospital I was in was so empty.”

Maria smiled. “well, there’s a simple explanation for that. No one gets sick anymore. When we get hurt, we wait for nightfall, then eat some raw meat.”

“What?” Dex was distracted by an odd sound coming from outside. “Jesus, it sounds like every dog for miles around is howling.”

A hairy paw was gently placed on Dex’s shoulder. “Not dogs,” Tex said. “Not dogs at all.”

War Ballad

Cyberlieutenant Zakk Bloodclaw peered at the battlefield through his TekOculars. Zakk was a large slab of beef with the temperament of a neutron bull hopped up on all the ragedust.  By his side stood Megabrigadier Jull Ragefist, who was built like a forklift if the forklift had rippling, bulging muscles.

“See what I mean, Zakk?” Juli’s voice was like a sledgehammer falling down a pink catwalk.

“Aye,” Zakk’s voice was like the thunder of the Autoguns booming overhead. “A whole frakload of dead people.”

“ALL the dead people. As best as I can tell, all that’s left of our forces on this planet are us, some combat ‘bots, and the company of sexdroids back at the landing site.”

“Can the sexdroids be armed?”

“Frak no.” Juli spit. “They are far too feminine and silly.”

“Figures.” Zakk focused the TekOculars as if to single out one mangled body over the rest. “What do the Hypermutants have left?”

“At least a battalion, Maybe two.”

Zakk looked away from the ‘Oculars. “You, me, and some ‘bots against two battalions of Hypermutants?”

“Yep.”

Zakk grinned. “Sounds like the odds will be about even, then.”

Juli picked up her Nuker. “Let’s get this party started.” She aimed her weapon at the Hypermutant lines and fired. A few seconds later, there was a huge explosion, followed by the howling of the mutants. “Damn, this turns me on.”

Zakk lit a cybercigar. “Off we go!” He and Juli bolted for the enemy lines. He looked over at his commanding officer. “What are we in the mood for? Incendiaries? Sawbombs?”

“I dunno about you, but I’m kind of pissed they killed 2.4 million of our fellow soldiers, and then made sandwiches out of their bodies. I say melee.” She paused. “No, ULTRA melee.”

Zakk laughed. “I like the way you think.” At that moment they entered the Mutant’s firing range and blasts began to go off all around them.

Juli tapped a small box at her belt. “Arsenal, Goresaw!” A device that looked like an elongated box with several circular sawblades on the front materialized in her hands. She pulled a trigger and saws howled to life. She cackled.

“Arsenal…Werewolf Launcher!” a weapon that looked like a bazooka with a huge, deep cup on the end was immediately in Zakk’s hands.

Juli blinked as the pair came to a stop. “That doesn’t look like a melee weapon, soldier!”

Zakk grinned even wider, which shouldn’t have been possible. “I’ve been saving this baby for a special occasion. Don’t worry, it counts.” He lined up the sights and fired. A brown, furry projectile blasted from the launcher with a loud “POOMP” sound. It landed in the front ranks of the foul army, and immediately a werewolf stood, and began howling and ripping apart the stunned Mutants.

“See? Melee.”

“I don’t consider it REAL melee until you have to wipe the gore off your goggles.” Juli clenched her teeth.

“That’ll happen soon enough.” There were several more “POOMP” sounds as Zakk peppered the enemy ranks with werewolves. “The nice thing about werewolves is that they multiply.” Juli noticed several of the fallen mutants were getting back up as Werewolf Hypermutants.

“Before you say anything, I know, at first glance it seems like I am making them stronger. but wait.” Zakk looked at his chronometer. “And…NOW!” As Zakk pointed, several of the Werewolf Hypermutants exploded, dousing those around them with Werewolf Gore, which caused those Hypermutants to turn into Werewolf Hypermutants and begin attacking their uninfected brethren.

“Just like clockwork, after five minutes.”

“Oh, I have GOT to get me one of those! Does it come in vampire?”

“You bet your ass it does. Uh, sir.” POOMP!

“How many shots does it hold?”

“Two hundred, so I am pretty much out.” Zakk dropped the launcher. “Arsenal, Crunchmower.” Zakk was holding something that looked like the unholy union between a lawn mower on its edge and a tree shredder. “Time to make some some gore!”

They both laughed as they waded into the carnage. It was going to be an excellent battle.