|12-14-2010, 08:32 PM||#1|
Join Date: Feb 2009
Device: Kindle, Jetbook Lite, iPod Touch
Zombie short story -- Acts of Faith, DRM-free in Kindle store
Have just posted a new short story for Kindle. It's a zombie story called Acts of Faith. Here's the description, and an excerpt that's a bit longer than the sample download.
The description: The dead walk, and feed on the living, and survivors try to find safe places to ride out the zombie plague. But there are other concerns beyond individual survival: can the world be rebuilt -- can the store of knowledge be preserved for the future? One man is trying to choose what needs to be carried away from the library in which he hides, knowing he can't carry enough, knowing that any survivors he finds may not be equipped to make use of it, and knowing that he may not find survivors at all before he falls prey to the living dead. Trying to preserve some record of the past is an act of faith, and in the new nightmare world acts of faith can be fatal...
Short story: 5000 words, DRM-free.
And the excerpt:
He woke from a nightmare of Greta; in the dream she'd been surprised by three of them, and they were eating her alive. In the dream she did not struggle or scream -- she simply fell and stared at him as they ate her, and he stood there and watched and could not move. He snapped awake, stifling a scream, on the cot in the library workroom. The room was dark and silent and nothing was standing over him, not Greta either whole or half-devoured, and not one of the living dead that had eaten her. He wondered where Greta was now, if her luck had been as good as his. He hoped so. It had ended badly between them, but he wished her well.
Within the first week after the dead had begun to walk and to kill, he'd counted all the ways he'd been lucky. The campus was three miles from town, and the town wasn't that large, so there weren't many recent dead. Everyone had left campus, trying to get home or to the designated shelters. He'd known the campus maintenance head for a long time, and had bribed him out of some canned food and bottled water from the kitchen before the maintenance crews left and before the remaining supplies were commandeered in the early sweeps by the guard. The sweeps had been cursory, making sure the students had left, taking the food from the kitchen, and taking the campus maintenance pickup trucks, but not bothering with the work areas. The weather wasn't bad yet. The water and electricity were still working, but he'd been boiling the tap water since the second day, assuming that it wasn't being fully treated any longer, and keeping the bottled water in reserve. He wasn't seeing hordes of the walking dead roaming across the campus yet in their endless search for food. For him and anyone else who still lived.
After the sweeps, once the campus appeared to be deserted, he'd broken into the maintenance offices, found a set of master keys and gone through the dorms. Where there were students, there was usually contraband and convenience food. He'd found a radio, a television, a hot plate, a machete, cereal, crackers with cheese and peanut butter, canned soups and some candy bars. He'd also taken binoculars, a gym bag and a large backpack. He wrote down the numbers of the rooms from which he'd removed these things, but doubted anyone would be back for them soon. He took basic first aid supplies from the infirmary.
He had no gun, though; soon he'd have to start breaking into farmhouses to see if any weapons remained. He doubted he would find anything, but it was possible that some of the locals had tried to ride it out in their homes, and if they'd been overrun after the early sweeps, there might be guns for the taking. Until then he had knives from the kitchen, the machete, and two heavy legs from a meeting room conference table.
If he was careful he could last a while, and he had to last. He had important work to do.
He looked out the small window of his barricaded workroom door. From here, he could see much of the public reading area, down most of the length of most of the stacks. Nothing. He opened the door silently and slipped out of the workroom, closing the door silently and staying low, out of sight of the large reading room windows that looked out over the campus. The windows remained unbroken; that was a good sign. The building doors were locked and he'd seen and heard nothing yet that indicated they'd learned to use keys. Noise and lights drew them, so he'd been careful there. No noise, ever, and no lights in the visible areas after it started to get dark. Before dark, he was in his barricaded workroom; his beautiful barricaded workroom with the bottled water and the canned food and the staff restroom and no windows except the one in the door and the makeshift shade to cover that one. When the electricity and water finally went out, he'd have problems. But for now he was probably as well-situated here as anywhere else. Staying low, he checked the stacks and the areas behind the circulation desk. Nothing. No movement, no sound.
He moved into the stacks and resumed his work.
During the first few days, he'd simply followed the news; but as more stations went silent, as more web sites went down, he realized that this could go on longer than anyone had thought, and be worse than anyone had imagined. He thought about the shelter in town, but some of the last news reports he'd picked up brought word of several shelters that had been overrun by the walking dead. He decided to stay put and ride it out here for as long as he could. Then he began to think about what books he had to carry with him when he finally left, because he could not hope to stay here indefinitely.
What to save? He was appalled at how difficult the question was proving to be. He was a librarian, and selecting books was a large part of his daily work, but that work had never taken place in a vacuum; he had been selecting books that supported the curriculum of a small liberal arts college. Now he was working in a vacuum. Assuming that human communities would be rebuilt, that this plague of zombies wasn't the end of everything forever, what knowledge had to be preserved through the new dark age? And in what form could it be preserved? Especially since he couldn't stay here forever -- whatever he saved, he had to be able to carry with him in a large backpack; it couldn't weigh him down too much since he also had to carry food, water, clothing, weapons and other supplies. And he couldn't assume the survival of other libraries. Winter was coming, and how many survivors might take too short a view of things, see the libraries of their towns as nothing more than kindling to help them fight the cold?
When he was eleven, he'd seen the 1960 version of The Time Machine, and been enchanted by it; after he'd left the theatre that last question from the movie echoed through his thoughts for days. The Time Traveler had returned to the future to rebuild human civilization and had taken with him three books; his guest had asked, "Which three books would you have taken?" He supposed that question had been part of what led him into librarianship. But he'd quickly learned in the trade that much of the job involved maintaining information for specific purposes. The question of which three books you'd use to rebuild a world was for science fiction movies, dormitory bull sessions, idle daydreaming after a few beers too many. Until now. In one sense, the concept of selecting three books with which to rebuild civilization was a cheat even in the context of the movie -- the movie's talking rings were still functional, storing huge amounts of information on science, technology, and history. But he had no talking rings, only the fear that whatever knowledge he could carry with him might be all that stood between any survivors and a dark age that could last for centuries; that dark age might be eternal anyway, but he had to make the attempt to preserve what was needed. And he asked himself yet again: what to save, how to preserve it, and in what form? And why spend any of his remaining time trying to choose something to preserve? Chances were he would find nobody to whom he could pass it along. He'd heard nothing on the radio for days, and had to assume that meant there was nobody out there broadcasting any more. If the walking dead were ranging out this far now it suggested that they'd run out of food in the cities and towns. Why carry anything if there was nobody left to care whether he brought it or not? Carry what he needed to survive, yes. Those supplies would be taxing enough. The lighter his pack the better. He was sixty years old and had never been athletic; he walked a lot, though, and even carrying a pack, he believed he could walk for many hours. But if he had to run... He didn't care to finish that thought. So why carry the extra weight? he asked himself once more. He had no answer, only a conviction that it had to be done.
When Greta had left him, she'd said that she just didn't want to be around him any longer, couldn't take the idea of spending her life with someone who had no faith in anything. "I've got faith in myself and in you, and that's enough. What else should I have faith in?" he'd said. She shook her head and said if he couldn't answer that question for himself she didn't think she could explain it; she just couldn't see that he thought the world was worth much, and she didn't ever want to start seeing things that way herself, and then she was gone. Now, trying to answer The Time Machine's question, he wondered what she'd think if she could see him today. It occurred to him that his work was an act of faith in something larger than himself, although he did not believe faith had anything to do with bringing him to the profession. He'd been a librarian already when he'd met Greta, and the issue of his work being an act of faith in something didn't seem to have occurred to her at the time any more than it had occurred to him.
From the corner of his eye, he saw movement, and he slipped deeper into the shadows between the stacks, even though he knew that with the sun on the big window he shouldn't be visible from outside unless someone was practically resting his face on the glass. The zombie was about twenty yards away from the building, moving toward it. He saw no others, just the one, but the one might have to be dealt with. He didn't think he'd left any trace of himself that might draw them, but where one hung around sooner or later there would be more. He couldn't allow that. If it was still hanging around the building after another half hour, he'd take one of the legs from the conference table, cave in the zombie's skull and get it away from the building, drag it off into the wood and leave it in the same clearing where he'd left the last half dozen. In a way he was almost glad he had no gun. If he had a firearm, he'd be tempted to play it safe and dispatch the zombie from a safer distance; sooner or later the sound of the gunshot would draw more of them, and he'd be finished. He wondered if that was how some of the shelters had been overrun. Gunshots drawing more of the zombies, and when the survivors ran out of ammunition, that was the end. Killing them with clubs or edged weapons was riskier, but it was silent; if he was careful he could avoid drawing a horde of them before he was ready to leave here. And he had to avoid drawing a horde; if there were enough of them, and if they thought there was food in here, the weight of their numbers would smash through the windows.
Give it a look if you get a chance; hope you'll enjoy it.
Bests to all,
Short stories available for Kindle (all 99 cents & DRM-free):
Acts of Faith
The Other Iron River
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