#.12 One Girl. One Shot. by Kristen Jett…

20130804-114354.jpg

I’M BACK, BABY.

Today’s Soundtrack – Monsters by Hurricane Bells

Hey, babies! I have returned from sunny Morocco, and I come bearing gifts – the twelfth Zombie Project story by the fantastical Kristen Jett! Kristen was actually the first person I spoke to on Twitter, and she’s remained one of my Twitter friends for all of this time. She’s an ace person and an ace writer, and when the Zombie Project was no more than an undead seed I knew she had to be a part of it. She knows things about almost EVERYTHING. If you’re not following her on Twitter, then you have a problem.

Kristen is also co-founder of Pen and Muse, which you should definitely check out if you’re a fellow writer (which, let’s face it, most of you probably are.)


One Girl. One Shot.

by Kristen Jett

Shopping is the best thing about the zombie apocalypse.

It’s a bitch thing to say, but it’s true. If a girl has to be running around lopping off zombie heads like she’s some bad ass movie star, she might as well look good. Lucie Theroux, zombie slayer. Call me Luc. Everyone does.

That practical-yet-chic leather bomber I eyed last season? Perfect to protect me from rogue bites, and pairs well with my current ensemble. And since I was the only living person in Barneys, it was mine. All mine. Not that you can spend all day trying on brand name clothes…which was why I’m in the hunting goods store. I grab another box of rounds from the shelf, tucking as much ammo as I can carry without slowing me down into my bags. A machete swings at my hip, while a dagger hilt protrudes from my pink cowboy boots. Always be prepared. Once a girl scout, always a girl scout.

I should have been more prepared. My own father created this. Caused this. The apartment was practically a bunker, but he couldn’t even explain why. I wonder if Mom is still sitting there, locked away, certain he was going to come back to save the day. Hoards filled the streets, slowly making their way up our posh penthouse buildings, and still she sat waiting patiently.

Screw that.

A noise from the back of the store startles me, and instantly Berta, my pistol, is in my hand. The shotgun does more damage, but is a real bitch to get to quickly. Besides, shotgun ammo is heavy to lug around, even when I do wear that ugly bandoleer under my jacket.

“Don’t shoot!” A deep voice calls out from a corner I thought I’d cleared. This one little mistake could have gotten me killed. Most of the zoms are slow, but a fast one could have taken me out when I’d had my back turned. People are worse. They’ll feed you to a hoard if they think it’ll save their ass. Which it might. Except then they have to live with themselves. And the men? Well, let’s just say it’s been awhile since most of them have seen a girl who breathes. Not reassuring. I keep my gun trained on the corner, ready to blow his head off in an instant.

“Who are you?” My voice doesn’t even tremble. No one at my school would have believed it. Little blonde girly Lucie became Luc, the tough fighter who curses like a sailor. All it took was for the world to go to hell.

A figure steps out of the shadows slowly, carefully. His face slides into the dim light of the room. Seriously? Another hunk? Does it have to be another hunk? Hey Universe, haven’t I had enough to worry about what with the whole zombie apocalypse, and the boy, and having to leave him behind?

“Mason. Mason Hutchings. Who the hell are you?” I see him eying Berta as he talks. I push my jacket to the side to show off the fluorescent grips of the Glock tucked into my waistband. No need for him to get any funny ideas.

“Luc.”

“Like a boy?”

I roll my eyes. “You catch on fast, darling. Pronounced like the boy. You clear?”

He waves a wrist in front of me, and I catch a glimpse of green. Implanted. Makes my life easier. I try to notice anything else about him, like the just tousled enough to be sexy hair. If this was a movie, we’d be falling in love faster than you could say zombie apocalypse. But this isn’t a fucking movie, and the only thing moving fast around here is my killing arm.

“You.”

My wrist raises in the air. “No implant. I’m clean.” I eye him carefully. “In more ways than one. You know there is water in this town that’s not tainted, right?” Is there ever an excuse not to shower?

In a normal conversation, I’d ask where he was from, who he was, what his interests were.  This isn’t a normal conversation. None of us have any of that anymore. We’re just beating hearts trying to survive – not to be confused with the undead hearts trying to survive.

“How do you-” His question cuts off at my sharp stare. There’s no time for any of that.

Instead I toss him a bottle of water. He misses. Catch like a man, why can’t you? I flinch before it happens, knowing exactly what is going to happen.  There’s nothing worse than watching a big effing mistake happen and knowing you can’t do anything about it. It’s almost slow motion. The bottle flies past his head, knocking over metal (and empty) thermoses destroying the store in one noisy round of dominoes.

“Grab the fucking water and let’s go.” I can see the hesitation in his step. “NOW. Haven’t you ever watched a horror movie before? Noise attracts them.”

He doesn’t look as if he believes me, but something flashes in his eyes, and his feet start moving. Mine do too – in the opposite direction. I hadn’t seen a gun on Pretty Boy, and I certainly wasn’t going to give him one of mine. I may have morals, but you’re not separating me from any of my weapons. My mind’s racing – what would be best? “Can you shoot?” I yell across the store, not caring about the consequences. We’ve got maybe two minutes tops to get out of here, and my ass is going to be out that door regardless.

“Um….I’m a little rusty.”

Of course he is. Fucking pretty boys. Next time someone creeps out of the shadows, it better be a man who knows the difference between a .38 Special and .357 Magnum. I shake my head, grabbing a shotgun for him – better chance of getting a hit with a shotgun round than a rifle. My elbow smashes a glass case to grab the Walther. Easy enough to shoot, even easier to find ammo for.

“I only need one.” He’s climbing across the debris to reach me. The only answer he receives is a grueling look from me. To his eyes, I must look paranoid. Berta. The Glock. The pink shotgun. One machete. One dagger.  And he didn’t even know about the Lady Derringers I had tucked into my clothing. Because sometimes one shot’s all you need.

“I have an axe,” he continues. My second mistake of the day? Turning to see why his voice falters as he says that. The proof of my mistake groaned in through the door while my back was turned…with a few of his undead friends, and an undead man in a suit that I’ve been spending months trying to avoid. Since the boy. And we are not talking about what happened then. Or to the boy.

Ever been in an army surplus or a hunting goods store? Typically the owners are serious about protection. Which means there’s usually only one fucking exit. Which means we’re trapped.

It takes 2.7 seconds for me to grab the shotgun on my back and cock it. I timed it once. It looks damn impressive too. Not that the zombies care. My old faithful is in my hands, reassuring me. I’d shot my first zombie with this gun, and if I was going out, I’d take out my last with it. “Get the fuck over here, Mason.”

For once he obeys, and even realizes he’s the sub in this relationship and stands behind me. We back ourselves into a corner, where at least we know nothing can grab us from behind. “You know how to hold your own.” His breath is in my ear.

Of course I did. How the hell did he think I’d made it this far? “My dad taught me.” Couldn’t this boy see I didn’t want to talk? Especially not about that.

“It’s kinda hot.”

Seriously? Seriously? That is what you choose to think about in the middle of a life and death situation? Men.

Boom. One zombie out. “Mr. Carter. You figure out how to control them now?”

Mr. Carter smiles at me. That cruel unbreathing smile. “You look healthy, Lucie. I’m sure your daddy would be happy to hear that.”

That son of a bitch is going to talk about my daddy? I take out the zom to the left of him as my only answer. Mason’s eyes are narrowed. “I’ve seen this guy. Where I came from.” There’s an awful hiss of a pause before he spits out the words, “I think he got my parents killed.”

Well, what do you know? Pretty Boy is smarter than he looks. I don’t have time to be his comfort blanket. “Take out the zoms first. Son of a bitch can control them.”

Know what’s sexier than a man with a gun? A man with a gun who only needs one shot to kill the walking dead. There’s more to this one than what meets the eye.

We take down the next seven in unison, while I mentally try to count rounds. Five guns, but no time to reload.

“Can you fight all day little Lucie? What about the boy…Mason? Doesn’t he want to join his family?” Mr Carter grins, a healthy glow to his cheeks.

The bastard’s playing with us.  The Glock raises to the ceiling, taking out the last lights that still manage to shine. If we’re going to play his games, we need to even the odds.

Now what? We’re backed into a corner, with a dead man who can control zombies in front of us. The room is clean of zoms, but who’s to say he can’t call more in? This situation can’t get any worse.

Until it does.

Even in the dark, I can see the glint of the gun as Mr. Carter points it at me. “Sorry, darling Lucie. I know this is hard to take in. How someone who’s known you all your life could want you dead. But it’s for the country, darling. One girl and one shot…doesn’t mean all that much when you think of the greater good. Your boyfriend here will just be a bonus…much like the last one was.”

Have I mentioned that I hate dead men? Because I fucking hate dead men.

“Shotgun down, Lucie. Slowly.” Mr. Carter’s voice is flat. “That pretty little Glock next. I believe Berta is empty now, so you can keep that.”  Guess I wasn’t the only one counting rounds.

My elbow nudges Mason, urging him to do something.

“I’m out of ammo.” His voice is a whisper in my ear.

“Cleavage.” I hiss the word with annoyance. Of course it would come to this. I slowly put my Old Faithful down, pushing my body further back into Mason to make this easier.

“What?”

“Gun in my cleavage. One shot.”

Sometimes all you get out of life is one shot. Mason’s hand reaches around me in the dark, sliding into my shirt, grazing maybe a little more than he should before settling on the gun. Three seconds to raise it, two seconds to steady his hand, one to pull the trigger.

One shot. Ready. Set. Aim.


If you loved this, make sure to check back in next Sunday for the next link in our grizzly chain, by ME! (Yikes!) Also, one of our amazing writers, Julie Hutchings, has just been published! ‘Running Home’ is  now available on Amazon. Believe me – you want it. Click here to check out that awesome.

#9. The Light by Jolene Haley…

20130804-114354.jpg

 

Today’s Soundtrack – Miss Missing You by Fall Out Boy

Jolene Haley is one of the nicest people I’ve met during my time on Twitter. She truly is. Finding someone who doesn’t like her would be like finding the proverbial needle in the haystack. And her story is killer – following directly on from its predecessor, #8. Thinking Big by Julie Hutchings. Jolene will light up your Twitter feed – so follow her. If you want to see more, check out her website, which is coming soon. She likes gritty stories, strong female protagonists and things that go bump in the night.

Less of the preamble; on with the show!


The Light

by Jolene Haley

Goodbye Haley.

I never actually thought I’d make it out of the small, crappy little town of Haley. Most residents were born here, raised here, and died here. Haley was the kind of town where kids have one dream: get out of town and actually make something of themselves.

Dreams.

Dreams were, of course, before the outbreak. Dreams were before things were hopeless. Before I had a glowing chip unwillingly implanted into my wrist to sell me out the second I was infected. Dreams were before the citizens of Haley started to drop like flies.

The warm night weighed on my shoulders and the stars glittered in the sky, like always. If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought that nothing had changed. But the stars lied. Nothing ever remains the same.

I stood alone in the dark, feet planted firmly in the dirt outside of Blue’s Diner, ready to run if anything unexpected were to leap out at me. I’d never experienced a zombie attack nor had I ever actually seen one in person, but you couldn’t be too careful these days.

Come on Mason. Where are you?

My head jerked in the direction of movement; the sound of shoes on dirt. My heartbeat quickened. I gripped the small axe in my hands.

Soon, the silhouette of Mason Hutchings emerged from the darkness, his bright blue eyes in all their glory. He looked like he normally did: blue jeans, black sneakers, and a dark hoodie. His hands gripped the straps of the backpack strung on his shoulders.

When he saw me he tucked a strand of unruly brown hair behind his ear before giving me a quick wave of his hand.

“Are you ready?” he asked, with a grin.

Boy had things changed. I’d met Mason Hutchings in the 7th grade and every day since that I’d spent my time lusting after him. Of course, he’d never known, but I had hoped one day I’d have a chance to tell him how I felt.

Now, I couldn’t find a time that was right. A crush was stupid and irrelevant to survival.

I flashed a confident smile; one that didn’t reveal the thunderstorm raging inside me.

“Ready.”

I wasn’t. I wasn’t ready to leave this town yet. Though I’d spent all of my teens talking to anyone who would listen about how I’d get out one day, fleeing my own imminent death was the last way I imagined my escape. I wasn’t ready to leave my family. I didn’t want to leave the familiarity of home, even though now it was covered with dust and overrun with rats.

“You didn’t tell her did you?” Mason stepped closer and placed his hand on my arm.

Ruth Ann was my sister who ran Blue’s Diner, the main source of food in town.

Most of the town recently started getting really ill. Two of the latest to succumb to the fever were Mason’s parents. I saw Mason at his parent’s funeral and we got to talking. We talked about life, the outbreak, and discovered that we both had the same goal: to get out of this town. Alive. So why not do it together?

I moved my arm out of his grip.

“Of course I didn’t tell her.”

But I almost had. One thousand times.

“It’s for the best, Penny,” Mason assured me with a lazy grin. I used to go weak at the knees for that grin.

He led me to the back door of the restaurant. I unclipped the keychain from my jeans and selected the spare key I’d “borrowed” from Ruth Ann a few hours before.

Mason and I had talked about this a few times. The plan was to sneak into Blue’s, grab a few sealed containers of food and alcohol (since all the uncontaminated water no longer existed), and leave this town forever.

I didn’t really like the idea of stealing this stuff. Believe me. If money still mattered and we even had any, lord knows I would’ve walked to the nearest store (had one still been open) and paid for the few items we planned on taking with us when we left.

I wasn’t about to die a victim. If there was a chance we could make it somewhere else, I was going to take it.

The door groaned when it opened, revealing dark empty halls and peeling paint.

Frankly, I didn’t want to be in front or in back of Mason. What I really wanted was to be living two years in the past. Mason must have sensed my unease, because he grabbed my hand as the shutting door enclosed us in complete darkness inside Blue’s.

I reached in my backpack and pulled out a small flashlight, handing it to Mason. He led us to the kitchen and I couldn’t help but wonder how differently this could have ended if it were a movie.

“Aha!” he said as he found the large walk in freezer.

When he opened the door, nausea hit me as the smell of rot hit my nostrils. Mason’s hand shot to his nose, clamping it shut. He slammed the heavy freezer door as quickly as possible, but it was too late. The hallway now smelled of putrid stink.

“I think I’m going to throw up,” Mason said gagging, leaning forward with his hands on his knees.

I didn’t blame him. I’d already swallowed down the bile rising in my throat. To think that I’ve possibly eaten something from inside was too much.

I snaked the flashlight out of his hands and motioned towards a storage room door.

“I’ll check in here.”

The door was heavy as it swung open and —

Holy shit.

A hand reached out from the inside the closet and wrapped around my wrist—hard. In shock, my axe tumbled from my hands.

“Mason! Help!” Shaking my arm I tried to wriggle free but it didn’t help. It only seemed to grip harder on my wrist, pulling me towards its gaping mouth and digging its blackened fingernails into my flesh.

It had a human form but it was no longer human. There was no skin. In place of skin were large red boils seeping clear and green fluids. Its mouth hung open revealing chipped teeth. It managed an eerie shriek from its open mouth that was spilling bloody saliva down its face.

Mason reached me quickly, just as the thing’s jagged teeth clamped down on my wrist. I howled but the screams made no difference. The pain was searing. It wasn’t just biting me, it was grinding its sharp teeth through my flesh.

“Help, Mason! Get it off me!” I managed, in between kicking and punching the thing.

“I’m trying. It’s not fucking letting go!”

Mason rushed over to the axe that  I dropped and came back swinging. I was freed quickly and Mason was already pulling me out the door with our bags slung hastily over his shoulder.

We didn’t stop running until we both couldn’t run anymore, and even then, we ran.

We only slowed our pace when we came to a sign that said, “Welcome to Ackles, Population: 247.”

“Mason,” I started turning to him. “That was—”

“You’re fine.” Mason placed a hand gently on my cheek. “We’re okay.”

I pulled him close and to my surprise he didn’t pull away. I melted into his arms and I was certain that everything would be okay.

I took a deep breath in. Everyone smelled of dirt these days but not Mason. He smelled amazing. He smelled like the forest. Like the air after a rainstorm. Wait, that wasn’t it. Mason smelled amazing like…a steak.

The realization of my thought made me gasp. What did I just think?

We slowly let go of each other and I turned towards the sky that was starting to change colors from the dark night to pinks and purples.

I was just tired. After all, we’d run for miles and miles. Everything was going to be okay.

“I’m sorry I didn’t get to you sooner.” Mason said softly behind me. “I tried. I want you to know that. You understand.”

I turned around. What the heck was he talking about?

But when I turned back to Mason, my face wasn’t focused on his. It was focused on the axe in his hands that was raised and ready to strike me.

“Mason, what are you doing?” My heart was thundering. I was too young to die. This was ridiculous! I didn’t flee a town just to get killed.

“I saw that zombie bite you, Penny. I saw it. I’m not stupid. It’s just a matter of time.” His eyes were welling up with tears. He kept the axe raised and ready to swing.

“If I was turned, wouldn’t I be after you already?” The axe only lowered for a moment, but he quickly changed his mind and raised it back up again.

The breeze was blowing now, whipping through the hills and carrying a few clouds through the sky.

“Show me your chip, Penny,” Mason commanded.

I didn’t really know how they worked other than red meant you were infected, yellow meant that you were in the process, and green meant that you were okay.

“This is absolutely insane!” I threw up my hands in frustration. I held out my bitten arm to show Mason that he was way out of line.

A faint red light blinked up at me from under my flesh.


If you loved this, make sure to check back in next Sunday for the next link in our grizzly chain, by the sizzling Louise Gornall! Also, one of our amazing writers, Julie Hutchings, has just been published! ‘Running Home’ is  now available on Amazon. Believe me – you want it. Click here to check out that awesome.