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

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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.

#8. Thinking Big by Julie Hutchings

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Today’s Soundtrack – Highway to Hell by ACDC

Introducing this awesome piece of writer ass is making me feel redundant. Julie Hutchings is so hot on the writing scene she sets off smoke alarms. Her book, Running Home, has just been published, and is available on Amazon. One half of The Undead Duo, Jules is like the tipsy fairy godmother you never had – and if you’re not following her on Twitter, then Jesus, there must be something wrong with you. I hear people actually pay real cash money for tweets from her.

Yeah. It’s like that.

Oh, and you can find her here, too, on one of the best blogs you’ll ever read. (Did I mention she’s awesome?)


Thinking Big

by Julie Hutchings

Thinking small was something the town of Haley did well. Even before the Reds came, there were only three hundred and forty townies, every one of them up in the business of their closest neighbor, who wasn’t even in shooting distance. A small place like Haley made for small people, without much to say or do. There was the Mayor, of course. But we’d all but lost him when the Reds came. He never came out of his big house by the woods anymore, and could be one of them for all we knew. There was Amber Wright, voted Miss Haley six years in a row, even after she became a Mrs. Haley, and had four kids. It didn’t matter to our town, she was still the prettiest girl at the Haley Day Parade. The town of Haley did love a parade, and they loved a familiar face.

So, when The Man walked into Blue’s Diner, it raised some interest.

I’d worked at Blue’s, the only diner in town, for almost twelve years. It was mostly regulars, but the truckers who pulled off the highway to grab a bite always tipped well, as did the supply truck gentlemen that brought us our frozen food. Not to mention, one of those supply truck drivers was just about the handsomest man anyone in Haley had ever laid eyes on. So the ladies from Haley were always trying to take my job, for the tips, and maybe for the chance to hitch a ride with a handsome trucker who could take them somewhere bigger. There was nothing big about Haley, and there was no getting out. That was even more true now that the Reds had taken over anywhere nearby. Now, no truckers came through, and I didn’t have enough to feed them anyhow. The rats had seen to that, coming and eating anything that wasn’t already spoiled or moldy. What was close to edible was rationed out to the town whenever folks had the nerve to leave their houses. It was dark, sad, and we were poor. Nothing was ever new, and nothing was ever interesting anymore.

So when The Man walked in, dressed in some fancy suit, looking healthy and like he was on some vacation, heads went up.

He strolled right up to the counter, staring at me the whole time behind these nice, black sunglasses. He smiled at me. Nobody smiled in Haley, not anymore.

He sat down right in the middle, picked up a menu that hadn’t been touched in months, and said something outrageous.

“I’d like a cup of coffee, please.”

I raised my eyebrows, and smiled at how ballsy he was. “You want  a cup of coffee?”

He grinned, teeth sparkling white. I hadn’t seen teeth that white my whole life. When you lived in a town like Haley, nobody cared about your teeth, or even noticed them, until after you went Red, and they turned black, or fell out, or both.

“Yes, Ruth Ann, I would love one,” he said, looking at my nametag and smiling still. And damnit if he wasn’t a little handsome.  There weren’t no handsome men anymore.

“Coming right up, sugar.” I winked, and rolled my hips a little slower than usual when I walked to the coffee pot. I poured some of the black muck into a mug, and threw it in the microwave. You never knew when you walked in what was going to work better, the coffee machine or the microwave. That day, it was the microwave. Every day I was surprised that we had power at all.

Bobby and JC were sitting in their usual booth, both staring at The Man as the mug clunked down on the counter. Even they hadn’t been brave enough to drink the coffee anymore, and they’d been good for three or four cups a day. The thing with the coffee was, we knew exactly how old it was, knew the water it was made with was full of dead Red, and that the rat droppings were impossible to see in the grounds.

“It’s gotta be black, darlin’, but I bet you knew that,” I said, leaning on the counter enough to let my cleavage do its job. He smirked at me, and took a good, long sip of that coffee.

That’s when I knew that he was scarier than any zombie could be.

He stared at me from behind those black glasses the whole time, and when he put the cup down, he licked his lips with a pink tongue. None of our tongues were that shade of pink now. None of us was that healthy.

“That was delicious, Ruth Ann.”

“He drank it,” Bobby said from the booth. I knew The Man heard, but neither of us looked away from the other. I was scared to.

“You see many visitors this way, Ruth Ann?” he asked.

“Not anymore, just the regulars. You drank the coffee.”

“Yes, I did.”

“Sharp looking man like you must know where that coffee’s been. Ain’t safe to drink, you must know that.”

“Then why do you serve it still?”

I laughed, I couldn’t help myself. “Ain’t nothing safe anymore anyway. And at least I can put it on the table and things could feel like they used to for a while.”

“Well, that’s a lovely sentiment,” he said kindly.

He drank the rest of the coffee without even wincing. Bobby and JC were getting suspicious of him, and for some reason, I wanted them to just shut up and leave The Man alone. I knew they probably wouldn’t, but I wanted them to.

“Would you like another cup, Mr.—“

He took his glasses off and showed me movie star blue eyes that went with his rosy cheeks and suntanned skin. I gasped, I couldn’t help it. We were all so dirty now, even when we were clean.

“Carter. Mr. Carter.”

“You got a first name, Mr. Carter?” I said with my best come hither smile.

“I suspect we all do, Ruth Ann, but mine isn’t important.” He smiled back, and he was right. I didn’t care.

“Why don’t you tell me a little bit about the food here, Ruth Ann?”

“All right, I’ve had enough of this,” Bobby said, standing and coming towards us. “You leave Ruth Ann alone.”

“Bobby, we was just talkin’, now leave us alone.”

“Man like this ain’t got no business in Haley.”

The Man stood slowly, straightening his suit jacket. Not a drop of sweat was on him and it was at least ninety degrees in Blue’s. He was half Bobby’s size, but when he looked up at Bobby, he backed away. I’d never seen that happen before.

“Come on, JC, time to go,” Bobby said. JC got up as he was told, the way he always did. He walked around Mr. Carter as far as he could, and when they got to the door, Bobby turned around.

“I’d be getting’ on my way real soon if I were you, mister,” Bobby said.

Mr. Carter smiled at him, showing off those pearly whites again. “How do you know I can’t do you some good here, sir?” he said. But I think we all knew he wasn’t there to do us any good.

The door slammed behind the men, and Mr. Carter turned back to me. I wasn’t afraid to be alone with him, that’s what shotguns were good for.

“Alone at last,” he said. “Let me ask you, Ruth Ann, about the quality of your food here.”

I sat on the one stool without a ripped seat, and tried to size him up, but I had no idea what I was looking at. No idea where he could have come from.

“What do you want to know?”

“it seems to me that this is one of the only places in town still up and running. I imagine you do a fairly good business.”

“Sure, for one that doesn’t need money anymore.”

He sat next to me, and I’ll be damned if he didn’t smell good. Like the cologne samples you used to see in magazines.

He unbuttoned his blazer and took it off, and when he did…. When he did, there it was.

The chip in his wrist. It was red.

I screamed and ran behind the counter for the shotgun, but he didn’t come after me, just sat down again slowly and watched. Well, that made me feel right stupid, and if he’d wanted to eat me before, he could have. So I slowed down.

“How are you red and not dead? You look better than anyone I’ve seen in—well, my whole life, maybe.” I was shaking, and I’d be a terrible shot at this rate.

He shrugged, and grinned. “I work for the government.”

That was even scarier than seeing the red chip in his wrist. I glanced at my own yellow one, and wished he’d never walked into Blue’s.

The Reds may kill whenever they could, but we all knew the government was killing us town by town, all at once. We’d seen the planes flying overhead, and prayed they didn’t poison Haley. Genocide, the Mayor said it was. The best way to contain the outbreak. The government could save us by killing the right people.

I wondered as I looked at Mr. Carter, if I was one of the right people.

“Are you telling me,” I whispered, “that the people of Haley are going to die?”

“Without a doubt, Ruth Ann.” He put his elbows on the counter, showing off that bright red chip. “But you can help make it all easier.”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean? You want me to—you want me to—“

“Kill people. Yes.”

I got dizzy real fast, and had to put my head down on the counter. I didn’t pick it up when I heard him move, I was too afraid to see what he might do. But I heard the front door screen door slam shut. No car starting up. A few seconds, and it slammed shut again.

“For you,” he said. I sat up, the room spinning slower, and saw an ice cold bottle of spring water on the counter, dripping fresh, clean droplets on the counter.

“Holy mother of Jesus,” I said, still staring, afraid it would disappear if I touched it. “Where did you get that?”

“The government.”

How could they have such good things and let us all suffer this way? Tears stung my eyes as I pictured men in fancy suits, watching  big televisions, eating hot meals. I went home at night to a dark husk of a house, thirsty, wondering how long the rations at Blue’s would last. Nothing to keep me company but the constant worry that a Red was waiting in a closet for me, or that my chip would suddenly glow red.

“You’ve got a big personality, Ruth Ann,” he said, snapping me out of it. “And you could handle a big job.”

I felt like a monster, but I was becoming a monster more every day by living like this.

He kept going. I’d shown I was weakening. “The zombie population will take over this town shortly, they are closing in as we speak.” I sobbed, and he patted my back. “We need to find a new way to confine the contagion, Ruth Ann. You are a bright woman, so I’ll tell you straight. The toxins that the government has been blanketing communities with are not having the desired effect.”

“What are you asking me to do?” I sounded like a robo

He slid the water to me, and I drank.

His voice was softer, as he patted my back, like a regular person would. “We need to find a kinder, gentler method of exterminating the community before the undead move in. We think we have.”

“There really is no way out, is there?” I asked. I knew the answer, he didn’t have to say it.

“It’s a matter of when. And who will be left standing.”

Those last words hung in the air like the stench of rotting food and rat feces.

“What do I get in return?”

“We’ll keep you safe. Fresh food, water. Clean clothing. And when it’s over, you come to our compound.”

“You mean when everyone in Haley is dead?”

“Yes.”

I must have been quiet a long time because Mr. Carter said, “I believe you can do this. Let me tell you how.”

I watched a tumbleweed blow by outside, and rats scuttle behind it. Who knew how many of the rats were Reds themselves? Who knew how many were turning in town right then? Or who was getting a nasty surprise in their shower to attack them? Who knew how long I had, out here in public view, seeing the most of the town once or more a week?

“Show me.”

He brought me outside, something that was always nervewracking as hell these days. His car was as dark and looked as nice as he did. I couldn’t see in the windows, they were too dark.

But then the car rocked.

“What the hell is in there?”

“Don’t be afraid. You’re not in danger.”

He opened the back door, and a Red was stretched across a tarp on the back seat, hogtied and gagged. I could barely focus on it because of the God awful stench of the thing.

“Jesus Christ! You had a Red in the car with you?!”

“I assure you, he is quite secure. And I’ll show you how to make him secure as well. There is a certain drug that makes them more docile. If you can get your hands on them.”

The zombie stared at us with lidless eyes, chest heaving as it wriggled back and forth. I almost threw up, but I managed to stay calm. This was my only chance.

“Why me?”

“Why you? You are in the perfect position to administer the toxin that will exterminate the community.”

“I am? What is it?” I was so confused, I couldn’t piece together what he was saying.

But instead of answering me, Mr. Carter quickly reached in and pulled the zombie out of the car, It’s tattered flannel shirt ripping more as he was handled, the rest of its naked body covered in pus and wounds that seemed to be moving on their own. God knows what was living in there. Mr. Carter pushed the thing forward into Blue’s, straight to the kitchen.

He turned to me after locking the zombie in the broom closet.

“Ruth Ann, I will explain this once, so please listen carefully.” I felt like I was back in the seventh grade. “The people of Haley come here to eat. It is likely the only place in town that can consistently serve semi-edible items due to your stores, small population, and electricity. We will administer the toxin to the townspeople through their food.”

I was no genius, but it was coming together fast. The Red in the closet, tied up, meant to keep. Me, in the perfect position to serve my neighbors food.

“Holy shit.”

“Indeed. Ground flesh from the Red, fingernails, hair, fluids, especially fluids, in every meal you serve. It will act as a slow poison, ultimately attacking the nervous system and resulting in death.”

The kitchen went fuzzy, and spun. I saw a blur of Mr. Carter reaching for me, but I fell backwards and hit the floor just hard enough to actually wake me back up.

“More water.”

He ran to the front to get the bottle of water, and I was dying for it. The door of the broom closet rattled twice, then stopped.

Mr. Carter came back, still looking every bit as put together as he had before he wrestled a zombie into a broom closet. He held the water to my lips, his movie star eyes looking into mine, trying to get me to focus. When that water went down my throat, I didn’t think of anything except getting more of it. I would do anything to make sure I had it.

“Sit down,” I told him.

He sat without question next to me on the floor.

“I have to—cut—pieces off of it?”

“Unless they fall off first. Or you can always use a syringe to extract fluid. I will supply you with those to dope it anyway, to keep it under control.”

“And my neighbors will die?”

“They will. But you will not.”

I looked once more at the red chip in Mr. Carter’s wrist. I looked at his nice pants, nicer than any material I’d ever had. He smelled good. I wanted to smell good. And what the hell had Haley ever done for me except get me good trucker tips?

I drank the last of the water and held out my hand.

“It looks like this small town girl has got herself a big job.”


If you loved this, make sure to check back in next Sunday for the next link in our grizzly chain, by the wonderful Jolene Haley! And if you really loved it, don’t forget Julie’s book, ‘Running Home’, has just been published and is available on Amazon! Believe me – you want it. Click here to check out that awesome.

How It Didn’t End by The Undead Duo

Today’s soundtrack is a suggestion from one of the authors of this fantasmic short, the perfect accompaniment to this blood soaked horror-show: Burn – Soundtrack Version (Explicit) – Nine Inch Nails

The grand finale of our Supernatural Short Feature is brought to you by none other than The Undead Duo – the gruesome twosome, two of the hottest (literally and figuratively) writer chicks I’ve had the pleasure of calling friends, bringing you a sexified, scaremongering short that’ll blow your mind.

Prepare for a dystopian world, my friends. With Starbucks.

    How It Didn’t End
    by The Undead Duo

The giant cross obscured the Starbucks entrance. At the end of the goddamned world, Startbucks still stood. I bumped into the cross and cursed, eliciting stares from the pious crowd in the street. People who had traded in their streetclothes for Puritan-wear in feeble attempt to save themselves from impending doom. People who rediscovered a God that would not help them when the inevitable time came. People who turned His trademark crucifix into battle gear to keep out the vamps. And made devils out of the rest of us.
I knew the vamps weren’t the way this world ended, no matter how they had destroyed our city. If you ask me, the newly constructed Bible banging hordes that rallied against them and persecuted anyone who didn’t agree were the ones who drove our world into the ground, scaring the humanity out of most of us. I was the only one who had listened when Crazy Food Truck Tom babbled about the world’s end taking all races. All of us.
Now he was gone, and the stuff he talked about happened all the time; the New Inquisition, the death camps, the destruction of everyday institutions and innocence.
I missed him. I missed his burritos, too.
I had an inverted cross on my denim jacket to prove I sided with the vampires. I risked being sent to detainment just like they did. Nobody deserved that. Like the rest of us, the vampires were just trying to survive this new set of circumstances that came to all of us without instructions.
I had the answer to help them. If the vampires were safe, maybe we could all live in peace. Maybe we could reconstruct the world we had destroyed.
Inside Starbucks, I nodded to the kid sweeping up the remnants of a smashed table. I weaved my way through the rubble to the counter. Clearly, the cross outside hadn’t kept the vamp looters out last night.
“Soy vanilla latte, please.”
The all-but-nun behind the counter gave me a tight-lipped smile, nodding as she glanced over my studded denim vest and inappropriate cleavage. That kind of judgmental attitude wouldn’t win her a trip to Heaven when the big show happened.
Nobody standing in this coffee line was going there.
While she bustled behind the counter, I spotted him; hog-tied and gagged on the floor under the Employees Only sign. The nun stepped over him to get more cups. He was wild-eyed, terrified, fangs jutting over the rope, shaking in a puddle of piss. I just stared back, waiting for my coffee, dumbstruck. I had to do something.
I looked around at the packed café. I knew I was alone. If I tried to help this poor bastard, they’d come after me just as fast and execute me as an example. A sympathizer. But walking away from this man-creature-vampire wasn’t going to help guarantee me VIP entrance to Heaven either.
“Can I have a sausage sandwich?” I asked Sister Starbucks when she returned with my drink, managing to spill steaming hot milk on her prisoner.
“I’m sorry, dear, we ran out today.” She cocked her head, with faux sympathy, fluttering her stumpy lashes.
“I know they’re frozen. Just go get one out of the freezer.”
She rolled her eyes at me and headed back to the kitchen, kicking the captive while the growing line behind me groaned and expressed their distaste with my craving. I looked back, smiling at them all, before I hopped over the baker case, my combat boot cracking the glass.
The reek of piss and blood slapped me in the face as he tried to scramble backward to no avail, even more afraid at my fast approach.
“Sssshhh!” I hissed. “I’m helping you.”
The wild look in his eyes didn’t calm, but he did stop moving. His eyes held mine while I hurried to untie his hands. He reached for his ankles, ripping the ropes off with the ease of vampire strength while I tentatively took the gag from between his lips. He shocked me by snapping at my wrist, but pulled away at his own knee-jerk reaction.
“Sorry,” he said sadly.
I shook my head. “Let’s go.”
I heard the crash as Nun-O-Bucks dropped the plate she held, sandwich splattering on the floor. “Hey!”
We ran, jumping over the counter, bolting for the door into the sunshine. People grabbed at the vamp as he hissed like a feral beast. He batted away hands holding rosaries and water bottles full of the holy variety.
I didn’t know what I would do with him once we got out in the sunlight. But I had no question that we were in this together.
He put his leather jacket over his face to shield himself from the sun as we caught our breath and regrouped behind the tobacco store next to Starbucks.
“Why did you do it?” His voice was weak. The smell of warm garbage baking in the sun mixed with the stench of his body was enough to make me swoon. But I had to hold it together. He’d suffered enough injustice without adding personal insult to the mix.
“It’s wrong what they do to your people.” Was it even right of me to say it like that? I didn’t know. His eyes softened, almost ready to believe I was an ally. “I can help. Fuck those people.”
“You mean all people?” His eyes turned black again. “I will eat you at sundown.”
It took me aback, but I wasn’t ready to cower. I was much tougher now than before The Vampire Revolution and The Religious Awakening.
“I have something you need.”
He looked disgusted by me.
“Fine. Fuck off. Sizzle here. That coat won’t shield you for long.”
I took off in God’s sunlight, my coffee still in hand. To Hell with this creature. Maybe all the zealots were right. But at least I tried.

· * * * * * *
Too bad Starbucks was so blasted expensive; I could really use another latte while I sharpened my knives. I made myself a sandwich and got to work. I refused to eat with my family after they had participated in what had become known in my house as “the Experiment.” My dad, the doctor, donated his services to do an autopsy on a vampire who was still alive.
Without anesthesia.
This was the End of Times. But my family, the puritanical hypocrites they were, believed evil could be conquered. They didn’t think they were the evil.
I jumped when someone knocked on my window, a dark figure silhouetted outside my second story window.
The trussed up vamp from Starbucks. Hovering in the air, shark-black eyes glistening.
“How did you find me?” I asked, trying not to look afraid.
“We know everything about this city, Camille.”
“Not everything.”
“What do you have?” he mouthed through the glass.
I pulled down the shade. The knocking didn’t stop for a few minutes, and then with the feeling of the air before a thunderstorm, the lights flickered out, and the shades flipped up on both windows.
The vamp’s body seemed to flicker in and out of existence, a hologram. The air around him buckled, as if he was too much to hold.
“Let me in!” The wind howled it for him, and shook the room with force it should not have possessed.
I would not be intimidated by this thing I saved. He needed me to survive in every way there was.
“Fuck right off.”
“No. You have something that can save our kind. I know it.”
“Too bad you didn’t know it before you promised to kill me at sundown. Well, guess what, fucker, I don’t want to help you anymore.” I needed to get back to my knives. Especially as this creature hovered at my window, refusing to go away.
I could feel his coal eyes burn into me, silent. Magnetized, I looked out at him again. And what looked back was so heartbreakingly sad, and human, my heart cried out.
“Please,” he whispered. But I heard. I could feel it.
All I did was nod.
Lightning fast, the glass shattered, and the monster was on me, squeezing my neck. The black eyes that had been so vulnerable seconds before were death chilled and determined now.
“You have invited me in,” he snarled, “and you will give us what we need.”
“Fuck off and die,” I spluttered. “You don’t even know what you need.”
“You’re right. I don’t. But you seem to.”
“I don’t even care.” I could barely croak out the words with his fingers pressing against my windpipe.
“Liar!” He hissed. “If that were true, you would have left me on the floor back there. They would have nailed me to that cross out front like their beloved Jesus Christ. But you wouldn’t let that happen. So tell me, child, what is it you have that can save my kind? Then do it.”
He let up on my neck, and my hand immediately covered the places his fingers threatened to squeeze the life out of. I massaged it, hoping it wouldn’t bruise. His eyes never became less feral. I had to tell him or he’d kill me. He was probably going to kill me anyway.
“My basement,” I whispered. “There’s a door to the tunnels.”
His face brightened and his lips curled into a smile, revealing lightning sharp fangs.
“But my family will kill you and any of your kind if they see you. You’ll never make it down there. I won’t invite them all in.”
He paced the floor, gnashing his teeth.
“I won’t leave without my coven. All of them.”
“Well then I guess you burn with the rest of us when the world ends.”
He stopped moving to consider me, wonder if I knew as much as it seemed I did.
“If I do this. If I let them in. They will kill my family.”
“Yes.” He answered with certainty.
I sighed. “Can you guarantee my safety?”
“Not yet.” He wavered a bit, but I appreciated his honesty. “But if you help my coven, I can convince them to help you.”

· * * * * *
Fuck it, I was going back to Starbucks. My eyes would barely open, I had barely slept the night before, and maybe had condemned my family to death.
I strode in like I owned the place, crushing broken glass beneath my feet. There didn’t seem to be any new damage today, the workers were just getting too lazy to clean it all up properly. The entire café buzzed with excitement.
Today The Lynching happened.
“Soy vanilla latte, right, miss?”
“Yeah. And a sausage sandwich. I never got mine yesterday.”
I already knew from the stares that I was remembered from my rescue mission yesterday. And the burnt ashes of my neighbor out front reminded me that fraternizing with vampires never went unpunished.
Patrons were pointing at me. And they looked angry. The crosses out front smoldered in my peripheral vision. I started breathing harder.
“Here.” My order was thrust at me across the counter. “On the house,” Sister Starbucks said coldly, eyes fixed on mine.
“Why?”
“Your money is no good here.”
“What is this, a fucking saloon?” I threw my crumpled money on the counter and turned around to face a crowd of coffee-toting New Churchgoers. They only lacked pitchforks and torches. I have them an uncomfortable half smile as I took a sip of my latte, bumping against everyone who wouldn’t move out of my way.
The streets had filled in even while I stood in line to get my coffee and sandwich. Not much happened in town now to keep people busy, now that the newspaper office burned down and the TV channels all showed the same propaganda all day. Lynchings were sport now. Betters took money. Hawkers sold souvenirs.
I was the next souvenir. I could smell it on them.
I whipped my coffee at the closest disciple, the sandwich at another, and whipped out a knife I kept tucked in my vest. Shouldering a few aside, to their surprise, I hurdled my way through the crowd as best I could while they grabbed at me with vicious intent and hatred in their hearts. Had it just been yesterday that I had done this?
My vest got ripped half off by some guy. Another took advantage and grabbed my hair. A hefty arm was around my waist. More were coming at me from the front.
I headbutted the person with the arm around me, and it hurt like a son of a bitch. I kicked out in front of me with my combat boots, connecting with someone’s crotch, and getting one or two others to back off. When I wrestled free, I stabbed wildly around me, blood spurting all over me, all over them, and I slipped in it running through the crowd that now scrambled away from me.
I had to hide. Somewhere. But I was in the middle of town, half naked and bloody. My lungs burned for more oxygen as I ran. I entered the subway station and ran down the escalator, which hadn’t ran correctly in weeks. A few stunned commuters stood on the platform. I ran past them, into the blackness on the narrow ledge between the wall and the drop down to the rails. I didn’t know where I was going, but I knew none of those zealots would be smart enough to follow me here.
A faint glow radiated from the wall. I ran my hands against the wall, looking for a knob or a lever. Something that would bring me somewhere no one would find me. Finally, the wall gave way, leading me into a cavern lit by fire.
Once inside, I rested against the closed door to catch my breath. I had yet to compose myself to figure out where I might be.
Turns out, I didn’t need to. There was the vampire, my vampire. Staring back at me. His eyes hurt me, burned me inside. He wanted my blood, and all the blood that stained my skin.
“You know, there’s not enough blood in this city to satisfy us all. You know that?”
I gulped. The frying pan to the fire. “No. No, I can’t say that I did.”
He licked his lips, black eyes looking away. “We have a business relationship, do we not? So you are safe.” At that moment, the monster dripped with humanity that defied his very nature.
Walking away from me to an armchair by a large fireplace, I could see everything that I had been missing as a person in this world. Books, books everywhere, on shelves and in piles, in the hands of the hundreds of hungry vampires that resided here. It was a cold place filled with cold blood, and it was as warm as a fleece blanket after sledding. Flowers, like I had not seen in months, were in vases all over. There was laughter, and children, vampire or not, it didn’t matter. I wanted to stay.
I fought the urge to touch everything. Fought back tears. This was not mine. Instead, I wandered aimlessly in circles, taking it all in. My vampire friend watched me, his dark eyes almost dancing at the delight I found in his home.
How could he possibly want anything from me?
I turned, almost crashing into him, standing still smiling at me. He took my face in his hands. I forgot to breathe. He put his lips to mine, kissing me. I pulled away from him, simply from shock.
“Thank you for coming here. For doing this. Or trying to.”
“I didn’t even know where I was going.” My lips stung from his poisonous death.
“God has a plan for us all. We will all know it soon enough. I wish you weren’t the first of us to find out.”
The comforting orange glow of this manmade place became nothing but darkness as they swarmed me, starved rats to trash, hells angels to the Lord himself, looking for a final out.
“Nothing can help any of us now,” my vampire said, tears in his eyes. His teeth stabbed my neck, the nails in the crucifix, sacrificial blood that would save no one.
His kiss still stung mine as I faded away, my blood more theirs than it was mine.