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Back in December I started a writing project with four friends.  We wanted to see if we could write a story together and since we had already conquered the Christmas zombie theme in ATZ’s A Very Zombie Christmas book release, we decided to take on Valentines Day.  It turned out to be a lot of fun and a surprisingly seamless story emerged.  I would recommend this activity for anyone interested in writing or even experienced writers.  Just when you think you know where the story is going to go, another personality hops in with their own idea of where it should go. The challenge of then being flexible enough to work within that persons idea was exciting and eye-opening. Thanks for all the fun Giles Batchelor, Suzanne Casey, Justin Dunne and Lana Sibley.

Hope you enjoy the story!!

BE MY ZOMBIE VALENTINE written by Shannon Walters, Giles Batchelor, Suzanne Casey, Justin Dunne, and Lana Sibley

The card and candy section of the small pharmacy was picked over; cards strewn about on shelves, no longer mated to their envelopes, candy boxes haphazardly stacked. All competed for his attention with the few remaining stuffed bears clutching stuffed hearts.  The sayings were as cheesy this year as they were every year; “Be Mine” and “My heart belongs to you!” proclaimed each remaining chocolate box.  This is what I get for waiting to the last minute again, thought Jack grumpily. Surely his wife knew after this many years that he simply didn’t plan ahead and that he actually despised these frivolous holidays.  But he also knew that if he wanted to sleep in his own bed tonight, and maybe luck out with a little nookie, he’d better produce something.

Clutching a hastily chosen box of inexpensive chocolates and an innocuous looking stuffed bear Jack approached the checkout counter.  The sullen teen girl that was standing there with a glazed look on her face when he entered the store was now nowhere to be found.  Tapping his foot impatiently, Jack swiveled his head, huffing impatiently and finished his reconnaissance with an audible sigh.

“Hello? I’m ready to check out!?” he called out toward the back of the store.

“Does this mean it’s free?” he said enjoying his own sarcastic wit

Jack left his items on the checkout counter and walked to the back of the store. He thought the sullen faced teen had probably snuck out back to smoke and that irritated him.  Kids today had no sense of responsibility. He looked around a bit, the store was completely empty.  A large sign hung over the abandoned pharmacy counter that flashed ‘’OPEN 24 HOURS FOR YOUR CONVENIENCE” completely contradicting what Jack was finding.

“Where the hell is everyone?” Jack muttered to himself.

Jack was getting even more irritated.  He was fully aware that going home empty handed was not an option, and based on his habit of last minute shopping, the selection was likely to be just as meager in the few other locations he knew of.  He called out a couple more times before throwing his hands in the air and stomping back to the checkout counter.  He calculated the total of the two items, rounding up just to be safe, and looked up to the security camera hanging in the corner.  Jack took a $20  bill out of his wallet and made a show of flashing it in front of the camera.

“Look assholes…not stealing….here is the money right here.” Jack said as he placed the bill on top of the register, grabbed his  items and headed for the exit.

The parking lot was still and quiet, but Jack didn’t really notice.  He was too focused on getting home with the meager gifts, and ensuring he didn’t face the wrath of his wife.  He stalked across to his car, a black sedan that had seen better days.  Scuff marked fenders and paintwork scratched all down one side where some toe rag had keyed it.

A scream startled  him as he juggled the gifts purchased from the store to the other hand and was reaching down into his pocket for the keys to unlock the vehicle.  He started to look around as he pushed the remote, pulling the door open hastily and tossing the items onto the seat.  It was then he started to realize – there was no one else in the parking lot, no cars moving –  Is it that late? he thought to himself and looked at his watch.

Again came that scream, louder, clearer and chilling in tone. Jack realized the scream was coming from the alley right next to the pharmacy and peered into the dark shadows.  As much as Jack felt that he should go to the aid of the person that screamed, he had no intention of putting himself in danger. He stood frozen in place trying to decide what to do.  The sound of sirens along with red and blue flashing lights startled and relieved Jack.  He stood in stunned silence as the police car came into sight, then drove right past Jack as he waved his arms wildly in the air.

“What in the hell………”  Jack’s sentence was interrupted by a garbled scream coming from the alley.  Despite a nagging feeling that he should run the other way for his own safety, Jack headed toward the  blackness of the alley.  You are a fucking idiot Jack…..just go home…..not your problem…..walk away…….you might even get laid tonight if you play your cards right…..Jack thought to himself as he continued to approach the darkness.

Standing at the opening of the alley, Jack squinted into the darkness. Two dumpsters stood side by side and a full white bag of trash lay on its side on the ground in front of Jack.  From out of the darkness the teenager Jack recognized as being the cashier from the pharmacy stumbled from between the two dumpsters clutching her throat. Blood that appeared almost black in the darkness gushed from between her fingers and ran down the front of her torn flowered blouse. The young girl reached forward and mouthed the words “Help me.” Her face a mask of terror, she struggled for breath and grasped the side of the dumpster attempting to pull herself closer to Jack.

Jack rushed toward the girl and she stretched out her arm, reaching for him as tears left streaks through the dirt and blood on her face.

A disheveled looking man in a bloodied white lab coat wearing the name tag  “Your friendly Pharmacist HAROLD is in”,   emerged from the space between the two dumpsters and moved forward in what appeared to be a drunken stupor.  Jack watched in complete horror as Harold grabbed the young girl’s ponytailed hair, pulling her backwards and into him.  The pharmacist’s face was contorted in a sick and twisted grimace and his eyes were a strange milky color. He made a  primal growling sound deep in this throat, then sunk his teeth into the shoulder of the young girl in his grasp.

Shit, this was more than just an HR problem.  Jack was frozen in fear, rooted in place. His brain struggled to process the senseless act, a cacophony of thoughts barreled through his mind at high speed; What the fuck… run… help her…who calls anyone Harold these days.. help her… run.  One thought finally linked to his nervous system and Jack jumped into action. He moved forward and grabbed the pharmacist’s shoulders, violently shaking him until the poor girl was released.  She dropped to the floor, bleeding.  Jack pulled the pharmacist round, and swung a big haymaker right into his jaw. An audible crack was heard as fist contacted flesh.  Jacks aim was true and Harold dropped to the floor.  Thinking that the threat was neutralized, Jack turned to help the girl.

“Are you okay?” he knew the question was stupid as soon as it came out of his mouth.  She was lying on the filthy ground in a pool of blood.  Her hands still wrapped round her neck, Jack could see the vicious bite mark in her shoulder, ragged torn flesh and a glint of white bone.  He knelt beside her, realized she was not breathing and checked her wrist for a pulse.  He did not want to touch her bloody neck. He wanted to help but he didn’t want HIV or some other blood born disease that this kid might be carrying.  Pulling his cell from his pocket, Jack dialed 911 and put the phone to his ear.  He was treated to a fast busy signal and he tried redialing three more times before he gave up and the chill of fear began to creep up his spine.

Pre-occupied with wondering just what was going on and the impending creep factor of the whole night, Jack failed to notice the vast shadow grow behind him.  Harold the friendly pharmacist had regained his feet.  Harold took tottering steps toward his next meal.  He was in grabbing distance, soon to be biting distance, when his head snapped back and disappeared in a red and white chunky spray.

Jack instinctively ducked when the sound of the gunshot reached his ears. He turned to escape and slipped in the still falling slurry of brain, flesh, and bone; sliding like an Olympic skater and hitting the dumpster face first.  Knocked out cold, Jack landed in a slump next to the no longer undead body of Harold.

From behind Jack’s car rose a figure, which moved into the alley and fired one shot into the head of the teenage cashier from the pharmacy that had just begun to move.  Holstering the pistol, the figure moved deeper into the alley.

Jack woke up. He opened his eyes to a dimly lit room that he didn’t recognize.  He sat up quickly in the bed and instantly wished that he hadn’t. Nausea and the pounding in his head competed for bragging rights.

“Whoa there fella, take it easy, you’ve got quite a bump on your noggin.  You must have quite a screamer of a headache.”

The voice came from a tall, lanky blond.  She stood at the foot of the bed with her hands on her hips,  head cocked to one side examining him with a quizzical expression that was hard for him to read.  She was not exactly pretty, her face was too long for that, her nose just a bit too big. Her voice was deep for a woman and she seemed strangely excited.

“Where am I? How did I get here? Who the hell are you?” Jack peppered the strange girl with questions and he felt himself getting angrier and angrier as she took her time answering him.

“Um, I don’t know how to tell you this dude, but we are in the midst of a genuine (she pronounced it Jen-U-wine) zombie apocalypse, yup.”  She became even more excited, bouncing on the balls of her feet.  He noticed, because thats just the kinda guy he was, that her nipples were hard and pressed against the thin material of her tight fitting olive-drab t-shirt.

I’ve been kidnapped by a crazy blonde with great tits,  thought Jack.  At that moment he decided he might not be all that eager to escape her clutches after all.  This could get interesting.

“You gonna tell me how I got here?” he asked a bit more gently this time.  His ‘interest” was peaked and he didn’t want to frighten her away.

“I saw that big-ass zombie about to take you out to lunch in the alley next to the pharmacy.  Dude, you are sooo lucky I happen to be in the area.  I was headed for my bug-out location.” She spoke like a man, which was weird when she had those amazing tits. He had to focus on something else, because  clearly, she was kinda crazy.  He suddenly remembered that he should be getting back to his…wife. Ugh.

“Ok, look doll, would you just tell me how to get back to my car please? I probably should be getting home.  What time is it anyway?”  His watch was never going to tell time again, the crystal was smashed into the inner mechanisms. He pawed through his pockets without finding his cell phone feeling the creep of anxiety-laden anger.

“Oh, well it dont matter, you can’t go back there.” she said dismissively and turned to the door.

He got out of the bed and stood up, holding onto the corner of the bed until the wave of dizziness passed.  His weakness was making him even angrier and now even those sweet tatas were not going to distract him.  He walked toward her quickly and grabbed her shoulder.  She turned around and as quick as a snake grabbed his offending hand and twisted his arm back in just such a way that he was immediately immobilized and practically whimpering from the pain.  Holy shit that bitch was fast. he thought and managed to yelp out a “Mercy!!”

Pain, fear and nipples, it was a surprise, but he couldn’t help but smile. A real man can only tolerate so many years of marriage, buying bed visits with chocolates and flowers, the same routine, same positions. Sex at home wasn’t so much a pleasure as it was a mission…or an exercise. This was something new. Something different. Blood was flowing, and not only to the pain in his arm.  As the oxygen laden blood rushed to other parts of his body and deserted his brain the thoughts of his wife began to fade again.

Though he did want to wrestle, and oh how he wanted to wrestle, he didn’t fight back. Instead he apologized, becoming submissive. “Sorry lady, shit…ow…lemmegoyoucrazybitch.” But not too submissive. Bruce Lee with tits spun him round. He gazed upon her heaving chest. She kicked him swift and true. The pain in his head was gone. The pain in his arm had fluttered away. He wasn’t sure if he needed to vomit or poop, but being in the fetal position would work ok for either.

She snarled at him, shouted “My name is Tabitha.” and stomped from the room.  Jack lay in his misery until he could take in a full breath again and then he managed to get himself into a mostly upright position.  He trudged from the room out into a hallway and noticed her across the way, sitting at a table in what appeared to be a corporate type lunch room.  Slipping quietly up behind her and peering over her shoulder he saw a large heart-shaped box filled with half eaten chocolates.  She dropped another half eaten piece of candy and huffed out a long sigh.

“What the hell are you doing?” he asked as she leaped to her feet and came up swinging.  He was prepared this time and dodged the first and even second blows, but she surprised him by yet another kick to the nuts.  He could barely breathe, lights flashed in his eyes and he went down, hands to his crotch once more.

“Look buddy, I may have saved your life out there, but that doesn’t give you the right to touch me” she said angrily.  “Christ I saved your worthless sniveling ass and all you do is have a go at me.” Jack began to wonder if she was possibly psychotic, but then, because he had seen Harold eating the cashier and because she did have knockers to die for, perhaps she was only a little crazy and he could still get laid.

“Okay yeah, okay … we’ve obviously gotten off on the wrong foot” jack said as he slowly tried to stand, massaging his balls with one hand to check that they were still the right place and in the right shape, not like an egg dropped from a 3rd floor window.  “Just tell me please, why are you taking one bite out of all those chocolates?”

She looked suddenly sheepish and somewhat embarrassed, a quick change from the violence of a minute ago.

“I only like the ones with the cream center.” she said quietly.

“Yeah, I noticed you had a thing against nuts.”  Jack grimaced and shook his head “You know there’s a sort of map type thing, right here.” He gestured with his hand toward the heart-shaped lid that had a diagram with a description of each candy.

“Oh.” was all she said and dropped the piece of candy into the box, pushing it away.  “I’m done anyway.”

She shook her head and looked at him. “ You just don’t get it, do you? This is the zombie apocalypse, man! The dead are walking the earth and all that.  Like that show that got cancelled last year? Only this? This shit is for realz.”

“Are you trying to tell me that those people in the alley were…zombies? C’mon, that’s fiction! TV! Nonsense!  Look,  I need to get back to my car and get home before my wife decides to hunt me down and kill me for not showing up on time.”

“ Is she a tough girl? Carry a gun or a knife? Maybe a sword?”  Tabitha asked with intensity.

“What!!? No!  None of those things, she’s very, uh… innocent?  She doesn’t even like horror movies!”

Tabitha leaned forward like she was going to divulge a secret. “ She probably fell to the walkers then.  Sorry fella. The soft ones don’t make it in this new world. Me? I’m going to hit the LARP store over on Mission Street and then I’m going to head over to the old prison.  That’s what they did on that show and it worked pretty well for a while.”

Jack thought the girl was certifiable;  a total nut job.  The thought occurred to him that maybe she’d broken out of the psyche ward over at the hospital. Tits or not, it didn’t matter, it was time to go. He backed up out of the room and then turned and ran for the door with the exit sign over it.  He pushed through into a dimly lit parking lot.  He thought he recognized the area and started walking until he came to the alley beside the store where he’d had his run-in with Harold, the not so friendly neighborhood pharmacist.

There he saw a heart-shaped box and a stuffed bear lying on the ground.  Maybe I can salvage this night after all, he thought. He bent over and picked up the items and brushed them off.  He started walking up the street, passing dark office buildings on his left.  The heart shaped box felt suspiciously light and on a whim, he stopped under a street lamp and pulled the lid off.  He almost screamed with frustration. Every one of the candies was missing a bite.  He threw the box down, cursing the crazy chocolate eating bitch when suddenly a terrible pain blossomed in his shoulder.   Jack was pulled down to the ground by a hulking man with an unbelievable stench.  Still cursing Tabitha and not understanding what was happening to him, a dark form blocked the street light and he felt something clamp down on his privates, quickly followed by paralyzing pain and a ripping and tearing sensation.  Jack screamed and began to lose consciousness.  He felt like a half-eaten chocolate in the heart-shaped box.  And then he felt nothing more.

Tabitha had watched the demise of Jack from her car.   She had tried to feel sorry for him but it was hard, he had been a jerk.  She had struggled not to laugh when the 400 pound walker had latched onto his crotch  “Zombie-bait was always staring at my chest, I hate that.” she muttered as she put the car into drive and peeled off down 51st Street, smoke pouring from the tires of her Mustang.  She knew that she needed supplies to set herself up at the old prison, just like in her favorite show.  Maybe one day she would meet a man like the crossbow guy.  She smiled and headed toward Mission Street.

When she crossed Central she saw a billboard sign with a chubby little cupid proclaiming “Say I Love You with a Card on Valentine’s Day – Hallmark” Tabitha impulsively stomped on the brake and slid to a stop with a squeal of tires.  She checked for the undead in her side and rearview mirrors, then jumped out.  She quickly went to the trunk, rummaged around for a minute before exclaiming “Ha, I knew it!” and ran to the billboard, spray can in hand.  She scrawled in giant luminous green letters:

HALLMARK: Welcome to the Apocalypse cards now in stock.

When you care enough to send the very best!

She jumped back in her car and spun away once more.

Tabitha saw what she was looking for in the distance.  The huge unlit neon “XXX ADULT NOVELTIES, KARATE EQUIPMENT, FIREWORKS, LARP” sign.   She fist-pumped the air and high-fived no one. Tossing the half-eaten chocolate over her shoulder, she clicked off the safety on her pistol and got ready to kick some zombie ass.  It was an excellent day.


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