Wednesday, October 31, 2012

                Tough Love - Guest Story from Joshua Cook

A Zombie A.C.R.E.S. Story

“NO! Josh… No!”

Georgia Marie heard the screams by the time she reached the Saunders’ house.  Gee was more than half a block from the house, so she kicked it into high gear and sprinted the rest of the way.  As she came around the corner of the garage and entered the backyard, she immediately saw the reason for Alice’s hysterics.
Barbara was gnawing on Josh’s neck.  Blood poured from the child’s lifeless body until Barbara finally dropped him.  Gee had to look away.  Even though she was not blood related to Barbara, the whole scene was too much for her to handle. Her attention then turned to her step sister.

I’m gonna have to handle this; Alice is a basket case.

Gee felt terrible for having little compassion for Barbara and Josh, but it was too late for them.  She knew what had to be done and she knew Alice would be of little help in her current state.  She struggled to block who the dead used to be from her mind.  Memories like the day Barbara married Gee’s father, Josh’s last birthday party with the Spider-Man theme, and last Christmas Eve when Barbara had read Twas the Night before Christmas, as was her family’s tradition before marrying Gee’s father, still ran through her head.
Focus, girl! That’s all gone now and Alice needs you.

“Alice!”  Gee screamed, trying to cut through the images of carnage as Barbara tore another flap of skin from Josh’s neck, this one ripping free only after it had taken his cheek with it.  “Alice! I need you to listen to me!  Do exactly as I say!”  She whipped her red flannel shirt off, waving it wildly in the air in an attempt to get Alice’s eyes off of her mother, who was ready for her next snack.

Am I even reaching through to that little brat? Do I ever?!

Again, Gee felt horrible about her detachment from her father’s new family and her animosity toward Alice.  How could she even be thinking such terrible thoughts right now? Just because Alice was not her blood sister didn't mean she deserved this.

Now, Georgia Marie was not a particularly fit girl; she was naturally thin, despite rarely exercising and typically eating junk food, as most college students do.  She had, however, taken gymnastics back in elementary school and had learned to maneuver her small frame quickly; she hoped muscle memory and instinct would kick in and allow her to move with agility for the next few minutes.

“Alice!  I’m coming to save you, but you need to calm down and listen to me!  Look at me, Alice!” Something finally clicked in Alice’s head and Gee’s voice made it through.  Alice turned and met Gee’s eyes, which were a steely, cold gray under her short brown hair.  “Great! Thank you, Alice.  Now listen carefully and do exactly as I say. Crawl under the table to your right.  Go quick!”

Luckily Alice, whose gaze had shifted to the patio table, did not see what Gee saw.  Alice’s mother…well the dead, rotting shell formerly known as her mother, was lurching mere inches behind Alice.  A cold and sickly-looking hand was reaching, clawing, just behind the trailing of Alice’s long, red hair.

“Alice, I need you to move faster.”  Gee tried to remain calm, remembering herself at Alice’s age: though it was only three years ago, it felt like a lifetime had elapsed since then.

There is no way I would have been able to make it through any of this at sixteen.

Alice may have just been a kid in Gee’s mind, but suddenly Gee realized just how much mental toughness her little sister possessed.  Regardless, Alice wasn’t going to make it; Barbara was closing on her.  Gee decided to pull on her big girl panties and make sure Alice had all the time she needed to get out of the death trap she was in.

As Alice was still crawling toward the patio table, Gee grabbed the first thing she saw, a lawn gnome, and threw it into the side of Barbara’s head.  This blow only managed to daze the undead monster momentarily.  As this former husk of Barbara spun and flailed her arms, she knocked over the table Alice was crawling toward. It hit the concrete patio with an ear-splitting CLANG  which brought Alice even farther out of her shocked daze.  She got to her feet and ran behind the upturned patio table, which had skittered across the concrete and was rolling from side to side on its round edge, much like the Weeble Woobles Alice played with as a child.

With her sister out of harm’s way, Gee knew it was time finish this and get out of dodge.  She scanned the backyard for more of the undead.  She had been so focused on Alice’s immediate situation that it hadn’t occurred to her that more of the creatures could be lurking around.  Luckily there was only Alice’s now dead mother to contend with.

I coulda taken her when she was alive.

This thought actually made Gee laugh, which Alice must have thought odd.  Gee searched the chaos of the backyard for anything to be used as a weapon.  Time was running out, and Gee knew that she had to strike soon.

That is when a broken piece of fence was spotted, but not by Gee.  Alice had spotted the piece of fence and noted the extremely sharp point the break made.  Alice sprang up and grabbed hold of her newly found weapon.

“Alice! No!”  Gee screamed, attempting to stop Alice as she ran full speed at her mother.  The sharp, splintered end of the fence board was held high over her head, ready to be thrust into its target.

Without missing a step, Alice leapt from a chair and flew through the air. It was like a scene from an action movie: Alice flying through the air, weapon on target, aimed straight at her mother’s temple.  Gee saw it all in slow-motion and she would later run the scene over and over in her head, mainly because everything went along great – until the landing.  The wooden missile found its mark flawlessly, but Alice’s momentum carried her body into her mother’s.  The collision flipped Alice backward onto the electric grill, knocking her unconscious.  She slid off the chrome lid of the grill and slumped on the patio.

Gee ran to Alice, praying she was still alive.  Tears stung her eyes as she scooped up her sister’s limp body and checked for signs of life.  After finding a pulse and feeling Alice’s breathing, Gee was able to think more clearly.  Her first priority was finding a safe spot to rest and helping Alice heal enough to move on her own again.

How the hell did Barbara become a zombie?  Her job?  Could the tabloids telling the truth?  Is Roslun Global responsible for the outbreaks?

Zombies had become a fact of life nine years ago when a man by the name of William Lohman had shocked the nation by revealing he was a true to life zombie.  He had accused Roslun Global of doing all kinds of experiments with the goal of bringing the dead back to life.  This news lit up the conspiracy sites around the world, and thrust Roslun Global to the forefront of controversy and media attention.

Barbara worked at Roslun . Something must’ve gone wrong.

There had been scattered outbreaks of zombie activity since Lohman revealed his side of the story.  They were usually small and quickly contained, many with no physical evidence left behind.  The media was often too late to report anything other than after-the-fact eyewitness accounts and hearsay, but a few had been documented.  Zombie surveillance websites, tracking attacks and other related events, had popped up like daisies; lots of people checked them as regularly as they did the weather.  School kids were taught to look both ways before crossing the street and to look out the window before going outside.  The attacks had been so few and far between that most people regarded zombies as something akin to rabid dogs; they were dangerous and real, but so rare that they could be confined to the back of one’s mind.

Where there’s one, there’s more.  There’s always more.

There was a small abandoned house a few blocks away where Gee used to go to smoke a joint after school.  She hoped it hadn’t been overrun by zombies, or worse, junkies.  The fact was Alice’s home was just not safe anymore.

Having grown up in the age of the zombie, Gee knew what needed to be done.  She pulled the fence board out of Barbara’s head, finding a sick gratification at the squishing sound it made as it overcame the suction of the wound, and headed for her step brother.

Gotta make sure he’s dead…For good.

Gee stood over her little brother’s body.  Even though Josh and Alice weren’t her blood siblings, Gee had always thought of them as her little brother and sister.  The tears came and she was powerless to stop them.  She waited, watching for any movement through the blurry lens of her tears...Nothing.

Still better safe than sorry.

Gee tightened her grip on the fence board and braced for what she must do.  She took a deep breath to steady herself and, without hesitating, she stabbed the sharp wood through her little brother’s head and fell to her knees, sobbing uncontrollably.

As she rose to her feet, wiping tears and blood from her face, Gee surveyed the devastation that surrounded her.  Mere feet away lay the dead body of Josh, an innocent child, while Alice’s life is still in trouble.  There was no fairness in any of it.  The anger over this injustice swelled inside Gee until she could not resist one last kick to the side of Barbara’s bloody head.

You did this. I only wish you could feel it.

Gee mustered her remaining strength and decided it was time for them to move.  Alice was still unconscious on the patio, so Gee picked her up and carried her inside the house.  She reached for the patio door out of habit, but realized it was already closed.  It had been shattered, and Gee shivered a little when she guessed how.

Gee lowered her sister gently to the kitchen floor and began to search for some necessities for the road.  Luckily, most of the items she needed were right there in the kitchen; flashlight (which was on the floor in the corner instead of its normal spot in the cupboard above the fridge), hammer, a few cans of food, and some bottled water.  There was one more thing, but she had to run upstairs to grab it.

Once upstairs, Gee dashed into the guest bedroom.  Whenever she came to visit, this was her Fortress of Solitude.  Things got tense sometimes, and this was the only escape she had.  That’s being polite about it, Gee.  This thought lingered in her mind for a moment as she crossed over to the window.

Normally this view was as beautiful and peaceful as any street in America.  Things now took on a sinister tone.  The trees that lined either side of the street played with the lights, casting dark shadows on the ground.  Moving in and out of these shadows were a few of the neighbors.  Instead of waving and greeting each other, these once happy neighbors were now shambling aimlessly along the street.

I knew it – there had to be more of them…just what I need right now.

Gee opened the bottom drawer of the dresser, rummaged at the back of it, and grabbed her weed kit.  If this was the end of the world, she’d need it.

Alice was still out cold when Gee got back to the kitchen.  She looked at her little pile of supplies and realized she couldn’t carry her sister and the survival gear.  She stole a quick glance into the back yard.  The coast was clear.  She headed to the garage.  At the very front, behind a couple of boxes of random junk, stood what Gee was looking for; Barbara’s mountain bike with the Burley kid trailer still attached.  It hadn’t been used in years, but the tires were still full of air.  Barbara had been big on exercising when Josh was younger, but that hadn’t lasted long.  Gee maneuvered the bike past the boxes, tapped the garage door opener, tossed the big crowbar that had been her dad’s in the trailer, and rolled the bike and trailer into the driveway.

The sun was beginning to set.  Gee ran into the kitchen and scooped Alice up.  She carried the teenage girl out to the bike, and laid her in the trailer, gently kissing her forehead and wiping the red hair from her face.  After grabbing the supplies and setting them alongside her sister, Gee hopped on the bike and peddled toward the only refuge she could think of.

The house seemed eerily quiet when they got there, though most old houses were eerie at night.  Gee stashed the bike and Alice’s trailer in some bushes near the house.  If this outbreak gets out of hand, she didn’t want people to know anyone was here.  She grabbed the flashlight and crowbar and peered into the windows.
I don’t see anyone, alive or dead, but that doesn’t mean much.  I’m surprised there isn’t more activity; it looks like somebody has actually bought the place in the last couple years.

Gee tried the front door.  It was unlocked.  She made a quick run through of the whole first floor.  Nothing seemed disturbed; no signs of the undead or destruction.  It wasn’t like there was much to take.  The front room and dining room had a few random pieces of furniture, most of which would be too large to be practical on the move.  The kitchen was pretty bare as well, but the cabinet drawers were scattered on the floor.

I’m glad to know I haven’t fallen into the Twilight Zone at some point.  Somebody was here and took what they needed.  Maybe they haven’t left…

Gee crept to a staircase at the front of the house.  Quietly moving up the staircase, she steadied herself, ready to attack at the first sign of movement – whatever the cause may be.  When she reached the top of the stairs, she saw there were only two bedrooms and a bathroom along a dark hallway.

She easily cleared bedroom one as it was completely empty and didn’t even have a closet.  Heading a little further down the hall, she started to smell something.  After searching the bathroom, she walked toward the bedroom at the end of the hall.  The wind outside picked up, carrying that pungent odor right into her nose.
Gee knew that smell.  It was rancid and her stomach suddenly felt like it wanted to turn itself inside-out.  Flashlight in one hand, crowbar in the other, Gee slowly opened the bedroom door with her foot, heart pounding with the fear of what she may find.

As soon as the door creaked open, the smell slapped Gee in the face.  The source of the smell was immediately located near the window.  In a couple of armchairs sat the bodies of an elderly couple, both with gunshot wounds to the head.

Poor couple.  Murder-suicide.  Looks like the wife was bitten, which makes the husband the gunman for both.

Gee walked slowly out of the room, wondering if she would have been able to do the same in the husband’s place.  By the time she got downstairs, nighttime was fully upon them.  She needed to grab Alice and bring her into the safety of the house, even if it was just for the night.

After setting up a makeshift bed out of some old, and only mildly disgusting, blankets and laying Alice down, Gee went about boarding up the first floor windows.  The furniture that was too heavy to be stolen was perfect to secure the place for now.  After what seemed like an eternity to Gee, the first floor was secure enough for the night.

It’s not like I’m gonna be sleeping anyway.

As she sat cross-legged on the floor, holding Alice and just trying to absorb everything that had happened in the past few hours, Gee just lost it.  She screamed and sobbed, rocked back and forth, all the while holding her little sister in her arms.  Gee’s body was shaking so much from all the emotions that she didn’t even notice when Alice first started moving.

“Alice! You’re awake!”  Every single thought left Georgia Marie’s mind in an instant.  The tears came on worse than they ever had, but they felt different – almost good.  “No matter what, I will protect you from this point on…I promise!”

Gee hugged Alice tightly, holding her against her chest.  As she brushed some dirt off of Alice’s arm, Gee’s mind once again went instantly blank…

No…How?  You were fine…Maybe the scratch isn't from your mother.

Gee examines the scratch closer.  It is just as she feared.  The edges of the scratch were already forming blackened edges.

Only a scratch.  I have a little time before I have to…Well, before it’s time to say goodbye.


Tough Love is just one story from AiZ: Alice in Zombieland (Complete Saga) - a book about family, love, and zombies. Find out what happens to poor Alice and her sister Gee, as well as meet some new characters in this Zombie A.C.R.E.S. book by Joshua Cook. Sam Ashe has been a horror geek his entire life, so when his ultimate dream becomes a nightmare in reality, Sam must man up or shut up to save his fiancee. AiZ: Alice in Zombieland (Complete Saga) is now available in Limited Edition, featuring new artwork, larger size, limited print run, and the never before seen comic Bruce Campbell vs The ACRES. This special comic pits the great B horror star against hordes of the undead. Get this limited edition, plus a digital version and regular paperback edition for one low price, only through

About Joshua Cook

Joshua Cook was born during the winter of 1977 in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Writing has always been a passion for Josh, but the real world never allowed him the time or money to pursue his dream. Now Josh lives in the Seattle, Washington, area with his girlfriend and four year old spanidor dog, Sam Dogg. Here Josh blogs, writes both fiction and non-fiction, and works as a freelance writer for hire.

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