You will bring sunshine into someone’s life because of zombies.

Four days of hell. Lyssa carefully peeked out of the curtains and tightened her grip on the machete. An excellent upgrade from the pistol that ran out of ammo two days ago and the baseball bat that replaced it. The pistol was alright but her aim made it impractical and her arms got tired with the stupid bat. The machete she found in the garage here was bound to be better.
“Two across the street, one next door.” She muttered to herself. She didn’t really miss people but found herself missing sound. Music, especially, but that drew attention to her or away from them – either way, bad idea.
She took a deep breath and moved silently to the door, planning the route to the next house. The suburbs were great – most of the people abandoned them in favor of the country where (obviously) no one would be. Based on the news – the country was the last place anyone wants to be. People scattered as soon as they hit city limits. Now there were zombies stumbling through forests amid scattered camps. The big cities were overrun right off but out here in the land of cookie cutter houses and perfect lawns, only a few people stayed and you could tell which houses were still occupied. They were the ones with boards on the windows.
3, 2, 1…. She opened the door and sprinted toward the zombie in the neighboring yard, bringing the machete down on its neck as it slowly turned toward her. It didn’t quite cut through but the zombie still dropped. Good enough. She dashed across the street to a welcoming looking house with lacy curtains. The two were slowly moving toward her so she ran around the side of the house. The back yard was abandoned and the door locked. With a grin she used the handle of the machete to knock out one of the window panes on the door and unlocked it. Slipping in, she locked it back and looked around. A long, heavy dining table sat not far away, a meal half-consumed by humans was being finished by flies.
Moving fast, she cleared the dishes, dropping them in the trash can, and began pushing the table toward the door. Glad for a rectangular one this time, she stood it on its side so the legs would hold it in place. Digging in her pack, she pulled out an electric drill and long screws. Once the door was secure she sat quietly, listening for the zombies. Their shambling steps passed by the door and continued in to the alley. At least they were stupid.
That settled, Lyssa moved quickly through the lower level of the house, closing blinds where possible and any doors leading in to rooms that did not offer that option. The road was clear for the moment but there was no telling when more of those things might wander by. With the bottom floor as secure as it could be, she headed for the stairs. A quiet house doesn’t necessarily mean a safe one. The doors upstairs were all locked with one wedged closed with a chair. Lyssa raised an eyebrow and shifted her grip on the machete. “Guess they didn’t vacate fast enough.” She mumbled as she silently removed the chair.
With a deep breath she pulled the door open and stepped back. The middle-aged woman inside turned jaundiced eyes toward her and began to shuffle closer, reaching out as if pleading for help. One hand, obviously the source of her infection, was mangled almost beyond recognition. Lyssa stepped in, circled behind the woman and brought the machete down. BIG improvement over the other weapons.
She made a cursory search of the room, bypassing jewellery and electronics but grabbing a couple good shirts out of the closet. Without laundromats it was just easier to get a whole new wardrobe every couple days. With the curtains pulled, she closed the door again and went to check the other rooms.
It was almost unnerving – that woman must have been one of Martha Stewart’s disciples – everything was perfectly clean and ready for a photographer. Even the guest room was perfect with an old teddy bear on the pillow.
As she opened the closet door an explosion rang in her ears and she felt a chill. The floor rushed up at her as numbness spread.
“You’re not mama…” She heard. The frightened face of a boy that couldn’t have been more than 11 years old came in to her field of vision. He held an old gun that must have been his father’s – he looked from her to the gun and dropped it at his feet. Looking back up at her he took a step back. “Where’s mama?”
He looked around frantically and disappeared, the pitter-patter of little feet retreated down the hall as her eyes closed.

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Much more grows in the garden than what which is planted there because of zombies

‘Just me, the dirt and the flowers’ Rosemary smiled as she took a deep breath and pulled another weed. She loved the smell of sun and soil, her refuge from the storms of life. Her beautiful garden surrounded the house with sprays of iris, foxglove, daisies, marigolds, roses, and pansies. A confetti burst shined from every corner of the yard behind the little white picket fence she had dreamed of since childhood. The perfect life she had always wanted had bloomed around her like her flowers. Thirty years ago she had met Norman, a quiet and kind man. He held a stable job as an accountant and supported her and, a few years later, their child. Henry had grown up a strong, cheerful boy and was now in his last year of college to become a teacher.

Rosemary sat back and looked up at the fluffy clouds, smiling into the warm light. Of course nowadays people were filled with fear of every little thing. They say everything from the sun, wind and rain can give you cancer. Breathing can give you cancer… but no one she knows has it. It’s such a faraway fear that she refused to let it control her, make her decisions for her. Shaking off the dim thoughts marring the bright day, she pulled her wide-brimmed hat down and turned back to the offending weeds attempting to sneak into her beautiful flower beds.

It was nearly an hour later when she had worked her way to the back of the house that she paused. The thin pale, dry dirt here had been disturbed to show the moist earth beneath. Rosemary’s smile faded as she looked toward the broken picket near the alley. The neighbor’s Chihuahua must have snuck in again. Last week she found a surprise next to the large rosebush next to the corner of the house. The terrible smell was not present… but the disturbed dirt said that Cuddles had been here again. She began to stand when she heard something. Her eyes returned to the garden as a clump of soil moved.

“Moles!” She hissed, her brows knitting together in anger. “We’ll see about that!”

She stood and took one step back before a clump fell away to reveal the mole’s nose. ‘Not a mole.’ A quiet voice in her mind said. ‘Not a mole!’

A step back as more fell away and another nose ‘NOT A MOLE!’ emerged and she could not deny the hand reaching up out of the bed of pansies, the fingers curling in a desperate plea for aid. Rosemary stared in horror as the hand was slowly followed by an arm, the flesh loose and rotting away in chunks. With a short scream she sprinted for the door, pulling it closed and bolting it behind her as she called for Norman.

“Rosemary? What happened? Are you alright?” He hurried in, his blue eyes meeting hers in genuine concern. For an irrational moment she felt relief in seeing those eyes, safe and comfortable, but the thing in the garden shifted again and her panic returned.

“There’s something out there… something in the garden!” She gushed, falling in to his arms where she knew nothing could reach her.

“The… garden?” He said slowly, a note of nervous concern entering his voice. “I thought it was full… were you replacing some of the flowers?”

“I was pulling weeds and it moved… it moved, Norman… then a hand…” She shook her head, knowing it sounded insane. Impossible. A hand in the garden? Moving on its own? “It… it came up….”

“Rosemary…. please… calm down.” He held her tightly and sighed. “It’s alright. I know I should have told you but… I didn’t want to worry you. You worry enough as it is…”

“What is it?” She pulled back until she could look at him, frowning as she took in his expression. Sadness, regret and embarrassment dominated his features, apparent in the worry lines that no longer seemed to fade away. “What happened?”

“A few months ago… you heard a noise downstairs late at night. I told you I had left the window open and a cat got in. Had to chase it down….”

“Yes, I remember.” Her mouth went dry as her mind filled with images from the evening news. If not a cat… it must have been….

“There was a burglar.” Norman said quietly, closing his eyes. “He had no intention of leaving even with people home. …I did what I had to…”

She took a step back as she realized what he meant. The next day he had offered to help her mulch the garden – he started on one side of the house and worked their way around. He helped her in the garden quite often so she had thought nothing of it. It had been such a lovely day – perfect for it. But if he hadn’t… the man would have killed them after God knew what… The shadow that had fallen over her husband did not seem quite so dark knowing that he had sacrificed his innocence to preserve her life. She she felt tears welling up as she rushed back into his arms and his tension faded.

“I’m sorry, Rosemary… I didn’t want to.” He said softly.

“I understand.” She whispered. He took a breath to respond but did not speak. She looked up at him but his eyes were on the window behind her. When she began to turn he pulled her back against him.

“No… don’t…. don’t look.” He said so softly she barely heard him.

“What is it?” She asked a cold fear clutching at her stomach, hoping for anything but the image that returned to her from the garden. The hand lifting itself from the garden… as if it were alive. Her mind crowded with reasons it was impossible, each asserting itself desperately to fight the memory of what she had seen. It had to have been her imagination, a hallucination after a few hours in the sun, perhaps she had been asleep sitting up and it was a dream.

“No… it can’t be. Just…” He took a short, ragged breath. “Go upstairs… don’t look out the window… just run.”

“But Norman…” She began.

“I said run.” She barked, spinning her toward the door and pushing her. It was the first time he had ever treated her so roughly and that alone moved her feet quickly toward the stairs. It was true… what she had seen was what it seemed. Impossible… She reached the top of the stairs and felt her legs wobble. She dropped to the floor and stared at the wall across the hallway, it’s cheerful painting of a field of sunflowers in a sunny meadow seemed distant in every way.

Her world had shifted and the questions she had never thought to ask were pressing in on her.

“Get in the bedroom.” Norman called up the stairs, she twisted to look at him. His face was that of a stranger – sharp where his was soft, angry where his was peaceful. “Close the door. Look in the bottom left shoebox in the closet.”

Before she could respond he was out of sight, running to the garage. She struggled to her feet and stumbled in to the bedroom. She felt so numb, her limbs reacting slowly as her mind grappled with the situation. There was a dead man in the garden… walking around. Norman had killed him and the dead man was walking again… the dead man in the garden was walking…

She looked down to see the closet, their clothes hanging neatly on a bar, shoe boxes separated by a suitcase. Hers on the right, his on the left. He only had six boxes to her seventeen. She knelt and pulled the box out, the weight making alright tight nerves jangle. She opened the lid and looked at the gun. She had never seen a gun outside the holster of a policeman. How long had Norman had this? Why did he have it?

How long she sat there she had no idea – there was the gun and then Norman was touching her shoulder, looking at her in concern. The familiar love in his eyes gave her something to hang on to and she held the gun up to him. He gave her the smallest  of smiles, exhaustion in the lines around his eyes as he took it from her and hurried back out of the room, pulling the door closed behind him.

She heard the familiar rumble of his voice as he talked on the phone. It started normal but soon turned strained. Long silences between short moments of speech, then a sharp curse. She had heard him curse very few times in their life together and it always meant trouble. Last time he had uttered a harsh word three cities had been destroyed by a hurricane. So many lives lost… and among them his family.

Now… dead people were climbing from the ground…. The gun….

A sharp sound seemed to echo from every surface and there was silence again. Slowly she stood, holding the door frame of the closet for support, listening for more shots, more shots would mean the dead man was still standing… still walking…. still alive…

She stumbled to the bed and listened, finally hearing steps on the stairs and let out a relieved breath as Norman entered the room. “Rosemary… it…”

“I know… it climbed out of the garden…. it walked…” She said, her voice weak as she fought to not say words that could not be taken back. It made real what was only thought moments before.

“Yes.” He said, sinking down on the edge of the bed. “It doesn’t make sense.”

She sat next to him, looking up at his strained face. “What do we do?”

“I don’t know. But we can’t stay here.”

“What?” She sat up straight. “Why not?”

“It’s not the only one. I saw another one down the street. This house isn’t safe. The windows are too large. It broke the one by the back door and we don’t have enough tables to replace all of them. Even if we used doors, it wouldn’t be enough.” He chuckled, an edge of hysteria creeping in before he could control it. “Your well-lit dream house.”

She felt a stab of hurt anger. Yes, she had loved the bay windows. The french doors in the back. She adored light and kept a number of potted plants in each room. It was her dream. Her irritation faded when she saw the honest amusement in his smile. “Wrought iron bars can be pretty if they are painted white.” The sound of her voice, louder than she expected, made her jump and she jumped a second time as he roared with laughter.

He clung to her, kissing her forehead. “That’s my girl. We’ll get through this. We just have to get out of the city, figure out the safest place we can go.”

They talked and packed, shoving necessities into lightweight bags and collecting the camping gear from the closet in the guest room. Being in the suburbs  would make getting out easier – it was decided to head in to the mountains. Her family had a cabin and if the car had a full tank it might be enough to make it there. It would be a long night.

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Rising from the soil

Some time ago I sat listening to friends around the table at a restaurant reading their fortunes to each other, ‘hmm’ing and ‘ahhh’ing, then adding ‘in bed’ and giggling. When I read mine I felt compelled to add ‘because of zombies’ instead.

Aside from getting odd looks and an uncertain chuckle, I found it far more amusing and rewarding. It worked better. It made more sense. And I could see a story behind it. With quite a few fortunes ‘in bed’ and other similar addendums simply do not work. Because of Zombies has a lower fail rate. Higher laugh rate. Much greater inspiration rate and is generally a lot more fun.

I will add to this blog as I get more fortunes. That is to say, it will be sporadic so don’t expect something daily, weekly or even monthly (how I wish I could afford sushi every day…). I enjoy writing them and hope others find it as entertaining as I do to see what happens because of zombies.

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