Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Happiness is a Warm Gun: An Interlude with Theo

Happiness is a Warm Gun: An Interlude with Theo

by Scott Thurlow

Theo looked at his reflection in the house’s dirty mirror. The suit still clung acceptably to him, being only slightly ruffled. His appearance at least remained relatively presentable. Theo felt that even in times such as this, it was no reason to let oneself go. Or perhaps it was the way he had been raised. Though, he was becoming increasingly unsure those values were pertinent, but old habits die hard.

Theo went back to the kitchen and looked at weapon he had left resting on the table that the gruff stranger whose name was Ike (an odd name, but Theo gave it no further thought upon introduction) had given him before tromping upstairs with his "crew"—Dave, Ike's ugly, annoying sidekick who had slugged Theo in the face; and the quiet, brooding Jack who rounded out the trio. Theo was unsure if he should feel regret for allowing the weird little band into his new home, or draw satisfaction in the grim relief at possibly having found salvation in their cartoonish yet effective methods of survival.

“We all deserve an option...” Ike's half-sarcastic suggestion to Theo echoed in his mind.

Theo felt the option Ike meant wasn’t the one he was really looking for. But the words still rang true in a way. He was aware that he couldn’t stay where he was forever. Anyway, he’d be out of alcohol in a few days, especially if he was going to be soon “sharing” some as seemed likely, and sober sulking just would not do for Theo. Instead, he found himself staring at the gun between sips of rum. He had never had to use a firearm before, but he thought himself nothing if not an astute student. Plus, a loaded handgun would be a terrible thing to waste. Even worse than wasting booze or the suit he was currently clad in. Perhaps it was his upbringing speaking again, but in this case he suspected his instincts could be trusted.

Theo thought he heard raised voices from the little tribe shuffling around the upper floor of the house and went back out on the balcony to survey the surrounding scenery. None of the monsters seemed to be in the immediate vicinity at the moment. He thought back to the parade of roof-crossing earlier than had led to his eventual possession of the weapon he was currently contemplating. Theo was ill-equipped for such an endeavor himself; it would have to be the streets when the time came. He returned inside to pour himself another drink, and to hopefully avoid the squabbles of the three armed stooges now intruding upon his little slice of heaven. He wondered if there was anything interesting in the house’s medicine cabinet, and went to check on it, his sense of purpose renewed for the moment.

Inside, treasures abounded. Theo never had much use for medication of this kind, though not to say he hadn’t dabbled in it at certain times. He had just never found much appeal in the process. But what’s the antidote to the apocalypse? Perhaps the answer lied in the small plastic pill bottles lined up like gravestones (Theo inwardly admonished himself for that being his first image connection) in front of him. What did the people who were in need of these kinds of pills do now? What were they doing now? Just because the dead have risen against the living, doesn’t make going cold turkey any easier. In fact, Theo thought the opposite really ought to be the case. His own logic told him that there should be a fairly decent chance someone in the militia-like group that was now occupying the town would be a member of that demographic. Inspired, Theo began to take down a catalog of the items before hastily stashing them away and anyone had noticed.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Volume 6: A Walk in the Park 4

A Walk in the Park IV

By J. Ian Manczur

I once had friends who spoke of immortality. Of future, today. We were the chosen. We were the generation to become gods. Hubris before the fall.

I wondered, what had become of these dreamers, these visionaries, these conspirators against God. I prayed they had been spared their wish. We challenged Him and He smote us. He granted us our greatest desire, only for it to become corrupted by our sin. Godhood… Gods indeed. Gods of a wasteland, the hell of our own making.

The fear of death? Laughable. We conquered it. No need to worry about life after death, either, or the wrongdoings that might damn us or even heaven and hell. We were never going to die. And the fruit of our labors? An eternity of strife, hunger and bloodlust. My only fear was abandonment by God. The one chance for salvation in a deity long imagined dead. God, I beg of you, save us sinners.

I reached for the Bible secured in my pack. It was soaked through with blood, but maybe, just maybe, I could find an untainted passage. The action required more energy than I had and the tome slipped out of my fingers. Foolish. Now, I had to move. Just an inch to the side, a simple shift. If only the book wasn’t so heavy…

“Come on girl, I need you to stay awake for me. Please, Kat. Please stay awake.” Claire hadn’t left the side of Katrina Ivanova since they had been assigned partners that morning. She wouldn’t have had it any other way. Not only was Kat funny and down-to-earth, but she was one hell of a fighter. All that Claire wanted to, but could never, be. Now, it was her turn to carry Kat and she was grateful for that blessing.

Claire picked up the Bible that Kat had been struggling with. It was ruined, but perhaps Kat still had some sentimentality attached to it. Claire noted, in her little pocket pad, to find Kat another copy at the first opportunity. Flipping it closed, she tucked it in her back pocket.

Kat was unconscious. A deep sleep she may never wake from. No amount of begging, pleading or prayer could save her now. Through all efforts to retain some semblance of dignity, tears formed in Claire’s eyes. Never before had she felt so powerless, her faith so shaken. Of anyone, Claire was sure Kat would make it. Kat, Ike and Dave… so sure in their own strength and each lost to the cruel hand of chance. The dam burst and Claire wept openly.

Their friendship had always had potential, but truly blossomed through the salad days of mid-morning. With a pastoral setting that was filled to the brim with flora, the two young girls, a fleeting description as youth had died with the world, had taken advantage of a few minutes peace to reconcile what had been stolen. Kat and Claire had joked and picked the wildflowers that had reclaimed the land in humanity’s absence and relived a childhood that was only a memory.

Claire had been there when Kat challenged John and Steve for making too much noise. She had supported Kat when she protested Hurley’s callous answer to the mysterious disappearance of the same two noisy boys.

Kat had shielded Claire when the first of the creatures broke through the ranks and Claire even saved her, for once, when the group was being overrun. And Claire had been there when Kat was finally cut down, not by the savages but by a few errant bullets. What Hurley would call friendly fire. Boys and their god damned toys.

Now, in relative safety, Claire would not abandon Kat. If she couldn’t do anything else, she would be a friendly face in Kat’s last few minutes. “I’m here for you, girl. Keep awake for me. Please. Stay awake.” She brushed aside some loose strands of hair from Kat’s face.

Kat shifted, letting out a labored groan. “Thomas. Where is Thomas?”

“I don’t know.” Claire looked around desperately. There were a lot of people, none of whom were Thomas. “I don’t know. I don’t see him.”

“Please. Can you.. find him.. for me?”

Though hesitant to leave her friend‘s side, “I will find him. I promise.” With little time and not much faith in her promise, Claire headed directly for the man who would know where Thomas was.

Claire had no problem picking Hurley out from the line of soldiers. Not only was he a foot taller than the next man, but he was flanked by his ever present lackey, Sgt. Howard. Hurley was busy directing his soldiers and giving orders to Howard… and David Shiner. Other Dave’s presence did not bode well for her search. “Lieutenant, may I have a quick word?”

He was a gaunt figure with grey eyes recessed deeply into his face and a few weeks growth of patchy beard. Lt. Hurley was not a pretty man. If anything, he could best be described as having caught the sickness yet somehow remaining human through sheer willpower alone, damn the ravages on the body. Still, through all his shadowed image, a great strength of personality existed. One that could lead men. It also helped that he had one of those voices. At loudest, cannon fire signaling war. At softest, whiskey and cigarettes. “I’m sort of busy right now, Claire.”

She drew her resolve to ask the question she already knew the answer to, “Have you seen Thomas anywhere?”

His look spoke volumes, “I’m sorry Claire. Father Thomas Sarnowski was killed during the course of the operation.”

Claire stifled back tears. There would be time to cry later. “How did it happen?”

Hurley looked over at his soldiers, as if judging whether he had time to answer her. “Most likely killed by one of the zombies.”

“Most likely?”

“No one actually saw it happen.”

Claire was bewildered. “No one actually saw? So, for all you know, he is still alive? What the hell!”

“Let‘s take a walk, shall we?” Hurley composed himself. “We barely held back the initial wave as it is and more keep coming. There is no way anyone survived outside our little bubble here. What you see around you is what is left of our group. Half of what we started with! So, yes. There may be a chance he is out there somewhere. But God himself would have had to intervene on his behalf.”

Howard adjusted his spectacles, “Well he was a preacher, sir.”

“Howard, you will keep your mouth shut from now on or I will put you on point when we leave this hellhole.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Now Claire, what do you need Thomas for? Maybe I can help in some way.”

Normally, she wouldn’t have shared what she did, but Claire was a defeated woman. “It’s Kat, Katrina. She was shot by one of your soldiers.”

“I highly doubt that.”

“Whatever. She wants a priest before she… before she dies.”

“Looks like I can’t help after all. I suggest you head back and provide her with as much comfort as possible. And make sure she doesn’t have any bite marks. I don’t want anymore surprises tonight.”

She ignored the remarks. “Oh, one more thing, Hurley.”

“I prefer Sir or Lieutenant, Miss Lombardo.

“Yes, sir.” She added with the most venom she could muster. “I was wondering if I could have a moment of Other Dave’s time.”

“You’d be doing me a favor. Shiner, front and center!” Other Dave waddled to them as quickly as he could move. “Claire would like to have a quick word with you. I expect you back to work immediately after she is done. Got it, soldier?”

“Yes, sir!” Other Dave saluted briskly.

“That a boy. Miss Lombardo, a pleasure.” With a tip of his cap, Hurley resumed his war.

“What’s up Claire?” Other Dave’s shit eating grin was even more pronounced than usual. Claire didn’t want to imagine how, but it seemed Other Dave had grown fatter with the end of the world.

“What the hell, Dave? Since when were you a soldier? And what about Thomas?”

“If today has taught me anything, it is the need for vigilance. Thomas may have believed that God would save us, but I now know that bullets do a heck of a job as well. I’ve been already promoted to sergeant, taking over writing operations reports for Little.”

“Steve’s dead, too? Oh, God.” So many dead today. Then again, so many over the past couple of weeks. What would tomorrow bring?

“Twice over. Killed his zombified corpse myself.”

Claire had heard enough. “You’re unbelievable.”

“Wait, wait, wait,” he panted running to her, “I had a point to this conversation.” He tossed her a small pamphlet. “A book of psalms that Thomas gave me. I think you will find something in Psalm 3, for her and all of us.” Other Dave scurried back to his new master.

Claire returned to her charge, thinking that Other Dave wasn’t such a bad of a guy after all, just a little bit skeevy, and how much she missed the real, better Dave. A terribly selfish thought for the circumstance. “Kat, honey, Thomas.. well you’ll be seeing Thomas real soon. But, I’m going to say a blessing in the meantime. I’m sure God will forgive whatever sins you might have done. Is that ok, Kat?”

Kat was in no shape to respond.

“Lord, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! Many are saying of me, ‘God will not deliver him.’ But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the one who lifts my head high. I call out to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy mountain. I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me. I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side. Arise, Lord! Deliver me, my God! Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked. From the Lord comes deliverance. May your blessing be on your people.”

When she finally looked up, she realized that guests had arrived. Five soldiers had their heads bowed down in prayer, among them Hurley, Howard and Other Dave. Hurley was the first to finish his prayer and stepped forward, grasping Claire by the shoulder. “That was beautiful, Claire. Thank you.” Hollow sympathies.

Dave was the next to approach. “He’s right, Thomas would have been proud.”

“He will be proud.” Claire hastily corrected.

“Right. Speaking of Thomas, he wanted me to tell you something in case… in case of the worst.” Other Dave pulled her away, with the pretext of something that needed to be said out of earshot. Claire was hesitant to follow, she didn’t want to leave Katina alone, but if Other Dave was going to the trouble, it might be worth it. Dying surrounded by strangers and soldiers was as lonely a death as any.

When they were finally away from the others, Claire hastily started, “What does Thomas want me to know?”

Other Dave seemed uncertain, constantly glancing behind him. Claire suddenly felt like an idiot for leaving Katina behind. Something was wrong, she knew it, and her intuition was punctuated as Other Dave grabbed her shoulders, “I’m so sorry.” Claire broke his grasp and ran back only to find Hurley bent over Katina’s body, wiping a bloody knife on a rag.

“You bastard. You rat bastard. I trusted you.” She tried to hurt him, verbally and physically, ineffectual as either were. “Look at what you did! Look, damn you! See what you have done. All the dead who believed your promises: that everything would be ok. They all died for you and you do not give a damn.”

“What do you think I am made of? Stone? I am tortured for every man, woman and child who has died. A thousand times for every one of them that I sent to his death. She was dying. There was nothing any of us could do. I did the only humane thing and put her out of her misery. I’m sorry, I truly am, and if it is heartless so be it, but I cannot waste manpower on the dying when the living still need me. Now, leave me be and find something useful to do.”

Claire drew out her pocket pad and opened to a new page.

To do:
1) Survive the apocalypse.
2) Avenge Kat’s death. Preferably by fucking Hurley, and not in the way he would want.

3) Find Dave and Ike. They were her best bet for following through with a malicious plan.

Goals set, Claire gathered her things stealthily. The group of survivors were no longer her own. All her friends were dead or missing. Her thoughts drifted to the two young girls that had helped her with cooking and daily maintenance, but she couldn’t bring them with her. They would be as safe here as anywhere. She knew it was a justification, a lie, but her path was dangerous. It was time for something brave, something reckless. This is what Kat would have done.

Hurley did not even notice Claire’s departure. He fought back a sigh and took one last look at Katina. “Howard, add her to the list: Ivanova KIA.”

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Volume 6: A Walk in the Park 3

A Walk in the Park III

By J. Ian Manczur

Oh, God. Oh, God. Oh, God. He’s black. John was having a panic attack. He had just found out his soldiering partner for the obviously ill-fated operation was black. As in African American. As in one more reason, among the innumerable others, that today was the day he was going to die. He would have considered this revelation to be the feather that broke the camel’s back, only he was well aware that any camels unfortunate enough to be burdened with his fragile psyche had long since met a violent end, their bones scattered and bleached under the unforgiving sun. An end not dissimilar to the one John expected within the hour.

Breathe. Breathe. Ok. Oh, God. He’s coming over. Oh, God. I am going to die. I am going to die. He’s coming straight for me. For the love of God and all that is holy, don’t tell me your fucking name! Oh, God, he’s going to tell me his name. He’s killing me! Oh, God! I‘m so dead.

“Hiya, I’m Steve Little. A pleasure.” Steve was delightful and outgoing with a firm handshake and a friendship-winning smile. John had never hated anyone as much as he did Steve in that moment. Yet, the knowledge of his imminent death was no excuse for a lack of manners, thus he feebly shook Steve’s hand and muttered his own introduction. Steve accepted and continued with polite, sociable conversation, “I’m surprised we haven’t met before. I thought I met all the other-”

John had stopped listening. Oh, God. Breathe. Ok. We’re already in formation. What to do? What to do? Swap partners! But who? AJ! Don’t see him? Don’t see him. Damn, he’s probably already over the wall. Malcolm? Eh, who else? Eric! He’s partnered with Chris, no breaking that up. Other Dave? Not if my life depended on it, which it does, but…Malcolm it is!

Steve was still talking when John abruptly interrupted with, “I can’t do this. Sorry, but I can’t go into the park with you.”

Steve laughed good naturedly and his smile broadened, “I know, being on the ground sucks. But, I’m sorry to tell you, you can’t stay here. We’re all going to have to go over eventually. Might as well sooner than later.”

“No, no, no. You misunderstand me. I can’t go over with you.”

Steve looked hurt, confused and dejected, “But why?”

“Because you’re black,” John realized what he had said, “I mean, not like that. I’m not racist! It’s just… you’re, you know…black.” Steve looked skeptical. “I swear I’m not racist!” A little.. too loud. “See, there are zombies. And you are…well, you’re you. Zombies plus black people equals disaster for good old John here. You have to understand.”

“Ah.” Steve nodded, clearly not understanding in the least.

“Horror movies.” Simple explanation, he’ll have to understand.

“Horror movies?” Maybe not. “Are you suggesting that because I happen to be black, I’m going to die? I’m like bad luck or something?”

“Exactly, but not like, you are bad luck. And you’re going to die. And you are going to get me killed in your death throes. It’s simple really. And not racist at all. Understand?”

“Oh, I get it: the old horror movie cliché.” Finally. “That’s the stupidest thing I have ever heard. Frankly, I’m surprised you are still alive. And, on top of that, you are racist.” Ouch.

“Little! Morris! Stop flirting, you’re up!” Hurley was standing atop the wall, waving them on. Steve and John scampered up, across the plank and over the park gate. They argued all the way. Steve hit the ground running. John followed after losing a brief battle with gravity.

They resumed bickering immediately, “I‘m not racist!”

“The hell you aren‘t. Name one movie were the black guy dies first.”

Piece of cake. “Gremlins!”

“Another one.”

“Scream 2.”

“That doesn’t count. Parody of horror films.”

“Leprechaun in the Hood?”


“And Leprechaun in the Hood 2: Back 2 The Hood.”

“Those are horror films for the African American community.”

“And thus the black guy dies first.” Whoot, whoot! John: 7, Steve: Zilch

“Doesn’t count.”

“And don’t get me started on Tales From The Hood, Bones and Blacula.”

“Please don’t. But I reiterate, none of those count.”

This guy is too much. “What does count then?”

“First off, watch your tone. Second, has to be a mainstream. Meaning white horror films.”


“Because I want to prove to you that the cliché isn’t as prevalent as you think it is. Thus, you’re racist.”

“I’m not racist and don‘t have to prove that. But I’ll play your game. The Edge!”

A girl in her early twenties, armed with a shotgun and baseball bat, turned back and scolded them in an aggressive whisper, “Will you two be quiet. Are you trying to attract them?”

They paused and simultaneously yelled, “Shut up!”

Steve took the initiative, “Edge doesn’t count.”

“Nothing counts with you!”

“It’s not a horror film.”

“It’s not?”

“No, action-adventure.”

“It’s about a fucking killer bear. Counts in my book. Jaws? Cujo? Deep Blue Sea? And the innumerable others both aquatic and terrestrial?”


“Horror’s ginger step-brother. Still related, however embarrassing.”

“Even so, the pilot dies first in the Edge.”

“Oh boy, the nameless pilot dies first. Big whoop!”

“He had a name! Though, I can’t momentarily recall it. I’m just saying, someone cared about that pilot. You can‘t just write him off and then say the black guy dies first.”

“Nobody cares about nameless characters. Like the guy who gets killed in Jurassic Park first.”

“The lawyer?”

“Bam, nope. Point proven. The worker in the beginning gets slashed by a raptor. And quote, ‘Shoot her! Shooot her!’”

“I‘ll agree to that if, and only if, you agree to black guys not dying first. ”

Never. “Never!”

“Name another then.”

Friday the 13th’s? No. Are there even any black people in them? Um, Return of the Living Dead? YES! No, maybe, he might die first, not sure. Nightmare on Elm Street! No. Damn you, Laurence Fishburne!

“Time’s up, you can’t think of one more.”

“Just because I can‘t think of one, doesn’t mean it’s not true.”

“Alright, I’m going to approach this from a different angle.”

Thank God. “I see I’m starting to win you over.”

“Not a chance, but do you know Sheila and Neil?”

“Before my time.”

“Chuck and Rabbit?”


“You remember the kids?”

“Yes, and I see where you are going with this. Do you remember their names?”

“I’m ashamed to say I don’t.”

“Exactly, they were kids and nobody knows their names. Who gives a damn? Next.”

“Well, I know you know Ike, Dave and Jack.”

“Did you see the bodies?”

“Do you answer every question with a question?”

“When necessary. Haven’t seen the bodies, not dead yet.”

“Anyone ever tell you that you reminded them of Ike and Dave.”

“Ahem, remind them. Well, they are good friends. I must have taken some of their characteristics, but.. Thank you.”

“All three of you are assholes.”

“An asshole is a charismatic person you happen to disagree with.” Zing.

“We’re getting sidetracked. My point is-”

“Your point is wrong.”

“My point is! Your theory says I’m going to die first.”

“Not my theory, life’s fact.”

“Well, what about Andy Muir!”

“What about him?”

“He died yesterday!”

“Yes, and?”

“He died before me!”

“Well, I really never met Andy.”

“But I did.”

“Look, I’m sure you had a lot of friends before this, but that’s not how it works.” Skepticism again. “All the black guys who died first probably knew many people who died before them. That doesn’t alleviate their dying first. We just met, you are new to the story.”

“You’re delusional.”

“Wouldn’t have it any other way.”

“Even if I never met you, we are still talking about the same group of survivors.”

“I get where you are coming from, but again, that’s not how it works. It would be like saying, oh, I’m moving on to Elm Street because Freddy killed a black kid already. He’s filled his racial quota. Flawed logic. Look, pal, I’m sure you were an important part of someone else’s story, but here, now, you’re zombie fodder.” Wait. Where did everyone go? “Thus spoken, I‘ve damned us all.”

“Oh, fuck.”

“My thoughts exactly. I told you this would happen.” You’re not going to die. Fuck, we are going to die. We’re lost in zombie-land. I’m lost in the park with a black guy. Oh God, fuck my life. I’m going to die.

“How long has it been and why didn’t anyone warn us?”

“I don’t know, I was busy schooling you.”

“Keep quiet! Fuck, I don’t hear anyone. Backtrack?”

“What, are you fucking crazy? That will kill us!”

“Forward then?”

“Hopeless. No matter what we do, we’re going to die.”

“So, to you, no matter what, we’re fucked.”

“Well, you’re fucked. I have a one percent chance.”

“Shush up, that’s gunfire in the distance.”

“Lovely, it’s like that old Far Side comic. Guy’s in hell. One door says damned if you do, the other says damned if you don’t.”

“I always liked the elephant in a trench coat waiting for a guy. Says elephants never forget.. or forgive. So, we should check out the gun fire?” John wielded his rifle. “I’ll take that for a yes.” John nodded. Damned if we do, damned if we don’t. Might as well do. If I’m to die, I’ll die on my terms.

They started off through the trees to the source of the chaos, walking in silent apprehension as the shots grew louder, if still distant echoes. Steve finally broke the quiet. “I was thinking about horror movies.”


“We actually have a good track record in zombie films.”

“No you don’t.”

“Yes, we do. Night of the Living Dead? 28 Days Later? That was a woman, true. Both Dawns of the Dead?”

“Dies, shot by white guys. Uncertain future. Uncertain future, for the original. Shot by white woman. Uncertain future.”

“Uncertain future?”

“Yup, if they do survive, zombie movies tend to have bleak endings for their characters. The initial safe house ends up destroyed and usually the endings leave the audience uncertain about the character’s chances of survival in the future. Only 28 Days Later had a positive ending, and that was for a black woman. Sorry, pal.”

“So, you are saying I’m either going to survive long enough to be eaten last or get shot by a white person?”

“No, I’m just saying, you should be lucky to be held in such prestige. My people-”

“Your people? White?”

“No, no, no, no. Well, yes, in a way…(not racist) genre-savvy white nerds. We have nowhere near the survivability. Plus, you might…and I say this reluctantly, but you might have a better chance of surviving than me. Backlash of your trope has led to black people not quite surviving, but a better chance. No one cares about nerds.”

“Then who will survive?”


“Yea, that’s pretty obvious. Pretty, motherly, young-”


“White.” They laughed. “You’re not so bad for a racist fucking cracker.”

“Well, I did fuck a racist once. And you’re not so bad for being an ill-omened, black, walking death trap.”

“Haven’t died yet.”

“Yet being the operative word.” John was chilled by Steve’s lack of a retort and more so by the unusual mask of horror, contemplation and grim determination set on his face. Steve’s gun was drawn and pointed directly at John. Oh, fuck, that last statement was one too much. The final straw. He‘s going to kill me. “Look, pal, you are not going to die-”

“Duck, you fool!” The gunshot rang, momentarily deafening John as a body crashed into him from behind. He flailed, throwing the now twice dead off him.

“What? Huh?” John paused for a second. “What?”

“Zombie.” Steve kicked the thing in the head. “To tell the truth, I considered letting it eat you. Just to prove the point that you could die first. But, it was only for a second. So, what do you say, we’ll get out of here together?”

Fucking A. “Well, thank you for deciding on that course of action. Yes, let’s move. Quickly. By the way, I owe you one, truly.” Hope that wins some points.

“You may have the opportunity to pay me back sooner than later.” Damn.

The two adventurers double-timed to the sound of gunfire. Breaking through the thicket, they realized what a mistake they made in trying to find the others. Between them and the next thicket stood a baker’s dozen of undead. The zombies were unaware of their presence, but headed in the same direction.

Guess he was right about the debt. Damned if we do, damned if we don‘t. “Steve, it’s been nice knowing you.”

“I thought you’d agreed that we are getting out of this alive. No more negativity.”

“You misunderstand. I’m about to do something very stupid.” Before Steve could ask what the hell he was talking about, John bonzaied out into the open. “All you fucking zombos! Ring a ding ding, baby, dinner‘s up!” He laid out a few quick shots, made sure they took notice, and booked it. Hell, this may actually work. Cowards always die. Maybe this heroic sacrifice will not actually be very sacrificial. To death, then, as pure and noble as I can fake.

Steve watched dumbfounded as John disappeared over the horizon, his one last piece of advice still reverberating through Steve’s head. Watch out for trigger happy white people. Steve wasn’t about to let John’s sacrifice go to naught. He crept from one hiding spot to the next, making a mad dash across the open field and back into tree cover. About a zombie-free mile onward, Steve saw the best sight he had seen all day: a perimeter of gunmen barricaded behind a gated basketball court. Steve set out with a friendly wave and immediately heard a loud blast. He fell to the ground as his knees gave out, but, fortunately, the pain was fading quickly.

“Got one!” Other Dave let out a celebratory cheer.

“Settle down soldier,” Hurley gave him a quick pat on the back, “but that was a hell of a shot.”

“Thank you sir. Pity, I think that was Steve Little. I’m glad I could have put him out of his misery, though.”

“That was a good thing you did, Shiner, hell of a thing to be zombified. But, don’t be too sentimental, it’ll get you killed. Sergeant Howard, Little was KIA. Add him to the list.”

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Volume 6: A Walk in the Park 2

The Host from the South
A Walk in the Park II

By J. Ian Manczur

Albert Joseph woke with a rather nasty kink in the neck. Nix that-- his whole body was sore. The result of a night spent draped over a coffee table. He groaned and swore and swore some more. He cussed with every word he could remember and a few he had forgotten until this passion took him. He cussed with modern slang. He cussed with classics. He cussed archaically. He cussed for generations to come.

He promised, too. A promise to quit drinking. A promise to avoid even a glance at alcohol. A promise to never again wake up on, in, or under any coffee tables, ottomans, hope chests, bathtubs, stairwells, or any variety of the equally uncomfortable sleeping arrangements he regularly decided upon in his many drunken stupors. He promised these on his life, his honor, his mother’s grave, to heaven above, hell below, and any other power that had ever claimed godhood. Finally, he finished as he always did: with a promise that this time, he meant it.


Outside, John, one of the night watchmen, waited anxiously for the final fifteen minutes of his shift to be over. He looked forward to some sleep, even more so than usual, for later that day his group would be crossing Beuller Park. John wanted to be as pleasantly refreshed as possible before marching to his death.

Thunder clapped loudly and the skies opened for another deluge, the fifth time since his shift began. John hoped it would stick. Heavy rains weren’t a part of the plan. Heavy rains meant reconsideration, delay, maybe even a stay of execution. Hurley would be positively livid if that happened.

John shivered under the barely-protective awning and wrapped his blanket more tightly around himself. Be it rain, sleet, snow, or hail, the night watch must bear through! Ever vigilant: that should have been their motto, or creed. He made a mental note to bring it up at the next meeting. Lightning momentarily illuminated the street and John’s heart sank at the sight. Ever damned was more like the truth. How could they hope to survive against such impossible odds? Against a countless legion? Again an enemy that, intended or not, had successfully laid siege and starved them out? Now they had to travel on the ground again. The park would be death of him and every man, woman, and child who entered it.

Perhaps not, though. Perhaps the rains would dissuade the undead. Or, even better, promote rotting or mold or —the storm suddenly lightened, leaving behind only a faint drizzle— or the rains would clear and he would die.

John glanced at his watch-- six in morning. His shift was over. On cue, AJ rushed through the sliding glass door and vomited over the side of the balcony. Retching—the sweet sound of routine. Of normalcy.

“Yo, Age.” No acknowledgement. “Good morning to you, too.”

With his head still hung over the railing, AJ flipped him the bird.

“Charming. I’m not liking the look of this weather. Think Hurley’ll cancel?”

“Not likely.” AJ wiped his mouth. “Got a smoke?”

John patted empty pockets. “Fresh out. So you don’t think--”

“Hold that thought,” AJ spun and started for indoors. “I’ll be right back.”

John winced as AJ broke the old horror rule. Survival had become his paramount interest and, as everything he had ever been taught no longer applied, he became a slave to his own unhealthy superstitions, fueled by popular culture, old wives’ tales, and paranoia.


AJ had no such imaginings. His focus was on keeping as close to the former quality of his life as possible. It was with that intention that he crept gingerly between the heaps of sleeping bodies spread out over every inch of the apartment. His ultimate goal was to reach Malcom. More specifically, Malcom’s pack, and even more specifically, Malcom’s cigarettes. It was a daunting task for any soul.

Malcom was an obscenely tall, bespectacled individual with more than a few eccentricities. The quirk most prevalent in AJ’s mind currently was of Malcom’s tendency to sleep sitting straight up in a chair, pack tucked under his feet and ever-present handgun resting in his lap. A warning to thieves. AJ briefly hesitated, heeding the warning only to just as quickly ignore it. However swift to the trigger Malcom may have usually been, his snoring was testament to his current state of sedation. Still, this was a time-sensitive operation. The longer AJ took to find the cigarettes, the more likely Malcom was to wake and do something irrevocably irrational.

AJ reached his hands under the chair, searching for the dark green, medium sized camping backpack. Aside from the main compartment, there were eight additional pouches of various shape and size. Plenty of potential storage spots. The question of which to try first came down to: What sort of smoker was Malcom? Regular, certainly, but rarely on the go. He’d probably keep the side pockets open for more vital items. The cigarettes would be accessible, but not a priority, and somewhere they wouldn’t be crushed…top front pouch.

AJ gripped the flashlight between his teeth and slowly as he thought he could manage lowered the zipper. Damn. Medical supplies. He noticed the snoring had stopped seconds before he felt cold steel pressing against his forehead.

“Chill, Malcom. It’s AJ.”

The hammer drew back.

“Cigarettes. Poker. You owe.”

The gun lifted and a murmur escaped from Malcom’s lips, “Bottom left.”

AJ snatched up a count of six and whispered back, “Thanks, buddy.”

“Fuck off.” Malcom then shifted his weight and fell back asleep. What a crazy bastard.

Next on the morning agenda was to find a light, so AJ headed for the kitchen. Claire was already awake and preparing breakfast, attended by her two inseparable young helpers. Their backs were turned to him as they focused on working. He slipped in quietly.

The kitchen required expert navigation. The linoleum was sticky and peeling. Pots and pans were scattered about. Propane fires were alight. Foodstuffs were stacked haphazardly, and other supplies and garbage littered the floor. John would have had a panic attack.

AJ went straight for the food stock, swiftly and silently obtaining two cans of Paradise Falls Peaches, in heavy syrup. He deposited them in the deep pockets of his coat. Styrofoam cups of coffee lined the formica counter, waiting to be served with the meal. AJ took a cup, sipped it, and placed it back exactly as it had been. The coffee itself was terrible. Watery, probably instant, and now, somebody else’s problem. He lowered a cigarette to one of the fires tasked with boiling water and took two puffs.

List complete, AJ began his retreat. He was proud of his accomplishments, especially that of leaving the girls none the wiser. He carefully opened the door. Almost home free…Almost.

“Albert Joseph!”

AJ whirled, hiding the still-burning cigarette behind his back. “Morning, my love.”

“Don’t you ‘my love’ me! What have I told you about smoking in my kitchen?”

Claire was just out of her teens, but already she was well established as the matron of their clan. She had recognized her own influence early on and promptly dismissed it as a natural product of her faith and unbending loyalty to Thomas, who had become both her religious advisor and surrogate father figure. AJ though, felt that the opposite was true; whatever power Thomas held was actually a result of Claire’s deference to him.

“I don’t--” AJ started his excuse before he was abruptly interrupted by Claire snatching away his cigarette.

She arched her eyebrow. “You were saying?”

He changed the subject. “Hi, girls.”

The older, probably ten or eleven, paused from her whisking. “Hello, Mr. Perry.”

The younger, not much more than a babe, clung to Claire’s dress, hiding her face in its folds.

“Alright, I’ll leave you to your thing, then,” AJ gave a quick wave and turned to go.

“Not so fast, mister.”

“Now, Claire, time is of the essence. I’ve got work to be getting to.”

“John can wait. Empty your pockets.”


“Now!” Claire rose to her full height of four feet, eleven inches and stomped her foot. End of discussion. AJ removed the two cans of peaches and placed them on the counter.

“That wasn’t so hard, was it?” She studied both the purloined peaches and his eyes, then made her decision. “You can have one.”

“But the other was for John,” he lied.

“How thoughtful! Tell him, if he wants some, he can come here himself. Otherwise you two are going to have to share. And by the way, take the coffee. Honestly, putting it back? Where are your manners? Now, get going before John has another panic attack. Girls?”

“Bye, Mr. Perry!” both chimed in unison.

AJ quickly departed the scene before Claire could remember anything else that she could berate him about.


The apartment was a little less crowded by then, as the early risers had risen early. AJ was not harassed as he crossed the rooms to properly start his shift outside. John was still in the same spot as before, lost in thought and melancholy. He let out a heavy sigh as AJ approached, and muttered, “It’s an ill omen.”

With John, life was filled with ill omens. AJ decided to humor him for the moment.

“What is?” he asked, offering John the coffee, and, upon rejection, tossing it off the balcony.

“A crow.” John let out another sigh for emphasis.

AJ could not have cared less, so instead he asked John for a light. The inquiry immediately precipitated a hostile negotiation. John demanded payment on a total of seventeen cigarettes owed through poker and loans. AJ, with skills honed by years and practice, strongly argued his frivolous points.

They reached a settlement, agreeing to an even split of what AJ had just acquired. Two for himself, two for John, and a further two for himself that John didn’t need to know about. They were both satisfied. AJ, bitter at having to part with any at all, was thankful that at least he avoided having to hear more about the crow.

Or so he thought.

“You didn’t even react to my mention of a crow.”

AJ exhaled his smoke. “It’s just a bird.”

“Just a bird?” John looked incredulously at him. “Just a bird, he says. Crows have long been symbols of death, prophets of evil, bearers of unwelcome tidings, portents of doom! Just a bird!”

“John, I’m thirty-two. I’ve seen probably thousands of crows in my time. The devil willing, I’ll see thousands more. Not one has ever prophesied evil, and most certainly none have ever portended doom.”

John sat back against the wall. “The world did end.”

He had a point.

“Alright, what happened with ol’ Nevermore?”

“That was a raven, not a crow, but it doesn’t matter right now. As soon as you left, a crow landed on the railing. Right in front of me. A big, fat, nasty one. It wouldn’t stop staring at me. I couldn’t look at it. And then I did. I gazed right in its eyes and I saw my death.”

“How did you die?” AJ had to admit that he was intrigued.

“Well, I didn’t literally see my death. It was more like…a knowledge of my destiny.”

“Oh.” Asshole. “Where’d the little soothsayer go then?”

“Flew off as soon as you came out.”

“At least there’s some good news, I’m not cursed. Sorry, buddy.” AJ patted John on the back. “Cremation, or burial?”

“How can you joke like that! We’ll be walking into hell in a few hours and a fucking crow lands right there-- Right there! And you have the gall to joke about it? Fuck you!”

“Relax. And watch your mouth. Listen to me, nothing is going to go wrong. The park’s gated. We’ll be in, they’ll be out.” AJ smiled at his own wit. “It’ll be a walk in the park.”

John didn’t seem to enjoy the play of phrase. In fact, it seemed to take him as far from mirth as AJ had ever seen. His eyes smoldered with rage and his brow furrowed with dread, making his overall countenance one of tragic somberness coupled with a grim acceptance of his perceived fell fate. John threw his cigarette to the ground and left to go to bed. AJ let him by without comment. It was better to let John’s tantrums run their own course.

John paused just before the door, “Language evolves, you know.” Always a smug bastard.

“What of it?”

“I guarantee, after today, no one will ever speak lightly of parks again.” He laughed, but there was no humor in it.

“Only time will tell.”

John disappeared inside, with nothing more to say. He had already accepted death.

Back from the Dead

After an extended break, we are proud to announce that new stories will be forthcoming, as well as a compilation of everything so far which will be collected into a single compendium, to be released in the not-too-distant future. Stay vigilant, for the dead never rest.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

LAD on Brief Hiatus

As you may have noticed, there has been a sizable gab between stories as of late. Some personal issues have recently arisen which have been slowing down production. At this point, we need to take a (hopefully) brief hiatus in order to re-engineer this project a bit. Sorry for the inconvenience and I hope you'll all keep reading when we come back! Watch Facebook for updates.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Volume 6: A Walk in the Park 1

A Walk in the Park I
by J. Ian Manczur

My dearest Felecia,

I thought I had the words to write this. They are failing me. So, I may as well fall on blunt truth. When you awake, I will be gone. You cannot come with me.

It must feel so tragic and so cruel. An unfair gesture in an unfair world. I wish I could explain to you in full, but even now as I write, I am being hurried. I guess time was always against us, perhaps we started out of time. Far from hyperbole though, I cannot muster the truth that you deserve.

There are certain expectations of me as a leader. Although, in many ways, the old rules no longer apply, I need to hold myself to their standards. I have built myself on a foundation of the old world and, with that, I have damned us.

Promising you anything was a mistake. It would cause a rift with my people that would never resolve. I do not want forgiveness, you have every right to hate me. I don’t even expect you to understand why. These are the sacrifices we must make. Perhaps, when the world grows a little saner, we will meet again. Until that time, stay safe, Felecia. I am truly sorry.

With all my heart,
Thomas Sarnowski