Thursday, 3 February 2011

A zombie sample.

I'm off the booze for a bit. Nothing medical, it's just that I want to get a lot of writing done as fast as possible and I need my typing fingers sober. There are indications that the day job is firing up again and I want to get as far into this zombie story as possible before it's back to report writing.

Fear not, the whisky discussions will be back when I can slow down a bit but for now, it's no booze, just typing and full ashtrays. It gives my liver a chance to grow back before it gets its next pasting.

The zombies aren't restricted to eating humans, they'll eat anything. There is a sound biological reason for their permanent hunger which I won't divulge just yet. In among the main story are little vignettes, characters who have only a short time to tell their tales and whose tales all have much the same ending. Here's a sample, and bear in mind it's first draft. Get it finished first, fix it later. Otherwise you get stuck forever editing Chapter One and never get any further. This is (in version 1) chapter 5.


Peter Oakes had a dream. It wasn’t a big dream. It didn’t involve fast cars, women built like models, houses in the country or luxury yachts. Well, maybe one of each, except the yacht. Peter had never learned to swim and he didn’t like boats. What Peter wanted was a job with normal hours, where he could handle things that ordinary decent people would handle, things that didn’t turn people’s noses up in disgust.

So far, Peter’s dream was just that. Every day he scoured the want ads, but he had no qualifications for the jobs he liked the look of. So, every day, Peter went to work as a hospital porter. Every day he carried the waste from the kitchens. Every day he carried organs and body parts to the incinerators. Every day he steeled his stomach against sheets stained with unmentionable things. Often, but fortunately not every day, he pushed corpses on trolleys to the morgue. When he did that, he expected them to stay there.

The detective’s questions had come as a surprise this morning. Of course he was sure he had counted correctly. Five trolleys. All occupied, and no, the occupants had shown no desire to go anywhere. Peter had checked with the morgue attendant. Sure enough, two corpses had gone walkabout. Well, that wasn’t Peter’s problem. He had put them where he was supposed to put them. If they went elsewhere afterwards, then someone else could worry about it.

What Peter had to deal with now were the after-lunch leftovers. Food that might have once been described as appetising, if you were really hungry and had no real idea what food should taste and smell like, was now poured into a vile mixture in stainless steel bins. The cooks always complained that they must have made too much. Peter was of the opinion that it was not how much they made, but what they made that produced the huge bins of waste. Every patient in this hospital must lose a few pounds during their stay. Even though he wasn’t the hottest coal on the fire, and knew it, Peter had enough sense to keep his opinions to himself.

He lifted the bins onto his low trolley and wheeled them from the heat and stench of the kitchen. In six years of working at this job, Peter had never identified the overwhelming odour of the kitchen. Whatever made that smell, he had never eaten it, and he prayed he would never have to.

One thing his six years had taught him was to ignore the stares and wrinkled faces that marked the passing of his waste bins. Peter ignored them all on his way to the dumpster at the back of the building. The home of flies and cockroaches, Peter’s pets. Empty the bins, hose them out, and bring them back all sparkling fresh to be filled with the same crap this evening.

It had been a strange day. Busy. Five corpses came in by ambulance, then another from a private room. Policemen and even ambulance men came in with some kind of sickness. Barry, the morgue attendant, wasn’t looking too well either, and many nurses and a few doctors looked a bit pale. Peter hoped there wasn’t a bug going around, but he was fit and healthy and rarely caught so much as a cold. If there was a sickness in the air, it might mean overtime. More money for his savings would bring his retirement just a little closer. The last thing Peter wanted was to still be doing this job as an old man.

Peter pushed open the double doors that led to the back yard and stopped, his jaw hanging open. Someone leaned over the dumpster and rummaged in its contents. Peter recognised the police uniform in the instant before he yelled out. He pursed his lips. The hospital had been swarming with police today. This one must be looking for clues of some kind.

The policeman straightened. In his hand, the residue of breakfast oozed. Peter’s stomach, hardened by years of handling the vile and unspeakable, threatened to rebel when the policeman put his hand to his mouth and sucked in the disgusting mess.

“What are you doing?” Peter squeaked the words through trembling lips. The effect on the policeman was immediate. He dropped the mush from his hand and spun to face Peter.

Peter pushed his bins forward. “If you’re hungry, you can eat fresh crap in the canteen. You don’t have to eat this stuff. It’s full of maggots and God knows what else.”

The policeman crouched and stared at Peter. A green-suited paramedic appeared from the other side of the dumpster, behind the policeman. Peter nodded an acknowledgement.

“I was just saying to this officer—” Peter’s voice choked off when his eyes met the paramedic’s. Glazed, they stared at Peter like a broken-glass memory. He had seen that face before. He had seen those eyes before. Peter turned his attention to the policeman, who now edged closer to him. Another familiar, yet wrong face. Peter’s breath caught in his throat. These two had ridden his Final Trolley this morning. He had taken them to the morgue.

“Don’t move.” Peter backed to the door. “I mean, wait there. I’ll get someone. A doctor.” The door pressed his back. Peter reached behind himself for the handle. “You’ll be all right. I’ll get a doctor to look at you. Just wait here.” He pulled at the door.

The policeman shot forward. Peter yelped. The door flew from his hand and slammed closed. Peter looked up into the blank eyes of the paramedic for a second, before the policeman hauled him from the door. Peter struggled but both policeman and paramedic flung him to the ground and held him there. Peter tried to call for help. The paramedic rammed his elbow into Peter’s mouth, bringing the taste of blood and the texture of broken teeth. The policeman lifted Peter’s arm to his open mouth and bit into it. Peter’s scream gurgled through blood.

At the back of a small hospital, among the flies and cockroaches of the dumpster, Peter Oakes’s modest dream came to an abrupt and painful end.


Amusing Bunni said...

Wow, Leggy, that was a great excerpt! I don't think you need to change a thing. It's good to give the booze a rest if you can type exciting stuff like this out really fast.

I'm scared now, and I want to read more, you tease, you! Have a nice rest of the week. I hope snow kills zombies.

Anonymous said...

It would certainly be a good scene in a film!

Mike said...

Liked it, but one thing that struck me was the use of the word 'texture' twice close together ('the texture of broken teeth' being the second) - how about 'the crunch of broken teeth'? ;-)

I really saw the characters and locations, a great example of 'show, don't tell' :-)

David Davis said...

That was utterly repellent. I hope and predict that you will make a very large amount of money, writing like that.

Leg-iron said...

Oh, that's just an early encounter. Wait until they really get annoyed ;)

The end of this one is possibly the most callous and horrible idea I've ever had. I'm so proud...

Mike - keep spotting those glitches. It's appreciated.

Anonymous said...

What the hell is a dumpster?

SadButMadLad said...

Loved the story, I got thinking the story would go one way but you fooled me and went the other.

You should have a look at this site - you would be able to help other writers.

Leg-iron said...

Anon - this first draft was set in America. I needed the police armed because otherwise they'd have no chance at all and it would be a short story indeed.

I'm rethinking. A zombie attack were the police are not routinely armed, and neither is anyone else, could be a nice analogy for a disarmed populace facing a terrorist uprising.

Also, nobody has, to my knowledge, ever considered the effect of tazering a zombie.

Second draft will be in the UK. And someone is going to be offended.

Leg-iron said...

SadButMadLad - I'll take a look but I'm already overstretched on memberships. I'm a moderator on a writing site elsewhere.

As the saying goes - 'I go by many names'.

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