J.L.Drake, Marina Hume, Matías Andrés Bravo Jara,Ana Prundaru, J.H., Dale Herring, Jonny Graham, Klarissa Del Rossario, Saadia Ammad, Akash Sagar, Rob Shepherd, Rhys Curtis-Thompson, Kayleigh Edwards, Diego Tonini, Lachelle Redd, Victoria Pagac, Noel Osualdini, Glen Holman, Mathias Jansson, Kyle Flak, Ceri Matthias, Gia Berryman, Max Ferreira, Diana Alexandru, Kevin S. Hall, Art Pic, Zoja Vladisavljevic, B.S. Purwanda and Samie Sands.
Unleash the Undead Sample
Michelle by Samie Sands
Why does everything hurt? I keep grabbing hold of my leg, certain that there’s blood pouring from a wound somewhere, but I can’t remember enough to be sure.
What’s that noise? That groaning...the growling? I glance around wildly trying to locate the source of the hideous sound, but I’m dizzy...too dizzy...
I wake up collapsed in a heap on the ground. What happened to me? A face pops into my peripheral vision, is it someone I know? “Help,” I call out weakly, but my voice is too hoarse for it to be heard.
Then a flicker of memory returns. Zombies. Of course, everywhere is slowly becoming infested with zombies. Wasn’t I with people? Where are my group? I must have somehow gotten separated.
Panic sets in as I realize the person heading towards me is no longer alive. I try and force myself upright but the stress on my body is too much. I’m hurt, really injured. How did that happen? It’s damn annoying that I have no idea what led me to being here.
I shuffle backward, trying not to let that undead bastard get to me. This is seriously fucked up, who knew that I’d end up living smack bang in the middle of a horror movie? I want to laugh at the absurdity of the situation, but it’s far too tragic.
As the thing draws near enough for me to smell him, some sort of life-preserving adrenaline kicks in and I’m able to haul myself into an upright position, although I can’t muster up enough energy to run. I hobble along, grateful that zombies are so slow. If they weren’t I have to accept that I’d already be dead by now.
What I need to do is find myself somewhere to hide out until I recover enough to move at a reasonable pace, or at the very least until I have my memory back.
Think, think, think!
I finally find myself a large abandoned field, full of the remains of dead, eaten pigs so I know there must be some sort of sty around. Luckily, I’m right. Of course, it’s full of shit, but I’d rather suffer that than what’s out there.
As I sit, nestling myself in among the hay bales, I try and recall again. I have tiny flashes of memories, but every single one of them is about the infected. I know about them, what I need is something substantial, something that leads me somewhere or gives me something to do. I don’t want to be alone; I want to return to my group.
I know for a fact that I was with people, but who were they? Where are they now? I don’t know, maybe none of this matters. Maybe it’s better to assume they’re dead and concentrate on my own survival. It sure as hell doesn’t seem like they’re out looking for me.
I gasp in air, wishing I had something to eat or drink. This is a nightmare. My entire insides are starting to feel like sandpaper and it’s getting unbearable. Shouldn’t there be some sort of liquid here? This must be a farm; won’t there be a tap or something?
I sigh deeply as I realize that to survive I’m going to have to undo all my hard work and go back outside. Much as I’d love to just lay back and wait for what happens, I can’t. I’m not ready to die. If I’ve somehow managed to survive this far, there must be a reason for that. I don’t want to waste it.
As I stand this time, pain shoots up my leg and I can’t stop myself from calling out in agony. I tentatively look down at it, desperately hoping that I’m not going to see a bite. For all I haven’t remembered, I do know a zombie bite means certain death.
Images of me shuffling along, as undead as that man I saw before makes me feel physically sick. I don’t want to end up like that! I mean, I’m sure no one does but the thought actually repulses me. I clamp my teeth shut, trying to prevent the vomit from spilling out as I allow my gaze to drift down.
Unfortunately, as I finally witness what’s causing me pain, puke splatters on the ground regardless of my poor attempt. It isn’t a bite, but it’s most definitely an infected cut. The wound is almost black and the blood dripping from it has an unwelcome purple tinge.
I feel weaker the longer I look at it, but I can’t seem to drag my eyes away. I try and force my brain to think of the water that I so desperately need, but still, my focus can’t be shifted. I try to move, internally screaming at myself to ignore it, but my heart has sunk so low I know it’ll never be far from my mind.
I’m going to die.
That thought hits me so powerfully I almost keel over with shock. Much as I think deep down I didn’t expect to survive forever, since the moment I set eyes on that zombie, to see my demise so clearly spelled out in front of me in unnerving, to say the least.
I halfheartedly wonder if any of the hospitals are open, but I know that idea is ridiculous. Any medical facility that doesn’t have its doors tightly locked with be infested with this undead virus. There’s no one to save me now.
I continue on my hunt for water, even though I no longer see the point. I just feel like sitting back and waiting for the painful death that awaits me is much less productive. As I spot a farmhouse I know my solution has been found. Now it’s just a case of approaching the place cautiously. What if there are zombies in there? Is it worth the risk?
Quickly deciding that there is no alternative, I step, wincing with every movement. Sometimes the pain shoots through me so violently a small part of me wants to give up. The walls of this building are very grubby, the windows covered in dirt. Maybe no one has been here for a long time. I’m not quite sure how I feel about that.
How long has this...zombie apocalypse been going on for?!
I wander up to the window, each movement increasingly difficult and I glance through with my heart pounding violently in my throat. I don’t think I’ve ever been quite so terrified in my entire life, I’m physically shaking. For a second, I think I hear something, but I quickly convince myself that it’s in my imagination. After all, fear manifests itself in many ways.
I reach the door and tentatively lift my hand before knocking quietly on the oversized wooden door. Nothing. I give it an experimental push and am filled with an overwhelming sense of relief when it swings open with ease.
I step inside the doorway, slamming the door behind me as I do. It makes a loud banging sound, which makes me cringe, but at least I can be certain that it’ll pull all the danger out to me here, where I can escape it. I don’t think I’m strong enough to go room to room, scanning the area for any potential threats.
It isn’t long until I hear a noise. My heart rate kicks up a notch, but it’s coming from upstairs so I know that I’ll have plenty of time to make my escape if it comes to it. So, for now, I’ll just wait.
Come on, come on, come on!
The shuffling is getting louder. I nearly break my stance and leave on more than one occasion, but fear and the knowledge that my leg isn’t going to get me far, keeps me locked in one place. If it turns out to be safe here, then I need this.
The person starts to appear in my peripheral vision, and my heart starts pounding harder, painfully so. I suck in a breath and hold it there for what feels like a few moments.
Then “Hello?” A small voice calls out. I’m so shocked by how human it sounds...I wasn’t expecting that at all.
“Hello?” I say back, with just as much tension.
“Are you...?” She says again, making it clear that it’s a young girl. I squint my eyes trying to gauge her age. Eight? Nine? “Are you one of them?”
I don’t respond for a second, confused, but of course, it all comes rushing back to me. She’s wondering if I’m a zombie, she probably doesn’t know too much about them to understand that they don’t talk. I take a moment to try and picture all of this through the eyes of a child but it’s too awful to comprehend.
“No, no I’m not one of them.” Silence fills the room. “Are you by yourself?” She continues to stay quiet. “Can I come up and see you?”
“Yes.” She whispers while glancing anxiously to her right. Something feels suspicious about this, there is something wrong. I should turn and make my escape, but something about this child tugs at my heartstrings.
I walk up the stairs one by one, all the while trying to figure out what’s going on here. A million possible scenarios spin through my mind, but none of them make much sense. Has this been going on for long enough for humanity to take a nosedive? For someone to kidnap a child or something equally as awful?
I smile warmly as I reach the top, desperate for her to see that I’m not a threat, but her face stays stony. There is a lot of fear behind her eyes, but that could be linked to the nightmare that’s going on outside, there’s no real telling.
“Is this your house?” I ask, trying to break down her barrier, just a little bit.
Her lips purse into a thin line. She seems to think for a second before shaking her head violently. “No, but I do have a room here. Do you want to see it?”
“Yes please!” I say with a fake excited tone. Anything to give me some more information on this strange situation would be useful.
She takes me through a door into a princess-style little girls’ bedroom. I follow behind her as she shows me a few of the toys on offer. She seems very familiar with everything, which causes me to wonder how long she has been locked away in here.
“What have you been eating?” I ask her. If she has been surviving on her own, she must be doing something right. Much as my instinct is to protect her, maybe she doesn’t really need it!
“Look!” She announces proudly, showing me a large toy box filled with all sorts of goodies. Nothing particularly healthy, but a girl this young isn’t going to be focused on getting her 5-a-day. Especially not while she’s alone. I eye it, suddenly feeling ravenous. The girl must be able to sense my growing hunger because she quickly offers me three bags of crisps and a large chocolate bar, with a can of coke to wash it down.
I don’t know if I was a healthy eater before––my memory doesn’t extend to that, but this food is divine! I scoff it down so quickly that it isn’t long before my stomach starts to ache, making all my other injuries feel worse.
“You don’t look very well. Would you like to have a sleep?” This question feels like heaven to my ears and I quickly nod as I lie down.
“Thank you. Hey, before I nap, what’s your name?”
“Lizzie.” She replies with a smile. “What’s yours?”
My mind kicks into overdrive, trying to remember. A name calls out to me. I don’t know if it’s mine or not, but I say it anyway having nothing else to go on. “Michelle.”
“Michelle?” Michelle?!” I can hear a male and a female voice calling out for me. They are just within shouting distance, but my voice is hoarse, I can’t reply, however much I try. It’s my group, I know it is. I just can’t see them, I’m trapped somewhere, and I desperately need to alert them to my presence...
I jump up, sweat pouring down my face. That dream, it felt so real! Did that really happen? Did my group look for me but I couldn’t get their attention? I just don’t know what’s real or not anymore. I bang my head with my fist, desperate for my memories to return, but they won’t.
I look down to see an angelic looking Lizzie lay next to me in a deep slumber. I smile for a moment, taking in her youthful appearance. She has brunette shoulder-length hair which matches her hazel eyes. Her tattered dress has seen better days, but apart from that, she seems to be doing well. How has she coped by herself? Mind you...she never said there was no one else here...but I’m sure she would have done, wouldn’t she?
Suddenly I’m stunned into action as I spot blood all over my blanket––my blood.
“Shit, shit, shit...” I push the covers away to see the wound in my leg looking much, much worse. The gash seems deeper and larger. I glance wildly around the room before spotting a first aid pack.
Damn this girl is good! I can’t help but think. A little too good. Too prepared. My suspicions rise again, but I quash them while I focus on what needs to be done.
I yank out a bandage and wrap it around my leg, stopping the blood from splattering everywhere...for now at least. Then my eyes flick around the room trying to find...something. Anything to prove that my deep-rooted doubts might be right.
I don’t spot anything immediately am forced to tell myself to stop being stupid. There is no way a nine-year-old girl poses a threat to me, even in the state I’m in. It’s just the wound, the lack of memory and the strange situation making me paranoid. No, what I should be feeling is gratitude towards this young stranger who fed me, allowed me to rest and stay in her safe place. Having the liquid inside of me has made me feel a whole lot better. Maybe now is the time to consider moving.
But even the thought of leaving this cozy little room and going back out there into that nightmare fills me with an overpowering sense of dread. I’m much safer in here, indoors. Maybe it would be best for me to remain while I heal and regain my memories. Plus, I need to repay the favor and look after Lizzie in the way she has me.
“Are you ok?” Lizzie’s sweet, concerned voice interrupts my thoughts.
I turn to her and smile and nod. She looks relieved as she rushes over to her food box and gets us out some food. The thought of more junk food is already unappealing, but it isn’t like I have many options to me so I force it down, trying to be grateful.
“What do you do all day?” I ask her, wondering how on earth a young child doesn’t succumb to boredom, even with all these toys available.
A strange expression crosses her face. “Umm, well I just...I just, err, play mostly.” She stutters over her words and my senses heighten once more.
“It must be hard...being alone.” I keep my voice sounding casual.
“Well, now I have you!” She beams up at me, but I can’t turn the inkling off.
“How long have you been here?”
She goes quiet for a while. I keep my breathing steady and my expression neutral. She is only a child, I can outwit a kid if needs be. “I don’t...know.” She finally admits, a tear starting to slide down her cheek.
Despite everything, I sense that everything is still a little raw for her at the moment, so I chose not to push the issue further with her. I wouldn’t know how to cope with a child in the midst of a meltdown––I’m barely capable of caring for myself at the moment.
Instead, I chose a different tactic. “Is there a bathroom in here?”
Again, that odd look on her face. “Yeah, I’ll show you.”
“No, no.” I jump up as quickly as my injured body will let me. “I can find it. You stay here and play.”
Sensing there is no point in arguing with me, she nods but visibly recoils as if climbing back into her shell. This reconfirms that something is being hidden. I want to be proven wrong, but now I’m utterly convinced that there is a secret in this house. If I can get rid of whatever that is, maybe I can stay here. Maybe I can protect Lizzie from it too.
I creep across the landing, wincing every time a floorboard squeaks. I think back to the day before. When I had been speaking to Lizzie, she’d been looking off to one side. I consider the angle until I figure out which door she must have been looking into.
My head starts to thump as I stand in front of the room that I’m now positive contains all that’s bad about this house. I grip tightly onto the handle, willing myself to open it. But something is stopping me.
Did I always used to react in such a weedy way to danger?
I try not to get frustrated by my lack of knowledge but it’s such a hindrance. I gulp in a few deep breaths of air before doing what I need to and turning the knob.
I’m confronted with a room so dark, that it’s pitch black. I flick the light switch a few times before being forced to accept that it’s not working. My breathing quickly becomes labored as I hear a noise bursting from Lizzie’s room. This is going to be the best chance I get. I need to act now. If anyone else is here, and they become suspicious that I’m onto them, me and Lizzie will never be able to get out of here.
I think about her sweet innocent eyes. I know she wants to tell me what’s going on here––I could sense it––but she can’t. Whatever is here is scaring her and I need to put a stop to it.
I take one step. Nothing. Deep breath. Another. Creak, the floorboards reveal my location and the change in atmosphere is almost instant. I can almost hear everything inside my body working. But still nothing happens, so I step again.
Suddenly something grabs me and my breath catches in my throat. There are arms tight around me, pulling me. I’m terrified, a scream tries to rip from my chest, but before it gets the opportunity, something makes its way across my mouth, blocking my breathing completely. I struggle, but I’m weak, I stand no chance. Suddenly, I’m dizzy...too dizzy...
What’s going on?
My eyes flick open now and again over the next few days. The pain in my body seems to spread and worsen. I’m never aware enough to think or move. I have no idea where I am and no time to work it out before I black out all over again.
Everything has become nothing more than a blur. Until one day, a familiar voice works its way into my brain, giving me that much-needed reason to grasp onto it and hold on. “...but I don’t know...” Lizzie.
Her deep brown eyes work their way into my mind and that instinctive need to protect her reigns again. I beg and plead with myself to keep awake this time. I blink my eyes a few times but they hurt too much to keep them prized open. I try and move my limbs but quickly realize that they’re pinned down. Whoever has me here, doesn’t want to let me go.
Do they have Lizzie like this?
My body physically recoils as this prospect and my eyes snap open to scan the room. Despite the fact that they are aching and watering, they don’t close, not even to blink. I’m too afraid. I’m frightened of what might happen to little Lizzie. She only has me to defend her.
The room is dark, but I must have been here for a while because my vision has adjusted and I can start to make out shapes. Things are hanging from the wall...sharp things. Torture instruments? I can’t be sure. In this environment, in the zombie apocalypse, it may just be all the person has to defend themselves.
So why am I tied up? Am I being perceived as some type of threat? Why? I try to rack my brains but nothing of use is coming up. Just little flashes of a life before; of going out with my friends, of my office job, of my ex-boyfriend who I hadn’t ever gotten over...
Nothing that will help me now.
I try to turn my head around to each side, to see Lizzie, but I can’t. I start to pant with fear as I try to decide what to do next.
“Lizzie?” I finally whisper, realizing I have nothing to lose. I’m met with a horrifying silence. At least if she was here, I would be able to make sense of what is going on. While she is out of my sight, I have no idea what’s happening to her!
The door squeaks as it swings open. My pulse runs into overdrive. Fear consumes me, engulfs me and a stray tear rolls down my cheek.
Footsteps, too heavy to belong to a child. I start to breathe through my nose, to attempt to come across as calmer. It clearly doesn’t work as a masculine laugh booms out.
“No point Michelle,” He sneers my name. “I already know how afraid you are. Can’t you feel the wet patch between your legs?”
As soon as the unknown voice says this, I can and more tears follow. Soon I can’t deny that I’m crying.
“Lizzie speaks highly of you.” He says, with a teasing tone.
This instantly works and I’m riled up. “Don’t hurt Lizzie. She’s only a child!” I try to sound determined, menacing even, but I sound even more frightened than before.
He laughs again, then moves towards me. A shooting pain rapidly makes its way up my leg and I yell out in agony.
“I know how old Lizzie is.” He sounds more bemused than ever. “She’s my daughter.”
I can’t help but gasp. “No!”
“Oh yes. She lured you up here, to become my latest lab rat.” Another shooting pain, this time I clamp my lips together tightly. “You see, I can use your flesh to keep her happy, fed, while testing on your body and trying to find a cure.”
“Huh?” I can’t help but speak out in confusion; this is more messed up than ever. “But Lizzie isn’t infected?” This comes out as a question as it suddenly hits me how confused I’ve been. Maybe I have misread everything; after all, I’ve been pretty out of it.
“Not Lizzie,” He quickly dismisses me. “Erin, my eldest daughter. She got the virus pretty quickly and I’ve been working on a cure ever since. I don’t know how far off I am.”
He says this so conversationally, that he must be mental. A horrid thought hits me. “How many?” I ask warily. “How many test subjects have there been?”
“That’s neither here nor there.” He laughs. “They have been useful and that’s the main thing.” More pain. More yelling.
“Where is she?” I finally whisper.
“I’ll go and get her for you!” He says proudly, leaving the room.
“No!” I call out. I didn’t mean that.
But it’s too late. She’s already on her way; I can hear the snarling from here. The overwhelming rotten scent is trailing along the corridor with her. I wonder what Lizzie thinks about all of this? Who am I kidding, her dad is a psycho and she’s just going to do as she’s told.
A distinctly dead girl shuffles through the door. Chunks of flesh fall off her body as she moves. One thing is for sure, she has been this way for a very long time.
Her dad follows. “Come on baby, we have a new guest. Just because you’ve tasted her, doesn’t mean you know her yet!” He laughs and vomit pools around in my stomach. This is the most fucked up situation I think I could have ever found myself in! It’s worse than any nightmare.
As Erin gets closer to me, the worse she starts to look. Her skin is thick and grey, blood is coagulating right under the surface, drool is dripping from her mouth and entrails are flowing behind her. She’s revolting.
“Say hello to Michelle.” He says as if coaxing a toddler. She just turns to him and snarls. It’s then I notice the metal plate fixing her jaw in place. Who is this guy to have done that? It doesn’t bear thinking about.
He laughs loudly then turns to me. “Come on then Michelle, say hello to Erin.” I stare at him blankly. Is he serious? He moves closer, grabbing a blade as he does. He pricks the skin in my arm, causing me to bleed and riling up his undead daughter. “I said,” he spits at me. “Say hello to Erin.”
“Hello, Erin,” I mutter, now more pissed off than afraid. “What’s your name anyway?” I ask, pushing my luck more than I should for an obvious slab of meat.
“Michael.” He smiles at me, showing me his face clearly for the very first time. The most noticeable thing about him is his dark, psychotic-looking eyes. He isn’t right in the head, clearly. “Michael Denton.”
As he removes the zombie from the room, I shudder, but quickly realize my mistake. I know I had little chance of survival anyway, but now that I have seen his face and know his name, he will never let me leave. Not unless I kill him first. But how can I do that? I’m trapped, injured; he keeps slicing me up making me weaker and easier to control.
I need to act quickly.
Suddenly a shuffling grabs my attention. My eyes flick around the room, just to land on the shadow of a small girl.
“Lizzie?” I whisper desperately.
“Michelle?” The familiar voice comes back.
“Help me?” I plead. I need her to do it now before he comes back.
“I...I can’t I’m sorry.”
“Lizzie, you need to understand that what your father is doing is wrong. I know he’s your dad and you want to help him and your sister, but killing others isn’t the way. Whatever he has told you is a lie.” I need her to understand me, but I can’t go too far. I don’t want her to suspect that I’m going to kill him. She’ll never help me then, family bonds run too strongly.
She moves closer, glancing around as she does, before untying my arms. Relief floods through me as she comes to my aid. I honestly thought she’d be harder than that to convince. She must have been unhappy for a while.
I rub my aching wrists while trying to stand on my slashed legs. I turn to Lizzie, ready to plan, but as she stares back at me, her eyes have gone cold. I notice...something else.
“Mike isn’t my father.” She starts, holding her hands up so I don’t interrupt. “He has been helping me save my sister Erin. He’s been working for me.” She looks at me meaningfully as she says this last part as if she wants me to grasp something. My mind is too busy spinning in circles to work out what this is yet. “Although we aren’t there with a cure yet, Erin is being well fed which controls her to a degree, just to give us enough time to get this done.”
As she turns away, I catch a glimpse of the sweet nine-year-old girl I have come to know, but the cold, hardness quickly replaces this. “I like you, Michelle. I didn’t plan on you being an annoying one...you’re too chatty you’re going to be trouble.” When she turns back to me, she has a large knife in her hand. I shake my head, but she carries on. Shock keeps me rooted to the spot.
Blood starts to pour from my neck. Memory flashes flicker before my eyes as the wooziness hits. I see the faces of my old group. Why did we get separated? If I was still with them, I wouldn’t be about to die at the hand of a sick, twisted little girl.
My arm starts to ache with the tension of the deep cut Lizzie has just given me.
“You’re pathetic.” She sneers at me. “You could have been the cadaver to save the human race, to cure this and end the nightmare. Now you’re just another meal.”
As the blade cuts my skin again, my stomach this time, the door swings open. It’s Michael, the fake dad.
“What have you done?” He cries out. “For Christ’s sake Lizzie if you keep killing them we’ll never come up with a cure. I’m so close, I swear. It might be ages before we get another one!”
“Then go out and get one!” She screams in a menacing, but bratty, childish voice.
They continue to argue and plan between them as I drift in and out of consciousness. I want to move my body to the door, but I know I’ll never make it. I don’t want to accept defeat, but this is a war I can’t win.
The inevitable growling starts up and I mentally prepare myself for the searing pain of becoming food. I imagine having my flesh torn from my bones won’t be pleasurable...