June 2012 Writing Contest Finalists
After much debate, three finalists have been selected for this month’s writing contest. It was a difficult choice, but one I had to make in the end. It was great to read all the entries and see the ideas people came up with, especially with the theme of zombies. Thanks to everyone who participated, even those who weren’t eligible. Now, the following contestant’s are the ones who are up for voting. Please do congratulate them!
Below will be a review of the contest stipulations, followed by the three finalist’s stories. At the bottom will be the instructions and poll for voting. Anyone may vote for the tale they believe is best, but you should take the time to read all three before making your decision. Remember, you may vote only once. Contestants, please note that you cannot use blogs, twitter, Facebook, or any other site to ask for votes (I watch this very closely). You are allowed to announce you are a finalist on those sites and link this page, but you should only tell people to vote for the best story, not yours specifically.
1) The theme is zombies. It can be a new epidemic or one that has been around for a while. Provide an explanation for how they came to be that is new and different. The more outlandish, the better.
2) Your main character must be human (at least in the beginning).
3) The zombies may eat humans/animals, but you must also provide an alternative source that they can feed on as well (be creative- it doesn’t have to be flesh).
4) Zombies should be terribly afraid of mirrors and run at the sight of them. The bigger the mirror is, the more frightening. Feel free to provide your own explanation as to why this is, but you are not required to do so.
5) Word count: 900-1600 Words
Stuck on You
Someone was following her. Someone or something. Grace bellycrawled quietly through the thick brush. Zeds could hear, but not well. Still, they had a good sense of smell. She’d gone out to see Larry. He had late sentry duty but wasn’t at his post. Leaving the dorm after dark was taboo, but she had to see him. Had to find out if he really cared for her. Now it seemed foolhardy, not a romantic escapade. Even with her ice axe, she was in danger. If a Zed caught her, screaming would just bring more.
She decided to forget about her mission and head back to the compound as quickly and as silently as she could. The rustling behind her got closer. “Larry,” she whispered. “Is that you?” No answer. Just rustling, like dead feet shuffling through dead leaves. Grace pulled the ice axe from its leg harness. “Larry, if that’s you, stop walking,” she said softly, trying not to let her fear show in her voice.
Christ, how stupid could I be, she asked herself. She knew better. She was a survivor…and not many made it now that the world was being taken over by the living dead. “Was it really just two years ago that we discovered eating acai berries turned humans into zeds?” Grace wondered. “We were so naïve…we thought it would add years to our life, not life to our death.” And here she was, despite all her training and all the survival skills acquired after 24 months of hell, alone and in danger. And for what? Just to meet a guy. But Larry was so cute and so sweet. They’d been making eye contact and finding reasons to bump into each other for weeks now, and just when she thought the flirtation was going to ripen into something better, that cow Ariel shows up. Blonde, martial arts expert, Israeli army trained sniper. Not to mention a body that those Victoria’s Secret models from back in the day would envy.
The crack of a twig just feet away snapped her out of her daydream. She froze, clutching the ice axe. It was her favorite weapon, but you had to let the Zed get close, real close, and then you had to have room to swing hard. Your aim had to be good, too. If you didn’t get right into the skull and open up the brain, you were lunchmeat. And no second chances. The point of the ice axe would embed itself in the skull and pulling it out required leverage. No way to do it when the Zomb was coming at you with jaws agape.
She heard a whisper of a rustle to her left. It had to be Larry, but why wasn’t he answering. Was he hurt? Worse, was he bitten and afraid to let anybody see him? A bite was a death sentence. Once the poison was in your blood, it killed you. And when it did, you didn’t stay dead. You came back. Boy howdy did you come back. A brainless eating machine with a major jones for human flesh. Forget the brain eating zombie of legend. A Zed would just as soon eat your ass as your brain. And all points in between. If you were bitten, the rule was “bullet in the ear.” No judge, jury, lawyer or plea bargain. Just that bullet.
There was a little moonlight, not much, but she could see a few feet in every direction. No Zed, no Larry, no nothing…at least not within the immediate 3 feet or so. After that, the darkness was a solid wall.
Larry was rumored to have a big crush on her too, but he was so shy. Grace realized she should have made the first move, and now with Ariel after him, maybe it was too already too late. That’s why she was out here, to confront Larry with her feelings and see where he stood, whether he wanted her or that idiot with the giant bazooms.
She could see the compound in the distance. There were lights on; people were moving within the fenced in yard. They knew she was gone and were searching the grounds. But no search party would go out in the dark and who knows if she’d be alive at sunrise. “I have to signal them,” she thought desperately. “How? How. Wait, I know, my mirror!” She pulled it out of her hip pocket. Holding it just so, she might catch the compound lights and flash them back. They had to see her…they just had to. But they didn’t. No one looked up and no one noticed the tiny flashes. It looked so easy in the movies, when the lost hero uses a sliver of broken mirror to signal the rescue plane.
She started walking again, now sure something was trailing her. She picked up her pace…and felt a stone twist under her foot. She fell hard. Before she could get up, an ice cold hand touched her and pulled her roughly to her feet. “Larry,” she said, almost crying with relief. “Christ, why didn’t you say anything, I was so scared and…” her words dried up. Larry’s eyes were the flat dead white of a Zed. She could see now that his shirt was torn to rags and his left arm missing, torn off at the shoulder. Dozens of bite marks covered his body. “Aarrgh, arrrrgh.” Sounds burbled up from between Larry’s pink lips. “Aaagh saave yoou” he said. “Dead alll rrrarrgh rround. I ssaave.” He grimaced, trying to smile through dead but still kissably pink and sensuous lips. Then he took her hand in his and guided her toward the compound.
Finally they arrived at the gates. Everyone had gone back inside. “I guess they figured I was already Zombie meat,” she realized, dialing the numbers on the combination lock securing the entrance. Larry leaned forward…she saw him coming for her. His face was just inches away, she held up her hand…the hand that still clutched her mirror. “AAAAARGH, no mirrrorrr,” Larry screamed. “Zombie ugly, caannnn’t look Arrrrgh too Uggggly.” He shielded his eyes from the hideous vision before him. Grace looked around in desperation for a weapon and saw the baseball bat. Somebody had carelessly left it outside and was she ever grateful. Larry recovered and was coming at her again.
Just as he was about to bring his mouth down on her, she pushed him away and swung. Again and again she bashed him until he collapsed at her feet. He looked up at her through the mangled remains of his face. “Larrrry love yoough, not hurt. Not bite. Ksssssshhhhh, ksssssshhhh. Lagggrrry not eat human. I telllll sssecretttt…ffffeeeed us gummmmm, wee not eat youghhhhh no moghre,” he mumbled through his ruined mouth. Then the spark of life blinked out. He was gone. Really gone. What had he been trying to say,” she wondered. “Kish? Kush? Kiss?” Was he trying to kiss her? Not bite her? Was he saying he loved her? It wasn’t possible…was it?
Gracie staggered inside the compound and bolted the door behind her. “This wasn’t a total loss,” she said to herself. “Zombies are afraid of mirrors. Whaddaya know! We can set up mirrors all over the place and we’ll be safe. Finally, really and truly safe. And they just want gum. They’d rather chew gum than chew on us. It made sense. In spite of her panic she had noticed how minty fresh Larry’s breath was, almost drowning out the smell of blood and decomposition that clung to him. But would humans believe that a zombie told her how to destroy his kind and how to prevent more attacks? It sounded so far fetched. She’d have to make them understand that Larry loved her and love was bigger than death, bigger than zombies…that love conquered all.
“I have to convince them, they must believe” Gloria thought. “They have to believe Larry loved me so much he died for me. Because this will change everything. We’ll be able to reclaim the towns and villages, even the big cities. We’ll be able to grow crops again and raise animals. Life will be good. Who would have guessed that such a simple personal grooming item and a flavorful treat recommended by nine out of ten dentists would save the world?
Quietly she climbed the stairs and went to her room. Too exhausted even to pull off her clothes, she fell into bed and dropped into a dreamless sleep. Nothing woke her again until morning. A pounding at the door made her sit bolt upright. Several survivors crowded into the room. “Grace, I’m so glad you made it back,” said Patsy, leader of the group. “We noticed you were missing last night. Our sentries reported loads of zombies all over the place and we were waiting for sunrise to go looking for you…I was just heading out when I saw your door wasn’t closed and … “ suddenly Patsy stopped speaking and pointed to Gracie’s cheek. “What the hell is that on your face, Girl?” she asked.
Gracie reached up and felt something stuck to her skin. She pulled at the pink piece of decaying flesh and it came loose with a plop. “A lip,” she sighed. Then she smiled. She had her proof that Larry really was stuck on her.
by Edwin Stark
Three A.M. and Broadway was brightly lit. Craig Conway was a cabbie who hated the midnight shift actively, but it was better to fulfill it than to face to wrath of his dispatcher, an ill-tempered midget who seemed to hold the Lou DePalma character from Taxi as the height of stylishness and good manners. The reason why Craig disliked the turn from midnight till 6. A.M. was that Broadway, in spite of all the bright lights and electronic displays praising the virtues of Adidas shoes and the like, looked as dead as a rat caught in a rattrap during the wee hours of the morning. And of course, New York was the sort of city in which anything may happen… and it usually does.
Craig put aside the copy of The National Inksmearer he had been trying to read under this artificial twilight, which looked eerie with all those shiny neon signs jumping at your eyes, but with no people moving around. The last person that had hailed him, nearly twenty minutes ago, had been a more than tipsy gentleman, who had wanted a ride to the New York library. There, Craig left him to his own devices. He looked back as he drove away, and the last he saw of the guy was that he was discussing poetry with one of the stone lions that guarded the building’s entrance steps.
So he decided to stay put in his favorite waiting spot at Broadway, and he started to read the Smearer just to pass the time. Ten minutes later, he was fed up with the absurd news of the recent zombie outbreak, which seemed to originate from the bite of a crazed Chihuahua dog in Paterson, New Jersey. Dozens of zombie sightings abounded, somehow displacing poor Elvis from the rag’s front page. Oh, typical Inksmearer baloney. To worsen the entire situation, a mist had decided it was a neat moment to rise. Great. Craig hated driving in fog. He fervently hoped that no one did hail him tonight. Ugh. Seen through the thickening haze, all those bright lights had become more ghostlike than before.
Craig was coming in and out from a light doze when he heard footsteps coming his way. Suddenly wary, he touched the comforting bulge of his shoulder holster. It goes without saying that he was quite aware of the city laws concerning handguns, but he had always been of the opinion that the risk of getting arrested for possessing a weapon inside the city limits was far better than getting killed by a junkie. You could always get out from jail; it wasn’t the same when the place in question was a six-feet deep hole in the ground.
The shuffling steps came closer, and Craig felt the familiar tug of someone grabbing the car door handle directly behind him. His cab was one of those old checkered ones, so its shock springs were shot to hell. Somehow, Craig’s cheapskate dispatcher—that DePalma’s wannabe—still managed to have the accursed thing in circulation. That guy may be proud of having such an anachronism still up and running, but Craig felt as if trapped in a 50s movie.
The back door opened and someone hopped in. Craig’s left hand went to the clipboard on his dashboard, readying up to jot down his impending client’s destination.
“Where to, Mac?” he asked, leaning the tip of his pen on the paper.
A pause. The door slammed shut.
“Where to?” he asked again, more impatiently this time.
“Ghaaan Cshentral Sh-shtation”, a creepy voice finally said at his back.
Craig felt every hair in body stand up, giving him a whole-body goosebumps treatment. He turned around slowly, leaning his right arm on the edge of the driver’s seat and knowing beforehand that this wasn’t another one of those accursed foreigners with a poor hold on the English language. His elbow bumped on the thick mesh that separated the driver from the passenger.
It was… it was…
Craig felt horrified by the vision of his passenger. It was six foot five apparition, dressed in a rotting business suit. The gray, livid skin of its face showed several spots of greenish decomposition, and in one place of the lower part of his right cheek, the flesh had rotted into blackness so far that it was crumbling away, allowing a view of its exposed teeth. Man, oh man! This thing was stinking the place to high heaven! Phew! The nose of this creature seemed to have sunken back into its features so much, that it looked more like a kid trying do a funny face at him. Everything was dead in this hellish vision, though its finely combed black mane, parted to the left, still looked healthy enough. And yet, Craig still managed to see there a large centipede crawling between the strands of hair. Only its eyes seemed terribly alive, staring back at him with an awfully jolly good humor.
“Grand Central?” Craig asked in a stammering question.
The zombie sitting right behind him made a creaking nod of assent.
Craig shrugged and started the engine. By law, he was required to provide service to any customer, no matter the race, color and creed, but he seriously doubted that the Fifteenth Amendment had made any provisions for people in undead state. He drove the cab uptown; luckily, Grand Central was only four blocks away. And a ride was a ride, anyway.
The fog was thicker on the way there and Craig could have sworn that all the lights in Broadway had been dimmed to a quarter of their usual intensity. Suddenly, he saw some headlights right in front, coming his way. Craig flashed his own lights warningly. The oncoming car did likewise. When this car passed him by, going in the opposite direction, Craig was finally able to discern that it was another cab, this one of a more modern construct. The inner domelights of this car were on, so he was also able to realize that a very curious reversal of roles was taking place inside of it, in spite of the prevailing fog. On the back seat, with his head pressed against the right back door window and his features squashed into a grimace of terror, sat a pale-looking gentleman dressed in a business suit. His hands being equally positioned against the safety glass, with such pressure that his palms had gained a pasty appearance; the fingers were splayed in a horrified pleading gesture while his mouth was distorted in silent scream for help. His chauffeur, however, was a rotting undead creature that was wearing a tattered bomber jacket and a moldy looking cabbie cap. Craig gulped noisily, as he realized that he and this infernal apparition had somehow switched passengers in a spectacular mix-up.
Though it was a short ride, Craig was half-expecting his hellish passenger to jump at him, screaming “Brrrrrainsss!” any minute now. All his senses were heightened to the max, mostly due the fact that he was driving through the atmospheric equivalent of pea soup; he nearly bumped over the curb when he turned east on the corner of Broadway and Forty-second street, almost hitting the post of a traffic light in the process. Craig’s passenger took this as if this was the most natural thing of the world, acting like he was dead (what else?) to the world. Craig constantly eyed this undead dude by means of the rearview mirror, looking for any cautionary signal of attack and in spite of the heavy mesh that separated it from him. The zombie, however, kept avoiding Craig’s gaze, as if it were frightened of the tiny mirror, somehow. What a silly notion.
Finally, he saw the familiar sight of the Grand Central Station’s front ramp. He drove under it and slowly parked his car right in front of the main lower entrance. He let out a sight of relief.
“Grand Central Station, sir,” he managed to say in a strained whisper. He spied the meter nonchalantly. It read eight dollars with fifty cents. “Eight-fifty, please.”
Craig heard a squishy sound coming from the slot that communicated the back seat with the driver. He didn’t dare to turn back.
“Ggg-kheeep dee ssschange” uttered the creature behind him. Finally, Craig heard a shuffling noise, followed by the sound of the back door being opened. Another shuffling noise and then the loud slam of the closing door.
Craig was trembling badly, but he still managed to grab the clipboard and jot down this recent fare, although his handwriting was shaky at best. He turned around, slowly, and saw that two moldy-looking five-dollar bills were sitting inside the payment tray… along with something else. Craig picked up the bills with disgust; never in his entire life he had seen two Lincolns portraits in such a sorry state. And beneath them…
A chunk of brain. It was shiny with ooze and some blood had pooled in the tray. It looked chewed on. Ugh. Well, what else would a zombie consider valuable enough to leave behind as a tip?
Craig placed the bills in the clipboard and then started the engine, thinking of the several ways he could figure out to clean up this mess without actually touching it. He could think of none and decided to leave the matter into the hands of the pygmy dispatcher. The wrath of that little tyrant seemed nothing when compared to the experience he had just gone through.
Craig shrugged the whole thing off and drove into the night.
Earth Dye Zombie
by Caterina Torres
My foot stumbled on the grass outside as I ran away from the Earth Dye Zombies. I knew I shouldn’t have split up from my friends, but none of them had blonde hair. They knew they could hide in the shadows without worrying the color of their hair would attract more of the undead. They had a better chance of survival. Me, on the other hand, happened to be a delicacy for those rotting corpses.
As I reached an empty looking the building, I fumbled with the door knob, yanking it open at the last second before slamming it shut behind me and locking the hoard outside. I could hear their fists pummel the door, trying their best to get in.
“Blondeeeee haaaaair. Wants to eat golllld.” Their moans from outside gave me chills and I searched the area for something large enough to block the entrance so they couldn’t bash their way in. To my right, I saw a filing cabinet as tall as me and pushed it along the floor until it stood in front of the door. Wiping the sweat from my brow, I walked away from the sounds of their voices until the light from the windows didn’t fully illuminate my path.
Sliding off my backpack, I searched its contents until I found my tiny pocket flashlight. Clicking it on, I was able to survey the place. I could see cobwebs in corners and overturned desks litter the main area. Large robotic fabric machines stood still, dusty from disuse. This building seemed empty of life, but just in case it weren’t, I called out.
“Hello?” My voice echoed off the walls and tall ceiling, reverberating back to me as if an old friend answered my call. “Hello?” I repeated. There was no answer; no response to dictate someone lurked in the shadows.
I found a spot on the floor by the wall and sat down to take a breather. Leaning my head back, the last few days played over and over in my head. I remembered when the fad of using Earth Dye, a new and improved hair dye that was supposed to be all-natural, swept the nation and millions tried it out. The news feed that explained how the chemicals in that hair dye were not only modifying people’s hair, but psychologically changing people’s brains, went through my head. News reporters had tried to explain how the strong chemicals in the dye permeated through the hair follicles and into the skull, somehow forcing people to seek out other humans as food.
At first, that report made us all laugh in our homes. Who would have thought hair dye was dangerous?
But no one was laughing now. Not when friends and family suddenly turned on each other, seeing the other as fresh dinner from the oven. And who would have thought those with blonde hair were their preferred meal?
The sound of a footstep drifted over to me. I froze in my thoughts, straining to listen. Several heartbeats later, nothing happened. I must have imagined it.
Getting off the floor, I went to explore a bit more. But when my bladder reminded me I needed to use the restroom, I searched for a sign to point me in the right direction. I finally found the woman’s bathroom after some minutes and went inside. That’s when I saw him – an Earth Dye Zombie!
He was standing in place at the other end of the stalls. His hair was a terrible shade of red and his hands lay limp at his sides, but when he caught sight of me, his arms reached out and he staggered forward. I twisted my body too fast in my rush to get away and slipped on the tiled floor. I heard his footsteps get closer and closer until he just stopped.
My heart beat in my chest like a drum as I stared at him, perplexed. His arms were still reaching out, but he’d stopped just short of the sinks. I watched as drool flowed out of his mouth, showcasing how hungry he was for my hair, but his eyes kept shifting from me to the mirrors. Was he afraid of them?
I slowly got up from my spot and edged forward, staying just out of his reach.
“Do you not like to see your reflection?” I asked out loud, more to myself than to him. I didn’t think his brain worked well enough to understand me.
He moaned and more drool dribbled out of his mouth. I walked over to one of the large mirrors and thought I’d test out my idea. Smashing the mirror furthest away from him, I grabbed a shard and turned it his way.
He screamed in fear and shielded his eyes. “Ugly, suuuuch ugly haaaair!” He backed away from me as I moved forward until he was up against the far wall.
“Finally, a weapon everyone can use,” I said, sliding off my backpack and grabbing my gun. Holding the shard in one hand, I aimed with my other and pulled the trigger. My bullet drilled a neat hole in his skull and his body slid to the floor in a heap.
How ironic was it that Earth Dye Zombies were repulsed by their own dye jobs, the very reason for their transformations? I filed away both my gun and the mirror shard in my backpack. Armed with renewed confidence, I left the bathroom and felt better knowing there was an easier way to save the planet.
Congratulations to the three finalists. You all did a wonderful job and I wish each of you the best of luck during voting. The poll will stay open until midnight (EDT) Sunday, July 1st. On Monday, July 2nd, I will announce the winner and runner-up. They will both receive their Amazon gift cards that day.
Once again, the contestants are welcome to announce their story being up for vote on Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc. but I require you DO NOT tell people to vote for you specifically. Ask others to simply visit and select the story they think is best. Please make this a fair contest. I really do not want to disqualify anyone.