A Short ZOMBIE Story
By Terry M. West
Copyright © 2013 Terry M. West
Published by Pleasant Storm Entertainment, Inc.
Visit the author at: http://www.terrymwest.com
Extras © 2014 Terry M. West
[+ Paperback+] edition of this story also available!
All rights reserved. No part of these stories may be reproduced in any form without permission from the publishers, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Hunger knows no friend but its feeder…
Willem Tenner is a God-fearing Dutch wheat farmer. After he and his family take in a half-dead old man that has come to their doorstep, a violent and gory nightmare that will last for an eternity begins. Basilius De Vries is an undying creature. He consumes Willem’s family and curses the wheat farmer with the bite that never heals. De onheilige honger. The eternal hunger.
Willem Tenner works at a video store and has few friends. He has lived many lives since 1679. He doesn’t know what he is. He doesn’t even know the name for it. When the hunger comes, he picks victims who have already given their lives away: Junkies, hookers, criminals. He will soon have to abandon this life and start again before people notice that he doesn’t age. Willem had thought himself the only monster on this endless, ravenous trek through time. But he was wrong.
An enemy has come for him. And the monster plans on tearing Willem’s life, body, and soul apart.
WARNING: This story contains scenes of graphic gore and violence.
Praise for Hunger:
“From the bloody, gore-strewn pen of Terry M. West… Honger is a sad, violent tale.”
Bob Milne, Beauty in Ruins
“Honger is gory and bloody… a beast of a novella.”
The Geekdom of Gore
“[Honger is] very original, horrific, and thought-provoking.”
Robin Lee’s Darkside
“Terry M. West’s novella Honger is a dark, deliriously gory and exceptionally entertaining horror read.”
DS Ullery, Beyond Where the Sky Ends
“All of the Flesh Served is a haunting soliloquy written by an experienced author with a stern voice.”-Horror Novel Reviews
“Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.”
Any record of the 45th that does not recognize him as a prophet is propaganda and a lie. False history. The truth is with the 45th. His word is absolute for it is God’s word…
Hundreds of years after the great cataclysm, the Ministry of the 45th survive in a network of scientific bunkers. The last bastion of the old holy order, the 45th are bent on rebuilding the scorched earth and eliminating God’s enemies. The Ministry wages a war against the mutant topsiders that occupy the dead states of the Soviet Union of America. Defending the 45th are the Red Guard, genetically engineered soldiers who are programmed to obey through their lifebrand. Dr. Morgan is a serviceman for Unit 468 of the Red Guard. His lifebrand being medicine, Dr. Morgan is the longest surviving field medic to serve. But Dr. Morgan is a deeply conflicted man with violent fantasies that contradict his pledge to preserve life. After escaping an abduction by the topsiders, Dr. Morgan’s faith is cracked. During a furlough in the high Chancellor’s bunker, Dr. Morgan is hailed a hero and taken off the front lines. But he soon realizes that someone has altered his lifebrand and lifted the veil that concealed the greatest deception ever perpetrated. Dr. Morgan has just become the most dangerous man in the wastelands. And when he discovers who the real enemy is, the revelation unleashes a fury strong enough to destroy what is left of the earth.
PRAISE FOR THE ZOMBIE TALE HELD OVER:
“HELD OVER is a prime example of [Terry’s] skill at reinterpreting an idea that, in my opinion, has been done to death (pun entirely intended haha), and finding a whole new life in it…”
-Heather Omen, The Horror Nation
“HELD OVER is the author’s unique take on zombie fiction that caught me by surprise…”-Dale Herring, GEEKDOM OF GORE
“HELD OVER was a great zombie story, one I’ve never read before…”-Alicia Banks, HORROR NEWS NETWORK
“You understand that you could be executed for this. Twice, even,” Randall Biddle stressed to Clint Geer, the decrepit millionaire who sat before him.
Clint sucked at the portable oxygen tank at his side. He nodded, and spoke when the mucus was cleared from his throat. “I have little regard for the risk or consequences involved, Mr. Biddle. I am dying, and I strongly disagree with the R.I.P. Act. It is a complete circumvention of nature and evolution.”
“The R.I.P. Act is a nasty piece of business,” Randall agreed, folding his hands under his chin and propping his elbows on the desk that sat between the two men. “I know I don’t want a steel spike driven through my eyeball when my first calendar expires.”
“They insist on killing the caterpillar before the butterfly is born,” Clint said, waving his hands around as he spoke. “We’ve all been implanted with that damnable flat line alerter, so the bastards can kick our door in and close our eyes before they have even really opened. It is an obscene and macabre practice and I don’t wish to have it visited upon me. So please explain to me how this all works.”
“Well, the first thing we do is neutralize the flat line alerter under your skin. Once we have taken the implant out of the equation, the rest is quite easy,” Randall said. “Then we usually assign an attendant to the client. That person sticks to you constantly.”
“Like a security person? A bodyguard?”
“Actually, we call them lifeguards. They keep a constant vigil until the time of initial closure is near. And then our clients are spirited here and their residency begins.”
Clint took some more air and then he said, “So you wish to send someone home with me?”
Randall pushed his lips up and his eyes looked at the oxygen tank. “Well, in some cases, we feel it’s best to take advantage of the first life suites we offer. In your case, with your disease so far along, I would recommend that you settle in here and wait for it.”
“A sad option, but a more prudent one, I suspect,” Clint agreed. “What’s left of me could be measured in days, I’m sure.”
“That’s just an old skin, my friend,” Randall said with an expensive smile.
“When it comes to the residents, how would you gauge the quality of their lives?” Clint asked.
“They are well taken care of,” Randall replied. “The Milburn and Stein Home for Continuance is the best second life community you will find. Indeed, as an extensive sweep of the other underground institutions has proven, we are the cleanest and largest in scope and our connections with sympathetic powers keeps us unbothered and safe. We have important people in there. You will be in good company.”
“How many of the shamblers do you care for?”
“We currently house three hundred and sixty-eight. We have the capacity for up to seven hundred.”
“How many are on your staff?”
“We have twenty-eight people, all highly-skilled and dedicated.”
Clint frowned. The tube in his nose wiggled. “It seems a deficiency in numbers to me.”
“We are looking to increase our staff, mind you. We just have to be very careful in the recruiting process. My people are quite on top of it, though. In all honesty, the residents don’t require as much attention as you would think. They prefer solitude and are easy to distract and amuse. They’re like kittens with string.”
“Have there been any incidents of violence? And could your staff handle a fierce surge from them?” Clint quizzed further. “I ask these questions because I need every assurance that my stay here will be tranquil.”
“I understand fully and I am not shy with any concern you have,” Randall said. “We have had no riots in my time here. And none of my staff has fallen or become infected. They have all signed waivers that grant them immediate stay here in case of such a development.”
“That is a fair enough arrangement, I suppose.”
“The residents have grown familiar with us. There is recognition and occasionally even what someone might consider fondness between us and them. Still in all, we maintain boundaries and protocol. We don’t get too close. I doubt them capable but were the residents to suddenly and uniformly rise up and kill us all, they still wouldn’t have the mental capacity to escape these walls. They would carry on, without our guidance. But they would carry on, which is our mission here.”
Clint absorbed the information, nodding slowly and sending more fresh oxygen to his brain. “It sounds like you have it well in hand. One more thing, though, and I can’t see it being a reason not to move on to the paper work. What do you feed them? What sort of diet do they exist on?”
Randall’s face turned serious. “Now, Mr. Geer, this is the part where we need to be realistic. We’ve tried every kind of meat. The only flesh that will nourish them is the one hanging on our bones.”
“How do you accomplish that?” Clint said. He was more fascinated than appalled. “Do you buy cadavers from medical schools?”
“I wish that was the gruesome extent of it, Mr. Geer,” Randall told him. “The meat has to be fresh. It has to be living. A great deal of your funding will go towards procuring a proper diet.”
“But how?” Clint said, utterly captivated with it.
“The authorities are our main suppliers,” Randall informed him. “Prisons are so overcrowded these days. And there is so much scum out there. It is our biggest and most important expense. Without that meat, the residents would grow vicious and unreasonable. The meals keep them calm and make them easier to shepherd. We like to see them content, Mr. Geer. It makes things run smoother all around.”
“Have you thought about orphanages as a source for the meat?” Mr. Geer suggested.
Randall paused, and very quickly pulled his facial muscles away from a look of revulsion and scorn. “No, I can’t say that we have ever entertained that possibility.”
“You should look into it,” Clint said. “Who would miss them?”
“Yes, something to certainly consider,” Randall said, shuffling around the paperwork on his desk. “So, are we ready to make your stay official?”
Randall presented a pen to Clint, but the old man still had something going on in his head. “Is there something else, Mr. Geer?”
“I like the sunset,” Clint said. “I’ve watched it every night of my life since I was a boy. I’d like to continue with that.”
“We can certainly accommodate that, Mr. Geer,” Randall said. “It will be easy enough to position you in front of a window so you can enjoy the twilight.”
Clint motioned to the paperwork. “I want it said in there. I want it part of the agreement.”
“I will make the provision in hand right now, and have it incorporated into the final contract,” Randall said, making a notation.
“I am sorry if my interview has become laborious, but I do have another request,” Clint said.
Randall finished the amendment and looked up. “This is not something you engage in rashly, Mr. Geer. I am here to spell it out, sir.”
“I want to meet one of them,” Clint said. “I want to see one with the eyes I currently have.”
“Now, that can be distressing, Mr. Geer,” Randall warned. “We aren’t as civilized or attractive in the next life.”
“I’ve seen archival footage and I vaguely remember an encounter as a child when the plague first struck,” Clint said. “It is a primitive life, and one that none of us on this side of it can speak for. But being a perpetually dumb child is a far better fate than nothingness, Mr. Biddle. I just need a preview of this existence up close.”
“And you shall have it, Mr. Geer,” Randall said, pressing the intercom on his desk. “Melinda, could you have one of the residents dressed for company and brought in here, please? Our potential resident has requested a meet and greet.”
“I’ll arrange it right away, Mr. Biddle,” a reply came through the box.
“So, shall we attend to some of the ink while we wait?” Randall asked. “We can start with your finances.”
“Yes, what is this absolute lunacy about my finances?” Clint demanded. “You take it all?”
“Yes, we do. There is absolutely no room for negotiation there. It assures that only the most elite and deserving find a home here,” Randall explained. “It is a very expensive lifestyle.”
“I have heirs,” Clint said. “What about them?”
“We make no arrangements for them,” Randall said. “In brutal terms, they are cut out, sir; of everything.”
“My wife died years ago. She was a peasant when I met her. But quite a pretty one and she knew how to make a man smile. She gave me three sons. I tried, but I could find no joy in them. They are men, now; men who act like children. They are fat, arrogant and not a single one is self-made. I don’t think they even have the fight in them for success.”
“But they are men, as you say,” Randall said. “And will they do anything productive with their inheritance, sir? Will these fat and arrogant children of yours do anything but squander?”
“Hunger might be a good thing for them,” Clint decided, rapping lightly on the armrest of his wheelchair.
“It would actually be a kindness, sir, if you don’t mind me saying. They will find character in the struggle.”
“But still, they will object to it. They’ll bring lawyers into this.”
“We have the best representation you could imagine,” Randall said, not even a little concerned. “Our attorneys will throw up road blocks and dead ends until your children exhaust themselves.”
“Very well,” Clint said. “Then I agree to the financial terms of my stay. When my sons piss on my grave over this, at least it will be an empty one.”
Randall chuckled. “Well said.”
The door opened, and an orderly walked one of the residents inside. The creature wore a choke collar and was muzzled. It was dressed in blue pajamas that were dotted with dried blood and pieces of grue. It found Clint. The dead man’s empty eyes filled with hunger and it immediately reached its gray hands in Clint’s direction. It snarled and jerked its head.
“This is Gabriel, one of our senior staff and he appears to have Mr. Robin Freethy in tow,” Randall announced.
“Robin Freethy?” Clint said, impressed. “The film producer?”
“The one and only,” Randall said, motioning to Gabriel. “Bring him closer.”
“I don’t know, sir, he is pretty worked up,” Gabriel informed them. He pulled back on the choke collar.
“Bring him here, son,” Clint insisted. “You have him handled.”
Gabriel allowed Mr. Freethy to pull closer to the old man.
“How are you, Mr. Freethy?” Clint spoke loudly, as if he were addressing a man hard of hearing. “I am a big fan of your work. Do you enjoy this place, sir?”
Mr. Freethy pulled at his collar and tried to shake free of Gabriel.
“He is quite energetic,” Clint said to Randall.
“Yes, he is,” Randall agreed. “But maybe we should take Mr. Freethy back to his room. The sight of new flesh always agitates them.”
“In a moment,” Clint said, staring back at Mr. Freethy. “Remove that muzzle on him. I wish to see the rest of his face.”
“Sir, I really don’t think that is a good idea. He is very bothered right now,” Gabriel warned.
Clint turned angrily to Randall. “I thought your staff could handle these people. Look at the trouble he is having with only one of the residents. I begin to doubt you, sir.”
“You have to understand, Mr. Geer. They are usually a lot more docile. It’s only when they encounter new people that they fuss like this. This is an extreme circumstance of their behavior,” Randall clarified.
“Show me his face or I will examine other avenues, Mr. Biddle,” Clint said firmly.
Randall sighed in resignation. “Do as he asks, Gabriel.”
Gabriel scowled and said, “Sir, I take no responsibility for this.”
“Just do as you’re told, boy!” Clint commanded, needing a snort of oxygen from the exertion.
“Unmask him, Gabriel. You won’t be held accountable,” Randall assured the man. “I promise.”
Gabriel loosened the muzzle from the back of Mr. Freethy’s head and let it fall to the ground. The dead man growled and snapped its rotted teeth toward Clint.
Clint’s face wrinkled. “Christ, the stench,” he said, waving the air in front of his face.
“Hygiene isn’t a high priority for them,” Randall said. “And any attempt at cleaning them only worsens their skin and strengthens the smell.”
“Still, you couldn’t force a mint on him?” Clint carried on, his eyes watering. “His breath is monstrous.”
Mr. Freethy was becoming harder for Gabriel to control. “Sir, I must take him away now,” the orderly said, pulling back as hard as he could on the dead man.
The bar that steered the choke collar snapped from its loop. Gabriel fell backwards, landing hard on the floor. The back of his head slammed against the door.
Mr. Freethy clambered onto Clint’s lap. It sunk its putrid teeth into the man’s shoulder and pulled back a rotted mouth filled with Clint’s meat. Clint bellowed in pain and his top dentures fell out.
Gabriel collected the muzzle and draped it over Mr. Freethy’s face. He pulled the dead man across the floor of the office and out of the room.
Clint examined the bite on his shoulder. It bled hard. “I demand you put that animal down,” Clint said, tears coming from him now. “Look what it has done to me.”
Randall came around and squatted in front of the wheelchair. “Now, Mr. Geer, that goes against every policy we have. Mr. Freethy has put his vast fortune into this place, and we are committed to his continuance.”
“Fire the orderly, then,” Clint said, angrily shoving his teeth back into his mouth. “The bastard let it go at me.”
Randall put a hand on Clint’s good shoulder. “You need to calm yourself, sir, for you are infected now, and the change will be hastened by your outrage. We have things to settle, Mr. Geer, before your care can begin.”
“What, the papers?” Clint said, grimacing from his pain. “That must be addressed later.”
“You won’t have the faculties. In two hours, you won’t even be able to sign your name. In six or so, you’ll be one of them. We have to finish the paperwork, Mr. Geer. And if you have changed your mind, I will have to turn you over to the men with the spikes,” Randall said calmly.
“Do you threaten me, boy?” Clint said, panting harder for air.
“Sir, I merely inform you of the two options we are now faced with.”
Randall brought the paperwork to Clint’s lap and pressed a pen in the man’s shaking hand. “Make your mark, sir, and let’s begin your transition.”
Clint signed the paperwork at numerous spots. Randall pulled it away and tossed it on the desk.
“Now what?” Clint asked. His face was even paler.
Randall pressed the intercom. “Melinda, send in the boys and tell them to bring a gurney and have the transition room prepped. Mr. Geer is coming in the hard way.”
“I’m on it, sir,” the reply came.
The men were there quickly. They hoisted Clint up and strapped him down on the gurney.
“Where are they taking me?” Clint asked weakly.
“First, we’ll deactivate that implant inside of you. Then, we will be taking you to a place we call the transition room,” Randall replied. “It’ll be a safe and quiet place for you to change. Now, I must tell you, Mr. Geer, this is the most painful method of adjustment. Your blood will burn for hours, sir. And you might even plead for the spike. You have been harshly initiated.”
“Just one thing, Mr. Biddle,” Clint said, grasping Randall’s arm. “Give me my sunsets, sir. Please don’t deny me.”
“Your last request in this life is granted,” Randall said, pulling himself away gently. “Now you must go, Mr. Geer. I will reintroduce myself to you tomorrow.”
The men scooped up Clint’s oxygen tank and they rolled it away with the old man. Clint’s frightened eyes strained at Randall until they men drove him from the room.
Before Randall could even take a breath, Gabriel stuck his concerned face back in the office. “Where is he? Have they taken him to transition, yet?”
Randall gave him a stern look. “Pack your belongings, sir. I’ll have you escorted to the gate.”
“What? No! You said I wouldn’t be blamed!” Gabriel protested.
Randall let out a good long laugh and pointed to his man. “Oh, your face.”
“That was cruel,” Gabriel complained, but he smiled anyway. “You really had me going.”
“Care to join me for a scotch, or are you on duty?”
“I’m always on duty,” Gabriel said, putting his rear on the chair in front of the desk. “But I’ll have one anyway.”
Randall pulled the scotch and two glasses from a cabinet. He poured the drinks and handed one off to Gabriel. “What do you think about it?”
“What do I think about what?” Gabriel said curiously. He gulped half the drink down.
“Would you continue, if you were able?”
Gabriel thought on it but not for long. “I’d take the spike. I’d take it because I believe in God and I trust in him. What about you?”
Randall hiked up his eyebrows and shrugged. “I’m not sure. I go back and forth on it everyday. I figure I have time enough to consider it. Oh, by the way, Mr. Geer has false teeth. See that they are screwed into his jaws permanently. He needs to be able to feed himself.”
“That reminds me, sir,” Gabriel said. “We are having some problems with the older clients. They are falling apart. We’ve used splints and thread on them, but they haven’t much mobility left. It might be more humane to just put them down.”
Randall walked over to his office window. He drew the blinds up and stared out through the bars. “We care for them until they are dust, Gabriel. I value you, but never suggest something like that again.”
“I forgot my place, sir. I’ll be going, then,” Gabriel said, putting the drink aside and standing. He noticed the paperwork on Randall’s desk. “Is that the Geer contract? Should I drop it off at admissions for you?”
“No, I need to double check a few things. I’ll drop it off myself.”
“Did the old man have any conditions or requests that I should communicate to admissions?”
Randall stared at the gathering darkness. The sun was setting, and a beautiful red hue colored the lower sky. The clouds above the sun were thick and orange on the bottom. Randall couldn’t recall ever appreciating such a sight before. But it would be his practice now, everyday, and he decided to be selfish with it.
“No,” Randall finally replied, his eyes still on the colors. “Mr. Geer had no requests at all.”
I love zombies, but had never written a story featuring them until I came up with the idea for HELD OVER. Michael Donner, a reviewer over at Creepercast.com, actually gave me the spark to try something when he thanked me for NOT writing a zombie book in a mention of the review he gave my collection, A PSYCHO’S MEDLEY. The stories in that collection are as far from a zombie tale as you can get.
The desire to come up with something original on the subject had sat in me for a long time. Sadly, my grandmother’s life came to an end last year. Her health had rapidly failed and hospice and care facilities became a lingering subject between me and my family until my grandmother finally passed.
Though her body had withered and given up on her, my grandmother’s mind had stayed sharp and aware of everything going on. I couldn’t decide if this was a curse or a blessing for her.
My grandmother, Kitty, was a very wise and kind person, but she had always been terrified of death. I come from a Southern family, and quite a few of my relatives are religious people. I personally am not. I have always looked at religion as a crutch. But my grandmother had always had fond ideas of the resurrection and lions and lambs lounging together and I do not begrudge her the beliefs she needed to leave this world peacefully.
Some people need to believe that some semblance of them will live on and that they will not just be devoured by history and darkness. I don’t prescribe to organized religion, but that does not mean I believe there is nowhere but oblivion for us after our last breath. I just don’t stress over the not knowing. I try to enjoy my life.
I think sometimes it would be a better thing if we all just uniformly decided that there was no next step after death and made an effort to yield all we could from the only existence we are assured.
Months after my grandmother was buried, the concept for this story came to me.
I imagined a zombie plague. But I wasn’t concerned with the origins of it or a typical tale involving survivors holed up against an undead army. I imagined people still living with the uncertainty of death and seeing the curse of this plague as more of a potential gift. What if you had the option of checking into a home that cared for you after you had turned? People, terrified to die, would be able to embrace the transition and carry on.
I am a huge George Romero fan, and I guess his penchant for addressing social issues in his zombie movie franchise rubbed off on me.
We live in a society where organizations profit on illness and death. Health care costs have driven people I know to bankruptcy. The idea of an organization taking every penny you have to care for you in what may be a rotting immortality just didn’t seem that far-fetched to me.
So, there was only one question left to ask: Would you continue?
Thanks for buying this special edition of HELD OVER. If you haven’t read my collection, WHAT PRICE GORY, I hope this preview has motivated you to give it a peek.
And, here is a piece of trivia about HELD OVER to close out this special presentation of it:
If you read the story closely, you will notice there was one word I never used in the tale.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Terry M. West is an American horror author. His best known works: What Price Gory, Car Nex, Dreg and his Night Things series. He is also the managing editor of the Halloween/horror website, Halloween Forevermore. He was a finalist for 2 International Horror Guild Awards and he was featured on the TV Guide Sci-Fi hot list for his YA graphic novel series, Confessions of a Teenage Vampire. Terry was born in Texas, lived in New York for two decades and he currently hangs his hat in California. www.terrymwest.com
Night Things: The Monster Collection
“As someone who grew up on Universal’s monsters, I was blown away by Terry West’s modern interpretation of not only Dracula and Frankenstein, but the Mummy, zombies, werewolves and more! Every page crackles with sarcastic wit, horror and action.” -Hunter Shea, The Jersey Devil
“Think ‘True Blood’ in an urban setting, add a dash of ‘The Sopranos’ and blend in a big-budget action blockbuster finale, and you have something approximating Night Things.”-Tracie McBride, Ghosts Can Bleed
“A wild ride through some wickedly dark places.”-Bram Stoker Award® winner Lucy Taylor
Imagine a world just like yours with one startling difference: every creature of legend has stepped forward from the shadow and they now exist shoulder to shoulder with humankind! New York City has become a macabre melting pot. Vampires, werewolves, zombies and ghouls are now the new immigrants and they are chasing the American dream. The Night Things have become part of the system. But many humans feel the creatures are dangerous ticking time bombs.
Night Things: The Monster Collection presents the first three Night Things/Magic Now books in one volume:
Dracula versus Frankenstein
Undead and Kicking:
Monsters and the Magic Now
Experience Terry M. West’s entertaining blend of classic horror and dark fantasy and see your favorite monsters in a remarkable new light.