Y’all know how much I love my found footage movies. And you also know there is sometimes a huge difference between what a writer writes and what actually ends up in the final copy of the book. Today, I have a little twist. Found Footage is a new feature that I’m implementing which showcases scenes that I wrote, that didn’t make it into the final copy, or may not have even made it to the draft I sent to my editor.
Today’s found footage hails to you from Loving Among the Dead, my first “love during a zombie apocalypse” story. If you’ve read the book, you’ll know where it fits. If you haven’t, I promise, it’s not a spoiler. Without out further ado, let’s roll tape!
Anywhere but Here
For the fifth time, he touched the butt of the gun shoved into the holster at the small of his back. Having it there made for easier carrying and the barrel didn’t poke at his hip every time he took a step. While it was a little difficult to draw, most of the things he was shooting at didn’t move very quickly anyhow.
Mosquitoes buzzed around his head. He swatted at them and then swiped at the perspiration that ran down the back of his neck. It wasn’t the heat that was driving him crazy, it was the humidity.
The two woman stood beside Jude, while the gravely injured man leaned against the wrecked car and wheezed. He didn’t really like the desperate looks of the women, but Jude could handle herself.
“Take them inside.” He gestured at the women.
One of them spoke. “Our names are—”
“Shut up.” He had no patience with niceties, knowing what he had to do. He put his hand on Jude’s shoulder and squeezed. He hadn’t known her long, but with things how they were, quickly getting in tune with new companions was a matter of life and death. As he watched, her expression run the gamut of fear, uncertainty and finally settled on brave determination. “Go inside.”
She nodded. “All right.” Her curls bobbed with the movement of her head. “Be careful.”
“Always,” he said and winked at her. Though his own guts churned with fear, he wasn’t going to let on. “I’ll be back soon.” With his arm under the man’s shoulders, Brian, he said his name was, he began to walk.
Only a few crickets sent out a chirp or two in the silence. Jude told him she was the only one left in the neighborhood, at least the only one alive. The rest of them were either dead, or neither: reanimated corpses that existed only to feed on human flesh.
And the man he was walking with, had been bitten.
As far as he knew, no cure existed. The only way to stop a bitten human from turning into a zombie was to kill them before they changed.
“……been married long?”
“What?” Sky brought his attention back to the man. “Didn’t hear you.”
“I said have you and your wife been married long?”
Sky considered the question. Truth was, he’d only known Jude for little over six weeks, not much more. But Brian wanted to talk. He wanted to hear a story before Sky shot him in the head and left him in someone’s backyard.
Sky quickly turned his mind away from the thought and scrambled for something to say. “We’ve been married for about six years,” he said. The lie rolled easily off his tongue. “We met at one of those speed dating things and we just clicked. We didn’t even bother going through with the rest of the dates.”
Brian laughed, then coughed up some blood, which he spat in the street. “Left everyone else hanging, huh?”
“Yeah. We were banned from attending any more events, so it’s good we got married a couple of weeks later.” He swallowed. They had reached a good enough distance from Jude’s house where the gunshot wouldn’t be heard. He stopped and knelt to tie his boot.
The message was not lost on Brian. He pointed. “Let’s go sit on the porch. Never seen a porch like that up in my area.”
The porch was a large, wraparound structure that was obviously an add-on since no other house on the street had one as extensive. Both men climbed the steps.
Brian settled on the top one and grinned, showing teeth stained with blood. “Couple weeks? You move fast.” He laughed a little, then coughed.
Sky walked the length of the porch and peered around the corner. There was even more room there, enough for five or more people to gather. He blinked back the sudden sting in his eyes. Right now, he missed his mother the most.
“Yeah,” he said, coming back to the front door and lifting the mailbox lid. A few yellowed envelopes lingered in the box. He let the lid drop. He would have preferred a magazine or even a catalog. Anything new to read.
Brian coughed, an extended string of strangled, hacking noises that set Sky’s teeth on edge. Not only did the man sound like he was coughing up a lung, but a liver and a spleen too.
“Yeah,” he repeated a little louder. “She’s real…. shy. Didn’t want to go to bed with me until we got married. It was funny because I’m the one who’s Catholic.” As soon as the words were out of his mouth, he wondered why he’d said them in the first place. The last time he’d gone to Mass in New Jersey was so long ago he couldn’t remember.
Brian wheezed and nodded. “What’s her name?”
“Judith. But she likes Jude. Never Judy. I learned that the hard way.” Sky pulled the gun from the holster and held it at his side, the barrel pointing downward. “I called her Judy once and I was sleeping on the couch for a week.” He paused.
The lies flowed so easily he was beginning to believe them himself. He and Jude, meeting at some speed dating event in the conference room of a hotel in an office park. So taken with each other that they left the event, not needing to look any further. Chaste until marriage and the biggest fight they’d had was over a nickname.
God damn. If only it were true.
“She seems like a feisty one.” Brian was saying now. He paused. “I’m not one for praying, Sky, if that’s what you’re waiting for. I’ve made my peace. You all thinking of having kids?”
“Maybe one day.” Sky raised the gun and was surprised to see how steady the barrel was. Hail Mary, full of grace. If Brian wasn’t going to say a prayer, then it was up to him. “She wants two. I want three.”
“Well, unless you’ve got great powers of persuasion, looks like you’ll have two.”
Our Lord is with Thee. “Guess so.” He released the safety. “She might change her mind.” He curled his finger against the trigger. “You never know.” Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
“No. You don’t.” And in a quieter voice he said, “Good luck, son.”
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Sky squeezed the trigger and shot him in the back of the head from two feet away. The report made his ears ring and the recoil stung his hand and wrist. The toes of his boots had the spray of blood droplets. Amen.
After ensuring the safety was back on, Sky shoved the gun back into its holster and rubbed both hands down his face. His hand smelled burnt. His throat was tight, and he swiped angrily at his eyes.
“I’m sorry.” He whispered to the buzzing of the cicadas, who had emerged to sing their night song. “I’m so sorry.” Out of long ago habit, he crossed himself, something he hadn’t since high school, and then, only in Mass under the watchful eye of his mother.
He looked down at Brian’s motionless body. The force of the shot had propelled him off the top step to lie face down on the concrete path. His arm extended at a right angle from his body, crushing a plant with pink heart-shaped flowers. Bleeding heart, his mother called them. He made a harsh sound, something between a laugh and a sob. The plant wasn’t the only thing bleeding around here.
Sky descended the wooden stairs and stood next to the body. Wincing in disgust at the pool of blood speckled with flecks of brain matter, he shot him in the head again, just to be sure. As much as it hurt him to do so, he wanted to be thorough.
He sniffed and blamed it on his allergies. The symptoms were all there. Sniffling, watery eyes. Summer was the worst time for him. Seemed like anytime from here on in was going to be the worst times for him.
As he walked away, he wished he were taking a physics test, having a root canal, or supervising a Saturday detention with the worst kids in the high school. He’d even take the ones with ankle bracelets fresh from juvie.
Anywhere but here.
Find my story “Loving Among the Dead” in the Zombie Apocalypse Box Set here: