Jezri's Nightmare Books

Monday, December 13, 2010

A New Kind Of Zombie

A New Kind Of Zombie

As Fran watched the snow fall, safe and warm in the confines of the house, she almost forgot about the disease that had infected her world a month ago. Sitting in the overstuffed leather seat, the apocalypse seemed ages ago and not just a few weeks. For a moment, lost in the magic of the winter wonderland outside the window, she closed her eyes, pretending everything in her life was still normal. She must have drifted off, because when she opened her eyes, it was dark outside and a snarling baby was standing in front of her. Fran threw herself backwards, tipping the chair over and rolling onto the floor, as the toddler lunged at her.
 Fran scooted backwards, her ass sliding across the floor as she backed away from the creature. His once cherub face was discolored by the plague, chunks of skin fell from his cheeks, revealing gore and maggots. His lips were drawn back in a feral snarl, saliva dripping from his gums, as he gnashed his teeth, anxious to sink them into her skin and consume her flesh.
"Oh my God, this is not happening," Fran thought. She had killed a lot of walkers to survive, many of them children, but none as young as this. Usually, children didn't survive the infection, a blessing she attributed to God's mercy, but this abomination contradicted everything she understood about the disease. She had thought that any child this young would have been consumed by the first wave of the undead creatures as the infection spread throughout the city. How this one had survived was beyond her. Of course it now also made it a problem for her. Killing a baby, even one that was trying to eat her, went against everything her conscience dictated.
As Fran struggled with her scruples, the child attempted to attack her again. As the creature threw himself towards her, Fran picked up a vase, tossing it at the crazed tot. The vase shattered against his head, shards of glass cutting the already festering flesh and raining water and long dead flowers over him. A growl from behind revealed that it wasn't just the nightmare toddler she needed to worry about. Mama was there too, and apparently more protective than a mother bear. The older creature bared her teeth at Fran as she staggered into the room, placing herself between her child and the threat to his existence.
 "So much for being mindless beasts," Fran thought, "or maybe some semblance of motherly love remained, even after infection." This didn't make any sense though. Nothing Fran had seen up to this point even suggested they were capable of rational thought, let alone the sense to protect and love. The mother's leg, broken, dragged behind her, the bone protruding from the graying skin. Fran winced, knowing that would be painful for any human. The bloodied, twisted leg was another stark reminder that this was no longer a human world.
 "What the hell," Fran thought, "I searched the house, where did these two come from?" Her backpack was across the room and Fran cursed herself for becoming careless. Normally she would have her gun within reach, but the tranquility of the snow and her longing for her old life had caused a lapse in judgment. Fran backed up, trying to put distance between her and the mother who would sooner rip her head off than let her near her child.
Sensing the window behind her, the frightened woman weighed her options. She could dive through the window, but without her coat, she would freeze and without her gun, she'd be food. Either way, the window meant death.
"Not today," Fran said, working out a plan in her mind. Grabbing the back of the chair she'd flipped herself out of, she righted the seat and, running straight at the zombie mother, pushed it towards the undead bitch. As the chair glided across the floor, Fran was thankful the hardwood wasn't carpeted. Nearing the creature, Fran let go of the chair and dove to the left of her, positioning herself closer to the backpack and further from the dangerous tot. The seat continued forward, barreling into the mother, knocking her forward, then over the back where she landed, sprawled forward, face down on the floor. Fran heard a crunch as the zombie’s nose broke, completely shattering under the impact. She lifted her head, snarling at Fran, while bugs that had been feasting on the inside of her snout, ran out.
 Fran latched onto her backpack, feeling a little better about her chances, but knowing she was far from safe. She was now next to the archway leading to the dining room, then the kitchen and back door. She grabbed her coat, ready to make a run for it, pausing as she turned as a thought occurred. If she left now, she would possibly run into more zombies. During the day, her chances of survival would be good, but at night, with visibility obstructed and the walkers strong sense of smell, she'd be outmatched. Deciding her best chance would be to stay and fight two undead rather than an unknown amount, Fran reached into her pack and pulled out her gun.
Releasing the safety, she turned, aiming at the female, then froze, shocked at what she was witnessing. Her decision to turn back and fight, took place in a matter of seconds. She'd seen the baby walker move and had figured he'd be heading towards her, fork and knife in hand. Her plan had been to shoot the elder and then the baby. Clean, well relatively, considering there would be brain splatter, and simple. Instead, what she found made no sense to her. It certainly was nothing that had ever happened before in the last month.
Hell's version of a baby, the monstrosity that had been created amongst all evil imaginings, had tottered over to his mother, trying to help her to her feet. The mother was having difficulty getting to her feet, because of the mangled leg. The baby, confused, let out what could only be described as a cry. Then, unbelievably, the female zombie picked the baby up, cradled him in her arms and began nursing him. As the child suckled at his mother's breast, she glared at Fran, her lips curled into a snarl. Fran had the feeling the only thing that was keeping her from lunging for her throat was the need to comfort her child.
 Fran was so stunned by what was happening she didn't realize anyone else had entered the room until the mother's head exploded, as a bullet struck her from behind. Fran jumped, nearly firing her gun and shooting the man who stood there, his own gun now aimed at her. Screaming in rage, the infant leaped across the room at the stranger. He moved his gun a fraction of an inch and shot the tiny zombie out of the air.
Fran tried to speak, but she was still shocked by what had just happened.  A few strangled sounds escaped her throat, before she collapsed on the floor.
“You’re welcome,” the man said, chuckling as he reached to help her stand.
Fran just looked at him, speechless.
“I know,” he said, “It was a bit of a shock the first time I ran across one too.  You’d better get used to it, there’s more to come and I think they’re a bit smarter than their parents.”
“There’s more?”  The words all but exploded out of Fran’s mouth.  “How?  Their dead! Or at least…not alive.  How can they reproduce?”
“Think about it,” he said, “what happens to the babies of the pregnant women that have been infected?”  At her silence, he continued. “After the first outbreak, most of the infants died.  Many were miscarriages, some were premature births.  The ones that were born alive were, in general, eaten by their mothers and if not their mother, then another zombie that stumbled across them.”
“So how did this one, and the others you have seen, survive?”
After some pregnant women were infected, the baby continued to live inside, growing, feeding off of her and mutating.   And for the mother, well the instinct to feed is not as strong as the instinct to protect their child. The first one I ran across, the baby was younger than this one.  The mother was actually feeding it parts of a human brain.”
Fran felt as though she were going to be sick. “But this one looked like it was at least a year.  He was walking.”
“I think it’s a part of the mutation.  They mature rather quickly, and as I said, they appear to be smarter than their parent.  As they get older, they become more cunning.  Their brains are capable of rationalizing a situation and developing a plan.  They can think, which means, we are in trouble.”

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