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Author Archives: Jade M. Phillips
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Why Flashbacks Ruin Fiction
Flashbacks taking over? Check out why Kristen Lamb says they’re a no no!
Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Sally Jean
We have been discussing Deep POV, and yesterday I mentioned hating flashbacks with the power of a thousand suns and promised to explain why next post.
Yay! Here we are.
So you want to be a writer. Okay. I’ll be blunt because that’s my superpower. Check your conscience at the
door keyboard. Writers are not civilized humans. In fact, we are the opposite. We are the reptilian brain to the power of a million. We probe and prod and poke the weak places.
Great storytellers are nothing short of sadists. We take a perfectly empathetic/likable person, toss their life in a Vita-Mix and blend, churning that mixture from Level 1-1000.
That is called conflict.
Stories are about people with problems to be solved. Everything else is a travel brochure.
One of the reasons I LOVE teaching craft is I get…
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How to Manage Scenes in a Novel—Structure Part 8
As a fiction author, you will often feel like an acrobat spinning plates while standing on your head and juggling fiery chainsaws. There are so many components to keep track of, lest you end up down the Bunny Trail of No Return. Organization is key when it comes to being a successful novelist.
Before we continue, if you want better odds of winning my 20 page critique at the end of the month, I am running a separately drawn contest over on my Dojo Diva blog where I am talking about why everyone (but especially females) needs at least some basic self-defense training. Comments count for one entry. Comments with a hyperlink count for two. And you get to learn about beating up bad people.
We have spent the past few weeks studying the fundamentals of what makes up a novel, and today we are going to discuss the…
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Persistence Prevails When All Else Fails—Being an Outlaster
Amazingly inspirational post by Kristen Lamb. Applies to anyone, but great for authors.
Monday we talked about The DIP, so it seemed like a good idea to talk about being an OUTLASTER. I had years of honing this skill. Some of you may not know, but I dropped out of high school twice.
***Note: I am the reason for the current Texas truancy laws 😀 .
Returning to high school and graduating at 19 was seriously humbling. My GPA was so low, my classes (very literally) were one step above Special Ed. When I took my SAT, the scores were so bad, I thought they might check me for a pulse.
Really glad they gave me some points for spelling my name correctly, LOL.
After a year and a half of junior college I won an Air Force scholarship to TCU to become a doctor. Six months in, the school didn’t close when we had a bad ice storm and I slipped…
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Against All Odds—What’s Our REAL Chance of Becoming a Successful Author?
This is one of the most helpful and information packed blogs for authors EVER. Check out Kristen Lamb’s post on the real chance of becoming a successful author!
Image and quote courtesy of SEAL of Honor on Facebook.
Many of you were here for last week’s discussion regarding What Makes a Real Writer? When we decide to become professional writers, we have a lot of work ahead of us and sadly, most will not make the cut.
I know it’s a grossly inaccurate movie, but I love G.I. Jane. I recall a scene during Hell Week (the first evolution of S.E.A.L. training) where Master Chief has everyone doing butterfly kicks in the rain. He yells at the recruits to look to their left and look to their right, that statistically, those people will quit.
Who will be the first to ring that bell? Who will be the first to quit?
Image via http://www.freerepublic.com
Years ago, one of my mentors mentioned The 5% Rule. What’s The 5% Rule? So happy you asked. Statistically, only 5% of the population is…
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Enter the 1st Annual Vampire Maman Love Letter Contest
What a fun contest a friend of mine is having! Juliette Kings (aka Vampire Maman) is having her first annual love letter contest! Perfect for Valentine’s day! I couldn’t help but reblog this. Read through Juliette’s post to see all the awesome prizes and how to enter by writing your very own love letter!
Vampire Maman 1st Annual Love Letter Contest
When the weather gets chilly we think of romance. February is just around the corner. Be bundle up on couches and cuddle more under the sheets. We look at the clear winter sky and think of loves of long ago. And we think “cold hands, warm heart.”
Anyway, I’m having a love letter contest.
Create a love letter. It can be written. It can be drawn. It can be a photograph. It can be a video. It can be whatever you want as long as you consider it a love letter and can post it on your blog.
All love letters must contain these three words:
It does not have to be about Vampires. You can write it about your own passion, your love, your longing, or long lost dreams or future entanglements or astronauts or bulldogs or ice…
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A Halloween Short Story. ‘Sunsets and Ginger Ale’ by Jade M. Phillips
Sunsets and Ginger Ale
“What do you miss most about life, June?”
I turned to look at Harold, his face an exact replica of how I’d always remembered him: kind, loyal, trusting. I played with the hem of my dress in thought.
“I’m not sure. That was so long ago. I hardly remember what it was like to be alive. But I guess I’d have to say the sunsets.”
“I remember sitting on the veranda and watching the sun sink below the mountains. How the clouds would turn into soft vermillion and rose-petal pink and the air would become still. I miss the calm and the purity of that moment. I guess I’d have to say sunsets is what I miss most about life.”
I turned again to my husband. He was perched on his favorite stuffed chair in our living room staring out into the darkness. His wrinkled hand laid lax on the arm rest.
“Why is it that we cannot see the sun anymore Harold? Like we only exist in perpetual darkness? It is as if we just cease to exist during the daylight hours. I find myself sitting in this same spot as though I’d always been here. But I know that cannot be. I know that day turns to night and night to day. Why do you think that is Harold?”
“I don’t know June. Probably because we are dead.”
“Mmm,” I mused.
I tried my hardest to think of how it used to be. I knew that there was more than the omnipresent blackness. I knew that we used to have a life, children, and friends. I knew that I used to cook and clean and do other common household duties. But the harder I strained to recall those details, the harder it was to remember. I sighed and looked to my love. “You?”
“What?” Harold asked.
“What do you miss about life?”
“Ginger ale,” he answered without hesitation.
I snorted. “Ginger ale?”
“Yes,” he replied. “I miss the first sip of a cold Ginger ale over ice. The way the bubbles would tingle my tongue and the fizz would make my eyes water.”
“Yes. That was lovely,” I agreed. “I miss that too.”
“Yes, my love.”
“Would you mind turning on the light? I get so sick of the darkness sometimes.”
Harold weighed my request and stretched his neck. “You know I cannot always do it. But I can try.”
“Please?” I asked.
I watched Harold’s face. I could tell he was concentrating very hard, his eyes burning straight into the brass lamp that sat on the side table. The light flickered but did not fully turn on. Harold dropped his head.
“I’m too tired tonight honey,” he said as he glanced my way. I knew he could see the disappointment in my face.
“Why don’t you give it a try, June?”
I flinched. Wow. I’d never thought of that. I just always assumed that I could not turn it on. I wondered why that was.
“Okay,” I agreed. “But… how?”
Harold crossed one leg over the other and adjusted himself in the seat next to mine. “I suppose it has something to do with energy,” he replied. “Just try to direct yourself into the light. Focus all of your thoughts, memories, everything straight into the lamp. That’s what I do.”
I leaned forward a bit and locked my eyes on the lamp. I took everything that was in my mind and imagined all of my thoughts, dreams and memories combining into a white ball. It took all I had to keep them there together. I strained to focus, my body tense. Once I felt confident enough I gave one, hard, mental shove and sent that ball to the lamp. To my wonderment the light flickered on and stayed that way.
“Righto!” Harold exclaimed. “Great job! See. I knew you could do it my June bug.”
I giggled with excitement and gazed around the room, enjoying my accomplishment.
“Harold?” I asked, my nose wrinkled in confusion.
“Yes, my love.”
“Where did my mother’s chaise lounge go? I don’t see it anywhere.”
He shrugged his shoulders.
“And that piano? It has moved places. It used to be against that wall over there.” I pointed across the room.
I could feel myself getting upset. I loved that chaise longue. My mother would turn in her grave if she knew it had gone missing. And the piano. It looked much better where it had originally been.
“Probably the living,” Harold guessed.
I leaned back in my chair and rested my head against the back. “I suppose.”
Harold and I froze at the deep male voice that echoed down the hall.
“That darned lamp has turned itself on again.”
A tall man entered the room in a long grey robe. Harold and I exchanged glances as the man leaned over and clicked off the light.
“We’ve got to get rid of that thing,” he mumbled as he exited the room, leaving us in pitch black again.
Harold leaned over his chair and grabbed my hand, sensing my sadness.
“It’s okay. You can try again tomorrow night.”
“I suppose,” I sighed. “I suppose.”
“What do you miss most about living, June?”
Harold was sitting in his same favorite chair that he always sat. His eyes wide in thought.
“Gosh, I’m not sure, Harold. That was so long ago, I hardly remember a thing. But I guess I’d have to say sunsets. I miss the way the sky would turn to different shades of orange and golden yellow. The way the pastel clouds would dust the tops of the mountains. That’s what I miss most.”
Harold humphed in agreement.
“Harold, why is it that we cannot see those sunsets anymore? Why have we been in darkness for so long?”
“Probably because we are dead my June bug.”
“Yes,” I nodded. “I guess that would be it.”
I tried to recall anything other than the darkness and Harold and sunsets, but it was like a long forgotten memory that I could not grasp. I sighed and let it go.
“What do you miss most about being alive, Harold?”
“Ginger ale,” he replied.
“Yes. I miss how the bubbles burn my tongue with the first sip and the fizz that goes down my throat. Delicious.”
“Yes. Ginger ale was nice,” I agreed.
“Could you open the window? It gets so stuffy in here sometimes.”
Harold adjusted himself in his seat and uncrossed his legs. “I can try. But you know it does not always work.”
“Thank you, darling.”
I watched Harold concentrate his eyes across the room to the window. His face was strained and focused. The wooden window panes creaked but it did not budge. Harold collapsed against the back of his chair. “I’m sorry June. I’m too tired tonight. Why don’t you give it a try?”
“Really?” I looked at Harold in surprise. I’d never thought of doing it myself. I guess I’d always just assumed that I wouldn’t be able to. “But… how?” I queried.
Harold shrugged. “I just focus myself, everything that is in my mind and soul and I direct it at the window.”
“Okay…” I wriggled my toes and leaned forward, directing my eyes to the window. I pulled every thought and memory from my mind, all of my emotions and dreams and pushed them together. I mentally shoved them towards the window, hard. To my astonishment, the panes creaked and the glass slid open just a few inches.
“Good one, June! I knew you could do it!” Harold smiled.
I leaned back, pleased, and watched the curtains ruffle in the breeze coming through the now opened window.
I sighed. “That’s better.”
“Yes,” Harold agreed. “Very nice.”
Harold and I froze at the male voice that rang down the hall. “Did you open the window?”
“No!” A female voice replied from what sounded to be upstairs.
A tall man in a robe trudged through the room and closed the window. “If I wasn’t mistaken, I’d think we weren’t alone in this house,” he muttered and then left the room in haste.
I huffed my annoyance, but Harold reached over and squeezed my hand.
“It’s okay, my love,” he soothed. “We’ll try again tomorrow night.”
“Yes,” I agreed. “We will.”
“What do you miss most about life?” I asked my lovely husband.
“Ginger ale,” he replied without missing a beat.
“Ginger ale?” I asked.
Harold was staring out into space, a concerned look upon his face.
“What is it Harold? Are you alright?”
“Yes, my love. It’s just… I heard the living talking the other night.”
“Yes. They want us to leave.”
“Now why would they want to do that?” I scoffed. “This is our house!”
“Probably because we are dead.”
“Oh yes. I must’ve forgotten.”
“They said they will be sending in a priest.”
“To exorcise us.”
“Now what in the world does that mean?”
“From my understanding it means that the priest will set us free.”
“Oh,” I mused. “But where will we go Harold? This is our home. The only place I’ve ever known.”
Harold sighed and shook his head. “I don’t know, June. I don’t know.”
“What will they do with all of our things? Our furniture?”
“I’m not sure.”
“Don’t you think we should’ve been acknowledged in this decision? They can’t just kick us out. Why wouldn’t they ask us first?”
“Probably because we are dead,” Harold replied dryly.
“Yes. I suppose.”
“When do you think it will happen?”
Harold shrugged again.
Just then the tall man entered the room and Harold and I froze. But he was not wearing his grey robe as usual. He was dressed in a sweater and slacks. A man in a black robe followed closely behind him.
“The priest,” I whispered in horror. Harold nodded.
“This is the room,” the tall man said, gesturing around to all four walls.
“Yes, I can sense it,” the priest said. “Now if you and the misses will please leave me with the house, I will make sure everything is right before the time you get back.”
“Thank you.” The tall man left.
“Harold, what is going on?”
“I believe this would be our exorcism,” Harold said.
The priest opened a fat book that he had been holding in his hand. The bible, I assumed.
He withdrew a folded piece of paper, cleared his throat, and began speaking.
“In the name of Jesus Christ by His blood, I declare His dominion over all base entities. I humbly request that you appoint sacred angels to keep me from any tactics of the adversary created to oppose this petition for release.”
At the priest’s words, I began to feel numb, my transparent body tingling and buzzing.
“Harold,” I rasped. “I don’t like this.”
I watched the holy man pace the floor. He now held a small vial and sprinkled the wet contents about the room.
I looked to my love for reassurance. The place where my heart would’ve been thumped wildly with panic. “Harold. Where will we go? Will we be together always? I don’t know what I would do without you.”
But Harold could not reply before the priest began again.
“I ask you to order all those demons and diabolical angels appointed in opposition to me to vacate the premise.”
“But Harold. We are not demons, nor diabolical.”
Harold locked eyes with mine.
“No June. No we are not.”
I studied my husband’s kind face. He looked tired. So very tired. But he smiled at me reassuringly. Just like Harold. He was always calm and soothing in the face of the unknown.
I gasped as the priest raised his voice to a higher pitch, his words ringing out through the room loudly. “Dear God, I request that you erect a prohibition to all loitering spirits to end their duties and be banished.”
I looked down at my hand on the arm rest of my chair. And where it used to be pure white, I could see the quilting of the chair through it. I was fading. And Harold was fading.
“Harold. I cannot lose you,” I moaned, feeling my words drawl more slowly than usual from my mouth.
The priest was preaching and flinging his hands up in the air excitedly. It made me all the more nervous.
“Harold. Hold my hand. Please. I’m scared.”
Harold reached over and grasped my hand in his cold one. It was not like holding hands with the living, but more of a dim sensation, an unseen connection between the two of us. We sat there, holding each other, watching the priest pace and shout as though being at a movie theatre unable to control the actors on the film. I whimpered helplessly.
“I’m here, my love,” Harold cooed. “It’s going to be alright.”
My mind became foggy and I could hardly remember my own name as the priest continued his ritual.
“Jesus Christ, I beg you to banish them where they cannot vex me. I submit to all of the plans you have in this spiritual warfare I am surrounded by.”
“Harold!” I cried out. I could feel my husband fading from my side, my heart breaking to pieces and floating away with him. If I had been alive enough to form tears, they would’ve been pouring down my face.
Harold’s voice echoed out from far away. It was as if he was at the end of a long dark tunnel. “It’s alright June bug. I love you. Always.”
“Through Jesus Christ I pray, who was crucified for us so that we may have an opportunity to live. Amen.”
Darkness again. Always darkness.
I closed my eyes and was blinded by the bright lights behind my lids. My body felt soft and light and calm. Nonexistent. I was floating. I drifted into the pastel clouds dusting the mountain. I became golden yellow and rose-petal pink. I became vermillion. I became the sunset.
And I supposed, just for a moment, that Harold was out there somewhere sipping happily at his cold, fizzy Ginger ale, the bubbles tickling his tongue.
The Seven Deadly Sins of Prologues
I loved this post on prologues done by Kristin over at warrior writers. So here I am reblogging it for your enjoyment. 🙂
Image via Flikr Creative Commons, via Mikko Luntiala
To prologue or not to prologue? That is the question. The problem with the prologue is it has kind of gotten a bad rap over the years, especially with agents. They generally hate them. Why? In my opinion, it is because far too many writers don’t use prologues properly and that, in itself, has created its own problem.
Because of the steady misuse of prologues, most readers skip them. Thus, the question of whether or not the prologue is even considered the beginning of your novel can become a gray area if the reader just thumbs pages until she sees Chapter One.
So without further ado…
The 7 Deadly Sins of Prologues
Sin #1 If your prologue is really just a vehicle for massive information dump…
This is one of the reasons I recommend writing detailed backgrounds of all main characters before…
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A Zombie sneak peek? Oh my!!!
Hello world! It has been WAY too frickin long since I’ve posted and I apologize for my lack of doing so, but it has been a crazy year! I hope everyone is faring well and enjoying their summer. Anyway, I thought while I am busy working on some fun new stuff for you guys to read, I might post a little tid-bit here; a sampler of sorts. Now, this is VIP stuff y’all, I tell you, because the short story I am revealing has not even been published yet! But it will be soon in the very much anticipated post-apocalyptic anthology called ‘Goin’ Extinct’ by the writers of WPaD (Writers, Poets, and Deviants.) Here is our Amazon author page so you can check out all of the other books (proceeds are donated to MS research, a very near and dear cause to me and my family.)
So without further ado, I give you a short story by none other than Jade M. Phillips herself (that would be me…clearly), and it is called Zoila’s Zombie. Mind you, this story is so new and so fresh that this version I am posting had not even been fully edited yet, so please be kind with the comma jokes. Ok. Here goes Nothin…
by Jade M Phillips
“Hurry Up!” Zoila said, tugging on the chain to urge the zombie along. “The Morgue closes at sundown.” It stared at her blankly with blood-shot eyes. The Zombie’s face was decaying and a small section of its skin was hanging from its cheek showing the inside of its mouth and a very bad set of rotting teeth.
“Oh, don’t look at me like that! You want to eat, don’t you?”
The zombie moaned in response and began dragging its feet slowly across the dirt, stirring up dust. Zoila and the Zombie headed towards the morgue.
The mortician had been a good friend of Zoila’s parents before they died—before “The Turn”—and would kindly save dead bodies for Zoila’s Zombie to eat. “The Turn,” was what everyone called it, but in all actuality it was a devastating epidemic where an unknown—and very contagious virus—spread like wildfire across North and South America turning anyone infected into a Zombie within minutes. Zoila was one of the lucky few who had survived without contamination.
Arriving at the old brick morgue, Zoila kicked the wooden doors twice making them rattle on their hinges, her hands gripping tightly to the Zombie’s chain. There was a rusty, overhead sign that squeaked as it swayed it the hot breeze. It said: Why Morgue.
“You could say that again,” Zoila snarked as she read the sign.
“Why” was the unfortunate, and yet very fortunate, little town Zoila had grown up in. And it was quite ironic that Why, Arizona: population 116—which was now more like 16—was the only known civilization west of the Mississippi to survive the outbreak. Maybe it was because of the town’s desolation, or maybe it was for the fact that no one really ever knew that Why existed, but the town had survived regardless. Zoila wasn’t sure about the other half of the country, or any other country for that matter, because all communication had been lost.
Zoila’s zombie snarled in response to what sounded like a combination of twenty or so locks and dead bolts being unhinged and unlatched. The doors swung open.
“Zoila!” the big man chuckled.
“Hello Buddy.” Zoila smiled at her old friend. “You got anything for us today?”
The man placed his hands on his hips. “Well you are in luck, little lady. I picked up one just this morning.”
“Illness or famine?” she asked.
“C’mon in,” Buddy waved her into the musty building. Motes of dust glittered in the air in beams of sunlight slanting diagonally from the pitched plank roof. The particles stirred as Buddy’s large form strode through. He stopped in the center of the room and turned to look at Zoila. He bent down and lifted the latch to the cellar. Cellars are not common in the desert, but back in the olden days, morgues needed a cool, dark place to keep bodies preserved for a longer period of time. Zoila watched as Buddy opened the hatch and took a few steps forward. He grabbed her Zombie and roughly walked it over to the cellar and down the stairs. His head popped up a few moments later and climbed out and closed the hatch.
“So what’s new with you?” he asked Zoila.
“Nothin’ much. You know, hunting, surviving. That’s about it.”
“You?” She asked.
“Same here,” he admitted. “Now that the epidemic has come to a stop, so have the dead bodies. I’ve taken to the art of wrangling rattlesnakes. You wouldn’t know it by looking at them, but they serve quite a few purposes.”
Zoila could hear sounds of snarling and biting, like flesh being torn.
“It’s a wonder the survivors have let you keep it,” he said pointing to the cellar doors. “They’re afraid of getting infected.”
Zoila rolled her eyes. “Now how is that going to happen with an arm-less Zombie?”
Buddy shrugged and said, “It can still bite.” Zoila rolled her eyes again.
Since Zoila had been so intent on keeping the Zombie as a pet, the local Physician insisted that the arms be removed so it would be less of a threat to the community.
Buddy stepped closer, as though he had a secret to tell, his voice low and quiet. “You know, I heard a rumor,” he said.
“What is it?” Zoila asked back in a whisper.
“I heard that a group of captives escaped from the New World Militia and are headed this way.”
“Really?” After The Turn all forms of government had slipped through the cracks, leaving the few known survivors to fin for themselves. But it was rumored that a renegade soldier from the army had started a group called The New World Militia and was taking any found survivors captive for slavery or other purposes. But it was said that they were far to the East, beyond the reach of Why, Arizona.
“Where’d ya hear that?” Zoila asked as she screwed her foot into the ground.
“A traveler came through town just last night with stories of the outside world. It would appear there are a lot more survivors than originally thought.”
Zoila shrugged. “All the more reason for me to keep my Zombie.”
Buddy sighed and rubbed his fingers back over his bald head. “The others are scared of you, Zoila. They feel that you are a…threat. Because of your Zombie.”
“What the hell do they know?” Zoila stomped her foot. She could feel her face turning redder by the moment. Ever since her parents died, and her friends—and just about everyone she knew—she’d felt like an outsider, excluded and shunned. “They hide away in their crumbling little shacks they call homes all day long, barely communicating. Barely living!”
Zoila could feel her ears burning. “We could make something of this, Buddy. We could make a good life! We should all group together and go in search of other survivors, other people who are in the same situation as us. But nobody has the balls to do it! It makes me so…angry!”
“Now, Zoila,” Buddy soothed. Zoila was only thirteen years old, but she felt like she was more mature than the whole lot of yellow-bellied townspeople. She was the only one that would go out hunting, the only one that had any shred of courage—except maybe for Buddy.
“Don’t ‘Now Zoila’ me! You know I’m right! You do!”
Buddy sighed again and leaned down to open the hatch. The chomping noises had grown silent and Zoila assumed her pet had finished its meal. Buddy descended the steps to disappear under ground, only to appear seconds later with her Zombie. He awkwardly pulled it up and out, pushing it off to the side to moan and groan unceremoniously.
Zoila stared at it. She had an attachment to her pet, one that no one else but her would understand. It was like in keeping it, she could hold onto the past, a past in which she had a mom and a dad and everything was alright. It probably wouldn’t make sense to anyone else, but to Zoila, it was a comfort, a balm of some sorts.
“The town meeting is starting in ten minutes,” Buddy said. “We’d better get down there.”
Zoila grimaced. “You go ahead. I think I’m going to go hunting.” She reached back to touch the bow and arrows she had strapped onto her back.
Zoila remembered not so long ago, her father taking her out for target practice in the desert behind their house. They lived on three acres of land and at the time, there had been plenty of Jack Rabbits and Javelina to shoot. But that was before the turn.
“Okay,” Buddy said hesitantly. “But you be careful. Come on back before dark.”
“I will,” Zoila agreed. Buddy had been the one true friend she’d had since The Turn and he was turning into a sort of Father figure for her. She loved him dearly.
“Check in with me tomorrow?” he asked.
“Of course,” she replied.
And with that Buddy was off to the town square and Zoila was off into the desert.
Javelinas were hard to come by anymore, and they were a bitch to take down. The ugly, wild boars could smell you from a mile away—if the winds were just right—but fortunately for Zoila, they couldn’t see two feet in front of them. Zoila chained her zombie to a nearby tree and crept away further into the desert. She sucked a finger into her mouth and held it out to find the direction of the wind. It was blowing South. Perfect.
She followed the Javelina tracks, which looked like two large tear drops, imprinted from their cloven hooves. She climbed down into a dried-up creek bed and froze. There, behind a large mesquite tree were a small family of Javelinas. There were two of them, with babies. God, she hated when they had babies. But desperate times called for desperate measures.
Zoila slowly slid her bow from her back and an arrow to go with it. She notched the arrow and placed her hands just right, drawing the bow back and aiming directly at the biggest boar. She breathed, slowly, in and out, and then released. The arrow pelted through the air, narrowly missing the boar and ricocheted off the tree truck, just above its head.
The Javelinas bolted away past a thicket of prickly-pear cactus and over a rocky ridge.
“Damn it.” Zoila dropped her arms, the bow dragging against the ground, and sighed. She was tired and didn’t feel like hunting anymore. She had some stored cans of vegetables back at her house and vided for French-cut green beans for dinner instead. Plus, she really wanted to know more about the rumors of other survivors and decided that a quick appearance at the town meeting wouldn’t be so bad after all.
After picking up her Zombie, it took only about twenty minutes to trudge back into town and through the desolate buildings, until they came to the old pueblo church. After years of blazing sunlight and rough desert weather, the orange adobe façade was fading and cracking. But the structure held true and sure, a safe haven from the scalding summer heat. Zoila tugged her pet along and came to the two wooden doors and stopped. One of them was cracked and she could hear voices clattering inside.
“She’s a menace to our society!” One of the townspeople yelled.
“One of these days that Zombie will bite somebody and then it’s all downhill from there!”
“Let the girl have her comfort.” Buddy’s voice rang through. “She’s the only child left among us and if that Zombie makes her feel safe, then so be it!”
Zoila smiled. Buddy had always had her back and she was glad for it. If it wasn’t for him, she’d have already packed up her things and left town.
“No!” The woman’s voice held a tone of anger and fright. “It isn’t safe! We must organize and intervention!”
A cacophony of voices shouted, seemingly agreeing.
“Yes! An intervention!”
Zoila’s heart began to pound within her chest. She knew they were talking about her. No! They would not take her Zombie from her. It was the only thing she had left.
“Tonight,” she heard the town’s leader say. “We will go to Zoila’s house and kill that Zombie.” Zoila flinched. She recognized the voice. It was the former Sherriff of Why, and he was always an asshole. She remembered going to school with his son—who was now long gone—and then realized that the old saying was true; the apple never fell far from the tree.
“Yes! Kill the freak of nature!”
“Here, here!” The voices raised together, angry and determined.
Zoila quickly tugged her Zombie’s chain and scurried off towards her home, dragging the moaning beast behind her. Within minutes, she had a bag packed with only the necessities; water, matches, canned green beans, and a picture of her and her mother. She gazed down at the picture just before heading out the door, and unwanted tears came streaming down her cheeks. Zoila looked just like her mother; dark brown hair—almost black—and round hazelnut eyes that pinched together at the corners. She was a quarter Cherokee Indian and the resemblance had been carried down through generations upon generations. Her mother smiled back at her from the glass mounted frame and Zoila tucked it away in her pack with a soft sob. She felt bad about leaving her friend Buddy, but she had to go. She had to protect herself. It was exactly what her father would’ve done.
The light was fading fast as Zoila and her mindless companion headed out south parallel to the setting sun, her pack and bow slung heavy over her back. She figured she could reach Sonoyta, Arizona by sunrise if she kept up her pace, and she knew that there would be refuge somewhere in the city. And if she made it that far, it would only be a few days before she was in Puerto Peñasco, Mexico, a place where she vacationed with her parents as a child.
Zoila heard the snap of a tree branch and froze. Her bow and arrow were in her hands before the thought even crossed her mind to do so. She aimed at the darkness, scanning the trees, the short chain to her Zombie strapped to her wrist. She could only make out the dim line of trees and cacti by the waning moonlight and squinted as her breath drew deep.
She spun and let off an arrow in the direction from where she heard the sound.
“Ouuwww,” a deep voice rung out and a thump to the ground had her hunching on her knees, another arrow knocked and ready.
“Shit! My leg!”
Zoila’s ears perked at the familiar tone. Could it be?
“Daddy?” The silence of the desert rang through her ears, her own voice echoing across the rocky terrain like she was in the center of a long tunnel. Zoila stayed perched like a statue, her Zombie nervously shuffling its feet against the dirt.
“Zoila?” the voice asked. She shot up to standing and her eyes darted around the darkness. “Zoila, is that you?”
“Daddy?” She replaced her weapon behind her back and shot off in the direction of the voice, dragging her Zombie behind her with stumbling feet. Zoila quickly reached into her bag and pulled out a pack of matches, striking one against the black strip. There, lit by the flame, and lying in a bushel of weeds, was Zoila’s father; scruffy and weather-beaten. An arrow stuck straight out from his thigh, his pants blossoming with blood.
“Oh no! Daddy!” She threw her Zombie’s chain over a tree branch and knelt down next to him, hugging him as tight as she ever could.
“IS that really you half pint?” His voice was strained and his eyes hooded.
“Yes Daddy! It’s me!” Zoila felt happy tears dampen her eyes.
He chuckled that same chuckle Zoila always remembered, deep and throaty. “I taught you well, half pint. Good aim, girl. Good aim.”
“Oh, Daddy. Are you alright? I’m so sorry.” The flame on Zoila’s match was descending to her fingers and she hissed as it began to burn and blew it out. Zoila heard her father rustle around and then a beam of light clicked on. He shone his flashlight down at his leg, highlighting the wound.
“It’s nothing, little one. Just a scratch.” Her dad grabbed the arrow, gritted his teeth, and yanked it out with a grunt. He ripped off the long sleeve of his red-flannel shirt and used it as a tourniquet, he tied it around his thigh and cinched it to cut off the flow of blood. “See? All better now,” he smiled and grabbed Zoila in for a hug, ruffling her matted hair with his fingers.
Zoila stared into her father’s eyes and followed them to her Zombie. “Zoila…” His voice was not quite angry but held an undertone of scolding. “Is that what I think it is?”
Zoila looked down at her feet and twisted her leg nervously. “Yeah.”
“What did I tell you?”
“No Zombies. No matter what. But…but it’s—”
“No Zoila. Just no.” Through the dim haze of the flashlight, she could see the unease in her father’s eyes, a sadness, an anger. She wondered what all he had been put through while being held captive. It must’ve been horrible.
Her dad stood, favoring his uninjured leg and ran his filthy hand over his face. “How do the townsfolk feel about this? I’m surprised ol’ Sherrif Godfrey hasn’t gotten to it yet.”
Zoila cringed. “They were going to. Tonight. All of them. They were going to come to our house and…and…” Zoila could feel a burning bulge welling inside of her chest and traveling to her throat, making her eyes water. But she wasn’t going to cry. It was just the damned Palo Verde trees. Yes, that was it. The Palo Verde trees were in bloom and they always made her sniffly.
“Zoila, come on. Let’s get home. We can sort all of this mess out later.”
“But the townsfolk…they’ll be coming—”
“I’ll handle them. Don’t you worry.” Zoila wasn’t worried. Her dad had been the fire marshal before The Turn and people listened to him. They respected him. Plus, he was a very big man, and when he was pissed, people got scared. Really scared.
Zoila and her father wove their way through the desert, being careful to avoid the thickets of prickly pear and jumping cholla. They were home and either the townsfolk hadn’t come yet or they had and left, realizing she was gone.
Zoila’s father went to get a shower while Zoila chained her zombie in its regular spot next to the old brick fireplace and went to unpack her bag. After popping open a can of green beans and sitting on the sofa to read through one of her old comic books, her father came out washed and clean-shaven, with a fresh bandage on his leg. He smiled at her and she nearly cried again…or maybe it was the just allergies.
“Come here, half-pint,” he knelt down and held out his arms. She went running to him and melted into his strong hug. She could hear his heart beating in his chest—a sound she’d thought she would never hear again. “Let’s get you to bed my sweet girl. From the sound of it, you had a rough day.”
Zoila nodded and they went to her room. Without even changing her clothes, she collapsed into bed and nuzzled into her pillow. He pulled the covers up and tucked them in around her.
“Don’t let them take it, Daddy.”
“My Zombie. Please…If they come, just please don’t let them take it.”
“I won’t half-pint. But listen, Zoila, honey. It’s not safe to have that…thing around. It’s not human anymore. It could hurt someone. It could hurt you. It’s not safe at all. You know that, right?”
Zoila sighed, her father’s hand rubbing warmth into her cold arm. “Yes, Daddy. I know. But I was scared. I didn’t have you anymore, and mom…”
“I know half-pint. I know.” He leaned over and planted a soft kiss on her forehead. “But a Zombie can’t protect you. And I’m here now. I will protect you. I will keep you safe.”
Zoila nodded, her eyes feeling heavy from the long, hot day.
“You’ve got to let it go. It’s the right thing to do.”
Zoila sighed into her pillow and closed her eyes. She knew he was right. But she didn’t want to. That Zombie—aside from Buddy—had been her only companion since The Turn.
“But don’t you worry about it tonight,” her father said as he stood up. “Tonight I want you to have sweet dreams. We’ll worry about everything else tomorrow.”
He crossed the room and flicked off the lights. He started to close the door, but stopped. “I want you to know how proud I am of you. You may only be thirteen years old, Zoila, but you are the bravest person I know.”
Zoila smiled sleepily. She couldn’t have been any happier had the sky opened up and rained ice cream sundaes.
“I love you half-pint.”
“Love you too, Daddy.”
And with that, Zoila slept. She slept better than she ever had in her whole life.
Zoilla’s eyes fluttered open when she heard angry male voices and moaning and groaning, like that of her Zombie.
“This is a family matter. I will take care of it,” her father’s voice said, angry and raging.
There was a small stretch of silence before she heard the voice of the Sheriff. “Fine. But it needs to be done today.”
The sound of a slamming door resonated through the house, making Zoila jump. Zoila stayed planted in the bundle she’d made with her blankets and before long she heard the sound of her father’s footsteps.
“It’s time, Zoila,” he said from the doorway. She shifted uncomfortably under her blankets. “I’m going to go down to the morgue to finish it. I won’t be long.”
Zoila sat bolt upright. “I’m coming with you,” she said and pulled herself from the comfort of her bed, rubbing sleep from her eyes.
Her dad studied her face. “You should stay here, half-pint. You’ve been through enough. Seen enough.”
“No,” she barked. “I’m coming with you.”
Her father sighed and looked at her with sadness in his eyes. He nodded silently. She dressed quickly and met her father outside before the break of day. He had her zombie reined in tightly by its chains, the tired bags under his eyes, dark and dull like the purple shadows of the nearby mountains. They walked in silence towards the morgue, the only sound was the chirp of early morning birds greeting the impending desert sunrise.
“Daddy,” Zoila choked. “Do we have to do this?”
“Yes, Zoila,” he answered.
The old creaky door swung open and Buddy stood tall, looming in the doorway. Zoila followed her father into the musty building. “I’ll be waiting outside,” Buddy said before clapping her dad on the shoulder and disappearing through the door with a click. Zoila, her father, and her Zombie stood still in the flickering light of the kerosene lamp.
Zoila’s father turned to her and dropped to one knee, holding the undead creature tightly with one hand. “You need to let go, half pint. You have to let go of the past.”
In the pale light, she thought she saw a tear trickle down his cheek before he turned quickly away. She watched him stand and grab a rusty axe that lain on an old wooden table, slugging it over his shoulder. All of the hurt and anguish and loneliness that Zoila had felt over the past year came rushing back in a torrent of emotions.
“I’ll do it,” she announced, puffing up her chest with mock bravery. “Let me do it.”
Father studied her face for what seemed to be an eternity. His jaw was clenched. “Are you sure?”
“Yes.” Zoila stepped forward and took the axe from his hands. She hefted it up to rest on her shoulder, steadying herself in a ready position.
“Zoila—” her father began, but she cut him off abruptly.
“No. I’m the one who kept her all of this time when I shouldn’t have. It’s only fair that I do it.”
Her father rubbed his hand over his face before exhaling loudly. He grabbed the Zombie awkwardly, the beast grumbling and hissing as it was lifted onto the wooden table. He laid the Zombie down flat and strapped its legs down, another long strap across its chest.
He turned to Zoila. “It’s not her anymore. She’s been dead a long time. You know that right?”
Zoila stared at her the decaying body of what used to be her mother, lying there on the table and nodded. She stood over the wriggling creature, its eyes locking on hers, and for a brief moment, Zoila thought she saw her mother inside gazing up at her only daughter. It was the same loving gaze that Zoila remembered so well. The pain of it was so intense, Zoila thought her knees might buckle, but she stood tall and hitched the axe up higher over her shoulder.
“Remember. You need to aim—”
“I know,” Zoila interjected. “Right between the eyes.”
“On the count of three,” her father said. “Ready?”
Zoila took a deep breath and nodded.
The Zombie writhed and groaned, its eyes never leaving Zoila’s, pieces of decaying flesh hanging from its face.
Zoila gripped the wooden handle tighter, her fingers straining with the force.
Zoila brought the weapon up in an arcing motion, hefting her strength behind the movement. And just before the axe head made contact, splitting bone and spilling bloody gore across the table, she thought she heard her mother’s voice layered over the Zombie’s moaning.
“I love you Zoila. I love you.”
And there you have it. A fun little Zombie story to spice up your life. Thanks for reading and I hope to be posting more fun stuff soon!