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!