Prologue

In the beginning, insensible rumors whispered amidst the internet, some gif’s with stooges lurching about somewhere, in some third world country, far from here, overseas.  While the people up North in D.C. felt it in the best interest of the public to debunk what they saw as some sort of “cyber social terrorism” or such, weren’t no such thing like that going on ’round here, in Appalachia.  When the D.E.A., I.N.S. and the rest of the alphabet soup gang quarantined the borders blaming it on the escalating war on terrorism, no one around these parts made much of it, none of us had plans of going to any of those places anyway.  

The young folk christened it the Resurrection Plague and the name just stuck. Soon word got out it’d started to crop up in the big cities here, in America.  As for Uncle Sam trying to keep it off the internet, all them young unemployed nerds still living in their parent’s basements took that as a right fine challenge, and before too long, those monstrous clips were blazoned over any wavelength or bandwidth that would carry them.  First came the zombies, then came the army, and if all that came to your town, not so much of anything was heard coming out.

Really it made no never mind how it all got started, some blamed the Devil while others said it was the Lord’s judgement.  Most folk here just chalked it up to the yankees and said it’s liken to  the  war of Northern Aggression all over again.   In this part of Dixie, we hunkered down to ride out the storm holed up in the hollows, like our kinfolk before us.

While the rest of the world burned, we handled a flair up or two, but we’re a practical folk, I reckon that’s how we made it.  While humanity done gone burned itself out, not here.  Here, the mists from the Smokies still breathed life into her mad, stubborn children.

Club Gore

Michaela was the only dancer to survive the club after the Resurrections started, and she’d be damned if she’d fought her way through all those zombies to end up playing house with a bunch of snotty townies in the safe zone.

 

The safe prison of New Dixie, she reckoned disdainfully.  A girl couldn’t have any fun here, that’s for sure.  And not just me, there’s still a lot of fellas needing to let off some steam….

 

That’s when the idea struck her.  The Club wasn’t too far over the wall, and it sat alongside the main road the Reapers traveled to and from the zone.  Michaela smirked, she’d show those goodie two-shoes.  She’d show them all.

 

Michaela had no lack of male suitors that allowed themselves to be seduced away to the fringes just outside New Dixie’s walls and into reaping some rewards – the world could be theirs, she cajoled, and their base would be the club.   Rechristening it Queenies, it was soon up and running with no lack of patrons, and Queen Michaela basked in being the featured (abet only) pole dancer.  

 

Surveying her little kingdom one evening before her performance, Michaela brushed aside her many admirers to make her way behind the bar.  Glancing at the sparse shelves, she deduced the reason for her bartender and soldiers grim faces.

 

“We have enough decent liquor for a wee while longer, then we’ll be down to the bathtub shine,” Bobby, the bartender, growled.

 

“There ain’t no liquor to be had for miles! Every place has been ransacked, and these fellows ain’t gonna keep coming in here just to watch you shake y’all’s scrawny ass!”  Without warning, Bobby found himself with a knife to his throat, held by an enraged she devil.  

 

“I will handle it,” she hissed.  “This is my club, I am the Queen here. And y’all best never talk to me like that again.”

 

Allowing her blade to graze a small cut to Bobby’s throat as a reminder who exactly was the boss here, Michela deftly stowed her knife, pasted on her ‘come hither’ smile and jumped atop the bar.  To music throbbing from a scavenged, old boombox, Queen Michela danced and twirled and beguiled the men who gazed adoringly,  hypnotized.  Seizing the moment at the end of a song, she posed in place, and fixed one and all with her seductress’ grin.

 

“A proposition!”  she announced.  “To those y’all Reapers on your travels outside the lines – bring back good hooch and I will offer fair trade for it.  A fuck for each fifth y’all fetch me!”

 

The club exploded with the din of patrons vying for assignments on parameter sweeps, and talk of how a fifth for a fuck wasn’t really much more expensive than before the plague.  Finished with her display, Queen Michaela jumped down, sash shaying back behind the bar, where she poured herself a little splash of shine.  Pensive, Bobby wondered what she had planned for them now.

 

Not much time passed before a Reaper returned from the dead lands with an uncracked fifth and rigid desires.  Leading him to a room above the bar,  Michaela unlocked a door to a dimly lit room, perfumed by the stench of alpine tree car fresheners to reveal his gore whore bounty.   One could see that the zed suspended from the ceiling had been quite a looker, alive.  When this young beauty still breathed, the Reaper knew he would of been outclassed, scorned for any interest shown to this alluring lovely.  

 

Too bad that bright fresh beauty hadn’t been cut out for this harsh world he reckoned.   The Rez fever had claimed her, as a consequence, Queenie had chained her, and now she hung naked, ball gag firmly affixed.  All this wilted bouquet could offered was porcelain skin shrouded hunger.  

 

Skin so very white and smooth, for a while yet, anyway.

 

Watching his face, Michaela knew she had him. Leaning close enough for her breasts to brush against him, she whispered in his ear.

 

“I even had all her teeth pulled,” she purred, “so y’all can take off that ball gag, if you ain’t ascard.  The boys tell me having a chopperless zed gnaw your pecker is, well, really somethin’ else…..”   

 

Queenie’s gore whores were a hit, the liquor flowed, she danced, and the boys got to let off some steam.  It hadn’t been easy capturing those beauties, she mused.  But sex still sells.  Sex always sells!

Unholy Roller

A soft knock on the kitchen door distracted Pastor Terry from stirring the soup languishing on the burner.  Slowly, deliberately, he withdrew the spoon from the pot, placing it on a nearby saucer.  Taking a deep breath to steady himself, he turned and bid his caller to enter.

 

Elder Travis, his brother in the Blood Bought Church, pranced in on muted, mincing footsteps, offering his reserved greetings and to query, “How’s Payton feeling?  And how are y’all holding up?”

 

By habit, Pastor Terry assumed his ‘preacher face’ and donned a gently enthusiastic tone.  “He seems to be coming around the corner now, God be praised!  Said he was hungry, so I thought I’d try him on a little soup, here.”

 

“Oh that is good news!” Elder Travis simpered.  “Y’all just take care of your boy and I’ll take care of the service.” Taking his leave, he hastily ducked out the door, leaving Pastor Terry befuddled.  

 

The service? he mused.  Glancing at the calendar on the refrigerator, he grasped the intent behind Elder Travis’s visit.  It’s Sunday.

 

His son, Payton, had been sick for days with no sign of getting any better, no matter what he had told Elder Travis.  The boy had stopped taking nourishment three days ago, and hadn’t talked in five.  In these end times, the only doctors left alive ministered from a nursing home they’d turned into a makeshift hospital, and those doctors knew zed flu when they saw it.  

 

They’d want to take Payton away from me! he anguished.  Take my boy away and do horrible experiments on him!  From the depths of his soul, the Pastor became consumed with heavenly determination.  I won’t let them, he vowed.  There’s no need for it, see.  God’s gonna save my boy.  Ain’t nothing our Lord and Saviour can’t do.  With God, ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE!

 

Lost in prayer, lost in time, Pastor Terry found himself on his knees aside his boy’s bed.  He’d lost track of how long he’d been praying for a miracle, but some small something had changed…startled, he crawled onto the bed, gathering his son into his arms.  He wasn’t breathing!  Shaking the boy, beseeching, begging, “Dear Lord!  God Almighty Father!  Not my boy!  Not my Payton!”

 

O God, Almighty, you do test me, the Pastor sorrowed.  First my lovely Emma and now our Payton, our dear, innocent Payton!  Dear Holy Father, you test me like Abraham.

 

The following Wednesday evening was chilly, so Pastor Terry waited inside the little church to greet his congregation.  As the large wooden doors swung open, he welcomed the first of his parishioners to arrive from behind his pulpit with a hearty “Good evening and God bless!”

 

Before the attendees got far down the aisle, Mrs Parton fainted into her husband’s arms, while their twin daughter’s shrieks rang throughout the nave.  Behind the pulpit, nailed to the cross, was a struggling zombie Payton, a small crown of thorns adorning its head.

 

“Jesus be praised!” Pastor Terry proclaimed. “God raised my son!  God raised my son, too.”

 

Baby Rabies

The weight of the blow sent Keelee to her knees on the ugly kitchen floor, pain blazing through her head as stars flashed before her eyes.    

 

“Bitch!  Where did y’all hide my shine?!” her husband, Joe, screamed over her.  

“Worthless cunt!”  he bellowed, now punctuating his cursing with kicks.

 

Rolling into a ball to protect her unborn child, Keelee risked to beg, “Please, Joe!  The baby!”  

 

Mercifully, the torment stopped.  His son, she thought. He does care about Joe Jr!  He won’t hurt me too bad, he’s been dying for the birth of his son.

 

Since the worst seemed to have passed, she uncurled herself and struggled to somehow put herself to rights, but kept one hand safeguarding her belly.

 

“Please, baby,” she begged, “Just let me fix you something to eat.”  Keelee grasped the counter with her free hand, yet before she could pull herself back to her feet, raw agony engulfed her afresh.

 

She had time to notice the stars are back, before crumbling to the tattered linoleum, losing herself in sweet, innocent dreams.  All I ever wanted was to be was a Momma, she fantasized.  Being a Daddy would settle Big Joe down.

 

Later she awoke, shivering, on the kitchen floor.  

 

Oh, Sweet Jesus, help me everything hurt.…and beyond the pain, Keelee felt an emptiness radiating from her empty womb, echoing through her bones, chilling her very soul.  Frenzied, she ran her hands down her belly, between her thighs searching, scouring through the gore of birth matter until there!  She found him, Joe Junior.  Her sweet sweet little son!  Cradling him in her arms, he was cold, so cold, her heart broke, Joe Junior was gone.  She had nothing to shine her love on now.  

 

Pulling herself to her feet, she carried him gently to the sink, then lit the small kerosene lantern.  Keeley mournfully rinsed his poor wee body lamenting he had been perfect, just so perfect, I would’ve taught him to garden, and look after the animals – he’d a made a proper farmer, just like my daddy did, she imagined, but none of that was to be now.  Carefully she dried him off, swaddling him tight in a fresh, clean tea towel.  Stepping back, his tiny face lit only by the lantern, Keelie again lost herself in thoughts of what could have been, her heart fit to burst and her mind not far behind.

 

Enthralled by her dead dreams, Keelie thought she’d imagined it – Joe Jr had moved!  Suddenly, his eyes popped open as his mouth widened to issue a dreadful keening.  Keelie fell back, hand to her mouth to stop herself from screaming.  That fucking prick!  This is his doing – he killed my angel and gave me this devil spawn!  Lifting the zombie baby, she knew what she would do, what she had to do.  

 

Extinguishing the lamp, led by the siren’s call of Big Joe’s drunken snores, she padded softly into their bedroom.  Tenderly unwrapping Joe Junior, she placed him in the center of their bed.  Now shivering, Keelee joined her family under the covers.  “Sweet dreams, love,” she tenderly sighed, passively falling to unconsciousness, enchanted by the sound of Joe Jr suckling on his daddy.  

The Gardener

Sunrise peeped over the foothills, warming the spring chill from the old man’s shoulders as he cautiously stepped across the grassy lot behind his and Emma’s place, rambling his way to the barn.  The back garden appeared safe, he figured, but with the dead popping back up, you couldn’t be too careful.  Swinging open the door of the weatherbeaten shanty, the Gardener shuffled over to the old hand plow he’d cobbled together, and let loose a sigh.  He be needing help to pull the dang thing, he had to get the soil turned.  Since the grocery stores had shut down, there were a lot of people depending on what he’d harvest this year.  His grandson, Darrell, had promised to lend a hand, but as usual, the boy was nowhere to be found when there was work to be done.  

 

“God Bless that boy!” the Gardener fretted, as he promised himself – again – not to let it upset him.  

Time to wrestle that boy out of his bed, he reckoned.  The Gardener took his time, carefully relatching the barn door, before hiking up to the path the boy had worn between their homes begging Emma up for money.  Like so much else that was gone, there weren’t no room for bad habits inside the safe zone.  It was time for the boy to come clean, man up and help out the community.  The Gardener wouldn’t give him a choice.

 

Disappointment with his grandson and ideas of garden planning flitted through the old man’s head as made his way to his grandson’s.  Approaching the house, he saw how Darrell had let the place go, again recalling the pride, my son built it himself, followed by the sharp bite of loss anew.  Wishing, once more, Darrell was more like his Da, less like his Momma.  

 

She was bad ground, the Gardener figured.

 

Cracking the front door, he spotted his grandson sacked out on the couch.  It wasn’t until the Gardener grabbed the boy’s shoulder to shake him awake that he noticed the plastic bag, next to the glue bottle on the floor.  Feeling for a pulse on the boy’s neck and finding none, the old man sighed, deflated.  

 

God bless that boy! This is gonna break Emma’s heart, he fretted.  He couldn’t of passed not long ago…

 

He sprung back to his feet, spooked.  He’ll ought to be coming back soon.

 

Who’s gonna help me turn the soil now?

 

That’s when a bizarre, dreadful idea took possession of the Gardener’s mind.  Quickly, he pulled off the boy’s socks and stuffed them in his mouth.  Fortunate to find a new roll of duct tape in a kitchen drawer, he fast secured the boy’s jaw shut good and tight, making certain zed Jimmy wouldn’t be doing any biting.  

 

That part of the task finished, the Gardener unceremoniously rolled the corpse to the floor and on to its belly, ensnaring its arms behind it good and tight with what remained of the tape.  Just in the nick of time, too.  Somberly he stepped back, watching, as Darrell – zed, zombie, what have you – started squirming, coming around, a walking corpse now.

 

The old man discreetly lead the zombie out the door and back to the barn, musing, it wouldn’t due for Emma to see this.  

 

Zombie Darrell helped make short work of plowing the field.  After the Gardener had gotten him strapped into the plow, all it took was leashing one of Emma’s wee chiwawas ahead of the hungry thing to get it moving.  Wiping the sweat from his brow, he admired the dark, tilled soil in the beaming noon sun.

 

Emma might not like it, he reasoned, but she’ll have to agree the boy was finally helping to serve the community!

Plague Bride

The three Reapers weren’t supposed to have been out of the safe zone, but Haus had taken it in his head to go exploring for survivors, and since there wasn’t a soul crazy enough to try stop the big, ugly bastard, the Old ‘Un and Bullhauler tooled up to follow him into the deadlands.  Haus’s fellow Reapers weren’t worried the zed would get him, but feared what the simple ox would try to bring back with him into New Dixie.

Crazy as he was, Haus did have a knack for finding live ones, and sure enough, after several days roaming dead Earth, he led them to a breather hid out in a boarded up old cabin in the back country.  Once the gal figured the hulking mass wasn’t trying to eat her, she threw herself at her sizable savior like a hungry dog at a bone.

Just like that, Haus fell in love.

The Reapers battened down the cabin, having decided to take some downtime before heading back for the zone.  Haus’s appreciative refugee, Mary Lee, took him off to a backroom to show her knight in kevlar armour her gratitude, while the remaining pair of Reapers surveyed the ramshackled camp, Bullhauler searching for anything of use worth scavenging, as the Old ‘Un conjured up a stew for when the new couple decided to rejoin them.

Disheveled, hanging off one another, Haus later lead his plague bride back to the kitchen to join the others.

“Anybody hungry?” the Old Un asked as he dished out shares of stew and hard tack to the silent room. The girl dove in like she was starved, maybe that’s what made her cough.  The Reapers studied her while Haus attempted to play it off.  Patting her between her shoulders, he comforted the girl.

“Slow down there, Honey!  Can’t get you to town if you choke y’all self to death!”  Placing his stew on the hard used wooden table, the big ugly continued petting her back, then hugged her from behind.  It didn’t matter, her feaverish pallor confirmed the Reapers’ rude diagnosis.

“There, there, little miss!” Haus consoled her. The girl melted into the rank giant, who soothed her as she shivered.  As she buried herself deeper into his massive chest, Haus raised his eyes to his fellow Reapers, and covertly shook his head.

Although the cabin was buried way out in the woods, before long the small concentration of stagnant living bodies began attracting the zed.  It was time to abandon the camp.  Inside the crude refuge, Bullhauler restlessly paced, bitching.

“Damn! It startin’ to stink out there and it’s startin’ to stink in here!” he ranted, slamming his first into the couple’s bedroom door.  Neither had come out for some hours.

“Fuck it, dawg, we gots to GO!”  He barked.

As he raised his fist to bang again, the door was tugged from within to reveal Haus’s tear stained face.  Muscling his way past Bullhauler, every step revealing his misery, he sobbed.

“I’ll never find another like that one” Haus lamented, heading out the cabin’s door.  Old Un turned to follow the wretched fool when Bullhauler stopped him with a tug on his arm.

Leaning into their leader, he whispered, “That sick fuck didn’t off her til she turned.  And he fucked her after she turned.”

What were they going to do?  She had had the zed flu when they found her, they could all see it, that was a Reapers trade, exterminating zombies and those infected with the Resurrection Plague.  Mary Lou had been nibbled on by a hungry corpse, but she’d been eaten away by loneliness having been left companionless in the little cabin in the woods, and it wasn’t the first time the Old ‘Un had recognized a gore whore.  The plague was a grim way to die, but to take your last breath alone was the cruelest sort of ending.

The Old un tugged free of Bullhauler’s grasp, perhaps thinking of his own wife, safe back in the zone. In a hushed tone, he sympathized, “The things we do for love.”