November is National Novel Writers’ Month…better known as NaNoWriMo!
The goal is to write 50,000 words in 30 days…but this year, instead of writing one cohesive novel, my dad, brother, and I are writing 30ish scenes from different story ideas. Or as we like to call it, Thirty “First Chapters”. (Keep track of my progress on my profile here.)
Here’s what I wrote yesterday. Can you imagine the story that might follow it? What twists might be in store?
High school was bad enough – what with grades, and college applications, and girls that didn’t like you, and friends who were all trying to figure it out at the same time – but now things were chaos.
The Algebra 1 teacher – plus a bunch of freshmen – had charged into the cafeteria and started biting people. Mr. Morgan of the History department and Ms. Chambers of Social Studies had barricaded a bunch of students into the auditorium until the police could show up…but Ralph was not one of those students.
He’d just missed the closing of the doors, screamed while they piled chairs and tables on the other side, and then kept running as the crowd of bleeding, howling students charged down the hall.
His phone had been in his locker, so he couldn’t even call his mom to come pick him up…or to tell her to stay far away!
Ralph’s dad would be at the office, but that was all the way downtown…could he even get there without a car?
One or two of the crazies in the cafeteria had been strangers…just where was this coming from? How big was this? Would he be safe downtown? Or should he head into the suburbs, where there wouldn’t be so many people?
Ralph dropped to a seat on a curb, wheezing. So this was what came of joining the choir club, not the football team. He’d thought he would just avoid getting crushed by those crazy three-hundred-pound tackle-guys.
Apparently he was going to have a heart attack and die being chewed on by crazies.
A howl came up the street.
Ralph shivered and jumped up. Two white-eyed figures were stumbling up the street — the first one had blood streaming from a bite wound on her neck. The second had torn clothes, and no left arm.
Fighting the urge to hurl, Ralph got back to running.
The neighborhood around his high school was really nice. Some of these houses had wrought iron fences around them, and gates on the front doors and good alarms systems.
Finding a low curb that ran underneath one of the fences, he grabbed the top rung and levered himself up.
There was nothing for his feet to catch on. As he scrabbled at the vertical iron bars, more howls came from two different directions. He didn’t dare look for the freaky creatures who would be coming.
Ralph’s sneaker slid on the metal, then lodged between two bars. Great…now he was stuck half-way up a fence, and being hunted by crazy zombie-freaks!
“Thank goodness, man.”
Ralph twisted his head to look around, trying not to impale himself on the fence.
Grant (his lab partner in fourth period Chemistry) dashed up and grabbed his stuck foot.
“What are you doing here?” gasped Ralph.
“Great minds think alike, buddy. Inside the fence is better than outside.”
Grant grabbed both Ralph’s feet and shoved upward. Now with more leverage, Ralph could swing himself up until he was balanced on top of the fence.
He shoved one foot onto the support bar that topped the fence – then the other foot.
“Come on,” he said, putting one hand down. He tightened his grip on the ironwork. “Don’t get stabbed on the spikes, okay?”
Grant took his hand, grabbed the top of the fence with his other hand, and jumped.
Ralph hauled upward – Grant’s foot found the top support bar – and they both jumped clear on the inside of the fence.
As they rolled in the grass, groaning, a thunder of footsteps came up the sidewalk.
White-eyed crazies – at least five of them – pounded on the fence, moaning and howling. Their arms started to bleed as they shoved them through the rough metal bars…but they didn’t seem to notice at all. In fact, their blood hardly seemed to run —
“Let’s get out of here,” said Grant.
They both scrambled to their feet and headed for the house.
Ralph found it impossible to run, now – and it seemed Grant had the same problem. They staggered along in a half-jog, panting.
As they came to the front of the house, Ralph glanced up the driveway.
“Well, I feel stupid now,” he said. “The gate’s open.”
“Shoot,” said Grant. “You go close it while I try to alert the people at home.”
The last thing Ralph wanted to do was to near the street again…but with the gate standing open like that, the fence wasn’t doing much good. Besides, all the zombies seemed clustered where he and Grant had jumped the fence…so hopefully it wouldn’t be too dangerous.
He trotted down the driveway and grabbed the big rolling gate to push it closed.
It wouldn’t budge.
Breathing heavily, Ralph looked over the mechanism. Maybe there was a button to close it automatically? Maybe if he pushed a little harder…?
He braced his foot against a bar of the fence and shoved. Nothing happened. He shifted his leverage, readjusting his weight, and shoved again.
He ran to the other side of the gate. There didn’t seem to be any button or control box there, either.
And there were some staggering figures on the corner that looked like they might be zombies…and he sure didn’t want to attract their attention.
Ralph snuck back to the front door, staying low and moving as quickly as he could.
“It’s got an automatic mechanism,” he said as he came up to Grant. “And I can’t budge it.”
“Well, no one’s answering the door,” said Grant. “So we’ve got to do something.”
“If we can call my dad and tell him where we are, he can come get us,” said Ralph. “Let’s try to find a phone.”
“Yeah…so much for not having phones in class,” said Grant. “This is exactly why we should always have them on us.”
“I don’t think our teachers expected this to ever happen,” mumbled Ralph as they started walking around the house.
They found a side door — inside they could see a kitchen, but it was locked, and no one answered their pounding.
Along the back side of the house were steps that led to a second-story balcony. They climbed the steps and looked for a door that wasn’t locked.
The second door they tried opened into a bedroom. A four-poster bed with pink covers and curtains stood along one side, while a pink vanity covered with lacy, rhinestone-crusted little boxes stood opposite it.
A white wardrobe stood near the bed – the sort of thing Ralph’s mom might call an “armoire.”
“There’s a phone,” said Ralph. “I’ll call my dad. We’d better find if there’s anybody else here and warn them.”
“Yeah – with that gate open, it won’t be long until they’re invaded,” said Grant, and headed for the door.
Ralph dialed his dad’s office…but no one answered. He called home…but no one answered there, either.
He tried his mom’s cell phone…but she was always forgetting to charge it, or leaving it in weird places, or sending it through the washing machine…
He dialed his dad’s cell phone. Dad’s cell number was only for emergencies, since he might be in a meeting or something –
No one answered that number, either.
Ralph swallowed. He twisted the handset in his hands for a moment. The calls were going through – so it wasn’t this phone, or the phone lines, that were bad.
He went to dial 9-1-1.
Shrill voices came down the hall. The bedroom door burst open, and Grant staggered into the room – followed by a grey-haired lady in a little black-and-white maid’s outfit.
Did people really still wear those things? Well, apparently so –
“Out!” shrilled the old maid, smacking Grant with a feather duster. “Youngsters! That’s the trouble with the world these days –”
“But there are crazies out there!” yelped Ralph. “Zombies and monsters! They tore up our school, and I can’t get a hold of my parents, and –”
“You’re no better than burglars,” snapped a young woman, also in a maid’s outfit, coming into the room. “You should be grateful I’m not calling the police on you.”
“I wish you would!” said Ralph. “In fact, I’m calling the police right now! We need help. In fact, you need to close your gate right now –!”
“Oh, we’ll close the gate. As soon as we march you ruffians off the premises.”
Whack! Grant got another blow from the feather duster.
“You’re crazy,” said Ralph. “You can’t be serious. There are man-eating, howling zombie-beasts out there, and you’re going to –”
The young maid flourished a short-handled broom and swung it.
“Ow,” wailed Ralph, cradling his ear.
“We might be safer out there, man,” panted Grant, ducking another swing from the feather duster and heading for the door to the balcony.
“Are you out of your mind?” cried Ralph, covering his head with his arms as he followed. “They’re biting people out there! One guy lost an arm. Mr. Hernandez was straight-up chewing that girl’s face off.”
Smack! The broom caught him across the shoulders, and he jumped with a yelp.
“Move faster, you little hooligan,” said the old maid.
Grant and Ralph ducked out onto the balcony and started toward the steps they came up – pursued by the two maids.
As they made their way down the steps, a moaning and banging came from the front of the house.
Grant and Ralph exchanged the curse word they knew – they howled as the two maids beaned them on the heads.
“They found their way through the gate,” whimpered Ralph.
“We have to get inside fast!” panted Grant.
“Nice try, little imps,” said the old maid. “I know your type. If it was up to me, I’d give you a –”
They never found out what she would give them. It was drowned out by the howling as a group of the crazies rounded the corner of the house and spotted them.
The crowd (herd? pack?) surged forward and up the steps.
Grant and Ralph spun around and charged up the stairs, taking the maids with them.
Everything was banging elbows, stomping feet, clawing, pounding from the broomstick, and the sharp, fiery pain of human teeth.
Ralph broke free of the tangle and ran. He yanked a door open and kept running.
He charged through the bedroom, down a hall, and into a closet. Someone (or something) was following him, clinging to him as his leg smarted – but he slammed the closet door on it until it let go.
Shaking in his hands, his legs, and everywhere, he twisted the doorknob and leaned backward to hold it closed.
Screams, thumps, and bangs came from outside. Maybe the two Maids from Hell were beating the tar out of the crazies. Maybe Grant had made it inside, and was looking for a hiding place, too.
Ralph remembered the auditorium. He remembered the door slammed in his face, and the rattle and crash of furniture piling up against him.
A weight fell against the closet door, and a howl shook the wood paneling and the cold metal knob under Ralph’s hands.
He choked on a swallow and braced himself against the doorframe…determined to let nothing in.
Nothing at all.
He had no way to measure time in the pitch blackness. Finally, the screams died down. Even the clomping of feet and moans died down.
Crashes sounded in the distance, and then those went away, as well. Sirens wailed on the edge of hearing.
Ralph’s leg throbbed, and his shoulders and arms ached. One wrist stung. He couldn’t stay here forever.
Easing the door open a crack, he snuck a peek at the corridor.
A patch of blood stained the carpet, but that was all.
Good thing the carpet was pink. Maybe it would clean up okay.
Ralph opened the door the rest of the way and tip-toed forward. Pain flared in his calf, and he crouched to examine it.
The light from the windows was a rosy purple. What time was it? Where was everyone?
He dragged his pant-leg up and twisted to see his leg.
Clear, bloody teeth marks showed in his calf – already swollen and red. He’d better get that cleaned and wrapped up.
There was another bite on his forearm. That one didn’t look as deep, but there was more blood because the attacker had scraped a bunch of skin off.
Ralph held his breath to fight the urge to puke, and limped down the hall, looking for a bathroom.
He found one a few doors down, and slipped inside.
It was empty of people, too – like the rest of the house – and he washed his wounds and wrapped them in some towels he found. He tied the towels down with ace bandages, then ventured out into the house again.
Coming to the bedroom, he looked around. The glass doors had been smashed, and the vanity had been knocked over. He went to the phone, but it had been ripped out of the wall.
He tip-toed onto the balcony to see if anyone was nearby.
For all the blood and…ick…around, there were no bodies.
Well, there was one figure in the yard below. It wore a torn maid’s dress, and wandered back and forth between a couple trees…moaning softly.
The sun was setting behind the trees, and dusk was gathering under the leaves.
Ralph stepped backward into the house.
Someone was coming down the hallway.
Stomach twisting, Ralph knelt behind the bed – his injuries smarting as he did so.
Someone stumbled into the room – Grant.
Before Ralph could get his name to his lips, he saw the bite marks covering Grant’s arms…and the blood streaming from his missing ear.
Grant looked at him — his eyes were white and glassy and empty.
Grant snarled and lurched forward, arms out to grab.
Ralph snatched the first thing his hands found – it was the short-handled broom – and smacked Grant in the face.
Grant growled and lunged again.
Ralph jabbed him in the stomach, then in the mouth, then kicked him in the chest so that Grant sprawled backward onto the floor.
Ralph jumped onto the bed, then grabbed the top of the armoire. He couldn’t quite get on top of it – but his weight unbalanced it, and it started to tip.
As Grant was howling and trying to get up, Ralph leaped off the top of the armoire, falling onto the bed.
As he bounced gently on the overstuffed mattress, the armoire crashed onto the top of Grant.
Grant squirmed and growled, wiggling to try to get free.
Ralph got off the bed on the opposite side, and headed for the door to the hall.
There had to be a car here somewhere – and keys. Even if he hadn’t passed driver’s ed yet, he was in no condition to be walking the streets.
Why wasn’t he like the others? Why hadn’t his bites make him crazy?
Maybe he wasn’t injured badly enough? Maybe he would turn when he died? But all the zombie books said that when you got bit, you turned…either in about five minutes, or at least in a week or two.
He shivered. He didn’t want to end up like that. No one did.
But as long as he was still himself, and didn’t feel a hungering for human flesh or anything weird like that, he would try to stay alive.
As he crept through the darkened house, searching for the attached garage it surely had, he thought back to that morning, when his only worry was the Spanish test.
Which he’d probably missed by several hours.
So he was going to die and flunk Spanish. Great.
Kimia Wood currently lives somewhere in the American Midwest, bracing for the collapse of society by knitting, baking, writing, hobby-farming, and reading as much Twitter as possible before the web goes dark.
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