One of my favorite parts of writing the DEAD series is the vignettes. These snapshots actually started as an idea to give global snapshots of a world in the grips of a zombie uprising. I had no idea that some of the most loved and hated characters would come out of these snippets. I can't begin to express how tickled I get when I receive an email quoting Juan. Some of these stories have grown beyond anything I anticipated. I will continue to write these vignettes as my own little guilty pleasure. What started as something I did as a lark has become an integral part of this DEAD world. It is with pleasure that I offer up this little peek at the newest vignette story line.
Basingstoke, Hampshire, UK—Victoria Kirkpatrick, Vix to her mates, set the shovel down and stared out across the lightly snow-covered grounds. A few months ago, there had been thirty-seven of them hiding out in the Audleys Wood Hotel. Now there were seven, and she didn’t think any of them would make it through the next few weeks.
She blamed Nigel Longstreet and that vile little rat-faced woman, Claudia Jones. Kneeling beside the mound of dirt she had been working at busily since just before dawn, Victoria fought back the tears that had been threatening to spill all night and into the morning.
“You stupid, wonderful man,” she whispered.
Her husband was underneath all of the cold earth she knelt beside now. And it was all Nigel’s fault. He had been the one to insist that they venture in to town for supplies. She had argued, saying that the city was thick with the walking dead and their best bet was to search the outlying areas. They would not find a concentrated amount of foods and such going house to house, but nobody had listened.
When volunteers were asked for, Ivor, her husband and the one thing she had known she could rely upon, had stepped forward. He and seven others set out with empty packs and three rolling carts that they pulled along using a shoulder harness. Ivor was the only one to return. He was empty handed…and covered in blood.
Nigel had flown into a fury about how “careless and foolish” Ivor had been in returning to their sanctuary. “Those monsters could be following you! You may have brought death to us all!”
Weak from blood loss and obviously in the final stages of the infection before he turned and became one of the undead, Ivor had enough energy and spirit left to land a punch with enough behind it to knock Nigel out cold.
The handful of survivors that remained all stood in silence for a moment, and then erupted in a very un-British display of emotion. The cheers and yells were a sign that Nigel’s reign as the self-proclaimed leader of the group had come to an end.
Claudia had stepped forward and looked as if she were going to strike Ivor from behind, but Victoria had moved in between the two. The women locked eyes for just a second. Obviously Claudia saw something that made her step back.
“If you touch him…I will kill you.” That was all Victoria said.
She had no idea that two more members of the group had stepped up behind her in support. Nobody could be sure if that had been what caused Claudia to backpedal and then flee the room, but the fact remained that she had, and Nigel had followed behind once he finally came to.
By that time, Ivor had succumbed to the infection and closed his eyes as a living person for the last time. Victoria had been at his side in their room when a long exhale rattled his once sturdy frame.
“Stupid lummox,” she said through the tears. Then, she drove a metal trowel through his forehead.
Despite the fact that it was still dark, she wrapped her husband and love of her life in the sheets and stitched the ends shut. After that, she dragged him down the hallway and out into the open grounds of the hotel.
A wave of nostalgia hit her as she stood under the glow of a full moon that was amplified by the light dusting of snow. This was the hotel he had taken her to the day he asked her to marry him. She knew something was up when they pulled into the main entrance of the luxurious hotel. Places like this were not usually to Ivor’s liking. He was more at home in a small pub with a few blokes, a full pint, and some chips. Even their dates up to this point had been out of the ordinary. She still remembered their first date. Ironically, it was to see the local American flag football team, the Zombie Horde, in action. She had the time of her life that evening being with a man who had encouraged her to just be herself and “the world be damned.”
Now, here she was, committing his remains to the ground. All because of the bastard Nigel. Nobody had listened to her. Of course, she blamed herself. She knew better. One of her passions before this whole nightmare began all those months ago was reading. Her favorite guilty pleasure was zombie fiction. Truthfully, her interest in the zombie was due to a misplaced assumption centered on that first date. The team name had been Zombie Horde. She mistakenly assumed Ivor was a fan of zombies; when in truth, he was addicted to American football in any form.
Still, she had read well over a hundred titles in that particular genre. One thing she felt qualified to give advice on was what to do and what not to do in this undead world. Sending a few of their people in to town was a monumentally bad idea.
When the first cases appeared in Basingstoke, she had been the on duty nurse at Parklands Hospital. She had been at the central nurse’s desk sipping at her tea and reading when the woman had stumbled through the doors. The front of her blouse was a crimson mess and she was clutching her neck with blood-slicked hands.
Before Victoria made it out from behind the desk, the woman had collapsed to the floor. Grabbing the phone, she had paged the emergency doctor and security. By the time she had pulled on rubber gloves and returned her attention to the down woman, she was back on her feet. Her head moving with jerky fits as she seemed to scan the room. When those eyes turned Victoria’s way, her body suffered a massive chill. They were covered in a milky film that was shot full of black tracers. When it opened its mouth and let loose with a low moan and began moving towards her with outstretched arms, she had no doubt what this was.
“Oh bloody hell,” was all she managed to utter.
She ran back behind her counter and looked for anything that might be used to defend herself. Finding nothing, she made a decision. Victoria ran out the fire exit. She saw a few dark shadows in the car park as she searched frantically for her own vehicle. That ride home had been terrifying. When she burst through the door, she found Ivor asleep in his favorite chair, television droning.
He hadn’t even questioned her when she woke him and told him what she witnessed. The next several weeks were a blur. She had refused to seek shelter in one of the locations mentioned on the telly, telling her husband that those places never fared well in her books. It proved true as each of those locations fell in the first few days.
With a few friends and neighbors, they had done okay for a while. Then they met up with Nigel’s bunch and joined forces. At first, things had been okay, but soon, it became clear that Nigel was set on being the leader. Since he had the only gun—a fact that he never was quite clear on how it had ended up in his possession since it was a Glock 17 in a harness that had police markings, but it was clear that this man had absolutely no ties to law enforcement.
Eventually, the suggestion was made to check out the Audleys Wood Hotel. Practically empty, the place had been easily cleared out. It was fortified and its secluded location was very helpful as they hastily erected a barricade around the central grounds. That was the first, last, and only suggestion of hers that had been heeded.
Looking up into the gray sky, the first few flakes of a new snow were drifting on the morning breeze. Victoria rose to her feet, wiping what she vowed to be her last tears from her eyes, she returned inside. Things were going to change…she owed Ivor that much.
I hope you enjoyed this raw form of the newest vignette.