Below you can read every Ficlet that I wrote and get an idea of how this story just grew and extended outside the world of ficlets. These brief chapters will form the basis of the entire story. I hope you like it and please feel free to comment. I love comments
Equal Rights for all Undead
The protesters began to show up just before the sun set on LesMortes Cemetery. They planted their signs in the grass near the fresh dirt of the graves and waited for full dark.
CherryPop was in charge of this demonstration and she stood near her battered station wagon handing out signs to the early risers. Some vamps could withstand the weak light at the end of the day if they were old enough. They all smiled at the feisty girl as they grabbed a sign and took their positions. The undead loved her. They knew that despite her diminutive size, she was a girl who would get things done.
Zombies were the last of the undead races to face discrimination and it rankled Cherry. She had fought long and hard to gain legal rights for her vamps once the world began to understand that vampires and ghosts and all manner of things that went bump in the night were the really real. She was raised by the most powerful necromancer in the world who taught her the truth about the undead.
Besides, zombies needed love too, right?
The Bizarre Life of CherryPop McGee
Yes. My actual name is CherryPop. No, I don’t know what the hell my mother was thinking when she named me. I was a bit busy at the time what with the trauma of being born and all.
My mother was eccentric. There’s just no other word for it. You know how some people try to trick their brains into getting some extra sleep by setting their alarm clocks ahead by ten or fifteen minutes? Well, my mom actually stops time itself so she can doze a bit longer. She doesn’t do it often of course because you get into a whole mess of trouble with the Time Council but sometimes she likes trouble.
I’m her only child. I love my mother but sometimes, like now, I wish she was a little more normal. My life has never been normal. How could it be with a powerful witch for a mother and a necromancer for a father? I grew up in world where vampires and zombies and all manner of ghosties are real. Some of them were good friends of mine.
Here’s the thing. The supernatural stuff isn’t scary. And the world is starting to get that now.
CherryPop Meets Her First Zombie
When I was very small, I remember waking up in the wee hours when all was dark and quiet, and I wandered into our living room looking for dad. I found him all right. Him and a zombie he had just raised. He was still covered in dirt and the sacrificial blood was still on his lips.
I screamed that piercing little girl scream and I ran as fast as my tiny legs could go back to the safety of my bedroom. My father’s clomping feet following me only served to freak me out even more since I thought the monster would come with him and eat me up. But it was just him coming to comfort me and hold me and assure me everything was all right.
Eventually I calmed down enough to actually hear what he was saying as he rocked me.
“Hush now luv. Don’t be scared. No worries. No worries.” He whispered over and over again, his naturally rumbling voice quiet and his Irish brogue seemed thicker. It only did that when he was worried.
“Now my darlin’,” he said to me as my crocodile tears subsided. “Come and meet my friend.”
The Price on CherryPop’s Head
That zombie, my first one, turned out to be the best friend I’ve ever had. My father raised him that night because I needed protection. There was a price on my head and I wasn’t even four years old. The only child of Charlotte and Desmond McGee was worth a lot in the Shadow world. The bounty hunter who brought me in could be paid in magic or money, seller’s choice.
In those days, the Shadow world was our name for the real world – the ones with bankers and lawyers and movie stars but if you were paying attention, that world included witches, vamps and zombies etc… To those bankers and lawyers and movie stars, the supernatural was the stuff of fiction – entertaining, but not real and anyone who believed it, well they were just nuts.
Liam the zombie had been my dad’s bodyguard before he was killed putting himself between dad and a deadly blast of magic. That was the night they found out about the price on my head.
Desperate to protect me, Dad raised Liam immediately and put him back to work.
Zombies Are People Too
The idea that zombies aren’t mindless walking corpses is still a stereotype we struggle with today. If one is raised properly by a necromancer, they are very much like themselves. Just… dead. They can walk normally – none of that stiff, arms out stumbling they do in the movies. They don’t eat brains or flesh. They don’t eat, period. Or sleep, or drink. They can’t have sex (no blood circulation) or smoke cigarettes (no breath) either.
But they have feelings. They love and hate just like they would have when they were alive.
What keeps a zombie animated is the power of the necromancer. Which is why a zombie needs to be raised by one, not by some wannabe or amateur. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you will raise a mindless corpse incapable of coherent thought.
My dad was a powerful necromancer. By the time he brought me back to talk to Liam, the new zombie had changed out of his dirty burial suit and wiped the blood from his lips. He looked human. Liam took my small hand in his cold one, and smiled.
Even Necromancers Cry
I don’t think Liam ever knew that I saw the look on his face in that moment. I never told him I saw it. When he took my hand and smiled at me, I fancied a look of sadness in Liam’s eyes. I was too young then to know of things like regret and wistfulness. Emotions were basic to me. Sad. Happy. Mad. Sleepy. To me, Liam looked sad despite the smile. It would be years before I ever figured out why.
My father stood there with us, fierce and protective. I don’t think he saw that look in Liam’s eyes. His head was too full of magic and worry. Too much had happened. The discovery of the price on my head, the attack by the wizard bounty hunter that killed Liam, the grief of that loss followed by the preparation for the raising, hiding mom and me until it was completed, and my freak-out at seeing Liam back from the dead. As strong as my father is, even he has a breaking point.
When I was safely tucked in my bed with Liam stationed outside my door, I fell asleep listening to my father sobbing in my mother’s arms.
Keeping CherryPop Safe
After that night my father changed a little. It was harder to get him to play with me or read to me. Seemed he was always busy in a meeting or off talking to the local vampires. When I finally managed to have him all to myself, he was distracted, always looking out the windows or in the shadowy corners of the room.
You never knew when or where a wizard would pop up. They’re pretty sneaky.
Now, don’t get me wrong about my dad. I grew up knowing that he and mom loved me to bits. They made sure of that. But our lives changed big time after that night. Dad had to work harder, making pacts with nearby covens and those local vamps in a bid to keep me safe. He was also doing his best to track down the other wizards involved in my aborted kidnapping. The one who killed Liam had died before dad could question him.
I didn’t know any of this of course. I mean come on, I was three. In my little world, Dad was just away on business a lot. But I had Liam and to give a zombie credit, he took the edge off missing my daddy.
A Life for a Life
I suppose I should fill in the details, as they say, on what happened that terrible night. Mind you, my own memories aren’t very detailed. If I close my eyes and pour my concentration into it, I can recall bits and pieces.
A Lego piece falling from my little hand as my dad scooped me up. The smell of his cologne as my face pressed against his chest. The racing of his heart. Scrunching my eyes up tight against a brilliant yellow light. A scream that might have been Mom’s. Stillness. Opening my eyes when Dad fell to his knees. Seeing Liam lying in front of us, his eyes open but not really seeing…
I don’t remember much else. I don’t think my young brain wanted to remember anything more. What led up to that night will have to be filled in by my parent’s journals. Mom was way better at keeping her journal up to date than Dad was, but this time he wrote down every detail. He always said he felt like he owed it to Liam to record his death properly.
What follows is the recounting of the night Liam saved my life.
The Death of Liam O’Connor, Part 1
From the journal entries of Desmond McGee:
It started with a phone call in the middle of the night. Charlotte has since forbidden me from answering the phone in the middle of the night. “No call at 3am is ever good news, Des. Best face whatever it is after a good night’s sleep.”
Then again, if I hadn’t answered the phone on this night, my beautiful wife, my darlin’ CherryPop and I would all be dead.
It was Liam calling from down the pub to warn us to get out of the house. He had overheard some chatter amongst the lesser wizards who frequent that pub that something big was about to go down. Something involving my little Popsicle.
He told us to get up, get CherryPop and get out. He’d meet us at the car in a few minutes.
We never made it to the car.
As soon as Charlotte and I stepped outside our bedroom we were both knocked to the floor. There was a surprised-looking wizard just outside CherryPop’s door. The magic wallop he sent our way was not a killing blast.
Charlotte stood and began to power up.
The Death of Liam O’Connor, Part 2
Despite the presence of a powerful wizard in our hallway who was trying to kill us, I couldn’t help but watch my wife as she called the elements and let them flow through her. I loved to see the wind she generated whip her long curls around. I could only get a sense of the power that was beginning to course through her. It crackled against my skin and made the hairs on my arms stand on end.
A sharp zing of electricity flew from her fingertips and slammed into the intruder as he tried to retreat. The force of it sent him flying into the wall at the end of the hall, cracking the plaster. He let out a gasp and collapsed unconscious.
Charlotte slumped and I caught her before she could fall. The energy she expelled had weakened her. She looked at me, her large green eyes full of fear and worry. “CherryPop.” she whispered.
I laid her gently on the floor and hurried into my little girl’s room. There she was, tucked up around her favorite doll, asleep. Peaceful. I let out the breath I didn’t know I was holding.
The Death of Liam O’Connor, Part 3
Liam ran into the room which startled CherryPop awake. She looked at me and then at Liam who was gasping near the doorway.
“Daddy?” she asked her voice crackling with sleep. I tucked a stray lock of hair behind her ear and hummed a gentle tune until I had lulled her back to sleep. When I was sure she slept, I stood, took a deep breath and left the room with Liam.
“What the hell is going on?” I asked him once we had moved into the study.
“From what I can gather Des, someone wants CherryPop. I heard them say something about a bounty.”
Charlotte gasped, clapping her hand to her mouth. I pulled her to me and kissed her cheek. I looked hard at Liam.
“It’s Alexander isn’t it?” I asked.
“I heard no names but if I had to venture a guess I’d say yes. The only child of Desmond and Charlotte McGee… She’s valuable. And Alexander is a strong wizard. Who knows what uses he would have for her?” Liam replied, his eyes not quite meeting mine.
I sighed. “Liam… old friend. I have something I need to ask of you.”
The Death of Liam O’Connor, Part 4
Liam stared at the floor for several moments after I finished speaking. His thoughts churned and rumbled through his head as he took in the request. I, for my part, did not press my friend. I merely sat there in silence and watched him deliberate with himself. Charlotte clutched my hand tightly and I offered her a tired smile.
“I’ll do it.” The words fell from Liam’s lips before he’d even realized he’d said them. He glanced up at me and held my gaze. I could tell that the promise he was making was already beginning to wear on him.
But he would do it. His family had been with the ours for generations. The love and loyalty he felt for us was so ingrained that he would be willing to let go of his own desires with only a little bit of regret. I hoped. I abhorred what I was being forced to ask of him, but it was all I could think of to ensure CherryPop’s safety.
I moved and knelt before him and took his hand in mine. “Thank you Liam. Thank you.”
Charlotte stood. “We need to leave. Now.” she said.
The Death of Liam O’Connor, Part 5
Liam has a little cabin tucked up in the woods outside the city and we decided that’s where we would hole up until we could figure out what to do. CherryPop thought it was a grand adventure and we did our best to make it fun so she wouldn’t sense our worry.
So with a van packed to the brim with Cherry’s Lego’s and dollies we were on our way. Liam drove and I helped my wee girl build a castle on the floor in the back while Charlotte looked on. After the excitement this morning, the trip was uneventful, thank goodness.
When we arrived, Liam and I unloaded the van while my girls went in to light the lamps and unpack the food.
“Listen Liam,” I said, grabbing his arm as he passed. “I want – no, I need to thank you for everything you’ve done for us. For keeping us safe. I don’t know what I would do without my girls.” My voice cracked.
“Ach Des, I know what they mean to you. There’s no need for thanks. We’re all right, you and me. No worries.”
I smiled gratefully and went inside.
The Death of Liam O’Connor, Part 6
The rest of the day passed uneventfully. Charlotte had set up a protection spell around the grounds that would alert us if anyone crossed the barrier, so we felt relatively safe. Liam and I played some cards while Charlotte and CherryPop napped during the high afternoon heat.
It was just after sunset when everything went balls up.
Charlotte’s spell sounded the alarm, startling all of us. I ran for CherryPop and scooped her up from her pile of Lego’s. I cradled her close to me as I ran for the door. Behind me I could hear Charlotte begin to chant and I could feel her power building.
“Des! Run now! It’s Alexander!” she shouted, her concentration broken as the wizard in question stepped into the room. He raised his staff and pointed it at me.
“NOOO!” Charlotte screamed and ran toward him. A vivid blue light lit the room as his blast raced towards me. I had just enough time to turn and shield CherryPop before I felt a hard thud against my back and I fell forward.
Liam was lying on top of us. Dead.
The Resurrection of Liam O’Connor, Part 1
The room was silent. I could no longer hear CherryPop crying or my wife screaming. The weight of Liam’s body covering mine made it difficult to breathe. As if I could breathe at all in that moment. I shifted Liam gently to the side and curled myself around my daughter.
Gradually, as if someone turned up the cosmic volume, the noise returned. Charlotte was now deadly calm as she stood between us and Alexander. The words she chanted in a steady voice were nonsensical to me but Alexander looked terrified. His body began to shake uncontrollably as Charlotte’s chant grew stronger. She stepped towards him, shouting now and Alexander screamed. Such a scream I have never heard in all my long years. I never hope to again.
Blood began to pour from Alexander’s eyes and nose. His fingernails became crescents of blood that dripped to the floor. Then with a wet pop, the wizard exploded covering everything – and everyone – in shredded bits of wizard.
Charlotte turned to me, smiled a bloody smile, and collapsed.
The Resurrection of Liam O’Connor, Part 2
The power of my wife’s spell didn’t leave much of Alexander intact. But he was gone. So was my friend. I didn’t feel too bad for Alexander.
Charlotte was lying near my feet. She looked at me through tired eyes and whispered, “I’m okay baby.” I laughed. Not true laughter, mind you. No, I think it was entirely inappropriate laughter filled with relief and remnants of my fear. My family was safe and the bad guy was dead. No bringing him back either.
My laughter stopped abruptly when I turned to Liam lying so still beside me. I touched his face and felt his faint energy but it was draining away. It was time for Liam to fulfill his oath.
“Charlotte, honey. Liam is dead.” My voice shook. I didn’t want to do this. If I was truly Liam’s friend I never would have asked this of him. A true friend would have let Liam rest. He died a hero.
Charlotte reached for my hand and squeezed it. “He agreed to it. Look at your girl, Des. Look at her.”
I looked at my blood-spattered girl, and then shut my eyes. “I need to prepare.”
The Resurrection of Liam O’Connor, Part 3
I cannot put down in this journal the components of the Raising Rituals. They are kept secret and fiercely guarded by those in my profession. I did, however, need more space than the small cabin could afford. So while I set about preparing an area in the woods, Charlotte took CherryPop, who was sound asleep, and tucked her gently on the sofa in the tiny living room. Only when she was sure the little widget was deep asleep did she put on some coffee. It would be hours before either of us would sleep.
Finally it was time to begin. Charlotte wanted to help me, but I refused. I was terrified of leaving CherryPop alone so I asked her to stay inside. This was going to be difficult enough. If a necromancer has doubts, or fears about raising someone, things can go… wrong. I’ve read accounts of this happening but I was arrogant enough to believe it wouldn’t happen to me. I’ve always been sure of my zombies.
Not this time. This time I knew that Liam would have to live with a deep regret. And I was the cause.
The Resurrection of Liam O’Connor, Part 4
It was just a few weeks ago that Liam and I talked about families. He’s always been so good with CherryPop. I can’t count the times I would walk in the house to find elaborate forts built from sofa cushions and blankets. My little girl would giggle from within and Liam would appear with an armful of pillow reinforcements.
One evening I crawled into the fort pretending to be the black hat baddie while Liam the white hat saved her. I didn’t think I’d ever seen Liam enjoy himself so much.
Later, after CherryPop nodded off in the middle of a classic Liam tale of wicked kings and good faeries, we got to talking, and I discovered Liam’s wish for a family of his own. He told me it was always at the back of his mind, but from the time he joined my family as our protector, the desire only grew stronger.
“I can’t imagine a greater joy Des. I envy what you have.” he confessed. I squeezed his shoulder full of assurances of that “one day” when it happens for him.
Now that day will never come. And it’s my fault.
The Resurrection of Liam O’Connor, Part 5
“So. I’m back.”
Liam and I were seated in the little kitchen. I sipped coffee, Liam sipped nothing. The ritual went well despite my fears but I was exhausted. A deep, bone-tired ache that permeated my body but each time I acknowledged it, I felt guilt. Liam would never feel that anymore. So I drank my coffee to stave off the ache.
“I’m sorry Liam.” I told him.
“No you’re not Des. Please don’t give me your regrets. I have enough of my own. But I swore an oath to you and I’ll stand by it.”
I didn’t know what to say to that so I said nothing.
He smiled at me. “It’s going to take some time to adjust to this… weirdness. I mean, I would really like some of that coffee. It smells delicious. But I know I can’t have it. I can’t eat anymore. I can’t sleep. If I touch the coffeepot I’ll barely feel the heat of it. I won’t ever need the loo. I can’t… I can’t…” His face crumpled and he slumped forward, his body shaking.
“Bollocks. I can’t even cry Des.” He raised his dry eyes to mine. “I’ll always be alone.”
CherryPop Sums It All Up
So there you have it. Liam selflessly gave his life to save me. My father selfishly brought him back to protect me. It put a strain on their relationship for a while. Yes, Liam agreed to my father’s plan to raise him should he die protecting us and don’t think for a minute that my dad didn’t struggle with the ramifications of the oath. But becoming a zombie was never a part of Liam’s Life Plan.
No, he always thought he would serve my family, as his father and his father’s father had, until he met the right woman. Then he would propose, marry, have kidlets – perhaps a son who could carry on the family biz of keeping my family safe – and then grow old and die peacefully in his sleep surrounded by everyone he loved.
But the O’Connor line is dead now. Liam can’t wed because zombies have no rights, and even they did and Liam could marry, he physically can’t have children of his own. He was the last O’Connor son and he will be that until the day my father dies.
It’s a lonely way to live.
An Ordinary, Extraordinary Life, According to CherryPop
So what’s my life like these days? It’s normal. Well, as normal as it can be when you have supernatural parents, a bounty on your head, a zombie for a bodyguard, and your best friend since childhood is now a vampire struggling to deal with having to live off of blood for the rest of her life.
Okay, so maybe my life isn’t average. But I have been to the mall! I did prom and lived in a dorm at college. I know how to catch a pop-fly thanks to a baseball-lovin’, zombie-raisin’ father. I eat hot dogs and apple pie and yes, cherry pop is one of my favorite drinks. I am aware of the irony.
What I’m trying to say is that even though some parts of my life are extraordinary, other parts are pretty mundane – but a good mundane. Some of my best memories are of the three of us piled on the couch in the family room munching popcorn and watching the Padres play.
Of course later that night I’d go with Dad to the cemetery and watch him question the dead, but hey, to me that was normal.
The Difference Between Zombies
Did you know that to kill a zombie for good, you have to chant and offer up the proper rituals? That’s not easy to do when one is stumbling after you trying to get at your brain.
I think I’ve already mentioned that a true zombie, raised by a necromancer like my dad, is a walking, talking, thinking human – just you know, dead. And I’ve mentioned that a zombie raised by an untrained person tends to be of the brain-munching kind.
But the stupid zombie didn’t ask to crawl out of its grave and go looking for yummy human flesh. When people die, they expect to stay that way. So my father tries to lay a stupid zombie back to rest with the proper respect one shows for the dead. They just don’t make it easy for him to do so. It’s hard to prepare the circle, ready the sacrifice and chant the incantations when said zombie is doing its best to eat you.
The only option left is to chop them up into as many pieces as possible. That’s what we had to do the other night when someone raised a cemetery full of stupid zombies.
True Zombies Don’t Eat Brains
I’ve been to many Zombie Rights rallies in the past couple of years. My friends and I have been doing our best to show that a True Zombie is not dangerous and will not eat your brains or flesh.
But it hasn’t been easy considering the “normal” world is only recently coming to accept that the supernatural world actually exists outside the realm of Hollywood. Vampires, Zombies, Witches, and Wizards. All real. It’s a lot for your average Joe to take in.
Our rallies used to be peaceful. We would purposely stage quiet protests – sit-ins etc. – because to use any stronger, more radical tactics would reinforce the ‘all zombies are violent’ stereotype and we can’t have that.
But lately, a rash of incidents have been sabotaging our efforts. A radical necromancer-wannabe is raising stupid zombies and setting them loose on an unsuspecting public. Our rallies have become targets.
There has been panic. There has been chaos. Worst of all, there have been casualties.
CherryPop Can’t Save Them All
The last zombie rally didn’t start off bad. I showed up near city hall at dusk to set up. That would have been around 7pm, when the weekly council meetings start.
Liam helped me haul the signs out of the beat-up pick-up I always drive to these things. People began showing up in small groups and I handed out pamphlets, answered questions, stood for the odd picture – I’m sort of well-known I guess, at least among the zombie-friendly. Liam patiently let anyone who was curious touch him. It used to bother him but he decided his reluctance was a small price to pay if he helped even one person stop being squeamish.
The rally got underway and we chanted outside the council’s window and waved our signs. All was well until a scream shattered the calm crowd.
A woman at the back was grabbed and dragged towards a horde of waiting stupid zombies – the ones who will eat your brains. They descended on her like starving dogs and she was a pile of torn, ragged flesh by the time anyone could react. Before I could react.
CherryPop vs. the Stupid Zombies
More mindless zombies stepped out of the darkness and into the crowd. Their ceaseless, almost feral moaning gave a rumbling resonance to the shrieks and screams filling the air as my protesters struggled to keep from being eaten.
I plowed into the crowd and began dragging the zombies off of my people. Liam followed and just grabbed and threw the zombies aside like dolls, the showoff. But his aid allowed me time to focus on a spell I knew that created a sort of invisible barrier around my people that the zombies could not breach. I yelled at everyone to head for the parking lot while the frustrated zombies began throwing their bodies against the barrier.
I concentrated on keeping it up until Liam shouted that the last of our people had made it to their cars. Liam came to stand by me as my strength began to wane and the barrier wavered.
“Good barrier.” He said calmly, watching the zombies begin to zero in on us. “Now what?”
I looked up at him, took a deep breath and said, “Run.”
CherryPop Makes a Run For It
Liam grabbed my arm and started pulling me toward the parking lot. My barrier disintegrated as I lost concentration and the zombies stumbled after us.
I was exhausted though. Holding a spell together takes a lot out of you. My heart was pounding so hard with exertion that I thought it would burst free and scamper off on its own. I tripped over my own clumsy feet and went down, taking Liam with me. The zombies fell on us, scratching, ripping, biting, trying to get to our tasty – well, my tasty flesh. Liam’s is not so yummy.
The acrid taste of adrenaline filled my mouth along with a healthy wallop of fear. I screamed. The fear became a surge of energy that flowed out of me and swept into the rotting corpses on top of us. It sent them all flying backwards like a bubble bursting.
I scrambled to get up. I was bitten and bleeding but with Liam’s help we got to our feet and ran for the truck as the closest zombies regrouped and started after us again.
We reached the safety of my truck, jumped in and took off.
The Ones She Couldn’t Save
We drove in silence for a while; both of us a little shell shocked. I curled up in my seat and hugged my knees as Liam kept his eyes on the road.
“Are you hurt?” he asked finally, his voice thick with concern as he glanced at me.
“You don’t look fine Cherry.”
I sighed and hugged my knees tighter. The gesture sent sharp, needle-like pain across my skin from the bites I’d sustained and I winced. Oh don’t worry, a zombie bite doesn’t turn you into one. They just hurt like hell.
I squeezed my eyes shut and tried to block out the pain and shock. My body shook as I fought to control myself. Any moment I would break down in great weepy tears and I just couldn’t afford that. Not right now.
Liam reached over and gently put his hand on my arm. That touch, the strength I could feel in it… That did it. I gave up the control and I wept. Liam pulled over and stopped the truck. He turned to me, pulled me over to him and just held me while I cried for the ones I couldn’t save tonight.
CherryPop Goes For Help
“We have to go back.”
Liam pulled back and looked at me. “What? No. There’s too many. I can’t protect you from them all.”
I glared at him through my watery eyes. “I can protect myself Liam. I’m not some helpless little girl you know.”
“Oh I know. I know that very well kiddo. But look at this rationally please. You’re weak -” I opened my mouth to protest. “Let me finish. You’re weak from the barrier spell. If you’re going to face them, you need full strength. You know that. Otherwise you’ll just get yourself killed.” He looked away and continued in a soft voice. “You need help. Help I can’t give you.”
I sighed. I was angry that Liam thought I was too weak to face a bunch of stupid zombies. But that damn rational part of my brain kicked in and I realized he was right. I was weakened – for now. There was no way I could attempt the Resting spell on that many zombies by myself. I needed help. I needed my dad.
“You’re right. But we have to deal with them tonight. Head for home Liam. We’re going to get Dad.”
The Zombie Outbreak
My parents lived in a cozy little house just outside of town. There was a small wilderness of frenzied flowers and herbs lining the path to the arched doorway. Mom loved to garden but she wasn’t very orderly about it. No neat little rows of clary sage and black-seeded poppies for her. Instead, patches of henbane and hellebore grew amongst the jasmine and dittany roots. It made for interesting smells and riotous colors this time of year.
By the time Liam and I arrived, they had just curled up together to watch the Padre game. I could see them through the window as I walked up to the door. Dad had his never-ending bowl of popcorn (and I mean that literally. It was a little spell Mom cooked up for him) in his lap while Mom leaned against him and read her book. They looked so content, and I was about to ruin their night.
I must have sighed because Liam squeezed my shoulder reassuringly as he opened the door for me. I took a deep breath and walked inside.
“Dad, we’ve got a zombie outbreak.”
We’re Going to Need a Bigger Axe
“You’re bleeding darlin’.” Dad said, worry in his eyes. He was looking at my left arm where a tenacious zombie had taken a bite. It looked worse than it was.
“I’m fine Dad, really. There’s no time to bandage me up.” I replied, glancing at mom who had walked into the room with the first aid kit. “I need you to get your stuff and come back with us. I’ll tell you what I know on the way.” Dad nodded and began gathering up his necromancy gear.
“We’ll need to lead them back to the cemetery so I can take care of them.” he said to Liam.
“We’ll worry about that when we get there.” I said.
As we headed for the truck, I took a little detour through the garden. There was a weathered old axe embedded in a tree stump near the fence. I looked up to watch my father carefully stow his equipment in the back of the truck. I could tell he was working out some kind of plan to Rest them humanely.
But I hadn’t told him how many there were yet.
With a sigh, I pulled the axe from the stump and joined Dad and Liam in the truck.
Survival of the Deadest
When we arrived back at City Hall, Dad was fuming. Liam and I had filled him in on the evening’s events and he was decidedly unhappy about his only daughter getting caught up in a zombie outbreak.
“We should have been better prepared Dad. I know.” I tried to placate him. But as we parked the truck in almost the same spot we’d been in before, Dad saw the carnage left over from our retreat.
There were several bodies strewn across the grounds. Each one in various stages of mutilation. A throat torn out in one, blood pooling beneath it as the heart pumped the last of it out. Another body’s head was bashed in and the brain was nowhere to be seen. Probably eaten.
We spread out and began the gruesome task of accounting for the dead. The zombies who had done this had disappeared – probably off looking for live food – but we remained watchful.
“This one’s still alive!” Dad called out to us.
I ran over to him and looked down. Staring up at me with a pained, bloody smile was my best friend, Simone. The vampire.
You Can’t Keep a Good Vamp Down
“Simone! What the hell…?” I gasped; shocked that she was even here.
“I’m all right.” she replied. “Most of this blood isn’t mine.”
She took my hand and slowly got to her feet. She was a mess. What was left of her slinky red dress was tattered and spattered with dirt and blood. I could see bruises forming on her upper arms where she’d been grabbed and her usually immaculate and elaborate hairdo was loose and wild with bits of leaves and gravel tangled throughout.
“Thought I was a goner, didn’t you Cherry?” She smiled at me and rubbed a sore spot on her head. “You can’t keep a good vamp down girl. You know that.”
I grinned at her and hugged her close. “I’m so glad you’re all right. But what are you doing here?” My voice shook. “If I’d known you were here, I would never have left you behind.” I whispered. Tears fell. Damn things.
She tolerated my mushiness just this once before she gently pushed me back. “I came to warn you CherryPop.” She looked sadly at the bodies on the ground. “But I was too late.”
All CherryPop’s Fault
We all stood together for a few moments and surveyed the carnage. We were quiet. Solemn.
Bodies were strewn across hedges or flung against the embankment like so much trash, casually tossed aside by zombies who’d had their fill. The bright mix of daffodils and daisies scattered throughout the landscaping, once so bright and cheerful were now crushed and spattered with blood and ichor.
The zombies were nowhere to be seen and the streets were empty. Either they had wandered off in their stumbling, bumbling manner or who ever was responsible for them had called them back. As Simone and I clutched each other and gazed with glazed eyes at the dreadful scene, Dad and Liam quietly and reverently began to gather up the dead.
If you have been bitten or even eaten by one of these ‘stupid’ zombies, you won’t return as one. That’s a myth. You’re simply dead. And probably mangled. No, these people, these wonderful people who came to support a True Zombie’s right to civil liberties were slaughtered. And it was my fault.
The Anti-Zombie Coalition
“We need to find out who raised those zombies Dad.”
“I know sweetie.” Dad answered with a tired sigh.
“Well, my first instinct is to say it wouldn’t be a bad idea to check out the AZC.”
I frowned. “The Anti-Zombie Coalition? Really? I thought they were a fairly passive bunch. You know, smalltime. All talk.”
“Maybe they got some funding.” Liam chimed in as he passed by. He carried another body in his arms, a small woman I recognized as the checkout lady at my favorite grocery store. I had given her a flyer for the rally only that morning. I stared at her glazed, dull eyes as her head lolled against Liam’s chest and I felt the roil and rumble of anger begin to build up within me.
I watched as Liam gently laid her body next to an older man whose clothing was soaked in blood that was beginning to pool beneath him. Hot tears stabbed my eyes. I angrily wiped them away, determined not to lose it. Not now. Later I could grieve and mourn and self-flagellate.
Now was the time to make someone pay.
A Rogue Necromancer
It was almost dawn by the time we finished up in the plaza. I was itching to get out of there and pay a visit to the head of the AZC. He was a tiny, nothing little man, but if Dad was right and his coalition was responsible, than someone in the organization had some necromancing skills. Which meant they were unlicensed.
Liam, Dad and I walked to the truck, each of us lost in our thoughts. Dad was exhausted, but I was wired and Liam doesn’t tire out. Benefits of Zombie-dom. But his furrowed brow and constant glances in my direction let me know he was worried.
We piled into the truck and just sat there for a while watching the sun come up. Liam was the first to break the silence.
“You’re going after them aren’t you.” It was more of a statement than a question.
“After what we saw… what those things did… ” I trailed off, tears threatening. I turned to him. “This is bigger than me Liam, and I can’t do it alone. But I have to do something.”
Liam rested his hand on mine. “You won’t be alone.”
Liam and I dropped Dad off at home so he could fill Mom in on what happened. Simone had taken off before the police arrived to sort out the mess at the plaza and we were all to meet at AZC headquarters after sunset.
I tried to catch a few hours sleep but I was just too keyed up. So I prowled around my apartment while Liam dinked around online looking for info on the Coalition. There wasn’t much. Just a plain, businesslike website with a mission statement and a contact number.
I guess it would have been too much to hope for to just find their evil plans posted in a blog or something.
As dusk approached, we gathered up weapons – I sported my favorite set of knives while Liam favored his trusty .357 – and headed out to the ramshackle little house outside of town that passed as the AZC headquarters.
We approached on foot, quietly, with all of our senses on high alert. Good thing too. As we stepped into the driveway, several zombies stumbled out of the shadows, snarling, drooling, and looking for snacks.
CherryPop and the Zombie Battle
“Liam…” I said softly, keeping my eyes on the closest zombie as it gurgled.
“I see them.” he replied tersely, slowly pulling his .357 out. The five of us stood close, facing outward. Mom began a low chant and I could feel the tiny hairs on the back of my neck stand up. She was raising a barrier.
The zombies lurched closer and formed a ring around us. There had to be at least a dozen of them. But they were stupid. How were they clever enough to surround us? Zombies are usually just kill kill kill, munch munch munch.
Dad spread his arms wide, palms facing out and _pushed_ his will outwards in an attempt to gain control of the hostile zombies. Liam froze in mid-aim. Not a flicker of his eye, not a flutter of his lashes. None of the others were affected.
“Uh, Dad?” He glanced at me and I flicked my eyes at Liam.
“Damn.” he said, and released his will. Liam finished taking aim, ready to fire.
“MURUS!” shouted my mother and a silver light sprung up from the ground, encircling us. She had bought us some time.
CherryPop: Warrior and… Snookums?
The zombies began hurling themselves at us only to be stopped cold by the barrier Mom was holding up. She stood in the center of us, palms facing outward, keeping the energy circulating within the barrier.
Simone got her game face on and hissed every time a zombie clashed against the barrier. She looked magnificent, making the rest of us look like ruffians. Her dark eyes glittered as she poised for battle, a low growl rumbled from the demon within. I noticed Liam staring at her.
“Oi! Liam! Pressing matter here.” I said, chucking him in the ribs. He shook his head and took aim at the nearest zombie. I stood next to my father, my knives unsheathed and ready to do some slashing.
“Mom if you can keep the barrier up until I give the word, that would be peachy.”
“You got it snookums.” she replied and I winced.
“Mooom.” I whined softly.
“Sorry sugar cookie.” I rolled my eyes.
I watched the zombies. Several threw themselves against the barrier at once.
“Now!” I shouted and the barrier came crashing down.