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Sardonis
February 25th, 2013, 08:09 AM
WARNING: MATURE LANGUAGE AND UNSETTLING THEMES

AUTHORS NOTES:
Here is something I just started working on. I'm aware this kind of thing has been beaten to death, but I like writing tragedy, angst and gore, and what has more of that than a zombie novel? Basically I want opinions on this and thoughts about what direction to take the rest of the book in (what tense to put it in, what POV to put it in, how long should it be, etc.). I'd like to hear any thoughts you have. Enjoy~
//END AUTHORS NOTES

I remember feeling warm. It was soothing, really, the puddle of liquid all around me; the horizon of surface tension that caressed my sleeping cheek. I was in the womb, I was invincible. The movement awoke me before the sounds, the soft rocking of bed beneath me as the decade old frame shifted under the weight. I thought it was an earth quake. There were so many back then that I wrote it off and continued to doze. That is, until the audio track of my lullaby finally kicked in. At first I noticed the strange gargling sound. It was soft and wet, a sound like soggy pillows. I remember being too asleep to identify it. Eventually, as the winter of sleep melted into spring I recognized them; breathing, the sticky sound of chewing, the sound a watermelon rind makes as you flex it to its breaking point to dig off the last bits of juicy fruit. Come to think about it, watermelon was exactly what the whole thing sounded like. I donít remember what my exact thoughts were before I opened my eyes (I mean, who fucking would) but had I had a little more time, I would have dismissed the whole thing as my best friend holding out on me and snacking on the last of Earthís watermelons as I starved on a diet of canned vegetables and protein wafers.

When I opened my eyes, though. Fuck that.

Two white spheres lay beside me on the bed in the puddle of black liquid. It was the kind of dark that allows for no color, a bleak world of charcoal on midnight, pewter on obsidian. I could barely make out the hunched figure beside me, its knobby hands working through strands of silver, parting and obsessing over them as it dug its crooked teeth into the depths of its capture. Pale white arms caught my attention, slender fingers still twitching hopefully just inches from my face. I remember fear seeping into me like ice melting across a counter top; a cold twinge of pain in my forehead that slowly gripped my every joint and muscle rendering me petrified. Had I been able to move, I think I would have opted not to. I was too scared to be seen. I couldnít even scream. I felt as lifeless as the creature before me, watching it dig teeth and claws into the last person I ever wanted those things to find.

I donít know how long I stayed there, just watching a zombie pick out the very edges of my best friendís cerebral cortex like a kid finishing off a pomegranate on a hot summer day, but eventually my fingers found the cold handle of my baseball bat and I righted myself. All of that fear that kept me pinned to a puddle of Justinís slowly coagulating blood was replaced by rage and the horrible bitter taste of my ultimate failure at keeping the one person I cared about safe. My movements didnít even catch the monsterís attention, still obsessing over getting Justinís hair out of the way of its delicious midnight snack.

The silence was smashed by the metallic clang of the bat against its rotten skull. It stumbled from the bed, the sickening finality of Justinís final moments punctuated by his body falling flat and inanimate on the bed. I remember staring into his eyeless face for one last time, taking in the flawless curves of his cheek bones, the perfect arc of his cupidís bow. Even in death, brainless and limp in a pile of his own gore, he was stunning. The little white ping pong balls floating in the puddle seemed to beg me to put them back into his skull, but my fury didnít allow for any movements outside of making sure that fucker was deadóthis time forever.

In that blur of hatred and rage that seizes your mind and reduces it to flames and sulfur, I canít tell you how many times I swung my bat into its face. I remember a conscious thought telling me Ďthatís enoughí but it didnít stop the burning in my arms or the tears that streaked my face, leaving little traces in the blood of my best friend that coated half of me like a lament in armor. My bat flew, blood splattered the floor of the department store, marring the show room with a grotesque display. Clean up in domestics, I repeat, clean up in domestics. I remember when I became aware of the sounds I was making, inhuman grunting screams that tore through the twilight silence like sharp splashes of yellow paint on a black canvas. Thatís when I stopped. The body beneath me, reduced to no more than a smear of jelly against the walls and floor, eyes daring to poke out of the mess Iíd made. I remember stomping on one, feeling it pop under my boot.

No, I didnít turn around to collect him or his things. Justin probably still lays on that bed, eyeless and brainless hands still reaching toward a me that is no longer there. I hate myself for it, sometimes. I hate that I couldnít just take his bag or the things in his pockets, his last gifts to me in this decaying world. I hate that I didnít burn him, or bury him and just left him to rot in a Macys. He always hated the mall, hated people, and yet I left him out in the open for all the world to see. I apologize to him every day, pray to him like a god that watches over me and I wonder if he can hear it. If he can, do my cries fall on deaf ears? Does he tune me out because I couldnít protect him, or because I couldnít be assed to give him a funeral? Does he hate me, or in the afterlife does he finally look upon me with the same affection I always smothered him in? Does he finally love me from beyond the grave or was my failure that night the stone that tipped his scales into a divine spiral of blackest malice?

The fact that none of those questions will ever be answered bothers me more than the end of the world and how it surrounds me, drowning me beneath waves of hunger and survival. More than pushing through humanities last days, I just want to see him againóand not even for my own sanity. All I want is to apologize. Iím sorry, Jay. I couldnít protect you. I didnít keep you safe. I let you down on every promise I ever made and no amount of anything can ever fix it. I fucked up. I fucked up and Iím sorry.

NathanBrazil
February 26th, 2013, 07:47 AM
Hello Sardonis,

This was a very good read.

I especially enjoyed the first paragraph. The warm fluid reminiscent of the womb - the sounds of eating watermelon. I like how the warmth and safety of the dream-state clashed with the harsh reality.

I've read so many zombie stories, I find it difficult to see a clear path that avoids all the cliches. After this first paragraph, it felt very much like every other zombie story. It's funny that when I saw the word zombie in your story, I immediately wanted to remove it. I liked the fact that it had not been mentioned and was dissappointed when it appeared.

I feel like you've spent a bit too much time with the anger and self-loathing.

You've hit upon some key components that still work for me. What is it that worked so well in 28 days? Small scale, a tight-knit group, that allowed us to focus on the relationships. Well-written, solid characters and an interesting balance of lighter moments weaved in between all of the horror.

Anyway, good stuff. I'm intrigued and would like to see more.

moderan
February 26th, 2013, 08:08 AM
This reads okay. That said, the "modern" zombie novel doesn't make it for me. Too many cliches, too much ignorance of the native traditions that birthed the whole "zombie" school. Wade Davis (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wade_Davis) and Henry S Whitehead (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_S._Whitehead) covered the zombie thing better than any number of novels are gonna. Too much George Romero, too little Baron Samedi. Bad juju.
The most original zombie novel ever was by Richard Lupoff. Space War Blues (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_War_Blues), it was called. Surprised it never became a videogame. Way ahead of its time.
Good luck though. I hope you find a new wrinkle on that zombi's corrugated forehead.

Sardonis
February 26th, 2013, 08:57 AM
Thanks for the kind words and critique!

I didn't want to use the word 'zombie' either but I was a little afraid that the scene would be hard to grasp with all the metaphor thrown in with no real clarification on what was happening.

As for self-loathing, well... that's an intrinsic part of the MC's character as well as my own, unfortunately. While he establishes it early in the story, it definitely wont be something that's drilled into the reader's head. I think setting up the idea that it's his biggest regret is important and there will be a few times early on where he mentions it to himself time to time, but he's an optimistic character. The story's themes are more focused on independence, growth, love, and gratitude. While it does have horror tones and the mass action fun of a stereotypical zombie novel that won't end up being the focus. I just thought it made a nice opening statement.

To be honest, I'm new to the genre and prefer to stay that way in an attempt to not echo too many influences. So if something rings as cliche I wont know until someone points it out haha. It's a dangerous path to tread, but I think this is more for fun than professionalism.

moderan
February 26th, 2013, 09:05 AM
Even if it's just for fun...at least for me, I like to know the territory. I avoid cliches like Brussels sprouts. But it's your work :)

Sardonis
February 26th, 2013, 09:19 AM
I've dipped into quite a bit of 'modern' zombie media. I've seen Dead Snow, Walking Dead, Shaun of the Dead and Night of the Living Dead and a few others I can't name (they tend to run together). I've also played Left 4 Dead, read Warm Bodies and The Dark Tower (the slow mutants totally count //cough).

This is a 'modern' zombie story by definition. I don't think that's a bad thing. What will set it apart wont be the setting or the imagery, but the writing and the characters.

moderan
February 26th, 2013, 09:25 AM
Don't let my doubts stop you. Good luck. But I think "modern zombie" anything is a snoozer-paloozer. I'd read about Clairvius Narcisse from the inside, though.

Sardonis
February 28th, 2013, 07:54 AM
I've done a lot of changes to the premise of this book. It's no longer a zombie story. I decided there were too little action scenes planned for it to be the center focus. Instead let me paint for you a picture of a post apocalyptic Illinois, after war and disease have wiped out what is left of America. The few remaining survivors are spread thin and instead the landscape is haunted by creatures birthed from radiation and viral infection. The creature in the above scene is a Remnant, a human mutant (of which there are few), rather than a zombie.

One of the main things I was going to focus on in this novel was the idea of 'hoards'. That's my least favorite thing about zombie stories. No group of humans could survive a zombie 'hoard', so I had it in my head that this book would have none. After careful consideration of the plot, I've switched my minor antagonists to mutants and monsters that come at a handful at a time because I feel like anyone looking for a 'zombie novel' isn't going to enjoy the lack of mass attackers and the more one-on-one situations.

I've also taken a lot of the action out of the plot and centered around getting to know Rook rather than watching him gun down enemies.

moderan
February 28th, 2013, 08:21 AM
That sounds a little better. I have a spoken-word (with musical backing) project that works somewhat along the same lines, as yet unrealized. Mutants are also sorta overused but can be fertile territory if you don't get too into powers and such and just deal with changes to DNA. For that matter, you could just deal with inbreeding, or whatever variant of devolved/alternate evolution/freaks of nature you wish to.
The trick to the piece, imo, is how to deal with the story and the tone. I'd express the humanity of the "mutants", if they have such. Look at their social groupings and suchlike, and try not to fall into the many traps of previous speculations. Might take some long hard thought, but there's the worth of the story. Otherwise you're essentially retelling a video game.

NathanBrazil
February 28th, 2013, 05:02 PM
Sounds good to me. But then I cain't never argue wit Moderan.

Sardonis
March 1st, 2013, 03:40 AM
Not 'mutants' in the Xmen sense. They're deformed, deranged humans. Their deformation comes from disease and radiation and their mental decline is a part of that. They're like creepier hunched over zombies. I do have a scene mapped out in the story in which Rook comes across a girl who seems to be half-mutant and he has this short crisis about the idea that the monsters were once human. She ends up having a pretty big affect on him and the story.

moderan
March 1st, 2013, 04:09 AM
"Mutants" are just mutated humans. Like the Hills Have Eyes bunch, essentially what you have here. That's what I meant. Sorry you didn't understand. I have more than enough biology to "get it".

Lewdog
March 1st, 2013, 04:11 AM
Sounds good to me. But then I cain't never argue wit Moderan.

Yes you can, but it often involves a knife fight with very sharp edges.

Sardonis
March 1st, 2013, 04:51 PM
"Mutants" are just mutated humans. Like the Hills Have Eyes bunch, essentially what you have here. That's what I meant. Sorry you didn't understand. I have more than enough biology to "get it".

You had said something about 'powers' so I was clarifying.