Feast your Internet-glazed eyes on these long excerpts from two of the 33 zombie and monster stories in BEACH BLANKET ZOMBIE…
EXCERPT No. 1: The opening pages of the story, “Tell Your Secrets to the Slime”
“Mom,” I had asked her, “do you think we’ll get back home in time for my birthday?”
Her reply? She said what she always used to say when she meant ‘No,’ but still wanted to torture me with hope. “Maybe yes, maybe no. Maybe rain, maybe snow.”
I’ve never touched snow – in fact, I’ve only seen it from a great distance. All the settlements to which we’d ever delivered had been pretty warm, some even tropical. It never snows on my home planet – probably because it isn’t really a planet. It’s a space station called Capricorn 289, built upon a large asteroid. There, ‘outdoors’ isn’t a grassy meadow or a forest or field of wheat. ‘Outdoors’ is a desolate landscape of ragged black rocks under a bleak night sky. No sunshine, no clouds – no air. You’ll see plenty of pitted, dented spaceships and shuttles, though.
I have a few friends about my age, twenty-four, on Capricorn 289. We liked to throw secret parties in storage facilities and unused ships. Some of my friends would even steal stimulants from their parents – drugs, bottles of fermented v’raaka, brain implants, other goodies. Fun isn’t something built into the system there. You have to grab it on the sly.
Mom’s business was based on Capricorn 289. I say ‘was’ because I have a feeling that her business doesn’t have much of a future. Basically, she owned and operated an interplanetary delivery service. Most of her crew members were ex-prisoners from nearby planets.
‘Nearby.’ That seems like a truly ridiculous choice of words when describing the proximity of worlds. I don’t have what you’d call a formal education, but I still think I’m pretty smart. Yet I still find space travel hard to understand. How can space be laced with natural tunnels that create shortcuts through – itself? Impossible. And yet it does. Thanks to those wormholes, planets that are light-years apart can indeed be near each other. Neighbors. I once asked Mom to explain it to me, and she said, “It just works, that’s all. Like eyeballs. How can a ball of goo see things? I can’t explain that either. But that won’t stop me from looking around.”
Mom’s name: Letitia Gannon. My name: Conrad Gannon. Our top ship: the Gaea. Whenever Mom decided to go on a delivery – because she was bored, or wanted to see an ocean (she loved oceans) – she always made the trip in the Gaea. And she always took me along to wait on her, because she was crippled. She never told me what was wrong with her. Probably because that would require her to admit something was indeed wrong. A fault? She could never confess to one of those. But basically, she had a problem with her bones that grew worse with age. Her limbs were weak and slightly malformed, and she was flabby, too, since exercise was out of the question.
Her company’s last job had been a delivery to a stinking toilet bowl of a planet. It was heavily polluted, and global warming had melted too much of its polar ice, washing over most of its land. The vast majority of the people had gone away, so other planets began to use it as a dump hole. Its oceans became primal soup gone berserk, so schools across the galaxy liked to send academic missions to see what was cooking. One of these missions was an amphibious ship called the Perseus – it could travel through space, drive across land and through swamps, even cruise like a yacht. Mom used to say ships like that should be called Chitty Chitty Bang-Bangs, but she never bothered to tell me what that meant – though she did once say it was the best idea the ancients ever had. She had loads of old books, though most of them were preserved in a variety of quaint old electronic, sometimes even paper formats. I don’t know why they didn’t use recreational brain implants back then. I guess they were just stupid.
The job was to deliver supplies to the Perseus. Mom wanted to go, since it was an ocean planet. So of course, I had to go, too. To oozy, swampy, shitty old Earth.
– – –
On our first day there, we had a little time, so Mom told the pilot to “take the scenic route.” Basically, that meant we got to wander at a decent elevation, taking in the sights. I sat with her in her chamber and together, we watched the wall monitors. We ate fried gronth and had some chocolate fizz.
The waters of Earth were choked with pollution. A lot of the crap had congealed into islands of hardened foam and scum that floated along on the surface. Embedded in these islands, you could see skeletons of all sorts of animals, and people, too. Lots of metal and plastic artifacts were stuck in the goo as well. Rotted-out automobiles, washing machines, dolls, vacuum cleaners, TV sets… A friend of mine from Capricorn 289 used to collect old Earth junk, so I was able to identify most of the crap. Mom was pretty impressed.
That ocean scum was crawling with vermin. Big jumping things with shell-like bodies, dozens of spindly legs, and clusters of shiny silver eyes. Enormous slugs oozing with black slime. Glassy crystalline creatures shaped like pyramids with clear tendrils spouting from the points. And all over the garbage, worms of every color, texture and type – black and smooth, red and spiny, yellow and scaly, green and segmented.
At one point, Mom saw a creature that looked like a fuzzy bath sponge with three jointed legs, one big pink eye and a catlike mouth. “Look at that thing!” she said. “Isn’t that bizarre? I want one of those. When we get to the rendezvous point, tell the crew to look for one of those.”
“What do you think it’s called?” I said.
“I don’t think it’s called anything,” she said. “So I’ll give it a name. I’ll name it after you: how’s that? A Conradoid. Looks just like you! Now fetch me some more fried gronth.”
The rendezvous point was on a stretch of beach on the island of Vanna. I asked Mom what the name meant and she said, “Some ancient love goddess. She was also the goddess of good luck and prizes.”
Later, as our “scenic route” was coming to an end, we did see something that made all the other freaky sea-things look as boring as shoes. It was an old Earth cruise ship, still drifting along after countless centuries. But there was something very wrong with it. The whole thing was covered with a sort of thick green tissue, veined with purple streaks. Here and there the tissue was swollen into thick, enflamed lumps….
(Read the book to see what happens next…)
EXCERPT No. 2: The opening pages of the story, “ZOM BEE MOO VEE”
The meaty old woman looked straight through me as she took my money. She shuffled through cards illustrated with lizards and drag queens, and said, in a voice like rusty hinges:
It is clear to me that in a previous life, you were the luscious and insouciant Necrilda Voltaire, princess of Zovemba Island. You may be saying to yourself, ‘How can this be? I am a man,’ but gender is not a quality that one carries from life to life. And at any rate, Necrilda was a man, too. Only a man would dare to be that beautiful.
Purple-black eyes and hair! Star-white skin and teeth! Silver fingernails long enough to open envelopes! Her voice was shrill like some sort of insane insect, but what did it matter? At night she would reach her nails toward the skies and the love-smitten daemons who dwell in the clouds would surrender their secrets. And Necrilda would gather those secrets to her problematic bosom and become one with them. Secrets are power. Power is success. And success is beauty.
Too beautiful for words, and too beautiful to live! A waist that thin has no business holding working organs. Necrilda strolled into the garden with a green bottle, and poisoned herself in the name of fashion. As she fell into the flowers, the bottle flew from her hand, right into a bubbling stream.
Very soon the air above the stream was filled with swirling rainbow fumes, and all the wispy dragonflies fell down dead. Of course the fish died, and the plants, too. Soon the banks of the stream were littered with the bodies of cows and dogs and farmhands. And still the waters flowed on – into the town.
Very soon, Zovemba was an island of death.
I grabbed the old woman by the elbow and said, You must be talking nonsense – you can’t even look me in the eye! But she only pointed meekly, secretively over my shoulder, into the heavy shadows of her cluttered rat’s-nest of a living room. I peered in that direction, but all I saw was a goldfish bowl on a cherrywood table. She continued with her ravings:
Dead bodies are funny things. They twist and turn: the foul gases of decomposition seep around, under the skin, making parts twitch and jump. Sometimes muscles tighten up in a most expected manner.
Well, Necrilda’s extreme beauty prevented her dead body from doing anything too awful, rotwise. But in time, the muscles in her shoulders and arms began to tighten, until her hands shot straight up into the air. A few tiny facial muscles tightened, too, so that her eyes flew wide open. So there she was, regarding the heavens with open eyes and arms. Of course the cloud daemons, not knowing that she was dead, sent down their secrets, as was their way.
Secrets, you know, are simply the answers to hard questions. This time, the secrets sent down by the cloud daemons answered the question: how does one raise the dead? Necrilda embraced this secret to her bosom and slowly stood up, with a light shining in her eyes that wasn’t life, but something just as good. Or bad.
(Read the book to see what happens next…)
BEACH BLANKET ZOMBIE is available as a paperback or on Kindle. Here’s the Amazon.com Kindle link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0091X6XTO
Also available on Amazon.co.uk: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Beach-Blanket-Zombie-Humanoid-ebook/dp/B0091X6XTO