Friday, October 15, 2010

Swarm ……… Flash Fiction


They clawed at the dirt, pushed at the stones, groaning and scrabbling, freeing themselves from the earthy bedchambers grieving loved ones had provided. When the Governor called us in that first week, we stood at the fence and lobbed grenades into the cemetery; thinking it would destroy the things that crawled from the crypts. But how do you make the dead more dead?
Nothing stopped them. They swarmed like locust over whatever was in their path, leaving husks of automobiles and buildings behind. Flesh was easiest of all, and once assimilated, the bones of the freshly departed joined the masses.
They came. And came. Never resting. Relentless. Expressionless. Destroying anything that hindered progress toward some goal that lay in a straight line beginning at St. Basil's cemetery. Television coverage brought gawkers and thrill seekers. As they filmed or photographed, they were rolled over and consumed.
By the second week the skeletal march was a mile wide and four miles long. Lieutenant Christopher was somewhere in the pack. His men held the line at his order. The swarm had gone through his squad like a hot knife through butter. Not even a tank tread was left, anything softer than iron was consumed by the horde.
By the third week what was left of my troop trailed cautiously behind, watching from a distance as the swarm continued its grisly parade. We'd lost both the President and the Governor when the horde had raised itself on its own shoulders, like a macabre version of a cheerleading pyramid, and pulled their helicopter down.
Day and night the horde progressed; bones gleaming in the sun, glowing in the moonlight. The chirping of joints audible like crickets on a summer's evening amplified to a deafening volume.
By the fourth week religious leaders from all over the world were making their way to the only building left standing in the path that now looked like an ever expanding cone, the tip in Topeka, the base falling into the North Atlantic. Satellite photos showed the waters of the ocean churning white as the marching dead continued underwater on their grim journey.
The mathematicians tell us that if the ever widening swathe of destruction continues at its current rate, the earth will be completely devoid of life in six month's time.
Earth's only hope is that there is some clue; a book, an object, protective magic words of some kind secreted in this single untouched building that can save mankind from the skeletal future that seems inevitable.
We're making our way to the building to help. I'll do whatever they need me to do. I'll guard, cook, sweep the floors, hell; I'll stand on my head and sing Swing Low Sweet Chariot if it'll help someone trying to figure out how to save the world.
This looks like our last battle, and I'm much too young to die.





Thanks to Cathy Russell [ganymeder] for the Story Starter inspiration. Her start: Even daytime hours were fraught with peril, now that the dead no longer feared the sun...
I didn't actually use the line, but it jump started the grim frame of mind needed to write it.

42 comments:

ganymeder said...

What a scary dramatic story! I'm truly flattered that you used my prompt, and what you came up with is truly horrifying. Great job!

Rachel Blackbirdsong said...

Wow this was just great and so, so scary too. Nothing more frightening that being in a situation where you know there is almost no hope. You describe it perfectly. The part about the ocean gave me chills, because it was about that part of the story that I was thinking of getting on a boat...nope that wouldn't have worked. Yikes.

Adam Byatt said...

A very chilling tale told with language that was almost clinical, giving it that edge that made it even more terrifying.
Adam B @revhappiness

Kil Conor said...

This was chilling and brill Karen. Ace flash luv.

Laurita said...

Wow! I mean WOW! this was so creepy and visual. Downright scary. And that ending was a quick little stab of sadness and lonliness. *standing ovation*

Karen from Mentor said...

*blushes* aw shucks, thanks Laurita. Once I had the soldier's voice in my head, I just listened as he unfolded the story.

thefourpartland is clamoring for a second part. I don't do serials as a rule, but I may explore this further for him. [he was so cute about it]

Thank you eversomuch for the standing o

*happy sigh*

Cathy Webster (Olliffe) said...

What Laurita said, Karen. This was GREAT! Creepy, terrifying, well-written - a doomsday scenario with style. Loved the voice in the last few paragraphs - it really put the reader in the mayhem.

Karen from Mentor said...

oh I like that Cathy "..a doomsday scenario with style..." sounds like a movie trailer.

[there'd have to be lots of CG for this one unless they could get a wizard/warlock/witch to work on the cheap]

Thanks for stopping in.

*Big smile*

Karen from Mentor said...

Thanks Kil. So sweet.

Sometimes telling a story in a detached way makes it scarier. Glad that worked for you Adam. *looks delighted*

Karen from Mentor said...

Cathy thanks again for the prompt. My mind doesn't often spend time thinking about the dead walking the earth, so this was a fun little romp for me.

*grins at you*

Karen from Mentor said...

I think the only thing left is a REALLY big rocket ship Rachel.

Wonder if they can build one in six months?

KjM said...

"...how do you make the dead more dead?"

Wonderful line, full of the sound of despair.

This moved along very smoothly, with the force of that marching skeletal army. It leaves the (this one) wondering how/why it started. I fear I don't believe in the one magic book in the one remaining building having the solution.

This cannot end well.

KjM said...

There should have been the word "reader" after the "(this one)". I plead insanity, Your Honor.

Karen from Mentor said...

Well if you're giving yourself over to the mercy of the court Kevin, I hereby sentence you to 50 lashes with a wet noodle.

I kinda liked the sing song sound of "It leaves the[this one]" -- I read it in my head as the one,this one ...so it made perfect sense to me.

But then again, I have flying monkeys juggling bananas in my dining room...so most anything seems normal round here.

Thanks for stopping in.
:0)

Steve Green said...

My kind of story, my kind of threat, apocalytic, unstoppable. Nicely written. :)

Gracie said...

Wow. Fine apocalyptic vision here, Karen, and scary as... scary as... horrifying, let's just say. Yikes. I have goosebumps.

Glad it's daylight outside. Great story!

Marisa Birns said...

"...like a macabre version of a cheerleading pyramid, and pulled their helicopter down."

Visually, that really brought the shivers. I mean, if one can't be safe in a helicopter ...

You write with such style. Even when you're killing off everyone!

Karen from Mentor said...

Thanks darlin. *BIG smile* So touched that you took time to come in and comment with everything you've got going on right now.

It is scary to think about being up there, just innocently flying around in your helicopter, and suddenly you're being consumed by the walking dead. That's why I always use my Klingon cloaking device.
[fools em every time]

Karen from Mentor said...

Wow that's 2 for 2 for you Steve, I'm on a roll. *grins* Thanks for stopping in and leaving such a nice comment. Much appreciated.

Karen from Mentor said...

I almost didn't post it when I got done Gracie because it didn't seem all that scary after reading it a couple of times for typos.

But I think that was just because I had to desensitize myself to all the creepy bones while writing it....laughing...

Thank you for stopping in. Sorry I creeped you out. [kinda]

*smooches Gracie*

placebythefire said...

Really creepy, especially the parts about the helicopter and the march flowing into the ocean. Very well written.
Kari @ The Best Place By The Fire

poemblaze said...

Sounds like my last family reunion. ;-)

bsain said...

That was brilliant!
I could see it all, so clearly.

vandamir said...

Fascinating look at a possible zombie apocalypse. The only thing that made me stumble was the first mention of Lieutenant Christopher being "somewhere in the pack." I took it to mean he'd been consumed by the dead but then the rest of the story seemed to be from his point of view.

John Wiswell said...

I thought they were going to turn out to be muppets, or sentient gelatin, or something similarly Karenwacky. But if you want to destroy the world the old fashioned way, you go right ahead. Just put it back the way you found it afterward.

mazzz in Leeds said...

"The chirping of joints audible like crickets" - ooooooh. Cool descriptions throughout, but that one stood out for me. Shuddertastic :-D

Sam said...

Goodness me, but that was creepy. The skeletal swarm marching into the sea did it for me. *shudders*

Karen from Mentor said...

That does seem like it would be awful for the whales and such doesn't Sam? Poor whales. They never did nothin to them damn skeletons....

"Shuddertastic" -what a GREAT word Maria.

I was delighted that I was able to make you both shudder.
*looks gleeful*

Thanks for stopping in and taking the time to comment. Always appreciated.
:0)

Karen from Mentor said...

giggles at John..."sentient gelatin"... well, that idea does have merit. I told a story along those lines in the category "My friend Bill" if you're interested.

I know it had to be a shock to the system to see me play it straight...but if you put your head between your knees for a bit and then drink a glass of water you should be ok by the end of the day.

Karen from Mentor said...

Pleased to creep you out,Kari.

Matt? Don't invite me to any of your reunions please. I don't drink, and a party like that sounds like it would call for alcohol.

Thanks for stopping in guys.
*looks pleased*

Karen from Mentor said...

Thanks Becky. *BIG smile*

Just promise me that you won't see it clearly when you go to bed tonight. You deserve dreams with twinkle lights, fluffy kittens and sparkly pink unicorns....

Karen from Mentor said...

"By the second week the skeletal march was a mile wide and four miles long. Lieutenant Christopher was somewhere in the pack. His men held the line at his order. The swarm had gone through his squad like a hot knife through butter."

I guess I could have inserted "we watched as, or we watched in horror as.." right before "The swarm had gone through his squad like a hot knife through butter." vandimir, but extra words would bog down the impact of that sentence.

And since the tense is wrong for a dead narrator, I thought I was covered.

Plus, I hate it when a dead character tells a story. laughing...it's so it was all a dream and Dallas ruined that little writing trick for me when I was a kid.

Sorry for the confusion.

To recap: They were skeletons, they were upset, they were destroying the earth and they were unstoppable....laughing..
that's pretty much all the narrator knew while telling the story.

PS: I'm hoping he comes over one day next week and tells me the rest of it.

Thanks for stopping in.
:0)

Johanna Harness said...

Karen, this feels like a metaphor for our own individual deaths, the bargaining that comes with a terminal diagnosis. There's a rightness to the wrongness of it. Thank you.

Pamila Payne said...

Very tense, had a good, dark thriller feel to it. I like that it was about the bones, not so much zombie as something older. Very interesting, great stand alone or start of something bigger.

Alan W. Davidson said...

An interesting, forboding look at a zombie invasion.

"The chirping of joints audible like crickets on a summer's evening amplified to a deafening volume." --that was a killer line, easily my favourite of the story.

Kris said...

Wow! Kind of made me want to go hide under my bed, not that that would have protected me from the ominous march anyway! Spooky stuff - great for the Halloween season!

And as for some of your imagery... Now I will never be able to see another cheerleading pyramid without quaking in fear. Thanks a lot!

Rebecca Emin said...

That is quite terrifying! Wonderfully written, it's scary though... well done.

Eric J. Krause said...

That was a really cool story! Great details throughout really bring the horror to the forefront. See? You do have it in you to destroy the world! ;-)

AJ Campos said...

"The chirping of joints audible like crickets on a summer's evening amplified to a deafening volume."

What a killer description. This line gave me a clear vision of what they looked like and the massive scale in which they were moving. I'm not worthy...

Deanna Schrayer said...

I like that word too - shuddertastic - and it describes this perfectly. There is no where safe!
Love the last bit with the vision of him singing 'Swing Low' - spooky!

Kaye Barley said...

this gets a "wow" in my book!!!!

flyingscribbler said...

Well, it's all been said really. The description is wonderful and the gathering momentum of doom comes over with true horror. The religious leaders all heading for the same building? Did they finally work out why all the wars happen? What is this building? I'm frightened in case you say the White House.