Part 2 of the sample from the upcoming zombie horror Winternight in Boston
Get yourself in that zombie reading mood with a little classic zombie movie scene from one of the best of all time, 28 Days Later
Upcoming zombie horror by @KehlBayern, only from TAKAMAHARA
Author’s Note: Winternight in Boston is a work in progress and things may change between the publication of this sample and the final product in October 2017.
Written from a first person perspective, Winternight in Boston is TAKAMAHARA’s foray into science-fiction horror and follows our hero as he attempts to survive in zombie-infested Boston. Originally a concept piece written for a small group, Winternight in Boston is now a full-fledged book arriving this Fall. When designing the narrative, I focused on delivering a thrilling, terrifying experience for the reader. As part of the development process I mapped out locations and routes throughout the Boston and Greater Boston area to capture the unique architecture and layout of one of America’s oldest cities. I will elaborate more in designer/development diaries to come. For now, enjoy Winternight in Boston from TAKAMAHARA.
La Patisserie Tremont, the sign reads above my head, swinging in the cold autumn Boston wind, creaking. She’s late again, as is usual for her, and I wait in the cold, outside of some awkward place, hoping to Christ there’s something reasonable in terms of price, that I’m not going to have to eat Cup Noodle Ramen Soup for the next week or so to accommodate my unemployed girlfriend’s somewhat expensive tastes. I question whether it is worth it all the time but I never get around to taking action, just stalling for time, for a reason to move along or on down the road out of town, new job, new place, new people. They say you shouldn’t run away from your problems but they say a lot of things, most of which make no sense. The QA job is picking up and I’m probably going to get a raise if I just stick it out but like all jobs in the tech industry it was miserable work. Long hours, no social life, little to nothing to show for it after debts, student and credit, rent and electricity and insurance and food and water and heat. Heat was a ball-breaker every year in Boston. But I tell myself it’s all for the better, that next year things will turn the corner and I will finally be on my feet. Warm soft light pours out of the patisserie shop window, filtering through the gold lettering, sparkling as I breathed.
I check my Longines watch again. A beautiful watch, white face, black Roman numerals. It keeps perfect time. Almost twenty minutes late this time. Not quite a record, but pushing the limits of tolerance. I pull my jacket around me tight, bundled up against the wind. My often pale, fleshy hands are milk white and rosacea red, chapping and dry. A couple down the street is having an argument, their voices muffled by the traffic passing by them. I notice she is beautiful, with fire red hair and smooth olive skin. Who knows what was going on between those two. A soft tug on my shoulder and I know she’s here. I turn and see her, almond brown hair curled, falling to her breasts in loose rings, sullen pouty lips with pearl white teeth paid for with mommy and daddy’s hard-earned money. Hazel eyes that looked innocent but held secrets, mysteries within them, two ponds of blue-green water of endless depth.
“Hey. Sorry it took me so long to get here. The T was running late.” A probable story.
“No problem. Want to go inside and get something to eat?”
“For sure, what do you feel like having?”
Inside the patisserie cafe is warm, inviting, the patrons absorbed in their conversations and coffee, gnoshing over delicate French baked goods, everyone polite and genteel, restrained. The menu is written on four large chalkboards hanging over the back bar behind the register. A smiling person asks us if we want to have any coffee or pastry, and we both beg for a moment to read the menu. Sandwiches, soups, coffees, pastries, cakes, teas…we decide to get some crudites and split some effervescent water. The thought of caffeinated drinks and sugar-laden carbohydrates frightening to both of us this late in the evening. I am not overweight per se but I need to shed a few pounds here and there. She’s perfect as always but thinks she’s not and that’s all that really matters as far as she’s concerned, others be damned. It was frustrating being unable to provide her with that personal security she needed where both herself and her body were concerned, but everyone had their hangups. I am lucky mine are more of the female and fast food variety. We get our food and emerald green bottle of Perrier and take a seat in an empty, plush loveseat resting in a corner all alone.
A hanging shade lamp and a carved wood coffee table hemmed in the corner seat. We talked about everything – the relationship, the situation in the world, where things were going. She tells me I don’t care enough about what’s happening in the world, that she needs someone who is active, involved in making changes occur. I tell her I’m trying to survive, a strange concept for someone who has always had backup, unlike myself. Mom and dad are always there for her, ready to pick up the pieces if anything should fail where my mother and father were the pieces that needed picking up. Grit and skin of my own teeth were all that kept me in Boston this long, the programming job being the salvation long awaited and needed. Sure, things were hard, but when were they not hard, where in the world did the human condition not exist? She talks about Ian, the guy at the politics thing that she’s sorta gone to for the past three months, and I don’t want to hear anymore about Ian. Ian sounds as pathetic and miserable as I am, truth be told, and his social media revealed nothing more than a political operative with a beaming face and flaxen hair. Kinda generic.
If she wanted to be with Ian, that wouldn’t be such a bad thing – what a money saving move that would be. Instead what she does is torture me with Ian and talk in circles about the government’s crackdown on protest, the media, and dissent. She claims they will ration food and resources in response to the epidemic raging through the country, but I have not had any evidence of that in my life – everything proceeds as normal, everything ordered online still comes through.
“How are you so blind? Do you think it’s normal to have domestic travel restrictions like those we have now?”
I never have thought about it, I admit to her. I never was into history and thus maybe I’m never going to be into politics. Everything was going to be fine. We would make it through this, like so many other things in the past, they told us. I believed them. Why couldn’t she? Has ever a skeptic of government had their conspiracy theories proven correct with verifiable evidence? I may not know much, but I did know this – I wished she would get a job. So many openings in Boston alone. Non-nationals had returned to their home countries long ago, and now the only people that remained in the domestic United States were illegal immigrants and refugees.
“Did you get your vaccination?”
“Yes, of course, I had to, that’s not the point.”
“Do you think the vaccines are worthless?”
“It’s not my opinion, that’s not what we’re even talking about right now.”
“I’m just trying to understand why the government would fabricate a disease and then a vaccine in an attempt to rob you of your freedom of speech.”
“It’s a manufactured crisis. A false-flag operation. There is no plague. The fascists are just using this as an excuse to tear the Constitution to shreds.”
“Do you know what the Constitution actually says?”
“Neither do I.”
A crack in the earth, blood-brown dirt dried on a landscape, aching, pounding, my head splitting in two in the flickering light. The blue tile is cold, my face is smashed up against it. I can see the dirt in the grout but otherwise it is clean. The lights are humming on and off, clicking from sporadic current. I notice I am alone in the bathroom, sprawled out on the floor, dried coagulated blood around my head and on the white porcelain sink above me. I grip my hands over the rim of the sink and pull myself up, struggling to get a grip on my body which is numb, aching.
How long have I been here, I wonder. I smashed my watch in the fall, the face of the Longines cracked beyond readability. Damn, an expensive repair, I thought. It would require a cleaning, they would have to take it apart…couldn’t have any crystal damaging the mechanisms within. The world is swaying back and forth. I am on the bow of a great ship caught in a storm, lightning strobing around me. My hands turn the knobs for H and C on the sink. I wait for lukewarm water but all I get is ice cold, which feels good going down my throat, chilling my teeth. I can feel that I have some cavities. I pull away from the sink and look in the mirror, a vision of horror, blood dried on my face, my hair a mess. Black hair, tall with a nice thick build, many would call me a handsome guy. My glasses weren’t cracked, but they were broken on the hinges.
I would need to tape them together. I’m leaning against the sink now, collecting myself, wondering if this is a vision or a dream. Where was I again? Oh that’s right. Work, I’m at work. The bathroom is the first floor lobby bathroom. I take some soap out of the Sanisoft dispenser and wash my face, the cold water making it all the harder to remove the caked on dry blood. I do as good a job as I can given the circumstances and put my broken glasses in my shirt pocket, a white collared shit that is now stained with dried blood. There is a deep gash on my forehead but it is not large and seems to have sealed itself shut but I remind myself to use the first aid kit in the office. Damn this was embarrassing. I’ll just tell them I fell, I think.
I’ll say something. Make something up, anything. Damn this was embarrassing. My face is ruddy where blood once was, but I look normal if not disheveled. I don’t look drunk or hungover, I note to myself. I smell my breath. Nothing abnormal, though I could brush my teeth too, now that I think of it. Why are the damn lights flickering light hell? Must’ve had a power outage from hell for it to be going this wild. I push the metal door to the bathroom open and enter the lobby. Quiet and tomb like, cold and dark.
The lights out here don’t work at all. I call out “hello” but there is no answer. I shuffle to the elevators, walking by the floor to ceiling length windows, noticing the howling storm outside. The snow had piled up at least two and half feet and nothing was plowed, the sidewalks were covered. That’s bizarre. Travel was impossible, no doubt, the MBTA shut down. He could only walk home but he wasn’t prepared for a blizzard. Damn New England weather, I curse. Nothing except for gusts of wind. I call out “hello” again and nothing. Then a banging, a loud, desperate banging sound, the sound of somebody throwing their weight against a door repeatedly. One of the elevator doors.
The elevators were dead, with no emergency power. Someone was trapped inside. I called out again and there was a brief silence then a violent screaming, a beating against the door, and insane sound. An awful sound. I staggered back but regained my footing. I didn’t say another word.
I only stood there, in shock, wondering what was happening. Perhaps someone had become mad, trapped inside an elevator, and he was having a mental breakdown. That could explain the behavior. I wanted to reassure the trapped person that help was on the way, but I did not know that for certain. Instead, I inched out of the lobby into the stairwell, opening the door with care. When it slammed shut, the banging and howling began again, the screaming like that of a vicious, starved animal. I shuddered and not from the bone-cold stairwell air. I clopped up the steps and used my employee key to let myself inside. The office was dark.
It looked like midday outside, maybe late afternoon. The windows let in a lot of light, outlining the room in a glow of white. The snow outside poured down without cease, making my vision like that of a cloudy tube television with poor reception. My head is still ringing. Is it the weekend? That would explain why no one was here, although that was more common than not these days. Everyone was traveling, taking leaves of absence, sick leave, vacation, not showing up again. How else had I gotten this job, I reminded myself. Something was unsettling about this, though, something was not right.
Usually there was someone, a janitor, a front desk concierge…someone. There was someone, or something, in the elevator. But there wasn’t another person in the building as far as I could tell. I went to the office kitchen and broke into the first-aid kit, patching myself up with antiseptic and bandages. I was pretty impressed with the array of equipment on hand and I obliged myself to take some aspirin out of the container within the kit. Now I needed to fix my glasses. I clicked on the light switches in each room as I made my way towards my cubicle but nothing worked, not even the backup generators. My cube was empty save my computer and a few loose items of tschotke. A picture of the two of us.
Damn I need to get rid of that, I think to myself, but why bother. People will start asking questions like “oh did you and so-and-so break up? I’m so sorry” but they’re not sorry because why would they care about stupid stuff like that. I can’t handle hearing about the minutiae of their daily lives but I tolerated it enough to pass office politics muster. Somewhere along the lines this feigned-interest was mistaken for genuine concern and I have regretted it ever since. Still, I should throw that picture away. I have some really awesome black tape in my desk and I cut some strips of it to fix my glasses, which should be good as new. They’re askew and hang on my head loose but they are better than nothing. My stomach growls.
I decide to head back to the kitchen and check out what’s in there. I’ll have to pay someone back, for sure. I never considered I could be trapped in the office, but since my apartment was only in Downtown, not far at all from Kendall Square in Cambridge, that I could just walk home no matter the weather. It was getting darker and the weather was not improving. I decided to eat whatever I could find in the kitchen, listen to the battery powered radio in there to find out what was going on in Boston, and then figure out my situation.
I was not dressed at all for the weather, like an asshole. I was unprepared. How long had I lived here? Not long enough to realize you don’t go out in Boston in the winter in the kind of jacket and clothing that I did. Oh well, I resign myself to whatever I have to do. There are some Cool Ranch Doritos, an endless supply of Coca Cola products, and some cheese cake leftover from the holiday party. I partake of everything, reminding myself of my drunken binges during college. The radio is an old RCA, black with a dusty film. Nothing but static, no stations are live. Hmm. I switch over to the AM signal and find the characteristic warning beep the precede government messages.
BOSTON EVACUATION ORDER IN EFFECT. DO NOT ENTER THE CITY OF BOSTON. ENTRY INTO BOSTON FORBIDDEN.
Evacuation in Boston? What kind of crazy shit was that? Well, hell, it was getting dark, and I did not have much else to do. Maybe it was a weather-related emergency. Regardless, I needed some actual quality sleep. The message repeated over and over again, garbled and half-incoherent transmissions as the night grew. I decided to turn it off after a while to conserve battery power.
I walked over to the windows and pressed my hand up against them. They were cold to the touch, freezing, clouded at the bottom from condensation. The insulation on the building was impressive, but it was losing heat since the ventilation systems were down. My breath started to show up in white puffs of cold air and I shivered, goose pimples pock along my flesh, the hair on my arms standing. I rubbed my arms to generate heat with friction and I searched the office coat closet for my own coat and those that may be left behind. I was lucky to find a long trench, Burberry, thick and high quality material.
It was the boss’s jacket but I figured he wouldn’t mind. It was a desperate situation after all. I wrapped myself in a few scarves and put the gloves on that I already had with me. I turned one scarf into a makeshift headcover, shielding my skin from the growing ambient cold air. I went to watch the snow from my office chair, bored out of my mind, but rattled nonetheless. My head was ringing and I was worried I had suffered a concussion. I think I need to see a doctor, I kept saying to myself in one of the most useless mantras of all time. The street crews still had not tackled any of the buildup. The drifts were now taller than most men against the buildings, and almost waist deep in other places.
I couldn’t fall asleep so I went to the office first-aid kit to see if there was anything there to help with that and no dice. Oh well, it was worth a try. I wandered down the stairwell again, bundled against the cold, footsteps echoing off the tomb-like walls. Silence, except for myself, just like before. I make it down to the lobby and I notice the snow is piled high against the glass, blocking the doors. I check behind the concierge desk and, to my relief, find enough Nyquil to tranquilize a horse. I look down at the silent elevators, recalling the madness of before. Nothing now.
I drank the blue-purple liquid with gusto, ready to start the weekend night trapped in the office on the right foot. I placed the Nyquil back in the desk and began searching the concierge station, opening what drawers were not locked. Heck, I think to myself, it’s not like they are going to have security camera footage of any of this, right? It was at this point that I noticed a shadow pressed up against the glass some distance away. I couldn’t make out the shadow’s features, but I could see that it was vaguely human, covered in a dusting of snow, almost frozen looking, plastered against the glass, staring at me. I couldn’t see any eyes, nor did it make any sound. I looked around and for the first time I noticed figures moving the snow in the moonlight, shambling through the cold, their visage blurred by the blizzard wind. No noise, just silent walkers moving in the night cold. I am unsure of myself at this point.
I decide maybe my mind is playing tricks on me – after all, what sane person would press himself against the glass window of an office building lobby in the middle of a blinding snowstorm. And why would others be outside doing the same? I search through the desk and take what I want, including what’s left of the Nyquil, screw leaving it behind. I find some crackers, bottled water, energy bars, and an apple, which I start eating right away. In my haste I knock over a paperweight by accident and it crashes to the ground in a loud thump. The elevator starts to stir again, the being inside kicked at the closed door.
I notice other shadows pressed up against the glass staring inside at me, their figures limned in moonlight and frost. I look behind me and I see the eyes of a strange man staring back, looking through me. He begins to scream, throwing himself at the thick glass. I scramble, making my way to the stairwell door, baring it behind me as I do using the mass-shooter safety system installed throughout the building which turns the doors into impregnable barricades. I hustle up the stairs, panting as I go, my breath ragged and struggling. I make it back to my office, barring entry using the same method as on the stairwell. I’m sweating through my getup, water running down my back. What am I seeing, what is going on in my head? I am starting to worry for my mental health.
I make my way back to my desk and I drink a little more Nyquil, dulling the world away. I look outside and I notice shadows, figures spread around, milling about in the moonlight. The night is long and cold, and I often wake up shivering. I have visions of the elevator man escaping, coming to get me, breaking through barricades to rend me in twain. I fear the shadows against the glass. The windows are really fogged now, frost nearly overtaking them, blocking out the world outside. I take my stuff, my cushions from the couch in the reception area, my blankets borrowed from coworkers, and I barricade myself inside the office kitchen. It is warmer in here than in the rest of the office and I have some access to food. I pile the cushions up in a line and I lay down on them, cuddled in the corner of the room. I sleep for seven hours, waking in intermittent spurts, listening for sounds that do not come. The office is empty, except for the guest in the elevator below.