I write character-driven dark fiction.
What do you do?

“What do you mean, she just fell down? Like one of those stupid women in B Horror movies?”

Janet wrenched the key in the ignition, pumping the gas pedal as she prayed the ancient jeep would start one more time. She glanced at the rear-view mirror as the starter whined.

They were getting closer.

“C’mon, c’mon...”

She let up on the key for an instant and realized she could hear them: a constant underlying moan with the occasional brief shout. She shot a glance at Ralph, frozen in the passenger’s seat, staring into the wing mirror. She knew he was seeing the same thing she had, and she threw a quick elbow into his ribs to break his concentration.

“What?” he said.

“She just fell?” Janet said, twisting the key again.

“They’re gaining,” Ralph shouted. “Go! Go!”

Janet pumped the gas; the engine caught, sputtered and roared. Beside her Ralph went berserk, shouting the same syllable at the top of his lungs again and again:

“Go! Go! Go!”

The gearshift dropped into Drive just as a series of thuds came from the tailgate,  and the jeep began to rock. Spittle sprayed the inside of the windshield as Ralph screamed one long word:


The gas pedal hit the floor and the Jeep leapt forward, driving the two of them into their seatbacks. The thudding stopped as they flew down the street, but behind them rose a terrible, hungry shriek. Janet looked in the rearview again, watching them give stumbling chase, trying to urge greater speed out of bodies no longer suited for the task. Some of them fell, bones shattering as they struck the unforgiving tarmac. Still they tried to follow, dragging themselves along in a hideous parody of an Army crawl even as their shambling brethren trampled them into the street in their own mindless efforts to catch the fleeing SUV. Janet shifted her gaze back to the road ahead, sickened, but not before seeing blood and other fluids running freely, staining the street beneath the unstoppable chasing mob.

The chasing mob of zombies...

“What the hell happened back there?” she said, raising her voice in an attempt to wrench Ralph’s attention away from the wing mirror, but he continued to stare. His rapid, ragged breathing quivered the line of drool hanging from his lower lip, a remnant of his out-of-control scream just moments before. She threw her elbow into his ribs again. Hard. He turned to her and shouted, eyes open far too wide.


“What the hell happened back there?” she said again. “Beth just fell?”

“Don’t know,” Ralph said. “I think it was the stairs, she twisted an ankle or something. One second she was right there beside me, then she was on the ground. Those things had just come around the corner and they were on her like that.”

He tried to snap his trembling fingers, but failed.

Janet was horrified.

“You just left her there?”

“There was nothing I could do! I didn’t even know she’d fallen for a second, and then they were there, biting and... and...”

He trailed off, gagging. Janet shot another look at him and found herself wishing it had been Beth who’d made it to the Jeep when they evacuated their building, and Ralph who’d fallen to the hungry dead.

Ralph lived in the apartment next door and had been a nay-sayer when the first jumbled radio reports started rolling in, insisting the whole thing was nothing more than an elaborate prank, maybe a tribute to the original “War of the Worlds” broadcast. He’d insisted there was some rational explanation even when they’d shown up out on the street, citing everything from escaped mental patients to terrorist-spawned nerve agents. He didn’t take it well when a car accident out front left someone cut right in half. No matter how he tried he could not explain the top half of the body leaving the scene an hour later, a legless head and torso using mostly intact arms to drag itself down the sidewalk leaving runnels of gore behind.

No, he hadn’t liked that at all.

The woman in the apartment at the end of the hall, though, Beth, had been someone to be reckoned with. She was the one who’d convinced them all to stay safe inside the building rather than go out to see what was going on. She’d taken charge of them barricading the building doors, and she’d ordered them to take Janet’s old Jeep when the zombies had started breaking through their defenses..

Beth had been a survivor, but here Janet was, stuck with a staring, screaming drooler who barely made it to the Jeep.


The Jeep ground to a halt. Ralph started shouting.

“What are you doing?”

Janet pointed upward, indicating the sign on the wall above them.

Stop & Shop

“We need supplies.”

“But what about the--”

“We lost them two turns back. We’ll have to be quick, but I think we’ll be okay.”

She dragged the protesting Ralph inside, thrust a basket into his hands, and they made their way up and down the aisles, gathering stuff she thought they’d need. Running like contestants on “Shopper’s Sweepstakes” they raced back to the front of the store... to find they hadn’t lost the mob after all.

“Stay with me,” she said as the rotting horde pushed through broken doors. “We can lure them all inside, then go out the back and circle around to the Jeep. We can outrun them, easy.”

The sudden pain of Ralph’s steel-toed boot smashing her kneecap dropped her to the floor with a guttural scream.

“Sorry, but I don’t have to outrun them as long as I can outrun you...”

She writhed in agony as Ralph sprinted toward the back of the store, arms laden with supplies.

I was wrong, she thought, dragging  herself across the smooth floor. Beth was a fighter. Ralph’s a survivor.

She heard the roar of the Jeep out front as the ravenous mob closed in.

~ ~ * * ~ ~

Author's note:

This month at Friday Frights the theme is "Horror Cliches", and there's a whole list of them to choose from over at the Friday Fright site. As far as I can tell I at least touched on 'No one Believes the Terror is Ocurring', 'The Car that Won't Start', and 'Victims that Can't Move Faster than a Slow Moving Monster'. Is there anything else here that might be called a Horror Cliche, or maybe a trope? The coward looking out for number one, perhaps?

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