There’s An Arrow

There's an arrow in Billy-Bob.

A lot of the zombies were injured — though, probably, 'damaged' was the more appropriate term — so the arrow in and of itself wasn't remarkable. Many had been shot, or hacked at, or partially crushed, or run into or over by cars. Redhead even had an arrow in her back herself, or at least the part of one that hadn't broken off. But all of those wounds were old, they had happened in the first days when there were people around to resist the hunger of the dead.

Billy-Bob's arrow hadn't been there yesterday.

Alex closed the curtains again and went out in the front yard to get a closer look. Billy-Bob, seeing him, shambled over to the cast-iron fence with arms outstretched, reaching, grasping at air. The arrow protruded from the zombie's chest had a carbon fiber shaft with plastic fletchings; a modern bow-hunter's arrow.

Some passing survivors, probably, nothing more. Early on — after the majority of the horde had departed, following stronger scents than his on the wind — Alex had searched the town, collecting food and drink and other supplies. He had found no other living soul then.

Before too many of the dead collected at his gate, he went back inside to fix his breakfast: canned vegetables cooked over a candle.

Two mornings later there was another arrow in Billy-Bob.

Alex went out into the front yard again, to get a closer look. The second arrow had penetrated clean through the neck, side-to-side. Maybe I'll have to rename him Frankenstein. But more importantly, the bow-hunter is still in town; and he's using Billy-Bob for target practice.

How to find the bow-hunter? He couldn't just follow Billy-Bob: the zombie would turn on him instead of following weaker scents.

Maybe he could use Billy-Bob as a carrier pigeon.

Somewhere, there was a lanyard from the rock festival he'd taken Bev to two years ago; he could put a note in the hard plastic slipcover that holds the backstage pass. If the bow-hunter noticed... though, how would the stranger retrieve it?

Not my problem.

Alex ran into the house and up the stairs. Somewhere in his room? Maybe in the garage? He'd always meant to get one of those adhesive hooks to hang things like that from the wall, but then, he'd always meant to go to more rock shows.

He didn't give much thought to the note, it wrote itself:
Alex Redbourne. I'm at 25379 Old Crescent Road, the big two-story house with the cast-iron fence. I'm armed and have supplies. Low on matches and powdered drinks. Come say hello Mr. Bow-Hunter.
He slipped the folded note into the lanyard, stuck into his belt the .32 pistol he'd pulled from the holster of a long-dead cop, and went walked back outside.

This will be easy. No problem. Billy-Bob comes to the fence, I put the lanyard around his neck, he goes on his way and Bow-Hunter sees it. Hopefully.

Alex took to holding the lanyard by the hard plastic part and attempted to sling the lanyard over Billy-Bob's head as if he were roping a cow, all while dodging the zombie's grasping, rotten hands. Finally, after ten or twelve tries — and twice retreating in desperate terror as the hands began to find purchase — the lanyard went around Billy-Bob's neck.

Thank God. Alex took two steps back and sat on the grass to rest, exhausted more from fear than exertion. A small crowd of zombies had in the meantime begun to gather at the fence, and he forced himself to get up and go inside, closing the door behind him, and sealing the FEMA-issue plastic cover to completely cut off his scent so that they would disperse as soon as possible.

Breakfast was a can of green beans, cooked over a candle. and the special treat of a package of peanut-butter crackers. By late afternoon Billy-Bob, along with most of the other zombies, had wandered off.

It was three days before Alex saw Billy-Bob again, and when the zombie finally re-appeared the lanyard was gone from around its neck.

He got it. Bow-Hunter must have gotten it. Or somebody did, anyway.

Billy-Bob hung around for two days without moving more than three feet in any direction. Alex stayed inside, waiting. He tried to read but found it hard to concentrate, tried to sleep but found himself lying awake, resisting the temptation to check at the window for Billy-Bob's possible absence.

On the third day, Billy-Bob was gone.

Breakfast was creamed corn, cooked over a candle. Alex read for most of the day. When he looked out front in the early evening as the light began to die, the zombie was back with the lanyard once again hanging from its neck.

Alex ran outside, grabbing the shovel from its place by the front garden as he went, and waited as Billy-Bob picked up his scent, turned, and shambled over to reach over-top the fence. When it was within reach, Alex inserted the shovel's long handle through the lanyard loop and lifted it off and away from the zombie. He wasted no time going inside before opening and reading the response:
Louis Yang. I'm alone. I don't have much supplies. I also have shotgun but I have only shot it once. I will come and bring what I have if it's OK.
Alex wrote a reply in the affirmative, stuck it back in the plastic case, and repeated his earlier dance — including the backing away in terror — trying to get the lanyard back around Billy-Bob's head. The zombie moaned in frustration as Alex backed away after succeeding. With a voice raspy from disuse, he taunted, "You're not gonna eat me, Billy-Bob. Now get lost."

Once again he went inside, closing the door behind him, and sealed the plastic cover over the door.

Five days passed. Alex slept; he read; he ate mixed vegetables again, and peas and onions, and sliced carrots, and even treated himself to some peaches. He counted matches and candles and hoped Louis yang had, and would bring, some of either or both.

When Billy-Bob re-appeared, on the sixth day, the lanyard was gone. The arrow through the neck was broken on one side, the one in the chest was broken off almost flush with the rotting skin showing through a newly-ripped shirt, and there was fresh blood smeared around its mouth and on its hands and down its front.

Storming out onto the lawn, Alex yelled, "Did you eat Louis? Did you eat him? Tell me!"

Billy-Bob wandered over to the fence and reached with blood-stained hands. It moaned, blood dripping from its lips and chin. It didn't give an answer.

Alex fished the .32 out of his belt and shot Billy-Bob through the head. The zombie fell back heavily, what was left of its skull making a sickening crunch as it struck the concrete sidewalk. The other zombies ignored this depletion of their number as they began to gather, attracted by the noise as well as the scent of living flesh.
Alex walked back inside, closing the door behind him and re-sealing the FEMA plastic cover.

Breakfast was Spam and saltines. He only had five cans of the stuff, and he'd been saving it, but he just couldn't take vegetables again.

Fantasy Drabble #273 “The Vampire in Apartment 12B”

It was a party, one of those rooftop deals where everyone from the building goes, nobody really knows each other or even likes each other, but there’s booze and food so people stay anyway.

“I’m Levon.” He handed me a blue cup, full, to replace my empty red one.

“That’s an unusual name.”

“These days, anyway.”

“I’m Charlotte. My mother liked the book about the pig.”

He laughed. “I remember that. I read it to my kids when they were little. It had just come out.”

Oh. “That would make you, what… 80? You look good.”

He smiled toothily. “Thanks”

SF Drabble #343 “Assurances”

“Mr. Forsythe?” The Mayor stepped away from the lectern, and I settled in behind it.

“Good afternoon. As Mr. Reed said, My name is Alistair Forsythe, and work for the U.N. Specifically, I am Undersecretary for Alien Affairs, which means I work directly under the Secretary.”

There was some whispering from the assembled residents, and even a stifled laugh from a youngster.

“Now, what that means is, our alien visitors are my specialty. I am an expert in the field. So I can guarantee to a certainty that the alien — ‘Ricky’ — is not going to eat your children.”

Zombie Drabble #346 “Moving Day”

We didn’t leave until we saw the whole of downtown was burning: with no living firemen to fight the blaze, eventually it would jump the freeway and swallow us whole.

The zombies ignored us while we packed the car; they were all lurching relentlessly towards the orange glow and the low, distant roar. I remember marveling at how each terror wanted to devour the other while we were left untouched to scurry away like rabbits on a battlefield.

The kids were scared, but believed us when we told them it would be all right. I feel guilty about that now.

SF Drabble #342 “Prisoner Of War”

I was captured by the Woolies on the seventh day after landing. We were with the second wave, and I gather the first wave had been fighting for two days already, so I suppose it was the ninth day of the Second Battle of Brikket.

They were in a terrible disposition after losing the fight, and I suppose they should have left us behind when they evacuated, but they took us. Some of us, anyway. They stopped feeding us after two days in space. We didn’t get food again until the cease-fire was announced.

I’m just glad to be home.

SF Drabble #341 “Trapper”

He stopped his ascent to rest in the shade of an outcropping. The air was thin here: he rested often. He pulled a chunk of ore from his pocket to roll it around in his hands. Worth It.

He’d been coming up a year before he even saw a Grey for the first time; it had been a fleeting glimpse from a distance, movement among the rocks above. Now, suddenly, a party of hunters stared at him from twenty paces. He smiled, waved. I hope they know what that means.

One came forward and knelt to draw in the dust.

Fantasy Drabble #272 “Bitril the Whale”

Yang-Na, product of Eekt’s dalliance with the mortal Ryo-Na, was passenger on a sinking boat far out into the Middle Ocean. Bitril, jealous over Eekt’s infidelity, decided to take the form of a creamwhale and swallow the girl upon her entering the water.

Finding herself in Bitril’s gullet, Ryo-Na — knowing Bitril’s weakness for her mother’s sense of humor — told three hundred and thirty-three jokes, making Bitril laugh uncontrollably and involuntarily eject her from his blowhole, whereupon she quickly swam to the waiting rescue ship.

It is for this reason that veteran sailors carry joke books when they go to sea.

SF Drabble #340 “Door to Door”

“Now, remember: his name’s Ricky.”

The girl said, “This is nuts.” The immense concrete building seemed incongruous in the pastoral setting of the pasture. “Why aren’t there any windows?”

“Ricky doesn’t like glass. I don’t know why. The original building was made of some sort of secretion, but the rain kept melting it. He says it has to do with the pH balance of the rainwater. So he hired someone to build this.”

They kept walking towards it. Before they got too close, the girl said, “Dad?”


“I really don’t think he’s gonna want to buy any band candy.”

SF Drabble #339 “Return Trajectory”


“Hi; I’d like a one-way ticket to Earth.”

“Never heard of it.”

“Sorry, sorry. Sol system?”

“Okay, ‘Sol’, let’s look that up. No, nothing. Do you have the galactic co-ordinates or the Association designation code?”

“Um… probably. Yeah, I think it’s… it says on my original ticket, let me call it up on my pad…”

“Fantastic. While you do that, I’m going to go ahead and help the next customer.”

“No, wait, I’ve got it right here. Can you scan it from the pad?”

It rolled all four eyes. “Of course I can scan it from the pad, sir.

Fantasy Drabble #271 “Nets”

The seas here were quiet, becalmed and empty of life. She swam upwards, towards the rippling light and the dark incongruity of the ship-hull. She listened before breaching, but heard nothing worrisome.

Her eyes, in the dry air, took in the looming shape. A head appeared at the railing. “Mermaid! Hey, hey, mermaid! Starboard amidships!”

She ducked under with haste, circled for a time, and then returned for another look. There were many heads now, and arms and hands and weapons. Someone tossed a net, but it missed her.

She grinned, and dove. The ocean would take them, soon enough.

Fantasy Drabble #270 “Midz-Aset”

The monk stood in the rain, face upturned, eyes closed, waiting, listening for the beating of the wings. By the time he heard them, he was soaked to the bone. The noise grew loud, was joined by monstrous snorts, and then a thunderous crunch on landing.

“My Lord.”

The dragon intoned, “Abbot, do you have my tribute?”

“I do, indeed.” Two head of cattle had been left out in the pasture, and were now cowering in the far corner under the old ash tree. “May I ask, my Lord: do you miss the sport?”

“It has never been sport, Abbot.”