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    WARNING: Stories on this site may contain mature language and situations, and may be inappropriate for readers under the age of 18.

    AFTER SCHOOL SPECIAL by James F. Reilly
    February 29, 2008  Short stories   Tags: ,   

    1

    As the bus squealed to a halt at the mouth of his driveway, Brian Keating slung his backpack over his shoulder, and made his way past the empty seats toward the driver.

    “Have a good night, Mr. Sayers,” Brian said.

    The late afternoon sun spilled through the windshield, and the driver shielded his eyes with one hand as he fumbled with the dial on his radio with the other. He cocked his head toward the loud hiss that emanated from the exposed speaker duct-taped to the dashboard.

    “What?” Mr. Sayers asked. “Oh, you too, kid. You too. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

    Brian nodded, waiting for Mr. Sayers to pull the switch on the door, but the driver seemed preoccupied by the few discernible words that cut through the static.

    Rioting…

    …Unprovoked…

    ……..Emergency…

    “Um…Mr. Sayers?”

    “What? Oh, sorry, kid.”

    The driver threw the switch and the door folded open. As Brian stepped out onto the dirt driveway, the door hissed closed behind him, and the bus roared away, kicking up a cloud of road dust in its wake. Brian shrugged and started down the long driveway toward his house, and that was when he noticed the man in the woods.

    At first, he thought he was a hunter. In Barstow, New Hampshire, it was a common sight. It was late September, and hunters were everywhere this time of year. Men dressed in neon orange hats and vests, stumbling around in the thicket, unaware that they were trudging through someone else’s property (or ignoring the fact altogether). Brian remembered a particular Sunday morning on which his father spent scooping buckshot out of the side of their garage, grousing about how hunting an animal with a gun was no sport at all.

    “Hunting with a bow, now that’s a sport,” Jack Keating often said. And, while he’d yet to actually join his father for the real deal, Brian spent several hours a week out behind his house, shooting overstuffed targets with the compound bow he’d gotten this past Christmas, preparing for the day his mother would deem him “mature” enough to join his father on an actual hunt.

    This man here, however, was no hunter.

    He wore a grey three piece suit, its tattered sleeves caked in mud and twigs. He had an ashen face and sagging, yellow eyes that reminded Brian of the sloppy wet eggs his father liked poured over burnt toast. His face drooped in an exaggerated frown, as if his muscles couldn’t support the weight of his own skin. As his blue/black lips parted, they revealed bone white gum and coffee bean teeth. The man let out a dry groan that made the fine hairs on the back of Brian’s neck stand at attention.

    “This is private property!” Brian shouted. The man stumbled forward a bit, and propping himself up against a rotted White Birch. He seemed to stare through Brian, his nostrils flared as he sniffed at the air.

    “There are signs,” Brian said, pointing toward the property line. “You…you may have missed them, b-b-but they’re there.”

    The man said nothing. He just leaned there, seemingly savoring the air, and feebly scratching at the trunk. Brian noticed that his hands were bruised, with raw fingertips that left faint pink smudges on the white bark.

    “Are you okay, mister?” Brian barely squeezed the words past the lump that had formed in the back of his throat. He took a step toward the woods, and the man’s head twisted violently in his direction, the bones in his neck snapping like the twigs underfoot. The man snorted, and a fine mist of blood and mucous sprayed from his nose.

    Brian stumbled backward, tripping and falling onto his backpack, as the man lunged toward him, scurrying across the ground with movements swift and unnatural. As he emerged from the thick brush, Brian saw that the man was propelling himself forward using only his hands, dragging behind a corkscrew of glistening innards where the lower half of his body should have been. He scrambled to his feet, and ran toward the house, chased by the sounds of the half-man slapping and scraping his way up the dirt driveway behind him.

    Thwap Thwap Fsssssssssssssssssst. Thwap Thwap Fssssssssssssssssssst.

    Brian slammed his shoulder hard into the front door, twisting the knob upon impact, and let out a defeated cry when he realized it was locked-

    The key.

    -He didn’t have to look. Looking would mean seeing him.

    It.

    He could just picture the key, gold and glimmering in the late afternoon sun-

    Thwap Thwap Fsssssssssssssssssst. Thwap Thwap Fssssssssssssssssssst.

    -strung to the shoulder strap of a backpack that now lay maybe thirty feet up the driveway-

    Thwap Thwap Fsssssssssssssssssst. Thwap Thwap Fssssssssssssssssssst.

    -but it may as well have been a mile.

    Thwap Thwap Fsssssssssssssssssst. Thwap Thwap Fssssssssssssssssssst.

    Brian pounded and tugged and kicked and screamed-

    Thwap Thwap Fsssssssssssssssssst. Thwap Thwap Fssssssssssssssssssst.

    -and turned just as the half-man swiped at him, quickly stepping to one side, as the half-man’s hand brushed against his ankle. Brian leapt over him, nearly losing his footing in the slimy trail of gore that the thing left in its wake.

    The half-man turned about, and clawed his way after him.

    Brian ran into the garage, pausing when he saw his mother’s Volvo parked in its customary spot-

    Why didn’t she come to the door?

    -and grabbed the dangling white rope to pull the door down behind him.

    The half-man scuttled toward the entrance as Brian tugged at the rope. The aluminum garage door rattled thunderously overhead, but wouldn’t budge. He gave it another firm pull, lifting himself off the ground, and this time the metal door came crashing down, and he fell with it.

    The half-man lunged, his wrists crossing the threshold, as the door slid down upon them with an audible crunch. His hands clawed and swiped at the air as Brian got to his feet and stomped at the thing’s gnarled digits until it drew them clear of the threshold, and then he brought the door down completely, setting the pin in the lock. The thin aluminum caved inward as the half-man threw his weight against it, sending Brian scurrying backward. When his foot hit the slick patch of concrete, he felt his legs fly out from beneath him, and his back hit the ground with a thud that rattled his insides.

    His sister’s body lay beneath the Volvo.

    Gwen was home early.

    There were ragged, fist sized chunks of flesh missing from her chin and left cheek, exposing her teeth up to the jawbone.

    She hardly ever got home before him.

    The braces she fought so hard against getting were coated in a thin sheen of red, with frayed bits of flesh sandwiched between steel wire and tooth.

    She must have hitched a ride home with Lynn.

    One ice blue eye stared back at him, the other dangled, punctured and misshapen, from a hollow, oozing socket.

    Lynn had her license now. Gwen was so jealous.

    Gwendolyn’s meticulously groomed golden curls were now a red black, encrusted with dried blood and swarming insects. The top of her skull punched open, hollowed out like a coconut shell.

    But Gwen was sixteen. She only had to wait a few more months.

    Brian felt a familiar spasm in his belly, and the contents of his stomach spewed forth from of the corners of his mouth, dribbling down the front of his shirt. Acid sizzled in the back of his throat, mingling with the taste of a school lunch thought long-ago digested.

    Spaghetti and meatballs with garlic bread. Jell-O with fruit. Two cartons of coffee milk. Celery sticks and one chunk of government grade processed American cheese.

    He crawled back slowly until what was left of his sister was eclipsed by the Volvo’s front tire. The garage door shook violently as the thing outside slammed itself against it once more, and this brought Brian to his feet. The sick slid off of him and rained down on his sneakers and the garage floor. The shirt clung to his chest and stomach, wet and warm and oddly comforting as the feeling of numbness that had washed over him gave way to an alarming sense of calm and rational detachment.

    Brian turned and ran up the steps to the door into the house. The knob turned…

    Thank God.

    …and he ran inside. The garage door shook again, followed by the grinding of metal on metal. Brian looked back in time to see one of the aluminum panels fold inward. The half-man squeezed his head and one flailing arm through the tiny opening, and let out a deep, percussive groan as its dead yellow eyes met Brian’s. Brian stared back defiantly, and then slammed the door, bolted it shut, and dragged a small oak hutch in front of it for good measure.

    “Ma!?” He didn’t expect an answer, and he didn’t get one, but he called for her as he ran from room to room, in part to drown out the racket coming from the garage.

    She wasn’t here, and he wasn’t surprised. After all, she wouldn’t have let that happen to Gwen. Nope, not on her watch.

    Sharon Keating was a nice lady, but could be one mean bird when it came to anyone – or anything – messing with her family. She could get good and loud – even violent – if the situation called for it.

    He remembered the German Shepard that had chased him home from Evan’s house, nipping at his heels the whole way. He came screaming up the driveway as his mother burst through the front door with one of Brian’s hockey sticks raised over her head. The pose reminded him of one of those molded plastic army men; the one with the bayonet held aloft, as if ready to bring the business end of it down into the soft belly of a cowering foe.

    She positioned herself between Brian and the dog, and swung wildly until the animal let out a series of pained yelps and turned tail, running halfway up their driveway. She took two steps toward it, and the dog vanished into the woods. He wasn’t sure which was scarier; being chased by the dog, or the look on his mother’s face as she stood there, teeth bared, her usually placid face contorted into a fierce scowl. Her expression grew blank when she looked down and realized that she was now holding half of the hockey stick. The other half lay on the ground before her, its splintered tip coated with blood and tufts of fur.

    Brian burst into tears, and it wasn’t long before his mother joined him, dropping the stick, and scooping him up in her arms. There was no doubt in his mind that, had it come to it, she would have beaten the life out of that animal before she’d let it harm a hair on his head.

    He thought of what was left of his sister-

    Poor, sweet Gwendolyn

    - lying in a sticky mess underneath the Volvo in the garage.

    There was no way his mother was home.

    2

    The phone rang more than a dozen times before a man finally picked up, sounding breathless and terrified.

    “Barstow Police,” he said. “Please…”

    There was a brief silence broken up by what sounded like the tinkle of shattered glass.

    “…shoot the fucking thing, Claremont!” the man shouted. There was a series of muffled bangs, and then the man was back on the line.

    “Who is this?” he asked. He sounded more annoyed now than scared.

    “My name is Brian. Brian Keating, 833 Hollyhock Road. I need…”

    “Listen, kid. Look, you need…just get yourself locked in somewhere tight, okay?” the man said. “We’re doing…fuck…we’re doing what we can, here.”

    “I…I don’t understand,” Brian said.

    “Look,” there was screaming in the background. “Kid, just…just fucking hide. Hide yourself good, and don’t come out for no one. Not even if you think you know ‘em. Don’t come out until…”

    There was a brittle crackling sound, and then silence. Brian held the receiver out in front of him and stared at it for a second before hanging up to try again.

    This time there wasn’t a dial tone at all.

    3

    He peeled the puke-soaked shirt away from his skin, and drew it carefully over his head, letting it fall to the floor with a wet slap. He wiped his chest with a damp facecloth, and rummaged through the laundry basket for a clean shirt. Brian settled on an oversized Red Sox jersey that his mother intentionally bought two sizes too big to justify the shirt’s exorbitant cost.

    “If I’m going to spend $100 dollars, I’m getting you one you can wear through college,” she said, only half-joking.

    The shirt hung on him like a parka, but it didn’t stop him from wearing it more than any other item of clothing he owned, and today it provided a brief-but-welcome sense of comfort and normalcy. He ran his fingers across the raised lettering on his chest as he drifted toward the high-pitched whine emanating from the living room.

    It had been an hour since the last broadcast. Since then, the same words crawled across the bottom of the television screen, accompanied by the maddening tone.

    This is the Emergency Broadcast System. This is not a test. Please stay tuned to this channel for further updates…

    It was the same on every station, but Brian fell back into the plush sofa and flicked through them all again, just in case.

    The half-man was still in the garage, occasionally making his presence known with a series of bangs and thuds. Brian wasn’t as worried about him, anymore. He seemed contained, for the time being.

    It was the ones outside that had his attention now.

    At least a half-dozen of them, stumbling around on the front lawn, and slamming up against the side of the house, bouncing off of it like moths clumsily fluttering away from the shock of a bug light.

    If he didn’t know better, Brian would have thought them drunk or drugged, like the PCP crazies in the dated movies they showed in health class.

    But he did know better.

    The man on the news seemed surprised to say the words, but Brian wasn’t surprised to hear them. Not after all he’d seen. Still, there was something about hearing it from an adult – a genuine newsman no less – that made it all finally seem real.

    “This is…,” the man cleared his throat and smirked, “This can’t be right,” he said, turning to his left. He shrugged and looked back into the camera. “Okay, folks, I just read the news…and this is what they’re telling me.”‘

    The anchor cleared his throat again, as his gaze drifted down to the paper in his hand as he spoke.

    Brian may have only recently turned thirteen, but he was old enough to read between the lines.

    “The deceased-”

    -zombies -

    “-we are told, are somehow coming back to life, attacking-”

    -areeating people-

    “Reports have come in from around the world, and…”

    -everywhere-

    “…the President has declared a state of…”

    -and we are now officially fucked-

    “…advised to stay indoors…”

    -so make peace with your god-

    “…until the situation is under control…”

    -tell your family you love them-

    “…rest assured, your government is at work to contain the situation…”

    -and kiss your ass goodbye.

    They would eventually find a way in here; of that he had no doubt. He was food, and they were hungry.

    And, soon, there would be more of them.

    It was time to get his bow.

    4

    It was nearly midnight when he heard the sound of glass shattering downstairs.

    They had gotten more aggressive as the night wore on, and had finally found a way in.

    Still, it would be a long while before they got up here.

    Brian had spent the last hour blocking doorways, cluttering the halls, and filling the stairwell with enough furniture and debris to make an ascent difficult for the most nimble of adversaries.

    At least that’s what he’d hoped.

    He slid his dresser in front of the door, shut off the overhead light, and crossed the room to the open window. The night air kissed his sweat-soaked frame, chilling away any semblance of fatigue. As his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he could see shapes and shadows moving on the lawn. Directly below him, he could hear the feeble slaps of flesh against wood, fingernails scratching siding, and, once again, the chiming sound of falling glass. He hadn’t been able to get a count of them once the sun went down, but he knew there were more, now. He could feel them.

    He just hoped he had enough arrows.

    He’d stuffed his father’s quiver with nearly twice the amount it was meant to hold – probably overkill for a skilled bowman, but, while Brian had proven himself an accurate and efficient killer of hay-stuffed targets, he’d never shot a living thing before.

    But these things are dead. Dead and slow.

    He grunted as he lifted the heavy quiver, placed it on the ledge outside, and carefully slid it out onto the roof. He then slid out his bow, which was nearly as tall as he was, but as light as an aluminum baseball bat.

    He placed a penlight and two flares (culled from a Roadside Emergency Kit that had been sitting unopened in his parent’s closet since three Christmases ago), along with a box of granola bars, a half-empty bag of chips, and two cans of warm Diet Coke into an oversized purse, slung it over his shoulder, and climbed out into the night.

    The pitch of the roof wasn’t as steep on this side of the house, but it was steep enough to give Brian pause as he peered down at the dark figures slowly milling about below him. He crawled toward the side of the window, and up toward the peak of the roof, dragging his bow and quiver behind him.

    The tar shingles were gritty and tacky and made for good traction. Once he made it to the peak, Brian carefully rolled over, and dug in his heels. As he positioned himself, he brought up the bow, rested the lower limb against the roof, and sandwiched it between his sneakers. He then unzipped the purse and removed one of the flares. He squinted as he pulled the ring from the tip of the flare. As it hissed and sizzled in his hand, it felt as though a hundred dead eyes were on him. He hastily lobbed it toward the right side of the house, and then ignited the other flare, this time throwing it toward the left. Now the front yard was bathed in a smoky orange glow, and the things that were once merely formless shadows were now fully visible to him.

    Part of him liked it better when it was dark.

    He counted twelve of them, but there was no telling what lurked in the darkness beyond the burn of the flares.

    He drew an arrow from the quiver, placed its tip on the rest, and balanced the nook between his trembling fingers. He lined up his first target; a dark and hugely muscular man, clad only in a tiny pair of red spandex shorts. He had sunken eyes, and a twisted, gaping jaw that hung so low that his limp chin flapped against his Adam’s apple. His left arm hung by his side, with what appeared to be his own severed right arm tucked firmly underneath.

    A headshot. It needs to be a headshot, Brian reminded himself of what was said on the news. “It’s the only way to be sure.”

    He held his breath as he slowly tugged back the bowstring, and let the arrow fly. It whistled off into the night sky, flying wide of his target, and disappearing into the thick brush beyond. Brian balled his fist and pounded himself in the thigh.

    Nervous, he thought. Just relax. It’s just like any other target.

    Brian drew another arrow from the quiver.

    Now focus.

    The next shot hit the muscleman in the chest. Brian could hear the wet sound of the arrow as it pierced flesh and dense muscle- the brittle snap of bone.

    Yet the man wasn’t fazed.

    If he were alive, that would have killed him. Brian laughed at the sheer lunacy of the thought as he loaded up another arrow.

    This shot went straight into the muscleman’s gaping mouth, pinning his jaw to his throat. He flailed wildly, dropping his severed arm to the ground and wrapping a massive hand around the fletching.

    Well at least that one got his attention, Brian thought.

    The man’s head jerked forward with every tug of the arrow. Dark, viscous fluid poured from his mouth and formed a gory rivulet between his bulging pectoral muscles. When he finally managed to remove the arrow, a ragged hunk of dripping tissue came along with it, and he tossed it to the side. As he did, another arrow drilled into his right eye, and the muscleman collapsed like a rag doll.

    An elderly woman’s gaze drifted from the fallen zombie up to Brian; her boney, hooked fingers clawed at the tattered fabric of her flower-patterned dress. She moved toward him, and, with each clumsy step, the dress slipped further down her chest, until finally falling around her waist, revealing desiccated breasts that hung like mottled flesh curtains over the hollow pit of her stomach.

    Brian took a deep breath and held it as he lined up the shot. The arrow hit just below the woman’s nose, splitting her lip, and shattering her upper jaw. The blow sent her teetering backward into a thick patch of briars. Her lifeless body hung there like the shriveled remains of a bug in a spider web.

    “Yes!” Brian pumped his fist.

    This is cake.

    He scanned the grounds for his next target.

    His heart skipped a beat when he saw her.

    And suddenly this didn’t seem easy at all.

    5

    It took Brian four shots to bring his mother down.

    She stood there amongst them, her white silk robe hung open, and fluttering in the gentle breeze; her pale skin awash in the flickering orange glow of the flares. She looked like an angel. Her face serene, her arms held out to him – for him. And he was prepared to go to her, too, until the reality of it set in; the red and glistening gash that ran down the center of her chest– the shadowy void where her stomach used to be.

    Mother had been home all along.

    His first shot barely cleared the edge of the roof. His arms were weightless, and his fingers numb.

    The second arrow skidded across the lawn in front of her. His body shuddered violently, overcome by a cold tingling.

    The third shot hit her in the thigh. The sight of her blood sent a wave of nausea over him. He swallowed hard, choking on phlegm and the salt of his tears.

    “Oh, god, mommy, no! God, please, no.”

    But she’s not your mommy, anymore, kid.

    Just ask you sister.

    And he pictured Gwendolyn, and what was done to her. And he pictured the thing out there, masquerading as his mother, doing it to her.

    And with the fourth shot, his aim was true.

    6

    After her, the rest were easy. Fueled by rage, adrenaline, and despair – he didn’t waste a single arrow. And, by sunup, the living dead that had besieged his home were once again at peace.

    God curse them all.

    7.

    Brian walked up the dirt driveway, picked up the backpack he’d dropped the day before, and slung it over his shoulder. When he reached the mouth of the road, he stood and he waited, basking in a warm shaft of early morning sunlight.

    A distant purring gave way to a full-on roar as a suped-up red truck rounded the bend. There was a man standing in the bed of the pickup.

    He had a rifle.

    It was aimed at Brian.

    The truck squealed to a halt.

    A thunderous crack shook the morning still.

    8

    The half-man’s body lay on the ground less than five feet away from him, his head reduced to a splash of splintered bone and blood that blackened as it soaked into the dirt.

    The shooter sized Brian up, eyeing the bow that hung over his right shoulder, and the quiver that he dragged behind him. His gaze drifted past him, to the bodies that littered the front yard.

    “Looks like you missed one, kid,” he laughed. Brian had heard laughter like that before. There was no joy in it, just nervous release.

    The driver, a heavy old man, with tomato red cheeks and a head of yellow/grey hair, leaned toward the passenger window.

    “You better get in, kid. Things back there…,” the old man looked over his shoulder.

    “There ain’t nothin’ back there…,” the Shooter interrupted.

    Brian shook his head.

    “I can’t. I’m waiting for my bus.”

    The driver’s face creased. “Kid, you don’t get it. They ain’t no bus comin’. They ain’t no bus, they ain’t no school, they ain’t no godamn town.”

    Brian shook his head again.

    The driver looked ready to jump out of his seat and drag Brian in, when the shooter tapped the roof of the truck.

    “You heard the kid, Marty,” he said.

    “But Dale, he’s just…he’s just a kid!” Marty shouted back.

    Dale looked at Brian and smiled. There was sadness in the man’s eyes. Brian supposed that his own eyes didn’t look much different.

    Dale nodded, and Brian nodded back.

    “Let’s get a move on,” Dale said, and tapped the roof again.

    Marty shook his head and mumbled something as they drove away. Dale tipped his cap, and Brian waved, only lowering his hand when the truck was well out of sight.

    He stared back down toward the bend in the road, awaiting the arrival of the mustard yellow bus. Brian noticed that the leaves had already begun to take on the earthy hues of the fall. It seemed like the summer had only just ended.

    It amazed him how quickly things changed.

    40 Comments (Leave a comment)

    1. That’s a hell of a fine tale there, good sir. A strong sense of location – I can SEE that house, its surroundings, and the undead milling around it. Well-placed gore, described with vigor. A likeable protagonist; it’s really too bad he had to put an arrow in Mommy’s head.
      Overall, a pretty kickass zombie story – great work.

      Comment by AJ Muller on March 1, 2008 @ 12:17 am

    2. This story is amazing!

      I had goosechills the entire time I read it!

      So very believable. Sleep will be difficult tonight! =D

      Comment by Christine on March 1, 2008 @ 2:24 am

    3. Nicely done, James. Some of the descriptions made me queasy! This is my favorite of yours so far. Thanks for the link!

      Ryan

      Comment by Ryan J. Perce on March 1, 2008 @ 3:30 am

    4. Dang that was good my friend. I was locked in man. I look forward to reading more of your stuff Jim.

      Comment by Floydp on March 1, 2008 @ 5:21 pm

    5. Hey Jim that was really cool. I no zombie aficionado but damn it almost felt like I was their. Well done mate and thanks for pointing me here.

      DownUnder

      Comment by Jason Flockton on March 1, 2008 @ 6:05 pm

    6. Nice work Jim!

      Comment by J R DeRego on March 3, 2008 @ 12:57 pm

    7. Loved it! I almost peed my pants. Couldn’t stop reading.

      Comment by Nina on March 3, 2008 @ 1:26 pm

    8. Great story, Jim! I could see it evolving into a bigger work. Two severed thumbs up.

      Comment by D. Generate on March 5, 2008 @ 1:15 pm

    9. Very good work. Engaging and engrossing. The only constructive criticism I have is that occasionally Brian’s thoughts seem a bit too mature, specifically while watching the news report. Seemed to throw off the flow a little. Keep writing em, Im off to read anything else you may have posted!

      Comment by Chaynsama on March 8, 2008 @ 3:52 am

    10. Thanks for the comments folks!! I appreciate you all taking the time to read the story!!

      Chaynsama, I totally get what you’re saying about the character’s mature inner voice, and I struggled with that a bit as I, too, felt it skewed older. Thanks for the constructive advice :)

      Comment by James F. Reilly on March 17, 2008 @ 11:57 pm

    11. You should consider publishing if you haven’t yet. I find I am haunted more by “z” in the literary form. A series of short stories of a simialar fashion would keep your readers up for weeks. Most terrifying and well written on this site. Kudos

      Comment by Tymber Baldwin on March 25, 2008 @ 10:40 am

    12. Hey Jim, that was wicked man. I read the news reports in a lot of Zombie fiction and I must say that it is a staple that undead stories need and when they are missing the story somehow lacks. I suppose that’s Romero’s fault. Having this story come from the POV of a young kid was a good move and placing a bow in his hands instead of a gun makes it more realistic as a lot young hunters start off with them. I had a feeling he would be taking down his mother (it was a give in) but I enjoyed the way you described the turmoil for the boy. I didn’t mind his mature thinking after all we know very little of this boy previous to the events of the story and after seeing your sister’s chewed up corpse I would imagine a boy would grow up fast. The ending was perfect. I can just imagine the yellow bus careening down the road stopping at its regular stops and then there is Brian with his bow at the ready to put a shaft through the forehead of that prick zombie driver who wouldn’t pay him the courtesy of giving him a warning. As always I look forward to reading more of your stuff man.

      Comment by Brandon Layng on April 1, 2008 @ 4:54 pm

    13. AH! So many questions left at the end! I felt like I was there in the trees watching, such a great story. Goodjob!

      Comment by Vincent on April 2, 2008 @ 4:04 pm

    14. Wow. Loved it. Nicely Done!

      Comment by Clitoris Rex on April 7, 2008 @ 12:11 pm

    15. Really scary! I would love to read more like this. You should consider an anthology of tales set in this world. I know I’d buy it!

      Comment by Rick on April 24, 2008 @ 10:53 am

    16. Great story! Truly enjoyed it. Thanks for the excellent read!

      Comment by Glenn on May 20, 2008 @ 3:44 pm

    17. Okay, now here is real storytelling. A lead character I care about, mood and atmosphere that you can feel in your gut, the sense of tragedy- the ending was brilliant. It avoided the Night of the Living Dead “last survivor shot” cliche yet also avoided the young warrior going off to his next battle cliche- instead, we have a kid who is confused, scared, tough, a little crazy and very realistic. Well done. I look forward to seeing this story in the World War Z short story collection when it is professionally published.

      Comment by Tim McFadden on May 30, 2008 @ 9:19 am

    18. This story is wonderful. There is a sense of dread and quiet resolve in young Brian. The gore and violence are used as a backdrop to the story instead of the meat and potatoes. Well done.

      Comment by Tarbh on June 21, 2008 @ 11:47 pm

    19. Hi, yesterday, I watched the trailer of many movies that will be presented at the Fantasia fest in Montreal, and some of the images reminded me of this story. A young boy, riding his bike, carrying a bow on his back and killing zombies with it. I can’t find the name of the moovie, but I’ll post it as soon as I find it.

      Comment by Nina on June 30, 2008 @ 7:24 am

    20. I found the movie I wrote about: http://www.fantasiafest.com/2008/en/films/film_detail.php?id=262
      It’s called I Love Sarah Jane.

      Comment by Nina on July 2, 2008 @ 5:53 am

    21. Man,you can write!Fuck yeah!Imma heat myself up a slice of pizza left over from earlier.Its hot tonight.

      Comment by SMEAR on July 21, 2008 @ 3:26 am

    22. Jeez, your description of the elderly woman zombie in the flowered print dress, of what her body looked like, was more ghastly than the fact of her Zombie-hood to me, as a woman who happens to be an “aging hippie”!
      Your writing is haunting, hope to read more.

      Comment by AtomicWarBaby on August 4, 2008 @ 9:43 am

    23. Hell of a good story kinda sad.
      Why did he stay and wait for the bus at the end I didnt get it

      Comment by Kornydemon on September 9, 2008 @ 12:18 pm

    24. Wow, I totally see why you won, this was just great! Keep writing, you really know how to capture the reader!

      Comment by ashes7811 on September 9, 2008 @ 2:03 pm

    25. OMG! Poor kid, this is so MEAN. They just left him there?

      Comment by Mercurial Georgia on September 20, 2008 @ 8:24 pm

    26. All around excellent story. I can see why this one won the award.

      Comment by Bill Bultas on September 23, 2008 @ 2:22 am

    27. Very enjoyable story there,
      the ending kind of pissed me off… but I guess you have to remember this is some kid who doesn’t know any better. Overall great though.

      Comment by Kyle on September 26, 2008 @ 6:39 pm

    28. This story rivals that of max brooks

      Please write a book ;)

      Comment by Ryan Smith on October 12, 2008 @ 9:15 am

    29. Wow! I haven’t been by in a bit as my wife and I just had a baby, so things have been hectic! LOL. I just had to post to thank you all for your kind words and positive (and negative!)feedback!

      I am currently working on a novella called “FOAMERS” which is a sort of zombies-in-space themed sci-fi horror concoction (my friend and editor from Apex Digest challenged me to write it, as I’m not a big “sci-fi” guy), as well as LONG short called DEADLANDS.

      If you folks are interested in reading any more of my stuff, I’ve got a few pieces up at my MySpace page that I’d love to share with you :). It’s MySpace.com/JimReillyWriter
      Hopefully I’ll see you there!

      Comment by James F. Reilly on October 16, 2008 @ 7:46 am

    30. Oh, and Nina, that I LOVE SARAH JANE looks wicked! Hope to get a chance to see that one! There’s another “kids versus the dead” flick out called DANCE OF THE DEAD, which is more funny than scary, but features similar young adult themes as a bunch of losers band together to save their high school prom from a horde of zombies. :P

      Comment by James F. Reilly on October 16, 2008 @ 7:49 am

    31. Hi James. Great read. Realistic. We don’t really know how old Brian is, so we can’t hudge how mature his thoughts would be. In my experiance though, kids that hunt tend to be a little more mature, as they understand the concept of life and death a little better. I also like the confusion at the end. Try to same a little normalcy. I also think you do well with the dialog. A lot of writers have trouble with that. Just a matter of hearing how people talk, and capturing that. You do it well. Only a couple mechanical errors, and I’m not one to pick those apart, as they are my weak point as well. However, the word you need is “nock” for the rear end of an arrow. Not “nook” Minor thing. Hate to say it, but I’ve only got a dozen arrows myself, but deer don’t need more than that. Also, a buddy of mine tells people to “pick a hair, and shoot it” when he teaches them to deer hunt. One thing I did wonder, while Brian’s mom and sister were accounted for, where was his dad? Oh, and congrats on your baby. They change your life, in many ways, including your writing. Makes it difficult for me to watch zombie movies with kids involved. Just tears me up. Keep writing man, good work.

      Comment by David Youngquist on November 22, 2008 @ 4:22 pm

    32. Does anybody here find inspiration for horror stories in music?

      Does this stuff work for you:
      http://normdoering.blogspot.com/2008/12/devils-music.html

      Comment by Norman Doering on January 4, 2009 @ 9:06 pm

    33. Extremely well told and written. I could feel warm roof tiles under my feet on that one. It would make a great part of a greater novel that I think you need to write. You are too talented not to share these ideas with the rest of the zombie story loving world. Write to me as well, I want to talk screenplays with you.

      By that way, everyone see “I Love Sarah Jane” on YouTube. I just watched it and it is fantastic.

      Comment by Andre on January 7, 2009 @ 11:04 pm

    34. Hey, Thanks Andre!

      I would write you back, but there’s no E-mail contact for ya’! :)

      JIM!

      Comment by James F. Reilly on February 24, 2009 @ 9:13 am

    35. I’ve been reading these all day and this one really stuck out at me. I would love to see this continue on or see the character again in another Z story.

      Comment by Jesi on March 24, 2009 @ 8:49 pm

    36. Poor kid. Well, unlike a lot of zombie story heroes/stereotypes, he had the balls to face his worst nightmares.

      Comment by Liam on July 10, 2009 @ 10:27 pm

    37. Really enjoyed the story. Just read it for the first time today, and loved the refrence to the “green plastic army man with the bayonet above his head”. I used to play with those things and hated that one. HA HA. I could see the story in my head like a small movie. Well written. Write more please.

      Comment by Chris on September 23, 2009 @ 9:58 am

    38. Haunting story. I loved the imagery and found the protagonist a fresh and interesting change of pace. Seeing this through a child’s eyes makes it that much more unsettling. As many others have already said, I would love to read more of your work.

      Comment by D.S. Romana on December 1, 2009 @ 8:39 pm

    39. Loved it. Kept me on the edge of my seat and the ending was in keeping with the character of the young boy.

      Comment by L Martin on June 13, 2010 @ 5:56 pm

    40. [...] “After School Special” (Horror) – Tales of the Zombie War [...]

      Pingback by “After School Special” by James F. Reilly « The Zombie Feed on August 11, 2010 @ 11:16 am

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