Log in / Register



Monthly Archives:

Recent Comments:No recent comment found.
Spooky Halloween book series

All The Dead Are Here - Pete Bevan's zombie tales collection

Popular Tags:

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

NEW DAY by David Charlton
May 22, 2008  Longer stories   Tags: ,   

“Mr. Hawking,” his physics teacher used to say on an almost daily basis, “yet again, your namesake would be ashamed of your performance in this class.”

Classmates would snicker. Steve would blush and scan the quiz paper for the humiliating red letter scratched across the top.

“Why are you so dumb, Hawking? Hey Hawking, you’re no Einstein!” echoed the schoolyards and yellow buses.

His mother was certain her boy spent too much time in cyberspace. The daytime Oprahs and View-ladies warned her about this. Her son most certainly was learning how to make bombs from lawn fertilizer or was being stalked by middle-aged pedophiles.

“Have you ever noticed,” Steve asked Dr. Jones one day, “that the word ‘therapist’ is made up of ‘the’ and ‘rapist’?”

“Indeed, I have,” she replied. “Why? Do you feel like our sessions are a kind of rape?”

“Oh never mind.”

Though he felt he could do without the therapy sessions, he grudgingly admitted to himself that, since starting the Prozac, he had become happier in a nebulous, inexplicable way.

He even began to make friends. He could finally act as though he liked what others liked, disliked what others disliked, spoke like others spoke, and valued what others valued.

“Are you a ham?” John asked him.

“A what?”

“A ham. Do you like ham radio?”

“I sure do,” Steve said, smiling and nodding. “I just can never get the hang of it.”

“No worries. I’ll show you. Why don’t you come over after school?”

“Sounds fun!” Steve said, smiling and nodding.

Later that day, as John taught his cheerful new friend the finer points of ham radio, Steve struggled to follow. He wanted to go home, but couldn’t pull his smile and legs away from John. Instead, he just grinned and nodded politely, all the while dreaming of a world in which he was smarter than everyone else, in which people looked up to him and followed his suggestions.

He didn’t realize then just how soon these dreams would be fulfilled.


One May morning, he awoke to the screams of his mother. She stood staring out the picture window in the living room. Steve looked past her to see what had caught her attention.

In the middle of the usually quiet street, two walking corpses were working their jaws on the skull of Jean-Anne Hebert, the ten-year-old girl from next door.

“C-c-call the police,” his mother said.

Steve jabbed 9-1-1 into the phone, but it just screamed the busy signal in reply. “I can’t get through to them,” he said.

His mother and father didn’t hear his words. They sat on the sofa, eyes glued to CNN. A montage of scenes like the one Steve had just witnessed flashed across the screen. Scientists, religious figures, and politicians lobbed explanation and blame from the TV’s speaker.

His parents seemed suddenly mollified.

“Lucky you, Stevie,” his father spoke. “School’s out for a few days until they get this cleaned up. No rest for the wicked, though—I’ve still got to go in to the office. I’ll try to get home a bit early tonight, hon. Take care!”

“Okay, Lenny,” Mrs. Hawking said. “How does spaghetti carbonara sound for dinner?”

“Sounds delightful, my love. See you then.”

“Drive safe!”

Leonard Hawking was caught downtown in front of his office building. Jinny Hawking, coupons clutched tightly in hands, was converted later that morning at the supermarket.

Steve was busy with his other life as an elfin king wandering in cyberspace when his mother arrived home. He hadn’t noticed that her trip to the supermarket had taken several hours. Her movements barely registered as she slowly clunked up the stairs and shuffled towards his room. He scowled and pretended not to hear when she pulled open the door and entered his room. When she grabbed him from behind, he was shocked and annoyed by the uncharacteristic show of affection. Then, he noted the coolness of her hands. When he felt her mouth opened wide and her cool slick tongue race across the top of his head, his stomach flipped and he turned to face his mother.

“Mom!” he yelled, “what the hell are you doing?” But he noticed the large red crater in her skull, her graying skin, and the dullness in her eyes. “Oh,” he said.

Fear raced through his body for a few moments. Then, he realized his mother wasn’t attacking him. She just watched his face, slack-jawed but intent. As he passed her on his way to the hall, she embraced him again. She mouthed and licked his head, but did not bite. Again, he forced himself from her embrace and jogged out of his room.

He went downstairs to check on the TV and have a look outside. He tried to get CNN, but found only snow. Outside, the streets were quiet. Jean-Anne Hebert’s corpse was gone, though a wine-colored stain remained on the street. His mother embraced him again, nuzzling against his skull.

He pulled free from her arms and scrambled down to the basement. She followed. When she finally made her way down the stairs, he sped past her and up the stairs. He locked the door behind him and returned to the computer in his bedroom.

Steve was in the kitchen taking his Prozac when his father arrived home. Like his wife, Leonard Hawking shuffled toward his son, clutching him in a powerful hug and gently mouthing his skull. Steve led his father into the main floor bathroom, then slid by him and locked the door.

The next day, Don Struthers, fullback for the Lord Beaverbrook High Lords football team, came over to hang out with Steve. Steve wasn’t comfortable with the hugging and kissing, so he led Don out to the garage.

Later, Carol Walters and Suzy Lanois, two of the Lords’ cheerleaders, came over for a visit. This time, Steve didn’t mind the hugging and kissing, despite the cold flesh and incomplete brains. He let them linger in his room as he marched through other realms on his computer.

In the days that followed, more people came to visit: neighbors, teachers, family friends, and classmates. Through it all, Carol and Suzy remained close to Steve. He used his mother’s cosmetics to warm up their faces and cover any scars. Eventually, he released his parents to join this group, but rigged a chain across the steps leading upstairs to keep his private pursuits private.

Each day, his friends had to leave for a time, reappearing later with fresh red stains on their faces and clothing. At first, this disgusted Steve, but after washing Carol and Suzy the first few times, he came to accept it as a necessary part of life after the change.


As the weeks passed, more and more people thronged to him. One day, the power went out. He could no longer use his computer. The fridge no longer kept food cool and the cupboards had become barren. In search of more food, he led his throng on a march to Safeway.

Inside, it stank to high heaven. Squadrons of flies buzzed by their heads. The deli section was almost unbearable with rotting meat. Steve remembered a mortician’s trick he’d read about online, and found some Vick’s Vapo-Rub in the pharmacy section. Smearing a dollop beneath each nostril helped mask the stench. He returned to the deli section and loaded up on jerky and pepperoni sticks. He continued leading his followers through the store, piling the cart full of canned stews, pastas, puddings, cans of beans and corn, boxes of Kraft Dinner, and bags of chips and marshmallows. Finally, he hopped over the pharmacy counter and, after searching for ten minutes or so, found the bottles of Prozac he needed to keep going.

As he reached the top of the hill on his way home, Steve looked back down upon the valley. The air was fresher than he could ever remember. Birdsong washed down on the streets from above. He gazed upon his followers, suddenly overwhelmed by their devotion. They are the sheep, he thought, and I am their shepherd, their chosen one.


More weeks passed and Steve had taken to wearing nothing but sandals and his mother’s white silk nightgown—clothing more befitting a shepherd than his usual Nikes and Levis. He led his flock on nature walks through Fish Creek Park. The wildlife had reemerged since the change. Birds constantly serenaded them with their songs. Deer and rabbits stared at them from Cottonwood thickets. Packs of wild dogs roamed the woods and fields, but kept their distance from Steve and his meek followers.

On one such walk, Steve noted with sadness that his flock was thinning out. Each day, his members had to leave him briefly for nourishment, but as the days passed, more and more returned clean-faced. Others didn’t return at all. Those that did stay didn’t crowd around to caress his head with the same enthusiasm as before.

“Stephen Hawking! Is that you?” Steve was startled to hear as he was about to lead his flock on another foray into Safeway. He turned to see his tenth-grade Art teacher, Mr. Hayes, walking down the street towards him. Behind him followed another flock of the walking dead.

“H-hello, Mr. Hayes,” croaked Steve, his throat dry and raspy.

“There’s no need for those formalities now, Steve,” spoke the thin, balding man. “You can just call me Roger.”

“Hi, Roger.”

“I was wondering if any of my students survived like I did. There are a few of us med-heads around.”

“Med-heads?” Steve asked.

“I guess you’re too young to remember dead heads—groupies of the Grateful Dead—it’s a take-off of that. You know, the dead follow us around, attracted to our heads, but our meds keep us safe.”

“Our meds?”

“Yeah, our meds. Anti-depressants mostly, it seems. What are you taking: Zoloft? Prozac?”

“Uhh . . . yeah, Prozac.”

“Same here. On your way for a refill?” Steve asked, lifting his chin in the direction of the supermarket.

“Yeah . . .” Steve said. “You mean the Prozac is . . . is . . . ?”

“Is keeping the zombies away? Yes. It seems that ‘healthy’ brains,” Steve began, clenching his fingers up by his ears as he spoke the word healthy, “are what these guys feed on. But they can’t seem to eat ‘unhealthy’ brains medicated with anti-depressants. They are sure attracted to those brains, though, aren’t they?”

“You mean it’s just the medicine that’s keeping us . . . safe?”

“I’m afraid so, kiddo. Speaking of which, let’s go stock up, shall we?”

“Yeah, all right,” Steve said softly.

After they entered the store, Steve said, “I’ll meet you at the pharmacy, I just got to get something over here.”

“OK, Steve. Woo, the stench from the deli section is nasty!”

Steve made his way to the kitchenware aisle, scanning the shelves of Tupperware containers, baking sheets, and silicon spatulas until he found the butcher’s knives. There can only be a chosen one, he thought to himself, running his left thumb along the edge of the blade.

When he returned home from the supermarket, his flock had nearly doubled in size.


As June gave way to July, Steve continued to find more and more of his followers straying off. Their movements grew lethargic and they paid less and less attention to him. To remedy this, he tried lowering his Prozac dosage, which did bring the flock closer.

When Suzy failed to return home one day, he decided it was time to be more proactive. After searching his mind for solutions, he remembered his recent lessons on ham radio. John had shown him how to use it to communicate with people.

The next morning, he led his followers on a pilgrimage to the RadioShack in SouthCentre mall. Along the way, his flock collected a few stray stumbling members.

That evening, he discovered that the airwaves were filled with survivors. Little pockets of rebel holdouts dotted the city and countryside. He was even able to make contact with his old friend, John. He and his family were holed up in a makeshift basement shelter. They were more than happy to let Steve wait out the scourge in safety with them. John’s father said the zombies were already starting to die off, and he thought the coming winter would kill off the rest of them.

At first, the powder-faced figure startled them. Then they realized it was Steve and welcomed him in. What they saw behind Steve scared them, but it was too late to close the door.


The summer months passed, and Steve was able to sustain his followers on the various pockets of holdouts in the city. It worried him, though, that there was less and less traffic on the airwaves, and his flock had grown larger but more listless than ever. The nearest large city was hundreds of kilometers to the north. How could they make it that far?

Eventually, a license plate number came to him: VE6DC. He’d seen it on Uncle Don’s F-100. He knew now that also meant that his uncle was a “ham.” Uncle Don’s ranch was also only about 40 kilometers from the city.

Steve figured it was worth a shot, and it didn’t take him long to make contact with the ranch. His uncle, aunt, and cousins were safe and couldn’t wait to see him. Though saddened by the loss of his parents, they were relieved that he had survived. Steve was equally relieved to learn that his grandparents had survived and were at the ranch along with many of Aunt Eileen’s relatives. “Be careful,” Don told him, “and Godspeed.”

Steve realized this trip would be much longer than all previous ones and would require careful preparation. His flock had become large in number, but each member had grown weak, able to carry only a fraction of the necessary supplies. A few more feedings on the way out of the city would help, but once on the highway, pickings would be slim. To provide extra incentive, he again lowered the dosage of his medication.

On the day of departure, he packed away his robe and sandals, choosing a more conservative ensemble of Levis, a T-shirt, and Timberland hiking shoes. It was going to be a long walk.

Keeping his remaining queen, Carol, by his side, Stephen Hawking led his stumbling band of devotees beyond the city limits.

The first day went well. The sun was out but not too hot, and they met up with the odd lone zombie, who promptly huddled up to Steve, joining the flock.

The next two days were less fortunate. Rain and hail storms slowed their pace. Weakened followers slipped and fell on the slick pavement, never to rise again. Steve kept hold of Carol’s elbow as she wheeled and lurched along the highway. Occasionally, they encountered abandoned cars, crows gathered on their roofs to watch the flock pass by.

The following day was disastrous as his followers—his friends, his family—began dropping like flies. Pared down to a weak and lolling dirty dozen, the flock was less than a day away from the ranch. Steve stopped for a rest, surveying the remaining members. If only I had taken a bus. If only I had chosen twenty or thirty followers and loaded them on a bus, we could have made the trip in a day. But how could I choose? I’m not a god, am I? Maybe I did make the right decision. Those that kept with me, liked me best. They stood by me, and I’ll stand by them.

The next afternoon, he stood at the bottom of a hill a mile from his uncle’s ranch, thinking about his next move. Morose and listless, his flock lulled around him, unperturbed by the biting dust blown in the strong prairie winds. Steve wiped grit from the corners of his eyes as Carol leaned on the back of his neck.

Earlier than day, he’d stopped his march beside an abandoned minivan. Ignoring the blood splattered on the driver’s seat and window, he climbed in and tried the keys left in the ignition. It started. He opened the sliding side door and coaxed his followers in. Once everyone was in, he jumped out, locked the door behind him, and began walking towards his uncle’s ranch.

“There he is!” yelled Sara, Steve’s six-year-old cousin. “He’s coming up the road.” She ran out to meet him as the rest of the family furtively poked heads from behind curtains. Rifle slung over his shoulder, Uncle Don emerged from the house and walked down the gravel road to meet Steve.

“Hi Stevie! Hi Stevie!” Sara beamed, hugging Steve’s leg as he slowly petted the wispy blond hair flowing from her small head.

“Hi Sara! Boy, am I glad to see you.”

She took him by the hand and led him up the dusty road to the veranda, where they were joined by Uncle Don and the rest of the family. A quick headcount showed eleven in all, not including Steve.

“Boy, you look like you walked all the way here,” Uncle Don said, “couldn’t you find a car? You know, it’s not really stealing anymore. There’s plenty for everyone now.”

“Oh, actually I picked up a van, but blew a tire just over the hill couple miles back. I was wondering—see, I left my stuff in the van—if we could go get it in your truck. I didn’t feel like carrying it all the way here.”

“Sure, Steve. No problem. How about a drink first? We got some ice-cold lemonade if you’re interested.”

“That sounds perfect, thanks. But I’d rather not leave it too too long.”

“Suit yourself,” his uncle said, moving towards a dusty and dented old pick-up. “Mind carrying this while I’m driving? Can’t be too safe these days.”

“Sure,” Steve answered, taking the rifle in both hands.


Once stopped at the van, Don saw the passengers.

“What the—” he glanced over at Steve and into the barrel of the rifle. “Oh, Steve. What in the name of God have you done this time?”

“Get out of the truck. Slowly.”

“The hell I will!”

Steve poked the rifle forward into his uncle’s nose, producing a crunch and a bloody gash. “Get out,” he repeated.

Holding his hands up beside his ears, Uncle Don slowly slid out the door. Keeping the barrel trained on his mother’s brother, Steve slid across the truck’s seat and out the driver’s door.

“Down on your knees.”

“What the devil are you gonna do? Please, boy, don’t,” said Don, still standing. “What have we ever done to you? Please don’t, please don’t.”

“Never mind then,” Steve said flatly, lowering the barrel and blowing off his uncle’s left knee.

From behind the minivan’s windows, the congregation watched with hollow, hungry eyes. Steve raced around to the passenger’s door of the minivan and helped Carol towards his injured, bleeding uncle.

“That’s much better, isn’t it?” Steve asked, wiping off Carol’s face with his sleeve. “I can see that you’re feeling more energetic.”

He removed his jeans, T-shirt, and shoes and put on his robe and sandals. Then he slashed the tires on the truck with his uncle’s buck knife. He helped Carol back into the van and drove up the road to the ranch.


The assault on the house went nearly without incident. What his followers weren’t fast enough to get for themselves, Steve was able to take down with the rifle. The only troubling matter was no sign of little Sara. No worry, he thought, they’ll find her tomorrow when they’re hungry again.

In the master bedroom that night, his sleep was troubled despite Carol’s cool comforting body at his side. He dreamt of endless mice scurrying along the rafters above his bed. He dreamt of his uncle, leglessly shuffling and juking in dusty circles.

When the sun rose to cheerful sparrow song, Steve awoke to an increased congregation. They were relatively full of vigor, but no sustenance was at hand. He must find Sara. First things first though: grabbing the rifle, he hiked to the converted Uncle Don who was slowly spinning among the sage and dust. He put the rifle to what remained of Don’s skull and pulled the trigger.

Back at the ranch, he noticed the flock did not want to follow him out of the house. Were they losing faith? Would he have to lower his medication again?

For the next few days, Steve roamed the surrounding hills, searched the barn, and looked everywhere for Sara. Several of his old congregation had become catatonic, and Carol was beginning to slow down, too.

He hadn’t spent this much time alone since the change, and it was upsetting him. He needed to understand his followers. He needed them to stay close. He needed to find Sara.

He didn’t sleep well again that night. Despite the fatigue from roving the countryside, the mice and his thoughts of desperation kept him tossing and turning. He didn’t know how to get rid of the thoughts, but he had an idea about the mice.


After a breakfast of dry granola and lemonade, he found the portal to the attic in the front closet. Armed with a shoebox full of mousetraps, he climbed up and found his cousin Sara huddled in a corner. He crawled over to her. When she flinched and began sobbing, he hugged her, petting the soft blond hair covering her scalp. What to do? There are twelve followers now but just one small brain.

Steve brought some food, drink, and a big pot up to the attic for Sara. Too frightened to actually speak, she just ate the food and stared at Steve. He spent the rest of the day wandering the fields and hills around the ranch, thinking about the future. He spent several hours just watching a family of ground squirrels poke their heads up from their tunnels, scurry through the dry grass, and rush back down to the safety of their homes every time he moved.


The next morning, Carol couldn’t rise from bed. Steve returned to the attic. Sara put up no resistance as he led her to the ladder. His aunt and a few other family members began mauling him, clutching and grabbing at Sara as he kicked them off. “No!” he yelled. “She’s for Carol.” But they did not stop their attacks. Quickly, he climbed back up the ladder. “Stay here.”

He stomped back down the ladder and they calmly gathered around him. “Who do you think you are?” he said, filled with rage and disgust. “I’m in charge. I’m the chosen one, and you are the followers. You must obey!”

They stared blankly back, shuffling their feet and lurching around the house. You can’t choose your family, he told himself, you just inherit them and make do.

“Like hell,” he muttered. “I’m the leader here. I can do whatever I damn well please. Who the hell are they?”

Using his uncle’s rifle, he disowned his dead family members. Then, he climbed back up to the attic.

When Carol saw Sara, she began convulsing in hunger, but was too weak to rise from the bed. Steve watched his queen in fascination. Reaching over Carol’s supine figure, he scooped up a tiny piece of brain tissue that had splattered onto the bedside table. There’s only one way to find out, he thought, staring at the morsel in his fingers. He popped it into his mouth and slurped down the warm glutinous flesh. Not bad, he thought, but nothing special.


The next few days were a pleasant idyll. He and Carol strolled the golden hillsides, watched the sun set, and sat beside the warm fire at night. However, the idyll did not last as Carol soon became ill again and was house-bound. Steve was at a loss. He’d done all he could with the medication, and there was nowhere to get food nearby. He spent another day walking the hillsides, watching the sun set, and sitting by the fire. Without Carol, though, he felt no joy in these activities.

He could think of only one way to be with her forever, so he gathered up all the white plastic bottles of Prozac and unceremoniously flushed the pills down the toilet. In any other year, he noted to himself, tomorrow would be the first day of school.

Carol’s condition continued to deteriorate, and Steve’s unmedicated mind didn’t seem to be helping. Then, one morning he awoke to see her up and out of bed. Instead of the expected rush of joy he thought he’d feel at such a sight, he felt nothing. He simply pulled himself up out of bed on stiff legs, moved past her, and shuffled out the front the door to greet the new day.


  1. Nice, really interesting take. Good job.

    Comment by Joe on May 22, 2008 @ 3:13 pm

  2. Really got moving after a slow start. The prozac angle was unique. Grossed me out too, with the bit of cannibalism, tasting the brain tissue. It was unpredictable too.

    Comment by Adam on May 22, 2008 @ 7:57 pm

  3. Very very creative a unique version of a zombie story.

    Comment by Sin "08" on May 31, 2008 @ 1:51 am

  4. Very cool! I love that, in the end, the zombies weren’t the “bad guys” in this story at all. I like the psychological study of this very flawed main character.

    Comment by Patrick M. Tracy on June 4, 2008 @ 2:24 pm

  5. i thought it was pretty good but i still can’t beleive this kid sold out his friends and family

    Comment by ghoststalker on June 9, 2008 @ 3:38 pm

  6. You are from Calgary AB aren’t you? I recognized a few of the places you mentioned.

    Comment by Mel on June 11, 2008 @ 4:13 pm

  7. Thanks to all for the praise. It’s gratifying as a writer to get this kind of feedback.

    Patrick, I often find the most interesting tales are about the human response to “monsters” of whatever kind rather than the monsters themselves. I’ve always thought zombies could be seen as allegory for the herding tendencies in people, so I tried to do something along those lines with this one.

    Mel, yes indeed, I am from Calgary (though currently residing in Korea). I’m glad you recognized some of the places. The Hawking character lives on Parkland Blvd if you want to get exact. ; )

    Comment by Dave on June 13, 2008 @ 8:31 am

  8. rather interesting. id hate to be related to that guy.

    Comment by jake on December 10, 2008 @ 1:15 am

  9. I think I will start taking my meds again.

    Comment by Andre on December 28, 2008 @ 12:26 am

  10. …sad that such a tale comes from a brain that at one time was so brilliant…

    Comment by ...just me on May 28, 2009 @ 3:51 pm

  11. Very well-made. I like the idea of someone having a power fantasy come to life- albeit in a horrible way- and then fuck things up royally, and go nuts.


    Comment by Liam on July 8, 2009 @ 8:52 pm

  12. Awesome story! Funny, but I can relate to characters like Steve because I am a loner myself. I was outcast as a child and as a 30 year old female, I have not one single friend. I’m cordial to my coworkers and on pleasant terms with my family, but noone, aside from my little sister, do I talk to on the phone or hang out with. When I was in middle school, I fantasized about taking my stepfather’s gun to school and shooting all the kids who terrorized me and all the teachers and counselors who let it happen. I remember one night even taking a knife into my parents room, contemplating slitting their throats as they slept. When I hear about some kid going ballistic and lashing out at the society that rejected them, I always feel sorry and say a prayer. What kept me from going over the edge? I wasn’t on medication and only went to a therapist a few times for acting out sexually (which, by the way didn’t help). For some reason I just had the will to move on, say fuck them and enjoy my life as much as possible. I do get depressed sometimes, but most of the females I know are bitches unworthy of my friendship anyway. This was a really good, twisted story. It reminded me to thank God for keeping a hedge of protection around me so that I didn’t lose my way like Steve. Love, Peace & Blessings to you.

    Comment by Living Dead Girl on November 28, 2009 @ 7:37 pm

  13. Glad I take my meds

    Comment by Zephyr on February 15, 2013 @ 6:00 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.