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

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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.

July 12, 2014  Short stories   Tags: ,   

The rain was driving down when the police came for Melanie Atkinson. She lived in a trailer on the verge of town and had, ever since the fire that obliterated the childhood home she had shared with her dad, Mitchell.  It had been a story of thwarted aspirations and dead ends, that sometimes occurs in depressed rural areas. About ten years before, Mitchell had moved to the town to start up a mechanics business, but the promised Taranaki oil boom had never eventuated, and the strains on his marriage with Alannah had led his soldier wife to take up with another man.  Or had it been Mitchell and Irene, the school teacher, at the same time? For whatever reason, Melanie became cold and distant. And then, one evening, she came running into town, with the night torn by the sound and fury of her home going up behind her.  Blackriver was a small, insular New Zealand town, and in such places, prejudice and rigidity are the main course. Anyone with ambition and drive left when they hit eighteen and went off elsewhere to learn a trade, or headed off to polytech or university. They never came back.

And then the Zombie War had descended on New Zealand and the countryside was overrun with snarling, oblivious and stumbling animated corpses.  Blackriver fared better than many comparable towns, perhaps because of its difficult terrain, within an isolated valley where the approaches were easily observable from town.  Much of its population survived, but the turmoil of war and the still-marginal hardscrabble farmland that characterised the area had made things worse for Melanie and outsiders like her.

Things hadn’t improved with the appointment of  Shirley MacAllistair as the local police chief. For one thing, Shirley had a boy, Tyler, who was almost Melanie’s age, and they had a difficult relationship.  He resented being here, that much was obvious, but his mother had to go where the work was, and truth to tell, she wasn’t all that good at her job. Shirley was an authoritarian martinet and disciplined her maverick son harshly.  When he turned seventeen, Tyler found a job in a rural supplies store. One morning he was out delivering a new quad bike to a local customer when he caught sight of the willowy woman who lived in the almost deserted trailer park on the fringe of town. She’d said hello and they walked into town and had a couple of beers at the pub. Given the Zedwar and Blackriver’s bad case of permanent rural recession, there were few other people their own age around.  One thing led to another and one afternoon the two teenagers made hot, sweaty love to each other in Melanie’s trailer.

Shirley had seen Tyler the next morning when he walked back into town and they had a blazing row. She snapped at him, noting that Melanie was suspected of having started the fire that had taken the life of her own father and Alannah Wright five years earlier, to which he retorted nothing had been proven. As usually happened, she’d been drinking after work and backhanded him. He blazed back at her that no wonder his dad had left her and no wonder they were in this deadend town in the arse-end of nowhere.  She hit him again. Eventually, she stopped.  On the next day, Tyler  showed up at the river, with a bruised face and shoulders. Melanie had gasped at his condition, and even more so when he told her who had done it.

She’d never really liked Shirley, anyway.  There had been times when the older woman’s cop car had trailed Melanie when she walked back to her trailer from town, after a gig at the local pub, Cosmopolitan Club or Returned Services Association venue. Mel was a talented guitarist and earned her living playing to the old diggers at the RSA, to the odd migrant, new settler or refugee at the Cosmo Club, or with folk favourites down at the boozer.  And then, one day, she’d had a letter from Wellington, the big smoke, about a possible recording session down there.  There was an awkward conversation with Tyler, but he said that he understood and hoped it worked out for her.

Shirley and Tyler had another blazing row out at the trailer that he now shared with Melanie.  No one knew quite what happened next. There were reports of a zombie breach alarm up at Taupo, where the fence kept out the zeds (in theory), several hundred klicks northeast.  There was no telling how long it had been like that, Zedsat records indicated, but they seemed to show a lurching herd travelling toward the west coast. DRAPE installations got above five of them, but at the time the ‘incident’ occurred, there were about three left, reportedly in the vicinity of Blackriver.

All that the bystanders knew was there was a staccato report of firearms from the vicinity of the trailer.  The next morning there was a grisly discovery up the hill. Tyler was lying face down, having apparently been savaged by the zeds, but with a bullet wound in his leg. Shirley laid it on thick.  As an unexpectedly returned Melanie came out of the trailer, Shirley was there, aiming her pistol at the distraught woman.

The trial was a farce. There was no forensic analysis, hearsay about the death of Melanie’s parents was admitted as background evidence, and the judge was a senile appointee to the dying town.  Shirley smiled to herself as she saw a rope thrown around a tree, but then there was a loudspeaker tannoy as a DRAPE convoy drove into town. Shirley met them with a surly expression, but Major Whetu Simmons knew this sort of small town all too well-it was too much like the one she’d grown up in, and something struck her as off about the claims that the smalltown police chief here made about her son’s death.

When the forensic check came back with a match to Shirley’s weapon, along with CCTV footage of the distant argument and her murder of her son as the zombie came into easy range of the trailer, no one within the DRAPE detachment was surprised at the outcome.  As a consequence of the mistrial and framing, Shirley MacAllistair was imprisoned for ten years for her son’s murder.

Melanie wiped her mouth as she knelt at Tyler’s grave-morning sickness tended to be like that, she reflected. She placed her hand on a slightly distended belly, with Tyler’s embryonic legacy growing inside her womb.

As for Blackriver, the settlement was broken up and its inhabitants relocated elsewhere. Its families were prevented from associating with each other for the duration of their lives. In prison, Shirley either deliberately or accidentally drank a bottle of wood alcohol and was found dead the next morning in her cell.

Melanie gave birth to a red-haired baby boy nine months later. After his father, she named him Tyler.  Blackriver was still visible on old maps, but its abandoned huts and farmland quickly lapsed into disrepair and ruin. Fires broke out and were left untended and no-one repaired storm damage and lightning strikes. Five years or so after the incident, the Black River itself flooded and swept away much of the remaining skeletal, cracked timber and rusting metal.

Each year, though, Melanie and her son pay a visit to Blackriver’s overgrown cemetery and she sits him down and tells little Tyler about his handsome, doomed father.




  1. Very well written. The emotions were strong. I really enjoyed it. Thank you!

    Comment by Brett on July 12, 2014 @ 9:26 am

  2. More of a recitation of events than an actually story. Don’t tell the plot. Let it unfold through dialogue and character point of views.

    Comment by axel100 on July 15, 2014 @ 8:08 am

  3. I have to admire your output, Craig. You’re a regular story writing machine. I agree with axel100 though. This would be much more engaging if told through dialogue and allowed to unfold more slowly on its own. It’s more of a vignette or an anecdote than an actual story – or the outline of a story to be written in more depth later. It has a lot going for it: The Romeo and Juliet outcast lovers, the possibly murdered father (there’s an excellent opportunity here for some cool explosion ignoring), the jealous/vengeful uniformed mother. The roaming, unfound Zed’s. There’s immersive and entertaining high drama here if it were just teased out a bit more.

    Comment by KevinF on July 15, 2014 @ 3:44 pm

  4. Point taken, although the effect that I wanted to generate was a sense that this was archival stuff, from an abandoned, deserted town and how it came to be that way. So, no narration this time. However, this is a one-off attempt at this sort of story telling for me.

    Comment by Craig Y on July 15, 2014 @ 5:03 pm

  5. I took this as more of an old school, around the campfire type of story, like a ghost story. Sure, the way it was told was not typical of a story, but it had that folklore feel to it. I enjoyed it, partly because of that folklore feel to it.

    Comment by A.J. Brown on July 15, 2014 @ 8:48 pm

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