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In Which Our Local Writer Writes

Omg, guys. I know, I really suck. But I’m here now. There, there…I’m here…

So I took a class over at Litreactor these past two weeks. It has been a-maz-ing. The focus of the class was learning tricks used by improv actors to improve your fiction. The following is my “final exam.” The rules were to: 1. Establish CROW (characters, relationship, objective and where) within the first three lines, 2. Keep the characters agreeing (using the Yes, And… technique), 3. No questions, 4. Draw inspiration from the word “anguish.”

I seem to have nailed it. Enjoy!

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Dead Air

            “I’m really thinking about pursuing a new career after we get out of this airport.”

            “So I take that to mean you’re planning to not only survive this whole…zombie apocalypse but also live the American dream afterwards.”

            “Exactly. I fail to see what the problem is with that. I mean, these things can only last but so long.” Tommy picked up a handheld game system they had found in a kid-size suitcase. Dead. Just like everything else.

            Jane hooked her legs up and over the armrest in the waiting area of the gate. Even though it was getting dark outside, the airport stayed lit up. They had enough energy from the generators and fuel to keep them going…for now, at least. If you were just coming into it, it could seem like any airport at night with the shops closed up, the last vestiges of staff heading home. It might be normal, if not for the faint clanging against the gate barrier, a chorus of moans not too far away. At this point, after a few weeks, it was white noise. Deadish white noise. “Oh, I believe it,” she said as she tapped the floor with her baseball bat. “It’s not like…this is it for the world, or something. They’ve got to die out eventually.”

            “Right. Take those fuckers down there, for instance. Nobody has come in or out of this airport in a good while. They’ve got to be starving.”

            Jane was looking past him down the stretch of corridor, rubbing her stomach. “Speaking of which, I’m thinking Subway.”

            “Sounds good. I mean, it’s not like we have a lot of options: Subway, Sbarro, Burger King.”

            “Subs. Italian. Burgers.” She paused. “Man, I would kill for some Chinese.”

            “They probably would too,” he said, gesturing down toward the sounds.

            “Funny.” She got up, placing the bat on her shoulder. “Okay, so tell me some more about this new you. Post-Armageddon Tommy Whats-his-face. The military shows up, we’re saved, hooray. You’re at your interview. Go.”

            Tommy tossed the game system into the pile they had accumulated from recovered luggage. It plopped softly against some sweatshirts, blankets, toiletries, even a few stuffed animals. He picked up a guitar and strummed a few chords – some guy’s forgotten carry-on. “Well, sir, I’m sure you can tell I’m an upstanding citizen. I survived the…well, whatever we find out this way.”

            “Okay…but you’ve got to wow him – or her – because he-she-it survived too.”

            Tommy thought for a second then smiled with satisfaction. “I owned an airport.”

            “Co-owned. And yes, that does require quite a bit of responsibility.”

            “I supervised over…” They now stood in front of the gate barrier that had been closed and locked, a remnant of a time when they country thought terrorists were the biggest threat to the coutry. Half-rotting hands reached out toward them, and there was a smell like turned meat and sewage. Tommy counted as many gory faces as he could see. “Twenty individuals.”

            “Very impressive,” Jane said with mock admiration. “That’s a good point for your resume.”

            “Thank you. And I’m also well-read,” he said as they passed the airmall bookstore. It was a noted blessing that they had something to do with themselves. People outside probably weren’t so lucky.

            “And there’s your food service experience,” Jane pointed out as they jumped behind the swinging employee door of the Subway and got to work on sandwiches. “Careful of Armand, there. He’s getting kind of oozy.”

            Tommy toed the corpse of the fast food attendant who was crumpled on the floor. The blood from his neck and wrists had taken on a gel-like sheen against the brown tiles. “I’m afraid we have to have a conversation about your work ethic, Armand,” he said, dropping his voice a few gruff octaves. “I’m not going to have you lying around on the job.”

            Jane shook her head as she smeared mayonnaise on her Italian roll. “I’m telling you: if the walking dead don’t get me, your puns might.”

            “I think that’s a better way to go than offing yourself,” he muttered, kicking the bloody knife away from Armand’s hand and under the sink.

            Jane didn’t say anything to that at first. But as she sprinkled her BMT with sweet peppers, she found herself saying, “You’re right. I’m never going to get to that point. No way.”

            “Me neither.” He threw together a sandwich and elbowed her playfully. “I’ve got that interview to ace.”

            “So tell me a bit about your past work experience. Were you – Jesus!” Jane was ahead of him going out of the Subway when suddenly a lumbering form attached itself to her arm with a spitting groan. She struggled with it, trying to keep the contaminated, yellowing teeth from her arm, from her neck. Tommy had only a second to make sure it was alone. Yes. They got stragglers now and then that got in through the parking deck entrance. It was a tight squeeze, so they could usually pick them off…

With a discordant splintering crash, Tommy swung the guitar in a clean arch into the creature’s jaw, once and again. It reeled back, stunned, allowing Jane time to recover and go at it with the bat. One, two, three strikes. Out.

            Their heavy breathing was swallowed up by the frenzy of growls and gnashing, the other walkers wound up by the smell of death. Tommy and Jane stared at each other. They had gotten past the are-you-okay-I’m-fine-are-you-okay’s a while ago. They just nodded. Then, Jane smiled, gave him a shove in his chest and panted, “Okay, I think we have a position we’d like to offer you.”

            He smirked back. “I hope the pay’s good.”