She decided to search the ruins of the house. Sometimes there were still good things inside, medicine, bandages, clothes. It was dangerous, but the outpost needed supplies, one of the settlements had recently moved into the walls. There were more people and more chances of an attack.

She could hear the ghouls shuffling through the dead leaves outside, so she would need to be quiet. She slipped though the broken window and crept across the dusty floor. She was on the look out for traps, The Trapper having been spotted in the area a few days ago. She had never seen him, but the stories about the bodies found in his wake would make even the most hardened soldier tremble.

She searched the kitchen, nothing useful, just ancient food from before the bombs. She found some clothes in decent shape in one of the bedrooms. The house yielded nothing else of value. She slipped past the hoard, they were getting distracted by their own footsteps in the leaves.

Once they were out of ear shot she broke into a jog, keeping out of the leaves. The walls of the city rose up to greet her and she sprinted the last leg of her journey. She was greeted warmly by the guards as they locked the gate behind her.

“No trouble with the hoard today?” One asked as she caught her breath.

“They are noisy enough to hear coming a mile away.” She swigged metallic water from her bottle. She pulled the clothes out of her bag and tossed them to the guard. “Nothing else good out there today.”

“Too bad. At least someone will be a little warmer.” The guard looked at the clothes.

“We’re going to need all the help we can get this winter, its coming up fast.” She walked up the street and went to her bunk in the small house she shared with the other scavengers.

She crashed onto her bed, exhausted. Her stomach growled at her forcefully. She poked though her bag lazily, trying to find her food voucher. She was falling asleep and gave up quickly, opting to go to bed instead.

The morning came streaming in the window, warming her cold face. She rolled out of bed and took care of the morning necessities in the bucket at the end of the hall. Grabbing her bag she kicked her housemates awake.

“We got work to do today.” She shouted, they grumbled and got up slowly.

She went down to The Kitchen, handing over a voucher and was issued a plate. The plate of food was cold, like always, but it filled her grumbling stomach.

She headed out the gate, refilling her water bottle at the river that ran just outside of town. In the forest the air was musty with dead things. The hoard passed though recently, but they were long gone now. She listened carefully for any other things that might be lurking in the brush. Deeming it safe she continued thorough the forest. A twig snapped and she dropped to the ground. There were no more sounds, that didn’t mean it was safe. She laid prone in the dirt hoping that whatever it was didn’t see her.

Her mind raced as she heard a tapping, in code. She recognized it and stood up. She held her hands up as the other person approached with their gun raised.

“Who are you?” They asked.

“A Scavenger from Hope.” She sized him up. He was either a hunter or a settler. She didn’t recognized him so he must not have been from Hope. “You are?”

“The Trapper.” He grinned, the gun went off with a bang.


the loophole

She held the surrogate’s hand, she was a pretty young woman willing to carry a child that was not her own, her husband held hers. They were in the delivery room waiting for their little bundle of joy to come into the world.

The doctor coaxed the little one into the world, and handed him to his mother.

They arrived. The witches, there were three of them, standing looking confused about why the others were there.

The mother clutched the baby closer as she recognized one as Ssamdol, the witch she had promised  first born child for the gift of song.

The father recognized one as Fasd, the witch he had promised his first born child to for love.

The surrogate laying exhausted on the bed recognized the last one as Hajilkem, the witch she promised her first born child to her to survive a car accident.

The three witches looked at each other and in unintentional unison, “I’m here for the baby.”

“Who’s baby is it?” Ssamodol asked, her claw of a finger outstretched toward the child.

“Well, its ours.” The two parents said. “But we didn’t give birth to it.”

“So its your first born child?” Hajilkem planed her lender hands on her leather clad hips.

“Sorta, but biologically its not mine.” The surrogate said sleepily.

The witches looked between themselves. Fasd sighed, “Where does that leave us?”

“We should have written down what we did last time this happened.” Ssamodol rubbed her nose. “We alternated, I don’t remember the schedule.”

“The last schedule sucked, having to fly it back and fourth every week was exhausting.” Hajilkem tossed her blonde hair over her shoulder. “What if we did months this time?”

“How do we do holidays?”  Ssamoldol shook her head.

“We usually celebrate together.”

Fasd nodded in agreement. “These mortals thinking they can get out of promises with more promises.”

“Who gets him first?”Ssamodol reached out her arms for the baby, plucking it out of it’s mothers arms.

“Who gets him last?” Fasd suggested. “You take him for now, I’ll fetch him next month.”

They disappeared in a cloud of smoke leaving the parents befuddled.



Agent 0

It was like a plague erupted, the disease spread like fire. The hunger, the hunting the innocents, something needed to be done. Nox knew something needed to be done, researchers were furiously trying to get the disease under control. With so many infected, it would be nearly an impossible task.

He listened to his cohort of government interns, giving outlandish suggestions. Mass murder, camps, isolation, prisons, evacuations, massive military involvement, letting it burn out. There was opposition for every suggestion, nothing was getting accomplished.

Nox nearly stormed out of every meeting that was held. They usually found him in the research labs arguing with the scientists. His suggestions were just as silly.

“Nox you need to leave, you’re just getting in the way of research.” They shoved him out of the labs.

He went home at night, government housing, fearing an attack. His pistol never left his hand until his door was dead bolted. They would need to take action soon, or it would become a problem for the rest of the world. As it was the other countries refused to acknowledge there was a problem, the american president had laughed himself out of his chair.

That night he decided, there would be no more debate. He marched into the Minister’s office.

“Something needs to be done before our whole country is consumed by this plague.” He met the eyes of the man sitting behind the desk. “I will do something if no one else will.”

“What do you suggest we do?” The Minister’s expression was cold as steel.

“We need to fight them.”

“Are you volunteering?”

“Yes, I will fight them alone if need be.”

The Minister folded his fingers together. “That’s what I like to hear. Assemble a team, you will be in charge of training and getting this outbreak under control. You must do this quietly, we do not want any of this reaching the public, or other governments.”

“It may be too late for that already.” Nox muttered as he walked out the door.

He had an idea for the team, but they would need to agree to join him, He couldn’t risk someone turning him down. There were a select few individuals he trusted to begin with, of those maybe one could be trusted with this task.

He stopped by the research labs, they quickly shooed him out.

“I need to talk to Dr. Solen.” He insisted, “Its urgent.”

She came outside a few minutes later. Her hands on her hips. “What do you want now.”

“I need to know how to kill these monsters.”

“You know I can’t give that information out. We’re working on a cure.”

“You’re working on a vaccine, preventive, not a cure.”

She folded her arms. “Of course we’re working on a cure.”

“Dr. Solen, I really need your help on this.” He pleaded.

“Help with mass murder? I don’t think so.”

“Its preventive, if we can get the infected under control, there might be a chance of curing them before it becomes a global problem.”

She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. “Nox, you know it already is a global problem. The virus lays dormant for seven days before people start showing symptoms. People have already traveled, and who knows if they were infected.”

“All the more reason to do something.”

She rubbed her forehead, “I know what you mean, I just don’t think its ethical.”

“Do you trust me?”

“About as far as I can throw you.”

He nodded, “Keep me in the loop please.”

“Fine,” She opened the door, “Anything else you want?”

He shook his head a walked away. She would never leave her research, but she would let him know anything they discovered in  the labs. He needed some field agents.

Over the next couple days he observed his cohort, determining which of them would be the most trustworthy, combat ready, and loyal. He decided on three, who he was positive would say yes.

His first recruit was a man who had completed more combat missions than anyone, he even had a metal for it. He jumped at the chance to fight the monsters. The second recruit was a little more hesitant, but she agreed. She was the best strategist of the entire office. His final recruit told him yes before he had even finished asking, he was the most loyal friend he had.

He told the Minister about his selections, the Minster was pleased. “You have a lot to do.”



She clenched her fists. There was no way she was going to let this beat her. She had already seen so many people slaughtered at the hands of these monsters, she wasn’t going to let them have her too.

She broke out of cover sprinting as hard as she could, her backpack thumping heavily against her back. She dodged trees and plowed through bushes, hearing their footsteps behind her. She pulled her shotgun off her shoulder and blasted a shot over her shoulder, hoping to slow them down a little.

Her breathing became ragged, she would need to find cover. A quick glance over her shoulder told her they were falling behind. Spotting a cave she darted inside, trying to get control of her breathing so they wouldn’t hear her. She ventured into the darkness, allowing her eyes to adjust, getting away from the entrance of the cave. She stopped listening for breathing, sometimes there were things lurking in the caves that were worse than zombies.

She pulled out the cellphone in her pocket and gave it a shake turning on the flashlight. The towers had been destroyed so there was no cell service. Light reflected off the cave walls, no markings to show anything lived there. With a sigh of relief she shook the flashlight off. She ventured further, she stumbled over something in the darkness. She pulled out her light again, she muffled a scream.

The body had been mostly eaten, its clothes shredded, its head was a bloody smear across the ground. She spotted the culprit, a shotgun and a broken trip wire. She scolded herself for not being more careful. She checked the pockets for anything valuable and came up empty. She shook the light off.

Back at the mouth of the cave she checked for her pursuers. Just the regular cricket and bird noises came back to her ears. She crept out of the cave, keeping low to the ground, after carefully observing her surroundings she stood up. Knowing she needed to get back to the settlement quickly before they caught her scent again she jogged along. A stick cracked behind her and she froze dropping into a crouch. She pulled the pistol out of her bag holding it ready to fire. A deer pranced out across the path and she lowered her weapon. A relief flooded through her and she continued on her way.

She was almost to the settlement, almost to safety when she heard it. The heavy breathing of something charging up to her. It sounded like a great beast, possibly a giant, maybe worse. She broke into a run charging through the remainder of the forest hoping to make it to the safety of the walls before it caught her. She slid through the gate, screaming for them to close it. There was panic, she stood up and brushed herself off looking under the gate she saw it. A huge hulking creature, at least twenty feet tall. It looked like it had been charred, blacked and smoking, she winced as it collided with the gate. The iron held. Its claw scrabbled through the hole in the wood, disemboweling a wayward gate keeper.

The creature roared in despair, she covered her ears against the tremendous noise. It lumbered off no match for the walls and gates. She slumped against the nearest house, trying to avoid the glares from people who blamed her for bringing the creatures so close. It had been her only choice.

Very few people braved the wilderness to bring back supplies, medicine collected from the wasteland settlements, food, everything the city had came from beyond its walls. She dropped of her collected items. She traded meat for supplies she needed, properly mixed medicines, bandages, and ammunition.

The medicine woman needed water from the river outside the walls for her patients. She took the task without question. She checked out the power plant, electricity was still running well. She plugged the phone she carried into one of the outlets and grabbed another fully charged one. Water wasn’t too far away but it was dangerous out there.

She pulled out her hand drawn map, notes about monsters lined the margins. She headed out the side door to the gate. She saw the child before she could fully process what she had seen the zombies appeared. Cursing she ran to the child scooping it up in her arms, it would slow her down greatly but she couldn’t leave it. With her bag and the child she stumbled over rocks and roots.

Panting heavily she fell to her knees. The zombies converged on them devouring everything.

Gem eaters 2

She watched the car hit him, green glistening gems scattered across the road. She carefully collected the blood spattered gems from the edge of the scene carefully making her way closer. The ambulance came in the bustle she continued her collection. They started CPR and administered shocks, but she knew it was too late. The driver of the car was crying. Her pockets were full of the green gems, there were more to be collected. She pulled her bag off her shoulder and carefully started to fill it. The man was hauled into the ambulance, all his gems left behind. She had collected her dues.

She walked away from the scene as the police showed up, to them she was just another witness. A shrug, and a passive answer later they left her alone. She pulled a gem out of her pocket and crunched on it. It reminded her of a granny smith apple.

They were her sustenance, and she ate until she was full. She kept her eyes open for the omen of tiny drops of green crystals.

“I see you are still successful.” A silky voice said from the shadows.

“Have been for hundreds of years now.” She replied watching gems start to fall as an old man collapsed at the park.

She began collecting them. The presence was close behind her watching her work.

“Two in one day, impressive.”

“Its fairly normal for this city,” She filled her bag. “Sometimes four or five.”

There was silence from the darkness, then the presence disappeared. She shrugged and finished collecting the gems in silence. She munched on them in the park a ways away from the dead body. They were bitter, she gagged as she choked them down.

She finished them and sulked away trying not to throw them up. The presence returned.

“Every soul you return to me is always a surprise.”

“Why? You watched him die.”

“Its so quick and they are complete.”

She arched an eyebrow at the shadows.

There was some guilt when it spoke again, “I have over burdened you, being the best vessel in my employ. I did not realize you were returning three or four souls in a day.”

“Four or more.” She corrected rubbing her upset stomach.

“To assist you.” A teenager stepped out of the shadows. “He is new to the order. Please teach him.”

“Okay,” She agreed, the pain lessening when the presence disappeared.

“Are you okay?” The boy looked terrified.

She smiled the best she could. “Yeah, sometimes the souls are a little difficult to process.”

“We process souls?”

“Keep up kid.” She ruffled his shaggy dyed black hair. “Lets walk and talk.”

They walked out of the park and onto the packed sidewalks. There was an awkward silence. They watched a opossum chose an inopportune time to cross the road. Blue crystals scattered as the car continued on its way.

“Those are for you.” She said leading him across the crosswalk. He picked up a couple. “All of them.”

He gathered up all of them and stood looking up at her with confusion. “I’ve seen these before.”

She nodded, “Not everyone can. To do this job you kind of need to see them.”

“What do I do with them?”

“You eat them.”

He gaped at her. “But these came out of a dead thing!”

“Just do it.” Her face hardened and he listened, popping a gem into his mouth. She watched his face transform from disgust to wonder. He quickly ate all of them. She patted him on the back, “Good job.”

He followed her around, eating any all of the sapphire blue gems that fell.



They went out hunting and didn’t come back. They left a note, “Went hunting, be home soon. Love Mom, Dad, Buck, and Ronnie.” I waited for them, it was really too dangerous to go out alone. I waited three days for them to come back, with five of us to feed there was not much worry about me running out of food.

I waited a week, still nothing, hunting trips should only take a day or two. Nights are too dangerous to do much. Everything is dangerous now, with raiders, mutants, wild animals, and non-humans.

I headed out to look for them, obviously something bad happened and they won’t be coming back soon. I packed my riffle, ammunition, jerky, some of our home canned food. I also grabbed my canteen and filled it with water.

I planned on returning home that night to restock, today’s mission was to find which direction they went.

Their trail was not hard to find since our giant, semi domesticated, mutant dog had gone with them and knocked down every bit of vegetation in his path. Since it was still early I followed their trail. Out of the abandoned city where we live and through the former farmlands, that looked more like forests with food crops growing in them. It was a good opportunity to restock my supplies. Being a solo meant I was fast and silent, not triggering any alarms or lookouts. It also meant I was vulnerable, no backup.

I kind of wished I had our dog with me, at least he would be something. I made it to another abandoned city. This one more populated than ours. This city was where I found the second note from my family after six months of following and searching for them. They had left it with the lookout who spotted me easily.

“You Gabrielle?” He asked when I approached.

“Yeah,” More curious how he had known it was me.

“This is for you I guess.” He handed me a wrinkled and beaten up envelope still sealed with my name written on it.

“How do you know this is for me?” Really I knew, there weren’t many female survivors of the catastrophe, and the female birthrate was low. A loner was odd, a girl loaner extraordinary.

He shrugged, “They kind of look like you.”

“Did they have a dog?”

He nodded and I tore the envelope open. “Chased by raiders, didn’t want to compromise the home base. Love Mom, Dad, Buck, and Ronnie.”

“You just missed them actually.” He said and pointed in the direction they went. Still farther away from home. I followed hoping I would catch up with them. I lost their trail a few times, finding our dogs kills along the way.

The way they took took me two years to follow them back home. There was a new note on the kitchen table. “Went hunting be home soon!”

With a sigh I went back into my room in the basement to wait for them.

Gem Eater 1756

Green gems drop from her fingers, glittering as they fall to the ground. They bounce away from her feet. Her sparkling crystal champagne glass shatters, mixing blood, and glass with the beautiful gems. It appeared no one noticed her distress, continuing to talk among themselves.  She let out a strangled cry for help and collapsed. Her wig fell to the ground beside her and the opulent dress she wore was stained with blood.

The entire congregation surrounded her. Some patting her cheeks others trying to revive her with smelling salts. One collected up the green gems having been scattered across the room by trampling feet.

She popped them into her mouth like green grapes as she walked out of the building.

“It will be like this forever.” She mused as a dark figure approached.

“I see my little servant has found another.” Silky smooth words flowed from the hood of the cape.

“It is my profession.”