Thursday, June 07, 2007

Malice Aforethought

Nudes in Combat,
Sir Peter Paul Rubens,
anatomical studies,
pen and brown ink.

A further scene from A Malignity of Ghosts:

I never heard the rest. Dumbarton's long, undulating howl, near at hand, drowned him out. We both swung towards the window.

"What?" he asked.

"Warning," I answered.

The door, which I had not locked because I thought it would be both impolite and impolitic, crashed open.

And something wicked shambled in.

Not sauntering this time. For this was the real thing. Not the creation I had mistaken last night for a zombie.

The head swung from side to side, seeking. He headed straight for us. For me. Nathan, all rotting flesh and blind malice, all teeth and rictus. A day out of the cold ground and a colder coffin hadn't improved him any.

"Eeep," I gasped, which seemed to be my usual response.

Johnnie snarled. One solid arm pushed me behind him, the other swept aside his coat. He pulled a pistol from the back of his belt and snapped off a clean shot. And another and another. Nice grouping. A white patch appeared on Nathan-zombie's chest.

Nathan-zombie staggered but kept coming. Whatever Johnnie used it wasn't enough. We backed away.

"Lillie, run!" Johnnie said, and fired again.

"Aim for the knees," I yelled and ran.

Through the dining room to the kitchen, banging off door casings and appliances, to the pantry. Unhooked the key from it's nail and spent interminable seconds stabbing at the lock of the gun cabinet. I snatched the lone shotgun and jacked it open, fumbled a slug into it, listening all the while.

I heard thuds and shattering glass and the peculiar muted crack of Johnnie's gun, but no banshee cry. Only Dumbarton's continuous howls of rage.

I stuck the other doctored cartridge between my teeth and went back.


Prashanth said...

Incredible drawing, the vitality, the energy and all that life.

This excerpt is something else again.
Gory. Heh. Am sure I missed what it is you are driving at.

Carla said...

Will be interesting to find out what the 'doctored' cartridge is. Are zombies immune to ordinary bullets, being undead?

Bernita said...

Nice to see you, Prashanth.
It's just the latest snippet from a WIP - pieces I've posted earlier might give a vague context.
Contains considerable tongue-in-cheek.

Apparently, they are, Carla, according to tradition.
~resisting temptation here to spill the beans~

kmfrontain said...

This husband is like the cat came back of the deceased. Love the dark humour that brought him to life (yes, punning, but I mean it). ;-)

Bernita said...

Thank you, Karen!
And I still have the option of returning him later as a ghost.

Anonymous said...

I love it. Perhaps something stronger than an "Eeep" would have worked nicer for me. But Eeep, probably fits the character as you want to present it.

writtenwyrdd said...

Nice stuff! I look forward to reading the whole thing sometime. Have you considered posting these to another blog so they are in order?
I particularly liked your use of rictus.

There was one line that drew attention to itself:
"'Eeep,' I gasped, which seems to be my usual response."

I don't know your character like you do, but I thought this didn't ring true. Maybe she says something like, "I made a gargling noise"? Or maybe she is embarrassed by the "Eeep"?

This is going to be a rollicking good read when finished.

Bernita said...

Steve, thank you!
You're right - she's not the screaming type.
The eeep! ties in with the opening scene:
I was standing there naked when a dead man sauntered into my bathroon...I produced an eeep! Like a paralyzed parakeet.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Written!
Besides being a "Talent," she is always aware that her responses to things don't follow the norm.
A half-vocalized, cut-off, in-drawn breath does come out like "eeep!"

writtenwyrdd said...

She does come off as rather unflappable, which is why the Eeep catches my attention. But I recall that bath scene and the Eeep there.

I suppose it is no different than my rather embarrassing tendency to squeal like a girl when snake runs over my foot in the woods. It's happened a number of times, and although I'm not scared, the startled noise is embarrasingly girly.

Bernita said...

I know what you mean.
Startlement, rather than straight fear.
My standard response is "ahaaah," "eeeep," or "uuuaaah," - in a four-note sequence.

spyscribbler said...

Oh yeah! I really like this. And I love the Eeep--it made me laugh, because that's totally what I would do, all squeaky and high, too.

Anonymous said...

I was standing there naked when a dead man sauntered into my bathroon...I produced an eeep! Like a paralyzed parakeet.

I have a funny vision of this.

Bernita said...

Natasha, thank you!
I'm changing "gasped" to "squeaked."

I left out a few lines, Steve, but it is supposed to.

Scott from Oregon said...

Women, even of strong character, "eeep".

I had a question about the tense of the word "seems".

I bet you know what it is.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Scott.
I've changed it, but I have the same question.
One of the traps of first person.

Amy Lavender Harris said...

You are one hell of a writer! Heh.

Bernita said...

And you're completely biased!

Jon Mayhew said...

Hi Bernita,

New to all this blogging stuff, so forgive any clumsiness on my part!

Loved the extract, exciting and immediate! I loved the description, it's hard to keep the description of the dead fresh(that sounds wrong!)or varied. I think you have!

Bernita said...

Nice to see you, Jon. Thank you.
I hope detail is unnecessary here!

takoda said...

That is an interesting drawing. Where do you find these, Bernita?

They are in combat, yet they seemingly don't make contact with one another. Blindly, forcefully, spending all of themselves and yet just brushing by one another. No winner, no loser. I really like it.

Love your passage. I would also love to see more!!


Kate Thornton said...

Ah, Bernita! Nude combat. It would have certainly shortened my time in Desert Storm. Eeeep!

Love the new excerpt. Zombies are such a contradiction in physics.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Takoda.
Hither and yon. The Rubens was for sale by Christie's about 20 years ago.

Bernita said...

And would have made the work-up for deployment very interesting, Kate!
Indeed - but a persistent one.

Anonymous said...

I like the ricocheting off the walls as you lunge for the gun cabinet. No time for grace, let's just cut the corners and get the hell over there.

It also implies a certain degree of shock/stun. One routinely collects a certain number of bruises when answering a child's nightmare or ominous phone call from a sound sleep. The resulting pain (stubbed toe anyone?) helps one wake up the rest of the way and get mad enough to be effective, so it's really quite constructive.


Bernita said...

That's exactly it, Asa! Nothing smooth and graceful about it - just pure lunge.

cyn said...

i *liked* the eep. =)

what great fun this wip is bernita! i bet you are enjoying writing it! i'm enjoying reading it, that's for sure!!

Bernita said...

Thank you, Cyn!
Comments like yours encourage me to continue.