Love and other Nightmares by Jessica Gadziala

Love and other Nightmares


They'd slowed down.

The zombies, that is.

There hadn't been any new flesh-and-blood bodies to devour for them in a few months, making their previously freaky warp-speed pace become more like a slow trudge to sure true death.

I felt real freaking bad for them, lemme tell ya.

Taking a deep breath, I shoved the rag down inside the bottle of whiskey, turning it upside down, shaking it to dampen the makeshift wick. I reached in my back pocket for my lighter, flipping it open, watching the flame dance for a second before lighting the wick, then grabbing the bottle, aiming, and tossing it into the small group.

I wanted to be like one of those badass chicks in all those shows I'd once watched—back before an apocalypse seemed like a remote possibility—and have some clever last words to toss at the big baddies before they would succumb to the fate I was sending their way.

But you never knew where other groups of the green-tinted bastards might be hiding, and the last thing you wanted to do was bring attention to the fact that you still had a pulse, and edible brains.

So as soon I was sure the bottle hit the mark, I ran across the roof, checking down below, then sliding down the ladder leading up, and jumping into my waiting SUV.

I always felt safest in a vehicle. Sure, the windows could be shattered, but you were also behind the wheel of a death machine that could take you clear out of town should you need it.

The zombies, well, they weren't exactly bright. They never looked twice when they saw my car, only if they got a whiff of me.

They were especially dumb these days, without a proper food source. And I had no intentions of becoming one.

I'd lost everyone I'd ever known to one of those monsters, and had needed to stand behind a locked door and watch the girls I used to go to bars with get ripped apart while still alive. Their nightmares still made sleep more of a wish than an actuality.

If there was one thing I was sure of, it was that I didn't want to be made a meal out of.

I'd never been a girl someone thought would survive the end of the world. I'd always been a little too vain, a little too wrapped up in superficial nonsense. I was more worried about my manicure than kicking ass.

It was amazing how strongly your survival instinct can kick in when you need it to.

I took those initial long days of isolation in stride. Back when the grid was still going, when I could gather all the zombie and monster movies I could, along with all the kick-ass babe ones, the spy ones, the martial arts ones. I binged until I had a working knowledge of self-defense, of all the varied, improvisational ways someone could kill other human beings.

Then, when the food ran out, and there was very little choice but to go seek it out, I was prepared.

I mean, I wasn't.

I screamed my head off, almost got eaten five times, and legitimately peed myself, but I got to the store, I shoved everything I could that would last into the back of my stolen SUV, then I drove back to my shelter.

Until, of course, that became unsafe.

You really had no idea how penetrable your home is until hordes of hungry flesh-eaters start bursting through the doors and windows, leaving you jumping out a second-floor window, breaking your arm, and just barely making it to the safety of your car.

I took out my pain by running three of those red-eyed freaks over before making a run for it, restocking the car with goods, and all the drugs that seemed useful at the pharmacy, and racking my brain for the safest place in the area to call my new headquarters.

Then it hit me.

Restaurant Nikola.

It was a fancy place for fancy people, and I'd never been quite their target clientele. But it was a building built on stilts out on the water. And the only way to get to it was a long pier.

So with a little improvisation—like some explosive devices to said pier—I was able to, essentially, zombie, proof my shelter.

See, they couldn't swim.

I'd learned this watching some surfer dude run off the blood-stained beach to get away from the monsters, and watched in morbid amusement as the zombies followed, bobbed for a while, then slid under the depths, never to be seen again.

The surfer dude didn't make it, of course. Because the zombies that stayed on land, waited there patiently for him to come back for food, for water, for shelter.

He blistered and sweated in the sun for two days before he died by the elements.

Given the choice, I'd have chosen his fate over having my ligaments torn out and eaten, though.