Monday, January 21, 2013

Delirium Jane: Part V

Continued from Delirium Jane: Part IV

I drop down to one knee and swing my spear at the back of the dead woman’s knees. The blow drops her on flat on her back where Graham brings his wooden bat down into her face, caving in her skull and ending her life for a second time.

“Behind you,” he says calmly as he turns to meet another attacker.

I spin to find demon approaching in a slow staggering gait. It’s ancient and decomposed well beyond identification of age, sex, or race; maybe one of the originals, if they are capable of lasting that long. With each step it shutters and groans; its muscles and tendons seem to fight against the incessant drive of the disease, knowing that they should not work at all.

It looks like it might fall to pieces before it even reaches me, but it is no less deadly and I act swiftly. I drive my spear into an empty eye socket and end its existence. I can’t help but imagine that a breath of thanks escapes as I release the poor soul trapped inside the rotten husk. 

“I think that’s the last one,” Skip says in a hushed voice.

“We better keep moving. I’m sure there are others,” I say.

“Skip, I think this is a bad idea. What are these guys really worth? Certainly, not our lives,” Graham says as he looks back toward the direction we had come from.

“The further in we go, the more I like these guys. If they can survive out here, then they will fit in great with us,” Skip answers.

We had left our 4Runner about four miles back at the edge of the tree line and Graham was uneasy about it being unattended and even less impressed with us heading into unfriendly territory to locate a band of unknowns.

“You’re quite the adventurer,” I say to Graham.

He scowls at me but says nothing and continues walking, checking his compass periodically.

“That’s why he’s my first mate. He’s the level head. You can’t have both the skipper and the mate gallivanting off into the sunset. I’m the drive and the ambition, he’s the sanity,” Skip says.

Before I can respond there is a gunshot blast and the tree next to me explodes, raining woody pine scented shrapnel. I drop flat on my stomach and shove my face into the layer of pine needles that cover the ground.

“All of you, hands where I can see ‘em,” a vaguely familiar male voice calls.

“Zak? Is that you?” I call out while keeping my face in the dirt and lifting my hands clear into the air.

“Maybe . . . who’s there?”


There is a long pause. “Jane? From Mussel Ridge?” he finally asks.

“That’s the one.”

“Whatchya doin’ way out here?”

“Hey Zak, you think we could have a proper conversation? One that doesn’t involve a mouthful of dirt and pine needles.”

“Oh yea! Sure thing. You guys can all get up off the ground.”

I push myself to my feet and dust myself off. I look around for the lanky blonde headed teenager, but am instead met with a hug from a great bear of a man.

When he lets go of me I step back with my mouth agape. “Holy shit man. What did you do with my little buddy? Did you a eat him?”

“I grew a bit,” he says sheepishly.

“Can we have this little reunion someplace else? That gun shot’s gonna be tolling the zoms,” Graham comments.

“This way.” Zak nods to the north.

“So you know each other?” Skip asks.

“Sure do. Jane helped me and my mom get to Mussel Ridge.”

“He was just a kid then. Sixteen? A beanpole with a shaggy mop of blonde hair.”

“Yea, that was too much work to keep clean out here,” he says rubbing his fuzzy crew cut “and I was almost eighteen.”  

“What brought you out here?” Skip asks. The question sounds conversational enough, but there is something in his tone that tells me he is data mining. In the very short time that I have known him, Skip has a way of putting people at ease and keeping the information flowing. As a PR manager, it is a skill I recognize; it is a skill I use myself.

“We stuck around the Ridge for a couple of months. My mom started dating Cook and when him and the guys decided they’d had enough of the Captain’s rules she went with ‘em. She wanted me to stay, but I wasn’t gonna leave her.”

“How is your mom?” I ask.

“Pretty good. As good as anyone. S’pose you could say her and Cook got married.”

“Is he your leader? Cook?” Skip asks.

“Well . . . we don’t really have a leader. But I guess if we did, I would be Cook. People don’t fuck with him and when he speaks they shut their traps.”

“No leader, aye?” Skip digs a little deeper.

“We all live together and help each other out, but we don’t play games. When it comes to survival, it’s every man for himself. Or at least that’s what Cook says.”

“But you don’t agree?” I ask, hoping that he hadn’t lost all hope for humanity and become so cynical.

He ignores my question. “We’re here.”

Twenty feet in the air, a dozen platforms connected by a series of bridges have been built onto the oaks and sturdiest of maples; most sport a tent or two, with the largest housing a fully enclosed building.

“We skipped the fences. Too difficult to build, secure and maintain,” Zak says, recognizing our surprise.

“Zak! What do you think you’re doing?”a middle aged man yells down from the closest platform.

“It’s OK. I know them.”

“Cook’s not gonna’ be happy.”

“Just let the ladder down. I can handle Cook,” Zak says and then turns to us. “We’re not s’posed to bring people back here. The last time we brought strangers back, they tried to attack us. We dealt with them alright but it wasn’t good.”

A rope ladder drops from the platform and Zak motions for us to climb. I scramble up the swaying ladder after waiting my turn behind Skip and Graham.

“So you can handle me, can you boy?”asks a man with a crew cut and black goatee, dressed in fatigues; whom I assume is Cook. I can’t place him, even though we were supposedly at the Ridge together.

“It’s Jane.”

Cook smacks the back of Zak’s head hard. “I don’t give a fuck who it is. You know the rules. Did you check ‘em for bites? What about weapons? You have any idea what they’re carrying?”

Cook’s aggression has put me on edge and before I know it, I have my knife in hand ready for all hell to break loose.

“This is what I’m talking about fuckhead. See, she’s already drawn her knife.” Cook waves at me dismissively. “We don’t need you bringing any crazy bitches back here.”

“She’s not crazy,” Zak growls.

Cook turns and faces me. “Alright little girl, prove him right and put your knife away.”

My jaw clenches and I tighten my grip on my knife. You don’t survive the zombie apocalypse by doing as you’re told; you survive by listening to your gut. That applies to dealing with the dead as well as the soon to be dead.

I prepare to stand my ground as Cook moves towards me.

“Don’t you touch her,” Zak yells and charges at the man. At least six feet tall, Zak has a good three inches on him and pushes him away easily, but Cook recovers quickly and responds with a lighting fast hook to the kid’s cheek.

“THAT IS ENOUGH! Jane put your knife away! Graham stand down!” Skip barks. 

Thrown off guard by a command and tone that was so out of character for the easy going guy I met in the pub, I do as I am told. I glance over my shoulder to see Graham unclenching his fists and struggling to relax from a position ready to pounce.

“Cook, I presume? I am Captain Leo Pearson, this is my first mate Graham and I believe you may already know Jane. We are not here to cause trouble; we are merely looking for some adventurous men to join our crew.”

Cook seems to respond favorably to Skip’s tone because he releases Zak’s shirt collar and relaxes his fist. “I am Cook.  It looks to me like you’re here to cause trouble; skipping our security protocols and drawing weapons on me, unprovoked.”

“Things escalated quickly. We are in unfamiliar territory and Jane is new to my command. She is a bit . . . reckless. I will deal with her myself. And in our own defense, I would not say that we were entirely unprovoked. Your man shot at us in the woods, so forgive us if we are a bit on edge.”

Cook glances at Zak, whose eye is swelling and turning purple. “You shot at them.”

Zak nods. “I didn’t recognize them.”

“Pearson, let’s talk,” Cook says turning towards one of the two bridges leading from the platform.

“Let’s. Come Graham,” Skip calls, as if Graham were his obedient hound.

I begin to follow.

“No Jane. Stay here.”

My blood simmers at his flippant tone towards me. I accept that I hardly know him; I didn’t even know his real name until just now, but he was the one that told me I would have to defend myself and bring my attitude. Just as I am about to say something he offers a quick wink that tells me to hold my tongue and play nice for now.  

“Zak, take her to see your mom. They’ll probably want to catch up,” Cook says.

I follow behind, as Zak leads me toward the other bridge. We both have our orders to be good little children while the men go discuss business.

Continue with Delirium Jane: Part VI

Friday, January 18, 2013

Delirium Jane: Part IV

Continued from Delirium Jane: Part III

“Skip! I’ve been looking for you all over town,” I yell to the sailor who is sitting at picnic table next to the fence.

He looks up from a notebook and puts down his pen. “It’s nice to know a pretty girl like you is looking for me.”

I flush at his flirtation. “Have you had any luck with finding your crew?”

“No, no takers. We will head north. I spoke to the Captain and he tells me that there is a small group of survivors not too far from here. Some might be will to come and the rest might be willing to assimilate.”

I nod, knowing the group of which he speaks. Nice guys but they had been too liberal to sign up to the Captain's code of conduct, so they chose to live on the outskirts.

“I want to go,” I say.

“North? Do you have business with them?”

“No. I want to join your crew.”

His eyes sparkle, his grin grows wide and he lets out rumbling belly laugh. “This ain’t no day sail. No picnic with dock shoes and salmon pants.”

“I’m serious.”

His brow furrows and deep creases appear in his forehead beneath his shaggy bangs. Instantly he looks years older and his face shows the true impact the last two years have had on us all.  

“I have nothing here. No family, no husband, no boyfriend. Not even a lover. I have no useful skills other than hauling the dead to a burn pile.”

“Why would I want you then?

“I have no useful skills here. I know how to sail.” It wasn’t a complete lie. As a kid, I had spent hours at my uncle’s camp on Sebago sailing a little sunfish. I had also dated a boy in college who had been on the varsity sailing team. I knew the basics. 

His brow knit tighter until I thought it might merge, never to separate.

“I can learn and work hard. I know hard work. I haul dead bodies.”

“What do you carry for a weapon?”

I point to the knife strapped to the inside of my left calf. “That and a double ended steal tipped spear.”

“How are you with guns?”

“I’m shit with a pistol but I’m OK with a rifle. I was good enough to get myself here with one.”

“You don’t have it anymore?”

“No, all firearms were conscripted for the armory. We are allowed to keep and carry all of our other weapons though.”

Skip raises an eyebrow. “Population control?”

I shrug. “No, I never got the feeling that it was about controlling us. The Captain is all about the greater good and so far it has worked. Besides we have far better shots that put my gun to better use. In exchange the Captain lets us use Kyle, the machinist, to repair and make our own weapons, within reason.”

“So your spear –“

“Is custom for my height, strength, and abilities.”

Skips nods and seems to approve of my interest in my weapon of choice. “Where did you come from?”

I swallow hard. I don’t like to remember. “Portland.”

“You made it out of Portland?”

Sure it’s not as impressive as Boston or New York but as Maine’s largest city in the most populated part of the state, it is a red zone of infection. Or at least it was, I have not met another survivor from Portland so I don't know it's current status. “With a will to survive and a whole lot of luck.”

“And what brought you this far north?”

“I was headed to the County. Figured I would have better chances with the moose and potatoes.  Just south of Augusta I ran into a small group that had heard about the Captain. When I got here and saw what he was doing, I decided I would stick around.”

“You know it’s considered bad luck to have a woman aboard.”

“The dead are walking. How much worse can our luck get?”

“The crew is going to be  . . . salty . . . misfits and mongrels. I won’t always be there to protect you. I can’t guarantee your safety.”

“I can handle myself and any dickhead that wants to fuck with me.”

Skip lets out a deep sigh of resignation. “When can you be ready to go?”

“Fifteen minutes?”

He smiles. “We’ll leave first thing in the morning. Say good-bye to your friends and cash in any chits. Bring everything you can carry and don’t forget your attitude, you’ll be needing that.”

Continue with Delirium Jane: Part V

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Delirium Jane: Part III

Continued from Delirium Jane: Part II

I slip in through the front door of the house that I share with a Kendra, Lewis and Sam. In the beginning it had been a bit awkward, three random strangers assigned to a house simply because they happened to arrive at the same time. Lewis had been convinced that he had died and gone to heaven. He couldn’t believe how lucky he had been to be assigned to live with three women, all under forty. But the novelty wore off as he learned the dangers of women in close confines and his fantasy of an orgy with him at the center was replaced by a delicate dance around hormones and mollification. With time he did manage to pair up with Sam, allowing Kendra and me to lower are guards and ease into the communal life style.

“Hey Jane, I got an extra pub chit today. You wanna go down to the center?” Kendra says, looking up from her book in the waning daylight of the living room.

“Another one?”

“Cameron brought it in for me. I think his dad is trying to get into my pants.”

“Or Cam is.”

“He’s only fourteen.”

I blink at my roommate; as smart as she is, she can be a bit dense. Kendra is one of the useful people. She had been a high school teacher. Not one of those “my-career-as-an-artist-didn’t-pan out-so-I’m-going-to-teach-history-or-something” teachers. She is brilliant, well rounded, and has a real knack for explaining complicated things simply. Teaching is her gift and the community rewards her well for her skills, usually with extra rations which she graciously shares with me.

“Sure, let me get cleaned up.”

I stop at my room on the second floor for a change of clothes before I head to the bathroom. I strip out of my coveralls and do a quick sniff test. I had showered the day before and today had not been particularly grueling, so I settle for washing my face and cleaning the grime from my hands.

That’s one of the things we have had to get used to; the useful people, somehow, keep us flush with running water but we have all learned the hard way how valuable and sacred it is. We have grown to respect and conserve it. We have learned not to take the twist of a knob for granted. Well, some of us accept that running water a luxury. Those that haven’t quite learned that lesson are policed closely by their roommates and the fear of running out.


“Thank God for apples,” I say as Kendra places a mug of cider on the table in front of me.

“I was always more of a wine drinker,” she says.

“Shoulda’ been in California when the dead decided to not stay dead.”

“I heard Kirk is working on building a still. He’s gonna make some potato vodka.”

“Waste of spuds if you ask me. I only ever drank vodka with a mixer and apple juice is the only juice we have. Might as well just drink cider.”

“I was thinking we might mash up some tomatoes and make Bloody Marys.”

“I would kill for a Bloody Mary. Even a crappy one, you know those pre-mixed ones?” I say, trying not to drool at the thought.

“He was going to grow some hops for beer, but the Captain shot him down. Told him our grain was too valuable as flour to be use as wort.”

I take a sip of my cider. It is a bit sweet for my tastes but I’ll take what I can get. “We’re lucky the Captain lets Kirk make cider.”

“He’s playing with a mead recipe. He says he could make that year round, because honey stores well.”

“You’ve been talking to Kirk a lot lately, haven’t you?” I say with a wink.

Her cheeks flush and she avoids my comment by taking a drink.

Some people reminisce about clothing; others lament the loss of the flat screen TV and cable. Kendra and I, we dream of alcohol. Beer. Wine. Whiskey. Rum. It doesn’t matter. I had only ever been a social drinker and a moderate one at that, but I missed it. Perhaps it was the loss of the option that I mourn.

“If they ever opened up the apprentice program to adults, that’s what I would want to do,” I say.

“What’s that?”

“I’d want to apprentice under Kirk.”

“Ladies, mind if I join you?”

I look up from my drink to see a short broadly built man with shaggy red hair and a neatly trimmed beard. I smile at the stranger and motion to the empty chair.

“New in town?” Kendra asks. The question comes from habit, after years of making small talk. It’s obvious he’s new to town; take a population of two hundred subtract women, children, and taken monogamous men and you’ll have a tendency to notice a new face.

“Just passing through, name’s Skip,” he says.


“Jane. I didn’t know there was a convoy in town.” I glance around the quiet, dimly lit pub that had been a senior activity room in an earlier life; there is a poker game in progress and a teenage boy flirting with an older woman at a corner table. Next to the bar, another stranger was working a small group of men.

We aren’t the only survivor community. There are pockets of them around, some larger and more sophisticated than others. Mussel Ridge is one of the larger and more organized towns in the area and so we periodically get convoys passing through looking to trade and share information and resources. People don’t travel much these days, but when they do it is heavily armed and with great fanfare. The last time a major convoy passed came through, the Captain ordered it a holiday and cancelled all non-essential work.

“No convoy. Just passing through.”

I raise an eyebrow and take another sip of my cider. “Alone?”

“Me and my mate.” He nods toward the stranger at the bar.

“Mate? Are you British? I don’t hear an accent,” Kendra asks.

Skip laughs and shakes his head. “He’s my first mate.”

“You’re pirates?”

“I’m from the coast. I have been living in a community like this in Rockland.”

“Rockland has been secured?” I ask and lean forward, eager to hear more news of the outside world.

“Not exactly. We’ve secured Port Clyde and when we are organized and feeling lucky we make supply runs into Rockland.”

“So the coast is bad?”

“It was the peak of the tourist season when the virus hit, plus people were fleeing from New York and Boston to their summer homes. The coast is crawling with brain-deads.”

“Is there any other type of tourist?” I smirk.


“I heard Lobster Fest was in progress,” Kendra comments.

“The coastal towns are a mess. Their populations were swollen from seasonal residents, but Rockland had an additional 70,000 people in town for the Festival.”

I shake my head. “So stupid. They should have cancelled. There had already been reports and warnings at that point.”

“Meh, no one expected it. It all happened so fast. Outbreaks are for the cities, not rural Maine. If it hadn’t been for the influx of visitors from out of state, things could have turned out different.”

With the thought lingering and painting alternate realities in my mind, I down the last of my cider.

“Want a re-fill,” Skip asks.

“That was my last chit.”

“I brought my own.” He pulls a silver flask from his jacket pocket. “Jameson. The real deal.”

Kendra and I stare at him wide eyed. No one just carries around liquor with them. It is too valuable; only broken out for special occasions or as a bargaining chip.

He takes our silence as consent and pours some whiskey into our empty glasses.  

“So you were telling us about being a pirate?”

Skip leans back in his chair. “Our leader has approved my request to take one of the Rockland windjammers and set up trade. Graham, my first mate, and I are looking for crew. We need a dozen hardy souls to sail the coast, set up trade routes and relations, witness the devastation, and maybe even cross the pond to see how Europe fared.”

“So . . . why are you here? You’re a long way from the coast,” I ask.

“It’s harder than you’d think to get people to leave secured communities.”

“Sounds like suicide if you ask me. There are crazies out there. Real militant fanatics. Pull into the wrong harbor and you’ll wind up with your ship stolen and throats slit,” Kendra says.

“Bright ray of sunshine, you are,” Skip says.

“And I’m not even going to start on the horde of rotten corpses just waiting for you to fuck up.”

“So you ladies can see my predicament.”

Continue with Delirium Jane: Part IV

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Delirium Jane: Part II

Continued from Delirium Jane: Part I

Before the dead began to walk, Mussel Ridge had been a quiet retirement community of 125 homes, a recreation center, a health clinic, about 200 residents and a couple dozen onsite caregivers and administrators. At first the community has been largely untouched. The residents, all in their sixties and seventies, were quite content to continue playing bingo, rummy and their regular scheduled activities as usual. They were self-contained and had little need for the outside world. The recommendations on the TV and radio to stay home and reduce travel were moot.

Eventually, as was the case everywhere in the world, the virus was introduced; maybe by a delivery truck driver or a panicking family member checking in on their loved ones. The virus snuck in behind the gate with little fanfare but once in place it roared through the already at risk and sickness prone community with a violent vengeance. Within two days, the only things moving within Mussel Ridge were the abandoned cats and dogs soon to turn feral and the staggering shuffle of the diseased residents.


Just two weeks after the virus had reached Maine, thirty-five year old Army Reservist, Captain Josh Chambers gave up trying to defend the Capitol. Power had gone out, all but five of his men had been lost, and he hadn’t received communication from headquarters in days. 

 Hunkered down in the attic of a sporting goods store, the six soldiers tossed around ideas of what to do and where to go. All being Weekend Warriors, their first thoughts were of their families and trying to get home. But Captain Chambers was quick to remind them of the bleak reality they faced. They had originally been a unit of fifty men and women, well trained and well armed. They were now just six. Should they expect their civilian families to fair any better? After all, how many hundreds had they already seen killed only to rise and be killed again?

The Captain told his men that abandoning the Capitol did not mean they were abandoning their duty. Though they could not help their own families, surely, there were other families that could be helped. They stopped talking about civilians and started using the word survivors. They focused on identifying defendable positions where survivors could meet up and work together. Location would be key; too close to a population center and it would be impossible to clear and defend, too far and precious resources would be wasted trying to get supplies and equipment. Natural resources would also be critical; fresh water for drinking and land to grow food.  

It was 18 year old Private Rogers who recalled his grandparent’s home in Mussel Ridge. It was situated on 100 acres of secluded forest and fields thirty-five miles from the Capitol and five miles outside a small town of less than 1,000 people. A river bordered the community on two sides, providing both fresh water and natural defenses. Sitting in the attic the six men became excited. Through their sorrow of lost loved ones and their despair of defeat, a plan began to emerge and a glimmer of hope shone through the darkness.


During their escape from the sporting goods store, Private Rogers was savagely attacked by four undead. The Captain swiftly put a bullet in his man’s brain and ended his life before the monsters could rip him apart, or worse, turn him into one of them.  Two others succumbed to the hoard before the Captain made it to Mussel Ridge, but in their journey they had also gained a dozen survivors.

There was a silent celebration in memory of their comrades lost as they began the arduous task of putting down the dead and cleaning out the houses. One at a time they secured the homes, reinforced the windows and entrances, and made them livable and defendable. Slowly, but surely, they expanded. Other survivors were found. Duties were divided, school was started for the children, and an apprentice program was implemented to teach valuable trades to the community’s teenagers. At some point life had begun again; not merely surviving, but life.


From time to time a breakout will occur within the confines of the fence, but the tight-knit community now knows the signs and understands the consequences of failing to act, even if that means putting a bullet in your own daughter’s head.

Of the 125 original homes, about 75 are being used to lodge a population of two hundred and growing. The remaining homes were either too badly damaged during the uprising or have been scavenged to repair and reinforce the others. Sometimes tensions and tempers flare when the wrong personalities end up in the same house or sharing rooms, but arrangements and reassignments are quickly and quietly made. Otherwise, communal living is becoming the status quo and all but the oldest and most stubborn residents are forgetting about privacy and ownership. Surely, anyone would prefer to share your supplies with annoying roommate over having their face eaten by dead things.

Continue with Delirium Jane: Part III

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Free for Today Only!

We still have another month to survive before the Walking Dead returns. This is a great opportunity to get a zombie fix. Rising Tide: A Novel is free on Amazon today.

5.0 out of 5 stars Great First Book (actually, just great)December 11, 2012
This review is from: Rising Tide: A Novel (Kindle Edition)

I also received a copy of the Kindle version (.mobi) in exchange for an objective review. Fortunately good reviews are easier to write.

This book could could easiely fit into regular fiction or teen fiction. The subject matter can be gruesome, but wasn't dwelled upon in a gratuitous fashion. It has zombies, people got eaten, but not in a manner that I would need to shield from my teen readers. The characters are teens themselves and were very well written. I have teens in my house and I recognize the characters; they aren't adults or children written as teens, they rise off the page as teens with all of their imperfections and idiocyncrasies. They acted and sounded like teens: believable. The story was well written, well paced and included almost everything I was looking for in the book with the exception of more.

Of note, there are a host of e-books out, in Kindle and others formats, that are rife with typographical or other editing errors. They detract from the story, sometimes to the point of jarring you out of the story. Not here. In all 187 pages I noticed one minor spelling error (and that's NOT a challenge).

Bottom line, a great read; buy this book. I got it free, but would have been happy with a $3.99 very well spent.

5.0 out of 5 stars A very entertaining bookDecember 29, 2012
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Rising Tide: A Novel (Kindle Edition)
Rising Tide is a fun book. It is easy to identify with the characters - to the point where you are yelling at them for doing something stupid, and empathizing with them during their struggles. It is a good read and good at capturing your imagination for awhile.

4.0 out of 5 stars Wicked Tale Told WellNovember 24, 2012
Steven Reneau (Dallas, TX USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Rising Tide: A Novel (Kindle Edition)
I love a good yarn and Leigh Fisher has given us a pretty good yarn in Rising Tide. It has all the requisites of a good story: engaging characters, romance, intrigue, danger and an almost unstoppable antagonist. This small group of survivors experience many situations that test their character and temper their resolve to carry on.

Their are some adults aspects in the book, but no more than a young adult would get watching television. A good read, enjoy!