Enter the Death Test

The problem with being able to write for a few hours every night–and about thirty minutes in the morning–is that you have these long, detailed scenes you want to get out right away, but you can’t because you’re only able to produce about twelve hundred words a day, or there about, in about two, three hours time.  There’s distractions, things to look up, people to chat with . . .

Sort of like the scene I’m working on now:  I want to get it through it so much, but I can’t because–well, it’s a big scene.  How big?  Right now I’m at forty-four hundred and fifty words, and I know I probably need another two thousand or so to cap this spring.  There you go:  you wanna show your kids fighting fake zombies, you toss a short story right at the beginning of your chapter.

And believe me, they’re up to their ankles in trouble.  Well, maybe a little higher than their ankles . . .

 

(All excerpts, this page, from The Foundation Chronicles, Book One: A For Advanced, copyright 2013, 2014, by Cassidy Frazee)

Kerry sidestepped to his left, hooting at the homunculus. “Yo. Hey, geek.” The homunculus turned towards him, grunting as it shambled in his direction. “That’s it, keep looking at me—you’re doing it right . . .” When it was less than three meters away he glanced to his right, nodded, then darted around and a little behind, then struck the creature behind the right knee with his bokken as hard as possible, trying to force it off-balance.

He struck it a second time as Annie ran in and planted her jō square in its chest and pushed it further off-balance with her momentum and strength. It staggered once then fell onto its back with a thud and a snarl, it’s arms lashing out at it tried to roll over and regain its feet.

Annie nodded at Kerry and raised her jō; Kerry did the same with his bokken as he counted down. “Three, two, one—now.” They stuck the skull almost simultaneously, but the worst they did was tear away a large amount of the flesh from the side of the head and face. They both moaned and raised their weapons for another strike. This time there was a loud crack as the skull was broken, but the homunculus continued to move.

Annie’s face was covered in a cold sweat. She looked at Kerry and nodded. “Again.” He nodded before they tried one more time to take out their opponent. This time their weapons broke through: the skull shattered with a sickening crunch and whatever was inside to take the place of brains, blood, and other fluids jetted in every direction.

 

And that’s gonna leave a mark–and probably a bit of oohing and aahing from the kids watching on the sidelines.  Plus, you gotta give your instructor extra credit for making your quality kills as realistic as possible.  I mean, either that, or she’s just twisted as shit and figures you were going to need something to help you sleep tonight–oh, wait:  it’s Friday.  That means it’s the Midnight Madness tonight, the school wide pajama party.  Have fun talking about your zombie kills until midnight, kids!

"And then, I totally smashed that Walker's face right in, and my feet got splattered with gore!  It was like the best time ever!"

“And then, I totally smashed that Walker’s face right in, and my feet got splattered with gore! It was like the best time ever!”

However, the next run doesn’t go off as well:

 

She was, but she didn’t know if he was. He’s winded; he’s still not used to this sort of exertion. “Are you?”

He nodded as he straightened. “Let’s jack these losers and show them who’s boss of this mat.” Kerry grinned at Annie’s eye roll. “Too much?”

“I’d rather we reduce the odds more in our favor.” She readied her jō, a slight grin on her face. “Same as before?”

“Yep.”

“Go, then.”

Kerry broke left while Annie readied herself for the sprint and plant. He quickly reached the homunculus and waved his bokken around to get its attention. Once it was advancing on him, he did as before: when for the knees as Annie sprinted in and knock it over. Kerry whacked it in the back of the knee as Annie shoved her jō in its chest—

Thing didn’t go as planned this time, however.

As Annie’s attack hit home, the homunculus twisted towards Kerry, reaching for him and striking her jō with its left arm. The pole was knocked away, hard, and the force of the strike shoved her to her left. She felt herself going down, and threw out her left arm to help break her fall—

An enormous pain shot up her arm the moment she touched the mat.

 

And that’s never a good thing, either.

Fortunately she has a partner who’s there to help–

 

She felt arms around her shoulders lifting her to her feet. The moment she was up Kerry and she sprinted towards the yellow line, though she was careful to hold her left wrist close to her. She turned and saw the homuncului milling about near the center of the mat—and her jō lying between two of them.

Kerry faced her, looking into her eyes. “Are you okay?”

Annie shook her head. “I think I sprained my wrist.” She slowly moved her fingers once more. “It doesn’t feel broken, but I can’t use it.”

“But you can still use your right hand?”

“Yes.” She gave Kerry a sorrowful look. “But my jō—I can’t use it with just one hand, and besides . . .” She quickly looked to her right. “It’s out there.”

Kerry glanced to his left, then back to Annie. “Okay, then—Plan B.” He placed his bokken in her right hand. “You can use this one handed—”

She immediately knew what he was planning. “No.”

“Back in a ‘sec.” Kerry darted towards the jō, cutting around the homunculus they’d attacked, then directly in front of another, grabbing the weapon on the run. He prepared to cut to his left—

His right leg slipped out from under him.

Kerry was down on one knee for only a few seconds, but that was enough for a third homunculus to close on him. He was almost to his feet when the creature was on him, pressing itself against his out-thrust jō. Kerry tried pushing it away, but didn’t have the leverage or strength necessary to make this work.

He went backwards with the homunculus falling atop him.

 

Unfortunately he’s about to reduce the team’s fighting ability by fifty percent.  Annie figures she’ll help out, but at this point they’re in the death spiral, and she knows it . . .

 

“Hey.” She jogged up a few meters towards the homunculus they’d failed to attack and began waiving her arms as Kerry had earlier. “Over here.” Annie drew it away from Kerry, but now came the problem: what to do? They worked together as a team, but there was no way she believed for even a moment she would be able to club this thing in the head hard enough to break open its skull and stop it. Which meant there wasn’t much time left before them: she end up bitten and “killed”, and the same would happen to Kerry, who was right now gasping for—

Air.

 

Air?  Air?  What the hell does she mean by that?

Well, I know what it means, but you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to find out what happens next.  Assuming I haven’t gone crazy because I’m finally understanding just how big this chapter has become.

Write a novel, they said.  It'll be fun, they said.  Won't drive you psychotic in the least, they said.

Write a novel, they said. It’ll be fun, they said. Won’t drive you psychotic in the least, they said.

Setting Up the Death Test

Even though I managed to get my lab work out of the way, get dinner, and end up back at the home by four, the exertion of the afternoon–and lack of sleep from the early morning–conspired to make me yawn and look at the screen dumbly.  It was a real, “What am I suppose to do here?” moment, and it took a couple of hours of gathering strength to get to writing before ten PM and Fargo came on.

I hit the deadline with time to spare.

So where did we leave the kids off?  Right here, ready to be thrown to the zombies:

And now comes the part of the story where I throw the kids at unstoppable death machines--

And now comes the part of the story where I throw the kids at unstoppable death machines–

 

(All excerpts, this page, from The Foundation Chronicles, Book One: A For Advanced, copyright 2013, 2014, by Cassidy Frazee)

Kerry felt his stomach drop as Annie and he stepped away from the rest of the students and onto the mat. Before heading off to look at the weapons, he turned to Professor Chai. “Professor?”

“Yes, Kerry?”

“Do Annie and I—” He looked at Annie, then back. “Are we really going to do this alone?”

The professor took one step towards them both. “Is there anyone else from your coven level that you can call upon for assistance?”

Annie and Kerry turned to each other and shook their heads. “No, Professor.”

“Then it’ll only be you two performing the test for your coven.” Professor Chai stepped closer to them. “Remember to play to your strengths. You both have them: don’t forget to use them.” She pointed to the far end of the room. “Go pick out your weapons.”

 

Thank, Teach!  Way to give a challenge.

But let’s not forget what Ramona said there at the end–before “Arm yourselves.”  She was giving sage advice, and Mr. Geek knew how to play to his strength with a little secret:

 

They walked back to the weapons table. All the Åsgårdsreia students had returned to the sidelines, so the area behind the red line was empty. He’d already decided upon the bokken, but didn’t pick it up right away, Instead he eased up next to Annie, who was looking over the poles. He leaned his head close to hers. “I know what these things are.”

Annie had caught his exclamation when the homunculi first exited the cabinets, and figured his comment had something to do with a story he’d read or seen. “You do?”

“Yeah. They come from a comic—”

Annie slowly half-turned her head. “These things are from a comic?”

“Okay—graphic novel.” He adjusted his glasses, pushing them up his nose. “It’s a bit more adult.”

She raise an eyebrow. I’m learning something new about him every day; I don’t ever recall him mentioning this. “How is it you managed to read these—adult novels?”

“I have an account on Amazon linked to one of my parent’s credit cards.” He looked over the weapons. “As long as I don’t get crazy with the charges every month, I can buy books and other . . . things.”

“And you’re parents know you’re buying these?”

“No. Which is probably a good thing.” He turned to Annie, grinning. “But it’s a good thing I have read this stuff, because I know how to take them out. Right?”

“Yes, we’re so fortunate . . .” Annie slowly rolled her eyes before selecting a jō. “How do we stop these homunculi then?”

 

He’s bought things and read stuff.  Sounds like someone I know.  And Annie–who seems to know just about everything concerning Kerry, didn’t know this.  You  can bet she’ll start checking into his reading habits more closely now.

He tells Annie about skull crushing (possible with wooden weapons), and decapitation (highly unlikely with wooden weapons), but still:  “Pass your test by crushing the skulls of the undead, kids!”  Well, a month in school and you gotta blow off that steam somehow . . .

As they’re preparing to meet their doom–I mean, start their test–Kerry lays out the last of their possible ways to stop their opponents:

 

They slowly walked towards the middle of the mat, giving Kerry time to finish his last thought. “The professor said we also take them out if we prevent them from taking action against us. That means there are things we can do that won’t involve crushing their skulls—”

Annie like this idea better. “Such as?”

“If we break off their lower jaws they can’t bite us.”

She curled up the right side of her mouth. “That’s not much better than crushing their skulls.”

“The other way would be to do so much damage to their torsos they can’t move.” He shook his head from side to side. “I don’t think we can do that with these. But I do have an idea . . .” As they took their place near the center of the mat Kerry quick explained his plan of attack.

Though Annie wasn’t thrilled with his idea, it at least appeared plausible. “Then we’ll try it first thing.”

“Yeah—so if it don’t work, we can fall back on our nonexistent Plan B.”

They were almost to the center of the mat when Kerry moved to Annie’s left. He smiled back at her puzzled look. “Leftie and rightie. This way we aren’t hitting each other when we swing.”

She nodded. “Good idea.” And I might have thought of it if I weren’t so nervous . . .

Once Annie and Kerry were in their place on the mat Professor Chai returned to the place where she’d stood during the Åsgårdsreia test. “Are you ready?”

Annie reached over, took Kerry’s right hand, and gave it a squeeze. “We’re ready, Professor.”

There were a couple of chuckles from the other students at the show of affection—and Lisa needed to make her comment known to everyone in the room. “Awww, that’s so cute.”

As soon as Annie released his hand Kerry slide it behind Annie’s back and shot a reverse V-sign in Lisa’s direction. He figured Lisa wouldn’t get it, but hearing a couple of guffaws come from within the crowd, a few people did. “We’re ready, Professor.”

“Very well, then—” She waved her hands. “The test begins now.”

 

Kerry flipping off people in class?  Say it ain’t so.

Where as the test before was working on one-and-a-have to one odd, Professor Chai sends out five homunculi, giving Annie a Kerry a two-and-a-half to one disadvantage.  Not cool, Professor.  Unless . . .

And where we end is watching them steel themselves for their own undead assault:

 

“Yeah.” He nodded towards the yellow line. “They’re almost here . . .” They prepared themselves for whatever it was that had affect the Åsgårdsreia students.

The first homunculus crossed the yellow line and broke through the barrier—

A wave of putrid air rolled over the two Cernunnos coven mates.

Annie and Kerry recoiled from the stench. It was more that bad: it was the accumulation of a thousand fetid swamps broiling under summer humidity; ten thousand rotting vegetable patches cooking in the daylight; a million pig farms simmering in the noonday sun. Both children gagged and retched, fighting to control their churning stomachs in the wake of the horrific foulness.

Annie held her free hand close to her face. “That’s horrid. What’s causing that?”

“That’s—” Kerry gulped air trying to keep his breakfast down. “It’s rotting flesh.”

“What?”

He half-turned to Annie. “They’re Walkers; they’re homuncuWalkers; they’re zombies—whatever, they’re dead. They’re ambulatory corpses that are still decomposing. Slowly, but . . .” He turned away as he nearly gagged. “They never talked about this in the comic.”

She didn’t want to discuss it, least it make her more nauseous. “Have to breath through our mouths, then.”

He nodded. “All ready there, Sweetie.”

All five homunculi were pasted the yellow line and advancing up on them. Annie pointed to the one in front and on their left. “That one?”

Kerry nodded. “Yeah.”

“You ready?” She raised her pole with both hands.

He slowly exhaled. “Yeah. Let’s do this.”

 

Not only do you send out creepy walkers, but you gotta make them that real?  What’s next?  Former class mates?  Which they probably are, because it sounds like the instructor is a bit twisted.

This is where I wish I knew how to draw, because I can see how these scenes set up, and I’d love some pictures to throw into the story–pictures that didn’t consist of stick figures.  That’s one day, though:  maybe I can con my daughter into doing a few for me one day.

Thirty-three hundred words into the scene, and the good part is yet to come.

Can’t wait for tonight.

Åsgårdsreia Down, Cernunnos to Go

Well, now:  yesterday wasn’t a bad day, but beyond getting a little shopping done and having a good lunch–couldn’t eat much for dinner since I’m fasting for blood work today–there wasn’t a lot going on.  I was in sort of a strange, negated funk about doing something, but ended up doing little of anything.

But I did end up writing.

But of course I did.  And you knew that.

But of course I did. And you knew that.

I left my Åsgårdsreia students ready to meet the oncoming horde of homunculi emerging from the cabinets.  This wasn’t taken very well:

 

(All excerpts, this page, from The Foundation Chronicles, Book One: A For Advanced, copyright 2013, 2014, by Cassidy Frazee)

The homunculi shambled out of the cabinets, all the size of the students facing them and dressed in tattered and dirty school uniforms. Their skin was discolored and blemished; some of the homunculi showed open sores and, in a few cases, showed extensive damage to their heads, faces, and hands.

They were the literal representation of a class of zombie Salem students preparing to attack their living counterparts.

Nine of the homunculi were out of the cabinets and advancing when the first reached the yellow line. The shield there dropped, allowing the Åsgårdsreia students to attack. Four of the students began to move forward—

Then the Åsgårdsreia students stopped and groaned. Most of them raised their hands to their faces: all of them had looks of disgust. Several of the students grumbled in their own languages, including Anna Laskar, who nearly fell to her knees while screaming in German—“Der gestank ist entsetzlich. Lassen sie mich: ich will nicht hier sein.”—and trying to hold herself upright with her fighting pole. Half the students turned pale; a couple gagged several times.

 

Well, that’s never a good sign.

But there’s eight of them, so things should have went well, right?

 

They fought through whatever was bothering them and moved on the twelve homunculi advancing upon the coven team. Lisa Glissandi and three other people ran up to the homunculi in the front; Lisa wound up her jō, ready to swing, and struck Dariga Dulatuli in the face. She screamed as she dropped her jō, clutching her face as she turned and sprinted towards the red line, blood running over her mouth and over her chin.

This didn’t deture Lisa, who hit the homunculi on the shoulder twice. When her third strike did nothing to halt its advance, she drew her jō over her head—and struck Balgaire Ibanez’s head. The boy staggered to his left, falling into Anna and Shauntia Okoro, before steadying himself.

 

I’d watch where you’re swinging that thing, Lisa–you could hurt someone.  And you aren’t the only one your coven mates need worry about:

 

Daudi didn’t see the homunculi shamble up from behind and sink its teeth into her neck.

The girl’s scream was high pitched and flooded with pain as blood fountained from the source of the bite. The blood arced from the wound and sprayed Dongsun in the side of the head, making him flinch. Daudi’s eyes rolled back in her head and she fell backward, making a loud thud when she hit the mat.

 

It’s always a good Self Defense class when you instructor turns killer zombies loose on the kids, isn’t it?

Needless to say, save for three students who “died” by being bitten, the rest of out Brave Åsgårdsreia Shield, um, maidens and dudes, ran for the red line.  Brave zombie killers they were not.

 

That was enough for Professor Chai. She waved her hands and the enchanted side shields vanished. “Well . . .” Her gaze bored through the panting and huffing Åsgårdsreia students at the other end of the mat. “That didn’t turn out very well, did it?” The professor waved her hands again and the unconscious students began to move, shaking off the enchantment they’d fallen under when they were bitten. They slowly regained their feet and joined the rest of their coven mates.

She turned to the rest of the students, some of whom still appeared shocked by what they’d seen. “The mat is in need of a cleaning—” She turned and waved at the homunculi, who turned and shambled back to the cabinets. “All will take a ten minutes break—except for the next team. They need to prepare.” She turned to Annie and Kerry. “Cernunnos: you’re next.”

 

Sorry, kids:  I didn’t mean to leave you hanging like that.  I’m sure everything will turn out just fine–

"I have a bad feeling about this, Annie."  "And a bad hat, too."  "Yeah--I took it off a kid eating pudding . . ."

“I have a bad feeling about this, Annie.”  “And a bad hat, too.”  “Yeah–I took it off a kid I found eating pudding . . .”