The following post is a fan fiction attempt related to the zombie collection by horror author Brian Keene.
The process of writing a zombie novel led me to the discovery of Keene’s The Rising and its sequel City of the Dead. Keene’s take on string theory and the undead crossing over from different planes of existence fascinated me. I’ve been a Keene fan ever since.
The sun rose over the coastline of Jamaica. It was a beautiful morning. I walked onto the beach, spear-gun over my shoulder, mask, snorkel and fins in my hand. As I sat on on the sand and set the spear-gun down, I pulled on my fins. I walked into the surf. When the water was three or four inches above my knees; I spit into the interior glass plate of my mask and rubbed the saliva in. Once my mask had been pulled on I mouthed the snorkel and began swimming offshore.
In one minute, black, spiny sea urchins dotted the bottom. In another minute the spiny creatures littered the sea floor, obscuring the white sand. As I swam further offshore the sea urchins thinned out.
The bottom gradually tapered off into deeper water. Coral heads and sea fans appeared. I glided up and over a forest of stag-horn coral a few feet below me. I drifted to the offshore side of the shallow reef. Three inhales and exhales purged my lungs. After a deep inhale on the fourth breath, I dove. When I reached the bottom, I looked up at the sunlight filtering through the branching silhouettes of the stag-horn on top of reef. Reef fish, silvery barracuda, and brightly colored tropical fish gathered at the top and edges of the coral heads. I stood on the bottom, pulling back a band on the spear-gun and setting the clamp in a notch on the shaft. After loading the remaining bands, I headed for the surface.
I’d just passed over the first reef—starting at 15 feet, ending in 30 feet.
I continued over another sand bottom until a solid wall of brain coral rose from the bottom. This was the second reef—starting at 50 feet, tapering off to 75 feet. I knew these depths. I’d been making dives off the beach for the past two days. On each dive I wore my oil filled depth gauge.
I made two dives on the second reef. Each time I practiced holding my breath as long as I could. Large grouper and snapper swam in and out of coral canyons. Big barracuda glided over the top of the reef. Thick antennae of big lobsters poked from under ledges. A moray eel, as big around as a telephone pole, stuck its head out of a hole. A shark swim by in my peripheral vision. When my lungs felt like they would explode; I returned to the surface.
The wind picked the further offshore I swam. I was giving it all I had—up the crests and down the the troughs of five foot swells.
Five minutes later, the color of the bottom changed from a bright turquoise to a cobalt blue. I was hovering over the outer reef—starting at 80 feet and dropping off a sheer wall to thousands of fathoms.
I swam along the shallow edge of the reef, watching. I saw a cloud of sand rising from the bottom at the mouth of a ravine that cut through the reef. A tail beat back and forth on on the outside of the cloud. Clutching the bands of the spear-gun, I held it at my side and dove for the bottom.
As I descended, I spotted a grouper with its head in a hole. It was forcing itself deeper to get to a big lobster. I could see the tips of the bug’s antennae working their way back into the hole.
I reached the bottom and leveled off right at the edge of the ravine. I grabbed onto a coral head and pulled myself closer, bringing the spear-gun forward at the same time. Once the tip was lined up with the center of the grouper’s body, I squeezed the trigger.
The shaft penetrated the grouper, severing the spinal cord. The fish beat the shaft against the side of the coral ledge until it stopped. I pulled its head out of the hole. The tail of a lobster hung out of its mouth. Backing out of the ravine, I prepared to ascend.
On the surface, I removed the shaft from the fish and reset it on the gun. I began the swim back to shore. I looked at the fish—a nice Warsaw grouper, a lobster still hanging out from its mouth. Holding the fish by the gill in one hand, spear-gun in another, I swam toward shore. With the steady offshore breeze behind me, the swim back to the beach would be easier. I was glad, the grouper probably added another 20 plus pounds. My legs ached. It would be nice to feel dry land under my feet again.
As I swam I felt something. The grouper’s gills were opening and closing on my fingers. Its head thrashed. I looked down, The grouper swallowed the tail that had been protruding from its jaws whole.
I couldn’t hold on. I lost my grip. The grouper dove for the bottom, slashing through a school of small fish on the way down. Clouds of blood mingled with scales, skin, bones, and intestines. The grouper continued rampaging, attacking every fish in sight. I could see its tail thrashing as it swam through a coral ravine on the bottom. White sand billowed where its dug its teeth into a fish and shook its head.
What just happened? That fish was dead. At least, I thought it was dead. It didn’t feel dead when it shook my grip loose, though. It felt like a fifty pounder. My fingers were still bleeding from where the grouper’s gill plates had been pressing down like a vise.
As I made my way back, I saw a few people standing on the beach. A few minutes later, when I looked up to verify my direction, the few people standing on the beach had grown to over two dozen.
I continued—over the second reef, then the first. Finally, I reached the shallows. The surface boiled. Schools of small fish swam in crazy patterns, biting each other. Sea urchins, spines quivering, devoured pieces of fish as soon as they hit bottom.
I reached shore and ripped off my gear. I turned to look at what the crowd of people on the beach were staring at: smoke poured from the upper deck of a mid-size cruise ship. I could see a wake coming off the bow and from behind the stern. The ship was under power and heading for the beach. It just passed the outer reef.
Thick, black smoke continued billowing off the decks, rising hundreds of feet into the air. The ship maintained a collision course for the beach.
I picked up my gear, found my blanket, and sat down. I reached for my sneakers. Before I could put them on a screeching noise caught my attention. I looked up, the ship had run aground. The engines, still running, continued to drive the ship sideways into the reef. The hull twisted and bent at the waterline until a long gash split the lower hull.
As the ship turned I could see hundreds of people crowded on the stern; the only section of the ship that wasn’t engulfed in flames. Lifeboats, still attached to davits, burned out of control.
People clung to the stern rails until they couldn’t hold on. They fell into the water. Other passengers, their clothes on fire, jumped overboard.
A police officer stood among the crowd of onlookers. One of the other witnesses said, “Shouldn’t we notify someone.”
“Already done, ma’am,” the police officer answered. He held up a radio telephone. “They should be arriving in ten minutes.”
The witness, the owner of a nearby beach house, stared at the officer then looked at the burning ship. She bent over and vomited on the sand.
The fire on the ship continued to burn. Long, rectangular windows on the deck above the stern exploded. Huge shards of glass flew in all directions. Razor sharp pieces of ragged glass ripped through the crowd as they tried to back away from the flames.
By the time the maritime patrol arrived at the scene the passengers had all jumped off the burning ship. The lucky ones—passengers able to find life vests—floated on the surface. I wondered how may people had burned to death or drowned. I wondered about the passengers who’d jumped overboard while on fire. What happened to them? Did the water extinguish the flames just in time for the helpless victims to drown?
Those morbid thoughts left me when a man wearing a straw hat said, “What is that?”
“What?” someone asked.
“There,” the man in the hat pointed.
We all strained our eyes in the direction the man pointed. Dark objects appeared, just above the waterline.
People were walking on the bottom. You could see their bodies—from their shoulders down to their legs—through the clear water.
Something wasn’t right. Most of the people had no color in their skin. Some were a bright blue or a deep purple. Some were black, no hair and only empty holes were eyes should be. People on the beach screamed when they saw a woman stepping out of the surf. A large gash—from her neck to her navel—left a gaping hole. The woman’s entrails hung out of the cavity. Intestines spilled into the water.
The people continued walking toward the beach right through the sea urchins. They didn’t notice the spines sticking from their feet like porcupine quills. One man reached down, grabbed a sea urchin, turned it over, then bit into the underbelly.
The police officer stepped forward as one of the people from the water stepped on shore. “Do you need assistance?” he asked.
The man laughed. He raised a blue and swollen hand to his chin. “Now that you mention it, I could use a quick bite.” The man lunged at the officer. He sank his teeth into his throat. The man from the water shook his head like a dog and bit down harder. Blood flowed. The bottom walker pulled back. I heard a wet, ripping sound as the muscles in the police officer’s throat tore. The bottom walker slurped them up like long, bloody noodles.
The bottom walker released the officer, licking his bloody lips as the lifeless body splashed into the shallow water.
I turned and ran. I heard more screams. When I looked back I saw the police officer. He was on his feet, his knee on the beach house woman’s chest. He bit her nose off. Mucus and blood ran down his chin as he chewed and swallowed. I kept running and didn’t look back.