POST-APOC PLAY (IN BETA) • by Sarah Hilary

— You’re in. Remember our walk-through. We’ve built in some anomalies so stay on those toes, buddy.

The dead weight of a gun muzzle shoves his face up into the beam of a flashlight. “Nice time of night to be creeping into empty buildings. You got a death wish?”

— Okay, we’re loading your chat-up lines. Let’s give her hell.

“I’d have waited for dawn,” he says, “but I’m not much of a morning person.”

“What’s it like out there?”

“Pretty dead from what I saw.”

“You’re a riot.” She steps back, lowering the old school MPK5. He sees her eyes through the shadows, pewter bullets trained on his face. “Strip,” she says.

— Whoa. Swiftest hit we’ve seen all week. Nice work!

“I’m sorry?”

“You will be if I have to shoot you to be on the safe side. No-one comes in here without an exam. We find bitemarks, scratch-marks, anything–we throw you back out as a light snack.” She shrugs. “Nothing personal.”

— Sounds like this is your basic Infection Apocalypse. Keep it together.

He sheds his jeans and shirt, shielding his eyes as she sweeps his body. “Turn round. One eighty degrees.” He turns. The flashlight settles on his left shoulder. “I’ve got bitemarks here.”

“I have some kinky friends,” he admits. “But last time I looked they weren’t zombies.”

— Zombies! Cool. We’ve got a support programme just for these suckers. Hang on while we upload.

She stirs the kit bag on the floor. “What’s in here?”

“Take a look,” he invites.

“Couple of machetes. Big sword,” she lifts it out, “but no gun.”

— Yeah, dude. She totally digs your weapon!

“Sabre,” he corrects taking it from her. “It doesn’t need ammunition and it doesn’t jam.”

“Let’s see you in action then.” She throws the window wide, rattles her MPK5 on the ledge. “Hey, hungry guys! Fresh meat!”

— That’s the trouble with these new-age bitches. Always making the first move.

A trio of zombies tries to gate-crash the window. She stands with arms folded, gun tucked in her armpit, watching their exertions. “Oh for Pete’s sake…” She reaches for the decaying neck of the nearest zombie and drags it through, the other two stumbling after.

— We uploaded the sword programme, right?

He warms his wrist to appease her curiosity, but the dead meat doesn’t present much of a challenge. Once he’s figured out the best angle for entry to the brain via the eye socket or nostril there’s not much more to it.

Things get interesting when she fails to anticipate a second wave of attack; four or five zombies this time. He says, “You might like to move,” and kicks one of the machetes from the floor into his hand, taking the heads off the new arrivals while she’s still reaching for her gun.

— Cool. That programme rocks.

She watches him wipe clean the sabre and machete. “So you’re not just a pretty face.”

— And… you’re in.

“What happened to everyone else?” he asks.

“I shot them. A tough job but someone had to do it.”

— No time for chat, dude. Oh, wait. Tell her a joke! We’ve got a brilliant one in this programme.

“What’s red, green and silver?” she asks.

— She stole our joke?

“Give up? A zombie with forks in its eyes.”

— She totally stole our joke!

“So what’s the plan?” he asks. “We just lie down and die?”

“Technically, the lying-down part wouldn’t last long. We’d soon be back up again and then…” She looks him over like she’s deciding which part to eat first.

“What happened, do you know?”

— Er, dude. Enough talk. Give her the Line.

“I can guess. The monkeys broke out of their cages and bit a lot of geneticist arse. Now we get to clean up the mess.”

— Hold up! This programme’s in beta. How’d she get hold of it?

“If things turn out the way they’re heading,” she says, “you and I’ll be the only two left standing and then–We’ll have to mate, for the sake of the human race.”

— You see that? That’s the Line. She beat you to it, buddy.

She groans. “I can’t believe I just said that. I’m losing it.”

“It’s your latent humanity coming out under stress.”

— You’re writing your lines now? Only this programme cost one point five million. One point five!

“Well, this was fun.” She’s walking away. “See you in Post-Apoc II.”

— Rogue user. We’ve got a rogue user!

Over her shoulder like a grenade she throws, “This bullshit always gets a franchise.”

***

Chip, the programmer, logs off and pulls the plug from his ear. “She’s right,” he tells his co-worker. “Franchise is where it’s at.”

Knuth agrees but then he would, being a figment of Chip’s imagination invented to appease the lonely work of writing computer games for lonely people to play.

“We’re making that machete bigger,” Chip says.

“Totally,” Knuth agrees.


Sarah Hilary doesn’t believe zombies should run; too many bits might fall off.

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Every Day Fiction

  • Gerard Demayne

    Didn’t like that at all. Like an explosion at the hackneyed phrases factory.

    • Sorry you didn't like it, Gerard. Thanks for dropping by.
  • bobw

    didnt make it very far. too clunky and seems to be a matrix rip-off? maybe I’m too ignorant of the genre or something…

  • Oonah V Joslin

    Hi Sarah, That joke reminded me of ‘what’s blue and red and screams…’but you don’t want to know that one. It was bad when I was 12 and it’s even worse now… 😉

    • Hi Oonah, does it by any chance involve a bag of salt and vinegar flavour crisps..? Thanks for dropping by, nice to see a familiar face!
  • The video game angle is a little awkward, I think, but it’s not bad. There are some great lines in there.

  • Sarah, I liked this bit –

    “Knuth agrees but then he would, being a figment of Chip’s imagination invented to appease the lonely work of writing computer games for lonely people to play.”

    Reminded me of those invisible friends of childhood…all grown up. 🙂

  • I agree that this was a challenging piece, and we knew it might have a limited audience. I think Sarah did a wonderful job of capturing the voices of the online gaming world, and her characters are unique and flavourful.

    Of course, seeing as how I used to program video games and now I edit a fiction magazine, this story just hit all the right buttons for me.

    • Hi Jordan, thanks for dropping by. Sorry this story didn't do better business for you.
      • Sarah, We take risks on purpose at EDF. We knew this might not play well with the literary crowd, but obviously there was a segment of our readership that this clicked for.
        • Thanks, Jordan, it's one of the things I like so much about this venue. It's the chance to flex my (non)literary muscle, too. And to expand my range. It was an interesting experiment, and the feedback all round has been very useful to me.
  • Sarah, as a video-game widow and ex-MUSHer I completely ‘got’ this story.

    The structure confused me a little – it took me a minute to realize how the dialogue marked by dashes fit in – but once the light dawned I was entirely within your world.

    Oh, and, yay, Zombies.

    • Melissa, what can I say? Thank you! After reading through the initial comments I was despairing of anyone liking it. It means a lot that you did and that you commented to let me know.
  • Being a video game junkie, I couldn’t help but get a sense of deja vu with this one. Good work! 🙂

  • I dont often give bad reviews. But in total friendship and in critism only, i admit that i did not like that one bit. I’ve been a slave of online games all my life (Been playing World of Warcraft for three years) but this really didnt press my buttons.

    To be brutally honest i just didnt find the story interesting at all and it didnt feel…enjoyable to read.

    Your a great author Sarah and thats just my opinion…and i hope that when i read your next piece it will be a different opinion

    • Hi MS, thanks for taking the time to read and explain why the story didn't work out for you. I appreciate your honesty and hey! I got a LONG review from you!
  • Well, this pushed all the right buttons for me!
    I’ve read a lot of zombie slash horror but this was by far a superior product.
    Class.

    Bill

    • Bill, I think I love you. You're a darling for commenting so kindly and with such enthusiasm. Yours is one of those opinions I always value because I admire your writing so much. Thank you for commenting here.
  • Sarah,
    I’m not a video-junkie and get lost with even a cell phone. But I got it right off. It’s the kind of multi-level piece I find interesting–and I liked the “franchise” allusion as well. And zombies falling to bits are always fun.

    –dj

    • Thanks, DJ, great to know it worked for you. It's really interesting to me that there is no consensus here, at least not thus far. From the first few comments I thought there was going to be a consensus and it was going to be that the story sucked. Then I started getting positive comments, not least yours. I guess it goes to show that you can't please all the people all the time. But I'm so glad you were one of those who enjoyed this.
  • Justine

    “What happened to everyone else?” he asks.
    “I shot them. A tough job but someone had to do it.”

    Hurrah for this line! I like the addition of the imaginary friend at the end too.

  • Anne-Elisabeth Moutet

    Why all the sour grapes? You obviously had a ball writing this one. Love the meta, love the in-jokes, love the “pretty dead, from what I saw”. Writing isn”t always supposed to be a hard slog (and neither, apparently, is programming!)

    • Thanks, AE. I did indeed enjoy writing it. But satire's a tricky thing to put across, and the subject matter was never going to be to everyone's taste. I do see why it drew a mixed response. In fact, despite the low rating in terms of "stars", from the comments, only 3 readers state they didn't like. A couple are ambiguous. Seven readers liked it, including your good self. That's not a bad ratio, really.
  • sarah ann watts

    Hi

    I don’t like it

    I love it 🙂

    Some great lines and Knuth is cute.

    Thanks for the read!

    Sarah

  • B.Teuscher

    I like your ideas and concept.

    Very challenging.

  • jennifer walmsley

    Hi Sarah, I’m not into video games but I enjoyed this. Scary, pacey. A difficult one to write, I think, but you hit it on the nail for me.

    Jennifer

  • Thanks, B and thanks Jennifer. My faith in this is somewhat restored.

  • Avis Hickman-Gibb

    Hi Sarah – just found this one. Wonderful piece. tightly written, humour, original – what’s not to like? You hit the vid game arena spot on. And the twist of a rogue user using the code back at him “stealing his best lines” was brilliant! Don’t listen to the dull minds, this worked in spades.

  • Lorna

    Another triumph! Unusual and gripping.

  • Thanks, Avis, for that glowing response – sorry it took me so long to get around to reading it!

  • Thanks, Lorna!