Shauna and the Dead

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First Strain

 

There’s never a convenient time for a full-scale zombie apocalypse. If there is, then 06:00 hours certainly ain’t it. Shauna was a lousy sleeper at the best of times and last night had consisted of around four decent hours of shut-eye. As her eyes flickered wearily open and she pulled herself upright to perform her morning stretch, her very next notion was to slither back beneath her cozy divan as she had another thirty minutes until the alarm was due to go off. However, this particular day something compelled her to clamber out of bed and shuffle out to the bathroom to commence her day. Little did she know at this point, that today was to be a whole calendar of fucked up. Blissfully unaware of the commotion taking place in the streets outside her window, she meandered through the hallway, one foot still in the dream she had been rather enjoying until whatever rude interruption jostled her from her slumber.

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After refreshing herself in a sink full of cold water, Shauna made her way downstairs and into the kitchen. She still hadn’t registered the sounds of car alarms ringing in unison outside her door and there were other problems far more pressing right now. No fucking milk, bollocks! She had forgotten to get supplies the evening prior as she had been taking council with her legion of Grueheads and an hour had soon morphed into two, then three. She really could not be assed this particular day with doing that first thing shuttle run so decided instead that, for one morning, missing breakfast wasn’t going to kill her. Indeed it wouldn’t but the dense forest of famished zombie cadets shuffling around on her front lawn may have had something to say about that assumption. Ironically, she had engaged in dialogue with her friends only hours previous over what one would do in the event of a widespread zombie apocalypse. Unaware of the topical connotations of her discussions, she made her way into the front room to replenish Steve’s daily food rations.

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Shauna adored Steve. This slender fellow was an insect of the stick variety and had taken refuge in her lounge over the past few days, during which time, she’d grown rather attached to the ickle fella. He seemed very much at home in the small Tupperware container which his master had pre-ventilated with small breathing holes. She wasn’t likely to make the same error of judgement that she’d made before with her caterpillar, Chris. He’d suffocated weeks before and poor Shauna had been the sorry soul to find the expired little battler. He’d even made it to the lip, frantically clawing away at the airtight constraints before running out of precious air and sliding back into his lettuce leaf where he remained perpetually with his many, many legs skyward. Poor hapless Chris! Steve was A.O.K. and hadn’t yet awoken from his slumber as it was, after all, a Saturday. It had been a testing week and all she could focus on was making her way back upstairs to cash in that bonus time. Still unbeknownst to Shauna, events were about to conspire against her in a spectacular fashion.

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It just so happened that Shauna was prepared like a girl guide for the unlikely eventuality of a zombie outbreak. She regularly envisaged the scenario in her pretty little head, weighing up her options and mentally preparing herself for this unlikely becoming actual. Where would she go to weather the storm in the event of said outbreak? Heralding from Northern Ireland, her local police station appeared like the smartest option. These headquarters tended to resemble fortresses, were totally reinforced, and nigh-on impossible to make a dent in. On top of that, forces were armed to the nines with batons, CS spray, and firearms so clearly it was going to be a savvier option than gate crashing the nearby care home and sitting down for a cup of herbal tea with Beryl with the arthritic hip. Besides, it was about time law and order stepped up to the mark as you wouldn’t catch Miss Marple lounging about in a donut store (buttered scones were far more appealing).

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One consideration had been taking a jaunt to the centre of town and seeking refuge in her local supermarket but she rapidly put the skids on that idea. Too much glass, hundreds of feet of the stuff, and hordes of dead heads pressed up against the windows like sexual deviants at a peep show wasn’t an attractive proposition. Besides, the sheer weight in numbers would invariably put the glass through. As for supplies, granted she would have a smorgasbord of available options as food rations were plentiful, household goods multiple, and medical supplies on tap. On paper it appeared the thinking man’s choice just to stay at home and weather the storm. Navigating a wayward trolley around aisle six would just prove just too soul-destroying a pursuit, like attempting to coerce Oliver Reed into walking the line with one finger on his nose.

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Another random little mind nugget that she had entertained was whether infected senior citizens would decompose more rapidly than youngsters. Given that they were already well on their way, it didn’t seem like much of a stretch and, in addition to the godawful stench of decomposition, both incontinence and old moth-balls would create quite the hum over time she imagined. On the flip side, their flapping gums would simply slide off the skin like gnats on a flume so there was that. The elderly fascinated her and she couldn’t help but find them amusing. Thus, the prospect of a zombie shuffling along on a Zimmer frame was enough to have her snorting back snot bubbles. Of course, she felt positively wretched for being so disrespectful to her elders, but the moment soon passed.

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One location definitely struck off her mental list was the benefits office. This was a squalid hole of a place on its very best day so add a fuck-load of depressive zombies to the mixing pot and it lost any miniscule appeal. The unemployed didn’t have a great deal of reasons to be cheerful to start with and a bout of contagion was unlikely to raise those wilted spirits. At least the more monied flesh crawlers were likely to have coinage rattling around in their pockets and burger vans never far away to grab a quick bite on the go. Perhaps this would suffice and the leagues of zombies would then become McDonald’s problem. In Shauna’s opinion, this would serve the large chain right for the free stomach rot they gave away with every meal.

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Little did Shauna know that the answers to her posers were about to get answered all at once. Of course, nobody knew the origin as in any good zombie outbreak worth its salt. Whether toxic spill, rabies-like infection, or simply the result of years upon years of being spoon-fed bi-daily soap operas taking its toll mattered not. I mean, it wasn’t like she was gonna get any answers out of the infected as they were well past making polite conversation and she wasn’t particularly a fan of that either. Should the shit hit the fan (and she could already hear it oscillate), then it was all just a question of survival. Plain and simple.

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So what makes Shauna’s plight any different from the multitudes of other Z-movies currently spewing forth like an inebriated deck hand anyhoots? Well, here comes that kicker: I may have negated to mention up until now that Shauna wasn’t like most women her age. You see, she was endowed with a pretty exclusive skill set as it happens. It wasn’t her extensive MMA training that made grown men fear her so. Nope, it was all down to a botched experiment which she unwittingly became embroiled in at tender years. Can you feel that plot starting to thicken?

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So this is how it all came about. On a routine expedition to the Haribo factory, there was an explosion with one of the Supper Kiddie Mix canisters which sent her tumbling from a connecting bridge and straight into an ominously positioned vat of gelatine gloop. Evidently, all those cow bones had a most profound effect and her own joints began to undergo a transformation of sorts. Before she could say “save me some Starmix”, her limbs began to loosen from their sockets, meaning that her arms had the capacity to stretch to double their usual length, sliding straight back into their starting positions on command. She began to take advantage of this new-found aptitude straight post-haste and used them to get to hard to reach places and switch channels without the necessity to vacate her crimson quilt.

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As these skills developed further, she decided that, as with any superhero worth their salt, she needed one devastating signature move synonymous to her. From there, the clusterfuck was birthed unto the world. This sure-fire annihilator involved a sudden loss of balance and culminated in one swiftly delivered head-butt to her quarry. There was no return from such an attack as, once delivered, it truly was teeth in a basket time.

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Shauna stopped her ascent of the stairwell abruptly as she heard an all-too familiar moan em enacting from the back yard. It was a sound she had only ever heard in two places – the benefits office and a 1001 zombie horror flicks she had been reared on since childhood. Instantaneously she span around a half revolution in her tracks, slid on her very best game face and marched towards the front door, procrastinating only to pick up two crazy straws from her dining table as means of defense and Steve for safe-keeping of course. Those undead fecks were about to find out just who they were messing with and she had three cans of whoop at the ready.

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Click here to read Second Strain

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