Seventh Issue! Zombie Life
Welcome to the seventh Flame Tree Fiction newsletter! We've got some great stories, available in advance to newsletter subscribers only, you can sign up for this by following the link at the bottom of this page. Taking on the classic theme of Zombie Apocalypse is a creepy Horror tale and an incredible Sci-Fi adventure about New Life...
- Original Sci-Fi Flash Fiction: (R)Evolution: A Daoist Tale by Russell Hemmell
- Original Horror Flash Fiction: Daddy My Love, My Dear Sweet Daddy by Michael W. Cho
- FLAME TREE PRESS - April Releases
Original Science Fiction Story
(R)Evolution. A Daoist Tale
When WuWei’s ethereal-looking but titanium-solid doors unlocked without noise, Zhuang-Zi peered in. The eggs were silky, pale, and puffy-looking, engulfed in mist and condensed water vapours that gave them the appearance of little disks hovering in the clouds. So defenceless. So innocuous. So innocent. Zhuang-Zi knew better.
He ordered the AI’s holographic arms to dislodge from the nourishing pods the ones scheduled for the forthcoming life-cycle and, after a few moments, WuWei’s tesseract-shaped space was alive with frantic activity, in flashes of white-hot lights, gravitons, and sonic waves.
I’m lucky not to be technically alive, otherwise I’d be long dead by radiation, Zhuang-Zi mused.
Not an accident, that the Makers had chosen for him a configuration of the matter where existence was not a binary state, but the triadic modularity awake-in-motion-asleep. What couldn’t be killed was not alive, of course, but he was past caring. Living things act in a terrible way with each other. Did he not see it happening on every iteration?
He waited for the AI to finish the retrieval and gazed at the triumphant procession of outgoing eggs. Unfrozen, de-misted, ripe for hatching in the welcoming nest he’d prepared, as every time, in the big crater’s pond.
Why had they chosen this nest, among all the possible available places in the galaxy, was something he never understood. That crater was not bigger, better, or more suitable for life than any other. Zhuang-Zi also found that the temperature at night, dangerously cold, was responsible for many deaths among the hatchlings. He wasn’t programmed for making any change to the process, however, and he’d decided not to bother. Not because he feared a punishment -there was nobody left to punish or reward- but because boredom or the pride of proving his own ideas correct didn’t offset the risk of changing something that had worked over aeons of time.
He started the procedure, tossing a billion eggs in species-consistent batches into the pond, staring in fascination at its multi-coloured waves like incandescent tongues of fire and shades of blue so intense that reminded him a nursery of infant stars. The eggs quickly drowned, plunging into the core, with funny plop-sound motions.
And waited longer, resting in his awake mode and ready for action as soon as the time had come.
At the n-th hour, something in the pond stirred up.
Zhuang-Zi’s state switched back to motion and glanced into the crater.
From the nurturing pond, a flat, sturdy animal had emerged, fighting to crawl out of the waters. It sniffed the sulphur air and its antennas moved in an effort to find its bearings.
When it finally managed to climb the crater walls, it stopped on the brim, sensing Zhuang-Zi’s presence without being able to locate him. Zhuang-Zi gave it an appraisal look. It’s ready, he thought. He gently removed it from the rock and tossed it into the wild. There was an entire planet for its species to thrive.
He repeated the same process over many revolutions around the parent star, marvelling at the perfection of a few unusual hatchlings, helping the scared ones out of the nest, and discarding some of the unfit units. Trilobites and ferns, snow cats and blue mantises, raffles fish and pterodactyls, in a bio-galore triumph of life.
The primates, with their huge brains and frail, fast-decaying bodies, came out at the end, as they usually did, and Zhuang-Zi knew it was only matter of a few more revolutions before they put the entire ecosystem in disarray, in their effort to dominate and steer it toward what they thought was a meaningful direction. Without wondering if the others were in agreement, or if it were the right things to do. That had always been the case over countless iterations and the conclusions had never been good.
A trilobite came dying just beside the native pond, its rests devoured by a swarm of bacteria.
If there were something aeons of time had never cured was his curiosity about the reason why the Makers, so powerful and thoughtful and omniscient, had not previewed any improvement or learning capabilities in the eggs’ genetic pool. Why allowing a species to kill itself -and the others- over and over and not providing them with any device to treasure past learning? They all seemed incapable of transmitting anything useful to their offspring and too genetically faulted to embed their achievements in their DNA. As individuals, as generations, as species, as iterations, again and again -like a sad circus that was never stopping.
Would that time be any different?
Zhuang-Zi raised his receptors, glimpsing at the planet.
One million revolutions had passed, and the thing he had dreaded was happening, in a primate-led, annihilating sweep.
Zhuang-Zi sighed, switching its attention to WuWei. The portal had reopened like a carnivorous flower, and the cycle was ready to start again, in the opposite direction. Instead of ejecting eggs, it was going to gobble up the cadavers of destroyed species, war casualties of a ravaged planet, for nothing ever gets wasted in the universe, only changes status -they’d said.
Or was it a fairy tale that the Makers had made him believe, to convince him to take care of WuWei’s correct functioning?
He knew about entropy. He knew about depletion. He just knew.
Zhuang-Zi started cleaning up the mess, with the resigned attitude of an undertaker and the awareness that things couldn’t be different. But when WuWei’s door finally shut down to stay close for a few aeons, he decided the next iteration was going to be different. He was going to mess with the eggs, to give a chance to his billion little creatures.
Russell Hemmell is a French-Italian transplant in Scotland, passionate about astrophysics, history, and speculative fiction. He has recent work in Aurealis, The Grievous Angel, Third Flatiron, and others. Russell is a HWA Active Member and Codexian. You can find him online at his blog earthianhivemind.net and on Twitter @SPBianchini.
Original Horror Story
Daddy My Love, My Dear Sweet Daddy
Michael W. Cho
It’s cold here in the locker, and I’m scared. Just on the edge of going crazy, screaming and clawing right through the metal. But I know it wouldn’t work. Plus, it will bring the zombies.
Daddy, my love, my dear sweet Daddy.
We’d been coming home from the daddy-daughter dance when the subway station went crazy. People screaming, terrified, people being eaten. I saw people feasting on other people. Chewing on their stomachs.
Daddy grabbed me and we ran. He fought them with an axe he’d gotten somewhere.
I never squeezed anything harder than his hand. The zombies surrounded us, but he threw a trash can and made a hole. We got out.
They chased us, moaning, their moaning was so horrible. But we got away.
Daddy stuffed me in this locker, I said no, no, but he pushed me in anyway. I’ll be back, he promised. Don’t leave me! I yelled.
But he did.
Daddy, my love, my dear sweet Daddy.
Then the zombies were there. I could see them through the locker’s vents. They were chasing Daddy, but they heard me or knew I was there somehow. Some of them started clawing at the locker, at the metal, whaling on it so it banged and clanged right in my face.
I didn’t scream, I was too terrified to scream. If they’d ripped it open then, I would have been too afraid to run. I’d have gotten eaten right there.
But they didn’t get through. They heard something and they started running away.
Moaning in that awful way.
I could hear someone screaming in the distance. Was that Daddy? Did they catch him?
But I couldn’t think about him. All I could think about was me. I was trapped (I’m still trapped). A man can’t fit in a locker, but a kid can. There’s no handle on the inside. I can barely move my arms to push, and it doesn’t do any good. I can’t move my knees to kick. I’m trapped like a sardine and if no one rescues me, I guess I’ll be stuck here forever.
It’s like being buried alive.
I’m biting my lip because I know if I start screaming, I might never stop. I’ll just go outside of my body. I’ll be crazy then. Just screaming and mewling like this guy I once saw after a car accident. Just lying there, his legs moving, making kitten sounds.
I can taste blood where I’m biting my lip. It’s not the only thing that hurts. My left arm hurts too. It must have happened when Daddy threw me in here. Maybe I got scratched on the door.
Or maybe before.
But the weird thing is that I like the way my blood tastes. It’s not like a good hamburger or a nice fat slice of pizza. It’s more like ice cream. Yeah, it’s like ice cream, sweet, melted ice cream.
I realize I’ve been chewing on my lip for a while. Not because I’m afraid, but because of the taste. It’s a disgusting thought. Maybe I’m already going crazy. I never thought it could happen to me, but here I am, stuck in this locker. I can’t move and I’m probably going to die here. Daddy’s probably already been eaten. I wonder if it’s better to die here of starvation or yell until the zombies find me, rip open the locker, and eat me alive.
No, better to keep silent. Anything’s better than being eaten alive.
Daddy, my love.
Oh, where’s Daddy? He saved me from the zombies, maybe he’ll get away. Get a gun or something, a machine gun. Kill the zombies and come back for me.
He promised he would.
I realize I’ve been chewing my lip again. I play with it a little with my tongue, and I’m shocked, because I think I ate all the way through my lip. I think I must have just bitten through and swallowed most of it. My poor lip. What would I look like in the mirror? Will people be afraid of me? Will I ever get to kiss a boy? Go to prom?
Where’s Daddy? Please save me, Daddy! I can’t die in here like this! I’m going to screeeeam, I’m going to go crazy!
And that’s when I hear it.
I hear a quiet sound moving quietly. Footsteps sneaking around. And then I can smell him. I look through the vents and then I see him, it’s Daddy! He looks sweaty and tired but not hurt at all. Somehow he got through, he got away and came back for me, just like he said he would!
Daddy looks left and right, and comes right up to the locker. He fumbles with the lock, but quietly, and I can feel the door move as he unlocks it.
I want to say something, but I can’t. My mouth is already moving, kind of twitching. My jaw makes my mouth open wide. It’s like it’s not even under my control anymore.
But not really. It’s that taste, like warm ice cream. Blood. Flesh, sweet flesh. Daddy’s flesh.
He swings the door open now, ready to give me a big hug.
Daddy, my love, my dear sweet Daddy.
I’m going to give him a big hug, too.
Michael W. Cho lives in Tempe, Arizona, where he plays Spanish guitar for his day job. He has publications in Terraform and Daily Science Fiction, among others. In his work, Michael focuses on bleeding-edge topics such as politics, futurism, and flesh-eating monsters. He began writing in his pre-teens as a way to process losing his D&D group, and despite often turning down the Call to Adventure in later years, often finds himself returning to the Journey.
FLAME TREE PRESS | April Releases
April saw three new FLAME TREE PRESS titles arriving! Brand new Sci-Fi and Fantasy from P.D. Cacek with Second Lives, brand new Horror from Jonathan Janz and The Dark Game and a new to Flame Tree Ramsey Campbell novel, Hungry Moon. They will all be available in HC, PB, eBook and audio formats. Q&As with the authors are now available on our Twitter account!