applespice: it is a sparkly fairy ([funny] kill zombies)
How About Them Apples? ([personal profile] applespice) wrote2011-11-21 08:52 pm

LJ Idol - Week 5 - Inconceivable

Stuart Sanderson approached life with a healthy sense of apathy. It was, in his opinion, the best way to get through the daily grind. The news was always going on about some crisis or another, but Stuart found that none of it really affected his life much, so he just didn’t bother thinking about it. As long as he carried on doing what he always did, the crisis would fade or become so common-place that people just got used to it and quit complaining all the time. Why get worked up?

In fact, Stuart wouldn’t have bothered with the news at all if it weren’t for Kelley Ronson, the morning anchor for KNEWS-6. Kelley had big news anchor hair in seamless bottle blonde, green eyes lashed with thick black spikes, and a perfectly straight set of blazing white teeth. She also possessed the most soothing voice that Stuart had ever heard. No matter how bad the news, Kelley delivered it with a velvet voice and a smile. Stuart felt she was a kindred spirit, and he never missed her morning reports.

One Tuesday, late in March, that all changed.

Stuart woke at 6 AM as usual – just enough time to get showered and dressed before Kelley’s report at 6:30. He made himself a cup of coffee and settled in on the couch just as the theme music played and Kelley’s face appeared. Immediately he could tell that something was off. Her usual sunny smile was tighter than usual, and it didn’t quite reach her eyes. Her fingers trembled on the wide news desk.

“Some disturbing reports of rioting downtown today,” she said, her voice a pale shadow of its former glory. “Participants are said to be excessively violent, and have viciously attacked several members of law enforcement. There have been many reports of casualties. Representatives from the police department have stated that they may soon have to resort to the use of deadly force to contain the crowd, which appears to be growing at a rapid rate.” As Kelley drew a shaky breath, images began flashing on the screen – a massive crowd, arms outstretched, chasing down a smattering of fleeing police officers.

Stuart snorted in disgust and flicked off the television set. He didn’t often get upset about things, but Kelley’s departure from routine felt like a personal betrayal. Plus, all this nonsense about rioting. If people could get worked up over famines in Africa, they were sure to blow their tops over something so close to home. He would never hear the end of it.

The foul mood hung over him like a shroud as he packed up his briefcase and headed out to the office. Everything seemed perfectly designed to drive him up the wall. Traffic was out of control – it seemed like everyone in the city was on the road. Several people were walking or running along the side of the street, some dragging children or suitcases, and many weeping openly. Stuart felt almost sick with contempt. People were so easily taken in by the news. So there was rioting downtown – so what? It didn’t have anything to do with these people. Why did they have to wander into his day and cause such a scene? By the time Stuart finally reached his office, he was over an hour late and the beginnings of a headache were drumming against his temples.

At that point, it seemed that providence finally decided to step in. Stuart stepped off the elevator onto his floor and saw only Neil, the receptionist, and Perla Ramos at their desks. While he found it pathetic that his coworkers would be so taken in by the current hysteria as to miss work, he couldn’t help but be pleased that he wouldn’t be forced to endure their constant bleating on the subject.

Just as he was settling in at his desk, Neil shuffled in to his cubicle. He seemed unusually twitchy. His pale eyes flicked constantly over the entire office, which Stuart found extremely disconcerting - as well as annoying.

"Did you hear the news?" Neil asked, his fingers bunching convulsively into fists. Inwardly, Stuart groaned.

"Something about riots. It'll pass. Always does."

"I don't know, man..." Neil's eyes did another jerky dance across the field of cubicles. "I saw some of those protestors on my way in. They didn't look right. They looked... sick."

"Probably why they're protesting. Medicare or something." Stuart was tired of this conversation. Couldn't Neil see that?

"I don't think so..."

"Anyway, Neil, I've got some work to do. I'm sure it's no big deal. Don't worry about it." And with that he turned back to his desk and began deliberately riffling papers and fishing for things in his briefcase. He was aware that Neil was still standing behind him, but after a few more awkward seconds, he turned and left.

"Finally," Stuart whispered under his breath. Faintly, he heard a sound across the room like a woman crying. He turned on the radio at his desk and set the station to one that played particularly mellow jazz.

Stuart worked continuously until 5 o' clock. The building was so peaceful and quiet, and he felt more productive than he had in years. At lunch he hs noticed that both Neil and Perla were gone, but he didn't miss them. Sighing with contentment, he hit "send" on one last email, gathered up his things, and went down to the parking lot.

He had nearly reached his car when he heard the moaning. Turning, he saw a ragged-looking man approaching him with arms outstretched. He immediately pegged the man as one of the shiftless protestors - he looked like the hippie type, with his dirty clothes and matted hair. He also looked, as Neil had mentioned, sick.

Stuart fumbled with his keys. "Leave me alone. I don't have anything to do with your protest."

The man responded with a fetid moan. Stuart wrinkled his nose. "Listen, I don't know what you're trying to prove, but I'm the last person you're ever going to prove it to. So..."

He had just managed to push the "unlock" button on his keychain when the man struck. He lunged at Stuart and grabbed a handful of his shirt, moaning all the while. Stuart yelped and scrabbled weakly against the man's grip, though he was rather disoriented as the stink was even more palpable up close. His attacker wasn't exactly graceful - he lumbered around heavily with his filthy hands grappling at Stuart's fresh-pressed button-down - but Stuart had never been grabbed by a violent hippie before and was quite flabbergasted as to what he should do.

The man solved that problem for him by grabbing Stuart's flailing right arm and biting down on his wrist. Stuart howled, shrieked, and finally became proactive. He wrenched his arm away from the man and gave him a mighty shove backwards. With a bemused groan, the hippie toppled over onto the asphalt.

Stuart didn't wait around to see what would happen next. He ripped open the car door, leapt into the driver's seat, and tore out of the parking lot, headed for home.

As he raced back toward his apartment, Stuart began gradually to calm down. His foot eased slightly off the gas (not that it mattered - there didn't appear to be a car in sight). So he had been attacked by one of those protestors. From what little he had unfortunately gleaned about the goings-on around town, that didn't seem to be a special occurrence. He was lucky enough that it had only been one. He supposed the moaning and the carrying on had just been part of the act. Something about the mindlessness of corporate America, no doubt.

He looked down at his wrist. The bite was really fairly minor. It had only broken the skin in one place, and even then there was only the smallest trickle of blood. The man had looked sick, but obviously he didn't frequently come into contact with soap and water, whereas Stuart showered twice a day. A good hot shower and some antiseptic would be just the thing to take care of that bite.

When Stuart really thought about it, he found he wasn't in the least concerned. When he reached his apartment, he made himself a grilled cheese sandwich, watched a DVD, and went to bed.

On Wednesday, Stuart Sanderson was feeling slightly under the weather. Still, he dutifully woke at 6 AM, showered, dressed, and made himself a cup of coffee. He looked thoughtfully at the TV before deciding not to turn to KNEWS-6. He still felt somewhat hurt by Kelley's behavior the day before, and after yesterday's events he felt certain that there would be even more morbid news today.

The roads were still clear when Stuart headed to work. There were a few stalled-out vehicles along the side of the road, but everything else seemed to be running smoothly. When he reached the office, it was completely empty. Stuart didn't mind. It seemed that people had taken this protesting business entirely too seriously, and had gone out of town to wait it out. He could only imagine how much work they'd have to catch up on when they got back from their ridiculous little impromptu vacations. The thought made him chuckle.

His jazz station seemed to be down - when he turned on the radio, he heard only static. The internet was still up, so he sent a few more emails before settling down to work on a spreadsheet. He hadn't received any emails since yesterday, which was odd, but overall he found he didn't mind. Nobody ever seemed to say much of use over the office email anyway.

Around noon, he coughed up a bit of blood. He thought briefly about going to the hospital, but shook it off. It was nothing. He didn't want to be categorized with the hordes of people that were undoubtedly storming the place over all this rioting business - he could wait it out.

At two-thirty, he noticed that his vision was getting a little blurry. Too much time staring at the computer screen, he thought ruefully, getting up to wash his face in the bathroom.

At four-thirty, he slumped over onto his desk, his head spinning and his vision darkening. Shouldn't have had that last cup of coffee, he thought briefly before passing out.

At four-forty-five, Stuart Sanderson expired at his desk.

At five o' clock, Stuart sat back up. He moved his head slowly from side to side, as if looking for anyone else in the office. He moaned, not unhappily. Slowly, deliberately, he began to push buttons on his keyboard.

Six months later, one of the newly-formed Rebuild and Recover teams swept through Stuart's building. Two men in body armor with an automatic rifles in their hands found Stuart still sitting at his desk, pushing blindly at the keys. His eyes had rotted and his flesh was in tatters. His jaw hung open. The smell coming off of him was eye-wateringly pungent.

"Poor sucker doesn't even know he's dead," laughed the first man.

"Some things never change," said the second. He raised his gun.

[identity profile] 2011-11-22 03:15 am (UTC)(link)
This was incredible.

The zombie thing has been feeling really stale and played-out recently - a sad state of affairs for a formerly huge zombie-flick aficionado. I loved this fresh window on the outbreak, and the character you wrote for it is perfect. The fact that I didn't catch on that it was a zombie story until a good way into it is evidence of how well it was handled.

Even better, not only was the intro appealing and original, you also rocked the ending. Every zombie story tends to have a really compelling beginning and then flounder at the end; but I loved the final twist even more than the opening.


[identity profile] 2011-11-22 05:07 am (UTC)(link)
A chilling tale. (Hint...anytime you cough up blood go to the ER-THOUGH I don't think it would have made any difference in this case. WELL WRITTEN.

[identity profile] 2011-11-22 05:57 am (UTC)(link)
Wonderful! I love the ending. :)

It's great to see it coming and be watching him be all oblivious. ^_^
yachiru: (Default)

[personal profile] yachiru 2011-11-22 03:05 pm (UTC)(link)
I thought this was awesomesauce last night. I continue to think so. Love it!

[identity profile] 2011-11-22 03:24 pm (UTC)(link)
this is hilarious, and so amazing. I don't usually read a lot of the fiction that comes up in LJI but when I saw 'zombie apocalypse' as a tag on this entry I just had to know what you'd come up with. good job. :)

part of me is like 'oh no, poor Stuart!' and the other part is all 'Stuart, you are a tool that deserved to be zombie-fied!'. so great!

[identity profile] 2011-11-22 08:35 pm (UTC)(link)
Wow - what a great take on the zombie genre! I really love how consistent your character is, and how his small-mindedness drives all his actions - nice job!

[identity profile] 2011-11-22 09:58 pm (UTC)(link)
hahaha, this was effective and amusing - nicely done.

[identity profile] 2011-11-22 10:36 pm (UTC)(link)
Super fresh zombie tale. I think Stuart was a zombie before he became a zombie!

[identity profile] 2011-11-22 10:59 pm (UTC)(link)
Thank you! I'm a zombie freak myself, so I really didn't want to write something trite. It's my biggest concern when it comes to this entry. A fellow zombie fan liking it is a pretty big deal in my opinion! :)

[identity profile] 2011-11-22 11:00 pm (UTC)(link)
What's funny is that I included that bit because my mom has always told me the same thing (she used to work as an x-ray tech in the ER)!

Thank you :)

[identity profile] 2011-11-22 11:00 pm (UTC)(link)
Thank you!

Poor Stuart - he just needs to watch more TV, I think. Could've made all the difference!

[identity profile] 2011-11-22 11:00 pm (UTC)(link)
Thank you! :D

[identity profile] 2011-11-22 11:01 pm (UTC)(link)
Thank you!

Writing fiction this year is definitely kind of a minefield - I feel like there are more people than ever who say that they prefer blog-style entries to fiction. Ruh-roh! But I shall soldier on ;)

[identity profile] 2011-11-22 11:04 pm (UTC)(link)
Thank you! Not everyone in the zombie apocalypse can be awesome, shotgun-wielding heroes - there are a lot of oblivious folks out there who must first flesh out (haha) the crowd of zombies ;)

[identity profile] 2011-11-22 11:04 pm (UTC)(link)
Thank you!

[identity profile] 2011-11-22 11:05 pm (UTC)(link)
Thank you!

I have to agree about Stuart. Wasn't much of a life he was living!

[identity profile] 2011-11-22 11:44 pm (UTC)(link)
Aw man, I was rooting for poor oblivious Stuart. Well written.


[identity profile] 2011-11-22 11:59 pm (UTC)(link)
Hee, yes! A fine zombie story is exactly what I needed tonight! ;)

[identity profile] 2011-11-23 12:49 am (UTC)(link)
It was his destiny!

Thanks :)

[identity profile] 2011-11-23 12:49 am (UTC)(link)
Hurrah! They are my favorites!

[identity profile] 2011-11-23 02:06 am (UTC)(link)
I really liked it!

[identity profile] 2011-11-23 06:16 am (UTC)(link)
You're welcome.

Yep! Totally.

[identity profile] 2011-11-23 06:52 pm (UTC)(link)
One of my favorites this week! Really great entry.

[identity profile] 2011-11-23 10:41 pm (UTC)(link)
"At five o'clock, Stuart sat back up." Love it.

[identity profile] 2011-11-24 02:22 am (UTC)(link)
ACK!! This was so creepy, and Stuart's disconnect from society was so convincing.

[identity profile] 2011-11-25 10:06 am (UTC)(link)
I adore this. Your style, the take, everything :D

[identity profile] 2011-11-25 03:20 pm (UTC)(link)
Cool :-)

[identity profile] 2011-11-25 04:03 pm (UTC)(link)
Loved this entry!

[identity profile] 2011-11-25 08:27 pm (UTC)(link)
Not my usual taste in stories, but this was so well written that it carried me right through to the end!

[identity profile] 2011-11-26 06:50 am (UTC)(link)
I am faced with the same dilemma - but I persevere with the fiction!

I liked this - strong voice throughout. I am not a zombie fan, but great work on this! Stuart was totally believable.

[identity profile] 2011-11-26 05:57 pm (UTC)(link)
I so agree with everything you said here. I am so sick of zombie stories lately, but this was so well done!

[identity profile] 2011-11-26 05:59 pm (UTC)(link)
Very well done!

[identity profile] 2011-11-26 08:45 pm (UTC)(link)
I loved this so much, even though I saw it coming, but I did not see the tapping away at the keys... that's so perfect! What's fabulous about this story is, you've done so much more here than could ever be accomplished on film or visually... really fantastic!

[identity profile] 2011-11-26 11:25 pm (UTC)(link)
What a frightening story. I loved it. You come up with some of the best stuff.

[identity profile] 2011-11-27 07:43 am (UTC)(link)
Very creative! The zombie thing was pretty obvious, but I love the ending. =)

[identity profile] 2011-11-27 09:27 pm (UTC)(link)
I am not a zombie story person, but I am now--at least, for this sort of zombie-tuned-zombie sort of tale!

[identity profile] 2011-11-28 12:43 am (UTC)(link)
Wowie zowie. Great thriller--and the philosophical implications strike me. Well done.

[identity profile] 2011-11-28 04:48 am (UTC)(link)
love it!

[identity profile] 2011-11-29 04:29 am (UTC)(link)
ahhhhh loved this