Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Prepare

Nearly a month had passed and the Z-disease was contained around the northeastern area, allowing everyone to breathe a sigh of relief, including myself. It seems like such a petty reason, but I was really relieved to not have to shave my head or trim my nails. I'm a girl. Seriously. Only boys and lesbians shave their heads and since I'm neither, you can understand why the idea was less than appealing. I took great pride in my appearance and doing something like that would utterly destroy what I had worked so hard to achieve. I mean, let's not forget all the accessories for my hair I racked up over my shitty summer job and the hundreds, if not thousands of dollars I've spent over the years in hair product and nail maintenance.

I sat down to breakfast one day with my mother who served up a plate of bacon and eggs with toast. I had nearly two and a half servings. Today was a day of intensive weight training and a five mile to shake off any soreness that would set into my muscles. If I had told myself nearly a month ago that I would be running five miles and lifting weights, never would have believed myself. Well, that is until I saw the toned, defined legs and arms. And can we talk about if I saw myself, I would totally flash myself my six pack? It wasn't a super six pack, but I had a beach body for sure!

"You look good," my mother commented, "Have you been having fun with Lex?"

Considering my mouth was filled with toast, I chose to nod and swallow it down with my glass of orange juice. When I cleared my mouth I said, "You should come with us. I mean, the Z-disease could still come our way."

"Oh honey, you really need to stop putting so much merit into what Lex says."

I couldn't believe what mom was saying, but at the same time, I would have said the same thing about everything else Lex had said up to this point, "It never hurts to be careful," I said slowly and stuffed my mouth with scrambled eggs, hoping I wouldn't have to talk anymore. But, you know, my mom's attitude toward the Z-disease was really annoying! How could she act so non-nonchalant when New York City was gone? Like, there were literally no people there except maybe the army in hazmat suits, but seriously. The north east was getting torn apart by the Z-disease, and I didn't believe we could be ruled out from this until they stopped talking about it on the news.

"And what exactly would you do against someone with Z-disease?"

I pressed my lips together in a thin white line, trying to suppress my anger. "More than you," is what I wanted to say, but I instead seriously considered the question. What were my options at this point? Melee combat? Gun? If all else failed, I could run. Then again, there was still no reporting about what kind of zombie I was up against. I mean, anyone who's ever watched any kind of zombie movie ever knows there are different types of zombies.

You have the slow, shuffling, classic movie zombies, video game zombies that apparently can evolve into super mutant zombies, and then 28 Days Later zombies that were diseased, crazed humans that became super fast and violent. There was also that one romantic movie about that zombie boy who became human again, but that was seriously wishful thinking considering a city had been leveled.

Either way, I was definitely more equipped to handle the apocalypse at this point than my mother.

So yeah, after careful consideration, I did say, "More than you."

My mother looked a little pissed at me for the comment, but I quickly said, "Mom, it's like a hurricane is coming towards us and the news is saying over and over and over again that it's going to be the worst one we've ever faced and you're doing nothing! Hell, you could at least reinforce the house just in case, and best case scenario, we'll actually have shit for next hurricane season."

I watched as she stiffly stood up with a huff and grabbed her plate, hastily going toward the sink. She replied, "The government clearly has a hold on this situation. It's been contained in the north east."

I stood and followed her, "Yeah, for now! But what's going to happen when it spreads again? Are you going to stay in this all sunny and optimistic when there are crazed people breaking into our house or something? You have to plan!"

When mom turned around and opened her mouth to argue, I put my hands on her shoulders and said, "I love you, but if a disaster comes around, I can't guarantee that we can protect each other or that we'll even be together, okay? I don't want anything to happen to you, but mom, at this point I can protect myself, and I'll feel so much better if you would do something," I sighed and added, "Please."

My mom gave a resigned sigh and said, "Alright, I'll plan something while you're away today."

I sighed in relief and hugged her before I grabbed my backpack, stuffed full of protein bars, a shake and plenty of water. I hoisted it onto my back and smiled brightly at her, "We're going to kick this thing's ass."

Mom just laughed and shook her head at me, "Don't be back too late."

"I won't," I called out as I ran out the door.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Target Practice

One time I decided to get a job over the summer at a popular, trendy boutique with hopes of getting discounts on their super cute, cheap clothing. You know the one. As I made my way in for an interview, I was greeted by a girl with square-framed glasses, skinny jeans, and a plaid top, tied above her navel, but layered with another tank top. The grungy hipster look is SO UGLY, but whatever.

Anyway, she gave me a sugary smile and went through the usual song and dance banter one can expect at an interview. Did you get here okay? Tell me about yourself. What do you consider your greatest strengths and/or weaknesses? Where do you see yourself 5 years from now? Think of a time when you had to work with someone you didn't like, how did you handle that?

Of course I smiled the entire time and said exactly what any retail manager wants to hear: complete and utter bullshit, but hey - it got me a job and some cute clothes and accessories for a summer of work.

But I fucking hated that bitch.

For someone that was supposed to be the main manager of a retail store, her clothes were always hideous, always with a hipster edge to it, which sorry, not sorry, doesn't look good on anyone. I guess that should have been my first red flag in what to look for in my job. Maybe if she was nicer, I would have been able to get past her fashion faux pas. And you think a bitch named Chanel would have a better sense of fashion.

Anyway, Chanel was always the most passive-aggressive person I had ever met with her stupid, square glasses (totally non-prescription, by the way), her awful plaid, and her knack of always having me work Friday nights and Saturday mornings consecutively. When school was getting ready to start, I put in my two weeks notice out of fairness. Another week scheduled with Friday night and Saturday morning made me not regret this decision at all.

Then this happened:

At the end of my Saturday morning shift, I decided to shop, but unfortunately, this cute dress I wanted wasn't in my size. I asked Chanel if there were any more in the back, possibly in a medium and she looked me over and said, "That's a one size fits all. You should probably cut back on the mall food. Or maybe buy our Slimmers." Slimmers were our trademark body stocking that contained and molded fat to look like curves.

"Fuck you and your ugly ass hipster shit!" Is what I wanted to say in reply. Instead, I laughed lamely and said, "But it's so delicious." Ew. Whatever. I regret not saying that to her.

However, the anger still burns from that situation years later and it helped my target practice with Lex as I destroyed my target repeatedly. In my mind, the hipster shirt became torn shreds with each shot, the square black frame glasses shattering into a million pieces and those stupid jean-looking leggings that covered her stick legs... all blown apart.

That's what I pretended anyway. During our session, my aim went from the outer edges of the target to very close to the middle. A few even hit the bulls-eye repeatedly.

At least Chanel's hideous fashion was good for something, even if it was all in my head. Every time I pictured another ugly shirt or skirt that she would wear, I came very close to hitting dead center. It made our week of target practice very lucrative.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Hang-Ups

Going against the oncoming Z-disease was like a race against the clock, and every little minute was precious. It was like watching a hurricane inching closer and closer each time we turned on the news. The casualties, the aftermath, the utter wastelands it left behind. There was nothing you could do about it but prepare.

Once the virus left the cities and hit the rural areas, it slowed down considerably, and for a moment, we were able to breathe a sigh of relief, but only for a moment.

Lex made me run every day for both distance and speed. Running was usually something I took up if I wanted to shed a couple pounds to fit into a dress, but it wasn't something I regularly did or enjoyed. I have that sort of self-consciousness about running that everyone has. I think I look like an idiot. Legs flailing weirdly, my hands doing I don't know what, and the sweating... I read somewhere that sweating is supposed to be good for your complexion.

But still, ew.

I guess I couldn't look at it that way anymore. The people that drove by in their cars pointing at my ridiculously big, frizzy hair tied into a bun, the assholes catcalling as I tried to contain my misery, they would probably be gone soon, and so would I if I didn't get over my own stupid hang-ups.

Another mile to go, and then weight training. My body was screaming from the strict regime, but when I came home after a week of this, and stripped down for a shower, I could see everything in my body was starting to tighten and harden. I couldn't help but stare at myself in the mirror. I could see the outline of my muscles on my thighs, my calves and my stomach. My eyebrows raised in surprise at this. If nothing else, if there was any possibility of Z-Disease or death, I would be the hottest zombie around... or the most ripped corpse.

I tried to shrug off both possibilities as I got into the shower to scrub off the sweat from my skin.

That night, Lex came by with a stack of books for me. All of them were as thick as dictionaries, but they varied on survival and foraging tips.

I huffed, buckling slightly under the weight, "Ugh, isn't this a little much?"

"You said you would--"

"I know, listen to you, and I am, but the Z-Disease is slowing down in the north east."

"Which means the time we have to prepare you is crucial," he said curtly, "I've marked everything I want you to read."

I pursed my lips because I knew better than to complain or argue.

He turned to leave, but stopped, "And by the way, you may want to get used to getting rid of your hair and those long nails of yours."

My hand went up to the towel, protectively holding my curls while my eyes went to the nails I spend so much time primping and manicuring.

"W-What?" I nearly choked on the words, "What do you mean 'get rid of'?!"

"Hair and nails get filthy, and in this situation can hold disease. When you're on the run, you're better off without them."

I felt my heart pounding in my throat that he would even suggest such a thing, "I'll go through your training, but I refuse to do that!"

Lex shrugged, "Suit yourself, but when a zombie's yanking you back by those precious locks of yours, it'll be too late to say I told you so."

I glared at him before I went to my room with the books and slammed the door.

I pressed my back against the cool wood and closed my eyes, silently praying to whatever God was listening that the whole 'zombie thing' would go away, leaving me with my hair, nails, and hot new body.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Dominoes

His name was Alexander, or Lex for short. He was a family friend, close to my mother. He may as well have been my uncle. He was a very relaxed kind of guy that enjoyed fishing on the weekends and the beach. He always had a permanent tan that seemed to contrast with his white hair and a smile that could light up a room.

Lex knew it was going to happen before everyone else. He was a huge conspiracy theorist. He always had a way of tying world events together. He told me it was just a matter of time before the world fought back against us. Of course I would laugh it off and steer the conversation in another direction. He, always sensing when things became a little too dark, would follow me into my world of cosmetics from around the world and that cute dress that I wanted so badly.

Contrary to popular belief, an apocalypse doesn't happen overnight. It happens quickly, but you don't wake up to the world on fire. It happens like a series of dominoes toppling one after another until you realize there's no stopping the momentum.

In this case, biological warfare; a disease that the news started calling 'The Z-Disease'.

I thought it was an awful name. Like, be more original. Honestly.

Anyway, not only was this a hot button issue on the news, but it started in the city. New York City to be exact. Funny how the movies got that right too. Nearly 8 million people were dead, missing or struck with the Z-Disease in the course of two weeks. That city literally tore itself apart and was turned into a desolate wasteland of bodies, broken glass, smoke and ashes. Seeing it on the news felt surreal.

The mourning came afterwards from all corners of the country, but the nightmare didn't stop there, it was only beginning.

My parents brushed it off like most everyone did: tragic, but there was nothing that we personally could have done to aid or stop it. No one could have, really. Who could ever predict it was coming?

Lex said he knew. He told my mother and I that it would only get worse and that we would do well to arm ourselves and stock up.

Mom laughed it off as another one of his 'crazy theories' but for some reason I thought it would be best to listen to him. I don't know why I chose that very moment.

When I told him I believed him, he squeezed my shoulder and said, "If you're going to listen to what I have to say, you have a long road ahead of you."

He wasn't kidding.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Apocalypse

My name is Amy. I'm twenty years old and I just finished my second year of college. I love the hell out of shopping and make-up. I have way too much of it to count but I still find myself going back for more. I could literally live in a make-up store. It's my addiction. Or rather, it was. Nowadays there's more important things for me to worry about. You know, like the apocalypse.

Before an apocalypse happens, everyone talks about it with a fevered excitement.

Seriously. Stop me if you've had this conversation before. You know the one.

The one where people talk about what they would do, how they would do it, where they would go and so on. If you lived in a food store, then you would never go hungry. You could always hunker down in a weapon shop. If someone came after you, you could always fill them with bullets and be done with it. Hole up in your house, live off of what you have. The solutions are always cut and dry, and the goal is to be a complete and total bad ass, and most importantly: survive.

Then, one day you're actually there. You realize that it's like a survivor movie where even the most sane among us turn absolutely and completely rabid. What the disease doesn't kill, stupidity, greed and sheer panic will. Truly, only the strongest claw their way to the top. Or that's what everyone is lead to believe.

Yet, somehow I'm here.

I'm not exactly the kind of person that even I would consider apocalypse ready. I'm on the short side and I'm not exactly trained in any way to defend myself. I carried mace in my trendy little purse (that totally matched my nails, by the way) as a precaution, but nothing ever came of it.

But yesterday, I killed a man.

I put a bullet in his head because he was bitten. Once that happens there's no turning back. The movies are accurate about that part. You get bitten by a zombie, it's like rabies, but more vicious. Anything that made your loved one human, gone. Save for their face. That's what makes it difficult.

I didn't want to kill him. He was like a father to me, but I had to and I did. I watched him die, heard his last words, his last breath...

And no amount of retail therapy will ever get the image out of my mind.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Rumors

"Hey, can I ask you a question?"

The pale boy again. She was just as tall as he was, but he had a very lithe frame that seemed to twitch with excess energy while her curvy frame planted itself, immovable as a boulder. She crossed her arms and glared at him. Really, she was surprised he even approached her again considering that he saw the black wings unfold from her back. However, he seemed to be genuinely curious, his eyes dancing as he looked at her.

Lia rolled her eyes as she closed her locker door, "What do you want?"

"So," his voice dropped in tone, "What are you exactly?"

She grinned, leaning forward, "I'm a succubus, aren't you scared?"

He shook his head, "No way, and I'm not afraid of you."

She laughed, "You're a little afraid."

"Okay, maybe just a little, but you know. I have questions. Succubus questions."

Lia gave a resigned sigh as she began walking with her books in hand, "Fine. What do you want to know?"

"Do you really have to kill people when you have sex with them so you can live?"

"No, those are just rumors."

"So do you happen to be behind the murders going down around town?"

Lia stopped and stared at him flatly.

"Please don't slam me into a locker again," He said taking a step back.

"Then don't ask me stupid questions like that," Lia looked really annoyed, "And even if I were behind them, why would I out myself to you?"

His mouth opened and closed a few times, hands flailing as he tried to think, "Because you might know!"

"Well, hate to disappoint, but I don't."

Lia continued walking along, but the boy was hot on her heels.

"So can you fly or are the wings just for show?"

"Why would I have wings if I couldn't fly?"

"Pads have wings and they can't fly."

Lia actually stopped and quirked a brow. It took her a moment to realize what he really said before she burst out laughing, and soon he was laughing too. She laughed so hard that she had to lean against a locker and wipe tiny tears from her eyes, "Did you really?"

"Does this make up or the bad foot we started on?"

"Only a little bit."

He held out his hand, "Stiles."

She shook his hand with a genuine smile, "I'm Lia."

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Emissary's Kiss

"Because you've done nothing wrong."

The words resonated inside of her. The very matter-of-fact way that Marin said them made her feel absolved of the situation, but she knew better. She still couldn't help but feel suspicious of this woman even if she had saved her life.

"How can you say that? I drained someone within an inch of their life," Lia narrowed her eyebrows to look as intimidating as she could, but somehow it fell flat because Marin was smiling again. It was both surprising and a little unnerving at how it made her scowl soften.

"You beat someone with malicious intent within an inch of their life," Marin corrected her, tilting her head to flip her chestnut hair out of her eyes.

"How could you possibly know that?"

"My job as an emissary is to keep balance, and you're doing nothing to throw it off," Marin's eyes darkened as she tilted her chin downward, "But, if you had been killed back there..."

She had heard of emissaries as a child, but never within a good context. They were kind of like the boogiemen of the succubi world. "Be careful or the emissaries will get you..." Her mother's words echoed in her head. But how could she be afraid of this woman with her doe eyes? Every touch on her skin was soft as silk and made her forget about the burns, even if only for a moment. If emissaries were so dangerous, why was her smile so reassuring?

Lia actually laughed at this, even if it was bitter and sarcastic, "So what? Are you saying I'm important somehow?"

"Your death would have thrown off the balance," Marin said calmly, "So I suppose you can say, yes. You're important."

That was something Lia had never heard from anyone. Her eyes went to the ground and she scoffed at the words.

"Won't you heal now?"

"I told you, I have no power left to heal," Lia said in defeat.

"Then take mine."

Lia looked surprised. This woman put herself in danger's way to save her life, "I couldn't..."

"There's no way you can make it back home inconspicuously unless you're in disguise."

Lia nodded hesitantly as Marin held out her arm for her to touch. Lia reached out, but she couldn't bring herself to do it. Her fingertips were mere inches away from Marin's forearm when her hand started trembling. Her eyes couldn't stop looking between her own fingers and those damnable eyes.

There was no way she could leave their haven without a disguise, and there was no way she could achieve that without touching Marin. It was so simple; just reach out and touch her. She didn't even have to take a lot. Just enough.

But Lia pulled back her trembling hand before her eyes dropped to her lap, embarrassed, "I can't, I just can't do it."

Marin nodded with an understanding expression before she put her hand on Lia's shoulder, "Then let me," she whispered before she leaned forward and pressed her lips to Lia's.

Lia froze. It was a kiss that didn't intend to take, it was given, a gift, and it asked for nothing in return. The kiss was pure, unlike anything else she had experienced. As they kissed, she could feel the burning pain on her skin disappear and she could feel the horns and wings disappearing.

In that moment, she swore Marin was all that she could see. Marin was the sun and Marin was the moon. Marin was the air around her, Marin was flowing through her veins. Marin's skin smelled fresh like strawberries in the summertime. If heaven had a flavor, it would be Marin's lips. Her energy was the most fulfilling thing Lia ever had the pleasure of becoming one with.

Lia slowly, reluctantly pulled back and looked at her. The awe of her beauty and the taste on her tongue still fresh on her senses left her speechless. Marin smiled and stood, offering a hand to help her up.

"Don't worry about the Holidays bothering you anymore. I'll make sure they stay far away from you," Marin assured Lia as she pulled her up.

Lia stood, holding onto Marin's hand a little bit longer, enjoying her touch, before she let her hand slip away. She spoke in a voice barely above a whisper, "Thank you."

"Can you make it on your own?" Marin asked, squeezing her shoulder in assurance.

"I'll be okay," Lia managed a smile of her own.

As soon as they turned to part ways, Marin turned back one more time, "Lia?"

Lia felt herself turn around so quickly it nearly made her head spin.

"I work in the holistic shop downtown if you ever need me," she smiled, that brilliant, gorgeous smile.

Lia could feel her face glowing with heat as she began walking away quickly. Soon, she broke into a run, elated at the energy coursing through her body. Running felt like drifting. The air around her felt pleasantly warm and the sunset looked like a gold drop against lavender skies. This energy made her feel whole and new somehow, but she couldn't put her finger on why.

When she got home and went to her room, she allowed her disguise to slip. No need to waste this precious energy if she didn't have to.

She sat down at her computer desk, deciding that she would catch up on her studying and her homework. Lia needed something painfully mundane after the last week. She reached for a pencil and happened to catch her reflection in a mirror she situated nearby. Her brows creased in concern at what she saw, wondering for a moment if the face staring back was really her own. She grasped the mirror and held it closer to her face.

Her blood red eyes had softened to a brilliant pink.

Her mother told her a long time ago that a succubus with pink eyes was the mark of a weak succubus because it meant they had fallen in love.

"It's against our nature to be in love. Humans are food for us. Why would anyone want to be manipulated by their food?" Her mother said in disgust.

But if that was true, then why did it feel so sweet?

With trembling hands, Lia set the mirror on her desk and pushed herself up. She walked to her window and stared at the first star in the sky, wondering what everything - the Holidays, Marin, and her new found pink eyes - meant for her future. Anxiety stirred in her belly until she thought about the kiss that literally changed her. It didn't just touch her lips, it touched her very core, and something about that made her feel hopeful for what was to come.

(AN: I'll definitely write more about Lia in the future, but I think this is a good stopping point for now. :3)