A Paranormal/Post-Apocalyptic/Christmas Horror Story
Word Count:  20.3K
$2.99 e
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A family on the run, searching for food, shelter, and others not infected.

A plague is wiping out the population, stealing the humanity from people and turning them into monsters. Kem and Armand are willing to do whatever it takes to protect their daughter and survive. Nothing is promised, not life, not their next meal, not even a decent night’s rest.

The quality of life is quickly diminishing. How much is too much? How long until the fight for survival is no longer worth it, and it’s time for a dignified end rather than a slow, painful death?




Chapter 1

“Momma, I’m hungry.”

“I know, baby. We all are.”

Kem held her five-year-old daughter tightly against her. Night had fallen several hours ago, and Armand had yet to return. Although she hadn’t voiced her worry, Teela did.

“When is Daddy coming back?”

“Soon, honey. Real soon.”

“Will he bring something to eat when he gets here?” The child glanced up at her mother with hope in her eyes.

“That’s why he left, wasn’t it?” Kem flashed her a smile.

A noise in the distance alerted them both. Something was moving toward them, and from the sound of it, it wasn’t being careful about being heard. Armand had left them here, hiding inside what used to be a hair salon within a strip mall. From where they knelt, light from the nearly-full moon came through the shattered plate glass front windows, stopping a few feet away. The chair they were hiding behind shielded them from being seen from outside, but not if someone entered the building.

Teela whimpered but pressed her lips tightly together as she’d been taught. Her breathing quickened in rising fear. Kem clutched her daughter more tightly and whispered in her ear.

“Be ready to run.”

Teela gave a quick nod. Kem felt the child tense in her embrace.

The movement came closer. Kem felt for the ax she’d leaned against the cabinet beside her. Her fingers curled around the smooth handle, and the feel of it gave her a sense of hope.

The infected shuffled past the window. With the moonlight behind it, it loomed dark and menacing as it paused and looked around. It wavered on its feet as it sniffed the cold air.

Teela moved her foot, a slight movement that seemed to echo inside the abandoned building.

The infected opened its mouth and howled, bursting through the remaining glass, unmindful of the deep gouges it made on its body. It came straight toward the chair where Kem and Teela were hiding as its nerve-shattering cries rose in volume.

“Teela, run!” Kem gave the girl a shove toward the rear of the building and lifted the ax, swinging it in an arc in front of her. The blade sank into the creature’s shoulder, knocking it off its feet. She took advantage of the moment and dashed after her child. Since killing one of the infected was difficult most times, it was always a better strategy to try and hide from them. But as their numbers grew, it was becoming almost impossible to avoid being spotted and chased.

Which was why it was imperative Kem and Armand get themselves and their daughter out of the city as soon as possible.

Teela was hiding behind a dumpster behind the shop. Kem grabbed the girl’s hand on the run and together they dashed across the littered parking lot.

Ahead, Kem noticed a partly-opened rear door to another shop. She briefly debated whether or not to go inside. Normally it was safer to remain out in the open where they could spot the infected and avoid any confrontation. It wasn’t wise to be trapped inside a building that would soon be surrounded by tens of those things. But with winter upon them, that option was no longer viable. They needed shelter from the storm she could smell approaching.

Reaching the shop, Kem paused, bracing her back to the wall, to listen for any noise coming from within. Teela whimpered slightly as she clutched her mother around the waist. Placing a hand on the child’s shoulder, she gave it a pat, her signal to remain quiet until she could determine whether or not it was okay to go inside.

Sniffing again, Kem was unable to detect the rotting scent of an infected inside. She managed to squeeze through the narrow opening, bringing her daughter inside with her.

They were in some sort of storage room. From the faint tang of rubber and metal, Kem guessed it was an auto parts store. Taking the slim cigarette lighter from her coat pocket, she thumbed the wheel until a tiny flame appeared. Using the meager light to guide their way, she cautiously made her way through the inventory room and into the main servicing area.

“Momma.” Teela’s whisper caught her attention. She glanced down to see the girl pointing to a door labeled LOUNGE. “Maybe they have something we can eat in there.”

“Let’s find out.”

The staff lounge was small, but it did contain a vending machine. Kem stared in surprise at the candy bars, chips, cupcakes, and cookies still held inside the machine. There wasn’t much, but there was enough to stave off starvation for another day.

“How are we going to get it out?” the little girl asked.

Closing the door behind her, she picked up a chair. “Stay back,” she ordered and jammed the chair’s feet into the glass front. The explosion was deafening. For several seconds the two of them paused, their bodies tensing as they listened for the sound of something coming to investigate the source of the noise. When a good minute passed without results, Kem allowed herself to breathe again.

“Let me grab the stuff,” she told her daughter. “I don’t need you to cut yourself on the glass. Take what I hand you and pile it up on the table.”

They made swift work of excavating the snack items, stopping when they were done to eat a few of the treats.

“How are we gonna take this stuff with us?”

Kem smiled at the smear of chocolate at the corners of her daughter’s mouth. “There’s bound to be something in this store we can use. Hold on. I won’t be long.” Giving her child a kiss on the forehead, she slipped out of the lounge to look for a carry-all. It didn’t take her long before she came across a backpack inside what appeared to be the manager’s office. Taking it back to the lounge, she dumped the contents onto the floor, then they refilled it with the remainder of their goodies.

The infusion of sweets gave her strength, but she also knew the sugar high wouldn’t last long. “We have to find Daddy. Stay behind me. You know the drill.” She hoisted the backpack over her shoulders and led the girl out the way they’d entered.

Kem extinguished the light. When her eyes finally adjusted to normal light, she surveyed the exterior. Somewhere out there Armand was hunting for food. With luck, she hoped he was successful. Teela huddled next to her mother as they continued to wait for some sign of the man.

She felt a tug on her coat sleeve. Kem bent down to hear Teela whisper, “How much longer?”

“Soon,” she promised, but it was an empty one. She had no idea where he was, or even if he was still alive. There were no longer any definites in this post-apocalyptic world. No more sureties. They couldn’t even take another hour of life for granted.

Kem steeled herself. She’d give her husband until the moon disappeared behind the buildings. If he hadn’t returned by then, she and Teela would have to move on. They needed to get out of the city where most of the infected were located.

By her guess, an hour passed with no sign of her husband. Neither did she spot another infected. If there was anything to be grateful for, it was the fact that the infected tended not to be as active when the temperature dropped. Neither were they as active during the night. There had to have been some reason why that one lone creature had been roaming along the front of the beauty shop, but it no longer mattered.

Teela fell into a restless sleep. Kem watched the moon as it began its slow descent. As it moved nearer to dropping behind the buildings, her heart also fell. Her warm tears quickly froze on her cheeks and she picked them off with her fingernails.

At long last she realized he wasn’t coming back. It was time to move on. Time to face another day. Another struggle to survive. Another step closer to oblivion, regardless of what she and Teela did.

Slowly, painfully, she got to her feet and shook her daughter awake. “Come. We need to go.”


“He didn’t make it, sweetie. He—” Her voice broke. She couldn’t finish the sentence. Teela continued to stare up at her in hopeful confusion. Sighing, Kem gave the child a little tug and moved to the corner of the building.

Cautiously, she peered around the side of the building to see if it was safe when an infected launched itself at her from the shadows.