*****Resistant, a Sci-Fi/Horror Romance. Coming September 26th.*****
Before the outbreak, Sahara was a high school teacher living alone in a small Alabama town. She saw her life as nothing more than endless days of teaching children Shakespeare and nights reading paranormal romances. She was happy with her life, as quiet and mundane as it was.
After the outbreak, Sahara becomes a warrior traveling across the country in search of sanctuary. She spends her days and nights killing zombies, searching for food, trying to maintain her sanity, and if Daniel has his say, finding love.
How will Sahara help those who are left find safety and stability in a world full of nightmares? Will she stop resisting the man she loves and open her heart, knowing that he may not live through the next second let alone the next year? Join Sahara and her people in a fight against creatures set out to devour them and the unknown threat controlling them to find out.
We’ve all seen the movies and TV shows, read the books and graphic novels, and played the video games. We grew up on them. I remember being eight years old, curled up on the sofa with my mom and a big bowl of popcorn watching the 1968 black and white version of George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead and swearing to her that I wasn’t scared. In truth I was close to peeing myself, I was so terrified. From that point on, I was addicted the genre. Not addicted like so many others of my generation. I didn’t play the Left for Dead video games, mostly because I never liked playing video games despite being from the video game generation. I didn’t read the graphic novels that AMC based their television show The Walking Dead on, but I watched the show religiously. I read a large number of the young adult and adult zombie novels that sprouted up, but not all of them like those who were much more entranced by the creatures than I was did.
At first, no one wondered about the sudden influx in zombie entertainment. We loved the stories, loved being scared shitless, and loved seeing the good guys—for the most part—kick some undead ass, but the older my generation got and the more popular the genre became, the more we began to think, to look back on things, and to examine the world around us.
For some—mostly the crazies who looked everywhere for conspiracies—it started with the comic book turned television show. We were both elated and weary of the idea of the show in the beginning. Sure, we liked to see such things on the big screen, but every Sunday night in the privacy of our own home—that seemed too personal. But when the show aired, everyone who watched was hooked.
For the majority of us, it was the growing popularity of Zombie Marches that started in cities like Chicago, Boston, Miami, Houston, Iowa City, L.A., and eventually spread to much smaller towns like mine that got us thinking something more was going on with the influx of interest in zombies. I didn’t start to take notice until these marches turned into events that lasted whole weekends. At these events, people that in the beginning we assumed were your average Janes and Joes started offering defense lessons on how to fight and where to shoot a zombie. How to clothe yourself to prevent a zombie from biting you. How to safeguard your home, office, or car from being overrun by zombies. What kinds of meats a person could eat and not get infected. Can you believe these people suggested eating cats?
People blew them off initially. They walked by their booths and smiled indulgently, then went back to taking pictures of their friends and neighbors in their zombie cos-tumes. Occasionally, some played along with the demonstrations and when those watching from the sidelines realized that the people manning these booths were serious and knew what they were talking about, they began to take notice.
When one of these events hit my small town, my spidey senses went on red alert. I could see doing them in larger cities where you had a wider diversity of people who would be interested in attending. Yeah, a large number of people in my hometown were zombie fans just like the rest of the world, but we weren’t fanatics. Mostly my town was a retirement town. There were no nightclubs or strip bars within driving distance, we didn’t have a Hot Topic in our mall, we didn’t have a Starbucks, let alone a comic book store. We did have a church on every corner and three bingo halls.
Why was I, a twenty-seven year old single woman, living there, you ask? Well, that would be because my parents had me when they were in their late thirties and early forties, and when I was ten we moved there because they were tired of what they called “the big city.” My high school graduating class barely had fifty people in it—that is how few young couples lived in the town. Most of my classmates moved off the day after graduation. I did as well, but only long enough to get my degree, then I came back to teach English at my alma mater.
When Zombie Fest, which was what it was called by the time it reached us a couple of years before the outbreak, arrived at Gates, my hometown, I attended to the delight of my students and the disgust of my fellow teachers who were all ten or more years older than I was. How could I not go with all the writers I love listed on the docket to read from their novels, hold Q & As, and sign anything you put in front of them? The flyers posted around town made the event look interesting, but the list of writers who would be attending to discuss their next book was what had my attention. I was not passing up the opportunity to get Ilsa Bick, Jonathan Maberry, Travis Adkins, and Mira Grant’s (to name a few of the authors attending our show) autograph.
The festival took place in a large open field owned by one of the town’s oldest families, the Starks. I’m sure that one of the Starks’ grandchildren must have been a zombie fan because otherwise as stuffy and conservative as they were, the festival would have had to pass by our town. Starks’ Field is the only place in town big enough to hold an event that size, and they would have refused to host it if not for someone in the family insisting they do so.
I spent the entire first day of the festival wandering from booth to booth in awe at what was going on around me. There were booths where you could learn to use a bow and arrow, a booth that taught first aid, a booth that gave instructions on—get this—how to skin a cat, a booth that sold guns, a booth that sold body armor, a booth that sold survival guides. There were lectures from doctors and other specialists in the “Zombie Field”—a field I hadn’t even known existed—that discussed the different types of zombies: the flesh eating, the brain eating, the controlled by a puppet master, the fast zombie, the slow zombie, the newly turned, the starving, the single zombie, the horde, and so on. They also gave seminars on how to commit suicide if you are bitten, how to muster the courage to shoot a loved one if they are bitten, how to dispose of the body, how to stay relatively sane after an uprising.
There were even some who discussed evacuation plans and procedures that were geared for our city in case the break out actually happened. I nearly brushed off one such discussion until I looked at the map on the wall behind the speaker. The map was an exact replica of Gates. The speaker knew our town inside and out. He knew the names of the prominent families in town and a great deal of those families that weren’t so prominent. He knew their occupations, their family history, their lands. Knew which homes were best equipped to stave off an attack and which would house the most food. His plans seemed so real, I almost felt as if I were listening to a military general or town official giving a real speech in preparations for a real outbreak.
The day was fun, but it left me with an uneasy feeling that no matter how many times I chided myself for being stupid and reassured myself that there were no such things as zombies, I couldn’t shake. Despite this feeling, I didn’t go out and buy a single cross bow or Kevlar vest. I didn’t go home and board up all the windows on the first floor of my house. I didn’t stock-pile water and ammunition for my father’s hunting rifle, though the compulsion would creep into my head while I was in the grocery store that I needed to buy a little extra and store it in the basement, but I squashed the impulse as being ridiculous.
Six months later, another festival came through. This one was nearly identical to the last, but that didn’t stop me from spending an entire day there booth hopping. I also think more town’s folk came to this one than they did the first one. Six months after this one came through, another set up for a weekend and even more people came out. More movies and TV shows popped up and more novels and survivor guides hit the shelves, and more and more of them took on a serious tone. Not all of the previous books on the subject were comical, but the new ones were much more serious and had more detail in them than the old ones. They had diagrams for disassembling and reassembling firearms, schematics on how to build bombshelters, and instructions on how to cut out teeth and tongues and cut off hands to make safe zombie pets.
No one I knew appeared to be worried about the increase in zombie-themed things, but I started noticing more and more empty shelves at Wal-Mart. I started noticing that people didn’t dress as casually as they used to. Yeah, most of the older women who taught with me wore heels and long skirts to work, but I no longer saw them in the same outfits outside of school. I also noticed that I was buying an extra case of bottled water or a few extra cans of soup when I went to the super market. I stopped buying shirts that were a size too big because I thought the bigger size would hide my rounded body and started buying clothes that fit to me. This change in wardrobe made me self-conscious, so I pulled the treadmill out and started using it a little more often. Not a lot. I was essentially a lazy person, so more afternoons than not the thing sat there, but every once in a while, I wandered over to it and took a walk.
Most of those times came when I stumbled across a zombie movie on television and saw how much running and moving around the survivors had to do. I watched them and told myself if that was me, I’d have been dead a long time ago. I don’t think I would be able to run from the slowest, oldest, most maimed and limbless zombie. This mental conversation forced me out of my chair and onto the wretched machine.
By the time the shit hit the fan, I wished I had done it more often.
Even with all the advanced knowledge and warnings, we were still shocked and in denial when it actually happened, which is sad considering how slowly it actually happened. The reigning theory is that we created it. By we, I mean the great scientists of the United States of America, or at least according to a large number of anonymous blogs that started popping up a few years ago from men and women claiming to be one of the scientists or worked with one of the scientists or one of the military personnel who ordered the release of the virus or one of the military personnel who was ordered to clean up after the virus or…well, you get the picture.
The blogs told about how after Desert Storm in the early nineteen-nineties our government started looking into a broader range of chemical warfare. They wanted a quick and easy way to get rid of “terrorists.” They came up with a few things, but it wasn’t until 9-11 that we developed the Z-Strain. The Z-Strain was supposed to be a potent hallucinogenic. It was a hallucinogenic all right. People snapped and thought they were flesh-eating zombies. In trying to fix this problem, the scientist actually turned these people and the rest of the population into flesh-eating zombies.
See, when they first started using Z-Strain in Iraq and Afghanistan, the person infected would zombie-out and kill a few people before the military came to kill the person. The people they killed weren’t turned or infected, they died. For the most part, our government was fine with this, except for the part where they had to watch people eating each other. They didn’t mind if people lost it and gunned each other down in the streets, what they did mind was watching them pin people down and rip the flesh from their bodies, so they started playing with the design and before you know it, they had made things worse.
Three years after the first festival came to my town, the first video went viral. Ninety-nine percent of the world thought it was a hoax. School was out for summer break, and I was contemplating putting up the highly recommended perimeter fence. The last festival I attended said that an electrical fence would help persuade the zombies to move along. I highly doubted this was true, but paranoia was starting to get the best of me. My paranoia wasn’t helped by the fact that my fellow neighbors were steadily putting them up as well. On the day I decided to look into having one installed, over half the homes on my block had them.
The gentleman at Lowe’s suggested that if I didn’t like the look of a chain link fence I could put a wooden privacy fence up around it or behind it. This would up the cost, but would be prettier. I told the gentleman I would think about it and let them know. They employed outside contractors whom they would call to do the install if I didn’t want to do it myself, he informed me. I smiled, nodded my head and left.
That night a college friend of mine who lived in Atlanta sent me a link to the video. The video wasn’t bad quality but because of the distance between the action and the person doing the recording you couldn’t tell what was going on. Yeah, it looked as if a person in military garb was chowing down on one of his or her fellow soldiers. The narrator of the video claimed that he was also a soldier but wouldn’t say who he was, what branch he was in, or what his ranking was. He did tell us that he was in the southern region of Kandahar in Afghanistan and that we were watching a real zombie attack. The narrator didn’t say how the person was turned into a zombie, if there were others, or if the situation was contained. He didn’t really have time. The video cut off after about thirty seconds.
I did a Google search to see what any of the legitimate news stations were saying about it. They weren’t saying a thing. They weren’t even acknowledging they knew anything about it. I found this surprising considering the number of views the video had received by the time I saw it.
The next day, after I had gone back to Lowe’s and paid an obscene amount of money to have the fence installed, news stations and websites were talking about the “Hoax Heard around the World.” I felt stupid for buying into the video when NBC News broke down the video and “proved” that it was a fake. Okay, I wasn’t relieved enough to cancel my order. I told myself that I taught high school, and high school kids loved to prank and torment their teachers. I hadn’t had a problem as of yet, but the fence would discourage such behavior.
Two months after that video aired, another went viral. This one was of a group of Pakistani civilians tearing each other apart south of Nushki. I heard about this one from my students. Of course, the media broke it down as well and showed how the video’s maker faked the footage, but no matter how they broke it down, not everyone was buying that that one was a hoax. This was a good thing because more videos started popping up after that. At first, all of them were overseas in what we would consider small underdeveloped areas, places I’d never even heard of, places so far from our little town that we didn’t care if they were real or not—they couldn’t affect us.
By the end of the school year, our government had finally come clean. They still maintained that the first few videos were fake. They had to. They had been adamant about them being hoaxes; they couldn’t go back on their word now. Eventually, when our government couldn’t hide things any longer, the president went on air and announced to the public that no, there weren’t zombies, but that yes, there was a virus they were trying to contain that made a person hallucinate and think they were a zombie. No, the people bitten weren’t turned, the virus wasn’t spreading that way, though they never said how it was spreading. They were sure it was something the Taliban had created to use on us, so they didn’t know everything about it, but our best doctors were working on it, and they were containing the outbreaks. That was what they claimed, but that didn’t stop people from panicking.
When school started back three months later, nearly every house in Gates had a security fence, and a large number of them either had their ground-level windows boarded up or bricked up. I thought about doing the same, but hadn’t gotten to that point in my paranoia yet. Privately owned businesses were starting to do the same. Public ones, on the other hand, were trying to appear calm.
Weapon and gun sales were on the rise and people were definitely stock piling food because any store that sold anything that resembled food was selling out almost as quickly as they stocked their shelves. Our economy was doing better than it had in years with so many Americans stock piling everything they could get their hands, even things that would do them no good once the zombies took over. Things like DVDs and jewelry. I guess some thought they might be able to use the gold and stones in the jewelry if the dollar became obsolete and we returned to the barter system.
I won’t lie, I was definitely one of those people spending every dime I earned on things I might need if the end of the world actually came, but I was trying to be discrete about it. I wasn’t worried about others thinking I was a crazy paranoid because nearly everyone was turning into one of those. I had a hard time allowing myself to believe what was going on. I also didn’t want people seeing what I was storing. I didn’t want them invading my house when they ran out of supplies and taking what I had. I’m not a selfish person. I know I’m just one person, and most likely I’ll share with those whom I feel need help, but I know people. When they get desperate, they do crazy things.
When my O.B wanted to run “routine” blood tests during an otherwise normal yearly checkup that used to only include a pap smear and breast examine, I knew I was right to panic and plan. My doctor tried to say they were testing for pregnancy or STDs, but I knew they were starting to test for infection. She knew who I had been with last and how long it had been. I was clean and not pregnant and we both knew it.
The following year, in order for any student or faculty member to come back to school after the Christmas break—I’m not calling it a Holiday break, everyone knows what kind of break it is—they had to submit to blood tests and vaccines. The school claimed the tests checked for some new strain of the flu that was spreading across the Midwest, but I hadn’t heard about this flu until then.
The school system I worked for wasn’t the only one testing either; businesses all over the country started requiring their employees to submit to testing or they would be fired. People had to have proof that they had gone in for testing and weren’t infected a week prior to flying. If they were staying anywhere more than a week, they had to find a doctor to give them another test before they could board their return flight.
Jennifer’s full name is Jennifer Lynn Powell Reynolds, and she is a thirty-four year old native of North Alabama. She is newly married. She and her husband, Russell Reynolds, tied the knot on Friday, September 13, 2013.
Jennifer has a Master of Fine Arts degree from National University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of North Alabama.
Writing has always been a large part of her life. In high school, her local newspaper published a large number of her poems, and she won numerous poetry and short stories awards. Since high school, she has worked on a number of different projects, but her focus has mainly been on acquiring her degrees.
She finished the first draft of her first novel, a post-apocalyptic piece titled Alone, around the time she graduated with her B.A. Since then, she has written numerous other novels, short stories, and poems.
Aside from spending her days immersed in the fictional worlds she creates, she works part time at Stained Glass Artistry and as a freelance developmental editor, copyeditor, production coordinator, and eBook coordinator for a number of publishing companies.