Short Story Saturday: Dreamcatcher & the Zombie Horde
Don’t ya’ just love that title? It makes me laugh. Anyway, I wrote this short story today after reading a post on Facebook from a friend of mine, Christina McKnight (well, that’s her author persona anyway), where her daughter asked for a dreamcatcher to stop the zombies from getting her. From it sprung this little number. Hope you enjoy.
Pictures of puppies, kittens, and other little animals dotted the periwinkle walls around Katie as she waited patiently for her mommy to tuck her in. She sat and bounced eagerly, her legs stretched out underneath the purple comforter with frolicking puppies on it. Distracted, she traced a finger playfully from one puppy to the next, imagining them dancing across her lap.
“Ready for bed, munchkin?” Mommy said as she entered the room.
“Story!” she yelled, bouncing some more, but Mommy just glared back.
“Oh, no,” she said, pointing a finger menacingly. “You already got your story. And I specifically said no horror stories after dinner. They give you nightmares.” She shook her head, making her way to the bed and sitting, patting Katie’s pillow. “Lay down.” Mommy kissed her. “And sleep sweet, munchkin.” She patted her on the head and Katie smiled before closing her eyes.
Katie cracked her eyes open just enough so she could watch her mommy walk out, cracking the door open so Katie had the light from the hall as well as the nightlight in a plug on the opposite wall. Between the hallway light, the nightlight and the light streaming in from the windows, the room wasn’t really dark, but shadows still lingered in the corners.
On other nights, when Katie hadn’t listened and read ghost stories late against Mommy’s wishes, she’d imagined ghosts lurking in those inky corners, keeping her awake. She was never sure if keeping her eyes open and glued to the corners, ready and waiting to catch any trespasser, was better or if keeping her eyes closed and pretending it didn’t exist was the better plan.
But tonight, she would prove Mommy wrong. She closed her eyes, preparing to fall straight to sleep, forgetting altogether the shadows that lurked in the dark recesses of her bright, little room. Like the closet she’d forgotten to close. She lay there, trying to relax, trying to forget about it. But she couldn’t. With a huff, she threw back the covers, marched to the closet, and slid the doors in place. There, she thought with a smile. Now I can sleep.
Katie went back and tucked herself in, just like Mommy had not so long ago. She closed her eyes tight and thought happy thoughts, trying to fill her head with puppies and kittens and the river otters she’d seen at the zoo on Sunday.
Scrape. She jumped, turning to the sound, holding her blanket like a shield against whatever threatened her in the night. She looked at the window and saw the dreamcatcher she’d made with her mother. Mommy had encouraged her to make it hers, so she’d used purple leather to wrap the metal ring and dangle from the bottom. The feathers and plastic beads were purple and blue. Puppy and kitty cat charms hung from the web inside the ring, and she smiled at it.
Mommy said the dreamcatcher would protect her. Mommy had said it would protect her from bad dreams. They’d made it after an especially bad nightmare a few months back. She’d woken up screaming and crying, tears pouring down her face as she hiccuped every last breath. Katie had been skeptical of the talisman’s power.
“Well, dreams can’t hurt me,” Katie had told her mother proudly. “What’s going to protect me from ghosts and werewolves and vampires?” Her little head had thought about it for a moment as her eyes rounded in fear. “Or zombies!” Everyone at school had been talking about zombies, about a zombie apocalypse, about how you had to bash them on the head to kill them, otherwise they’d eat your brains. She’d been obsessed with them ever since.
Her mother had shaken her head and smiled sweetly. “I promise, Katie. It’ll protect you from ghosts and werewolves and vampires and even zombies. You only need to have faith in it.”
And she did, because Mommy never lied.
When the noise didn’t repeat itself, Katie lay back down and closed her eyes. She was just relaxing and starting to feel herself drift when scratch. She turned to the window as long, gangly fingers scraped once more against the glass. She gasped, but covered her mouth with both hands, determined not to alert Mommy. Mommy would fuss and take away her books.
So she kept quiet, hands still clasped tightly over her mouth, breath held tight in her lungs, waiting for the hand to reappear. As she waited, her heart pounded away in her little chest, her breaths shallow and quick. She stared so hard, and for so long, that everything seemed to blur and double before her eyes.
Finally, scratch. She cringed as fingernails scraped against the glass, the shadowed hand sliding down before finally disappearing. She jumped again, pulling her blankets up to her eyeballs now.
When the hand disappeared, she focused on the dreamcatcher on the window. Mommy said it would protect her from monsters. Mommy never lied.
She stared, willing the talisman to work.
A low moan carried from outside, and she squeaked, covering her head for a moment before peaking out from her blanket once more to see if it was safe. Two hands reached and scraped the glass this time. She froze, eyes bulging from their sockets as she shook and forced air into her trembling lungs. The dreamcatcher will protect me. Mommy never lies. Mommy never lies.
Another low moan called from outside, and Katie heard the distinct sounds of shuffling as creatures moved against each other outside her window. The moans increased in sound, magnified by proximity and numbers.
Another hand smacked against the window, leaving something dark smeared in its wake. Blood! her little mind cried, unable to see it as anything else. The dark substance stuck to the window like glue, not dripping, just there. Her mind ran through every monster she knew but only one she could think of would have blood that didn’t run. Zombies.
She whipped her head around, searching the room for something she could beat them back with. Tommy in class had suggested a baseball bat. Luke at recess had suggested a golf club. One of the fifth graders had suggested a pump action shotgun, whatever that was. But she didn’t see any baseball bats or golf clubs or even pump action shotguns in her room. Her room was woefully filled with stuffed animals. She didn’t even have Barbie dolls to fight back with. At least they would be hard.
Should she go and tell Mommy about the zombies? Mommy would protect her. But as she latched onto the idea, she shook her head. Mommy wouldn’t believe her. Mommy would say it was just a bad dream. Mommy would take away her books. She couldn’t tell Mommy.
Meanwhile, the cacophony outside her window escalated. Moans echoed off each other as she heard what must have been dozens of zombies climbing over each other to reach her window. She saw a hand, the side of a head, another dark smear. She whimpered, her bottom lip shaking helplessly as she watched, forgetting all about the dreamcatcher that would save her.
The dreamcatcher! The dreamcatcher will save me. Mommy never lies! She stared at the dreamcatcher, still clutching her blanket like it was her only grip on the world.
But the hell outside Katie’s window only got worse. The moans sounded like they were in her head. It sounded like hundreds of zombies waited outside. Shadowed figures shifted and moved in front of the window, banging against it, demanding entrance. She started crying. “Mommy never lies. Mommy never lies,” she started chanting in a whisper only she could hear as she rocked herself in bed, wondering if the dark of the closet would be safer.
Her head was tilted down to the knees she held before her as she rocked when glass shattering broke the night. She looked up and screamed as a hand reached inside, the dreamcatcher no longer at its post.