Genre: Zombie Apocalypse/Horror/LGBT/Fluff
Warnings: mild violence, mild gore, mentions of blood
Word Count: 3,568
Summary: Moira’s been in love with Charlotte forever, so when Charlotte asks her to take her dog for a walk in the middle of the zombie apocalypse, she says yes straight away. Only then Steve the pug is kidnapped by zombies. With the help of her best friend Niamh, Moira needs to find and rescue Steve before it’s too late.
Excerpt is from the start of the novel.
“Okay, okay, breathe, kiddo. It’s not the end of the world – okay, I mean, technically it is, but you can handle this.”
“You are really not helping,” Moira huffed, pinching the bridge of her nose. “And don’t call me kiddo; we’re the same age.”
She could feel a headache coming on, creeping up the back of her neck and settling in her skull. She groaned and curled up tighter, rocking slightly, ignoring the dampness seeping through her jeans and how the mud beneath her shifted slightly with her movements.
“I’m three months older than you,” Niamh replied with a dismissive wave of their hand. “Have you tried praying to Saint Anthony?”
“Saint Anthony is for lost objects; a dog is not an object,” Moira replied tiredly.
“Saint Francis then?”
Moira groaned loudly, a drawn-out sound that started as a deep growl and ended as a high-pitched whine, as she buried her face in her knees and pulled futilely at the short strands of her pixie cut. Niamh squatted beside her and rubbed her back soothingly.
“Okay, clearly having a meltdown in the middle of the park is not faring so well,” they said carefully. “So what do we need to do?”
“I don’t know,” Moira whined, slumping sideways against her best friend. “How am I going to explain to Charlotte that I lost her dog? More specifically, how am I going to explain to her that I lost her dog to zombies?! I mean, what the hell was I thinking? What the hell was she thinking? Who hires a dog-walker in the middle of the apocalypse? Why did I agree to do it?”
“Because you think Charlotte Farrell is the hottest person on the face of the planet,” Niamh stated with a wry grin. “And because everyone needs to keep busy to avoid going bat-shit crazy over the fact that there are now zombies living amongst us, so you decided to keep up your weekend job.”
“I should have done something else; I could have taken up knitting, or, or, read all those books of yours,” Moira said angrily.
“You suck at knitting, and you fall asleep every time you try to read.”
Moira sighed. “That is true.”
She uncurled her legs, wincing as blood started circulating through them properly. She stared at the ground, absent-mindedly tracing shapes in the mud, while mulling over her options. Eventually she sighed and squared her shoulders.
“Okay, we need to go looking for Steve. And pray to whatever Saint is responsible for lost animals that he isn’t dead.”
“I’ve never heard of zombies eating dogs; maybe they just wanted to play with him?”
“That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard,” Moira scoffed, eyes narrowing.
Niamh gasped, placing a hand over their chest dramatically as they stood up. “You wound me! Tell you what, if they’re playing with Steve, you owe me dinner and a High School Musical marathon.”
“Fine, but if they’ve eaten him then you owe me dinner and a Studio Ghibli marathon.”
“Deal.” Niamh grinned, their dark eyes twinkling, and held a hand out to Moira. Moira took it and Niamh hauled her up before they shook hands solemnly. “Let’s get some hurls from the flat just in case.”
The two friends set off towards their shared flat, Moira’s face gloomy as she pondered Steve’s fate; Charlotte would never forgive her if he died, or turned into a zombie dog (was that even possible?), and Moira would never have the chance to ask her out. That is, if she ever worked up the gumption to do it.
“You look irritated and melancholic,” Niamh observed. “Normally you’re one or the other, it’s a bit strange seeing both expressions on your face.”
“I really want Steve to be alive, but on the other hand, High School Musical…ugh,” Moira said, wincing at her feeble attempt at a joke.
Niamh simple stared at her calmly as they left the park and walked along the road towards their flat. Moira tried her best to ignore them, she really did, but Niamh had this knack of looking at her that made her want to tell them all her deep dark secrets. Like the time she “accidentally” burned the chǎo má shi, because while Moira loved everything else about her Chinese heritage, she couldn’t stomach the food, much to her parents disappointment. Thinking about that lead to thoughts about all the other things that disappointed her parents… Moira quickly shrugged it off and focused instead on trying, and failing, to avoid Niamh’s gaze.
Her resolve crumbled far too quickly in the face of her friend’s look. “And I was also thinking about how I’ll never get a chance to ask out Charlotte if her dog dies,” she mumbled, feeling her face heat up.
“You’ve had chances to ask her out for ten years now,” Niamh pointed out, rolling their eyes. “When are you actually going to do it?”
“I’m waiting for the right moment,” Moira said defensively.
“There will never be a right moment,” Niamh argued. “First it was because she was new to the school, then it was because you were just getting to know each other and you really wanted to be friends first, then it was because she came out as trans and started transitioning and she needed friendship and support instead of a girlfriend, then it was because you were both going to different universities, then it was because you were getting to know each other all over again and you didn’t want to rush it, then it was because of the apocalypse, and now…well now I have no idea what’s holding you back.”
“Right now, the impending death of her dog is what’s holding me back,” Moira snapped irritably.
“What about before today? What about after? When you bring Steve back to her, whole and alive because all the zombies wanted to do was play with him. Will you ask her out then, or will you have another excuse?” Niamh asked as they entered the apartment complex and walked up the stairs to the first floor.
“We’re in the middle of the apocalypse.” Moira unlocked the door and they entered the flat, both going to their respective rooms to get their hurls.
“Ah, to be fair, it’s a fairly uneventful apocalypse,” Niamh argued, their voice muffled by the walls. “Sure, there was a bit of panic when the zombies first showed up, but they’re grand. Like obviously you need to give them a bit of a clatter round the head if they get too close, but all in all, they’re not that much of a nuisance. Nowhere near as bloodthirsty or brain-hungry as the films made them out to be.”
The two friends re-entered the sitting room, armed with their hurls. Niamh had tied their dreadlocks up with a colourful bandana and was grinning excitedly, while Moira tried to quell the nausea in her gut as she gripped her hurl tightly.
“Right; let’s find this dog,” she said, turning to leave the flat.
“If I were a zombie and I’d kidnapped a dog to play with, where would I be?” Niamh mused aloud, tapping their hurl against their lip.
“Well they don’t move fast so they can’t have gotten far,” Moira said, scanning the park around them.
“Which way did they go when they took Steve?”
“Uh…I don’t remember,” Moira admitted. “I was so shocked when they appeared, and then I realised I’d forgotten to bring any weapons out with me, and then Steve just ran at them, barking and wagging his tail like they were his best friends because he is clearly an idiot. By the time I realised what was going on they’d already left while I was just standing there like a total eejit.”
Niamh slowly shook their head, giving Moira a thoroughly disappointed look.
“Okay then. Let’s start where they took him and spread out from there.”
Moira nodded and followed Niamh through the park to the place where Steve had disappeared. They spread out and made their way slowly through the park in a tense silence. Occasionally Niamh would call over to Moira, pointing out a pine cone shaped like a person, or a cute squirrel, but Moira was lost in her own thoughts, panicking over what would happen if she couldn’t find Charlotte’s dog.
They were three quarters of the way through the park and Moira was now in full panic mode; thoughts racing through her head imagining all the horrific things that might have happened to Steve; how she would have to bring his poor lifeless, bloodied and torn body back to Charlotte, how the other woman would scream and curse her very existence. The guilt was eating away at her gut, her chest felt constricted with every breath, the world was starting to sway around her…
Moira snapped out of her panic and looked over at Niamh who was crouched behind some bushes. She frowned and mouthed ‘What is it now?’ at her friend, who pointed frantically at the bushes. Moira crossed her arms and shook her head in frustration.
“I don’t care how cute the squirrel is; we need to focus,” she said exasperatedly.
“Get over here!” Niamh hissed, continuing to gesture frantically at the bushes.
Moira huffed in annoyance and stomped over, mentally berating Niamh for wasting her time but the thoughts vanished when she peered through the bushes and saw Steve.
The little pug was barking happily as he ran between two zombies who were throwing a ball for him to fetch, his lead flapping behind him as he moved. The zombies’ mouths were gaping in a gut-curdling approximation of a smile, and they grunted in encouragement every time Steve brought the ball back to them and then ran in circles, waiting for them to throw it again.
Moira gaped at the scene before her and turned to Niamh to make sure she wasn’t hallucinating. Their giant shit-eating grin told her that she definitely wasn’t, and she immediately scowled as Niamh started humming ‘Get Your Head In The Game.’
“Don’t,” she stated in a warning tone. “We need to get him away from them. Any ideas?”
“Did Charlotte give you any dog treats? Food is the way to a dog’s heart after all.”
“No,” Moira said glumly, and then quickly brightened as she said, “But I do have a chocolate bar,” pulling it from her coat pocket.
“You can’t give chocolate to a dog!”
“I won’t actually let him eat it, I’ll just lure him to us with it.”
Niamh stared at her sceptically, before sighing and waving their hand in a ‘go ahead’ gesture. Moira crawled forward through the bushes until she was in plain sight of Steve and the zombies, then knelt and opened the chocolate bar.
“Steeeevvveeeee,” she cooed, waving the chocolate bar in front of her. “I’ve got some nommy chocolate for yoouuuuu.”
Steve’s ears perked up at the sound of his name, and he turned away from the zombies, barking in recognition when he spotted Moira.
“That’s right, it’s me your favourite dog-walker Moira. And you’re my favourite boy who’s going to come over to me and away from those zombies.”
Steve took a few steps towards her, paused, looked back at the zombies who were waiting, ball in hand, looked at Moira, and then turned and trotted back to the zombies, who grunted and threw the ball, their mouths gaping even further. Moira shuffled forward some more, stretching the chocolate bar out towards him.
“Come on Steve, please,” she said desperately, but Steve was too busy with his game to pay attention to her anymore.
“Stupid feckin dog,” Moira cursed angrily, shoving the bar back in her pocket.
She picked up her hurl and stood up. “Time for plan B,” she announced, and Niamh immediately emerged from the bushes with an enthusiastic, “Hellyeah!”
“You distract the zombies, I’ll grab Steve,” Moira told them as she squared her shoulders and walked forward, the hurl dangling from her right hand.
Niamh nodded, hefted their hurl upright with both their hands and then moved forwards. “Hey you!” they yelled as they approached the nearest zombie.
The zombie had barely turned its head towards them when it snapped to the side as Niamh’s hurl connected to the side of its skull with a sickening crunch. It crumpled to the ground and the second zombie lumbered towards Niamh with an enraged snarl. Niamh cackled and danced around it, jabbing at it lightly with their hurl whenever it got too close. Meanwhile Moira was sneaking behind them, trying to grab Steve without either of the zombies noticing. The pug was not making it easy, as he’d decided to get involved, dancing around Niamh and the zombie barking excitedly.
“It’s not a game you gobshite,” Moira growled, squatting down and reaching out to try and grab his lead.
She almost had it when Niamh suddenly cried out in pain, and Moira looked up in shock to see them stumbling away from the zombies, clutching their arm. Blood was oozing from a gash, bright red against the chocolate brown of their skin.
“Were you bitten?” Moira screamed hysterically.
“No, just scratched,” Niamh replied through gritted teeth.
They took a few deep breaths, and then raised the hurl with their uninjured arm, their eyes glinting dangerously. Both zombies turned towards them, their faces twisted menacingly, and Moira took advantage of their distraction to make a dive for Steve’s lead. She was successful, and the small dog let out a pitiful squeal as he was yanked backwards into her arms.
Niamh cracked both zombies across the face with one swing, advancing on them as they fell back. “Take that, you goddamn motherfu-”
“RUN!” Moira bellowed, as she stumbled away from the zombies with Steve in her arms.
Niamh took off after her without hesitation, and the two friends fled through the park, laughing in exhilaration while Steve barked and struggled to get out of Moira’s arms. They didn’t stop until they were well clear of the park, and finally ground to a halt a few streets away from Charlotte’s house.
“Oh my God,” Moira wheezed, still laughing. “I can’t believe that worked! I can’t believe we found him! I can’t believe you’re alive!” she exclaimed happily, holding Steve up in front of her. Steve whined in reply and Moira put him down with a laugh, holding the end of his lead in a death grip, wrapping it around her hand twice for good measure.
Her laughter started to subside, but her body continued to shake and her breaths wouldn’t steady, and it wasn’t until Niamh was hugging her that she realised she was sobbing loudly.
“I’m sorry!” she blubbered. “I shouldn’t have let you come with me, you could have been turned or killed! I’m the worst friend ever!”
“Ssshhhh,” Niamh said soothingly, rubbing her back. “I was coming with you whether you liked it or not, and I was the one who got carried away trying to beat up those zombies. We’re both alive and safe, and Charlotte is not going to hate you forever. It’s a win all around!” they said cheerfully, giving Moira one last squeeze before stepping back.
Moira sniffed and wiped her face roughly. “Thanks,” she said, her voice still thick with tears. “You’re the best.”
Moira grinned at Niamh’s “humble” tone and following wink, and then looked down at Steve. “Come on buddy, let’s get you home.”
She and Niamh turned and walked to Charlotte’s house, their shoulders bumping occasionally. As they rounded the corner on to the street where Charlotte lived, Moira paused and put a hand on Niamh’s shoulder.
“Please don’t tell Charlotte about this,” she said. “She’ll never trust me with Steve again…I mean she probably shouldn’t, but I’m not going to let this happen again.”
“Your secret is safe with me,” Niamh replied, miming zipping their lips shut.
Moira smiled gratefully, squeezed Niamh’s shoulder and continued on to Charlotte’s house. Charlotte opened the door, smiling widely when she saw them, and Moira felt her breath catch in her throat at the sight of the other woman, looking rumpled, a little worn and tired around the edges, and a little sad around her eyes. Her skin was paler than normal, her auburn hair was piled on top of her hair in a messy bun, and there were dark circles around her sad green eyes. Moira’s heart ached at how gorgeous she was, and she itched to take the other woman in her arms and sooth her sadness away.
“Hi guys, how was the walk?” Charlotte asked as she squatted down and opened her arms out to Steve who bounded into them with an excited bark, his tail wagging furiously.
“Uneventful,” Niamh said casually.
“We played fetch,” Moira added.
“That’s great,” Charlotte said.
She stood up, cradling Steve in her arms, and Moira untangled the lead from her hand and handed it over. Charlotte smiled at her in thanks and Moira’s stomach swooped in response. She wanted to say something, ask Charlotte if she wanted to have dinner, or go out for a walk or drinks or anything. Just say anything that would mean staying here a little while longer.
“Do you guys have any other plans for today?”
“Moira’s promised me a High School Musical marathon.” Niamh grinned and Moira internally cursed them for saying she was anything other than free.
“Sounds like fun.”
“You’re welcome to join us if you’d like,” Niamh offered, and Charlotte shook her head and replied, “Maybe some other time.”
There was an awkward paused as the three looked between themselves, before Niamh stepped away with a laugh and a, “Well, see you.”
“See you,” Charlotte said, and then turned to Moira. “Same time next week?”
“Yeah sure,” Moira said.
Charlotte nodded, put Steven down on the floor, and turned to close the door.
“Do you want to go out with me?” Moira blurted.
Charlotte’s head whipped towards her, her expression shocked and her cheeks quickly turning a dreamy shade of red, and Moira quickly added, “When I walk Steve next time, I mean, do you want to come with us?”
Charlotte’s expression was both wistful and full of regret as she shook her head.
“Is everything okay?” Moira asked softly, leaning towards her, her heart pounding in her chest.
Charlotte opened her mouth, closed it, sighed and then said, “I’m…I’m running out of hormones.”
“Yeah. I stocked up when the whole apocalypse thing happened, but it’ll be gone in less than two months. I contacted the health department about it, and they told me that hormones and contraceptives are classed as ‘non-essential’ while they get everything back up and running. And I know that they’re not essential when compared to say antibiotics and vaccines and things like that but…it still hurts to know that even when the “world ends,” things don’t ever really change. So I’m just feeling pretty shitty right now, and I can’t stop thinking about what’s going to happen to my body when my hormones run out and it sucks because I was in such a good place you know?”
“I get it,” Moira said sympathetically, quickly adding, “I mean, I don’t GET it get it because I don’t have any personal experience or anything, but I get that it’s important to you.”
Moira bit her lip, desperately wishing there was something she could do to help, when a thought came to her.
“You know, there’s a sexual health clinic near me that’s still shut and miraculously wasn’t broken into during the riots. I bet we could find birth control pills there; I know it’s not the same, but it’s a source of oestrogen so it might help? We could go together, or I could go on my own or-”
Moira’s words were cut off as Charlotte pulled her into a hug as she said, “Oh my God yes that sounds great!” She turned her head, and kissed Moira several times on the cheek before hugging her tightly again, saying, “Thank you!”
Moira hugged her back just as tightly, her heart galloping and her entire body flushing with happiness and pleasure. “Just doing what I can to help.”
Charlotte eventually pulled away, and Moira’s stomach swooped when she saw that the sad look had disappeared from her eyes.
“Can we go tomorrow?” Charlotte asked eagerly.
“And afterwards…” Charlotte said coyly, taking Moira’s hand and gently interlacing their fingers, “would you like to have dinner with me?”
Moira felt her heart stop for a moment before exploding with happiness. She squeezed Charlotte’s hand, beamed and nodded, not trusting her mouth to form a coherent response.
“Great, I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Charlotte lifted Moira’s hand, kissed her knuckles softly and then let it go before stepping away and closing the door, her eyes never leaving Moira’s. Moira stared at the door for a few moments before she turned and walked in a daze towards Niamh.
“Did that actually just happen?”
“Yes it did,” Niamh chuckled, punching her lightly on the arm.
They walked back to their flat, Niamh nudging her continuously as they waggled their eyebrows, their lips permanently stretched in their trademark shit-eating grin. Moira laughed and nudged them back, her laughter continuing as Niamh jumped on her back for a piggyback, triumphantly singing ‘We’re All In This Together.’