The writing group has officially started its monthly exercise contest up again. Work was slow today, so I whipped this one up this afternoon. It’s mostly exposition. Were I to develop this into a story I’d probably start with a more exciting action scene and gradually work all this information in. I like the idea of the setting, though I imagine the basic concept has probably been done quite a bit.

Writing exercise: Use this sentence somewhere in your story: After killing your first zombie minion, it is best to celebrate with a nice warm shower, because you will smell like death.

(And no, I didn’t come up with exercise. Just because I’ve been obsessing over zombies lately. World War Z rocks, by the way.) About 670 words.

First Person Unpleasant

Our sergeant happily demonstrates the latest in zombie killing techniques to the new recruits. A special truncheon had been designed a while back, and could crush a zombie skull like no other. It was handy when the zombies piled high against the walls of the castle.

“After killing your first zombie minion, it is best to celebrate with a nice warm shower, because you will smell like death.” The sergeant said, doing his terrible John Cleese voice, but only awkward silence followed. An old Chinese lady in the back fainted.

Poor bastards. Most of them were pulled straight out of some novel and have no idea what’s going on. Whenever a fortress fell to the zombie onslaught, or one of the bastards got in and wiped out half a town, our benevolent leader repopulates from some book. Sometimes we get lucky and get a bunch of space marines or a Panzer division. Today we got Huckleberry Finn, the Hardy Boys, and the Joy Luck Club. Narrating is an imprecise science, I guess.

I can’t complain too much, though. My wife emerged from a book, a minor character from some Star Trek novel. She still wears her uniform under her makeshift body armor. All her shipmates were dead. She leans over to whisper, “Did you hear what happened to Kansas City?”

I shake my head.

“Apparently, our divine leader tried to summon something a little bigger than usual this morning. An aircraft carrier materialized ten feet above Kansas City. Wiped out half the town. South wall of the fort got crushed. There’s fighting in the streets.”

At first, the Narrators were a miraculous group of individuals. They brought rain to the desert. They built faster-than-light spacecraft and manned colonies on Mars. They cured cancer. All the missiles in the world turned into sentient flowerpots. It’s not really fair to say they did those things, though. All they did was read those things. And whatever they read came true. A dozen individuals ushered in an unprecedented era of prosperity for humanity.

Then there was the falling out. One of them slept with the other’s girl or something. Who really knew? Whatever happened, they turned on each other, bent their will to reading and giving life to less pleasant stories. Now the world has gone to shit. Last I heard, New York was overrun with dinosaurs. Flying saucers battled Norse gods over Germany. The list goes on. Whatever those assholes wanted, they could find a book about it and wreak havoc. The Narrators who are still alive each have their own patch of Earth. We got this guy, used to be an insurance salesman or something. He’s gone nuts, but we can’t leave. Our neighbor to the west has an army of knights guarding the passes through the Rockies, and our neighbor to the east keeps us hemmed in with giant robots, with squads of hunter-killer droids patrolling just within our borders to keep out refugees, alive and dead.

Why all the defenses? Because this sick fuck we got decided to turn his little utopia into a zombie apocalypse. Now most of the land is uninhabitable. We live clustered in these little fortresses, fighting off the occasional wave of undead. He was nice enough to give us castles—imagine that, castles on the American Great Plains!—and weapons, but it’s not a great life, believe me. None of the other Narrators bother us anymore, of course, so I guess there’s that.

“Is that…are we going to have to go up there?” I whisper back. “There’s a million freaking zombies between here and Kansas City!”

“I hear that’s what all the new cannon fodder is for.”

The sharp-eared Joe Hardy glances our way, probably wondering what she meant by cannon fodder. I imagine him as a zombie and decide I wouldn’t have any trouble killing him.

“You see what happens?” I mutter. “You see what happens when people read too much? The world has gone to hell, and all these people can do is read more.”