Welcome back for #5 of this year's Christmas Takeover. I'm excited to have Tim Majka on today. After reading this story, and getting to know him a little over this past year, I can't wait to read some of his actual work... and I hope you feel the same way.
Grab a hot cup of cocoa... get comfortable in your reading chair...
By: Tim Majka
SPENCER JOHNSON HAD A MORAL OBJECTION to combing over the remains of the dub-dead. But, it was the crew’s number one rule of surviving ‘The Rot’. People kept the important shit close. “Hey, check this, these people have been doin’ some crazy shit.”
Dean snatched the small book from his younger brother’s hand. “Let me see.” He thumbed through the pages. “Useless,” tossing the book back on the bed he continued, “if it’d shown a list of supplies or location of a stash, we’d have something to celebrate. These sentimental fuckers had up a Christmas tree and lights, ended up just two more suckers to burn.”
Spencer scowled and straightened the Santa hat his brother had knocked askew. If we aren’t preserving the history, we’ll lose the humanity. What’s the point? He pocketed the book while salvaging anything else useful from the corpses.
* * * *
TWELVE HOURS EARLIER...
Angelica pulled the ragged, cloth-covered diary from under the pillow and carefully opened to a fresh page. Recording the events since ‘The Rot’ swept across the world was therapeutic, hoping one day it would serve as a time capsule to an era people would just as soon forget. Hell, even Angelica had a hard time believing what she’d been doing to survive, keeping her one and only safe, sound, and breathing.
Angelica not like those things.
God-forsaken, life-challenged, decaying, abominations.
Stop thinking, stop thinking, stop thinking, just write.
She put pen to paper:
December 24, 2022
Christmas Eve, I had almost forgotten.
To us, it's just day 90 since the Rot came. If the emergency band on Mike's military short-wave radio is to be believed, the government will have it under control and be here within two weeks to clear the area and pick up survivors. The cold weather seems to have helped.
That's certainly what we are.
Greg and I are going on five days without an incident, thanks to Mike. A record so far.
We may have hit on the right circumstances this time. Praise to everyone who sacrificed for us to stay together at this point. All of them hold a special place in our hearts, especially our little Tommy. Today would have been his 10th birthday. Our Christmas miracle. Happy Birthday, T-man! I hope you are having fun, wherever you are. Mommy and Daddy love you so very much.
We're making a supply run soon. It is getting to be slim pickings around here. Greg thinks the farm houses may have fruit cellars storing homemade canned goods.
I don't want to think about leaving these four walls and risk losing him, not again, not after the last sacrifice. It was hard on both of us.
I'll be damned if I'm going on without him.
Can't and won't.
Gonna sign off. We leave right before dawn to check the houses outside of town. Hoping for the best.
Who else but me? 😊She tucked the book back in its resting place and kissed her restless husband’s forehead. He felt cold. Another blanket was added. Drifting off, her mind wandering back to when she lost Tommy and almost lost her beloved …
ANGELICA WATCHED AND LISTENED from the storefront as her son snuck closer to this father’s location. He wanted so badly to be big and tough like his dad.
“Take that motherfucker,” Greg Roberts stabbed the crowbar into the eye socket the Rotter, forcing bits of bone and puss-filled, mushy gray matter out the back of its skull.
“Oooo, Dad, good one!” Tommy Roberts peeked out from behind the mailbox by the curb. “But, why’d you hafta use the bad word? Help kill’em quicker?”
“Sometimes. What’re you doing out here? Told you to stay with Mom.”
“Awww, she wasn’t doin’ nuthin’ fun. Jus’ countin’ supplies. Booorrrring.”
The man knelt in front of the boy, cupped his face in his hands, “T-man, killing Rotters is not fun. People didn’t ask to be turned. I only do what’s necessary to keep you and mom safe.” He mussed his son’s hair and turned him around. “Those boorrring supplies are what’s keeping your belly full, go help. I’ll be right behind you.” He watched his son scamper off as he pulled a rag from his back pocket to wipe down his weapon.
Then he heard it.
“Rrmmm. Uhhhh. Mmrrr.”
Greg spun, a Trotter-Rotter was closing, fast. “Fuck.” He yelled back, “Tommy, run to Mom! Now!”
Yellow teeth clicked. The end of decomposing half-bent arms, gray-skinned fingers topped by long uncut nails grabbed at the air until snaring a patch of Greg’s shirt. His nostrils filled with the pungent odor of decay. He reached, but failed to grab his weapon.
The Trotter-Rotter’s body lurched forward, its knee bent in the wrong direction from force of the crowbar. Tommy hadn’t run to safety, instead he moved to help. Darting to the left, he swung – CRAACK – the other knee was obliterated.
Angelica came running from the store with her own version of ‘Lucille’ in hand. She saw her soul mate topple under the weight of the Rotter. Tommy was trying to brace his dad and hand him the crowbar. Greg brought his arm in front of his face and caught the full force of an undead chomp.
“Arghhh. Fuck. I’m bit. Get outta here.”
“Greg!” Angelica stopped her advance. “No!”
The load of two men came down on Tommy. His head smashed into the concrete and his body was piled on, pinning him.
Angelica shuddered, raised the bat and sprinted towards the mass of humanity and inhumanity. With one swing, the head of the Rotter separated, bounced twice and came to rest at the edge of a building, teeth still clacking. She pushed the remains of the thing off Greg, only to see the thing of nightmares, a soul-less gaze coming from her lover’s once beautiful eyes.
The newly undead started to rise.
“Angie, sweetheart, what the hell?” Tommy’s body scrambled from underneath his dad’s.
“Tommy, oh God, you’re alive. Get up. Get up, now and run!”
“Tommy? Baby, it’s me Greg.” Now standing, he looked at his arms, legs, and felt his torso. “Holy hell, what happened?” He looked to see himself staggering toward Angelica. “Angie, kill that thing! It’s not me anymore. Kill it!”
“I … I can’t. I won’t hit your beautiful face. I’m scared. I can’t kill you.”
He ran and leapt, sweeping down with the crowbar in both hands – THUNK – the curved end pierced the cranium, pressing into the rotting brain. The body slammed to the ground. What should be inside oozed out from the jagged hole.
Angie ran over and swept the boy up in her arms. “My big man, my hero. You saved Mommy’s life.” She kissed him on the cheek and held him tight to her.
“Put. Me. Down.”
“It’s not Tommy, babe, it’s me, Greg. Not sure how, but it is.”
Shock froze Angie’s face. “G … Greg, but, but. What the hell? It’s not possible. You hit your head too hard. You’re confused. Daddy’s gone baby. It’s just you and me now.” Bulbous tears dropped from Angie’s face and splattered on the ground. She knelt in front of the boy.
“Angelica Joanne Roberts. Listen to me. It is your husband talking. I am inside Tommy’s body. I remember his final thought, ‘Please, God, just let Dad be okay, Mom can’t live without him’, then his soul, life-force, whatever, drained as mine filled in its place.”
“My baby is dead and his last thought was wanting us to be okay?” Angelica slumped, folded arms touched the ground, head resting on them. She forced out a deep breath. “How did he die?”
“Not positive, but when the Rotter and my body dropped onto him, we all hit the ground. I think his heart stopped from the force of the blow. I rotted out from the bite and here we are.”
“I … I, can’t look at you like this Greg. Not looking, sounding like our baby”
“Maybe we’re both in here. I can feel his presence. Listen to me. I need you to look at me.”
Angelica slowly turned, averting her eyes until she couldn’t anymore.
“Don’t freak out. Just listen. I think we need to know if this ‘body jump’ thing was an accident or if we can make it happen.”
“Wha … How? You don’t mean, we … we take lives to test this theory. Greg, that is twisted. I’d rather it be —”
“What if T’s body rots out? Are you going to be able to put us down? I’m telling you it’s worth a shot.”
A guilty grin grew on the boy’s face.
“No, you can’t mean, not your brother.”
“We were heading there anyway. He’s the damn ex-special forces, doomsday prepper.” Greg took his bride’s hand. “Maybe this body jump worked because of DNA. It’s the best plan. Besides if something happens to me while I’m in Tommy’s body, at least you will be safe with Mike—”
“And I’ll still be able to look at your face every day.” Angelica furrowed her brow and kicked at the ground. “Let’s get packed up.”
About the author:
Tim A. Majka teaches high school social studies along the shores of Lake Erie, in his hometown of Dunkirk, NY. He resides there with his best friend and bride, Bridget, their college-age sons, Jacob and Alex, and two rescue cats, Stanley and Corky.