Zombie Bites: Maurice Broaddus

Posted by on Aug 19, 2013 in Apex Publications Blog: Matters of SF, Fantasy, and Horror | 0 comments

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Appalachian UndeadMAURICE BROADDUS has written hundreds of short stories, essays, novellas, and articles.  His dark fiction has been published in numerous magazines, anthologies, and web sites, including Asimov’s Science Fiction, Cemetery Dance, Apex Magazine, and Weird Tales Magazine.  He is the co-editor of the Dark Faith anthology series (Apex Books) and the author of the urban fantasy trilogy, Knights of Breton Court (Angry Robot Books).  He has been a teaching artist for over five years, teaching creative writing to students of all ages. Visit his site at www.MauriceBroaddus.com.

Maurice is the author of “Being in Shadow.”

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Do you have a zombie apocalypse emergency plan?

The Broaddus family likes to be prepared for anything.  My children have laid out the plan this way:

1)  They need to keep their mother around as she’s the nurturing one.

2)  In the event of a food shortage, I would be the first one eaten (see point #1)

3)  My children have been discouraging physical activity from me.  This serves two purposes:  it keeps me out of shape so as long as they can outrun me, they’ll be fine; and it fattens me up (see point #2)

During the zombie apocalypse, would you rather be wearing running shoes or steel-toed boots?

Running shoes.  I’m more of an “outrun/elude” guy than “stomp” guy.

What draws you to zombie fiction?

Metaphor.  In the end, a zombie is a mindless shuffler that’s moderately scary on the face of them.  It’s their power of being a symbol of a deeper horror (disease, death, rampant consumerism, poverty, etc.) that they become truly interesting.

Excerpt from “Being in Shadow.”

The government cordoned off the area around the Quarantined Zone wanting more of a buffer zone.  Some folks couldn’t bear to leave the place they grew up in and knew and the officials were content to let them stay.  No one would miss the occasional local poached by a shuffler.  There wasn’t much difference between them and a shuffler anyway.

Zelenova parked the car a good distance away “as not to unduly spook the locals.”  Long dead leaves crunched underfoot as we made our way up the path to Lester’s.  A neon red sign bled against the early evening sky.  An open bay window allowed peals of conversation and music to blare into the surrounding woods.  The overhead fluorescent lights burned noisily.  A bass fish hung on a wall of faux wood paneling next to a wood-framed painting of men fishing on a lake.  The twin sentries of a pay phone and an electronic poker machine stood by the front door.  A cigarette machine guarded the rear by the restroom.  The bar ran the length of the building, topped with half-filled black ashtrays, and piles of plastic cups.  We pushed through the milling crowd—a sea of hopelessness, fringed blue jean jackets, and Trans Am t-shirts—until we reached Jolene Winthrop.

A cigarette clung to her lower lip like a fish that had resigned itself to the hook.  The ghost of blue mascara smeared around her too small eyes sunken within hollow circles buried in her face.  Her nostrils were in perpetual flare.  A small mole dotted a cut on her chapped lips which curled to a sneer at our approach.  She was thin, like she’d lost a lot of weight recently, her blue jean jacket now a few sizes too large for her.

“What do you want?”  The lines around her mouth hardened as she spoke with the hint of a Southern accent.  “You don’t belong up here.”

“Can’t say I’ve had much luck belonging anywhere,” I said.

“You look like you been rode hard and put up wet, Jolene,” Zelenova said.

“I already asked what you want, Rodney.”  She cut her eyes and polished off whatever filled her plastic cup.  Plopping it back on the bar, she sucked her teeth for good measure.

“We looking for your boy,” I said.  “Darrell.”

“He was the only one I had left.”

“He has two brothers.”

“Had.”  She curled her lips, bringing the cigarette to bear without her hands touching it.

“What happened?” I asked.

“Shuffle got ‘em.”

“We just want to ask Darrell a few questions.  We think he has some information that could help us in an investigation.”

“You come up here, talkin’ like a house a-fire, interrupting my night out because Darrell’s done got into some mischief?  You dumber than a stack o’ toes.”  Jolene took another drag from her cigarette.  She knew how the game worked.  Her and her people had obviously seen their share of dirt.

Dumber than a stack o’ toes.  I’m gonna have to remember that one.” Zelenova’s voice lilted for emphasis.  “We tried the easy way, but play time’s over.  Your boy, young squire Winthrop, is a person of interest in a police shooting. I need you to hear me on this:  he shot at police.  The police.  We don’t take too kindly to that.”

“Oh Lord,” Jolene said with a sudden soberness.

“Yeah, yeah.  Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, now it’s a party.”  Zelenova stepped closer to her, letting his girth speak for him.  He knew how to use his size.  And his eyes.  With a  quick cut of them, he backed down several good ol’ boys from interrupting our friendly chat.

“Ain’t no need to blaspheme.”

“All I’m saying is that my colleagues back in Baltimore, as we speak, are tearing up every stash house, clearing every corner, and overturning every rock he might have slithered under looking for him.”  I held my hands up and took a step back to give her room to breathe.  “Even if we don’t find him, his friends in the city won’t be real pleased with him, as their business is being disrupted on account of him.”

“Now me, I’m o’ a different mind,” Zelenova said.  “I think when some folks get in trouble, in over their heads, they go home.  Back to where they feel safe.  Where they are known for exactly who they are and are loved and protected anyway.  You know any place like that, Jolene?”

“All we want is to be left alone,” Jolene said.

“Afraid we can’t do that, ma’am,” I said.

“They ain’t hurt nobody.  I seen to that.”

“Where is he, Jolene?”

“He up in Shadow Holler.”

She flipped us off as we left.

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