This is Paul Loh's response to the Zombie Fiction Writing Challenge. Paul Loh is the author of The Greater Number. He's found a way to tie his vignette into that book by referencing an important event from that story.
Brady's New Leaf
Brady Schullerman was an Army brat. Well. Army, yes. Brat, not so much. He was raised in a strict household in which Father's words were law. He had been born in Marble Cliffs, Arizona. As a child, he'd attended Wolf Cub Elementary, but those weren't happy memories.
His father had taught him his alphabet. Afternoons after school writing letters hundreds of times each under intense scrutiny wasn't fun. He'd learned the meaning of the word, 'lousy' as a description for his handwriting.
Brady also had difficulty conveying his thoughts verbally. He knew what he wanted to say, but it rarely came out that way. He was socially awkward as a result. His parents had brought him to speech therapy when he was five, but it did him no good. The problem was deeper than they had the patience to explore. He was left with an undiagnosed learning disorder which still haunts him.
As if that wasn't bad enough, he had an older brother named Charlie who'd been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. When Brady was five and Charlie was eight, the family had gone to Marble Cliffs Lake for a picnic one Sunday. The Marble Cliffs Chinese Baptist Church was also having a picnic at the lake. Brady and Charlie finished eating and went down to the water to play.
Before he had gotten the tumor, Charlie had always been the smart one in the family, but over several months, Charlie's tumor had gradually diminished his reasoning capabilities. He picked up a twig from the ground and tied a piece of string to it. He told Brady that he was going to go fishing in the lake and catch 600 sharks.
Some of the other boys overheard this and started to make fun of Charlie. Brady was too much of a coward to stick up for his brother.
A little while later, after having had no luck with fishing, Charlie and Brady went back to their mother. Charlie was getting one of his headaches, brought on by the tumor and started to cry.
Fishing with his brother was one of the last happy memories Brady had of his brother.
Five months later, the tumor had grown so large that it shut down Charlie's motor functions and he lapsed into a coma from which he never recovered. He died at eight years old. Brady's parents secretly resented Brady for having been the one who remained living. Although they never actually said it, he knew it to be true.
Not too long after that, daddy's job moved them out of Marble Cliffs when Brady was in the 1st grade. He had no friends to lose and made none at any stop along an arduous nearly decade-long string of Army bases. He lived in Fort Dix, Fort Huachuca, Fort Benning and Fort Bliss. Now, he had ended up here of all places.
At fourteen, Brady was finally reaching puberty. Daddy always called him a late bloomer. Adolescence was fairly kind to him in that he became quite a good looking young man. This resulted in some long-awaited attention from the girls.
To Brady, it was time to turn over a new leaf. No longer would he be the isolated underdog. The only problem was his severe lack of self-confidence. Perhaps if he'd been a brat from time to time, he would have gotten a taste of what it feels like to believe in something and stand up for it. Instead, he was a ready-made doormat.
To compensate, he began to be a bully, though he could only be characterized as a secondary bully. He wasn't creative enough to come up with his own insults, so he often repeated the insults of other bullies.
At his new school, Brady found himself echoing the insults of local bully, Gabe. Gabe already had a couple toadies in Tristan and Garrett, but the more the merrier. Ninth grade seemed to be turning out well for Brady. He had the beginnings of a social life now with his new group he hung around with.
Then the universe threw him a curve ball by dropping this whole zombie apocalypse thing in his lap. He and a bunch of students had been trapped in the school when this all started. He had no idea if mommy and daddy were alive or dead. All he knew was that Gabe had a new target for his curses now....the zombies.
Paul Loh is the author of the zombie works The Greater Number and The Nocent. Both are available on Amazon.
Read his blog entries on GoodReads.
In an interesting interview, Loh discusses his early experience with the zombie genre.