T’is the season to be scary, fa-la-la-la-la-la! Oh, hi there, friends! Guess what – it’s October – the month of Halloween, scary scares, frightful frights and ghoulish fun that will send waves of goosebumps honking in terror across your skin!
In honor of this wonderful annual season, here’s a new series of articles called Elements of Horror – in which I’ll unpack various characters or elements I used in some of my horror stories! This time, our topic is zombies… the lurching, restless dead!
Zombies… brr… the very thoughts evoked by the word are enough to send shivers up my spine! And yet, as elements in horror stories, they’re immensely popular – even more so since CGI has made them seem so much more realistic in movies like “World War Z” and series like “The Walking Dead“, right?
Admitedly the idea of zombies in space isn’t new – they’ve been the main plot device in sci-fi movies for quite a long time, for example “Infected (2008)”, “Ghosts Of Mars (2001)” and “The Last Days On Mars (2013)” just to mention a few! Being a life-long sci-fi fan, I also longed to write something that overlapped sci-fi and horror – and when I set out to do this, zombies were the first thing that came to mind! The only issue I had doing this, was figuring out how to make it work within my two already existing series, Galaxii and Quantum. The former is more action and suspense oriented, and the latter is more comedy action and drama (“space opera”) focused.
In order to do this, I started a whole new series of books – and called it “Panic! Horror In Space“! There are two books in the series so far, with a third still on the production line – and it’s the first one (“Static“) which should bear the label: “WARNING: MAY CONTAIN ZOMBIES!“
Imagine being an ordinary sort of working-class starship captain, when one day your ship crosses paths with an apparently derelict abandoned caro ship – which your snarky history-buff of an EXO (and best friend) informs you was last seen around 40 years ago many light years away from here, and whose disappearance (and reappearance) is a complete mystery!
This is exactly how Panic! starts out for Stuart Flane and his EXO, Commander Vic Chapman. Neither of them believes in the supernatural, ghosts or the like, and so when they decide to investigate the historic relic with a small boarding party, they admittedly find the surrounds a little creepy, but that’s about the end of it – or so they think! The machinery appears in good order, and they turn the power on, but keep their viro-suits on in the meantime just in case. Flane and Vic discover the Captain’s log, which starts out quite normally, and quickly degrades into a nightmarish, confused babble, with the long-dead skipper’s final entry coming up …missing! The boarding party – split into teams to speed things up – finds that the old ship is laden with dead people – dead crewmen, and what looks like people who also encountered the dead ship over the interceding years, who seem to have just lain down and fallen asleep… and never woke up again. Vic’s bioscanner can’t determine the cause of death – and Flane remarks sarcastically that they can’t just have “died of death” – there had to be a reason! That’s the trouble with zombie tales, isn’t it? Because the dead don’t stay dead!
In the meantime, Vic employs his IT skills to recover the final, chilling entry – but by the time Vic and his Captain and the other members of the boarding party realize it’s time to leave, they’re already in over their heads! …and then without any good reason, the old ship’s power goes off – the lights go out – and something starts moving about!
In the dusty corridors of the long-lost loderunner Kilgary, the boarding party run and fight for their lives! Cut off from communicating with their ship, they’re trapped – and with survival occupying the top ten spaces in their over-taxed attention-spans, there’s not much time to wonder why the Mercury hasn’t sent anyone over to see why they missed their last scheduled call!
The lurching, decaying corpses of what remained of the Kilgary’s crew are coming after them – and what happens if they get through the team’s sealed viro-suits is simply horrendous! It’s true that zombies by themselves are scary enough – but what a lot of people seem to find even worse – truly terrifying – is zombies who are co-ordinated, and appear to be able to follow a plan… and unfortunately, this seems to be the case here! What they are and what their purpose or goal is, is a mystery only those who survive the mass of hungry, restless eaters will live to understand!
Captain Flane is desperate – they have to get off the Kilgary and return to the Mercury! Just a few hours ago, zombies and the undead belonged to the realm of fiction and fairytales – his world has been turned upside down! Vic would take this a little further, to add that it has also been shaken harshly, dropped on the floor, and stomped on!
“Static” contains 4 parts – parts 1 and 2 deal with zombies – or “zoms” as they refer to these nightmarish creatures in Flane’s time! Parts 3 and 4 deal with other horror elements which I’ll touch on in other episodes of Elements of Horror.
- FAQ’s Answered #6: What’s So Scary About “Panic!” Anyway?
- “Life Signs” – A tale of terror that will make your toes curl!
- Panic! Horror In Space – an extract from Mercury Rising
- Fun Fact: Sheriff Samuel J. Yackley & The Jug Of Death
- What Is There To “Panic” About? Really? Well, This…
That about covers it! I hope I’ve explained all this in a satisfactory manner!
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All material copyright © Christina Engela, 2019.