I first heard of “Fan Fiction” in regards to Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey. Apparently EL James, Fifty Shades author, was disappointed with how often the Twilight scenes stopped right before Bella and Edward got really hot and heavy. She wanted to read more of what went on behind those bedroom doors. So she wrote her own version of Bella and Edward, changed their names, made the guy an S&M freak instead of a vampire, and wrote some very very graphic love scenes. She began this in the format of fan fiction. Fan fiction is basically when you take a show/movie/book and begin writing your own tangent about one of the characters, an alternate ending, or just take the whole plot in a brand new direction. It spans all types of genres. People usually write them serially and gain a readership. For example, EL James had several thousand followers with her Twilight fanfic well before she released her book trilogy.
There are several sites on which authors post their writing, such as fanfiction.net. I spent some time on the site and I will say, the quality definitely… varies. But the people with the most followers naturally have the best writing and most interesting stories. Here are some entries on Breaking Bad, another one of my all-time favorite shows.
Thinking back, the reason I began to write SIRENS was because I was emotionally distraught when LOST ended. I loved that show and a hole was left in me when it ended… (melodramatic?). But I really loved that show. And I wanted to create my own world to escape to once that was gone. SIRENS isn’t LOST fanfic, but it was certainly inspired by it. I decided to try my hand at this unique writing form with one of my current favorite shows, Walking Dead. There is a hiatus right now until the next season begins, and I thought it would be fun to take the characters in a new direction… East. Check it out if you are a Walking Dead fan. I’d love your thoughts… or additions!
Chapter One ~ The Aquarium
By T.L. Zalecki
I stared up at the hammerhead swirling around in the tank above me, the water glowing blue. The body of the Stiff looked so mangled, at one time I would have looked away. Now, it did nothing. I was numb. Thank god. At least I had something to care about, make me feel alive. At least I had a purpose. What did it matter that I hadn’t see the light of day for as long as I could remember? Those fish had gone years that way, stuck in their tanks for people to ogle them at $30 a pop.
Three more sharks swam across the viewing glass – Derek, Siena and May. May’s grey skin clung to her rib cage like someone had sucked air from her insides. I waved, mustering a smile. I didn’t know how long it would be till I got another Stiff for them. I wandered over to the control panel to check the Aquarium security monitors. As usual, several Stiffs lumbered around outside the lobby banging into the doors like lugnuts. It looked dark outside. Night. No wonder I didn’t have the energy, I thought suppressing a yawn.
I looked across the room to my bed, a sling once used for transporting sick marine mammals to the veterinary annex on the other side of town. I had affixed it to a few coat hooks on one side and a column near the tank on the other. The hammock’s mattress consisted of a mass of old coats I had repurposed from the lost and found. There was even a sleeping bag from the kiddie sleepover events the Aquarium would host once per month. Just as I was about to switch off the shark tank light, a motion on the monitor caught my eye. It was a smoother movement, not the jerky, gimped gait of the Stiffs. My eyes widened, and I leaned closer into the screen.
My heart jumped. I hadn’t seen another person–besides James–since it all happened. Months. A year maybe. I didn’t even know. As I tried to count the people, to distinguish the living from the dead, on the black and white screen, the whiteness of flames flashed brightly. Blood splattered across the polished concrete and against the no smoking sign. An arm, still moving, rolled awkwardly into the bed of grass. A lone foot slammed against the glass wall. There was no sound, but I could hear it in my mind. Blasts. Fire. Bodies dropped to the ground like puppets with their strings cut. I looked down at my hands which were now shaking.
A man in a leather jacket came into view. Behind him, a young boy in a cowboy hat. He swirled around a gun that was almost as large as he was. Then a woman wielding a sword. Or a machete? I was unsure. It was a weapon I had only seen in video games. A few others were running up the breezeway. One lingered behind, glancing up at the “Georgia Aquarium” sign.
I turned from the screen, trying to catch my breath, and leaned up against the wall. Should I be excited, scared? Dare to feel hope? No. I’d fallen into that trap before. My brain raced to figure out what to do as my breath hitched in my throat. I turned back to the screen thinking maybe I had just been imagining things. Living on such little food often led to hallucinations. One time I had sworn I saw a giant octopus in the dolphin tank.
The man, tall and handsome, fingered the glass double door of the Aquarium entrance. I could see the stubble of his beard, the look of determination in his fixed jaw. And I could see the freckled face of the boy. A woman with short hair walked up next to them, pressing her nose to the glass in a relaxed kind of way. One of her hands steadied a gun that was slung over her shoulder. Another hand caressed the head of a baby in a carrier. A baby. In that moment I knew, they had found their way in.
Still, I couldn’t let them see weakness. They had to know I was in charge. I drew in a breath, shoved my blond hair, now mostly dreadlocked, out my face and walked directly to the wall where it hung. My trident. It had been behind glass on display for the patrons when I’d found it. Made of galvanized steel it weighed more than an iron baseball bat. But I knew how to use it from all the dive trips over the years. The life of a marine biologist has its perks in the dead world. And these days I had nothing better to do than work out. I yanked the trident off the wall and rolled up my sleeves, then headed down the submarine glass tunnel faster than I had moved in days. A few aquatic predators passed in shadow above me as I hurried through, wishing me luck. I hoped to god this I wasn’t making a mistake.
These days, mistakes cost your life, I thought, suppressing the image of James. That horrific last image. Damn him.
Ten minutes later I had emerged from the bowels of the Aquarium and was making my way through the main hallway, past the ticket booths and into the airy lobby which now reeked with deathly stenches. My nose barely registered them anymore. Everything was dank, wet, dead to me.
The dead Stiffs lay strewn across the ground outside. The people were still there, milling around the entrance in some sort of heavy discussion. It looked like they were arguing. I hopped over the security turnstiles and approached the doors. The guy noticed me first. Before I could change my mind, I slid open the heavy lock and opened the doors waving the group inside. They slid through the opening quickly, seamlessly like water in a narrowing creek. They smelled of the outside, of places I had not been. In a long time at least. The faint smell of blood and medicine, like a hospital, stuck to them. And death. I could always sniff out death now. I was a fox.
As soon as they were all in, about ten of them, I slammed the lock back in place. Without a word I ushered them into the deeper area of the lobby where the recessed circular fish tanks glowed turquoise, illuminating algae ridden water floating with globs of dead organisms. I propped up my trident, clutching it white knuckled with my right hand and leaning my left foot on a bench.
“I’m Lorel,” I said, asserting the strongest voice possible.
They all stared back at me. Tired faces. Dejected. They had been through something. We all had, but misery was fresh on every face that returned my stare. The baby was asleep, its head muzzled into the woman whose gun was now resting quiet on her back. My eyes were drawn to the peach-fuzzed head, a safe place to rest them.
The man broke the silence, stepping forward. I noticed he wore cowboy boots. His jeans, tattered at the bottom, revealed thick muscular quads beneath. “Rick. Grimes.”
I nodded. As if last names mattered anymore. “Lorel Phoenix.” No one had ever looked me in the eye like that before. At least not in a long time. I liked it. I liked who I saw inside.
“How about I show you to the cafeteria?” I said, relaxing my stance and slinging the trident over my shoulders like a barbell. “This way.”
My hair stood on end as they followed me, but I kept my back straight and my chin up. We passed through the tunnel headed for the basement where the cafeteria was located.
“You been taking care of these fish? I can’t believe there are any still alive,” said the boy saddling up beside me.
His small turned up nose was that of a child, but the hard look in his azure eyes revealed a lifetime of experience.
“I used to do research here. I know enough about the food chain to keep the biggest ones kicking. Just don’t look too closely into these tanks. It’s not pretty.” As I spoke, I glanced over at an underwater rock formation. A Stiff stuck in a tangle of overgrown kelp opened and closed his mouth emitting a stream of bubbles. His grey skin was puffed out and half disintegrated to expose his maxillary. I’d grown used to him. I called him Dick.
We entered the cafeteria, and I turned the lights on to illuminate a large airy room of shiny chrome and glass. Dozens of empty tables gleamed. All but the closest one, mine. The remnants of my dinner–baked beans and peanut butter–still sat on a plate next to a kid’s box of apple juice and a crumpled napkin. To my surprise, my face flushed with embarrassment. Did I still have a trace of my old southern hospitality? It seemed absurd, but then again, only a few years ago I was a blond belle living among beauty and wealth. I brushed a dreadlock out of my eye and pointed my trident across the room, “There’s the kitchen. Help yourself.”
The group didn’t hesitate. I sat while they ate, shoveling the food into their mouths like they hadn’t had anything in days. I didn’t ask them any questions. And they didn’t ask me any questions. It was mostly silent. But I watched. I observed. They had a hierarchy. They knew each other well. Almost like family, but not quite. There was strength in their dynamic, but a darkness too. I couldn’t tell why, but I knew it was there.
After digging through the lost and found area to locate a few more sleeping bags, I returned to the tunnel corridor and tossed them down on the floor. “The bathrooms are down the hall that way, then to the left.”
“Thanks,” a woman whispered from behind. “I’m Carol.”
“Sure,” I replied.
“Sorry none of us are very talkative. We had a setback today. We… lost one.” She cast her eyes down. “I just didn’t want you to think we were ungrateful.”
“Okay. Well, sounds like you all could use some rest. And Carole,” I called as she turned away, fluffing out her pink and green polkadot sleeping bag, “I get it. I just lost someone too. Yesterday.”
I headed back to my bed, knowing I wouldn’t sleep, and a feeling of loneliness washed over me that almost brought me to my knees. There were people here. Real live people. But the one I’d lost left a hole too big for anyone to fill. In this world, all I could do was move on, wait for the numbness to kick in. And maybe, just maybe… hope. Deep down, I knew the real reason I had let them in. Beyond the remnants of compassion still inside me, beyond my ingrained southern hospitality.
The real reason was that they could be the key. Tomorrow I’d tell them what I knew.