I do a little writing and publishing on Amazon, Kobo and Barnes & Noble. It is nice to have the extra monthly income from ebooks. Uploading the books is easy and the work is done one time but once it is done the royalties keep coming in. It is similar to working an hour at a job then getting paid over and over for that same hour of work. The books sell and people do not return them for a refund so I consider the writings to be a success. The following short story is different from what I usually write. Typically the book would have something to do with stop motion animation, building with Lego or homeschooling. The following fiction resulted from a silly idea I had and mentioned to my daughter. The original title was Grandma’s head. Z-girl would from time to time say “Daddy, tell me about Grandma’s head.” She would always have a mischievous smile. It was partly due to fascination about the story and partly about the one on one time with dad that drew her in.
This story is fun and is fiction. If the idea of a zombie is disturbing to you then maybe reading this is not a good idea. There is no gore or horror and my sensitive 12 year did not find it disturbing. If you are brave enough to proceed please let me know what you think. Thanks! Tech Dad
People have measured time in all kinds of different ways down through the years. For me, I have always ignored the tick-tock rhythm of the clock in favor of the creaks and groans of the home where I have spent the majority of my life.
This little slice of Massachusetts is where my grandparents have lived, off and on, for 60 years. I was always drawn to this place, both because of the love that I felt while I was there, as well as the funny-faced man’s head in the bell jar, on top of the mantle. The decorations and knick knacks surrounding him have changed through the years, but he seemed to be at his happiest when the decorative urn, which has been there for the better part of 15 years, was placed there.
The funny looks he gives when someone enters the room have always made me smile, but that multiplied when I brought my kids to this place and saw that they loved him, too. They always just took his presence for granted, but I knew the day was going to come when they wanted to know more about the head in the jar, and it seems as though that day has now finally arrived…………
I look from my kids to the jar, and back again, thinking how best to start the story their question has opened up. “Who’s the man in the jar, daddy,” seems like a simple enough question, but how to explain it to them? My guess is that only the truth will do, so that’s how I start.
“Well, before I get to the man, I think you two should know a little bit about where we live.”
“Aw, daddy, that’s boring,” they shriek in unison.
“I promise it won’t be. I know you two like stories that are weird and a little creepy, so this will fit the bill perfectly.”
They seem to accept this statement as the truth, as both of them go a little wide-eyed as soon as the words cross my lips. “I guess this whole thing starts with the day that your great Grandma and great Grandpa Baxter got married. My Grandma’s father was a pretty wealthy man, and he decided that this house would make a nice wedding present for his little girl and the man she was going to marry.”
The house groaned loudly, as if protesting the corniness of this particular part of the tale. The kids seemed to sense this though, giggling at the noise that sounded exactly like an ill-concealed fart.
I joined them in the laughter before going on with the story. “Grandma and Grandpa moved in here on their wedding day, spending most of the first couple of years decorating the place to look just the way they liked it. They must have liked it a lot, because there were never any big changes after that, save for the gentleman on the shelf over there,” I said, pointing at the jar.
The kids swiveled round to look and burst into a fit of laughter again as the head in the jar stuck out his tongue at them.
“Your great grandparents were always active with the church, so when they were given the opportunity to go to Africa as missionaries for a year, they jumped at the chance. Your Grandpa Joe was just a baby back then, so they thought it would be the perfect time to go, before he got grown and had to head off to school. Anyways, while they were in Africa, there was a, well, an accident.”
The kids leaned forward as though joined at the hip, “What kind of accident, daddy.”
“There was a very sick man in the village where they stayed, and as my grandpa was tending to him, the man bit him.”
I paused, waiting for my little ones to ask a question, but they both just stared at me with their mouths carved in a tight “O” formation.
“The people in the village became scared of grandpa when they heard about the bite and he couldn’t understand why. They had loved and trusted him before then, but that all changed with the bite. The reason why became pretty obvious the day after the accident, because that was when grandpa started to get sick. He broke out in a fever and started raving. He had to be chained down, as he tried to bite every single person that got close to him.”
That little detail seemed to break the reverie. “Why would he do that, daddy,” Katy asked. Danny gave her a nudge that told her to shut up and let me finish the story.
“The truth of the matter was that he wasn’t really sick, he was actually dead.”
Now it was Danny’s turn to speak, an expression of confusion on his face, “How can he be dead and biting? Was he a zombie?”
“That’s exactly what he was, son. The man that had bitten him was undead, too, and the villagers simply didn’t know what to do with him. They had tried cutting of his head after he bit grandpa, but the head just kept on moving and trying to bite. The villagers thought they might have better luck with grandpa, so they went to do the same thing with him.”
“What did great Grandma Baxter do?” they both shrieked.
“There was nothing they could do, “I said. “The church people came and took her away from that place, bringing her back here where she would be safe and sound. A few months later, while grandma was still grieving, a parcel arrived. It was covered in hundreds of exotic looking stamps, all of which had miniature little African scenes painted on them. When she opened it, she saw the jar with the head in it and a note from the doctor at the village.”
“What was in the note?” Katy asked.
“The doctor said that he believed a couple as in love as my Grandma and Grandpa should be together forever, which was why he was sending Grandpa’s head home. You have to remember that this was all in the days before customs was the way it was now, so no-one really paid any real attention to a package sent from Africa to the US.”
“So you’re telling us that the head in the jar belongs to great Grandpa Baxter?”
“Yep, Grandma loved seeing his face every day, even when it wasn’t attached, to the man she loved so much. She would spend hours and hours each day talking to him, telling him about what had happened to her and Grandpa Joe that day. He would make those funny faces you guys loved, which made her feel as though he was reacting to the stories she told.”
“So what happened to great Grandma Baxter, daddy? Did she always stay sad?”
My heart broke a little that they would ask that question, as I had hoped the story would end at that point. I had come this far now, so I guessed it was okay to go all the way.
“Grandma Baxter was sad, and that was her downfall, kids. It used to drive my grandma nuts just how wild and messy grandpa’s moustache always was, but she loved trying to straighten out those wild hairs by patting them down. It gave her an excuse to touch the face of the man she loved so very much. Well, one day she came downstairs and saw how messy that moustache was, so she took the lid off the jar and reached in to fix it up. That was when she got bit.”
Danny and Katy gasped, words seemingly escaping them at that very moment.
“My poor old grandma got sick and passed away shortly thereafter. Your Grandpa Joe was really sick too at that point, so it was left up to me to look after the house and make sure everything was in order. Part of that was going through all the old boxes in the attic. When I was looking through that stuff, I came across the box with all the stamps in it. Hidden underneath one of the flaps at the bottom was a big bag of powder with another note attached.”
“What was in that note, daddy, and what was the powder? Was it magic?”
“It could have saved Grandma Baxter’s life if she had seen it. The powder was supposed to be placed in a separate container and put beside the jar with grandpa’s head. If it was there, he wouldn’t bite. That old doctor had finally figured out the cure to the biting, but grandma never saw it.”
“So, is that what’s in that big old urn right beside the funny head, then? Danny asked
He scrunched up his face when I nodded before asking, “Then why does the urn say Grandma Baxter on it?”
“Come with me, “I said,
I stood up and reached under the urn to find what it was I needed. The small key fit snugly in the palm of my hand, staying there until we reached the door that led to the basement. I slid the key in and turned it, the rusted lock screeching in protest. I flicked a light switch to my right and a dull glow filled the space beneath our feet.
“What’s down there? Katy asked, a little frightened tremor finding its way into her words.
“Nothing to be afraid of,” I replied.
We set off down the stairs, the kids hanging onto the bottom of my shirt, either for balance or out of fear. I couldn’t tell.
As we reached the bottom, the rattling of chains, accompanied by a snarl, filled the room. I could feel the kids flinch, so I reached back to console them with a reassuring pat.
“What is it, daddy,” they asked as the thing stumbled out of the shadows.
“Say hello to your great Grandma Baxter, kids. Just don’t get too close, though. I’m not sure just how far that powder reaches.”