Beneath The Amber Moon
Colin hadn’t come to his hometown for many years, well he says town, a village is much closer to the truth, a tiny village. The type of village where, like a cheesy version of the old TV show 'Cheers', where everybody knows your name. But they aren't always glad you come that is for sure.
This is part of the reason he stays away for so long. They definitely are not glad when he comes. Blaming him because of his stroke of luck! It has been known for a nerdy kid to make it big, look at Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs. Neither of them were high school jocks (or the English equivalent.) Both hit the big time monumentally ensuring they are the envy of the people they grew up with. Envy often turns to jealousy, jealousy to maliciousness. Maliciousness to hatred and once that little puppy joins the ring, all bets are off. People go bat shit crazy, no guessing what they will do.
Not being sure what brought him back home other than a desperation to reconnect with his roots, he wants to visit where everything began. To visit the bedroom where he codes his first video game. He wants to walk through the park and sit on 'that' bench, where he dreamed up the universes for one of the world’s best-selling games of all time. The game that makes him a multi billionaire in his early thirties.
If only his parents were alive to witness his success. This is still, to this day one of his regrets, they didn't survive and be part of his adult-life. He is one of the most powerful men on the planet, because money brings power along with other benefits. A light wind whispers through the empty streets. Whipping at the leaves of orange, red and yellow as they dance in happy circles. However, the dancing goes against the sense of desolation.
Colin, walks the streets, kicking through the autumn leaves wondering, why is everywhere so quiet, why the streets are so empty, and no lights on in any of the houses as day, turns to dusk? Suddenly, breaking the silence out of nowhere, a voice makes him turn, startled by the interruption of the oppressive silence surrounding him.
"Where did you come from?" The sweet voice of the beautiful fiery-haired woman is like a silvery bell tingling in his ears.
"I'm, I, err, who are you?" he stammers, not recognizing her, she must have moved here since his last visit.
"I asked you first," She says, fluttering her eyelashes seductively at him.
Colin gulps, she is stunningly attractive. "Forgive me," he apologizes. "I'm Colin, and you are?" He tries again to learn who this temptress is before him.
"Do you live here?" she asks.
"Not anymore, call this a trip down memory lane, where is everyone?"
"Shall we search together," she reaches her hand towards Colin, and he takes it in his. They set off looking for clues, he may be wealthy and powerful, but he appreciates the only reason women are interested in him is because of who he is or what he can give them. Not because they find him attractive. Therefore, this is a turn up for the books, that this woman he’s never met is flirting with him. Unusual and uncomfortable, but he also kind of likes it.
He starts trying doors, finding them all locked. As he peers through the window of one house, he perceives an amber candle burning away in the window. "This must have happened recently; the candle is still burning."
"So intelligent, are you a detective?" The young woman holds his hand tightly, and Colin thinks, she must be terrified of whatever is happening the poor thing.
A piece of paper caught by the wind blows against his leg. Bending down he discovers it is a flyer of some sort. Turning over the sheet, a large image of a moon with an amber hue, no writing, just a moon, that’s weird, he thinks. Colin wrinkles his face up, puzzled by what his findings are so far.
Taking a seat on a bench in the village green, he reaches to his pocket for some chocolate, offering his new friend to join him. Taking her hands out of her pockets, she takes the bar, snaps a piece off, fumbling with the rest of the bar due to her thick gloves, and almost drops the whole thing as she hands it back. They savor the creaminess, hoping for some inspiration. "What happened, where can they be?" Colin asks almost to himself, as he continues eating his chocolate. He gazes off into the distance, allowing his mind free reign to come up with its own conclusions.
"More chocolate," he offers, as she shakes her head at the gesture. He finishes the bar of chocolate and they head for the village pub and typically the hive of village activity. The door is swinging open on its hinges in the wind. With a knot in his stomach, he can't explain, his mouth is dry with fear. Colin and his companion walk through the familiar doors. Clearly a disturbance took place, with overturned tables and chairs. Several spilt drinks, and a faint metallic aroma, which can only be one thing, blood.
"What did you say your name is?" Colin asks.
"I didn't," She answers her eyes darting around the pub frantically. "Amber, Amber Moon."
"And why did you find the need to kill all my fellow villagers, Amber?" Colin asks as the penny drops. His quick mind having worked out the clues and coming to the logical solution.
"Hungry," the beautiful zombie smiled back at him. "Tell me Colin, does the moon bother you?"
"Not anymore. I control the wolf, not the other way around."
"Wish I can say the same, the hunger for flesh and brains just gets the better of me sometimes, I hope I didn't eat your family."
"No, I ate them myself the first time I changed."
"You've got demons, I can tell, that's why I like you, we share a common ground." She claps her hands enthusiastically. "How can you tell, is it obvious?"
"Not at all, super wolf senses. How can you tell about me?" Colin asks wearily, glad he doesn't need to hide his true self, or his true alter-ego. He isn't sure which is the real him, the man or the wolf anymore. "What about you, do you have family?"
"Same, I can sense your inner wolf, the family part, that's complicated," she explains without explaining.
"Humor me, I'd say let me buy you a drink, but no one is here so it is a free bar. What are you having?"
"A beer, thanks," Amber responds, her pale face tranquil waiting for her beer.
"Yes, they do!" Colin shouted over to her.
"They do what?"
"Nectar beer?" Colin says.
"Never heard of it."
"A local delicacy, made from the local hive."
"Honey from the local hive. You are aware bees live in a hive, they produce honey, aren't you?"
"Totally delicious, another reason I drag myself back occasionally," Colin says.
"Let's try this delicious brew then, with such a recommendation how can we not?" Amber says.
Stepping behind the bar grabbing two fresh glasses, he starts to pore them two pints of Nectar.
"Bottoms up," Colin says as he passes over Amber's drink.
"Thanks," they chink glasses and each take a long swallow of drink. "Good beer."
"Yes," Colin agrees, "please, continue with your story." He prompts, fascinated with Amber.
"The first foray into Zombie land for me was a disaster, no one gave me a handbook. I couldn't ask advice from anyone. Bitten by a zombie, murdered and my body dumped, with no idea how I awoke as a zombie. Going back to my old life, I got into trouble for being 'missing,' as my parents saw the situation. Then the hunger came, and I couldn't imagine killing someone, so I ate a fresh corpse," she explains.
"Revolting, and also makes you ill." Colin pulled a face.
"Okay smarty-pants, I know that now, another beer?" she asks.
"Please," he smiles as she walks around the bar, looking comfortable like she is at ease finding her way around. "Do you work behind a bar?"
"No," she laughs, "I'm a fast learner."
Colin is intrigued, "your family?"
"Oh yes, not really complicated I ate them, ate them all. Chowed down on their brains like a macabre all you can eat buffet," she sniggers. "My new family is better."
"Is this the part where all your zombie pals come along and I run away screaming, then you say he's mine and come and claim me for your own?"
"Vivid imagination." She ominously takes another long drink, without answering his question.
They spend the next few hours drinking the bar dry of Nectar honey beer. Colin admits he is drunk, and the way Amber is laughing at his jokes she is as well. Jokes he can tell are not so amusing, a nerd’s jokes seldom are, too much overthinking involved.
They say their good nights, and Colin makes his way to his family home. He still owns the house even though he is never here, nostalgia.
The next morning with the hangover from hell, Colin makes an early exit from the village before anyone can come and start asking questions as to the whereabouts of the residents. He can do without any unwanted publicity and he is not a fan of being in the spotlight.
Back at his penthouse flat in the city all clean lines and wall-to-wall windows he suffers for three days.
This can't be a hangover, he thinks, who ever heard of a three-day hangover?
The news reports start to flood in about the village, pleading for anyone with any information to contact the police hotline.
Colin doesn't consider calling for a second, and risk the finger would be pointed at him. Being incarcerated at a full moon is one of those things every self-respecting werewolf is terrified of, and one of the many demons he mentioned to Amber. At the thought of that night his next thought, naturally, is of her and wondering what she is doing. Hopefully not eating another village of people.
The answer is obvious, why didn't he realize sooner?
How has she made a whole village disappear? Can't be zombie related, surely. No one can eat a village. He grabs his laptop and starts his search to track her down, shaking his head to try to dislodge the persistent headache.
Unable to find anything for Amber Moon, he tries a different tack. He starts to look into mysterious, unexplained mass disappearances. Bringing him to what he is looking for, sporadic vanishings. The people who are interviewed are unable to explain and every one of them say how out of character the situation is for these reliable people to simply go and never come back with no word to anyone. The first case is a household, then a pair of semi-detached houses. A row of houses, a street. Now the village, he thinks. Is Amber the connection, is this all Zombie feeding?
The next link is they are all semi-rural locations and are all part of a movement supporting local farmers and suppliers. This probably is common for country folk, he thinks. Colin calls it a day and goes to make some food. Opening his fridge, he grabs some leftover cold pizza. He craves for very rare steak. Which generally signifies a full moon is approaching, and he'll be transforming soon. But no, the full moon is weeks away.
Closing the fridge, he strolls over to his phone to order takeaway to be delivered. Absently he is considering his options, the ringing of his phone causes him to jump out of his skin, flinching and almost throwing his phone into the air.
"Colin speaking," he answers with a shortness bordering on rude.
"Hey Colin speaking, right about now you're craving raw meat. Am I right?" The smooth sultry tone of Amber Moon all but purrs down the line to him.
"How do you..." he begins, "Amber is that you, what did you do?"
"I'll take your response as a yes." The line goes dead.
What the hell? Colin asks himself as he presses return call to the number. The more rings the more frustrated he becomes finally pressing the end call with such force he is lucky his finger doesn't go through the screen.
The buzzer for his door sounds and he Zombie-stomps over.
"Yeah," he answers.
"Are you inviting me up or what?" Amber asks.
"Amber!" Buzz. He lets her in without a second thought.
Pacing from one end of the room to the other until there is the soft click of her closing the door behind her. She moves fast for a zombie, Colin thinks.
"What the hell is going on Amber, what did you do to me, and what the hell is that noise?" Colin demands.
She is sliding closer to him, "Are your eyelashes buzzing? Amber talk to me."
"Don't make me angry Colin, and yes my eyelashes, they are fluttering 200 times per second, like a bees-wings. This is my favorite side effect of the process."
"Process, what process? Have you been drinking again?"
"Yes, I can't drink enough Nectar beer, delicious, did you know honeybees are the only insect that produce food for humans to consume?"
"Can you say anything other than what?"
"You better start talking and fast, or I'll be the one getting angry."
"I'm not scared, not now you can't transform. There's only one metamorphosis going to happen to you, and I've come along to hold your hand and help you." Amber says cryptically.
She places her handbag on the stool by the breakfast bar and with the grace of a cat springs into a squatting position on the breakfast bar itself. Colin can't work out what is happening or why she is here, and he scratches his head in wonder. Horror strikes him as he pulls his hand away, a clump of his hair is in his grasp, and is this a bit of his scalp?
"How did you do this, you bitch!" He reaches for her throat, but she leaps out of his grasp, she isn't cat like she is wolf like. He is slow and sluggish and she has his wolf grace and athleticism.
"Now now, don't be so aggressive. That really isn't becoming."
"I'll give you becoming..." He lunges again, catching his hand on the cupboard and his little finger flies off. "Argh," he screams, grasping hold of his injured hand.
"Don't worry the rotting flesh settles down, and I can give you some incredible moisturizer that will make you look 10 years younger and stop the rot."
He isn't listening, he is trying to catch her, she is jumping from one expensive designer chair to the next. Her stilettos digging in and ripping the leather. Much like his skin is starting to rip and slide from him, he may be dramatic because this isn't happening. Just the sensation, although it will happen if he doesn't take her up on her skin care offer.
"Come on, can you calm down and listen?"
"No, no I bloody can't. Make it stop, give me back my life. How dare you, are you aware who I am?"
"Of course, you're a reclusive video game rich guy, who no one will be aware is dead until a neighbor reports a funny whiff coming from your swanky apartment."
"Why, why Amber, why are you doing this to me?" He hates the whiny tone to his voice, but he is fighting back tears, trying to hold everything together in front of this woman.
"You should be honored," she says keeping a safe distance between them. Even without changing into her (his) wolf form she can rip his saggy, rotting, putrid flesh from his bones without breaking a sweat. Which begs the question, why are people so scared of zombies if they are so useless.
"The brain eating, freaks people out," Amber answers his unasked question.
"Why should I be honored?" He realizes he needs to ask some questions to try to discover what is happening.
"Drone bees are all male; did you realize that?"
He shakes his head, "No, nor does this impact my life in any way shape or form."
"They are a drain on the hive, they are for one purpose. To err, service the Queen. Sexually," whispering the last word with her hands surrounding her mouth to aim the words just at Colin. Bearing in mind that they are alone in his home, Colin shakes his head at her theatrics.
"All that time we spent in the pub the other night, you never once asked me what I do," Amber says. "You are more than happy to drone on about how amazing you are and how successful."
"But you're a zombie."
"Not any more darling, I think you'll find you're the zombie now. Honest, you will need to moisturize, I'm concerned for your pretty looks."
"Stop joking, this isn't funny, I don't want to be a zombie. I like my life."
"A bummer, I understand, believe me I have been right where you are now. And still, you are not asking me what I do. Anyone would think you're not interested in me Coli-Wolli."
"I think something is wrong with you Amber, you need professional help."
"I get all the help I need." She cackles with laughter like a crazy person.
"Here," she throws a tube of her much-discussed moisturizer his way. Colin grabs the tube and turns to inspect it. With the look of something you pick up at a craft fair, selling lotions, candles, jewelry, jams and the like. A hand-written label with the hilarious title of Anti-Rot Juice. Colin pops the lid and takes a cautious sniff.
"Not gonna kill you, don't be such a wimp," Amber mocks him.
"Oh, forgive me for not trusting you. You make lotions, for a job?" he asks as he squeezes some cream on his hand and starts to smother his face, which is starting to look decidedly saggy.
"Nope, not what I do, a hobby I suppose you can say."
"Okay, I give in."
"I'm an apiologist," Amber states proudly.
"A what?" Colin replies blankly.
"I study the science of bees and honey making."
"Well certainly this explains your random bee facts I guess."
"I mix my love affair of bees with my need to feed, but all in vain. I'm no Queen of the hive."
The buzzer buzzes again and Colin panics, "No one can see me like this."
"Well, ignore the damn door," Amber says with a hint of frost to her tone.
"Oh yes, good idea." He spits through clenched teeth, sick of her games.
"Change me back," Colin blurts, interrupting her story.
"I will if you promise to help me."
"You are the first successful experiment, everyone else died. A honeybee visits anywhere from 50 to 100 flowers in one trip. You were my 74th flower."
Colin appreciates his werewolf element saved him from the same fate as all Amber's other 'flowers'. He dreads to think what she's going to want in return for getting his life back. Certain he will want to avoid the inevitable, only one way to find out.
"Tell me what you need," Colin asks.
Amber begins to explain the mixing of the purified bodies in with the batches of honey, to sell to the makers of Nectar beer. She doesn't understand why a werewolf has this reaction whereby they have switched their secret lives with each other. However, she gained the power to overthrow the head of her organization. The Queen of the hive if you like.
"I need us to kill her, she turned me into a zombie, I'm her worker along with all my colleagues, I'm sick of everything. I am the brains behind the operation, and I want the credit. We have to kill her and I will be Queen Bee."
Colin nods slowly, "You want me to kill a Zombie Queen bee because you're jealous that you didn't get promoted."
"Sounds stupid when you say it like that, but yes, perfectly sums it up."
"How will I return to myself?"
Colin glares at her as if to say, not likely.
Colin goes into his bedroom, pulls open the drawers to his oak dresser and places a few changes of clothes into a substantial gym bag that he keeps under his bed.
"Ready," Amber pokes her head around the glass door, "you have a beautiful home." She stares wistfully as she glances around the rest of his spacious, open-plan apartment.
"Yes, and thanks." He mumbled distracted.
They lock up, after Colin grabs the moisturizer and throws it into his bag with his other belongings. Walking towards the lift their feet sink into the luxurious carpet of the apartment’s hallway.
"How long have you lived here?" Amber asks.
"Nice, you must have good neighbors."
"Harry is beneath me, I never hear a peep from him. So yeah, the perfect neighbor. Why do you ask?"
"Just making conversation, hey why don't you have any pets? You're rich and you live alone."
"I lost Jasper a few years back, my cat." He explains as they wait for the lift to arrive.
"I'm sorry, I think you better touch up your cream you're looking a bit, well jaded," Amber says her eyes full of apologies, and what look like tears in this light.
"You better let me drive," she says holding her hand out for the keys. Colin obliges by handing them over seeing the logic in what she says.
He's staggering a little, "When did you begin being normal again after becoming a zombie?"
"Hop in, we can talk on the way," says Amber.
The Porsche is a dream to drive and Amber lets it open-up once they are out of the city.
"To answer your question, I didn't," Amber says.
"What?" Colin's head is throbbing like it is going to explode, every part of him burns.
"I am not and never have been a zombie," Amber explains.
"I drugged you," the frost back in her voice.
"Why? What do you want?"
"Your money of course and that beautiful apartment. I convinced you of the story with a small dose of Atropine, deadly nightshade. Sprinkled over the chocolate. Some subliminal messaging to hypnotize you into a suggestive state," she confirms. "Then suggested little ideas that you were all too eager to jump at."
Colin rubs at his face trying to clear his thoughts, he is fading fast.
"I upped the dose in your pizza, and you’ve ramped it up by using the moisturizer,” she giggles, “you aren't blessed with much time Colin. Thanks for your password to online banking, pet's name Jasper. And, I'll say hi to your neighbor Harry when I tell him you moved out. After, I dump your body of course."
Colin's eyes close for the last time, safe in the knowledge that his affairs would be well and truly taken care of by Amber Moon.
Thank you for reading I hope you enjoyed this story.
About the author
The Order, SJ's NA series is coming soon.
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Very well written. Keep up the good work!
Original narrative & well developed characters
Compelling and original writing
Creative use of language & vocab