Long Haired Zombie-Killing Freak #15

He body-checked me into the bar. The same one my motorcycle was hidden behind. The hit threatened to knock the wind out of my lungs, and that would have been the death of me.

Hardened, thickened, and elongated, zombie fingernails ripped into my bare back. He wasn’t about to let go of me unless I cut his hands off. I reserved that as an option, but it quickly went out the window when he lifted me off the ground and threw me at the chair I’d been sitting in.

Allow me to state that whoever built that chair, did it for longevity. Under that decaying fabric was a solid frame, because the chair tipped over when I hit it, but didn’t shatter. My ribs took a lot of the impact, and probably a few of them cracked.

I say “probably” because I could still move, and use my arm. It hurt like merry hell, though. The gods were kind, because in all the mess, I never lost my grip on the sword. I wouldn’t stand a chance, unarmed, against one of them.

When I lifted my head off the musty, damp, carpet, I saw him warily approaching me. My little show, dispatching two of his cronies (with their assistance), made him reevaluate me as an opponent. At least I like to think it did.

It took me a minute to get to my knees. He actually waited.

“Did that bitch send you to kill him?”

“What?” I asked.

“Louise. Did she send you?”

It was a classic Catch-22. If I told them, I would probably have a dead client in short order. No client: no reward.

“Who the fuck is that?” I tried to sound convincing.

“You expect me to believe that you ride around just looking for people to kill? I might be back from the dead, but I’m not a fucking idiot!”

“Asshole, you’re not ‘people’ anymore! You were dead. You came back, and now you eat people to stay alive. You’re a goddamned zombie!” I yelled back at him, hoping that being angry would make him leave the issue of my client alone.

“I think. I eat. I breathe. I shit. I’m still a person, and you are a murdering little fucker who needs to die.” He cracked his knuckles. “I don’t care if it was that cunt, Louise, who sent you. I’m going to shred you like cabbage!”

I got to my knees, sword extended parallel to my body. He was going to rush me again, and from that position I had a few choices of how to deal with his attack.

Aikido first. Sword second. Not that there is a whole lot of difference when you boil it down. Aikido is derived from Kenjitsu—combat swordwork—and the katas for suwari waza (kneeling position) look much the same in both disciplines.

He had two choices with me kneeling: come in really low to grapple, or just kite in and break my neck. I couldn’t remotely predict which one it would be, but I saw his eyelid twitch, and I couldn’t afford the luxury of thinking anymore.

The only way anyone can beat a faster opponent is by moving at virtually the same time they move. In an ideal world, you want to move right before they make the decision to attack. This is harder to do with the undead, or reliving, or whatever you want to call them, because they’re just that much faster…unless your offending zombie is being a drama queen.

Please understand. I love it when a zombie tries to sell the drama. It has saved my life on more than one occasion. It kept me alive that day.

I lifted my leg and turned on the point of my other knee, right into his attack. My blade came up, and I used the momentum of my turn to power the strike.

The point tagged his collarbone, and continued downward as he ran up against the edge. He toppled over my arms and my knee, a boneless weight, and spilled his organs on the rug.

Follow me on Twitter @crawford4033, and check out the book at Amazon!

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For Zombies Infects Scranton

Having had the experience earlier this year of manning our own artist table at the 2012 Philadelphia Wizard World, John and I were excited to now have an artist table at the “Infect Scranton” zombie convention in fabulous Scranton, PA.  To say we overpacked for Wizard World would be something of an understatement.  We had no idea what we were getting into at the time and given that it wouldn’t be easy to pick up stuff if we were missing anything, we came loaded to the gills.

This time around, though, John and I packed light.  A couple of boxes, a stand for our banner and the bare minimum makeup were all we needed.  Experience is always the best teacher.

Our friend Bob met us on Friday night.  There was a zombie pub crawl scheduled for that night, but in an uncharacteristic display of sound judgement, we opted to have dinner and then call it a night since we had to get up in the morning and be productive.

The next morning, we piled into the car, found the location (a high school), grabbed some tables near the entrance and got ourselves set up.

Sanj & John At Table

Our fabulous booth outside the restrooms

Following the setup, John and I shambled off to the men’s room to get in makeup.  It’s not all glamour being a zombie.

Sanj Bathroom

The glamorous world of a zombie

Once the attendees began arriving, we got busy right away, pitching our insane ideas to any warm bodies with ears who were willing to give us a listen.  People tended to be very receptive to us in general – it was a zombie convention after all.  These were our people!

Dead Bob

There’s been an accident

In the vendor room, there were tables manned by zombie authors, internet zombie radio show hosts, actors from The Walking Dead and a number of people who had played notable zombies in Dawn of the Dead.

Foot traffic started to die down in the late afternoon.  There was a panel discussion with some cast members from The Walking Dead that was moderated by Matt Mogk from the Zombie Research Society. For reasons still unknown to us, people found the celebrities far more interesting that a couple of guys with a few silly ideas.

Walking Dead Panel

The Sitting Dead

Following the panel, we took everything down and it was time for dinner. John, Bob and I took an unwilling tour of Scranton, PA as we found the restaurants we wanted to go to happened to be closed on Saturday night.  Maybe they didn’t want to get overrun by zombies?

We made up for missing the pub crawl Friday night at the hotel bar.  Just as we were wrapping up some of the celebrities from the convention entered the hotel lobby.  Well, not ones to miss a good opportunity, we ended up meeting some, taking photos and having a few beers – all in all a wonderful finale to the evening.

T-Dog

With T-Dog from The Walking Dead

Matt Mogk

With Matt Mogk of the Zombie Research Society

The next morning, we crawled awake and shambled our separate ways – Bob heading home, and John and I attending a final brunch/fundraiser

This is the first time this event was held.  For the most part it ran smoothly.  Kudos to the organizer, Shannon Keith and we’re looking forward to taking part next year.

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Long Haired Zombie-Killing Freak #14

I realized at that moment, if I lived to tell the tale, I’d cut my hair as soon as I got home. Hell, I might just go bald! No wonder Samurai put the tail up on the top of their heads.

They held me at gunpoint, and discussed my eventual demise. It was dreary. I’d heard a lot of the same things before in other situations.

“Can’t you people be a little more creative?” I turned my head to look my primary captor in the face… as much of it as I could see, anyway.

“What?” He looked slightly surprised to hear me complain.

“Yeah. Look. I’ve been in this position before. I hear the same shit over and over again.” I actually put my hands on my hips. It shocked me slightly that no one saw me shift my weight and decide to shoot me right away. “If I’m going to die, I’d like a little creativity with it, instead of the same old song and dance.”

Behind me—I guess it was the guy with the shotgun—someone snickered.

“Well, Mr. I’m-Not-Afraid-To-Die, what would you suggest in terms of creatively killing you?” The guy holding my hair asked me. He didn’t let up on his grip, unfortunately, and my neck was killing me.

“Now you want my help?” I didn’t have to feign indignance.

“Hey, I am addressing your complaints,” he said, and gave my hair a significant jerk. “and I’d like a little appreciation for that… and for my generous attention in exploring your end of life needs.”

Fucker. Everyone is a comedian.

“Gosh. I. Am. So. Grateful. What. A. Mensch!” I couldn’t spit on him, but I wanted to.

All three of them laughed, and the grip on my hair let up.

I dropped slightly, and spun out of his grip. By the time he started to pull again, I was more beside him than in front. I took my sword by the scabbard, and used it like a stick. The iron cap on the handle hit him below his right ear, just behind the jawbone.

He let go of my hair and clutched his head while his knees buckled. I fucking love pressure points!

The first of my major problems were solved. My hairdresser was down, and I was moving. I caught the second biker moving out of the corner of my eye, as I passed in front of him. He was going to bring my own gun up and put some holes in me—that much was clear.

Really, it didn’t seem like something I wanted to do with my day. As it was, there was the third guy with the shotgun to give me the willies. Luckily, my instincts took over. I turned my forward momentum into a roll, as though my sword was the spoke in a Frank Stewart-shaped wheel.

Damned good thing I did, too. The shotgun rang out in the ruins of the restaurant foyer, followed by a warm, wet, spray across my face as I came up out of the roll. On the bright side, it wasn’t my warm, wet, stuff squirting around!

Shotgun Biker took out the guy holding my .45. I sounded my Walt Whitman-esque barbarian yawp to celebrate the Darwinian fail of my enemy.

My sword slithered out of the scabbard with an evil glint in the diffuse light, and I closed the distance with my only upright opponent. He saw what was coming, and pumped another shell into the single barrel riot shotgun, hoping to finish me before I was close enough to be bothersome.

Let me say that I can’t use the Force. I am not a Jedi Knight. I do, however, understand how to use rubble to the best effect.

There was a half brick near my foot, so I kicked it at Shotgun Biker as I moved towards him. In a George Lucas film, the brick would have described a gorgeous arc through the air, and hit the bad guy right above his eye. Then he would have dropped the gun. Right?

No such luck. The chunk of brick bounced off his thigh. He glanced down, and that was enough for me. I swept the point of my katana across the front of his calf, opening a gash through his jeans and the meat of his leg.

He howled and the shotgun lifted towards the ceiling. Thank you, God.

I twisted the blade back into line from the short cut, and drove it, edge up, into his chest, right below the sternum. The blade, filled with the energy of my motion, pierced him through. I didn’t stop until the sword guard hit the front of his chest.

When I looked up into his surprised face, noting the thick blood dripping from his mouth, he locked eyes with me.

He tried to say something, but the only thing that came out was a noise that sounded like a pull-cord lawnmower that wouldn’t start properly.

“Does it hurt much?”

“Huk. Huk.” He wheezed.

“Yeah, I imagine so.” I pivoted on my feet and pulled the blade out.

My soon-to-be-dead—for a second time—opponent started to collapse straight down. I turned my pivot into a full step and a strike. His head parted company with his neck in a scarlet guttering of thickened blood.

“Shigata ga nai, motherfucker.” I whispered.

Rough translation: “Shit happens.”

The whisper is all I got before the first biker zombie rushed me like a football hero.

To be continued in #15, next week! In the meantime, follow me on Twitter @crawford4033, or poke around my blog.

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Stir Fried Karate

One of the more common bits of feedback I’ve gotten when showing Stir Fried Justice to people is “when you guys are doing that karate stuff, you guys did a great job of making it look like you were hitting each other.”  “Actually, it’s funny you should mention that”, I usually respond, “because except for some of the head shots, we pretty much were really hitting each other!”

Having been a martial artist for many years, I have the good fortune of knowing a number of people through my training who I was able to call on when John and I got the idea to make a silly karate movie trailer.  Pretty much everyone you see in the film throwing punches and kicks has trained at the same school that I workout at.

Another added bonus is that since we have all trained together, we all have a level of trust that everyone will be able to control what they’re doing enough to make stuff look good without anyone actually getting hurt.

For example, you’ll note that my character, the propeller beanie wearing thug gets hit in the nuts a couple of times.  First I took a kick, in the other, I took a chop while I was on the ground.  I was wearing a cup for both shots, but trust me, both of them connected.  The kick in particular was a doozie, as it actually lifted me off the ground!

Airborne!

Airborne!

This will hurt you more than it will hurt me

This will hurt you more than it will hurt me

Another notable sequence is when after I throw a couple of kicks at him, the Black Thunder character played by Victor Milbourne takes me down in a sleeper hold.  You’ll note my arms and legs flailing as I go down (the choking sound was recorded from the comfort of my home office).  That’s because I really couldn’t breathe.  Granted – some of that was acting, but some of it was an attempt by me to tap out.  Actually – at one point, when we were filming a closeup of the punch that takes me out at the end, Victor hung me up in the sleeper hold a little prematurely while John was checking something on the camera.  All of a sudden, things went woozy, I tapped out and Victor let me go.  I then proceeded to stumble around a bit and finally puked.  If I’d gone a second longer in that hold, I would have gone right out.

You're feeling very sleeeepppyyyy...

You’re feeling very sleeeepppyyyy…

You’ll also note in the film several closeups of faces getting punched or stomped on.  With a couple of exceptions, we never punched anyone in the face.  All those shots were controlled.  To get a closeup showing impact, we filmed the shot in reverse, showing the punch being pulled away, and then when in post-production, we reversed the film to make it look like someone was being punched.

That looks painful

That looks painful

Note that I said a couple of exceptions.  In the scene where one of the Damsels in Distress characters punches me in the face, we wanted to have my character spit blood.  That would be very difficult to film in reverse.  In those cases, I was actually punched in the jaw.  I just clenched my teeth tight and rolled my head with the punch.

That was painful

That was painful

Lastly, in watching the film, you may note that some of the martial arts may look familiar if you’ve ever seen kenpo.  A number of us study kenpo together and we used some self defense routines from kenpo as the base movements for some of the sequences.  We didn’t necessarily copy the sequences movement by movement, we weren’t teaching kenpo here, we just took the movements as a basis and then had some fun with them.  Given that we did this under a time crunch, we shot everything in a day, it was handy that we knew a number of techniques I could call out by name and know that the other person would be able to know what I was talking about.  This was a lot easier than if I’d had to choreograph everything from the ground up!

This was a complete departure from all the films we’d done previously.  No zombies.  But it was still incredibly fun making it, and we learned a lot about coordinating a film shoot with nearly a dozen cast members.

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Zombies Have a Heart, Too

It’s a sad fact of unlife that not everyone wants to be a zombie.  Despite the current  pro-zombie craze perpetuated by the living, there are some undead fans who quite like the sound of their heart still beating.  That’s fine with me – after all, we need food for the future.

But it’s not all about food.  Despite Romero’s best intentions to portray us all as heartless, brainless, shuffling automatons there are a growing minority of us with radical views when it comes to the living.  Jesse Manson’s recent experience is a good example.

Jesse,  a good friend of mine who remains on the other side of the meal fence, had a close encounter with a few of my undead associates while on vacation and, suffice to say, it didn’t go well.  Romero and his rotten ilk would have the world believe that, being of the non-breathing variety, I would take the side of the horde.  This was not the case.  Instead, I inflicted violent retribution upon her assailants and their severed heads, impaled on bamboo poles, currently add an interesting, if unusual, variation to my Japanese themed meditation garden. It was a satisfying result for both parties (although Jesse is at present unable to thank me personally) and what I hope is the first in a long and fruitful programme of cross-species collaboration.

Even  ‘Zombie Watch’, the magazine of the anti-zombie movement, found Jesse’s story worthy of an article.  Here it is, with kind permission etc (reluctantly given after I threatened to eat their CEO).

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR?

Jessica Manson loves a good zombie movie, but unlike the majority of the zombie groupies and wannabes lurching around our streets nowadays, she has enough sense to want to keep the flesh-munchers at baseball bat distance.

Not so her friend, Crystal ‘Butch’ Towers, a zombie-obsessed drag queen whose dream was to be ‘turned’ like her heroine Lady Gaga. Little did she know her dream was to come true while on vacation in Cancun, Mexico.

In a classic case of why you should always use Tripadvisor,  Ms Manson and Ms Towers unwittingly booked their vacation to coincide with the Anti-Zombie Defamation League annual conference.   This conference, as we know, ended in a full scale riot after a dogma disagreement between moderate zombies and a far-right fundamental wing of the Zombie Liberation Front escalated into violence.

After months of negotiations with the National Security Agency and Homeland Security we were given special permission to interview Jessica in the secure wing of a secret military facility in Norfolk, Virginia, where she told us her story.  To avoid the delicate sensibilities of our readers we have edited the foul language Ms Manson uses in her everyday speech.

“It was f*****g awesome,” she said, her thousand-yard stare betraying the emotion of the day.   “We were sat on the beach talking about our clown fetish when there was this smell, this real bad smell. I mean, this s**t stank.”  Her face blanched at the memory.  “I turned to see what the living f***k it was, and all these zombies – and I mean hundreds of the b******s – stumbled down the beach towards us.”  Her cot shook as she suddenly became animated. “I nearly shit myself with WIN because I thought they were filming The Walking Dead.”  (Ms Manson is the Prez of ‘Mommas for Reedus’, an all-female outlaw gang who follow strict celibacy laws in honour of the Walking Dead actor).

While she spoke, she repeatedly asked us to flick wayward strands of her long black hair and dayglo wraps from her face.  “It’s these f******g restraints,” she complained,  and rattled her leather and metal wrist and ankle cuffs for effect.

“Anyway,” she continued, eyes now wild at the memory.  “I thought the makeup and special effects were totally a-f*****g-mazing.  I’d never seen intestines and blood spatter so accurate – and I look at this sh*t a lot.  It wasn’t until one of the b******s started chewing on Crystal’s face I realised they weren’t acting.”

The only other memory the deeply traumatised Ms Manson has of the vicious attack is drop-kicking a zombie’s head into the sea as she wrestled off the hungry horde.  “I’ve not seen Crystal since, but I’m pretty sure it’s her scratching at my windows at night.  Bitch.”

The interview unfortunately came to an abrupt end after Ms Manson began to froth at the mouth and attack our photographer.  He still remains in intensive care as we go to press.

 

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