Thursday, September 30, 2010

What is "Area 187"?

(Image Copyright Laura Conkle)

In 2007, an accident at a clandestine U.S. government facility in rural West Virginia released several test subjects infected with a highly contagious, necrotic virus. In an effort to maintain the secrecy of the project and prevent widespread panic, government operatives, military units and private forces are sent into Appalachia with orders to quietly eliminate all traces of the infected subjects, including “secondary infections”. The fiercely independent, close-knit nature of the people and the rough, isolated hills and deep hollows work against them, giving the virus a small yet strong pool of victims, spreading through the rural populace faster than its carriers can be found and destroyed. Whole extended families succumb to the growing undead tide as the loved ones they try to care for turn on them. In a matter of days, the virus is carried throughout southern and central West Virginia as the dead spread through the hills and into first the small mountain communities.

The rapidly-failing government conspiracy leaves no room for warning the populace of the coming zombie hordes or preparing civil services and medical personnel. Rural doctors and the small, ill-equipped regional hospitals that dot countryside rush the newly-infected to hospitals in the more heavily-populated areas of the state, inadvertently sending the virus biting and clawing into tens of thousands more. Days later the virus appears in northern Virginia and southwestern Pennsylvania, forcing the declaration of marshal law in the affected states. Thousands of soldiers are lost as the military attempts to regain control of the region, their training in conventional warfare failing dramatically against their unconventional enemy. Within three weeks of the initial outbreak, the federal government and the Department of Homeland Security are forced to publicly announce the crisis. The bulk West Virginia and slices of Virginia and Pennsylvania are placed under strict quarantine. Ground forces are gathered and pulled back, creating defensive lines and temporary blockades as they retreat to the outer edges of the quaratine while the few heavily-populated cities in the state and other "key" targets are leveled from the air. Eventually, the defensive lines are fortified and nothing is allowed in or out, damning those missed in the short period of evacuations to a living hell and locking away the real truth of the virus’ creation.

Publicly announcing fears that the virus could be used to create the ultimate terrorist weapon, the United States government transfers the responsibility of maintaining the quarantine from the military to the Department of Homeland Security, which christens it “Area 187”. Hundreds of thousands of lawsuits and claims are dismissed under Homeland’s broad anti-terror legislation as government and military leaders and the research and development corporations involved in the development of the virus scramble to cover their involvement in the original project, distancing their investors and reelection campaigns from the large chunk of the continental United States now ruled by the dead.

Years pass. Homeland Security develops and enforces a total news blackout on all things Area 187. Dozens of laws are passed granting sweeping authority to maintain the security of the Area using whatever means Homeland deems fit. Like so many disasters before it, the American people grow tired of hearing the stories of those that escaped and of those that were left behind and of seeing the horrifying, shambling dead on the evening news. And while they continue donate to survivor causes and celebrate the additional day off from work each year, most have become more than willing to move on and allow the government to retake the Area on their own time table. Conspiracies continue to thrive outside the now-immense defensive wall and mercenaries known as “grave robbers” regularly slip in and out of the Area, stealing valuables and taking contracts to bring back specific items for well-paying customers.

Our story begins in the year 2014, seven years after the creation of the undead land the world has moved on, though it keeps a watchful eye on the chunk of the United States ruled by the dead. America itself has more or less made its peace with the Area, and even those in its neighboring states have done their best to forget it exists. Homeland Security and the federal government use this apathy to their advantage, quietly continuing the fortification of the massive walls, fences and state of the art electronic monitoring and satellite systems that now keep the shambling dead and the virus they carry locked away from humanity. But these measures not only keep the zombie hordes from devouring the nation. As the defenses grew, the few dozen survivors a month that managed to make their way back to the living world on their own dwindled to a few a month, then trickled off to a few a year with the last recorded survivors emerging from the death lands in 2012, more than two years ago. Currently, Homeland's position is that no survivors remain in Area 187. Conspiracy theories abound, both from those able to couch their reporting in language barely legal when held up to the light of Area 187 laws and from "outlaw" news sources alike. Many speak of the existence of proof still buried away inside the Area that the virus was created not by accident but as a viral weapon while others believe that Homeland not only knows of the exitence of survivors, but actively works to keep them hidden away behind the walls for fear of what they may know or that they may be able to carry a mutated form of the virus with them should they return to the living world.

Homeland's control of the Area, as well as any Area-related "offense" committed anywhere in the United States, has become absolute. While their agents cotinue their forays into Area 187 in search of grave robbers and sensitive information related to the creation of the zombie virus, others are tasked with tracking down those same things outside it as well. Laws allowing Homeland free reign to arrest, detain and indefinately hold anyone they believe a threat to the security of Area 187 are used to their fullest. The luckiest of the suspected "grave robbers" or those consorting with them are subject to immediate arrest, detainment and a rapid, loaded trial. Most simply vanish without a trace, never to be seen again. News and communications blackouts begun in the early days of the Area not only continue but have spread throughout the world. While Homeland continues to invesitgate and control all news and information concerning Area 187 from U.S. news outlets, networks and even the internet, the federal government controls foreign news gathering and reporting by threatening embargos, sanctions and withdrawl of vital foreign aid dollars to nations that fail to control Area 187-related disseminations. Officially, Area 187 will remain under strict quarantine for the next 25 years to allow time for the undead to rot away and for the virus, devoid of any fresh hosts, to rot away along with them. Officially, grave robbing is not only a crime but carries with it a huge risk that someone could carry the virus back to the living world. And, officially, no survivors remain alive behind the impervious walls of Area 187.

"Area 187, Book I; Almost Hell" follows Josephine Terrell, a television reporter, and John Heath, once an Air Force search-and-rescue team leader that escaped the Area after five years of fruitless searching for his wife, as they risk their lives from both the dead and the living to go into Area 187 to rescue a group of survivors. Josephine is looking for the story of the century, one that will prove survivors exist inside and that Homeland has been covering up their existence. Heath joins her after he sees what may very well be his wife, Eileen, in a video message from the survivors. Death will follow their every step as the pair makes their way on foot through the blasted, nightmarish landscape full of hungering dead. But the peril offered by the mindless corpses becomes second to the danger presented by the living.

Don't miss "Area 187, Book I; Almost Hell" by Eric R. Lowther, coming soon from Library of the Living Dead Press, along with "Area 187, Book II; Almost Home" slated for publication Winter 2010. And remember, check back here often for further publishing news, updates, free short fiction and more about the world of Area 187, and thanks for reading.

Eric R. Lowther

P.S. Just write, damn it.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Alley Cat - Fiction

This story, "Alley Cat", was published in the anthology Dark Distortions from Scotopia Press a few years ago. As the rights have reverted to me, and as I was never paid for the work even though they went on to sell out all copies and begin production on a Volume II, I've decided to place it here for your amusement. I hope you enjoy. - Author

Rupert paced nervously, checking his watch after every lap of the office. If the shrink was much later he’d have to hustle to get the job done. After all, it was the 16th. Time to kill. He hadn’t always reserved the 16th for murder. It used to be just another day. Until him, of course. Until the Alley Cat.

Rupert Green had always been considered the outsider, the loner. From a bad childhood to a less–than–stellar adult, it seemed there was always someone or something waiting to knock him down. His job, women, his car; everything worked in concert to destroy his life and continue his misery. The only thing that empowered him, gave him some semblance of control over his pitiful existence, was in exerting control over others. But when hookers got too expensive and battery charges took too much of his life away via the county lock–up he turned to murder. His first few forays were no more satisfying than whipping the crack whores. He watched every police drama, crime show and forensics documentary he could find, and his first few killings were marred by doubt about the police picking apart his techniques through hairs and stains. He couldn’t relax and enjoy himself if he constantly worried over leaving a flake of skin around, could he? But the Alley Cat changed all that.

With the Alley Cat covering his trail, he found a new level of freedom. He didn’t have to devise his own schemes. He only had to mirror the other’s work and be a bit careful over what he left behind. Of course, that meant he had to adopt the Cat’s own timetable. The city thought the Alley Cat had taken to killing two victims on the 16th of the month. Rupert was happy to let them think that. All he had to do was breeze through this ridiculous psychological battery tonight for his parole officer and he would be on his way. He checked his watch again as the doctor strolled in more than 20 minutes late.

“You’re late, doc.” Rupert said, irritated.

“So sorry. Unavoidable, really, Mister…” the doctor glanced down at his clipboard, “Green.” He set the clipboard on his desk and touched a key on his phone. “Agnes, can you bring coffee for Mr. Green and me?” He let go of the button before she replied and turned back to Rupert. “Now… let me see… you’re here for a parole check–up, yes? Some sort of anger management issue?”

“Uh… yeah… I guess so. Will this take long, Doc?” Rupert asked.

“That is completely up to you, Mr. Green. I assume you have a date?”

Rupert followed the doctor’s eyes down his legs to his tapping foot. “I… no… just nervous, I guess. I’ve never had to do one of these before.”

“No? Well, let me assure you, Mr. Green. Even though it says ‘doctor’ on the wall, I won’t be using any needles or asking you to bend over.” The little man laughed at his own joke as his middle–aged secretary wheeled in a small beverage cart.

“Dr. Feinman, will you be needing anything else this evening? Joey’s sick and my husband…”

“No, Agnes. Mr. Green and I shouldn’t be long. You just go on home.”

The secretary returned his smile and excused herself as Feinman busied himself at the cart. “Sugar?” he asked.

Rupert stared at him for a moment, his mind on his night’s work and the delay the doctor had already cost him. “What? Oh… yeah…” Feinman poured, stirred their sugars and creams and handed his patient a mug.

“Let’s sit down.” Feinman said. He took a chair and indicated a long leather couch for Rupert.

“Should I sit or lie down or what?” Rupert asked.

“Whatever makes you comfortable, Mr. Green.” Feinman told him absently as he flipped open the cover on a steno book. Rupert sat down and sipped at his coffee. The sugar did little to diminish the strong, bitter blend.

“Now, Mr. Green, how long have you been on parole?”

“Little over a year now, doc.”

“No problems adjusting to the constraints on your freedom? No issues with violent behavior? No outbursts?” Feinman asked in a friendly tone. Rupert had heard the tone used in countless television shows. The shrink was trying to befriend him, make him open up to see if he’d done anything to violate his parole. He could play the game with the best of them.

“No, doc.I’ve been a good boy.” Rupert replied through his best fake smile. He took a long slug of coffee and threw an arm over the back of the couch.

“And how’s the job they found for you? No problems at work?”

“No, doc. Everything’s just fine.” He thought about the thankless job punching buttons on a gas station register. He’d have killed his snot–nosed 20 year old manager already if it wouldn’t have aroused suspicions. “I’m really grateful for the opportunity.” He continued to smile and sip his coffee as Feinman scribbled a few short words.

“Excellent. Now, Mr. Green, I’d like you to tell me about your hobbies.”

“My hobbies?” Rupert questioned.

“Yes, Mr. Green. Your interests? What you do when you’re not working?” Feinman prodded.

“I really don’t have any, doc.” Rupert replied. He sipped his coffee in the silence and thought about his nocturnal adventures every 16th. He was playing the part of the happy, well–adjusted parolee after all, so the smile was easy enough to excuse.

“Oh, come now. Sports? Crossword puzzles? Surely you don’t go home and stare at the wall.”

Rupert couldn’t keep his thoughts from roaming to his victims, the watching and waiting in bushes and doorways, the long nights listening to talk radio in his shitty car to pattern his marks. “TV, I guess doc. I watch a lot of TV.”

“Well… I guess that’s a hobby.” Feinman said, frowning. “What do you watch?”

“Crime stuff, mostly…” Rupert said easily then fervently wished he could take it back.

“Really? I would think someone with your history would have little interest in such things.”

“I don’t… really… I guess it’s just interesting…” A thin sheen of sweat started to gather and roll from his shoulders to trail down his spine.

“Calm down, Mr. Green…” Feinman soothed, noticing his agitated condition. “There’s nothing wrong with that. Just odd that of all things they show these days, you would watch that type of programming. Why do you think you enjoy that type of entertainment?”

Rupert could feel himself starting to slip. Images of his kills ran through his mind and mixed with memories from the programs he’d seen. His hands started to shake as he realized his mind could no longer separate his own crimes from fiction. He downed the rest of his coffee to keep it from sloshing onto the neutral carpet then suddenly collapsed across the couch. The images kept coming, though. He couldn’t stop them now if he tried. Some small part of his mind screamed at him, begged him to get up, to run.

“Mr. Green… Mr. Green… are you well?” he heard Feinman’s voice ask from far away.

“I’m not feeling… feeling so good… I think I’m gonna’ be… be sick…” It took a moment for Rupert to realize he hadn’t actually spoken. He tried to move his arms and legs but they refused to respond. Even his mouth wouldn’t open.

“That’s all right, Mr. Green. Or should I call you Rupert? Perhaps I should, since we seem to be on such good terms. I guess I should be flattered that you chose to emulate me.” Suddenly, the doctor’s face swam before his eyes, looking down on him from somewhere high above the couch. “But then, we both know that it wasn’t so much for admiration as for opportunity, don’t we?”

Rupert desperately tried to move. He felt Feinman’s warm fingers as they checked for the pulse against his neck and watched as he smiled. “Good, Rupert. Good. Wouldn’t do to have you die here, would it? We have a bit of a trip tonight. Don’t worry…” Feinman said, chuckling, “…I’ll drive. I have the perfect alley all picked out for you.”

Rupert felt as if in a dream. He was the hunter… the killer… the predator... the Alley Cat. This didn’t happen to him; he happened to others. Any minute now he expected the lights to come up and the chains to come off with a happy “Surprise” called from every corner of the rapidly-darkening room.

“Rupert, did you think you could get away with it? Maybe you could shroud your activities from the police for a time, but you and I both know that sooner or later they would have caught you. And do you know why, Rupert?” He couldn’t see Feinman anymore, only the movies in his mind. The doctor’s voice seemed hollow, far-off. “You see, Rupert, quite simply, you are an idiot. A dolt. An imbecile playing a game you have neither the stomach nor the intelligence to play. How long did you think you could make them think you were me, eh? How long did you think before I noticed you?”

Rupert felt himself lifted from the couch then slung over something hard and metal. The distant squeaking he heard reminded him of the cart the secretary had wheeled in. “Plagiarism, while flattering, is still very offensive to me. I didn’t come to your gas station and try to take credit for your work, did I? It’s really a matter of respect, Rupert. And taking credit for another man’s hard work is the height of disrespect.”

He felt motion again, this time smooth and steady. He was being carted somewhere, the tips of his shoes dragging along the floor. “Hmm… misjudged the size of the cart.” Feinman observed. “Well, no matter. You see Rupert, because of you I now have to create an entirely new modus operandi. It makes me ill to even think that when they find you they will have their Alley Cat. Everyone will think of you, Rupert Green, a miserable excuse for both murderer and man, as the famed Alley Cat. All of my work will be attributed to you. You! A miserable waste of skin if I have ever met one! By next week, all of the papers will declare the Alley Cat died of a massive drug overdose in some forgotten alley. Oh, they’ll have their fun, their celebrations. Pundits will make their livings for a week from the delicious irony that the Alley Cat died in an alley of his very own. If it wasn’t for bruising, your death would be the excruciating ordeal you deserve.”

He felt a dull blow to his head and heard Feinman curse, then the unmistakable sensation of a dropping elevator car. “But leaving that kind of evidence would be what you would have done, Rupert; the act of a stupid, plagiaristic, unimaginative Neanderthal.”

An odd rustling sound filled his ears as he felt his body rolling on the ground, the strong smell of plastic in his nostrils. His mind cried out and showed images of his body being cocooned in heavy plastic sheeting. “Don’t worry, Rupert. It’s not far.”

Rupert was only dimly aware of jostling, and Feinman’s grunts of effort seemed miles off and moving away fast. He felt something hard and round at his back and could smell the heavy stench of rubber. His mind roared that he was in the trunk of the good doctor’s car now, the spare tire arching his back in the most uncomfortable way. “That’s all for you, Rupert. When next I lay eyes on you, you’ll be ready for the scene of the crime. But, there is a bright side to this for you, isn’t there? Without me, you would have died alone, pitiful. No one would remember your name. They wouldn’t have cared that you died at all. I left a fine legacy for you, Rupert. No matter how stupid you were in life, you’ll be remembered as one of the finest, most intelligent killers that ever lived. Do take solace in that, will you?” Rupert felt more than heard the thud of the trunk lid dropping into place. His mind was whimpering now, its power to scream lost to the powerful narcotic flowing through his system from the poisoned coffee.

“What do you think about my new alter ego, Rupert?” Feinman’s muffled voice asked him from outside the car. “How about the Dumpster Defiler. Yes. Or maybe even The Euthanist… yes… that has a ring to it. Far too many elderly people around the city anyway, taking up the rent–controlled buildings…”

Rupert Green didn’t care. After all, he was the Alley Cat, the most feared, sadistic and intelligent killer this city had ever known. His dying mind let him have one last chuckle as he turned it over in his mind. “Dumpster Defiler? How fucking dumb…”


Many thanks for having stumbled into my little corner of the Web. My name is Eric R. Lowther, a semi-amateur writer of speculative fiction, horror and dark fantasy. What you'll find here are a few of my short works of fiction and perhaps a few mindless rants here and there. But, mostly fiction. Some may have been previously published with their rights having reverted back, some may be unpublished works and you may even see a post or two in shameless self-promotion for upcoming short-fiction placements and for my first novel project, "Area 187", a novel in two parts slated for publication this fall and winter respectively from Library of the Living Dead Press.

I welcome comments and feedback of all types. A career in the small press has not only given me an ideal playground but has also given me the skin of a rhino for both constructive and non-constructive criticisms alike. My website, www. ericrlowther .com is currently under construction, and as I am far from the most tech savvy of individuals it may be a long time in coming.

To begin my shameless self-promotion, I will leave you with a list of my work still currently available for sale or, in some cases, free for the reading. If you like what you see, great. Drop me a line and let me know. If you don't like what you see, great. Drop me a line and let me know. Email any comments, complaints and/or flaming puppies to ericrlowther @ yahoo .com.

I'm not sure just what the folks over at Scotopia Press are doing these days, but you can find my short serial killer tale "Alley Cat" in the pages of Dark Distortions, Volume 1. You can also go here for a quick review.

Check out two different issues of Theaker's Quarterly Fiction. For Issue #19 for my award-nominated, novella-length tale "Rural Legend", high fantasy with a rural twist, and to Issue #26 for my cover-inspiring short story, "We Three Kings" for a little holiday cheer from where it all began. I share the pages with many other talented authors in these and all my other anthologies, so if you go don't just stop at my pages. Both issues are available to download as a free PDF, but at their price you can afford to support small press, can't you?

For the more humor-driven, go to A Library of Unknown Horrors, a mix of some classic tales from the masters as well as a few of us pups filling out the pages, to read my story "The Great Morgan Family Reunion and Snipe Hunt". Don't forget your gunny sack...

For those with tastes that run to the more traditional, check out my ghost story "Suburban Legend" in Drollerie Press's fine anthology, Bump in the Night. You can get it from their website as well as

For a little Urban Legend Flavor, hop over to Amazon for editor Jennifer Brozek of fame for the anthology, Close Encounters of the Urban Kind for my take on the man-in-the-backseat in my short story, "It Came from the Back Seat".

Here's a great little mag', published both electronically and now on good ole' American paper (wait, we still grow trees here, don't we?). Do yourself a favor and check out Necrotic Tissue Specifically, see e-issue April 2008 for my story, "Milliner's Farm" (now free for your downloading pleasure) and their first print issue listed as January 2009 and look for my short story, "Tenure", Issue #7. That one has also been adapted for the stage as part of a four-act stage production, "3 Zombies and a Demon" by internationally-known playwrite Roy C. Both that, quite frankly, I can't wait to see. "Tenure" as well as the other three scripts are available here, all bound up in a nice soft-bound book with a fantastic cover for any of you looking for something fresh to perform.

Another cool mag' for all you vampire fans out there is Night to Dawn. Though I believe it's on a bit of a hiatus, you can see my take on the vampire with a tale about my recurring vampire character, Shakespeare (Look for my next blog post for "The Taxman Cometh" for a previously published Shakespeare tale), in issue #13. Vampires DO NOT SPARKLE. EVER. If you feel they should, then you probably shouldn't go here and order a copy of the magazine for my tale, "Rotting Meat".

And while you're at it, click over to Zombie World News to see what the world of today would look like if the zombies really were rising as told through news stories, pictures and commentaries from the reporters and commentators following the zombie plague in an effort to keep Mr. & Mrs. America informed. Oh, and tell 'em Arthur Helms sent ya...

As for upcoming projects, I'll pass on more information as it comes on my aforementioned novel project as it comes to light. I will also appear in an upcoming issue of All Hallows, the Ghost Story Society Magazine with my story "Hunter Ghost". More on that when I have a release date. Now, go forth and write, damn it.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

August (or;"Fuck I'm glad that's over")

August 2010 will go down in my personal history as one of the worst months of my life. As many of you know, my father passed away at the beginning of the month. This was quickly followed by personal dramas, work dramas and critical car failure. Now that the month has passed and we're on to September, it's time to get it together and get it moving again, including this blog. Stay tuned here Moms, Dads and Kids of all ages. I intend to get more fiction, updates and other stuff in here on a regular basis. August is done, I've licked my wounds and so, to take my own advice, just write, damn it.