I went back to an old story of mine, Psychic Toll Call and pasted the entire short, short story into the analyzer. This is what I got:
Though it is very cool that I wrote this story like Vonnegut (a literary hero of mine) I had to wonder if I still write the same way. After all, I wrote that story years and years ago. So I pasted what I've written of Zombie Apocalypse: Vampire Raiders of Las Vegas into the analyzer.
Now I get a different badge:
That's cool, too. I might never sell anything, but at least I write like people who do. Sort of. According to a computer web page analyst.
In case you're interested, here's the current text for Zombie Apocalypse: Vampire Raiders of Las Vegas.
Zombie Apocalypse: Vampire Raiders of Las Vegas
The year is 2028. The zombie movies were eerily prophetic. The virus mutated, whether in the wild or in the lab didn't matter anymore. Once the infection started, the world was turned upside down by a pandemic.
A few people prepared places of refuge, places built for defense. They knew something was coming. They just didn't know what. Nobody envisioned this nightmare.
One young man and his wife took refuge on a Colorado ranch, a place built by his parents. Jed (short for Jedidiah) and Maddie (short for Madison) learned to live in the new world, but that wasn't enough.
The world didn't need to be saved. It needed to be cleansed and remade.
Jed and Maddie didn't want the job. That made them the perfect candidates.
The room was paneled and had floor to ceiling bookshelves. A Franklin stove sat cold in the corner. Six rag-tag people huddled in the heavy wooden chairs that crowded the small space, three young women and three men. A heavy-set man in a thick brown coat got up and moved his chair closer to one of the built-in bookshelves, away from the others and further from the man sitting on the heavy wooden desk in the corner, the desk all the chairs faced.
"We're glad we managed to find y'all." His southern accent was so slight that most people wouldn't notice. "In case you don't know already, my name is Jedidiah. Last names don't mean much anymore, so just call me Jed. This place," Jed waved his hand in a semi-circle, encompassing everything around them, both in the room and the substantial number of buildings they passed when they were brought in. "This place is called Selah Ranch."
"Before we get you settled in, we usually like to do an orientation then we'll set you up in your own rooms in the main building here. You're free to stay as part of the community. We have very few rules, but we are pretty strict about the ones we have. Without rules we all die. My Dad said that, and that's sort of the overriding creed."
"If I were to sum the rules up, I guess I'd say don't leave footprints. Not on people. Not on possessions. If you hurt someone, apologize. If you break something, fix it. If you come in and make a snack for yourself, clean up the kitchen so nobody knows you were there. Leaving a mess behind for someone else is simply bad manners."
"Violate no person's privacy or try to impose your will on others. Whatever you do, so far as it depends on you, remain at peace with each other. Issues are brought to me or my wife. Do your part for the community. That's about it for rules.
"Now let's talk about the enemy." Jed shifted slightly, his long legs in front, booted feet firmly planted on the wooden floor. He made eye contact with each of the six people in the room and smiled. All but one smiled a slight smile in return.
"The thing about zombies is that you can wait them out. Most folks are in too big a hurry and they panic, which leads to errors in judgment and more zombies. Then other people panic and the entire process just spirals downward. Back in the day we called that an escalation archetype in systems. Nobody cared then. They care even less now."
"Let's get a few misconceptions out of the way, though, or you won't live very long out here in the wilds of what used to be Colorado Mountains. You might even become a liability for the rest of us, so we need good information."
"Zombies aren't dead. Oh, they're on the irrevocable path to being totally dead, but they roam around mostly dead. There's a big difference between mostly dead and all dead."
"Nobody got that? I saw Charlie crack a smile, so he got it. The rest of you just didn't watch the right movies when you were younger. I don't know. My Dad made me watch that one a lot. He could just about quote the entire movie. I remember once he said to me 'You know, I think you could go days of normal conversation and only use lines from The Princess Bride.' Thankfully he didn't do that. Well, not much."
Charlie, the man in the brown coat, shifted his weight and dug his hands in his big coat pockets, shoulders hunched.
"Sorry. Got sidetracked. Sometimes I just miss the old man."
Jed continued. "He and mom saw this coming. That's why you have a ranch house and sturdy walls around you right now. There's a series of caves, too, but we'll talk about those later."
"Okay, zombies are infected with a form of flesh-eating virus that mutated. The first thing it actually does is destroy almost all neural impulses. So once you're infected it's about thirty minutes until you're brain dead. I already know the question you have. It's the same question we all ask. You want to know what happens to the person, the personality, the soul. I haven't the vaguest notion. Dad thought the soul departed once the brain died, and the individual ceased to exist. I guess I agree. Still, that's a bad way to die, taking thirty minutes trapped in a body that quit talking to your mind."
"Other bodily functions continue, but at a greatly reduced rate. The heart, for instance, only beats about once every ten seconds. The body starts to decay. Extremities rot away first…"
The youngest girl hiccupped and swallowed a tear. The woman next to her handed her a dirty, ragged piece of cloth, what once might have been a kerchief. "I'm sorry girls, but you need to know this, too. You need to become an expert on the enemy so you know how to fight it. I'll open the window a little further so you can get a bit of fresh air. It's only about fifty degrees out, but the cool air might help you."
"Which reminds me. Cool temperatures help the zombies, too. They rot slower and stay mobile longer."
"They aren't like some of the old apocalyptic movies, either. They don't have super strength or super speed. What they do seem to have is stamina and numbers. They don't crave brains from the living. What they want is your blood. The more blood, the longer they survive."
The man in the back raised his eyes and started to open his mouth. "No, that doesn't make them vampires, Charlie. Stay focused, now. How old are you, anyway? Twenty? Twenty-five? So you were about fifteen when this started, back in 2023? Well, I was just a bit older than thirty with a wife, a couple dogs, a jeep and a jet-ski. We didn't have kids when it all started. What we had was a beach house in a warm climate and really, really nice lives."
"Yeah, I know I look young for my age."
"So let's say you get bit. In thirty minutes you're a new zombie. You're actually one of the tougher ones. You still have most of your normal speed and muscle function, but you have no cognitive abilities. You are no longer human. You look mostly human, but it isn't like the movies. You can't talk, you can't reason, you don't try to communicate. What you do is start looking for blood. At first it isn't urgent, but within a few hours your body starts craving blood."
"The sense of smell might be heightened. We don't really know that. What we do know is the zombies seem to be able to find living creatures pretty well, like trained hunters. They also don't seem to be territorial and don't mind sharing a kill, so they are often seen traveling in packs. Not always, but not unusual, either. Packs are deadly."
"They aren't fast and they aren't smart, but they don't entirely kill a victim. Once the blood stops flowing freely, zombies move on to other victims, leaving an infected near-corpse behind. A half-hour later a new recruit joins the ranks."
"You can fend off a bunch of zombies pretty easily. A thick branch, an old two-by-four, a pipe - all those work very well. You can easily keep them from catching you and draining your blood, unless you're overwhelmed. Here's the biggest problem. The virus is not airborne. The virus spreads on contact. One scratch and you lose. They can't even slobber on you or bleed on you if you have an open cut. Any open cut, any scratch and you become one of them in thirty minutes or less."
"Or your money back," muttered Charlie.
Everyone was quiet for a few seconds.
Jed didn't smile, but looked at each person in turn. "It is true that some people are immune. It seems that about one person in twenty-thousand or so has an entirely different reaction to the virus. In these people the virus has an opposite effect. Synaptic impulses double or triple in speed. Instead of necrosis in all the organs, the immune people develop a form of revitalization."
"In essence, they become superfast, super-strong, extremely smart and almost immortal. In short, they become vampires."
Jed paused and crossed his arms over his chest. "Like me."
The small room became deathly quiet.
"I thought so. I figured you were one of them," growled Charlie from the back of the room. "So how fast are you Jed? Fast enough to dodge a .38 caliber bullet?" The click of the hammer seemed loud.
Jed didn't move. A cool breeze blew through the partially open window and his brown, almost shoulder-length hair fluttered slightly. His bright blue eyes narrowed as he looked at Charlie.
"We thought so, Charlie. It was just too coincidental that we found you running from three day old zombies in our woods. Did you find them fresh and decoy them all the way here?" Jed smiled. "Or did you use that refrigerated truck we found twenty miles out to bring them close enough to seem like you were in trouble?"
"How about I just put an end to this abomination once and for all?" Charlie sneered. "And I don't need to explain myself to the likes of you, Mr. High and Mighty, better than us. I just need to ..."
A cue ball flew through the air and stopped at the left side of Charlie's head, a solid thud resounding in the room. Charlie's eyes rolled up and he dropped to the floor, the pistol sliding from his hand as he collapsed.
"You didn't need to do that," Jed said. "I had everything under control."
"Oh, I know, but I'm tired of fixing the errant bullet holes in the decor." Maddie walked into the room, a bright smile on her face. "Besides, you usually get all the fun. I'm bored lately."
The five others in the room backed away from the blond as she moved silently toward Charlie's slumped body. Her vintage tennis shoes made no sound as she walked. She wore clean blue jeans and a faded blue shirt, tied at her slim waist. Her blond pony tail swished against her shoulders as she moved. Blue stones sparkled in her dangling earrings.
"Uhm, let's see. Nancy, Cindy, Fae." Jed pointed at the three young women in the group, each in dirty, tattered jeans and worn shirts that had seen better days a decade ago. "Ted and Sam." Jed pointed at the two young men, one in his thirties and the other in his twenties. Ted wore dockers that might once have been brown but were now a washed out grey and a matching, colorless button shirt, small twig buttons keeping the shirt closed in the two middle holes. Sam wore black jeans and black tennis shoes with a khaki shirt and a thin, but stylish down vest. "Ladies and gentlemen, may I present my wife and favorite person on the planet, Maddie."
Maddie smiled. "And yes, by some bizarre twist of fate, we are both immune to the virus - vampires, as others call us." She picked the pistol up and tossed it to Jed, who snatched it cleanly out of the air and placed it in the top desk drawer of the old wooden desk he was sitting on. "By the way, Maddie is short for Madison, not Madelyn. I'd just like to make that clear up front."
"Maddie and I own this place, or as much as anyone owns anything anymore. We inherited it from my parents. Most of our family made it here during the pandemic of 2023. Most are buried out back. Maddie and I have known each other since high school."
Sam pointed at Charlie. "Is he dead?"
Maddie lifted Charlie's unconscious body by his waistband and carried him to the front of the room. "No, I didn't hit him that hard. Just enough to take him out and leave him with a headache."
"Are...are you going to drink his blood?" Fae was the youngest, perhaps only seventeen or eighteen. Her face paled and she twisted one strand of her red hair with her left hand.
"Look, we aren't the ones who call zombie-immune people vampires. Other people started that and it stuck. We don't drink blood. We eat just like everyone else does. Our bodies seem to be more efficient about converting food to energy, so we don't eat as often. That's probably how the rumors started that we don't eat, but we do. And right now, I'm starved. Jed, dear, why don't you bring Charlie in for dinner and if everyone will follow me, I'll show you where to wash up and we'll go to the dining room."
A few minutes later everyone sat around a long rectangular oak table in the middle of a dining hall. Food was piled in ceramic bowls in the center of the table. Vegetables, mashed potatoes and a roast occupied the main spot, with a small pitcher of brown gravy sitting next to the steaming potatoes. Three other people joined them after bringing in a plate of freshly baked biscuits. There were nine chairs on each side of the table. Jed and Maddie seated the five conscious newcomers on one side of the table and took seats on the opposite side, their chairs facing the main entry doors for the room. "August, Shelly and Claire." Maddie made the introductions as they all sat, propping Charlie in a chair between Jed and August. The chair at the head of the table sat empty.
All the residents of Selah Ranch wore similar clothes, blue jeans and denim shirts of some sort, all the clothes clean and neat, though showing signs of wear. Shelly and Claire were in their early or mid thirties, both with dark hair. Claire's hair was cut shoulder length. Shelly's hair hung almost to her waist. Both were thin and athletic and they smiled at the newcomers.
August was another story. Standing over six and a half feet tall, his face betrayed no signs of age. He could have been thirty or fifty. He said nothing, but nodded to the two new men and slightly bowed to the three women. His huge frame showed no trace of fat, his massive biceps stretching the fabric in his sleeves.
"The first thing you need to know is that we say grace for every meal," said Jed. "Thankfulness is an attitude we like to cultivate and when we have plenty of food, we are certainly thankful." He smiled at Maddie. They bowed their heads and Jed said a short prayer, thanking God for the food and for the newcomers.
"Normally we eat and discuss some of these issues with newcomers, but Jed had a feeling about Charlie." Maddie scooped potatoes out and dropped some on her plate, passing the bowl to Fae, who sat across from her. "Please, everyone, help yourself."
"I remember you," Fae said shyly around a mouthful of meat and potatoes, glancing at Claire. The two other women nodded in agreement.
"We were scouting east of here when we saw the smoke from your fire. You four were pretty miserable at the time." Claire's bright smile beamed. "We scout along that road a couple times a week."
"We were at the end of our rope," muttered Ted. We'd been walking for weeks or months…I don't know. We lost all track of time. Seems any time we found a place to stay for a while, Z's would show up and we had to move on. Food was scarce, too." He smiled slightly. "Thanks for this, by the way." Ted nodded toward the ranch dwellers.
"Where you from?" Shelly sat back in her chair, her plate clean of food already. Charlie stirred slightly.
Ted spoke up, stuffing a bite of flaky, steamy biscuit in his mouth. "I'm from a little town south of Chicago, originally. Stayed with a group of refugees in Wichita for a few years, but the plague hit there too. Three of us escaped, but I'm the only one left now. Been wandering ever since. Ran into these three in a beat up car just east of here…"
"Lexus. It was a Lexus once." Nancy ran her hands across her eyes. We're all from south of here, originally from the Baton Rouge area. We were safe in the swamp areas for a long, long time, but got pushed out about a year ago. The three of us, Cindy's little boy and my husband drove from place to place, looking for some sort of refuge. Radio said there were some bases in the west. Sort of thought we'd go there." Cindy said nothing, but stared at her now empty plate. "Cindy's boy died. We think a rat bit him. He didn't turn, though. Just died, like my husband, kind of coughing and choking."
Shelly stood up and spoke. "There are still a lot of old time diseases, even more so since we don't inoculate our children." Shelly started to gather the plates and Cindy got up to help, her slight hands shaking. Shelly hugged her and they took the plates out the kitchen doors.
"We know you're awake, Charlie. Have some food and we'll talk."
Charlie opened his eyes and glared at Jed, swallowing quickly when he saw the food still on the table. "I'm not sure I want to eat with your kind…"
"Sure you do, Charlie." Jed heaped some potatoes on a plate, added meat and gravy and the few remaining vegetables. "Eat up." He put the food in front of Charlie and smiled.
Charlie stared at the plate in front of him. Maddie laughed. "I think he's afraid we're fattening him up or something."
"C'mon, Charlie. We need to decide if you're going to stay or move on, but you might as well get a good meal out of it. I don't hold a grudge, especially against someone who knows about The Princess Bride." Jed sat perfectly relaxed in his chair.
Charlie picked up a spoon and shoveled the food in his mouth, his eyes shifting from Jed to Maddie.
"Claire, would you show the other guests to their rooms, please? I guess we need to talk to Charlie." Maddie smiled as the rest of the guests left the room. Charlie kept eating. Jed, Maddie and August simply sat quietly and watched him. August slid his chair back and further away from the table, facing Charlie. Jed turned his chair slightly.
When his plate was almost empty Charlie sat back in his chair, glaring at Maddie. "You're the one who hit me?"
Maddie smiled sweetly and shrugged, saying nothing, then looked at her folded hands on the table, her eyes closed.
"Who sent you, Charlie?" Jed sat back in his chair, fingers in his jean pockets and thumbs slightly tapping at his pocket seams. August just watched with sleepy eyes.
"Sent me? Why would anyone send me?" Charlie's eyebrows drew together and he narrowed his eyes.
"So why try to kill me?"
"Because you and your kind are an abomination of nature. Because you think you're so much better than the rest of us." Charlie's eyes shifted to the left, glancing at August.
Maddie shifted her chair to look directly at Charlie. "What was her name, Charlie?"
Charlie's eyebrows shot up. "Uh… what?"
"The name of the woman who died because of you?"
"She didn't die because of me. She tripped. Ellie tripped, is all."
"And you kept running…"
The muscle in Charlie's jaw tightened. "She tripped. They bit her. I didn't have a choice, did I?"
"And she screamed your name, didn't she, Charlie?" August spoke quietly, his voice low, a rumble in his massive chest. "She cried out your name and you were too afraid to go back and get her."
"What do you know?" Charlie pushed his chair back and stood up, facing August, who remained seated, legs stretched out.
Jed spoke quietly. "Did she follow you, Charlie? Did a zombie with Ellie's face come after you?"
Charlie whirled around, tears springing to life in the corners of his widened eyes. "She… she…"
He slumped in the chair, head in his hands and cried.
"We were bit and survived. Ellie was bit and died. That's not our fault, Charlie. We didn't choose." Maddie's voice was quiet.
After a minute or so, a huge hand settled on Charlie's shoulder. August's deep voice rumbled. "We've almost all lost people, man. We've all run. Maybe you could have saved her, but probably not. You have to come to grips with the reality that you have no control over life, Charlie. Just over yourself. Just over your thoughts."
Charlie wrenched away from August's hand and stood up, glaring at Jed with hate-filled eyes. "What do you people know? I hate all vampires. I'll hunt you all until I've killed every last one of you or died trying."
Jed looked briefly at Maddie and shrugged. He stood up, looking down slightly at Charlie and his rage. "Well, Charlie, I'm sorry you feel that way. I could end your mission here, but I just don't have the energy. It's been a long day." He turned away and he and Maddie walked hand in hand toward the exit door. "August will show you to your room and make sure you get on your way in the morning. Don't come back here, Charlie. I never want to see you again. I only have so much patience, even with someone that knows movies."
Charlie glared at their backs as they left the room. When the door closed he turned to August. "You're going to kill me, aren't you?"
August didn't smile. He just dropped a massive hand on Charlie's shoulder and led him from the room.
"What did you do to Charlie?"
Ted voiced the question at breakfast, but five pairs of eyes echoed it. Biscuits sat in a ceramic bowl in the center of the table and Maddie and Jed were finishing scrambled eggs as the five newcomers entered the room.
"Good morning. I hope you slept well. Eggs and other breakfast items are in the kitchen. We're a little short of meat right now, but we might have a little ham left. Make yourself something then clean up." Maddie smiled. "In about an hour Claire will get you assigned to chores around the ranch."
"What happened to Charlie?" Ted's voice didn't waver and he stood straight behind one of the chairs.
Jed looked up. "Charlie chose not to stay with us, and that's okay. Each of you can make that same decision and you're free to leave. In Charlie's case, August is escorting him to the other side of the mountains and he is free to continue as he sees fit."
"You didn't kill him?" Ted still didn't move.
Jed sat back and sighed. "Ted, he threatened me, but did me no harm. As a matter of fact, he's the one with a knot on his head. Life is a precious thing, Ted. I can fix a lot of broken things, but I cannot give life to a dead person. So I try not to take a life if I can help it. Zombies, of course, are the exception. They pose an immediate and deadly danger. Charlie was no threat and August will take care of him."
Jed stood up, his eyes narrowed. "However, let me be clear. If Charlie returns here with the intent to harm anyone, all bets are off. Then he is a danger. I won't murder, but I will protect." He picked up his plates and fork. "I have work to do, so help yourselves to breakfast. I'll see everyone around dinnertime, I think."
Claire stood quietly in the doorway. "I'll take care of your dishes, Jed."
Jed left the room. Claire picked up the plates and fork. "Here. I'll show everyone where the kitchen gear is kept."
"We have twenty-six people now. That's okay, but we need to think about sending out another mission team." Jed sat in front of the fireplace, his long legs stretched out, tired circles under his eyes. The padded leather chair seemed perfectly fitted to his body.
Maddie sat in the chair next to him, her legs curled under her. The flickering firelight reflected from her blond hair. Jed once again pondered how lucky he was that she was in his life, how blessed they were both immune to the virus.
August lounged on a long black couch, his legs dangling off the end, feet toward the fire. The flickering light deepened the dark black of his hair and he ran his right hand over the slight stubble on his chin.
"The latest bunch have only been here six weeks, Jed," he rumbled. "Ted and the ladies seem fine. Mickey is all mooney-eyed about Fae, actually, but at least he's behaving himself."
"He better," growled Maddie.
"They're all hard workers. Ted has a real knack for the bio-tanks, which is fortunate since we're running low on bio-fuel for the generators."
"I know. We're back to candles, firewood and early nights."
"Not always a bad thing," smiled Maddie.
Jed smiled in response, but the last few weeks had been hard and it showed.
"Sam is a hard worker too, but keeps to himself. I don't think he's said a dozen words to me in the last month, just nods and does what needs doing." August stretched, joints popping in his back. "I keep him away from the animals, though. They don't much get along."
"Cindy is good with the horses. She's good with all the animals, actually, but the horses really like her." Maddie cocked her head and looked at Jed. "What's really worrying you? We can't send a mission team out during the winter, and we're already in early September." She paused. "At least, I think we are. I might have lost track."
"The bio-fuel reactors are clogging up. The horses are restless and tired and we need new stock." Jed rubbed his eyes. "Okay, that's normal stuff." He reached down, grabbed the poker and moved an oak log into the center of the fireplace. "We haven't heard from Dale's ranch in three months."
Maddie sat quietly looking at Jed.
Congratulations if you made it all the way to here. I also pasted in one of my other works-in-progress, where a fugitive amnesiac searches for his identity and discovers the plot that could destroy his people. I'm 20,000+ words into it. Now the analyzer says I write like
That's pretty cool, but the diverse nature of the tool leads me to one inescapable conclusion.
I write like Vince Bernhardt.