“Sledgehammer” is the result of be careful what you wish for. I was on Facebook one day, and I said the urge to create was upon me, but I didn’t know what to write about, and I called for suggestions. The result was this surreal piece which included a parakeet, the lost colony of Roanoke, and a battle on ice between zombies and donkeys.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you an excerpt from:
A sweet trill of song, so out of place it turned my stomach, drew my eyes to a branch above my head. My parakeet, Smudge, flickered down and gripped the shoulder of my coat.
Oh, Smudge! Whatever brought me here, you don’t deserve to share my fate!
Smudge pushed aside my earflap and foraged for seed in my ear. He had never found any there, but he never gave up hope.
I picked up my pace a little, heartened to see a clear space ahead. The woods dropped behind me as I stepped out into a snow-covered landscape. The snow was deep—the tops of bushes stuck above the surface like the hair of drowning men—but the surface was crusted over. A thin powdery fall lay over the crust and whirled in the wind.
It was impossible that I should not look back to see if my company would follow me into the open.
They did: a troop of shambling, shuffling, gray-faced animated corpses—a rotting double-handful of zombies kicking through the snow powder like so many sullen toddlers. Their clothes hung from their meat-crusted bones in rags and tatters, but a shoe-buckle here and the ruins of an apron or cap there spoke of the sixteenth century.
Another howl, closer.
I turned from the woods, and saw a wonderful thing: a heavy wooden sledge harnessed to a pair of sturdy donkeys. I knew those donkeys from a picture on my great-grandfather’s wall. They were his grandfather’s, Nicolai and Gogol, from the old country. The sledge was a platform of planks nailed to wooden runners, just big enough for a man to stand with a load of supplies tied behind him. Donkeys and sledge formed a single dark figure against the snow, like a piece of paper with a pictograph for “survival” calligraphed in the center.
The donkeys hoofed the snow and blew ice crystals from their nostrils, ready to go as I scooped up the reins and stepped onto the sledge. I braced myself and, before I could slap the traces against their hides, Nicolai and Gogol were moving. The sledge jerked as the harness took the strain, and we were off and away!
~ * ~