Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter
by C.A. Verstraete Genre: Horror
Every family has its secrets…
One hot August morning in 1892, Lizzie Borden picked up an axe and murdered her father and stepmother. Newspapers claim she did it for the oldest of reasons: family conflicts, jealousy and greed. But what if her parents were already dead? What if Lizzie slaughtered them because they’d become zombies?
Thrust into a horrific world where the walking dead are part of a shocking conspiracy to infect not only Fall River, Massachusetts, but also the world beyond, Lizzie battles to protect her sister, Emma, and her hometown from nightmarish ghouls and the evil forces controlling them.
Q. You saw his face covered with blood? A. Yes, sir. Q. Did you see his eyeball hanging out? A. No, sir. Q. Did you see the gashes where his face was laid open? A. No, sir.
--Lizzie Borden at inquest, August 9-11, 1892
August 4, 1892
Lizzie Borden drained the rest of her tea, set down her cup, and listened to the sound of furniture moving upstairs. My, my, for only ten o’clock in the morning my stepmother is certainly energetic. Housecleaning, already?
For a moment, Lizzie forgot her plans to go shopping downtown. THUMP. There it went again. It sounded like her stepmother was rearranging the whole room. She paused at the bottom stair, her concern growing, when she heard another thump and then, the oddest of sounds—a moan. Uh-oh. What was that? Did she hurt herself?
“Mrs. Borden?” Lizzie called. “Are you all right?”
She wondered if her stepmother had taken ill, yet the shuffling, moving, and other unusual noises continued. Lizzie hurried up the stairs and paused outside the partially opened door. The strange moans coming from the room sent a shiver up her back.
When she pushed the door open wider, all she could do was stare. Mrs. Abby Durfee Borden stood in front of the bureau mirror clawing at her reflected image. And what a horrid image it was! The sixty-seven-year-old woman’s hair looked like it had never been combed and stuck out like porcupine quills. Her usually spotless housedress appeared wrinkled and torn. Yet, that wasn’t the worst. Dark red spots--blood, Lizzie’s mind whispered—dotted the floor and streaked the sides, of the older woman’s dress and sleeves.
Lizzie gazed about the room in alarm. The tips of Father’s slippers peeking out from beneath the bed also glistened with the same viscous red liquid. All that blood! What happened here? What happened?
She gasped, which got the attention of Mrs. Borden, who jerked her head and growled. Lizzie choked back a cry of alarm. Abby’s square, plain face now appeared twisted and ashen gray. Her eyes, once bright with interest, stared from under a milky covering as if she had cataracts. She resembled a female version of The Portrait of Dorian Gray. Another growl and a moan, and the older woman lunged, arms rigid, her stubby hands held out like claws.
“Mrs. Borden, Abby!” Lizzie yelled and stumbled backward as fast as she could. “Abby, do you hear me?”
Her stepmother shuffled forward, her steps slow but steady. She showed no emotion or sense of recognition. The only utterances she made were those strange low moans.
Lizzie moved back even further, trying to keep out of reach of Mrs. Borden’s grasping fingers. Then her foot hit something. Lizzie quickly glanced down at the silver hairbrush that had fallen to the floor. Too late, she realized her error.
“No!” Lizzie shivered at the feel of her stepmother’s clammy, cold hand around her wrist. “Abby, what happened? What’s wrong with you?”
Mrs. Borden said nothing and moved in closer. Her mouth opened and closed revealing bloodstained teeth.
“No! Stay away!” Lizzie yelled. “Stop!”
She didn’t. Instead, Mrs. Borden scratched and clawed at her. Lizzie leaned back, barely escaping the snap of the madwoman’s teeth at her neck.
“Mrs. Bor—Abby! No, no! Stop!”
Lizzie’s slight advantage of being younger offered no protection against her stepmother’s almost demonic, inhuman strength. The older woman bit and snapped like a rabid dog. Lizzie struggled to fight her off and shoved her away, yet Mrs. Borden attacked again and again, her hands grabbing, her teeth seeking the tender flesh covered by Lizzie’s long, full sleeves.
The two of them grappled and wrestled, bumping into the bedposts and banging into furniture. Lizzie yelped each time her soft flesh hit something hard. She felt her strength wane as the crazed woman’s gnarled hands clawed at her. How much more she could endure?
Her cries for help came out hoarse and weak. “Em-Emma!” She tried again. “Help! Help me!” Lizzie knew her sister had come in late last night from her trip out of town. But if Emma already woke and went downstairs, will she even hear me?
Lizzie reeled back in panic as her spine pressed against the fireplace. She pushed and fought in an attempt to keep this monster away, yet Mrs. Borden’s ugly face and snapping teeth edged closer and closer.
Then Lizzie spotted it: the worn hatchet Father had left behind after he’d last brought in the newly chopped wood. No, no! Her mind filled with horror, but when her stepmother came at her again, Lizzie whispered a prayer for forgiveness and grabbed the handle. She lifted the hatchet high overhead and swung as hard as she could. It hit her stepmother’s skull with a sickening thud.
As impossible as it seemed, Mrs. Borden snarled and continued her attack.
Lizzie hit her again and again and again. The blows raked her stepmother’s face and scraped deep furrows into tender flesh. The metal hatchet head pounded her stepmother’s shoulders and arms, the bones giving way with sickening crunches. Mrs. Borden’s broken arms dangled, hanging limp and ugly at her sides… and yet, dear God, she continued her attack.
With her last bit of strength, Lizzie raised the hatchet again, bringing it down on Mrs. Borden’s head. Only then did her stepmother crumple and fall into a pile at Lizzie’s feet. It took a few minutes for Lizzie to comprehend the horrible scene. It didn’t seem real, but it was.
With a cry, she threw the bloodied hatchet aside. She gagged as the weapon caught in the braided artificial hairpiece hanging from the back of Mrs. Borden’s gore-encrusted scalp.
Retching, Lizzie ran to the other side of the bed, bent over, and vomited into the chamber pot. She crossed the room and leaned against the wall, her shoulders shaking with each heart-rending sob.
Her hands trembled so hard she could barely hold them still, but she managed to cover her eyes in a feeble attempt to block out the carnage. It didn’t stop the horrific images that flashed in her mind, or the many questions. And it certainly did nothing for the soul-crushing guilt that filled her.
“Why?” she cried. “Why?” Dear God, what have I done? What have I done?
Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter 2
After being acquitted of brutally slaying her parents, Lizzie Borden thinks her nightmare is over—but it’s only just begun!
Now Lizzie and the citizens of Fall River must battle a new surge of flesh-eaters, this time with a heartbreaking twist: the infected creatures are friends and family, hidden away by their grief-stricken caregivers.
When her sister Emma becomes a pawn in the growing war against the undead, Lizzie has no choice but to pick up her axe again. With the help of her charming self-defense instructor, Pierre, she vows to end the horrific zombie menace, once and for all. But can she overcome her personal demons and the rampaging monsters, no matter the cost?
NOTE: The book does contain spoilers if you have not read the first book, Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter.
“We pray thee that innocence may be revealed and guilt exposed…”
--The Rev. M.C. Julien, opening prayer,
Trial of Lizzie Borden, June 5, 1893
Fall River, Massachusetts—October, 1893
Lizzie Borden sprang awake, startled by a sound she never expected, or wanted to hear again—a low, eerie keen that made her skin crawl and the long, straight hairs on her neck curl up into tight ringlets.
“No, no!” She jumped out of bed and ran to the window, her heart pounding in fear. “Please, don’t let it be!”
The chaotic scene on the street below filled her with disbelief and horror. No matter which direction she looked, she saw pure evil—groups of the undead she’d truly thought were gone forever. They’d been vanquished—or so she’d been told. Who had lied?
Then she had another unexpected, but this time much more pleasant, shock—seeing her former self-defense instructor Pierre Moret. As the monsters shambled closer, he stood a moment as if in contemplation before closing the wrought iron gate. He waved for her to come down and disappeared out of view by the front door. Why is he here? Why now?
The ghastly roars and growls outside quickly made her realize it didn’t matter. Her panic rising, Lizzie threw off her nightwear and slipped on one of the old pair of bloomers she’d worn in previous fights. For some reason, she’d kept the costume in her armoire, though she’d expected to never, ever, be doing this again. So much for that, she thought. Or had I really believed it was over?
She shoved her feet into sturdy black shoes, her worry level rising higher than the smoke spewing from the stacks of the numerous textile plants down by the river. Were these new masses of undead? Or worse—had those who’d been infected and hidden away secretly at home by family members managed to escape?
The questions dogged her as she ran down the polished oak staircase, a litany of muttered protests on her lips. “No, no, how can this be happening? Dearest Lord, how?”
A pounding on the front door made her move faster. “Lizzie, hurry, please, let me in,” Pierre called.
“Coming, I’m coming.”
She twisted the shiny gold lock and pulled the heavy oak door open. Her nose wrinkled at the sudden stench of rot and death that fouled the air. Pierre rushed in, pushed the door shut, and turned to embrace her. To her surprise, it felt like she’d seen him only yesterday instead of months ago.
“Pierre! I didn’t expect you.”
“Obviously, though I’m glad to see you had your fighting dress at the ready.”
The low moans from outside made further conversation impossible. She moved closer to the door and peered out the window, her heart pounding as she viewed the motley mob of ghouls clamoring at the gate. She counted eight, ten, fifteen of the decayed monsters and saw more approaching.
The bastion of quiet she’d enjoyed in the past few months since moving to the more prestigious section known as “The Hill” had been replaced by bedlam. She watched a group of men run into the street swinging axes, garden tools, and almost anything they could get, at the approaching foes. She turned away and wrung her hands, not daring to look at Pierre when he gave a snort of disgust.
“Why did you lead them here?” she asked. “Why? I don’t want to deal with it.”
“You think I do? A thank you might be more in order since I wanted to make sure you were safe. Sorry to say, they’re up and down not only this street, but the whole area. We have no choice but to help.”
“No, no, I-I can’t do it. I can’t.” She inhaled sharply when Pierre reached out and spun her around.
He tucked his finger under her chin and raised her head. “Look at me. You can’t, or you won’t?”
“No, I can’t.” She bit her lip and shook her head harder. “I can’t do it.”
Her resistance faded as he pulled her near. She breathed in his masculine scent and the lingering musky, ambergris shaving lotion on his skin, wishing this was any other time, any other place.
The horrific sounds of the undead made Lizzie’s skin crawl. Her first impulse, to let him and others take care of things, did battle with her innate sense of duty. She peered out the window again, relishing the satisfaction of seeing others out in the streets now, men with guns, women with garden tools. Even the neighbors who had turned their back on her were out doing their part to keep the monsters at bay. Let them handle it, she thought.
Still, her feelings of obligation niggled at her. Yes, she’d trained for this. She had fought this fight before. She couldn’t let others do all the work for her.
With a deep sigh, Lizzie pushed herself from Pierre’s embrace and regarded him. “I guess I have no choice about getting involved, do I? I have to do it, for Emma, if nothing else.”
Christine (C.A.) Verstraete enjoys putting a little "scare" in her writing. She follows the murder trial and offers a twist on the infamous 1892 Borden murders in her book, Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter. She also looks at the murders from the viewpoint of Lizzie's doctor in her latest, The Haunting of Dr. Bowen. Other books include a young adult novel, GIRL Z: My Life as a Teenage Zombie, and books on dollhouse collecting and crafting.
Christine's short stories have appeared in various anthologies including: Descent Into Darkness, Happy Homicides 3: Summertime Crime, Mystery Weekly, and Timeshares, Steampunk'd, and Hot & Steamy: Tales of Steampunk Romance, DAW Books.
She is an award-winning journalist published in daily to weekly newspapers, and in various magazines. Her stories have received awards from local and national newspaper associations, and the Dog Writer's Association of America.
The Continuing Fascination with Lizzie Borden
By Christine (C.A.) Verstraete
It is now 125 years since 32-year-old spinster Lizzie Borden was arrested for brutally killing her father, Andrew Borden, and her stepmother, Abby Durfee Borden, yet the crime continues to be as fascinating as ever.
We still wonder and ask: Was she insane? Was it a crime of passion? Was it a crime of opportunity or greed? Or was it something else?
In writing my book, Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter, I took the unique approach that Lizzie did indeed commit the crime… because she had no other choice.
After looking at the autopsy reports and records, I realized that there was another plausible reason as to why she would have committed such a vicious crime. Why else would someone repeatedly hit the victims in the head—except that the victims had become zombies?
Crime, of course, is no laughing matter. And this was especially bloody and vicious. Maybe that’s why the all-male jury couldn’t see a woman of her social standing being guilty. Plus, no evidence has ever been found directly linking Lizzie to the crime.
Did Lizzie do it, or could it be someone else? Only Lizzie and the maid – who claimed to be sleeping upstairs after washing windows – were home the time of the murders. An uncle had been visiting, but had already left. Then there is the mysterious man heard arguing with Mr. Borden days before. I tackle that possible connection in my sequel, Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter 2: The Axe Will Fall.
So many questions remain unanswered. In recent years, investigators found traces of blood running down the walls of the former Borden home (now the Lizzie Borden B&B Museum)—and in the cellar. Was it evidence of Lizzie cleaning herself off as has been suggested? We may never know.
What do you say? Was she guilty or not guilty?