Life in 1892
By Christine (C.A.) Verstraete
With today’s technology, it’s hard to imagine living in 1892. It seems like a place limited to old movies and TV shows.
But actually, it was a time of innovation with new, exciting things going on and just around the corner.
Lizzie might have been as curious as anyone else hearing about the most unusual book coming out, The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde.
Even if it wasn’t to her reading tastes, she would have known, and maybe even talked about the horrific novel, Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley published earlier in the century.
Maybe she was among those who picked up a copy of the thrilling new stories, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, published on Halloween that year by Arthur Conan Doyle.
Without the “distractions” then like we have now with smart phones, endless video, movies, and 24/7 TV, events and new inventions were huge news to people in those days. Imagine, if you will, the excitement as news of the Columbian Exposition, the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, started to come out. The talk of riding on that huge new wheel by Mr. Ferris, strange exhibits from around the world… Such wonders!
Lizzie Borden had to be as excited as anyone else, even though she was preoccupied, of course, with a murder trial and having her life on the line. Still, she had to think, and even hope sometimes, that she would get to (live) and see the World’s Fair.
Of course, the newspapers of the day went on a near frenzy as word spread about the horrific murders on August 4, 1892 in the mill town of Fall River, Mass. And the idea that an unmarried Sunday School teacher—the daughter yet!—would be arrested for the crimes? Ghastly! Unthinkable! Shocking! Consider these headlines in the August 13, 1892 coverage in the Daily Times, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania: IT KILLED THE BORDENS. The Discovery of the Ax Creates Another Sensation. BLOOD STAINS ON THE WEAPON.
Lizzie Borden was the OJ of her day. Word of the murders, the trial, and her being declared not guilty spread across the nation’s newspapers like wildfire. Like rubberneckers peering at an accident today, people gathered outside her home and crowded the courthouse to get a glimpse of her. She was scandal personified.
And then… it was over. Of course, for Lizzie, the crime and the taint of scandal never truly left. The questions remained… did she or didn’t she?
Oh, she did later make some friends and participate in the things that interested her like supporting animals and other charities, but she was still somewhat of a social pariah, a curiosity, and a possible murderess?
No one really knows what happened that day. Boundless theories exist. That’s what Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter offers–a plausible explanation for what happened that August morning in 1892… what if Lizzie did it… because she had no other choice?
Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter
Genre: Horror/Dark Fantasy
Publisher: Imajin Books
Date of Publication: Sept. 13, 2016
Number of pages: 232
Word Count: 74,000 +
Cover Artist: Ryan Doan
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, Fall River Courtroom
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.
Lizzie pushed the door open wider and stared. 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 some distance between her and 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 cried out at the strange feeling 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 a few inches in height offered no protection against her shorter stepmother’s almost demonic and 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. Lizzie wondered how much more she could endure.
Lizzie’s cries for help came out hoarse and weak. “Em-Emma!” She tried again. “Help! Help me!” She knew Emma 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, her panic growing 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, yet she continued her attack.
With the last bit of her strength, Lizzie raised the hatchet again and brought 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?
Christine (C.A.) Verstraete enjoys putting a bit of a “scare” in her writing. He stories have appeared in various anthologies and publications including Mystery Weekly, Happy Homicides 3: Summertime Crime, Siren’s Call Magazine, and more. She also is the author of books on dollhouses and a YA novel, GIRL Z: My Life as a Teenage Zombie.
Her latest novel is Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter.
Learn more at her website, http://cverstraete.com and her blog, http://girlzombieauthors.blogspot.com
Twitter: @caverstraete https://twitter.com/caverstraete