Short Stories 366:335 — “The Shield Maiden,” by Alyxandra Harvey

Before anything else, I shall reiterate something I’ve said more than once: I hate zombies. I have no rational reason for this, beyond their annoying ability to get into my head (ha) and cause nightmares, and the way so many stories around zombies operate on the “poor choice” principle of plot (ie: people have to make really poor choices for the stories to go they way they do), but there it is again: I hate zombies. “The Shield Maiden,” found in Masked Mosaic: Canadian Super Stories, has zombies, and… I really liked the story. I just wanted to put that in perspective.

It’s probably because the zombies are more-or-less a side-effect of the tale, but we begin with an archeologist “working” (ie: unpaid volunteering) at labelling and organizing bone, metal, and wood fragments from a dig somewhere, rather than hanging out with her much more social friend Poppy. She’s trying to dodge the smarmy security guard, get some work done, and is really, really not planning on accidentally encountering the walking dead, nor on suddenly transforming into a shield-maiden with a magical axe. Oh, and also there’s a polar bear that might be there to eat her, or might be there to help here. It’s not totally clear yet.

This is a romp of a story, and the revelations come with little snippits of a past Viking group on a journey to Canada to deal with a terrible curse. Harvey also sets up a red herring or two on the way to the ultimate villain of the piece, and between the archeologist and her friend Poppy’s banter throughout, the tone is light and funny even as zombies are trying to eat them. This one felt so visual I could easily imagine it as a Netflix show, frankly, with all the beats and twists of a fun two-hour show.

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