Sorry there won’t be a short story today, will be back on Monday as usual, until then hope everyone has a good weekend!
Sorry there won’t be a short story today, will be back on Monday as usual, until then hope everyone has a good weekend!
Bobby knocked on the door, “House keeping!” He chuckled to himself as there was a loud thud inside, he heard someone stumble to the door and start banging on it. “No dude, turn the handle. The handle!” there was a loud moan from the other side of the door. Sighing Bobby grabbed the handle and gave it a quick shake, nothing. He reached into his back pocket and pulled out his lock picking kit. Out on the road he could hear more moaning, though he wasn’t too concerned. To his left someone was thudding down the corridor, he glanced at the shambling corpse and dismissed her. She looked to have been about eighty, with wrinkled, sagging skin. She wore a stained and torn housecoat and a few scraps of a nightie beneath it. Her legs were criss-crossed with dark veins, she was missing her left ear and had deep gouges around her cheeks. Bobby stood and opened the door, pushing against it hard. The thing inside stumbled backwards then came forwards again. Bobby stepped to the side, allowing the zombie to stumble past him. This one was a surprise, business man in a soiled suit, the business man looked at him then went off towards the old woman. Bobby stepped into the room and closed the door over behind himself. Bobby walked past the bed and ripped open the curtains, flooding the light with room. He turned and got a good look at the place. It had faired well, the bed was messy and there were questionable stains on the floor but beyond that there was no real damage. He pulled a small notebook from his pocket and quickly jotted down the room number and a rough list of the contents, one suitcase filled with business attire, a small baggie of what he assumed to be cocaine, some toiletries and a surprisingly well stocked mini-bar. Bobby left the room, not bothering to take anything, he closed the door over and drew an X on it with a red sharpie and moved to the next door.
When he finally finished searching through the motel the sun was setting, more zombies had filled the parking lot, milling around and bumping into one another. Bobby looked down at the crowd and felt his stomach clench, he knew he wasn’t in any real danger but his instincts screamed at him to run and never stop. It had been about two months (really, who was keeping track these days?) since the dead came back to life and started chowing down. Bobby had been one of the lucky ones, completely immune, as was his mother though she had died in the mass panic. At first Bobby didn’t know what was happening, he didn’t understand why the zombies didn’t seem to see him. He thought that maybe it was just a case of there being so many people around but time and time again they ignored him. He’d stumbled across the group about a month back, others who were immune who were organising. They’d carved out a nice little space for themselves in one of the suburbs and now they were looking to expand. Once they’d completed inventory sweeper teams would clear the most valuable areas and so far there had been no casualties.
Bobby climbed down the stairs and started slowly making his way through the crowd, he was about half way through when he spotted her. He froze, his breath catching in his throat. It couldn’t be, but it was. Lizzy from next door, all of seven years old and still wearing her dirty and torn school uniform and her now grubby pink backpack. His stomach clenched and he felt bile rising at the back of his throat. Bobby looked away from her and the gory remains of her throat and face but it didn’t stop the memory. He’d been running, at the time he had no real plan, no idea where to run too and he almost ran past his own building. Around him people were screaming, the stench of blood and shit was heavy in the air mingling with acrid smoke. He stood outside the glass doors and punched the access code in, entering it wrong before finally, mercifully, it buzzed and unlocked. Bobby ripped the door open and dashed inside, pulling it shut behind him. A second later Maria was at the door, Lizzy’s hand gripped tightly as she banged on the glass. “Hey! Hey! Let us in! Bobby!” He had stood there, frozen in terror, then he took a step forward, reaching for the door. As his hand closed around the handle he saw the zombie running towards Maria, he knew if he opened the door they’d all be doomed. The thing dove on her, dragging her to the ground Lizzy screamed as the creature ripped at her mothers face. Bobby didn’t stay to watch anymore, instead he turned and ran deeper into the building. He burst into the stairwell and took the stairs two at a time until he reached his own apartment, he’d opened the door which shaking hands, the key missing the lock again and again, until finally it was open. He burst through and slammed it behind himself, collapsing against the closed door and panting heavily.
Bobby kept moving through the crowd, his eyes on the ground as he went. He couldn’t look at poor Lizzy. He’d ask someone else to come back here for the clean up, he’d tell them it was one of his family members, his little sister or something. They’d understand, it wouldn’t be the first time it happened after all. He walked slowly, head down, at least he managed to clear the entire building. He glanced behind at the crowd, half expecting to see the little girl following, but the road behind him held nothing but a few stragglers.
Hope everyone had a good weekend!
I went to visit my Sister, BIL and Neice. It was awesome, my neice is coming on so fast, she’s already crawling and she’s flying around the place! I didn’t get up to much, just some babysitting and going out for breakfast. I also got some General Tso’s, which I absolutely love, the only Chinese take-aways that I’ve found doing it have been in Galway so it makes it that much better when I do finally get some!
Mandy weaved her way through the crowd standing around the bus stops and ducked into her office. The ground rumbled slightly as a bus pulled up and Mandy felt a short pang of anxiety then the door behind her closed blocking out the dull roar of the streets. She walked through the lobby, high heels click-clacking as she went. Today was the day she was getting that promotion, she still had a presentation to give but she knew she had the promotion in the bag. Mandy pressed the button for the elevator and waited, behind her there was another blast of noise from the streets, then the door closed again. The elevator doors slid open and she stepped inside, “Mandy, good morning.” “Morning Jeremy, how was the dinner?”
“Oh it was wonderful, Patricia and myself absolutely loved the restaurant, thank you so much again for the recommendation.”
Mandy smiled, “No problem, it’s always been one of my favourite places.”
“You all set for today?”
Mandy nodded, “Yeah I think so.”
The doors opened again and they stepped out, “I’ll see you later, good luck with the presentation!”
Mandy smiled as she walked between the cubicles, she liked Jeremy, he had mentored her when she first arrived about a year back and he had always been so patient and kindly. When she arrived at her cubicle Mandy put down her bag and had a quick look at the photos on the desk, with any luck this would be the last time she’d be in this cubicle. She glanced up at office door, the name had been taken off it the night before and, hopefully, in a few hours her name would replace it. She sat and opened her bag, pulling out her laptop and a folder stuffed with paper. She briefly rubbed her finger over her small metal locket, then got to work.
Mandy stepped into the large meeting room, on one side there was a pull down screen and projector, in the middle was a large rectangular table made from a deep, dark wood that gleamed in the light of the overheads. She had a few minutes to prepare before everyone arrived and she wanted everything to be perfect. She started plugging cables into her laptop, as she was fiddling with them people started to arrive, chatting amongst themselves, they greeted her and sat, Mandy felt a surge of adrenaline and started moving faster. There was a faint rumble, Mandy froze and the room fell silent, after a second it passed and everyone relaxed a little, someone was laughing though Mandy couldn’t see who it was. Her hands were shaking slightly, there had been a tremor the week before and it had caused that awful bus crash, the driver lost control and all twenty on board died. She slotted the cable into its place and took a slow, deep breath. She couldn’t let the tremor throw her off her game, she was prepared, she was ready and she was going to crush this presentation. Her desktop filled the projector screen and she felt her shoulders relax a little more everything was going great. The last few people filed into the room and took their seats, Mandy pulled sheets of paper from her folder and passed them around, “Does everyone have a copy? Great.” she pulled up her presentation took one final deep breath “I’d like to-” Mandy stumbled into the table as another tremor hit, this one stronger than before, she gripped the table tightly, waiting for it to be over but the shaking just became worse. Her laptop dropped to the ground with a crash, the screen behind her going blank, there was a deep groaning noise from within the building, Mandy felt a strange pressure on her, like when a car sped up suddenly and you were pushed back into the seat. The pressure was replaced by pain, sudden and intense, she collapsed to the floor, around the table people fell from their chairs screaming, some gripped their heads, others simply writhed.
Howard carefully climbed the stairs, his gun drawn and his heart thumping. Dispatch had received an almost incomprehensible phone call from a receptionist, she had been shrieking about something on the third floor but it wasn’t clear what it was. When he had entered the building the lobby had been empty with no sign of the receptionist. Howard knew why he was being sent inside, he was the one who dealt with the bus crash. Everyone knew how fucked up that had been but he had been one of the first to see it. He and the other guys had to sign non-disclosure agreements afterwards. The bus had looked like a massacre had taken place, like all the passengers went crazy and just started slaughtering each other. There had been other things too, long stretches of flesh coloured tubing that oozed blood, weird protrusions from the bodies which had been twisted into almost inhuman shapes. Howard had told himself it had just been injuries from the crash, but he had never seen any car crash victims looking like that. He stood outside the door to the third floor and listened. He could hear something, very faintly, it sounded like someone wheezing heavily. He eased the door open and quickly stepped through. His mind flashed back to the bus, the gouges in the bodies, the woman with the ballpoint pen jammed into her eye. He moved deeper into the office, past the empty cubicles. He could hear moaning but it was faint, a heavy stench filled the air, the stink of shit and blood, it reminded him of when his father had taught him how to gut a deer and he’d knicked the intestines on his first try. He reached the end of the cubicles and stopped. At the wall there was a strange, flesh coloured mass. It looked almost as though it was coming through the wall. Howard gasped as he spotted a mouth, it opened revealing a row of white teeth, there was a faint whimper then the mouth closed again. There was another noise now, above the moaning, like a group of people whispering amongst themselves. He eased himself along the wall, he didn’t want to look, he wanted to turn and just leave the building, burn the entire place to the ground, but he had to see. He stopped, his gun falling from his limp fingers. In front of him was a huge mound of flesh, eyes, mouths dotted it and arms and legs all protruded from random points, some of the mouths were whispering, others were moaning lightly, one or two seemed to be open in silent screams. Wide eyes stared at him, around the mass he spotted scraps of clothing, a sleeve here, a flash of underwear there. He took a step closer and realised the thing was coming through the wall. He saw a mouth near a door frame, it was talking though he couldn’t make out what it was saying, something about promoting, he saw a glimpse of wall through the open mouth, it was like the wall had fused with it, flesh and masonry becoming one. Howard turned and stumbled from the sight, he rounded the corner and threw up, the sweet stink of vomit joined the stench. Howard stumbled from the office, not looking back, not bothering to pick up his gun. Howard walked past his partner who stood at the stairwell, shaking his head in response to the questions. He couldn’t talk about it, couldn’t think about it. He walked down the brightly lit stairwell and out into the lobby, EMT’s stood around with gurneys waiting to be let upstairs, outside cops were setting up a perimeter and pushing people back. Howard walked out of the glass doors and into the afternoon sunshine. He walked past the perimeter being set up and just kept walking, ignoring the calls from the people behind him as he went.
In the distance Lance could hear the rumbling crash of a collapsing building, he looked up from his desk and out the window, he could see a plume of dust rising into the air. Sue shook her head “Demolition or decay?”
Lance shrugged, Who could tell these days. “I didn’t see any demolitions scheduled, but I just glanced over it.”
Sue squinted into the distance, “Was that the old Smithson building?”
“Yeah I think it was. Jesus.”
“That was the oldest building in the city.”
“Not any more it isn’t.”
Sue looked at Lance, “doesn’t it scare you?”
“No, why should it?”
“What if this building collapses? Or your apartment building?”
“That won’t happen.”
“This building is occupied, it’s kept to standards.”
“The Smithson building was occupied. Bottom six floors were a shopping complex, everything above was housing.”
Lance shrugged, “can’t have been that full. I bet you that less than ten people died.”
He started typing and brought up the news feed, he grinned at Sue as he turned the screen towards her. The screen showed the remains of the building, people stumbled around covered in grey dust, their eyes wide and staring, in the corner of the frame a man tore at the rubble, his mouth open, without sound Sue couldn’t hear the screams, she didn’t need to though, she’d heard them before. The scrolling text at the bottom of the screen said there had been five deaths and almost two hundred injuries. Lance spun the screen back towards himself, “See? Barely anyone died. That train crash a month ago was worse.”
“You wouldn’t be saying that if it was your building that collapsed, if you’d just lost everything you owned.”
“Don’t be so dramatic. They’ll get vouchers to replace anything they need and they’ll be moved to a vacant apartment, there’s plenty of them.”
“That isn’t the point.”
“Isn’t it though?”
There was a loud cough from behind them, Sue glanced back to see Camilla glaring at both of them, Sue sighed then turned back to her computer screen, god forbid they chatted about anything during work hours.
Sue brought the news up on her own screen, the death toll had already risen to twelve and she expected the number to keep rising. People only ever seemed to look at the number when it first happened, when the bodies hadn’t been pulled from the rubble. The last building collapse, almost three months ago at this point, had killed three hundred when the final numbers were tallied up and released. Ask anyone on the street how many died and they’d frown, think for a moment then tell you it was thirteen, the number that was heavily reported in the first few days. Sue wasn’t sure if everyone was just content to ignore it, or if they truly couldn’t see what was right in front of them. The whole city was falling apart and it was getting smaller all the time, between building collapses, the low birth rate and nature reclaiming the edges of the city for herself. Sue didn’t know how much time the city had left, a hundred years, two hundred, but she knew it was only a matter of time before there was nothing left but piles of rubble and corpses.
Hope everyone is having a good week!
Yesterday was Pancake Tuesday and, as usual, it was delicious. I made some buttermilk pancakes and streaky rashers. Didn’t have any with lemon and sugar, which I usually do, instead I opted for rashers and maple syrup, then one with Nutella and some sliced banana. So good. I tried making bacon pancakes but I found them underwhelming, a little bit doughy and not as flavourful as I hoped so I stuck to the traditional pancake making method! What did everyone else have on their pancakes?
Margaret was in the basement, loading up the dryer. She grabbed a handful of wet clothes from the washing machine and threw them in, her back twinging as she leaned over. She closed the lid and turned on the dryer, the dull roar and clanging filling the basement. She leaned on it for a moment, one hand resting on its cold, metal. She took a slow breath then straightened up and went to the stairs.
Upstairs in the kitchen she went to the cupboard and grabbed a glass, she turned and went around the kitchen island, at the sink she turned on the tap and let it run for a few seconds before filling the glass. She took a sip of the cool water as she turned off the tap, she glanced around the kitchen and cocked her head as if listening, grinning to herself she grabbed out the footstool from the utility room. She placed the footstool in front of the cupboard with the glasses and quickly climbed. She opened the high cupboard and pushed aside a few of the odds and ends she had strategically placed, a few spare foil turkey pans, a box of straws, a half used packet of paper napkins. Behind it all was a bright purple salad spinner, still grinning she pulled it towards herself and took off the lid, gazing at the chocolate inside. This was her secret stash, the true secret stash, not the one at the back of the cutlery drawer that Henry sometimes nibbled at. She pulled out a bar of Milk Chocolate Crunch, her favourite, and put the salad spinner back, carefully moving everything around so it was hidden right at the back. She climbed down from the step stool and put it back in the utility room. No one would be home for another few hours but still, it was a risk. She didn’t like the kids or Henry seeing her eat sweets, it set a bad example for them, they needed to eat healthy and make healthy choices and well if that meant hiding her sweet tooth so be it. It wasn’t like they’d know any other way either, she kept herself trim and in shape, the chocolate bar in front of her meant she’d have to really push herself during her exercise routine. And if that didn’t work there was always the stash of laxatives she kept to hand to shift those few stubborn pounds that never quite seemed to come off. She opened the paper wrapping slowly, almost sensually, like a lover slowly pulling off an item of clothing and revealing what was underneath. She pulled at the foil, feeling the familiar thrill and faint spike of anxiety at the noise. She broke off a square and popped it into her mouth, allowing the chocolate to melt slightly before she began to chew slowly, enjoying the flavour of the chocolate, the crunch of the little biscuit pieces, the sweet, faint tang of caramel. She swallowed the chocolate, then with one swift motion she raised the bar to her mouth and started devouring it intensely, biting and chomping, almost choking herself in her desperation. She sighed when it was gone and licked at her fingers delicately. The salad spinner in the cupboard called to her, whispering promises of sweetness and happiness. She went back into the utility and grabbed the step stool, she placed it in the usual spot and quickly climbed, grabbing the salad spinner, she ripped the top off and flung it to the side, she didn’t hear the loud clatter as it hit the tile floor below. She stepped down backwards off the foot stool and then she was at the island, hands ripping through wrappers unable to stop herself.
When she was done she felt uncomfortably full, the chocolate sat in her stomach like a lead weight. She gathered the wrappers and scrunched them up into a ball, then she carefully dug deep into the bin and buried them there, where no one else would find them. She cleaned her hands and washed off her mouth to get rid of the flecks and smears of chocolate. She climbed the step stool slowly and replaced the now empty salad spinner. She climbed down and replaced the stool, she glanced at the clock, still plenty of time before anyone got home. Margaret climbed the stairs and went into the main bathroom, there opened the cupboard underneath the sink, then she reached up into the short ledge just underneath the sink, she groped blindly for a few seconds before her fingers hit the cardboard box, she pulled the box of laxatives out and popped out a couple from the foil packet. The ground shook slightly, she glanced at the window for a second, it felt like a large truck speeding by, someone on the road must be getting some work done. She’d have to ask Donna about that later, she knew all the local gossip. Margaret popped the pills then turned on the tap, leaning over to gulp straight from the tap. She filled her mouth with cold water then stood up, swallowing the pills. She reached out for the tap and froze, black water was running from the tap, as the thought to make herself throw up occurred Margaret collapsed, landing heavily on the floor. Her body started to shake, her limbs beating a steady rhythm on the floor as she seized. Her body arched up, a strangled gasp, then she fell back again. Blood flecked foam appeared at her lips, her eyes rolling wildly. Inside it felt like her body was one fire, a deep, impossibly bright pain that was searing away everything. Margaret could feel it working its way through her mind, dragging her down, she struggled against it, but she could feel things slipping away. The birth of her children, the marriage to Henry, the way Henry had looked at her when they first started dating and they couldn’t stop screwing. The way she liked her coffee, how to speak, how to move. Margaret, or the shreds of her still left tried to fight with one last dying push and then she was gone in one screaming flash of sizzling agony. Margaret lay on the floor, skin pale, panting. The thing inside her needed a minute to catch its breath, it had been a while since it had possessed anyone. It stretched out, feeling the way the muscles stretched and pulled, getting used to the feel of her, how she moved, how she connected together. After a moment Margaret stood and looked at herself in the mirror. She examined herself slowly, the way she had applied her make up, the wrinkles in the corners of her mouth when she smiled. According to her memories she was fifty, as of a month ago. Something Margaret had not-so-secretly loathed. The thought of getting old, becoming infirm terrified her. If only she knew what had been really waiting for her. The thing that was now Margaret went downstairs and had a look around, sure it had the memories but there was a difference between seeing it yourself and seeing it through someone else’s memories. It was shocking the amount of luxury this woman took for granted, what they all took for granted. After having a look Margaret stopped and went onto autopilot, the thing stepped back. It had all of Margaret’s memories and thoughts, it knew everything about her intimately and as such it could just let the old synapses fire off and do what they were supposed to. Sure her soul wasn’t there any more but no one would be able to tell the difference and if they could they’d just do what humans always did, they’d dismiss it, at worst they’d just think she was just a little under the weather.
Hope everyone had a good weekend! Mine was fun enough, watched some movies with a friend. I didn’t get around to making sourdough bread but the starter is still going so hopefully I’ll make some in the next few days.
Watched What Happened to Monday? I have to say it was a really good film and much, much better than I expected based on the premise. Would definitely recommend giving it a go!
Jorge pushed at the door, even through the gloves he could feel it pulsating. He absent-mindedly wiped his hands on his jeans as he stepped inside. He quickly scanned the room, it was just like the others. Dome shaped, about fifteen feet wide, the walls were made of organic, vine-like material which gently pulsated to an unknown rhythm. The floor was covered in what looked to be carpet, but Jorge knew that each of those little fibres was alive. He had touched it only once, on a dare, it had been luxuriously soft and seemed to contour itself to the shape of his hand, it was warm and swayed gently despite there being no breeze to move it. There was a pile of fabric on the far side of the room, something they’d been assuming were beds. Jorge left the room, it was empty, just like all the others. Outside there was a gentle breeze, it carried with it strange scents that tickled at his nose, floral but with a hard, sharp edge of burning plastic. Jorge hated searching through the ghost towns, they were always empty, the whole planet was empty but still, they insisted people check each house one by one. At least they thought they were houses, no one was quite sure what any of the structures were for or who they were built by. The natives of the planet were obviously intelligent, they’d managed to create living buildings that existed long after they were all gone, but little else was known about them. There had been no writings, no paintings, even the rooms held few answers. The houses had various functions and strange devices would open down from the ceiling but no one had managed to make any of them work. Jorge stretched, only six more houses to check before they were done with this village. It was hard to think of the small cluster of buildings as anything else, not when they’d come across vast cities made of towering domes and what seemed to be apartment blocks. There was no visible infrastructure, but vines ran through the ground connecting everything, fulfilling some arcane purpose.
Together Jorge and his group trudged back to the ATV’s with nothing to report, as usual. He had expected a life of excitement when he signed up to be a planet explorer, seeing strange and beautiful creatures, maybe even meeting intelligent life but so far there was nothing. They’d found two planets that had once been inhabited but there was little left behind to tell them anything about the beings that lived on them. Jorge knew that was making some of the bigwigs nervous, it was putting them all on edge, two reasonably advanced civilisations just gone without any trace. Jorge would have felt much better if there was some evidence of an internal war or natural disasters, but with both it looked as though the people just decided to leave and never return. Perhaps one day they’d come across another spaceship, stuffed full of the people that once inhabited the planets. He got onto his vehicle and started it up.
As they drove back Jorge ignored the scenery, at first the strange plants were fascinating but now they were just part of the background. When he first stepped foot onto the planet he didn’t think he’d ever be bored of it, that was six months ago and before the endless drudgery of the day to day searches. They hadn’t even come across any large animals, so far the largest had been about the size of a frog, a strange looking thing, purple skin, five legs, several eyes and it moved in a quick, jerky strides that reminded Jorge of spiders.
When they got back to HQ, about an hour later give or take a few minutes as one of the men needed to stop and take a piss, it was abuzz with the news. They’d found a third planet with evidence of civilisation, this planet was deserted but there were writings left behind along with painting and there were rumours of video. By the time Jorge got back to his room he’d been reassigned and given an hour to pack up his stuff and say goodbye.
An hour later he sat on the ship, feeling the rumble of the engines through his body, a ball of nerves sat in his stomach and a thin sheen of sweat coated his forehead. He always hated take off and landing, they were the most nerve racking moments. The rumble grew to a roar that felt as though it was trying to shake his insides loose, then it was over. The assistants moved along the aisle, passing out pills. Jorge took his and dry swallowed it, one pill and he’d wake up billions of miles away, somewhere new, somewhere better. He closed his eyes and felt himself relax, warmth enveloping him like a hug. He fell asleep smiling, dreaming of what they’d find on this new world.
Woo! It’s the weekend!
I’m gonna try to make a loaf of sourdough bread, not entirely sure how it’ll go but fingers crossed!
Hope everyone has a great weekend!
The crowd was silent as they watched the parade trudge past, occasionally a ripple of whispers moved ahead of the parade as people recognised celebrities, local or otherwise. The rotting corpses moved steadily, looking straight ahead the entire time, giving no indication that they saw or heard the crowd. Despite the various states of decay there was no smell, no rancid, foetid odour wafting from their bodies. Sometimes a parent would cover the eyes of their child as a particularly gruesome corpse walked past, with flayed skin draped over their shoulders like a coat, or spilt tangles of intestines dragging behind them. As people spotted their loved ones they blessed themselves, then said a quick, silent prayer before detaching from the crowd and walking home. Occasionally a corpse would stop suddenly, those around them would keep going, the corpse trembled then shattered into a spray of light, a small gasp rippled through the crowd followed by faint, polite applause. By the time the parade was coming to a close only a few people remained watching the dead on their eternal walk. It would take them a year, give or take a day, before they returned to the city again. Once the street was clear of the dead the cleaners came out, mopping up the gore and fluids the dead had left behind, street cleaners drove up and down the wide roads washing away the bulk of it. As always the bars filled quickly, people drank and shared memories of their loved ones, told each other how well they looked. Others toasted to the absence of relatives, glad that their hundred year march had finally finished and they were free to move on to the next world. Through it all there was a grim undertone, a silent acknowledgement that someday they too would have to undergo the hundred year march. The march had begun centuries before, no one was quite sure how long ago it started, punishment for atrocities committed by humans, so perverse and grotesque that they were wiped from all human memory, the shuffling corpses a reminder that the Gods were watching and that punishment would come to the wicked, no matter their station in life.
Weeks going well, I haven’t lost any more weight which is great. Watched the new Cloverfield on Netflix, I enjoyed it, it reminded me a little of Event Horizon. We had some snow yesterday, though not as much as I’d have liked, was nice seeing snow, even if it only is in miniscule amounts!
Mary let the curtain fall back into place, “they’re out in full force tonight.” from outside there came screams and shouts, most of it was indistinct, flashes of anger, terror, pain. Outside the window someone screamed for help, Mary flinched. “Come away from the window, you shouldn’t look.”
“I can’t help it. I hate hearing that noise out there, it keeps putting me on edge. I mean what if someone really was trapped out there?”
Fred shrugged, “There’d be nothing we could do, if we tried to help we’d get ourselves killed. It’s awful but that’s the way it is. Don’t worry, it won’t be so bad next year, we’ll have the windows soundproofed by then.” Mary nodded and sat down beside Fred on the couch, he pulled her into a hug, then he raised the volume on the TV, trying to drown out the noises outside.
Mary spent the night huddled beside Fred, flinching at every shout and scream. Normally it wasn’t that bad but when they moved into the new place the realtor never mentioned that the house wasn’t soundproofed and they never thought to ask. The cost of soundproofing the house was more than they had expected, especially as the house itself wiped out their savings. By the time next year rolled around the job would be done but for now they just had to suffer through it. There was a loud crash outside, like the sound of breaking glass, it was followed by screams, shrill and full of fear. Mary leapt up from the couch and went to the window, pulling at the curtain slightly so she could peer out into the night. “Just leave it Hun, it’s better if you don’t look.”
Mary waved one hand at him distractedly, she was fully focused on what was happening outside. “Fred. Fred you need to see this. Now.”
Fred stood from the couch, “What are they doing this time? I’ve told you before I don’t like seeing that stuff. I don’t know how you can look at them.” Mary moved the curtain further aside, Fred peered out.
Outside creatures danced and cavorted, occasionally letting loose screams. One of the demons walked past the window, it spotted them looking then gestured down to its erection, which was so large it bordered on comical rather than terrifying, before winking and waggling its hips. Fred looked past the grotesque thing and to the house across the street, the front window was smashed, he almost missed it in the darkness. One of the creatures reached up and pulled its misshapen body through the broken window. Fred put his hand over his mouth, he didn’t know the people across the road well, but they seemed like nice people. The day that Fred and Mary moved in they’d brought over a batch of fresh cookies to welcome them to the area. Mary and Fred jumped as the creature just outside their window slammed its palm against the glass, then started licking the window. Mary let the curtain fall closed again, Fred pulled her into a hug. The sound of screams filled the air, loud and awful and unmistakably human.
An hour later the screaming had finally stopped, Mary had stayed away from the window, there was still occasional banging against it and she didn’t want to see any of them again. Fred was right, she shouldn’t have been looking. Still, the question remained, how did the creatures get inside the house across the road? They weren’t supposed to be able to enter houses without invitations nor could they cause heavy physical damage like breaking windows. Mary lay awake that night, unable to sleep, outside the sounds slowly died away with the coming of dawn until finally there was blessed silence. Shortly after dawn Mary got out of bed and went to the phone, she quickly dialled the number. She never thought she’d have to ring it. It was answered on the first ring, “Demonic Incursion Hotline, how may I direct your call.”
“Um Hi, my name is Mary Finch, last night my neighbours window was broken and I saw things going inside.”
“How many went inside?”
“Just one that I know of, but I think there were more.”
“How many people occupy the house?”
“Just two I think. Husband and wife.”
“Can you tell me their names?”
“Her name is Sophia and his name is Mark I think, I don’t know their last name.”
Fifteen minutes later Mary watched as a black van pulled up outside, a group of seven people in black jumped out, each carried a gun. They ran into the house, Mary watched not realising she was holding her breath until 30 seconds later when the people walked out the front door, carrying the trussed up bodies of Sophia and Mark and she gasped. Sophia looked like she was trying to bite anyone in reach, her head was moving around wildly while she snapped at them. Mark didn’t resist, instead he was smiling, his grin set in an awful rictus, his eyes were open wide and looked as if they would pop out of his skull any second. Mary flinched as his eyes met hers and he winked, a thin rivulet of blood started flowing from the corner of his mouth, then he was thrown in the back of the van alongside Sophia. The doors closed and then the van drove away. Mary stepped back from the window, her stomach churned, she knew she wouldn’t sleep but she got back into bed, feeling the comforting warmth of Fred beside her.
Hope everyone had a good weekend. Mine was grand, fairly relaxed, was great catching up with friends too. Still feeling a bit off, getting twinges here and there, hopefully everything is just settling down.
Nancy approached the wall quickly, breath coming in short gasps, as always she felt that faint thrill of fear at the sight of it. She was the only person walking along the path, though it was wide enough for ten people to walk side by side. The wide open space made her feel like she was under a microscope, she was used to tall, towering buildings and crowds of people. As she approached the wire fence she saw a man leaving the wall, he carried his own suitcase and tipped his head towards her as he walked past, Nancy tried not to shy away. She stopped at the fence and pulled her passport from her pocket, she handed it into the bored looking guard who sat in a fortified little box. The guard looked at the passport, turning it this way and that and finally he started tapping at the keyboard. Nancy fidgeted while she waited, beads of sweat were gathering on her forehead and upper lip. The guard passed the passport back to her, “Business or pleasure?”
“Pleasure I guess. I’m visiting family, my mother is ill.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. Will you be gone long?”
“I don’t know yet. I don’t think so.”
“Okay, I’ll put you down for an open ended ticket then, you can return at any point within the next three months. If you stay longer than the allotted time and you have not started immigration proceedings, a warrant will go out for your arrest.”
The guard slid her passport through the hatch and Nancy pocketed it and waited for the signal to go on. The guard yawned, stretched, then reached over for a slip of paper, he quickly scribbled something onto it, then passed it through. Nancy took the slip, picked up her two suitcases, both hastily packed, and continued on to the wall. The sun shone on her back but she still felt cold standing beneath it. The wall was a deep grey, the only colour was the bright white and red warnings printed across it, threatening fines and even death to those who tried to cross it illegally. At the end of the path there were two large glass doors, Nancy pulled one open awkwardly and struggled through with her bags, another guard stood just inside, her stared at her impassively until she was through the door, he stepped in front of her “Destination?”
The guard nodded and pointed to the left “Please make your way towards processing. At this point you have not yet been approved for travel, should you not be approved we ask that you quietly leave without making a fuss. If you shout, threaten, curse or throw objects you will be ejected from the facility and banned from travel for five years. Do you understand?”
“Yes, I understand.”
He stepped back out of her way and Nancy walked on, following the signs to processing. The signs led her down wide, tall hallways that were plastered in posters of happy families on holiday and warnings about the spread of disease. The faces of the families made her uncomfortable as they stared down at her with smiles that were just a bit too wide. When she finally reached processing she was completely turned around as was the intention. The inside of the wall was designed to be like a maze, only those who worked there had any real idea on how to get around.
The room she was in was large, filled with rows and rows of seats, only three of which were occupied. She approached the glass slowly, unsure of what she was supposed to do. It was almost fifteen years since she’d last been inside the wall and she couldn’t remember how it all went. As she approached the glass the woman on the other side looked up, rolled her eyes and motioned to the seats, “we will call your name when we’re ready for you.”
“oh. Of course, sorry. Thank you.”
Nancy sat down, leaving a few empty seats either side of herself as everyone else before her had done. Of the other three waiting two were looking at their mobiles while the third was reading a book. Nancy pulled her own phone from her pocket then sighed when she saw she’d no signal. If she had time to prepare herself she would have thought to bring stuff to keep her occupied, rather than the frantic rush she found herself in. Her finger hovered over the messages icon before she clicked into it. The text from her brother flashed on screen, “Mom’s sick. There isn’t much time, please come.” she had tried ringing him but couldn’t get through and none of her texts had been answered. She felt another stab of anger, why hadn’t they told her Mom was sick before? No one had mentioned anything during their monthly phone call two weeks back. Nancy already knew what they’d say to her when she demanded answers, “Mom didn’t want you to worry.” “We didn’t want you to waste your time coming back if it was nothing.” she turned off her phone and put it back into her pocket, might as well save the battery. It was just like them to tell her the news through text too, that’s how they’d told her that Jenny was getting married, that Todd and Mags had twins. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d spoken to any of her family outside of their monthly phone call and even then it all depended on who was visiting her mother at the time.
“Mrs. Nancy Smith?” Nancy stood, grabbed her bags and lugged them over to the glass window. A slot opened to her left, “Please place your suitcases into the drawer. Are there any forbidden items in your bag?”
“No, just clothes and some money.”
The woman slid a form through the small hatch, “Please fill in this form detailing roughly what is in your case, you don’t have to be specific just clothes, money, wallet, that kind of thing.” Nancy started filling out the form. The woman looked at her computer screen, “Oh your mother is sick, I’m sorry to hear that. I hope she gets better soon.”
“Thank you.” Nancy slid the completed form back through the slot.
“Okay, this looks good. We’re going to send you for your medical review now. That will involve answering a detailed questionnaire with our doctor and submitting to a physical. The results of this review will be entirely confidential. If you wish to view the report you may do so here or by visiting your own doctor at a later date.” Nancy signed the form.
“Thank you. If you will please go to room three and change into the gown provided, a doctor will be with you shortly. Your items will be returned to you once you’re on the other side.”
Nancy went to room three, thankful that she didn’t have to lug around her bags any more. The room was smaller than she expected, a trolley bed was shoved against one wall, a desk was against another, there were two seats and a privacy screen. A gown rested on the trolley, Nancy changed into it, shivering slightly in the cool air. A few minutes later there was a knock on the door, three hard raps, before it was pulled open. Nancy stood from her chair as the doctor walked in, he was staring at a chart. “Okay, Nancy Smith correct?”
“Yes, that’s me.”
The doctor walked past her and took the other chair, “Okay, first we need to go over a few minor details.” he read through her chart, asking her to confirm her address and date of birth and asking her various questions about her health.
The entire medical review took about three hours but at the end of it the doctor declared her fit for travel. Once dressed Nancy was brought through another door, to isolation. She was lead past row after row of black, imposing pods. Each pod was about seven foot tall and had a view screen so those inside could look out and vice versa. “You will remain inside the pod for three days, though you will be unconscious for those three days. If any signs of major sickness appear you will be rejected and you will not be allowed travel. If you pass you will be brought to the train.” the technician stopped at a pod, then pulled open the door. “Please step inside.” Nancy took a deep breath her heart was thundering in her ears, she stepped forward and turned around inside the pod. The technician started grabbing at loose wires and sticking them to Nancy’s wrists and neck. “These will monitor you for the three days.” he pulled a tube forward, “you’re going to feel a slight pinch.” Nancy shut her eyes as she felt the sharp sting of the needle going into the crook of her arm. “OK, that’ll keep you hydrated and provide nutrients for the next three days. When you wake you’ll be groggy, maybe a little nauseous. That’s all normal. Are you ready?”
Nancy nodded, the technician stepped back and swung the door closed. Nancy closed her eyes and took slow, deep breaths.
Nancy gasped, then coughed, standing in front of her was another technician, though they were no longer in the corridor of pods. “How are you feeling Mrs. Smith?”
Nancy coughed, “Okay I guess.” her mouth was dry making it difficult to talk, the technician passed her a plastic cup half filled with water. “Take a few sips, don’t try to drink quickly, you’ll only throw up.” Nancy took a sip, then another. By the time she’d finished the water the wires had been pulled off her body and the needle had been removed. “Do you have a headache? Any aches, chills?”
“No, nothing like that.”
“Okay, it looks like you’re good to go. I’m going to give you some privacy, your clothes were sterilised while you were in quarantine.” the technician gestured at a plastic bag, inside which were her neatly folded clothes. “Once your dressed, knock on the door and I’ll escort you to the train.”
Nancy opened the bag of clothes, a harsh chemical smell greeted her. Nancy dressed slowly, she was still feeing a bit groggy and unsteady on her feet.
The technician led her to a row of elevators, there she pressed a button and they waited in silence. The doors opened revealing a huge elevator, they both stepped in and Nancy looked around, there was easily enough room for thirty people inside. When the doors opened again they revealed a platform, sitting on which was a train. A couple of people milled about on the platform. Nancy spotted her bags in a pile of luggage. “If you’d like to grab your bags then make your way onto the train. We hope you have a pleasant trip!” Nancy stepped off the elevator, the doors closing behind her. She grabbed her bags and went straight for the train, a large sign above it said it was leaving in fifteen minutes. Nancy quickly found a seat and settled in, the train had more passengers than she expected but she managed to find a group of empty seats with a table. She settled in, ignoring the windows either side of the train, the system was entirely underground.
The train ride itself only took twenty minutes, Nancy grabbed her bags and exited the train, outside on the platform Nancy paused and scanned the signs, she jumped as a guard nearby shouted that arrivals were to go to the registry desk. Nancy found the desk easily enough and was pleased to find she was the third in line. It didn’t take her long to get her forms checked and stamped and then she was through. She followed the corridor until they got to the airlock system, she stepped through the door then waited in the small room. A minute later a green light flashed and there was a buzz as the far door unlocked. She left the room and stepped into a wide, brightly lit corridor. Nancy walked along it, ignoring the welcome posters as she went. Outside the doors she stopped for a moment and breathed in the fresh air. The wall was on a hill, giving her a good view of the zone, with its spread out houses and wide, open spaces. She never thought she’d get used to the cramped space in Zone Seven when she first moved away, all those apartment buildings towering over her, pushing in from all sides, but now she found she missed them. The open space made her nervous though she wasn’t quite sure why. Nancy pulled her phone from her pocket and turned it on, then she sent a text letting them know she arrived. Nancy looked out over the Zone for a few seconds longer before she picked up her bags and started walking.
She was halfway down the hill when her phone beeped, she stopped and awkwardly dug it out of her pocket, she read her brothers text then rolled her eyes, “Great. See you soon.” She hadn’t expected them to meet her, but the offer would have been nice.
She arrived at the house an hour later, sweat dripping down her face. She forgot how big the Zone was, how everything was spaced out. In her memory it was only a ten minute walk to the wall, they used to go out to it as kids and stare up at it, talking about what was on the other side. The truth, as always, was less interesting than the stories they told each other then. As she walked up the driveway she was hit with blasts of nostalgia, there was the tree that Ben had fallen from, breaking his arm when they were kids, the old swing on it had been taken down at some point in the last fifteen years. Nancy knocked on the door and waited. The door swung open revealing her brother Ben, he looked thinner than she remembered, older too. His face was lined with wrinkles and he had deep bags under his eyes. “Nancy. I’m glad you made it.” he pulled her into a hug before she could react, he felt uncomfortably hot, like his skin was burning. “We don’t think she’s going to last much longer. Sorry for being so cryptic, she didn’t want us talking about it on the phone. She’s a bit paranoid. You know what Mom can be like.” Nancy nodded, feeling strangely awkward as Ben grabbed her cases from her, “You’ll be in the guest room, we’d put you in your old room but the Twins use that when they stay over now and Mom thought it’d be easier to set up the guest room” Nancy felt a slight pang in her chest, things couldn’t stay the same, of course they couldn’t, but she had still expected to walk into her room and find it as she left it.
“She’s upstairs, resting. You can go up to her if you’d like, I’ll put your bags away.”
Nancy nodded, Ben disappeared through one of the doors and left her standing in the hallway alone. So much for a warm welcome. She pushed the thought away, that was just selfish, everyone was just stressed. She climbed the stairs slowly and made her way down the corridor, feeling her shoes sink into the plush carpet. There was a smell along the corridor, one she hadn’t noticed before, a smell of illness and body odour with a tinge of rot. Someone had tried to cover it with the smell of flowers, but it just added an awful floral scent to it all. Nancy paused at the large wooden door to her mothers room, she knocked gently and pushed the door open.
The room was dark, the curtains were still closed. In the gloom she could make out the lump of her mother’s body, lying in bed. Nancy could hear the faint wheeze of her mothers breath. “Whose that?”
“It’s me Mom, Nancy.”
“Oh Nancy, you made it.”
“Of course Mom, you should have said something to me sooner.”
“I didn’t want you to worry, besides you’ve your own life now to look after, you’re own family.”
Nancy felt her cheeks redden and was suddenly glad for the darkness, she still hadn’t told her mother that Derek had left her six months before. Nancy moved deeper into the room, “could you open the curtains a little darling? I want to see you properly.”
Nancy pulled the curtains back, flooding the room with light, she turned and gasped, unable to help herself. Her mother’s face was incredibly gaunt, her cheekbones jutted out and looked as if they’d tear through her skin any second. She was pale, with dark bags under her sunken eyes. Her arms were skeletally thin and her light grey hair had fallen out in chunks. Nancy moved closer and carefully sat on the bed. Her mother reached out and took Nancy’s hand in hers, Nancy tried not to shudder, her mothers fingers were hooked like claws and her hand felt dry and papery with an uncomfortable heat behind it all. “How long have you been like this? Why aren’t you in the hospital?”
Her mother smiled, revealing gaps where her teeth had been. “Nothing they can do for me now darling, I’m coming to the end now. I’d prefer to spend the time I have here, with family, rather than in some sterile box in the hospital.” Nancy’s heart jumped and she suppressed the urge to snatch her hand away. “Have you even seen a doctor?”
“No, it doesn’t matter what I have, you know what they’re like. Besides, I always hated hospitals.” There was a thump from somewhere in the house. Nancy slowly pulled her hand from her mothers, “They’d be able to keep you comfortable though, are you not in pain?”
“No, Ben knows someone, they’ve been giving him pain pills for me, he’s a good boy.”
Nancy stood from the bed, “Mom, this is serious, have you really not seen anyone? I think I need to call a doctor.” her mothers hand whipped out and grabbed her, her fingers digging painfully into Nancy’s wrist. “No, I told you there’s nothing they can do.” she relaxed her grip, “I Just want to be surrounded by my family when it happens, that’s all.” Now she knew why the house was so empty, no one else would visit her, Nancy was surprised no one else had stepped in yet and called someone.
“Okay Mom, you get some rest, I’ll be back in a little bit, I’m just going to unpack and change.”
Her mother nodded, already she was starting to drift off again.
Nancy dug through her bag and found the bottle of hand sanitiser she had thrown in on a whim, quickly she slathered it onto her hands and wrists. With that done she left her room to find Ben, he was in the kitchen, watching the kettle as it came to a boil. “What the hell, why hasn’t Mom seen any doctors yet? She’s in a bad way, they could do something for her.” Ben shook his head,
“Mom doesn’t want to see any doctors. She just won’t go, I can’t make her.”
“She’s sick, really sick. They could treat what ever this is, besides what if it’s contagious?”
He turned and looked at her, “it isn’t. We’ve all be around her for days and we all feel fine. No one else is sick, if they were we’d know. I’ve been all over this Zone in the last two weeks and nothings happened”
“You’re not fine though, I thought maybe it was stress but you look unwell, what if you caught what she has?”
“I’m fine, I’m just tired, I’ve been looking after her for the last two weeks and where were you hmm? Off living you life because that’s just what you do. You go off and leave the rest of us behind to look after everything.”
“What? That’s ridiculous, you know I came as soon as you told me, I dropped everything to be here.” Nancy paused, “two weeks?”
Ben looked away, “She didn’t want us to worry you. We thought she’d get better on her own, she always has before.”
“Well she isn’t this time. I can’t believe everyone else is okay with this. Where are they? We should have a family meeting, this can’t go on.”
Ben shrugged, “They’re out.”
Nancy clenched her fists, “for fuck sake fine, we won’t have a family meeting then I’ll just do everything my god-damned self.” she stormed past him to the phone, “What are you doing?”
“I’m calling a doctor, like you should have done two weeks ago.” she turned from him and scanned the list of numbers beside it, Nancy started punching in the numbers just as she was about to hit dial there was a loud roar behind her, she whirled around in time to see the frying pan before it connected with her head. There was a loud crack and her body crumpled to the floor. Ben stood over her, gasping, he swung the pan back and brought it down again. He dropped the pan and sat down beside Nancy’s body, still breathing heavily he plucked the phone from her hand and hung up. “Mom doesn’t want doctors, I already told you that. Why won’t you people just do what she says for once.” when he caught his breath he stood and grabbed Nancy under the arms, then he began to drag her towards the basement door.
He put her body beside the others, they didn’t understand but they would, they’d come around to his way of thinking eventually, Mom just wanted everyone around her when she went, was that so much to ask? She was an old woman, all she wanted was some peace in her final days. Peace without doctors poking and prodding at her.
Ben climbed the stairs carefully, the teacup on the tray rattled gently in its saucer. He pushed open the door to his mothers room, she smiled when she saw him, “will Nancy be coming back for a visit soon?”
“No Mom, Nancy wanted to ring the doctor.” he put the tray on the bed, his mothers smile dropped, “Did she?”
“No, I stopped her.”
“Good, you’re a good boy. They would have just locked me up, put me in quarantine and left me to die like some animal. No, you did the right thing.” she reached out and held his hand for a moment. His mother lifted the tea cup towards her mouth, some of the tea sloshed onto her night gown, she didn’t notice. They were after her, she knew that much, they’d even managed to turn almost everyone against her, everyone except Ben. He was her good boy and he was keeping her safe, just like family should.
Hey guys, hope everyone had a good week!
I’m still wrecked, normally I’m tired but I’m finding my head is a bit foggy. I’ve had a few twinges and a couple of cramps but nothing too bad or worrying, my system is most likely out of wack after the colonoscopy.
I don’t have huge plans for the weekend, some friends are coming over for dinner and a catch up, maybe some movies, I’m looking forward to a relaxing weekend with lots of sleep!
Have a great weekend!
Hiding in the Dark. Flash Fiction.
Benny pulled his jacket tighter around himself, he could see the glow of a fire in the distance but he knew the bonfire was a dangerous place to be. The nights were getting colder, but not yet cold enough that he’d freeze. The clothes he wore were tattered and filthy, most of the clothing stores had been ransacked before he’d gotten to them, as had the supermarkets. Benny survived as so many of the others did, on scraps. He could hear the occasional roar of laughter coming from the direction of the bonfire, the laughter was almost always followed by screams. Sometimes, at night when his stomach was growling and his throat was dry he considering going to the bonfire, asking to join but he wasn’t quite that desperate yet. Once he had crept through the rubble and crouched behind the remains of a wall, and spent the evening looking at the initiation ritual. Only it wasn’t a ritual. Those who wanted to join were kept in a large cage, in the centre was the bonfire, he could feel the heat of it even from his distance. Thick black smoke boiled into the sky, as flickering light and dancing shadows filled what had one been Central Plaza. The gang were spaced out around the fire, some were drinking, others were passed out, high off whatever drugs they could get their hands on. The General sat on a raised chair in front of the fire, a bottle of booze in one hand. He wore a surprisingly clean Army uniform, with the chest covered in medals. Occasionally he would gesture towards the cage and two people would grab someone from the huddled mass inside and drag them out. Then The General would look them over for a moment, if they were lucky they went to round two, if they weren’t they were tossed on the fire to the uproarious laughter of those around. Benny couldn’t figure out the system, he watched as one man, tall, still reasonably muscular, was thrown onto the fire while another, short, scrawny and half starved, was moved to the side. Those who survived the first challenge had only one more to complete. From the second pool two people would be taken, they’d be given a knife and then the fight was on. The winner was granted entry, the loser would die. More often than not both people were too grievously wounded but for those few who won they were brought into one of the buildings, Benny assumed they were getting their wounds treated. If not for the scarred people sitting around the bonfire he’d have thought they were just being killed outright, regardless of having won.
A distant scream brought Benny out of his memories, it wasn’t from the direction of the bonfire, it was deeper in the city, in the places that were too dangerous even for The Generals gang. Full of cannibals and rapists. Sometimes they’d raid the outer city, grabbing anyone they could and dragging them back to their lairs. Benny listened for more screams, for the warning that they were under attack but there was only more laughter at the bonfire. Benny relaxed a little, his stomach growled. He had not eaten since yesterday and that had been a hastily eaten can of vegetables he’d found wedged in a crevice in a collapsed apartment building. He could feel himself getting weaker as the days went by, short walks now winded him, he found it difficult climbing over the rubble. He could feel it in the tattered clothes he wore as they became looser on him day by day, by the unnatural thinness of his body and the way the cold seemed to seep into his body and never really went away. He wasn’t quite desperate yet, but he knew he was close. Occasionally he would catch the scent of roasting pork and his mouth would water and his stomach would growl and he knew that if he was presented with it he would eat every last bit, no questions asked. The last body he had come across he had been tempted, after all the woman was dead, it wasn’t like he killed her and no one would ever know. It had been hard walking away from all that meat.
Outside his little shelter rain began to fall, heavy, cold drops. He would be dry here for the night, his little shelter kept most of the rain out. The rain became heavier, a gentle, soothing beat on the ground, Benny felt his eyes grow heavy and allowed sleep to take him.