It must have been the absolute absence of stimulus that woke her. Usually she had to ignore something to remain in slumber. That womblike sensation of insulation, of your interior always pushing against the outside world to stay under, asleep and recharging, was familiar. But she realized nearly at once that something was different this time. This time, there did not seem to be an outside world.
Still lying down, and motionless otherwise, she blinked.
She blinked again.
Experience had taught her that whatever dream had left her in a stupor could be blotted out with this exercise. Not today, apparently. She tried to sit up but dizziness overtook her. She closed her eyes and lay back down, bringing a hand to her head. She had not slept off that cold after all…
That brought a little coherence back and she held on to it, seized the memory and searched it for more information. She had come in late from work, so late and feeling so shitty that she had just passed out on the couch…
Yes, that is where she was. The couch. No wonder she felt out of place, she never slept on the damn couch. She normally woke to the make shift mural above her bed. An “actualization board” someone had called it. Gotta visualize the future or whatever… actually , it was a cork board with a bunch of unattained wants attached, a modern wishing well that served to discourage her almost as much as it was supposed to motivate.
But today she had woken up to:
A dark entertainment center; the light slowly creeping in around it through the window, giving the structure a monolithic shadow. It had a strange beauty to it, the entrancing glow of light rays holding up thousands of dust particles like bubbles in a stream. This created a lazy fascination for her, like a dying man in a blizzard, noticing the majesty of his own breath as it crystalizes in the breeze. She almost let her eyes slip shut again but…
What time was it anyway? She felt around for her phone. Not on her, thank goodness. If she had collapsed on it she would have broken the screen again. As she thought to get up, she remembered what else was odd, that nagging thing that had woke her in the first place.
There wasn’t any freaking noise! She always slept with the TV, radio, or fan on. Always. Sometimes, all three in unison. A perfect harmonious choir of technology to tuck her in at night.
Too much interior noise to drown out? May as well combat it with outer static, right Web MD?
But nothing was on today, not even the fan. Who the hell turned it off?
UGH. Power’s out.
With a groan she pulled herself up off the couch and went about the business of searching for her phone. She fumbled over her shoes and almost went sprawling on the carpet, face first. Not the most desired way to get rug burn, she thought. But that preferred method had not happened for quite some time. Well that wasn’t true, but it was so bland it didn’t really count. She thought of Chuck again for the first time in a week or so…
As she recovered her balance, she began a series of motions found only in affluent countries.
(Third world tourists observe the Modern American in her natural habitat…)
She bent low looking under the couch and swung her right arm underneath the base while using her left to search the cushion.
(Notice the attention to seemingly every detail. This kind of dedication was once used to forage for food but now exists solely in pursuit of the head harmonium that modern so called “smart”phones can provide. Please save all judgements for the end of the tour)
She bent lower now with both hands underneath the base, searching and finding only dust and popcorn kernels. Again, probably from Chuck. Anne always cleaned everything so well that Cassie felt comfortable on her hands and knees searching like this so if there was something to find it would (A.) be old and (b.) be from a relic of a relationship. Nobody was ever here except herself, the aforementioned roommate, and the boyfriend from another life that didn’t come around anymore.
Was that what he was?
Who knows? Interactions with potential lovers have lost so much definition as of late. It is as if casual sex was a conservative value. These days we are more like animals in a jungle, except less selective and interested in all different species, and without any desire to procreate… ok
Probably a bad analogy.
Her hands found purchase on the rubber shelled rectangle she had been looking for. She smiled and pulled it out from the side of the couch.
Just Sodom and Gomora these days. If we really thought about it, it would be too late anyway. Nobody would even bother looking back. And who really needs THAT much salt?
Now that she had her phone she pulled up ENFLuX as she normally did to check the latest news from the outside. Damn, she hit Facebook by accident and had to waste a second clearing it, which sucked because her battery life was beyond low.
Gonna have to delete that app. What was this 2016?
Her eyes widened at the headline flashing on the first post.
TERROR strike at home, may need ventilators before leaving, experts advise.
The next one read:
If you are outdoors right now, put your shirt over your head.
What the shit, these were all from last night? No one had even posted today...
She realized now that she hadn’t checked the time and quickly hit the home button in order to bring up her clock. 10:00 AM on a Thursday and nobody had posted??? What the hell was going on.
As she thought this, her phone went dark.
SHIT! Battery dead AND no power.
Then, she assaulted her phone with a barrage of sneezes, four or five of the bastards in quick succession. She hadn’t intentionally hit the phone of course, it was just in her right hand, the one that usually takes care of the social grace of covering one’s mouth during expectoration.
SHIT! SHIT! SHIT!
She got herself under control with her other hand and looked down at her phone to see the damage.
Her phone screen had been replaced with a cover of red. It was dripping.
Her eyes widened as she realized what the substance was. Instinctively she brought her left hand away from her nose to wipe the detritus away and saw that it too was bloody.
She was up then, running to the mirror by the door. Towel be damned, she needed to know what was coming out of her face! She ran into the umbrella stand and almost went down, but caught herself on the desk right underneath her destination. What she saw on her nose and upper lip was gross all right, but not as troubling as she had first thought. She must have had a lot stored up there but it was all out now.
Yea all over my Fng phone.
Fucking GROSS, she thought, and started looking around for the box of tissues she usually kept there.
No dice, it looked it was going to be wiped on her sleeve. Oh well, could be worse right?
The Doorbell rang with a familiar HEE HAW bray.
Being so close to the door, she reached out and grabbed the handle without thinking.
She opened the door.
And there stood Chuck, here after all.
She smiled briefly in recognition but that quickly fell away from her stained lips.
Chuck did not look well himself. Chuck also had bags under his eyes and had had a bloody nose because he still had wads of toilet paper sticking out of his nostrils.
Chuck was holding a gun.
“Samantha,” he said.
And then he fired.
Chuck ducked to the side of the door immediately after the gun went off.
Stupid, stupid, stupid.
He didn’t know how many had been in there when he fired.
He could have woken a horde of the damn things. He wasn’t’ thinking was all, too much going on this morning. Just seeing Sam like that, symptoms and all. AND he KNEW she would never have answered the door like that if she was in her right mind. She was always so concerned with her looks, one of his main issues with her. And she had accused him of being boring… sorry that he didn’t like shopping and talking about it. Not his definition of “Shop talk”.
Jeez. that’s pretty bad…
He risked a peek into the door frame. No body there, other than her body, of course. He got her clean in the head like they say to do in all the classics. No getting up from this one.
He looked in his revolver and counted four bullets left. Ok, fine.
Let’s see what she has here. If he was going to die of this thing, he wasn’t going without a fight.
A car alarm started blaring nearby. This made Chuck jump, wince, and then he was moving again. He stepped over Sam’s body into the house. He tried to shut the door, and kept getting resistance. He tried several times to slam it before realizing his ex was blocking the door, even though he had just stepped over her. His head was NOT functioning properly.
He pulled her in a little, wiped his bloody nose and shut the door.
As he righted himself he thought a tear had eeked itself out of his eyeball, some emotion for his fallen comrade, but it was just blood. Apparently he was bleeding from there too…
Chuck sighed, holstered his weapon in the front of his pants, and shot himself in the testicles.
He woke up, kind of, a couple of minutes later to a hazy world of indistinguishable puffiness. Everything had a cloudy quality like the kind of heaven Hollywood pedaled in the 1980s, all cotton and smoke. He floated about looking with a slight awe and stupor at his surroundings. He saw something fuzzy slowly growing in front of him. No, not growing, but coming towards him. As it careened out of the gloom it began to sharpen, the colors contrasting into familiar patterns. He thought he almost knew.
It was a corpse. Not coming towards him, just coming into focus.
It was Sam’s corpse, and he was lying right beside it. His eyes seemed to be the only part of him that worked. He tried to move and he only succeeded in waking the hurt that was sleeping in his groin.
This was enough to bring him all the way back. He freaked. He told himself it was over, man. He yelled at the top of his lungs that it was not fair and he had stuff to do. He lamented and bemoaned his misfortune. He did this with great passion and panache in his mind.
“EUUUUGH,” was all he really said.
“One of them is still going!,” said a voice from behind him.
“ERP,” said Chuck
“Damit Dewayne You know ya gotta hit em’ in the head, I thought they both had skull contusions”
“Hell, I didn’t check em for ticks Roger. They looked deader than Dallas when we came in here. Hol’ on”
Footsteps then, coming closer to behind where Chuck lay. He tried to follow their progress with his eyes, since that was the only part of him currently working.
The footsteps stopped right in front of him.
STOP! STOP ! Please you have to help me. I’ve been in an accident and…
“ERP,” Chuck said.
The hatchet made a swishing sound as it came down into Chuck’s skull. His eyes continued to work for another ten seconds before they gave up and joined the rest of his failed system. The last thing he saw was the hole he had made in his lover’s skull. A fat drop of blood swelled on one hair follicle, and dropped to the linoleum.
Dewayne was definitely having an issue: the dadburned hatchet would not release from the zombie’s skull. He wiggled and pulled, and then reversed the procedure. Sweat dripped into his eyes.
“Nff,” he said, and blinked.
“What are ya doing?,“ inquired his partner
“Damn thing is, nff, glued in here or sumpthin,” he said.
Roger came over beside him and looked over his shoulder.
“What a mess,”
He spat on the female as he said it.
“let me help ye”
Roger Hampton pushed Dewayne out of the way and positioned himself right above the man’s head. As he reached down for the axe, he moved his foot on top of the girl to get some better traction.
“Oh Roge, don’t do that,” Dewayne hissed. He put his hand to his forehead and gasped. He was turning quite green again.
Keeping his eyes on the work and his hands on the hatchet, Roger calmly called back,
“Calm down ol’ buddy this’ll be over soon. Just like them last ones.”
This did not make Dewayne calm, and as Roger worked the hatchet back and forth to loosen it, Dewayne whimpered audibly.
“Almost…. There, UMPH”
“Well what if they aint completely dead yet? I mean what in the hell do WE know?”
Roger was tired of this course, had heard it for the last hour and a half from Dewayne. He almost let go of the hatchet, to turn and tell him so when the body opened its eyes and twitched.
Roger’s hands flew back as he righted himself,
“You fucking see dat?”
“What? What? Is it still alive!?’ Dewayne cried.
Roger considered. There didn’t seem to be any way it could be. In every tv show or bullshit movie he had ever seen or heard people talk about, that head shot should do it. Maybe the rules in life was different, but how could that be? TV was most people’s life. Hell, TV producers gave up twenty damn years ago and just started filming “real” shit.
He waited, staring down at the corpses, while Dewayne panted and jerked behind him.
“Wait.” He said.
He stared at the carcasses on the ground for what felt like an eternity. How the hell old were these kids anyway? 21? Damn shame. His eyes began to itch.
When nothing happened, he proceeded to start working on the hatchet again.
“I tol’ you” he began
“Urp”, said the dead man. Blood oozed from his mouth.
“FUCKIN CHRIST ROGER KILL IT!” Dewayne demanded as he covered his face with his hands.
Roger, initially stunned into silence, now screamed in angry terror. Why wasn’t this thing following the rules? Once you got it in the head you DIE!!
Not taking his eyes form the creature on the floor, Roger began stomping up and down as hard as he could. He brought his leg up and down with such force it sounded like a car door opening and slamming shut.
Dewayne continued to whimper behind him. If he kept up that way, he could go pro.
WAP! WAP! WAP!
Roger breathed out and spat. Heaved in breath and
WAP! WAP! WAP!
Dewayne, turned to the side, fell to his knees, and vomited.
Silence then. A momentary reprieve.
Without a sound, Roger bent down as far as he could. Hands on his knees and craning his neck, he put his face directly in front of the mess of tissue that had been the man.
“AAAAAAAAAAGH” cried Roger.
Spittle flew from his mouth and into the disfigured pile. He stared at it. It did not move. This was satisfactory.
He reached and grabbed the hatchet, now lying on the floor next to what was left of the body.
“Here is your sticker. Let’s see what they got out back.”
He handed Dewayne the hatchet, handle first. The whole thing was slimed with blood.
He dropped it, forthwith, and started shaking his hand as if the damn thing was hot.
“Shit man I don’t want what they had. You dick! Why did you have to get the handle all nasty?”
He looked at Roger pleadingly, his brown eyes looking more like a lost puppy than ever. When he sniffled afterward, he didn’t quite snuffle up all the snot coming out and Roger could see some of it was red as it dripped into his partner’s moustache.
“Don’t spread like that, pard.”
Roger’s eyes twitched and he suppressed a grimace.
He pushed past Dewayne and went out into the yard.
Facebook Messenger 10/30/2019 10:00 AM
TO: Samantha Garton , Melanie Dishnall, Daniel Portnoy, Allie Herbert
FROM: Chuck Heinreich
OMMFG you guys. I had to send this on messenger because it is the only thing on my ancient desktop at the rents. Of course, THEY are not even here. Christ, they must have left as soon as the first siren went off. Did you guys hear them last night where you are? im getting out of this shitburg and I want as many of you to come as are able, there is some bad shit going around… I thought it was a damn joke! and I sincerely hope where you are you have working phones, evrything’s been knocked the f out over here.
EVERYTHING. We had a generator and it is fried too. Good thing I found a gun in the neighbor’s house. GD revolver! Ancient AS ALL F LOL!!!
Jesus I hope none of you are sick.
Sam, im headed your way first. Please be ok.
Ttyl guys. Love you.
Yell Fire: part one