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Strongbow
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After much prompting, I've decided to put all of my shorts on one thread.

I apologise if you've already read these. I promise that two more are in the works.

For first time readers, enjoy!

Strongbow

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Strongbow
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Strongbow
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Solomons Gamble

"And they brought a sword before the king. And the king said, divide the living child in two..."
1 Kings iii, 23-24


Look, this whole thing was not my fault. I see the way you're looking at me. I see the judgement in your eyes. I know what you must be thinking and I don't blame you, but you know how things were when it went down, you know how crazy it was! Ok ok, I know this isn't about you, but look...just let me explain myself, ok? You'll see my side, I promise. You'll see that in the end, I had no choice.
You remember that day, the day that the world headed toward the proverbial fan. You were at home with the kids, while I was working at the hospital, treating the infection the news was talking about. Infection, yeah right. Let me tell you, it was far worse than anything Hospital Director Higgs allowed us to the news and the complete flipside from what those lying bast*rds at the CDC fed the public.
I'm so sorry that I had to hide it from you, but I can tell you everything now, now that all of those pretentious, fork-tongued a*sholes are either shambling about looking for a hot meal, or lying somewhere with their brainboxes blown out. Please, just let me tell you what happened...
There was a meeting the night it started, over a month ago, I believe. The night you left that message that you were pissed with me for turning off my cellphone, remember? Well, I thought I had a good reason for it, at the time. It was near the end of my shift and quite suddenly, I was called to report to Observation Room One. It turned out that three patients were being flown in from Springfield, Missouri, -special patients, all very hush-hush. When they arrived, complete with a two-man military escort, the patients were secured and sent to be viewed by myself and two others: Director Higgs and our infection specialist, Dr. Ti Woo. Think about it! Up until that point, I'd only been allowed to treat and transfer the infected to the quarantine center in Chicago, so I considered it a big deal to be in the Big Boys Club, for once. God, ignorance is so bloody bliss...
Higgs briefed us, as we waited for their arrival, on the patients general prognosis: solanum viral contraction, advanced stages, blah blah blah. I'd been treating this very thing with increased frequency for the last eight weeks or so and had heard several times about the odd characteristics of advanced solanum infection. What could be so different about these people? I found out as they pulled back the curtain.
Flanked on either side by a soldier, I saw three gurneys parked in a row in front of us. On the left was a blonde woman named Stacy Meadows, thirty-one, unconscious and terribly anemic, her skin taking on a grey color. She was deep in a coma, her breathing shallow and vitals barely registering, but was hanging in there, for the time being. I noticed a gaping bite, human and all too familiar, which had festered on her left forearm and that both hands were missing several fingers. Higgs announced that the wounds on Mrs. Meadows had come from her husband, gesturing to the gent on the middle gurney, who was thrashing against his restraints and moaning loudly.
Mr. Henry Meadows was thirty-six. He was also, to be blunt, dead as a doornail. I mean flatlined all the way across the board, and he looked the part. Grey, mottled skin, bluing on the underside of his body, distending torso, sunken facial features, milky white irises, the whole enchilada. A ragged wound, underneath loose and bloody bandages, on the back of his left knee oozed brown fluid, which stunk to high hell.
Higgs gave Dr. Woo and myself the details from the police report. Dispatch had received several calls from concerned neighbors of what seemed to be a routine, but violent domestic. After hearing Mrs. Meadows screaming bloody murder inside, the responding officers kicked in the door and found Mr. Meadows digging into his wifes arm with apparent gusto. Unfortunately, they arrived too late to keep him from making an appetizer of some of her fingers. They told him to freeze and he immediately turned on them, tearing out one officers throat while the other emptied his service revolver into Mr. Meadows back, screaming for backup, (and a long time after that, I imagine). In the end, it took several officers to restrain him, with several of them bitten or scratched by him in the process. They were bieng "evaluated" at Mercy in Chicago, Higgs said, (the bast*rd even made the whole two-fingered quotation gesture, all the while smiling like a fox in the henhouse.) The report added that before lapsing, Mrs. Meadows had told officers that her husband had been sick for the last few days, since receiving a bite from something in a pond he was dredging at the time.
I stared at him as he growled and moaned on that gurney and slowly realized that everything, every rumor I had heard and dismissed about this infection over the last two months was true. The man moved, in spite of having absolutely no vitals and several bullet holes in his back. It hit me then, like a shot to the gut. All of those people I had treated that were in the early stages of this very thing I was witnessing, the ones I had sent to "treatment centers". I, they, had no idea what was happening, what was really happening, you know? Just that moment of realization, along with the fact that Mr. Meadows had caked blood from chin to chest and bits of shredded tissue still between his teeth, nearly made me run from the room. Maybe, just maybe I should've...
The third gurney was the reason I didn't. She was only seven, according to Higgs report, blonde hair like her mother. Her small arms were tied securely to the sides of the gurney, her blue eyes wide and brimming with tears. Her name was Katie, and according to preliminaries, had not been bitten, though she did have blood on her nightgown. When Dr. Woo noted that fact to Higgs, he gave us a smug look and said simply, '...yet.'
He went on to say that the Meadows family was not an isolated incident, that reports of violent incidents with the infected were increasing at an alarming rate, so much so that the federal government was quickly reaching the point of being unable to play down the truth for much longer. We, the physicians in the trenches, were ordered by good ol' Uncle Sam, to do our best to minimize the inevitable media fallout by collecting as much data from advanced infected as possible. We were to do this as discreetly as possible, while the bigheads in Washington decided how to tell the American People that the infected dead were getting back up and munching on their families like so much barbecue.
Our offical duties were straightforward. Step one: conduct a full autopsy on Mr. Not-So-Dead Meadows. Step two: wait for Mrs. Meadows to turn and repeat step one. Step three: infect the girl and get ringside seats on the complete evolution of a solanum infection, repeat step two, then step one. Higgs would compile and send the gathered information to the CDC in D.C., who would ingest it with a healthy handful of crackers and sh*t out a vaccine, hopefully before things got really out of hand.
All the while, I was staring at the girl, Katie, who witnessed the entire, horrific event with her parents while hiding under the kitchen table. There she was, strapped to a table, in a room with her psychotic corpse of a dad, her dying mother and strangers in white labcoats military fatigues, listening to her fate. She was looking at me, her eyes burning into mine. It made my heart absolutely sick. I mean, I was a doctor and have seen and treated grief-stricken or terrified children hundreds of times, but this, this was so much worse...it was inhuman.
I was trying to wrap my head around what to do, when suddenly, from the gurney across the room, Mrs. Meadows let out a huge sigh and flatlined. Her vitals monitor immediately sounded high electronic alarms as her bowels released in a liquid rush, the smell mingling with her husbands decay, (which was bad enough, believe me). As Dr. Woo reached over to shut off the wailing monitor, the soldier near him groaned, then unceremoniously retched all over the floor, splashing his boots and Woos loafers with partly-digested MRE.
Private Pukeys addition to the already unique bouquet in the room must have been right up Mr. Meadows alley. He went completely nuts, pulling on his restraints with renewed vigor, moaning loudly and gnashing his teeth with loud clacking sounds. Higgs was just yelling at the green-faced private to grab a mop, when Mr. Meadows, in his apparent excitement, bit off his own tongue with a sickening crunch, sending brownish fluid spraying from the stump in his mouth as he whipped his head from side to side in a frenzy, gurgling and spitting like a mouthwash commercial.
Dr. Woo cried out that he had gotten some of the droplets in his mouth, spitting vigorously as he smeared the dark drops that had landed on his face with the sleeve of his labcoat. Higgs, his face red as devils by this time, pointed at the other soldier, (who had been staring at the fiasco with his mouth hanging open), and yelled that he was to secure Dr. Woo for infection testing. This seemed to make Woo forget about the crap on his face and with a cry of something in his native tongue, (probably to the effect of 'I'm out of here!', he ducked for the door. He never made it.
Private Pukey, who was closest to Woo and the door, grabbed at the good doctors collar, nearly slipping in his own uppage. Woo turned and pushed the soldier, who went boots-up onto the floor with a loud grunt. His weapon discharged a round into the ceiling as he hit, raining white chunks of plaster onto his prostrate, puke-covered self. The other soldier, Corporal Codfish, had obviously regained enough composure to raise his rifle and paint the wall with Woos innards. As Woo slipped to the ground in a dead heap and I quickly wheeled the gurney Katie was strapped to into a corner, Mr. Meadows succeeded in pulling a hand free from his restraint, (minus most of his skin), with a wet tearing sound. He swiped at Higgs who, with a disgusted grunt, instinctively kicked outward, knocking the gurney and the howling Mr. Meadows into Corporal Codfish. They both tumbled to the floor with a loud crash, the soldiers still-smoking weapon clattering across the room.
I remember Codfish screaming as Mr. Meadows dragged his jagged nails across the soldiers face, leaving deep ruts which bled vigorously down his chin and into his lap. Pukey had gained his footing by that time, rushed over and fired several rounds into Meadows, who had torn through the other soldiers fatigues and was chewing on his thigh. One of the rounds went straight into the back of Mr. Meadows head, split it like a rotten melon, (which, judging from the smell, probably was), and continued on into the Corporals leg, severing his femoral artery in a bloody jet. He clutched his ruined leg and begin a succession of impressively high screams that actually rivaled Mrs. Meadows vitals montior, which was still telling everyone the bad news about her condition in a continuous beep.
Meanwhile, Higgs had retrieved the Corporals weapon and was pointing it at the room in general, with a crazy look in his eyes. He walked over and hit Mrs. Meadows monitor with the butt of the rifle, which fell over and was finally still. He then pointed at Pukey and ordered him to collect his now unconscious Corporal and secure him for infection testing. Turning his back to them, he walked over and steadied the barrel at me. He told me that I would have to surrender myself and the girl to infection quarantine, along with the two soldiers. When I suggested that he join the party as well, he just laughed and told me that someone had to oversee the autopsys, but that he would acknowledge my post-humus contribution in his report to the CDC.
I was about to respond, when there was a moan from the dead womans gurney. ****, that was fast, I thought. Higgs apparently thought the same thing and turned his head toward the new-and-improved Mrs. Meadows. Seeing my chance, I belted out a battle cry and shoved Katies gurney hard into Higgs, which sent him tumbling into the pileup of Mr. Meadows and the now bled out and very dead Corporal, the rifle flying from his hands as he fell. I jumped to my feet and grabbed it from the floor, as Higgs, his labcoat covered in blood, struggled to untangle himself from the two corpses, yelling for Pukey to stop me. The private, though, was long gone, his bloody bootprints made a red trail through the now open door and into the hall.
I laid the rifle next to Katie on the gurney and covered her with a bedsheet. I wheeled her through the door just as the police arrived in the hall, guns drawn. I hurriedly told them that Higgs was infected and that the room must be locked immediately until the CDC arrived and that I was taking the girl to ICU. Whether it was the fact that the room looked like something out of an axe-murder flick, complete with struggling dead woman, or that I was the only doctor in the room not covered in blood, they nodded and slammed the door shut. I smiled as I walked away, Higgs pounding on the door behind me. He and Mrs. Meadows were perfect for each other, I thought.
I wheeled Katie down the main corridor and into a maintenance stairwell. There, I unbuckled her restraints, wrapped the rifle in the sheet, and carried both down the stairs and into the parking garage.
As I loaded her into my car, I realized that she had not made one sound the entire time. I sat in the drivers seat and looked at her through the rearview mirror. She looked back at me and actually smiled. It was then that I noticed something about her, something I'd seen many times before. It was different with her, though. As my second eureka moment of the night hit me like a ton of bricks, I sat in my car and thought hard for what seemed like forever of what I should do. Finally, I made up my mind and turned the ignition.
I grabbed some cash from a nearby atm and some supplies from Walmart. Satisfied that I was ready for the long haul, I made tracks out of Kansas City and headed west, stopping only for gas and a bit of sleep. When I finally arrived at that old hunting lodge timeshare in Colorado, (the one you hated, by the way), we holed up and laid low. I watched the news and Katie, scared that at any moment, SWAT would bust down the door and drag me off, like we used to see on COPS, but no one ever came. I wanted to call you badly, nearly every day, but I was afraid my phone would be traced if it were on, and I couldn't let them have Katie, no matter what. It was only when I saw the infection reach outbreak levels, that I summoned the conviction to try and get you out. I packed up and left Katie at the lodge, with plenty of food and instructions on how to stay safe. She's pretty smart, by the way, though she still to my knowledge hasn't spoken one word. I headed back to Kansas City, my head full of visions of rescuing you, guns blazing if neccessary. I swear it's true.
God, I had never imagined how bad things had become. The dead and undead in the streets, the fires, the anarchy. Getting shot at, people dying in the streets, wild kids with bats, -it was almost surreal. The highways were choked with cars, so I used mostly backroads, dodging abandoned vehicles and rotting bodies as best I could. The undead, (I can call them that now), were everywhere, in the streets and buildings, their ravaged bodies bloated with the meat of the poor saps too slow or unable to escape, their moans a constant undertone, the white noise of the city of the dead. I can't even tell you how much ammo I used up before I realized that a headshot could turn them from meat-eater to meat again really quick.
In spite of all of that, when I arrived home again, I honestly still thought that you were all alive, that you had hidden somewhere and waited it out, like me and Katie did. I can't even begin to discribe the pain I felt whe I found Tracy in her room, her little throat torn out and...and still trying to get out of the closet you must have locked her in. I hope you sent the undead ******* who did that to her straight back to hell. Oh, and I took care to put her to rest quietly, my love. Patrick...I found him where you left him in our room. I don't blame you for what you did...I saw the bite on his arm. The way you laid him out on the bed like he was sleeping, turning his head so the bullethole couldn't be seen...he looked so peaceful.
Now you, my wife, my dear Elizabeth. I can't tell you how sorry I am that I left you to end up like this. I would've come back, should've perhaps, but I had to protect Katie. You see, what I saw in the car that night changed everything. When I looked at her, I saw the signs of advanced infection that I had treated so many times before... but she was stable, the monitor showed it. I watched her over the weeks to be certain I was correct and she continues to be completely stable. Do you realize the implication? She may actually hold the key, that vaccine turd the CDC was looking for. Higgs would probably have simply killed her, sent her to the CDC to die along with me, with countless others. She could've been overlooked. I will make sure that she isn't.
I had to choose, though, once I realized what Katie might be, you see? I had to choose between saving the family I loved more than anything and possibly saving the human race. I sat in that car and agonized over the choice. I felt like Solomon, that king in the bible that had to choose to cut a baby in half, rather than give it to the wrong mother. I understand how he must have felt now, the guilt and doubt he must have felt as he decreed the gruesome death of that child. The only difference is that his gamble paid off, the lucky bast*rd. I look at you, what you've become and I'm not certain that I made the right choice.
Look, I'm taking her to Chicago, try and develop some sort of a cure at the center there, (If it's still there, that is). If not, then I promise to take care of Katie, carry you and our childrens memories through her, to survive until I find an end to this, one way or another. I love you, now and forever, my dear Beth. the bullet won't hurt a bit, I swear, and you can finally sleep.
Goodnight, my love, and wish me Solomons luck...

Strongbow
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Strongbow
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Pale


"And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him."
Revelation 6:8


Soft tapping on the window beside me. My eyes snap open, a sharp intake of breath as panic instantly grips me, wrapping around my chest like a cold vice. My heart hammers loudly, I lay frozen. Quickly waking from the recesses of my troubled sleep, my mind assesses the danger, seeking the source of my fear.
Rain...soft rain tilted just so, pattering on the pane like eager fingers. The vice slowly melts, the hammering in my chest slows, allowing me to breathe once again, --to recognise my surroundings as familiar.
My hand steals slowly off of the mattress pad that I'm lying on, wheelframe long ago discarded for silence, and rests on the familiar grip of my pistol. Wrapping my fingers around it, I pull it to me and hold it to my chest, its coolness comforting me. My eyes adjust to the darkness, identifying the props of the ceiling fan above me. I think for a moment on how long it's remained motionless, stilled since the power died...since everything died.
With a soft sigh, I pull myself upright, my pistol still cradled against me, then falling into my lap as I slowly run my hands over my face. I feel the bags under my eyes, the wrinkles in the corners of my mouth and forehead. It feels old, my skin rough and caked with a fine layer of dinge and old sweat. So much for my youthful twenties, I think to myself with a tight-lipped smile. Water is such a precious commodity these days, the buckets on the roof providing barely any relief from thirst, let alone bodily odors. Not that there's really any need to bathe.
I stand now, gripping my pistol, quietly moving in the gloom, across the bedroom and into the adjoining bathroom. Laying the pistol carefully in the sink, I slide a plastic bucket under me, squatting with one hand propped on the bathtub ledge, relieving myself with practiced indignity. Finished, I hitch my jeans up and slide the bucket back behind the toilet.
Sitting on the bathtub ledge, I slide a hand down the inside of the tub, feeling for the water height. Just under half full. Enough for a few more weeks, with caution. Cupping my hand, I bring the water to my mouth, sipping, then run my hand over my face, releshing the cool moisture.
I look around me, at the darkness of the house. I wonder what time it might be, the clocks having stopped weeks ago. I shake my head at such thoughts. Time doesn't matter anymore. Light equals day, darkness equals night and both don't belong to me anymore. All I own now is my life, --survival my unwanted hobby, my forced occupation.
God, how did it come to this? I've forced my mind over that question over and over, the broken record of my brain turning the possibilities inside and out.
I think back to the days before the darkness, before they came. No one paid attention to the rumors, --isolated reports springing up in the tabloids, then later on the footnotes of internet news. A virus, some sort of flu named 'Goliath' of all things, that made its victims mad with fever, blood boiling in their heads, --a fist-sized lump finally building on the brain, cracking their skulls like eggshells. Another new flu, born halfway around the world? We dismissed it with a collective shrug and a jab of the remote.
American media...so very efficient at downplaying and minimizing international reports of people collapsing in the streets of Bangkok, convulsing in offices and homes in Baghdad, projectile vomiting blood and mucus in the churches, police stations and hospitals of Johannesburg. The CDC calmly oreassuring the public that the grainy, bootleg videos streaming out of Berlin, London and Tokyo showing shaky images of people clawing open their shirts, scratching deep red ruts in their chests as thick blood and dark globs spewed out of their mouths, noses and eyes were utter fabrications. YouTube videos going viral, then disappearing from the net. Blogs springing up casting theories and conspiracies, only to be shut down, labeled "Terroristic in nature". Vaccines needled into crying children in front of lines of anxious parents...and yet, we dismissed every dam*ned word of it. Why? The why is simple...arrogance.
We buried it because of what was said about Goliaths inevitable conclusion, the evolutionary peak of its infection on its victims. Not the reports of a horrific death, mind you, oh no. That part, in fact, was actually sensationalized, snatched and chewed up by media dogs and network on-the-scene reporters and regurgitated back to the American public in the form of sterilized "Comprehensive Reports." Photos of bloodstained gurneys, trucks piled high with trussed-up corpses, --("...What you are about to see you may find disturbing...&quot, the oily black smoke billowing from human bonfires. It wasn't until they attempted to capture video of the rest of the stories that the real censoring began. Journalists cut off in mid-sentence as the cameras swung toward shrieking bystanders, the gunshots of police and soldiers, the twitching within the piles of the dead. We were assured that increasingly frequent reports of American Goliath flu victims staggering to their unsteady feet, slack-jawed and shuddering, were fabrications of internet-addicted fearmongers and terrorists. I remember watching the Secretary of Defense chuckle and shake his head during a press conference at the very notion that corpses were rising up and turning on the living, biting and consuming their flesh. We, in our armchairs, the AC blowing in our faces and lights on in every room, ate our microwave popcorn and sighed in relief. Everything would be alright, we were assured. The military and local law enforcement were handling the situation. We were in control, they said, and we swallowed that pill without even asking for a glass of water.
I get up from the bathtubs edge, the numbness in my bum slowly receeding as i reclaim my pistol and softly make my way out of the bedroom and through the dark halls of my home.
Rooms seem enormous in the gloom, devoid of the furniture that now lies piled up in front of the doors and windows. I step into the living room, the grimy carpeting masking my steps as I head to a window, the sprinkle of the rain outside patting small blots on its surface. I tenatively pull back the thin curtains and peer through the boards, nailed securely to the windowframe, into the night. The street is dark, barely visible without moonlight, the carnage of my neighborhood hidden gratefully from my view.
Just then, I hitch my breath. A form slowly shambles into my view out of the blanket of light rain, just barely within the limits of my vision. At first, I see only a human frame outlined, shoulders slumped as if in defeat. As it moves into better view, I see its head jutting forward, then twitching sharply from left to right, as if bieng pulled, neck bones popping outward from the effort. It moves closer into my vision on stiff legs, the occasional twitch causing it to stagger, then regain balance as it walks. I can now see the clothes, drenched through with rain and dryrot, bleached from the sun. A t-shirt, torn and ragged, completely coated in the front with the caked, dark blood of its first demise. Sweat bottoms ripped and sagging, stained also from the blood and feces it expelled in the final convulsive moments of its human life. Its arms twitch, hands clenching and unclenching at its sides as it moves a bit closer into my view. My mind begins to race, anxiety welling up as I watch its jerky approach. I know that though its eyes, white and bulging impossibly out of their sockets, cannot see me, its hearing is excellent even in the white noise of rainfall. I see the slack jaws, the chin hidden under dried blood, the strings of sinew and rotting flesh caught in-between broken, jagged teeth. I see the bulging forehead, incredibly large, jutting over its now hidden eyebrows like a grapefruit, the skin split open, showing the white glint of skull. It stops walking, close to the window now. It stands, mottled grey-skinned body jerking occasionally as if shocked, the jaw now slowly working up and down, the head and limbs twitching. I imagine that I can hear its soft moans and hisses, the burps and farts of escaping gas from the rotted meat in its bloated belly and intestines. Slowly, it turns and finally lurches slowly away, back into the darkness.
This is what they didn't want us to see. This is what we were in "control" of. We believed...we had no reason not to. We believed until their lies came crashing down around us, the naked festering truth crashing through the paper walls of our lives, shattering the security pipedream we had talked ourselves into. We believed, even through the gunshots and explosions merely blocks away. We believed in spite of the screams of our neighbors and the startled wailing of car alarms. We believed that the snow on the tv, then total loss of power was temporary. I actually even still believed as Rex was barking madly outside and my husband walked into the room with his pistol, usually locked up in the closet. It wasn't until after I helped him move the furniture in front of the doors and I looked out the window I'm at now that truth reared its head and took Mrs. Tentlach on my front lawn. I saw her get dragged down, her screams intensifying as they tore into her belly, ripping out purple loops of innards, tearing into her face, neck, legs, --blood fountaining from ravaged arteries. I watched as they feasted...watched as my world changed before my eyes with gnashing teeth and clawed hands.
I move from the window, wiping away a tear with my sleeve. I steal into the kitchen, sitting carefully on the floor in the midst of discarded cans and wrappers. I peer into some of the cans, probing them with my fingers, knowing that their contents have long since gone. I sigh, mentally forcing my hunger away. Lately, its been much harder to stave it off. John had all of the plans, he was my final scrap of belief. He knew to fill the tub and sink with water. He knew to put the buckets on the roof. He knew to re-enforce the windows and doors. He rationed the food, pulled guard as I slept. He knew he was growing weak, keeping me strong. He also knew how to leave, with a single gunshot to his temple on the roof. He didn't take me, though. He should've taken me...
Now I wander the house, eating a little, sleeping a little and watching them a lot. I see the reanimated corpses of neighbors turned long ago, wandering the neighborhood. I see the decayed corpse of Rex, still tied to a tree in the backyard, but I try not to look at him long, --it makes me drool. I watch the water slowly receeding from the tub, the buckets gathering so very little. I see John...his remains in the kitchen where I gathered him in desperation, keeping me fed a bit longer, when I can stomach it. I see the pistol in my hand, taunting me, showing me the way out.
I see the world. It is pale.

Strongbow
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Strongbow
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Patient Zero

Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power...
Revelation 20:6


In a grey building, down a dark hallway, behind a thickly painted white door, in a small room, in a small corner, she sits naked on the floor, -her legs drawn up against her chest, her arms wrapped around her knees, her greasy hair draped, her face hidden.
A small bed is pushed against the wall across from her, cold and unused, leather straps hanging from its frame. Underneath it, the discarded blue hospital gown she wore for a time, though she cannot recall exactly when. Nearby her, a sink of aged steel, water dribbling out of the small hole that serves as a tap. Above it, a steel mirror inset into the wall, its surface warped, reflecting back a distorted image of the room. A small, lime encrusted toilet squats nearby.
A small drainage hole, covered by a dark circular grate, adorns the center of the room. On the ceiling, a single phosphorus bulb, protected by a dirty steel cage, flickers with an electric tick and buzz, casting erratic strobed shadows on the walls, barely lighting the confines of the room. In a high corner of the room, a small camera watches, its small red eye glows unblinking, a single star in the concrete sky of the ceiling. The door is heavy, bare save a small square above for eyes and a slightly larger square below for food.
She sits unmoving, oblivious to the cold of the floor against her bum, the uneveness of the walls pressing on her hips. She sits, listening to the buzztick of the light, the water trickling down the sink drain, the murmor of memories in her head.
She remembers that she had been someone once, she had a name. She tries to remember it and fails. With a wave of a mental hand, she dismisses her search and instead focuses on other flashes that emerge through the thick fog of her mind, -the reflection of a woman. Blonde hair, dark blue eyes that shone dully above a seemingly forced smile. A slim body, the feel of curves in tight-fitting tops and impossibly short skirts, of feet in tottering high heels, of waxy lipstick on red lips and teeth.
Her hand twitches as she remembers, the broken nails of one hand dragging uneven scratches across one knee, then balling into a fist. It clenches, then slowly relaxes as her mind plays back again, images flashing across her minds eye.
She remembers the smell of the streets, wet concrete and asphalt reflecting the harsh neon signs and silhouettes of buildings towering above her. The clop of her heels resounding off of the walls, the downward looks of other faceless women that walk the same streets as her, the thick smell of their purfume briefly overpowering the pungent city odors as they pass.
Other faces. The faces of so many men flitting by her eyes in a panorama of gutteral lust, their eyes roaming the contours of her body, the leering smiles, tongues running wetly over dry mouths. They speak in low voices, the undercurrent of fear and self-doubt masked by overconfident words as they barter for her flesh. The smells of their cars, the melded odor of stale cigarettes and liquor, unwashed skin reeking of sweat and man-cheese. The feel of rough hands pinching and scraping soft skin, teeth biting tender spots and drawing blood, hips bruising, ragged breath in her face as they rut.
A moan escapes her, the sound echoing around the small room. A large cockroach scuttles out of the floor grate and pauses, antenne searching.
The faces leering in her vision fall suddenly back, leaving only one, which burns in the center of her mental vision with fierce intensity.
He was different. His voice was soft, his tone unstressed. No beads of nervous sweat dotted his forehead. His dark eyes roamed her, yet held no lust, simply scrutiny. Questions came from him that she'd not heard from the others. Drugs? No. Children? No. Record? Not yet, she laughed. He had nodded, his smile not reaching his eyes, dark as pitch.
His car was small, but clean. His smell was clean, his face unreadable. His money was new and plentiful. She sat in his car, smiling. The green glow of his dashlights cut his face in half as he leaned in, whispered that it would be alright, the rag in his left hand covered her mouth and nose tightly. The sweet smell of anesthetic rolled her eyes back and darkness descended like a curtain.
She remembers waking, head pounding, a flickering light compounding the throbbing in her head as her eyes darted around the room. A red light shone in a dark corner across from her. A loud click resounds and the door opens, two men, two faces enter, the panic rising sharply as she realizes that her arms and feet are bound to the bed she lies on. She recognises one of the faces, the face with questions, with dark eyes. The other face is unfamiliar, twin gold bars on his collar flashing in the unsteady flicker of the light. She remembers crying out as they produce vials and needles. The pressure of hands holding her arm down, the sharp prick of flesh, vials soon dark with her blood disappear back in the pockets of the faces lab coats.
The dark eye face leaning in, to her ear, whispering that everything will be alright, telling her to sleep. Another prick in her neck and sweet darkness.
The images blur in her mind, memories melding together in a stream of agonizing familiarity.
Hours passing into days, into weeks, then irrelevance in the small room. She remembers screaming up at the red eye till her voice was a hoarse whisper. Tied to the bed, wrists and ankles sore from struggling, weeping in shame the first time she deficated on herself, bled on herself.
He would always arrive eventually. The dark eye face, accompanied by other faces that she couldn't recall and didn't care to. Only him, the face that led her to this hell, did she remember. He would always whisper the same thing, that it would be alright, followed by that familiar sting in her neck. When she awoke, her soiled gown would be changed, her oozing bedsores treated with salve, the sheets crisp under her freshly washed body. Eating was a degrading neccessity, more white-coated faces, grunting, forcing her to a chair and feeding her, bound, threatening a tube if she didn't comply. The food a pasty, tasteless goo, her water running from an iv stand to her arm twice a day.
The tests were continuous. Countless vials, brimming with her blood. Machines wheeled in, a symphony of flashing lights and electronic noises as the faces read streaming data, jotting down notes on plastic clipboards. Injections that burned in her veins and made her retch with nausea. Agony as bits of her flesh were taken with glinting knives.
Snippets of conversation between the faces. Terms like 'failed synthesis' and 'neural recalibration' floated between them as they looked at her, probed with cold tools and prodded with latex hands.
She felt herself succumb to the routine of abuse. Her body no longer resisted, the dark corners of her mind that she retreated to becoming ever more familiar and inviting. Only his face would follow, his dark eyes followed her even there, still appraising her huddled, helpless form.
She had no idea how long the restraints which held her limbs had been unfastened. She remembers weakly moving an arm and feeling no resistance. Surprised, sitting up, her hands going instinctively to her calloused wrists, rubbing them absently. The stiffness of unwilling muscles, shuddering as she swings her legs to the edge of the bed, the oddness of the floor under her feet.
She stood, burning nausea hit her in a sickly wave, her legs shuddered from disuse. She fell heavily to the ground. Crawling to the toilet, she retched up a foul-smelling yellow mucus, the splash of the jetting fluid loud in her ears as her face hung in the bowl, yet she didn't choke or sputter. She wiped the ichor from her mouth with an arm and sat up, realizing that something had changed.
Still on her knees, she anxiously felt her body, running her hands over herself, over her gown then under. Her skin was mottled, greying with blue tinges on the back of her arms and legs. It felt heavy, numb, but thinner, sliding over her bones like an ill-fitting glove. The river of veins on her hands and feet no longer prominent, but black and shrunken, her nails yellowed, accented by hairline fractures that extended to curled cuticles.
With a grunt of effort, she grasped the sink and rose to her feet, bracing herself against it as she peered at her distorted bust in the metal mirror. Her once ample breasts sagged, deflating. Her cheeks, once high on her face also dropped, forming jowls, her eyes sunken and yellowed. She grinned into the mirror, pulling back cracked lips with ancient looking fingers and inspected her mouth. Her teeth looked long, gums receeding and pale, her tongue nearly as grey as her skin. She felt odd, detatched from herself. Her insides felt heavy, her belly distended. A coldness in her chest which spread from her shoulders to her crotch. She clutched the front of her gown with a fist, pressed it against her instinctively to stave off the sensation, felt nothing behind her ribs.
She blinked rapidly, trying unsuccessfully to produce tears to clear her fogged vision. The buzztick of the light intensified in her ears as she fought to comprehend what they, what he had done. She thought back on the relentless tests, the mind-numbing sedatives, the constant abuse of her body. He had taken her, decided her fate and transformed her into the distorted stranger reflected back at her. She sat beyond death, touched but not taken, embraced, then abandoned, her ghost cast indifferently back into the shell of her body. Forgotten, like the countless faces that took her other self so many times, a lifetime ago.
She tried to laugh, but made no sound till she forced air into her dead lungs, the sound wheezed out as a low groan. She staggered to the bed and sat heavily on the edge of it, shoulders slumped, arms dangled between her bluish knees. Her ghost eagerly retreated into herself, a single desire left burning in the forefront of her wasted mind.
She stirs from her memories, body shifting slightly, ignoring the small puddle of brown ichor pooling around her, trickling from the ruin of her lower orafices. The cockroach scuttles to the puddles expanding edge, testing with its antenne before tenatively partaking of it, jaws lapping rapidly. Her next memory is vivid, a technicolor stream of images flickering past her mental vision with absolute clarity.
She cannot remember how long she sat on the bed, catatonic, her ghost waiting deep within the recesses of her shell, but she remembers the loud click of the lock on the door, the twin pairs of footsteps walking toward, then stopping near her unmoving form. He had returned, his smell unmistakeable, his dark eyes still appraising her. Standing over her with the other face, who she vaguely remembered as the one with gold bars, still glinting on his white collar.
She listened to him, his voice still soft and unstressed, as he spoke of successful reanimation, of her success where so many others before had failed. The gold bar face talked of military applications, of biological superiority. Dark eye face spoke of taking a final sample before her autopsy and disposal, gold bar face grunting his agreement.
She felt him lean in, grasping the top of her still bowed head with one hand as he slowly inserted a large needle into her discolored neck with a thick pop, the jugular pierced. He pulled back the plunger, the syringe filled with brown, milky fluid. He leaned close to her ear, whispered that it would be alright, that she would sleep forever soon, as the needle slid out of her neck, more fluid tracing from the puncture to her collar in a brown stream, staining the neckline of her gown.
Her eyes snapped open, thick fluid teeming around the edges of her shriveled lids as she gazed into his dark eyes, which widened in surprise.
"Yes," she breathed raggedly in his face, "it will be alright."
She leaned forward, grabbed the back of his head with both hands and bit fiercely into his cheek. His warm blood filled her mouth as she yanked her head back, a portion of his cheek and lips tearing away with a wet ripping sound.
Dark eye face screamed in delicious agony, falling backward into gold bar face, one hand clutching his ruined face, blood running freely between his fingers, spattering in large red drops on the floor. Gold bar face bellowed in pain and surprise as he clutched his leg, the syringe buried deep in his thigh, the plunger half-depressed. He tore it out with a cry and stared at it in his hand, eyes and mouth wide in terror.
Beside him, dark eye face scrabbled to his feet, moaning, his polished loafers smearing his blood into red streaks on the floor, his exposed teeth and jawbone glinting a dull white through the ragged hole in his face. Still shouting, they both rushed through the door and slammed it shut, the lock turning with a loud click.
She stared at the door after them, chewing methodically. Blood and gobbets of fat and tissue dribbled down her chin and onto the front of her gown. Her grey tongue licked her gore-coated lips, her ghost releshing the taste of him.
After a while, she stood, swayed. She shuffled to the opposite corner of the room, where she pulled the gore-soaked gown over her head and sent it skidding under the bed in a heap. With a deep sigh, she slid her body down to the floor, her knees cradled by her arms, head against her chest.
She reaches down and pinches the cockroach between now rotting fingers. Slowly, she slips the struggling insect into her mouth, biting down with a crunch.
She remembers the alarms sounding later, the shouts outside the door, the gunshots. She remembers the long silence after, broken only by the buzztick of the light, now flickering desperately, clinging to the twilight of its existence. She listens to the moans that occasionally come from the other side of the door, the shuffling of feet dragging through the dusty, darkened halls. She smells the decay of them, of her and prays that her ghost can one day leave the shell it is confined to.
She hears a wet fist, pounding weakly on the other side of the door. She raises her head, milky white eyes thick with yellow crust, turning to look at it. She imagines that it is the dark eye face, his body rotting as he mindlessly carries out the sentence of his dark conviction, a product of his own heinous designs. The edges of her cracked mouth turn up, her rotten teeth now thick with crushed insect shell and leg as she smiles at the door.
She hopes so...

d_dude
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d_dude
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These must be hard to make, but please make more. I would bellflop 20ft. into a pool for 3-5 more stories.

Maverick4
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Maverick4
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Yes! And I enjoyed reading all the shorts again. Though it seems as if one is missing? May be not...

Efan
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Efan
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I have very much enjoyed the darkness from all these stories. Please. Write more?

jacksonghuntington
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Very interesting stories. I want to follow in your footsteps and write more too. Try to write a lil happyer is my sugestion but as a guy, these were intence stories!

Strongbow
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Strongbow
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A new story is coming soon

I'm just finishing the final touches.

Strongbow
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Strongbow
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Two new stories coming very soon.

Strongbow
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Strongbow
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Hello Everyone!

I've finally completed one of the longer stories I was working on. I do apologise that it's taken a bit longer than I expected.

It's a long read, so get comfy. I do hope you enjoy it.

Strongbow
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Strongbow
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The Dead Next Door



June 1
Let me start out by saying that whoever first came up with the idea of summer homework should be arrested for child abuse. I don't know where my homeroom teacher, Mrs. Taylor, got the idea to make the whole class keep a diary about our summer vacation, but I think the idea stinks! Not only do I have to write all summer, but the word 'diary' is just so...lame. I'm really not even sure what to write. Nothing ever happens here. Oh well, hopefully Mrs. T will get bored of reading this by July, so I can keep it short in August. (JUST KIDDING, MRS. TAYLOR!!) Haha. Anyway, I'll start with the basics, I guess.
My name is Timothy Barrons, or Tim. I'm twelve years old and live on 39 Overland Road in Kansas City, Missouri. I live with my parents: Michael and Carla, or dad and mom, for short. Oh, and my pain in the bu*tt sister, Tammy the Tard. Age fifteen and forevermore known in here as TT. Haha.
Our house is sort of nice, I guess. I have my own room upstairs near the bathroom and a window that faces the backyard, which is pretty cool. It's also next to TTs room, which is definately not cool. The backyard where my dog FleaRide lives is pretty big. There's a tree that's awsome for climbing. We even have a pool, which usually makes me pretty popular with my friends around the neighborhood, especially now that schools out. I also have an XBox, which also makes me pretty popular, though no one can beat me at 'Guitar Hero'. Of course, I can only have friends over after I do my chores and paper route. Luckily, I only deliver around the neighborhood and my customers are all pretty cool. They tip good, as long as I put the paper near the door. Well, most of them do, anyway. Except for the Nelsons...
Mr. Nelson is my next door neighbor. He lives there with his wife, (who is really nice, by the way.) I'm not sure how long they've lived there, but dad tells me that it's a pretty long time, -long before we moved here. He seems old, but I'm not sure. He has white hair that wraps around his head, but he's bald on top. He has a long, droopy face and big glasses. Dad says he looks like Mr. Magoo, whoever that is. Most of all, Mr. Nelson is a total grouch. I make sure to put his paper on his doormat every day, but he NEVER tips! He just sits on his porch and yells at me and my friends to stay off his property. What a jerk. Luckily he has a job, so he's not always home when I deliver to his house.
Speaking of that, I have to deliver my papers and besides, my hand is hurting. I'm gonna go. Man, I wrote a lot! Maybe this won't be too hard to do after all.


June 5
God, I hate Mr. Nelson! The jerk yelled at me again today. I didn't even do anything wrong!
I was on my bike, delivering papers, as usual. Dad put twin baskets on the back of my bike. He said that he had them when he used to deliver papers at my age. Ok, the visual of my dad on a bike with baskets is totally hilarious to me. In fact, the visual of my dad as a kid is hilarious, if not a bit weird. I remember hating him for putting them on my bike at first. I mean, who wouldn't? They rattle when they're empty or when I jump off a curb. Just having them at all kinda increases the dork factor, you know? Still, they're really good for newspapers. Much better than the bag I used to use. I can usually just reach behind me and sling a banded paper right at the porch. I rarely miss, by the way. Heh.
Anyway, so I was delivering my papers. The Nelsons are the last house on my route. I usually park my bike and walk theirs to the porch, (I'm still hoping for that tip, right?) Well, I had just gotten to their front porch. It's painted white, covered with fluffy ferns and hanging pots and stuff. There's also a big, wooden rocking chair where Mr. Crabby sits when he's not working and yelling at us kids to stay off his stupid lawn. I was just about to drop the paper on their doormat, (which says 'Welcome', by the way), when the door flings open and Mr. Nelson comes flying out, nearly running into me. He was wearing that white lab coat he always wears when he leaves for work and smelled of Old Spice...gross!
I always try to be nice and proper when I have to talk to him, (tips!), so I held out the paper to him and smiled. He snatched it out of my hand and snapped, saying that I had no business on his porch. I pointed out, trying really hard to be nice, that it is my duty as an official carrier of the Kansas City Start to provide all customers with excellent service at all times. He just kind of grunted, tucked it under his arm and with a final, "stay off my lawn!", hurried to his big, old Lincoln and drove off in a hurry. Jerk.
Mom tells me that he's only like that because he has a lot of responsibilities at the Biocom Labs downtown. I personally think it's because we're kids and he's old.
Maybe I'll just give up on tips there and aim for the bushes. Haha.


June 8
Something totally crazy happened today!
I was upstairs playing XBox, when I heard dad come home and tell mom to put on the news. Normally, I could'nt really care what was happening on the news. Car crashes and shootings...I can get those playing my games. This time, though, dad sounded really excited, so I went down to investigate. When I walked downstairs and into the family room, I saw mom, dad and TT watching tv. I asked what was going on and TT told me, in typical TT fashion, to shut up. I thanked her by hitting her arm, but she didn't hit me back...a first. I gave up and looked at the screen.
The tv showed an arial view of a wide, square building, the camera fixed on it and turning in a slow circle around it. You could see the helicopters shadow pass over it occasionally, which I thought was cool. Smoke was pouring out from the buildings windows. The newsman was saying in his newsy voice that there was an accident inside the Biocom building, though no details were available. I thought it was a fire, even though I couldn't see any flames.
Mom seemed worried. She said that Mr. Nelson worked there. We all like Mrs. Nelson, (even me). She's usually really nice when Mr. Nelson isn't there. She always smells nice, too. Kind of an old lady flowery smell, (unlike that nasty Old Spice smell her husband likes). Sometimes, she will even hand us kids these really awsome homemade butter cookies over the fence, while we're swimming. Dad suggested that mom go over to the Nelsons with TT and see if she was ok. I volunteered to go too because I like her. I thought I might also get a cookie out of the deal, but mostly because I like her.
We went over to her house, (staying off the lawn, of course), and mom rang the bell. Mrs. Nelson answered the door, her cellphone in her hand. She looked worried, but said that Di*ck, (I didn't say anything, but TT elbowed me anyway, haha), was fine and on his way home. Mom offered for her to come to our house to wait, but Mrs. Nelson said it was alright, thanked us and said we should leave. She seemed really nervous and kept looking down the street. Mom said ok, and we went home.
About fifteen minutes later, I was outside in my front yard and saw Mr. Nelson come flying down the street and pull really quickly into his driveway. He got out and hurried to his house, looking really upset. His labcoat, which is usually a spotless white, was dirty and one of the sleeves was ripped almost completely off. He was holding his arm and, call me crazy, it looked like he was bleeding. I said hello to him, but he completely ignored me. Mrs. Nelson opened the door for him and said something, but I was too far away to hear what she said. He went in and slammed his door.
I ran inside and told mom and dad what happened. Mom said she'd go back over, alone. That was fine by me, because something about the way Mr. Nelson looked and acted sort of creeped me out. Still, I went outside and watched mom walk over to the Nelsons house and knock. She waited for awhile, but no one answered. I saw her look down at the driveway as she came back home, a strange look on her face. Later, I heard her tell dad that she saw blood on their driveway, when she thought I wasn't around. Strange, huh?


June 9
I was dropping off the paper at the Nelsons house today and Mrs. Nelson actually opened the door. This surprised me, mostly because I was expecting Mr. Nelson. He usually never misses work. She was wearing a coat and some sort of see-through scarf on her head, which was weird because it was hot enough to give a snake a sunburn, (well, she is old, I guess). She was really nice, thanking me for the paper. As she closed the door to leave, she dropped a piece of paper she was holding. I picked it up for her, cause she seemed kinda in a hurry. I was able to take a look at it before I handed it back. It looked like a bunch of first aid things and stuff mom makes me take when I'm sick. I asked her if Mr. Nelson was ok, but she didn't answer. She just thanked me again, got into Mr. Nelsons Lincoln and drove off.
Another weird first for them. I didn't think Mrs. Nelson even knew how to drive.


June 11
It rained today for the first time since school let out. Man, it was a doozy! I was with dad outside trying to put the cover on the pool, while TT took FleaRide inside. The rain hit like a sheet! We were all soaked in two seconds flat! Dad was swearing loud enough to hear over the noise of the storm and FleaRide made TT fall on her bu*tt right into a puddle. It was hilarious!! We all stood there, dad cussing away and me and TT laughing. Mom finally yelled at all of us to get our soggy bu*tts indoors. I helped TT get FleaRide inside, who was barking and enjoying the rain as much as we were. I guess sometimes Tammy isn't so bad a sister...sometimes.
Dad and I secured the pool tarp and I ran over to the toolshed by the fence, that separates the Nelsons yard from ours, to put the extra bungie cords away. I was just closing the shed door, when I heard a loud crash from the Nelsons house. I thought that maybe the storm had broken something over there, so I peeked through the fence.
It was dark and the rain made things kinda hard to see in their yard, but I could see the lights on in their house and shadows moving around, through the curtains. I heard my dad yell for me to quit screwin around, so I turned to leave again. Another crash, definately from inside the Nelsons house. I went to look again, but I heard dad call my name in his I'm-getting-upset-voice. When he uses that tone, I know that my life could become uncomfortable really fast, so I ran inside.
We ended up ordering pizza and watching a dvd. It was really fun. The lights only flickered once. It made mom squeal a bit and everyone else laugh. Later, I mentioned what I'd heard over at the Nelsons to mom and dad. Dad said not to worry about it, that it wasn't our business. Mom said she'd go over there tomorrow to see if everything was alright, but I think she said that to make me happy.
I'm actually getting a little worried. I haven't seen either of them for a few days and their papers are still on their porch. I'd hate to see anything bad happen to them...even to Mr. Nelson.


June 14
Man, I'm having an awsome summer so far...yeah, right. My best friend, Blake invited me to go to the skatepark his dad runs. Great, except I busted my left arm on a ramp. It hurt, but not really that bad. Mom was pretty mad, but moms are supposed to get mad over stuff like that, right? Anyway, I have a cast that wraps around my thumb and goes up to my elbow. Everyone signed it, which was kinda dorky. Luckily, it should be off by the time school starts and I can still swim with it. The bad news is that I can still write in this thing. Also, I can't fling my papers anymore, which slows down my delivery time. Bummer.
Oh yeah, that reminds me. I'm thinking that I really should knock on the Nelsons door and give them their papers in person. They've been stacking up and Mr. Nelson still hasn't gone to work since that day of the fire. Matter of fact, he hasn't even been on his porch, either.
I never thought I'd ever say this, but I kinda miss him yelling at us. Stupid, huh?


June 15
Man, it was hot today. I swear, it was like eighty degrees in my room when I woke up. Perfect for a pool party, right? Heh. Now, the hardest part of having everyone over for a swim is mom. She always ends up being the lifeguard, which probably stinks for her and definately stinks for us. Still, I thought it was worth a try.
After going over my speech of how it was our duty as pool owners to care for the welfare of the neighborhood kids, (aka. my friends, haha), I went downstairs, prepared for battle. On the tv was another story about that Biocom lab that Mr. Nelson works at. I guess the accident was worse than everyone thought because there were police and National Guard soldiers standing outside, keeping everyone away. There were guys in hazmat suits walking in and out of the building. Everyone had guns, even the hazmat guys. The newsman said that there was an extensive investigation going on, as well as a cautionary cleaning detail. A lady reporter was out in front of the building, interviewing some soldier in charge about the details of the operation. The soldier was saying that the public had nothing to worry about. Suddenly, from inside, several loud popping noises made the woman sort of duck. The soldier laughed and said that they were just solvent canisters used for neutralizing chemicals. Somehow, I don't think the lady believed him, because she backed away pretty quickly and the soldier kept looking over his shoulder at the building after every pop. Mom mentioned something to dad about checking up on the Nelsons, for real this time, I think. Dad just said again, that it wasn't our business. His face seemed kinda worried though, as he stared at the tv.
Good news, though! Mom said it was ok to have my friends over for a few hours to swim. I just had to promise to clean up the backyard afterward. Later, she even got in the pool with us, which was much more fun than her just sitting in a deckchair, telling us not to run. She even took part in our cannonball competition and won!
Afterward, mom took FleaRide inside to wash the chlorine off of him and I fished out the toys and stuff, as promised. I walked over to the shed and started storing everything, when I started feeling strange, like I was being watched. I looked around and saw Mrs. Nelson standing near the fence in her yard, (at least I think it was her). I said hello, but she didn't answer. I walked closer to her and said hello again, but still no answer. She just stood there. I tried to be polite and asked her if Mr. Nelson was ok and if they'd seen the reports on tv about his job. This time, it sounded like she said something, sort of like a low moan, like her throat was sore. She still didn't move. Ok, I can tell you that I was getting a bit creeped out by then, so I said goodbye and ran inside.
Later, when I came home from my paper route, I got a stern lecture from mom for not putting all of the pool things away. I had completely forgotten to finish cleaning up, after that whole thing with Mrs. Nelson. When I told her what had happened, she said that making up stories about our old neighbors just to get out of trouble was just irresponsible. I took her outside to show her what I saw, but no one was there. That just made it worse, it turns out. She took away my XBox guitar for a whole week! Man, parents can be impossible sometimes...
Something about today is still bothering me, though. Normally, Mrs. Nelson always has that nice, old lady smell that I like. This afternoon though, she smelled like...bad. There was a smell near her that reminded me of lunchmeat left in the garbage too long. Not really strong, but enough to make me think about it. Maybe she stepped in something? Gross...


June 17
Mom took me and TT to school today for that shot that the news said everyone's supposed to get. supposedly, there is this virus going around that's making everyone get really sick. They said that the shot was supposed to keep us from getting it. Fine by me, I say. I already have a busted arm. The last thing I need is some stupid cold.
There were a lot of people at the school when we got there. We must have stood in line forever! There were these doctors that were checking everyones eyes and mouths, while a couple of nurses were needling our arms at the same time. The strange part of it all was that there were soldiers there, too. Only a few of them, but they were near the doctors and seemed really nervous. They wouldn't talk to us either. Bummer.
Afterward, mom took us for ice cream, which was great because it was super hot standing in line at the school gym all day. I had vanilla with sprinkles. Mom told us on the way home not to worry about getting the cold. She was acting really strange, to be honest. Really stressed out. Tammy and I just sort of sat in the back seat and looked at each other for a second. Tammy told mom that we weren't worried and that everything was ok. Mom just sort of sniffed, like she was crying, but didn't turn around. When we got home, she went straight inside and to her room for awhile. Later, I heard her talking to dad on her cell, telling him that she was scared.
I wonder what she's so scared about? I mean, it's just a stupid shot, right?


June 19
It's 3:28am and Im writing this with the booklight that grandma gave me last christmas. It clips right onto my journal, (I like that word better than diary), and has a flexible neck. I thought it was dumb when I got it, but I'm really glad to have it now. I can't sleep. Well, actually I can't go back to sleep.
I woke up about an hour ago to FleaRide going nuts out in the backyard. We normally let him sleep outside in the summer chained to the tree, so that he doesn't take any dips in the pool. Well, when I got up and looked out my window, he was pulling so hard at his leash that he was almost on two legs. His barks were more like high-pitched yelps. Normally, this would've been a bit funny to me, but he was so mad, that it sort of scared me instead.
Dad turned on the porch lights and went outside, yelling at FleaRide to shut up. That only seemed to make him crazier, barking at the fence and pulling on his leash. I watched out my window as dad finally grabbed him by the collar and dragged him in the house, where he stood by the back door and whined. Dad finally moved him into the garage.
Dad said it was probably a squirrel that made FleaRide so crazy, but I know better. He didn't see what I saw from my window. He didn't see The Nelsons standing in their yard, by the fence, in the dark.


June 21
I took a trashbag over to the Nelsons house today and cleaned up all of the newspapers on their porch. I've decided that, after last night, I don't think that I'll be delivering to them anymore. Something's seriously creepy about them now. The flowers and ferns on the porch are completely dead and Mr. Nelsons Lincoln has a flat tire. It's almost like they're not even home, even though I know they are.
I had that feeling of being watched again while I collected the papers off of their porch, but I didn't see anyone in the windows. Also, the house had that old meat smell again, coming from inside I think. What the heck is going on over there?


June 23
My friend Blake came over with his mom, today. I guess his dad is sick in the hospital. Some homeless guy attacked him on the way to his car, yesterday after work. Supposedly, the guy bit him really hard and it became infected. They had to take him to the E.R. and now, he has to stay there for a few days for observation. They're taking it really hard. Mom even gave me my guitar back, so that Blake and I could play in my room, while our moms talked in the kitchen. I even let Blake win a few times because I felt bad about his dad.
After a few games, we went downstairs to grab some snacks. We heard our moms talking, so we stopped to listen in. Blakes mom was saying that there were a lot of people that had the same sickness as her husband. My mom said that she had heard the same thing and that she was worried about me and TT. She said something about the mayor speaking on tv, telling everyone to be careful of strangers acting strange, or looking sick. Blake walked in after that and asked both of them about the sick people. Mom told us both not to worry, but Blakes mom looked like she had been crying. They left a little later.
I wonder if the Nelsons are really sick? I'd tell mom about it, but she probably wouldn't believe me. Anyway, I just got my guitar back. No need to stir anything up.


June 25
Dad brought home a gun today. It's a nine millimeter and looks really cool. Mom nearly had a heart attack when she saw it, but dad said we'd be dumb not to have one, "under the circumstances." He swore that he'd keep it in their room and out of the way of us kids. I suppose mom couldn't argue with that because she sort of dropped the issue while dad went over the this-is-not-a-toy rules with me and Tammy. I asked dad how he was supposed to shoot a sick person trying to bite him if the gun was at home? All I got was the drop-it look from him.
Later, I helped him fix the fence before going on my paper route. Some of the boards fell down during the night and had to be renailed. Dad let me nail most of the boards back, which was actually fun. He said that it was lucky that FleaRide was still in the garage when it happened, or he could've gotten loose into the Nelsons yard. I didn't want to tell him that wouldn't happen because the poor dog won't even go into the backyard anymore. I tried to let him out yesterday, but he just whined and shook a lot. When I tried to drag him out, he peed on the kitchen floor. I cleaned it up before anyone noticed, but since then I just lay the Nelsons newspaper out in the garage for him to go on. I don't want him to get in trouble, you know?
Oh, I should also mention that the Nelsons backyard looks horrible. It's much worse close up than from my window. The grass is getting pretty tall and you can barely see Mrs. Nelsons garden through the weeds. I guess dad noticed it too, because he said that maybe I could get a few bucks by cutting their yard for them. I sort of mumbled an answer and blew it off. Cutting their yard means going over there and I am not doing that!
Another weird thing I noticed while I was putting up the last few boards. It looked like their back patio door is broken. Glass was all over their porch and the curtain that hangs in front of it looked torn. I know they're old and a bit creepy, but they should really get that fixed. It's supposed to rain tonight.


June 26
Today has been the worst day ever. Mom got a call that Blakes dad died at the hospital last night from his infection. Even worse, when Blake and his mom went to the hospital after hearing the news, the doctors told them that they both had to stay there for a few days, -Observation again, I guess. Man, I feel really bad for them. Blakes dad was really cool.
The news tonight was saying that soldiers are all over the place, testing for the virus at roadblocks and taking sick people to special military hospitals for treatment. Mom was really upset about that and got into a fight with TT over going to the mall with Taylor, her boyfriend. She said it wasn't safe, which set TT completely off, screaming and yelling about her rights. I wisely went to my room to stay out of it, but was barely there when I heard my dad yelling from the backyard to bring the tools to him, pronto!
The boards were down again, even more than before. Dad blamed me for not nailing them properly, even though I know I did. One board was actually broken in half! Dad offered no explaination for that other than storm damage, which we both know is complete bull. The wind wasn't strong at all and definately not strong enough to break boards. I pointed out the trail in the high grass leading from the Nelsons porch to the broken fence, but he said it was raccoons. Raccoons?! You have to be kidding me! I told him that it was the Nelsons, but he got angry and said that nice old people don't break fences. It was raccoons and THAT WAS FINAL!
To make matters worse, he then dragged FleaRide out of the garage and around the house to the backyard. The poor guy was whining and shaking, but dad didn't seem to notice. He said it was the dogs duty to watch the house for pests. I begged him not to leave FleaRide out there, that he was obviously scared out of his mind over something. Again, dad didn't listen. Man, I can hear him from my window even now, just whining away in his doghouse.
More bad news. My entire stack of papers today were completely soaked and ruined by the rain, which costs me in tips. Also, my casted arm is starting to itch, which is driving me nuts!
Man, things can't get much worse than this...


June 27
I'm so upset right now, I can barely write! I told my dad that it wasn't raccoons, but oh no, don't listen to a stupid kid! I told him that FleaRide was too scared to go outside, but of course, dad didn't listen to me! Now he's dead! FleaRide's dead and it's my dads fault! Dad and those stupid, creepy-*** Nelsons! They killed him, I know they did!
Check this out, ok? I woke up this morning and looked out my window and sure enough, the boards were down again. So I ran outside to inspect the damage, (dad couldn't blame me this time because he nailed them himself this time), and I noticed that FleaRide was gone. His collar was broken and still attached to the leash. There was blood on it and the grass around it. I yelled for mom because dad was already at work. I didn't stick around to wait for her, though. I started following the bloodtrail, which led right through the knocked over boards and into the Nelsons yard. I remember thinking that maybe FleaRide cut his mouth on his collar and ran after whatever broke the fence. I was praying that it was something like that.
The blood was still wet on the tall grass and led straight up to the Nelsons patio. I can now report that their patio door is completely shattered. There was blood mixed with shards of broken glass, along with this slick brown stuff that was splattered in big drops leading into their house. The old meat smell was pretty strong in there, as well as completely dark.
I began to step off of the porch and into the house, but I just stopped. This is going to sound completely crazy, -I can barely believe it myself, but my body wouldn't let me go in there! I got really cold, right from my heart. It spread out all over me, making my armhair stand up like needles! I just stood there on the Nelsons porch, completely frozen, until I heard moms voice. I turned around and ran back to her as fast as I could, crying like a baby.
Mom looked at everything and called dad, who said that FleaRide probably escaped into the neighborhood. He said he'd drive the block after work and look for him. To me, that wasn't good enough. I had to come clean. I told mom everything, EVERYTHING that I had seen since the beginning. She nodded and stuff, but I know that she didn't believe me. Why would she? Stupid kid here, right? Instead, we spent the afternoon putting up lost dog signs, which was pointless because I knew where he was! He went into the Nelsons house and was more than likely dead. I knew it in my bones.
Dad didn't say much when he got home, except that he couldn't find FleaRide, but would look again tomorrow. He didn't even offer for me to help him repair the fence in the morning. I'm pretty sure he knows exactly how I feel about him right now.
Man, I'm totally pis*sed! I'm pis*sed at the Nelsons for killing my dog. I'm pis*sed at my parents for not believing me about any of this. Most of all, I'm pis*sed at myself, for not having the balls to go in after my dog. I mean, he was in there, maybe alive even, but when it came to it, I froze. Ugh...I have to make it up to him. Hell, I have to make it up to me!
Well, since the fence won't be fixed tonight, I'm gonna watch the yard tonight from my window. If I can catch those dog-killers sneaking around, then mom and dad would have to believe me and have the Nelsons arrested, or something. I h ave to try.
I have my flashlight and camera on the windowsill, ready to go!



Part II will be posted tomorrow

skater_kid_who_pwns
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Strongbow, you seem to get better and better every time I see a peice of your writing! Very nice, can't wait for part two.

44Flames
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Wow this short story made me read it all and left me hanging all the way through! this is a great short story. I will be waiting for part 2.

Tobisper
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Why June? Why not July. >

Strongbow
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Part II

June 28

The Nelsons came last night! I saw them, both of them!
It was around midnight, or so. I would've missed them, but my windowsill isn't very comfortable, so I was kinda half-sleeping, and the moon was full and bright. I could see our yards really well, so much that I didn't even need a flashlight.
Well, I remember waking up, looking down into both yards and there they were, in their yard, sort of walking slowly toward the hole in the fence. It was so weird how they sort of stumbled and slouched, kinda like they were sleepwalking, (or sick, maybe?) I could hear them making these low noises, which I thought at first was them talking to each other, but was more like moaning sounds, as they got closer. Pretty soon, they slipped through the hole in the fence and into my backyard.
Now, I don't know if it was because of the dark, but from my window, they looked really...bad. They were both wearing what looked like old people pajamas, but they were really dirty all down the front, like they had spilled chocolate syrup on their clothes and smeared it all over their hands and faces. I could also smell that nasty, rotten-meat smell again, as they walked near the pool and stopped, then kinda changed directions and headed toward the back patio.
Man, was I dumb. I just sort of stared at them, getting really scared actually, when I suddenly remembered...my stupid CAMERA! Duh! I grabbed it from the windowsill and turned it on, aiming where I thought they were, but couldn't find them in my viewsight. When I looked up, they were already nearly out of my sight, still heading toward my back porch. I could definately hear them moaning by now, (and smell them, too...ugh!) Then another thought hit me...
Oh crap, they're going to get into my house!
I grabbed my baseball bat and camera and ran downstairs, yelling for mom and dad to wake up. I made it to the patio door and stopped, suddenly scared to death. They were standing right at the patio door, both of them, and looking in right at me. I could mostly see their outlines, but it was their faces that freaked me out. I know this sounds completely nuts, but their mouths were hanging open and their skin looked weird, kinda grey and droopy, like it didn't fit right. Their eyes! Holy crap, I swear their eyes were completely white!
Everything moved in slow-motion for the next few seconds, kinda like Keenu Reeves when he dodged those bullets in The Matrix. I remember lifting my camera to my face and snapping two pictures at them. The reflection of the flash on the glass door instantly blinded me and left those bright spots in the middle of my vision. Then, I turned around, rubbing my eyes, and ran from the kitchen back into the living room, totally expecting to hear the smash of the glass door behind me. Instead, I nearly ran into mom and dad, who had finally come running. I remember the gun in my dad's hand looking really black and dangerous, as they frantically asked me what was wrong. I rattled off that theNelsonswerecominandgonnakillus, while jumping up and down and pointing toward the kitchen.
I stayed with mom in the living room, as dad sort of crouch-stepped into the kitchen, holding the gun in front of him with both hands, like the cops on t.v. After a few tense seconds, I heard him in his I'm-way-past-peeved voice tell me to get my butt in there and explain myself. I went into the kitchen with mom and saw dad standing near the patio door, his hands on his hips and the gun lying on the counter next to him. I looked past him to the glass door and saw NOTHING. The Nelsons were gone! I looked down at the camera in my hand and remembered the pictures I'd taken. Sweet! I had EVIDENCE! I handed him the camera, feeling really proud of myself and watched as he scrolled through it for a second. But, instead of watching him drop to his knees and beg my forgiveness, he just grimaced and handed it back to me. I looked at the picture in the viewfinder... Crap. The glass on the door had totally messed up the shots. What should've been two pictures of crazy, dog-killing neighbors from hell were instead nothing but white explosions of light, reflected off of the glass.
Now I'm totally in trouble. Dad just thinks I did this because of FleaRide, (he's kinda right, in a way), and mom thinks I did it because of nightmares about FleaRide, (she may be kinda right, too). Either way, I'm in it good. TT laughed when dad told me in the morning that I was grounded until I turned 18, (I kicked her under the table when she did, hard! haha). I thought about telling her what I saw, but decided that she would just make fun of me, --call me a baby or something. I admit it looks bad for me, and everything, but I know what I saw! I saw the tracks they left in the yard. I saw the greasy, brown handprints they left on the patio glass this morning, (which dad thought I did myself for "theatrical effect" and made me wipe up. (Nasty) I don't care what they think. I saw the Nelsons last night and nothing anyone says is gonna keep me from standing guard again, all night if I have to.
Only this time, I'll remember to turn the stupid flash on my camera off.

June 29
I have a confession to make. I used to think this whole diary (journal!) thing was a joke, but in reality, it's keeping me much more calm, considering how things are now.
Dad never came home from work today. The newsman on t.v. said that there were tons of sick people, (he called them infected), downtown, attacking and biting everyone! The military had blocked off all of the exits around the city and were actually shooting at people! Mom tried all afternoon to get ahold of dad, but the cellphone lines wre completely jammed. It was nearly dark by the time she was finally able to get ahold of him on his cell. She put her own phone on speaker and set it on the kitchen table, so dad could talk to all of us. He said that he was ok, but that he couldn't leave his office building because of all of the fighting in the streets. He told mom to get us out of town however she could, and that he would meet us at Grandma's house, in Springfield. He sort of paused for a bit, as my mom kept calling his name over and over. Finally, he spoke again (he sounded like he was crying). He said that he loved us all, and to get out before it was too late. If he said anything more, we never heard it because the connection went dead again.
Mom reached down and flipped her cell closed, then held it to her chest as she looked at the news report on t.v. I remember that, for a minute, she just stared at the video feed of soldiers shooting at the crowds of sick people that were all around them, the cell still against her chest, me and Tammy just looking at her, then each other. Then, she let out a big sigh, grabbed the remote and shut off the t.v. She turned around and told us to get upstairs and pack enough clothes for three days. I ran upstairs behind Tammy and into my room, where I grabbed my backpack and started stuffing my favorite clothes into it.
While I was in the middle of doing that, I heard mom yell something downstairs, then the sound of the front door slamming shut. I went into Tammy's room to see if she heard what mom had said. Tammy was just sitting on her bed, staring at a large, red barrette in her hand, --her suitcase open and empty at her feet. When I asked her again, she said in a dazed way that mom was running over to the Nelsons house to tell them the news, and more importantly, to borrow their car, (ours was with dad downtown).
Man, my heart dropped from my chest to my feet when I heard that! She was going over there?! I didn't even stop to think. I ran back into my room and grabbed my backpack, then flew downstairs and into mom and dad's room. I started tearing through their room, trying to think like my dad. Finally, in dad's bedside dresser, I found what I was looking for. I grabbed the gun with my good hand, (man, it was a lot heavier than the cops made it look on t.v.), shoved it into my backpack, and with a quick "I'll be back" upstairs to Tammy, I ran outside, slammed the front door closed behind me and headed next door.
When I reached the Nelson's front porch, I suddenly got that same feeling I had the morning that FleaRide disappeared. The hair on my arms stood up and my heart played a crazy, freezing cold drum solo in my chest. The door to the house was standing wide open and it was pretty dark inside. The rotten meat smell was really strong and made my stomach do some sick flips, but I thought of mom (and FleaRide) and forced myself to go inside, anyway.
Ugh! It stunk in there, even worse than outside. What made it even worse was that I could barely see a thing. I bumped into a table (I think) with my leg and stopped to rub it. Way to run over to a dark, stinky house of creepy dog-killers without a flashlight, genius, I thought. Suddenly, i remembered my backpack. I yanked the zipper open and felt around until I found Grandma's booklight. I zipped up my pack and clicked it on. It was small, but at least helped me see the living room a bit better. I almost wish that I hadn't...
It was completely trashed. Furniture was moved around at weird angles or tipped over, and pieces of broken lamp and stuff scattered all over the floor. There was a lot of grime and dust, along with a ton of that brownish, greasy stuff smeared all over the walls and carpeting. It was so thick in places, that it squished under my shoes as I snuck around, calling out in a loud whisper for my mom. Across the room, I reached their shattered, sliding patio door, --the carpet in that area all wet and mildewy and stained with the brown grease and dark blood. I looked outside for a second and realized it was getting pretty dark, by this time. The tall grass and weeds in the Nelson's yard had that bluish look that happens to green when the sun is getting low.
I followed the brown stuff and blood from the patio and into the kitchen, where I finally found FleaRide...or what was left of him. He was mostly bones, and pieces of him were scattered all over the kitchen floor and counters. It looked like the Nelsons had torn him apart, like a Thanksgiving turkey. My eyes started to sting with tears, but I thought of mom ending up the same way if I didn't hurry, so I wiped my eyes with my t-shirt sleeve and kept looking for her. I walked back into the family room again, trying to ignore the squish of the gunk on the carpet (and the smell, of course) and headed down a dark hallway. I remember that there were pictures hanging up crooked on the walls, or lying broken on the floor. Glass was crunching under my shoes, as I held the booklamp out in front of me and walked as quietly as I could. The hallway ended with three doors: one to my left, middle and right. The ones to my left and right were open slightly, so I started with the left one.
I pointed the light inside the room, then stuck my head in a little. I could just barely make out a black sewing machine on a stand in the back corner, just to the right of a tiny, shade-drawn window. Stacks of rolled-up cloth leaned up against the stand and walls, covered in dust. A laundry basket of clothing was dumped onto the floor, but otherwise the room looked pretty much untouched, (no gunky stuff on the floor, anyway).
Behind me, I suddenly heard my mom loudly whisper my name. I called out to her, but her voice shushed me and told me not to come to her, but instead to get out of the house. Her voice seemed to come from the right-side door, so in spite of what she said, I pushed the door open and went inside the room. As I stepped inside, I nearly gagged. It was the Nelson's bedroom, and it was ten times worse than the kitchen. The rotten-smelling, brown gunk was all over the floor, bed and covered the walls and furniture. Blood and pieces of dead animals were all over the place, including what looked like the front-half of a cat on the bed, the purple loops of its guts spread along the stained bedspread. I was trying to do two things at once: not puke my brains out and find mom. I was okay with the first part, but the dark was pretty thick, and I couldn't see her, until she called my name again. She sounded pretty close, so I stepped around the bed and finally found her sitting on the floor, her back against a large dresser. She was hurt pretty bad, I think. The collar of her white t-shirt was ripped and bloody and long, bloody scratches stretched from her left cheek to just below her neck. A brown handprint was smeared across her chest and she was cradling her right arm with her left.
I didn't even care about the blood. I knelt down and gave her a tight hug. She hugged me back with her good arm, exposing her other arm just enough for me to look at it. She had a really deep, bite-shaped wound just above her wrist. It was raw and bleeding pretty badly. I stood up and opened one of the drawers above her head, and rummaged around until I found, what turned out to be a white pair of underwear. I helped her wrap the bite wound and tie it off, even though she warned me not to get any of it on myself. As we worked, she told me what happened. She said that the Nelsons had both attacked her in the hallway, as she looked for them. She was able to push them both into the bathroom and close the door, but was bit and scratched in the process. She said that the Mr. and Mrs. Nelson were sick, like the people on t.v. and that she was probably sick, as well. She said that I had to get Tammy and get out of there, out of the neighborhood and out of town, no matter what.
I couldn't believe what I was hearing! Mom was talking like she wasn't coming with us. I begged her to get up and come with me. We could find her help! I mean, I was bitten by Blake's cat pretty bad, and all I needed was a shot. Why was she going to stay behind with the sick, psychopathic Nelsons?!
That's when she told me everything, --what the news was saying about the sick people, the infected. She told me what she and dad had tried to keep from us, why she wasn't too angry with him when he brought the gun home. She told me what was actually happening downtown and why Blake's family wasn't around anymore. She told me what the Nelsons had turned into, --what she was going to turn into.
I remember shutting off...just going nuts then. I tried to pull her up, but she pushed my arms away. I yelled at her, told her that she was my mother, that she had to take care of us. She just shook her head and told me to leave with Tammy and look after her. I went balistic: calling her a cop-out, a quitter. I didn't even care about the moaning that started behind the hallway bathroom, or the banging of fists against the door. I was so angry at mom that I called her everything I could think of.
I told her I hated her.
When I said that, mom changed completely. Her face turned really...mmm...hard, I guess. She told me to shut-up and listen, grabbing my arm and pulling me to her. I was sobbing, I think, when she took my hand and said something I don't think I'll ever forget.
"Timmy," she said, "I understand how you feel, how this must look for you. I could get up and leave this house with you, yes. We could get your sister, leave this place and run as fast as we could out of town..."
She took her good hand out of mine and grabbed my chin, gripping it and forcing me to look into her eyes. The light from the booklamp was shining upward from her lap and onto her face. The expression she had was one that I'd never seen her make before. It was the look of real sadness...like dispair.
"...But, you must understand something, son," she continued. "No matter how far we run from here, or how fast we go, I would still be sick. What I have...it changes people, like it did Mr. and Mrs. Nelson. You and your sister would watch me get weaker and more sick and no matter what you did to help me, I would...well, I would die anyway." She shook her head. "But worse, much worse than that, you would watch me come back, like those people on t.v." Her hand still gripping my chin, she shook my face hard, gritting her teeth. It hurt a little, but I didn't dare look away from her eyes.
"Do you understand? I would no longer be your mother: the mother who loves you both so very much. She would still be dead. The thing that would come back wouldn't love or even know your names anymore. It would only try and hurt you, like the Nelsons did to poor, sweet FleaRide. You would both have to either run from me, or kill me because...because I would try and kill both of you." She looked away for a second, down to her wrapped forearm. The pounding on the door in the hall was getting louder. I could barely hear what she said next, kinda like she was talking more to herself than me. "I want you to remember me like this," she said, "as the mother who loves you, rather than what I will become..."
Like a lightning bolt to my head, I suddenly understood, (maybe I always did). I thought back to the things I'd said to her and realized how stupidly I'd behaved. Still crying, I hugged mom tight and told her over and over how sorry I was and that I loved her. I felt warm tears on my shoulder as she whispered in my ear that she already knew, and it was ok. She pushed me back and looked into my eyes again. She told me to get Tammy and get out of there.
I was about to answer, when I heard a sharp, cracking sound coming from the hallway bathroom door as the Nelsons beat on it. I was running out of time. I kissed mom on the cheek, and was about to run out of the room, when I remembered something.
I threw my backpack off my shoulders and onto the bed. Unzipping it, I pulled out dad's gun by the barrel and held it out to mom. She told me to keep it and use it to keep Tammy safe. When I told her I couldn't use it because of my cast, she actually laughed a little and thanked me, took the gun and set it in her lap. I nodded and slung my backpack back onto my shoulders, as I headed for the door. I turned once to look back at her before I left, but I had the light with me, and the room was dark again. I'm pretty sure that, from the dark of the room, I heard mom say that she loved me, (I'd like to think so, anyway).
I ran back down the hallway, the pounding and moans coming from the bathroom door getting really loud. I knew that the door was going to cave soon, and I may have panicked a bit. I bolted into the living room, banging into all sorts of stuff and stumbled out of the front door and into the Nelson's yard. From there, I sprinted to my house, through the open front door and up the stairs to Tammy's room, yelling her name. Her bedroom door was wide open, but she wasn't there. Her suitcase was still lying near her bed, with a pile of clothes thrown it, looking a lot like it did before I left. That's when I rememberd that the front door had been closed when I left the house, but open when I got back. Oh crap...
I ran downstairs again and through the house, searching every room and calling Tammy's name. It was in the kitchen that I found her note, saying that she was going to get her boyfriend, Taylor, who lived about a mile away. She wrote that she'd be back with him and his car if we didn't show up at his house in an hour. Wow, great plan, sis. It was just like TT to go and think of her cruddy boyfriend at a time like this. He did have a car, though...
Anyway, I shoved the note in my pocket and locked the front door. I figured there was nothing much I could do but wait for Tammy and dorkboy to come pick me up. After checking all of the doors and windows, I flopped onto the couch and turned on the t.v., trying to stay calm and not think of mom and dad.
The news on the t.v was looking pretty bad, by then. The studio newsman was trying to talk to some lady reporter that had been covering the fighting downtown and gotten trapped inside her newsvan with her cameraman. The lady was screaming and the camera was panning outside the van windows, as the whole van rocked violently from side to side. A whole lot of people were pushing on it and moaning, dragging their hands over the windows or beating with their fists against the van. Some of their faces were smashed up against the glass, their mouths chewing and oozing that brown stuff and smearing it all over it, making the faces look blurred and oily. Suddenly, the video shook wildly and the van tipped over on its side, with a huge crash of glass and metal. Stuff was falling everywhere inside the van and the cameraview ended up sideways, pointing directly at the lady reporter. She was on her back, broken glass all over her bloody face and clothes. She was swinging her arms in front of her, trying to bat away a whole bunch of arms that were reaching for her, off-camera from above. One hand grabbed a handful of her long hair, lifting her head towards the other grabbing hands, which started clawing and scratching her face, leaving deep, bloody ruts. she and the cameraman both screamed and the video feed to the studio went dead. The newsman in the studio just stared ahead, his eyes wide and his face going pale. After a few seconds, he suddenly doubled over behind his desk and started puking loudly, right on t.v.! The station went to another newsman, (he did the weather, I think), who was staring off-camera to his right and was looking kind of sick himself. He yelled something and the screen switched to solid red, with a band of writing that scrolled across the middle of it. It was saying that the emergency alert system advised everyone to lock themselves in their homes, secure the windows and doors and wait for further instructions. Outside, the tornado warning horn started wailing: sounding far, then close, then far, then close. I turned off the t.v.
I sat on the couch for an hour, listening to the siren wail (far, close, far, close) and staring at the clock on the dvd player. Tammy hadn't arrived yet. I went over to the front door and flipped on the porch light, then sat at the kitchen table for a bit and stared at the clock on the microwave, praying that I would hear Tammy's voice, or Taylor's carhorn honk, or dad. It was pitch dark outside by then, and I could hear popping noises and muffled booms in the distance. The tornado siren kept whining away (far, close, far...) and I started thinking of all of those arms on t.v., all bloody and shredded, reaching for a handful of long hair...
I jumped up and pushed the kitchen table over onto its side, then slid it in front of the back patio door. Then, I ran through the house shutting off the lights, the image of those arms setting my mind to a near panic. I threw down all of the shades and double-checked every door and window lock. I'm not sure how, but I ended up on my bed in my room, hugging my pillow as my heart hammered in my chest in the dark. I sat there listening to it, thrumming nearly out of my ribs, my heavy breathing, the wail of the siren, (close, far...) and the pops and thumps in the distance. I can't say how long I sat like that. I think I was kinda like that studio newsman, sort of staring off into nothing, my head trying to figure out what exactly was going on...and coming up with nothing.
After awhile, I became aware of something else. It was a noise, a small one coming from downstairs. Sort of a slow thud. I stood up and poked my head into the hallway and heard it much louder. Not a thud, though. It was more of a scratching sound, like a match against a piece of wood. I crept halfway down the stairs, holding my bat, trying to identify where the sound was coming from (ohpleaseohpleasenotinthehousepleaseGodno). As I reached the bottom of the stairs, I realized it was coming from outside the front door. I snuck over to the door, got up on my toes and peeked through the peephole.
It was a girl, standing on the porch, facing toward me. Her head and shoulders slumped a little and she swayed like she'd been drinking. Her face was hidden in shadow under the porchlight, but I could see that the top part of her blouse and her left arm were soaked in what looked like a lot of blood. Her hair was messy and tangled, like those before pictures in the shampoo commercials ("Nothing will fix these tangles&quot and I noticed a few leaves and twigs hanging out of the tangles, along with a red barrette, dangling just barely at the end of one of the clumps. I knew that barrette. It was Tammy.
I think it was, at that moment, the first time I really let loose. I sat down on the floor, my back against the door, and just let it all go. I cried for Tammy, scratching at the door behind me. I cried for my mother, bloody and dying at the Nelson's house. I cried for my father, trapped in his office downtown and surrounded by the infected (grey hands reaching...reaching). I cried for brave old FleaRide, who knew before any of us how bad things were and died trying to warn his family of it.
Mostly thought, I think I cried for me. Everything was backwards and upsidedown. My whole family was gone and I was completely alone. What was I supposed to do, now? I cried until my ribs hurt, until I could barely breathe and my head buzzed and pounded. I'm not sure how long I was there, but it was Tammy's scratching that finally brought me back. It's weird, but suddenly I could hear the scratching again and the buzz in my ears started to fade, along with my crybaby sniffling. Everything came into a kind of focus, like my binoculars. I couldn't just sit here, I thought. I wiped the tears from my face with my hand, grabbed my bat and stood up.
The first thing I realized was that there were a lot more scratching sounds at the front door than before. I looked through the peephole again. Oh, man. There were at least two more people besides Ta...the girl at the door. They were all just standing there, crowding the porch and scratching lightly at the door. I double-checked the lock with my eyes and backed away from the door. As an afterthought, I reached over to the lightswitch and shut off the porchlight. Not such a good idea, I found out. The scratching turned immediately to pounding and moaning. Great. I ran through the living room and into the kitchen. I grabbed some bottled water and food from the cupboard and refrigerator as I could, then hauled my butt up the stairs and into my bedroom. I slammed the door shut and slid my bed up against it, followed by my desk, (for good measure).
I sat down and tried to catch my breath and think of what to do. Mom's instructions were for me and...well me, to get out of town any way that I could. My problem was that I had no idea where to go, or even where "out of town" was, exactly. I had some roadmaps from Boy Scouts already folded up in my backpack, but I won't lie and say I was really sure of how to start. Of course, I had to try anyway. Mom said to, right?
After thinking for a few minutes, I picked up my backpack and stuffed the things I had grabbed from the kitchen into it, (except the jar of mayonaise...I have no idea why I grabbed that). My first move was to get out of the house. I couldn't go out the front door, thanks to my friendly neighbors on the porch, but there was an alley that ran behind the fence in the backyard that led to the street. My plan was to sneak through my window and jump from the roof down into my backyard. If I had the time, I thought that I could maybe even grab my bike from the side of the house. Just a short climb over the fence and I would be off like The Flash. I secured my backpack, grabbed my bat and went to my window. I had just stuck my leg through, when I looked into the yard and saw them.
It was the Nelsons. They were standing in my backyard, sort of swaying on their feet, their heads both turned upward to my window. Even in the dim of the moon, I could see their white eyes and slack jaws working open and closed, (I think Mr. Nelson was missing his teeth. Dentures?) But that's not what made me slowly pull my leg back in, close the window and sit instead on my bed. There was a third figure standing near them, t-shirt covered in blood and brown gunk, a black pistol dangling from its hand by a few fingers, just under a pair of blood-soaked underwear tied around its forearm...

July 13

Sorry it's been awhile, but I've been a busy guy here, --what with the end of the world and everything. I've written a little here and there, but honestly, my mind has been a big blank most of the time. It's kinda weird. I'll catch myself sitting for hours (I think) just staring at nothing. In fact, the only reason I'm writing now is because I've convinced myself that it was time to finish my homework. Summer's nearly over, in a way (well, everything is, to be honest). So here I am, writing away in my jou...screw it my diary again. You know, I just realized that I'm doing homework that I'll never have to turn in?! In a different time, I woulda been pretty happy about that. Haha. I think I'll give myself an A+ anyway, (sorry, Mrs. Taylor).
So, how has my summer vacation been, so far? Well, let's see...It's been awhile since all of that stuff happened and guess what? I'm still sitting on my bed in my room! (hold the applause, please) The power went out about four days ago, so it gets really hot during the day, without the AC running. Nights are ok, as long as I keep my window open, but I don't really like doing that much. Nowdays, there's a constant moaning everywhere outside, and it makes me really restless and nervous. The good news is that I don't hear any of the annoying popping sounds or people screaming as much anymore, so I can kinda sleep better. The bad news is that the front door gave way about a week ago, so now a whole bunch of the infected people are wandering around downstairs. Occasionally, I hear them break something or hear the furniture move as they bump into it. I can deal with that, really. It's the moaning that drives me nuts. I hear it all of the time, sort of low and sad. I smell the rotten meat stink of the brown stuff that leaks out of them. Luckily, they can't get upstairs to get me, not that they don't try. Did you know that they can't climb stairs very good? Bad for them, really awesome for me! I moved the bed from... my sister's old room and jammed up the stairwell with it, about mid-way down. The infected can't seem to crawl over the bed and usually end up falling back down the stairs and back into the pile of party-people below. I hear the loud thumps when one of them falls almost constantly. Sometimes, I can hear their bones break. It sounds like damp twigs...
All in all, I'm just "hunky dorey" as my dad would've said. I filled the bathtub and sink with water while the plumbing still worked, (thank you, Boy Scout Manual), so I have plenty to drink, so far. The batteries in the clock radio in my sister's old room still work, so I do hear some news, if you could call it "news". There's this channel with some religious guy on it, shouting about the last days and ****ation, and stuff like that. Man, he never stops, unless he's crying (which he does alot). There's another channel with this man saying the same thing over and over, --something about a safe zone for the uninfected, just outside of Chicago. That's all great and everything, but I checked my maps and Chicago looks like one heck of a long way away, even on my bike (which I doubt I could even get to, anymore). Aside from those two stations, the radio is straight static.
Oh, did I mention that I haven't eaten in nine days? Yeah, funny story, actually. See, during those first couple of days locked in my room, I had this great idea that I should keep my energy up, so I'd be ready for my great escape. So, I prepped for the big run, like I was an olympic athelete...in a backpack food-eating event. Pretty soon, it was all gone. Genius, huh? I even ate when I wasn't even hungry! Just stuffing it down, you know? Just packing in the carbs, psyching myself up to make that long run across the yard and into the alley. "Just one more day...just one more day and I'll make the jump...
I could actually see it in my mind, you know? Playing like a song on repeat --over and over and over and over (sorry). I would drop from the roof and roll to my feet, ninja-style. Then, in a burst of superhuman speed, I would charge right past the Nelsons, (maybe karate kick Mr. Nelson in his drippy, rotten stones for FleaRide, heh), then head over to the fence, all Joe Cool like. I would hit that fence, grab it with both hands, and vault over it and into the alley. I would then work my way out of town, hitting up the 7-11 down the street for supplies first. Maybe I would even find a dog to help me, or a group of uninfected, with big guns. I would carry a pistol, like my dad, and maybe even a machete, too. I would survive...and live Happily Ever After. The End. Haha I imagined it, until it was like a movie playing behind my eyes overnovernovernover Sorry. Sometimes I would come out of my daydream with one leg hanging out the window already. I've already found myself at that point so many many times. But, every time, I would look down into the yard, then slowly climb myself back inside and sit on my bed, listening to the moans and dull thunks of them falling down the stairs. I would just sit there...and eat.
Food...Hotdogs and hamburgers and ice cream and pizza!!!! It's pretty much all I can think about anymore. Sometimes, it actually makes me droool on myself when I do. Seems dorky, I know, but I just can't help it! It creeps into my brain and makes me want to put something, no anything into my mouth! My cast fell off my arm the other day and I actually tried to eat some of the plaster (I don't advise it). I've tried pieces of wood from my desk, shreds of sheet from the bed, wallpaper...even soap! I drink water until my belly is near bloating, but it doesn't help, not for long anyway. I think that if I had something to do, it would be easier to distract myself, but without electricity, I'm pretty much in the stone ages here. I tried bouncing a tennis ball on the wall, but it makes the infected downstairs get really loud, so I don't bother anymore. Writing in here helped for a little while, but I sort of ran out of paper this morning. Well, to be honest, I tore out most of the pages, (including July 1 through 12...Happy Fourth, by the way). I soaked them in water mixed with salt, which I have plenty of, and at it all up. Gross, I know, but it wasn't really that bad. Looked like oatmeal and tasted like boards, (thanks for the grub, Quaker Tim! Haha) Last night, I even guzzled down that entire jar of mayonaise, even though it looked like liquidy, yellow-colored baby poop, smelled like rotten eggs and tasted like spoiled cream cheese. No surprise that I ended up puking most of it up and gave myself a nice case of the hershey squirts today. Yet again, another victory, Timmyboy!
Now, I'm so weak from blowing out both ends that my arms and legs shake if I stand up, my head spins really bad and I'm still hungry as hell!!! Not that it matters anymore, I couldn't get more food, even if I had the strength to. It would mean going out into the backyard...and I cant do that. Messed up, huh?
It's crazy, but when I think about it, I think that deep down I always knew that I wouldn't (couldn't) make the jump. It's not the trip, exactly. I could try and get to Chicago, regardless of how far it was. It's not stupid Mr. and Mrs. Nelson, still staring with their white eyes up at me from the backyard. (They're looking really messed up now that they've been outside awhile, --their skin is falling off in chunks, like sheets soaked in glue.) No, it's actually the one out there with them. She wanders the yard, mostly, not really paying much attention to anything in particular. From up here, she still looks pretty much the same way I remember when I last saw her: when she hugged me and told me she loved me. There's the real problem...I still remember her that way.
I know that if I jump out that window and make my run for the fence, no matter how much I tell myself not to: I'll look at her. I'll look into her face and see what she warned me about that day. I'd see something that would haunt me forever. I would lose the memory of her loving me. I would lose it, just as I lost the memory of Tammy the second I looked through that peephole. Whenever I try and picture my sister now, all I see is that red barrette dangling from her tangled, dirty hair. I think of her voice and all I hear is the scratching of her broken fingers on the front door. It kills me, you know? I can't do that to the memory of my mother...I won't.
So now I just sleep a lot, mostly to keep myself from thinking about...well, everything. I guess I'm also hoping that one of these times that I go to sleep, that maybe I'll luck out and not wake up again. It's much better than watching myself turn into bones, right? Lately, I've even played with the idea of going downstairs. Just crawling over the bed, marching down the steps and giving a hearty Howdy-Do to the neighborhood. Maybe I could even find Tammy and give my sis a big, brotherly hug. I'd be cool with that, (I know she'd be cool with that. Haha). I'm not quite sure I have the stones to do that though...not yet.
Well, I'm nearly out of paper and it's getting dark. I'm going to finish this, set it on my windowsill and go to sleep. First though, I'm going to open the window and say goodnight to the woman in the backyard, like I've done every night, since she joined the dead next door. I like to tell myself that she understands me, no matter what she told me before, and I'm pretty sure I can do it without looking too closely at her...

...goodnight, Mom.

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