Category Archives: Uncategorized
“Dr. Wickham?” the old man asked, poking his head inside the tent. “Your guest, Prof. Moretti, has arrived.”
“He’s here? Thank you, Amenzu. Please show him in.”
Dust swirled through the opening as the Professor entered, his hand extended in greeting.
“Francesco! Welcome!” Wickham said, smiling as he clasped Moretti’s outstretched hand. “I’m glad you were able to join me here in Egypt on such short notice.”
“It is my pleasure, Jeffrey. Your message intrigued me. I cannot wait to hear more about your discovery.”
“Thank you, Amenzu.” Wickham said, dismissing the old man with a nod. “And you will, of course,” he continued to the Professor, “but first, some refreshment after your long journey.”
“That would be wonderful. I haven’t eaten since yesterday. Needless to say, my route wasn’t on the tourist maps.”
“I can only imagine,” Wickham replied while pulling another chair over to the table. “There’s not much, but I have a bit of prosciutto, some bread, and dates, of course, being so close to the oasis,” he added as he poured them both a cup of tea.
“A feast fit for a king,” proclaimed Moretti graciously. “So tell me, Jeffrey, what is it that has you so excited? Your message was rather cryptic.”
“Yes, I know. I didn’t want word getting out until I’ve had someone else confirm what I’ve found.”
“I understand completely. But tell me, what led you to this place?”
“It was Amenzu. Shortly after I arrived at the oasis, he approached me and told me there were tombs to the southwest of Siwa. I was a skeptical, but he showed me several artifacts that indicated it was possible.”
“So you played a hunch?”
“Yes,” Wickham laughed, “but I never expected a find like this. He led me to the entrance in the hill outside, only then it was mostly covered by sand, with pottery and such laying everywhere. The shaft was only accessible for about five meters, the rest being blocked by loose rock and a huge slab that was simply impossible to move.”
“It could not be broken up?” asked Moretti while plucking a few dates from the bowl.
“The entrance is too unstable. Any shaking might collapse the opening completely.”
“Which explains the winch I saw?”
“Yes. It’s rather large. I had to use an old military truck to get the bloody thing out here. I hope it’s big enough. If we can pull the slab away from a safe distance, at least we won’t be inside if the entrance does come down.”
“An excellent plan. But you’ve mentioned nothing so unusual as to justify all this secrecy.”
“Ah! But there is! In the entrance I found the remains of two mummies, mostly destroyed, but with enough tissue left to do a rudimentary analysis.”
“The graves had been robbed?”
“No, it appears some sort of animal had gotten to them. They were chewed up rather severely. And yet, what was left was in astoundingly good condition.”
“The tissues were in a most remarkable state. They were actually pliable.”
“Pliable? That is unheard of in specimens of the age this site would suggest.”
“Exactly. And if there are more, there may be undisturbed tombs from which uncontaminated samples could be taken.”
“To try to determine the method of preservation?” offered Moretti.
“Yes. I want to send samples back to Dr. Strasser in Germany.”
“Dr. Strasser?” Moretti asked with a smile. “You mean your friend Bethanne from back at university – don’t you?”
“The same,” Jeffrey replied, returning the grin. “But she has the skills needed to determine how these tissues have been so remarkably preserved.”
“Have you contacted her?”
“I sent a letter some weeks back detailing what tests might be needed, though I haven’t had a response. I suppose that’s not unusual out here.” Wickham took a sip of tea, then added, “I do hope she’s received it. I didn’t want to chance someone overhearing me on the radio. It’s far too important to risk damage by scavengers.”
“Which leads to my next question,” said Moretti, placing a piece of meat between his bread. “The workers here – are they trustworthy?”
“I’ve had no problems thus far. Why?”
“The theft of artifacts on these digs has become nearly epidemic. What do you know about them?”
“Well, they are a bit odd. They don’t seem to follow any particular religion or practice. They mostly speak Berber, with a few words of what I think is Coptic. And Arabic, of course. But we’ve always been able to work out what needs to be done. Fortunately, that old fellow, Amenzu, speaks English rather well.”
“The one who led me to your tent?”
“Yes. He tells me his people have been here since the time of the pharaohs. I could swear he’s old enough to have known them personally,” Wickham added with a chuckle. “The rest – they’re a curious bunch, almost protective of the site. The fact that we’ve been able to work out here unfettered is nearly a miracle. Whether it’s the reputation of these workers – well, I can’t say. Then again, the area around the Siwa oasis has always been unique.”
“They seem to be distrusted by the locals at the oasis. They believe the workers, or at least their leaders, practice dark rituals, whatever that means.”
“The old superstitions, they die slowly, no?”
“Very slowly, I afraid. Everything changes slowly out here,” Jeffrey said, lifting the pot and shaking it slightly to determine if it was empty. “More tea?”
The following morning, Wickham was up at first light, Moretti rising shortly thereafter. By the time the Professor had joined him, Wickham was finishing the inspection of the winch and cables to be used to move the stone slab blocking the shaft. Mounted on a large truck, it was powered by a gasoline engine, with heavy steel cables attached to forged eye-bolts inserted into holes drilled in the stone.
“It took a lot of work to get this equipment out here and in place,” Wickham said, checking the equipment visually. “I hope our efforts are worthwhile.”
“As do I, Doctor.”
“It’s best we stand back,” Wickham yelled, waving his hands toward the workers to move them away. “These are strong cables, but you don’t want to be around should one let go.”
With that, Wickham and Moretti moved behind a pile of smaller cut stones, just their heads peeking over to see the entrance. Wickham gave one last look around, then called to Amenzu to start the engine on the winch. Once it was running smoothly, he nodded for the old man to engage it. The cables reaching into the opening tightened immediately, the truck shaking under the load as if it were unsure whether the stone slab or the vehicle would be the one to move first. The engine wavered and there was a scraping sound from within the entrance as the cables began to wind slowly onto the drum of the winch. After a few moments, a loud crack echoed from inside the entrance, the cables going slack for a moment before tightening again, an indication that the slab had indeed moved, whereupon Wickham motioned for Amenzu to stop the winch.
Once the dust settled, Wickham made his way to the entrance, with Moretti and Amenzu close behind. The slab had toppled over and moved enough that he could see the shaft extended much farther into the hill. Stepping inside, he shined a flashlight down the tunnel, the dust-filled beam unable to reach the end of its length. On each side of the wall were large alcoves, with all except the closest covered by a thin slab of sandstone.
Wickham climbed over the debris to the exposed alcove, aimed his light into it, and illuminated the unmistakable shape of a sarcophagus lying in the recess.
“By God, it’s untouched. Very plain, like many of those at Siwa, but pristine. And who knows how many more there are.”
“This is you’re lucky day!” Moretti said, putting his hand on Wickham’s shoulder
“Yes. But it will have to remain here until I can prepare a suitable workplace in order to properly examine the contents. Amenzu! Have the men clear out the tent by the generator while I update my notes and determine what to do next.”
“As you wish,” Amenzu replied with a smile.
Less than an hour later, Moretti, looking puzzled, entered Wickham’s tent and asked, “Jeffrey, hadn’t you had requested that the sarcophagus remain in the tomb for now?”
“The men – the workers – have moved it into the tent.”
“What? I had expressly asked that it not be moved!”
Wickham ran to the tent where Moretti had seen the workers carry the sarcophagus, stopping immediately as he entered, shocked by the sight of the lid shattered on the floor, the few inscriptions on it beyond recovery. Looking up, he saw the workers sitting around a table, some with knives carving up the remains of the mummy and passing pieces around to others who were busily chewing on their portion of the grisly feast.
“My God!” was all that Wickham could get out as Moretti entered behind him.
“Jeffrey, I have heard of such things,” said Moretti while shaking his head, “but I never believed them to be true.”
“Doctor!” Amenzu called out. “Welcome! You’re just in time for lunch.”
Wickham stood frozen, unable to grasp what was before him.
“This is worse than I could have imagined! We must leave this place,” Moretti whispered.
“What?” Wickham responded as though snapping out of a trance.
“Doctor, I really do think we should leave.”
“Leave? And allow them to destroy all my work?”
“I don’t believe it would be wise to remain,” said Moretti, watching the workers nervously. “I wish you luck,” he added before backing out of the tent.
Amenzu turned slightly and called out, “Amalu! Many illa?”
A man at the table nodded, then slipped out the side of the tent as a couple of the workers moved to block any further chance of escape. Amenzu returned his attention to Wickham, a broad smile on his leathery face.
“We want to thank you for providing access our larder.”
“Yes. The collapse, the sand storms, all had placed our stores beyond reach. We had to make do until you were so kind as to provide the equipment needed to reopen the tunnels.”
“But how – how can you do this?”
“We find the flavor of fresh meat to be so unsavory.”
“This isn’t meat! This is, or was, a human being! I may study them, perhaps take samples, but like any civilized person I treat them with a degree of respect and dignity. You’ve destroyed irreplaceable archaeological artifacts all for this – this revoltingly ghoulish ritual!”
“This isn’t a ritual, Doctor.” Amenzu stated calmly, “This is how we survive. What preserves them also preserves us.”
“You can’t be serious.”
“Quite serious, Doctor. The cool, deep catacombs of the ancient tombs, with the salts and herbs we use, provide for a most perfect curing of the meat.”
“And you expect me to believe this grotesque meal somehow extends your life?”
“I am much older than you might believe. In any event, why do find our repast so unusual? Is it not strikingly similar to the prosciutto you and Dr. Moretti shared the other evening? Only the animal is different.”
“It’s not the same at all. You’re little more than a filthy bunch of ghouls.”
“I prefer to think of myself as an educator,” Amenzu said with a slight shrug. “Your educator.”
“You? An educator? That’s the most abominable use of the word I could possibly imagine!”
“On the contrary, Dr. Wickham,” retorted Amenzu while unsheathing a long, silvery blade. “As you will soon see, nothing provides a greater understanding of history than experiencing the customs of an ancient people — first-hand.”
K. R. Smith is a full-time Information Technology Specialist and a part-time writer, frustrated by his inability to get any meaningful programming code to rhyme and still function properly. While mainly interested in writing short stories of the horror genre, he occasionally delves into poetry, songwriting, and the visual arts. His escapades may be followed by reading his blog at www.theworldofkrsmith.com.
The undead are with us.
They have clawed their way across the face of human history since the ancient times, and have left their mark upon the eons.
We have here for your perusal, twenty-two accounts of how the undead have gnawed across the pages of history from Ancient Egypt to Marquis DeSade. From the the Book of the Undead to the Necronomicon. Famous events, like the Beatles on tour, the Lizzie Borden case, and JFK in Dallas; to more recent events have been visited by our alternate zombie history authors.
There’s something here for all fans of zombie fiction. Past, present, and even some future history collide with the flesh and brain consuming undead hordes.
And Happy Halloween from The Were-Traveler.
Bernard Réné de Launay peered out of the comté tower of Bastille prison at the hordes below, writhing and seeming to multiply like maggots. They formed a ghastly syrup of limbs and flesh, viscous and vicious, pouring towards the prison as though it were some fancy sponge pudding soaking up custard. Occasionally a lone creature would break away from the crowd, arms flailing as his stumble became a lopsided run. Inevitably he would either fall or be pushed into the moat, only to reappear soaked but alive, staggering as shots from the invalides blew off his arms and legs or tore chunks from his body. Only when the head was blown off, de Launay noted, did the creature finally give in to death.
The pervert, de Sade, had warned him this would happen.
“I must thank you, Bernard,” he’d said to him, “for releasing me into madness. Charenton will keep me safe, a high priest among holy fools. A dark tide is coming, you see, to sweep your little sand-castle away. Before the fortnight’s over the dead shall walk the earth, eager to piss all over your self-righteous ambitions. They’ll come for you and they won’t leave a stone of this cess-pit standing.”
“And what makes you think we’re a likely target for your walking dead, noble marquis?”
“A kindly fortune teller – a sweet young girl with an innocent, golden smile – actual gold teeth I tell you – told me so not three nights ago. Between gulps and yelps of course. So much wisdom from one so very very young.”
“I see. So she came to see you, did she? Walked right into our most fortified prison?”
“All my daughters have been coming. Your men can be so kind when it comes to family visits. And my girls can be so persuasive. So generous. I’ve been attending to them quite meticulously you know, night after night after night.”
De Launay had dismissed de Sade’s words in the same way that he’d dismissed the rest of the man’s nonsense. Now, even as he stood there in his tower, watching re-animated corpses scratching at the wooden gates to his fort, he could scarcely believe it was happening. It seemed as though the whole huddled mass of the Parisian poor had determined to throw itself at his little prison, like ants upon a bowl of sugar, but to what end.
Not for the first time, it occurred to de Launay that he had a big part to play on the stage of history. Like Caesar or Charlemagne, he knew it would be his to tame the barbarian hordes. France needed a man like him. For although he’d never left the Bastille for longer than a day, and didn’t much like what he saw out there, he had the ambitions and pretensions of an emperor.
His reveries were broken by a knocking at the door.
“How goes the fight?” De Launay asked the captain of the Swiss mercenaries.
“Not good… It’s horrible… Those eyes!”
“One of my men sir… He got bit guarding the wall. They’d stuck a ladder up and he tried to unhook it. And he did unhook it. But he got bit first.”
“So he’s injured?”
“He’s not injured sir. It’s worse. His eyes gone all milky, and his mouth gone all dry and he was like trying to bite us all when we tied him up. He became one of them.”
“And where is he now?”
“The men are restraining him, he should be…”
But a hideous sound of groaning was coming from the courtyard. The two men looked down to see their own defenders, all decked out and decaying in their Swiss uniforms. They were drinking deeply from barrels of rainwater, punching bricks loose from the wall, gnawing at each other’s heads then spitting in disgust. Some of them seemed to be trying to work out the route to the tower.
“We don’t have much time. I want you to follow my orders exactly.”
“I want you to go down and open the gate. Let every monster in Paris into the Bastille. Give it enough time so that the whole flotilla of scum can drift here. Stay alive as long as you can; run if you have to.”
“Ok sir, but what will you do? If I can ask that sir?”
“This fort contains thirty thousand pounds of gunpowder and I’m going to set it off when the time is right. We’ll go down in history, you and I, as the men who saved Paris. The men who saved France. We’ll be remembered forever for our noble sacrifice,” de Launay assured the captain, whose name has long since been forgotten.
The captain scurried off down the stairs and de Launay followed more cautiously. He drank half a bottle of brandy, smoked a pipe then took his time in lighting a torch. Amber light danced around the stairwell as he descended, taking slow steady steps. He carried a loaded pistol in his right hand and the torch in his left. When he reached the bottom of the stair, the courtyard was empty. He wondered for a moment whether the dead had walked away from his prison in search of some other, more twisted amusement. Encouraged by this fancy, de Launay was shocked when he found that the door to the cellar where the gunpowder was kept was hanging open.
He had no idea what the monsters would want with gunpowder, but it wouldn’t be good. He imagined them trying to eat it, or pissing on it, or pouring it on each other’s heads, like children bathing. He really hoped they hadn’t compromised his noble plan of destroying all of them and himself. Another staircase and he was down near the cases of powder. He kicked hard and heavy at the side of one of the cases until powder poured out. It was at that moment that a sound caught his ear, a brutal unholy sound like the sound of deaf children crying. A doorway was visible where he’d never seen one before – boxes had been smashed up, beams torn down to reveal it. Curious, de Launay stepped through.
He came upon a dreadful scene, quite the most grotesque he’d ever witnessed. He saw the bodies of women, girls and boys; on racks, hanging from chains, pilloried or staked. They’d been mutilated beyond recognition; the devices through which this was achieved lay all around: hammers, knives, paddles, thumb-screws, choke pears and breast rippers. He knew straight away that this must be de Sade’s work, the work he’d alluded to so gleefully, so convincingly, that de Launay had declared him insane.
Moving round the room with their clumsy jerky motions, a small group of the Parisian undead had found their way in. Dressed in grocer’ aprons and butcher’s outfits, soldier’s uniforms and tailor’s garb, they were opening cages, lowering chains and cutting bodies loose. De Launay expected them to fall upon the dead and devour them, but instead they laid them carefully, ceremoniously, onto the dungeon floor. The wails of despair were louder in here and whenever one gargling, rasping voice stopped, another began. De Launay knew he had a duty: to ignite the powder with his torch and eradicate these monsters. He stepped back through the secret doorway and into the cellar, torch in hand. He lowered the torch towards the pile of powder, ready for his blaze of glory. But then he hesitated. It was the last decision he’d ever have to make. He would have to try to get it right.
Kenneth Shand is a writer from Glasgow, Scotland. He writes short stories and occasional poems. He has an MSc in Creative Writing. He owns a tea shop. He likes puffins. His favourite colour is teal. He has difficulty with words that don’t sound like the thing they describe, like “emancipation” or “pulchritudinous”.
Two men, faces as pale as the lab coats they wore, watched it unfold on the gigantic plasma screen in their lab.
“The apocalypse will be televised, after all,” the older one said. “God help us.”
“God forgive us, you mean,” the younger one said.
On the TV, soldiers fired machine guns and RPGs into the mass of former humanity, packing the streets. The front ranks fell, but the next ranks simply walked over them.
“They’re hardly making a dent, Ben!” the older one exclaimed. “Why don’t they retreat?”
“Where would they retreat to, Joe?” Ben gasped. “Hey! Isn’t that—?”
The camera, protruding from a window above the fray, zoomed in on one particular zombie. His expensive suit hung in tatters, slick grey hair sticking out in tufts—if this wasn’t the failed presidential candidate, it looked just like him.
Joe chuckled. “Commander in Chief of Zombie Nation. He got what he wanted, after all.”
Larry Kollar lives in north Georgia, surrounded by kudzu, trees, and in-laws. His day job involves writing user manuals — some of which may have been fiction, but not by intent. He has had short fictional works published in the Hogglepot Journal and the Were-Traveler. His first novel, White Pickups, is available from major eBook outlets, with more to come. For more of his strange fiction, and even stranger reality, visit his blog.
Agent Oswald scanned the crowd from the Depository window, using the rifle’s scope as needed to clear potential threats. His view was good, both of the throngs of people and creeping motorcade.He’d never understand politics. The outbreak was spreading like wildfire all across the country and no one knew who would turn next. Insanity.
Lancer waved at the crowd, exposed in the car like a damned fool.
Oswald removed his finger from the trigger guard, sweeping the sight across the President. In the scope, Lace’s hand clawed Lancer’s shoulder. He dropped as her teeth tore his neck.
William R.D. Wood lives in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley in an old farmhouse turned backwards to the road. His profound love of horror and science fiction routinely leads him to destroy the world, whether by alien artifact, zombie apocalypse or teddy bear.http://writebrane.blogspot.com
Looking down you would only see a part of the story. You would see a priest chasing the monster through the near deserted streets. Behind the priest is what passes for a policeman in these new times, a gun strapped to his waist but not registered. These two men would be racing by upturned bins and broken city shops to chase a monster. In the eyes of the scattered folks in what used to be the capital of the country, maybe even the world, these two men are the heroes.
What are they chasing?
If you look closer, in amongst the alleyways and shadows, a monster lunges and lurks and staggers. It is a thing from old comic books, groaning theatrically, with arms outstretched. It is a man, or used to be, but even that is hard to place in a glance. The face has been erased through disease, the skin putrid. Everything about the creature smacks of death, though it is clearly still living, if indeed, living is what you call this sorry state. It shambles and rambles and is a horror movie cliché, back when movies still existed. It is a boogieman to scare the children who stray too far from the porch at dusk.
And yet, if you were to study this monster’s eyes you would see a surprising thing. The pupils dilate and the irises and corneas are still in the socket, where they should be. But there is more to it than that. Look closer and you would see something that is oddly missing from our heroes, devoid in the most basic form: passion. The creature- termed as ‘zombie’ by the few men and women left in the street and ‘un-dead’ by the more learned men who still, albeit underground now, have their laboratories and carry out their experiments- has a fierce light burning that sets it apart from the others in this story.
As the monster pushes back against the brick wall of the alley, it clutches something to its chest. Remember, now, this is not the stuff of hackneyed high-school tales; it is not a human head or child’s hand. No, what the creature clutches is a patch of cloth. The cloth came from a dress, a dress worn by someone, something, dear to the monster. In the world before The Event his name was Daniel Mears, a single man and unhappy. After becoming infected, he fell in love. The thought of the creatures having feelings outside of hunger is an alien concept to the priest and the fake policeman. If someone were to tell them this fact, the priest would dismiss it with an angry wave of the hand and the policeman would laugh and later turn it into a dirty joke to tell the people he pretends are his friends. And yet, it is true.
The monsters are the heroes in this story.
After The Event, the uninfected lived a life of ragged opulence; they stole for there were no longer rules; they screwed and drank and took all manner of drugs because people, when offered a life with no consequences, always choose the most obvious pleasures. No-one travelled freely, or claimed priceless works of art just to admire in their broken homes. No, the men and women took and consumed and when they found resistance, took again, by force. The few good people were first outnumbered and then dispatched. To offer themselves respectability, the men and women made the creatures their enemy and more importantly, a threat.
But was this really true?
The infected did not seek out human meat and most subsided on shrubs and plants. One city, rife with trash, was cleaned within weeks by the un-dead and on the whole, the planet became a healthier, more vibrant place, through both the monsters hunger for rubbish and the total lack of man made pollution. A joke sits uncomfortably inside these facts, doesn’t it? No, the creatures did not attack on any level, unless assaulted first and even then, their form of self-defence was meek. They did not bite or ravage, but merely flail, trying to bat away their opponent with weak arms or frail legs. It was not a contest.
So what did the creatures do?
They gravitated to each other. Below, in their bunkers, the scientists observed and became fascinated by the monsters innate ability to find each other. Within weeks of the event, settlements had been established, where the un-dead came together and…dwelled. To the men and women, it would have been a scene of horror and low comedy; the monsters staggering aimlessly and groaning as if in complaint. To the scientists below, it was a revelation to follow the moans as they became a form of speech. The tone and length of a sound indicated agreement, expression; sometimes displeasure, or even love. The brushing, which the men and women mistook for clumsiness, was in itself, a form of contact, of friendship. What else, the scientists pondered, was the human handshake?
A community borne out of tragedy began.
It should have been the men and women. Humanity should have been forged from the darkness and brought new light. Instead, all it harboured was addiction and need. The human enclaves took on a form nothing short of debauched squalor. It was the stuff of Roman times in their antics, although it differed from that period in their total lack of regard for the future. No, in these hellish places, the survivors set about destroying themselves with a new relish unseen for generations, while on the outskirts, the monsters gathered.
This was where the community lay. To the untrained eye, the areas were little more than tin shacks and dirt and yet, underneath ran certain logic. The shacks were sturdy and withstood the unpredictable weather. Their location was well judged, situated around fresh water and natural food supplies. A survivor comedian alluded to their seeming lack of intelligence with a trademark joke: ‘those crazies don’t fear nothin’ except…you know…can openers.’ Yet, the creatures ate from the land and pinpointed, in their own way, ongoing resources. The comedian, in his castle, ate from dwindling cans and discovered he was slowly dying from bodily infections.
In the months after The Event, these communities grew and prospered in their own way, until the low murmur of groans became an almost settled hum. To an untrained human ear, it may have sounded like contented bees going about their work. No addictions slowed their progress; no bad attitude hampered their work. Slowly, they began to find a purpose again, until even that tiny part of their mind that still mourned for a previous life stilled, and found a sort of peace.
And so, the humans sought revenge.
It was thought that it began with the church, embarrassed at its ineffectual nature and dis-heartened with the men and women delighting in their heathen practises. But this, in fact, was a lie. It began, as most human endeavours did before and after The Event, out of boredom. One day, a gang of men and women, seeing a community of creatures, went about picking them off, one by one, with high powered rifles. As they did, their cheers could be heard echoing for miles. Their high-fives were vigorous and when the community had been utterly stilled, they rutted in triumph, passing each other around like party favours and ripping open cans of beer and popping champagne corks in celebration. In that moment, this new practise of killing as entertainment began.
It became a craze, perhaps the first new fashion-trend since The Event. Bereft of glossy magazines and celebrities, the idea of any new entertainment was seized upon with an enthusiasm. A loosely styled guideline was established, scoring marks for the most kills, extra points for headshots, etc. etc. Soon, celebrity was back on the agenda. One prolific marksman, ‘Jed 27,’ had his tag sprayed from wall to wall and soon became the new world’s first hero. Over time, people were soon appraised by the style of their rifle, their numbers on the board. In this way, a new class system was established, with the most proficient killers as elite.
The communities dwindled and took to the shadows. Gone were the times when they could establish themselves by fresh water and almost daintily scoop flowers in their broken hands and marvel at their simple beauty. No, all such times of calm and happiness were erased with that first shot. They bickered for the first time, more out of fear and confusion than anger at each other. Even in their reduced state, they raged at the injustice of their plight. Soon, relationships were broken, either through human extermination or bewilderment and the creatures were on the verge of destruction, either through elimination or their own squabbling disenchantment.
It was the creature clutching the piece of cloth to what was once its heart-and now, was again, in its own way-which saved them. It was furious like all the other’s, but burned with something else, something deeper: vengeance. A lot of the practicalities of their community stemmed from this creature’s simple guidance. Something logical remained in its hollowed brain and guided them when needs required. Now, the creature was a thing split in two: the cold logic of new plans burning and accelerating in the fibres of its ruined skin and pure, utter vengeance.
The creature gathered them in the shadows and the filth. In the dirt, it traced circles and squares. These were instructions; basic and simple and brilliant. The others shambled forward and nodded in imperceptible agreement. The creature looked around them and stepped up to each, its eyes gleaming and more…alive than any of the others. It straightened the shoulders on one and tightened the fingers on another. To each comrade, it offered an improvement, an instruction, something that made each of them more than it had been just moments before. Each of them complied not out of subservience but with willingness. By the time the creature had returned to the master-plan scrawled in dirt something had changed. The rabble had become an army.
And so, we return to the first scene in this story. The monster, clutching the cloth to its chest stands in the alleyway, seemingly worn down and exhausted. The priest and the wannabe policeman confront it in the mouth of an alleyway and each scream in triumph. They watch the hapless thing slump around a final corner and slow to an easy walk, complacent in victory. The policeman draws his weapon, the priest withdraws a knife that has been tucked inside a well worn bible and the two grin in a fashion that makes them look more unnatural than any un-dead creature. Together, they turn the corner.
The army is waiting for them.
The screams that follow are brief but incredible. In far off pockets of the city, men and women prick their ears away from their hobbies and listen. In amongst the fog and haze of their brains, they wonder what they have just heard. Some look out of smeared windows, others return to their excesses but all of them have registered that first scream. One or two wait for a few moments, expecting something else to occur. When it does not, they breathe a sigh of relief but cannot quite shake that ear-piercing scream from their heads. In amongst their befuddled minds, they recognise it for what it was: a warning.
The creature stills the army when the task is complete. A few surge towards the city but are stopped by the creature as it stamps a foot fiercely into the concrete. It will not be a single attack. It would leave them exposed for one thing; it would not be wholly satisfying, for another. Instead, the creature points in various directions and the army disperses, exploring routes and accessing tunnels, learning to adapt to their new environment as they did before. Gone are the searches for fresh water streams, however; gone are the simple discoveries of new shrubs and berries to eat. Now, their home is in the city and their food will have bones to pick and flesh to strip.
And in that way, the creature becomes the monster the men and women have always claimed to fear.
Chris is an English teacher in Greece. He has been published over 350 times in the past year, in everything ranging from horror to drama and also including children’s literature and is currently working on a full-length novel. His influences include Stephen King and Ray Carver. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr. Flynn was starting to sweat under the bright florescent lighting. His tie felt like it was strangling him, but he still stared straight ahead at his accuser.
“Sir, I have already told you everything I already know.”
“Yes. I witnessed the both of them whispering at dinner one night, how the two of them were going to have one of those “Communist weenie roasts.” Yet again they hadn’t chosen to invite me or my wife.”
Mr. Flynn wiped the sweat from his brow with the handkerchief Donna had given him that morning. She told him if they got through this Armageddon of hate and suspicion that they would go away together, someplace exotic like the Polynesian Islands. She promised to try a little harder in bed, instead of just lying there like limp egg noodles.
“I already stated my name for the record. John Flynn. I don’t have a middle name because my mother thought that was unnecessary. Look, I don’t know anything more about any Communists that may or may not work in my department. I try not to make judgments. I happen to know that one of my coworkers likes women with big boobs. I don’t make judgments about that either. That’s his business. Apparently there is some magazine he subscribes to, one of those big color magazines, and it’s nothing but women with big tits and I’ve looked a couple of times on coffee breaks but so what?”
Mr. Flynn knew they were trying to spin him into a web of entrapment about what and who he knew. He kept getting distracted by the look on the Senator’s face. It was a look of hunger.
“Senator, Have you no sense of decency? The look in your eyes is one of a maniac; it’s almost as if you want to devour me. You sit me here in front of these hot lights and demand answers about my blood type, whether I take multivitamins or not, and whether I think I taste more like a Twinkie or Beef Wellington. Enough! It’s ridiculous! I am here to give you names, and if it gets me out of this seat quicker I will give you names! I shall give you names!!!”
The Senator did not reply to Mr. Flynn. He stood up for a moment and seemed to lose his balance. He walked over to the podium and it almost seemed as if he were going to make a speech. He was looking pale these days. There were circles around his eyes and his mouth had turned a funny color of grey.
“Hrrm. Hurr, Rawrr.”
Two subcommittee members quietly stepped next to the Senator. They whispered in his ear and lead him to a seat at the back of the room. One of them stepped up to the microphone and cleared his throat.
“ I’m sorry gentlemen, but the Senator has been ill and the threat of communism to our country and the stress of these hearings has made him very tired indeed. I am requesting we stop for the day.”
Mr. Flynn looked around the room, trying to figure out what was happening. His wife had dragged him out of bed and fixed him a nice breakfast with toast and eggs over easy for this? For this sideshow?
“Excuse me, what’s going on?” Mr. Flynn asks.
A woman in a cool blue suit walks over to Mr. Flynn and sits next to him.
“The Senator isn’t feeling well. You are free to go home and we will continue questioning tomorrow.”
She pressed a cold white button into his hands. He turned it over and examined it. He started to giggle, softly at first but then louder as he can’t quite control himself. The Button says “Fight Communism & Feed Your family!” There is a hammer and sickle with a red line slashed through it. He pinned it to his shirt but he doesn’t give a damn. He is so tired of the lies; he wants to drink himself into oblivion.
Senator Carson Hemmings had not always been on a witch hunt for Communists. At one time he had been a family man who wanted nothing more than to own a nice Cadillac. But he began to hear about some strange tragic incidents that were occurring in his neighborhood, even throughout his entire state.
Formerly happy housewives began showing up in groups at the local community center, looking like hell, with glassy eyes holding these little black books, speaking a strange new language that included words such as “fruits of labor,” and “chasing the bourgeoisie.” At first he thought it was some kinky new sex craze except it didn’t involve their husbands. He had heard rumours that some of them had slept with each other, which is a thought that kept Senator Hemmings up late at night chasing his own form of bourgeoisie in the form of a good stiff drink and Peep Show Magazine.
One of the housewives started to catch his eye. Senator Hemmings was happily married, but there was something about Mrs. Lisa Harpin, one of the glassy doe- eyed women that caught his eye. Her husband worked at the local travel bureau and didn’t care what Mrs. Lisa did as long as there was a nice dinner on the table with a little dinner mint tucked under his napkin. He liked when she did that.
Lisa wore these delicious curve fitting dresses that drove him mad. Sure she was a bit pale, sure she mumbled a lot, whispering things about “history needing a push,” and other such nonsense. It was she who first attacked him. They were at the Jaycees Friday night fish fry, and she led him into a darkened sunken living room where she wiggled out of her black dress and started to chew on his shoulder. It hurt, but it was tremendously exciting even while she broke the skin and kept going. He pushed her onto the suede couch and made violent love to her while she laughed hysterically and said he was at last a true communist. At first he thought it was because he had done a good job, but later as he examined his shoulder he feared perhaps she had meant something else as well.
After his rendezvous with Lisa he scrubbed his shoulder raw with Lava soap, but it stayed a greyish-green color and the veins in his neck started to throb in a strange way he had never seen before.
He knew he probably caught a venereal disease from that woman, and that the doctor would prescribe a strong anti-biotic and he would be fine. That is what he told himself, but the truth is he never felt well enough to go to the doctor. He never slept; he just read up on the plague that he caught from the tainted woman, this mental disease that turned physical, the disease of communism.
As Mr. Flynn finished his last bite of pot roast, his wife kept him informed on the local gossip. Mrs. Flynn could talk for hours about things overheard while shopping at the supermarket. Apparently word of Senator Hemming’s affair had spread, as well as fears about the plague of Communism’s physical toll on those who practiced and/or tried to spread its growing influence.
“Dear, would you like some bread pudding?” Mrs. Flynn asked him.
“No, sweetheart, I’m stuffed.”
As Mr. Flynn began to help his wife clear the dishes, the doorbell rang. Mrs. Flynn raised her eyebrows at Mr. Flynn and he walked towards the front door, rearranging his tie.
As he reached for the door however, he was seized with a sudden panic. There were sounds.
Sounds outside the door. Low pitched moanings. Squeals.
He ran to the front window and saw Senator Hemmings surrounded by a horde of women holding pitchforks and signs reading “Down with Maliced Imperial Dogs,” and “Bark for Communism.”
Mr. Flynn couldn’t believe his eyes.
Mrs. Flynn walked over to him and patted his shoulder, a tear running from her eye. She walked to the closet and pulled out the shotgun and handed it to her husband.
“Remember to shoot for the head, dear,” she says solemnly.
He picked up the shotgun, cocked both hammers, and opens the door.
“Poor son of a bitch finally embraced his true nature,” he whispered, aiming at the senator’s head.
Melanie Browne is a fiction and poetry writer living in Texas with her husband and three children. She is a former co-editor of Leaf garden and editor of The now defunct Literary Burlesque.