Trap, by Adam Bunnell
Kanon slipped his lock picks into the wooden trunk on the floor with practiced ease. He worked them back and forth, his tongue edging into the corner of his mouth.
“This place is just so normal looking,” Getty walked around the small, private library, his breastplate glittering in the lamplight, a small axe with a head like a tear drop in one hand.
“What’d you expect, gargoyles and black cats?” Kanon paused, withdrew the picks, and tied his long, black hair out of the way.
“I mean, it’s a wizard’s house. I guess I just thought it would be more wizardy, is all. I’ve seen this guy out. He’s the real deal: cowl, black robes, staff with a ball on top. You sure he’s not coming back tonight?” Getty continued to pace the room, lips pursed, blonde eyebrows knit together.
“Relax. He’s not coming back. I got it on good authority from his housekeeper, that pretty girl from the inn a few weeks back. She was quite, um, vocal.” Kanon smirked and gave him a look, but Getty didn’t seem to get it. He shrugged and reinserted his picks. “A shame I haven’t seen her since. What are you wearing, anyway? You look ridiculous.”
“What, this? Protection. You know, just in case.” Getty knocked once on the metal chest piece, walked to the heavy desk against the wall, and slumped into the large, padded chair behind it.
“Protection?” Kanon scoffed. “You know wizards can boil your blood, strike you blind, freeze you solid, all kinds of other stuff, right? That is not going to save you.” He shook his head and chuckled.
Getty sulked in the chair, and tested the sharpness of the axe with his thumb. He grimaced and stuck the digit in his mouth.
“C’mon, kid, don’t take it so hard. I’m just joking.” Kanon leaned down to the chest and pressed an ear to it, adjusted a pick a quarter turn.
The kid began pulling open the drawers to the desk.
“Careful, you idiot!” Kanon snapped, eyes wide.
“You said there weren’t any traps.” Getty retorted.
“Not in the room! I didn’t go checking the desk, did I? You wanna get killed?” He had figured the kid was too young for a job like this, but there was no one else.
“Well, we’re alive. No traps.” He rolled his eyes and began rummaging around in the drawers. Kanon thought to argue, but he went back to concentrating on the lock instead.
“What is this?” Getty’s tone was low, equal parts wonder and revulsion. He began pulling items from the drawers. Vials of different colored sand. Lye pellets. Small, clay jars. Preserved bat wings in a tight bundle. A set of silver flensing knives. A skeletal hand. A pair of eyeballs in a dish. A stunted fetus floating in a jar. A book bound in the flesh of a screaming, human face.
Kanon wasn’t paying attention. He could feel the tension in the picks. His tongue pressed so hard into his lips that it popped out of his mouth. He gave one last, small twist and the chest opened with a deep, metallic click. Within, four small, obsidian gems glinted up at him in the dull lamplight, carved into grinning skulls. A focus for necromancy, he knew.
The walls of the library slid upwards in four places, revealing small, dark recesses like closets between the shelves. Low, guttural moans rumbled from within. Human shapes stood in the darkness, swaying unsteadily on their feet. The stench of puke and rot rolled out as the zombies staggered into the room in tandem. Their clothes were brown, bloodstained, tattered, their faces were rotting shadows, unrecognizable in the gloom.
Getty made a good show of it. His face went green, his eyes like saucers of milk, but he advanced on them. He brought the axe down on the one in front of him. A swift, downward chop, the blade buried itself deep into the zombie’s skull with a heavy sound. The thing went down in a heap, dragging the axe out of the boy’s hand as it went. He grasped for the weapon, but the zombie behind him had already closed in. It grabbed onto the back of his breastplate, throwing an arm around his upper chest.
Kanon was much quicker. He was already most of the way to the door by the time the things stumbled from their hiding places, but he was not fast enough. One of them had lunged, fallen, and caught his foot with an outstretched hand. He yelped, was dragged to the floor. He rolled over as he was pulled backwards across the rug. He could see greasy hair framing a face he knew. The housekeeper was dead, lips crusted and black, eyes clouded by a milky film. She drooled a long stream of yellow bile, and sank her teeth into his ankle. He screamed, doubled over towards her, slipped a hand into his boot, and buried the knife hidden there into her forehead with a flick of his wrist. She let go of him. He scrambled to his feet, staggered to the door, and cast one backward glance into the room.
Getty was pinned against the bookshelves, one of the zombies holding him fast from behind. Another grasped at him from the front, hands scraping at the breastplate. He looked across the room at Kanon in shock, eyes wide and pleading.
“Sorry, kid.” Kanon limped from the house as fast as he could. He made it to the road before his ankle began to burn, to the village before his head began to swim and his vision to blur, and all the way back to the inn before the hunger took him and the world went dark.
Adam Bunnell is a prototypical English teacher/writer with a love for fantasy and horror. He hates onions, sentence fragments, and blatant hypocrisy. He lives in Bloomington, Indiana with his lovely wife and photogenic tabby cat.
Posted on December 24, 2013, in Issue 11: The Day Zombies Ruled the Earth and tagged e-zine, fantasy, flash fiction, genre blender, horror, monsters, The Were-Traveler, zombies. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.