Stitched Saturday

Unedited, Uncensored, Unsettling…

Greetings and salutations, horror fans, and welcome to another (slightly belated) Stitched Saturday. David here, returned fresh faced (and slightly jetlagged and reddened) from holiday, and ready to take over from the magnificent Tilby Noir. I’ve been watching both the themes and reading the excellent submissions over the past couple of weeks, and there’s been some incredible writing and inspiration going on.

Last weeks theme, set by Tilby, was Childhood Fears. We have three submissions this week – Willie Jonas by Mike L Lane and Cul-de-sac by Aiden Leingod. I’ll come clean in that my own contribution isn’t a brand new story (time simply didn’t allow it this week) but one that seemed appropriate for the theme. I hope you’ll forgive me!

And to finish the horror buffet, it all ends with part three of Nick Paschall’s novel Child of the Apocalypse: The Harvest.

Stay tuned to the blog for some inspirational pictures later in the day, and I hope you’ll join me in thanking Tilby for allowing us seamless stitched Saturdays!

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Cul-de-sac – Aiden Leingod

Maria hadn’t been around these parts since childhood.

The old family home sat right in the middle of a crumbling estate not so much council as martial. Many people came-and-went in those formative years. Maria and her parents were sent packing themselves when a minor grievance between good neighbours erupted into a dead heat.

Traditional law and order made a point to avoid this forgotten place stained with lurid notoriety. Horror stories from the rumour mill, eagerly exchanged during non-sanctioned cigarette breaks in dark places where lights have no place being lit – classic examples of one-upmanship, of stamping on eggshells instead of cracking the case at hand.

Maria’s father had heard enough. Back early from his monotonous graveyard shift the shattered patriarch whisked his family off to new pastures just in the nick of time. Maria took in the minutiae even as danger encroached upon the door.

The curious tyke hopelessly entranced by the urgent, idiosyncratic sound of a backfiring exhaust rattling furiously like a wrong key jammed in an ill-fitting lock. Obscene nightmares hurling boorish gestures, multiplied thousand-fold in the cracked rear-view mirror. Flickering headlights reflected off a tarnished gold trophy on the ledge of her bedroom window as the vehicle sped by into the pitch-blackness.

Maria would miss her precious belongings. That trophy was earned for coming in 1st place during her primary school’s annual sports day’s cross-country competition. It looked nice. A single figure standing on an elevated podium, its victorious pose holding a cup aloft with both hands. A talking point or piece of trivia at best – she couldn’t very well brush her teeth with it so it was left behind in favour of absolute essentials needed to survive the long journey to their new home.

Most of all she’d miss the stray cat at the back door each morning. The emaciated kitten’s shed coal dust fur effortlessly piercing the blanketed cold mist and washed-out grey urbanisation. Its implored mewling and scratching better than any alarm clock; such expensive wake-up calls did not exist beyond her mother’s impertinent howls. “Don’t feed it”, her mother would later say. “It’ll only come back for more.”

Maria, like most children, ignored her mother’s half-baked attempts at logic and reason.
She’d spend all her pocket money – a weekly allowance considered by the same children to be a mere pittance – on things considered non-essential.

A plastic bowl. A collar. Even a leash. Maria had naught but breadcrumbs to spare but spare them she did. Anything to distract from her surroundings. No toys though; nothing like that. There were no shortage of rats to play with.

In other words – she loved that black cat. That lone stray.

Maria was just an innocent teenager back then. An only child barely on the cusp of adulthood. At this critical age heroes were not hard to find. Rather they were everywhere she turned, though not necessarily around corners.

The new home was even smaller than the old home, if at all possible. Her once-close parents soon drifted apart in the enclosed space.

Raised on late-night TV, Maria quickly peeled through the static and found herself drawn to so-called ‘video nasties’. Poster children caught red-handed in dark places where lights have no place being lit. A painted life-and-death struggle against a silent monster. Its seemingly motiveless persistence paled in comparison to those that still haunted her every waking moment to this very day.

The highlights of a misspent youth.

Maria knew the staples well. Better than the unfortunate souls that repeatedly fell victim to continuous sequels with no apparent end in sight. Each instalment more absurd than the last.

Nowadays late-night TV featured ‘video nasties’ of a different kind. Infested by fly-on-the-wall documentaries. Degenerated into cinema verite and outright lies. Repossessed black humour sold second-hand as self-righteousness. A freak show by any other name.
But it was in this dark place where lights have no place being lit that she saw the light. On the news of all things. A twenty-four hour doomsday clock. The ticker burrowing ever deeper, only to uncover its own shallow grave.

An unceremonious aside to local events. The crumbling estate was finally being demolished; turned to choking dust and residual asbestos. More washed-out grey urbanisation on the horizon, courtesy of a regeneration project. The contractor in charge had a notoriously high turnover. A rocky history. It needed a surge of new, eager employees to help ensure this project went smoothly.

Within the vignette, Maria spotted her trophy. Now it lay pretty in a faded yellow skip. It was much too heavy to lift as a child, but she wondered if she could lift it aloft now, like the victorious pose of the single figure itself.

Maria needed closure. She reached under her bed and pulled out a small cardboard box. Inside – that black cat’s blood-stained collar. That lone stray wouldn’t be so alone for much longer.

You know what they say, she thought. Keep your friends close…

1

Willie Jonas – Mike L Lane

Thunder cracked outside Seth’s bedroom window and he woke with a start, instinctively moving his body away from the noise and curling up in a corner. He clutched his bedsheet up by his chin and looked out the window anticipating a giant troll’s foot to pass by or even worse- crash through his ceiling and squash him like a bug. After moments of paralyzed fear that felt like ages, he realized nothing was going to happen. Rain poured down into his backyard, the occasional flash of light illuminated his room and when the thunder cracked again, it occurred to him that it was the thunder that had jarred him from sleep and no overgrown beast roaming the neighborhood.

“There are no monsters,” he said, reciting his stepfather’s words in his best grown-up voice. “Only the ones in my head.”

His stepfather had said this to him several times over the past week and although the idea was comforting since the man wasn’t scared of anything, he still needed some extra security. He searched around in the tangled bedsheets and found what he was looking for near the foot of his bed. Apparently, Captain Charisma had wandered from his arms while he slept and was now standing guard over his bare feet.

“You get up here with me, Captain Chris,” he said snatching up the action figure and speaking into its big eyes and broad smile. Captain Charisma, or Captain Chris as Seth understood his name to be, was a certified Cosmic Protector and Keeper of the Light according to the commercials. He was far too important to be on foot patrol. Seth flipped the switch on Captain Charisma’s back and the muscular figure’s chest lit up with a soft yellow glow, highlighting the Cosmic Protector logo. Satisfied, he pulled the covers up over him and nestled into his pillow, the patter of rain lulling him to sleep.

Lightning flashed outside his window and lit up the whole room just as he was about to nod off. The light only lasted for a split second, but in that time Seth spotted the creature creeping from his closet. With its hairy shoulders hunched, it barely fit beneath the top shelf and its pig-like nose rested just above the clothes hanger bar. It had the body of a thin, emaciated man with long slender arms and claws that looked like spider legs. Its red eyes glared at him in the dark above its meat-grinder smile like a bat stalking field mice. Seth had seen the creature before. It was Willie Jonas.

Seth scrunched up against the headboard, pulling his knees to his chest and trying to put as much distance between him and the monster as he could. Willie ducked his head beneath the bar and craned his thin neck into the room, sniffing the air. Drool slipped from his open mouth and dripped onto the floor with a sizzle. The foul odor of burnt carpet and garbage permeated the air as hangers rattled and fell within the closet. Seth’s heart bounded in his chest and droplets of cold sweat trickled down his spine. Clutching Captain Charisma tightly with both hands, he slid one foot off of the bed in a slow, steady motion eager to make a break for it, but careful not to startle the beast. Willie had pulled this stunt before and Seth knew the best way to handle it was to run for the safety of his mom’s room. The creature seemed to fear his parents.

Willie crept forward, his movements erratic and jerky, but cautious nonetheless. The creature liked to toy with Seth, pretending to lurk one way then darting towards the other if the boy moved too fast. Seth knew the game well. He kept his movements insanely slow, barely moving his feet to the solid ground below in gradual, painstaking fractions. He held Captain Charisma out in front of him to ward off the monster, but Willie only cocked his head to the side inspecting the action figure at a distance, his idiot’s grin never wavering. His sharp fangs gleamed in the moonlight filtering through Seth’s window and his drool continued to fall like grease on a grill, hissing with each gruesome drop. Just as he felt the carpet fibers gently brushing the sole of his foot, the bed shifted beneath him. He quickly jerked his leg out of harm’s way just in time.

Long orange tentacles snaked from beneath the bed and lobster-like claws snapped at his feet. Willie’s nameless friend liked to hide under the bed and in his careful attempt to trick Willie, Seth had almost forgotten about him. The clawed pinchers blindly climbed up onto the mattress, opening and closing greedily in search of the boy it seemed to smell. The tentacles weaved up towards him on all sides. Two writhing tentacles crept up on the side closest to the door. One came from the foot of the bed and slithered beneath the covers. Three more sprang up from behind him and one slipped through the bars of the headboard, snatching his pillow and tossing it to the floor. The beast’s arms maneuvered him to the center of his bed, snapping dangerously close to his face. The pinchers snapped shut like rat traps going off, nipping at his toes and forcing him to hop back and forth from foot to foot in a mad, frantic dance.

“Willie Jonas,” Willie hissed from across the room, slowly creeping towards the bed. “Willie Jonas!”

“Leave me alone!” Seth shouted, ducking away from the lobster tentacles. He nearly lost his balance when the bulk of the nameless beast bucked underneath the bed with a loud thump. The tentacles waved in front of him like cobras set to strike, pinching and snapping in anticipation.

“Willie Jonas! Willie Jonas! WILLLLLLLLIIIEEE JJJJJOOOONNNASSSSSSS!!!” the creature screamed in a high shrill voice that felt like razors slicing through Seth’s eardrums. Terrified and unable to take anymore, he shoved past the weaving claws and leapt from the bed, bounding out the door and to his parents’ bedroom, screaming at the top of his lungs.

He jumped into the bed and shook his mom with all his might, fearful that Willie and his pet would come storming in at any moment. His mother looked at him groggily. His stepfather was already turning on the light and grumbling.

“What the hell, Seth!” he growled, grabbing the boy by the arm and shaking the screaming boy until he stopped. Seth looked at his stepfather with tears streaming down his cheeks and tried to explain everything. His words came out all wrong and sounded like mumbled cries. His stepfather gave him another shake for good measure and the boy closed his mouth. He pushed the boy to his mother. “Do something with him, will you?! Jesus!”

“What is it, pumpkin?” his mom asked, taking the little boy in her arms and soothing him.

“They’re trying to eat me!” Seth exclaimed, trying to explain his fears as simply as he knew how. He shot a fearful glance over his shoulder and back at the dark hallway. He couldn’t see anything moving towards them, but that didn’t mean anything. Willie had a way of moving around the house undetected.

“Who, sweetie?” his mom asked with a bored yawn. The valium she had taken before bed had a firm grasp on her brain and was trying to push her back to her pillow.

“The boogieman!” Seth’s stepfather shouted angrily, annoyed with the whole scene.
“Who the hell else would he be blabbing about?!”

“It’s Willie Jonas!” Seth said. He didn’t know who the boogieman was. Willie was no man at all.

“I don’t care if it’s Rumpelstiltskin, Rip Van Winkle or the damn Tooth Fairy!” his stepfather said, leaning in close with an angry glare that caused Seth to flinch. “Nobody is trying to eat you, son. It was just a bad dream.”

“Don’t yell at him, Tom,” his mom said, but her words lacked conviction under the drug’s foggy influence. Still, she persisted, “He’s just scared. He can sleep here with us.”
“Oh, hell no,” Tom said, shaking his head angrily. “You baby him way too much! This is the third time this week and I start a forty-eight hour shift in the morning. This shit has got to stop.”

He took the boy by the elbow and dragged him from the bed, leading him to the other end of the house. Seth looked back in hopes that his mom would come to his rescue, but her head was already on the pillow and he could hear her soft snores.

“There are no monsters, Seth,” his stepfather said, singing that same old song and dance as he pulled the boy down the hall. “Only the ones in your head and I’m going to break you of this tonight.”

He led the boy into what they called their utility room. It was the place where his mom washed and dried their laundry, but it was also big enough that his stepfather used it as a workshop from time to time. None of this mattered to Seth, of course. What mattered is that there were no windows in the utility room and with the lights off it was the scariest room in the house. Realizing what his stepfather had in mind, he frantically tried to break free from the man’s grip, desperate to get back to his mom. Tom yanked his arm one good time, spun him around and sat him in a folding chair at the center of the room. He gripped the boy’s shoulders with both hands and locked eyes with him, face to face.

“You are going to sit your ass right here until I feel like you are no longer scared of the dark. Do you understand?” the man said forcefully.

Seth started to cry and begged his stepfather for mercy. If he left him in this room all alone in the dark, Willie would eat him for sure.

“No,” the man said and Seth knew by his tone that he meant business. “Now I hate to do this to you, bud, but your momma in there doesn’t have the stomach for this sort of thing and God only knows where your real daddy is, so that makes this my job. It’s ugly and it’s nasty, but by the time I come back and unlock that door you will have learned not to be afraid of the dark, I guarantee that. The sooner you get it in your head that there’s nothing to be afraid of, the better off you’ll be.”

“I’m not scared, daddy,” he said, his bottom lip quivering as he fought back the tears. If he could just convince Tom of this lie, maybe he would let him go. At least in his room he had more of a fighting chance. “I’ll be good. I promise.”

“Yeah right,” Tom smirked. He strode out the door shaking his head. He shut it behind him without another word and locked it, despite Seth’s wails of terror.

Seth cried and screamed for what seemed like an hour, begging for someone… anyone… to let him out of the utility room. Eventually his tears dried up and his protests turned to faint whispers, his throat cracked and dry. He was still scared, his body shaking violently from fright and jarred nerves, but he realized for the first time that he was feeling something else. Abandoned. His stepfather was a cruel, heartless man who had left him all alone when he needed him most. His mother should have never allowed this to even happen, yet she slept soundly in her bed without a care in the world. He was hopelessly and utterly alone and the monsters were drawing in.

In the quiet, pitch black room he knew they were there. He could sense them. He could smell them. And they, of course, could smell him. With every beat of his heart he could hear Willie’s erratic footsteps all around the room, circling him. His muscles drew tight and he tried not to make a sound. Each breath was a trial in control and stealth, quickly draining what energy he had left. The creature’s sweat filled his nostrils and stung his eyes. The room was total darkness wound tight around his body and suffocating his thoughts. Without sight, he could only rely on sounds, but Willie’s jerky movements provided plenty as he danced around the room like a drunken clown. A hollow, metallic thump echoed from the dryer. Sockets and wrenches clanged together from his stepfather’s workbench and fell to the floor in a clattering crescendo. Plastic leaves rustled in the corner as Willie brushed past his mom’s faux ficus tree. He could hear the slap of bare flesh strike the counter top as Willie leapt up and landed on his webbed, slimy feet. Around and around the room the monster went at a dizzying pace that Seth could only imagine. He held his ground and his breath, waiting for the attack and struggling to keep his fear in check, a battle he was doomed to lose.

“Willie Jonas,” the monster hissed. “Willie Jonas.”

The steel-trap snaps of the nameless beast’s pinchers clicked at his ears and tentacles curled around his leg, slowly rising to his face and sending a new wave of fear to Seth’s core. Willie was frightening in his own way, but manageable. The nameless one was terrifying. He began to sob, the tentacle caressing his chin.

Unable to take it anymore, Seth held out Captain Charisma and hesitantly flicked the switch on his back. The soft glow of light radiated from the action figure’s chest, highlighting the face inches from his nose. For the first time, Seth got a good look at the nameless one’s face. It was the face of a giant snail, its jowls drooping low and its beady eyes glaring at him.

“Answer,” it said in a deep graveled voice that startled Seth nearly as much as the sight of him had. His head protruded from what looked like a turtle shell and his numerous tentacles weaved around him, striking at the air and snapping viciously.

“Willie Jonas,” Willie said again, leaning in over the nameless one’s shell. The two of them stared at him in the glow of Captain Charisma, waiting for something that Seth didn’t understand.

“Willie Jonas.”

“Answer!” the nameless one snapped. His antennae twitched in aggravation.

“I don’t know what you want!” Seth screamed, terrified out of his mind. If they were going to eat him, he wished they would get it over and done with. His nerves couldn’t handle the waiting.

“Willie Jonas!” Willie said in his high pitched shrill. This time Seth noticed something peculiar about him. It sounded as if he were asking a question.

“I’m not Willie,” he said shaking his head. “I’m Seth.”

“Will-ie Jon-as,” he said again, this time drawing out the name slowly. “Will Seth Jon-as.”
Seth looked at him puzzled and suddenly understood what the creature was asking. He wasn’t saying Willie Jonas at all. He was asking if Seth would join them.

“Will I join you?” he asked tentatively.

“Yessss-seth!” Willie cried, drool spilling from his lips and sizzling on the floor. “Willie Jonas?”

Seth looked at the two creatures waiting eagerly for his answer. He didn’t know how to respond. Join them where? Join them how? It was all too confusing.

“Protect Seth,” the nameless one said in a brutish tone. “Eat.”

“Don’t eat me!” he cried, shrinking back from the snail face in horror. The beast licked its lips with a long tongue that looked almost human.

“Protect,” the nameless one said, smacking a hard lobster claw against Seth’s chest.

“Eatttttt,” Willie agreed, but when he said it, the ghoul pointed back towards the door. Back towards where his mom and stepfather slept. “Willie Jonas?”

“Eat,” Seth said, finally understanding. His mind recalled his stepfather shaking him while his mother could barely hold her eyes open, much less come to his aid. He thought about how he had begged for mercy and how his stepfather had only smirked at him and walked away. All of these thoughts fuelled a heat deep within him and a wicked smile spread across his lips. “Yes. I will join you.”

Bogeyman – David Court

The sky was again lit up by lightning, accompanied a few seconds later by a tea-tray crash of thunder.

Fuzzy Ted’s eyes nearly bulged right out of his furry sockets as Jake squeezed him tighter than he’d ever been squeezed before. Even tighter than that night when he’d lain awake too scared to sleep because of the impending visit of the Tooth Fairy.

“I don’t like the likening, Fuzzy Ted,” whispered a fearful Jake as he pulled the bed sheets over the both of them and lit his blue Postman Pat torch. He’d dragged a number of his friends under the covers already for their own safety and shone the torch on each of them. Action Man was bravely standing guard over Egg face and Blue Choo-choo train, and White Ted and Necky the baby Giraffe were desperately trying to get some sleep.

Jake winced and gave a little whimper as another clap of thunder sounded. He was too young to know it but it wasn’t just the noise and the light he hated, but what it represented. Because, without fail, the sound of thunder attracted the Bogey Man who lived in the wardrobe.

The bogey man would have heard the thunder as soon as it had started several minutes before and would now be crawling along the labyrinthine tunnel network that led from his home in Monster land to the back of Jake’s wardrobe. At this very moment, razor-sharp bone-white claws would be scraping and sparking against black rock with rows of bloodied sharp stalactite and stalagmite teeth grinding against each other in anticipation. He could only emerge from his tunnels when the rain was pouring and the wind was howling, and tonight was prime Bogey Man weather.

In the past Jake had tried to block the wardrobe by leaning chairs from downstairs against it – on one occasion he’d even managed to drag his bed so the corner of it would stop the door from opening. Despite the fact it had taken him hours and hours to do it,
Mummy and Daddy weren’t happy that they’d been woken up by the racket he’d made doing it and had pushed his bed back. They’d told him there was no such thing as a Bogey Man and had read him a lovely bed time story and given him some milk to make him forget, but Jake couldn’t forget. He’d seen it and knew that it wasn’t imaginary. He heard them being angry with each other in their bedroom when they’d shut the door and Mummy had cried a lot.

There was the time he’d used all of his strength and had pushed his wardrobe over so the front was on the ground, but this had made Mummy and Daddy worried as well as angry. Mummy had told Daddy that he should have fastened it to the wall when he’d made it and not be such a lazy bones, and Daddy had told Jake that he should be very careful because it might have landed on Jake and made him flat. Jake had asked Daddy if that would mean he could be posted to different places in the world or made into a paper plane and flown about, but Daddy had told Jake to be sensible and not to be so silly and to grow up. He did something noisy with his big orange drill and the wardrobe couldn’t be pushed over after that.

It was when Daddy had used his big orange drill that Jake had got hold of some nails and had tried to make a trap so when the Bogey man came out of the wardrobe he’d stand on the nails and would hurt his feet, but Mummy had found the nails Jake was keeping in his bed and had got very angry with Daddy indeed. They’d both shouted a lot and Mummy cried for a very long time. He didn’t ever see any more nails to pick up after that. Daddy hid the toolbox in a secret place where Jake couldn’t find it.

Jake remembered that he had made preparations of sorts for the Bogey Man’s visit and had made very, very sure that he wouldn’t wake mummy and daddy. Sergeant Koala was guarding the wardrobe door and would tell Jake if anything tried to get through.
Jake made a shush signal to Fuzzy Ted as he strained to listen to what was going on outside the covers, over the howling wind and the pouring rain. Was that the sound of the wardrobe door creaking open? The sound of snarling and rasping breath from beside the bed? Could he hear Sergeant Koala talking?

Outside was briefly illuminated by another burst of lighting and for the briefest of seconds Jake could something outside the bed sheets. A black shape with huge evil looking claws, poised to strike…

Jake screamed and pushed himself out of the bed as his companions fell scattered on the
floor. He silently rolled under it and held his breath very tightly as he looked around for the sight of any feet, specifically the jagged clawed stinky feet that the Bogey man had.
There was nothing.

He started whispering a tiny little prayer to God all the time waiting for claws to grab his ankles and drag him screaming from under the bed and be forced into the Bogey Man’s leather sack where he’d be made into a horrible stew. Several minutes passed and Jake realised that his own voice was the only thing he could hear.

The rain had stopped, as had the wind. He held his breath and waited for the sound of thunder, but none came. Koala was still in front of the doors which hadn’t moved at all. He looked up towards the window and realised the scary shape he’d seen was the pterodactyl model he had hanging from his ceiling – “The likening must have shoned on it,” he thought to himself.

His screaming hadn’t even woken up Mummy or Daddy. Taking his squeaky slippers off to be extra quiet, he crept out of his room and along the landing and into their room. Both mummy and daddy were still fast asleep. He’d put some of the magic white sleeping powder into their tea when they weren’t looking – the powder from the packet with the Captain Jack Sparrow pirate symbol on it. Jake had found it once and Daddy had told him to leave it alone or it’d make him sleep for a very long time.

Just like Mummy and Daddy were doing. They’d been asleep for a very long time now – a few days at least – and as he crawled between them he almost gasped aloud at how cold they were.

Jake pulled the covers over the three of them, closed his eyes and smiled at how brave he’d been.

Child of the Apocalypse: The Harvest Part 3 – Nick Paschall

Slipping past a few withering rotten that barely inclined their stalk-like heads in her direction, Jamie crept deeper into the town towards the one place she’d be able to find medication that would still have something worth looting. Walking along a path flanked by tall grass and unkempt trees, Jaime did her best to be light of foot. She didn’t want to alert her position to anything by accident…

“In a town as rural as this, guaranteed one of these buildings are an old feed store,” she muttered, bow lowered with an arrow nocked and ready She stopped by an overgrown fountain, plants growing from the much that’d gathered in the cement pool from years of rain. A worn statue in the middle sat posed in a refined station, as if he (or she) were someone of great importance. The fact that all features and writing had been worn away by the harsh rain and salty sea air did little to help Jamie understand what the statue could have been at one point, but as she looked at the pedestal it sat upon, she frowned.

A tarnished plaque, covered in a thick coating of slime and moss, sat beneath the feet of the statue. Looking at the pool and around her, at the silent town, Jamie wondered what it was like when the living dominated the world. What would this statue have looked like then, when people cared enough about it to maintain it? Shaking her head, she was about to lean over the pool to use her arrow to pull away the layer of muck covering the nameplate, when she noticed it again.

The town was silent.

No clicking. No moaning. Nothing.

“Shit,” she muttered, backing away from the water as she saw the shimmer of something stir beneath the pea green soup.

Rising slowly with the low rasp of pressure being released from a filled container, congealed blood and tissue poured from the mouth of a ghoul that had become more gelatin than bone. Skin sloughed off as it rolled its head forward, the slits where the bone for the nose whistling as it sniffed the air. Limp arms hung from the skeletal creature, the mud-caked skin held together with plant fibers over polished bone and strings of taut muscle, curling the fingers of the ruined hands into doughy fists as they sloshed noisily.

aime felt the bile rise in her throat and did her best to swallow the vomit rising in her throat, hoping she wasn’t making a significant noise while doing so. The hollow sockets of the zombie spilled water as the head turned, the slurping clicks slowly creaking from the hollowed-out throat.

No! Jamie thought, choosing to take a chance. Raising the bow and unleashing the arrow point blank into the corpses skull, piercing the weakened forehead enough to scramble what little it had left in the form of brains. It wobbled shakily on its knees before shuffling back.

It was only then that Jamie realized her mistake.

The loud splash of rancid fountain water seemed like a peal of thunder cracking across the abandoned town, echoing down every alleyway and across every open expanse of cement. Turning, Jamie’s eyes widened in horror as she stared at the pair of rotten she’d passed earlier.

Klilililkkkkkk!

“Shit!” Jamie cursed as the two putrid alarms began to rattle and shake, their cries soon joined by stronger, more vibrant clicks from all around her. Jamie now knew the town wasn’t as abandoned as she’d thought… the people hadn’t ever left at all, in fact. They’d just settled in in a far more permanent manner than she’d expected.

The snapping of vines and roots tore through the air as the tall grass shook violently, zombies rising from the weeds with bloodless sores and eroded hides marred with waterlogged pock-marks that seemed to hold infestations of small crabs, roaches, and slugs. Many had barnacles growing from their narrow bones, with some even holding nests for hornets, which angrily buzzed around the zombies lolling heads as they blinked back ages worth of grime over their puffy, white eyes. Blind to the world, they all began clicking and groaning, different pitches and volumes, the sounds coming from every direction.

“Fuck this,” Jamie said and bolted past the fountain deeper into town. While they may be ghouls (rotten were too far gone to play host to parasites so those were most definitely the more mobile breed of zombie) they were hardly fast enough to keep up with her while still trying to triangulate her position. She woke them all from hibernation, something she’d only heard of some survivors doing before.

Stopping at the bottom of a cracked road, Jamie, looked up and down the street. A smashed in electronics store held three rotten that were crawling like sickened hounds from the rubble while an old liquor store had a lone ghoul wandering out, one arm severed from the body but held to the other by a set of handcuffs, the dusty tissue of the frayed limb dragging in the gravel as the ghouls clicked.

“Okay, I walked into a total nightmare,” Jamie said. Turning, she nearly screamed as she was tackled by a heavy body, the stench rolling off of it palpable enough to be a solid force as it struck her in the face. It pushed her back and into a wall, knocking the air from her lungs. Twirling her bow around she brought it down hard along her attacker’s back, whipping the cord across the broad back of the undead creature, causing it to howl in fury as it bodily picked her up.

Panicking, she kicked at what-must-be a bull’s stomach, her heavy shoes sinking into the tender flesh with satisfying results. She fell to the pavement with a grunt and a hiss of pain, one of her arrows sliding free from the quiver and piercing her in the lower back near an old scar she’d received from another bull. Looking up, she rolled to the side to dodge the inevitable slam the bull would attempt on her now that it had her down.

But no such blow came, instead a dirty glove held up a hand in peace as the thick-framed bull gasped. “Wait, j-just wait… we need to get off the streets… you woke them up, and that means he’ll be awake soon. We can’t be around for that!”

 Jamie looked up into the smudged face of a young man, his hair marred with dirt and tar, his overalls and long sleeves soaked in brine and sweat. Looking around at the clicking horde as they closed in on the two of them, Jamie reached back and pulled the arrow free with a wince before accepting his hand up.

 “Lead the way sailor!” She whispered, pushing him along.

To be continued…

 

 

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