Killing Barbara

Featured Story

Preface

The stones fell from the sky. There was no storm, no burning trails in the sky. Nothing to prepare the world for the impact of three stones dropped by God. Each stone granted the user the ability to create life in exchange for a life. A cruel test for a human race with a violent imagination. Each stone decorated its own sphere of influence in its own way. The story below relates to the New York stone only.

The New York stone was dropped somewhere in Central Park. The first, vampire, began as a reluctant cryptid. Prowling at night, careful to patrol and terrorize the forgotten population. With every bite it grew in population till the forgotten could hide no more. The human population in New York struggled to contain the epidemic but ultimately succeeded. The stone continued to grant life for a life and other strange creatures began to appear. The other creatures were destroyed as effectively as they could be by a human race that felt threatened. The stone continued to migrate through the city, state and East coast till landing in the lap of a distressed government worker. His wife, lost to Cancer, rose to her feet and began the infection that would destroy North America. The stone was lost in the chaos.

Jacob and Michael

Five years after the Vampire wars. Zombie extermination turned into zombie containment. Large cities turned into giant prisons that contain the zombie hordes and other undesirables. Jacob and Michael are a pair of unlucky original occupants of the city of Cleary. Both men, desperate to escape their zombie wives, hide in the unattached garage.

—————————————

“We can head back into my house. We can lock Sharon and Barbara in a room. At least we have some food in the house.” Jacob said as he stared through a grimy window of the garage door. Standing on a pair of milk crates.  “We should have enough room to run to the back door. There are only a few zombie outside the garage door. The back door is unlocked.”

“No Jacob… What are we going to do? Lock them in the bedroom and listen to them scratch at the door for the rest of our lives? What if they escape? We would still have to kill them.” Michael shot back.

“I know.  We have to do something!  We can’t stay here any longer.  It’s been two days. I am starving.”  Jacob stumbled from the crates.

“We screwed up and left them in the house. What if they were still alive,” Michael snapped. “What if they are dead because we left?”

“Michael they were both bitten and we left them in the house for two days.  They are not alive. They tried to attack us multiple times. Our wives are dead.”

“Miracles happen,” Michael replied.

“Are you from this world?  When is the last time you saw a miracle?  Zombie apocalypse kind of killed any hope of miracles.  Look, I had to strangle Sharon with a metal close hanger. Do you want me to describe what that looked like! Zombie skin, putrid… Barbara is the only one left in the house.  We just need to get to the house, put her down and find something in the cabinets. We still have the girl’s rations.”

“Put her down? She is not a dog. I’m not even hungry,” Michael replied.

“Liar!  You would rather wallow out here in grief till we die of hunger then run into Barbara and face the fact that she is dead. I should just go out this door without you.”

Jacob rattled the garage door handle and banged loud enough to attract the nearest zombie.  Soon the blank stare and pale, naked eyes of a monster stared back’

“Look Michael it’s my neighbor John.  Hi John,” Jacob waved at the creature in the window.  When it didn’t respond he banged on the glass. “Hi John!”

“Stop,” Micheal said.  “You will attract more.”

“Do you think about her? Sharon?  The wife you strangled to death?”  

“Do you wonder if maybe she’s trapped inside her body?  Maybe they would find a cure and you just killed her?”

“She’s not,” Jacob snapped.  “I swear…Michael”. Jacob paused.  “Sharon tried to kill me. She slammed my head against a damn cabinet. Look at their eyes.  No human in there. They’re all dead. Everyone. Sharon is dead.  Barbara is dead.”

Michael walked into the darkness of the garage. He stood at a window at the side of the garage and looked outside.

“Morning should be appearing shortly.  We could wait till morning then go?” He offered.

“Why?  The zombies will hear us in the day and night.  No difference.”

“Fine… What’s your plan?

“I don’t have a plan.  All I know is we can’t stay here.”.

“Fine, I’ll get the door. You bang on the walls near the back of the garage to draw them away from the door.” Michael pushed past Jacob and grabbed the door handle.  Jacob growled but did as he was told. He banged on the back of the garage. When Michael was satisfied enough of the zombies were away from the door. He opened the door.

Jacob followed Michael from the garage.  They followed the house toward the back of the home.  At the first window Jacob stopped and looked inside. Michael continued to the next window and looked inside.

“She was in there.  Her perfect hair drenched in dark clumps of blood.”  He searched till he found Barbara. Her face long and drawn down. Her jaw slack and her arms to her side. She stood staring at a dining room wall.

Jacob watched the other zombies as Michael daydreamed. The zombie were blind, at least that was the assumption. The eyes were pale with a large cancerous colored orb in one or the other. The zombie hearing hadn’t changed from when they were human. Some heard better than others.

Michael watched within the window.  “Barbara,” he whispered.

She moved.  She brought up her right hand and brushed the hair from her face.  The outside world disappeared instantly. Barbara began to dance. She turned.  Her face was hidden behind long beautiful dark hair. She turned and turned again.  For a short time Barbara was alive, till Jacob stepped onto the heel of Michael’s shoe causing pain. Micheal lurched forward and banged his fist upon the glass window.

“My god, why did you have to do that,” Michael shouted. 

“Sorry, we need to go now, my pants are full of crap. I have a really bad feeling.”

“You crapped you’re pants?” Michael asked.

A large zombie approached from the front of the garage. Two more lumbered near them from the driveway.  Michael turned and stared at a face in the window of the home. Barbara, her pale eyes staring hungrily out the window, scratched at the glass.

“Go.. go…” Jacob whispered and motioned for Michael to follow him toward the back of the house.  Michael ripped his gaze from Barbara and followed. The two men walked toward the back of the house, careful not to make any more noise.

Jacob opened the back door and stepped inside.

“I don’t want to do this,” Michael insisted.

“This or die?” Jacob replied.

Michael closed the porch door behind him and searched for a lock.

“What are you doing? That door doesn’t have a lock.”

“What do you mean, doesn’t have a lock?” Micheal growled.  The door was ripped from his grip and a large zombie stood at the entrance.

“Why doesn’t this door have a lock!”

Jacob struggled with the inside door knob.  The large zombie stepped forward toward the men.

Michael shoved the zombie with his foot causing it to stumble backward.

“Get the door open!”

“I’m trying,” replied Jacob as the knob finally turned and the door opened.

The large zombie stepped forward. Jacob disappeared within the doorway followed by Michael. Michael closed the door and locked it. and they both stepped into the kitchen. He turned the security bolt and added the chain.

The large zombie began to bang on the back door.  Michael braced himself against the door until she walked into the kitchen.

Barbara, her jaw broken and head disfigured stepped into the kitchen.

Michael shoved his right foot against the door and looked at Jacob.  “What now, genius!”

“I got this Michael.  I got this.” Jacob stepped forward with a baseball bat but didn’t swing it.  He placed the end of the bat on Barbara’s chest and pushed her back into the dining room.  Attached to the kitchen door was a baby gate. Jacob swung that closed and locked it.

“I forgot we still had the baby gate, nice.” Michael said. “I do not want to kill Barbara, Jacob. I can’t do it.”

“You are going to have too. That gate is not going to stop her and she will kill us both.” Jacob replied.

“I am more worried about the Incredible Hulk right now than I am about Barbara. We need to block this door.”

“We got nothing to block the door,” Jacob replied.

“Are you joking? You talked me into jumping back into this house and you have nothing to block the back door.”

“I have a duffel in the walk in. I will fill that up with food and we can find a way out.” Jacob disappeared into the walk-in. Michael stared forward. His foot still wedged against the door. Barbara stepped forward and growled when she ran into the baby gate. Michael wanted to confront her. Talk to her. Reason with her.

“Who are you reasoning with,” he asked himself. “Barbara or some animal that wants to tear you to pieces.”

“Animal?” He asked. “An animal, at least has some animalistic instinct. It has some sense of intellect. This creature is just out to kill for what? Pleasure, doesn’t seem likely. Look at her face,” Micheal continued to ponder. “It’s blank, emotionless, dead… puppet-like.”

“A puppet? For who? God and his infinite cruelty? Is this some sort of omnipresent revenge plot…”

He watched as Barbara leapt forward almost tumbling over the knee-length gate. The back door shook and pain shot up through his ankle.

“Damn it,” Michael cursed. “Cursed world.”

He turned, grabbed a mop handle. Threw it through the window in the door. The glass shattered. The mop handle struck the zombie in the throat causing it to stumble backward and over the wooden porch railing. Michael growled. He grabbed what was left of the mop and tossed it through the porch. He found the toaster and threw it through the door. The coffee maker…

“Stop,” Jacob said standing nearby. “That coffee maker was a gift.”

“I don’t care,” Michael shouted and the coffee maker shattered when it missed the window and struck the kitchen wall. Michael paced the floor. The porch creaked as zombies, attracted by the noise, begin to step onto the porch.

“Do you really need to have a mental break, Michael… now!” Jacob shouted. “I think you woke up the whole neighborhood. Look there is John.”

“You always have jokes,” Michael shot back as he limped away from the door. “My wife is dead, your wife is dead. Our children long dead and this door is going to break and the neighbor is going to kill us.”

“Why are you not broken up over this? You killed your wife. I am staring at the rotten face of my wife.”

“Right now, you want to ask me that now? We spent three days in a garage alone and you ask me this, now when the world is crashing down on us. You’re an ass Michael.” Jacob frowned. “You think I’m not broken. I haven’t cried over anything since Gregory died. I killed my wife easily with a metal clothes hanger. If that’s not broken I don’t know what else I could be. Can you suck up your crap for a couple moments so we can get out of here. If you will not kill Barbara I will take care if it. We need to get out of this room.

“Touch here I will kill you with a clothes hanger!” Micheal replied, his voice shaking.

“That would require you moving past Barbara and going to the bedroom to get a hanger. At least we would be doing something other than arguing here with John staring at us from the doorway.”

“Your a mad man,” Micheal replied then approached his wife.

Barbara stood at the entrance to the kitchen reaching forward.

“She would be so pissed. She hated this baby gate.”

Micheal stood just outside her reach and stared at her. Her opaque brown eyes stared forward. Her thin face growled as she strained to reach over the gate.

“In the head, Micheal. From the side is the easiest,” Jacob offered. “Hurry up, they are getting this back door open because someone broke the window.”

Micheal pulled a kitchen knife from his pocket and stood with the blade up. He stretched his right hand forward. Barbara grabbed the blade and pulled it from his grip. Micheal struggled to free the knife from Barbara’s hand as the creature growled and swung her arms. Blood trickled down her thin hands as he attempted to free the knife from her grip. She gripped the blade tighter. Blood traced dark lines down the chrome blade. Michael grabbed Barbara’s arm and she drew him closer to her open mouth. Michael let her arm go and stumbled back. He grabbed her arm again and released it.

“Are you going to stab her or dance with her,” Jacob commented. “She has my knife,” Michael replied.

“If she draws your blood you will be without a wife and a friend.” Jacob said then shoved Michael to the side.  He struck Barbara with a kitchen chair, digging a corner leg into the infected woman’s left shoulder. The weight of the chair melted quickly through the rotting muscle.  Barbara fell backward taking the chair with her. Jacob leapt over the baby gate and knelt on the chair.

Barbara pushed upward on the chair with her free right hand. Jacob set his feet on her left side and pushed back.

“Michael please…”

The back door opened with a crash. John and the other zombies stood for a moment then roared forward. Michael leapt over the gate. He stared at his wife trapped beneath the chair. Michael watched as Barbara seemed too care little about the chair in her shoulder and more about attempting to bite his brother Jacob.

Jacob leapt from the chair and grabbed the large living room couch. He pulled and pushed the furniture till it blocked the kitchen doorway. Michael knelt upon the chair and stared down at his wife.

“Twenty years, Barbara. Fifteen of those years locked in marital warfare. Now, look at us. Some creature staring at me from under a chair.”

“Christ, Micheal this isn’t that hard.” Jacob shouted. “This couch is not doing crap. They just knocked over the baby gate.”

“Kill her!” He shouted. “Brother, I am running really short of patience and time.”

Michael stepped from the chair and Barbara attempted to sit up. She lunged in his direction. Michael fell backward. Stood and pressed her to the floor with his boot. He pressed the knife into her soft flesh and waited for her to stop moving.”

“They are moving around the couch,” Jacob said.

Michael stood and faced the mob. Jacob handed him an aluminum bat. Michael swung at the closest zombie and connected with the bat.  The zombie stumbled to the side and knocked over a second.

A zombie pushed through the crowd.  He struck the couch and fell. The couch moved but it held the others back.

“Remember those… fun little movies we used to watch from this couch before we had monsters attacking us every moment of the day.  We were so lazy back then. Relaxing, watching stuff… doing nothing. Oh, and not killing our wives,” Jacob said.

Michael squelched when thin boney fingers dug into his left arm. The daggers had reached upward from the corner of the couch. The zombie dug it’s long, sharp nails further into Micheal’s arm. Michael twisted.  He grasp the bone-like hand with his right hand and pulled. Pain radiated up his arm and into his shoulder. The nails tore large cuts into his forearm as the muscles in zombie’s hand stretched. A second zombie pushed forward and reached toward Michael.  Jacob swung. He struck the zombie and the zombie collapsed.

Michael grasp his arm. Blood traced trails down his pale wrist. Something grabbed his left ankle and Michael froze. He looked down and shouted. “Jacob, she has my legs. “Barbara, her face unrecognizable had a hold of his right leg.

“Get her off my leg!!”

Jacob watched as Barbara sat motionless on the floor three feet from Michael. “She’s not on your leg. She is dead,” Jacob shot back.  “She’s not moving.”

Michael pulled the sharp fingers from his forearm.  He retrieved the bat from the floor.  He shoved the couch against the wall. Jerked his ankle from Barbara’s perceived grasp. Jacob grabbed Barbara’s blood soaked dress and pulled her away.

“Michael, you’re losing it,” Jacob stated. “Seriously thought I would be having the problems in this house.”

The couch slid upon the floor. The zombies began to filter through.

“Michael calm down,” Jacob said. “It’s fine.”

”It’s not fine!  This is NOT fine!”

“Take a breath… Barbara is dead. We have to figure out how to get out of this.”

“I felt her grab my ankles!  We have to get out of this house,” Michael said while scanning the front room.

The front door was on the other side of the room but it led to a certain death and the kitchen was a no go area. Behind the two men was the main bedroom.  A large queen-sized bed sat in the center of the room. A window in the front wall and a closet against the far wall.

”Maybe, we should hide in the closet.”  Michael smiled.

“Dude, not that.  Not now. Let’s block this doorway of the bedroom,” Jacob replied.

Both men lifted the large queen mattress from the bed and stuffed it into the doorway.

“Why did you not add a door to your bedroom,” Michael asked.

“We have no kids.  We don’t need it.” Jacob replied.

The men flipped up the frame and pushed it against the bedding.  Jacob grabbed a towel from the closet in the right rear of the room.

Michael stood with his back against the mattress and frame. Jacob tossed the towel at Michael and stood beside him.

“Wrap that up the best you can.  When we get out of here I will make you a proper dressing,” Jacob instructed.

From above Michael’s head a thin, rotten hand reached up and over the wall.  It ran its black goo covered hand over the side of Michael’s face. Michael stepped forward, turned and growled.  “I am so tired of you monsters touching me! Stop touching me!”

The wall built from bedding began to fall forward.  Jacob struggled to manage his end and Michael’s end fell. Zombies fell over the bed and tumbled into the room.  Jacob glared at Michael. Michael attempted to readjust the wall but the damage was done.

Jacob wrestled with the bed frame to keep the other pair out.  He watched as the two zombies cleared their heads and stared forward. A simple sniff of the air alerted the zombie to the men’s presence and it started to move forward.  The other zombie followed soon after.

Michael pointed the bat.  A zombie stopped after meeting the resistance created by the bat then continued forward.  The thin skin of the monster tore and gore began to cover the bat. The other zombie moved around to the left of the first one.  Jacob struggled to contain the other with the faltering mattress wall. The room constricted as the pair approached. One on the right and the other near the center of the room.

“The window, we can go out the window!” Jacob shouted.

“No way, it will attract more from outside. We will never make it through without being mauled,” Michael replied.

Jacob shoved the mattress a final time followed by Micheal. The men then peered out the window, into the darkness.

“I can’t see a damn thing, it’s still dark.”

“Smash it!” Jacob insisted. He approached the zombie in the center of the room with the bat. He swung and struck the creature in the chest. It heaved a breath, stood for a moment then continued forward. Jacob swung a second time hitting the creature’s shoulder. The bat fell. Jacob’s hands shook.

Michael tapped the window with his own bat putting a small hole in the center of the lower pain. A second tap shattered the rest of the glass. Michael pushed out the outside screen and stuck his head out the window. A pair of arms wrapped themself around Michael’s waist and he took in a panicked breath. Pulled from the window Michael turned and shoved Jacob into the opposite wall. Jacob tumbled into the wall and slid to the floor.

“Dude.. no!” Michael warned.

Jacob gasp then replied, “Ass… look.”

Michael turned to find a pair of swollen hands grabbing at the meal that was in the window for a moment.

“Damn…” Michael grumbled. “Frickn monsters. Five years Jacob! We have been in this crap five years. Monster invasion in New York City and now we’re are all in the soup. Brother…” He said to Jacob. “We are done.”

Micheal squared up in front of a zombie. He swung at his face and stuck the zombie. It’s face twisted, the zombie didn’t hesitate and stepped forward.

Jacob stood and prepared to attack the other zombie but his bat lay on the floor beside the creature.

Michael swung again and his zombie fell. He banged the gore-covered bat on the floor. Moved to face zombie two, Michael swung and the bat became twisted in the rubbery arms of the reaching zombie. Michael watched the bat cartwheel into the wall. The zombie’s arms fell to its side at the elbow. It moved forward as if it hadn’t just walked into an aluminum fan.

“What the hell, dude?” Jacob grumbled.

“Hey, you did it first.”

“Now what!”

“We go melee,” Michael said as his took a boxer stance.

“Like your cleric… what was it’s name Wisconsin. Remember that melee?” Jacob asked.

“This is not a remember D&D moment Jacob!” Michael warned, paused then laughed.

“Wisconsin was a good character name.”

“Yeah, in memory of the state. Now it is part of the Northeast territory.”

Michael struck another zombie with his fist. The zombie stared forward, as the right side of its head collapsed. The pain of the impact forcing Michael’s hand open and he finished the blow with a slap.

The zombie stumbled to the right, opposite direction of Michael’s blow. It crashed into the bedroom wall. Hitting it hard with it’s fragile face. The profile of the creature’s face collapsed. Leaving a soft, gooey center and blood spread upon the wall as it slid down.

Jacob swung next and missed. His fist skated over the zombie’s nose, breaking it easily. Jacob’s elbow followed and struck the zombie in the right eye. The zombie’s head fell backward. The rest of its body forward. Its rubbery arms flailed. Jacob and the zombie collided. The zombie’s head snapped forward. It’s right eye hid behind its boney socket. Its long grimy teeth struck Jacob in the shoulder. Jacob fell on his back. The zombie fell upon him but struck the hardwood floor with its forehead. The noise from the impact echoed through Jacob’s ears. The zombie skull cracked with the first blow. It shattered with the second. Blood sprayed the floor and covered half of Jacob’s face. Jacob wanted to move but his body didn’t. His arms and legs wanted to lay under the creature and think about this a moment. Jacob screamed at Michael as warm, retched smelling liquid, dripped upon his T-shirt and jeans. He tried to shove the zombie upward and right but the body didn’t move.

Michael lifted the body and moved it.

“Dammit Michael your not the only one that’s done with this crap. My god how much can I put up with. I’m done Michael!” Jacob replied.

“I can’t do this shit anymore. My wife died twice everyone else wants to eat me. I’m going to just stop fighting.”

Michael grabbed his brother and lifted him from the ground. “Stand up. We just gotten live.”

Jacob shoved Michael’s hands away but his knees sank. Michael grabbed Jacob before he fell. “Jacob don’t be an idiot, now stand on your feet!”

“I’m trying dude.”

Footsteps approached the bedroom door and the blockade. A zombie fell forward the moment it attempted to step through it. A second appeared, paused and fell.

“The closet…”

“Your closet is great and all.  Who knows what you did in there… you spent a lot of time in there growing up but I ain’t getting eaten hiding in a closet,” Michael spat.

Jacob smiled, “dude, if you only knew.”

“I do not want to know what you did in the closet, by yourself when you were alone. Change of subject.”

The two zombies, that had tumbled over the bedding blockade, began to stir. They stood upon the mattress. Attempted to move and fell. Three more stepped forward into the bedroom and approached the blockade. The lead zombie paused causing the second to stop suddenly and step to the left. The third slowed then stood and seemed to be listening.

“IQ test,” Michael said while watching the trio attempt to navigate the obstacle.

“Idiot zombies,” Jacob added. The closest zombie snapped at Jacob. Lunging from its prone position.

“F-U Teeth mother–“

“Let’s hide in the closet,” Michael interrupted.

Both men skirted past the fallen zombies and the mess on the floor. Jacob opened the faux walnut closet door. Inside, an arms length of women’s clothing.

“It’s her clothes,” Jacob said. The color in his face disappeared.

“We have to move them,” Michael began to pull handfuls of the clothing from the closet and toss them behind him while Jacob watched.

“No! Not the dresses! You’ll get them all dirty. They will!” Jacob screamed and attempted to stop Michael.

“Jacob stop!” Michael replied. Zombies crawled over the mattress and approached the two men. They were a foot from Jacob when Michael grabbed his brother and threw him into the closet. Jacob inhaled Sharon’s scent as the material overwhelmed him. Michael joined his brother inside the cramped, dark room. He attempted to close the closet door but realized that the door was blocked by all the clothing. Michael listened as the closet door behind them rattled. The prone zombies used the closet door to help them stand. Michael tried to close the door a second time with the same results.

“Jacob, can you pause your psychotic break and clear the floor so WE DON’T DIE!” Michael screamed. The zombie’s outside the closet clawed at the closed door and began toward the open door. Jacob recovered and shoved the clothing on out of the way. The door, free of debris, was jerked from Jacob’s hands. A zombie stepped forward and screamed. A guttural noise full of anger. Jacob felt hopeless as the creature lunged forward. Its hands raised, became trapped within the metal hangers that remained on the curtain rod. The zombie attempted to rip its hands from the trap but became more tangled. Jacob shoved clothing into the zombie. He pushed the creature and it tumbled backward. Jacob grabbed the closet door and closed it.

The closet smelled of mold. Horrible creatures amassed outside the fragile doors. Michael stood at the left door. He held onto a thin aluminum handle that was screwed into the faux wood with two small screws. He took in long breaths and waited for their unavoidable fate.

“We are screwed.” Michael said after a long while. Jacob did not reply. Michael knew Jacob was on the right side of the closet, but he couldn’t see anything. He could only hear him working on something. An occasional grunt then a crash that shook the entire closet.

“What the hell,” Michael shouted as light crept through the bottom of the closet.  Everything within the fragile shelter shuddered.

“I found it!”  Jacob shouted.

“You found what, you’re dolly?  Your teddy bear… you always break under pressure Jacob always.  Remember that morning we went hunting with dad and you had a perfect shot.  It was right there… you choked. Remember Joann your first girlfriend…”

Something grabbed Micheal by the throat and he gasp.  Seconds ticked by as the darkness took in deep breaths.  “Shut up Michael and listen to me,” Jacob said. “Your an adult and I’m an adult.  I know you are under stress and you lash out but personally I have had too much death and complaining.  Listen. I have a way out. I built a trap door in this closet when we were younger.. ie.. why I would hide in the closet for hours.  I wasn’t here. I was with Joann. Do you get it?”

Michael shook himself from Jacob’s grip.  “Dude, calm yourself. Fine.” He took a breath and continued.  “You’ve had this hole in the floor here all this time. We’ve been adults for 15 years, parents died, you bought the house and you never filled in the hole in the closet?”

“Michael are you coming or what?”

“Yes, dude… get over yourself with this new sense of self… hell.  How am I supposed to see anything?”

“Just head this way…” Jacob said followed by a curse.  “The hole is too small.”

“Right, size of a twelve year old?”  Michael snapped.

“Bend down here and pull up these planks,” Jacob instructed as both men tried to widen the hole within the floor of the closet.

Michael pulled up the first plank with significant effort tossed it to the side then a second.  The closet door opened and the smell of death stole away any sort of hope that the two men would make their escape without any trouble.

“Jacob, you are going to have to squeeze that tub of a body through that hole,” Micheal told him as he jerked on a closet rod. The clothes on the end of the metal rod tumbled into the darkness. The creature appeared within moments. Its shaded, murderous jaws chomped at the air. Micheal pushed the rod into the zombie’s face pushed it against the closet door. A second stepped into the darkness to reveal a perfect human face. It wasn’t gored or rotten. The only tell would be the blindness that cursed the creatures… if that was even a curse.

Michael stuck that creature in the face, right under the eye and it fell over the other.

“Micheal, I’m in let’s go,” Jacob shouted.

Michael dropped the curtain rod. He found Jacob’s hand and arm waving from below the closet floor. The hole was just wide enough to fit his thinning waistline but not without some huge difficulties. He sat, with his back to the zombies. Michael leap to the dirt floor then stopped. A sharp pain erupted under his right breast. He screamed, looked down but couldn’t see a thing.

“Jacob, something just stabbed me,” he grunted.

Jacob crawled on his hands and looked up. There was barely enough light to make out the shape of a thin nail stretching outward and into Michael’s chest.

“It’s a nail Michael,” Jacob told him.

“Pull it out.”

“I can’t it’s pointed up. You will have to lift yourself back up,” Jacob reply.

Michael growled and cursed and struggled to stand. The distance to the ground was barely as long as he was tall and the effort felt herculean. He pushed his palms into the floor of the closet and pushed. Inch by painful inch he had risen till he could go no further.

“You got to go higher,” Jacob said.

Michael grunted and pushed till he realized that their undead pursuers were close behind him. “Damnit… do something Jacob,” Michael shouted.

“Do what Michael! You need to push up!”

“They are coming and I have my back to them.”

“Push, Michael! Push!”

“I can’t. I got nothing.”

“Damn it,” Jacob cursed and crawled under Michael’s feet.

“Stand on my chest, damnit!” He ordered.

Michael struggled to find Jacob’s chest but stood upon his ribs once he did. Jacob grabbed Michael’s feet and pushed up. He waited till Michael cleared the nail then instructed Michael to hold while Jacob pushed the nail downward.

Jacob barely finished when Michael fell. It was more of a crash as feet and legs tumbled over Jacob’s chest and head.

Jacob woke up first, half buried in dirt and with his brother’s feet in his face. His face felt as if someone has superglued half of it together with rocks and other crap. He looked up at the bottom of the house. The jagged escape hole was covered in debris. Jacob could hear movement above the debris.

“Wake up, Michael.” Jacob said as he shoved his brother. “We made it. Wake the hell up!”

Jacob shoved Michael again. Michael growled.

“Get the hell up, you lazy, fat tart.”

Michael growled again and Jacob began to shake from the inside out.

“No… no.. no. Michael you stupid ass. You will get the hell up. You will not be dead. Get up!”

Jacob shoved Michael again. Michael stood on his hands and attempted to stand slamming his head upon the floor of the house. Jacob slid backward as fast as he could. Michael turned his head. His face pale and contorted in anger. Michael’s grey eyes turned to Jacob and he begin to crawl.

Charlie

The sun stood staring down from its mid-day perch. Larry walked across his small yard with a fishing pole on his shoulder and two smaller ones in his left hand. Erica, a blond explosion of energy bounded around him while Robert moped several feet behind both of them.

“Why do we have to do this again,” Robert said.

“Because I don’t get to take much time off anymore. This new job takes a lot out of me.”

“Are we going to catch Charlie today, Daddy?” Asked Erica as she raced ahead.

“I think we are, darling. Today is the day.”

“You say that every time, Dad.” Said Robert as he reluctantly took one of the smaller poles from his father.

“I say it everyday because one of these days I’m going to be right.” Larry smiled widely. He beamed down at his son and watched as his young daughter danced around the small pond behind his house.

Robert reluctantly threw out his line and waited impatiently. Something tugged on his pole bringing it inches from the water. Larry dropped his pole and grabbed Robert’s pole. They both pulled with everything they had till finally the fabled fish leapt from the pond.

“Oh my God, ” said Robert as he flashed a smile and watched. Larry quickly grabbed the fish and looked it over. Two long blue lines ran along the sides of the fish. Its remaining scales glistened in the sunlight. It was a beautiful beast. Larry unhooked the fish and threw it back in the water.

Several years later Larry Price sat staring at the telephone. He was wishing for it to ring. Wishing for someone to tell him where his daughter was. His life had taken a turn for the outrageous. He wife left him after 15 years. His son left with her and his daughter went missing three months ago. She would of been sixteen-years old today. She had been out fishing behind the house when she went missing. When Catherine, his wife, left Larry began drinking heavily. Erica took care of him dispite of her mother’s opinion on the matter. She left their only daughter in the hands of an irresponsible wreck of a man. “He should of been out there with her,” he thought as he downed the rest of glass of whiskey and filled it again.

Larry was still the authorities prime suspect for the disappearance. They approached Larry’s small trailer and opened the door. Larry looked at them and passed out. He woke up in a cell. The police had laid him out upon the small bed within it. Around 10 o’clock they woke him and lead him to an interrogation room. They interviewed him and screamed at him. They knew Larry had done something to his daughter. They assumed this downtrodden man would confess to everything but Larry was too lost in himself. Lost in grief he didn’t care what they did to him. He almost confessed when his son stepped in to declare his father innocent. Robert hired a lawyer and got his father released from custody. He drove him home and helped him into bed.
“Dad, ” Robert said sadly. “You need to straighten up. You almost confessed to murder. Are you that ready to give up on Erica?”
“I am,” Larry paused.
“You can’t give up on Erica,” Robert pleaded but Larry told him it was over.
Robert stayed for several more hours then left. Larry concluded, before he slept, that he would wake up in the morning and decide what to do to end his life.

Something crashed loudly outside Larry’s house. He woke up with a start and sat up in bed. He could clearly hear something moving through his yard. The likelihood of a stray dog in this neighborhood was extremely high so Larry ignored it and went back to sleep.

Morning came very early. A column of light burned Larry’s face as he laid in bed. He opened his eyes and realized glass from his bedroom window was thrown all over the end of his bed. The blanket, that served as a curtain, sat on the floor. The first thought to enter his mind was neighbor kids but it wasn’t likely. They avoided his house like the plague. He carefully moved his feet off the bed. He got up and carefully looked out the window.

Something had made a mess of his yard. It looked like an animal of some sort. Large claw marks under torn gray siding told him that. The ground was moist from a recent rain and Larry noticed a human-sized trail of mud leading to the marsh. It looked-as-if someone had been dragged. Larry got dressed and almost fell from his front door. Something had shoved his stairs from the door and it laid against his truck. Larry jumped from his trailer and pulled the stairs back under his door. Larry found the trail of mud beside his house and followed it till it disappeared into the pond.

Expecting to see a body Larry approached the water carefully. The pond was deeper then it looked. Larry had fallen in it several times over the years. Nothing stirred within the water. Larry stared into the mysterious pond for several more minutes when nothing showed up he left.

It was Sunday and God was waiting. Larry got dressed, left his house and slowly crept into his truck. He stared again at the pond and caught a glimpse of something swimming near the surface. A little bit of hope, and a slight smile surfaced. Charlie was back, he thought as his stepped out of his truck. He grabbed his fishing pole and worms and walked back to the pond.

Larry strung up the worm and cast the pole into the center of the pond. Immediately, Charlie took the bait and Larry braced himself against a tree. Charlie pulled. Larry pulled but neither would give. Larry pulled hard, conscious that he may snap the line. He was going to win this fight. Charlie pulled back and nearly tore the pole from Larry’s hands. His arthritis ached and his back screamed but Larry held his ground. There was little chance Charlie was getting away this time.

That was until Charlie leapt from the pond and Larry dropped the pole. It wasn’t the Charlie he’s seen years ago. It had a long cylindrical body and a large tail, fanned out like a peacock’s plume. It had a human head which disappeared behind a long crop of black hair. It reentered the pond and sank into its depths. Larry’s fishing pole began to slide toward the water. He grabbed the pole and walked around the biggest tree he could find. If he was going to lose his line it wouldn’t be without a fight.

He went around the tree three times. He held the pole as hard as the arthritis in his joints would let him. He waited and he waited but nothing pulled on the line. It sat limp in the water. Again life and hope drained from his face as he realized that his magnificent catch disappeared.

Larry left the pole lying against the tree, he hung his head and went to church.

Larry returned a couple hours later. He had started drinking after church and continued until dark. He woke up on the couch in the middle of the night because of a crash outside the house. He sat up slowly, his head full of marbles. He stood only to sit again. Another crash started him and then the distinctive sound of someone crushing his metal trash cans.

“Get out of here!” He shouted loudly the noise echoing between his ears. He stood and shuffled to the door. He opened the door and began to shout again but stopped. The beast from the pond sat upon his trash cans. Its long black hair covering its face.

“What the hell are you?” He asked not expecting it to respond. The beast flipped its black mane from its face to reveal someone familiar.

“Erica?”

The beast turned and sped back to the pond. It slithered like a snake holding a human, up and in its grasp. Larry stepped from his trailer and fell hard to the ground. He woke up late Monday morning with a welt over his left temple and dried blood pasted to his face.

“I saw Erica last night.” Larry said confidently as he stepped into work.

“I’m sure you did.” Laughed the foreman. A greased up, pig of a man. ” You were likely wasted again like you always are…” He laughed again. “…but your the best damn worker I got. I don’t know how you do it.”

“I’m sure I could answer that”, Larry thought but declined to sink back into his familiar stupor. He felt good today, even with the noticeable lump on his face. He happily fielded questions about it with a reply including he had found his daughter. Most were happy for him until he included what had happened to him last night.

Larry fought with the foreman to let him leave after eight hours. Larry hadn’t worked less then ten in 6 months. Finally, the foreman took him aside and asked if he was alright. “The men are all taking about you and this fish story of yours. They say you have finally lost your mind.”

“I haven’t lost my mind,” Larry said with a smile.

“My God, Lawrence I haven’t seen you smile so brightly in seven years. Why don’t you take a few days off.”

“I would be happy to.” Larry said confidently and left.

It was ten o’clock and dark as sin. The old headlights on his truck barely illuminated the road ahead but Larry was wide awake and more alert then he’d ever been.

The drive home went quickly. He passed the bar that he frequented every night and pulled the truck into his driveway. He scanned his yard like a kid at Christmas but didn’t see a thing. He had a super-bright flashlight in the back of his truck. He reached into the bed and found it. He turned it on and again scanned the yard. Still nothing but he shouted into the stale marsh air.

“Erica!”

He walked toward the pond. The bright yellow light encircling a small patch of the still water.

“Erica!”

Something stirred and Larry swept the light toward it. The beast crawled slowly from the right-side of the pond. Larry walked toward it a little too recklessly and it reared up like a frightened rattler.

It was too late when he realized that Erica was not in that beast. It was an animal like the feral dogs that roamed around the neighborhood. Larry stepped back slowly but the beast moved fast and grabbed his left arm. It pulled him closer and revealed a large set of predator teeth.

Desperate, Larry said the only thing that came to mind, “Erica, please. Please don’t kill me.”

The beast settled for a second and it lightened its grip. Larry saw for the slightest of that second his little girl glistening in the reflection of the beast’s black eyes. He recalled Christmas when she was four. Erica sat in front of the tree as he and Catherine watched smiling. She opened her presents with such innocence, such gleeful enthusiasm. The beast then dropped Larry hard upon the wet marsh ground. Several smaller circles of light danced around him. Larry knew what it was and what was coming. He stood quickly, but carefully and turned his back to the beast.

“Don’t you think about shooting this beast. I will haunt you for the rest of your damn lives if you kill it.”

Robert stood, pale-faced behind his flashlight watching the beast stand quietly behind his father. Two police officers stood on each side of him and one walked toward Larry and the beast. Larry turned to face the beast again and ducked a vicious swing from its long, sharp claws. The officer that approached took the blow and collapsed. The beast tore into the officer as his partner stood in shock. Robert fired the first shot which grazed the beasts head. The other officer fired the remaining shots and the beast fell upon its back. Larry stared at the beast. Two long blue lines traced the sides of the tail. He looked up upon the human body and realized it had changed. It’s hair was short, inches from the scalp, and it’s face was masculine. It had taken the officers life. It had taken his face. Grief erupted from every pore. Charlie had taken his daughter from him. Charlie had destroyed his life. Charlie had done the worse. Larry stared at his mud-covered knees and his worn-arthritic hands till a warmth struck his chest. He then collapsed and everything disappeared.

Larry woke up several days later. Tubes, in his nose, and machinery thumping along side him. Robert was sitting, asleep in a small hospital chair in the corner of the room. He thought about everything that had happened to him. He thought about Erica, Charlie and his life. He questioned his methods and why he had chosen this path. He realized that he had given his life to Charlie, a fantasy. A fish that took away his life. Charlie was now gone. Erica was gone but Robert was still here. Larry’s life wasn’t completely destroyed and he could still recover. It was time to start again.