The Man on the Train

I stepped onto the deserted train as a lone passenger stepped off, a tall man in a trenchcoat.

Immediately the train lurched into motion and I nearly lost my balance. Hurriedly I sat down, then realized in my haste I’d inadvertently sat directly across from the only other passenger aboard.

No matter, my ride was short. But as the silver vessel carried us through the twisting tunnels of the underground I began to feel uneasy. The man was staring.

I shifted uncomfortably, and played with the cuffs of my coat. I looked up again. Still staring. I cleared my throat. But he did not look away.

This was getting awkward. Why? Why in this giant empty train did I have to sit down across from one of the creepy ones?

I stole a glance up from my lap again. Still the awful stare, eyes fixated straight ahead on me.

This was unbearable, I had to leave. Still five stops away from mine, I hurried off at the next, praying to God he wouldn’t follow. Thank God he didn’t.

The train pulled away and I sighed a breath of relief on the platform; never again. If I was going to come home from the city this late, from now on I’d take a cab. I didn’t want to get assaulted or murdered by some sicko.

The next morning I was horrified to find the man’s face on the front page of the newspaper. But my horror was even greater when I finally realized why he’d be staring. The headline screamed the truth at me from the page:

SERIAL KILLINGS CONTINUE, ANOTHER FOUND DEAD ON TRAIN

Water From The Well

“Sue! Goddammit Sue, where’s the water from the well?! Goddammit Sue! Godddammit!”

Sue had no legs. In what universe it made sense for her to be the one doing all the work, for her to be the one keeping his lazy ass alive, for her to do all the cooking, all the cleaning, all the chores around the farm, wheeling herself around in her wheelchair while he sat there on his fat ass on the porch swing, she did not know. And Sue did not know what she had done to deserve this.

“Sue! Goddammit Sue, where’s ma water?”

She hated him. She hated him and his soiled undershirt. She hated him and his rolls of fat. She hated him and his tobacco-stained teeth. She hated him for everything he was. For the way he treated her. For the way he’d treated her all these years, even before the accident had taken her legs.

Sue rolled her wheelchair up the uneven boards of the ramp to the porch. The boards wobbled and rattled beneath the wheels. The pail of water from the well sat in her lap, the numbing cold unfelt on her thighs, the contents sloshing unhappily as she propelled herself up the ramp toward the ungrateful bastard she was stuck with.

“Sue! Where’s ma goddamn water, Sue?! I’s thirsty!”

She finished coming up the ramp. She wheeled the chair up in front of the porch swing, right in front of him and his greasy stained undershirt. Right in front of his loathsome fatness and stink of cigarette smoke.

“Well, watcha waitin’ for, there?! Get me a damn glassa water, Sue!”

Sue stared into his eyes, focused and resolute, her rage smoldering inside her.

“You want some water?” she said coldly.

“Yeah, Sue, goddammit, I do!”

“Here’s your damn water.”

She grabbed the back of his head and plunged his face into the freezing cold liquid. He struggled but her arms were too strong for him. It was only when his thrashing ceased that she released her grip, and slowly, softly, began to cry.

Splish Splash

“Please, please let me go! I don’t want to die! Please!” I screamed at my captor. I wriggled on the broken tile of the bathroom floor in my cocoon of duct tape.

“God, shut up,” he said. He was busy fussing with the last yellow container.

He unscrewed the lid and poured the remaining clear liquid into the old claw-footed bathtub. I couldn’t see, but I could hear it filling the tub – glub glub glub out of the container splish splash splish splash into the basin.

“What…. what are you doing? What is all this?” I screamed through my tears.

Finished, he threw the empty container into the corner in frustration and glared down at me.

“I told you to shut up!” He was red-faced. “And it’s sulfuric acidic, you stupid bitch, strong enough to dissolve your goddamn whiny self, bones and all!”

“Oh Jesus!” I cried. “Please don’t kill me! You’re going to chop me up! You’re going to kill me and chop up my body and dissolve me in a bathtub?! Oh God!”

“Chop you up?” he laughed, bending down. He slid his arms under me and began to lift. “Don’t be ridiculous.”

Fifty Cal

Dishonorable discharge and murder in the first degree. I shot him right in the face with my .50 caliber handgun.

No else saw it. I’d known Tucker since basic and so I really knew him. No else saw how his eyes had gone all bloodshot, or how his movements had changed. I think he was the first on base.

It’s not going to be like in the movies. It’s going to be so much worse. I stole a mask from the infirmary. I didn’t let them take it off me, even after I shot Tucker and they wrestled me and the fifty cal to the ground. It’s airborne. This is all going to go down fast.

My little sidearm isn’t going to be enough anyway. There’s another .50 cal in the armory, an automatic. I know if I had that I could survive, on foot or behind a barricade. I just have to reach it first.

They’re getting sloppy. There’s only one watching me at a time now, and sometimes he leaves. So he didn’t see me smash the mirror the other day. And tomorrow when I pretend to be choking to death and he comes into the cell, I’ll slit his throat from ear to ear with the shard in my boot.

It doesn’t matter anyway, he’s already infected. They all are.

Vigilance

Hell of a long day it’d been. Jesus, those bastards. Those greedy, greedy bastards. I tries to be a God-fearin’ man, I tells ya, I do, but this world is just going to shit. Money makes the world go round, no matter how much righteousness a fella has in his heart. And this world’s gonna end because of it.

I tried to raise my son in the way he should go. “The End Times are a-comin’, son,” I told him. “That’s why we’s always gotta be ready.”

I’d take him down to the the cellar over the years, to show him all I’d prepared, right from the time he was little. Canned food to last a century. Reverse osmosis water filtration for the water collected from rain barrels. A generator and stockpile of diesel. Knives. Explosives. And the crown jewel, my old ought-six. “You’ve gotta be ready for anything,” I said, “and we’s ready.”

I had to work late in the city that day, real late for them greedy, greedy bastards. I met with the lawyer and they made me wear my black suit, the one I hate and only wear when someone’s died or getting hitched.

As I was coming back to the farm, the old Ford run clean outta of gas right at the end of the driveway, wouldn’t you know it. Figured it was a nice evening, might as well take a walk and enjoy the air. The lights was on in the house so I figured Clayton was already getting dinner ready. I lit a cigarette and walked along the edge of the fence, admirin’ all the barbed wire.

I stopped as there was a shadow by the fence. It was Clay.

“I buried you, Pop,” he said, raising the ought-six. “I buried you already. You told me to be ready and now I is.”

Zoonotic

“It’s my cat,” I said, holding it out toward the doctor. “She’s sick.”

“Um, alright,” the doctor replied . “If there’s a problem with your animal, ma’am, I recommend you take it to a veterinarian.”

“No, I mean it started with my cat, but she got me sick too. I can feel it.”

The doctor stared. “Okay,” he said skeptically, “could you describe your symptoms? There are very few diseases transmissible between cats and humans. You could have a bacterial infection, or cat-scratch fever, as it is colloquially called. Are you experiencing any fever or headache?”

“No, nothing like that.” This was getting frustrating. He just didn’t understand. “I’m dead, doctor. I’m rotting away inside. I’m dead and the disease is what’s keeping me moving around. I caught it from my cat! She died a year ago and has been reanimated by the virus since then. See, look! Look at her eyes! They’re all green! She’s dead!”

I pushed the cat into the doctor’s face so he could see, but he didn’t look. He wasn’t even looking.

“Ma’am, there’s nothing wrong with your animal. And if you aren’t experiencing any real physical symptoms, I would venture that perhaps you need a psychologist not a doctor.”

“I’M SICK!” I screamed in his face. “WHY WON’T YOU LISTEN?!” I could feel the virus rising inside me. I could feel my mind slipping. I felt myself losing control again. The hunger was rising.

“Nurse!” The doctor called.

“I’M SICK!!” I pounced on the doctor and bit into his neck, and the warmth of his blood rushing into my mouth was a sweet release.

Fire in the Hole

“I just can’t,” I said. “They’re still people.”

My companion chuckled in response, and stood up from the lawn chair he sat in. He walked over to the edge of the concrete balcony and stood next to me by the railing, looking out over the expanses of the wandering dead.

“Ah, but that’s where you’re wrong,” he said. “They’re not. They’re brainless monsters now. Stupid, lifeless pieces of meat that just happen to still walk. And eat. You can’t think of them that as people anymore. As who they used to be.”

I wasn’t sure about him. He seemed so unafraid. What if was some psychopath? Those people would hide it before the spread of the virus. Now they thrived.

He walked over to the cardboard box behind us and started rummaging around.

“What are you doing?”

He didn’t stop digging through the box or look back at me when he responded.

“You can’t tell me that you really still think of them as people after all that you two went through to get here, can you? You never beat the life out of one with a baseball bat, or took one of their heads off with a shovel?”

Having found what he was looking for, he stood up and walked back over to the balcony, holding it in his hand.

“No,” I said. “We just ran. And hid.”

“Well then,” he said, palming the object in his hand and holding it out to me. “It’s a damn good thing you found me here now then, isn’t it?”

It was a grenade.

“Is that… what are you doing?”

“I told you, they aren’t people. You can’t think of them that way anymore.” He pulled the pin with his teeth.

“Holy shit! Are you crazy? Don’t….”

“FIRE IN THE HOLE!!!” He yelled and hucked the grenade down into the masses of zombies below.

I covered my ears and ducked down. The sound of the explosion was immense, deafening. Over the railing I saw chunks of gore fly in the air and fall. The undead screamed. My companion had not moved, he only stood there laughing his hearty laugh.

“You see?” he said. “They aren’t people. The rules are different now, compadre. And it’s time to play by them.”

I stood. He reached behind his back and pulled the pistol from his belt. He pressed the grip into my hand, and it was as cold as death.

“Which is why if you know what’s what, you’ll go into the other room and shoot your daughter before it’s too late.”

The Immortal

I’m so tired. Every day I ponder why I choose to rise. I should just remain lying in the dust in these rags.

I am so old, and tired. I am a wrinkled prune, a desiccated bag of skin and bone and fat and muscle turning to dust. I am wrinkle upon wrinkle, and the parts of me that aren’t drying out and wrinkling are scars.

They add up over time. Cut after cut. A bump here, a bruise there, a laceration; what the practitioners of medicine will never tell you, and have never once told me, ever, over these thousands of years, is that when your body heals from an injury it is never quite the same as it was before.

I’ve shattered every bone in my body at one point or another. My femur, from the swing of a barbarian’s cudgel, so many hundreds of years ago in Gaul, while I was fighting for Caesar. My back, when fell from the roof of The Waldorf that New Year’s Eve in ’23. Both my collarbones (a mule and a jealous lover). Every finger of my right hand when they tortured me for being a heretic in Italy. Every finger of my left from the boxing match in Singapore.

I’m just so tired. I never thought I would be this way. Old, and broken, forever.

When he offered me eternal life, I’d just assumed he meant eternal youth as well.

The Girl with the Death Mask

I walked along the sand, scarcely feeling the scorching heat of the sun beat down upon my neck, upon my unprotected skin. I passed the cactus patch at the edge of the pueblo and wandered out deeper into the desert.

Far in the distance, I saw a shape, a tiny moving shape, low to the ground. As I came closer I saw it was a tiny person, and I could see their face was unnaturally white, even from the considerable distance I was away.

Coming closer I saw it was a little girl. The little girl was wearing a mask; a white mask, that of a skull, of death – the kind that the revelers wore during Dia de los Muertos. She was playing in the dirt and hunched over something.

“¿Qué estás haciendo, niña? Why do you play in the dirt?”

She stopped and stood up and looked back at me, wordless and resolute. I saw now that thing she had been hunched over and paying so much attention to was a human head, the severed head of a person, old and rotted and turning green.

She stared at me, emotionless through the disguise of the mask, with those cold, cold eyes. Her silence was evil and full of dire portent.

I stared at the shriveled face, and the little girl beside it, a demon, and my blood ran cold in my veins. She slowly began to walk toward me, her black eyes affixed upon mine, never breaking her stare from behind that bleached white mask.

I awoke in my bed from the night terror, to the sound of my own voice calling out into the dry emptiness of the bedroom. Far off on the horizon the sun was rising and casting the golden rays of morning through the hole in the stone wall that was the window. I rose, still shaking, and walked over to the basin, and splashed water on my face. My tired eyes looked back at me in the mirror.

What a strange dream. It was The Day of the Dead, and I had awoken with only fear and the knowing that something terrible was going to happen today.

The dream was a sign of ill omen. The girl in the skull mask had visited me so many nights these past few weeks leading up to this day. But what did it mean? Because each time it was only upon waking that I realized I recognized the shriveled head she hovered over, the object of her interest in the dry, unforgiving heat of the desert. The face of the severed rotting head was one I knew all too well – it was mine.