Marla and her brother have survived the apocalypse, but a new danger threatens.
|Written for "Invalid Item"
Prompt: Write a story, 1,000 words or less, based on a photo.
By Lisa McCourt Hollar
We always joked about the end of the world. I don’t think we thought we were indestructible, we just didn’t believe anyone would ever let it get that bad. In America, a photo of a man eating the face of a homeless man went viral. Zombie marathons and movies spiked, as well as books. I dressed as Zombie Santa for my company Christmas party. It was fun. I never really believed the dead would rise up. I never believed that humans could… would, become extinct.
“What are you doing, Marla?”
Marla looked up from the notebook. “Writing my memoirs.”
Taking the paper from his sister’s hands, David read what she’d written. “Who do you think is going to read this?” He asked.
“I don’t know,” Marla admitted. “Our descendants, aliens… maybe no one. It’s therapeutic.”
“It’s more therapeutic to put a bullet in one of their heads.”
“For you.” Tears filled Marla’s eyes. “I’m not like you. I’ve never been a fighter. I’d be one of them by now if it weren’t for you. And it’s not like I can talk to my shrink about it. You bashed his brains in.”
“It was either that or let him eat my sister,” David chuckled.
Marla started to laugh too and then covered her mouth. Her eyes widened. A moan filtered in from outside and the sound of shuffling feet approached the door. David took hold of her arm and pulled her behind some crates that were setting in the corner.
The door didn’t have a latch. The two watched from between the crates as it swung open and filled the room with sunlight. A man’s shape silhouetted in the frame and then shuffled in, limping. David fingered the knife that he’d pulled from his pocket, waiting for the creature to come closer. He tensed, ready to spring from their hiding place, when Marla grabbed his hand. He looked at her, startled and angry. How was he to protect her, if she held him back?
“Shhh,” Marla hissed, holding a finger to her lips. The man stopped, listening. David watched, curious. He was closer now and he could see that he was human. He carried a sword on his back and was covered with blood. He also smelled of death. He probably bathed in the blood of his kill, so he could walk unnoticed by the dead. David had tried that once, but Marla had balked at wearing entrails around her neck.
“I know you’re in here,” the man said. “I saw you come in yesterday… and that no one else has come or gone.”
David tightened his grip on the knife.
“I promise I won’t hurt you. I’m just looking for a place to stay for a few days. I hurt my leg and need somewhere safe. Maybe a little company.”
Marla held her breath. She heard the suggestion in his voice.
“It’s not like there are many places to hide.” He took a step towards the crates. He was smiling, but Marla saw the coldness behind his eyes. He was a killer and not one born of necessity. He enjoyed causing pain. David sprung up, knocking the barricade over. The man reached for his sword, but David was quicker. He buried his knife in the stranger’s neck before he could draw enough breath to scream.
Marla grabbed the pack from the man’s back, while David examined the sword. His eyes were lit with excitement. The weapon would be more effective when fighting the dead. He wouldn’t have to get as close as he did with a knife.
“Anything good,” he asked.
“Some canned beans and beef jerky. It looks like he may have raided a Monoprix.” She grinned then and pulled a King Sized Snickers out. “I’ll share.”
“You go ahead,” David said. “I’ve never had much of a sweet tooth.”
“You don’t suppose he had friends, do you?” Marla put her eye to a crack in the back wall. Outside a shopping cart lay on its side. A crow sat on top, its head tilted, like he was studying her. Beyond the crow, she could see the Eiffel Tower. She’d had a job working there over the summer… before the apocalypse. Her boss had been an ass. She’d almost laughed when one of the tourists had taken a bite out of his face with no warning. He was a fat American and didn’t look like a zombie. He’d been smiling, along with all the others, spending a lot of money and making crude jokes. Then someone had bumped into him and he’d fallen. Jean had helped him up, horrified by the amount of blood and probably already worrying about a law suit.
“Are you alright,” he had asked.
The tourist just looked at him. His eyes were funny. Marla was in the process of calling for an ambulance when the man lunged at Jean. Everyone started screaming then. It was chaos. Amid all the turmoil, others began joining into the cannibalism. The police came. A lot of people died, but order was restored.
“Probably drugs,” David had said that night. He’d never been fond of foreigners. Then those that were killed that day came stumbling from the morgue and the infection spread.
“Anyone out there?” David asked.
“No.” Marla took another bite of her candy bar and savored the chocolate. It may be peaceful for the moment, but David had spilled blood. The dead would eventually pick up on the scent. They had, maybe that night, and then they would have to move on.
Marla put her eye against the crack again. The crow was gone. Behind her she heard the door being pushed open. Turning, she was surprised to see the bird hop into the room. Then it changed, growing into a creature with horns.
Looking at the corpse, it chuckled. “Now I need to replace my pet. But I only need one of you for my purposes.”
Marla learned then there were worse things than the dead.
Word Count: 1,000