Authors: Marie F Crow
Tags: #Science Fiction
This is a Marie F Crow Book
Published by Marie F Crow Publishing
Copyright © 2013 by Marie F Crow
All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by electronic, mechanical or other means, known or hereafter invented, including xerography, photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, is forbidden without the written permission of the publisher, Marie F Crow Publishing, 205 Saint James Avenue, STE 2 #333, Goose Creek, SC 29445, USA
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Library of Congress Control Number: 2013915928
The following are exclusive trademark properties of Marie F Crow
Publishing: The Risen™, The Risen: Dawning™, The Hawthorn Angels™, G.R.I.T.™, The Risen: Margaret™, The Risen: Remnants™. These trademarks may not be used for any purpose without the written consent of Marie F Crow Publishing.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, images, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Book / E-book cover design: Darko Tomic
Manufactured in the United States of America
To the fans who have become friends,
And the friends who have become fans,
To the family that is somewhere in between,
And the husband who has been there through it all.
Sugar and Spice and Everything Dies Twice
Marie F Crow
“There are a thousand reasons why someone would take this way out. I only have one reason to keep going.”
nce upon a time, there was a perfect girl, with a perfect life, in a perfect world. Once upon a time, that was me. Now nothing is perfect and the fairy tales are finally back to the truth of their origins as “warning tales” for children.
I will throw it all away for love; a love that will be the death of me. In fact, if you are reading this, some person that I have yet to meet, I am most likely already dead. The only way a set of eyes other than my own will rest upon these words is if my eyes are closed to never open again. The way the world is headed, I hope they close soon. I hope they close for good and not to just reopen again later in a lighter shade and foreign to those that once knew me.
This isn’t just my story that I write. It’s all of ours; all of us that are still trying to survive. Those still trying to pick up the very little that is left for us. Those of us just trying to carry on. Even when we feel utterly alone we are all connected. Now, in this no longer perfect world, we are either trying to survive or we are already dead.
If by some slim chance that I am still alive should you read this, I hope I find you. I hope we meet and we can share your stories - not your stories of today, but your stories of yesterdays. I crave to hear your stories of blue skies and laughter. I want to hear a story of another time when our families were whole and our friends were close. A time before those same people became things we had to destroy and fear.
As I write this my daughter, Genny, and I are hiding in our home. The neighborhood has become a dangerous place. Things that shouldn’t be possible now surround us. I don’t understand any of it. I only pray that we survive each day. I pray that my daughter, who relies on me completely, never has to watch me die.
The noise on the porch that steals my attention from my journal is innocent. It’s a simple sound of a creaking board that a week ago I would have normally dismissed as settling. Never before would a wooden moan make my heart leap to my throat, but it does now. It leaps and lodges there, stalling in its beating pattern. My chest burns from forgetting to breathe and the heart beat that refuses to pump.
I close the notebook that I was writing in slowly as if the paper could betray my presence to the phantom sound. The glow from the gas lantern seems too bright. The room seems too silent. Everything is suspended as if it is straining to see if the noise will come again.
Tension is a breathing, living thing. Its coils are as cold as a python’s and its grasp is just as firm. Wrapping around you, it will block your breath and suffocate you. You can’t move. You can’t breathe. You just sit and wait for whatever is to come.
Genny stirs in her sleeping bag beside me with the invisible python in the room caressing her consciousness. Her eyes blink, attempting to shake the thin veil of slumber and reality before saying to me, “What is it?” Her voice seems over bearing with so much strained silence around us.
I shake my head with no real answers to give her. There could be nothing on the porch. It very well could be just the change of temperatures causing the wooden beams to moan or one of the many large rats that have appeared lately. It could be a stray pet looking for solace. It could be anything and that is what worries me.
Placing a finger over my lips, I crawl to the plywood-covered windows. Living on the coast, hurricane supplies are well stocked and stored at houses. I just never imaged having to install the boards on this side of the windows for safety. I left small slips of spaces between the boards when I placed them. I told Genny it was for sunlight, but it was honestly for what I am doing now.
The first peek is always the hardest. My mind substitutes the truth for imagined visions. I see in my mind the previous things I have seen with added horrors. The gore is darker. The colors are more vivid. The images are always borrowed from the truth and restyled with cruelty. Sometimes it is not even images at all. It’s the flashes of fears like the hand that swipes at you from under the bed or the eye that is staring back at you through a key hole. It is nothing whole, but just large enough to stroke your senses to panic.
I want the porch to be empty. I pray that it is empty. The lootings have become brutal in the surrounding areas. With just Genny and I here, we would be easy targets. Police have stopped responding to any emergency calls. The media slaughtered them with claims of excessive force when the first victims of the illness were found, so they stopped responding since they were unable to defend themselves from the attacks. If someone, or something, is on the porch then it is up to me to protect us.
Peering through the thin slice of space, I hold my breath to see if I see anything. Nothing moves around me. There is no creaking or moaning with any movements. No shadows that overcast any spot warning of any hidden dangers. I have to chuckle at myself. My paranoia seems to have gotten the best of me again. Turning to Genny, I smile letting her know that I don’t see anything. We both shrug nonchalantly but inside we are rejoicing.
I am halfway back to my previous spot on the living room floor when the sound comes again. It is mocking me. It pokes me with a stick dipped in dares that asks if I am brave enough to look again. I’m not, but I don’t have a choice.
There is nothing nonchalant about my daughter now. She is sitting up, her body wrapped with the same python I thought I had chased away. It is back and it is squeezing us even harder this time.
The moaning of the creaking sound becomes a pattern. It is a long drawn out high pitch sound before being followed by a quicker, shorter imitation. I know what and who it is.
“It’s okay.” I smile at Genny and try to convey the statement with my face. It might be okay, but what would cause my neighbor to be hiding on my porch at this hour? My mind draws blank but I keep my face hopeful and tell her, “It’s just Mr. Allen. I’ll go see what he wants.”
She nods her head with her eyes missing the conviction of my words. “Be careful,” She whispers to me. “He could be sick.”
I want to reassure her with feelings that I don’t possess. I tell her, “He is probably just checking on us. Doing his nightly rounds.”
She nods her head again, but she doesn’t buy the pep talk.
The deadbolt is as loud as a rifle firing into the night. I cringe, a little startled by the unexpected level of it. Mr. Allen, the forced retired town sheriff, sits in a white rocking chair on my porch. The chairs are just out of sight of the peephole which is why I didn’t see him when I first looked. He is dressed in his normal blue jeans and white cotton tee-shirt that I have become accustomed to seeing him wear. The salt and pepper coloring of his hair catches the moonlight as he passes in and out of the shadows with his rocking motion.
He may have given up the uniform, but he can’t shake the years of shouldered responsibilities he once had. Instead of watching over the town, he now watches over our neighborhood and we are all grateful. We have been assured that this will all pass, but until then he has sworn to do his best to keep us all safe.
With that in mind, it is not uncommon to find him on my porch at odd hours. My house is the last of his patrol and the rockers call to him he once said. It is my hope that his added presence only helps to sway any vandals not to pick my house. Normally though, he does knock first.
“Hey Allen,” I call to him, “how did the patrol go?”
He doesn’t answer me. He is staring out into the street as if his mind is a thousand miles away. He continues to rock, a steady motion of the back and forth of the chair in the shadowed corner of the porch with the wood mocking the motion.
“Allen?” I call again. My voice is unsteady from the unnatural behavior from the man that I know as a friend. Allen is normally upbeat and cheerful if not a borderline smartass. When many officers of the law become jaded with the abuse from the public, Allen found it amusing. He tells stories of his days with a smile and laugh about indignant speeders or the erratic drunks before finally revealing what over-glorified town member it was. With small town living, there are plenty of over-glorified townsfolk to go around.
“Hey, Allen…” I close the door hoping the wooden barrier will protect Genny. My nerves are jostled with his silence and I have no doubt that she is already watching from the window.
He says something but his voice is so soft that I am unsure if he even spoke. “I killed them.” He says a little louder this time.
“What are you talking about?” My voice matches his pitch and our whispered conversation continues.
“All five. I killed all five. Vivie was still in her plaid school uniform.” Allen continues to talk but I don’t know this man in front of me. I don’t know this empty shell sitting on my porch. His face is blank and grief-filled at the same time.
“I knocked like always.” His foreign voice tells me. “They didn’t answer and I was worried with so much bad stuff going on these days. I opened the door and I announced myself before I went in. I didn’t want to scare them if it was just a case of everyone being in bed so I called out a few more times standing in that fancy sitting room of theirs. No one answered. It was like the whole house was just empty.”
“But it wasn’t.” I offered for him.
He nods, cementing the information we both know. “But it wasn’t.”
I sigh, remembering well that “fancy sitting room” of theirs. The Jardens are – were - one of the most lavish families in our neighborhood. They were what we all wanted to be. They had bought a modest home and styled it well; very well. Their five-year-old daughter, Vivie, was just as perfect with bouncing curls to match. Their two boys were spoiled brats, but Vivie made up for the headaches the boys caused.
“They came down the stairs one-by-one and you could tell something just wasn’t right. They were looking right at me, but it wasn’t right. What Vivie was dragging behind her though, that wasn’t right at all.” Allen hasn’t looked to me this whole speech, but he does now. He looks right at me and his eyes shine with the fear his voice is masking. “She had that damn cat by the tail but there was no longer any cat. All she had in that small hand was its bleeding tail that she dragged down the stairs behind her. It bounced on every step she took.”
The picture he paints for my mind drops my jaw. “They were sick?”
He turns his head away from me again with my question. He nods as he takes a ragged, deep breath before continuing. “I’ve seen the news; just like you have. You’ve seen what they can do when sick like that. I told them to stop. I told them, Beth. They just kept coming. I shot the Jardens with Vivie still in that damn school uniform. Still in that damn Catholic school uniform.”
The night is silent. Even the bugs have hushed their songs to listen or to hide with shame. There is nothing that I can say to him to help with his grief. I have nothing to encase the emotions that I’m feeling. I look to where I know Genny is sitting and listening to us. I know my daughter is feeling the same grief that we are.
“I did what I had to.” I look to him when I hear his voice again. He says, “I had to.” He is no longer talking to me now. He is trying to fight the demons inside him that stalk him over his actions “…but it still wasn’t right. It still wasn’t right, Beth.”
I missed the main thread of this conversation when it started. I thought he was here to share his horror, but he is here to confess his sins. I never saw the gun until he placed it in his mouth. His head exploded with the sound of the shot. The roof of his skull completely disappeared in a spray of blood and thicker things against my wall. The sound echoed around me but I can’t make a sound as I watch the speckled spots that become long red lines running down the wall behind him.
My mouth hangs wide with the empty choking of my shock, but the night is not quiet. Genny is screaming. She screams with each breath that fuels her terror. She screams as Allen’s body still rocks in the chair; a slow pendulum of a headless nightmare.