16 December 2010

"The Wedding Gift" #Fridayflash

Alison and I met by absolute chance while cowering in the same destitute FedEx truck almost a year ago. She looked so colorful in among the white parcels and brown boxes that I had to find out everything I could about her. Every so often she or I would run across another Normal, and we'd invite them back, but they rarely came. The last Normal to cross our threshold hung outside the attic window as a warning to any new thieves.

But he'd brought a blessing in his belongings: a simple solitaire diamond ring, and after Ali'd clobbered him and before I'd finally unloaded twin barrels of buckshot into him, we found some of our rations and this exquisite little ring. Well, I did. I pocketed it before she glanced up, pretending to take extreme intrigue in the double-knitted wool socks.

I wiggle my toes in those socks now and swallow hard. Can it possibly be called love, this thing we share? Enough to take her by the hand, get on one bended knee and profess eternity?

“Michael.” She comes in, closing the door with a smart snap behind her.

“They're coming. They've figured out that the bodies out front are a decoy.”

I snatch my boots up from beside the little fire and stomp my feet into them. “Pack what you can into that big bag, and I'll go have a look—“

“No Michael,” she says, slapping a hand over my arm. Her eyes are intense and 120% serious. “They're too close. If you go outside, you'll just give them something new to sniff out.”

The barricade, as she called it, is a cattle gate-style assembly of plywood and scrap-metal fencing, cultivating a virtual maze around the Victorian-style three-bedroom house. I know whose house it was, but my old fifth-grade teacher wouldn't need it now. She's probably still out there somewhere, chewing on the principal's face. She hasn't been in the population we've already taken down.

After weeks of fighting them off, we retreated into this house, building the fence as we could inside. I took it outside by armed escort. At night, we huddled up in the basement, the door locked and bolted with a gasoline-soaked rag crammed in the crack under the door.

They wander around top-side relentlessly, growling and chewing and occasionally attacking each other over a particularly-tasty morsel. They lap like dogs at oil-slicked puddles and meander off in packs of a dozen or more, one always assuming the alpha position of each little pod.

Ali and I were the last of the group of nine, as no one could handle the pressure as well as we could. Some shot themselves, wasting precious bullets, others were caught out after sunset gathering supplies. The sun slowed them down considerably, and heat seemed to infuriate them further.

“I was about to ask you something,” I say, snapping myself from reverie. She frowns at me, that delicate cleft in her sweet little chin deepening as her bottom lip rolls out and her cerulean eyes question me.

I take her hand in mine, slipping the ring on just as smooth as I've rehearsed it in my head, over and over. She snatches her hand away.

“What's this?”

“Be my wife,” I whisper, my hands hanging at my sides like counterweights in a grandfather clock's glass belly.

“Michael—“

“Before you object, keep in mind that I'm all you've got now. Unless there are more out there, somewhere.” I pant, the asthma kicking in as it hasn't since I quit smoking over six months ago.

“Michael, of course I will, but right now? You really want to think about marriage right now?”

I hand her her shotgun, together we load our weapons in silence. I pull her close, and her hand goes to my hair. We gaze into one another's eyes.

The door blows inward in a starburst radius of splinters. We don't look. We can't look. It's too hard to see the faces of those you used to know, coming to eat your flesh from your bones and make you just like them.

Not taking my eyes from hers, I position my shotgun under her chin, and hers under mine. Our lips meet tenderly, hesitantly, then fully as the dozens of the Others file into the room. Hairless and some missing limbs, eyes, noses and parts of ears, they sniff the air and lick their teeth in anticipation of something not dead.

“Now,” I say, breaking the kiss to pull the trigger, hoping she does the sa—



21 comments:

Christina said...

Brilliant. Well done. I love the choice to write in the present tense, and the abrupt ending is superb. Absolutely brilliant.

Marisa Birns said...

Love this! Works very well in 1st person POV and, of course, the ending is marvelous.

Darn them undead...

Draco Torre said...

Agree, abrupt ending works well here. The implications of what's happening while focusing on the relationship is wonderful, and fits perfect with the marriage proposal at an interesting moment. Good work.
-David G Shrock

Deb said...

Love in the midst of Zombies! I love it!

Jim_Wisneski said...

This is one of those Friday Flash stories that will be stuck in my brain FOREVER!

I love the story just sto-

;)

Jim

Kait Nolan said...

Holy crap. I did not see this coming. Well done.

Laura Eno said...

Great! I love how you weave the tale of what's going on amidst the love story. The ending rocked!

Eric J. Krause said...

Excellent story. I guess he got his marriage proposal off just in time. I wonder if they'll still be engaged in undeath?

Al Bruno III said...

Fantastic!

The ravening dead are the ultimate cockblockers...

windspirit-girl said...

LOVE the ending. The perfect time to think about marriage...Enjoyed this!

jdanetyler said...

This is EXCELLENT. I love the choked-off final line. A really well-done bit. Probably the best zombie story (unless they're NOT zombies, of course, but it's still a darned fine piece) I've ever read.

Fantastic work.

theothersideofdeanna said...

Wow! Super job Carrie, from first word to last. Bravo!

mazzz_in_Leeds said...

top stuff! Love the ending, it's abolutely perfect

Sam said...

Loveit! Love it! Love it! Really liked how the two characters met. I was just getting into it when it sto-

elizabethditty said...

This is really great, Carrie! Seriously, wonderful job. Great descriptions, great characters, great snapshot story. Very well done. :-)

Diandra said...

Really great writing. Loved every single word of it.

Jodi MacArthur said...

You've got it all in here, Carrie. The apocalypse, romance, marriage proposal, zombies and suicide. Your tight writing makes it all the more enticing. Awesome.

Wookies Girl said...

WOW look how many comments you got! *glee* This was awesome Carrie. The end was totally unexpected. Very good!

~Tim said...

Well done! But don't you hate all these comments that just

A Writer said...

Thank you all so very much. Quite flattering, you really are. I plan to rework the beginning. It was fun. And I didn't use the word 'zombie' once. @Eric - Of course they will. There's always the afterlife. Can't guarantee they'll be so cute then...
@~Tim - Sure d--

Harry said...

So rare these days for a marriage to last , "until death do we part."

Terrific Carrie!