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(© E. Meeske)

Page 1

The gray Cat nestled on a branch of the fir tree. He was in a fenced back-yard of a moderately-sized People house, and it was night-time. There were Not-People in front of the house, and behind the fence as well. They made the odd noise they always made, but the fence was tall enough that they were hidden from view. They couldn’t even open the gate as People could. The Cat, on the other hand, could easily slip under a section of the fence and ran back to the colony of cats, the clowder, hidden in an undeveloped section of the sub-division, made up of ferals, and of those like him - those whose People had disappeared.  But he didn’t. He was held by curiosity, and by something more, to the real People who still were in the house, hostile as they were. He stretched and waited, his tail gently flicking at its end in tune with his thoughts.

The girl in the house was named Wednesday, and the house was hers. More specifically the house was her mother’s.  Her mother was a strong brown lady who had been falling more and more ill in the months leading up to the event.  She had abandoned an abusive husband and taken over the house from her brother, looking for a safe-haven on the other side of the metropolis where she‘d lived. Her daughter had come with her.

Wednesday was a thin light-skinned girl who acted as though she had her mother’s strength and her father’s size and temper. The house bore her stomping and slamming with the stoic indifference of the inanimate, while the more delicate machinery of modern life broke under her treatment. She had suffered some of the same abuse as her mother, although she never acknowledged it’s having happened to her mother. When she wasn’t blaming her mother for allowing it to have occurred she was trying to wheedle her mother into rejoining her father.

When the first hints of the Event came to people‘s notice, Wednesday was unalarmed.  She dismissed the texts from her friends as jokes, and responded in kind. and she even found the early newscasts her mother watched humorous. One day at work she had reported to her job at the local Super-Mart, ten minutes late but in her official red shirt, and finally saw one of the infected. In the morning hour traffic of the store, amongst elderly shoppers and fat young women pushing around strollers, a middle aged man blundered in, past the white-haired greeter. He wore a green jacket and filthy white sneakers, and dark red stains lay over the front of his dirty jeans as though he had upended a bowl of spaghetti in his lap. His face was blank and slack under a jet of unwashed brown hair, with eyes as expressionless as a doll, and yet all at once that dead face contorted, as his claw-like fingers reached into the stroller at the rear of Wednesday’s checkout lane.

"He doesn’t like strangers," said the fat blonde customer, shortly because of the man‘s shabby condition, but rather obliviously in light of the bloodstains.  The baby itself was crying, no doubt from the sheer odor of her new acquaintance. The man glanced at the woman, pulled the baby out of its perambulator, and bit ravenously into her side. The customer turned a mottled red and started to scream, washing out both the baby’s own shrieks and the assailant‘s chomping and sucking. It was a very young child; by the time one of the managers started punching the man a good quarter of the infant was simply gone, and she had all the liveliness of a frozen turkey. One of the man’s yellow teeth had fallen out, stuck in the flesh below her tiny nipple.  At that point Wednesday went into a faint.

Phone calls were made. Wednesday’s mother left work, picked her up, along with a huge amount of canned food and bottled water and sodas - money diverted from medical bills for a more pressing situation - and had gone home. She watched television about the event and cooked for herself and her daughter. She tried to get Wednesday to open up about her feelings. Wednesday hadn’t wanted to talk about it. She took a shower and felt a little better, then stared at herself in the mirror, spending a long time reapplying her make-up. Then she called her friends on her cell-phone, along with the boy she was dating. Her voice had the self-confidence of one who has a good piece of gossip to share. "It was crazy. He just ate the kid," she advised. "Like a hamburger," the boyfriend asked. She giggled.

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Genre:Living Dead
Type:Short story
Rating:6.5 / 10
Rated By:34 users
Comments: 2 users
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