This week’s challenge asked us to combine two pop culture properties into a story. I got The Stand and The Walking Dead. As always, sorry for my english and I hope you enjoy it.
No one should have to kill their own mother. No one should have to dig their thumbs into her eye sockets until they felt the mushiness inside. No one should have to squeeze her skull with such strength that it breaks and bursts like a spoiled melon. There were a lot of things that people shouldn’t be doing, things that shouldn’t be happening, but the times were different, and all the wrong things were being done all the time.
Brian woke up suddenly, not startled, not crying, not even sweating, just disappointed. Disappointed and sort of angry because the dream wouldn’t stop, everyday it would come, sometimes vivid as real life, sometimes a mere memory, but always present. “That thing wasn’t my mother,” he would mumble to himself, as if this mantra would somehow make the dream stop, but it had been 484 days and it clearly wasn’t working. He stood up slowly, his bones aching and his back stiff; this was to be another long day, walking from dawn until the last rays of sun disappeared. He was alone now and he could move faster, the downside being that he had to be extra careful out there, he could easily be outnumbered if they came, easily outgunned if regular people came.
He gathered his things quickly, took a drink from his bottle, a bite out of a piece of jerky he had looted from a store a few days back (looted was a nasty word, he had asked the owner if he could take it, seeing as the owner was an upper torso with one arm missing and biting intently at the stump; he thought he was okay with it), and was on his way.
Brian didn’t mind being alone on these long walks, he enjoyed the silence and was happy to only listen to his thoughts. He had been with two groups since the disease spread, the first one was the worst. A bunch of religious nuts and a couple of veterans who wouldn’t respectively shut up about how this was God’s punishment and how the war was even worse. Bullshit. There was nothing worse than this. All their Hallelujahs and Semper Fi’s amounted to nothing when they tried to sell him for 3 crates of food and two days of sex with some other group’s girls. The nerve on those guys.
A lot had happened since then, including a not-so-horrible period with the second group, but they too were gone. He had picked up the trail of the first group a few weeks ago and he suspected he was almost catching up to them. He didn’t know what he would do when he found them, but one thing was clear: the preacher had to pay. In Brian’s mind, he was the one responsible for everything bad that had happened to him, and although he was a little biased, he wasn’t really wrong. The thought of his patchy beard; his small, dark eyes; and his thin, long limbs infuriated Brian. He wasn’t one to anger quickly or to hold too many grudges, but when he began thinking about the preacher he had to make a mental effort to stop, since he closed his fists so hard that his nails always began to dig into his hands.
The overpass was empty, the wind was blowing in his face and it wasn’t dragging any sounds with it, good news. As was expected, both lanes were packed with cars; some in good condition, others almost torn completely apart, but all of them empty. No dead bodies were inside, no undead were inside. This didn’t surprise Brian that much, it probably meant some other group had come this way some time back and took it upon themselves to kill all the moving corpses inside the cars – and shoot the ones that weren’t moving, just in case – and burn them. He appreciated the labor these people were doing, but he couldn’t understand it. In this day and age, who the fuck thought about somebody else? Who would bother to do something for someone they didn’t know, someone that would probably rape every orifice in their body and kill them (not necessarily in that order) if they ever met face to face?
Anyway, here’s to you, he thought, as he took another sip of his bottle.
He had been walking for 11 hours, resting here and there where he found some shade or a spacious truck. He decided to walk for a little longer than usual, he was entering the city and it was always safer to sleep inside some house or shop instead of out in the open, where everyone could see you, and worst of all, smell you.
The first two houses he tried didn’t seem too safe, after all, the doors were missing and he was sure he saw a hand lying on the floor of the kitchen of the second one. The third house wasn’t as beat up, and luckily for him, it had a basement with a little rectangular window on the far wall. He had been in places like this before, and they were the best for spending the night; you could lock the basement door from inside and cover the window with anything you found lying around, plus, it was easy to hear if someone was walking on the upper floors. It had been weeks since he had seen another human being (alive, that is), so he didn’t worry too much about intruders; still, you never were safe enough. Non-human trespassers did worry him, but the basement was also a good place to remain unnoticed even to them.
After checking the upper stories and locking himself safely, he realized this wasn’t one of those basements used for storing old belongings, someone actually lived here. Judging from the smashed pictures on the floor and the posters on the walls he concluded that it probably belonged to a teenager, perhaps the older son, relegated here to make room for his younger siblings, or to have some more privacy. These things were all foreign to Brian, he was a teenager, but he didn’t come from a loving home, and right now he wasn’t exactly living the life of a typical teen, nobody was.
He kneeled down to look at one of the pictures, and realized he was right. A family of 5 smiled happily at him: two attractive parents, the basement-living son, and two young daughters, merely children but with beautiful faces that suggested these kids would probably break a lot of hearts when they grew up. Except they were probably dead now. This family reminded him of the second group he had traveled with, good people, caring and understanding, most of the time willing to listen to your stories or old regrets, and to share one last bite of food before sleeping. There was a family among them, two men and a young girl, and even though he wasn’t as close to them as he was to the other members of the group, he got to see and sort of experience what it was like to be part of a family. Those were the good days, the last good days he remembered. Like all good things, they quickly ended; one of the men of the loving family got the daughter of another man pregnant and things went downhill from there. One day Brian realized this group was becoming more and more like the first one, so he waited for the first chance and took off silently and never looked back.
As always, the dream came. Even though his mother was trying to bite his face off, he could still see a glimmer of life in her eyes. “You’re fooling yourself,” he thought, “those eyes were as dead as everything else in this world,” yet he didn’t believe that entirely. Maybe it was his undying paternal love, that part of us that always loves our parents despite the terrible deeds they may commit (like trying to chomp off half of your neck), or maybe it was just denial, the refusal to accept that his mother had died hours before she tried to kill him.
This time, the dream didn’t wake him. The noise did. He got up quickly and looked outside the window. He couldn’t see much at first, but then he made out a group of people cautiously entering the house in front, the one with no door. He thought they seemed familiar but… no no, it couldn’t be… according to his map, he was still four of five days behind them. All of his doubts were dispelled when he heard him. That grating, annoying voice that never tired of praising the lord, ordering the others to check out the house and find a room suitable for him. The preacher. As always, so full of himself, but with that deceiving charisma that snuck up on you like a snake and never let you realize that you were doing his will.
All of the ladies and one other man entered the house, while the others stayed outside and shared a quiet laugh. This was so typical of him, to ally himself with the strongest members of the group but never letting them doubt that he was in charge, while they pushed around the remaining members and used them as bait. Brian had been a part of this for a long, long time, and just the thought of him made him tremble with anger.
He waited until they were all inside, and then kept waiting for almost two more hours. Dawn was still some time away, and the only noises were those of the wind and the crickets. After he had quietly unlocked the basement door and exited it, he went to one of the rear windows and climbed out, always keeping the other house in sight. He walked very slowly towards it, always sticking to the lawn instead of the driveway, and, since it had no door, had no trouble getting inside.
All of the people inside were asleep. This didn’t surprise him, nobody took keeping watch seriously when they were inside a house. One of the marines was sitting in a stool in front of the kitchen bar, but he was fast asleep on it, his head buried in his arms. The rest of the group all slept in one room, the men on the beds, the women on the floor. A couple of them were naked, but this wasn’t unusual, the men all took turns with them. Brian was once used to this kind of depravity (though he gladly never had to take part in it), but now, after all this time, it disgusted him. He climbed the stairs step by step, and when he reached the upper floor he saw a half-open door amidst the rest that were closed. Someone was asleep inside, obviously the preacher, since he wasn’t with the rest downstairs. When Brian got closer, he could hear some soft, gurgling snores. Definitely the preacher.
Brian opened the door and saw him there, lying on the bed, half naked, with his arms and legs extended. He had waited so long for this moment, he didn’t even steadied himself to savor it. As soon as he recognized the man he crossed the room in two steps and jumped on top of him, his knees buried on the preacher’s chest. Before the older man could open his eyes, Brian had his hands around his throat and began squeezing. All the adrenaline inside him multiplied his strength and he felt his fingers burying inside the soft flesh. The preacher opened his eyes wide in terror, and opened his mouth to scream, but obviously no sound came out. Brian showed no emotion while he was choking the man, still feeling the anger well up inside him. But more than anger, he felt surprise, and a little bit of shock. He had always thought that when this moment came, it would all be harder; that regret would get the best of him and sap him of his strength and will, yet none of that happened. Why? He couldn’t tell. He wasn’t sure. After all, no one should have to kill their own father.