Out of the Basement 11

“I’m leaving tomorrow, Tim.”

The last few days had been busy with work. Jason worked hard, pushing himself to get everything done so when he left he guilt wouldn’t weigh as heavy. Tim took his time. He wasn’t in any hurry for Jason to leave.

“I figured you were.”

The thought scared Tim and it was with effort that he retained his inscrutable expression.

“I think you’re set up pretty good here.”

“Sure. If you think so.”

Jason’s fingers drummed on the table.

“This how you want to leave it then?”

Tim shrugged, eyes fastening on a fly crawling on the wall. The bugs didn’t bother with him or Jason. Still, their presence never failed to fill him with ice.

“Alright.” Jason stood, slinging a backpack onto his shoulders. He paused, hoping Tim would say something. Jason sighed and said, “Well, it was good to know you kid. I hope we run into each other again. I hope you won’t be so angry with me anymore if we do.”

He chuckled without mirth, “I’m hoping for a lot of things.” He put a hand on Tim’s shoulder and was happy he didn’t cringe. “As long as the wifi is still working, I’ll send you emails whenever I can. Reply back to them would ya? Just a one liner. Even if is just to say ‘Fuck off,’ you know? So I know you’re alive?”

Still as stone, Tim offered no acknowledgment.

Jason’s eyes burned. He walked out, his boots clicking on the tile. Tim held his elbows. Tears gathered in his eyes. He tried. He tried so hard to hate Jason, but he couldn’t and to let him walk out believing he did wasn’t right. It was a coward’s move.

He got up, fast walked to the front door while peering out the slats of the barricaded windows. Jason wasn’t in sight. Panic clawed at his stomach. He pulled open the door, ready to charge out and yell Jason’s name and stopped, stunned, mouth open as wide as a barn door. Jason stood there, hands on his hips, smile stretching his lips, eyes shiny.

Jason said, “I knew you couldn’t stay mad at me.”

Tim laughed. It rolled out of him, beginning in his belly and echoing out into the silent street. The laugh was all teeth, shaking his body without control. Jason laughed with him and soon, they leaned onto each other, the laughter stealing their strength to stand. It felt good to laugh. Cleansing.

After the moment passed, Jason said with a thumb jerking over his shoulder, “Seriously though, I gotta go.”

Tim nodded, the thought of a smile touching his lips and said, “I know you do.”

“Cool.” Jason opened his arms, puppy look to his face, “You uh, wanna hug one out?”

Tim squinted, appraising Jason and nodded, “Sure.”

It was awkward, but it sealed their peace and Tim felt better for it.

Jason turned and Tim said, “I was only mad at you because I didn’t want to be alone. I still don’t.”

“Who the fuck does? Take care kid. Respond to my damn emails.”

***

It didn’t take long for Tim to miss Jason. The house echoed with emptiness broken by his soft footsteps and breathing. For no reason, fear would scurry down his spine like a spider. Crazy thoughts spun and when he caught them, they frightened him. He had no idea how to deal with them. What if the bugs were going to kill everyone and they just hadn’t gotten around to him yet? Why the hell were they doing what they were doing. This was real X-Files shit. There were billions of people on this planet. It would take them a while to get them all wouldn’t it? He imagined hairy legs in the shadows. Heard buzzing near his ears. Fucking Jason. Why’d he have to take off?

During the day, Tim played music as he roamed about the house and the garden. He did all the things his mother had pestered him to do, cleaning up the dishes, and putting everything in its place. Regret burned steadily.  He was sad about how angry he used to get when she would ask him to do such simple things. Most times, he was lying on the couch, iPod in one hand and the TV remote in the other. He wasn’t doing anything then, not really, but it really got under his skin when his mom would ask him to tidy up his room so she could vacuum it. Her voice needled him and tickled his rage. So many times he’d yelled at her. For what? Over something so simple as putting his clothes on the bed so she could vacuum the floor in his room. Now, she’s dead and he burned with shame. Sometimes, when he cleaned dishes in the sink, it would take him a minute or so to realize he was crying. The surprise would dry up his ducts and he couldn’t remember what he was thinking about that started him off.

Three days after Jason’s departure the loneliness kept him in bed, vacuous eyes blurred the ceiling as the sun slanted in, stretching shadows.

He considered venturing out, needing to do something, maybe see someone. Make a trip to some of his friend’s homes, to see if they made it, but the fear of finding his friends’ bloated bodies the home of hatching bugs dissuaded him. Besides, he wasn’t ready for it.

The moon’s indifferent light silvered the ground when Tim first left his property. He watched a few DVD’s on the TV and drank a bit of rum. His body buzzed with warmth and he decided it would be a good idea to take a trip to the convenience store and grab a nudie mag. Something with class, like Playboy. Maybe they had chips and soda so he could gorge and overload on sugar and salt. He giggled with excitement. He wished Jason was there to share it with. He had no idea he’d have to kill someone when he got there. If he did, he wouldn’t have left without his gun.

***

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Feast of the Dead!

Hello good people! 

Another excellent publisher will be including my zombie short story titled, Skipping School, in the upcoming Feast of the Dead Anthology by Source Point Press. They will be featuring this book on August 17th, 2013 at the ZOMBIE CON in Detroit. 

Click on the following link for details:

https://www.facebook.com/events/173233899503907/?fref=ts

It will be a great time. Be sure to check it out!

 

Out of the Basement Part 10

The personal nature of the narrative drew Tim from his fog. He focussed on the words. Equating his personal pain with Jason’s. To Tim, it wasn’t the same. Not the same at all. His family was dead. All of them, in the time it took to breathe, were gone. Now, he was digging their graves in the backyard and ruining the grass his father used to labor over with sweat on his brow and a disappointed shake of his head. A few days ago, or maybe even a week or more, the passage of time now blurred, Tim’s biggest worry had been his hairstyle or trying to be the cool guy so girls would notice him. Now, he found himself struggling with life itself. How could he go forward alone? How many Lyle’s were out there in the landscape of corpses with bugs gorging themselves on rotting meat? His brain spun, out of control. It drained him to listen to Jason. His head felt full of cotton and there was a buzz in his ears that reminded him of the hordes crawling over houses to get at the cringing people inside. Jason had a bad father. Tim had a great one who was now dead. The oblivion of death promised an end to this pain, a constant throb like a toothache no dentist could fix.

Jason said, “The defeat in her eyes, the realization my mom would rather be dead than to continue on stopped me. Who would protect her from him? We were two prisoners under a cruel guard. I resolved to get my mom to leave him. She never did. I failed her. I’m not going to tell you that killing yourself is wrong. It is a very personal choice. But death is permanent. The most permanent thing you could do. I think your family wouldn’t want you to quit. I’m pretty sure they would want you to live just like you wanted them to live. They loved you. To kill yourself because they are gone, I don’t know, it seems like you’d be breaking their hearts.”

The worm writhed into a hole. Tim said, “I need to go lie down.”

He walked into the house. It reeked of smoke. Down the hallway, bodies wrapped in curtains lay on the floor. His brother’s red Converse stuck out of the bottom. He settled on the couch and closed his eyes. His head hurt. A live wire seemed to thrum just behind his right eye. He slept.

***

His eyes popped open and Tim was disoriented at first. Where was he? What happened? The table lamp beside his head stung his eyes and burned a halo onto his retinas. The familiar surroundings soothed him. The living room. Movement in the kitchen and the scent of chicken jolted him into a sitting position. Dizziness. He got up too fast. After the room normalized, he stood and scuffed his way to the kitchen. He left muddy footprints on the carpet. He remembered digging holes. He remembered the one he dug from himself. Embarrassment burned in his face. Whatever had afflicted him at the graveside, unfinished grief, self pity, lifted from him with the veil of sleep. His stomach spoke to him. The food smelled delicious.

A plate of chicken, rice and carrots waited for him on the table. Jason jumped and almost dropped a dish when Tim appeared in the doorway.

“Jesus kid! Give an old man a heads up would ya?”
“Sorry. That for me?”

“Yeah. I had to eat without you. I was hungry and you were zonked.”

Tim said, “No problem. Thanks for dinner.”

He glanced over his shoulder. His family was no longer in the hallway.

“Did you-?”

“Bury them? Yeah, I did.”

Tim’s face crumpled and he fought to regain control of his features. He exhaled, a shaky breath that whistled through his lips.

He said, “Thanks. For everything.”

Jason waved it off. “Don’t worry about it. Eat. If you want, tomorrow, you can say something over them. It’s dark out now.”

“You’ll still be here?”

“Yeah. For a bit. I’m gonna make sure you’re set up before I go.”

“Okay. I’d like that. To say something, I mean, I probably should you know?”

Jason nodded.

Tim ate while Jason sipped on a beer. Ravenous, he emptied the plate in no time.

***

They took stock of their food. Tim’s mother bought groceries for a family of five so the fridge contained plenty of food. With just Tim in the home, he wouldn’t have to venture outside for a long time. With Jason’s help, Tim barricaded the windows on the first floor. Jason suggested they put light bulbs under the windows of the second floor. If people crept in, they would step on them and it should produce enough noise to alert Tim. The power worked and so did the wifi and phones. Tim called his aunt and uncles. No one answered. With his iPod, he texted friends from school. No one returned his texts. Were they all dead? Everyone?

Most of the TV stations were off the air. He couldn’t get any news of the outside world.

Tim said, “Nobody else is out there. Everyone is gone.”

Jason said, “No. People are scared is all. Circling the wagons, taking stock. At some point, people will reach out again. Remember Lyle?”

Tim snorted, “How could I forget?”

“There are good people out there. Like us. I just know it.”

Daylight snaked in through the barricaded windows. A line of golden light fell on Tim’s hand.

“I hope so.”

“Count on it. You just have to find them.”