…And Nowhere to Go
By Alexander Santo
Mary Williams just wanted to go to a cocktail party, and was that so much to ask? It had taken her ages to get dressed and even though nothing got properly washed nowadays she had made herself look simply delectable. Her words. But instead she was stuck at the front window of the house staring at a horde of awful monsters. Mary Williams did not kid herself about their monstrous nature. Several of them were recognizable as her former neighbors. But, she told herself again, anything that wanted to suck spinal fluid out of her eye sockets was no longer given the privileged human title. And these slack mouthed horrors crowding her front lawn were certainly thirsty. They could see her clear enough through the window, but as long as she remained still and kept any movements slow they would only stand there gawping. Mary felt like a fish in a too-small bowl. Only instead of a kitten staring at her it was a dozen walking, gnashing corpses.
“And it’s New Year’s, too!” she said. “Isn’t it? A fat lot of fun 1927 was.”
“What’s that?” Mr. Williams came into the room, also dressed for a cocktail party. His young wife noted he had resigned himself to his own stash of whisky. He walked slowly across the large room and sipped the warm liquor. Mary held out her hand and waited until Mr. Williams surrendered the drink. If she was staying home on New Year’s Eve she wasn’t doing it sober.
“New Year’s,” she said. “And no one will know why we aren’t at the party. They’ll think we’ve been eaten or something.” She picked a thread from her chiffon dress and made a disgusted noise in the back of her throat.
“Well there’s no use complaining about it,” said Mr. Williams. “Unless you’d like to take the fire poker out there and see how many skulls you can pierce with it.”
Mary Williams huffed. “I should almost rather like to be eaten than miss that party. Can’t we make the girl go out there and distract them?”
“Hardly,” Mr. Williams said. He leaned forward and closed the curtains on the staring dead. Then he took the glass back from Mary and drained it.
Mary inhaled sharply then yelled, “Gina, bring the whisky bottle from the kitchen in here and get another glass!” She raised her eyebrows and nodded at her husband.
Mr. Williams ignored the gesture. “We’ve not paid her in three months. I don’t see why she still does everything we tell her to do.”
“We’re keeping her alive, aren’t we?” Mary said. “Oh, and I just realized, it’s good you shut the curtains. Her mother is out on the lawn again, drooling over everything.”
“It’s been a while. I’d have thought someone would have gotten her by now. That woman couldn’t move very nimbly in life and I can’t imagine death has treated her very kindly,” said Mr. Williams.
Gina entered through a small door bearing a tray. She was a jaundiced girl with light brown hair and she had a habit of avoiding Mrs. Williams’ eyes. She put the tray down on a small table and took the empty glass from Mr. Williams. As the girl poured two fingers of whisky into each glass Mary Williams kept her lips pursed and did not speak. When she received her drink she uttered a very quiet “Thank you, Gina,” and waited for the girl to disappear back through the small door.
Mary twitched the curtain open an inch and peeked out at Gina’s mother. The woman was still very large. Mrs. Williams wondered how it was possible to stay so fat when one’s only source of food was gray matter. Mary had never seen anyone with a fat brain, though she’d met some pretty lean ones. The Williams drank in silence for a few moments until Mary could stand it no longer and stamped her foot.
“Oh this isn’t fair! We’ve had a clear lawn for two weeks and the one night I’d like to go out they come and muck it all up,” she said.
“Their migration patterns are certainly random,” said Mr. Williams. “Did you hear Barry Johnson killed two of them yesterday morning? He used a broken picture frame to cut their heads off.”
“That man is insane,” said Mary. “If he’s at the party and I’m not I’ll just die.”
“Then let’s hope that’s not the case,” Mr. Williams said. He left the window and sat down on the couch, moving the gun on his belt out of the way. Mary made Mr. Williams wear the gun at all times. His presence alone did not comfort her as much as the little pistol did. While they slept it lay on the nightstand. Mary also kept a sharpened nail file under her pillow, though the most she’d done was threaten to scratch Gina with it.
“You do look nice, though,” Mr. Williams said.
“I know, and it’s completely wasted. Will you refill my glass, darling?”
“Sure thing.” Mr. Williams left the couch and went to the whisky bottle.
Outside, the groans of the dead became a chorus of guttural shrieks. Mary had gotten so used to the constant moaning over the past three months that it ceased to register as a nuisance. She had even admitted, only to herself, that the noise might even be helping her get to sleep at night. An increase in vocal excitement usually meant the living dead had found something edible.
“Oh! Slide the curtain!”
Mr. Williams set his drink down and opened the curtain, revealing the backsides of their deceased neighbors. They were very foul backsides, but of that Mary took only the slightest notice. She was more impressed with Gina, who stood in the street with, of all things, a corkscrew tied to the end of a billiard cue.
“What on earth is that girl doing?” Mr. Williams said.
“Maybe the sweet thing really is going to distract them so we can get to our party. I suppose she overhead me and thought—”
Mr. Williams waved away her words. “No, no, I think she’s trying to kill her mother.”
Mary came to the window. “Do you think so?” She put a hand on her husband’s arm and furrowed her brow. Indeed Gina was attempting to spike her mother’s corpse in the side of the head. However, other rotted persons were getting in the way and making this task difficult as they tried to gnaw their way toward Gina’s supple brain. Mary Williams wondered if anyone else had ever considered the girl’s brain a particularly supple organ. She thought it more likely that no one had thought much about Gina’s brain at all.
“Damn it,” said Mr. Williams. “I’m going to help her.”
“Oh I don’t think you should, Jim.”
“Don’t worry, Mary, I won’t go near the monsters. Or the corkscrew for that matter.” He took off his evening coat and unholstered the little pistol. Mary followed him to the front door.
“You better not get near them,” she warned.
Mr. Williams walked onto the small wooden porch, his pistol held at a right angle. “Gina!” he yelled. “Get back now, I’ve got this under control.” He aimed his pistol at the bloated corpse of Gina’s mother and closed one eye. He held his breath a moment and fired. The bullet struck an entirely different corpse in the leg. At the door, Mary wondered if she hadn’t better get her nail file. Meanwhile her husband fired again and again he missed. At the same time Gina lunged forward and sank her makeshift spear into her dead mother’s face. The girl fell to the lawn with the corpse, wailing pitifully.
“Gina!” Mr. Williams yelled. He hurried down the short steps and into the yard, firing his pistol in a rapid succession of blasts. He hit several of his targets, but none in the head. And the head was a very crucial point of entry for any flying lead hoping to put down a hungry corpse.
“Jim you get back in the house this instant!” Mary shouted. As a spectator she had the opportunity to count her husband’s shots and concluded his pistol to be empty.
However, Mr. Williams was too focused on Gina to be aware of this fact. The girl had disappeared beneath a pile of rotted bodies. The pitch and tenor of their moans had risen to a gluttonous roar. But not every monster was atop the girl. Others were focused on Mr. Williams. The man spun around and found himself mere feet from one particularly disturbing face. The teeth were black and the skin sagged off the skull like wet paper. He pointed his pistol at it and pulled the trigger. When the horrid face didn’t explode into a mist of blood Mr. Williams must have realized his error. Mary would never know. She watched blue-gray hands tear at her husband’s flesh.
A loud crack issued from the midst of the macabre scene and Mary Williams thought for a moment that perhaps her husband had indeed reserved one last shot. But she soon recognized the sound. It was Mr. Williams’ skull breaking open.
Mary Williams backed into the tiled entryway and closed the door. A jolt went through her when a corpse smashed itself against the front of the house and she quickly turned the lock with shaking fingers. Her breath came out in tearful shudders and her hands clutched the sides of her dress, wrinkling the scalloped chiffon. From beyond the door came horrible, wet noises, while behind her the house was oppressively silent.
Mary looked down at her disheveled clothing and for a moment could not remember what the occasion was.
Photo credit: nightkn8.deviantart.com