Mar 31, 2011

Looking for Escape

Nicholas staggered to the front door and immediately fell to the floor once inside. He noticed the carpet against his face, the wetness seeping into his shirt, and the searing pain in his stomach.

Grace saw him go down and hurried to his side. His eyelids flickered when she spoke to him. She put pressure on the wound in his back and then noticed the blood seeping into the carpet from his stomach.

She turned him onto his side and pressed her hands against the wounds in his stomach and back. He was still breathing and she prayed that he wouldn’t stop. The baby inside her kicked and she started to think about what she would do without him. What if she was alone when she went into labor. What if the monsters they were running from caught up with her.

Somehow, Nicholas could always make her believe that things would work out, and that they would be okay, but now he was laying in a pool of blood. She felt tears running down her face as she said, “Nicholas, please don’t leave me here alone.”


Nicholai had been formulating plans for escape and was beginning to wonder if waiting for the right opportunity was a waste of time. The thin man with the mask continued to stay two steps ahead of the Zombies, and Nicholai hoped he would be able to persuade the thin man to help him and Wendy do the same.

He hadn’t said anything to Wendy about his plans, not since making the ridiculous promise that he would help her escape. She slept in the van with him every night, and the other Zombies assumed that they were together. Wendy did not correct them.

Sometimes he wondered what it would have been like to meet Wendy when things were normal. Would she have been another girl at the office who thought he was creepy?

Because she was pretty, many of the male Zombies viewed her as a status symbol which Nicholai had because of his status in the Zombies. It made sense to them that a high ranking Zombie would have an attractive girl.

The first couple weeks after joining the Zombies, Wendy didn’t say much. Slowly, she began to seem more comfortable around Nicholai, and she began to talk. Nicholai didn’t mind, since this took the pressure off of him to fill up the silence between them.

He learned that she was in grad school and worked in a coffee shop, before things changed.

One day Nicholas asked her, “Did you have a boyfriend? Before, I mean.”

She hesitated. “I was with this one guy for a while,” she said, “We almost got married… but things didn’t work out?”

“What happened?” he said.

After a long pause she said, “We wanted different things.”

Feb 24, 2011


The weather was starting to cool that day. They were working the last of the state fairs and local festivals before going south for warmer weather. Nicholas had some time to kill before he had to work, so he watched the crowds.

High school boys strutted around in their varsity jackets, intent on impressing their girlfriend or their buddies. They went on the carnival rides and knocked over rigged milk bottles to win prizes for their girlfriends. One arm around their girl, the other arm used for casually eating chili dogs and cotton candy. Seeming confident and care free, Nicholas wondered what it was like to be them.

He always stayed behind the walls and tents erected to separate the customers from the living quarters of the sideshow performers.  Watching families with children, he wondered what it would have been like to have parents. All he knew of his family was that they left him at the hospital. He was never taken home. If he had once been wanted, it was before his face saw the light of day.

As Nicholas watched young couples laugh and flirt with each other, he wondered what it would be like if people were not afraid to touch you, as if his appearance were a disease that he would contaminate them with.

“People watching?” said Grace.

Nicholas shrugged.

“Will you walk with me?” she said.

They walked aimlessly and in silence for a few minutes. Grace had begun coming over to Nicholas’s trailer almost every night. They would watch a monster movie and stayed on their own end of the couch. Then he would walk her home. Nicholas found that her presence was somehow comfortable and disconcerting at the same time.

Once they had reached the edge of the camp she said, “Will you take your mask off?”

“Why would I do that?” said Nicholas.

“How else am I supposed to kiss you?” she said.

Nicholas stopped walking. Grace turned to look at him. He seemed to be searching for what to say.

“I don’t think you would want to,” he said finally.

“I do want to,” she said, looking at him intently.

“No,” he said.

“What do you think is going to happen?” she said.

“Why is it so important to see what I look like?” said Nicholas.

“I want to know that there’s a chance,” she said.

“A chance for what?” he said.

There was always gossip and rumors among the sideshow, and among the carnies they traveled with. Many people speculated about why Grace would spend so much time with Nicholas, especially when he seemed so indifferent to her.

Most assumed that she was using him, but from there the stories varied as much as the tellers. Some speculated that she was crazy, or just looking for some novelty in her sex life.

“Would you rather I left you alone?” she said.

Nicholas took her hand in his.

“I don’t want you to go,” he said.

Feb 10, 2011

Getting Out

It was early evening, almost twilight, and Wendy had not said a word since the end of the contest. Nicholai had tried talking to her, but he didn’t know if he was saying the right things. He never did very well with women, and he always said the wrong things.

He told her that he knew this was hard and that she was scared, but he asked her not to give up. He didn’t know if she heard him, or even knew who he was, not that she knew much about him anyway.

“What are you going to do to me,” she said, and turned her head to look at him.

“Nothing,” he said.

“Don’t I belong to you, or something?” she said.

He shrugged.

“What are they cooking?” she said. The smell of roasting meat was obvious.

“We have to eat them,” said Nicholai.

Her eyes widened. “I can’t,” she said.

“You have to,” he said, “Or they will make an example of you.”

“So let them,” she said.

“You don’t want them to do that,” said Nicholai.

She was crying now. Again, Nicholai didn’t know what to say. He wanted to comfort her, to make things better, but he felt helpless.

“If you go along with it,” said Nicholai, “I will get you out of here.”

She looked at him with her tear stained face. “What?” she said.

“I’ll get you out of here, but I need some time, and in the meantime, you need to stay alive. That’s your part of the deal,” he said.

Feb 3, 2011

New Zombies

Nicholai was sitting at the breakfast table when Damien said offhandedly, “I think we’ll have a co-ed contest tonight.” Nicholai felt his stomach tighten into knots.

The “contest” was how new Zombies were chosen and initiated. Normally, men were pitted against men, and women against women, but Wendy was the only woman who had not already survived the contest.

He’s doing this to punish me, thought Nicholai.

Those new to the group were rounded up and loaded into three vans. The other Zombies followed in a caravan of various vehicles ranging from vans to pickups to small sedans. They all arrived at an empty blue and white stadium, decorated with eagles, which had once been used for high school football.

The empty plastic bottles and paper cups littering the ground reminded Nicholai that things were once very different.

There were almost twenty new people, and Wendy was easy to pick out from the others. She was by far the smallest. Some of the men were easily a foot taller than her and probably twice her weight. When she turned and saw Nicholai she gave him a pleading look, but there was nothing he could do.

The rules of the contest were fairly simple. A pile of knives, baseball bats, crowbars, boards, and other simple weapons were placed in the middle of the field. Whoever was still alive at the end of the contest was allowed to become a Zombie. The contest ended when Damien said it ended, and all Zombies were required to watch. Those who refused or turned away would be punished.

Once the contest began, she managed to get her hands on a baseball bat and immediately knocked the nearest guy out cold. Wendy was fast, and she swung the bat like a champ. Also, the men seemed to ignore her at first, which she used to her advantage.

The weapons were soon covered with blood, and those still in the game had to navigate around the bodies of those who were not.

There were four left standing when the contest ended, and Wendy was one of them. Nicholai ran to her immediately. She was shaking and staring blankly ahead.

He eased the baseball bat out of her hands and led her to the bleachers where medics were waiting to tend to her injuries. She had a cut on her forehead and started holding her left arm, but otherwise seemed surprisingly intact.

All the medics all had medical training from before. The woman he brought Wendy to had been a nurse practitioner. Once Wendy was patched up, he led her to his van and drove her back to camp, instead of letter her ride with the other new Zombies.

The entire time, Wendy did not say a word, or show any indication that she recognized him. Nicholai dreaded telling her about the next steps in initiation.

Jan 27, 2011

Social Lives

After getting no answer from the hostile neighbor, Alex began racking his brain for who he could call.

The lack of names that came to mind seemed to indicate a lack of friends. On any normal day he would have reminded himself that getting close to people tended to end badly for him, and he tried not to get too close to the people he occasionally slept with.

Normally, work kept him busy enough not to notice this lack of personal relationships, but sitting in his empty house, he was forced to look at his life without distraction.

At least he stopped seeing his abusive ex… ex-whatever they had been. At first it was difficult not answering or returning the phone calls. Jeff made him feel wanted, at least for brief moments. Even during Jeff’s rages, Alex felt like at least he was being noticed.

The first night he met Janet at the support group, she gave him her number, telling him to call if he ever wanted to talk, or just needed some company. He had never taken her up on the offer, but now he tried to dial her number.

It didn’t go through, just like the office.

Alex wondered if he still had a phone book. After digging through a pile of unopened junk mail in the living room, he found the phone book, and looked for Janet’s name.

It was there, and with a full address.


When everything was normal, Nicholai worked in an office. He entered data into spreadsheets and completed forms which were sent to various people for approval. No one talked to him at work, and he was not invited to happy hours or other after work get togethers.

After work, he went home to his empty apartment and turned on the tv. He hated watching television, but he liked having it on. Often he would sit and flip through the channels for hours, never really watching anything.

Dinner was usually a heated frozen dinner.

He met Damien at work.

Jan 20, 2011

She Caught Him Watching Her

One day Grace caught Nicholas watching her practice her fire breathing routine. When their eyes met he looked down and walked away. Later the same day she found him sitting in front of his trailer, reading a paperback and smoking a cigarette.

“Hi,” she said. “My name’s Grace. I don’t think we’ve met.”

She’s flirting with me, thought Nicholas, I wonder what she wants.

He was polite but distant, not showing a hint of the interest which had caught her eye earlier.

“I noticed you were watching me practice,” she said.

He said nothing.

“What did you think?” she said.

After studying her face for a moment, he said, “You looked good.”

Her attempt at further conversation was met with polite but firm coldness.

Over the next few weeks she tried to start conversations with him, tried to make him laugh, but he remained distant. Finally, one day, she walked up to him and said, “Let me cook you dinner.”

He agreed but afterwards chastised himself. He hated eating in front of people and yet he had agreed to eat with this woman, this beautiful, funny woman who would not leave him in peace.

She made pasta with marinara sauce. He hated messy foods.
Eating very carefully, he took small bites and covered his mouth with a napkin while he chewed. The idea of drool or food escaping his mouth in front of her was mortifying.

“Is it okay?” she said.

He assured her that it was good. She suggested they watch a movie at which point they discovered they both liked classic monster movies.

Sitting on the couch next to her, all he could think about was wanting to touch her, running his fingers through her hair, or touching her face, but he remained on his side of the couch and did not reach out.

“What are you thinking?” she said.

“I always feel sorry for the monster in these movies,” he said.

“I cried the first time I read Frankenstein,” she said.

“Which part made you cry?” he said.

“When the family chases him off after he helped them,” she said. “I had to stop reading…  I did finish the book eventually.”

Jan 13, 2011

Out of the Ordinary

When Alex woke up that morning, he didn't notice anything out of the ordinary. He sat up on his bed and stared into space for a minute. Then he walked into the kitchen and started the coffee pot. As the coffee dripped into the pot, he looked out the window, which was slightly smudged and had a film of dust. He should really clean the windows soon.

Something seemed odd, but he couldn't put his finger on it.

Once the coffee pot was full enough, he poured himself a cup into a Darth Vader mug, and then replaced the pot to finish brewing. The rich coffee smell brought him further awake.

It was quiet. Was the neighborhood usually this quiet? It was early, that must be it. He want's usually up this early, but he hadn't been able to get back to sleep.

He took his steaming cup of coffee to his home office, set aside the mug which was one quarter full of cold coffee, and logged on to his computer. He started his email program to check his emails for work, but no new emails appeared. Server must be down, he thought. He had tried to convince his boss to switch service providers.

Alex picked up his cell phone and dialed the office. The call didn't go through. The phone had a signal, but after trying to dial the office three times, he gave up.

Odd that both would be down at the same time, he thought.

He wandered back into the kitchen. There were dishes in the sink and the coffee had finished brewing. Alex was struck once again by how quiet things were. He wanted to ask someone what was going on, or to have the reassurance of someone else agreeing that something was off this morning.

Maybe his neighbors were having similar problems. On one side was a middle aged couple who he never talked to. The guy always gave him semi hostile looks. On the other side was a woman in her mid thirties with a couple of young kids.

The woman always said hello to him and smiled when she saw him, so he decided to start with her. Now what was her name?

After checking his reflection in the bathroom mirror, and running his fingers through his long, dark hair, he ventured next door. He had decided to ask her if she was having problems with her phone too. That would be a good place to start.

There was no answer when he knocked, which was odd, since her car was parked out front. Maybe she got a ride somewhere, he thought, and then decided to try the hostile gentleman next door.

No answer.