Friday, 13 December 2013

The Cleansing Fire

I bury my face in her shirt, sobbing. Her scent insinuates itself into my tingling nostrils and draws me toward her, even now. I resist the siren call of her screams and let the crumpled garment drop from my useless fingers into the flames. And I step off to join it.
It had all started so easy; a trip to the pharmacy to replace her dwindling supply of meds. A quick in and out; no more dangerous that the monthly trip to forage for food.
I’d nailed the door shut and slid a note ringed with kisses under the weathered oak. I’d shrugged to adjust the familiar weight of my ballistic vest and checked that I was locked and loaded before dropping down the hatch and crawling out to meet the watery, winter dawn.
It had all gone to hell. Newly blocked streets had made for massive detours and delays. By the time I had all the drugs, I was running dangerously late. Lengthening shadows swarmed across every street, growing fast as the sun fled, phantom fingers reaching to pull me into the dark.
In movies in the old days, how many times did you shout at someone who got into a car in the dark without first checking the back seats? What can I say? I was in a rush to get back to her – and more than a little spooked by then. Hey! It’s not like they would steal the car. They don’t drive.
I jumped in and gunned the engine. The roar of the unsilenced V8 echoed off the concrete.
I felt a hand grab at my shoulder and threw myself flat on the bench seat. The hand scrabbled for a hold before falling away. I swung the shortened twelve gauge on its strap and fired blindly through the seat.
I rolled out onto the road, and lay there, ears ringing and hands shaking from my narrow escape, gulping for suddenly scarce air. No injuries.
Jumping to my feet I snatched open the rear door to clear away the remains of my stowaway. I should have grabbed another car, but the old sedan had been hers in happier days and I wanted to hang onto it. I dragged the shredded body out onto the road. As I turned to get back in the front, the body heaved and snatched my leg. I kicked out and, as I wrenched away, I felt nails scratch down my leg as my Levis rode up above my boots.
The body jerked across the asphalt like a gaffed fish being landed and lay still – for now. I fishtailed away and took three tries to get the flame near enough to my Camel to light it.
The tingling in my calf started almost straight away. I rubbed it hard with the side of my boot, hoping it was just an adrenaline twitch. By halfway home, my whole leg was burning and the other was tingling. I figured I had a couple of hours at best. I needed a plan.
I skid to a halt on our drive and fall out of the car. My whole body feels like it has been flensed and dipped in salt. My legs are numb and I move now with their characteristic shamble. My neck tingles. I can sense her presence.
Inside, I call “Honey, I’m home!” Like always.  
“Quick, out the window, my husband’s here!” comes her accustomed reply.
After bumping legs that no longer belong to me up the stairs, I lean my head against her door.
“Baby. Listen carefully. We’ve got a problem.” My tongue tingles and I feel like my mouth is full of dry crackers. I hear her wheelchair cross towards the door.
“What’s happened?”
“One of them’s here. In the house. No. I’ll kill it. Remember, you’ve got a revolver on the dresser. Love you Babe...”
The flames from the paraffin splashed about the lobby crackles and flickers, consuming the stairs. The smoke swirls, dancing with me, beckoning me to destroy the thing that will surely kill her if I wait. I grab blindly at the laundry pile. I bury my face in her shirt, sobbing.

700 words

This story was the winner of Jeff Tsuruoka's Midweek Blues Buster #39 and was inspired by this week's song 'Heavy in your Arms' by Florence and the Machine

Judge Jenn Monty said:-
First Place goes to @nickjohns999 – ZOMBIES! very creative and unexpected while still fitting the song perfectly. The descriptions of the disease spreading through the MC were excellent. Great job. And I just want to add – always double tap!


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks MK! This one got away from me and went somewhere unexpected :-)

  2. Heavy is the word, so sad for them...

    1. Thanks Lisa - some great tales for this tune!