The Ladies of Horror
by Lisa Vasquez
For thirty days and thirty nights there was no sunlight. Each night, families would gather close to one another as a precaution from the infection of despair. Despite taking every precaution, another soul would succumb to the havoc of the “Dark Existence” shattering the disquiet of twilight with a loud crack of a shotgun.
The ice melting and the sound of the water trickling foretold winter’s end. Soon, the colony would need to move, again. With spring around the corner, the anticipation of Mother Nature awakening was gone. In its place were memories of what lie beneath the freeze. The undead would soon reanimate. Their limbs no longer shackled in frozen restraints, they would be more hungry than before, and desperate to feed. A deadly combination. Those of us left would have to find another place to survive. If we could. Having to contend with harsh winters and sub-degree temperatures was dangerous enough but having the added peril of gnashing jaws was enough to break all optimism.
Staring out the window, I watched my breath hang in the air between myself and the glass pane. The light from the lantern was nothing more than a small glow. We had to be careful with the resources we had. With no electricity and no sunlight, living in darkness brought all the same eerie feelings as being a child in a black room. Only this time … the monsters were real.
“How long have you been awake?” Carlo asked from behind me. I smiled and closed my eyes to the sound of his morning voice. It was a gruff, deep baritone muffled by the layers of ratted blankets and makeshift pillows.
“About an hour or so,” I lied.
“Come back to bed.”
Patting the mattress, he peeked with one eye and offered a sleepy smile.
“The ice is melting.”
Silence hung between us for moments before I could hear him rolling out of the little warmth our setup afforded. He pulled his jeans on, and I could hear the jingling of his belt buckle as he bent over to pull his shirt on.
Nothing needed to be said, but there was still that awkward few minutes of wanting to say something – anything—to break the monotony of loss we always felt just before packing up. We knew better than to get attached to a new camp. It didn’t matter how homey or beautiful the landscape, we’d have to leave it behind. Eventually.
“Coffee?” he asked over his shoulder.
When he walked out of the room, I was left alone again to face the world outside. On the horizon, the sun began to fill the sky with light. Instead of basking in its magnificence, my heart began to race with urgency. Pulling myself from the hypnotic grasp of sunrise in a land left mostly untouched, even by the undead, I spun around and began stuffing everything I could into bags. Between Carlo and I, we could only carry two packs. The rest would be strapped to sleds.
The façade of warmth would be broken as soon as we stepped outside the doors of our abandoned shack. It was always cold no matter how many layers you wore, or how big the fire. Once you stepped into the elements of wind and ice, there was never enough warmth.
Never safe enough.
Carlo came back into the room. His eyes were red and swollen. I knew he’d been crying. Each appearance of the sun brought the names back to the foreground of our minds. Abel, Francis, Evan, Maryanne, Beatrice. All of them were gone. I stopped packing and stared at Carlo, knowing one of those sunrises meant one of us would be gone, too.
He held out the cup of coffee and I took it, looking away. There were seven bags, ready to go. The warmth of the cup sealed the reality, and the thick aroma rising from the brim of the cup was the last moment of peace we’d get before our life of chaos rolled back in.
We began strapping the bags to our bodies—all but one. Emotion was a bag too heavy to carry now. Looking up at Carlo, I could see he was carrying it for the both of us. Placing a hand on my growing belly, we stood there absorbing space and time until the first cry of the undead pierced the sky.
Fiction © Copyright Lisa Vasquez
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
More from Lisa Vasquez:
A plague has washed upon England’s shore, bringing death in its wake. While the sickness plucks the lives of the victims indiscriminately, something else moves in its shadows, using it as a cover. Victims without signs of infection have been brutally murdered and dismembered. Suspicions already surround the infamous Doctor Wulfe when his eccentric behavior takes a more sinister turn. His interest in the young Morrigan spirals into an unhealthy obsession. Angus manipulates her father, giving him hope of a cure in return for his daughter’s hand in marriage. But, when his bride-to-be awakens with an insatiable appetite, will she be forced to go through with the arrangement? Or will the plague save her from a deal made with a devil?
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