As can often be seen at the start of films, TV shows, and books, this short story (possibly the beginnings of something longer) is "inspired" by true events. I hope you enjoy it. A huge thank you to my Shotgun Rider for that ideal and perfect description, just two words actually, but two words that I would never have conjured, which I used. Well, stole. With permission, of sorts. 🙂
***As can often be seen at the start of films, TV shows and books, this short story – possibly the beginnings of something a little longer – is “inspired by true events”.
I hope you enjoy reading it.
I must give a huge thank you to my Shotgun Rider for her ideal, perfect description, just two words actually, but two words that I would never have conjured forth, that I used. Well, stole, With her permission, of sorts. :)***
The sky, a sullen October grey, carries the threat of rain. Not of a deluge but merely of sufficient precipitation that I must hasten in my efforts at cutting the grass. Despite the looming rainfall, the afternoon is warm. Unseasonably. Uncomfortably. Unpleasantly warm.
The heat is bothersome and I relish the initial, tentative promises that escape from the sky and which soothe my aching skin. So delicate, so slight are these wet whispers that they are not worthy of being called drops. Even to label them droplets is a mightily bold claim.
I rest from labouring the ancient grass cutter up the incline of the lawn and I hit the kill switch. The engine dies and shudders to a halt, the furious roar it issued while in operation now quieted, replaced with a silence that is unnerving. Unhealthy. Glancing to my left, I am surprised to find Meghan is no longer there. Somehow she has left without my noticing her departure. In her absence, the coop is now cleaned but sits in silence. Although a construct of wood and of wire, joined by steel fastenings, it broods with a palpable and expectant menace. The hens have also deserted, returned to their dark perches to lurk in the shadows. On the ground lies the feed Meghan had thrown to the birds; great handfuls of yellow, cream and golden coloured corn sit as brightly coloured gems against the dark earth upon which they are scattered. Edible jewels, cast into the dirt, they await the missing flock to fuss and peck over them.
Removing my Carhartt cap, I wearily draw my forearm across my face, wiping sweat from my brow. As I do, I notice the hairs upon my arm. They are slick, bent back against their direction of growth, each fine hair darkened and stuck to my skin by my own perspiration. I replace the cap. The headband has cooled and feels damp and unwelcoming as it settles back onto my head. A ball of moisture rolls down my spine and I pull the old tee-shirt away from the small of my back. The faded and cracked logo of a long favoured band appears darkened where the tired fabric has adhered to my body. Air moves over my skin, welcome and cooling as it calms.
It is then that I sense it.
At first, I believe it to be a lock of my hair, disturbed when I removed my Carhartt, which now tickles lightly against my skin. I brush at it with my hand, idly flicking it away. The sensation repeats immediately; something is crawling up my neck. Heading for my ear.
I swipe frantically at the side of my face, striking hard where my jawline curves in toward my earlobe. My fingers glance off something, a shape, small and hard. It scurries quickly away, hurrying closer still to my ear. I feel for it. I pinch at it and both feel and hear as it cracks between my fingers. This close to my ear, its destruction is akin to thunderclaps, the noise shattering the silence that has shrouded over the afternoon’s dying.
But, worse than the noise, is the smell that the creature secretes as its carapace splits and spills. A foul stench, as waxy bitterness, assaults me. I collapse to my knees, my stomach heaving as the vile odour assails me. Vomit issues from me. It lands heavily, spoiling onto the freshly trimmed lawn and splashing among the guts of the grass cutting machine. I fall into darkness.
Soft rain awakes me. I know not how long I have lain on the grass. Looking at the sky, I see it is still the grey of dirty water in a bowl after the dishes have long been washed. I stagger to the house and climb the stairs to the bathroom. Shedding my soiled clothes, I stand under the shower-head and force the lever as far as it will allow. The water rushes hot and cascades over me, rinsing away the stain and the memory of the critter. I remain under the torrent until the tank in the loft empties of hot water.
From downstairs, I hear her, Meghan. She’s calling for me, searching. I know not why, but the music in her voice awakes such grief within me. I sob in desperate sorrow. Warm tears run down my face as, around me, the shower turns cold.
Shivering, I step from the tub, leaving traces of whatever the vile creature had been to swirl and disappear with the water that sluices away. The only evidence of its existence now cleansed and drowned in the soapy water that clings tenaciously to the plughole.
Towelling myself dry, I reach into the cabinet for a new deodorant, a gift from my daughter that very last Christmas. I spray the fragrant contents liberally, emptying the can. The scent hangs in a cloud around me as I pull a comb through my hair. Wiping the sweat of steam from the mirrored door, I peer at my reflection. I remove a small glass bottle from a shelf, unscrew the cap and dispense drops from it into my palm. I rub the amber liquid between my hands, warming the oil to release its fragrance. The smell of sandalwood teases at my nostrils while I massage the heady mixture through my beard.
But the stench remains. Insidious. Incessant. Inhuman.
It is later that evening at a family gathering that, though rested and with the recollection of the incident dimming in my mind, the first traces of the sickness appear. The light began to disappear from the world that very night. Then, scant months later, with the darkness continuing its spread across our nation, the first reports came from overseas.
It is then that I learn of my new name.
I am rebirthed. I am the last of what we once were. And I am the first of what we will become.
Fear me. As I do.
For I am Uno.