I’ve had this horrible little story rattling around in my head for a few days. Someone reminded me today to make time to not leave these things as half notes. So here it is. It’s not very nice, but it was enough that I wanted to type it out.
I woke to see my brother Warren lunging at my face. He was Warren, but wrong, his eyes turned glassy and white. It happened so fast. I tried to scream and I must have passed out. I remember wondering where all the blood came from.
When I woke again, I was across the room. My old room.
Warren was still there, growling, gnawing at something on the bed. There was blood everywhere.
My mother had not changed the room since I was a young teen and I moved to the city with Dad. We had come home for Thanksgiving, that much I know, but the rest I can’t recall. Each time I try it’s like I never knew. No memory.
I moved slowly, expecting pain, but not feeling anything. I was now across the room, I must have manged to get away from my brother somehow and now I was sitting on the floor among my old dolls.
Looking around I could see old familiar faces. Sandy, my old stuffed panda was now black white and red with blood. Annabel, my baby-doll was on the floor. I hadn’t thought about them in years, but now they felt like companions. I was afraid in the way I used to get as a little girl.
I got up slowly and quietly, eyeing the door to my right while Warren appeared to be eating something noisily on the bed in front of me. As I turned, my elbow brushed an old china doll, Katya. I watched in slow motion as she smashed on the floor. So much noise.
Time sped up as I tried to hold my breath. With unnatural speed, Warren turned from the bed and appeared in front of my face. I felt as though my heart has stopped.
With those sickening white eyes, inches from my face…
With those sickening white eyes, inches from my face, Warren sniffed and groaned. I dared not move a muscle. His head tilted this way and that, too close. I expected him to stink, he was covered in gore from some raw material. He sniffed again, aggressively and I tried not to flinch.
I didn’t know why then, but he turned away. Edgy. Still with those blank eyes on me he returned to the bed. I could see now what he had been doing. A body lay there, open, half eaten. Warren’s meal.
He returned to the corpse and continued to tear it apart. With stiff limbs, I crept out the door, every second waiting for him to attack me on my way out. All those movies I had laughed at, jumped at in fright. All of those horror films we watched as teenagers. My own brother, eating a body on my bed.
Remembering how we crept down the stairs as kids, I stepped lightly, avoiding the creaks here and there. Someone was moving around downstairs, I hoped it might be Mom, but I had a feeling from the clumsy sounds that it was not.
As I looked down to the next step, I realised that not only was I trying to remember how it was to get down them silently, but that I felt smaller. Shorter that is. I put out a foot to take the last step and nearly shrieked. A black and white striped leg, a shiny black shoe, a petticoat of broderie anglaise. Not my usual jeans and boots.
The hall mirror had been smashed, so I couldn’t see why I was so oddly dressed. The shoes and tights reminded me of something, but it wouldn’t come to me.
The front door was open and Autumn leaves blew in. I didn’t feel cold. I suspected it was just shock.
As I was about to look outside, I heard a scuffling from the living room doorway. A long and bloodied arm clawed at the floorboards and then retracted to push up. Another person, not my Mom, was clinging to the door frame now. A woman. White eyed like Warren. Blood around her mouth and groaning. She stepped forward, sniffing the air. When she stepped fully into the hall, I realised she was holding something. A hand, wearing my mother’s ring. I ran.
Outside around the neighbourhood, there were strangers in the street. People I once new, transformed. I knew what this was. I had seen the movies. They turned awkwardly in my direction as I ran. My legs felt heavy and my arms were awkward. I felt like I should panic, but I couldn’t. A dumb clarity stuck to me as I pressed on.
Eventually I got to our local shops. Windows were broken. Cars left in the street. I wondered how long it was that I had been asleep. How could things have changed so quickly?
From what I had learned in comic books, I knew I should head to the hardware store. It’s what you do when this happens right?
My movements were attracting attention, but the creatures around me were slower. I just didn’t want them to get too close. I ducked into Carter’s Hardware and Home. Unfortunately Carter was there.
The man in the store was not the guy who fixed my Mom’s house though. He was thinner and just like the others outside. He turned when I walked in the door and growled at me. His eyes did not see me though. He head moving from side to side as he sniffed the air. Were they blind creatures now?
I’m sorry Mr Carter. To this day, I’m sorry. But I think it might have been better in the end.
Hearing others outside the door, I slipped the bolt and grabbed a shovel from a display. I’m sorry Mr Carter. To this day, I’m sorry. But I think it might have been better in the end.
I checked the rest of the store and the little flat above. Mr Carter was security conscious, I was lucky that he had grills on the windows and locks on the doors. I looked out of the window.
Beautiful Autumn afternoon light, in the small town where I spent my childhood. People I knew outside, clawing at each other, slowly gathering at my door. I stepped back just in case, but something stranger caught my eye.
I could see my reflection in the glass of the window. A round pale face of painted on freckles. Rose tinted lips on white-painted skin. Long eyelashes on a ball and socket. Ayesha.
I stepped shakily onto the landing where there was a mirror. I looked t the floor for a long time. Trying to delay what I thought I knew. I looked up finally and a doll, one metre high with lifelike hair looked back at me.
I blinked, and heard the shutter sound of my new eyelids snap closed and open. I looked down at my hands and saw pale wooden fingers. Articulated. Gently carved fingernails on each tip. My elbows creaked as I moved in the silence, I inspected one in the mirror, a socket and ball again. Ayesha.
Ayesha was the doll that gave me nightmares. A friendly Aunt bought her for me at Christmas when I was only a metre high myself. She as supposed to be amusing because she looked like me. But those glass brown eyes and that long real hair spooked me and I cried.
I hid her behind my other dolls and toys in my room for years. Not willing to sleep while she was watching. Now she was watching me again, from the mirror.
Something crashed in the shop below. They were coming.
That night I stayed still for so long, that I started to wonder about Ayesha and if I really existed at all. The creatures came. Falling over each other on the stairs. I hid as best I could in a wardrobe, but they found me.
They dragged my wooden body out into the room and sniffed and groaned and growled. Some dripped blood or worse onto my white dress, onto my white-painted cheeks. When I blinked their attention focused, so I stopped that too.
I waited through the night, in the dark. Listening to them move around the flat and the shop. things crashed and fell, nobody spoke. By morning, they had lost interest and I knew what I had to do.
I stood up when the building sounded empty and I checked to make sure I was alone. There was no point in fixing the front door, so I collected what I needed and took it all upstairs. I returned for some tools and before starting to work, I turned a radio on – white noise, as loud as it would go and left it running in the shop.
From the window upstairs I could see the odd creature come to check the radio noise and then emerge again, disinterested.
I took off my dress and petticoats, my tights and shoes and stood in front of the mirror, to see what I was made of.
I worked hard. I made lots of mistakes and I even had to re-attach one of my own wooden fingers. I made a doll. About a metre high and called him Jack.
He was rough and covered in splinters. But he had ball and socket joints and oddly shaped eyes, fingers and roughly carved feet. I dressed him in Mr Carter’s clothes.
I spent many weeks making dolls. Sometimes new creatures would appear in the flat, attracted by the louder noises of machines and hammer on nails. I’d stand still and they would leave.
Eventually I had four companions…
Eventually I had four companions. They got better as I made each one. Jack and Esther, Polly and Bo. I found paint and tried my best to give them friendly faces. They weren’t right, but they weren’t alive or dangerous either.
I propped them all on a trolley in the shop and started my journey through the living dead. Occasionally I had to stop completely, but mostly they left us alone.
I walked to the next town and looked for signs of life. It was hard to find other people. I left the trolley in the street and went to look at a kids clothing store, it was about time I was dressed in something other than my Halloween costume. I found jeans and struggled into to them and a sweater I liked, even though I didn’t feel the cold.
Outside I heard a scream, harrowing and frightened. I grabbed bat from a toy set and went to find out why. But I was too late.
The screams had turned to sobs and softened. Five creatures were kneeling around some poor soul. They fed noisily and didn’t even look up as I passed them. I felt powerless. In the body of a wooden child, I was too slow and awkward to help.
I took the handle of the trolley, ready to start the walk to the next town. Pulling it behind me, I felt it wobble and become harder to control. I hoped when I turned to check it that my idea might be right. I shut my glass eyes for a moment, making a small wish.
When I opened them, Jack sat up.