Tyler looked at the blood on his hands. It was drying and flaking, like a layer of baked mud. He thought about removing his wedding ring and putting it in his pocket or shoe, but decided against that. He’d simply have to trust fate to work it out. “Why the hell couldn’t they just let me go out alone?” he muttered.
A bloodstained Louisville Slugger dropped from his right hand. It clanked to the floor.
“You don’t really expect everyone to stay down here until we all starve to death doyou?”
“No,of course not,” the older man blurted out, “but there’s no way that’s gonna happen Tyler.”
“Are you insane? Are you blind? Cynthia looks like a fucking concentration camp victim!”
Tyler’s face contorted in anger as he pointed. “Daniel is so weak he only stands up every six or seven hours. The way this is going, everyone will waste away in a matter of days!”
“We just need to wait for the rescue Tyler, that’s all. Lyn would have wanted you-,” before he could finish Tyler snatched the bat near the barricaded door. For a moment, there was silence.
“You don’t know jack about her,” Tyler said in a quiet, intense tone, “You don’t know us and you don’t speak about her at all. Do you understand?” Tyler could feel the eyes in the room weighing on him. They were waiting. He exhaled slowly.
Tyler began trying to rub the dried blood off his hands and forearms. He spat on himself to moisten his skin and pulled off his shirt to scrub with. “I just want to be clean,” he begged, “just, for God’s sake, let me be clean right now.”
After his hands were mostly clean he made sure his wedding band was spotless. For some reason, he thought about taking off his shoes. He decided it was safer not to. He tossed his bloody shirt to the floor. He hoped he was ready.
“Okay, look, you don’t want to go out there, but I’m not staying in here.” Tyler yelled and waived the bat while speaking, “Okay? I don’t want to starve to death. There’s no cure for that.”
“We don’t-” the older man began.
“I will not! This idea of yours is crazy! You’ll get yourself killed, infected, and you’ll lead them all back to us. Nothing will bring your wife and daughter back!” As soon as the words left his mouth the old man regretted them.
Tyler lunged toward him, raising the bat into the air. With one fluid stroke, a half starved, feeble, and broken body collapsed to the floor. Immediately Daniel jumped to his feet, his lethargy shaken off by an instinct to keep Tyler inside, to stay alive. Tim, the fourth member of the group, soon followed.
Despite Daniel’s unexpected celerity, his formerly ample muscles were failing and his attempt at blocking the bat only gave him a broken arm and a sharp pain in his ribs. Tim took a blow to the head. Blood sprayed in a vertical arc across the ceiling. Tyler returned to Daniel, but whether he did so out of pity or rage,neither man could tell.
“Don’t!” Cynthia cried from across the room. “Just go! No one’s stopping you now!”
Tyler looked at her, then at Daniel. He was lying prone and clutching his arm. Tyler thought of his wife Lyn and his daughter, Claire. He remembered their insistence on coming along to the office with him. Tyler just had to pick up a file. Afterwards they would visit the park; Claire wanted to play on the swings. If he had remembered to bring the file home on Friday his family wouldn’t have been outside the building, alone.
He remembered seeing his family through his third story office window. They were attacked. He watched his world fall apart, separated by two inches of glass. Before he knew it, he was rushed into this basement by Daniel and Tim. That had been over a week ago.
“I’m still alive,” he said, “Alki – the whole city, is probably quarantined. They’re gonna find a cure. They have to.” Tyler pulled apart the makeshift barricade,opened the door, and walked upstairs. He didn’t look back.
Tyler glanced out the first-floor windows. The infected were out there. They had milky, dripping white eyes. Streaks ran down their faces.
Tyler prayed that Cynthia and Daniel could forgive him. He wasn’t a monster. He just couldn’t starve to death in the building’s basement. His wife and daughter were out there. They were infected. They needed him.
Slowly, more and more of the infected faced Tyler and approached the building. They were faster than the ones that attacked his wife. They pressed against the glass with their ravaged bodies. They groped around and dragged their limbs across the window pane. They left smears everywhere their faces touched. Tyler assumed it was puss. He believed they sensed he was inside, but he didn’t think they could see.
He kissed his ring and strodes hirtless toward the door. He was scared. He didn’t want to die. He believed a rescue would come. He still wanted to be walking when that happened. They will have to cure this; they can’t justl et us die, he thought. They have to cure the hole city and then we’ll be together again.
Someone had wedged the entrance shut with a couple of chairs. Tyler removed them and held both doors open. The infected poured over him in a wave, clawing and biting. His body writhed mechanically. Slowly, he fell to the ground as they overtook him and yanked his limbs in all directions. Searing pain spread throughout his body. Tyler thought of being rescued and reuniting with his family. Once they were all normal again, they would finally go to the park; Claire would play on the swings.
©2012 S.S. Prazak
S.S. Prazak studied journalism in college and began writing flash fiction horror in 2010. He has published several flash stories on Microhorror.com and sold a micro story, “Hat Tricks” to Weird Tales magazine. Links to his online work and more information can be found on his blog at www.ssprazak.blogspot.com.