Snowfall

 

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It’s been snowing where I live, which has made taking pictures outside a chilly affair. But this week I decided to put on a nice dress and brave the cold.

 

This past week was a good one for staying inside and writing short stories. I’ve been working on some new pieces that I’m excited to share.

 

Today I will continue my zombie story, with part 2 of “He Walked.” Enjoy, and thank you for reading.

With Screams and Axes,

Mae

 

 

He Walked (Part 2)

*

They had little with them as they traveled: a blanket and some cans of food, and the memories of things they left behind. They camped out in a field with a small group of other refugees. Now they were dirty people, unrecognizable visages of their civilized selves, huddled around a camp fire. They soon discovered that fields were not good places to camp. They were attacked during the night. She ran into the darkness with her husband’s family while the final screams of those they left echoed behind them. After that, they tried to stay amongst the trees where no one could take a step without a noise, and the hush of the birds and an eerie silence would alert them to anyone’s approach. They tested berries and mushrooms in their hesitant mouths, and foraged like squirrels and mice. She thought of him while they ran, while they slept sitting up against the bark of trees, nervous and flighty as deer. She tried to convince herself that this war was like the others. He would face the violence as he always had, people would always kill, but he would always kill them first. In her heart she continued to wait.

*

He shuffled through the woods. Up ahead there was a small clearing where someone had pitched a tent. Animal carcasses hung from a tree, and pots and pans swung on a line with dingy shirts and socks. A man with a gun slung over his shoulder had his back turned, fiddling with a compass in his hands. He hissed and the man turned around and aimed the gun at him. He advanced and the man fired. The bullet struck him in the arm but did nothing to deter him.  “Wait, stop!” He grasped at the man and when he had him in his arms, began to rip him apart. The man shrieked, the birds hushed, and somewhere off in the distance someone wept. He was frenzied by the killing, but after it passed and the man was dead, he felt nothing. He poked his fingers through what was left of him. He left the corpse to rot in the open air and perhaps be finished by scavengers. It was all he could do.

*

They began to quarrel. They were lost and turned around. They argued over the correct way to the country home. His sister was injured and ill, and forced them to move slowly and stop often. She thought of abandoning them but couldn’t. It wasn’t her place. His father finally stopped late midday to stare at a road. They had been avoiding roads, which all seemed choked with marauders, murderers and the dead. Emerging from the woods, they saw the road and the father told them to stop.

“I recognize this place. The curve of the road, that tree with the scar across its belly, and that sign; Entering Hunstville…” He struggled to place this memory.

“When were you on this road? Where were you going?” The mother asked trying to help him remember.

“It seems so long ago.”

With the mother’s help, he was able to recall the road and which direction they had to go. On the way, the sister succumbed. She fell and could go no further. They stopped and waited for her to die. She took her time. She managed to pass her illness to her brother. His father bashed his ill son over the head with a branch and then dealt the same to his daughter. The mother shrieked and cried, and his wife had to cover her mouth with the palm of her hand to hush her. They moved on in the morning, his parents older and quiet and her with bite marks on her palm.

*

He came upon a band of them. Their rags were dirty, and they huddled around their fire close enough to catch their tatters aflame. A skinned raccoon skewered on a stick roasted above the flames, the juices dripped and sizzled as they fell. They had guns close at hand, but they had long run out of ammunition. He wouldn’t have feared them even if they had bullets.  They hadn’t seen him approaching in the darkness with their faces covered in filth. He entered their camp and scattered them. They screamed, and ran helter-skelter into the trees. He was unable to speak to them. They trembled at the sight of him. Their fear moved them as quickly as startled rabbits. He chased after a few, wanting them to wait. But they fled into the darkness, and he lost them. He let them go. He stood in front of their still burning fire and stared into the flames, watching the raccoon flesh burn.  It was all that he could do.

*

She and his parents found their summer home intact. It was lucky and amazing it hadn’t been ransacked and looted. The house was tucked deep into the countryside and couldn’t be seen from any roads and wasn’t near the highway. They stepped onto the porch and stared at the locked door. It wasn’t kicked in and it wasn’t riddled with bullet holes; it was in perfect condition, like doors had been before. His father took the key from his pocket and fit it into the lock. The door opened easily for the dazed family. First they changed their clothes, and wrapped themselves in blankets from the linen closet to warm their bones. The mother found the key for the pantry in a drawer and sorted out a dinner for them. While they waited, his wife looked at the photos on the mantle. They looked so strange now. She looked at him as a baby and a little boy. His father looked at the pictures of his children and cried with his hand clasping her shoulder too tightly.

“What happened?” he asked her.

“What was always going to happen.”

They decided over dinner that if they intended to stay here they’d have to board the house up and make it more uninviting to whoever may stumble across upon it. They feared being attacked while they slept, lulled to sleep by the false feelings of security a house provided. She thought about him and the things he’d need right away after rejoining them here. She prepared a mental list of things to set aside so she’d be ready, ready and waiting.

*

His journey took him days, but when he finally arrived home, she was there to meet him. As he stumbled up the long twisting path that led to their house, which had once been a dirt road but was now overgrown with grass and weeds, he let out a loud painful shriek. As if somehow aware he was finally close to where he was meant to be.

*

She sat at the kitchen table with his mother, drinking tea and feeling bitterness growing inside her.

“What do you think?” His mother asked.

“Nothing.”

“ Do you think we’re safe here?”

“We’re not safe anywhere. But we have to stay here, there’s no alternative.”

“Why?”

“This is where he’ll come for us.”

Through the slit in the boards nailed to the window she saw a small figure coming up the hill. She left her seat silently, and went onto the porch. From a few yards away she saw him advancing. His walk was a slow stumble and he moaned as he grew near. She stood still, eyes fixed on his figure. He was finally coming home to her, as he promised he would. She had waited patiently and done what had to be done. Now the wait was over, she had no other mission to complete, and neither did he. She was a good wife. His mother yelled from inside the house. She screamed to stay inside, stay away. She ignored her, and ran to greet her love and welcome him home. She met him in the yard, whispering their secrets and offering him her hand. He wrapped his arms around her, groaning and shaking, and she cried his name and his mouth met hers. His grey lips curled around hers and he bit till her tongue became his own.

Forgiven

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This week I want to share a story I wrote a couple of years ago that caused me a lot of heartache. This story made me question everything I was doing and everything I thought I wanted.

 

This was one of the first stories I brought to workshop in Grad school. And it was torn apart. Torn apart so bad and in such a way, I thought about dropping out. The reason they hated it so much? It’s about a zombie. It was highly offensive to serious, literary writing. I know now I was foolish to think I could get away with that, but I didn’t think their response would be so severe…

I learned my lesson, and from then on did my best to write how they wanted me to write, while still trying to be myself. It was a difficult balancing act. This story reminds me that even when other people think I’m weird or that I don’t belong, that it’s okay. I believe in myself.

 

I’m going to post it in two parts. I’ll post part two next Sunday.

 

I hope you enjoy it.

With Screams and Axes,

Mae

 

 

He Walked

Over the hills and through the woods he kept his pace, followed by half-hearted ghouls with brains on their tongues and avoided by those with everything to fear. He did not fear, not any more. The forest creatures concealed in the leafy night, with gold eyes twinkling from places high or hidden, hushed as he passed. Only a crow braved to caw: silence; he walks. They knew that he had nothing to fear, not anymore. He was traveling to his old house, following the footsteps of his family before him. But he didn’t know that, some instinctual urge decided it for him. The blood on his hands kept his mind mechanical and his pace slow, his eyes wide and barely able to understand what they saw. The land was alone now, like an egg dropped behind the chicken coop, forgotten, with a crack forking across the shell and smeared with grime.  He was alone now, but he didn’t want to be. So he walked, and traveled where his feet felt others had walked. They had trampled these grasses, and he followed their scent, longing to have them within arm’s reach.

*

She had barely escaped the city with his Mother, Father, Brother and Sister. He had stayed behind to protect and defend, to bloody and kill. As masses fled and fed in the chaotic streets, they had promised to meet at the final destination: the summer home in the countryside. He was a good soldier who stayed his ground, who did what he was ordered, and who’d never desert his comrades. She was a good wife. Before, she had waited for him at home far away from war, the battles and gore. She couldn’t ask him not to go, no matter how vehemently she wished it. But now the war had come to their home, and it was she that had to go far away. As she ran from the city with his parents and siblings, she imagined him in his uniform, firing his gun, refusing escape from a war no one wanted to fight, and maintaining a barricade threatened by a mob of thrashing limbs. She prayed he wasn’t that good a man.

*

He came upon a barn. Inside shriveled cows lay in the dust, ropes around their crooked necks hanging them to their posts. Hens with wide eyes and patchy feathers hopped upon the remains. Their scratches and pecks marked the skin. He felt nothing in the face of death and disease. Death had claimed a part of him, but allowed him to survive without it. He carried on with the piece missing. In the farmhouse, the milk was spoiled. And the corpses in the kitchen spoiled as well. He held a dried hand in his palm, shaking it lightly, a relic of an old connection. The house had been tidy and comfortable once, but now the windows were broken and the doors hung ajar and blew open and closed freely in the wind. No one lived here, and it was hard to picture the husks on the floor as once alive. To him, there was hardly any difference. He foraged for what was left, what could be salvaged and consumed so that he could keep on. It was all he could do.

*

She remembered the last time he went away. On the night before he was leaving, they stayed at home together and she was quiet and solemn. She wasn’t allowed to be angry, she wasn’t allowed to be resentful, and she wasn’t allowed to upset him before he went away.  She was supposed to be supportive and faithful, and to remind him to be careful, and tell him how much she loved him and how proud she was. That’s what the other wives had told her to do. They had luncheons to discuss these matters, and to keep each other from being driven crazy with worry. She sat at the kitchen table with him after dinner.

“Are you all packed?” She asked.

“Just about.”

“Will you write?”

“Of course,” he promised.

“I don’t want to forget your handwriting.”

“My handwriting?”

“It’s one of those things. One of those little secret things about a person that’s easy to forget.”

“What else do you forget?”

“The way your skin smells just after you’ve gotten out of the shower, your eyes when you’ve stayed up too late, how you take your coffee and the noises you make when you eat. And your hands. Sometimes I have trouble remembering what they look like, feel like.”

He took her hand.

“How could you forget that?”

*

He came upon a girl on a rooftop. She murmured and paced, her voice rose and fell as she cried at his approach. He gazed up at her, longing to find a way to bring her back down. Her brown hair fell over her face in long strands and her clothes hung from her frame. She shrieked at him “Go away!” and cried. He was past the point of being able to understand her words, but felt her hatred and fear. The smell of it wafted down from her perch and stung his nose. His hunger cracked the whip.  He went into the house only to find the staircase destroyed. There was no way up to her. No way for him to wrap his arms around her shoulders. He stood in the yard moaning, staring into her as she cursed him and hated him for the gun at his hip, his torn uniform and his soiled skin. She wailed and sobbed, but eventually hushed. When she hushed he departed. It was all he could do.