CLEARLY DEAD came about because SFX magazine decided to issue a horror special. They asked a number of writers to contribute horror stories but there was a catch. Each story had to be no more than 750 words. Mine came in at around 1200 and it took me many nerve-fraying hours to shave it down word by word. Also it had to contain the following items: a water bowl, a sponge, a wind-up gramophone, a copy of Film Review from November, 1966, false eyelashes... You get the picture. Yes, a mildly sadistic commission but I enjoyed it. And I love zombies. So what better excuse to bring back zombies 'as you've never seen them before!'
They ran. They hid. They thought they were safe…
I live. I die. I live again. Is this the shortest zombie story ever?
I’d told her that micro-story before, so I went for this instead. ‘Most people don’t believe in magic, but I once saw a wizard turn his car into a side street.’
‘What?’ Her brown eyes were so wide they were in danger of rolling from their sockets.
‘Okay, it’s not a great joke, but-’
‘I heard something!’
Her clothes were torn after the crazy race to reach this house on the island. Through rips in her dress I could see naked gooseflesh. Pure fear shivered through her.
‘Oh, God,’ she whispered ‘They’re here.’
Okay. Picture this: There’s the two of us in an attic room. It overlooks the lake. It’s dusk. She’s twenty years old. Slender as willow. Shoulder length dark hair. I haven’t asked her name, perhaps because a voice in my head yatters: There’s no feckin’ point, stupid.
Room’s almost bare. A couple of armchairs. A table in the centre. On that is a water bowl with a sponge. A wind-up gramophone. A copy of Film Review from November 1966. On its cover Robert Vaughn and Elke Summer with a dog. Sweet. I read bits to distract her from a reality she couldn‘t handle. Some hope.
‘They’re following. I know they are.’ This became her mantra. ‘They’re following. We’ll be next.’ Then she’d go shivery again as she glanced toward the window. ‘What do you think caused it? I mean, it happened so quickly. I… I just went to my brother’s house and found him lying in the kitchen. Straight away, it started happening to him. It…’ Then she’d looked at me with those big brown eyes and said, ‘Please… we don’t know each other. But I’m scared… would you mind holding me?’
And that’s how we were. Me, with my arms around her when she made that stark announcement: ‘Oh, my God. They’re here.’
We went to the window. As dusk fell it made the lake look like grey iron. A sombre expanse of dead water.
‘I can hear them,’ she breathed.
Faintly, in the distance, I heard the scrunch of feet -- hundreds, thousands! -- of feet on the island’s shore.
I asked, ‘Do you see anything?’
She shot me a surprised glance. ‘See anything? As if we would.’
For the first time I noticed she was wearing fake eyelashes. Despite everything… the shit hitting the global fan, cities burning, the dead walking…. Everything! She’d kept the false eyelashes. Maybe a keepsake from a world we once knew … before God Almighty, or Satan, or some freaking cosmic anomaly, pulled this stunt.
She didn’t think I saw evidence of their presence down at the lake’s edge. But I did. ‘Look,’ I told her. ‘You can see the water’s disturbed. The bushes are moving. They’re approaching the house.’
She gasped. ‘What are we going to do?’
‘I don’t know…’
‘There’s got to be something! We got away last time!’
‘Wait. Let me think.’
I closed my eyes. Thought hard.
No answer came. Instead, I remembered what happened last week. When the plague struck it was fast. People died where they stood. But that wasn’t all. I watched Jo die in bed. The moment her breathing stopped her color faded. Kept on fading. Kept fading until her entire body vanished. Soon all I saw was a mound of bedclothes.
The worst part is you cannot see them when they come for you. Now the invisible dead roam. They hunt the living.
My eyes snapped open as she cried, ‘Listen! They’re in the house!’
I turned as the door opened. Although I saw nothing, coldness penetrated the room. Some thing turned the gramophone handle. Mournful funeral music droned. The copy of Film Review fluttered open as if unseen fingers turned the pages. The sponge rose from the bowl. An invisible hand squeezed it; just for a moment the cascading water formed the glistening shape of a wrist and forearm.
They’d reached the woman first, killing her without me even noticing.
When I turned to her, ready to grab her hand. Make that dash for safety. I saw nothing. Nothing, that is, but a pair of false eyelashes floating just in front of my face.
Then as cold, invisible hands gripped my throat I heard her whisper.
‘Join us, my love. Join us…’
(C) Simon Clark
Visit Simon's website at www.bbr-online.com/nailed/
© Paul Kane 2003-2017. All rights reserved. Materials (including images) may not be reproduced without express permission from the author.