Punishment Fits the Crime – Sprint

Some things are so hard to deal with, your brain tries to just block them out – I tell myself as I grab the rim and throw up – but once you feel them again, the pain comes right back.

My nose and mouth burn, as I wretch, spit, and cough.

I lean back on the wall next to the tub, and groan. I reach out and press down on the handle to flush. What was once a few shots and many, many beers, sinks down the drain.

I look over at my friend, Matt. He sits, with his back to the sink. We have been here for an hour or so.

His eyes are shut.

“I- I feel, I, oh- this is rough,” he says. “Last night just- it just – it got so out of hand.”

“Don’t be dumb. I had a guh- (I fight back the urge to puke again) great time. Glad we went.” I mean it too; we spent the whole night at a ’20s theme bash. When I got home, I had time to take off my dress shirt. . . now here I am.

“We’ll live,” I say. But I’m not quite too sure, to tell you the truth. He groans again.

I reach for the knob to turn on the water. The sound helps.

“It was worth it, right?” Matt says. “I mean, you had your shot with Liz! You took her to her dorm, did you. . . ”

I shake my head. “I just made sure she got there safe. We did kiss. That is it.”

“Wow,” he says. “You are a good guy, you know that? I think we-” Matt stops, and goes limp. I look over to make sure he is ok. Still good – just out cold. My arms slip to my sides. I lean my head on the tub.

When I think of the night, the pain now does not matter much. If this is the price of living in the now, I will pay it.

 

A.H.W.

Revenge Cake

We only have one shot at this, so don’t screw it up,” Hatch grumbles in my ear.

Yeah, yeah, like he needs to tell me – I’m the one who carefully pieced together this plan.

The infiltration itself would be too risky, so we were making our move from above. I unzip my black duffel bag, and take out my glass-cutter. I suction it onto the skylight. Once the rig is secure, I trace a small circle with the cutting tip. I work slowly. A mistake here would mean the pane of glass would land in the middle of the room below. Or – the enormous window could shatter under the stress, and send shards raining down. Either way, I’d be caught and the operation would be blown.

When the cut is finished, lift the glass circle, and look down into the window.

The room below is an enormous commercial kitchen. Cooks bustle between long metal tables, ferrying ingredients and preparing to start work on their confectionary creation. Directly below the window is a large mixing bowl. Assistants pour in cups full of flour and eggs,  beginning to make the batter that would become my ex’s wedding cake.

“Hatch, target is in sight. Time for the distraction,” I whisper into my earpiece.

“On it.”

Below, the fire alarm blares. The chefs, startled, hastily file out of the room. I only have a few minutes to finish the job. I take out a reel of fishing line from my bag, tied off with a sinker at the end. I lower it into the room, until the line dangles just above the bowl. Then, I open the bottle of concentrated horse laxative solution and pour it down the strand. I empty the entire container, and it all makes it into the mixing bowl. Not a drop spilled.

I reel in the line, and grin to myself.

“It looks like this is going to be a shitty wedding.”

A.H.W.

Husked

“It’s just me,” Bobby whispers, “nobody else but me.” He looks down at the street forty stories below. The Husks – those who had been overcome by the mind-melting radiation from last summer’s solar flare – stared dumbly up at him. Their expressionless, dead eyes were wide as always.

Unblinking.

They were harmless, not like the cliché brain-hungry TV/movie monstrosities. These things just shuffled around aimlessly, bumping into one another.

Bobby almost wished they were dangerous. The challenge of survival would have at least taken his mind off the soul crushing loneliness. Ever since he climbed out of the MRI tube last summer, which he’d guessed shielded him from the jolt, he hadn’t spoken to anyone.

He spent the last eight months roaming the country, looking for anyone who still had their wits. Bobby couldn’t live alone. He had almost forgotten the sound of his friends’ voices.

The Husks were always silent. They didn’t moan or growl; the only sound they made what when they bumped into one another, or knocked something over.

“I can’t do this anymore,” Bobby says to an empty world. He simply steps out the open window.

He’s only in free-fall for a split second, plummeting toward the pavement below, before he hears something: a phone ringing. By the sound of it, it’s coming from one of the lower floors in the building.

Bobby crashes onto the hood of a rusted Volkswagen, parked curbside. The impact shatters every bone in his body, but doesn’t kill him right away. Even over the sound of the car alarm, he can pick out the distant ringing. In the lonely reaches of his mind, Bobby gets the feeling that this isn’t a robo-call. Someone real is on the other end of that line.

Somewhere in the world, there was a person as desperate as he was, maybe reaching out one last time in a desperate attempt to make contact with family or a friend – perhaps at an old phone number. As a warm darkness sweeps over him, he has a final thought.

I’m not the last person, Bobby thinks. They are.

A.H.W.

Just One Second

What Can Happen in a Second –

John fumbles for his car keys to lock the door. His arms are over-burdened with grocery bags; he’s wrapped the plastic loops around his wrists, so he can bring everything inside the apartment in a single trip.

As he digs deeper into his pocket, trying to grab his beeper, one bag slides down his arm and the plastic breaks. Of course it’s the one packed with two cartons of eggs. The weak styrofoam crumbles, and the shells shatter.

John leaps backward to avoid getting the splattering goop on the hem of his work pants. As he jumps, he stumbles backward and slams into the bumper of his sedan. It’s not in park.

As it rolls away from him and into the front fender of the next car over, John considers how much time he would have saved, had he just made the second trip.

A.H.W.