Estimated reading time — 11 minutes
I’d never flown before. It was kind of peaceful, staring out of the little oval window to my right. It was the perfect time to think. I thought about the fight with my step father, and my mom begging me not to take this trip, siting news articles about missing and murdered locals. I thought about how I had pointed out that tourists hadn’t had any trouble. I thought about how I might find happiness and never come back.
We landed in Cardiff International around 9 pm, on time, and I decided to walk to my small hotel. After getting settled I wasn’t ready for sleep, so I decided to walk around for a bit. The streets surrounding my hotel were pretty, enough. Flower gardens along the sidewalk and clean streets.
But the streets just a little beyond were seedier than I had prepared for. The bums were out, occasionally trying to gain my attention, as walked by, in the hopes that the silly tourist had a little extra cash. The streets were lined with small shops, all them closed, and some for good, as well as unsavory looking bars, all wide open. As I was entertaining the thought of dipping into one, and charming an attractive Welsh man with false stories of my grandeur back in America, I heard a crash, ahead of me. It was the sound of a young man, 20, if not a teen, landing on top of a trash can. Trash bin? I made a mental note to ask someone. Behind him a young woman, wielding a wooden bat, and sporting enough tattoos and piercings to make my mother shake her head, was yelling at him in a thick Welsh accent, about attempting to steal, again. The man ran off into the night, the woman yelling after him. The woman abandoned her verbal assault, and began righting her trash can. Trash bin?
I think we both heard it, at the same time. A primal sound beneath a gurgle and the sound of feet pounding the damp cement. The young woman swung around, just in time, to catch the underside of the rabid, bloody man’s chin. His eyes rolled back, for a moment, before regaining his footing, and resuming his attack. I started yelling for help, and police. The girl started bashing the man’s head as he tried to claw and gnash at her. A few stepped out of the bar to catch the actions, and immediately jumped on their phones, calling cops, and taking pictures and videos. It wasn’t until the man laid still, his head like hamburger meat, that the lady backed off, bloodied, and shaking. I ran to her, and grabbed her arm to keep to her still. I asked if she was alright, and she yanked her arm from my grasp, muttering that she was fine. The local police arrived a moment later, and I was pulled several directions for witness statements. After a dizzying list of questions, I accepted a ride to my hotel, and only had enough reserved energy to shower and climb into bed.
My nightmares were dark and full of rabid, bloody people, trying to eat my flesh. I woke up feeling as if my energy was drained while I slept. I could only stomach coffee as I thought about the previous night, and the animalistic man. His dilated eyes and bloody mouth were enough to make me want to run home, but my curiosity about the young woman drug me out of my door. I wanted to see if she was okay, and if she had seen what I remember seeing. As I made my way through the old streets, I noticed they weren’t so intimidating during the day. The bars were closed, and the shops were open, a few people going in and out, little bells ringing. The bums were gone, likely run off by shop owners, and the street had been swept. I found the woman’s shop, open, luckily. I walked in and wasn’t quite expecting the scene. Deep colored walls, and a couple plush, dark, velvet couches, with a large skull-covered hookah perched on a small side table. Racks, everywhere, covered in clothes, purses, masks, and a lot of neon and dark furry things, unidentifiable by shape. Surrounding the check stand was a case full of movie replica weapons, and little racks of buttons and patches. I heard the young lady call, from the back, that she would be out in a moment, and I followed the sound of her voice. As i walked up the archway of the back room, I noticed a small apartment, before the view was blocked by the woman stepping through. Recognition loosened her smile, and she turned slightly sour at my appearance.
“Can I help you?” she asked. The tone in her voice suggested she didn’t care to help me. I wonder if I should ask her about the “trash can vs. trash bin” thing. Just to get the ball rolling. I decided, instead, to jump into it.
“That man, last night. Did you see his eyes and bloody mouth? Or did I imagine that”
“I saw it. Why?”
“Is that normal”
“Yes, all of us are born wild-eyed, and bloody mouthed. Most of us just hide it well” She rolled her eyes and began unpacking some boxes of clothing, behind the register. I think she was hoping I would leave after she made it obvious I was being ignored. I’m not normally so easily deterred, but my coffee filled stomach was starting to bother me, and it occurred to me that I hadn’t eaten in nearly 24 hours.
I left without another word and decided to try the cafe a block from my hotel. I still had so many questions about last night, but the boutique owner wasn’t the best conversationalist. I made a plan to talk to some of the bar patrons, tonight.
My plan was interrupted by a man screaming, just around the corner, ahead of me. Another man came running from the corner, ashen faced, and checking over his shoulder as he passed me. I ran to screams, and rounded the corner, only to get smacked in the face by the most horrific vision I had ever witnessed. A man and woman bent over a man’s body, holding him down and ripping pieces of flesh from his bones, shoving it in their mouths, while the living man screamed in terror and agony. I could feel my coffee coming up, and I let out a small cry. It was enough to gain the attention of the devourers, and they eyed me, for a moment, with curiosity and hunger. The woman went back to her meal, but the man wanted to move to greener pastures, as he lunged forward for me. I turned tail and ran, as fast as I could, back to the only place I knew.
The woman met me with a scowl.
“What the hell do you want, now?” she asked, as I slammed her door shut and spun the lock into place.
“What the feck do you think your doin’?” She shouted, grabbing her bat, and heading for me.
“NO! WAIT! There are more of those people out there! Please, I can’t go back out there, we have to lock the doors!” My defense was validated by immediate pounding and growling behind my back, which only intensified the woman’s aggressive stance.
“You brought them here? You twat! Are you trying to get us both killed?”
“They were EATING a man! Eating his skin while he was still alive! What are they?” I yelled, over the din of the beast just outside of the thick wood door. I couldn’t stop the tears brimming my eyes. The woman’s features softened, slightly, at the sight of my tears, but her voice held the same tone.
“Stop your sniveling, it’s not helping anyone. Throw the locks on those windows” She nodded to one side of the doors and she headed for the other, swinging down iron locks, and pulling the windows shut. I followed suit, and bit back my tears as I struggled a little with the awkward locks I’d never, before, encountered. Eventually, i got all of my windows locked and covered. When I turned around, the woman was back at her counter, hanging up and redialing the phone.
“I can’t get through to emergency services, the line is engaged. Looks like we’re on our own for the time being.”
I could feel the tears welling up, again, and my stomach felt like it was imploding. I couldn’t tell if it was from hunger, or anxiety, now. I went and sat on the purple, velvety couch, and regretted not being able to appreciate the sandalwood smell and soft cushion. I took a few deep breaths and tried to sort my thoughts. We needed a plan. I needed food. I decided to ask if she had food, when it occurred to me that I didn’t even know her name.
“My name is Deanna.” I volunteered, hoping she would return the response with her own name. She shot me an annoyed look, instead.
“That’s nice.” She didn’t look like it was nice.
“What’s your name?” I asked
She gave an exaggerated sigh. “Chloe” she said, obviously not wanting to have a conversation.
I sat in silence for a while, a little afraid to ask for anything. Chloe disappeared into the apartment, but I was afraid to follow. Surviving meant not pissing off my very edgy apocalypse partner. After a while, Chloe returned with two cups of tea, offering me one without speaking. I thanked her, quietly, and sipped it. I wasn’t about to tell her I didn’t like tea. I drank it, anyway, and it helped my stomach, a little. Chloe returned, again, with two bowls of chili, and some bread. I fought my urge to shove the food in my face as quickly as possible. I took great pains to eat normal sized spoonfuls of chili, and chew my bread. I thanked Chloe, and received a curt “Welcome” in return.
The banging had stopped, nearly an hour before, but the screams in the streets were still audible. I didn’t want to look.
“Could we turn on a radio, or something?” I asked, hoping to drown out the noise.
“You want us to draw attention to ourselves? Feck that. You can go outside and hold up a sign that says “Free Food”, but I’m staying quiet.”
I went back to shutting up, and pulled my legs to my chest, tucking my chin between my knees. I thought about the fight with my step-father, and about my mother’s warnings. I thought about my pursuit of happiness, and how I may never come back.
“Chloe? Do you think these things have anything to do with stories about disappeared and murdered people that have been popping up, lately?”
“Maybe. Those stories were in the countryside, though. Miles from here. We weren’t too worried about it.”
“Maybe they just discovered the city. It’s a much bigger…food source.” I cringed.
“You’re probably right. Doesn’t change much, though. We don’t know what’s going on, or why, so I guess we just sit here and wait for the military to roll through.”
“You think they’ll come?” I asked, hopeful
“They always do, in the movies. Only place I’ve seen this kind of thing, before.”
That was fair, I guessed, and warmth of the food in my stomach made my eyes heavy. As I drifted off, I asked “Chloe? Is it called a trash can or a trash bin, here?”
“Bin.” She replied, and I fell asleep.
I awoke, in the evening, to the sound of one of the windows shattering. I saw Chloe, to my left, leap off of her couch, shaking off sleep. She ran for her bat, and began battering the bodies pushing through the curtains. One slipped through the left edge of the curtain, and I recognized the woman from the street. More bloody than before, she ran at me, hands clawed, and mouth wide, emitting the same gurgling howl heard the night before. I ran, my eyes darting around for a weapon. I spotted a replica hatchet, from a movie i didn’t recognize the name of, and snatched it up. I was immediately thankful for how solid it felt. I buried the hatchet in the woman’s unblocked face, but she continued, unaffected. My arm, however, certainly noticed the impact and it took a second to regroup before yanking my ill-chosen weapon from her skull. I swung, again, but my aim wasn’t as true, as the blade slid past her cheek and hit her shoulder. I stumbled away, backing into the counter. There was statue to my right, some kind of Greek or Roman goddess. I didn’t have a lot of options. I could only hope it was heavy enough to damage. It was. I swung, as hard as I could manage, down on top of the cannibal’s head, and she stumbled. YES! I swung, again, and again, until she laid still, her skull cracked, and her brain looking much like this morning’s chili.
Chloe called for me from the window, struggling with the two men trying to push their way in. I jumped into the row, and we managed to beat them back. Chloe yelled for me to her, and grabbed a hold of a large painting on the wall. It was painted on wood, thankfully, and we put it up to the window. With limited resources, we had to wedge it in. but it would do for the moment.
A bloody Chloe, short of breath, stumbled back to her little apartment. This time I followed, feeling a bit more worthy. Chloe was leaned over the sink of her kitchenette, washing the blood from her arms. I noticed the gash in her arm.
“You’re bleeding!” I practically shouted, unsure of what else to do.
“Well spotted.” She bit, sarcastically, wincing a little as the water ran over her wound. “I think I cut myself on the glass, pushing the freaks out. Grab me the alcohol out of the cabinet, will you?” She nodded so a small separated room, which turned out to be the bathroom. I found the alcohol and some rags, and we made a makeshift bandage.
Chloe collapsed onto one of the couches, and reached into the drawer on the table, beside here. She pulled out a gun. The thing looked ancient, and too big. It had one of those chambers that spun around, and the little hammer in the back. It reminded me of something a cowboy would draw in a stand-off.
“It was my grandpa’s.” she said. “It shoot’s.” in answer to my look of doubt. “Here”, she said, handing me the piece, “I’m obviously no good, I can barely lift it. I need to rest, you man the fort.”
She snorted something, almost like a laugh, and with a labored breath, she drifted off. How much blood had she lost? When her breathing got heavy, I left her in peace. I figured I’d look around the shop, a bit, while I had time to myself. I found some matches and a pack of candles in a junk drawer, near the sink. It was a good thing, because the shop was nearly black with the curtains drawn and a window boarded up. I looked at the furry things first. There were vests, leg warmers, hats, and gloves. Some were glittery, and some lit up with rainbow LEDs. In a corner, there was a collection of latex clothing, with hints at BDSM. I decided to avoid that corner. One wall was adorned with gas masks, goggles, and masquerade masks. I tried on an elaborate white mask, covered in feathers and pearls. Who buys this stuff? It was obvious this wasn’t a Halloween shop. I guess I’ll never understand people.
I heard Chloe moan a bit, in the bedroom. I went to check on her. Before I made it to the dimly lit archway, leading into the apartment, I heard a familiar gurgling coming from inside. My stomach dropped. My pace slowed and I drew the gun, pulling back the hammer like they do on TV.
“Chloe?” I called quietly?
I hesitated at the doorway. I was rewarded with a response, but the one I hoped for, as a wild-eyed, bloody-mouthed Chloe jumped in front of me. I reacted by pulling the trigger on the heavy pistol. The impact knocked us both backward, but I was faster to recover, grabbing the door, and swinging it shut, on her. I grabbed a cushioned chair from nearby and wedged it beneath the handle. Chloe howled and screamed from the other side, banging, mercilessly, on the door. Unfortunately, her wild noises drew the attention of her beastly brethren in the streets and they began assemble at the front of the store, pounding on the windows, door, and painting-covered hole. As the board fell from the sill, it ripped the curtain down with it, revealing a few howling silhouettes, and an outline of street lights. I was trapped. I fired at the shadows, knocking one back, and only stumbling from the kick. I was feeling a bit more confident, now, and fired at another, barely losing my footing. I fired again, almost giggling as I hit one in the head, effectively exploding part of his skull, and dropping him. As I sent another bullet flying, it dawned on me that I had only one bullet left. Any hope of ammo was trapped in the apartment with my short-lived companion. As a handful more figures poured through the window, I ducked behind a rack, in the darkness. I had to make a decision. Do I fire my last bullet, and attempt to escape? Or save myself from a long and painful death? As I weighed my options, I heard the gurgling voices multiply. I made a decision. With iron resolve, I pulled my legs to my chest, and tucked my chin between my knees. I put the gun to my head. I thought about my step-father, and my mom. I thought about how I was never coming back.
Credit To – Amanda Lawrence