Dark Stories…Megan, Part 2
Here is Part 2 of Megan’s story. This leads up to her initial meeting with Jeff in Comes The Dark.
There will be more in upcoming weeks as I continue to sift through my old manuscript and try to dig free bits and pieces that I think might be worthwhile and contribute to the overall story of my trilogy.
I hope you enjoy it.
Please note: I will be posting all of these stories in order on the page entitled “Dark Stories” on this blog, so they won’t be difficult to find for anyone who discovers them later on. As the second and third book are released, I will post more stories there and in regular posts as well.
Megan, Part 2
There was plenty of noise outside. Beyond the reinforced doors and boarded up windows, she heard them. The infected had come to the neighborhood in force. Megan could hear the moaning and every now and then a scream.
Sometimes they were close. So close that they seemed to be right outside the window. And when Megan heard them that close, it wasn’t the moaning that bothered her. It was something far worse. She tried hard to pretend she didn’t hear it, but it burrowed down beneath the thick layer of blankets and pillows she had shrouded herself with. It burrowed into her ears and down into her soul.
It was the sound of them eating.
That was when Megan realized there were far worse ways to go than suicide or being forced to starve to death as you waited in the darkness, alone.
The fear that those things might discover her hiding place opened up a black and shriveled up part of Megan. The idea of them breaking in and tearing through the house, which would force her to pull the trigger again, held her in thrall for days at a time.
But they never came for her.
One particular memory of those dark days stuck in Megan’s mind. It must have been a couple of weeks after everything had fallen apart. A giant crash echoed up and down the street as several gun shots were fired. Megan refused to look past the blinds and see what was transpiring outside.
She did sit up in bed and then froze, staring at her shuttered window, wanting to go to it, wanting to do something to help whoever was out there.
Megan was terrible at categorizing guns or the report that occurred when any were fired, but the shots sounded like they had come from a rifle. After the first few shots a different weapon discharged and sounded similar to the handgun sitting on her nightstand.
The gunfire had snapped Megan out of the paralysis for a moment, but even as her heart raced and she had to steady her breathing to avoid hyperventilating, she could feel lethargy creeping back in. She shivered inside the sweat drenched night shirt she’d been wearing for days as she pushed her feet over the edge of the bed and stood up, her legs aching in protest as she did.
Megan hovered near the window but refused to pull the shade to look out onto her sun drenched street. The monsters out there were not coming for her this time, so she could drown in her sheets and pillows once again.
As the gunshots played out and the screams began, Megan stared at the .357 Magnum. What amount of energy would it take to burst through the front door and rush to the aid of the people out there? Wouldn’t trying to help be better than burying herself alive once again?
But in the end, all Megan did was stand next to her bedroom window and listen to the cries of agony, the sounds of pleading, and ripping and tearing that always came at the end of the attacks. She listened and let her mind create images of what was going on outside, because she couldn’t bear bending the blinds to know for sure.
There were more crashing noises and the gunshots subsided. The moans and screams grew frantic, an opera of voices covering every octave. Megan wanted to close them off but couldn’t. She couldn’t react at all-to help or to hide. She knew this was her punishment for letting Dalton die … and for participating in his death.
That was when Megan started to scream.
It took her a few moments to realize what she was doing. She was screaming into a pillow she had managed to pull off the bed.
Even as she screamed, Megan had a moment of clarity. The only thing to hope for was that it would go fast for whoever was being attacked. For the next few minutes all she heard was an increase in moans as her muffled screams were drowned out. More and more of the infected joined their brethren to take down the survivors.
Later, Megan realized then that her screams had stopped and her throat was a ragged mess. She had ripped it raw. She remained standing, holding her pillow with quiet desperation, as the undead tended to their needs outside.
At that point, someone must have broken free of the house they’d been hiding in and got out to the yard, and perhaps even the street. He was shouting for someone, but Megan couldn’t make out a name over the cries of the reanimated. Several more shots rang out and the screaming began again. It was a deep wailing at first-definitely a man, but toward the end it grew shrill and high pitched.
Megan tried to pretend she couldn’t hear what happened next but there was little doubt the man was being torn limb from limb. It sounded so close that she imagined the man making it to her front yard before her rotting neighbors pulled him down, swarming over his warm body. As his clothes were ripped away, the moans turned to hisses and squeals of delight as the creatures tore into their prize. Long after she believed the victim had mercifully ceased feeling any pain, one last scream rose above the sounds of eating. It was the cry of someone who no longer cared to be saved, but were instead drowning in a pain that overwhelmed all else.
Then the scream cut off. A sound like a wet branch snapping and then a short gurgle marked the end of the man who died on Megan’s lawn.
That was all Megan could take. She felt her knees give out as she collapsed to the bedroom floor. Curling up in a ball, she began to hum. It was what she did as a child to drown out people she didn’t want to listen to. As she curled even tighter and smashed the pillow over her eyes, Megan remembered her favorite rhyme.
Ms. Mary Mack, Mack, Mack, all dressed in black, black, black with silver buttons, buttons, buttons…
Megan repeated the rhyme over and over in her head to blot out the feeding noises as she crawled underneath her bed. The chant continued as the monsters that had been riled up by the introduction of new flesh continued their aimless wandering long after their feast was over. Megan didn’t realize she was sucking her thumb until it grew sore a few hours later.
Over the next day and a half the creatures drifted away and Megan faded in and out of a fitful sleep. Each time she woke up she would repeat the rhyme to avoid hearing them crashing around outside, searching for more food.
Megan was finally able to crawl out from underneath the bed, stiff and aching, two days after the attack.
She stared at the window for another day, teased by the idea of sneaking a peak outside. Nothing out there could be as bad as she had imagined, could it? She had to know if the cold creep of insanity tugging at her could be pushed back or if she should just embrace it, wrap it around her body like a warm winter coat and just drift into oblivion. Megan got close enough to touch the wispy material of her thin drapes. The fabric rippled gently in response to her touch, but she could go no further.
For the next few days, as Megan stared at the pattern the wallpaper border made around the room, she thought of Dalton a great deal. He was the only one of the dead who didn’t whisper to her, telling her to let go, to give up this charade of living. But the others would tell her that all she had to do was open the front door and step outside and all the lies would be over.
But Dalton never tried to speak to her like her dead neighbors did. The man who had died on the lawn, as well as the woman he had been with, came to her the most. The pain was fleeting, they said. It was just the body’s way of resisting its passage into the new existence they had all embraced. It was only a pain of transition, of shifting to a better existence.
She tried to ignore them, but as the hours ticked by and daylight faded into night, the strain of the words wore on her as her eyes drifted from the wallpaper to the gun on her nightstand.
Not yet. I made a promise to you Dalton. Not yet …
Dalton ran into the room and pulled her off the bed. “Come on hun, we have to leave!”
Megan was thrilled to see him again and knew he had come back to whisk her away.
“I have something to show you.”
Dalton pulled her out of the bedroom and down the steps. Megan nearly tripped her as she tried to keep up with her excited spouse. She managed to avoid a fall as they landed in the foyer.
Dalton smiled as he pulled his wife toward the front door. Megan resisted, but he smiled and gently shook his head. “I have something to show you.”
Megan looked at the door and saw that the makeshift boards Dalton had nailed over it were gone. Dalton put his hand on the knob and before Megan could protest, he pulled the door open.
Megan tried to scream and clawed at the hand wrapped around her wrist. She shook her head, pleading with Dalton.
Glancing outside, she saw the dark shapes of the dead. She stopped struggling and noticed that none of the stiff forms were moving forward, coming toward them.
Megan had never seen one of the walking corpses with her own eyes before. She had seen them on television, but had been hidden away in the house since the beginning, with curtains drawn and eyes firmly shut to what was going on outside.
The dead people on Megan’s lawn were not reacting like the crazed monsters she had been expecting. Instead, they stood silently, swaying back and forth, staring at her and Dalton in the doorway of their house, as if waiting for them to do something.
As they looked upon her, their eyes did not hide the emptiness behind them. There was no life there, no comprehension.
“I have something to show you,” Dalton repeated and put his hand on Megan’s shoulder as he pulled her out onto the porch. Megan looked in her husband’s eyes and her resistance faded.
The bright sun hit Megan’s face, nearly blinding her. Even with her limited vision, she could see the huge crowd that had gathered for them. As the two living people moved forward, the sea of rotting flesh stepped back to allow them to pass.
Megan smiled as she realized they were being allowed to leave! With that jubilant revelation she noticed something about the stiffened corpses all around her.
These diseased creatures were not moaning.
They were as silent as she was. Although they stared at Megan there was no hunger in their eyes. They didn’t reach out to touch or pull at her; they seemed to have no desire to violate her at all.
After a few minutes of trudging on blood soaked grass, Dalton spoke again. “Almost there,” he beamed at her as he looked back and grinned, his teeth dazzling in the sunlight.
Megan couldn’t remember how long they walked before the crowd ahead parted, revealing an opening. Not a large one, just a small circle of space free of the dead. Megan could see something on the ground, a bundle of some sort. But since Dalton was in front of her, leading the way, she couldn’t make out what it was.
Dalton turned away from Megan and dropped her hand. She stopped, watching as the man she loved knelt down and wrapped his arms around the bundle. He made quiet noises she could barely hear as he rose up.
When Dalton turned around Megan knew what he was holding. Dalton was smiling down upon the blanket wrapped shape in his arms, slowly bouncing it and cooing. It was their baby. Their little girl!
Megan tried to reach out to take the baby and cradle it in her arms, but they felt like there were lead weights at her side. She had always known they would have a girl-it had been her dream all along. She could feel tears rolling down her cheeks as she watched Dalton hold their infant in his arms.
Dalton looked over at Megan and smiled. “She wants her mommy. She’s hungry.”
At his words, Megan’s felt lighter and she was able to move forward. It was some cruel twist of fate that had kept the child from her for this long, but Megan knew, deep in her heart, that she would never be separated from her again.
As Megan moved closer, Dalton smiled encouragement at her. She saw a curl of black hair peeping out of the snug blanket and her heart quaked in anticipation.
Megan reached out for her child as she stepped up to her husband. She had forgotten the dark figures surrounding them, though the dead appeared to be leaning in to get a closer look at the child. Dalton gently handed the child over to his wife as she held out her arms.
A scream burst forth from Megan’s lips. She wanted to drop the bundle but Dalton’s arms were wrapped tightly around her and the baby. Megan’s scream continued, piercing the silence of the netherworld like a knife.
Her child, her baby girl, was one of them. Its grayish skin was stretched tight over its skull, its eyes pus filled even though the murky pupils fixated on its mother. Its mouth was filled with jagged little teeth that gnashed and clicked together with menace. As Megan’s screaming stopped, she heard an unearthly moan of the dead escape the baby’s lips.
“She needs to feed,” Dalton hissed and Megan looked at his face. He was one of them, too. Half of the skin on his face had rotted off and the stench was overpowering as he leaned in. “She needs to feed … and so do we.” A thick green line of drool trailed from the corner of his mouth where multiple jagged and broken teeth sat. The moans rose as Dalton lifted the baby up to Megan’s breast.
Megan was torn from her nightmare, clutching at her belly, sweat-drenched as she attempted to hold in the screams. The pain she felt in her gut was real-as real as anything else in this dark, dank place she inhabited. The once almost impossibly strong desire to bring new life into the world had shriveled and died as dreams such this one haunted Megan’s sleep, tormenting her endlessly.
As she sat trying to regain her composure, it dawned on Megan that it wasn’t some simple mercy that had woke her up before her dream could reach its evil conclusion, as it had done so many times before. Something else had disturbed her sleep.
Megan didn’t have to wait long to discover that it wasn’t the sound of moaning or some window shattering nearby that had jarred her sleep. It was an explosion.
When the next one hit, it sounded like a bomb had been dropped on the neighborhood. The bedroom walls rattled as several more bursts occurred. Megan tensed, unsure of where they were coming from and if they were getting closer to her house.
She gripped the covers close, knowing they would provide no protection, but having no idea what else to do as she stared at the windows. A rumble of another blast caused them to vibrate.
Megan remained stationary for several minutes, even after the thunderous explosions ceased. She listened, waiting for something, anything else to happen, but there was nothing. Not even the ever-present moaning of the dead.
What the hell just happened?
It was the only thought that raced through Megan’s mind as she slid off the bed and searched for her shoes. Her actions were automatic. She hadn’t slipped on her sneakers in weeks, but it seemed like the thing to do as she pondered the explosions and the meaning behind them.
It had to be the military. They had been working all this time to clear the city of infected and they’d finally reached the suburbs. It was the only explanation that made any sense.
Limping as her sluggish limbs woke up, Megan made it to her closet. She needed to get dressed. For the first time in the five weeks, the close caress of the nightgown she’d been wearing repulsed her. It stuck to her skin and smelled foul, almost ripe. And as she stripped it away, it was as if layers of fear and intimidation disappeared with it.
Two minutes later Megan was moving down the steps, weak but excited. She had snatched the revolver off the nightstand and held in front of her like some sort of shield as she stared at the front door.
Memories of her nightmare returned. Megan closed her eyes as a vision of the baby she had held in her arms jumped into her head unbidden. She sucked in a sharp breath and opened her eyes again, determined to push the nightmare aside so she could focus on the aftermath of the explosions she’d heard.
After staring at the front door for a couple of minutes, her heart racing, Megan shook her head to clear it of all the confused thoughts that had been swarming through her mind since she had been so abruptly awoken.
“Shit happens,” Megan mumbled as she stepped closer to the door. Her voice sounded odd. Scratched, deflated. It was not the voice she had lived with her entire life, but instead sounded weak, insecure … frightened.
Steeling herself, Megan took a deep breath before leaning toward the window next to the front door, putting her hands on the blinds. There were a few more moments of seconding guessing before she was able to get close enough to pull a slat down.
Megan had to line her eyes up with the area between the boards nailed in place. She blinked a few times and tried to adjust to the light of the mid-day sun after having spent weeks in shadow. When she was able to focus on her front yard and what lay beyond, it took her mind several more seconds to accept what she was seeing was real.
The neutral toned brick and vinyl siding houses and manicured lawns were gone. They had been replaced with a palate of blackened and burnt wooden and stone skeletons. Several houses were smoking and ruined, while others still stood. All the lawns were overgrown and bushes were beginning to run wild. Fires had destroyed some structures while leaving others intact. Cars out on the street were covered with layers of dust, ash, and garish splashes of blood.
The burnt houses with timbers jutting into the sky mirrored the corpses littering the street. While it was mostly bones and splashes of blood, a few unidentifiable chunks of human residue were scattered about. Several younger saplings that had been planted in the grassy patch between the sidewalk and the street had been bent and broken, and Megan blinked as she spotted what looked like an arm dangling from one of the snapped limbs.
She took little comfort from the fact that she saw only a scattering of bodies. There were bones strewn about her yard and what appeared to be a torso stripped free of its flesh sitting on the Miller’s porch across the street.
Megan stifled a whimper as she saw the remains. A wide trail of blood led away from the torso to the front door of the Miller’s house, which had been ripped from its hinges. Several of the other houses Megan could see from her vantage point looked broken into as well.
Rubbing her eyes, Megan took a short break from looking outside while she tried to keep her breathing even and controlled. She’d seen nothing lurking in the shadows outside and the silence from earlier remained intact. There had been no noise since the explosions. No tanks rolling in, no gunfire, and no more moans. She took a small amount of solace from the possibility that the dead had migrated away from the neighborhood, but was disappointed that the cavalry had not appeared.
Megan was still rubbing her eyes when she heard another noise off in the distance. It startled her even though it was no where near as loud or abrupt as the explosions had been.
Letting go of the blinds, Megan stepped back and felt her legs give way as she collapsed onto the floor. Raising the revolver with a quivering hand, she pressed it against her temple.
It was those things. She could hear them moaning. They were coming back.
“Where’s my goddamn rescue?” Megan whimpered as she tried to fight back the tears.
Shaking her head, she refused to believe that the explosions had been some sort of freak occurrence. No! It had to be something else-something more than just another fractured, hopeless misery in a world already filled with them.
Megan continued sitting next to the door, hearing the moans getting closer while her arms rested on her knees and her head slumped over between them. She held the gun up and began tapping the butt gently against the back of her skull. This went on for another minute or so until she heard a new sound and raised her head to stare up at the window.
At first Megan couldn’t place what it was. She’d been subjected to the muffled wailing of flesh eating predators for far too long and her ears needed time to adjust to the subtleties of this new noise. When they did, Megan jumped up so quickly she almost fell on her side as a grin split her dry, cracked lips. She rushed to the window and clawed at the blinds. Flattening her face to the board again, Megan scanned her street and the one that crossed it nearby.
Megan’s street was at the bottom of a hill, the road feeding into her section of the subdivision on a downward slant. With the thin slit between the two boards showing only a little of the outside world, Megan couldn’t see that far, but as she waited, her patience was rewarded a few seconds later.
“Oh my God…”
It was a van! It was racing down the hill toward her street. Megan could hardly register what her eyes were trying to tell her brain. It’s a goddamned minivan! She nearly fell on her butt as her legs threatened to give out on her again. The dark blue van sped toward Nelson Street, where Megan lived, getting closer by the second.
Giggling hysterically, Megan wondered why the army was using minivans instead of Jeeps or Humvees. The vehicle continued to get closer, but appeared to be slowing down. A twisted part of Megan’s mind whispered to her that it was illegal for someone to be driving that fast anyway. The giggling ramped up and she wondered if she should call the police on the driver. Megan’s felt dizzy from all the laughter, but she was determined to get the attention of the person driving the van. Otherwise they would drive past her house, hit the dead end at the end of Nelson, turn around and speed out of the neighborhood without a single backward glance.
The laughter cut off as Megan realized she had a choice to make. It was either time to leave this house which was not only Dalton’s tomb, but fast becoming hers as well, or to give up and end it all.
That was when Megan realized there was still a spark of life left inside of her. This was her one chance for redemption; her one chance for freedom. The hell residing outside the house was beginning to look no worse than the hell that had been living inside of her mind for the past few weeks. Megan heard herself whimper as she reached for the first board that covered the front door.
Tears replaced the anxious laughter as she tugged at the lumber hammered into the top of the solid oak door. As she did, Megan wiped at the small beads of moisture coming from her forehead and her eyes.
The boards didn’t budge with her feeble efforts. Megan was already out of breath after a few tugs and her arms felt like dead weights. Need to get to the gym more often. She rubbed her forearm and glanced over at the window. Dalton had spaced the boards across it so they could still look outside. That would give her a place to slip her fingers as she gripped the boards when she pulled at them. Setting the gun down on a small table next to the front door, she moved to the window.
Megan could feel the itch of panic as she heard the minivan’s engine continued to creep closer to her house. It was taking way too long to get here. Hadn’t the driver been flying down the road? Now what were they doing? They’d been slowing down, but how slow could he possibly be going now? The speed limit is 25 MPH and every good citizen should observe that limit, even during the apocalypse. A new wave of giggles threatened to return with that crazed thought, but Megan was able to force them down as she struggled with the boards over the window.
She moved to the other window on the opposite side of the door and wrapped her arms around one of the boards over it. The fact that the driver was slowing down was some sort of cosmic nudge, urging her to try harder so she could let them know she was here. Megan yanked at the board and it bent slightly toward her but had no further give in it. She shook it, but it remained securely affixed to the window frame.
Megan screamed in rage. “Let. Me. Out!” Each word was punctuated by a futile jerk at the board. She kicked angrily at the wall as she pounded on the wood. Exhausted, she almost slumped to the floor again, knowing she wouldn’t make it in time. The van would pass by and never even know she was inside, desperate to be free.
Megan’s head snapped up as it dawned on her. The garage! She stumbled as she ran through the kitchen. She almost slipped on the linoleum but made it the garage door and pawed at the knob. She was nearly hyperventilating and couldn’t hear if the van was still outside. She slid between Dalton’s Jeep and her little econobox in a rush to get to the big aluminum garage door. With no electricity, the door would just pull up.
Megan snatched at the handle on the door and nearly wrenched her arm out of its socket as she yanked on it. It didn’t budge. A wave of pain shot through her arm as she recoiled from the handle like it was a venomous snake. The door was jammed.
Megan stared at the garage door, exasperated. The house didn’t want to let her go. Slowly her eyes grew wide and she cursed her stupidity. Glancing up past the handle, she saw a rectangular shaped protrusion half way up the door. It was connected to two metal rods that spanned the door horizontally. Of course! Dalton had manually locked the garage door on his return from the failed supply run.
Megan wrapped her hands around the cold, dry metal and twisted it to the left and it did not budge. Turning it the other way met with success as she heard the satisfying sound of the lock opening. She leaned down and tugged on the handle, receiving the result she was hoping for as the door began to rise. She let it go up about halfway and glanced outside, free of barriers between her and the rest of the world for the first time in ages.
Megan had been prepared to run screaming to flag down the driver, but as she looked out on the scene past her lawn, she realized that perhaps her grand vision of escape had been a mistake.
Things could be worse.
That was what Dalton had said to Megan when this whole mess started. He had been trying to raise her spirits and kept on trying to until the end. He wanted her to survive, wanted her to keep on fighting and find a way out of the hell they were in. Now, despite her efforts to entomb herself in the bedroom they had slept in, made love in, and lived in, she had finally woken up. She was somehow still willing to fight after all this time; not just for herself, but for her husband’s sake … because once she was gone, who would be left to remember him?
So when she saw the scraggly looking man standing on top of the blue minivan, looking away from her as he stared at the top of the hill, she realized that despite how terrible he looked and how dire her circumstances were, things could be worse.
Swallowing hard, Megan stepped out into the sunlight.
“Hello,” was all she could think to say.