The Dead. Short Story.

They’re all dead. Every last one of them and he couldn’t understand why they didn’t see it. They were walking and talking and acting nothing was wrong at all. Like they couldn’t see the chunks of flesh falling from their body, or the maggots that writhed in holes in their flesh. Like they couldn’t smell the stench of putrefaction or the rotting breath that left their mouths. He didn’t understand it, how could they not see it? How could they be walking around like everything was normal? How could they even move at all?

It had been like this for a month. The first morning Dennis had been horrified, freaking out. He was lucky he had seen the news first. The people on the TV, all rotting and oozing. It had been a shock to say the least, but if he had been outside, in the streets? God only knew what would have happened. He probably would have tried to brain one of them. He had taken the day off work. He couldn’t deal with seeing people, talking to them. He had flicked through TV stations relentlessly, trying to find something, somewhere where people looked normal, but there were none. Everything had been changed. TV shows that he remembered so well were the exact same, the only difference was the actors appearance, in some episodes they were more rotted than others, but they were still rotting. The only things that seemed to be untouched were cartoons, and even then they had a vague tinge of rot to them. Skin tones were slightly off, strange spots dotting their bodies. He couldn’t understand it. If everyone had changed over night that might be one thing, but how had the television shows changed too? Why was no one freaking out over the sudden change. He had already made appointments with doctors and therapists. The work was ongoing, but so far nothing was turning up. No one else could see what he could, or at least, no one else was admitting to it.

The first day had been harrowing. He had been terrified. Obviously something had happened to everyone, maybe they had been replaced, perhaps they didn’t know. The real fear for Dennis was what would happen if they found out he was still normal, and that he could truly see them, they would attack and tear him apart. He spent two days in his apartment before he finally left to get food. He had observed people from the balcony, watching as the corpses moved about their daily lives. None seemed violent, to one another at least. He had yet to see anyone be attacked or torn apart. His trip to the shop was nerve wracking. He had decided against the elevator, the thought of being trapping inside a box with one of them was too much. He walked to the shops, nervously glancing around himself, making sure no one was going to make any sudden moves on him. After he bought his food he raced back to his apartment and barricaded the door. He ate some of the food and dissected his trip, looking over everything. No one seemed strange beyond the obvious, no one looked at him weirdly without cause. He had admittedly stared at one or two people who seemed to be in a particularly bad state of decomposition.

Dennis went back to work, the entire time he tried to keep himself calm. The smell was thick in the air and he had to dodge around people to avoid them touching him. He knew if one of them touched him properly, full on skin contact, he would start screaming. He was lucky that he had work to catch up on the first day, he was able to avoid everyone, just sit in his office and work away. He had only two incidences. The first was when one of his managers dropped by to check that he was feeling better. It was hard to talk to her when it looked as though one of her ears would drop off any moment. The second incident was the worst. He had made himself a cup of coffee in the break room, managing to avoid everyone on the way there and back, by some miracle. He had settled in when Jake came in to talk about something. The conversation was brief, the issue resolved, Dennis couldn’t even remember what it was they talked about while Jake was in the room, he had been far too distracted. Dennis had set his coffee cup at the edge of the table, Jake had leaned over it to look closely at something. Dennis watched as one of the squirming maggots pulled itself from Jakes flesh and landed in his coffee with a faint plop. He saw it writhe and wriggle in the coffee before sinking to the bottom. It had been the last day he had drank coffee from the office, instead he brought his own, sealable, refillable cup. He had thrown the coffee down the sink at the end of the day, doing it slowly. The maggot was still moving when it fell down the drain. He decided then and there that he wouldn’t eat in any restaurant again, he would prepare all his food himself. Jake didn’t notice the maggot, no one else seemed to notice them, how many were falling off every day? He checked his own food religiously too, god only knew how many people it had gone through before getting to him. He felt some reassurance in that most things were automated these days, but he knew he couldn’t be too safe.

Few people knew about his supposed condition, he had told his family and one or two friends he was going through some stuff, the doctors weren’t sure what it was but he’d let them know the specifics when he found out. If they found a tumour or something then great, he’d tell them all once it was gone. If not he had decided he would just live with it in secret. He knew he could never marry anyone, not seeing them like that. Perhaps if he found someone who looked like him he’d change his mind, but that lead to other problems too. What about any children they had? Would they be rotting? Bundles of flesh held together by blankets and nappies. Would they see the world like him? See it as it really was, filled with shambling, rotting corpses. He didn’t know if he could inflict that on anyone, it would just be too cruel. Perhaps they’d figure out what was wrong with him, and once they did he could get it treated, but until then he would just keep it a secret. Tell no one and try to go about his daily life as though nothing was the matter.

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About Alan James Keogh

I am a 24 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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