Collected Short Stories
BORDERLINE: Collected Short Stories is Copyright © 2016 Dell Sweet
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Cover Art © Copyright 2016 Wendell Sweet
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This is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places or incidents depicted are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual living persons places, situations or events is purely coincidental.
This novel is Copyright © 2015 Wendell Sweet and his assignees. The Name Dell Sweet is a publishing construct used by Wendell Sweet. Portions of this text are copyright 2010, and 2015, all rights reserved by Wendell Sweet and his assignees. No part of this book may be reproduced by any means, electronic, print, scanner or any other means and, or distributed without the author’s or assignees permission.
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Geo October 29th
I buried Della this morning. I knew they’d find out, hell they probably knew immediately in that slow purposeful way that things come to them. I can hear them out there ripping and tearing… They know. Yeah, they know, I know it as well as I know my name, Geo, Georgie, Mother used to say. I… I get so goddamned distracted…. It’s working at me…
Bastards! … If they could have only left Della alone, I could have…. But it’s no good crying about it or wishing I had done this thing or that thing. I didn’t. I didn’t and I can’t go back and undo any of this, let alone the parts I did.
In August when the sun was so hot and the birds suddenly disappeared, and Della came around for what was nearly the last time I hadn’t known a thing about this. Nothing. It’s late fall now and I know too much. Enough to wish it were August once again and I was living in ignorant bliss once more.
Della: I didn’t want to do it. I told myself I would not do it and then I did it. Not bury her, that had to be done, I mean kill her. I told myself I wouldn’t kill her, and that’s a joke really. Really it is, because how do you kill something that is already dead? No. I told myself that I wouldn’t cut her head off, put her in the ground upside down, drive a stake through her dead heart. Those are the things I told myself I wouldn’t do, couldn’t do, but I did them as best I could. I pushed the other things I thought, felt compelled to do, aside, and did what I could for her.
The trouble is, did I do it right? It’s not like I have a goddamn manual to tell me how to do it. Does anybody? I doubt it, but I would say that it’s a safe bet that there are dozens of people in the world right now, people who have managed to stay alive, who could write that manual. I just don’t know them… I wish I did. And it won’t matter to me anyway. It’s a little too late.
So the books say take their heads off. The books also say, for Vampires, put a stake in their heart, and older legends say turn them around, upside down in the grave. Isn’t a vampire a kind of Zombie? Isn’t it? Probably not exactly, precisely, but, could it hurt to have done the stake thing just in case? To be sure? To put her at rest? I don’t think so.
They can come out during the daylight, you know. I thought they wouldn’t be able to. Every goddamn movie I ever saw, starting with the Night Of The Living Dead they couldn’t. You could get some relief. You could get some shit done. And you could if it were true, but it’s not. They rarely come out in the daylight, that’s the truth. It’s hard for them, tough somehow, but they can: It won’t kill them. They aren’t weaker than they are at night. They just don’t like the daylight. They don’t like it. And don’t you think writing that makes me a little paranoid? Thinking it over once more? It does. I just got up and checked the windows. Nothing I can see, but they’re out there. They’re right out there in the barn. Sleeping in the sweet hay up in the Haymow. I know it, so it doesn’t matter whether I can see them. I can hear them and I know where the rest of them are. And I know they know what I did and they’ll come tonight. They’ll come tonight because I’m afraid of the night. Not them. Me. And they goddamn well know it! They know it! They think. They see. Did you think they were stupid? Blind? Running on empty? Well you’re the fool then. Listen to me, they’re not. They’re not and thinking they are will get you dead quick. And what about me? How will I feel tonight? What will I think about it then?
Zombies: I thought Haiti, horror flicks…? What else is there? Dead people come back to life, or raised from the dead to be made into slaves. Those are the two things I knew and nothing else. Well, it’s wrong. Completely wrong. No, I can’t tell you how they come to be Zombies initially, but I can tell you that the bite of a zombie will make you a zombie. The movies got that much right.
I can’t tell you why they haunt the fields across from my house. Why they have taken up residence in my old barn, but I can tell you that it might be you they come for next and if they do you goddamn well better realize that everything you thought you knew is bullshit. See, Della didn’t believe it and look what happened to her! I know, I know I didn’t tell you, but I will. That’s the whole point of writing this down before they get me too.
See, in a little while I’m going to walk out the kitchen door and right out to the barn. I’ll leave this here on the kitchen table. First for my Son Joe, I haven’t heard from him since September, before things got really crazy. So, if he makes it here somehow this will be here for him. Second, it’s for you, whoever you are who happened along into my kitchen.
Goddamn zombies. Ever lovin’ Bastards! …
I am losing control, I know I am, but… Anyway, it was August. Hot. Hotter they said, than it had been in recorded time. There was no wind. No rain. Seemed like no air to breath.
It was on a Tuesday. I went to get the mail and there were six or seven dead crows by the box. I thought, ‘Those Goddamn Clark boys have been shootin’ their B.B guns again.’ So I resolved to call Old Man Clark and give him a piece of my mind, except I forgot. That happens when you get old. It’s not unusual. I remembered about four o’clock the next morning when I got up. Well, I told myself, Mail comes at ten, I’ll get that, then I’ll call up and have that talk.
I make deals like that with myself all the time. Sometimes it works out fine, sometimes it doesn’t: It didn’t.
Ten came and I forgot to get the mail. I remembered at eleven thirty, cursed myself and went for my walk to the box.
I live alone. I have since Kate died. That was another hot summer. I used to farm. I retired a few years back. I rent out the fields. The barn did set empty up until late September or early October when the zombies moved in… Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself.
I walked to the mail box cursing my creaky brain as I went. When I got there I realized the Clark boys had either turned to eating crows or they had nothing to do with the dead crows in the first place. There were dozens of dead crows, Barn swallows, gulls. The dirt road leading up to my place was scattered with dead birds, dark sand where the blood had seeped in. Feathers everywhere, caught in the trees, bushes, and the ditches at the side of the road. There were three fat, black crows sticking out of my mailbox. Feet first. Half eaten.
Some noise in the woods had made me turn, but I can’t turn as fast as I used to. Whatever had made the noise was gone when I got turned in that direction, but there were bare footprints in the dry roadbed next to the box. They were not clear, draggy, as though the person had a bad leg. He had, of course, but I had yet to meet the owner.
The day’s getting away from me. My ears are playing tricks on me too. I thought I heard something upstairs, but there seems to be nothing. I have the bottom floor boarded up. Those zombies may be far from stupid, but it’s goddamn hard to get dead limbs to help you climb up the side of a house and we took everything down they could hold onto…
Where was I? … The mailbox. The mail never came that day. In fact the mail never came again. Already Emma Watson, our local mail carrier, was a zombie. I just didn’t know it.
I tried Clark, but got no answer. Later that day I heard a few shots, but we’re country folks. There’s deer wandering all over the place. Wouldn’t be the first time one got shot without a tag or a proper season… Della came later, upset, her boyfriend had run off somewhere she thought. It’ll be okay I told her.
I seen him a week later.
Della usually came at the ends of the month to help me with shopping, bills, she’s a… She was a good girl. A good one. A good zombie fearing girl. She was… She didn’t come and August turned to September and I was sitting by the stove that night and heard the scrape on the porch.
His leg was bad. Somebody had shot him, but her fella had worse things going on than that. He was dead. What was a bum leg when you were dead? Small problem, but it made him drag that leg. I’m getting ahead of myself again though.
I picked up my old shot gun where it sat next to the door, eased the door open and flicked on the porch light. He jumped back into the shadows.
“Step out into the light!” I tried not to sound like the old man I was.
“No,” he rasped
“Step out here or I’ll shoot!” I tried again.
“Della,” he whispered. His voice was gravelly, somehow airless.
That stopped me cold. I squinted, but it was too dark to make out much. Still, I had the idea it might be her boyfriend. Maybe he’d got himself into something bad. I couldn’t get the name to come to me. “You Della’s boyfriend that went missing…?”
Nothing but silence, and in that silence I got a bad feeling. Something was wrong. It came to me about the same time that he stepped into the light. There was no sound of breathing. It was dead quiet. My own panicked breathing was the only sound until he stepped into the light dragging his leg.
My heart staggered and nearly stopped.
“Della,” he rasped once more. He cocked his head sideways, the way a dog will when it’s not sure of something. One eye was bright, but milky white, the other was a gooey mess hanging from the socket on the left side of his face.
I found my old shot gun rising in my hands. I saw the alarm jump into his one good eye and he was gone just that fast.
I stood blinking, convinced that I had somehow dreamed the whole encounter, but I knew I hadn’t. The smell of rotting flesh still hung heavy in the air. In the distance I heard the rustle of bushes and then silence. Zombies are not stupid, and they are not slow.
The next day it seemed ridiculous. What an old fool, I thought. What had I imagined? But the days leading up to October told me a different story.
I drove into Watertown around the middle of October. I passed maybe two cars on the way, but neither driver would meet my eyes. That was wrong. Trash blew through the streets as I drove. The traffic lights were out on the public square and no one was on the streets. I didn’t see a single police car.
The mall was closed. The road into it barricaded. I found a little Mom-and-Pop place open on the way back, but there was next to nothing on the shelves. I got a jar of peanut butter that I didn’t want. A package of crackers, there was no bread, and paid with the last of my cash.
The store owner wore deep socketed eyes on a lined face. His attitude said, I will not speak to you. And he wouldn’t: After a brief attempt I went home. I never went back, but by that next night I knew what the deal was when Della showed up.
She came around noon. I heard the sound of her engine revving long before she came into sight. She took out the mailbox and crashed into the porch and that was that. We were up most of the night talking about how much the world had changed. She knew more than I did. She knew there were no more police. She knew there were roving gangs of zombies on the streets of Watertown. She had met a man who had come from Rochester. Rochester was a ruin. Another from Buffalo, the same story there. The zombies, it seemed, owned the world.
She stayed until three days ago. I wouldn’t have been able to get this house closed up on my own. Della worked side by side with me. That was early, before we knew they would come out into the sunlight. Johnny, that was her fellas name, came for her in the daylight when we were closing up the house. If not for the bad leg he would have got her. If not for the fact that we were close to the living room door he might have got her. He might have got her because we both froze. And when I realized I had to move she was still frozen, just looking at his ruined, rotted face.
I got the shot gun and blew his head off. I thought she was going to kill me, then I thought he was going to manage to get back to his feet even without his head and kill me. He finally stopped and I managed to drag her inside and shut the door: After that we watched when we worked.
I had gone back out a short time later, after I got her laid down and sleeping off the shock, to take a closer look at the body. There were five of them eating him where he lay, and two watching the door: When I started out they were on me just that fast. I shot them both as fast as I could pull the trigger. My shot gun only holds four shells. Two were gone and they were slowed, but they were not deterred. I made it back inside, bolted the door and began to wonder if my heart was going to explode.
Later, before dusk, I went back outside. Johnny’s body was gone along with the other zombies.
After that it became a war, and then we decided, I decided, that Della had to try to get out. Drive out and find help. She was carrying a child after all, the zombie fellas baby, I suppose. Maybe there was a place outside of New York where things were normal, okay, zombie free.
We planned it. I got my truck, drained the gas from her car and my old tractor. That gave her a full tank in the truck and almost ten gallons in cans strapped into the back of the cab. There wasn’t much in the way of food, but we split what we had. She promised to send help, but we both knew that was a long shot. She left early morning and I thought she was away and free.
I don’t know what happened. I’ll never know. Did she get ten miles down the road before they got her somehow? Only a mile? How did they do it? I’ll never know. I only know she came back to me last night. Dead already. A zombie. Already reeking of death.
“Geo!” In the night: Her calling my name and it pulled me up from sleep with dread, fear, but hope that there was some sort of plausible reason why she was out there calling my name in the night.
“Geo! Please… Help me!”
I had thrown the bolt on the door and had it halfway to open before I realized what an old fool I was. It was too late then. She was on me before I could close the door. She was strong. So goddamned strong, and she knew where the gun was and tried to stop me from getting to it.
I got it, but I hesitated too long for the last time and she got me. She lunged and took a chunk of flesh out of my shoulder. I got her in the stomach with two shots, and then one more, after I reloaded, in the head.
I buried her this morning: Even when I did I had this strange urge to taste her. Just a small bite. Who would know? I was shocked that I had the thought. Shocked that I had continued with the burial and had not eaten her. I’ve been sitting here since then. They’ve come around. I can hear them. It was the noise of them digging her up earlier that I heard and thought had come from upstairs. I suppose they dug her up. I just bet they did. I should have kept her for myself, I think. But, God, What am I thinking? What?
I can feel it working its poison in my body. My sense of smell is incredible. My eyesight sharp. I’m hungry. It’s like something that is trying to drive me… Own me… I can’t stand it. I can’t. I…
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Billy Only intended to go for a walk downtown, look at the lights and the pretty girls, kill some time. It seemed the safest thing in the world… https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/487747
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