The Road Not Taken
It’s been two months and a day since the zombie thing began. When it happened, Twitter exploded with people excitedly relaying their zombie escape plans. They played Shaun of the Dead on Channel 4 continuously, with wry commentary. Kids from council estates rammed cars into the walking corpses and we cheered for them.
We boarded up our windows. We realised that all the rakes and knives and baseball bats in the world couldn’t stop the press of two, fourteen, fifty zombies smashing through the glass of your living room window; a bolted door could only resist so much pressure.
We killed our dog in the third week, and I know it sounds stupid but that’s when I realised it wasn’t really a game. Sure, I’d seen grisly reports on TV. I’d seen ogrish sites with close-up video of people being eaten alive, but this was my little dog. I’d been held back by my brother as dad snapped his neck. He barked too much. While we cowered in silence as the zombies shuffled through our garden and crushed mum’s prize chrysanthemums underfoot, the dog barked and whined and then there would be the angry scrabbling at the door, the terrible moments as we fought off the monster and smashed its dumb brains in.
The internet went down. Or the phone companies did, I don’t know. The router doesn’t work and we can’t get a signal for our phones. The BBC channels all went down, and the radio. Channel 4 keeps playing Shaun of the Dead on a loop. I don’t know if anybody is working the controls there, if it’s the work of an unfunny studio runner, or it’s just that they’re dead. Hell, I don’t know if our neighbours are dead. We daren’t even knock on the wall to hear if Joanne and Tommy are okay next door. What if they’re zombies? What if they remember somewhere in their decaying minds that there’s a flimsy little gate separating our properties out back and they come crashing through that? continue reading…
The Fixed Sign
‘I’m terribly sorry,’ he said. ‘I don’t quite know how I managed—‘
‘Hush, Taurus,’ I said. ‘It’s all right.’
‘It’s not all right. It’s embarrassing.’ He pawed at the ground furiously. ‘I can just imagine how that damned crab will be, Aquarius.’
Curious, I turned to him. ‘How so?’
‘Please can you hurry? It’s awfully hard on this—this—‘
‘Ground,’ I say. ‘That’s what they call it. And I can’t help you until Orion gets here, so you’d do best to humour me. I don’t like being down here any more than you, you know.’
‘You could have sent Sirius,’ he said. continue reading…
We’re in art class and I’m supposed to be listening to Mr. Bolton’s speech about sculpture and the human form, but all I can do is look at Nikos and wonder about his form. I like to focus on different parts of him in our classes. Sometimes I’ll wonder at his jaw, or his beautiful dark eyes, or the play of his shoulder. Today, I’m just so in love with his hair. It’s a bit messy today, falling into his eyes fetchingly. I want to run my fingers through it, bring him close, kiss him and tell him I love him.
Half the girls in our year want to do this, though. Some actually get to touch him.
I’ve never been allowed.
I’ve tried, hard, to come up to scratch for him. I wear make-up now. My clothes are more flattering; I even dyed my hair red because I know it’s his favourite shade on a girl.
I put myself on this diet I read about in one of my mum’s magazines. It was the most soul-destroying experience of my life, if you must know. Fridays (pizza night in our house) became hell to me, sitting there with my broccoli while my family gorged themselves on stuffed-crust, deep fried whatever. But I did it. I lost 10lbs and I look amazing. In fact, I got a bit too skinny so I can allow myself a deep-stuffed-crust pizza thing every now and again. I look amazing, but not amazing enough for him. continue reading…
‘Misty,’ I hiss. There’s no response from her. I try again: ‘Misty!’
I curse her under my breath, but I’m really just afraid. It’s 3am. There’s no traffic on the road outside the field and if I cried for help, I doubt my sleeping parents would hear me. I cast a covetous look back at the house and my own bedroom lit by a low light. I should be safe in there, not out here in my pyjamas and boots, looking for an errant cat that doesn’t realise it’s in serious danger.
‘Misty!’ I whisper urgently, ’the blob is going to get you!’
When I say blob, I mean a literal blob. I’ve only caught glimpses of it from my bedroom window when I’ve dared to look at the field late at night, and sometimes it’s very big, sometimes about my height, but it’s always an indefinable thing, a ball of malice. I hate it and I fear it and nobody would understand, because they can’t see it.
So people would probably call me a witch, though I don’t like that at all because to me a witch casts spells and probably has a green face and all. I do have a cat (that would be Misty) but she’s a lazy moggy who can’t be told what to do, so she’d be the worst familiar. continue reading…
One Longing For the Night
In our house, her name was a dirty word. If a Campbell muttered that someone was like Amelia, you’d better take note. If you were told you were acting up, like Amelia, you stopped. Mum’s mouth set in a hard, disapproving line if we spoke of her, which was rarely. Dad collapsed in on himself like shadows in the darkness. Amelia to him meant pain. They never told us that, I should hasten to add. Jodie used to give me a big sister punch to the arm if I slipped and mentioned her, so I stopped because Jodie was mean. When I became a teenager and finally understood the world, I saw why I shouldn’t mention her.
I locked my memories of her into a box in my mind. I would wait until I was comfortable in bed and the house was silent and dark, and the only light in my room was from the far-flung stars who always bore witness as I examined my memory for fragments of the late Amelia Campbell.
She’d been my favourite aunt when I was a child. She would visit in a flurry of presents and hugs and kisses; her unearthly beauty mesmerised us. I was fascinated with her red hair which gave her a fiery look. She had the greenest eyes I’d ever seen, not hazel or flecked with other colours, but pure green. It hurt to look at her sometimes, she was so delicate and beautiful and aflame. She didn’t talk down to us, ever. She didn’t change the subject when we entered the room, which annoyed mum to no end. She listened to my stories about my dolls and Jodie’s horrid pony collection in earnest. She’d nod sagely as I served Teddy Ruxpin high tea, and solicitiously ask him if he wouldn’t fancy a sandwich. When I introduced her to my imaginary friend Stanley, she didn’t frown the way the other adults did. She asked him if he liked chocolate ice-cream, as if it were the most normal thing in the world. She seemed just as enchanted with the world as I was. continue reading…
‘You could stay,’ said John.
‘What?’ Mammy would hate me speaking so abruptly: what. It doesn’t become a young Irish lady, she’d say. Drop your accent, she’d say. Do you want folk in New York to think you’re common?
‘I mean you’re sixteen now, like.’ He opened his mouth again, but closed it abruptly. He was never good at talking about deep things.
‘They saved for ages for those tickets,’ I said firmly.
He looked at me so sadly then that I could barely stand it. I wanted to hit him. It wasn’t like the good old days, though: he wouldn’t hit me back. He thought he was a man now and with that came the sad man’s silence. I’d seen it with pa. continue reading…
I’m headed to college in a couple weeks, and I couldn’t be happier about it. I’ll be out of this town and I won’t come back! I’ll be all the way in New York and that’s fine by me — there’s no reason to stay. I went travelling over summer. I visited all sorts of great places and forgot about my messed-up life. But I had to come home and tidy up my stuff before I leave for college. I sorted through my mail (already opened) while my snooping mom nagged me.
‘Come on, Cat. You want to look nice for the wedding, don’t you?’
‘Tina,’ she said.
I froze. ‘Oh.’
‘Honey, if you want to talk–‘ continue reading…