Sunday, August 11, 2013

Mother's Day

Genre: Horror (Zombies)

Daniel Skye

          In the darkest corner of the Fisher family kitchen, Casey Fisher used a stepstool to reach the countertop. Using a pitcher he had filled at the sink, Casey dumped some water into a mixing bowl and added pancake mix. Casey had studied his mother make pancakes for him and Bo every morning. She always added the water before the mix to prevent the formation of lumps. Then she would stir clockwise with a metal whisk, just as Casey began to do.
          He was a young boy, nine years old to be exact; short and skinny as a pencil. His dark brown hair was shoulder-length and covered the sides of his face, hiding the faded scars that marked him.
          Casey stirred until the batter was nice and thick. He dipped his finger in the bowl and ate a glob of raw batter just to certain it was ready. His dad would’ve caned him good for that one, had he been around to see it.
          Sunlight peeked in through the thin cracks of the wooden planks and boards that were nailed across every window. This made both entry and escape quite impossible.
          The clocks still ran and Casey could see it was just past dawn. He was learning quickly how to operate on little to no sleep. He and Bo, his younger sister, took turns sleeping in shifts. He had been keeping track of the days on a calendar tacked to the kitchen wall.
          It had been two weeks since the chaos erupted. Two weeks and the cavalry had yet to arrive. Every day, Casey’s hope would dwindle. But he fought to stay strong for Bo and for his mother.
Casey lifted the bowl from the counter and dragged the stool across the kitchen floor, scraping the linoleum in the process. That was the least of his concerns. He turned the burner on the electric stove and Bo passed him a frying pan which he set atop the burner. He tipped the bowl gently and let the batter drip into the pan.
Casey was astonished the water and electricity were still flowing, though he figured it wouldn’t last for long. Once the power went, Casey had a box of flashlights and candles set aside. The clocks all ran on batteries. And Ben, his father, had stocked up enough firewood to heat the house for a year. They had plenty of dry and canned foods, and Casey was certain the conflict would be resolved before supplies ran scarce.
          “Don’t forget to flip them this time,” Bo reminded him.
          “You just keep an eye on that toast,” he whispered. “Don’t let it burn. And remember to keep your voice down.”
          “Sorry,” she whispered back. “Do you think mom will enjoy this?”
          “I hope,” he said, flipping one of the pancakes with a spatula. “She hasn’t eaten in days. And it’s Mother’s Day, after all. What mom doesn’t love breakfast in bed?”
          Bo pressed the button the toaster and four crispy brown slices sprung up from their individual slots. She slathered butter on them and spread them out on a clear plate. Casey topped off the stack of pancakes with a little butter and syrup. He placed the food on a silver tray and considered pouring a glass of orange juice. But they were running low on OJ and Casey knew his mom wouldn’t drink it. Since the accident, she had acquired a thirst for something different.
          “Do you miss dad?” Bo asked as they walked through the hall, Casey carrying the tray and Bo toting their father’s shotgun. Casey didn’t have the heart to tell her the gun wasn’t loaded. He didn’t trust her with a loaded gun and let her carry it for false security. He always kept the shells in his pockets for when they were needed.
          He balanced the tray on one hand and brushed his fingers across the scars under his long hair. He had momentary flashes of the day his old man swung a coffeepot at him. He remembered the sound the glass made when it shattered across his cheek. It sounded like a rock being chucked through a window.
          Ben Fisher seemed to have it in for his only son. The beatings were a small fraction of his abuse. He would verbally abuse his son as he would curse the players on TV when they missed a field goal. Ben constantly ridiculed Casey for his long hair, and couldn’t help but wonder if he was raising a queer. “Cut your hair, faggot,” he’d say. “If your grandpa was around to see you, he’d buzz your head and boot your ass straight to military school.” One night, Casey accidently spilled his father’s Blue Ribbon and Ben snapped, ran to the kitchen, and grabbed a butcher’s knife. “Boy, if you pull that shit again, I’ll scalp you like an Injun, you understand?” Casey only nodded his head, the sharp knife glistening under the dim lights.
“Dad got what he deserved,” Casey muttered.
          “Still, we could have used him. He could have protected us.”
          “Dad was more harm than good,” Casey explained. “I’m here to protect you. That’s all that matters.”
          “You did a great job protecting me the other day,” Bo rolled her eyes. She was smart and sassy for her age. But she still required constant supervision.
          “I warned you not to get that close. Don’t worry, it’ll heal up.”
          They approached the basement door and Casey undid the latch. “I can’t go near her,” Bo pleaded, itching at the bandage that covered her infected wound.
“Stay back then,” he cautioned her. He twisted the knob and pushed the door forward, placing the tray on the top step. “Mom?” he called and peered into the darkness below.
Their mother emerged, ascending the staircase slowly. Casey locked eyes with her and almost caught a brief glint of recognition from those blank, lifeless pupils.
          Casey slammed the door, locked it, and watched silently through the peephole he had drilled with one of his dad’s power tools. The dry, rotted flesh still clung to her ample body. She leaned over, growling, drooling over the food as she sniffed and poked at it. In seconds, the tray was flung aside and she was clawing at the door, growling and screeching like the rabid lunatic she had been reduced to.
          “Happy Mother’s Day,” Casey whispered as a tear rolled down his cheek and grazed his scars. He relieved Bo of the shotgun, steering her away from the door.
          “She didn’t like it?” Bo asked, already knowing the answer.
          “Regular food won’t do the trick,” Casey sighed. “We tried. But she’s one of them now. And dad wasn’t enough to satisfy her hunger. The only option is to find her another source of food.”
          “There’s nobody out there,” Bo insisted.
          “There has to be. If we survived, so have others.”
          “We can’t do that,” Bo said, scratched at her infected arm. “Dad was one thing. Hurting normal people is wrong.”
          “Who said we? I’ll handle it.”
          They moved to the living room, where Casey tried the television again. All stations were down. Every channel he flipped through flashed a blue screen with white text that read TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES, PLEASE STAND BY.
          Casey heard the soft approach of footsteps, followed by the loud growling sounds that emanated from their front porch. The porch made him think of the day Bo fell running up to the house and skinned her knee. Ben Fisher was passed out in the recliner; empty Blue Ribbon cans were strewn about the floor. And their mother was working at the market that day. So Casey dabbed the wound with alcohol and bandaged it. Once her tears dried up, she gave her brother a peck on his scarred cheek and thanked him. It was that day that Casey realized he was more a father to Bo than Ben ever would be.
          Being the older brother is usually a tough chore to handle. But now he was playing the role of the brother and the parents. And he was charged with the task of dealing with Bo’ injury; the wound their mother had inflicted when Bo simply tried to pass her an apple. Soon, Bo would develop a bad fever and her flesh would rot to the bone. She would die and come back as one of them… unless he spared her from that misery.
          Bo shuffled away from the boarded windows until she could no longer hear the clawing sounds from outside. The sound of the zombies used to frighten her. Now what frightened her was the fact she was getting used to it. Little Bo was old enough to understand the concept of fate, and she had accepted hers. “I’m not going to get better. I’m going to turn into one of them, aren’t I?”
          “Not if I can help it,” Casey said, slipping one of the shells into his dad’s shotgun. “I love you, sis.”
          Outside, a horde of the undead continued to gather as a single gunshot rang throughout the neighborhood.

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