Part 1: Hotel of the Dead
A moment of clarity--a stray, lucid thought after what felt like years of static and noise.
How long has it been? Two days? A week? A month? Longer?
Don’t know. Not sure.
Where am I?
A tiled floor. A bathroom. It was dark in there, just the light from the TV flickering under the door. But it was enough for me to see that I was lying in a pool of sticky, cooling blood.
I backpedaled away.
My head brushed against a cold, rigid hand. Grimacing, I swallowed and looked up.
The hand was attached to a body.
The body was in the bathtub.
Slipping and sliding in the blood on the floor, I flicked on the light.
The fluorescents clicked to life, buzzing and shedding stark white light over everything. It hurt my eyes. Too bright. Too harsh. Didn't like it. Wanted to smash them out...but didn't.
I was afraid to look. Didn't want to.
But I did.
A dead, naked man. Ass up, face down, in the tub. Body all a tumble, like a rag doll. His arm hung over the side of the tub.
Gaping wounds on both sides his neck. Trachea crushed. Huge chunks were ripped from his shoulder, back and thighs. Part of his left arm was gone. Just...gone.
A flash of memory, of him screaming while I bit down and tore off his flesh. It tasted so good. His blood a rush of hot velvet gold in my throat. Warmth spreading out through my body as I swallowed.
The memory of the taste made me drool.
I wiped off my mouth, got to my feet.
I stared when I saw the mirror above the sink.
I wasn't there.
No reflection in the mirror. But, I was standing right there in front of it.
I am here, right?
I looked down. Shirt soaked with blood. It was on my hands, bare legs and ass. Everywhere.
Confused, I backed out of the bathroom. That's when I realized something.
There was no TV lighting up the room. Its screen was smashed. Someone threw it against the wall, left a huge dent in it.
I guess that was me, but I don't remember doing it.
Through a crack in the window curtains I could see the electronic sign flashing red LEDs:
VACANCY. 1 room $80. Hourly rates. 75˚ F 1:30 a.m. Welcome to Texanville Tennessee. Breakfast Buffet.
I could see the light from the sign, even in the closed bathroom.
My eyes, they were sharper now, just like my teeth. Razored incisors, a sharp knife's edge on the rest. Not a smooth ridge anywhere.
I liked it.
Biting through flesh was so satisfying. Like crunching a lollipop after sucking on it for a few minutes.
There was a dead girl on the bed. 18, 19, maybe older. It was hard to tell. Limp. Spread eagle. My sharp piranha teeth shredded the inside of her thighs, her legs were like plump juicy sausages.
When my teeth cut into them, they broke open the skin with a satisfying pop. Blood spurted out in gushes until the pressure was gone, then it drizzled, and slowed to an ooze to puddle on the bed.
Blood splatters on the walls, trailing down to the carpet, blankets were strewn everywhere on the floor.
I kicked them around, looking for my clothes and scratching off dried blood. I needed to clean up before I got dressed.
I returned to the bathroom, shoved the rigid corpse to the back of the tub with a foot, and took a hot shower, cleaning off the thick chunks of clotted blood from my backside. It smelled delicious. Like a rump roast for Christmas dinner.
I dried off, tossed the towel over the corpse's blank staring eyes and went back out into the main room.
I found my jeans, and slipped them on. Shoved on my shoes. Pulled on a clean T-shirt. Smelled like the guy in the bathtub, so it had to be his.
Took the expensive pair of shades, the pack of Marlboro Reds and the Zippo with the cheesy eagle on it.
“Fucking Boy Scouts.”
I didn't need a lot of light to see now, could get away with wearing sunglasses in the dark. It was like wearing shades at high noon.
I lit up a cigarette. Tasted good. Shit, I felt good. Like I just took a hit of something and was higher than a kite. Body felt like it was humming, buzzing off the blood I drank.
Over the smell of smoke and hot burning paper, there was a sickly sweet odor. I wrinkled my nose. The meat was starting to rot where it lay in the bed and bathtub. It was time to leave, before someone else noticed the stench.
I found car keys next to the ashtray on the side table and left, shutting out the rotting corpse smell behind me.
Outside, the night reeked of car exhaust, chemical fertilizer, and musky sweaty sex. Two doors down a couple was getting hot and heavy. She was dripping wet. I could smell it.
Too bad I wasn't hungry, or I would've joined them, had some more fun.
I hit the automatic unlock button on the fob remote. A car two spaces down lit up and the door locks clicked open. Cherry red Mustang. Tinted windows. Nice.
I got in.
Must be mine. Seat was right. So was the mirrors. The glove box had my map, some pens, more cigarettes, a couple cheap lighters, several folding pocket knives and a roll of duct tape.
The car's engine purred like a cat in heat.
I pulled out of the parking lot and high tailed it out of there. No use waiting for someone to report it to the cops. The cops were trouble. They'd want explanations, I'd need to say words for things that I didn't remember anymore.
Words were getting harder.
But, sometimes they were all right. Especially after I fed. Like now. But, in a day or so, they'd start leaving again. I wouldn't have the words to think straight. After that, I'd black out and wake up confused, surrounded by more corpses.
Once the words left, it was just scents and sounds and tastes and feelings of rage and intense, orgasmic pleasure. Then sleep.
I wasn't sure how I was supposed to feel about that, so I didn't.
When I first started roaming, I kept a journal of sorts. It lasted until my first blackout. When I came to, I found it ripped to shreds and soaked in blood. Looked like it pissed me off so much that I wanted it to die, so I killed it.
Don't know. Not sure.
"Gotta start dating these."
I drew a new X on the map, then studied it. A row of X’s marked where I had been, where I was when I woke up. In some places crude lines squiggled across the map in circles and loose un-closed squares written in a child’s hand.
They were all made by me.
It didn't smell like anyone else had touched it. It smelled like ink, and dried blood, and fear and death.
It was MY MAP; the only thing that kept my memory for me.
Where have I been? Where was I going?
There were X's in Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Indiana (where I was now), and somehow, there were also X's in Florida, Texas, Nevada, and California.
"Must've flown there."
Did I fly? Could I get on an airplane now? How did I pull that off? Red-eye express? Did I crawl in the plane's cargo hold when no one was looking, did I pack myself in a box and mail myself to the other side of the country?
Don't know. Not sure.
But, it must've happened. Because the X's are there.
I noted that I needed to get gas soon, and kept on driving until I saw the sign for the truck stop. That was an easy set of words to remember. Truck. Stop. Simple. A child could read it.
Has my mind become that of a child's?
Don't know. Not sure.
Words were important. That much I knew. They're what people used to communicate. They're what I used to use, a lot, before IT happened.
Ever since then, I haven't been a person. Not really.
I'm no longer human. I can't feel my heart beating in my chest. I'm cold all the time. I only get warm after I feed. Then I feel golden, hot molten fire inside, and am higher than a kite.
Killing and feeding were my drugs now.
Did I do drugs before? I think I did, but I didn't know for sure.
Shit. I don't know.
I don't remember.
I don't know who I am.
Where am I going? What am I doing? Why does it hurt so much to try to remember?
Panic swallowed me whole; my breath shallow, stomach nauseous, head dizzy. The car swerved. I had stopped steering. Needed to get off the road.
"Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit!"
I pulled into the truck stop. Parked the car. Gripped the steering wheel until I calmed down.
Panic happened a lot. More so now that I knew that I could remember some things, but not everything. And not all the time.
It was terrifying.
I was losing myself more and more. Every time...THAT happened.
Every time I blacked out, I lost something. I couldn't remember my own name. I knew that I was a man, and that I was (am?) young, or at least I looked it because that's what the food told me before I lured them out to a quiet space and ate them.
I didn't like to share my food. Didn't want to.
Different people's blood tasted differently, depending on the drugs, the alcohol, the blood type. Like wine vintages.
It made me laugh.
People are like wine. Pop off the cork and chug the blood down.
I filled up the gas tank, threw a wad of money at the kid running the gas station register and left without a word. He was standing there, staring at me. A trapped rabbit. I forgot to tell him to keep the change until I got back into the car and drove off. Oh well. Maybe I would remember next time.
After a few hours of driving, just before the sky started to grow light with the coming dawn, I could feel the sun rising like an invisible weight pressing down on my body. It was the same feeling that a deer had when a predator sat in the forest, staring at it. Waiting for it to move a little further away from its herd, and into its hungry jaws.
The sun hurt. Took only once for that lesson to stick. Even when I stopped thinking clearly, I knew that I had to get out of the sun or I would burn like a human candle. Poof! up I'd go in thick, black, choking smoke and crackling fire.
The rising sun made me nervous. My knee bounced. I tapped my fingers on the steering wheel. I got off the highway and drove until I found a nice secluded dirt road. I parked the car on the side, under the thick shade of leafy trees.
I locked the doors, pulled the back seat forward and crawled into the trunk.
arms like lead
I didn't want to pass out. I didn't want to forget.
But, the darkness was calling to me, begging me to join it.
"Jonah. Come. Rest. Sleep," it whispered in a voice like shards of broken glass.
I sighed, closed my eyes, and took a step further down into the abyss.
Part 2: The Thing in the Barn
“Wake up.” A voice like razor blades cuts into my head, forcing me to think straight.
A fragile little bird neck snapped in my hands. I dropped the girl and look around, panting, covered in blood. The warmth flooding through me, racing in my veins. I felt alive. Like I could do anything, and no one could stop me.
I stood in the middle of a huge tent. A baker’s dozen of corpses, 11 little girls and two young women littered the floor. They bled out on their sleeping bags as I drank my fill.
There were all dead.
I licked the blood off my lips. It tasted. So. Good.
Wait…Is that blood?
I touched my lips and looked at my fingers.
It is blood.
I did this. I killed them. I ate them. That was all me.
I left the tent. Parked outside was a huge white van with a campground decal on the side, HAPPY CAMPERS CAMPING. The fire was dying, it was almost out.
I helped myself to a handful of marshmallows and left. I washed off at the well-pump, then checked my pockets.
Car keys. Map. Zippo. Pack of cigs was almost out. It was full last night.
That was last night, wasn’t it?
Don’t know. Not sure.
I need a watch that keeps the date. One of those nuclear ones that catches a signal from the satellite hooked up with the atomic clock in Utah or Nevada or wherever the fuck it is.
Walking, walking, walking until I reached the bottom of the trail.
Pulled out the car keys. Hit the button. A horn honked. I followed the sound, found the car. It was the same car as before. Cherry red Mustang. Tinted windows.
It was time to get in and drive.
But to where?
I needed to find some place quiet and out of the way. I ate too much. It made me tired. I needed to rest before I moved on.
Gotta think. Gotta think, gotta think. Gotta pull yourself together man.
I grabbed my wallet out of the glove box, rifled through it. Passed a driver’s license. There’s my name and a picture of some guy on it. Light brown hair, sleepy hazel eyes, nice tan, charming white smile…
Is this what I look like? No. It can’t be.
I looked in the rear view mirror to check my face, to make sure that it matched the ID. Then I remembered, I no longer had a reflection in mirrors. There was no way for me to know what I looked like, unless I asked someone. But, there was no one to ask here. I had to find someone. Someone that wouldn’t screw me over. Someone that would understand.
Fuck. There’s no one like that. No one would understand what was happening to me.
I was on my own.
I tossed the wallet back in and slammed the glove box shut.
What to do? What to do?
I decided to keep driving on the side roads, until I found a nice secluded barn just as the sun was rising in the distance. The sky was blushing with red light. It hurt my eyes to look at it. Even with sunglasses on it still hurt.
I had to get out of the light, before I burnt to a crisp.
The barn was dark, inviting. Out of the way. Falling apart in some places, but the roof still held up. It smelled like rat shit and spiders.
A few miles away there was a farm. Cows, chickens, livestock, people; food. This was a perfect place to hide away for a while. Food in walking distance. I could take whatever I wanted, and no one would notice for days. Right?
I climbed into a pile of old, dusty hay and curled up all the way at the bottom of it, where the sun couldn’t reach me, even if it tried. I fell asleep, but not for long.
The pleasant nothingness of dead sleep was painfully ripped away.
Something yanked me out of the hay pile and slammed my head against the concrete floor of the barn. My skull cracked open. Stunned, I staggered away from my attacker and tried to get my bearings.
There was something wrong with my neck. My head was stuck leaning to the left. I grabbed the sides of my head and jerked it upright. There was loud series of pops. It hurt. I ground my teeth, tried to ignore the pain as best as I could.
This fucker meant business. Broke my neck in one hit. I couldn’t afford to be hit again.
Whatever it was that attacked me, it smelled like death. Rot and decay, of old moldy tombs and corpses long-buried. Formaldehyde. Methane. And dried human guts.
It loomed over where I sat on the floor. It was covered in a grey tattered cloak made from a canvas tarp. That thing must’ve worn it for decades. It was filthy; flies landed on spots of blood, where hair and shit had smeared on the bottom. Its feet were wrapped in tattered, dirty strips of cloth. Long, splintered nails grew out its toes. Its skin, what I could see of it, was grey, wrinkled and very, very dry.
“Get out. This is my barn,” it growled.
I tried to look up at its face. Foul smelling black liquid dripped into my eyes. It came from the spot on my head that hit the pavement. A sludge was leaking out of me.
Its face was a blur, I blinked, rubbed the sludge out of my eyes, stood up straight. Took another look.
It had a rat-like face. It wasn’t human, just something living inside a human shell, giving it rat-like features. The mouth and nose of the face elongated slightly as if something was pushing out from underneath the skin. Jagged, chipped teeth filled its mouth. The hands and feet were long, like a rodent’s. Ashy grey-black smoke curled out from its body, wafting up through tears and rips in the tarp that it wore for clothes.
It was a pretender running around in the mummified corpse of a man.
Behind it, in a corner, was a teenage boy. He smelled of fear and vomit. He was frozen in place, terrified. Eyes wide, breath ragged. Too scared to run, to scared to hide. He knew that no matter what he did, he was going to die.
That thing had brought its meal here to eat in peace. It could’ve done that and left before I woke up. But it didn’t. It just had to wake me up.
It wasn’t time for me to wake up yet. The sun still peeked over the trees. It was just starting to go down for the night.
That made me very cranky.
“You deaf? This is my barn,” it growled.
“Weren’t in it earlier. I needed to sleep. I slept.”
“Get out!” Its eyes began burning with a cold, blue light. The black smoke wafting off of it curled up into the light, wound around it and made blue-black tendrils. The tendrils reached out and grabbed my head, my neck, my torso, my hands. They were freezing cold, almost cold enough to burn. The tendrils pulled me towards it.
I could feel it trying to force its way into my head. Trying to make me do things I didn’t want to do. Trying to make me kill myself, trying to make me tell it where I came from so that it could find my family members and torture them and kill them.
The tendrils of blue-black light slinked into the wound on my forehead. Icy cold threads pushed past the cracked part of my skull and into my brain, rifling through memories. Making me see things, random events, things I did recently, things I did long ago.
Something inside of me stirred. It was pissed off, and wasn’t going to have any of this nonsense. I could feel it, the jaws of a shark, the mind of a predator, eyes as black as death, hissing and growling as rose up inside of my skull and bit off the tendrils and swallowed them whole.
Whatever that was that was inside of me, it was far more nasty and vicious than that thing ever could be.
The pretender cried out, and the tendrils released me. Several of them were dripping, leaking glowing fluid on the ground that evaporated into a black mist. I stepped on it, snuffing it out before it could return back to the thing that made it, denying it of its power.
I smiled, glared at it with daggers in my eyes. I could feel my hatred for it boiling over. It gave me strength. It felt good to be pissed off. I loved it.
The pretender started and took a step back.
“No. It can’t be.”
“Can’t be what?” I asked and stepped toward it.
“You’re one of them. A broodling. But, how can you?…you shouldn’t be able to do this. This isn’t how it works. You’re not an original. You’re offspring. You shouldn’t be able to do that!”
“No clue what you’re talking about buddy. But it kinda seems like you don’t want me to touch you. You were so eager to kick my ass before. What happened? You lose your nerve?”
“Stay away from me.”
“You attacked me first. Now it’s my turn.”
Instinct told me what to do. I used the reserve of power left in my system from all the blood I drank yesterday. My nails into grew razor-sharp claws. I could feel them get longer, push out of the nail bed with as much effort as it took for me to blink. My muscles bunched up, doubled in size, black veins popped up from under the skin. I was ripped, like a body builder. Using the blood like that was a total rush. Fuck did it feel good. So powerful, so strong. So fast.
The pretender tried to run out of the barn.
In a blur of speed that kicked up dust and hay, I leapt on its back, shredding and ripping away the canvas tarp with my claws, revealing a mummified corpse beneath. All dry wrinkled skin. A walking raisin. It didn’t wear anything underneath it. It was a naked corpse now.
I growled and sank my teeth into its mummified neck, savaged it apart. It screamed an unearthly sound as I ripped off dead muscle and spat it out.
“You tried to kill me for sleeping here. I got news for you buddy, if anyone is going to die for setting foot in this shit hole, it’s you.”
Its legs quivered, it was shaking in fear. It pushed me off and scrabbled for the door.
I fell on it, and it tried to shove me off again and we rolled on the ground. It got on top of me, pinned me, grabbed onto my collar-bone, dug its sharp, ragged fingernails into my skin, cutting it. Shoved its hand in deep, grabbed my collar-bone and snapped it straight up. I screamed, The bone stuck up at a 45 degree angle.
“I will kill you for this,” it said. “I will kill you and everything you hold dear. I will find your precious Mallory and devour his soul and use his body to replace this one.”
“How do you know that name?” I asked through gritted teeth.
“It was in your head, broodling. The only thing in there that you still care about. Tucked neatly away, like Christmas ornaments in a box in the attic, waiting to be used on next holiday. What? You don’t remember him? You should. You loved him. You still do. Somewhere in that Swiss cheese brain of yours, you know this is true. Don’t you?”
“I look forward to finding him. I’ll tell him what became of you, before I kill him. It will be entertaining, seeing him cry. Don’t you think?”
Oh my God.
How could I have forgotten about him?
He was my… “Leave him alone.”
It laughed. A dry sawdust laugh. “I think not. As soon as I’m done here, I will find him, and I will use his body, make him hurt in ways that even you can’t begin to imagine. It’ll make his soul taste bitter-sweet. Just the way I like it.”
No. Not him. Anyone but him. I won’t allow it. I won’t.
It laughed again and started to yank out my broken collar bone.
“I’ll make a dagger out of this and use it to cut out his heart. Won’t that be fun?”
Anger curled up in my chest and took over. A red haze filmed over my vision. I snarled, bit his hand, sheering straight through the finger bones- it yowled in pain as I spat out its fingers. I grabbed it by the throat and shoved it off of me.
“You will die,” I growled, my voice deep, gravely, full of death and hate.
I picked it up, and gave it a nice big bear hug, a vice grip that I didn’t let up until its ribs and spine snapped and popped out of its desiccated flesh. I turned it into a pincushion. It stopped moving. I dropped it and a dry dust of red, like bloody sand, fell out of its wounds.
A black wisp of shadow slipped out of the corpse’s mouth, formed into the shape of an enraged face, and screamed. I swatted it away and it fled, slipping through cracks in the barn ceiling.
“Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Asshole.”
All the strength I had suddenly drained out of me. I dropped to my knees. My muscles deflated, going back to normal size. The claws on my fingers pulled back until they were just nails again.
My stomach was empty. Painfully empty.
Need to feed.
It smelled delicious.
Dinner mewled in the corner. Huddled down like rabbits in the hutch grandpa had out back. Teeth rip easily through neck, popped the big vein. Blood. Red. Hot like spiced wine. Copper lightning flowed through me. Soothing my insides with its warmth, like mother’s milk.
It felt so good.
Sighing, I sat down, cradled the food’s body into mine, curled around it, and drank my fill. I lay there, as the sun finished setting, belly full of warm blood. My neck, my head; all my wounds stop hurting.
I stood up, dropping the leftovers in disgust, and cracked my neck back the way it should be. I picked up the dead kid’s expensive shades and licked his blood off the ear pieces before sliding them on.
My collar bone. That thing was trying to rip it right out of me. I pushed it back in place. The broken bone ends ground against one another. I gritted my teeth as they grew white-hot and knitted back together into one solid bone.
I stepped outside, humming a song I vaguely remembered as I looked around. My breath fogged the air. Warm now. Won’t be warm for long though. That part never lasts. I didn’t know why, but it made me sad.
Oh right, I was in a barn. I remembered driving up here and parking next to it. An old falling down piece of shit barn. Smelled worse than it looked.
What I didn’t realize was that on the other side of the field was a farm house. There was a huge willow tree in the yard. No lights on inside. No cars parked by it. It didn’t smell like anything living was inside. But, it was a house. And there was a telephone line attached to it.
Shit. If there’s a phone…Maybe I could call Mallory.
I stood there, debating, biting my nails, digging out the dried blood from under them with my teeth.
I stepped inside the old farm house. There was dust everywhere. Just like when I tore the corpse apart with my bare hands.
I pulled my map out of the back pocket of my jeans and spread it out on the dusty kitchen table. There were dried blood spatters all over it. Dark red hand prints, thumb prints in places. I had circled a city in blood.
A memory flashes in my head: I see myself holding the bloody stump of a finger like a pen and drawing that circle on the map with it.
Got to get out of here.
Running won’t end it.
But… I like to run. Been running ever since. Ever since what? Don’t remember. What do I remember then?
I stared at the map. My eyes connect the X’s like dots, drawing a picture of where I’ve been. Where I’ve… fed. No. Killed. Murdered. Fed.
Where did I start? When did it start? How? Why? Just who am I anyways? I don’t even remember what I look like. Mallory would know. He would tell me. I should call him. He’s probably worried.
He had brown eyes.
Dark chocolate brown eyes.
I dug in my pants pockets for the napkin. A stupid little crumpled napkin with a phone number written on it with a dying black ink pen. It was his number.
I searched the house until I found an old phone. It was covered in dust.
Does it still work?
Don’t pick it up. Don’t pick it up.
My hand hovered over the receiver for what felt like forever before I pick it up. For some reason, there was a dial tone. I was half-hoping that there wouldn’t be one.
I dialed the number, my hand shaking. My heart pounded in my chest.
My heart is beating? Must be because I fed. I haven’t felt it beat in a long time.
The number rang and rang and rang and rang and just as I was about to hang up someone picked up the other end of the line. A man cleared his throat of sleep and answered.
He sounded tired, the poor bastard. I knew that voice. It was him.
“I remember your eyes.”
“Who is this?” he demanded, angry and scared all at once.
“Brown. They’re brown, aren’t they Mallory?”
“How do you know that? Who gave you this number?”
I remembered now. His address. His apartment complex. The back alley. The screams. He struggled like a little bitch, and as we fought he did something to me. It stung like hell and then I ran. I ran and ran and never looked back.
“You did something to me.” I didn’t sound so sure. Maybe I wasn’t. “The back alley. You screamed. I laughed and you screamed. And then, then…” I don’t remember. “How do I know you Mallory? How the fuck do I know you?”
There was a pause on the other end. I could hear him breathing; shallow, panicked.
“How do I know you?” I asked.”How do I know your eyes and nothing else? Who are you? Why are you so important to me? Do you know what’s going on? What’s wrong with me? How long have I been on the road?”
“Where are you?”
“Don’t know. A farm. A corpse tried to steal dinner. I pulled him apart and his dried blood flew everywhere. Red dust. Like Mars.”
Something fell in the background. It sounded like he was standing up and rushing around.
“Stay where you are.”
“Why? Nothing left to eat here. Need to eat.”
“You have the map?”
I paused. “You know about the map?”
“I tried to help. Don’t you remember?”
“No. I remember picking you up by the throat. Your eyes…” I could almost see his face in my head. Almost.
“Follow the dotted line.”
I look at the map. A faint trail of blue pen, dashed across the country.
“Where does it end?” Mallory asked.
I followed it.
“North Dakota.” There’s another city circled in a thick smear of blood. I smiled. “That was a good stop.”
“Where? Can you read it?”
I looked closer. “Devil’s Lake.” There were little stick figures of people lying on the map, bleeding to death. It was cute.
“That far already?” he said softly. He sounded worried. I didn’t like to hear his voice like that. “Didn’t take your time, did you?”
“No. Do you know who I am?” I asked.
“Yes. I think so.”
“You remember what I look like?”
“Good. See you there then,” I said and went to hang up.
I paused. “What?”
“Don’t go there. They’ll have people there, looking for you.”
“What are you talking about?”
He sighed. “Jonah. You really don’t remember?”
“Don’t go to the big cities. They have agents there, looking for people like you. They want to capture you. Study you. I tried to tell you that before you ran off, but you weren’t yourself at the time, so you probably don’t remember it.”
“So I’ll come and find you then. You’re not in a big city, right?”
“I’m in the suburbs, which is close enough. Listen, this is what I want you to do–”
“Don’t fuck with me.”
“What? I’m not, I just–”
“Do you still live in that place? In that shitty little apartment that is on the same road as the pharmacy, and the hospital is a couple blocks away?”
I laughed. “Why didn’t you move?”
“I was waiting for you to come back.”
“I see. Well then, wait a little longer. I’m coming for you Mallory. I’ll be there soon.”
“Jonah. Please, be careful. They’re everywhere now.”
“I know. I can handle myself. As long as I stay fed I don’t forget things. I’ll try not to go hungry for too long.”
“Oh God. How many people have you killed?”
“Lost count. It don’t matter. Food is food. Right?”
“I guess.” He choked up. Sounded like he was about to cry. “I…”
“I miss you,” he whispered.
“I’ll be there soon. Promise.”
I could hear him crying softly. It made my chest ache. It hurt. It brought me pain. I didn’t like that. I needed to get to him, to make the pain stop. I hung up the phone and ripped it out of the wall before he could say anything else. I didn’t want to hear it.
His pain spurred me on.
I got in my car and drove, fast. I had to hurry. I didn’t want to forget.