I Wanna Tell You Another Story, Part 2 of 2

In the spirit of sharing you some of the best fiction written by fans of our site, we thought we would share the following tale.  this is part one of a multi-part drama and we think you’ll enjoy it.  Sit back, relax, and hope that love doesn’t make you undead.


Jack had never seen anybody go quite that far.  Sure, lots of street folks were a little nuts and plenty of them had conversations with people who weren’t there — but who just stands there moaning and staring?  Or biting, for fuck’s sake?  It made Jack mad and creeped him out all at the same time — that guy just swaying there, and then lurching at Jack and taking a big, juicy bite out of his arm.  Bastard.  Jack had stomped him good and left him there; he wasn’t exactly fresh off the turnip truck and he wasn’t about to let some new meat punk him.

Bite’s probably infected, he thought bitterly.  On top of food poisoning, the freaking guy probably had rabies.  Maybe I’ll get lucky and just die out here.  There were days when quietly dying had its attractions.  He wouldn’t have to sit here in his own filth, wearing the same clothes day after day, feeling his shoulder-length hair stick together and to his neck.  He wouldn’t have to run scabbed hands through his tangled beard and wonder if his family would recognize him, if ever he got up the courage to face them.  He wouldn’t have to eat garbage or feel like less than dirt every time he put his hand out and some business puke or housewife stared at him with contempt and pity through the window of an SUV.

If only he didn’t feel so cold and sweaty.  It was like when he’d walk across town during the winter — God knew the winters were cold enough in Compton — and he’d get so cold he’d start to feel warm again, start to feel his legs and his arms tingle with numbness that wasn’t heat at all.  Cold so cold it was hot — that’s what this was like.  He hoped he didn’t start throwing up.  That would get him rousted and he didn’t feel like getting up.

Rattling his cup absently, Jack huddled into himself and shivered, sweat starting to bead on his forehead.

 

 

 

Ann Sutter made her way through the crushing Flavor of Compton City crowd, the precious minutes of her lunch hour ticking away as she waded through the wall of bodies.  She and Steve had planned to have dinner here, as well — Steve loved to overeat at the festival almost as much as he loved the fried ravioli at the yearly Festa Italiana — but she was starting to wonder if that was a good idea.  Taste had opened at 11:00 Friday morning, effectively undercutting the lunch crowds at all the downtown restaurants (she could picture the letters to the editor in tomorrow’s Post Standard already).  Only an hour later, it was packed.  She could just imagine what the evening crowd would be like, especially after a few beers each.

“I said, I’M AT FLAVOR OF COMPTON CITY!” a man yelled into his wireless phone as he passed, juggling the phone and two plastic cups of beer.  Ann rolled her eyes.  She dodged one old man whom she swore was undressing her with his eyes — she was used to that, and to getting propositioned despite the wedding ring she wore.  She’d learned to be careful about telling Steve, though, because it made him jealous.  He would tell anyone who’d listen that he had “married above his station” and that a woman as beautiful as his wife was only with him because of some good deed he’d done in a past life.  “Rescued a bus full of nuns,” he usually said.  “Not just one.  A whole bus full of ‘em.”

At the Italian booth on the corner near State Street she sampled some Vodka Penne.  It was good.  She found a corner in the lee of the booth that was free of traffic and found her phone in her bag.  It was ridiculously over-complicated, the color-display-and-digital-camera flip phone that was the best Steve could find when he’d gone shopping.  He’d insisted she carry it.  Steve loved gadgets that way.  If it wasn’t the smallest, coolest phone on the market, he wasn’t happy with it.

She hit the first preset and waited while the phone rang, the reception fuzzy but audible.

“Steve Sutter,” was her husband’s curt greeting.

“It’s me,” she said.

“Hi!” he said, his voice going an octave higher.  “I miss you.”  He paused.  “Where are you?”

“I’m at Flavor of Compton City,” she said, resisting the urge to shout it into the phone.  “It’s pretty busy here.  Do you still want to try to have dinner down here?”

Steve paused.  “Whatever you want,” he said.

“I’m asking you,” she reminded him.  “It wouldn’t hurt you to make a decision once in a while.”

“I guess I would, as long as you still would,” he said, his voice choppy over the wireless reception.

Steve,” she said.

“Yes,” he said firmly.  “Yes, I would still like to go.”

“All right then,” she said.  “I’ll meet you at home and we can drive back down.  I want to change first.”

“Okay,” he agreed.  “I love you.”

“Bye,” she said, switching the phone off.  Tucking it back into her bag, she looked around and picked a path through the increasingly dense crowd.  She might still have time to make it to the King David’s booth for falafel before she had to get back to the office.

 

 

 

Laughlin finished his sweep of the building and found himself on the street again, having exited the other side of the Malleria.  He walked north for half a block, then turned left on Warren.  Dodging foot traffic headed in the general direction of the festival, he turned again and found himself in an alleyway with a couple of dumpsters.

Not that way, he thought to himself — then stopped.

That smell!

There could be no doubt.  From the street the odor of garbage had been noticeable but no worse than one would expect from a city trash bin in June.  Now, in the alley, he fought the urge to gag.  The cloying, almost sweet smell of rotand death wafted over him.  You couldn’t forget that stench — not after you’d smelled it once. Certainly you couldn’t forget it after you’d smelled it for day after miserable day, dread building in your gut as you slowly realized that what was about to happen was your fault…

Praying no one would see him from the street, Laughlin pulled the nine-millimeter Glock from his waistband.  He held it in front of him with both hands.  Shaking, he stepped closer to the dumpster, expecting at any moment to have to shoot and then run.  It was waiting in here.  It would sense him, hear his hesitant steps, come lurching out to…

It was dead.

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