Here’s an audiobook for you https://open.spotify.com/show/0JD7BgmrLDyUbWnUsh4c0r
Author: Sarah J. Herbison
A Hole in the Wall
You come into your kitchen, making the same meal. I can see you putting the same bagel into the toaster as you yell at your son to put his shoes on for school. Your husband left for his job hours ago, and it would be easy to come out of this hole where I’m hiding.
The cast iron pan sits on the stove; if I could reach it, I would bash both your brains in. But this crawl space is too narrow to move quickly. So I’ll wait until you leave and raid the refrigerator. The way you stand at the refrigerator door, perplexed about how the cheese, beer, and jam go missing. Scratching your head as random loaves of bread and cans of soup and vegetables disappear from your pantry.
Your husband bound and gagged me before throwing me into this hole in the crawl space of your house. He offered me a ride home from school when my mother refused to pick me up. I should have walked. He hid me when you were out of the house. The tortures he put me through are unimaginable, yet you never hear my screams. As you watch the news channel about my disappearance, I am bound and gagged in your wall.
Eventually, I found a way out of the ropes and the gag. I snuck out during the day to eat food. I tried to escape, but your husband came home before just as I was sneaking out. He bound me again and said if I ever got the help, he would kill my entire family.
So turnabout is fair play. I will kill one of you; this will be over, and I will be free. I must put my wrist back into the ropes before he comes home. I’ll devise another plan to get out and ensure he’s in jail before he can do anything to my mom.
If only you knew what he was up to. Maybe you do know and don’t care. For now, I’ll wait in this hole you never noticed.
Zombie Dog Park
Sequel to Me and My Body
It happened months ago; a massive case of water poisoning caused a zombie outbreak in my little coastal town. I witnessed my body succumb to the plague, watching it shamble around as a detached spirit.
My body and I wandered through the suburbs, country, and small towns.
We came to an abandoned ghost town. The streets and houses lay riddled with decay. Windows boarded up. Open doors swung off their hinges; cracks in the asphalt riddled the road, and cobblestone sidewalks were pitted with old bricks.
The town lay empty, not a soul in sight. My body shambled on beside me. In the months following the incident, I had taught it simple commands, such as going left, right, duck, and jump. These commands worked when my body listened. I worked hard to avoid people. Unfortunately, my body was still a zombie and prone to following fresh people searching for the next meal.
My body hadn’t eaten in weeks, and I wondered if the shambling corpse would eventually drop dead. If that were to happen, I floated through the various doors I saw on our journeys. The black doors looked like polished obsidian, and I’m sure they entered the afterlife. However, I couldn’t just float through one and leave my poor body to shamble on unguided. What if it ate someone? What if it ate someone’s child? I couldn’t be responsible for that. So that left me in the position of babysitter over my body.
“They’re so cute when they play,” said a voice behind me.
I whipped around, and another ghost stood behind me. He was a young man with dark hair and a fedora. In all my travels, I had not seen another spirit.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare ya’. The name’s Tom,” he said as he took off his hat and held it to his chest.
“ It’s been so long since I’ve had anyone talk to me. I’m..” I panicked. I had forgotten my name. Since I died, I haven’t had a direct conversation with anyone.
“A’ight, I understand. I don’t even know if my real name is Tom,” said the spirit. His voice had a mild accent. It was from New York, New Jersey, or New England. It was hard to tell.
“Um.. you can call me Dora,” I stammered.
“Sure thing Dora. Say, you have a friend with ya.”
“Oh yeah, that’s.. well, my other half.”
“Yeah, I’m kinda in the same situation. Tough times since the outbreak.”
“You have no idea. Wait, where is your body?”
“I and my wife’s body are at a local park just North of town. It would be best if you came to hang out. Take a load off.”
“Sure thing, I’ll meet you there.”
Tom nodded and faded away. I shrugged and guided my damp and slimy body north. It gurgled in protest but shambled after me. We plodded past the rest of the decaying road, and sure enough, there was a park at the town’s entrance. It wasn’t much to look at, just a few soccer fields and a playground, but a group of ghosts was chatting while their decaying bodies shambled nearby.
Two of them played an offbeat soccer game, using a zombie’s head as the ball. The headless body stumbled around, trying to block its opponent’s clumsy kicks, mumbling a goal when the head made it past its body. Each zombie had a prospective ghost on each side and barked instructions.
“Ed, great job kicking your head past the goalie,” said the spirit.
“Goal!” said his zombie while raising a fist.
“Good game,” said the opposing spirit. “You want to meet next week?”
“Let’s shake on it.”
The spirits ordered the Zombies to shake hands, and they clumsily fumbled. Finally, Ed’s zombie pulled out his hand and gave the other zombie a shake before shuffling off in the opposite direction.
“That’s Ed and Earl. They come here every week to play sports. Sometimes they play soccer, sometimes football. They tried hockey, but their Zoms kept taking out their legs to use as the stick.” Tom floated behind me. He smiled and introduced me to the other spirits.
Janice, a stay-at-home mom, woke up to her body wandering down the street. Her husband and children were nowhere to be found. So she stayed until she saw them, then she would pass on.
Zim, a goth girl and hacker, stayed for the lols because she thought the zombie apocalypse was cool. However, crossing over terrified her; she wasn’t sure she would ever.
And there was Chad, a police officer whose last suspect shuffled away from him just as his soul evacuated his body. He felt he needed to stay to serve and protect the wandering spirits, and he couldn’t go until they were at rest.
“I thought I was alone,” I said.
“Na, ghosts have always been around. Most of us would move on a’ready, but I can’t just leave my body behind. What would the poor fella do without me?”
“So you’ve seen the doors too?
“Yeah. There are these shiny black doors leading me to the other side.”
“Oh, there’s not a door, more like a tunnel. They come up now and then. “
“It must be different for everyone,” I shrugged.
A siren blared in the distance. The spirits frantically yelled at their zombies to move. The hoard shambled to the park’s exit, and the zombies ducked and hid after dumbly heeding their spirited instructions. My body was towards the back of the crowd when a humvee pulled behind me. A woman in military fatigues stepped out of the vehicle. She had her dark hair up in a tight bun, and a blindfold covered her eyes. A voice garbled over her intercom
“I can sense paranormal activity,” she said.
All the spirits winked out into thin air. I concentrated and desperately tried to think myself into another place, but when I opened my eyes, I hovered silently at the park. I gasped as my body howled and stumbled quickly toward the lady. She pointed her rifle at my shambling body.
“No! Bad!” I snapped. The woman winced and kneeled on the ground. I floated near her, and her breath became visible from the sudden cold. My zombie stopped and stared at me, cocking its head like a confused dog. The woman removed her blindfold.
“Holy shit-” she gasped. “This area is concentrated with paranormal matter. I need backup ASAP. Zoms are at the mouth of the park. Please be careful.”
“Can you see us?” I floated through her, and she shivered. Her light brown eyes flicked in my direction. She put her blindfold back on and ran back to her vehicle, slamming the door behind her. A town car parked next to her, and an old man walked out. He was wearing a suit with a silver pocket watch.
“Rupert, thank God you came,” said a voice over his intercom.
The old man nodded and walked in my direction. My body walked toward him, a starved expression on her face.
“No! Bad!” I screamed. My body stopped and looked at me with milky puppy dog eyes. Rupert walked up to me.
“So, it obeys you, huh?”
“So you can hear me,” I said. “Can the lady hear me, too?”
“That’s Thessaly, and no, she can see you and feel your presence, but she can’t talk to you. So that’s why I’m here.”
“Why is Thessaly wearing a blindfold?”
“Ah, she’s blessed with the ability to see ghosts, but they still scare her. They would come to her as a child asking for help, but she couldn’t hear a word they said. She took to wearing a blindfold after the outbreak because so many spirits bothered her, but she had no way of helping them. So that’s how we found each other.”
My body moaned and shuffled toward me. The algae had dried on its body, and looked like a forlorn sea creature.
“Feels good to talk to someone that can speak more than a word at a time,” I said.
Rupert chuckled. “Ghosts are just like anyone else, cept’ they don’t have a body.”
“I’m corporeally challenged. My body follows me around.” I nodded toward my zombie.
“Is that the reason you’re staying?”
“Well, yes. I can’t just leave it to its own devices.” My body shambled and croaked.
“We’ll take care of that for you. We could put you to rest. It must be lonely out here with no one to talk to.”
I wanted to tell him I found other spirits, ghosts with wandering bodies, forced to babysit their rotting bodies. But something about Rupert gave me pause. The man had some ulterior motive to speak to me.
“Why does it matter to you if I stay or not?”
His eyebrows knitted together. “Having a zombie on the loose is a liability. You might not always be able to control it. What if it went feral and started ignoring your commands?”
“So if you put my body to rest, would you care if my spirit wandered?”
“Better for you to cross over. That zombie is giving you a purpose. Without that purpose, you’d become a poltergeist. Is that what you want? To be wandering around wreaking havoc on innocent people?”
“Sounds like you want to get rid of us because it’s inconvenient. I’d not seen a human in weeks.”
“The feds have us holed up on campus. So I thought, you know, it’d be nice to go to a park, But the park is zombie-infested, like everyplace else. But in my observation, the zombies are strangely obedient and seem to follow odd behavior patterns. For example, the other day, I saw zombies playing hockey, using the other one’s leg as the stick and the head as the puck. Ghosts were giving them commands to this sick game.”
My heart sank with his question. My body and I saved a mother and son trapped in a corner store. After that, we settled into wandering. Town after abandoned town. Perhaps it was best to leave what little land remained to the living.
“Don’t listen to him, Dory,” said Tom’s voice in my mind. “Rupert’s bad news.”
“Where are you guys?” I thought back with all my might.
“Not far from here. Just hang in, their kid.”
“I guess because there’s nothing left. I believe in reincarnation, and there’s nothing left to return to. So I think I’ll stay and help rebuild a ruined world.”
Rupert sighed and shook his head. “That’s very noble, but what are you going to do? Float around aimlessly? I mean, the living is over their heads. I can’t imagine a ghost and a zombie would be much better.”
“I’m not leaving!”
Rupert took out a pistol and aimed it toward my Zom. He muttered some words, and an obsidian door opened behind me. His words pushed me like a strong wind towards the door.
The bullet hit my Zom in the chest, thankfully, it barely registered, and it shambled angrily toward him. A small red dot rested on its head, but before Rupert squeezed the trigger, Tom’s zombie joined mine, followed by the other park patrons. The dark-haired woman screamed behind him, drawing the zombies’ attention toward her.
“Ya had enough, Rupert? We could just let them eat you all now,” snarled Tom.
“If we go missing, the military will exterminate everyone!”
“They’ll also flatten this park and turn it into a research facility. Isn’t that what you’re doing, clearing land for the feds?”
“No, we want the God Damn park for fresh air. We’re tired of the Feds running everything and want some space.” Rupert kicked a pebble with his shoe as Tom and the others called their zombies off. Thessaly was trembling with fear as the zombies backed away from her car.
“I think we can work out a deal, a’right Rup?” asked Tom.
“What kind of deal are you asking?”
“We get the park for the first half of the week, and yous guys can take it for the other half of the week. So we both get some fresh air and a place to hang out. At least until the Feds take over, cause yous know that they will.”
“Huh, that’s reasonable,” muttered Rupert.
“We’re just people like anyone else, just corporally challenged,” I said.
“All right. So we get Monday through Wednesday, and yous can have Thursday through Saturday. We both can call Sunday off for church and whatnot. So call that a neutral day.”
“I’d shake on it, but you don’t have hands.”
“Over here, shake,” called Tom, motioning his Zom over. The Zom took his hand out of its socket and mumbled the word “shakeeee.”
“I think I’ll pass on that,” said Rupert. “But it sounds like we have a deal.”
He got into his car and radioed Thessaly. She nodded in bewilderment. “But can we trust them?”
“They have nothing left to lose. So it’s not like they will tell the Feds on us.”
She nodded and stopped shaking. Both of the cars started, and they drove out of the park. The sun set as they turned on the road, their taillights fading into the distance.
The zombies and ghosts came back to the park. Ed and Earl resumed their soccer game as though nothing had happened.
Zim floated to me and nodded. “So, are you going to stay with our group of misfit toys?”
“Sure, at least here I can do some good. At least until the government takes over, “
I sighed as a tank rolled past in the distance.
I grumbled as I walked through the cramped aisle to my seat. I threw my carry-on bag into the overhead bin and settled into my seat. At least I had a window seat. Thank the Gods for small favors. A monotonous tone droned over the intercom as the flight attendant reviewed the basic safety procedures.
Half asleep, I sat in the cabin as the flight attendant droned on. I was heading home to D.C. from a family reunion in California, and I had already missed my aunts and cousins and was eager for the flight to be over. My ears popped as the plane took off, and I chewed some cinnamon gum to ease the pressure in my ears. The passenger next to me laid back and snored loudly. The Great Salt Lake stretched out below me. The color of blood from the local shrimp lived in its salted waters, giving way to swaths of the vast empty desert below. I put on my headset and played music to drown out the snoring, and before long, I drifted into a deep, dreamless sleep.
Turbulence jolted me awake. The whole plane shook as oxygen masks fell out of compartments. Confused passengers panicked, asking to call their loved ones one last time. I demanded to know what was going on or if the plane, only to be met by a flight attendant asking that I put my oxygen mask on. A warbled voice came over the intercom, informing us that nukes had hit the Atlantic Ocean, creating a 1600-foot tsunami. I looked out the window in horror and saw the water crashing into the land, slamming into the tiny buildings below, washing everything I knew behind. My family, job, and friends washed into the sea, dying in Poseidon’s icy grip.
The aftershock of the blast caused another bout of turbulence. The pilot’s warbled voice came over the intercom. She was going to turn the plane around and search for an airport on dry land. I prayed they had enough fuel to make it as the pressure dropped in the cabin. Another aftershock slammed against the aircraft as everything tilted toward the expanding sea below. I said my last prayer, wishing we could have solved the egos between the two countries without drowning us in the depths below.
The Seasoning of the Witch
I watched the oven as the skin crackled, the fragrant scent of meat and spices lingering in the kitchen. I stacked more wood into the stove. The heat must be even for the roast to be tender and delicate.
A messenger knocked upon my door, calling me away from my duties. I implored my maid to watch over the roast while I went to the town square. But I tripped over the cobblestone path. The air clung with the stench of burning flesh; shrieks of a burning woman cut through the massive crowd.
The woman’s name was Goody Porter. The town priest accused her of witchcraft after the children went missing. Her screams filled the air as the townspeople gathered, the priest glaring over them. They kneeled in abject silence, waiting for the screams to stop, for the priest to say it was safe to go home.
Smiling as I watched her burn, her charred flesh peeling from her skin and the stench of her torment rising to the heavens. I had always hated Goody and her simplistic ways. She was only a milkmaid; she had the intelligence of a child. There was no way she could be a threat to children. But she would stop by the path to collect flowers and pray to the old gods. So many villagers prayed to the old gods and would teach their children to do so. I would not have it! God would damn them from salvation.
By accusing Goody, I was saving the town’s future. The True God would consume everything, including the next generation. It would savor their souls in heaven. Goody’s screams stopped, and the priest cried. He went on his usual sermon of thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. The same tiresome prattle he gave every Sunday, with a dose of fire and brimstone. I would suffer none of these witches, these pagans, to live. And the priest would give me all the children who misbehaved.
With that said, I must return home. I have a roast to attend.