by Stuart R. West
Genre Horror thriller, suspense
Tags Zombies, horror, thriller, suspense, dark comedy, satire, the Rapture, religion, love story, coming of age, end of the world, action
Release April 14, 2015
Editor Tanja Cilia
Line Editor Lea Schizas
Cover Designer Charlotte Volnek
Life is good for Hunter Wright. He's just about to graduate from high school and he's found true love. Just in time to lose her. Because the Rapture's begun and those in his path, living and dead, stand in his way of finding her. And it's not the Rapture the faithful have been expecting either. Someone failed to tell the dead they’re not in Heaven.
I bypassed the bathroom. A door stood closed at the end of the hallway. Probably the bedroom; all the farmhouses had similar floor plans. Before I made my move, I listened again. The whispers had stopped. No laughter, no small talk. Unnaturally quiet for a social gathering.
I tapped lightly on the door, possibly too low for a napping man to hear. My hand trembled over the doorknob as I edged the door open.
A small square of moonlight filtered in through an open window. Sudden wind raised the curtain. A figure lay on the bed, uncovered.
“Mr. Hudson?” My voice lowered, little more than a whisper. “Hey, Mr. Hudson?” I shook his denim-clad leg. No response. Fumbling my way through the darkness, I bumped into a small bedside lamp. It wobbled, dancing to the table’s edge. I steadied it and ran my finger up the sleek surface, seeking the switch.
The orange circle of light captured Mr. Hudson. Something mottled the bedspread beneath him, something thick and dark. And wet. That’s when I noticed his grin. Rather, his two grins. His throat had been slit open into a mouth-wide smile, a goatee of dried blood beneath.
I caught my scream in time, snapping a hand over my mouth. Bitter bile rose at the back of my throat.
Chip-snap. From behind me, I heard the sound of metal.
Large scissors slicing through paper?
I spun around.
Holding her hedge-clippers open like crab claws, Mrs. Hudson said, “Don’t you worry none about Mr. Hudson, now, Hunter. He’ll be along shortly. As you will, too.”
Startled, I fell back. My legs crumbled at the bed’s edge, tumbling me onto the corpse. Quickly, I vaulted off the far side of the bed.
“What’s going on?” I heard myself cry out, yet it sounded very far away. An eerie echo from elsewhere. “Just let me leave!”
Click-chap. She strode slowly toward me, taking her time, opening and closing her damn clippers like pincers. The look in her eyes told me everything I needed to know about her state of mind. Inarguably insane. “Now, Hunter, I can’t do that. What kind of good Christian would I be if I did?”
“Now just stay still.” Chok-snip. “Praise Him!” She hefted the clippers above her as if in offering to God, then lowered them. Coming at me. Chak-snap. “Praise Him! Praise Him!” Once she raised the clippers again, I saw my opening.
Rushing her, I shoved my hands into her chest. She rolled against the wall, a grey-haired dervish. Photos, capturing saner times, dropped to the hardwood floor. She turned, swinging high. The clippers’ downward draft breezed by my head. Twirling her weapon, she slashed haphazard diagonals through the air.
“Praise Him!” Clip-clop.
Coming out of a squat, I delivered a fist to her gut. She fell backward into the hallway, landing on her bottom with a meaty clump. She managed to hold onto the clippers, snapping them at me like a child throwing a tantrum.
I slammed the door, twisted the lock. In the hallway, the other ladies stampeded to Mrs. Hudson’s aid.
“The boy hasn’t seen the light, Esther…”
“We’ll see to that…”
Fists pummeled the door, resounding loudly in the bedroom. Feet kicked. But the worst were the constant praises spouted out like violent threats. A huge crack, then another. The door splintered. The clipper tips peeked through the paneling like a woodpecker’s beak. They pulled away, dug in again. The crack in the door grew. A rheumy-looking eye appeared at the hole.
“Come out now, Hunter. It’s time to meet your Maker.”
I ran to the open window, forced it up higher. With one foot dangling out the window, I froze.
A new voice. Close by. Deep and full of liquid, definitely male.
“Praise…Him.” He gargled the words rather than pronouncing them. Mr. Hudson sat up, white as a bed-sheet. Except for the blood staining his over-alls. “Praise…Him.”
This time I couldn’t stop my scream even if I wanted to. The only possible reaction to the surreal situation. I screamed long and hard, shutting my eyes tight, blocking out what I saw, terrified I had flipped over to the side of insanity. When I opened my eyes, Mr. Hudson stood, slowly clumping his way toward me. Hands outstretched, fingers cracking as he worked them.
My head cracked back against the windowsill. I ducked under the window, pulling my other leg after me. Mr. Hudson caught my ankle in a freezing, iron-clad grip. He wrenched once, yanking me back. Once my hands touched ground, I kicked. My foot contacted his face and never had an act of violence felt so good. I heard him crash down to the floor.
Scrambling to my feet, I looked back inside. The bedroom door split open. The entourage of women rushed in, helping good ol’ dead Mr. Hudson off the floor. I jumped.
As I hauled ass down the driveway, a woman poked her head out the window. “Praise Him! It’s just a matter of time! For your eternal soul!”
Like a diabolic Greek chorus, the others joined her in her damning praises.