Till Death Do We Part: Part I

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Though he has the skills to survive, does he have the will?

Part I

Eddie awoke with a start, drifting in that shadowy zone just beneath the surface of full awareness, as the last vestiges of a dream faded to the periphery of his consciousness. In the other room his yellow Lab, Brutus, barked again, driving him the rest of the way awake. He threw back the covers and climbed out of bed. His back reminding him once again that he was no longer a youngster as he shuffled across the floor to see what all the commotion was about. Passing his desk, he saw that he’d missed a call and was about to pick up the phone when Brutus barked again. This was no ordinary bark reserved for the occasional car passing by on the country road where they lived. This bark was deeper, a growling vocalization of fear for those moments when someone knocked at one of the doors.

Rounding the corner into the laundry room, he found Brutus, his hackles up, snarling viciously at the back door.

“Easy there, boy, what’s wrong,” he said as he approached. Brutus looked at him briefly before returning his attention to the back door. He barked again, the sound loud in the narrow room.

Bending over, Eddie looked out the rear window and saw his neighbor standing at the back door.

“What the hell’s wrong with you,” he said to Brutus, who backed away, his hackles still forming a line down his back, as Eddie reached for the door knob. From the other side of the door came a weak knock, a listless slap that momentarily stayed his hand. There was something wrong. Something was out of place. But he couldn’t quite put his finger on what it was.

He looked out the window again and his fatigue gave way to panic when he saw the blood staining the front of his neighbor’s shirt. Something terrible had happened and he hurried to open the door as Brutus barked in a loud, throaty, voice.

“It’s okay, it’s just Virgil,” Eddie said as he attempted to calm his dog.

Brutus barked hysterically. As if he were trying to keep him from unlocking the door, and Eddie glanced at him, annoyed, as he pulled the door open. Thankfully there was a storm door still between them, for at that moment Virgil lunged forward, his mouth open, as he came against the glass of the storm door.

“What the fuck,” Eddie shouted, half terrified by Virgil’s actions. Virgil lunged again, his dentures snapping closed as his lips smeared saliva across the window. It was then he noticed that Virgil was missing an arm. In fact he was missing almost his entire right side from the shoulder to his hip.

Brutus lunged at the door, forcing it open, and darted outside, where he drove Virgil to the ground and jumped on his chest. His front paws pinned Virgil to the ground as the wounded man slapped feebly with his remaining left arm.

Eddie stepped onto the patio, fully intending to pull Brutus off the old man, when he noticed the neighbor who lived behind him. He didn’t know his name yet as he and his wife had only recently moved in, but he was wandering around his front yard wearing only a pair of underwear. His thin white chest was smeared with blood that dribbled down his chin from the object he was chewing on. Eddie reached for Brutus to pull him inside when Brutus yelped. Returning his attention to his dog he saw that Virgil had managed to sink his teeth into Brutus’s flank; yanking his head back he tore away a chunk of flesh to expose the dog’s ribs beneath.

Brutus yelped again and raced across the yard to escape Virgil, who slowly rolled over and pushed himself up with his remaining arm. Quietly Eddie stepped back into the house and locked the door.

Brutus barked again, the sound high-pitched, and Eddie struggled with his emotions as he rested his back against the door and slowly dropped to the floor. He was stunned by what he’d seen. It was like he’d just walked into a nightmare in progress.

It wasn’t really happening. Eddie tried to convince himself as Virgil slapped at the window above his head, reminding him that what he’d seen was real.

Then he remembered his phone. Pushing himself up, he returned to his office where he retrieved the phone. He had one voicemail from his wife, and guilt flashed through him over the fact that she had caught him in a lie. He’d told her he was going to work on his resume this morning while she had insisted that he would probably go back to bed like he always did. This time he’d been serious about getting his resume done but a restless night filled with worry over how he was going to make the house payment pretty much put the idea of sleep to rest.

He dialed his voicemail number and waited for the prompts. Soon his wife’s voice was coming through the handset, filled with a fear he could almost taste.

“I don’t know what’s going on. There are people all over the place. They won’t let me through. Oh my God,” she moaned before the message clicked off.

He was a simple man. Not given to flights of fancy or wild imaginings. A man who knew how to work with his hands. He understood the concrete concepts of cabinetry and joinery, so that which had turned his world upside down lay outside the realm of his understanding. To him the world beyond the walls of his wood shop was a mystery.

The failing economy had robbed him of his dignity. When he’d been laid off from the cabinet manufacturer south of town, he’d assumed it would be a temporary set back. After all, he was skilled with his hands and was one of the most dependable people out there. In his twenty-year career as the plant he’d only ever missed one day. That being the day his only daughter was born. Eighteen months later he was still unemployed.

They took his truck once the unemployment checks stopped coming in and he could no longer afford the payments. There were several judgments against him, and they stood a good chance of losing the house unless something happened, soon.

His phone rang and he glanced at the small screen. It was his wife and he quickly punched the button to accept her call.

“Rachel, where are you? Are you all right?” he said. His only response was a soft moaning sound and a measured scraping that was familiar, yet alien in its obscurity.

“Rachel, is that you?” His voice rose several octaves as fear squeezed his guts in an icy grip.

To be continued!

Part Two

Till Death Do We Part is just one of the stories in my collection 9 Dark Tales.

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