Anabel

“Happy birthday to me. Happy birthday to me. Happy birthday to Anabel. Happy birthday to me.”

A little girl is sat on the floor, looking at a small mound of dust with a bright pink candle sticking awkwardly out of the top. She takes a deep breath, and then air flies from her lips and rushes over the little pile of filth. With a clatter, the candle falls and rolls across the dirty wooden floor. She smiles and claps her hands, before awkwardly getting up and tottering over to it.

“I am five,” she whispers to the candle, the whisper actually as loud as if she were speaking normally. “I am five today, Mr. Pink. Five!”

Anabel draws out the last word, emphasising it as she smiles with glee. The little girl smoothes out her nightie and toddles over to her dark blue sleeping bag. The room is dim and grotty, with a lamp in the corner. She kneels down, casting glances at the darker corners of the room, and then flicks the switch of the lamp on and off a few times. Nothing. Anabel huffs, puffing out her rosy cheeks and pouting her pink lips. Her blue eyes flick over to the corner again, and for a moment, they grow wide as a moan and a shuffle sound from downstairs. The little girl holds her grubby hands to her ears and shakes her head.

“No no no no.” Her tiny fingers pull at her dark blonde hair. “No no no no no. Go away sounds. Go away.”

She looks up at the window, a single, unwashed pane of glass, letting light in just where she is sat. Anabel smiles, revealing a set of baby teeth, the front ones absent. “It’s light, Mr. Pink. Don’t be scared. It’s OK, shhh…”

She clumsily pets the candle on its top, and then puts it inside the sleeping bag, next to a worn, fraying teddy. “You stay with Tedbear. Tedbear will look after you. I need to get ready for my party.”

Anabel pushes herself to her feet and wanders over to a box. There are other boxes inside the room, full of tinned and dried food, and countless bottles of water. Most of the dried food has been opened and eaten. The tinned food is untouched. A broken tin opener lies on the other side of the room, a dent in the floor next to it. Not far from it, there is a plastic bucket full of faeces. She walks past all these things and instead rummages through a box labelled ‘Old Clothes.’ After a few moments, she pulls out a dusty, moth eaten dress. Anabel’s face lights up with joy, and she runs back to her companions.

“What do you think, Mr. Pink? Tedbear?”

Anabel stands and looks at them for a moment, before nodding and smiling. “Me, too!”

She strips off her stained nightie and drops it on top of a pink princess calendar next to her sleeping bag. There are big, wobbly X’s in crayon on each day, with a bright green circle and a smiley face on the last marked date. She stares at her navel as her stomach rumbles, and licks her lips as she looks at the tin food. The she turned back to her clothes. Standing on one leg, Anabel steps into the maroon velvet dress, occasionally running her fingers over the yellowed white lace and sewn on buttons, before giggling and jumping up and down on the spot. A low moan sounds underneath, and Anabel scowls and pulls her tongue at the floorboards, before grasping for the zip and trying to pull it up. She manages it eventually, and then skips over to another box labelled ‘Anabel’s Toys.’ The little girl roots through, throwing out toy after toy, ignoring the groans and bangs from below, and then stands up straight, her face aghast.

“Tedbear, it’s not there!” she cries. She runs over to the teddy and the candle and picks them both up, hugging them fiercely. “Not there! How can I have a party with no tea set! I want my tea set!”

Anabel plonks herself down onto the sleeping bag and folds her arms. She slowly looks around the room, glaring at the finished colouring book, the toys scattered everywhere, and the story books in a jumbled heap by the trap door. With a sigh, she lifts the teddy to her face height.

“Tedbear, mummy said to stay here. Daddy was sick and I had to stay here until she came back. She said she would be here before my birthday and we would have a party! She promised! She’s not here! Why is she not here, Tedbear? I can’t have a party without my tea set!”

Anabel stares at trap door, chewing her lip.”Maybe that’s the noises, Tedbear. Maybe mummy hid my tea set. Maybe it’s a surprise party!”

Anabel drops the teddy and creeps over to the door and looks at it for a long time. Finally, she bends down and fiddles with the mechanism. There is a loud clang, and Anabel pulls her hands away sharply with a squeak as the door suddenly opens and the ladder drops and unfolds. Holding onto the ladder, she edges down into the house, mumbling to herself “Mummy will be happy I held both sides.”

The house is quiet. There is a smeared, red hand print on the nearest door, with the pink ‘Anabel’ sign hanging on it. Anabel blinks at it and then goes inside. There is nothing in here. The room has been picked clean, and all that remains are a few ragged blankets, stained dark by something.

The little girl checks the rest of the upstairs rooms, and then returns to the landing. A large rat sits in the corner, nibbling on a strange, grey substance. It looks like meat. Anabel bites her lip, clearly shaking, and quickly runs past it, scaring it away. Her hands cling tightly to the banister as her legs stretch downwards for each step, and she makes her way downstairs.

The lounge is ransacked. Anabel reaches out and touches a wet, pink, gooey substance on the floor, and then pulls a face, before wiping her hand on the sofa. It has more stains on it, as well as rips and tears. “Where is mummy? I want my tea set.”

Anabel pads towards the kitchen. “Mummy? Daddy? Can I have my party now? Is daddy better? Mummy? Do you know where my tea set is? Mummy?”

She pushes open the door, and then stops dead. There, slumped against the units, is a woman. She is pale and gaunt, her eyes blank and staring, her mouth hanging open in a silent scream. The woman holds one hand to her side, a dark stain on her jumper beneath her palm. Her left hand rests against the floor, loosely holding a hammer. Just behind the table, there is a man. Only his feet are visible, one bare, the other with a dirty, brown slipper hanging off.

“Mummy?” Anabel whimpers. “Daddy?”

The woman groans, and her eyes slide towards the girl. Without taking her eyes off the child, she drags herself to her feet, moaning and growling. Insects crawl out of her nose, mouth, and clothes as her movement disturbs them. The hammer falls to the kitchen floor with a heavy clunk, and the woman begins to move over to the girl.

“Mummy!” Anabel squeals with delight, and runs over with her arms outstretched.

mound, birthday, navel

I was hesitant to write about a child, but I felt I wanted to challenge myself in being able to write tastefully and respectfully. I hope I have achieved that. I also wanted to try out a new 2nd person style of writing, so forgive me if the writing isn’t its usual standard.

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Cigarettes

Lucian Earl was a man of simple pleasures, and also not the kind to rush. He strolled up the stairs, a plastic canister in his left hand, ignoring the scuffles and groans as he whistled. His friends called him Fox, named after his vibrant red hair, which fell just around his eyes in soft waves. His enemies also called him Fox. They didn’t get a choice in the matter.

In the other hand, Fox twirled a battered crowbar, the blue paint flaking away at the bend. He reached the top of the stairs and kicked one of the double doors open. The clang made him flinch, but he settled quickly. Fox scanned the empty city skyline and gave it a grim smile. Today wasn’t a good day to die; any day was like the rest in this new world.

Fox stepped out onto the open roof and kicked the door shut with a quick flick of his heel. He turned to face it and jammed the crowbar through the handles. That should hold. Fox set down the canister near the door, and then continued his leisurely stroll to the edge of the building. He pulled the backpack from his shoulders, removing a bottle half full of whiskey, his favourite whiskey glass, and a Zippo lighter. How he had managed to get the glass to this point without it breaking was beyond him, but thank God for small favours.

A laugh escaped his lips. God, huh? Where was God now? Fox leaned over the wall that held his life from the road thirty storeys below. Small figures shuffled aimlessly, ambling between the abandoned cars, or dragging themselves through the broken windows of ruined shops. ¬†Further to the right, a whole swarm of them was approaching. They reminded him of locusts or ants moving in for their next meal. Watching them was almost therapeutic from this distance, the horrific details removed by the limitations of the human eye. Fox shook his head and pushed himself away from the wall. He wasn’t here to think about Biology; it was the end of the world, damn it. If he was going to die, it would be on his terms, and with two of life’s greatest pleasures along for the ride. He’d have added the third if he could, but every woman he’d encountered had either been dead or trying to eat him. And not the good kind of eat, either.

Fox sniggered to himself, though the joke wasn’t funny. Really, none of this was funny, but if he didn’t find something to laugh at, he’d go mad. Amber liquid spilled into the glass, though he hadn’t been aware he was pouring it. The cool glass found his trembling lips, and he knocked the whiskey back. It hit him like a truck, and Fox felt himself reel. He shook his head, nearly dropping the damn bottle. Since when did booze have such a kick to it?

Fox glanced down at his hands to see they were shaking.

Since I’m about to die, he thought calmly to himself. He appreciated his body for doing him one last favour. Nothing like drinking sorrows away. Not after what he’d seen. Fox poured himself another one, and thought about the first of the…well, zombie sounded too ridiculous, even to himself. Creature? Yeah, creature. Neutral was good. He thought about the first creature he’d seen.

It had been his niece, or at least one of them. Lisa, his sister, had called him to ask him to babysit. Amy was sick, but Lisa had to go work. Fox didn’t have kids of his own, didn’t want them. But he did have a soft spot for Amy and Sarah. Sure, he’d said. When he’d gotten there, Lisa had been flat on her back, her intestines breakfast for little Amy. When he’d pulled Amy away, she’d tried to take a chunk out of him, too. He’d thrown her down in shock, and then rushed to see if she was alright. Apparently a split skull and a collapsed eye socket hadn’t been enough to stop her wanting to eat him. Fox had ran, but not before he’d gone to Sarah’s room, his youngest niece. The crib had been nothing but a bloodbath, the red-soaked, shredded nappy the only thing he recognised.

A smash brought Fox back to reality. He’d dropped his whiskey glass. Damn. Fox set the bottle down, and noticed the shaking had gotten worse. He rocked himself, trying to forget. This wasn’t the place for memories, just alcohol and cigarettes. Fox groped for the bottle again and raised it. A mouthful trickled through his lips. Fuck. He swallowed and stood, throwing the bottle to the ground with a dangerous sway.

One of life’s greatest pleasures out of the way. Time for the second. Fox fumbled with the inner pocket of his suit jacket, and produced a packet of cigarettes. The Zippo lighter lay on the wall, and Fox staggered to it, careful not to fall. He loved Zippo lighters. He loved the feel of the metal, the strange clicking sound they made when they were opened and closed. Fox spent a few moments flicking the lid back and forth, watching it with unfocused eyes. The was a loud bang at the door he had sealed, and he sighed. He stood up and grabbed the plastic canister by the door. Twisting off the lid, he sloshed the contents all around the door. The smell was strong and made him cough, but he continued until the canister was empty. He dropped it, and then returned to the wall. Another bang sounded.

“Fuck off!” he yelled as he opened the packet and pulled out the last cigarette he had. The banging increased in response. Fox ignored it and stared down at the lighter. Now was a dangerous moment. Would he get his last cigarette? Fox held his breath and dragged his thumb across the Zippo wheel. The lighter sparked to life and he let out a whoosh of air in relief. Smiling, Fox watched the flame dance for a second, and then put the cigarette in his teeth and lit it.

It had been worth the wait. His first drag was a deep one, and he felt a rush wash over him, taking away all his worries. He leant his head back against the wall, eyes closed, and let out a lazy trail of smoke from his lips. His last cigarette. He remembered his first, plain as day. Suzie Carmichael had given it to him when he was sixteen years old. He’d coughed and spluttered like a little bitch, his cheeks growing hot as Suzie watched him with her own fag. Coincidentally, she’d also been his first fuck. Inexperience with smoking hadn’t been enough to put her off completely.

Fox wondered if she was still alive, or if she’d been unlucky. Nah, not Suzie Carmichael. She was one hell of a smart bitch. She’d survive.

The cigarette was almost finished. Just in time, too. As Fox stood up, the crowbar gave way and the door burst open. The creatu-oh, fuck it-zombies stumbled through, before spotting their prey. Fox climbed up onto the wall, gave a salute and a smirk, and tossed the cigarette into the petrol trail he’d made. He jumped.

There was silence as he fell. Fox felt disappointed. He’d wanted to out with a bang, drunk and full of a nicotine rush. Maybe he’d missed the petrol trail. Maybe he hadn’t set it up right. Or maybe cigarettes weren’t enough for that kind of thing. Not that it would matter in a few seconds.

A sudden explosion rocked the air, flames bursting out from the roof he had been on moments before. Fox smiled and closed his eyes. He’d been wrong. Today had been a good day to die after all.

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