Cello

It was the smell of resin that he loved the most. Josh ran the sticky, hard substance down the bow, savouring the strange, almost bitter, aroma. He set them both down on the coffee table, took a box of matches, and lit one. The flame sprang to life, filling the room with a dim, orange light. He watched it flicker, eating through the wood and leaving black remains, before placing it against the wick of a candle.

Several matches later and the roomed positively glowed. Josh felt like he was in a mystical grotto, cut off from the rest of the word. In truth, he hadn’t seen light in months. He was afraid to open the curtains.

Josh sat himself down at his stool, and shuffled the papers on his stand. It had to be a good piece, an encore for his life. Perhaps even a final bow for music itself. He imagined there wasn’t much time for it these days. His eyes rested on one of his favourite pieces of all time, and he smiled. With trembling hands, he pulled out Concierto de Aranjuez and set it on the stand. His stomach growled loudly, but Josh ignored it. Now was not the time for that.

Somehow, his cello was in his grasp. Josh didn’t remember picking it up. With slow deliberation, he plucked at the strings to check they were in tune. Perfect.

The bow made contact and the first note slid out, long and sorrowful. Josh forgot everything at once, all his troubles, his hunger, pain, and loss were irrelevant. There was only the music. Passion flowed from the cello; he threw his all into it, playing like he had never played before, his heart racing with excitement and joy. Oh, how he had missed this.

A banging began at his door. They had heard him. Josh played the cello louder, more fiercely, in response. His defiance drowned them and he felt like laughing. But first, the music. Always the music. There was a part of him that regretted that his final, greatest performance would go unheard, but his heart still swelled with pride and love as he played the last note. It was beautiful.

The door broke down, wood splintering everywhere. The things outside were crowding to get in, the smell unbelievable. They looked much more horrific than when Josh had first seen them at the start of the outbreak. Decay had really taken its toll. Still, they hadn’t made their way through until after he’d finished. It had been good of them to wait.

His own morbid joke caught him by surprise. Even though it wasn’t funny, he began to laugh, cradling his cello as the creatures closed in around him.

Bow, noise, match

A/N: For those who care to hear, this is Concierto de Aranjuez. I wasn’t able to find a full cello version on Youtube, but I imagined it to be gorgeous. Cello is one of my favourite instruments, after all.

Connor

Freefall was a beautiful thing to watch, Rachel thought. The way the object tumbled and rippled in the wind as it picked up speed was almost mesmerising, and it seemed to fall forever. Well, perhaps beautiful was not the word. The effect was somewhat ruined by the object being a living, breathing, human being. And even that was up for debate.

Rachel hugged her legs, burrowing her face into her knees. The bones of her kneecaps dug into her forehead, but she clung to them anyway. At that moment, it felt like they were her anchor, all that held her in reality.

It was all such a joke. A cruel dig at her expense. He had been the only person she’d seen in over an hour that hadn’t tried to eat her and she hadn’t even been sure if he was alive. If he hadn’t been dead at the time, he most certainly was when he reached the ground. An image of a big balloon filled with thick red liquid surfaced in her mind, and she clutched harder at herself as nausea rushed over her.

A scuffling noise sounded outside, and Rachel glanced up, her insides tightening with fear. She waited in the silence for what felt like an age, and then eventually relaxed. Rachel rubbed her arms, trying to ignore the pain in her palm, and also the dried blood that coated her skin. Her hair and clothes were caked in it, too. When the man had…reached his destination, he…

She swallowed and winced, her throat sore from her earlier hysterical screams. She had been close by as he had met the road, and…

Unable to hold it back any longer, Rachel scrambled to the corner and began to heave. Sweat trickled down her brow, her entire body trembling, and cold shivers pulsated through her. The pain in her palm was getting worse, and she cried out as it peaked, before subsiding. When she had finished, she collapsed down next to the puddle of vomit, too weary to move away. The acrid smell made Rachel’s nostrils twitch in disgust, and she put her head back against the wall, eyes closed. She concentrated, listening to see if she had attracted unwanted attention, but heard nothing. Rachel wiped her mouth with a shaky hand, noting with some relief that the burning in her palm was almost gone, and tried to think about anything but the man. However, he would not leave her mind.

Who had he been? The explosion from the top of the building had drawn her attention to his flight. She’d caught a glimpse of fiery red hair and a smart suit before he…he had…

“He’s dead, Rachel,” Rachel hissed to herself. “Dead. Accept it.”

Before he had died. She’d caught a glimpse of fiery red hair and a smart suit before he had died.

The breath she had been holding was slowly released. Somehow, she now felt more at ease. Acceptance, maybe? Rachel didn’t know. She wondered why he had decided to take his own life. Well, besides the obvious explanation. Rachel decided his name was Connor. Again, she felt more comfortable. She wasn’t even holding her knees anymore, though the shivers were becoming more intense.

Rachel had tried to imagine why Connor would do such a thing earlier, after she had stopped screaming, but her cries had attracted other…things. They’d almost overwhelmed her, trying to bite her. She wasn’t entirely sure how she had gotten away, but she had. And now she was here, hiding. Plenty of time to think before everything was fixed and back to normal.

So why did Connor choose to die? Had he been bitten? Rachel glanced at her palm and then shook her head. No, that was too…minor. The news had mentioned a cure in the works shortly before the television networks had cut out. They were going to sort everything and she would be fine. Of course she would be fine. Why wouldn’t she be? Why would she think something like that?

Rachel was shivering violently now, fresh, cold sweat breaking out on her skin. It cut through Connor’s dark red blood and left smudged rivets. She shook her head and wrapped her arms around her legs again, rocking.

Connor.

Yes, think about Connor. Think about…

Think about…?

What had she been thinking about?

Oh. Yes. Connor. Rachel squeezed her eyes tightly shut, trying to concentrate and push her way through the murk that was clouding her mind. Connor. Connor. Connor.

Perhaps…Connor must have lost his family. His wife and child. Connor must have been a nice man, to care about his wife and child so much that he couldn’t live without them. Connor. Connor. Connor.

Save me, Connor.

Rachel was getting hungry. So…hungry.

You saved yourself, Connor. Why didn’t you save me?

Rachel stared down at her hands, barely aware of the bite mark on her left palm. She licked the dried blood off her hands, sending a shock of excitement through her. Oh, how she’d love to taste Connor. Not just his blood, but his flesh. His bones. His skin, his sweat, his tongue, his eyes. Her mouth began to salivate and her eyes rolled back into her head.

Connor. Connor. Connor. Connor.

“Connor,” Rachel moaned as she slid down the wall and straight into her own sick. It bubbled at her cracked lips as she muttered her last words.

“Connor…”

This week’s keywords were given to me by a friend, so I named our main character after her. I’m sure she will love the thought of dying in her own vomit. 😀

I also hadn’t been planning on linking the characters across the stories, and yet somehow this felt right. Maybe I’ll make this an ongoing thing with the characters.

Words: anchor, palm, freefall