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.

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.

Fire

Smoke crept under the door, its grey, curling fingers snaking along the worn carpet. Cassie awoke to the shrieking of an alarm and an acrid smell in her nostrils. She rubbed her eyes and sat up, blinking and shaking her head. Her hand reached out and grasped her Caroline, exactly where she had left it the previous night. The stick was light in her grip, and she used Caroline to push herself up. Cassie winced and glanced down at her legs, which were misshapen and discoloured. Leaning heavily on Caroline, the woman shuffled to the window and stared out into the night. The skyline seemed empty tonight. Where window lights usually twinkled like stars, there was only blackness, and save for an intense crackling sound, silence hung over the city like a guillotine. Where was the hum of cars, the brawling of drunks, the thud of music? And more importantly, the wail of fire engines? It felt as though her city had slipped into a coma. Cassie hoped it would awaken soon.

Screams could be heard in the floor below. Cassie knew she was supposed to wait for help from the fire department, but it seemed like they were absent tonight. With a sigh, she turned and slowly made her way towards her apartment door. There was no point in panicking. She could not rush or run, only keep at her calm, steady pace. If she were to die now, it would be the Lord’s will. Still, Cassie briefly clutched at the gold crucifix around her neck and prayed that she would pass the test He had set out for her.

The heat was near unbearable in the corridor, and Cassie shrank away from it when she opened her door, fear momentarily clutched at her, holding her in place. A stench of burning meat wafted in her face, and she choked, desperately wanting to retreat to her room and wait. Cassie knew if she turned back now, she would die.  Taking a deep breath, Cassie hobbled forward into the corridor. Cool spray splashed onto her cheeks, and she looked up to see the sprinklers had come on. The fire seemed to draw back slightly, though it felt as if it was merely waiting for her to make a mistake so it could devour her whole. Putting the thought out of her mind, Cassie continued to shuffle down the corridor, soaked from the falling water.

Charred bodies littered the ground. At first Cassie assumed they were merely poor fire victims, but then she noticed something else. Some of them looked…looked like their heads had been split open. What had happened here?

She had reached the stairs. Cassie stared at them, her legs already aching from their brief walk, and tapped Caroline on the first step. It was a long way down to the ground floor, and if her legs gave way, she’d burn to death. Safety had informed her someone would always collect her if there was a fire, and never to use the elevator. Well, she hadn’t been collected, and the screams were starting to die down. Cassie edged forward and tried to lower herself down to the first step. Pain shot through her legs, and she had to clutch at the banister, sobbing, to stop herself falling. Caroline hung from the strap on her wrist, swinging and clunking into the railings. It echoed loudly and made her feel strangely uncomfortable.

No. She would have to use the elevator. There was no other choice. Perhaps this was God’s will. Cassie made a quick prayer to Him to help her safely on her way, and then set off towards the elevator.

Stepping over the countless bodies — bodies which, she noted, were not burnt — she finally reached her destination. It took a while for the lift to arrive, but when it did, she felt her stomach heave. Inside was a man, his midriff torn open, intestines strewn about carelessly. His eyes were wide open with shock, his mouth slack. Blood had trickled out between his lips, and there were flecks of red on his face where his innards had landed.

She couldn’t move. This was…her stomach churned, and Cassie had to bite her lip and cling to Caroline to stop herself vomiting. Who would do this?

The crackling down the corridor was getting louder. She could stay here and burn, or she could take her chances and hope the killer wasn’t waiting for her on the ground floor. Shaking slightly, Cassie limped into the elevator and hit the button. The doors shut with a click, and it began to move.

You’ll be out soon, safe soon, she thought desperately in her head. Just count to twenty. Twenty seconds and you’ll be free. 20. 19. 18. 17. 16–

There was a sound like scraping metal, and the elevator juddered to a halt. Cassie fell forward and landed in a heap on the floor, crying out in agony. Her legs felt like they had been stuck into the fire that was tearing the building apart. The lights went out.

No, no. This can’t be happening. No!

She scrambled around for Caroline, her eyes adjusting to the dark. Her wet clothes clung to her. She shivered. The man was still there. It almost felt like he was watching her now. Had his head moved since she’d first walked in? No, stop. It wasn’t good to think about things like that. Things like that didn’t happen in reality.

A noise in the corner made her freeze. Cassie stared at the body. Was his hand always in that position? Oh God, oh God, oh God, please let me get out of here, please…

Cassie jumped as the elevator suddenly banged. With a groan, the lights came back on and it began to move again. She stared up at the light, tears streaming from her face. “Thank you, God. Oh thank you.”

So focused in her relief, Cassie failed to notice the man until his hand touched her leg. She screamed, watching with wide-eyed horror as his organs slopped out of the hole in his gut all over her bare feet. Cassie grasped for Caroline and tried hitting at him, but he didn’t seem to notice the stick bouncing off his shoulders and the side of his head. Instead, he lunged down and sunk his teeth into her flesh.

Cassie screamed harder, a new kind of agony searing through her. She hit at him with all her might, while the man ignored her, ripping chunks out of every part of her he could reach. Eventually, her weak arms tired, and she dropped the cane, unable to fight him off any longer, her head now cloudy with pain. Everything was spinning, growing dark. She shut her eyes.

With a ping, the elevator reached the ground floor.

Elevator, lord, test

A/N: Credit to my friend, Mel, who wrote a story about a disabled girl in a fire. In her story, the girl received no help, so went to the elevator to escape. That is where I got the idea from, and Mel gave me permission to use it. However, Mel’s has a happier outcome than mine. XD