As I sit here, on the third floor of my house gazing out the window at the identical house across the street, I dream of what it would be like to touch her face, or smell her hair, or even to just hear her voice. Not that I've ever done any of those things before, I never even garnered the courage to introduce myself. The woman of my dreams. I can see her now as she walks to her window on the second floor, pauses briefly to wave at me, and draws the curtains together. All I can do is raise a hand and sigh. The woman of my dreams, Penelope Silver. Not more than 40 foot away from me, but may as well be on the other side of the Atlantic. For between our front doors, chained shut with thick solid steel gates, barbed wire wrapped around 10 foot high fences that encircle our houses, are the zombies. The lurchers. The living dead. Some stand motionless, swaying in the breeze, others repeatedly thump the solid gates with stumps where hands used to be, or claw at the fences with shredded fingers. All with eyes devoid of emotion, the only instinct to eat, and all of them know we're here. Two survivors. But I'm getting ahead of myself; let me start back a few months, to Tuesday 24th November 2007. The day I set eyes on the most beautiful woman to have ever graced this earth. The woman of my dreams.
- - - -
It’s a chilly and damp morning. I put on my arm length rubber gloves and go to finish wrapping the barbed wire when she walks past. I stand frozen, completely transfixed as this vision of beauty saunters by. Velvet black hair curls around a face Da Vinci could only dream about. An ankle length black leather jacket hugs a slender and petite body, and when she glances at me, with those ocean green eyes I fall completely and helplessly in love. She flashes a smile; little dimples appear on her cheeks, and then giggles and carries on up to the house across from me. That's when I realise I’m standing in the middle of my path, wearing a tattered old Hawaiian style shirt and denim shorts while holding wire above my head. Nice look Romeo. My heart is racing and my cheeks are now flushed red. But as soon as this bubble of emotions have swelled, they were swiftly popped as a man opens the door to greet her and pecks her on the cheek. My heart sank and to make matters worse, this guy who had stolen my dream away was now walking towards me with an annoyingly bright grin and unnecessarily good looks. Name‘s Mike Boardman. Just moved from down south. Know where the local supermarket is? Got the number of the security company I got these fences from? Cheers mate. Then he was back in his house with her. Depression set in. I trudged back to the house and cracked open a bottle of whisky.
Over the next few days my new neighbours had set up their defences. Once or twice I see Penny returning from trips out. Every time I will my tongue to speak, but every time the words stick in my throat, and I stay inside defeated once again. By now the newspapers have stopped coming and shops are closing as no new stock is arriving. The neighbours on my left had driven to the supermarket of the nearest town for food, and I hadn’t seen them since.
As the evening drew in, I sat looking through my window in the vain hope of catching Penny in her house. That’s when I noticed the black and yellow beanie she’d worn this morning on the pavement. The perfect opportunity to finally speak to her! I had a nip of courage from my hip flask and set off. There were no lights on, but I had seen Mike leave earlier alone. She must be there. I picked up the hat and took a few deep breaths. My heart was thumping in my ears. The solid steel gate dared me to approach. It was at this point that all the street lights suddenly blinked out. I turned around, and my house was completely dark. The absence of all those little noises you don’t even register ending, made for the loudest silence I’d ever heard. I could feel the hairs on the back of my neck standing up, and a bead of sweat slipped down my cheek. Then the silence was interrupted by distant footsteps. In the murky light I could just make out a figure coming down the street towards me. Moving haphazardly, occasionally falling, the figure lurched along. Was it Mike? My neighbour? Whoever it was, he was heading straight for me. I could hear his high-pitched whines and he was clenching his right arm close to his side. When he got close I spoke. He shrieked in horror and fell over. Kicking out with his feet he crawled backwards.
“Get away from me!” He yelled.
“What’s wrong? Who are you? What are you…”That’s when I realised he was leaving a trail of blood on the tarmac.
“Jesus, what happened to your arm? Here let me help you up.”
He winced as I took hold of him. By now he was moaning to himself, face screwed up in pain and fear.
“What the hell is going on?” I ask.
I get him to his feet. He stands swaying for a moment and opens his eyes. Then that same shriek erupts again and he points at me.
“Nononono. Another one nonono”
A hand on my shoulder made me spin around in shock. It was Mike. Or someone who used to be Mike. The skin from his left cheek looked to have been ripped off in great chunks so the bone was exposed, and his left ear was completely missing. Torn clothes were dripping with scarlet red blood and all that was remaining of his left arm was a mess of cartilage and flesh that hung loosely where his elbow should have been. But the eyes. My God the eyes. Thick veins spread like red rivers over a milky white ball that all led towards a black iris with a yellow pupil. There was no hint of recognition there.
“Mike, it’s me. What happen…”
The thing reached towards me with its one hand. Instinctively I batted it away.
“Come on Mike, speak to me. Tell me what happ…”
Again it swung its arm, this time it grabbing my collar and pulling me towards it. I grabbed it round the throat and brought my knee up in its groin. Still holding my shirt it staggered and fell sideways, taking me with it.
“Help me! Get this thing off me!” I looked around wildly for the stranger, just in time to see him stagger into my garden and slam my gate shut.
The fury rose inside like a volcano. With one hand locked around its throat I hammered it in the chest. Its head twisted towards my hand and I felt the grip on my shoulder loosen. Quickly I rolled over sideways and sprang to my feet.
“Open this door now! This is my house you bastard!” I screamed as I shook the gate.
“Sorry bud, each for themselves.” And he turned, half walking half stumbling into the house.
I shook the gates in impotent rage. Quickly my thoughts turned to my former neighbour, who was now unsteadily rising to his feet. I scanned the street for anything of help. I saw some more figures lurching down the street now. Just seeing the way they limped and dragged their feet told me all I needed to know. Plus the severed torso dragging itself along was a dead giveaway. Pleas excuse the pun.
But I’ll be damned if I’m going to run away from my house. That bastard is going to pay.
The Mike-like creature was again shuffling towards me. I spot a trowel in the flowerbed. If I can just reach it…I force my arm between the fence posts wincing as they grate thin grooves in my arm. My fingertips just reach the wooden handle, and I try and close them around it. Gently, gently, don’t push it away…got it!
“Last chance Mike, go away. Get lost.” Nothing.
“If you’re still in there somewhere, I really am truly sorry”
With both hands I swing the trowel as hard as I can towards its temple. And miss. The trowel slices through its nose instead, completely removing it.
“Shit. Um, sorry Mike…err…” But the thing doesn’t even notice and comes forward again. I take a step back and try again. This time there is a sickening crunch as the heavy metal shatters bone and is embedded deep inside its skull. The Mike creature drops to the road with a thud, completely lifeless. Suddenly remembering I look up guiltily at Penny’s house which still shows no sign of life. Just killed the woman of your dreams’ boyfriend mate. Not clever. Still, now’s not the time to dwell on it. There’s someone I’d like a little word with.