The House In the Middle of the Woods
We stood there, Zombie and I, staring at the manor. As we walked towards it, I saw that the windows on the first floor were boarded up with old wooden panels. And there were shards of glass surrounding the below them on the wrap around porch. Zombie was walking a bit in front of me, so she skipped up the six wooden steps to the porch where she then laid down to wait for me. I didn’t step up to the porch immediately. No, I kept walking towards the grated foundation of the manor. I bent down to examine it further and see if it would support us. I knocked my knife on it a few times before Zombie made a low, growling noise. I looked at her, then where she seemed to me looking.
It was still dark, so I couldn’t see much through the trees, but if she could sense something I couldn’t, I’d take her word for it. I slipped my knife back into its sheath and stepped up onto the stairs. I went cautiously, still convinced it would give out under my weight. When I had made it all the way up to the porch, Zombie had then moved towards the railing, growling towards the surrounding trees. I decided it would be best to get her inside before she began to give away our position. I walked toward the double doors of the main entrance and called for her. She responded quickly, trotting to me as I swung the tall, French door on the right inwards. I waited for a moment, but nothing came rushing out, so I turned back once more to clear the woods before entering.
Zombie went in first, followed closely behind by myself. I pulled the door shut and made sure I heard the click. I slid the bag down my arm and off of my back. It hit the ground with a thud. Nothing responded yet. I crouched down and rummaged through it, looking for the flashlight I had kept from the gas station. I felt the handle and pulled it out. I flipped the switch on it, and the beam launched across the room. The light lit up a staircase directly in front of where I was crouched, about six yards away. It led to an upstairs, where I shined the light. The railing was elegant and white. It was also dusty, like everything else in the manor, I realized. I shined the light around a bit more. Through the door way on my right was a room that seemed to be a dining area. The table was covered with an old white table cloth. And there were dusty sets of plates and silverware in front of about eight chairs. An antique candleholder held five unlit, burned-down candles. I looked away to the left of the entrance, where there was just a wall with a framed painting on it. I stood up to look at it. I shined the light up at the frame and jumped back from surprise. It wasn’t even I painting at all, I realized; I was a mirror. So the beam bounced back at me, and I was almost blinded. I stumbled back even more and began blinking wildly. I wasn’t prepared; my eyes had already adjusted to the darkness. I knew I must have walked backwards through the doorway to the dining area when I bumped into the table. It collapsed under my weight, combined with the old age of the wood. The legs snapped and the tabletop spilt down the middle. I dropped the flashlight and fell through and was enveloped by the white cloth. I fumbled to free myself from the suffocating situation. Then Zombie started barking. I tried to quiet her down, to tell her I was fine. But I wasn’t what she was concerned about. I freed my head just in time to watch as the Turned fell down on me. It was making a weird hissing noise as she clawed at me. I saw her apron and stringy hair falling into my face and tried to push her off. I grabbed for my knife, but her hand enclosed around my wrist. The amount of force she managed on me was surprising. I looked into her eyes, and even in the darkness, I could see my scared reflection in her own infected pupils. The amount of fear I saw fueled the fight in me. I brought my knee up and pushed her off. From there, Zombie pounced on her. I was now kneeling and I took the pistol from my belt. “Zombie,” I said. She jumped off and backed up, which gave me a clear sight of the Turned. It sat up, and I buried a single bullet into her mouth. She hesitated for a moment before falling back into a lying position. She was still and dead. Zombie stopped snarling as she sensing the danger was gone. I got up completely again and pocketed the gun. I brushed the dust from my shoulders and pants.
I panicked when I felt a sharp pain in the back of my left arm. It had scratched me, hadn’t it? I looked back and examined it. No, it was a puncture wound, but it wasn’t one caused by a nail. I looked back and saw a drop of my blood drip from the tip of the candleholder. One of the candles had fallen off, and the point had stabbed me when I had fallen back. I held the wound as it bled; it was only a few centimeters deep. It would heal. I grabbed the flashlight from the floor and looked around again. Towards the edge of the dining area was a door. I moved to open it slowly. I brought the light up in one hand and my pistol in the other. I scanned the entire room quickly, calling it empty. It was the kitchen, I realized, as I noticed the marble counters and old white wood cupboards. I looked to the wall and flipped the switch out of habit. The light bulbs above me in the chandelier sparked and burnt out. Sparks fell from them and showered down on the linoleum tiles. I sighed. Instead, I set the flashlight upright on the island in the center of the room and looked around.
The kitchen was nice, but old like the rest of the house. It had a Victorian-era like feel from the architecture. But still there was a taste of modern sense in the house. Like the counters were marble, the floors were tile, and the drapes around the windows were long and black. They just brushed the floor. I walked over and brushed my hand against them. I pulled them aside and noticed a Bible sitting on the sill. I flipped through the pages, but continued to look outside. This window was also boarded from the outside, but I could still see through a small slit in the wood. Zombie sat behind me, panting.
The trees were still, and the night was dark. There didn’t seem to be any threats outside of the manor. I turned back to the counters. I looked around and started opening them. I found nice china, expensive antique silverware and the wine glasses. I then found a small door the led to the pantry.
I opened the door and immediately regretted it. A horrible stench came from the room and I closed the door quickly. I grabbed the flashlight from the counter and went back. On my way, I grabbed an old washrag from the sink. I held it over my mouth. I opened the door again and stared into the pantry. I felt the washrag drop from my hand as I stared at it. “Jesus Christ,” I breathed.
From a rope in the ceiling, hung a man, dead. But this was different. He wasn’t Turned. He was like me. His face was normal, only paler and stiffer, but it was obvious he had never been infected. His flesh was whole, untorn. His clothes were also of a new style; nice, expensive jeans and a tucked in dress shirt. He looked like someone I would have seen, visiting the city. Still, I wasn’t convinced he had figured out how to remain unturned, even in death. There wasn’t even a chance he would come back now. It was obvious he had been dead for a while; the stench proved it.
I walked towards the suspended body and poked it.
It rocked back a forth a bit.
I swore at myself for doing that.
I reached up and touched his face with the back of my hand. It was cold, but smooth, clean-shaven. I reach up even further and hovered a finger over his eye. I hesitated for a second before lifting the eyelid.
I don’t know what I expected, but it wasn’t this. They were clear and blue, like my own. Sure, his pupils were dilated and glassy, but they weren’t cloudy like that of a Turned. I looked around the pantry again and saw for the first time all of the food. It seemed like they had been stocking up. They may have lived in the city during the rest of the year, but for some reason, they had driven down here to their private property in the woods of Illinois. They knew what was happening, and they decided they would prepare for it. Gallons of water were stacked against the back wall, and canned goods lined the others. I walked toward the water, thirsty for anything to cool my dry mouth, but my foot kicked something below me.
I looked down at the ground, where there was a small black box, one that would have held a ring at some point. Then it clicked in my mind. I looked at the ring finger on his left hand and saw the wedding band. I remembered the girl outside, the one whom Zombie had killed. Something had flashed on her finger. I realized now that it must have been an engagement ring. The Bible on the windowsill must have been the Bible to marry them.
They knew about the disease and they wanted to die married, together.
Well, that didn’t work out now, did it? I thought to myself. Oh my God, I’m so bitter.
I wondered what had happened. Had she Turned and the cooking lady following right after that? Had he known there wasn’t a way out of this, and decided he would kill himself? And if so, why didn’t he turn? Had he been immune to the disease?
I’d figure that out later. I had other things to do right now. Like sleep.
So I moved around the pantry and grabbed a few cans of fruit. I set those on the island in the center of the kitchen. I went back and forth between the two rooms and grabbed water gallons, cereals, ripened fruits and vegetables, until there was a mountain of foods for Zombie and I to choose from. I kicked the door shut behind me to cut off the stench. I decided if I were to stay here for more than today, I would cut the body down and bring it outside.
Zombie was now wagging her tail up and down, but she was still sitting. I opened a single can of peaches for the two of us and poured some water in a dish for her. I found a fancy sparkling water and poured a glass for me. I sliced some of their bread for us and spread a few slices with an apricot preserve. Zombie started whining, so I gave her a plate of them, with some of the kibble I had found in the back. She didn’t question it, but I was wondering where their dog was, if they had food for it. I hoped I didn’t find it. I couldn’t keep another one, but I wouldn’t be able to kill it. Twice.
After we ate, I went back to dining room and grabbed a chair. I brought it back to kitchen and leaned it up against the pantry door. I didn’t want anything else besides me getting into there. Or him getting out, even with the slightest chances.
I called Zombie out, and we left the kitchen. She ran towards the entrance, thinking we were leaving. But I stayed behind and used the same chair method on the door connecting the kitchen and dining room. I turned back to leave, but saw the lady with the apron lying on the ground, on the wreckage of the table.
I slipped the bag off of my shoulder and walked to the front door. I had Zombie sit on the porch and keep an eye out. Meanwhile, I grabbed the woman’s underarms and began to drag her out. Once we were on the porch, I propped her onto one of the white wicker benches. I stood back up and stretched my back out.
I looked out and saw something move in the trees. Zombie saw it, too. She made a low, growling noise, but I shushed her. The noise would attract even more of them. I pulled out a knife, deciding the pistol make just as much noise as a bark would. The figure emerged from the trees, but it hadn’t seen us yet. I could tell it wasn’t a Sensor then.
It came out, stumbling through the leaves. It was missing an arm, but the other one held something in its hand. It was a dark red. I stepped down off the porch with my knife. It turned and saw me. The Turned made a noise from deep in its throat, starting towards me. I covered the last few yards quickly. It tried to swipe at me, but I slashed its throat with a swift flick of my wrist. I felt the cold blood splatter across my face. Ugh. It fell to the ground. I wiped the blood away from my mouth and eyes. Looking back down at the Turned, I saw the fresh blood of something else on its hand and mouth. It had eaten. Recently. By the amount of blood, I figured it must have been something big, like a deer. Or human…
The thought of another live human being this close to me really messed with my mind. Especially since I couldn’t even have helped them. I put the knife away and sniffed. I turned back away and made it to the manor quickly, calling Zombie in behind me and shutting the door.
I slipped the candles off of the holder and set them at different points around the first floor. I lit them in a way that lit up the majority of it, giving it a sense of home. When I finished that, I found a dish from the dining room and placed a lit candle on that; I was going upstairs but didn’t want to waste the batteries of the flashlight.
I called Zombie and told her to follow me. I crept up the stairs, wincing every time the wood creaked. I knew the probability of something else being up there was small, tiny even, but there was always the chance. I grabbed railing up at the top and looked at the different doors up here.
There was one directly across from the landing, two on the next wall, and one at the end of the corridor. I walked to the nearest one first, the landing door. I grabbed the knob with Zombie crouching in front of me. I twisted the knob and Zombie launched herself inside. Nothing was there, though. Instead, there were two a large window along the far wall. I walked towards it and saw that it looked out upon the back of the yard. The darkness covered most of the view, but I could still make out the wrought iron fence enclosing about an acre of land, all covered in fallen leaves. They were dark now, but I was sure they’d be colorful in the morning. I looked to the edge of the window, where the red velvet curtains were pulled back. I set the candle down on the window sill for a moment. I turned back around. I remembered the quickly shut the door. I don’t think I was going back out tonight, and I needed to make sure nothing was going to come in during the night. The door swung shut and I locked it with the three locks, one a chain, one a slot, and the last was the key that was already in the door. I turned it and then pocketed the key. I turned back and looked at the room as a whole this time.
It was very pleasant to the eye. Everything was like the outside: old, but in a classic manner. There was a massive four-pillar bed, with polished brown wood and red sheets and pillows. Red drapes fell around the edge of the frame, making it fit for a queen. I almost fell asleep just by looking at it. It was then that the adrenaline drop really hit me. I knew I’d be out like a light in a few short minutes, but there was another door leading out of the room, which I couldn’t just let sit there, unchecked.
It was across the room, so I tried to move quickly. The door was unlocked and slightly ajar. I knocked on it, and then nudged the rest open with my foot. The knife was out again, hanging loosely from my right hand. The room was exactly what I expected it to be. A washroom. It was just as elegant as the master bedroom, too. The white tub could probably fit three or four people in it. Excessive, really, I thought. There didn’t seem to be a lot of people in the house to occupy the one tub, and one person didn’t need that much space. There were two sinks across from the tub, also white. The faucets were silver and shiny, as if they had still been in use for the last few months. The mirror stretched in front of the sinks, along the entire wall. It was not as pristine as the sinks, though. No, it was covered in dust and grime. I moved inside a bit more and looked inside the bathtub. There was mold near the drain, but the rest was all dry. The tub sat against a black tile wall. On the other side of that, the wall held two separate showerheads. At this point, I was practically rolling my eyes at these people before remembering it probably wasn’t in my best interest to mock the dead. But if I had known these people before the apocalypse, I probably would have disliked them and their money.
I left the washroom quickly and closed the door behind me. It didn’t lock from the outside, though. I saw Zombie lying asleep on top of the royal-looking bed and decided to join her. I slipped the bag off of my shoulder finally and let it rest on the bedside table, along with the knife. I took off the pistol and belt, setting them with my other gear, although I made these items a bit more easily accessible. In case of emergency.
I slipped my cargo pants off and got an idea. I looked around the room for a dresser. When I saw it, I realized how hard it would have been to miss. It was on the other side, the left side, of the bed. I moved over and forced myself to look inside. I felt an enormous amount of discomfort and disrespect when I pulled the drawers open, feeling like I was intruding, but knew for a fact that the couple wouldn’t be needing it any longer. I looked through the drawers until I found what looked like the woman’s clothes. She seemed like my size as I held up one of her gowns to my body. I then pulled my blood-stained, dirty tanktop over my head and slipped the gown on. It was soft and silky, and the discomfort I felt had nothing to do with the fabric.
I walked back and lay down on the soft mattress. Honestly, it felt like heaven. I started to wonder how bad it would be to just die right here. It wouldn’t be painful. It would be serene, though. I guess it wasn’t the worst way to go. I drifted off the sleep with these thoughts in my head.But they were gone by morning when the knocking came from outside.