My wife tried to kill me. It’s not what you think, something was wrong with her.
Holly came home from work looking like death warmed up. Her face was pale, clammy and stained with the telltale red lines caused by crying. I hugged her, sat her down on the couch, and tried to find out why she was in such a state.
Her words were halting. “I heard a scream coming from the churchyard,” she didn’t need to add that she’d gone over to help, I knew her too well. “So I walked over to see if I could help.”
My silly, wonderful, brave, Holly.
She sobbed again and looked into my eyes, her gaze full of sadness and horror.
“There was a man, homeless, I think. He was covered in mud and looked drunk.”
Everyone in the area knew that particular churchyard was a drinking and drug using spot for the dregs of society. Nobody in his or her right mind would go in there after hearing a scream, but my Holly steamed right in to help.
“He was attacking a woman, that’s who was screaming,” more sobbing and a fresh flood of tears streamed down her cheeks.
I asked if the woman was dirty, drunk, or both. Holly shot me a look that seemed to ask, “Why the fuck would that make a difference?” and shook her head.
“No, she was well dressed, a little older than me,” she threw herself into my arms. “Oh God, William,” she buried her face into my chest and screamed. Even though my chunky brown sweater muffled the screams, they were still loud enough to get me worrying about what the neighbours might have thought.
To be perfectly honest here, I didn’t have a clue what I should do, so I just held her. I felt angry. Angry that she worked even though I made enough money for the both of us. Angry that she walked home despite us having a perfectly good car. Angry at myself for not insisting that she gave up her job at the travel agents when my first book had become a success. Not that it would have done any good; she was so bull-headed that she would have done double shifts just to teach me a lesson.
After a few minutes had passed, she lifted her head and looked at me. Her face was plastered in snot and tears and her skin became so pale that it seemed like some kind of ethereal porcelain. Something was very wrong.
“He killed her, William,” she stammered the words out between sobs. “He bit her throat out right there in front of me. Just ripped her neck apart with his teeth and groaned like a perverted maniac.”
This was without a doubt the strangest ‘guess what happened to me today’ story I had ever heard. I didn’t believe it. How could I? It sounded like something from a late night horror movie.
They’re coming to get you, Holly.
“I threw my shoe at him,” she said, nodding her head to affirm her bravery. I looked down and sure enough, her left shoe was missing and her slender foot was beaten and bloody.
My foolish, heroic, shoeless Holly.
“It just made him angry, William. He came right at me but,” she paused to choke back more tears before continuing. “Something was wrong with him, his eyes were all white and his skin was grey.”
Now it really did sound like a bad horror movie. She must have seen the doubt in my eyes because she suddenly pulled away and rested her head in her hands. That was when I spotted blood seeping through the sleeve of her jacket. I reached out to touch it but she jerked her arm away.
“It hurts,” she told me. “He bit me when I tried to run past him. He grabbed my arm and took a fucking bite. Who does that, William? Who does that?”
I got even more curious about the bite, and asked her to take off the jacket. She winced and struggled to slide her arm out before finally allowing me to help. Underneath, she wore her short-sleeved travel agent uniform blouse. The words ‘Come fly with us’ were proudly emblazoned in yellow on the sleeve just below her right shoulder. I inspected the wound.
It was bad.
Teeth indentations circled the angry red wound and thin black veins spidered intricate patterns up her arm like a colourless kaleidoscope. I rushed into the kitchen and grabbed the first aid kit from the cupboard underneath the sink. I poured some warm water into a bright blue breakfast bowl and rushed back, urging myself to slow down as slops of water splashed over the rim. A yellow smiley face stared up at me from the bottom of the bowl, taunting me with its inane grin. I scowled at the smiley face and sat beside Holly.
She looked close to passing out. An insane amount of heat radiated from the bite, it felt like hot coals were happily smouldering away beneath her skin.
She didn’t even notice me clean and bandage the wound. Her eyes were open but she looked vacant, dazed, “the lights are on but nobody’s home,” as my Father would have said.
I had to call for help.
I phoned the local surgery, but the number was either busy or dead, I couldn’t work out which, so I decided that the hospital would be a safer bet. After cursing at the ringing tone for the longest couple of minutes that I’ve ever lived through, I finally got an answer.
“Royal County Hospital, how can I help?” The woman on the line sounded tired; as if this was the thousandth time she had answered the phone that day.
“Some crazy guy bit my wife on the arm. She’s in a bad way. We need help.”
“Have you been bitten or scratched in any way, Sir?”
“No, no. I’m fine. My wife saw the man kill another woman though, in St. Peter’s churchyard”
“Where is your wife now, Sir?”
“She’s sitting on the couch. Look, should I just bring her to A & E or will you send someone out?”
“Sir we have been told to advise that all bite victims be placed in local quarantine. Is there somewhere for you to restrain your wife until the military can get to you and assess the situation?”
“Restrain her… Military? What are you talking about? She needs medical attention.”
“I’m sorry, Sir, that’s all I can tell you right now. I strongly suggest that you restrain your wife as soon as possible and keep her away from any other family members.”
It was at this point that I realised Gemma hadn’t come home from school yet. “Oh, shit. Gemma.”
“Gemma, our daughter, she should have been home from school by now. She’s only fifteen.”
“Sir, I must advise that you do not leave your home until further notice. The government will be keeping everyone updated on TV and radio so make sure that you have one on at all times.”
I was almost afraid to ask. Almost. “Updated on what? What’s going on?”
“You need to restrain your wife immediately, Sir. Promise me that you will do that right now.”
“But I… Okay.”
“Thank-you. Help will come, Sir. We are working as hard as we can.”
The line clicked and went dead. I looked over at the couch. Holly had gone. I shouted out her name and heard footsteps on the stairs. I shouted her name again whilst making my way to the bottom of the stairs. There she was, halfway up, looking like she’d just gone to the fridge and forgotten why. I asked if she was feeling okay and my heart sank when she turned to face me.
She looked like a corpse.
Her skin had the pallor of an overcast sky. Her lips were dry, cracked and discoloured. Worst of all, the bright blue eyes I had fallen in love with were drained of all colour, replaced by the yellowing white of sour milk. I rushed up the stairs, taking them three at a time. When I was within reach, I grabbed her by the shoulders and yelled her name but there was no response.
Holly had left the building. No recognition, no answer, no life, nothing.
What happened next went so quickly that it’s blurred and confusing but I’ll do my best to recount it for you.
Holly was staring at the carpet, lost in its spiral patterns like a baby seeing cartoons on television for the first time. Her head snapped up to face me and those colourless eyes narrowed and stared hungrily. She lunged for me, snapping with her teeth. My wife was trying to bite me, and not in a sexy way. I stepped back to avoid the ravenous attack and lost my balance, at the same time keeping my grip on her shoulders so that as I fell, she tumbled down with me. She snipped and snarled like an angry dog but more feral, more primal.
We twisted and turned, our combined weight thudding against each step heavily and painfully (for me, at least) until we hit the white marble floor with a sickening slap. I heard a bone in Holly’s arm crack it didn’t faze her at all. I was still regaining my senses when she leapt on top of me, teeth chomping and clacking, a low, guttural growl reverberated deep in her throat.
I managed to shift my weight and push her off. Scrambling to my feet, I ran past the stairs and through the door that opened into the garage, quickly hiding behind the now open door. I heard Holly jump to her feet followed by the click-clack of her remaining shoe on the marble floor. The noise came closer and closer until I could also hear her breath. She walked through the doorway and stood still for half a minute plus eternity. I silently urged her to move further into the garage. An idea formed as I remembered the car-key was in my pocket. Moving slowly and silently, I reached into my jeans. Holly grunted and her breathing got faster, more excited. Had she heard me?
The sound of her shoe echoed around my head and froze my blood. I held my breath. Her face must have been just inches from mine with nothing but a door between us.
She stepped away from the entrance and moved further into the garage. I breathed again.
What the hell is wrong with her?
Deep down I thought that I knew, I just didn’t want to believe it.
Fear gripped my belly with icy fingers and squeezed, urging me to choose flight over fight. I thrust my hand into my jeans pocket, pulled out the car-key and punched my thumb down onto the ‘unlock’ button. The red Ford SUV made its familiar boop-beep noise. Both the front and backlights flashed and the doors popped as they unlocked. Holly growled and ran towards the SUV. I jumped out from behind the door, rushed back into the house, slammed the door closed and locked it.
“It won’t be for long, Holly,” I rested with my back against the door. “Just until help arrives.”
I crumpled to the floor in an exhausted heap and cried like a baby until the sweet arms of sleep embraced me.
The next morning, I awoke with a start to the terrifying melody of Holly scraping and snarling at the door.
Gemma still hadn’t come home and wasn’t answering her mobile phone. I tried calling her three times, only to get an annoying, “hello?” Followed by a long pause before the timeless, “Ahhhhhhh got ya! Leave a message, muppet!” kicked in. I hate that answer service message.
I kept checking through the window but there weren’t any signs of life, although that’s hardly surprising considering the cul-de-sac we lived on was populated by elderly people for the most part, it’s why we bought the house. We like the quiet.
I could hear sirens in the distance and hoped that Gemma was okay. I wasn’t sure whether going to find her would be a good idea or a really bad one. The hospital woman had told me not to leave the house. That help would come. I didn’t know what to do other than hope and wait, so I started to scribble in a diary instead of doing something more practical.
After a while, I decided to put the television on, surely someone on there could tell me what to do.