I've had an apocalyptic novel in my head for a while now. In this story, the veil between the living and dead worlds fails, and the once-dead things infect the living world, turning most of humanity into vessels for spirits, demons, long-dead gods, and other creepers. There are a handful of survivors worldwide who aren't infected, and their main plot will center not on trying to save the world but on figuring out their place in the post-apocalyptic landscape. This semester I'll be poking about in that fictional world through assignments from my Apocalypses class, figuring out the nuts and bolts of my version of the apocalypse, playing with tone and voice, and basically exploring.
Standard disclaimer: The following may be random, shitty first draft-type writing and may not make up a complete story by the end of the semester. Do not read while operating heavy machinery, not intended for ingestion, etc.
Charlie was a colossal git, anyway. Not that I don't feel for him - I do, I'm not the total prick his friends pegged me for - but holy Jesus, will you look at him? Eye pencil curly-cued down his cheeks, dyed black hair over pale Irish eyebrows, and more lipstick than my sisters used to wear when they snuck off on dates. Wardrobe like a funeral procession. Even now, with that dead thing wearing him for a suit, I still want to smack him upside the head.
I do feel for him, though. He's an idiot, sure. First thing he does when the news reports start coming on - mass hysteria in Europe, claims of spiritual possession run rampant, ghosts all over the bloody place - first thing Charlie the git does is get together with his equally funereal friends and a jug of tequila at the cemetery. The world is crashing to an end, and they're holding a seance. Fucking Ouija board and everything.
And now Charlie's a suit for some--I'm not sure what. All I know is he's not giving me the usual morning pleasantries when I pass him on the stoop of our place this morning. Two years living downstairs from the kid, and never once has he skipped a chance to make nice with me. Probably because he saw my knife collection the one time. Cowardly little Charlie the git, tail perpetually glued between his legs. Except now it's not Charlie, but something else staring out from inside him, making his eyes glassy. Just like on the news feeds - and in the streets downtown I drove through at sunup, and just about everywhere else I've been these last twelve hours.
I slump into the porch swing, fingering the butterfly knife in my pocket just in case. The rest of the neighborhood is so quiet I can hear the screams breaking three streets over, where there's smoke rising up. Hope the fire doesn't spread - though, if we're all fucked anyway, I suppose it doesn't matter whether my flat burns up. "Charlie," I say, nodding to the thing on the doorstep.
It's standing with Charlie's nose nearly against his front door, staring forward. Not surprisingly, no answer.
"Oy, thing that is wearing my neighbor," I call, making sure to ennunciate.
It answers to that. Turning its head slowly, Charlie's neck bones crackling, it looks at me. I've seen frozen fish with livelier eyes.
"You got a name?" I say.
It tests Charlie's vocal cords with a wheezy sound, then says in his smallest voice something that sounds like "Sarah."
Charlie's got a girl inside him. This is probably the closest he's come to contact from a real human woman. I'd laugh if I wasn't so sure she'd killed him to get in. "Where're you from, Sarah?" I shake my head. "When'd be a good question, too, I suppose."
She turns Charlie's head back toward the door and says to it, "New York. 1911." And for a second, I smell singed hair.
"Long trip," I say, because what else can you say to that?
"There are holes in the world," she says into the door.
I flip open my butterfly knife, but she doesn't even react. If Charlie had any control over that body, it'd be leaping in his window about now, and probably yelping. "The kid who was in that body," I say, closing the knife. "He's not in there with you, by any chance?"
"No," Sarah says. "He's gone."
"Gone where?" That she doesn't answer. I take a deep breath and stab my knife into the arm of the porch swing - I'm sure the landlady won't care, as she's probably got a ghost in her already. "Well, you need anything, Sarah?"
"Key," she says into the door.
"In his back pocket."
She digs one of Charlie's bony hands into the back pocket of his tight black jeans and pulls out his rabbit's foot keychain. It takes her a few tries to get the key into the lock properly. Then it clicks, and she presses the door in with a little sound that might be a "Thank you."
"Rent's due on the fifth," I tell her back as she walks inside. "No smoking inside, no pets, keep your music down."
The door slides shut behind her and closes most of the way, leaving just a sliver of the frame showing. I get up and pull the handle shut the rest of the way, so no one thinks of walking in and stealing Charlie's things. He was a git, but he didn't deserve that.
Was. The word's tough to wrap my head around. Charlie was. The neighborhood was. Humanity was - or it will be a "was" in a few days, I expect. At the rate those things are taking people over.
I step into my flat and lock the door behind me. Folding my knife back into my pocket, I can't help but wonder what sort of dead thing is gonna take to wearing me like Sarah's wearing Charlie. And when. The news feeds from the cities went to static a couple of hours ago, so presumably soon.
Whoever it is that takes me over, they'd better not touch my goddamn truck.