avatarC. L. Nichols, Author

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Remnants — Episode 13

Sara skipped along the sidewalk, eyes downcast to watch for cracks to step over. In truth, she looked down to avoid seeing all the spooky houses. The brooding porches of the old two-stories stood vacant. No grannies in rocking chairs, no grouches picking up papers to pause and glare at the hard sound of her leather heels.

Her parents were home but she couldn’t go there anymore. Their still bodies on the hallway floor kept her from her things. She didn’t need toys anyway. Except she wished she could have Tillie with her. Just a doll, maybe, but she’d be someone to talk to.

Sara stopped skipping. A brown dog, not huge but big enough, blocked her way. Head down, it growled through long teeth.

She held out a hand that still trembled from the fever, but she kept it stuck out. The dog lifted its head, tilted it to one side, regarded her skeptically.

“Come.” Sara spoke softly. “I need a new friend.”

The dog slowly began to wag a stubby tail. As the motion quickened, it came to her, grinning.

* * *

No phone disturbed the quiet room.

In one neighborhood after another, lights shut off but no human hand had pulled the switch. Gas explosions went unreported as fire romped from home to home. Police cars no longer roamed city streets in search of looters. The calliope of civilization wheezed to a fitful rest.

Yet Bonnie peeked out Venetian blinds.

Someone had passed a dim shadow across the shade, not ten minutes ago. The eerie calm had remained, but now Bonnie thought she heard scratching, somewhere just outside.

She clutched the butcher knife more tightly in her white-knuckled fist.

An ominous shape stepped directly in front of the window, stared through the tiny crack Bonnie’s fingers held apart. The blinds shook in her hands and the figure vanished.

A soft knock at her front door made her gasp, spin to face the entranceway. The knob turned. She’d left it unlocked? She couldn’t believe it, but obviously she had. Bonnie raised the knife, caught its glint next to her eye.

A face appeared in the gap as strange hands pushed open the door a fraction.

“Ma’am?” a small voice said.

* * *

Blinded.

Holding the cellar door open barely enough, Betty had looked up just as the comet came apart. She let go of the heavy door and it slammed on her head, made her see brilliant stars. They were the last things she’d seen clearly.

Except for the vivid images from her past. Slices of memory kept knifing through. Her mother’s kind face. Her beautiful daughter, laughing in play. Her husband’s cruel eyes.

Yes, Joe was gone. And with him, the savage beatings to which she somehow allowed herself to be subjected. She didn’t miss them.

Groping her way into the house had taken hours, holding out sweeping arms. On her first try Betty missed and had to backtrack to the cellar. She nearly missed it, too. Her zigzagging to and fro must have made a comical sight. After several stumbles, blood flowed down badly skinned knees.

She was home now. Alone. Except for the sickness she’d brought with her. First came the migraines, followed by nausea, then vomiting and diarrhea.

Lorrie was in the cellar with Joe. No need to bring her stiff little body into the house. Her tomb shouldn’t be disturbed. No strangers had arrived to restore the living or retrieve the dead.

I wouldn’t know a stranger now, Betty thought, if I saw one. Her shaky laugh sounded scared.

< Watch for the next episode of Remnants! >

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