“Another head hangs lowly
Child is slowly taken
And the violence caused such silence”
—ZOMBIE by The Cranberries
They sit, huddled, in an arch of floodlight crawling up from the ground, to just above their heads. The dew on the concrete foundation mingles with the fear-sweat seeping from their rigid backs, causing them to shiver in their cotton shirts. They are out there, hovering just beyond this protective ellipse of light.
Mother and daughter alternate brief rest periods. Their eyelids bang shut like rear doors of big rigs; long haul drivers hypnotized by snaking, painted highway lines. The light flickers as the gas-powered generator devours its remaining fuel.
It is a race between fuel level and the dawning sun on the horizon.
When daylight arrives, The Changed reluctantly halt their hunt and scamper for the shadowy shelter of abandoned homes, and heavily forested wilderness. Should hunger override their feeble sense of self-preservation, they alight like flint on kindling. The current dominant race on Earth is not a shambling horde of geriatric droolers, it is an unorganized mass of bloodshot rage with the tenacity and thirst of riot police.
Keenly attuned to the frequency of self-preservation herself, Peg outfitted her daughter, Chelsea, with a rape whistle in the early days of the outbreak in England. Mother informed daughter, should they become separated, for whatever reason, blow long and loud; she would come running.
As it became apparent Bath was a lost cause for civilization, Peg and Chelsea became separated in a stampede of terror fleeing the city centre on Conversion Day. Afraid, but without panic, her daughter immediately began bleating on the whistle. The Changed screamed, raising mangled hands to rotting ears. They parted from Chelsea as if she were their nightmare.
It didn’t take long for The Clean to realize what Chelsea had done, and before Peg could make a beeline for her daughter, desperate fleeing survivors tried to wrench the protective whistle from her tiny grasp. She screamed.
Blessed with the memory of goldfish, The Changed immediately switched their single-minded efforts from pain management to their virus-hijacked, biological imperative—spread the infection. The dwindling Clean all tried to whistle while they gasped for breath and ran for their lives.
The generator coughs as a glow appears on the horizon. Conflicted anxiousness ripples through the snarling crowd outside the family’s forcefield. The Changed kick at the dirt and howl.
Peg wraps her fist tightly around the tarnished trumpet she lifted from an abandoned music store that first night. She nods her head for her daughter to prep the whistle.
They cannot outrun these violent pursuers. Their inhuman, anger-charged speed is breathtaking in its efficiency. They must become horrible musicians in a survival orchestra (whose aim is to dispatch an audience with hostile dissonance) while faking athletic expertise in diaphragmatic breathing and marathon-level cardio until it becomes second nature, should the generator—*cou—
*Based on a dream related by Jenn Zed.
The Flash Fiction Writer:
Jordan Trethewey is a writer and editor living in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada. His new, frightening book of verse, Spirits for Sale, is now available on Amazon from Pskis Porch Publishing. Some of his work found a home here, and in other online and print publications such as The Ekphrastic Review, Visual Verse, CarpeArte Journal, Fishbowl Press, and The Blue Nib. His poetry has also been translated in Vietnamese and Farsi. To read more of his work go to: https://jordantretheweywriter.wordpress.com.
The Dreamer/Concept From:
She studied art, art history, and design at Bath and Cambridge universities.
Cover Photo Credit: Kylie Supski