Descent to the Underworld

Posted by on Sep 30, 2014 in Flash

Note: I submitted this for the NYC Midnight Flash Challenge. Enjoy!

We pull into the trailer park in Benny’s air-conditioned SUV. Sunlight glints off the trailers’ tin roofs. I squint to read the “Flea Market Today!” banner through the dust clouds. So much brown: the dirt, the trailer siding, the swirling air.

The afternoon sun slaps all three of us as we open the doors. Waves of heat flow off the dirt. Each breath fills my lungs with hot, stale dust.

We walk along the cracked asphalt separating the rows of trailers. The grizzled vendors sit behind folding tables and on blankets. They blast Spanish music, shaking the earth beneath our feet.

“We shouldn’t be here,” Mike says.

Mike needs to man up. After today we’ll be legends at Lincoln High School.

The three of us weave through wet brown men with bulbous stomachs and yellowed undershirts, and bony women with babies, and old people who’d leathered and pruned into unidentifiable races. Wares spread out on tables: dirty sand pails, toy trucks missing wheels, pots and pans, cassettes, Jesus paintings, baby clothes, desperation, apathy, hopelessness. A dog pisses on a blanket full of VHS tapes.

Mike locks eyes with a brown girl in glasses, maybe 13, sitting on a towel with her legs open. She holds a battered Bible against one knee, but she’s not reading it.

I elbow Mike when I see the “For Sale” sign on the left.

“Get the camera ready,” I say.

Two girls with metal collars struggle, chained to the side of a trailer. They moan and push forward, eyes burning with purpose. They smell like sour milk and perfume.

The vendor, a bearded man with a tremendous stomach, smiles through three silver teeth. “Special deal for you white boys,” he says.

He pulls one of the chains toward him. The blonde woman’s cheeks droop like melting plastic. A glamour skirt and black bra stick to her gamy skin, and she wears one high heel, broken. He grabs her head and pulls the lips apart. “No teeth. I pluck them out. No bite. See? She die recently, that’s a promise.”

She doesn’t look recent.

“Never used,” the vendor says. “She clean your house, too, huh?”

With so many corpses climbing out of the earth, trafficking had become commonplace. When the risen weren’t biting, they could push a mean vacuum, paint, and pick vegetables in the fields. This usefulness put some folks out of work.

“I dress them up nice, huh?” he says.

Benny points to the other girl, dark haired with a concaved skull.

Maria Sanchez. Fatally struck by a car while walking home from church. Rose from the dead last Wednesday, shambled to a friend’s house and ate a cat, then disappeared. Last seen here by someone trolling the Lodi Trailer Park.

She wears a brown teddy with lace along her exposed, bruised belly. Her springy spine makes popping sounds as she twists and writhes.

My heart races. After a summer of boring videogames and TV, our senior year at Lincoln High will begin in style. We’ll be famous—Boss Mode famous. Screw the Fire Challenge and Cinnamon Challenge; the Maria Sanchez Challenge will rule them all.

“How much?” Benny asks.

I nudge him. We can’t look too eager.

The vendor’s brown eyes sparkle. “You know this one? I see it.”

Benny stares too hard; we aren’t getting her cheap. Maria Sanchez, with the smooth brown skin and huge breasts that ballooned back in 8th grade—the girl I pictured whenever I masturbated. The only Mexican at Lincoln High. She never talked to anyone, just read her books and kept her head down, and never accepted any of my friend requests. Now I’d get her for real.

“100,” Benny says.

“500,” the vendor says. “I throw in half hour in my trailer, huh? You and your buddy. Not that one, though.” He points at Mike. “He better stop looking at my niece.”

I poke Mike again and tell him to stop staring at the 13 year old. Jeez, what’s his problem?

“300,” Benny says. He holds out the cash.

The vendor nods and unhooks the chain from the trailer. He hands the lead to Benny.

“Oh, Christ!” I shout.

Maria Sanchez lunges at Benny’s neck and gums a vein. A frothy liquid pours from her lips and onto his sweaty white neck, dribbling down his collarbone.

The vendor laughs. “Harmless. No teeth.”

Benny pushes Maria Sanchez’s head away. The gums mash together in a sinewy, biting pantomime.

“Come on.” Benny punches Mike’s arm to get him to stop looking at the girl. “Jesus, Mike.”

“What about the trailer?” I ask. “The guy said we could use his trailer to…you know…”

Maria Sanchez growls.

Benny smirks. “Did you really think I’d put my dick inside this?”

“But I thought we’d get video of us—”

“Sick, man.” He points his keys at the SUV and unlocks it. “Back to the car.”

Benny drags Maria Sanchez by the chain over the hot asphalt. A hundred brown eyes follow us out. The Spanish music fades as we return to the SUV.

Mike looks drunk, his eyes dead. He shuffles into the brown brush under the merciless sun and vomits.

Benny tosses Maria Sanchez into the back of the SUV like a sack of groceries and she lands on top of a shovel. I notice Benny’s front bumper then. Dented, the paint chipped. I start to ask if that’s new, but then I remember hearing about the hit-and-run on the Sunday Mike and Benny went to see a movie without me, and how they couldn’t remember any plot details when I met them later at Benny’s house.

We chug bottled water and drive away in the air-conditioned SUV, the same car that kills Maria Sanchez a second time—only this time nobody finds her body on Mike’s street next to a bloodied Bible.

Read More »

Leaving Gary

Posted by on Jul 8, 2010 in Flash

Go To Mari’s Blog

Leaving Gary

Gary knows how to make me smile. He crawls along the bottom of the pond. His arms, severed at the elbow, sink into the sediment with every inch. Sink, lift, sink, lift, sink… Funny. His leg-stumps flail, stirring up the algae. Gary isn’t going anywhere; he’s tethered to my ankle by a thick chain. I watch my husband squirm for a while, then I unhook him. Gary lurches forward and breaks the surface. I pull all the bricks out of my skirt and my body buoys.
It’s Date Night.
Layers of muck separate as I crown. A duck quacks and flies away. I wring out my hair. It’s not blond anymore, just a sickly yellow. I hate what the pond does to it, but the green film keeps us hidden during the day. And we look less dead in the moonlight.
Gary grunts and face-plants onto the cement. He lifts his head and gives a mournful cry, then face-plants again. He turns to me, his mouth agape. Gary doesn’t have a jaw. Not anymore. I took care of that after lopping off his appendages. Now his tongue dangles like a frisky eel. Gary worms his way across the cement in his favorite overalls, leaving a trail behind him.
He spots the hole I’d dug before we went to sleep. It’s filled with grayish-black rainwater now, and a shovel sits nearby. Gary blinks and stops moving.
“Not yet,” I say reassuringly.
Gary’s eyes shut. He’s sad. But I can fix that. “How about a movie?” I ask him.
He shakes his head no. But I remember Gary’s favorite saying when we were alive: “Every time you say no, you just make me hornier.”
So I lift him off the ground and wear him like a backpack. I grab the clamps protruding from each of his arm-stumps (my doing, of course) and snap them into place over my chest.  His dangling tongue brushes the nape of my neck. It feels like cold bologna.
Damn it. I’m getting wistful again. He’s bad for me. That’s what momma always said. “Gary’s bad.”
I trudge along a path under the cover of trees. Gary flops and moans. With the pouring rain, we have the whole park to ourselves. I crawl through an opening in the chain-link fence and emerge into a field bordering the drive-in theater. Six screens are playing simultaneously, surrounding several parked cars. I find our favorite spot near the dumpster, unclip Gary and set him down in a puddle.
“I know how to cheer you up,” I say. “Romantic comedy.”
I rotate him so that he’s facing the Katherine Heigl movie. We’ve already seen it four times, but I don’t care. It’s funny, and I know Gary likes it too. Death has changed everything about him. He enjoys spending time with me now. And he doesn’t smell like beer anymore.
On the screen, a handsome man smiles at Katherine Heigl, and it makes me think of Steve. I can’t help it.
Old Gary was always out drinking. He’d stumble into the house smelling of mixed perfume and sex. Not Steve, though. Steve made me feel sexy. Steve read books, recited poetry. So young! And I was his first lay—a married woman with experience. Steve had me pinned beneath him, my legs wrapped around his butt, when Gary came home from the strip-club. Gary didn’t wait for an explanation. He just shot me in the face, then fired three bullets into Steve before turning the gun on himself. Then we all woke up in the morgue and ripped off our toe tags, confused. Gary and Steve didn’t know what to do next.
But I did.
“Ooh, this is the best part.” I peel Gary’s eyelids open so he can watch Katherine Heigl do a pratfall. She giggles as the handsome man helps her to her feet. Their eyes lock. They kiss.
I sigh and stroke what’s left of Gary’s mullet. “Are you hungry? I’m hungry.”
I find the remains of the homeless man I killed last night. Leftovers. He’s rank, but edible. Drool falls from Gary’s cavernous mouth. I pull off strips of meat and feed them to my husband, shoving them down his throat. His tongue waves in the air with every swallow and his eyes roll to the back of his head.
We eat. We watch the movie. We enjoy our last night together. And when the movie ends, it’s time to go. I throw Gary over my back. We return to the pond where his grave awaits.
“I know what you’re thinking,” I say when we get there. I drop him into the wet hole. His eyes are frantic, looking past me at the sky, the remains of our dinner still fresh on his pale cheeks. For a moment he looks like old Gary—alive Gary—and I shudder. I don’t like old Gary. I clamp his stumps behind his back so he can’t dig his way out.
“You think I’ll come back, right?” I shovel mud on top of him, filling the empty space. “I’ve come back four times already. So you’re thinking, ‘Why would this time be any different?’ But you’re wrong. I’m leaving you. For real.”
I see the glimmer in Gary’s eyes before the mud covers them. He knows the insincerity of my words. By now Gary knows the truth: I’m not in love with him; I’m in love with the act of leaving him.
I finish the job and pat the wet earth as the rain builds. The water soaks the bullet hole in my left eye and I think of Steve.
Oh, I hope Steve remembers that love poem, the one he wrote for me. He always says the most romantic things. I hope I can remember where I buried him.
Contest Guidelines:
  • Word count: maximum 1.000
  • The story must be a romance between two zombies. Make it as horrific as you like. 😉
  • Stories containing animal cruelty, torture, graphic sex or violence, any form of exaltation of violence, racism or other forms of prejudice will be immediately disqualified.
  • Post your entry on your own blog, with a title resembling this:
Zombie Luv Flash Fic Contest: Story Title
  • Leave your story title and a link to the story entry post as a comment at mari’s randomities:
  • Copy and paste the contest logo and the guidelinesat the end of your entry post.
Read More »