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Promises To Keep

Promises To Keep

She lined up the shot with the sight, felt the weight of the cold barrel in her hand and the press of the stock against her shoulder, and squeezed a bit on the trigger.

The memory stutters and halts at times like these. Sure, there are the jeans, his dumb-ass sneakers and most of the torn sweatshirt he was wearing, but beyond that it’s all guesswork and subliminal pattern recognition. But the mind weaves it all together, eventually, assembles the jigsaw puzzle that is the horror-show heading her direction, and parades the last few weeks of highlights in front of her.

Legs tangled together in bed, naked, the bliss of the moment slowly fading while lust starts to ratchet up again. Small talk and whispered dreams. Timeless pleasures in a world tipped on its head. The house was something they could never have afforded in a million years – had they actually been married. It was in the hills above town and abandoned like everything else since the mistake.

"I want to live in a house like this Danny, but with the lights below actually lit up. You know, with real people and everything."

"We could throw some nice parties here. Have you seen the bar?"

"And the swimming pool that overlooks the cliff is fantastic," she had said. "When it’s lit up I bet it’s spectacular. The side yard isn’t bad, not a lot of room but enough for a couple of kids to run around in."

"Too bad we had to put a couple in the rotting thing that was there. Kind of changes how I feel and think about that space."

"Daniel, they were people like us. They can’t help it. None of them can."

"Never, Alicia. Never. If it happens to me promise you will put one between my eyes."

She had smiled and kissed him.

"We need some supplies. Either tonight or tomorrow, doesn’t matter, but one or both of us will have to go."

"Not tonight," she had said. "Tonight we stay here and relax for once. I think the water is still running in this house."

And she remembered falling asleep in his arms, feeling safe for the first time in weeks.

In the morning he went down the hill to get supplies. Just a few hours, he had said. She had stayed and walked through the house again. It looked different in the daylight, even more beautiful. The kitchen and family room were expansive, windows all the way across that overlooked the town. Multiple sliding doors led out to the deck and pool area.

Some canned food remained. Even though they had been lucky at acquiring supplies, she always felt hungry. The lack of certainty played on her. She had sat on the floor in the family room and looked through the music collection, and the books and photos along the walls. Family. So badly she and Danny wanted family. But the world had been reinvented. She had looked at the Walther next to her on the floor, felt the additional clip of ammunition in her back pocket. Family doesn’t look like this, she had thought.

She had read for a while and before she knew it the western sun was shining in through the windows. More than a few hours had slipped past and Danny hadn’t returned. There were still several hours before sunset. She had grabbed her backpack, the second shotgun and some extra ammo, wrote a quick note, just in case, and headed out the door. It was safer to walk, so she did. Cars were like an announcement. There was less trouble up here, anyway. Mostly they congregated in towns.

At the bottom of the hill she had seen two of them a couple of blocks away, aimlessly moving in that strange and listless way they did between feedings. A noise from behind had startled her. Then she turned. One of them was coming from a side road. It was wearing Danny’s shoes and his jeans, but the movements were all wrong.

"Daniel?" She had whispered, wanting to cry and give up. "Oh my God, Daniel!"

Despair had threatened to lock her up, make her freeze. Then she saw the baby doll under the thing’s arm. She could have died then. Instead, she raised the shotgun.

Refocused now, the distance halved between them, right leg dragging behind him, rage seeping through his clouded eyes, and the stench of death preceding him like a marching band before the main event. His already rotting and decaying body was asking to become a corpse. Permanently.

She squeezed the trigger a little more. The rifle kicked back a bit. Her aim was true. His chest exploded. You’re welcome, Daniel, she thought as she walked up beside him. You know it's a fucked up world when these are the things done for love. And then, just to be safe, she put another round in his head.

Fucking zombies, they ruin everything, even love.

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