Emotional Outbreak: Disappointment

by Brandon

This week’s submission is from fellow author Doug Lamoreux. I read Doug’s book Dracula’s Demeter and loved it. I’d recommend it to any Dracula fan. Doug’s newest book, The Melting Dead, is his own take on the zombie genre. I definitely plan to check it out as well.

Thanks, Doug, for giving us a story for this marathon. It’s genuinely appreciated.

The emotion Doug chose for the marathon was disappointment.


D is for Dead (and Disappointment)

By Doug Lamoreux


He woke with a start, quietly.  The latter was something he’d trained himself to do; in all things – be quiet.  The former was inescapable; when you lived in a nightmare, startled was the only way to wake.  It took him a moment to recognize his surroundings, his bed such as it was, to ground his brain in the there and then (to him, the here and now, of course).  Once that was accomplished, add a moment for him to realize he was alone, and another to accept the fact that she had not returned.  I probably don’t have to tell you that was a disappointment.

Wasn’t that just about all that life was anymore?  Come to think of it, wasn’t that all it had ever been?

He laid back to consider the question and couldn’t help but ask himself how much (or indeed how little) things had changed.  He asked the question again.  Wasn’t that really all that life had ever been?  A disappointment?  A barely remembered childhood; a middle child in a family of many siblings.  Lost amid the crowd.  Too young to have any fun but old enough the younger ones could be his responsibility.  And nobody, not mother, not father (when they saw him), not that chin-pinching auntie could ever remember his name.  Admittedly there were a lot of kids and admittedly Wallace wasn’t a great name but, really, was it that hard to remember?  And, though he never objected aloud, he wouldn’t have called a dog Wally.  Oh well, what was one more disappointment?  Then came a mediocre, at best, climb through high school only to find there was neither the money nor the academic acumen to make continuing on to college a road worth taking.  After graduation (no party), came an okay job, certainly not a great, or even a good job (absolutely not a career), but a working-life-long job that paid the bills.  You know, a disappointment.  A too-quick marriage to a high school sweetheart, too much like her demanding know-it-all father.  Endless arguments.  A fourth anniversary fought through then slept away in the car in the parking lot (she slept alone in the big double bed in the expensive get-away hotel).  A fifth anniversary fought through then slept away in the hallway rocker (she slept alone in the big double bed of that expensive B&B).  Two wonderful sons she shoved around like chess pawns, teaching each how worthless men were and turning them against their old man.  A long drawn out and oh so expensive divorce that in the name of fairness took everything he had (or would have for decades to come).  Had enough?  So had he.  Then and only then came…

What the heck was it?  A world-wide plague?  The apocalypse?  The George Romero wet dream?  The night, the year, the life of the living dead?  What difference did it make what people called it.  It had happened, become a reality, a 4D, interactive, blood-letting, blood drinking, flesh eating, kill or be killed, run like hell, “to die, to be really dead, dat must be glorious” nightmare in which people were a quickly vanishing commodity.  But had things really changed much?  Or were there just more disappointments?

And she hadn’t returned.

He rose to his knees, as quietly as he was able, trying not to rattle the plastic, the papers, the loose metal cans, and peered out.  The sun, though partially hidden behind clouds, was up and the day new.  But so what?  Night or day, it mattered little.  It wasn’t like in the movies (when there were movies) where the blood-thirsty monsters only shambled out at night.  The real ones, the residents, the revenants, could be around at any time day or night.  You were a fool if you didn’t look before you showed yourself.  So he peered out, taking a good look around.  All appeared quiet.  He grabbed his bat, poised leaning at the ready, easily within reach all through the night; his genuine Louisville slugger.  He’d tried an aluminum job at first but had been disappointed; the wobbly metallic ting that sounded when it split a shambler’s skull had been completely unsatisfying.  The solid crack of the wooden bat, on the other hand, let him know the job had been accomplished.  Anyway, sure that the coast was clear for the moment, bat in hand, Wallace climbed quickly, and as quietly as he was able, up and out of the dumpster where he’d spent his night and, because she hadn’t returned, hustled alone to the nearest building.  It was an abandoned (what building wasn’t?) Used Car dealership, and he flattened himself against the outside rear wall.  You were also a fool if you walked in the open.

Sneaking along the walls of fading buildings and back alleys like an anxious mouse, knowing that at any instant a human-like, but certainly not human, creature might appear out of nowhere and attempt to kill and eat you, was a suspenseful endeavor for the lonely man engaged in it.  For on-lookers (or readers) it’s rather tedious and we’ll skip the next little while.  Suffice to say, Wallace later found himself, perhaps by plan, perhaps by instinct, back at his pre-onslaught stomping grounds, the Alpine Inn.  Of course, in the smack center of northern Illinois there wasn’t anything remotely Alpine about it.  It was built on a hill, between two other hills, in the middle of the city.  A bike rider wouldn’t have been winded getting there from any direction but it was, apparently, Alpine to an earlier owner with either big ideas or a vivid imagination.  What it really was was an old motel; former knocking shop to local crib babies and home to the errant drug dealer or two before someone (a descendant of the original owner?), still with big ideas, poured on the TIF dollars unknowingly supplied by local taxpayers and fixed things up.  The hookers, pimps, and a multiplicity of insects, bugs and arachnids were chased away.  New, though perhaps scratched and dented, furniture and mattresses were brought in.  A coat of paint liberally applied (inside and out).  Voilà, low-priced family motel with a conservative clientele of traveling customers ignorant as to the number of venereal diseases and bodies that had once been carried out of the place.  Was Wallace judgmental?  Hopefully not, at least not unaccountably, for it was also the place where, not long after its cleaning up, he and she had met.  She already lived there when he moved in and for the longest time a friendly ‘Hello’ was all they shared.  An occasional opinion about the weather when one or the other was feeling bold.  Then it happened, to the world that is, whatever it was that had happened.  In no time at all, the zombies overran the place.  The small motel was suddenly the stage of Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol, the guests no longer guests but appetizers, entrées, and desserts on a block-long buffet.  He and the girl had gotten the hell out of there as fast as their legs would carry them (great minds, it seemed, did think alike), had fortunately run in the same direction, had, some time, somewhere along the route, taken hold of each others’ hand not to be separated.  They’d been together ever since, like Liz Montgomery and Charles Bronson in an old Twilight Zone episode, strangers forced into oneness.  Why not?  If they weren’t in the Twilight Zone, where the heck were they.

They…  They?  Where the heck was she?  And why hadn’t she returned?

She’d left him in the dumpster, that night’s home away from home, to go and find some edible food.  He’d offered, of course, but she had refused.  He’d been on the hunt, on guard, at the point for days and was exhausted.  She knew it.  He knew it too.  She wasn’t a hanger-on.  She wasn’t a damsel in distress.  She did her part, held up her end of the team.  There were any number of stores, fast food joints, residences with shelves of canned goods, refrigerators that were still operating.  And she could move like a cat.  He’d remarked several times that she moved like a cat.  Like him, her fear of the creatures existed, would always exist, but had been dealt with out of necessity.  It was her turn to get the food and she went.

Probably this is as good a time as any to mention that she had never disappointed him.  Now, without her, he was feeling strangely – how would she have said it?  Discombobulated? – and lost.  And being lost, he returned alone by unplanned plan, by newly developed instinct, to the place they’d met, the Alpine Inn.  No sooner had he arrived than he heard a woman screaming in the middle of the first floor.  He grabbed his bat, ran across the lot – a no no – and under the balcony overhang to the second floor of rooms, through the breezeway door where the laundry room window came into view.  It was from there, the laundry room, that the tumult came.  There were four in the room.  Three male creatures; not that their sex mattered a bit.  One was as deadly as the other and you were out of your freaking mind if you took the once thought of ‘gentler sex’ into consideration and hesitated in defending yourself.  But, for the record, this time it was three male, blood-thirsty shambling monsters, pinning a still-human girl down on the clothes-folding table.

It wasn’t her.  (You know who I mean.)  That was disappointing because he’d come back to the Inn thinking that maybe she…  He wanted to see her again so badly.  But it wasn’t her.  It was some other girl, he didn’t know her and didn’t care who she was.  Not really.  You see, there were so many disappointments it was all but impossible to care anymore.  And he didn’t.  Then it dawned that this girl, the one on the table, beneath the beasts, fighting for all she was worth and losing the battle, wasn’t her – which was a good thing.  She (you know who I mean) might still be alive; might still be out there somewhere.  He didn’t remember the last time something had happened that hadn’t disappointed him.

He was overcome with a good feeling, a warm feeling, and a sense that a celebration might be in order.  Yes, he would celebrate…  By rescuing the girl he didn’t give a rat’s keister about.  He put his faithful bat to use and busted the window, hoping the shattering glass would get the creatures’ attention.  It did.  All three turned as one mechanical unit to look, but he wasn’t in the window to see any longer.  He’d come round, through the open door, and already had old Babe (that was the bat, you probably could have guessed) over his shoulder ready to deliver.

One of them let go the girl and took a step in his direction.  One step was all it managed.  Wallace swung the weapon of sanded ash and lacquer right through its left eye orbit, relishing the crack as the skull gave way.  He cut short his follow-through and brought the bat back in the opposite direction as a second monster put a foot forward.  Thirty years earlier he’d found being a switch-hitter quite a useful trick in the Little League.  It was even better now.  Less than thirty seconds into this so-called fight and there were two shamblers gone and he was down to one.  The last one, the third, took a hatchet blow straight over the top.  That third crack was as lovely as the first and the third splash of blood and gray matter as grotesque – yet satisfying – as any he’d ever caused.

But his celebration, his heroics had come too late.  The girl was gone.  Not physically.  She was still there, just dead.  You know; gone.  And trouble was, of course, she’d soon be back.  He had no choice but to smash her brains out too.  That was disappointing.

He searched a while, found no hint of her (you know who I mean), and returned for the night – alone – to his dumpster.  In the morning, he would start over, again, a new life in that effed-up world, without her.  Without her.  It started to rain and he fell asleep in miserable disappointment.

He was awakened sometime in the middle of the night by cold rain slapping his face and realized that the lid of his dumpster had been lifted open.  He woke startled, but quiet.  He looked carefully out – into her face.  He rubbed the rain and the sleep from his eyes.  Yes!  It was her.  (You know who I mean.)  For the second time in this new after-life, this post plague life, he felt elation and a genuine rush of emotion worthy of celebration.  Until the lightning flashed and, in the blue-white flicker, he saw that her throat was torn out.  He saw the blood of some other sad soul dripping from her lips and chin.  And he saw, behind her and around their dumpster, the twenty-odd creatures she’d brought back with her.  It was terribly disappointing.


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