When Hell Was Full

Sirens.  Even through the soundproofed walls, he could hear sirens.
He checked the monitors.  No problem, nothing to do with him.  But there certainly were a lot of them today.  It was enough to make a guy paranoid.

Two blocks away, a young woman ran for her life, pursued by the hungry dead.  As she ran into the street, just ahead of clutching fingers, she wound up directly in the path of a speeding ambulance.  She was killed instantly.

Terry checked on his latest ‘sweetie’.  Yep, this one was all used up, all right.  His sweeties never lasted long, but half the fun was getting there, after all.  He decided to make sure.

Eight year old Benjamin Canton’s eyes were closed, which didn’t mean much.  His bare chest, a ghastly yellow in the harsh glare of an uncovered bulb, the bruises and scratches standing out in sharp relief, was still.  Terry bent over and placed his ear to the boy’s chest.

Nothing.  Sweetie was broken, all right.

Damn.  It always ended this way, but Terry was always sad to see them go.  He loved his little sweeties, each and every one, and he missed them terribly.  Which is why he kept the hidden safe full of their underthings.  He was nothing if not sentimental.

The President was on television, urging everyone not to panic, that the situation was under control.  This attempt to reassure the populace was undermined when the picture cut out in mid-sentence.  Since then, there had been nothing but static.

Sirens again.  Shit, he thought.  What the hell is going on?

Another look at the monitors showed all was well, at least in the area immediately surrounding his house.  Terry had installed the ‘security’ cameras himself, along with the best locks money could buy.  It paid to be prudent.

He went into the kitchen and began methodically collecting the necessary supplies.  Lawn-sized garbage bags, gloves, duct tape.  He made a mental note to put the bedclothes in the incinerator.  Also, buy more sheets.  It was always something.

A young, single mother had been unable to awaken her eight month old.  Her panic turned to terror as the child opened its eyes.  Her screams of terror soon became screams of pain, then silence.  Except for the wet sounds of chewing.

After sweetie was gift-wrapped, Terry worked the combination lock on the door that led to the basement stairs.  He had been very careful when selecting his house.  Location, convenience, security were all factors in his decision.  The unfinished basement with the earth floor was a bonus he hadn’t counted on.

The hole was neat and tidy, the work of a man who took great pains to make everything perfect.  Romance could not be rushed; setting the mood was important, cleanup even more so.

He looked around and realized he was running out of room.  If he wanted to continue having a love life, he would have to come up with an alternate method of disposal.  He shook his head, sadly.  There was always a price to pay for promiscuity.  Hadn’t his mother told him so?

The officer had been with the force twelve years, and  never once had to draw his gun in the line of duty.  He had been proud of that fact.  Now, he looked around as his squad car was besieged by what used to be his friends and neighbors, the community he had dedicated his life to serving.  As they broke through, he tipped the nose of his .38 up beneath his chin and fired.

This was the part Terry hated.

The sound of the earth hitting the vinyl-wrapped corpse was like rain on the roof.  Slowly but surely, little Benjamin Masters was covered up entirely.  Terry would never see his sweetie again – he thought.

His arms and back were sore from hard work.  Plus, the ache in his jaw was getting worse.  He had gotten carried away with the biting, it seemed.  He reminded himself to take a couple of pain pills when he went back upstairs.  Just a couple.  Drugs were for losers.

The fires had begun.  With no one left to stop them, they soon raged out of control.  Entire neighborhoods went up in flames, and some of the walking corpses became walking torches, spreading the fires even more quickly.

As he took one last look around before leaving the basement, his jaw dropped.  What was this?  The perfectly level, neatly packed dirt was nothing of the kind.  How could he have missed this?  Of course, no one from outside, none of them, had ever come down here, but . . . it seemed each grave was clearly noticeable, a mound where there should have been nothing but smooth ground.  He could see where all of his lost loves were laid as surely as if they each had monuments over their heads.

The little boy was five years old, and had never run so fast, so long.  His family was no longer with him, they had been left behind as they shouted for him to keep going.  The monsters had come out from under his bed and were chasing him down in broad daylight.  Light had always kept them away; he had a nightlight to protect him in his room.  He wished he was in his room now, safe under the covers where they couldn’t get at him.  He wished his Mommy and Daddy were here with him.  They were reunited, eventually, but by then, his Mommy and Daddy had also turned into monsters. 

Terry blinked, shook his head, looked again.  It looked like some western boneyard, like Boot Hill in a TV movie.  Surely, he thought, Surely not.  Terry was not prone to attacks of conscience, but the situation reminded him of the madman in ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’.  He had to be imagining this.  In fact, like  Poe’s madman, now he was hearing things.  A rustling, shifting sound, like . . .

His eyes bulged, his mouth pulled down and he fell back on the stairs.  The mounds (the graves, he reminded himself) were trembling, the earth shaking.  A sickening, clotted stench filled the air as, at the far end of the basement, a tiny arm burst up, still clutching the shreds of its plastic shroud.

No one heard Terry’s screams that day; anyone left in the area had their own problems, and a few more screams wouldn’t have made any difference.  In any case, he didn’t scream long.  Love hurts.


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