First, I am continuing The Erevis Cale Trilogy Omnibus e-signing and plan to keep it going for as long as Amazon offers the Omnibus at the current discount (that way I can keep a rotating stock in my library). If you’re interested and have a shipping address anywhere in the US, simply Paypal me $20 and I will send you a signed copy of the Omnibus. If you’d like a particular dedication, just let me know and I will make it so.
Second, Ephemera, my ebook short story collection, remains at Number One on the Hottest Items list at Drivethruhorror. As long as that continues, I will offer the pdf of the collection through Drivethruhorror for a mere $1 (you can also purchase a Kindle version through Amazon, but it’s not discounted).
Third, as an incentive to consider the collection, I give you the final short story contained in Ephemera, a flash piece of zombie fiction entitled, “The Sixth Floor.” I hope you enjoy.
The Sixth Floor
My heart rattles against my ribs, so loud the dead could hear it. A metal table feels cool on my back. A white sheet covers me.
Where am I? I remember little.
I pull the sheet away, unveiling the secret of myself.
Flickering florescent lights, a tiled floor, bare white walls, the stink of antiseptic.
I see no machines, no IV stands.
My breathing is a bellows in the silence.
Dead bodies lay around me on other tables, under other sheets. Stray extremities protrude here and there – discolored feet, a hand, a finger swollen around a gold wedding band. They unnerve me. I sit up.
“Hello? Anyone here?”
My voice sounds hollow in the empty space.
No response. I am alone with the dead.
My head throbs, memories swim, incoherent, inchoate. I vaguely recall screaming, blood, being chased. But my mind is as almost as blank as the walls, as blank as the dead.
A single, windowless door is before me, a barred window behind.
Screams carry from outside the window, muted, surreal.
The swirl in my head tries to clear and sudden images flirt with my memory – a flash of teeth, growls. The image pulls the hairs on my arms to attention.
Somewhere outside, glass shatters. Car horns honk.
I slide off the table, holding the sheet around me, and glide past the corpses to the window.
Sunset paints the asphalt below me in orange. Blood paints it in red and brown. Moments pass before I understand what I am seeing.
Groups of shambling corpses pursue the living through a maze of gridlocked cars and broken glass. Perhaps I am on the campus of a hospital. Bodies in scrubs and patient gowns litter the pavement.
A memory bubbles up, then.
The dead walk, feeders, ghouls. A plague, I think. Or a weapon gone wrong.
Below, a man in a blue suit, his shirt tails flapping out from under his suit coat, falls. He cuts himself in broken glass, tries to stand, slips. No one helps him and the living dead swarm, feed. His screams bounce off the buildings and carry up to my window. Blood spatters the sidewalk, a Pollack in gore.
My mind spins, reels. I am sweating. I turn away to avoid falling, to avoid the horror, but turn back because I must.
Ghouls clamber into buildings, through broken windows, into cars, all to find the meat within. Survivors hang from upper story windows around the campus, screaming.
A news helicopter buzzes high overhead.
I am watching the world end from the sixth floor.
Those poor people.
I remember the dead in the room with me. I whirl around….
An exposed finger twitches on one of the corpses.
I stare at it, thinking it a trick of the mind or a death spasm.
The finger slowly curls, as if beckoning me closer, the movement purposeful, terrifying.
Breath fails me. My mind rails to get out but my legs go soft. Stupidly, I turn and grip the bars on the window and give them a yank.
They rattle but do not budge, which is just as well. Where would I go?
Through the glass I see a woman in a building across from me. She leans out of an upper-story window, screaming, waving her hands at the helicopter for help.
I watch as her face changes, as her screams die. She stops waving, tenses, turns to look back.
There are ghouls in her room.
The sag of her shoulders announces her despair. She is still for a moment, then turns, crying, and steps from the window as if off a front porch. I press my face to the bars and see her body hit the pavement in a grotesque pile. The ghouls paw at her for a moment, ignore her broken form.
They feast only on the screaming, it seems.
Behind me, a moan sounds. I turn to see the corpses squirming, awakening, the plague rooting in their dead flesh. Soon they will sit up, the sheets will fall away, the dead eyes and hungry mouths will open.
Terror animates me and I dash between the dead across the room. I hit the door and find it locked from outside.
Someone locked me in. Or did I lock myself in?
I shoulder the door, once, twice. It does not budge.
The sounds of the dead cause my heart to beat so fast my vision blurs.
I turn to see one of the dead fall off its table. Bones snap when it hits the floor and it clambers to all fours. It’s a man, his flesh the grey of old concrete, a net of blue veins vivid on his skin and spreading across his back.
Another corpse sits up and the sheet falls away. A woman, eyes still closed, the spreading blue net of veins covering her abdomen.
I cannot escape; I cannot breathe.
I sink into the corner as they animate fully. I envy the suicide, her body broken but unmolested on the pavement.
Realization dawns, hope. Before the eyes of the dead open I sprawl on the ground as if dead myself, pull my sheet over me.
They eat only the living, the moving, the screaming. Or so I hope.
In moments I hear them rise, hear the thud of their bare feet on the floor, the snarls and grunts of their hunger.
Oh my God.
I somehow manage to be still as they step on me, over me, around me.
I am a corpse, I tell myself. I am a corpse.
They test the door, the window, grunting.
They cannot get out.
It hits me, then, and the pit in my stomach deepens.
I cannot move or I will die.
But they cannot leave.
My heart thumps a march against my ribs, so hard the dead could hear it.
* * * * *