Note: I've been writing some flash fiction lately because it's a great creative exercise. I like the idea of limiting myself to 750 words. I like the discipline and focus involved in taking an idea and distilling it down to the bare bones, while still balancing the need to tell a story and make it good.
That being said, I wrote this one a few days ago and - truthfully - I don't have the heart to cut anymore out of it. It clocks in at about 1,350 words and is one of the best pieces I've written in a while. Although it was started as a piece of flash fiction - - I think that it's also important to realize that, sometimes, there should be no parameters on good storytelling...
It's the story about to working guys in the middle of a job when the zombie apocalypse starts.
Let me know what you think...
“You know what you’re problem is?” I said to Johnny as I slipped on my long rubber rain coat.
“No,” he snapped, “but I’m sure you’re going to tell me.”
Johnny cleared off the kitchen table and placed his bag on the chair at the tables head. I finished buttoning my coat and pulled on a pair of latex gloves. With a grunt, I helped him manhandle Erik onto the table.
“Your problem,” I said, once Erik was laying between us, “is that you take things too fucking seriously.”
”Is that so?”
“It is. Take tonight for example. Here it was a simple job, in and out, and you have to make it all serious.”
“What the hell are you talking about, Trevor?” Johnny said, as he opened his tool bag and pulled out a meat cleaver. He tested its edge with his thumb and nodded, seemingly satisfied with its sharpness.
“What I’m saying Johnny, is that we had a very simple job. We were to pop into Erik’s place tonight, wait for old Erik to wander in the door, and collect the money he owes Fat Charlie.”
I slapped Erik’s bare chest with a gloved hand for emphasis and went on, “You then have to make it all complicated because you’re worried about all kinds of crazy shit that doesn’t mean a thing in the real world.”
Johnny set down his cleaver next to Erik on the table and grabbed a filleting knife. He pointed it at me and a gestured with it as he retorted,” Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean there isn’t a vast global conspiracy.”
“See!” I said, reaching into my own bag and grabbing a machete and a small mallet, “That’s the shit I’m talking about! Your crazy, ‘the-whole-world’s- run-by-a-bunch-of-men-in-a-secret-location-in-Switzerland’ schtick! There’s not some ultra-secret canal that runs everything, man!”
“It’s cabal, moron. Not canal. And the Illuminati aren’t sequestered away in Switzerland. They’re spread all over the world and they run all the major corporations. They just meet once a year in Switzerland for Swiss hookers and Austrian chocolate. ”
I rolled my eyes and walked around to the other side of the table, dragging Erik’s kitchen garbage can as I went. Johnny took his fillet knife and thrust it into Erik’s abdomen near the bottom of his rib cage. With an authoritative jerk, Johnny sliced downward and opened up Erick from his chest to his pubis. I scrambled to get the bucket closer as Erik’s guts slid out of him like slimy, hot ropes. I only managed to grab half of them before the rest hit the floor with a wet splat. I wasn’t fast enough and their weight pulling another large portion of his innards out of the garbage can with them. Gravity’s a bitch, sometimes.
“Jeezy Creezy, Johnny! Give me some fucking warning next time,” I said as I scrambled to put Erik’s kidneys, liver and guts into the bucket.
“Sorry.” Johnny said as I juggled Erik’s stomach into the bin. It was full of liquor and it was like trying to carry a water balloon coated in KY jelly. I didn’t believe he was sorry for one minute.
Through the open window, we heard some screams and the sound of sirens. Johnny and I both froze, and looked in the direction of the window. When the sirens grew quieter, we resumed work. While I got the rest of the guts squared away, Johnny grabbed his cleaver and hacked off Erik’s hand at the wrist.
“So, like I was saying,” I went on, “Erik comes home, I tell him we need the money, and you make things difficult by having to keep watching the news while I’m trying to work. I mean, we’ve got a thing going, you and I. I play the nice guy who acts like their friend while you stand there all muscles and barely contained rage. It’s like Good Cop/Bad Cop, Johnny. Except for the part where we’re not cops and we’re leg breakers for a mob bookie. But no, you’ve got to go off script. You’ve got to get all wrapped up in the cable news networks and I’ve got to be like Abbot without Costello. I’m just saying you’re too damn serious.”
“So, since I wasn’t Bad Cop, you had to shoot him?” Johnny said as he glanced at the window again. There was more screaming in the distance, and more sirens. None of them were in our immediate vicinity though.
“We’re not talking about that unfortunate set of circumstances, right now. Don’t change the subject!” I said as I snatched up my knife and reached up and under Erik’s rib cage slicing his heart and lungs free. I threw the lungs in the bin and I gestured at Johnny with Erik’s heart, “I don’t give a shit that they’re saying there’re some rabies breakouts happening. All I care about is getting the job done. It’s just goddamned unprofessional, Johnny.”
“It’s not rabies,” Johnny said angrily. To emphasis his point he swung the cleaver and angrily lopped off Erik’s right foot at the ankle. He tossed it in the garbage can, rather rudely spraying me with blood, “My conspiracy websites say that there’s more to this outbreak. That it has something to do with a virus or something. It’s been covered up by the world government, but there’s been disturbing reports about it.”
“Oh, really? Let me guess, Bigfoot’s involved somehow. Or the alien overlords have concocted something to make all of us Earthmen sterile so they’ll be able to mate with all of our women?
“Now you’re just being spiteful, Trevor.”
“Well, Christ in a casket, Johnny! What do you expect?” I said as I grabbed Erik’s other arm and my machete, “I mean I get that you like to watch the news, and I get that you’re into all of these nut job conspiracies, and it’s cool because old Erik here wasn’t home yet; but when the deadbeat gets back, you’ve got to get your head in the game! I mean…”
I trailed off and looked out the window again. There were more screams and the smell of smoke wafted through the open window. In the distance, there was the pop-pop of gunfire.
“What the hell?” I said, “I hear 9mm and rifle fire.”
“More like .40 caliber and .223,” Johnny grunted as he cut Erik’s left arm off at the elbow. He leaned over Erik to throw it in the garbage bin when I felt a strange twitch in my hand.
I looked down to see Erik’s right arm twitch again and I yelled in shock, dropping it.
“What?” Johnny said, just as Erik opened his eyes and sat up.
“Johnny!” I screamed, stepping back and struggling to get my rubber coat open to get at my gun. Johnny tried to escape, but it was no use. Erik’s right arm, which was still whole, grabbed Johnny and pulled him close. Erik snarled and, before Johnny could pull free, he lunged and bit Johnny on the side of the neck.
Johnny made a half scream, half gurgling noise and I finally got my coat open. I pulled my .357 out of my shoulder holster just as Johnny gave Erik a mighty shove and he pulled free, falling to the dining room floor. There was a bright arc of red as Johnny fell and I realized that Erik must have clamped down and tore out Johnny’s carotid artery.
I stood motionless as Johnny gurgled a few more times and the arterial blood sprayed like a fire hose on the wall beside him. He was dead within seconds.
Erik snarled again and I turned to the corpse as it turned in very un-corpse-like fashion towards me, reaching hungrily with one full arm and another severed at the elbow. Erik tried to step off of the table, but since he was short a foot, he fell to the floor.
“What the…?” I said, just as Johnny twitched a few times and turned eyes as dead as Erik’s on me. He began to rise to his feet. Closer to me, Erik was pulling himself along the floor towards me.
I screamed again and bolted from the apartment and into the chaos of the night.
Maybe there was something to Johnny’s conspiracy theories after all….