Aphelion Issue 281, Volume 27
March 2023
 
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Pieces of Charlene

by Mark Pezzula




Doug got bit bad walking to his car after work. He got bit something bad.
            The figure came out of nowhere, just as Doug had thrown the last remnants of his

Red Bull into the parking lot garbage can. It just sprung out of the darkness, grabbed

Doug around the waist and sank its filthy rotten teeth in right above his collarbone. I

don’t believe that thing came out of nowhere, but if it came out of somewhere I’d

certainly like to know where in the Hell that somewhere was, thought Doug. His

briefcase flew out of his hand as he swung his arms wildly and landed with a crunch on

the windshield of Jim O’Bannon’s BMW.

           He let out a gurgling shriek, akin to the sound that he and Charlene's cat, Herman,

made when he was throwing up.

He realized he wasn’t aware of any pain. What he was aware of was the mouth-

stink (if yellow has a smell, it’s this) coming from the face cavity of the creature

feeding on him. Doug reached his arm around the monster’s neck and pivoted his

body to flip the thing over his shoulder. To his surprise (and horror) he heard a chunky-

wet tearing sound, like a bag of soaked lettuce plopping on concrete after being thrown

from a great height. He felt thick liquid spatter across the side of his head. Some of it shot

into his right ear and the world went silent on that side of him.

“Youuuuuu bastard!” he screamed. He was about to slam the humanoid head he

 

was now palming on the ground - touchdown celebration style - before realizing its

mouth was still moving. He grabbed the head by the ears and looked at the wriggling jaw,

still chewing on the skin ripped from where Doug’s right shoulder meets his neck. The

eyes rolled up and around in their sockets over and over. The tissue pulled over its skull

like weeks-old stretched veal.  Gotta kill it. Crush the brain. That’s what they say. He

placed the head down on the blacktop next to the thing’s wiggling body. He lifted his foot

in the air and brought it down hard. He felt the creature’s skull collapse under his New

Balance as easily as a warm cantaloupe. His sneaker collided with pavement after

plowing through the head and made a squishing sound as the rubber sole buffed the

ground with brain.

The body ceased moving. Doug looked around. No one had seen anything.

“Thank Christ,” he said.

He collected his briefcase, which had made its home next to the front left tire of

O’Bannon’s car, brushing tiny pieces of glass off the handle.

Maybe it won’t happen to me, he thought as he climbed into his Volvo, holding

the sleeve of his suit-jacket against the gushing wound. People get bit all the time and

they don’t turn.

Yeah, but you’re bit something bad. The people that don’t turn get nibbled on.

Oh shut up. What do you know? You’ve never been bitten.

True. But you have.

The funny thing is, I’ve never even seen one of those things before tonight. The

plague started years ago, and I’ve been a lucky sonofabitch. Had been a lucky

sonofabitch.

Yes, Doug had been lucky. Just as Paddy Chayefsky had predicted shock

television, George Romero predicted the walking dead.

Doug was not worried about the existential absurdity of certain filmmakers’

accidental knack for apocalypse forecasting. He was worried about getting home and

getting some help from Charlene. His wife. A nurse.

He drove one-handed (the other pressing the jacket cloth to his soaked neck) and

fast. He started to wonder what Charlene was making for dinner. I think she said steak.

He thought about eating people. If my stomach growls, I’m turning, and I will crash this

car. Images of the creature’s broken teeth gnashing his skin flashed in his mind. He

forced himself to imagine eating live human flesh. He felt sick.

Thank Christ for that.

 He was still hungry, though.

Doug weaved through traffic like a TIE Fighter dodging Death Star laser-blasts. If

I were turning, I wouldn’t have these reflexes. I wouldn’t be able to think this clearly. I’m

good.

The average time it took to turn was five to ten minutes, depending on the health

of the bitten. Children, the elderly, and people with weak immune systems generally

became one of the undead quicker. I have diabetes. My immune system’s shot. Kaput. I’d

be chomping my own flesh right now if it was gonna happen. It was the first time in his

life Doug had ever thanked God for his disease. If he didn’t turn by the time he arrived

home, he’d be in the clear.

As he turned onto his street, Doug slowed down. He didn’t need the nosey

 

neighbors coming out of their houses wondering who the speed demon was. The last

thing he wanted to do was attract attention. Someone might see the bite and jump to

conclusions, and his neighbors kept guns.

Doug sat in his car, his jacket no longer soaking up the blood. I don’t feel

different. I feel like Doug Savini. 29 Martin Rd, Springfield. One wife, no children. Doug

smiled in the mirror at himself. He looked like shit. But he felt like his life had been

spared. Hell, maybe even the lives of those closest to him were spared, too.
            He smelled the wound before getting out of the car. He would have to ask

Charlene to make his steak extra rare tonight.
            As he walked in the front door, the aroma of meat being cooked on the stove

choked him.

Cooked.

 His stomach somersaulted.

“Hey sweetie, how was your day at work?” Charlene came towards him. She

greeted him with a good evening kiss. He struck before she could ask about his neck. His

teeth tore a chunk of peach flesh from her shoulder. The last thought he ever had as a

human being was about how much the gaping hole in his wife looked a lot like the cavity

in Herman's stomach after that damn Bittner boy shot the cat with a pistol, and how he'd

have to pay that Bittner boy a visit. After he was done swallowing pieces of Charlene.


THE END


2023 Mark Pezzula

Bio: Mark Pezzula...

E-mail: Mark Pezzula

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