Today is not Jon's day. Tomorrow isn't looking good either.
Originally a very short story; a friend-recommended boredom killer turned competition to see who could come up with a better disaster story.
I'm debating switching this to collaborative work with a suggested title of the second chapter as The Body in the Bathtub. If anyone is interested, please leave a comment and I will switch this to collaborative work, otherwise I'm happy leaving the story as is. Cheers :)
Something was wrong.
Even someone with as little common sense as he could determine by the presence felt in the room that things were horribly wrong. Jon Carpenter, a thirty four year-old and thirty four years-long resident of the small town in western Pennsylvania, had sustained a head injury three years previous as he slipped from the twelfth rung of his ladder, dutifully painting the wooden planking that sided the home he had purchased for his new wife in the spring of 2001. He’d been concussed mildly, but it seemed he never regained the ability to think on the spot. His thoughts took time to develop and a little longer to articulate, but in the eerie quiet of his darkened home it came to him swiftly and surely that something was terribly wrong. The massive stain of freshly spilled blood on the carpet didn’t help soothe his worried mind, either. Family items were strewn about; handmade knick-knacks and last year’s school pictures featuring two identically toothless grins littered the floor. A large but barely begun needlepoint had been ripped from its hobby frame and hung limply, suspended from the thread weaved into the fabric. The living room’s state of disarray was so gruesomely abnormal that he was stopped, as they say, in his tracks. And there were tracks. In the dim of early evening, he hadn’t noticed that his travels had lead him through a tacky splotch of dark crimson as he had moved from the doorway of the kitchen to the room where his wife normally waited for him, patiently perfecting her craft, to return from work.
His breath caught in his throat now closed up like it was held in an advanced state of anaphylaxis. The air that did manage to pass through his trachea whistled with stridor; the high pitched squeak was the only audible sound in the whole of the house. His hand moved numbly toward the receiver of the phone but as he held it to his ear the line was as dead as…
“Anna?” His voice returned to him and echoed dully up the staircase to his right.
His feet moved from the living room with no real effort, it felt, on his brain’s part. His thoughts were an incoherent drone, like the buzzing of an irate hive of wasps. Or maybe that was the sound of flies.
“Like when we found that dog on the lawn last summer. The poor beast’s eyes were gone.”
Indeed, as Jon had been tending to the yard in the humid August heat, it was that noise which alerted him to a newly decomposing pile of fur. Hidden in the shadow of his kids’ tire swing arcing lazily to and fro, was all that was left of his neighbor Paul’s German Shepherd. Paul was a long-time bachelor who had moved to the modest house on the corner lot adjacent to the Carpenter’s three summers after they’d moved in. The large open space of Paul’s yard gave his companion, a wide eyed and friendly bitch named Sadie, ample room to run and chase her old, beat-up Kong. Paul had never fenced his yard and Sadie had often wandered over to greet Jon and Anna and sniff delicately at their twins, even letting them pull her fur and tail and ears without emitting a single noise of discomfort or annoyance. This time, it was Paul who was wandering over, his eyes rimmed bright red, carrying an old patchwork quilt under his arm. He had so tenderly scooped up the maggot ridden remains that Anna had been moved to tears and returned to the house to fix her children, Steph and Trey, some lunch. But it was the smell which caused Jon to step back, dizzy and nauseous, and his neighbor trudged home to bury his dead.
As if on cue, the sticky soles of his shoes reached the landing and it hit him. That smell which nearly took him down to his knees had struck up a backflip contest, which his stomach was eagerly winning.
“This isn’t real,” he mumbled thickly, fighting off the urge to retch up the snack he’d eaten while on his long drive home. He looked first to the end of the hallway where his children’s rooms were and noticed the doors were neatly closed, as was usual when the kids were at school, each marked with colorful characters announcing whose room was whose. When the twins turned seven, it was decided that they needed separate rooms and activities to grow and mature as individuals. This information was passed down much to the dismay of the twins who had enjoyed their sibling’s company at night and tirelessly giggled and whispered (as quietly as children will) until their parent’s amusement grew thin and Jon had to “lay down the law” as Anna so aptly put it. Normally the memory of these ever so frequent visits of half-hearted sternness met by two pairs of apologetic, albeit insincere, eyes would have brought on a smile full of fatherly fondness. But not tonight.
Jon’s eyes looked to the other end of the hallway where his and his wife’s room was situated and adjoined with the family bathroom. The door was closed; abnormal, but not unusual. Sometimes when Anna would take a bath or a nap before her nightly dinner preparations, she would set the iPod to shuffle her playlist entitled “Mom’s Relaxation Mix”, light a candle and close out the world for a brief thirty or forty-five minutes. Hoping against hope that this was the case, Jon swung open the bedroom door.
The bed had been made after his early morning departure. It was one of Anna’s pet peeves, unmade beds. Her voice echoed in his mind as he recalled the umpteen times he himself had been told to “fold the coverlet back, it only takes a second!” followed by an exasperated “if I wanted three children, I wouldn’t have been fixed after the twins.” He may have fallen from a ladder but after eleven years of marriage Anna had a strong grasp on what was a result of his head injury and what was plain old laziness. Swallowing bile, he moved past the bed to where the bedroom met up with the bathroom. The door was closed.
It was never closed.
The mounting anxiety in Jon’s chest nearly made him pass out. His pulse thumped in his ears. His cheeks and forehead were beaded with sweat though he shivered madly. Dark spots centered in his vision and he felt his knees jellify as he reached for the brass knob and pushed the bathroom door open. Jon lost his battle with the Kraft Cheez Whiz and cracker combo that he’d snagged from the kids’ snack shelf in the pantry, spewing hot, lumpy vomit in a stream towards the counter.
The body in the bathtub was so badly mangled he could hardly believe it was human, but the painted toenails were a dead giveaway, no pun intended. Their happy shade of Sun-Kissed Orange was a chilling contrast to the gore which painted the walls in a rusty brown spray. She had been eviscerated; her entrails had a sticky sheen to them and several broken ribs protruded from her upper abdominal quadrants. She’d been so badly beaten about the face that fragments of teeth and bone clung in the drying blood that painted her face like a Zulu warrior. He reached out to comfort her deceased body, presumably having dealt with so much pain in her last moments, but Jon could hardly bring himself to touch her, his wife.
Jon had first met Anna when his sister, Tracy, gave birth to her and her husband’s first child in Maryland in December of ‘99. Anna had worked with Tracy for the past few years and the two had become close friends. Jon’s sister had been thrilled to introduce them, both having been single for some time. It wasn’t as much a love-at-first-sight phenomena, as is so often propagated on the silver screen, as an easy friendship which quickly budded into romantic relationship. Conversation was quick and witty, laced with innuendo. Touching the other was a tender and gentle experience and the sex was nothing short of mind-blowing. Jon returned home after New Year’s and Anna stayed behind to tie up loose ends. Five weeks later she was ringing his apartment buzzer with two jam-packed suitcases and they were married that September. The twins were born in August and following a rough caesarean delivery, it was decided that Anna wouldn’t be able to carry again, but their children were healthy and the young couple was very much in love, happy and comfortable in their new home.
The years raced by in Jon’s memory; birthday cakes, Christmas trees, anniversaries and funerals ran into each other but all he could picture was his wife’s face. Anna, with her piercing blue eyes, shapely figure and long blonde…
Though matted and caked thoroughly with blood, grey matter and bits of skull, there was no way this woman had ever been blonde. Things were wrong. Hadn’t he thought this before?
A rustling behind him caused Jon to spin on his heel, the blood on his shoes made a sickening crackle on the laminate as he turned to face the source of the noise.
Only it wasn’t Anna. Not anymore. What had once been a porcelain face hung as if her lower mandible had been unhinged, like a dummy with no ventriloquist to bring it to life. Her mouth was a smear of blood that covered her teeth and lips, her tongue lolled crazily from her slackened jaw. Her eyes shone with life that wasn’t quite life, gleaming with an animalistic hunger in the glow of the moon creeping in the window. A gaping wound in her midsection leaked putrid fluid and the intense avulsion above her collarbone drew Jon’s eyes and held them fast.
In that moment of pause, she lunged in at him, her normally tiny body surged with inhuman strength. He fell backwards toward the sink, fighting hard as his wife gnashed her sick, blood coated teeth at his neck.
“At my jugular,” he thought wildly as the mirror smashed behind him sending shards of glass flying. Her perfectly organized perfume bottles and cosmetics were brought to the floor, smashing and tinkling like a china cabinet after an earthquake. To his left, a shard of mirror still hung from its frame and he seized it, moving forward, slashing crazily at her; his wife, the woman he had made love to that very morning with no regard for time until she climaxed in his arms. The woman now out for his flesh.
The glass dug into Jon’s fingers and slid up as he thrust at her, severing the tendons in his palm in a burst of heat and pain, the steady stream of purple, venous blood fell, mingling with the shades already left on the canvas of the bathroom floor. He dropped the shard, his right hand was now useless. In the second it took for him to stare at his damaged hand, Anna pounced, driving her nails into his chest, biting at his clavicle sending spurts of deep red blood up the wallpaper. He stumbled backward further, tripped on the bathmat and fell into the decaying corpse in the tub.
He fought to right himself, pushing off the wet, fetid rot of whoever was beneath him but she was too strong, too insane, too undead for him to stand a chance. He felt her incisors pierce his cheek and briefly grasped that she had pulled off a large chunk of his skin. He could feel the air on his teeth and tongue as he gasped, tired and desperate. With a final lurch he threw her off, scrambled to his knees and finally stood, leering out the door, stumbling like a drunk with no depth perception.
Within seconds she was on his back, tearing in a frenzy at his carotid. Warmth rushed down from the collar of his shirt, staining his work shirt burgundy and Jon fell mortally wounded; his vitality spilling onto the floor in front of his own dying eyes. Anna didn’t wait, he could feel her digging and ripping at his guts as the last of his blood began to drain out. He was about to heave his last sigh when it was stopped short. The front doorknob was turning and a crack of light from outside slipped into the entry way. Jon tried to shout a warning but all that came out was his final dying breath as he heard two identical footsteps and voices calling out.
“Mama? Dad? We’re home.”