Something’s not right, Drew thinks as he shoots down a couple more invading enemy soldiers through the character on the television screen. When he hears a young girl scream from outside, the seventeen-year-old presses the pause button on the controller and leaves his game to look out the window.

At first, Drew feels like he is still playing his video game when he sees the scene out his window. “What the hell…?” he breathes as it registers.

He stares at the numerous dead bodies cover the road for as long in either direction as Drew can see, with the organs torn out of the corpses. Hearts, livers, lungs, and intestines are everywhere. Drew can barely identify the mutilated and bloody lumps as bodies; there’d be no way to put names to the faces.

He blinks a couple times, not quite sure what to think of the situation. Not a single living person is to be seen, at least not from Drew’s Main Street apartment a few floors up. Fear is actually the last thing that enters his mind; curiosity drives him down to the street.

Once Drew opens the door at the bottom of the steps, the reality of the tragedy hits him. As he closes the door behind him and takes a step out, the metallic scent of oxygenated red liquid, strong in the air, overcomes him, and he almost cannot move.

Though the cause of this disaster could strike him too, this fact doesn’t cross his mind as Drew heads out and checks a nearby corpse. The blood hasn’t even dried yet, so this didn’t happen that long ago. Then he remembers the scream. Who’d it come from? A victim, a witness, or a possible murderer?

An image of someone doing this with their bare hands pops into his mind, and he has to put his hand on the ground to stop from losing balance. One would have to be completely sick, barbaric, and twisted to do something this morbid. Not to mention the fact that the murderer couldn’t possibly be human.

Drew looks around for any possible cause, or sign of life, but finds nothing. As he walks down Main Street, the scene of a once-lively downtown turned apocalyptic begins to really get to him.

“Is… anyone… alive?” he tries to call out, but all he can do is whisper. He looks into the windows of the stores as he passes them, but finds the same thing: more dead bodies with the organs covering them.

Suddenly, a noise from behind startles Drew, and he turns around quickly, ready to face whatever is there.

“Drew?” a young woman, about the age of sixteen, whispers.

“Alanna Maxson,” Drew somewhat snickers. “What are you do—What happen—How’d you survive?” he stutters, looking for the right question to ask.

“Well, how’d you? I was inside, taking a bath with my headphones on. I just got out, and was gonna find a place to eat at for lunch… Then…” she says, looking around.

“I don’t know how I missed this entire thing happening… I was simply playing some Call of Duty. Then something sort of felt odd, and I heard a little girl scream,” he explains as he walks up to her, carefully stepping his bloody feet around the mutilated bodies.

“Have you seen Jade?” she asks.

He stares at her incredulously. “Look at these bodies. Can you identify any of these faces?” he nearly screams at her.

She shakes her head, saddened, disturbed, and overwhelmed by the situation, and turns around, annoyed by Drew. When she does so, she sees a figure moving around a ways down the street.

She stumbles backwards a little, but Drew is there to keep her steady. “Wha–who is that?” she breathes, unable to raise her voice any higher.

“I’m not quite sure…” Drew replies slowly, stepping around Alanna, his eyes glued to the figure. He then looks around quickly for some sort of weapon, and the first thing he finds is the gun of what he assumes is a dead cop. “Not sure if it’s loaded,” he breathes as he walks close to one of the many buildings lining Main Street.

The figure begins to walk towards Alanna and Drew, and the two duck into the closest door. Alanna leans against the wall between the door and a broken display window and slides down, though there is blood everywhere. She hugs her knees to her chest and looks around what she sees was once a pastry shop. “That must be old Morey,” she sighs as she stares at a body hanging over the counter, its organs covering the counter and floor.

“Well, it looks like they’ll have to rename Morey’s Pastries,” Drew says as he crouches along the wall beneath the window, and peeking over the sill.

“So heartless,” she sighs pitifully.

“Shh,” he says quickly as he leans a little out of the window. “It’s gone…” he breathes after a long minute.

Alanna turns and sticks her head out the hole in the wall and looks in the direction of the figure, but sees nothing now, either. “Creepy.”

Drew hops out of the window, using his free hand to push himself over the sill. “Stay,” he commands quietly as he crouches down.

“Yes sir,” Alanna says sarcastically. “What else am I–Drew!” she whispers excitedly as she turns and runs out the door and crouches next to him.

He looks back and glares at her. “What?” he snaps quietly, slightly annoyed.

She glares back at him. “If you and I survived because we were inside, I wonder. Who else was inside?”

He thinks about this for a minute. “Well, I don’t know. But if that figure is the cause of all this, then I don’t want to make a lot of commotion by gathering all survivors. Just leave them alone for now. At least until I deal with whoever that was.”

Alanna nods in agreement. It kills her, but she sighs, “You’re right… Wait, until you deal with this?”

He turns back around, confused. “Do you want to?”

“No, but what about the police or something?”

He holds out his arms, showing Alanna the scene, not sure if she’s quite registered it yet. “Lanna, do you see anyone else alive?”

She glares at him. “So why not just go out there and join them.”

“Or I could find what’s causing this and stop it before your insides become your outsides.”

“Whatever. You are that stupid,” she sighs, then turns around to go back into the pastry shop as Drew continues toward the place the figure was last seen.

A few minutes later, Drew glances over his shoulder at Alanna as she crawls down the street, and sees Jade. Drew watches as Alanna catches a glimpse of her best friend’s combat boots and nearly screams. He dashes to her side to keep her from falling back into the sea of blood and bodies.

Drew laughs to himself and pats her head, holding her in his arms. “Yeah, I’d be afraid of the freak, too,” he says, eyeing the cause of Alanna’s fright.

Jade, the same age as Alanna, snickers at Drew out of pure hatred. “You’re a friggin’ moron. I really wish you were among the corpses.”

As she stands, Alanna pushes Drew, but he grabs on to the ledge of the pastry shop’s display window to catch himself. “Freak, were you over that way, a ways down, about ten minutes ago?” Drew asks, pointing in the direction of the figure, not fully convinced that was Jade.

She thinks a minute. “No… I came from this way,” she says, gesturing in the opposite direction. “I saw you two aimlessly wandering around and thought I’d come down and be the smart one, since we all know you can’t handle it, Drew.”

He gives her the middle finger as he turns around. “Be the girls you two are, or the girl you pretend to be, Freak, and go hide while I play the part of the attractive hero that saves the day,” he laughs to himself as he heads down the street.

Jade curses under her breath and walks away, Alanna cautiously and reluctantly in tow.


While wandering, Drew spots what he thinks is the same figure again down the street about a quarter of a mile. When he sees that it appears to be a young girl with long hair wearing a blood-stained gown of an unidentifiable color, he begins to wonder who the child is. It can’t be the same figure… But the hair and dress are the same length…

Though Drew’s sure the figure saw him, it turns around and walks down an alley. “Hey!” he calls, and begins running after it, the gun he found aimed in its direction. He still doesn’t know if his weapon’s loaded, but it makes him feel more secure having it.

Though his intent was to run after the girl, he barely manages to walk quickly, having to maneuver around the mangled and mutilated bodies, now becoming stiff and giving off a grotesque and sickening scent. He hurries down the alley way he’s sure the girl went down only to find more of ever-present disgust.

“Where’d you go?” he yells. When he receives no answer, he begins searching the alleys around.

“Why does it matter to you?” Jade’s alto voice calls out.

Drew snickers. “What the hell are you doing here?”

“Oh, sorry, am I not who you were expecting to find in this wasteland?”

Drew shakes his head. “Where’s Lanna?”

“Like you care.”

“Why does it matter to you?”

Jade glares at Drew. “Back there. Watch out, insanity is thick in the air…”

Drew doesn’t quite understand what she means by this, but he doesn’t stick around to ask. He hurries past Jade, holding back any urges to smack her. When he finally runs into Alanna in the back of an alley way, he’s shocked to see her kneeling in front of something he can’t see yet.

“Lanna, what are you doing?”

“I missed you too?” a petite girl’s voice says, sounding discouraged.

“The hell…?” Drew mumbles as he walks carefully up to Alanna. “What the hell is that thing?” he asks, now seeing a blood-covered child. Her hands are caked in crusted bodily fluid with spots all over her bare legs, arms, and face. He still cannot tell the original color of her stained night gown.

“I’m… not sure…” Alanna whispers, kneeling about a foot in front of the child.

Drew aims his gun at the girl’s head, sure she did all this. “It doesn’t matter.”

Now just hold on, Drew…” Alanna counters, more emotion in her voice now. “You did all this?”

The hopeless, round black eyes of the fragile girl pierce into Drew’s heart, but he refuses to let it get to him. The girl then looks at Alanna and nods.


The girl again nods. “But I missed you three…” She looks down at her hands, seemingly deep in thought.

“But… You’re so little… How could you have done this?”

Smiling, the child is ecstatic that someone actually cares. Until now, she’s only been greeted with hostility and fear. “She gave me this gift!”

“I’m not sure what she means by this, but she’s got to go, Alanna.” He again raises his gun and aims it at the child’s head, still unsure of the weapon’s loadout, and now unsure if a bullet to the head could even kill her.

The child whimpers and cowers, and as a surprising wave of pity comes over Alanna, she finds she cannot let Drew kill it. She quickly takes a few wide steps to put herself between the two, and wraps her arms around the girl. “Drew, hold on a second…”

“Are you friggin’ out of your mind, woman?” he exclaims, dumbfounded. “This thing is a murderer, and you want me to pity it?”

“Just hold on a second.”

Drew shakes his head, almost tempted to take out Alanna, too. He doesn’t know what’s going on with her, but he doesn’t want the thing to kill him.

“Why did you do that?” the girl asks, her voice still young and gentle.

“Why did you do all this?” Alanna counters softly.

“Because she told me to.”


“My mommy.”

Alanna opens her mouth to speak, but Drew speaks first. “Oh. Her mommy told her to do this. Of course. My mom sends me out on errands to grab some milk and kill hundreds of people all the time… The frig is going on here…?” he mumbles, throwing his hands in the air as he turns away from the two.

“That’s what I’m trying to figure out… She’s not an ordinary child.”

Drew lets out a laugh of pure amazement. “Well no shit, brilliant. And what was your first hint? The hundreds of mutilated and disemboweled bodies? Lanna, normal kids don’t single-handedly bring on the apocalypse! She needs to die!”

“No!” the child cries, her voice sounding afraid and innocent, as she buries her face into Alanna’s chest. “Why are they so mad at me?” she asks, looking up at the teen with big, teary, solid-black eyes.

“Sweetie, look what you’ve done… You’ve… killed… so many,” she manages to say.

The child thinks for a minute, looking around at the few bodies in the alley. “You mean… Mommy won’t be happy, either?” She is worried now, and fearful for her life, though she doesn’t understand why. The heartbreaking look on her face gives this away quite well.

Alanna shakes her head as she sees Drew kneel next to her through the corner of her eye. “I don’t think so, honey.”

The girl sighs, tears spilling over her cheeks. “I’m sorry, Mommy. I didn’t know…” she says quietly, then looks up. “What’s gonna happen to me now? Are you gonna kill me?”

Alanna doesn’t say anything, tears forming in her eyes now, too. She looks up at Drew, who’s standing with his arms crossed. “What’s your name?” she asks, stalling. Her voice is barely a whisper.

“Maria.” There’s fear in her voice. The child looks up at Drew, and his heart sinks a little for the girl. He didn’t think it was possible, or right, but he’s beginning to feel sorry for the child. She even has a name.

“She’s innocent…” Alanna mutters. “She didn’t know what she was doing…”

“Alanna…” Drew’s trying to keep a straight head for this.

“I know… She can’t stay here… But killing her is a bit harsh, isn’t it?”

Drew closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. He shouldn’t let this get to him, not after the horrific and gory tragedy surrounding them.

“It’s only right, Alanna.”

There is a long pause before the child speaks. “Will it make everything better?” she asks, almost hopeful. Her desire to fix her mistake just tears through Alanna, and she has to look away before the tears start trickling down her cheeks. “But I don’t want to die…” The sadness and innocence in Maria’s voice causes Alanna to completely break down, and she pulls the child into her arms and holds her tight, despite being covered in the blood of thousands of truly innocent people.

Drew has to look away, tears actually welling in his eyes against his will. “Damn it…” he mutters to himself. Damn it, Alanna… You just had to go and complicate this, didn’t you…?

Alanna finally stands, looking straight into Maria’s eyes. “Don’t be sad, Maria… This is the right thing to do. Be brave,” she tries to tell her through her sobs.

The girl swallows hard and inhales deeply, then nods. Staring down at the ground, she stands too, awaiting her fate.

“Goodbye, Maria…” Alanna barely whispers.

Drew closes his eyes and aims, once again, at the child’s head. His hand trembling, he focuses his gaze on the girl and cocks the pistol. Alanna buries her face in Drew’s chest, and as a single tear is shed from the windows leading to his softened soul, he pulls the trigger.

May 2010

The Pianist

The campus lounge is a little more crowded than normal, but it doesn’t bother me. With my headphones in and the volume on my phone set to max, I can tune out the world as I work. I head in and take my usual seat in the corner on a worn leather sofa, pull out my laptop, and look around the room as it boots up.

Someone’s actually at the baby grand. This is a rare occasion; what a shame I’m not even listening. Few people actually are, though. It makes me wonder how good this guy is. Something is off about him, but I guess it’s just his slacks and sneakers; don’t pianists usually wear suits and ties, or at least sweater vests and loafers? I’m curious about his playing, but I really can’t be bothered to take out my headphones. That new age piano shit isn’t exactly my cup of tea.

I didn’t come here to discover local artists, I remember as I look down at my computer. A five page paper about the history of the Internet won’t write itself. I open Word and stare at the blinking cursor, but feeling overwhelmed already, I people-watch again. Nothing exciting enough to distract me is going on, though. Everyone’s just sitting, and it doesn’t look like anyone is talking. Some stare off into space, while others watch the piano. It intrigues me, but I still don’t care enough to listen. The rock music playing in my ears is so hard to break away from.

The lack of excitement in the lounge doesn’t help me procrastinate. Time for some brief research, then. Only brief, since I actually know a thing or two about the Internet.

After about thirty minutes, I again feel the need to distract myself. I look up, and almost can’t believe that still no one is moving. I don’t think anyone has even moved since the last time I looked up. I wonder if the guy notices he’s practically entranced everyone, since his eyes are closed and he seems totally into whatever he’s playing.

Deciding I should probably listen for at least a moment, I take out one of the earbuds blasting music into my ears. Almost instantly, my head is filled with a melody I’ve never heard. It’s so… delicate and intricate that it’s hard to believe it’s coming from the piano.

After several minutes, a new song on my phone begins, and the sudden punch of the drum almost startles me. I then realize I’ve been almost as mesmerized as the others. My eyes sting, and I blink a few times. My phone is at full volume, and this piano isn’t anywhere close to being as loud as that. Yet somehow, this melody has commanded my entire attention and filled my head. I put the earbud back in, and the melody fades from my mind. It leaves a headache in its place.

I look around at all the non-blinking bodies around me, and notice I’m the only one with headphones in. Knowing that this could backfire and leave me looking completely insane, I poke the person sitting at the table closest to me. No reaction. I get up and wave my hand in front of her face. Still nothing. The pianist doesn’t seem to even notice me moving as he continues to plunk away.

I walk up to him next. No one so much as blinks as I move. I stand beside him for a moment, watching him play. The visual isn’t as mesmerizing as the melody, but from the standpoint of someone who couldn’t even play “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” his movements seem impressive. I almost don’t want to disturb his playing, but if he stops, maybe everyone will go back to normal. Though I enjoy a good horror-mystery, I realize living in one isn’t as fun or exciting as I imagined.

I clear my throat and cross my arms, waiting for something. “Um, hello?” I say after he doesn’t react. He still doesn’t break from his playing. I poke his arm, but he doesn’t budge, as if he’s a statue. After watching his hands for another minute, I try to slam my palm down onto them, forcing them to stop. He’s like a mechanical statue, moving through the motions as if they were programmed. Trying another tactic, I try pressing a random key on the far left side of the piano, and to my surprise, the key strikes a chord and plays a note. I can just barely hear the low note over my music. I start banging frantically on the keys, but to no avail.

Not only is this guy and his damn music creeping me out, he’s starting to piss me off, too. “What the fuck are you doing?” I scream at him as I try to kick him. As my foot comes into contact with his arm, he doesn’t move, but instead, I feel it reverberate through my foot and leg as if I just slammed down onto concrete.

Really irritated now, I slam my fist onto the side of the piano as I hold my knee. Now my fist aches a little as well, but I realized the piano budged a little. Whatever is going on with the guy, it’s not affecting the instrument. Maybe if I destroy it, the trance will stop.

I sit on the edge of the small platform that raises the piano from the main floor of the lounge, and watch the guy play. I realize, despite I’m not the artsy type, that music is art. As much as it’s negatively affecting everyone here, I almost can’t bring myself to destroy the piano.

Watching his fingers move across the keys almost makes me want to listen again. I can’t explain why, since it’s not my favorite genre. I’d rather keep listening to the guitars, drums, and loud voices playing in my ears. But something in me makes me bring my hands to my ears. My hands shake for a moment as I try to stop myself. Taking out not just one earbud, but both, will allow that melody to take over my mind again. Maybe it wasn’t the music after all, though. I’ll just take the headphones out for a quick second, to make sure it was definitely the music. Almost immediately, I’m glad I did, as the beautiful sound of the piano fills my head and calms me. The pain in my leg and fist subsides almost to euphoria. I sit completely still, watching the piano, as if moving might disturb the flow of this instrumentation.

Suddenly, the pianist stands, and the melody is cut short. I want to hear more, but as I try to say something, I find I cannot move. The guy walks up to me and looks me right in the eye. “It took you a while,” he laughs. I don’t understand what he means, though. “I’ll leave you for last,” he adds as he walks around the tables and couches that occupy the lounge. Just out of my sight, the footsteps stop, and I hear him laugh again. When I see blood spatter onto the wall, a panic wells inside me.

April 2013