I laid out Rhonda’s corpse on the couch in the den. I stuffed it in dad’s old drab green army sleeping bang, and then bound her in with duct tape. All the beauty and innocence is gone from her face, as well as her gentle grace; now she is just a dead piece of meat.
I sit on the hearth, smoking a cigarette from a pack I’d stashed in the back of a drawer in one of the many times Rhonda tried to make me quit. It’s doing fuck all to calm my nerves. Even hard whiskey wouldn’t be up to that task. But it’s something to occupy me while I wait Rhonda to rise again.
Another one of Rhonda’s shithead boyfriends had broken heart, this one by fucking around on her. It was Friday afternoon and we were both off from work for the weekend, so I suggested me and her head up to the old cabin in the mountains.
“It’ll be great.” I told her. “Just some quality time between big bro and baby sis.”
That hadn’t warranted even the ghost of smile. Fuck! Whoever this asshole was he’d really done a number on her.
“Come on, Rhonda! We can play Trivial Pursuit, while eating those huge licoricie ropes from that little store in town. And you know what? You are FINALLY old enough to partake in some of my special Mixed Iced Teas.”
I gave a conspirital wink at that, like we were partners in crime, hoodlums getting one over on the man. All she gave me was a twitch of a smile. God! Why she always end up having it so bad for these goddamn meatheads?
“Jesus woman! You’re killing me! You know how long you’ve been begining me to let you try one of my special iced teas? And now, finally, FINALLY, you can have one, as many as you want in fact, and it’s not even worth a smile? It’s official, whoever these jerk is I’m going to have to beat his ass, because if you don’t care about that, he’s absolutely fucked you up.”
“Don’t do that.” She said. “And another thing, don’t fucking curse so much.”
“A joke! And a smile! My favorite litte spit fire is still in there somewhere! Hallejuah!”
Rhonda rolled her eyes and looked back at the window, but there was a smile, however fragile, on her lips. Yes, a weekend away from the world and endless rounds of Trivial Pursuit and Risk, and a few fortified iced teas, and she’d be right as rain.
We got to the cabin after a couple of hours drive, (it was nearly to the North Carolina border). I grabbed the bags out of the trunk while Rhonda stretched the stiffness from her limbs. There was no one around for miles. The world was far, far away.
The cabin was a small affair, with a big main den and fireplace, and a small kitchen and a three bed rooms off from there. In the closet of what had been mom and dad’s bedroom we kept the ancient assortment of board games. Rhonda was getting Trivial Pursuit, her favorite and the one she almost always beat me at, while I dropped the bags by the moldy hide-away couch.
“How about some of those world famous iced teas Rick?” She said, as she started pulling board and pieces from the box. Already, being here and among all the passed times was helping to aleviate her heart ache.
“Coming right up!”
I went into the kitchen, grabbing a couple of bottles from dad’s old liquor cabinet, and started to mix our drinks. I was begining to feel postive about the whole trip. Rhonda was begining to come out of her funk, we were going to be spending some time together, something we hardly ever got to do since we’d grown-up and started living our own lives. All in all, I should have known everything was getting ready to turn to shit.
Out of the corner of my eye, out in the smoky dusk, I thought I saw something. It was just a flash, some flash from the corner of my eye. None the less, it sent it shivers through my skin; what had it been? Surely it couldn’t have been…..
I put the thought out of my mind. I picked up the glasses and walked back into the den. Rhonda already had the game all set up. However, their was in evil grin on her face that told me whatever it was she was thinking I wasn’t going to like.
“You know what we have to do…..”
“No Rhonda, I’m not going to…”
“….it’s not a trip to the cabin until we dance to ‘The Witch Jam'”
“Oh, for fuck’s sake, do we have to?”
“Yes, we have to! It’s tradition!”
Every Halloween when Rhonda was in elementary school, her music teacher would play “The Witch Jam”, a kid friendly pop confection about the joys of the Halloween season. It had a little dance that went with it. Since our parent’s had found the forty-five record of the song at some rummage sale in town, Rhonda had kept it here and INSISTED that me and her play it and do the dance everytime we came here. The fact that I would tolerate such an indignity, even as a grown man, I feel proves me than anything that I loved my sister and wanted her to be happy.
With her ritual out of the way, we started playing Trivial Pursuit. As always, she was kicking my ass. She was also enjoying the passage into adulthood that was the fortified iced tea.
“These things are great!”
“Don’t let them fool you; they’ve got a kick to them. And the last thing I need is you puking up all the colors of the rainbow, and then moaning under the covers all day tomorrow because you’re head feels like it’s going to split and a Greek goddess is going to come flying out.”
“I’m not as lightweight as you think!”
“Well, we’ll see.” I said. She stuck her tongue out at me. Real mature Rhonda!
“What the fuck was that!” Rhonda said, almost spilling her drink on the game board. From somewhere out in the night the most hideous, tormented howl had emerged. The night was still and silent. We both sat frozen, our hearts beating tendrils of ice through our blood.
“I don’t know Rhonda.” Was all I could manage.
Then it came again, closer, and even more full of hunger and anguish. It was like the howl of a damned soul burning in the lake of fire. Of someone in pain who has no hope of relief. Heavy footsteps then landing on the porch. The door rattled as whatever it was pushed and punched against it, desperate to get in. And that infernal sound………
Rhonda slid across the floor towards me, her drink spilled and forgotten. I wrapped an arm around her as we both looked rapted and horrified at the door. How was I going to save her from this one?
Then the window shattered, and a pungent, rotten arm was flailing around. Rhonda screamed and we both started to panic, running towards the back door in the kitchen. We were stopped dead by the sound of another one of those things banging on the door.
“Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! FUCK!”
I grabbed the nearest weapon, a large scrap piece of wood that was probably meant to be used as a piece of firewood, and raised it back over my head like a baseball player at bat. The whole cabin was filled with that hideous noise, as those things cried in the night. What the fuck was going on!
There was the sound of more breaking glass, as the thing from the front of the house managed to worm it’s way in through the broken window. It’s fetid skin was the color of maggots and pock marked with black, bleeding sores. It’s eyes were the color of soured milk. It stank with the foul rot of the grave.
It lumbered towards us, it’s scream never ceasing. I swung at it, grazing it’s face, knocking of it’s bulbous nose. Unfortunately, I over extended my swing and landed face first in the stereo. That was all the opening the thing needed.
I head Rhodna’s scream even before I’d returned to my feet. I saw the grotesque fiend take a big chunk of meat out of Rhonda’s neck. She screamed in horror and pain as the thing knocked her down, a necromantic lover with his unwilling bride.
I raised the timber up again, and swung with all my might. The timber crunched the thing’s skull, but I kept on hitting it over and over until it was still. I pulled it off the top of Rhonda, shivering as I touched it’s disgusting skin. Rhonda was going into shock, her blood was everywhere. The oily and fetid contents of the thing’s skull were spilled all over her shirt.
Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! FUCK!
Emboldened by God knows what! I burst out the back door the face the otehr fiend. I took a swing and this time didn’t miss. I knocked it down and beat it’s skull to a fine mush before stopping.
What in the name of hell where the’s things?
I ran back into Rhonda; her skin was already pale and cold. She’d stopped bleeding. Her eyes were fixed and full of unamable horror. I picked her body up into my arms, my tears mixing with the blood and bile as I wailed and cried to a God that could not here and who would not delivery me.
Somehow, sometime later, my wits returned to me. Those things must have been zombies. But weren’t zombies only in the movies? Well, tell Rhonda that! What did zombies do in the movies? They ate living flesh! What happened to someone bitten by a zombie? They came back! Would Rhonda come back?
I decided not to risk it. I remembered that dad had his old army sleeping bag stashed in his bedroom closet. I grabbed it, and not really thinking about what it was I was doing, still numbed with horror, I stuffed her body into it.
Then, somehow, I realized I need to make sure she wouldn’t get out of it. Improvising, I grabbed the roll of duct tape from the junk drawer in the kitchen and bound her tight in the sleeping bag.
Now I sit and wait. Shit like this isn’t supposed to fucking happen. This is some goddamn Lucio Fulci shit! How the fuck can this be real? Movies are all I have to go on. She might rise again, though my sister is long gone and only some foul, hungry demon lives in her skin.
From shock, horror, and exhaustion, I drifted to a shallow, frantic sleep. I dreamed of hell and all that waited there. Then Rhonda screamed.
She starting flailing around in the sleeping bag, the same hungry, inconsolabe crying scream emiting from her mouth that had come from the fiends that had attacked us. Numb, on automatic, I grabbed the timber and beat he skull in.
Morning is finally coming. The sun is burning away the darkness. It’s a beautiful morning. I couldn’t care less. I stand up, walk out of the cabin, not even bothering to close the door behind me. I walk down the old trail towards the river. When I get to the river I keep on walking, walk into the frigid water and the strong current fed by the recent rains. I don’t fight or try to keep my head above the water. I let the river swallow me and carry me far from here.