A First Kill
March 27, 2015
For one man in Poughkeepsie, the screams and the frequent gunshots meant a dream come true. For Benjamin Olski, the zombies that were running amok outside his apartment window represented a chance of a lifetime, but only if he could rein in his fear.
Terror had been growing in his mind ever since he peered through his quarter-inch thick spectacles and watched the first man die on the street. It had been just some dude, looking stupidly preppie with his collar upturned and his khakis neatly creased. As though he were part of a morbid opera, he’d been surrounded by three of them in a wheel of golden light thrown down from a high streetlamp. With the dark all about, the scene was vague in its details and grainy like an old home movie.
The beasts were black-eyed and had hands that were hooked into claws. Their mouths, dark pits smeared with old blood, gaped wide, looking way bigger than normal mouths; they were like the jaws of a lion. Because they moved so well and with such deliberation, Benjamin initially mistook them for ghouls, but they were too well dressed for ghouls and too clean to have crawled out of a coffin. No, these weren’t creatures from the grave; they were zombies, fast zombies, the very worst kind.
The soon-to-be dead preppie had looked like a fool, putting up his fists as though he was going to box with them, as if that was even a possibility. Benjamin, crouching his lanky frame behind his bedroom curtain shook his head, saying, “What an idiot.”
A second later, they attacked. The preppie fool punched one and then was ripped apart by their teeth and their claws. Benjamin watched, gripping his .38 caliber pistol in two sweaty hands. He could’ve gone down there and killed a few of the zombies, but even as he told himself that the man was a goner anyway, he knew that it was just an excuse.
The truth was the zombies struck cold terror in his heart. They were vicious and strong, and so much faster than he’d been led to believe by all the movies he’d seen and the stacks of comic books in his closet which he had read over and over again.
When the three zombies in the street lifted their heads from the feast, they wore glistening beards of dark blood and Benjamin had whimpered.
But now was his time to shine…hopefully.
Across the hall from him lived Cheryl O’Neil. She had long, long legs; a deep year-round tan and tits only money could buy. For a year now, she had starred in his dreams and not just in his increasingly perverted fantasies. She also took center stage in his daydreams, the ones in which he was a hero, the ones straight out of a comic book.
He had lived so much of his lonely life in those books because what choice did he have? He was greasy, scrawny, and his pale skin sported perennial zits that bloomed in every season. Because his mother had told him they would scar him if he touched them, he left them to bead into sickening pustules. Since he seldom bathed, he stank of old sweat.
At twenty-eight, he was a nerd, a sad, socially inept nerd who could only dream about a girl like Cheryl, except now was his chance to impress her!
There was a man in the hall screaming vulgarities and pounding on her door. Benjamin stuck his eye to the peephole and saw it was one of her many ex-boyfriends. Just another no-name jock. Cheryl’s boyfriends all came and went quickly and all were tall with lantern jaws and perfect hair and none bothered to introduce themselves to Benjamin. They never even seemed to notice him when they passed in the hall, almost as if he wasn’t fully human in their eyes.
But now the tables had turned. The ex-boyfriend didn’t look right. Sweat streamed from his thick, wavy hair and his normally handsome face was twisted into an angry mask. But it was in his eyes where the biggest change lay. They were wet and dark like pits of tar.
“Open up, bitch!” the Ex yelled at the top of his lungs. “I know you’re in there. I can smell you. You’re behind this. You did this to me!” His fists were bloody from all the pounding; he didn’t seem to notice or care. He was driven by his need; wanting to get at Cheryl and hurt her and probably eat her as well.
Benjamin knew what he had to do. He’d read a thousand comic books and they all agreed there was only one thing a hero could do in this situation: he had to save the girl. After living a lifetime unseen in a societal shadow, he had to step up and prove himself…but the Ex seemed so big and so violent and the sound of his fists splintering the wood had Benjamin cringing even with the gun in his unsteady, damp hands.
Strangely, the gun seemed both heavy and small. It felt like it weighed fifty pounds in his soft hands and yet he was afraid that it wasn’t big enough to do the job, and he was afraid that he would miss and he was afraid that if he did hit the Ex it wouldn’t kill him and he was afraid…just afraid.
He had lived his entire life in fear. It was why he had always retreated into the world of daydreams and comic books. “But not now,” Benjamin whispered. “Okay, okay. Here I go. Here I go.” He couldn’t seem to bring himself to move. He just stood there, hyperventilating, as Cheryl’s screams, which had been muffled, were growing louder with the disintegration of her door. The Ex was practically through.
“I can do this,” he hissed, gathering together the filmy shreds of his courage and stepping into the hallway. The man was right there not five feet away. Benjamin raised the pistol. It was like holding a living thing. It was hot and all the shaking in his right arm seemed to come from it. Benjamin took hold of it with his left hand as well, mostly to try to tame it but partially to control the embarrassing trembling. Oh, how badly he wanted to pull the trigger right then. It would be so much easier to shoot the man in the back; much easier than actually confronting him, but would a hero do that? Would Batman or Wolverine?
“No,” he said, under his breath.
Benjamin steeled himself, puckering his ass, taking a firmer grip on the gun and swallowing loudly. He then yelled in a reedy voice that was nearly as high-pitched as Cheryl’s: “Stop! Leave her alone.”
Although Benjamin had the pistol out and had it pointed with all the menace his shaking hands could generate, the Ex didn’t seem to be too concerned by it. He turned from the door, snarling like a dog, showing black gums. His hands were bleeding and the blood wasn’t right, it was too dark. It came out a deep maroon, looking almost congealed. Just like the rest of him, it was wrong. Benjamin knew it. Fresh blood should’ve been brighter, almost cherry in color.
“You’re a zombie,” Benjamin said, voicing his accusation.
The Ex’s snarl turned into one of the hated sneers, the kind that jocks had always used to dismiss nerds like Benjamin. “Who the fuck are you calling a zombie? You little pig, shit, fuck!”
He took two steps forward and Benjamin took two steps back, hitting the wall next to his apartment door with his back foot. It was unexpected and he guessed wrongly, that his door had closed behind him. He thought he had trapped himself in the short hallway with a very big man-eater and, in a rash of panic, he pulled hard on the trigger.
The gun bucked in his hands, again so much like a live thing. It was like trying to hold onto a small, violent animal that wanted to jump out of his hands. The bullet went over the Ex’s right shoulder, cutting the air with the hiss of a snake until it struck the chandelier over Cheryl’s dining room sending glass raining down.
Benjamin didn’t hear the sound of breaking bulbs and shattering glass. He was in a panic zone where nothing registered on his senses except the half-formed zombie in front of him. His hands were spazzing in fear and when he shot a second time, he did so with the same jerking motion, missing a second time, again high and to the right.
“Fuck!” Benjamin screamed, pressing his back against the wall. He was trying to aim for the head because, as everyone knew, that’s where you had to hit to kill a zombie and this was most certainly a zombie. It had barely paused after the first shot and didn’t at all after the second. It was now so close that Benjamin’s third shot traveled exactly two feet before it crashed through the upper teeth of the zombie and blasted out the back of its throat.
The Ex was staggered but didn’t fall. It said something in a horrible, wet gurgle before it again tried to rush forward. Benjamin fired twice more taking out chunks of flesh and bone before he managed to bring the Ex down. He then stood there for a few seconds against the wall, hyperventilating and shaking.
“What did you do?” Cheryl asked in an airy voice. She stood in a state of contortion, her arms bent and crooked, one leg twisted so that she looked to be protecting her privates with one knee. Her back was hunched forward and her neck was extended, stork-like so she could see out into the hall without taking a step.
“I saved you,” Benjamin answered in the same breathless manner.
* * * * *
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