Birthday Notes IV

This is actually a double feature. Just a couple little very short flash fictions I whipped up as a little personalized gift for friends so that I didn’t just wish them a “Happy birthday”.
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The sun was a pale yellow on the horizon. The sickly kind, the kind skin takes when the liver has started to fail. Long stretches of field lay out underneath it, the grass long dried brown and turned brittle. There had been cattle here once, before the world turned to shit. Before monsters stalked from the shadows and men turned into animals willing to do anything to survive.

Robert rested against a worn down fence post and sighed. His feet were sore, his legs tired, and his only company presently were two empty bottles of beer someone had set up for target practice some forgotten day in the past. His rifle leaned against his left leg, loaded with far too few precious rounds. His revolver sat on his right hip in a similar predicament.

Thirty miles of dead farmland existed between the next town and him. A whole lot of blood and ghosts between the last one and here. He hoped the bullets he had left would be enough. Failing that, his wits.

It was a hard world now, but he was a hard man. Hard to read. Hard to break. Harder still to kill.

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Suzy wasn’t a fan of hospitals. At least, not when they were open. Sterility had a kind of scent to it, one that climbed unbidden into the nose and sat, kicking its legs down into the back of the throat. The doctors were flighty and the nurses curt, working in such a methodical, clerical manner that the building felt more like a machine, churning defective humans out into the world with patched up parts or into the trash bin if they were beyond repair.

Condemned hospitals – and other buildings,  for that matter – were a different story. There were no empty-eyed workers, no failing people. It lost the sterility but the clouds of sickness disppeared as well. Instead, there was only abandoned equipment and grime from years of misuse, broken doors and shattered windows. There was history in the corridors, of patients past and the squalor of the present.

Evidence of squatters was scattered here and there. Ratty sleeping bags, half-eaten cans of pork and beans. She even found a doll with a shattered eye socket and a brown dress that appeared to have once been a whimsical pink. When she picked it up to examine it, a cockroach skittered out from the hole in its face and across her hand. She flung both away.

Everything about the hospital seemed so much bigger without anyone in it. The operating areas could make good rec rooms. The hallways stretched out and begged to have wheelchairs raced down them. Suzy walked around peeling countertops and overturned chairs, eyes wide and a smile fixed, drinking in all the miracles and tragedies the building had once experienced.

As she came to the nurse’s station in the burn ward, though, an odd shape on the countertop seemed out of place. Curious, she neared it. Her foot caught the edge of an empty, half-crumpled soda can and sent it spiraling into the wall. The sharp metallic bite as it connected broke a silence she had become accustomed to over the course of two hours and she started, placing her hand over her mouth.

She let out an embarrassed chuckle almost immediately after and shook her head. This wasn’t a haunted house, she reminded herself. It was just a broken down old building.

Away from the wall and back towards the counter she went. What was it that had caught her eye? A paperweight that someone had left behind? Could it be that she had found a souvenir worth taking away? Maybe it-

A hand. It was a human hand. She noticed the nails first, how polished and deeply green they looked. It was impossibly perfect, the paint job, in an environment such as this. Her eyes moved against her will, pulling her attention kicking and screaming back along the fingers, along the soft mocha skin, to the wrist. The flesh their was ragged, torn. The hand had been removed violently, and the white of bone stood out in horrifying contrast. A ruby path trailed out from behind the hand and trickled over the edge of the counter.

Down the hall, a metallic sound clinked, not unlike the can banging against the wall. Suzy froze. Seconds later, it clinked again. She took one step back, another, another after that until she found her back pressed against the door of what had once been a patient’s room.

The sound rang out a third time. This time, the echo didn’t fade to nothing. This time, it led into a scraping noise. Whatever was being pressed into the wall sounded sharp. It sounded ugly.

And it was getting closer.

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