Read Dawn and the Dead Online

Authors: Nicholas John

Tags: #horror, #horror short story, #horror apocalyptic, #horror about zombies

Dawn and the Dead








Nicholas John



Dawn Garcia overslept the day
that the dead rose and claimed the world as their own.

It was understandable enough –
she’d had a bad week, (had, in fact, been going through a hell of a
rough patch recently).

She wasn’t sleeping well, her
dreams realms of horror and pestilent, rotting death; tearing her
down to hell every time that she closed her eyes and drifted off to
sleep. In her nightmares, she saw
face. The face of
Eddie Garcia, although in those dark and rancid dreams it was
different, a ghastly death mask of decomposing corruption. In her
Dawn is in the kitchen. She’s making breakfast for
her daughter Vickie and herself, frying bacon, when the sound comes
from the garden:

She notices that every other
sound has become but echoes, distant and hollow as if retreating as
that one sound, the music that consumed her with dread when Eddie
Garcia was alive, once again, impossibly, pours in through the open
kitchen window.

She often thought (
more in
waking and recalling the dream than experiencing it
) that it
reminded her of a cowboy western movie. That pivotal moment when
someone important strides into the saloon and all the laughing,
piano music and tinkling of glasses, dies away instantly.

The sound, which has merely
been one of the multitude of the ambient noises of life, is now
standing alone in the otherwise silence. It comes to her ears and
she shudders, muttering a long,
which folds into a
tortured moan of despair.

It is
is playing Somos Novios – and playing it badly.

Eddie always plays his vihuela
on the way home, late at night, after swallowing enough tequila to
drown a whale. As always, it sounds alright for a while, happy,
bouncy… but the closer he gets, the more mistakes he makes and she
can make out a missed note here, the wrong note there, and then a
total, drunken splash of frantic, angry, incorrect music.

In her nightmares
, the badly
played vihuela strings sting her ears from their garden. Dawn walks
over to the curtain, peels it away from the corner of the window
and looks out nervously
- just as she had when he was alive and
returning home.

Eddie has always been
frightening in this state. Is wild and unpredictable. He beats her,
almost killed her once.
And if he didn’t beat her, he forced
himself on her. Stinking tequila breath blasting into her face in
bursts of gasps as she lay there motionless and staring away.

As frightening as Eddie was in
life, in the nightmares, and consequently in death - he is a very
different monster.

Death is feasting hungrily on
the corpse of Eddie Garcia.

He stands bare-chested in the
garden. There are rips and holes in the thighs of his jeans, and in
the strands of gnawed flesh beneath, insects crawl, writhe, scuttle
and burrow, hiding sometimes behind the pale, bruise-dappled flesh
and exposed bone that protrudes.

The vihuela, hanging from guitar
straps thrown over Eddie’s shoulders, hide the pestilent mess of
his stomach. Yet that seems to make it worse, as instead of seeing
his guts flopping and writhing sloppily back and for, she imagines

In the nightmares, his hands
move back and for with an eerie slowness, too slow in fact to be
producing the notes that play from the Spanish guitar.
hands, or those fingers to be more precise, they had been so slim,
slender and dextrous - when he played, they seemed to shimmer
magically, like the wings of a hummingbird. And they had been so
soft and smooth as they lovingly caressed her skin or pushed an
errant strand of hair from her eyes.

They had not always been so

Not when they were curled
spitefully into fists and crashing into her ribs, or chopping
across her face in startling slaps.

Now his hands are dead. Some of
his finger still resemble fingers, except they are thick, rotten
yellow and black - like overripe bananas; the fingernails on those
digits are cracked and yellow and dry, dead flesh slips from them
in flakes and he strums. Other fingers are simply skeletal; dusty,
dry bones.

Yet they play away slowly. The
flesh of his forearms had been opened up, strands of spoiled sinew
and bare muscle flicker sickeningly back and fore.

Through the majority of the
nightmare, she never sees his face. The peak of his sombrero hides
it in shadow; but the climax of the nightmare, the absolute
pinnacle in dread, is when he throws back his head, sending the hat
flying and revealing his mangled face.
It was always soon after
that that she woke, shooting bolt upright in bed, screaming. The
bed would be soaked through with sweat and her body dank with her
own perspiration. Her long black hair matted against her clammy
forehead. Then she would begin to shake.

In her nightmare,
when Eddie
finally throws back his head and the sombrero flies off in slow
motion, the face that stares at her accusingly is immoral.

In the grave, his hair has
continued to grow, but now the dark black is streaked through with
white and grey, it hangs down to his shoulders, the wind blowing it
and the cobwebs inside it, behind him. He stares accusingly with
only one eye, as the other had been devoured by some animal, and
all that remains there is a gaping, black socket. The one,
surviving eye is pale blue, almost like a cataract. There is no

He appears to grin at her, or it
could be a grimace, as his entire top lip, all the way to the nose,
has been eaten away. Dirty, grey, tombstone like teeth imbedded in
dark grey gum are stained, but not from smoking, and the gunk
wedged between them is not plaque – in both cases it is congealed
blood of a deep black colour.

A huge laceration has left a
jagged patch of rotting flesh missing from the pale, almost grey,
side of his cheek. Dawn can see more teeth, gum and even his
jawbone through it. She always feels sick as he begins to speak,
and the jaw and teeth move in a twisted, gut-wrenching unison. The
vihuela is gone, yet the song,
Somos Novios
continues to
haunt the abyssal, otherwise silence of this nightmare world. He
points at her, but not with a finger. Instead, the hand that points
grasps a carving knife, the tip aimed at her.

It’s a kitchen knife.

The same one she used to kill

I’ll be back for you
” he screams.

Dawn woke with a gasp.

It had been the nightmare

She regarded the bedside table
and the alarm clock sitting on it - 9.50a.m.

She had slept late, but it
didn’t matter – today was Saturday.

Her heart was racing and she was
damp through with sweat; but the fact that it was Saturday made her
smile and those other things didn’t seem so bad. Almost immediately
the dream was forgotten and she was on her feet, running a bath and
looking forward to spending the entire day with Vickie. The
nightmares might be bad, but they were just dreams, and despite his
warning, Eddie would never return to avenge his murder; he would
never hurt them again. The positive of his death was that Dawn and
Vickie got to live a safe, happy life. Dawn had decided the
nightmares were worth it. She supposed they were brought on by
guilt, and she expected them to last for some time – she had only
killed Eddie on Thursday night, after all.

He had come home angrier and
drunker than she had ever seen him. When his fumbling fingers had
dropped his front door keys, he had simply kicked the door in.

In the kitchen he had started
pounding on her, punching her in the face instead of carefully
aiming for the body to hide his abuse – that was when Dawn had
realised she was in real trouble. She had started to think that she
might not survive this time.

As he tossed her across the
room, she clattered into a pile of dishes that fell and shattered
on the floor; they exploded into a thousand shards of china and the
noise brought a sleepy Vickie dozily strolling into the kitchen,
cuddling her, ‘blankey’ in one arm as she sucked the thumb of the
other hand.

Then it had happened. Eddie had
spun around and punched Vickie in the face.

The little girl had crumbled to
the floor, as if she had fainted. The back of her head had slammed
against the cold, hard tile of the kitchen floor and bounced with a

Dawn had seen a single droplet
of blood, a lone speck of red like an ink drop, sitting under her
daughter’s right nostril. From there on it had been simple.

Dawn had not tried to
rationalise her actions as she pulled open one of the cutlery
draws, tore out a long, sharp carving knife, and then plunged it
into Eddies back. She had struck with such force that the knife had
ripped through his chest, slicing his heart fatally. He fell to the
floor and died.

Cradling her daughter in her
arms, Dawn had rushed her to hospital. Eddie had remained there on
the kitchen floor. Vickie had woken in hospital with no memory of
the incident a few hours later,
she must have been close to
thought Dawn with relief, as she told the doctor
that Vickie had fallen downstairs.

The doctor had said that Vickie
had hit her forehead. She had a slight concussion, but nothing was
broken. He explained that concussion could be quite dangerous, so
he wanted to keep the little girl in overnight, just for

“If you rushed her here, you
might want to nip back home Mrs. Garcia. If you’ve not locked-up
properly or left a candle burning or something. We can watch her
for a little while.”

Dawn was about to say
that she would stay. Then she remembered her dead husband lying on
the kitchen floor with a carving knife sticking out of his

“I’ll be as quick as I can.” She
told the doctor, and then headed for the car.

On the drive home, she began to
panic. What if a concerned neighbour had called the police,
reporting a nasty sounding domestic argument? What if, as she
rounded the corner to their house, there were police cruisers
lights flashing and bouncing off the black-and-whites; armed police
officers with handcuffs ready for her arrest?

Then a stranger, deeper

What if he wasn’t dead? What if,
when she walked into the kitchen, the body wasn’t there anymore?
Was it possible that she had just injured him, and if she had, how
angry would he be then? What would he do to her? In the heat of the
moment she had acted, but if he was badly injured and not dead,
could she, ‘
finish him off

Turning the corner, there were
no police cruisers parked outside her house.

When she stepped into the
kitchen, the body was still there – and it
a body,
Eddie was dead.

The thing that had surprised her
most on returning to the scene was that there was no blood. She had
expected the body to be lying in a pool of red, but the terracotta
kitchen tiles were unblemished. Unlike the man attending her
daughter at the hospital, Dawn was no doctor; so she could only
guess that she had done something to the heart when she pierced it
to stem the flow of blood.

The garden was a standard square
of sand, picketed by a weatherworn, sun bleached yellowish picket
fence which had once been bright white, when the house was new.
Apart from a few scattered cacti (some flowering pretty yellow and
purple buds, but not all), and a few stones, the yard was sparse.
Their garden did boast something different however, and it was this
that had saved Dawn having to dig a grave. The Garcia’s garden had
a huge, three feet hole dug in the middle of it.

“A pool?” she asked Eddie when
he had dug it.

“Yeah, just for paddling.
Nothing huge. Dig a hole, brick-up the base and sides and then fill
it with water. It will be nice and cool on really hot days, and
Vickie will love playing in it.”

That was the old Eddie speaking,
the one she had fallen in love with and married.

He had dug the hole, but nothing
had ever come of it. Not until now at least.

Grabbing the body by the wrists,
she dragged it along the kitchen floor, out the back door and into
the garden. Getting it across the kitchen floor had been easy, the
body slid across the smooth tiles effortlessly. The sand was a
different kettle-of-fish.

Dawn had to use all her strength
to pull it the twelve feet to, ‘the pool’.

Once on the edge of the circle,
she fell to her knees and rolled the body over into the hole.
Finding a shovel, she tossed enough sand over the body to conceal
it and then set about her alibi.

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