Authors: Barry J. Hutchison
THE BUG: EPISODE TWO
By Barry J. Hutchison
Copyright © 2016 by Barry J. Hutchison
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof
may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever
without the express written permission of the publisher
except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
Published worldwide by Dark & Sinister.
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This flight feels like it has taken forever! The gentleman next to me has gone to the bathroom – thank goodness - so I take a minute to stretch and fidget, and console myself with the fact that we’re almost there. Half an hour left. Maybe a little more. Then I get to see Mike and the kids for the first time in nearly a week.
My seat tray is still folded down, the half-eaten remains of what they had the nerve to call a meal still sitting on top of it. Thought they’d have tidied everything away by now, but now that I think about it, I haven’t seen a stewardess in a while. I heard something about a passenger getting sick about an hour back. Maybe that’s it.
I feel for the person, don’t get me wrong, but come on. We’ve all been sitting here with our trays in front of us for way too long now. How many cabin crew does it take to look after one sick person? I wanted to get some writing done, but I can’t with this plate of mashed-up…
whatever it’s supposed
to be sitting there.
I’m halfway through hating myself for thinking about eating some more of the potatoes when I see something crawling on the back of the chair. It’s shiny and black and, and
– maybe the size of a chocolate bar. Bigger, even. It’s the biggest, ugliest bug I’ve ever seen.
I hear myself letting out a yelp and a few heads turn my way. I glance round, embarrassed, then look back to find that the bug has gone. I’m about to jump up from my seat to try to find where it went, but all of a sudden it’s like I don’t even care. The bug was there, and then it wasn’t, and it already feels like a lifetime ago.
The guy from the seat beside me comes back from the bathroom, and I have to step right out into the aisle to let him squash his fat ass past. He grunts as he squeezes in past the tray, huffing and sweating like a damn hog.
“Thank you,” he wheezes, so breathless I suspect he’s about three jumping jacks away from dropping dead. It’d serve him right. He’s a horror-show. Someone should have put his fat ass out of its misery before we took off, so I wouldn’t have had to spend six hours breathing in his body odor and listening to him fighting for air.
A whisper in my head agrees with me that someone should put this man down. No, not man. He doesn’t deserve that label. He’s an animal. A fat, blubbery whale no-one should be forced to even look at, never mind be jammed in next to for several hours.
He looks at me with his sunken eyes and twists his blubbery lips into something that I guess is supposed to look like a smile, but which makes me want to throw up all over him. That’d teach him. That’d show him what decent, normal people think of horrible fat fucks like him.
But no. That’s not enough. He looks down at his dinner tray. Empty, of course. He devoured the whole lot in minutes. Caught him eyeing mine up, too. He’d have eaten all my scraps, given half the chance. Left unchecked, he’ll probably eat all of us.
Someone needs to teach him a lesson. Someone needs to carve some of that disgusting fucking lard from his bones.
The bug whispers in my head.
When she woke up that morning, it never occurred to Amy Banks that she’d bash her dad’s skull in with a frying pan.
And now that she had – now that the screaming and the thrashing were over, now that his brains were painting the linoleum – she could only stare in mute shock as her mind tried to shut down from the horror of it all.
Her legs were shaking too much to stand yet. She used her hands to shuffle away from the corpse on the floor until her back was against the dishwasher. The smell of the blood left a coppery tang in her mouth. She spat it out and let her breath come back in big shaky gulps.
Amy didn’t want to look at the dead thing, but she was afraid to look away, as if the moment her back was turned it would rise up again, teeth snapping, hands curled into limp claws. It had been her dad, then it had become something else. And now it wasn’t anything at all.
There was the sound of movement out in the hall. Footsteps shuffling along carpet. Amy’s breath caught at the back of her throat. The kitchen door slowly began to creak inward. She looked for the frying pan, then remembered tossing it across the room after smashing open her dad’s head.
Amy tried to get up, but her legs shook and her bare feet slipped on the bloody floor. She kicked out frantically, trying to find purchase as the door swung open all the way, revealing a familiar figure framed in the doorway.
A low moan burst like a bubble on her mom’s withered lips. Another sound came from somewhere within Amy herself. It was a raw, primal scream. Not fear, but something much more. Terror times ten.
Her mom jerked into the kitchen like a bad animation, and immediately slid in the blood puddle. There was a solid
as her face battered against the kitchen floor, but whatever was driving her on didn’t seem to notice.
She crawled forwards across the remains of her husband, her fingers squishing through the cheesecake of brain that had spurted from his caved-in head. She moved like an old drunk – slow and clumsy, her limbs trembling. Amy flailed out, searching for a weapon – something solid she could defend herself with.
Her hand found the handle of the dishwasher. She yanked the door down. Her arm bent backwards as she tried frantically to reach inside.
And then her mom was at her feet. No, not her mom, just a thing that looked like her. Her mom was long gone now. The thing’s mouth was opening, its gnarled fingers grasping at Amy’s jeans. Amy kicked with her free foot. Once. Twice. The thing that looked like her mom’s nose burst open in a spray of dark red goop, but still she held on, still she kept coming.
Amy grabbed the first thing she could find in the dishwasher. It was a plate. Crumbs of that morning’s breakfast clung to it like barnacles. Amy took the plate in both hands and smashed it down across her mom’s head.
Her mom groaned, but kept coming, her fingertips pressing hard against the flesh of Amy’s leg, as if trying to worm their way through her skin.
Another plate. Another smash. Amy kicked again, screaming as those fingertips threatened to dig right into her flesh.
Her shoulder clicked and pain stabbed down her arm as she tried to reach deeper into the dishwasher behind her. A knife. A knife. If she could only find a knife.
Her mom’s mouth was wide open now. Her tongue hung limply over her teeth. Blood oozed from her gums and dribbled from the corners of her mouth, and – just for a moment – something seemed to crawl beneath the skin of her neck.
Amy’s hand wrapped around something metal. She yanked it free, hoping for the big chef’s knife her dad had chopped carrots with the night before.
Instead, she found the ladle her mom had used to dish out the soup. Hot breath seeped through the leg of her jeans as the thing’s mouth closed in on Amy’s ankle. Amy swung with the ladle. It was small and not very heavy, but it made a loud
sound as it battered against the side of her mom’s head.
It wouldn’t be enough, though. A few smacks from a kitchen utensil wouldn’t stop the thing. Amy Banks would die there on that kitchen floor, aged nineteen and two months, unless she thought of something fast.
She swung with the ladle again to get the thing’s attention. Had to keep it distracted. Had to stop it chewing through her leg.
Amy kicked with her free foot again, driving the heel against her mom’s cheek and snapping it to the left. Something
in the thing’s neck and the head titled at a sickening angle. Amy’s mom’s mouth opened wider. The tongue unfurled like a tatty rug. Another groan echoed from within the cavern of her throat.
And Amy saw her chance. She turned the ladle so the curved metal handle was pointing away from her. She sat forwards, and with a scream of rage and terror and revulsion, she rammed the handle straight down her mom’s gaping throat.
The thing jerked and bone splintered as the handle of the ladle exploded out through the back of its neck. Its arms stopped grabbing. Its head fell to the side, the glazed-over eyes still open. The mouth continued to move, but the rest of the body was limp and useless.
Sobbing, Amy used the dishwasher to pull herself up. Her mom’s eyes followed her to the door. Amy glanced back at what was left of her parents. She wiped a trickle of snot from her top lip, but only succeeded in smearing blood across her entire face.
“I’m s-sorry,” she whispered.
She closed the door. She turned away.
Then she screamed as her brother hurled himself at her from the top of the stairs.
Boss Man Wayne looked ill. Of course, he always looked ill in a not-enough-sleep, unhealthy diet sort of way. His eyes were always bloodshot. He had an indeterminate number of chins, depending on which way his head was turned. His skin went from dry and flaky to slick with grease in the space of a few inches, and there was a constant rash of spot lurking beneath the stubble on his neck.
In all the time Col had been working for him, though, Wayne had never looked as ill as this. He was leaning against the store room door, his hands clutching his ribcage, his whole body trembling. His breath stunk as it rasped in an out in shallow sips.
“I… I don’t feel so good.”
Col stacked the last few packs of Gatorade on one of the lower shelves, then stood up. He was tall and skinny and towered over his much older supervisor. “You don’t look too hot, either.”
“H-hot,” Wayne mumbled. He nodded his head and his eyes spun back like the barrels of a fruit machine. “Feel hot. Like I’m burning. And itchy. So itchy.”
“Look, up in the sky!” yelped a voice from along the aisle. Col turned to see his friend, Jaden, come whizzing towards them, riding on the back of a shopping cart, one arm raised like Superman in flight. “Is it a bird?” Jaden cried, as he drew closer. “Is it a plane? No it’s a grown man riding a shitty grocery store shopping ca— Fuck me, your lips are green.”
Jaden jumped off the cart, leaving it to trundle to a halt somewhere by the tinned vegetables. Wayne dabbed at his mouth in panic. “What? They aren’t, are they?”
“No,” said Col, reassuringly.
Wayne seemed to deflate a little. “Thank God.”
“I mean, you know. They’re green
“Jesus,” whimpered Wayne. “What does that mean?”
“You’re about to turn into the Incredible Hulk?” suggested Jaden. He tapped himself on the chest. “Jaden Wayne’s friend. Wayne no smash Jaden.”
“Oh God,” yelped Wayne, clutching his stomach and doubling over. “I think I’m going to shit myself.”
“I don’t remember him doing that in
,” Jaden remarked.
“I… I have to go home,” Wayne said. “I need to… I can’t… Jesus Christ, I’m burning up here. Can you lock up?”
Jaden drew in a sharp breath. “Added responsibility. Does that move me up a pay grade? If so, what are the tax implications, because I’m not sure if—”
“We can lock up,” Col said. Wayne thrust the keys into his hands before he had finished speaking. “Go. Get to bed,” Col told him. “I’ll drop the keys through your door on the way home.”
They headed for the glass doors at the front of the shop. Wayne seemed to sink lower with every step. “A-any problems phone me.”
Jaden raised a hand. “Question. Do they have to be work-related problems? Because there’s this girl who just moved in on my block, and—”
Col’s glare silenced him. Wayne blinked, the lids scraping slowly across his eyeballs. “Wh-what?” he mumbled. Col slid a key into the door control and turned it.
“Ignore him. He thinks he’s funny.” The door slid open. “You sure you’ll get home OK? We could call you a taxi.”
Wayne shook his head. “Air,” he breathed, gulping the stuff down. “Need fresh air.” He stumbled out into the darkening evening and didn’t so much as glance back. Col turned the key and the door closed with a
The flashing blue lights of a police car briefly lit up their supervisor as he staggered out of the car park. “Dead by dawn, dead by dawn,” Jaden croaked. Col punched him on the arm, not too hard, but hard enough to shut him up.
“He does look pretty sick. Hope we don’t catch it.” Col said. He turned from the window and slipped the bundle of keys into his pocket. “Suppose we should get back to work.”
“Hush your mouth,” said Jaden. “It’s break time.”
“We’re not due another break,” Col reminded him.
Jaden picked up one of the cans of Gatorade and popped the ring-pull. He grinned. “We are now, bitch.”
After just a moment’s hesitation, Col reached for a can, too. “You know there are cold ones in the refrigerator, right?” he said.
“I like my Gatorade like I like my women,” Jaden said. “Tepid, and in a cylindrical metal container.”
They headed for the checkouts and hopped up onto bagging areas across from each other. They sipped their lukewarm drinks and gazed out at the now mostly empty car park. The store had been closed for almost a full half-hour, but they still hadn’t gotten round to discussing the day’s tally.
“So? How many?” asked Jaden.
“Hundred and sixteen.”
“Dammit,” Jaden spat. “Hundred and eight. I was fucking
I had it.”
“What can I say?” said Col. “I’m the master.”
“You’re a fucking robot,” said Jaden. He jerked his arms around robotically. “Thank you for shopping wise at Shop Wise. Bzzzt. Thank you for shopping wise at Shop Wise.”
“Such a stupid motto.”
“So fucking stupid,” Jaden agreed. “Hundred and sixteen times, though. Impressive.”
They sipped their drinks again. Another flashing blue light passed on the street beyond the car park. “Reminds me. See the news?” Col asked.
Jaden frowned. “The
news?” He snorted. “No. Of course not. I’m a loveable eternal man-child. I don’t do the news. We’ve discussed this.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Col said, rolling his eyes. “There was a school killing thing down in Franklin. This morning. A dad took out his kids and a few others.”
“Jesus. He shoot them?”
Col shook his head. “Nope. Tire iron.”
“Fuck.” Jaden sucked a dribble of Gatorade from the rim of the can. “That’s messed up.” He rummaged in his pocket for his phone. “Are there pictures?”
“You’re sick,” said Col. He finished the rest of his drink and crushed up the can. “And no. I couldn’t find any.”
Jaden tapped on his phone’s screen a few times. “No network. What the fuck does this mean? ‘No network’?”
“It means you’ve got no network,” said Col. He took out his own phone and checked the screen. “Huh. Same here. Must be a fault.”
“Hang on, I’m going to tweet to their customer support.” Jaden tapped an icon on his screen, waited a few seconds, then tutted. “Fuck. No network.”
“Aaaand the penny drops,” said Col.
They both put their phones away. “We should get back to work,” Col said.
Jaden shook his head. “Why the rush? Are we not entitled to breaks?”
“No,” said Col. “We took them like two hours ago. I want to get everything stacked up then go home.”
“Your parents still away?”
Col nodded. “Yeah. It’s their high school reunion tonight.”
Jaden drew in a sharp breath. “Poor bastards.”
“I don’t know. They think it’ll be fun.”
“Fun?” Jaden spat. “Fun? They think it’ll be fun?” He shuddered. “They’ve got one seriously warped definition of fun. Even now I can feel our high school reunion out there somewhere. Waiting. Lurking. Like
. And we’re Roy Scheider and Richard Dreyfuss, adrift on the ocean, knowing full well that the shark is out there somewhere, that sooner or later we’re going to have to deal with it, and that somewhere along the way we’re gonna need a bigger boat.”
Col frowned. “What’s the bigger boat represent?”
“Nothing. I just felt the analogy needed rounding off,” Jaden admitted.
“Fair enough,” said Col, nodding. “What about your dad?”
Jaden shrugged. “What about him?”
“You said you were going to try getting in touch.”
“I said that? I don’t remember saying that,” Jaden said.
“Well, you were pretty drunk at the time,” Col admitted. “But, you know, maybe you should.”
Jaden yawned and stretched. “Nah.”
“Because why should I?” Jaden asked, suddenly irritated. “He’s seen me, like, a dozen times since I was four. Why should I go chasing something he clearly has no interest in?”
“I guess,” said Col. “In his defence, he does live in a different country. Maybe it’s not easy to get--”
Col blinked. “Huh?”
“Thirty-seven. That’s the number of flights leaving Glasgow every day that connect on through to Boston. Thirty-seven, many of them priced very fucking reasonably I might add.”
“Oh,” said Col. He shrugged and took a sip of his Gatorade. “Guess he’s an asshole, then.”
“I’ll fucking drink to that,” said Jaden, raising his can.
A movement in the car park caught Col’s eye. He turned and gazed out. “What the Hell?”
Jaden turned to look. A figure was racing across the car park, arms flailing wildly. “Is that Wayne?” Jaden asked. “I gotta hand it to him, for a fat guy who was dying ten minutes ago, that bitch can run.”
“He’s not stopping,” said Col, standing up. “Why isn’t he stopping?”
BOOM! Wayne hit the glass at full speed. The large pane rumbled like thunder as Wayne bounced off, leaving a bloody wad marking where his face had hit.
Jaden couldn’t stop himself laughing. “Holy shit! Did he forget the door was there? God, why wasn’t I recording that? That’s guaranteed viral right there.”
Col approached the doors, reaching for the keys Wayne had left him. “He might be hurt.”
hurt,” Jaden said. “Did you see the way he hit the glass? He’s going to be in a coma for, like, a month!”
“He’s moving,” Col said, fumbling the key in the lock. He was about to turn it and slide open the doors when Wayne rolled over onto his back. Blood gushed from his nose and a gash on his forehead, but it was his eyes that stopped Col turning the key. Something about Wayne’s eyes told Col that turning that key would be a very bad idea.
“Hey, buddy, you OK?” said Jaden, stepping up to join Col at the glass. He had his phone out and was filming the supervisor lying on the ground. “You wanna look this way for a sec?” He grinned. “Oh, man. I’m totally going to add, like, stars and little tweeting birds round his head before I upload this.”
Wayne scrambled to his feet, and both Jaden and Col jumped in surprise at how fast he moved.
“Open!” Wayne hissed, his blood bubbling on his lips and flowing down his chin. He thumped his open hand against the red-streaked glass. His crumpled face twisted into a furious sneer. “Open!” he screamed.
Jaden glanced sideways at Col. “Does Wayne seem, I don’t know,
Wayne screamed and threw himself at the glass. His nose exploded. He slammed his face forward again, this time busting open his bottom lip. “Open!” he demanded, his voice slurred. “Open, open, open door!”
Jaden and Col both retreated back past the checkouts. “What the fuck is he doing?” Col gasped, as Wayne smashed his face against the glass yet again. “Should we let him in?”
“Of course we shouldn’t!” said Jaden. “Look at him.”
“Maybe he’s just trying to get help.”
Jaden snorted. “Or maybe he’s trying to feast on our tender young flesh,” he said, “because that bitch right there? That, my friend, is a zombie.”
“Shut the fuck up. Zombies aren’t real.”
real,” Jaden said. Wayne hurled himself at the door again, his fingernails trying to scratch right through the glass. “Until now.”