Zombiepalooza has a short story today from author Michael Crane, whose fabulous drabbles need to be made into an illustrated paperback. If you’re not familiar with his work, check out Lessons, Lesson II, and Lessons III immediately!
The dumb bitch deserved it, Earl thought to himself as he sat in his recliner, downing his second bottle of beer. Heidi probably thought that he enjoyed beating the living crap out of her on a nightly basis, but what the hell did she know? If she didn’t mouth off, he wouldn’t have to strike her down. She thought she knew the world, but the truth was she didn’t know jack shit. That was one of the many things he could never stand about the woman. This idea that she knew how things were supposed to go until he’d have to remind her otherwise.
Drawing in some air, he looked down at his bruised knuckles. He probably hit her harder than he needed to, although he would never admit it to anybody. Certainly not to Heidi. As he focused on the red and purple that populated his hand, he thought about the night before. A whole lot of shit went wrong. She knew he had a bad day at work, goddammit. His boss was riding his ass, reminding him that he was planning on shit-canning a bunch people by the end of the week. Earl didn’t know if his name was on his list or not, but it made him uneasy.
There was one simple thing that Heidi needed to do, and that was to cook him a decent meal when he came over. That’s all she had to do, and yet she had managed to screw the pooch on that one. When that plate of awful green nothing was set in front of him, there was only one possible response.
“What the fuck is this?”
It didn’t take long for Heidi to get an attitude. Getting all snotty, she said, “I just got home a little bit ago. I didn’t know you wanted to come over tonight and I didn’t have time to cook nothing. Besides, it won’t kill us to eat healthy for a change.”
“Oh, so now I’m a fat ass. Is that it?” He stabbed his fork into the lettuce and grimaced.
“Stop putting words in my mouth. You know I hate when you do that, Earl.”
Earl dropped his fork onto his plate. He began to massage his temples with his eyes closed, trying to calm down. “I told you I had a bad day at work, and this is how you try to cheer me up?”
“I’m sorry you had a bad day, but I think you’re overreacting.”
He pounded his fist into the table. “A fuckin’ salad, Heidi? That’s how you try to make my day better?” He grabbed his plate and hurled it at the wall behind Heidi. She ducked and covered her face with her hands, doing her best to avoid the debris.
“Get out,” she said.
“Not until I get a meal, goddammit. You get your ass back into that there kitchen,” he growled while pointing, “and cook me some dinner!”
“I don’t want you over here when you’re like this. Please,” she pleaded, tears in the corner of her eye. “Please, just leave me be.”
Earl shook his head and got up, knowing that he was going to have to set her straight yet again. She couldn’t have pulled a stunt on a worse night for him. There was a part of him that was afraid of what he was capable of, but then there was the other half that didn’t give a damn if he beat her to a bloody pulp. She was going to learn her lesson. He’d make sure of that. As he walked toward her, he formed fists inside of his jean pockets. Earl made sure he was real close, having his nose almost touching hers.
“Make me,” he said.
That’s when she did something he never would’ve thought possible. Air and saliva left her tiny mouth, hitting Earl directly in the face. At first he was in complete shock, but then he lost it. His fists came flying out of his pockets and began to wail on Heidi. It didn’t matter to him where he struck her so long as his fists were hitting something of hers. She cried and begged him to stop. Even with a mouth full of blood, she couldn’t get him to back off. It was too late for that. Much, much too late, and he was going to make sure that she understood that. By the time he was finished, she was cowering in a corner and sobbing her little eyes out. Blood stained her orange shirt around her shoulders. Before Earl left, he looked down at the floor by her and spat.
That was the last time he saw her. Even though it was only a night ago, it felt like days. As he leaned back in his recliner and placed the wet, cool bottle against his forehead, he felt a moment of regret. Not that he had a problem with putting a woman in her place when she got lippy with him, but he knew he went too far. He could’ve killed her. Her entire face was probably the color of a raisin by now.
Still, she didn’t’ have to push him. Sure, he felt bad about how things ended the other night, but he didn’t forget the fact that it was her fault. If she had cooked him a nice dinner and kept her yap shut, everything would’ve been fine and dandy.
“You gotta learn, Heidi,” he said to himself. “The day you stop mouthin’ off to me, and we’ll be fine like wine.”
That night when he left Heidi’s, he remembered seeing somebody standing on the street. The man was just staring at the house, his mouth hanging open like some goofy kid with mental problems. Earl thought that maybe he was drunk, but why in the hell was he standing out there like that? Earl didn’t’ think to ask at the time. He was too heated to ask the guy what he was up to, and it didn’t occur to him until now how odd it all looked. Was the guy waiting for Heidi? Maybe she was two-timing him.
Earl’s hand tightly gripped his bottle.
Maybe that was why Heidi didn’t have time to prepare a meal for him. He didn’t tell her that he was coming by until right after he got out of work. Hell, he didn’t even think he was going to see her. Just seemed like the thing to do after the crappy day he had. Heidi wasn’t expecting him, that much was for sure. Maybe this guy spotted Earl’s truck and knew that somebody else was over. The man was waiting for him to leave so the two of them could make an even bigger fool out of him.
Just like with the plate of disgusting salad, Earl chucked his bottle, only this time it hit the floor. The bottle didn’t break, however. Only beer spilled onto his vomit green carpet.
“Goddammit!” he screamed. He grabbed his phone and dialed Heidi’s number. He had a few things he wanted to say to her. Well, say wasn’t exactly the right word, but either way he was going to get to the bottom of things.
No answer. Not even a ringtone. Just straight to voicemail.
“Bitch!” he snarled. A picture of Heidi and the strange open-mouthed man screwing began to repeat over and over again in his mind. Her screaming in pleasure while the goofy weirdo was nailing her from behind. Earl clamped onto his ears and closed his eyes, hoping that the sound and vision would go away. When he was finally able to shake it off, Earl stood up and grabbed his keys from the kitchen counter. He slammed the door shut as he left his house and hopped into his truck. He didn’t bother to put on a seatbelt. As soon as the truck started, he floored it. A cloud of dirt and gravel formed as he sped away.
“Heidi, Heidi,” he said, gnashing his teeth as he drove. “You are going to get it. If you’re doing what I think you’re doing, you are going to get it. Mark my words.” His hands gripped the steering wheel tightly as he got closer and closer to Heidi’s place. Whatever remorse he might’ve felt from the other night was a long and distant memory. The feeling was replaced with absolute rage and hatred. Earl didn’t think it was possible to have so much hate for one single person until that very moment.
When he arrived, he only saw Heidi’s car in front. That would normally be a good sign, except Earl remembered that the guy didn’t appear to have a car when he saw him. Earl rushed out of his truck and when he reached the front door, he began to pound on it with both of his fists.
“Open the door, Heidi! I need to have a word with you!” He kept on pounding. “Open the door, goddammit! If you know what’s good for you, you’ll open the door!”
No answer. After a few more seconds of pounding, Earl cursed to himself and tried the door knob. To his surprise, the door opened. He took a deep breath and then entered, slamming the door shut behind him.
“Heidi? Where the hell are you?” he demanded.
Again, no answer. He surveyed the area to see if there was anything out of place. He noticed that Heidi’s plate of salad from the other night was still on the table. Earl’s broken plate was on the floor where he left it. Not only was Heidi possibly two-timing him, but she was also lazy. So what if she was beaten pretty badly? The woman could’ve at least cleaned up the mess when she recovered. She wasn’t bedridden, dammit.
His thoughts were interrupted when he heard moaning coming from the bedroom. Earl’s eyes locked onto the door as he listened. One voice, he couldn’t recognize. It was a low groan. No way did it belong to a woman. When he heard the second groan, he knew that one was from Heidi.
Earl’s shaking hands balled up into fists. His long, dirty fingernails dug into his sweaty palms. Even though he pretty much expected to find Heidi cheating on him, the reality of it all began to hit him. The moans became louder, almost sounding animalistic.
“You cheating bitch!” he spat. He headed for the bedroom door. This time, he had no intention of knocking. As soon as his hand touched the knob, he pushed the door open.
“Caught you in the act, you two-timing—whah?”
Heidi was sitting on the bed, although he wasn’t quite sure if it was really her or not. The person that was presented before him had ugly, pale skin. Her face was all black and blue, and she stared at him with dead eyes. Bits of dark, crusty blood dangled from her stringy, dirty blonde hair.
Earl was completely dumbfounded. Out of any possible scenario that might’ve played out in his mind, what he was witnessing was a gazillion times worse. This wasn’t the woman he’d been dating for the past five months. This thing didn’t even resemble a person. She looked like a hideous creature straight out of a horror movie.
“H-Heidi?” Earl gulped. Sweat began to drip from his forehead and his right eye twitched.
A long and low moan that sounded like the creaking of a heavy door was the only response she gave. Not once did she blink. After the moan, a crooked smile formed on her bloody and broken face.
“Braaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiiiiiinnnnnns,” she moaned.
A figure from behind grabbed onto Earl’s body. A loud moan, this time a male’s entered his eardrums. He tried to break away from the guy’s grasp, but he was too powerful. Before he knew it, Earl felt the top of his ear being bitten into. He screamed in pain as the man’s teeth ripped a piece off. Blood splashed onto his shoulder. The groaning and grunting man forced him down onto the bed. Earl, lying on his stomach, looked up at Heidi. Heidi continued to smile, with her purple tongue licking her chapped lips.
“Heidi! Help me! Please!” he begged. Tears that hadn’t been shed since the death of his father five years ago began to stream down his face. The man was still forcing his weight onto him.
“I’m sorry for everything,” he cried. “I’m sorry I hit you! I’ll do better, I swear! I’ll never lay a hand on you ever again, just help me!”
Heidi leaned forward, her nose now touching his. She opened her mouth and a vile stench poured onto Earl’s face.
“Braaaaaaaaaaaiiiiiinnnns,” she repeated.
Earl shook his head and begged for his life. He continued to do so even when her teeth began to stab into the top of his skull. Blood gushed down his face and after a couple of agonizing minutes, the screaming and begging ceased.
For more information on Michael Crane, please visit his blog at authormichaelcrane.blogspot.com
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