Step One. Drag his body away from the window. He might not be dead, so try not to hit his head off the coffee table. Don’t worry about the stuff his hands leave behind as they drag on the carpet. The carpet of the history department’s sitting area has suffered far worse insults than that stain.
Step Two. Go to the staff room. That feeling in your throat means that you need water. Yes, it’s important. More important than checking to see if the door to the history department is locked. After all, doors didn’t help Frazier. You really need water.
Step Three. Ignore your thirst because you really, really need to see that the door is locked. Even if it doesn’t help, it will make you feel better. You will not die of thirst in the next two minutes. You could possibly die from what killed Frazier before then. When you find the door is already locked, remember the window behind Frazier and realize that the door is not your problem.
Step Four. Return to the scene. Step on Frazier’s outstretched hand and say the worst swear word you know (it’s four letters and rhymes with ‘grunt’) because swearing has to be better than screaming. Note that he is making more stains on the carpet. Try not to look at his face. He does not look like Sarah’s brother anymore and you don’t need to be reminded. Oh, right, and get off his hand, just in case he is still alive.
Step Five. Look at the cracked window Frazier was sitting in front of. Notice that the hairline cracks that cover it look like a spider web or a snowflake or mosaic. Listen, to make sure the world is still quiet. Notice that outside, the clouds are made of steel and there are no longer any birds chirping. Maybe they all look like Frazier. Not helpful to think about. Get your hands under Frazier’s arm pits again and start to drag him out of the room so you can hide in an office without windows.
Step Six. Your throat hurts. You need water. Drag Frazier’s body a few more feet until you’re out of breath. How can one guy weigh so much? Maybe he is dead and you can leave him. Stop and listen. Still nothing outside. Maybe they’re gone.
Step Seven. Notice there are no car sounds on the street. Maybe everyone’s dead. Maybe you’re the last person left alive. Maybe you will be forced to raid grocery stores full of bodies that look like Frazier’s. Work harder to get Frazier down the hall. I said not to look at his face, it’s only going to make it worse. Because if you look, you’ll see how every bit of his skin is covered with cracks like the window, each oozing a thin line of blood. He is like a smashed porcelain statue full of blood.
Step Eight. Porcelain? You never were any good with art. Keep pulling. Is that a sound? Pass by the staff room door and realize that you need something to drink right then or you just can’t keep pulling. Leave Frazier in the hall under a dozen signs directing you in a thousand directions that he’s not going to be going any time soon.
Step Nine. Open the staff room cabinets, looking for a glass. No good. Every single cup and bowl and plate is a network of fine fractures, and when you touch them, they shatter. In the quiet that follows the splinter of glass, you think you hear the humming starting again, them coming back, but it’s just the small fridge. You dump the plastic pen can out on the counter and fill it with water. When you swallow, it makes you cough, and the water you spit back up into the sink is pink.
Step Ten. Go for Frazier again. He is looking less like a priority, isn’t he? You were just making out with that body forty-five minutes ago. He tasted like gum and uncertainty. Right now, he’d probably taste like the water you just horked up. Stop. Listen. Your heart is pounding. And now you hear them.
Step Eleven. Far away, they sound like an old dial-up modem. They hum and keen from the trees, moving closer and closer. You don’t want to know what they look like, but more than that, you don’t want to shatter. You don’t care whether or not you’re the last person left on earth, left to scavenge cans of Spaghetti-Os from empty grocery store aisles, you decide that you don’t want to die. Leave Frazier — finally, he’s dead, you know that, don’t you? — and run for the windowless staff bathroom. Slam the door and shove the greasy shag bathroom rug you think looks like a skinned buffalo up against the bottom of the door. Cover your ears with the heels of your hands.
Step Twelve. Swallow blood. The water didn’t help. They’re coming closer. You can feel the atoms inside you shaking. A slow crack is beginning to snake across the mirror, but you cannot hear anything with your hands pressing over your ears. Maybe you’ll be okay.
But we’re right outside the door.
Author’s Note: A monster I have been rolling around in my head for awhile.
prompt this week from Karen Kincy. Thanks, Karen!