by Anastasia Towe
Mel watched over Rob, monitoring his temperature and keeping him awake until it was back to normal. When she finally let him fall asleep, she left their room and found Dorien waiting in the kitchen.
“How is he doing?”
“I think he’ll be fine. He’s real lucky he had you with him. He told me how you pulled him out and carried him back here.” She suddenly pulled Dorien into a warm hug.
“Thank you Dorien. Thank you so much.” She held him tightly for a moment before letting go. When she did, Dorien saw that there were tears on her cheeks.
“You’re welcome Mrs. Turner. I’m just glad that he’s going to be alright.”
“Please, Dorien. You just saved my husband’s life. You can call me Mel. And you can consider yourself at home here. I want to apologize for how I’ve been treating you, you didn’t deserve that.”
“Well, thank you Mrs.... Mel. And don’t worry about it, I understand.”
Mel smiled at him, “Well, I should get back in there.”
“Alright, I’m going to go do a quick patrol around the house, since Rob won’t be able to do it.”
“Oh no Dorien, you don’t have to.”
“I want to, Mel. It’s no big deal, really, I’ll be right back. You just go take care of Rob, and I’ll make sure there aren’t any moaners around to sneak up on us.”
Mel hugged him again, “I can’t thank you enough, Dorien. Please be careful.”
“Don’t worry, I will be.” Dorien took the last rifle from the cabinet before heading outside. He shivered as he stepped out. Snow had started to fall and the wind had picked up, sending it swirling around him as he made his way through the trees.
* * *
He made loops around the cabin, widening his path each time he went around, until he was satisfied that he had seen enough to know there weren’t any moaners in the immediate vicinity. On his last loop before going back to the cabin, he came across a shed. It had to belong to the Turners; they had told him there weren’t any other cabins in this part of the woods. But it was a little far from the house for it to be convenient for storage.
Dorien stood there looking at it for a moment, unsure of why it seemed so important to him that they had never mentioned it before, and that he hadn’t come across it while hunting with Rob. As he got closer, taking note of the padlock on the door, a strange humming started coming from it. He stopped for a moment and listened.
Deciding that it was just the wind going through the boards, but nevertheless creeped out by the noise, he made his way back to the cabin.
The door to Rob and Mel’s room was still open when he got back, so he decided to go in and satisfy his curiosity by asking Mel about the shed. But when he peeked into the room, he saw that they were both sleeping soundly, Rob still covered in blankets, and Mel curled up next to him. He sighed, smiled, and walked to his own room. He suddenly realized how exhausted he was and collapsed on the bed, quickly falling into a deep, dreamless sleep.
* * *
It was a few more days before Dorien thought of the shed again. He and Rob had just gotten back from hunting for the first time since the accident, and for once hadn’t come back empty-handed. While Mel started to prepare some rabbit stew, Dorien sat at the kitchen table and thought.
He may have been imagining it, but it seemed to him that the route Rob took to get back to the cabin was intentionally avoiding the area where the shed was. He couldn’t think of why Rob would try to hide it from him, but he couldn’t get rid of the nagging suspicion that this was just what he was doing. It was going to drive him crazy if he didn’t ask about it.
“So the other night, when I was walking out in the woods to look out for moaners, I came across this shed...”
Rob immediately looked over at Dorien, but Mel continued with her cooking.
“I figured it must be yours since you guys don’t have any neighbors. I was just curious, you know, since I hadn’t seen it before.”
Mel wiped her hands on a towel and leaned against the counter. “No dear, I don’t think we have a shed. No reason for it, we have plenty of space in here for our things. Maybe the previous owners used it and forgot to tell us about it when we bought the place.” She looked over at Rob, but he didn’t meet her gaze. “Rob? You know anythin’ about a shed?”
“Ah, no, I don’t reckon I ever heard anythin’ about there being a shed on the property. Where’d you say you saw it, son?”
“Just about, I don’t know, a quarter mile or so west from here. It’s not a big deal, I was just wondering. It kind of creeped me out; there was this humming noise coming from inside. It was probably just the wind, but it was weird.”
“Yeah, probably just the wind. Well when I go patrollin’ tonight I guess I’ll go check it out.”
Dorien nodded, but he still wasn’t completely satisfied. He decided to check the shed out himself when he got the chance.
* * *
Dorien was hesitant about going out to investigate the shed during the day; he didn’t want Mel and Rob to think he didn’t trust them. But his desire to find out what was in it was only matched by his apprehension about approaching it again at night. He kept thinking back to the first time he had come across it, and the weird feeling it had given him.
The light of the sun calmed him a bit. He would be quick, and he figured if he slipped out of his window instead of going out the back door, they probably wouldn’t even notice he was gone. It was a Sunday, and as far as he knew they were both still in bed. Strange, how they had maintained that part of their schedule even when the world was falling apart.
Everything went according to plan until he actually got to the shed door. In his anxious excitement he had forgotten about the padlock, and of course he didn’t have the combination. On closer inspection, however, he found that it was old and rusted. As he was fiddling with it, sure that he could pull it open, the humming started up again. Except, from this close, it didn’t sound like humming. It sounded like...
“Hey, Dorien, what are you doin’?” Mel came up behind him, making him jump back.
“Mel! What are you doing here?!”
“I was awake and lookin out my window when you left. You were headed west, so I figured you were goin’ to the shed, and I decided to follow you. You tryin’ to get it open?”
“Well yeah, I wanted to know what was inside. Are you sure you don’t know?” He walked back up to the door and continued to pull on the lock.
“Cross my heart. I’ve never seen this shed before in my life. You’re right about that noise though. It sure is creepy. And it’s not even very windy right now...”
At that moment, a heavy weight hit the shed door from the inside. Dorien had just managed to get the lock off, and the door flew open, knocking him to the ground. Mel stood there, gaping as something unspeakable crawled out of the doorway. In his mind, Dorien was transported back into his nightmares. It was all very different, but it was so much the same. He could do nothing but stare.
“Oh my...no. No.” Mel started to back up, and Dorien did the same. He couldn’t seem to get back to his feet, so he slid away from the shed on his back and elbows.
Suddenly Mel stopped, a confused look on her face. “Kristi? Is that... is that you?”
The creature answered her with a moan and a growl. Mel screamed. “Kristi! No! Kristi it’s me, it’s your mother, please!” But there was no use pleading with her dead daughter. There was nothing there to plead with; only decayed skin, exposed bone, and hungry rage. Mel screamed for her husband as what remained of her daughter jumped on her. And Dorien remained frozen where he was.
He heard a monstrous yell from behind them, and suddenly Rob was sprinting out of the trees, rifle in hand. Dorien’s mind was racing. Rob must have woken up and realized they were both gone. They had been walking through the snow, so their tracks would have been clear, and he must have followed them. But it was too late for Mel. She had been bitten multiple times, and it wouldn’t be long before she would die. And then she would come back.
Dorien watched as Mel struggled on the ground, unable to help her. He was so overcome by the feeling that he was reliving the same terrible moment when his mother died that he didn’t even react when Rob fired his gun. The bullet went clean through his daughter’s brain, and she was still. Dorien watched as he lifted the body off of Mel, and cradled his wife in his arms.
She was still conscious, but she was fading. Her whispers were too faint for Dorien to hear, but that was alright. They were meant for her husband, who pressed his lips to her face, his tears falling onto her skin and mixing with her own. Dorien saw her go limp in Rob’s arms, and Rob gently placed her on the ground before pulling out his pistol and ensuring that she would not return from her long sleep.
* * *
Rob and Dorien stayed where they were for a long time, though it was cold and had begun to snow again. Rob kneeled over his wife’s body and Dorien tried to look anywhere but at them. The first time there had been nothing he could do, but he had felt like a coward for hiding as his family was slaughtered. This time he felt like a murderer.
He had been waiting for the moment when he would find himself face to face with the business end of Rob’s rifle, but that moment didn’t come. Instead, he heard Rob whisper something, though he wasn’t sure if it was directed at him or at the air. Then he said it again, a little louder. Dorien could only make out the word “fault.” He swallowed.
“Rob, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have opened the shed, I didn’t...”
“No!” Rob shouted, but he didn’t raise his head to look in Dorien’s direction. “No. This is my fault. I just wanted... I only wanted to save her.”
Dorien didn’t know how to respond. Rob kept repeating those words for a while, but soon he was silent again. Dorien wasn’t sure what he could do, but he knew that they couldn’t sit there in the snow forever. He walked over to where Rob was kneeling and put his hand on his shoulder.
Rob looked up at him, pain overflowing in his eyes. “I want to bury my family. Will you help me, son?”
Dorien could do nothing but nod.
Copyright © 2012 by Anastasia Towe