Those That Remain.
The bedroom shimmers with candlelight.
John Powell lies on the wooden framed bed atop sheets that used to be white. He wears old pyjama bottoms but no t-shirt. His skinny body is decorated with red welts, dark bruises and a scar or two as if he’s been in a recent fight or played rugby against bigger men than himself. He props his head up on a stained, folded up pillow. You wouldn’t think it to look at him but he’s twenty four years old. The last year or so has been tough on him.
But then the last year has been tough on all those that remain.
Obviously nobody expected what was to come, but when he started university five years ago he expected to be working in the capital about now. Creating and designing buildings. It looked a promising path for a while, he passed his degree with honours and a good job fell into his lap, not in the capital but in a big city nonetheless. He even wore a suit to work. When things went bad the city was the worst place to be, so he moved.
He attempts to write now, but it proves difficult as an irritating draft causes the flame of the candle to flicker and dance mischievously away from him. Unperturbed he follows the flame and with a pencil in hand he continues to scribble into the battered old book.
He’s not writing a story. It’s a diary, memories and thoughts, which, when you think about it, is a kind of story after all. His writing is rushed but easy to read. He adds skilled, detailed sketches whenever he feels like it. Drawing is something he’s enjoyed since childhood and felt lucky to get paid for it as a career. From a very young age he was talented. Even in this godforsaken time he can’t help but smirk as he draws a country house. There’s a big tree out front but on the page it’s lead grey and not the vivid red of his memory.
Standing next to a wardrobe at the foot of his bed is Kate. She brushes her long blonde hair and hums the tune of a song that she hasn’t heard in at least a year.
Not since things went bad.
She wears the same long nightgown that she has for the last two hundred and fourteen days. Good thing it was always her favourite. It’s not John’s favourite. His will always be the one she wore on their first wedding anniversary. How it ‘accentuated her positives’. Thoughts like this have been, not forgotten, but placed in a corner of each of their minds. Sex is for a need to feel alive or simply for warmth.
The wind outside whistles. High pitched. They’re used to it.
“I need to wash my face.” Kate says. “Can you start with the prep?”
John glances up from his book. “Yeah, sure. No probs. I’ll just finish this last bit…” His eyes go back to the page. Kate smiles. She picks up a candle and walks to the bathroom.
John is focussed on the book, on his words…
Things have changed. Understatement, huh? Not sure they could have changed more. God, I hope you’re safe, Jess. I hope that you are holed up, somewhere, unaffected by the things that everyone else is affected by. One day I will come to you. Soon. Really soon. When things are easier, no, not easier, safer. Calmer. Less… primal. I will find you. I will. I promise you.
John places the book down on the bed with a sigh. The red cover is dirty and cracked but the binding is strong. He taps it tenderly and moves off the bed. He goes immediately to a side window in the room. He makes sure that it’s closed. Leaning against the wall is a large wooden board that has been cut to fit into the frame of the window. With a grunt of effort he slides it up the wall and onto the window. He pushes it until snug. He pulls at the handle that’s attached to the room facing side of the board feeling the resistance. For good measure he pulls out some cold grey breeze blocks from under the bed and leans them against the board.
In the bathroom Kate fills the sink with water from a bucket. The white ceramic of the sink shows up the dirt that is in the water. A green leaf floats to the top. She picks it out and looks at it. A smile briefly touches her lips. No specific memories form just the joy of walking freely through the woods without the need for ‘precautions’. She places the leaf to one side then dips her hands into the cold, cupping the water and washes her face with a shudder.
John moves to a second, larger window which overlooks the back yard and the woodlands behind. The wind blows through the trees and bushes causing them to sway. He watches for a moment like he does every night. But then, he squints. Amongst the movement is a stationary thin object. It doesn’t move. John Powell is still frowning at the shape when the arrow smashes through the window hitting him deep in the centre of his chest. He splutters on impact and drops to the ground.
Back in the bathroom Kate wipes her face with a cloth. She picks up the leaf and with a playful smile places it behind her ear.
John convulses on the floor, blood pouring out of the wound and his mouth. So many thoughts go through his mind it’s hard to keep track of them all. He’s worried about Kate, he’s afraid of dying but, in a way glad to be leaving a world he doesn’t recognise. Most of all he thinks of her. Not Kate but Jess. His sister. He reaches for the book but it’s out of reach, still on the bed only now peppered with glass shards. He realises that he can’t reach it and still looking at the book, his convulsing starts to slow.
Then Kate enters the room.
She hears the wind before she feels it, so her eyes go to the window first. Seeing the hole in the glass she stops breathing. She follows the glass to the blood to John lying on the floor with the arrow lodged in his chest only just moving. Instinctively she wails and moves forward but remembers. She turns and runs back to the bathroom shrieking. She slams the door and cries in terror. She searches the area looking for anything she can use to barricade herself in. Anything.
On the bedroom floor, John has stopped convulsing. His eyes open. His teeth grit. A rumble rises up from his throat. His nose crinkles, sniffing the iron scented air. He rises to his feet and screams. His face is pale and a blood/drool combo oozes from his open mouth. He runs from the bedroom and follows his nose to the bathroom.
Kate can hear John now. Snarling on the other side of the door. It gets louder and then the banging starts. The door is being pounded. Kate howls in horror. She calls his name but John is long gone.
‘John’ punches the door with all the might he can muster, a complete disregard for any kind of pain. Blood and splinters fly in equal measure. Dark red blood is smeared on the door from his fists.
He pounds and pounds…
She screams and screams…
Outside, the silent, still silhouetted figure of a man watches. He squats down, and sits with his back against a tree but with his head bowed.
Kate leans back against the creaking, breaking door. She knows it as much as the man outside knows it. Her fate is sealed. Her breathing starts to slow; she calm’s herself down, accepting her fate as pieces of wood fly around her in slow motion. She pulls free the leaf that has somehow remained tucked behind her ear, touches it to her lips and closes her teary eyes.
With a final blow ‘John’ breaks through the top half of the door. He sees Kate and reaches out to her. She backs away but doing so releases the hold she had of the door. Without mercy or pause, the man she loves rips her body apart.
A single green leaf falls gently to the blood soaked floor.
The man outside slumps. He can hear the screams and the carnage that’s taking place inside.
He mumbles a prayer. Of sorts.
He also says sorry.