Hardly Human

A short story following a survivor from an unknown tragedy. Survival and living have become separate things.

If you like short storieshorror, cyberpunk, fantasy or fantasypunk, I have plenty of stories you might be interested in checking out.

Hope you enjoy it,
– Zairron

Sweating and breathing heavily, the short walk to the pond seems much longer this time. With the weight of her pack and homemade dredge slung across her shoulder, she might have stopped to break long ago if she were more connected to herself.
The worst has passed, Marcelle reassures herself for the most recent time. Still, deeply in shock she hardly feels human. Her thoughts seem to come from outside herself. She understood that without access to fresh water and food, her supplies wouldn’t last much longer. Until those problems were solved, breaking down would have to wait.
All around her even the natural background noise seems to be holding it’s breath in silent reverence. Standing in the wake of the destruction that had passed like a storm, the stillness made it feel like it could have all been a dream. Only the broken fences and massacred or missing livestock and wildlife made it real.
Everything in the area that wasn’t dead was frightened and hiding, she empathised. Almost a week ago had passed before she had dared venture out of doors, without the desperate need for clean water she might never have gone out again.
I’ll have to clear the trees near the house, the distant voice in her head spoke, I’ll need the visibility and I can use the wood to rebuild.

Dropping her pack and dredge, she drops to the ground, drinking from her bottle she looks out the pond before her. The water is brown, giving no visibility of what may lie below the surface. As she expected, but still it scared her.
Before all of this began she couldn’t have imagined the reality where she’d be wading, waist in the filthy pond, let alone doing so after any number of those monsters could have fallen in and stayed there. Maybe it all was a dream, that’d explain why she thought this was a good idea.
Pulling on her fisherman’s waders, water tight rubber pants that go up to her chest, thick rubber gloves and covering her arms with several layers of duct tape for protection, Marcelle wades fearfully into the pond, pulling the chain dragging the dredge along the bottom behind her.
Step by shaking step the risks of potentially uncovering one of those monsters hidden within the muck keeps the animal part of her mind that had woken when they had come, screaming for her to turn back, to run and hide. Water swirls and rushes into the holes left in the mud by her wrenching her rubber boot free from the sucking mud. Reflected on the surface as only the slightest ripples, the violent swirling eddies created by her motion must be like a neon sign if any of those monsters are lurking down there. The only upside is that the water dampens the sound from below the water, preventing it from travelling over land and attracting others.

An hour and more passes, her hooked plough catches a number of dead things in it’s teeth. Calves half eaten and abandoned, left bloated and rotting, trapped in the mud, while more corpses seem to have been simply torn apart and tossed aside,  as if out of pure maliciousness and spite.
Having covered over half the area of the pond, if an infestation lurked beneath, she almost certainly would have encountered them bey now. The distant voice agreed, monsters as strong as they had seen could hardly have been trapped by mud and water. It made sense, but somehow using logic didn’t feel appropriate when considering those things.
Another hour passes, satisfied that she had found every chunk of rotted flesh she was going to, today. The stench was surreal, combined with the way the sodden meat sloughed off as she dragged it from the pond anyone would have forgiven her for been sick, but a cattle farmer, Marcelle had pulled dead things from the water before. Never this many, and rarely this far into decomposition, but along with her shocked sense of detachment, she worked tirelessly and without regard for her senses.

Usually she’d drag the corpses out to the back paddocks, far from anything and let nature handle them, but with the truck destroyed that wasn’t an option. She didn’t want to burn them, especially as water laden as they were, risking calling them back with the amount of smoke it’d make just wasn’t worth it. She’d have to bury them.
A hole deep enough and large enough for all of them would take hours more work, and she was already exhausted. Sun’s going down, her inner voice whispers. Her animal mind understands, the dark belongs to the monsters, it was time to go back. Stripping off and abandoning the waders and tape armour, Marcelle leaves them and her dredge by the pond and begins moving back towards the home.

That was good work today, going outside was good, Marcelle ignores the voice, the concept of good still alien. Work distracts from the fear and pain. It is the voice that keeps bringing back the pain. Forcing her to remember.
Thankfully it goes quiet, leaving her to rest in the secret sanctuary she built her mind. It hurts less when it is quiet. When it is quiet she is alone, when she is alone she doesn’t need to think about what had happened. Thinking about the past, the future, that’s what the voice was for.
She worked, slept and hid. That was all she wanted.

She made it home before the light died. The barricades in the same shape she’d left them. Creeping into the building, securing the entrance behind her, she eats cold beans in the dark before curling up in bed.
Sleep doesn’t come quickly, despite her tired state and when it does come it is a fitful sleep. While she sleeps she cannot filter her memories, nor fears for the future. Her nightmares might be the healthiest thing for her, allowing her to sort through her trauma, but that doesn’t make it any easier.
She has grown used to waking with tears streaming down her face and a scream held down in her throat by the fear of being found. Those terrible moments the closest she’ll be to human all day.

Author: Zairron

I'm writing to build a habit, practice, and be creative.

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