Friday, September 20, 2013

Friday Flash Fiction: Surprise!

Every week Kurt posts a new piece of flash fiction. This week...

Surprise!
Word Count: 599

“Surprise!”

Carla’s heart stopped. Fortunately, it started back up again—not much of an accomplishment, it had been doing that all afternoon. Her friends were standing around smiling, waiting for a reaction. Now she knew why Toby had taken all of her weapons before he let her enter the room. If she’d been packing, she’d have killed somebody. “Surprise?” she asked.

“Happy birthday,” said Toby, kissing her on the forehead.

Toby. She was going to miss him.

“Is it my birthday?” Carla asked.

“Probably,” said Toby. “It’s got to be close.” After the zombies attacked, after civilization broke down, calendars had been one of the first things to go. Hell, they couldn’t even be sure what day of the week it was. It had taken some effort, but they had gotten close to a proper reckoning of days, even if no two settlements were in synch.

“I got you something,” said Toby.

“Oh, you shouldn’t have,” said Carla. “Wait, how?”

Toby produced a small box. A jewelry box. Carla’s heart stopped again, and then restarted. One of these times it wouldn’t.

“Open it,” he prodded.

Carla took the box and pulled back the lid. The tiny hinge groaned.

“I was waiting for an occasion,” said Toby.

Carla pulled the necklace from the box and held it up. A silver chain with opal stones. Tears welled in her eyes. “It’s beautiful,” she said. “How long have you been holding on to this?”

“A few months,” said Toby. “I found it when we were on a raid.”

“He made a special trip,” said Jim, Toby’s kid brother. “Don’t let him fool you.”

“You shouldn’t have,” said Carla, crying. Her heart stopped again. And then restarted.

“I love you,” said Toby. “I love you so much.”

“I…” she couldn’t say it. She did love him. She did. But it didn’t matter now. “I… I’m sorry,” she said.

A shadow passed across Toby’s face. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I shouldn’t have…”

The room was full of awkwardly frozen smiles. It amazed Carla that even after civilization had ended, people still found the wherewithal to care about social norms.

“No, it’s not you,” said Carla, eyes thick with tears. A drop rolled down her cheeks onto the floor.

“Is everything okay?” asked Toby, putting an arm around her shoulder.

“Don’t touch me,” said Carla, flinching away from him.

“What the fuck?” asked Toby.

“I’m sorry,” said Carla. “It’s not you.”

“Jesus,” said Toby. “After all we’ve been through, you’re just going to use that line on me?”

The people in the room were looking away, inching towards the exits. Carla’s heart stopped. And stopped. And then started up again. Her vision was beginning to go all milky.

“Shut up,” she said. “Just…”

There were no words. So instead she pulled her shirt off and turned away from the crowd.

Someone gasped. Someone screamed. They’d seen it. The tiny bite mark in the small of her back. Now they knew. She was one of them now.

She was a zombie. Or, she would be in a few hours.

She pulled her shirt back on. Toby’s face had gone white.

“When?” asked Jim.

“This morning,” she answered. “It was a goddamn toddler, snuck up on me in the tall grass.”

Toby backed off and sat down on the couch.

“I’m sorry,” said Carla. “I’m so sorry.”

Carla took a step towards Toby and leaned over to kiss him. She felt Jim’s hand on her arm. “You know this means—” he said.

“I know,” said Carla. “But out there. Not in front of him.”

Her heart stopped.

Edited by Carolyn "To Say Nothing Of Your Calendar Problem" Abram.

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