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Queen of the Dead
Sitting and watching someone die is horrible. Especially when the person who died is the one you need the most.
I stare at the lump on the floor, the blanket-covered body that belonged to Shaun. I don’t pretend that he’s sleeping, I don’t hope either. The inevitable is the one realization that my best friend is gone. Just like with Link, the emptiness in my chest is overwhelming, but the sensation doesn’t bring tears. It just brings a simple peace that can only be associated with deep mourning. The kind no one ever fully returns from.
I don’t ask him to come back; I don’t give myself the one solitary emotion that could make the crack in my heart shrink even by the smallest amount. I don’t want it to, I don’t want the pain to ever fade into a memory, because then he is truly gone.
Link killed him. He killed him in cold blood and hate, because of me. Because I could not stand up to the boy I loved to save his life. I remember the way he looked at me before Link struck the final blow. I’d seen that look in his eyes before, the fear for me. Even near death he cared for no one’s safety but mine.
I sit staring at it for days, feeling nothing. I don’t feel hungry; I don’t sleep, as the sun rises and sets each day nothing changes for me. I’m here, while he’s not, and I want nothing more than to switch places with him.
Link comes in sometimes and sits next to me, as if some vain attempt at emotional support could forgive for what he’s done. I don’t look at him, I don’t speak. I’m not even sure if I have the ability anymore, who cares.
‘You have to eat something Rebecca. It’s been four days.’ His voice comes from far away, I barely hear him, like a whisper in the wind. I want to ignore it, swat it away like a pesky insect and sink further and further into my self-induced lobotomy. But the voice gets more persistent, louder and closer. I blink for the first time in ages, cringing as I feel the dryness of my eyes. I turn my head ever so slightly, seeing Link sitting next to me again with what looks like hot dogs. “Eat.” The one word that leaves his mouth is insistent and annoyingly gentle. It angers me, the already present urge to punch him in the nose grows more appealing, but I push it back and force my sleeping arm to move and pick up one of the hot dogs. My joints ache with just the simple effort of taking a bite, I’ve been completely still for a long time.
I can tell by looking to the drawn drapes that its day time, and the empty room is shrouded in a darkness that I’m used to. The body is gone, I hadn’t noticed them take it away, then again I hadn’t noticed most things.
I chew in silence, forcing the hot dog pieces down my throat. They taste like nothing, and when I finish I feel no fuller than I was before. I push the empty plate away, still ignoring Link as if he wasn’t there.
“He’s gone Rebecca, doing this to yourself won’t help anyone.” He says simply, forcing my attention by reaching out and turning my face toward him.
“Do you think I care?” My voice comes out raspy and thick, my throat stinging dryly as I grunt to clear it.
“We have police and assassins on our tail; we don’t have time for mourning right now. He was slowing us down anyway.” That was the wrong thing to say. I raise my hand and slap him as hard as I can manage, almost slamming his head into the wall behind us.
“Don’t talk about him like he was dead weight. He never left me alone while you were off raising your social standings among the undead.” I scoff.
“Well I’m sorry it’s the truth, he didn’t want to keep moving because he didn’t want to show how weak he was. He didn’t want you to see that he’s not the perfect zombie! Well you know what, he’s dead and you’re not his important little appetizer anymore.”
“You go to hell.” I snarl, putting ever foul emotion I’ve ever had into my tone as I glare at him. He’s speechless, staring at me with narrowed eyes as I stand and leave the room. I don’t pause to think as I go down the narrow stairway. The other undead ask me questions as I pass, ‘where am I going?’ ‘Am I ok?’ ‘Where’s Link?’ I don’t answer any of them, I just keep walking, yanking open the front door and going out into the unfamiliar light.
The colors around me seem too bright, all the shapes and hues blending together to form ill-colored masses. Trees pulse and shift, bushes sway precariously from side to side. I’m surprised that I’m walking in a straight line, but I feel that I know exactly where I’m going as I walk on into thicker and darker layers of trees.
When my legs stop moving I stare at the ground, littered with dead leaves and tree branches. I don’t know where I am, nor do I care. I’d be fine sitting down right here and waiting for death, or pain, or something that could make me remember what it felt like to be truly important to someone. I reach up and touch the scar, its almost gone, almost disappeared from my skin. I don’t want it to go away. That scar means something and its fading just as he is.
A twig snaps, a voice grunts, and my chest hurts again. I look down, and see the dart, iridescent green liquid draining itself into my system. I hope it’s not just a tranquilizer. I hope it’s lethal, I hope it hurts. I look up at hooded figures appearing in front of me. One holds the dart gun; the other holds rope and duct tape.
“Hello.” I say, my world starting to spin even more than it already is. They nod wordlessly, taking a step toward me as I sway. “Are you the good guys or the bad guys?” They look at each other, their mouths smiling underneath their hoods.
“That depends on you.” I recognize the voice, but it has no face attached to it. No recognition.
I drop to my knees, my aching legs giving off the appearance of jello, and reach for the ground to support myself in a sitting position.
“Don’t struggle, there’s nothing you or your friends can do.” The other voice is familiar as well, but my swimming thoughts can’t even begin to process it. I breathe out and close my eyes, letting unconsciousness take.
‘Rebecca. Rebecca. Wake up, I’m thirsty.’ I open my eyes again, their initial dryness a clear indication that I’d been crying in my unconsciousness. ‘C’mon. Get up.’ I’m on my feet in seconds, ready to follow the bodiless voice anywhere. I’m in a cave, the walls around me green and blue with moss and irritated stalagmites. Mounds of unsettled dirt and rocks rise all the way to the ceiling. As I look closer I see the dirty white bones protruding from them. Sometimes severed forearms and fingers and toes. One or two entire arms and even a child’s skull peering out at me from a small crevice. ‘Find me.’ I’m moving, my legs working by themselves. The farther I go in the cave the more bodies I see, half skeletons and people that have just started to decompose. My stomach rolls as I recognize my mother, her body is almost completely carrion, only shreds of her face remaining. One blank eye, blood red lips, and the wound she wore from when my father struck her with a broken beer bottle. I see him too, propped up against a stalactite. His thin chapped lips smile at the other wall, his rotting teeth matching the rest of his shredded and bloodied face. In his bony fingers he clutches a syringe, half full with a murky liquid. ‘C’mon don’t be slow. I’m waiting.’
‘Shaun?’ I call, my voice reverberating off the walls and coming back at me. A skeleton’s jaw drops open, and its arm moves. I almost scream as it looks directly at me with empty sockets and then points farther down the cave.
‘Queen of the Dead.’ Then it’s motionless, its head tumbles off of its shoulders and falls into the burlap sack that covers its lower half. I step over my mother, half afraid she might jolt awake. Her eye follows me as I go, as do my father’s. The syringe rises, and thick sludge shoots out, almost splattering my leg. I dodge it and look behind me. There, just barely shrouded by the darkness, are hundreds and hundreds of the dead. The skeleton picks up its head and stands, bumping into my mother as she stands with him. A hand grabs my ankle; a foot hops forward to step on mine. I kick them both away and step back, bumping into something hard.
‘Queen of the Dead.’ I look at the man, the skin of his face is completely gone, leaving the gory muscle underneath to flex and make a sickening noise as he smiles at me. His blood stained suit flutters and another hand pops out from behind the corduroy. It grabs my hair, yanking out a fistful, and then disappears again, snarling like an animal. The hand grabs at my foot once more, yanking me back toward my mother. I lose my balance and fall, landing right next to a skull with both eyes still attached. It goes cross-eyed and sticks a rotten tongue out at me from the space where its two front teeth should be.
‘Shaun!’ I scramble back to my feet and start running, avoiding the skeletons and bodies that spring to life. One newborn baby waves its arms at me and screams for its mother, wobbling to its feet and then roaring with its eyes flashing red and orange.
‘Find me!’ His voice is closer, as if he’s standing right next to me yet invisible.
‘Queen of the Dead.’ The walking bones behind me repeat the phrase over and over, following me down the tunnel in their various states of decay. ‘Queen of the Dead.’ A foot shoots from the wall and catches my leg, throwing me several feet forward and down a hole. The walls around me are way too slippery, sending me farther and farther down the chute. Rotting hands reach out and grab my clothes as I continue to fall and slide, ripping them and covering them with a reddish slime. ‘Queen of the Dead.’ I leave the chute and crumble onto a rock surface. The rough granite scraping my skin so much it bleeds. I hear a loud pop and then a sphere rolls away from my face, the sinew attaching it to something pulling it back in my direction as I watch. My eye. I scream in horror, watching it grow legs and start to move, yanking at its cord in an attempt to get free. It snaps with a sickening squish. I don’t feel pain; all I feel is the wetness of the blood coating my face. An invisible force squirms against my drooping eyelid, searching for an entrance. I don’t know what it is, but as it slips past I can feel it slithering under my skin. My hand rises away from me; my skin tinted a sickly red as fissure lines appear in my knuckles. My fingers crumble into dust, leaving perfect white bone underneath. The same happens to my hand, the fissure lines slowly moving up my arm. ‘Queen of the Dead.’ The walking bones catch up to me, rising from the ground and dropping from the ceiling. They surround me, watching my body disintegrate. A dismembered foot kicks me onto my back, almost choking me as blood pours into my mouth. I spit out the salty liquid, shaking my head to get it away.
‘Shaun.’ I plead. My voice thick and wet. The walking bones part, making way for a shadowed figure to move toward me. I can’t help noticing the gruesome double-edged dagger glistening at his belt.
‘Queen of the Dead.’ As he grows closer he chuckles, crouching next to me while the walking bones go back into their circle. I recognize his smile, his blue eyes, I missed them.
‘Hi Becs.’ He says, taking the hand that still has skin on it in his own and pressing it to his lips. ‘Miss me?’ I can’t make myself reply, blood welling in my throat. I watch the fissure lines grow in the tips of my hand, crumbling to dust in his palm.
‘Queen of the Dead.’ His eyes grow cold, his pupils narrowing as his smile disappears.
‘You let me die.’ He says. I try to shake my head, but I feel my skin parting at the throat, curling up my neck as it starts to disappear. ‘I gave you everything I had and you just watch as he kills me.’ I try to tell him what I want to say with my remaining eye, but it looks sideways without my telling it to, resting on my mother swaying as she gives me a hungry glance. ‘You know what?’ My eye shoots back to look at him, taking in the sudden malice and hate. ‘None of that matters, my people are hungry, and you won’t last forever.’ He draws the dagger, carving something into the bone that had been my bicep seconds before. The walking bones move forward, eager to see what he’s writing. He leans back and turns my head, forcing me to look at what he writes. In small crooked letters, the words ‘Queen of the Dead’ glow with gold light. The walking bones explode in chatter, repeating the words in a dissonance of tones and volumes. ‘My queen, you will join us soon.’ And he slips the dagger into the last piece of remaining skin on my body, right over my heart. It digs deeper and deeper, piercing my heart, retracting, and then piercing it again. At one point it even follows along the fissure line his death had made, drawing out real pain.
I hear a scream, but it’s not mine, it’s my mothers. I see her, full-bodied now, and cowering on the ground as my father stands over her with a broken beer bottle. He brings it down on her head, laughing as a small girl watches from inside a closet. Someone else laughs and I look to the other side, seeing a fourteen-year old Link and the same girl sitting under a jutting rock. He wraps his arms around her, placing a soft kiss on her forehead as she drops her head onto his shoulder. ‘I love you.’ He whispers. She responds by saying something in his ear, and then they both look directly at me. The girl stands, nodding simply before she ages, becoming my twin. It’s me. ‘Queen of the dead.’ Her voice isn’t mine, it’s a man’s, deep and menacing. She approaches me, crouching next to Shaun and smiling. He mirrors her, pulling her into a rough embrace. They kiss, their hands roaming as Link ages to his present state and rushes to me.
‘Rebecca.’ His transparent form disappears before he can touch me, as do all the others, until I’m lying alone behind the cover of a red waterfall. My body is gone, the dagger clambering to the granite with a metallic ringing. My other eye rips away from me, and I’m left in the darkness of death.