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Dying to be with you, p.1
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       Dying To Be With You, p.1

           Lindsey Goddard
 
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Dying To Be With You
Dying To Be With You

  By Lindsey Beth Goddard

  Copyright 2014 Lindsey Beth Goddard

  Shelly loved Nicholas as much as anyone could love a corpse. She loved the feel of his lips, though they were cold. She loved his face, his neck, his chest, despite the paleness of his skin or the network of gray veins just beneath the surface.

  In her mind, he was the same man he'd always been. Wild black hair framed a masculine but charming face, the slightest bit of stubble on his chin as he smirked at her with pearly teeth. She shook her head, pushing the image away. Though she loved him, it was time to move on.

  The loneliness was unbearable - waiting around for him to reanimate, year after year. Knowing she'd only have a month with him before death came to claim him once more. It wasn't fair. She'd wasted her youth on a dead boyfriend who only rose from the grave one lousy month a year. She couldn't live like this anymore.

  But Nicholas wouldn't let go. His blood boiled at the mere mention of separating.

  Shelly sighed, squinting into the late morning sun. She stepped from the door of her apartment building, cautiously scanning the sidewalk. Her heart skipped a beat when she spied him across the street, waiting in the alley. The hood of his black cotton jacket was pulled over his face, but she caught a faint glimpse of one glittering eye. It shined silver in the shadows of the alley. His familiar chin and nose poked from the darkness beyond the line of the hood. There was no mistaking him. Nicholas was back.

  She felt the weight of his stare as she approached her car. Those eyes, the lightest blue she'd ever seen... monstrous when he was angry.

  She started the engine, biting her lip with an anxious nibble. She would go to Clark's house. Nicholas didn't know about it, and she doubted he could follow her on foot. Maybe Clark would let her stay, wait out the month at his place. She could hide until Nicholas was gone, until this nightmare was over. For another eleven months, at least.

  He would probably stalk the streets, searching for her at every turn. She knew this was a possibility. But things wouldn't - they couldn't - turn out like last year, when her rejection of him had caused rage. And violence.

  Shifting the car into drive, she pulled away.

  Nicholas watched her go, grinding his teeth. He slammed his fist into the red brick building, causing little pieces of mortar and brick to crumble to the ground. Immediately, he regretted this mistake. The flesh of his hand, still partially rotted, sloughed away in chunks, now hanging from his tendons like putrid meat medallions. He could rise from the grave, but he couldn't fully heal, or pass for living, without a kiss from his true love.

  He sauntered down the alley between the two huge buildings, sinking further into the shadows. It had been lonely and confusing rising from the grave alone. His mouth still tasted of the dirt he inhaled, and a few pieces of dead worm clung to his tattered jeans.

  Shelly had always been there in the past, to greet him when his eyes snapped open. To console him when reality hit home: He was a monster, a thing that clawed its way through the earth, cracking his yellow fingernails, bursting from the soil in the haunting moonlight. It was a harsh thing to realize. A heavy load to bear. But one thing bothered him more...

  She hadn't been there. He had risen alone.

  He pulled a cracked mirror from the pocket of his jacket. It once belonged to the homeless man who previously owned the garment. Nicholas had swiped the jacket from underneath the drunken slob's head, pulling as much of the hood over his face as he could. He flipped the mirror open, grimacing when his eyes caught the reflection.

  Large ulcers riddled his decomposed flesh. Withered muscle tissue, and smaller holes that must have been dug by the worms, teemed with fuzzy gray mold. A piece of his nostril was missing, exposing the inside of his nose. A lone maggot writhed in what used to be the cleft of his chin. He plucked the wriggling white larva from his face and looked away, sliding the mirror back into his pocket.

  He knew why Shelly was upset. He had scared her last year. He remembered her crying eyes, so light brown they could pass for honey, shining beneath a sheen of tears. He remembered her proposition to “just be friends and roommates” during the time he was awake.. She wanted to “see other people”. There had been an argument, and then - Nicholas winced at the memory - a slap across Shelly's cheek. Hard enough to topple her over.

  But what else could he do? Accept her offer and move on? Rise from the soil each year to burden her with a “roommate”? She was his only reason for living! The very core of his existence! And now, without her kiss, he looked like a horror movie zombie, not to mention the smell. He sniffed the air and recoiled. His stench was overwhelming, a pungent odor he was ashamed to call his own.

  She had to help him. She had to hear him out...

  He started walking, turning left out of the alley, not because that's the direction in which her car had gone, but because that's where his heart told him to go. He could feel her, sense her in his mind as clearly as his own thoughts. Their undying love was what pulled him from his plot in the woods each year, pushing, clawing, digging his way through the dirt, only to return to Shelly.

  Shelly. Shelly. He couldn't live without Shelly.

  Clark furrowed his brow at the sound of the doorbell. He checked his watch. He wasn't expecting any visitors. His dark brown eyes settled on the hutch at the far end of the room. It contained his prize possessions, a comfort no human companionship could match. He loved his guns. Better to be safe than sorry.

  Sure, he lived in an upscale neighborhood, but it bordered on a bad one. It wouldn't surprise him if the doorbell was a diversion for a robber to sneak in from behind and slash his throat. He watched the news every night. Things like that happened all the time. Besides, he liked the feel of the cool metal pressed reassuringly against his skin.

  He opened the hutch. He selected a semi-automatic from his treasured collection and tucked it into the waistband of his pants.

  Fully armed, Clark swaggered to the door with new-found confidence. He wouldn't flash his piece, or make its presence known, but having it handy was the key to survival. It might be a girl scout at the door, selling cookies, or a homicidal maniac. You never knew. "Life is like a box of chocolates" that famous, dim-witted character once said.

  Clark turned the deadbolt, and opened the door. Shelly smiled at him, dark circles shadowing her eyes. Sunlight shined behind her unkempt face, highlighting her strawberry blonde hair. “Hi, baby. I'm sorry. I should have called... but I hate using the cell while I'm driving.”

  “Shelly, what's wrong? You look like you haven't slept.”

  “I didn't. It's my apartment...” She looked down at his feet and then up into his eyes again. “It's being renovated.” One side of her lips formed a nervous smirk. “Unexpected repairs. Something with pipes and drywall...” Her voice trailed off, and she pursed her lips. “Do you think I could stay here? Just for a while...”

  Clark stepped aside, motioning to his foyer with a dramatic wave of his arms. “Mi casa es su casa, Shells.” He grinned wide, laughing, but underneath the facade burned feelings of betrayal and rage.

  She was lying! He could tell. Women loved to feign innocence as they lied through their teeth, batting eyelashes and nibbling their lips. This broad was no good when it came to playing games, easier to read than a neon billboard.

  But why was she being dishonest?

  Could it be this “Nicholas” she mentioned in her sleep? The guy who played a starring role in Shelly's dreams as Clark lay there, stripped of pride, listening to her mumble, repeatedly, “Nicholas...Ooooh, Nicholas....”

  Shelly looked as though she hadn't slept a wink, and Clark wondered what kept her awake. Maybe Nicholas had nailed her six ways to Sunday, gave She
lls the ride of her life before sending her packing. And now, rejected, she sought the comfort of her second man on the totem pole, Clark, the fool she kept on the side.

  He shut the door and smiled at her, noting the tote bag on her shoulder. She planned on staying for a while... but why? Did she have a fight with Nickypoo? A secret lover's quarrel?

  Suspicion writhed in his gut as they stood there, smiling at each other.

  There were a few gasps from nearby citizens as Nicholas stumbled through the streets. His hood wasn't large enough to fully conceal the festering slop he called a face. Pedestrians crinkled their noses as they passed, sometimes raising a hand to cover their nostrils and mouth. But nobody shrieked or screamed, “Zombie!” Nobody ran away. Maybe they thought him a leper, one step from death's door. Unaware he'd already been there, and back.

  He was tired, so tired. Each step was pure agony. Blackness pulsated at the edge of his vision, and he thought he might fall over or black out. He had no energy left to keep going. But one thought compelled him, kept his feet shuffling, tripping, regaining balance-

  Shelly.

  His stomach twisted. It was a tightly pulled knot of sadness, and something else, something that caused him physical pain. A cramp seized his gut. He doubled over as a wave of nausea struck. He endured it, unable to swallow, no saliva to soothe his rotted throat. He waited for it to pass, hands on his knees. A few people whispered in not-so-hushed tones as they angled their paths to avoid him.

  He came upon a stand outside a sporting good store. Random items from the shop were on display: water bottles, baseball shirts, sunglasses. He pulled a pair of sunglasses from the rack, turning to stagger away. “Hey!” the street vendor yelled. “You need to pay for those!”

  Nicholas turned to face the man, sneering. His eyes glittered like huge marbles in their sunken sockets as he snarled through cracked lips, his ulcerous flesh caked with dried puss. The man thrust his hands forward, palms out, as if to keep Nicholas at bay. “That's okay.... sir... you go right ahead....”

  He continued on his way, indifferent to the man's fear. He looked like a monster, so he was going to act like one. He pushed the sunglasses up his nose, concealing his moldy eye sockets, not caring if anyone noticed the rest of his rotting face. He was a monster, after all, the walking dead. And he was starting to feel really hungry.

  Nicholas heard a soft mewing from the alley to his left. He made a sharp turn, following the sound. He needed something, though he didn't know why. His body forced him along, operating on a level of his brain that was nowhere near conscious thought. He picked up pace, unthinking, and threw himself into the blackness behind the dumpster.

  In the shadows, the cat squealed. Claws scrambled against the pavement. The sound of bones snapping, splintering, crunching echoed from the narrow opening between the dumpster and the wall. Deep inside the darkness, there came the sounds of flesh tearing, wet muscle tissue being ripped from the bone.

  And then, Nicholas could swallow again.

  Shelly couldn't sleep. She rolled over in bed and checked the clock. 12:18. Her body was exhausted from the previous night's insomnia, but her mind simply wouldn't rest. She sat up, swinging her feet over the side of the bed. Her strawberry blonde hair spilled over the straps of her pajama top, tangled from the tossing and turning. She pressed her fingers to her temples, massaging in a circular motion.

  One thought repeated in her mind: You caused this. You made him what he is.

  It was true. Shelly was one-hundred percent to blame for what Nicholas had become. Her unwillingness to let him go had chained him to a life of resurrection.

  What would happen if she refused him a kiss? Would Nicholas stop coming back? Would it break the spell? Or would he wander the streets, lurking in the shadows like a ghoul and retreat into the dark woods alone?

  She hated to think of him, all by himself in a dark alley, waiting for her to return. Shelly hoped he would go back to the grave on his own, lay to rest once he realized she wasn't coming home. A voluntary departure, that's what she longed for. The gruesome alternative - his blood on her hands - was something she knew would never happen. She loved him too much to end his “life”.

  Her mind wandered to the night she found him on the floor, cold and blue, unblinking eyes fixed on the wall. A streak of vomit had dried on his cheek. Even from the far end of the room, she could see he was no longer breathing. He was stiff, paler than his usual washed-out complexion.

  She didn't cross the room to check for a pulse. She simply knew. It was a knowledge that weighed her down and buckled her knees. She hit the carpet like a ton of bricks, sobbing. This was it. His pain and suffering was over. He was free from the agony: the chemo, the medicine, the nausea. Free from the hospital beds.

  But Shelly's pain was only just beginning. Her chest burned with the anguish of losing Nicholas. It felt as though her heart had been run through a paper shredder. The pieces were still there, but not whole. Tattered. She couldn't let go. She couldn't live without him!

  She crawled over to where he lay, rested her head on his non-breathing chest, and wept until a stream of tears collected in the line of his ribs. She kissed his lips, finding them cold for the first time. A sensation she would come to know well.

  She ran her fingers over the gorgeous line of his lips, hopeful that they'd be together again soon. She had known this moment was on the way. And Shelly was prepared.

  As Nicholas had suffered in his hospital bed, life's vigor slowly draining from his eyes, Shelly had sought an answer. The misery in her soul overpowered her conscience. There was no path too dark to follow, nowhere she wouldn't turn, no person she wouldn't approach in order to find a way to keep Nicholas in her life. Medical science was failing him. She witnessed it, every day, as his body ceased to function. Time was short, and she needed a solution. A way around this thing called death.

  Through perseverance and obsession, she found a light in the darkness... a chance for them to be together forever. It meant draining her bank account, and promising to be his keeper, to watch over Nicholas as long as she lived. Shelly, heartbroken and only wanting to hold him again, hastily agreed to the terms.

  She buried him in the woods, bound him to an ancient curse. The incantation she recited had cost every penny in her name, but it would be worth it, if only....

  Something rapped against the window, pulling Shelly from her memories. She shivered and rubbed her arms. It felt chilly on the edge of the bed, sitting there with no covers. The sound of something hitting the window pane had caused goosebumps to form on her skin.

  She bit her lip, heartbeat picking up pace. Had it been a rock that hit the glass? A chill ran up her spine. A twinge of anxiety pinched her gut. The atmosphere was thick with suspense as she stopped breathing for a moment, listening intently to the quiet house.

  Nicholas was nearby; she could feel it. She didn't know how, but his presence was all around her. In her bones. In the very air she breathed. But it couldn't be! She had driven so far from home!

  She ran to the window and raised a trembling hand to her lips when she saw him, standing there, a dark figure silhouetting the moon. He stared up at the window. Those silver eyes shined in the moonlight, piercing her heart.

  “ Nicholas...” she whispered. You found me.

  Nicholas stood on the lawn, motionless. A chorus of crickets serenaded him as he waited for Shelly to emerge from the house. Moments earlier, her slender face had appeared in the second story window, locking eyes with him before slipping into the shadows again.

  He hoped she would come out. But what if she didn't?

  If she didn't, he would have to go inside. Find her. Even if it meant shattering a window, he would see Shelly again. She was the only person in his life, the one who understood his curse. Where else could he possibly go?

  He licked his lips, noting the coppery flavor of blood. His tongue slid over his teeth, finding a stray piece of meat. He plucked the morsel from between his incisors and
sucked it from his fingertips. A thought occurred to him, and he grabbed the mirror from his pocket. Flipped it open to examine his face.

  There were a few smears of cat blood across his upper lip and dribbled down his chin. Nicholas pulled the sleeve of his jacket down over his hand and began to wipe the stains. He managed to clean the crimson smudge from his chin, but when he rubbed his upper lip, it split open where he touched it. A piece of fatty tissue fell from his cheek as he frantically scrubbed his face. He shut his eyes against the horror and closed the mirror.

  When he looked up again, Shelly was there. She pulled the front door shut behind her, eyes fixed in his direction as he stood with his face half-hidden by the hood of his jacket. Shelly's hair was a mess, spilling over her shoulders, a few strands dancing in the breeze. Nicholas expected her to sneer, or start sobbing, but instead she only smiled, weakly, accepting defeat. Their love was strong enough to overcome the miles of distance she put between them. Nicholas felt immense pride at having found her. But the idea terrified Shelly.

  The wind rippled her pajamas as she descended the patio stairs with bare feet. "Nicholas... I was wondering if you'd find me.” She drew closer, gasping when she saw his face. “What have I done?” she said, taken aback. “Look at you... You're practically falling apart... I'm so sorry. What have I done?”

  She walked along the grass, coming within arm's reach. She offered her hand from a few feet away. He placed his rotted fingers in her upturned palm, and she gripped him, gingerly. Only then did Nicholas realize her other arm hadn't moved. She kept it pressed flat to her side. Something shined in her fist, silver in the moonlight as it shook in her nervous grip. A gun.

  Clark had been pretending to sleep when Shelly ran to the window, whispering, “Nicholas...” Jealousy burned through his veins as he listened to her tiptoe across the room, closing the bedroom door as she left. He waited, holding his breath to hear her footsteps on the stairs. His pulse began to race when she paused for a moment downstairs, as if to reconsider. A few seconds passed in silence, and he imagined her glancing up the staircase toward the bedroom, turning things over in her mind. He hoped she would return to him, but then.... The front door hinges squeaked softly as she exited the house, and he knew Shelly had made her decision.

 
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