By Natalia Marx
Copyright 2013 Natalia Marx
Disclaimer: The persons, places, things, and otherwise animate or inanimate objects mentioned in this novel are figments of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to anything or anyone living (or dead) is unintentional.
Jordan squatted low behind the over-priced “piece” his wife Molly had insisted was a social statement about conformity. Jordan thought it looked like the “artiste” had taken a blind shot at the canvas with a paintball gun. Trying to ignore the clashing colors, he gripped the fireplace poker in a horizontal golf swing; elbows locked, pinkie and forefinger crossed, thumbs aligned along the shaft like he had seen the well-toned golf pro at the club do...whenever he could drag his eyes away from her backside long enough. In any other circumstance Jordan would laugh at the sight of him and send a detailed ROFL text to his buddies at work about it. But tonight, it wasn’t funny. Not even a little.
His quads burning, he glanced up at the metal and glass wall clock. He had been crouching for over five minutes in silence. Ready to swing at the slightest disturbance, Jordan made his way to the front door doing his best, serious impression of a ninja. He peered through the vertical blinds of the front windows and could barely distinguish what seemed to be a mob of his neighbors at the end of the block. Relieved, Jordan was sure they must have gathered because of some esoteric news they received about what the hell was going on. They had come to tell him that a rare Amazonian disease transported by mosquitos, which is absolutely curable, had affected their children and Molly, too, and all would be well in a few hours. Jordan burst through the heavy oak door and awaited his rescue from this nightmare.
The respite he sought, however, was further away than he so hopefully imagined. As the mob of his once lively and predictable neighbors turned towards this new presence, the revived color drained from his face. Something was wrong. Their movement was mechanical, stiff, and eerily silent for a concerned mob of citizens. Even across the distance, he could sense the hunger lurking behind the dozens of hollow eyes that were now trained on him. He suddenly recalled the scene in Hannibal where the flesh hungry pigs converged on the human dinner like rabid robots. Turning abruptly, Jordan ran.
With squeals and screams still reverberating in terrifying harmony in his mind, Jordan fled to the closest haven he could think of: the public library. Now before you get carried away with grand notions of philosophical meaning in his metaphoric choice of intellect as his savior, let me stop you. While Jordan did read the newspaper daily, he had long forgotten even the definition of a metaphor since his college literature course. His last memory holding a novel was of Sound and Fury, covered in the gray-haired professor’s spittle that launched across the classroom like missiles. You see, Jordan had watched his share of horror flicks and concluded that fire and beheading were the two fail-safe methods of killing the majority of monsters, creepers, and critters.
He sprinted down Booth Avenue like a madman and, for once tonight, seriously thanked his white-collar salary for buying him a personal trainer. Heaving in front of the library building, he picked up a bearded garden gnome and hurled it at a window in the reading room. The glass fissured into long, jagged pieces and fell in slow motion backwards into the room and shattered. Jordan leapt through as he heard the zombies approach, still two blocks away and emitting mumbled growls. Sliding into the entrance hall in a frenzy, Jordan looked around trying to devise a strategy. He pushed down images of zombie torn flesh and hungry fingers tearing him apart. Jordan closed his eyes and forced himself to inhale deeply. Think. Molly’s smile flashed before him and his breath caught. Think.
“I’m outnumbered,” he thought. “By the time I attack, they’ll swarm me like hornets...” His eyes snapped open.
When the zombies arrived, they didn’t wonder at the open doors or the dark halls that met them. They could smell him here, and that was all they needed--his scent. His salty, over-priced cologne mingled with fear. Like an army of ants, they moved simultaneously and silently, converging upon a study desk where his pajama pants were peeking out. Ten feet away. He still did not move. Five feet. Not a muscle. Three. The walls echoed with their anxious breathing. Two. Time stopped. One. Phssht.
The smell of phosphorus barely preceded the flash of light that suddenly appeared from the balcony. Standing in the second floor stacks that overlooked the main hall, Jordan’s face was briefly illuminated. Impending victory rested on his brow before the lit pack of matches fell from his outstretched hand onto one of the mobile bookshelves below. The shelf burst into flames and the toxic smell of burning lacquer permeated the air. The fire fanned out like a tidal wave, flowing to adjacent shelves until it curved around, encircling the dumbfounded mob. As the fire reached the last contiguous shelf, the zombies finally sensed the danger and began to move towards the opening left in the circle of burning shelves. Jordan, panting, slid into view and heaved the shelf he had readied into place, completing the circle and trapping the creatures inside. He grabbed the bucket of lacquer he had taken from the janitor’s closet and used it as an accelerant, pouring it over the shelves and their screaming heads.
Still half-expecting his plan to fail, Jordan cautiously backed away from the ring of fire. When he could no longer hear the zombies pounding the shelves and frantically struggling, he paused. From the cockles of his diaphragm, Jordan exhaled fully for the first time that night. He closed his eyes, tension leaving his body, already composing his cover story for the police. While still picturing the sarcastic stares the officers would surely give him, Jordan was suddenly knocked flat on his back, the newly restored air knocked right out of him. As strong hands gripped his neck, he searched the darkness for the face of his attacker.
No, it couldn’t be...Molly?
Jordan bolted upright in bed, the sheets drenched in sweat, panting like he had just, well, battled zombies. He quickly turned, patting the left side of the bed. Molly was there, as always, a sleeping log. He stroked her smooth face. No roughness, no trace of an evil appetite. It was 3:08 am according to the bright red digits on his nightstand. He gingerly lay back down, his mind lingering with thoughts of zombies, mobs, monotony, danger, robots, lifeless, empty eyes...
Jordan awoke the following morning with a renewed vigor flowing through his dusty veins. He felt like making love to his wife--in the shower. How long had it been since they had done anything that adventurous? College, he thought sadly. He had wasted years on his “routine”: wake up, thirty-minute jog, hot shower, coffee and toast. Drive to the office; work until he got a headache; more coffee, more work. Come home; make dinner with Molly, exchange pleasantries; read a book, then bed. Sex on Saturdays.
He did not want to do it anymore. He was not sure what had changed in him last night, but he had snapped...back into place. Forget the office; he would take off and go hiking with Molly in the Catskills where he had proposed to her. They would pack a picnic and talk and make love under the stars.
Happier and lighter than he had felt in what seemed like forever, Jordan went in search of Molly. He found her at the granite kitchen island reading her usual Wall Street Journal. Her forehead was creased in concentration and an iron blanket of tension weighted on her shoulders. She wore a sleek suit dress that tugged at her breasts and hips. He bent down and strongly kissed her lips, visions of tonight already swimming in his mind. Molly laughed briskly, and then checked to make sure her lipstick hadn’t smudged.
“You’re going to be late. I can’t believe you slept in so long. Don’t forget we’re due at Jessica and John’s tonight for cocktails.”
Jordan reached again for her waist, unfazed.
Taken aback by her clear rejection and mechanical focus, Jordan fumbled out a confused “Wait!”
Molly turned her head, almost dreading the request her husband’s odd behavior might bring. He could see the trepidation written on her face.
“Moll, why don’t we go do something fun today, just the two of us? We could go up hiking in the mountains and take a swim.”
“Or, we could just stay local and do whatever you want.” He took her hands in his. “I just have this feeling like I haven’t really been with you in forever.”
“I love you, too, Molly,” Jordan exclaimed.
“--eave to California for that conference on Monday.” She looked away, embarrassed at his misunderstanding. “It’s a bad time to miss work.”
Jordan gaped at her for a moment and then recovered. “Come on, Molly. What are you afraid of? It’s just me and you.”
“I’m not afraid of anything,” she replied, pulling away. “We just...we have a schedule and commitments. What about the Jones’ tonight? What would we tell them?”
“Who cares?” Jordan asked, finally realizing what his life and love had become.
“I do! We do! At least you used to. I don’t know what’s gotten into you, but I’m going to leave. Now. And when I get home we can plan a hike for next month sometime. Okay?”
Jordan only stared; the light in his eyes extinguished by reality.
“Have a good day, Jordan.” Molly kissed his stubble and turned away.
At the door she hesitated, an ember of curiosity fanned by his vulnerability in that moment. But she quickly shook off the sands of doubt and exited.
Alone, Jordan stood in the kitchen, unsure of what to make of the exchange. They loved each other, he was sure of that. As he looked around their home, at the gourmet espresso machine on the counter, the robotic floor sweeper in the corner, the color-coded social calendar on the fridge, he had a loud realization. They were trapped in a social-climbing maze, running in preset circles, always reaching for the cube of cheese at the center. They did as they were told: run, jump, work, get married, buy a house. No one questioned the men in the lab coats issuing the orders. We obeyed, hoping to satiate the bottomless hunger in our cores. Trapped. We were zombies in suits—earning, spending, procreating, dying. The tide forced acquiescence or spit you out like a broken conch on the shore.
The fire gone, Jordan shaved and put on a pinstripe suit. He locked the door, sat in his BMW, and took the parkway to work.
He would always remember the day he almost stepped off the path.
Leliana the Warrior, a fantasy romance novella about two strong-minded generals who find passion when they meet on the battlefield as foes and are forced to trust one another to save the land from a greater threat in the north. (February 2013)
About the author:
Natalia Marx is a multicultural author currently living in Los Angeles with her loving husband. She was raised to appreciate the arts and politics from a young age and was often sent abroad to live with family in different countries. Her experiences led her to pursue a career in the arts that includes drama, writing, and painting. She enjoys travel, philosophical discussions, and chocolate.
Trapped by Natalia Marx / Horror / Science Fiction have rating 3 out of 5 / Based on15 votes