The February Selected Writer is Shaun Meeks
Please feel free to contact Shaun at: email@example.com
by Shaun Meeks
There was smoke coming from his gun, though he hadn’t fired it in well over two days. He glanced away from it, out the glassless window as dark clouds that rolled overhead as he wondered what time it was.
It was a stupid, thinking on such banality while he lay motionless in a room above rubble-filled streets, the screams of the dying floating to him, though they seemed to be fading every second. He refused to join their chorus because he didn’t want to admit that he might be dying as well.
It was highly possible that his mind was wandering to such useless concerns to keep him from looking at himself and seeing the blood pooling under his once pristine uniform, intestines lying on the dirty floor like tentacles. They would probably be covered in flies, laying eggs at that very moment so that they could hatch and his soon-to-be rotting guts would be food for the young maggots.
Wilhelm looked away from the window and back to the still-smoking gun that was laying less than three feet from where he was, right next to an American soldier who was missing the lower left side of his face. He wanted to reach for the gun, maybe figure out why there was smoke coming from the barrel, but just as he tried to move his hand to grasp it, he found he couldn’t.
He liked it even less that the gun was close to the American who had shot him. Wilhelm knew that he would feel better if he could just reach over and take hold of his MP40. The feel of it in his hand would give him a sense, even if it was false, that everything would be fine.
Wilhelm sighed and looked away from the gun lost to him and back out at the window, where he could hear the now hear the sound of tanks crunching their way through the streets below him. He wondered if they were Americans, the English, or his own German brothers down there. If they were German soldiers, there was still a chance for him to make it out of this, to get fixed up and find his way back home where his wife Hannah and his two boys who would be waiting proudly for his return.
He knew that the doctors would be able to fix him up and that he would be sitting by the fire with his wife beside him and his boys at his feet, a thick beer in his hand, telling stories of how he had helped Germany in the war that he knew his country was so close to winning. He would tell them how he had met Hitler, although that would be stretching the truth a bit. The closest he had ever come to meeting the Furor was being at an assembly hall where he was giving a speech in front of over a hundred thousand other soldiers.
Wilhelm finally found the courage to look down at himself. He saw a pooled mess that smelled of feces and spoiled meat. He saw parts if his insides laying on the outside, covered in dirt from the floor and wondered if that would be a problem when the doctors tried to put him back together.
He licked his dry lips and looked back to the window, hearing the tanks outside coming to a halt, followed by voices. He tried to distinguish in what language they were speaking, hoping that they were his fellow brothers, but he couldn’t tell. Wilhelm tried to call out to them, but found the words refused to be formed; all that left his dried lips was a soft sigh.
His eyes moved away from the window again, back to the dead American in time to see a rat scurry over to him and tentatively test the hole in his face. Wilhelm watched as the rat bit into the blackened flesh, burned from the heat of the bullets that tore away skin, muscle and bone. The rat pulled back on the meat with its teeth, then moved backwards quickly as though expecting to be attacked, not realizing that the man he had just tasted was dead.
The rat chewed on the small piece of flesh that it held in its hands and watched the American to see if he would move. When there was no attack and the food was eaten, the rat went in for a second bite, this time biting off a larger piece. Wilhelm watched with a mix of disgust and fascination; the soft sound of the skin popping and crunching in the rodent’s mouth was the worst part of it for him.
What if the rat became bored with the flesh of the dead American and turned his attention to him instead? What if the rat decide to come pick at his intestines that were laying out on the ground under him, joining the flies that were there and the maggots that would soon hatch from the eggs the flies had lain?
Again, Wilhelm tried to move his arms, wanting to make some sort of movement so that the rat would not try its luck with him before he was found and rescued by his countrymen. He hoped the dead American in the room was enough to keep the rodent busy. The rat didn’t seem to notice him as it went in for what Wilhelm thought was going to be a third helping of American pie, but instead it suddenly disappeared into the gaping hole that Wilhelm’s own machine gun had made into the dead man’s face.
He watched as the rat bit and clawed its way inside, the hairless tail wiggling back and forth, the dead man’s head moving slightly as it did, causing grey matter to fall from the open wound to the ground with a wet slap. Wilhelm closed his eyes, not wanting to keep seeing the unnatural movements of the dead Americans head as the rat continued to move inside his face.
He turned his attention to his own memories, ignoring the sounds of the rat and of the soldiers still outside the building where he lay. He was thinking of his beautiful wife, Hannah, the way her face would glow in the early morning light while they sat on their porch, sipping some tea that she had wanted him to try. They had only been married for five years, but it had felt as though he was seeing her for the first time each and every time he looked at her.
He opened his eyes, no tears as he had nothing in him to spare, and saw that there were now more rats in the room, following the lead of the first. One rat sat on its back haunches, seeming to call for others with its strange, high pitched squeaks. Three others went into the opened face wound, then a fourth, a fifth; and Wilhelm began to wonder how many more would be able to fit in there.
The American’s body moved about with false life as the rats moved inside of him. The biggest of them continued to look as though it were orchestrating the entire scene. He could hear the wet sounds of the animals moving into the rotting flesh and eating…and eating.
He turned his attention back to the window, seeing that rain was now falling and hearing that the voices if the soldiers seemed to be changing directions, moving into the building. At least he hoped it was so. He knew he was running out of blood, and therefore running out of time.
He looked back to the American and his eyes opened wide at the sight. Once again he wished that he was in reach of his gun as the body of the man Wilhelm had shot in the face was bloated and moving.
It wasn’t just the rats any more. Could he believe what he was seeing? Wilhelm felt his heart go cold as the icy hands of fear closed around it.
The dead man was trying to rise!
Wilhelm felt panic grip him as he watched the American’s body moving upwards on stiff arms. The dead man quivered as he moved, looking as though he was trying to do pushups on what should have been lifeless arms. How could this be?
In terror, Wilhelm tried to move his own body away from the scene; trying to will his still limbs into motion so that he could escape. He felt like crying at his own body’s disobedience, wanting to yell at himself for failing as he stared unwillingly at the American.
Rising to his feet, the dead man slowly turned his head towards him. If Wilhelm could have gasped or cried out, he would have. The dead man’s lifeless eyes, which were partially rolled back in his head, looked towards him as the head turned slowly on his neck.
Wilhelm watched in horror as a smile spread on the remains of the dead man’s lower face, the only part that was still intact after Wilhelm’s own bullet had torn away the rest, but where the skin and bone was missing, he could see rats still moving, the fleshy tails falling out of the hole now and again as the dead man continued to move.
Wilhelm begged to God, not even caring that he had never believed in any God before, had never even stepped into a church in his entire life, yet prayed nonetheless to Him that this was a dream, a delusional state caused by his own loss of blood and impending death. He prayed that the sight of the dead man moving was being caused by his own injuries; by the pool of intestines and coagulating blood.
The dead American opened the remains of his mouth as though to speak, his bloated body quivering with unnatural movement. There was a sound like a moan that came from him, and then the body fell back to the ground, hitting hard, a thump followed by a wet tearing sound. The body exploded with all the rats that had been inside him.
The rats were now covered with gore from the insides of the man Wilhelm had killed. They exited the dead man and scurried back to the holes in the filthy room from where they had first come.
And now what lay on the floor was a ravaged body and Wilhelm started to believe that the impossible events had never happened; that they were mere hallucinations because of his severe wounds. There had never been any rats, and the American had never moved.
Because if it had really happened…no, it was too horrible to imagine.
If only he could move; if he could just crawl out of the room and make his way home, even if he had to do it on his hands and knees. Crawl out of this Hell House and see the loving face of those of his family. Again he wanted so badly to cry; to shed tears for all the regrets he had, but his body had nothing to spare, and nothing to give away as he held onto the last threads of life with all his might.
And suddenly he wondered where the soldiers were; the ones he had heard pull up in the tank and entered the building. He hadn’t heard any footsteps coming up the stairs, but then again his concentration had been fully on the re-animated corpse, so for all he knew, they were merely steps away from him. He stopped and listened to the building for any sounds that were close by. Where were the soldiers? He needed them to find him or he would die.
His mind drifted to how this had all happened.
As Wilhelm had stepped in the room, gun raised, the American spun towards him, fear and surprise clearly in his eyes, and Wilhelm fired quickly. His bullet found a home in the lower left side of the American’s face, disintegrating the flesh and bone in a mist of red that seemed to glow in the light from outside. Wilhelm felt an instant moment of joy, knowing that he had served his country so well, getting the drop on the unsuspecting solider, but the joy was short-lived.
As the American fell sideways, his eyes rolled back in his head, his body tensed like someone that had just been delivered a knockout punch, all the muscles clenched, including those in his hand. The American’s gun exploded to life, echoing in the small room, and Wilhelm felt a hot punch to his stomach. He looked down at himself and saw the impossible.
He realized that dark water was spreading across his shirt, getting bigger with each passing second. His gun fell to the ground as his hands reached to the wound. He lifted his shirt and that only made things worse as the hole made by the bullet must have ricocheted off a bone and found its escape through the area just above his belly button, allowing a place for his intestines to try to evacuate the wounded body.
Wilhelm reached down as the bluish ropes began to slide out of him in a slow, sickening way, his hands meeting his intestines in an attempt to stop the escape. As he grasped them, trying to keep them from falling to the ground, they felt like his wife’s freshly made lamb sausages, all warm, wet and slimy. As he looked down and saw them in his now blood-soaked hands, he felt all the strength leave his legs and they gave out. He crashed to the dirty floor where he still was, two days later, and the hope of survival seemed to be fading like the light outside the window.
He knew that he must be dying, was amazed that he wasn’t dead yet, though deep in his own mind a voice asked him if he was so sure about that. He pushed that thought away each time it tried to bubble up, not wanting to even consider that he was already dead, that he would never kiss his kids goodnight again, never feel the warm embrace of his loving Hannah. He had to hold on.
Then outside, something exploded. The building shook from the force and felt as though the structure was unsure if it wanted to continue to stand. Wilhelm closed his eyes, feeling the building sway, then it began to settle. He breathed a sigh of relief.
Voices! He heard voices. They were close, nearly outside the room. He would be saved!
“That was too close for comfort,” an unknown male said with a strange accent. Again he tried to shift his body, move enough to look outside the room and see if he could get a glimpse of who had spoken, but there was no such luck. He was trapped in his position, as though glued to the floor by his own drying blood.
“Let this world shake, brother. It’s for the best. I like it better when it shakes with destruction. Better for all of us.” A second voice; this one though had a strange wet sound to it, as though it were the sea itself speaking; green rotted seaweed and deep dark waters.
“I smell something here. Little less than fresh, but I’m sure it will do.” The first voice said and was followed by a creaking door directly behind Wilhelm’s back.
Footsteps entered the room. “Here we go, brother. That one over there looks a little unpleasant.”
“Looks as though Grentle and his little rat brothers were here ahead of us. Scavenger bastards.”
Wilhelm saw two pairs of black boots step into view with grey pants that bloomed above and again he felt a wave of hope. They were wearing German-issued boots and the pants were those of the SS. He still wasn’t too sure on the language these soldiers were speaking, but he pushed that down and away as he had those dark thoughts about his own death, holding on to the hope that he was about to be saved.
“What about this one?” said the owner if the first voice. “He looks a little messy. Is he still alive?”
Wilhelm saw one of the group approach him and felt the force of their boot slide under his left shoulder. It pushed him onto his back. Wilhelm wanted to wince at the pain he was expecting, but there was little to none at all, only a cold numbness that seemed to tingle down his entire body. His back hit the floor with mild force and his view changed to the cracked, water stained ceiling above him.
“Looks like we have a winner here,” said the owner of the second, wet voice. “Shall we then?”
The two men were dressed in German uniforms, but these were no soldiers that Wilhelm had even seen before. They were things of nightmares.
They had called each other “brother” and perhaps they were, perhaps some monstrous creature had given birth to them, these things that walked like men, and wore the clothing of a man, but were far from human in every way. They seemed more closely related to dogs, their hairless snouts surrounded by wiry black hair that seemed to have clumps of dirt and some sort of meat matted in it. The two dog-like soldiers opened their mouths and smiled at Wilhelm, revealing a nest of barb-like teeth.
Wilhelm looked directly at the creatures’ faces that looked like his father’s old boat when it was infested with barnacles. Black and green growths that seemed to be constantly leaking some sort of yellowish fluid covered what some might have called flesh, obscuring any real features the beast might have. Wilhelm wanted to cry out and look away, but the monster beside him grabbed him by the face, his fingers more like the arms of an octopus than actual fingers, and he began turning Wilhelm’s head back and forth as though inspecting it.
“Help yourselves, brother. He is ours now.” It was the owner of the wet voice that spoke, the one with the crustaceans on his face. “You just sit back and relax, German. You’re fight is over, little man.”
Wilhelm tried to shake his head; made an attempt to will himself to call out no, that he was not done, that he had plenty of fight in him, but there was no use. He was unable to do anything but look from the face of the creature holding him to the other that was lowering himself to his open gut.
He wanted to plead with them, beg them to save him, to take him to get help so that he could return to his family and pretend the war had never happened. He wanted to be the man that he always knew he should have been, the father and husband that he knew he was. Instead he saw the dog brother bury his hairless muzzles into the open wound, his head moving in frenzied, unnatural movements.
There was no pain there, just a cold numbness and pressure, but Wilhelm was still horrified and wanted to cry out to Heaven. The dog-faced soldier on his left lifted his head up, jerking it as he fought with the muscle that was hanging between his unusual teeth, trying his best to pull the meat loose from Wilhelm’s body.
Not able to look at the monster mauling the lower half of his body, Wilhelm looked up and into the other face that looked on above him. Liquid from bulbous growths was leaking out from the crustaceous lesions, and it seemed to boil out from his face and pour down. Even as the thick pus touched his own face, smelling of dead fish rotting on a beach and like a musty basement, Wilhelm didn’t turn away; instead he looked into the formless face and tried to plead with his eyes, knowing that his voice was pretty much useless.
He thought of Hannah, of his young sons, of his house. He thought of sitting on his porch with his wife smiling together as they watched their kids chasing their pig Greta around, trying to ride her like a pony. He filled his mind with memories of meals, of laughter, of sex, of trips to Berlin and all the things that made him happy, hoping that this creature that loomed above him would see all this and feel some sort of empathy for him and release him, possibly even help him. He looked up, feeling tears that finally welled up in his eyes and he opened his mouth and spoke.
“Home,” he whispered, almost inaudibly.
“What was that?” The creature spoke with his moldy voice, a strange grayish tongue poking out between his lips as he spoke. “Did you say home? You want to go home?”
Wilhelm did his best to nod his head, hardly being able to believe that he had spoken even a single word and that this monster in a German soldier uniform was able to hear him and understand him.
“Don’t be silly, little man. You can’t go to your old home. This is your home now.”
The dog-faced soldiers began to laugh at that, momentarily ignoring the feast of flesh before them, then the dripping-faced creature lowered his mouth to Wilhelm’s now silent mouth.
Wilhelm closed his eyes, not wanting to see what came next, thinking only about all he had lost in life, all the regrets, and if the war crimes he had committed for the SS was responsible for his going to Hell.
He wondered just how long eternity could be.
Shaun Meeks currently lives in Toronto, Ontario with his partner, Mina and their dog, Lily. He works in the law enforcement field, which has helped inspire some of his darker stories. He has written numerous short stories, his latest, All Things End Terminal, appeared in Haunted Path magazine. He is currently working on his latest novel, Shutdown as well as a collection of short fiction, Dark Recesses set to be released in 2012. You can visit his website at www.shaunmeeks.com for updates.