Annabel ran down the dark, deserted road, sweating profusely despite the icy wind that bit at her face and neck. Her bright red coat blew out behind her like a cape as she flew toward the small pool of light that lit up a tiny circle of space in the exact centre of the street. Annabel clasped her hands tightly together in an effort to stop them from shaking, but it was pointless; her fingers, ghostly pale in the moonlight, continued to tremble as she made her way toward the yellow glow ahead of her, sure that its brightness would bring her some kind of comfort.
Her breath came out ragged; her throat raw from the cold. Her feet were blistered, her legs burned and her heart pounded against her chest. Every muscle in her body was screaming in protest but she ignored it all, desperate to get as far away as possible from the fighting and the hurt that she was running from.
Her mother’s voice filled Annabel’s head, strong and clear, as if the woman were standing right there, unseen in the surrounding fog; “I cannot believe you, you idiot girl! I did not raise you to behave in such a way! You disgust me. Never dare step foot in my house again!”
The smug expression on Annabel’s step-father’s face flashed across her mind, and she let out a loud, aggravated growl. The sound scared her slightly; seeming out of place in the silence of the street. It was only then that she realised how unusually quiet it was. Not even the sound of her breathing could penetrate the density of such a silence. Annabel slowed to a walk, her limbs sighing in relief, and glanced around her. She could see nothing further than a few feet in front of her; the dense fog had obscured her surroundings. The eerie stillness of the night was unsettling, and Annabel requickened her pace.
When Annabel finally reached the circle of warm, welcoming light, a feeling of ease flooded through her, followed by panic as the street lamp above her head flickered and went out. The only light now was coming from the half-moon overhead. A shiver that had nothing to do with the cold ran down her spine.
Annabel’s heart began to beat even faster and she was struggling to breathe. She was not sure why she was so terrified, but something about the situation she was in was unnerving. Annabel turned slowly on the spot, trying to see through the opaque smog that was everywhere. She had a horrible feeling that she was not alone, but she could see no one on the street. It became apparent to Annabel at that moment that there was no point in standing under the broken lamp, as the comfort she had been hoping for had disappeared along with the light. She gradually began to make her way toward the other end of the street.
As Annabel got further away from the lamp, an awful smell hit her; possibly the most disgusting stench in the entire world. It seemed that the closer she got to the end of the road, the stronger the horrid smell became and eventually Annabel had to stop and hold her breath. Before that moment she would not have believed that such a smell could exist. It made her head spin and her stomach twist. Annabel let her held breath out noisily and sucked in another, feeling as though she may vomit if she did not get away from the smell.
As Annabel stood in the half-light, contemplating what to do next, she heard the very faint sound of something dragging its feet along the pavement. A scream got caught in her throat as something turned the corner at the end of the street and began to make its way toward her. One of this… thing’s legs stuck out behind it at a strange angle as if broken and its head seemed to be permanently tilted to one side. The revolting smell got stronger as the thing got closer.
Annabel’s mind was screaming for her to run, but her legs were glued to the ground. Her eyes grew wide with fear and her hands shook even more violently. The thing was mere metres away from Annabel now, and she got a better look at it; it was wearing what looked like a dirty, torn old suit; it was shoeless; short, dark fuzz covered its scalp; it had dark rings under its eyes; and its entire face drooped down in an awful scowl. For a moment Annabel thought that it was just a filthy, misshapen human and she took a tentative step in its direction, but then it let out a feral snarl that made her skin crawl.
The thing stopped a few feet in front of Annabel and appraised her frozen form. Annabel realised that the creature’s face and clothes were covered with dry blood. It raised its arms and she saw that the skin of its hands was peeling off and large chunks of flesh were visible on its arms. It took a small step forward and extended its hands toward Annabel. The vile smell became so overwhelming that she swayed and almost fell.
Annabel thought she knew what it was that stood before her, but she was reluctant to admit it to herself. That kind of thing never actually happened outside of horror films. Annabel had thought that it was all fiction, but evidence to the contrary was right in front of her. The thing staring at Annabel was a zombie, and there was no escaping that fact. As the realisation of what was happening crashed down upon her, Annabel spun around and prepared to sprint away, but the zombie had already planned its attack.
Rotting hands grabbed Annabel’s shoulders and pulled her back with such a force that she was sent crashing to the ground. She hit her head hard on the pavement and her vision – already impaired by lack of light – went blurry. She saw the indistinct outline of the zombie’s head as it bent over her. Annabel knew that she should have been trying to move, but her fall had given her severe concussion and she was quickly losing consciousness.
The awful smell of the zombie and the aching in the back of Annabel’s head were all proving to be too much. The zombie growled again, but the sound was fading rapidly. Suddenly, excruciating pain erupted on Annabel’s crown, but she only felt it for a split second before everything disappeared and she was plunged into a sea of nothingness.
The Australian Literature Review