The Wind and the Damned
by Michael David Matula
These days, I don’t go out much. No one does, as far as I can tell. What’s the point, really? What’s even out there anymore? Is anything alive? I can’t even remember the last time I heard a bird’s buoyant chirp or the neighborhood dogs’ throaty barks.
Not that I really listen all that much for them. I mostly just sleep, drink what’s left of the booze I scrounged up from Mr. Sarven’s place down the street, and daydream about the so-called “good old days.” You know the ones: The days when the world wasn’t royally fucked; the days when a man could step outside his humble home without clutching a weapon in his fists; and the days when life was worth living.
Those days are long gone, though. Only the daydreams remain.
Daydreams, and a whole bunch of empty bottles.
Oh. And Joan. Joan remains. Daydreams, empty bottles, and Joan.
She mostly just sits around and swears, though.
“What now?” I ask, watching the wiry redhead face-palm as she continues to rock back and forth in her lime-green easy chair, swaying to a rhythm only she can hear.
She doesn’t look at me. She never does. I’ve heard a few girls tell me “Not if you were the last man on Earth” before. I’d just always assumed they were bluffing.
Not Joan, though. She’s sticking to her guns.
I sigh miserably as I watch her.
I may not be in the best shape of my life, and sure, my hair might be thinning a tad at the back, and, you know, I’ve currently got a few Cheeto dust stains on my green and white stripey shirt, but hell…
…I might really be the last man on Earth, and that should count for something, shouldn’t it?
“You heard it, right?” Joan asks, still not glancing at me, still rocking back and forth.
“Heard what?” I ask right back, ever the conversationalist.
“The wailing outside. You heard the wailing outside, right?”
“That’s the wind,” I inform her, even as I wonder why she feels the need to do this. My nerves are already frayed enough as is, I don’t really need my platonic new housemate to constantly remind me we’re up a certain creek without a certain paddle.
“It’s not the wind,” she insists. “They always say it’s the wind. They always say it’s the wind, and they’re always wrong. It’s them. It’s the wailing, and it means we’re both dead. We’re dead, Stanley.”
“Would it kill you to look at me?” I want to ask.
I don’t, though. I just listen again. I hate to admit it, but Joan’s got me spooked.
But I only hear the wind. That was all it was. The wind. Rushing and whistling to its blustery heart’s content.
“There it is again,” Joan says.
I shake my head. “Would you please stop trying to freak me out? Things are bad enough as it is without–”
That’s when I finally hear it. My breath caught in my throat, my heart practicing cartwheels in my chest, I hear the high-pitched shriek cutting through the sound of the heavy gusts.
It was them, after all.
The banshee wail of the hunting party’s spotter. The telltale scream of the herald of the damned. The spearhead of an army of monsters that had blanketed the Earth and torn most of humanity asunder.
I really hate that wail.
I set my hands on my knees and push myself up off my cot, heft up my pruning shears and my UV flashlight, and glance over at Joan.
She just keeps rocking.
The wailing just keeps growing louder.
“Might as well let ’em all eat me now,” I mutter under my breath as my feet clomp up the stairs of the musty cellar towards the doorway.
I place my hand on the doorknob, preparing to enter the house and await the coming of the damned, and possibly meet my maker as well.
“See you later, Joan,” I tell her, shooting what may be my last glimpse at what may be the last woman in the world.
She doesn’t respond.
I shrug and flip on the UV light.
I hear glass shatter as the damned burst into the house beyond the cellar door. I hear the claws at the ends of their twisted limbs clattering across the tile floor of the kitchen.
The wailing stops.
The damned like it to be quiet when they feed.
Michael’s first horror novel, Try Not to Burn, was just published by Post Mortem Press in September 2012. It’s also currently included in the holiday sale on their website as one of their top sixteen best-selling books. Check it out here. If you’re looking for even more Michael, read his blog.