The Iron Writer Challenge 83
500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements
View from the bottom of a grave
W7JFQ (Ham Radio Call Sign)
The theme song that should be played when you, the writer, enter a room
“Now I lay me down to sleep…”
The preacher launched into a new prayer. James thought the service should have been over by now. Several of his friends had said their piece. Then the preacher had given a short homily, followed by a terse prayer.
How odd that he’d followed it up with another.
“If I die before I wake…”
James could hear the dirt fall more than feel it. Two unseen faces had begun shoveling it over the sides after the first prayer. He wondered why they didn’t wait until the end of the service.
Not that there was anything to be done about it.
It must have been a stroke, James thought. Four nights ago now, five maybe?
He’d been talking on his ham radio to some guy in Utah. His call sign had been W7JFQ. They’d just made contact when the 2×4 smacked him. At least that’s what it had felt like. Then his vision went supernova. The colors had been mesmerizing, at least for the fleeting instant before absolute black set in.
He’d woken up on a table. The steel would have felt cold had he been above room temperature. Somehow he’d known he was dead. There’d been no fear, no confusion, just the cold realization that he was dead. That and the quizzical sensation of having his blood drained and replaced with embalming fluid.
Then the mortician had closed his eyelids and the world once again turned black. He’d heard everything though; the small talk amongst the morticians, the funeral directors as they’d dressed him, even the goodbyes from family and friends at his visitation.
There’d been no fear, no confusion; just the cold realization that he was dead. That and the fact that he was awake through it all.
Now, here he was, six feet down, watching helplessly as earth poured down from above and the preacher continued his prayer.
Wait a minute! That wasn’t a prayer, he thought.
James strained to hear as much as his deceased mind would allow.
That wasn’t a preacher either, he realized. It was his nephew Mark.
The no good slacker is reciting Metallica lyrics at my funeral!
James swore he could feel his embalming fluid boil. Everything about Mark drove him crazy. The little jerk couldn’t hold a job, always seemed to be high, and apparently didn’t believe in belts.
What was it Uncle John called him, James wondered. Saggatian? Yeah that sounded right.
“Take my hand…”
If only he could find a way to crawl out of here! He’d kick that little turd right in the nuts!
“Aww crap, the lid popped open!”
James saw a haggard face peer over the grave’s edge. Then another, weather beaten figure leaned over holding a shovel. The man dropped to a knee, pressing the shovel against the lid that James suddenly noticed to his right.
Hinges squealed as the lid swung shut. Darkness enveloped him yet again.
Well this ought to be interesting James thought as Mark’s muffled voice mixed with dirt splashing on the casket.
“Off to Never Never Land.”
“Ladies, I have just enough power to leave you with a parting song.” Jan rolled the old office chair across the creaky wooden floor and pressed play.
“Why do you have ‘just enough’ power?” Bonnie asked over Sarah’s exaggerated ooh’s and ah’s and the crackle and hum of the ham radio.
Jan stopped the tape. “Saggitians flooded the area and surrounded my building when I went out for supplies. I left our useless research and equipment behind, and there wasn’t enough time before sunset to outfit the new location.”
“It’s not useless research. We know how to kill them.”
“Sarah, anyone that has ever watched a zombie movie knows how to kill them. We don’t even do that. We hide, and if we come across one, we incapacitate by shooting them in the head and then the other zombies kill them by eating them.” Janice closed her eyes and stretched back in the office chair. “We’re no closer to answers than five years ago when this started. Nothing we’ve tried slowed its progress, and now every male on the planet has been infected. If we don’t find a cure soon, womankind will go extinct. I’ve been working on a new hypothesis that we’re fashion victims.” Janice paused while they laughed. “It’s not that crazy of an idea. Women used to bind their feet until permanent physical changes occurred. Why couldn’t walking around like penguins also cause body dis-morphing changes?”
“What about the cannibalistic undead changes?” Bonnie asked dryly.
“Still working on the little details.”
“And how will that find a cure?”
“I don’t know Sarah, but I’m all out of ideas and running out of time.” Janice opened her eyes and yelped as her chair tipped backwards sending her sprawling.
“Are you okay?” Bonnie and Sarah screamed simultaneously.
“I’m fine, sorry. A picture on the ceiling startled me. It’s taken from down in the grave during a service. Who would want to look at something like that before they go to sleep?” She stood and ripped the picture down. “Whoever lived here was… odd. Everything is black with massive skull motif, oddity posters and creepy pictures. Yet, it was the collection of homemade VCR tapes that was the biggest shocker.”
“Eww,”came across the air.
“Get your minds out of the gutter. It’s not what you think.”
“Are you going to be safe?” Bonnie asked quietly.
“The Saggitians can’t maneuver their stubby legs enough to climb the ladder of the converted duck blind I found. Listen, I’ve got to go if I’m going to watch an entire episode.”
“Black, skulls, and every Murder She Wrote episode ever aired on VHS, my new pad rocks!” Jan pressed play and held the mic next to the speaker as the piano began to play and until the book cover closed.
“That was great! I haven’t heard that in years. We’ll talk tomorrow about your hypothesis.” Sarah waited for a response, “Jan?”
“Goodbye ladies, W7JFQ signing off.” Jan turned off the radio before their questions and television’s volume up to ignore the sound of chopping from below.
Glenn A. Edwards
The two strangers almost stumbled into each when they both reached the middle of the intersection of the stone pathway which led to the church in the west parish bayou. In truth they didn’t recognize each other, but once the first one spoke they were strangers no more.
Reaching up tilting his Stetson to the shorter man,“Excuse me sir,” the tall one said in a southwestern drawl.
“No problem, I should’ah been watching where I was headed,” he answered back in a northern accent as big grin crossed his face upon recognizing the tall man’s voice, “Your a T8GGS, aren’t you?”
Reaching out his big suntanned hand, “That’s right partner, if I’m not mistaken you’re N5FRT?”
“It’s strange to be meeting in the flesh when all these years it’s only been over the Ham Radio,” N5FRT replied then nodding toward the church, “So I guess this is our final farewell to W7JFQ.”
“Guess so, let’s head inside and say our farewells,” the tall Texan stated slapping him lightly on the back.
Both men paused for a moment and looked at each other just outside the entrance when a lyrics one wouldn’t expect to hear at a funeral drifted to them.
“I Put a Spell on You”
“Because Your Mine”
“You Better Stop That Thing You’re Doin”
The short northerner looked up at his tall friend, “Is that, I Put A Spell On You, by Screamin Jay Hawkins?”
“Sounds like it,” the Texan replied shrugging his shoulders then pushing on the door. Opening with a slight creaking as the two men stepped inside.
There were a mixture of men and woman scattered about the pews while dominating the front a midnight black coffin with a bouquet of black roses draped over its lower half.
Both men walked slowly down the aisle to pay their respects. Stopping before the coffin they glanced down at a picture resting on a table. Displayed was smiling man wearing saggy pants below his butt crack line.
“So old W7JFQ was a Saggitian,” the Texan mumbled with a slight grin.
The funeral was short and before the two men knew it they were standing in the graveyard as the deceased was slowly being lowered.
“You ever see a coffin with a window at its head before?” the Texan whispered to his new friend.
“Never have, and did you notice how his eyes were still open,” he commented with a slight shiver, adding,” It was as if he could actually see us.”
Inside the coffin James also known by his friends as W7JFQ pleaded silently to those above as he was slowly lowered down into his own grave. The tetrodotoxin his voodoo priestess girlfriend had taken from a puffer fish and mixed into the brownies had accomplished what she planned.
“You’ll never cheat on me again lover, oh don’t you worry none, I’ll dig up my own personnel Zombie boy toy later,” she had whispered with a soft laugh in his ear right before they closed his coffin lid.
The sirens of his cruiser roared to life as he spotted the oddly proportioned youth. Bringing his car to an abrupt halt, inadvertently over edge of a broken down city sidewalk, he hastily exited his car and headed for his target.
“This is the Police!”
“Get down on the ground!”
He was sure to yell loud enough for any nearby listeners to recognize the scene as an arrest and stay away. Hopefully, this would be a smoother take down than most had been of late.
Bernard had refined a few methods for catching these intruders. This particular adversary had been found through his newly acquired ham radio. He’d set himself up with the call sign W7JFQ to fit in with the regular traffic. Learning to decipher the codes they used to locate each other and trade their wares was difficult, but with time and patience, he had succeeded.
As his body made contact with the Saggitian’s, he could feel the imbalance of the strange creature’s awkward body structure. How they managed to walk, much less run, with such absurdly short legs was beyond him.
The best experts had been consulted when the silent invasion had first begun, in an attempt to explain the phenomenon of the Saggitian’s odd combination of physical attributes. The best theory they have managed so far is that the intruders did their scouting in heavily urban areas and thought all those thugs with their pants sagging down to their ankles were a dominant, sub-species of humans and their real forms must be similar in composition to that inconveniently short-legged form.
In a move uncharacteristic of a typical Saggitian, the creature collapsed one shoulder down into his midriff and threw his weight against Bernard, using the momentum of the attack to take his assailant down. Clearly, they have been training. Not good.
As his head met the rutted concrete below, “Danger Zone” started rattling through his mind, an internal alarm sounding too little too late to be of any real warning. As he got to the chorus, his consciousness began to wane, fading to dark too quickly to be recovered.
Bernard’s sense of smell was the first to return to his addled brain. The scent of earth, mingling discordantly with some nearby decomposition, assaulted his nose with wafts of stink so strong they caused a powerful, uncontrollable sneeze to explode from from his sore face.
Blinking a bit of unsettled dust from his eyes, he looked towards the light to find himself deep in a pit, the top of which was surrounded by unfamiliar faces that he could only assume were the Saggitians who had given him this most unwelcome new home.
Surprise passed across their faces as his sneeze had alerted them to his consciousness. A flurry of murmuring commenced and, as it reached a fever pitch, Bernard heard the wailing of rapidly approaching sirens.
In the ensuing confrontation between his comrades and his captors, his cries for help went unnoticed. Eventually, as the clattering havoc of the skirmish came to a close, familiar faces appeared above the opening of his intended gravesite.
It has been years since it happened. Those awful months when the Saggitians started to wage war with humanity. Many of them rose out of ghettos and the under city with .38 caliber pistols brandished. I thought that it was going to be a short lived event, maybe a month or two at most. It’s been over three years and we are fighting them as best we can for our own survival. Despite not being mobile due to their elongated torso and stubby legs, they carved a bloody path through city after city.
Eventually I became a hunter to help combat the Saggitian threat. I armored my old Ford Ranger and patrolled city after city looking for their leader. Lucky for me, many of the radio stations were still up and playing music. When I was driving through Charlotte, North Carolina I remember hearing part of the Metallica song “All Nightmare Long” blasting away on W7JFQ. I tuned in to the best part of the song.
“Hunt you down without mercy! Hunt you down all nightmare long!” My speakers boomed.
I thought that part of the song should play every time I entered a room. Then my eyesight drifted back to the streets. The once majestic city was decimated by looted buildings and burning dumpsters. Often times the Saggitians hung their victims over the dumpsters as either a trophy or a memento mori of sorts.
Fresh blood pooled in front of a destroyed Wal-Mart. Not good. That meant they caught another victim. I parked my Ranger and grabbed my old Mosin-Nagant bolt action rifle. Weapon raised, I cautiously proceeded through the front door and witnessed a vintage Saggitian hive. Posters of rappers and drugs coated the walls while ba-dumps of bass resonated through the air.
The blood trail led through the hardware department en route to the back room. Pairs of basketball shoes squeaked an shuffled isle to isle. I slowly moved through the hardware isle expecting one to appear. When no Saggitians appeared I lowered my weapon and reached the end of the isle.
Before I knew it a burly Saggitian was bull rushing me. I tried to raise my rifle, but he knocked it away from me. I jumped back and scanned the leftover items. The Saggitian didn’t want me to have time to decide and rushed me again. I reached over and grabbed a claw hammer and swung with all of my might. My timing was spot on as the claw nailed his temple and killed him before he hot the ground. My victory was short lived as I was hit in the head and everything went dark.
Now here I am, looking up and out of my own grave. At least twenty Saggitians are staring down at me in victory. One had to be their leader. Only the important ones wear more than seven gold chains. They start laughing and so do I. They grow quiet and curious to my apparent sanity break. I just hold up my block of explosives.