October 11, 2013

Sacrifice by J. Cornell Michel

Flash Fiction from the author of Jordan's Brains.

This story has some thematic similarities to Patrick D'Orazio's "Dog Days." Take a look at the story Q & A at the end to hear what one of the authors has to say.


Maxine knew that her husband wouldn’t last much longer without a decent meal. She’d been out hunting for three days, but she returned home that afternoon, empty-handed and exhausted. Her husband snapped at her as she walked into the living room, but Maxine knew that he couldn’t get to her. She’d tied him up months ago, when she realized it was too dangerous to let him roam free in the house.

Frank had always been an affectionate man, and he was no different after he died. He’d reach for her in the middle of the night, constantly looking for attention. After a few days, it became too much work to keep tabs on him all the time, so she tied him to his favorite recliner and put him in front of the television. There hadn’t been a signal for days, just a blank screen, but Frank didn’t seem to mind.

The day after Frank was resurrected, Maxine was lucky enough to come across the neighbor’s cat. She easily trapped the animal and brought it home. She set the cat in front of Frank, brimming with pride. Frank had been providing food for the family for years, and now it was her turn to put food on the table. But Frank would have none of it. He shoved the cat off his lap and glared at Maxine, reaching for her with his undead hands. Maxine wasn’t keen on feeding human meat to her husband, but she didn’t have a choice.

Reluctantly, she went out the next morning in search of food for her husband. She convinced herself that it wasn’t murder. No, it was more like gruesome grocery shopping. Maxine made sure to only hunt loners, so no one would get suspicious. The first item on her grocery list was her next-door neighbor, Dorothy. The old woman had lived alone for decades, and Maxine knew that no one would miss her.

She rapped on Dorothy’s door, and politely waited for the old woman to answer. Several minutes passed before the front door slowly opened.

“Hello, dear,” the old woman said. “What are you doing here? The government said that people aren’t supposed to leave their homes.”
“I know, but I wanted to check on you and make sure you have enough food,” Maxine said sweetly.
“Oh, I’m fine, dear, don’t you worry about me. I have plenty of food, and the government is working to do their weekly drop-off. Would you like to come in?”
“No, I was actually wondering if you’d like to come over to my house for a visit. I’m making venison stew for supper.”
“How lovely! I haven’t had meat in weeks,” Dorothy said, licking her lips. “Did Frank catch the deer?”
“Yes, he’s quite good with his rifle. He went out hunting yesterday, and we have plenty to share. Why don’t you come over right now, and we can all have dinner together?”
“Well, I’m sure it would be OK for me to leave the house just this one time, since we’ll be walking over together.”
“Marvelous,” Maxine said as she took Dorothy’s hand and led her down the gravel path to her house.

Poor Dorothy didn’t stand a chance. Maxine led her into the living room, and she shoved Dorothy into her husband’s waiting arms. Dorothy screamed like a banshee, and carried on for quite a while. Maxine felt like a monster, and the intense guilt made her leave the room. But she got used to it after a while. Maxine even started eating her own supper next to Frank while he devoured his victims. It was nice for them to be able to eat meals together again.

Maxine began to fear for her husband’s health when her hunting trips weren’t successful. Frank had only been having one meal per week, and he was starting to look gaunt. Maxine knew she’d have to do something drastic soon, but she was running out of options. She’d walked for miles over the past three days, and she hadn’t come across a single survivor. 

She knew what she had to do. It was time to make sacrifices.

Maxine was a dutiful housewife, and she walked into the kitchen on autopilot, like she had many times before. She grabbed a butcher knife and stared at it for a few seconds before returning to the living room. Maxine walked up to her husband with tears in her eyes, and she gritted her teeth as she sliced into the meaty flesh of her forearm and cut out a chunk. She yelped in pain as she handed her offering to her husband. Frank greedily grabbed the meat, swallowed it, and looked at her, wanting more. 

Maxine was never able to refuse her husband, and she wasn’t about to start now.  


Story Q & A

Q: Have you read "Dog Days" by Patrick D'Orazio?

I just read “Dog Days,” and it was a great story. I think it’s very well written, and the descriptions pulled me right into the story.
Q. How do you think your story contrasts with that one?
“Dog Days” has vivid descriptions that set the scene, and, in contrast, I didn’t really add any physical descriptions in my story. In this story, I tended to focus on what characters are doing and how they’re feeling, rather than what they’re seeing. D’Orazio’s writing sets a great example for others in that respect. In my story, Maxine volunteered to sacrifice herself to Frank, but Jed wasn’t a willing victim at first. However, he conceded when he realized that it would keep Susie alive a little longer.
Q. In "Turning" Bryan Cassiday enters the mind of the zombie. Do you think Frank thinks like this, or does he not think at all?
I’ve written about “thinking” zombies before, but it wasn’t where I was going with this story. I wanted the focus to be on Maxine, and just have Frank in the background.

About J. Cornell Michel

Michel currently lives in Maryland, but has plans to move to San Francisco very soon because she's feeling ready for a new adventure. She is looking forward to a change of scenery, the excitement of hunting for a new job, and the thrill of discovering indie bookstores.

Most of Jillian Cornell Michel's  free time is dedicated to devouring stories about the living dead. She writes for Zombie Guide Magazine with four other talented writers. We post new articles every day on our website: http://www.zombie-guide.com/

Michel turned her zombie obsession into something productive when she decided to write Jordan’s Brain: A Zombie Evolution.  

As she explains:
Jordan is a psychotic yet friendly zombie expert whose gender is never revealed. Having prepared for the zombie apocalypse since childhood, Jordan is thrilled when hordes of the infected undead finally invade. With a bug-out bag and a confident grin, Jordan leaves the safety of the psychiatric hospital and wanders alone into the zombie-infested streets to rescue family and strangers alike. Everything seems perfect until Jordan’s loved ones start dying, and Jordan has to face the harsh reality that the zombie apocalypse isn’t going according to plan.

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