NPR's holding a contest to write Three-Minute Fiction. (Although it's over Saturday night.)
To make sure I had an entry, earlier this week I edited this down and submitted it, but I wanted to do more, if I could.
Wednesday I wrote a love story:
Teri heard Ellen pound the front door, hard. Each thump of her patchy white fist reverberated down the entry hall where Teri stood.
Tears dribbled down Teri's cheeks as she hefted the heavy, scratched-up hatchet from the woodstove, the woodstove that warmed their home almost as well as Ellen's laugh. A laugh Teri would never hear. Tears fell faster.
She couldn't think like that, though. No time. She wiped her eyes on her sleeve and took a breath that tried to get caught in her throat.
After a movie one night, Ellen told Teri, "I love you more than anything, but if you came home a zombie, I'll kill you. And I expect you to do the same thing. Promise me?" Teri had promised and they both laughed.
It even became a game for them. One would walk through the house asking for "Brains. Braaaaaains." The other would pounce to kill the infected. They'd fall to the floor together, arms and legs tangled, laughing.
When the infected started popping up, they talked again, but this time it was serious. Again, Teri promised, but she wasn't sure it was one she could keep.
The pounding stopped and so did Teri's heart. Counting to three, she raised the hatchet, blunt side forward, over her head and reached out toward the door. She held the knob with just the tips of her fingers and, ever so carefully, turned it and gave a gentle pull, not enough to open the door, but enough that it wasn't really closed, so that even a little breeze could push it open.
She took several steps back and waited at the end of the hall.
She heard nothing. No pounding. Not a creak from the porch.
She wanted to run and hide in the basement, but she couldn't. She'd only be found and then infected. And she wanted to be strong, like Ellen. For Ellen.
She took a deep breath and let it out. She took another and said, voice cracking, "Ellen? Are you there?"
With a roar, Ellen burst through the door and stumbled and fell, face first, onto the tile. Teri flinched at the crack made when Ellen's skull hit.
Terri pounced, just like she did when they had been playing, except she also swung the hatchet at the back of Ellen's head. This time the sound was crunch. She started crying again.
She lifted the hatchet and swung again and again.
When her arm got tired, she stopped and stood up. Ellen was gone. She wiped her eyes again, pulled the body farther down the hall, and shut the door.