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WARNING: Stories on this site may contain mature language and situations, and may be inappropriate for readers under the age of 18.

IRONY by Richard Gustafson
March 28, 2012  Short stories   Tags:   

“Gotta stop the bleeding” I tell myself. “Gotta stop it or they’ll find me.” They can smell it. They can taste it in the air. “Gotta stop the bleeding.” I say again in a nervous whisper. It’s been two months, three days and “Shit, it’s almost evening already.” I say, looking at my watch thinking of how long it’s been. No one saw this coming and I definitely wasn’t an exception.

Making my way out the alley is the only way I can accomplish my task but my nerves haven’t let me move in an hour. Sitting here is only going to make things worse. I stand up, steeling myself for the journey ahead. A journey that would only be a fifteen minute walk had the Darkness not come. This I feel will take a life time. Peeking around the corner from the alleyway once again put my senses on high. It’s one of Them. About a block away, standing at the cross walk and waiting for the light. I dodge back into the corridor and vomit. The mornings ration of cat food coming up in an instant. “If you make too much damn noise…..they will hear you. And you will die.” Speaking again in a hushed whisper to the only living ears around. I take my time, making sure my gag reflex is in check. Time to put up or shut up. I have no weapon, no skill in combat. I’ve survived this time by staying low and in my apartment. Only stepping out when absolutely necessary, confining my ventures to the surrounding buildings. Now, low on food, I know that the only way I can stay alive is to scavenge outside of my comfort zone. It’s called being stuck between a rock and a hard place. If I stay, I will die of starvation. If I leave, they may kill me. Starving to death almost looks better.

I stand again, ready myself and take two steps from my cover. The corpse at the end of the street has crossed, now on my side but across from me. I find it remarkable that even after reanimation, they have tried to keep on with their lives. I remember a woman that I had seen from my third story apartment window. She was pushing a stroller. I had hoped that there wasn’t anything in it but what scared me the most, was the fact that she was humming. From so high it was hard to hear and it had sounded more like a gurgle than a hum. Either way, the experience had been horrific.

I turn right and make my way quietly to Saint Park St. Another right and I’m facing the sun and Bridge St. The litter along the pavement reminds me of the aftermath of a parade. Oh how long it has been since man kind could celebrate. How long will it be until we can again? If ever? My friends had always said I was too optimistic at times. I’m sure of what they would say had they been alive now.

Using the cover from stoops and cars on the street I get to the corner of Park and Bridge. My destination is across the river and two blocks west. My stomach lurches as I look down the street and see one of them. I can’t believe my eyes. It is, was, the control master for the bridge, he is in the booth. I step back beyond his sight. The only other way across is five miles east. Back the way I came and then some. I set about looking around for something, anything I could use. I spot it, inside the toy store I’m standing near. I remember the owners, they were an older couple. Very pleasant people and would always say Hi if you happened to walk by them. I feel bad as I step through the once solid window to the building. I grab my prize and step out quickly, it feels so wrong to steal. “I’ll pay them back.” I whisper.

Cranking up the wind I hold the toy as to not let it start prematurely. I peek around the corner. The control master is at the controls and is moving a lever back and forth. No movement coming from the bridge. I have no idea how it works but I am glad that it isn’t now. I look at my chosen path and release the toy in the opposite direction. It goes off like a racecar down the street, its little plastic wheels screaming furiously. I pull myself back into the toy store when I hear feet on asphalt. Boots actually, distinct by their  heavy thudding sound. I peer out around the window frame as the control master comes running down the sidewalk. He won’t step into the street, knowing that at least at one time it would have been dangerous. Taking the deepest breath I can I make good my escape and work my way around the corner and up to the bridge. Looking back I see that my plan has not gone exactly as I had imagined. The control master has stopped just feet from the toy. Staring at it like it’s some new wonder, unsure what to make of it. I turn my head and set my sights on the other end of the bridge. “Just make it across.” I whisper, running straight on and not looking back.

I’m at full stride, the eerie feeling that someone is just behind me all the way. Taking a quick left off the ramp and down the side brings me to another alley. This one behind an old hardware store, surprisingly it isn’t as beaten as the other buildings around it. I stop. Listening and waiting for those pounding, heart stopping steps. Nothing. Silence. I have won the battle of the bridge. Smiling excitedly, I tip toe down the alley to Rushmore Ave. I peek out and look up and down the lonesome road. The only thing that moves is a flag off to my left, still held high even after the darkness. It reminds me that we as Americans have made it this far. It gives me hope. Maybe someday I will be able to enjoy a parade again, see friends and family again. My focus on the flag has taken me from my task at hand and I physically shake myself out of the momentary coma. Right and due west, I step out from the alleyway stopping a couple of feet the intersection of Bridge and Rushmore. I strain my eyes and try to see where the control master may have gone to. In only moments I spot him in the same spot he was before but now there is a small boy with him. The boy has gone into the street and picked up the toy. The sight makes me shiver. How could they have cognitive thought? They are….dead, aren’t they? I decide to waste no more time on them and set out to cross Bridge St, hoping they will be gone on my return.

The afternoon sun is lower now, giving me no warmth in this cold world. Walking is seeming to help though. Being cramped in apartment 223 since the Darkness came has taken its toll on my body as I had always been athletic and had regular exercise. I take some time to stretch and collect my thoughts behind a dumpster. The smell coming from the bakery next to it is horrid and almost turns my stomach again. I remember the fresh croissants I bought there before and my mouth begins to water. Never again will I be able to enjoy fresh baked breads, cold milk or even ice cream from the parlor across the water way. Leaving the cover and back on the street I march on breathing the fresh air in and exhaling the fumes from the bakery. The Pharmacy comes into my view just a few hundred yards from the dumpster. It has been a shorter walk than I really expected and I almost can’t believe my luck when something catches my eye. Is it really?! Yes, yes it is. A car, no. A Smart Car?! “What the hell?” I say a little too loudly. I dodge behind a fence to my right and peer on. My eyes have not deceived me at all. Someone is driving a Smart Car on the other side of the river. It can’t be. Are all of my nightmares over? Is there really someone else alive, here? The vehicle fades from view as I stare on. Emotions going wild, I can not believe what I saw. If there really is someone here then how is it that I have not known before. Then it hits me. Them. The man at the crosswalk. The lady with the stroller. Control Master and the little boy. It has to be. One of them must still be living out their life. But driving? The excitement of the last few minutes is more than my stomach can take and again I hurl. The pain in my stomach and the smell of my own life blood is more than enough to clear my head. “I can’t sit here hoping for the best. I need to stop the bleeding.” I say firmly, smacking my legs with the palms of my hands. I stand up. Resolute to finish this and get back to 223 before nightfall. “I will have plenty of time to think when I get home.” I whisper.

The Pharmacy door is open and the wall length windows to the front of the building stand as open as they were at the toy store. I enter. My palms have become sweaty and my entire body begins to shake. I stop at the once bright and busy register, scanning the isles for my five finger purchase. “Food First.” I say, agreeing with the pain in my stomach. I grab a couple of bags and a working flashlight from behind the counter. Isle five is stocked with a myriad of dried foods. I begin to loading the bags with soups, boxes of mashed potatoes and even some canned pineapple. My mouth begins to water with the thought of real food but turns sour and dry in an instant. A sound comes from the street and my body freezes in fear. I listen on, hoping it was just my imagination. Again I hear the sound and my heart leaps into my throat. Panic converges over my body and I drop the bags on the floor and run. The sound is coming closer as I dodge between the isles of the Pharmacy. Isle six, Isle seven, Isle eight. Up and down I run, finding anything to help make good my escape. I stop. The fear boils to a new degree and my eyes fill with salty moisture. Rolling towards me down the isle is a toy. The one from the store I had used to get by the Control Master. Looking up brings the most horrid face into my view. The Boy. He looks to be about six or seven and has the most grotesque look on his face. Congealed blood from ear to arm, yellow eyes and rotting teeth. I turn around to run the opposite direction. No good. There’s another person in front of me now. The Control Master? It’s too dark to tell. I hardly notice as the toy hits my ankle and stops. The windings energy spent, I suddenly feel as if I have been a toy as well. A toy to two mindless beings. “They must have smelled my blood and followed me.” I think to myself. I look up at the sign hanging above the Control Masters head. Irony begins to laugh in my face as I feel something hit my head. I fall backward. I feel something jab my thigh as I land. Grunts, moans and sounds of rage fill my ears. Loud crying converges in the mad cacophony of noise but I take no notice. Still looking up at the sign I can barely make the words out now as my eyes begin to close. Isle Fourteen – Feminine Hygiene. “Gotta stop the bleeding.” I mutter. The darkness takes me and all goes black.


  1. Haha!

    Comment by keith on March 29, 2012 @ 1:27 pm

  2. The toy at the end is very creepy! I’m intrigued to see where Frank is taking this, and I suppose I spend most of my life driving on autopilot 🙂

    Comment by Pete Bevan on March 29, 2012 @ 5:00 pm

  3. I thought that the story was a one shot but since Pete Says its still going somewhere im very intrigued since the conclusion may be more open ended than i thought.
    SO is more coming?

    Comment by bong on March 30, 2012 @ 3:28 pm

  4. oh I don’t know I just assumed it was part of a larger story. Kinda looks that way to me. Either that or there are so many multi parters I just assumed.

    Comment by Pete Bevan on March 30, 2012 @ 4:33 pm

  5. Well, I’m polishing up the second installment now as I feel Irony was messy and it should be in the box soon. The next one ties the end up a bit and shouldn’t disappoint. Thanks. 🙂

    Comment by FubarFrank on March 30, 2012 @ 4:36 pm

  6. I agree with Pete! The toy car had me all “WTF!!!”. I’m also very curious as to where these “smartzombs” are heading.

    Comment by JR Onespot on March 30, 2012 @ 4:57 pm

  7. SmartZombs, Nice. 🙂

    Comment by FubarFrank on March 30, 2012 @ 5:03 pm

  8. Way to go, my man. Way to go.

    Comment by John the Piper's Son on March 31, 2012 @ 3:03 am

  9. Nice to see a genuinely scary story and one where the main protagonist isn’t ex navy seal/cop etc

    Comment by Jasmine DiAngelo on March 31, 2012 @ 11:32 am

  10. Feminine Hygiene….nice 🙂

    Comment by HalfBakedMcBride on April 3, 2012 @ 11:16 am

  11. Brilliant! Just brilliant! I had been reading stories in this website since last year and I honestly enjoyed some of them, including stories written by a genius like Pete Bevan.

    I’m glad that you decided to not give away too many details and you left the readers guessing whether if the narrator was a boy or a girl. In the end, I was glad that I finally saw the answer and turns out, the narrator was a girl having her period. 🙂 Yeah, all of that guessing made sense when you mentioned feminine hygiene on the last part

    Comment by Cee on April 4, 2012 @ 10:34 am

  12. Ok not done with my comment way and I accidentally tapped the Done on my iPhone 🙂 Babbling aside, I think it was well-written but it lacked the action that I was looking for. However, don’t take it as an offense because I sincerely enjoyed reading your story and that was just probably me who was looking for a quick adrenaline rush and gore. But I couldn’t wait for the next installment already and I was hoping for more depth.

    Other than that, I liked the revelation in the end. It finally made my brain to shut up from thinking too much what caused the narrator’s bleeding. 🙂

    Glad you decided to leave her nameless. Idk, but sometimes, I like nameless characters. Keep writing.

    Comment by Cee on April 4, 2012 @ 10:41 am

  13. Wow, I went a complete different way with this story. I thought the main character was perhaps suffering from a mental illness/break down and was realizing it slowly as they ventured back out into the world.

    Comment by Jay Zombie on April 5, 2012 @ 8:26 pm

  14. But on further thought, I may not have been so far off… I consistently diagnose my girlfriend with insanity on a monthly basis.

    Comment by Jay Zombie on April 5, 2012 @ 8:55 pm

  15. I really appreciate all of the positive feed back everyone. I promise that Part II will be a bit more exciting. Cee, there are actually only a few people that have caught the meaning of Aisle 14. It was somewhat difficult writing this story as I am male but it was easy to understand the characters plight as I got going. I’m excited for you all to read Part II. 🙂 Thanks Again!

    Comment by FubarFrank on April 5, 2012 @ 11:14 pm

  16. Fubarfrank is my son, and no I did not name him that, and he has actually written a few other stories in the same genre. I have enjoyed reading, proof reading and critiqueing his earlier efforts. I never saw this one until it was published and, I must admit, I never even thought about the protaganist being female while I was reading it. A good read, I thought. I am hoping for more, as well.

    Comment by Dad on April 6, 2012 @ 6:05 am

  17. Good story!

    Comment by Smith j.j. on April 18, 2012 @ 7:52 pm

  18. Dad is my son, and FubarFrank is my grandson. Dad has never written a story but likes to proof read. I once pinched his ear when he replaced the oatmeal cookies in the cupboard with subpar lamingtons. A naughty boy, I thought. I am hoping for less of this behaviour, as well.

    Comment by Grandad on April 30, 2012 @ 10:25 pm

  19. Funny Grandad, I didn’t know they had internet access in heaven. Thanks for the post and I understand how one can be distraught about oatmeal cookies as there is never a substitution. Cheers.

    Comment by FubarFrank on May 2, 2012 @ 9:15 am

  20. Just read this after the sequel. and both are very good!

    Comment by rapraapraaap on June 7, 2012 @ 2:55 am

  21. Thanks RapRaapRaaap. 🙂

    Comment by FubarFrank on June 7, 2012 @ 10:10 am

  22. I just re-read this after reading the sequel. I have to say, that car still gives me the jim-jams.

    Comment by JamesAbel on June 23, 2012 @ 3:19 pm

  23. Ahh James, it’s alright. The car is nothing more than your imagination getting to you… or is it? Mwah ha ha! (Ladibug flutters around, laughing menacingly).

    Comment by FubarFrank on June 23, 2012 @ 5:05 pm

  24. ….Ladibug lands long enough to say “Glad my story was written well enough for you to actually WANT to read it a second time.”

    Comment by FubarFrank on June 23, 2012 @ 5:17 pm

  25. I wonder if Pete knows we’ve created a monster….Ladibug? Anyway, yes, it was interesting enough to read twice. I’m trying to learn as mutch as I can from all the writers here. I just completed a rough draft today that I plan to submit once it is edited and polished. Will be my second submission (first was rejected – I only cried for a little bit). Hopefully I’ll do better this round. Long story short – keep ’em coming..good stories!

    Comment by JamesAbel on June 23, 2012 @ 5:36 pm

  26. I’ve only accepted the “title” to keep the shame from seeping through. I cry through it and my little Ladibug heart just keeps on fluttering. It’s a defense mechanism. 😉 Can’t wait to see what you got James. 🙂

    Comment by FubarFrank on June 23, 2012 @ 5:43 pm

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