The End Came With a Kiss(8)

By: John Michael Hileman


Kate's face and body tighten, as though she is giving birth. Words force their way through her lips. Not a whisper. Not a hiss. Real words. "I PROOOOOOMISSSSssssssE!" she groans.

I shudder a breath. Though she has done this several times, it has not lost its impact on me. Not simply because the dead don't speak, but because on the day when this conversation took place, she didn't make that promise.

It might be wishful thinking on my part. I realize this. But I believe she can hear me. I believe that somewhere deep inside this dead flesh, my wife is still alive. She stays bent over, staring wide eyed, as if she too can’t believe what just happened, but this stage won’t last long. I step away and look through the kitchen at the door to the cellar. It is still open. Good.

With a twist, Kate looks at the front window of the living room that is now haphazardly boarded over. Knowing what will happen next, I seal my ears with my fingers.

Kate lets out an ear-splitting scream and runs into the kitchen toward the knives on the counter, but before she can slide one free of the wooden holder, she spins and looks to where I was standing in the kitchen on that horrible day. She nods furiously, races through the kitchen, and disappears into the cellar.





4

Katherine is safe. I am no longer needed. The rest of her evening will be spent in lower level processes. And, though I want to spend this time with her, I know I must check on my new companion. Perhaps I will return before bedtime and spend a few more minutes, if I am able.

The street is quiet. That's good. Nothing wants to kill me.

Along the way I see Mrs. Peeler jogging with her dog. It is her nightly routine. Most dogs turn on their owner when they reanimate, but not this one. He seems content, even well fed. I don't want to be around when that changes.

"Hello?" I say, as I enter the safe house.

"I'm in the living room," says a hidden voice.

I walk down the short entrance hall and look into the living room. Ashlyn is sitting on the end of the couch, hugging her knees. The room is almost completely dark.

"I should have told you," I say, passing by. "There’s a battery-powered lamp in the garage. But I'll go turn the power on."

Her voice follows after me. "You have power?"

"Hold on," I tell her as I open the door to the garage and flick on the lamp on a TV tray to the right. There is no vehicle in the two car garage, only a generator with a white plastic tube running up and out the back window. The walls are covered with chunks of soft, hard-edged material, like egg cartons, boxes and old styrofoam, to break up the sound. I tacked all this up before I realized sound isn’t what makes the loopers lose their minds. Still, it helps to keep unwanted visitors from stopping by. I check the tank and pull the ripcord. An oppressive sound fills the space and the light above flickers to life.

Ashlyn has the television on when I return. I can’t help but laugh.

"What?" she huffs. "There could have been something."

"It’s been nothing but blue for days."

The hand pointing the remote falls limp to her side. "They can’t even run a television station. That’s just pathetic."

"They kept it going longer than I thought they would."

I look down at an open can of ravioli on the coffee table. "I see you managed to find some food."

She looks over her shoulder at it. "Yeah. The basement was pitch black. I found that in the back of a kitchen cabinet."

"Well, you’re welcome to anything in the house. We also have hot water if you’d like to take a shower." As I say it, I can’t help but notice that her hair looks shiny and vibrant, her youthful face free of smears.

"I took one yesterday, actually. It was horribly cold, but the water was clean."

"Where’d you find that?"

"The police station," she says, absentmindedly dragging her fingers through her gentle red waves. "I was hoping they had water heaters." She frowns. "Turns out they don’t."

"Have you been wandering around by yourself?"

"Yeah. Mostly."

"What happened to your family?"

"They changed."

I nod somberly. "I’m sorry to hear that."