This story is by Theresa Jacobs and was part of our 2018 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“HELLO?” Carey screamed once more. Her voice was growing fainter with each yell, her throat raw. Tears streamed down her cheeks and snot bubbled out her nose, but she didn’t care. The cloudless azure sky was no comfort to her dire situation. Distracted by her thoughts, she tripped on the pockmarked black lava bed, stumbled, flung her arms out and halted so she wouldn’t fall. The last thing she needed was to puncture her skin on the rough ground. Or worse, twist her gold adorned ankle and end up trapped close to the carnage.
She glanced at the shattered plane. “Should I go back and check for food and water?” Among the wreckage, she spotted a woman on her back, one arm over her face as though shielding it from the blazing sun, the other outstretched beckoning Carey back. The thought of returning to the refuse made her stomach churn. Mangled dead passengers lay strewn across the black land, others still strapped into their seats. Bodies speared with metal, tongues lolling, eyeballs dangling, or as one body she came upon, headless. Recalling the scene of bloodshed and destruction she had clawed her way out of, she leaned forward and vomited bile.
“I’d give my tits to find a resort right about now.” Her eyes glazed over as she visualized laying by a sparkling blue pool sipping a Mai Tai while she staggered away from the crash site.
No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t stop her sight from being drawn to her left, where the overgrown jungle lay. With its canopy of dancing palms and lush, vibrant greenery. Carey knew a welcoming evil grin when she saw one. It called to her on the wind, a hush of whispering fronds, Come into my sheltering arms, you’ll be cool, we’ll keep you safe. She shuddered, picturing massive tarantulas, writhing centipedes with a million rippling legs, or sharp-toothed salivating beasts, thirsting for her tender, pale flesh. When a tiny white spider, a brilliant speck against the obsidian ground, scampered close to Carey’s exposed manicured toes. She screamed and danced back two steps her body wracked by a violent tremor.
“God damn it! Why me?” She hurried beyond that spot, praying no more spiders crossed her path today. She brushed at her arms as if an unseen web dangled from her delicate skin. “Just breathe Carey, breathe.” With another jaw clenching convulsion, she turned her sights to the water. It lay ten feet below on her right, the continuous roar of waves, at first annoying, now lulled her into a hypnotic walking sleep. The smoldering sun had dipped lower in the west, and the temperature dropped fast.
Carey paused, ahead of her was a monotonous march of uniformity. In the jungle, an invisible-something, scuttled, rustling the impenetrable underbrush. She shivered putting two more steps between herself and the unknown horrors. Now close to the cliff edge, she sat and lifted her Fendi bag over her head, off her aching shoulder. She wished she’d been braver and gathered necessary supplies before heading off. Her stomach growled, her mouth was dry, and she felt her face and arms both burning hot and icy cold from the sunburn.
“Son-of-a-bitch. HELLO?” Her voice didn’t even rise above the crashing waves.
It was evident no rescue was forthcoming. She had lost all sense of time since leaving the crash site. She recalled the last time she’d looked at her phone before the gates of hell opened, it had been five am. Now the sun was dipping low into the evening hours. She had no more tears left; her tongue as dry as the lava bed beneath her, and her temples throbbed to the beat of an invisible drum.
“Let’s go on vacation, he said. It’ll be fun, he said.” Carey’s lip curled, and she gave an angry middle finger back at the distant plane. “Asshole. Now, look at me! What am I supposed to do now? HUH? WHAT?” Then thought, This is my punishment for vacationing with my boss. A lot of good the money will do me now.
She dropped her designer purse into her lap, opened the zipper and rifled around. Searching for anything that would help her situation. A makeup compact, a horsehair brush, a crystal nail file, all useless. Giving up, she opened her bottle of Motrin; thankful she always bought gel caps. In desperate need of pain relief, she bit into one. The bitter liquid coated her tongue. Gagging she held down the urge to vomit and bit into another, tossing the empty green casings aside. Exhausted she flopped onto her side, tucking her purse under her head for a pillow.
“Just a little rest,” she said as she stared unseeing across the churning ocean. She imagined a Special-Ops helicopter as a black speck on the horizon, with a herculean seal team on its way to save her.
A light moan escaped Carey’s lips as she reached out to pull the blankets over her cold shoulders. Her hand encountered hard rock instead of soft bedding. As she rose to consciousness, she felt the rough ground beneath her hip and reality flooded in.
“Ah crap,” she said, wishing she could have stayed asleep. Her entire body ached. She had bumps and bruises from the crash; her feet were swollen and blistered from the walk. Her shoulders and face pulsated, and now her tongue felt three-times its natural size. Clutching her purse to her chest, she sat up with a body wracking shiver. The wind had a cold bite, and she had nothing to cover with for warmth. Carey braced against the next gust and looked to the shelter of trees behind her. The overgrown brush was as dark as Hades, and if she wasn’t willing to venture there during daylight, nothing would force her there now, nothing. No matter how cold she got.
A groan emanated from the darkness on her left. Carey craned her neck, covered her right ear to block out the relentless hammer of the ocean waves and squinted into the dark.
Yes! Her heart raced with anticipation as a lumbering form worked its way towards her. Carey jumped up, forgetting her aches and pains. She waved, calling out, “Hey over here! I’m here.”
The person staggered across the uneven ground. They stopped, took two steps left and started again towards her. “Oh, thank God, I wasn’t the only survivor.” She mumbled and stepped over the rocky terrain towards the other person. She checked the distance between them and thought there was something odd about the person. They groaned as ceaseless as the waves and loud enough to be heard over them.
Carey stopped as fear formed a hard knot in the pit of her stomach. More inky forms appeared in the darkness beyond the first straggler. One of them walked too far left and dropped over the cliff and into the ocean, without a scream.
She blinked, peering into the moonlit night, watching the awkward shuffling movements of ten or more people. She dug her cell phone out of her purse, and though she had no service, she still had power. Clicking it on she pressed the flashlight icon. The stark white beam lit up the ebony ground, and she aimed the light at the people.
Her mouth dropped open, and her heart sank into her stomach to co-mingle with the fear. These weren’t ordinary people. Their clothes were torn and bloody. Their mouths worked up and down, chopping at the night air, all, but for the headless body, that somehow matched the group’s pace. And behind him, her boss. Even with half his face caved in she recognized the white blonde tufts of hair, his polyester baby blue pants, and ‘too cute’ Hawaiian shirt.
“No-no-no-no, zombies aren’t real.” She shook her head in disbelief as a horde of lumbering, maladroit, halting forms advanced toward her.
“Son-of-a-bitch!” Carey aimed the light right into the inky dark of the undulating ocean. She looked at her purse with its useless contents and grimaced at her options. With a growing lump in her throat, she looked left towards the unknown tropical hell. Carey imagined the bushes tickling her exposed flesh. Damp vines and debris clutching at her toes, beetles with thick pincers crunching underfoot, and the possibility of a snake dropping on her head from above. And if she survived the night, what would tomorrow bring? And the day after that?
Unsure why, she hugged her Fendi bag tight to her breast and said, “Thanks for nothing Chuck.”
Carey closed her eyes and jumped off the cliff.