Billy Squier crooned “In The Dark” on Trevor’s boom box. Trevor lay on the top bunk, while across the room, Paul pounded a joystick. “Be careful with that thing!” Trevor warned.
Paul said, “It’s gonna die soon anyway.”
He was right. When the boys opened the gaming console at Christmas, they gazed unbelieving at the box. The machine inside was used, but very real. Nonetheless, one of the joysticks had been broken within a month, its red button jammed down until it wouldn’t spring up anymore, and there wasn’t any money for repairs. The second stick was held together with duct tape. Both boys knew it wouldn’t be with them much longer. Still, they enjoyed it while they could, and Trevor hated to hear Paul abusing the thing. But Paul had always been the nervous one, and Trevor understood that need to expel energy.
For his own part, he reached above his head and turned up the radio. He wanted to get up and pee, but Miss Anna had been clear. Trevor’s job was to concentrate his wishes down to the yellow-haired dead man in the bottom bunk, and to not get up for any reason whatsoever until the trouble started. The body had to remember who had killed it, had to remember its own animosity towards its murderer. And it could get that from Trevor, who had watched his stepfather shoot it when it had still been a man. Trevor and Paul had been trapped in their shared bedroom with the blonde corpse for a whole night now, a night when neither of them slept.
“What’s that horrible smell?” asked Mom from the doorway.
Paul jumped to his feet, standing so his body blocked the bed. Paul’s job was to keep Mom out of the room when she came home from work. “Where’d you come from?” Paul demanded. “Get outta here! And knock first.”
Trevor propped himself on one elbow and made a show of looking at their mother. In fact, even that motion was a little difficult right now. Those tendrils of concentration that he had been sending down were also wisps that held him in place and made moving a heavy burden.
“Can’t you ask how a lady’s night went at work?” Mom said, and then continued without waiting for an answer, “You aren’t hiding some other smells, are you?”
“Mom, we’re not smoking pot, now let me finish my game! I have to get to the Mothership before time runs out,” said Paul.
Mom stood silhouetted in the doorway, leaning on one raised arm. The backlight hid her features, hid the bruises, so that for a moment, her sons saw her as men must have once seen her, a wasp-waisted goddess crying out desire with her very figure. Paul flinched away from the sight, but he stayed between her and the bed.
“I’m just telling you, if that smell isn’t gone by the time your Daddy wakes up…”
“Randy’s not our father,” Trevor snapped. “Not mine and not Paul’s.”
“Don’t you let him hear you say that,” Mom warned. Randy was asleep in his kitchen chair, sprawled backwards in front of an unfinished beer.
“Okay, fine, just let me finish my game,” Paul insisted.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do with you boys,” Mom said. “It’s absolutely putrid in that room.” But she was retreating down the hall now, and Paul stepped forward to close the door behind her. They knew she was too tired to investigate.
“How are things coming down there?” Trevor asked, his voice sounding as heavy now as his body felt. When the subject wasn’t their stepfather, he didn’t have much energy for speaking.
Paul approached the bottom bunk and rustled the comforter. “Still dead,” he reported to Trevor. “I hope he hurries his yellow head up. Mom’s right about the smell, and if Randy wakes up and comes in here …”
“Is she? I guess my nose has kind of adjusted. I hardly notice anymore,” Trevor told his brother. “Anyway, it will work. Miss Anna said we had to give it a full twelve hours, and we’re at eleven and a half right now. And Randy’s going to be sleeping awhile yet. I got the pills in his drinks.”
Paul nodded, moving away from the bed. Then he picked up his joystick and resumed the task of navigating an alien home to its distant family. “I hope Mom doesn’t decide to want the TV back,” he said.
“That’s a stupid game if she does” said Trevor. “But she can’t come in, and right now, you shouldn’t go out.
Paul didn’t answer.
“In The Dark” faded out, and the DJ put on some girl band, The Bangles or Bananarama. Trevor groaned and reached behind his head to fiddle with the dial without looking.
Out in the living room, the same song Trevor had just turned down came on louder. Mom keeping herself awake long enough to get some breakfast. Or dinner. It was hard to say which meal was what with a third shift job. Mom sang “She’s got it” while Trevor fumbled through stations on a slow-to-tune dial.
“I guess she doesn’t want the TV anyway,” said Paul.
Mom must have been dodging around Randy’s sleeping form, because a couple of times, she stopped singing, then apologized, “Oh! So sorry hon, just getting myself a little dinner, then I’m heading off to bed.” And Paul pounded a little harder on the joystick.
Then a bump, and Paul threw down the joystick and spun around. Trevor sat up too fast and smacked his head on the ceiling. AC/DC crackled on the boom box, “Back in Black”, and Trevor rubbed his skull. The logy feeling let him go as those hundred thousand directed thoughts finally finished their journey through his mind and into the yellow-haired man’s body. “Get the blankets off it, Paul,” Trevor hissed, as he vaulted down the bunk ladder. The trouble was started.
Paul snatched the cover back, removed the comforter jerkily, then backed against the television. Trevor studied the former man and stood beside his brother.
The corpse’s eyes were as yellow as its hair now, and they were glowing. It sat up a little unsteadily, then swiveled its head to look straight at Trevor. “In the kitchen, right?” the dead man rasped.
Trevor nodded, then swallowed hard and spoke. “Asleep at the table. Not Mom. Not even if she gets in the way.”
The corpse nodded, rising until it seemed to fill the small room with its rank smell. “Not Mom,” it repeated in that same growling voice. “But when she starts screaming, you be ready to grab her and run. It’s going to get ugly when I take that bastard back down with me.”
Then, the zombie kicked the door down like it was made of cardboard, while Trevor and Paul huddled together against the TV. “One bright chance,” Trevor said. “God almighty, one bright chance.”
And then the brothers held on to each other, waiting for their mother to scream.
For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Jay Andrew Allen challenged me with “Bananarama. ” and I challenged Grace O’Malley with “Deftly, he wove in and out of the cones, letting the wind rush across his body, holding himself coiled for the moment when he could pick up speed.”
This is also part two of the story I started here yesterday.
Jessie Powell is the Jester Queen. She likes to tell you about her dog, her kids, her fiction, and her blog, but not necessarily in that order.