Friday, July 2, 2010

Friday Flash: Bite


I decided that it's high time I got back to writing flash fiction and meet new writers in the process, so here I am back to basics. This is my official christening into the Twitter #FridayFlash society as well as Author Aerobics, hosted by Tessa Bazelli. This is an exercise, in which each week Tessa hands down an element from writing to practice as well as a prompt to go with it. This week participators had to practice good telling and work with afterlife. Somehow, this piece, which I had been working on meets both criteria. How well, you decide.


Harry Markov

A bite from an apple put her to sleep, but a bite from her flesh jarred her awake. The pain thrust itself and slithered as a multi-headed serpent through her limbs.

She screamed and opened her eyes to a coffin and darkness, her body feathered in glass. The pain was such that it threatened to stop her heart anew. Next to her knelt a man, wearing the uniform of a prince. His teeth had sunken deep in the crook of her elbow, fingers clutching at her arm. Her scream ended, her lungs burned and she pushed at the man's face, which made her scream again. His skin had rotten and she felt maggots right beneath the surface.

She remembered tearing her throat with wails at the torment, at the horror, at the ungodliness. But for all the fear it caused, the monstrosity was slow paced. Its frame was weak and movement feverish in its tremors. It hurt as she kicked at its head. It sickened her as its head cracked, but she kept on, until her flesh ripped and remained in its mouth. But she was free. She could run and it could not follow with her speed.

In the night she didn't see, where she fled. The cave where her coffin lay opened to a forest and it seemed like a womb. Alive, moist and sultry; nurturing children deep inside. But the air was rot and the winds screamed part in pain and part in madness.

She didn't want to stop, until she was out of the forest. As far away as she could possibly be from that place. But she tired soon and her run slowed to a fast walk. And then to a stagger. The branches swung as if pointing a way. Perhaps salvation. Perhaps death. And all she craved was silence, the quiet to regain her thoughts.

The forest expelled her eventually and she stood alone with the shadow of the wind, out in the open. Houses hunched over ahead as if blackened by the ghoul’s stench, which in her speeding heart she knew she would never forget.

She followed the road and reached the village. Her eyes were always a-blink in a new direction. Not a single soul called, nor a ghoul moaned. The village felt like death. However scared she was, she forced her feet onward. What she needed was nourishment. And something to bandage her wound with. The blood from her arm had receded, but the pain smarted and she knew the wound festered. As she searched each house, she found only ointment, but no food. Her hunger was all consuming, like termites eating her from the inside, but she felt grateful she encountered no ghoul. Maybe there was only one, but then again, if it was just one, would the village be abandoned.

The day began. It was dull and she slept up a tree, too tired to wander on, too mortified to close an eyelid on the ground. Thoughts of death and ghouls and hunger poisoned her sleep, never giving comfort, nor bring rest.

When she woke, she walked. Past the village turned skeleton. From there it was on a path through the wilderness, with no food and no water, but always hunger. Each night when she closed her eyes, she doubted she would open them again. When she did in the morning, she feared she would have no strength to walk again.

But she carried on, until stepped into an orchard. Mist curled around the roots of dried trees, fruit now black with rot. The sight made her cry. The wound still hurt, now black around the edges, enflamed in the center. How the fate taunted her with food turned to poison. Inedible. She sat down and wondered whether she could continue. Whether there existed a reason to wander on, when the land itself seemed to decay.

The longer she stayed, the less the acrid smell repulsed, the stronger the craving grew and at last she bit through the ashen apples. Teeth tore through the wrinkled skin. The taste was horrid. Flesh oozed and black juices stained her fingers and face, until she felt as if she was the ghoul. Dead, but walking.

After the orchard the small path widened to a well kept road and soon she reached the open city gate. The sight made her moan. She was unafraid, only hungry. Starved. But there was nothing. No fruit. No greens. Bones lay around, splintered and licked clean, or meat disappeared as ghouls clustered in small groups to chew, excluding anyone else. In here she seemed invisible. Nothing came at her.

Reason never left her; this was her home, though it was pillaged. She moaned louder, but not because it was as dead as her land, but because there was none left for her to devour.

There were only bloodstains and smell to taunt. She followed the collective groans, which seemed to have the air aflame, to the castle, beyond the walls and up the steps to the throne room. It was the same space, but dressed in mirrors. She saw herself thin and caved in. She had once hair black as night, skin as white as snow and lips as red as blood. Now her hair was blacker than darkness, skin as dull as wax, lips as pale as rot.

She proceeded, now groaning with the rest of them. The ghouls saw and parted for her as if they recognized her. Even those hunched over their slabs of flesh crawled away, leaving a gnawed corpse in sight.

It was a woman. Dress soaked in viscera, face long gone. In her hand she held a cracked mirror, from which a face whispered.

"Snow White. Snow White is the fairest of them all."

Snow White bent over and lifted her stepmother's severed hand.

A bite from Snow White's flesh had ended her life, but a bite from the witch's would celebrate her coronation in death.


I think that I have some disjointed sentences without good transitions. The story skips from one though to another, but I can of course point out that the character is turning into a zombie. The truth is that I am not used to working with such word limit. So I found it hard to get the flow right.


Charles Gramlich said...

Great, great idea, with some truly gruesome visuals. I think you're right, the execution of it needs a bit of work. It's definitely a touch jumpy in places but that can all be polished up. This has some real promise.

Harry Markov said...

I am glad that you do like it. This is an old idea, which I could never start because I wanted it to be long and I didn't work that way at the time. Now that it is short, it's jumpy as I am trying to make it longer. There is actually a scene with the seven dwarfs I omitted for the purpose of it being short.

I plan on doing it again, but within the 5,000 word mark.

Tessa said...

"She had once hair black as night, skin as white as snow and lips as red as blood. Now her hair was blacker than darkness, skin as dull as wax, lips as pale as rot." I thought this was the best line, anchoring the fairy tale to the story. I did like the visuals as well. I nver thought snow white would make a good zombie story but you've proven me wrong :)

Harry Markov said...

My favorite line from the fairy tale as well. My sister had a thing for this one, so I loved it, too. :)

Rebecca Emin said...

I enjoyed this - great descriptions of the characters and a very unique idea. Perhaps a bit of polishing would help but in a way, I liked the disjointed style as it added to the tension.

(I don't even usually like zombie stories.) Welcome to Friday Flash!

Marisa Birns said...

I absolutely loved the first sentence! Great hook.

So this is your first story for #fridayflash? Welcome!

Sam said...

Wonderful #FridayFlash debut and a great first sentence. Bravo!

Harry Markov said...

Thank you all for the warm welcomes I will get the hang of it all soon enough and will be sure to stop by your entries.

Anonymous said...

A particularly macabre take on the fairy tale. I agree with Bazelli - that line really anchors this version to the fairy tale. I recognized it for what it was before then, but that line brought it full circle.

The question that lingers: what happened to turn everyone into zombies?

Harry Markov said...

The evil stepmother messed up with the poison for the apple and it ended in the water supply... One thing led to another and wham zombies.

AidanF said...


Intriguing idea. I was expecting this to go in the #zombieluv direction, but still enjoyed your playfulness. The image in the forest eating the ashen fruit really stuck for me. I was seeing parallels to the fairy tale with the references to bites in the beginning.

Welcome to FridayFlash. And it is good to have another aerobicist.