-Some angst, some remembered love. Most definitely AU (Alternative Universe). Zombies. Some gore. Yep... this is my SON Halloween fic.
-Ashley Davies wants to recall the way love feels.
When she was young, not naïve enough to believe in fairy tales but still wanting to see Santa Claus upon her ceramic-tiled roof, Ashley Davies didn’t know what to make of love.
It wasn’t a kiss between her parents. It wasn’t a hug after you fall down.
But she knew it wasn’t this prolonged sucking of the face that happened on television.
It wasn’t always girls in a swoon and men on galloping horses.
Love, like the moon before it rains or the way the temperature would drop come December, was just a quirky fact of life – it was nature, it was the beast, it was a strange and distant dream.
Now, with the streets littered and the fires blazing high – with the Hollywood sign rotting and paint chipping, with Rodeo Drive shop windows busted out, with the ocean still roaring against the shore… waves the color of mud and blood… right now, Ashley Davies remembers what love feels like.
Because she finally figured it out – a little too late, but she finally got it – and it was better than she ever imagined. And it was worse. And it was not at all like she wanted it to be, but it could have never been any other way.
Love, she decides, is a paradox – making you act like the court clown and the king simultaneously, a prancing and proclaiming fool for love.
Love, she decides, is the sun after a long winter – piercing the ice and the snow drifts, blinding your eyes to the miles of frozen nothingness and blinding you to everything other than its gleaming yellow rays.
And Ashley wants to remember that feeling, heat against her brow and dancing around a castle.
Ashley wants to carry that sensation with her now, with the whole of California falling apart and the dead not staying dead and with a shotgun slung against her back… Ashley Davies wants to recall the way love feels.
/ / /
‘Dropping like flies’ is such a bad term for this malady, because flies do not just drop – they have to get smacked down to the ground, twitching little legs and all.
But just like a gust of air from some invisible back-hand, one day things were fine and the next they were not.
And people were sick and then people where dying – just not staying that way.
There were the ones who would die and then come back and try to eat you. That was her mother and many of King High’s finest and those stuffy record execs – they would rage at you and gnash their teeth, suits askew and hair a fucked-up mess.
Ashley always wanted to show her mother what she was made of… and she had to, with a pool cue to the head, standing back as red went flying.
And then there were the ones who somehow escaped, at least for a while, on the run and hiding and dying due to starvation. That was most of the Carlin family and Aiden and so many others – huddled and nervous, eyes pleading for life to go back to normal. And Ashley didn’t have the heart to tell them that, outside of their safe haven, nothing would ever be the same.
She just had to sit there and make them eat moldy bread and watch them pass away to someplace else.
She hopes it is heaven… because this is hell already.
And then there are those that die and then turn into shells of themselves, they are the true zombies – walking and mumbling and if you tell them to stand still, they do… if you tell them to kill others, they do… if you tell them to jump off the Golden Gate bridge, they do…
Droves and droves of people became this particular horror – held onto by those that are alive and becoming food for those already dead, used as shields and as warriors, treated as somewhat-sentient reminders of how things used to be… turned into scapegoats, delusions made real…
Ashley takes pity on these people the most, precious bullets sent flying in order to set nameless faces free, but – at the end of the day - she is no better than anyone else.
Because she remembers love and how it cuts you open and how it mends you again.
She remembers the delicious sting of a kiss, sweet whispers of a lover’s touch – the fluttering in her stomach and the warmth spreading up her spine… Ashley remembers love all too well and so she keeps Spencer with her, even though the better thing would be to kill the girl.
When the Carlins were still alive, they’d look at their youngest child and shudder and weep.
And they’d beg Ashley to do what they could not, like it would be easier somehow, a blow from her hand to a blonde head. But they never understood the two of them, not really.
They never realized that Ashley didn’t know a damn thing about giving to another before Spencer came around, that Ashley didn’t know what it meant to love without restraint and that Ashley didn’t know how to cherish the bad with the good… Spencer taught her that, with smiles and affection and – ultimately – with self sacrifice.
Because that bite was meant for her and Spencer stepped up and took it.
Because she had to watch, unmoving and broken, as Spencer dropped to the ground.
Because, even as she cleaned house of mindless sets of jaws, all Ashley could focus on was the glazing over of blue eyes and that once-vibrant skin going ashen…
And Ashley couldn’t do it, not to Spencer, couldn’t put the barrel to that familiar forehead and couldn’t take a knife to that delicate throat… not then and not for dying parents and not now, as Ashley tells the girl to stay close and the girl does so wordlessly…
Because Ashley remembers love and she won’t let it go, not in this world gone mad.
/ / /
“Lie down. Stay beside me.” Ashley says softly, a habit she can’t break – even if she wanted to lash out at this body that used to house her girlfriend – she can’t ever talk rough to Spencer Carlin.
And Ashley watches the girl do as she is told, their routine playing out as it has every night for the past month or so. Time becomes a trick and there is no treat to be found, time is the devil and the darkness – she stopped trying to count the days and the hours, letting them drift into one another endlessly.
“Stay close. Don’t leave.” And Ashley can’t stop herself from reaching out, can’t stop herself from placing a warm palm against cold and brittle skin – Spencer’s arm, thin and dead in her grasp.
But it gives Ashley a reason to keep on fighting and it gives Ashley a reason to keep on going. This attachment to someone who used to be, underneath milky eyes and slack bones… it keeps Ashley from completely falling apart.
Because Spencer is hers now, solely, and she likes to pretend that it was something else that dragged the girl away. Maybe a car accident. Or falling down a flight of stairs.
Or anything, anything at all, just not this… just not this land of the undead that continues to claim victims… anything but that.
But Spencer’s body never heats up –never acts up - and when Ashley tells the girl to shut her eyes, the girl does it just as silently as everything else.
Ashley doesn’t believe that tears can still wet her almost-gaunt face, but they can.
And they do, big and hot drops on her dirty flesh, as she grips Spencer’s arm – a tether, weak though it may be, to some kind of shore.
“Don’t leave, Spence…” Ashley whispers and she dreams for a millisecond that Spencer returns this despairing embrace, here in this little alcove looking out over the midnight roads of L.A.
Slumber, however, is brief and Ashley is alert again.
She hears the crashing of plaster and the groans of the hungry and they must move again – they must run and run until they find another pocket of immunity.
And her shells are dwindling down and her boot soles are growing flimsy and every morning finds her a little more lethargic than the night before – but Ashley gets up and loads her gun and steals one more look at the shut-up face of the girl she has loved for all of time… and will love for all of time…
“Open your eyes. Get up. Stick with me.”
/ / /
It isn’t like the films portray it – no one is gravitating toward the mall and the head isn’t the only vulnerability on their rotting bodies, there is no army showing up and there isn’t a merry band of survivors with make-shift weapons just waiting for stragglers to join them.
If you have made it this far, then you have mastered the art of staying in the shadows.
If you haven’t become a meal and if you haven’t withered away, then you have found that rigid line on which to walk the rest of this miserable life, a tightrope between the reality you miss and the reality you despise.
Ashley misses the voices that used to surround her, the cadence and the timbre of friends and strangers alike, the giggle in each sentence her sister said and the rumble in every phrase Aiden spoke.
She once told Spencer to speak and nothing came out, even though the mouth opened wide… but it was just a cavern, pitch-black and coated with saliva, and Ashley turned away – turned away from that face and that hair and that disintegrating mockery of who Spencer Carlin once was.
And so they run. Ashley’s eyes are familiar with scanning the surroundings and she sees the cars first, turned over is okay but still upright ones are to be avoided.
Then she moves to the middle of the streets, telling Spencer to ‘watch where you step’ – not for safety, because… as far as Ashley can tell, whatever Spencer is cannot get hurt easily.
Even if they lose a limb, they keep on stumbling or crawling or shuffling about.
It is for noise control. There are no voices, but there is paper and glass and metal everywhere.
And one shred of sound is all it takes to draw unwanted attention.
She looks at the buildings, closed doorways preferred to open ones and smashed panes are to be distrusted. She looks further down the avenue, the trashcans turned over and a tattered flag somehow still rippling in this city devoid of a breeze.
But the scrape of rust upon the pavement echoes out and Ashley tells Spencer to stop and her gun is out already, pointing just past the curve of Spencer’s earlobe.
Ashley had never even held a gun, much less pulled the trigger of one, back in that other consciousness – the one where she was just some spoiled and shattered rich girl, the kind of girl that would blow thousands of dollars on clothes, the type of girl who would fuck others over because she couldn’t forgive anyone… that Ashley Davies never used a gun.
But when it happened, lights out and sirens and screaming, she barricaded for as long as she could.
And when the food ran out and the water became polluted from the towers – liquids shouldn’t taste like a grave – she knew she had to venture out there and she knew that she had to be as prepared as possible.
Her mother tried to sell everything of to do with Raife Davies, profit always in Christine’s bitter gaze, but she didn’t get it all – not every guitar and not every album and not every little thing that the man considered valuable.
A knife, silver and unblemished, mother-of-pearl handle and twelve inches long – it had been a gift to her father from some medicine man during a drug trip.
And a shotgun with a box of fifty shells. It had belonged to Raife’s father, Ashley’s grandfather – a man from pictures and who meant nothing to a girl of six or seven or beyond.
But she stepped out that door, knife and gun and a jacket full of ammunition and the only jug of water left in the house.
And she tried to find help, but none was out there. And she tried to find anyone more equipped than herself, but everyone seemed to be in the same boat.
Or trying to eat her. Or just standing there. Or dead.
Her gag reflex got a work out that day, with the stickiness of insides everywhere – entrails and intestines and bile and… Ashley threw up so many times that day.
And she killed people, men and women, young and old – she killed and killed and killed. It had to be luck or cruel fate that kept her alive while others faltered and were fed upon.
She had to kill her own mother. She had to watch her own sister get eaten alive.
And so Ashley decided it was, in fact, a cruel fate.
“Spencer, get down!” Ashley orders and the girl drops to the ground swiftly, understanding and not understanding all at once as shots ring out.
One hit, two more to go…
And then they are rushing and she tugs Spencer up again.
“Behind me and keep a hand on my waist!”
And Ashley is loading and backing away and aiming and not stopping to admire her improved marksmanship – or the way gray matter hits the caved in windshield of someone’s Escalade – she is shifting and pulling Spencer to her front now.
The girl keeps a hand on Ashley’s waist and stays flush against Ashley’s chest and Ashley chances a look back, noting the brick wall and the corner about fifty feet away.
Then she is aiming again and the last one is taken out as Ashley’s spine hits the surface of what used to be some corporate headquarters to some billion-dollar industry.
She listens for more, because there are always more and more, but it is quiet again.
And she doesn’t relax, but she does take a deep breath.
And Spencer’s hand is still there upon her waist, lifeless and still present and Ashley can’t stand it sometimes – this muscle memory, this haunting in her mind of all she has lost.
Spencer’s body heaves, just slightly, and air emits from her mouth and Ashley puts her own arm around this girl’s wasting-away form – it is not a sigh, not at all, just a function – but Ashley, right now and on this day, will take what she can get.
“It’s okay, Spencer, I’ve got you…” Ashley whispers and allows her own head to sag onto the girl’s shoulder, to reminisce about how hard she fell in love and how strong that love must be – it could move a fucking mountain, this love I have for you…
And when Ashley was young, caught in that middle ground of wanting to be older and yet wanting to still be coddled, she didn’t know a thing about love.
It wasn’t a toy and it wasn’t a best friend. But it wasn’t marriage and it wasn’t flowers and candy.
It was a mystery and it was a secret on playgrounds, back when holding hands meant something and when a kiss was as bad as a kick – Ashley didn’t want to fall in love with anyone.
But there it was, that cruel fate again, taking her right where she didn’t want to go.
/ / /
Ashley must have looked terrible at the door, because my parents eyed the girl warily.
And they had a right to, the world was imploding and scary things were happening.
But Spencer knew better and let the girl in and checked her over thoroughly.
Because Ashley had blood on her, on her shoes and underneath her fingernails… and Spencer didn’t listen as her parents protested, she just pulled Ashley along and to the bathroom and wiped the girl clean again.
And she asked questions, like it was some damn television show, just trying to see if Ashley could speak and if Ashley could comprehend things as simple as ‘what’s one plus one?’…
But once it was clear that Ashley was not harmed and that the girl could speak well, Spencer molded herself to Ashley’s body – arms and legs and lips against the girl’s face.
“I was so scared that I wouldn’t see you again, Ash… really scared and I couldn’t stand it…”
And the girl seems to come to life then, the popping of bones and then arms are around Spencer, too.
And then they are saying things, random things and important things.
Then they are silent again and kissing and shaking against one another.
“God, Spence… it is a nightmare out there…”
And Spencer takes a mental photograph of Ashley’s face, right then – hollow eyes and pale features, but there is a hardness to the brow and a determination to the lips… Ashley Davies will protect Spencer Carlin until the end of time.
And Spencer falls in love all over again, faster than the first time.
“I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
Glen’s voice is loud and there is a wail and then screaming and Ashley stands up, begging Spencer to stay put with a look and it is a command that she cannot obey – she can’t let her family fight alone, she can’t let Ashley do any of this alone… so they walk out together, hand in hand, barely catching a glimpse of Glen as he is dragged by a multitude of fingers and Spencer swallows up the urge to shout his name.
The door is open now and unknown people are coming in.
Ashley is yelling at her parents, telling them to come up stairs and to find anything sharp and to be ready to ‘abandon ship at any moment’ and Spencer is being pushed towards her mother and Ashley is raising her gun.
But Spencer can’t move, can’t look away… even with a firm grip about her arm, pulling her back, pulling at her and tugging at her and pleading with her… She can’t look away from Ashley as the girl kills and saves, saves and kills all at the same time.
When it is over, there is smoke in the air and Ashley is turning around slowly and her father is suggesting they go ahead and leave this home behind. Ashley agrees.
Arthur Carlin first. Then Paula Carlin.
And it would have been Spencer next, because Ashley insisted on being the last one out.
But the door is open. And you can’t trust an open door.
More people burst in and Ashley is shoving Spencer hard and she falls down, hitting the floor and bruising her elbows and Ashley looks back – for just a second, Ashley looks back and their eyes meet… and Spencer sees them, charging up the stairs and it’ll be too late, too late to turn around and too late to shoot that gun and Spencer can’t let that happen, not to Ashley, not to the love of her life.
She moves quick and she moves Ashley aside, the girl’s brown eyes wide with fear and the last thing that hits Spencer’s ears is Ashley’s howling, a raw agony torn from that mouth.
Then… nothing at all.
She is there, though, a prisoner of her own body. And each second steals another memory – she is there, but barely. She is barely there and only Ashley’s voice keeps her around, keeps her from being carrion.
Spencer keeps on forgetting things, like her mother’s smile or her father’s voice or her brother’s laugh. She forgets what water feels like slipping down her throat. She forgets the sensation of chewing food.
The only fixed point is Ashley and so Spencer follows her, even though she doesn’t always remember the reasons why Ashley is there… Spencer doesn’t always remember why she is there…
And she doesn’t sleep, but she is never awake either.
It is an endless limbo, where she sees everything and nothing at the same time.
She is barely there, just barely there… but Ashley tells her to keep going, to keep breathing and so she does. And sometimes she forgets her own name, forgets the name of this tattered girl with the brown eyes – sometimes she forgets every single thing and crumples like a sheet in the wind.
Sometimes, though, Spencer remembers love… gorgeous and decadent love, the kind that can tear up your soul and you’d let it, the kind that storms through death and destruction… and she tries to let Ashley know – but her body won’t move and her lips won’t part and someone is always at their heels and white-hot blasts are always going past her head… and it is forgotten again.
Because she is there, but just barely.
And only Ashley keeps her around, clinging to this doll of a person every night and every day, searching for something that Spencer cannot even recall.
/ / /