The Right Hand Man
by Ben Fitts
The ironically named Christian Child always tuned into the local evening news, mostly to hear about himself. The news never mentioned him by name as his identity was still unknown, but he always knew when they were discussing his grizzly exploits.
A young reporter by the name of Shannon White had given him the name The Right Hand Man due to the only part of the body he would leave behind, and for that he was eternally grateful to her. The remaining parts of the bodies he would take back with him. Occasionally they attributed other people’s killings to him, but only fourteen were really his.
There were a couple copy cats in the area but Christian didn’t mind as long as he was still the one getting the attention, which is why he was positively upset that evening. They weren’t talking about him at all.
He had left a freshly severed right by Main Street, yet somehow it had yet to receive a single mention. What they were talking about seemed strange and confusing and had really nothing to do with Christian, so he zoned in and out of the broadcast as he lay on his couch and sipped Budweiser.
Christian perked up when a sharply dressed reporter said, “Our own Shannon White has more.”
Shannon always talked about him. She had bestowed upon him a name other than one his parents had given him, reported his deeds and kept him fresh in the news and people’s minds. She had given him fame, even if his face and real name weren’t attached to it. Christian felt something approaching love for Shannon.
“The American government has said in an official statement that their scientist believe the cause of the epidemic is viral and that it can be spread by direct contact with the infected, especially through bodily fluids such as saliva and blood.”
He screamed and chucked his Budweiser at the television. The bottle shattered and its golden contents spilled over his shag carpet. He felt hot betrayal at Shannon course through his veins. Sure, Christian hadn’t been playing particularly close attention to the broadcast, but he still couldn’t imagine how some outbreak could be a bigger scare to the locals than most recent work of The Right Hand Man.
He struggled to his feet and stumbled over to his fridge for another beer, his thick belly swaying with each step. Over his shoulder, he heard Shannon say from the television speakers, “However conflicting reports suggest that the disease also appears to be able to spread on its own without direct contact. This is evidenced by the bodies of deceased individuals whom had passed away prior to the start of outbreak being observed as being among the infected as well.”
This caught Christian’s attention. If dead bodies could be carriers of some new disease, then Christian might be in trouble. His home could potentially be a petri dish for the virus.
Pulling a new bottle of Bud out of the fridge, Christian returned to the television but the report seemed to have moved onto some new topic.
“The only successfully proven way of killing them is by inflicting a wound to their brain,” continued Shannon from behind her studio desk. “The national guard has…”
He clicked the television off. It was just like the local news team to change the subject just as things were getting interesting for him. He took a sip of the new beer, then froze as he swallowed the gulp. He thought he heard something. A thumping noise, strained and laborious, from under his floorboards where his crawl space was.
Christian had always been responsibility paranoid about his crawl space. There was a reason that he had managed to go so long without being caught. He set his beer down carefully on the card table he used as a of a coffee table and crept to the hatch in his floor.
He descended to all fours and pressed on ear against the wooden floor. There was a muffled, scuffling noise coming from the other side. Christian cursed to himself. The last thing he needed was some vermin in home, chewing away at his one-handed trophies and maybe even dragging them outside for his neighbors and see and call the cops.
“Might as well see what we’re dealing with,” he mumbled to himself as got up and fished through through his closet for a flashlight. The thumping noise from the crawl space was getting louder. Whatever was done there, it was bigger than just a rat.
Flashlight in hand, he tiptoed back to the crawlspace and whisked the hatch open. He shone the beam and light inside and dipped his face in to see what kind of vermin he was dealing with. The decaying face of a young man he killed the last summer stared back at him, swollen and green with rot.
The young man leaned forward and snapped his jaws and Christian, barely missing the tip of Christian’s nose with his blackened teeth. Christian jerked his head out of the crawl space and crawled away on his knees and palms, too stunned to get up.
Had that man been alive this whole time, growing filthy and feeding off the decomposing flesh of Christian’s other victims? The thought was ridiculous, but Christian didn’t know how else to explain it. He wondered if he had just imagined the whole thing.
The young man poked his rotting head out of the open hatch. Dumbly, Christian realized he had forgotten to shut it.
The young man looked around the living room then locked onto Christian with dead, empty eyes. At that moment, Christian knew that he had killed that man just as he had thought on that evening almost a year ago. There was no intelligence, no humanity in those eyes. They were the eyes of a dead man.
He watched in dazed horror as the dead man hoisted itself into his living room, struggling slightly due to its severed right hand. Then the corpse fixed him again with that empty animalistic stare, and charged.
Christian snapped out of his trance and leapt to his feet, narrowing missing a flailing strike from the dead man’s left arm. He swung his flashlight at the walking corpse, connecting solidly with his shoulder. The dead man staggered backwards from the gravity of the blow, but showed no sign of pain. It snarled, drool spilling down the exposed bone on its lips and leapt at Christian, gnashing at his face.
He dodged the attack and the dead man struck against Christian’s floral wallpaper. Christian sprinted through the adjacent doorway into his bedroom and dug out his prized possession, his snub-nosed .38 revolver. The same weapon he had killed all his victims with, including the same dead man now seeking revenge.
Gripping the revolver in both hands, Christian spun out through the doorway and unloaded four bullets into the dead man’s chest. It didn’t even seem to notice.
The dead man charged him, the fingers of his left hand tearing at his face, the stub of his right arm waving as if instructed by some dormant memory of being whole that still lingered in the dead man’s brain. As Christian had that thought, he suddenly remembered the news broadcast he had been half-paying attention to earlier.
“The only successfully proven way of killing them is by inflicting a wound to their brain,” rang the ghost of Shannon White’s words through his mind.
Christian jerked away from the dead man’s grasp and fired his remaining two bullets into its face. Its head splattered open and the corpse collapsed onto the ground, dead once again.
He tossed the empty revolved aside and collapsed onto his knees, panting.
After catching his breath, he thudded back to his couch and scooped the remote off a pile of pillows and clicked the television back on.
“The US military advises all citizens to remain in the homes, and suggests fortifying any and all potential entrances,” said Shannon White from behind her studio desk. The feed cut to an aerial shot presumably taken from a helicopter of wide and cluttered city streets that unmistakably belonged to New York. The streets were infested with walking rotting corpses, aimlessly wandering like insects.
“There are reports now from all over the country of the dead walking,” continued Shannon’s disembodied voice. “Reports indicate that the dead are aggressive towards the living, and will kill you given the chance. It is advised that you avoid any and all contact with the living dead, but if you are confronted and cannot escape then only a wound inflicted to their brain can kill them, as this station reported earlier. Channel 9’s own Caroline Cartman has more.”
The camera feed cut to an older woman in striped pantsuit, holding a Channel 9 microphone. She was surrounded by people in white lab coats, frantically hurrying around what looked to Christian like medical facility.
“Thanks, Shannon. I’m here at an American army facility where early test by scientists confirm that the disease is in fact spread through a virus, as was was previously theorized and reported here at Channel 9. However, it appears virus can also affect…”
Christian’s attention was ripped away from the television by another thudding noise from the crawl space. His blood froze as a different one of his past victims, this one a man he killed on a chilly night this spring, poked its head through the still open crawl space. Then another, and another.
He jumped off the couch and raced towards his discarded gun, snatching it off the ground. He aimed for the head of his nearest past victim and squeezed the trigger. The resulting click from the empty chamber felt like the loudest sound he had ever heard.
His remaining thirteen victims crawled out through the hatch and spilled onto his floor, the severed stumps of their right arms flailing.
They swarmed him. Thirteen hands and twenty six arms dug into his flesh, avenging themselves from beyond the grave.
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