My Mother

By: Sadika Islam

Peeking through the dirty window beside his bed, Ben Selterwatches the sky outside. The grey turmoil of clouds confirms his suspicion - it is about to rain quite hard soon.

Ben hears a faint noise coming from the next room as he swings his legs off the side of his bed and thinksabout his chores for the day. As soon as he remembers that the house is running low on food supplies, Ben understands that he would have a long and tiring day out.

With an internal groan, Ben takes two long strides to his bedroom door and calls out, “Mother?”

A few seconds passes and he figures that his mother is probably still asleep. Not wanting to disturb her, Ben quickly goes to the bathroom to freshen up.

The sky is still a gloomy mess of grey when Ben comes out and begins rummaging through his wardrobe for a clean hoodie. Ben frowns when he realizes that most of his hoodies are missing; he needs to finish doing his laundry soon.

Just when he is about to lose his patience, Ben’s eyes fall on a navy blue jacket. He quickly slips it on and walks out of his room with his truck’s keys. Before hurrying out of the house, Ben makes sure to softly knock on the door of his mother’s bedroom. He hears a weak sound of the bed creaking, and says, “Mother, I really hope you’re up. It’s past 10 a.m. and I figured you would get hungry soon. We have some food left in the fridge which will last us today, but I was about to step out to get us food supplies for the rest of this week”

He presses his ear to the door and hears nothing. He sighs and says, “I love you! Don’t worry, I will be back home in a few hours”

Ben quickly gets down the stairs, landing right at the mouth of the living room. His eyes fall on the rifle hanging on the wall next to the main door of the house. He has owned it since he was nineteen.

As bizarre as it sounded to most people, hunting is Ben’s passion. Guns fascinated him since he was merely a child, which his father had realized long ago. As a matter of fact, Ben owed all his hunting skills to his father, who trained him for several years.

Mentally reminding himself about the spare ammo in the dashboard compartment of his truck, Ben takes the rifle and steps out of the house.

After getting into his vehicle, Ben carefully scans the streets around him while keeping the rifle ready in his right hand. When he notices that nobody is around, he puts his hands on the steering wheel and smoothly takes the car out of the driveway.

Although the city centre is his favorite spot, Ben knows he has to try someplace else today for collecting food. He thinks to himself, “Maybe I should try the supermarket I came across two weeks ago”

He knows how dangerous that particular area used to be just a couple of years ago. Thinking about that time makes his heart constrict a little with pain. Things were simpler then, and he missesall of it very much.

Due to the empty streets, Ben reaches the supermarket in just ten minutes. The parking lot already has a large number of cars, but Ben takes his precious time choosing his parking spot. Once parking is done, he takes the rifle in his hand and gets off his car.

He begins walking towards the supermarket glass doors when a sound reaches his ears. He recognizes it all too well, which is why he tenses up and begins looking for the source of the sound. Ben’s grip on the rifle tightens as his eyes fall on a figure standing just two cars away from him. It looks like a homeless man with tattered clothes who has his back turned to Ben. Ben aims the rifle at the person and puts a finger on the trigger.

“C’mon now, turn around and show me your face”, he mutters under his breath.

It is almost as if the figure hears him; they slowly start turning around. Ben holds his breath as he notices the person’s face. The person’s eyes are hollow and his mouth is a bloody mess.

As the person notices Ben, a high-pitched shriek escapes his mouth, which was confirmation enough for Ben to pull the trigger. A loud gunshot is heard and the person falls to the ground. Ben smirks and walks forward to take a glance at the body. He smiles as he sees the person’s face, satisfied with the gaping hole in his forehead.

Just when he is about to walk away from the body, he hearsthe all-too-familiar shriek coming from behind him. He panics and looks back to see a small horde of people staring at him hungrily, with drool and blood dripping down their mouth and chest. They probably heard the gunshot and came looking for the source of the sound.

Cursing under his breath, Ben sizes up all three figures. As the first figure moves forward, Ben shoots her right between her eyes. The other two figures come running at him and Ben almost falls down. He tries shooting the second figure in his head, but doesn’t succeed. But the gunshot startles the figures and Ben takes that opportunity and runs for his life.

As he runs towards the end of the parking lot, he could hear the people run after him, screeching at the top of their lungs. Ben decides to turn around and aim another shot at one of the figures. The bullet lodges itself in the person’s head, but had not managed to startle or disturb the last remaining person. As Ben pulls the trigger again he realizes that he is out of ammo. He had forgotten to reload the rifle! He wastes no time and starts running towards the glass doors of the supermarket, with the figure just metres behind him.

When he glances back to see the person, Ben falls down hard on his face. The figure leaps on top of him and lunges directly for Ben’s face.

With his heart beating like crazy, Ben tries very hard to keep up with the figure’s inhuman strength. Just when he feels like the person would bite his face off, a gunshot goesoff. Almost instantly it starts raining and the figure drops dead on top of Ben. Ben shrugs the corpse off of him and looks up to see a Caucasian man standing a metre away, with a pistol in his hand. Out of breath and thoroughly exhausted, Ben flashes a thumbs up to the man.

At least six feet tall, the man walks up to Ben and offers a hand. Ben grabs it and stands up, saying, “Thank you! You saved my life”

The man offers a smile and says, “You are the first survivor I have seen in the last three months. I cannot tell you how happy it makes me to see you here. What’s your name and where are you from?”

“I’m Ben and I live down in Carleton Road, just twenty minutes away. And you are?”, Ben asks.

The man replies, “My name is Alex”

Ben shakes Alex’s hand and asks, “Are you alone? Or do you have other survivors with you?”

Alex has a grim look on his face as he states, “It’s just me now. All the other survivors didn’t make it. After the very first wave of the zombies, right around the time most of the people were wiped out, I lost all of my family. I have been travelling solo since then”

Ben nods and says, “I’m glad I still have my mom. My dad didn’t make it. I’m not sure how you guys do this all alone”

Placing a hand on Ben’s shoulder, Alex asks, “Your mom survived? How do you manage rations and weapons?”

“I usually have to go out and search for those. It takes a lot of time, but it’s the only option I have”, replies Ben.

He motions towards the supermarket’s gates and continues, “We should go look for food there”

Alex shook his head and explained, “I’ve already looked there. Nothing is left there. I think some survivors already ransacked this supermarket”

Ben’s face falls and he starts thinking of other possible options when Alex asks, “Do you have food at home? I would kill to be able to eat a little right now, since I haven’t eaten anything in three days”

Motioning towards his car, Ben nods and states, “We have enough food to last us the day. Let’s go! We can go on a search for more food tomorrow. So much has happened already and the rain doesn’t seem to want to stop”

They soon get into the car, double check the streets and head towards Ben’s house. Chitchatting makes the ride seem very short and soon they arrive at Ben’s door. Alex opens the door and hops off the truck and lets out a low whistle at the sight of the house. Ben smiles and also gets off the vehicle, casually checking the neighboring streets and buildings.

“Mother?” calls out Ben after they enter the house. On not getting a response Ben locks the front door.

Alex begins looking around the house and begins, “Sweet house you’ve got here”

He smiles and looks back at Ben, only to noticed a hammer in his hand. A small frown of confusion appears on Alex’s face when Ben brings the hammer down hard on Alex’s head. In an instant, Alex is on the floor. A trickle of blood runs down his head as Ben stoops down and begins pounding Alex’s face with the hammer repeatedly.

Once he is absolutely certain that Alex is dead, Ben pauses and hurries to the sink in his kitchen. He turns the tap on and places the hammer in the sink. He reaches for the drawer near the stove and takes out large garbage bags. Going back to Alex’s now lifeless body, Ben begins adjusting the garbage bag over Alex’s entire frame.

Once the bag covers more than half of the corpse, Ben drags the body towards a huge freezer situated inside the kitchen. It takes him at least twenty minutes to nicely place Alex’s dead body securely inside the freezer.

Letting out a sigh of relief and contentment, Ben then goes to the kitchen counter. He takes out a large, ceramic bowl and washes it. He goes to the fridge and brings out a bag of meat and a bottle full of dark broth.

Humming a song to himself, Ben cuts the meat to small morsels. One by one he plops them into the bowl while yelling out, “Mother! I hope you are hungry, because I will have dinner ready in a couple of minutes.”

He empties half the contents of the bottle into the bowl. Grabbing a clean spoon from one of the kitchen drawers, he mixes the chunks of meat with the sauce-like substance.

Then Ben takes the food with himself and trudges up the stairs slowly. He pauses at the landing to affectionately smile at the pictures hanging off the walls. After knocking on his mother’s door, he enters what was once a beautiful bedroom. The mauve painting was chipping off in many places.

“Isn’t the room constantly smelling of something strange nowadays, mother?” asksBen.

He sits on the edge of the bed and gazes lovingly at his mother and says, “You are beautiful as always, mother”

There isa jangle of chains as he moves in closer to her.

“Look, I brought you some food! I hope this tastes as perfect as your goulash” whispersBen.

Picking up a spoonful of the bowl’s contents, he putsit up to his mother’s mouth and requests her to eat it up.Unable to free her hands, the woman keeps trying to shake the chains off her limbs. But they have a tight hold on her and she is stuck in place.

“Mother, mother, mother… Don’t do this. You will hurt yourself!” insistsBen.

Letting the spoon clatter into the bowl,he smiles to himself while running a hand over his mother’s balding head.Ben’s smile falters for a while when he notices a worm poking out of her left eye socket. Carefully, he peels it off and throws it aside as his mother tries taking a bite out of his hand. But Ben had had enough practice in the past three months and manages to dodge the bite.

Picking up a broken piece of bone mixed with the meat, he places it into his mother’s open mouth.

“How is it? It took me forever to get him to trust me and get to bring him home. I met him a few days ago, wandering on the streets, probably searching for survivors. Seeing the size of the bones, I think I hammered them down too much” chats away Ben.

Scooping up a spoonful of blood again from the bowl, he drains it into his mother’s mouth. As the liquid dribbles down the sides of her mouth, Bentakes out a handkerchief from his pocket and dabs it off.

Brightly smiling at her decaying face, Bensays, “I love you so much, mother”