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Are you dead yet

by viky7258 

Posted: 02 June 2005
Word Count: 4618
Summary: This is my first attempt at a horror type genre, so am just wondering if the scary bits are indeed scary, or if I'm not descriptive enough to conjure the correct images in peoples minds - any feedback is most welcomed.

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From within a dank pipe in the squalid streets of London a pair of dark and cold eyes stared into the street ahead. A quick sniff of the air told the cautious black rat that it was safe to emerge from its hideaway. Although it was raining hard it ventured further still in the search for food. It quickly scurried along, keeping its body low to the ground, and then stopped by a pile of rubbish that it had smelt from its hidden hole. Feeling safe for a brief moment it risked a quick scratch, and then jumped head first into the rotting leftovers that were there from the day before. Content with gnawing on some leftover scraps the rat was lost in what it was doing, but its unconscious mind was still very much alert and suddenly the hairs on the rats back started to tingle with anticipation, alerting it to a presence nearby. The rat stopped moving altogether, it discreetly sniffed the air, but both the rain and the rubbish hindered its usually keen sense of smell. It left the garbage and turned to scurry for safety under a well-known hole below the very same house that had left the mess by the street. Suddenly the flesh around the rat’s neck went tight, it almost gagged but again its unconscious mind took over and it instinctively twisted to bite at whatever had a hold of it.
A dog easily five times the size of the rat had made a rough grab for it, but had only managed to get the scruff of its neck. This gave the rat the advantage it needed, just enough slack to turn and bite the dog sharply on its nose. Although the pain was quick and quite mild it was enough to make the mongrel loosen its grip, but quick as a flash it had the rat in its mouth again, strongly around it’s stomach and even though the rat squirmed as the dogs jaws closed tighter around it’s body, it never did get free again. The rain suddenly fell a bit harder. As people sat within their meagre homes the downpour forced its way through the cracks in the roof of almost every house, puddles were now forming inside as well as out.

A strange illness had begun to spread through the area, killing people with a fearsome ease. There was talk of it being spread by the animals that roamed freely, and with the streets teeming with cats, dogs and rats it was a terrible time for the city of London.
Walking along in the rain, a woman named Molly was coming home from a long day of begging. It had been a bad day to go, not many people were walking the streets, and many of the nobility had left the city for their estates in the country, all for fear of catching the illness that was consuming so many of the population, rich and poor alike. Those that were still there, were not kind enough to spare any change they may have had, they were wary of everyone, and with the rain as an added downfall she knew she would not make much. She had to make what money she could though or her family would surely starve, begging was the only way for her to get money, even if it was just a few pennies.
Finding her way along the empty streets she finally reached her home where a dog was lying perfectly still in the pouring rain. At first Molly thought it dead and was wary. She knew that animals were supposed to be carrying the illness that was spreading amongst the community, but then it opened its eyes and gently wagged its tail almost as if welcoming her home. Although wary of it her features slowly dissolved into a smile. Its tail wagged just a few more times and then the dog rose and walked off past her. Quickly she went inside where she was welcomed by the sight of her family.
Although their home only consisted of one open area she was glad to be back. In front of her, her family sat sharing a small fire. It was late and she was cold, so quickly she sat down with everyone and shared its ebbing warmth.
“How was it today, love?”
Brushing back her long black hair Molly looked over at her mother, opened her left hand and showed her the contents, a few coins consisting of mostly pennies, not much for what she had endured throughout the day.
“Shite by the looks o’ things.” Remarked her older brother Will.
“How much you brought back then Will, I’d like to see you do better.” Molly said quickly defending herself.
He went quiet and Molly knew he had bought back the same as usual, nothing.
“You two stop it. I don’t want to hear it, I’ve had enough of you two fightin’.” Their mother was a strong-minded woman who had looked after them by herself since their father had died a few years ago. She was old but still very much in charge of the family.
As Molly sat and warmed herself, she began to feel very tired, maybe it was the warmth of the fire that made her want to sleep, or maybe it was the long day begging. She wasn’t sure; she had never felt so tired before. Not wanting to leave the warmth of the fire she took a blanket her mother had kept side for her and wrapped it around herself and lay down, she would sleep off this feeling, maybe she would feel better in the morning.
When she woke the next day she didn’t feel better, if anything she felt worse. She looked for her mother, who was already by her side sitting quietly watching over her.
“I don’t feel so good ma.” She said, her voice almost a whisper.
“You’ve the beginning of a fever love, you should get some more sleep, you’ll feel better.”
She couldn’t though; her head hurt so much she knew it would keep her awake.
“I just wanna get some fresh air. It looks like the rain has stopped and maybe it’ll do me some good.”
“You should rest. There’s no way going outside can be good for you. You’re getting up a sweat and that ain’t good. Ma knows best, so get back to sleep my sweet.”
Persistent as ever Molly wanted some fresh air and finally managed to bargain with her Mother that
if she went outside, Will would go with her, to keep an eye on her.
Walking along the street avoiding the puddles, Will began to moan about his brotherly duties.
“Why do I have to watch over you?” He said kicking a stone “I could be down the alehouse havin’ a drink with me mates.” He whined.
“Then go. I only used you as an excuse to get out of there. I couldn’t stay in there another minute. I don’t need you to hold my hand for me.”
“Alright I will, you silly girl. Any fool can see you’re ill, but if that’s what you want then that’s fine by me. I ain’t your keeper.” And with that he left her on her own, in the middle of the street.
She was still in the poorer area of London and the passers by were mainly drunkards. Steadying herself against a post she could feel her head spinning, objects blurred in and out of focus and she couldn’t quite make out her surroundings. She could only see properly a few feet in front of her but that too was beginning to blur. The fever was setting in and she was barely able to stand. Still holding onto the post her legs slowly gave way, the waterlogged mud beneath her feet did not help matters and slowly losing her footing she came to rest at the bottom of the post. She could hear someone approaching but she wasn’t sure who.
“What have we ‘ere?” A voice asked.
It then went very dark and very quiet.

When Molly awoke the darkness remained. In the darkness she could hardly see and the only sound her ears could bring her was the rain falling lazily against the roof. Her body was soaking, was it from the wet floor or was it from the cold sweat she could now feel all over her body. Although she could not see properly she could sense something or someone that was there in that very room with her. She stretched out an arm across the cold damp floor that she now lay upon, trying to feel for something to pull herself up on, but there was nothing. The room seemed to be quite bare. Suddenly something moved in one of the corners, she heard it, and although she couldn’t see anything she knew it was moving towards her. She listened again and there was a very soft, but definite step, somewhere behind her.
“Who’s there?” She called, almost fearing her own voice as it broke the near silence. “Who’s there I said. I know someone’s in ‘ere. I can ‘ears yer movin’. ” Still no response came. But she knew someone was there, she could feel their presence and that they were watching her. She laid herself back on the floor, it was damp and filthy, she could taste the dirt in her mouth, but she ached so much and she needed to rest and didn’t care where she lay. Suddenly another movement made her senses alert once more.
“Please” she begged, “who’s there, did you bring me in from outside?”
This time there came a reply, making Molly regret asking.
“You don’t need to ask who I is girlie, you knows me.”
She knew that voice all right and it scared her enough to make her want to run, but in her condition, her legs merely gave way as she tried to stand and she fell back to where she had laid before.
“Bill. Please, please don’t hurt me. My father’s dead, his debt’s repaid. Please let me go. My family don’t owe you anymore.”
Bill was known to Molly as a fearsome being by reputation and an unfortunate previous first hand experience when he had dealing with her father years ago, he’d made it his habit to find drunks and get them into arguing, which was always settled with a ‘friendly’ bet, or a game of cards. He was a cunning one; he was good at his game and always walked away the victor. Especially with his associates there to ensure he never lost. Her father had been caught by his tricks, but once you’ve tasted gambling, drunk or not some men cannot resist the yearning to continue, and this is how Bill made his money. Get them hooked while under the influence, and then get them coming back for more. Her father was never the strong willed type and slowly he’d become so addicted he’d worked up a huge gambling debt, and then promptly died soon after leaving his family with all his debts, and Bill still wanting his money.
“Oh but they do still owe me, but I ain’t talking ‘bout your good for nothin’ father though girlie, more like your good for nothin’ brother. He’s been giving me lip lately, and seeing as he owes me for his little gambling problem that seems to run in your family, I’d say you lot still owes me, and then some too. But maybe you could help me out with that, pretty girl like you, I’m sure you’ve lots o’ ways to help make up for that. Lots o’ ways to keep old Bill happy.”
In the time he’d been talking, he’d moved closer and now Molly could see him in the light that trickled slowly into the room. He was as hideous and obese as Molly remembered him to be. Although she could not see properly she knew he was still as unkempt as ever, his pungent odour confirmed that. She’d not seen him since she’d paid off the last of her fathers debts, but she had no idea that Will had also been foolish and thoughtless enough to get involved in gambling and to owe Bill, of all people, money.
“I’ll get you my brother’s money, but please don’t hurt me. I’m all my family have left, they depend on me for food.”
“Well that ain’t my problem girlie. I’m owed, and I wants repaying.”
The other stench that came from him as he spoke told Molly that he’d been drinking. It was the devils drink. What was she to do now? She knew she couldn’t overpower him, even in his drunken state, she was far too weak for any physical confrontation and she wouldn’t even be able to run from him, her legs could barely hold her up at the moment. She’d always been clever though and she thought hard, she knew what he was capable of, and what he was thinking of doing to her.
“I’ll get you your money Bill honest, but I’d be no good to you though, me health’s not so good. That illness has got me and it’s getting worse. You’ve seen me I can barely stand. I ‘ear it spreads real easy too.” She coughed for effect, though in truth it was more real than she would’ve liked, her throat burned in displeasure and she winced at the pain.
“What d’you mean it spreads easy? ‘ow?”
She had no idea how it really spread, but she knew exactly what she was going to tell him. “Touch, that sort of thing. I wouldn’t touch me; I must’ve got it off one of those dogs from round our way. There’s loads of ‘em round the back of our house. Why do you think they burned the cats and dogs bodies when they catch ‘em or they die? Thing is, if you let me go I’ll get you your money and be far away from here, then we’ll both be happy. How about it?” She was praying in her mind that he’d believe her.
“If you’ve got somethin’ wrong with you, you better get outta here before I throws you out, you filth! I don’t want no animal plague, but if I do get it girlie, mark my words money or no money I’m gonna come looking for you and your family and I’ll burn out the disease myself if you know what I mean.”
“I do and I’ll get you your money don’t worry.”
“Oh I ain’t worried, but you should be. Get it sorted girlie.”
Molly painfully pulled herself to her feet. Feeling for the wall she very slowly walked towards the door. Her head was pounding and she felt like being sick right there, her stomach lurched but she held on. She knew she had to get out of there before he changed his mind. She finally worked her way round to the door, without even looking at him she knew that Bill was watching her every move. As fast as her fingers would let her, she loosened the latch and opened the door, the fresh air shocked her at first but she was glad to be free. All of a sudden she heard movement behind her and then there was a hard and malicious boot on her back pushing her violently out the door.
“I told you to get outta here. Now go get my money. Sell your body if need be, you whore, but get my money, an’ I wants it by Friday, or Bill will come and pay your mother a little visit.”
Landing on her forearms Molly braced herself from the fall, Bill had no heart at all for the sick or needy and she knew if she didn’t get away quick enough that another boot would find its way to her side.
The pain in her head was becoming unbearable, and although she’d hardly eaten that day, or the day before for that matter, she could feel bile rising in her throat. She had to fight it though, she was still outside Bills house and she had to at least get away from there. She managed to get onto her hands and knees and finally mustered the strength to crawl away. She sensed Bill was no longer there; he must’ve gone for a drink, as did all the men around the area about now, they were dogs all of them, even her brother. Bill was right, he took after his father, either drinking or gambling all their money away. It was why Molly had to spend all day begging in the rain for her family to survive.
Once she had seen a pretty little girl and her mother selling flowers together, they were having more luck than she was. The little girl had been holding on tightly to her mothers dress, she’d looked quite timid but would always came out from behind her mothers dress and smile sweetly at the people walking by, it worked enough to encourage people to buy a flower. The little girl was so beautiful just like her daughter would have looked like if she hadn’t of died at such a young age. Molly tried as hard as she could to put the memory of her daughter behind her, but when she saw that little girl each day with her mother, she felt an ache in her heart. She’d still kept a lock of her daughter’s hair in a pouch that she carried it as a memento. Molly felt for the pouch and shed a tear.
No one seemed concerned for her, men continued to walk past her, their thirst and greed blinding them to her troubles as they hurried past in the cold night eager to get their first drop of ale. They cared not for others, only themselves. She had no idea where she was, her sense of direction scrambled, all she knew was she had to get home to her mother, who by now would be worried sick. Her stomach took another lurch, this time Molly could not stop it, from the depths of her stomach to the back of her throat, the hot putrid liquid forced itself upwards and out. She was still on her hands and knees luckily as she surely would collapsed, her back arched as yet another wave of nausea hit her body, this time it was more violently and she coughed up blood at the same time, though her mind knew there was nothing left, her body did not and it continued to retch until she could take it no more and she passed out.
Half an hour had passed with no one even noticing Molly lying unconscious on the ground, but one man had stopped that night though, but it was not a man that had wanted to help her.

The man that had stopped that fateful night was a local doctor, but today was not his job to heal the ill, as a plague doctor tonight he was here to collect the dead. Slowly that night he had made his way through the streets calling out for those still alive to bring out their dead. The bodies were to be taken away and burnt, to try and stem the deadly flow of the plague that ravaged London.
His only protection from contracting the disease himself were the strange garments that he wore while performing his gruesome duties. Upon his body he wore a long gown made out of a thick waxy material and over his head he wore a mask. Attached to the front of the mask was a long beak. His appearance was strange and perhaps terrifying to those who had not seen it before, but it all served a purpose. The beak that was attached to the mask was stuffed with herbs, and spices to purify the air that he breathed when he was close to victims, alive or otherwise. The only thing people would have recognised from before the plague was the hat that was upon his head, which signified he was a man of medicine.
He had been walking for most of that day through the slums of London, trying to remain focused upon his goal. He knew that Death was upon many of these homes but unless the dead where bought out for him, he was not to enter any abode. It was during his final calling of the dead that he saw a woman’s body lying slouched in the mud; it was not uncommon for bodies to be left with no one willing to claim them, those families who housed a person suffering with plague were condemned to be shut inside their homes until at the very worst all inside were dead, this was one way of containing the illness at the misfortune of many a poor soul.
Crouching, he briefly inspected the body, there were no signs of life in the woman and so the doctor called over the corpse collector. Together they lifted her body and placed it on the back of the cart with several other bodies that had been collected that night, all victims of the same fate.
The plague doctor went about his business of calling for the dead while the sexton with the cart slowly kept pace where the streets would allow him. With each bump and jolt that the cart experienced the bodies started to inter-mingle from their previous positions with each other, and with each new body added it was starting to become hard to see where one body started and another ended, limbs were woven around other limbs, and due to the nature of the collection the sexton did not want to sustain anymore contact than was totally necessary.
After a long round of collections the sexton took the cart to a nearby burial pit. The parishes had done their utmost at first to provide proper funerals for their parishioners, but regrettable as spaces ran out large burial pits had to be dug to accommodate all of the unfortunate victims who had perished, and due to the large volume of bodies the pits were dug deeply and as wide as space would allow.
Coming to the lip of the pit, the sexton lifted his arm and solemnly made the sign of the cross while praying almost in a whisper for forgiveness. He then slowly wheeled the cart as near as possible to the edge however due to the number of bodies on the cart instead of lifting them one by one and also to save himself from any further contact with the infected bodies, he slowly raised the handles of the cart to re-distribute the weight and the bodies started to tumble out of the cart.
Molly’s body had been one of the first to fall and subsequently several bodies fell on top of her. The impact of both hitting bodies below her and bodies falling on top of her was enough to jolt her from her previous unconscious state. Her body had been pinned down by the weight of those slightly on top of her but she was slow to realise this was why she was unable to move.
Molly tried to move one of her arms out from underneath her she unexpectedly found it difficult to do so and then became aware of a weight upon her body that felt quite unnatural. Her long hair had fallen across her face and until now it had partially shielded her from the horrific conditions she was yet to realise she was situated in. Finally being able to free her arm, she pushed back the hair from her face, working it behind an ear to secure it, she was able to slightly move her head but she was limited to only very small movements. She placed her hand flat on the surface she lay on to attempt to push herself up, but upon making contact with what she assumed was the ground her hand felt cloth and then beneath it there was another texture she was unsure of. Moving her hand across the floor her hand instantly recoiled, she was sure she had felt something she knew but at the same time did not. Curiously she again slowly placed her hand where it had previously been and apprehensively moved it trying to feel the contours of the object. It was round and felt very soft and supple. It wasn’t very big though and so Molly gently pushed it to see if it would move at all, when suddenly there was a small pop and a gush of liquid covered Mollies face. The smell it emanated was vile, Molly quickly moved her free hand to wipe the fluid from her face, she retched once but managed to contain the bile; she did not want to be sick in such small confines.
Although due to the unpleasant experience just passed Molly apprehensively moved her hand forward once again, she was intent on trying to find out where she was. It was then that her hand moved over something similar to fur, she twisted it in her fingers still unsure of what it was though. Moving her hand slightly to the left her whole body suddenly froze. She had inadvertently opened another corpse’s mouth and upon putting her fingers inside it she had felt the teeth and tongue and knew instantly what it was she was feeling, a dead body lying almost directly beneath her. She screamed while frantically trying to back away but could not move. Half way through her scream she choked, her lungs were not ready for such an outburst, she almost choked on her own tears as she started to cry, but due to the horror of the situation still she tried to move her legs, her body, her head, but was confined within the mound of bodies. She didn’t want to touch the body beneath her although still hysterical at finding her self in such a situation, she tried grabbing at her surroundings for something to use to drag herself with, her body was still pinned though and each time she grabbed for something she felt another body, and began to be too terrified to touch anything. She tried to move her body forward a bit by using her elbows to pull herself along instead but it was then that a hand fell into her face palm spread open almost trying to grab at her face, she pushed it away quickly but had to hold it in place herself as it kept falling back down almost in a desperate effort itself to try and escape.
It was pitch black and no matter how much effort Molly tried to muster she simply could not move at all, shouting was not an option each time she took a deep breath to do so her lungs almost closed in on themselves and she began to cough and her body would convulse. The fever was still coursing it’s way through her body and she was losing strength by the minute. She daren’t lay her face down for fear of putting it onto a dead body though, and now that her breathing was becoming laboured she knew it would all soon end.
Above her another sexton had arrived with another cart full of bodies, he too made the sign of the cross and turned his cart full of carcases into the pit and said a silent pray for those who were buried unceremoniously below asking for Heaven to accept their souls.

© 2005 Vicky James.

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Comments by other Members

crowspark at 10:51 on 02 June 2005  Report this post
An enjoyable read Vicky.
Buried alive in a pit full of rotting corpses might just squeeze under the wire of the horror genre ;)
I thought this was excellent with lots of great detail.
A couple of small points, a cockney villain called Bill in London made me think she would be bumping into Faggin next. (It might just be me.) Besides which I find a villain called Bill just too unbelievable :)
Also, you give a great description of a plague doctor but I think you need to indicate the era much sooner than you do.
If you want to write more horror, and I hope you do based on this, then there is room in the Horror Fiction group if you want to join us.

A great read.

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