Rupan Malakin is a short writer of tall stories. His recent tales have been published at Eclectica, Bound Off, and Flash Magazine.
There were five of us left, Ron, Lillian, Nina, Gordon, and me.
Days after we secured the empty house, Ron called us over to a spy hole at the back. A girl’s head had been placed on the patio. She was beautiful, with silky hair the colour of embers, and her open eyes gazed at the house, at us. Nina suggested one of us go out the skylight, climb down and get the head, that it would be the respectful thing to do. Ron replied that anyone going on a suicide mission to save someone already dead was too stupid to survive for much longer. Everyone stayed quiet. Later we found Nina’s body in the bath. Her slashed wrist hung over the side. Gordon sobbed and begged us to say something, but instead we lit cigarettes and stared.
They attacked at night, shrieking and slapping the sides of the house, their feet like pounding rain. By candlelight, Lillian drew circles and squares on the kitchen floor until Ron asked if she was playing some kind of game. Lillian replied that she liked geometric shapes, and what did it matter to him what she was doing, because if she wanted to see some perfection in the world, even if it was just some shapes drawn on the floor then maybe people should stay out of her way and let her draw her damn shapes. Ron told her she was acting crazy. Lillian reared up and said, you want crazy, I’ll show you crazy, and stabbed her leg with the pencil. After that, we left her alone.
When we looked out of the spy hole, the girl’s face was swampy green, her flesh slipping from her skull, her open eyes staring right at us.
By the next week, we were out of food. Water came from the taps, but we worried about being poisoned. Gordon said he’d maybe be prepared to go on a mission, and then looked around, waiting for someone to say, don’t go, it’s too dangerous, but we stayed silent. We watched as he suited up. We followed him to the loft. His foot on the bottom rung of the skylight ladder, he turned to us and said, “Will you pray for me?” Lillian said she would. Ron smirked. Gordon smiled at Lillian and said thanks. Halfway up the ladder, his torso already outside, he stopped. We waited for him to come back down, to tell us one final, vital thing, but he changed his mind and scampered the rest of the way out.
In the back garden, the girl’s head was rotting, the skin grey and abscessed, as if her face were not made of real flesh but prosthetic rubber, like a mask.
A few days after Gordon left, Lillian went to the bedroom to pray. She prayed all through the next day. Ron shook her. He slapped her face. He told her to snap out of it.
Lillian started screaming. She clawed at Ron’s eyes.
They took their fight onto the landing. Ron tried to push her down the stairs, but lost his footing and tumbled backwards. We heard his neck snap. We heard his last low emptying breath.
Lillian carried on praying. She refused water. After forty-eight hours, she slipped into a coma.
I went to the spy hole and looked out.
Despite everything, the girl’s head was still there.