Molly looks up at me from the bed with her yellow eyes.

The left is bloodshot, not pink but a deep, blood red.

I stand in the doorway and watch as she tugs at the ropes that bind her wrists and ankles. The rough weave digs hard into her skin, rubbing it raw. She would keep trying to reach me until her flesh gives, I fancy, until her hands and feet come off.

Good morning, dear. I don't speak aloud; talking to yourself is for crazy people. I know exactly what I'm doing.

She tries to reply, grunts of exertion, a moan of hunger, both are stifled by the thick wad of cloth stuffed into her mouth, secured with roll after roll of sellotape.

My god, she's beautiful. So free.

It's time to try again. Time to test my resolve.

I untie my dressing gown and let it fall to the floor. I peel back layer after layer of clothing, insulation against this bitterly cold house, until my left arm is bare.

Sitting at her side, I place my forearm against her clothbound lips. She tries to bite, her peeling skin brushing harmlessly against my flesh, the hair on my arms standing on end in the chill.

Her mouth follows my arm as I reach around, my fingers finding the knot to her gag.

I close my eyes, fingers trembling, the tip of my middle digit resting on the lump of knotted cloth. It's fear of the pain that stops me. It would only last a few hours and I'd be free, as free as her. We'd be together for always, no more worries, no more struggling, just an unlifetime of peace.

I can't do it. My shoulders slump with a sigh and my hand comes away.

My wife doesn't care. She persists in trying to reach me, encouraging me to join her.

I run a hand across her chest, and my fingers find the wound over her heart.

Her eyes never leave my body as I dress, urging me to have another go. But I can't.

Twisted with self-loathing, I'm ready to face the day. My only comfort is that I'm going to try something new.

The idea had come to me only the night before, a way to use the fireplace in the main bedroom without the light attracting any unwelcome visitors. If I could just spend more time with her, I had decided, holed up alone in the room with her, with no need to leave, then maybe I'd be able to go through with it.

Of course, the plan means going outside and searching the garage.

I check at the windows. The mist is slowly beginning to clear across the fields, and if I squint, I can just about see the distant shapes moving in the streets of the town.

I give my wife another look. Her eyes bore into mine.

I'll be careful, I smile at her.

Lifting the blood-crusted hammer from the bedside table, the handle knocks the tip of the knife blade next to it and sends it spinning a couple of revolutions.

Testing the weight of the tool in my hand, I look out the windows one last time. The gardens seem deserted.

The smooth wood of the hammer handle becomes slick with my sweat, my fingertips whitening. I fear killing almost as much as I fear death. And what makes it worse is that this self same fear got Molly killed in the first place.

I had hesitated and Molly had been bitten, down in the town below. I still hear the shuffle, the grunt, the gasp, the sickening crack of human skull. The bite had barely broken the skin but it had been enough to sicken her.

A half hour later, we had found this place.

As I had sat beside her on the bed, watching her sweat and writhe and moan, the thought had begun to take hold. At first, it had felt like giving up, but, as her fever worsened, it had begun to feel more like clarity and acceptance. That was when I had picked up Molly's knife and sent her on ahead.

I had cried when I had found out I was too cowardly to follow through.

Since then, I've killed three out in the gardens. If I'm going to die, Molly's going to be the one to kill me; a simple naturalistic exchange between lovers.

My own room is just next-door to hers.

I exit via the window, a rope tied to the bed so I can lower myself down onto the roof of the porch and from there to the gravel drive. Always cautious, I check around me, hammer at the ready in case of something I've missed.

The garden is clear and I walk over to the garage just around the corner. There are two doors, the large wooden one used for the car and a smaller one around the side. I knock on the large one, count to thirty under my breath and knock again. With no groans or responding thuds from the other side, I move around to the smaller door. I pull the key from my pocket, neatly labelled 'garage'.

The hammer comes up again as I swing the door open and stand back a little. The room is mercifully empty. There are silent rows of shelves on the far wall. The only hiding place is directly behind the door and that too is clear of attackers.

A quick search and I find exactly what I'm looking for: three tins of paint and a box of tools including, I sigh with relief, a large, thick roll of electrical tape.

Ignoring Molly's moan as I move my equipment into her room, I start making the windows lightproof. The electrical tape purrs as I unwind four six-inch strips, neatly ripping them off one by one. I place two at eye height on each of the large bay windows.

I use the claw of my hammer to lever open one of the paint tins, this one a neutral beige identical to the walls of the third bedroom. I begin to paint the East-facing window, starting at the edge and working my way in, painting over the tape, which I'll later be able to unpeel and replace whenever I want to peer outside.

It doesn't take long. I sit on the edge of the bed to flex the ache from my arm before starting on the Southern window.

The icy winter sunlight has chased away the last strings of mist from the landscape, bringing everything back into focus. Dark shapes in the town streets continue to sway and to shamble. Up across the fields . . . there are two people.

I blink, squint.

They're still too far away to make out any real details but the speed and purpose with which they move gives them away. Walking side by side, their backs bulge with large rucksacks, arms crooked and thumbs hooked under straps in the way of travellers everywhere.

And they're heading this way.


I place the paintbrush on the window and close the curtains, ignoring the clatter as the brush falls to the floor. Paint beads splash across the carpet.

Running from the room, I lock the door behind me, place the key in the pocket of my shirt and run over to my room, shutting the curtains there as well. I move to the next room and the next.

Once all the curtains are closed, I creep back to the front to peer out. They're closer now, much closer.


There's nothing I can do. Plenty of hours' daylight left, I tell myself. Maybe they'll just keep going.

The pair are in the field just over the road now, a man and a woman. The man is tall, his frame hidden beneath his large weatherproof jacket. Long, thin hair trickles down to his shoulders, grey.

The woman is a head shorter, her hair frizzy and crow-black. Even from here I can see that her face is sharp, angular, red and weather-beaten.

Neither talk, a concentrated silence between them, as they pace up and down the side of the road, looking for a gap in the hedge. It doesn't take long. They look up at the house as they walk down the road to the entrance gate and, with practiced hops, they climb over into the drive.

Still neither of them have spoken, the woman stares up at the house, her eyes skipping over my window.

The man heads straight for the car. My heart stops. It's my exit strategy, another testament to my cowardice. There's still petrol in the tank, some supplies in the boot in case I need to leave in a hurry. I feel sick as he pulls at the handle. Of course, it's locked and so he cups his hands, peering through the window.

"Looks dead," the woman whispers.

"That's what I'm afraid of."

I step away from the curtain, duck and return to hear what they're saying, hidden below the sill.

"The windows have been barricaded," she points out. "Could be there's someone in there."


"Shhhhhhhh. Jesus, Michael, bring the whole world down on us, why don't you?"

I bite my lip. The call has set my heart racing.

Bare branches chatter in the wind.

"Well, that confirms it," says the man. "There's nothing in there, maybe whoever barricaded it has moved on."

"And left their car?"

"Sally, look at this place. The drive has more than enough space for another car and you can bet if they lived here that they could afford more than the one. They probably took the better one and all went together."

"You reckon?"

"That's what we would have done."

". . . Think we could take this one?"


"Well, the keys are probably inside but I wouldn't mind staying here for a day or two. The tent's beginning to look a bit worse for wear and as for the smell . . . Besides, I want to sleep for a change, instead of worrying something's going to just chew its way through the wall." Downstairs, I hear the front door rattle. "Locked."

The woman sighs. I squeeze my eyes shut.

"Let's be careful then."

"I say we check around first, maybe we'll find a better way in."

I creep along the corridor, following the sound of their progress around the house from room to room. The back door handle squeaks and releases. More crunching of gravel as they come back around to the front.

"Well, I suppose if we climbed up onto the porch roof we could see if there's a way in through that window . . ."

Goddammit! I swither in the middle of the room, not sure whether to retreat or reveal myself.


I run my fingers through my hair, curse again, open my mouth, try to line up the words. My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth, reluctant to let them out and . . .

"He- hello?"

The silence outside deepens.

"Hello?" the woman, Sally, replies.

I draw back the curtain and peer down into their surprised faces, my mind working fast.

"Thank god, you are people," I speak in a stage whisper. "I was in the bathroom when I thought I heard something moving around the back of the house."

"Yeah, that was us." The man looks this way and that for anything attracted to the noise of our conversation. "We didn't mean to frighten you."

"That's alright."

The silence stretches out between us.

"Look," Michael breaks first, "we've been walking and camping outdoors for days. We'd appreciate if you could, maybe, shelter us for a while. Until tomorrow, maybe?"

The pair stare up at me with looks of tired desperation.

"We're just so tired," says Sally, picking up the slack. "We've been running for so long. Just . . . please, let us stay a while."

"You mentioned a bathroom?"

I point down the hall and Sally scurries off, leaving me alone in my room with Michael.

The man smiles, sheepishly, clearly embarrassed at his partner's brazenness.

"It's been so long since either of us have had the chance to go to the toilet indoors," he explains.

"Understandable," I reply. "You really don't know what you've got until it's gone."


About the Author

Grey Freeman studied Creative Writing at Bath Spa University. He currently lives and writes in East London and is working hard on his first novel. His first published short story 'Contracts' can be found in issue 11 of Twisted Tongue Magazine.