Long Dark Night by Janci Patterson Read Online (FREE)
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As I approached our apartment building, I could sense the corpse crouching behind it. He grew in my mind like a fungus, his undead flesh outlined as if covered in a thin coating of dewdrops. This one was thin, with bulky muscles. Perhaps in life he’d been an athlete.
Out of old habit, I popped a penny into my mouth. Even against my dry tongue, it tasted like blood.
I ducked inside a bus stop, peering up at our curtained windows. Zeke should have been home by now, but I couldn’t sense any corpses inside the building, and the one behind the building wasn’t him.
False dawn crept over the rooftop, making my skin twitch and crawl. The sun rose late in Salt Lake City—it had to make its way over the mountains, first. Zeke would be furious that I’d cut it this close getting home. If he had his way, I’d stay locked in the apartment twenty-four seven.
I flipped the penny over with my tongue. Where was Zeke now? The safest place I could wait for him would be inside the apartment with the door locked. Sunrise was twenty minutes away, at most. He’d be home by then.
A few buildings away, another corpse shifted. He was moving down the block toward me. That made four stiffs in all—the one behind the apartment, the one half a block down, and two crouching on the other side of the street behind some Dumpsters. I’d have thought I was imagining things, but I’d been feeling Zeke come home from work every night. At first I’d thought it was just the predictability of his schedule, but then I’d started sensing other stiffs, too. Now I could make out their body types, even their facial features, sketched out in crystalline dots. I checked over each of their faces. None of these corpses was Zeke.
A gust of wind blew into the bus stop shelter, flipping the pages of a magazine abandoned in the corner. I pressed my cheek against the metal frame of the shelter. I knew it was cold, but my skin was colder.
Waiting wasn’t giving me an advantage. I walked up to the building as confidently as I could. I could feel the corpse behind the building stand, but he didn’t come any closer. I hurried up the staircase toward our second-floor apartment, turning at the top to look toward the back parking lot. The corpse was still there, lurking just around the corner. Corpses passed from time to time, but they didn’t stay, they didn’t lurk.
Not unless they’d suddenly found a reason to. I moved to our doorway and shoved my key into the lock. I stepped in and shut the door behind me, breathing in the dark. My body hadn’t needed oxygen in six months, but Zeke said it took some corpses as long as fifty years to break their breathing habit.