"The Broken" is a flash fiction story that I originally created as an example for my creative writing students of implied story effects. The entire story is under 400 words, but still conveys a vast post-apocalyptic world and a deeply conflicted relationship between a father and a son. (2 minute read)
Deep in the winter Michael's father died, leaving him the shack they lived in and a body to bury. With the ground frozen, there was no way to bury his father, and he couldn’t keep the body outside because some animal would definitely sniff it out. Keeping the body inside wasn’t better, even with the cold seeping through the clapboard siding, the house was too warm, and the body would start to rot long before the thaw. At that point, Michael would have to deal with the broken.
Dark clouds were gathering on the horizon before Michael started home. Lesson one: Never let ‘em corner you. He saw the footprints before hearing the guttural, animalistic grunts of the broken. They used to be normal, but once caught in the storms, you change. The two broken lunged at the wall where his father’s body lay on the other side.
“Hey, get outa there!” Michael froze instantly as the broken turned their milky eyes on him, mucus dripping from their cracked lips. “Fuck.” Broke lesson two: Don’t get noticed. They turn on him and Michael threw down the bundle of wood he’d gathered and made a break for the door, closing it seconds before the first broken’s bodies smashed against the weathered wood, rattling the frame.
Rivulets of light streamed through the boarded windows lighting the settling dust, and for a moment, silence. The rattling started again, more have come. Michael stands in the middle of the room, heart clawing at his rib-cage. Breaking glass and splintering wood fill his ears as he frantically searches for escape. Light by his father’s body catches his attention.
The cracking door drew his attention as the broken began to claw inside, their mucus dripping freely as the scent of food grew. Michael grabbed the only thing in reach, wrapping his fingers in his father’s hair and went to work. The wet thuds working in tandem with the door being wrenched from its hinges by hungry arms. Lesson three: Sentimentality kills.
Michael pulled himself through the opening into the yellowing light, covered in his father’s coagulating blood. He watched the broken flood the shack for a moment, thunder rumbling in the distance. Michael covered his nose and mouth. He put his back to the storm and started jogging. Lesson one: Never let ‘em corner you.