Damon Sweeney

The November Selected Writer is Damon Sweeney

Please feel free to email Damon at: djs64@rocketmail.com


by Damon Sweeney

Dark, ominous clouds loomed over the town of Halifax. At Chainstain High School, David Burton was sat at his desk and printing sheets out for the following week to hand to his students who would return with their miserable Monday morning expressions. The forty-two year old had taught at the school for the past seven years. He’d endured a difficult last period with a group of year nine students. It was like pulling teeth towards the end. The majority of the class had been more interested at looking out of the window at the cloud formations than at his teaching.

David went through a rough period two years ago when his wife died of a brain tumor. The type of tumor was rare and they weren’t aware of it until that fateful day when the doctors found out. They had planned to go to Blackpool for the weekend and stay at the Claremont Hotel. Once awake, he started singing “We Can Work It Out” by The Beatles. After he had sung for about a minute in front of a white double bed, he looked at his wife with a perplexed expression, noticing she hadn’t woken up.

“We are sleepy today,” he said, smiling. She still lay on her side. “Come on, wakey wakey. Blackpool awaits babe.” A surge of hot panic hit him. He moved closer to realize she wasn’t breathing. “Oh no!” he cried. “No! Marley! Wake up, Marley!”

She had died in her sleep. He began shaking uncontrollably and tried resuscitating her to no effect. The ambulance arrived twenty minutes later, but there was nothing that could be done. He felt like a piece of him had also died that morning.

He had loved her deeply, a marriage that lasted fifteen years and the total arguments during that time could be counted on one hand. Speaking to a bereavement counselor for three months afterward didn’t help.

Then he was plagued by nightmares. The same one—over and over. In the dream, he always walked through a deserted tunnel one he didn’t recognize. It was dark. The blackness ahead looked like it went on forever. The only light came from yellow fluorescents embedded in the roof above. Bluish-white tiled walls curved upward around him in the encompassing gloom. He noticed a pedestrian railing to his right which extended dimly ahead.

To his left, at thirty foot interludes were bulky support pillars. Claustrophobia wrapped its furtive fingers fondly around his head and started to first stroke and then to squeeze his temples. He walked slowly forwards and noticed a white sign to the right of the tunnel with red letters on, saying: “Walk of the Damned.”Further along, he observed an array of vacant cars crowded around. It was like an automobile graveyard. As he moved deeper into the tunnel, the light became dimmer until all he could see were faint flashes of chrome. After that the light ceased altogether.

There was an echo in the tunnel that made it sound as though someone was behind him. He came to a stop several times, his eyes bulging (but blind as a bat) and waited for the echo to fade away. He shambled onward but didn’t lift his heels from the ground, to stop that daunting echo. He felt like he was being watched. There was a presence. The walking dead, he thought, this is where they get you. Just after the light disappears. And where were the owners of the abandoned cars? He heard a footstep that came from the outskirts of the tunnel.

“Who’s there?” he called.

The echo descended again. He began to dismiss the sound as his imagination and then it came again, soft grating steps. There was more than one set now, at least half a dozen…and closing in. He knew they weren’t friendly as otherwise they would have answered him. Who hangs out in the middle of a tunnel anyway? 

“Who the hell is it?” he shouted. The echo spoke back to him, the voice of an approaching madman:

“…hell zitt…itt…itt…”

“Holy shit,” he gasped.

An echo came from behind and relentless footsteps accompanied by more echoes grew nearer in front. Trying to fight the panic, he rushed to his right and stumbled on the curb of the pavement, crashing onto the cement. A squadron of echoes chased him as he felt his right palm touch something…a lighter. He quickly picked it up and held it in front of him, then flicked it. The light the flame provided was terribly poor and it wavered in his trembling grip. First on the pavement he saw the chipped cavities in the cement, a blue riband chocolate wrapper and some dented Stella Artois cans. After that he dimly noticed scarlet puddles – blood. He moved the lighter marginally right and caught sight of something else. It was a man’s head. The weak flame revealed the rest of his body. There were bite lacerations where chunks of flesh had been torn from his neck and arms.

He backed away from the corpse in horror. A grim possibility gripped hold of him. I’m going to end up like him. He pushed that dreadful thought away. No I won’t I just have to get out of this damn tunnel. But he heard a rising craziness that sounded like a horde of escaped mental patients. He held the metal railing with his left hand and waved the lighter madly with his right, discovering more corpses sprawled all around him on the pavement. There were seven bodies, all covered in blood. A man’s throat had been bitten away and a woman in blue nurses clothing was lying in a pool of her own blood. He now knew zombies were responsible and that the mangled corpses would soon rise from the dead.

He took a step backward and stumbled over another body, laid spread-eagled on the cracked concrete. He hit the ground hard, his back hurting and rolled away to his left. Crouching and fumbling the lighter ahead of him, he saw a middle-aged man in white doctors overalls. His glazed eyes stared at him. He seemed to be grinning, but his lips were missing.

David screamed and bounded to his feet, walked backwards a few steps and then his back struck the tunnel wall. The hideous undead were almost upon him, their blood-rimmed eyes burning with madness. He instinctively felt the urge to run, however his legs appeared to be frozen.

He pointed the lighter forwards and could just make out dark shapes trudging in his direction with outstretched, discolored arms. Rotted skin fell away from their bones. Blood dripped from their twitching and drooling mouths, unable to contain their powerful cravings for flesh. Chipped and broken yellow teeth could be seen behind lunatic grins.

Then a voice rose clearly out of the endless frenzy of the damned: “You never loved me.”

He focused on that voice which sounded raspy but also familiar.

“You never loved me did you, David?”

He was stunned – it was Marlene. His wife was amongst the army of monstrous flesh-eaters. “Marley! Darling!” he yelled with intense joy and relief. His wife was alive.

“You never did!” 

He listened to the words more carefully and was horror-struck. She was disgusted with him.

The zombies lumbered closer.

He didn’t know how she was here, but all that mattered was that she was. He caught sight of her beautiful face in the faint light. Only her expression was congested with hate.

“I do, babe!” he cried. “Of course I do! I love you so much!”

“All those wasted years and now look where I am! You never cared about me!”Her voice began to diminish, drowned out by the groans of the hungry walking dead.

He couldn’t see her now. “Marley, where are you? Can you hear me? I love you, honey!” His desperate cries were futile. She was gone. She had vanished like a ghost in the night. Fear engulfed him again. His nostrils smelt the strong stench of decay as the swarm of the undead reeled in. He was surrounded.

Suddenly, a zombie lunged at him through the darkness. He saw its crazed crimson eyes in the small flame, except by then it was too late. He shrieked. The lighter was knocked out of his grasp and it clattered onto the concrete. He fell down and the undead pounced on him.

That was when he broke through the fabric of the dream world and awoke, every time. Sweating and panting and frightened. The nightmares were consistently harrowing. Disturbed by the vividness of the imagery, he was glad when he finally banished them a few months later. He had always been terrified of zombies (in movies, TV shows and video games) and what he feared the most was to lose the one he loved. And he did.

Now, sitting at his desk, he glanced at the gold framed picture of him and Marlene. It was taken on their honeymoon. “God I loved you,” he said brightly.

The printer buzzed into life behind him over by the window.

His eyes lingered on the photograph a moment longer and then he stood up and walked over to the printer to collect the sheets of paper. He gazed out of the window at the dark, swelling clouds that assembled eerily overhead and thought of his wife: her smooth mousy hair, her lovely smile, the feel of her lips when they kissed. He didn’t think he would ever love another woman. Whenever he felt an attraction to someone he thought of Marlene. He knew his current solitary existence wasn’t healthy – loneliness could drive a man mad. He often wondered about the journey of life and how important it was not to waste it. His wonderful wife never wasted a moment and although she was taken away harshly and without warning, she had lived a happy life.

“There’s always a solution,” Marlene had regularly told him. What’s the solution for my turmoil? he asked himself. He didn’t know. Usually he did, but not now. What the hell am I doing teaching English classes? Isn’t there more to life?

As he pondered the meaning of life, his classroom door slowly opened. He was unaware that a man with a deathly pale face was stealthily moving towards him. Facing the printer, he felt an ice-cold hand drop on his right shoulder. Startled, he turned around and stared in horror at malevolent black eyeballs. The man was grinning.

“Jesus”, David said.


Rain cascaded down like a waterfall on Saturday morning. The downpour was boundless, bombarding the rooftops and turning the roads into vast expanses of muddy water. A scrunched-up newspaper floated down Mapleton Lane, swollen with rain.

At midday, the rainfall ceased. But no cars moved. Nobody was on the streets. The only sound was the roar of the wind, pummeling the houses.

At one o’clock, a black Doberman was on the prowl. It was searching for townsfolk, sniffing madly. It didn’t find anyone. As it went into the centuries old cemetery, its eyes turned a horrid crimson color.

Evening came. The town brooded under a bruised skin of sky. Shadows lengthened. There was an eerie silence. A man carrying three brown carrier bags noticed something strange as he walked past the high school gates. He saw that there was a light on in a second floor classroom behind drawn curtains. All the other rooms were smothered in darkness.

There wasn’t supposed to be anybody inside the school during the weekend. One of the teachers, perhaps? Or possibly someone had just left a light on? He wasn’t sure, but he didn’t like it. As he stared up at the window, he had a horrible feeling he was being watched. He felt exposed (to what he wasn’t sure of) and alone.

The reception block-doors at the end of the shadowy pathway appeared like a mouth with the two large windows above, reflecting the sun’s orange rays like flaming eyes. He swiftly continued down the street, feeling he had to get away before whatever menacing thing that was within the school came out – to get him.

Inside the luminous English classroom, someone was making deals with the devil.

Damon Sweeney is a writer living in West Yorkshire, England.