- Cold Dead Handsby Dean Kuch
This work has reached the exceptional level
One girl's personal struggle to survive nuclear winter.
Cold Dead Hands by Dean Kuch
    Horror Story Writing Contest Contest Winner 

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of violence.
Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of language.
WARNING!!!  If you do not wish to have the accompanying sound effects playing as you read, please turn off your speakers. If so...then by all means, enjoy the show...


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A Winter's Tale ©

Sept. 1, 2016  Thursday


Sept. 1, 2016 Thursday


Everything was normal a few days ago. I 'd taken my dog Blitz to the dog park to let him frolic around with the other dogs; get him accustomed to being around other people and other pooches as well. Ironic, when I think about it, what a monumental waste of time it was. It's all gone, wiped out in the twinkling of a cosmic eye.
 I'd been sitting with Mom and Dad at the kitchen table; all of us excited about the numerous college offers I'd received over the past couple of weeks. Dad had been putting off the meeting, telling me we had plenty of time to buckle down to one particular choice or another. He cited everything, from having to work late to meeting potential clients at odd hours of the evening, hours he normally never kept. He wanted me to go to Ohio State, I had made up my mind West Virginia was a better fit for me and my major. I wanted to major in biology and the study of cognitive neurosciences. Dad knew that, so he just avoided the topic. I was going to create the cure for Alzheimer's Disease and spare all future grandchildren from witnessing their grandparents wasting away in a nursing home.Everything was normal a few days ago.
I 'd taken my dog Blitz to the dog park to let him frolic around with the other dogs. I wanted him to get accustomed to strangers, familiarize him with a setting where many different 

Yeah... I was going to do just that.
I suppose you would like to know my name now, but that really isn't necessary. I won't be around when and if you find what I have recorded here in my notes. Let me just say that, as of now, I am still lucid and rational. Hell, considering my current circumstances—dog mutilated on the living room floor, zombie dad groaning and grunting in the toilet—I'd say that I was doing pretty damn good. Peachy keen, even.

As I look out our bay window; boarded up to barely a peephole, I can't comprehend how this all went down so quickly. It is night now, not that it really matters anymore. It has been four days since all of this happened. I have not seen the sun peek out, even once. Maybe it has died too, like everything and everyone else. Who knows? All I do know is that all of my plans, dad and mom's plans, everyone's plans?

They're all gone now.   
The screams remain, though. Those are real enough.

Do I know what really happened? No, but I have my suspicions. Does it really matter how our beautiful world became an ice covered wasteland? Not to me, it doesn't. The simple fact, which I am forced to face, is that it has happened. There isn't a damned thing I can do to change it.
Limited food, some gasoline, matches to cook and light with. Oh yes, the deafening silence. Let's not forget about the silence.

Silence, for the most part, except for the grunts and pounding coming from the bathroom. There are occasional screams outside, in addition to the damned Emergency Broadcasting System Notification blaring in the background.

Good job, fellas. Way to tell us all— just in the nick of time.

At least it breaks the monotony once in a while.

I don't fully understand why I am writing in my journal now, to be brutally honest. Considering the circumstances, who the hell is going to read it? My hope is that, one day, someone will find this and take it to heart. I believe the main reason I am doing so is to keep my sanity, to ground myself in reality, somehow. If I simply sit and think about everything that has gone down, well...I'd rather not think about it.



Sept. 2, 2016   Friday


 Something has been puzzling me since it happened. Why didn't I turn into one of —them? Even Blitz changed. But, not me. I'm as normal as an old lady's flowered butt planted on a pew at Sunday morning service. Why was I the only one out of my family spared? What's so special and unique about my gene pool? I wish I had died, if that's what you want to call their current condition.
I had to put Blitz down when he came at me— mouth foaming, eyes as translucent as Saran Wrap. It all happened so fast, I barely had time to react. As the mutt lunged, I seized him by the neck and squeezed. I felt bone and sinew buckle like a soda can being run over by a cement truck. It seemed to take forever before he finally quit struggling. It wasn't until one of those milky eyes had popped out of its socket that he stopped moving. Oh yes, I squeezed that hard. Luckily for me, Blitz was a Chihuahua, not a hundred-twenty-pound Rottweiler. The outcome would have been far different.

I'd only had him for a few days. He was a gift from a girlfriend at school who could no longer take care of him. She'd said he was too messy, barked way too much, and was impossibly antisocial. After a couple of initial trips to the park, I had found him to be pretty damned sociable. He humped every dog he could get his paws on. He'd latched on to a few legs of the human persuasion, too. He wasn't barking anymore, though. He wasn't pissing, or messing— or even humping now. He was dead.
I'm sure you're wondering about my folks at this point? I mean, c'mon, if a dog was acting that way, how were the humans affected acting, right? I can only tell you how it's affected my dad. Mom had gone to the grocery store, then over to my Aunt Joyce's house after Dad got all huffy when he couldn't budge me on my decision to go to WVU.
That was the last time I saw her. She never returned home and, given the current lay of the land, I do not expect her home any time soon.

As for Dad, he's chained up in the bathroom, secured with an old bicycle lock and chain I found in the garage.

He was sleeping on the sofa when the dog attacked me, so after I took care of Blitz, I took care of  Dad—just in case. Oh no, I didn't kill him; not right away.
What sort of a daughter do you take me for?

I observed him lying there for awhile, maybe fifteen minutes, until he began to twitch; flopping about like a fish out of water. Thick, pink foam began to bubble up from behind his clenched teeth. He spit his dentures onto the floor, then his entire body began to shake violently. I did what anybody would have done after the dog incident, I incapacitated him. I picked up a cast-iron skillet that Mom left on the stove, then cracked him in the skull with it. I retrieved the chain and bike lock, drug him into the bathroom, then chained him to the register.

That's where he is now.

I have not gone into that bathroom since I put him there. I don't have to, I have another one upstairs. To tell you the truth, with the grunts, groans, and inhuman noises coming from behind that door, I don't believe I'll tackle that task any time soon. I'm not sure it's really necessary to put myself in jeopardy that way just yet. I can tell you this. He's no longer human. No human being could give off such a stench—not a living one anyway—and make the noises he's making. Not to mention that incessant, constant infernal banging on the door. Yeah, the chain's fairly long, the bathroom, really small. He can still reach that fucking door!

 Dad did not keep guns in the home, Mom wouldn't allow it. When I do decide to put him out of his misery, it will have to be in an up close and very personal way. I'm not up for that yet. I'm sure you'll understand.


Sept. 3, 2016  Saturday

Ever wondered what fried, nearly spoiled bologna tastes like cooked with gasoline? If not, maybe you should. Maybe that's precisely what you need to do, prepare for the worst. Sure, it would be far worse for me if I didn't have the meat to cook and had to cook something else. But it's still pretty rank, just the same.
It can't compare with the smell coming from the downstairs toilet. Oh sure, that room has been privy to some pretty raunchy odors in its day, no doubt.  Especially after Dad completed one of his weekend benders and decided to drop us all a message. But, that was nothing compared to this. This was a stench far worse than anything I could have ever imagined. Funny though, while the screams have nearly stopped, the grunts, moans and inhuman sounds have intensified. That's causing me a great deal of concern; I can honestly tell you.
It's been more than a day now. Still, no TV signal, no radio...nothing. Even that infernal buzzing of the EBS has crapped out. Can't say as I miss it much. 
I wish I knew who perpetrated this unholy existence on all of us. The North Koreans? Had Iran finally made good on their promise and created a weapon of mass destruction that could reach our shining shores? Hell, maybe it was some rogue invaders from another world? It's really hard to say.
The day it happened, around five or six o'clock in the evening; there was a single, huge flash, a rumbling upon the ground, then the satellite signal briefly went dead. Dad was watching the evening news at the time, complaining about how damned tired his heart medication made him, and decided to lay down on the couch for a bit; at least until Mom came home. He was out like a light within a few minutes.
I'd been eating a cheeseburger Mom made right before she left, along with some of her home-cut french-fries, when it hit. I saw a tremendous white flash. The television got quiet, then buzzed back to life. My dad lay gurgling and snoring on the couch, just as before—oblivious to what was happening outside. Don't think there was any way of running outside to get a handle on what'd happened either, huh-uh. Those winds were too violent, a torrential downpour of rain came out of nowhere. The sky had turrned as black as an ebony obelisk. Nope, not a soul was going to venture out in this. Not a smart one, anyway. As far as I could tell, no one did. The electricity was still on at that point, so I watched through the slit-window as the valley suddenly lit up like a star-filled sky. Except, there were no stars anymore. No moon either—-only the deafening sounds of the winds and the rain.

Oh yeah, and that constant, infernal roar of warning sirens howling like wounded banshees off in the distance.

I attempted several times to call my mom over at Aunt Joyce's house, but the line was as dead. No internet, no radio signal...nothing to connect with the outside world and get an idea of what was happening, not really. The television still worked, but the only thing it offered was a blinking message across the bottom of a fuzzy screen.

 Our nearest neighbor was over a half a mile away, and there was no way in hell that I was going to try and walk—or drive—in this mess. No one came to call on us, either. They may have tried, who knows? If they did, they never made it this far.
So, there's no possible way that I can explain to you what has happened. All I can say is that it has happened, and our Big Blue Marble is one huge gigantic snowball now, or so, I assume it is. It is the middle of summer here in Ohio, outside temperatures have dropped off the bottom of the scale on our all-weather, deluxe John Deere outdoor thermometer. My mom purchased the thing, much to dad's chagrin, from a Publisher's Clearing House catalog for thirty-eight bucks. She always was the big dreamer in our little family. Lot of good it did her.
 Nothing moves, as far as I can tell. Not birds, or cars.  No children running and playing games of hide-and-seek or tag. Zilch.
Nothing, except 'them'.

I've come to know them as screamers. You can call them what you like, but that's all they do... scream, I mean. They are pale white, even in darkness, moving like disinterred ghosts, while they shriek their collective torment to anyone within earshot who's still living enough to hear them. I think they were human once. I mean, they had to be, right? Not anymore.
These creatures are about as far from being human as a vegetarian is from being a cannibal.


Sept. 6, 2016  Tusesday


 The electricity went out here on day three. That's really when things began to get a lot worse. Off in the distance, in the darkness, you could occasionally catch a glimpse of a small candle flicker here and there, or see what I assumed to be flicks and flashes of lighter strikes, or matches being lit. Some of the houses up here on our hill had generators, but no one utilized them. Maybe they didn't want to draw undue attention by being such a brightly lit beacon in the otherwise desolate darkness.
'Hey, look at me, I have electricity, y'all. Come on over and have some lunch, steal my food and supplies, then rape my wife and kid...'

No one is that stupid.

As far as I know, it's about ten forty-five in the morning. My cheap little dollar store watch is still working, but it's notoriously slow. Every other clock in the house has stopped, even the battery-powered ones. The fine, snowy ash blanketing the landscape is still coming down. The sky is devoid of any light. It may as well be ten o'clock at night, if one had to judge simply by looking. But I know better, thanks to this stupid watch.


Sept. 7, 2016  Wednesday

Dad's making quite the ruckus now in his old throne room. I suppose I'll have to tend to him sooner than I'd have liked. Right now, I have to continue to board up and fortify the doors and windows. I won't worry about the upper floor. Just the downstairs. There's plenty of wood left down in the basement in Dad's workshop. I'll have no trouble acquiring materials for the job. I am really hungry, all that I've got left is a some partially thawed chicken wings, a few canned goods, cookies, and saltine crackers. Soon, that will be gone too...
Okay, the house is boarded up. I suppose I'll get some sleep now, then take care of that problem in the bathroom when I get up. My stomach is really growling now, like a caged starving lion trying to break free from the confines of its enclosure. I'm exhausted, isolated and alone. I must keep alert. Writing this all down seems to help. Right now, I have to get some sleep.

Good—whatever the hell it is.




Spetimber 8, 2066 Tuhrsday


My eyes pop open, my heart is racing. It's freezing. I'm soaked in sweat, and my clothes are beginning to cling, magnifying the icy temperatures a hundredfold. It appears to be a quarter after three in the morning. Can that be right? I had not intended to sleep this long. I'm beat.

 Something doesn't seem right. Other than the horrible rumblings in my gut, I can't hear anything. The silence is so total, so absolute, it's deafening. Why is it so quiet? Something is wrong...
The bathroom. That's it! No more sounds are coming from behind the door. Maybe I won't have to go in there and finish what this whole mess started in Dad. Mercifully, I hope he's dead, for his sake, as well as my own.
Nuclear Winter, yeah, I remember reading stories about it. That's what this is, nuclear winter. It fits all the descriptions I've read. I wonder how far away it is to ground zero. Maybe there are more than just a few places like this. Possibly hundreds, even thousands, all over the world. Not just here. It's so, so very quiet—did I mention that already? The quiet, I mean? I have to get up and look around. I will in a bit. I am so tired...



Setptabmer nineth, 2166  Frdys


Whu—what day is it now? Day four or five. I can't remember anymore. The days and nights seem to blend together. I still have my trusty, but slow, watch. It displays the time, but no day or date. It just has second hand, a minute hand and an hour hand, that's it. That's enough I suppose. It's better than nothing. Why is it so freaking cold in here? My breath is now pluming out in front of my face like whispers of smoke. It's damn quiet.
Dad! Yes, that was my next chore, to go check in on dad. It has been four or five days now since I have heard anything out of him. Did I mention I had to chain him up in the bathroom? I believe I did, I'll have to go back and check through my notes. If I didn't, I'm telling you so now. No sounds are coming from outside anymore, save for the howling winds. At least the screaming stopped. I am going to peek out of the slit I left in the bay window for a glimpse of something—anything, to let me know that I am still here. I must find something to eat, though. I don't know how much longer I can take this.
I finished eating the last two chicken wings and had a few saltine crackers for dessert, too. There's no running water left. Anything we had left in the refrigerator is long gone or smells too bad to drink. I had to eat the wings raw. I've run out of gas to cook. My matches are all used up.  I wish that I'd taken up smoking. At least I would have a lighter or two laying around somewhere to make a little fire.
The coldness is bone chilling now. I can feel my body slowing down. Maybe I should try to peek outside. The winds have stripped the siding off the house, along with many of the boards. Several old oaks in the yard have become shredded twigs, skeletal remains of the majestic topiary they once were The wind is relentless and shows no signs of letting up in intensity. Everything is covered in about seven feet of fine, white powder. I can't help but wonder what it feels like in my hand. Is it cold like snow? Maybe I will find out later. Right now, I have to take care of something in the bathroom.



Septeober 100, 2061


Have you ever tried to wipe your ass with newspaper? Okay, so maybe you've done worse. Have you attempted to do it darkness? It's pretty gross. Ever been in an outhouse in sub-zero temperatures? If you have, then you get a sense of what I just went through. It gives new meaning to the phrase, 'stick around', if you know what I mean. My ass cheeks are burning is if they were on fire. What's worse is what I encountered when I went back downstairs. We no longer have a back door to the kitchen. It's been ripped off, carried away by the winds, is my guess. I've got to find something to cover that gaping hole. It's an open invitation to any terrors lurking around out there, in the darkness. I guess I'll have to go back down into the basement and feel around for some nails. The wood is all used up, but there's still the kitchen table and doors I can take off of the other rooms in the house to patch things up with. I...I'm just so tired, so hungry. Did I mention that already too; how hungry I was? I'm sure I probably have, maybe several times. But it's still a fact. I could eat almost anything now.
The hole in the door is taken care of. I used the table, along with the bathroom door (No! The one upstairs, not that one. Don't be an idiot...) and a few other doors in the house. I need to sleep. I can hardly keep my eyes open any longer. I think I'll just rest for an hour or so, then go face what I have been putting off this entire time.
We all know what that is, right?

I am going to pile under these blankets here on the sofa, grab a little shut eye now. Just a little sleep, that's really all I need. Just a little...


Hu-huh? What's that you said? I—uh, I know what I have to do, just leave me the hell alone about it for a minute. Wh...what time is it? I can't see a damn thing in huh- here anymore. I-it's s-s-so cuh-cold now. I cu-can't stop sh-shaking. Why is my nuh-neck suh-so cold? It fuh-feels like it's fuh-fifty below zero in here! And what is that inhuman growling. Did the damn makeshift door in the kuh-kitchen get blown away again? Is suh-something in here with me?

Obviously, I can no longer relay to yuh-you my memoirs in written form. There just isn't enough light to duh-do s-so.   I found a little voice recorder mom used to keh-keep to recite her recipes into, so I've decided to go with that. At least, until the batteries guh-give out. I've got to get up and feel my way over to the bathroom, the one whuh-where dad is. I should have done this when I still had some light left.

Dad? Dear god— dad, is that you? I can tell from the smell. And yuh-your hands dad-your hands are so, so very cold. Oh, sweet Jesus, it is you. How did you out- get loose? I'm so sorry this has huh-happened to us-to everyone. Oh guh-god. I really am so sorry...


  I du-don't know what day it is; whether it's night or daytime, I couldn't say. I can't suh-see anything anymore, either. That's probably a good thing. Dad got out somehow, came after me. But, I'm no duh-dummy, you know? I put the claw hammer beneath my pillow before I drifted off to sleep, just in case. When he-it-came at me, I buried it deep inside his head. I continued to bury the business end of the hammer in his skull 'til he stopped struggling. I fuh-felt
the soft, gooey contents of his head pour out and run down my arm.

It wasn't the way that I had planned to take care of him, but at least, that part of this nightmare is over now.

It's fu-funny what you can force yourself to do when faced with such dire circumstances. I am thankful for the complete, total darkness now; thankful for the silence. I'm no longer huh-hungry any muh-more, either. Sure, Dad's smell takes a bit of getting used to, buh-but it's no so bad when you get accustomed to it. I cuh-can't p-p-possibly tell how long the meat will last, but at least, I have enough for now. I always wuh-wonderd in some morbid, curious way, what huh-human flesh tasted like. Too bad it isn't exactly fresh. I'm fu-full now and I'm tired. Oh so tired.

Did I mention how tired I truly am...?

They are outside my broken, useless kitchen door now, pounding. Can you hear them, too? No, I don't suppose you can. Perhaps it's the sickly-sweet scent of Dad's rotting carcass that brings them here... Maybe it's the simple fact that I've been spared, been left alive?  No matter. I'm too tired to fight them off, should they gain entry. sure would be a lot of meat to eat.

Oh, dear God, sweet Jesus, please, help me... help—Here they come.


Where did I put that damn hammer?


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Author Notes
Nuclear winter is a theoretical concept. In short, many scientists believe that a large scale nuclear war would change the global climate in great proportion. This is because such a war would likely catapult large amounts of soot and smoke (aerosal particles) into the Earth's stratosphere. Along with this, the ash and dust ( which could settle in the stratosphere for months or even years ) would likely travel by wind over a great distance to create a wall between the Earth and sun.
Subsequently, sunlight would have difficulty breaking through, and this would cause the temperatures to drop.

With the conflicts breaking out upon the Korean peninsula of late, I found myself wondering; what if...

Quotation marks by the narrator have been omitted, as it is a self-contained narrative...


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