If You're Happy And You Know It by Scott Stoddart

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SUMMARY: A short story about two friends doing their best in the middle of a vampire apocalypse.

A rainbow sprang from the floor, sparkled up the wardrobe doors in all its bright colours, reaching for the window and the sky beyond. Clouds floated across the walls, painted in such a clever manner as to fool the eye into thinking they were real - if only for a moment. The walls themselves were the lightest midsummer blue; giving the impression of a warm day in what was in actual fact a cold room.

The chill came from its lone inhabitant; a miserable figure in contrast to his blissful surroundings. He rocked back and forth on his knees, the hard piece of metal in his right hand held with a casualness born of familiarity. It was the teat from which he found succour, though he took no comfort from it today, or cold comfort at best, which was perhaps the only type to be taken from a gun. In his other hand nestled a small colourful box. Its lid had fallen open; inside rested five small books. Continuing to rock, he hummed a merry tune in a desperate manner. Occasionally a sob would disturb the melody for a moment, but then he would control it and continue to murder what was an ostensibly happy theme. "If you're happy and you know it," he began to sing - if a pathetic, strangled mumble could be called singing - "clap your hands. If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands."

He gazed longingly at the open box and then at the gun. He raised it slowly, as if it weighed a ton and placed the dangerous end to his right temple. Tears crept from the corners of red eyes to race down grimy cheeks. Like the man who sang it, the song became broken and almost unrecognisable. Between sobs, he gasped for air; a drowning man coming up for breath for the third and last time. "If you're happy... and you know it and you really... want to show it..."

One day earlier:
Bob was driving Bob always drove; usually so close to the back of the car in front that you could almost reach forward and change the channel on their radio for them. He didn't think he was going round a bend unless the tyres were screeching in complaint. Sam was used to it and these days it didn't matter so much anyway. George sat in the back jabbering like a budgie as if his life depended on it. It was his way of slowing Bob's driving down, by engaging him in conversation - the subject didn't matter. "Don't you think that this is too risky?" He asked.

Sam continued to stare out of the windscreen at the sky.

"Life is risk," Bob replied, not slowing down one bit.

"Yes," George agreed, "these days it is. But..."

"But what?"

The car hurtled onto the ramp for the dual carriageway; up a long bend. George shut up for a moment while he prayed that the car would make it round the corner. The wheels rubbed against the chassis as the car threatened to roll to the left, then the road straightened and George relaxed slightly.

"You two actually enjoy this, don't you?" George accused.

Sam turned his attention from the grey panorama in front of him to the grey, sickly figure in the back. "We get on with things - that's all! What else can we do?"

George looked suitably chastised.

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