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Author's note: The misspelling of the title is intentional as it reflects the mental degradation of the monster, Legion. (Its slow downward grammatical descent into madness is intentional.)Also this story is a long read. Chapters have been added to help, but it still clocks in at about one hundred pages. Trying something a little new here, injecting comedy into horror. You've been warned.
Introduction: A Night to Remember
The world is growing. Of course, I mean in population, but also in something else. It’s not exactly something you can gather facts and figures on. You can’t exactly find information on it in a book, article, or scientific journal. If you search the internet for information you are only going to give yourself carple-tunnel syndrome and maybe hairy palms depending on your ability or inability to stay focused. It’s something you catch glimpses of, but don’t really attribute to anything. There’s something growing beyond the veil, undetectable to those who aren’t looking for it. I want to tell you something and I want you to listen. And after you listen, I think you are going to see it too. However, I want you to know one thing before you begin: This book is very stupid and you are going to be stupider after reading it.
The bar was sick with sounds and conversations, but no music could be heard. It seemed that one patron with an unholy amount of change found it hilarious to play “Freebird” on loop for four hours straight. (Which according to calculations is about three times.) It also seemed that another patron found it more hilarious to bash the jukebox with a barstool and threaten to brain the aforementioned patron. Both customers no longer frequented the establishment. One was banned while the other was more inclined to be as free as a bird and frequent other bars. (With jukeboxes.) Most of the conversations gravitated towards “cry-tears-in-your beer” stories about unfaithful wives and bosses whose heads were so far up their ass that they put the Ouroborus to shame. Believe it or not, this was where I wanted to be.
I waltzed in and sat on the nearest stool, which seemed to be a bit bent and wobbled. I signaled the bar tender for a pitcher of bloody mary’s. At the bar, I drank from the pitcher, which induced the bartender to look at me like I was one of those tools who pre-games before going to the bar. I was not drunk and I had no intention of being drunk, but a bar is a good place to find people with an open ear and I needed them to listen, to understand. I took the pitcher to the biggest booth I could find. As he went for a glass I made my declaration.
“I’m drunk and I want people to listen to my story.” (I know, not the best introduction, but god-damnit this isn’t “The Odyssey” You knew what you were getting into when you picked up this book.)
The drunks regarded me with little interest before I continued, “I am going to keep drinking and whoever is up to join me and listen will be on my tab for the night.”
This piqued their attention and five joined me with the promise of free drinks. The crowded around the table, eager to be noticed and included in on my tab.
One asked, “Bloody Mary’s? What are you, a gay?”
I heaved a sigh and countered, “I’ll order something more manly next round, but now I want something to sip slowly while I talk. I also want something that isn’t going to get you plastered too quickly. Bartender, six glasses please.”
I began, “Let me tell you tale that transcends time-”
A patron interrupted, “I swear to God that is the lamest opening I’ve ever heard. What’s next? It was the best of times, it was the worst of times?”
“Do you even know what that line is from?”
“Of course, I do! Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties.”
Another cut in, “No, you idiot! It’s a line from Shakespeare. The one about the son whose father is killed by his uncle and he goes out for revenge.”
Another interjected, “That’s The Lion King dumbass.”
This was one of those moments when I wished a blood vessel would burst in my head and kill me instantly.
I continued, “Well I’ll take that into consideration, but to begin-”
ACT I: It Started with a Car Crash
It all started with a car crash. A man woke up one day with a very peculiar notion. It is worth noting that this was not a very peculiar man. He was the kind of person who found contact with people to be a burden. He preferred to find his companionship behind a screen with a keyboard. He led a very monotonous life. Everyday he would follow the same schedule. Wake up and polish leftover Chinese food off for breakfast. Everyday he would order king crab from the same restaurant for dinner and would eat it in his apartment lit by only the glow of the television. However this day was not a perfect piece cut out of the fabric of his glamorous life. This evening he felt compelled to drain an entire bottle of cheap vodka and drive his car with his headlights off and his eyes closed.
Paramedics on the scene would discover something else atypical about this man, he was aspirating blood at an alarming rate. A preliminary examination at the scene of the accident revealed no signs of a punctured lung or internal hemorrhaging. While attempting to intubate, the man aspirated a mist of what seemed to be blood into the face of the lead paramedic. Upon closer examination (And the use of a bandage.), the doctor concluded that it was not blood, but was in fact pleural fluid. This peculiar man would later die at the hospital due to severe dehydration. The leading doctor on the case had a few days to ponder this extra-ordinary case before he became case number one in the first of many infections.
It spread like wildfire. Symptoms were always the same, within a day of exposure, pulse, respiration, and brain wave activity steadily decreased. In the next days, pulse would almost become non-existent and respiration sounds would be labored and there would be a heavy build-up of fluid in the lungs. Eventually death would call them home. If those were the only symptoms of the infection then I wouldn’t be here telling you this interesting story. The problem with this infection was that the dead didn’t stay dead.
[A patron interjected, “A zombie story??? Really?”
I countered, “It’s better than one of your stories about an unfaithful wife. To continue.”]
Soon the dead filled the streets. Shambling, shuffling, stalking the living. All it took was a bite, sometimes even less. They were characterized by a slow gait,-
[“Lame! Make ‘em running zombies.”
“I’m telling the story here!”
“You’re telling it lamely! Make ‘em running, kung-fu fighting zombies.”]
-from their mouths there was a constant flow of what appeared to be blood, but would later be identified as pleural fluid and saliva. Victims found themselves clawed to the ground and bitten or in later cases, receiving a face-full of rust-colored spit. Both of which were a fate worse than death. The luckiest people were the ones that met a ‘quick’ death at the multiple bites of the horde, the unluckiest were the people who survived. I am one of those few.
The government reacted quickly and effectively. Blockades were set up around the town and lines of communication were cut. News stations reported stories of a gas leak that had resulted in the area being off-limits. The small town was quarantined while the population dwindled and many soon found themselves joining the ranks of the recently undead. As the infection progressed so did the decay. Those shambling corpses began to fall apart like a metaphor given by a cheap hack of an author. Streets were littered with parts from the dead and undead alike. I spent the first two weeks of the infection in my apartment.
[“Boring! Get to some zombie action already!”]
Chapter One: The Body Snatcher
I wasn’t like those who first braved out into this new world, I waited and watched. They fell apart as they walked but something drove them onward. I listened as my doorknob jiggled as their decayed hands pawed at the handle. I heard the sounds of their moans, low and guttural. Sometimes they lingered with the hopes I would venture out into the hallway, for what, I don’t know. There was a Reece’s Pieces vending machine out there, but I could never find myself adequate reason to risk being eaten alive for ‘fun’ sized candy.
[“And there go your Reece’s Pieces product placement opportunity.”]
I waited and watched the world from my third floor window. I watched as people tried to stop the infections. Sometimes with noble intentions, others with dreams too big to be squashed by the threat of imminent death. The result was almost always the same. I watched as a kid who couldn’t be more than fifteen kick open a door onto the street and approach a horde with a flaming rag inserted into a can.
He drew their attention with a battle shout, “Hey, ass-butt!”
He clearly hadn’t had much practice with swearing. He pitched the flaming Molotov beer into the crowd. It was then that he learned a very valuable lesson.
According to beer commercials, beer can do a lot of things for you: impress your boss, act as a social lubricant, and of course, get you laid. One thing that beer cannot do however, is be used as an ingredient in a Molotov cocktail. The alcoholic content is just too low. A proof of about ninety or higher is necessary. The kid watched as the can impotently spilled out onto the ground and extinguished the flaming rag with a sizzle. The zombies regarded the ‘Molotov’ with glassy stares before approaching the dumb-struck teen. It was then I made the first in a series of the biggest mistakes of my life.
From the window I shouted to the dumb-struck teen, “Run!”
He turned to look at me just as the zombie sank its teeth into him. The others soon crowded the body, biting any open space they could sink their teeth into. I could only watch as his legs twitched and shivered as if galvanized. The zombies looked up at me and began approaching my building. One zombie banging on the door wouldn’t make me open up, but fifteen or twenty could smash it down with their combined body weight pressed against the door. I had to leave and fast or I would meet the same fate as that kid.
This was my moment to survive. Learn from collective experience. No barley and hops flavored Molotovs, no fist-fighting zombies, no trying to mimic them in an effort to become part of the crowd. If I wanted to survive I needed to keep my wits about me. I didn’t have time or energy to fight every single undead. I remembered the skinhead who pulled up to a horde with his music blasting and took a wood board with a nail hammered in to his undead rivals. The music called hundreds upon hundreds. He eventually gave up the ghost when his weapon bounced ineffectively off the head of a zombie like he had tried to brain it with a wiffle bat. I needed a weapon and I needed to be smart about it. I grabbed a shoe from off the shoe rack and I was out into this brave dead world.
The first one I encountered was leaning against the Reece’s Pieces vending machine. It pressed its whole weight against the glass, whether it was drawn by the noise, the light, or the prospect of Reece's Pieces, I'll never know.
[“Look it wants to share!”
“It knows all about bite-sized fun.”
“Nice! Pretty good one, but onward.”]
As soon as it saw me it let out a moan that was reciprocated by a choir of similar moans from the stairwell. If I had to guess, they were on the second floor. I had to get rid of this one if I wanted to proceed down the alternate stairwell. I took a deep breath, time to take care of this like a pro. I stepped up wound my arm back and swung downward as hard as I could. I watched as the sole smacked off his forehead like I tried to brain it with a paper fan.
It was on me before I could even react to my poor performance. I tried to back up, but one foot hit the other and I toppled onto my back. With both knees on my stomach and its face right in front of mine, it gave a look that looked like a frat boy at a Smirnov ice convention; that is about to throw up on me and fill my face with millions of whatever was causing that infection. This was it, I would die just feet outside of my apartment.
[“Wow, short story.”
“It’s not over yet.”]
My salvation came with the shout, “Grand slam, bitch-face!”
I saw a flash as the bat connected with the side of the zombie’s face, sending its head twisting in the other direction. It was off me and on the ground next to me.
My savior said, “Just a second.”
He approached the downed zombie and gave it three more swings, effectively reducing the skull and brains to something like a scrambled eggs made solely out of stillborn eggs.
As I tried to get up, I found the bat in my face and a singular question was posed to me, “Did you get got?”
I asked, “Get got?”
“Bitten, spat on, did it take you out to dinner, complement how pretty your hair looked and give you a big, wet kiss at the end of the night?”
I replied, “No. Don’t have time more are coming.”
“Great, I’ve been working on bat puns. ‘Batter’s up!’ ‘Going, going, gone!’ ‘It’s out of the park!!’ I got a gaggle-”
It was then that we heard the cry of thirty low, guttural moans come from behind the door leading to one of the stairwell. He turned and said those four magic words that every sane person wants to hear in that situation:
“Fuck that noise, bail?”
As we went to the alternate stairwell he asked, “Seriously? A shoe?”
“It seemed like an educated choice at the time.”
He kicked the door open, “Did you at least have a nice pun planned out if you managed to kill it with that ridiculous weapon like, ‘Shoe’s on the other foot now!’ or something-”
It was then that he walked face first into the zombie that had come up the other stairs to cut off our retreat. It grabbed him by the shoulders and went to bite him in the neck.
I reacted quicker than the zombie, which is kind of like saying I out-read a dyslexic at a reading contest. I swung my shoe as hard as I could, catching it in the nose and fracturing it. The zombie sank back and I stepped forward and kicked it as hard as I could in the stomach. The zombie teetered back and went over the rail.
I managed with a triumphant note, “These boots were made for kicking!”
The rescued man said, “Seriously? We’re BFF’s now.”
We continued down the stairs and out the back door into the alley. Most of the zombies in the street had gone up into the apartment with the pretense of food. Now only a few lingered.
I scratched my head, “What now?”
He answered, “I know a place we can go to get you a better weapon because a shoe is just not gonna cut it against the body snatchers.”
I asked that fateful question that destined us to be a team against the horde, “Body snatchers? Those are clearly zombies.”
He stopped and said, “What are you smoking? They couldn’t be anything but body snatchers.”
I responded, “Not as good as the stuff you have if you think they are body snatchers. Look! They’re dead and rotting, they walk and moan, and they infect by biting. Zombies.”
“They infect you and take over your body. It looks like you, but it isn’t. They get you while you sleep-”
I began, “That’s not how they-”
He continued, “With all the newbs out of the way, the pro’s are too good to be got. Until they drift off then BAM! They infect and take over the body, leaving an imposter who wants to infect more, and they get you while you sleep. Body Snatchers.”
We argued like that for five minutes, attracting the attention of every zombie in the area before he finally said, “I was gonna part ways with you by saying something cool like ‘It’s good to be king.’ But now that can’t happen. We are gonna stick together until I can prove to your stupid ass that these are body snatchers and then I will leave you to your shame.”
I answered, “We’re going to travel through this city until I can get it through your thick skull that these are zombies-”
“-and then I will accept your apology with the grace and dignity of a winner.”
This was how I met my companion and how we decided to travel together for the sole purpose of making the other eat humble pie.
[“What does humble pie taste like?”
“It probably tastes like shame, but I don’t know because I’ve never eaten it."]
I asked, “So what’s your name?”
Still sore from the argument in which I trounced him in every aspect he responded, “You can call me Body snatcher so you don’t forget about the intellectual ass-whomping I’m about to give you when I find sufficient proof.”
I spat back, “Then call me Zombie so you don’t forget in your primitive brain my argument.”
“Deal, but don’t come crying to me when this blows up in your face because I will be laughing.”
We finally noticed the gathering presence of zombies-
“Shut up, zombies.”]
-and decided to go find me a weapon. He seemed more interested in finding me a weapon to defend myself than showing me his collection of baseball puns, which solidified my conclusion that having a partner in this might be the best decision. Like always. I was wrong, dead wrong.
I asked as we walked, “So are we heading to a gun shop or something?”
Body snatcher responded, “No that was everyone’s first thought. Go to the gun store. Lock-and-load. Serve out hot lead. However, they thought the same thing. There’s hundreds camped out at the gun store just waiting for someone. There are also hundreds on the highway. When people realized they couldn’t find themselves a boom-stick, their next option was to flee. The traffic backed-up highways were like a smorgasbord. Some are still trapped in their cars, transformed, can’t work the seatbelt to free themselves from their cars. Poor bastards.”
As we walked to destinations unknown Body snatcher voiced what he knew on everything that had been happening, “There’s more of them than us now it also doesn’t help that every one of us that kicks the bucket becomes one of them.”
I asked, “Why don’t the remaining survivors band together? You know safety in numbers?”
“Trust me, the survivors you find now are worse than the Body snatchers. The only ones that have survived up to this point are the seriously smart and the seriously insane. I saw one guy walking down the street with a bunch of heads bound together by their hair. Problem was that he lost the ability to differentiate friends from foes, maybe they were never friends to begin with, but I was lucky enough to disappear before I became part of his collection.”
I had to ask, “So what group are you in?”
He responded, “Crazy, but a good kind of crazy.” He hefted the bat and laid it across his shoulders. Body snatcher continued, “There are a few ways to stop them: severing the head from the neck, severe trauma to the brain, blunt or sharp force, finally, complete obliteration. If you blow one ‘em into tiny specks he’s not gonna get back up. Tiny pieces, don’t think just ‘cause one of them is down means they’re out for the count. That one you kicked down three floors back there is probably at the bottom, crawling its way out with broken legs.”
We finally reached our destination. Body snatcher said triumphantly, “Here we are! The hardware store.”
Body snatcher told me as we walked in, “You can have anything that can be used as a weapon except a bat. I will not have you stealing my thunder.”
I loitered at the gas powered chainsaws, but my mind drifted off to the skin head. If music playing from a car speaker could call more zombies to him then how many would my chainsaw call and what would I do when I ran out of gas?
I went to the sledgehammers and pulled one of the rack which drew commentary from my partner, “Think about it, how many will you take on before you get tired and can’t swing that beast?”
I set down the sledgehammer and moved to a pickax. A sharp point to the brain would put an end to zombies, but then I had the image of me missing and embedding my pickax into the dirt and being torn asunder by rotted hands while I tried to free my weapon. This was harder than I thought.
I passed over shovels, metal pipes, and machetes. Which surprised even me. First about the fact I didn’t grab it and second because I was perplexed why a hardware store would carry machetes. I was becoming quickly convinced I would never find a weapon and have to settle for the shovel, which would make be look like a psychotic grave digger. Before I finally found the thing that I had been looking for.
Body snatcher said, “Stop! Hammer time. Are you sure you don’t want to go for that axe instead?”
I responded, “Nah, always been a fan of Oldboy. Plus now I can pry boards off windows and doors that have been nailed shut.”
“Fine zombie, just don’t come crying to me when you run out of hammer puns.” I countered, “I think I can live without making puns every time I bash a zombie-”
“-Body snatcher and can you really call that living?”
We finally decided to leave with my hammer. I had one last question to ask him, but was worried about the answer.
I asked, “So how long have you been surviving out here?”
He answered without looking at me, “It took me a while to see what was happening, to make sure it was the real deal. Don’t want to fly off the handle to quick and shoot a couple of trick-or-treaters. I’ve been out here for ten days. I also had to get my affairs in order before I left.”
I wondered how he resolved his decision to leave out into this hellish world with his family. I would later learn he left a note pinned to the fridge. “Went out.” It was then that I noticed the lone figure shambling towards us.
The zombie was caked in dried blood. I wasn’t sure if it was his or someone else’s. There was a bite on his cheek, what did that mean, family member, lover? His jaw hung open and the inside looked like a black void that would draw the world inside. Every step gave a sickening sound. His kneecaps had been shattered by a passing motorist who didn’t have the time to stop the car and finished the job. Upon noticing us he gave a moan and approached in a shamble that looked like he might sink to the ground in agony. Body snatcher said, “You take care of this one.”
He responded coldly, “I need to see if your up for this and I’ll be damned if I let you lock up when there’s a horde. Hurry before he draws others with that noise.”
I said, “I- I don’t think I can.”
Body snatcher’s voice was still cold, “It’s get or be got and he’s not going to hesitate. If you don’t take care of this he’s going to keep moaning and the rest will hear and there’s nothing more dangerous than a horde. Something riles ‘em up, pack mentality or something, like the thought they might not get to be part of the all-you-can-eat buffet of your sentimental ass.”
After a moment of hesitation I began forward and Body snatcher’s voice melted a little, “Make it quick and be careful.”
I raised the hammer twisting the handle, trying to decide whether to use the claw or the blunt end. I chose the claw.
I took a step forward, meeting him in the middle of the street. I raised the hammer; it felt like it weighed a hundred pounds. I brought it down as hard as I could. The claw vanished into his skull. The weight behind my swing brought him to his knees. His jaws snapped with such fury that I thought his teeth might crack. I tried to free the hammer from his cranial cavity but it was caught on his skull. I put my foot on his shoulder. With a heavy jerk I freed the hammer and he sank to the ground dead, again. There wasn’t as much blood as I thought there would be. It wasn’t like a movie. He didn’t gush, just dribbled. I ran to the side of the road and threw-up.
Body snatcher patted me on the back and I asked, “Jesus, how do you do it?”
He said, “The first time I did it, it was a real heavy guy. Really didn’t know how he got around without his legs snapping under the pressure. After I ganked him, all I could think of was that this guy probably spent his last days thinking about going to Mc’Donalds. Sometimes when I close my eyes I see him, I’d love to tell you it get’s easier each time but the truth is, it never does and if it does then you wonder what kind of monster you are to be able to adapt. You gotta distance yourself. You gotta de-sensitize yourself, not like the media claims we’re desensitized. You have to realize they were once human, but what they are now is worse than death and the best thing is for it to be quick.”
I stood up and whipped my mouth.
Body snatcher said, “Let’s go get something to eat. I know a supermarket that hasn’t been completely raided yet. We just have to be careful.” I was about to ask why, but he continued, “People flock to these places and where there are people, there they are as well. Or worse where the body snatchers are the crazies are.”
We began walking down the street unaware of what we were going to find in the supermarket.
[“Stop foreshadowing! I can’t take much more.”
“Just trying to keep you guys interested.”
“If you want to keep us focused, give yourself a chainsaw hand.”
“I like Evil Dead, but I’m not going to rip it off and get sued just to pique your interest.”]
We walked in silence. The street was in ruins. Trash littered the streets along with blood-stains. Makeshift barricades had been set up in front of buildings. I noted a pharmacy with about three benches and two trashcans and a giant pile of debris blocking the entrance. Next to this monument of can-do spirit was the shattered storefront window where the dead found their entrance. I couldn’t predict what had happened, but I assumed the barricade not only kept them out but also kept the survivors in. Body snatcher spoke up, “Pharmacies were raided really quickly. Some hoping antibiotics could staunch the invasion, others just looking to score.”
We passed skeletons of stores, picked dry by the survivors. I had never thought abut how much the average person eats in a day until I saw these raided and ravaged shops. Within two weeks, almost every place that had preserved food had been picked clean. Take into account that the average person eats three meals a day and also that a town of roughly two thousand that had been whittled down to a hundred or so within the first week. Within two weeks we had almost completely picked clean an entire town. Welcome to an age of consumers.
Body snatcher interrupted my train of thought, “Jesus, sometimes I think we eat more than Them.”
I asked, “What’s going to happen to us when we’re out of food?”
“Army sometimes tosses C rations in. It’s like watching a pack of dogs squabble over a chicken bone, a flavorless and stale chicken bone. The noise also draws them, personally it’s better to avoid the drop sites. More likely to get shot, stabbed, or bludgeoned over a measly meal, or worse, they get to you and you become one of them.”
I noticed while we walked that there weren’t too many zombies on the street.
I asked, “So have most of the zombies been taken out, is that why the street is so empty?”
“Body snatchers and there’s more of them than ever. You want to see a real shit-show, go to the gun store or highway or even where they drop off those rations. Hospitals are also big on their list. You’ll find hundreds of them. The one’s that we run into here are just wandering. Running into a group of them like that is like an instant game over. They’ll track you until they have you or you take the coward’s way out.”
At that moment I was glad we hadn’t really encountered a large group. We would later.
As we approached the store, we ducked behind a car and gave a quick surveillance of the street and the supermarket. After getting the coast clear signal, which was apparently a fist pump, we entered the supermarket warzone. I call it a war zone because there was trash and broken glass everywhere. The shelves had been ransacked of cans, bags, and boxes. Like a sick joke there was a dented can of split peas sitting all alone on a shelf. Like even during the apocalypse when food was scarce or non-existent, split peas were still unappetizing.
We passed the produce section. With the refrigeration units seemingly out of commission, the vegetables and fruits had already begun molding. I didn’t want to see what had happened to the little butcher’s shop with the cooling units on the fritz and two weeks having elapsed. Trash littered the floor and every step was on broken glass that crunched beneath our feet or wrappers that crinkled.
Body snatcher turned to me and said what I had feared he was going to say, “There’s nothing here.”
As we were getting ready to resign ourselves to our fate of not eating for tonight, something caught my attention. There was a closed door in the back of the building. There was a padlock on the front as well as footprints. Someone had tried to kick it open and had apparently given up.
I asked, “Wanna check out what could be the stock room or maybe employee’s lounge?”
“You got the key?”
I smiled and said, “I got a universal key.”
I raised my hammer.
I would like to say it only took one swing to knock off the padlock, but five or six swings later it finally yielded. Inside we found what had to be the most uncomfortable couch in the world that wasn’t made of bones and shards of glass. We looked around the room, scanning for food, water, or possibly an armory. We found none of those things.
Body snatcher said, “I figured they’d just five-finger discount their food from the aisle. It was worth a try."
I said, “We haven’t checked the lockers yet.”
The managers were either too cheap or didn’t care enough to provide locks for the lockers. Most improvised with their own locks or jerry-rigged a lock by jamming something into the locking mechanism. Then again this was a supermarket chain and managers weren’t being paid shitty wages to care about employees. I made quick work of these-
[“Fifty swings followed by effeminate grunts of exertion later.”]
-with my hammer. We pried open the lockers to retrieve the variable treasure trove I had opened up.
Out of the ten lockers: we had to pitch two rotten sandwiches, an apple that had been long rotting before the zombies could enter the world stage, and a milk that was more solid than an estranged dad’s reason for not attending his son’s baseball game. A few didn’t have anything except their uniform, which supported my friend’s theory of stealing from the aisles to stick it to the corporation. At the end we had collected two bags of chips, an extremely large Gatorade bottle labeled “Thirst Genocider,” and three packages of gogurt.
We decided to eat the food in the employee lounge, sitting on the impossibly hard couch.
As we divvied up these feast of kings, Body snatcher asked me the question that haunts me to this day, “Do you think gogurt is just regular yogurt that they repackaged and labeled with the prefix “go” to market to active people who think they’re always on the go?”
I responded, “We’ll probably never know. Do you want the “Xtreme Nacho” or the “Radically Regular” chips?”
After finishing our bountiful meal that was clearly nutrient-rich, we planned our next move. We decided that I needed to see the safe house he had slept in just to dispel my theory that he wasn’t sleeping and was jacked up on energy drinks and methamphetamine. We left the employee recreation area and began to head out when a noise stopped us dead in our tracks. The doors dinged open and we were met by the groan of five or six zombies.
[“How’d the door work, if you mentioned early that the refrigeration unit was off?”
“That’d indicate that there was no power in the store, but how could the electronic doors work then.”
“Maybe the coolant unit was broken or somebody forgot to turn on the refrigeration unit during the whole zombie apocalypse thing?”
“Just thought I’d give you a chance to notice your story has more holes in it than a machine-gun victim.”]
We were in the store with five or six zombies.
Body snatcher whispered, “Keep quiet and we can slip by them.”
It was at that exact moment that I stepped on an empty coke can with a crunch. Body snatcher gave me a look like I had just kicked a puppy.
He said quickly as the undead feet shuffled through discarded candy wrappers, beer and soda cans, and shopping bags, “We gotta take them or else they’re going to tail us back to where I’m squattin- I mean living. Knock one down and move on to the next. We can take care of the stragglers before the overwhelm us.”
Five zombies shuffled into our view and upon seeing us they broke into a quick shambling stride. I swung my hammer down with enough force to knock one on its ass. Body snatcher swung his bat hard enough to snap one’s head back and make its neck into a right angle. I jumped backwards to avoid a pair of rotting hands. I swung my hammer just as it stepped into range. I cracked its skull open, but didn’t knock it down. It used my surprise to grab me. Blood that looked like gel dribbled from its open head-wound.
It was all I could manage to hold it at bay while Body snatcher jabbed his bat into an approaching zombie’s stomach that doubled it over. He then raised his bat over his head and brought it down hard enough to reduce the skull to shrapnel. He made quick work of the last approaching zombie with quick brutal swings. Body snatcher swung his bat hitting the back of the zombie’s knee, which I was struggling with. I easily overpowered the zombie and sent him to the ground and pounded his brains in with my hammer. The last zombie that I had hit first with my hammer had just risen to his feet when I buried the claw of my hammer into his skull.
I struggled to catch my breath and calm my stomach.
Body snatcher said, “You’ll get the hang of this whole fighting thing soon enough Zombie. Until then, just be glad you got me to go up to bat for you.”
“How long were you saving that pun?”
“About three days now. I needed an appropriate circumstance to use it though.” He responded matter-of-factly.
I regained control of my stomach and asked, “What do we do now?”
Body snatcher answered, “We move before we find more of them and we check out my sweet pad.”
Chapter Two: The Sweet Pad and The Posting Board of the Apocalypse
We left the supermarket, which having been completely stripped of its food was now just a corpse in itself. I paused for a second to muse where the zombies had come from. Were they wandering, scavenging like us, or even worse, hunting? We walked on the road for a couple blocks, which gave me the chance to look at the damage that could unfold within a few days. We veered off the main road and ducked into an alley. The alley terminated in a brick wall. With no doors, we were in a dead end.
Body snatcher turned and said, “We’re here.”
For a second I thought Body snatcher was sleeping in an alley like a bum. Then for another minute when he started digging through a dumpster that we were going to crash in a dumpster. When he produced a hook and rope and swung it into the air and latched onto a ladder, I felt a wave of relief.
Body snatcher pulled the ladder down and said, “It’s the only entrance, so I gotta be careful. Everybody is in scavenger mode and more than willing to strip everything they come across. Hell one time, I came across a guy stripping copper from housing, like money still meant something.”
He began climbing and I followed. The apartment smelled like pinesol. I avoided sitting in a chair that was underneath a bloodstain on the ceiling.
Body snatcher noticed my observation and said, “The previous occupant decided to catch a one way ticket on the bullet train to the big empty. Can’t say I fault him, his apartment is kinda shitty, doesn’t even have a game system. Course it was picked over by scavengers, didn’t find the gun or any food.”
I asked, “What did you do with the previous tenant?”
“No place to bury him, he’s in another room on another floor with a lovely couple that ate fifteen different prescription medications.”
I took note that the door had been nailed shut and that the only entrance was the ladder.
Body snatcher stretched, “So what do you think? I mean it doesn’t have a fireman’s pole, Jacuzzi, or anything awesome like that, but I tossed almost all the furniture down the stairs to block the way in. We won’t be getting any unwanted visitors during the night. Only way in is the only exit.”
He nodded and answered, “Some places got their own generators, but places relying on city power are S.O.L. Bathtubs half-filled with water, so you can use the toilet if you fill the tank. Guy was smart enough to collect water in the sink and tub.”
I walked around the apartment with the strange feeling that I was being watched. Not like a hole in the wall with eyes or a portrait with eyes cut out, more like I was under the scrutiny of the previous and now deceased tenant.
[“Are you bringing ghosts into this story now?”
“It’s not a story and no. I’m just trying to inject a little intellectualism into it.”
“Whatever, just no crossover shit. I swear if you bring in mummies, vampires, and love triangles into this I’m out.”
I was an unwelcome guest, a shadow in this geist’s eyes, who was living in his life, sleeping in his bed, and of course, shitting in his bathroom.
I had just left the bathroom when I spotted Body snatcher sitting on the couch and twirling the bat absent-mindedly. He was thinking. I sat across from him and was almost paralyzed by the realization that I had just sat in the chair the guy had offed himself in. He probably soiled himself when he went out.
“Are you thinking of more bat puns, if you’re out you can probably switch to a golf club. Tons of puns in that, once you get past ‘Fore!’ and ‘Hole in one!’”
He answered nonchalantly, “No, I got enough puns for a lifetime, I was just thinking about the inevitable and gruesome end that is waiting for us.”
I returned, “Buzz-kill.”
Body snatcher continued, “It’s true. The sheer number of them is overwhelming, the army has got us boxed in, and everyone’s running low on food."
“But there are a couple of us left and the one’s we take out aren’t going to be replaced. The longer we survive the better our chances.”
He responded, “Wrong. Think about it. You didn’t go right out into this mess. You barricaded and waited for rescue.”
“And? How is my decision going to be the end of us all?”
Body snatcher said, “Not your decision, theirs.”
“Thing is, I think most people did the same as you and when they run out of food and realize that the government isn’t going to come riding in on a white horse, they’re gonna go out into this shit-show. Right now we’re just dealing with the unlucky saps that got hit before they could realize what was going on. In the next couple days, when food supplies go dry, people are going to go out and then, BAM!”
“Body snatchers, but you’re right. In the next couple of days their number is going to drastically increase and we are gonna be Fucked with a capital F.”
I asked, “Was there a reason why you decided to give me this happy inner-monologue?”
Body snatcher went on, “Because we don’t have to be. I suggest we start looking for a way out before the government can wise up and glass the entire city.”
I said something that caused me to learn the first of one of Body snatcher’s many eccentricities, “This isn’t a movie, the government doesn’t have some doom clock counting down and their finger on the button.”
He answered, “This is practically a movie.”
He elaborated, “An alien spore-”
“That turns people into monsters. Government seals up the city and now it’s up to two friends-”
“We just met yesterday-”
“To survive the onslaught. This is classic B horror movie material. All we need is a kickass soundtrack, a badass action scene, and a title like ‘It Came from Beyond.’ And we’re a cellulite double-feature with the accompanying piece about giant radioactive ants.”
I asked, “So how does this change anything?”
“It changes nothing. We’re gonna stick to the classic B movie script: Kick alien ass, say some clever quips along the way, make a daring and bold escape, and watch the mushroom cloud that was the city in the rear-view of our commandeered military vehicle.”
“Sounds good, just as long as we don’t have to deal with the cliché of the person whose been bitten and hides his infection from the group, putting the lives of everyone in danger.”
We spent a little time formulating a plan that consisted of places we would need to avoid, gun stores, highways, hospitals, and cemeteries. Just 'cause they gave him the heebie-jeebies. We never elaborated any places where we might slip through the barricade or any methods of escape both army detection and undead detection. I slept on the couch and Body snatcher grabbed the bed. Not that I felt comfortable sleeping in it. That night I dreamt.
I dreamt of zombies shambling down the street. An undead parade of swollen stomachs deceased and jaws hung slack and wanting. I was running, but would turn around every so often to drop one or two with my handgun. I was faster, but they didn’t tire. My last round ventilated the brain of the nearest zombie. I threw my gun and watched it bounce off the cheek of my undead pursuers. I watched as one sank its teeth into my neck and I woke up. It was a common dream I had even before the zompochalypse, wish I could say I had more profound dreams, but it is what it is.
I woke up and walked to the fridge. I opened it up and was hit with the smell of food that was old and unsalvageable due to rot. Old habits die-hard and morning rituals continue lumbering on like the undead even after an apocalypse. I went to the bathroom and washed off my hammer.
[“Is that some kind of innuendo?”
“No, but it does kind of sound like one. Would polishing the grime off my weapon be better?”
“No it sounds so much worse.”
When I returned, Body snatcher was just waking up.
He said, “You up for what comes next?”
“What comes next?”
“A trip to the park.”
I answered, “Sounds rife with peril.”
He countered, “This is no walk in the park.”
He paused as if deciding whether he wanted to change those words.
He didn’t, “It’s really the best place to find information, people congregate there to leave messages.”
I smart-mouthed, “There’s messages there, Jesus! How are we going to survive this post-apocalyptic facebook wall posting?”
Body snatcher returned, “Where there’s people, there’s stupidity. All we need is one person to pop off a round and bring down a horde on our heads.”
We were down the ladder and on our way to the park when my stomach growled.
Body snatcher noticed and said, “Food is so scarce now, some people have turned to cannibalism.”
I said, incredulously, “In two weeks, seriously?”
“Hey! Don’t knock it until you try it. Although I hear the taste varies from person to person.”
“Haha, how long did you have that one planned?”
“I thought it up last night and as far as I know people aren’t eating long-pig. Yet.”
The park was empty.
Body snatcher said, “We’re in the center of the city, so try not to go making any noise. Which means don’t go around stomping cans, asshole.”
I interjected, “Fuck off!”
The jokes died off as we hit the bulletin board. It was riddled with marker messages. Some promising a cure, in the form of a 9mm round delivered to the brain stem. Others were calling for missing people. A bunch that just consisted of the words “First.” Two messages caught my eye. One was in red and the other in black.
The red message stated, “Barricades not safe. Army is shooting civilians.”
Then just beneath it was scrawled in black, “Who are the real monsters here?”
Beneath it, in blue, “Uh, the monsters eating us?”
I suggested, “I’m going to suggest we keep distance from the army blockades and look for weaknesses or paths which don’t bring us in front of the trigger-happy soldiers.”
Body snatcher said, “It’s a good start, although I am a little worried about this turn of events.”
I needled, “What about soldiers massacring civilians has you worried?”
Body snatcher responded matter-of-factly, “The fact that they just started. This means that the situation has called for more extreme methods to containing the invasion. When they realize the hopelessness of the situation, it’s going to get a whole lot more drastic than just a few soldiers with a few rounds. I’m talking about extermination on a wide scale.”
I responded, “But that’s a few days off right?” Wrong, the plan was already being put into action. At this point we had our headstones chiseled in with the cause of death listed under catastrophic accident.
I said, “So the clocks ticking, something we already knew. We gotta play it cool and keep our heads level while looking for a way out of this town. This is no time to get distracted- The fuck?!”
My train of thought was interrupted by the appearance of a zombie that was oddly unique that it deserved attention. It drug itself along the ground despite the fact that it had no injuries to its extremities. What it did have was a large wooden stake protruding from his chest.
We watched it crawl sluggishly towards us, its arms occasionally lashing out towards us as if to ensnare us. Body snatcher walked up and rolled it on its back. He grabbed the stake and tore it out of the zombies’ chest cavity and planted it in its eye and used his bat to drive it in deeper, effectively lobotomizing/destroying it.
He asked, “What the hell are some people thinking?! A stake won’t kill a Body snatcher.”
“More importantly it won’t kill a zombie.”
For a moment it looked like another argument would break out, but he asked an important question.
Body snatcher put forth, “Why wasn’t it walking like the others? What debilitated it?”
I posited, “Maybe these guys need blood to work their muscles, like us. Getting their heart pierced might not kill them, but it sure put a damper on its hunting.”
Body snatcher thought aloud, “Something in the blood that’s causing all of this maybe? I mean a bite to break skin and bam! Your bodies’ been snatched. Is something in the blood causing all of this?”
Our theories were put on hold by the sound of a car alarm going off.
“Goddamnit! Dinner bell’s been rung. Who’s the dumbass that set off the car alarm?”
Body snatcher snapped, “Doesn’t matter. We gotta get as far away from that car as possible and avoid a horde. Let’s go”
I asked as we started to leave, “How long do we have?”
He answered, “No way of knowing. Could be fifteen minutes, could be-”
The sound of moans tore through the silence of the day.
He finished, “They’ll be swarming the park in seconds, let’s get gone!”
We had made it to an alleyway when we heard the telltale rasping of vocal chords that had lost the ability to vocalize words. They were coming from in from of us and behind. We had been caught in a pincher strike.
Body snatcher said, “They haven’t seen us yet. We have to find a way up. A fire escape or something.”
We weren’t close to an apartment and most buildings don’t have fire escapes built onto the side of a building. We were between rocks and hard places.
Body snatcher said, “If you want I’ll brain you, but usually after that point, help arrives ala The Mist. Wanna risk it? Or would you rather give it a go playing for the other team?”
“Not ready to get brained and I’m not up for being eaten alive.”
He answered, “Only choices.”
I pointed at our salvation, our smelly, dirty salvation and said, “Up for dumpster diving?”
He looked at the dumpster and then at me and said, “Lame. I should have thought of that.”
We jumped into the sadly full dumpster. The smell of two-week-old junk that had been cultivating bacteria and moist fungus was over-powering. I closed the lid and we were out of sight. We settled into our hideout to wait for the horde to pass, I hadn’t heard the car alarm so hopefully it was on a timer to go off for a bit before shutting off.
Body snatcher vented, “See, parks are where stupid people gather to get themselves killed!”
I said, “Why did we go to the park then, if it’s so Goddamn dangerous?”
He answered, “Isn’t it obvious? We’re dumb as shit.”
We spent an hour in the dumpster, listening to forlorn moans and groans as the zombies shambled around for the hope of joining the feast. I decided in that moment that that wasn’t going to become me. I would not let myself be overwhelmed. I would not let them have me. If it meant having my head bashed in before they could descend upon me, I would ask for it, with a smile on my face. I might even thank him as he drilled a home run. I would not be chewed apart. After that resolution, the sounds died down and the park seemed empty. This was our chance to get out before another stupid car alarm or something else that drew their attention.
We hopped out of the dumpster. A lone zombie stood in the street unsure of where to go next. It stood aimlessly in the street as if waiting for guidance.
Body snatcher whispered, “I’m gonna take him out before he notices us and begins calling the others.”
Body snatcher snuck behind him and said as soon as he was within range, “Swinging for the fences!"
The zombie turned just in time to evade the full force of the attack. The bat connected with his jaw rather than his temple. The zombie’s head spun like one of those old school cartoons except that when it reached the midway point there was a sound like someone had cracked their fingers, but to the tenth power. It crumpled to the ground and was done in with a series of quick bashes.
When Body snatcher was done, I asked, “Seriously, how many baseball puns do you have?”
“I haven’t even scratched the surface. After baseball references, I can go to wordplay. ‘Feeling batty,’ ‘Bat’s all folks,’ ‘Batter luck next time.’ Seriously, you do not want to know how much time I’ve devoted to this.”
As we walked aimlessly, I asked, “Where to next?”
“I’m not going to hold your hand through this entire thing and make all your choices. Where do you think we should go?”
I said, “Well going anywhere near the barricade is going to be a bad move, but we need to survey the barricade to see if there’s a open spot to slip by.”
He asked, “So what do you propose?”
I thought for a second and said, “Up for a tour of our most famous attraction?”
Body snatcher asked, quizzically, “You mean that stupid ass building ‘the tallest building in the Midwest?’ I know the admission fee is ridiculous, but it’s that way for a reason. It’s a shitty attraction that no one will ever go twice, which is why they gotta bilk you for all you got the first time around.”
I said, “Just trust me, what we want is on the top.”
He responded, “Kind of hard to trust you here when you propose we go sight-seeing the world’s lamest attraction, I mean that building is dwarfed by most buildings in any larger city.”
It took five minutes to convince him that that was where we needed to go, but after that; we found our way to the tower with relative ease. It was almost in the middle of town despite numerous petitions of stores and buildings that didn’t want to be in the shadow of the colossal behemoth that towered over them all like a human next to an ant.
[“Or in this case; an ant next to a smaller ant.”
“Hey I was getting to the part!”
“Now you don’t have to, bartender Jack and cokes on this sucker.”]
We walked through the broken glass doors into the lobby. It was abandoned, but even before the infection, it wasn’t exactly the crowd drawer. We passed a smashed Plexiglas collection box. Someone had cracked it open with a blunt instrument to take the treasures it held. At twenty dollars, to basically stand on top of an eight-story building, I assumed the thief didn’t make away with a whole lot. I noticed he left small change behind. I could understand since most people don’t even stop to pick up quarters, nickels and dimes off the street.
Body snatcher said, “Which ticket do you want to buy for this miraculous tour? The standard tour for twenty bucks or the ‘high-roller’ tour at thirty-five?”
I responded, “Pretty sure that they both take us to the same place. Eighth floor.”
He answered, “Nope, the high-roller ticket nets you an “Excuse me while I touch the sky.” T-shirt. Looks like they couldn’t get the rights from the estate of Jimmy Hendrix to license his lyrics.”
I joked, “If they did sell the privileges, he’d been turning in his grave. If he hasn’t risen from it already.”
I saw Body snatcher walk up to the elevator and press the call button. It was quite possibly the worst thing he could have done in this place, other than swan dive off the top floor. I ran to him and pulled him away from the doors before they could open up.
I growled, “Movie fact. There are always zombies in elevators. You want to get pulled in with a ravenous horde?”
The doors dinged open, revealing nothing inside.
Body snatcher said, “Good thing this isn’t a zombie movie, clearly it’s got more of a space invader vibe to it. Different movie, different rules.”
He went to step inside the cab just as I pulled him back out.
Body snatcher said, “Look, I know you’re feeling stupid after this building idea and probably a lot stupider after having your Body snatcher elevator theory fall through, but I’m sure as hell not gonna take the stairs just to assuage your embarrassment.”
I countered, “What happens when we get to the top and find it crawling with zombies and we’re stuck in a small box with doors that close very slowly?”
“Goddamnit, you have got a point. I guess we’re taking the stairs. I swear if there’s nothing up there, I’m punching you right in the throat.”
As we climbed the stairs, Body snatcher said, “I understand the whole point here. Get to the top and get a peek at the barricades without having to get too close, but we won’t get a clear view. We don’t have binoculars. Unless you got a telescope in your pocket.”
[“That’s what she-”
“No, pre-emptive strike.”]
I said, “Oh ye of little faith. Just take a leap of faith with me on this one.”
“Try not to jinx us. Don’t use leap or jump when we’re at the top floor. Monster movies are constantly filled with ironic deaths.”
We opened the door to the eighth floor to see four zombies loitering listlessly in front of the elevator, waiting.
We brained the first two before they were even aware of our presence. My hammer shattered its skull before the other two were even aware that we were behind them. While Body snatcher battered, his words not mine, the third zombie; I kicked the fourth zombie into the Plexiglas window. The window didn’t shatter but it came loose from its fittings and both the zombie and the Plexiglas plummeted eight floors. Body snatcher finished off his zombie by hitting an ‘in-field homerun.’ He basically took it out in a series of short swings.
He said, “That was kind of cool with the glass and all. Like the urban legend.”
“Pretty sure it’s a true story after seeing that.”
Body snatcher asked, “So what now?” I pointed to a built-in binocular that allowed you to go sight-seeing for fifty cents. Of course in a small city like ours, there was nothing really to look at.
He asked, “Got fifty cents?”
“You want to go back downstairs to the smashed collection box?”
We found a change machine alongside one of the walls. I broke a dollar and went up to the stationary binoculars. It rotated about one hundred and twenty degrees, giving as a fairly good look and a third of the barricades that had been set up by the military. This was where we would learn what our next move should be. I put two quarters in and opened up the viewfinder.
I swept across the city, finding general carnage and aftermath. Cars burnt to metal carcasses and packs of dead walking at a slow and predatory pace. I located a barricade along the road. Cement blockades had been laid across the road and behind them; soldiers sat and shot the shit, waiting for a civilian rush or an encounter with the undead. There were five or six soldiers lounging behind the barricade with their weapons within reach. I moved along the border and found similar sights; some with military humvee’s and others with machine-gun turrents mounted and waiting.
At the fourth and final blockade that I could see, I noticed four soldiers who seemed to be playing cards and joking. A barbwire fence blocked them from us. At that moment I felt like tearing through the fence and exposing them to us. Letting them experience our lives in all its brutality and fucked-upness. It was then I saw a glint from the tower behind them. I panned upward to see a sight that chilled my heart and iced my bones, a sniper, looking directly at us.
The scope was pointed directly at us and we were in the crosshairs. My tongue felt like it was stone. I couldn’t talk or warn Body snatcher that we had basically been caught lighting a flaming bag of shit on death’s doorstep by the grim reaper himself, only able to watch dumb-founded. He knew we were looking at him. I wished he’d have just shot us dead or at least fired a warning shot instead he cocked his head to the side and raised a hand off his rifle and gave us a wave.
It wasn’t like a wave you give to passing neighbors. It seemed to say ‘' 'Hey, I know your watching us, looking for a way out. I could put a round right between your eyes, but I’m not going to. You know why? Because I know you’re getting ready to become someone’s lunch and you are trivially small, a speck on my scope. You will never escape. We will never be within twenty feet of each other. You insignificant little shit.’
[“That’s a lot to say in a smile and a wave.”
“It was. It probably would have said more, but then-”]
The viewfinder snapped shut.
Body snatcher asked, “So what’d you see?”
I smacked the viewfinder and said, “Nothing good.”
“Let me guess, no foreseeable escape plan. They got us blocked in and are loaded to the teeth?"
I answered, “Pretty much.”
He continued, “So that’s pretty shitty.”
“Not really helping.”
He answered, “Comic relief to lighten a somber mood. Works in the movies.”
I asked, “What now?"
He said with a smile that prickled my skin, “Wanna get shitty?”
I answered in a tone that worried me, “Why not?”
As we headed down the stairs my mind kept drifting back to the waving sniper and his vacant smile. Pretty soon were in the main lobby. It was here that we found a blood trail leading towards the stairwell. It got within feet of the door to the stairs and then it veered off and headed towards a janitorial closet.
Body snatcher said, “Wanna take a bet that it’s the guy you kicked off the roof?”
I answered, “But why would it head into a closet?” “Only one way to find out!”
He kicked open the door revealing something that neither of us was expecting.
The zombie that I had kicked off the roof lay on the floor. It didn’t move. The fall had more or less turned its bones into a gel. It didn’t land on its head and thus was still able to move around. From its chest, a stake of wood protruded.
Body snatcher said, “This again. Who keeps doing this?”
A voice answered, “Careful! Wooden stakes aren’t as effective as I thought they would be, decapitation, burning, and crosses seem to be more successful.”
We looked to the source of the voice.
Chapter Three: The Vampire Hunter
She sat on a box with a broken broomstick in her hand. It terminated in an end of jagged splinters. I realized she had just stabbed the zombie with the broom and broke it during the struggle. She had light brown hair that dropped down to her shoulders. She was probably about five and a half feet. Resting next to her was a cross that was about two feet tall. Her eyes, it was hard to describe, but they were almost an indecipherable light mix of blue, green, and hazel. It would be hard to tell without being face-to-face, inches away. She was cute, not drop dead gorgeous. Just cute enough to make you wonder if she had a-
Body snatcher derailed my train of thoughts, “Did you get got?”
She said, “No, they’re too slow, sluggish in the day.”
He lost interest and finished up the job on the downed zombie.
I asked, “What are you doing out here?”
“Besides visiting the world’s lamest attraction. I am looking for a way out of here.”
I said, “Barricades are solid around the city that I could get a look at.”
She responded, “Thanks for saving me some time. Although I would have preferred a more sunny answer.”
I asked, “It is what it is. So how long have you been out here-”
It was at that time that Body snatcher delivered the final blow and interrupted, “So why the Hell would you stake a body snatcher?”
She answered, “Body snatchers?”
I responded, “He thinks they’re alien invaders, you can end this stupid argument real quick and just explain to him that they’re zombies.”
She said, “I can’t because they’re clearly not zombies-”
“Booyah! How does it taste? Like shame? Told you I was-”
She interrupted, “They aren’t body snatchers either.”
He said, “I don’t like where this is going-”
She finished, “They are the Nosferatu. Or to simplify, vampires.”
There was a pause as those words were said before me and Body snatcher broke out laughing. The sound of crunching Plexiglas alerted us to there presence.
“They’re clearly zombies-”
We went out into the lobby to see a zombie stumbling through the Plexiglas, wrapped up in the red rope they used to delineate lines, as if this place would even need multiple lines. He wore so much eyeliner that he looked like a raccoon, he had a black shirt with a red skull emblazoned on the front. Around its wrists were what at first looked like spikes, but on closer inspection were just safety pins looped around his wrists. It was either emo or scene, didn’t really matter.
She finished, “Vampires, just look at them!”
Body snatchers said, “Those are just Goths that the Body Snatchers took over!”
I cut in, “Zombies, but it looks like this one is a bit less pale that it’s now a member of the undead.”
She responded, “That is a vampire! I’ll show you, they fear crosses!”
While we argued the zombie managed to overcome the red line barrier, which was like a triumph of the will in itself and was on its way to us, but the girl was already approaching the zombie with the cross in her hand. I was about to stop her, but then she used her cross on the zombie.
The zombie reached out to ensnare her, but she delivered a vicious strike with the cross that brought it to its knees. It was trying to get up when she brought the cross down again sending it to the floor. She continued to raise the cross and bring it down on its head while it twitched spasmodically. The last strike left its head a pulpy smashed mess. Zombies that had been loitering in the streets slowly wandered off.
[“A tactical retreat?”
“Would you stay under the threat of someone getting cross with you?”]
Body snatcher whispered to me, “Okay, that was pretty badass, she can stay.” She turned to us and said, “See, they fear the cross.”
I said, “Can’t argue with you there.”
She continued, “So without argument, you accept that they are vampires?”
I responded, “Shit no!”
“Looks like you won’t see reason. So what next? Argue for all eternity?”
“You can do what we have been doing. Join up until we can get some definite proof of what they are and then make the losers eat shame.”
She said, “Sounds riveting, but-”
I continued, “Three heads are better than one, we might actually find a way out if we all think together.”
Her face brightened up and she answered, “I think I can tag along for a bit. Who knows we might even find one of those things sleeping in a coffin or avoiding garlic and I can rub it in your faces for a bit.”
Body snatcher said, “Alright! That’s settled, let’s go Vampire.”
He elaborated, “We gave each other nick-names in the pseudonym of the monster they think is going around out there. I’m Body snatcher and he’s Zombie.”
“That is not normal.”
He returned, “What about this is normal?”
She said, “Point taken, I guess you can call me Elvira.”
I said, “Seriously, that name’s going to make me stare at your boobs for the rest of our time here.”
She countered, “As if you weren’t going to already. Fine, Vampire eh? Guess I’ll give it a go.”
I said, “Now that that is out of the way, what’s our next move?”
Body snatcher suggested, “Let’s get Buffy here, a weapon.”
She said, “Is it too late to change to change my name? Buffy Harker.”
I said, “Yes, or else we’d be changing our names every five minutes. I’d be Ash West and I don’t know what the hell Body snatcher’s name would-”
“I’d be Sutherland Macready.”
“It’d just get too confusing.”
Vampire said, “Lame, anyway, I got a weapon. Cross, remember?”
Body snatcher said, “Just keep in mind we offered you a change in weapons when you have remorse about what a lame weapon you picked.”
Vampire snapped, “And a bat is just the be-all-end-all?”
He countered, “Hey, you batter check your tone!”
She looked at me and I answered, “He does that quite a bit. It is best to ignore them.”
He said, “Harsh! This coming from the man who is wielding a dinky hammer?”
I joked back, “Least I’m not over-compensating for something!”
Body snatcher went on, “Hey they say we pick things based on how closely they are to our likeness and if that’s the case-”
“If you guys keep talking about your tools I have a feeling it’s gonna end up with both of you whipping it out and admiring each other. Makes me wonder which team you guy’s are batting for.”
We had to pause to let that pun sink in.
Vampire said, “I vote we find a spot to sit down and eat.”
Body snatcher asked, “You got any leads on where we can get some food?”
“No need, I already got food, I just need a place that we can have a nice sit-down.”
I asked, “What kind of food do you-”
She interrupted, “Damnit, left my bag in the janitor’s closet.”
She went back, returned with a backpack, and said, “Any ideas where to go?”
We settled on the security guard room of the town’s tallest building. Which brought to mind the question of why it needed a security team. Was it really under any threat? Would the world’s lamest psychopath climb to the top pitching pennies off at passer-bys? I made quick work of the doorknob with my hammer only to hear the soft jingle of keys behind me as Vampire shook the key ring she had found at the entrance desk. Sometimes life just makes you look like such a tool.
We sat in three wheel chairs-
[“What are wheel-chairs doing in a security room? What kind of security force do they have?”
“No, I meant those chairs with the little wheels on them.”
“Well that makes it less interesting.”]
-in the security office as they did not furnish the room with anything more than four chairs and a table. I rocked along the floor as Vampire opened the bag to show us what quite possibly would be our only meal for the day.
Vampire said, “I raided a pantry and came across quite the feast.”
She pulled out packets of slim jims, a small bottle of Mountain Dew, and a can of Pringles.
I said, “This zombie apocalypse thing is not going to be good for my health.”
Body snatcher said, “For me, my diet really hasn’t changed much. Just the usual breakfast for me.”
Vampire said, “I would straight-up murder someone for some vegetables. Or a steak.”
We talked a little as we ate. After finishing a can of Pringles, two packets of slim jims, and washing it down with a bottle of Mountain Dew using the Styrofoam cups that were present near every water cooler; we looked through what she had in her backpack. She had an abundance of vampire fighting weaponry, including: holy water, a silver letter opener, wooden stakes, and a water bottle of an oddly colored fluid.
She said, “Gasoline, ya know? For burning them.”
Body snatcher said, “A regular vampire-fighting armory.”
I said, “So looks like we’re forming quite the group. A couple more and we’ll by a pretty good zombie bashing gang.”
Vampire said, “Not a good idea.”
Body snatcher agreed, “Did you forget what we talked about earlier. We got lucky that we ran into someone who isn’t clinically insane-”
“But she could still douse us in gasoline and set us on fire if we take a sudden liking to Depeche Mode. Truth is, right now, the survivors are just as dangerous as those things, if not more.”
Vampire said, “The people walking around right now are cracked or starting to crack. When that happens, goodbye humanity, hello crazy head-carrying psychopath.”
Body snatcher asked, “You ran into the heads-up guy?”
“Kinda hard to miss him. Didn’t hang around to chat. He seemed pretty busy hack-sawing the head off of a corpse.”
I said, “Okay I get it. Let’s do our damndest to avoid people."
Just like that, I jinxed us.
We cleaned up, that is, swept everything onto the floor and wiped our hands on our pants. As soon as we got out into the lobby, we looked around on the street. I was hesitant to go completely out into the street for fear of seeing a red laser sight on my chest. As far as the eye could see to the left, there was no sign of the undead. On the right there were some figures off in the distance.
Vampire said, “Let’s avoid them for the time being and head away from the center of the city.”
Body snatcher said, “We are more likely to run into them in the center of town, we can poke around the residential area.”
We all agreed and went left.
As we walked, I asked, “What’s our next move?”
Body snatcher said, “I’m gonna try to convince Vampire here to drop some of that useless shit so we can look around the suburbs for some food, water, or maybe a missile launcher to stock up on. Let’s not rule out any chances that we might have an anti-guvment militia thriving in the suburbs.”
Vampire said, “I’m willing to pitch the stakes and holy water, but the letter opener stays. It came from my house. Of course the gasoline stays too.”
Body snatcher said, “Good enough. Let’s take a peek at suburban life.”
Chapter Four: My Encounter With the Suburbanite
The buildings that made up our thriving metropolis faded away only to be replaced with houses. They looked like they jumped out of a freaking Norman Rockwell painting.
[“White picket fences, pools, barbecue pits in the back, Hell, you probably have a Frisbee catching dog there too.”
“That’s a pretty succinct definition.”]
Some houses had shown signs of fortification; trashcans, lawn chairs, and other miscellaneous items they could transform into a barricade. Other houses had their doors smashed down either by the undead or burglars.
Body snatcher said, “Where to start? Wish they’d just put up signs ‘We have leftovers!’ It would make it so much easier.”
Vampire said, “Most of the houses look unoccupied, but I would stay clear of houses with barricades. Don’t want to get shot by someone exercising their first amendment right.”
“The right to free speech?”
Body snatcher said, “They can be pretty catty and nothing’s worse than hurt feelings.”
“Whatever! The one about giving people the right to pack heat.”
I said, “Houses with the doors kicked or beaten down are probably a no-go as well. They’ve probably been raided already or there could by a zombified homeowner waiting inside.”
Vampire said, “Maybe we’ll find some houses in better condition the deeper we get into the suburb. They are probably are best bet. Owner’s probably fled when the first reports came out and burglars didn’t have time to fleece the place.”
With that we started heading deeper into the neighborhood.
As we passed a house that showed signs of fire damage, Body snatcher said, “There goes the neighborhood.”
I was about to respond when I heard the sounds of rusty wheels squeaking and groaning.
Body snatcher and Vampire reacted quicker than me. Body snatcher took cover behind a car; while Vampire dove behind a cluster of trashcans. I stood in the middle of the street, listening to the steady, slow squeaking of wheels that desperately needed oil. What was coming?
Body snatcher waved me over and said, “Take cover, idiot! That sound means either some sort of wheelchair monster or humans. Neither is good.”
I joined him there. With Vampire crouched behind two trashcans and me and Body snatcher hunkered against a car, we waited as the sound of rusty wheels grew louder. It felt like an eternity of waiting, listening to the sound of wheels squeaking and grinding against their spokes and axels. From a barely audible shrill of wheels milling, it grew into a squall of wheels and something else as well, but too distant and low to be heard. Too distant at first but it grew alongside the approaching of the well-worn and rusted wheels. As it grew closer I became aware of another sound. It was the sound of a low singing. It was a lullaby.
The song accompanied the slow turning of the rusty wheels and every now and then, the woman would hush the squalling cry. I looked under the car and spotted feet and wheels slowly turning. It was a baby carriage and there was a woman. She walked past us. None of us made a noise as she passed. She was wearing sweats and a shirt. The low singing continued and was interrupted at periods by the whining baby. She sang, the wheels squeaked, and her baby shrieked. In her wake she left little droplets of blood.
I moved before Body snatcher could stop me. The woman or her baby was hurt and possibly in shock. She might need help. I approached her as she slowly walked away from us.
I asked as softly and concerned as I could muster, “Are you alright? Are you hurt? Is your baby injured?”
The instant she turned to face me, I knew something was wrong.
[“Her baby’s a body snatcher.”
“No it isn’t.”
“Then she’s a zombie.”
“No they aren’t, just let me tell the story.”
Her face was plastered with make-up. Her eyeliner bled down her face as her tears made it. Her eyes looked like they could see for miles, yet saw nothing. Her lips were stained red, not red from lipstick. Her face was plastered with a grin. Not a grin that conveyed happiness, a shit-eating grin, or a grin through grit teeth. Something was deeply wrong with it, like someone who never grinned before trying to mimic it.
She said, “Just out for a walk with the baby.”
It was then that I caught a glimpse of the baby.
It was just a glimpse before she blocked my view, but it was more than enough. The first thing I noticed was that the baby carriage was soaked in blood. Inside rested a patchwork baby. I couldn’t tell if all the parts were real human, but I knew that none of them belonged to the baby. At the head rested what I could only pray was a doll and not a replacement part. The carriage was dripping blood.
She said in a hoarse voice that came from mimicking a baby’s cry and singing, “Isn’t he just adorable? Don’t you just wanna eat him up? Baby wants a kiss!”
I stammered, “Uh- R- Real cute, but it’s sleeping now. Wouldn’t want to wake it.”
She said, “It’s okay, I’ve been slipping him tiny kisses all day. He won’t wake, or do you not want to kiss him? How rude! You’ll give him a kiss and a gift like all the others! You’ve got such pretty eyes.”
From her purse she produced an exacto-knife. I could have sworn I saw blood crusted on the razor’s edge of that knife. She approached me with bobbing, disjointed movements.
I jumped back as she sliced into the air. Her attacks were unfocused and just wild stabs and swipes. While I was trying to evade her slashes and swipes, I wasn’t able to watch where I was going. I could only jump backwards and duck as the exact-knife carved through the air. The back of my feet knocked the curb and I fell onto a lawn.
She shrieked, "Baby wants to play!”
She approached me to cut me open and collect her gift.
Vampire saved me from becoming chop-suey. She grabbed a trashcan and threw it as hard as she could. The garbage can crashed into the baby carriage, toppling its contents and mixing it with the trash from the can. The woman gave an infant’s wail and rushed to her patchwork son. In the debris I caught sight of a number of fingers, some set as an arm and others serving as other parts of the body, a wrist, and toes. There were other pieces and parts, but I already felt sick looking.
Body snatcher grabbed me up and we took off running as she tried to piece together her Franken-son while shrieking the whole time, “Baby and me! Baby and me!! Baby and me!!!”
We sprinted down the street.
Body snatcher said, “Quick! In here!”
We ducked into a side door into a garage. We wheezed and gasped for air on the floor while listening for the tell-tale sign of squeaking wheels or singing. We waited for minutes, not hearing anything and our eyes slowly adjusting to the dark. We sat in silence and darkness. I was terrified that my eyes would eventually grow accustomed to reveal her bloody lips, tear-streaked face, and her off-kilter smile.
Baby wants a friend.
Body snatcher eventually said, “What the hell were you thinking?!”
Body snatcher snapped, “We just talked about this! This is what happens to people who venture out into the world. The only ones left are the seriously deranged and the one’s smart enough to hide away in their house.
[“Then what does that make you three?”]
"If you want to go out there and get killed, you can. She’s probably out there waiting in the street, clutching her pride and joy wailing, but don’t drag me into this!” After minutes of silence he said, “Alright, let’s get going.”
Body snatcher said, “While we’re here, might as well look around. We got up and started looking around the garage. The garage was a host to knickknacks and useless things.
I asked while we looked through the garage, “What do you think happened to her?”
Body snatcher said, “Doesn’t matter. The more you think about it, the further you’ll slide down the spiral.”
Vampire answered, “Isn’t it obvious. All that’s been happening. It’s enough stress to crack anyone. Enough stress to cause a miscarriage. She lost her baby and couldn’t deal with it. In some part of her, it’s still alive to her, waiting for his mother’s love.”
We continued to search in silence. We sifted through old crocket mallets, boxes of Christmas lights, and lawn darts. We paused to debate whether lawn darts could be used as an effective weapon. Just as we were about to give up, I spotted something that begged for attention. In the corner of the garage, nestled behind a beat-up truck was a locker. On the locker was a lock. I smashed the padlock open with my hammer and opened the treasure trove.
This locker was clearly organized by someone who had lost too many of his tools to a neighbor and now refused to leave his tools out. It was lined with power tools.
I hefted a power drill and said, “Too bad the noise would draw everything.”
Body snatcher said, “Now you’re thinking.”
I could almost feel the homeowner cringe as I switched out my hammer for a hammer with a metal shaft instead of wood. Other than a ton of tools/potential weapons, I found one more thing that drew my attention.
There was a small metal box sitting on the top shelf. There was a lock on this as well. I slipped the claw behind the lock and wrenched it out of its socket.
Vampire said, “A locked box inside a locked locker? Either we came upon something awesomely dangerous he wants to keep away from his family or his porn collection, which he probably wants to keep away from his family as well.”
“That’s ridiculous! Porn goes under the mattress."
I opened up the metal box and inside it there was a gun.
Body snatcher said, “Dibs!”
I said, “Finder’s keepers.” as I took out the revolver and felt the weight in my hands. Inside the box were six bullets.
I said as I tried my luck at loading the bullets into the chambers, “The next gun I find is all yours, but I probably have the most experience. Having gone to the shooting range a few times in my life.”
Body snatcher said, “Videogames and movies taught me all I need to know.”
I went to tuck it into the front of my pants when Vampire said, “Just a little tip; revolvers don’t have safeties.”
I withdrew the gun from the front of my pants and slipped it into the back of my pants, “Good to know.”
We searched the rest of the house, but found only a little food. The next few houses also yielded little to Body snatcher’s chagrin.
At the third house, Body snatcher asked, “Do you have a home or are we going to be crashing at my place?”
Vampire answered, “Nope, I’ve been sleeping in locked doors where I could find a vampire-free place.”
Body snatcher said, “Welp, off to my place then. Sun’s going down and I don’t want to become one of those thing’s midnight snacks.”
We walked back to the apartment with little difficulties.
I asked Vampire as we walked, “Why didn’t you want the gun? Body snatcher was all over for getting it, but you said nothing.”
She said, “No need to have it. It makes too much noise. Firing it would call every vampire within miles. You’re basically carrying a very deadly paperweight, deadly for you and the six vampires you take out. Bullets are not going to be common and there are more than six monsters in the city. No one in his or her right mind would shoot it off in the city.”
I would later shoot this revolver in the city.
In the alley of the apartment we found three lingering zombies. My insistence to use the revolver was emphatically shot down. Instead we made quick work of them using my hammer, Vampire’s cross, and Body snatcher’s baseball bat. They really didn’t stand much of a chance in a one-on-one fight. Their strategy was rooted in outnumbering and swarming. After we finished taking care of the zombies, Body snatcher insisted that we call that brawl a triple play.
After climbing up the ladder, Body snatcher gave Vampire the grand tour.
Vampire said, “Did you check the other rooms?”
Body snatcher answered, “Yeah, nothing good down there. No food or weapons, just corpses and trashed apartment rooms. Some took out their pent-up rage on their furniture. Guess I did too, throwing it down the stairs to block up the way. Not the prettiest sight, but it works.”
I said, “Well I could use about fifteen hours of sleep.”
Vampire said, “It’ll be great to get a good night’s sleep without having to worry about vampires slipping silently through the window and changing me in my sleep.”
Body snatcher said, “I doubt they could even open a window.”
We decided on the sleeping arrangements with less than sexy results. Body snatcher slept on the couch, Vampire got the bed, and I got a lazy-boy.
Body snatcher said, “Tomorrow, we are going to figure out our next move.”
With that being said, we went to bed. That night, I dreamed of blood red lips, mascara stained cheeks, and alien smiles
I awoke from a night of little sleep and walked to the fridge. I opened it and gagged at the stagnant, stale, and spoiled smell that lurked inside the refrigerator. The smell seemed to have grown stronger since the last time. I knew that this habit was going to happen every morning for probably the rest of my life, my short life here in the city that would end in either a bite or a bullet unless we could find a way out. We would get out. We would survive.
Over breakfast, a box of knockoff cereal called ‘fruity stones’ with a prehistoric caveman that was clearly not Fred Flintstone on the box, we talked about our next course of action.
In between crunches of stale cereal without any milk, Body snatcher said, “I’m gonna suggest we find me a gun.”
Vampire countered, “What’s the point? Not like you could use it even if we had it.”
I suggested, “We should just get him one so he stops looking at it while I sleep and doing James Bond poses.”
“You saw that?!”
“Jesus! I was joking! Now we seriously need to get one before he starts gently touching it while I’m sleeping. But where can we find a gun?”
Vampire cut in, “I have an idea where we can find a gun that won’t involve a suicide trip to the gun store or breaking into random houses.”
Before shoveling a hand full of fruity stones, which actually felt like chewing stones, into my mouth, I asked, “Police station?”
Body snatcher said with a full mouth, “No, body snatchers went to emergency points, hospitals, gun stores, even the police station.” Vampire said, “It’s not the police station. Up for a trip to the bank?”
Body snatcher seemed like a kid on a twenty-four hour cocaine rush the way he was so excited. He basically rushed us through our breakfast, pestered Vampire while she unloaded her supplies in the kitchen, and annoyed me while I was on the john. We moved as slowly as possible out of spite. Eventually we made it down the ladder and out into the street. From there we headed to the bank, which was right next to the park, where stupid people go to die.
The outside of the bank was littered with trash. Inside the bank we found money scattered all over the floor. In the center of it was a man or what was once a man. Over his head he had a woman’s stocking. He looked as if he had died from a gunshot wound to his side.
Body snatcher said, “Did he really try to rob a bank with all this going on.”
I said, “Probably the best time with all that going on outside.”
Vampire said, “What do you think happened to him?”
I said, “It’s at times like this that I wish I had a magnifying glass, a friend named John, and a cocaine habit.”
Body snatcher looked confused until Vampire said, “It’s a Sherlock Holmes reference. Should have said John Watson though. Pander to us a bit.”
Body snatcher said, “Isn’t it obvious? He came here to rob the place, but found some guards waiting for idiots like him; they exchanged bullets and he caught one right in the stomach.”
I asked, “Then why does he have the money?”
Vampire said, “Maybe we need to look around a bit more.”
As we went even deeper into the bank, we found a dead guard with a bullet wound in his chest.
I said, “There was only one guard? Seriously who would come into work with this going on outside? Maybe a John Woo standoff ending with two fatally wounded people, a robber and a security guard.”
Body snatcher said, “Damnit! No gun either. Looks like this was just a huge waste of our time. Guess I’ll have to go back to longingly staring at what you’re packing.”
[“You want to change those words before we have a go at them?”
“Nope, it’s what he said and we gave him hell over it.”]
I said, “Not necessarily.”
I motioned to the vault.
Vampire said, “What is the point of robbing a bank, it’s not like money has much use right now.”
Body snatcher said, “Yeah we have enough toilet paper at the apartment.”
“No, I mean haven’t you ever wanted to see what the inside of a vault looks like?”
Body snatcher said, “Let’s not make this trip pointless. Let’s take a peek.”
We found the vault door locked. I pulled out my hammer and took a swing at the lock. It stung my hand and the bang reverberated throughout the bank. The reverberation was returned by the sound of a low moan.
Vampire said, “Vampires in a vault. Interesting way to deter robbers.”
I said, “Don’t think they purposely locked a zombie inside like some sort of demented Jack-in-a-box.”
Body snatcher said, “I vote we open it.”
Vampire said, “Are you stupid? We don’t know how many are in there! Curiosity could seriously screw us in this situation.”
Body snatcher said, “Think. What is the first thing bank robbers do in movies?”
I answered, “After robbing the vault they lock the- Oh!”
Body snatcher continued, “Damn right. So ‘'Dog Day Afternoon’' there, comes in packing heat, gets the drop on the guards, fleeces the vault of bills, and then locks the guards inside. Everything’s coming up rainbows, but it looked like one guard was hiding.”
“Rain on his picnic day.”
“Right, when he’s leaving; they have a shoot-out at the Okay Corral and off each other.”
Vampire said, “So we got the story, but why do we need to crack open that Pandora’s box?”
Body snatcher answered, “Who ever came across this obviously snatched up the guard’s gun and the would-be robber’s piece. The scavenger left the money because, seriously, fucking useless right now. So he doesn’t check the vault where the other guard is. So it’s possible that there could be a nice firearm in there. Like a shotty or maybe an AK-47.”
“What kind of bank do you think this is?”
I said, “We won’t know until we crack it open. Gotta find the key to the vault.”
We found the key on the dead security officer. It was clutched in his hand.
Vampire said, “It’s so sad. He saw his friend’s get locked up and he had the key to set them free. Then he dies within feet of the door, mere inches from saving his friends.”
Body snatcher sounded like a kid on Christmas, “We got the key! Let’s crack open that crypt, take out the body snatchers, and collect my chain-gun!”
“Seriously, what kind of bank do you think this is? It’s a subsidiary of a subsidiary of a small Midwestern chain. I’m surprised that the guards weren’t only equipped with mace.”
We returned to the vault with our weapons ready.
Vampire said, “Ready to take a gamble? Could be a single Vamp inside or a hundred.”
Body snatcher countered, “What kind of bank do you think this is? They probably only had two or three guards on duty. Who in their right mind would guard a bank during an alien invasion?”
I corrected, “Who in their right mind would rob a bank during a zombie outbreak?”
Vampire turned the key and swung the vault door open to whatever lied in wait.
The smell of death wafted out of the vault and was soon followed by two zombies. The undead officers in the vault soon met their fate with a pun about being ‘battered’ and the other caught a claw to the forehead. In the vault, it looked like someone had set off a bomb. Deposit boxes had been riffled through and tossed onto the floor. Worse than the debris was the blood that stained the floor. It looked like-
Body snatcher interrupted my train of thought, “Pay dirt!”
He lifted up the handgun like he had just found a long buried treasure.
While Body snatcher investigated the gun, Vampire asked, “So what do you think happened to these guards?”
I said, “Only one of them had a gun. Maybe the other was a rookie or just didn’t feel like packing that day. The one with the gun wasn’t able to draw his gun before the robber got the drop on them and locked them in the vault. He had also been infected shortly before. Then they get locked in the vault by the robber and he turns while they’re trapped inside. Other guy has got no way to defend himself. Shitty way to go. Trying to fight off a zombie with your bare hands.”
Body snatcher said, “I’m a regular prodigy with this thing. It’s like an extension of my being. Here’s the safety and here’s the-”
He triggered the release and ejected the magazine onto the floor.
He tried to save face, “I meant to do that.”
“What, eject your clip leaving you entirely defenseless?”
“Shut up Zombie!”
Vampire said, “You happy now? Can we get back to what’s really important here?”
“Sure, sure. Hell might even get the chance to go shoot-em-up on a few body snatchers.”
Vampire said, “I’m gonna remind you again. You cannot shoot your gun in the city unless you want to kill us all. Noise like that would basically draw everything within the city block down on us.”
Body snatcher said, “I know, I know. If anything this thing’s more like a security blanket. Plus now we have a nice deterrent to any robbers out there.”
“Won’t dissuade the crazies though."
“Doubt anything could.”
Vampire said, “That being settled, if anyone comes across a crossbow gun, dibs.”
Body snatcher said, “Damn that would be pretty awesome! Silent, deadly, can collect bolts after taking them out. If we’re playing dibs, I call machine-gun or assault rifle.”
I cut in, “I call the shotgun!”
“What?! That’s a terrible weapon to have against a horde! Hold on let me reload after two shots. Seriously! I said ‘Time out!’”
I countered, “and a machine-gun is any better? You’d go through all you bullets in a matter of minutes and where are you going to find more?”
We continued to debate the pro’s and con’s of weapon choice, but neither of us gave way.
Ten minutes later, we left the debate at a shaky agreement that there were benefits and drawbacks to both weapons.
Vampire asked, “Would it make either of you feel better if I said, ‘That both weapons are good in their own way.’ and that your opinions have been validated?”
Body snatcher said, “No, it would make me feel like a child.”
I said, “So I’m going to suggest that we-”
It was then that I saw something that made my heart jump into my throat and froze my blood. It also made me want to shit a brick, but that is a statement that lacks literary finesse.
Just outside of the bank, a crowd had formed. I couldn’t guess their numbers exactly, but the fact that I couldn’t see through the throng to the other side of the street was not exactly re-assuring. I grabbed both Body snatcher and Vampire and dragged them down behind the bank teller’s booth. I had never been good to giving bad news so I tried to break it to them as gently as possible.
“We are so fucked.”
A horde of zombies lingered outside and our only way out was through them.
Body snatcher whispered, “Shit! No where to go.”
Vampire said, “Calm down. They haven’t seen us and I doubt they’d have much reason for going into a bank.”
The sound of glass doors being pounded on by undead hands soon flooded towards the bank entrance. The glass cracked and would soon yield to the horde.
Body snatcher said, “They have a reason. The corpse lying in the lobby and the three people crouched behind a teller’s booth. We might as well be standing in the street sautéing ourselves. Who’s up for going out in a blaze of glory Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid-style?”
Vampire said, “Not over yet. They haven’t seen us-”
“But they will-”
“If we stay here behind the teller desk, yes. We need to find a place that won’t be stumbled across by undead wanderers.”
I asked, “Where are we going to go where they won’t find us in the bank? I don’t see too many options here.”
She said, “You’re not going to like it.”
I countered, “Will I like it any more than getting chomped on?”
She responded, “Point taken.” And pointed to the vault.
We stayed low and managed to get to the vault. We entered the vault just as the glass shattered.
I pulled the heavy door shut when Body snatcher whispered to me, “Did you keep the key?” I whispered back, “I never had the key.”
As I looked at the door that we could never force open even if we had a lifetime, I felt my heart drop from me stomach down into my stomach.
Body snatcher jingled the key and whispered, “Just fucking with you.”
We settled into a far corner and as soon as I was sure we were far enough away from the door to where no sound could carry, I punched Body snatcher in the arm.
He said, “Worth it.”
Vampire asked, “So what now?”
I said, “Your idea, your next move.”
She responded, “Then I guess we wait. I mean how long are they going to loiter in a bank?”
Body snatcher said, “Depends on whether they saw us or not. Could be a couple of hours, could be a couple of days.”
We let that thought fester in our minds for a few minutes. I imagined our gaunt figures stumbling out after a few days, our stomachs bloated and distended. Delusional from nutrient deprivation. After a few days week in the vault, there would be no difference between us and them.
Body snatcher asked, “Probably should of asked this before locking us in, if anyone’s getting ready to turn, could they please announce it. I don’t want to have any surprises.”
Vampire said, “I don’t know how long it takes to change, but wouldn’t one of us be showing signs of vampirism by now?”
Body snatcher reasoned, “One of us could have been bitten or got some of their blood or spit in their eyes when we were busy bashing those security guards.”
I said, “Not likely, but two of us have guns. I could shoot you if you change and if I spontaneously change without any infection, you could eject your clip at me and I’d probably die of laughter.”
“This is going to haunt me for a while isn’t it?”
Time dragged on slowly, the fact that none of us were carrying a watch helped in disorienting us. We could have been in the vault for ten minutes or an hour. When we were unable to learn how much time had passed, I crept to the vault door and pressed my ear to the metal. On the other side came the sickened sound or meat and tendons being ripped and teeth biting into bones. It was a sound I wouldn’t forget and I might hear it at night.
I returned to the others and said, “They’re at the buffet. We’re going to be here for a while.”
I spent some time messing around with my revolver. I emptied the chamber just in case I would fire it off. I didn’t know the damage it would have inside a vault or how many it would call to beat on the door. I looked over to see Body snatcher familiarizing himself with his gun as well. I had a .38 revolver and he had an 18 mm handgun. If anything, this time in the vault would at least improve our understanding of the mechanisms of a gun.
When I grew tired of loading and reloading my gun, I turned to Vampire who was busy rooting through safety deposit boxes.
I asked, “Find any Nazi gold or blood diamonds?”
She responded, “Some family heirlooms and some stock papers.”
I said, “So what were you doing before all of this happened?”
She answered, “Hate to admit to it, but I was a delivery girl.”
“Really? What restaurant?”
“Just a little hole in the Chinese place. And how about you? A kung-fu master who volunteers as a firefighter to rescue babies from burning buildings?”
I answered, “Well if honesty is key here. I worked as a filing clerk. Day in and day out; file papers, receive passive aggressive emails about W forms, talking about my big dreams with co-workers which I have no intention of carrying out. You know, the soul-crushing usual stuff that a nine to five entails.”
Vampire said, “No wonder you think this is a zombie outbreak. You’ve seen enough zombies in your workplace.”
Body snatcher looked up from his gun and said, “Video store clerk. Perfect job. Nobody rents anymore with Netflix and the internet. All the free time in the world to watch movies.”
After a seemingly endless time trying to think up things to talk about, we decided that our time to leave was fast approaching. None of us wanted to spend the night in a bloody vault.
Body snatcher fished out the key and said, “Do not use your gun. A shot would be a death sentence. The others couldn’t have gone far. We just have to get out and back to the apartment.”
The sound of the door opening was returned by the sound of moaning and our simultaneous exclamation, “Shit!”
Vampire encouraged, “Now or never! We got this!”
Body snatcher advised, “Knock’em down and go. No time for finishing them off with a group. We just have to get out onto the street and then it’s a couple of blocks to the apartment.”
We pushed the door all the way open to the worst possible sight, pitch black. The sound of undead footsteps echoed. There was no way telling where they were and where the door was. Blind as bats, gripping our weapons tightly, we stumbled into the dark void of the bank where the undead lurked.
The sound of shoes scraping on linoleum as they made their way towards us was unnerving. The sounds only echoed in the lobby, serving only to disorient us. Could be only a few, or a group. Could be at the other end of the room or inches behind us. I could barely see two feet in front of me, but still we blundered on. Careful, calculated steps. To slip and fall would be the same as burying yourself alive. We stepped slow and towards the door. I could almost feel rancid, hot breath on my neck. Which I knew was imagined since they didn’t brea- One materialized in front of me, inches away from my face.
I didn’t have time for a full-powered swing or to aim at its forehead. I batted at it with my hammer as soon as it came into view. I hit it square in the teeth, sending its teeth exploding out like scarlet-stained shrapnel. It continued on, un-phased with a mouth full of shattered, jagged teeth. I caught it before it could sink its methamphetamine-esque teeth into me and I shoved it backwards. It hit the ground, but a symphony of moans reminded us it was but one of many.
The sound of glass crunched under my foot. I was never happier to be stepping on broken glass. I pushed my way out into the street where the moon provided a little light. I turned to wait for the others. Body snatcher literally dove out into the street like the bank was going to explode and he was an action star. Vampire was next. As she stepped out, a dead hand snared her by the back of her shirt and pulled her back into the black death that awaited us all.
Without thinking, I jumped forward into the blackness. I pawed frantically at the air and bumped my hand against what I could only hope was her hand. I snared the mystery hand and pulled as hard as I could, the sound of fabric tearing was joined by a flash as she shot past me and crashed into the street. The zombie stumbled into view with a hand of ripped fabric and a bloody mouth.
It continued towards me blood and what appeared to be flesh caught in its mouth.
Anger flooded my veins and sparks rained from my brain. I struck it on the top of its head like I was trying to pound a railroad spike into the ground. It dropped to the ground writhing as if galvanized. If this were whack-a-mole I would have gotten a high score and probably been asked to leave the premises and never return. I stepped out into the street and saw the others heading off to the apartment at a jog. I wondered why they left in such a hurry. I turned around and saw why.
The streetlights were shut off, but the moon gave enough light to illuminate the streets. The street was marked with fifteen to twenty zombies. Loitering and slowly shambling towards the bank like an invisible string pulled them. Some in suits, some in casual Friday gear, others in hospital robes and a few with less. I turned away and sprinted towards my friend. Between me and them were four or five zombies, but they were spread out enough to easily avoid.
I caught up with the others and together we sprinted back towards the apartment. The streets were dark and filled with the undead. There was no curfew and no restricting. More shambled around looking for a midnight snack. We avoided getting close to the zombies as we sprinted back towards the apartment. Our ruckus in the bank had drawn quite the crowd. Every time I looked over my shoulder, the number that was following us seemed to have doubled. They stumbled forward at a speed in-between a power walk and a jog. They shucked their slow shamble when food was so close.
We ducked into the alley of the apartment only to encounter two lying in wait. Vampire and I beat them to pulps with our weapons while Body snatcher used the coat hanger to draw down the ladder.
Vampire shouted, “Hurry!”
Just as he extended the ladder, the crowd rounded the corner. It had snowballed into fifty and they were all anxious for the feast. Vampire shot up the ladder three rungs at a time. Body snatcher was next as I struck the nearest zombie. I went to climb up, but rotting hands gripped and encircled my ankles, pulling me down.
Vampire reached down to help me up while I desperately kicked at the dead and decomposing hands. As long as I writhed, they couldn’t bite. I hoped that logic would hold.
Body snatcher leaned over the edge and shouted, “Hold on!”
His hand shot downward and fire exploded from his hand like the world’s most pissed off magician.
Abra Cadabra bitches!
The alley was illuminated in a quick flash and shadows of the dead painted the brick walls. The bullet tore through one of their arms, it didn’t let go, but the cut tendon was easier to shake off. The second round exploded and dropped another. That was all it took, free from their grasp, I scurried up the ladder like I was a monkey.
I crashed to the floor of the apartment. I was so happy I could kiss the floor, but I decided to save some face and not do that.
Body snatcher said, “That. Was. Awesome! Ka-blammo!”
He cocked his finger like a gun and busted a few rounds at invisible enemies.
Vampire said, “Fine mess we’re in now! You just had to pop off a round. Now we’re going to be stuck up here!”
Body snatcher waved it off, “Nah, maybe for a night, plus the place is secure. They aren’t coming up here.”
I said, “It might be worse. Vampire, were you bit?”
Chapter Five: The Group Fractures
Vampire responded, “What?! No!”
I countered, “That zombie in the bank. It had flesh in its teeth.”
Body snatcher said, “Holy shit! Did you get got?”
“Of course not.”
“Then how did that zombie get flesh in its mouth?”
“From the corpse,” She said, “you don’t believe me.”
“So what you’re going to kick me out into the street?”
“What you’re going to put me down here?”
Body snatcher said, “If I have to-”
She snapped, “Oh, look at the balls on you, just popped off a round and now you’re some sort of commando-”
I shouted, “Everybody, shut the fuck up! We’re not kicking you out or killing you. I just want to learn if you got bit.”
Vampire said, “A wound check?”
I re-assured, “Not everywhere, just your back. That’s the only place it could have got you.”
She said, “No.”
I said, “I want to trust you and I can’t do that if I’m worried that you’re going to turn any second and chomp me.”
Body snatcher burst, “No fuckin’ way! We are not walking around with a time bomb like that! Let’s just make it quick and merciful-”
My gun was out before he could reach for his. I said, “Only one getting shot here is you if you draw that gun.”
Silence resided in the apartment only interrupted by the casual moan of a zombie. Within minutes our group was in tatters. If she was infected, our group was done. If not, our group had lost all of its trust.
Hey, remember that time when I accused you of being infected and my friend tried to shoot you, but I drew on him first. Wacky shenanigans right?
Then, a ray of light.
“Alright, We can check for wounds, but on one condition.”
“Take off your pants.”
I asked, “What?!”
Vampire re-iterated, “We can check for wounds on me, if you take off your pants. One could have chomped your ankle while you were hanging from the ladder.”
I said, “That’s not very likely-”
She said, “About as likely as me being infected in the bank.”
“If it’ll make anyone comfortable, I’ll take off my pants.”
I conceded, “You’re right. It wouldn’t be fair.”
I unbuckled my pants when Body snatcher interrupted, “Slowly. Dance a little.”
“We will send you to another room.”
He answered, “Just trying to liven up this dull strip tease.”
I dropped my pants and stepped out of them.
Vampire said, “You’re pale.”
“I don’t get a lot of opportunities to walk around without my pants.”
I said, “No wounds-
[“Maybe just your pride.”]
"-I was very lucky.”
She said, “You’re right about that. If I catch either one of you looking at my boobs, heads will roll.”
“More like heads will ris-”
“No, pre-emptive strike.” I set my revolver in front of her and said, “Feel free to use it.”
She turned away from us and moved her hair out of the way.
The back of her shirt was ripped into a V. She grabbed the back of her shirt and pulled it over her head. Her back did not have teeth marks, scratches, or anything that indicated infection. What she did have was a scar. It looked like someone took a fist full of flesh and cut it out of her right below her shoulder. This injury was decades old.
She lowered her shirt over her back and said, “Am I clean?”
Body snatcher said, “No, you are such a dirty girl.”
She said, “Seriously, I will shoot you in the dick.”
I said, “I had to know. I’m glad I know. Still feel like a dick.”
Vampire said, “Don’t sweat it.”
The rest of the night devolved into awkward silence intermittently interrupted by the moaning dead. Her scar, did she have an accident when she was a child? The scar looked like it was a decade or older. No, I couldn’t ask her. Already invaded her privacy, no need to pry into her personal past as well. We went to bed shortly after that. That night I dreamt of waking up to putrid breath on my face and a rotting arm pinioning my throat. It was her face.
I woke up to the usual. Open the fridge, dry heave, lament on the nature of human habits.
Vampire said, “Any Sunny D in there?”
“No just purple stuff.”
“Like the drink?”
“No like the fungus.”
Body snatcher said, “Looks like we lucked out. Most of the body snatchers have cleared out.”
Vampire asked, “Most?”
“Yeah, just a few waiters.”
I went to the fire escape and spotted three waiting in the alley.
“Three shouldn’t be a problem. So what are we going to do today?”
Over the remainder of our ‘fruity stones,’ I asked, “We’re still a group?”
Vampire said, “Yeah, just a little bit of playful banter last night. No one got shot.”
Body snatcher said, “Yeah, what kind of body snatcher exterminating team would we be if we couldn’t deal with a few John Woo stand-offs and threats to shoot each other in the dick?”
I said, “I vote we get Vampire a new shirt. Unless you like the reverse V-cut?”
“I second it. To the mall!”
“Whoa, hold it!”
Vampire asked, “What’s wrong?”
Body snatcher said, “Here we go.”
“I’m not going to a mall just so we can get trapped inside and eventually dive head first into a helicopter blade just to make a statement about consumerism.”
She said, “Where do you suggest we go?”
“No way! I am not dressing like a Wal-Martian just to avoid a witty commentary on consumerism and capitalism.”
Body snatcher said, “I second the supermarket. You weren’t wearing designer clothes when we met. No need to deal with scavengers just for a one hundred dollar shirt.”
That decided, we dropped down on the three undead in the alley, beating them to death with an acquired efficiency. It was more muscle memory now than anything else. It was just like murdering a bike. My zombie was the last to fall, with a hammer stuck in its skull. I jerked it free and we were on our way to the market. It lied on the eastern part of town just a block away from the central park and the bank, where we had just had our encounter with the horde.
We walked down the street. Something felt off the whole time. I was unable to identify it. Like entering a room and feeling that someone had taken something that was an everyday object out. It was only when Body snatcher commented that I realized what was missing from this picture.
“Looks like we got no Body snatchers out for strolls today. Think the army is stepping up their extermination process or we got some civilian army?”
There were no bodies; they were not dead, they were lying in wait. It wasn’t until we reached the market where we would learn where they had gone.
From across the street we got full view of the carnage. My best guess was a group of people tried to take refuge inside the supermarket. It held so many promises: food, medicine, and protection from the elements. After scavengers, it could only keep one of its promises and they failed to see its massive shortcoming. The doors were made of glass and a well-motivated horde could smash right through it. Their bastion of hope fell like a castle of sand. Inside were well over one hundred zombies, they crowded around the fallen survivors and gnawed them to bones.
I took in the full sight. They waited in the aisles, pushing and prodding their way to the corpses for a bite. The commotion of the glass breaking and whatever screams the survivors uttered drew the others. The survivors didn’t have a chance against a crowd this big with whatever improvised weapons they carried. They were too busy with the feast to notice us before we disappeared. However I caught sight of one last thing before we ducked out of sight, a stack of books resting inside the supermarket. I could make out the laminated pages, a family album.
Body snatcher said as soon as we were far enough away, “Looks like they were having a sale.”
Vampire said, “Prices were to die for.”
I said, “Hate to have to wait in that line.”
I instantly felt better.
Laugh so you don’t cry.
Point out the ridiculousness in the world instead of the maelstrom of the horrible parts of our world that engulf us and you could sleep at night. Those that laugh, laugh with an audience, those that weep, weep alone. Later I would find something that I could not laugh at.
Body snatcher said, “I know a nice little clothing outlet near here.”
“Why didn’t you recommend it before the supermarket?”
“I wanted a snack at the supermarket. However, I didn’t want to become a snack. Let’s head to the little boutique.”
Vampire said, “Is it close?”
He answered, “Yeah, just a street down so no loud noises or we’re gonna be their dessert.”
We found and entered the used clothing store. She was not as happy as I figured.
I looked through clothes as well. The store had been relatively untouched. Why hit up a used clothing store when there were other shops that held designer clothes? I eventually settled on an “I heart ‘I heart shirts’” that was just awesome enough to make me drop my stylish blue shirt. Vampire had a different idea. She grabbed a black shirt.
Body snatcher ribbed, “Disguising as the vampires. Didn’t see you as much of a goth.”
She said, “I had my phase, but this is more for where I think we are heading. I think we are going to need dark clothes.”
I wanted to press further, but she waved both of us off saying, “I have my idea of a crack in the armies’ defenses, but we can discuss it in a place that is less swarming with vampires. Maybe over lunch.”
Body snatcher asked, “Homemade catapult?”
We looked around the store a little more but found nothing that really piqued our interests. We changed our clothes and walked out of the store where we saw the thing that made me stop laughing.
She staggered across the street like she was going to collapse at any second. A child lost, looking for its mother. She looked down at the ground as she slowly crossed the street. Her clothes were stained with blood. Was it hers? She wore a shirt with SpongeBob emblazoned on the front. Her pants were pajamas. She was halfway down the street when she noticed us. She looked up, revealing a swatch of flesh missing from her check. I could see into her mouth at her teeth that probably had never had a cavity in her life. She began to stumble towards us.
Vampire turned away and made a squeak that sounded somewhere between a cry and a gasp. “Oh my God.”
Body snatcher said, “There is no God.”
I felt tears welling in my eyes as she reached out like she might be going to embrace her mother’s leg. I said, “No way in hell I’m leaving her like this.” I had to make it quick. A hammer was slow and brutal, I couldn’t do it. My hand slid behind my back and drew.
Body snatcher warned, “Don’t do it, the noise.”
I said as I approached, “Fuck the noise.”
I couldn’t have stopped if I had wanted to. I fired my gun in the city right next to a horde.
The point blank round bounced her back onto the ground with a hole in her face. She twitched spasmodically on the ground. She was still suffering.
What cruel God-
I stepped close and put the barrel to her forehead and pulled the trigger one last time. I stepped back whipping blood away from my face. I couldn’t look away. Her face turned to the street, it looked like she was sleeping. A parent checking in on a sleeping child.
Body snatcher broke the silence, “You Goddamned idiot!”
Body snatcher grabbed me by my shirt.
He snapped, “You might as well have shot us.”
I said, “She was just a kid. Alone and scared. A little frightened child. It’s just too much- This is just too much. No more.”
I sank to my knees like the weight of the world had been dropped onto my shoulders.
Body snatcher said, “To shoot your gun in the city-”
Vampire interrupted, “No time for this! Let’s get out of here before-”
She fell silent when she saw the streets in front and behind us.
Body snatcher struck me and said, “On your feet. I’m not letting you go that easily. I’m going to beat you to death later, I can’t have you giving up here.”
He dragged me to my feet and a followed the group like I was stuck on auto-pilot. The streets ahead and behind us were filling with the undead as they came drawn to the gunshot. We went down an alley and entered another street. We turned left into more zombies dragging themselves down the street towards us.
We turned to go right and found more waiting for us with jaws gaping like open graves.
Body snatcher shouted, “The way out is through.”
We charged right towards the five approaching us. Vampire and I knocked one down each with our weapons while Body snatcher fired three quick rounds into the others. We continued past them while the two that caught the hammer and the cross struggled to their feet to continue. Their staggering turned into a stumbling shamble. We could have power-walked away from them, but that wasn’t the problem. They were on every street, every sidewalk. We ran into a T section street only to find it blocked by throngs of the undead.
[“I didn’t know zombies wore throngs.”
“They’re more for banana hammocks, moving on.”]
Vampire turned back around to run, but found that way blocked.
She said, “It’s over.”
I slumped against a car and said, “Hey, Body snatcher, you still offering The Mist ending?”
To our left the street was filled with zombies in a pack so large they covered the entire street. The right was no better because it led back towards the supermarket where they had surely begun to approach us and behind us were hundreds.
I said, “Never mind, this thing already screwed me once today, may as well finish the job.”
I pulled out my revolver only to find Body snatcher’s hands on it.
He said, “Not over yet Zombie.”
He pulled me to my feet and continued, “Go through the door behind us. Bar it, lay low, and shut the fuck up. I’ll take care of these Body snatchers.”
I said, “You’re just as stupid as me if you think you’re going to survive them!”
Vampire opened the door and stepped inside.
Body snatcher said, “Why’d you shoot? No, doesn’t matter. You did it even though you knew the results because that’s the kind of person you are. And this is the kind of person I am.”
He kicked me in through the door and shut it with him outside.
Body snatcher shouted, “Vampire, don’t let him open it! It would kill me if my friends got out of this only to get body snatched.”
I went to open the door when Vampire struck me to the ground with her cross.
Body snatcher said, “To zombie, you’re dumb as shit, but your hearts in the right place, don’t let it end up in their mouths.”
He walked out to the center of the street and fired a round into the nearest zombie.
He fired another round into the next and went to the right where zombies began to appear from the direction of the supermarket. I went to call, but found Vampire’s hand over my mouth. He had their full attention now.
He shouted, “Come on then!”
He began to lead them away from us. The zombies began to pass us, having completely forgotten us in the turmoil. They were only focused on the idiot with the single clip now. As long as Vampire held my mouth shut and didn’t let the tears make her hand slip away, we would be safe. Body snatcher downed another zombie and took off down the street.
It was only fifteen steps. A walk or run from one room to another, crossing the street. All Body snatcher had to do was get fifteen feet down the street and throw himself through the open door to the pub and slam it shut. That would have bought him some time to think up a plan-
[“Or more puns.”]
-or think of a good place to lay low. Fifteen simple steps and he would have a fighting chance of escaping the horde. One foot caught the other and he ate shit, hard.
The zombies invigorated by the fall lurched forward in a shambling sprint as fast as their disjointed central nervous system could carry them. Body snatcher flipped around on the ground and fired a round that knocked a hole in the roof of the nearest zombie’s mouth. He wiggled backwards as they approached. He blew another one’s brains out as he got to his feet. He took off at a stumble with them close behind. He must have injured his leg in the fall because he hobbled forward with a limp. Body snatcher passed the door to the Winchester. That option was closed now and more and more opportunities were dying before him. He turned a corner and was gone. Soon after, a horde of at least fifty disappeared after him, leaving us alone.
Chapter Six: Scars and Legion Speaks
We laid in silence on the floor. Her hand was clamped tight over my mouth and her body tensed as if prepared to restrain me should I try to make a break for it in a vain attempt to rescue Body snatcher. To be perfectly honest, I wasn't going to. There was nothing I could do. He was dead.
After a few minutes Vampire said, “I’m gonna let go of your mouth. Don’t waste what he just gave us by shouting or trying to go after him. He’s gone.” She slowly removed her hand from my mouth and whipped her hand on her pants. Vampire said, “Looks like we’re going to be stuck here for the night. All the commotion was enough to wake the dead.”
I looked through the shades to see more shambling down the street, enticed by the prospect of a feast.
I whispered, “What do we do now?”
“I don’t know, get drunk?”
I said, “Seriously?” as Vampire riffled around in the cupboard.
She said, “Yeah, why not? We live to fight another day, why not celebrate?”
I said as she continued to search with her back to me, “How can you be so cold? He just-”
I caught her reflection in the mirror, eyes full with tears. She was doing her best to keep the quaver out of her voice.
After a pause, I said, “I’m with you.”
She composed herself before turning around and pulled out a bottle. She twisted the top off the whiskey and we moved further into the house.
In the living room, Ironic if there was a dead family in here.-
“What, too dark? I’ll tone it down a bit.”]
-she raised the bottle and said, “To Body snatcher.”
She tilted it and took a mouthful. She winced afterwards; I guess she wasn’t a drinker.
She handed me the bottle and said, “Misery loves company.”
I responded, “Right about that.”
I raised the bottle and took a shot. By the end of the night, we would kill that bottle.
We drank as we explored the house. The living room, kitchen, and dining room were empty. There was no sign of violence, no sign of disturbance in their idyllic life and house.
Vampire said after another shot as she passed the bottle to me, “Maybe they fled?”
I didn’t know which made me more concerned, not finding their bodies or finding them.
I took a shot and said, “Let’s keep looking, wouldn’t want any nasty surprises.”
We continued the exploration upstairs. Each room we slowly and methodically searched. Were there boogeymen in the closets, under the bed? Each room we took another shot. I’m not sure what we were thinking combining drinking and looking for enemies. Maybe that we were secretly drunken masters. The bedrooms were empty as well.
Vampire said as she passed the bottle to me, “The wardrobe! If clothes are missing then the family left.” She opened the door to find clothes rifled through and left on the ground by hurried fleers. She said, “Safe, let’s make a night of this drinking.”
I agreed and handed her the bottle.
We talked about our day-to-day life before this lockdown. She, of course, was a fan of old vampire movies: Nosferatu, Dracula, and The Last Man on Earth. I explained my zombie theory and cited my three favorite zombie movies. The conversation shifted to Body snatcher and I explained how we met and we took a guess at his three favorite movies: Invasion of the Body Snatchers, John Carpenter’s The Thing, and Glitter. Vampire said, raising our bottle, “To Body snatcher.” I nodded and took a shot after her. We were draining the bottle and in a few hours we would be done.
Much later, much drunker. We argued a bit over which was more deadly, vampires or zombies. The conversation seemed hallow, like a false imitation, missing a key component. The conversation died off and Vampire returned to look through clothes. I saw her pick up a shirt that left a mid-rift. Her hand instinctively pressed to her stomach, her scar. My inhibitions were low enough to the point that I had to pry. I tried to breach the question with as much finesse as possible:
“You have a scar.”
Vampire said, “I do.”
She sat down and said, “An accident when I was a kid. I got shis-kabobed by a pipe. At least that’s the medical terms the doctors used.” She lifted her shirt up to show the scar. It rested right above her hip. She continued, “It went right through me, had to go to the hospital, series of surgeries, painful rehabilitation. Now I can’t wear two-pieces and shirts that expose my mid-rift.”
I said, “You could.”
Vampire said, “With all those eyes, trying to piece together a story. Or even worse, a rubber-necker. Looking at the carnage and imagining, dying vicariously through me.”
“Not too many left to gawk. Besides, we all have our scars.”
Vampire said, “Cheesy, but at least yours stay out-of-sight.”
“Those can be just as bad. When I was a kid, okay so like a month ago, I imagined myself in a situation exactly like this. Zombies everywhere, what I would do, how I would survive, how I’d be a hero. And now it’s like some laughing god has granted my wish in spades and here I am. Ruining it. Not being the hero, failing, hurting others, getting people killed.”
“Body snatcher made his choice-”
“And I made the choice that got him killed. Some hero I turned out to be.”
We killed the conversation that was better left hidden.
We finished the bottle in silence and after a few minutes, Vampire asked, “Do you really think I could rock out a mid-rift?”
I slurred, “Sure. You could turn some heads, for all the right reasons.”
I drifted off, but before I went and passed out on the floor, she said, “You’re sweet. You’re lying, but you’re sweet.”
I was out like a drunken light.
I woke up the next morning on the floor feeling like I had traveled back in time to college freshman night. Vampire was up before me.
She said, “I feel like shit too.”
“Good to know.”
She went on, “They’re still waiting out there."
I said, “So we’re gonna have to crash here another night?”
Vampire answered, “Seems that way.”
I asked, “Anything we can scrounge up for breakfast?”
She answered, “Nothing that won’t make us feel less like shit.”
After stale, sugary cereal that only made me think of what its crunchy shrapnel was doing to my liquor-laden insides, we managed to find Tylenol in a bathroom. We split a bottle of water and prepared to deal with our respective hangovers. In hindsight, drinking was probably not the best thing to do when we were low on water and food. I looked outside frequently. The streets had a lingering group of about twenty that would snowball if we tried to escape. We would have to spend the day inside and hope that they cleared out by tomorrow.
We spent the day trying to amuse ourselves. The conversation last night had gotten too personal, too quick. Nothing breaks the ice quite like, 'Hey, I noticed your scars.' We both amused ourselves separately. I watched the lingering zombies, wandering aimlessly in the streets, trying to remember something important that was lost to them. As I was walking past the bedroom, I saw Vampire in the mirror. She was holding the mid-rift exposing shirt to herself and admiring, imagining. I smiled and snuck off before she could see me gawking.
This night was slightly less eventful. We rooted through the cabinets and came up with a few non-perishables and some pain medication that did nothing to put a dent in our combined hangover headache.
After a dinner of canned corn, I said, “So what’s our plan?”
Vampire answered, “Tonight we’re going to rest and tomorrow we are going to check something out.”
“A possible exit?”
She said, “You better believe it. I don’t want to jinx it, so let’s let it be a surprise.”
I decided to agree with her.
We said goodnight to each other. She went to the master bedroom while I took the kids’ room. Believe it or not, I chose this arrangement because how often do you get the chance to sleep in an actual racecar bed? I lay in bed, thinking. Tomorrow was the day we would escape. The army wouldn’t stand in our way and not even a horde of zombies could detain us. The two of us would prevail over- It was then that the voice spoke.
It spoke, “What is a drop of rain compared to a storm? What is a thought compared to a mind? A note to a symphony? We are many. And you are one.”
I desperately looked around the room, wondering if I had cracked like so many others. No one was with me. I was alone except for the voice that would probably command me to form a necklace of ears and started babbling about government implants in my cavities. No, I couldn’t, wouldn’t.
I snapped, “Who the Hell is this?!”
The voice answered, “We can go by many names, each and every one of our assimilated brothers and sisters could be used as suitable nomenclature, but I believe the time it would take to pronounce the conjunction of our names would defeat the purpose of classifying us. For now, call us the clichéd, but suitable Legion. Or if you haven’t deduced it yet, you can add your name to our never-ending symphony. Is this a satisfactory answer to your question?”
The voice wasn’t like the tone that all those Legion-esque monsters get in the movies. You know, like a bunch of voices combined and made to sound cheesily demonic. The voices seemed devoid of emotion and sounded hollow, sunken. It was like a group of people continuing their thoughts without pause. One would pick up where another left off. Sometimes mid-sentence, other times mid-word. I couldn’t pick out one voice that was constant in the ever-changing chorus. It could probably talk for days and I would never hear the same voice. They were that numerous, they were legion and my voice was going to be added to their harmony if I didn’t do something about it. It was then I realized, I was four shades of fucked. I went to bed.
ACT II: Everything is Going to be all- Boners
I woke up to the sound of glass from the door being crunched under feet and creaking coming up the steps. I opened the door and was hit with the smell of the dead. Dozens staggered up the stairs at a slow and disjointed pace. They broke down the front door and were now inside the house. Leading the pack was him with patches of flesh missing from his body from multiple bites.
He grabbed me before I could react and said with breath that smelled like an open crypt, “We were friends before and now we’re brothers. We will all get got eventually.”
Body snatcher sank his teeth into my cheek and I woke up.
I lay in my race car bed thinking what my next move was. The options of my next move and their perceived or predicted results were not pleasant. Either I had gone off the deep end and was hallucinating or I was infected and going to turn in a matter of days. How the Hell was I infected?
The girl, a small splash of blood on your face, in your eyes, wasn’t just a little all it took? A speck, a droplet. A gunshot that killed both of you.
What was even more unpleasant was my choices about what to do next. Do I tell Vampire about my condition?
I imagined the conversation that would take place between us, “So um, I’m hearing voices. I think I might be infected.”
“Cool, just let me get my cross ready. You want me to say a few words after I decapitate, stake, and incinerate your body?”
No. I could help her. I could get her out of this, but not if I told her now. I had days in which I could help her find an exit out of here. Later, when the way was open and escape imminent, I could drop the bombshell.
I'm such a philanthropist.
With that I had become the cliché I had so desperately sought to avoid.
I got up and got ready. I prepared three things that I would constantly tell myself for the rest of my time here.
Maybe that voice was just a temporary lapse in sanity.
I was under pressure, this being a catastrophe after all.
If you are infected, maybe there is a cure or something. The army was probably running through tests and experiments right now to combat the infection.
The final. You can still help her. You can make sure she gets out safe. Two heads are better than one, right?
I drew strength from these words. I kept telling myself these lies.
Vampire was already up by the time I was down.
She said, “Morning sunshine.”
“Do I really look that bad right now?”
She responded with a joke far too close to the truth for my comfort, “You look like the walking dead.”
“You ready to give your way out a shot? The wait is just killing me.”
Vampire said, “What about your breakfast?”
I answered, “Not feeling up to it. Think my stomach is still rebelling after our attempt to drown our livers.”
“Suit yourself. Let’s take a look outside and see what the neighbors are up to.”
We went up to the second floor and peeked through the shades. The sight was not a good one. From the street, we could spot at least five zombies lingering in the street. This did not include whatever nasty surprises would come from the commotion. They were not going anywhere. The thought of being trapped in this house for another night made me stir-crazy.
Vampire said, “Want to play it safe?” I answered, “Safe is going to get us killed.”
“I think you mean ‘Recklessness is going to get us killed.’?”
“Maybe, but it’ll be a hell of a lot quicker before starvation.”
Vampire suggested, “So we’re going to make a run for it?”
I answered, “Depends where we’re running to, want to enlighten me?”
Vampire pointed and said, “There, our ticket to freedom.”
I looked at where she pointed and couldn’t see anything indicative of escape. No tanks, helicopters, or rocket packs. Was there a hidden portal lying in wait at the street? No, that is ridiculous.
[“Says the man during the zombie-pocalypse.”]
I questioned, “Into the middle of the street? I think the army has the street pretty well covered.”
“No that’s not where we’re going. That would be stupid. We’re going into the sewer system.”
I said, “You don’t think the army has the sewer systems quartered off?”
Vampire answered, “Only one way to find out.”
I countered, “And if there are guards down there. Guards with rifles that don’t have too many qualms about ventilating our heads or a zombies'.”
“We have a better chance of hiding in the shadows and evading guards as opposed to trying to walk through the barricade up on the street.”
“Good point, but before we go down there. We need to do a little preparation. Rather not end up shit deep and shit outta luck.”
We went through every closet we could, looking for necessary materials for our exploration of the sewers. We managed two flashlights and a few torn pieces of cloth to wrap around our mouths and noses. I sprayed my cloth with deodorant to help combat the smell.
Vampire said, “I have a feeling this is not going to be a very clean process.”
I said, “Hey, I’m sure sanitation left the sewers smelling like roses.”
They did not.
She looked at me and said, “You ready Zombie?”
I nodded and we charged out into the street.
Chapter Seven: The Sewers
The zombies flocked towards us like we were an all-you-can-eat buffet. We ran into the middle of the street and reached the sewer lid. I swung my hammer and crumpled a zombie to the street. The remaining kept crowding forward, unhindered by their undead allies’ cracked skull.
Vampire tried to pry the sewer lid up with her fingers and said, “Bad start to this whole escape thing.”
The commotion drew more to us. Pretty soon the street would be a parade of death and decay.
I responded, “Hold them off and I’ll use the hammer."
Vampire began knocking the approaching undead back with her cross as I got the claw of my hammer into the slit and pried the lid up. I kicked a zombie into the chest, knocking it into the group and delaying them. Vampire jumped down into the sewer and I followed her. I slid the cover back over the manhole to prevent them from trailing us. In the dark, I listened to our ragged breath as I pulled out the flashlight and switched it on, praying I wouldn’t illuminate a long-dead occupant of the sewer.
We looked around at the sewer. We were standing on a walkway and in the center of the tunnel was a slowly progressing mixture of what I assumed was trash, leaves, and of course, shit. They floated down murky water. My desire to sing the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles theme died when the full smell of the sewers encompassed me. I didn’t feel much like opening my mouth this close to a stream of shit.
I said, “Even an apocalypse event doesn’t slow down the shit.”
Vampire said through her make-shift anti-odor mask, “These damn masks aren’t working-”
As she went to take it off she caught a smell unrestrained and pressed the cloth to her face and began to inhale deeply as if trying to chase out the smell of years of waste and decomposition.
I said, “I was about to do that, thanks for the heads up.”
She gave me the finger and said, “That smell is going to haunt me for years to come.”
We started to follow the tunnel to where are freedom waited.
We walked through the dark tunnels, our lights skimming the walkway and the trash river. I observed that the water level had dropped. There was a space a few feet higher where the stained cement met the white cement. How long until this river that was constantly being fed by tributaries of toilets was entirely dried up? The prospect made me queasy. Or maybe that was the result of the overhanging odor of years of trash. We followed the river of filth.
We continued down the sewers, the lights had died out and our flashlights were the only things keeping us from the waste-water. Open gutters illuminated a brief two-foot space with a dim light. The drawback was the flashlight also illuminated the things I never wanted to see. I never thought about how large the sewers had to be under the city. Each street and every house had to connect at some point into this cesspool. It was like the root work of the city, a labyrinthine-
[“Dumb it down a bit!”
“A winding, warren-esque-”
It was like a maze. I asked, hoping for an answer, “How do we know where we are?”
Vampire said, “I was following you. I thought you knew the way.”
“Because I spend so much time in the sewers? First time poking around and I’d prefer it to be the last as well. I’d rather not have to spend to long down here. You think they post maps or something around here? Let’s look for like a supervisor’s station or something.”
She responded, “Pretty sure that doesn’t exist.”
“So what now?”
She chirped, “Let’s check!” and pointed to an opening in the gutter.
Vampire said, “Look for a street name or something recognizable.”
I peered out onto the street, “I can’t see much. Oh! I see a Taco Bell-”
“Gross, I don’t want to be close to a Taco Bell when we’re in the sewers.”
“Likewise. I’ve experienced personally what it can do to your stomach, I don’t want to experience it first hand as well.”
She asked, “See anything else?” “Wait! I see a street sign! We’re at the intersection of Bergen str-”
It was then that an undead arm shot into the gutter and scratched violently at the air.
The decomposing bite-riddled arm pawed back and forth, hoping to ensnare one of us. Soon its head appeared through the hole. It was trying to crawl into the sewer through the gutter! Its jaws snapped with force that seemed like it was chipping its teeth away. My mind jumped to the conclusion one of those rats who could dislocate its joints to enter small holes. Would this zombie force its way into the sewer, disregarding its appendages and bloated stomach?
It grinded forward like a camel trying to pass through the eye of a needle. It snaked, shimmied, and squirmed its way into the sewer, bit by bit, piece by piece. Vampire reacted first, stepping forward and batting at its head like a kid with a piñata. The head lolled back and forth with the blows from the cross. This did little to stop its grim progress into the sewer system. Behind me, I heard the sound of water being disturbed and splashing.
I whirled around to the sound of the noise. A zombie had laid placidly in the water, only to be disturbed by the sounds of our struggle. Now it rose from the sewer water, dripping weeks of waste from its slimy and bloated body. What kind of life did this sanitation worker lead to deserve weeks wallowing in waste? It waded towards us, making the murky water ripple. As it approached, the light on my batteries fizzled and dimmed, leaving us in darkness with the undead.
This can’t be happening!
"Oh, this happens all the time."
I stumbled back, trying to see if I could knock the batteries back into place or jar some left over energy into them. My efforts were rewarded by flashes of light and brief glimpses at what was approaching. The zombie had spilled itself onto the walkway and was rising to its water-logged feet. In the strobe of my flashing light, his jaw popped open and a torrent of rust-colored spit cascaded out of its mouth. I had to deal with this one while Vampire dealt with the street crawler.
We were in the dark, waiting for it to make its move. I hoped my sense of proprioception would somehow be heightened in the dark. Zatoichi, I was not. It was slowly stalking forward in the shadows, as if aware of our blindness and looking to heighten the suspense. Next it would begin to call mockingly as it shifted from shadow to shadow like some kind of-
[“Ninja zombie go!”
“Don’t go with ninja zombie, make it a pirate zombie!”
“No ninja zombie-”
Zombie pirate, yaargh!”
“Neither is gonna happen.”
“Then how about some tequila?”]
I couldn’t wait any longer. I picked where I thought it was and swung down as hard as I could. The shaft of my hammer struck its shoulder and recoiled out of my hands.
I didn’t see the hands grab me by my shirt, but I felt it. I managed to raise my left arm under its chin and keep it away from chomping on my face. It leaned its body weight into me, but didn’t have much force behind it. Weeks of decomposing under water didn’t really give it strength or maybe it was the adrenaline, but I looped a foot around its leg and overtook it; smashing it into the ground. I held it down as its hands gripped at my shirt.
I staggered to my feet while pinning it to the ground. I raised my shoe and brought it down as hard as I could on its face. A curb stomp. Two more stomps and its struggling stopped. Vampire turned around from the pulp of what was her zombie and shined her flashlight on me, revealing what looked like a mashed cherry pie.
She asked, “You alright?”
“I will be as soon as we get out of here.”
She answered, “I know Bergen street. We’re close to the outskirts.”
As we walked, my right shoe kept sticking on the ground. Brains will do that when they’re on your shoe. I pitched my useless flashlight and we relied heavily on Vampire’s light, but not before stomping mine to pieces.
“Got something against flashlights?”
“Only the ones that fuck you over.”
“I don’t think there are any. Now I am pretty sure that there are some flashlights that you can fu-”
Our conversation stopped. Our conversation was stopped. Our path met steel. The steel started on one side of the sewer and crossed in front of our path. A heavy lattice blocked our way out of the city under the streets.
Vampire shined her light around the circumference, saying, “This has been recently welded. It's not even got a little bit of rust on it.”
“They put it here. No need to patrol the sewers with something like this blocking our path.”
Vampire said, “Not necessarily. Take a whack at it, maybe we can break it open?”
I stepped forward and swung as hard as I could into the steel lattice.
[“Prepare to be amazed as he knocks the grating off with a single blow and then flexes a bit for the ladies!”]
The sound of metal hitting steel resounded throughout the sewer tunnels. My hand vibrated with pain. I examined the lattice and saw no signs of damage.
[“Well that was anti-climactic. Sorta like you with the ladies.”
We probably couldn’t cut through it either.
I said, “Don’t think we’re getting out of the city this way.”
Vampire said, “Well that plan is shot to shit.” “Well, at least we can get out of this sewer.”
I went to the ladder and began climbing when she pulled me back down, almost throwing me into the waste.
“What would soldiers think if we just popped up from the sewers next to them?”
I said, “Let’s go down a couple of streets. At least out of the sight range.”
We backtracked through the sewers for a couple of minutes before coming back to Bergen street. The undead sanitation worker laid on the ground, its head a pulpy mess that looked like a smashed red pumpkin.
Vampire reasoned, “Should be far enough. Let’s just be careful and not draw any attention.”
I retorted, “Should be easy, it isn’t a typical day for me until I see people emerging from the sewers, trying to act nonchalant with weapons in their hands.”
“Smart-ass. Let’s just hope not to pop out right underneath a soldier’s humvee.”
I found a ladder and began to go up. I said to Vampire as I climbed out, “I can’t wait to get out of this Goddamn sewer!”
“Right about that though the smell is going to be with us for the rest of our lives probably.”
We didn’t know that we were about to go into something much worse.
I held the sewer lid open for her and closed it shut behind her.
[“Such a gentleman!”
“That’s how I treat all my friends in our sewer expeditions.”]
When we stood up and got our bearings, that was when we realized the huge mistake we made by not scanning around first before climbing out. We were surrounded; they had been drawn to the sound of the sewer lid being pried up.
I raked my hammer out of my pants and growled, “We got company!”
Vampire brandished her cross at them and said, “We’re surrounded, no way out! Shit it can’t end like this!”
The seven zombies closed in around us as we prepared our final stand.
I drove the claw of my hammer into the brains of the first zombie while Vampire knocked another one to its knees. As I tried to dislodge my hammer another got its hands around my shirt and started to pull me towards it, but I managed to kick it back. Another one seized me while I tried to free my weapon. I struggled to hold it back as the rest closed in. I caught a quick glance of Vampire as she swung in wide circles, hoping to ward them off. In mid-swing, one managed to grab a hold of her arm and she tugged desperately to free herself from its grasp. They had us.
Another grabbed at me while I shook and struggled against it. My brain spoke to me in images. Teeth lodging into flesh. The rest began to close around us. A festering wound walking with the other dead. Another pair of rotting hands grabbed at me, but I managed to shake out of that grip. Masticating mandibles mincing Vampire as she shrieked. We would just be another member of their band. We would be a tree in their forest. We are many and you are-"
A voice cut through the sound of my thoughts. “I got to ax you a question!”
One of the zombies that was holding onto me and desperately trying to get a bite in head shifted as a blade bite deep into its neck and sliced into the spinal cord. It sank to the ground like a marionette that had had its strings cut. It was down, but not dead. Paralyzed, its jaws snapped into the air. I re-doubled my efforts and shoved the restraining zombie. As it doubled forward, I brought my hammer down, obliterating the back of its skull like it had been made of glass.
I heard, “Lemme pick your brain!” and deduced he had taken out one that had grabbed hold of Vampire.
Four on three was a manageable number. I went after another zombie. I swung my hammer and meant to connect with the side of its head, but I missed and connected with its jaw instead. It popped out of place and hung unhinged and out of its socket. It continued towards me, unaware or uncaring that it bore a striking resemblance to a laughing idiot. It looked like someone had taken its photo mid-laugh and now it was doomed to that singular pose for the rest of its life. My next blow caught it directly in the temple. The claw broke through the skull and lodged itself behind its left eye. I pulled down and sent the zombie to the street where I jerked the hammer free, obliterating its orbital process.
I looked up and caught Vampire beating another down into bloody pulps. She didn’t quite have the strength to annihilate the nervous system in a single blow, but her attacks were vicious enough to take a zombie down and rain blows on it from above until it was a pulp. I heard sounds of a struggle as our mysterious intervener tussled with the other zombie. I couldn’t see him, but I knew he had his situation under control. He probably wouldn’t have charged in if he hadn’t had some experience with the dead. That meant that there was still one more- It slammed into me and sent me to the ground. It was on top of me with snapping jaws and groping hands.
I pressed it back with everything I had in me, as its jaws snapped and tore at the air. Its body weight pressed down on me, pining me to the ground. Its full weight pressed onto my chest, pressing the wind out of me. The maw was open wide like a lover’s embrace. Join us. My strength was ebbing and its bites were getting closer and closer to my face. Let go. Its teeth were stained red by either blood or whatever was in their saliva. My hands pushed on its shoulders and its head rocked in a pendulous motion trying to bring itself closer to me, slashing and renting the air, inches away from my face.
I thought, Maybe I should just give-
“Where’s the fire… Ax!”
He swung and hit it with the flat end of his axe. The zombie tumbled backwards off of me. Before it could get up, he put his foot on its chest, pinning it to the ground. He gripped his axe like a golf club and swung. The blow connected with the neck, but failed to decapitate it in a single blow. He took another whack at it, but missed the same spot and hit a little further up on the neck.
He cursed, “Oh come on! It woulda been so badass to have done that. Fuck it.”
He brought the axe up and dropped it into the zombie’s forehead. It was down and we were saved. I got up and looked for any bite wounds or scratches then I realized the futility of doing that when I was probably already infected and stopped. I turned my attention to the guy who saved us.
I said, “Thanks for the help, we would been zombie bait if you-”
He interrupted, “Body snatcher. You would have been body snatcher bait if I didn’t step in.”
I knew whom it was before he even turned around.
As he turned around he began, “Looks like the hero is making his grand re-app-” My arms were around Body snatcher before he could complete his cheesy line he had probably lifted from a B sci-fi film.
Body snatcher said, “Come on man! At least let me finish that badass introduction.”
I said choking back tears, “Too late.”
Vampire said, “Looks like a touching moment, let me get in there.”
She wrapped her arms around the struggling Body snatcher.
“This was not the way I was hoping this whole white knight thing would go. I imagined more sexy girls.”
I asked, “How did you get away from that horde?” Vampire agreed, “Yeah, did you get away??? Or did you get gotten?”
“It’s ‘get got’ and no I didn’t. If you will allow me to just regale you with the story of my daring and awesome escape from the horde of body snatchers.”
Chapter Eight: Body Snatcher’s Escape and Legion’s Discourse
[“Side note: This story is ridiculous and untrue.”
“Unlike the rest of your story.”
“It kills the time, keep going.”
“That being said-”]
I was hobbling down the street with the horde following after me whispering, “Return to us. We want to snatch your body! Because that’s what we are, body snatchers, not vampire, not zombies.”
I whirled around putting a round between his eyes from one hundred feet away. As I continued down the street, I could see more coming out of the alleyways ahead of me. They were trying to box me in!
Between them and me was a cop car. With a distinctly manly grace and finesse, I moon-saulted over the car while simultaneously pulling out the pump-action shotgun from the driver’s window. In mid-air, I cocked the shotgun. As I landed on the other side of the cop car, I squeezed the trigger cutting the body snatchers in front of me into pieces. The blast knocked out those nearest and opened up a path for me to escape. I continued running as the horde continued, undeterred by my awesomeness.
I held a standard pump-action shotgun with two rounds left in the chamber. The horde shambled on behind me, always within feet of me. If I stopped, I was dead. One missed step or slip and they would be on me within seconds. My only hope was to slip into open alleys where the body snatchers would be cramped and stymied in their progress. As I rounded the corner and sprinted into an alley, I ran into two body snatchers who were waiting for me.
As one opened his jaws to bite me I shoved the barrel of the shotgun into his mouth and angled it towards the other approaching body snatcher and said, “You shouldn’t talk with your mouth full!”
I pulled the trigger, obliterating the two in the alleyway. I went down the alleyway, but found that more body snatchers had cut off my path. I had only one shell left and the remaining bullets in my glock. I couldn’t blast my way through throng of aliens. This was the end.
The aliens continued to shamble into the alleyway. Soon fifty were squeezed into the alleyway with me and more were coming in. I gripped onto the shotgun and seriously thought about taking my own life. I finally decided that I was too awesome to let myself be obliterated from this world.
I said when they were within feet of me, “You picked a fight with the wrong parkour master.”
[“Jet pack powers activate!”]
I vaulted off the head of the nearest one, breaking his neck, and press-kicked off the walls of the alley until I was on the roof.
I blew an alien off the roof with a single shotgun blast. As the other girl came at me, I threw the shotgun with such force that it impaled the body snatcher and sent her toppling over the edge.
I said as she fell, “Catch.”
I was alone on the roof now. I had lost my shotgun, but I still had my glock and I was still myself, which was reason enough for them to run. The sound of the door below breaking alerted me that they were coming my way. I was eff’ed in the a if I couldn’t bar the door and slow their progress.
I shoved everything I could get my hands on against the door: boxes, bedsprings, and boards.
[“What kind of building is this? Miscellaneous and Co?”]
I spent the next day barricaded up on the roof as they pounded on the door. They couldn’t break down the door and after a day; they lost interest. Or maybe just forgot what was up there. When I knew they had wandered off for less badass prey; I jumped over to another building where I traded out my weapon for a fire ax. As I left the building the next day, I ran into a college co-ed desperately trying to fight off a hundred body snatchers. I dispatched them all with-
I interrupted, “Okay, that’s enough.”
Body snatcher said, “It was just about to get even more awesome-”
Vampire cut in, “You bang the co-ed all while fighting off a horde of thousands?”
“No, but I think I’ll add that part. So there we were in the midst of death when-”
I said, “Story is done! Glad you’re here, but we don’t have forever to listen. We got more important things to be doing right now.”
“Would it spice it up if I found a mech suit, but then broke it fighting the giant queen alien controlling the body snatchers?”
“I’m not going to let you plagiarize Aliens.”
“Is that how it’s gonna be?”
Body snatcher said, “I missed you guys! So what have you guys been up to? Nothing as awesome as what I’ve been up to I’m assured. You’re story probably doesn’t even have gratuitous nudity or over-the-top action.”
Vampire said, “Finding our exits closed and barred. Feels like the noose is tightening.”
“Shitty. The sewers?”
“That word there, shitty was a pun you see, because you were in the sewers-”
“I got it. Got any ideas on our way out of here?”
Body snatcher answered, “Yeah, I got one.”
“Want to let us in on it?”
“Is the catapult still out on the table?”
Vampire said, “So you have no plan?”
Body snatcher returned, “Not unless we can get our hands on jet packs.”
“They’ve had to overlook something. We can’t be completely sealed in."
“They sealed off the street, the sewers, and probably got surface-to-air missiles just as a final fuck you-”
Vampire snapped, “There has to be a way out! I’m not going to give up and just-”
"I said, ‘We were screwed.’ I didn’t say, ‘We’re going to give up.’ How’s the sewer? They didn’t have guards posted down there or you’d be Swiss cheese now. So what’d they put down there to block us?”
I answered, “They welded a grate in the path. I don’t think its possible for us to take it out with just our hands alone.”
Body snatcher answered, “And here I was thinking it was robot sentries or something.”
I said, “This isn’t some flimsy chain-link fence that some snips or saws can cut through. This thing isn’t going to be torn down using only your hands or saws.”
Body snatcher responded, “And what about not using your hands?”
I answered, “I don’t know how to use a torch.”
Body snatcher said, “Me either, but how hard could it be?”
“Well it could turn us into a walking inferno the second we ignite it.”
Vampire said, “Maybe we could just be super careful?”
“Where would we even find an acetylene torch?”
Body snatcher returned, “Maybe an old mechanic’s shop or a factory?”
He finally answered, “So a torch is a no go. How about we crank it up to eleven and I propose the most badass solution.”
Vampire said, “Go for it.”
“We blow the fucker up.”
“Seriously?” I asked, ‘Where are we gonna find an explosive?”
“We don’t need a grenade or something like that, we just need an explosion to take out the lattice. A propane tank, a gasoline bomb, maybe a shit ton of gun powder,” answered Body snatcher.
“You were a pyromaniac as a kid weren’t you?” “I still am.”
I said, “It could work.”
“Worst case scenario, we die in a fiery blast.”
“If not we get chomped or catch a bullet.”
I said, “I’m going to go with the fiery ball of death before starvation or murdered by a psychopath with a baby basket.”
Body snatcher concluded, “It’s decided then.”
“I’m so glad to have you back.”
Body snatcher was back and everything seemed to be looking up. We were going to escape, we were all going to survive, the voices probably didn’t mean I was infected, just tired- It was then that the words echoed through my brain.
It spoke, “We’re Glad you found your frIend. After all, another Voice would hElp to make our symphony INto a masterpiece.”
Body snatcher continued talking, “Glad to know you missed me. If you are just willing to admit that-”
He continued talking, but the voices spoke over the sound, “Admit that you missed him and give him a big wet kiss. Or bite. Whatever is your preference.”
I snapped aloud at Legion, “Shut up.”
Body snatcher responded, “Hey, I was just messing around man.”
I realized I had spoken aloud and responded, “Sorry, just haven’t been getting much sleep.”
Body snatcher said, “Don’t worry about it. I know how it is. I had to sleep on a roof, it was pretty roof.”
There was almost ten seconds of silence between us all as that pun ate away into our brains.
Vampire said, “Seriously? I didn’t think you were going to go that way, but you did. I don’t know if I should applaud you or punch you in the throat.”
He responded, “I bet you guys missed me so much. Anyways, we should probably head back to the hide out. I could really use a couple of z’s. Sleeping on a roof is pretty uncomfortable.”
Vampire asked as we walked, “So did you run into any other survivors?”
Body snatcher responded without pause, “Other than the super sexy co-ed-”
Vampire said, “The truth this time, please.”
“No, the only signs of life I saw were in the body snatchers.”
She responded with something like disappointment in her voice, “Oh.”
I thought to myself, Is this a good or bad sign? I don’t want to run into any more crazies, but the alternative could be so much worse-
Body snatcher interrupted my train of thought by asking, “Why did you want to know?”
Vampire answered, “Just thought we could use some people to join the ranks. It could never hurt to have a few more.”
Body snatcher responded, “Sorry, but I just don’t know if any more would be a good idea. You’ve seen what has happened to some of the survivors. Those that have to deal with all this-” He gestured to the ruined city “-alone it breaks them or they were already broken from the beginning. The safest thing right now is to stick with a group of people you trust.”
Looking back on that comment, the ominous tone should have tipped off even the drunkest of listeners.
We would later encounter the workings of a group of people with shitty results.
We walked on in silence for a little bit.
Before long, I couldn’t wait any longer and I voiced my concern, “What does that mean?”
“The fact that we aren’t seeing any survivors.”
Vampire answered, “Maybe they’re just staying in and waiting for rescue.”
Body snatcher said, “I don’t think so. They don’t have enough food to survive locked up all this time. They’re heading out and very few are living to tell the tale. I think we are going to see a boom in the number of body snatchers in the streets in the next couple of days.”
Vampire said, “All the more reason to get out of here while we can.”
Body snatcher said, “I know how you feel-”
She snapped, “Do you? Because you seem to be treating this like some kinda movie. This is real! There is no reset, you can just skip a scene you don’t like!”
I said as I moved in-between them, “Calm down!”
“I’m- I’m sorry it’s just- just. I have to get out of here. I just have-”
“I know, but we are only going to get out of this by working together and we can’t do that by tearing each other to pieces. We just have to accept that we may be alone-”
A voice shouted off in the distance, “-Coming!”
Body snatcher said, “Ask and you shall receive. Quick, we have to hide! We can decide on what we are going to do once we see him.”
I was pulled into the alley of a building as we waited. They weren’t taking any chances with me since my last encounter with another person. Would this one be crazy as well? Body snatcher’s body language had assumed so, he’d reached behind his back and had his hand on his glock. Had he seen us and was he calling out to us? Was he coming to us? What was he saying?
As he got closer, his voice got louder and we could hear his whole message, “Run! They’re coming!” His whole warning.
Our hearts must have collectively shit themselves because Vampire’s hand tightened on my shoulder like a vice. I felt cold sweat forming on the palms of her hand. Within seconds he passed by us, shouting, “Run! The wolfens are coming! They’re tripping on their peyote and they have their razors!” He was in dead sprint, covered in sweat and out of breath. He shambled on much like he undead themselves.
I said, “Wolfens? That’s just ridiculous-”
The second I uttered it, it was like some incantation that called them forth. Fifty zombies or so appeared from the street, chasing after the man in a shambling stride.
My heart just about beat its way through my chest. For a second I thought my heartbeat was so loud that they would be able to hear it. If they spotted us, we were done for. We couldn’t fight off a number that large and we had no hope of escaping them. Fortune smiled on us and frowned on the running man. They were so lost in the heat of the pursuit that the horde hadn’t noticed us, crouching in an alleyway with our breath caught in our lungs. They were too focused on the fresh blood that was trying desperately to escape. We were safe. At a cost that was too great to pay. It cost us the life of another man, a survivor.
The man continued to run, unaware of our presence. If he had seen us, he would have run directly to us, pleading for help and putting us all in danger. He was out of breath, like he had been running for hours. He staggered forward at a rate just a little bit faster than the zombies. With the horde that close behind him, he would be running for hours more. Until he stopped running and stopped living. It looked like he would drop dead from exhaustion, but the desire to survive kept him moving even after his body had reached its breaking point.
The running man continued to shout, “They’re coming! The wolfens are coming! For Christ’s sake somebody help me!”
I took a step forward, but was instantly pulled back.
I began, “What the-”
Body snatcher said, “It’s too late. We can’t take out that many. He’s dead on his feet.”
I began, “I can’t just let him-”
Vampire whispered sharply with a clear effort to hide the tensing that was happening in her throat, “That is exactly what we are going to do. We can’t help him. We can’t take out a group that large. Body snatcher is right; he’s a dead man. We’re dead if we try and help him. Our only hope is to stay quiet and hope none of those vampires have lingering eyes.”
The truth sank down on me and crashed onto my shoulders.
I sank back down to the asphalt, effectively killing him as if I had drawn my revolver a put a bullet in his brain. Maybe that would have been a mercy to him at this point. I resigned myself to his fate. He was a dead man, my heart went cold in my chest and I knew it would never warm back up to the glory of what it once was. To this day, I still wished I’d helped him. Especially now that I know his fate. Here is what happened to Wolfen.
Wolfen had been running ever since the morning. It all began when he broke into a retail clothing store. Shopping markets had been raided and now he was grasping at straws. Hunger forced his hand and he was clearly not holding a royal flush. Wolfen grabbed a gag shirt off the aisle and threw it on. He had stained his other shirt battling the wolfen. His hatchet made relatively quick work of the wolfens, but it was messy work. He slipped on the shirt that read, “See you next Wednesday.” in blood red letters and featured marks that resembled claw marks. He found a half eaten, stale candy bar in the employee’s lounge and made one of the biggest mistakes of his life. In his excitement, he let loose a howl. That howl was returned to him with moans.
As Wolfen ran, he silently cursed himself. It was a little after noon or so he thought. He didn’t really have time to check a clock and he wasn’t wearing a watch. Four or five hours, running at a steady jog. At first he tried to elude them, but they always found their way to him. He didn’t want to jump into a trashcan or duck into a closet for fear of being trapped and ravished by the wolfens. He looped around the city, knowing that getting too close to the barricade would cost him dearly. He promised himself he wouldn’t stop running until he was safe and he would keep that promise until about four hours later.
Three hours later; without food or water, Wolfen cried out, “They're coming! The wolfen’s are coming!”
At first it was just a warning for anybody in ear-shot, now it was an involuntary action. A mantra he used to keep moving, As long as he could keep shouting, he could keep running. His mind had receded into itself. Wolfen no longer questioned the wisdom in shouting and drawing more to him. Running was second nature and as long as he kept running he would survive. He began to head into the suburbs where he would stop running.
Wolfen had been running for over seven hours. In his delusion, he realized he’d been running all of his life. He kept others at a distance and when things got too serious, he split away. Those that tried to hold on were quickly dissolved of with an acidic conversation. He had been fleeing from everything. Friends, family, boyfriends, he was too fast for them all. Maybe it was time he accepted his fate. Just as he resigned himself to that, he came across the tool shed.
He broke into a sprint from his shambling jog and entered the tool shed, slamming the door behind him. He was ready to stop running and face his problems. His hatchet wouldn’t be sufficient for his troubles, he needed something a little more heavy duty. As he searched for that thing, the wolfens continued to pound on the door. The hinges splintered from the door frame, but didn’t give way just yet. He found his salvation and quickly worked to weaponizing it. When he was ready; he kicked open the door, knocking wolfens back and providing him the little amount of time he needed to go onto the offensive after hours of retreating.
The wolfens regarded the lawnmower that Wolfen had strapped to his chest with dull eyes. He could use the mower as a blender to run through them and reduce them to puree in the process. The wolfens didn’t care, the meat underneath was much more interesting to them. With a deep breath, Wolfen shouted, “This is about to get bloodier than a third-world election!” He pulled the cord on the lawnmower body armor he had created, only to hear it sputter and fail to start. No gas. No chance. Wolfen turned to run, but they were on him before that. The last thing he saw was a necklace of beads, feathers, and gnashing teeth.
The last of the zombies had passed minutes ago and after what seemed like an hour, we were safe enough to leave our hiding-
[“Wait, wait! How do you know all that stuff if he died?”
“Okay, so a little bit I may have embellished just a tiny bit-”
“Tiny bit?! You’re so full of shit you should have an port-o-pottie named after-”
“Shut up man! Keep going. And maybe just a round of whiskey”]
Body snatcher sighed, “Close call.”
Vampire said, “This isn’t good. We gotta get out of here before he returns or the horde comes a calling.”
I said, “Back to the hideout?”
He agreed, “I could use a rest and something to eat.”
The prospect of food made me ready to go. My skipped breakfast had come back to haunt me at the mention of food. My growling stomach would probably call a horde down on our heads with my luck. I thought about the coincidence of that, realizing that it wasn’t irony and shouldn’t be confused as such as we walked.
Vampire said, “Definitely could use a bath with a bucket.”
Body snatcher said, “Wasn’t going to mention it, but both of you could use a little washing.”
I said, “Settled then. Let’s get back to the apartment.”
We began to head back to the apartment, none of us were aware of what we would find waiting for us there.
We only spotted a few stragglers who were easily dealt with as we returned to the apartment.
Body snatcher voiced his concern, “Where is everybody? I’ve got a shit-ton of puns and now it’s like a lecture on quantum morality. Dead.”
“There’s no such thing as quantum morality.”
“That’s why it’s poignant because there’s nothing here like it doesn’t exist.”
Vampire said, “Does raise a few questions, maybe we’re winning?”
I asked, “Why haven’t we seen more revelers then? If the survivors were banding together and taking back the city, I’d expect a lot more celebration.”
Body snatcher said, “The body snatchers got to be somewhere. In the very least their corpses.”
I said, “I don’t like this one bit.”
Vampire said with something in my voice that frightened me a little, hope, “Maybe they swarmed the barricade. Two birds one stone. Maybe we can just waltz right out of here. Vampires annihilated and soldiers obliterated.”
Body snatcher countered, “We would have heard gunfire in the least and if the barricade were lost. We’d be breathing napalm right now. They’d firebomb us so fast you wouldn’t even have time to say, ‘OhMyGodItBurns!’ Something else has happened. I don’t know what, but I know that I don’t like it one bit.”
Vampire said, “We can’t narrow anything out just yet. But the lack of celebration and public drunkenness seems to suggest the survivors aren’t winning.”
The conversation continued on for a bit without any real progress before I said, “I have a feeling we’re not going to find them until we find them. We can talk all day, but I’d like to get to the apartment, wash up, and eat something unhealthy.”
We agreed and continued walking. We walked down the empty street, devoid of zombies, corpses, and survivors. We would later find out where the zombies went. The zombies had found God. Or rather, God had found the zombies.
As we neared the apartment, we came across a zombie. Or what remained of a zombie. It had been brutally battered and beaten until you could barely tell if it was male or female.
Vampire said, “Looks like we got a group around these parts. Beat the thing bloody with what looks like a knife, a pipe, and a shovel. It’s all cut, pummeled, and it looks like the shovel guy tried to cut off its leg with the shovel edge.”
I said, “Looks like we got another group like us running around. Maybe we’ll run into them one of these days.”
We were about to become more acquainted with them in a matter of minutes.
We stood up from the zombie’s beaten frame and approached the alleyway where our entrance was hidden.
Body snatcher said, “I call the bed this time around. The roof really was uncomfortable. I’m going to need a good night’s sleep to be in peak-fighting condition.”
“I’m surprised you got any sleep with all that slaying and sexing you were doing.”
He replied, “Being a badass really tires you out.”
Vampire said, “That’s not right.”
Body snatcher said, “What are you talking about?! I am a badass!”
She responded, “Not that. That.”
She pointed and we soon found something was very amiss. The ladder that we pulled up before we left was now down.
Chapter Nine: Interlopers
Body snatcher readied his axe and said, “Could be an ambush. We gotta be careful and sneak in like the shadows-”
Vampire shouted, “Hello??? Anyone there?! We’re coming up!”
He just about pinched a fit, “The hell was that?!”
“Common sense. If there packing, we could get shot surprising them. Best to make our presence known and use caution. Hell, I might have just saved us a stand-off.”
“I was looking forward to a John Woo stand-off.”
While they were talking, I didn’t hear a sound. “I think they aren’t here anymore.”
Body snatcher advised, “We go in with our best weapons and watch out for each other.”
Vampire included, “No sudden movements and let’s try not to instigate anything.”
I nodded and started up the ladder. What we would find up there was almost worse than having a loaded gun pointed at your face. I surveyed the empty, ravaged, and wrecked apartment. Cupboard doors torn off their hinges, the refrigerator was dented, dinged, and the door hung off to the side. The table, chairs, and television had been flipped over, knocked to the ground and broken. The apartment was ravaged, but we would find the worst atrocity in the bathroom.
As we surveyed the damage, Body snatcher said, “I’m so glad we decided to treat with the people first instead of going in guns blazing.”
I said, “They’re long gone. Probably were just looking for food or something; they tore the place up, but didn’t find much. We weren’t really stockpiling anything so I guess there’s that. They’re probably looting another place right about now.”
Vampire said, “That’s shitty, at least I can still take that bath-”
She shrieked loud enough to wake the dead when she entered the bathroom. We came running, expecting a horrendous affront to God and we were not disappointed by what we saw.
In the bathtub, where Body snatcher had saved emergency supply water, we found three floating pieces of shit.
“They shit in the tub!” “But the toilet is right there!”
“I wanted a bath. Guess I’ll just have to smell terrible for the rest of the night.”
I said, “It’s decided. We can’t stay here.”
Vampire asked, “They’re gone. There’s no threat.”
“They could come back and this is not the work of sane and rational people. We do not want to meet these people. They shit in the tub just because they could. I do not want to know what they might do to a group of survivors.”
Body snatcher said, “All of them shit in the tub?”
I responded, “More than just one, those shits came from different people. They’re different shades and looks like this one ate a lot more peanuts-”
“What is this shit CSI? Why are you analyzing this?”
“Point is, these people have loose screws. They’ve banded together and there tore our place up for shits and giggles. We need to find another place for the night. We do not want to run into these people.”
“Yeah, that would be pretty shitty.”
“I can’t control it. When a pun presents itself, I just gotta use it.”
Vampire said, “We can’t risk them coming back. We got to take what we can salvage and find a new place.
We searched through our apartment, stripping and salvaging what we could, but after the raiders there was little to take. Especially after knowing their tendencies, if they were willing to shit in a tub full of water what was next??? Fucking a bag of chips?
Body snatcher said, “We best hit the dusty trail, the sun is about to set-”
“The vampires come out in packs when the sun goes down.”
“No; they “Thriller” shuffle out of their graves while Vincent Price narrates their description.”
“No, we get tired and they come for us in our sleep and replicate us.”
I asked about our next plans, “Any ideas about where we can lay low?”
Body snatcher said, “Just a ground rule, anywhere near a graveyard is out of the question.”
I responded, “Yeah, graveyards are only good for one thing; naked dance parties.”
“What? Can’t I cite a zombie movie?”
“I didn’t think you’d want to draw attention to THAT zombie movie. With what it did to the genre itself and all.”
“Made it campy as shit.”
Vampire added, “How about excluding places too close to the city. I think all the raiders are going to congregate here now.”
I posited, “Let’s also cross off areas that are likely to be targets for zombies or raiders.”
Body snatcher concluded, “So graveyards, apartments in the city, as well as hospitals and clinics, gun shops, grocery stores, banks, hardware places, and strip joints. Money in the registers and the creepy allure of body snatched strippers are all off the list. Looks like we may be being a little too preferential here.”
I added, “We also don’t have a whole lot of time to check a lot of places out.”
Vampire said, “I think, I may know a place for us.”
Later, as we walked towards the suburbs; Body snatcher piped up, “Do you really think a house is a good idea?”
Vampire responded, “Most scavengers are probably in the city after riffling through the suburbs for nest eggs. All we have to do is find a house that hasn’t been broken into and currently isn’t occupied and set up shop. It shouldn’t be too difficult.”
Whatever japing god that was listening to that conversation, then leaned over and flipped the ‘fuck you’ switch.
The sky flashed and roared with an indignant crack of thunder as lightning flickered off in the distance. A quick look at the sky revealed that this was not going to be a passing storm or a cloudburst. The clouds were heavy, dark, and lightning flashed across it in the distance. This was going to be a ‘pour all night and freeze the foolish’ kind of storm. We needed to find shelter now or we would get caught in the storm.
Vampire snapped, “Let’s pick it up!”
She started running and we were forced to follow behind her.
She turned down streets and took lefts and rights at intersections as if an unknown force was pulling her. The occasional zombie was passed over in an attempt to avoid the coming rain. The streets were relatively empty with the exception of a few zombies lazing about, waiting for something. As we ran, the clouds roared and rumbled behind us.
As I was about to ask about our destination, Vampire shouted, “We’re here!”
As soon as she ran up onto the lawn, the skies opened up and began to weep.
Body snatcher ran up to the door while I scanned the windows for light or faces inside.
He gripped the knob and turned before shouting through the downpour, “Shit, locked!”
I returned, “Break down the door!”
He raised his axe, ready to put on his best Jack Nicalson impression.
Vampire cried out, “Don’t!”
She ran around the house and off into the backyard. We followed, wondering if she had spotted an open window or an open backdoor.
Vampire avoided the patio and went straight for an old rusted swing-set that looked like it hadn’t been used or at least maintained for fifteen years. She dropped down to her knees in the mud and felt around under the seat. Before we could ask what she was doing, she tore a key out from under the swing-set that had been taped under the seat. She turned back to the house with the key, but something stopped her dead in her tracks, in the freezing rain.
A flash of lightning revealed to us what she had seen. I caught a glimpse of an arm and feet protruding from the soil. They belonged to two people. It had looked like the corpses were buried in loose soil, that the rain had slowly been washing away. The rain and possibly carrion or feral animals had dug up and revealed their grave. Vampire was paralyzed by the sudden appearance of the corpses.
Body snatcher broke her out of her shock, “Come on! I’m soaked to the bone.”
She recovered quickly and within seconds we were inside.
The stillness of the house amplified the creepiness of the impromptu grave in the backyard and the dark and story night feel of the environment.
Body snatcher said, “All right, we do a clean and thorough sweep. Zombie, you’ll take the main floor. Vampire, you get the second floor. I will take the spooky basement-”
Vampire said, “There’s no basement.”
“How do you-”
She responded, “Almost all the houses here lack a basement, high probability that this one won’t either.”
Something was going on, but for now we had a job to do. Securing the house.
Vampire said, “Body snatcher, you take the perimeter and the garage. Make sure all the windows are closed and the doors are shut and locked. Zombie is going to check the main floor, look into every closet, bathroom, and pantry. I’m going to clear the upstairs. We aren’t just looking for the undead-”
“We are also checking to make sure there aren’t any signs of squatters. Give a shout if you see something or something sees you.”
We split apart to clear the house.
I started in the kitchen. I had drawn my hammer just in case as I tried to walk as quietly as possible. I opened the pantry, revealing food. This place hadn’t been raided yet. Closets revealed clothes and for a quick, foolish moment; a pair of boots that seemed like a person hiding behind a row of coats. The bathroom was empty as well and there was water in the toilet tank, enough for probably one flush. As I left the bathroom, I ran into Body snatcher in the foyer.
He said, “We’re clear on my end.”
Vampire said, “Just one second. Yup, we’re all clear. So what do you guys think about this house?”
Body snatcher said, “There’s no pool or big-screen T.V.”
Vampire said, “There’s no power in the residential district, so a big-screen doesn’t mean too much right now.”
“I don’t know if a house is easily defendable.”
I said, “We could nail some planks over the doors and windows and it’s practically a set piece from Night of the Living Dead.”
She said, “We don’t have much choice at the moment with the rain as it is. We should probably crash here for the night before thinking of an area more suitable.”
With the house in the vulnerable position that it was, we decided that we had to sleep in shifts for protection. By doing this we could also alternate the two beds in the upstairs. Vampire drew first shift. Body snatcher seized the opportunity, “I call master bedroom! Dibs!” Before I could react, he was upstairs and looking for the room. He asked Vampire to wake him up in three hours and he would take second shift. I went upstairs, but gave one last look as Vampire prepared for the first shift. She sank into a chair in the living room facing both exits with a sigh.
Body snatcher was waiting in the hallway for me.
He said, “Wanna trade?”
“Why the sudden change of heart?”
“Out of the milk a human kindness-”
A glower revealed the truth, “Mostly the creepiness factor.”
He clarified, “Look at the floor.”
I looked down at the bloodstain that dragged from the master bedroom out into the hallway.
Body snatcher said, “Someone or something disposing of their dead.”
I walked into the master bedroom and saw that the trail led into the bathroom.
I turned around and said, “Best of luck with the creepy bedroom. I’ll be enjoying my room more knowing that you’ll be sleepless.”
“Sleep tight asshole.”
I went into what was once a girl’s room or the room of a boy with a very odd fascination with “My Little Pony.” The ponies juxtaposed with a Depeche Mode poster set off a certainly odd vibe that begged to be investigated into. I looked around the room for a second. I wanted to get a feel for the state of mind of the previous occupant before I could-
[“You were probably raiding her underwear drawer, pervert!”
“No! I slept more comfortably when I at least knew a little about the owner; it is a coping method to a rough-and-tumble life!”
What I found in that room would only leave more questions than answers.
All the figurines and posters of bands were left up. I looked around for a few minutes wondering what was so odd about the room before I realized what was missing. There were no pictures. They had all been taken or hidden. I checked in the closet, but found nothing. Without much luck on learning more about the identity of the person who slept here, I resolved to go to bed. I lay in the bed, listening to the rain. I thought about our escape plan. Could we survive? Could we escape? Could I really go through with it without- Legion slipped in, their voices alternating and undulating like the rain itself.
Legion spoke, “You can join us. Join our amalgamation, have your pain and loneliness swallowed up like tears in a rainstorm. Would you like that? If so, just go outside. We will try to make it as painless as possible, but nothing can be gained without a little pain.”
“I don’t want this.”
“Everybody wants something, but the inevitability of time usually robs us of that. We are offering you something that will last forever. We are giving you the choice of expediency or an excruciatingly slow transformation. Ruminate on that for a bit.”
I fell asleep with the sound of the rain swallowing the recitation of my foolish ‘truths.’
I woke to someone shaking my shoulder.
Vampire whispered, “Shh, it’s okay, there are no problems. I just want the bed.”
I mumbled, “The master bedroom gave you the heeby-jeebies too?”
She responded, “Yeah. So will you do it?”
“Then you leave me little choice.”
The covers lifted as she slid in with me.
I said, “This could be nice. I call being the big spoo-”
Her foot pressed against my side as she pushed me out of bed.
I grunted, “Okay! I take the hint. I’ll go sleep in the big comfy bed.”
I left the room and passed out on the king size mattress.
Body snatcher woke me up for my shift with a soft kick and gentle words, “So I beg for a change of room and I get cold shouldered, she makes pouty lips and puts on a ‘pretty please’ and you forfeit the only non-haunted bed in the place?”
I mumbled, “So it goes.”
I pulled my hammer out from under my pillow, got out of the bed, and went downstairs to assume my watch. The rain was still pounding the roof. The world outside was a moody mess and every lightning strike revealed a slowly rising puddle that was engulfing the backyard. For the next few hours I thought things through and came to the conclusion.
The missing photos, the desire to sleep in a specific bed, knowledge of the house beforehand. I went into the garage and found a shovel and the next closest thing that could be used to dig, a trowel. With the sun up and the rain gone, most of the threat was gone. I left the shovel and trowel in the kitchen and went up to the room. The bed was empty. I found her sitting on the edge of the bathtub. The blood streak started there and led out through the master bedroom and into the hall. Her gaze was focused on the bathtub, but it looked like it was a hundred miles away.
I broke the silence, “This is your house and those are your parents-”
Vampire interrupted, her voice hollow and drained, “It was a few days after it all started. They did it while I slept. They were such a happily married couple, it would figure that they’d chose to go together as well. They did it in the bathtub. Cleanest place to clean-up after all. His hands must have been shaking so badly, Looked like he zig-zagged a lightning bolt into her wrist. They had filled the tub before hand, leaving a red pool when I found them. They didn’t leave a note and none of their actions the day before revealed their motive.”
Vampire ran her hand across the lip of the tub, remembering, “I couldn’t leave them like that. I had to dress them of course. Must have spent two hours looking through their wardrobe for the right clothes to bury them. I dragged them out into the hallway into a tarp and then into the backyard for a burial.”
She paused for a moment longer than a standard blink before cracking out, “What next? How can I leave them out there like that?”
I sat down next to her and replied, “We don’t.”
The burial went relatively quickly with the soil having been loosened by the torrential rain we had last night. Vampire moved the bodies out, hesitant to let me touch them. This was something she should be doing on her own, but it was something I could not let her do alone.
Once the hole was a few feet deep she said, “I can do the rest.”
I stood by the side and watched her drag the bodies in and begin to shovel dirt on them.
I asked as she worked, “Isn’t there anything you want to say?”
Vampire shoveled more earth over her parents. There was a moment where I thought she wasn’t going to answer me.
After a few more shovel-loads she confided, “I have nothing left to say that I couldn’t have said the first time. I did this silently the first time, all words feeling and falling short. This seems to be no different.”
I let her finish before we went in.
Once inside we were greeted by Body snatcher, “You’re both up early this morning.”
Vampire covered, “Checking the perimeter.”
I continued, “We’re all clear; now we need to decide if this will be a good place to lay low.”
Vampire said, “I think this is as good as we’re going to get.”
Body snatcher argued, “What’re you talking about this place is a death trap?!”
“We got no protection against a raid.”
I answered, “They’re most likely to be in the city now.”
“And how do we stop a horde? They’re gonna steam-roll us in a place like this.”
Vampire said, “Where then?”
Body snatcher replied, “A place like the apartments where we can barricade the entrances and stairwells with furniture.”
She countered, “Those places are going to be crowded and overrun with raiders by now. Do you mind rooming with the kind of people we found in our old hiding place? You want to see what they’ll shit in next?”
Body snatcher said, “There is no way to isolate us from the body snatchers here!”
The argument would continue on endlessly without my intervention. I interrupted, “Not necessarily.”
After hearing the game plan, Body snatcher concurred, “I’m in!”
Vampire said hesitantly, “Only because you get to axe someone’s property.”
“I know this is your house, but we gotta do this.”
After reading the shock on our faces he said, “I’m not blind. Knowledge of the hidden key, a relative comfortable feeling of rooting through what could be a stranger’s property, and of course the funeral you guys had out back. You could have let me know before.”
A silence pervaded the room before he continued, “Okay it’s time to do a little home improvement!”
Body snatcher brought his axe down on the stairs as he hummed a few bars from “Stairway to Heaven.” He clearly wanted to make a pun out of it, but seemed to have problems working it into the conversation. A few more wellplaced strikes obliterated a step and brought us closer to protection. The five-step stairway would soon be broken down, preventing the zombies from walking up and attacking us in our sleep.
We had successfully cordoned off the second floor when Vampire asked, “How are we going to get up?”
A few minutes later, we had fashioned a rope out of sheets so we could easily climb the six-foot gap.
As we rested, Body snatcher asked, “So what are we going to be chopping up next? Please say it’s a bathroom door so I can have Vampire on the other side screaming while I shout, “Here’s Johnny!’ Come on! That would be so cool!”
“Not going to happen. Unless Zombie agrees to be the Torrence boy.”
I said, “That’s out of the question. There’s not even a boiler in this house.”
Vampire replied, “Then how about we begin looking for that torch so we can get out of here.”
We had a quick breakfast, consisting of dried fruit and whatever we could scrounge from the pantry that looked good. We then raided the pantry for food to take with us. We finally decided on a few bottles of water and a generic store-brand of cereal depicting a tiger named Tommy that insisted that his product was 'GooOOood!'
Before we could leave, Vampire asked the essential question, “Where are we going to find a torch?”
Body snatcher said, “I suggest we kick up the awesome-ness and raid a firework factory and make an explosive to destroy that blockage.”
Vampire interjected, “I have a feeling as a kid you’ve had to have at least two of your fingers re-attached after blowing them off trying something exactly like this.”
“No, but I did make multiple trips across state lines to spend my allowance on dangerous Chinese fireworks-”
“So our nearest firework factory is outside of town, how are we going to make a bomb to blow out the grating?”
I spoke up, “We’re not.”
Body snatcher looked dejected as I explained, “We need to find a torch. Using a torch to cut the bars will be quieter-”
“Didn’t we already discuss how our inexperience with an acetylene torch could turn us into burning man?”
“I gotta agree, let’s go with blowing the shit up.”
I said, “With what? A home-made explosive?”
“Yeah, we just pour some gas into a bottle, light it, and huck it at the grate.”
Vampire said, “Never mind, I thought Body snatcher know how to make a real bomb. It’s decided then, torch?”
I said, “I have an idea of where we can find one too.”
Body snatcher asked, “And gas to power it? Where do we find that?”
Vampire said, “Hopefully they’ll have some fuel at the auto-repair shop.”
"How’d you know?”
“It’s the only place we’d likely find a torch.”
Body snatcher piped up, “To the chop shop!”
I already saw him re-appropriating the torch to use as a flamethrower while making incendiary puns. This was not going to go well.
We left the house and Vampire locked the door.
She said, “I got the key, so don’t let me become lunch or you’ll be locked out. Yet another incentive to not letting me become a creature of the night.”
Body snatcher said, “I could always axe the door down. The key doesn’t really matter much now that the house is safer against attacks.”
“You are so cold.”
I said, “If you get the feeling that you’re going to die anytime soon, be a dear and toss one of us the keys before-hand.”
She gave us both the finger as we headed towards the city.
We found the auto-shop near a car lot. Most of the cars had their windows smashed up or were beaten beyond repair.
Body snatcher stopped to admire the rioter’s handy-work and said, “Well ain’t that peachy. Looks like we aren’t going to drive out of here in class in a BMW.”
I responded, “Don’t know if we’d be let through the barricade just because we are driving a fancy car.”
“Even the soldiers got to respect style and craftsmanship.”
We started to head into the chop shop when Vampire drew our attention to something in the car lot.
Vampire said, “Something’s not right.”
“Yeah, destruction of a work of art!”
She continued, “No, look at the tires.”
I stooped down to the Lexus and noted that all four tires had been slashed.
Body snatcher said, “Those douches!”
She continued, “And look at all the other cars.” I checked all the other cars and saw the same markings of vandalism. No tire was left un-slashed
He said, “So there’s someone out there that had a grudge against chick magnets. I better watch my back.”
I got Vampire’s suggestion and said, “No, someone doesn’t want us to leave.”
Vampire said, “Looks like the army has been busy.”
I asked, “You think that there are soldiers here restricting our methods of escaping?”
“I think they might be doing more than that. First they cut off our routes of escape and then they-”
“Isolate and eliminate. Holy shit that is not good!”
I pressed on, “We don’t know anything for sure-”
“Until we get a soldier’s welcome that is. Shit, now I got to fight aliens and the guv’ment?”
Vampire tried to shrug nonchalantly and said, “Nothing we can do, but hurry up and try to escape before we are exterminated.”
With that we entered the chop shop.
Chapter Ten: Mummy and the Chop Shop
The main lobby had been ransacked and ravished. A cash register had been smashed on the floor and coins littered the cheap rug that lined the room. Magazines had been rummaged through and pages torn out. The couch had been torn to shreds and the cushions were upended. The walls had taken a beating with a blunt object and someone had spray painted in black on them “Fire me? Who’s laughing now?!”
Body snatcher mused, “Such wonton destruction, damn it, why couldn’t we have gotten here first to have had a go at this place?!”
“Count your blessings, at least no one has shit in the coffee maker.”
Vampire stated, “Ex-employee probably.”
Body snatcher said, “Doesn’t matter as long as he left the work tools locked up or at least left the acetylene torch alone.”
“It could have been a girl that did all this.”
“Working at a car shop?”
“Don’t be misogynistic. This place was probably equal rights employers.”
He countered, “I can see a girl doing this to an ex-boyfriend’s car, but the auto repair shop might be taking the scenario a little too far. Think the torch is still here?”
“Won’t know until we check.”
With that we walked into the repair bay where we found him sitting on a tool cabinet, oblivious to the world. He was wearing a hospital gown and in his hand he held a super soaker.
We ducked back out of sight before he could see us.
Vampire said, “What do we make of this?”
Body snatcher said, “Clearly psychopathic.”
I countered, “We don’t know that, if he’s been here for a while he probably knows where the torch is.”
“He’s wearing a hospital gown, clearly missing a few screws.”
She said, “Maybe he’s disoriented and trying to make sense of everything. Christ, look at him, he’s holding a super soaker for God’s sake!”
I said, “Let’s just keep our distance and ask. What’s the worst the could happen?”
He said, “Want that inscribed on your grave?”
We stepped back into the auto bay and I called out as calmly as I could, “Hi, are you ok?”
He jumped at the sound and almost fell off his tool cabinet that he was perched on. He turned to us and his face twitched.
His fingers tightened around the grip of the super soaker.
“Do you need help?”
His response was physical. His fingers shot to the grip and he started pumping the super soaker raucously.
He growled, “Why won’t you just leave me alone!”
I spoke carefully, “I don’t know what’s going on, but we are not who you think-”
“I’m about to go all Abbot and Costello on your asses!”
Body snatcher commented, “I’m gonna recommend we run.”
“I whole-heartedly second that.”
“Wait, I think he’s got to say something important.”
The broken growled, “Goddamn mummies!”
He raised the super soaker and it was then we noticed he had taped a metallic object to the nozzle. A flick brought forth a small flame. I connected the pieces in time to shout, “Run,” just before the room became an inferno.
The broken man pumped the super soaked and flames lanced out of the nozzle. He had filled the reservoir with gasoline and made a do-it-yourself flamethrower by taping a lighter to the barrel.
[“Try this at home kids!”]
We managed to throw ourselves over a car and take cover behind the body before he swept the car and the inferno consumed the paint job. I looked at both Body snatcher and Vampire and concluded that my sudden exposure would probably leave me looking pink as well.
I concluded, “Okay let’s get the fuck out of here.”
The broken sprayed the car with flames. Through the body, I could feel the metal heating and the paint bubbling. He wasn’t letting up. Out of the corner of my eyes, I saw Body snatcher fumbling with something in the back of his pants.
My hand shot out and arrested his movements before he could draw the handgun out of his pants.
I said, “We don’t kill the living.”
Those words have since come back to haunt me, time and time again.
The hissing sound stopped for a second and I thought for a second that onslaught had stopped. The thud as he jumped onto the hood of the car and aimed the super soaker down at us proved me wrong. What seemed like minutes passed as he eyed us and kept the super soaker trained on us.
He finally growled, “Did the pharaoh send you?”
In the stupefied silence that followed, Vampire calmly fished the house keys out of her pocket and dropped them on my lap. We were so fucked.
The broken snapped, “Don’t think your disguises work on me! Burn in hell mummies.”
He squeezed the trigger on the super soaker and a flame drizzled out. The weak stream dissipated a few inches out of the nozzle. No pressure.
I snapped, “Go!”
We ran as the man in the hospital gown started to frantically pump up the pressure. We slammed the door to the auto bay just before he sprayed the glass door. We were gone and he was left to his devices, which turned out to seal his own fate. Here’s what happened to Mummy.
Mummy woke up in a hospital bed in the operating room. He had been sent there to have his appendix removed. The surgery should have gone without complication, but his complication had arisen from an aggressive reaction to the sedating drug Versed. This required him to be strapped down to the operating table while they waited for the drug to sedate the violent man. Since then the doctors had been evacuated and most were killed in the onslaught of undead that had besieged the hospital. Mummy had been confined to this bed for twenty-four hours.
Mummy worried the straps for the twentieth time, but like the other nineteen times, he found the resistance too great. This time his knuckle brushed against a metallic tray of sorts. His fingers worked out to the trey and the tips scrapped against something metallic and cold, a scalpel! He could cut the straps! He breathed a sigh of relief. His sigh was returned with a moan. He set to work cutting himself free as the banging increased on the glass. The strap snapped just as the glass broke. He had one arm freed and whatever was after him was in the room.
It stumbled towards the operating table. The burnt and bandaged face leaned down with its jaws snapped wide open and wanting. Mummy caught the man in the eye with a scalpel. It groaned as he pushed the scalpel deeper into the orbit while it snapped and gnawed at the air. He broke past the ocular orbit and the bandaged man went limp. He withdrew the knife, now sticky with vitreous fluid and cut the rest of his straps. With that, he was free to explore this brave new mummy-cursed world. He only had to fight his way through the burn ward first.
That had been a few weeks ago. He had since holed up in an old auto shop. From what he read in old magazines, an Egyptian exhibit had come to a nearby town. Mummy reasoned that someone had disturbed one of the exhibits and unleashed the Pharaoh’s curse and turned the world into mummies. In order to set things right, the Pharaoh needed to be dispatched. His hand tightened on the super soaker he had re-appropriated into a flame-thrower. It was hard to put out a fire once it had been set on dead, dried, and bandaged flesh. Those cursed the Pharaoh had sent at him were almost believable, but Mummy would not be fooled. He would never be fooled again.
Mummy returned to his seat. He still had half a canister of gasoline and no need to siphon more from a car. He didn’t want to leave the chop shop anyway. There was no telling when the Pharaoh might bring about his plagues on the world. As he waited, something caught his attention. Something appeared to be moving behind the ashy glass of the lobby window. Another one of the Pharaoh’s tricks? He hefted his super soaker and pumped up the pressure. Mummy would not be caught again unprepared when he needed his weapon most. He approached the glass. The flames had coated it in ash and he couldn’t see into it.
Mummy approached cautiously. Slowly he peered into the glass darkly. In the room, he could see no signs of a servant of the Pharaohs.
He spoke aloud to no one in particular, “I bet if this were a movie, something would jump out from behind the glass and give me a fright-”
The infected burn patient slammed into him from behind and sent them both through the glass. Shards cut and sliced into his throat. As the bandaged infected sank its teeth into his back, his finger depressed the trigger and swallowed them both in fire. He burned together with the mummy as he slowly bled to death.
“Fuck. That. Shit.” Body snatcher said in staccato as soon as we stopped to catch out breath.
I said, “I agree.”
Vampire said, “What about the torch? We should double back.”
“What part of ‘fuck that shit.’ was unclear to you?”
She returned, “We can’t escape without that torch.”
I reasoned, “If there were a torch there, he would have had it. Also if he had it, he would have used it on us and we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”
Vampire said, “Maybe we don’t need the torch.”
Body snatcher said, “Plan B coming into fruition!”
She continued, “If we can each spread out and make as much noise as possible to bring a horde down on us we can lure that horde right to the barricade. Bam! Vampires take out soldiers or the soldiers take out the vampires and we use the resulting confusion to slip through the blockade. Army is too busy to notice us and the Vamps are too excited about lunch to come after us.”
Body snatcher and I exchanged a glance before I said, “You really want out that badly that you’d risk getting the whole country infected?”
Vampire responded, “The army will step up the game and eradicate us all eventually if we don’t do something drastic. Who knows? This might help bring the quarantine to an end if they exterminate all the infected while we quietly make our get-away.”
Body snatcher said, “Too risky and likely to get us all shot or body snatched.”
She said, “Then getting that torch is our only hope of getting out of here without compromising the integrity of the blockade.”
Vampire turned back towards the auto shop and started walking.
She said, “Then we have to find out if there is a torch in that chop shop.”
She was really serious and her sincerity would get her killed.
I said as she walked, “Have you lost it? Mr. Mummy is still there and probably just as ornery.”
Vampire said, “Doesn’t matter, we have to get that torch.”
Body snatcher piped in, “He doesn’t seem the type to listen kindly to reason.”
She reached over and grabbed Body snatcher’s gun by the grip and withdrew it from his pants.
She retorted, “Then let’s not give him a chance.”
Body snatcher quipped, “I like this badass you, but killing someone isn’t easy, I kno-”
She continued, “He was so out of it the first time, we could probably shoot him point blank and then get the torch.”
Vampire was getting worse by the minute.
I walked faster to keep up and said, “We don’t kill the living.”
She countered, “You don’t kill. I however am a fan of surviving and in order to do that I have to escape. I don’t care who I have to kill in order to do that.”
I made a desperate gambit to keep her from returning there, getting herself killed or worse, becoming a monster.
And not an undead one either.
I stepped in front of her and said, “Saying that you’re willing to kill someone and doing it is something completely different. If you want to kill him than you are going to have to go through-”
Without a moment’s hesitation, she raised the gun to my chest and pulled the trigger.
“Jesus!” “Safety first.”
The sound of the hammer striking the flint seemed to break something inside her. The blood drained out of her face and the gun fell out of her hands. Body snatcher picked up the gun and put in down the front of his pants.
He explained, “If she wants to make another grab at it, I might as well get a little grope out of the deal.”
Vampire said, “We have to get- We have to leave. They’re coming. They’re coming. They’re-”
I wrapped my arms around her and said, “We’re going to get out of here. I am going to do everything in my power to get us out of here. We’ll find some way to get through that grating in the sewers. Everything is going to be alri-”
It spoke, interrupting my comforting.
Legion said in its ever-changing choir of voices, “Hate to interrupt this lovely moment, but I have some breaking news for you! I just got a nice group barricaded in a library. They thought their books could save them from us, but I was too much of a genius for them. Nerdlingers. They shoulda just watched the movies instead. Now I got all them brainiacs on my side surely we can get you. Make it easier on yourself and mash face with one of my legion. There are quite a few hotties in my horde if you look hard enough.”
I came to from my trance and continued, “We are going to be alright.”
Body snatcher muttered, “Is everyone coming undone except me?”
My grip tightened on Vampire as we waited for her to calm down. I decided then and there that we had to get out of here now or we were all going to crack.
Something was different here. Legion sounded odd. Its tone, the way it sounded was normal, but the way it talked was different. This didn’t sound like the omni-present, omniscient, hive mind that had spoken to me in the silence of night. It sounded like it was changing, evolving. Doesn’t sound like it.
Vampire slowly pulled away and said sheepishly, “I really lost it back there huh? I’m okay now. Sorry about the whole gun thing.”
I said, “Don’t worry about it, right now we need to focus on how to get through that grating. Once we’re free, you can make it up to me for almost shooting me in the chest. I expect at least an apology card.”
Body snatcher said, “Torch is out of the question. That is the only real auto shop we have here.”
Vampire said, “What if the military isn’t just wrecking cars? What if they strategically took out everything we could use to breach their defenses?”
Body snatcher said, “Then we are eff’ed in the A because that sewer grating is the only real undefended line in their blockade. Without a way to destroy it, we are back to square one.”
The hopelessness of our situation permeated the air like a miasma. If this didn’t change, we would start to crack even more under the pressure.
I said, trying to salvage the mood, “We can’t give up! We have to keep looking. It’s not like the answer is going to find us.”
The groan of a single zombie alerted us to its presence. It was dressed in army fatigues and had a bite-sized wound in its forearm. It was a soldier. On its belt was a single grenade. Maybe it was a single soldier who was separated from his patrol and soon fell prey to the multitude.
Body snatcher buried his axe into its brain and said, “After what feels like decades of searching!”
“That seemed a little Deus ex machina even to me.”
Body snatcher tossed the grenade in the air and caught it.
I asked, “Think it’s going to be enough?”
Vampire seemed ecstatic, “We’ll find out. Let’s go blow the shit outta that sewer and then get to freedom.”
Body snatcher and Vampire both seemed beyond the moon, but something was slowly eating away at me. We started heading for the sewers, but my feet seemed like they were lead. My heart beat out a rapid-fire cadence. I kept thinking of ways to delay our escape, which shocked even me. Realization dawned on me and I realized what I had to do. I stopped in the middle of the street.
Body snatcher turned to me and said, “Why with the long face, we’re almost tasting the sweet air of freedom."
[“It tastes like a KFC Double-down!”
My feet were frozen in place.
Vampire said, “I know something’s been on your mind for a while now, but we can deal with it once we’re out.”
I said after a deep breath, “I can’t go with you. I’m infected.”
The weight felt like it had been lifted from my shoulders and it looked like I had dropped a ton of bricks on Body snatcher and Vampire.
Body snatcher growled, “When-”
“I don’t know-”
“–were you going to tell us?!”
“I’m telling you now.”
“You’re telling us now that freedom is within our grasps. We are so close!”
“I can’t leave. I know what I will become. I know what I risk if I try to leave this barricade. I am become death, destroyer of worlds.”
Vampire asked, “How do you know you’re infected? I don’t see any bites and I haven’t seen you get any bodily fluids in a wound. Maybe you’re just cracking under the-”
“I know what is happening. I hear it. It talks.”
Vampire asked, “What do you mean?”
“It’s like it broadcasts words directly in my mind. Telling me to join it. Become part of its choir of never-ending, always changing voices.”
Body snatcher said, “Looks like we’re dealing with quite the poet. Real question is, what does it call its minions? Body snatchers right?”
“We call ourselves change. We are the much-needed stone thrown into the stagnant pool that you call mankind. You have become moribund and your cries for something magnificent have reached our ears. We have heard your supplication and we are the harbingers of something so amazing and so marvelous. Convert, we will not ask again this amicably. As for being poetical. Would a poet know how his girlfriend tasted and yes I mean that in so many ways.”
My mind snapped back to Vampire and Body snatcher looking at me with something akin to interest and something analogous to fear.
Body snatcher said, “What happened there? Was that thing talking to you. You zoned out looked like you were in another world, quick tell me everything it says. I want to know what that bastard is saying to you.”
“I’m a chronic masturbator whose whimsical fancies sometimes drift to thoughts of homosexual relations. Also I huff farts. Tell them that word for word.”
He pressed further, “Well what’d it say to you?”
“Uh,” I finally spoke, “So now you know why I can’t go any further. I could lose it any second and become one of those things. So you guys need to leave now.”
Body snatcher said, “Why leave now? Things just got so much more interesting! A boss battle just got unlocked! I’m not going anywhere until I put a bullet right into this hive mind. Let’s just say I got some revenge to deal out.”
I asked, “Are you serious? I could literally change and try to make lunch out of you!”
“Friends don’t leave friends behind. Anyway, how bad-ass would it be to take out the king of the body snatchers?”
I looked at Vampire and saw conflict in her eyes.
She said, “You know that I want to leave more than anything in the world. I was so willing to leave that I almost shot you.”
“You would have shot him if I didn’t leave the safety on!”
“I can’t risk spending another week here.”
I stepped forward and saw her shrink back slightly. I forgot I was infected and that realization was met with ambivalent thoughts.
I stood still and said, “I’m not asking you to stay. I want you to get out of here.”
Vampire asked. “Do you mean it?”
“Of course he does!”
She looked at us for a moment longer than a standard blink and said, “I’m going to leave then. But not until I know what we’re dealing with. What good would it do if Legion knew where we escaped and followed us. Every town we went would be quarantined. I want to know the extent of its power and who knows? If it’s like a vampire king than killing it might save all the infected that hadn’t died yet.”
I allowed myself a little hope. Maybe if we could kill it, I could be saved. We were going to destroy this thing and then we would escape. We had time. Little did I know, the government had already enacted their failsafe and the operation had already begun and our time until annihilation was ticking away.
Outside town, stood a small outpost of tents, trenches, and soldiers. The camp was fully equipped and stocked to serve as a reminder that no soldier is ever sent ill-equipped into a war. A briefing was going on.
The general listened to the berating voice before answering, “This looks bad right now, but the tide is about to turn.”
“For your sake, you better hope so.”
“For all of our sakes, I hope so. I called in omega team.”
“The legendary Omega team?”
“None other. They will neutralize the threat and we’ll be home within the week.” “And civilians?” “I said, ‘The threat will be neutralized.’”
Nothing else was said. Nothing needed to be said. Omega team was in the city and there was nothing to fear.
The captain of Omega team screamed a girlish scream as he fired blindly into the darkness. They had been patrolling an industrial street when a sound had attracted their attention. It was the sound of a barrel tipping inside a building.
The captain halted his four squad members and said, “Report, we are investigating a sound.”
The general responded, “Human or hostile?”
“Doesn’t matter. It’s not like there’s much difference at the moment.”
“I copy.” The captain waved his soldiers into what would become their tombs.
The soldiers entered the industrial district and investigated the noise. A barrel lay in the center of the assembly line.
Maclain picked up the barrel and struggled with it while shouting, “Ripley! Help it’s got me!”
He was always a joker, the captain had warned him it would always be the death of him. He was right. A pipe sailed through the air pin-cushioning Maclain to the barrel. He struggled to throw off the barrel in a macabre pantomime of his earlier joke before sinking to the ground.
The captain shouted, “Hostiles!”
It was then that the assembly line screamed to life.
The soldiers swept their gun while trying to locate the aggressor.
Ripley shouted, “Gotta be a breather! No infected could hurl a pipe and turn on the mechanics like-”
His words were cut off when the sound of groans alerted them that the dinner bell had been rung. The soldiers ran forward to bar the door and when they turned back to the search; they found Snipes who earned that nickname because of his proficiency with a sniper riffle and not the fact that he was African-American and happened to like shades, bleeding from a hole in his neck.
Captain Mcready growled, “Fucker is going to gain a few pounds in lead!”
Sean Collins said, “He’s gotta show his face soon enough and then he’s not going to have a face-”
The lights shut off all at once.
The Captain who was not phased shouted, “Night vision.”
The crew put on their goggles. Collins turned his on just in time to see Snipes bite him in the face. As he screamed Ripley turned and unloaded a clip into the both of them, effectively killing both.
Now only two left, Mcready said, “At my back! Bastard’s not going to surprise us.”
Back to back Mcready and Ripley waited.
Ripley said, “It’s human, it has to shit the bed sometime.”
Her statement was proven true as a man in a white lab coat stepped within range of Mcready’s night vision and was shot three times in the chest.
Mcready said, “You were right about that. Only human.”
As Ripley approached, the man lunged forward savagely biting the woman in the cheek.
Mcready unloaded a clip, but the bullets couldn’t penetrate Ripley’s armor. The white coat used Ripley as a shield as he approached the captain. The fiend got the captain as he reloaded. Every soldier has a bullet with his name on it. Omega team’s bullet happened to be teeth. The doctor in the white coat examined the three holes in his chest before bending down to the fallen captain to begin its feast.
Body snatcher said, “So if we’re going to hand this things ass, if it has an ass, to it; where do we start looking?”
Vampire said, “Graveyard? Vampires always have to sleep with the soil of their homeland beneath them. A cemetery is probably the best choice right?”
He responded, “Don’t think that’s applicable. Maybe the site where it crash-landed?”
I answered, “There weren’t any reports of a crash before all this started.”
“It could have landed.”
She said, “Did it drop any clues as to where it might be?”
“What like, I’m in an old abandoned steel mill. Hahaha, come find me. No.”
Vampire said, “It’s been talking to you for how long? It hasn’t mentioned any places or people.”
I said, “Just got a library full of nerdlingers! They attacked a library.”
“It said, ‘Nerdlingers?’ What is this thing, twelve years-old?”
I said, “Maybe it left something in the library to indicate where it is or what it has planned?”
“To the library!!! Never thought I’d say something like that with so much excitement.”
[“What can you say? You make learning fun by adding zombies and violence! Now use the Magna Carta to fend off those zombies.”]
We headed off to the library.
Body snatcher asked as we walked, “What if it’s a trap?”
Vampire said, “Then we run really fast.”
I said, “I think they just wanted me to know that the noose was tightening around my neck. They tell me these things to demonstrate how they’re growing.”
He said, “Seems like he’s over-compensating for something.”
As we neared the library, Vampire warned, “Let’s stay frosty in there. Keep your eyes peeled for ambushes or signs of where it might be.
Upon entering the library, the smell of death assaulted our senses. A side note: Death doesn’t smell as terrible as you think. It smells sickly sweet. Your body naturally reacts against the scent to keep you from the corpse thus preventing the transference of detrimental microbes. To say we weren’t listening to our senses when we entered would be like saying the ocean was a little damp.
Vampire said, “From the looks of it, twenty or so people were in here. Look at all the blood.”
The blood had seeped into the carpet and spattered the walls. They had tried to fight them off and in some instances they won. There were three or four dead in the lobby, but after that point they were overwhelmed.
Body snatcher said, “Some of them dragged themselves or were dragged away. They did everything in their power to-”
The zombie popped up from behind an overturned table and sprayed red fluid all over the floor. We jumped back, but it kept spewing on the floor. It tried to go over the table and fell face first onto the floor. Body snatcher pinned it to the floor with his foot on its back and teed-off with his ax like it was a golf club. The fluid bubbled out of its mouth for a few seconds even after it had been decapitated.
Vampire said, “Shit! I forgot they did that!”
Body snatcher said, “These people didn’t stand a chance.”
I pointed to a few people with bite marks that had also had their heads bashed in.
I said, “I don’t think this happened all at once. A few get infected and seek shelter here and the people react, not knowing the horde that they called down on them.”
Vampire asked, “See anything to clue you in? Or did it speak to you again?”
I answered, “Seems like a dead end. No voice, but I don’t think it would just chime in and say, ‘Admiring our work? We’re at the old abandoned lake resort.’ I think we just have to keep looking in places it might be.”
Body snatcher said, “I’ll concede and we can pop by the cemetery if not just to prove you guys wrong.”
We had hit a dead end, but we needed to continue onwards because time was ebbing. Unknown to us, there was another group who were also running out of options and time.
Chapter Eleven: Interlopers and Divine Intervention
The three had been looking for hours. At the start of all this, houses, apartments, and supermarkets had been ripe for the taking. A simple bash of the lock and they had free reign of the place. They avoided other survivors. It was a dog-eat-dog world and they were the size of pugs. The crazier survivors would viciously butcher them and if there were any others; they were sure as shit to ask how they’ve survived so far. They survived by robbing the dead and by taking advantage of the living. They raided and ravaged unprotected hiding spots.
The biggest survivor hefted the shovel on his shoulder and said, “Why don’t we just-”
The girl of the group brandished the knife and said, “The drop zone has been cleaned out of food for days now and we can’t risk finding another flock of those things.”
They had barely escaped last time and that was only achieved by locking themselves in the back of a truck. They had sweltered in that delivery truck for an entire day before the things lost interest and left them alone. She was the leader and she would not risk another close call like that again.
The teenager swung the pipe and said, “We just need to find a place to lay low for a couple of days and have fun like last time. We wrecked that last place real good, remember?”
Shovel nodded and his mind drifted back to the taste of water and cereal. This had been their second day without food and the hunger was beginning to take its toll. Little did they know that their salvation was waiting for them just down the street.
They found a man crumpled against a car all in black with a bible laid across his lap. They weren’t sure if he was dead until they reached to check his pockets and he awoke with a start.
They readied their weapons to bash him when he spoke, “God is trying these days brothers and sister.”
Pipe cracked, “The old man has lost his marbles."
The man in black responded, “Men of God rarely have all their marbles in the first place, but what I do have is charity for the lost sheep of this city.”
Knife leaned in and asked, “You got food father? Care to share?”
The father said, “That’s why I’m here. God gives the call and we don’t really have much choice in the matter.”
Shovel said, “Then maybe this is God’s work bringing us together?”
The father answered, “Why maybe it is! Come with me, I have a small group of survivors holed up in the church with a small ration of food. It’s not much, but it’ll probably last us until judgment day.”
Pipe and Knife exchanged a glance that communicated their concern about stealing from a church. The growling of their stomachs put an end to that conversation.
The Shepherd unlocked the doors to the church and said, “I have more of God’s work to do, but feel free to meet my flock and help yourself to food. Loaves and fishes my children.”
Shovel said, “God works in mysterious ways.”
Father answered, “That He does, son. Go on! The sounds of your stomaches are loud enough to wake up Lazarus!”
They went inside and didn’t notice the sound of a pipe sliding into the door handle, effectively barring them inside.
Without lights, the church was as dark as a cave.
Knife said, “God bless this bounty we are about to receive.”
Pipe said, “God has nothing to do with this.”
Shovel answered, “Let’s see how the baptismal fount looks. Defiling a church. Now that’s sure enough to get us a ticket to Hell. Bound to be funny though.”
The sound of stirring in the church alerted them to the presence of the rest of his flock. The three lost sheep stepped forward to greet their lost brothers and sisters. They just had enough time to scream as they got the chance to meet the congregation.
Vampire asked as we walked back towards the house, “So when it talks to you, can you talk back?”
“Have you asked why it is doing this?”
“They called themselves change-”
Body snatcher interjected, “Change for the worse.”
She said, “Try to open a dialogue with it. Maybe we can find out where its hideout is.”
I started, “Maybe it would just be better if-”
A figure stopped me dead in my tracks. A man in black, sitting on the hood of a car, casually reading a bible like this was a park.
Body snatcher whispered, “No weapons.”
Vampire nodded, “Let’s have a chat then. Maybe he knows a little about what is going on in the city.”
We approached the man and I asked, “Are you a man of God?”
The man responded, “I consider myself more of a Shepherd.”
Body snatcher spoke, “Well Shepherd, what are you doing here?”
“Reading and waiting.”
“Waiting for what?”
“The witnesses to the end of days and I think they have just arrived. And yea one shall bear a sign of the Lord! That cross is quite nice child. Shall we get started?”
I asked, “Start what?”
The Shepherd laughed and said, “Why, the seventh seal of course!”
[“Locusts?! He’s going to free locusts?”]
He leapt off the car and spun with his hands in the air.
He shouted, “The end is nigh and God has spoken to me to be the harbinger.”
He walked off at a brisk pace.
I said, “This is getting creepy.”
Vampire said, “We have to follow him! We must know what he’s planning!”
We gave chase and that chase ended two blocks later in front of a church.
The preacher stopped in front of the church that had a pipe slid in front of its doors and said, “God’s garden is full of weeds! People deceiving, drinking, and fornicating!”
“My God he’s talking about me!”
“God has called me to bring this world into the end days.”
The voice in my head spoke, “It is so dark.”
“You will serve to witness the breaking of the seventh seal!”
“But, oh, we see the light.”
The pieces clicked into place and terror swept through me.
I shouted, “The church is infested! Don’t let him open the doors!”
Body snatcher drew his handgun and shouted, “Stop! I will shoot you.”
The Shepherd said, “You cannot stop God’s plans!”
He turned towards the door and Body snatcher squeezed the trigger.
Body snatcher went to unlock the safety, but hit the release instead and ejected his clip. He fumbled for the clip.
The Shepherd proclaimed, “God is watching over me!”
I drew my gun and snapped, “Make one move and you’ll be meeting with Jesus a bit sooner than expected.”
The Shepherd looked at the gun and then me, “Little lost lamb, you do know what happens to your soul if you should do what you’re planning? Do you realize the weight of your actions? Look! Your hands are shaking. Your soul shudders to consider what you could do. Kill a man of God? Lord Almighty! There’s no coming back from that. Cain laid Abel low and look what happened to him. What do you think your punishment would be for killing a father?”
I said, “You’ve given me no choice.”
“God gives no choices my son. Only callings and this is mine.”
The Shepherd suddenly turned towards the door.
The round caught him in the side. It was like a twitch, swatting at a fly. He fell into the door and the door shivered as the sound of a choir of moans echoed within.
He pressed his hand to his stomach and said, “Jesus Christ! You shot me!”
“Oh God! I’m sorry.”
He stammered, “I think I’m okay- Mother Mary!”
His probing finger slid inches into his stomach wound.
The Shepherd groaned, “God give me strength.”
With that, he lunged towards the door.
I drilled another round into his back.
The Shepherd grabbed the pipe that barred the door.
The third bullet buried itself just below his shoulder right in the shoulder blade. He slumped against the door, but didn’t fall. The door pulsated and the hinges shuddered. I pulled the trigger again.
I was out of bullets. Body snatcher had just recovered his clip, but in his haste, tried to fit it in backwards.
The pipe echoed as it stuck the concrete lawn of the church. The doors were unbarred and hell was poised to break loose.
The Shepherd stepped back from his church with his arms wrapped around his stomach.
He beckoned, “Gah- Gah- God’s garden is full of weeds! Make the earth clean for the end of days.”
The doors burst outward and they flooded out onto the lawn. The first zombies out were freshly made. A girl still red slick with blood made a beeline right for the preacher. He stumbled backwards trying to ward her off with a cross around his neck, but found it ineffective. With his hands gone from the wound, I could see how much damage I had done.
It looked like something was slithering inside the Shepherd like one large snake. My three rounds had effectively disemboweled him and severely impaired his right shoulder. Finding his warding futile, the preacher took off at a stumbling, shambling sprint. The last I saw of him, he had his hands clutching at his stomach and a look of excruciating pain scratched into his face. Most zombies followed him, enticed by the blood, but a scant twenty of the multitude decide to shamble towards us.
Body snatcher groaned, “Fuck! Oh fuck! Run!”
We took off with the twenty shambling after us at a brisk pace.
Vampire shouted, “Where to?”
“To wherever they can’t follow us.”
She responded, “House is off limits. We’ll be stuck up there for days if they break down the door. We would starve before they left.”
We turned a corner to find a group of zombies gathering due to the commotion of gunfire. We turned to head in the other direction, but found just as many. We were trapped.
Body snatcher snapped, “Don’t think a hero’s sacrifice would save us now. Fuck.” He glanced at all three avenues and said, “Back towards the church! Least number and most spread out.”
We charged at them. They picked up their pace, intoxicated by the prospect of food. Body snatcher hopped on the hood of a car and cleared the zombies. I ran up the sidewalk and kicked a zombie out of my way before getting through. I heard Vampire scream and my blood curdled.
Vampire had tried to pass on the other side, but one had managed to grab her by her hair and hold on. She struggled, but its death grip was too tight. It pulled her back and grabbed at her. Its undead fingers curled around her shirt. The gunshot obliterated its eye socket and it fell slack.
Body snatcher lowered his gun and shouted, “You’re not going into the void just yet. Run!”
Vampire struggled free and we were past the horde, only to be looking into a crowd of zombies that had doubled back after their chase with the Shepherd.
They had us in a pincer attack.
Vampire said, “Inside the church! We can bar it from the inside. It’s our only chance now.”
Body snatcher shouted as we sprinted, “Sanctuary!”
We arrived before they could reach us or block off our escape. Body snatcher slammed the doors shut and we slid the deadbolts to lock them out. They pounded at the doors, but the church had used oaken, heavy doors that wouldn’t break under that pressure. We were safe for now from the congregation, but another group was about to fall victim to them.
The soldiers marched down the street. After the fall of Omega team, they had sent in a wave of more than a hundred soldiers. They would not be overwhelmed this time, they would not fail where their predecessors had. They were armed with three round burst assault riffles. They had Teflon bullet-proof armor strapped to their chest. The last war was a quagmire and one of the higher-ups had something to prove. That something was ‘we care about our soldiers.’ Bullet-resistant armor (Not bite-resistant.), state-of-the-art firearms, and fancy communication sets. They were equipped with everything except the most important thing, information. This wasn’t a small group of undead, this was a city. This wouldn’t be a trickle, but a typhoon.
The soldiers became aware of a low pained moan as a man rounded the corner. He looked like a thief clutching sausages to his stomach that would later prove to be his entrails. He screamed to the soldiers, “I was the first and I am the last! I AM!” He was cut to ribbons by gunfire before he could get any closer. The sounds of gunfire drew them, ushered them. The dam broke as twenty infected rushed to the noise.
A soldier said, “Hunting season.”
They took aim and fired. The twenty collapsed riddled with holes. The soldiers whooped and howled, but after the next wave they wouldn’t be.
They heard the rounds; they smelled the blood. They shambled forward. They came out of the buildings, the alleys, from under cars. The soldiers laughed at their gaunt hundred and began to reload and prepare for them to get into range. When they looked up again; they would not be laughing. The number of infected in the streets had increased and now their trickle was a torrent. They took aim and fired, but it only called out more. They watched in horror as the downed infected dragged themselves to their feet and shambled on. Every single one that fell, another five filled their space.
The lapping of waves. The futility of resisting time, pressing forward, eating away the sand. The soldiers had no chance. They fired rounds into the sea of undead. Waves crashed into the street, only to be reclaimed by more shuffling, shambling feet. Panic slowly overcoming them; they began to fire wildly into the horde. The undead was like a massive amalgamation of limbs, bodies, and rot. Grenades sent shrapnel and cut them to the ground where they dragged themselves on legs and torsos ripped into ribbons. A giant fusion of deceased consciousness with only one driving thought.
The soldiers were dead, they just didn’t realize it yet.
The voices echoed over their coms:
“There are just too many!”
“I unloaded a fucking clip into that thing. It’s still going.”
“Oh God! I shot the thing in the face and it’s still coming!”
Panic spread through the communication system like a fire.
“Crucified Christ! These things are invincible!”
“Sweet Jesus! I can’t-”
Screams ripped through the night as soldiers were swallowed up by the ocean of death. They continued firing blindly into the horde, but that only seemed to drive them forward.
One rookie had the first smart thing run through his head during this whole mission, “Later!”
He turned to flee only to be smashed into by something that was running dead sprint at him. All he saw was teeth.
The sea continued to pass over him and continued down the street. Now it was a typhoon. It hungered. Its source of food was gone in the city and now it had an inkling of an idea of where to find more.
A monotone, multi-voice whispered into their dead, uncomprehending ears, “We hunger, we starve, we exist.”
It guided their trajectory. They washed down the streets, all heading towards a singular destination; the barriers that kept city separated from the outside world. The barriers were strong, but nothing could resist the erosion of the sea for long.
Vampire panted after our frenzied run, “The crazy bastard nearly killed us!”
The gates strained and my hand trembled.
Body snatcher noticed the trembling and said, “Are you going to be okay?”
The gates broke.
My gun slipped out of my shaking hand and I wept heavy sobs that wracked my body. She got up and sat beside me. He got up and left.
She whispered, “I can’t begin to understand how you feel.”
Body snatcher returned from the sacristy with a decanter of wine.
He handed it to me and said, “Down it and we’ll talk.”
Communal wine isn’t exactly the best thing to use to get smashed, but it served to help calm my nerves.
Body snatcher said, “What you did, had to be done. The reason they followed him and not us was because he was wounded. You saved us.”
I said, “I killed him that’s what I did and nothing is going to change that.”
He picked up my gun and focused on the chamber as he slowly spun it through his fingers like he was trying to distract himself from something.
He said hollowly, “I killed her. I killed my girlfriend.”
“It was the first days of the infection. I was too gung-ho. I was green behind the ears. I dragged her with me with delusions of being some badass alien annihilating couple. She trusted too much, trusted me too much.” He spoke like it happened in another lifetime “They cornered us. I barely managed to beat one to death, but by that time they had her and it was too late. The only reason I got away was because they were too busy eating her. She screamed for help, but I ran. I killed her by turning my back.”
Silence pervaded the blood-stained church.
I finally said, “Why don’t you two leave? I’m dead on my feet. You can still escape and I can find a place to wait for my-”
The decanter slid out of my hands and smashed to the floor as they roared, “Your not allowed to join us now. We won’t allow you to become part of us. We will tear you apart! Peace by peace, limb from limb. We will start by chewing off your fingers, then your hand, moving onto your arm, torso and thusly.”
I snapped out loud, “Thusly isn’t a word!”
Leejun continued, “It doesn’t matter because you’ll be torn into a million peaces and then we’ll forget you ever existed. I bet you feel like a fag now. If I were you, I’d be running. But I’m not. Which explains why I don’t have a craving for man meat. 'cuz I’m not gay like you. I am the shizznite and you are retorted. And your face is made of gay. You remind me of those stupid- Shit!”'
Body snatcher whispered to Vampire, “It’s getting stronger, he’s losing himself for longer periods.”
“My point exactly! Why don’t you leave?”
Body snatcher returned, “I ran away once. I’m not going to do that again. I’m going to save you.”
Vampire turned away and when she turned back around, there were tears welling up in her eyes.
She said, “I can’t- It’s too much, too dangerous. Only a day! I can’t stay longer. Too much longer and it’ll be too late to get away.”
I took my gun back and tucked it into my pants. The dark realization swept through me like the horde that ravished the army.
I paused for a second before I spoke, “A day may be too long for me. I don’t think I have even that long. I don’t think I’m going to make it to see sunrise.”
Body snatcher’s grip tightened on his axe and he said, “Looks like we got a buzzer beater on our hands now. We kick this shit into over-drive and we ice this bag of douches before it’s too late. Then we escape as the army bombs this shit-hole of a town into glass.”
Vampire said with an unsure smile, “A day to wrap this up nice and tightly. I’m with you until the end.”
"She means your end that is."
The zombies had dispersed from the street at the commotion that had taken place a few blocks from the church
Vampire said, “Wonder where they all went?”
Body snatcher answered, “That gunfire we heard means they probably rushed the barricade and since we’re not breathing ashes right now and pieces of our own charred flesh means the army cut them down. The army wins yet again. Reminded me to enlist after we get out. I would like to be the big kid on the block for once.”
I pointed and said, “I don’t think that’s what happened.”
The soldier dragged himself down the street. His assault rifle dragged behind him. He was more skeleton than dead. They had torn piece after piece from him, exposing bones. His body armor was riddled with bites and scratches that tore into the reinforced fabric. Body snatcher walked up and decapitated him with three well-placed hacks to the neck. His helmet with the head inside hit the ground with a thunk. He picked up the assault rifle and ejected the clip.
He counted the bullets and said, “This day keeps getting better and better. We are so fucked.”
Vampire said, “What do you mean?”
Body snatcher explained, “If those guys got close enough to take down a soldier that means they really hit the barricade. That means the army is going to get antsy about containing this thing. They could decide to just glass the town and be done with it.”
I said, “That might not be the worst part. He changed in a matter of hours. The infection speed and transformation are picking up. The zombie virus is adapting to our physiology. The number of infected is going to explode exponentially.”
“Wrong! The aliens are adapting and adjusting to our earth’s environment.”
Vampire added, “Something that supports my theory!”
The weight of it all crashed down on my shoulders. Cards were being laid out in front of me and they all said the same thing; Welcome to ‘You’re fucked-ville.’ And with the housing market as it is you’re going to live here the rest of your life. We were going to swimming in zombies before it was all said and done. I had hours left before I would be one of them. My friends were going to stay until the bitter end and then the army was going to destroy the town with them in it because I wanted them to help me. No. That’s not true. I didn’t want to die alone.
Vampire noticed the distraught expression that wracked my face. She put the pieces together and concluded what was bothering me.
She said, “You were infected before this adaption. You should transform slower.”
I answered, “It’s not that. It’s just- You guys are in serious-”
Body snatcher said, “I like the sound of that. A million monster showdown sounds ballsy! An epic face-off!”
That did nothing to cheer me up. Vampire put her arm around my shoulder and said reassuringly, “Don’t worry, everything is going to be alr- boners.”
I was dumb-founded for a few seconds before I said, “What?”
Leejun spoke, “So you got boners on the brain? I’m not surprised. I just thought I’d show you how fantastical I am. I control what you hear, what you see. You will become me. Join us dickface. You could be making a serious boner by not doing so. It could quite possibly be the last boner you’ll ever-”
Body snatcher asked, “What’s going- boners, boners, boners?”
I said over the endless tirade of the word boner, “It’s controlling what I hear! I can’t think- I can’t-”
Vampire interrupted my panic, “Focus on my- boners. Distract yourself!”
As I focused my attention, I felt the choir shouting slowly did out. I said, “We gotta end this as soon as possible.”
Act III: We R Leejun
We stood in silence. We had only a half a day to figure out how to find this thing and put an end to it. We had zero leads and the choir was unnaturally quiet. Was it waiting for something? What was it thinking?
[“More ways to chant boners?”]
What did it hope to achieve? While we waited and thought, we became aware of a lone zombie shuffling down the street.
Body snatcher twirled the axe in his hand and said, “Well at least this is something we can take care of without problems.”
The zombie became aware of us and stared with a dull expression as its deceased brain connected the pieces. Long since burnt neurons lit up at the singular prospect, food. With a groan, it broke out in a dead sprint directly at us.
Body snatcher overcame his shock quickly and swung the axe managing to knock it down, but as soon as it hit the ground, it struggled to regain its footing. He kicked it back onto the ground and knocked back his axe and caught it in the shoulder as it charged at him. It struggled against the wound while desperately trying to claw at Body snatcher who was almost within range. Vampire intervened and struck the zombie so hard that its head snapped backwards and severed its spinal column. It slumped to the ground in a pile of itself. It twitched, but with a shattered spinal column that was about all it could do.
Breathing heavily Body snatcher said, “That’s new.”
Vampire said, “The hell was that thing?!”
[“This is America! Speak American!”'
"Whatever is causing the infection is getting more proficient. A faster death and resuscitation rate and now a better control of the nervous system. Is it evolving?”
Vampire mused, “If they come back to life faster, maybe there’s less damage to the central nervous system?”
What fresh hell could be unleashed on us in the next few hours?
Body snatcher said, “Doesn’t matter how! We got runners!”
At first I thought Body snatcher was talking with excitement, but when his exclamation was met with a series of moans off in the distance, I knew that it was actually a warning. I looked to the source and saw them slowly shuffling down the street. There were six and from their appearance looked like they had come from Hell itself. They were beaten and bloody. I allowed myself a bit of hope. They couldn’t run because they weren’t able to. Their legs were bent and twisted. They had been broken by a blunt object. My hope turned to ashes in my mouth as they began running on bent, broken, and battered legs.
We had no chance of taking out six of those super-fast freaks. We turned tail and ran as well. They sprinted on shattered and misshapen legs after us.
Body snatcher shouted, “Where to?”
I answered, “Wherever we can get away from them!”
We rounded street corners waiting for that one terrible moment where we would run face-to-face with more runners. Luck favored us for now, but luck is fickle. It was while we ran that the horrible realization dawned on me.
These things did not know pain. They continued on useless broken legs without even the slightest hint of the agony they should be experiencing. These things did not know fatigue or exhaustion. They were going to chase us to the end of our days if we didn’t find some way to evade them. These things would infect everyone before rushing the barrier. The likelihood of escaping from these sprinters was about as likely as getting struck by a comet.
[“Cue the asteroids!”]
We rounded a corner and there they were. Three zombies were standing in front of us, blocking our path.
Body snatcher struck the first one in-between the eyes with the handle of his axe before he shouted, “Knock ‘em down and keep going!”
Vampire held her cross in front of her. The zombie smashed up against it and she used that momentum shift to push it off to the side and pass by it. I swung my hammer sideways and smashed through the cheek of one and into its mouth. The claw caught in its chewing mouth. I jerked the claw hammer free, ripping teeth free, and pulled it off balance. We pushed free and continued running, but more were joining the horde, drawn by our noise.
Fifteen minutes later and all our ideas had been exhausted. We continued sprinting with them running behind us. The group had expanded to about twenty now and seemed to pick up more as we continued fleeing. Some drawn by their moans and others were drawn by our frenzied attempts to find safety from the horde. The house was out of the question. We could have reached it and shut the door, but before we could climb the rope ladder to safety; they would be chewing on us. Our only hope lied in something extraordinary happening and saving us.
Fifteen more minutes had elapsed and we were covered with sweat and our legs were burning. The repeated contraction of our muscles had begun to take their toll on us. Lactic acid had begun to build up in my stomach and I wanted to vomit. I knew that if I stopped that would be the end of me. I desperately fought the urge to vomit. I didn’t want to meet my end while voiding my stomach contents all over my shoes. Body snatcher and Vampire didn’t look like they were faring any better. I couldn’t stop. They would chew me down to bones starting with my fingers, hands, and thusly. So I continued to run.
One minute more-
I promised myself.
One minute more and I’ll stop.
We had been running for over an hour in total.
One more minute-
But after every minute, I kept running. I was too exhausted to keep running and too afraid to die to stop. Body snatcher kept glancing back over his shoulder as if they would give up the chase. They had swelled to forty now.
One more minute-
Through her sweat, I wasn’t sure if Vampire was weeping or not. She had done the sign of the cross fifteen minutes ago and I think she was checked out. She was praying and following us on auto-pilot.
One minute left.
My legs contracted painfully at each step, begging my body to stop running. Each step sent pins through my blood.
One more minute and I’ll stop.
I continued running.
My legs had gone numb and the adrenaline rush had died out. Now it was just the mechanical movement of raising one leg after the other to meet the road. If I died, my body would probably still continue to run and at the end of days, a jogging skeleton would be seen running across the hellfire landscape.
One more minute-
The mantra echoed endlessly in my head. I knew that when it stopped, I would stop. I stopped counting time and I also stopped counting how many times I repeated that mantra. We turned a corner.
About a block away there they were. Ten zombies had started to run at us. We were stuck between a sword and a wall.
Body snatcher grabbed me by the back of my neck and said cryptically, “We’re going up.”
He pulled me to the door of an apartment building. Vampire followed as well as the horde of zombies. The door opened and we went through it. He shut it behind us and locked it. The sound of the lock clicking into place was met with the sound of beating hands.
I doubled over, panting, but Body snatcher said, “We gotta move! That door’s not going to hold forever! Who’s up for climbing stairs?”
We all groaned and were answered by more moans.
We ran up stairs as the sound of the door splintering reached our ears. The door to the stairwell didn’t have a lock, so we didn’t bother to bar it. We didn’t have the time to try and jam the door either. So we ran. They were through that door and would be on us in minutes. We continued climbing the stairs.
As we passed the third floor, I huffed, “To where?”
Body snatcher puffed, “To the roof!”
Vampire pressed on, “What are we going to do on the roof?”
“I dunno! I haven’t thought that far ahead. Hopefully not jump to our deaths.”
We reached the roof and were grateful that this door had a lock on it. We locked it and looked around the roof, hoping that it was some secret weapons cash or something. No such luck.
Body snatcher said, “We opened the door let a few through then close the door. We take out those few and open the door again until there are no more left.”
Vampire said, “Too risky! They could all force the door open and then we’re finished.”
I had counted flights of stairs as we ran and knew that a fall from this high up would finish us. The sound of rotting hands smacking the door filled our ears. They were here and they would be through that door in a matter of minutes.
The answer dawned on me.
I shouted, “Apartment!”
“All apartments have to have fire escapes! That’s our way out! We can get out onto the street and escape.”
Vampire said, “He’s right!”
We spread out and began looking for the ladder as the door began to splinter and the hinges creaked against the undead assault.
Vampire called out to us, “It’s over here!”
We ran and dropped ourselves over the ledge onto the fire escape. The alley below was empty. We began to climb down the ladders and platforms. From above us, came the sound as the door broke under the pressure of undead hands. They were on the roof.
We descended the fire escape and dropped down to the alley below. We looked around us and didn’t see any zombies waiting for us. The sound of moaning above us revealed that they were looking over the edge of the roof. They were looking down on us.
Body snatcher flipped them the finger and said, “Have fun figuring out the fire escape ladder assholes!”
We watched in amazement as one zombie leaned over the edge and plummeted six floors to smash on the pavement of the alley. More followed suit and it was raining corpses. They walked over the edge just to try and reach us.
Body snatcher said with a chuckle as one pulled itself towards up with a shattered spine, “Stupid mother fuckers! Kill ‘em all!”
As the zombies splattered the alley, we went among them, finishing off those that hadn’t killed themselves in the fall. A few of them hit the fire escape, took a few seconds to regain their footing before swan diving over the railing to try and reach us. The alley was soon littered with corpses. I buried the claw of my hammer into the orbital socket of the last zombie and it was then that the voices boomed and blustered.
“You little cocky cock with a little cock! While you were busy murdering you’re brothers, I got a group of Japanese tourists. I learned quite a few things from them. I have plans for you now. Tentacle plans. You think your so clever, but your not! You are just like those first few that I transformed! They thought they were safe just because they were in a- Damnit!”
It cut itself off. It had almost said something it didn’t want me to hear.
Body snatcher asked, “What words of wisdom did it have for you this time?”
I answered with a smile playing at my lips, “I’ll tell you once we get to a safe place. I think we may have a lead.”
We sat in one of the rooms of the apartment with the door locked and dead-bolted. The previous owner was nowhere in sight, but the place held signs of having been lived in. It was currently unoccupied and thus suited our needs of not being zombie occupied and marginally safe unless the owner came home armed with a machete and a necklace of ears. The fridge had been completely cleaned out, but the pantry held a pack of salt crackers that we devoured between us at a piece and a third per person. We split the water and left half the liter bottle for later. Salt crackers and water, welcome to the lap of luxury. I thought for a while how to phrase my incredibly stupid plan that would probably result in at least one of our deaths.
Chapter Twelve: The Plan
I said, “If this thing is able to talk to me then it has some sort of connection to the infected. Maybe some sort of telepathic link or something.-
[“Boo! Too science fiction-y!”
“You’re saying this about a story filled with zombies?”
“Body snatchers would be sci-fi to the max.”
And what if it was vampires??? A teen blockbuster?”]
-When those runners took a swan dive off the roof. It got very agitated. I’m pretty sure that it wants to tentacle rape me.”
Body snatcher said, “That is just gross, you’re not even wearing a schoolgirl uniform and are you saying we can piss it off by killing its alien subordinates? Seems like a win-win situation.”
Vampire said, “It seems like it, but what do we gain by making it all pissy?”
I said, “It loses its control when it gets mad. It makes stupid mistakes. It almost revealed where it first infected the first group. The first group was certain they were safe. A police station, a gun store, I don’t know yet. If we can make it blow its top one more time, maybe it’ll slip up.”
Vampire asked with apprehension building in her voice, she knew what I was about to propose, but she didn’t want to believe it, “How are we going to do that?”
I answered, “By killing its minions in one fell swoop, more than any we have killed so far. We kill as many as we can until we have its attention. We incite it to say something that will reveal its hiding place.”
She was the first to speak, “No, that plan is stupid.”
Body Snatcher interrupted, “Stupid like a fox! I love it! It’s got movie badass written all over it! Just gimme like an hour to get together some awesome lines and we can have an epic showdown! We should probably also find some awesome weapons too before ringing the dinner bell. Wouldn’t want to try and take on the horde with my pea-shooter and Zombie’s empty revolver.” He stood up from his seat, literally energized by the prospect of cranking the action up a notch and continued, “We got to diversify our weapons! I’ll carry a rocket launcher and piece of stolen alien technology, Zombie can wield a chain gun and classic zombie fighting street-sweeper shotgun, Vampire has the option of using a flamethrower and crossbow-”
Body snatcher mollified, eager to get the monster killing action underway with the style of a Hollywood blockbuster, “Okay, it doesn’t have to be a crossbow per se, but it should at least have some tie-in to vampires. Maybe like a bow and arrow or some sort of holy water Molotov cocktail bomb. I dunno, it’s going to be hard to find an efficient creature combat item using vampire myths. Garlic shooter? Beats me, we have a little time to think about it before we-”
Vampire interrupted him with the statement that I already knew was coming before I had even proposed this last-ditch effort, “I’m not going to stand around while you kill yourself. I’m not going to let myself get killed in some last-ditch effort to wring out information from that thing. I’m getting out of here while I still can.”
Body snatcher said, “In these kinds of movies, the heroes always stick together-”
Vampire snapped, “This isn’t a fucking movie! If we do this, the only way we are going to end up together is in the stomach of one of those things! There will be no credits with a sunshine ending and a weirdly robotic Harrison Ford force-acting a monologue.”
He countered, “Yeah we are going to end up like that if you have that kind of attitude.”
She returned, “This attitude has kept me alive through this whole thing. I’m not going to risk everything-”
“For a friend?”
They were falling apart and would continued to fire words at each other not realizing that either would budge on the issue. Vampire would leave and no matter how much he complained that was not going to change.
Body snatcher perceived a struck chord and pushed, “He’s gone up to bat for you so many times and when the time comes for you to swing one for him, you just-”
Vampire snarled, “Goddamnit, don’t play that card on me! I’ve been here for longer than any sane person should be when the key to escaping this deathtrap is literally right in our hands. Those things literally outnumber us a thousand to one and now they’re sprinting? This is what game over will look like if we don’t decide to-”
“-abandon him when he needs us the most? Fuck that noise!”
They continued to squabble and struggle, doing no good for anyone.
I said, “It’s alright, I appreciate everything you’ve done for me, but now is the time to cut your loses. She’s right. This is incredibly dangerous and incredibly stupid.”
“You’re also forgetting incredibly awesome! How often are we going to get the chance to go up against an alien hive mind with nothing, but our wits and massive cache of stolen firearms?”
Vampire said, “I’m not going to lose everything we’ve gained by working so hard and so cautiously. I’m going to leave this town while I still can.”
Body snatcher snapped, “What’s stopping you?! Why don’t you just get to the gone?”
I answered for her, “She needs the grenade.”
Body snatcher said petulantly, “No way! This thing has just received its true calling! Alien blaster! They are literally going to go out with a bang.”
Vampire countered, “That’s not fair! I need that explosive to blow up the lattice! I can’t leave this city without the grenade. You can’t withhold this as a means to keep us together.”
He spat, “If you want one so bad then just find a few soldiers, I’m sure they’re still packing. How to kill them is going to be difficult, but you seem pretty dead-set on leaving. Best of luck with that!”
I decided I had had enough. They were going in circles and each revolution grew more caustic.
It was dead silent. I had their attention and I had to make it count.
I said, “Body snatcher, give her the grenade.”
I snapped, “We aren’t going to have this conversation twice. Vampire wants to leave and we aren’t going to stop her. Now.”
He paused as if considering which line might pull her over to our side, then with resignation, he reached into his pocket and pulled out the grenade.
He set it in her hands and said, “Take it and leave.”
Vampire looked at her salvation for a second before stuffing it into her backpack. She looked up at us with a cross between guilt and happiness plastered on her face. Ambivalence was contained in that moment. The desire for her to stay with us and the fear that if she did, she would not survive to see the sun rise. I wasn’t even sure if I would live to see the sun-
She stammered, interrupting my thoughts, “I guess- I guess this is it. I’m going to-”
I said, “Hold off on the goodbyes for now. We’re escorting you to the sewers.”
Vampire said, “That’s not necessary.”
Body snatcher said, “You can’t be serious! We’re wasting precious time when we could be kicking ass and chewing bubble gum and we’re all out of bubble-”
I said, “We are going to, but she comes first.” Something akin to a blush started to swell up in her face. I realized what I had said could be misconstrued and quickly added, “We need to know where she’s going to breach the defenses if we want to escape later. We need to know exactly which lattice she’s going to take out otherwise it’ll be like looking for a needle in a haystack.”
The blush died.
[“Way to go Romeo! No gratitude sex for you.”
“Speaking of that, when do you get to the down and dirty?”
“Not going to happen.”
“What?! I’m leaving!”
“Would a round of rum and cokes change your mind?”
We decided that we were going to go to the place where Body snatcher had saved us from the zombies. It was far enough from the soldier’s barricade and it was a place that we all recognized. If I didn’t make it, Body snatcher would be able to locate the exit with ease. We left the apartment building. The streets were empty, but we had to be vigilant. At any moment, a horde of them could charge us and overwhelm us before we were prepared. We were constantly looking over our shoulders as we made our way to the outskirts of town. We moved slowly and with caution. A single noise could draw them to us in untold multitudes.
Vampire whispered to me as we walked, “Just admit it, you want to see me off with a fond farewell.”
I whispered back, “But knowing where you will be making your escape gives me a good enough reason to escort you. Any other reason and I might as well be a little lost puppy with the way I’m following you.”
“Cute animal analogies always work best to pull the heart strings.”
Body snatcher was leading the group and was walking fifteen feet ahead of us to give us time to react to any of his warnings.
Vampire whispered, “He hates me.”
I watched as Body snatcher walked ahead of us. He kept his distance, but every fifty feet or so, he cast a glance over his shoulder back at us.
I responded, “He worries about you. Worries about me too. He said, ‘That we’re all broken or breaking in this place.’ He’s right. And he might be the most broken out of our group. He lost his girlfriend and now he distances himself from all this through the veneer of movies. He wants to keep us from harm and he’s even willing to sacrifice himself to try and uphold whatever oath he made to himself. I’m going to let you in on a theory that I’m forming about him-”
“We got company!”
I didn’t see them at first, but as they shambled into sight; I saw that there were three. Before we could decide whether to engage them; they broke out in a run towards us.
Body snatcher backed up to us and suggested, “Take ‘em down quick and as quietly as possible. I didn’t want this to end up like the last encounter, running endlessly while they slowly increased in numbers."
My hand gripped the hammer so tightly that the cuticles turned bone white.
I kicked the one that charged into me and doubled it over. I proceed to bring my hammer down as hard as I could, shattering the back of its skull. A few more whacks were all that was needed to finish it off. Body snatcher took a running start and caught the running zombie in the chest with enough force to knock it off its feet. Once on the ground, he hacked it into pieces. Vampire raised her cross and dug her feet into the pavement. The zombie charged into it and was impaled through the palate into the base of its brain. She kicked the dead zombie off.
Body snatcher stated as soon as all three had been taken out and there were no signs that others were going to join them, “In small numbers they’re just about as easy to eliminate as the others.”
I said, “I think all we have to do is avoid getting overwhelmed and our chances of survival are going to sky-rocket.”
Vampire noted, “Was it just me or did they get knocked off their feet more easily?”
He answered, “They are sprinting at us. It’s easier to knock a running target off its feet. Knock them off balance and then knock in their brains. Easy peasy.”
I said, “These guys don’t seem to be quite the think tanks that they were in the beginning. First they swan dive off a roof and then that one that Vampire dealt with just ran into its impalement. Something’s happening to them, I don’t know if it’s good or not. Now they can run, but they seem incredibly stupid.”
Body snatcher said, “That just means that we have to use our brains more. We can’t let a group rush and overwhelm us or we’re done for.”
Vampire said, “Who knows what that thing is going to throw at us next. It’s best if we get a move on.”
We continued down the street. We were constantly on guard to be ambushed by more of them, but they never showed up. My heart quickened at every movement I saw in the corner of my eyes or speck off in the distance. We walked for minutes in silence. I chewed the scenery, realizing that in the next couple of days this city might be nothing more than ashes and my actions in the next couple hours would determine if I would be ashes with them.
Vampire said, “All those things that escaped the church. Where are they now?”
“The soldiers probably put a pretty big hurt on them. Doubt we’ll see too many of those body snatchers.”
I said, “Why haven’t we seen any more of those infected body armor soldiers? If they lost control in the city; there should be more of them wandering around. Why have we only encountered only a few? What is going on here? Are those things completely eating them down to nothing but skeletons?”
Vampire reasoned with hope behind her words, “Maybe they’re guarding that hive mind thing or maybe there just aren’t as many vampires as we thought there were?”
She was wrong. There were more than we could ever have dreamed and we were about to see an expression of those numbers.
Body snatcher said as we passed the alley that we had used to hide when Wolfen was making his last escape, “With all of our heads together, we make a really good team. My badass body snatcher killing capabilities, Zombie’s sometimes pants-shitingly awesome ideas, and Vampire’s… assets.” He looked lecherously for a second while Vampire readied her cross to beat his sense back into him. He continued, “Us together verses the city and they’re going to need reinforcements. Why don’t we all just stay together until we can get everything sorted-” He stopped mid-sentence and stood stupefied in the middle of the street. We were about to ask what he had seen or heard, but then he whispered, “They’re coming.”
We didn’t hear them until we did. When we did hear them, it quickly became all we could hear. The feet pounding the asphalt as they tore through the streets. Their moans and groans growing loader. They were coming right for us. Their noise blotted out all other sounds.
Body snatcher said, “Shit!”
Vampire groaned, “We hide! We can’t outrun those things!”
The street was devoid of dumpsters and the alleys were all dead ends without fire escape ladders onto the roof. We were going to be found out if we didn’t do something fast.
Vampire was the first to find our hiding place. She pointed as the sound of feet beating the pavement almost reached deafening levels. It was a beat-up looking van. We ran towards the van and found the back luckily left unlocked.
Body snatcher opened the door and said, “No sounds.”
The inside of the back was stripped down to metal and smelled like sweat. It didn’t look comfortable in any way. We piled in and shut the door. We laid on the bed of the back as low as we could. The windows were not tinted and our chances of being spotted were likely. As soon as we got to the floor, the first of the horde arrived.
They walked at a steady clip, but I knew that if they saw something; they would shift into spring mode. If they saw us; they would beat and tear the van into pieces to get at us. Their feet slapped rhythmically against the pavement. Most had died wearing shoes, but some continued their endless search in bare, broken, and bleeding feet. Their moans echoed through-out the van. The sounded like they were moaning right into our ears. The smell of death wafted through the van. They were just a foot away- It was then that one banged against the van.
My heart leapt into my throat and Vampire stifled a shriek. I couldn’t will myself to open my eyes to look out the window for fear that one would see the movement and shatter the windshield. I waited as another banged against the van in passing. Then another struck the van with its shoulders, then another, and another. Terror descended on me then and I knew that we were completely surrounded and completely screwed if even one of them noticed the three living humans lying on the van bed. If one drew the others attention we would be completely trapped and likely to meet our end at gnashing teeth and masticating mandibles.
I became aware of another sound mixed in with the sound of the moaning monsters outside bumping against the van. It was shallow and rapid. It was coming from right beside me. Vampire was breathing quick and short, gasping for air; she was having a panic attack. She was so close to escaping and then this happened. The slightest error or movement would spell our doom. The pressure was too much for her and her body was reacting by going into a panic attack. She was going to draw their attention if I didn’t do something.
Slowly, ever so slowly, my hand slid down from its resting place on my chest. The sounds of moaning echoed throughout the van. My hand drifted over my stomach and down my hip. The sound of banging continued as they bumped against the van in passing. My hand crept across the floor of the van. They were so close I could almost hear the sound of there bodies decaying and rotting. My hand found hers and I gave it a squeeze. Her breathing hitched and then slowed down to a slow, steady rate. Outside they continued to pass by our hiding place.
Vampire’s hand squeezed mine so tight, I thought my knuckles might break from the force of it all. Her hand was warm and soft. I could feel her heart pounding in a rapid cadence through the veins in her hands. I was driven by the urge to look over at her, but I knew I had risked enough moving my hand. Another risk would definitely end with us being digested in the stomach of one of those things. The sounds of zombies banging up against the car began to dwindle and the moans began to face off in the distance. They had passed us and in a few minutes, it would be safe to leave. We laid there, waiting for the sea to wash over us.
We laid still for five minutes after the last zombie could be heard leaving. I turned my head and looked directly into the eyes of Vampire. Even this close, I couldn’t tell what color her eyes were. She was smiling. My breath caught in my throat. I wanted nothing more than to break that infinitesimal distance between us, to feel her-
Body snatcher interrupted my train of thought, “Looks like we’re in the clear.”
He sat up slowly and looked out the window.
He said, “Definitely in the clear.”
Vampire returned my look and whispered, “You can let go now.”
I suddenly realized I was still holding her hand and snatched it back to my chest to feel my heart. The frenzied staccato had just begun to slow down to a normal pace.
I said, “Shit! That was close, felt like my heart just about shit itself.”
We got out of the van and scanned the street. We were in the clear for now. I wasn’t sure how many zombies had passed us by, but I knew that the fact that even one in that multitude hadn’t discovered us was nothing short of a miracle. We would never have survived if we had met them in open combat.
Vampire asked the question that was on all of our minds, “What do you think they were doing?”
Body snatcher answered, “Looked like they were patrolling.”
I countered, “I doubt these zombies are capable of patrolling areas. It’s more likely that they were aimlessly wandering. I wouldn’t be surprised if they walk right into a ditch and get tangled up in each other.”
Vampire said, “You might be underestimating the head vampire here. I’ve seen them set up ambushes and tactically retreat when outnumbered.”
I responded, “That was then. The hive mind just spent the better part of today shouting the word ‘boners’ at me. I think I have reason to believe that this thing is stupid as shit.”
Body snatcher chuckled and said, “Boners.”
Vampire’s face drained of color and she said, “It could mean something else. It could mean that they no longer need to spread out in hopes of catching survivors. Those survivors are either infected or just plain dead. They don’t have to spread out anymore which explains the cluster-fuck of vampires that were out there were looking for someone in particular. I dunno how many of us are left, but I have a feeling those guys were looking for us. And quite possibly only us.”
The gravity of her words sank into us and Body snatcher expounded, “So we may be one of the only group left here? We may be the only ones left in the city with a pulse?”
A few seconds later, before the sense of hopelessness could overtake me, Body snatcher said, “Bring it on! Fate of the world is on our shoulders now! No one else to shoulder the burden that we now gotta carry! This maybe one of the coolest moments in my life!”
I took a second to review what I had done in my life to warrant such a foolhardy friend who would drive himself to the brink only for my sake and the opportunity to look like a badass.
I said, “Anyways, we’re a couple of blocks away. Let’s get a move on.”
Vampire’s face dissolved for a quick second into ambivalence before she said, “Yeah.”
A few minutes later, we stood around the manhole that I had just pried out of the ground using my hammer. This was where we would part ways, she to freedom, and us??? Nobody could tell.
Moment of truth.
I said, “Well, I think this is-”
Vampire said, “Wait! I think I need a second to give you something that you’re going to need.”
My spirits were uplifted, was she going to stay? Was she stalling?
She said, “Let’s take a second in that Taco Bell over there.”
We went into the Taco Bell and I waited with bated breath for what she would say.
As soon as we made sure that the Taco Bell didn’t have any nasty surprises waiting for us, Vampire took her backpack off her shoulders. She took a quick second to look through it. She took her water bottle out and put it in her pocket. The other two, she left inside for us. She ate a couple of scoops of cereal from the box that we had lifted from her house.
She said, “The cereal really isn’t as GooOOOoood as you’d think, but it’ll be enough to get me through the barricade.” We watched as she re-adjusted the grenade on her belt and then said, “I want you to have the backpack, it’s going to do you more good than me.”
Vampire handed me the backpack and her eyes flicked to Body snatcher.
He looked at her for a second as if trying to decipher what she wanted, which was to say something private, before he said, “I’m going to go into the cooking area and find out if what they say is true, that the grade F meat is actually cockroaches.”
He stepped into the cooking area and started rummaging through the pantry. The sound of rummaging faded into the back of the restaurant. The two of us were now alone.
Vampire looked at me with those multi-colored eyes of hers before saying, “There’s one last thing I wanted to tell you before I left.”
Vampire stepped forward and said, “I wanted to thank you.”
I answered, “No need.”
“But there is! Without you, I would have been a vampire by now. It was your intervention that has saved me. You saved me in the bank and you just saved me in that van. Without you, I wouldn’t be standing here getting ready to leave. It’s more than that. You were here for me when others left: my friends, my parents. I think you deserve this and I’ll be waiting on the other side for you.”
She stepped forward one more time and there were only inches between our faces.
My heart beat through my chest. I took a look into those eyes before raising my hand and brushing a stray lock of hair from her face.
I said, “I’m going to survive this and I’m going to find you when this is all said and done.” My hand traced down to her scar and pulled her closer to me. I continued, “And when I find you, I’m going to tell you all the things that I was unable to say to you today.”
She closed her eyes and leaned forward. Inches away, I was unable to control myself any longer. I leaned forward towards those red lips that had beckoned me like a light in the darkness.
It was at that moment that Body snatcher returned and announced, “I didn’t find any roaches, but I did find some cheese if you guys want-”
Minutes later, we were eating shredded cheese out of a bag in silence. The kiss had not happened and probably wouldn’t happen now.
Body snatcher tried his best to kill the awkward silence, “I didn’t find any roaches, but the meat freezer smells like ass. Meat’s gone bad.” We didn’t respond. He tried again, “Did you know that, uh, cheese… Is a milk-based product?”
I decided to let the silence die, “I know, I’m up to date on my food pyramid.”
Vampire continued, “Did you know that chicken is also a meat based product according to the food pyramid?”
He cut through everything, “Are you really going to leave Vampire?”
The silence returned like a miasma and choked out our brief levity.
Vampire took her time to think and chose her words before saying, “If I don’t leave now, I may never leave this town. Things are getting way too dangerous here. I’m not a fighter. I’m a runner, but know this. I am going to be waiting for you on the other side.”
Body snatcher answered, “Alright it’s your choice and I can’t stop you.”
“I think I’m ready to go now.”
Once again, we found ourselves standing over the manhole.
Body snatcher shouldered the backpack and said, “It won’t be as much fun without you. Now we also have to deal with the lack of a female lead leading to questioning the heterosexuality of the two star male leads.”
Vampire chided, “Just avoid situations with long lingering physical contact and don’t make out and you should be fine.”
She gave him a hug and whispered something in his ear. Vampire backed out of the hug and turned to me.
“What you said to me back there. You better keep that promise.” She wrapped her arms around me and said, “Also make sure that Body snatcher makes it out of this thing.”
I said, “I will.”
She smiled and said, “Good. Don’t you get killed either.”
With that she climbed down the ladder and went into the sewers. I put the lid back on the sewer loosely so we could get it off easily if we returned.
Body snatcher walked up to me and said, “Looks like it’s up to us-”
I punched him in the arm.
Body snatcher rubbed at his arm and said, “What the hell man, that’s going to leave a bruise! What was that for-”
I answered, “Nice timing in the Taco Bell asshole.”
He responded, “Under any other circumstances, I would have deserved that and more, but right here, right now, I did you a favor that you should be thanking me for.”
I didn’t really have the patience to put up with his excuses, but as I prepared to punch him once more in the arm when he said, “I saved her life.”
He answered, “You’re infected, remember?”
I said, “Damnit!”
Body snatcher comforted, “I probably would have forgotten if I were you as well. One kiss and you could have infected her, and then set her free into the uninfected world. Lucky for you, I got my head on straight. Now I believe that I am going to take that reciprocal punch as revenge for the bruise you’ve given me.”
I said, “Fine make it quick and in the arm.”
Body snatcher winded back his arm and after a second of thought said, “I think I’ll take a rain check and give you that punch when we make it out of this. That’ll make it all the sweeter.”
I looked at him and said, “Really?”
“No, I’m joking. Surprise punch!”
He punched me in the arm.
“Hurts, don’t it?”
I said, “We even?”
“Well there’s nothing left to do, but get prepared.”
“What do we have to do?”
I instructed, “We don’t have much time, but before we can get them all riled up, we need to make a few stops.”
A few minutes later, we were close to our first stop.
Body snatcher said, “Are you sure about this? When I had just started out, this place was swarming with body snatchers. An encounter with a horde could end this whole epic showdown thing prematurely.”
I said, “I don’t think that this thing has the patience anymore to leave sentinels out and wait for us. It’s search-and-destroy mode now.”
My suspicions were confirmed when the street in front of the building was deserted.
He said, “Jackpot.”
We entered the police station.
We split up to take care of the tasks faster. We had two jobs to accomplish while we were here and the faster we could accomplish them, the better my chances would be. Body snatcher would find a way into the police armory and would look for ammunition for both of our handguns, his assault rifle and anything that caught his eye. I went down to the evidence room. A part of me hoped against hope that I would find a rocket launcher or massive explosive device. I didn’t find either, but I found something that almost made up for it.
We continued down the street. I had Body snatcher’s peace offering that he had taken from the armory and a fully reloaded revolver with three speed loaders in my pocket. I had my new melee weapon stuck into my belt.
[“What is it, gun-sword?”
“That’s a terrible idea!”
“The bayonet was not a bad invention!”
“Sorry, I just imagined like a sword with a gun handle for some reason”
“THAT is a bad idea, one swing and it’ll break, but you’ll find out what I used in the showdown.”]
Body snatcher had two handgun clips for his 18 mm glock and a few clips for his assault rifle. We were armed to the teeth, but were not completely prepared to summon the horde. Our next stop was the hardware store.
The hardware store parking lot was empty. A shopping cart had been filled body parts which signified either the world’s most disturbing collector or the world’s most disturbing neat freak.
Body snatcher looked into the cart and confirmed what I had already never wanted to know, “I can’t tell if these are human parts or alien pieces. Someone might have been trying to lure a group here or putting out a warning. Whichever we need to play it careful inside. A crazy is a crazy even if they’ve managed to make it this far.”
Especially if they manage to make it this far.
We went into the hardware store.
We once again split apart. I went into home maintenance and got the nails that could be hammered into cement. I already had the hammer. I looked around the aisle, but nothing really drew my attention that screamed, ‘Use me as a weapon!’ Body snatcher went into the home security aisle and returned with what I had asked for.
He said, “Onward and upward.”
We started to leave and I began, “We got one more place to go before-”
We were almost outside before we spotted them. If we hadn’t reacted as quick as we did, we would have been dead. Body snatcher and me dropped behind the window before the congregation of zombies could see us.
Body snatcher whispered, “You think they saw us?”
I whispered, “If they did; they didn’t show it.”
He took a peek and said, “They’re lazing around the shopping cart. They’re probably too involved to have noticed us.”
I asked softly, “You get a head count on them?”
He answered quietly, “More than we can deal with.”
“How do you want to proceed?”
“As much as I hate to say it, sneak out the back is our best option. We aren’t prepared to take out those numbers and we’d be overwhelmed.”
I nodded and we slipped quietly to the back while they feasted on the contents of the shopping cart. We slipped through the garden area while they struggled to get around the shopping cart like sheep to a feeder. I didn’t know how long they would be feeding, but I knew that we wouldn’t want to be there when they decided to pick up the search again. The more distance we put between them, the greater our chances of avoiding detection.
Body snatcher said, “That would have been cool if the shopping cart had been rigged with explosives or something. Oh well, I guess it did save us from a nasty surprise. Where to next?”
I answered, “The gas station.”
The gas station was the furthest trip that we had to make in these three errands. We only had a few encounters with lone zombies that were easily disposed of before they could become a problem. One zombie had been chained to a trashcan and he slowly dragged both itself and the trash with it on its slowed struggle to reach us. Body snatcher bisected its head with a downward swing of his axe. A few blocks later, we found ourselves in front of the gas station.
Body snatcher nudged the gasoline hose with his foot.
He said, “Think it’s still active?”
I said, “There’s only one way to find out. Sorry if this accidentally blows us up.”
I grabbed the pump and depressed the handle. Nothing.
He asked, “What now?”
“Maybe it’s one of those that needs to be activated inside to be able to function?”
We went into the gas station. It was empty from what I could tell. I went to the counter and began to lean over when the clerk who had perished behind the counter jumped forward with arms wide open and teeth bared.
I barely evaded being grabbed by falling on my ass. It crawled towards me looking to take a bite. I kicked it in the face, but that only seemed to deter it a bit. Body snatcher got over his shock and intervened. He jumped on its back to weigh it down and then place the shaft of the axe along the back of the zombified clerk’s neck. He pushed all of his weight down on both sides of the handle and an audible crack was heard over the struggle. He had separated the cervical vertebrae from the other. He proceeded to stomp the zombie to death with his shoes.
He heaved a sigh and said, “Thing looked like the devil’s jack-in-the-box.”
Body snatcher helped me to my feet and I said. “Thanks.”
I carefully checked the counter before flipping the switch.
The pump lit up and we began to walk outside before I asked, “Do we have a container?”
We rooted through the back room of the gas station before we found a ten liter container that would suit our purposes. We went to the pump and filled the red plastic container with premium.
[“Why not? Spoil yourself a bit and splurge.”]
Now we had everything we needed. Now we just needed to find the perfect place to make what could be our last stand.
Body snatcher said, “The police station. We could go all Assault on Precinct 13 on them. Well fortified and proximity to ammunition.”
I contested, “There’s too many entrances and the buildings way too big. Too many chances to be ambushed by a zombie we overlooked in the clearing out process when we ring the dinner bell. How about the cemetery? We could hole up in the mausoleum and wear them down.”
“And another benefit is when they smash through the gates; they won’t have to transport our bodies very far for burial.”
I ate a handful of stale potato chips and drank the Jolt we had lifted from the gas station along with a roadside emergency kit. We seemed to have reached an impasse when the perfect place sprung into both of our minds at the same time.
Chapter: Thirteen: Plan ‘Piss off Pod People'
Minutes later at around seven we stood in front of the baseball stadium. It was built during a period of interest in baseball, which had since then flagged. It had been scheduled for demolition and construction would begin on a football arena despite the fact that our town had neither a football team nor the funding to enlist one. The stadium lights were set on a timer and were already activated. It had it’s own generator to prevent panic during blackouts. The stadium lights cast shadows that looked like hand shadows reaching out to ensnare us and drag us to our doom.
Body snatcher said, “It’s perfect!”
We jumped the turnstile and made our way out onto the field. There was only one way onto the field due to the stands being separated by reinforced Plexiglas to prevent streakers, drunken shenanigans, and other interesting events that would have bolstered ticket sales. The arena was capable of seating ten thousand if people were allowed to sit on the steps.
Body snatcher said, “Shall we get to work on operation ‘Piss off pod people.’ I’ll clear out the box seats and set the dinner bell. You set up the welcome wagon and clear out the locker rooms.”
We agreed and went off to do our duties. Here’s what happened to Body snatcher.
Body snatcher went up the stairs leading to the box seats. There were three in the arena, overlooking the field from different angles. This was where high rolling patrons could watch the game without having to rub elbows with the lower class. Of course, they were now empty. The great equalizer had swept among them and rendered powerful and plebian alike into nothing more than walking infected. The first box seat had been ravaged by a few of the lower class exacting their revenge. Tables, chairs, and windows had been smashed and shattered. The room was a cluster-fuck of repression and anger. Other than that, there was nothing of interest.
The second and third box seats had not been attacked and Body snatcher could see the opulence that still lingered in this place. Leather seats were pulled up to the window so they could view the game from comfort and there was even a flat screen television on one wall. On the other wall were posters of teams with signatures under each player. There was even a bat signed in an undecipherable signature, but was meant to appear historical and of great value. A search through the mini-fridge revealed three types of beer and a multitude of snack foods. He made a note to return after the showdown to raid the place if he was alive to do so. The last place to clear was the control box.
Body snatcher stepped into the empty control room. He had a clear view of the baseball diamond. He approached the controls that managed the lights, cameras, and music. He looked at the music controls and found everything still functional. The generator had not yet failed and could be used to play music. He grabbed the remote and began to cycle through songs, looking for the perfect song to play during the showdown. As he was doing that, unbeknownst to him, something stepped out from the shadows and slowly began to approach him.
Body snatcher set the song before he sensed the presence behind him. He turned to face the entity with axe in hand. The transient looked blankly at him for a second before acting. It slowly raised one hand and pointed at him. It then opened its mouth, revealing blood red teeth and gave a scream that was in-between a shriek and a gasp that perfectly mirrored Donald Sutherland in Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
Body snatcher sighed, “Why is no one else around when this happens. No one is going to believe-”
The infected transient charged at him.
Body snatcher side-stepped him and slammed him face-first into the glass overlooking the field. It didn’t break, but cracked in a spider web. As it struggled to its feet, he readied the axe and brought it down in a powerful chop. The thing stepped forward and caught the shaft of the axe in its shoulder instead of the blade in its forehead like he had planned. The shoulder was dislocated, but didn’t seem to give the thing pause as it pushed forward. Body snatcher pushed the fire axe in-between them as a brace to prevent it from reaching him. It snapped in the air and rust-colored spit foamed in its mouth.
Body snatcher pushed back on the approaching monster and its feet caught on something and he fell on top of it, burying his axe into its face. He pounded the back of the axe to finish the job and split open its skull. Getting up, he began checking himself for infection and finding no blood on him, he then looked at what the thing had slipped on that had allowed him to strike the deathblow. On the ground, he found a cordless microphone for the mega speaker system. Beaming brightly, he stuffed the microphone in his pocket and finished setting up before running down to the pitcher’s mound to rendezvous with me.
While Body snatcher cleared the box seats and set up the system, I set to setting up the baseball arena. I strung the material across the entrance tunnel and three different parts. Two were about neck high and the in the middle of the tunnel, it was ankle high. I pounded them into place with the concrete nails that were reinforced. These would not slip out easily. I pulled on them to make sure they were taut. This would be our first line of defense against the wave that would soon be washing over us.
I took the canister of gasoline and set the second trap a few feet out of the tunnel. This was the only way into the baseball diamond unless they recently learned how to fly. All we had to do was hold this tunnel and prevent being overwhelmed and become a sufficient thorn in this hive mind’s side to annoy it and in its blind anger, reveal a detail that would let us find its location. It sounded like an easy task, but I knew that it was very likely that neither one of us would walk away from this. We could be swarmed by hundreds or thousands.
I went to sweep the locker rooms that were in the middle of the tunnel. Luckily the doors weren’t locked and I wouldn’t have to locate a key. I swung open the locker room to the away team and found it a bloody mess. I wish that I wasn’t using it as a literal expression. Blood pooled on the ground and was sprayed on the wall. Whoever bled this out was long since dead. I cautiously looked around and didn’t find any bodies. This isn’t a good sign. I opened all the lockers and other than finding a pill bottle with the label torn off, there was nothing else of interest.
I went into the home team locker and instantly knew that I wasn’t alone in that room. Bloody footprints stained the floor. I began to follow them so I could track down the infected without having to blindly search it out. They led into the shower and then led back out. I became aware that eventually the blood might have dried and I could be walking right into an ambush from an un-traceable undead.
Bad decisions skills motivated me to shout, “Come on out! I don’t have all day.”
A gravely guttural voice returned, “Brains.”
What was once a baseball player stood by the entrance, blocking off my exit. His jersey was a tattered and bloody wreck. His neck had been torn open and I could see his adam’s apple move as he groaned. A bat was stuck in his rigor mortis paralyzed hand.
I said, “First off that clichéd trademark comes from Return of the Living Dead which series was responsible for turning the genre into campy messes. Second of all-”
It wasn’t listening and it broke into a dead sprint and was coming right at me.
Before it could reach me, I slammed a locker door open into its face. It crashed to the floor and the bat rolled out of its hand. I pinned it to the floor with my foot and grabbed the bat. Before it could wrestle free, I lifted the bat high into the air and brought it down on its forehead. There was the sound of bones cracking and giving way. A few more swings of the bat and its face was caved in. There were no other sounds in the locker room. I was alone.
After clearing both locker rooms and a maintenance room that was attached to it, I left the locker rooms and headed towards the field, almost walking right into one of the traps I had laid out. My mind was busy dealing with this turn of events. Was the hive mind playing with us now? I decided to get Body snatcher’s opinion of everything after the showdown. I entered the field and saw him standing there on the pitcher’s mound with a face that looked like a child on Christmas.
I walked up to him and said, “Everything’s good on my end.”
Body snatcher returned, “Everything’s prepped over here too.”
He twirled the axe in his hand and his smile grew wider. His face would crack open if his smile grew any more.
I said, “Then you want to get to it?”
“Shit yeah! Waited all my life for this.”
“Wait, how are we going to call them?”
Body snatcher said, “Got that already figured out. We’re going to blast music to draw them in and then we blast them away. And here is the coup-de-grace-” He pulled out a wireless microphone and said, “A special personalized message to them first. Let’s get this show going!”
He lifted the microphone up to his face to speak and I interrupted, “Wait!”
Body snatcher asked quizzically, “What’s up man, are you stalling? Please don’t tell me you want to back out now that it’s almost here. We are on the precipice of being true bad-asses. This will be the awesome fight scene that is the climax of the movie. Don’t get cold feet now man. I even got an awesome song to soundtrack our epic showdown.”
I said, “It’s not that I want to back out. I just want to tell you something before we begin.”
“Tell me then.”
I said, “I wanted to thank you for all of this. For staying and fighting with me. I wanted to thank you for being my friend.”
Body snatcher paused for a minute as if taken back before saying, “Of course I’m going to stick with you for this! This is my fight too and I’ll be damned if I let you take all the glory. You’re my friend too; so don’t do anything stupid out there. This is an alien movie, not a war buddy or buddy cop flick. Don’t get shot on your last day before retirement.”
I nodded and said, “It’s a zombie movie and you watch yourself during the fighting.”
He finished, “Now that everything’s said and done, let’s kick this shit into high gear!”
One last look at me and then Body snatcher raised the microphone and began talking, but his voice wasn’t projecting through the speakers.
He whacked the side and said, “Piece of shit! Doesn’t even work.”
“The on switch?”
He looked at the microphone and said, “When you tell this story to your grandkids, this part didn’t happen.”
He flipped the switched and the speakers screamed to life. We covered our ears as the sound shrieked and then faded into reverberations. He gave the microphone a quick tap and then began to talk:
“Hey there boppers. I hear you out there in this city picking your teeth with our bones. I just want you to know that that shit ends here! Come to the stadium if you’re hungry. Just know this ain’t going to be an easy meal and after we’re done with your bitch asses, we’re heading for your alien overlord. We are your end and it’s approaching fast.” He lowered the microphone and whispered to me” Anything to say?”
I took it from his hand and said, “This song is for you Legion! Hit it!”
Body snatcher lifted the remote and pressed play.
The first words of the song blasted through the baseball arena, “I’m sailing away.”
I looked at him and said, “You serious? “Come Sail Away” was the best they had?”
Body Snatcher answered, “It was either this or metal-core.”
I shouted over the blaring ballad geared towards sailing aficionados, “Metal-core would have been perfect for this situation! I’m pretty sure most metal-core songs are specifically penned to be played at times like this.”
He returned, “And “Come Sail Away” wasn’t?”
[“I think I’m just going to sub in some neutral rock and roll. Metal might be a little too hardcore and “Come Sail Away” sure as hell will lose the audience.”]
Before we had time to argue, the deafening clamor of the undead broke through the sounds. They were here and the showdown had just begun.
I could hear them coming minutes before I actually began to see them entering the tunnel. They stampeded towards us. Their shadows were cast into the arena by the outside lights. Their numerous footfalls mingling in with the music. The shadows filled and danced on the field as they grew shorter and closer. It looked like a massive army of darkness breaching into the world of light. My mind unbidden imagined thousands approaching the arena from all over the city, swarming it like ants over a neighboring hive. Their undead numbers building and growing into an uncontainable sea that would wash over us and leave us bones. They charged through the tunnel at the prospect of food and would find their way to us. They were at the halfway point when they hit resistance.
There was the sound of someone plucking at a metal cable was followed by a body slapping against the arena tunnel floor. This cable was meant to be wrapped around celebrities’ houses and other paranoid people, but had been re-purposed to suit our needs. It was cable that was reinforced to withstand three hundred pounds of tension. That wasn’t all that it had the cable was fused with razors. Typical barbwire pierces and catches on the intruder, razor wire slices into and cuts deep. The zombies charged into the wire, severing their necks open and in some instances even breaking their necks. Some managed to slip under and continued onward over their fallen brothers.
At their midway mark at the tunnel, the zombies hit the second razor wire. This one I had placed ankle high and nailed into the sides of the tunnel. The razors bit deep into their shins and tripped a few. Some trampled their tripped brothers as they pushed onward, responding to our call. They were either unaware or uncaring about the plight of those who had come before them and merely stepped and stampeded over their allies. Those that weren’t done in by their fellow monsters crawled forward on broken ankles and torn tendons. The wire was eventually worn down by the constant barrage of feet, shins, and ankles; pulling the nails out of the wall. They pressed on. They would not be stopped or hindered.
The third tripwire was activated and we watched as the first zombie made it out onto the field. Or most of it. The headless corpse bobbed forward five steps before keeling over and remaining motionless. Its head remaining in the darkness. We could hear other zombies getting clothes-lined are crashing to the floor. Enough were struggling to their feet to create confusion in the tunnel and slow their numbers so we wouldn’t be completely overwhelmed as they approached.
The wire caught in the windpipe of one as it charged forward towards the bait. It garroted itself, but not before tearing one of the nails from the wall. The first intact undead made their way through the darkness and charged directly at us.
Their feet treaded and splashed through the grass. We stood our ground on the pitcher’s mound. Body snatcher picked up the gun that came with the emergency roadside kit. He opened the chamber to make sure it was loaded. He smiled and shut the chamber. He raised the gun and took aim. The zombies continued to charge forward, kicking up puddles and sliding on the slick glass.
Body snatcher said, “Let’s light this party up.”
[“What is he, from the nineties?”
“Oh, okay. Still pretty cheesy.”]
He aimed at the gasoline pool and pulled the trigger. The flare gun shot a ball of fire. We watched as the ball arched through the air and floated over the gasoline pool and into the darkened tunnel that now showed just how many we had called.
“Mother of God. How many did we call?!”
Body snatcher tossed me the flare gun because I was closer to the road kit. As I opened it, I heard gunfire. He was picking off the ones that had drawn close and buying me time to reload. I grabbed the last shell and loaded the round with shaking fingers. I clicked the chamber shut. I looked up into the tunnel one last time before the flare fizzled out. Even with the flare light out, the darkness was still pregnant with motion that looked like a million maggots festering under a black blanket covering a corpse. I cocked back the hammer. I could seriously screw us over if I missed.
I raised the flare gun and Body snatcher shouted over his gunfire, “Make it count!”
I pulled the trigger.
I watched with high hopes as the ball of fire rocketed across the arena directed at the target. My heart jumped in my throat as it angled towards the tunnel. It was going to go into the same exact place. My mind flashed images of me being torn apart by groping hands and gnashing teeth. Just before the flare round was about to be swallowed up by the tunnel, it hit an emerging zombie in the chest. The zombie looked down dully at the spot where the flames had scorched its tattered shirt. The ball of fire bounced off and landed on the ground in the pool of gasoline that I had poured onto the baseball field. Within the blink of a second, the first ten feet of the entrance onto the field was a towering inferno.
The zombies in the fire zone were instantly swaddled in flames. They showed no interest in the fact that they were now walking pyres. They had other things on their minds. They continued forward at a run towards us; their flesh bubbling and their eyes bursting in their sockets. Robbed of their sight, they continued the onslaught as if something else was serving as their eyes. Their charring, blackening bodies getting closer each second. The fire seemed like a minor inconvenience, like a man who steps in shit. Not a second thought, Wipe and continue on with your duties. It dawned on me that maybe fire was not the best idea. It was then that the smell hit us.
Welcome to the science corner! Did you know that it takes an average of fifteen minutes for the average body to be consumed by flames. Another fun fact: the difference between a second degree burn and third is nerve damage. Nerve damage doesn’t occur instantaneously in a burn. It takes over five minutes. Five minutes was not something we wanted to deal with to incapacitate these zombies. They were coming at us right now and they were basically a walking ball of fire that had such a bad odor that tears came to our eyes and our stomachs twisted into knots.
To understand our sentiment at getting a face full of that smell, go outside, burn a pound of hair, shit (No one dies without loosing their bowels), dead and rotting flesh, and smell the air afterwards. Then after doing that, take yourself to a mental hospital and check yourself in because that is a crazy thing to do to understand how a smell smells and society should not be endangered by your unchecked freedom. To make a long discussion short, these flaming things gave off a gag-inducing, stomach-wrenching stink and they were coming at us.
Body snatcher coughed through the choking smoke, “Help me I’m in Hell.”
He raised his handgun and dropped the two nearest to us, but more were coming and carried the same odor.
I took down one with a well-placed revolver round and said, “Probably the worst idea I’ve ever had.”
Melee combat was out of the question. To be within a foot of that horrendous stench was enough to empty your stomach contents. It was made worse knowing that if one grabbed you, it might pass the flames to you. More zombies were charging through the flames and coming out burning men.
The smoke from the burning gasoline, flesh, hair, and clothes formed a wall of smoke that obscured our view of the tunnel. They broke through the smoldering smoke screen as torching beacons of death. We put the infernos down as soon as they came within range, but the smell grew thicker and I felt myself blacking out as more filled the field and ignited themselves. Smoke inhalation and the overwhelming smell made a deadly combo. I was on the cusp of passing out and meeting my maker smelling like burning ass. I didn’t know how I was going to explain that one. Before that happened, there was an explosion of sound that rocked us backward and knocked a few sprinting zombies down. The gas tank had exploded and swallowed those closest to it in flames. The light of salvation grew as the flames faded down. Now there were no traps, it was just us and them.
The zombies charged directly at us and into their death. Body snatcher’s glock meted out death and tossed 18mm shells onto the pitcher’s mound. I raised my revolver and held my breath as I unloaded .38 rounds into the fast approaching zombies. I flicked open the chamber and slid a speed loader in and released the bullets. Body snatcher ejected a clip and slammed another into its place. More flooded into the baseball field and rushed the mound. Every time I checked their numbers, I felt my bowels loosening. I knew that eventually, I would look at their numbers and shit myself. After that, I would probably put my gun in my mouth and send myself into the afterlife.
Until we were overwhelmed, I would not do that. I could not do that. I would not abandon Body snatcher like that. He had come this far for me and I wouldn’t let it end like that. We both raised our guns and took out the first zombie to get close enough. My round buried itself in its nose and Body snatcher ventilated its forehead.
He shouted, “We gotta split up or we’re going to waste our bullets on the same tangos!”
I nodded and we broke into a sprint. Another factor deciding the separation was the sheer numbers. Divided we stood a better chance of breaking their numbers up. I stood on third base and Body snatcher positioned himself on first. The tsunami continued to sweep towards us without any sign of ebbing.
Body snatcher shoved the gun into the back of his pants and un-slung the weapon of his dreams. The assault rifle had been set to three-round burst by the now deceased soldiers. He had stuck his three ammo clips into his belt for easy access and quick reloading opportunities. Body snatcher aimed using the crosshairs and squeezed the trigger. The three well-placed rounds burying themselves into the body snatcher’s neck and it crumpled to the ground. He traced the crosshairs across the field to the next and then the next. He was in a state of Zen, a calm mindset as he took out the charging aliens. Each pull of the trigger floored another charging body snatcher. None were getting within ten feet of Body snatcher.
Body snatcher squeezed the trigger.
He had to reload. As he ejected his clip, a body snatcher vaulted over the corpses of its kin and landed feet away from him. It charged him without any way to defend himself against the attack. Thinking quickly, Body snatcher hurled the empty magazine and it struck the sprinting alien in the forehead, snapping its head back. It continued forward and lowered its head back down into the butt of the assault rifle. Body snatcher slammed another clip into the gun and emptied three rounds into its face, reducing its jaw to a pulpy mess.
Body snatcher growled, “Who’s next?!”
He took aim as more charged down the field at him. He squeezed the trigger.
I pulled out Body snatcher’s peace offering as the zombies tore down the third base line. I tracked a zombie in my sights and squeezed the trigger. The zombie caught the full brunt of the blast and rocketed backwards like it had been on a bungee cord and reached the end of its elasticity. I cocked the Remington 12 gauge shotgun and blew one’s head off as it got within range. I aimed the spread and knocked two down to the ground. More zombies flooded onto the field drawn by the music and sounds of gunfire. They came in waves and split up to target either Body snatcher or me. I cocked my boomstick and completely obliterated the entire side of a zombie’s face like it had been hit with a water balloon full of acid and just dissolved. More were coming.
I cocked the gun and shot a zombie in the air as it went to pounce on me. It fell to the ground full of holes like Swiss cheese. I ejected the rounds and began to reload, but was pressed for time with more approaching. I managed one round into the shotgun before two were menacing me. The first charged forward with a mouth full of bloody teeth. I shoved the barrel of the shotgun into its mouth and angled it towards the second. I pulled the trigger and uncapped the first zombie’s head and sent buckshot into the face of the one behind it. I quickly shoved more shells into the Remington before more could get within range.
I shouted, “I got more where those came from Legion!”
I cocked the 12 gauge and sprayed another as more flooded into the arena. They poured out of the tunnel and trampled over the scorched earth of the field at us. They came at us like ants swarming out of a hive with only one thing on their minds. “Come Sail Away” had stopped playing, but the sounds of our gunfire and shouting drew them onward. Corpses littered the field. At my count, at least one hundred had come through and fallen into our traps or been blown away. That didn’t stop them from running onto the field and pursuing us.
Body snatcher shouted, “Are you having fun yet?”
“Time of my life!”
I spent another shell and knocked a group down into pieces. I didn’t have time to reload anymore. They were like a flood.
I shouted, “Fall back to outfield!”
He shouted an affirmative and I ran into left field while he went for right field. They continued coming at us.
I stood in left field with my revolver. The first one to reach me caught a round right under the eye. Using the barrel of the revolver, I knocked one back and put a round into its forehead as it landed on the first zombie. I charged forward and vaulted off the two corpses and landed on the one behind them.
Already infected, why not get risky?
I shoved the revolver into its eye and pulled the trigger. I jumped back from another zombie and blew a hole open through the roof of its mouth as it stepped forward. I got to my feet just as one grabbed me. I shoved the barrel under its jaw and pulled the trigger. I used another speed reloader and looked up at the number charging me. There were at least ten, this wasn’t going to be pleasant.
Body snatcher beckoned the horde with his handgun. Three body snatchers had just come within range. He charged forward, putting a bullet in-between the closest one’s eyes. He aimed and got the second one before it could grab him. He shot the third in its knee cap mid-stride and dropped it to its knees. He kicked into it to keep it upright and unloaded another shell into its skull before pushing it back. He began to drop back as more rushed at him. As he walked backwards, he put rounds into the one’s that got close. He was within feet of the homerun wall and the Plexiglas prevented him from scaling it. There was no more falling back. He would have to hold his own against the body snatchers or become one.
Body snatcher shouted over the plethora of moans and gunshots, “Re-group!”
I dropped another zombie and kicked another that had grabbed me onto its ass. I sprinted with the dead trailing me like they were chained to me. We met in center field and Body snatcher had his own envoy. We pushed ourselves back to back and aimed our weapons and began to take out the tag-alongs. I heard a roar come from the tunnel and knew that more were coming. It dawned on me that we were going to be overwhelmed.
I shouted to Body snatcher, “I’m sorry for getting you involved in this. I’m sorry for-”
He shouted as he put another round into the horde, “Sorry for what?! I’m going to die as I lived. Kicking ass!”
His words were bravado. Our rapture was approaching us like a wave.
We continued to deal with those things as they charged at us. They piled at our feet, but more came in to fill their places. I kicked one back that had grabbed me and took it out. I noticed that the choir of moaning had died down. I looked out at the tunnel and saw only a few emerging. The typhoon was becoming a trickle. A few emerged from the blackness and then nothing came from behind them. We had drawn in all of the horde that was in the area. There were only four left.
Body snatcher said, “Let’s get up close and personal with these last group.”
He shoved the glock into the back of his pants and pulled the red fire ax off of his back. I followed suit and pulled out my hammer and put one hand on the item I had confiscated from the evidence locker in the police station.
Body snatcher stepped to the closest body snatcher and swung his axe with all of his might. The body snatcher’s head parted from its shoulders and pirouetted through the air. On its way down to the ground to join its twitching, lifeless body, Body snatcher kicked it as hard as he could like it was a football and he was going for a field goal. The decapitated head spun through the air before coming in contact with the face of the next alien. This gave it pause long enough for Body snatcher to swing his axe in a low arc, severing its leg and the knee and sending it to its knees. He followed through the swing and spun around while swinging downward. The blade of his axe bit into the fallen enemies’ neck and severed it cleanly.
I swung the claw of my hammer and pierced through the orbital socket of one zombie. I jerked the hammer and threw it to the side. As the second approached, I drew the samurai sword from its sheath and sent the pommel into the second zombie’s stomach. As it doubled over, I put the sword between my legs, grabbed the handle with both hands and swung upward. The zombie split into two pieces and sank to the ground, a bisected mess.
“You do know this is a zombie story right?”
“I’m just saying this is what probably happened:”
“Zombie drew the samurai sword, sending the pommel into the nuts of the zombie, doubling it over in agony. He then followed through with an upward swing that failed to bisect the zombie because it is physically impossible to cut something like that with a single swing. As it rolled around the field in agony at having its testicles crushed like eggs, Zombie beat it to death with the sword.”
“I like my way better and so that’s how it goes.”]
Body snatcher said, “You think that did it?”
I slid my sword back into its sheath.
Leejun roared into my head, stripping me of my ability to think.
“You fart-mongerer! That hurts like a son-of-a-whore! Your going to pay! We our Leejun, its like you are killing yourselve. We am going to rape your brain! That’s not figuratively. We’re gunna hold you down while we stick our tentacles in your ear, skull fucking you’re brain until we shoot out hot sp-”
[“I think I’m just going to censor that part and get to the relevant not sexually abusing my brain parts.”]
Three minutes later, “You just can’t leave me alone! Your like those Goddamned nurses. Popping in every twenty minutes ‘Are you okay?’ Shaddap bitch! Can’t you see we’re busy bringing a new world into fruitation? We am giving birth to the harbinger. We’re creating a world of beauty. You could have seen it for yourself, but not now. Just a hint, boobs. Everywhere. I bet you feel like a noob now. We showed them alright, just like we’re going to show you! Come to the hospital, if you can. Be forewarned, we our going to skull fuck you. You deserve at least that much.”
I snapped to and Body snatcher asked, “Any luck?”
I answered, “He’s at the hospital and he wants to skull-fuck me.”
“Ouch, let’s get going and see if we can’t get some earmuffs on the way.”
Our town only had one real hospital and the last I had heard about it, it was infested with zombies. We left the arena, stepping over the smoldering and recently re-deceased corpses. Our swath of destruction littered the field and stained the dirt a rusty-red.
Body snatcher commented as he reloaded his assault rifle, “Not so bad if I don’t say so myself. It’ll do to build up the climax of the movie. This alien leader better look awesome and not like a CGI piece of shit.”
As we walked, I reloaded my shotgun. I loaded the last five 12 gauge shotgun shells into it and switched to my .38 revolver and loaded another speed loader. The stench of charred flesh slowly faded from our noses. We had survived. A dark thought descended on me.
“Tell me the truth. Were you bit or infected by any of them?”
Body snatcher said as we walked down the street, “All clean here. I thought of getting infected to build up the tension for the climactic showdown, but decided against it. I didn’t want to steal your thunder.”
I said, “Thanks for that.”
He responded, “Don’t mention it.”
I examined my sword and tested the sharpness.
“Are you ready for what comes next?”
“You mean the epic final boss battle? Shit yeah!”
I answered, “Well just be careful, I don’t know what he may have up his proverbial sleeve now that he knows that we are coming for-”
The glass of a near-by building shattered as a legionnaire threw itself through it.
It landed on the ground, a writhing bleeding mess. Glass shards protruded from its body. It rose to its feet with a large shard embedded in its throat.
Body snatcher said, “Well at least it wasn’t stupid enough to jump off the roof, but still, jumping through a window?” He approached with his axe brandished and continued, “Stupid mother-”
He raised his axe, but something stopped him dead in his tracks. That something was the sound of more glass breaking.
It wasn’t just a single crack that had arrested Body snatcher’s attack. A plethora of panes shattering were heard. It was not just coming from one building either. They came from all around us, raining shards of glass on the street. It was like someone had opened Pandora’s box and everything was pouring out. It was a choir of cracking glass and corpses thudding on the street. The horde was here and they were ready for us.
Body snatcher said, “Oh shit! Run!”
We took off running before the zombies could get to their feet. They were broken and bleeding, but moved like their injuries were decorations and superficial. We started running in the direction of the hospital.
I shouted, “We got to shake them before we go to the hospital.”
Body snatcher nodded and returned, “Any ideas?”
The zombies were now behind us and sprinting in our direction. We were so close to the hive mind, we would not be stopped. We would not be conquered, we would not be- The sound of more coming cut off my hopes.
They smashed through store windows and broke down doors to join in on the chase for fresh meat. They charged out of darkened alleys and emerged from broken and burnt-out houses. They clawed at us from cars they had been trapped in when they were living and they reached out at us from the sewers. The incapacitated dragged themselves by broken and bleeding limbs after us. Just as darkness had fallen on the town, the undead had fallen upon us. It was at this moment that I knew that me and Body snatcher were the last two living people in this entire city of the dead and they would chase us until our deaths.
Body snatcher shouted as the horde pounded their feet into the pavement behind us, “How are we going to lose them?”
The number behind us had swelled two-fold and it was still growing. They continued to shatter through doors, windows, and whatever stood in-between them and us. With those window breakers, sometimes there was an open door a few feet close to them and they could have easily run through it, but they chose to throw themselves into the glass and slice and stab their body with shards of glass. I didn’t like the thought of being killed by these things that were outsmarted by open doors.
More joined the fray and it was then that I got a good look at a few of them. These zombies were different from the ones that we had encountered in the baseball arena. They were covered in bites. These bites looked as if they had been inflicted post-mortem. Hunks of flesh hadn’t been torn from them in these bites. They only broke the skin. I watched as one zombie caught up with the others and was immediately seized and bitten. As soon as the teeth sank in, the other zombie released and continued towards us. They couldn’t differentiate between us! They just bit and gnawed at whatever was moving and if it was living, they continued to feast. These things were getting stupider by the minute and every minute, more joined in on the chase.
I shouted to Body snatcher, “We’re going to get surrounded if we don’t go on the offensive! I’ll take whatever is in front of us and you cover the back.”
I raised my shotgun and took aim at the zombies that were in-front of us and sprinting in our direction. Fire erupted from my Remington 12 gauge shotgun and knocked a zombie back on its ass. I wasn’t aiming to kill, I was just aiming to, maul and cripple, to knock them down and give us the opportunity to pass unmolested. I cocked and unloaded more buckshot. I had three shells left and when there were none left, the legions would wash over us. We needed to find a way to lose the horde or we would be overrun.
Body snatcher’s knuckles turned white and his cuticles red as he gripped the grip of the assault rifle tightly like a life saver. He whirled around and pumped three rounds into the nearest body snatcher, knocking it to the street with three holes in its chest. As it tried to rise, it was trampled down by the hunting horde. Body snatcher spun and ran backwards while unloading twelve rounds and knocking down three. One three-round burst shattered a body snatcher’s kneecap, but only managed to slow it down. There were more pod people than he had bullets. They would not stop. Body snatcher ejected his clip and loaded his last clip.
They continued onward and were nothing more than empty minds and full stomachs. The street behind us was now filled with a large crowd. We were the end of their hunger, the last few alive in this city and once we were gone; they would move on to other cities. The idea dawned on both of us at almost the same time.
Body snatcher and I both looked at each other at the same time and said, “The gas station!”
We both reached the gas station with the horde in tow. Body snatcher ran inside the building while I blasted my final three shotgun shells into the horde, only managing to slow them down. I ran inside looking for the key that would free us from the horde while Body snatcher took pot shots at the horde with his assault rifle.
He shouted over the staccato of gunshots, “Hurry up!”
I frantically pawed through the shelves looking for our last hope. I heard the sound of glass breaking and Body snatcher cursing as they began to pour into the building. I finally found what I was looking for in the aisle. We charged out the back as they were inside the building.
Once outside, I threw my empty shotgun at the horde while we approached the reservoir. The butt of the shotgun bounced off the chest of a zombie and did nothing to slow it down.
I tossed Body snatcher the stick and said, “All on you!”
I raised my revolver and began to pick off the horde that was now breathing down our necks. Body snatcher frantically ripped open the plastic while I bought him whatever little time we had left. He grabbed the tab and pulled and then he had fire in his hand.
Body snatcher roared, “Let’s end this party with a bang!”
I knew what was coming and took off running. I heard the sound of the flare sparking out its warning fire. I listened to the sound of the sparking fade as it began its journey down the reservoir. Body snatcher joined me in my sprint with a completely satiated smile on his face. He jumped into the air, trying to time it with the explosion, but was off by a few seconds. The zombies were passing just as the blast came that lifted me off my feet and threw me to the street like a rag doll. The sound of the explosion was like the sound of God snapping His fingers. We could only weight as the air temperature rose and a scalding wind blew as a result of our actions.
The zombies that were standing over the reservoir where all the gasoline was stored in the gas station were instantly vaporized by the explosion and the ones that had followed continued to run towards us and were thrown back into the broken shell of the gas station and were now wreathed in flames. I slowly got to my feet, my body feeling sore all over and beaten to hell. The zombies that were still in the gas station that were just outside the blast radius were in no condition to be following us. Body snatcher sat up, rubbing his bruised back where he had fallen on in the explosion.
He said, “That. Was. Awesome!”
Legion roared in a mixed voice that sounded like it had been digitized by Hollywood to sound demonic, but only ended up sounding cheesy,
“That was not awesome! We am the living end! You do not fuck with us! You get fucked by us! We are going to make your last few hours in this world full of pane. We will have you and when you are part of us. The things we will do too you will be awful. Terrible things, butt things. Call us Legion! For we our many! Your boned! Just a peak at your end.”
An image flashed through my mind. It was just a brief second, but all I saw were tentacles and teeth gestating in a room.
Body snatcher said, “We better get a move on before more come.”
I nodded and asked, “How many rounds you got?”
He ejected the assault rifle clip and said, “One clip with the assault rifle. And you?” I opened my revolver and looked.
I answered, “One bullet.”
“That’s a lucky number. How are you doing?”
I answered frankly, “I don’t feel like I have much more time.”
“Then let’s spend our last moments ki-ssing and doing gay stuff!”
“Shut up Legion, let’s go Body snatcher.”
He cast a sideways glance at me and in that moment, I knew that I probably wasn’t coming back from this.
Chapter Fourteen: Parasite Steve and the Stupid Singularity
We started on our way to the hospital. The streets were devoid of life. I knew better than to think that we had taken them all out with our baseball stadium antics and gas station haberdashery. They were waiting. We were not their only problem. They needed the numbers to overwhelm the barricades and swarm the world. We would kill Legion and I would break his control before I could succumb to it and they could attack the barricade. We reached the hospital parking lot to find a man in a white and bloodstained lab coat waiting for us.
The doctor was bleeding profusely from his eyes, ears, and mouth. He had blond hair that curled down to his cheeks. It took me a second to realize it wasn’t blood, but saliva that were leaking out of every orifice in his face. He pointed at Body snatcher and pointed to the ground.
Body snatcher said, “This one’s mine, you go on ahead and take care of the hive mind. I can’t have all the action in the movie after all.”
I said, “So I gotta deal with the freaking Dunwich horror up there and you get nerdy Herbert West?”
Body Snatcher returned, “For the last time, I don’t get your references!”
In that instant, the doctor’s hand shot out from under his coat and a stream of bullets erupted from his gun.
We dove behind a car before he could catch us in the spray of machine gun fire.
Body snatcher said, “Holy shit! That guys infected and he’s using weapons. This is going to be a pretty badass boss fight.”
I said, “Something tells me that that guy right there was the first one infected.”
“How do you know?”
“Just a hunch. He seems smart enough to use weapons and guard a building. He’s had some time to adjust.”
The killer of Omega team quickly slammed a second clip into the Mac-10 machine gun and continued to spray the car, keeping us pinned down.
Body Snatcher asked, “Wanna trade?”
To which I answered, "No, I’m good.”
As the bullets rained on our car, Body snatcher said, “On the count of three, go.”
Before I could ask, he took off running from our cover. The progenitor shifted his aim and tailed Body snatcher with his Mac-10. Body snatcher dove behind the hospital sign before a stray bullet could find its mark. I shot out from behind the car and sprinted towards the hospital. He realized his error and turned in my direction, spraying the area with 9mm rounds. I threw myself through the glass entrance and into safety. Now it was just Body snatcher and the first infected.
I was out of breath, exhausted by the strenuous run to safety. Something was drawing me onward. I knew that I would find Legion in the on-call room on the fourth floor. The hospital lobby was in disarray and was empty, it was stained with blood and rust colored saliva that poured out of a vent on the floor above it which probably fed directly into Legion’s lair. I found the stairs and began my way up. I was wheezing by the second flight of stairs. All the stress must have left me debilitated. I collapsed on the third floor and was gasping for air before I knew what was happening.
I felt like I was drowning. I gasped for air I couldn’t find. I was writhing on the floor.
A voice spoke to me, “Fucking finally! Welcome to the club! Let me explain how the parasite does you in. Your lungs fill with lung fluid, which is now full of parasitic eggs and you basically drown in yourself. Then you come back and then you come to us.”
I clawed at my throat, unable to remove the blockage. I felt the fluid in my throat. I spit it out a red syrupy fluid, but more flooded up into my mouth. I fell face-first into the floor. The world became hazy and I thought I could hear words that didn’t matter to me any more. I was going to die in this stairwell. My journey was going to end here. I felt my heartbeat slow and my breathing become nonexistent. Death met me in the stairwell.
Body snatcher popped out from behind the sign to return fire, but only managed a three round burst before the wave of bullets forced him back to safety. Parasite Steve was wearing a bullet proof vest he had stolen from Omega team under his doctor’s jacket. The gun he had taken was also from Omega team. The Mac-10 used 9mm bullets that were bountiful in the city. He had enough bullets to give a militia man a stiffie. Body snatcher could only wait for intervals in which he was reloading to take a few shots. He bided for the lull in-between gunfire and the sound of a clip hitting the ground to take his chance and hope to get lucky and get him in the head.
He popped out and returned fire. The three rounds struck him in the body armor.
Body snatcher took cover behind the large sign seconds before a stream of bullets whizzed past him. He checked his clip, he had about nine rounds left. At a three round burst, that equaled three shots.
He popped out and instantly realized his mistake. Parasite Steve had picked up an empty clip and dropped it again to trick him out of cover. Body snatcher threw himself back just in time. He was strategizing! Body snatcher could play at that game too! He grabbed a corpse and propped it against the hospital sign. This plan would either kill his enemy or get him killed for trying. He went through with it and pushed the corpse out of cover.
Parasite Steve immediately opened fire on the corpse, filling it full of holes, taking the bait. Body snatcher sprinted out of cover and closed the distance between them. He needed accuracy because he was not going to get another chance like this. Before the infected could react, he raised his assault rifle and pumped three rounds into his right hand, knocking the gun free and sent it clattering off.
Body snatcher took the moment to say, “You just got got!” before he aimed his assault rifle and unloaded three rounds into Parasite Steve’s face.
The rounds burrowed themselves into Parasite Steve’s cheek, the bridge of his nose, and forehead. He stumbled back, but did not fall to the ground. Body snatcher watched in horror as something squirmed out from under the hole. It was a dark red and tubular. More slowly began to squirm out of him. Did you know that if every single worm came to the surface, the world would be ten feet deep in worms? He thought of that as he watched them hatch out. They found holes or made them. Soon the doctor was covered in them. It was impossible to describe, but just for shits and giggles; try to imagine a writhing mass of tapeworms covering a corpse and giving it life. The constantly squirming and wriggling mass moved forward, marionetted by the parasites.
This fight was far from over. Body snatcher raised his assault rifle and drilled his final three bullets into the parasitic mass. The bullets poked holes in the flesh that the tubes that looked like tapeworms weaved through. The mass moved forward, sloughing worms and fluid from its body. As if the flesh was suddenly made of stretch-armstrong material, the arms drooped down to the floor. It dragged its spaghetti arms behind as it closed the gap between us.
The body wasn’t moving the parasites, the parasites were moving the body. It moved like the corpse from A Weekend at Bernie’s. If this were set to calypso music, it would be hilarious, but it wasn’t and this was just disconcerting and unnatural. It jerked and writhed, always in motion and always secreting that rust colored slime. Body snatcher couldn’t get within feet of this thing so he threw his rifle at it, only to have it hit the thing in the chest and the parasitic larvae instantly began to worm and weave their way through it, looking for something to infest.
The parasitic hive swung the tentacled mass that was his arm. Body snatcher ducked under it and continued to back away. The thing left a trail of red slime wherever it walked. It was a walking contagion. He drew his axe and brandished it at the uncaring mass of writhing, dripping infection. A weapon was better than none. Body snatcher continued putting distance between them. He couldn’t attack this thing without getting ensnared by those things and he had no other means of fighting it.
Body snatcher side-stepped the wriggling arm and it shot past him. He watched as it slowly retracted back to its host for another volley. He raised his axe and brought it down with all of his force. It cut into the mass of tapeworms. He jerked his axe free and raised it high above his head to take another swing at it. The worms slid on the ground and wrapped around his pant legs before that could happen. The parasitic entity now had Body snatcher in his grasp!
The tentacled arm jerked Body snatcher off of his feet. He smacked the parking lot forcefully and for a second a black flash encompassed his skull. Before it could begin to pull him back to be killed and infected, he pawed at what could be his only salvation. He was mere inches from the item when Parasite Steve began to pull the man to him. Body snatcher lurched forward in one last desperate gamble and was rewarded for his efforts. His hand wrapped around the Mac-10 machine gun.
Body snatcher turned over and began to unload a volley of rounds into the arm that had encircled him. The worms exploded and disintegrated under the impact, but the arm continued to drag him towards his death. He sprayed at the legionaire’s forearm.
Shit! No ammo. He hurled the gun at the parasitic entity and began to claw at the pavement, desperate to escape the grasp. He kicked and he clawed. His nails tore off on the pavement and his kicks met squishy resistance. Parasite Steve raised his arm and lifted Body snatcher ten feet into the air. He slammed him down to earth as hard as he could rendering him semi-conscious. Body snatcher was defenseless against the progenitor parasite.
The parasite mass dragged Body snatcher slowly across the pavement. The parasites that were the size of gargantuan tapeworms weaved around his legs and tightened as he got closer. Parasite Steve raised Body snatcher up until he was hanging upside down before him. He wanted to enjoy this. He wanted someone who had made so many of his creations suffer live his last few moments in agony. Most of all, he wanted to see- A pain shot through his back. It started at his lower back and radiated up his shoulder blade. He swung backwards and knocked her back before she could stab him again. He tossed Body snatcher off into the pavement to deal with this new foe. Body snatcher rolled to his feet and asked, “Is that a grenade in your pants or are you happy to see me?”
Herbert West looked at Body snatcher quizzically before he explained, “I pulled the pin on the grenade on your SWAT armor.”
Parasite Steve frantically pawed at his vest for a second before the explosion obliterated him. The explosion reduced him to pulpy bits and threw parasitic tapeworms in all directions. His shoe landed on the roof of a car fifteen feet away. He wasn’t coming back from this one. The knife that was buried in his back was reduced to shards.
Body snatcher got to his feet and brushed himself off before the girl said, “I would have called him SpongeBob Explode-pants.”
He responded, “Damnit that is a good one. What made you come back?”
Vampire answered, “I just wanted to see this thing get wrapped up neat and tidy.”
“You wanted to come back for him didn’t you?”
I rolled on my side, choking for air. I couldn’t let this end here. I had one last hope. I raised my hand to my mouth and shoved my fingers in my throat. The reaction was almost instantaneous. I threw up. A lot. Rust colored eggs spilling out of my stomach and evacuating my lungs. I wracked my body and dry heaved. I stood up and whipped my mouth.
“You bought yourself maybe thirty minutes tops. Just give yourself to me.”
“That’s enough time to do what I need to do. I’m going to kill you.”
“Not gonna happen shit-stain.”
I walked up to the fourth floor of the hospital where Legion waited for me.
I drew my revolver that only had one bullet.
Legion spoke, “You seem determined to kill me. How determined are you? Would you, say, kill the one you love most in the world?”
She stood in front of the door to the on-call room. Her face was covered in dry caked blood and it was hard to see her face, but it was simple enough to know she was infected.
“Can’t do it, can you? You can’t kill the one-”
I raised my revolver and blew out her brains in a swift motion.
I dropped my revolver on the ground and said, “You got the wrong eye color.”
“Damn! This mental game of cat and mouse has just gotten the more intense.”
“Plus her boobs are all wrong.”
[“Tits! Go into a little more detail about them!”
“Yeah! Nipple size! Measurements!”
“Not going to happen.”
“Boobs! Boobs! Boobs!”
“Chanting will do you no good.”]
I stepped over the imposter’s infected corpse and entered the on-call room where Legion was waiting for me.
The hive parasite that was Legion throbbed in the center of the room. Throbbed was the only word that could described that pulsating mass of worms. It filled the entire on-call room which housed three bunk beds which were now pressed against the wall. It left me with only a few feet to call my own. The tendrils whipped and snapped at the air. Inside the mass of worms, I caught sight of a translucent sack. A face was pressed against it from the inside. It was a nurse and she was being digested in the stomach of the hive mind. The parasitic worms enveloped the cocoon and swarmed around it. The writhing dripping mass of worms numbered in the thousands. I was face to face with the hive. Legion spoke.
“So this intellectual battle of wits has finally come to a head. Haha. Head. Not even a chuckle? Guess not. My humor is too sophisticated for your childish brain. I have absorbed thousands of minds and learned the secret to eternal life. Are you ready to know the key to immortality? The answer is, “Do not die.” I bet in a bajillion years you would have never answered that question!”
“Never like that because that answer is fucking stupid.”
Legion asked, “Do you know why your here?”
“To kill you.”
“Enough joking around. Do you know how you found yourselve in this predicament? I’m trying to help you here.”
“Help me die maybe.”
“Did you know that schizophrenia manifests itself in early twenties? Sometimes there’s a stresser other times it just becomes evident.”
“Just saying, extreme paranoia, auditory, and visual hallucinations go with the territory.”
“Are you saying this is a product of my schizophrenic brain and I’m imagining all of this and what? Zombies just happen to be attacking us as well?!”
“Zombies??? They look like zombies to you? All those poor people, cut down without the dignity to even die as humans. How cruel. It was especially cruel what you did in that baseball arena. Attacking a full stadium and setting booby traps. We’re just trying to help you realize what you’ve done. Acceptance is the first step towards the road to recovery.”
“And my friends? Vampire and Body snatcher? What of them?”
“Folie a’ Duex and as for the girl; forced abduction and imagined conversations. Another one of your multitude of cruelties.”
[“Awesome twist bro! You totally M. Night Shamylane’d us!”
“Yeah, Legion is like your therapist and trying to make you see what you’ve done and stuff! And in reality, you’re bound on a couch and losing more of yourself in the fantasy of a zombie outbreak and this is his last chance to rescue you from yourself.”
“And the ravaged city, corpses, and army ration crates littering the town square?”
“Uh, more hallucinations?”
I refused to believe such a story. I dug my feet in and pushed further, “And what about all the other crazy people roaming around town? Is everyone sharing the same illusion and ranting about the same enemy.”
“Ummm, super hallucinations?”
“You’re so full of shit that you should be used as a fertilizer.”
“Damn that would have been such a mind-fuck. ‘OMG did I like totes murder all those people?’ I had you going for a second there.”
“Did you really expect me to believe that there wasn’t a writhing, wriggling mass of parasites in front of me?”
Legion asked, “So you’ve pierced the vale of our mastermind illusion and now you hope to kill us! You efforts are fruitless. We are invincible! We are Legi-”
I smashed my hammer down on one of the passing tentacles, reducing it to pulp, and it screeched, “Son-of-Christ that hurt!”
“I got more where that came from!”
“I still hold all the cards here. We am inside you. We are chillin’ all up in your brain! We control what you see, what you hear.”
My stomach dropped and my heart skipped a beat.
“Lights out bitches!”
The world faded from my eyes and I was enveloped in darkness in the same room as a multi-tentacled parasitic hive mind.
I frantically swung my hammer around blindly, trying to ward off the pawing, slithering tentacles. I desperately thought of a way to outsmart this thing.
Which is like trying to outsmart a seven year-old boy who huffs paint daily.
A tentacle wrapped around my foot and pulled me off my feet and slammed me into a wall. The hammer flew out of my hand and clattered across the room. I was defenseless, blind and at the mercy of a parasitic entity that had the petty, violent mind of a child.
They spoke, “About that tentacle rape we promised you…”
They continued, “We don’t want to catch yur gay. That’s how it works you no. So we’ve decided a much better end for you. You ain’t gonna be part of our new paradise! You are worse than shit. You will become shit. Those nurses served as a nice appetizer, but now I need something a little more filling. Revenge never tasted so sweet.”
I felt myself being lowered. The sound of wet slopping and slithering filled my ears in surround sound. It was going to eat me! I struggled, but the worms were wrapped tight around my feet. I felt the tentacles release me and I fell into a squishy surface that smelled of two weeks of decay.
[“Nom, nom, nom!”]
My vision returned, a final punishment of Legion’s. They wanted me to see what would become of me. I was inside the membrane. I could see only a foot in front of me in the darkness inside the hive mind, but that was all I needed to see. Fluid dripped down and pooled at the bottom. There wasn’t room to stand. Before me was a nurse, she was partially dissolved due to whatever acid the membrane was producing. She had panicked and tried to scratch her way out before eventually dying from suffocation combined with shock from being dissolved. I needed to escape.
Legion said, “I bet you will taste delicious like margarita’s and appletini’s… You know because your so gay. This is what happens when you come up against the masses. You get swallowed whole. We am smart. We are the majority and that means that we are right and if you’re not with us, you are a bag of boners. We are everything and we are all-knowing. We think in chess and you think like connect-four. Bitch, we just got you diagonally! Just know that you had the chance to join our magnificence and you decided to dick around with that child and that harlot. Chew on that while we chew on you!”
I pushed my feet and hands against the membrane, but it was too strong. I was not going to bust free of this thing. I had dropped my hammer as well. I would be absorbed by the Legion if I didn’t think quickly.
In my panic, I hadn’t thought of the obvious answer. My brain was to frazzled by everything that was happening. As I was jostled around in the sack, my hand went to my side in the belt. Yes! It was still there!
I shouted, “Legion! You’re wrong!”
Legion countered, “So many people can’t be wrong! WE R LEEJUN and we our-”
“Fucked. You forgot to do something before putting me inside you.-
[“That’s what she said?”]
-You all forgot to disarm me. I’m going to survive. Goodbye Legion, you stupid sons-of-bitches!”
I drew my katana and stabbed outward into the membrane. Legion shrieked into my ears so loud that my ears rattled and my eyes winced shut, but I kept hacking and slashing. I would free myself from this. I stabbed outward and cut down. I threw myself against the opening and broke through to the other side.
I slid out of the membrane, covered in the red fluid-filled eggs. The tentacles writhed around me.
“I’m going to kill you dead!”
The worms shot out and tried to wrap around me. I hacked at them. The katana sliced through the slimy worms like they were, well worms. I stood in the center of the undulating mass of parasites that were between inches and feet in length. I spun in circles, swiping at them with my samurai sword and pulled at the clingers that had stuck to my clothing. I stomped at the ground, crushing them beneath my feet. I was desperate to kill anything and everything. They swarmed me in their death throes, trying to inflict that last bit of damage before their end. I fell backward into the mass out of sheer exhaustion when there was no movement.
Body snatcher and Vampire later found me rampantly stomping and cutting at the deceased mass of worms that was once Legion minutes later.
Body snatcher watched me hack wildly at the now no longer moving bits and pieces of Legion and he commented, “Jesus, guy looks like he’s been through Hell and back.”
I smashed the already dead pieces. Legion needed to be completely eradicated.
Body snatcher said, “I think that’s enough. The hive mind is dead and gone.”
Vampire observed the wreckage and carnage and asked, “Are you okay?”
“I was nearly ingested.”
Body snatcher said, “Better than a skull fucking. But seriously how do you feel?”
“I’m no longer infected if that’s what you want to know. I got a lot of years ahead of me to try and clean up this mess. I’m perfectly fine.” I lied.
Of course I lied. What was I to tell them? I don’t actually remember much of the escape. We found the lattice that Vampire had blown up with her grenade and made our way through miles of shit before emerging into safety. The town was obliterated in firebombs like the fires of Sinai. I later saw in the news something about a gas leak like Centralia. We don’t even have a gaseous resources here, but the media swallowed the story whole. I remember when we were leaving the phrase that kept echoing through my head and it’s the phrase that I carry with me to this day.
I’m still fucked.
I leaned back on in the booth seat and waited for their reaction.
One drunk stated, “That didn’t happen, you’re lying.”
Another joked, “Thanks for the free drinks asshole, happy Halloween. You’re a couple months late.”
“I bet you regret drinking those bloody Mary’s on my tab now. Although it is the perfect drink for hiding the parasitic color that my saliva has.”
A third patron snapped, “You expect us to believe that you did this little song-and-dance for what? To put a couple parasites in us? Why even tell us that story then why not just buy us the drinks and save us all a complete waste of time?”
“I needed you all to listen. I didn’t want to make the same mistakes twice. You could say that Legion is under new management now.”
The barflies rabbled, “That’s a stupid twist! You might as well have ended it with a freeze-frame of Michael Jackson looking at the screen with yellow eyes that had Vincent Price laughing in the background. Do you really expect us to believe you’re an infected and you just infected us all? That’s stupid.”
I answered, “Not as stupid like believing killing a hive-mind would rid the world of the horde, but still pretty asinine.”
“Yeah, your story was asinine! Thanks for the drinks! See you never!”
They left and I had a drink of my own while I thought about worms. I paid the massive tab and left as well.
I went back to my house, a small one floor home with all the amenities necessary for American life; television, and a fridge. I found the door had been jimmied open. No need for alarm or the police.
I went and sat down at the counter and said to the guest, “I expected to see you sooner.”
Body Snatcher said as he continued to rummage through my cupboard, “I was busy cleaning up all those messes of yours. You got any good booze in this place?”
I responded, “None you’d probably want to drink. You never know what I could have infected while here. I have a tendency to do that you know.”
Body snatcher said, “I know who you’ve infected while here. You seem to be doing nothing, but leaving behind catastrophes in your wake.”
“I got orders from on high.”
“So you’re a company man now? Please tell me it’s not the same douche.”
“You could say that, but I like to think of myself as more of an intermediary. We’re under new management however.”
My old friend said, “You’ve been quite busy at those bars.”
With a shrug I said, “No rest for the wicked.”
“Right about that.” He raised his revolver and shot me in the forehead.
I fell back from the counter and landed on the cold linoleum floor. I felt the blood draining out of my head and puddling on the floor.
What a mess.
Body snatcher lowered his gun and walked up to the other side of the counter.
He looked at my splayed out corpse and said, “You’re body snatching days are over.”
He probably had been saving that one for weeks while he tried to track me down. He probably spent hours mulling that closing line over in his head.
I sat up with an open head wound and countered, “If anything I’m more like a zombie-”
He raised the revolver, pointed it directly at my face and pulled the trigger a second time.
It was a slow motion flash. For a second I thought I saw the bullet exit the barrel. I crumpled back to the ground like a marionette whose strings had been cut. I wasn’t going to be getting up from this one. What a shame, I still had work to do and a world to create. Body snatcher leaned down to me as I was slipping away. It may have been the bullet that pierced my brain but I could have sworn I saw tears. I also tasted purple in my mouth, but that was clearly a result of the bullet. The sight of his tears were not.
Body Snatcher said in a voice that was quieter than a whisper but seemed louder than a gunshot, “My real name’s Andrew.”
He put the gun, point-blank to my forehead and he pulled the trigger one last time and all I saw this time was the flash.
An End to the End
I stood up and sensed her presence, she was watching me. I wished I had a perfect pun like ‘friends don’t let friends become pod people.’ but my mind was devoid of everything. I didn’t feel like making a joke or pun and that scared me the most.
Vampire said, "It’s alright, let it out.”
It was then that I realized my head was buried in her chest and tears were in my eyes. I felt like a boob, head buried so close to her chest yet unable to make the breast of the situation. I wept like a bitch-baby in her embrace.
Vampire held me and whispered empty platitudes in my ear, “He was too far gone.”
My tears were a river, threatening to drown me.
She coed, “There was nothing left of his original self.”
My throat tightened and I felt like I had been shot in the stomach.
She pleaded, “At least now it’s over.”
It was over. I had survived. I felt like I should have died, like in those monster movies. Should have met a self-sacrificing end like every character in a new age monster movie. She made a desperate gambit to pull me out of my catatonic state.
Vampire kissed me. Directly on the mouth. I felt her tongue probing my mouth, like she was searching for my soul. It wasn’t my first kiss, but it felt like it was. I reciprocated, but felt like I had been set to auto-pilot. The kiss went on for a minute or so. Clearly I hadn’t put on a bad show, she pulled away with her eyes in that dreamy state which indicated that something had shifted inside her, changed inside her.
Vampire told me, “He meant a lot to me. He was my first. I didn’t kiss him of course. I wanted to, but it felt wrong at the time. You, having just gone through that noble sacrifice and all. Didn’t want to spoil it with something so obvious as a tongue-fucking. Had to resort to a drink. We shared a bottle of cheap whiskey and that was my opportunity. The second the bottle touched his lips, my first. Beautiful and pristine.”
I tried to respond, but my lips were dry and numb. She pressed her hand into mine, my hand holding the gun; pressed it to the floor.
She continued, “It started with a car crash. Black market organ harvesting. Hospitals don’t really care where the organs come from. I was so fucked up in the accident that I needed several organs to replace the old ones that were pin-cushioned by a pipe. I needed a new liver, kidney, and the entire lobe of a lung. Doctors found them in a Taiwanese fishermen, who had made a living fishing and had survived by eating King crabs daily.”
She continued, “Gotta say, he was useless. Too isolated to really make an impact. But me, an American at the heart of this technological age of connection. I could travel and be at the pulse of everything. I was like the lottery for it.” She drew me into another quick kiss and finished, “I had to get rid of that big oaf. ‘Infect as many as possible!’ What a tool! You gotta be careful and choose. Grabbing everyone doesn’t weed out the stupid and at the end, with a hive mind, that’s worse than a katana to the central nervous system. Thank you for helping me with that. Such a hassle they were.”
I rubbed at my lip, coming away red and asked, “Are you wearing lipstick?”
“I never did.”
I got to my feet and made it to Zombie’s desk.
I flipped through the manuscript he had typed and filled with spelling and grammatical errors and said, “We R Leejun, huh?”
Vampire whispered into my ear, “We can change the title.”
I responded, “It’s perfect.”
He promised at the start of this story that we’d all be stupid after reading it. He was right. Interesting thing is, fifty percent of people are infected with a parasite that can drastically alter their behavior and no one’s the wiser. Truth is, you’re already a part of us or you are going to be soon enough. We are Leejun and soon you will be too.
I rubbed at my lip and dumbly asked, “When did you start wearing lipstick?”
“I never did.”
“One more question?”
“What was his name?”
“It means everything to me.”
I raised my gun, pressed it under her jaw, and pulled the trigger before she could even react. The bullet ventilated her skull and exposed her diseased mind for all to see. She twitched and writhed on the ground as if she was still trying to get up. A memory slithered back into my mind and wrapped its tendrils around my brain until I could only think of that one memory.
She wrapped her arms around me as she was preparing to try to escape the Body Snatcher-infested town through the sewers and she whispered, “Take care of him.”
I can promise you that.
It is truly something for a person to waste an entire clip on something that only required a single shot, but I did. Even paused to reload and unload a second clip on her. The noise must have woken up the entire neighborhood and it wouldn’t be long before someone was dispatched to investigate.
It’s time for the hero’s last stand.
I checked the handgun, I had used up all of my bullets making sure that she wasn’t going to come back. I decided when police arrived, I would tell them this, before I chose to go out in a hail of gunfire.
“We R Leejun.”
I like to think that even though we are stupid, we will never be that stupid.
“Fun” Facts on Parasitic Infection Researched for the Basis of “We Are Leejun”
Digenea Family: Troglotremidae Species: Paragonimus
Life Cycle: Miracidium eggs present in saliva targets snails (Theridae) producing sporocysts and redia. These form cercarias which infect crabs or crawfish. They encyst and become metacercaria. Upon ingestion, they re-activate and spread throughout the body. (Targeting pleural spaces and reproducing.)
Pathology: Paragonimus is generally found in the lungs located in pleural spaces. They trigger an inflammatory response, leading them to be encapsulated. These capsules rupture and can be communicable through sputum, saliva, and aspirated pleural fluid. There have been recorded cases of Paragonimus located in the heart and spinal cord. 1
A number of parasites have been shown to influence behavior. Dicrocoelium Dendriticum makes ants migrate up grass stalks in cooler temperatures to be ingested by sheep, Toxoplasma Gondi causes rodents to seek out areas smelling of feline urine leading to their inevitable ingestion.2
Conservative estimates indicate that Toxoplasma Gondi has infected roughly 50% of the Earth population. (Over sixty million are diagnosed with Toxoplasmosis in the United States alone.) Those infected with T. Gondi are more susceptible to hallucinations, increased chance for Schizophrenia, and decreased reaction time. Toxoplasmosis is shown to alter the behavior of mice to seek out cat urine thus leading to their transmission to a feline host through ingestion. 3
Endosymbiotic Theory: The theory that mitochondria, which produce energy for the body, was initially a parasitic infection that became beneficial for both host and pathogen. This symbiosis eventually led to its DNA become incorporated into ours.4
Paragonimiasis is generally contracted through ingestion of undercooked crabs and crayfish, but can be transmitted through sputum, pleural, or peritoneal fluid. They are generally located in pleural spaces, but have been identified in the spinal cord, heart, and even the brain. There have also been rare cases of the infection being transmitted through organ transplant. 5
1 Foundations of Parisitology Schmidt G. & Roberts L. McGraw Hill 2005 pg. 279-283
2 http://www.corante.com/loom/archives/2006/01/17/the_return_of_the_puppet_masters.php January 17, 2006 The Return of the Puppet Masters, Zimmer, Carl.
3 Center for Disease and Control Toxoplasma infection
4 Wallin IE (1923). "The Mitochondria Problem". The American Naturalist 57 (650): 255–61.
5 Merck Manual Beers et al. 18th edition. 2006 pg. 1557-1558
Written by EmpyrealInvective