The Zombie Plagues 3…
This material is copyright © 2017 Geo Dell and is used here with permission
Watertown, New York
They came from the hill. They came from the many graveyards that dotted the city where they had hidden in fear. They came from the surrounding countryside and made the journey to the small northern city. The wolves followed them from the tree lines, shadowy alleyways and doorways of abandoned buildings, but they kept their distance. More and more they turned and made their way out of the city, leaving it to the dead.
He led them, his limp was gone entirely. His body had finished the major changes that being un-dead bought with it. He had come from the barn outside of the city, looked down at the blackness of the valley that the small city lay in, and he had known it was time.
Miles away another lead a similar group, beyond that another, and another, across what had been the United States and beyond. Across the lands, the oceans, the continents. The living were through. The dead were the inheritors of this world now, the living squatters hanging on to something they had no claim to.
He scented the air while his gathered around him. Over one thousand, and nearly that on the other side of the city waiting for his command. He knew the numbers exactly, eighteen hundred seventy-three, but the numbers were unimportant, the time was important. Their time. The end of the old time. It was on the air. In the air. He took a step forward and those behind him surged, only to stop once more when he stopped, careful to leave him space. Careful not to bump or jostle him. For such a large crowd they were nearly completely silent.
He scented the air. There where hundreds of the breathers hidden away. Hundreds that believed they were safe. He knew where they were. He knew what they considered safe. But it was safe because he had allowed it to be safe. The time of safety for the living was at an end though.
He knew he would lose some of his own, but he knew those he took would raise to join him. It was ironic really, if the breathers could only look at it that way they might be able to see it in an entirely different light. A gift. And a gift was really what it was. How often did you wish you could live forever? How often had he wished it? So, here it was and they were running from it. Afraid of forever or afraid of passing through death to get to forever?
He looked over the dark city. The breeze that passed his face told him about those hiding. It also told him winter was on the way. Bad for the breathers, but not for them. Cold was life. Heat was the enemy. Cold was something to be embraced, longed for, fought for, striven to attain. Heat was the destroyer of that life. The coming winter would be good for them, they would come together and move to the larger cities.
He took a step, another, and began the walk down the hill toward the darkened city. The thousand behind him moved as one, following him down the hill. No fires burned. No lights shone. He could smell the stink of the breathers. It repulsed him and yet it drew him at the same time.
He could smell smoke on the air. The breathers needed their warmth, but it would only lead his to them more easily. They had their fear of fire, but they had a bigger fear of him. A fear of what he would do if they did not succeed. There was another death. Another death that was permanent. He had set examples, and he could set more, but the deeper into the process they were the more in tune with him and his needs they were. They did not need examples. They knew the consequences and they understood them completely.
The walk down the hill was pleasant. The air became even cooler as they descended into the valley that held the small city, the scents of the living clearer. He stopped near a crumbled store front on the outskirts of the city itself. A crossroads, or what had been a crossroads. The others stopped behind him. Waiting.
The main road stretched away into the city itself. To the left and right the buckled and overgrown blacktop stretched away, finding alternate ways into the city. He said nothing, but those behind him began to divide into groups, some to the left, some to the right. A few minutes later, the cold blue moonlight shining off the cracked and tilted roadway, they started on their individual ways. A few minutes after that the intersection was empty, as though they had never been there at all.
She ran from the doorway of a falling down building, one of the several that sat at the crossroads, the children under her arms and pressed closely to her. They were really too big to carry, and she would not be able to run for long, but she had to put as much distance between herself and the dead ones as she could, and the kids could never keep up with her…
She had not heard them come but she had sensed something wrong, the way any mother will, and she had crept to the front of the crumbling building and peeked out the shattered window, hiding herself in the shadows as she did. They were everywhere. She had nearly screamed aloud in her fear, but managed to reign it in because she knew it would lead to discovery. They would come for her, and if they came for her whether the kids hid or not they would be finished. They couldn’t survive without her. She had clamped one hand across her mouth and faded back further into the shadows.
At first she had refused to look. Afraid that they would somehow know she was watching. But she couldn’t stand not knowing where they were and what they were doing. Were they, even now, creeping toward the building? Was one peering through the shattered glass and into the shadows where she was hidden? Her eyes flew open. No. But, she had nearly convinced herself that it was true. They had stood motionless in the road. A vast group. Several hundred. Maybe more than a thousand. Maybe more than that.
Some did not look dead at all, they seemed almost as alive as anyone else. The differences were there though. You could not put that many living people in one place and maintain absolute silence. Humans… Living humans, she had amended… Were these still humans, she had then asked herself? She pushed her own question aside. She didn’t really care. The point was humans… Her kind of humans, would not be that silent. Would not be able to be that silent.
This crowd had stood stock still. Hands dangling at their sides. They looked stupid, but she knew they were far from stupid. She had been watching. They were not smart, far from it. She had watched them stand still and wait while someone lined up a rifle or pistol and shot them. Wasn’t that stupid? To her way of thinking it was. But when she had thought about that she realized it had been some time since she had actually seen that happen. No. They were smarter than that now. Not as fast or smart as a human… There was that word again, but didn’t it mean that there was something about them that she didn’t consider human? Something in them that bothered her so much that she could not look at them as humans? Something…
She had watched, careful not to make any noise. The children were in the back, in an old freezer room. A heavy steel door closed and locked with a padlock. Even now they could be calling out to her and she would not know. But, that meant that the Zombies also would not know. Could not know. She hoped that they were not upset. Not worried. That they had not missed her. But she had been relieved that she had thought to close and lock the freezer door. It had occurred to her though, that if anything happened to her they would die in that freezer. No one would know they were there. No one would come for them. They would be frightened, scared… She had pushed it away and watched the dead where they stood, hands dangling, faces blank. They looked stupid. They looked stupid, dammit, and they should be stupid! But they weren’t.
She had watched from the shadows as a few minutes later they began to move away. No words passed between them. They made very little noise even in their leaving. Feet scuffing against the roadway, their clothes rustling slightly. No more than a whisper on the wind, and she had wondered what it was that had bought her from her steel prison in the first place… Intuition. Had to be.
She had waited a few moments after they were gone. The moonlight was cold. Her breath fogged lightly on the air. She was terrified, she found. Still terrified she corrected. She had taken to doing that. Correcting her own words as if she was someone else. She had worried at first that it could mean she was going crazy. But she had decided that it didn’t matter if she was crazy or not, didn’t matter in this world because the entire world was crazy. So what was the problem with a little more crazy? None, she had decided. She could go on correcting herself forever. Her heart still hammered in her chest. Hard… Bam… Bam… Bam… it’s a good thing they had not been able to hear it.
She had looked out at the roadway. Empty. Not a sound, but something bothered her about it. If they knew she was here they would come back. They would. And if they were gone it would be best to leave right now. Not wait until they came back and found her… Killed her, she modified. Yes… Killed her. And the kids… Or leave them to starve to death in the old freezer… Or… Could they figure out the lock mechanism? Could they? They were smarter, but were they that much smarter? Maybe they were. Maybe…
She had turned and ran to the freezer. Panicked. Knocking aside a stack of boxes as she went. The sound loud in the silence. More than loud. Overwhelming. Sending her into a frenzy. She nearly snapped off the key getting it in the lock. Her breath coming hard and fast. Creating pain behind her rips. That sharp pain she associated with running too hard for too long. And her breaths were unsatisfying, she couldn’t seem to get enough air. And then the key had slid home, she had twisted the padlock, shot it from the door and let it fall to the floor.
The kids had been sleeping, but they had come awake quickly as she pulled them from the floor and began dressing them.
“But mommy, I’m sleeping… I’m tired,” Danny had complained.
Jessie had just stared blankly. Blinking her eyes and looking around.
“Honey,” she had told Danny, “We got to go… We got to… Don’t fight me, Baby. Give me your foot.”
“Is it the dead guys,” Jessie had asked quietly, her eyes serious. She had held Jennies eyes and refused to let them go.
“Yes, Baby. Yes. Now come on. Get yourself dressed for mommy… I have enough with your brother. Get dressed, we got to go.”
Jessie had nodded and began to dress herself. She had turned to Danny as she dressed “‘member them dead guys?” she had asked him.
He had stopped squirming and looked seriously at his older sister. “Yeah,” he had breathed.
“Well they might get us if you don’t hurry up… Making mamma take too much time… They eat little boys first too.” She had turned away and began to tug on her sneakers. Danny had stopped fighting and had actually began helping.
“Wrap your arms around Mommy and hold tight,” Jennie had told them. She had been a big woman just a few months ago, now she was maybe a hundred pounds. Maybe it would make her faster, but she didn’t believe her own words, and the little voice inside her head continued to chatter along about running in boots, and she should have changed to sneakers, and… She had shut it down, peered out through the shattered window at the still and empty street. Jessie had reached down and turned the knob on the door for her, and she had stepped back and the door had swung inward. A minute later and she was running through the shadows at the edge of the road. A deep stitch in her side…
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