“Non omnis moriar.” ~Horace
‘Tis the voice of the dead
From the depth of their glooms:
Hark! They call me away
to the world of the tombs!
I come, lo I come”
Cypress Hill lay in the valley between ridges and rolling hills, nestled in thick woods broken only roads and farms around the town. It had never been a big town; in its heyday no more than two thousand people had lived there, by the summer of 2010 just before the dead rose only four hundred thirty had remained.
The town proper sat directly on the intersection of a State Highway 27 and Potters Road. The families who had lived there had been there for generations, eking out a living farming on the rolling hills and ridge. The years had brought non farming jobs, not as many as other places but enough for the remaining residents to eke out a living.
Like a lot of old towns, Main Street had been the life blood of the community, a place where the locals mingled, ate, and shopped. Over the years, the businesses in town had spread to the streets on either side of Main Street, and beyond. But as the years rolled by and more and more people began to leave, only a third of the business were still open when the end of the world came, and many of those that remained had moved back to occupy the buildings along Main Street.
Now the field stone buildings downtown were empty their dark windows looking out onto dark streets where nothing moved but the leaves and the trash as the wind scurried through on silent feet.
The old IH truck rolled into town its head lights cutting through the darkness like spears revealing leaves and trash on the road. It slowed around a two car wreck, passing under the tattered banner that hung across the road, announcing Farm Day, June 22nd, and entered the downtown area.
The headlights swept across the building fronts revealing the dead deserted buildings. The door to Pruitt’s Insurance swung slowly in the night breeze, the plate glass window of Danson’s Furniture open since 1931, was shattered. An overturned stroller lay beside a dropped bible on the sidewalk.
A little further down Main Street, a Barbershop and an Ice Cream parlor flanked the old theater with its 1950’s neon marque that had closed years before the dead had risen. The letters painted on the plate glass windows obscured by the grime that had built up on the still intact glass. A car sat covered in leaves outside Nathan’s Auto Shop, the Dairy King, A knock off of Dairy Queen with even less tasty food, had broken windows, its doors stood open showing nothing but darkness beyond the reach of the light.
As the truck approached the main intersection where Potters Road crossed Main Street, the headlights revealed a Sheriff’s Department car that sat empty in the middle of the four way stop intersection, where it had been abandoned so long ago. Beyond the intersection and the reach of the headlights, more buildings, just dark shapes in the night, marched down Main Street.
On the north corner of Potter and Main, a gas station loomed dark and dead, the truck slowed going around the abandonded Sheriff’s car and pulled into the gas station. Coming to a stop near the pumps, the head lights cut off plunging the world back into darkness, and then the truck door opened. Lee climbed out clutching the shotgun to his chest as he looked around at the dark buildings. The cement of the parking area was cracked and pitted, weeds growing up everywhere they could get a foothold.
Somewhere something banged against a wall. Wind whistled mournfully through broken windows. Shadows swept across the town plunging the street into darkness as the clouds moved across the moon.
It was a town of the dead, Lee thought with a shudder as he scanned the streets, He saw no undead emerging from buildings, but that didn’t mean much, they moved slow and could even now be heading this way. Could they all be gone? he wondered, left the town for some reason only the dead knew of.
He didn’t like the idea that the dead could have motives, which implied they could reason, and if they could reason… He shook his head forcing the ideas away, wincing as pain flared up from the motion. No the undead were mindless, they couldn’t even figure out how to walk around a counter to get to him, or open doors. No the only one he had encountered that seems to be able to think was… he let that thought go, turning to look down the road half expecting to see her floating towards him, hair streaming in the wind, gaunt features glowing like alabaster in the moonlight, with only a flicker of fire in the dark pits where her eyes had been.
He walked over to the where the underground tanks for the gas pumps had been refilled and saw in the moonlight the covers and caps were gone leaving the throat of the pipe exposed, Kelly hadn’t lied about that he thought. He could wait until daylight and find something to stick the tank with, but he doubted there was a drop left down there and if there was it was probably more water than gas by now.
He climbed back in the truck and sat there for a moment, eyeing the old roll up doors of the mechanics shop attached to the gas station. There could be a spare battery in there, as well as other things he could use. No, I wouldn’t know what half the things are in there, how would I know if I need it or not.
But there could be gas cans in there, and if there are than I take then and go back to the farm and fill them up so I can get the hell out of here. But did he dare do it in the dark? No, he wasn’t that brave and he knew it. The basement had taken all of his courage to search and that had turned out to be a nightmare.
He sat there in the dark watching the street as much as he could, not wanting to be surprised by the undead, his mind mulling over his problems.
He woke with a start, slumped to one side in the seat; he had fallen asLeep with no warning. As he lay there, getting his mind working properly something bumped against the truck. It was brighter in the cab than it should have been, so dawn couldn’t be far off he thought. Slowly sitting up to look into the side view mirror he saw a zombie staggering away from the truck walking out into the street.
Keep going, keep going buddy no fresh meat here, Lee said silently, hoping the force of his thoughts would move the zombie right along. He wondered about it walking away, he had seen zombies attack sleeping people before, but then other times like now, they didn’t seem to realize people were nearby. Maybe because he was inside the truck and it was quiet. Thank God I don’t snore.
He could well imagine waking up to a sea of faces pressed against the glass, staring in at him, a deep hunger burning in their dead eyes. He looked around again but other than the zombie that had bumped the truck; he saw nothing on the street. Deal with it now, or you could sit here for hours waiting for it to leave he thought.
He opened the truck door and climbed out, the sound of the door was just enough to alert the zombie. It turned around, arms coming up, fingers crooked, and started back towards Lee who loaded his sling and started spinning it.
A sling was the perfect weapon for small numbers of undead who were just far enough away, he liked to think of it as quiet, which it wasn’t, but what little noise it made couldn’t be heard too far away, so it didn’t tend to draw zombies a mile or two away like a gunshot would.
He let fly, watching the zombies skull crater as the lug smashed into it, then it fell over and lay still. Might as well check out the station for gas cans, and get the hell out of here. His complete dismissal of what he had just done would have shocked him to his core last year.
He opened the door and stepped into the small room, where two small old fashioned coke machines sat against a wall, an overturned rack and scattered bags of crushed chips.
There was a door with an inset window in the back of the store that led to the mechanics garage he ignored it for the moment as he moved around and spotted a shelf that held six five gallon gas cans covered in dust.
Returning to the front door he looked outside checking to make sure the street was still empty then quickly moved the gas cans to the front door. Once he had the cans in place, he opened the door and propped it open with a cigarette butt can.
Staying as alert as possible he carried the cans to his truck and placed them in the back. Once the cans were in the truck, he went back inside and got all the fuel cleaner bottles, oil, brake fluid, and anti-freeze and carried them out to the truck as well.
He was checking under the counter when something thumped against the door that led to the garage. Lee looked up to see a face pressed up against the small rectangular window placed in the door. Its mouth worked silently as a hand with broken nails clutched at the glass.
Time to go, he thought grabbing the box of jerky under the counter, some gum and a six pack of bottled Cokes, then raced for the truck. He wasn’t going to bother with sticking the stations fuel tank, chances were good, that there was rain water and dirt mixed in with anything that might be left down there, and he wasn’t going to tempt fate today.
By the time he reached the farm again it was ten in the morning, according the watch he wore. Granted he had gotten turned around and even found a pretty nice spot he might stay at for a night or two, but he still didn’t think his watch was keeping correct time, there was no way he had spent that much time or fuel wandering around.
Kelly’s body was right where he had left it; he felt a twinge of guilt again, wondering if there had been something he could have done to convince her he wasn’t going to attack her in anyway. But he seriously doubted that any one as shit bat crazy as she had seemed to have been would have done anything other than what she had done.
There were maybe ten undead down between the hills that that barn and house sat on, he spent a little time slinging, watching them drop one by one, the last one dropped forty feet away from him with that done he walked around the barn checking out the area to make sure no more undead were lurking close by.
Once he was sure he was as alone as he could be without opening the barn, he dragged Kelly’s body behind the barn and covered it with a ragged tarp he had taken from her truck.
He set up the pump and hoses and spent the next half hour filling gas cans, and there was still plenty of fuel left in the large tank. What I really need to do, is find some way to get that tank down and mounted on a trailer and take it with me. Which was all well and good, but he had never been the most mechanically inclined person on the planet.
With the full gas cans loaded into the back of the truck, he decided to check out the barn. For all he knew there could be some armored military vehicle in there, fully loaded and ready to go, not likely but stranger things have happened, more likely was the barn was full of undead and the moment he opened those doors they would come swarming out and rip him apart, and his last sight in this life would be watching some ten year old zombie kid eat his intestines as a zombie pulled his head off.
He stood there staring at the door for a long while, and then finally rolled the barrel away from the door. Taking a deep breath he swung the door open, ready to run while crapping his pants, but saw only dust motes swirling in beams of golden light that shown through the cracks in the walls. Shadows lay thick under the hay loft, towards the back he saw a room had been added, the top of the room was flat and had been used for storage.
A tractor with its hood up, sat waiting for work that would never come. Under the hay loft in the shadows he could see attachments that went on the tractor, all of it looked like some sort of torture devices waiting for victims.
As he searched the barn for things he might be able to use he slowly became aware of a soft sound, like cloth swishing gently as someone walked. He whirled around half expecting to see a zombie but the barn still appeared empty. he looked up to the open hay loft but saw nothing up there, and a zombie would have to fall off to reach him, so he wasn’t too worried about that.
The temperature in the barn seemed to fall suddenly, growing colder, Lee backed up slowly until he bumped up against a work bench mounted on the wall. His head darting from side to side even as the light seemed to dim in the barn, as if clouds were blocking out the sunlight.
No, damn it no, his mind raced, his heart began to double thump in his chest. Out of nowhere, the scent of perfume came to him, her perfume.
In the darkness under the loft something moved, just a shape, but he knew who it was. Keeping his back to the wall of the barn, he moved towards the door, his hands shaking.
“Leave me alone” He croaked, his throat burning. “Please, leave me alone”
Nothing but silence came back, a deep profound silence as if the world held its breath. Lee realized he could see his breath, as plumes rose in front of his face. He could feel his pulse beating in his eyes, any moment now his heart would explode.
“Leeeeeeee” a cold voice from the grave whispered, he never stopped moving for the door, his eyes fixed on the darkness. Where a face swam into view, a pallid face with dark pits for eyes, his heart lurched causing him to stumble, it was almost dark in the barn now, only a fan of light from the open barn door cast any illumination. Like the light at the end of the tunnel it promised safety if he could only reach it.
She glided out from under the loft, dark hair floating around her face, clothed in a dark dress, she had never owned in life. He realized she was floating above the floor, and for some reason that was scarier than all the rest. Proof she was not human, not undead. Her mouth opened and she screamed liked all the lost and damned souls trapped in hell as she swept towards him, her hands reaching out to take hold of him, not flesh for her, his mind gibbered, no she was coming for his soul.
He screamed and scrambled the last twenty feet to the door, he could feel her icy breath on his back as he threw himself out the door. Just as he crossed into the light, a hand touched his ankle then was gone like fog dissipating.
He lay there in the sunlight sobbing, the undead forgotten as his terror filled eyes stared into the barn, where sunlight streamed through cracks in the wall.
Finally he rose to his feet, and only then remembered the undead; he looked around panicked and saw four zombies down by the gate, two more coming from the woods on the hill behind the barn. He didn’t bother with closing the barn, he didn’t care, he wasn’t coming back here for the last of the gas. He rushed to his truck and yanked open the door, only to be greeted by the smell of perfume, he reeled backwards. She had been in his truck.
“What do you want?” he managed to shout fearfully. “Leave me alone, please” god he hated sounding like a complete coward, but this thing scared him far more than the undead.
She wanted him to leave the truck to go on foot, it made it easier for her, he thought as he forced himself to climb inside truck. He twisted the key half afraid the motor wouldn’t start like in horror movies. But to his relief it roared to life, he slammed it into gear and took off like a bat out of hell speeding around the barn and straight for the gate throwing rooster tails of dirt and old leaves as the back end fish tailed.
The town looked the same as earlier, no sign of undead, which made it creepier to him. He knew that they were waiting somewhere, waiting for the moment he was too far from a building or the truck that he couldn’t reach safety in time, and then they would sweep out, hands grasping, teeth gnashing, ready to rip and rend.
He sat there in the intersection the truck idling. Run or fLee, I’ve been running for a year, a damn year, and it hasn’t worked. He had most of the day to scavenge and find a place to hole up if he was going to stay and finally confront the thing that haunted him. There were a few things he could do, that might help, might not. But this running constantly was getting old, damned old.
He was terrified at the prospect of actually standing his ground, knowing that he might well die, but he couldn’t go on like this. His mind made up he climbed out of the truck, weapon in hand and went and looked in the abandoned Sheriff’s patrol car.
There was little he could use in the car, the officer or someone had taken almost everything worth taking, except in the trunk where he found a case holding a spike strip, a box of flares, and two full Magazines for a Glock. Behind the spare tire he found a holstered Sig with four magazines.
Finished looting the car, he looked around, and saw a zombie walking down the center of the street towards him, it had been a woman once, maybe even pretty once upon a time, but it was hard to tell as it staggered and lurched towards him, the face had been destroyed, and chunks were missing from her thighs and arms. He spun the sling up and sent a lug nut winging towards her and missed by a hair.
Frowning he loaded another lug into the leather cup and put the sling into action again. This time he was rewarded with a crack and some kind of goo shot into the air.
“Nasty” he muttered as he looked around half expecting a few thousand of the things to be standing behind him just waiting for him to turn around and see them.
He climbed back into the truck and drove as far as the Sunshine Café, next door was Buckley’s Drug Store. He parked in front of the Café, watching through the windows for a moment, and then shut off the truck when he saw nothing inside the cafe.
he opened the cafe door wincing as a bell rang above the doorway; he stepped into the shadowy interior. And looked down the line of tables before slowly approaching the lunch counter. He had the shotgun ready, hoping he didn’t have to use it. The noise would draw zombies from all over.
The café was essentially one long lunch counter along one wall, and tables against the outer wall with the plate glass window. It reminded him of café’s he had used to see in old movies.
He climbed up onto the counter and looked behind it before he climbed slowly down behind it with as little noise as possible. He moved so he could peer through the plate serve window into the kitchen, once he was sure nothing was waiting for him, he stepped through the swinging metal door into the kitchen.
He pawed through cabinets searching for anything he might need or find useful, pausing as something hit the floor with a clank. Out of the corner of his eye he thought he saw a flash of movement in the back of the kichen. He turned quickly but saw nothing. Filled with apprehension he moved towards the back slipping around stainless steel prep tables to the back wall where he saw a short passage to the right of the cooler that led an the manager’s office, on the opposite wall was a door that he was almost certain led outside behind the café.
Finding nothing there, he returned to the kitchen shaking his head, not sure what to think and not wanting to take the time to worry about it. Working quickly he gathered up the few industrial sized cans of food, several of the large salt containers and some other items he might need and carried them out to the truck then headed next door.
The drug store was like the ones you saw in movies, with the stone façade, large plate glass windows, with confining aisles loaded with everything from Burma Shave to penny candy on the counter. Flyers from the local Christian Ladies Rotary sat on the counter announcing a fish fry at the Tabernacle Baptists Church that would never happen, behind the main counter by the door, a poster board held baby pictures with birthday announcements. He swallowed the depression that threatened to swamp him as he looked at the happy chubby baby faces, not wanting to think about what had happened to them when the dead had come.
He quickly cleared the aisles which was easier than normal since all the aisles were in a straight line from front to back with no obstructions, the actual Pharmacy counter was along the back wall, and like the rest of the store belonged to an earlier age. The Mayberry age as Lee had once thought of that time.
Grabbing a packaged gym bag off a shelf, he opened the package and then began to collect everything he could think of he might need, band aids, peroxide, bandages, wet wipes, and much more were added to the gym bag until it almost bulged with purloined goods.
Deciding he might not be able to gather more later on he took another bag and filled it as well. Carrying both bags to the front he sat them down, and saw a zombie across the street in front of the Gayle’s Resale Shop. A sign proudly proclaimed prom dresses for sale for that special moment.
He slung his shotgun and stepped outside sling in hand. As he placed a lug in the cup, the wind shifted and the smell of the undead washed over him. He started to whirl around and got hit from the left side; the zombie had come down the sidewalk from the direction of the intersection. He had been so focused on the zombie across the street he hadn’t even noticed the nearer threat. Stupid, stupid, stupid, tolled through his mind.
He twisted hitting the ground on his back, managing to get his left hand up under the jaw of the zombie that was tearing at him. The dirty ragged nails ripping at his clothes. Panic rippled through him, he punched the rotting corpse in the side of the head a couple of times, not even phasing the thing which was trying to push its head down towards his throat.
No, no, no, I am not going to die this way he thought, not even aware he was actually shouting NO, over and over. His worked his right hand down, as he struggled to keep the zombie from getting its head any closer to his left arm or throat. He managed to get a knee up and into the zombie’s midsection and tried to lift it off him. The only real effect was it helped keep the zombie from laying completely on top of him.
Finally he drew his pistol, and lifted it only to have the zombie grab his arm and turn its head towards the movement. He panicked and with all the force his adrenalin fed muscles could muster he pushed the zombie off him to crash to the ground at his side. It still held on to his right arm.
Lee grabbed the pistol with his left hand, as the head dipped towards his right forearm, the rotting lips skinning back from the blackened teeth with bits of meat stuck between them. He rammed the pistol into its forehead and pulled the trigger, gagging as his arm and shoulder were splattered with black goo and ooze.
He rolled over and got to his feet his ears ringing, and saw the other zombie was now halfway across the street, moving at a slow jog, or a fast power walk. Just looking at the overweight zombie, it was sad to think that it was getting more exercise in death than when it was alive. He rushed forward, and as soon as he was close enough not to miss he pulled the trigger, his mouth twisted with distaste as the back of the zombies head opened up spilling its brains out onto the ground.
He backed away, and then knelt on one knee, breathing rapidly, his limbs shaking from the adrenalin spike that was fading. He bowed his head staring at the ground for a moment, trying not to remember another street in another place.
Something scuffed on the asphalt behind him. Cursing he lunged away from the sound, only stoppingwhen he was ten feet away and whirled around. The zombie he had first noticed had gotten much closer while he had been dealing with the power walker.
It was dressed in a quilted housecoat, a few curlers still dangled from her limp bloody hair. Her head was cocked to one side; the cloudy dead eyes were fixed on Lee. She stumbled forward, Lee sidestepped her, sticking out a leg and sending her tumbling to the ground.
He had already fired his pistol twice, there was no point in not making even more noise, he thought but why risk it. He dropped to his knees on the zombies back holding it in place and began to slam his pistol into the back of her head until she stopped moving.
Lee looked around and saw that more undead had appeared, coming from behind the stores on Main Street. There were more on the south end of the street than the north, and at least seven were clustered around the truck now.
You really need a plan; or a place to hide and die, this is getting to damn old Lee told himself. Firing that pistol had been a mistake, not that he’d had a choice. But now it was time to figure out how to escape this without leaving behind all the stuff he had just gathered up.
Not a again, I’m not losing everything again, he vowed, feeling deep in his bones, that she was the one causing this. He just stood there waiting and watching the undead stumble closer and closer.
“Come on, you bastards” He croaked making sure he kept on eye on the other group of undead coming from the north end of Main Street. The question was how many more of them could there be around here, if he just gunned them all down, how many more would appear?
Not to mention that the ones clustered around the truck hadn’t moved yet, which was odd behavior for a zombie with one of the living in sight, and their behaviour only enforced his idea that she was behind this.
Backing slowly towards the door of the small used shoe store, he lured them towards him. The stench was growing almost unbearable the silence broken only by the sound of feet shuffling.
Lee pulled the shot gun from his back holding the barrel like it was a baseball bat; he knocked out the display window. He was leaping into the store before all the glass had finished falling to the ground.
It was dim inside the store, and it didn’t smell like any of the undead had been locked in inside, it smelled musty and long abandoned, of course all the undead outside were about to enter so, the smell was about to get worse. He didn’t wait he started for the back of the store.
The undead crammed into the window frame, arms reaching for the living man who was fleeing down an aisle away from them. The eerie sound of teeth snapping together sent chills racing up Lee’s spine. A zombie dressed in a postal uniform was the first to get inside,it tumbled through the window where it struggled back to its feet. Then another , this one a girl dressed like a Mennonite, a zombie in boxers was next his belly distended from decomposition gasses tumbled over the sill to the floor and slowly got back to his feet, then more followed them inside.
Lee was already at the door to the back and threw it open, and stopped as real fear tore through him at the sight of the dark room beyond. He almost turned and raced back to see if he could get past the zombies and back outside.
He pulled the flashlight out of his back pocket and shown it inside the room which was both a storage area and an office. Boxes of shoes were stacked neatly on metal shelves, paper work still sat on the desk, waiting for the manager who would never return.
There was no place for a zombie to hide, but it wasn’t zombies he was really worried about. He stepped inside and shut the door behind him. Fear rippled through him as the light from out front vanished, but he didn’t let it slow him down, he kicked on the door to make sure the undead focused on the door to the store room, then ran across the room to the door he was sure led outside.
Thankfully the deadbolt was a keyless dead bolt, he reached to unlock it, and his flashlight flickered and went out. Oh fuck no he moaned fear freezing him in place.
He could hear the undead bumping at the store room door, trying to get inside. The sound, like an erratic heartbeat, steadily thumping with dark insistence. The room grew colder as he felt her arrive. That was all he needed to break free of the fear spawned paralysis, he fumbled at the lock, as he heard the rustling of cloth.
“Leave me the hell alone!” he shouted, or tried to it was barely above a whisper.
It was growing colder as if she drew closer; a shadowy shape was gliding across the room, reaching for him, always reaching for him.
Just give up and die; a part of him thought. Screw you, he replied desperate to live, the knob turned under his hand, he threw open the door and sunlight flooded in. He didn’t even check to see if there were undead he just dove out the door into the blessed sunlight. Something tugged at his shirt as he left the doorway, but he was already free.
The parking and loading area behind the store, was cracked and pitted, weeds growing up through the cracks, across the street were homes and more business’s. Most looked intact and shut tightly as if their owners had left planning on returning. He saw at least six zombies in the yards, staggering towards Main Street, or had been until he had come running out the back door of the shoe store.
He ignored them for a moment, turning to face the dark rectangle of the doorway. He could barely make out a figure standing there in the darkness, just beyond the fan of light that fell into the room.
“What do you want?” he asked, almost calmly, safe from her in the sunlight. “What did I do to you?”
He could hear a ragged breathing, as if she struggled to draw breath, and then wanted to close his ears as that cold dead voice called him to join her in death. A wave of hopelessness swept over him, maybe she was right, the world was dead; there couldn’t be more than a few of the living left by now.
He could feel his willpower slipping, depression filling him. Why not end it now? Why not… He force the thoughts away, he wasn’t giving up. He had survived horrors he had never imagined after the dead rose, he wasn’t about to just slit his wrists and end it all now even if there was no hope left in the world.
But there was, he thought, wasn’t that what kept him going, the hope that sooner or later he would find a safe place, the hope that he could find a way to either escape or stop whatever she was.
“NO, go the hell away” he muttered fear coursing through him. But it wasn’t as strong as it had been, there was anger there now as well.
“No escape” the cold dead voice said dragging out the last syllable sending chills racing up his spine.
It’s trying to keep you standing here; he thought looking around and saw that two more zombies had appeared at the corner of the store, drawn by the sound of his voice. Soon the ones across the street would merge into a group; he had better get past them while they were still spread out.
“Screw you, you dead bitch.” He said giving it the bird then turned and ran across the street and across an overgrown lawn. As scared as he was of whatever it might be, it felt damn good standing up to it for once. Now if the sun would only stay up 24 hours a day things would be good.
On the next street he saw two zombies down the road to the south so he ran north, heading towards the edge of town, but he didn’t plan on going that far. Reaching a wooded area between the two streets, he ducked into the woods and slowed to a walk, his eyes darting from side to side, seeking any undead. If he was very quiet he could lose them.
There couldn’t be more than a hundred feet between the two streets, if he could lose the undead he could creep back to his truck. But that might take some time he thought as he looked around. His eyes fell on pieces of two by fours nailed to the trunk of an old oak; he followed them up with his eyes and saw a tree house.
Grinning despite his fear, he reached into his pocket, and pulled out the full salt shaker he had picked in the Café, might as well give this a shot he thought as he unscrewed the cap and quickly poured the salt in a wide circle around the tree, with that finished he climbed up quickly.
The tree house was a bit rickety but not too bad he thought, as he climbed up through the trap door and looked around the six by eight room. Faded posters taken from old playboys adorned the walls, an old lantern hung from the ceiling, a sleeping bag was spread on the floor and a moth eaten old blanket lay in the corner. He stretched out on the floor, peeking through the trapdoor beside the tree trunk.
He wanted to relax but he couldn’t, he might have to spend a day or more up here, he had no food on him, but both canteens on his belt were full. So he was good on that count. If the undead stopped below the tree he would just leap down on them and take off running again. If they went on by, well he had a place to rest for the night.
The sound of something moving through the leaves reached his ears before the stench reached his nose, he watched silently as a rail thin man, his clothes were rags where his killers had ripping them apart to get to the flesh below, appeared below the tree, bones shown whitely through the gaping holes in his rib cage and right arm.
The noseless zombie didn’t look right or left, it just kept plodding along, approaching then passing the tree and vanishing from Lee’s sight on the other side of the tree. Lee could have moved to look out one of the windows, but he didn’t dare risk making any noise.
Okay this seems to be working he thought, now if the salt works, I’m home free. One of the things about being in recreation groups like the Buck Skinners or Mountain Men, and the Civil War reenactment groups, was all the old lore you picked up. Salt or so some of the stories went, could be used to block magic and evil spirits.
According to the stories it could be sprinkled in a circle or across doorways and below windows to keep out Haunts. What little he had left he would use up here just to be on the safe side, maybe it would keep her away, maybe it wouldn’t but it felt damn good to be doing something. For the rest of the day he watched as zombies passed slowly by, none seemed to pay any attention to the treehouse, or more specifically to the living man high above them.
After a while he slithered over to the sleeping bag, and quickly poured the last of the salt in a circled around it then lay down on the bag, not even noticing the musty smell that rose from the fabric.
He studied the centerfolds as he lay there, wondering if any of those women were still alive somewhere. He seriously doubted they were, and it didn’t matter if they had survived. He would most likely never run across them.
For a moment he could picture a group of well-armed playmates holed up in the Playboy Mansion, holding off an army of the undead. He fell asleep with the image of lingerie clad, machine gun wielding playmates running through his mind.
“You are one the hardest people to talk to.” Wild Bill said, with his distinctive Texas Drawl, from where he sat on a log in front of the Tepee he called home during the Buck Skinner Rendezvous in Utah.
Lee looked around confused and found himself standing in the midst of the sprawling camp of canvas field tents and tepee’s. The usual sounds of horses were gone, no ringing of a blacksmiths hammer, smells of leather or cooking food. The silence only underscored the absence of the laughter and boisterous conversations that were a constant background noise during the day at a Rendezous.
“Yes this is a dream, in a way at any rate, Lee.” Wild Bill said his trademark bushy mustache twitching as he smiled. “Good thinking with the salt, but you’re in a shitty spot no mistaking it.”
“I don’t understand, what’s going on” Lee asked, realizing Wild Bill hadn’t called him by the name he used as part of the Reenactment.
“Course you don’t, no reason you should. And I don’t have a lot of time either. Some one really doesn’t like people talking to you, living or dead, but it’s occupied with something else right now, so I slipped in.” Wild Bill said with another smile. “You’re not alone here Lee, there’s a couple of other people hiding around this town. You need to find them. I know we Buck Skinners like to think we don’t need nobody, but the truth is we do, you’ve been alone for too long Lee, it’s kept you alone on purpose”
“It?” Lee asked, as he sat down on a log beside the fire, where a Dutch oven sat in the coals.
“It is as good a word as any, you have to figure out what it is, and how to beat it, but you can do it Lee. And…” Wild Bill’s voice trailed off, as he looked around the empty camp looking for something.
The sunlight seemed dimmer somehow and the temperature seemed to be dropping. “It finished faster than I thought it would, don’t give up Lee. I’ll try to come back if I can. But remember you find those folks and your halfway free of it.” Wild Bill said as he and the camp faded from view.
Lee woke up to the smell of dew; a faint predawn light glowed outside the windows of the tree house. He lay there listening for a while then satisfied nothing was moving around outside, he moved quietly to the trap door and looked down.
So far so good he thought seeing nothing moving below. The dream had been good for him he realized, feeling more optimistic than he had in a long time. It didn’t matter if it had been real or not. A sudden realization hit him right between the eyes; that was the first dream he had had in a year. Totally weird he thought shaken by the absence of something so fundamentally normal and human.
First thing I need to do is figure out exactly where this town is. I know I couldn’t have gone more than a hundred miles in the last year, not with all the cut backs I’ve taken to get around obstacles like rivers and mountains. Then there was spending days at a time hiding from the undead that seemed to wander around with no apparent goal.
He climbed down slowly, double checking for undead but saw nothing. As soon as he was on the ground again, he moved quietly into the woods vowing to find leather and all the tools he need to make some moccasins to make him even quieter in the woods.
I should have been thinking this clearly last year, he decided, as he reached the edge of the woods and saw the road. To his left about three blocks down he could see the shoe store, the rear door still standing open but not a sign of the undead.
His plan; simple as it was, was to clear any undead from around the truck, retrieve the two bags just inside the doorway of the drug store, find a damn map and a phone book. Once he located what he needed, he wouldn’t need to scavenge half as much.
His friends had laughed back in the day, when they had found out Lee had learned to sew, mostly to make his own clothing for the reenactments. Buying material had been much cheaper than buying the actual costumes from people.
And let’s face it, wool or canvas pants are going to be much more durable than jeans. Maybe there had been a reason he had gotten so into the whole recreation scene. If I had joined that medieval reenactment group, I would have been able to learn how to make chain mail, which can’t be all that hard. Let’s see a zombie bit through that. A butcher would have those chain mail gloves he realized, having seen the butcher he had used wearing them several times.
He started down the road, staying alert, but saw no sign of the undead, he stopped only long enough to close the back door of the shoe store, and pick up the flashlight he had dropped when he dove outside.
Most of the businesses were wall to wall, but several had obviously been built later, since they had allies between each other. But all of them had faced the main street with small parking lots in the back. Probably used for delivery’s he thought noting that two had public doors in the rear as well, one had been a computer shop, the other a Verizon phone store.
Across the street, the small tree shaded yards, and the store parking lots were free of undead. He frowned seeing that someone had spray painted a pentagram on the door to a Christian Book Store. What an asshole he decided, you don’t have to like them, but that was just being a dick. And what does it matter anymore Lee, he asked himself, the world ended all right, but not the way anyone but Romero had foreseen.
He looked down the alley between a brownstone building and a newer style red brick store; the old brownstone building had been a bank in 1912 according to the legend carved into the side.
A zombie stood beside some overturned trash cans next to the bank. As still as stone staring out at Main Street its back to Lee. It had no clue that he was there.
Lee drew the knife he carried and slipped up behind the thing, the confined space and no wind made the zombie smell ever more rank than usual. God they should be destroyed just for the smell he thought as he reached the best point to attack and rammed his knife point first right into the skull where the spinal column met the skull.
After a year of killing these things, he knew about every quick way of killing them there was. He thought as he grabbed the corpse to keep it from falling over the trash cans and making a racket that would draw the undead back down on him.
Placing the corpse on the ground beside the emergency door of the red brick building, he moved to the alley mouth and looked both ways along Main Street which was empty once more, there were none of the undead on the sidewalks either, but six zombies of the seven zombies still stood around his truck as if guarding it.
I need a bow, he thought, having spent five years learning how to shoot one with efficiency for his reenactments. He had always been fascinated with the mountain men who had lived with the Tribes, and adopted their ways, which was the type of character he had adopted for the Rendezous.
Well you have a sling, get to using it. He pulled his sling out, fitted a lug into the cup and stepped out already spinning it in his hand.
His first lug nut zipped out, dropping a zombie, the others looked around confused for a moment before they spotted him then began to stagger and lurch towards him. His second struck a zombie in the throat, if it was annoyed it gave no sign of it, but its hands were up and grasping at the air in front of it.
He sent a third lug whistling through the air, striking another zombie in the forehead, the bone cracked like a rifle shot. Sling whistling he sent lug nut after lug nut into targets, as the undead crossed the hundred feet to where he stood. Every lug nut, occasionally every other one, left a body lying on the ground. He hated doing this; those had been living people once, with hopes and dreams. They deserved better than this, but he also didn’t deserve to be ripped apart and eaten. One day he wouldn’t be able to take it anymore, but that day was still in the future, today there was only killing.
Finally the last zombie collapsed to the ground, less than ten feet away, black goo oozing from the hole the lug had left in its skull. Lee took a deep breath, looking around the street, and then relaxed slightly seeing nothing else around. Okay, first things first, he thought as he ran to the drug store and retrieved the two bags. He put those away, and jogged back to the gas station.
The zombie trapped in the mechanics baying was still pawing at the door to the store side, when he entered. Lee ignored it, snatching a map from the rack on the counter, and then grabbed the phone book from under the counter.
Back in the truck he unfolded the map and located the town, “I’ll be” he muttered seeing where the town was located. I made it a lot further than I thought. Not too far up the highway was Oneida Tennessee and beyond that Kentucky. If he hit the road right now, he could reach Canada in two days.
Stick with the plan, find the three folks still in town, and then deal with her once and for all. He told himself. What if it really was only a dream, you’re going to waste time here, and possibly let her get you.
What if this is all in my mind? The ghost, the dream, all of it. I could be in a coma somewhere, hooked up to machines and none of this is real, or the undead did rise and it drove me nuts, and I’ve only hallucinated the rest. Or you dumb ass, you drive yourself nuts trying to come up with every scenario to explain how insane you are. It’s real, all of it. Deal with it.
Dismissing the doubts and fears from his mind for the time being he opened the phone book and began to flip through the yellow pages, smiling as he saw two Saddle and Leather works places listed.
He searched some more and located an indoor/outdoor flea market on 27, which probably meant it was on the north side of town since he hadn’t seen one coming up from the south.
Flea markets might have a ton of old hand tools and other useful items. The last place he looked for and found, was a fabric store, and Sue’s Sewing Shop sounded like it might fit the ticket, as long as he could find it at any rate, the only locals around were not keen on giving directions. He started the truck and pulled out of the parking lot.
It took him half an hour of driving around to locate the saddle shop and salvage what he needed and then some. The fabric place really didn’t have the type of fabric he wanted so it turned into a total bust. When he finally found the flea market, it was all he could have wanted. It also had undead.
The open air portion of the flea market covered two acres of lightly wooded land, with booths and stalls set up in a mish mash of twisting paths that were like Medieval London. The huge gravel parking area still held vehicles, maybe thirty in all. Scattered around the market he could see RV’s and travel trailers roofs sticking above the tops of some of the booths. From the looks of it, many of the vendors had been trapped here before they could pack up and head home, or maybe they had arrived to set up thinking that the outbreak on the news was just an exaggeration and found out too late they had been wrong.
Most of the booths, especially those on the perimeter were enclosed on three sides, with their backs forming walls to the parking area and the highway, gates and gateways between some of the booths gave access and views into the market.
The indoor portion of the market was next door and had once been an elementary school, at least if the faded sign over the doors didn’t lie. Three zombies in the parking lot stumbled towards the truck as Lee parked near one of the gates.
All three had been elderly men, they had been savaged before they died, judging from the damage to their clothes and bodies; old dried blood covered their clothes in huge splotches. They were still a good ways away. Someone else might have just let them be, but Lee wasn’t going to leave them at his back. He put his sling into action, and took them down one by one. His aim off today, it had taken him two lugs for two of them and three for the last.
He clipped the machete to his belt, and then checked to make sure the magazine in his pistol was full and double checked the spare magazines to make sure they were fully loaded as well. Nothing sucked worse than needing fifteen rounds and find out there were only ten in the magazine.
After that he slung the strap of the large leather bag over his shoulder and slung the shotgun across his back. If there were too many he would just go back to the truck and forget about the place.
He opened the gate, which thankfully made little noise; it was however, enough noise to draw the attention of the legless female zombie with one arm that started trying to drag itself towards him. He tried not to notice that she had been a teen-ager, and tried not to notice she had been cute as well. She’s just rotted meat these days he told himself, nothing but rotted meat.
He looked both ways down the lane of booths making sure no other zombies were waiting to leap on him, then walked over to the crawling corpse and placed a boot on the back of her neck holding her in place then sent her on to the afterlife with the machete, turning away from the sight before he could be sick.
He looked around the lane and saw a little bit of everything in the various booths. Flags, walking sticks, CD players, tools, books, dolls, kids toys, boots, guitars and clothes. Some of the booths were empty, which didn’t surprise him. He wouldn’t be surprised to find only about half the markets stalls had set up for business. But like many such markets there were people who didn’t travel from market to market but who worked their booths all year round like the business it was.
Moving carefully his nerves buzzing with apprehension, he worked his way down the lane and turned to head deeper into the market, almost immediately two zombies appeared from inside a booth, one was a woman in a floral print mumu that looked like a bloody garden of the damned, even in death she couldn’t move faster than a slow shuffle, the other was a tall skinny man in overalls, his lips and nose gone. Teeth glinted in the sunlight.
Lee backed up the way he had come, putting some distance between himself and the undead. He thought he saw movement further down. The booth he had stopped beside, had a Louisville Slugger in a umbrella stand, smiling he lifted it, remembering his baseball days in high school.
Mumu needed to be taken down with a Tonya Harding to the knees, if she hit Lee there was no way he could get her off him. Might as well do teeth guy the same way, it would make them less dangerous.
He darted forward moving as far to the left as he could, to put distance between himself and teeth guy, then leaped towards the woman swinging the bat for a line drive right into her right knee, the bone shattered with a loud crack and she tumbled to the ground.
Lee danced back and moved around to teeth guy, but before he could swing at the things knee it managed to grab the strap of his shoulder bag. He brought the bat up in a rising strike, slamming the thing in the side of the head, the jaw broke, teeth flew, and bone snapped. Another blow and gore flew skinny guy went over like log. Lee only managed not to gag or throw up just to keep the noise down. By then mumu, was dragging her bulk towards him. Already upset and disgusted, he stepped towards the crawling corpse and finished it off.
The lanes were tree shaded and someone had long ago placed mismatched benches along each lane. The booths were mostly wall to wall, but in places there was plenty of space between each booth. Spotting a small wooden, handmade, trailer with four wheels, he snatched a blanket from the booth across the way, and threw it inside the wagon to muffle sound, then pulled it behind him. Judging by the trailer hitch and the size it had been designed to be pulled behind a four wheeler or a UTV.
In a short time, he had collected a set of leather working tools, a guitar, a wide brimmed felt hat, some blacksmith tools and forms, canvas tarps and other odds and ends. His plan had expanded slightly, he was going to face the thing that haunted him, and then find a place to settle in to, preferable in Canada, and for that he was going to need tools and other supplies to make life easier.
He rounded the corner into a new lane and saw that most of the shops here were empty. A small travel trailer fitted with a small sliding window over a counter, had been a snack bar, inside he could see a zombie. It was no threat unless it could figure out how to open the door or window and escape he decided turning down the next east west lane. The booths here were mostly empty; much of what was here had been ruined by exposure to the weather for a year.
It took him awhile to reach the center of the market, and he had only encountered five undead, all easily dispatched by the bat. The center was where the more permanent shops were placed; these were fully enclosed, with doors and display windows and the resemblance to an old western town or old London was even more noticeable here with the design of the buildings.
He stopped, eyeing two corpses lying on the ground, both were missing an eye, and goo had oozed out in a puddle around the heads. They hadn’t been dead long he thought, looking around uneasily. No matter what his dream had said, his last encounter with someone in this town had ended in a shootout, he thought while absently touching the bandage on the side of his head.
As he looked around, he noticed the sign over the door of one of the shops and felt excitement rise up in him. He pulled the wagon over to the door and parked it. Before he peered through the window set in the door and saw only a dimly lit shop. He turned the knob and found it unlocked.
Taking a deep breath to steady his nerves he pulled the door open and stepped inside, bat in one hand flash light in the other. Oh yes pay dirt, he thought as he saw the sheep skins, rolled up cow hides, the dream catchers, and a ton of other items commonly associated with Native Americans. He grinned as he pulled two throwing axes down from a wall display that included a spirit shield, on sale for five hundred dollars.
He quickly gathered up some of the skins and furs, the throwing axes, a capote or blanket coat and carried his prizes out and placed them in the wagon, before returning to gather more things. The shop actually had two rooms and a loft, and was stuffed to overflowing with all things Native American and old west, though much of it was more what tourists thought of as Native American.
He studied the bows that hung on wall, all but one of the bows on display were cheap, most likely handmade for tourists on some reservation. But one of them was worth every penny of the fifty dollar price tag, in fact it should have sold for close to six or seven hundred dollars, handmade, old , well cared for. He added that to his score as well, but found only cheap arrows that might kill a squirrel, but only if it were bent over ass in the air and he managed to hit it right in the butt.
He gathered up several old tools and other items and carried them to the wagon. Throwing in a bolo he spotted in a display case as he passed.
He returned for one last go through, he really could have stripped the place bare but there was no point to it, the skins and furs he was leaving behind would most likely still be here if he came back. He was just turning to leave when he saw a dark figure rise up behind the counter. He froze his blood running cold, his heart trip hammered in his chest as he stared, it stepped forward and his fear level fell as he realized it was a zombie, not her. He had been expecting her to appear the entire time he had been in here, and he couldn’t deny he was almost happy to see a zombie and not the thing that haunted him.
He raised the bat and stepped forward, seeing the doe skin dress it wore and the blood stains. Her long hair fell around a beautiful face marred only by the blood around her mouth and the cloudy eyes. They had been kindred spirits, with a deep interest in history and Native Americans Lee thought as he let her get another step closer.
He hated what he had to do, but he hated what she had become even more. He swung the bat with all his strength determined to drop her with one blow. Her head cracked open, at the power behind his swing and she dropped to the floor with a thud.
What a damn waste he thought, but a lot of good and decent people had died since last June. He pulled a Navajo styled blanket off the wall and covered her corpse with it. If he came back he would try to find the time to burn her body to properly send her off. His enthusiasm for the shop was gone. He only wanted to get back out into the bright sunlight and finish up.
He hit two more shops, finding a few other items that he wanted, mostly herbal stuff, and a confederate artillery short sword that looked like the real deal.
As he loaded the last of the items into the wagon, he heard the jangle of wind chimes, a discordant noise whose cause was not any wind. He looked and saw three zombies about forty feet to the north staggering through a booth, one was tangled in wind chimes, tearing them loose even as Lee watched. The tubes clanked and rang as it came towards him.
He calmly turned around and headed the opposite way, noting that more zombies were weaving between the booths and trees from the section of the market he hadn’t explored yet. He headed back towards the gate he had used to enter the market.
The smell was the first warning he had that something wasn’t right as he reached the lane that would take him to the gate. He stopped as he saw the undead, there were at least twenty, maybe more and he could see several more appearing through the gateway at the far end.
There was another gate close by he could use but the real question was how many of those things were in the parking lot. He pulled the wagon over to the nearest gate and looked out and saw zombies scattered across the parking lot, stumbling silently towards the gateway. Not much of a choice here he told himself as he pushed open the gate and stepped outside pulling the wagon after him.
He jogged forward becoming the instant center of attention as every zombie in sight turned and started towards him. This is not going to work he thought as he rushed past several zombies who turned and followed him. I’ll end up encircled he decided as he reached the truck. The only real chance he had was to keep them spread out, as individuals or groups of one or two, they were easy to defeat, but as a mob he was going to get eaten. Grabbing the bat, he turned and ran out into the parking lot, not even having to shout or make noise, the zombies silently followed him. There was close to eighty of the things now.
A female zombie, wearing a ripped and torn dress that showed far more dead flesh than it covered lunged towards him; he danced back and took out a knee with a solid swing. Then went around her sprawled body to get at the next zombie; a portly older man with half his face gone. Lee swung the bat with all his strength at its head as he ran past, knocking it to the ground.
His world became a blur of motion and violence as he danced and darted amongst the undead. The zombies didn’t even notice that he was slowly moving in a circle around the parking lot, keeping an eye on how many undead were still near the truck. The crowd was slowly merging, as they stumbled after him.
Lee was growing tired, his arms and back ached, his lungs burned and the bat seemed to have gained weight. A zombie suddenly reared up in front of him, causing him to stumble, he struck it in the knee, then reverse and brought the bat back around and struck it in the head as it went down. He kicked it for good measure, and then took off once more, just barely evading the hands that tried to grab him from behind.
Now he told himself as he saw only eight zombies near the truck the rest were strung out in a semicircle across half the parking lot, and wouldn’t be able to reach the truck before he could load up and escape. He reached his full speed, sprinting across the open ground ignoring the pain, aiming for the most isolated of the zombies near the truck.
He swung putting his body weight into it, the bat struck home, the skull shattering under the blow, but the bat broke with a loud crack. He stopped long enough to get the shotgun into his hands; noise wasn’t a factor any longer speed was.
He got as close as he dared to the next zombie and pulled the trigger, the noise and recoil taking him by surprise, but he was too close to miss. The zombies head vanished in a spray of red and black mist. He repeated the process with the next zombie almost sticking the barrel of the shotgun in its mouth before pulling the trigger. He would have lost his lunch except he hadn’t eaten today.
Finally the hideous job was done; he grabbed the wagon and pulled it over to the tailgate. He unloaded the wagon into the back of the truck as fast as he could. Watching as the mob of undead in the parking lot advanced on him once more, their numbers boasted by several that had exited the gateway from the market and headed towards him. Fortunately they were too far and too slow to reach him before he finished.
He threw in the blanket from the bottom of the wagon, slammed the camper closed and raced to the driver’s door. The muscles in his thighs were jumping, his hands were shaking, and his breathing came in ragged gasps as he turned the key, praying the truck would start.
The engine came to life with a roar, he slammed the truck into gear and sped off, blowing through the crowd of undead, trying not to hear the sound of bodies being crushed as he rolled over them.
Late afternoon sunlight filtered through the trees, spilling down onto the gravel road as the truck rolled along under the shadow of a forested ridge, Lee consulted the map on the back of the brochure one last time, and then kept a sharp look out for the turn. Finally he spotted the sign, almost hidden by the overgrown brush and vines. He turned into the drive; in the last year the brush and trees not having been trimmed back enclosed the narrow road like a tunnel.
The truck rolled over a wooden bridge that crossed a wide swift moving creek. Just past the curve the road began to rise up the ridge line. Lee smiled for the first time in a year as he saw a deer leap across the road, vanishing down the side of the ridge in a heartbeat of time. The road curved once more and leveled out on top of the ridge line.
Finally he emerged from the trees into an overgrown clearing, passing a sign that read “Hoyt’s Cabin” the cabin itself sat near the bluff that dropped down along the back of the ridge. It was a nice looking place really but in need of some work. He parked the truck next to the wrap around porch and climbed out. It only took him moments to walk around and peer in the windows. The cabin had an open floor plan and a loft, which made it impossible for a zombie to be hiding inside, unless it was stuck in the fridge or hiding under the couch.
Hoyt’s Cabin was one of the top vacation rental cabins for a romantic getaway, the brochure had promised. Lee didn’t know about that, this part of Tennessee had never been on the tourist hot spots but he couldn’t deny it was a nice place.
The front door was locked, which didn’t surprise him, remembering an old show he had watched, where two reformed thieves would break into homes and steal stuff, just to show the owners how bad there security was and how thieves could gain access, came to his aid now.
He climbed up on top of the porch and checked the windows that looked into the loft, if this didn’t work he would look for a hidden key, but today his luck seemed to have turned, the third and last window he checked on the front slid upwards. TV show knowledge for the win, he thought as he slipped inside. He checked the bathrooms and closets just to make sure there were no zombies trying to come out of the closet, pun intended he told himself. Finally satisfied he unlocked the front door and stepped out onto the porch taking a deep cleansing breath, trying to ignore the rising tension that the approaching nightfall brought with it.
He walked down and opened the camper to retrieve his pack, food and some other gear and froze as he saw a child sitting in the middle of his supplies pointing a pistol at him, no not a child he realized seeing the angular face with its chiseled features. Sandy blond hair poked out from under a Cardinal red ball cap.
“I’m going to lower my pistol, and I want you keep your hands away from your own weapons” the midget said. Lee nodded in agreement. The man slowly lowered his pistol, ready to yank it back into position to fire if Lee went for his own weapons.
“Odd way to carjack someone, putting your weapon away” Lee observed, watching for any sign of distraction.
“I’m not carjacking you ass hole, otherwise I would have been sitting in the cab with my pistol out and ready to kill you back at the flea market, instead of being bounced around back here.” the man said as he motioned for Lee to back away from the tail gate. He scrambled out of the back of the truck his eyes never leaving Lee.
Lee watched silently as the man dropped to the ground, he was almost four foot six, proportional the same as any tall person, and judging by the thick arms and chest and legs, had been a serious fitness buff.
“I’m Adam, and I’m sorry about greeting you with a weapon, but I didn’t want you to freak out and start shooting before I could explain.” Adam said as he holstered his pistol, displaying either stupidity or hope that their meeting wouldn’t devolve into a shooting match. Lee opted to believe that Adam wanted to talk peacefully. It would be a great change from the past.
“I’m assuming you weren’t hiding in something I loaded” Lee said half humorously.
“Is that a midget joke your about to tell?” Adam asked, crossing his arms over his chest, looking up at Lee
“Maybe just a little” Lee replied despite himself, his smile was fleeting, his thoughts increasingly turning to the coming night.
“A little, another joke” Adam said smiling, trying to defuse the situation. “I saw you going through stuff at the flea market, so I went and took a look in the parking lot, figured the one vehicle that wasn’t there when I arrived had to belong to you, so I climbed in and hid.” Adam explained.
“What happened to your vehicle?” Lee asked, trying to ignore the nervous tick that was starting to beat in his blood.
“My truck broken down, the head gasket blew last Christmas right on the edge of town. I’ve been hiding and surviving around this dump ever since” Adam told him.
“You could have just gotten another vehicle” Lee pointed out not really thinking about the difficulties someone as short as Adam would have trying to drive a vehicle.
“I could if it was modified for me to use, you do notice I’m a bit on the short side right?” Adam said shrugging slightly. “I suppose you have a name? Mind sharing it?”
Lee apologized and introduced himself, still partly surprised by how the early evening was going. He was also surprised that he believed he could trust this man. Maybe it was because of his dream, maybe it was the fact he was so tired of being alone.
It’s kept you alone on purpose Wild Bill had said in his dream, and it didn’t like others talking to him. Was that even possible that maybe it had caused the violent confrontations of the last year just to keep him from being around other people.
“Well Lee while you mull over whether you want to trust me, how about we get whatever gear you want inside and get a door between us and the outside world” Adam said jerking a thumb at the woods where the shadows were growing darker under the eaves of the forest as night drew closer. “Then we can talk over things.”
Lee shivered, “I think that’s a good idea.” He replied thankful that Adam wasn’t trying to kill him or steal his stuff. So far at any rate.
The two men quickly carried the supplies inside, Adam thought it was a bit odd that Lee insisted on carrying it all up to the Loft, but it only took a moment to notice all the windows on the ground floor, windows that the undead could push up against and break through. He doubted the shutters would keep them out and for sure the blinds wouldn’t.
“I’m sorry for hiding in your truck but I really needed a ride out of there. I hope that maybe we can travel together for a little while” Adam said as he set the last bundle on the polished wooden floor.
“I’m not sure you should, but I don’t mind. I’ve been alone for a while now. Funny how badly a person finds they want company after so long.” Lee said absently as he started moving things into the closet.
“You sure? I mean I did point a gun at you” Adam asked, surprise at how quickly Lee had agreed.
“Everyone points guns at people these days, most pull the trigger too.” Lee said, looking paler than before.
Adam watched silently as Lee set up his sleeping area in the closet, growing more and more agitated as the sun began to set. Adam was really starting to worry that he had been saved, albeit unknowingly, by someone very unstable. Lee grabbed a blanket and pillows from a linen closet and set up a bed for Adam in the closet with him.
“Why a closet?” Adam asked curious and really hoping for a sane answer.
“Because I can shut the closet door, and use a lantern without fear of the light leaking out the windows and drawing the undead, and if they somehow get inside, I have one more door between me and them.” Lee said. It sounded reasonable enough to Adam but there was something in Lee’s voice that made Adam think there was more to idea than he wanted to admit.
As the sun was sliding down towards the rim of the world, Adam watched as Lee gathered blankets and covered the windows of the loft bedroom. The man looked pale, and his hands seemed to tremble.
“You all right?” Adam asked, thinking this might have been a mistake. He was preparing to make a dash down the stairs and out the door any moment now.
“Yeah, I. uh… must have eaten something that didn’t agree with me” Lee said as he repacked the staple gun, there was fear in the man’s voice, Fear, from a man who had calmly stood there with a pistol pointed at him.
“If you say so” Adam commented, feeling decidedly uncomfortable.
Downstairs something slammed against a wall with a dull boom, both men jumped, the color drained from Lee’s face.
Adam walked and climbed up onto a chair to look over to the half wall of the loft that gave him a view of almost the entire open downstairs area. It was almost dark outside and the darkness was pooling in the center of the room, spreading slowly as the light retreated.
The front and back doors were still closed, so that couldn’t be the source. Maybe something outside, Adam thought, looking back to see Lee still standing near the walk in closet, his lips moving as if he were praying silently.
The whisper of movement downstairs drew Adams attention back just as every cabinet in the kitchen slammed open then closed. A cool breeze fluttered across his check, as it came up the staircase. He turned, every hair on the back of his neck rising.
The darkness was flowing up the steps like the ocean tide coming in. Adam blinked as he saw something white appear at the foot of the staircase. A face he realized, as he took an instinctive step back and toppled off the chair and onto the floor.
He shrieked as a hand touched his shoulder, but it was only Lee, who looked sick with fear, “Come on get up and get in the closet” Lee hissed.
“But there’s a woman down there!” Adam said, knowing that whatever he had seen wasn’t a zombie.
“I know, now get in the closet” Lee said as he pulled something out of his pocket and stepped to the edge of the stairs.
Adam scrambled to his feet and saw the ghastly form of the dark woman with a white face rising up the stairs as if she floated on air. Lee was shaking so hard, he looked like he might break a bone. He was doing something with his hands but Adam couldn’t tell what it was.
Adam ignored Lee’s insistence to get in the closet; he couldn’t just abandon the man but god how he wanted too. A voice out of the darkness, cold and dry whispered Lee’s name, a voice that sounded damned. That voice was almost enough to send Adam running; he actually took two steps back from the staircase before he stopped himself. Lee lifted a clenched hand and then did a throwing motion as he spread his fingers.
Lee tossed the salt across the staircase and a sensation of anger and frustration rolled over him like a physical wall. He didn’t care, the salt seemed to have worked. She had stopped on the stairs, the dark pits where her eyes should be fixed on him, and a cold contemptuous smile fixed on her dead face. He backed away, almost tripping over Adam.
Grabbing the much smaller man by the shoulder Lee practically dragged him towards the closet. The drawers of the dresser and nightstand began to slam open and closed. Lee damn near threw Adam into the closet, then leaped in himself, turning he poured a line of salt across the doorway then kept pouring along the wall till he had covered all four walls of the walk in closet.
The temperature dropped suddenly, the noisAe in the bedroom grew in intensity then stopped. Silence almost as unnerving as the previous cacophony of noise had fallen over the house. Lee using a flashlight knelt and with shaking fingers got the lantern lit.
Adam gasped in surprise, Lee turned to see her, standing in the dark bedroom, her white face appearing to float in the air, she drew closer becoming more distinct, until Adam could see her long dark hair and the black gown she wore. Her hand came up a finger pointing straight at Lee. The closet door slammed shut and the lantern went out.
“Come to me” a long dead voice whispered in the darkness.