“DARK Angel, with thine aching lust
To rid the world of penitence:
Malicious Angel, who still dost
My soul such subtle violence!
Because of thee, no thought, no thing,
Abides for me undesecrate:
Dark Angel, ever on the wing,
Who never reachest me too late!
When music sounds, then changest thou
Its silvery to a sultry fire:
Nor will thine envious heart allow
Delight untortured by desire.
Through thee, the gracious Muses turn,
To Furies, O mine Enemy!
And all the things of beauty burn
With flames of evil ecstasy.
Because of thee, the land of dreams
Becomes a gathering place of fears:
Until tormented slumber seems
One vehemence of useless tears.
When sunlight glows upon the flowers,
Or ripples down the dancing sea:
Thou, with thy troop of passionate powers,
Beleaguerest, bewilderest, me.
Within the breath of autumn woods,
Within the winter silences:
Thy venomous spirit stirs and broods,
O Master of impieties!
The ardour of red flame is thine,
And thine the steely soul of ice:
Thou poisonest the fair design
Of nature, with unfair device.”
A light breeze kicked up as they pulled up in front of the house they had been calling home for the last couple of days. Dead leaves stirred restlessly.
The old pick up shut down the hot engine ticking softly. Adam leaped out almost before the truck had stopped moving ready to engage any zombies that might be in the area.
Lee slid out of the truck looking around carefully then joined Adam.
Seeing no threats, which was about normal around here they trudged across the small overgrown yard. Climbing the steps to the porch they readied their weapons just in case they might be needed.
They had been hiding here with out incidence but they were not about to take chances with their lives. They entered fast, ready to run if needed. Seeing nothing they quickly searched the home till they were satisfied that no undead had some how gotten inside while they were away.
With that done, they gathered up their supplies and carried them out to the truck, eager to put distance between themselves and the house. Both of them had started feeling a sense of growing danger and for the second time were switching locations hoping to avoid what ever was coming.
The feeling of growing danger would not go away, Lee thought as he loaded the last of the skins into the truck stepping aside so Adam could load the water filter system he had built. Lee gazed across the overgrown lawn at the thick trees that ringed the house and yard.
“You sure you want to head to that house, there’s RVs at the flea market. We wouldn’t have to pack up and run, only start the motor and take our place with us” Adam said hopefully, he refused to leave Lee but he truly hoped that Lee would decide to leave the town not just this house. Adam didn’t really want to talk about his feeling of something dark growing over them, in fact the last week had been calm, almost normal. No undead and no damn ghost. But the feeling that something was coming and would sweep over any one still in this town of the dead and damned.
The house Lee wanted to move to was a two story home built into the side of a hill, the first floor including the garage was all but buried in the hillside with only the front wall completely exposed. There were only two bay windows on the ground floor and the garage door that had to be secured. Underneath the windows grew once neatly trimmed hedges in what had been stone lined beds.
The second floor windows in the back were high enough that anyone trying to reach them would still need a ladder. The place was easily defended and if the undead got inside Lee and Adam could barricade the second floor easily or make a run for the garage and drive out.
The 16×20 metal storage building to the left of the house had lumber inside, the most important pieces were the sheets of plywood against the back wall and Lee planned on using every bit of it to reinforce the house.
“Yes, I’m sure if we hurry we can get there, park the truck in the garage, get that plywood out and nail it over the windows in the front. If we keep quiet after that any undead that show up will not even know we are there.” Lee said trying hard not to let the fear he felt show. No matter what he had said earlier, he wasn’t sure that she wouldn’t show up tonight.
“I hate to tell you but switching houses is not going to stop that ghost or whatever it is following you around” Adam said as he closed the tailgate and headed to the passenger door.
“I know.” Lee replied with controlled calmness. “You’re more than welcome to leave, I wouldn’t blame you” Lee said as he climbed into the truck offering Adam a chance to run as fast and as far as he could. He hoped the shorter man wouldn’t take it, but if he did Lee wasn’t sure how much longer he would last by himself now that he had experience human company once more.
Adam’s eyes narrowed slightly as he frowned and searched for the words that would explain what he thought. “I think I have to stay” He finally said. “I think it needs you to be alone to do what ever its planning on doing. Maybe its even simplier than that. Maybe it wants you suffer alone, it gets off on watching you go slowly insane. I just have this feeling that I have to be here, I have to help you. Maybe its because I’m scared crapless at the idea of being out there alone again. “ He said then shrugged giving Lee a strained smile. “ The point is I am staying.” Adam said..
“Thanks” Lee said as he turned down the tree shaded road, heading deeper into the hills. Thankful they had spent a day up here scavenging, without that he would have no idea where to go. All he knew was that the other house wasn’t safe, not now.
The road to the new place ran down a hill into the bottom between hills, crossed a creek on a narrow wooden bridge, then back up to the top of a hill where it ended in an overgrown clearing.
Lee parked beside the porch, and shut down the motor. “Lee, I said I would stay and I will, but are you sure this is where you want to go? I’m serious about the RV, we could go anywhere. There are other people out there, I know there are.” Adam said turning his head to look at Lee, trying one last time to convince the other man to leave this town far behind them. .
“She will just keep coming, Adam. I can’t take much more, I really can’t. When you first showed up, and we didn’t kill each other, I thought that things were getting better, and it did for two days, but that only makes it worse now. I don’t know if the dreams are right, and this can end if I find the other two people here in town. If I leave, I’ll never know if the dreams were true and it will never end, not till I die.”
“Maybe that’s what she wants.” Adam said softly. “For you to die”
“She could have killed me anytime Adam,” Lee said shivering with fright at the memories. “I think she wants me to suffer” he added his voice soft.
“Maybe she wants both” Adam said uncomfortably.
“Doesn’t matter, I’m here to see this through to the end.” Lee said then shook his head. “You know, I used to volunteer to help disabled kids, took groups of them to reenactments, taught a couple of them to read, I was a nice guy, I loved a great woman, I had friends and a life. Then it all fell apart, those kids died, Emma died, every friend I had and everyone I knew died and I didn’t save a single one of them. But hey, I managed to live; Good old Lee just kept going, somehow surviving day after day. maybe she is here to make me pay for all that.” Lee said throwing open his door and sliding out. “The worst part is, no matter how much guilt I feel at surviving when everyone else died, I want to keep on living.”
Adam didn’t respond, not at first. He just grabbed his gear and slipped out of the truck. Scanning the area for threats. Lee was not the only one who had loved and lost, rarely a day went by that Adam didn’t think of Annabell or his friends who had died. He wondered what Lee had gone through during the first week or so of the end of the world that left him feeling so guilty about living.
And was what ever he had done or experienced the reason the ghost or thing was haunting him. To Adam there was something off about the whole ghost thing. It just felt wrong somehow. There were no ghostly recriminations, no making Lee relive what ever nightmare he had endured or caused. It just seemed like the thing worked at terrorizing him.
“It’s good you want to live Lee” Adam finally said as he stood there in the thick weeds looking around.
The new house was still clear of undead, thankfully, Lee insisted on using the bedroom over the garage to hide in. He pointed out if they got trapped in the house, they could use axes to cut through the floor and get into the garage.
That plan was modified as soon as they found all the old fashioned hand powered tools in the storage building that had been used as a workshop. Lee instantly added two hand powered drills, pry bars and hand saws to their gear upstairs.
By the time they finished placing the plywood over the windows downstairs, it was late afternoon. The feeling of impending danger had only grown with the passage of time, making both men nervous and irritable.
When they had finished with the downstairs they headed up to the bedroom where Lee dropped down to sit on the edge of the bed, nervously tapping his foot. The hollow sound getting on Adams nerves.
“Could you stop that?” Adam asked. Lee looked puzzled for a moment then looked down at his foot as he grinned crookedly.
“Sorry, nervous habit” he said as he began to pace around the room
“That’s not much better” Adam commented.
“Well there’s no woman here so I can’t have tension sex” Lee said as he stopped by the window looking out over the gently rolling wooded hills.
“Tension sex?” Adam asked, “You’re making that up”
Lee only shrugged still looking out the window, watching the shadows creep across the trees drawing ever closer to the house as the sun moved towards the rim of the world.
“We need to get the windows covered in here before the sun sets, we can keep the blankets pulled back for light until then, but I don’t want to scramble to get it done while we’re losing light” Lee said as he turned away from the window and headed for the hall where the linen closet was placed.
Once they were finished with that, Lee set to work making himself a set of van braces to protect his forearms. Van braces as Lee called them turned out to be thick leather bracelets that ran from wrist to the elbow. As soon as he was finished placing the grommets and lacing them on to his forearms, he set to work on what he called snake guards that covered his shins, the leather was thick enough to keep a zombie from biting through to the flesh below.
Adam silently watched Lee work and wondered if Lee even realized how much work he was putting into staying alive, while feeling guilty enough to want to die. That must be a confusing way to live he thought. I’ve always lived for the moment, no point in worrying about tomorrow. Which was true enough, especially now; if he stopped to think about what might happen tomorrow he was more likely to eat a bullet.
Walking to the window, Adam decided to keep a watch until the sun set. That was what he hated most about the end of the world, there was nothing really to do, oh sure if there weren’t zombies he could find a thousand things to do, like hunt, grow food, scavenge, or build a house. With the zombies posing a danger, it was scavenge, hide and make as little noise as possible.
To be honest sitting in rooms staring at the walls was going to drive him nuts sooner or later. As he thought back over all the things he had used to do to fill his time. His eyes moved back and forth across the wood line at the edge of the overgrown yard.
Something moved under the shadows of the trees, he let go his train of thought and concentrated on the woods, watching intently. In the gathering gloom Adam could barely make out the outline of a person standing at the base of an old hemlock tree.
“Lee” he whispered, “Don’t make any loud noises” Adam said softly, alerting Lee, any noise loud enough to be heard outside would certainly draw that zombie to the house and if there were more out there they could find themselves under siege.
“How many?” Lee asked quietly not sounding surprised at the warning.
“Just one that I can see, but there may be more in the woods” Adam replied just as quietly.
Lee nodded and went back to work on his project, Adam continued to watch, but the figure moved back into the shadows under the trees and vanished from sight. His nerves already stretched thin, he continued to watch but saw nothing.
As the sun slide below the horizon the sky lit with a rainbow of colors, fire orange fading to amethyst then black. Adam let the blanket fall back over the window and quickly taped down the sides of the blanket with duct tape while Lee got the lantern going.
Lee kept glancing at the closet wishing it was a walk in, but it wasn’t, just a long narrow closet filled with old clothes far too large to fit either man. Sleeping in it was a not in the cards while they were here.
Not able to shake the case of nerves, Lee walked over and made sure the line of salt across the doorway had not been disturbed, then returned to do more leather work, more to keep his mind off the darkness pressing in around him, held at bay only by the lantern.
Lee knew if he spent too much time looking around, he would start to see her standing in a corner, just her face at first, her eyes burning into him as she glided slowly out of the darkness a hand reaching… Stop it, you stupid asshole, he told himself, having to concentrate to get his hands to stop shaking.
The silence in the room dragged out until it was uncomfortable for both men, finally Adam cleared his throat. “What was it like, the first few days for you?” he didn’t have to elaborate what days he was talking about, there was only one point in time he could be referring to.
“I don’t remember much” Lee replied not looking up. Adam wasn’t sure he believed Lee.
“Come on Lee, you remember. No way in hell anyone could forget the first few days of chaos. When the zombies showed up” Adam replied.
“Seriously, I only remember bits and pieces, but never the whole thing” Lee replied defenisvely, still not looking up. After a moment of silence Lee laid aside the needle he had been using to sew the leather with and scooted around to face Adam who sat on the edge of the bed.
“The only thing I really remember clearly was the morning I figured out that the world was dying. I was heading to work at the retirement home.” Lee said, “I had just started there a month before after the company I had worked for, for several years closed its doors. Anyway,” he said shaking his head and continuing “It was a janitorial job, hated it. But some pay was better than no pay.” Lee said, leaning slightly forward. “Guess it was luck that kept me from making it there on time.”
Adam listened to Lee tell about the roadblocks the cops had set up to divert people around the riots, how he had pulled into the parking lot of the nursing home to see three ambulances parked out front, blood was all over the doors of one.
How he had walked into a bloodbath and barely made it back to his truck with half the nursing home staggering after him. At that point, he had decided to get home and hole up with his fiancé until it blew over and the government got things back under control, he had found himself driving through a town gone mad.
“I tried going to the police, to tell them about what was going on at the retirement center, stupid thing to do really, but who was really thinking straight the first few days. On the way there I remember seeing people fighting over food in a grocery store parking lot, while those things were steadily appearing on the street, they didn’t stop until they were ringed in. It was a total blood bath. Nothing I could do to help.” Lee said then stopped talking, cocking his head as if listening. “Do you hear that?” he asked, looking around.
“Hear what?” Adam asked; it was so silent he was sure he could have heard a gnat fart.
After a moment Lee shook his head and shrugged not really certain if he had heard something. “There were five cops at the station,” Lee said continuing his story “Three of the officers had been bitten, and they had zombies handcuffed to anything they could find. No one was willing to put them down at first. You know how it was, a lot of people insisted they were just sick and should be treated like decent human beings until a cure could be found. I think that’s what killed us more than anything else. It let those things multiply fast. By the end of the day any cop still alive and on duty, put them down hard.” Lee said, as he cocked his head again, listening. “After that I only remember bits and pieces. Like parts of a picture that come and go. I lost almost a month of my life.”
“We had State Troopers come wheeling in to deal with the riot at the circus, “Adam said suddenly. “Those things rolled right over them, I saw troopers stand there confused when they would shoot the infected dead center, not understanding why they wouldn’t go down. Most of the troopers got dragged down, still firing and screaming warnings, three survived once they figured out to shoot them in the head.
Those guys saw how it was going and how large the crowd of zombies was and leaped into one car and took off, can’t blame them, they didn’t have the ammo to stand there and fight, and there was no real point to it. They would have died just like their buddies”
“How did you survive?” Lee asked, from the sound of it the circus had been overrun quickly.
“Dolph used Sally” Adam replied with the ghost of a grin.
“Sally?” Lee asked, realizing the conversation was at least keeping him from spiraling down into the fear spawned panic he ended up in so often when waiting for her to appear.
“Sorry, Sally was Dolph’s elephant, we rarely used her in shows, insurance was a killer, but he never went out on the circuit without her. Dolph rode her into the crowd of zombies, and she must have really hated the smell because she was trumpeting and stomping anything that got near her. Sometimes using her trunk to grab them and toss them. I still can’t get the sound of heads popping as she stepped on them out of my mind. Sickest thing I’ve heard in my life” Adam said. “Elephant hide is too thick for a zombie to bite through” Adam added to answer the question he was sure Lee wanted to ask.
“Sounds like an elephant is the thing to use these days” Lee observed, showing more interest in the conversation than he had in anything in the last couple of hours. Adam tried hard not to notice the way Lee kept drumming his fingers on his thigh, his eyes scanning the room constantly.
“Yeah, when Dolph agreed to go to Circus City, I was half tempted to go with them, Sally had gotten us out of a lot of situations.” Adam replied. “Miss that elephant.”
The two men fell silent, neither of them wanting to talk about their chances of living long in this New World of the Living Dead, or about what might show up tonight. Lee found himself sweating from fear. Taking more than a little comfort in the fact he wasn’t alone now. Just knowing there was another person in the room with him took the edge off the fear that had in the past had paralyzed him.
Adam stood and cracked his knuckles, slipped a cover over the lanter cutting off the light then walked to the window again. Pulling back the blanket he stared down into the fog covered yard, where dark shapes were stumbling towards the house. Another damn threat to deal with Adam thought. “We have company” Adam said letting the blanket fall back into place. Lee nodded seemingly not surprised.
The undead staggered through the damp grass, fog swirling about their legs and torsos, the milky eyes fixed on the dark house that loomed ahead of them. At first it was a handful, then more appeared from the woods and the long driveway, joining the undead already pawing at boarded up windows, doors and walls on the front of the house. The numbers swelled from ten, to twenty, to sixty.
Lee shivered as he heard the heavy thumps of hands against the plywood that covered the downstairs windows, he tried to ignore it. but soon the fear of those things getting in drove him to his feet “We need to go check the rooms, if nothing else we can nail the doors shut in case they get in through the windows” Lee told Adam who looked about as thrilled at the idea as Lee felt. Adam didn’t think the flimsy interior doors would slow them down much, but every minute they could delay the undead if they inside was a good thing. Neither man mentioned what else might be waiting for them downstairs but both of them took a container of salt, just in case. Both praying that salt would actually do something to help if needed.
Armed to the teeth, Lee opened the bedroom door and stared down the dark hallway, where dim moonlight spilled out of open bedroom doors into the hall, creating pools of pallid light on the floor of the hall, which only seemed to make the darkness around them even deeper. Adam grabbed the lantern joining Lee at the doorway, seeing the look Lee gave him Adam shrugged. “No reason not to, they seem to know we are here anyway.”
Lee couldn’t argue with that and the light did give him some comfort as he led the way down the hallway, keeping the light at his back to stop it from screwing up what night vision he still had.
They moved slowly down the stairs, the sound of their steps drowned by the steady thumping and pawing of the undead at the windows. This was something Lee could deal with, undead. But the icy fear that shivered up and down his spine at the darkness that seemed to flow out of reach of the lantern light, only to close in behind them wouldn’t go away, any minute he expected her to appear, sweeping towards him cold hands reaching for his throat.
The living room and front door were still secure, Lee could actually see the plywood flexing under the assault, slowly pushing against the glass, which would probably end up broken before too long. They found the plywood covering over the high narrow windows in the kitchen were still in place. Adam started for the garage door, skirting the prep island but stopped as Lee touched his shoulder “No, any activity in there will only get them worked up and clustered around garage door. If we have to leave I want as few of them in front of the door as possible” he whispered. Adam nodded in agreement, though he wasn’t thrilled with not checking the room. Lee led the way peering into into each of the front rooms where he saw the plywood was still in place and breathed a sigh of relief.
Behind them in the dark hall just beyond the spill of light from the lantern a door swung open with a soft creak. The temperature in the hallway dropped suddenly. Shadows swirled and retreated as Adam whipped around, the lantern swinging as he held it higher, his eyes wide. A white face appeared in the door, Adam sucked in a breath, torn between screaming in surprise or flinging the lantern at it. He did neither.
Lee half blinded as the lantern was lifted almost level with his eyes, pushed past Adam, squinting, as he hefted the artillery short sword. His pulse thundered in his ears, his breathing was short and ragged.
He stepped in front of the lantern blocking the majority of the light, just as a figure stepped into the hallway; the stench of the undead rapidly filled the area. “shit” he muttered, his voice cracking as he brought the short sword down on the things head, bits of bone and flesh flew. The zombie dead on its feet crumbled. Behind it, another zombie appeared.
Lee grabbed the collar of the falling zombie and heaved it away from the door way, then stepped into the door way and kicked the next zombie in the chest sending it tumbling down the steps where it knocked over the four other zombies who had started up the steps towards the living above, all five of them ended up in a heap at the base of the stairs on the cold cement floor.
Adam stood there watching, frozen, not even his voice working as a cold voice whispered in his ear. “Come visit me down in the basement. We are all waiting for you” his skin prickled, the hairs on the back of his neck stood straight up, each hair like a pin prick. He had never been this scared before in his life, his mouth worked as a hand touched the back of his neck, and then he was pushed so hard he fell to the ground. Only at the last second did he manage to twist to keep from smashing the lantern on the floor.
“Son of a Bitch” he yelled finding his voice at last.
Lee slammed the door to the basement shut, throwing himself against it just as Adam suddenly went flying to the ground. He stared in surprise and for just a second he saw Her, standing dark and hideous in the hallway behind Adam, a sneering smile on her face and then she was gone.
Beside the staircase, the antique grandfather clock, began to tick, Lee shivered with fear his stomach knotting, as Adam climbed to his feet, white faced and shaking. Then his eyes glittered with anger. “You just fucked up, Bitch” Adam snarled. “I’m not leaving now, just to piss you off you unholy skank.”
Lee wrapped in his own fear, stared at Adam, whose words suddenly broke through the cloud of terror he felt. “Unholy Skank?” Lee asked as he surprised himself and Adam as a laugh escaped him “Is that all you could come up with?” Lee slid down the door, his arms wrapped around himself as laughter that sounded almost mad, poured out. Mad or not it was genuine humor.
“Spur of the moment, it took too long to say foul diseased whore of Satan” Adam said, actually grinning himself. All traces of humor vanished from both men as the undead on the other side of the basement door started pawing at the door, shaking it in its frame.
Lee stood back up, pressing his back against the door. “Go drag the coffee table in here, we can wedge it against the door and the wall.” he told Adam, his fear back but not as intense as it had been before. The trip hammer pulse rate had slowed to something below heart attack rate.
“Sure send the short guy to pick up the huge solid wood coffee table.” Adam muttered, actually not thrilled with being out of sight of Lee, God knows what might happen if the man was alone, or for that matter if he was alone.
“I was asking the circus strong man to show me just how strong his short ass really is, unless you want to hold this door closed” Lee said as the door shook behind him.
“No, getting the coffee table is good” Adam said, heading down the hall at a run, ignoring the ticking clock.
With the massive coffee table wedged into place, both men leaned against the wall, trying to calm themselves. “how did they get in the basement?” Adam asked suddenly.
“I don’t know, has to be a door to the outside we didn’t see. Or maybe a hidden space we missed.” Lee replied trying to ignore his shaking hands.
Lee tried hard not to look around too much, he knew she was close he could feel her, but tonight it was different, her presence wasn’t as strong, he had no idea how to put it into words, but she wasn’t the same.
They could clearly hear the slapping and pawing of the undead on the plywood over the windows and the front door. Lee looked at Adam who shrugged slightly, then headed for the stair case.
The Grandfather clock was over six foot tall with golden numbers on black face, painted with turn of the century lace looking decorations in the corners. The glass of the case had the same kind of details acid etched into it.
The hands were stuck at midnight and the second hand was not sweeping around the clock face either, but the pendulum swung back and forth with a steady tick tock. Lee stopped as he was about to climb the stairs, then walked to the clock.
Adam didn’t move as Lee smashed the clock into pieces, glass and woods tumbled to the floor, springs uncoiled and shot across the room. Lee stood there in the middle of the wreckage for a moment then walked away, heading up stairs, Adam close on his heels.
They walked down the dark hall towards the bedroom door, Adam could feel something behind him, pacing him, just out of reach, he could almost see the pale face, the mouth twisted into a hateful smile as those black pits where the eyes should be bored into him. One hand rising, reaching, reaching for his neck and then… Nothing it was gone as if it had never been as he stepped into the bedroom, as he in fact stepped over the line of salt Lee had poured across the doorway earlier.
“She is angry” Lee said as he packed up what little he had removed from his pack earlier. He wanted to be ready to run at a moment’s notice and not leave anything behind if he could help it.
“You think?” Adam said shutting the bedroom door, watching as Lee drew his knife and cut out a section of carpet then fitted a hole cutting bit to the hand drill then set to work drilling into the floor, “I take it you think it’s time we got out of here” Adam commented.
“I think it’s time we got ready to haul ass yes” Lee replied. “I thought this place would be safe, with the ground floor being made out of field stone, but I was wrong. Go check out the window and see how many there are” Lee said, thankful that using the drill kept his mind focused enough he didn’t really notice the fear that hovered just out of sight ready to swoop in and finish him off once and for all.
Adam pulled back the blanket; no longer worried about the light alerting the undead that they were inside the house, the undead were pretty sure some one was home already.
“Oh hell” he muttered his heart sinking as he saw the mob moving up the driveway, emerging from the trees like a long pale river or rotting flesh flowing straight for the house. “There is more out there Lee, a lot more” Adam said finally, not able to take his eyes off the sight below.
“How many more?” Lee asked as he set to drilling another hole beside the first, to give him room to get the saw into the hole and cut out the hatch they would need to get downstairs.
“I would say, most of the county at least.” Adam replied his voice bleak.
Lee rose and walked silently to the window and looked outside, what hope he had felt before began to wither and die on the vine as he saw the undead staggering through the moonlit mist below.
Downstairs glass shattered, Lee and Adam looked at each other, both thinking the same thing. “Do we make a run for it now, or wait until we have a hole” Adam asked as he picked up his pack and slung it on.
“I’m thinking I made a mistake coming here” Lee commented, “I’m sorry, I… I thought” His voice trailed off.
“Are you kidding me, the other house had a lot of windows and no way to cover them, those things would have been inside in five minutes” Adam pointed out., “Besides, neither one of us have seen this many undead at one time in town before.”
Lee didn’t answer he just kept working on getting the hole cut out so they could reach the truck in the garage. Adam wanted to help but he would only be in the way, so he left it be for now.
The noise from downstairs grew louder, Adam could picture the plywood, a year old at least starting to splinter and crack. The undead growing frenzied at the success, attacked the disintegrating wood that stood between them and the people they wanted to reach.
He pushed the mental image aside, the undead didn’t get excited he thought. Then again ghosts don’t exist either he thought as he went and looked out over the front yard again, watching the undead crowd that had formed press against the house. He moved to the opposite window and looked out, and saw only a few of the undead in the back. Odd but interesting. Why only attack the front, was it some memory from their lives, people entered a house from the front door, or something else that had drawn their attention to the front and held it there.
“Leeee” Adam’s head jerked around at the whisper, Lee had stepped sawing, his face bleached of all color. His eyes fixed on the door to the bedroom. The knob rattled suddenly, sending chills dancing up Adam’s spine.
“Don’t listen Lee!” Adam said. “Don’t listen to her”
Lee nodded almost drunkenly, sweat beaded his forehead. He leaned over the saw and started cutting again, only to stop as something began to knock on the bedroom door, it seemed to go on for hours then stopped as suddenly as it had started. Something crashed downstairs.
The saw fell from Lee’s nerveless fingers, he shivered wildly as he stared at the door, where a voice could be heard speaking so softly no words could be picked out.
“Lee, she is trying to stop you from escaping.” Adam said as went and knelt beside Lee, picking up the saw and putting it the other man’s hands. “Come on man, you can do this, don’t let her win”
“Fucking little shit, who do you think you are” the voice of bellowed from the hallway, the bedroom door shook violently.
Adam took Lee by the shoulders, surprised by the fear that seemed to hold the other man hostage. His lips were moving but no sound came out. “Snap out of it Lee” Adam hollered shaking Lee hard then kicked him hard in the back.
Lee blinked, tears coursing down his cheeks, “Leave me the fuck alone” He screamed at the door.
Oh hell, he is having a full melt down Adam thought, not that he was much better off but time was running out, he was almost certain the undead were in the house already, and were coming up the stairs following the sounds.
Frantic he shoved Lee to one side and scooped up a shotgun pointing at the floor, his own hands were shaking as he pulled the trigger, racked second round and fired again, then again. The sound of shot gun blasts rolling through the house.
Wood splintered and flew, when the shotgun was empty he threw it down on the bed and picked up the second shotgun, his shoulder aching from the recoil, Lee was climbing to his feet, looking like he was back in control of himself.
“Sorry, lost it, now let’s get the hell out of here” Lee said, still white as a sheet but in control of himself, ignoring the hand saw he grabbed the axe and attacked the ragged hole Adam had created in the floor, enlarging it so they both could drop through.
The door was shaking now, the knob rattling madly. Downstairs there was a loud cracking noise and crashing glass. Both men knew what the meant; Adam grabbed the other axe and joined Lee in enlarging the hole.
Downstairs, the undead fell into the living room of the house, stumbling over furniture in their way as they were drawn to the staircase by the noise of axes biting into wood. They climbed clumsily to the top and started down the dark hallway towards the door that stood between them and their prey.
“Good enough” Lee said tossing the axe held through the hole to clatter to the floor in the garage. “I will go first; you pass the packs and the weapons down to me.” Lee said as he turned on the mini mag and poked his head and arm through the hole sweeping the beam around.
“It’s clear.” He said as he straightened then swung his legs over the hole and slipped through.
Adam handed down the shotguns then started passing down the other supplies, as he started to pull off his own pack and pass it down, something hit the door from outside in the hallway. He could hear the wood groan as weight was pressed up against the door.
As he looked towards the door, the bed slid forward, and then flipped over covering the hole. Adam reeled away from the bed in terror. “Time to die you little bastard” the woman’s voice came from everywhere, it was hard and ice edged with hatred.
The bedroom door bulged inward, Adam ran towards it, knowing he could only hold it closed for so long.
Lee stared up in shock at the mattress that now covered the hole, from the boom when it had hit the floor, he could only guess the entire bed lay on top of the hole. Lee looked around quickly. If he had a ladder he could climb back up and try to move the bed and help. Upstairs he could hear Adam shouting and then the sounds of wood and glass shattering.
He panned the beam of his flashlight around the garage looking for something to help Adam with. “I don’t want to be alone again God, please, please do not let this happen” He begged quietly as the room began to grow colder.
A presence filled the room, cold and furious and alien, “Please leave me the hell alone” Lee shouted as he made himself look around the garage. She stood on the far side, face twisted into a snarl. Cloaked in darkness, only her face floated there in the gloom.
“You’re not Emma” he said, scared to death of facing this thing, scared for Adam, scared of being alone in the world again. There is an escape, the thought was there just below the panic, and you can end it all and not have to deal with it ever again. It’s just you and Adam in the world of the dead. The living have no place here and after what you did to Emma why not.
She was closer now, as if the moment he was distracted by his thoughts she had moved halfway across the garage, a wave of cold sweeping ahead of her like an arctic front.
Upstairs he heard glass breaking, Adam’s shouting stopped suddenly. Oh god no, Lee moaned as his heart plummeted. Another failure, all the hope he started to feel over the last couple of days, burned like dry grass in a wind storm
“Why?” he asked softly, his spirit almost broken. “What did I do to you?”
“You killed me” the voice was arctic cold, memories cascaded through Lee’s mind, fragments of the past, none whole. He saw his house as he grabbed his gear and practically dragged Emma outside to his truck. The mad dash across town through the chaos as the dead slaughtered the living, Emma puking at the sight of a well-dressed woman screaming in agony as a horde literally pulled her arms and legs off before ripping and tearing at the dying torso.
His brother’s house, blood on the doorstep, his sister in law dying in the living room, his brother bent over her chewing on the flesh of the woman he loved. Lee’s niece and nephew screaming down the hallway as a chubby woman covered in blood was trying to get into the bedroom where the kids had locked themselves in.
He found himself outside again smashing in the bedroom window, undead all over the street, then he was dragging the kids out, but there was no way to get back to his truck the undead were around it. Running, running through streets, and then hiding in a garage. No, NO! I do not want to see it again, I can’t see it again.
“NO!” he said taking a step back and bumping against the door to the kitchen, something bumped back.
“I’m sorry” he told her, “I don’t remember, I can’t remember, but I loved you” he said crying with fear, regret and a profound loneliness that swept through him. But it’s not her, is it Lee, the voice in his mind wasn’t his, it sounded like Wild Bill. “I would never have killed Emma”
“I am Emma, you bastard” her voice hissed, the smell of a charnel house rolled over him.
The door at his back shuddered, and the instinct to survive kicked in once more, he reached into his pocket his hand closing on the small container there. His breath was coming in clouds it was so cold. She was close, closer than she had ever been, he could see the ravaged skin, the empty eye sockets that still seemed to burn with a dark malignant life.
“Leave me alone” he yelled; terrified but determined, sweat rolling down his face as he threw the salt directly at her. “Leave me the hell alone!” He bellowed, tears running down his face.
She screamed the sound tearing at his ears like fingernails on a chalkboard. The house seemed to shake and shudder; he could hear the cabinets in the kitchen slamming open and closed; glass shattering all over the house as windows imploded. Then she vanished, Lee didn’t hesitate, he quickly loaded his pack, the weapons and other things, and then climbed inside the truck as the undead hammered on the door to the kitchen. He was thankful they had left the rest of the supplies in the truck for just this reason. All he had to do, once the door was open, was drive around the house and if Adam were still alive he could climb out the window onto the truck.
He stared at the closed garage door, not sure if ramming the door, would tear it free of the rails or hang up and trap the truck in the doorway. I’m not taking that chance, He decided as he leaped out and grasped the handle even as the door to the kitchen finally came open. The garage door rattled up on its tracks, and ever zombie in the yard, turned towards the sound and movement. There was already forty or more right in front of the door. They lunged for him, filthy, gore streaked hands reaching for the sweet living meat before them, But Lee was quicker.
It was almost too much for him, he yelled in panic, as he ran for the open driver’s door, seeing that the door into the kitchen had come open. A zombie from inside the house was already close enough to the driver’s door that Lee had to shove it out of the way, before leaping in. his hands shaking with fear and adrenalin he twisted the key praying as hard as he had every prayed. YES he thought as the engine roared to life. Yes, thank you god he thought as he slammed the truck into gear and floored it.
The truck barreled through the undead sending bodies flying. Lee twisted the wheel, sending the truck into a sliding turn that sent dirt flying. The tires bit down and got traction and the old IH surged ahead past the house. Lee was determined to save Adam if there was any chance whatsoever.
He slid around the corner of the house, the head lights sweeping madly across the overgrown lawn and the back wall of the house. The rear end clipped a zombie sending it flying. “What the hell” Lee said as the headlights lit up a ladder that was propped against the wall under the broken window of the bedroom they had been sheltering in. He slowed then looked around. There were few undead along the back of the house, and most of those were heading uphill. The handfuls remaining at the house were already drawing closer to the truck.
There was only one thing that could get the undead moving away from the sound of a running motor, prey, Lee thought as he turned and drove straight for the thickest knot of zombies. The fear that had driven him so long became fury as he aimed for the eight zombies and plowed over them. He twists the wheel to catch the last one, shattering its spine and sending it flying through the air, where it crashed down in the weeds.
Up ahead he saw two figures running for the upper tree line and aimed for them. He blinked in astonishment as he saw Adam in the headlights and a woman running beside him, both were looking wide eyed over their shoulders at the approaching truck. Lee had a second for all that to register, before he slammed on the brakes.
The truck slid to a rocking stop, Lee was shouting at the top of his lungs “Get in, get the hell in Adam” his fear banished temporarily by the joy at finding Adam alive.
The passenger door flew open, letting in a gust of cool night air, and then Adam was scrambling in, followed by a blonde haired woman wearing a denim jacket over a white T-shirt and jeans, and she was clutching a crossbow. “Drive” Adam shouted back. Lee didn’t have to be told twice he punched the accelerator and turned back towards the distant road.
Lee drove around the undead as much as possible on the way back to the road, but once he reached the narrow bridge he had no choice but to roll over the undead on the bridge, trying to ignore the popping and cracking of bones under the tires. As he turned onto the main road lightening flickered on the horizon.
“Where are we going?” Adam asked, still breathing hard from his run, his eyes cutting to the rather attractive young woman beside him.
“Where ever it is, I’m going there as fast as I can” Lee replied, then slowed slightly to take a sharp curve. Half afraid she would be waiting in the middle of the road for him.
“I have a place if you’re willing to trust me” the woman said suddenly, leaning forward to look around Adam, Her voice was as soft as velvet.
“She saved me Lee, those things were pushing the door open, there were so many behind it I couldn’t hold it shut and there was no way I could move that heavy ass bed, and there she was breaking out the window.”
“Just how did you show up in time to rescue Adam?” Lee asked suspiciously; remembering his last encounter with a woman.
“I saw you pull up this afternoon and I’ve been watching ever since. You think you have trouble deciding who to trust, think about me. Woman, zombie apocalypse, rapists are a dime a dozen.” She replied.
In the dashlights he could see she was a pretty woman, not gorgeous or beautiful, but pretty and looked to be in her twenties. “That I can believe, but how did you manage to get a ladder on the wall, climb up, break out a window and all that with zombies on the ground around you?” Lee asked almost casually ready to put a bullet into her.
He would, if pressed, admit that between the ghost and his recent experiences with woman, he had major trust issues, especially since he had just left yet another damn confrontation with Her and was still shaking from the experience.
She hesitated for a moment, “My brother led them off while I snuck up and put the ladder in place. I was actually going to tape a note to the window for you, but when I got up there, I saw Shorty here in desperate need of help” She said, then stuck her hand into the breast pocket of her jacket and pulled out a crumbled piece of paper and passed it to Adam.
“Must not care much about your brother if you just let me drive off and leave him” Lee said, his fear finally under control. But these had to be the two others from his dream, or did they. No he had to think they were and he had to get over his automatic distrust.
“I’m not worried, he took the tunnel to escape, and that’s where I was taking Shorty here.” She said with a slight smile at Adam. “I’m Ellen Carter”
“I’m Adam not Shorty” Adam told her then jerked a thumb at Lee. “That’s Lee”
“He doesn’t trust people does he” She asked Adam who shrugged.
“He seems to trust me” Adam replied leaning back in the seat, letting the comforting vibration of the moving vehicle relax him.
“I have a bad history with people since the zombies showed up” Lee muttered as he turned onto the road that would take them into town.
“Don’t go this way” Ellen said suddenly.
“Why not? The towns been mostly empty since I got here” Lee said.
“It’s not now. Noah, my brother, was there earlier and said the place was crawling with those things.” She told them.
“Lee, remember your…” Adam paused not wanting to say dream as it sounded too insane. “Who you’re looking for?” he said instead.
“I think I can settle this for you” Ellen said, “Someone told me to tell you hello”
Lee snorted a harsh laugh “Everyone I know is dead, everyone I’ve ever met is dead. And even if they weren’t, they would not be here.”
“Wild Bill said to tell you hello and that you are almost there.” She said.
Lee stomped on the brakes, the truck screeched to a stop. “How?” he asked his voice trailing off.
“Same way he has talked to you. In a Dream.” She said so matter-of-factly that Adam gaped at her. “I’ve put up with people thinking I’m crazy since I was a kid and the dead first started talking to me. Now the dead are walking, does it really surprise you that their spirits can contact us.” She said, there was bitterness to her tone that surprised Lee. “That’s how I knew to go looking for you, Noah wasn’t happy about it and I’m guessing it was destiny maybe that put me at that window just in time to help save Shorty”
“My name is Adam” Lee almost laughed at the exasperation in Adam’s voice.
“I can help you, Lee. I can help you against the spirit that is following you.” She said, Lee shivered, finally believing her.
“Which way do we go?” Lee asked.
The truck started moving once more passing under wind tossed trees, the storm rolled over the area, and the rain began to fall in sheets while lightening flickered across the sky lighting up the night in a series of strobes that dazzled the eyes.
Behind them, a figure stood in the middle of the road, more shadow than substance. Watching as the truck vanished around a curve, the wind whipping its hair and clothing around its body, its face glowing under the flash of the lightening. Cold hate radiated from it like a living thing. Without a sound it vanished leaving only leaves and rain swirling through the space it had occupied.