“These eyes shall sLeep in death’s dull night,
This hand all nerveless lie,
Ere once again yon orb of light
Break o’er the clear blue sky !
And thou, by Hell’s own furies nurst,
Unfurl thy banner’s pride !
But know that, living, thee I cursed ;
And, cursing thee, I died”
The truck bounced down the rutted lane rain pounding on the roof, the windshield wipers doing little to make the road visible. The storm had lessened in intensity but the wind and rain were still heavier than usual for the region. Ellen and Adam sat quietly, Ellen occasionally telling Lee where to turn. Hunched over the wheel, trying to peer through the rain, Lee grew increasingly nervous that he would plow into a fallen tree or rock.
“Just up ahead on the right is a dirt road, you’re going to have to stop and take the chain off.” Ellen said, as she pulled a key from her pocket and offered it to Lee.
“Lock in the hubs too, in this weather that dirt road will be mud” Adam said, his head still tilted back his eyes closed.
Only barely spotting the road, just as Ellen pointed it out. Lee turned in and was able to drive ten feet before he was stopped by a large chain strung between two poles that blocked the road. “Bet that keeps zombies out” he muttered sarcastically. Ellen said nothing as she passed him the key to the pad lock. Bracing himself Lee opened the door and stepped out into the cold stinging rain. He quickly locked in the trucks hubs before he walked to the chain and opened the padlock. The chain fell to the ground with a splash..
He turned back to the truck, his clothes already soaked through and froze as he saw a shape by the side of the road. It stood there shoulders slumped, head dangling. Its hair plastered to its almost skeletal thin head. It stood unmoving for a second then took an awkward step towards him. There was no way it could miss seeing him standing there speared in the headlights like the main course on display at a buffet table, Lee thought as he drew the knife at his side; a long, wide, blade called a Bowie Knife.
The zombie splashed through puddles its arms outstretched and its mouth open. Lee met the zombie halfway, stepping inside its arms and grasped it by the throat, then rammed his knife into its mouth and pushing the blade up into the roof of it mouth and into the brain beyond. The zombie twitched heavily as Lee held it upright feeling revulsion and trying not to breathe. The smell this close was stomach churning despite the wind and rain.
Satisfied that it was dead he let the body fall into the mud, staring down at it for a moment feeling a little sorrow for the man it had once been. He then turned and saw Adam was standing beside the open passenger door, a pistol in his hands, he had been ready to help if Lee needed it.
Lee jogged back to the truck and climbed inside, it was at least warm in the cab. Slamming the door shut Lee put the truck into gear and started forward. “Thanks” He told Adam as he drove past the poles stopping only long enough to replace the chain across the road.
Trees hung over the narrow road occasionally scrapping truck with bony limbs as the road wound through the woods. Headlights cut a swath of brilliance through the rain, but showed little beyond the glittering rain drops. Suddenly the road widened, in a flash of lighting Lee saw they were in a clearing, Ellen pointed straight ahead cautioning Lee to drive slowly.
Taking her caution to heart Lee slowly inched the truck across the clearing until he saw what looked like a reflector on a post up ahead. “Park there” Ellen told him, as she pulled her pack up into her lap in preparation to getting out.
He parked the truck then stared as something caught and held his attention. Through the rain in flashes of lighting and the wash of the headlights he saw a bulge of rock that rose up twenty feet in the air, a set of stairs had been cut into the natural rock of the bulge leading up to a square stone two story tower, a steel and glass room with a metal balcony that ran around all four sides, sat atop the tower adding another story.
“It was a fire lookout back in the forties, built by the CCC. I think that’s what it was called? My grandfather bought this place and a hundred acres around it. We used to come up here to stay for the summerss back when I was a kid.” Ellen said as she slid across the seat to the door, Lee almost said you’re still a kid, but managed to keep his mouth shut.
“Are you coming or not?” she asked as she opened the door and leaped out into the rain. Adam sat watching Lee, who shrugged and climbed back out into the rain. Pistol in hand he ran around to the back of the truck and retrieved his pack and a shotgun from the camper, by the time he finished Adam was waiting at the foot of the slick rock steps.
The rain was already slacking off, from a downpour to a normal rain storm as Lee joined Adam at the staircase. “Here” Lee said passing Adam the shotgun. “Might need it.” Adam accepted the weapon then both men started up the rock stair case. Rain water flowed down the rough rock walls to either side. Halfway up the staircase was a chain-link gate that had been mounted to the natural rock, placed there to stop trespassers from climbing any further.
“Come on” Ellen said holding the gate open for the two men. As soon as they were past her, she closed and locked the gate, scanning the clearing behind them but saw nothing through the rain.
Reaching the top, Lee found himself standing on a natural rock patio decorated with a few chairs, but what caught his attention were the two large refrigerators that stood on blocks, smoke curled up from the chimneys on the tops of both, pipes ran from the bottom of each fridge to a large metal tank that radiated heat. Steam rose from the tank as the rain struck it.
“What is that?” he asked Ellen, jerking a thumb at the contraption.
“We use them to smoke meat” she replied as she pulled out a key ring and stepped to the front door under the covered porch, which was flat roofed and joined to the wall. It was held up by four square rock posts, it was barely large enough to shelter the three of them from the falling rain.
The front door of the tower was and set into the stone wall. It was an impressive door and certainly not made in the last thirty years or more, it was made from thick wood, bound with decorative iron straps that had to be handmade, it had been fitted with a simple latch system instead of a door knob. Someone had installed a deadbolt in recent years but that was the only modern thing on the door. Ellen unlocked the deadbolt and swung the door open, warm yellow light spilled outside, as Ellen waved them inside.
Lee stepped into the warm room, more importantly it was dry. The downstairs area of the place was half kitchen and half living room, a wood burning stove that had seen better days sat in one corner beside a shuttered window, old battered pots sat on a shelf over the stove. The cabinets, missing their doors, were stuffed full of canned goods. The small counter contained a sink and an old fashioned water pump. Behind the old round dining room table and chairs Lee saw a small door.
The living room side held book cases, filled with books on the wall opposite the fire place, a battered wooden frame couch with faded cushions and a rickety chair sat on a round patterned rug that had seen better days. Rifles were propped in every corner, and he saw a open cardboard box on the floor that held boxes of ammunition.
It was almost unreal, Lee thought staring around the room. It was so normal seeming almost like if he went and opened the door and looked outside there would be no undead and the world would be full of life again.
“My grandparents used this place as a vacation home and a hunting cabin. ” Ellen explained as she pulled off her soaking wet jacket and hung it beside the door, next to her crossbow. Lee’s eyes were drawn to the two pistols she wore, one on each hip in cut away holsters. He had seen holster rigs a lot like that at some of the reenactments; they were cut away for fast draws. He wondered if she actually was that good, or had just found the holsters.
Adam was more interested in her curves than her weapons but held his tongue, his eyes lingering on her narrow waist and her butt before he dragged his gaze away to the cast iron kettle that hung over a bed of coals in the fireplace and realized he could smell food.
“When my Grandmother died she left the place to me, Noah never liked it up here” Ellen told him as he set his pack down beside the door. “if you want to change go ahead, I wont look.” She said with a smile.
Adam instantly dug through his pack pulling out dry clothes. Lee hesitated then did the same. Minutes later their wet clothes were spread across the fireplace hearth to dry.
“god that feels good” Lee said holding his hands over the low flickering fire and enjoying being in dry clothing. Again that surreal feeling of normalacy swept over him. With my luck I will wake up and find out I only dreamed about finding Adam and meeting Ellen, he thought then shook away the depressing thought.
“Take a seat and I’ll fix you some dinner, the stew should be ready by now.” Ellen said waving a hand at the couch.
“Where’s your brother?” Adam asked looking at the stairs that led to the second floor as he sat on the oldest sofa he had ever seen in his life. .
“He should be here shortly; he wanted to check out something before he came home.” Ellen said as she puttered around the small kitchen.
Lee leaned his pack against the couch and sat down, mouth watering at the smell from the cast iron kettle that hung over the right side of the low fire in the fireplace. “Smells good” he said as she gathered up bowls and silverware and then headed to the fireplace.
“Its beef stew, it’s been slow cooking most of the day.” Ellen said as she ladled thick stew into bowls “here” she said passing each of them a bowl, “Old family recipe. Lots of beef, potatoes, carrots and onions. Well in this case lots of venison, but the taste is almost the same”
Lee had a thousand questions, but sitting here on a couch in a room with two other people with kerosene lamplight and a steaming bowl of fresh food, he stayed silent until he had eaten half the bowl.
“Where did you get the venison, I haven’t seen a deer or any other animal in a long while” Adam asked, wiping at his mouth with the back of his hand.
“Down in the bottoms, they stay away from the undead, so if you see them, there are no zombies. Noah brought two back the other day most of the meat is being smoked in the smoke house. I saved some for the stew. There’s also smoked sausage that Noah just took out and put in the cooler”
“Sausage?” Adam said licking his lips in anticipation.
“Cooler?” Lee asked finally speaking.
“The root cellar my grandparents built, that’s what we’ve always called it.” Ellen said. “Carved it out of the small cave that was already under this place. Stays nice and cool down there.” She added.
Now that he wasn’t distracted by undead, fear and trying to escape Lee studied the woman over the rim of his bowl as he finished eating. She was pretty he decided, with her thick blond hair piled casually atop her head, she had an expressive face, full lips and deep greenish blue eyes. She couldn’t be more than 23 or 24, and was petite with a tight toned body and a chest that most men would appreciate. Not to big not to small, but just right and defied gravity.
“What happened in town, why is there so few undead?” Adam asked.
“Were so few” Ellen corrected.
The door opened suddenly letting in a gust of wind and the smell of rain. Lee and Adam looked back at the door in surprise reaching for their weapons and saw a wide shouldered man, with thick dark hair and a mace dangling from his belt in the doorway. He wore a chain mail shirt and some kind of leather apron over that. A pistol adorned his right hip and a military looking rifle with a condom pulled over the end of the barrel, was slung across his back. But it was his face that drew Lee’s attention; his face was the male duplicate of Ellen’s. Twins, who would have thought it?
“Noah” Ellen said with relief as she rose and crossed the room to hug him. “Noah this is Lee and Adam” She said indicating each man. “I was starting to get worried.”
“The storm slowed me down,” Noah said sniffing hungrily his wary gaze never leaving their guests.
“The stews ready,” Ellen said motioning towards the kettle. “Lee and Adam were just asking why there had been so few undead in town.”
“They were locked in the high school where the sheriff left them,” Noah commented “Apparently they broke through a damn plate glass wall in the last few days and all of them got out” Noah said as he stripped off his armor and clothing until he wore only pants and boots and walked into the kitchen. He primed the old hand pump and got himself a glass of water.
“The sheriff locked the town’s people inside?” Adam asked horrified at the cold heartless action.
Noah shook his head “When it all went down, no one knew what was going on, almost the whole county showed up at the high school, since it was the designated shelter for the county, some of the people were ready to defend the county from the infected, about half were looking to hide from the infected. From what Sheriff Slaven said, the hospital had sent some of the wounded over who were stable. He guessed they were trying to keep them safe from the infected, who knows now.
Anyway, no one knew at that time that it was passed by the bites, or that anyone that died comes back. Well as you can guess some one died and then the madness began.” Noah said as he fixed himself a bowl of stew and sat on the floor beside the fireplace. “Slaven got bit but he and three other deputies and about eighty others got outside. We got there just as he was locking the doors; whoever was left inside was already dead or dying.” Noah said with a shrug that came off as callous, but then again who wasn’t callous these days. “I took our truck and swung by the high school after I saw Ellen and the short guy get into your truck. The glass wall by the front doors was shattered. So they are all out and about now.” He told Ellen.
Noah fell silent as he dove into the stew with gusto but still managed to watch Lee and Adam over the rim of his bowl. Lee got the strong impression Noah didn’t like them or trust them, and he couldn’t blame him in the least. But why would he risk leaving his sister alone with two men he didn’t like or trust, Lee asked himself, his eyes falling to the pistols on Ellen’s hips, and thinking about the comment she had made in the truck about rapists. She probably does know how to use those pistols he decided
There was no more talk until they had finished dinner, Lee and Adam both got seconds and sat there feeling like bloated ticks. It was the first time Lee had felt normal in a year. He could almost believe there was no undead waiting outside to kill them and that the world was going on as usual.
Noah rose smoothly to his feet, muscles rippling, “I’m going to take a look and make sure there are no undead out there” he said heading for the stairs.
“There are rarely ever any zombies around this place” Ellen said, as she carried the bowls back into the kitchen and placed them in the small sink.
“We haven’t driven a vehicle up here before either” Noah said as he started up the steps. “You know those things will follow the sound”
“The storm covered the noise” Ellen commented as she came back into the living room with a Tupperware container, and then swung the metal arm that held the kettle over the coals out over the hearth. She ladled the remaining stew into the container and sealed it.
“well it damn sure couldn’t hide the headlights Ellen” Noah said flatly as he climbed the stairs to the second floor.
“If he didn’t drive a vehicle up here how did he get back?” Lee asked curious.
“He drove” she said with an almost humorous smile, “We don’t park out front, we use a logging road and park down in the bottom below the bluff and take a trail up here. The trail is too steep for the undead to use and if any of them follow the noise to the truck and there is nothing for them to attack. They wander off after a day or two as long as no one goes down to the truck.” Ellen explained
“He doesn’t seem to like us much” Adam observed, more to make conversation than any other reason. He enjoyed listening to her talk.
“Don’t mind Noah he isn’t used to company, I’m not either for that matter.” She said with a nervous laugh.
“Neither are we” Adam said. “I met Lee here a couple of days ago at the Flea Market.”
“All of us have been alone for a long time now” She said as she sat down and turned those incredible eyes on Lee. “Now tell me what’s been happening and don’t leave out anything” she said perching herself on the edge of the chair.
Lee chewed on his bottom lip for a moment, and then softly told her everything. Praying that his dream wasn’t the product of going insane.
Noah returned when Lee was halfway through; he leaned against the wall by the stairs, thick arms crossed over his chest listening silently until Lee finished.
“And you want to help him, what in the hell can you do Ellie, your no exorcist, or gods gunslinger with a prayer book by your side.” Noah said angrily, as soon as Lee had finished.
“And you need to stop quoting movies” Ellen retorted.
“I didn’t quote a movie” Noah said hotly.
“Gods gunslinger was a line out of that possession movie about that college girl.” Ellen replied almost smugly.
“One damn line, sue me” Noah said
“Don’t mind him, he is just sexually frustrated. It makes him cranky” Ellen said apologizing to Lee and Adam. Noah turned bright red but bit back the retort that came to mind. “As to how I can help, I’m not sure, but I was told I could so I will try my best.” She said rising.
“Look I feel for you Lee,” Noah said suddenly. “ but if she gets hurt I’ll put a bullet between your eyes in a skinny minute” Noah stated ignoring the glare Ellen sent his way. he turned and headed up the stairs again leaving Lee and Adam to think about what he had said.
Noah grumbled to himself as he grabbed a wrench, eyeing the hand pump contraption he was almost finished with. One of the biggest problems with the apocalypse was the lack of working plumping, and this little baby along with the other pumps he had set up would at least relieve that problem. To be honest he wouldn’t have ever even thought of the idea if it hadn’t been for the hand pump his grandparents had installed in the kitchen area to keep water moving from the well when the power was out.
Making sure the pump was seated and sealed; he finished tightening the bolts then set aside the wrench, opened the valve and began to pump. Finally the line coughed and gurgled, a moment later water poured out of the spigot into the toilet tank. Grinning he pumped the handle a few more times until the tank was filled. “YES! We have a working toilet.” He announced to the empty bathroom. “Running water for the win”
He felt absurdly please with himself, the world had ended and he and his sister had to be the only people with a working shower and toilet. He was he admitted to himself very pleased with the shower, and his fire heated hot water tank. Granted you had to work for a shower, pumping the handle every few minutes to keep the water running, but it was better than trying to bathe in a creek during the winter.
Taking a small bucket, he filled it from the pump and used it to wash his hands and face, trying hard not to be annoyed with Ellie. Growing up she had always seen ghosts, even talked to them sometimes. No one but Noah and maybe their grandmother had ever believed her and when word got around school she had been teased and mocked unmercifully. By the time she had become a cheerleader in Jr. High, she hadn’t seen or at least admitted to having seen one of the dead in over a year and they had both gotten on with their lives.
Ellen hadn’t seen or talked about seeing a spirit until last summer when she had shown up at his apartment in a panic with a message from their dead Grandfather that the world was about to end. Noah, seeing how truly worried and upset she was had humored her and headed back home.
But this business with Lee was a far cry from just seeing a ghost or talking to one over a tea set and a circle of dolls. she had no business getting involved inthe scruffy looking Neanderthal’s problems.
This wasn’t a movie, she didn’t have any special powers, or access to mystical books and scrolls, if such a thing existed. He sighed heavily as he scrubbed his face clean, he knew her too well, she was like a dog with a bone and she wasn’t going to let go until she had finished dealing with it. Like the undead weren’t bad enough now ghosts have to put in appearance, Noah thought angrily.
He started to shove his hands into the bucket again when he stopped and stared, his eyes growing wide. Blood, thick and red dripped from his hands, each drop hitting the water with a plop and spreading across the water like some cursed flower opening its petals to the sun.
“What the fuck?” he said lifting his eyes to the mirror, he must have cut himself somehow. Oh my god he thought as he saw the oozing pulsating pustules on his face. Panicked he touched his face and felt the hot raised skin, it can’t be real he told himself as he picked at them, the skin tore easily blood cascading down his face to drip onto the floor.
“No, no, no” he wasn’t even aware he was speaking. The bathroom seemed to grow colder, as he ripped open the medicine cabinet and grabbed a bottle of hydrogen peroxide knocking half the contents of the cabinet into the sink and on to the floor.
“You’re going to die” a voice whispered into his ear. The hair on his body stood straight up, his skin prickled at the cold hissing voice. In the mirror over his shoulder, he saw a face appear slowly, it was a woman’s face; the eyes just black pits, she smiled.
“I don’t remember what happened to Emma” Lee said in response to Ellen’s probing. That was the truth too, it wasn’t amnesia he knew, it was more like a door to that particular moment had been shut and locked, and he had lost the key. It was there but his mind just wouldn’t dredge it up. Refused to remember that horrid moment, for a split second he could see Emma looking up at him from where she knelt on the garage floor, her eyes pleading. Then it was gone.
“Lee whatever happened to her is the key to all of this.” Ellen said gently, seeing just how upset Lee was at the moment.
“Can’t you just do a séance or something and ask the dead” Adam asked, from the tone of his voice it was an honest question. To his credit he wasn’t being sarcastic.
“I could I guess, truth is I have never tried to do something like that before, and I’m scared to try it now. Especially considering what’s going on outside these walls.” Ellen said, she was about to say more when a terror filled shout from the upstairs ripped through the house, Lee was already on his feet and running for the stairs.
He pounded up the stairs into the upstairs room Ellen and Adam right behind him. Reaching the top he saw a cot on one side, a bed on the other, a pile of boxes split the room in half like a wall, a metal ladder in the center of the room led upwards to a trapdoor, another yell drew his attention to a door set in the northern wall.
Lee charged across and grasped the handle and pushed hard, but it refused to budge. Ellen was shouting something but he didn’t pay any attention as he slammed his shoulder into the door, it shook in its frame but held.
Even on this side of the door he could feel the hatred and anger that flowed off the ghost like a beacon. He knew deep down inside that she wasn’t Emma; Emma had been kind, gentle, and a deeply loving woman. There was no way even dying she could have turned into that thing.
“Let him go” Lee pleaded as he slammed against the door again. “You want me!”
Suddenly the door flew open, sending him stumbling into the small bathroom, where Noah laid sprawled half in the shower, the light from a lantern in the bedroom shining off the old fashioned tiles.
In that sliver of time, he saw her standing over Noah. A hot hating smile on her lips, and then she scuttled up the wall like a loathsome spider vanishing into the ceiling. Lee’s hands shook violently, his stomach knotted and he felt like throwing up from the fear that washed through him. But the man on the floor needed help so he made himself move across the small room.
“Noah” Lee said dropping to his knees beside the large man as Adam entered the bathroom with a flashlight. “He is alive” Lee said after checking for a pulse. Adam shone the beam of the flashlight on Noah as Lee sat back on his heels, and his eyes fixed on the bruises around Noah’s neck, bruises that looked a lot like fingers. Ellen stood in the doorway, unable to enter the small cramped room that was filled with men.
“Help me get him out of here” Lee said, grabbing Noah by the shoulders. Adam sat the flashlight down and grasped Noah by the ankles. Together the two men, half dragged half carried the unconscious Noah out of the bathroom and placed him on the large cot that was obviously his judging by the Playboys piled besides it.
“This is my fault” Lee said, as Ellen sat down beside her brother and took his hand. “She tried to kill Adam, now Noah; she will just keep attacking those around me”
“Because she wants you to be alone” Adam said, moving to stand between Lee and the staircase. He was positive that Lee was going to be all noble and try to leave to make them safe and a craven part of Adam was tempted to let Lee go. “She wants you to be alone and suffering Lee and if you leave she wins. Out there Alone, you will keep running day after day, scared of the dark and scared of sleeping.”
“So I should what? stay here until she gets tired of trying to scare you off and just kills you?” Lee said angrily taking a step towards the staircase, but his heart wasn’t in it. He didn’t want to be alone again, and he didn’t want others to pay the price for whatever he had done to draw this down on himself.
“Lee, think, you, yourself have said that until I came along all she did as appear and scare the hell out of you. Now she suddenly starts throwing shit around and trying to strangle people why? Think about that Lee the last time she showed up, she focused on me not you, this time she focused on Noah, when Ellen is the one that’s supposed to see and speak to the dead. Why?” Adam stated hands on his hips.
It would have looked comical to most people, a four and half foot tall muscled fire plug, facing down a man who stood almost six foot, but there was no give in Adams iron bound posture and no mistaking the grim determination to make Lee see what Adam saw.
“I’ll tell you why, to get you back to being alone. Either scare us off, kill us off or get you to run from us to keep us safe.” Adam stated wishing that small part of him that wanted to let Lee go would shut the hell up.
Lee stood there, seeing the sense in what Adam said, but he still felt he should run from these people. She would follow she always did. But the cowardly side of him dreaded being back out there in the world again with no one to watch his back and no one but himself to talk to.
“Then tell me how I can stop her?” Lee asked knowing that there was no answer to that question but praying that maybe he was wrong.
“I don’t know Lee, but if you run now, you’ll never know” Adam said watching Lee flinch at the prospect of the haunting continue.
“First thing we do is stick together” Ellen said sternly interrupting the two men. “From what you’ve said about what it used to do, then the attack on Adam and now Noah, this thing waits until someone is alone. So maybe it can’t do much if we are all together.”
Lee turned to her in surprise, “After this you still want to help, you don’t even know me”
“No I don’t know you, but I promised I would help, and I will, if for no other reason than to get back at the bitch for attacking my brother.” Ellen replied, still angry but forcing herself to think calmly.
Lee looked from Adam to Ellen for a moment then shrugged, giving in to his very real desire to be around people and end this once and for all.
It was daylight the storm long past when Noah finally opening his eyes. Seeing Ellen, he blinked then relaxed a bit, one hand coming up to rub gently at his aching throat.
“What happened?” Ellen asked him gently.
“Not sure, I… I saw her, yelled for help, and then I couldn’t breathe.” Noah said, his voice raspy. “Told me I was going to die.”
“You’re not going to die” Ellen said, the worried look on her face smoothing as she gazed at her brother. “We made it this far Noah, and we are going to make it all the way through.”
“I think you need to convince that ghost of that.” Noah said attempting a joke as he set up and saw Lee and Adam watching. “Still here huh? I’m not surprised.”
“Noah” Ellen said in warning.
“Not going to start a fight, just making an observation.” Noah said swinging his legs off the cot and rising to his feet. He looked pale but otherwise seemed to have recovered from his ordeal or, Lee thought, he was hiding it damn well.
“I’m sorry, I had hoped that maybe she would stay away, I…” Lee apoligized as Ellen cut him off.
“I already told you, you’re not leaving to keep us safe. So let’s drop it and find a way to deal with this.” Ellen said sternly, leveling her best mother hen glare on Lee.
Noah frowned opening his mouth, but closed it with a snap seeing the look on Ellen’s face. Suggesting that Lee had a very good idea was not a good way to live out the day.
Ellen smiled coolly at Noah seeing the silent surrender. He only wanted to protect her she knew but that didn’t change the fact she was going to help Lee. She had already tried to explain why she felt driven to help Lee a total stranger but all Noah could see was the danger he couldn’t protect her from.
“Now that, that is settled Lee. Why don’t you and Noah go up top and check for undead and Adam you can help me carry some food up from the cooler, that way none of us are alone.” She said turning her full attention back to the situation at hand.
“Use salt” Lee suggested “It seems to drive her off and if you sprinkle it across the doorways, she doesn’t seem to be able to enter a room”
Noah didn’t even roll his eyes at that, the image an of old gypsy woman from old black and white movies paraded through his mind.
“That can’t actually work” Ellen commented with more assurance than she felt, but using salt just sounded wrong somehow.
“It has a couple of times now” Lee told her.
“I’m willing to give it a shot” Noah said, “Since I don’t think bullets are going to stop that thing.” As far as Noah was concerned if it kept him from being attacked he was all for trying it.
“You would, you’re the guy that listened to his friends that a Ziploc and a rubber band could make an emergency condom.” Ellen replied, shaking her head in mock disgust.
“You’re kidding” Adam said staring at Noah then laughed. “Did it work?”
“I refuse to answer that question.” Noah replied then actually smiled for a heartbeat. “Well lets get this show on the road” Noah said to Lee as he headed for the ladder mounted on the wall.
“Come on shorty, let’s go” Ellen said with a smile.
“I have a name lady” Adam reminded her as they tromped down the stairs.
Noah shook his head as he listened to Ellen and Adam jokingly bicker then waved at Lee to follow him up the ladder to the trap door in the ceiling. Lee climbed slowly up and found himself in the watch room. It was an eight by eight room with windows on all four sides giving an incredible view of the surrounding misty countryside. The early morning sunlight slanted in through the windows promising a glorious day. Below the windows were cabinets with a counter top that ran the length of each wall. . An old radio set, and binoculars sat on the counter next to some old manuals.
“We used to sit up here, while Gramps bird watched.” Noah said, almost wistfully, “Now I sit up here and watch for the walking dead and most of the ones I’ve seen are people I grew up with, went to school with. Even dated” He said sadly then fell silent as he saw the yard down below where Lee had parked the night before.
“Damn” he said pointing, Lee had already seen the twenty zombies around the truck.
“We are going to have to clean them out, or they will draw others” Noah commented.
“I can do that from up here” Lee said stepping to the narrow door that led out onto the wrap around balcony.
“Not with that pistol you’re not, the gun shots will draw zombies in from miles away” Noah commented looking pointedly at the pistol still holstered on Lee’s hip.
“No problems, I wasn’t going to use it anyway, I doubt I could hit anything but the truck if I shot the pistol from up here anyway.” Lee said as he pulled the sling from the small pouch on his belt.
Noah followed Lee out onto the balcony looking doubtful that that Lee could do much with a piece of leather with two long pieces of leather string attached to it. Lee dug out a lug nut, placed it in the leather cup and started spinning the sling.
He picked a zombie, a woman with blood matted blonde hair dressed in jeans and a t-shirt. He let fly, and the lug whistled through the air striking the zombie in the side of the head. Bone shattering with a crack as the lug nut broke through. Noah gaped at the sight of the zombie falling over to lay still then shook his head. “I think I need to learn how to make and use one of those things”
“Easy as eating pancakes” Lee said as he dug out another lug nut, “As soon as those are cleared, we can get the leather I have in the truck and I’ll show you how to make one. But it takes a lot of practice to get good with a sling.”
The first of the undead arrived around noon, thirty of them, men, women and children. Ellen had gotten a sick look on her face the moment she saw them and rushed back into the house Adam followed on her heels so she wouldn’t be alone. Noah stood on the patio with Lee who looked puzzled at her reaction. She had seen enough undead already not to be that bothered by them.
“We know them, all of them” Noah said guessing at what Lee was thinking, then pointed to a zombie in overalls whose throat had been ripped out. “That’s Steve Wiley,” he said then pointed to a female zombie in a sun dress, “That’s his wife and the two toddlers are his kids, the skinny one in the Save-A-Lot smock is Danny Hines his sister was Ellen’s best friend in high school. The heavy set woman covered in mud is Lacy Pierce, her mother was big in the Methodist church,” he went through the entire list of names, pain and grief in his voice, as the group of undead approached the rock the house sat on.
“I’ll do this” Lee said as he pulled out his sling. “You don’t need to.”
Noah didn’t reply at first he just readied his bow “No I need to help take them down, stupid I guess but some one that knew them should put them to rest.”
Lee hated putting down the kids the most and as each little body toppled over an image stirred in his mind of two kids cradled in Emma’s arms, a bullet hole in each of their foreheads. Tears tracked down his cheeks till finally it was over.
Noah unlocked the gate that blocked the narrow stairs and the two men recovered the arrows before stacking the bodies off to one side, so they could load them into Noah’s truck and haul them off to be burned. They would have had used Lee’s but they would have to unload Lee’s truck to haul off the bodies and there was not enough room in the small house to put all the gear and supplies he and Adam had collected inside, so the only real choice was Noah’s truck.
Noah let Ellen know they were going to get the truck to dispose of the bodies, “You might want to leave that pack” Noah said as he led Lee to the head of the steep trail that worked its way down the side of the bluff.
“Not on your life” Lee said as he tightened the waist band. “I’ve gotten stuck in places for days thanks to the undead; I won’t risk getting trapped without gear and food.” Noah shrugged.
“Have it your way, but break an ankle or something and I’m not carrying your ass” Noah commented as he started down the steep trail.
Lee slowly worked his way down the rocky path, keeping close to the wall. Twice the trail leveled off to run along a shelf of rock with small trees and brush, the second shelf held a shallow cave. “Almost spent the night in there last night, wasn’t sure I could make it to the top” Noah said as they passed the cave.
Lee paused for a moment looking out over the forested bottom and the rolling forested hills. He could see the glitter of a stream through the trees below and if he strained could hear the splash and gurgle of a swift moving stream.
Noah waited for him impatiently, with a deep breath Lee started forward again. “Sorry I was just enjoying feeling like the world was back to normal.”
Something passed across Noah’s face then he nodded. “I know, looking out over all that sometimes makes it hard to believe that everyone is dead.”
The temperature dropped once they were under the trees and Lee could not only hear the stream but smell it, he ignored the temptation to strip and dive in. From the pace Noah was setting he wouldn’t have waited if Lee had given in. the trail ran along the base of the buff almost twelve feet above the forest floor. Reaching a set of natural, if oversized, steps formed by blocks of limestone, the steps formed a natural block against the undead who were to uncoordinated to use them. Climbing down the two men paused at the bottom looking around for around for undead then set off into the trees.
The truck was parked in a small clearing half a mile from the trail, and the steep rocky steps they had cross to reach the clearing would have kept any undead from following.
Noah and Lee spent twenty minutes working their way around the edge of the clearing checking for undead before they moved to the truck. The battered looking Silverado was a four wheel drive with a two inch lift and a roll bar. But that was all the modifications that had been made to the truck, Noah hadn’t been as into off-roading as many of his friends.
It was close to 2 PM when the truck was finally heading down the old logging road. A mile from the blacktop they found a zombie stumbling down the dirt road having followed the sound of the trucks engine. Noah gritted his teeth and plowed over it. “I don’t want to come back and find it waiting in the clearing or wandering around the woods back there scaring off the game.” Noah explained as the road began to climb.
“You don’t seem to be to affected by what happened last night.” Lee said suddenly.
Noah shrugged, his eyes fixed on the muddy road. “It scared the shit out of me to be honest” Noah said. “But when I came to on the cot it seemed more like a dream. Not quite real. If you get that.”
Lee nodded thoughtfully remembering his last dream, which had seemed more real than real and wondered what the difference was. Was it possible that his soul or mind had actually been somewhere else, somewhere as real as this, and if that was case if he had died there would he have died here? He pondered that for a moment as both men sat in silence.
“Sometimes I wonder if we are dead and this is hell” Noah said suddenly. “We get killed here, and wake up somewhere else to do it all over again.”
“Now that’s depressing as hell” Lee muttered. “So we keep fighting to survive, to keep ourselves locked in hell to suffer even more? That’s almost evil.”
Noah snorted a soft laugh, “I hadn’t thought about it that way I guess it just might be Evil.”
“I’m sorry,” Lee said his voice intense. “I didn’t mean for anyone else to get hurt, maybe it’s selfish but I just want this to end and my dreams…” He paused knowing that sounded insane. “You, your sister and Adam are supposed to be the key to ending it.”
“Ellen has had a lot of dreams since last summer, our parents, friends, and my girlfriend all came to say goodbye.” Noah said shaking his head, a flash of guilt and grief sweeping across his face. “I came up here with Ellen more to humor her and see the folks than because I believed her.” He said sadly. “I didn’t even ask Lisa, she was my girlfriend, or any of my friends to come with us. If I had…” He said shrugging his shoulders. “A warning is no good if you don’t take it seriously.”
“I wish I’d had a warning,” Lee commented. “I would have gotten Emma, the kids I did volunteer work for and my friends out of town. Hell I would have even taken Emma’s bitchy sister with us, not even she deserved to be eaten alive.”
“Only if you had believed it though,” Noah pointed out. “It had been so long since Ellen had, had a vision I just didn’t really believe. But that’s all water under the bridge, can’t change it now.” Noah said.
Lee had to agree, back then he hadn’t even believed in ghosts, Mediums, zombies or anything else like that. Now he had to wonder how much of the weird stories passed around might actually have been true.
He fell silent as they came around a curve and the road leveled off, just up ahead he could see blacktop.
“I think your right” Ellen told Adam as she finished her daily chores. Adam had eagerly pitched in to help. More to spend time with her than any other reason. She had smiled at his stupid jokes and when he had dared to flirt she hadn’t blown him off. Emboldened he had pressed on getting bolder with each pass.
Caught off guard Adam blinked in confusion. “Right about what; that I’m the man of your dreams?”
“I don’t remember you saying that, and the only man in my dreams lately is about fifty and has been dead for a year. No, your comment about a séance or something like that.” Ellen said, and then smiled at him. She looked like she wanted to ruffle his hair too; for once the idea didn’t annoy him.
“You know I take it back, every horror movie I’ve ever seen séances go bad, screaming, crying, glass breaking, demonic voices and good looking virgins dying.” Adam said trying to make light of the matter, but he was also very serious.
“Well then I’m safe, I’m neither good looking nor a virgin.” Ellen said as she twisted a lock of hair around a finger. Feeling surreal at flirting with Adam in the middle of a zombie apocalypse while contemplating doing a séance or a vision quest.
“Oh bull crap, your hot and I don’t mind you’re not a virgin.” Adam said taking the plunge.
“And your short and pretty damn cute” Ellen responded. “But the point is, I’m going to try by meditating. I would feel stupid trying to do a séance, and I have no clue how to do a vision quest or sweat lodge thing.”
“You start naked” Adam suggested helpfully.
“Another reason not to try them” Ellen said almost laughing at the look on Adams face. “I wouldn’t be able to concentrate on what I need to if I was naked.”
“Aaah” Adam said then he grew serious. “What am I supposed to do while you’re meditating?”
“Be ready to shake me or something. I don’t know; I’ve never tried this before. The last time I talked to a dead person I was asleep.” Ellen said.
“Then maybe that’s what you should do, sleep.” Adam suggested. “if I think somethings wrong I’ll wake you up.”
“You just want to watch me sleep,” Ellen commented trying to recapture the good mood she had felt but the apprehension that now filled her for what she was about to do wouldn’t let her go.
“Yes preferable with no clothes on, but we can do that later” Adam replied.
“Thank you” she said leaning forward and kissing him on the forehead, “Let’s get this circus started.”
The tree lined street was empty of life, leaves and trash had been blown into piles against the abandoned cars and trucks parked along the curbs. The single story suburban homes that sat on the small overgrown yards looked dead and empty. I’m dreaming she told herself, gaining some measure of confidence from the thought. She started walking down the street sure that she was being shown something she needed to know.
It was silent here, eerily silent she noted as she found herself in front of a house with pale blue fake shutters, the front door hung in a doorframe that had been partially torn free of the wall. Feeling that something import was inside, she walked into the home, trying not to look at the blood stains on the walls of the living room, or the slow rotting bodies that littered the floor. Each had multiple bullet holes in their torsos, and each had been shot in the head.
Even here in dreamland the smell was horrific. Holding her breath she moved into the kitchen and saw a zombie corpse pinned to the counter with an iron rod that had been pushed through its head and into the countertop. How that had been accomplished was beyond her, but that it had happened was obvious.
She looked at the door to the garage and knew that what she had come to find was on the other side of that door. She looked up towards the ceiling “It’s in there isn’t it, that’s what I need to see to help Lee” She didn’t expect an answer and wasn’t surprise when one wasn’t forthcoming. She stepped over the dried pools of blood and into a slaughter house.
The garage was full of corpses, or rather the badly decomposed bodies of people who had died and not become undead. She had no idea why but when a zombie was put down, it seemed to rot extremely slowly unlike regular human corpses. She had seen a few people who had killed themselves and their bodies had decomposed like bodies were supposed to, just like these were doing.
She stepped over the remains looking around, trying not to lose her lunch at the sights and smell. Couples and what looked like two families were scattered around the garage, they had died in what she was pretty sure had been murder suicides. But it was the bodies of two women and two kids in a space between boxes against the back wall of the garage which caught her attention, they drew her towards them.
The kids were on each side of a female corpse in a sundress that still had her arms wrapped around them. The other female corpse was slumped where it had been sitting against the back wall beside the open rear door.
Each of the bodies had been shot in the head she noted. “What had happened here, had they just given up?” She asked herself, turning to look at the open trap door to the attic space above the garage door, then back to the door that led to the kitchen, the door jamb broken and splintered.
The room seemed to dissolve around her then reform filled with people, some of the women were quietly weeping. A child sobbed heavily in the corner, sucking on his thumb his vacant eyes staring at the closed garage door. She could hear gun fire from the front of the house and the shouts of men.
“There’s too many of them!” A man shouted.
“You have to shoot them in the head, they are fucking zombies you numb nut!” Another called out.
“No such thing, you dumb ass, the CDC says they are infected with a bio weapon.” Someone replied.
“Bullshit…” The second man responded, and then the gun fire grew in intensity and the only words exchanged were curses and the occasional scream.
“You’re going to be okay” A woman said from behind Ellen. Ellen turned to see the woman in the sun dress was talking to the boy who sat pressed against her right side. “It’s going to be okay” she repeated.
“Don’t lie to the boy Emma” the other woman said, her voice heavy with fear. She opened her mouth to say something else, but stopped as her eyes locked with Ellen’s. “You don’t belong here” she hissed. Ellen recoiled at the anger in the woman’s voice “It’s not yours to see bitch.”
Ellen staggered backwards, finding herself standing back in the garage of the dead, the sound of water dripping somewhere in the house. The room was freezing cold; the sound of something dragging on the floor drew Ellen’s attention to the bodies of the two women and children. The second woman’s body was crawling slowly across the floor towards her, the empty eye sockets fixed on Emma. Somewhere a clock ticked loudly
“You’re going to die girl, you should have minded your own business.” The voice was cold, edged with knife sharp hatred. The corpse rose up on all fours, the rotting lips parted in a nasty smile. Ellen moaned with fear as her blood turned to ice. She turned and ran from the garage into the kitchen where the body with the impaled head tried to grab at her. “Can’t escape me Bitch!” The corpse’s lips moved but the Ellen knew that the voice came from something else.
She stumbled and almost fell into the living room, catching herself she landed on one knee. She looked back to see the woman’s corpse scuttling across the ceiling on all four limbs. Oh my god she moaned leaping back to her feet and ran for the front door. She ran outside and didn’t stop until she was in the middle of the street then looked back to see, a man’s corpse standing in the doorway of the house pointing at her.
“I’m coming for you, coming for all of you, and before I finish you will wish I had started with you.” Again the lips of the corpse moved but it was like watching a badly dubbed foreign film; the lips were just slightly out of sync with the words.
Ellen gathered her courage, too late to salvage her dignity but better late than never. “You have no real power over me or the others. Who are you, why are you attacking Lee?” She demanded.
Mist rolled down the street washing across her ankles and covering the ground like a white blanket, tendrils of mist would curl up and around her legs before falling back into the main mass. Something clicked beside her and instantly she turned her head ready to defend herself. She saw a woman in a black dress floating there over the mist, then the things mouth opened impossibly wide and screamed into Ellen’s face, the stench of the rotting blood washing over Ellen who gasped and fell backwards into the mist that spiraled up around her washing away the neighborhood.
Hands grasped her by the shoulders and pulled her up. “Run baby!” Ellen gasped hearing her mother’s voice. “Run she can hurt you here”
Ellen ran, ran as fast as she could following the sound of her mother’s voice that was always just ahead, urging her on and behind her, a sound in the mist like a heartbeat as loud as thunder. She knew the woman was closing in on her, and then suddenly she was sitting up in bed screaming and shaking. Adam holding her by the shoulders. “You’re okay, I have you.” He told her soothingly
Ellen shook with fear and adrenalin “I was there; I saw her, saw some of what happened that day.” She said. Adam didn’t know what to think or what to say; instead he just wrapped his arms around her shaking shoulders and held her close.
“She’s coming tonight Adam and this time I don’t think she is going to stop until we are dead.”
“I thought all we would have to do is drive around to the house.” Lee said, as he saw the sign for the town just ahead.
“Nothing up here is a straight shot unless you can fly, we have to drive a around in a big U to get back to the house.” Noah said as he slowed then pointed ahead where he could see undead staggering through an intersection.
“Holy shit…” Lee muttered, there had to be a hundred right there, and he couldn’t even see the undead behind them or that had already passed through the intersection.
“I can go around them, but it will take longer. Or we can turn around and go back to the trail, I vote trail I have a funny feeling I know where they are headed and I don’t think we are going to have a chance to haul off those bodies today.”
“I think I have to agree with you on that” Lee said. Noah instantly turned the truck back the way they had come as he drove away he saw undead following along behind them.
Adam gazed out of window of the fire watch room and shook his head. “I think your dream was right and this is supposed to keep us from leaving.” Adam said watching as the undead slowly filled the parking area. The staircase below the gate was already packed shoulder to shoulder with the undead.
“There is no way Lee and Noah are going to be able to get back in.” Adam added after a moment. Ellen didn’t respond; she was busy buttoning her shirt. Adam turned to watch her for a moment still surprised that they had made love.
“That may be the whole point to this; Lee is outside with only Noah.” She said suddenly; worry for her brother filled her voice. “I think you’re right Adam, she wants Lee to suffer, to be alone and to do that she only has to kill Noah now and keep Lee from getting back inside. God I was a fool to let them go without us.” She pulled on her boots, and then looked at Adam. “You might want to get your pants on.”
He nodded and quickly dressed trying to decide how to help Lee and Noah without getting eaten alive and keep Ellen alive to boot.
“You don’t look too worried.” Adam observed as he finished dressing.
“I’m just good at hiding it” Ellen said. “All Noah has to do is make it to the trail and we can get them inside.”
“How, fly them inside?” Adam asked, shaking his head doubtfully.
“Something like that” she said, opening the trap door. “Let’s go, we have to make sure the rig is ready.”
Adam still feeling the after effects of good sex followed her down to the cooler and watched as she walked over to the small door almost sized for him set in the opposite wall of the root cellar. He had noticed it earlier and had assumed it was just small storage space for more vegetables.
She opened the door and in the light of the lantern Adam saw a spiral staircase that ran down into a dark natural shaft. “Gramps found this while they were making the root cellar.” She said stooping to enter, once on the stair case she could stand upright. Adam tried to ignore the creaking and groaning of the old rusting staircase.
“He found an old staircase?” Adam asked entering the small chamber.
“No, he found the shaft, he installed the staircase to make it easier to get to the bottom” She said. “Climbing was too slow, and falling hurt too much” She said with a touch of humor.
“Smart man your Gramps was” Adam commented, he waited until she was about twenty feet down then started after her.
At the bottom was another old wooden door set into a rock wall, it was held closed with a pad lock that Ellen opened with a key on her keyring. The door opened with a squeal and dim light flowed in along with fresh air.
The cave on the other side of the door was only twenty feet deep, sunlight spilled in through the cave mouth and Adam could see a forested hill in the distance. A cabinet that looked a lot like a china cabinet sat against the rock wall, through the dirty glass doors, he could see an old rifle and various other tools and items all of them looked old. Someone had carved 1862 into the wall and there were several names carved below it.
“Confederate sympathizers and raiders mostly used this place to hide in and keep a look out,” Ellen explained seeing what he was looking at, then pointed to the china cabinet. “Thats stuff they left behind. We found a salt peter mine about a mile away at the base of a bluff they used so they could make gunpowder in secret without the union finding out. It’s still filled with old tools and a few old weapons.”
She walked to the cave mouth and stood on a ledge that was no more than three foot wide, sixty feet below past the tree limbs was the ground. To the right of the cave mouth was a metal frame that held a wood Drum with a rope wrapped around it, The drum could be turned by a by a metal handle that could be locked in place by a lever lock.
“This is how we get large stuff up to the house” she said as she unlocked the drum and pulled twenty feet rope free. “The base of the trail is just below us, when they reach it, we drop the rope and wench them up.” She said.
“Any other surprises around here, like a twin sister or Jacuzzi that works?” Adam asked, surprised at the cave to say the least.
“That would make me a triplet, and I would kill you if you hit on my sister. So no sister and no Jacuzzi.” Ellen said sitting down on the ledge her legs dangling off the edge. “All we can do now is wait and maybe talk about what happens between us when all this is over.”
They were halfway down to the bottom, the truck pushing through the muddy areas on the logging road when Noah gave a shout of alarm and the truck began to slide. “Hold on!”
Lee grabbed the bar above the door and finally understood why it was called the Jesus bar. “Oh Jesus, oh Jesus” he prayed as the truck slid down the steep road, picking up speed.
The trees rushed past, the rocks were a blur, Noah fought to gain control, a finger of rock loomed just ahead thrusting up through brush, a grayish, white rock with red bands of sandstone. Lee stared at it, seeing what was coming. His entire body was tensed up so hard he was like a rock himself. With a crash the truck slammed into the rock, the passenger side tire rode up the spire, before it was torn free; it flipped the truck over on its side. The truck slid shuddering, metal screamin with abuse then stopped with a lurch as it smashed into a pile of rock. The motor died only the ticking of hot metal could be heard.
“You alive?” Noah asked from under Lee’s pack and two boxes.
“I don’t have the urge to eat you, so I think so” Lee said aching from his head to his toes. He tried to unhook the seat belt but it wouldn’t unlatch. Not wanting to waste time he drew his knife and sawed through the straps, managing to land lightly on Noah, who groaned in pain.
“hang on” Lee said as he pulled the stuff off Noah who looked very pale. A tree limb had impaled his left shoulder after it had smashed through the windshield. “Shit” Lee muttered seeing the wound then looked out the broken windshield. So far there were no undead that he knew would change shortly.
“Okay I’m going to cut you loose, then I’m going to remove that limb.” Lee said already cutting away at the seat belt.
As soon as he had Noah free, he kicked out the rest of windshield, trying to ignore the pain in his own battered body. He was only successful to keep from moaning and crying, it really hurt. The moment the safety glass was kicked clear, he tossed his pack outside, and then climbed out after it.
“This is going to hurt like hell” Lee said turning back to Noah and taking hold of the limb, not telling Noah he could see three zombies up the road. Where the damn limb had come from Lee couldn’t tell and it didn’t matter either. He took a deep breath and counted to three out loud, wrenching the limb out on three.
Noah didn’t scream but his moan was loud enough to almost pass for a scream, then pressed his hands against the wound to stem the flow of blood. “Great I’m going to die from a sapling.” Noah moaned.
“You’re not going to die” Lee said as he pulled his first aid kit free of his pack and set to work first cleaning the wound the pouring some kind of black fine power into the wound. “You’re lucky I found clotting agent a while back” Lee commented as he bandaged the the wound. He routinely looked up to check on the progress of the growing number of zombies coming down the logging road.
“I’m surprised you didn’t wear your chain mail and stuff” Lee said as he repacked the med kit then rose to his feet and slung on his pack.
“Call me stupid, I thought we wouldn’t be gone more than ten minutes.” Noah muttered as Lee helped him stand. “Guess I got to comfortable, being as safe as we have been”
“Guess so. Now let’s get moving” Lee said frowning as Noah limped along beside him.
“Sorry my leg hurts pretty bad too.” Noah didn’t look back at the zombies but his face told Lee, he was already thinking Lee should probably just leave him behind.
“Lean on me” Lee said. Together the two men headed into the woods with the undead pursuing.
Half an hour later Lee slowed allowing Noah to sit down on a stump. “I thought going off trail would slow the undead down further” Lee explained. “And maybe keep them from finding us.” He was worried about how pale Noah was looking, and wondered if the younger man might be bleeding internally, it was more likely shock was setting in Lee realized.
“You know, I expected you to be scared shitless” Noah said his voice soft with pain.
“I am, trust me I am. But zombies scare me a hell of lot less than she does” Lee said as he pulled his canteen free and took a swig of water then helped Noah drink, intently listening for the sounds of undead moving through the woods.
“Something yanked the wheel” Noah said suddenly, shivering at the memory.
“What?” Lee asked.
“There at the end, I was just getting control of the truck when the wheel was yanked out of my hands and sent us right at that rock.” Noah told him. “She tried to kill me or us maybe”
Lee felt a surge of fear at that, wondering what else she could do and if there really was a way to fight her. The image of the limb popped into his mind again, there was no place that limb could have come from, either. If he thought for half a second he could leave and Noah would be safe from her and the undead. He would have high tailed it . But he suspected she would kill Noah and the others now just for daring to face her down.
Somewhere back behind them he heard the crackling of limbs and twigs. “Times up, we need to go” Lee said replacing his canteen on his belt then helped Noah to his feet. Lee started angling towards the bluff and knew they were getting close to the trail when they splashed across the creek.
“Don’t you die on me” Lee told Noah who had grown quiet and less coordinated. “Your sister will kill me if you die.”
“Just tired and ache all over” Noah replied. “Don’t worry I’m not going to let an old fart like you show me up.”
“I’ll pretend I’m not half carrying you” Lee whispered
“Thanks” Noah said then lifted a hand and pointed. “The steps are right there”
Lee nodded having already seen the rock steps, he had also noticed the smell of the undead had grown stronger and he could see shapes moving between trees all around them.
He crossed the thirty feet to the rock steps, knowing they didn’t have much time. “Hang on to the rock” Lee told Noah; as soon as the younger man was standing on his own, Lee pulled off his pack and with a grunt heaved it up onto the third shelf of rock above them.
The first step would be easy but the second and third were higher and would be harder. The undead could reach them on the first and second steps. If Noah felt any pain when Lee helped him up onto the first shelf of rock, he didn’t show it. “Second step now” Lee said as he pushed Noah up. Noah rolled onto the step and sat up. Lee started to scramble up, when a hand grasped his ankle. He kicked wildly and rolled over onto his back, a zombie, its face mostly ripped away, was dipping its head towards his foot, its teeth snapping together rapidly.
“Fuck you” he grunted desperately kicking again and fumbling for his pistol. The sudden gunfire surprised him and set his ears to ringing. The zombies head rocked back and teeth and bone erupted from the back of its head. “Come on” Noah said lowering the pistol he had drawn.
Lee scrambled onto the second step, and helped Noah up, then without warning grabbed Noah’s butt and shoved him up and over the third step. A hand grazed his calf, another clutched at his boot. The temperature seemed to drop around them and the atmosphere grew dark. No, oh god no Lee thought fighting away the paralyzing fear that always threatened him when she arrived. He heard Noah shout something but he ignored it concentrating only on scrambling up to the third step, tearing away a fingernail and abraiding the palms of his hands on the rough stone, knowing she was there, watching the whole thing, gloating over his fear and with that hating smile on her face.
His sweat slicked hands were slipping on the rock; his skin was hot with fear. Pale rotting hands were everywhere, clutching and grabbing trying to pull him down. He felt his hands slide from the rock and he knew it was over as he lost his balance and began to fall backwards. Out of no where hands like iron grasped his wrists and jerked him up.
His breath exploded with a whoosh as he landed on the rocky step. Noah sank down on the rock, pale and breathing hard, holding his side. The hands of the undead mere inches from his feet.
“Llllleeeeeeeeeee” he shivered, terror silver bright burned through him at the sound of that voice. “You’re going to die tonight Lee, all of you are going to die tonight”
Lee sat up, his skin prickling tightly, so scared that tears trickled from his eyes as he looked down into the group of undead, trying not to see the milky eyes, the snapping teeth or rotting flesh. She stood there, in the middle of the undead looking up at him a feral smile on her face. “Just inches away Lee, just inches away from death. Like I was.”
Lee closed his eyes, forcing the fear back, fumbling for the package in the thigh pocket of his pants. He opened his eyes as he held up the packet of salt, “Go to hell!” he managed to shout as he threw salt at her.
A cold wind howled through the woods as she screamed, it was a wild primal sound that chilled his blood and froze his soul. The undead seemed not to notice. “You’re dead Lee!” She screamed one last time and faded from sight.
“Let’s go” Lee said still shaking from the encounter. He stank of fear and his clothes were soaked with sweat. “She isn’t finished yet.”
Noah only stared at him for a moment, as scared as Lee was. What in the hell was the world becoming. Then Lee had an arm around him and was helping him up to the fourth step.