I am leaving the dead
This short is the sequel to a story I posted last week called 'I am among the dead. It continues the nightmare of the living dead.
I AM LEAVING THE DEAD
I am sure that in life the man’s skin was a dark black, much like the oil that is…was pumped from the ground. Not now though. In death the man’s skin had become cold, waxy and earth-tone gray. After a few months dead, the man’s skin had gone from ridged to bloated, to a point where the body fluids, propelled by decomposition bled from any opening they could find. The skin was cracked and split and desiccated, falling from the bones and slowly turning back to the dust that it had come from.
The places where the skin had touched the ground were wet with the man’s fluids and the stench would never leave that area.
It was dark, I almost didn’t see him…it. I have to stop thinking of the bodies as him or her or male or female, child or adult. They are all dead. It doesn’t matter if they move or walk or run or crawl or jump, open doors, raise weapons or eat. They are all dead and have been ever since the glowing green fog had come to Tiranus Three, thirteen months ago.
I killed the man again nearly four minutes ago. Like I said, it was dark, I almost didn’t see him. It could have been the last mistake I would have made. The…dead man...had come up behind me in the darkness. I didn’t even suspect it was there until the slimy drool from its gaping mouth fell onto the back of my neck and a hand grabbed my long beard and jerked me about so hard I fell to my knees. That was the only thing that saved me, I think, me falling to my knees.
The dark-skinned corpse still had a hold of my beard as it lunged forward with its face and tried to bite the top of my head, like the living bite into fruit. I dodged to the side and punched it in the gut but the dead thing didn’t even feel it. It tried again and I dodged its attack once more. I jerked back with all the strength I had and ripped free from its strong grip, a large handful of my beard still dangling from its hand.
Blood flowed from my cheek and infection was already starting to set in even as the rotting frame attacking me lashed out with a foot and kicked me in the chest. I flew across the room and tumbled over a wooden desk and fell behind it. Now that I had some space between it and myself I pulled my las-gun from its holster, stood up and blew the frakker’s head apart. It fell instantly and lay still on the cold tiled floor. There would have been a pool of blood and brain splattered and spreading all over the place, but the blood had congealed in the thing’s body long ago.
Gasping, I quickly pulled the med-pack from my gear and covered my wound with an antiseptic jell. It burned bad and caused the corner of my mouth to twitch and my hands to shake, but it beat becoming one of them. I set down at the desk in the darkness and rested for a moment.
My body armor had become filthy and torn in places, the bullet proof canvassing showing through, red and brown with the body fluids of hundreds of kills. I was tired and growing weaker by the day. The water here had become impure and rank with putrescence and the ashes of the dead and the fires that had burned down the city. The only clean water was at the bell tower that used to be the Temple of the Emperor’s Faithful. The canned food and packaged grains were growing stale and slowly succumbing to the world around them. I could feel it in myself too. I wasn’t thinking strait and my nerves were shot. Guess it’s a byproduct of having to live among the dead and having to kill my already dead family.
I had to get off this world. Staying here was no longer an option. If the Emperor of mankind would not send help to me, then I would help myself. As they say…as they used to say, the Emperor helps those who help themselves.
I saw lights in the sky the other night. They descended slowly and lit up the darkness. Their engines sounded like a constant thunder as they passed by overhead. That’s another thing that I miss; the thunder, and along with it the rain. It hasn’t rained here since the fog came and the “End of all things”. I miss my boys and my wife. Tears roll down my face as I think about them. Sometimes I wonder if it would be better if I just blew my own frakking head off and…
They landed last night outside the city. I thought about trying to find out who they are but the last time I thought there was life out there, the city was burning and the dead rose up to eat me. I think I will wait for a few days and find out if they are friend or foe. It’s better to dwell with the enemy you know than to dwell with the enemy you don’t.
The dead have started being territorial. There’s not very many of them anymore. There were millions of them. They covered the land like the sands of the sea. They hunted me for months but I was smarter and faster and stronger, but not now. I watched them develop and grow stronger with each passing day. At first they searched for the living, but with the living having died when the fog came, their need to feed and kill became introverted and they consumed each other. There were no screams or pleas for help. The strongest and smartest among them consumed the weakest and least developed. Now there are only hundreds and hundreds of thousands here.
I weep daily. I heard that time heals all wounds, but that is not true. I had to kill the priest that had said that to me when I was young and my parents had been killed in an accident at the mill. He tried to eat me…I didn’t have a choice. For a moment I smile at the thought. The priest had been as sensitive in death as he had been in life.
I’m tired. The darkness is upon me again and I am dwelling with the dead. I can’t sleep day or night. I’ve been on stems for the last three months. Every time I close my eyes I see them crawling, stalking, running from the shadows to consume me. I pull the shotgun from the holster, pump it and fire into the first two children; their bodies come apart at the waist and fall upon their legs. They fall face first and with a wet crunch, their teeth and noses break on the hard wooden floor. They begin to crawl toward me as the others run, jump over desks and climb along the walls, drool dripping from their lips, flesh tearing from their fingers and feet as they claw, run and grapple for their chance to get at me. I fire and fire again until the shotgun is empty. There is no time to reload and I have to use it as a club.
I scream but can’t wake up! They are upon me, biting, scratching and clawing at me! They seek to tear me down, to topple me from the place where I stand, but I refuse to give in. With a sick crunch I slam the butt of the shotgun into the top of what used to be a little girl’s head, she falls to the floor, lifeless, brains leaking out from the wound.
I am trapped and cannot escape from their grasp. They do not scream or cry or laugh. They are dead! There is no life in them, they do not take in breath or exhale. They are dead! I hate living with the dead but I cannot escape. I kick a little boy in the chest and see my own son as he slams into the boy behind him. I hesitate for a moment. It could not have been ether of my boys…I had to…so long ago.
A school-book slams into the side of my head and a desk chair is flung at me. It hits me in the shoulder and staggers me. They are learning and I have to keep up or I will be their next meal. There is still about twenty of them and they will not relent. God-Emperor, make the dream end. But it does not. With a start I awake from my fugue and realize this is not a dream. I move to the left as a girl with pony tails lunges at me. She is met with a swift kick and falls to the floor and is trampled by the others.
As quickly as I can I make my way to the only door in the school room and make for my escape. As I run through the hall I reload my body fluid and blood jellied shotgun. The halls are thin and the ceiling is low and it deafens me to fire my shotgun in this tight of an area but I have no choice. They are upon me for I am among the dead.
In the confines of the hall the animated corpse children are all gathered in one space and I fire just above their chests. Thirteen heads explode in jellied explosions of bone and brain, hair and skin. A fine mist erupts over them and coats the walls, ceiling and floor even as their small frames fall to the hallway tiles. Five more remain and lunge at me even as I fire again. Their tiny bodies erupt and come apart; bone protrudes from flesh, body fluids leak from a thousand wounds even as they continue to scrape the ground with their fingers in their attempt to consume me.
I vomit heavily into a corner, take the shotgun and spin it around. With the butt of the weapon I purposefully approach each of the moving corpses and bludgeon their tiny heads into paste.
Staggering, I stumble through the halls of the old school and make my way outside into what was once the playground. In front of the slide and swings I sit on a bench, back facing the wall and front facing the playground equipment. I am numb, tired and covered with the blood and waste of the dead. I find that the shotgun is in my hands and the muzzle is against my forehead. I pull the trigger.
Click! I jumped at the sound. The realization that I was still alive hit me and I began to weep. I was alone and…my Emperor I missed my wife.
I am very sure that I stink like the grave. It’s been over a year since I’ve bathed. My beard is long, my hair is long and I have sores all over my body. It is morning and I have to find shelter, the death-birds will be out soon. They fly like living birds and move their heads like living birds, but they are not alive. They eat what flesh they can and never make a sound. They don’t sing. I will never think of birds the same. They terrify me more than the walking dead; them and the insects.
I can escape the birds and the shambling masses but cannot ever outrun the bugs. All of my skin, anywhere they could touch; could get to, has been bitten. If not for the beard and my ability to reason I would look just like the man-thing I killed this morning.
The bugs come in mass, by the thousands, by the millions. They eat anything that moves; nothing escapes them. When they are chasing me the only thing I can do to save myself is to find one of the walking corpses and tackle it, get up as fast as I can and run for my life. The insects swarm the fallen figure on the ground and consume the body. In a few hours the only thing left are the bones and maybe the clothes.
I heard them the other night; the ones who landed about a week ago. They were screaming and firing their weapons. As of yet I don’t know if they are for the Emperor or for Chaos. But I do know they are scared. Why they haven’t left yet I do not know. They must be searching for something. What could have any value on this Emperor forsaken world? Everything is dead.
It rained last night. It started just after dark and lasted until first light. The rain scared me. I had forgotten how cold the rains could be, but it felt good to my worn, scarred flesh. Nothing moved last night because of the rain. I don’t know what it was that kept them at bay but it was a relief to my immortal soul.
In the rain I washed my armor and cleansed my body as much as I could. I had found some soap and had safely tucked it away in a pouch in the pack I carried. It came in handy. I washed my hair and beard and stood stark naked on a rooftop cleaning myself for what seemed like hours. For the first time in months I think, I smiled.
They came last night; thousands of them. I think they can smell me now that I am clean. The insects, the walking dead, even the birds. They all came. I had crept into the temple bell tower and climbed the stairs until I was once again standing in front of the stained glass window that held the likeness of the Emperor of mankind. The fountain that bore the only pure water in the city set before it.
The only clean water on the planet I think, and it was available to me. How blessed I am. Strange that only six days ago I tried to kill myself and now I think of myself as blessed. What a difference clean water, a dance in the rain and the image of the Emperor can do for one who has no hope of the future. It’s not a question but a fact.
For the first time in three months I took a chance and let the stems ware off. I fell asleep in the bell tower, beside the pool of pure water, under the stained glass window that bears the image of the Emperor. For the first time since I can remember, I was not afraid.
I felt cold and stirred in the darkness. Something didn’t feel right. ‘Julie…baby are you alright?’ ‘Honey…it’s dark, I can’t see you. Where are you?’ ‘Julie? Answer me…are you alright?’ Its cold and I know she is here…she has to be. ‘Jonny, Dan… are you there?’ ‘Why don’t you answer me?’ The fog rolls in and I am lost in the inky swirls and its depths.
The sound of footsteps causes me to open my eyes. It is still dark but the sun is starting to come up, its rays alighting the stain glass window just enough for me to make out the area around me. They are woman’s feet and they are bare and bloody and dirty. They are directly in the front of my face.
There are more footsteps moving around me but I cannot see them. I hear my shotgun sliding across the floor as one of the living dead grasps it and drags it across the landing and tosses it down the stairs. Slowly I reach for the knife that is in its sheath strapped to my chest armor, and pull it out. The Emperors fountain area stinks with the smells of rottenness and decay. Green drool bleeds onto my face and I strike with the blade and burry it into the skull of the dead woman, the blade bursting through the back of her head. With a spasm she falls to the old wooden floor and nearly pulls the knife from my battered hands.
Hands reach for me as I roll away from the fountain and place my back against the wall. On the landing there are at least twelve of them and they were all adults back when they were still alive. Now their rotten eyes bleed mucus and putrid tears that stunk of disease and filth. Their hair is long and matted and in their teeth, the flesh of the weaker hang in long strips. Their nails are long and their ears and noses had not stopped growing since they were last in the land of the living.
They moved as a single body, their combined wait slamming into me. I kicked one in the chest and she flew through the air and into the pool of pure water. She fought to escape the blessed water, splashing the clear liquid over the sides. I stabbed another in the cheek but it did not feel it and it struck me in the face hard enough to stagger me.
A hand grabbed my throat and another one grabbed my left shoulder. One grabbed my beard and pulled my head down. I struggled to breathe as I vomit from the rank smell that assails my sinuses. I punch and kick and strike with my blade knowing that to slacken for even a breath would mean my death.
The only thing that keeps me standing is that there are so many of them that are pressing in upon me. They can’t all get to me at the same time because of the wall at my back and because of their being in each other’s way. I use that to my advantage.
The only thing that separates me from them is the fact that I am still living and that I can think faster than they can, although the terror that paralyzes my heart also clouds my mind and keeps me functional only as an animal that is seeking escape.
Another hand grabs my beard and twists my head to the right, at the same time, what had been a large mail lunges for my face, its mouth open and its teeth bared. I stab it in the side of the skull above the ear and it dies a second death even as it is crushed against me by the others. I pull my hand back and strike another between the eyes and it collapses. I stab another on the top of the head and it falls too, congealed brain matter spilling from its ruined cranium.
I can no longer kick or punch and I know there is nothing more for me to do but die even as I lash out again and again with the only weapon I have.
The cadavers attack as one mind and bite any part of me that they can. So far their teeth have not connected with or broken the skin, only my body armor and beard, but it is only a matter of time. I am so tired that I can barely lift my arm. Their advance is frightening and they are as quiet as the grave as they seek to drag me down and eat my flesh.
The sun has risen a little more and shines through the stain glass window causing the image of the Emperor to bleed through and cover the teeming mass of corpses. The water still splashes behind the dead as the body that had fallen in the pool continues to struggle to get out. The death bird’s shadows cross back and forth outside and cause their silhouettes to move back and forth throughout the room. It is strange what you notice when you know you are going to die.
A shot from nowhere and yet from everywhere explodes the window and two corpses that are directly aligned go limp as their heads explode. They are kept from falling by the tight grouping of the others, but I know they are dead. Their heads are gone, the only thing that remains of them are their lower jaws.
The others surge forward and pin me in place against the wall. I cannot move now and can barely take in a breath; they will crush me to death before they eat my flesh. A rib cracks and than another. I scream out in pain, ‘The Emperor Protects!’ and am rewarded by another head popping beside me. I scream out again, ‘The Emperor Protects!’ and another head comes apart. Now I can hear voices from below and above. Shots are being fired and corpses are falling all around me.
In shock I fall upon the rotten, stinking diseased beings and begin to fade. The last thing I see before I blackout are the faces of three guardsmen, weapons raised ready to kill again. One looks down and says, ‘We received your message three months, six days and seven hours ago but could not respond. Planetary receiving was down. It took us this long to get here and to find you. Sir, respond to me if you can.’
Looking up, I smile and say, ‘I am leaving the dead.’
Last edited by Adrian; 01-25-11 at 11:20 PM.