We reach the trellised gate at the back of the yard and I peer around the fence posts into the alley. Just a gravel and dirt surface, it runs east and west, pocked with puddles of standing water from the recent rains. Of more immediate interest is the pair of zeds just 100 feet to the west, the direction we want to go. They’re both motionless, a male standing listlessly in a mud puddle, a female standing with its hip slumped up against a low fence. Both are facing away from us.
I quickly draw back and wordlessly motion Zoey to come forward and have a look. She glances into the alley and immediately jerks her head back into the yard, alarmed. We retreat back towards the rear of the house and kneel down to confer.
“That’s the direction we need to go, Zoey," I say, whispering. "Two ways we can do this. Back up and try to work our way around, or take those two out quietly.”
“You want to just take care of those two now, don’t you Bill?”
“Well, here’s my thinking: every detour we make means more ground to cover. That just increases the chances of running into more zombies. If we try to go around these two, we’re just as likely to run into more zeds somewhere else. Except the next zombies might not be looking in the other direction. These two haven’t seen us yet; I say we take advantage of the opportunity.”
“Makes sense. So we take out these two zeds while we have the element of surprise.”
“Exactly. But Zoey? If we’re going to do this, and do it right, we have to do it together. I need to know that you’re going to stick to the plan, OK?”
A dozen silent thoughts are conveyed in the glances we exchange, not all of them charitable sentiments of love and cooperation. But to my relief, Zoey nods in agreement. “We’re holding the line, right Bill?”
“That’s right Zoey, we’re a line of two. We hit hard and quick. These things seem to go into a daze when they’ve been inactive for a while. We can take advantage of that. The one on the left, the female, is further away. You're faster, so that’s your target. “
I outline the plan. We advance on them as quietly as possible. Ideally, we want to be almost on top of the closest zombie without arousing any attention. Zoey is to then rush past that one and clobber the second zed. The first one will be alerted, but I’ll be right behind it and brain it with the crowbar. If everything goes well, my zombie will go down with just one or two blows and I’ll be able to assist Zoey if she needs it.
We leave our packs in the yard and quietly ease open the gate. Walking abreast, bat and crowbar in hand, we advance cautiously down the alley. Our eyes are fixed on our targets, in case either begins to stir. The male zed is just 20 feet ahead of us now, standing inert in the middle of a mud puddle. The female zombie, another 10 feet beyond, also motionless.
I’m striding forward when I feel a knock against the toe of my boot and look down in time to see a loose stone roll into a puddle with a soft splash. I glance up. The closest zombie straightens up out of its stupor and lets out a low moan. It begins to turn around to its right.
“Move! Move! Move! Move!” I whisper urgently.
Zoey is past the first zombie before I can reach it. She sprints by on its left as it‘s turning to its right, so it never sees her. Instead it fixes its eyes on me just as I bring the crowbar down onto its head. The front of its forehead caves inward under the force of the blow, expelling the left eyeball. It dangles from the optic nerve as the zed collapses into the puddle its been standing in. Clouds of blackish grey fluid mix with the chocolate brown of the muddy rain water.
I hear a high pitched grunt followed almost instantaneously by the dull ‘thunk’ of a bat landing solidly on something fleshy and hard. I don’t have time to look up because the zed at my feet is beginning to thrash in the puddle. I stamp on the side of its neck as I flip the crowbar around. I plant the straight end into its right ear and place the palms of both my hands on the hooked end. With my elbows locked, I lever my feet off the ground. The crowbar settles downward incrementally for a split second, but then the skull gives way under my body weight. The shaft plunges down another half a foot, staking the thing’s head to the muddy bottom of the puddle. The water has changed color to an oily gray hue.
I hear scrambling and a rapid staccato of grunts from Zoey as I look up. The female zombie is on the ground, pedaling around in a circle on its side. Zoey is side stepping around the flailing zed in her own circle, just ahead of its grasping arms. She's repeatedly bringing the bat down on its head. The two are engaged in a bizarre sort of break dance. This shouldn’t be entertaining, but I pause there to watch the spectacle, casually leaning on my crowbar like it’s a cane, still protruding out of the side of the male zombie’s skull.
Zoey’s making a real mess of it. She keeps hitting it, but can’t seem to finish it off. Tissue, bone splinters and pulpy liquid are spraying everywhere; her pants are beginning to look like a Jackson Pollock drip painting. Finally, the female zed’s movements become slower and less coordinated until it convulses once and abruptly lies still.
Zoey hasn’t seemed to notice. She’s still wailing away at the inert, pulpy mess on ground until I walk up to her and grasp her arm as she again raises the blood stained bat over her head.
“Zoey? “ No response, other than fighting against my grip to swing the bat down yet again.
“Zoey! You can stop now. I think it might be dead.”
Zoey releases the bat, letting her shoulders sag as she stands there, panting.
“I didn’t realize how much I hated these things until I had the chance to kill one,” she explains, still staring at the corpse, now barely recognizable as a former human being. “Once you get started, it’s hard to stop.”
She looks up to me, I see specks of brain matter on her cheeks, in her hair. “Bill, I think maybe I enjoyed that. A little bit.” She looks stricken.
I put my arm around her and draw her to my chest. “Same thing happened to me, Zoey.” I say, thinking of that one zombie behind the office building. The first one I could kill at my leisure. “But you do get over it. Trust me, it gets old real fast.”
I glance down at the wrecked corpse at our feet. It’s wearing some sort of house coat with large front pockets. A folded piece of paper is sticking out of one of them. Zoey sees this too because she stoops down to fish it out. She unfolds the paper and begins to read. Abruptly she drops it onto the ground and staggers to the fence alongside the alley. She doubles over the top and vomits into the yard beyond. When the sound of retching ceases, it’s replaced with sobbing.
I reach down and pick up the muddy paper. It’s a letter, dated just three days ago. In tight, neat cursive writing, it begins with ‘Dear Sue and Phil’ and ends with ‘In love and friendship, Mary Sturtevant’. I turn around and consider the male zombie behind me. I look down again at the female zombie Zoey has just dispatched. Did some echo of a human memory keep these two zeds in close proxmity to each other for the past three days? What exactly are these things when we kill them? Does some shred of humanity yet linger?
I join Zoey at the fence, rubbing her back. But I don’t know what to say.
Last edited by majorhavoc
on Fri Aug 12, 2011 2:04 pm, edited 5 times in total.