Authors: Richard Murray
Killing the Dead: Search for Safety
By Richard Murray
Copyright 2014 Richard Murray
All Rights Reserved
All Characters are a work of Fiction.
Any resemblance to real persons
Living or dead is purely coincidental
This book is dedicated to my Dad on his 65
Happy Birthday Dad.
I must have slept at some point as the next thing I knew, Lily was gently but firmly shaking me. It was still dark beyond the windshield of the transit van, so I couldn’t have slept too long. Rachel was crying softly and being comforted by Pat. The still form wrapped in the blanket told me that the tears were for Ellie.
“Where are we?” I asked Lily.
“I don’t know, perhaps thirty miles from the farmhouse.”
“Why have we stopped?”
“Ellie died.” Lily told me, she glanced over at the still form. “We need your help to find somewhere to lay her to rest.” She said with a meaningful look at the hatchet that rested in my lap.
For once I understood the hidden meaning behind her words. She was afraid Ellie would rise and wanted me to make sure that she didn’t. “Sure, just give me a minute to get my bearings” I said. I had a number of aches and pains from the fight at the house and the short sleep on the floor of the van.
Lily opened the door and stepped out. She waved off Pat’s offer of help and said “Stay and look after Rachel, we can handle this.”
I handed my hatchet to Lily and picked up the blanket wrapped body. I could see Maggie was fast asleep cradled against Claire. The remains of Ellie were heavy and smelled faintly like roasted pork. My stomach gave an embarrassing rumble at the odour. I had not eaten anything since the breakfast I had made the day before.
As I stepped from the van the cold breeze reminded me that I was once again fleeing into the night in just a t-shirt. Lily stood by the side of the road peering around, watchful for any zombies that may be in the area. Stone walls stood at either side of the road with woodland beyond. With only limited light provided by the moon it was an uncomfortable place to be in the midst of a zombie apocalypse.
“Over here.” Lily called softly, “I’ll climb the wall and you can pass her over to me” she added as she gracefully climbed the low wall. With a grunt I was able to raise the body to the top of the wall before I clambered over to join her.
We travelled only a short way into the woods. The leaves had already started to turn and fall, crackling under out feet as we walked. Lily stopped before a large old oak tree and gestured for me to place the body on the ground.
“Do we even know she will turn into one of those things?” asked Lily.
“She wasn’t bitten, but then the first ones to change weren’t either.”
Lily stared down at the young woman we had known for just a few days. “Should we wait and see?”
“To be honest, I don’t think it matters too much. We could just leave her here.”
“It doesn’t seem right though.” Lily said with a frown, “I think we need to make sure.”
“Then we wait. The first sign of her coming back and I will deal with her”
“You don’t have to. I can do it.”
I gestured at my clothes that were already coated with mud and blood from the skirmish earlier and laughed. “I may as well do it I’m hardly going to get any cleaner am I?”
With a smile Lily handed me back my hatchet and we stood in silence for a time as we listened to the sounds of the world around us and waited for a young woman to return from death as a zombie.
“Do you want to talk about earlier?”Lily asked breaking the silence.
“What do you mean?”
“We all saw you back at the farmhouse.” She was gazing intently at me.
“I am not quite sure what you mean.” I told her with a shrug. Lily looked sceptical but let the subject drop and we returned to our silent contemplation. In truth I was more than a little confused with it all.
In a very few days I had killed more people living and undead, than I had managed in the short two years I had been an active serial killer. I had also killed several times in front of other people and that raised some conflicting emotions. I had spent years doing all I could to kill in secret. Each victim had been chosen for a specific reason, even if that reason was simply that they irritated me, it had still been my choice with each part of the process planned in advance and the remains carefully disposed of afterwards.
Now I had killed in full view of people. One person at least, knew that I had killed before the dead started rising. It had been thrilling at first but the way they had looked at me, back in the mud covered farmyard had reminded me that people with my particular tastes were not generally tolerated.
“Did you hear that?” Lily asked in alarm.
I glanced down at the corpse but saw no movement. “Hear what?”
“That!” she said as a twig snapped somewhere out in the darkness.
“Ok. I heard it that time. I think it’s time to get back to the van.” I said as the first moans rose around us. The sounds grew louder as the zombies honed in on the sound of our voices. The woods were disorienting in the dark. We couldn’t identify the direction the sounds were coming from. I readied my weapon.
The first zombie staggered around the thick trunk of the tree to my left. Its eyes were dull and its uncovered flesh was pale. It was missing its left arm, jagged strips of flesh hanging loosely from its shoulder, chequered shirt hanging from its thin frame in rags.
As it came towards us, it opened its mouth wider and moaned in what I could only imagine was joy at the chance to feed on the fresh meat that stood before it. I stepped to the left, away from its one arm and swung my hatchet at its head. The blow struck its temple and the bone crunched as the blade sank deeply into its skull. The zombie fell to the ground, a silent corpse once more.
In the few moments it had taken to kill the first zombie, more had appeared. All shapes, all states of decay. I glanced behind at Lily and saw fear plain on her face. “Run back to the van.” I shouted before turning my attention back to the undead.
I swung my hatchet at first one, then another zombie. I kept moving as much as possible in the small glade, fearful of tripping on a root and losing my balance. There were just too many. I felled two and struck at a third, my hatchet biting deep into the flesh of its shoulder. Grasping hands caught my arm in a painfully strong grip as I struggled to pull it free.
Adrenaline surged as I kicked at the creature holding my arm, all while trying to pull free the hatchet. I was beginning to think that I may have finally met my end when a large thick branch crashed against the back of the zombies’ skull. It collapsed and I was left staring at Lily.
“Time for you to run too,” she said.
“Whatever you say” I agreed as I finally managed to pull free my weapon. More zombies were approaching through the trees. We ran.
We hadn’t moved too far from the road, but in the dark of the woods as we jumped tree roots and slipped through muddy puddles, the road seemed almost too far. The wall appeared before us and we scrambled over to stand panting on the road. Our companions alerted by our return and the growing noise from our pursuers were watching fearfully from the van.
The zombies came out of the trees and were stopped in their pursuit by their inability to climb over the wall. A dozen undead in various states of decay and dress, they stood on the opposite side of the wall from us and moaned their frustration as the ones that could raise their arms high enough, clawed the air in an effort to reach us.
“Where did they come from?” asked Pat.
“Looks like a mixed bunch. Probably fleeing a built up area and died on the other side of the woods.” I said.
“What makes you think they died nearby? They could have died anywhere and been travelling in this direction.”
“Anything’s possible. Not that it matters now I guess. We are still going to have to go before the noise draws more.” I told the group.
“Where’re we going anyway?” asked Pat.
I shrugged and went to sit back in the back of the van. “We don’t even know where we are, it will be best just to keep driving until we find somewhere relatively zombie free.”
Pat climbed back into the van and sat once more with the crying Rachel while Lily took the driver’s seat. The engine came to life and with it the lights which caused an increase in the noise from the zombies behind the wall.
“It may be an idea to turn those lights off. It could be attracting them.” I told Lily before settling back down beside the door. It didn’t take long for sleep to find me once more.
The next morning I awoke irritable, cold and aching. The van was quiet, the rest of the group were still fast asleep. Rachel was curled up against Pat, her head resting by his chest. Claire still sat in the passenger seat with Maggie in her arms with Lily nowhere to be seen, the driver side door was still closed so I guessed she had left voluntarily.
I opened the rear doors of the van as quietly as possible. I had no interest in waking the others and listening to their talk. I did feel an urgent need to relieve myself and decided it was better to brave the cold than soil myself. As I stepped from the van I had to raise my arm to cover my eyes from the bright sun before I looked around to get my bearings.
The van had been parked on a long stretch of road that wound through some hills. The ground at either side of the road rose above us, pale green grass fading to yellow, giving way to rocky outcrops. Frost covered the ground, an indication that autumn was resolutely making its way into winter regardless of the apocalypse. Lily was standing at the top of the hill on the right hand side of the van, so I moved to the left and emptied my bladder onto the dirt and stone of the road edge.
I was acutely conscious of the state of my clothing. I was caked with mud, blood and my own sweat. I no doubt stank and I still felt annoyance at being unable to wash my hands after relieving myself. The idea of climbing back into the van was unappealing so I decided to join Lily.
The climb up the steep ground was not so difficult and the view from the top was breathtaking. I stood beside Lily and stared across the waters of a large reservoir. Small waves crested the water as the wind blew across its surface. Beyond the reservoir were hills covered with moss, green grass and dotted with small groups of sheep. A few trees stood together by a group of houses set into the side of a hill.
“I think that’s where we should go” Lily said, as she pointed to the houses. “Not so many houses that we will need to clear out a large group of zombies and it’s close to the water of the reservoir.”
“It will do for a little while sure, but we won’t last the winter up here.”
“Why not?” she looked towards me, forehead creased in a frown.
“I don’t know if you ever came up here in the winter, but while it would rain in the towns, this place would get several feet of snow. We would be stuck, few trees to make firewood to keep us warm and no food other than what we manage to scavenge before the snows come.”
“Can’t we grow some?”
“I have never even tried to grow anything so I wouldn’t know where to start. I don’t even know if the soil of the moors can support the growing of crops or when they would need planting” I said with a laugh. “I found some books that will help, but that will be for next year. It’s too close to winter now.”
Lily stared across the water at the houses in silence for a little while. “Well at least we can get a few days rest and you can have a shower” she finally said with a smile. “Trust me when I say you need it.”
My laugh and smile were genuine. “You may be right. If we are going to keep on fighting the living and the dead, I am probably going to need a great many more clothes.”
Her smile faded and a solemn look once more appeared. “Thank you, for what you did at the farm.”
“Don’t worry about it” I said, my own smile fading at the memory.
“I know that killing is easier for you, but you saved us.” She rested her hand gently against my arm, “I want you know that we all appreciated it. They would have killed us all, or worse.”
“Yeah well, someone has to do it. May as well be me.”
“You sound as though you don’t want to. I thought you enjoyed it.”
“I did. I do. I really don’t know. It’s different when I kill the zombies.” I said with a shrug.
“And that gang?”
“Yes. That was different too. I still enjoyed it, kind of.”
“I never asked before, but is it something that you will need to do, or can you get along without the killing?” Lily asked her voice kept low as she glanced over her shoulder to make sure no one else could hear.
“You don’t have to worry. With so many zombies around I will have plenty to kill for a long time. You folks are safe.” I couldn’t keep the bitterness from my voice. It seemed I was welcome so long as I was useful for doing the distasteful task of killing for the group.