It’s been snowing where I live, which has made taking pictures outside a chilly affair. But this week I decided to put on a nice dress and brave the cold.
This past week was a good one for staying inside and writing short stories. I’ve been working on some new pieces that I’m excited to share.
Today I will continue my zombie story, with part 2 of “He Walked.” Enjoy, and thank you for reading.
With Screams and Axes,
He Walked (Part 2)
They had little with them as they traveled: a blanket and some cans of food, and the memories of things they left behind. They camped out in a field with a small group of other refugees. Now they were dirty people, unrecognizable visages of their civilized selves, huddled around a camp fire. They soon discovered that fields were not good places to camp. They were attacked during the night. She ran into the darkness with her husband’s family while the final screams of those they left echoed behind them. After that, they tried to stay amongst the trees where no one could take a step without a noise, and the hush of the birds and an eerie silence would alert them to anyone’s approach. They tested berries and mushrooms in their hesitant mouths, and foraged like squirrels and mice. She thought of him while they ran, while they slept sitting up against the bark of trees, nervous and flighty as deer. She tried to convince herself that this war was like the others. He would face the violence as he always had, people would always kill, but he would always kill them first. In her heart she continued to wait.
He shuffled through the woods. Up ahead there was a small clearing where someone had pitched a tent. Animal carcasses hung from a tree, and pots and pans swung on a line with dingy shirts and socks. A man with a gun slung over his shoulder had his back turned, fiddling with a compass in his hands. He hissed and the man turned around and aimed the gun at him. He advanced and the man fired. The bullet struck him in the arm but did nothing to deter him. “Wait, stop!” He grasped at the man and when he had him in his arms, began to rip him apart. The man shrieked, the birds hushed, and somewhere off in the distance someone wept. He was frenzied by the killing, but after it passed and the man was dead, he felt nothing. He poked his fingers through what was left of him. He left the corpse to rot in the open air and perhaps be finished by scavengers. It was all he could do.
They began to quarrel. They were lost and turned around. They argued over the correct way to the country home. His sister was injured and ill, and forced them to move slowly and stop often. She thought of abandoning them but couldn’t. It wasn’t her place. His father finally stopped late midday to stare at a road. They had been avoiding roads, which all seemed choked with marauders, murderers and the dead. Emerging from the woods, they saw the road and the father told them to stop.
“I recognize this place. The curve of the road, that tree with the scar across its belly, and that sign; Entering Hunstville…” He struggled to place this memory.
“When were you on this road? Where were you going?” The mother asked trying to help him remember.
“It seems so long ago.”
With the mother’s help, he was able to recall the road and which direction they had to go. On the way, the sister succumbed. She fell and could go no further. They stopped and waited for her to die. She took her time. She managed to pass her illness to her brother. His father bashed his ill son over the head with a branch and then dealt the same to his daughter. The mother shrieked and cried, and his wife had to cover her mouth with the palm of her hand to hush her. They moved on in the morning, his parents older and quiet and her with bite marks on her palm.
He came upon a band of them. Their rags were dirty, and they huddled around their fire close enough to catch their tatters aflame. A skinned raccoon skewered on a stick roasted above the flames, the juices dripped and sizzled as they fell. They had guns close at hand, but they had long run out of ammunition. He wouldn’t have feared them even if they had bullets. They hadn’t seen him approaching in the darkness with their faces covered in filth. He entered their camp and scattered them. They screamed, and ran helter-skelter into the trees. He was unable to speak to them. They trembled at the sight of him. Their fear moved them as quickly as startled rabbits. He chased after a few, wanting them to wait. But they fled into the darkness, and he lost them. He let them go. He stood in front of their still burning fire and stared into the flames, watching the raccoon flesh burn. It was all that he could do.
She and his parents found their summer home intact. It was lucky and amazing it hadn’t been ransacked and looted. The house was tucked deep into the countryside and couldn’t be seen from any roads and wasn’t near the highway. They stepped onto the porch and stared at the locked door. It wasn’t kicked in and it wasn’t riddled with bullet holes; it was in perfect condition, like doors had been before. His father took the key from his pocket and fit it into the lock. The door opened easily for the dazed family. First they changed their clothes, and wrapped themselves in blankets from the linen closet to warm their bones. The mother found the key for the pantry in a drawer and sorted out a dinner for them. While they waited, his wife looked at the photos on the mantle. They looked so strange now. She looked at him as a baby and a little boy. His father looked at the pictures of his children and cried with his hand clasping her shoulder too tightly.
“What happened?” he asked her.
“What was always going to happen.”
They decided over dinner that if they intended to stay here they’d have to board the house up and make it more uninviting to whoever may stumble across upon it. They feared being attacked while they slept, lulled to sleep by the false feelings of security a house provided. She thought about him and the things he’d need right away after rejoining them here. She prepared a mental list of things to set aside so she’d be ready, ready and waiting.
His journey took him days, but when he finally arrived home, she was there to meet him. As he stumbled up the long twisting path that led to their house, which had once been a dirt road but was now overgrown with grass and weeds, he let out a loud painful shriek. As if somehow aware he was finally close to where he was meant to be.
She sat at the kitchen table with his mother, drinking tea and feeling bitterness growing inside her.
“What do you think?” His mother asked.
“ Do you think we’re safe here?”
“We’re not safe anywhere. But we have to stay here, there’s no alternative.”
“This is where he’ll come for us.”
Through the slit in the boards nailed to the window she saw a small figure coming up the hill. She left her seat silently, and went onto the porch. From a few yards away she saw him advancing. His walk was a slow stumble and he moaned as he grew near. She stood still, eyes fixed on his figure. He was finally coming home to her, as he promised he would. She had waited patiently and done what had to be done. Now the wait was over, she had no other mission to complete, and neither did he. She was a good wife. His mother yelled from inside the house. She screamed to stay inside, stay away. She ignored her, and ran to greet her love and welcome him home. She met him in the yard, whispering their secrets and offering him her hand. He wrapped his arms around her, groaning and shaking, and she cried his name and his mouth met hers. His grey lips curled around hers and he bit till her tongue became his own.