Read Burden of Survival: Killing the Dead : Season Two Online
Authors: Richard Murray
Burden of Survival
Killing the Dead: Season Two
By Richard Murray
Copyright 2015 Richard Murray
All Rights Reserved
All Characters are a work of Fiction.
Any resemblance to real persons
Living or dead is purely coincidental
As always this is dedicated to my children, my friends and my family. Thank you for all the support.
The great round house was quiet as I stalked along the polished wooden floor, my footsteps silent but for the slight scrape of leather with each step. The combat knife I held in one hand shone brightly in the moonlight that filtered through the gaps in the boards nailed over the windows.
All across the floor were sleeping people, refugees from the apocalypse that had begun half a year ago. My quarry wasn’t far, I could
it and my heartbeat quickened as I caught the barest whisper of a sound off in a room to my right.
With careful steps I made my way across the floor, every sense alert for sign that my prey was aware of my presence.
A murmur came from the frail man beside me as he tossed fitfully in his sleep but I ignored him and pressed on. If he awoke I’d be discovered and I couldn’t afford to worry about that. I needed to focus on my quarry before they escaped to safety. That wouldn’t, couldn’t happen. I would not be denied this night.
I paused beside the door and pressed my ear to the rough wood. All was silent within but I was sure my prey was beyond the door, hidden and waiting for me. My hand sought the handle and turned it slowly, oh so slowly so as to make no sound.
It opened on silent hinges and I slipped into the darkened room. They were there, I was sure of it. My knife was ready in my hand, eager to be used. I made my first cautious steps, moving slowly to avoid knocking anything over and alerting them to my presence.
As my eyes adjusted to the darkness it began to take shape and there, cowering in the corner I could see the slim form of my quarry. I resisted the urge to quicken my pace and glided slowly across the floor towards them.
When the cold edge of the knife touched my throat I stopped abruptly, I was caught. My prey had turned the tables and there was nothing I could do to stop the hand slowly turning me to face them.
In the darkened room my prey’s eyes glittered with triumph.
“I win,” Lily said.
Her knife left my skin and I resisted the urge to reach up and rub my neck. Her teeth gleamed softly white in the darkness as she grinned.
“Well done,” I said with some small attempt at grace.
“Oh don’t pout,” she whispered as she pulled me closer. Her lips were warm and soft as they met my own and I allowed her a moments’ passionate kiss before I pulled away.
“I don’t pout.”
“You do when you don’t get your own way,” she said. I could almost feel her amusement.
“Where were you hiding?”
“Behind the door,” she said.
I glanced back over my shoulder with a frown at the darkness, I should have checked there first. She crossed to the dark shape I had been so fixed on and pulled free her coat from the broom handle that she had thrown it over and I swore softly.
“Nice trick,” I muttered.
“It did the job,” she agreed happily.
“Won’t work on a zombie though.”
“It’ll work against the living monsters,” Lily said. “That’ll be enough.”
She pulled the coat on and slid her blade into its sheath on the belt at her waist. I paused a second before doing the same. She linked her arm with mine and pulled open the store room door.
I allowed her to guide me through the room of sleeping people and towards the main entrance where an amused Pat smiled and nodded before removing the locking bar. He held the door open without a word though I could tell from his smile that he knew I’d lost.
It didn’t happen often in this little game of ours that we played night after night, but she was getting better. Her wins were coming more often and in the last ten days she’d won more than she’d lost.
That raised conflicting feelings inside of me. On the one hand I was irked beyond measure that anyone had been able to beat me, but on the other… well, I was pleased. She was improving and that might well save her life one day.
The cold night air brought a shiver as my breath misted before me, mingling with Lily’s and wreathing the both of us. She seemed to feel no special need to speak which was pleasing and we walked in comfortable silence through the night.
Our island refuge had changed in the time we’d been here. The great round building still stood, though the windows had been boarded over and the entrances were permanently guarded and locked.
All seventy four people in our little community tended to cram themselves inside on a night. The children in rooms on the top floor with two careful guards in place. After that one incident, Lily had ensured the children were protected as they slept.
The adults filled the other rooms, huddled together in a mixed bag of quilts, blankets and scavenged sleeping bags. Few complained at the cramped conditions. They’d all survived attacks from the undead and were happy to be able to sleep in safety. Besides, the extra warmth generated by so many people together was welcomed during the winter.
We followed the path between the trees that ringed the island and I caught a few whispered words from Lily as she saw something that she wanted to remind herself to deal with in the morning. She saw my looking her way and she smiled, her face shining in the moonlight.
“The chimes need checking,” she said.
I looked over her shoulder and saw the long lengths of string hanging from the trees and bushes about a foot from the muddy ground. Empty tins had been hung from them and they banged gently together in the night breeze.
They surrounded the island, running through the trees as our simple attempt at a first alarm if the zombies ever crossed the lake. Not that there was much chance of that. Everything I’d seen of them so far had indicated that they had an intense dislike or fear of water.
We pressed on as the trees fell away and the lake shore came into view as we came to the private dock that the previous owners of the island had enjoyed. Several of the boats that were used for fishing and transport between the island and the mainland were tied up against the dock.
Two faces turned to us in the darkness and Lily raised a hand to wave as the man and woman recognised us and went back to standing watch on the dock. They each held a rifle and had a small number of bullets from our woefully low cache.
If anyone living tried to take the boats or approached the island, they would alert everyone at the round house. I smiled as I considered everything Lily had managed to accomplish since she had taken control of the refugees.
Without Rachel’s insanity and Matthew’s incompetence, the people she’d saved were safe and even prospering a little. It wasn’t the most comfortable existence but it was safe from the undead that roamed the world in unimaginable numbers.
We left the path and walked slowly along the shore. A short distance away lay the passenger boat that had proven so useful to us in the early days before it ran out of fuel and was abandoned. Lily pointed out over the water and I followed her gaze.
“There’re growing numbers of them moving around out there,” she said.
“The snow’s melted,” I agreed. “It helped slow them for a bit but we knew it wasn’t for good.”
“We were supposed to meet with the Coniston people today.”
“No one came?”
“I’m hoping they’ll be here tomorrow but they’re never late.”
“You want me to go take a look?” I asked. I couldn’t keep the eagerness from my voice and I turned away from her. She likely suspected why I was eager and despite how much she knew, I still wasn’t comfortable with discussing my need for violence and death.
“Maybe,” she said quietly. “But definitely not on your own.”
“I’ll take Pat and Gregg, maybe Jenny.”
She didn’t seem especially pleased with that idea for some reason and merely grunted as we continued on our way. Perhaps it was because of Pat, he was fully healed from his wound though and neither he nor Gregg had any tasks that couldn’t be put off for a bit. I shrugged mentally and put it aside as something she’d likely explain in good time.
The boat was around fifty feet in length and twelve wide and sat low in the water. Inside was a pilot’s seat, dozens of rows of passenger seats and a tidy kitchen and toilet at the stern. It had been a refuge for our group when our camp was overrun and had served us well ever since.
Because it had no way of moving without fuel it had been pretty much abandoned by the group which made it ideal for my use. A couple of planks of thick wood bridged the gap between the shore and the hatchway into the boat. I led the way up.
The boat looked much the same inside as it always had though I’d strung up blankets around the windows that ran its length. Not just for privacy but to allow me to have a light on without alerting anyone on the far shore to our presence.
I’d been happy to sleep on the upholstered seats but Lily had taken one look and with the aid of Pat and Gregg, manhandled a couple of mattresses appropriated from the round house into the boat. Placed in the open space at the back they had fit snugly after one row of chairs was removed.
She’d then covered it in blankets and pillows of all kinds to provide some warmth and comfort. She’d done all this while I watched in bemused silence and when asked, informed me quite plainly that if I was sleeping there then so was she.
“I hate that you have to come here each night,” she said. Her voice broke through my thoughts and I blinked and came back to the present. I shrugged and threw my best grin her way as I pulled off my coat.
“It’s fine,” I said.
“No, it’s really not.”
“I like the privacy.”
“You shouldn’t have to stay out here though,” she insisted.
“They fear me,” I said softly. “You know why and I understand it. My secret is out, or at least enough of it to make everyone scared.”
“You’ve done so much for them,” she said with a sigh. “I keep telling them…”
“Enough,” I said as I lit a candle and turned to face her.
The flickering light illuminated the interior of the boat and revealed to me the look of sorrow that crossed her face before she caught it and composed herself. She smiled weakly and ran one hand through her shoulder length hair to brush it from her face.
In the low light I paused to take a moment to just
her. She was the first to truly know me and not turn away. More than that, she professed to love me. An alien emotion to me for sure, but one that I was trying to understand.
She pulled free her coat, every movement graceful and my breath caught as she looked my way. I’d considered her pretty when I first met her and I couldn’t help but wonder how I’d not noticed her beauty.
“I don’t care what the others think,” I said. “Just you.”
“Charmer,” she said with a smile that lit her face from within.
Her arms encircled me and I didn’t flinch from her touch as I once would have, instead I responded with an embrace of my own, pulling her towards me and for a short while, silencing that need within me that had been growing harder to ignore.
His arm was around my waist protectively and I was loathe to move and disturb him but had little real choice, dawn had come and we had work to do.
With a sigh I turned in his arms and watched as he blinked sleepily, woken by my movement. Eyes of pale blue looked back at me as I ran one finger over the faint scar that crossed his cheek from beneath his left eye and all the way to his ear.
I shuddered as I thought of how close he had come to being blinded. He smiled shyly and my heart skipped a beat as it did every time he looked at me in that way.
“Morning already?” he asked as he stifled a yawn with the hand that had been draped over me. I sighed at its loss and smiled at his confused look.
“Time to get up,” I said.
He ruffled his dark hair and I darted forward to place my lips against his, losing myself in him for as long as possible.
All too soon he pulled back from me, his defences raised and I watched as he retreated and the wariness returned to his face.
He grunted as he threw aside the blankets, no hesitation in him. Once he decided it was time to get up he wouldn’t linger beneath the covers to enjoy every last bit of warmth, he’d just embrace the cold as simply a minor irritant to be endured.
His skin was far too pale and his ribs showed beneath. I knew our diet was sparse but he’d seemed to have lost all his weight leaving just taut muscle behind. Not that he’d had much weight to lose in the first place, but like the rest of us he’d lost much during the winter.
“What’re you going to do today?” I asked.
“If your Coniston people don’t turn up, I’ll be heading across the lake,” he replied as he pulled a thick jumper over his head. It was tatty and had several holes, not that he’d notice them. I made a mental note to find a new one for him. “If they do show up, I’ll head the other way and see what we can find in Windermere.”