Read Machines of the Dead 3 Online

Authors: David Bernstein

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Horror, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Science Fiction, #Post-Apocalyptic

Machines of the Dead 3 (7 page)

BOOK: Machines of the Dead 3
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She focused on its eyes, trying to see if there was life there, but saw only the eyes of a monster. If there was emotion in them, she didn’t see it, yet.

She wondered what this meant. If the zombies were healing, getting stronger, did that mean they’d be human again or would it mean a harder enemy to deal with, one that could run and climb, maybe even think?

Maria returned to the living room and stared at the old man.

“Is she still alive?” he asked.

Maria didn’t answer. In fact, she didn’t know how to answer such a question. Maybe the thing in the garage was alive now, partly bot-controlled, partly operating on its own.

She walked up to him, pulled her knife from its sheath and cut him free of his bonds. “Get up and come with me.”

“What’s going on?” Zaun asked.

“How’s Jack?”

“He’s fine. Sleeping. No change.”

“Let’s go then.”

They all entered the garage and stood in front of the man’s former living wife.

“Damn,” Zaun said, “she looks real. Um, I mean alive.”

“She almost is, I think,” Henry said.

The thing raised its arms again, but there was no snarling face this time. Its head tilted to the right, causing it to look as if it were curious. The corners of its mouth pulled upward, forming what had to be the slightest of smiles.

Maria couldn’t believe what she was seeing. If she had doubt earlier, it was gone now. The thing was clearly showing emotion. Then it put one of its hands to its mouth and moaned. 

“She’s hungry,” Henry said.

Maria’s eyes widened and she found it hard to breathe. This was all too much. A communicating zombie. She thought about how it had snarled at her—because it hadn’t recognized her. Now it was . . . happy? It felt secure because it knew Henry, like an owner coming home to his dog.

“Dude, this is crazy,” Zaun said.

“May I feed her, please?” Henry asked.

Maria nodded. “Zaun, go with him.”

The two left the garage. The zombie stared at her. Henry had said she was hungry. Maria stepped forward, just out of the thing’s reach. Its face was slack. Maria held out her hand. The zombie stared at the offering, then raised its arms and latched onto her and tried pulling the hand to its snapping jaws. In no danger—the chain keeping the zombie’s mouth a foot away from her—Maria yanked her hand back. She had her answer. The thing would eat human flesh.

She raised her gun and pointed it at the thing’s head. Its mouth continued to bite. The gun had no meaning to it. It wasn’t afraid.

Zaun and Henry returned.

The zombie stopped its aggressive actions.

“Hey,” Henry shouted as he ran up to her. “What are you doing?”

“This thing tried to bite me. It isn’t turning back. It’s only getting stronger.”

“No. I’m telling you. She’s going to be the wife I knew again.” Henry placed a plate of semi-frozen, rotten meat in front of the zombie. It didn’t attack him when he drew close to it.

“Watch,” Henry said.

The zombie reached down, picked up a good portion of the meat and shoved the putrid-looking stuff into its mouth. Maria expected it to immediately go for seconds like the undead always did, eating in gluttonous fashion. But to her surprise, the creature chewed until the food was swallowed. The zombie then went for more, repeating its human-like mastication.

When the plate was clean, Henry wiped his undead wife’s face and cleaned the bits of flesh residing around her lips and on her chin. The zombie didn’t attempt a hostile act. It just stood there, allowing him to do what he was doing.

“Amazing,” Zaun said.

Maria replaced her Glock to its holster.

Henry picked up the plate and backed away. “See, she’s okay.”

Maria stepped up to the thing and held out her hand to it. The zombie looked at her, not the hand. After a minute, she stepped back.

“It’s still dangerous,” Maria said. “If you don’t feed it, it will eat you.”

The zombie let loose a grunt and a burp.

Maria couldn’t believe it. Digestion?

Then she noticed its shoulders rise and fall. It was ever so slight, but it happened. Its abdomen was moving too. Why she hadn’t noticed it before she didn’t know.

“Is it breathing?” she asked.

Henry smiled. “Yes.”

Chapter 13

 

After the incredible encounter, Maria and the others returned to the living room. Henry wasn’t tied up, deemed to be a non-threat. He fed his former wife whenever he needed to. Maria watched over Jack and used the downtime to think. But there were no answers. The bot virus had indeed changed, drastically this time. The undead were healing to the point of becoming human again, but what that meant in the long run she had no clue.

In order to prolong the portable heaters’ lives, the wood stove was fired up when the sun went down. Maria was still worried, but figured the chance of someone seeing the smoke under the cover of darkness was highly unlikely.

Maria and Zaun took turns keeping watch throughout the night. They both kept an eye on Jack, and by morning his wounds had almost completely healed. Maria had to Taser him only once having seen his body deteriorating the way it had in the Home Depot. But unlike that time, Jack’s body hadn’t needed to be resuscitated.

“Your friend,” Henry said, “is he infected too?”

“Different story than with your . . . wife,” Maria said. She started to tell Henry the story from the point of Jack getting shot as they snowmobiled up the Thruway, then decided with nothing but time, and wanting to share their tale with someone, she started from the beginning.

“Amazing,” Henry said when she was done. “So you all were there from the beginning.”

Maria nodded.

Jack stirred.

Maria went over to him. “Jack?”

He opened his eyes. “Damn, that sucked,” he said, his voice barely above a whisper. “Thirsty.”

Maria turned to get him water and found Henry standing before her, proffering a cup. She thanked him and accepted the offering before handing it to Jack.

Jack guzzled the water, a trickle dribbling down his chin. Maria helped him sit up a little. “How are you feeling?”

“Hungry.”

Henry grabbed some canned corn and handed it to Jack, who asked, “Aren’t you the guy who shot me?”

Henry’s face faltered as he backed up a step. “I . . . um . . .”

“He’s okay, Jack. It’s a long story. Just eat.”

And Jack did, finishing the canned corn, a can of black beans and an MRE. He lay back afterwards and relaxed as Maria told him about Henry.

Jack laughed. “Guess this confirms it. I’m a superhero.”

Maria saw Jack’s expression turn sour. He didn’t say anything.

“What’s wrong?”

“We came all this way for nothing. Sara’s not here.”

“If you’re looking for the person who used to live here, you may be in luck,” Henry said.

Jack looked up at Henry, his eyes intense. “What are you talking about?”

“When my wife and I arrived here, we . . . well, I, found a note. It was for a ‘Jack’. I’m guessing that’s you?”

“Yes,” Jack said, sitting up, grimacing. He put a hand to his injured side, then lay back down.

“You’re much better,” Maria said, “but obviously still need to heal.”

Jack nodded. “Please, mister, go on.”

“Name’s Henry.”

“Okay, Henry. Please continue.”

“There were a couple of notes pinned around the place. They were addressed to ‘Jack.’ It was signed ‘Sara’. Said she went to the Air Force Base and to come find her there. Like I said, the military came through the area. She, like most, must have left.”

Jack tried sitting up again, but Maria forced him down. “You need to rest.”

“We’re so close,” Jack said. “I need to get over there.”

“Give yourself another day. No point going out there injured. If she’s at the base, she’ll be safe. Another day won’t kill you. In fact, it might just save your ass.” Maria smiled.

“Jack sighed. “Fine, but we leave first thing tomorrow.” 

 

Chapter 14

 

Zaun was grateful Jack was on the mend.  Tomorrow they’d be heading to the Air Force Base. Of course, it had been a month or so since the military had come around telling people to head to the base. Anything could have happened to the place since then. Maybe the base was up and operational, everyone inside doing well. Maybe they’d flown the survivors somewhere else, somewhere safe. Or maybe the place had gotten overrun by undead and was nothing more than most places—a zombie infested nightmare.

Zaun said nothing of his worries to Jack. He and Maria had discussed all the possibilities in private. Worst case, they’d simply have to move on. Zaun knew Jack hoped, even believed, that his sister was alive. But the reality was, she wasn’t. It would be a shock. A devastation. But they’d be there for him. The same went for Maria and her family. She was intent on getting to them. Zaun couldn’t blame her, and he’d go with her regardless of how remotely hopeful the outcome was. Like with his thoughts about Jack’s sister, Zaun said nothing about his concerns for Maria’s family to her. 

When it came time to feed Henry’s wife—Zaun having no problem calling the zombie a her—he offered to get the meat. It was outside in a chest in the snow at the end of the property. The meat was covered in plastic wrap and sealed in plastic containers, Henry thinking it best to keep the odor from leaking out and attracting not only wild life, but the undead as well. Zaun would have used the meat to attract animals, because animals meant food.

He went outside and headed over to the chest, stopping short at seeing two undead pawing at it. There was a third zombie, but it wasn’t doing anything except standing a few feet behind them, its arms at its sides.

Zaun drew his sword and approached. The crunch of snow caught their attention. The two decomposing zombies advanced toward him, their flesh far from healing. The third zombie didn't move. Zaun met the two with swiftness, a slice to one that removed its head and a jab to the other through its eye, the sword’s tip popping out the back of its skull. He wiped the blade in the snow, then approached the remaining undead.

He came within a few feet of it, expecting it to attack, but it only shook and looked down as if afraid. He raised the sword, ready to strike. The thing glanced at him, its eyes went wide. For a minute, he thought it wasn’t a zombie, but a person. A frightened woman. Then it hissed and ran off.

Zaun watched her go, amazed. He’d never seen a zombie run, let alone show that it was afraid. It had known Zaun meant to kill it. He chuckled, thinking it a good thing. If the undead were afraid of humans, like most animals were, then the world was about to become a safer place.

He opened the chest and grabbed a container of meat before returning to the house. He gave the food to Henry, who brought it to the garage, and then shared what had happened outside with Maria and Jack.

“Looks like we need to be ready for anything,” Jack said. “If the undead are indeed becoming like wild animals, they could prove more dangerous, especially once they get used to seeing people. We don’t know if they’ll see us as food or as a threat.”

Zaun could hardly believe how fast Jack had healed and at how much food he’d consumed since waking.

Things for the trio were finally looking better for a change.

Chapter 15

 

The bot-infested woman ran through the various yards and sections of forest on her way back to the log cabin house at the top of the mountain. She didn’t worry about being quiet or seen. Most of the homes had been raided, the occupants taken and eaten by her people—the new people that had been reborn from the undead.

She did worry about the man with the sword. Feared him. He’d swiftly killed the stupid ones she had been with near the meat chest. He wasn’t a coward like most other food. The food usually ran when they saw her, her people and the undead. If he had confronted her, she might have been able to defeat him. Rip him apart as she fed. But he’d had friends, and they could be as dangerous as him.

When she reached the log cabin, the nest, she was greeted outside by two guards. They grunted, and the one named Drek threw her to the ground. To return home without some form of bounty was looked down upon, severely. Such an act made her appear weak.

Standing quickly, the large guard named Gert backhanded her, sending her to the snowy ground again. He stood almost seven feet tall and carried a spiked baseball bat. It was common for each guard to take a turn at whacking the empty-handed returnee.

With a split lip, the woman rose to her feet and smiled. The sweet taste of her own blood filled her mouth as she sucked on the plump flesh. It made her hungry.

The tall guard grunted at her again.

The woman grunted back.

The communication between her people was simplistic, involving various sounds and gestures. Occasionally, words were used, their vocabulary growing.

She pointed down the hillside and indicated danger. The guards moved aside and let her pass.

She went up the stairs and into the cabin, passing numerous discarded bones of various sizes, all picked clean. The walls were damaged and marked up, the furniture stained and broken. Blood splashed the walls in streaks and handprints. She could still hear the foods’ cries and it calmed her.

She made her way to the living room where the rest of her people, three females and five males in total, were hanging out. Fresh blood and bones littered the already saturated carpet. The leader, Ker, sat by himself, his axe by his side. Her people’s skin was flawless, but the clothing was dirty, full of holes and smelled. It wasn’t a bad odor but the smell of
her
people. The thing that greatly distinguished them from the food—besides how intact and unblemished their skin was.

The woman approached Ker and knelt before him. Eager-sounding grunts echoed around the room, quieting when she indicated that dangerous food was near the bottom of the mountain.

Ker stood and grabbed his axe, the blade decorated with crimson. He spoke, the words harsh and guttural, the pronunciations strange. The
new
people were beginning to speak some form of language.

Everyone stood at attention, picking up their weapons. Bats, pickaxes and machetes were raised high as howls cracked the air.

Ker batted his chest, giving the signal that the attack would happen now. The group’s food source was almost gone. They would have to move, but before that time, they would eliminate a threat and eat at the same time.

With Ker spreading his arms wide, he gave the signal to head out. All would go on the assault and give their lives if necessary. 

BOOK: Machines of the Dead 3
8.73Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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