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Authors: Tim Curran

Resurrection (10 page)

BOOK: Resurrection
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Which, Mitch thought, was the first intelligent thing he’d said.

Nobody answered him, so Hot Tamale took the bait. “Just like we saw out at our car,” she said. “All white and dead-looking…you know what that means, don’t you?”

“What?” Mitch said.

“Zombies. Those things are zombies.”

 

10

Mitch waited for Tommy to say something smartassed, but he didn’t.

Zombies,
for chrissake. Of all things. Mitch wasn’t ready to swallow that one, but then on the other hand, he sure as hell did not have a better explanation. Zombies. Sure, he’d seen the movies. They dragged their dead asses around, munching on people. But they were slow, dull-witted, and almost comical. These things had not been slow nor comical. They had been fast and able to use rudimentary logic. In those movies you just shot them in the head and that was it. Mitch had an uneasy feeling that a bullet to the head would not be enough this time around.

Listen to yourself! You’re acting like those…those people were the walking dead! You can’t honestly believe something like…can you? Well, CAN YOU?

But he wasn’t sure. Not sure of anything. He walked over to the severed arm, stared down at it. It looked just like a dead arm. It was almost phosphorescent it was so terribly, unnaturally white. He could see the fine black hairs curled on the forearm, the matting of lines on the palm. He kicked it and it flopped over with a slapping sound.

“Be careful,” Hot Tamale said. “It might be alive still.”

Mitch jabbed it with the handle of his axe. The flesh gave like normal flesh. He jabbed it a couple more times and it did not move. Then he prodded the palm and the entire arm flexed obscenely and the hand grabbed the axe handle. Not just grabbed, but held on tightly. He could see the tendons straining at the wrist. He was horrified, yet fascinated. It could not be alive, not really. This was some grotesque reflexive action and nothing more. He tried to shake it loose, but it held. At least for a moment or two, then it relaxed and thudded to the floor.

Mitch just stared at it.

Maybe he needed this, needed to see that this dead arm still had life in it when it couldn’t possibly. Maybe the idea of that unlocked something in him and let him accept the idea that, yes, the rain was falling and the dead
were
rising. Sure, and the dish ran away with the fucking spoon. Disgusted as he was, he could not look away. He felt like Alice peering through the looking glass and seeing a distorted, impossible world on the other side.

“Fuck this shit,” Tommy said.

He came over with his axe and started swinging it and pretty soon Mitch was joining him. They chopped the arm to white fragments, sweating and grunting, but feeling that it had to be done. The arm was just an arm, just so much meat they had chopped up. It had muscles inside and bone.

When they had finished, all those scattered bits of meat began to move, they trembled and squirmed and the bone thudded against the floor. It was like it wanted to put itself back together again.

Mindy saw the whole thing and just kept shaking her head. “No, no, no, this can’t happen,” she said, her eyes wide and filled with tears.
“This can’t happen! This isn’t possible! No, no, no, no, no—”

She went down to her knees, wailing a thin and strident scream. Hot Tamale went to her, pulled her to her feet and shook her roughly, turning her away from the remains.

“Get a hold of yourself!” she shouted in her face. “This is going to get a lot worse before it gets better!”

Hubb had had his fill. He came over with a can of Coleman lantern fluid and liberally drenched the remains. He struck a stick match and tossed it at the mess. There was an eruption of flame and the flesh bubbled and blackened, issued plumes of greasy smoke. The stink of burned meat was nauseating. When the flames died out, there was just a lot of black and crusty remains.

“Somebody get me a cocksucking shovel and a pail,” he said.

Outside the rain had subsided now to a drizzle. Mitch went over to the flap and wrenched it open further. Nothing out there now but the fading light of day and puddles spread over the street several inches deep.

“Let’s get the hell out of here,” Tommy said.

A car came rolling down the street then and they saw it was a police cruiser with the emblem of the Witcham force on the doors. It passed right by the store, then braked and backed-up.

“Well, it’s about fucking time,” Hubb said.

The cruiser stopped in the middle of the street and two cops got out wearing blue rain slickers and plastic bonnets over their caps. They just stood there in the flooded street looking at each other and the car jutting from the front of Sadler Brother’s Army/Navy Surplus.

“Well, how are we going to explain this mess?” Jason Kramer said. His face was red from where he’d been struck by the black goo, but his wife had swabbed it with burn cream from the first aid kit. He looked like he’d be all right.

“In here,” Mitch called out through the wide-open flap.

The cops started over and that’s when Mitch noticed that the sky was looking funny. Strange.
Something.
That peculiar ochre haze was hanging above the town just as it had after that explosion out at the Army base. And at that moment, the rain started coming down again.

“Oh shit,” Tommy said.

The rain that was falling now was not normal rain. It was yellowish and sparkling and as it struck the two cops out in the street, they began to dance around like they were standing on a hot plate. They jerked about like marionettes, trying to cover their faces as if a swarm of hornets had descended on them. One of them cried out and fell right in the street. The other tried to make it to the cruiser and fell against it.

Mitch saw his face.

He clearly saw it.

That rain was no ordinary rain, it was more like some kind of toxic acid rain. For as it struck the cop’s face, it actually burned holes in it and the flesh went almost liquid like hot wax. The cop’s outstretched fingers were…were
melting,
the skin hanging off in strings.

He slid down into the puddles and stopped moving.

And as quickly as it had come, that bizarre yellow rain stopped. You could see it sparkling in the puddles for a moment or two and then it dissipated. Just the drizzle falling now. It had come with a sharp, acrid stench and now that was gone, too. Nothing else.

“Don’t go out there!” Hot Tamale said.

But Mitch did and Tommy followed him. The drizzle falling was just a drizzle, chill water and nothing else. They went over to the cops and they were both dead. Their faces were pitted from the rain, contorted and misshapen like they’d spent the night in a tent full of hungry mosquitoes.

“Hell is going on in this town?” Mitch said.

But Tommy just shook his head. “I don’t know, but I’m thinking were in some very deep shit.”

 

11

There was no sense in rationalizing what they had been through as they drove away in Tommy’s Dodge Ram. Rational thinking seemed to have no place in Witcham now. In the past few days, it seemed, the city had suffered some sort of cataclysmic nervous breakdown and there really was nothing left to do but cross your fingers and hope it regained its sanity.

And with what Mitch and Tommy had just witnessed, it didn’t seem like that was going to come to pass. Insane things had happened and they both had the nasty, unsettling feeling that they were going to continue happening.

On the drive over to Mitch’s house, Witcham bore no signs of the abnormal psychology it had so freely exhibited at Sadler Brothers. And maybe “exhibited” wasn’t the right word here, maybe
flaunted
was more like it. Sure, the streets were steadily flooding and the sewers were backing up and the rain continued to fall, but it had not been reduced to a graveyard. Bodies were not bobbing in puddles nor corpses splayed wetly on the walks. There seemed to be many more abandoned cars then there had been when Mitch set out from home earlier that day, some left deserted right in the lanes with their doors open, but that did not necessarily mean anything. People—living people—were in the streets, walking around, viewing the rising water.

But they did not seem panicked.

“I don’t get it,” Mitch finally said. “If that yellow rain fell all over town, there should be some evidence of it…am I right?”

“Maybe it wasn’t all over town. Maybe it was spotty.” Tommy suggested, seeming to like the idea. “You know how it is, you’re in the middle of a downpour and three streets over its bone-dry.”

That had to be it. Because if that rain had hit the entire town, there should have been bodies. And the people in the streets would not be strolling about in rainboots, with kids in tow. They would have been hiding or driving out of town to beat hell.

Tommy lit a cigarette, turning onto Ames Boulevard and navigating through about two feet of standing water. “You think there’s any chance that what we saw today…that any of that could have been an isolated incident?”

“I’m thinking not.”

Tommy pulled off his cigarette and sighed.

But that was it, wasn’t it? The bottom line to this whole mess: if insane shit like that had happened once, then surely it would happen again, Mitch figured. It was a little hard to swallow the idea that all that horrible business had been some kind of nightmarish fluke. That wasn’t just stretching reality, it was tying it in knots. Whatever those things had been, they had come out in the heaviest rain. Hot Tamale had said something about when the rain started to hammer down they came out like earthworms. And the kid who had driven his car into Sadler Bothers said he’d been over in River Town and those things had come
out
of the water when they grabbed his mother.

What was that saying? These things were in the water? They only came out in downpours?

All Mitch knew was that those things had shown in Crandon which was very wet, but not truly flooded yet. And what about River Town and Bethany, places that hugged the river? Places that had as much as five feet of standing water in the streets or were almost entirely drowned? What was it going to be like there tonight when the lights went out? How many doors would be knocked on in the dead of night and, better,
what
would be doing the knocking?

Mitch sighed, thinking about all those stiffs that had been washed out of Hillside Cemetery. River Town was full of them. And what if not just a few came back from the dead…but
all
of them? Good God. “Gimme one of those cigarettes,” he said.

“No, Mitch. I don’t believe in corrupting the nation’s youth with the evil weed.”

“Gimme one, you knothead.”

Tommy did and Mitch stared at it before he put it in his lips. He’d quit four times now. This last time had been for almost three years and here he was, ready to hand himself over to the monkey again. “Fuck it,” he said and put in his lips. He fired it up and almost coughed out half a lung on the first pull. Two drags later, he was fine. His body had accepted the filth he was sucking into his lungs again. That easily.

“You’re nothing but an addict,” Tommy told him. “They ought to lock up freaks like you.”

Mitch pulled off the cigarette, studying the gray world of Witcham and looking for something unusual, something out of the ordinary, anything that would tell him he hadn’t hallucinated this afternoon. But he saw nothing. Lots of water, lots of dripping trees, lots of saturated lawns bordering wet houses, but nothing else. Nothing truly peculiar.

Tommy had not mentioned any of it beyond that weird rain and Mitch knew he was having trouble with it. No surprise there. The flooding and now the walking dead. Jesus, like starring in
The Night of the Living Dead
as directed by Irwin Allen.

“Hell’s going on over there?” Tommy said all of a sudden, slowing the truck.

A sheriff’s cruiser was parked at the edge of the road. A culvert emptied into a drainage ditch which wandered through a high-grassed field and down towards River Town and the river itself. Two deputies in rain slickers were down the embankment working at something with long metal poles. They didn’t look happy about it.

“Let’s see if they need a hand,” Tommy said.

And Mitch was going to tell him that he had to get home to Lily, but suddenly he was feeling in no hurry. Over on The Strip it had been a nightmare and five blocks away, just a rainy day. Nothing more.

They got out and some kid was standing up on the road chewing a mouthful of bubble gum and watching the proceedings below.

“Got a body down there,” he said like it was no big deal. “And it’s moving.”

Mitch tensed inside. It was what the kid had said.
Got a body down there…and it’s moving.
Not that there was somebody injured down there, but a
body
and it was
moving.

Mitch led the way down the muddy embankment, trying not to slide on the wet grass. He knew this drainage ditch, it was one of many hooked to the rainwater sewers under the city. It was about three feet deep and maybe four wide. In the summer there was maybe a foot of water in there coursing amongst the rotting foliage and cattails, crickets chirping and frogs chortling.
A dark and boggy
place. Even in the spring it was never more than three feet deep. But now it had burst its banks and then burst them again, had to be an easy six feet deep. As they got nearer, Mitch could smell a dank sewer smell and then something far worse…the stink of a dead dog that had burst open with gassy decay and maggots.

BOOK: Resurrection
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