Authors: Richard Murray
That made sense I supposed and it had been entirely too long since I had eaten anything. I turned to leave only to pause as Lily placed her hand on my arm and leaned in close. “Thank you for helping her,” she said before turning back to the girl. I went in search of the kitchen.
Claire had prepared a large pan of vegetable soup. She was more than happy to explain that this place had its own propane tank behind the house, which meant that for a while at least we could have cooked meals. I was concerned that she seemed to think we would be staying here but the smell of the food before me was too enticing and I soon forgot about anything other than food.
Pat came to collect the hot water and Claire followed him into the living room. As soon as the pot of water was placed on the floor beside the couch he was ushered out and the door closed firmly behind him.
He joined me at the table with a smile for Maggie who sat reading quietly. He sat in silence his fingers tapping a staccato beat on the table top. Muffled sounds came from the living room and Pat cringed at each one.
“Did you find anything interesting in here?” I asked him as I finished my soup.
“No. Someone cleared it out.” He replied, “Most likely whoever...” he glanced at the door and then at Maggie before shaking his head and falling back into silence.
“I know it’s an extra mouth to feed but I am sure we will manage” I told him in an attempt to allay his obvious worry.
“What?” he said, “I don’t care about that.” He shook his head again and glanced once more at Maggie before speaking quietly. “Someone did terrible things to that girl. It shouldn’t happen.”
I nodded as if to agree, though in truth I was surprised he was so upset by it. Bad things tended to happen to people, more so in this new world we found ourselves subjected to. It was clear that the apocalypse brought out the worst in people and getting upset by every new atrocity was a waste of energy. Of course, my particular fondness for killing people may have tarnished my view somewhat.
We sat in silence once more, the only sound the pages of Maggie’s book being turned as she read slowly. Eventually the sounds from the living room quietened and the door opened. Lily walked into the kitchen, her face contorted with anger. Once she was sure she had my attention, she gestured once for me to follow her and turned to walk outside. With little else of interest to do, I followed.
Lily was standing on the driveway with arms held at her side and hands clenched into tight fists. She spun on me as soon as I stepped through the doorway.
“Why did you bring that girl to us?” she demanded.
“I imagined that you would want to help her” I said truthfully.
She stared at me for long moments in silence as I stood waiting, curious to hear what she was going to say.
“Not because it was the right thing to do. Not to help some poor injured person, but because we had argued about this and you didn’t want to upset me. Am I right?”
“Yes” I said, unsure where this was going. Lily stood silent once more for a moment seeming to weigh me in her mind as she considered her words.
“What would you have done if you were alone?” She asked finally.
“Nothing.” I said then considering Lily would want the truth I added “If she had asked me to untie her I probably would have, but I wouldn’t waste any food on someone who was likely to die anyway. Why is this relevant?”
Lily sighed as she crossed her arms beneath her breasts and her frown deepened. “I keep thinking you have some good in you. That deep down you care about the rest of us and want to help.” I was surprised to see tears form in the corners of her eyes. “You don’t though do you? You will use us when we are worth something to you and then abandon us when it suits you.”
“I am not sure what you want me to say here. You know who and what I am, you have known that since the beginning. I made it perfectly clear that we would need each other to survive and I think that has worked reasonably well so far.” I took a step towards her and lowered my voice, “I am a killer. That is what I am good at and I promised I would follow your rules. I can’t change who I am though and I won’t break your rules by lying to you about it.”
Lily nodded as her tears fell freely. “What is wrong with you? Are you angry I brought the girl to you?” I asked.
“No. No, that was the right thing to do. I just hoped for a moment that perhaps you were doing it for the right reasons.” She swiped angrily at her eyes to brush away the tears. “The girl is called Elizabeth though she goes by Liz, her family owned these stables. Four days ago three men that she knew came here and ransacked the place. They killed the horses and stole anything they could before tying her up and abusing her.” She sniffed and paused as though thinking of the best way to phrase the next part.
“These men live on a farm two miles down the road. She has known their family for years and told me that she would have never expected this from them.” She looked me in the eye “these are bad men. They are not innocent.” She emphasised the last.
I finally understood some of the conversation and I stopped listening to Lily’s words as I did a quick calculation and decided that if I left now, I should be able to find the place and scout around before it got dark. I gave Lily a quick nod of the head and went in search of my hatchet. I paused a moment in the kitchen to pick out a nice sharp carving knife before leaving the house without a word to anyone.
My mood was rapidly improving at the thought of a hunt and a kill and the strange conversation was soon forgotten. I strode rapidly along the road towards the farm Lily had indicated. I doubted they would have anyone out by the road watching for people passing by, considering the current state of the world but I would still need to be cautious.
Excitement was growing within me and even the ever present rain didn’t dampen my spirits. As much fun as it was to kill a zombie or even a live person who was trying to kill me, my choice of victims had always been people who had annoyed or irritated me in some way and leaving me with an extra person to look after had definitely annoyed me.
The road I walked along was deserted. No one living or dead moved along its length. We were fortunate that the dead were busy feasting in the cities and hadn’t yet made it this far out into the countryside. I believed they would eventually though and then we would be in trouble.
That was a thought for another time. For now I would concentrate on the task at hand. Lily had told me that I had three targets, but that didn’t mean I wouldn’t find more people at this farm I was headed towards.
Fallen autumn leaves crunched underfoot as I passed beneath the venerable old trees that lined the road. I could easily see the first problem I would encounter. I was a town dweller. I rarely ventured out beyond the paved walkways and darkened alleys. I stalked my prey through shopping centres and suburbs not open fields or forest. I would be at a disadvantage out here, with the unfamiliar terrain.
By my estimation I should be getting close to the farm that housed Liz’s assailants. I slowed my pace and began to look for a gate set into the wall. It didn’t take long to find the wide gap, rusted hinges indicated a gate had once stood there but now it was just open.
I peered through the gap in the wall and saw a long muddy track that led up to a collection of dilapidated looking buildings. I could see no one in the yard but carried on the wind came the bark of a dog. That was not planned for and definitely not a welcome sound.
As I crouched by the wall I tried to absorb this new development. I had nothing against dogs or any animal really. If they left me alone then I was happy to do them the same favour. In the event of a guard dog though, I would be at greater risk of alerting my prey before I was ready.
Woodland was directly behind me and could provide cover perhaps half the way to the house and only on the left side of the muddy track. Beyond the tree line were wide open fields on all sides of the property. The fields were all enclosed in the same stone walls that seemed to be the norm out in the countryside. Several feet high, I could crouch behind them and slowly make my way along the fields’ borders
I took one last look at the buildings in the distance before deciding that I could at least make my way through the woods carefully and get a closer look at the property. Decision made I clambered over the rough stone wall and crept through the trees.
The trees weren’t yet totally bare of their autumn leaves. The floor of the woodland was awash in brown and orange leaves and twigs. Plenty of bushes covered in thorns dotted the floor and filled the gaps between the trees. By the time I made it to the edge of the woods I had been scratched enough times that I was genuinely concerned about the chance of infection if I encountered any zombies.
A fence created the boundary between the woods and the farm. Each of the fence sections was made of three timber rails nailed to fence posts. The wood was darkened by the damp and spotted in parts with a green mold.
The whole farm was in the same state as the fence. Three buildings arranged in a rough horseshoe shape facing the entrance, the muddy track ending in a yard that held two Land Rovers. The centre building looked to be the farmhouse while the other buildings were likely barn or storage places. Rusted old farm equipment littered the area around the buildings and a dog was barking somewhere behind the house.
I hoped the dog would be chained up, but I would proceed as though it were loose. I sat behind a tree watching the house until darkness fell. I saw no movement from within and I had begun to wonder if the occupants had moved on when I saw a dim light appear in the lower window at the front of the house.
With confirmation that someone at least lived in the property, I considered my options. Ideally I would stay and watch the comings and goings of the occupants for several days. I would get a feel for their routines. I would wait until they were all away from the property before attempting to gain a look within. I would plan and prepare and take them at the right time.
That wasn’t going to work for me now though. I didn’t have the option of spending several days stalking them. I decided to wait until they were asleep before scouting the main house and outbuildings. I settled in to wait in the cold and damp as the evening wore on.
My watch had been lost somewhere in the chaos of the previous week and I really did dislike sitting and waiting with no real frame of reference to how much time had passed. I shifted position and tried to get comfortable.
It was fully dark when the sound of a door opening drew my attention to the farm house. Someone had stepped out with a torch and moved across the yard to one of the other buildings. They disappeared inside and several minutes passed.
Curious about what the unknown torch carrier was up to and becoming quite bored sat in the dark waiting, I climbed through the fence and moved towards the building they had entered, as swiftly as I could whilst crouched as low to the ground as possible.
The short run through the damp grass of the field had left my shoes and lower legs soaked. I peered cautiously over the wall at the muddy yard and the farm house beyond. All seemed quiet, the light still shone in the one window of the house but I couldn’t see inside from where I crouched.
I climbed over the wall and experienced an almost heart stopping moment as a loose stone tumbled to the ground. I froze in place alert for any sign that I had been noticed before moving and pressing myself against the back wall of the building I was about to try and enter.
This building like the others was old, made of stone with the mortar between the bricks slowly crumbling away. Weeds grew at the base of the wall and water dripped steadily from a broken gutter.
Keeping low to the ground I crept around the corner towards the entrance. I was close enough that I could hear someone talking within. Harsh guttural laughter drifted out on the breeze. It was an unpleasant sound that was followed immediately by a shriek of pain. I reached the doorway and cautiously poked my head through to see within.
A lamp illuminated the centre of the storage space. Bales of hay were stacked against the back wall and the bare concrete floor was scuffed and dirty. A number of farm implements filled the room and in the centre a young woman hung suspended by her wrists from the heavy timber rafters by a thick rope.
She was wearing jeans and a shirt that had perhaps once been white. She shrieked once again as her abuser struck her with his thick leather belt. He laughed once more at her pain before striking again.
His stood with his back to me and it was incredibly easy to sidle up behind him. He was slightly taller than I and had a bigger build, though I suspected more of that was fat than muscle I would still need to be careful. I debated trying for a chokehold to question him but dismissed it in favour of simplicity.
I stood upright and placed my left hand over his mouth, with the right I sliced deeply across his throat with the carving knife. I held him close to me, hand firm against his mouth to prevent his raising an alarm and watched with glee as the life blood spurted out while he struggled. I could feel his panic and relished his fear. It was almost as euphoric as my normal kills and it only heightened my excitement for the remaining victims.
“Please, oh god, please help me” the woman pleaded. Her words had broken the silence and chased away the pleasurable feelings leaving me feeling slightly cheated and definitely irked.
“Please, you have to let me go” she said once again. I gazed at her steadily and debated whether I should let her down.
“Who are you?” I finally asked.
“My name’s Cass, my brother is hurt, please let me help him.” She said her voice rising. I considered a moment and then decided that it would be better to release her than have her screaming and raising an alarm. Besides that, she may know more about the occupants of the farmhouse. I reached up and began sawing at the thick rope with my knife.
It was surprisingly hard work to cut through the rope but in a short time she was released from her bonds. She immediately went to a still form that was lying in the shadows besides the hay. I followed behind her and crouched beside the young man.