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Authors: Robert R. Best

Tags: #Zombies

World Memorial (7 page)

BOOK: World Memorial
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Nothing.

He was sure he’d heard something. He stared, waiting. The dead weren't known for subtlety or sneaking up. If he'd heard a corpse, one would stumble into view.

He waited a few more seconds. Nothing. He decided he'd imagined it.

Or it wasn't a corpse nearby.

He shrugged to himself and kept walking.

 

* * *

 

Angie shut the tailgate of a battered old pickup. She nodded to Walsh sitting in the truck's bed. He was a guard and would serve as lookout for the journey to Old West's house. He held his rifle in front of him.

She turned to face Maylee. Behind Maylee, the makeshift gate to World Memorial stood open. They were outside the city walls. The road nearby was packed with snow. Angie listened for corpses but heard none nearby. She suspected she listened for corpses in her sleep.

Maylee sighed. "I really think I should come with you."

"We discussed this, Maylee," said Angie. "I need someone to watch over things. Especially if that little boy's right and those kids are in danger. If
Dalton's
in danger."

"
You
could be in danger," said Maylee, crossing her arms. The bat strapped to her back bobbed as she moved. "This snow's too bad to be travelling."

"We need supplies, Maylee. And information. Old West knows a lot about the area. He might know something about these 'bad people.'" Angie walked to the passenger side of the truck and opened the door. Dunwoody sat at the wheel. "And while this whole role-reversal thing you're doing is cute, I think I'll be fine. I'm not the one running around outside chasing corpses all the time."

"They elected me, Mom."

"They didn't elect you to join in the first place, Maylee," said Angie. "But we aren't talking about that or about how I wish you would behave more safely. We're talking about me going on a supply run to Old West's. And whether or not I'll be fine."

Maylee smirked. "And what did we decide?"

"We decided I'll be fine." She climbed into the truck and shut the door. The engine sputtered to life.

Angie turned to look at Maylee. She and the town looked small and defenseless. She thought about what the boy, Zach, had said. Bad people after the children. After Dalton.

She told herself Zach was just shaken by the cold. She willed herself to believe it.

"Let's go," she said, nodding to Dunwoody in the driver’s seat. He pulled the shifter down and started for the road.

 

* * *

 

Park rounded a frozen tree and exited the forest. He was on the side of a snow-packed road. A few shallow ruts showed occasional traffic but they were mostly filled with new snow. Park looked up and down the road, not really expecting any cars. He did it mostly out of habit.

He looked to his left, down the road until it wound around a corner and disappeared among trees. He knew the road would eventually get him where he needed to be. Where he was pretty sure he needed to be. He was putting a lot of trust in strange dreams. He considered the very real possibility he was going crazy. Or already there. Then he disregarded the thought and focused back on the task at hand.

Years of hunting in the area had taught him that if he kept cutting across the woods, he'd get there faster. He looked across the road and frowned. Something jutted up just past the other side. He knew there was a steep, long drop on that side. It had been a bad stretch of road for accidents back when people cared about traffic accidents. And something was on the far side, sticking up just past the edge.

He took a step out onto the street, his feet crunching in the snow underneath. He looked left and right up the road, looking for corpses more than cars, then took another step. The object up ahead resolved into the front of a large vehicle. There was a large grill and two big round headlights. The metal around the headlights and grill was yellow.

 "Fuck me," said Park. It was a school bus.

He began walking across the road. The school bus had swerved off the road and stopped just before falling the rest of the way down the hill. Park didn't know how long it had been there, but it must have been years. Kids didn't go to school anymore.

He stopped. The windows were dirty, but he thought he'd seen movement inside.

He heard something behind him. He spun, slipping the rifle from his shoulder. He stared into the trees across the road, the way he had just come. He stood as still as he could, staring into the trees. Waiting for something dead to stumble out. Nothing did.

"Losing my mind," he said, snorting into the cold and slipping the rifle over his shoulder. He wasn't sure he believed that.

He turned back to look down the hill. At the dirty windows of the long-wrecked school bus.

Something moved inside. He was sure he'd seen it this time.

He started down the hill, slowly and carefully heading for the hood of the bus. He leaned back as far as he could to keep from sliding down the hill. The drop was significant. Even with the snow to cushion him, a fall would be serious.

He was a few feet from the front of the bus when his footing gave way. He slid the remaining distance, holding his hand out to catch the bus. His palm hit the grill and he stopped. The bus shuddered in the snow, shifting under his weight. He wondered how sturdy it was, how close the bus had been to finishing the drop when it had skidded to a halt years ago.

"Pretty damned close," said Park to no one.

He looked over the hood of the bus and through the windshield. It was dirty and broken, but he could see the driver still strapped to his chair. His stomach was ripped open and his grey, half-frozen organs were splayed out across the steering wheel and dashboard. The organs had chunks missing. Three years ago, that would have counted as a mystery. Now, it went without saying that they had been eaten.

The driver groaned and reached for Park. He was caught in his seatbelt, sitting with his back to the ground and face to the sky like some sort of dead astronaut. Park was thankful corpses didn't have the presence of mind to work seatbelts. The only question was what had eaten the driver.

Park saw more movement from the bus. He focused further back and had his answer.

Numerous dead children wandered the back of the bus, clogged up against the back door by gravity. A few climbed slowly on the backs of seats. A few others saw Park and hissed at him, reaching up with tiny gray hands. Their fingers were coated with ice.

"Shit, kids," said Park, looking down at them with his palm pressed up against the hood of the bus. "How long you been in there?"

He thought about how rotted they didn't look. And how it hadn't always been this cold. There'd been springs and summers, same as before. As the years had dragged on, he'd noticed the corpses decomposed more slowly than one would expect. Of course, he reasoned, they were also walking and that was already pretty different from what one would expect.

He heard noise behind him. He turned, putting his back to the bus. It groaned under his weight. He slipped the rifle off his shoulder and listened.

A loud rustling came from the woods on the far side of the street. Park pushed himself off the bus, which groaned in complaint. He used the momentum of his push to stride back up the hill and onto the road.

He stared into the woods, listening. He waited for a corpse to emerge. Or a crazed animal to charge.

Neither happened.

Which meant it was a living person.

"Hey!" yelled Park into the trees. He pointed his gun across the road. "You suck day-old dick at following people! Might as well come out."

He waited. Nothing. He caught a sound on the cold wind. Voices. People muttering to each other.

"Talking to each other isn't exactly helping your case!" Park yelled. "Now get out here and tell me the fuck what you want!"

He cocked the rifle for emphasis.

A shot rang out from across the way. A bullet struck the snow near Park's feet. He stepped backward involuntarily. His feet gave way and before he knew what was happening, he was falling down the hill.

His back slammed into the hood of the bus. He careened off it, rolling to one side. He felt the strap to his backpack break from the impact. It slipped off his shoulder as he rolled off the hood and continued falling.

As he fell past the bus, the dead children in the windows clawed at him. As he passed the back of it, he heard it groan and give way. It fell after him, bringing an avalanche of snow with it.

He fell backward in the snow, not sure if he should try to slow his fall or speed it up. He tried to steer his descent to angle out of the path of the bus. It was inches to his left, not nearly far enough away. For the first time in a long time, Park felt panic.

He hit a bump in the ground and skidded to his left, into the path of the bus. He clawed at the snow, trying to change his path. He couldn't. He was falling too fast. He knew the bottom of the hill was rushing up behind him, but didn’t know how much further it was. He didn't dare look. Didn't dare take his eyes off the bus crashing toward him. Dead children pawed at the glass in the back window.

Park hit a second, much bigger bump in the ground. He vaulted off it, flying through the air before his feet caught in the snow and he crashed onto his back. There was no time to get out of the way. He braced for impact as the bus sped toward him.

The bus rammed into the bump that had sent Park flying. It stopped with a shudder, sending a mound of snow onto Park. He hurriedly brushed it away, sitting up as he clawed snow from his face.

The bus was still, caught on the bump a few feet away. The children pressed up against the back window, still clawing at him.

He heard a crack and knew he had to move. He started to roll as the window gave way, sending glass shards into the snow around him.

Groaning, the dead children fell from the window, crashing into him as he tried to scramble out of the way. They groaned and pawed at his back, running their dead frozen fingers over his clothes. They grasped at his hair, trying to pull him into their waiting mouths.

"Fucking kids," said Park, grunting as he tried to twist away from them. He kept from being bitten, but was unable to get out from under them. They groaned and clutched at him.

The ground shifted above him. The bus groaned, scraping on the snow.

Park dug his hands into the snow and pushed up as hard as he could, flipping onto his back. He children underneath him groaned and let go as he slammed down onto them.

Above him, the bus gave way and fell. Snow rushed toward him.

He spun out of the way as the bus slammed down onto the children, inches from him. He lay on his stomach, panting in the snow, for several moments. The bus was balanced on its back behind him, creaking and groaning. He looked over his shoulder and saw it tipping toward him.

"Oh for the sake of ever-loving fuck," said Park. There was no time to get to his feet. He rolled over twice, landing on his stomach as the bus crashed down next to him.

He lay there, panting hard, his heart thudding in his chest. He was too out of shape for this. Years of drinking and doing as little as possible had taken a toll. He breathed the bitter air in and out as deeply as he could stand.

He heard a scraping next to him and turned to look. Behind one of the cracked bus windows, the dead driver clawed at him. His dead fingers scraped along the glass, leaving bits of frozen flesh in their path.

"Go fuck yourself," said Park. Then he passed out.

 

 

 

Four
 

 

 

 

Four

 

 

 

Maylee drew her coat around her, surveying World Memorial. Her mother had left her in charge, and she didn't feel right just going back to the house to escape the cold. She supposed she should be doing something, but for the life of her didn't know what. Life on the Guard was simple. Even life leading the Guard was simple. They either looked for threats or responded to them, and tried to keep danger as far away from the walls as possible. But managing things inside, even for a day, was something her mother did.

And only at this moment did Maylee realize she had no idea what that entailed.

The sun had come out, warming things slightly but not enough. Still, several people had ventured out of their rough homes lining the town square. They talked to each other or worked on reinforcing the structures they lived in. Some glanced to her and Maylee nodded back a greeting.

She supposed the big event of the last few days was the arrival of another child. She guessed she should check on the children, see how the new arrival was doing. She turned, adjusting her bat on her back, and headed for the house.

She had taken a few steps in the snow when she heard movement to her right. Carly stood in the doorway of the camper she lived in, clipboard in hand.

"Hey Maylee?" she called out.

Maylee stopped and turned to face her. "Yes?"

"Could you come here a second? I need to ask you some questions about the food supply."

Maylee shrugged. "I guess so."

"It'll just be a moment," said Carly. Her reddish-brown hair was pulled back with a strip of cloth that had been re-purposed into a headband. She looked tired and annoyed.

"Fine, fine," said Maylee, stepping over to the camper. It was the camper Carly and Elton had arrived at World Memorial in. None of the rest of Carly’s family had made it.

Carly stepped back inside, leaving the door open. Maylee climbed up the flimsy metal step that led inside. The camper swayed under her weight, correcting as she stepped inside.

She shut the door and before she could finish turning around, Carly had grabbed her. They kissed. Carly's lips were warm in the cold air of the camper. Maylee kissed her back greedily. She let Carly's lips and breath warm her for a few more seconds before pushing gently away.

"I can't right now," she said, shaking her head but smiling. "I have important things to do."

"What kind of things?" said Carly, leaning in close.

BOOK: World Memorial
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