Sequel to WAITING
James Saxton stood up and allowed the two guards to each hold an arm as he was led out of his small cell. He was drugged, he was sure of it. There was no way he would let these men take him to his death without a fight otherwise. Not that there was much he could do about it anyway. His wrists and ankles were shackled together and a sturdy chain linked the two.
As he shuffled past the other cells he groggily looked at the faces of people he thought he knew staring back. The fear in their eyes was obvious, but he wasn’t afraid. Just another sign he was sure he’d been drugged. There must have been something in his final meal. It still tasted good though. He’d forgotten the last time he’d had such a beautifully cooked steak, such perfect fries and peas so fresh they could have been straight from the pods, and a chilled beer as well. He wasn’t sure they would go for that request, but they had allowed him one last frosty cold one.
Someone shouted his name, but James didn’t care. He probably recognised the voice but that memory was currently gone.
“Man these drugs must be good,” he thought. “I’m off to die, but whatever; at least it won’t kill me. Will it? Where am I again? Ohh this orange jumpsuit is nice. I’ll have to get me one when I get out of this restaurant. Man these drugs are good.”
His name was shouted again. This time James did look to his left, towards the sound. A man wearing the same jumpsuit as him was pressed up against the bars to his cell, his knuckles white as he tightly gripped the bars.
“James, fight it man. Remember what happened. Fight it”
Something in James’s drug addled mind suddenly clicked. A moment of clarity shone through the drug induced fog.
“Don’t let them do this James, fight it!”
“Fight it James!” Shouted Ray as he ran towards him.
The zombie was on top of James trying its hardest to rip a bite sized piece of flesh out of him. James had the thing at arms length, its neck held tight in his black biker’s glove, keeping the rotten snapping jaw as far away as possible.
“SUMATH!” Shouted Ray. He had reached James now and swung a large fire axe at the zombie. The axe connected with the zombie’s head, splitting it open like a melon. Black liquid that might once have been blood, brains, skull and rotten skin splattered the side of James’s face and the surrounding floor.
“Don’t move mate,” Said Ray as he slowly reached out and took hold of James’ chin. He turned his face so he could see it fully. After a few seconds he let go.
“All clear mate, you live to fight another day.”
Ray helped James to his feet and patted him on the shoulder.
“Come on James, only a few more to go and we can head back to Salvation.”
The fogged rolled in once more, clouding James’s mind again, the memories slowly disappearing. The two guards continued to lead him further down the corridor, the shouts of the strange man slowly fading away, until the could no longer be heard over footsteps on the stone floor. Finally they reached a door where two more guards stood. These two were armed with automatic weapons. One turned, removed a set of keys from his pocket and opened the door. As soon as James and his escort had entered the new room the door was closed and locked again. James looked sleepily around the room. It was a basic square with only two noticeable features. The first was the fact that one of the walls was just a mirror, and the second was the metal chair in the middle of the room facing the mirrored wall. It wasn’t like a normal chair, unless normal chairs have high backs with a helmet attached, or leather straps on the arm rests and legs. This was the kind of chair that once you sit in it you didn’t stand up again.
James willingly sat in the chair and allowed himself to be strapped in, the helmet secured on his head.
“There’ll be no salvation for you now” said one of the guards with a chuckle.
Salvation. The word sparked another cord in his brain and once again James was able to focus on the past and drag up another memory.
It had become clear almost as soon as the zombies had begun the invasion that in order to survive mankind would have to adapt, and adapt quickly. When small groups of survivors got together and formed a make shift community wherever they could, rules would always become important. It was no different in Salvation.
It was a small place, ten houses, a garage and a small church, in the middle of America. It had been easy to defend, as the surrounding land was flat as far as the eye could see and the nearest bit of cover was a small patch of trees about half a mile out.
When James had first stumbled upon it, the Andersons had nearly shot him. They were an old couple that had refused to leave the home they had lived in for the past forty odd years. All the other houses were empty, as the families who had lived there ran for the safety that the army had promised everyone. Mr Anderson and James had started to build defences around the village. They removed any flat wood they could find from the empty houses, like doors and furniture, and used them to build a fence around them. Then James had dug a ditch around almost all of it, leaving one end of the road intact as an entry and exit point. Over time several other people found their way to Salvation and the community slowly grew.
Zombie attacks happened, but they were infrequent and dealt with quickly and easily. After a year a section of the fence was removed, the ditch filled in a several new shelters built in order to accommodate the increasing number of residents. They had discovered a lumberyard ten miles down the road, and once there were enough people and trucks available it wasn’t too much trouble to go raiding for supplies. As they scouted further out they found other garages where small amounts fuel, food and other essentials could be acquired. They always stayed away from the more populated areas that they knew off. The risk of being followed back to Salvation by hoards of undead or other scavengers just wasn’t worth the risk.
That was one of Mayor Saxton’s laws. Don’t do anything that could endanger Salvation. James couldn’t believe he had been made Mayor. He had been told it was because he’d been the one to start turning Salvation into the secure community it now was and everyone trusted him. Although James had argued that Mr Anderson had been there first, Mr Anderson had refused the role, saying he was told old. So James had been elected Mayor and Saxton’s laws were created. Most dealt with ensuring the community was kept safe at all times. Others dealt with how to deal with the undead, and the rest dealt with how to behave in the community.
The ones concerning the undead were fairly straightforward. If you got bit, you would be killed on sight. There were no last requests, no period of mourning, no chances to say goodbye to loved ones and no chances to be able to live until you turn.
As everyone knew the zombie virus spread with a bite, it stood to reason that any form of fluid exchange would probably have the same effect. Therefore it had been decided that if there was the chance you had ingested any part of a zombie, accidentally or otherwise, be it fluid or solid, then you would be killed. Most of the adults had worn face masks when facing up to zombies in close combat in order to avoid any chance of being splashed in the mouth with blood, but for the few who didn’t, they just turned their heads away and closed their mouths.
In order to teach the lesson to the few children who were in Salvation, a rhyme was created.
“Shut your mouth and turn your head
Or else you could end up dead”
Of course in some cases it wasn’t always the person who the zombie was attacking that would do the killing. So if someone was about to kill a zombie that was attacking someone else, and there was the possibility of fluid being transferred, they gave the warning shout “SUMATH”, which stood for
Shut Ur Mouth And Turn Head
No one remembered who came up with the cry, but it had saved many lives.
The other law concerning the undead was if you hesitate about killing one, you won’t be allowed to. It sounded stupid, but if you’re were in the middle of a fight the slightest hesitation, maybe because you recognised one of the undead, could cost lives. It was safer to have people who were focused on doing what had to be done, without the distraction of wondering if the man behind you was covering your back, or trying to reason with their undead ex-girlfriend.
The laws that dealt with behaviour were pretty straightforward as well. No stealing, fighting, killing the living or general unsociable behaviour. A first offence was dealt with by imprisoning the person at the top of the church tower for one-week without food. The second offence was either two-weeks in the tower with only one meal during this time, or you were expelled from the community for a week and forced to fend for yourself.
No one ever committed a third offence
Things worked well. Within the first few months all surrounding farms had been raided for animals that had survived and soon Salvation had its own livestock. Cows, pigs and sheep gave the residents milk, meat and clothing. Vegetable patches were commonplace on the lawns of every house, as each person had grown something different to add to the storehouses. Salvation had been the perfect place in a world of hell.
And then the soldiers had come. The first sign was when a helicopter had flown overhead. Some of the children had never seen a helicopter and ran screaming to the protection of their homes, unsure what to make of the flying beast. James on the other hand had called together the adults for a meeting. It was unclear whether or not the helicopter had seen anyone on the ground, or if in fact it had been looking for people in the first place. It had been decided that no one was to leave Salvation for the next 48 hours just in case. All guards were put on high alert and told to raise the alarm at the first sign of anything out of the ordinary. Almost 36 hours had gone by before they noticed the convoy of army vehicles approaching. Four troop transports and an open topped jeep. As the convoy had approached, the town of Salvation had prepared itself for the unknown. Rumours were abound amongst the residents, were the army there to help or take over. Had they brought news that the Undead been repelled from the country or were these soldiers a rouge unit, come to take what they wanted? James had told the town to have guns ready but not to show aggression, just be ready to defend themselves if needed.
Things had started out friendly enough. The convoy had stopped a few hundred meters away from Salvation and a single man exited the jeep and walked slowly towards the town, arms outspread to show he was unarmed. James had gone to meet him at the gated entrance to Salvation and he had introduced himself as General Baxter. He was an old looking man, but James had suspected the lines on his face showed an age past his actual years. White hair cut close to his scalp added to the impression of a much older man. General Baxter had explained how his unit was travelling the country, looking for communities like Salvation and letting them know that things were slowly getting back to normal. The undead were still at large in the country, but the army was fighting back with the help of the citizens. All communities of sizable proportions were being recorded so help could be delivered at a later date.
General Baxter had inquired about numbers, average age and sex of the citizens. James had given rough numbers, not wanting to give away too much information. The General had thanked him and began to walk away, which is when it all went wrong.
The General must have given a signal to his men because suddenly two of the townsfolk fell to the floor. James had instantly noticed darts sticking out of their necks. Within seconds more and more people fell unconscious and he’d ordered the gates shut, but it was in vain as he noticed two soldiers already inside. They must have somehow made their way in over the perimeter fence at the back whilst everyone’s attention was at the soldiers at the front. They carried small thin guns with large hoppers on top. The guns had fired darts at the panicked people, every shot hitting its mark be it man, woman or child.
The last thing James had seen was the General smiling before he’d felt a sharp prick in his neck and he’d passed out.
As he came back to the present James saw the two guards leave the room. He was alone now. He thought back to a few weeks ago. After he had woken up following the attack he’d discovered he was in a cell on his own. No one had told him why he was there or if he was the only citizen of Salvation who had been taken. After several days of being questioned by soldiers about everything he had done up until the point he was arrested, (he hated that the soldiers kept calling it an arrest, it was abduction to him) he had been taken to the joint cells where he’d found all the men from salvation. None of them knew the fate of the women or children, and the soldiers said nothing. They had been kept in the cells since that date, then two days ago General Baxter had paid him a visit. He had told him he was to be executed and ask him what he wanted as his last meal. Now here he was, about to die.
The door to the room opened and James looked to his right and watched as a soldier in a red biohazard suit walked in carrying a long needled syringe.
The sweat started to build on James forehead and his heart began to race faster. The drugs must be wearing off, he thought; I wouldn’t be panicking as much if they weren’t.
The soldier walked carefully to James, all the while watching the syringe intently, as if it would explode suddenly if he took his eyes off it for a second.
James lost sight of him as he walked behind his chair. A few seconds later he felt something cold being rubbed on the back of neck, then pain so intense it felt like a beam of pure fire was being directed at his neck. Almost as soon as it began the pain dissipated. James felt his core temperature slowly begin to rise, starting at his neck and slowly spreading throughout his whole body. He just assumed to blood was carrying whatever was in the syringe to every part of his body. So not long to live now then. Would it be a gentle sleep, or a sudden stop of everything?
As the soldier in the biohazard suit left by the door to his right James heard a small click to his left. He turned his head and noticed, for the first time there was a door in the wall. There was another click and the door began to open. A low moan reached James’s ears as the door opened further. Suddenly three undead shuffled in the room. Without a pause they all moved as one towards him, the door closing as soon as they were clear.
“No.” Whispered James. The drugs were still holding his full emotions in check, but the parts of his brain that had recovered quickest tried in vain to bring the realisation of the situation to the rest of his mind.
The zombies advanced on James, their arms now raised, fingers grasping at the air as they got closer to their meal.
Final the full danger of the situation caused James to snap out of his drugged fuelled state for on final moment of defiance
“NO!” he screamed as the undead final reached him
The two figures stood silently, watching the scene of carnage taking place through the two-way mirror.
“How long before the serum is supposed to show signs of success, General Baxter?” Asked one of the figures. He wore a black suit and sunglasses, despite being indoors and in a darkened room.
“Between 3 and 5 minutes after adequate consumption sir.” Replied General Baxter
A spray of red arterial blood splattered the glass. Both men took a small side step in order to continue viewing the spectacle unhindered.
The black suited man removed a packet of cigarettes from his breast pocket, put one of the sticks in his mouth and lit it. As an afterthought he offered the packet to the General.
“No thank you sir. I gave up when this whole thing kicked off. It wasn’t easy to get them back then so it wasn’t a hard decision or an easy task, but I’ve kicked the habit.”
The other man just grunted.
Both men continued to watch as the three undead ripped chunks of flesh and muscle from James’s now dead body.
Finally there was nothing left of James to continue eating. The three zombies shuffled towards the mirrored glass and started ineffectively pawing at it.
“Amazing.” Said the man in sunglasses. “They can’t see or hear us, yet somehow they know we are in here.”
He dropped the cigarette butt on the floor and ground it under his heel.
“I am curious though, why do you use three zombies to devour one man?”
“Well sir, current stats show that the creatures need to consume at least one third of the human body in order for the virus to fully integrate with their system. After observing the eating habits, the men in the labs found some interesting traits”
The General paused and look over at the other man. He nodded so the General continued.
“Well it turns out they are very competitive when it comes to food. One of them will take its time over a meal; whereas the more there are the quicker they eat. It’s almost as if they know there is less food to go around the more of them there are. So to go back to the original point, two will not eat enough of the body before the virus passes it’s termination point, and four or more won’t have enough meat to go around.”
“And why can’t we just inject the virus straight into them?”
“It needs time to gestate, and it can only do that within living tissue. As you know the reason the creatures don’t rot is because nothing lives on them, even the basic bacteria that breaks down dead tissue. This is the only way to get the virus inside them whilst it’s still active.”
The man looked at his watch and then back to the zombies who were still trying to get though the unbreakable mirrored glass.
“I take it this batch is another failure”
“Looks that way Sir. We’ll try again in an hour. I’ll get the boys in the lab to start getting cooking up V one-six-nine.”
“Carry on without me General, I have more important things to look into. Only contact me if you make any kind of break through.”
“Yes Sir. By the way Sir, has there been any success in tracking down Dr Matt Pointer?”
“Nothing yet, although we believe he managed to board a plane back to England before the virus got too widespread.”
“It would really help if we had him here. He couldn’t have created this thing without having some knowledge of how to stop it as well.”
“I’m working on it General. Now dispose of those three failures and prepare for you next set of tests. I want to see some positive results soon or you could find you get to personally try out V one-seven-nine.”
“Yes sir.” General Baxter said as the other man left the room. He walked over to an intercom that was situated on the wall near the mirrored glass. He pressed to talk button and waited a second.
“Sergeant, please dispose of the three specimens in the observation room, and tell chef to get ready to make another last meal. The lab will be sending up the secret ingredient soon.”
He smiled to himself at the little joke he just made and looked out at the three zombies still trying unsuccessfully to get though the glass. They were right in front of him, having followed his movements from the other side.
“Soon you bastards will be gone. I won’t loose this war to you. Even if it means I have to sacrifice every man, woman and child in this country, I will win.”
He watched as the zombies turned away from him. They had noticed the two soldiers who had entered their room and seeking easier prey had decided to go for them. The general turned and walked out of the observation room as three gunshots were fired.
“I will win.”