The fire stirred up in each one of us comes screaming out in huge angry strides. The seam of the undead stretches out in front of us, and a sight that usually spells death and retreat seems like a smiling challenge begging for our boot heels. I clutch my crowbar tightly, each end sharpened and scarred, a part of me since the sun went down and never came back up. In front of me, white headstones spread out in rows, identical in shape but not in content. Thousands, all the way to a horizon flecked with the hulls of planes, great crushed airliners that failed to save us from the realization that each destination was more tainted than the last. A jeep carrying The General screams past, guns blazing precious high caliber promises. His megaphone screams, “THIS LIFE! A FUCKING CAKEWALK. MAKE THEM PAY!”
The man next to me, a kid in a flannel shirt, goes down. His mismatched shoes snared in the sudden appearance of hands screaming through the soft ground beneath him. I don’t think twice. My crowbar finds his head easily and a part of me cheers, while another part of me implodes with guilt at the slim chance he had not turned, and would not. The hands are dragging out shoulders, decayed immensely, holding up a neck and head. All I see is a complete set of bloodstained teeth. I’ve made the right choice. I crack the skull open with a half flick of my wrist and unsling my rifle. A line of men has formed, three rows up, and I join them, gun propped on a headstone. Without coordination, we all fire, a scattering of scavenged ammo through scavenged guns. A few shots pepper the headstones a few rows up, kicking up what looks like chalk dust. A few connect with a line of undead and they drop, kicking to the ground.
I hear a scream as the inside of a coffin blasts through the ground. The varying strength of this enemy is unspeakable. A man standing on top of the grave takes the coffin board to the face. Blood streams from his nose as the titan thing that was once a war hero flings its decorated corpse from the ground. Grabbing at his chest the thing yanks his head effortlessly into his open mouth, as if it was pulling a lever. Then, fire. Some fool spitting fire through a homemade flamethrower. The loud spray comes out and whines against cobbled together machinery. The Titan ignites and screams and I shoot, missing the head in its mask of fire. The shot twitches its shoulder and it turns towards me. Panic as the homemade thrower screams again, a higher pitch this time. I shoot wildly as the pressure builds, heating the tank and scalding the hands on the trigger. He stops spewing flame and runs, I catch sight of him just as the tank blows, spraying fuel and blood all over the burning titan. The sight rockets me through my panic stages and I put one foot atop a headstone. The name…Harry, is all I can see. I hoist myself up over the headstone through the air just as the titan charges stupidly, one foot failing him and all his dead, misguided strength. He lowers his head enough for me to plunge the crowbar in behind his neck, the straight end cleaving out through his jaw and dropping him. I consider my kill briefly as the sounds of screams and errant gunfire crease the distant sky.
The General’s jeep screams by. “THEIR FUCKING BELLIES FULL OF YOUR WIVES AND CHILDREN”.
I dislodge my crowbar, and run toward a group at the edge of creek, its walls high and steep through the cemetery. They point their guns into it and drop homemade explosives at random. I reach the edge and look down to see a collection of ghouls, packed as a crowded train, stretching to reach the top as men fire into the pit. Still more ghouls pile out of the walls of the creek, the ones who forgot to climb “up” and instead crawled horizontally through the ground only to fall stupidly into the mud. They blink their worthless eyes and drag their fingernails against the banks. A man leaning too close with a machete gets grabbed and tumbles head first into the mess. The wet splitting sounds start immediately. I run past a few men and draw a bead on the poor soldier, his still-living eyes begging for a bullet as he is being dismantled. I give him his wish.
Just then I see a huge pink square, like a drive in movie projector blasted right into my eyes. Whiplash, and I’m seeing the floor of the creek coming at me. The fiend at my back plowed into me, crashing me into the pile of horrid living murder. I try to get my feet underneath me and slip, landing on my shoulder, throwing the one off of my back into a pile of seething, mud covered ghouls. Instantly I feel hands on my back, hands with strength that feels impossible, a grip that seems almost machine-like in its insistence. I shove the crowbar backwards as hard as I can and connect, stumbling the thing long enough for me to swing around blindly. A lucky swing connects just below its ear and it falls, taking my crowbar with it. I plant my foot and rip it out with all my might, like I’m starting and ancient, dried up lawnmower. It comes free and I hear bullets whiz by me.
One shot drops a ghoul to my left. The second creases my left shoulder and I panic, dropping the crow. Then there’s the grip again, too tight. Then there’s something else, something never felt before. First, an immense pressure, clamping down near the bullet wound. Then a feeling of splitting as the pressure increases. Sharp things, cleaving into the skin, no way to stop.
Anger, a knife comes out of a boot and hastily finds the throat under the teeth clamped to the shoulder. BLACK. The knife planted, now wiggled back and forth until it cleaves the soft and hollow spinal cord. The assailant [VIBRATE, WIND, COLLAR, no…COLORS] drops. The bitten one drops too, now disregarded by the muddy throng.
“SOMEBODY GRAB THAT MAN. Haul him out of there.”
[HUNGER BLACK BLACK VEINS AND SHAKING] …then eyes, concerned and wide. Slight red around the center washing into deep blue, wet. The General, speaking, muffled, then amplified over the cracking and popping. “…son, you’ll stay here with us [GRIP GRIP WHITE LIGHTS NOW] …listen to me…look me in the eyes…GOD DAMNIT SOMEBODY PLUG THAT THING…that world is not yours, and you’ll be with us. Your family, everything you fought for [RIP THE TAPE FREE UNBUCKLE BLACK BLACK BLACK] now you look at me you’re not going anywhere yet. You saved this place and you’ll remain a part of it [……..…….] …this life, son…this life.
Quiet, for a brief second, then a feeling of something cold against the temple. Then a deep warmth, then heat [………six four three garden circle. blue house, white trim BLACK, no…] “that world does not belong to you. I want you to breathe this one in […4 people inside…] feel it underneath you. Grab this hand, this living hand and look […two left turns from the main road] eyes […..six…..can’t…six…four people inside…jane…] this is it, son. You’re ready. This life.”
It was just one shot among many. After it finished its unheard echo through the air there was a brief silence and even a slash of sunlight above the fray. Only one set of eyes looked up and saw.
Eventually the shooting stopped piling up on itself, eventually it found an interval, then slowed it. The ground was reclaimed. The toll counted. The bodies re-buried.