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    All The Dead Are Here - Pete Bevan's zombie tales collection


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    WARNING: Stories on this site may contain mature language and situations, and may be inappropriate for readers under the age of 18.

    CAROLYN by Dylan Charles
    May 15, 2012  Short stories   Tags:   

    Sequel to FOR CAROYLN

    For almost all my life, my ma told me that my daddy had died a hero.

    Carolyn, you were very little then. I was in the cabin with you and your father was outside chopping wood when he heard them. They were all around the cabin. They had surrounded us without us knowing it. And your dad, he took his axe and he went to work and they all went down like bowling pins, one after the other.

    There must have been a hundred of them, so many that any other man would have been taken down, bitten, become one of them. But not your father. He chopped through them, until they were all dead.

    And when the last one had been taken care of, your father leaned on his axe and then fell over dead. His heart had just given out on him. And he had saved us both.

    She’d tell me the story when we were alone in the woods. She’d tell me in whispers when I was scared and the dead ones were all around. She’d tell me when there was no food and no game and we were in danger of starvin. My daddy was my hero.

    It wasn’t until later that I found out different.

    We’d been walkin through the woods, just her and me, away from everybody else. That’s how my ma liked to do things. She thought we’d be safer alone. Even when we met up with the other survivors, we still kept to ourselves. We’d pitch our tent on the outskirts of camp. People’d try and talk to us, but my ma, she’d just stare em down. They only let us stay with them cause she could scout and she could hunt and she’d share what she found.

    We’d take off and leave the others behind, make sure that the way was clear and maybe find somethin worth takin back. Sometimes there’d be deads. Sometimes there’d be nothin. My ma’d handle it no matter what it was.

    That day, I wished we had someone else there besides just the two of us. We was ahead, trackin a deer that had broken from the rest of its herd. We walked together through the forest. Dead wood lay everywhere. Too much ice and too much snow all winter killed trees left and right. Most of it had started to melt, the ground muddy thick and clogged up with water. There was still snow though, enough to cover the hunter’s beartrap that had lain untouched for who knows how many years.

    The trap closed snap-crack on my ma’s leg and my ma she just stood there and howled and howled the pain was so bad. We worked together to get her free. I jammed a stick between the trap’s teeth and pried it open with all my strength while she grabbed ahold with her fingers, the trap’s teeth all slickery with her blood and we got her leg free of that trap.

    But even I could see that she was in trouble. Ugly orange rust and wet mud and leaves were shoved deep into the wound, right down to the bone. I seen wounds like that, wide open and dirty, and they would get ugly, red and swollen.

    People usually die after a wound like that, unless they get some of those special medicines. The ones they don’t make anymore, little round pills and things in plastic bottles. I dug through my pack, lookin for some, hopin that some had gotten loose in there. I found some asprin, two tiny pills. I gave them to my ma, but I don’t think they did any good.

    I cleaned out the wound the best I could, taking handfuls of snow, holding it in my hands until it was slush and then scrubbing it out. She passed out a few times during. I couldn’t feel my hands after. Had to hold them over the fire to get the feelin back into them. But it looked as clean as it would get. Ugly and raw though. I tried to bandage it up with some strips torn from my shirt.

    We waited. I wouldn’t leave her behind and she wasn’t going anywhere with her leg busted up like that. The rest of the group was only a few days behind us. So we waited for them to catch up. Waited to see if they’d see our fire. And hoped the dead in the woods wouldn’t smell us, that they wouldn’t be moving to us.

    During the night, she seemed fine. Tossed and turned the whole night though, sayin her leg was on fire. I tried to do what I could. Tried packing the snow into the wound, makin it all numb so she wouldn’t feel it anymore, but snow rubbed raw bone and she was hurtin worse than before.

    Night crawled to a close and then it was morning, a grey, wet morning where the sun does nothin to really chase away the cold. It was just a dim speck behind the clouds and I could see my ma’s breath as she lay there shivering.

    As the day dragged on, the fever began to set in, digging into her head. She was sweating, tossing, kicking ’round. That’s how we started the second night; her rollin around on the ground like her whole body was alight, throwin that leg around. Once she hit it against the ground so hard I heard it crack. I had to lay across her to keep her from moving anymore and finally she got still and she slept.

    Her dreams weren’t good. I heard her call out my dad’s name a few times.

    When the morning come, she was worse, her leg had swole up twice the size and was purple-red, all filled up with sickness. She was red and flushed, still asleep though. I did the best I could, but I didn’t have anything left in my pack, but some venison jerky and dried fruit. She couldn’t get it down.

    I pressed the snow to her forehead, hopin to keep her cool, but it melted as fast as I could pack it.

    She finally woke up round midday, but I could tell she wasn’t seein me, didn’t know where she was, when she was. She kept talkin to my dad, tellin him she was sorry. Talked to me, but not to me, talkin like I was still little.

    She’d talk like things weren’t like they were, before the bad stuff happened, before I could remember. Talkin to old friends and askin them about their kids and tellin them about me. Talkin about me goin to school. Talkin about goin to the store. Talkin bout things that I only get to see wrecked and broke down now.

    I can remember stuff like that sometimes. The time before now, before I got scared all the time. But it gets harder as I get older. I was small then, little kid. The memories are gettin rough around the edges and I know what I remember can’t all be real stuff. That I just made it up, to fill in the holes.

    She stopped talkin after a while and I realized she’d gone to sleep again. I placed my hand on her head and she was burning, burning hotter than the night before, though that didn’t seem possible.

    Another night and day passed like that. We’d been out there for too long. Our supplies were dwindling and I was startin to lose hope that the others would find us.

    She’d be asleep most of the time, then come awake again. She’d babble about things that weren’t there. Sayin crazy things. Or sometimes she’d sound reasonable, but talkin to people who weren’t there. I’d give her melted snow to drink, and gave her my rations. But she’d throw it back up most of the time.

    I kept near the fire and tried to sleep.

    It was a long night.

    It was early morning when I first heard sign of one of them. My ma, she was sleepin and didn’t hear, but I did. Somethin was movin and movin slow through the weeds and branches and not givin a whole lot of care to how much noise they were makin.

    I got up and crouched low, grabbin the first stick I saw that looked like it got any heft to it. If it was a dead one, the stick would be enough. If it was a raper or a thief, stick might only slow em down. I stayed low and moved toward the noise.

    I hoped it wasn’t a dead one. There ain’t ever just one.

    I got close and I didn’t need much light to see it was a long been dead. Most of the skin had come off at some point and the clothes long before that. Just muscles and tendons creaking and groaning in the cold, struggling to keep it upright and moving.

    It had its back to me at first, but then it must have caught my scent cause it turned its head slow and I just saw holes where its nose had been. The mouth didn’t have any lips any more and it opened and closed its mouth like it was already biting me. I gripped my stick hard, so tight my fingers started to hurt. I’d killed dead ones before, but always with my ma. I couldn’t let this one go. It’d track me back, in that dead one way. It’d bring the others. Every moment I left it alive, I’d risk bringing a whole pack on us.

    I charged forward. I didn’t make any noise, just ran for it.

    It being a long dead and it being so cold, it didn’t move fast. It just stood there and I hit it high and hard and its head exploded. It fell to the ground and that was that.

    I ran back to the camp. I had to get there fast, cause I knew, knew, that when I got back there, she’d be surrounded by dead ones.

    When I got back, I saw instead that she was awake. Like that, she’d come back to her senses.

    “Carolyn?”

    “Ma! You’re awake! I heard a dead one and I killed it.”

    She smiled, though I could tell that she wasn’t doin well. Her face was ash-white and bright red spots lit up her cheeks and forehead. She was drenched in sweat, in spite of how cold it was.

    She was sittin up though and she was talkin right for the first time in days.

    “I thought you’d left me,” she said.

    I shook my head. “Of course not ma. I’m not leavin you here. The others will be here soon.”

    She looked at me, sweatin while she lay on her damp bedroll and wet ground. “Get out of here. Rejoin with the others.”

    “No ma.”

    “Carolyn Scott, you need to leave right now. If there’s one, there’s many. You know that. If you stay here with me, you’ll be surrounded, out-numbered and preoccupied with what’s happening to me.”

    “I’m not leavin you ma! Stop talkin about it, cause it’s not gonna happen.”

    She glared at me and I glared back at her and she sighed. I thought she had given up, worn out by her fever and the pain in her leg.

    But she started talkin right up again.

    “You can’t do this Carolyn. You can’t BE like this. You can’t care. You can’t stop just because someone’s injured. You move and keep on moving.”

    “I know ma.”

    “Listen to me, because you don’t know. You haven’t had to make those decisions, not yet. But you will and you will time and time again. Do not give in to your feelings. You put someone down if they’re bitten. You leave someone behind if they’re hurt. The point of life is to survive, to outlast those things out there.”

    “I know ma.”

    She just sighed and lay back on the ground. “You don’t know. Your father…”

    And then she got quiet again, not sayin anything, just lookin at the woods behind me. It’d been a good long time since she’d even mentioned my dad and I wanted her to tell the story again. Of how he fought off a hundred of them, until his back was up against the wall, but still he kept fightin them, killin them one after the other while my mother kept me quiet in the cabin behind him. And it was so close, they nearly broke through a few times, but he swung that axe around again and again, until there were none left. And then he just dropped, his heart burst inside of his chest.

    She lay there a long time, her eyes shut tight.

    “Your father was a fool,” she said. I started.

    “He went out into the woods, without a gun, without any weapon. I don’t know why he did. I followed his tracks later though. Saw the same campsite that he found. Saw the same dead bodies. Saw the one that bit him. He was able to bash her skull in, but it was just one of them, not hundreds. Just one woman who got half her face gnawed off. And he got bit. Then he turned. And then I had to kill him.”

    I just stared at her, not knowing what to say.

    “You can’t be like your father Carolyn. He was stupid and he was slow and he tried to help people when he didn’t have the resources to do so. And then he got bitten. Don’t be your father. Get out of here.”

    “Don’t talk about dad that way! He saved us!”

    My ma just looked at me with her sad eyes.

    “I told you a lie so you wouldn’t have to be ashamed of him. He was a nice enough man before…this happened. But he couldn’t adapt and couldn’t adjust and he died because of it. I don’t want you to be like him. I’ve done my best to make sure of that.”

    I stood over her, breathing hard and tryin to keep from crying. I knew she wasn’t lying now. That my dad had been a fool. I’d met people like him. People who get too scared and stand there to get eaten by the dead ones. People who run into a group of them with nothin but a club, thinkin they’ll be heroes. People who go into buildings without other people to watch their backs.

    They all got one thing in common and it’s that they’re all dead ones or dead. And my dad was like that. He had been a dead one. Only the sick and the stupid get turned.   That’s what my ma always said.

    I sat next to her.

    She was breathin rapid and her eyes were lookin glazed again, like she did when the fever took her over.  She’d passed out and left me with myself. I curled into a ball next to my ma and fell asleep.

    I woke up to the sounds of dead ones. The fire hadn’t died down out completely and the dancin light let me see them. There was three and they weren’t in such bad condition as the one I killed earlier. They moved quicker. And while we was both sleepin, they had nearly surrounded us.

    My ma was still out and my stick was on the other side of the fire. I wasted no time. I jumped up, my heart beatin hard and fast. I ran for the stick. All three deads turned toward me and came at me, their mouths openin and closing. I saw teeth shine in the firelight as I got my stick.

    They ignored my mother lying on the ground. She bein so close to death herself, they must not have wanted her so bad as they wanted me. I kept the fire between me and them and circled slow. They stay in a group and kept their faces pointed at me.

    One of them, a woman in a dirty red dress, nearly stepped on my ma. I held my breath. The woman dead kept comin toward me.

    I cussed myself in my head. If they hadn’t woken me up, if I had been asleep a little longer…

    I pushed the thoughts out of my head and began to go to work.

    I circled them and went after the one furthest from the other two. He had a been a big man, but the rot had taken off a lot of his muscles and skin. He was still a head and a half taller than me.

    He grabbed at me, nearly snaggin my shirt. I fell back a bit and took a swing. I missed his head and hit him on the shoulder. He took a tumble. One thing dead ones ain’t so good at is staying upright. He lay on his back, trying to get back on his feet. I took a second swing and split his head open. His limbs still twitched and tried to reach out to me. I swung down again and that put a stop to it.

    But the other two had gotten round behind me. I moved back, taking care not to step in the dying fire. The dead in red made her move. She darted forward and I just had time to jab her in the face with the end of my stick. The blow jarred my arms and rattled my bones. I nearly let go of my club.

    I brought it back around and tried to swing, but she was on me before I could do anything. She grabbed ahold of my hair and was trying to pull my face toward her open mouth. I had to drop my stick to keep from being pulled toward her. All I could smell was the rot. Her hair was fallin out in clumps and takin her scalp with it. Her teeth were mostly gone, but there were enough left to do damage.

    The smell nearly was what did me in. I’d never been so close to a dead one before and it was all I could to keep from throwing up. My gut rollin over and over itself, I reached up and broke all the fingers on her right hand. They snapped like twigs and I was able to pull away from her.

    She stood there with her torn up hand and her bashed in face and she still came at me. I bent down and dug around for anything in the muck I could use. I came up with a hefty stone just as she  had reached me. I hit her as hard as I could in the forehead and dropped her. I was about to make sure she was dead when I saw the third dead one bend down to bite down on my ma.

    I screamed and ran at him with only the rock in my hand. I slammed into the back of his skull again and again until there was skull and brain and stinking, rotting meat everywhere.

    I stood over my ma, with three dead ones still on the ground.

    My ma opened her eyes and saw me standing over her with a rock. And she smiled at me. I dropped the rock and stepped away from her and she frowned.

    She looked around and she saw the dead ones.

    “There are going to be more.”

    I ignored her and collected up wood to build up the fire. Then I’d figure out what to do about the dead ones. The smell of so much dead meat was overpowering.

    “They’ll come and they won’t stop. They’ll kill me and then they’ll kill you if you don’t get away. You need to leave me now and find the others. They’re obviously not going to find us or they would have been here by now.”

    I tried to shut her words out. The fire was starting to burn more brightly now.

    “Please.”

    I turned and looked at her. She was crying.

    “I hurt so much. I don’t want to be like them. I don’t want you to be like them. I want you to survive. You have to survive. Please.”

    I saw the woman deader was moving still. I picked up the rock and I hit her as hard as I could. She stopped moving.

    “This is what you want me to do to you,” I said.

    “I don’t want you to turn into that. I don’t want to die like that. Infected. I just want it to stop. Please.”

    I looked around me at the three dead and the one alive and I looked at the rock in my hand. I thought about what my dad would have done. I thought about what my ma would have done. I thought about it and in the end, it wasn’t thinkin that made me do what I did. It was looking at that deader in front of me, in her dirty red dress and her missing teeth. I looked at that face, with skin rotten and fallin off the bone and I thought of it comin at me.

    I went over to my ma and I kissed her on the forehead and then she smiled and I did what I did.

    I found my group a few miles south. It had only taken me a day to find them. They had run into some trouble and hadn’t even noticed me and my ma weren’t there. They hadn’t even been looking for us.

    They said their hellos to me and didn’t ask any questions. We set up the camp together. I made my tent nearer to the others than I ever had.

    The next morning we left those woods behind.

    5 Comments

    1. Great sequel and a great way to spend my study hall. It was all so good. I like how the main character’s speech is slightly… impaired because of growing up in this world. I also like the change in the mother character from the first story to this one. She was described as being unable to take care of herself but in this story, over the years, she has become a great survivalist. Just fantastic.

      P.S. First!

      Comment by Jordan on May 15, 2012 @ 9:30 am

    2. touching and tragic at the same time, it really highlights what we must or be forced to do even if we don’t want to in any situation.
      Thanks for this outstanding tale of survival.

      Comment by bong on May 15, 2012 @ 9:42 am

    3. Gritty and real,excellant!

      Comment by JMo on May 15, 2012 @ 10:06 am

    4. Nice read. Good, solid story. The lies we tell our kids.

      Comment by bshumakr on May 15, 2012 @ 11:43 am

    5. Great story and wonderful characters. I really enjoy the more realistic (as far as that goes) stories that show all the gritty stuff.

      Comment by Kristen on May 15, 2012 @ 5:06 pm

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