Sunday, November 10, 2013

In the Dark of the Night, Part One

Gnawing on an old chipped bone, I muse over the meaning of death; it’ll be a while before I get to the marrow of this femur, what’s left, and I really have nothing else to think of. Moving my bruise colored hand up to the other side, I tear a shard free from the shaft, spitting it to the ground as I wedge in my curling talons into the break. Perhaps I’ll get something to tide me over until the next meal wanders by?

A long, low creaking of iron causes my head to snap up, my sloped perch on the headstone changing from relaxed to poised in an instance. Peering across the darkened graveyard, I see torchlight. Torchlight means people, and people means food.
Fresh food.
I toss away the femur errantly as I hop down from the headstone, looking around me to see if any of the other dead have noticed the intruders. Judging from the wet moans and shuffling of dead grass, a small mob of zombies have taken note, and are animating from their rigor near the mausoleum, joints popping as leathery skin slides along greasy muscle. I close my eyes and extend my will over to them, ordering them to halt.
I smile a lipless grin as the twelve walking dead obey my will, groaning in mild protest. I ignore their hunger and watch the interlopers as they walk along the main path, four men and a woman, all armed. Swords glinting in the soft torchlight and shields casting great shadows over their heavy armor, they are obviously aware of the reputation our little graveyard has. The woman seems to be the scout for the four men, her armor more practical for a fight on the run. She has a bow pulled with an arrow notched, a glint of silver flickering in the dancing light.
“Pfft… like silver really does anything.” I mutter, crawling from tombstone to tombstone, eyes never leaving the group. In death my body has changed somewhat, my bones growing softer and more flexible, my skin turning the color of a nasty bruise. My teeth have grown sharp, jagged buts of enamel jutting from rotting gums. An old wound in my gut is filled with festering maggots and wood roaches, which spill from me as I move, clicking angrily at being dislodged in such an undignified fashion.
I see movement behind the statue of a weeping woman stained with age and covered in vines; it’s Emily, another being like me.
“Do you see them?” She rasps, her long fingered hands ending in black talons similar to mine. She, like so many of our kind, has taken to body modification and slid daggers into her chest cavity, their sharpened points jutting out from her back like spines.
“They just entered, and seem to be heading to the center of the graveyard for some reason.” I whisper back, scooping a handful of grave dirt into my hand, allowing it to spill out slowly as I talk. “Perhaps to old William’s grave?”
“The others are already there, hiding around the tomb. They’re hungry, and won’t wait long.” Emily warns, noting the shambling zombies walking along a dirt path behind the tree line to our right. “I assume you have those under control.”
“Enough control to make them useful.” I agree, crawling over to Emily. “Go back to the others and tell them to try and kill the woman first. She has silver, so she’s obviously superstitious… I don’t know if she has anything that would actually work though.”
“Best not to find out.” Emily agrees, turning and loping off into the darkness, the daggers clinking within her ribs as she moves.
I shake my head, and move over to a grave of an old friend of mine from when I was actually alive. Good old William Morseley… I tend to his grave often, keeping the vines from growing over it and cleaning his headstone often.
I also have a broad sword jammed to the hilt in the ground just behind the headstone. Tugging on it once, twice, three times the charm! The dirty steel is free of cracks, the handle wrapped with cracked leather. I grab it with both hands, testing the weight as I always do. Nice and heavy, and from the edge that I sharpen weekly, nice and sharp.
I run my hand over the tall grass in search of the scabbard, smiling as I find it and the worn belt that loops over my back. I fasten the scabbard on my curved back before sheathing the blade. The zombies have wandered closer, and are standing around me now.
Looking back, I see that the group has wandered half way into the graveyard, almost to William’s tomb.
Looking at the zombified crowd around me, I nod down towards the path. “Go down there and follow from behind. Attack when you get close enough.”
The zombies moan in glee as they begin to shuffle down the hill. I choose to move with them, straightening up onto two legs and walking like the man I once was. Peering around, I see the graveyard coming to life as it senses the intruders within it.
From old graves bony fingers poke up, piercing their earthen shell and peeling it back to allow the skeletal creatures freedom from their dusty womb. Wraiths, dark shadowy things with glowing red eyes and the whispers of the slain murmuring around them, swim through the air around the trees, growing angrier and angrier at the presence of life within their domain. The trees lining the main path creak and groan as their limbs twist, branches curling in anger at being roused from their eternal sleep.

“Oh, they have no idea what they’re getting into…” I chuckle dryly, walking down the hill with my gathered troops.

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