Die, die! All you nasty sluts.
To her relief, the mortician assured her that the blood would come out in the wash. The last thing she wanted was to be remembered as a red head, just like her awful mother.
Jamie yelled for the old man again to no avail. Where the hell was the old man when he needed him?
The boy dodged a decomposing Mr. Phillips and Jamie’s sister, Gail. He jumped over Ronnie’s ex-wife Shelly, who was charred from the torching, scrambling for a bite of fresh meat. The barn door was just left swinging as Jamie ran back to the house. It did not take long for the farm to be completely overtaken by the reanimated army. What was once a devious scheme totally backfired and turned into total chaos.
By the time Jamie arrived at the shack, the trucks and tractors were toppled over, dominated by a team of dead flesh sacks. Blots of blood, soured skin, and guts crisscrossed the land, the putrid stench enough to knock anybody plum off their feet.
“Ronnie!” Jamie dashed into the house, hoping to find the old man and get the shotgun before the corpses trapped him inside. “Get your ass over here! We hafta go!” Jamie got nothing but a set of demented moans coming from a young girl. Her yellow pigtails were soaked with blood and shit. The groans came with a stream of vomit and spit, falling out of the jawless mouth hole onto the floor with a splat. Some of the spit specked Jamie’s pant leg.
Jamie checked the back bedroom, in the large chest under the bed where Ronnie kept most of the guns and ammunition, and found it completely empty. “Bitch!” Jamie screamed, peering into the bare chest of a decapitated Mrs. Umphrey. In one hand she grasped a bloody machete, the other one was knotted in a head of hair.
Mrs. Umphrey held Ronnie’s head in her gnarled fist. Just as she tossed the mangled cranium towards Jamie, he had leapt out the window, crashing to the ground with a broken arm and a shoulder splintered with glass.
Suddenly, one of the trucks in front of the house exploded, erupting torn limbs and gore. The flames spread to the house and to the grass. The remaining bodies trekked hidden amidst a wall of thick, pitch-black smoke.
With the sun turning warm orange and purple in the sky, Jamie knew he had a half hour sunlight left, at best. There was no way he was letting himself get stuck out there in the dark with dozens of lurching carcasses.
So Jamie ran for the hills. He jumped over the barbed wire fence his father set up twenty years ago; he sprinted through his mother’s old tomato garden, which had been reduced to a sad plot of pale dust and brown stalks. He had to reach town to tell the others of what he and the others had done. Jamie had to tell them everything, starting with Ronnie’s ingenious, diabolical plan.
“Back up, Mom! Shit -” Nate slammed the PlayStation controller against the bloody floor. “I told you fifty times that I can’t pause the game when I’m playing online – you just made me die.” He exhaled. “Thanks a lot.”
This time he was going to get it right. He promised. She was just worried she hadn’t enough blood left.
The black eye I give him complements his black heart. Colossal Shadow, they call him – also fitting with the beating he was getting.
With a sharp right hook, his face breaks under my fist. A roundhouse kick knocks him off balance, and a strong knee to the chin sends the behemoth down. Newspapers before the big fight headlined the brawl as a battle of David and Goliath, only with an even more intimidating Goliath.
With the beast unconscious in the hot sand – his face glowing red with blisters from the heat – the audience roars and seethes a steam of hatred and relief. The bully has finally fallen.
“Blade or stone?” an official asks, offering me a red dagger or a river-washed rock the size of an apple.
“Stone,” I mutter through my teeth, brandishing the rock around the defeated, deflated monster at my feet. The deal was that only one would exit the coliseum alive, in exchange for the winner’s continued participating in future matches.
Back at home, I am a simple peddler; I support my mother and sister with the few pounds of food I manage to steal each day and the pathetic daily wage of a dirt sweeper at the butchery. It wasn’t until the Shadow raided my little settlement that I decided to defeat the bastard once and for all, and his defeat would be in front of all of his supporters. He had to pay for the lives he destroyed the night he attacked the village.
Drool oozes from my mouth and disappears into my shirt. Bloody knuckles, a dislocated shoulder, and an indomitable thirst for revenge are all that is left of this peasant dirt-sweeper boy. To save my family, I contentedly forfeit my innocence. To defeat a monster, I became one.
As I prepare to pelt the monster with the stone, a weak gurgle emits from the beast. “You’re just a kid…” He wheezes. “You have to escape this before it consumes you.” The colossus spits out a concoction of blood, saliva, and teeth. “I was just like you once; but they make you change. All those invasions, they forced me to do all of that.” Then, before the official places a quietening black strip of tape over the whitewashed brute: “Please, save yourself.”
His warning does not faze me, however. Rather, I am too overwhelmed to consider anything he is saying is true. Instead, I paint the sky with his blood, his cries muzzling the exasperated spectators.
“The secret is out, Jamie.”
A shaggy-haired boy of fifteen – Jamie is what they called him – pushed his thin metal glasses to his face with one hand and popped a gorging pimple with the other. “How’d they find out,” he inquired.
“Hell if I know. You didn’t tell anybody did you?”
“Why in God’s name would I snitch about that? God, Ronnie, d’you really think I’d do something so stupid?”
Honestly, Ronnie had doubted Jamie had any balls at all, or common sense for that matter. The young boy was in fact his father’s son, and if that was not enough to scare the shit out of him and his friends, Ronnie didn’t know what would. For fuck’s sake Jamie’s father couldn’t even lie with a straight face to the police when asked about how the neighbor’s boy ended up mangled in the hay baler. They were in the process of pulling little Caleb’s shredded arm from the machine when Jamie’s father fell apart. He just stood there in front of the detectives, a blubbering, snotty mess.
Jamie got his answer from his friend’s disgusted glower; he may have been the stupid redneck junkie that everyone believed him to be, but he was not entirely an idiot. Shaking his head, Jamie muttered, “Fuck you, Ronnie.” Then, snatching a ring of keys from the nail on the wall, he added: “I’ll be out at th’barn. If somebody knows, then we gotta make it look like nothin’ happened.”
“Go on, then. Be expectin’ me later. I hafta phone Bone and Monty; they need to get their dopey asses over here, too.” Ronnie wiped the line of tobacco spit from his jaw. Maybe it was from his old age, but he swore he had cleaned that shit off a while ago. Nevertheless, the dark spit flowed from his lips like water from a faucet.
Having walked to the barn, Jamie looked over at his aging buddy, who was still sitting in that rotten rocking chair scraping scum off the few teeth he had left with his thumbnail. With his deteriorating condition, Jamie couldn’t see the old man living for much longer. Either the bastard was going to wander off and die, or the boy was going to have to smother him in his sleep.
Jamie shrugged off any second thoughts he was having of the latter scenario and stuck a long, silver key into the barn door’s rusted lock. It popped off with a clunk and fell to the dry ground. It took the boy a minute or two to fully open the door, but when he succeeded, he found himself hoping he would have left the place locked up – or better yet, not having been involved in the sinister scheme to begin with. He stood staring into the empty barn with wide eyes, horrorstruck.
“Ronnie!” Jamie yelled. “It’s the bodies! They’re all gone!” But only after Jamie looked around did he realize that it was too late. Dozens of reanimated bodies, corpses of his friends and family, surrounded him, hungry for the flesh of the condemned.