SoD: Breakdown IV – ‘Warm myself on the ashes’

Lily rubs at her eyes, feeling the weakness in her muscles where there had once been strength. She had never been healthy, but the last days of little food and the constant stress of moans and fingertips against the wall outside, the radio signals she catches like fleeting dreams, which suddenly cut out or are replaced with distant screams, all sending coiling tendrils of fear and a distant anger she is scared to recognise.

She is very scared of dying and the night before she heard herself muttering half of the Lord’s Prayer before she managed to steal a few hours sleep. She hadn’t prayed since she was a child; science was the thing to keep her alive, God was nothing but a figment for the weak-minded, for the broken people, she knew. Still, her hands would flutter together occasionally, her fingers interlocking, and she tells herself she is comfortable in that position; that the feel of her own sweat-soaked grasp is a comforting touch, and that God’s finger is in no way involved.

The stash of medication had run out the day before and, already, she can feel the familiar exhaustion, a weakness which seems to emanate from her very bones and seep into her muscles from within. She shakes a little when she stands, crossing over to the window and sagging against it, her fingers pushind down on the narrow sill.

The church could, when she first arrived, have been a place they could defend. A little outside the town, surrounded by trees on two sides, a gulley blocked by a fallen tree and a dirt road on the other, it has long stone walls running around it, creating an archaic compound with enough room to house a series of tents and three gazebos, as well as the long outside dining table Pastor William had been so proud of. She remembered him smiling as the coarse-looking workmen completed it, patting his stomach knowingly at her and her father.

The Pastor was dead now, she knows, torn apart by one of the newcomers they had invited in. He had been mopping at the man’s brow when he died, and had turned to walk away when the claw shot out and dragged him back into those suddenly gnashing teeth. Lily misses him.

She can still see blood stains in the dirt where Gabriella had killed him, beaten his head with that stolen police baton until it was just another fat corpse in a tight red sweater. They hadn’t buried him, they hadn’t the energy. Instead, Gabriella had dragged him out the front gate and left him there for the dead things, whilst they spent the night drinking the last of the wine.

She staggers back to her chair, an uncomfortable wooden thing; a flat-pack purchase. The pews were gone, some broken up as pieces of a barricade that didn’t work, others burnt for the meagre warmth they offered. There is nothing left to burn, and the radio she sat in front of is running on the very last dregs of their power. She missed Gabriella, and glanced at the map again. It was a tourist’s map, taken from the pocket of a dead thing with an extensively supplied backpack. He had been on a hiking holiday, touring the mountains of Trumbull with his friend, when Gabriella came across his body.

It was a tourist’s map, taken from the pocket of a dead thing.

She can feel eyes burning into the back of her head, and turns to the cross. There he is, the original zombie. She stop herself then; they weren’t zombies. Zombies weren’t real, it was rabies, just an advanced form of rabies; that was all. But still, he stares at her with a kind of pity in his eyes; she hates him for that. She wants to burn him, to watch flames lick about his semi-naked body with its long hair and its healthy muscles, and she wants to see the pity vanish.

The Pastor wouldn’t let her; he’d stopped her when those things, whatever they were, were hammering at the door and she wouldn’t do it whilst there was even a spark of energy left in the generators.

‘Tonight, though,’ she thinks, staring up at white eyes, ‘you’re going to burn like the Hell you tried to avoid, and I’m going to warm myself on the ashes.’

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