This week is Zombie Week here at Great Hites and as usual we have been invaded but a number of great stories.
We have stories by:
Philip (Norval Joe) Carroll
and a Zombie Song by Mick Bordet and Davy
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Music this week is By Jonathan Coulton and this version is preformed by: Mick Bordet and the MandelBrot Set. You can find out more about it here.
Check out this month's Sponsor,
Arlene Radasky and her book The Fox
By: Ashley Redden
Travis smelled it long before he ever saw it. He recognized the smell, in that recognizing that something dead was not far away. As for the origin, well as usual, he didn’t have a clue.
“Carl, you smell somethin?” asked Travis in his usual quiet whisper voice that was neither quiet nor a whisper. “I think somethin’s dead round here.”
“Shut up will ya.”
“But it stinks,” persisted Travis.
Carl half turned and answered, “We’re down in a cave lookin for a pile of bones. There’s bound to be a dead rat or somethin else stinky down here.” Carl grabbed Travis by the forearm and tugged. “Keep up will ya.”
Travis raised the torch higher and followed. The two traveled deeper into the tunnel until the gradual incline ended almost abruptly and leveled out, straight and true. Though the air wasn’t better down here, it was pretty stuffy actually; at least the stinky smell was gone. Travis said as much. Carl replied, “Dude, shut up.”
Carl stopped and opening his jacket, removing Mother’s instruction sheet. He asked Travis to hold the torch out so that he could better see the instructions. Travis did so. Carl said, “Okay, Say this phrase.”
Travis read, “Where the bones beneath the blue stone do lie, set free that which is captured within.” Both looked up as a sharp metallic ping could be heard originating from further down the tunnel.
“Okay, that’s it,” said Carl. “Mother’s instructions say to go straight to the bones, and when we’re there to raise the torch.”
“What will that do?” asked Travis.
“How am I supposed to know? We’re supposed to be learnin from Mother, but I don’t think we’ll ever be as smart.”
“Or as pretty,” added Travis.
“Course not, stupid. We’re both boys.” Both stopped and snickered.
Still grinning, they headed down the tunnel towards a hissing sound that steadily got louder as they approached. The boys stopped when they reached the abrupt end of the tunnel. Carved in the face of the hard dirt wall was a small ledge. On this ledge rested a pile of bones that gleamed bright white when the torch passed over them. Above the bone collection, the boys could see an earthen pipe which came from one side of the narrow tunnel and crossed to the other disappearing into the walls of each side. A blue haze could be seen dancing from the center of the pipe. The hissing was very loud here.
They walked to within touching distance of the wall. Travis raised the torch above his head angling towards the haze in the pipe and was turning to ask Carl what Mother said they should do next when the world exploded.
Well, not actually the world, just the cave. But the explosion and fireball was certainly large enough that it seemed that the entire world must have gone up. The two stood with mouths agape at the center of the onslaught, and were just fine. They stood within a perfect bubble completely surrounded by raging fiery death.
Travis said, “That is so cool.”
“Yeah,” mirrored Carl as both looked around the bubble at the firestorm inches beyond. Travis looked back at the pile of bones and found them unharmed, nestled safely within their bubble. Carl reached up and gathered the bones. After placing them in the garbage back whipped from his back pocket, he reached up through the bubble and into the fire to snag the blue stone that was somehow still sitting atop the pipe. The bubble extended with his arm. Travis said, “That is just so cool.”
“Oh yeah,” said Carl. He brought his arm back and stuck the blue stone into his front pocket.
“What does Mother say now?”
Carl studied the notes and said, “This.” He reached out again through the bubble, then the fire and placed his hand over the now broiling rupture in the pipe. Carl looked over at Travis and said, “Now we both concentrate on closing the hole.” Both closed their eyes and a loud metallic ping again rang through the tunnel. When both of the boys opened their eyes, the fire was gone, though every surface that was illuminated by the torch smoked. Their protective bubble also seemed to have vanished.
“Mother says to go back the way we came.” Both looked around and chuckled.
“Yeah, like there’s some other way out,” laughed Travis.
“The last thing she says in the note is that we have to pass through some zombies,” said Carl with a frown.
“I really hate zombies,” said Travis with his nose wrinkled. “They stink.”
The two headed back the way they had come, Travis in the lead with the torch, Carl trailing close behind.
When the boys walked back into the rotten smell the second time, they knew for certain what caused it. The stink of the dead coated the tunnel like a noxious blanket. Travis touched the wall with his hand and said, “Soften.” He then shoved the end of the torch into the now soft dirt. The bottom of the torch went in upright and stayed so. He then stepped over to Carl and waited disgust evident on both their faces. The zombies arrived soon enough.
Crawling from the lateral holes that peppered the upper tunnel, the undead shambled down the tunnel towards the boys. Both now wore a look of terror mixed with the expression of disgust. Neither was afraid of the zombies as such, but both were horrified at the prospect of touching any of them. Any way you looked at it, zombies were gross.
As the zombies got closer, they could be heard to whisper “brains, brains, brains,” over and over.
Travis said, “That’s bout close enough don’t you think?”
“Yeah,” answered Carl, “I think so.” The two locked forearms, closed eyes and said together, “Let the living live and the dead be dead.” The zombies, one and all, fell upon the ground dead again, this time for good.
The two said together, “A path we require.” The now re-dead zombies rolled from the center and piled up along the edge of the tunnel as if swept by some great invisible broom.
Carl looked down upon the face of the closest corpse, its head resting within kicking distance of his foot. He asked, “Why do they want brains anyway?”
“I asked Mother once,” Travis said.
Carl turned and asked, “What happened?”
“I asked her and she said that they want to eat brains to get smarter.” Carl’s brow furrowed, so Travis added, “Because zombies are so dumb, get it?”
Carl smiled, “Yeah.” He kicked the zombie lying at his foot, gently, too hard and he might get zombie goo on his foot. He said, “Doesn’t do em any good though. They’re still pretty dumb.”
“Yeah,” answered Travis retrieving the torch.
Travis and Carl grinned at each other evilly, and then set out of the tunnel flanked by a cadre of disarticulated corpses. The living left the cave, the dead stayed put.
The crystal ball clouded over as the sorceress know as Mother to Travis and Carl, The Exquisite Lady to the rest of the magical community, removed her perfectly formed hand from resting atop the now opaque ball. She hissed between her teeth as she buried her latest plan and with resignation, began reviewing the backup.
She had initially sought out and won the post of Mother Sorcerer to train, and corrupt, the most powerful of sorcerers while they were still young and malleable. They would in turn help her to ascend to the top ranks of the magical community, to conquer and rule. After all, every dark place has need of a queen and she would be such a queen!
The Exquisite Lady rose and turned to stand before a mahogany full-length mirror. She regarded her person in the reflection and found much to regard. The nobility in her bearing was unquestionable, her perfect dark locks, full lips and unblemished skin were a marvel. Add to that a body that was custom built for lecherous eyes to admire and the effect was breathtaking. She stood high; shoulders back and head up, she inhaled and thought,’ what a queen I shall be.’
Then Mother Sorcerer exhaled raggedly, tiredly and lowered her head, shoulders slumped. She considered her situation. The irony of the whole thing was that she had exactly what she had always wanted…and couldn’t wait to rid herself of the whole ordeal. She now bitterly understood the turn of phrase, ‘be carful what you wish for, you just might get it,’ for the wicked curse that it truly was.
Only men were chosen for the council, as was tradition. So no matter how powerful she became, The Exquisite Lady could never rise to power via the traditional route. And though she was powerful, she couldn’t subdue the entire council. So she had changed approach. If she could not lead directly, then she could influence those that would lead tomorrow and perhaps, just perhaps change the rules a bit.
She had the two most powerful sorcerers at her fingertips. Oh, the teens were powerful. Nothing like them had been seen in known memory, maybe ever. The problem was they were, simply put, too stupid to train. Mother Sorcerer shook her head. She had been watching through the ball as her charges had retrieved the magical ward and the bones. It wasn’t necessary to ignite the gas; the gas was designed to change intruders into another of the zombie horde guarding the exit. She just happened to know that it was also highly flammable. She had hoped that it would cook them and that would be that, but deep down, she knew the futility of the exercise. That was why she had insisted that they carry a burning torch instead of just conjuring fire which was simple enough that even those two simpletons could do it.
‘But a girls gotta try,’ she mused to herself. She had truly stopped counting the number of times her little errands were designed to kill the two. They were just too powerful. Their power protected them, even as they were too dense to realize it. Awesome power coupled with equally awesome stupidity was an unwholesome combination.
She was nothing, though, if not an impeccable schemer. If one solution did not work, look for another. If that didn’t work, change the approach. And this was just what she was in the process of doing. If she couldn’t kill the two young fools, then why not pass the problem off to another, or for that matter, a whole group. And what better group could there possibly be than the sitting Council on Sorcery, the very group who had abandoned her time and again since she had inherited Travis and Carl, curse them both. Let those desiccated mages deal with them.
She had been collecting totems from each member of the sitting council ever since she became Mother Sorcerer. When each sorcerer became of age, usually about twenty-five, they would imbue their power into an object. Each imbued in his object certain secrets that only they could access, a type of storage if you will.
These objects could be anything, but there was power in worth. If a sorcerer used an item that meant little to them, then the object would be a paltry totem. But, if the object was something of great value to that person, well then, the totem became a powerful tool for the owner. The totem could then help them wield greater power, but if found and possessed by another, could also be used against them. The simplest and, she had found often the most terrible, use of this totem was that when possessed by another; the owner no longer had use of the totem. This was most often devastating to those magical folk that had been accustomed to accentuating their power through the use of their totem.
Most sorcerers hid their totems in obscure protected places so that they were virtually unfindable. The Exquisite Lady was not one to allow any task, no matter how impossible, to stand in her way. With her ambition, intelligence, drive and talent she was anything but ordinary. She was exquisite.
With this final totem, she would be able to force the council to allow her to apprentice Travis and Carl to other sorcerers, under her supervision of course, under her very distant supervision. She would of course see to it that they were apprenticed with only the best and who better than the sitting council members. The Exquisite Lady smiled at this thought. She would also make absolutely certain that they stayed together, more damage that way. Her smile grew.
She was still standing in front of the mirror tapping her nose with her index finger wearing a malicious grin upon her beautiful face when Travis and Carl burst into the room. Mother Sorcerer jumped, startled out of her daydream as the two boys bounded up to her. Carl held out the bag containing the shiny white bones and said, “Mother, here are the bones you asked for. Did we pass the test?” Both watched her with anticipation evident upon their faces.
Mother Sorcerer said, “Of course. The two of you always pass with flying colors.” She took a hand from each boy into hers and said sincerely, “Of all the students that I have had, you Travis and Carl, have been the very best. Together, you have succeeded where everyone else has failed. I am so proud of you.” Though this was a complete lie, it was also, in a way, the truth. Where her other wards had passed through the intelligent use of their magical gift, these two had done so by sheer brute magical force. The Exquisite Lady had learned long ago, long before becoming Mother Sorcerer, that the very best lie was one that was very nearly the truth.
She squeezed their hands and added,” I believe that the time has come you to undergo apprenticeship.”
Both boys beamed initially, but Carl frowned after a moment and asked, “Aren’t we apprentices already, to you Mother?”
“Carl, you are so bright. Yes, you are both my apprentices, but I am but one meager sorcereress. The two of you deserve to learn from the best. I won’t take no for an answer.”
“That’s great,” Travis said.
“Okay,” said Carl. The two looked at each other and grinned. The Exquisite Lady hoped that she could suppress an involuntary shudder of disgust.
“Now you two run along, you’ve had quite an exciting day.”
“Thank you Mother,” both said as they dashed off through the door towards the den.
The Exquisite Lady opened the bag and removed one of the gleaming white bones. She examined it in the light and peered at the remainder of the stash inside the bag. These were only large bones, probably from the arms and legs, but certainly not an entire skeleton. Though this seemed odd, The Exquisite Lady dismissed the fact as trivial. What mattered was that these bones were imbued.
The Grand Mage had always been a strange bird, an odd duck even for the magical community which was certainly know for such things. But that didn’t matter; that these were the Grand Mage’s totems and she had them in her possession was all that was of consequence. The Exquisite Lady stood in reverie, running perfectly manicured fingers over the gleaming white bone. She already had totems from all of the other members of the sitting council; the Grand Mage’s were the only one’s missing. Now, she simply had to decide the best way to use them.
She wore a smile upon her beautiful face born of the pure joy that danced in her dark heart. Suddenly, she was snapped back to reality by the crash of glass from the den. This was followed by the unappreciative caterwauling of the cat and the very much appreciative chuckling of her two wards.
The Exquisite Lady closed her eyes tight and said through clenched teeth, “Put down the cat.” Though she spoke relatively softly, she added enough power to her voice so that it probably carried for a mile or more. The uproar from the other room stopped, but the boys insidious chuckling continued unchecked.
The Exquisite Lady took a deep breath, let out a sigh and attempted to unclench her jaw. The apprenticeship scheme had better start soon; she was running out of patience.
Managing a forced smile, she figuratively put her Mother Sorcerer hat back on and walked purposefully towards the den to deal with her current wards and, if possible, rescue her cat.
By: Mick Bordet and Davy
In the dark of the night
I live, I thrive
Walking empty streets
Since you are gone
I walk and wander alone
I became a Zombie, a Zombie for you
Sucked out my soul
Tore out my heart
Froze my brain
Paralyzed my limbs
Not really alive
But you haven't killed me off yet,
No you haven't killed me off.
In the light of the day
I flinch, I cringe
Hiding myself away
You left me here
I die in the light of day
I became a Zombie, a Zombie for you
Between light and day
Life and death
I am a stray
Without a home
Don't forget, Hire the Vet
By Philip (Norval Joe) Carroll
Water dripped from broad green leaves of the trees in the sweltering jungle, evidence of the recent rain shower than began and ended suddenly. The tap, tap, tap as drops of water hit the brim of corporal Decatur's boonie hat, were the only sounds breaking the unnatural silence.
Ahead of the corporal, Private Jameson crouched in the lush foliage, poised his entire body a finger on a trigger, unmoving. He never twitched as mosquitos landed on his neck and arms. The private's position was very familiar to Decatur and his squad. It meant the enemy was close by.
"It's like he senses them out there," Private Parks had said. "I can just see him with his nose in the air, sniffing, like a hound dog tracking the sent of a racoon. You and me, we have no idea they're even there, never hear a sound, and all of a sudden, there's Jimmy blasting that shotgun into the trees, and the Viet Cong screaming and dying."
Private Jameson, known by most as Jimmy, preferred two weapons, the M 79 grenade launcher, known as a blooper gun, for the sound it made when firing a round. The other, a combat shotgun. He normally slung both across his back, one on each shoulder, forming an x. This time it was the blooper he reached for, slowly, almost imperceptibly. He stood, aimed the launcher, its barrel and stock cut short for maneuverability, and lobbed a round two hundred and fifty meters across a clearing and into a clump of bushes.
Jameson looked over his shoulder and smiled his yellow toothed grin at the squad members at his back, then ran with super human speed toward the screaming struggling Viet Cong. The squad fanned out, firing on the enemy position to keep them pinned down, while Jimmy ran in a semi circle to approach them from the side,. As he closed the distance he pulled the shotgun from his shoulder. When within range he fired the shotgun into the foliage until all the shells were spent. He removed his knife from his belt and charged headlong into the underbrush.
Minutes later, he reemerged into the clearing, bloody, smiling, and unhurt.
After four days on patrol the squad marched back to the pick up site where they hoped a chopper would come get them. They wanted to get back quickly, but didn't want to cross ground a second time. They were thus on a track a half click north of their previous nights camp when they came upon a squad of the enemy. They VC were positioned across the well used track, some sprawled haphazardly, the arms and legs askew. Others lay straight, their arms placidly across their chests, as if comfortably asleep. All of them, their heads torn savagely from their bodies, were dead.
Decatur's squad did a quick search of the area. An enemy camp was found fifty meters from their bodies on the trail. Weapons were scattered between the dead Viet Cong and their tents. Some of the weapons appeared to have been fired. Most, lay unused, their magazines still filled with rounds.
"Take the weapons you want. There are some good AK 47's. Much more reliable than these Mattel poodle shooters we've been given. You can't get an M 15 dirty, like you can these Russian rifles. Heck, you can dump them in mud and they'll still shoot."
They took what they could and moved out.
Corporal Decatur was second in the line behind Jimmy as the solders made their way through the jungle. They kept a tactical distance of five meters between each of member of the patrol to protect from booby traps and ambushes. "Man," Decatur thought, "I'm five meters behind Jimmy and I can still smell him. I've heard of guys who stayed out in the field their clothes rotted right off their bodies, but I think he's rotting underneath his clothes. I wonder if he ever bathes."
Jameson dropped to one knee and signalled to take cover. Decatur threw himself to the ground and rolled to the side and behind a tree as bullets erupted from the hilltop directly ahead of the patrol. Jimmy dropped a grenade directly on top of the hill as Delgado opened up the M 60 and strafed the hill with machine gun fire. In ten seconds Jimmy had loaded and fired a second and third grenade. He was loading the fourth when, to the corporal's horror a bullet burst through the back of Jimmy's shirt to be buried in the ground two meters behind him. Jimmy spun slightly from the impact, but quickly regained his balance, jumped to his feet and ran into the jungle at his side. He disappeared completely into the dense foliage.
The M 60 made the tell tale clanking sound of a misfire. The belt jammed tight into the feed. The gun, too hot to clear, became completely useless. The sniper on the hill top realized the gun had misfired as well and put a round into Delgado's shoulder. The same impact that barely phased Jimmy put Delgado on his back in an instant, struggling in the mud like a turtle on its back. He shouted, "I'm hit, I'm hit. Dios mio. Someone help me."
The second shot they all knew should come to end Delgado's fear and pain, didn't. A sniper worth his weight would have had that second round off within the time it would take the enemy to turn their rifles to the origin of the sniper shot and return fire. Instead of a bullet, out from the brush at the top of the hill loped the familiar form of Private Jameson. He ran right up to Delgado where he lay on the trail, blood from his encounter with the enemy was still wet on his hands and clothes.
Private Parks began to apply Delgado's field dressing to the wound in his shoulder.
"We still have two clicks to the landing zone. Let's make a stretcher and get going before the noise of the fire fight brings more VC in to see what happened," Decatur said from where he crouched at Delgado's side. He peered around at the jungle suspiciously.
"No," Jimmy said in his course low voice, "I got Gado. You take his stuff."
With that he picked the soldier up, cradled him in his arms, and set off at a brisk pace. The rest of the squad had to scramble to gather up Delgado's gear and hurry after. They kept a steady pace, at a jog, to keep up with the man in the lead. Jimmy showed no sign of tiring, or slowing, weighted down with the semi conscious soldier in his arms. They soon approached the landing zone. Whether it was the fatigue of being on patrol for so long or finally being within close proximity to the LZ, that caused the complacency, no one ever found out.
As Jimmy reached the edge of the clearing the members of the squad heard a boom, whoosh sound as a booby trapped claymore mine exploded at the level of his knees. Seven hundred tiny steel balls sprayed across the trail tearing away foliage and the lower half of Jimmy's body.
The rest of the squad dropped and took cover. Minutes passed before the began a cautious approached. From behind, Jimmy appeared to have fallen into a shallow hole, his elbows rested on the muddy trail, still supporting Delgado. The lower half of his body lay twisted, behind him on the path, evidence there was no hole in the ground where Jimmy's torso rested.
Delgado rubbed at his head with the hand of his uninjured side. "My ears," he murmured, "I can't hear."
"Get Gado over into the cover on the south side of the LZ," Decatur said to his squad, "call in the choppers, tell them we have two men down, give them ten minutes and pop a yellow smoke. I'll take care of Jimmy."
The corporal had noted the general lack of blood from Jimmy's wounds. He figured the soldier must have been killed instantly to have died so cleanly, but wanted medical support in the choppers in case he was wrong. The men lifted Delgado from Jimmy's arms and carried him quickly away. Without the weight of the soldier on his arms, Private Jameson's torso toppled over and exposed the festering abdominal cavity. Rotting flesh and yellow puss oozed from where organs should have been. The smell issuing from Jimmy's body made the corporal's head spin and he feared he would pass out. To balance himself he bent to one knee. When he felt stable he grabbed the shoulders of Jimmy's shirt and pulled him from the unsafe exposure of the trail.
Decatur released the shirt to ease Jimmy to the loamy, wet, earth. Frightened, Decatur ,gasped, jumped up and fell back and into the undergrowth like he had just been struck by a poisonous snake.
Jimmy opened his eyes and spoke, "Decatur, you need to help me."
The implications of Jimmy's bloodless rotting body hit the corporal like a mortar round, and he was mentally staggered. He frantically looked around at the steaming dripping jungle, as if for an answer. This man who had just saved the life of his squad member was what? A zombie?
Jimmy saw his squad leader's reaction and smiled sadly. He twisted his head around to see the corporal better. "Decatur, you need to help me."
Decatur leaned down to his squad member's side and tried to keep his eyes, and mind, focused on the mans face. "Sure, Jimmy. I'll do what I can. We'll get you back to base and get medical help for you."
"No. That's no good," Jimmy said. He shook his head. "They don't know what I am. They can't help me. There's only one thing that will help."
He pushed up on his elbows and raised his head forward to look toward the LZ. "The only thing you can do that will help, is bust open my head and spread my brains around the landing zone."
"I can't do that, Jimmy. You're one of my men. I can't kill my own man," Decatur said, distressed.
"You won't kill me, man. I'm already dead. I've been dead for years. They dropped us behind lines, a night drop. We were supposed to find a commie biological weapons facility. It was there, too. They dropped us right on top of it. Most of my team was dead before they hit the ground.
"I landed and got bit by one of their 'weapons'. I blew his brains out before he could finish me off. The virus took over fast and I had the characteristics of a zombie before I felt the pain. I tore through the fence and even took a couple bullets before I escaped into the jungle.
"Then the pain hit me. It burned through me like molten lead in my veins. It ate my guts like a thousand cockroaches inside me, chewing me up. My head pounded. I thought my skull would explode from the pressure and I gouged at my eyes, trying to pull them out to relieve the pain.
"The I found someone. One of the enemy. On of the people that put me in such pain. I was on him before either of us realized it, and I tore his head off. I drank his blood, sucked it from his dead heart. I cracked open his skull and ate his brains.
"The pain suddenly stopped and I could see clearly. I could feel each the living bodies around me in the jungle. I knew what they were doing, if they were healthy or sick, happy or sad. It made no difference whether night or day, I made my way silently, fatally, across the enemy lines to our base.
"If I feed every night, my thoughts stay clear. I can act almost human. But if a day goes by, or two, and I miss a feeding, it all starts to slip, I start to become the creature, the monster I am. The only way to stop me, to put an end to my pain, is to blow my head apart. Otherwise, I will continue to live, crazed, in pain, with a need to kill," he said, and sighed.
"Jimmy, we'll get you to Manila. I'm sure they have someone there that can get you fixed up."
He cut Decatur off, "Before I got to the Philippines, I would have killed half the crew on the plane. There's nothing they could do to stop me, even with only half of me, if I need to kill, I will kill."
"But your family, they'll want," he was interrupted again.
"They'll want to see me like this? No. They would rather see me dead, than a zombie," he said, bitterness infecting his low even growl.
"I can't do it, Jameson. I can't kill one of my own men," Decatur said and sat back on his heels. He could hear the choppers in the distance flying across the tops of the trees. One of his men set off the yellow smoke grenade.
Jimmy whispered something in a weak rasping breath. Decatur looked down the mans face. So normal in appearance, so human. The injured private moaned and motioned the squad leader to bend toward him. His fetid breath wheezed through blood stained yellow teeth. "come close," he rasped.
Hesitantly, Decatur leaned his ear down to the injured mans mouth.
"Thanks," he said as he pulled the hand grenades from Decaturs magazine pouch. "My own grenades are over by my legs. I couldn't reach them."
He held the spoons in place with his thumbs while he twisted and pulled the grenade pins with his index fingers, simultaneously. "I'll count to five before I cook these off. That'll give you ten seconds to get away. Or you can stay here and go with me."
Seeing the armed grenades, Decatur was on his feet as a reflex, then hesitated, still unable to justify the death of one of his men.
"Corporal Decatur," Jimmy said, "thanks. And take my dog tags, my parents will want to see them."
"What do I tell them, Jimmy? About how you died," Decatur asked.
"Tell them the truth. I died saving my buddies. The enemy killed me. It's the truth," he said.
The sound of the rotors changed as the choppers dropped into the clearing to land. Once down they wouldn't wait there long.
Jimmy held one grenade under his chin and the other at his waist. He said, "Go, Decatur. One thousand one."
Decatur ran for the clearing where the helicopters hovered just above the long grass. They had already loaded Delgado and secured him to the stretcher. The last of the squad was almost on when Decatur ran up, Jimmy's dog tags swinging from his hand. The loud whump, whump, of two fragmentation grenade exploding was barely audible above the sound of the rotors.
Above the trees the choppers sped back to the base, the green carpet of jungle spread in all directions. Behind them the small cloud of yellow smoke dissipated. It wouldn't be long before the last pieces of Jimmy's rotting body would be gone as well.
For Corporal Decatur the war had changed. It was no longer us against them, north against south, or freedom against communism. There was something far more sinister in the dripping jungles of Vietnam.
By: Jeffrey Hite
I have had many strange, and mostly boring interviews in my time. Most the time when people call you up and tell you they have a great story, they have nothing. Their Grandma had some jar of civil war buttons. Historically interesting sure, news worthy no. That has been my life as a small time newspaper writer. It is hard to get discovered when the most interesting thing you write about is the prizes at the local 4H club.
So you can understand my wariness when I got the call about going out to the old Henderson place especially at the late hour that they wanted me there. But it did sound like they had a story to tell me, and as interesting as Little Joey's Prize hen was, I was itching for something new to write about.
In the end This was the most interesting story I have ever written, and yet no one will ever believe it so it will never get published. It has taken me a while to get everything that happened in order, my notes and even the recording were a rather sketchy, but I think I finally have every thing the way it happened. I think I am finally ready to tell the story. What follows is as best as I can put together what happen that night.
When I Arrived at the old farm house at 10:30, I found the the gate knocked down across the driveway and try as I might I could not get it out of the way so I was forced to park my car on the side of the road and leave it there. When I walked in to the Henderson place from the road it looked like I was the first one there in years. I didn't see any other cars so I assumed that my interviewee would be late. I have always disliked it when people are late, especially when it is a time they set up. But like I said I didn't really have anything else interesting to write about so I was content to stay. The house it self looked to still be in pretty good condition, at least I didn't think that it would fall in on me when I opened the door so I went inside. It was, not unexpectedly, mostly empty. The furniture was almost all gone, but it looked like at some point in time swatters had broken in and used the kitchen.
With still no sign of my subject, I toured the rest of the house but saw thing nothing else of any real interest. The Henderson's had left two beds that were bolted to the walls to support their overly large head boards, and a couple of arm chairs in the library, but nothing else. I knew they were planning on scaling down when they moved to the city, since their kids were gone, so the things they left behind made sense.
It was not until I had walked around the house twice that I saw anything of my interviewee, and really a did not see him for a long time. I was upstairs wondering if the Henderson's had left anything in the attic when I finally heard him moving around down stairs. So I quickly grabbed my things and headed back down there.
"Hello is anyone there?"
"Please come in the library." The voice was dry and raspy and sounded as though it came from an old man without his teeth. As I walked into the library I could see a figure sitting in one of the chairs.
"Please turn off your light, I would rather you didn't see me right away."
"Ok," I said turning it off.
"Please have a seat," he said waving his hand in the direction of the other chair. I took the chair and started to get my things ready.
"Do you mind if I record the interview?"
"That will be fine as long as you don't have any video."
"No just an audio recorder." I did have my camera with me, but I was going to save that until later if I needed it. I turned on the recorder and set it on the floor as close as I could get it to him so it would pick the both of us up, without getting close enough to see him, since he didn't want me to, at least not right away.
"Thank you for coming, I know it was an unusual request, but I wanted to meet with you and tell you my story."
"Very well, I am listening."
"What I am going to tell you maybe very hard for you to believe, but I ask you to listen, and hold your questions until the end, I promise that it will be interesting enough that you will want to listen."
"Very well, but you know as a journalist, my first instinct will be to ask questions."
"Yes, I had thought of that, but please try to hold them until the end." I nodded my agreement and he settled back into his chair.
"When I was young, I didn't believe that there were things out there in the world that could change a man's outlook so completely that he would loose all sense of self, but that has happened to me. I barely remember who I was when I was a child, or even when I was an adult. Now that I have been been on this earth for so long that no one that I knew is still alive, I have fear that I will forget everything, which is why I wanted you hear tonight." He breathed deeply shuffling his feet as he did so, I hope that they recorder would not pick up all the noise.
"I returned home after the Civil war, to find my home had been burned and my family gone. I didn't know if they had been killed or if they had managed to escape the horrors that had ravaged the country side around my home. But either way I never have been able to find them. It didn't matter much. I had to move on as there was nothing there for me and no work meant that I could not stay. I Traveled further North, thinking that maybe they had gone to weather the storm in New York, but I never made it there. As I crossed through the mountains of West Virginia I met my end to a trigger happy farmer."
"But if you died?" I started to ask.
"Please wait until I have told you the rest. That would have been the end of my story as you were about to point out. But there was a reason that farmer was so trigger happy. He wanted none of his neighbors knowing what he had been up to. I found out afterwards that his wife had died the previous winter, and he had been heart broken ever since. He had struggled through for the first few months but this heart sickness had been too much for him. He had heard of people from the deep south that could raise the dead, and he was willing to give that a try. So he had written one of these witch doctors and had convinced them to come to his farm and help him get his wife back. I don't know what price he paid to get them there, but the price that he paid in the end was and eternal damnation and tortuous afterlife where he probably never did get to see his beloved wife." He paused and breathed deeply for a few moments before continuing.
"I don't know for sure of course because by the time I had been brought back, he was nearly gone. The witch doctors had spent most of this life's blood on the floor and had not managed to bring his wife back. Instead they raised me."
He sat forward them into the moon light and I could see him. He wore a suit that had been out of style for years and it looked as though it had been worn through, is hair what there was of it was thin and appeared to be falling out. Even in the moonlight, his skin as a ghastly grey with molted brown spots. Three of his fingers on his right hand and two on his left had no skin on them. I sat back further in my chair trying to hide myself in the darkness, and he coughed out a laugh.
"That is right young man I am a zombie. That fool Witch Doctor raised me instead of that poor farmers wife and now I walk the earth neither dead or alive. I found others like me for a while but whenever there are more than a few of us together some crazed hunter comes after us."
"Look I am not going to attack you. It took me some time to figure this out but let me tell you the rest of my story. Then you can ask your questions."
I nodded my agreement but my hands shook so badly that I could no longer take notes.
"When I was raised, the craving for human brains was undenyable. I had to kill someone and eat their brains. I have seen your modern books, these are the crazed Zombies you see, they have to have brains when they are first raised, if not they will not live long. The poor farmer who had sold his soul to get his wife back, was half dead, even in my crazed state I knew he was nearly dead and that I was doing him a service by finishing the job. When I had finished with him, the witch Doctors were gone, but my need had been sated. I stated on that farm for another ten years. And Learned what I could on my own. If I did not find anyone at least every few months I would start to rot away, and the need would become great. Animal brains would work, but only for a much shorter time, and they never taste the same and the need never goes away completely."
"When I had learned to take care of myself and hide myself as much as possible I left the farm and traveled to a larger city. There I met other zombies, it was then that I got my frist taste of the rage, and of the hunters. I have told you that that if I do not have brains that I will begin to rot away, and that I will slowly begin to go crazy for them. Well there is another side to that, the more of them that you have the more that you want, and that can drive you crazy as well. You will crave them more and more, we may have kill three hundred people during the San Francisco Earthquake. I don't remember much of that time, only the killing and the taste of the fresh brains. Now I understand many of the head wounds that I saw during the war. Men that had a single bullet wound that they might have lived from but half of their skull would be missing as if it had been blown off by a close shot by a gun, these were not war wounds. But others like me that wander battle fields feeding on the dead and dying"
"As I said this was also the first time that I had a taste of the hunters. Some of them saw the Carnage, and knew were to look, knew how to hunt us. They knew the more we fed the more we would need, and the more crazed we would become. They fed us, leading us into a trap. Many of the zombies with us were ended that day. They hacked them to pieces with axes, and I escaped only by dumb luck. I have avoided cities ever since then.
"I went with the supply ships in both world wars, and ate the brains of the fallen German soldiers, I would never take members of the allies. There were too many of the Germans for me to eat anyway. During the second big war I came close to the madness again, when I followed the allies into one of the death camps. I killed and ate nearly twenty soldiers in anger before I realized what I was doing. I was almost spotted and killed by an American tank commander." he coughed violently, dry almost dusty coughs.
"I am sorry my son, I don't have much time left. I will try to be quick with my story. After the incident at the death camp I avoided wars. I could no longer deal the he inhumanity of it, and the anger drove me to feed and that was a downward spiral. One that If I wanted to live, I could not afford to do. I did not want to die at the hands of a hunter, being hacked to bits, or beaten into the ground with a club. I have moved around since then. I have lived my life and I am ready for it to be over. For the last three years I have been spacing my feedings out as much as I can, but you can see what it is doing to me. I am falling apart. This is the zombie curse, you feed to keep your body from falling apart, you feed too much and you go crazy, you feed too little and you go crazy. But I am falling apart now. I will die soon. I am sorry that it took me so long to get here tonight. I didn't realize how much effort it would take to come up those basement stairs."
"You are dyeing?" I asked. "But I thought you were already dead?"
"Even the undead can finally slip away. Without brains my body is falling apart, and I can't kill any more. When I was young and went to war I had no problems killing. I killed many a confederate, and even some union soldiers who crossed me. By the end of world war two I had seen so much death, I never wanted to see more of it again, but I had to. If I wanted to keep on living I had to. So I did. Then about ten years ago I decided, I would wanted it to end there was not point to living any more. I tried to just stop several times, just lock myself in a basement or something, but if you can dig yourself out of your own grave, you would be surprised what you can get yourself out of. After three or four tries I knew I needed to try something different, so I decided to try spacing my feedings out as much as I could slowing make the time between them longer and longer. It has been over six months since I last ate."
He must have noticed how nervous I was because when the dusty coughs stopped this time, he smiled at me and I noticed his teeth were all missing.
"I could not get up to kill you if even I wanted to. I am too weak. I will die tonight in this chair. I only ask that you give my body back to the earth from which it came. There is a note in the basement explaining what you must do to make sure that I cannot be raised again. I have not always lived the best life, but I think that I have done the right thing here, and I hope that you can see that." he coughed again and then was silent.
For a long time I could hear him breathing, could hear the small movements of his clothes. I finally got up to move closer to him, I could smell him. It was not like rotting flesh, as I could see from what was left of him that there was almost no moisture to him, it was like hot dust on a radiator. He was literally drying himself to death.
"You can come closer if you want. I am to tired to move and my hips are both faded beyond being able to support me any more."
"Are you in pain, is there something I can do to make this less painful for you?"
"No more than I have caused others, and no, I deserve the pain, anything you could do would make it worse in the end because I would have to start over again. No tonight I will die." He was silent then.
I sat with him until his breathing stopped and several more hours until the sun came up. When I was sure that he was no longer moving, I took several pictures of what looked like a very long dead body, and then moved the crumbling remains to the back yard and buried them in a shallow grave. I found the tiller in the garage as his instructions said and tilled the soil where I and buried him, until the machine ran out of gas. Then I left.
I have taken the time to write this down, even though I know no one will believe it. I was there an I hardly believe it myself. But maybe someone some time will find this and know that at least one Zombie has been put to rest never to rise again.