Saturday, September 12, 2009

Daily Story 150: Meanwhile, in Nevada...

There are seven figures silhouetted against the orange sky, all stumbling along clumsily and moaning. The one out in front is named Spencer Tack, and he's walking like that because he's physically and mentally exhausted as well as bordering on heatstroke. The other six are zombies. Gillian Grovers is watching them from the shadows, trying to decide just how sure she is that Spencer is still alive. She's at 80% sure right now, but she won't make a move until she reaches 99%. It's that extra 19% that has kept her from being gnawed on by animated corpses.

Ernest Black is, in turn, watching Gillian. He is a mere three feet from her, but his presence is going unnoticed because he doesn't need to breathe. Ernest's gaze lingers on Gillian's exposed neck and calves for a moment before he forces himself to close his eyes. He wants to sigh in frustration, but that would require inhaling first and without spontaneity a sigh does nothing to make him feel better. Yet again he thinks about getting back in the habit of breathing. In contrast to this, the six zombies behind Spencer aren't thinking about anything but they are breathing somewhat, at least enough to groan.

Doctor Alex Wellington, accomplished scientist and practitioner of the dark arts, is watching an ambulatory corpse that he believes to be Ernest but is, in actuality, a former grocery store clerk who was bitten in the initial attacks. Alex has prepared a special incantation to control Ernest, who is the only zombie he created that retained his mental faculties and therefore is quite possibly the key to immortality. He is chanting the incantation now, looking almost exactly the wrong way.

Spencer hears a man screaming somewhere nearby, followed by a woman screaming up close. The former is Alex, who has quickly discovered the flaw in making an overly specific spell as well as learning not to approach a zombie before confirming with 99% certainty that it is not going to try to eat you. The latter is Gillian, who has attempted to face the sound of the scream and instead found herself looking at the sunken and rotting form of Ernest. She is feeling afraid, and also rather embarrassed that she responded to a zombie in a way that would attract even more of them rather than staying calm.

It does, and for the first time in his twelve hour death march Spencer finds himself unattended. He wants to collapse and sleep, he wants to sneak away and find water, but he can't leave someone to die. Gillian, meanwhile, has moved past her initial shock and is prepared to prove to the world that she is not, in fact, a damsel in distress - her shotgun swings up to Ernest's head in one smooth motion. Ernest mentally proclaims his innocence and benevolence, but finds that - still having not taken a breath - he is unable to do so out loud.

Spencer, finding a way to compromise and accomplish multiple priorities, falls forward onto the nearest zombie's back and shoves it as he blacks out. The zombie, a former banker, pitches into the next like a domino. The chain continues until it reaches the undead actor (who had been recently turned down for the part of a zombie) that is about to bite Gillian. The shotgun goes off as Gillian is hit from behind by rotting actor but misses Ernest, who catches Gillian and simultaneously pulls out a handgun to blow the actor away.

The cleanup takes only a few minutes, Gillian keeping the shotgun trained nervously on Ernest as he decapitates the remaining creatures with a shovel. Spencer, newly awake and nursing a bottle of water, points to a shuffling figure as it turns the corner. Ernest smiles, a gruesome sight, and takes a nice deep breath.
"Doctor Wellington, I presume?" One last shotgun blast echoes down the street, and the three survivors start walking north.