Chapter Four: Si Iniquitátes Observaveris, Dómine
Hiram had come to rip the tenant of 153 a new behind, but it seemed that someone had beat him too it. They had also not stopped at the behind. Mouth still gaped open, vomit still dribbling down his chin, he took in the sight before him.
Apparently the old man had tried to escape the dead man that had somehow found its way into his room by grabbing the heating pipe and scaling his way into the corner. This had not worked, as it seems the zombie had managed to grab him and eat his lower half. A look of terror and pain was etched on the old man's face, his arms wrapped around the pipe. Locked forever in dead man's grip, as the zombie below had torn and shaken the body while it fed, his arms had moved the pipe. This was the noise that had drawn Hiram to the old man's room.
He took a step back, trying to stop the bile that rose in his throat once more. As luck would have it, Hiram had been born second generation New Haven resident. His grandfather had lived through the end of days as a small child, and once the dust had settled, New Haven was where he began his life in an orphanage. Apparently there had been many orphans when his grandfather was growing up. Hiram's father followed, and then Hiram and Icabod. This meant that he had never seen the kind of carnage that a zombie feeding would leave. Sure, he had seen many bite and attack victims in his life, but he had never fully seen the effects of a zombie feasting itself.
The dead are in many ways, simple animals. They only exist to feed and nothing more. Once they have taken down their prey, they would eat and eat. Unless something grabbed their attention. This was a common occurance in the end of days he was told. A zombie or two would take down a person, and begin to feast on them. Then another poor sod would run past, or the movement of another zombie shambling by would distract them, and they would leave their food to chase after the movement. The food that was left behind would then reanimate and shamble along to join in the fray. Yet, when left to themselves, they would strip a corpse to bare bones, and gnaw on those for dessert. It was said to be absolutely horrific.
Hiram whole heartedly agreed. A few more steps back, and he reached the door. He slipped one hand back to open it so he could run, but his hand slipped. The door slipped shut, lock clicking loudly in the brick room.
"Father," he prayed silently, "don't let that thing have heard that.".
Slowly, he turned his head to look at the zombie. Fate and the Father were not on his side that day, as once he looked over, he was met with a dead stare. Attention pulled from her meal, the aging zombie began to crawl towards him across the floor. Teeth exposed as its lips had long since drawn in on themselves, it snapped at him. Jaws slamming together made a hollow noise.
Fear made him take in every detail of the approaching monster. It was a woman, the breasts were the major giveaway. Older, her face was once heavy and drooped with age. Her legs were gone, roughly hewn off at the knees. Oddly the same could be said for her hands. All of the fingers were gone, leaving the dried stump of her hand to push along the ground as she crawled towards him. Worst, worse than the blood the stained her cracked and dead skin, worse than the black tongue that wormed its way out of her snapping jaws, was the thing about its neck. He had just seen it, the buckle shining against her skin as she moved forward. A belt. Someone had wrapped a belt about its neck, and it did not take Hiram long to see why. Across the room from the old man's bed, was a post that had been driven between the bricks of the wall. At the end lay a broken chain. He could only guess that the end of that same chain was attached to the belt about the zombie's neck.
That sick bastard. He had been keeping this zombie in his room for Father only knew how long. Finally, it seemed, the chain had broken and the creature had eaten its capture. No wonder the old man never let anyone in his room. This was so illegal that if he had not already been eaten by the zombie, he would have been sentenced to death. Harboring a zombie put everyone in danger. It was unforgivable.
One stubby hand reached out for Hiram's leg. He held in a squeal that threatened to escape his throat, and fumbled for the door handle. Shaking hands found it only a second later. Letting out a sigh of gratitude, he turned the knob. The door burst inwards.
Dazed by the force of the door hitting him, Hiram could only gaze from his spot on the floor as three people crashed into the room. They were wearing thick wool clothing with bits of old armor layered over the top. Their faces were covered with a black mask, glass eyepiece tinted so no one could see their eyes. He was saved, the Guard had arrived.
With the trained efficiency of any army, they swept into the room and took charge in a moment. A glance at the zombie left no choice. With a single blow to the head by the first Guard, the zombie was silenced. It twitched for a moment then lay still. The two other members of the Guard then swiftly decapitated it, and threw the head into the box the other one held.
One of them, the one who had smashed the zombie's head, reached a hand toward Hiram. He gladly took it, and was hauled to his feet. Voice muffled by the helmet, he could not really make out what the Guard was saying, though some of that might be the severe blow to the head he took as he was pitched forward onto the stone floor. Shaking his head, the voice became a bit more clear.
"Is this your room?" it shouted, seeming to know that Hiram would have trouble hearing for a bit.
He shook his head. "Not mine..." he struggled for a moment, his head starting to hurt. Maybe that was a good sign? "The old man."
The helmeted man nodded and moved to push Hiram out of the door. " Perfect. Leave then."
Much to his displeasure, he was then shoved out of the doorway and down the hall. Turning for a moment Hiram thought he saw the corpse of the old man begin to stir, only to be silenced seconds later. Putting a hand to his head to try and stop the pain that had begun to radiate there prevented him from seeing the large metal object in his way. It was perfectly fine though, his ribs find it for him.
Holding onto his side and cursing the Father for this increasingly lousy day, he glanced at the large metal tube who had tried to de-bone his chest. It was an old cannon. Just sitting there in all its cast iron glory in the hallway. Beside it sat a sandbag that may have been the projectile used to blow the door off its hinges.
"Hmm...tad overkill..." he mused to himself as he entered the staircase and went off to nurse a growing headache.
This was short lived however, as the moment he reached his room and began to remove his overshirt, the horn in the hallway began to blow. Time for the Recruitment.