Z-heads, zombies, ghouls, corpsicals, biters, walkers, the living dead, call them what you will, at least they are reliable. They alert you to their presence. They make noise when they are coming at you. The Restoration Movement makes no such courtesy. We were making good time into Louisiana, until we hit the abandoned cars. We hauled ass around a corner, and BAM, the pickup ploughed straight into a pile of them. Thank God Kurt and I had our seatbelts on. I immediately radioed Major Noose to halt the bus. She was half a mile back with Amanda. Apparently, they had "womanly issues" to discuss and as a guy, I had no interest in knowing what those issues were.
I checked the pickup out while Kurt scouted around. It was in bad shape. One of the front wheels had popped and would be riding on the rim unless we could find a spare. The radiator was cracked, the front lights were gone and the hood refused to close. Basically, it needed a mechanics shop to even get started on repairs. When I straightened up, Kurt waggled his eyebrows at me.
"I had a great view," he smiled and then winked.
"I thought you were meant to be watching the road," I said.
"We have three zombies trapped in their cars, two headless bodies and a lot of body parts around the ribcage of what I think is a gator," Kurt informed me.
"Don't even want to think about how many z-heads it took to get that bastard down," I stated, shaking my head.
"A lot, judging by the limbs and blood strewn around," Kurt smiled.
Then his face slackened and he crumpled to his knees, then to his side. A tranquiliser dart poked out of his back. I moved to grab him and another dart hit the jeep, flying right through the space I had been in moments before. I left Kurt and dove into the jeep.
"Major, get out of here. Someone is firing tranq darts at us," was all I managed to say before I felt the dart lodge in my neck.
When I came round, I was shackled to a chair. Someone had taken off my shirt, socks and shoes and my jeans had been cut away just above the knee. I was alone in what to be a long log cabin. Half the floor was missing- it was just three long beams form the far wall to where the floor began again. I guessed there must have been a basement, or at least a freshly dug pit, because the unmistakable moans of the infected wafted up through the opening. One section of floor jutted out into the expanse, to where the first rung of a ladder hung down. I was trying to figure out what it was for when three men entered. The lead man was tall and skeletal thin. He looked like a Preying Mantic. His goons were different. On was short and grossly overweight, with a sweaty bald patch and dirty clothes. The other guy was younger, maybe early twenties, with a wispy goatee. He was roughly the same height and build as me. The lead man smiled at me.
"You have the pleasure of been rescued by The Restoration Movement," he said, his smile not wavering.
I looked down at the shackles.
"Rescued?" I asked sarcastically.
"Yes," he said. "But we have some questions and we have learned that not everyone is willing to share information with us."
"Information? What sort of information?"
"Like who else was with you? Other than the boy. We saw the school bus."
I kept my mouth shut. They repeated their questions. I remembered what Amanda had told us about their "chats" with people they had found in convoy and where some of the convoy had gotten away. I just had to hold out long enough for Major Noose to get away. I learned quickly why they had cut off the legs of my jeans. Goon number two attacked the burn marks on my legs with a savage intensity. He even took a lighter to them. He finally stopped when, in a fit of pain, I kicked him in the face so hard it broke his nose and two front teeth. That's when Goon Number One, or Fatso, began hitting me. After nearly an hour of been worked over, their boss went:
"That's enough. He won't talk this way."
His smile had never faded during the whole interrogation, and it seemed to grow even bigger now. He grabbed the back of my chair, and with amazing strength for such a thin man, he dragged it to where the long piece of floor ended near the broken ladder.
"We have one more thing," he said in a soft tone. "We are going to leave you hanging, so to speak."
He pointed at the one rung hanging over the zombies.
"There will be no shackles, no ropes, nothing to keep you on that rung except your own hands, and that is the beauty of it. You will just hang there until you tell us what we want to know. If you fall without telling us, you will die in the knowledge that it was you alone who let yourself fall. Your own body will have failed you."
He opened my shackles and the two goons dragged me over to the ladder. They lowered me down and waited for me to take my weight. When I didn't, they let go of my ankles and I had no other choice but to grab the bar.
"Lesss 'ee 'ow log you 'old on," Goon number one chuckled and Goon two guffawed. The Preying Mantic just kept on smiling.
Goon One and The Preying Mantic left to get Goon One checked out by "the Doc," while Fatso started playing solitaire by himself. He had promised me he would be listening for either the zombies moans of pleasure or my signal that I was ready to talk. Before he went though, he unzipped his zip and took a pee on me. He smirked.
"Don't worry. While you are hanging around, we will begin working on your little brother."
He must have meant Kurt, but I couldn't think straight. My arms were soar after the beating I had taken, my entire body throbbing in pain, so it wasn't long before my arms were screaming in agony. Fatso's back was turned to me and I was trying desperately to think of a way out of the situation I was in when David began whispering in my head.
"Come ON you weak little queer. You were a fucking gymnast and you can't think of a way out? You are fucking useless- just a weak little fag that can't stand up for himself."
I started swaying back and forth on the bar and then back flipped onto the floor as quietly as I could. Fatso took no notice and I let my body rest for a moment.
"You know, if coach were here, she would give you a ten out of ten for that," David whispered.
I could almost make out the smile that came with that. Then I realised I could feel the smile because I was smiling, and David had used my mouth to speak. This should have freaked me out, but it didn't. I didn't have the time. From somewhere outside, I heard Kurt scream. Fatso laughed and began to speak:
"YOU HEAR THAT? YOUR LITTLE BROTHER..."
He didn't finish his sentence because I had snapped his neck. Or maybe it was David. All I knew was David kept feeding me information, like where to find a machete. The door opened and Goon Number One came in, only to have that machete buried in his head. Kurt screamed louder and his cry of pain was mingled with the warning cry the person behind Goon One let out. I dislodged the machete and ran it through the other guy's chest.
For a split second, I could make out a rough ring of tents enclosed by a hastily erected fence, then more people, with guns, began running towards the house. I hear the Preying Mantic call "Kill the boy." They were going to kill Kurt? I had failed him. I had promised to keep him safe, and I had failed.
Then I saw red. There was no fucking chance of that happening. I wasn't going to abandon him without a fight. Every bitter memory I had, every time I had been called queer or fag, all the anger I had felt when Amanda told me what The Restoration Movement had done, every time I had felt abandoned or felt as if I had abandoned someone, it all came crashing out in an animalistic scream of rage. It was a Berserkers call to war.
I can't remember all the details, whatever happened was just a hazy blur, but when I came to my senses, I was covered in blood. Bodies littered the cabins floor and I was facing the Preying Mantic. I screamed my rage at him, and the front of his pants started to get wet. I pinned him to the wall with the machete, right through the once sneering face. It was David's voice that brought me back to total normality.
"Hey buddy. It's okay. You can calm down now."
Funny thing is, I felt better. The weight of the fear and abandonment I had been feeling since the hospital was gone. I walked out into a thunder storm and let the rain wash me clean. Once all the blood was gone, I began to notice I was covered in grazes from where bullets had brushed passed me. Once the adrenaline was gone, I began to feel them. I hobbled to a tent with the Red Cross symbol painted on the side and began to clean the wounds.
I think I might have dozed off, because next thing I knew, the storm had ended. It was dark outside, but I found a lamp on one of the tables. I flicked it on, and began to search the other tents. There were five in total, including the medical tent. Two were sleeping areas. I found some fresh clothes there. The third one I entered, larger than the rest, housed two vehicles. A four door car and a van. Good for making a getaway, I suppose. The last tent was by far the most interesting. It was a prison of sorts. Three of the cages were occupied. Two black guys with dreadlocks, one of them in a wheelchair, occupied the cages near the entrance. The third cage was occupied by...
"Kurt?" I breathed, kneeling in front of his door.
He was fast asleep. I found a set of keys and opened his door. I examined him. He seemed unharmed, except for two of his fingers, which were bent at odd angles. I'd need to set them. When I touched them, Kurt shuddered and opened his eyes. He blinked at me for a moment, then gave a cry of delight and threw his arms around me, burying his head in my neck. I hugged him back. He kept sobbing "You're alive. You're alive," over and over again. When his crying stopped, one of the black dudes said:
"Hey, mon, let us out. I and I is cramped in here."
"I found two Rastafarians," Kurt whispered.
After I had set Kurt's fingers, I turned to the two Rastafarians.
"So, what's your story?" I asked them.
"Pah, I and I is trying to outrun Babylon's destruction with me brother," said the one in the wheelchair.
"Outrun?" I said, cocking an eyebrow. He looked at me.
"If I and I could not wheel faster than a ghoul, would I and I still be breaten?" he asked.
"Suppose not," I said. "Do you know is there a radio around here? I need to get in contact with someone."
"There be one at the back of the tent. Our herb should be there," the one with two working legs said.
When I clicked it on, a voice crackled through.
"Mattii, you there? Mattii, this is Wolfy, report!"
I changed frequencies.
"Major, you there?" I broadcast. It took a few seconds for Major Noose to respond.
"Charles, is that you? Are you okay?"
"A little bruised but okay. Where are you?" I asked
"I'm in Harrisburg. It's a tree quarter of an hour's drive from where we were on the highway."
She gave me the directions.
"I'll meet you there!"
I then turned to the two Rasta's.
"You guys want to get away from The Restoration Movement?"
(Somewhere in North Carolina)
Joseph Costello reviewed the transcript the radio operator had given him.
"So, the last transmission from our southern spearhead was that someone they had reclaimed had gone insane and was killing someone?"
"This is bad. We can't let anyone think they can fight back against us. It also gives us an opportunity to rid ourselves of some unwanted trouble makers. Give this information to Butch. Tell him he is to go straight away with a team to track and kill this renegade. One more thing- tell him to take Jebadia Woodward with him."
Authors Note: Special mention to iWolfy and Mattii-Richards. iWolfy because she reviewed freddyburn's work, and Mattii because he is a constant reviewer.