The obelisk was a tall, granite structure, gated by a round cast-iron fence. It was on a once green patch of dead grass at the center of a traffic circle. Somehow, the buildings still were intact after five years. The men stood on one side of the traffic circle, directly across from the supermarket. In front of the supermarket, not much had changed, except for a pile of dead human bodies surrounding the corpse of some large, crocodilian behemoth, the tentacles on its squidlike face splayed limply on the ground. The behemoth was getting eaten by a very much alive billhook.
The billhook stood over eight feet tall, its purple, armored back turned away from the men. The Gargoyles howled around it impotently, waiting for the brute to finish feeding. The billhook's head was submerged in the behemoth's carcass, its hooked arms holding open the wound.
"What the fuck?" Whispered Chirag. McCracken and Brown exchanged glances, then the three men ducked into an alley.
"Alright, I gotta be honest," sighed McCracken "It looks like we're up shit's creek."
"But, who are those people there?" Chirag demanded.
"Who knows who they are?" Brown locked eyes with Chirag. "Maybe they're other survivors. Maybe the Army's busted through the fog, and we're all gonna get rescued tomorrow. Right now, son we need to focus on that store." Chirag lowered his gaze. All things considered, Brown was right. They needed to get past that billhook.
"Okay. Okay." Chirag racked his brains as hard as he could. "We have two problems. One, The billhook that's snacking there. Two, the gargoyles that are waiting for him to finish. The gargoyles are pretty easy. Soon as the billhook's gone, they'll be busy tearing that behemoth's carcass to shreds. A couple of bullets'll be enough to scare them away."
"That leave's the billhook." McCracken pondered this for a moment. "We need to hit its belly, and the only way that's gonna happen is if we can get its attention, and pump it with as much lead as possible. The creatures move slowly, but if that beast closes the gap between it and us, then we're six different kinds of fucked."
"Okay," Brown peaked outside to take a look at the square. So far, nothing had changed. "Here's the plan: McCracken's gonna get the billhook's attention. Then, as soon as it shows its belly, Mr. McCracken and I are going to waste that thing. While we're doing that, Chirag here is going to try and scare off the gargoyles and secure the entrance to the store. Everyone understand? Okay, let's get to it."
The men crept back to the traffic circle. They split up and tiptoed along the road's edges, Chirag going clockwise, the other men counterclockwise. McCracken knelt on the ground to pick up a piece of rubble, then chucked it at the billhook. The rubble plonked dully off the creature's carapace.
The creature paused its feeding, then, turned around, croaking horribly, a hoarse, guttural, crow-like sound. It then started waddling towards them, in awkward, clumsy, but rapid steps. It spread its arms wide apart and roared loudly, some animal act of posturing meant to scare the men away.
But neither McCracken nor Brown were here to posture.
McCracken and Brown got down on one knee, and started shooting. The gargoyles immediately flew of their perches, yipping and baying with hunger. The sound of wingbeats and tearing flesh was drowned out by the loud booms of the guns. Chirag couldn't see how his comrades were faring, but the billhook stopped moving towards them. Chirag braced his shotgun against his shoulder, then took aim at the frenzied gargoyles.
Blam!. The recoil made his shot go wide, and the stock kicked his shoulder like a mule. Gargoyles were about five feet tall, with wingspans of equal length, large enough that Chirag managed hit one. The wounded gargoyle collapsed on top of the behemoth's corpse, yelping and whimpering as its compatriots tore it apart.
Chirag was nearly deafened by the blast. Disoriented, he got on one knee, like McCracken and Brown did, squeezing the trigger and racking the pump mechanically. He managed to kill a few, but eventually, they gave up, and flew away.
The billhook was sure enough dead. It was flopped over on its back like a dead spider, the soft underbelly peppered with holes. But beside it lay what was left of Brown and McCracken. Brown's head was gone, and the neck ended in a ragged, oozing stump. McCracken was simply torn in half, the body's torso at least five feat away from the legs. The torso lay facedown, arms outstretched, desperately clawing away from the monster.
Chirag stared in shock for what felt like eternity. Then he doubled over and threw up.
Chirag didn't have the stomach to loot his friends' corpses. Even though the mine dwellers needed those guns and ammo, the bodies were too fresh, the sight of them too painful. Instead, he walked over to the older, drier corpses. Hopefully, they weren't anyone he knew.
Chirag tried to ignore the fact the corpses had no faces, even though the gleaming, yellow grins seemed to leer at him, mocking his pathetic attempt to sustain his friends and family on these withered old husks. Their torsos were also ripped open, broken ribs jutting out in odd angles, like a sideways, snaggletoothed mouth. The sickly sweet stench of decay made Chirag heave a couple of times, but he gritted his teeth, violently ripping off clothes and backpacks, prying open cold, stiff hands. Turn it off. He told himself. Forget that these were people. People who might've known. Forget that this corpse has a wedding ring just like Mr. Donnelly, your middle school bus driver. Or that corpse looks like a young woman, with the same red hair as Jessie Kaplan, who you had a crush on in kindergarten. Don't even look at them. Just what they're wearing.
But Chirag began to notice something fishy. The people closer to the store's entrance weren't armed with anything but baseball bats and fire-axes. He found a few pistols and cartridges, but no other firearms. And they all seemed to be peppered with tiny holes. Bullet holes.
On the other hand, the corpses further away from the store and closer to the obelisk and behemoth's corpse were dressed in camouflage patterned clothing, with tactical vests adorned with several ammo pouches. Unlike the corpses by the store entrance, most of these corpses seemed to be covered with bite or claw marks. And they all had military weapons. M16 and AK rifles, some tactical looking shotguns, and so on. Chances were that the rifles were only semiautomatics, given that these guys seemed more a militia than actual military. But still, pretty powerful weapons to be carrying around Alexandria.
But most disturbing was how the militia corpses were practically bathing in shell casings.
From what Chirag could surmise, the militia massacred the people in the grocery store, then were attacked and eaten by monsters. Chirag was overcome by horror and disgust. Alexandria, pre-arrival of the mist, had 30,000 people. Of which fifty to a hundred settled in the mines after the mist came. How the fuck did these militia jackoffs decide that shooting people was the best course of action. There as no way that resources were that low in town. Not enough to justify killing someone else.
The thought of resources brought Chirag back to reality. As screwed up as it was, people were depending on him. He had to get food and supplies, but so far, none of the corpses had anything of the sort. Plenty of stuff good for killing people, definitely, but nothing useful to help them live.
Chirag looked inside the store. He saw the carpet of thick, greenish-grey webbing that coated the insides of the store. Oblong cocoons hung from the ceiling. But most disconcerting was a large, smeared bloodstain that streaked further down into the back of the store. If Chirag wanted to get inside, a flashlight would be useful, at the very least to see if any manticores lurked in the shadows.
In a stroke of luck, Chirag realized that the corpse he knelt above, just so appended to have some kind of AK with flashlight AND a laser sight. Chirag laid down his shotgun, then stripped off his bandoliers, jamming them into his backpack. He then undid the corpse's tactical vest and strapped it on. It was heavy and uncomfortable, but at the very least, he was better protected for what might be inside the store.