|Posted on October 22, 2010 at 2:42 AM|
Author's Note: this is the third and final installment of this trilogy, and a brand-new work, exclusive to My Emerald Dragon dot com
I was sprawled on the tar roof of the warehouse on my belly, squinting down the sights of the rifle with my one eye. I lined up one lurching, drooling target, squeezed the trigger, and watched him fall to the ground with his skull shattered. It pained me to kill my own kind, but I had to defend our stronghold. They would gladly overrun us for our wealth of food.
To my left, Antonio squinted along the barrel of his own rifle. He fired twice, and two more of them dropped. I put my eye back to my sights. By the time we were done, the dozen would-be invaders lay in crumpled heaps on the ground.
Antonio jumped to his feet. He was tall and good looking, and still retained most of his appendages. I had found him, wandering aimlessly, on one of my expeditions from the warehouse to search for weapons and supplies. Zelda and I had taken him in to help with the defenses. I had no idea if his name was really Antonio, as neither of us had the power of speech. But he looked like an Antonio to me.
We went down to the yard in front of the warehouse where the crumpled carcasses were sprawled. Antonio and I dragged them to the fire pit and piled them up over a layer of kindling. Soon they were ablaze, and a fine white ash was drifting into the sky. The first few times I had shot invaders, I made the mistake of leaving them on the ground. By morning, they were gone. Apparently our kind can not be permanently killed, even by a shot to the head. It takes fire to reduce us to our component atoms.
I watched the column of ashes rising into the sky. It almost looked triumphant. This was the first band of invaders we’d seen in quite a while. They seemed to be thinning out. I wondered if that was good news or bad. If the numbers of our kind are dwindling, it could mean that the authorities have figured out how to eliminate us. That would imply that they’d be coming for us soon enough. I should probably make another trip to the abandoned Wal-Mart where I found the rifles, and see what else I could scrounge up for our defenses.
Back inside our small apartment within the warehouse, Zelda had dinner on the table: a crate of Spam, with an open can on each of our plates. Antonio and I gulped down one can each before even sitting down. Then we settled in and gorged ourselves until we were full. The Spam helped to keep the hunger, the intense and unrelenting hunger for human flesh, at bay. It allowed us to function almost as normal humans. Almost. Zelda ate more daintily, shoveling chunks of Spam into her moist mouth with a battered fork. Her long blonde hair framed her pretty half-face, and her blue eyes stared dreamily at Antonio.
My hunger momentarily sated, I noticed another feeling: jealousy. I hated the way she stared at him. Sure, he was handsome and relatively intact physically, but she was mine! I stood up suddenly, knocking my chair backwards, and growled at her. She jerked her head around and regarded me with her usual vacant stare. I grabbed her arm with my one hand and dragged her to the bedroom.
Slamming the door shut, I tossed her onto the bed. She spread her legs wide, and I crawled up between them. She tried to bite my shoulder, and I clubbed her with my stump. Clumsily, I made love to her the best I could, given the damaged condition of my genitals and our various missing body parts. It wasn’t particularly good for either of us, but I felt the wave of jealousy dissipate.
I left her on the bed, disheveled and half dressed, and went to check on our defenses. I wondered if our next invaders would be more of our own kind, following the scent of Spam, or members of the authorities coming to destroy us. Either way, we had to be ready.
I made my rounds of the warehouse, checking the condition of the bars and boards covering the windows. I checked the locks on all the doors. I checked the pit where we bury the empty Spam cans, attempting to keep any hint of the scent from reaching the ultra-sensitive nostrils of the undead hoards. All seemed to be in order.
Returning to the living quarters, I saw no sign of Zelda. Or of Antonio for that matter. Then I heard it: sounds of grunting and pounding coming from the bedroom. My fist clenched and my stump waving in the air, I burst into the bedroom. He was on top of her, his pelvis gyrating, vigorously giving her what I never could. She stared at me with blank eyes, but her mouth opened and her throat convulsed in soundless, mirthless laughter.
Enraged, I fled the apartment, and ran out the door of the warehouse. I ran, in my lurching, halting gate, without purpose, without thought; with nothing but rage. I lurched past the smoldering remnants of the fire in the pit, and out across the field. I flung myself on the ground, and pounded the turf with my fist. I ground my stump into my eye socket, wishing I had the ability to cry.
As I lay there on the turf, I thought for a moment that I could feel my heart pounding. But I knew that was impossible; my heart hadn’t beaten for ages. I listened carefully. It was the ground that was shaking. I struggled to my feet and gazed into the distance.
It was a caravan of soldiers. Some were on foot, some on horseback, some in tanks. They were spread out in a line nearly a mile wide, marching across the plain. They were still far off, but if I could see them, they could probably see me. I lurched at top speed back to the warehouse.
Wailing like a banshee, I burst in through the door of the apartment and banged on the furniture to raise the alarm. Antonio and Zelda ran out of the bedroom, zipping up and trying to smooth their ragged clothing. I waved toward the window, toward our advancing attackers.
All three of us fled to the roof this time, each armed with a rifle and several boxes of ammo. There wasn’t much hope, but they wouldn’t take us without a fight. We sprawled out on the tar surface of the roof, rifles steady and eyes peeled, waiting for the targets to come into range.
I sighted down the barrel. I tried to pick out the leader of the approaching platoon. I squeezed off a shot. It missed by a mile. They were still too far away for our rifles. Unfortunately, they were not too far away for their own weapons. Bullets were soon flying closely over our heads.
I rolled behind an air conditioning compressor for cover. Antonio pulled Zelda behind a chimney. The bastard’s hands were all over her. If we got out of this spot, I swore I would shoot and burn him myself.
Antonio poked his head out from behind the chimney and sited his rifle. He squeezed off several rounds in quick succession, none of which hit a target. But a machine gun blast came up from the advancing line of soldiers and ripped his skull in half. He dropped to the tar surface of the roof, his brains spilling out in a great gray mess.
Zelda ran to him, wailing in pain and fear. The half-moon of her face was twisted nearly beyond recognition. Then she ran toward the front edge of the roof, hysterical. Machine gun fire riddled her body from several locations. She fell in a sprawled mess, her skull shattered and her limbs nearly severed from her torso.
It was up to me now. If I could repel the troops, maybe I could patch her back together. But Antonio would go right to the bonfire. My face grim, I threw myself down and crawled, army-style, toward the front edge of the roof, maintaining as low a profile as possible. Bullets whirred about my ears like bumble-bees. The troops were close now, so very close. I could smell their flesh; I longed to eat it. I shot, round after round. Some scored hits, and a few soldiers dropped. But most of my rounds bounced harmlessly off body armor. Still the troops came. They were nearly upon the warehouse by now. I focused on the leader again, astride a huge horse. I would take him out, and then they would be in disarray.
There was a sound behind me. I whipped my neck around, and there was a soldier standing at the far side of the roof. The sneaky bastard had circled around the building and climbed up. I rose to my knees. He raised his pistol and pointed at my head. He squeezed.
I didn’t feel the bullet as it ripped through my skull. I could barely feel anything these days. But I lost all control of my motor functions, and fell to the tar. I couldn’t move a muscle. I lay there as more troops climbed to the roof. I heard them talking, orders being barked.
Zelda, Antonio, and I were unceremoniously tossed off the roof to the ground. One of the troops produced an axe and proceeded to hack our limbs off our bodies, and to sever our heads. It didn’t hurt. Our parts were tossed into the fire pit, on top of some broken-up pallets. Fortunately, my head came to rest with my eye facing Zelda’s head. I stared hard at her, to see if she retained any consciousness. I couldn’t tell.
They splashed gasoline over us, and a soldier came up with a flame thrower. I wondered if burning would hurt. I was guessing not. The tongue of flame licked out, and we were ablaze. I was wrong about the burning; it hurt like the Dickens. I rolled my eye toward Zelda. I thought I saw her eye twitch a little. She still loves me! My consciousness was ebbing, but I managed to hang on to one final thought as the blanket of oblivion took me: Zelda! I will love you always!
The column of white ash rose slowly into the sky, and arced lazily over the countryside. Eventually, it was absorbed into a fluffy white cloud that happened to be drifting by, the small ash particles binding with the water vapor. The cloud drifted on the breeze, and was soon miles away.
Days later, the cloud encountered a sudden low pressure system, which dropped the ambient temperature below the dew point. This occurred directly over the water reservoir of the tiny town of Rock Ridge. The water vapor condensed, and thousands of tiny raindrops fell earthward, splashing to the water’s surface to create a beautiful network of ripples, spreading in ever expanding circles as they merged gently with the town’s drinking water supply.