Chapter 8 - Entry 6
May 11th cont.
“I’m never going to get a fucking break. One thing after another. Life was so much easier back in prison.” I mumbled darkly as the three Infected were led inside by Molly and Hope. Even Frank shuffled in behind them, leaving me alone outside with a fresh cigarette and sour mood.
I gave them half an hour to take showers and put on fresh clothes before heading inside. With combed hair and clean faces, they looked like regular people. Except for the skin and eyes. I could relate.
“So its been what? Two weeks since you had any zombie burgers and Messiah cocktails?” I asked once seated on the couch beside Molly. Our guests were at the dining table nearby chowing on soup.
“About that, yes.”
I nodded to the woman, whose name was Elizabeth, and leaned my head back on the couch until my gaze met the ceiling. “And you’re still yellow.”
“The added strength is mostly gone but our pain receptors still seem a bit dulled. To answer your question though, no. Our physical appearance hasn’t reverted to normal.” Shakespeare paused long enough to shovel in another mouthful of soup before adding, “I fear the change may be permanent.”
“Do you know where the main group is now?” Molly asked beside me, her head coming to rest on my shoulder.
We talked for a few hours, discussing various locations Messiah usually led his flock and a basic schedule of their daily lives. Apparently he liked to keep them moving, probably to keep folks off balance and more dependent on him. Likely made it easier to find new recruits for the Kool-Aid party too.
“When do you want to leave?” Elizabeth asked later that night as the sun began to set. She’d come to stand beside me on the tower’s roof where I stood watching the growing darkness.
“Your timing is pretty shitty. If the Fort hadn’t just been wrecked by a large, heavily armed group, I’d probably go hunt down your Messiah tonight. Right now I’m sorta hesitant to go off and leave my home undefended.”
“We can stay with Molly, Hope and Frank while you’re away to help protect the place.”
I shook my head and gave her a long, sideways look. “No offense but I don’t trust you fuckers yet. All three of you are coming with me when I go hunting.”
“I understand. So back to my original question. When do you want to leave?”
“In an hour.”
This time I wasn’t fucking around, armed with a pair of handguns, hunting rifle and our last HK SMG. The three Infected were given knives and baseball bats but I didn’t trust them enough to hand out guns. Not that it mattered since I doubted they’d be doing any fighting.
We headed off towards the north, making quick time through the woods in near darkness. To their credit, the three seemed to have some minor skill in woodcraft, footfalls barely audible behind me as I ghosted along.
Our first stop was the campground where I’d first introduced an Infected to a bullet. They were there, set up like before. My hackles rose the instant I saw them and I spun to meet the three following me with a gun in each hand. They reacted with surprise and raised their hands. The usual ‘We didn’t know’ speeches followed.
It all felt like a trap but the fear I smelled rolling off the trio seemed sincere. Still, I wasn’t taking any chances and had them tied to trees, unarmed, a few minutes later.
“Please Jaeger. Don’t leave us like this. They’ll kill us if we’re found.” Shakespeare pleaded before I gagged him with rope.
I patted his head and smiled. “Then you better keep quiet so they don’t.”
The circus had gotten bigger since the last time they were in town. About forty Infected were milling about the campground, making preparations for a feast. Zombies were there again, locked away in fencing that ran between the campsite’s cabins. Six regular humans were in a similar cage a few doors down.
I used the hunting rifle’s scope to get a better look after moving away from my three escorts. Messiah was nowhere to be seen and the happy yellow campers seemed unaware of my presence. Not even the little kids running around spared a glance towards the treeline where most might assume I’d approach.
Twenty minutes passed before I moved again, circling around the camp’s perimeter until I found a better vantage point. From the new position I could clearly see the prisoner’s faces. Survivors of the Fort one and all.
Cleo, the pagan witch, was among them. Battered and bruised but somehow still alive. A pang of guilt for leaving her behind punched my stomach as I watched her talk to the others. Marley and Mary were thankfully absent.
I settled down on my stomach and got ready to kill; pilling up dirt to cradle the hunting rifle and lining up a shot at the pavilion’s table where I assumed Messiah would stand. The HK on full auto laid to one side. Both handguns rested on rocks in easy reach. Another half hour passed before things changed.
Unfortunately not for the better.
A commotion announced the return of a dozen Infected armed with spears and bows. They had five prisoners stumbling along among them and the irony of life made my ass clench in expectation as the rifle’s scope zoomed in. Surprisingly enough, it wasn’t Mary and Marley . Instead it was Molly, Hope and the three infected who’d asked for my help. Cursing under my breath, I watched as the whole camp gathered around the group and the minor celebration that followed.
With no sign of Messiah and no one in any apparent mortal danger, I stayed put and continued to watch as the prisoners joined the first group of captives in their pen. Neither of the girls looked harmed aside from a busted lip on Molly’s scowling face. One of the men disappeared inside a cabin after the welcome wagon settled down a bit. He remained inside for another ten minutes before stepping back out looking less than pleased.
I couldn’t make out the words he barked but the camp got busy in no time at all. Final preps for the feast were handled, including a fresh basting of the spitted zombie that cooked in the pavilion’s pit. The scent made my stomach grumble.
After an eternity, the children were led away to one cabin and most of the women took their seat at the table. Two groups of men, six in each and armed with spears and bows, split off and entered the woods. The remaining dozen or so began taking the prisoners out one by one, forcing them to sit at the table and chaining their arms and legs to its metal frame.
Once done, the group mustered outside a cabin door and the Messiah’s pale bald head briefly came into view. They surrounded him like an honor guard and slowly made their collective way towards the table. No clear shot presented itself.
A silence fell over the camp as pale hands rose into the air and heads bowed. I could hear movement in the woods around me as the two parties search the area. Presumably for me. Finally Messiah spoke, his voice loud and clear.
“We know you’re out there Jaeger. We knew the minute you left your home. Won’t you come join us in Communion?”
Shoulders and heads blocked my view but I could see his smiling face in my mind’s eye. My trigger finger itched, waiting for a chance to blow his fucking head off.
Two men detached themselves from the rest after a few moments passed. One began slicing meat off the zombie. The other held a crystal pitcher of fluid. It wasn’t hard to guess what was inside.
A twig snapped behind me. Dead leafs rustled to my left. Still I kept the crosshairs where Messiah’s head should be and waited, watching as struggling prisoners were force fed blood and meat one by one.
The pair of men neared Hope just as I’d decided to open fire. Naturally that’s when one of the search parties found me. Something heavy twapted my head before I took the shot and stars filled my vision. Somehow I managed to roll over and bring the rifle up to block the next hit. It bucked hard against my chest when I emptied it point blank into a yellow face.
I was on my feet a moment later, HK in hand and firing as the group closed on my position. Three more were dead before an arrow hit my chest. The last two dropped a heartbeat later.
The other group came running out of the woods towards me before there was time to rip the arrow free. My thumb switched the HK to single fire mode and six more bodies met six more rounds.
I spun then and got ready to meet the onrush from the camp. None came. Nothing had changed. Except the pair of men force-feeding the gruesome feast to their prisoners had reached the end and were serving Messiah’s faithful followers.
Hope was doubled over at the table, vomiting violently as a woman held her head. Molly and Cleo sat staring at one another, expressions unreadable from my position. I didn’t bother to look at the others. They just didn’t matter to me.
Both hands had pistols in them as I stepped out of the woods and started walking towards the pavilion. Heads turned my way but I ignored them while Messiah’s vanguard formed a line between he and I, spears pointed outwards. It made me laugh.
“You can’t be fucking serious. Get out of my way.”
“Ah Jaeger. So nice of you to join us.” Came air from the asshole. “Now you can have a seat with the others. One big happy family.”
Maliqe’s little gift made the next two seconds rather fun. One of those ridiculous movie moments when the star lifts both guns, spreads her arms wide, and opens fire. Only it wasn’t a movie. Three shots from each pistol dropped three spear-wielding guards on each side. Messiah blinked in surprise as his meat shield crumpled to the ground with smoking holes in their foreheads.
First I blew out his shins. Then a pair of holes appeared in his upraised palms. Before his body hit the ground, another shot turned his crotch to hamburger.
People sat in shock, mouths hanging open in the silence that followed. I took the opportunity to load a pair of fresh clips and light up a cigarette. Messiah moaned weakly in a puddle of his own blood.
“So yeah. Get my friends uncuffed. Who normally handles the cooking around here?”
No one raised their hand but a few heads turned towards one guy where he sat on the ground.
I nodded my chin towards him. “Change in the menu. Messiah burgers tonight. Well done. Get him spitted before he bleeds out. I want him to feel the burn. Everyone knows the words to Kumbaya, right?”