Chapter 9 - Entry 6
Mid-June should have been warm and sunny, even in Connecticut. Instead there was a thick cold mist clinging stubbornly to the ground beneath blood-red skies. The sun’s weak, unnatural rays turned the fog’s water vapors into fucked up little rainbows that a kid with too few crayons might draw.
I made coffee and ate light, dreading the task set before me as I stood within the Home surrounded by people who would never wake. Clothes felt coarse and rough against my scars. Soft carpets and rugs tore the soles of my feet to shreds. The scent of unwashed bodies, many having emptied their bladders where they lay, burned my nose and killed the hunger gnawing in my stomach.
A few zombies skulls were introduced to a shovel’s head when I stepped outside. Absolute stillness and silence followed the brief explosion of violence. Each step my bare feet took seemed painfully loud. The soft whisper of fabric from my windbreaker felt as though the earthquakes were beginning again.
The van’s diesel engine nearly made my ears bleed.
I piled the first load of comatose villagers into the back as carefully as I could and drove slowly down the road leading from my forest. Bodies shifted as the van’s big tires dipped into potholes and bounced over fallen branches but no one complained. A zombie disappeared beneath the bumper before I parked a few hundred feet from the spot where asphalt ended and my road began.
Rope. Bodies. Trees. That was my world for several long hours as I made trip after trip to and from the Home. I spaced them out until a lengthy stretch of my road was flanked by sleeping forms on either side. Most were sitting, backs against a tree and held in place by nylon cords tied across their chests. A few stood, makeshift harnesses crossing under armpits to hold them upright.
All slumbered peacefully.
All would eventually die of hunger and lack of water.
I wandered down the road, HK in one hand and a cigarette in the other, and inspected my work. Steam from hot springs moved slowly beyond the treeline and tickled at the feet of my tribe. My people. All arranged like silent roadside watchers of some ghastly parade. The haunted forest vibe was in full swing. Halloween every fucking day.
Hope and Molly were the only ones absent from the freakshow. They’d get graves.
I picked a spot beneath a huge, twisted and gnarled tree that sat near the Home. I’d be able to look out the kitchen window and see it every morning. Shovel met dirt for a few hours as I dug two deep holes. Lunch met queasy stomach after that.
The villagers had gathered a lot of clothing in those first few days before the zombies noticed them again. I picked a black, silky dress and struggled to get it onto Molly’s body after I’d given her a long, gentle bath. Silk sticks to damp skin. She’d never worn makeup while we were together so I left her face alone. A little gel styled her hair the way she liked. I left her feet bare.
Though I cared greatly for Hope, I didn’t bother to give her the same treatment. Instead I wrapped her in a homemade quilt someone had scavenged. Her red locks peeked out of the top in wild, untamed curls. Dark freckles stood out in sharp contrast to the yellow skin surrounding them.
The mist had mostly burned away by late afternoon as I sat outside with Molly and Hope. Their heads were in my lap, bodies laid out on white sheets spread over dying grass. Both slept peacefully, chests rising and falling slowly as my own threatened to explode.
“I can’t watch you starve to death. I can’t risk it if you can still feel what’s happening to your bodies.” My hands trembled as they settled over both mouths and noses. “I won’t let you suffer.”
Thumbs and forefingers pinched nostrils shut while scarred palms made tight seals over warm lips.
“Just go to sleep.”
There was no reaction from their bodies as I suffocated them. No gasping for breath. No abrupt spasms that sent limbs flailing. Only the stilling of their chests and a closing of their eyes.
No pulse. No heartbeats. Just two dead bodies with their heads in my lap.
I cried like a bitch after killing them.
It took awhile before I could move. It took even longer before I could place them into the ground, each wrapped in white silk sheets.
The shovel felt like an abomination when I reached for it. Screaming, I threw it into the woods and sunk my bare hands into the moist soil. Sunset was an hour away by the time I finished filling the graves.
“Sweet dreams baby. I love you.”
I didn’t bother to take the van as I made my way back down the road. The cigarette tasted stale. Its smoke seemed cold. Like the gun in my other hand. At least until I started shooting.
One by one I killed them all. Mercy killing. Murder. Genocide of a new race. It didn’t matter what I called it. My mind was numb by then.
One by one I put a bullet between their eyes, walking slowly down the road and moving the barrel to either side. The gun would buck. A pair of red eyes would close. Over and over again. Twenty one times.
Until I saw movement.
I’d nearly reached the end of the line and could see the asphalt road where it met with the dirt beneath my feet. Three were left. One was moving. Then coughing. Then crying out for help.
Something broke inside me as Paulie lifted his head and called my name. There was confusion on his features when he tried to move and found himself bound to a tree. Eyes grew wide when he saw the others, each shot in the head and forming a line of bodies on either side of the road.
“You can’t be awake Paulie,” I heard myself say.
My mind spun. Vertigo threatened to bring me down and some part of me knew if I fell, I’d never get back up. A crack inside my mind widened and for a brief moment raw agony escaped.
“You can’t be awake.” I whispered again.
He’d been one of the first to fall. Three weeks in a coma. Three weeks. Would the others have awoken after three weeks? Would Molly have…
“Help me Jaeger!” He cried.
The gun bucked and another pair of eyes closed forever. Things inside me tore in jagged lines. Walls made of razorblades exploded outwards and ripped my brain apart in a shredding cyclone of thoughts and emotions. The scream that burst from my throat was a raw and primal thing. It echoed in the forest, mutated and was reborn as unhinged laugher.
The taste of chemicals and metal filled my mouth as I put the barrel to my lips. It burned, still hot from the round I’d fired into Paulie’s skull. A finger caressed the trigger, eager to squeeze and kill again. My eyes closed.
Then it all sucked back inside like a movie rewound; trek reversed until walls and chains bound the demons set free. Maliqe’s face. Mary’s scent. Molly’s taste. Hope’s childish laugher. They howled madly in my mind for awhile before quieting down until only silence and utter numbness remained.
The barrel pulled free from my lips and moved to take aim at the next villager in line. My finger itched then squeezed.
I finished off the last two and shuffled back to the Home. A trail of clothes and weapons fell in my wake on the way to the shower. No matter how hot I made the water, it couldn’t warm my core. No matter how bad the scalding burned, it couldn’t make me feel.
The fireplace had gone cold when I padded back downstairs. Arms moved of their own accord, stroking a new fire to life as I sat naked and numb on the floor. The lingering scent of unwashed bodies clung to the walls and made my eyes water. Hunger gnawed gently inside my stomach.
The sun finally set, darkness thick and heavy beyond the fire’s flickering light. A cold wind blew outside, shaking Plexiglas windows and setting dying trees to creaking beyond the Home’s stone walls.
It should have been sunny and warm, even in Connecticut, by mid June.