Fall of the Risen – Week 21 – Clark
“Stop!” Murray yelled.
I hit the brakes hard. The schlepper, secured in the truck bed, revealed its immense weight and threatened to make the truck skid forward.
“What the hell’s the matter?” I asked.
We were mere feet beyond the vault door. Murray had already closed it with a remote he kept in his pocket, but he jumped out of the truck and walked back to the door, placing one palm against the steel.
“Dammit,” I said, stepping out of the truck and following. “If you don’t want to go, I’m not going to make you.”
“No, no,” he said, waving dismissively. “I want to go. I need to go. I just… I need a minute.”
“Okay. I’ll wait in the truck.”
He stood for long moments. It wasn’t what I would have expected as a good-bye. I would have thought he’d want to walk through each room he spent time in, see parts of his home that he might look at for the last time, and let the sights and sounds trigger fond memories.
Murray just stood there with a hand on the door, his shoulders slumped, eyes locked in a stare.
Then, without a word or even a sound, he turned and walked back to the truck.
I scrambled back behind the steering wheel and looked to Murray. What could I say to a man that just left the home he’d known for what was probably decades?
Before I could open my mouth, Murray motioned for us to move forward.
The truck climbed the ramp, out of the underground tunnel, and back into the daylight. Murray closed his eyes and turned away from the passenger-side window. After a few moments, when he had adjusted, he couldn’t tear his eyes away from the window.
I wondered what it would be like to see the world after so many years underground.
“Doing okay?” I asked with a nervous laugh. What a stupid thing to say.
“You live a certain way for so long that you don’t think it could ever be different. You know there are different ways to live, but you don’t think you could do yours any other way. Or maybe you just don’t want it to change. Hell, I don’t know. Then, one day, you just change. It’s still hard, but it’s not impossible, even though it seemed that way. You know?”
It wasn’t long ago that I was cruising down the country roads near Sisco with Jack riding in the passenger seat. He would crack a joke, I’d pretend I didn’t think it was funny, and then try to say something funnier. This would go back and forth all day long, denying each other laughs until they were impossible to contain.
It was my comfortable normal—at least as normal as life could get in a world of walking corpses. It wasn’t normal according to the old world, but it was my new normal, and I craved it.
Instead, Murray rode beside me as we drove away from his home, intent on waging war on mine. Maybe. I hoped it wouldn’t come to that, but there was little chance in things ending without spilled blood.
I could avoid it if I walked away, but that would mean leaving my friends to a fate I knew nothing about except that it wouldn’t be good.
Jack was my best friend. He’d do just about anything for me. He risked his life to try and save mine. Where did that leave him? A prisoner? The next one to be walled? I had to save him from whatever trouble he was in.
Then there was Dawn. I didn’t know what Dawn was to me. Sure, she had always been my friend, but I wondered if she was more than that. The days leading up to me being walled had been… confusing. I had never been too good with feelings and crap like that. All I knew was that I had them, and they made me stupid whenever I was around her.
“What the hell?” Murray blurted, pointing to the road ahead. A lone zombie was standing there, staring at nothing.
I started slowing the truck down gradually so the schlepper wouldn’t override me. Once I got to a full stop I grabbed my machete and stepped out of the truck. Murray jumped out of the other side and waved his arms.
“What are you going to do with that?” he asked. “This man is no threat. He needs help!”
“Remember that talk about zombies, Murr?” I pointed to the corpse, who had noticed us and was stumbling in our direction. “That’s one of them.”
Murray stared with eyes wide as it trudged forward despite the many injuries that would debilitate a normal man. It growled with each step, eyes of hatred and hunger locked onto Murray.
The poor old guy was frozen by a mixture of terror and fascination. I stepped forward, and the zombie turned toward me, hands raising for my throat. The tip of my machete entered under the chin and exited through the top of the skull. I swung the dead weight toward the side of the road and let go of everything except my machete, letting the rest fall into the grass.
“My, God,” Murray said. It was barely more than a whisper. “They got it right.”
“What? Who are you talking about?”
“The guys that made all those movies,” he said, still staring at the body of the zombie. “All of it. The way they move, the noises they make, the way they die. How the hell did they know all of that?”
I shrugged. “I don’t have any answers, but if you’re going to live in this world, you’ve got to learn to deal with these suckers. For now, at least. I had a plan, but… ah, nevermind.”
We got back into the truck. Murray’s eyes were still wide, though he didn’t really look at anything in particular. His breathing was a little fast and his arms seemed to wrap themselves around him. That was a feeling I remembered.
“Adjust quick, Murr. Where were going, there’s a whole lot more of them.”