Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Hunting August Moon - Chapter 22

Chapter 22
A quick rap on their door woke Maddie. Jed stirred and sluggishly pulled the thick blankets tighter around his body. The pounding on the door came again and Jed sat up.
Maddie pulled on her clothes. "Hang on. We're coming."
Jed looked at the dim light through his window, frosted on the outside edges of the panes. "It's pretty early." Climbing out of the sturdy oak four-post bed he pulled his clothes on, joining Maddie as she opened the door.
Claire stood there, her body tense and a small crease showing deeply between her eyebrows. "We have a problem."
"Must be bad to get us up this early," Jed said.
Claire agreed. "Yeah. Everyone is sick."
"Sick? Everyone?" asked Maddie.
"Well, I'm not sick, but everyone else. No, that's not right. Hopefully Sam isn't sick, either. I don't know where he is." Claire led them from the main house to the bunkhouse.
Jed grasped Claire's arm above the elbow and stopped her. "Claire? Please tell me this is food poisoning."
"No, whatever it is, it's much more than that. I saw something like this once before," Claire said moving forward, opening the door of the smaller house. "when the Z-virus hit."
The pungent smell of pine greeted them inside the door. A thick bundle of freshly cut pine branches hung on either side of the doorway.
Maddie indicated the branches as she entered the front. "August?"
Claire managed a weak smile. "He always said pine helps people, but he sometimes muttered about evil spirits too. I didn't think it could hurt."
Shelly smiled and waved as Jed and Maddie entered the main room. An old video, North by Northwest, played on the television. "I've always loved that movie," Maddie said as she sat next to Shelly on the couch. "Can I get you anything?" she asked.
Jed walked down the hallway in the back of the main room, looking into each of the bedrooms. Fae and Linda lay in their beds in the first room on the right. They were both sound asleep. Short, dry coughs interrupted Ted's ragged breathing across the hall. Nancy smiled when Jed looked in on her and she put a small book down on the bed, spine facing up.
"How you holding up, Nancy?" Jed asked, standing in the doorway.  He whispered as if he was visiting a library. "Can I get you anything?"
"A chocolate bar would be nice." They both grinned. "Other than that, I think I'm doing okay, but I'm tired and have a fever. A bit of a cough, too."
Jed rubbed his chin with his right hand, the stubble rough against his fingers. "Nancy, is this like the disease that killed Linda's husband and son?"
Nancy shook her head. "No, Jed. That was my first thought, but this is different. Sort of a cough and fever, and we're exhausted. What killed Beau was a lot worse. He and Antoine were throwing up, vomiting everything that didn't pass through them, if you know what I mean."
Jed bit his lower lip. "When did this hit you?" he asked.
Nancy paused. "Last night we started feeling bad, but thought perhaps we ate something. Around midnight I heard Fae coughing. She's having the hardest time, poor thing. Linda seems to be doing better than Fae, but Linda never complains." She coughed. "Ted felt bad sooner than the rest of us and went to bed right after dinner. I don't know how he's doing, honestly."
"I'll look in on him." Jed looked at the half-filled glass and the pitcher on the nightstand. "Do you need more water?" he asked.
"No," Nancy smiled. "I'm good, Jed. I'm sure I'll be up and around soon."
"Take your time, Nancy. There's no rush. We'll get through this."
Jed crossed the hallway and walked toward the single bed against the left wall, where Ted lay, half uncovered, his bare right foot sticking out of the covers. Jed put his palm against the older man's forehead, and pulled it away.
"You're pretty hot," Jed whispered to Ted.
Ted opened his eyes and tried to smile. "Thanks, but you're not my type." His deep chuckle changed to a cough and he shifted his view to the doorway of the room. "I feel much better than I did this morning," Ted added.
Sam stood in the doorway, leaning against the doorframe, his hands in the pockets of his black, washed-out jeans. Dirt covered some of his clothes.
Jed shook his head at Sam. "You move quiet," he said, his lips in a tight line.
"Wasn't trying to. Maybe you were concentrating," Sam said. "You do have other things on your mind."
Jed's eyes narrowed. "You're taking this pretty well. How are you feeling?"
Sam smiled. "Me? I feel fine - as good as when I got here." He looked at Jed. "How are you feeling? You look pale."
"I don't get sick. Vampires don't get sick. It's a perk." Jed coughed, covering his mouth with the sleeve of his shirt.
"Well, you sound like Ted did last night. And you do look pale." Sam's eyes glinted in the dim light of the room.
Jed's jaw tightened. "I feel fine. A little tired."
Sam shrugged. "Yeah, that's what I thought. You've got it, too."
"I've got what? What are you talking about?"
"The W virus. You've got the W virus, like everyone else here." Sam smiled. "I've seen it before, you know. Up at Fort Collins." He shook his head. "I left before it got bad up there…"
"What's going on here?" Maddie stood in the front part of the hallway, her hands on her hips, glaring at Sam.
Jed looked at Sam with a puzzled frown. "He knows what this is. He called it the W virus."
Sam shrugged and smiled. Maddie didn't smile back. "You should tell us what's going on, Sam."
"I'm on a sort of mission, Maddie." Sam pointed at Ted's lined face. "Want to talk somewhere a bit more …well – roomier?" He waved his hand at the small room. He pointed at Ted, who struggled to keep his eyes open and follow the conversation. "Maybe give Ted a little peace and quiet?"
Sam, Maddie, Jed and Claire stood on the porch of the main house while sparkling white snowflakes sporadically danced to the ground and disappeared. Sam sat down in the big wooden chair and leaned back, his feet on the railing.
"I was recruited to study the new civilization that is rising in this country," he said. "I'm perfect for the job. I like travel. I like people. I'm great at scavenging. So I started out on a mission from my boss to map out the new cities rising up. He likes to be informed."
Claire looked at Sam. "He's lying," she said, her face tight.
Sam looked at Claire and shrugged his shoulders. "Well, I might be leaving some things out, but I'm not lying."
Claire leaned against the railing on the porch and said nothing else. Maddie and Jed looked at each other.
"You know I was in Fort Collins a few months ago, but I didn't mention they were having some sort of crisis, a sickness or something. It started like this. Holden called it the 'W virus' but I don't know why."
"Why didn't you mention this before, Sam?" Maddie asked.
"I stayed with them a few weeks, Maddie. I took quarantine precautions. I did what I could. Fixed some machinery. Helped where they needed me. Went on a couple supply runs for Hemanth." Sam lowered his eyes and whispered. "It was pretty bad, though. Holden told me to leave, to get away from Fort Collins before I got infected."
"And you came here," Maddie said, her eyes narrow.
"That wasn't my original intent. I ran into Charlie and traveled with him a while. He had a lot of information on places he'd seen, so that helped me." He raised his hands, palms up. "Then there was the thing with the gun. And you know the rest."
"You're still lying," Claire accused.
"You can't be sure of that, Claire." Jed's face was pale and he sat down on the railing. "We need to know what to do for this, Sam. Tell us what Holden tried."
Sam cocked his head to one side, listening, and he said nothing.
Jed's voice sharpened "Sam, we need..."
Sam held up his hand. "I hear something, Jed." The rest of them turned in the direction that Sam indicated with the nod of his head, toward the road leading into Selah Ranch. Sam stood up and grunted. "Crap. I hate to shorten this conversation, but we've got some visitors, and it's not Jehovah's Witnesses."
"I don't hear anything, Sam." Jed looked at him.
"You will. They're coming pretty fast. You'll see them as soon as they hit that turn, but we'd better be ready by then."
"Trucks? Cars? What are we talking about?" Maddie already walked toward the main doorway to get weapons.
"No, Maddie. These visitors are on foot. I'd guess more than a dozen Z's." Sam sniffed the air as it shifted to come from the incoming road. "And I think most of them are pretty new."
The zombies moved at an easy, almost normal pace, most of them shuffling up the road toward Selah Ranch, the ones in front sniffing the air. They wore decent clothing, though some of their clothes had rips and tears. Signs of fighting marred their faces, with bruises and swellings that slowly turned black. Open wounds oozed reddish and yellow liquids that rolled thickly down their arms and legs, leaving dark glistening stains on their clothing.
The worst of it was they looked so human, so normal, except for their blank eyes.
Jed knelt on the front porch, his hunting rifle steadied against the thick boards of the top of the porch railing. He heard the zombies as they came into sight, the shuffling of feet and groaning of dozens of throats. Jed sighted his rifle and shot the first three in view through their heads, blood and gore spattering across the zombies nearest their falling comrades. The crack of the shots echoed against the buildings.
They kept coming, more appearing around the bend.
Loud, evenly-spaced shots sounded from the roof of the second house, zombies jerking at the impacts. An arrow caught a zombie in its hip. Jed glanced up and saw Nancy, pistol raised, firing into the oncoming group. Claire notched another razor-sharp hunting arrow, aimed and let loose in a well-practiced motion.
Maddie appeared on the second floor porch of the main building, a rifle in one hand and binoculars in the other. She leaned the rifle against the redwood railing and raised the binoculars to her eyes, scanning down the road. "I can only see a little around the bend." Lowering the binoculars, she leaned over the railing and shouted to Jed. "Those trees need to be topped again, Jed. I need a more clear view from here, but I can see the ones before the bend."
"It's on my list," Jed yelled back. "More pressing matters at the moment!"
Sam aimed his pistol at the oncoming group and grinned. "Always something, isn't it?" He fired a shot and one of the zombies staggered back. Sam's eyes were darker now, the pupils huge.
Jed didn't answer but fired his rifle and another zombie dropped. The zombies continued advancing and more shots rang out. New zombies replaced the fallen ones and others continued to arrive.
"How many, Maddie?" Jed removed his clip and replaced it with another, fully-loaded one. "This is my last clip."
"Yeah, and I'm out," yelled Claire from the other rooftop. She disappeared back into the building.
"I don't know, Jed. I can't tell. Maybe thirty or forty, and you've dropped about eight." Maddie checked her rifle and leaned it against the railing. "I'm out. I had a partial clip." She lifted the binoculars to look at the assaulting horde. "Oh, crap." Her voice was quiet, but it carried in the small silence between shots.
Jed fired and his rifle jammed. He set it down on the porch, barrel pointing toward the shambling zombies.
"What's the matter?" Jed shouted toward the roof, though Maddie was out of his range of vision.
"Oh my God, Jed." Maddie's voice was a mixture of rage and panic. "Jed, I recognize some of these. There's Mike. He looks almost normal. And Bill is there. And Terrie." Maddie said some words too low for Jed to hear and he heard her footsteps moving back across the roof.
Jed lifted his bow and notched an arrow, firing and missing a zombie in the front of the group, but hitting one behind him in the chest. It didn't pause. "I'm not good enough with this bow to get the head shots." He glanced at the roof of the bunkhouse. Nobody was on it any more. "And Claire is out of arrows." Feathered shafts dotted fallen zombies in the roadway. Jed stood up, adjusting his vest and strapping his machete on. "I guess we're hand to hand now."
Claire, Ted, Shelly and Linda came out of the bunkhouse, each fully outfitted for close combat. They wore their Kevlar vests, combat gloves and eye protection.
Ted no longer carried a machete, but he wielded a heavy pipe. Welded closed and filled with concrete, it was three feet of skull-crushing steel and eight inches of padded handle, designed solely for heavy hitting. Ted moved toward the zombies on the left side of the street and swung his new club with his left hand, the entire force of his six feet two inches powering the hit. The first zombie's skull disappeared in a rain of blood, bone and brains, splattered over a two-foot area. Ted took another step and stopped, his entire body wracked with coughing.
Nancy appeared at his side, ready for combat, and lifted him up, moving him back to the doorway. The others in front of the bunkhouse waded into the fight.
Maddie appeared in the doorway of the main house, rage reflected on her face, a pistol in her hand and a silver katana strapped to her slim waist. "It was Tomás," she said, walking toward the group of zombies. She spaced her sentences between shots. Every shot caught a zombie in the forehead or face. "Tomás did this." Her eyes lit with rage.
Jed stepped into the wide driveway to meet her, walking step in step with her, firing his pistol in unison.  "How do you know that?"
"Because he told me that Mike, Terrie, Bill ... he told me they lived in New Pueblo." Her final shot fired, Maddie holstered her pistol and put her hand on the ebony grip of her sword, drawing the shining katana from its scabbard. She stepped to Jed's right side, giving him a pace and a half. "He did this..."
"He's sending a message, I guess." Sam stepped to Maddie's right side, slapping a ball bat against his palm. Maddie stepped forward to cut at a tall, thin zombie with a torn shirt and rips down its chest, her sword slicing down from its left shoulder to its right hip. Viscera slipped out, tripping the zombie, but it still struggled forward. Sam crushed its skull. The two of them moved to engage zombies on the right, stepping away from Jed.
Jed pulled a darkened machete from a sheath on his back and stepped into the battle. A thick-bodied zombie approached him, lumbering, its large hands clenching and unclenching. The bruised and swollen face of the zombie made it look like a drunkard coming from a brawl. Fresh bruises on its arms and upper body, already starting to rot, indicated that the conversion to zombie hadn't gone easily. It had no shirt, and its pants were already torn and shredded over thick legs. Jed brought the machete back to slice at it, but stopped, a look of surprise and shock on his face as the zombie faced him, an odd sound emanating from its throat.
"Jace?" Jed stuttered the name. For a brief moment, Jed quit moving, frozen in time, and the zombie lunged at him. It swung a massive fist and knocked the machete from Jed's hand. It clasped Jed's arm and its jaws opened wide to bite Jed's neck. The foul stench of death and rot exuded from the creature once called Jason. Jed pushed at the zombie's chin with the heel of his hand, keeping the gaping mouth from closing on his flesh. The zombie pulled Jed closer, wrapping thick arms around Jed's body. Jed pushed harder, trying to free himself, but Jason was a new zombie and he was strong.
The right side of the zombie's head exploded and its arms slackened as it fell, familiar features and a single blue eye staring at Jed as it dropped to the ground. What was left of its mouth moved, a sound coming from it. In Jed's mind it was a drawn-out whisper, a long slow exhale that sounded like his name coming from the mouth of the creature who was once his close friend.
Claire holstered her pistol and grabbed Jed's left shoulder. "You can thank me later, but right now you need to get your head back in the game." Jed reached down and picked up his machete. "We have at least another twenty Z's coming up the roadway," snapped Claire.
Claire moved back to the group in front of the bunkhouse, stepping to Ted's right side. "Remember, Ted. You cover the left. I cover the right."
"Okay," Ted gasped, standing taller and hefting his club. "Only send me the little ones, please. I'm not sure I can take a full-size today." Claire chuckled drily and sliced the neck of an oncoming zombie, stepping further into the enemy group. Ted stepped forward as well, crushing the skull of the next zombie on her left. Another moved toward him and grabbed his left arm, biting at him. Ted stumbled.
Linda hit the zombie with a baseball bat, not hard enough to kill it, but hard enough to make it step back and trip over a body in the road. Ted's new club crushed its skull before it could stand again.
Shelly's voice rose above the noise of the fighting. "Hey, guys! We have a problem."
Jed didn't take his eyes from the zombie he was fighting. A large zombie's arm blocked his machete as it reached for him with its left hand. "What, Shelly? What is it now?"
"They're coming up from the sides and behind us."
Thick red ooze covered the gravel drive. Nancy pivoted on her left foot and stumbled, moving back to team with Linda, now facing their flank. "Dammit. I'm a little dizzy here." She crushed the skull of a zombie and it toppled to the ground. The one behind it, oblivious to its fallen comrade, advanced toward the two women.
Sam grunted at Jed. "They're flanking us."
Jed spun around and fired his pistol at a zombie near the back corner of the bunkhouse. It stumbled and struggled to get back to its feet, a thick yellowish liquid slowly working its way down the new wound in its chest. A tattered shirt and bra showed exposed ribs and muscle tissue. "I don't think it's intentional, Sam. Some came up the roadway, and others took the straightest path through the trees. There's no way we could anticipate that."
"Not very defensible, Jed. Not a good layout."
Jed growled back. "It used to be better, but I let the brush and trees grow back, except for the trails to the river. We didn't have a need. There was nothing to draw them to us this far up the road."
"Well, something is drawing them now." Sam knocked another zombie to the ground and sliced the tendons in its right arm.
Maddie grunted as she sliced at another attacker. "This was deliberate. Tomás is behind this."
Jed shouted at her. "I know, Maddie. I saw Jace. I get it."
Maddie's voice was hard. "Yeah, and I had to kill Mike, so this is personal now."
Sam laughed. "Tomás probably thought it was personal when you shot him in the leg, Maddie."
"That wasn't me. That was Nancy." Maddie's voice was a snarl barely audible above the sounds of violence around them. "I wish she'd shot him in the head now." Maddie sliced at two other zombies who fell back. "Whose side are you on, anyway, Sam?"
Sam paused and looked at the zombies starting to surround them. "We need to get behind them. I have the flamethrower on my buggy, but I'll need help."
"I'm right with you," Jed pivoted and sliced a zombie deep into the shoulder.
"No, I'll go with him. You're doing more damage here than I am." Maddie's eyes glowed. "And when we finish here we're paying Tomás back."
"Escalation archetype," muttered Jed, under his breath. Maddie said nothing but started to move with Sam to the west side of the main building, killing the few zombies that wandered her direction.
"We'll be back in a few minutes, Jed." Sam wiped his face with his tattered sleeve. "Keep them busy a little longer and we'll cook them all at once."
Jed coughed, a deep wracking sound from the middle of his chest. "Keep Maddie safe, Sam," he said, turning back to the fight.
Sam laughed as he and Maddie disappeared around the corner of the building, heading toward the barn. "Are you kidding? She'll keep me safe."
The sounds of the fight faded behind them as Sam and Maddie ran toward the front of the barn and pulled the doors open. The two-man buggy sat in the center of the barn, the shining open frame reinforced with steel bars.
Maddie moved to the passenger side of the buggy as Sam started the engine. "Where's the flame thrower, Sam?" She got on her knees to look into the back seat.
"I'm sorry, Maddie. I didn't get a chance to install that yet." As the wrench crashed into the back of Maddie's head she collapsed in the seat. Sam strapped the seat belt around her waist and pulled a pair of handcuffs from the glove box. Once Maddie was cuffed to the roll bars he buckled himself in. "I wasn't expecting company for a few days, and I thought we'd be long gone by then." Wheeling the buggy into the main gravel area, he spun the steering wheel and drove through the trees traveling away from Selah Ranch.
Jed brought his machete down across the neck of a young female zombie. It toppled to the ground, legs twitching, blood oozing from the arteries in its neck.
"I was sure I heard the buggy," Jed shouted to the others.
"Well, I sure don't see it anywhere, and we're being overwhelmed here." Nancy chopped at another zombie and he dropped to the ground, but continued to crawl toward her. "They must have run into other zombies by the barn." She and Shelly backed to the wall of the bunkhouse. The crawling zombie tried to grab Nancy's leg.
"No, you don't." A hardwood baseball bat smashed the zombie's skull. Linda looked at Nancy, smiling. "Not as good as a shotgun, but a darn sight better than a stick."
"Or an oar," Nancy added. They shared a look and Linda patted Nancy's arm as she passed.
"Get back to the bunkhouse. We'll barricade ourselves in and take them out one at a time." Claire whirled around, the black blade of her sword slicing through zombies, one on each side. "Linda, can you help Ted? I think he's hurt."
Linda reached down and helped Ted to his feet. They stumbled as they moved along the bunkhouse wall toward the door.
"Fae! We need you to open the door for us!" Nancy shouted, as more zombies moved toward them from the other end of the street. No response came from the bunkhouse.
Shelly and Nancy backed against the closed door and Shelly fumbled with the knob. The door opened and they stepped in. "Hurry! They're getting too close!" Nancy coughed, blood appearing on her sleeve. Shelly looked at her. "It's from that big one over there. He clobbered me a few times." She grimaced. "Cracked a rib, maybe."
Linda moved toward the door, the tall figure of Ted stumbling beside her. Claire picked up Ted's modified club and balanced it in her left hand. "Not bad, Ted," she muttered. "Not bad at all."
As Linda stepped into the doorway, Ted pushed her away, into the bunkhouse. He stepped back into the roadway. "Claire," he rasped, his voice shaky, but deep and thick, "give me the club and get in the bunkhouse."
Claire clubbed a zombie on her left and sliced one on her right, moving with the speed of a cobra, her arms so fast Ted couldn't even see them.
"I don't think so, Ted. I think you're sort of sick. You need to get in there." She backed up to Ted then glanced at his face, eye to eye.
He smiled. "No, Claire." He showed her the torn sleeve, the blood flowing from the bite on his arm. "They got me." He smiled at her as his body shook. "Give me the club. Be safe."
Tears formed in Claire's eyes. "I never told you my story." She handed him the club and kissed his cheek, her soft lips rasping against the white stubble. "I do have a secret."
Ted shuddered again, nodding. "I can guess it, Claire. I've always loved stories of legendary heroes. You've been at this a long time, haven't you?"
She smiled at him. "Since ancient times, my friend." Claire shook her head. "There's still a chance, Ted, a chance you're immune, or a chance you'll transform."
A wave of vertigo swept over Ted and for a second his eyes rolled into the back of his head. He shook his head and gasped. "I don't think so, Claire. At least let me take a few of my killers with me." He cupped her cheek in his right palm and gently kissed her lips. He pushed her toward the door.
"Be safe," Ted whispered as he walked toward the approaching zombies and started crushing them. They fell to his right and his left, but a fallen one grabbed his feet, causing him to stumble. Ted struck another one and it clenched his left arm in its mouth. Five more advanced, attacking him. Ted disappeared beneath a half dozen zombies.
"Veni. Vedi. Vici." Ted's deep voice was muffled by zombies as they covered him.
Ted closed his eyes, giving in to the hands and teeth that attacked him, the weight of the bodies crushing the breath from him as he lay in the gravel and dirt of the roadway. He felt an odd sense of peace come over him.
The sunshine blinded him as the weight of the bodies lessened.
"We came. We saw. We conquered. That last part is important, Ted." Jed reached down and lifted Ted up from the ground. Unmoving zombies and body parts lay scattered on the ground around them.
"You don't understand, Jed. I'm bitten." Ted took half a step away from Jed, his head swimming and a dazed look in his eyes.
"Yeah, I can see that. We'll do what we have to do, but that doesn't mean letting them tear you apart." Jed propelled the weakened tall man toward the bunkhouse doorway. "Shelly, tie him up in case things go bad." He looked at the other zombies shuffling toward him.
"If Maddie and August were here, we could finish these. There are fifteen or so left..."
"Well, I'm here, Jed. Between the two of us, we can make a dent in this group before we have to retreat."  Claire now held two sharp swords, one in each hand. She moved toward a group of four zombies and attacked them, her left blade slicing the arm off one, her right blade slicing down through the right side of another's neck. Before they could react, the blades sliced again. She stepped forward in a crouched lunge, taking the leg off one zombie at the knee. As she rose from the lunge, her other sword caught a zombie below the chin, slicing its head off.
Jed moved toward the small group to the left of the one Claire attacked, doing similar damage at the same speed. Claire stepped back, taking the head from a zombie crawling on the ground, and pivoted toward one of the ones in Jed's group, cutting it in half with a horizontal strike.
"You move like a Transformed, Claire. I thought you were immune." Jed panted a little, his machete ready in his hand. They turned to face a group of a dozen zombies coming toward them from the original direction.
"Well, there's a story there Jed. I'll tell you later." She grinned. "It's a family secret, sort of, but I guess it doesn't matter anymore. I am immune, but I was born that way."
They advanced on the dozen remaining zombies as Jed laughed. He stopped walking and stared at Claire, who also stopped, giving him a puzzled look. Jed started to laugh, but the laugh turned into a cough and he stumbled. "Just one question and I'll hear the rest of your story later if that's okay."
Claire kept one eye on Jed's pale face and the other on the advancing horde. "Go ahead," she said.
Jed straightened, a grimace of pain on his face. "How old are you, Claire?"
Claire looked at him, puzzled. "I guess it doesn't matter any longer," she said, as she shrugged. "A little over 400. I was born in ancient Egypt."
Jed's breath come in gasps. "I thought so." He chuckled. "You need to talk to August..." He dropped to one knee. "I'm sorry, Claire. Something's wrong with me. I don't feel well." Jed took a deep breath and stood back up. "But let's do what we can to finish these off, shall we?"
Claire's mouth set in a firm line, her eyes assessing Jed's face. "You need to get inside, Jed."
"Even if you're as good as August, and you might be, you can't take a dozen without help, and everyone is down with this W Virus."
Jed took three steps forward and stumbled again. Claire grabbed his arm and pushed him easily toward the bunkhouse door. She put her back to the bunkhouse and faced the remainder of the zombies.
"You're about to collapse, Jed. Maddie would kill me if something happened to you." Claire gritted her teeth. "We'll hole up in the bunkhouse and pick them off, like you said earlier."
"Yeah, we can do that, I guess." Jed's rasping breath came in great gulps now, his voice weakening as he opened the door and stepped in. "Where is Maddie?" he asked.
A flash of red hair erupted past Jed as he moved through the bunkhouse. He glanced around, knowing he could do nothing for his family. Shaking his head to clear it, he paused. He had to find Maddie. He slipped down the hall and out the back door, heading for the barn.
Dressed in combat black, Fae ran into the road, laughing maniacally. She held twin katanas in her hands as she charged toward the zombies. Claire said something in an ancient language, short and sharp. "Can somebody please help Jed?" she asked.
"I'll take care of him," whispered Shelly, her pale face at the door. She held one arm close to her chest.
"Thank you," Claire whispered. She turned to save Fae.
Fae was a whirlwind among the zombies. They moved to attack her, but she was no longer there, her swords striking zombies down around her. Blood flew everywhere, and over the moaning sounds of the zombies Claire heard Fae giggling.
Claire moved forward at lightning speed, intercepting zombies moving toward Fae from the left. With quick efficiency from half a millennia of practice Claire dispatched four zombies and turned to Fae, who now stood in the middle of unmoving zombie parts, blood spattered everywhere.
Fae grinned at Claire, a low growl emanating from her throat. "That was fun. Any more of them?" she asked.

Next chapter, next Wednesday.
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