Ethan sat in the grass on the side of the road and worked a strip of chewy bacon with his water and dropped a few morsels of ham for Revenant. While he chewed, he examined the hit person’s shotgun. He found the safety switch and set it to ON, and he experimented until he figured out how to check the ammo – he had enough for two more shots. If another person came to kill him, he would have to be ready.
The noise of the six lanes of traffic was so much he could barely think. He was glad he’d picked a straight path to Forsythe Summit or he would surely be lost by now. With time to think, the idea that Julia’s family might be behind all this didn’t seem nearly so outrageous. Mom had taught him that healthy wealth was the product of hard work, but once you tipped the boundary into obscene wealth it could only be gained obscenely. That the family with a whole parking deck just for their cars’ gains would be ill-gotten made perfect sense.
It still didn’t explain Julia’s behavior. What profit did she stand to gain by biting him? It boggled the mind. On the other hand, if Julia’s whole family spent generations lining their pocketbooks with the worst crisis in human history, what’s to say that she wouldn’t do the same to Ethan just for fun? Just to see what would happen to her little plaything. God he hadn’t said enough awful things about her in his blog. During the periodic breaks in his walking, he practiced yanking the gun from the bag, flipping the safety off, aiming, and “bang.” Who knew when Julia would send the next hired killer after him, so he made sure he could do it all at a moment’s notice.
The sun reached its zenith, but the day did not warm. Ethan realized he hadn’t brought any warm clothing. Revenant shivered at 70 degrees fahrenheit, so he might have to hold him to his chest later or find himself dragging along a little tan ice cube. He had to hope that the zombie colony knew how to keep warm.
He had to hope a lot of things about the zombie colony. Would they take him in? If they were as intelligent as Stacy made them out to be, they may well have standards. An image came to mind of a panel of rotting corpses slumped in folding chairs quizzing him about his extracurricular activities. Ugh. A tractor trailer blew past them and knocked Revenant onto his side. Ethan watched him lay, panting, his tiny tongue lolling from his mouth. He picked him up and took him a few yards further away. Ethan poured some water into a paper grits bowl and practiced his shotgun maneuver while Revenant drank. He had it down by the time Revenant reached the bottom of the bowl. Nobody was going to mess with Ethan Stowe anymore. Revenant watched Ethan flip the gun up one more time and curled against his leg.
Revenant slumbered noisily on a pile of empty water bottles as the trucks and cars sent long shadows racing across Ethan. He felt like a fool carrying them, but these little societal services were something that separated him from the lowest of zombie-kind. He had been greedy with his water, and he felt parched. His feet hurt; Revenant seemed heavier than he ever had before, and even in its own dedicated fast food bag, the shotgun bounced to and fro, eager to go off on its own. He shouted his relief when he saw the sign for Forsythe Summit.
The Revenant bag was easier to carry after he deposited the bottles in the recycle bin. Let’s see a savage zombie do that. The switchback climb up the mountain had never felt long in the past, but now was interminable. When he looked over the tiny cars with their little lights shining down elfin roads, a pit sank in his stomach. This was the world he could never return to. A wind picked up, and Ethan shivered as hard as Revenant. He remembered the little dog and held the bag to his chest, trying to make sure the swinging shotgun pointed away from him.
On the other side of the mountain, Ethan felt smart for watching the zombie videos they’d captured before he sent them along to Stacy. Zombies with building materials go right. He followed the path now well-worn by who knows how many undead feet. Maybe it was a slur to call them that. He certainly wasn’t undead, he might feel less cold and hungry if he was. “Hello?” he asked the shifting darkness, wishing he’d thought to bring a flashlight or knew how to boot up his phone in no-Internet mode to use its light. He bumped into a tree. No, it was a plank of wood. He felt it – a cross of some sort. He couldn’t make out the text. Revenant woke up and whined, but he left him in the bag. It was warmer there, and it would be no good for them to get separated now.
He kept moving forward. Maybe he would never find anyone. Maybe he would just wander in the forest until he was not a zombie but a nameless skeleton. Still, he trudged on. Another cry of joy escaped him when he heard a voice. His feet gained new strength as he followed it, still forward. As he continued, the voice became clearer. There were no words, only a slow, haunting melody.
Ethan felt light-headed as a sad violin joined the lonely voice. Revenant wriggled and whined, and Ethan felt as if an orchestra was building itself as he approached. Now a man and a woman created a mourning harmony. He thought he could see a building in the distance, something like a barn lit by a tiny flickering light that offered little more than its barest outline
Drums joined the symphony. He speedwalked now, his exhausted brain unable to process any other action than continued approach. As he came close enough to see the barn clearly, cymbals joined the small band inside. It was still too dark to see much, except for a phone on a stand peeking out from the top floor of the barn. The screen lit Stacy’s face as she maneuvered the camera to stay pointed at him.
Now Ethan felt as if he had entered another world. He placed Revenant’s bag down and the little dog wriggled out and huddled against his legs. “Stacy?” he asked as the band accelerated and built to a crescendo. Stacy did not answer. With one more cymbal clash, a zombie hefted a heavy flashlight and shined it down past and behind Ethan.
“Welcome, friend,” said a familiar voice..
He turned around as the voice echoed through the woods. “My name is Reverend Angela Worthy. Ethan Stowe, you have suffered long enough. Your journey is at an end.”
A pale woman stood in the shaky spotlight. She wore black lipstick and skull earrings with a black dress and long black gloves. Beside her sat Jack the scraggly wolfhound clad in a Dracula cape, one eye shining in the spotlight, the other pointing a different direction. “Oh, woah.” He said.
The ordeals of the day and the surreal greeting had worn Ethan down to the point that he just stared for a long moment. He looked back at Stacy, who stood from the camera and waved. He felt light-headed and returned his gaze to Angela Worthy. Julia Sable.
The shotgun bounced against Ethan’s leg. He whipped it out, flipped off the safety, and fired.
Did you like? Don’t forget to hit the “like” button below!
Do you want to read more? Subscribe at the bottom of the page!
Can’t get enough Munk Fiction? Sign up for the newsletter!