Then I was running through the woods, fumbling blindly through the trees and bushes. Every statue I came across was askew or toppled over. I almost tripped over one of the dead shamans as it clawed its way out of the muddy earth. I didn't know how many were after me -- Fuck, I didn't even know if any of them were after me but I kept running knowing deep in my heart of hearts that there weren't too many places you could run to on an island.
Somehow my wild flight brought me to the clearing with the Well of Delphanos. The stench was worse now, the air was filled with a thick sloshing. I risked a glance backwards, a pair of dead men where shambling after me. The only noise they made was the crackle of their dead joints flexing.
All sense of direction gone, I tried to double back, feinting around my pursuers and barreling back into the jungle. This time I found my way back to the others easily. I just followed the screams.
Damn that full moon. How I wish it had been cloudy that night, that the shadows had been dark and long enough to hide the carnage.
What I saw made me stop dead in my tracks.
There was Claudia Tate, her flesh hanging torn and loose as she staggered and swayed with the animal urge to survive. A corpse shuffled after her. Another stood nearby, gnawing confusedly on one of her implants.
Claudia was so proud of them, they were the new kind made with soy. I guess that means she made her own gravy.
High-pitched screaming drew my attention to Bobby Burns. They swarmed over where he had fallen, pawing at him like he was a wrap party buffet.
The director was swinging one of the boom mikes wildly, trying to hold off his attackers. He never saw the one he backed into.
Someone was crawling pitifully, their torn intestines dragging in the dirt behind them like streamers.
Blood. Howls of terror. The dead men were relentless in their hunger. When the spidery hands grasped at me I was almost resigned to my fate.
"No!" I heard Vanessa shout.
I spun on my heel to see her standing in the clearing, the captain and his machete-wielding mates flanked her. She was nude save for the strange sigils painted on her in what I now know to be blood.
"He isn't for you." She said, and with that the dead shamans shambled past me, looking for fresh prey.
"Vanessa --" I tried to find words but my mind and my body where too exhausted.
She nodded to the Captain, "Lock him in the toolshed. Treat him gently."
I didn't resist as he marched me to the toolshed and secured me with a brand new padlock. I curled into a ball on the floor and tried to shut out the sound of the feast.
The next morning Vanessa came to see me. She was still wearing nothing but dried blood. She had a handful of breakfast bars in her hand. They must have come from Bobby's knapsack.
"Hungry?" she asked.
"No." I doubted I'd ever be hungry again. "What's going on here?"
She knelt beside me, instinctively I withdrew from her proximity. "Delphonos is real, Preston. He made me promises."
"You planned all this?"
"He spoke to me in my dreams. He knew my desperation and revealed to me his need."
"Stop talking like that!" I flashed with anger, "You're a fucking porno actress, not Anton LeVey."
"Things are changing, the war between the Mad Gods will soon spill over to our world. When they do the dead will rise to consume the flesh of the living." She closed her eyes and shuddered, "As was prophesied."
I wanted to tell her she was crazy, but after spending half the night running from zombies it didn't seem appropriate.
"Each of the Mad Gods will choose a viceroy to serve in the war. They alone will have the power to control the dead."
"And you want to be one of these viceroys?" I wondered if I could overpower her and escape.
But how would I get past the zombies? And where would I go? Was I supposed to storm onto the boat and sail to safety? That might work in a Bruce Willis movie but not in real life.
My only hope was to reason with her. "Why are you doing this?"
"I have ovarian cancer." she frowned, "I found out three months ago."
"It's too far gone for the doctors to do anything. It's not too far gone for the fallen angel of longing."
"Then why am I here?" Was it tears I saw in her eyes? "Am I going to be your official biographer?"
"No." she kissed my forehead and stood, "There is a special ceremony that must be undertaken before I can truly become a viceroy of the Mad Gods. Anzon demands that the petitioner voluntarily mutilate his own vocal chords. To gain the favor of Kressor, you must wander the face of the Earth for no less then seven years -- never sleeping in the same place twice . . . That's why the high priests were awoken, to conduct the ceremony."
"What kind of ceremony?" There was an acid taste in my mouth.
"You will be taken to the well . . . you see Delphanos demands the sacrifice . . . the sacrifice of a person you truly love." The door sl ammed to a close behind her. There was a rustle as the padlock was put back into place.
It's dusk now. Not m uch longer. When she comes for me, I know she won't be alone, but I'm going to try and reason with her one last time. I'm not holding out much hope for a last minute change of heart though.
Like I said before, the writer always gets the shaft.
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