A Friend Once Told Me . . .
By Daniel Ellis

I checked my magic. The pagoda was in the southwest. Thank the gods it was between IOOF and us. I would not have tried my luck with those corpses. "Yea. So what do we do? Thwack the necromancer and the dead play dead again, right?"

"The last time I did that it worked. Some German freak who found some kabbalist book. But that takes into account us leaving, which we aren't going to do." Bruce checked the window with a sideling glance.

"Screw that." I moved towards the door and brought my eye to the hole. I could see the slouching stinking facsimiles of humans jerk and swing down the street, oblivious of all around them. "Lock it behind me if you want." I turned the lock. "But I'm getting the stuff from the car."

I turned the handle, opened the door and jumped out. I slammed the door behind me and walked briskly down the concrete stairs of the apartment. I could hear the irregular thunking of body parts, not unlike Foley effect artist with a piece of meat, only less deliberate. The Gregorian moans just like every movie. I wanted to look for cameras and George Romero, if not for the stench that flooded my nostrils. Good, downwind. I hurried to the silver Sentra weighed down with boxes. The back seemed even creepier, but I guess that's to be expected when the walking dead slither on the other side of a wooden fence from you. I unlocked the passenger door and grabbed my sword, tossing the sheath back in the car. Then, tossing items out of my way, I unburied the Ruger auto. Just like I practiced in front of the TV when I had nothing better to do, I slapped the magazine in place and pulled the heavy slide. I slid the other clips, three all told, into my jean pockets.

With sword in hand, I closed the door and turned to exit how I entered, via the driveway. However stupid, stupid me forgot that little detail about how these bastards are attracted by smell AND motion. All the commotion I made preparing myself for their onslaught had just made them want me more. A mob had gathered, slidding past themselves and crawling over each other. I guess there was about sixteen in this splinter group. They weren't fast but they had enough speed to make my day miserable.

I raised the Ruger and fired, opening a hole in the leader's belly. It did more damage than I had expected as bone fractures and an inordinate amount of rotted meat backpedaled out of him. He stopped for a second as if reeling, then resumed his shambling. I had to get closer, dammit. I wasn't liking this. If it had been one, two or even three, I probably could have held out long enough to escape. I waited until they were closer, held my gun, took a breath and fired again. As professed in movies, a blossom of ichor bloomed on the leader's forehead and it dropped back to its state of rest.

They paused, all of them. I'm not joking. They were looking at their fallen comrade. I aimed again, holding the blaster out with both hands as Bruce had told me so many times. They fell on the comrade like the vermin that they were. The tore and devoured, taking only the fatty skin. In that moment, all I could think of was mom's nagging that skin was not good for you for you, even though it tasted best. The difference between chicken and zombie had not clicked in my mind and the humor rippled to my lips, as uncontrollable laughter bellowed out. That died as they turned their heads in unison, eyeing my skin and wondering deeply how succulent my skin, and my fat and muscle, would be.

I snapped the gun to attention and grew another blossom on the one to the right. The green flowed over a cheep suit, I guess from the thirties. Suddenly, thunder roared and eruptions flowed from foreheads. As six of them fell, I could make out the red hair and smoking pistol of Bruce.

"Is this a leap of faith?" He asked, sarcastically.

"It's a dream." I said, happier to see my friend in a long time. He bent his head down to reload the revolver, slipping his hand from his pocket to the chambers like a gunslinger of old. As Bruce ducked his head, I said in regular tone. "Fire in the hole."

Stepping aside and blocked by the red brick of the building, Bruce continued to reload. I emptied a clip. Their distance or lack of it almost got the better of me as several shots went wild or buried themselves in their rotten and swollen bellies. As the slide shoved itself back for the final time, leaving the chamber open, I saw four bodies slapping feet towards me. They smiled more, sucking at lips, if they happened to have them at the time.

As they got within striking range, I guess I have to thank video games for my reaction. I grabbed Sting and swung. With a snicker-snack of popping vertebrae and synaptic fluid, the newest leader, a longhaired shaggy thing smeared in mud, lost his head. It's amazing how much of an off switch that really is. The body fell at my feet and soiled the ground.

The second one grabbed my non-sword hand, pulling it to his mouth. After one too many vampire movies, you can understand what I felt. Instinctively, I brought my blade squarely down on his head, cracking the skull, which was surprisingly void. It fell without dinner, thank any and all gods up there. I wasn't quite so lucky with the final emaciated corpse. It grabbed hold of my shoulders and dragged me back, drawing my neck for a kiss. I could feel it's bloated tongue slime my skin and his tarterd teeth investigate my skin.

Thunder and he dropped. I fell atop him, smashing his internal organs and caving in his chest. A stream of deep green juice and maggots exploded out, like an orange crushed under a tire, coating me in stuff that I'd rather not think about. I rolled off, panic-stricken but trying not to scream. Still, a bellowing roar vomited from my being. It felt good.

Bruce strode near me, calling my name. "Dan! C'mon get up." He grabbed my neck, looking for bite marks. "Did they get you?"

"I . . . I don't think so." I gasped.

"Three downed with that sword," he said. "Not bad." To this day, I don't know how that last one fell but the face cleaved in half made it pretty plain.

"How much time do we have?" I asked, not wanting to look at any potential others shambling in our direction.

"I think they are ignoring us right now," he assessed the situation. "No one is coming up the driveway. They are still streaming down the road though." He turned to me. "Get that out of your system?"

"I can still take them." I drew myself to my knees.

"I don't doubt that as much. But we still need to get out of here."

"No," I said, "we have to stop it."

"Indeed." He smiled. "Any ideas?"

"Run them down getting to the necromancer?"

"How many shots you got left?" His voice was dry.

"Two clips and Sting." I finally made it to standing.

"Ok, we run them down. Let my truck go first, then you follow?"

"No problem."

Bruce slammed the cylinder back into proper position and stepped towards his truck. I got in mine. Without warning or hesitation, he launched his truck into gear, screaming it down the driveway. Thunks proceeded and paint sparked from the body. I winced and realized that all the stuff in his bed would need cleaning, and probably exorcism. I followed as close as a Sentra in a sea of the dead could, gripping the pistol in my right hand. He parted the green ichor sea, and I road the wake of his big-wheeled engine of death.

Two blocks of the walking lead us to the pagoda, the lair of Ra. Bruce didn't bother with a door as he gunned the engine. I stopped my car a safe distance away as I sat, bewildered at what I saw. The slapping of metal on glass awoke me as a hundred-year-old peddler asked for more than a dime with his rotten tongue flopping out of the convulsive jaws. I quickly slammed the car door open, knocking him away. The bastard held onto the door though, his decrepit hand gouging the plastic interior. When I pulled the door closed, his ulna snapped, releasing the carpal bones from the hand. It was then that I realized Bruce had stopped. He had not gotten out of this truck or driven back or forward or any of it. My mind ran through the list of deadly and horrifying possibilities. It must have been the inspiration of bravery or stupidity that my brain must have really liked. I hit the gas.

Ten bodies slapped the hood of my packed car as I drove as fast as I could to Bruce. I tapped his back bumper and I jumped out, oblivious to the wave front of dead. I could see the blood on the inside of the windshield. I don't care what movies you have seen or how many "Real life" TV shows you have seen. Nothing compares to the sight of the real thick blood of your best friend. From what I could see, an iron lance, that might have been a gate bar or something, stuck out of his right shoulder.

Inside the pagoda, I could see one figure. Just one figure, the hood of his black robes flopped back. It was some geeky looking teen in goth make up. His name was Fletcher, I think. I had seen him combing the retches of Denton looking for people stupid enough to sell their soul to him. You would be surprised how many times that worked. At his feet was a huge book, gold clasps and black leather that I prayed came from a cow, although I was pretty sure it wasn't.

"I called them!" he screamed. "The dead of this town are mine to control. Master, I have summoned the champions. They are mine to destroy as you asked."

I raised the pistol. "What do you mean champions?"

He looked down from his ranting. "You?" he said smiling. "They sent you?" I could hear the thumping behind me of slouching figures with my scent on their minds. "All the courageous, brave people in this town and they send you. They must not take me seriously."

"Who are you talking about?"

"The gods of Denton, you foolish mortal." Somehow in the deepest part of my being, I wasn't surprised there were gods of Denton. However I was astounded they chose Bruce and me. I guess it was like Green Lantern, we just happen to be close. Whatever . . . here he stood and here I stood. With the gun.



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