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Stories from the Verse
Chapter 30: Beam 168
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Previous chapter: Kondor 228
Beam was up before everyone other than Dawn, who of course never slept. Sleeping between his two wives and not being able to do anything more than that had left him just a bit frustrated, but he decided it was a necessary step. He stood in the bedroom silently looking out the front window.
He froze. There were bipedal, dare he say humanoid, figures approaching in the distance, perhaps half a dozen. Was it just random chance, or were they tracking him, or, it occurred to him as a possibility, tracking the other zombies? Or were they people fleeing from zombies? How could he know?
“Bob,” he said. “Wake up; I think I need you.”
He was tempted to prod the alien, to poke him to get a response, but then he saw the floating form shift, and a less coherent than usual telepathic voice came into his head.
“Yes, Bob. Please take a look out the front windows, and tell me whether those things approaching are people, or little brains in dead brains?”
The alien drifted over to the window, and in a moment responded, little brains in dead brains.
O.K., Zombies, headed this direction. It didn’t mean they were coming for them.
Still, he would have to awaken everyone; he couldn’t have them accidentally giving away their presence here.
“Let Dawn know that we don’t want them to see or hear us,” he said, and then went to awaken Bron.
“Hey, big guy. I hate to wake you, but we have a possible problem. More zombies are coming our way. I want everyone aware of this, but we need to keep quiet and stay away from the windows so they don’t know we’re here. Got it?”
He took the grunt as assent, and walked over to his own crowded bed. He sat on the foot between the feet of the two girls, and wrapped fingers around one ankle of each of them.
“Good morning, lights of my life. We have a situation, and you need to be aware of it and take care. Are you awake? Soph? Ash?”
The redhead yawned, the teen stretched. “What is it?” the younger asked.
“Zombies, of course. More coming, out front. I don’t know whether they’re just coming this way at random or tracking us, or tracking our previous pursuers. But we need to be wary, stay away from windows and don’t make any unnecessary noise. If they don’t already know we’re here, we don’t want to tell them.”
Ashleigh, trained in stealth, nodded. Sophia said, “Right. Can we get washed and dressed?”
“Dressed yes, washed no. And no cooking, yet; we don’t want them to smell human food, in case they can tell that it means humans.”
“Can they smell?” Bron asked.
Beam wanted to reply that they smelled very bad, but decided this was not the time for that, and instead said, “We don’t know, but let’s not find out by giving them our scent.”
People started moving.
“Also, Dawn, Bob, and I will be monitoring the situation; be ready to respond if it becomes necessary to fight. And remember: we need to destroy their heads to kill them.”
While the others busied themselves around him, Beam continued watching out the front window. The creatures did not move very fast, but they seemed to be sniffing, sometimes bending down to smell the ground. It was evident that they were tracking something, and that they could definitely smell something. It was not apparent whether they were smelling humans or corpses. In either case, the trail appeared to be leading directly toward the house, and it was a tiresome wait.
Finally they got close, and as they neared the bodies still lying on the front yard they slowed, and did a lot more sniffing. They don’t see the bodies, Beam thought; their eyesight is very poor, and they’re relying on smell. I wonder whether they can hear?
Of course they can hear, he realized. The trap in the basement was designed to attract them by sound. Maybe they feel vibrations, but it comes to much the same thing.
Working by smell, the creatures circled the corpses then closed in on them. they felt the bodies, then smelled them–and then Beam’s stomach almost turned over as the animate monsters began eating the bodies of the dead ones.
Don’t wretch, he told himself. They could hear that. Holding his breath to contain his stomach, closing his eyes against the sight, he got himself under control.
He was going to have to look again, to watch what they did once they were finished.
They did finish, and rather quickly, leaving a few bones but consuming even part of the skeleton. They did not clean up their crumbs, but resumed sniffing, dividing as if in some kind of search pattern, one of them coming up on the front stoop. Would they discover that there were people in this house? Even, would the smell of the bodies in the basement lure them inside in search of more food?
Apparently the answer to both questions was no. The half dozen zombies regrouped and headed around the side of the house opposite the garage, where the other bedrooms were. Beam quietly walked to Ashleigh’s room and watched.
The monsters continued across the back field. Beam could see the cattle grazing out there, but whether the zombies couldn’t sense them or weren’t interested they didn’t head toward them. He watched for several minutes, mostly to see if they changed direction, but they seemed to be on a straight line.
He wondered whether they were tracking something else, or headed toward something, or just striking out in the hope that they would find something, but he couldn’t watch all day.
“O.K., everyone,” he called, watching to make sure that the zombies didn’t react, “the alert is over. Let’s get washed and get some breakfast.” He wasn’t sure he wanted to eat after what he had seen, but he had to eat. He turned and headed for the smaller bathroom, thinking to wash his face and hands before eating.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with eleven other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #480: Versers Think. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: