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Stories from the Verse
Chapter 61: Beam 176
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Brown 259
As Bron returned from the bathroom, the white-haired man rose wearily and headed for the other bedroom.
“Wake up, ladies. We have a situation,” he said in a slightly louder than normal voice. It was the redhead who objected.
“What could possibly be so important that you have to wake me before sunrise.”
It didn’t feel like a question, but Beam answered it as if it were.
“We have zombies approaching.”
“Zombies?” Ashleigh said. “Are we sure they’re coming to us?”
“Well, Dawn says they’re headed this way, and Bob says they’re going to the place of flashing lights and the smell of death.”
Sophia glared at him.
“So, you’re saying this is my fault?” she charged.
“Hadn’t given it a thought,” he lied. “I just want to make sure we’re ready for them. They should be here in maybe an hour--I should check with the others on that. But get up, washed, dressed, whatever you need to do. Sophie, you get choice of bathrooms, which one do you want?”
She seemed to think for a moment, then said, “I’ll take the one with the tub. My stuff’s in the other room anyway.”
“Good. Ashleigh, you’re in this one. When you’re ready come downstairs, bring something to eat, and we’ll figure out what to do.”
With that he went downstairs. Bob and Dawn were still at their posts. “Report?” he said.
“Sir, yes, sir,” came the always crisp reply. “Estimated time forty-three minutes, other information as before.” Satisfied, he went to the kitchen and with cupped hands drank some water from the faucet. Flies were buzzing around the rather large wasted portion of beef still on the counter starting to smell bad. Bron came in and sat at the table.
“I told Sophie we would need some food. I don’t know how long she’ll be.”
That was apparently Ashleigh’s cue to enter, washed and dressed and cute as ever. Beam brushed away memories of the previous night; he needed to focus.
“What do we know?” she asked.
“We know I hate to repeat myself, so we’ll wait for Sophie to arrive.”
That proved to be another five minutes, but the witch arrived and looked around the room. “What do we know?”
“That we need to eat something?” Beam said.
She walked over to the spoiled beef on the counter, placed her hands on it, and did her mumbo-jumbo. It glowed; some smoke came off it, and several flies fell dead onto the counter around it. She kept this up for over a minute while Beam watched in fascination. Then she stopped with an abrupt exhale, a pause, and a deep breath. “That should do it. Carve us some of that.”
Although he didn’t like the use of the word ‘should’ in that sentence, he decided she meant it would be safe, and if it killed them, well, they wouldn’t have to worry about the zombies. As he carved several slices for everyone, beginning with Bron and ending with himself, he explained.
“Last night Dawn became aware of a group of something approaching. When I awoke I had Bob investigate, and we have between ten and fifteen creatures that sound like the same things we’ve faced already. That’s two to three times as many as we faced before, but we should be able to handle them if we’re smart. I’m more worried about depleting resources over the long term, but that’s not a problem yet. Still, everyone should be alert, and attentive to handling this situation efficiently. Questions?”
“Same plan as last time?” Bron asked.
“Well, sort of. Last time there were five of them and six of us, so we pretty much each took one. This time we’ll have to figure it out as we go. But the first part is that we wait to see what they do. If we can escape notice, that’s the better option.” He put a bite of meat in his mouth, and passed the sharp cooking knife around the table. After that, everyone ate in silence, and quickly.
The six of them were relocated in the upstairs bedroom from which they had watched the monsters approach previously. However, this time they did not come to the front of the house. They went directly to the back yard, and as the team shifted to the back bedroom and crowded around the one window there, the zombies began consuming the bodies of the corpses--bones and all.
Well, Sophie, you got your wish, Beam thought, but didn’t say anything so as not to risk being heard by the hazard outside.
They were crowded there for a few minutes, but then Bob moved away and levitated in the corner, and Sophie and Ashleigh sat on the bed. Beam nodded at Bron, who also relaxed and landed on the bed, where he lay back and closed his eyes. Just don’t snore, Beam thought, but he and Dawn kept watch over the scene below.
He thought it incredible that what turned out to be a mere dozen zombies managed to devour every scrap of near a hundred admittedly emaciated bodies, but when they were finished they began walking away, their grossly misshapen abdomens causing them to waddle almost comically. Either they were unaware of the humans in the house or too gorged to think about eating another bite.
“It’s O.K., people, the monsters have--,” he said, but stopped mid-sentence. Five bears came into view, as if they had been following the zombies or perhaps following the same scent from the same direction. They stopped and sniffed the ground, then the largest of them rose on its hind legs and roared, an unhappy sound from a creature which, Beam realized, looked a bit deformed.
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 #487: A World in Space. 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: