(© Simon Brown)
"You see that? They never show that in films, do they? Right
in the fucking face!"
Dan stared at the corpse slumped
against the old trough, trying to hold down the rising bile in his throat as
his friend ranted behind him. There was a star shaped gash where its nose
should have been. It had been eighteen months since the plague had hit, causing
the dead to rise and attack the living.
"I mean, if someone gets shot in the head it’s always in the
forehead or between the eyes, you know? Neat little red dot. But never right
in the fucking face. Right fucking there!" Matt grinned, gesturing frantically
at his nose with his drawn pistol. Dan sighed, hoping he’d calm down. Matt was
always like this right after a firefight. Well, what passed for a firefight in
this war. He prodded the creature with his foot, hoping it was down. The skin
on its forehead had gone slack and was now slowly creeping down, starting to
cover its right eye. They were both members of the VCA, the Volunteer Citizens
Army. It had been raised by the provisional government to supplement the
decimated armed forces after the chaos of the pandemic. The name had stuck,
even though Matt and Dan had both been drafted. Before the war, Dan had been a
student, while Matt had worked on a till in a supermarket. The rising had made
both of their skills completely useless. Now they hunted the dead for a living.
"Same as when I was a bowman, right?" In Robin Hood and all
that, they always go down with a chest full of arrows. Right…right?"
"Yeah….yeah I’m listening." Dan grumbled as he rummaged
about in his pack for the crowbar. Matt was a good shot, but once he’d killed
something it was impossible to shut him up.
"You never think about them going in the head. Or the face.
Never the face, man. Why’d they used to do that?"
Dan shrugged. "Because they look like that?" He kicked the
limp creature over, revealing a cavernous red and grey exit wound in the back
of its head, "Funny how they’re still wet and juicy sometimes." He’d been doing
this job for far too long. Killing these things hardly bothered him any more.
"Anyway," Matt yawned as he slung his rifle over his
shoulder. "This one’s mine."
"What?! I shot this one!"
"Don’t be fucking daft!" Matt argued, hauling the body up
by its filthy old Barbour jacket. "Farmer Giles here’s mine! Look at the size
of that hole! You’re telling me your little popgun did that?!"
Dan tore the magazine out of his M1 carbine and shoved it
in his friend’s face. "It’s a fucking tumbler! Little bullet, big hole! Remember?!"
"Yeah, sure. Your little girly gun can blow heads off. Look
at that one!" He pointed at another corpse lying face down in the muddy tractor
path. "That was probably you. Hasn’t even gone through the skull."
"What are you two on about this time?!" Dan turned to see
Anna dragging a corpse of her own angrily across the grass. She had originally
been assigned to their unit as a dog handler, but had quickly turned out to be
a first class sniper.
"Dan’s pretending his girly gun’s magic again!" Steve
"Oh, for fuck’s sake!" Anna sighed, letting drop freshly
lobotomised zed drop in the mud with an audible wet thump. "Stop bickering and
just pick one! We’re moving out in fifteen minutes! Jesus Christ, Dan. You’re
supposed to be the new sergeant."
Fuck. That still hadn’t sunk in yet. He was supposed to
have new responsibilities and he hadn’t even sewn the new stripes on yet. "You
know what, take it. He’s all yours."
Steve grinned and propped his heavy 7.62 mm SLR against the
trough with a dull, metallic thud. "That’s right, Danny boy! If you want to
play with the big boys, you’d better bring a fucking big gun! L1A1, baby! Best
of fucking British!"
Dan turned away with a groan as Matt picked up the rifle again
and gave it an exaggerated, smacking kiss. He didn’t have the heart to tell the
mad little northerner that his pride and joy was designed in Belgium. He picked up his pack and trudged across the track as Matt babbled away to himself as
usual. He’d learned to block out his ranting months ago. He rolled the next
corpse over. A single bullet hole leered at him from underneath its left eye,
flooding the ball with brown, seeping liquid. Lovely. As dangerous as fighting
these things was, body disposal was probably the worst part of the job. Dan
watched the dead thing warily. All it would take was one bite to turn him into
one of those things. He hooked his crowbar under the carcass’s collar and
struggled to turn the heavy thing over. Its waterproof poncho slithered wetly
aside like a second layer of skin. "Oh, fucking yes!"
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