"I think we've got trouble," Steve said. He was looking out the window, towards the plane wreckage across the field.
"What?" I asked, sitting up. "Are they coming?"
"I don't know. I can't see any, but the corn... the corn is... moving."
I got up and went to his side. Pushing my face against the glass, I squinted, studying the corn. Sure enough, stalk by stalk, paths were being cut through the field towards us, coming from the plane. The corn was too tall to see who was making them, but from our heightened position they were plain to see.
"Is it them?" I said, feeling the desire to flee returning to the pit of my stomach.
"I'd say so. They're moving to slow to be normal people. They always move slow... until they see food."
I nodded. Either way, it wasn't worth the chance. It was time to leave.
"Lucy, get up. We're going."
"Huh?" she said groggily from her resting place on the couch. "Why?"
"Nevermind. Just hurry up and get ready."
Steve grabbed the bag of canned food we'd salvaged from the kitchen while Lucy and I retrieved our shoes. I was angry that we'd been disturbed after such a short time, but it couldn't be helped.
"I was just getting used to that couch too," Lucy grumbled. She moved to the back door and put her hand on the handle.
"No!" Steve and I cried simultaneously. "Not that way."
"But... the mountain's this way?" she said, confused.
"We're going out the front instead," Steve replied, gently pulling her by the arm. We ran back through lounge room and into the small hallway that lead to the front of the house. We'd looked in there before, but not opened the door. We were unsure of waited outside.
"Shit, I forgot my bar," I said, smacking my forehead.
"Well, hurry back and grab it," Steve replied. "We'll meet you outside."
I quickly ducked back into the lounge room, and looked for my makeshift weapon. Where the hell had it gone? I finally spotted it, sticking out from behind the pillows of the collapsed couch. Just as my hand grasped the cold metal, I heard Lucy's surprised scream.
"Oh god, what now?" I groaned. I bolted back to the hallway, iron bar brandished and ready to come to my sister's aid.
Lucy was hiding behind Steve, but both looked fine. The front door was wide open, and beyond that a veranda. I couldn't see anything worth screaming about.
"What is it?" I hissed, running to their side. Lucy pointed a shaking finger outside, towards the end of the veranda.
Standing at the top of some stairs leading to the ground below, were two people. They were dressed in black flowing robes, complete with hoods and long sleeves. They're faces were turned towards us, and I let out a gasp when I saw them. It was a young man and a woman, perhaps only a few years older then me, and their features looked very familiar. We'd seen them only a short while ago, on the dead man lying his table inside. But that wasn't what shocked me. It was their mouths. Their lips had been sewn together with thick, black twine.
"Who are they?" Lucy whimpered. "And what are those things they're holding?"
"It's called a scythe," Steve replied. "Used for cutting corn in long, sweeping motions."
I stared at massive weapons both people held in their hands. The blades were easily as long as my torso, and could cut through it with ease, I knew. The two hadn't moved yet, just kept standing there, staring at the intruders in their house. Their sad eyes pierced us. I could see no hope on their faces.
"I think they're the old man's kids," I said. "Brother and sister. But why are they dressed like that? Why'd they sew their mouths together?"
"Don't you get it?" Steve said. "Haven't you seen that image before? It's the Grim Reaper. They're dressed like death."
"Huh...?" I said, completely confused.
"People deal with grief in different ways. Some give up and die. Some cry and get over it. These two... I think they've resolved to fight till the end. And what better way to fight the dead then to become Death itself?"
"Oohh," I said, seeing the twisted but interesting logic behind it. "And their mouths?"
"We can't really ask them... but I think it'd have something to do with not wanting to scream."
"Well, that's all great," I said. "I'm glad someone's making a stand. But does that mean they're going to fight us too, or can we pass?"
"I don't think that matters anymore," Lucy said, pointing past the veranda to the road beyond.
"Oh... damn it," I sighed. An endless sea of bodies was coming our way; bloodied city dwellers on a mass exodus for fresh food. Their frightening run had become a determined shuffle, at least until they saw something to chase. Their heads and arms swung back and forth as they scanned the land around them for prey.
Could we ever escape them? Did they have the innate ability to sense the living or did we just always seem to be in the wrong place at the wrong time? Their milky, unblinking eyes revealed no answer, just the desire for the same thing they always wanted. Us.
"Jesus," Steve said. "We better find another way. Once they see us, there'll be no running from that hoard."
"What about them?" Lucy asked, nodding towards the Grim Farmers. "We can't just leave them."
The two seemed to hear us, and in response, the woman looked to her brother, and then turned to block the stairs entrance. They weren't going anywhere. I didn't know if they were giving us a chance to get away, or had just resolved to die defending their home and the corpse of their father. There was no way for us to help them now.
"Come on. Out the back. We'll just have to risk it," Steve said. We left the veranda, the siblings and the fast approaching hoard behind, returning to lounge room once again. Steve immediately ran to the window and looked out.
"Shit! They're already here!"
I ran beside him and watched as body after body stumbled out of the field and headed towards the farmhouse. Two had already reached the stairs, and were trying awkwardly to climb them.
"What the hell did we do now?!" I cried, unable to get the panic out of my voice. Steve gripped his bat tighter. Perhaps seeing the two farmers had stirred the desire to fight in him as well. To get revenge for the wife and future they'd taken from him.
"We can't," I said firmly, putting my hand on the bat and forcing it back to his side. "Even if you can fight the ones from the plane, I doubt those two can hold the front stairs for long. We'll get swarmed from both sides. I'm not risking Lucy's life so you can get a small piece of revenge."
Steve's muscles tensed for a few seconds longer, then he relaxed.
"You're right. I'm sorry. My personal vendettas can wait for another day." He left the window and went to door on the other side of the room. "Quick, in here."
There were loud bangs on the kitchen door as we followed Steve into the next room. Out the front, a hefty 'thwack' sound, followed by some snarls and gurgles. The hoard must have reached the house already.
"Why are we in here?" Lucy asked in a high voice, looking around at what was clearly a bedroom. "There's no doors! We can't get out!"
Steve went to the window and slammed it up.
"Oh shit!" he said. "Security bars. I didn't see those. We can't get through them."
"Oh great! Fucking fantastic!" I shouted. "Now what do we do?"
The banging on the kitchen door was getting more violent, and the enraged growls from the hoard growing louder. There was no telling how much longer the farmers could hold them off.
"C'mon... c'mon," Steve said through gritted teeth. He looked about desperately, taking a few steps around the room. Then he froze. He stared down at the floor and stomped on it a few times.
"What the hell are you doing?" I yelled. "That's not helping."
"It's wood," he replied, bending down to knock on it with his hand. "Old wood too."
I gazed at him in awe, suddenly feeling guilty about doubting his abilities. We really would be dead so many times by now if it hadn't been for him.
"You're a goddamn genius," I said, finding I could muster a smile even in a situation like this. Steve raised his bat and slammed it into the floor. The wood dented, but didn't break.
"Harder!" Lucy encouraged. "Hit it again!"
Steve pounded the floor again and again, each blow splintering more of the aged wood. Outside, I heard a high, feminine voice cry out, and cringed. Even with her mouth sewn shut, the woman had somehow managed to scream.
A floorboard suddenly shattered, falling into the darkness beneath the house. Steve immediately began to pry up more planks, trying to make a hole big enough for us to slip through.
"That's done it!" he cried triumphantly. "Quick; everyone through."
I sat on the edge of the hole first, and then jumped through. My landing sent up a cloud of dust that had probably been gathering there since the house was built.
"You next," I heard Steve say, and a second later Lucy jumped down beside me. From inside the house, there was a crash as the kitchen door finally gave way, and a mass of footsteps filled the house.
"Oh crap!" Steve jumped down the hole and landed heavily beside us. "Go, go!"
Keeping our bodies low so as to not bash our skulls against the wood above, we ran from under the house and burst back out into the daylight. There was no one there to greet us, just another field of corn and some rusted farm machinery. It was an unbelievable and possibly brief blessing.
"Get into the field, hurry!" Steve urged, pushing us towards the wall of corn stalks.
We did so, though what lay beyond was anyone's guess. Would the military base still be there? Would our luck hold out for much longer? At the moment the future didn't matter. Right now we had to survive. I ran for my life. I ran for my sister's life. For those who still lived and for all those who had died. Whether it be our school mates, our best friends or our parents, there was always reason to survive. We had to make it. We had to try.
We left the farmhouse far behind.