Oh, God… So, I've finally finished the third chapter! Yay for me! I'm so, so sorry about not updating this story, but I went on vacation and then procrastinated, so I'm really surprised that I got done. I wrote three thousand words today alone. You should all be proud of me. So, without further ado, the story (and the disclaimer)!
Disclaimer: I am not Chris Wooding. I do not own Malice or Havoc or any other pieces of his work. I do not own the characters Henry and Ben, though I do own all OCs in this story. No copyright infringement intended.
When Henry saw the undead creatures, his heart fell. He could see Ben out of his peripheral vision and guessed from his wide eyes that the other boy shared his response. His expression clearly said we are screwed, and Henry figured that those few words just about summed up his feelings about their situation perfectly. On his other side the girl stood tense and ready, her blue eyes scanning the graveyard as if she was already planning out their attack. She didn't seemed bothered all too much by the appearance of the creatures and she bounced almost eagerly from foot to foot, wincing with each movement.
Henry looked back out at the monsters – zombies? – and took a breath. Every instinct in his body screamed at him to run in the opposite direction, but his feet felt cemented into the ground. Was he the only one feeling this way? Did the others feel panic gripping their bodies like a cold fist of ice? The girl was unfazed and Ben stood, facing the monsters with an expression of stubborn determination on his face. Henry frowned deeply. Aren't they scared? he wondered, nervous that he was the only one who was terrified by what he saw before him. It made him feel cowardly, which was a feeling that he did not like one bit.
The trio stood in relative silence for a moment; the only sound the moans of the undead. Finally, Ben asked, "So, now what?"
"We kill them," the girl responded simply, as if it was the obvious thing to do.
"All of them?" Ben asked for clarification, eyebrows rising. His voice shook for a second when he spoke, which came as both a relief and worry to Henry. He was relieved that he wasn't alone in his fear, but worried that Ben's unease would make it hard for his brother to fight the monsters.
The girl shook her head. "Only what we need to escape. If we can get to the station, we should be fine. But we also have to find a ticket somewhere in there, too, which could be a problem. We don't know where they are."
Ben frowned, his gaze searching the graveyard as if he was already looking for that one last ticket. Henry watched him, wondering how his brother did it. How did he stay calm like that? Henry was so frightened that he was convinced his knees were shaking, though every time he looked down to check, they weren't. Ben spoke, breaking through Henry's thoughts as he said, "We need weapons."
"That is the understatement of the year," Henry mumbled, crossing his arms over his chest. Where were they going to get weapons? They monsters didn't just happen to have a stash of guns in the mausoleum, did they? No. He highly doubted that they did.
His companions ignored him and Henry sighed. It was almost as if he wasn't there. He wished that he wasn't there. He couldn't fight a zombie hoard! He was just a kid! How could Ben and the girl expect him to do that? But he didn't voice any of his fears, not wanting to seem weak. Everyone was silent, thinking. The moans rumbled through the air in a monotone, the only sounds they heard. Suddenly the girl spun on her heel, walking quickly back toward the mausoleum. She slipped through the crack between the heavy stone doors and called over her shoulder, "I'll be back in a second!"
Ben watched her leave and Henry watched the hoard. The hoard moved slowly, the zombies dragging themselves back and forth across the mostly-dead grass. They could smell him and Ben, but they couldn't locate them. It was as if a barrier stood between the zombies and the boys. He wondered how that worked. The station seemed clear, too, as if another invisible wall protected the other side of the graveyard. The zombies moaned into the still air. No breeze drifted over the earth, and for that Henry was grateful. He didn't want to catch a whiff of the fetid odor that rose from their rotting flesh.
"Grab a weapon," the girl's voice advised and Henry tore his gaze away from the hoard. The girl held three objects in her hands; a shovel, a wooden plank and what looked like a kitchen knife. "I've already claimed the shovel, so have fun with what you get."
Ben reached forward, snatching the knife from her grip. "Mine," he declared possessively, his fist closing over the handle.
"I guess I get the board," Henry sighed, reluctantly taking the plank from the girl. One of the edges was chipped, as if it had been yanked off of something. The wood underneath the surface was paler in colour than the outer layer, and the texture of the board suggested that it had been stained. A nail protruded from one edge of the plank, the metal slightly rusted as if it had been left outside in the rain.
The girl gripped her shovel, holding it like it was a sword. "Here's how this is going to go down: I'm going in first. You-" she gestured at Ben "-what did you say your name was?"
"Ben," he said. "My brother is Henry."
"Okay. Not important." The girl waved away the last part like it was an annoying fly buzzing in her ear. "Ben, you follow me. Look for tickets and grab whatever you can find. Henry, you come down last. Cover our asses. That's your only job."
Without waiting for a nod of assent from either of them, the girl walked away from the mausoleum and into the hoard, brandishing her shovel. The monsters scented her and their moans grew in volume. They could smell the blood running through her veins and were determined to find her and kill her. One approached her but she quickly bashed it in the face with the flattest part of her shovel. The zombie stumbled backwards, its arms reaching for her even as it was beaten back. Its twisted, broken fingers grazed her forearms and she flinched. She swung the board again, smashing it in the face in an attempt to get it away from her, but to no avail: the zombie kept coming.
"A little help here?" the girl asked, looking back at them over her shoulder for a split second before turning her attention back to the monster.
Ben nodded, wading into the growing throng. He jabbed outward at the zombie, earning him a glare from the girl that clearly asked, what do you think you're doing? Ben promptly but jerkily sliced into the zombie's neck and Henry thought he could hear the crunch of its spine as it was severed by the blade. Ben yanked the knife out of the creature's neck, turning away. "Let's keep going," he suggested, looking around again. Henry still wasn't exactly sure what he was searching for. A ticket? That seemed the most plausible.
"Okay," the girl agreed, holding her shovel outward to ward off the approaching zombies. Already new ones were upon her, inching forward as they dragged themselves across the field. She swung at another zombie, the blade slicing into its neck and decapitating him. She examined her work for a second before looking up at Ben. "How'd you figure out that cutting of their heads would kill them?"
Ben replied with a grunt as he sliced at another monster, "Well, they're pretty much zombies. You cut off a zombie's head, they die. It was pretty straightforward."
The pair fell into silence, surveying the area and beating away at any zombie that dared come near. They were oddly slow in reaching Ben and the girl, Henry mused. "Hey, Henry," Ben said, stabbing into a zombie as it scrabbled for his arm. "Come and help, will you? No use just standing around."
Henry blinked, making a startled sound instead of forming a response. He forced his feet to move and he crossed slowly, reluctantly, through that invisible barrier that protected him from the zombies. Just stepping away from the mausoleum caused his heart to thump in his chest, pushing adrenaline and panic into his system. He hated how his palms felt warm and clammy with a mixture of nervousness and fear. He hated how all he wanted to do was run and run and run away.
"Henry, are you listening to a single thing I'm saying?" Henry snapped to attention at Ben's sharply delivered words.
"Huh?" he frowned at his brother, gripping his board tighter in preparation for the worst. "Were you saying something?"
The girl made an irritated sound, slicing at a zombie. Some moved faster than others, Henry observed, which was contrary to what he had thought. Either way, he still didn't want to fight one of those. "At least try to pay attention, will you? This isn't some video game. This is life or death."
Henry glared at her. He didn't like how she talked to him like he didn't know how dire the situation was. That's what freaked him out. He hadn't signed up for something like that. He hadn't signed up to battle a field of zombies. He had signed up for a parent-free life. This was not what he wanted. At all.
Ben shot the girl a glance. "Take it easy on him," he advised, letting out a slight grunt as he chopped through another zombie's neck. "It's not every day you run into a hoard of zombies."
The girl rolled her eyes. "Well, it'd do him best to get used to it. Everything that happens here in Malice wouldn't happen any day anywhere else."
Henry sighed, no longer listening to their argument. He hung back, as far away from the zombies as he could get without hiding in the protection of the barrier. He gripped his board tightly, his fingers cramping from the pressure he applied to the wood. He was looking around for tickets when his gaze focused on a zombie that was lumbering ungracefully towards him. Henry thrust out the board, but the zombie was still too far away for it to be affective in any way. He could see its features clearly as it approached; the wrinkled and mottled grey skin, the ragged holes in its flesh formed by decay, all of the weapons protruding from its arms and legs and torso and neck and head and how on earth could it still be walking with all of that damage done to it? Henry didn't understand how it could still be chasing after him when it already had so many wounds.
That's why they're called the undead, stupid.
The zombie dragged itself forward by a foot, crossing the distance with a slowness that nearly drove Henry insane. It wasn't because he was eager for the zombie to get there – because he was not at all eager for the zombie to get there – but because he couldn't stand the panic that shook him as he waited for the monster to finally arrive and deliver his doom. If you're going to kill me, hurry up about it! Impatience, mixed with fear, was eating away at him, making his thoughts blurry. With each step, the monster seemed to slow.
Finally – finally – the monster was there. Henry swung wildly at it, hoping to do something, anything at all, that would damage it. The nail pierced its flesh, making it moan angrily. It continued to reach out for him, twisted and gnarled fingers trying to grab hold of his flesh. Henry cried out as the rotten tips of the zombie's fingers landed on his skin, digging into the flesh and yanking his arm forward. Henry swung again, catching the monster's face and jerking it backwards. Henry tried to pull himself away, but the zombie's grip did not relent.
Henry bashed the monster's face with the board again and, at the same time as the zombie released him, pulled his arm away with all of his might. Henry stumbled backwards, his board swinging in his hand. The nail raked down part of his left forearm and red blood filled the break in his skin. The zombie's moaning grew furious and was joined by many others. Zombies dotted up along the field, suddenly appearing where before Henry had never noticed them. They all wanted to kill him and he didn't even have a real weapon to defend himself with so they probably were going to succeed! The zombie lurched forward, reaching for his body but Henry scrambled backwards, abandoning the board in the grass. It wasn't going to do him much good anyway.
The zombie continued forward, still reaching, letting its fingers brush across his skin. Henry gasped, struggling not to vomit at the feeling. It made his stomach roll. It felt like any rotten thing felt, except instead of feeling the skin of a rotten apple, he felt the familiar texture of skin. Henry shoved himself back again, his shirt stretching and the collar pulling at his throat.
Henry twisted, pushing himself up and off the ground, stumbling away from the zombie. Almost as soon as he stood, though, something slammed into him, bowling him to the ground and rolling their bodies down a dip in the almost-flat land. He knew it was a zombie, its rotting flesh touching his own. Henry cried out, rocks and earth pounding his back and bruising his arms as he rolled to a stop. The zombie's arm was against his and Henry shoved it away from him, hands pushing at the monster's face, giving him enough time to jerk to his feet, backing away hastily.
Moans were all around him, making it impossible to locate each individual zombie. He whirled around, searching behind him for any more zombies, but they all were slowly working their way down the dip. He spun again so he could see the zombie that was on the ground only moments before and was devastated to find that it had already forced itself to its feet and was moving toward him with a speed that should not have belonged to something dead.
Henry searched frantically for any weapon to use when his devastation turned to almost overwhelming gratitude. A knife that had been embedded in the zombie's side had been knocked loose in their fall and lay on the ground, hilt facing Henry. He dived toward it at the same time the zombie dived toward him and his hand closed around the hilt. The zombie's mouth grazed over his arm and panic shot through Henry. He thrashed under the zombie, his knife slashing across the zombie's forehead. A black liquid poured from the wound, almost as if it was blood, and stained the front of Henry's shirt.
The liquid burned and Henry screamed, ripping at the fabric covering his chest while thrashing away from the zombie, who clamped down on Henry's shoulder, face nearing the flesh. It was going to get him and kill him and maybe eat him or the other zombies would catch up and he would be torn apart and then he would just be dead and it would be his fault because he was too slow and it was going to get him!
The moaning rose, the zombies finally starting off toward him. He was going to die and no one was coming and he kept thrashing, bashing the zombie's face away from him with his fists. He felt the crunch of bone under his hand, but the zombie did not stop. He kicked and his foot connected with the zombie's torso, shoving its body off of him. The zombie's ragged nails ripped across Henry's flesh, breaking the skin as even more blood seeped from his arm. The moaning swelled, falling over him like a wave. The other monsters wouldn't be far behind.
Henry shoved himself up off the ground, his heart beating rapidly, each beat pounding in his temples. The zombie was already moving closer to him again and the panic finally took complete control of his actions, making him thrust out. Henry felt the sickening ease with which the knife pierced the creature's flesh.
It screamed, its face contorting into a mask of horror. The scream was unlike anything Henry had ever heard. It was sharp and shrill, shattering the moans of the other undead. They screamed with it, almost as if the pain of the one had been inflicted upon the others. The flesh over its cheekbones pulled taught, revealing holes in the skin and muscle. He could see the cavern of the zombie's mouth through the gap, as well as broken teeth snapping for him. Henry's voice joined the scream as he drew the knife back before plunging it into the zombie's chest cavity again and again.
Finally, with a swipe, he slashed across the zombie's throat. He felt the blade break through the spinal cord, but when he yanked back on the knife, he couldn't get it out. Black liquid tricked from the wound as he struggled to retrieve the knife and a droplet of the liquid splashed onto the back of Henry's hand. The boy screamed again, recoiling instantly. The skin where the liquid had fallen burned, just like his chest. He rubbed his hands on his jeans and, when he examined the wound, the skin around it was white, dark patches mottling the flesh just like the skin of a zombie.
Henry tore his gaze away from his hand just in time to watch the zombie slump to the ground, its head only half attached to its shoulders. The black liquid pooled around the cut, seeping into the earth. He paid no attention to it and looked over his shoulders. The zombies were close, so close, moving toward him as swiftly as they could. More fast-moving zombies, like the one he had just fought, had joined the herd and were leading it toward him, their moans loud and needy. Though his body was aching and he both wanted to run and collapse all at once, he mustered the energy to climb the slight hill to relative safety. They wouldn't stop chasing him until he was at the station, the scent of his blood drawing them closer. The blood was trickling down his forearm, running over his wrist down his fingers, dripping off his nails. He had to move.
So he did. He pushed himself forward, cresting the hill as quickly as he could manage. The zombies were gaining. Their closeness, their speed, caused adrenaline to continue to pump through his body. That was the sole thing that kept him going; the need to run away, the need to flee. He stood on the edge, turned and looking toward the approaching threat, when something brushed his arm. Henry let out a shout, whirling around and blindly shoving whatever had touched him onto the ground. This earned him an irritated, "Umph." The sound was familiar, so achingly familiar.
"Ben?" Henry demanded, his wide-eyed gaze searching for the form of his brother. When he found it, he broke into a grin. "Ben! Oh, God, you're here! Thank God!" He extended his hand to his brother, who took it, and pulled the older boy upward before trapping him in a relieved hug.
"Nice to see you, too, Henry," Ben said, extracting himself from the other boy's grip. He was frowning at the mass of zombies collecting at the bottom of the hill, then frowned at the cut on Henry's hand and then frowned at the black stain on the chest of Henry's shirt. "I leave you alone for five minutes and you do this?" He gestured at the hoard.
Henry looked over his shoulder and jerked his head in a nod. "Yeah. Whatever. Let's get out of here."
Ben made a sound of agreement and the two boys ran across the field. Whenever Henry stepped on his left foot, pain lanced up his leg, working its way into his knee and hip. However, he didn't complain. He knew that every step was one more step away from the zombies. If he needed to, he would've flown.
And then he stumbled, tripping over his own feet and slamming to the ground. He took a choked breath, looking up to see Ben skidding to a stop. They were only meters away from the station. Ben should've been crossing the invisible barrier and getting himself to safety, but he was stopping and turning and running back to help him up. His brother weaved around the gravestones, stopping and extending a hand to help him up. Henry accepted the hand, standing slowly. His body screamed in protest, wanting him to lie down and die. Now that the adrenaline was fading, the aches and pains were much more prominent.
He tried to ignore them the best he could, but the pains forced him to acknowledge their existence. Moving killed. Straightening his back made his head spin. But Ben was still urging him forward, checking over their shoulders to make sure that the zombies weren't right on their tails. "Hurry up, Henry," he would say, pushing his brother around gravestones as he struggled to move. "We've got to move, Henry."
"I know, I know," Henry muttered, taking one step after the other. The longer he took, the more Ben checked for the monsters and the more he urged him forward. "Give me a second." And then he leaned against a gravestone, wiping the blood from his arm and smearing it over the cool stone. He was looking down, taking a deep breath, when a dark slip of paper caught his attention. He smiled slightly and asked, "Hey, Ben, did you find another ticket yet?"
Ben's eyes widened and he swore. "No, we haven't. You just get back to the station and I'll find one."
Henry's smile grew as he snatched the ticket from the base of the gravestone, nestled in amongst the overgrown grass. "Not a problem, then. I just found one."
Ben released a relieved breath as Henry looked up at him before muttering impatiently, "Great. Can we get moving now?"
Henry let out a groan of, "Fine," as he pushed himself off of the gravestone. Ben resumed his role of drill sergeant as they ran, calling out to Henry to run faster, to go quicker, to go around the gravestone that way, not the other. By the time they reached the station, Henry was afraid that his brother would start referring to him as a 'pansy'.
Henry pushed through the invisible barrier protecting the station, immediately leaning against one of the columns as soon as he was safe. He was gasping for air while his eyes squeezed shut tight against the pain coursing through his body. His eyes flew open when the girl commented, "So, you finally found him, huh? A little bit worse for wear, too."
He forced himself into an upright position, glaring at the girl. "Do you have any idea what I just went through? You don't know what happened to me. You didn't even come looking."
The girl glared back and stated bluntly, "My survival isn't tethered to yours. What happens to you doesn't matter to me. Is it supposed to?"
"Yes!" Henry said through gritted teeth, partially because she had angered him and partially against the pain. "It is! If it wasn't for Ben, you would have died in the mausoleum!"
Ben opened his mouth to say something, but the girl cut him off. "But you're not Ben, are you? You're Henry. You didn't save my life, so why should I stick my neck out for you?"
This made Henry fall silent. He didn't really have an answer, did he? Why should she risk herself for him? He wasn't doing any good anyway. He was a coward who was afraid of everything. What use was he to anyone? The girl smiled smugly, thinking she had won the argument when Ben contributed to their discussion.
"How dare you talk to my brother that way!" he snapped. "You should stick your neck out for him because of human decency, that's why! It's the whole reason why I helped you! And what right do you have to speak to anyone that way? Who do you think you are?"
"Brianna Young," she stated, her tone matter of fact. "That's who I am. Now, if you two are done with your little yelling fits, the train's coming in a few seconds and I kind of want to catch it."
Ben's hands clenched into fists and he looked like he wanted to punch the girl – Brianna, Henry reminded himself – in the face. Somehow he restrained himself, turning away from her and facing Henry. "Well, were to now?"
"No idea," Henry managed, squeezing his eyes shut again. Talking hurt too much, so he stopped.
Ben ran his fingers through his hair as he always did when he didn't know what to do, exhaling deeply. "That's great. We have nowhere to go and the train's coming." His tone was dripping sarcasm.
Brianna coughed suddenly, drawing attention to herself. "I have friends in the city that you guys could probably stay with while you figure out where you're going. They'd be cool with it."
The brothers just stared at her, wide-eyed. Finally, Henry managed to ask, "What's the catch?"
Brianna glared at him first, then at Ben. "Neither of you can say I don't stick my neck out for people, got it?"
The boys exchanged a glance, a silent understanding that they weren't going to get a better offer passing between them. Ben agreed. "Okay," he stated. "We won't. Just get us to the city alive."
She smiled, turning as the rattling of the approaching train grew in volume. "You've got a deal."
Before Ben or Henry could respond, the train was screeching to a stop at the station, the sound rising above the moans of the undead. And then there was a sharp hiss as the hatch-like door opened, smoke billowing around the entrance from the wheels of the train. Brianna stepped onto the train first, followed by Ben, and then Henry. He peered through the sudden lack of light, waiting for his pupils to dilate and enable him to see. Slowly, his eyes adjusted and he could make out the benches, the lights, the port-hole windows… They were alone in the train car, just the three of them. And then the ghostly conductor appeared and it became the three of them alone in the train car with a creepy ghost.
"Tickets, please," the conductor said in his monotone voice, watching them as they handed the three black tickets over. "Where to?"
Brianna looked back at the two of them once for clarification before announcing, "The Terminus."