A challenge where we write a story based on a 15 word sentence another blog member wrote over at terrible minds. Mine was the following, from Bree.
It was a strange feeling to wake up dead. It’s hard to explain to a living person, the quietness that comes with not having to breathe, the aching of limbs that aren’t growing or living any more, that are barely yours. More of an emptiness than anything else.
I sat up and rubbed my eyes, trying to remember how I’d ended up in a meadow on this glorious day. As my lips formed words, my throat uttered the same guttural moaning as the…. When my tentative fingertips crept up my neck, I could feel only superficial abrasions. A glance down and I almost came undone. My side had been gnawed; I had a gaping hole above my hips. I screamed, but all I heard was an unnatural shrieking. Eventually I calmed down enough probe the wound. There was no blood and no pain. It seemed I had no more natural reflexes, because even though I was overwhelmed with revulsion when I pushed the ragged skin flap back, I didn’t gag.
I began panicking. I was one of them: the risen. They were the very danger I had been escaping from. I couldn’t remember how I came to be here, how I turned into one. It had been dark, we’d been running through the trees, they’d been close behind us… That was where I drew a blank.
I pushed myself up from the grass, and started shuffling toward the foothills of the mountain. Luckily, I still remembered where the cabin was tucked, in a blind corner of the valley, hidden from view and with an obscure path up a shallow creek. I looked about me, at discarded parts in the grass, the signs of struggle, and shivered. The sooner I got there, the better. My friends could help me.
It took me the better part of the day to get to the valley, as my feet dragged in every root and twisted in every hollow they could. The only benefit of being undead was I no longer felt any pain, my body was just responding more slowly with every hour that went on. The shadows were long streaks of darkness on the ground as my foot plunked into the stream.
Several times, I slipped on rocks covered in algae. On one spill, there was a sickening crack as my jaw hit, and when I got up, it hung more loosely than before. I tried to be careful, to take my time, but my coordination had disappeared since my death.
The upper valley turned silver as the moon rose overhead, turning the homely rocks into beautiful staircase winding upward. I wondered if my friends were sitting in the attic with the skylight open, as we had many evenings in the past, talking about what to do in the future and the people who we missed. For how much longer would I be able to appreciate the world around me like this? My ragged sigh was drowned in the gentle sounds of the stream.
It was early morning when I rounded into the hidden cleft of the valley, the hut disguised by big bushy trees. I stumbled into the clearing on the other side and sat, looking at what appeared to be a dilapidated door. I knew better. When the bellbirds began stirring, so would my friends.
Kate was the first out of the door, no doubt planning on her usual early morning dip. She was her typically careful self and started when she saw me move in the shadow of the tree. Slowly, with random and uncoordinated movement, she slipped back to the house. I knew that they would observe me now, watch for what I would do. All I had to do was wait.
It was late in the afternoon when Kate stepped out, armed and strung tighter than a bowstring. She walked towards me, stopped, and then moved again. She crouched away from me, ready to spring, her green eyes level with mine, flicking around my body to my damage. She definitely recognised me.
“Pete?” Her voice was level and soft, but she didn’t move a muscle.
I tried to speak but groaned gutturally instead. Kate scuttled backwards but didn’t retreat fully.
She tried again. “Do you know where you are?”
I nodded my head limply. I gestured my pale, slightly green arm at the cabin. This time she didn’t run. She bit her lip, regret flitting over her face. A thinking risen was an event we hadn’t a plan for, especially not when it was one of our friends who became undead.
“I have to talk to the others. Can you wait here?”
The clearing dropped back into silence when Kate closed the door. I was happy waiting. The door burst open as John strode through it, waving a machete. A flag flew up in my memory, but it was still in the dark recesses of two nights ago. John was impetuous and aggressive, he was a real danger to me right now. I struggled up, my lip turned up and I even growled. He turned to face me as the others poured out from the house, their bodies taut with stress, everyone armed.
“See?” John yelled, gesturing at me. “He’s jus’ the same.”
“Pete,” Kate spoke clearly and calmly across the space. “Show the others he’s not right.”
Slowly, I dragged myself back, tried to lower my hackles. I saw their expressions; some were unconvinced but others I knew just wanted me back and they looked hopeful. John turned and towered over me, and suddenly it all became clear.
I had almost passed John, with the risen just behind us, their hunger driving them on. He saw me, I saw the whites of his eyes. I saw his arm move before I felt the bat hit me. Blinded by pain, I tumbled, and fell beneath the crunching jaws of the undead tide.
Growling, I crouched, the red haze of fury tinting my world. John’s eyes showed that he knew I remembered, and then that he suddenly realised how close he was to me. I was not going to suffer alone.
“Pete, no!” Kate was begging me.
I heard them all cry out, but it was drowned in the wet screams as John received the repayment for his kindness.