Rusty as ancient hinges, the earth groaned over into night. Bugs scissored various appendages, creaking out a hymn that was muffled by the silence of the boneyard. Even the growls of the corpse and soft curses of the woman wrestling it toward an open grave hovered only around the odd pair. The air of the place was cotton.
She had bound the hands of the creature and muzzled it like a dog. Behind the leather straps, its exposed teeth worked viciously, gnashing at nothing. Her fingers dug reeking pits into the rotting flesh of the thing’s arms as she pushed it along. It was falling apart, but it was strong.
And she had to bury it.
So on they trudged, the thing struggling and snapping and rolling the one eye only half-sagged into decay, her sweating and dogged. On toward the hole scrabbled into the soft ground.
It found purchase once on a tombstone when she blindly steered it into another’s resting place. The groan constantly dribbling through its desiccated lungs rose into a hoarse shriek, and it kicked almost instinctively against the marble block. Her own cry of surprise ripped itself from her throat as they toppled over to the side.
She fell with her arm across its putrid abdomen, almost spooning the creature. In a flash, it struck her skull with its own mostly exposed one, lunging for a piece of her face, and she blinked out.
She woke to nuzzling against her chest. Still mostly drifting in unconsciousness, a dreamy half-smile stole across her face. She reached up to stroke a hank of hair and slimy scalp from the dead thing trying to chew into her breastbone. Reality iced her veins, and she shuddered away in fits of kicks and gags.
It struggled on the ground, streaking the grass with gore. Once her breath stopped hitching and resumed the mildly wheezy pant of determined panic, she rose to her feet. Humping its way along, the corpse found said feet and got to work rubbing its muzzled mouth against them. Her lips peeled from her teeth in disgust, and she took a few awkward steps back before throwing her entire body into a kick to its ribs. The bloated belly burst with the sound of a slowly deflating balloon. Undeterred, the thing snapped at the foot she had to wrench from its caved side.
She stepped to the side of it and gave it an expression that was half pity. “You can’t just do us both a favor and disappear, can you?”
It howled in reply.
She snarled ferally and bent to wrestle it back to its decrepit feet. “Well fuck you too, then.”
Only minor scuffles plagued them the rest of the way. She pitched it over into the hole without an ounce of pity. “Rot.”
Her hands echoed the word in hisses as she scooped loose dirt over the bucking remains. Rot…rot…rot…rot… until it was buried. She paused on all fours over the mound of fragrant earth and panted spitefully.
After a moment, her sides switched their bellows-like heave to a manic twitch as she laughed. She pounded her fists into the grave, denting the slightly concave mound. She howled. She cried. She dry-heaved. She at last scrubbed her face with muddy, gory hands and stood silently at the edge.
A few grains of dirt trickled subtly down the sides of the mound. She thought she might have seen it heave a little, but she’d also been sure she’d gone raving mad awhile ago. Who knew what she’d seen. Who knew if any of this was even real.
Her face taughtened suddenly, and she spat on the mound. It pitted the dirt, and she was sure this time she saw it buckle ever so slightly upward in the forever living dead thing’s attempt to reach the surface again.
She blurted a titter that was not a little unbalanced and turned from the mound. Many down, some to go. The numbers weren’t important. She just had to get them buried as quickly as possible. Surely once they’d rotted, whatever weird strength they had would leave their bones. They’d vanish into the ground and cease their endless chewing.
As she left the graveyard, she’d almost have whistled if she could. Had she, she would have unwittingly found nothing but the discordant tune of moans and shifting dirt her ear would no longer discern fluttering hoarsely from her dry lips. To her, the night was silent and sweet and the burials were still unfinished. A hand newly broken free reached for her, but she was gone.
Never will I ever post a story here, but sometimes a nice little vignette is just what’s needed to force myself to look at a situation differently.
You do what you can when faced with survival. It’s the moral of every zombie story, hidden under some fun gore and ass-kicking if it’s the film or graphic novel type. Moral citizens attempt to uphold morals, and the main antagonists are usually not the undead but the criminals held in check only by society. The undead become a backdrop to human struggle, more of a catalyst than a real threat. Different stories deal with this issue differently, but it is almost always central.
And if you don’t know how to stop something from killing you, what do you do but bury it? It’ll claw its way free eventually, but sometimes you just need to buy yourself some time. Regroup, make a plan, return to execute it. I’ve had to buy myself years, and the debt is coming up. I’m still not sure what my plan is.
Maybe someday I’ll be able to face everything that’s happened and conquer my fear of trust. It’s not today. Today, I’ll just settle for a little peace. Rest my battle-weary bones in the dust and know no more for awhile.