“No, and not yet.” Leonard replied with an easy smile, moving over to the tombstone where he’d left his shovel propped up. “Now let’s go find a new plot of land to bury the rest of the bodies we have. I imagine we’ll have to put them down if we dally for too long, and trust me, you don’t want to have to deal with a group of those things at once.”
John gave a weak laugh, getting up to his feet, wiping his hands on his trousers to clean off the dirt. Turning to Leonard, he was shocked to be faced with a flask mere inches from his face.
Looking past the offered item to Leonard, he saw a kind smile on the older man’s face. “Go ahead and take a swig, it’ll calm your nerves.”
John hesitantly nodded, taking the small silver flask and unscrewing the top before taking an experimental swig. His mouth burned at the raw taste of the burning fluid, which he gagged down his throat, leaving a fiery trail down past his tongue. With tears in his eyes, he coughed and sputtered as he tucked the flask into his own shirt, deciding to save the rest for a later time...
“God, is that shit awful! How can you drink it?” John gasped his voice raw and hoarse from the amber fluid.
“Yeah, whiskey can be like that. I prefer it because a small amount can chase away the blues for a good long while.” Leonard said. “You’ll learn to like it, though I don’t advise you come to rely on it; stuff is poison through and through.”
“So what’s next?” John rasped, coughing still.
Leonard merely smiled at the question.
An hour later, John groaned as he walked through the graveyard, lantern held high as he searched for the bodies that had been lying in the cart. Apparently, they had taken too long, resulting in the reanimation of the mass of dead, which were now wandering the grounds of the graveyard. Leonard had been adamant that they couldn’t leave the graveyard, as this was holy ground.
“No dead thing can cross off or onto holy ground. Since they woke up here, they’re stuck here.”
He’d said with a sad look on his face. “Poor bastards…”
“Poor bastards my ass…” John huffed, following the trail of what had to have been a larger specimen.
“You shouldn’t swear!” A girlish voice scolded him from the darkness, causing John to spin about in search of the voice’s owner.
A young girl in a pristine white dress stood between two dead trees, her golden locks flowing from her head in bouncing curls. A blue sash was tied around her waist, and a pair of shiny black had-heeled shoes glimmered in the lanterns light.
“Who are you and what in the world are you doing here?” John asked, looking at the girl as if she were mad.
The girl twitched spasmodically, her arm bending in an inhuman fashion before returning to normal. “I live here silly! What are you doing here?”
John paled as the girl quirked an eyebrow at him before vanishing and reappearing a few steps from him, walking normally. “Are you alright? You look awfully pale for someone walking around during the summer.”
“I’m… fine, just a bit startled is all. I didn’t think anyone but Leonard lived on the grounds.” John said, trying to keep his voice from catching in his throat.
“Well that’s just silly! There are a lot of us here in the graveyard. You should play with us sometime!” The girl enthused, giggling at the idea of a new playmate, a cute but hollow sound.
“Yeah, sure… listen, I’m actually working right now and am trying to find a larger… guy. Or girl. Have you seen anyone else that’s new wandering in this area?” John said, trying not to fumble over his words around the spirit. The only thing he knew about them was that they were temperamental and had often volatile mood changes.
“Sure, there’s a dead man wandering through the Mausoleums right now, chasing down some of the other kids. He’s too slow to catch us though, so we’re mostly just playing with him.” The girl replied, nodding a bit as she spoke. Her face stretched and contorted for a brief second before returning to the smiling face, her arm racing out to take his. “Come on I’ll show you!”
John gave a cry as she began to drag him by his arm, her strength like something from a storybook, and her grip a chilling touch when compared to the heat of the sweltering night air. As she was dragging him she seemed to be feeling up his arm a little, moving her fingers over the cloth of his bicep to different spots as she did.
“What are you doing?” John asked, trying to wrench his arm free. Her grip held fast though!
Turning on him with a hurt expression, she gave him a long look before replying. “You’re warm… I just wanted to feel warm too.”
“Oh, I’m sorry… go right ahead.” John apologized, not wanting her to grow irate with him while still holding him.
Her appearance immediately grew more cheerful as she did just that, pulling him flush against her side as she molded herself to him. Practically purring, she hugged him even tighter. “Oh thank you! It’s always so cold, and I never get to touch a living person anymore!”
“What about Leonard? Doesn’t he come and play with you all or anything.”
The girl puffed her cheeks out angrily at Leonard’s name, though she didn’t answer. A low groan filled the night air, along with a score of children laughing. Several young boys and girls, all in various states of dress and decay ran past the two, two or three hovering a foot or so above the ground as they shouted out taunts at something just beyond John’s sight.
“That might be who I came here for… if you’ll pardon me Miss…?” John said, extracting himself from her hold.
“Beaucourt, Aimee Beaucourt. And if you must…” She replied dejectedly, slowly fading from sight, leaving a cold spot washing over John like a sudden rain shower. Shaking himself, he took hold of his spade and moved forward, between the dead hedges.
And right in front of the two-hundred-pound walking dead he’d been tracking. A huge bull of a man, his thick tanned arms stood out starkly against his pale body, deep bruises having formed on his right side from having “settled” as Leonard had put it, where all the thick pasty blood had pooled within his body. The corpse groaned out plaintively as he swiped at John, his meaty hands curled with rigor mortis into hooks.
John ducked and backed away, twirling his spade about as he looked for a way to tackle this creature without getting torn apart. The swarm of ghosts that had been taunting the fresh dead were now all seated in the boughs of trees or atop gravestones, watching the fight as it began with wicked grins on their faces.
Guess entertainment was lacking in the graveyard.
John darted forward, slashing his spade into the side of the giant man, just across his bruised abdomen, creating a thin but long gash that seeped out the jellied substance of the man’s coagulated blood in a steady spurting stream. The air quickly became foul with the sickly-sweet stench of decay, making John immediately regret his decision. The cadaver didn’t care; it merely groaned and moved to tackle John, teeth bared and hands cracking and popping as it flexed its fingers.
John ducked beneath one swipe and jumped to the side as it stomped the grassy earth where he once stood, before taking a hard blow to the shoulder from the creature’s follow up, tossing John back several feet and into a headstone, making him see stars. The crowd of spirits all jeered and laughed as the gigantic corpse closed in on John, lunging.
John sat still for a few moments to right his vision, rolling to the side at the last second as he saw the towering figure lunging for him. A series of boos and whistles came from the dead children as the lunging corpse slammed face first into the tombstone, John having rolled to the side and out of the creature’s path. A sickening series of cracks and snaps echoed across the graveyard, and blood seeped from where the walking dead’s face slid down the now cracked tombstone. Moving quickly, John got to his feet and grabbed his spade, moving up to the still twitching corpse and hacking deep into the back of its neck, severing its spine.
“Yeah!” One boy called out, slapping another on the shoulder.
“Finish him!” A second cried out from atop a tombstone.
The huge corpse swung back with one of its meaty hands to swat John away again, but he’d learned from the first blow that he couldn’t allow such an act occur again. John ducked back and moved closer in, slashing at the man’s shoulder with the sharpened edge of his spade, severing tendons and sinew from the bone, black blood seeping from the wound slowly as the arm flailed about uselessly.
Letting loose a rage filled moan, the dead flopped onto its side and wriggled to get up to its knees. John took his chance and struck the creature in the face with the flat end of his spade, the crunch of bone beneath iron making the young boy wince. The corpse swayed from side to side for a moment before John repeated the action, slamming the spade home once more, dropping the large corpse to the grass with a soft thud.
A small round of applause came from the lingering spirits around him, as well as a few whistles and calls for an encore. John merely smiled and waved at the gathered ghosts, hoping against hope that he could get away from them before they turned on him somehow. Spitting onto his hands and rubbing them together, John knelt to grab the large corpse by the ankles and, slowly, began to drag him back the way he came.