Yesterday we shared the first part of the vampire hunting adventure in the first Damned Lies novel. Our intrepid hero joined a nun hunting a vampire and ended up with some zombies added in. Now the conclusion!
August, 1994 - The Middle of Nowhere
Vampires and zombies meant I was going to get to mark two things off my bucket list. I was very excited, despite the danger. Two things I thought unlikely to kill getting completed on the same day!
Best day ever.
I hefted my axe. Zombies were going to go down. We all knew it. I knew it. Sister Nancy knew it. The zombies would probably know it if they weren't mindless husks of reanimated flesh yearning for...
"Nancy, are these the bitey type of zombies?"
"What?" she asked. She let loose a crossbow bolt, but by her dismayed grunt, it did not find its mark. She hastily loaded another bolt.
"Are these the feast-on-the-living sort of zombies?" I asked. "I mean, what's their motivation? Do they want to tear me apart and eat me? Do they just eat brains exclusively? Or are they going to just shamble around, lamenting their existence?"
"They want to kill you," she said.
An undead arm was sticking through the boards in the windows on the right side of the church, while I heard the zombies banging on the boards on the left side. I looked at the arm for a moment as it flailed around, trying to grab whatever it could. I shrugged, took a deep breath and swung.
I hacked the zombie's arm off in one swing.
Sure, I'll admit it was my third swing, but I still say it was one swing because the other two swings missed the arm entirely. The arm fell to the floor and rolled a foot or two before coming to a stop.
I bent down and looked at the arm. Based on the wisdom I had gleaned from movies, I wasn't sure if the arm was going to come alive and grab my ankle or something. Zombie limbs are known to be tricky. I watched it intently, ignoring all other zombie and vampire activity until I had an answer to my burning question: do zombie limbs still move when disconnected from the body? There was a whole community of learned individuals who would like an answer to such a hypothesis. Indulging scientific concerns, I observed that after a few moments, it was inert. (Science!)
Conclusion: Zombie limbs are useless once dismembered.
(Okay, science people, I admit for a scientific method, I would need to replicate my results. But I prefer to leave that for peer review.
For those who are more science minded, add this line:
I turned around and brandished my axe at the other zombies. "It's time for Peer Review, bitches!")
By this point zombies were tearing the boards of wood off windows. I grabbed the axe and ran to the nearest window, wildly hacking at the zombie arm. I fully admit that I was still getting used to how the axe swung, and maybe it was true that I hit the wooden boards more than the zombie parts. And maybe it's true that my hitting the boards did more damage to the weak wooden defenses than the zombies. I can't be sure. All I knew is that this window now had a desiccated zombie face pressing through the gap, jaws open.
"So if one of these guys bites me, am I going to be infected?" I asked over my shoulder, still hacking away at zombie parts and the careless wooden planks which seemed to jump in the way of my axe.
"Infected?" gasped Nancy. She dove to the floor as a black shape swooped down from the ceiling, grabbing at the air she just vacated, then flew back up to the rafters. She aimed her crossbow, but it was gone. "Like tetanus?"
"No, infected," I said. "By the virus created by radiation from a downed satellite, which causes the dead to walk the earth because there's no more room in Hell. I hear it's contagious... uh, orally, I guess."
"What are you talking about?" she said, firing another crossbow bolt. I heard a different type of thunk and a vampire hiss. It had hit him, but not in the heart. Nancy quickly loaded another bolt. The vampire lunged at her again, and she rolled to the side, dropping her crossbow bolt. She grabbed another and started loading it. I had no idea how many bolts she had.
"Have you ever considered using a regular bow instead?" I asked as I continued my reckless hacking.
"Shut up!" she finally called. "Stop talking! We're fighting the forces of evil! We need to concentrate!"
Geez. I mean all she had to do was ask. Someone was being snappy today.
Sufficiently rebuffed, I concentrated on the walking dead. Or climbing dead, as one was climbing through the window, despite me swinging an axe wildly at the window frame, the wall, and the vacant air around him. It pulled itself through the window frame and spilled onto the floor.
Heroically I leapt into action and with an epic swing and a war cry, bringing down my axe in a mighty arc, putting all my strength into the blow. Even more heroically, I missed my own foot and did not cripple myself, simply denting the earth. But on my second swing, my aim was true! With a satisfying ka-thunk the axe cleaved the zombie's head in twain. I raised my arms in a cheer. I soaked up the cheers of an imaginary crowd.
"I killed the zombie -" I started to shout, but my voice ran out part way through.
All around the church, half a dozen zombies had managed to drag themselves into the church and were now lurching towards Nancy and I.
Now was not the time to celebrate popping my zombie cherry. I discovered that zombies that were actually inside the building, standing up, and had most of their limbs attached were a much more scary proposition than anonymous arms flailing through the window. I decided I needed to regroup with Sister Nancy near the altar. I jogged towards her, trying to avoid the grasp of the shambling undead.
Between her and I was one lone zombie, a grotesque thing missing half of its face. The left half, if you were curious. I mean, it was just gone. I could see the back of the skull and a few beetles just crawling around in there.
I didn't have time to stop and figure out the best way around him, not with the others closing in. I had a moment of pure adrenaline and swung the axe horizontally at its head.
The axe crunched into what was left of its face. It crumpled to the ground. I let out a cheer and proceeded forward to Nancy. But midstep I felt something yank my arm back. Looking behind me, I discovered that the axe was still stuck in the zombie's smashed face. Without thinking, I pulled harder, and after a moment of resistance, the axe pulled free... with the zombie head still on it. I frowned and continued on to Nancy.
I reached her at the altar as the zombies started tightening their circle around us. She looked around at them, then down to the remains of the zombie's head on my axe.
"You're not very good at this, are you?" she said.
I shrugged weakly. "Where's the vampire?"
As if on theatrical cue, the vampire descended from the rafters to float in the air over the altar. His red eyes burned and he didn't look very happy at all.
"You will regret trespassing on my lair!" His voice was deep and gruff, like someone's normal voice that had been rubbed repeatedly across five miles of hot asphalt.
"Is this really a lair?" I asked. "It's really more of a hideout. A proper villain wouldn't be caught dead in a place like this." I paused for a moment, wonder if I needed to change my phrasing on my last sentence. I continued on without correction. "I mean, where are your minions? These zombies? Dracula had these sexy vamps to hangout with. What about rats, dogs, or some thuggy ghoul who does your bidding and brings home vulnerable women? This is like the worst vampire home base I've ever heard of. You're like one notch above having a sad shack in the woods."
He looked at me directly for a long moment, his eyes narrowed.
Then he turned towards Sister Nancy. "You, daughter of your false god, puritanical sister of a decaying order, you will regret trespassing on my lair!"
"I regret nothing, you foul spawn of evil!" screamed Nancy. "The Lord will cast his righteous fury down on you!"
Clearly I did not know the proper response to a vampire's challenge.
The vampire growled and lunged at Nancy. She fired her crossbow and hit him in the shoulder. She tossed the crossbow aside and attacked the vampire with her wooden stake.
I was not left alone, as I had the very grabby arms of six zombies closing in around me. I raised my axe and looked them all in the eyes. Well, the ones who had eyes.
"So it's just you and me, guys," I said. "You guys wouldn't want to resolve these differences in a less violent way, would you? Yahtzee or Scrabble?"
A zombie to my left let out a loud groan.
"Okay, no Scrabble. Got it."
Behind me, I heard the fierce battle of Nancy and the vampire. I wanted to watch and see that epic confrontation, but I needed to keep my eyes on the impending zombies. I backed up as the zombies moved forward. I feared that if I tried hacking at one, the others would get me. But as I kept backing off, I realized I needed to start attacking them before they got in too tight a circle. The axe would be no good if I had no room to swing it.
I took a deep breath. I heard a hiss behind me from the vampire, and knew it was time to be heroic again. With a mighty flex of my muscles, I raised the axe up and behind my head with great force, preparing for an epic swing to cleave through as much zombie flesh as I could.
And in that awkward but well-meaning action, I ended the fight.
So here's what happened. While I was deliberating (procrastinating) on how best to fight zombies with my pitiful skills, Nancy and the vampire were engaged in a mortal battle of wits and strength. Unsurprisingly, despite whatever special nun powers Nancy had, the vampire had the natural advantage. He was stronger and faster. She had just her smarts and the Lord's protection, but I guess the Lord was in the bathroom at the time, because their melee didn't last long. Oh, there were some stabs and feints, slashes and hissing, but it was still over pretty quickly. In the end, he grabbed her right arm and didn't let go. Since she couldn't get away, it was simple for him. He squeezed, breaking the bone and causing her to drop her stake.
His prey weakened and held fast by his unholy grip, the vampire lunged forward and opened his gaping maw, his white teeth shining in the darkness for but a moment before they closed on her neck. He paused a moment to drink of the hot fluid that spilled forth. Then he let her fall limp in his arms. He turned to me and hissed in triumph. I was next.
That happened to be just about the moment when I swung my axe backwards for my epic cleave. I don't think either of us realized how close our respective battles were. As I backed off, I probably had nearly walked right on top of Nancy. I was close enough that my axe swung backwards and the blunt head of the axe slammed right into the vampire's chest. No cutting, just a dull force.
This shouldn't have killed the vampire. They wouldn't have become the alpha predator of the undead world if they couldn't shrug off a blunt hit like that. Well, Dear Reader, remember how the vampire had a stake driven halfway into his chest? No? It turns out that the vampire didn't remember it either. Or, if he did, in all his hopping amongst the rafters, he hadn't taken the time to pull the stake out. Perhaps there was a positive result to all those missed crossbow shots. It was that imbedded stake that my axe struck. Even with my weak muscles, the momentum was enough to strike that stake hard, particularly since it was half in. The stake was driven all the way through, piercing the vampire's heart.
I realized I had hit something when I swung back, but I didn't know what. I froze and winced, wondering if I had just screwed up. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I wondered if I had just knocked out Nancy. Meekly I turned around, not yet noticing that the zombies had frozen in place.
The vampire clutched at his chest, his face twisted into the most anguished grimace I had ever seen. I looked at the stake then looked at the axe in my hand, realization finally dawning on me. The vampire fell backwards, disintegrating into dust before he reached the floor. The vampire gone, Sister Nancy hit the floor, still unconscious. Around me, decayed corpses fell to the ground.
I stood in the middle of the abandoned church, lit only by a weakening flare, surrounded by bodies, and holding an axe.
Read more of these adventures in Damned Lies!