When Dave saw the wound, his first question was the obvious one. “When was she outside the compound?”
Mike and Dorinda looked at each other. It was Dorinda that answered. “She wasn’t. Hasn’t been since she got here.”
Dave nodded. Jean had arrived at the gates alone, in such a blank-eyed state of despair that the guards had almost thought she was one of the lurching dead. It had taken weeks to get her back into the society of people. She wasn’t the only one who had been a mess when they arrived, and some of the others had gone out on patrol avidly, enacting a kind of vengeance in the course of keeping the space around the community clear of the shambling menace, but Jean had hid in a closet for a day when the idea was suggested.
“She was okay when she left us last night,” Mike offered. “I finally had the makings for a nice quiche, and we asked her to join us.”
“Well, damn it, this is a problem. We can’t have a lurcher in here with us.” Dave crouched close to the bed, and spoke quietly into Jean’s ear. “Jean, this is important. How’d that happen?”
She stirred, weakly. Her eyes turned toward Dave, and she smiled. “It was so beautiful. My Johnny. My Johnny.”
“That’s as much as we can get out of her,” Dorinda said. She gestured to Dave that he should follow, then walked out of the bedroom. He looked at the sledgehammer Mike held, nodded to the man, then went out to the living room.
“Dave, we’ve seen a lot of attacks since this whole thing began.” Dorinda spoke low, as if worried about being overheard. When Dave nodded, she went on. “Have you ever seen a bite like that? Because I haven’t?”
Dave wasn’t following her, and it showed on his face. “When one of those zombies bites you, it always takes a big chunk, right?” He nodded agreement. “And anyone with just one bite, it’s always on an arm or leg, and they were able to pull free. Right?”
“Yeah. I get it.” Dave kept his own voice down. “If one of them got in here, bit her on the neck, it would have kept going.”
“Yeah.” Dorinda’s voices dropped again. “And the bites never look like that. They’re always all gross, all full of pus and poison.”
Dave glanced toward the bedroom, as if he could see the bite from where he was. Memory, only minutes old, was clear enough. Jean’s neck showed the football-outline of a human bite, the skin only just broken, the skin underneath slightly livid but not the mess of corruption that even so slight a penetration by a zombie would leave. He squinted as a connection formed.
“Dor, did that look like a hickey to you?”
At first, she recoiled, a slight sneer suggesting offence, then she saw the earnestness on his face. He wasn’t kidding, and because he was serious she took the suggestion seriously. Her expression shifted to confusion as she said, “Yeah… it does.”
“Well, damn it,” Dave said, after a long digesting pause. “I wish Father Montalban was still with us.”
“Look, when the first dead started showing up, no one treated it seriously until it was too late. Now the world is full of them.” As he spoke, he showed a bleak smile. “With the world the way it is now, Ockham’s Razor might as well be ‘the worst thing is true even if it’s impossible’ so if zombies, then why not a vampire?” He sighed, as one with far too much on the plate already. “Let’s try rounding up some garlic, and we’ll see if anyone thinks they know how to bless some crosses.”
“Inktober 2019 – Injured” ©2019 Dirck de Lint.