Let's Just Call Them Monsters

They’re all human to begin with, but when does their humanity run out? Do they stop being human when their hearts stop beating, or when their minds stop thinking? Is it when their eyes turn white, or when their blood turns black, or when their brains rot in their skulls? He’s asked himself this question countless times, and he still doesn’t know the answer.
All he knows is that he sacrificed his own humanity to get here, and he’s not going to let theirs get in his way.

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28. Crazy Dead Men

Nabdale was dead when he came back.

It wasn’t dead in the sense that all the occupants were face-down in the streets. There wasn’t even a trace of blood, red or black or otherwise. It was a clear autumn day, not too cold, but the road was silent and he hadn’t seen a single person for miles, dead or alive. He doubted the infection had spread much further, since Robert had escaped in the middle of the damn night, but everyone had obviously either decided to stay in their houses or get the fuck out before it was too late. Jamie didn’t bother taking the hint. It was already too late for him, after all.

The pressure in his head was getting worse and the stinging freeze in his heart was crawling into the pit of his stomach and making him sick. On the day-long journey, he’d been thinking about a lot of things, and his imminent death was only one of them. If nothing else, it meant he’d never have to go to prison for all the murders. At least, now, he had nothing left to lose by terminating a few more monsters. He’d been wondering if maybe, before the entire bloody country fell to shit, he’d manage to get the epidemic under control. Crazy and dead, he was probably the best person for the job.

He had three days.

His first stop had been the hospital, where his murderous rampage had first begun. It was three o’clock in the afternoon when he’d pulled into the car park, and the staff on duty for the day were exactly the same batch who’d watched Jamie’s first eight killings. All nine of the people who’d been infected three days ago had been in one place when the illness had finally killed them. The target had just been too tempting and Jamie was conscious only of determination to get it over with as quickly as possible.

So he’d kept hold of his knives, picked up a couple of scalpels for old time’s sake, and gotten it over with.

One person- that damned hospital manager, of all people- had died by the receptionist’s phone, screaming something into the receiver about the inglorious return of a mass-murderer before his words were ruined by an avalanche of coughing and the line went dead. Jamie had stood at the end of the corridor, trying not to let too much of the craziness he’d picked up on the road leak into his eyes, and waited patiently for the man who’d almost caught him at square one to die on his own. He hadn’t had to wait long.

He was still standing in the same spot, surrounded by eight dead bodies and one undead one, when the town exploded with the sound of sirens.

After a few minutes Jamie turned, heart pounding, head burning, to see what must have been the entire of Nabdale’s police force waiting to shoot him to death or clap him in irons. It was quite nice to know he had a choice. Every last one of the officers was clinging to his gun even more desperately than his falsely courageous expression. They weren’t terrified of Jamie; what were his two knives and two scalpels against twenty guns if they opened fire? They were scared of the monsters, for once. The bodies were on the ground all around Jamie when he turned, and their black oily blood was smeared all over the walls and all over his clothes. It hadn’t been fun, of course, but it had been easy.

 “Drop- drop the weapons and put your hands in the air!” the dark-haired policewoman at the front of the group was yelling. She was talking to Jamie, but her eyes were fixed on the dead body next to the door. It was the body of a young woman in black-soaked bright blue scrubs; her brown curly hair was thrown, ruined, to one side and the scalpel clenched in her fist was stained with red blood. Jamie fingered the red gash on his cheek, which smarted and spat when the smile twitched on his mouth. Melina had been the only one who’d died fighting, and the only one he’d regretted having to kill. The rest may as well have been animals. He smeared his hand across his chest, adding his own blood to the mess of other people’s on his shirt, before shoving both scalpels into his pockets and raising both hands to his face. He was trying not to smile for no reason at all.

“That- that doesn’t count as p-putting your weapons d-down!” the policewoman said. “Put them on the ground!”

“Why are you bothering?” Jamie said quietly as he pulled the bloody blades out of his bloody jeans and dropped them with a clatter to the bloody ground. “You know why I did it. They aren’t human any more, so-”

“We know about that!” someone else yelled. Jamie closed his eyes and felt his mind starting to race at the click of twenty guns getting ready to blow his body apart. “But you still committed first-degree murder!”

“No...” Jamie began, but he stopped himself. “Wait. Shit. You’re right.”

“None of us know what the- the hell to do,” the policewoman continued, “with all the, um… sick people. But you killed two other people as well- at least two, who weren’t monsters. You remember those people, don’t you?”

“Yeah,” Jamie said, sighing and raising his hands higher. “Wrong number, actually. Three. Three people. I remember the bus driver, the guy with all the ginger hair from Malworth, and the girl called Anna. Oh, and the old guy by the field. Four. They hadn’t, um… died yet, but I guess I was impatient. There was one guy I don’t even think was, uh… infected at all. I panicked. You want me to explain? ‘Cause I fucking can’t.”

“Right,” shouted a police officer with dirty blonde hair at the edge of the group. “Thanks, Daphne, I’ll take it from here.”

Jamie raised one eyebrow at the interruption. The policewoman who’d been yelling at him abruptly closed her mouth, her eyes clouding with frustration as the other guy carried on addressing Jamie instead of her.

“Jamie Cloverfield,” the guy said, staring right into Jamie’s eyes as his gun visibly twitched to the right. “You’re under arrest-” the gun twitched again, in the same direction. “For first-degree murder.”

“R-right,” Jamie said slowly, locking eyes back as the officer gestured with his gun again. He nodded.

Right, he was mouthing.

Jamie resisted the urge to glance behind him.

He wants me to move right, but there’s twenty fucking guns trained on me.

He cocked his head in confusion, watching as a couple of the other officers shot glances in the blonde guy’s direction too. His gaze wasn’t moving from Jamie’s.

Right, he mouthed again as his gun jerked right and his eyebrows jerked up. Now.

Jamie stepped right.

The blonde officer fired his gun. Jamie spun as the BANG cracked the air in half. He hadn’t felt a thing, but he still found himself grabbing fistfuls of his soaking shirt, convinced he’d just been shot. When his gaze fell on the opposite end of the corridor, he just had time to spot the white-eyed monster that looked like the hospital manager standing at the end of the corridor. Then, it dropped to its knees and slipped slowly back against the wall, black blood trickling from a round hole in the middle of its chest.

Jamie turned back to the police, his head ringing.

“Wolf, what the fuck’d you do?” the dark-haired policewoman was saying to the guy who’d just fired.

Wolf, with an exasperated expression painted on his face, just sighed and rubbed a hand across his forehead.

“The same thing,” he said, pocketing his gun. “That we’re supposed to do to monsters.”

The woman’s eyes flicked back to Jamie, who was standing in a new rapidly growing puddle of blood, with his hands up by his head.

“But- but you missed,” she was saying. “And you hit one of- one of-“

She cut herself off and started coughing. Of course she did. After that, more people joined in. Jamie’s eyes flickered to the woman and then across the line of stricken police before ending up back on Wolf’s.

“I didn’t miss,” the guy called Wolf said, looking at his colleagues as they died. “I never miss.”

They held eye contact, Jamie frowning in bewilderment, Wolf just looking tired, until the last loyal police officer stopped choking and died. Jamie raised an eyebrow.

“Jesus,” he said, “that was fucking dramatic.”

Wolf just shrugged.

“And cold, too. My God.”

Wolf sighed and turned to him. “I worked with some of those people for a decade. Let me feel sad for one second.”

“Uh… okay then.”

Sergeant Wolf spent another few seconds staring at the dead bodies and twiddling his fingers around his gun while Jamie stood awkwardly at the end of the corridor, wondering if he dared to pick up one of his knives. Wolf eventually turned back, his face still as blank as ever.

“Okay, I’m done.”

Jamie frowned. “Really? Already?”

“Yeah. They were all assholes.”

“Right. Well, I guess it’s, um… it’s just you and me now, huh? Evens up the odds a bit. Aside from the fact that you’ve got a gun.”

“I’m not going to kill you.”

“Really? Great.”

“But I’d be much obliged if you’d help me deal with this mess.” Wolf gestured to the pile of bodies.

Jamie’s heart sank. “Yeah, sure. You going to arrest me then?”

“Nah, don’t see the point.”

“Cheers.” Jamie tried to ignore the fact that, deep down, he felt cheated.

“No problem.” Wolf ducked down and pried the gun out of the dark-haired woman’s dead grip. He examined it for a second, then tossed it to Jamie, who barely managed to catch it.

“You know how to use one?” he said.

“Fuck no, but I’m a fast learner.”

Wolf raised one eyebrow at the piles of blackened bodies and weapons on the ground. “I can see that.”

“Yep.” Jamie turned the gun around and squinted down the barrel. “So what you do is you try to aim and then pull the trigger, right?”

“Yeah, but not while it’s facing your head, you fucking pleb. You want to die?”

“Maybe, yeah. I’m infected anyway.” Jamie shrugged.

Wolf curled his mouth up in a half-arsed That’s-too-bad expression. “Yeah, thought you might be by now. How many days you got?”

Jamie paused. “Uh, bit less than three. That asshat Robert Walker got me last night. I killed him. You?”

“Nah, not infected. Nice, huh? There’s maybe ten of us in the whole town.”

The first police officer got back to her feet behind Wolf, dark saliva smearing in her dark hair and a high-pitched whining sound scraping her throat. Jamie made a move to warn him, but she did nothing. She just stood there.

“Huh.” Wolf said, noticing her. “Hey, Daphne. You okay?” He waved a hand in front of her face. “You not gonna, um… attack us or anything?”

No response.

“Weird,” said Jamie. “I guess they don’t go for you if you’re already infected.”

“Yeah, I guess not,” Wolf said, raising his gun and shooting her right between the eyes.

 “Uh...” Jamie said as the body fell to the ground, spurting red blood. “Firstly, I don’t think she was dead yet.”

“No kidding,” Wolf said, wiping his face again.

“Secondly, the head doesn’t work. You gotta do it in the heart. Like this.” Jamie walked up to the body and fired. The gun bucked in his hand, ruining his grip, and he almost dropped it. The bullet completely missed. “Shit. I mean, like this.” He fired again. This time, the bullet found her heart, and this time, the blood was black.

The rest of the police officers started getting up.

“Thanks for the lesson, sociopath.”

Jamie glowered at him. “Not so bad yourself, Wolf.”

“My name’s Bradley.”

Jamie laughed. “That’s nice, but I like Wolf.”

“Whatever, Cloverfield.” Wolf had a voice that grated like gravel in his throat.

“So how should we do this?” Jamie said, prodding one of the stock-still monsters in the stomach with no response.

“I dunno. Shoot and get it over with?”

“Nah, how about you take the men, I’ll take the women? I seem to be especially good at killing the female ones, for some reason.”

“What the fuck?” Wolf turned to face him. “Are you really as sadistic as my fucking idiot colleagues said you were?”

“Which one said that?”

“Johnson.”

“And which one’s Johnson?”

Wolf pointed. Jamie shot Johnson in the chest and he crumpled.

“No, I’m not a psycho. I’m just a guy who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. And you have to admit, I sort of saved all your asses.”

“True.” Wolf pressed his gun to another monster’s chest and shot her dead, blood spurting everywhere. “So what’s the deal with killing women?”

“Oh, I dunno. I guess they’re always in the wrong place at the wrong time too.” Jamie tried to spin his gun on his finger, like Wolf was doing, and ended up dropping it. “There was Doctor King, and Mabel, and Lisa and Anna and Melina a few minutes ago. They were all the deaths that really fucking hurt me. Maybe I’m just sexist.”

“Yeah, maybe. You got a vendetta or something? Messy breakup? Sworn off women? Wouldn’t blame you.”

Wolf turned and aimed his gun at the chest of a policewoman with dyed purple hair peeking out from her hat. Then, he shot her, and she fell, even deader than before.

“Nah,” Jamie shot an older police officer with grey hair, watching his glasses break in half when he hit the ground face first. “I’m gay.”

“Huh. Me too. Pretty crazy coincidence.” Wolf paused and, as Jamie watched, he narrowed his eyes and spun round to shoot six people in rapid succession. They fell to the round in a sort of fucked-up Mexican Wave.

Jamie raised one eyebrow as Wolf turned to him. “Was that supposed to impress me?”

“Nope.”

This time, Jamie didn’t bother fighting back the smile. He picked up another gun and aimed both at a monster on the far side of the crowd, gritting his teeth and tilting the guns sideways for no good reason at all. Then, he pulled the triggers, but instead of the BANG of the chamber unloading, all he heard was a ridiculously pathetic click.

“Damnit.”

He chucked the guns to one side while Wolf carried on shooting. When he turned, there were only two monsters left standing.

He’d taken his knives back from the floor, since firing a gun carried a nasty shock he couldn’t get used to, and he walked back out through the automatic doors as Sergeant Wolf reloaded. He kicked one monster over, watching it topple like a skittle, but it stuck out both arms before impact and twisted back up again like a rebounding punching bag. As it shot up, its chest stuck itself right onto Jamie’s knife. He smirked and then winced, planting a foot onto its stomach and easing it back to the ground.

BANG. Wolf’s bullet whistled over his head and dispatched the final monster. Thud. It hit the ground. Not even a whisper came from the town.

As he’d been driving back that morning, Jamie had been wondering if he’d come home to the sound of screams and the sight of buildings burning as the town tore itself apart. In most movies he’d seen, announcement of the ‘zombie issue’ would be almost immediately succeeded by looting and a mad scramble to escape, but not here. Most movies took place in cities, where panic spread faster than the infection itself.

“Thank fuck this happened in Nabdale,” Jamie said, leaning against the wall of the hospital as Wolf collapsed onto the pavement. “And not London.”

“What?”

“Well, we’ve done it, haven’t we? All the monsters are dead now, right? More or less?”

Sergeant Wolf looked at him over his shoulder.

“You do much research on this?” he said.

“Well… a little bit,” Jamie lied.

“You know there’s thousands of alien abduction claims every day on the internet, right?”

“Yeah, but most of them are bullshit,” Jamie suggested, leaving out the fact that in college, he’d convinced one of his friends he’d been abducted by aliens after getting drunk and forgetting where he lived. “Spread by stupid people who just want attention.”

“Sure, but one of them fits the bill,” Wolf said. “You remember a bunch of cows were messed up in Yorkshire, right?”

“Oh.” Jamie said. “Shit.”

“Haven’t heard anything on the news, but for all we know, it could be even worse up there by now.”

“Brilliant. You, uh… you gonna let me deal with it?”

Wolf looked down at the gun in his hand and said nothing.

Jamie turned one bloody knife over in his fingers and shrugged. “I mean, I guess I’m the best one for the job, since I’m already dead.”

“Uh-huh.”

Jamie grinned. “Shame. I was just starting to have an epiphany about how killing people is wrong and how I deserve to rot in jail. You’ve messed with my head and now I’m a psycho again.”

“Well.” Wolf got to his feet. “I guess you have to be a psycho to survive this shit.”

* * * * * * * * * *

“Mike,” Wolf said as he and Jamie walked through the sliding doors of the police station. “I need the keys to the cell block.”

Mike, of course, was dead, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t still sitting at his desk. Wolf reached over and grabbed the keys as Jamie shot the monster in the chest.

“Who’s this we’re letting out?” he said.

“Leah Ness.” was the reply. “We got her for the, um…”

“Killing Harriet Hyde,” Jamie finished. When Wolf looked at him, he carried on. “Girlfriend of my colleague. She was so upset about it, came to me screaming and crying and everything.”

“Yeah, she’s a right pacifist,” Wolf said. “Kindest heart I’ve ever known. She said she’d rather die in prison than have to kill anyone else if she was let out.”

Jamie’s heart froze a bit more as he looked back down at his knives, soaked with blood.

“Wow,” he said, squeezing his eyes shut and blinking away an imaginary twinge of pain from his headache. “That’s really, um… good of her.”

“I think I might be starting to agree a bit, actually,” Wolf said, shoving the key into the lock.

“Not an option anymore,” Jamie said as Wolf wrenched the door open and froze in his tracks.

Nabdale had obviously not had to arrest anyone in a very long time, because only one cell was occupied. It was occupied, sadly, by yet another dead body. A drying puddle of gore spread into all corners of the floor, staining Leah’s grey-white skin and matting her blue-and-blonde hair into a brown sheet. The blood was everywhere, and it was red, running in thin scarlet rivers down her stomach and right arm and throat. One of her hands was slung across her chest while the other lolled limply to one side, the outstretched fingers inches away from a phone that lay on the mattress. Bits of broken glass peppered her chest and lay in shards all around her, but a few were clutched in her blood-drenched fist.

Sergeant Wolf choked back a curse word as he ran to the bars and peered in. Jamie had a hand clapped to his mouth and only now did he remove it to breathe.

“Oh my fucking god…” Wolf was muttering. “She did it. She actually went and fucking did it.”

“W-why?” Jamie said. “She was- the blood- it’s red! She was still alive, still normal!”

He took another step towards the cell and tried not to flinch at the smell. Then, for the first time in the five minutes they’d been staring at her in horror, Jamie noticed Leah’s face. It was, obviously, deathly pale, and the features were screwed up in agony, but he could make out the faintest whisper of a triumphant smile on her blackened lips. Her eyes were wide open and staring at the ceiling, pure white, but not glowing. Dead.

Leah Ness had killed another monster.

“I can’t…” Wolf said. “I can’t believe it.”

“What?” Jamie said, glad to have an excuse to turn away from the mess. “What can’t you believe?”

“She was… she was right.”

“She was what?”

“She was right. Leah was right. I knew it. Killing wasn’t the way to fix this.”

“Are you fucking insane? They would have killed us!”

“We should have let them,” he said, “because at least then we’d have our… we’d be innocent. We’d die innocent. We’re wrong, we’re evil… oh God, oh God, I’m a murderer. You’re a murderer. Even worse.”

Just like that, he collapsed and buried his face in his hands.

Jamie sighed. “What could I have done to save them, you twit? They were done for! We- I mean, I had to keep it under control, right? And now I’ve got to do it again, remember? I’ve got to fix Yorkshire before I die!”

“I can’t… I won’t let you go.” Wolf said, struggling to his feet. “I can’t. I can’t believe I ever did this. You know she… she actually screamed at me to stop as I shot people to stop them getting to her. I did it all for her, but she still didn’t want it. I won’t. I’ll never kill another soul. I won’t let you go and keep killing people. I’d rather die.”

“You will die, Bradley!” Jamie yelled, trying to wrestle the gun away as it found its way into Wolf’s hand. “You’ll be infected, and then you’ll rot for three days, feeling pretty fucking stupid! Do you want to rot alone, or do you want to make it count?”

“Neither,” he said. “I’m locking you away, so you can’t hurt anyone else, and then you can die and come back without a problem.”

“I’m NOT going to let you do that!” Jamie shouted. “I don’t care how many more people I kill, to be honest- I just want to end this bullshit before it ends me! What the hell made you change your mind so bloody quickly, anyway?”

Wordlessly, Wolf jerked a finger back towards the cell that held the dead woman. “Her.”

“Wolf, if we’d got this under control sooner, she mightn’t’ve had to die. We can save more people before they end up like her, for fuck’s sake! Am I the only person who sees any logic here?”

“She was telling me,” Wolf said, “she was telling me for a day and a night that she fucking hated you for what you were doing, and she’d rather die than kill anyone else, and she was right. She died so she wouldn’t have to become one of them. Look at us now, and look at her. Doesn’t she look so much more peaceful?”

Jamie stared at the blood-soaked prison floor and rubbed his eyes, wondering if they were both looking at the same woman. “Peaceful? Holy shit, man, do you fucking have eyes?”

“Not at her body,” he said. “Look at her face.”

Jamie decided Wolf was completely crazy.

“We were all running round like fucking idiots trying to keep our lives. Trying to keep our selfish asses alive. You more than anyone, you selfish prick, Cloverfield. You were so desperate to keep your life, I bet you never even stopped to wonder if you were losing your mind.”

Jamie took a step back. “Getting kind of personal now, Brad.”

“You’re a murderer!”

“Wow, thanks for the news flash.”

Wolf shot to his feet, jabbing Jamie in the chest with a finger. “You kept on killing and killing under the fucking delusion that surviving is the most important thing, that staying alive matters more than anything.”

“Well, if you’ve got a better idea than living, I’d love to hear it.”

“HUMANITY!” Wolf yelled. “What makes us human? Blood? Guts? A beating heart? Fuck no! It’s common courtesy and compassion! On those three days driving and killing without a care on the fucking earth, I bet you felt your humanity starting to slip away, didn’t you? Your conscience? Gone? I know it; don’t deny it. I’ve dealt with psychopaths just like you before.”

Jamie raised an eyebrow, keeping one eye on Wolf’s gun. “Brad, this is Nabdale and you’re younger than me. Who the hell have you dealt with before? Are you talking about those guys who got high in the park and threw cocaine to the ducks?”

Jamie grabbed Brad’s fist as it flailed towards him.

“Look,” Jamie said. “If you don’t want to kill anyone else, that’s cool. Just let me walk out of here and you can live!”

“What the hell do you mean by that?”

Jamie sighed and swallowed, hard. “I mean, Bradley, that you might not like it, but I’m trying to save people. If you won’t let me leave, it’s one life against hundreds. Catch my drift?”

His hand drifted round to his back pocket, where his gun was still jammed.

Wolf narrowed his eyes and brandished his own gun, staring back at Jamie. “You’d kill me? You’d really do that?”

“I’ve killed fifty-odd people already, haven’t I?” Jamie let that strangeness creep back into his eyes and the smirk creep back onto his face.

“You wouldn’t. I’m not infected.”

“Want to fucking bet?”

Jamie stuck his hand out, without thinking, and pressed it onto Sergeant Wolf’s chest. His fingertips prickled with chills.

For those couple of horrendous seconds, their eyes met, and Jamie’d never seen fear like the kind he saw swimming in Wolf’s eyes right then.

“Oh.” Jamie’s eyebrows shot up. “Fucking oops.”

With his other hand, Jamie grabbed his gun and shot Wolf in the chest, closing his eyes and sucking in air damp with the smell of blood as the body fell to the ground. The gunshot beat a shrill melody into the metal bars which folded into silence.

Jamie pocketed the gun and left the cell block.

So much for the Hippocratic oath.

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