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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11. Headless Chickens

Yet again, George was yanked out of his trance by a scream. This time, it was Leah’s. She’d clapped a hand over her mouth before Harriet had even reached the ground, but the sound was enough to shock him into action. Instinctively, George took hold of one side of Leah’s waist and pushed her behind him, deflecting Harriet with a light shove to the shoulder which barely even made her flinch. Every inch of sense he possessed was screaming at him to run away, but he was still desperately clinging to the hope that everything was normal and that there was no reason to hurt her. That thought could very well end up with serious consequences.

If everything’s normal, why’s she attacking you?

He lashed out a second time, knocking her back against the sofa, but she snapped her braced elbows straight and propelled herself forwards with both hands thrust out in front of her chest. George grabbed her by her shoulder and shook her, slapping away one arm as it flailed sideways towards Leah.

If everything’s normal, why isn’t she saying anything?

“Harriet! HARRIET! Can you hear me? It’s me! What happened to you?”

Harriet didn’t respond, but George hadn’t been expecting her to. As more black vomit bubbled out of her lips and trailed onto her cheek, he gagged and loosened his grip, and she broke loose by twisting and dropping down to the ground. George stepped backwards on instinct, but Harriet wasn’t coming for him; she was lunging for Leah again with one hand outstretched. As a pulse of adrenaline injected itself into his muscles, George grabbed her by the back of her dressing-gown and tried to throw her against the wall, but she was too heavy and the pair of them collapsed together onto the ground.

If everything’s normal, why are you so desperate to stop her?

George blinked, and Harriet was on her feet again, sprinting towards the far side of the room and the window. He looked around for Leah, with no luck; whiplash snapped at his neck as he spun to see her at the end of Harriet’s trajectory.

Leah stood up just as Harriet dropped to grab her; she dragged one of the sofa cushions off the ground with her and used it as a shield. Harriet collided with the cushion as Leah swung it upwards, but even as she fell she was twisting her body round to land on her front. When he blinked again, she’d landed on completely straight arms, but the impact didn’t seem to jar a single muscle or nerve in her body. She drew up her legs, catapulting shards of the glass vase through the air, and sprung back into a standing position. Then, she went for Leah again. George didn’t have time to wonder why Harriet wasn’t attacking him.

Leah grabbed both of Harriet’s wrists and, in a moment of hesitation, seemed ready to let her go and run. Then, she closed her eyes and flicked her head up, driving her forehead into the bottom of Harriet’s jaw. The impact should have sent Harriet reeling as her brain slammed into the back of her skull, but she didn’t even seem fazed for a second. Still holding Harriet’s wrists, Leah shoved forwards and knocked her back onto the sofa.

Harriet turned towards George and, for one last second, just glared at him. Her eyes were so purely white they almost glowed; they were whiter, even, than Robert’s had been.

If everything’s normal, why the fuck are her eyes white?

She jumped back up instantly, and George flailed his arms to grab something, anything, to keep her still. He ended up snatching a chunk of her hair, but it instantly crumbled away in his hands, more brittle than a bundle of dusty sticks, leaving a patch of bare scalp whiter than paper.

Right. That’s definitely not normal.

Leah hurried back towards George, grabbing his hand from behind; his fingers were still slick with Harriet’s blood, but this time, she held on.

“There’s blood on your hands,” Leah muttered as Harriet flung herself back over the arm of the chair.

“It’s not like she needs it,” George replied, stepping towards Harriet and grabbing her around the throat. He held her still for a second of bewilderment, and then Leah grabbed her legs and held her in the air. George’s stomach flipped upside-down as the piece of glass snagged in the curtain and yanked itself free of Harriet’s skin; thick black lumps of blood fell limply away from the open wound and splattered onto the carpet.

Then, they dropped her. Her back connected squarely with the floor with a THUMP and her head snapped back with a wet CRACK, but she got up again.

“Come on!” Leah yelled, grabbing George’s arm and yanking him towards the door in the corner. It turned out to lead to a bathroom, but they didn’t notice that until the door had been slammed and locked, with Harriet- or whatever the fuck was left of her- on the other side.

George might have expected her to start hurling herself against the door, but they couldn’t hear anything.

“George,” Leah whispered, holding up her arm to glare at the smears of black blood. “What the fuck?”

“I don’t know,” he admitted.

“It’s kind of like...” Leah stuttered. “R- Robert, isn’t it? It’s kind of like what happened to him.”

“Well, yeah-” George stopped himself before mentioning the red lights. “How?”

“Well, the black blood, for a start. And, um... she kept trying to attack me.”

“Yeah.”

“I wonder why she didn’t go for you.” Leah looked up at him through her black-splattered fringe.

“Yeah, I don’t know. The white eyes.”

“Well, obviously. So... is she, um...” Leah struggled to pick her words. “Is she… dead?”

“Yep,” George admitted. “You saw all that running and jumping and shit. Did you once hear her panting?”

“No. And when the glass came out of her arm, the blood just kind of fell out. If her heart had still been beating, it’d kind of pump out. You know?”

“Great.”

“So what the fuck are we dealing with here?”

“Well, I dunno. Zombies?”

Alien zombies. Fucking stupid.

“Don’t be a fucking idiot.” Leah licked her lips nervously. “So, are you saying she’s going to throw herself out of a window?”

“No, but I’m saying we might have to throw her.”

She stared at him for a second. “The fuck are you on about? Wait, do you have your phone? The ambulances should be here any minute.”

“No, I didn’t bring it. I called the ambulance on her phone, remember? Anyway, what’ll she do when they get here? She’ll get out, won’t she?”

“Well, what the hell are we supposed to do?” Leah scoffed. “Kill her?”

“She’s already dead! What else are we meant to do?”

Leah sucked in breath and she closed her eyes, muttering to herself in annoyance. Before she could say anything to change his mind, George unlocked the door and peered through the crack into the living-room. Leah snatched his shoulder and yanked him down to the ground, but neither of them could see Harriet.

That is, until she lunged at them from the side of the door. Had she been waiting to ambush them?

Leah yelped and George swallowed a scream, kicking Harriet in the stomach to send her onto her back. It didn’t work; she twisted in the air again and landed on straight arms, just like before. It was almost robotic. As if she’d been programmed.

Leah had obviously forgotten that Harriet had no interest in George, because she was trying to use their fight as cover to run across the room and grab a weapon. Harriet immediately left George to follow; George sighed and flung himself after her. He grabbed Harriet from behind and tried to slam her down onto the sofa, but ended up falling with her again. As he took his hand away from Harriet’s arm, he realised he’d grabbed her right where the piece of glass had gone in, and he was covered in sticky black liquid. Harriet’s head jerked around and she stared through him with luminous blankness, black and grey dregs wiped in messy swirls all the way up to her eyes. George gagged again, but he managed to keep her pinned down long enough for Leah to grab a clay bowl from the windowsill.

“Out of the way!” she screamed as she brought it down right on Harriet’s head.

George rolled sideways off the sofa as fragments of clay and clots of black exploded sideways; Leah screamed again and, when he turned, he saw why. The bowl had caved one side of Harriet’s head in entirely; bits of her scalp were grazed and dented, prickled with shards of clay and blobs of grey goo. The cranium was meant to be a damn sturdy bone, but Harriet’s had buckled like an eggshell and cascades of yolk were spilling all over the walls and floor.

“Oh my FUCKING god!” Leah yelled, dropping the final shards of clay to the ground and staring in horror at her black-and-grey coated hands. George really hoped that the grey lumpy liquid wasn’t pieces of brain, but if they were, at least that meant she wouldn’t be getting back up again.

“Removing the head,” Jamie had said.

“Zombie apocalypse and all that.”

George choked and swallowed hard, feeling tears bubbling to the surface as he tried to suppress vomiting. Leah sobbed and threw her arms around him, spreading blood all over his shirt, but he let go of his pride and hugged her back.

Be strong. You’re the man.

“I... I...” She began, sniffing. “I just thought it’d knock her the fuck out. She wasn’t meant to... Oh, fuck! What have we done?”

“That... wasn’t normal,” offered George. “If she’d been, um... normal, she’d have just been knocked out. Proves we were right, doesn’t it?”

Leah sobbed harder into his chest and he buried his face in her hair.

“Don’t look at her. Just look at me, Lee. Don’t look.”

Leah was clutching him so hard that when she shook from crying, he did as well. Her head was still mashed into his chest and her tears were soaking into his shirt, which explained why she didn’t see Harriet getting back up again.

George gasped and threw himself and Leah backwards onto the ground; she rolled off him as Harriet lunged again, missing her by a few inches. As Harriet crawled back to her feet, not even slowed down slightly by the missing part of her head, George struggled to comprehend which facial feature had originally been where. Grey goo dripped down the remains of her face and her white skin was hanging loose like shredded paper, showing the rotten grey muscle and flesh.

Okay. That IS her brain.

Fucking hell.

“Oh my god!” Leah screamed as she rolled away from Harriet yet again, spinning to her feet just in time to kick her in the stomach. “How the fuck did that not work?”

“I have no idea! That- that- Jamie said that’d work!”

“Jamie?” Leah yelled. “The fuck you doing taking his advice?”

“I dunno!” George said, grabbing Harriet’s arm and punching her in the mangled mess that used to be her face. “He said it works on- on zombies!”

“Well, proves she’s definitely dead, right?” Leah yelled, trying to put her foot on Harriet’s chest and instead cracking one of her arms as she rolled away. “But she’s obviously not a FUCKING zombie, huh? What the fuck do we do now?”

“I... I dunno! Go for the heart!”

“The WHAT?”

“The heart! I don’t fucking know!”

“Right!” Leah placed both arms on the back of the chair and threw herself onto the ground, snatching up a jagged piece of the vase from the carpet as she got to her feet.

Ow!” She glanced down as the edge bit down into her palm, drawing a trickle of blood. Looking up just in time to drop the glass in a blind panic, she grabbed Harriet by both arms and slammed her back onto the sofa.

“GEORGE!”

“What?”

“George, fuck you! Get something to stab her with!”

“Oh. Right.” Without thinking, George fell back onto his knees in the jumble of glass, cutting his knees into bloody stinging ribbons. When he stood up again and turned to face Harriet, who was silently struggling under Leah’s arms, he had a piece of the clay bowl in one hand and a piece of the vase in the other.

He hesitated.

“George, NOW!”

He closed his eyes, clenched his fists, and plunged both pieces down onto Harriet’s chest. One piece landed right in the centre, glancing off a rib, but the other went to the left and sank right down into her heart.

She stopped wriggling.

In the silence that ensued, George watched as a lazy trickle of black blood started to prick the fabric of Harriet’s shirt.

“Oh, fuck. Fuck. Fuck, no,” Leah rambled, jumping up and walking to the window. The clock on the wall told him it was half-past six, but the insipid indigo sky told him they still had at least an hour before the sun came up.

“FUCK!” she yelled, looking down at her filthy hands. She pulled the curtains closed, leaving thick black handprints on the creased fabric, and turned to face him. “Fucking hell, what the fuck have we just done?”

“I...”

“George! What the fuck did you just make me do?”

“I don’t know, but we didn’t have a choice.”

She fell limply to her knees as they weakened, shaking her head in shattered disbelief. He went to her as she got to her feet, pushing her head into his chest, wrapping his arms around her, and forcing himself to stare over her shoulder at what was probably the only wall not splattered with black. His hands, which were on Leah’s back, suddenly prickled with chills.

Ow!” She wept into his chest, planting both hands on his shoulders to pull herself away.

“What?”

She sank back onto her heels, wobbling and almost collapsing.

“I just killed someone, George,” she mumbled at the ground. “I just... I just killed someone.”

George wondered whether this was a good time or a bad time to bring up zombies.

“George, I just... I just killed someone.”

“No, you didn’t,” he said, holding her tighter. “I did.”

For a second they sat there, together, staring in silent disbelief at everything in the room except from each other. There was an unconscious boy in the hallway and a dead woman on the sofa, with half her head missing and two shards of clay sticking out of her chest. Her blood, regardless of what colour it was, was all over George and Leah.

“Oh, no,” George suddenly muttered, looking up at Leah.

“What?” She whipped her head round at the door.

“Lee, the ambulances.”

“What about them?”

“They’ll be here in a minute.”

“Oh, fuck. We’ve got to…” she paused, looking down at her hands and pulling a piece of grey goo from her hair. “George, we’ve got to get out of here.”

“What do you mean?”

“Come on.” She yanked him upwards, and he winced at the squelching sound of her fingers closing around his arm.

“But Lee, we-”

“Do you want to get arrested for murder? Do you?”

“No, but… we didn’t commit murder.”

Leah let loose a hysterical burst of laughter. “Look! Look around you! Could we look any more fucking guilty if we tried?”

“But we called the ambulance… for Dylan.”

“Who cares? We-” Leah turned around, glancing over George’s shoulder towards the front door, and froze.

“What?” George turned, squinting in temporary bewilderment at the empty hallway. Then, he looked sideways at Leah.

“He’s gone.”

“Dylan’s gone. Must have woken up,” Leah whispered, running a hand agitatedly through her hair before taking off down the corridor. “Dylan! Dylan!”

“He’ll be fine, Lee,” George insisted, coming up behind her to grab her wrist.

“We can’t leave him here, George! Are you fucking insane?”

“What do you want to do, take him with us?”

“Yes!” She said. “Better than leaving him to find this!” She gestured to the living-room, but stopped dead when she saw the blood on her hands.

“Lee, we- we can’t.”

Leah opened her mouth to make a retort, but froze when she heard footsteps on the upper floor.

“Fuck!” George threw himself towards the open door. “Lee, come on!”

She was standing in the corridor, glancing anxiously around before her gaze fell back onto her hands. Then, her eyes flicked back up to meet his, and he could see the tears sparking on her eyelashes. As George watched, she turned back towards the living-room, yanked the door shut until the aging doorknob finally clunked into place, and then grabbed the table next to her and managed to drag it sideways until it was blocking the entrance.

“Lee-”

She turned back to him. “He won’t see it. I won’t let him.”

Leah strode forwards to grab his arm, squeezing his wrist so tightly it went numb almost immediately.

“Let’s go.”

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