"Oh, fuck! Look at that one. She looks like the bride of Frankenstein!" Tom chuckled.
"More like the bride of Chucky." Craig added as he watched the Zed ambling down the road below. It slowly walked past the apartment building they were holed up in, a piece of its torn wedding dress trailed along behind it like a white flag on a piece of string. It was just one of hundreds of dead bodies that were currently shambling along the city streets these days.
"What's she got in her hand there? She holding something?"
Craig put his binoculars down on the windowsill and rubbed his eyes. "Probably her bouquet. Guess she never got chance to throw it, poor bitch." He was about to suggest they figure out their next move, when Tom muttered, "What the fuck..?"
"Oh, what now?" Craig sighed. "Just step away from the damn window for five minutes, will ya..."
"Craig!" Tom snapped. "Look!" As Craig refocused his binoculars, Tom went on, "Please tell me those bastards aren't getting smarter!"
Craig's frown deepened as he watched the unfortunate bride. She ambled along the road then slowly turned her head, as if to look over her shoulder, before she began to move towards the apartments, opposite. "The Zed's movements seemed less random than the rest, but I'd hardly call it smart."
"You missed her side stepping a Zed. The dumb fucks always walk into each other. That one didn't."
Any argument Craig would have made was quickly silenced as the two men watched what happened next. The Zed slowly walked up the stone steps of the apartments opposite, and pushed the door.
"Holy Christ!" Tom said. "You think there's anyone holed up in there?"
"Doesn't matter. Looks like the doors locked - it can't get in."
"Yeah, but, fuck... The fact that it tried to get in... Ah, shit. Some are following it. If there are people in there..."
"Yeah," Craig said. "I hear you. I guess we could throw a few fireworks from the roof. We don't have many left, though. I'm not sure if..."
Craig trailed off as Tom sucked in a breath. Realising the door was locked, the Zed turned away and a distinct look of horror crossed its face when it saw another Zed at the bottom of the steps. The bride moved fast, and the Zed was decapitated before Tom or Craig could register the scythe in her hand.
"It's not a fucking Zed!" Tom almost yelled.
"How could it not be?" Craig yelled back. "Nothing alive can walk among them!"
"I don't know, but it's a fucking woman! A living, breathing..."
"Stop fucking yelling!" Craig bellowed, "I can't think!"
"It's a fucking woman!" Tom hissed in a loud whisper.
Meanwhile, the bride was trapped on the steps, decapitating Zeds, but not fast enough to get past them. With yet more Zeds getting attracted to the action, she maybe had a few more minutes to live, if that.
"Distract them from the roof!" Craig ordered, already diving for his gun and the machete Tom had found lying in the street.
"No heroics, Craig!" Tom called over his shoulder as the two men went in opposite directions, down the hall.
"Yeah, and don't you go blowing yourself up with those fireworks!" Craig grinned, referring to last New Year's Eve when Tom had drunkenly attempted to put out a rogue firework rather than back away. The idiot nearly got his head blown off and was taken to hospital with minor burns on his hands, minus two eyebrows.
Craig heard the whistle of a firework before he reached the ground floor, then a number of pops as he put his shoulder against the heavy wardrobe they had barricaded the door with, earlier. He took a deep breath, then held it as he peeked outside, opening the door to a loud fizzing sound. He almost jumped out of his skin when the firework exploded. Fighting the urge to slam the door closed and run back upstairs, Craig held his machete out in front of him, and looked across the street.
She was still there, looking frightening, yet, as fearful as he felt, while she slashed the Zeds. It wasn't much of a firework display as the fireworks hit the road in the daylight. But it worked; all the Zeds were shuffling off to investigate the latest attraction as if they had a collective 'Ooh, shiny!' moment. It quickly cleared a path between Craig and the woman. Unfortunately, it would be a short window of opportunity, as more Zeds were heading their way. The chances of all those Zeds not stopping for some human munchies en-route to their firework display were zero, so time was of an essence. As such, Craig couldn't understand why the woman was hesitating.
"Get over here, lady! C'mon!"
Six stories up, Tom wasn't able to see his partner. Instead, his eyes darted between the seemingly immobile woman and the large group of Zed's closing in on her. He was about to yell at her himself when she finally dashed across the street. As the Zed's ambled towards their building, Tom lit another firework and threw it as far as possible. Smiling in satisfaction, he muttered, "Go on, you fuckers. Go play with the pretty explosions!" He watched the Zed's stream by for another minute or two, then grabbed his rucksack, stuffed his lighter back into his jeans pocket, and returned to the stairwell in anticipation of meeting their new guest.
The smell hit him before he entered the apartment and instead of offering the woman a polite greeting, as planned, he turned to Craig and asked, "Fuck me, what's that god awful stench?"
"That would be me," the woman answered. "How the fuck do you think I was able to walk among them?"
"Well, you sure had me fooled, for a while," Tom said. "I thought you were a Zed. Once upon a time, you could have made a damn fine cosplayer."
"Now, it makes a damn fine way to survive. We can walk outta here!" Craig grinned. "All we have to do is smell like them!"
Tom looked at his cheerful partner, then back towards the hostile looking stranger. Or, more accurately, towards the lethal looking weapon in her hand. Its curved blade was coated with Zed crud, as was the woman who wielded it.
"This is, Tom." Craig told her, "Tom, this is, Kate."
"Kate has a very big fucking knife!" Tom blurted.
"It's a good weapon." Kate said. "It's saved my ass from the dead... and the living. A would be rapist lost his head before he even got to turn into one of those things out there."
"We call them Zeds." Craig offered.
"Hey, we ain’t gonna rape you! Hell, even if we were like that, you don't need that blade to put me off. Just the smell alone... No offence, ma'am."
"How about we just relax, figure out our next move." Craig suggested. "Maybe by then we'll be used to the smell enough to eat?"
Kate eyed the two men suspiciously for a moment, then nodded and sat on the edge of the apartment’s only chair. As Tom sat opposite her on the sofa, she said, "Neat firework trick."
"Thanks!" Craig said, putting three cans of soda on the table between them and Kate before sitting next to Tom. "So, how have you been surviving these last three weeks?"
Kate eyed her weapon, then looked down at herself, and said, "Take a guess."
Tom grinned, eliciting a dark look from, Craig, which only made Tom's smile widen. Turning to Kate, he asked, "How did you figure out that smelling like the dead was a great way of staying alive?"
"By accident." She sighed, slumping her shoulders and resting her elbows, wearily, against her knees. Her sickle scraped against the hardwood floor as she placed it between her feet. "I let one get a bit too close. He was a big bastard and nearly crushed me when he fell on me. I'd gutted him... and he was a fresh one... so..."
"Messy." Tom grimaced.
"I pushed him off and kinda started trying to crawl away, figuring I was done for. There was loads of them, but they just... walked by. He wasn't exactly my first kill of the day and I was covered in goo from killing half my wedding guests..."
"Ah, hell. It happened on your wedding?" Craig sympathised.
"What? You think I changed into this stupid wedding dress after everyone started turning?"
Tom pressed his lips together for a moment, before saying, "If it's any consolation, Craig and I were all set to go to Hawaii for the first time when it happened. A shared dream of ours. It would have been the holiday of a lifetime." he sighed.
"Right." Kate said. "Well, no. It's no consolation, at all, actually. But thanks, anyway!"
"Look, lady..." Craig began, but was cut off.
"Crap! I'm sorry. I'm kinda pissed about all this and, to be honest, all the survivors I've met so far have been either too stupid to live much longer, or too clever to have me slowing them down. And my honeymoon should have been Hawaii!"
"Ah, fuck." Tom sighed, "Ain’t we all off to a great start?"
Kate smiled, "Look, thanks for the rescue. Assuming your intentions are good."
"How would they be bad?" Craig asked.
"I decapitated the last guy who rescued me. Now that was a lot of blood. I got worried it would wash all the zombie smeg off my dress." she grinned, "But I only decapitate rapists and zombies."
Tom rolled his eyes. "Even if the smell wasn't a total turn off, you ain’t my type, sweetheart!"
"And, he's married." Craig offered, holding his own gold-wrapped wedding finger up for her to see.
Kate looked around the apartment, "So where are your wives?"
Craig grinned, "I got my wedding ring same day he got his."
"Same church, too." Tom added.
"And it wasn't a double wedding."
Kate blinked, "Oh, you're married to each other!"
Tom smiled, "If I'm going to rape anyone, I'll do him, first."
"First?" Both Craig and Kate asked.
"Oh, figure of speech; fuck off, the pair of you!" Tom rose from his seat, muttering, "It's getting dark. I'll light some candles and close the drapes."
As Tom pottered around, Kate asked, "So, do you know anything? What happened? I didn't find a radio until days after the shit hit the fan, and by then all I could find was the odd foreign channel and some useless emergency broadcast about staying indoors and keeping your windows shut."
"We were at the airport," Craig said. "We'd checked in and we're in the lounge when this guy seemed to start choking. Someone else started hyperventilating, or something and they both went as white as death. Then, the first guy just turns to the woman he's with and... chomps down on her. He bit straight through her artery... she had no chance. It was when we watched her get up and attack one of the security guards we figured something was off."
"Off?" Kate chuckled. "That's one way of putting it."
"We hid in the airport for a few days and caught what little news there was. Seems this was unexpected, sudden, and on a global scale."
"People suddenly turning into Zeds," Tom said as he lit a candle. "Gotta be terrorists."
"Oh, yeah," Kate smirked, "I can see the Taliban plotting to turn the human race into zombies. Makes perfect sense."
"But they aren't zombies." Tom argued. "Not in the classic Living Dead, Resident Evil, Walking Dead, World War Z, sense..."
"He's a bit of a zombie fan." Craig explained.
"To be a zombie you first have to die. But that's not what happened here. The living turned, almost en-masse..."
"Does it matter?" Kate asked. "Considering pretty much everything moving around out there could easily pass as a zombie in any of those shows you mentioned..."
"The point is," Tom insisted, "that maybe the terrorists meant to kill us all. Maybe themselves, as well. Only, they fucked up, and now they are as forever trapped in limbo as the rest of the Zeds."
Kate considered this a moment, then nodded, "It's not a bad theory."
"Oh, don't encourage him." Craig complained, getting up so he could part the drapes just enough to see what was happening outside before it went dark. "Or suffer the wrath of his inner red-neck as all his conspiracy theories spill out."
Kate chuckled. "Maybe later. Right now we better catch us a zom... Zed."
"Why?" Tom asked.
"You need camouflage, remember?" Kate indicated the crud that now covered her once beautiful dress. "Tomorrow we can walk straight through them, if tonight we get us a couple of fresh kills, and open them up."
"There's only a few wandering around out there, that I can see," Craig reported. "Sounds like a plan. Tom?"
"Er, I'm not sure. I'm a bit worried I might throw up."
Tom did throw up… a few times… but even he eventually got used to the stench, which was, as of now, the least of his worries. Nervously, the two men followed Kate as she walked with painful slowness towards a group of Zeds. They both had to fight their instincts, currently screaming at them to run.
"Should we moan a bit? Y'know, like the Zeds do?" Tom had asked the night before.
"No! You stay quiet, keep your head down, and move slowly. Don't do anything to get their attention."
"Oh. Just that, maybe moaning a bit will help me get into the part."
"Part?" Kate snapped. "Jesus Christ, this isn't fucking Broadway, Tom!"
At seeing his two companions about to get into another spat, Craig moaned, "Braiiins..."
Tom laughed as Kate threw her hands in the air.
Remembering his husbands humour, Tom stole a glance at Craig. They silently told each other, 'we’ll get through this' before grimly watching Kate walk by the first Zed. Soon, they were surrounded. The two men grimly hung on to the hope they would make it through the next few hours. It would be a long walk along the highway to reach the city limits, but with no room to get a vehicle through, this was their best chance - their only chance.
Like two bearded bridesmaids, carrying machetes instead of flowers, Craig and Tom slowly trailed behind the bride in the tattered wedding dress, following her down a concrete isle, surrounded by the dead.
Then it began to rain.