Dead on Arrival

[PART 1]

The night lights of the street snuck through the windshield of Kyle’s car as he drove past, quickly disappearing to be replaced by the light of the next lamppost down the road. Over and over, light intermittently illuminated and darkened the interior of his car, until he stopped by the red light of an intersection, with the noise of the engine lowering and leaving him in relative silence.

Not a single soul remained on the street, no cars, no pedestrians, nothing, save for one tall and slim person he caught sitting against a building at the corner of the block. In its image, he first noticed a jacket with the hood up, with a scarf covering its lower face. He already figured it was a drug-addict or a mugger, a usual sight nowadays with the greater frequency of those two types of person named in the news and seen throughout the day. That specific person gave him weird vibes, for he had seen him, or her, already numerous times already, far too close to his home for comfort. Yet, the red light turning green cut off his thoughts about the matter, and he drove on. At least, he thought, they’d leave the streets once snow started falling, lest they freeze to death.

[PART 2]

Viktor walked through the dim light of the living room to the kitchen half asleep with an uneven gait, then opened the fridge’s door. The light of the fridge hit his face, forcing him to narrow his eyes and almost shut them in pain. He scanned the interior, yet found that what he wanted was simply not inside, at which point he gave a loud sigh of defeat before closing it again.

The late hours of the night made his eyes hurt over how heavy they were, even though the painful light was already gone. With the same uneven gait as before, he walked to his bedroom, yet not before switching off the light of the living room while walking through. By the doorway of the bedroom, the now everyday sight depressed him further and further: the sight of a bed for two, in which he slept alone. He yearned for the alcohol he forgot to stock up on, wishing there had been some in the fridge, if only to drink himself to sleep, as without it he knew very well he’d remain in bed for hours on end without falling asleep. Sleeping on the sofa seemed a better idea.

Then, a loud thud struck through the house, coming from outside though in a manner that gave away that part of his house was the receiver. The noise startled him enough to spark his eyes wide open as he stared around in quick movements, yet soon he grit his teeth and frowned, before rushing off for the interior of the bedroom. Inside, he opened the closet, and took out a shotgun, then rushed off again for the living room.

Another thud, coming from the backyard. A mugger that had tried to sneak into his house by the back, he thought.

“Come and take me already.” He couldn’t help but mutter as he shouldered his shotgun, aimed at the source of the noise, only a door which divided the interior of the house from the backyard.

He walked closer and closer, but soon another thud made him stop, a thud against the door itself. Slowly, as quieter thuds followed, he walked to the door step by step until he stood right in front of it. More and more small thuds followed, so quiet that he’d not hear it if he was a little distance away. Then, with swift movements and as quickly as he could, he unlocked the door and swung it open, still holding the shotgun ready.

Something fell in. A person. A woman, falling face-first as if she had been kneeling against the door in an unnatural manner. A far greater shock turned out to be her appearance, which gave him an awful vibe, as if he had seen her already before.

The woman didn’t react violently, but instead slowly and seemingly unaware, quietly raised her head and held herself up with her elbows until their eyes locked with each other. The woman’s skin held an unnatural silverish color, and under her eyes she had great dark bags, but Viktor could identify her in an instant, causing him to slowly lower his shotgun in disbelief.

“C…Catherine…?”

[PART 3]

Kyle arrived to the front of his house’s garage on his car, though as soon as he opened the door to get out, his cellphone rang. He closed the door while taking out the phone, and looking at it, he saw it was Viktor, and picked up.

“Hello.”

“Kyle, it’s me. I need you to get here as soon as you can. Now, if possible. It’s urgent.”

“Already in my car, I’m on my way.”

“Right. Thanks.”

Kyle cut the call and dropped his phone on the passenger’s seat, before starting the engine again and driving off. A short trip ensued, if only by virtue of Viktor’ house being just around the corner, though to Kyle’s surprise, he noticed the same person with the hooded jacket walking through the dark sidewalk with his head slightly down and hands in pockets.

The person walked the opposite way Kyle came from, and soon left sight.

He parked in front of Han’s house and, after leaving the car, he headed for the door. He knocked once, and soon Viktor unlocked and opened the door, though Kyle noticed how his eyes seemed strange.

“Have you been crying?” He asked with a worried expression, walking in as Viktor let him pass.

“You’ll see.” Viktor answered as he closed the door, then headed for the kitchen, and so Kyle followed.

When both crossed the doorway, Kyle soon saw Catherine sitting at the kitchen’s table, though looking dead with an aimless expression. His heart nearly stopped by the shock, as he remembered Catherine, Kyle’s wife, passing away days ago, shot in the chest by a mugger who had broken in. Though Viktor continued into the kitchen, Kyle stopped by the doorway and stared in disbelief, unable to unglue his eyes from her.

“Is she…?” Kyle asked, though unable to finish by his own shock.

“Kyle…” Catherine whispered in an eerily rough tone.

“She knows my name. She recognized you by your voice alone, too.” Viktor answered, sliding a chair back and sitting on it. “She’s been muttering my name ever since she came here.”

“How long ago?”

“An hour, maybe? I haven’t kept track of time.”

“But… Is she…?”

Kyle stood up and leaned forward to Catherine, then with a finger he pulled aside part of her dirty blouse, until a gunshot wound just below the clavicle could be seen. “Not alive. Not dead either. I don’t know. She doesn’t even breathe, nor have a heartbeat.”

While Viktor leaned back, Kyle walked closer and stared at Catherine with wonder.

“Has she been like that all this time?”

“How?”

“Not reacting, not doing anything.”

“The last thing she did was trying to break into my house. She must’ve been trying for a while, if the other noises I heard time ago were also her, though she tended to disappear when I went out to investigate for some reason, I’m guessing. Then, she just stared at me, silent. She understands what I say, though, because when I told her to sit on the chair, she did so on her own. She remained there when I went to open the door for you, too, even though she tried to follow me.”

He paused, then sighed and sunk his face into his hands, sliding until he pulled his hair back, at which point he stopped and rested his head on his hands while his elbows remained on the table.

“I don’t know what to do, though.” He continued. “I won’t be able to keep this a secret for long. A person who supposedly died time ago, now here, alive. Even if people understood in the best case scenario, someone’s bound to take her away to experiment or something. Calling an ambulance or the cops, or anyone, is out of the question since they’ll take her away immediately, but the more time I keep doing nothing, the deeper I’m digging myself, since they’ll no doubt ask, ‘why did you hide this for so long?’. I don’t want them to take her away. I can’t lose her again.”

“Viktor…” Catherine whispered in her now permanent rough voice.

“Catherine.” Kyle called. Catherine slowly turned her head to him. “What’s my name?”

“Kyle…” She answered.

He raised his hand with three fingers extended. “Can you count? How many fingers am I holding up?” Catherine stared at his hand, but didn’t answer. “I don’t think she’s Catherine anymore, or at least completely.” He told Viktor while lowering his hand.

“What do you mean?”

“Her mind. It’s like it regressed to that of a kid.”

“Do you think it’s related to her being dead for so long?”

“How?”

“Brain damage over rotting, maybe.”

“Perhaps. But, then again, she’s not supposed to be here alive, so any kind of logic goes out the window.”

“…Right.”

Kyle soon yawned, and Viktor spotted it from the corner of his eye.

“I only wanted to let you know about this. There’s nothing left to do for today. You should go sleep.”

“Will you be fine with sleeping while she’s around? I know she’s your wife and all, but…”

“I’ll be fine. Worst case scenario, I’ll lock her in some other room. She can’t break down doors, otherwise she’d have done so to get in here.”

“Alright then. See you.”

Viktor hummed in acknowledgement while Kyle turned and walked to the door, before crossing and closing it behind him. Yet, once he stepped to his car, he saw the same hooded person as before standing by the light post at the far corner of the block. He stared blankly long enough for the person to notice and turn head slightly till it looked at him from the corner of its eyes, obscured by the hood which blocked the light of the post. Then, the person turned its head to face where it was looking at seconds ago.

Unnerved, Kyle quickly got on his car and left, never detaching his eyes from the person till he lost sight.

[PART 4]

Two days later…

Viktor woke up in the extremely early hours to strange noises. Those were different than Catherine’s perpetual thuds on the kitchen’s locked door, for as much as it was heartbreaking to hear her softly hitting the door while whispering his name, the frequency forced him to get used to it. Specifically, the strange noises alerted him, if only because it sounded as if it came from elsewhere, and Catherine’s thuds coming from the kitchen already gave away that it was not her who made the noises. An intruder, perhaps, at which point his heart skipped a beat over worrying not only about the intruder but also about Catherine’s situation being known.

As silently as he could, he uncovered the blankets and got up, tip-toeing to the half-open closet with his shotgun ready. Already loaded, he walked to the doorway, his steps silent over having not footwear, yet as he reached it he started hearing another noise. The door handle of the kitchen being rapidly and firmly turned, though without result. He had the key, he knew, and Catherine had not tried such thing with any door she came across.

Direct confrontation was the least of his worries. Another plan came to mind, and so he walked back to the nightstand beside his bed, and picked up the cellphone. Kyle’s number already saved, with just two button press it already began calling, all silently.

“…Hello?” Kyle’s voice, muffled by the low quality of the phone’s audio, spoke.

“Kyle. Someone’s in my house. Get over here. Bring a gun. They just found Catherine. Whoever’s here doesn’t know I’m awake.”

“–Fuck, I’m going!”

Viktor cut the call and placed the phone on the nightstand, then walked with his shotgun high in search of the intruder.

The intruder’s steps led him towards the living room which directly connected to the kitchen. Just as he reached the living room, he peeked past the doorway inside, though soon saw the intruder staring at the kitchen door and the wall around it, as if trying to figure out a way through. Catherine’s thuds could still be heard slightly, but the intruder did not seem fazed at all. Yet, the intruder’s appearance, namely a hooded jacket, made him grit his teeth as a surge of rage overtook him, if only because all the muggers he ever saw covered their faced with a hood.

“You!” He shouted, stepping into the living room with his shotgun high and aimed. “One step and you’re dead!”

The intruder flinched in fright, turning to face Viktor, though long, white hair that snuck out of her hood flowed with her movements. The extremely early hours of the morning made it difficult to see clearly, but Viktor saw that the intruder was, in fact, a woman.

Yet, before anything, she snapped and made a mad dash for the door, prompting Viktor to shoot. The shot must have missed, even though he could swear it hit, for she kept on running unhindered till she crossed the already open door to the outside. Viktor ran after her, but once he reached the sidewalk, the intruder had ran off too far.

The awfully loud sound of tires burning on the asphalt in the opposite direction stole his attention, and so Viktor saw Kyle’s car almost drifting as he turned the corner to chase for the intruder, with the lights of his car shining through the mist of the early morning. While Viktor raised his shotgun in joy over his arrival and pursuit, Kyle blinked the lights of his car as a quick greeting, before passing by and driving off as quickly as he arrived.

[PART 5]

Kyle gave chase. The runner turned another corner, trying to lose him, but Kyle drifted the corner again, with the high-pitched rubber grinding against the asphalt deafening him inside the car. However, the runner had merely pretended to turn the corner to bait him into turning, as Kyle saw her quickly turning and running opposite way he was turning to, crossing the street. He violently turned in a manner that made the rear wheels lose grip of the road, sending the tail swinging till it pointed in the opposite direction, then accelerated.

The escapee ran awfully fast, enough for her to cover half the block already when Kyle’s car gained enough speed to keep on chasing. Yet, she learned that it was useless escaping through the street, and entered a narrow alley. Kyle stopped his car abruptly just in front, over the sidewalk, blocking the way out. He opened the door and stood staring in confusion, for he knew the alley had a dead end with no escape. Only an idiot would enter, he believed, or someone new to the city. A cold chill ran down his spine upon thinking of the possibility that the person had come to the city for some specific purpose, always watching him, figuring now that the frequency in which he saw her was no longer coincidence. He shut the door, opened his trunk, got a lengthy coil of rope, and closed it before walking into the alley, with his right hand resting on the holster of the handgun he brought.

Windows too high to reach lined both walls of the alley, no matter how far he stepped in. Wherever he stared, no means of escape were present, not even through climbing even if one was exceptionally athletic. Soon, the runner heard Kyle’s steps as he approached, at the same time she had jumped on a dumpster, turning her head to see him closing in step by step. Their eyes met, though Kyle suddenly stopped in his tracks upon seeing in her face the same characteristics as Catherine. Almost black bags under her eyes, and skin of a pale, silver-ish color, though extremely active and conscious in comparison.

She soon turned her focus away from him and jumped to a window just above her, jumping high enough to grab onto the bars, then used her legs to climb further up. Yet, when she jumped to a window a little distance to the side, she misjudged the distance and fell upon failing to grab it, landing on the ground. Upon recovering, she didn’t stand up, but instead kept sitting down until Kyle stepped up to her with his gun aimed.

“Who are you?” He asked.

The woman didn’t give an answer, instead stared emotionlessly at him with a tired expression from the corner of her eyes, most of her head obscured by the hood.

“You are here for Catherine, right?”

“Is that her name…?” She asked in a rough voice.

“So you know. I want an explanation.”

“You saw me. Word will get out. Word will get out about her, too.” She muttered, turning her head away.

“You didn’t want people to know about this?”

“In short, no.”

“Nor do we. If people know about this, they’ll start questioning us as to why we kept it a secret, and things will go downhill. Listen, as much as you’d hate to accept it, whatever is happening, we’re stuck in it. You cooperate and explain, and we’ll keep it a secret. We both lose otherwise.”

The woman kept quiet for a few seconds, before slowly standing up.

“You put too much trust in me.” She said. “Why?”

“You have answers. I want them. You want this all to be kept a secret. We both win if we cooperate, and we both lose if we don’t. Don’t try to deny it.”

“What gives you the certainty I won’t kill both of you and escape with Catherine?”

“Do you want to draw even more attention? Two murders will make things awfully difficult for you. Catherine is also precious to that man you met in that house–“

“Viktor?”

“You know his name?”

“It’s the name Catherine has been repeating over and over before I lost her.”

“…We should talk about this back in the house. I don’t trust this place to be safe. Anyone could come here at any moment, if the noise we made is anything to go by.”

“Do you trust me that much?”

“If anything happens to me before we get home, Viktor will know. You won’t get anywhere near Catherine. Eventually, that secret will come to light to everyone. Can I trust you to do nothing in the car?”

“…Fine.”

[PART 6]

“The best way to explain is to start off with this. I’ve been alive for a while, now.” The woman said, sitting at a table in Viktor’ house with Kyle and Viktor, with Catherine’s thuds acting as background noise. “I don’t keep count of how long, but it’s been long enough for me to commit mistakes. Those mistakes, though small, ended up piling up one after the other year after year, until tales started forming. I’ve heard a few of those tales myself, and they were uncannily accurate. Those tales spoke of the undead, of people rising from the grave.”

“Zombies?” Kyle asked.

“The original ones, at least. Not the modern ones that do nothing but shamble about cannibalizing everything in their path, spreading like a virus.”

“And… you’re a zombie?” Viktor asked.

“No. Above it. I’m a lich, one that creates zombies, in simple terms.”

“Wait… You turned Catherine into… into that?! Into that mindless thing?!”

“Along with other people throughout the ages.”

“You son of a–“

“Viktor!” Kyle interrupted, placing one hand over his shoulder and forcing him down, lest he’d lash out at her. “Calm down. At least she’s giving us answers.”

“I can assure you, though,” she continued, “that her current state isn’t permanent. If I were to compare it to something else, it’d be like a lengthy period of waking up. She will regain consciousness eventually, but not this soon.”

“How much consciousness are we talking about?” Kyle asked.

“Comparable, if not identical, to the time when she was alive.”

Viktor kept silent, then sunk in his chair as he turned his head to the kitchen door, where Catherine kept thumping.

“But… why?” Kyle asked.

“Why what?”

“Why did you raise her from the dead?”

“I need to take the opportunities. If I wait too long, the corpse will rot too much to be usable. I don’t have magical senses, so if I come across someone who recently died, I can’t let it go to waste.”

“No, I meant, why do you raise people from the dead in the first place?”

“Research.”

“…Research?”

“Raising someone from the dead is no easy task. I aim to perfect it, if only because it means knowledge I get to accrue. Curiosity, in your own words.”

“You understand that you’re raising someone from the dead, right?” Viktor asked, worried. “Someone who died, that ‘eternal rest’ and all that. It’s a person who you’re raising and then turning into… that thing, and just out of curiosity, apparently.”

“I’ve had such discussions in my time with a few people. All of them led to one topic in particular, which is morality. Unfortunately, all agreed to disagree, since our ideas of morality are radically different. Once you live as much as I do, raising the dead at every possible moment, the idea behind death starts to lose meaning, along with any morality attached to it. Most of those I raise that gain consciousness again ask to be put down after a while, and due to not having any more use for them, I carry out their wish, save for those who end up lost before then.”

“‘Once you live as much as I do’…” Kyle muttered. “How long did you live for? Can you remember any differences between your earliest memories and now?”

“That, I can answer. These machines you call ‘cars’, or any kind of advanced machinery did not exist. The first experiences with the dead I had was after witnessing a fairly large battle between formations before these ‘guns’ also existed. I remember one side holding a fairly strange kind of shield, large and rectangular, red like blood.”

“Rectangular shields…”

“Does the word ‘Rome’ mean anything to you?” Viktor asked.

“Yes, like a deja vu.” She answered.

“Over two thousand years old.”

“I’ll be damned…” Kyle said.

“So you can’t die? You can’t die of old age. What about weapons or something like that?”

The white-haired woman lowered her head and sat motionless for a few seconds, then spat a few tiny objects on the table that made a sharp noise upon hitting.

“Those are…” Kyle wondered while he and Viktor sat dumbfounded, staring blankly.

“Your gun.” She said, lifting part of her jacket and showing a few holes in it.

Viktor kept silent, then sighed and shook his head as he lowered it.

“What’s your name?” Kyle asked.

“Alesia.”

“Are you new to these parts?”

“Yes, you guessed. I arrived just two weeks ago. My memory has not been eroded by two thousand years, as much as others have figured.”

Without words to add, the three became silent, though Catherine’s thuds on the door kept on sounding, making the three of the turn their eyes to it.

“How long will it take for her to recover?” Kyle asked.

“A week at the earliest, if I include the time that passed after I raised her, up until Viktor found her.”

“So we have a week to think things through.” He sighed, sliding the chair back and standing up. “Viktor has enough to deal with just with Catherine. It’d be best if you stayed at my house for the time being.”

“How did you know I had nowhere to stay at?” She asked.

“With all the paperwork needed nowadays to have a simple apartment, and seeing as a birth certificate alone would already draw too much attention if you could have one at all… Along with your… well… face… I don’t know, just a hunch.”

“Charmed.”

[PART 7]

A few nudges to his torso woke Kyle up, disoriented, though soon remembered that he had fallen asleep on the couch, for the late hours last night added to the early morning today took its toll. He opened his eyes, and the first thing he turned out to be Alesia, silently staring at him expressionlessly. He couldn’t bring himself to ask what brought her to wake him up. The situation, and her eyes, caught him by surprise, suddenly making him feel as if time didn’t exist for as long as he stared at her. Then, someone knocking on the door snapped him back to reality.

Alesia stepped aside and left for another room, while at the same time he stood up and walked to the door still knocked on, trying to wake up fully in the meantime. By the window, he saw that two people had arrived, though despite one dressing fairly normally, the other had his face entirely covered by a scarf, a wool hat, and sunglasses.

“Yes?” He asked from the window, skeptic.

“Martin Reginald, police department.” The normally-dressed one greeted, taking out a badge and showing it momentarily before putting it back. “We heard some things have happened around here. Can I ask you some questions?”

“…Yeah, sure.”

He stepped aside from the window and looked into the room. Alesia was nowhere to be seen, fortunately enough, so he moved to the door, unlocked it, and opened it to meet the two men.

“There have been reports of gunfire here yesterday. Do you know anything about that?” Martin asked.

Kyle shrugged. “Muggers around here, I guess. It’s not uncommon. I stopped caring about them a long while ago.”

Martin stared momentarily, exhaling loudly from his nose. “Very well… Now, then. There’s been a case of grave robbing that happened a couple days ago. Have you heard anything about it? Seen anything? Perhaps something unnatural or shady, or someone who looked like he or she wasn’t from around these parts? Someone you haven’t seen before? Most of the evidence points to someone not native to this city.”

Kyle felt a chill down his spine, though soon forced his composure to stay in one piece. “No. You’d have better luck raiding some drug den or something, I imagine.”

“I see… May we come in to check your house?”

“No.”

Martin and Kyle exchanged stares in silence.

“Why so?” Martin asked.

“May I see your badge again?”

Martin frowned, but complied and handed him the badge. He looked at it momentarily, though soon noticed something in it, and nonchalantly threw it his way, hitting his chest before falling to the ground.

“What–” Martin attempted to ask, but Kyle soon took his own badge and held it for them to see, while his other hand rested on his holster.

“Yours is fake.” Kyle said. “You have ten seconds to leave, otherwise you’ll wish you were shot instead.”

Martin frowned further and gritted his teeth, though reluctantly picked up his false badge and walked away, with the masked man following him. Kyle kept an eye on them till they left, then closed the door. Afterwards, he walked to his cellphone on the table, though on the way there he saw Alesia walking into the room from elsewhere.

“They might be chasing after you.” He said, picking up the phone and marking the numbers. “They’re doing this on their own accord.”

“It’s been two thousand years. People were bound to pick up the hints and start hunting me. I was not aware you were a cop, though.”

“I was supposed to be on vacation.” Just as he finished, he called, and Viktor picked up. “Look, I’ll get to the point. There are some men who are looking for someone fitting the description of Alesia. They might be going after you soon considering you have Catherine there. Watch out for them. They call themselves cops but they’re not, their badge is fake. In any case, have your gun ready at all times.”

[PART 8]

Four days passed since then. Sitting at the kitchen table in front of a steaming mug, Kyle only stared at Alesia at the other end of the table in slight confusion and wonder, who stared back expressionlessly.

“So… you don’t sleep.” He asked.

“No.”

“Nor eat.”

“No.”

“What do you do when most people sleep?”

“Nothing.”

“…Nothing?”

“Nothing. Either that, or what I do when it’s daylight.”

“Such as?”

“Nothing.”

“Don’t you study things or something?”

“Every book I get my hands on I finish in a few hours, or days if it’s lengthy, since I don’t stop until I finish it and re-read it a few more times if it’s interesting enough. I don’t carry such books with me, so most of the time I’m doing nothing due to the inability of getting more material to study, walking about looking for the chance to raise someone from the dead.”

“So when I was sleeping, you were doing nothing?”

“No.”

“…Wait, no as in yes or no as in no?”

“What?”

“You were doing nothing?”

“No.”

“You were… not doing nothing?”

“Yes.”

“Yes as in nothing or yes as in something?”

“Doing or not doing?”

“What?”

“What?”

“Fuck it. What were you doing while I was asleep?”

“Studying wood.”

“…What?”

“Turns out that the wood of your attic is of a fairly good quality type, as I found out after you locked me in there for the night.”

“Well, thanks, it costed me an arm and a leg to– wait, you know about wood?”

“I’ve spent a few decades in logging camps centuries ago.”

“Is there something you don’t know about?”

“It’d be easier to assume there isn’t.”

“Damn…”

Then, a sharp noise from outside caught their attention. Then another. Two gunshots, which left them immobile as they paid attention.

“…Viktor.” He said, quickly standing up and rushing off to one room of his house. Then, he returned with heavy clothes.

“How can you tell?” She asked, seeing him put some clothes on, and a few other clothes on the table for her.

“Not many have a shotgun of the same caliber as his, let alone model. He has an awful tendency to reload his shells in some weird way. Different noise. It’s close enough and coming from his house’s direction, too. Does the cold harm you, considering your situation?”

“I am fine as I am, even if I entered a blizzard.”

“Forget the clothes on the table, then. Pick one; pistol or revolver?”

“Revolver. What for?”

From inside his jacket, he took out a revolver and left it on the table, then next to it a pouch that rang aloud with the bullets inside as it struck.

“You’re coming with me. This is your business too, now.”

Without a word, Alesia pulled her scarf enough to cover her mouth and nose while standing up, and grabbed the revolver. In short notice, she fully loaded it with unnatural finesse, something that made Kyle stare with surprise, though soon shook his head and headed for the door with her following.

[PART 9]

Both soon reached Viktor’ house, leaving their footprints on the snow that had piled up since just three days ago. Viktor’ front door stood open. Kyle and Alesia walked in, and noticed that snow had already begun sneaking into the house through the door.

“Viktor!” Kyle called, pistol aimed high wherever he looked at.

No response was given. Not even Catherine’s thuds on a door, or her presence at all. Even though her mind had regained enough consciousness for Viktor to leave her safely around the house with any door unlocked, she was nowhere to be seen.

“Kyle.” Alesia said, gaining his attention. He turned, and saw her looking at the snow by the front of the house. “Footsteps. Covered with snow, but noticeable. There are many.”

“Many?”

“People.”

Kyle stood silent, thinking, till he exhaled loudly out his nose and walked out the house, taking the key and locking the door as he closed it. Alesia saw how he walked out, following the footsteps with his eyes, prompting her to follow him wherever the trail led them.

[PART 10]

They patiently followed the footprints, walking beside them with the crunching noise of the snow beneath their feet following every step they took. It all led through a path clearly taken to avoid raising attention, crossing through the less taken sectors of the city, taking twists and turns yet all leading further towards the city outskirts. It took them an hour of walking till they reached the very limits of urban civilization, till they entered an uninhabited suburb, abandoned, previously inhabited by the workers of a shut down factory nearby.

Eventually, the footsteps led all past the houses, until they pointed to one single structure in the short distance: The factory. A massive structure, eroded by the elements enough to remain without roof, with the beams visibly past the half-collapsed concrete slabs that once contained them, and with no windows left intact. Its great walls still stood tall, however, making any vision to the inside impossible.

Kyle and Alesia followed through, until they reached the main entrance to the factory; a large metallic pair of doors, with one of the two half open, and the remaining one completely gone, even the hinges it would have rested on rusted off. They entered, met with a lengthy hallway through the still-roofed parts of the facility which they marched in, pistol and revolver high and aimed.

Crossing another pair of doors like those at the entrance, they moved into an immensely spacious area, filled with snow and light that snuck through the nonexistent roof. Both Alesia and Kyle raised their guns wherever they looked at, for even the upper floors of the factory could be seen, some eroded enough to look like collapsed balconies despite once having been entire floors. Giant machinery adorned the spaces at the middle, yet as they walked further in, a man came to sight once covered by the same equipment, standing at the eroded balcony of the second floor. Kyle and Alesia aimed their guns, and found that the man was none other than he who had arrived with Martin the false cop, back then. He held a rifle on his hands, finger off the trigger, only silently staring in their general direction, face still completely covered with hints of snow slightly built up on his hat, glasses, and scarf. The wind howled ever so slightly, pushing snowflakes in the air within the factory, till the man turned and walked away, entering a doorway and disappearing.

Kyle looked at Alesia and nodded towards the doorway on the bottom floor, the one closest to the part the man once stood at. Then, both walked. They were met with a flight of stairs in the short distance within the hallway they stepped into, with no signs of the other man, and so quickly followed through, climbing each and every step with their eyes watching everywhere.

“You know, I’ll have to congratulate myself sometime. You actually came here, Alesia.” Martin’s voice, muffled through radio static, spoke out, prompting Kyle to raise his gun in reflex to where he heard it, coming from above. Yet, only silence ensued afterwards. Kyle and Alesia kept walking up, until they reached the balcony where the man once was, though saw nobody wherever he looked. The great view from above to every corner of the snow-filled factory did not aid at all. With only one way left through which the man could have left, they returned and marched through the hallway opposite to the stairs, though just as they entered, they heard a gunshot in the distance. Viktor’s shotgun. Cautiously, unwilling to rush lest fall into a possible trap, they hastened their steps through the lengthy hallway that seemed to stretch to the whole other end of the factory.

Multiple gunshots followed after the first. Viktor’s shotgun in the distance, and that of a pistol closer still. The muffled noise through the walls continued at infrequent and erratic intervals, acting as a background noise. Yet, as soon as they were to reach the hallway’s end, which turned to another out of their sight, they heard radio static again.

“Friedrich, change of plans! That guy’s here! Stop fucking around and help me around here!” Martin yelled through the radio.

Kyle and Alesia hid behind the hallway’s corner. Kyle peeked out, and saw the man lying against the wall, seemingly unaware of their presence. He rapidly tapped and scratched the radio, as if he talked in Morse code.

“Yes, forget about them!” Martin continued. “We can’t lose the zombie, it’ll be our only lead if we lose the lich!”

Rapid tapping continued.

“Then kill him!” Martin finished.

The man shut off the radio, then turned to Kyle and Alesia, though both quickly hid back behind the corner again. Kyle heard his steps coming closer, and so signaled with his hand back to the staircase, and both rushed off in retreat.

They ran down the steps and exited to the snowy interior, though as soon as Kyle looked back to the balcony, he saw the man taking aim with his rifle, completely surprising him with his speed, misjudging how long it’d have taken for him to appear. Just seeing Alesia next to him caused him to react in reflex.

“Watch it!” He screamed, throwing himself over Alesia, pushing her towards the machinery for cover, just as a burst of gunfire shot their way. Both landed behind the equipment, covered by inches upon inches of metal between them and the man’s aim.

“I’ve told you already, I can’t die. Worry about yourself.” She stated, pulling herself up from the snow, yet received no response. She looked at Kyle, but soon saw the small red spots on the snow below him, immediately splattered with more as he coughed, kneeling forward, with one arm on the ground supporting himself, and the other on his stomach. “…Kyle.”

“It hit my lung… Stomach… I can talk a bit past the pain, though, somehow… Find Catherine. Find Viktor. Please.”

Alesia remained nonresponding, staring at him on the ground as she stood with a blank expression.

“Viktor was suicidal after Catherine died, before she appeared again…” He continued. “Find her… If only for him…”

“Kyle, you’ve sacrificed yourself for… no purpose…”

“I guess I forgot about your situation… Heh, two thousand years… How many people did the same kind of stupid thing in your days, I wonder…? Come on, that man is gonna be here any second now…”

Kyle coughed again, spiting blood on the snow, before his strength faded enough for his arm to shake and then give in, lowering him onto the snow. Alesia saw how his breath became uneven, slow yet shaking, lowering in tempo. His eyes, with each and every blink, closed further and further, until all ceased. His eyed remained open, but he never blinked them again, nor did the visible breathe on the cold wind be seen again.

Alesia lowered herself to a crouch, kneeling on one leg, then extended her hand and passed it over Kyle’s head, lifeless.

Then, footsteps sounded from afar, crushing the snow with each step. Alesia turned to the noise, expecting the other man to arrive, yet saw another instead; Viktor, walking in from another direction entirely in comparison to the shots time ago, that had curiously ended time ago even after the talk between Martin and the other man. Viktor walked closer, head slightly down and bleeding from his forehead, with a small stream of blood that went down to his right eye and down his cheek, smeared over the side of his face with part of his arm’s cloth drenched in the blood, too, having cleaned it off partly with it. He had his shotgun in one hand, held weakly, almost dragging off the ground with each exhausted step.

Soon, he arrived to Kyle, and let himself fall to his knees in absolute silence, without an expression, just staring at him on the ground. He glanced at Alesia momentarily, before returning his eyes to Kyle. Viktor breathed deeply and loudly with a painful sigh, bring his arm drenched in blood to clean his face once more, before lowering his head further than before.

“Have you seen Catherine?” He asked, his voice rough as if his throat choked him. Alesia merely shook her head, speaking not a word. Viktor pumped his shotgun, releasing the last spent shell from within the chamber, flying off in an arc, noticing that no more remained loaded. Without pumping it back, he let the barrel tip fall to the snow, and leaned back to stare at the ceiling-less factory sky. “You’re going to help me find Catherine, right?”

Alesia didn’t answer. As much as she didn’t affirm, she did not refuse either, only stared at Kyle’s body.

“We should go before Martin and the other realize where I am. They still think I’m out there. Let’s take Kyle back.”

[PART 11]

A day later…

Martin and the other man sat on one of the numerous balconies of the factory, pointing outside where a thick layer of white clouds covered the sky, giving it all a noticeable white hue emphasized by the inches of snow. Though the other man sat idly, Martin wrote lazily on a notepad with a pen.

“Hey, Friedrich, check this.” Martin spoke, raising his pen and starting to read aloud. “Darkness and frost are starting to reach / The heart of this land with a cold disease / Sleep now for a while before the storm awakes / And one day it will reward you for the burden of wait.”

Friedrich tapped on the surface of the balcony floor repeatedly with his fingers, Morse code again.

“Hey piss off, you know how boring things get.”

Friedrich turned his head to the notepad, then pointed at the text that followed what he wrote.

“The roots go deep into the frozen dead ground / Listen to the land of snow, it makes no sound /” Martin continued from where he left off, “For ages searching for the warmth of the sun / If it never finds me, I can die as one.”

Moments of silence ensued as Martin looked over what he wrote one last time. Yet, Friedrich abruptly turned his head elsewhere while raising an open palm, gaining Martin’s attention. Both listened carefully, until they heard noises of steps over the deep snow. Immediately, Friedrich readied his rifle and Martin his pistol, dropping the notepad on the balcony floor, and rushed off full speed through the upper floors of the factory.

They each reached a different part of the factory, taking positions in high places with their guns aimed.

Then, they saw him entering through one of the bottom floor hallways, someone they had already seen, causing them to lower their guns somewhat to stare with greater focus. Viktor again, walking with his shotgun held with one hand, almost dragging on the ground. They saw he was not even interested in fighting, for Viktor could see them fairly well, yet didn’t even raise the barrel. Friedrich and Martin soon lowered their guns completely.

“Not going to shoot me?” Viktor asked out loud.

“You have a plan, I’m sure.” Martin answered. “You know the risks, or else you wouldn’t have come here.”

“I want Catherine back.”

“That’s her name? I see… Still, we might have an issue regarding that.”

“You want something in exchange?”

Martin and Friedrich exchanged a glare, before their eyes returned to Viktor.

“Yes, we want the lich. Alesia.”

“She’s gone.”

“…What?”

“I said she’s gone. She left. She ran away without even fucking telling me why.”

“Elaborate.”

“You know the guy you killed? Kyle was his name. Alesia and I ran off with his body. Had to deal with everything afterwards like the police and so on as to why he died. They took him to the morgue. A day later, today, Alesia was nowhere. She wasn’t in Kyle’s house, nor anywhere I checked. She fucking ran away. I’m completely alone now. I want Catherine back. I don’t care about Alesia anymore.”

“I see… So Catherine isn’t with you either…”

“What the fuck kind of question is that?!”

“She also ran. I can’t pinpoint a reason as to why or how, since she was still in that state between consciousness and unconsciousness that most zombies recently raised go through. She had help, I’m certain. You don’t know anything about that, I presume.”

“No.”

“Tell me… What was your name again?”

“Viktor.”

“Tell me, Viktor… Do you know why we wanted Catherine in the first place?”

“Because she’s a zombie?”

“Partly. She’d have been our only lead to the lich if we lost her. We have nothing personal against you or her, before you rush into assumptions. We’ve been chasing after Alesia for a fairly good while already. We can’t let opportunities go by. Kyle’s death, although regretful, would have otherwise involved a risk we couldn’t take. I hope you understand.”

“Whether I understand it or not does not change the fact that he died. I want an explanation about it.”

“What do you define as a dead person, Viktor? Kyle is dead, yet so is Catherine, and yet one is treated as if it was still among the living. A person in a vegetative state is alive, yet so are you, and yet one of them could be treated as already dead. The line between life and death blurs without the arbitrary clinical definition, doesn’t it?”

“What does that have to do with this?”

“Friedrich!” He called, turning his head to him.

Viktor followed with his eyes, until he saw Friedrich strapping back his gun and take off his headgear. Beneath it, silver-ish skin, heavy bags under eyes, long dead hair yet in low amounts, and the most hard-hitting of traits, a missing jaw and tongue, came to his sight.

“Perhaps you understand our situation a bit better now, Viktor.” Martin said, just as Viktor saw his rubbing his face forcibly, until he removed his hand to reveal silver-ish skin beneath copious amounts of makeup that remained on his hand. “Someone brought us back. Alesia did. We never asked for this. Some people fear dying, but after that fear gets replaced with that of the undying, what do you think happens? We were trying to find her for answers. At best, for her to put us back down.”

“You were… lost?”

“Lost?”

“Alesia talked about this a bit. Of people who she ended up losing before she could put them back down, and so were condemned to wander around.”

“Ah, yes. ‘Lost’. You can say it that way. Friedrich here, lost in Stalingrad, and I, lost in some nameless incident in the middle of nowhere back in ’61. Both, by chance, at the time Alesia was present. Fun, isn’t it? Stuck like this for half a century without even receiving the common fucking decency of being asked first. Viktor, as much as you may hate us for killing Kyle, we both have something to win out of this. You find Catherine, and we find Alesia. Both then go our own ways.”

Viktor kept silent, thinking.

“Think of the long-term implications, Viktor. Even if you find Catherine, what happens after you die? You’re still mortal, unlike us for the time being. What about Catherine a couple centuries after you die? She won’t be able to end it, you know. Not after Alesia leaves. Even then, that’s one of the thousands of issues you’ll come across. This is coming from personal experience. You’ll want to find Alesia before those issues are ever brought up. Remember, we don’t want Catherine. Once all is done, we will not hesitate to return her to you, if we ever find her in the first place.”

“How can I trust you?”

“Well golly fucking gee, Mr Skepticism. Friedrich and I spent half a century with no other support save for each other, travelling around the entire world from Siberia to South America to India to Alaska in search for Alesia, and here you are finding out that we are undead, and are able to help us because this whole undeath business affected your personal life. You want Catherine back?”

“Yes.”

“Then that’s enough trust for now.”

[PART 12]

“You can see how much of the world we visited, looking for her.” Martin explained. He pointed at an old crumbled paper of a world map on top of the table, decades old, marked with various instruments such as crayons, sharpies, pen ink, and so on; all landmarks marked with a circle and a cross inside, showing the year over it. With them sat Friedrich, though devoting his attention to the television turned on, generating a background noise. “It wasn’t fun. The contrast between cold and hot places, arid and humid, windy and stale, all make you wish you couldn’t feel it on your skin. It was half a blessing that we didn’t have that issue.”

“Damn…” Viktor whispered.

“There was a pattern. Ever since ten years ago, we kept seeing how these occurrences followed a path. We followed it. We ended up here, finding Alesia after hearing of another dead raised.”

“What do you know about Alesia, though? You’ve been chasing her for a while. Know anything?”

“Sorry to disappoint you, but most of what we know, you know already too. Our search has been… unsuccessful this far. In fact, I’d say this is the third time we’ve been so close to finding her; first one we see her in person, not counting the time she personally raised us though since at that time our consciousness was near-nonexistent. We only know her movements.”

Friedrich abruptly slammed his open palm on the table, hard enough to make the remote shake, silencing both Viktor and Martin. Both looked at Friedrich, though found him staring at the television. Martin grabbed the remote and turned the volume up, yet all that made noise was chit-chatter between reporters. However, the video feed turned out to be a building, along with the words below the screen of a forceful breaking in, with the intruders still inside.

“What’s this?” Martin asked Friedrich, yet only received a gesture of silence, Friedrich placing his finger in front of his own mouth in return.

The overhead video feed then cut to that of a security camera, one Friedrich had seen before he warned the other two. Low quality, with a low framerate, in a filter for low light environment, it kept vigilant over a hallway. Soon, two people slowly passed, one leading another, with the latter walking with an uneven gait. The intruder at the front soon stopped, noticing the camera, and stared at it momentarily.

“…Alesia?!” Martin said, leaning forward abruptly.

“Catherine!” Viktor added at the same time.

“What the hell is she doing?! Why?!”

“What?”

Before a response, Friedrich stood up and rushed out the house, yet Viktor remained.

“Alesia isn’t stupid. She had two thousand years to learn how to be stealthy, and she has been successful so far if liches are pure fairy tales. This goes completely against her logic. It makes no fucking sense. Worse yet, bringing Catherine with her? Does she actually want to get caught or something?! You know what, I don’t care anymore.”

“What are you going to do?” Viktor asked, seeing Martin stand up and rush for the door.

“We’re going to get her before anyone else does, isn’t that obvious?!” Martin yelled from the door, grabbing Viktor’s shotgun and throwing it his way, who grabbed it. Both then ran outside, Viktor following Martin down the same path they had taken to the factory time ago, yet no even halfway through, a pick-up truck intercepted them, coming to a halt. From the open window, Friedrich waved his hand before opening the door and moving to the opposite seat, allowing Martin to get in. Viktor followed, entering to the back seats. All doors closed, and the vehicle drove off.

“Tell me you didn’t steal this.” Viktor said. The truck moved at an awfully great speed, dodging parked and passing cars, with honks all around as they passed.

“Not recently. It’s been ours for a couple years now, it’s how we travel around. We hid it in that old factory.”

The clanking noises of Friedrich loading his rifle echoed within the vehicle, along with other noises of equipment by his feet, things Viktor couldn’t see from where he sat. After a few seconds, Friedrich pulled two grenade-like objects with one hand and handed them to Viktor.

“What the hell are these?!”

“Smoke. Homemade.” Martin answered, still focusing on the road.

“Oh thank God, I thought they were explosives.”

“No need for them. If we end up killing more people than needed, it’s only going to bring more attention to us. People dying by uncaught criminals who have the same uncannily similar method of operation all over the world… You get the point.”

Soon, the building was in sight far ahead, with its doors directly in front. Two blocks merged into one, with the door of the building located precisely where the street led them. Viktor stared anxious, yet soon saw Friedrich saying something in Morse by hitting and scratching his arm.

“Alright.” Martin answered.

“What did he say?” Viktor asked.

“We could slam this truck right into the building’s doors to get inside quicker without having to spend time trying to open the doors. There doesn’t seem to be any cops around, so they probably think it’s some random useless mugger or something. We have little time, but it’s still time.”

“That sounds awfully dangerous.”

The doors stood closer and closer with each passing second.

“Pfft, you worry too much. We armored this truck’s components like the engine and fuel tanks specifically for these situations. Impervious to normal bullets, too, though it did make it heavy.”

“Yeah but what about us?”

“What do you meaSHITIFORGOTYOUCANDIE–

Martin slammed the brakes while twisting the wheel, causing the truck to drift around until it stopped sideways in front of the building’s doors.

“Drive her around!” Martin told Friedrich as he got out. “You’ll get us out!”

Viktor followed Martin out, while Friedrich got to the driver’s seat, closed the doors, and drove off. Both Martin and Viktor rushed to the doors and slammed them open, finding them unlocked, breaking in with pistol and shotgun high. Inside, however, not a single soul remained present.

“Looks like they all ran. Alesia sure frightens people.” Martin muttered, staring around.

“A morgue…” Viktor said.

“Morgue? This thing is a morgue?”

“Yeah. Never been here, which is why I didn’t realize till now.”

“Man, they sure changed since forty years ago. Where are the corpses? Alesia must’ve been trying to get to them.”

“Underground.”

Viktor ran off to one of the hallways further inside, and Martin followed. In short notice, they found a staircase, which they descended till the bottom-most level with haste. They ended up in a room that connected to several others, with the architecture and ceramics on the wall identical to that of the camera feed they saw on the television. Stepping noises only confirmed their idea that they were close.

Cautious, they walked towards the source. Past the hallways they saw on television, they entered the main rooms with storages filled with bodies, refrigerated in their drawers. Numerous other rooms remained, identical, yet with different inhabitants. They walked through room after room, until, once they crossed the doorway of the third one, they saw the two intruders, prompting them to point their guns at them.

“Alesia.” Martin said, gaining her attention as she turned to face him, surprised. “What are you doing here of all places…?”

But Alesia did not answer.

“Why did you leave me?” Viktor asked. “Why did you take Catherine away?”

“I search for something important.” Alesia answered in a monotonous voice.

“Like?”

“…Kyle.”

Martin and Viktor frowned and blinked in confusion.

“Him? But wh–“

“If we help you find Kyle,” Martin interrupted Viktor, “will you stay with us for a while to answer a few questions? You know that you got yourself into an awful situation. If they surround this building, you’ll be trapped. You aren’t stupid enough to get into this predicament by accident. You took the risk willingly, right?”

“Yes.”

“Do we have a deal, then? The quicker the better.”

“Agreed.”

“…You’re helping her now?” Viktor asked Martin.

“Pissing off the only person who can give us respite? Are you nuts, kid? Friedrich and I weren’t chasing her for vengeance, you know.” He said, walking past him to the drawers with bodies, all labeled with the name of the occupant. “You’ve searched the other rooms already, right?” He asked Alesia.

“I have. This is the last one. The ones further ahead are empty.”

“Good.”

As Martin and Alesia searched, Viktor slowly walked to Catherine, who stood motionlessly. However, once he got close enough, Catherine locked eyes with him. Her consciousness had not yet fully recovered, but Viktor could see how her eyes had opened further once she saw him, as if some light shined in them.

Then, a thud sounded out.

“…What was that?” Viktor asked.

“It’s kicking in.” Alesia said.

“What is?”

“Find the source. It’s Kyle.”

“What did you do?”

“Bodies don’t get reanimated instantly. There is a delay.”

“…Found him.” Martin said.

Alesia, Catherine, and Viktor rushed to Martin’s side, then found the drawer with Kyle’s name, with a thud sounding again. Alesia, with Catherine’s aid, opened the drawer, with his body bag coming out, slightly moving. Alesia opened it by the zipper, and saw Kyle, who looked for her with his eyes until he found her, then kept staring without movement. Both Alesia and Viktor stared back without a word.

“What are you going to do with him?” Martin asked.

“We have to take him back.”

“Your last zombie didn’t even recover. Do you honestly think you can do this?”

Alesia stood speechless.

“…What happened to you to make these idiotic mistakes? It’s like you’re not even the Alesia I was chasing.” He said, bringing his hand to the radio and turning it on. “Come around. We’re leaving. We have another guy.”

Friedrich responded with more Morse.

“…Shit.” Martin cursed, turning to Alesia and Viktor. “Cops at the front. Even if we leave just fine, they might finding out about this undeath of ours.”

“We can sneak out the back door.”

“Isn’t this ‘back door’ thing pure Hollywood bullshit for writers who wrote themselves into a dead end? Does this place even have a back door?”

“How do you think the guys here escaped if we came through the front and didn’t see anyone leaving?”

“Oh. Right.” He turned the radio on again. “Go to the back. There should be an exit there. Should.”

Martin walked out the room to the staircase, while Alesia and Catherine helped Kyle to his feet.

“…Why did you revive him? Didn’t you have Catherine already?” Viktor asked Alesia.

But Alesia did not answer.

“You can control Catherine?”

“For as long as her consciousness has not fully recovered. Same with everyone else.”

“What about Martin and Friedrich? Could you tell they were undead?”

“After consciousness has recovered, no. Otherwise, the mess in that factory wouldn’t have happened.”

“Are you lot going to just stand there or what?” Martin asked out loud from the staircase, his voice echoing through the rooms.

Alesia and Viktor exchanged a glare, then moved on with Catherine and Kyle to where Martin stood. Then, they all walked upstairs to the main room of the morgue.

The radio sounded again, Friedrich speaking in Morse.

“They got the back door covered, too.” Martin told Alesia and Viktor. “Smartasses watched Hollywood movies too, it seems.”

“Do you have any other plan?” Viktor asked.

“Well seeing as you’re not in the truck anymore…” He said, soon speaking into the radio again. “Ram it. Make a distraction. Try not to kill anyone.”

Martin shut the radio off, and stood motionlessly. Viktor and Alesia kept silent, waiting for Martin to do anything, but he just waited, compelling them to do the same. Soon, after a minute, a loud engine violently revving came closer and closer at an awfully great speed, till the front door of the morgue stood with the truck embedded within, concrete smashed partly yet with the truck still in operable condition. After the noise of the engine and the rubble died down, the sirens of the police drowned the scenery in their high-pitched noises. Friedrich got out of the truck nonchalantly with his rifle high, then began firing at the crowds, walking to the back of the truck.

“Keep your head down, you’re the only one who can die here!” Martin yelled, grabbing Viktor by the back of his clothes and pulling him to the truck, forcing him to pick up speed with Alesia, Catherine, and Kyle behind them. The cops had begun returning fire.

Viktor was the first to enter the truck, bullets impacting against the hull and glass yet unable to pierce due to the reinforced structure, with Martin, Alesia, Kyle, and Catherine following in. Friedrich had instead climbed to the back of the truck, still shooting at the cops, if only to distract them. Over and over he received shots, making him flinch by the momentum and strength they carried, yet impervious to all damage. Just as Martin put the truck on reverse, Friedrich received a shot in the head, making him jerk back and sending his hat off, while his torn sunglasses fell off and the scarf lost grip, revealing his dead face to all who stared. Through the open path Friedrich had taken to arrive to the morgue, Martin drove off to escape them. Once far enough, the bullets had stopped raining on them.

“Remember the smokes Friedrich gave you?” Martin asked Viktor.

“Uh– yes.”

“Open the window and throw them. That’ll confuse them.”

“Where are we going now?” Alesia asked, while Viktor followed Martin’s suggestion. Soon, clouds of smoke trailed behind them.

“The factory, assuming we lose them soon enough. What are you going to do now, Alesia? They saw Friedrich. They saw you. They saw your zombies. It’s no use trying to hope for it to be a fairy tale anymore.”

“I am aware.”

[PART 13]

Back at the factory, the six ended up dividing in three groups upon arrival. Martin and Friedrich sat in on corner, the former helping the latter take out several bullets off his body with a knife; Viktor and Catherine, still only limited to staring at each other, even though Catherine’s consciousness had recovered; and Alesia and Kyle in another corner, sitting next to each other.

“When you asked me how many people died for my sake…” Alesia said in a low tone. “When you asked how many people sacrificed themselves for someone who can’t even die, back then… I didn’t answer you, right?”

Kyle couldn’t answer, reduced to almost a child in mind due to his recent revival.

“None. None did. Everyone immediately understood that I couldn’t die, so they left me to my own devices. You, though… Did you care so much that you forgot about that detail? That I can’t die… Maybe the others didn’t even care, able to understand that so quickly, whereas you acted on impulse alone.”

Soon, Kyle slid on the wall towards her, until he fell on her lap. Alesia smiled, and ruffled his hair between the fingers of her hand.

“I may be unable to die, Kyle, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know what it means to die. I’ve seen far too many people die to not know what it means, and yet… you died for me. You’re dumb, you know that?”

“Alesia.” Martin called, walking up to her. “Friedrich and I were talking. Viktor, too.”

“Hm?”

“This secret of undeath will get out whether we like it or not. You’ll be hunted, and you won’t have the disbelief of the undead to hide you and what you do. That morgue had too many cameras to do anything even if we tried, and the images will spread through the world awfully fast. Catherine and Kyle are stuck in this situation too, and so is Viktor due to the association. Knowing this, you won’t plan on keeping your ideas of travelling as you were till now, are you? They’ll all be looking for you.”

“I guess not.”

“I’ll skip over the mistakes that costed you this, since none of us can do anything about it anymore. What the three of us were talking about is that we could try to get ourselves and our situation known, if only to have people leave us alone, since hiding is out of the equation already. The only alternative is for us all to die permanently if we want this to end. Catherine, Kyle, Friedrich, I, and even you, though that’ll be taking something away from Viktor, who is still among the living. He still wants to live with Catherine and Kyle, you know.”

“What did you chase me for, then, if your main concern is Viktor?”

“We wanted you to end us. We were revived, but we lost you before our consciousness could return. We were condemned to be this undying thing, and our only hope otherwise was to find you. We couldn’t live as dead among the living, because otherwise we’d gain too much attention, as everyone believed the dead living was an impossibility. Thing is, after talking with Friedrich for a while… we came to the realization that, as much as we suffered this for over half a century, it’s still part of the most memorable moments of our lives. We suffered, yes, but somehow it made us feel like we were alive, chasing something, and we ended up as dogs chasing cars once we found you. We hoped we could help you and the others fix this entire thing, now that it’s all or nothing after what happened at the morgue. It’d be giving us something to do, at the very least, since all our time was spent chasing you. Now we have nothing.”

“What if it fails?”

“Not up to us to decide. Either we try or we don’t.”

“…Alright. I’ll try. I, however, promise nothing.”

[PART 14]

Two weeks later…

Kyle sat at the table of Viktor’s house, holding a certificate, staring at it with utmost confusion, turning it over and over. “What’s this? What the hell is this? ‘Refunction Certificate’, but what does it mean? I can’t understand a single word there!”

“Stop whining.” Martin ranted. “You should’ve seen the poor sod’s face once he had to make it. Nobody understood a single thing of what was happening back in that putrid office. That certificate might as well be testament of this bullshit.”

“But how does this even work? Birth certificate, death certificate, and now this? What does this even do?”

“Probably eliminate what the death certificate does, I suppose.” Viktor answered, sitting by Martin. “I mean, technically you’re still living.”

“Technically he’s fucking dead.” Martin countered. “Technically he’s also alive. Technically– God, I miss the times when Friedrich and I were hiding. Those were simpler times. Say, Friedrich, how’s that new jaw doing for you?”

Friedrich couldn’t answer, for he still had no tongue. Instead, he shrugged, sporting a prosthetic jaw which he could move ever so slightly.

“How long until he’s able to speak?” Kyle asked.

“He’s got an appointment in like a week. It’ll go from there, I’m guessing.”

“Hey.” Catherine greeted abruptly, embracing Viktor from behind where he sat. “I just realized something.”

“Hm?” Viktor asked.

“Remember when we got married, we ended up swearing to be together ’till death do us part’?”

All present kept silent upon realizing the amusing detail, some even smiling.

“Wait… Viktor, you’re still alive.” Martin said.

“What does that have to do with it?”

“Want to join the club?” He asked, chuckling, taking out a knife.

“Hey, piss off!”

“Pfft, getting frightened that easily?”

“I’d rather keep my heartbeat.”

Kyle sighed and stood up, heading for the door.”

“H-hey, come on! I was just joking!” Martin said. “We didn’t mean to kill you in that factory! Really!”

“Huh? No, I’m just going back home.”

“Well… alright, then. No hard feelings?”

“None.” He said, before leaving by the door.

Soon, he reached his own house, crossing the door and closing it behind him. He headed straight for his bedroom and threw himself onto the bed, looking up. His body felt different, losing much of its sensation yet still holding some. He lifted his hand and stared, feeling it numb along with most of his body, yet also feeling a sensation of tiredness. When he removed his hand, he noticed Alesia in the same room looking at him. They locked eyes with each other momentarily, until Alesia walked to the bed and lay down with him, hugging him for the bed could only accomodate one comfortably.

“Alesia… Is that name from Gaul?”

“Hm?”

“There was a city long time ago, around your time. ‘Alesia’, it was called.”

“I was from there.”

“…Really?”

“The siege of Alesia, right? I was born a few years before then in that city, named after it by my parents. When the siege came, I was among the ones who were expelled, left between the lines of Caesar and Vercingetorix. All starved, except for me. Years after the battle, I kept hearing rumors that some combatants saw a small girl walking through the fields littered with starved bodies while the siege still stood. Those were no rumors. I was that girl, realizing I couldn’t die.”

Not a word was said, only the low humming of the wind outside being heard. Kyle embraced Alesia tighter, who returned the hug.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (3 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)
Loading...

9 thoughts on “Dead on Arrival”

  1. Really quite enjoyed this one; the atmosphere and style was really evocative. All kinds of great classic horror vibes, and the “band of zombies uniting in a world full of the living!” was a cool touch.

    Though, formally the story needs a solid sprucing up, and the names of the characters can get muddled. I think at one point Kyle called himself and was married to Catherine.

    I thought the romantic ending with Alesia was a little… Trite. You had a cool character there but didn’t get enough out of her.

    Still liked it though~

  2. This story was interesting however its too long, that it does frighten off the reader. I don’t like guns because they are too cliche for this setting it tends to be the rule of cool something I don’t mind but it has lost its flare, I would feel more excited if it was a tire iron or golf club or something miscellaneous

    Breaking the story into parts also was not a good idea breaks transition of the story.

    1. It would be “too long” if you limited your literary intake to the Macca’s menu, but if not then people will just suck it up and read it.
      Otherwise, the splitting into PARTS was slightly jarring. It worked when there was a time skip, but… I don’t know. It cuts up the narrative and kinda makes it a montage of differing views, following different characters in different places and in that way it works.

      Yeah, that everyone and his zombie dog had a gun was a little… I dunno. The cop, yeah. But everyone else? Unless it’s set in Chiraq or something. Having some undead Wehrmacht soldier wander around communicating in morse code was cool though, c’mon.

      The violence wasn’t personal enough, or brutal enough, for CQC though; who was going to bludgeon whom with what and when? Guns worked fine, it just seemed that there was a profuse amount of them.

      1. The breaking into parts was mostly me trying to find some other way to do with line breaks between segments, along with making it easier on the reader if he decided to take a break and read later, since he’d only have to remember which part he left off on. Since I hadn’t received any negative feedback on it with the other stories I uploaded here, I kept using it.

        And on the issue of the guns, I don’t see much of the problem with it. Kyle had two handguns due to being a cop, Hans had a shotgun that most civilians have, Friedrich had a rifle and Martin a pistol of which I never said how they got them or what model they are, and in the time they were alive they’d have gotten guns either way; Freidrich might’ve had a MP40 and a luger he gave to Martin from the time Alesia revived him for all we know. I fail to see where the problem lies, other than the number of guns being a matter of taste by the reader than an issue within the story.

  3. found it very strange that a policeman would just tell 2 guys whom he just caught pretending to be police to bugger off.

    AFAIK pretending to be police is something real police take very seriously – so the whole “lol wut? go away dudes” reaction just seriously broke the story for me.

    The only circumstances under which a cop would just get presented with a fake badge and react as Kyle has (rather than proceed to arrest them) is if he was hiding something seriously illegal/bad and couldn’t afford other police to get involved.

    In the given circumstances the way he reacted, he pretty much admitted the lich was in his apartment by trying to shoo them off like that after the fake badge.

    1. I figured that regarding the circumstances just shooing them was better since otherwise it’d be bringing too much attention to himself or provoking them into doing something there and then. Both Kyle and Hans had a dead person in each of their houses, and didn’t want them found. The aftermath of arresting them would’ve included other cops going to his house just to ask for his version of the story either way, along with searching for evidence since it’d have taken place there.

      Not to mention that at that point Kyle was outnumbered and Alesia was hiding, so just going ahead and arresting men that were, in Kyle’s mine, most likely going to fight back due to knowing what they were doing, was suicidal and would’ve revealed Alesia either way. It’s not like he didn’t call Hans and warn him afterwards, either. They had to last until Catherine regained her full consciousness before doing anything.

Leave a Reply