The Pulver Chronicles – 1. A Simple Kind Of Man


“Looks like it’s gonna rain,” Lawrence said.

“Course,” Jackson said. “It’s to set the mood.”

Lawrence scoffed, then pulled out a cigarette. He almost took out a second one to offer it to Jackson, but then seemingly remembered that his bunkmate didn’t smoke. As he raised his gold-colored Zippo lighter at mouth level, a few drops of water fell on his hand. With a groan, he hurriedly lit his cigarette before the incoming rain could prevent it. His scaly lips curled into a relieved smile as he released that first puff of smoke.

“Not to be a nag, but you really should quit,” Jackson said. “That shit will kill you.”

“Eh, that or all of the damn P.T.…”

His bunkmate sighed, his yellow reptilian eyes narrowing. Jackson couldn’t help but notice once again how Lawrence’s military fatigues fit his scaly shoulders perfectly. His uniform in general fit him like a glove, despite his bulkiness and the unusual shape of his limbs. His legs, notably, always looked slightly crooked. His Lizardman silhouette was probably a problem when shopping for clothes in his civil life, but clearly the US Army had proven more accommodating. The green of his outfit even went well with the blue-green of his scales. In addition, his feet were noticeably larger than human ones -not to mention they too were covered in scales, and ending in claws rather than toenails. That, however, did not prove a problem to the army, as Lizardmen rarely if ever wore shoewear.

Jackson looked down at his own attire. His top was too tight around his arms, especially when he flexed. His pants, conversely, were too large around his waist. He was almost floating in it, making him look even younger than he was ; he had to modify his belt to compensate for that. It didn’t help that he didn’t take very good care of his uniform. Jackson glanced at the “Willis” label stitched on his bunkmate’s chest, and at the “Pulver” label on his; maybe it was his mind playing tricks on him, but he thought then that even Lawrence’s label looked better.

“Guys!” a female voice called behind the two soldiers. “We’re gonna get started.”

Both men turned their heads towards her. In front of the barracks, standing near an open door, was a woman in her late twenties. Her toned skin and facial features revealed her Southeast Asian heritage, and her elongated ears and her taller and thinner stature left no ambiguity about the fact that she was an Elf. On her fatigues were stitched the name “Gardner” along with a patch indicating her rank of specialist.

Lawrence threw his half-smoked cigarette in the wind, then he and Jackson made their way back inside, just as thunder started rumbling miles above their heads. Inside the barracks, about twenty foldable chairs had been set up over two ranks. The other soldiers from Jackson’s unit were already seated on some in the first rank, while an unknown man wearing a different uniform sat in the back, in a corner opposite of the door.

Lawrence sat in the first available seat he found, and Jackson took the chair next to him. He turned to the private on the other side, and nodded to him. The other man nodded back, absent-minded, his attention focused on the portable radio he carried. His name was David Schultz; he was the same age as Jackson, and in fact had joined the US Army the same day. The two had become fast friends, to the point where they often shared punishments. Jackson looked at him and mused about how little they had in common, at least at first glance. Schultz was the very image of a daddy’s boy, clean and proper, with his chaste and expansive vocabulary, his fancy clothes (back before he was made to wear nothing but green camo) and his perfectly trimmed nails. His brown hair, before the army had given him the mandatory buzz cut, was already very short. He had been an A student all the way to high school, and had in fact graduated early; he had told Jackson that after his current service, he would enroll in OCS, just like his late older brother, his father, and his grandfather.

Jackson was almost his polar opposite in many ways. He had been living under the poverty line or close to it virtually all of his life, he only cared about his personal hygiene just enough that his bunkmate wouldn’t complain about the smell, he had never really taken care of his blonde hair which he used to wear long, he had flunked high school, and it seemed like his vocabulary contained more swears than regular words. Where David was nothing but upstanding -at least before he started associating with Jackson-, there seemed to be no end to Jackson’s misbehavings; in fact, thousands upon thousands of push-ups had not even managed to fade what his drill sergeant used to refer to as his “perpetual shit-eating grin”. As to being a daddy’s boy, well… Jackson didn’t really know his father.

He shook his head to chase that last thought away, and listened to David’s radio. He was hoping for a baseball game; unfortunately, it was a news snippet.

“… as President Nader officially announced he will be running for a second term. The Republican Party confirmed their endorsement of the sitting President, but the question remains open whether the Socialist Party will do the same. Indeed, sources inside Congress indicate that President Nader would this time be seeking Democratic support for his reelection, possibly in the hopes of creating a big-tent coalition.”

David let out a “tsh”, and rolled his green eyes.

“The situation in the Urals continues to escalate ever since reunification talks between Russia and Siberia have broken down. Military buildup has been reported on both sides of the border in the last few days. Siberian president Sobchak has condemned, quote, “president Kalugin’s warmongering and intransigence”, unquote, and has once again called for the recognition of Siberia’s status as an independent and sovereign nation. Kalugin claims that the terms proposed by Sobchak were, quote, “an indignity to the Russian people and their nation”, unquote. President Nader, along with the secretary-general of the United Nations…”

“Teeen-shun!” someone suddenly called out.

Everyone jumped to their feet as sergeant Alice Duval entered the barracks in a hurry. Large wet spots on her cap and her shoulders indicated that the rain had started falling -pouring, even.

“At ease,” she quickly said as she went to stand in front of everyone.

Glancing above his shoulder, Jackson noticed that the unknown man in the back had remained seated.

“All right, everyone, listen up,” the sergeant said. “The time has come to put your training to the test. For the next two days starting tomorrow at 0615, we’ll be trekking through the Okanogan-Wenatchee forest. You’ll be divided into two groups, entering the forest from two different locations, and will regularly be in radio contact until we arrive at the rendezvous point. We will then separate and trek our way back to our extraction points. Squad Alpha will be placed under my command; squad Beta will be led by the lieutenant here.”

She pointed at the man in the back, who once more remained immobile, his arms crossed. 

Jackson looked at him more closely. He was probably in his thirties (early or late, Jackson couldn’t say), around six feet two, with a rather athletic build. Surprisingly for a military man, he had neck-length hair, black in color. He also had a small beard, adorning his jaw, and a goatee. His uniform was also interesting: it used a different camo pattern, and there was no flag stitched on his shoulder; in fact, it had no label whatsoever, not even a name or a sigil. It did have the lieutenant stripes, however. After a little while, the man seemed to notice Jackson staring, and shot him a look that immediately convinced him to report his attention elsewhere.

The sergeant continued her briefing, but Jackson was not really paying attention. Neither was David, much to his friend’s surprise. He, too, seemed curious about the strange man.

“That’s pretty weird, isn’t it?” he whispered to Jackson.

“What is?”

“Why is a complete stranger joining us for an exercise? And why isn’t he being introduced to us?”

“Dunno,” Jackson shrugged. “He likes his secrets, I guess. Why do you care? He’s a superior officer here to order us around. Usually, that’s good enough for you.”

“That’s the other thing. The sergeant says he’s a lieutenant. That means he outranks her. Why isn’t he giving us the briefing?”

“Maybe at his rank, he’s too good for public speaking, or something. There’s his uniform, too. What branch is that from?”

David shook his head.

“You think he’s a Navy SEAL?” Jackson said, excited. “He looks like a Navy SEAL.”

“What does a Navy SEAL look like?

“No clue. Badass, I guess?”

“Private Pulver,” the sergeant suddenly bellowed, “can you repeat what I just said?”

Jackson’s spine turned to ice as he turned to look at his superior. Her jaw was tense, her gaze was unblinking, her arms were crossed in front of her; all signs that Jackson’s day was about to take a downward turn.

“I believe private Pulver just volunteered to clean up the bathroom tonight,” the sergeant said.

“Yes, sergeant,” Pulver said, lowering his head.

Toilet cleaning proved just as tedious as always, and only marginally less degrading due to the fact that they hadn’t been used as much on that day. He finished his duty just in time for the unit to be sent to bed. Some of his comrades seemed to have difficulty going to sleep, possibly anticipating the exercise the next day, but Jackson had always been a heavy sleeper, and passed out almost as soon as he laid his head on the pillow. The night went by in an instant, and Jackson felt like he had just closed his eyes when Reveille started blaring out of the loudspeakers outside.

The whole unit jumped out of their beds, and did their morning routine as fast as they could. By 0610, everyone was lined up near the camp’s entry, fully clothed and geared. Sergeant Duval appeared, followed by the lieutenant. She quickly split the unit into two groups, told the soldiers in squad Bravo to obey the lieutenant’s every order to the letter, then, without any further ado, everyone got onboard the trucks. Jackson sent David a quick goodbye gesture; the two friends had been assigned to different squads -Jackson doubted this was the result of random chance.

Jackson and the rest of Alpha squad drove in silence for nearly an hour. Several soldiers tried to make some small talk, but their conversations trailed off and died rather quickly. The sun was still hidden behind the mountains when they arrived, and a cold wind was blowing through the trees.

“All right, privates,” sergeant Duval said. “We need to make it to Boardman Lake by 2000. Move it! Gardner, you’re on point.

“Yes, sergeant,” everyone said.

The eight members of Alpha squad entered the forest, Bonnie Gardner opening the way. They each carried about forty pounds of equipment, in addition to their assault rifles and their sidearms. Initially dark, the woods around them lightened up as the hours went by. As the gray around them turned to green, the forest came alive with various sounds. Jackson heard the chirping of various small birds, the distinctive sound of a woodpecker pecking at a tree, and the occasional ruffling of bushes as several other animals fled from the approaching soldiers.

It was a little past noon when the sergeant ordered a halt for lunch. She designated two soldiers (Robert Wallace and Myriam Carey) to patrol around while the rest of the squad unpacked their rations. Jackson took a sniff at his food, and grimaced. There were a few parts of military life to which he simply couldn’t get used to, and the chow was definitely one of them. He sighed and began eating. Before Lawrence could do the same, sergeant Duval told him to radio contact the other squad. The exchange was stiff and laconic, as is typical with military communications. Both squads indicated their current positions, and confirmed they were right on schedule.

Lunch was expedited in a matter of minutes, and, after properly cleaning up after themselves, the squad was back on its feet. Jackson and Lawrence were designated to close the march.

“Well, I’m gonna sleep like a log tonight, too,” Jackson said.

“No kidding,” Lawrence said. “And we’re going to do the same thing tomorrow. Hell, the end of my service can’t come soon enough.”

“How long have you got left?”

“Four… no, five months. You?”

“About three months and change. Do you know what you’re going to do after?”

“I’m going back to college, and getting my degree in aeronautical engineering.”

“Nice!” Jackson said.

“And you?”

“Oh, I… Well…”

“You don’t know?” Lawrence said, raising an eyebrow.

“No, not really. Maybe I’ll sign up again.”

“Seriously? I thought you hated the army.”

“Well, yeah. But, I mean, at least I have a job, and a place to stay. Not sure where else I can get that.”

Lawrence flared his scaly nostrils and made a non-committal noise.

The hours went by, and the sun began to go down. Robert and the sergeant were discussing logistics, while the rest of the squad was singing the catchy jingle from an advertisement. Suddenly, Bonnie raised her hand, her long ears pointing up. Everybody stood still and went quiet.

“What is it, Gardner?” the sergeant said.

Bonnie didn’t answer immediately. She took a few steps, then crouched down and picked something up with her gloved hand. It was a piece of cloth, apparently torn from a plaid shirt. A good portion of it was tainted with blood.

“Jesus,” Myriam muttered.

“Somebody hurt themselves?” Jackson said.

“Attacked by an animal, looks more like,” Bonnie said. “There are… bits and pieces, too.”

Robert and Lawrence visibly winced.

“There could be some wolves around here,” sergeant Duval said. “Or maybe a bear. Let’s keep our eyes open.”

“Yes, sergeant,” the squad said.

The walk resumed, a bit slower. Jackson could sense the tension in his fellow soldiers. Robert, in particular, kept shooting nervous glances around. The squad had walked maybe half a mile before Bonnie stopped dead in her tracks once more, her ears perking up again. Jackson almost tripped on a rock as he stopped too.

“Did you see something else?” the sergeant said in a low voice.

“Heard something,” Bonnie said. “It sounded like someone moaning in pain.”

“You think it’s the same person whose shirt we found?” Lawrence said.

“Shit, let’s hope so,” Jackson said. “Otherwise, there are two people being mauled by bears here.”

“Can it, you two,” the sergeant said. “Gardner, go check it out. Wallace, cover her.”

The Elf scout shouldered her M24 rifle and disappeared among the trees, walking so softly Jackson couldn’t hear any sound even as she stepped on dry leaves. Robert followed her, keeping a five feet distance. Everyone else stood still, and all went quiet for a few minutes that seemed to last hours. Jackson noticed his heartbeat had sped up, and tried to breathe more slowly to calm it. Just as he did, a snapping sound resonated in the distance, coming from the east.

“Gunshot,” Lawrence said.

“Unit Bravo?” Myriam said.

“Yes, it sounds like it came from their position,” Duval said. She pressed a button on her walkie-talkie. “Alpha leader to Bravo leader, we heard a gunshot from your direction. Come in, Bravo leader.”

Silence.

“Alpha leader to Bravo leader,” Duval repeated. “Come in, Bravo leader.”

Another gunshot shook the forest. Jackson heard a flock of birds take off in a hurry. Then, there was a scream, coming this time from the direction Robert and Bonnie went.

“Wallace!” the sergeant said. “What’s happening?”

“Get it off me!” Robert Wallace’s voice bellowed.

The sergeant’s eyes opened wide. She gestured to Myriam.

“Carey, with me. Pulver, Willis, stay here and try to reach Bravo squad again.”

“Will do, sergeant,” Lawrence said.

“What the hell’s going on?” Jackson whispered as the sergeant and Myriam went after Bonnie and Robert.

Lawrence shook his head, and opened his mouth to answer, but, before he could, he suddenly fell to the ground. At first, Jackson thought he had tripped, but then he saw something had wrapped itself around his ankle. 

It was a hand. Connected to it was a Human, or rather, something that was once Human. Its skin was paler than that of a corpse, its eyes were grayed and bloodshot, and its silhouette was so gaunt it looked like it had starved to death several times over. Worse yet, one of the creature’s legs looked like it had been ripped off, or maybe shredded. Blood covered the lower half of its emaciated face, and Jackson had a horrible gut feeling it wasn’t its own.

The once-Human creature let out a guttural noise that could have been either a moan of agony or a predatory groan. Lawrence screamed at its sight, then tried to free his leg, but only managed to scrape his scales with the creature’s nails. It approached its blood-dripping mouth from the soldier’s ankle and opened its jaws.

Jackson reacted within a second, shouldering his rifle and pressing the trigger. The bullet ripped clean through the montruosity’s skull, splashing the leaves-covered ground with brain matter. The creature’s mangled head dropped to the ground, his mouth still open.

“Holy shit!” Lawrence yelled as he jumped on his feet.

Jackson prodded the creature with the tip of his boot, to see if it would react. It didn’t. Out of morbid curiosity, Jackson then pushed on its shoulder to flip it on its back and get a better look at it.

“Holy shit,” Lawrence repeated. “What the fuck is that?”

“That… I think that’s a zombie,” Jackson said, his face scrunched up as he noticed that the brain matter pouring out of its opened skull had a dark, rotten aspect.

“What?! Zombies don’t exist!”

“You’re right, Lawrence,” the young man deadpanned. “I just shot a fucking mirage.”

Lawrence let out a mirthless laugh, then both men jumped as they heard another gunshot. Then, another.

“That’s Bonnie’s rifle,” Lawrence said. “Quick, let’s go!”

Lawrence checked his rifle, removed the safety, and they both ran after Bonnie and the rest. Jackson called out:

“Bonnie!… Robert!… Sarge!”

“What are you doing?” Lawrence said, grabbing his shoulder.

“I’m calling them! Who knows where they went?”

“Yeah, and who knows if these things can’t hear us? There’s got to be more of them. We have to be quiet!”

“Well, I just shot one of them dead. If they didn’t know where we are, they sure do now!”

Lawrence pinched the bridge of his scaly nose and sighed. “Okay, fair enough. But use your walkie-talkie instead. I’ll try contacting Bravo squad.”

As they kept walking, Jackson looked at anything that could look like a trail leading to the rest of his squad. 

After a few minutes of trying, Jackson finally managed to get an answer on his walkie-talkie. It was the sergeant.

“Sergeant! This is Pullver. Where are you?”

“Don’t come for me,” she said, her voice so hoarse and raspy it sent chills down Jackson’s spine. “One of these things… bit me.”

It took Jackson a few seconds to acknowledge what he had just heard. “What… What do we do, sarge?”

“Go to Boardman Lake,” the sergeant said. “Gardner, Schultz, and Wallace… are already on their way. Join up with Bravo. Get… Get the hell out of here.”

The line went dead. Jackson and Lawrence looked at each other for a quick moment, then wordlessly took off running. Lawrence grabbed his compass, holding it so tight his claws left marks on its plastic edges, and confirmed they were going in the right direction. As they passed a large, fallen tree, their walkie-talkies cracked a little, and a masculine voice came out. Even through the static, the panic was clear in his tone.

“Alpha team, this *crack* Bravo Three, come in, please!”

Jackson let out an exclamation of relief as he recognized the voice.

“Dave, it’s Jack! Where are you?”

“Jack*crack* are at the lake. I think… *crack* doesn’t look like *crack*”

“Dave, stay put. We’re coming for you. Who else is there with you?”

“Huh… *crack* lost Robert. No idea where the lieut*crack* there? *crack* getting really scared *crack*”

The static was getting worse.

“You’re breaking up,” Jackson said. “I didn’t get that. Dave? David?”

David said something else, but this time the communication was completely unintelligible. Jackson nervously bit his lip, then turned to Lawrence.

“How long until we get to the lake?” he said.

Lawrence looked at his compass, then around him, and abruptly stopped his run, almost tripping as he slid on the muddy ground.

“What?” Jackson said.

The Lizardman’s face was contorted in an expression of confusion and worry. He pointed in front of him. Jackson looked and, behind the treeline, saw a large body of water.

“It’s… We’re there,” Lawrence muttered.

“We are? Great!”

“No, but… We can’t be. The lake was supposed to be one hour away. Even running, it should have taken us at least half an hour to get there.”

“Really? Well, maybe it’s the wrong lake, then.”

“There should be only one lake on our path, and-”

There were more gunshots coming from the lake. The two men decided to abandon their debate and close the distance between them and the shore. The lake looked peaceful; its surface had taken a rose color under the setting sun, and the wind was creating small ripples upon it.

“Dave!” Jackson called out in his walkie-talkie. “Dave, this is Jackson. We’re at the lake. Do you see us? Please respond!”

No response came.

“Damnit! Let’s walk around it until we find him.”

Lawrence didn’t answer. The worry in his expression had turned to outright fear. But it wasn’t the same fear he had when the zombie attacked him; it seemed less immediate, yet more overpowering.

“This is definitely not the lake,” he said, his voice cracking.

Jackson followed his gaze, and his mouth gaped. On the other bank of the lake, on a hill dominating it, was a large stone building, looking like a small medieval fortress. It was a very dark shade of gray, and had a single tower that rose at about forty feet.

“What the hell?!” Jackson said. “Where are we?”

“I don’t know,” Lawrence whispered.

Behind them, multiple moans and groans came from the trees. Both Jackson and Lawrence pointed their rifles, ready to open fire.

“Well, wherever we are,” Jackson said, “we clearly can’t stay here.”

“Yeah, good call.”

“Let’s go to that castle, or whatever it is.”

“… Less good call. You want to enter that strange, ominous castle that just popped up out of nowhere?”

“Better than running around in a zombie-filled forest with the sun going down.”

Lawrence let out a reptilian hiss, which was his way of reluctantly admitting that Jackson had a point.

They ran around the shore, and began climbing the hill towards the castle. Jackson was starting to feel fatigued, his legs’ muscles felt heavier with every step; he focused his thoughts on David to keep going. In his last communication, he said he had arrived at the lake. What is the same one? Maybe there was another- No, it had to be. David had to be there. Lawrence tried the walkie-talkie again, but got nothing but static. A lump formed in Jackson’s throat.

The castle was three, perhaps four stories tall. It was hard to tell, as it had few windows. Jackson noticed those windows were very narrow, and lacked any glass pane. Overall, the castle wasn’t much to look at : a bulky, unrefined construction of dark gray stones, built in the medieval equivalent of brutalism. Not a lick of paint nor any decoration adorned its walls. It was practical and not much else.

As they got around it, Jackson and Lawrence found a large wooden gate leading through the castle’s bailey. Perhaps predictably, it wouldn’t open. There was no lock, so the men deduced it had been barred on the other side. Jackson tried to shoulder-ram it, but it barely even moved.

“Hold on,” Lawrence said as he put his backpack and his assault rifle on the ground.

He started flexing his knees, his wrists and his neck, then crouched at the feet of the wall.

“What are you…” Jackson said.

Before he could finish his question, Lawrence leaped like… well, like a lizard. His claws reached a slightly prominent stone about eight feet above the floor and he hung on to it. Quickly and skillfully, he started scaling the wall, so swift he looked like he was swimming upwards. In a matter of seconds, he found himself at the top of the fifteen, maybe sixteen feet wall. He climbed on the edge, then dropped on the other side with a soft thumping sound. Jackson heard him walk towards the gate. Then, there was a series of metallic sounds.

“Damn thing’s rusted!” Lawrence grumbled. “Come on…”

With a big creaking, ear-wrenching sound, the gate finally opened. As Lawrence recovered his weapon and his backpack, Jackson entered the courtyard, which was deserted, and bare of any features. A gateway on the left led to a small building that looked to be the stables, but there didn’t seem to be any horses there. On the right was a similar building, which was probably some kind of kitchen. Jackson and Lawrence walked straight ahead, towards the dungeon’s door. This one, too, was locked, but its hinges and its wood were so rusted the two men managed to break it open with their combined strength.

Behind the door was an atrium. It was dark and cold, and the few pieces of furniture were covered in dust and cobwebs. Jackson and Lawrence turned on their flashlights almost simultaneously. In the stark light, they saw footprints in the floor’s dust, leading to a spiral staircase. Jackson looked closer at the footprints; some of them had been left by bare feet, others by at least one person wearing US Army regulation boots. He immediately tore off and followed them.

“Dave!”

“Hey! Wait!” Lawrence said.

But Jackson kept running up the stairs.

“Dave! Dave! Are you here? Can you hear me?”

Hair rose on the back of his neck when the only thing he heard back were the same strained moans of agony he had heard back in the forest. As he reached the first landing, a dozen or so undead creatures awaited him, mouths opened and arms raised at shoulder level. The closest one was only inches away from Jackson, who barely had time to react. He struck the zombie’s jaw with the butt of his rifle, making the creature stumble back and giving him space to properly draw his weapon.

Jackson pressed the trigger, again and again, laying down a volley of fire, not really bothering to take aim given how close his enemies were. The closest one’s head all but exploded, sending nasty chunks in every direction. As a couple more zombies fell and the others remained standing, Jackson remembered the zombie movies he had seen and decided he didn’t need to shoot the head, but the brains, and adjusted his shots accordingly -as best he could.

Finally, only one zombie was left, stumbling over the fallens’ dead -well, deader– bodies. He was about five feet away from Jackson still. The young soldier had a cocky smile and took his time aiming between the undead’s eyes, then pulled the trigger.

Clic.

“Right,” Jackson said, pushing a button on the side of his rifle, and letting the now-empty clip drop to the floor.

Maybe it was Jackson’s imagination, but the zombie now seemed to move on him with renewed vigor. There was perhaps one foot left when Jackson pulled out his pistol and pressed its muzzle under the creature’s chin. One bullet later, he deeply regretted having let the zombie come so close to him, as he wiped meaty bits off his face.

“Jesus, Jackson,” Lawrence said as he barreled up the stairs after him. “Do you have a death wish or something? We need to stick together. Could be this castle has got more zombies than stones!”

“David might be here,” Jackson said. “I’m not stopping until I find him, and the others. Robert, Myriam, Bonnie… If they made it to the lake, it’s likely they came to hide here, same as us.”

“The door was barred when we got here.”

“They must have closed it after them. To keep the zombies out, or something.”

Lawrence swayed his head, clearly unconvinced.

“Well, all the same, I’m moving on,” Jackson said. “Are you with me?”

“Fine, but let’s try some stealth, all right? You keep shooting that rifle, you’re gonna rouse everybody in the vicinity.”

“Yeah?” Jackson smiled, and reloaded his weapon. “Well, let them come! I still got one extra clip.”

Lawrence shook his head and grumbled, then decided to take the lead as they finished scouring the second floor before moving on to the third. There were quite a few rooms, but almost all of them were empty. The ones that weren’t contained mostly broken furniture and more cobwebs.

“At least we’ll have something to burn, if we bivouac here,” Jackson said, kicking an old table to see if breaking it apart would be easy. “Which we probably should. It’s getting late.”

“Agreed…” Lawrence said. “But first, let’s finish clearing the building. Also, if we’re gonna make a fire, we should find some paper, or some tissue. I saw a chimney from outside, there must be a hearth somewhere.”

They entered the last room, which looked like a storage room. It contained a lot of furniture, almost all of it broken, along with all sorts of junk. Through the window, Jackson could see that the sun had set; the only light source left were the soldiers’ flashlights. The two soldiers advanced through the garbage, watching their steps as they did. Jackson was in front, his rifle pointed in front of him like blind man’s cane. Behind him, he heard Lawrence light a cigarette and draw heavily on it. All of a sudden, Jackson heard a voice calling out from outside. He ran to the window and took a look out. The voice came out again, and Jackson felt stupid as he recognized it. It was actually an owl, hooting from a nearby tree. 

He sighed, put his rifle over his shoulder, then turned away from the window. As he did, his light caught something in a corner. A face. A very pale face. Startled, Jackson jumped back, just as the zombie opened its eyes and threw itself at him. Both fell to the ground, the zombie on top. Jackson only had time to use his rifle as a shield, escaping the jaws of his enemy by pressing it against its throat. His backpack slammed painfully against his spine.

The undead creature snarled, and snapped its dirt-stained teeth mere inches away from Jackson, who was pushing as hard as he could to keep himself out of reach. From the corner of his eye, he saw Lawrence run to his rescue. A cupboard’s door swung open as the Lizardman passed in front of it, revealing another zombie who leaped at him.

“Lawrence!” Jackson said.

He struggled to turn his head as much as he could, but Lawrence was out of sight. The young soldier heard him scream, then heard the groans of the zombie… to which several other groans answered.

“Shit, shit, damnit!” he said, doubling his efforts to get rid of his aggressor.

For a creature that was basically a bunch of rotten meat on bones, the zombie proved surprisingly strong and tenacious. Jackson had to contend with not only its mouth, but also its hands. The zombie’s nails kept trying to claw at his face, at one point getting way too close to one of his eyes for comfort.

Lawrence let out a blood-curling wail, accompanied by terrible fleshy sounds which sent Jackson’s imagination reeling.

“Lawrence? Lawrence!”

No word came from his bunkmate. Jackson yelled in anguish, and tried harder to push the zombie off him, but to little avail. After an entire day spent trekking through the forest, there was little energy left in him. His breathing was ragged, his heart was beating so fast it was painful, and many of his muscles were sore. His hands started shaking, and it felt like the zombie was becoming heavier. Its face was getting closer; its horrid breath, reeking of rotten meat, blew in Jackson’s nostrils, who fought back the urge to vomit. There was just one inch between the zombie’s teeth and his skin now… Less than an inch… Jackson gathered all the energy he had left, but…

Something moved in the glimmer of Jackson’s flashlight, looking like a bolt of lighting. The zombie went stiff, his face froze, then a blackened blood started pouring from the top of his head. As Jackson looked closer, he saw a small ax embedded in its skull. He quickly slid the no-longer-walking dead off him and sat up.

Before him stood the lieutenant. Splotches of zombie blood tainted his uniform, especially around the forearms. An assault rifle of a different kind than the rest of the unit was hanging on his back. He recovered his ax, then held it in front of him with both hands, and said to Jackson:

“Do you read Sutter Cane?”

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4 thoughts on “The Pulver Chronicles – 1. A Simple Kind Of Man

  1. Nice chapter man

    Also i have a problem,when i go to your author page to search for stories it only says “nothing found”,but it was workin before.Its happening in every author’s page for me,how do i fix it?

    1. Thanks!

      Yeah, I have the same problem with my page and other authors’ pages. No idea what causes this, or how to fix it. Maybe one of the website’s admins could help?

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