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14 February 2017 @ 08:22 am
_Zombies_ part 11  
   

Les stopped and stared in utter disbelief. Sweating, and his head hurt. He walked forward in a daze, dropping his shirt behind him. Kicking off his shoes as they ceased to fit. He was the King of the Dance, the primeval male, the Horned God. He danced. There was a goatess, spotted and elegant; a ewe, pale blonde hair curling and bouncing; a big eyed soft brown doe. And coming behind him, another ewe, a black sheep, elegant spiral horns, ivory against her shimmering black hair.

They danced. The deer, the goatess, and the pale ewe tempted him, but his eyes always returned to the Black Ewe. The trio danced with him in defiance of the barren season, consummating the dance of the Full Moon then fled, triumphant. The Black Ewe was shy, and unready, and he danced for her, but honored her limits. She was glorious, the Black Ewe.

The Moon set as the eastern sky lightened in the pre-dawn. The King spun, stamped . . .

Les set his foot down slowly. And stared down at himself in disbelief. Naked. Aroused. He lifted his head to find Tasman staring at him, gorgeous body equally naked. Wide-eyed horror on her face. They were completely alone, the fire long dead and cold.

His hands flew to his head. No horns. Not even bumps. They were a foot long. Just . . . moments ago. Or was it hours.

"What did we do?" Tasman’s voice quivered, close to panic.

"Perhaps . . . it was all a hallucination." Les jerked his eyes away and spotted his slacks, tossed in the grass on one side. He hustled over and snatched them. Movement in the corner of his eye was Tasman grabbing something, covering herself with it. They followed the trail of clothing most of the way back to the car. Straightened themselves up as best they could, and drove back to the hotel.

Tasman said nothing the entire distance, squeezed against the car door, away from him. She wasn’t to be seen at breakfast.

Les glanced down the hall, worried. No sign of her.

What the hell was that? What did I do?

Chapter

Saturday 29 August 2020

Del was warm and relaxed, curled up against him.

He didn’t want to move. Certainly not to go to work. Even if all they’d done was fall asleep on the sofa.

Hugh touched her hair carefully. Platinum blonde streaks. That was Natalia, the Russian woman that he – merged with the local lord – had almost killed. There was more light brown, from the little waif, Yulia who’d merged with Del willingly, the pair of them armed with a baseball bat and riding that old mare . . . a streak of black hair. Lady Valareia, an Enforcer, one of the highly magical people who kept the magically and criminally inclined in line.

A soft chuckle. "Looking for red?"

He grinned. "Maybe just a little. Sela certainly was, umm . . ."

"Boy crazed, over-sexed and seriously lacking in caution or common sense?" She moved away from him then, but just enough to stretch. "Unfortunately none of them were very analytical. I’m going to have to own that one."

"Do analytical types ever . . ." Hugh stalled out on that one.

She smile wryly. "You and I started out from the wrong place. Eight days, almost nine. I can’t tell if that feels like it was maybe two days ago, or if it’s always been like that. Like I started all over, and now that’s how the World began."

"How the world began. Well, the Mayas always did rather indignantly insist that 2012 wasn’t the end of the world, just the step into the next." He leaned enough to drop his face into her hair. "I really wish I hadn’t started it the way I did. I should have gotten control."

She leaned on him, somehow trusting him, despite everything. "And I should have run away when Nalda told me too. Knowing what I do now . . . probably I would of. Or maybe I would do something useful, like open the gate and let Maverick in." She snickered. "Actually, now that I think about it, I’d try to merge with one of their horses, and start tromping."

He smiled at the thought. "That would have been what they, we, deserved."

She thumped his ribs. "Don’t take guilt that isn’t yours. The trouble is, in all the confusion there’s no time to think of the right thing. You just react."

He got an arm around her, such a nice warm armful.

She nodded, still cuddled up against his chest.

He could just see the corner of her mouth. It was smiling.

"I really hope this is us, doing this. I’d hate to wake up tomorrow or next week, utterly horrified." The smile came and went a bit as she spoke, but deepened when she stopped.

Hugh swallowed. "I’ve gotten pretty good at distinguishing the outside memories from my own thoughts. And I think I recognize my emotions. I love you. And that was me, proposing marriage last night."

"I hate to say it, but I think that was me getting analytical and thinking I didn’t know you well enough." She tipped her head back, the smile gone rueful.

"Then don’t answer the question for a month. We’ll date. Talk. Get to know each other under normal circumstances. Get a better grip on these people in our heads. Then I’ll marry you."

"Oh, confident are you?"

"It’s my most obnoxious trait. But to demonstrate the depth of my love, I’ll let you shower first, in case there’s a limited amount of hot water."

"The supreme sacrifice."

"And then I suppose I need to escort you back into the hospital, to work over the rest of the zombies."

"Is there anything I could cook for breakfast while you’re taking your cold shower?"

"Bacon, eggs, milk, bread, coffee. Five of the six basic food groups. I’ll have to lay in some chocolate, and try to lure you back here."

She flashed him a smile. "Careful, I might bring fruit and vegetables!"

"Then we can experiment with a word of power that I think makes you sort of invisible. Or maybe it was just a dream, not that nasty wizard talking to me."

He turned on his TV, trying to keep his mind off a naked wet lady in his shower.

One channel was emoting over a Sports Star who hadn’t shown up for a game last night.

Because of the Full Moon? Might be a coincidence, but I'll bet not.

The next channel was quoting the Pope threatening to excommunicate one of his Cardinals if he didn’t stop preaching pagan and animistic sermons.

"Wonder how he spent the Alignment?"

"More Yeti sightings reported from Nepal ."

Hugh clicked the off button, this time, and headed for the kitchen. He could get a head start on cooking the bacon . . .

***

The sun was up, somewhere behind thick clouds. The streets were still unlit, gloomy, and a thin misting rain drifted down periodically, obscuring the view further.

Perfect mood weather for a zombie hunt. But I’d have preferred bright sunshine today. Les tightened the last strap and turned to inspect Ron’s gear, and get his inspected in turn.

They were all in full riot gear. All nine surviving Federal Agents, with seventeen deputies, also feeling the loss of one of their own, two days ago. Three town cops, and now Hugh’s truck pulling up beside the other vehicles. Thirty of us. Safety in numbers. As long as we don’t split up as much, this time. As long as there’s no overlap so the guns work. So long as we work quickly and efficiently, and don’t stop for the night. It’s just a little town, damn it, we should be able to drive them out of it.

For about the twelfth time he resisted calling Tasman.

I didn’t mean to do that, she didn’t intend to do that. Not that we went all the way or anything, but, Dear God! She’s never going to speak to me again.

***

The old woman responded to the word of summoning. She flopped, and made crowing sounds. Then she oozed between and over the restraints, flew across the room to splatter on the window. All of her.

Del backed away in horror.

The nurse bolted down the hall, and stopped abruptly, when she saw what was dribbling down the window. A loop of half liquescent intestine slipped down and revealed the rest of the body, splashed across the floor. The nurse flinched away, pulling out her cell phone as she walked away.

Del slumped in relief. She didn’t see me. Then tears of shame and grief prickled at her eyes. Hugh’s word of invisibility works. But that doesn’t mean that I didn’t just kill that woman. She looked so awful, I should have known, I shouldn’t have tried. . .

Del walked back to the nurses station in the center hallway and curled into a chair. Put her head down and let the tears flow.

It worked for the other people. It worked so well . . . I thought I was invincible. I thought I could cure anyone.

She wiped her eyes dry, and made herself sit up straight. Ignored the little voice that was making excuses. And the scathingly critical one that said it was a good thing the woman was almost last, because Del would never have the nerve to try again. Only that old man left, and who cares about him?

Del leaned back in her chair and listened to the excited chatter of the nurses and doctors.

The lady doctor who seemed to be in charge marched in last. Late.

One of the nurses did a double take. "Are you feeling all right, Dr. Lee?"

"Fine, now what happened? Another group crisis?"

"Yes. Three improved, with that horrible spray, Gabby liquefied, and Lenny is unchanged. We didn’t realize anything was going on until Gabby’s alarm sounded."

"I see. Well, clean up the rooms, and send Gabby to be cremated. Good. Lord. That’s." She turned away, rubbing her arms as if chilled. "Write up the paperwork for the death certificate. I’ll sign it." She walked further down the hallway, looking through windows, and reading charts.

Horrible odors escaped as doors were opened to facilitate cleaning, but the efficient ventilation cleared them soon enough.

Del sat, too devastated to move. I should at least walk down and use the healing word on the old guy. Even if I dare not try to summon the corruption out of him.

The wing quieted, returning slowly to the antiseptic barrenness of the early morning. Only the single nurse, and Dr. Lee remained on the floor.

Coward. One bad result and you quit.

Delphi forced herself to stand. To walk quietly down the hall, to stare at the old man.

Heels clicked behind her, and she turned.

The doctor slowed as she approached, frowning. "Who are you? What are you? You’re all foggy. If I look away will you disappear?" She was swaying, and looked unsteady.

Del reached out and took her arm. Something snapped, almost audibly and the doctor jerked away from her.

"Well, I can see you now, but I’m not sure that’s an improvement." The doctor reached out and touched her. "You’re real."

"Yes. Sorry. Are you all right?"

The doctor laughed, an edge of hysteria in her voice. "I just hope last night wasn’t real."

Nervous laughter, not amusement.

"I didn’t hear about anything happening last night." Del felt her cheeks warm. I was too busy and enjoying every minute of it.

"I wanted to see the hot spot. I had one of the Agents take me there."

"On the night of the full moon? I take it Zanadu and her buddies were holding their usual alfresco dance and orgy?"

"Their usual . . . I had horns. There was this big Bullman. Minotaur. He had a muzzle. Horns . . . Really large testicular sac hanging halfway to his knees." She was getting paler by the second.

"Take a deep breath. Again. Okay. Better. Get practical. Do you use contraceptives?"

"I don’t need, I mean I didn’t actually . . . I just danced while he . . ."

"So, you’re shocked. Get over it. You didn’t do anything irretrievable. He didn’t do anything unforgivable. Although since you’re a doctor, you could write yourself a prescription for morning after birth control." Del pushed away from the wall and paced. Choose wisely. "Except, if we’ve got actual cells from another world, and one or two of those cells were magic, were sperm or ova . . . Could we bring magic back into the world? Really? Permanently?"

The doctor stared at her as if she’d grown horns. "There is no such thing as magic. I just hope you weren’t at the dance, with that rapist."

Del blinked. "Rapist? What did he do? Start at the beginning."

"I wanted to see the hot spot, instead, he drove to this orgy. Told me to stay in the car. He must have given me a hallucinogen. I could see, the moon rose and suddenly everything was visible. I could see his horns growing, and he started taking his clothes off as he walked away. Then I got out of the car and followed him."

Her hand jerked up to her head and she swiped a hand through her hair. "I grew horns and threw off my clothes and danced with these other women. And the King of the Dance. He, the other animal women . . . I should have called the police."

"Perhaps you should get a drug screening. And, from what you’ve just said, it probably wasn’t rape. The Dancers go up there every month. Nor attempted rape, you got out of the car and voluntarily, all by yourself took off your clothes."

"I hallucinated."

"Get a drug test, and think about whether they were burning something in their bonfire. It sounds to me as if the man was just as much under the influence of something as you were."

"You’re trying to clear him."

"I’m looking for evidence. Did he give you anything, candy, breath mint, gum?"

She stopped dead. "Gum? Inspector Mata gave me . . . but he wouldn’t . . ."

"But the other guy would? You aren’t leaping on my suggestion that you get a drug test."

"I can’t do that. My reputation . . ."

"Has to be spotless?" Delphi pushed away from the wall. "And you’ve showered, not gone to a hospital for a rape kit sampling, right?"

"He didn’t actually, but he, he kept touching me." Her voice was soft and weak.

Del sighed. "Find some common sense. He did not have sex with you, therefore he did not rape you, and under the circumstances, his refraining was a matter of deliberately not taking advantage of your abnormal state. That’s about as gentlemanly as you can expect, when you throw yourself naked into an orgy. And please. Get over the cult of victimology. Find a backbone. Do not let them make you feel bad about yourself, do not take the blame, but also, do not hand off blame where it doesn’t belong. Don’t go hunting for every faint or imagined attack on yourself. Admit to what you did and stop being weak. Oh, and don’t go anywhere alone with either of the men you suspect drugged you."

The doctor crossed her arms and scowled. "How can you believe in such rubbish?"

Delphi wavered. Speaking of being weak. Straightened her shoulders and led on down the hallway, to the window looking in at the old man.

"Aaev. Ah ah eve. Ah aev." Del moistened her lips. Closed her eyes. Opened them. "Traapaan. Trapan." She kept her voice quiet, her mind cringed so much the pus barely oozed toward her. She leaned on the glass and settled down to work.

The old man seemed disturbed by his limbs being pulled around, but grabbed tissues and mopped as tiny beads of pus were pulled to the surface, and his nose ran with streams of blood tinged pus and snot.

The doctor watched, silently, for the whole hour. Until there was no more corruption that she could summon from the old man.

"Did you learn that from the internet?"

Del blinked.

"I saw the instructions on the internet."

Del nodded. "Works too. Unless there’s so many dead cells that the live ones can’t handle the structural strain." Some things we just don’t admit.

The doctor eyed her. "Poor Gabby. She wouldn’t have lasted the day. Learning how to deal with losing a patient is something every doctor has to do. Go away now, and think about that. I have to think about this . . . magic."

As Del walked out, the doctor summoned staff to clean up the old man and his room.

Outside the hospital, Delphi pulled out her notebook. Things to do. Find weapons to fight zombies with. Ah yes. Something solid, something that wouldn’t quit if there was an overlap. Baseball bats were all very well, but Hugh had merged with Russian nobles and picked up a bit of sword fighting. Actual fighting, not sport fencing. She had a couple of addresses in Sacramento that ought to have swords. If they were well made . . .