The Ol' Farm House
Blake and Curtis pushed through the bushes and exited the clearing. “You know the way, right?” Blake asked his soldier companion.
“Yeah, it’s roughly in this direction,” Curtis confirmed.
They continued on in silence, paying close attention to their environment, trying to detect danger well before it found them. After about five minutes of walking Blake started to wish he had brought a hat. Or owned a hat. The sun beat down on him relentlessly as they walked over flat grassy terrain. They cleared another cluster of trees and finally, way off in the distance, he could see the farm. They continued stoically on and seeing the building grow larger with each step until they were close enough to make out details.
The farm consisted of a small two story house with an attached garage, and a barn. The paint was peeling from walls, the yard was overgrown with wild grass, and windows were cracked and covered with gray film making the structure look like it had cataracts. There was no sound at all, Blake realized as they continued to trudge forward. No birds, no insects, not even the rustling of plants, as there was no wind at all. Something grabbed him by the wrist, and he had to stifle a scream as Curtis pulled him down to a crouch.
“Quiet,” Curtis whispered. “Something’s off.”
Blake tried to calm down as he crouched there trying to see whatever it was that had spooked Curtis. He looked first at the house, but it remained eerily still. Then he focused on the barn, but he could find nothing out of the ordinary there either. He looked sideways at Curtis to see where he was looking, but his eyes were moving around too, unsure where the source of wrong emanated from.
“Curtis,” he whispered, “What the fuck?”
“I don’t know,” he admitted. “I feel like we’re being watched.”
Blake crouched a little lower and continued to look around for the hidden watcher until Curtis slowly stood up.
“Come on,” he said in a hushed tone. “I’m starting to feel like a jackass.”
They continued their march towards the menacing house, Blake now feeling like he had to willfully take steps forward. He was frightened he realized. He felt very strongly that he did not want to go towards that house in front of him, much less go inside.
Curtis sped up to a jog just as Blake was about to recommend they call this shit off. He stared for a moment, and then chased after him. Curtis got to the porch, assault rifle up and cautiously ascended the steps. Blake caught up to him as Curtis got to the front door, looked at him and nodded. Blake grimaced internally and stood on the opposite side of the door, nodding his readiness at the soldier. Curtis tried the knob which turned easily and gently pushed on the door. It creaked open and then was still. He shined his flashlight inside revealing an interior that was as dilapidated as the exterior. After a moment, Curtis cautiously went inside with Blake following closely behind him.
The initial room was devoid of furniture, the walls were covered with faded peeling wallpaper, and the floors were covered in torn, blackened carpet. A staircase leading up into darkness was the only other feature of the room. They went from this room into the kitchen to find it in equally abysmal condition. The broken cupboards, warped linoleum, and cracked tiles were exactly what Blake expected to find when coming in here. Curtis opened another door in exactly the same way as he had done a few moments ago. Beyond that door was a small room that might have been a study or a small bedroom, but was somehow in even worse shape than the first room. Here, in addition to the deplorable wallpaper and floors, were jagged holes in the floor and ceiling exposing the rotting wood that were the bones of the house. They passed through here and found themselves back in the first room with the stairs beckoning them to go up.
“I don’t like the look of those stairs,” Blake whispered nervously.
Curtis glanced at him and nodded. He tried the first step which creaked, but held his weight. He moved carefully up the steps, avoiding suspicious spots, but always keeping his light pointed up towards the top. As Blake followed after him, he understood why the soldier had chosen his steps carefully. Some of the steps had large cracks in them that would likely cause injury if someone accidentally stepped on one and it gave way. Blake stepped a little too close to one of them and when he put his weight down, there was a loud crack causing his foot to sink halfway through the damaged step. He managed to catch himself before losing his balance, and drew his foot carefully out of the newly expanded hole. He looked up to see Curtis watching him.
“I’m good,” Blake whispered. Curtis nodded and continued his ascent. They reached the top of the stairs arriving at a straight hallway with doors on the left. Windows on the right illuminated the creepy hallway revealing that it was in slightly better condition than the downstairs areas. At least the paint here was still on the walls. The hardwood floor looked old and warped, but it was intact. Curtis stopped, looking at the ground, then gestured for Blake to take a look as well. The floor was covered with dust, but someone had recently left footprints on it. They cautiously followed the trail to the room at the end of the hallway where the footprints continued underneath the door.
Curtis positioned himself to one side with Blake going to the opposite side. Curtis reached out and tried the doorknob, turning it slowly. It didn’t open and he tried a little harder with the same result. He let go of the knob and paused, then he faced the door and kicked it in with a wood splitting crunch. He immediately got back to his original position and looked around the corner for any response. Seeing nothing, he went inside the room. Blake peeked in and Curtis was exposing every corner of the room to his flashlight. Near the back of the room there was a body lying on the floor. Blake couldn’t help but direct his light on that body while Curtis was clearing the room. The dead man was sitting against the wall, spread legged, head sagging into his chest. Blood from the large tear in his neck had stained the front of his shirt and most of his crotch. He had a horrible sinking feeling as he examined the corpse, and when Curtis signaled that the room was safe, Blake got close to the dead body to confirm his suspicions. He crouched down and looked at the face. He recoiled when he shined the light in the man’s face and saw the look of utter horror frozen on it. Curtis looked at him, his silent question plain on his face.
“It’s John,” Blake confirmed, voice trembling.
Curtis’s eyes widened and he stooped down to look at the face of the corpse as well, grimacing when he saw the horrifying face.
“Shit, I barely recognized him. What the fuck happened? And where’s Kyle?” Curtis asked quietly.
“It’s just him in here with the door shut. Where’s the zombie?” Blake thought out loud.
“We haven’t checked every room on this floor,” Curtis pointed out. “We’d better have a look. Maybe Kyle is still here.”
They left the room and quietly closed the door. They walked back down the hall and stopped to check out the bedroom they’d initially passed by, but it was completely empty, showing no signs of anyone having gone in there for years. They proceeded on to the last unexplored room on this floor, and opened the door with practiced caution.
“Hey? You ok man?” Curtis asked into the half opened doorway.
Blake looked in and saw Kyle sitting on the ruins of a toilet. He looked up at them with a vacant expression, the front of his shirt splattered with blood. Curtis suddenly pointed his flashlight at a bathtub that stood on four legs. There was a corpse of a man in overalls sprawled in the tub, almost looking like he was enjoying a good soak.
“Yeah,” Kyle answered, sounding like he was asleep. He didn’t move at all.
They moved into the bathroom and Blake immediately felt like he’d walked into a freezer. Despite this, he didn’t have time to give that much thought, instead opting to make sure there were no threats in this room. They quickly confirmed that it was safe for the moment and Blake stood closer to Kyle.
“Hey, Kyle?” he asked gently. “What happened after we got separated? How did you get here?”
Kyle didn’t seem to have heard him at all. He didn’t even physically react, just continued to stare through Blake like he didn’t see him at all. Curtis had been examining the body in the tub and turned to look at them.
“Did you kill this guy?” Curtis asked Kyle and got the same lack of response that Blake had received.
“Don’t worry Kyle, we’ll get you out of here,” Blake reassured him, standing up then moving over to look at the body in the tub.
The corpse was only wearing overalls, which Blake thought was a sure sign that the guy had been a farmer. He had been a big guy with huge arms covered with both fat and muscle. His feet were unadorned except for the layer of dirt that covered the bottom of them. It was obvious that he had been decomposing for a long time, so it was clear that he had been zombified before arriving here. A knife had been shoved into its head behind one ear which explained why it was no longer moving. I guess what must’ve happened is this zombie was here and killed John. Kyle came into the bathroom and ambushed it. He’s been in shock ever since.
Kyle looked up suddenly, looked at the two of them and almost fell off the toilet. “Fuck! When did you guys get here? You scared the shit out of me!”
“What?” Curtis said, sounding bewildered. “We’ve been here for a few minutes.”
“Can you walk?” Blake asked urgently. “We need to get you to our bunker.”
“Bunker?” Kyle asked, confused.
“Can you walk?!” Blake repeated.
Kyle blinked. “Yeah. Yeah, I think so.” He got to his feet.
The three of them exited the bathroom, and started carefully descending the staircase. Kyle’s foot went through one of the steps, and when he grabbed the railing for balance, some of the supports tore from the stairs and threatened to toss him to the floor. Blake caught his arm and grabbed the other railing, hoping that it would hold. The side Kyle was holding onto swung outwards but didn’t break and he managed to regain his balance. Blake guided him the rest of the way down and they followed after Curtis who was already heading towards the front door.
The front door opened and someone came through and tackled the soldier, bringing him to the ground. Curtis yelled and struggled to get the assailant off him, but the attacker had taken him completely by surprise. The assailant punched Curtis in the face, stunning him and then went for his neck like a vampire. The soldier screamed in pain as blood sprayed from his neck, and he thrashed around more, unable to get free. Blake rushed forward and tried to strike the assailant in the head with his flashlight, but the person heard his approach and raised his arm, blocking his attack. The man looked over at him with a bloody grin, and kicked him in the chest. He was sent flying backwards into Kyle and both of them crashed to the ground. They were struggling to get to their feet as the attacker stepped towards them over Curtis’s twitching body and faced them.
Blake kicked himself for not bringing his assault rifle and wondered where Curtis’s was. He quickly scanned the room, but couldn’t see it. The guy in front of them rushed them, so Blake ducked to the left. He felt wind pass above his head as he leaped in the direction of the soldier’s body. He scanned the area around Curtis’s body, frantically trying to find the rifle. There was a crash behind him, and he looked to see that Kyle had tackled the attacker to the ground and was punching him repeatedly in the face. Blake finally spotted the rifle that had slid against the wall, ran over and picked it up. He turned and aimed the weapon at the assailant. Despite the wreck that Kyle had put on his opponent’s face, the guy on the receiving end didn’t seem phased at all. On the contrary, he was making some kind of hoarse, wet noise that sounded like laughing. The laughing stopped all at once as Kyle was going for another punch when the man grabbed Kyle’s wrist and made to chomp into it. Blake pulled the trigger and the top of the man’s head exploded, spraying wet chunks of brain and skull in every direction. Kyle scrambled away from the corpse.
“Fuck!” Kyle observed.
Blake put the rifle aside and recovered his flashlight, shining it on the dead man. He exhaled sharply, surprised by what he saw. The skin was pale and damaged in several places, giving the impression that he’d been dead for some time already.
”What the fuck?” he whispered. “It couldn’t have...”
There was a small thud, and Blake pointed the light at Kyle, who had sat down heavily.
“Kyle!” he remembered, and went over to look at him. That dazed expression had returned and he was looking right through him again. “You’re going to be ok, Kyle. Just give me a second and we’ll get out of here.”
He went over to check Curtis, but the soldier had bled out. “Shit,” he observed sadly. After an internal debate, he aimed the rifle at the soldier’s head. “Sorry, man. This is all I can do for you.” He made sure that Curtis wasn’t going to come back. He took a breath and went over to Kyle, got him to his feet and guided him outside. Kyle allowed himself to be led, still in a daze, towards the bunker.
After trying to ask him about what had happened without any response, Blake gave up and resigned himself to a quiet walk home with his traumatized friend.