“Never forget, every corpse you see once breathed and loved the same as you. They did not ask to be cursed. It is our duty to release their souls.”
Her grandfather’s words reiterated in her head, driving her mission, her life. He was gone now, like so many others. Rotted corpses all, dead but still moving, thirsting for the flesh of their kindred.
Sarah lifted her head, the soreness in her neck limiting her range of sight. The city lay in shambles, buildings burned with no fire brigade to save them, windows smashed by desperate looters, debris clogging the streets. Wind swirled papers and dried leaves in eddies through alleys and alcoves. Years had passed since Sarah had heard a child’s laughter, or the clamor of city life.
Movement caught her eye, the tell-tale shuffle of what her grandfather called the Walking Cursed. Sarah turned her body towards the creature, the stiffness of muscles and joints hindering her movement, sending twinges of pain up her spine. The righteous mission to free the cursed souls had not been kind to her body, but it was a necessary sacrifice. One she made gladly every day to honor her grandfather and prove her faith.
The creature watched her hobbling approach, curious and unafraid. Once a man, it was now an animate bundle of decaying sinew and muscle, leaning heavily to the right on a shriveled and maimed leg. His face sunken, moisture drained from cheeks, the flesh pulled tight and cracking. Lips stretched into a permanent sneer, eyes cloudy and dull.
Sarah always looked them in the eye. She wanted them to know what she did was a kindness. The evil that engulfed the land trapped them on the mortal realm, robbed them of their final afterlife. Through her hand, salvation would be theirs at last. She couldn’t save them all, but she’d free as many as she could while her body still held. At first, they had fought her. But now, the cursed seemed to recognize she was only there to help.
The walking corpse continued to eye her with interest, snapped tendons giving his head a heavy tilt. Close enough he could have reached out and grabbed her, yet still he observed. He worked his jaw to speak, only managing a weak moan.
Sarah raised her arm, fist clenched tight around a bloodied club. The muscles strained to lift the smooth wood, bones clicking as they scraped against dry ligaments. More and more, she felt her tired body weaken. Only the mission kept her going when she would have sought her own peace.
“I give you mercy. May you find peace.”
She did not say the words anymore. Her throat had long ago withered, her voice box inflexible. But her thoughts and intentions were there, and she knew they heard her.
Swinging the club into the side of the zombie’s head, he toppled to the ground. She lacked the strength to kill with a single blow and forced her arm to rise again. The club fell to his crown, again and again, until the bones cracked and black ichor, the residue of his brain, oozed onto the pavement. With a soft moan, the zombie ceased his twitching, finally and truly dead.
Sarah straightened, groaning as she rolled her shoulders back, flexing strained muscles. Sighing heavily, Sarah shuffled back to the street. As long as her body still worked, she must press on.
A loud crack echoed between the walls of the buildings. Something sharp and hard slammed into Sarah’s temple and she stumbled to her knees. Red washed over her vision and she blinked, watching stunned as blood dripped down her face. She reached her free hand up to her neck, wrapping emaciated fingers around the precious cross hung from a tarnished chain.
My mercy has come. May I find peace.
Another shot, a second bullet aimed slightly lower, pierced her skull and ripped through the remnants of her brain. Her body fell prone as her soul flew free.
From the rooftop, Bob exchanged a high-five with Frank.
“Fuck yeah, man,” Frank cheered, scratching another mark on the scoreboard. “Twenty-seven to Thirty-two. You’re catching up, man.”
Bob spit a glob of tobacco juice over the wall and reloaded his rifle.
“Ain’t never seen a zed kill another zed before. That was weird.”
“They got soup for brains, Bob. Ain’t no telling what goes on up there.”
Grunting in agreement, Bob pressed his eye to the sight, searching for another target.