Sunday, 26 July 2015

Sleeping Zombie

There was an odd knock at the door; it sounded almost like something heavy had fallen against the door making a dull thud.  But then it came again, rather later than might be expected for a knock, and then again, after a still-too-long interval.  Sighing softly to herself, Bess set down the needlework she was doing – patching a pair of trousers at the crotch – and went to the door.  She opened it, wondering if the weird old apple-seller was back with her glistening, too-good-to-be-true fruit, and looked outside.
"Braaaaaaaaainssss," moaned the shambling, grey, fly-blown figure that swayed outside the door.  It held one handless arm aloft and then brought it down.  Bess stepped backwards and the stump missed her, but her eyes followed it down and found the missing hand lying on the grass.  There were still flies buzzing around it, and she could see through holes in the grey, ragged skin that maggots were churning in the rotting flesh beneath.  The smell finally struck her, a charnel-house smell worse than the one from the place where the huntmen butchered their kills, and bile rose in her throat.  She took another step backwards, her hand rising to her mouth and nose and her eyes watering so that the zombie at the door was just a blur.  Her knees trembled and gave way, so she never saw the zombie step inside and fall over her, its teeth grinding together as it tried to chew her young, vital flesh.
"Aw, coaldamp," said Morgó.  He was slightly ahead of the rest of the dwarves as his pants, his second-best pair, were rather too tight around his thighs and he was hoping that Bess would have finished the repairs on his best pair.  "Guys!  Zombie!"  He unstrapped his mining pick from his shoulders, giving the other dwarves time to catch up.
"What's it doing?" asked Kuka, peering at the zombie.  The doorway of the house was shadowed and it was hard to make out exactly what was going on there.  "Is it eating something?"
"Bess!" said Morgó.  "Gaspockets, what was she thinking?  Quick, let's go get it and see if she's alright."
"What if she's a zombie already?" Tudor's voice was calm, not betraying the anxiety he felt.  They'd all appreciated having someone who didn't dare leave and so would do all the housework around.
"Let's try and make sure she isn't before we worry about that!" said Morgó.  "Charge!"
The zombie was slow-moving and the mining picks were kept in excellent condition so it took the dwarves very little time indeed to drag it out of the house and then dismember it into something more closely resembling death.  As they stood back, getting their breath back and cleaning their picks off, the birds of the forest started swooping down to feast on the wriggling maggots now strewn all about their front-lawn.
"Someone's going to have to bury the bits that are left," said Tudor, and they all looked towards the house, hoping to see Bess looking back.
"She looks a bit dead," said Kuka after a minute.  "Do you think she was trying to have sex with it?"
Tudor swatted him about the head.  "Baromarcú," he said.  "Do you think everyone tries to have sex with everything?"  Kuka hung his head in shame.
"Well," said Morgó, trying to sound cheerful.  "Let's go and find out if she's too dead to bury what's left of the zombie then."
The dwarves shuffled inside, picking Bess up on the way, and sitting her down in the chair where she'd been sewing.  Morgó picked the pants up and exclaimed with pleasure: they were just about finished.
"She's still warm," said Tudor, looking at her.  "She's drooling a bit too, so if she's dead it's pretty recent."
Kuka poked her arm and Bess twitched a little.  He poked it again, and a low moan escaped her throat.
"Not dead," said Tudor thoughtfully.  "But she's got bite marks–" he swatted Kuka before he could make any lewd suggestions, "–so I think she's probably on the turn."
"Aw, coaldamp," said Morgó.  "No more housework then."
"We'll have to go back to taking turns," said Tudor, frowning.  "But what are we going to do about Bess?"
"Bury her," said Vidor, looking at the floor.  "We've got to bury the other guy now anyway."
"...we could burn the other one," said Kuka quietly.
The seven dwarves looked at each other, not quite meeting each other's eyes.  Finally Tudor said, "No, we're not burning Bess.  And burying her seems like a lot of work... we could always put her up in the old tower."
"What, the light-house?"
"Yes," said Tudor.  "Ever since the lake dried up – and that was no-one's fault! – it's been a bit useless.  There's a nice room at the top, big windows and all, and there's only one door.  Nail a couple of boards across it and she won't be able to get out."
There was some muttering, but the fact that Bess could walk there herself was the deciding factor in the argument and so she was escorted to the old light-house, walked to the top of the stairs, and then the locked in the room at the top.  At the bottom the dwarves looked at the door and decided it was probably zombie-proof as it was, so they locked that too, tucked the key under the doormat, and went home to see if the birds and rats had eaten all the zombie bits so that they wouldn't have to burn them.

And so it was that Bess lay down on the old light-house keeper's bed and fell asleep because there was nothing there to feed her undead hunger.

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