Monday, September 1, 2014

Part 69




The outhouse event over with if not out of the way, I began to notice some odd bumps in the snow.  I kicked the snow away thinking lots of big pieces of tree trash fall had fallen during the storm ... only it wasn't tree trash.

I turned in a full circle and everywhere I looked there were odd lumps in the snow.  Terror was leaving behind fury.  I had gotten to the point where enough was enough.

I stomped up to the cabin, kicked aside the screen door that was barely still hanging on by one hinge, and pulled the storage box from under my bunk.  Out came the machete and sharpening thingie that Jace had given me.  It wasn't a traditional whet stone like you would use on good knives, this thing was more for kitchen shears and stuff like that.  Well I put an edge on that machete like you wouldn't believe and then stomped back outside.  I tied a double layer of bandana around my face and then went back to the original "lump" I'd uncovered.

Popsicle puss brains.  Grrrr.  They littered the land for as far as I could see, even into the tree line surrounding the cabin.  I had no idea if the cold had killed them or if they were hibernating or whatever it was they did when they got too cold, but no way was I going to wait for a thaw to find out.  I had learned the hard way the first winter back in the city that trying to crush a frozen skull made my bat vibrate painfully all the way from my hands to my shoulders.  It also took a lot more energy to dispatch a frozen puss brain that way.  Some had preferred to do it from a distance using a spear to pierce the heart; however, many of the puss brains around here had too many clothes on and I couldn't be sure of it working the way I meant it to.

I know, I know.  These aren't zombies or vampires or any other kind of thing that goes bump in the night.  Well, they did go bump in the night but I just mean they weren't supernatural ... aren't supernatural in any way, shape, or form.  They're humans; live ones, of a sort anyway.  Sick humans.  Humans that had become ruthless and unthinking.  Their only goal was eating to survive and surviving to eat.  They accomplished nothing but feeding off of others.  They were sick, and as far as I could tell after dealing with them for so long, literally unable as much as unwilling to control themselves or make other choices.

I'm sure the history books and certain people will have lots to say on what I did that day; what a lot of us had to do to survive the invasion of the Northern Woods.  I'm sure I'll not go around being proud and bragging about it either.  In fact I've been told to shut up about it.  And if this notebook falls into the wrong hands - and doesn't that sound all spy-ish and stuff - I'm sure it will be used against me and I'll wind up prosecuted for "crimes against humanity" and probably locked up as criminally insane or worse.  But none of that stopped me.  It was cruel work but it was necessary work.

Someone afterwards told me to think of myself as a soldier in a war.  I suppose that could be true.  But on that day all I thought about was how disgusting it was but that I was bound and determine to survive even if I was the last one standing.  I was hours doing it.  I'd go from lump to lump, kick the snow away and then deliver a single (usually a single anyway) chop to the back of the neck.  Doc had devised this back in the city; he called it "the procedure."  This served two purposes.  First off it severed the spinal cord from the brain which stopped any possible movement from occurring.  Secondly, it was humane because it stopped the brain from being able to send any kind of pain signals to the rest of the body.  Those two points combined meant that there was too much damage for the disease to repair before the brain shut down permanently.  And if it didn't, well you didn't think about that too much when you were putting the bodies in a pile to burn and dispose of.

Lucky for me the puss brains only spread out into the surrounding woods about a hundred feet and came no where near my creek ... at least not the up end that I used to get my water from.  Also lucky for me that Jamie and Shane had enough sense to duck when they made the mistake of sneaking up on me.

"Whoa!  Whoa, whoa, whoa!!  Put that thing down!!"

I was exhausted and ... hmmmm ... let's call it what Ms. Austen would have.  I was distempered.  OK, let's not be polite ... I was in a raving fury.

I ground out at him, "I could have sliced you open you ... you ...!"

"Uh yeah.  Kinda noticed that," Jamie stuttered looking at me with a growing temper of his own.

Shane said, "Knock it off.  We should have whistled or something.  She's probably been scared to death.  Look it this mess."

"I see it," Jamie snapped.  "Uncle Joseph is going to have a barrel of kittens and he's already had another attack."

"What?!"

My attention changed from the puss brains I'd been piling like cord wood to what I considered a more immediate emergency.

Both men looked perturbed to have let that cat out of the bag.  Jamie walked off at my question and was busy counting the bodies - I was close to adding his number to them - when Shane finally said, "Aunt Paulette says it wasn't a full blown attack, more like a warning shot across his bow.  He and Aunt Ava got blocked into their place and we couldn't get to them until this morning."

"Is ... is he all right?  Mrs. Svenson?  Anyone ... anyone ..."

"Get infected?"  I nodded.  "One of the single cottages.  Uncle Joe left a note saying that one of the men panicked and tried to go out a window.  They were just waiting on the other side of it and once the shutter was off ..."  He stopped.  "Dad and Uncle Owen and the others ... they're ... they're ... we all are ..."

"Grieving," I said finishing his sentence.  Trying to think what I could do for them I asked, "Should I come ... you know ... take care of things?  That way no one in the family ..."

Jamie's head jerked around and I thought he was going to blow but I'd completely misjudged him.  "You'd do that?  Even after everything?"

"What everything?"

"Us not ... not letting you in the camp.  Holding you off, not letting you passed the gate, making you live out here and take care of yourself ..."

He sounded like he was getting wound up and I was desperate to shut him up.  He was making me uncomfortable.  I suppose I could have made an issue of it but it just isn't worth carrying a grudge of that size to weigh me down.  "Whatever Jamie.  For pete sake, get over it 'cause I have.  Do I need to go down to camp or not?"

Shane broke in again and said, "Not.  Uncle Joe took care of it himself.  His note said to forgive him but that he was less of afraid of censure at Judgment than he was of what he'd have to answer for if he hurt his family."

I nodded and tried not to let it show how unexpected I thought that.  Mr. Joe had never been my favorite of the brothers, especially given his friends.  "Brave man.  And thoughtful.  I'm not sure that any of the Misters or the rest of the family see it that way right now though."

Shane shook his head.  "They understand, they just hurt too bad to appreciate it.  After what we've all had to do today ... and we honestly ... you know didn't expect ... well ... you're just a girl and all.  Uncle Owen and Uncle Joseph are pretty cut up thinking ... well you know what we expected to find up here."

"Well then run back and tell them not to be, at least not over me.  I've faced a horde more than once, but I suppose I have to admit this is even stranger than that.  Why would one puss brain, much less a horde of them, march into the cold when usually they are doing everything to avoid it like a reptile would."

I turned toward him to say something else when there was the sound like a limb cracking and Shane dropped to the ground.

2 comments:

  1. Kathy was that Cliff that just jumped into the last sentience. I hope you don't let him hang around to long I'm having trouble hanging on :). Thanks for the chapters.
    Wayne

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