Dead Lands: Part Two
By: Kelly James
I discovered if I focused on the game and didn’t let my mind wonder, I could almost forget about what lay beyond the electrified fence I erected around the base camp. I pretended the constant moan of the hungry dead were fans cheering on the teams.
For a moment, I was almost happy as I sat in the snow, sipping coffee and shouting obscenities at the football players. Then, Max came back.
* * *
“Excellent work, major,” I said as I watched the dead girl claw at her bonds. To capture a zombie, Max and I both agreed a dogcatcher’s apparatus would be ideal. The long pole with a noose at its end prevented the zombie from reaching its captor and, if necessary, the draw could be pulled tight enough to severe the creature’s head—I hoped.
The zombie was a teenage girl in life but now, as decay laid claim to her once beautiful features, she looked more like the Wicked Witch of the West.
My stomach threatened to expel breakfast as I studied the girl zombie’s features. Her face was a sickening blend of purple, black, and green. At first glance, one would believe the noose cut her air off, but the dead didn’t breathe. The grotesque color was because of rot, congealed blood, and insects. Her vacant eyes leered at me. I thought she sneered, but then noticed she had no lips. When several maggots dropped from her nostrils, my stomach gave up its fight and vomited.
Show time, I thought. I wiped my face clean and straightened. I couldn’t give an order of such magnitude doubled over.
I hadn’t paid any mind to which the soldiers were holding the zombie. But once I considered the order I was about to give, their identities startled me.
“I ordered Powers and Francesca on this mission, Major.” I was pissed. Max had never disobeyed me before and this wasn’t the best time for her to start improvising.
“Both were KIA on the mission, sir.” Max appeared hurt that I’d think she disobeyed an order. “I’d decided to take Howard and Phillips along too, just incase.”
In truth, I didn’t care about Howard. He was a first rate warrior, but a third rate man. But Phillips… First Sergeant Gene Phillips was the senior NCO in my company, my link to the soldiers. Phillips had seen more action than any man had in my command—myself excluded. Above that, he was old school. If I weren’t his boss, we’d probably be friends.
I motioned Max closer so as Phillips and Howard wouldn’t hear.
“Sir,” Max asked as she leaned in.
“Phillips is one of my best men. I can’t experiment on him.” My voice sounded panicked, scared even; I was anything but. Angry, shocked, and appalled summed up my feelings.
“I understand that, Colonel, but you should know Phillips recently filed a complaint with me against you. He holds as much sway—more with some—than either of us, sir. In our current situation, removing Phillips must be a priority. How long before he openly challenges your orders? He’ll become a cancer if we don’t neutralize him, now.”
The world spun. Four days out, and I already faced a possible mutiny? In one way, I understood. The world these men knew was gone forever. A weight like that on a man’s mind could easily crack him. On the other hand, our unit was the only bastion of normality left. Why Phillips wanted to change that was beyond me.
“What was the complaint?”
“Sir,” Max asked. Her brow furrowed at the insignificance of my question.
“The complaint, major; what was it?”
Max sighed. “As you know, most of the men in the company are from the south. They wonder why we aren’t headed that way. I imagine they’re worried about their families and such.”
I would have thought, under the circumstances, a soldier with Phillip’s experience would know the answer. We didn’t head south because the possibility of one of the men encountering a resurrected loved one was too high. General Henry was an ass, but he was a smart ass.
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