The hunched, mangled and shambling form of Zombie-HH shuffled away, deeper into the hospital, moving at a speed known to icebergs as ‘leisurely’. His dragging feet took him away from the A&E section, away from his tormentor and away from the serum which had mixed two entities in the same head. Had HH/Chompy stuck around a few moments longer, they would have encountered something exceedingly worse than a trivial matter like zombification or hordes of the undead.
A shadow disgorged itself from the dark wall bearing the A&E insignia. The same spectacle occurred on the opposite wall. They did not stand there, for they had no limbs on which to do so. It could be said that the two corporeal figures merely existed in the hallway, though that would still be inaccurate. Space and time flickered at their edges, as if they occupied an altogether separate form of reality. Every few seconds their forms shifted, sometimes minutely and sometimes not. If HH still been there to see them, he would likely have gone mad.
Without eyes, the two beings looked – they did little else– upon the other world around them. At the other end of the hallway, the receding, stumbling back of Z-HH disappeared off into the gloom. Soundless words were exchanged between the pair of them. One asked, one answered, every time.
Well. This is unexpected.
Should we have seen this one coming?
Prediction is impossible for this one.
And the other?
Is she with him?
She certainly should be.
What does she have planned?
That answer shall present itself.
Does she know?
We are being observed.
Upon being seen, the Observers then took their leave, lest the imminent metaphysical unfeasibility carved a slice off reality. Observers cannot be observed, for that in turn would make them real, something they manifestly are not. The two beings did not leave for they could not vacate space which they had never truly occupied, but the man nearby could see them and then nothing but an empty hallway. He had looked upon the two catastrophic impossibilities and barely so much as blinked. Some conclusions shall be brought closer before any jumps are made: the man was not a God, superior minded, a pan-dimensional being, nor blind. He was quite a simply a war veteran, though still called himself a soldier in his body several centuries past its prime, and one thing about veterans: no matter what happens, they have seen worse.
Hence, he adjusted the time-travel device attached to his wrist, turned on his heel and stalked off further into A&E. Nonchalance wouldn’t come close.
The veteran/ex-soldier and all-round unwelcome guest moved in precisely the way his self-description suggested. His eyes were constantly roaming the surrounding area, picking out strategic weak points and locations of cover, much in the same way a child analyses a hotel room on the first night. Timed almost to the minute, he would stop, ceasing the sound of his footsteps to check for others. The further he ventured into A&E, past the deserted wards and dilapidated waiting rooms, the more noise slowly came to greet him: noise which, as he turned a corner into the X-Ray department, faded gracelessly into singing. The soldier froze, head cocked to one side, watching every darkened corner available to him. His hand was already on the holster of his blaster with no memory of when it arrived there. The song continued, apparently unperturbed by the presence just one room away. Moving carefully and quietly, he removed the gun, making less noise than paper falling to the ground, and started to creep forwards.
It still wasn’t the worst thing he’d ever seen, though it was fairly high on the list. A room full of corpses, nothing new. An old woman, with her vest of human skin, singing to a pile of assorted bones: there things were venturing into new territory. New territory, however, could always be claimed by the dominant force. Within a few steps and two lines of song, he poised the barrel of his gun where her skull and spine met and slowly pressed downwards.
“Keep still, stop singing and you might not join the other bodies in here.” His voice was like a scalpel through the atmosphere. He tried to ignore the stench, instead distracting himself by figuring out whether it was her or them. “Now I’m going to make one request. I cannot emphasise enough how important it is for you to comply, though perhaps this,” he pushed the gun against the bone, “gives you an incentive. Are we clear?”
She hadn’t moved, hadn’t even spoken. Her filthy, matted hair fell across her face, obscuring any features when she turned her head towards him and nodded. Without moving the gun a millimetre, he leaned closer to the nearest ear. Her odour increased. It was like descending his head towards a swamp.
“Where. Is. The cure?”
Normally the following statement would be prefixed by maniacal laughter. Samantha, for that was the hag’s name, didn’t have a lot of reason to laugh anymore. “There isn’t one.”
Guardian, her tormentor’s name, laughed instead. “Now we both know that isn’t true. Anyone playing the chess game of biological warfare knows to make a cure, just in case they find themselves on the wrong side of the board.” Although he would admit to himself, it was difficult to tell whether this one was already a zombie. Her lack of desire to eat him thus far, perhaps not, but then the general look and smell…
Past experiences, from what felt like a lifetime ago, informed him Samantha hadn’t felt the brunt of the virus, yet. The same experience told him HH had somehow managed to exorcise the illness from himself, though it seemed to have occurred by the virus’ own desire to leave the body. Or find hers. Of course, it hadn’t entirely vacated HH’s premises, the very same problem Guardian shared, the very same reason he found himself here. Again.
“So, last chance this time. The cure. Give it to me.” He clicked on the blaster’s fight mode for added effect. Its growing hum of building energy whined into the silence. “Or you can get acquainted with the stiff on the slab.”
They both glanced towards the closest operating table, occupied by one corpse and with space for another. Unseen by Guardian, the gaze which Samantha paid the corpse was laced with love, antithetical to his look of indifference. Another dead body, after all, was another unarranged piece of decomposing furniture.
“I’m sorry, mister. There really isn’t a cure.”
His grip on the gun handle quivered. Several hundred years gone and not once had someone called him ‘mister’ before, let alone said ‘sorry’. Alongside this sudden influx of manners, a greedy pit of despair was opening up just below Guardian’s stomach. She seemed to be telling the truth.
Two characteristics of Samantha: direct truthfulness and surprising elegance. Her appearance gave the idea she moved like an elephant with diabetes, but she had the strength and speed of a hurricane. Detecting Guardian’s momentary pause of self-doubt, she moved out of gunshot range, stepped, turned and swung out a fist. It missed Guardian’s neck by a centimetre. The needle gripped between her filthy fingers, though, had hit home. She depressed the plunger, shooting the black serum into Guardian and went on to perform the scariest thing in the room. She grinned. Samantha took a step back, glare going strong, openly revelling in victory.
Guardian was still looking off to the side, towards the nearby body. He looked less inconvenienced than a commuter just informed their train was delayed. His fingers drifted up to the empty syringe and extracted it, with no complaint. A pair of weary eyes locked onto Samantha. “Sorry to say I’ve been done already.” He let the needle fall, enjoying the shrill shatter when it hit the floor. “Advantage to my blood being 100% poison, there’s no way to up the dose. Thanks for the few extra millilitres.” Lifting a foot over the smashed glass, he made advancing progress to the crone, who seemed to be rooted where she was.
“That’s not fair,” she moaned. He was almost surprised she hadn’t stamped her foot.
Guardian sneered. The amount of unfairness dealt to him would have filled several novels and a spin-off comic series, with hopes for a sequel. Some old biddy in an undead factory knew less than the meaning of the word.
“When life isn’t fair it just means you’re not trying hard enough.”
He lashed out a punch. She didn’t react fast enough. Samantha toppled like a sack full of dog food while Guardian nursed his hand. For such a bulbous sack, she’d had a substantial chin. He gave it a few flexes and stepped over the fallen hag. Beyond the corpses – and CCTV monitor screens, of all things – he discovered several tables covered in lab equipment. A floor-to-ceiling vat of black liquid stood behind them.
Guardian clapped his hands together. If there truly wasn’t a cure, he’d just have to make one…