Past

   Looking at the stars, on that roof, bleeding to death, I felt at peace. All who’d come before me looked at the same night sky and it made me wonder how they would’ve dealt with the undead. I loved medieval stories as a kid. Were the knights of medieval England better to equipped for an undead threat? In my dying moments, all I could do was imagine …

 

****

 

England, Year of our Lord 1386

   The group of knights and their squire arrived at their destination – a castle – expecting to see the battlements patrolled and the drawbridge up, with the only other signs of life being the noises of the hustle and bustle within. Instead, there was silence. Even stranger was the drawbridge being down and unguarded. The knights didn’t need to verbalise with each other that something wasn’t right – they dismounted from their horses, retrieved their swords and gestured for the squire to follow, before moving towards the castle.

   Their advance towards the stone archway was not halted or impeded in any fashion. Knights with drawn weapons approaching another Lord’s castle would normally be seen as an act of war. Yet, there was no call. And they soon realised that there never would be. Before they saw the blood and other filth coating the woodwork of the drawbridge – and even before the hacked off limbs rotting nearby – they could smell the decay.

   “Marauders?” one of the other knights asked, surveying the destruction.

   “Can’t be, everything is still here,” Knight and leader Alistair said, noting the produce and other valuables still out in the open.

   “If not for supplies, then why?” the first knight questioned. None had an answer. Even stranger, despite the copious amounts of gore and body parts, there were no bodies of the dead.

   Alistair lifted his visor and called to the empty courtyard, “We’re knights and are here to assist.”

 

   Before he’d even finished his announcement, people appeared from various doorways and other places. They moved slowly, shuffling towards them with uneven and jerky movements.

   “My lord,” one of the knights gasped, seeing the extent of their injuries. Open gashes, torn necks, missing limbs. He rushed towards the closest person, taking off his helmet and putting away his blade. She was nude, with one breast replaced with a bloody hole and a ragged gash in her neck. She was pale and her eyes unseeing. Despite everything, he asked her, “What happened here?”

   She reached out to him, almost desperately, and he pulled her in, hoping to comfort this impossible woman in her final moments. As he inhaled the scent of death, he only just begun to question what she was, and then she attacked. Latching onto his neck with her jagged and broken teeth, she ripped and tore away his flesh, chewing it down slowly and methodically. He went down instantly, blood flowing freely from his neck and leaking from the seams of his armour. Without hesitation, the other knights charged forward – they didn’t need to understand their enemy to know it was one.

   Alistair was the first of the knights to reach the decaying woman who was consuming his friend. His blade fell from up high and straight through the woman’s abdomen, cleaving her in two. Then he froze. She wasn’t the first person he’d struck with his blade, dealing a mortal wound, but she was the first to be so utterly indifferent to the attack. It wasn’t that there was no arterial spray of fresh blood, or that his blade was covered in a brownish coagulated ichor -  or even the foetid stench that radiated from her. No, it was the fact that she continued eating his fellow knight as if nothing had happened.

   Disgusted and shaken to his core, Alistair continued to hack at the woman, rapid manic chops of his blade until the blade swiped through her head and she finally stopped moving. He looked to his fellow knights, seeing each in their own combat, slashing and pushing away the crowds of the rotting. Body parts fell but, one by one, they all realised the head must be removed to stop whatever pestilence inflicted the people.

 

   Alistair continued cutting through those in front of him, bringing another down with each slash before cutting through their skulls. Those that got too close tried to bite the metal armour he wore with little success. But that’s not what he feared, in great numbers, they could topple him and then it would be over. So, with steady footing, he coated the ground with organs and broken bodies until only one more stood – his friend and fellow knight who’d been brought down minutes before.

   Alistair didn’t need to see the unseeing look in his former friend's eyes to realise that he’d succumbed to the pestilence as well. As his friend lunged forward, Alistair arced his blade and severed his head from his shoulders. Silence returned to the courtyard and the knights regrouped, a little more shaken than before.

   “I-is it over?” the Squire finally asked.

   “The pestilence brings back the dead and I’d say this courtyard had less than half of its normal population,” Alistair recounted to the group.

   “What does that mean?” the Squire asked, voice shaking.

   “The gates were open when we got here. The others could be spreading the pestilence across England as we speak,” Alistair replied. “This isn’t over, we’ve only just begun.”

****

 

   Our society thought we were the smartest and most equipped to survive the world – after all, we’re the product of evolution – better than our ancestors. But nature evolves too, and everything alive is the ultimate product of its own evolution. Including this virus. It took everything about us and used it as a weapon against ourselves. It’s our hubris. Oceans rise and empires fall – so why did we think we’re any different? What does it matter? Those are the thoughts of a person, bleeding out, on a roof, looking at those damn stars …