Chapter 27: From the Mouth of Babes
The ghoul stands before the terrified kids. Her movements are jerky snakelike motions one second she seems to glide with her steps. The next the deranged figure twitches as if she's short circuiting. It appears that this “being dead thing” is new to her. Chip clutches Belinda with one arm tightly the other holds the pistol shaking. The weapon unsteadily aiming at the dead woman‘s head. The hall is bare of any hiding places he can see the only furniture is a large wooden cabinet filled with expensive looking white China immediately to his left. "Now young children I caution you to consider this precarious position in which you find yourselves." She smiles in the dark coming completely into the small narrow hallway. "I am not an animal like those of my kind who beat about outside. I am not without reason or compassion as oddly as that may sound." The stare down begins between Chip and the monster that had lured them into her lair. "You tricked us ......" Chip says gazing about to gauge his options. "Tricked you young man I saved you and yourrrrrrrr......?" She draws out the question. "My sister...... she's my sister." Chip mutters eyes narrowing as he attempts to focus on his target undulating in the darkness. Unlike his undead adversary Chip's eyes don't see better at the darker it gets. He is aware that he and B are at an extreme disadvantage in more ways than one. "She is a beautiful little girl .... Ben I believe you said your name was." The dead woman sits Indian style on the floor in front of Chip. "Here's your problem Ben ....." "Chip ... people call me Chip." He interrupts the talking zombie on the floor. "Ooooookay Chip it is." Her smile turns into a sneer. "Chip you pull that trigger and those filthy animals outside will besiege this house from all sides." She begins rocking in place her head twisting spastically to the right. "You make any noise louder that we are talking kid and those dumb ones outside will shuffle up to the door to investigate. Then those of my kind the animals I have described to you will catch your scent. They will tear down these walls to devour you and pretty little Belinda there” a wicked giggle escaping her foul dead mouth.
"What do you want errr ...... lady?" He asks the dead woman who is suddenly still. "God I hate it when that happens. My mind goes all cloudy like I can't access my brain or something." She rambles on. "My name is ..... was Tessa…… Tessa ..... Something I can't remember it's not important any way." She rubs her face smearing the black blood on her chin up into her hair. "Well anyway kids I got bit by my neighbor while I was trying to help her last night. I barely made it back to the house my mom was here waiting on me." The thing on the floor sniffles gazing longingly up the vacant staircase "my head hurts." She mumbles under her breath. Chip follows her eyes up the stairs he didn't see it before but there is a trail of blood on the white rug. It stops about halfway down the staircase in a thick maroon puddle. "My yeah ... my mom so I killed her then I … I found myself compulsively eating her flesh Just … just tearing off pieces of meat." Tessa the zombie continues as if the kids before her aren't even there. "So here's the problem that faces you two tonight." Dead Tessa smiles “I have chosen not to be like my kind and give in to my base urges, impulses or sickening compulsions.” She points a viscera encrusted finger at Chip mimicking his grip on the pistol. "I give you at least a fair chance Chip. One of you dies here tonight and the other I will allow to live until daylight. Once the sun comes up you can put me down as I will have lost all of my faculties reverting back to one of those shuffling sacks of pus. "Chip feels the stress of the last few days catching up with him. His body grows warm and Chip knows this is the sensation he gets before a seizure wracks his disabled frame. "You're not supposed to hurt your mommy." Belinda chimes in from her brother’s lap. Chip squeezes her side to quiet her. Not forcefully just enough to get her attention. He does this the way a parent will when their child is repeating something unfaltering they have said about their boss to their boss at the company picnic. Belinda James speaks her mind anyway without stopping. Their dad said it was a trait she got from their mother. "Why would you hurt your mommy Tessa?" Chip's stomach lurches at the sound of his little sister calling the ghoul by name. He felt B was making the dead woman more human which wasn't good in his opinion. Chip didn't know if he could put down a human the way he could with a zombie. The thing sitting before the James children glares absent mindedly awaking from a daze. "I'm bad sweetie pie ..... I'm evil only someone who is evil will do what I have done here tonight." Belinda raises her head to face Tessa for the first time. The small girl in the pink shorts is brave and unflinching. "You don't have to be evil Ms. Tess lady my mommy says God will forgive you." Tessa laughs out loud before covering her mouth like a guilty child. She bolts from the room back to her post by the front window. The ghoul peaks out from the curtains. The streets outside are clear Tessa takes a moment to lose herself in the dancing orange Aurora streaming across the clear purple sky. Slowly she draws herself away from the heavenly lights making her way back out into the hallway.
"Sorry guys I thought I gave us away but the coast is clear we're safe." She pronounces into the darkness. Chip feels his arm holding the pistol slowly turning to lead growing heavier with each passing second. "Belinda sweet child ..." Tessa plops down heavily on the floor once more. "... You're mommy sounds like a fabulous lady I'd love to meet her ... well would have loved to meet her anyway." Undead Tessa laughs while scratching her head. "Belinda did your mother ever tell you what an abomination is?" The brown eyed little girl looks to her big brother she sees he's sweating profusely and his eyes are drooping. "No" Belinda shakes her head. Tessa moves in closer. Chip snaps to the gun now visibly trembling in his gloved hand his fingers kneading the grip. “Forgive me this can’t be easy but you can trust me Chip.” Tessa says scooting back across the hardwood floor. “Belinda an abomination is something unlovable even to God. I am full of sin Belinda the embodiment of everything God hates.” The house goes quiet distant voices filter in on the nighttime breeze. “Is that because you hurt your mommy Tessa?” The child inquires with a tone bathed in true innocence. Tessa hangs her head in shame. “No it’s because he commanded me to die and I feel like I refused him by coming back as this thing before you.” She says head drooping to the floor. “Tessa …..” Belinda begins to speak. Suddenly she’s tossed hard to the floor. The pistol Chip once held clatters to the floor firing off a round in the process. Tessa is hit center mass in her chest by the slug. The undead woman is lifted off her feet then driven to the floor several inches down the hall. “B … B …… Run.” Chip cries out falling from his chair in the grip of a full blown seizure. Chip senses reality swimming away from him closing in from the edges a familiar yet hated state of dread. Before everything goes black he watches the enraged zombie hop to her feet moving for his sister. “I failed …. I failed.” He repeats in his mind over and over until his consciousness fades away completely.
Chip becomes aware that he's sitting up someplace dank and dark. His first thoughts are of an afterlife spent in purgatory because he "couldn't save B." He plants his hands down at his sides "B!" his mind races. There is the sensation of a weight on him as he sits up in the dark. The younger Benjamin draws in a great breath. He was alive having felt his heart leap inside his chest. He needed to find B he had to know for sure what happened to her. Anger erupts from every muscle in his body. Chip pounds the surface under his backside the hollow echo of woods bouncing around the tiny enclosure. "Shhhhhhhh Chip." Tiny fingers come to his lips. "B!" the boy mumbles past the fingers shushing him. "Chip you have to be quite Tessa says. Those bad things have been in her house looking for us all night." The small child whispers. Chip embraces his sister he longs to look her in the eyes to see her face. He settles instead for kissing her forehead. "Chiiip stop you're gross." She protests giggling. "How did we get in here ……? Um wherever here is?" Chip squirms his little sister speaks to him in an exaggerated whisper. "We are in a closet under the stairs. Tessa helped me move you in here after your gun went off those zombies came running and I was scared." Chip finds himself blinking in disbelief "She helped ... us? Why? She could have killed us both." "She told me she wasn't a bad person and she hated what she was." Belinda's words confuse him nervously he licks his lips. "Have you heard any of those loud ones in the house recently B?" Chip asks his brave tiny savior. "Nope I was sleep. Tessa said we should stay here where it was safe." Chip repositions himself. “B I don’t think we can trust Tessa. Also I have no clue how long I’ve been out cold. If it’s day time we stand a better chance of getting out of here.” “Chip we can trust Tessa.” Belinda James declares. Chip breathes in deeply summoning up his nerves. He adjusts his gloves making sure the fit snuggly. “B where is the lucky mallet and dad’s gun?” He asks placing Belinda beside him on the floor. “We left he gun on the floor Tessa said we didn’t have time to grabs it. Your hammer must still be in your chair it’s in the hallway by the door.” He mulls over his options “Sit tight kid and lock the door behind me alright?” Like any smitten little sister she wants to do what her big brother asks but Belinda grabs Chip’s arm. “Don’t go Chippy…” She pleads. “I have to B if we are ever going to see our family again. Plus I’m not sure how much longer I can protect you. Every damn thing is twice as hard for me thanks to my noodle legs.” Chip senses a moment of self loathing pity wash over him. He decides to shove it down deep enough into his gut to let it fuel his actions. He runs his hands about the floor tracing the floorboards until he feels a breeze from beneath the door jam. He moves his hands up grasping the cool metal of the doorknob twisting it slowly. The door opens on well oiled hinges making almost no sound.
Chip makes his way into the hall salamander style his beefy arms providing his sole means of locomotion. Looking back towards the rear of the house he sees nothing but darkness. While upfront his chair sits pushed into a corner the large China hutch now lays on its side partially blocking the door. Mixed in with the slivers of smashed China is the dark shape of his father’s gun. The most troubling sight he can see is the front door sitting which stands open wide enough to see the empty yard. There is light blending into the pre dawn sky outside bringing a sigh of relief from Chip. He wavers seeing the early day Sun ready to return to its rightful place in the sky. Instead of backing down Chip pulls himself free of the closet gently closing the door. He moves on his hands to the living room forsaking his wheelchair for the time being. “They’re coming for you kid.” Tessa speaks over her shoulder without turning to look at Chip. The ghoul who had saved him twitches beset by the ticks that signaled her body leaving it‘s current state. “Wh … what?” He stutters. “Those animals are gathering in the street as we speak. I tried to hide you two as long as I could but I fear they caught your scents somehow.” “Thank you Tessa.” He drags he name from his mouth. “Why …why did you save us? Why didn’t you kill us?” The female silhouette hunches its shoulders. “I don’t know it hurt me not to. What I assumed to be my new instincts were tearing me apart from the inside out.” Chip summons up the courage to enter deeper still into the living room coming up behind Tessa. He watches her turn the orange glittering flecks playing in her eyes. Something was different Chip gasps aloud upon seeing her face. The ghoul’s cheeks are streaked with thick glistening orange tears. “I don’t want to be an abomination I want to die ….. For good this time the way it is meant to be.” The sky continues to brighten like a window shade being drawn slowly up. “Puuuut …..Meeee Doooownnnn.” Tessa moans. Her eyes having gone milky white any sign of the beast that had protected him was gone. The zombie plods on unsteady feet arms outstretched reaching down for Chip sunshine peaking in through the curtains behind it. The dead woman is almost upon him before he snaps to Chip lashes out with his left hand. He grabs the leg of a glass topped cocktail table snatching it across the floor. He drives the table into the zombie’s legs with all the force his toned arm can produce. Chip scurries backwards as the dead woman teeters at the end of the table. The uncaring walking corpse pitches forward crashing face first through the table. Tessa the zombie lies still finally achieving the peace in true death she’d sought a jagged shard of glass driven though he eye socket protruding from the back of her skull. Chip barely has time to register the scene before the first chorus of moans breaks the silence. A thump from the porch out front spurs the crippled boy into action. Chip launches himself across the floor crawling on his hands trailing his almost useless legs. Coming around the corner into the hall Chip can see the undead gathering at the base of the stairs. He doesn’t hesitate moving over the broken dishes Chip lays his weight into the overturned hutch. It scrapes across the floor pressing the door closed. He searches the floor for the pistol with his free hand. The door rattles as it’s pounded from the other side. The wails of the undead soon fill the air as Chip comes up with the pistol. He presses back the cabinet with all the strength he can muster. “Chip what’s going on?” Belinda yells from a crack in to door. “B get back in there and lock that door now!” He screams until she slams the door and he hears the lock click. He wonders how long he can hold back the dead as their numbers grow. From the rear of the dimly lit house the sound of shattering glass. Chip aims the pistol down the darkened hall as zombies now launch an assault from both ends of the house.
Well we bet you didn't see that one coming. The two James children have survived the night with the help of a most unlikely ally. They now find themselves back where they started trapped by zombies who are unyielding and beyond reason.
Comeback the week of March 24th to see what happens in Chapter 28 of The Living Dark.
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