This is a story I wrote for the 2012 Thanksgiving. My tribute, of sorts. This is also notable as it will be part of a book I am working on for 2013. The book has been long in the works and will finally be finished and see the dark light of day.
Enjoy. (By the by, it’s unedited, so forgive me any errors you may find)
The town was silent as the night fell. A thick mist slipped from the woodlands, from the fields, and through the streets covering everything in a thick shroud. Far of in the distance, a world away from the town there was an explosion and a firecloud that rose like a Phoenix into the sky but nothing in the town stirred or moved. As dawn came over the land and the first rays of sunlight touched the edges of the town the sound of muffled sobs whispered across the town and an hour later there came three gun shots, two in quick succession then a third several minutes later and then the silence returned.
It was noon when the flies arrived, their thick black cloud moving slowly over the land, beginning as a small cloud that joined with another cloud and that vast mass moved slowly towards the small town and with it came the sound of movement through the fields. The first of the dead emerged from the corn fields at noon and by the time the last of the scavengers that shambled slowly after their brethren. There were so many of the things flooding into the town that the cloud of flies that formed above dimmed the sun and brought an early night. The air was filled with the sound of the flies and the low growl of the things as they moved along the streets and through the open doors of the homes. Home after home after home the dead entered and stumbled through, the scent of the living so strong that it confused them, made them believe that the living were still there. A group of scavengers found a pen with three dead pigs that were fat with maggots and rot. Their slow gait quickened as they descended upon the pigs and the weight of them broke through the fencing, the bodies of several of them getting impaled and stuck on the remnants as the others went to the animals. Their gnarled hands dug and clawed and tore until the meat was pulled free and the things shoved fistfuls of flesh that crawled with maggots into their mouths and chewed slowly. For many the food simply dribbled out of their torn throats and rotted bellies. As the last of the pigs was devoured the new arrivals to the pen began tearing at the bellies of the freshly fed, tearing the stomachs open and dipping their own hands inside to eat whatever they found within. While the scavengers fought over dead animals and rotten meat the hunters made their way to the center of the town and sniffed the air.
They smelled meat.
At the edge of town there was a great commotion as several scouts happened upon the house where the shots had come from and immediately the home was full of the dead as they sought out the bodies and made quick work of them. The hunters remained though, smelling something else. After several moments the thirty hunters turned as one and began moving quickly towards the church. And as they went so followed the scouts, and finally the scavengers, what was left of them, made their way slowly to the church as well. The great congregation of the dead descended on the church and shoved, shoved, shoved at the doors until finally they bowed inward, the hinges cracked and the great wooden doors gave and the things forced themselves within. The church was silent and full, each pew holding a parishioner and even more filling the second floor and its many seats. The townsfolk were all bowed as if in prayer and made no move as the things bit and tore at them, made no move at all as their stomachs and throats were torn open for the dead to feed. The church filled with hundreds of the dead and none remained outside of the building that could get inside, even those that couldn’t, the crawlers that trailed behind the pack, quickened their pace to try to get into the building before the meal was done.
And the dead feasted on the bodies of the towns people, pulling them apart and boring holes within them as they picked the bodies clean. Their dead were a writhing mass and as they ate the flies that followed and lead them came as well so they could get their own meals, though none settled on the people of the town, choosing the healthier meal of the dead. The dead all stopped suddenly and lifted their heads and turned them towards the front and the altar when the great barrel that had been placed on a long white plastic table fell over and spilled its dark contents all over the floor. Those among the dead that could smell what was inside hissed and moved away from the fluid and the rest buried their faces in their meals again and returned to their noisy work.
As the last of the dead made their way within the church two small forms climbed down a long ladder that had been leaned against the back of the building where there was a small entrance to a loft that looked down on the congregation. The boy was the first down and he helped the girl, a thin thing with long red hair, down and made sure she had her footing before he marched over to a hissing crawler and put his boot through its head. This done he quickly returned to the girl and she handed him a chair leg with some wet fabric and he traded her that for a lighter. The girl, taller than the small boy with the fierce eyes by a foot, took her own chair leg and flicked the lighter again and again and again until it lit and she set it to the fabric and her torch erupted to match the boy’s. She looked at him, her face drawn and pale, and she smiled weakly and he nodded and they split up and she walked around the back of the church. In a minute he heard her whistle and he whistled back and both set their torches to the sides of the church where they had poured kerosene and the sides sprang to life with fire. The boy ran to the next point and did the same, then to a third point along the sides and when that was alight he ran to the front where he found her waiting. Each went to a barrel and they pushed their barrels over and gasoline poured out in two rivers that joined into a sea that ran down the gulleys the boy had dug and to the doors of the church. As soon as the barrels were overturned and emptying the boy took the girl’s torch and nodded and she moved away. Within the church the things went about their meal, too busy gorging to notice the scent of kerosene, or gasoline, or fire, or fresh meat. The boy watched the things a moment and as he watched a grin began to form, something he would never let her see, never let anyone see, no, this smile was just for them. And as he smiled he threw the torches into the gasoline and ran. The church erupted with flames and still the dead ate as the fire washed over them, devouring them as they devoured the poisoned dead of the town of Inston. The boy and girl had happened upon the town looking for supplies and had found the place empty, everyone dead within the church, their hope finally lost, and it had been she that had planned this feast.
She that had planned this dinner.
He ran to her and grabbed her hand and they stood and watched as the church became and inferno and not one of the things within broke free of their hunger, their need, their addiction and this, this was their weakness, their greed. Something that made still tied them to their human counterparts. He squeezed her hand and she looked at him and smiled and he returned it. It was a small victory in a long, awful war but it was something. And sometimes small victories were good enough. Sometimes it was the small victories that meant everything. She squeezed his hand again and he looked away from the fire and back to her and she leaned in and kissed him on the cheek and his face ran a deep shade of red.
“Happy Thanksgiving, Hunter.”
“Happy Thanksgiving.” He replied before both turned their gazes back to the fire and the brief warmth it gave.