29
Oct
08

The Restless Dead of Siegel City Part Four

Things are heating up for our heroes, so let’s jump right in!

SEVEN

We rushed through the fake graveyard at full tilt then. I wanted to put as much space between myself and the zombie as possible. The further we went, though, I began to feel even more conflicting Rushes. That vampire thirst came over me again, joining the zombie hunger. My arms and legs began to feel brittle, but the muscles were strong. And there was a rage, a sort of red hatred in my gut that was trying to claw its way into my skull.

“What’s happening?” I hissed.

“Forget that,” Spectrum said. “What the hell is that?” He pointed up ahead and, past the graveyard, we saw an enormous metal structure that could only have been a spaceship. Beneath it, bathed in ugly white lights, was a huge green-and-brown object covered in slimy webbing. It was almost cylindrical, nearly 20 feet long… and it was pulsating.

“Is that a cocoon?” Animan asked.

“A cocoon about to burst,” Mental Maid said. “And when it does, the Soul Wraith will be at the height of its power.”

“Well then, let’s make sure that doesn’t happen,” Annie said. She stepped up to the thing and drew a hand back, ready to punch. Animan grabbed her arm.

“Wait. This thing is strained as it is. If you hit it, you may just rip it open prematurely.”

“What do we do, then?” she asked.

“Uh… guys?” I said. “I know this is hard to believe, but I think that just became our secondary concern.”

“What could be more important?” Animan asked.

“Those.” I pointed back out to the graveyard, where a mob of slow, shuffling zombies was approaching us, moaning and salivating. “Quick safety tip: don’t get bitten.”

Animan smiled and pulled out a totem. “I’ve been wanting to try this one out,” he said. He concentrated on the little carving in his hand and his flesh turned green. A thick shell appeared over his torso, and it soon became evident he was transforming into a giant reptile wearing a martial artists’ gi. “I’m thinking of calling this one Tae Kwon Do Tortoise.” He stepped between Annie and myself and we waded into the mob, punching, kicking, and generally avoiding zombified teeth. Mental Main and Spectrum, whose powers were less physical in nature, continued their examination of the cocoon.

I dodged a pair of chomping teeth, driving a blow into the creature’s face. It fell backwards into a chain of more zombies, causing them to fall like dominos. As they climbed over each other, trying to stand, Tae Kwon Do Tortoise executed a deft maneuver in which he spun on his shell, sweeping the legs of the nearby zombies and knocking them down as well.

“Dude, this is almost fun!” Animan said. Annie, who had just thrown a zombie out of the alien encounter and into a tombstone, didn’ seem to agree.

“J-josh?” she said. She ran up to me, grabbing my arm. “Josh, what’s going on?”

“Annie?”

“Josh, I’m so scared!” she screamed.

What?” In the time I’d known Annie, she had always proven herself to be anything but a scaredy-cat. I grabbed her hand, fighting a feeling of hatred bubbling up in my gut. “Annie, it’s not you! It’s the Wraith!”

She just started screaming then, howling like a horror movie vixen, and from behind us Spectrum and Mental Maid joined her. Animan looked around in astonishment. “What’s happening to them?”

“The Wraith! The Wraith is going to ha–”

There was a horrible tearing sound and the cocoon shuddered. A seam appeared across the side of it and, at the same time, the hologram of “normal” Josh covering my uniform flickered off like the lights dying in a thunderstorm. Spectrum fell to the ground, unconscious, and we were all revealed in costume. Mental Maid fell with him, and Annie collapsed in my arms. Animan and I stared at each other, not comprehending any of this.

Fortunately, even with her unconscious, I could still access Annie’s powers. I hoisted her up over my shoulder, then grabbed Mental Maid and tossed her over the other. “We’ve got to get them out of here.”

The huge reptile nodded and picked up Spectrum in his arms. Then – thank God for fire codes – we belted past the chomping zombies towards the nearest EXIT sign. Hurtling the undead, Tae Kwon Do Tortoise kicked open the door, triggering an alarm, and we burst out into the streets.

This was not of any comfort to us.

The streets were still full of costumed revelers, adults and children, partiers and trick-or-treaters alike, but now each and every one of them lay on the ground, unconscious. Cars were smashed into each other, the drivers knocked out behind the wheel. A police horse wandered aimlessly, its rider slumped forward in the saddle. The only people moving were a mob dressed like vampires, zombies, and mummies.

No, not just “dressed like,” not if the wave of power I was feeling was any indication. These monsters were real.

And they were coming straight for us.

 

EIGHT

Animan began to mutter curse words in more languages than I’d realized he knew. We looked around for an escape route, a shared panic washing over our faces. Our backs were to the haunted house, and with it, the Soul Wraith. There were mobs of the undead slowly marching upon us from all sides. And, just to give us a bit of a capper, there was nobody nearby with flight powers for me to borrow.

“What do we do? What do we do?” Tae Kwon Do Tortoise shouted.

“Hope we don’t taste good without lemon sauce!” I yelled back. In front of us, the ghouls were slowly advancing. Many of the vampires, easily the most expressive of the lot, were smiling.

“And here we thought everyone was supposed to be unconscious,” one of them said. “What a nice little Trick-or-Treat.”

Josh?

There was a voice in my head and, for an instant, I thought it was First Light again. The second time it called my name, though, I realized just who it was.

“Tom, not now!” Annie’s younger brother, as we had learned, had a few tricks of his own. He could “climb” into a person’s mind and see what they saw, hear what they heard. He could also teleport to the side of whoever’s mind he was reading, but that last the last thing I wanted, and not just because the process involved a rather painful headache on the part of the second person.

Josh, something is wrong! Everybody is knocked out! Mom, Quentin… everybody!

“Crap… Tom, listen, I want you to–”

Whoa! he exclaimed, looking through my eyes. Are those vampires?

“Yes! And that’s why we need you to stay put!”

“Or bring reinforcements!” Animan said. He couldn’t hear Tom’s half of the conversation, but he didn’t need to.

Josh, let me through! I can help! I could feel a pressure in my head, then, the telltale sign that Tom was trying to burst through. I screamed again for him to stay where he was. Trying to remember what First Light had done in the wax museum, I aimed a hand at the encroaching mob. I tapped into Spectrum’s powers and sprayed a widespread flash of light. The vampires all shouted and covered their faces, but the mummies and zombies didn’t react at all. It would have to be enough.

“Come on!” I charged the stunned vampires and rushed past them, still carrying the two women on my back. Animan leapt after me and, together, we made it through the mob and into the street.

“This way!” he shouted. He ran out into the middle of Gaines Avenue and tapped a manhole cover with his fat, green foot. He hammered out a peculiar rhythm and bits of the cover began to light up. It opened up, retracting into the concrete all around, revealing the top of a slide.

“Emergency hatch,” he said. “They’re all over the city. I’ll go first to catch them, you slide ‘em down and come after me.”

“Right!” I watched him leap into the hole and then slid Spectrum, Annie, and Mental Maid down after him. I was about to jump in myself when I heard someone shout, “There he is!”

The vampires, all looking like they just spent six hours on a tanning bed, rushed at me. I grinned. “Later boys,” I said, rolling over and into the slide. As I zipped down beneath the surface of the city streets, I heard the manhole cover seal itself above me.

I landed at the bottom of the slide on a nice, soft mat. Animan, still in his tortoise guise, was carrying Mental Maid to a bench against the wall. Spectrum and Annie were already there, slumped over. I’d heard of these emergency safehouses before, but this was the first time I’d ever been in one. It was a small room, little more than a concrete box, lit by a track of fluorescent lights. In one wall there was the chute for the slide next to a tube to launch yourself back up to the surface. Two walls had benches, and on the fourth was an emergency medical kit and communication console, including three monitors showing security camera footage of the surface.

“We’ll be okay down here until someone comes for us,” he said. He concentrated on his totem and shifted back to his real form, then punched a button on the console labeled “all call.”

“Animan here, come back. Animan at the Gaines Avenue station with four others. Situation serious. Come back.”

We waited for several seconds in silence. “They aren’t answering.”

“You noticed that too? What’s going on here? And why didn’t it affect the two of us?”

“Three,” I said. “Tom says everyone else is out at home too, but he’s okay.”

“Well then, what is it? What’s different about us three?”

I thought about it for all of a second. The answer came to me quickly, probably because I never stopped thinking about it. “We’re Lionhearted,” I said. “The three of us.”

The thing we called the Heart of the Lion was a mystery, even to those of us who possessed it. It was some sort of spiritual connection. Some of us were just born with this hyperactive sense of justice. Those same people always seemed to get drawn to danger. We called ourselves the Children of the Lion, for lack of a better term, and all of the people in Siegel City that night, I only knew of three with the Lion’s heart – Tom, Animan, and myself.

“Why would that protect us?” Animan said. “It doesn’t really make anything else about us different.”

“Who knows?” I said. “But I can’t think of any other reason the three of us would be the last living people in the city who aren’t in slumberland.”

I need to learn to stop making statements like that one, because as soon as I did, the little safehouse was filled with a terrified scream. We looked up at the monitor, where we saw a girl – a living girl – in the middle of a crowd of mummies. And she was fighting them hard, fighting bravely. But that didn’t change the fact that she was going to lose.

To be continued…

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