Nothing alive could have moved like that. Head tilted to one side, neck clearly broken, Claire McKenzie’s body shambled a hesitant step forward. In the moment between death and re-birth the corpse seemed to have forgotten how to walk: but it was learning fast and picking up speed.
Templar darted forward and down, fingers stumbling across the butt of the shotgun and scratching for purchase. The gun clattered a few inches towards him, the impact of the movement sending the one remaining shell loudly into the wall of the plane, leaving tiny dots of light where the fragments broke through the metal. Templar uttered a silent prayer and stepped back from the advancing figure, eyes darting around the interior for some kind of weapon. Somehow in that moment his arm brushed against his pocket, connecting with the crucifix within. He shoved a desperate hand deep into the gap and rescued the object, holding it in front of him. The corpse hissed, its breath already rank, and slowed but did not stop in its advance.
‘Claire’ Templar tried desperately, ‘do you know who I am Claire?’ Templar stepped back again, dislodging some crates. The angry hiss from the creature was all the reply he needed. Templar climbed onto the nearest crate, feeling its wooden frame groan underneath him. He scrambled even higher, aware that he was being forced away from the one exit that might save his life. Desperately he tried to clear his mind, to remember what items McKenzie had been examining earlier: had there been something there that he could use as a weapon?
McKenzie’s corpse stopped following him now, seeming to recognise that he was cornered. All it would take would be one touch and he too might become like this; dead, and yet still alive. Templar tried the crucifix again, knowing that it would be useless in his hands. To make the creature retreat you had to have faith: and he knew all to well that he had lost that a long time ago. No, not lost – he thought in the panic of the moment – things like this in front of him had been too much proof to bear and with that proof had come the gradual loss of hope.
Angry at himself now Templar threw the crucifix at the creature, taking a moment of pleasure in its temporary retreat. He took another step backwards, the connection between his arms and the back of the plane telling him two things: one that the creature had moved out of the inanimate object into something it could mould into new shapes and two that he had no chance whatsoever of escape.
There was a banging from the doorway of the plane, the metal first denting and then giving way to the impact before the door slammed off its hinges and rattled to the ground. The creature turned now, sensing a new enemy, and Templar’s eyes widened in surprise as he saw first one of Fisher’s men and then, behind the hood, a face that he knew all too well.
There was a roar of an explosion and the corpse rocked on its feet as a shotgun shell pounded into the head of the body. Blood and brains exploded everywhere, spattering across the walls.
The body fell, arms still flailing. The sky turned blue again as the energy left McKenzie’s body and flashed towards the nearest possible host.
Templar was already moving towards the door before John Fisher’s corpse had the chance to stand. He pushed his way out into the snow, taking cover with the other five men as they retreated from the plane. As he ran into the snow Templar thought he caught the whiff of paraffin – then he saw the flames.
A few seconds later he saw that each man had removed their hoods and unzipped their jackets to reveal the crucifixes below. Now, as he dove into the cold snow, Templar saw each man raise their cross as one.
Fisher’s corpse stumbled out of the doorway towards them, his advance held back temporarily by the flame. Again there was the roar of a shotgun, but this time the creature was ready and raised a hand to deflect the bullet. As Fisher reached the wall of flame Templar watched it regarding the smoke and knew it would only be a moment before it was strong enough to advance towards them again.
That was when the chanting began. Words so familiar, and yet almost forgotten to him through the mists of time. In the hands of each man the crucifix began to glow: white hot as if caught by the sun and reflecting its power. Templar stood slowly, watching the familiar ritual, and was surprised to find himself mouthing the words in time.
The first of the flames were going out now, the paraffin exhausted, but still the creature seemed driven back by the words until it was forced into the plane. Then, just as the words began to hum in his brain, Templar saw one of the men drop the crucifix and draw a flame thrower.
It was all over surprisingly quickly after that. Even so, as he watched the fire take hold of the plane and begin to gut it, Templar couldn’t help but feel that it had all been too easy. Finally the flames subsided and he turned to face his five saviours
‘So’ he said eventually, ‘You came then?’
‘We did what was necessary’ one of them replied
‘And I suppose that it was you that killed the dogs?’ Templar asked
‘We did what was necessary’
Templar shook his head, ‘You had to draw it out, force it to reveal the location of the artefact, am I right? And the only way you could do that was to give it the chance of life?’
‘What was necessary’ Templar completed bitterly, ‘Yes… so you said’
One of the men approached him now, gazing at him with something approaching concern, ‘Brother Gabriel’ the man said, ‘We do not understand your reluctance to this action
‘That’s not my name’ Templar replied, ‘And my reluctance is that three people died because of you’
‘It was unfortunate but necessary Gabriel’ the figure replied, ‘you should know that’
Templar shook his head, ‘No – there should have been another way’
‘There was no other way’
Templar looked at the remains of the plane, ‘So now what? Will you kill me?’
The figure shook his head, ‘That is not our way Gabriel,’ he replied, ‘You should know that’
‘Look’ Templar replied, his anger rising again, ‘Stop calling me that. My name is Charles Templar now…no one has called me…that name for a very long time’
‘But it is your given name Gabriel?’
‘And therefore mine to refuse’ Templar responded. He sighed, ‘The artefact must be destroyed…you do know that?’
The figures shook their heads in unison, ‘It must be taken back’
‘It is necessary’
Templar was fuming now, having to fight to restrain himself, ‘But if one single person gets infected then it will spread until no-one is left’
‘It will not happen’
‘But it can’t be risked’ Templar tried
‘It will not happen’
Templar let the last of his anger go. There was no point fighting them: not here, not now. Maybe once he would have tried, but now…He turned to the nearest figure, ‘Leave me a sled, enough supplies to get to base…I’ll do the rest’
‘I told you’ Templar replied through gritted teeth, ‘DON’T CALL ME THAT GODDAM NAME!’
The words seemed to echo across the bleak horizon long after the figures had departed, leaving him alone to his thoughts in the wilderness. Finally, when he was sure they were gone he looked through the supplies they had left behind for him until he found a short-handled shovel. Then he dug three shallow graves.
He waited alone in the wilderness until the dawn came and he was sure the bodies would not rise again. Then he packed the last of the supplies onto the sled and headed away into the gathering clouds.
And that, I’m afraid, is that. Not perfect and a lot of room for improvement, but there were some nice ideas in there.
Make what you want of the ending – I don’t believe in giving the reader all the answers, as I think it’s far more entertaining for them to be left with a few things to think about afterwards.
Regular readers of this page will be glad to know that DFTP will be returning to its usual random influences and musings over the next few months, but at some point in the future I may try writing something slightly different – probably off-line and with re-writes so that I can assess which was more fun.
Finally – a couple of notes:
Firstly – when I was thinking about this story I had intended for there to be dialogue between Templar and the McKenzie/corpse, but abandoned this idea as I felt it would take away from the creature to give it a voice
Secondly – if I had been writing this off-line and actually planning the story a bit more then I would definitely have gone back and re-written some of the earlier scenes, especially in line with the final revelations which don’t quite work as well as they would have if I’d planned things a bit better.
Thirdly – the violence. I hope you didn’t mind this too much – I tend to believe that you should only show violence in a story if you are prepared to show the consequences: a subject I may return to in another blog.
Finally: thanks for staying with me – it’s been really great to have your feedback