The squabbling, un-dynamic duo of John Shepherd and William D’Alembord, fresh from saving a nearby town from a doctor gone berserk but typically getting no credit for it, rode into the countryside to try and take a break from unappreciative civilisation generally, with William delighted to be able to see and catalogue a number of types of trees along the way.
As a wicked storm began around them, thoughts of spending the night under a rocky outcrop were put aside as the welcoming glow of light from a hunters’ retreat drew them inside and into jovial conversations with the head trapper and another traveller by the name of Gabe.
Apparently a disillusioned field doctor who saw too much in the war, William was fascinated to learn that Gabe studied for a time in London and as the doctor was a man of science, that the two apparently have much in common.
The sudden entrance of a worried looking young man, Michael, pleading for help with an ill girl ,saw Gabe determined to offer aid, and William only too happy to act as support. John, taciturn as evert, tagged along.
As the storm raged, the foursome were unexpectedly attacked by a pack of four wolves as they approached their destination, but some precise target-shooting from William saw three quickly despatched, with John taking down another.
Discussions of why wolves would be out in a storm were quickly forgotten as the homestead was reached. Gabe noted that the bed-ridden girl had a vicious bite wound to her arm, and treated her as best he could, administering fresh dressings and a shot of penicillin to fight the infection that was clearly taking hold.
Meanwhile, John lead the investigation into what had happened, establishing with the cabins only other inhabitant, the girl’s father, Orson, that she had returned from an afternoon in the forest around two days ago, babbling and clutching her arm.
A sudden scratching at the door had weapons drawn at the fear of further wolves attacking. At John’s command Michael opened the door and give John’s dual Peacemakers a chance to get a bead on whatever was outside. At the sight of a four legged creature bounding through the door, John’s coolness and decision to not blaze away at the first sight of trouble was rewarded when Orson’s golden retriever leapt into his arms.
The sense of palpable relief was quickly undermined however by Gabe, stood by the window, noting that there was an ominous figure stood just outside the homestead fencing, seemingly unaffected by the driving rain.
Having confirmed that there were no other farmhands or people unaccounted for, and with calls for identity ignored, John strode out to confront the figure, with William backing him up from the direction of the barn having instructed Orson to go into the back room and protect his daughter. Every time John approached however, the figure backed off, eventually fading into the treeline. It would not be seen again.
As John returned to the cabin, something made him look back and he found he was being trailed by two unidentifiable figures. This time it was John’s turn to back away and back away as the two silent figures slowly but surely headed straight for the cabin.
In the end, it was William that approached, guns holstered and hand outstretched in greeting.
“William D’Alembord, Royal Geographical Society – how do you do?”
It was immediately apparent to William that the two figures were not membership material, failing one of the core requisites of even basic associate status – being alive. Had William not been attendant at some of the gruesomely fantastical sights that he, John and some others (RIP Quique) had witnessed in recent times he might have simply crumpled at that point. The two men, for that is what they had been, resembled poorly controlled string puppets – shambling forward with no real resemblance, up close, to men at all. That wasn’t the worst part. No, the worst part was how their greying flesh hung from their bones, or was ragged and torn. William had heard whispers on his travels … the walking dead!
Deciding that sometimes conversation couldn’t solve everything, the Biologist quickly drew one pistol, pointed it at the nearest of the two and … promptly dropped the gun in the mud in his clumsy effort to bring the weapon to bear! Flashing a nervous smile at the two creatures, he quickly recovered however, and with an amazing show of agility, dug one foot into the mud underneath where the Colt had dropped, flicked it up into the air and snatched it back into his hand whilst simultaneously drawing his other pistol from his shoulder harness. The action wasn’t fast enough for him to get another shot off however, as the creatures lashed out at him, causing him to reel back – untouched but in trouble.
Seeing that William was being attacked, Gabe moved out of the doorway to support him whilst John simply opened fire. It was a calculated risk given the proximity of the combatants, and the gamble didn’t pay off as whilst a couple of shots landed, one was into the back of William, causing a yelp of pain and a clear wound.
“Them – shoot THEM!” cried William, through gritted teeth – clearly shaken.
As another wave of the creatures loomed out of the distant gloom, the party battled their way back to the cabin, with Gabe grabbing the stricken William and hauling him into the relative safety of the doorway. John slowly backed into the cabin last, his pistols particularly deadly that night.
“Not again…” whispered Gabe as he reloaded a pistol, back to the wall beside the window. “This can’t be happening…”
“Oh, really?”, replied William, from the otherside of the room, also reloading. Done, he turned to fire out of the window. “It happens to me ALL THE TIME!” he lamented, as he fired into the darkness.
Pistol barrels ran hot as creature after creature fell to shot after shot, but as more and more appeared closer to the cabin, events turned somewhat “last stand” as the group barricaded themselves inside, taking defensive positions. As guns were reloaded and William’s wound tended to, Michael held the door stoutly at John’s command, but in seconds the door was a cloud of splinters as the horde poured into the room, covering Michael as they did so.
A last barrage of bullets ensued, with John, Gabe and William all worrying about the prospect of running out of ammo.
Suddenly, the last creature fell, and there was only the sound of the rain and wind battering the flapping shutters on the window and through the now destroyed door.
Michael, somehow alive having been wrestling a walking dead on the floor, stood – but the red spreading over the white shirt on his arm was clear to all in the room.
Guns reloaded with the last of his rounds, William holstered them and went to open the door of the back room. “Orson, we seem to have….”
Suddenly, in the doorway was the daughter – up and about, and with a feral, lost look in her eyes and blood that was clearly not hers on her hands, face and dripping from her teeth. As she leapt at William, he looked to react faster, and doing so he slammed the door in her face, causing a muffled cry of rage from the other side!
As the others turned to see what the commotion was, William explained the best he could.
“The girl … she… she’s one of THEM!”
The party backed off the door and took defensive positions as the creature on the other side rattled at the door, seemingly unsure how to open it. In short-order however, the door gave and she bundled through – but was quickly blasted back into the room by a volley from John’s Gatling pistol – the trusty last resort weapon of choice.
As Gabe rushed to check on the back room, it was clear that the girl was down for good, as was her father – who had clearly met a sad demise at her hands in the minutes before.
“What … I mean… WHAT… is going ….” came the incredulous cry from Michael, as he turned to John to try and make sense of the whole affair.
John’s response was unexpected and absolute. Raising his Gatlin pistol, he shot Michael at point blank range, causing the moderately built man to career backwards with the impact of two quick rounds, onto the table behind him with a sickening crunch. Moving up to peer over him, John realised the man was, amazingly, still alive.
Through blood welling up in his throat, Michael made an impassioned, final plea, one hand reaching up in an attempt to seek clemency. “… wait… please….?”
“I am very sorry.” Was the reply, before a point blank, double-shot coup des gras ended Michael’s suffering.
“What the….” Questioned Gabe, unbelieving.
“JOHN!” snapped William, clearly angry and upset.
John simply locked eyes with William. “You know why.” With that, he grabbed two of the walking dead bodies by a leg each and started the process of dragging the bodies them out into the rain.
As Gabe and William simply stared around in either anger or shock, slowly a pile of bodies grew in the yard – a pile including three people who had been warm blooded and alive only minutes before.
Under the table, a sad, low whine from the Golden retriever was lost as the storm continued to lash down.