Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Forty-Second Entry: The Blushing Bride

April 25th

We're still here at the Church of Christ's Light, but I'm not sure for how much longer. Maria has been acting up a lot here. I guess she's not into the whole Christian thing, but doesn't she realize she is ruining this for all of us? Let me take things in order though.

That first night here was rough. It's not that Alisdair, any of the Swords, or even any of the other survivors here did anything, it's just that there were some, lets say, personality issues.

The first problem happened right before dinner; Maria picked a fight with one of the female Swords; a woman called, and I can only assume this is irony, Little Nell. I don't know what the issue even was, but they were yelling at each other, and then Maria took a swing at the woman. This was a bad move as the woman looked like an Amazon, and caught Maria's fist full in the palm of her hand, spun Maria around, slammed her against a wall, and then wrenched her arm up behind her back so hard I thought she was going to dislocate Maria's shoulder. I felt her pain, as it's almost the same thing Maria did to me when I attacked her.

“Get off me, you bitch!” howled Maria.

“You will watch your language in the house of the lord!” Little Nell growled back at her.

A small group immediately formed around them as the Amazon continued to pull on Maria's limb.

I pushed my way through the group, “Let her go!” I demanded, looking up into the slightly tan face of Maria's attacker.

“You're with her, aren't you?” Nell asked.

“Yes,“ I answered, “Just let her go; I'm sure whatever happened was just a misunderstanding.”

“What's going on here?” I heard Alisdair shout from across the room, I turned and saw him, Peter, and Gerry running across the dining hall towards us.

The Amazon let Maria go, and shoved her into me, “Just teaching someone a little respect, Alisdair.”

“There will be no fighting in this church!” Alisdair responded.

I grabbed Maria by her left shoulder and ushered he through the growing crowd, “What did you do?” I asked.

“Get the fuck off of me!” Maria responded, and shoved me away with her good arm. Maria stormed away.

Gerry came up to me, “What happened?”

“I don't know. Maria attacked that woman for some reason.”

Gerry shook his head, “I'll go talk to her.”

I'm not sure what Gerry said to her, but Maria seemed to calm down for awhile. I guess I should have seen that as the omen of things to come.

The second and, to me, worst thing happened later, after dinner. Alisdair offered to show me and Gerry to the men's quarters and have one of the women lead Pippa, Beth, Maria, and Sharon to the women's area. Sharon did not take well to this.

“No!” Sharon yelled, and grabbed my arm, squeezing it painfully.

“What's wrong, hon?” I asked.

“I'm not leaving you!” she said, her eyes tearing up.

“I'm afraid you'll have to for the night,” explained Alisdair gently, “I don't know what your sleeping arrangements were before, but I cannot allow an unwed couple to sleep together. You're not married are you?”

“No,” Sharon answered, starting to breathe quickly, “But I can't leave him.”

“You'll both be okay,” Alisdair tried to reassure her, “and you'll have your other friends with you. You will see each other in the morning.” He smiled what was undoubtedly his best comforting smile, the kind reserved for people dealing with tragedy.

“Nooooo,” Sharon moaned.

“It'll be okay,“ Pippa said cheerfully, tugging on Sharon's arm, “Come on, it'll be like a sleepover.”

“I'll see you in the morning, hon. Everything will be fine.”

“Don't leave me!” Sharon pleaded, and a weight came crashing down onto my heart.

“I'm not leaving you, I'm just going to be in another room. We need to go by the reverend's rules,“ I tried to reassure her, knowing that all eyes in the room were on us.

“Then lets leave!” Sharon insisted, “We can find shelter somewhere else for the night!”

“Come on, Sharon,” Beth said, grabbing her arm and pulling her more forcefully.

“Fucking crybaby,” Maria spat, earning her a stern look from Peter.

“Watch your language, “ Peter cautioned her.

“Yeah, whatever!”

It tore me up inside to see Sharon like this. It was as if all of the progress she's made in the last few months was being undone in moments. She was regressing; a thought that was re-enforced the next morning.

Beth and Pippa did eventually manage to get Sharon to go with them, but tears were streaming down her face as she went, and she kept her eyes locked on me until she was out of the room, and oh God did that hurt.

I didn't sleep too well that night; I guess I've gotten used to having someone next to me all night again. Of course the fact I was sleeping on a cot in a room full of dudes may have had something to do with it too. Those cots rate somewhere between sleeping sitting up in the car and sleeping on the floor.

It wasn't until I went down for breakfast that I found out just how bad a shape Sharon was really in. I found her, Pippa, and Beth sitting at the end of one of the long tables that probably used to play host to pancake breakfasts and bean suppers.

Beth saw me enter, and rose from the bench seat and came over to me, “Thank goodness you're here,“ she said, “Sharon's bad.”

“What's wrong?”

Beth looked tired, “Sharon sat up all night crying. Pippa and I tried to comfort her, but it didn't work. She wanted to be with you.”

That was like a dagger to the heart. I didn't realize that Sharon was still so fragile. It's been months since she's been like this, but one night alone and she reverts right back to it? This is really distressing.

“Did Maria do anything to her?” I asked..

“She called her a crybaby, “ Beth shrugged, “but then she went off to find another part of the room to sleep in. I don't think she made the situation any worse though.”

Beth led me back to the table, and I sat down next to Sharon. “Honey, you okay?” I asked.

Sharon turned to face me, her eyes glassy and distant, her face still wet with tears. Upon seeing me, it was like a switch was flipped; her eyes focused and she lunged at me, throwing her arms around me so hard that I nearly fell backwards off of the bench.

“Don't leave me again!” Sharon said far louder than I would have liked. Once again people were staring at us.

“Sharon, you're okay. I was just in another room.”

“I was scared!” she said, crying again.

I tried to remind her that Pippa and Beth were there, but it didn't seem to make any difference. Unfortunately amongst all of the survivors here, none of them are psychiatrists; I asked.

Sharon eventually calmed down, and I told her I would talk to Reverend Thomas about any solutions to this problem that did not involve us leaving the church. I did talk to him later and he had one suggestion:

“The only way I could let the two of you sleep together would be if you got married. If you were married you could sleep in the married couple's dorm,” Alisdair explained to me in his office.

“Seriously?” I asked.

“I'm afraid so. If the two of you want to get married, I will perform the ceremony for you. Obviously it will not have any legal standing, but I don't think that really matters anymore.”

“You would marry us, just like that? Aren't you supposed to make sure that we're serious, and that we're going to tough it out and all that?”

“Yes, but there's a couple of reasons why I don't see any problems here,” Alisdair explained, “First of all we don't live in that world anymore. The reality is that God could call any of us home at any time now, so realistically there's less of a chance that you would not stay together.”

I nodded, “And the second reason?”

“Your friend, Phillipa, came to talk to me first thing this morning; she had the same question you came here with, and she got the same answer. I asked her to tell me about the two of you, and what your relationship is.”

“Well she has only been with us the last couple of months,” I explained.

“I know, she told me, but she told me stories that she has been told by the rest of your group. She told me that you risked your life to save Sharon's when she was trapped in a hotel, and that you stuck by her even when things between the two of you were bad, and you were seeing other people.”

“Pippa also told me that you took care of Sharon while she was in a vegetative state, and that you attacked your friend Maria because you did not like the way she was treating her. She told me that you covered for Sharon even when she tried to kill you while in the midst of a hallucination.”

Pippa: I know you have been reading this. I'm not sure how you found this journal, but it is not for you to read. If you have questions, please talk to me. If I catch you in my satchel I will make you regret it. Love ya!

“So based on all of that, I think the two of you have as much a chance of success as anyone,” Alisdair said, “I can see by the look on your face that you understand that this is not a decision to make lightly, which further tells me that I am right about you.”

“I'm not looking to rush you, son. You take some time and think about it, ask Sharon what she thinks about it, and let me know when you make a decision. If you decide to go through with it, I'll do it. Just make sure that it is what you both want.”

I thanked Alisdair for his time, and went off to think. Did I want to get married? I've certainly dreamed of marrying Sharon for years, and settling down and raising a little geek of our own, but is marrying her because she might go crazy if I don't a good reason to do it? Alisdair seems to support the idea, so maybe it's a message from God.

Then there's that feeling that I am somehow betraying Tara's memory again. Not only did I hook up with Sharon two months after Tara's death, but then two months later I'm getting married to her? I will say that I have not had anymore of the Tara dreams, so maybe it is the right thing.

I spent a lot of the day sitting up in the bell tower, which interestingly does not actually have a bell in it, but a series of loudspeakers. The view from up there was really nice, and the spring breeze was refreshing. I'd say it was quiet but the sounds of Marty's rhythmic hammering and his rock music kept floating up to me.

“I'm waiting, waiting, for you to call my name. I'm waiting, fixated....”

It is a good place to go think, so it was no surprise when Someone interrupted my solitude.

“The Rev told me that I might find you here, “ came the voice of Peter Atrayus as his head poked through the hatch leading down to the stairs, “He said you'd either be here or in the library. Have you made a decision yet?”

“Is this the topic of discussion today around here or something?” I asked.

“Honestly, yes. Between your lady, Sharon, right? And that Maria woman your little group has made quite an impact around here in just one day.”

“What did she do now?” I asked.

“If you mean your girl, well she's been looking for you, but she seems okay; nothing like this morning anyway. As for Maria, she's tried to pick fights with Camilleon and Mighty Mur.”

“Is she hurt badly?”

“Nah, those two aren't going to rise to it. She is wisely staying away from Little Nell though. Nell is still struggling to find her inner serenity. That's not what I'm here for though. I'm here to see if you need someone to talk to.”

“Not really. I just need to work this out for myself.”

“Okay then. Just know a couple of things. The word has spread and a lot of people are hoping you go through with it. We celebrate life and God's love everyday, but a wedding would be a nice break from routine. Also, the young one, Pip?”

“Pippa.”

“Yeah, her, she says you guys have done your fair share of fighting against the unholy, so tomorrow we'd like to evaluate your skills a little. We can always use more fighters, even if you don't want to become full members of the Swords.”

Peter started to head back down.

“Peter!” I called to him.

“Yeah?”

“If you see Sharon, can you tell her I'm up here?”

“Sure will,” Peter replied before his boot clad feet started clumping down the stairs.

It only took a few minutes before Sharon's voice called my name from the stairs below, “Up here!” I called back.

Sharon came up through the hole in the floor, and smiled when she saw me. Her eyes looked a little distant, and my heart twinged at that. It was just too close to the look her eyes had during her bad period.

“What're you doing up here?” she asked.

“Thinking.”

She stood next to me, and looked out of the bell tower, “Wow, nice view.”

“Sharon, can I ask you something?”

“Okay, “ she said a little hesitantly, and then turned to face me.

“I need to know what you want to do about our situation. I don't want to see you like this, and certainly not like you were this morning or last night, so we need to do something.”

Sharon looked puzzled, and a little sad, “I'm sorry. I'll try and be better.” This was not the Sharon I have loved for so long, this was some sad little whipped puppy who seemed to think I was scolding her, as if I had any right to.

“I'm not mad. I just don't want to see you in pain, so we need to decide what to do.”

“I just don't want to lose you,” she replied.

“I know. I need you to focus for a minute here, okay?”

Sharon nodded in reply.

“Our choices seem to be these. We can do what we did last night, and risk seeing you get... sick again, we can leave and try to find shelter elsewhere, or we can get married.”

Sharon tilted her head as if unsure what I was saying. Her eyes were starting to tear up.

“I think it's safe to say that neither of us want a repeat of last night, yes?”

“I was just scared, I'm sorry.”

“I know, and I don't want you to be, so we can rule that out, “ I said, trying to keep myself focused, “And I'm not going to ask the others to leave with us if we leave, so that leaves one option.”

I dropped to one knee in front of Sharon, the girl I've loved for so long, the girl I lost because I let opportunity after opportunity pass un-taken, and took her hands in mine, “Sharon Sparks,” I said, “Will you marry me.”

Sharon looked down at me, her eyes seemed to focus and unfocus like the lens of a camera, as if she was seeing me one moment and looking through me the next. She frowned for a moment, opened her mouth to speak, and then stopped. She opened it again and said, “Are... are you serious?”

“Yes. I've lost you three times already, and I don't want to lose you a fourth. I think we've ended up here for a reason, I think this is the right thing to do, and Reverend Thomas already said he would do it if that is what we wanted. Then we could stay together in the married couple's dorm.

Sharon looked down at me, her face switching back and forth between states of confusion and understanding, “So you want to marry me? Even though I'm....”

“You're the woman I have loved for so many years, “I said, which I suppose was not the whole truth, but I knew that my Sharon was in there; I had seen her only twenty four hours before.

“But I'm... I'm sick,” fear crept into her eyes as they unfocused.

“You're still you.”

“Okay, “ her eyes focused again, “but I'm keeping my name,” Sharon smiled at me, and pulled me to my feet. She put her arms around me and kissed me.

We went down and told Alisdair of our decision, and to say he was overjoyed would not be an exaggeration. He must have already been setting things up in anticipation of our doing it, because within the hour he was ready.

The wedding was a simple thÆ’ing; not at all what I had imagined my wedding would be like (although to be fair, I had imagined my wedding involving cosplay). Almost all of the other survivors at the church were there.

Gerry was cast in the role of my best man, and even had a ring for me to put on Sharon's finger (he explained that Alisdair had given it to him, and that apparently it was in the church's lost and found). On Sharon's side stood Beth with Pippa as the maid of honor; Maria had disappeared during all of this.

An older lady with glasses played the wedding march on the piano in the band section as Sharon made the long walk down the auditorium sized chapel's center aisle. She was wearing a t-shirt and jeans instead of a white dress (or, say, Yomiko Readman cosplay), but she had been given a veil to wear.

Alisdair kept the ceremony short and traditional; no sermons or anything. When it was time, Gerry handed me the ring, and I slipped it onto Sharon's finger. The ring is a little big for her, but not so much so that it is likely to slide off or anything.

Til-death-do-we-parts said, Alisdair declared us man and wife. As we kissed the audience of total strangers, many in black leather, cheered us. With that I said goodbye to being a bachelor, and hello to wedded bliss. Now we just need to find a little house with a white picket fence to settle down into.

There was of course no time for a proper honeymoon, and I think all of the airlines have gone out of business anyway. We did get to move into the married couple's dorm though, which seems to have been a large storage room on the second floor. Curtains have been hung from the ceiling to divide the room up for privacy.

We share this room with five other couples, all of whom seem nice enough. We're not sleeping on cots in there either, but on an air mattress on the floor. I think I preferred sleeping bags on the floor, but Sharon seems happy with it; she's not had any issues since then.

As Peter promised me, the next day was spent with him, Alisdair, and some of the other Swords trying to decide what to do with us. We retrieved our weapons from the cars, and assembled in the church's gymnasium.

Alisdair, Peter, and Marty looked over out melee weapons, and while they did not really criticize any of them directly, they did seem to get a chuckle out of the Uruk-hai swords. I'm not sure how a bunch of bikers with broadswords strapped to their backs have room to mock, but then maybe they just liked Lord of the Rings too.

We demonstrated how we handle our chosen weapons, and they tried to give us pointers on how to use them more effectively. Peter showed me how I have a lot more control of my sword if I keep both hands on it instead of wielding it like a club. For Gerry they suggested maybe switching to a child's bat so that he could use it more like a club.

After seeing how we fight against air, they seemed somewhat impressed, and gave each of us a wooden sword and a football helmet. The sword were marred scuffed up items that had seen a lot of use, as were the helmets. Football helmets seemed a bit of an odd choice, but I guess they did not want to scuff up their motorcycle helmets.

“I don't think these will do much good against the zeds,” Maria commented.

“They're not for fighting the undead,” explained Peter with forced patience, “They are for fighting each other. Pair off and duel.”

“What?” asked Pippa.

“We don't really do a lot of fighting against other living people,” said Gerry.

“Not hand to hand anyway,” added Beth

“If you can best a living opponent then you should never have a problem against the unholy.” explained Alidair.

We paired off, me with my lovely wife, Maria with Pippa, and Beth with Gerry. We started sparring, slowly at first, but then swinging faster and striking harder as we got used to the new weapon in our hands.

The sound of wood clacking against wood was the only noise breaking the silence out there. Aside from that it was incredibly peaceful out there just a couple of hundred yards away from the curch building, but this quiet was also largely due to the lack of Marty's distant hammering and music.

Out of the corner of my eyes I could see Pippa struggling to hold her own against Maria. Pippa was fast, and able to block or dodge all of Maria's strikes, but she was definitely on the defensive. Not for the first time it occurred to me that Maria may have had some previous training in this sort of thing.

I had been holding my own against Sharon just fine, but between being distracted by Pippa and Maria and the memories of having lightsaber duels in Tara's geek cave I was not fighting as well as I could. This resulted in my deflecting a blow towards myself instead of away.

Sharon swung down at me, and I brought my practice sword up to block at a bad angle. Instead off her blading sliding off the end of the sword and away from me, it sled down the blade, skipped off the hilt, and hit me hard in the right side of my head. I think if not for the helmet I would have been injured, wood blade or not.

Sparkling flashes filled my eyes, and I went down onto the soft grass.

“Oh no!” cried Sharon, and dropped to her knees, “I'm sorry! Are you okay.”

That was enough to distract Pippa; she let our a yell, and went down also. When my vision cleared enough I saw her laying on the ground, clutching her left leg where Maria had dealt an apparently vicious blow, and Maria was standing over her with the tip of her sword at Pippa's throat.

“Okay, stop!” called Alisdair.

Peter moved faster than someone as big as he should be able to, and with one big hand shoved Maria backwards and away from Pippa. “What's wrong with you?” he demanded.

“You have to win to live, right?”

“Peter, please tend to our other injured brother,” Alisdair said.

Peter glared at Maria, and then came over to where I was now sitting up with Sharon trying to release the catch on my helmet.

Alisdair walked over to Maria, and in a single smooth motion stooped down to grab Pippa's sword off of the grass and raised it before him, ”Miss Perez, you are a bully.”

“I don't consider doing what keeps me alive bullying.”

Sharon finally succeeded in getting my helmet off, and was feeling the side of my head. I guess she was looking for a lump to be forming or something.

“This young lady was no threat to you. You clearly had her outclassed, and she is not your enemy in any case.”

While Alisdair and Maria were facing off, Peter was asking me questions like how many fingers he was holding up, what my name was, what my wife's name was, where I was. The sort of stuff you always see people do in movies when they are trying to tell if someone has a concussion.

“Furthermore,” continued Alisdair, “she is your friend, and your ally. I know that you are afraid of what has happened to the world we live in, but if you do not start treating those who care about better you may find that there are worse fates than death.”

“Whatever,” Maria replied, her eyes narrowing at the reverend.

“How about you try someone who may be a little bit more of your skill level?”

Alisdair swung Pippa's sword suddenly, aiming for Maria's helmeted head.

Maria's eyes widened as she brought her sword up to block Reverend Thomas' strike, and stumbled back a step. Alisdair pushed his assault, swinging at Maria again and again, and now she was the one on the defensive, losing a half step of ground with each blow she blocked.

Maria's expression was a mix of fear and anger. She couldn't find an opening that would allow her to even take a single swing at the battling preacher. For his part, Alisdair was the epitome of a Jedi, Tara would have been so impressed. Alisdair, no helmet on his head, and no real expression on his face continued his assault on someone I once considered a friend like a machine.

Maria tried to kick her attacker in the leg, but it was as if Alisdair had been waiting for this. He brought his blade down and under her striking limb, caught her from behind, and pulled the sword up. Maria was thrown off balance, and went down on her back. With a flourish, Alisdair gave the blade a swing through the air, and then brought the blade, stopping the tip just at Maria's chest where her helmet ended.

“You don't fight with honor, do you?” Alisdair asked, pressing the tip of the practice sword into his fallen opponent's throat.

“I fight to win.”

“You fight yourself,” said Alisdair, and pulled the sword from Maria's neck.

Maria sat up, and rubbed her throat, “I trust myself, and I'm still alive,” She climbed to her feet, and tossed aside her practice sword, “This is bullshit. Zeds don't fight with swords.”

I started to say something about baseball bats, but Maria was already stalking off.

“There's a lot of anger there,” said Alisdair, not pursuing, “You are good people to take care of her.”

“She wasn't always like that, “ explained Gerry in Maria's defense.

Peter was satisfied that I was not going to keel over, and practice continued, but without me or Pippa, who sat next to me on the grass rubbing the red welt on her leg (a welt that had bloomed into a dark purple bruise by the next morning). We watched our friends, old and new, continue to battle.

Sharon paired off with Beth now, and watching them was like watching a dance. They seemed almost perfectly matched, but it wasn't just skill that made it almost entrancing to watch. It was beautiful, not in the horrifying way that seeing Sharon kill those two security officer with a shelf was, but in a sensual almost erotic way. Maybe I'm just weird though.

Gerry on the other hand had paired up with Alisdair, who continued to duel without a helmet. He didn't need one. He was blocking Gerry's attacks like he was Neo or something. He never took a swing at Gerry, letting him stay on the offense, but Gerry never got a successful hit either.

We did this for the next few days, all of us except for Maria that is. Maria made herself scarce, and I only saw her during meals. She still kept trying to pick fights with the female Swords, but by last night they all ignore her now. It's a wonder that one of them doesn't kill her; none of them may be as big as Little Nell, but any of them could probably hand Maria her ass. I hope she doesn't get it into her head to start pissing off the guys next.

Up until yesterday we were just practicing with Peter. Marty was back to his blacksmithing and Alisdair was attending to whatever other number of things he must have to do to keep this place running as well as it does. Peter is a scary fighter, and I would not want to be up against him for real; hell I'm afraid of fighting him even in practice.

We were settling into a nice training routine, tiring and painful, but nice all the same. I enjoyed spending time with the others without having to worry about food, or firewood, or zombies, even if that time is spent trying to take their heads off while they try to remove mine. This all changed yesterday.

Practice was occurring as normal, Alisdair and Marty were there again to see our progress. Alisdair even took a turn against each of us, and though he defeated us all easily, he managed to do it without actually hurting us. How does someone become a sword-fighting motorcycle-riding preacher? What chain of events could possibly have led this man down that path?

Alisdair was critiquing us when we heard a motorcycle engine thrumming in the distance. A minute after the noise died, a stick figure of a man with a weasely face dressed iu motorcycle leathers came running across the grass towards us.

“Reverend Thomas!” the weasel man yelled as he ran, “Alisdair!” .

“What is it James?” Alisdair asked.

James came to a stop in front of the reverend, panting from his run, “Unholy, Reverend, maybe two dozen of them in town, coming up offa the highway!”

“Then I think it is time, “said Alisdair, “What do you think Peter, Martin, are they ready?”

“I think they're ready for the real thing, “said Peter, smiling.

“They seem worthy to wield my steel,” said the wild haired blacksmith.

“I suppose I should have asked this before, can any of you ride?” Alisdair asked.

“I can ride a bicycle,“ volunteered Sharon.

Alsidair nodded, “Well, at least we will save on fuel. Come with me.”

Alisdair, Peter, and Marty led us back to the main church building, and over to Marty's blacksmithing set up, which looks like something that you might see at a county fair, which is probably where it was most frequently seen before.

The tent covering most of the work area (except for the forge, which is exposed to allow the smoke to vent away from it) was flapping in the gentle breeze as our three trainers went around behind one of the big wooden work benches and emerged with five swords sheathed in rough brown leather belts like the ones that the Swords were wearing when we first saw them.

“When I first met you all, God told me that you were good people. That you were people who know loyalty and the light of our lord,” said Alisdair, holding one of the sheathed swords out in front of him in his hands, “ That you would help us battle the unholy. With one possible exception, it seems that He is correct, and so I ask you now to join us in our quest to rid the world of the unholy and protect my flock. Will you join The Sword of Gabriel in this quest?”

Finishing his question, Alisdair held out the sword in his hands to Gerry. Peter flanked him on one side, holding swords out to me and Sharon while Marty held a pair out to Beth and Pippa on his other.

The five of us looked back and forth at each other. It was Gerry that finally broke the silence as he reached out to take the sword from Reverend Thomas, “I will join you.”

“So will I,” answered Sharon, taking one of the swords from Peter.

“And I,” I answered in a voice that almost certainly did not sound as cool as I wanted it to.

“Me too, “ said Pippa, taking the sword eagerly from Marty.

“Then I guess I will too, “said Beth, taking the last sword.

“You are now members of The Sword of Gabriel; may the lord protect you, and may you always serve him well,” said Alisdair in the same voice that used to declare me and Sharon mand and wife..

The swords were lighter than they looked like they should be, or we have just built up some arm strength from practicing over the last few days. These were short swords, not the Buster Sword by any means, only coming to about three feet in length from the tip of the blade the the bottom of the hand grip, and they had an amazing amount of shine for something made in such a simple setting. I guess traditionally swords have generally been made in simple settings though.

I pulled my sword from its sheath, and held it over my head, “By the power of Grayskull! I have the power!” I said quietly, although that didn't stop everyone from looking at me since I had my sword held high. Sharon giggled.


After our induction into the Swords was over we were told to go out to the parking lot and wait by the bikes. Swords in hand we walked around the church to the parking lot where our Excursions still sat where we parked them, all of our supplies still inside them. Despite his request that we share our supplies, Reverend Thomas has yet to even ask us for an inventory of our gear.

I'll admit that as we waited by the motorcycles, I was a little nervous. I have never ridden a motorcycle, and it's probably been almost a decade since I've even been on a bicycle. Were they expecting us to ride, or would we be allowed to take a car? Neither... sort of.

A few minutes later a dozen of the other Swords came out; the majority of them looking the role of biker a lot more than any of us do. Peter and Little Nell were carrying black leather jackets and helmets in their massive arms.

“Since you all still need to learn to ride, you will be riding with more experienced members,“ Alisdair announced.

“But not without the proper gear,” Peter added, motioning with the armload of equipment.

We were each given a leather jacket and a helmet to wear, I think my jacket may have belonged to Peter, because it was actually too big for me. We all looked a little silly in what can only be described as costumes when facing our far more authentic brothers and sisters.

Strapping our sword belts (Baldrick? That sounds right to me) across our bodies didn't do much to make us look any more genuine, but I will say that the weight of the sword on my back did make me feel more confident.

We rode on what is called, I believe, the “bitch seat” of the motorcycles. Not the most dignified form of travel, and with our drivers' swords between us and them, not the most comfortable either. Of course even with the physical discomfort aside, it was still awkward.

Gerry rode with Little Nell, who made him look somewhat like a child on the back of her bike.

I rode with a woman called Camilleon, who has more normal proportions than Nell, and whose prominent feature is easily her hair. The color is just a normal dishwater blond, but there's so much of it and it's so thick that it seems unable to lay flat without her helmet to push it down. I think you could dunk her head in water, and the hair would still be incapable of laying down completely.

Mighty Mur was the name of the woman Sharon rode with, a small thin woman with glasses and shoulder length straight hair. Beth rode with Peter, and looked if not unhappy, at least displeased at doing so. Pippa rode with Alisdair himself, and of all of us, she looked the happiest. I don't know if she has a crush on him, or if she was really just that excited at the whole situation.

I have to say, discomfort aside, the ride was exhilarating and short. I think if we're going to do that again I will ask if there are any sort of goggles or anything that I cat get, as I couldn't really see anything between the wind in my eyes, and Camilleon's wild hair blowing out from under the edge of her helmet and into my face.

We ended up outside the towns only Apollo Coffee at the edge of the freeway. There were easily two dozen zeds, and they really did seem to be traveling together. I still wonder if this is a sign of some sort of intelligence, or if they all just follow the movement of the first one. I guess I would need to know what sort of intelligence those things really have.

We stopped a short distance from the zombies, and got off the bikes. The zeds saw us, or at least heard the sounds of the motorcycle engines, and were starting to head in our direction. Instead of charging the undead, our more senior Swords started to form a circle; they motioned us forward, and we all joined hands.

“Lord, today we go to battle for you,” Alisdair began, “I ask that you guide our blades to aid us in our quest to remove these abominations from your Earth. Please watch over us as we watch over each other, for we struggle in your name. Amen.”

“Amen,” the others replied; myself, Sharon, Pippa, Gerry, and Beth were all about a half a beat behind them.

The more experienced Sword members drew their blades from the sheaths on their backs, and started to stalk forward towards the approaching zeds, forming a solid wall of black leather and shining metal. We were half a step behind them again; they obviously have a routine for this stuff that we will have to learn if we are to keep doing it.

In a flash I suddenly felt like I was in Lord of the Rings; with a defiant roar, the members of The Sword of Gabriel tore into the small zombie horde. The only thing missing was rousing orchestral music to drown out the sounds of swords hitting flesh and breaking bones. It sounded like someone was hitting a watermelon with a meat cleaver while someone else was snapping stalks of celery.

I cannot do this scene justice, because I just really did not see all that much, and what I did see was a blur. I saw Peter behead a zed with a single, almost effortless looking, blow. I saw Sharon slash a zed across the eyes. I saw a balding zed impale itself on Pippa's blade, and keep coming at her until Little Nell grabbed it by the back of its dirty shirt, yank it back off of the sword, throw it to the ground, and stomp its throat.

Maria was right about one thing, fighting the zeds is different that fighting each other. The training with the wooden swords was great for getting used to the feel (either our real swords are modeled after the wooden ones, or vise versa) of having the sword in hand, and how to handle it, but the way you use it against unarmed zeds is totally different. I'm not saying that the training was useless, just that it maybe doesn't totally apply.

Of course what point would there be in just having us hack away at dummies or something?

I got to take down two of the zeds myself. One, an older Asian man, went down after a sharp blow to the side of his head that took off the top half of his left ear. The other was a short, probably blond once upon a time, woman who I got in the throat. At a diagonal that cut halfway down to her chest. The attack must have severed her spinal column, because she dropped, sliding off of my blade as she went.

I wonder if the fact that some of these things may have been undead as long as a year now added to the harsh winter weather that these things seem to have hibernated through has had some effect on their bodies. Maybe it's just the sharpness of these blades, but my sword seemed to smash through bone a lot easier than weapons did when I first joined the scavengers. Maybe these things are just rotting; maybe pretty soon the first generation of zeds, the ones risen just after the appearance of the Zed Virus, will fall apart on their own.

Of course I thought the freezing weather would destroy them too, so what do I know?

It's kind of hard to characterize our slaughtering those zeds as anything other than fun. That's right, I said fun. Looking back at how I felt after my first run ins with the zombies last year and how I feel facing off against them now, it's totally different. I feel little fear, and no real revulsion at what I am doing anymore. I feel I am doing what is right... maybe God really did send us here.

The battle was over in all of five minutes, after which we dragged the zeds, and their parts, into a pile, and Peter doused them with a can of lighter fluid he had in the saddle bag of his bike. While Alisdair led us in prayer, Peter set the pile of corpses on fire, and stood watch over them as the smoke rose into the sky.

Watching the bodies burn took longer than the actual battle did by a lot, but with Alisdair leading us, it felt like the right thing to do. I don't know if I believe that these things are soulless though, because it felt like we were freeing the people they used to be from the flesh cages of what they had become.

We returned to the church after all, and Marty showed us how to care for our new swords; yes, they are ours to keep. He told us to keep our fingers off of the blades whenever possible, and to always clean and oil them as soon as we can after use, otherwise they will rust.

I have to say that I feel happy right now. I've married the love of my life, and it seems we have found a new home. I still feel sadness in my heart for all we have lost, and all we have been through; I feel sad when my mind drifts to Tara. I cannot dwell on those things right now though, because I think we have found a new life, and it looks like it will be a good one.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go spend time with my wife.

1 comment:

VoltRabbit said...

Great entry, can't wait for the next one.