a Lazarus Pitt novel
Written at the same time as Max Brooks’ “World War Z”
Extract from Chapter XII
The war had begun.
It had begun and now it was.
It was and now it remained.
Would it ever end?
We didn’t think so.
Maybe our squadron was just being particularly pessimistic. Or perhaps we were right to not be hopeful. The things we’d seen, experienced, could still not be explained and none of us could see a bright future on the horizon.
Joining the army wasn’t an easy decision. Don’t get me wrong, there was never any bad blood between me and Uncle Sam or anything, it was just the idea of going out into the unknown and facing potential death I couldn’t get over.
Then they came flying in.
This was an enemy like no other we’d ever faced before. Now, not only our country was at stake but our entire world! There was no way I could have just sat back and watched it all happen live on CNN, without doing anything. What if this was the end? What then? What kind of life would I have led?
No. If they want this planet, they’ll just have to go through me.
Where am I?
The whole point of this covert operation was to invade the enemy base not hide all around it and lose each other. There I am, stranded in this ghost town, with no means of communication and no direct support.
That’s just great.
All around me are seemingly empty barracks. They had built a wall around the base on top of which their soldiers fired at us relentlessly. I had to see one of them, I had to see what we were dealing with.
I approached one of their soldiers, who was lying dead next to his weapon and, to my surprise, I found a young woman, not in uniform. Actually, she was naked. Naked and covered in blisters. Not only that but both her wrists were attached to the very machine-gun she was firing from.
Then I heard it: a rumble coming from inside one of the nearby tents. I ready my weapon instinctively and start walking towards it. Whatever was in there, it was safe to guess it didn’t want me around. Then again, what if the rest of my team somehow went ahead of me and took refuge in one of the tents?
I tap the end of my rifle on the ground three times, pause for a moment, then repeat. This was our code, our way of alerting each other, of letting us know that one of us was near without attracting unwanted attention. This time, there was no reply.
Whatever was in there: it wasn’t one of us. And it was, most certainly, hostile.
I run in, spouting out orders:
“Get down! Get down! Hands on the gr-”
I move in further into the tent, as I try to decipher what could have possibly been the source of the sound I had heard when suddenly, the ground breaks under me.
My heart tightens.
My rifle: gone.
The fall wasn’t too deep but deep enough that the landing cracked my knee. Struggling not to scream, I promptly bite my sleeve. If this was a trap, I had to buy some time, gather my thoughts before the attack. The pain was intolerable. I had also scraped my arm during the fall and I could tell by the moistness on the other sleeve of my uniform that I was bleeding.
I fumble around the darkness for my rifle.
Finally: I reach it.
I shakily stand up and start limping forward, down a deserted, unlit corridor. I start to feel dizzy, sick, but I push all of that aside in my mind. All that matters is the mission. I’m expendable, I know that, but if this is some sort of underground lair I’ve discovered, it’s my duty to make sure I bring as much carnage and panic to the place as possible.
And just like that, I saw something lying in front of me I wish I had never seen.
It was Smithey.
My teammate, my brother.
What have they done to you?
There he was: lying on the ground face down with the bottom half of his body missing. Gnawed off, it seemed.
We were gonna raise chickens together.
I approach my friend, get on my good knee and turn his body around to face him when, suddenly, his eyes open.
“V…”, he said.
“What is it, Smithey? Tell me, I’m here!”
Smithey died in my arms just then.
What could he have been trying to tell me?
A name, perhaps?
I knew I couldn’t stay there any longer. I had to go forward, move on with the mission. I say a quiet prayer for my old friend and keep on walking.
Those bastards are gonna pay.
Still limping, the pain more unbearable than ever, I finally reach some sort of large storage area: long, flat rectangular boxes, everywhere. Boxes upon boxes just sitting there, in the dark. Weapons? Missiles?
What were these monsters plotting…
I step closer to one of the boxes and go to lift its lid, making sure to keep my gun pointing in the right direction. I start lifting the lid when I hear a voice calling me from the corridor I had just walked from.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you”, the voice warned.
I promptly look up and, upon seeing a shadowy figure standing in the distance, I point my weapon at the stranger with every intention of shooting.
“Get down on the ground! Now!”, I yell out nervously.
“It is unwise to shout.”, was the calm reply.
The dark figure steps forward.
“Stay where you are!”
“Don’t step any closer. I mean it.”
“I mean you no harm…”
The silhouette steps forward once again and I shoot. This causes no reaction whatsoever.
“Now you’ve done it.”
Some of the boxes around me start moving.
“What are you?”
Finally, out of the shadows, walks a familiar face.
“That’s right, soldier. I’m a night-walker. Always have been.”
“Smithey got sloppy. We’re attracted to sound, we love it. Can’t get enough of it. Couple of misfired gun shots in the dark, that’s all it took. They jumped him, tore the poor bastard in half right there and then.”
“What the hell are night-walkers?”
“We live in shadow, we feast upon the blood of those who try to come between us and our destiny. The world belongs to us, soldier, we are evolution and nothing will stop us.”
“You’re wrong. You’re a mistake, a failed experiment. We’ll win.”
“You’re a good kid, soldier. Resourceful. I have a proposition for you: help us. Be our eyes during the daylight hours and you will be spared. I can guarantee that.”
“Then what? Say I help you: what will be left for me? I’ve seen what you do to humans when you’re done with them. ”
“You’re far more valuable to us than you realize. If there’s one thing we night-walkers will always need, it’s humans. I organised this personally, I wanted you to find us, I wanted you here. You’re the best we’ve got, soldier. Think about it: it makes sense.”
I look at the monster and smile.
I start applauding the General as loud as possible and, in a heartbeat, I see his hopes of a human mole shatter in a thousand pieces before him. The boxes around me rattle, shake and finally burst open sharply, like overcooked raviolis.
“Nooooo!”, Lohman cries out as the cavernous ghouls jump towards me, their fangs wet with hunger.
It does make sense.
There’s nothing like the sound of a deceived vampire.
More from the iconic Lazarus Pitt soon.
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