How long had he been here? Subjectively it felt like hours, but every glance at his watch told him only a handful of minutes had passed since he had sought refuge in the bell tower of Ludlow's First Baptist Ministry The door leading to where he crouched was bolted and barred with two metal wedges. Not that they'll be smart enough to try, but might as well not take chances. The thought was directed at the shambling masses of undead that swarmed around the church, and likely now packed the inside.

He had several things working for him. He had food and water to last him for a week if need be. He had bullets by the box-load. It wasn't enough against the swarm that surrounded him, but he had to try anyway. Just as importantly were the ear plugs he had in place. Not everyone that had been found dead in the past week had been picked apart by the living dead. Their shrieking and moaning were enough, over time, to drive even the stoutest person mad.

For the first hour he had methodically worked through his first box of ammunition. The fighting hadn't been smooth or precise, not like what the books and instructors taught. He was tired, scared, and he knew help would be days away, if it came at all.

How had he come to this sorry predicament? He asked himself that often in that first day. These creatures, these Vouden creations Should Not Exist. Of course, he thought while he kept shooting at the seething masses howling and shrieking beneath him, things don't politely disappear if logic tells them they shouldn't have been there to begin with. His hands shook when they weren't busy with his weapon. He had seen these things before, always near All Hallows Eve. Even though he had faced, and survived, these mindless creatures before it had never done anything to lessen the shakes he suffered.

The dark thoughts of despair and fear twined around him in those rare moments when he took time to rest. Maybe it really is the end times. There had been something about the dead raising up. Maybe this is it. He uncurled from the corner he had napped in and peered out into the churchyard. Even with his ears plugged he should have heard the louder moans and screams they made, but all was quiet. They weren't even facing him anymore.

More shapes came from the surrounding homes. At first he thought that they were simply latecomers to the siege. Then he heard gunfire. He stood there dumb and witless. Glory be, I might actually live through this. He heard himself shouting. "Aim for the heads!" He searched franticly about. Surely not all those that were coming to his aid were holding their own, not against the horde that had gathered. It was messy, and though many went down, most of the shambling hoard either struggled back to their feet, or crawled.

He started firing. "Aim for their heads damned you!" He didn't know if anyone heard him over the noise, or their own fear. His body tensed as he fired. Here he took one that was crawling behind a grey haired woman kneeling to search for something, maybe her glasses, or maybe a bullet she'd dropped in her panic. There he took one that had a boy by the throat. He no-longer shook with fear. Now wasn't the time for fear, or doubt, or anything but what had to be done. He didn't know where these people had come from, if they'd hid when the undead swarmed like locusts, or if they were from Away, and he only noticed them when they stopped searching for supplies to continue dealing with the creatures that he had wired them for help days ago. He didn't know, and at that moment he didn't care.

He lost all sense of time as the swarm steadily shrunk. Hundreds turned to dozens. Dozens turned to a bare handful. Then there were only those that had to be rooted out from where people had either been hidden or stored when they turned. They had won, but at such a terrible cost. His rescuers didn't know it yet, but they hadn't paid everything they would have to for their heroism.

He walked amongst the wounded gathered in the town hall. Most had hurts from poorly handled weapons that had cracked bones, or from stepping wrong and twisting an ankle. More than a few were suffering the shakes, much as he always did when he allowed himself to calm down after.

"What is your name?" He knelt to face a boy, who couldn't have been more than ten or twelve.

The boy held a bloodied rag against his calf. It took him a moment to register that he had been spoken to. "Michael Sir."

"Mine's Edward." He looked as if he were gong to cry. No. He would not cry. He Would Not Cry. "Where's your father Michael?" Best the father knew. Maybe today would finally be the day one of the survivors took their own justice against him.

Soon the boy's father was brought. Edward walked with the man and explained what would happen. The man listened, white as a sheet at the news. He sputtered and swore. Edward let him rage, cry, fume... He let him do all that because he knew in the end he had to if the man was to have any hope at coming around. "I'm sorry sir. Its something maybe medicine might find a cure for, but..." He went silent as he went to fetch the child. "I want you to know that if there were another way, if I could take his place even, that I would take it in a heartbeat." The father had lapsed into silence, which could mean he understood, or that he would be trouble. The price for surviving is too high if this is what has to be done. Forgive me.


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