7. Morning’s Early Light
Stormy nudged Andrea before dawn.
“Mm- mmph.” It was Andrea’s wittiest conversation she could have before morning coffee— her “Cuppa”.
Looking around Andrea nudged Gail.
“Wh‘.” Was the best that the petite, muscular blond woman could verbalize as she stirred out of the best nighttime hibernation in a long while. She sat up, rubbing her eyes.
“The Archer is gone and Jameson is asleep.” Stormy said, matter-of-factly, but her eyes were sparkling with anger.
“Jameson!” Andrea threw a pillow at the coach driver with uncanny accuracy. “When did you come in?”
“Not long after Archer finished his shower. All you shelia’s went to bed, Al was asleep, he was up and said he was my relief and you were okay with it.”
In the control room, Al and the Archer were talking.
“ARCHER!” The women yelled as they came down the hallway.
“Uh-oh. Busted.” The Canadian chuckled. “You violated curfew.”
“Better to apologize than to ask permission.” Archer winked.
“You’re supposed get some sleep in.” Rachel said.
“You said to rest, and I did. I rested for an hour but could not catch any luck on sleep, so I came up here so that I would not disturb anyone.”
Stormy grumbled like distant thunder with lightning flashing her eyes, living up to her nickname.
“Men and children, the only difference are their sizes.” She said to Andrea.
Andrea laughed, looking at the two men that continued to gaze out the window at the outside world.
“What are you blokes looking at?” Andrea asked.
“Well,” Al said and looked out the window. “Birds.”
“Listen.” The Archer opened the heavy, armored-glass door to the outside courtyard.
The sounds of birds singing in the early morning light.
“I have not heard that in over a month. The birds stopped singing when all this happened.” Andrea said as she walked to the door listening to the music of nature’s composition for the first time in a long while. “What’s changed?”
“I’ve been standing watch for the last four hours. ” Archer said, Stormy gave an exasperated sigh at this news with fire in her eyes. “There has been not a single shuffler meander by. Not one.”
“Are they gone?”
“I couldn’t know about that, just that I have not seen them from the observation area. The only change is that we destroyed that vampire yesterday. After Al and Jameson ran down the street and took it into a church. We can rest assured it is not in control of anything at the moment.”
“Control?” Jameson yawned as he stumbled in. “Y’all disturbed m’ sleep.”
“I’ll do more than just disturbing your sleep.” Gale was dangerous sounding. “I should kick your arse down the hallway and back for not finishing your shift.”
“After my run down to the church there and all.” Jameson said, sounding a little more awake.
“Shut it!” Gail said, then turning to the Canadian. “Taking it into a church killed it?”
“Zac, Jameson and I took it down the road to the church— Catholic by the by— and when Jameson dropped it into a baptismal tub full of water. It bubbled and then burst into a flame, it was quite impressive.” Al said. “You’d think we dropped it into a vat of acid and gasoline, eh. It was quite exciting for a moment.”
“Yes, I would venture a guess that did it.” The Archer continued. “I’m not positive, just a theory. Now that it is lighter, there are bodies are visible, lying all around out there. Those bodies— over there and there — we didn’t shoot them. It looks like they collapsed suddenly, what ever it is that energizes them was abruptly cut off.”
“The vampire?” Stormy’s asked. “Are you saying the vampire controlled these zombie creatures?”
“That is what I’m supposing.”
“So you think it was controlling them.” Gale asked.
“I cannot say that for sure. It could just be motivational. A bit like saying ‘rise up and walk’ and then just let them shuffle around, aimlessly. No direction, just setting them loose to put pressure on the humans.” Archer shrugged. “It is a hypothesis based on the smallest bit of information.”
“So.” Stormy’s logical side took over. “You are saying that it is not a virus?”
“In the way it seems as of now. The jury is still out. If you excuse the term.” The Archer winked. “It could be a sort of, I do not know, maybe it is a sort of control opened by senescence – death. You become dead, your systems are inert and are open to control. A frog’s leg, for example, can move even though the frog is dead or the leg amputated. That could explain why those shufflers out there are not something that can be reasoned with. There is no mind. Just a power control.”
“That kind of power is unknown, nothing I have ever heard of can do that.” Gale said. “And it’s spread by contact with the zombies, not vampires. That makes no sense.”
“Yes, and true.” The Archer answered, nodding. “But it is all I have for now. Bigger brains than mine will need to think it over. One more reason to find a military center where they may have a fortress and are holding out against this. This started in Darwin, Sydney is the largest city, it should have a military base somewhere around the water.”
“Yes,” Jameson nodded. “There is a naval base on Garden Island there.”
“Perfect. An island is easily protected!” Al said. “That’s our destination.”
The Archer nodded. “Agreed.”
“No, it is not what you are thinking. It’s an island, but they have built so many roads and streets it don’t look like an island. Like your Manhattan island.”
“Still.” The Archer said slowly. “It is a base with defenders, I hope, and a place we can dock a boat to without walking across land with those flesh-eaters hunting fresh meat.”
“Okay, then prepare to leave. Pack light. We leave at sunrise.” Al said.
“Archer.” Zac said sleepily. “You were in the showers when we came back. I wanted to give this to you, but I was asleep before you finished cleaning up. The mum’s would not let me stay awake.” Zac pointed at the women as he held up an exotic shape of limbs and string.
“Where did you find that?” Archer’s eyes widened.
“I found this in a shop, it was in a glass case. The Sergeant said you would like this.” Zac smiled.
“Thank you,” Archer smiled as he ran his fingers over the four limbs of the bow. “You have any idea what you have here?”
“A bow. It is unusual, I have never seen one like it.” Zac said, his eyes glittering with glee that the face of the redhead lit up with a rare smile. “I never saw one with forked arms before.”
“This is a Penobscot style bow, it is custom-made by White Wolf in the United States. Look at this here. It’s called a Wind Warrior. And here? This is the number of the bow, the bowyer’s name and the draw it has. This one goes up to seventy-pounds. I don’t think I have heard of one that went that high before, the name etched into it here “Midnight”. I don’t know if that is the color or the name of the bow.”
“Name?” Zac asked.
“A few shooters named their bows. I was one, but I’m considered a bit eclectic. My favorite bow was the Gertrude. But this one is my favorite now, she is beautiful.”
“She?” Andrea laughed lightly.
“Beauty, thy name is woman.” Archer said, looking again at the four-limbed bow as he held it up to the light. “The name of the bow is Midnight. Thank you, Zac, this is a wonderful gift.”
“Now if someone can point out the direction to my clothes, I have gotten chafed wearing this prisoner’s jumpsuit. It rides up a bit.” The Yank said, changing the subject.
Quiet snickers could be heard as he disappeared with Stormy down the hallway towards the laundry room, pulling at the prisoner garb uncomfortably.
“I keep getting a danged wedgie.”