One By One I’ll Knock You Out
Linc stormed into Burke’s office looking like a SWAT team member who got lost on the way to the raid. Burke quickly closed the the tabs on his web browser, replacing it with Solitaire and spun his chair around.
“Can I help you, officer?” he glowered.
“It’s me, man,” Linc said.
“Oh, thank god. I thought you were done for,” he ran up to Linc putting his hands on his arms, examining his face.
“We have a big problem,” Linc pulled off his balaclava
The ceiling started beating with the pounding feet of the police officers running on the floor above. They were shouting.
“What?” Burke’s face was blank.
“I killed Ehrlich,” Linc answered.
“How did you do that?”
“I destroyed his prophylactic.”
“Oh, god,” Burke collapsed into his chair, his face drained white, “Hell has been unleashed.”
“Yeah, that’s what I was about to say. A bunch of dead folks are coming out of his hideout.”
“It’ll be more than that. Every soul he’s stolen to keep himself alive has been freed and they’ll be looking for revenge, but since he’s likely dead…”
“They’ll take it out on whoever.”
Burke nodded, “They’ll tear the city apart looking for him and when they don’t find him they’ll more to the next then the next…”
“They’ll cover the world,” Linc said.
“It’ll belong to the dead.”
“What can we do?”
“No idea. I’ll contact Mr. Hare. In the meantime, see if you can get hold of a woman named Cheryl Ellers…”
“Wait, doesn’t she run that freakshow outta North Philly? What do we need them for?”
“We need all the help we can get, Lincoln.”
The faint sounds of alarms, cars colliding, and screaming could be heard from the street above. Linc dropped his head and groaned.
“Fine. Where are they?” he asked.
“They conduct their operations from a florist’s shop in Fishtown,” Burke replied.
“Does the shop have a name, an address?”
“I don’t know it, you’ll have to look around.”
“I gotta search every florist in Fishtown?”
“How many florists could have possibly set up shop in Fishtown?”
Linc emerged from the precinct onto the street. The scene was one of chaos as people fled in every direction. The traffic was at a stand still as pileups blocks the intersections. A line of police in riot gear tried in vain to hold back a clump of angry zombies. The air was thick with smoke and over his head wailing ghosts swirled and passed through the windows of the office buildings. The windows shattered and newly minted zombies fell to the pavement and lumbered over to join the fray. Linc pulled his balaclava over his face and made his way through the herd unnoticed by the ravenous dead. He came upon an abandoned moped on its side, its rider long since turned. He righted it and hopped on. The key was still in the ignition. He sped off on the slalom course of the shambling dead, weaving his way through. He got on the highway where traffic was at a standstill and sped down the shoulder heading north to Fishtown.
When he arrived, the area was quiet, the residence having long since fled. An old woman, looking like a babushka sat on a plastic chair, outside an apartment building, praying the rosary. He advised her to leave and she responded in a language he couldn’t make out and continued her prayers. He zipped up and down the blocks looking for the florist shop. Looking for any florist shop. He came upon a row of stores. They all had their security gates down. Peering out of a shop window was a small Italian looking man with a shotgun, giving him a hard stare.
“Is there a florist around here?” Linc shouted through the window.
The man aimed his gun. Linc shook his head and moved on. He caught sight of a sign over a storefront that read:
Bouquets by Bart
“Can I help you, officer?” Bart asked.
“I’m looking for Cheryl Ellers,” Linc replied.
“I’ve never heard of her,” Bart began to close the door.
Linc planted his foot in the doorway, “Look, I was told she hides out in florist shop in Fishtown. You’re the only one I found.”
“I’m sorry, officer, there’s no one here by that name,” Bart pushed against the door.
Linc pushed the door open and entered, “I was told to come here. We need help bad.”
“Unless you have a warrant or something I’m going have to ask you to leave.”
“Look, I’m not really a cop.”
“Oh, even better,” Bart pushed a button.
Up from the basement came a white man with a messy nest of curly hair wearing amber tinted aviator shades and a ripped up red flannel bathrobe over a t-shirt and jeans, holding a Japanese sword. He was accompanied by a sharp dressed black man, in a grey suit and glasses, holding a flute.
“Yeah, these idiots. That’s who I’m looking for,” Linc said as he approached them.
Hunter pointed his sword at Linc’s neck, “We’re going to need to see a badge or something.”
“I’m not really a cop. It’s a long story. I was sent here to get your help,” Linc said.
“Why are you dressed like a cop ready for a raid?” Ian asked.
“Tell it,” Hunter said, glaring over his shades.
“We don’t have time for that.”
“What’s the rush?”
“Don’t you assholes watch the news, go on the Internet, look at your phones?”
“Hey, Billy,” Hunter yelled at the ceiling, “You watching the news?”
“He was dozing the last time I was up there,” Bart said.
“Then no,” Hunter said to Linc.
“There’s some serious shit going down. Like apocalypse level shit,” Linc said.
Hunter and Ian looked at each other.
“Leave every weapon you have on the floor,” Ian said.
“I don’t know what all this guy has on him,” Linc said patting himself and placing what he found on the floor.
Ian raised an eyebrow, “Are you schizophrenic or otherwise dissociative?”
“What?” Linc asked as Bart and Hunter patted him down.
“What did you mean by ‘this guy’?”
“All part of the long story.”
“Come downstairs and maybe you can give us the abridged version,” Ian descended the stairs.
Hunter and Bart followed behind Linc and lead him down.
Cheryl looked up from her work and saw Ian, Hunter and Bart leading a cop in full riot gear down the steps. Sophie and Carl looked up from their card game.
“Lord, it smells like shit down here?” Linc gasped for breath.
“It’s fertilizer,” Sophie said.
“Are you guys building bombs?”
“It’s a florist, shit for brains,” Cheryl said, “Why’s this guy here?”
“He claims something big is going on,” Ian replied, “And he needs us to help.”
“And what’s that?”
“Why don’t you just turn on the news and find out?” Linc barked.
Cheryl switched on a small black and white television with rabbit ears. Every station was showing a test pattern.
“The stations are blacked out,” Cheryl said.
“Try the Internet,” Linc said.
“Server timeouts,” Cheryl said after clicking around, “Why don’t you tell the story?”
Linc sighed, “Okay, my name is Linc Otis. Folks been calling me Corpse Guy.”
“That sucks. You have my condolences.”
“Look, there’s zombies and ghosts and all sorts of shit going on out there…”
“And I look like Dr. Venkman?”
“There’s a zombie apocalypse going on out there and you just want to sit there make shitty comments to me?”
“It’s her superpower,” Sophie said.
“Why do they call you corpse guy?” Cheryl asked.
“Because I can inhabit the body of any corpse I touch,” Linc answered.
“You seemed to the escape the turmoil unscathed,” Ian said.
“They leave me alone. I guess because I’m already dead,” Linc replied.
“Oh, jeez,” Sophie said looking at her phone, “This is for real, guys.”
“Okay, I’m gonna make a call,” Cheryl said.
“Duke?” Ian asked.
“Duke,” she dialed her phone, but came up empty, “Straight to voicemail.”
“Maybe he’s already on it,” Sophie said.
“Who’s Duke?” Linc asked.
“Duke Dracula. He’s kind of a vampire.”
“More or less,” Cheryl added.
“Like drinking blood and stuff?” Linc’s face scrunched.
“No, he’s nice,” Sophie replied.
“And good in a fight,” Cheryl said, standing up, “Let us get our shit together and we’ll see what we can do.”
Cheryl’s Pontiac screeched to a halt in front of an abandoned police barricade. The team and Linc spilled out, like clowns at a circus and Carl emerged from his trailer. He retrieved his folded up mech suit from the trunk, placed it on the ground and pushed a button. It unfolded and wrapped itself around him.
“Does that guy need to be any bigger?” Linc asked as he watched Carl get into the suit.
“He’s a delicate flower,” Cheryl replied.
“Where did get that thing anyway?”
“From the future.”
“My great, great, great whatever grandkids gave it to him,” Sophie said.
“Sure,” Linc smirked, “That makes perfect sense.”
“Remember the spaceships?”
“They were from the future?”
“Most of them. A few people came from the past too, it was a mess.”
“From the past?”
“An alchemist and a fire wizard,” Cheryl added.
“And a past version of an archangel,” Sophie said.
“Dear Lord,” Linc said, “Please don’t let that be my life.”
“Look where you are now,” Cheryl said, “Smack dab in the middle of zombie apocalypse.”
Linc dropped his head, “That I started,” he said with embarrassment.
“There you go.”
“You started this?” Ian asked, “How?”
“I killed a necromancer,” Linc replied.
The gang nodded their heads, commiserating.
“This doesn’t seem to be phasing any of you,” Linc said.
“You’ll learn to roll with the weird shit,” Hunter said, “Or lose your mind.”
“Either way,” Cheryl said, “You’ll find your zone. What’s this fog overhead and why is it screaming?”
“Ghosts I think,” Linc replied.
“Ian, you’re with me on ghost duty,” Cheryl said, “Let see that degree in action.”
“My degree is in engineering, not uh...para-engineering,” Ian said.
“If it exists, it’s governed by the laws of physics and can therefore be dealt with by science.”
“Ghosts are science?” Linc asked.
“I met an angel once. Did you know they’re really aliens?”
“We ran into this guy once,” Sophie said, “Doctor Spector.”
Sophie sighed, “He was turning people into ghosts with a special gun.”
“You can do that with a regular gun,” Linc said.
“His gun was really just trapping people in higher dimensional space,” Cheryl said, “What intersected our four dimensional space-time looked like ghosts. And I suspect this is the same or similar.”
“What about the zombies?”
“Not sure. Could be a rabies-like virus, could be a cordyceps like fungus or bacteria, could be mind control. I won’t know until I investigate further. In the meantime Ian and I will see what we can do about the ghosts. You guys see if you can thin the zombie herd a bit.”
Linc led the gang to where the zombies were roaming. The herd had become so thick that they were rolling over each other like waves on the ocean. Police and national guardsmen fired into them, but were having no effect. The wave front was grasping at anything living in their path pulling in fleeing civilians, cops and soldiers, sucking them in and spitting out new members of their ranks. Linc and gang ducked behind a burning car.
“So what are we dealing with here?” Hunter asked, “Romero rules? Kirkman? Dawn of the Dead remake ninja zombies?”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Linc said.
“How do they operate. What’s their habits?”
“They just grab anything alive and bite it. The transformation seems to be instant.”
“So don’t get the way of their teeth,” Sophie said.
“I guess that’s it. I didn’t take the time to study them.”
“Welp, let’s get their attention,” Hunter said, standing up from behind the car, “Take some of the heat off the cops and fleeing rabble. Standard hack and slash, team. Let’s get messy.”
Sophie leapt to her feet and fired arrow after arrow at the herd. The zombies turned to toward the assault and began to amble toward them. Hunter and Carl charged out sword and fists swinging. Linc threw wild punches that didn’t seem to phase them as they locked their focus on Hunter, Sophie and Carl. Carl snached one up by its ankles and used it to bludgeon the others that were stalking him. Hunter sliced off some heads and ran his sword through others. Sophie unleashed a rapid fire array of silver arrows, that only seemed to serve in slowing them down and knocking them back, but not in putting them down. An unspoken word of mouth seemed to ripple through the herd as it changed its course toward the gang.
“This is…” Sophie said between volleys, “...not working so well.”
“At least their on us now,” Hunter said, “Gives the living folk a chance to run for it.”
“I guess there’s a silver lining.”
They fought, but soon found themselves being overwhelmed and surrounded. Linc looked at Sophie and shook his head and gave a desperate shrug of his shoulders as the horde flowed around him toward the gang.
“You said you can inhabit corpses?” Sophie asked.
“Yeah,” Linc replied.
“What happens after you leave one?”
“It drops dead.”
“Zombies are corpses. Can’t you just hop from one to another until they’re all dead?”
“You saw me,” Linc replied, “I’ve been punching and pushing them all day and…” he looked at his gloved hands, “...but I’ve never been making direct contact.”
“Corpse Guy doesn’t get to call us idiots anymore,” Hunter said.
“I’ve only been able to do this for a couple days. Cut me some slack.”
Linc pulled the gloves off his hands and grabbed a zombie. He collapsed to the ground and the zombie shook his head and looked at his hands. He smacked another zombie and the process repeated.
“That seems to work,” Sophie said.
“There too many of them,” Linc slurred through a half connected jaw.
“We’ll bring ‘em to ya,” Hunter said and ran toward Linc, “Gather round, children.”
The gang clustered around Linc as he slapped wildly at the encroaching mob. One by one they fell. Sophie and Hunter hopped on Carl as he gathered us armfuls and tossed them at Linc, dragging the ones latched onto his legs.
“Guess that armor isn’t overkill after all,” Linc said with a flapping tongue.
“Like Cher said. I’m a delicate flower,” Carl grinned.
Hunter and Sophie beat the ones climbing up Carl’s suit to get them with their sword hilt and bow. Linc’s daisy chain of zombie tapping continued. The zombies feel like an elaborate chain of decaying dominoes.
“Are we making progress?” Sophie asked, “There’s still a sea of them.”
“We won’t get anywhere if they keep making new ones,” Linc said through the holes in his cheeks.
“Carl, charge the herd,” Sophie said as she fired arrows at the front line.
The herd began to change direction and shamble toward them. The ghost mist above their heads began to thin out as the wailing spectres transformed into confused humans that dropped into the herd.
“Cher,” Sophie said into her collar, “Whatever you’re doing, stop it.”
“We just figured it out,” Cheryl’s voice crackled through the communicator, “And you want me to stop?”
“Just for now. You’re making it worse.”
“Fine,” she groused.
“I’ll let you know when you start again.”
Hunter scanned the herd for stragglers that still hadn’t gotten the message, calling out shots to Sophie. He noticed a figure floating above the herd bobbing in and out taking zombies with him by the armful and smashing their heads together. The figure was tall and muscular and dress in black jeans and Testament t-shirt, his long black hair blowing in the ghost wind.
“Reinforcements are here,” Hunter called to the team.
“Who’s that Dracula looking motherfucker,” Linc said with a lipless mouth.
“Duke Dracula,” Hunter said, “You guys have a few things in common.”
“I was wondering if yous would show up,” Duke said floating toward them, throwing zombies at the walls of the building lining the street.
“So how are you making out,” Hunter asked.
“So far they’re just ignoring me. Which makes it easier, but there’s so many of them.”
“We’re working on it, but it’s a slow ride.”
It was late in the evening by the time Linc touched the last zombie. Carl was sitting cross legged on the ground playing solitaire, while Sophie and Hunter sat on his shoulders eating the sandwiches she had packed for them: bologna and ketchup on Wonder Bread.
“You ate this everyday at school? Hunter asked.
“Yeah. It’s gross, but it’s comfort food,” Sophie replied.
“It like a cold hotdog.”
Duke was leaning against Carl with earbuds in, banging his head to whatever his phone was playing. He looked and saw a lone zombie approaching them. He charged at it.
“No,” Sophie shouted with a mouthful of comfort food, “Not him.”
Duke couldn’t hear the warning with metal blaring in his ears. Carl reached over and yanked him back. He pulled the earbuds out.
“What?” Duke said, “It’s the last one.”
“This one’s different,” Sophie said, “He’s our friend.”
“You made friends with one?”
Duke held out his hand to shake, “I’m Duke.”
“You probably shouldn’t touch him,” Sophie said, “Just to be safe.”
“That’s part of the complication.”
“Hey, guys, if you don’t mind,” Linc said, “I need to find something better to change into.”
“That one looks pretty fresh,” Hunter pointed toward the body of a woman, with a blank stare into the sky.
Linc touched the body and the zombie dropped to the street and woman’s eyes blinked to life. Linc stood up and straightened out her fractured forearm and cracked her neck. Duke rubbed his chin and examined her with curious eyes.
“This is fine for now,” he said.
“So,” he began, “You were a rotting dude and now you’re a woman?”
“Yeah. For a little while anyway.”
“What’s that like?”
“You get used to it.”
Duke again held out his hand. Linc regarded it for moment.
“Are you dead like a Dracula?” she asked.
“Not technically,” Duke replied.
They shook hands. Linc smiled when she realized she hadn’t hopped into Duke’s body.
“You have friends, Linc,” Sophie said, “Don’t forget that.”
“I used to think you guys were cancer,” Linc said, “But you’re alright.”
“Call us anytime.”
“Heyyyyyy, Soph?” Cheryl’s voice came in over the communicator, “Can I turn the thing on again?”
“Oh, shoot, yeah, I forgot.”
Moments later live humans began falling from the sky and smacking onto the pavement below. They lay there groaning from their impact injuries, looking about in confusion.
“We probably should have prepared for that,” Hunter said.
“Yeah,” Sophie replied, wincing as people hit the street.
“You guys gotta work on your game,” Linc said.
One man noticed Hunter, Sophie and Carl and sighed.
“Of course you’re involved,” he grumbled.
“Hey,” Sophie said, pulling a strip of bread crust into her mouth, “Not our fault this time.”