Author : Julian Miles, Staff Writer
Hadrian’s bloody Wall. Originally built to keep the Picts out when the Romans finally realized my ancestors were too surly to civilise. Since then it’s been used in books and films, every damn time to keep something nasty in the North from overrunning the lovely people in the South.
I’m standing on it tonight as repair crews struggle to conjure up the unobtainable with swearing, prayers and gaffa tape. Alison and I are peering down the scopes of Bursinger S3 minimissile launchers, looking for the faster ones in the endless shuffling horde coming towards us up the M6. A six lane shooting gallery where speeding is deadly. The longer period ‘infected’, the faster it moves. An easy selection process because the faster ones are smarter too. They can organise the newer reanimates into inhuman pyramids for others to climb. It’s happened twice and thankfully we had working flamethrowers on the sections where it happened. Now we have constant monitoring and helicopter gunships. But there is always some twit who doesn’t clear the napalm zone in time and ends up as trooper flambé de jour.
“You realise that we outnumber you?”
Alison does not take her attention from her eyepiece. Her tone is conversational. I keep my attention focussed as well.
“We’ll keep fighting. Eventually you’ll run out of meat and decomposition will get to you.”
She pauses and looks over her scope into the mob before squinting down the eyepiece with intent.
Her minimissile zips into the shuffling crowd and I see a figure try to dodge before it is reduced to a shambling lower torso and legs.
“Friend of yours?”
She grins nastily.
Alison’s world was reduced to ashes by their sun doing something unexpected. They had enough warning and managed to transmit their consciousnesses intergalactically. On Earth they found compatible hosts in the recently dead. They were clumsy at first and by the time they had figured out how to control their new bodies, they were cannibalistic to repair decomposition damage to their hosts. Most never progressed past that stage. The few who did were indistinguishable from full humans.
Alison had been my partner in and out of the military. When the ‘zombie apocalypse’ occurred, we got called back. Then she died in a transport chopper crash. All we knew was that she disappeared in the Highlands and returned two months later suffering from ‘amnesia’. I spotted that she had changed and she was among the first to come clean. At first there was hatred; but eventually, surprisingly, sympathy had arisen because the Metharran plan had gone so hideously wrong.
The bestial traits their civilisation had suborned for so long manifested when linked to the memory remnants of humans, unless the human had died with an emotional bond. That enabled the new reanimate to rapidly achieve full sentience; to become a Methuman. But the loss of that bond sent them immediately, irretrievably bestial. Our mixed defence unit has pets, cars, relatives, ornaments, books and the whole range of things that full humans can become attached to. The Methuman call them Sanity Totems. Each Methuman keeps their totem near them and protects it with insane dedication. Because without it they are no better than any of the plague of reanimates that are assailing the world.
I am Alison’s sanity totem. She has had a minuscule device implanted in her head, so that when my heart stops beating for more than five minutes she will be explosively decapitated. Until then, we have a strange love to keep us warm as civilisation crumbles.