Part Eighteen: No Life In You
All hell had broken loose. The undead continued to shoot out of their tombs, popping out of the walls as if they were being fired by cannons. There was not much time to react. Caleb brought out his sawed-off and began blasting at any signs of movement, Johnny backing into him from behind as much to get out of his range of fire as to help him avoid being caught by one of the zombies. He drew his flare pistol, but knew that it would take far too long for a flare to make contact and do any damage for it to be of any use in this particular case. He would need to rely on his friend's firepower instead. They span around together as if in some strange dance, Johnny inadvertently covering his rear with his body as Caleb laid down one after another of their encroaching enemies.
Then Johnny felt it. He yelped in fear and surprise as something reached out and grabbed for his ankle, dragging him away from the comparative if still rather dubious safety he enjoyed as long he stayed glued to Caleb's person. One of the zombies that Caleb had shot down had not stayed down, despite the gaping hole in its chest, and was now determined to make this thing a whole lot more interesting than it was currently being. Caleb had heard the exclamation of his compatriot but could not for the moment respond, still stuck in a lockstep with many of his more undead dance partners. Caleb accepted that he was the one leading, but Johnny would still need to find his legs on his own.
He began frantically kicking at the thing that had grabbed him, but the zombie refused to relent. Physical damage did not seem to faze them, as if their bodies were simply vessels that they happened to be inhabiting just for the moment and could be discarded at will. Remembering what Caleb had done, Johnny began to focus his blows to the thing's head, something which finally began to inspire a reaction. There seemed to be something special about the head, as if whatever was powering and controlling these creatures was centred in that and only that part of the body. The rest could be discarded, but the head had to remain for the rest of the body to function. He continued to kick at it for all he was worth.
Suddenly his foot was joined by that of another, and with a surprising synchronicity they both brought themselves down on the head hard. It popped off from the spinal column and went shooting off into the darkness, unbeknownst to them striking the head of the zombie that Caleb had severed earlier, causing it to shoot off and deposit itself neatly in a cracked hollow in the ground as if they were playing a massively oversized game of pool. Unaware of their own theatrics, Johnny turned to see Caleb standing over him. All of the zombies appeared to by laying dead around them. Seeing that his accomplice was now surveying the scene before him, Caleb allowed himself a smile.
"It's all in the reflexes" he commented, beginning to admire his own handiwork for himself. Pride comes before a fall, and Johnny did not have time to warn him of this before the zombie had been given its chance to attack. Another one of his felled foes was still not quite dead yet, and this one was intent on reminding him of that fact. It brought the axe that it had inexplicably managed to come by in this maze of tombs and catacombs up into the air, letting it fall hard on the back of Caleb's head. The impact sent the old gunslinger to the ground almost instantly. Johnny watched all of this with nothing more than a creeping numbness, paralyzed for the moment. It just did not seem possible, not with him. Having dealt with its immediate target, the zombie now set its sights on Johnny.
"More brains!" it cried out in a garbled mouthful, rushing towards him. Fear finally allowed Johnny to act, firing a flare at the thing from his pistol before tearing off the in direction that the severed heads had previously been sent. As he had suspected it simply embedded itself in the thing's chest, burning merrily to itself but not really imparting any real damage. Johnny kept on running and peering over his shoulder, firing more and more flares at the thing at every opportunity he was given. Now the zombie had been lit up like a Christmas tree, but the thing still refused to burn. Worst of all, the zombie was still gaining. Johnny no longer saw anything else for it. He skidded to a halt, spun on his heels, brought his arms to his face, and screamed.
Johnny waited for the blow he knew would come, but eventually realized that it had not. Finally bringing his arms away from his eyes, he looked down to see a charred, smoking, burning pile of flesh lying on the ground before him. He just stared at it, worried that the thing would still somehow manage to rise again, despite the fact that flames were now shooting out of its eye's like a propane torch. After several moments Johnny at last discovered that his heart had stop going at a thousand beats per minute, and he was finally able to begin considering the situation rationally again. Caleb could still be alive. It seemed doubtful given the injuries he had sustained, but a small hope was still much better than none. He rushed off to see the current status of his friend.
As he approached something made him slow, as if somehow he had become aware of the event that was happening just a short way ahead of him without even consciously realizing it. He continued to creep forward however, still intent on helping his friend. What he would see would test that loyalty to its very core. Caleb was no longer lying where Johnny had been hurriedly forced to leave him earlier. Instead, Johnny spotted his dark figure hunched over the body of the dead nightwatchman that they had come by previously, hovering over it much like the first zombie had been doing when they had arrived. While that had been intent on consuming the dead man's brain, it was something entirely different that Caleb was after.
Johnny watched in horror as, if through some force not his own, Caleb drew out the man's heart. He did not reach into the exposed chest cavity and grab it; instead, he just seemed to beckon it to him, and for some strange reason the man's heart responded. It was like nothing Johnny had ever seen. The heart glowed softly to itself as it rose, lightly illuminating the passage in a blood red sheen. Caleb threw his head back and his jaw opened, widening to an almost impossible degree. Slowly, ever so slowly, the heart rose and entered into his mouth, his teeth crashing down as soon as it could possibly have been enclosed by them. The old gunslinger's red eyes glowed with an intensity Johnny had never seen them do before, and then suddenly stopped, right as Caleb decided to get back on his feet.
Noticing Johnny gawping at him from the darkness, he decided to offer up an explanation. "For truly, I say unto you, unless you eat the flesh of the son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you." Hearing him recite the verse did little to soothe Johnny's chilled spirits. Caleb then lightly brushed off some of the dirt and viscera from his coat, right before turning around and heading off in the direction that they had previously been heading down before. "Are you coming or what?" he inquired, as if absolutely nothing had happened at all. Johnny did not know what to do. He simply did not know what he was doing here anymore. Still, he did follow. He really did not know what else to do.