I wrote this a little while ago, and you can buy this from Lulu in my short-story collection The Dark . If you want to buy it, just go to www.lulu.com , sign up for an account and make sure your viewing settings is set to 'Mature.' I'm not asking you to buy it, since you can read the stories at my fictionpress. www.fictionpress.com/~kodyboye , but if you want it in print, you have to buy at Lulu. It's only $7.99.
I'll shut up and get the story posted here:
The tradition of embalming the dead was started hundreds of thousands of years ago by the Egyptians themselves, and it was for good reason. Entire cities had vanished for, apparently, no reason at all. We were to understand that people just walked on off and abandoned them, leaving the sands of time to deal with the after affects of the inhabitants disappearance.
But, still, to this day, speculation surrounds what actually happens in Egypt . . .
Only a choice few speculate what actually happened.
It was one of the worst droughts that Egypt had had in several years, and now, the people feared for their lives. The water supply that they did have available was only for the nobles, and those few who could actually afford it.
War was raging between the different tribes, causing havoc and stealing sources of food and water. The priests were starting to believe that Anubis and their other Gods had cursed them, cursed them to this for their evil and blasphemy.
“Anhkra,” A dark-skinned man said as he came up to one of the soldiers. “Sir, we’ve reports of desert men coming up from the north, near the pyramids.”
“Get men down their,” Anhkra grunted, waving at the pyramid with his hand. “Our forefather kings lie in those tombs, make sure that they’re dealt with.”
The young messenger was left to run back to the other men, leaving Anhkra standing on the walls that fortified the city. With the sun beating overhead at such a pace, he was surprised that he could deal with it. His dark, olive skin was absorbing the heat at such a rate that he found it unbearable. He needed to stay up here for just a while long, just a little while longer.
His hand strayed to the one of the two thin swords at his side, and as he touched it, he felt the heat burn his hand.
“Dammit!” He growled, retracting his hand from the blade at such a pace, he almost touched his other blade. “This weather’s too hot for me!”
He shook his head and turned, occasionally swearing as his hand flared up with more pain. He made his way down and through the small village until he got to the castle, in which he walked through the corridors until he made his way down to his room.
It was there, in his room, where he was bathed by the finest maids (as was customary for all military or soldiers,) and after that, his burn was attended to by them.
“Your hand is so burned!” One of them said as she finished bathing it in special oil.
“Yes, what ever happened?”
“My sword’s hilt was hot,” Anhkra said with a short laugh. “I am fine though. Thank you, ladies, you’re free to go.”
After the two maids left, Anhkra lay back on his bed, his hands behind his head, and the cool air of the underground room flowing over his skin. It was relaxing to be underground, where it was cool, unlike the above world, which was always going through a continuous phase of relentless heat . . .
It just felt better.
Even with the current military situation, he needed to relax. The drought wasn’t helping much, and people were dying. He, as a military man of this small tribe, had to do his best to keep the area safe. Otherwise, his people could die.
He was no young man their military standards, with the young men having to be eighteen summers to become a solider. Being twenty-seven summers was something that was starting to toll on him. He could still move, but he found that his stamina could slow down if he didn’t do his daily routines.
“I just need some sleep,” Anhkra said to himself, rolling over on his soft, luxurious bed of pillows and animal furs, “that’s all I’ll need for now.”
He found himself falling asleep before he knew it.
When Anhkra awoke, the outside halls of his room were quiet, and barely any people shuffled around.
He rose with little certainty of what was actually happening, but he knew that it was never this quiet, not around supper time. He slipped a cloth vest over his shoulders and buckled his sword on, carefully walking through the halls, wary of his surroundings.
He could see a few people walking down the halls, with soft expressions of quiet, some with tears falling down their faces.
But why would they be doing this?
“Isaiah,” Anhkra called as he saw his friend coming down the hall. “What is wrong?”
“People are dying,” Isaiah said as he came up to his friend, scratching at the small hairs on his chin. “They’re dying in droves.”
“Are our enemies here?” He asked as his hand went to his sword.
“No . . . They’re being bitten by scarabs.”
“Scarabs? People don’t die from scarab . . .”
“No, these are a different kind . . . They’re some kind of new breed that we haven’t seen before. Come, I’ll show you.”
Anhkra could only nod and give a light sigh as he followed his friend down the halls and into the infirmary, where several people were lying in bed, moaning and groaning in pain. Blisters, blood, and other foul odors and abnormalities stained the atmosphere as the two entered.
“See,” Isaiah said as he spread his arm, gesturing at once to every single person in the room, “all of them, all bit by scarabs.”
Anhkra watched as, in the corner of the room, a man suddenly convulsed, a mouthful of blood exploding out of his throat and covering his face. He did this three more times before he finally stopped, his body no longer moving; from either pain or breathing.
“Bless his soul,” Anhkra said, giving the man a soft prayer as he bowed his head. “Isaiah, where did they come from?”
“The men or the scarabs?”
“The men came from farther out on their routine patrols . . . They said that the scarabs came out of an old underground crypt. They attacked them like they would dogs, Anhkra . . . I found the tale quite frightening.”
Anhkra nodded, wiping a hand across his forehead. Frustration was running through his body, and at the same time, he didn’t know what to do. Different images of ideas flashed through his mind in a maelstrom of thoughts and emotions, sending a shiver down his spine.
“Anhkra, are you all right?” Isaiah asked as he placed a hand on his friend’s arm. “You’re shaking.”
“Kill them,” Anhkra said to Isaiah, turning his head away, “kill them and get this over with.”
“Anhkra! These men are soldiers of our army! We can’t just kill them!”
“As a higher officer I command you to kill them!”
Isaiah flinched back as his friend yelled, causing several of the patients and nurses to look up at him. Their faces were that of fear and confusion, fear for the life and confusion because he had never gave such a command before.
The man who had died from coughing up his blood suddenly leapt from his place on a stone bench and bit into the neck of one of the nurses. She screamed as he tore the flesh from her throat. As she sunk, he went down with her, ravenously beginning to feed off her body.
The man had died and now he was back up again.
The other suddenly began to convulse as this now ‘living dead’ man had, crimson blood splattering across white fabrics of sheets and the darker, browner walls. If this man was now up and walking (due to the regurgitation of blood and the convulsions,) then they, too, would soon be up.
“Come, Isaiah,” Anhkra said as he drew his sword. “We must leave this place.”
The two men left the infirmary as more people were being attacked by these newly risen dead, and as they did so, they could hear the screams reverberating off the walls.
As they ran, the two noticed that other people were beginning to react to it. Some threw up blood, while others went to their sides and were, several seconds later, viciously attacked by those who had just thrown up their own life energy.
“What are they!” Isaiah pleaded, looking to Anhkra for some kind of answer. “And why are they like this?”
“The scarabs . . .” Anhkra said out loud without thinking to. “They must have done . . .”
One of the infected persons lunged at the two from behind a corner, and as Anhkra swung his sword around, a deadly cut appeared across the infected one’s chest.
He stood there as if he wasn’t just slashed.
His bloodshot eyes and blood-smeared chin made him appear to be dead . . .
Maybe that was what this man was.
The creature lunged at Anhkra, and as Anhkra brought up his sword again, he connected it with the neck.
The head fell on the floor just as Anhkra and Isaiah were fleeing the scene.
“Gods above!” Isaiah cried as he and Anhkra barred themselves into a weapon storage building outside of the castle, in the center of the town. “These . . . Dead! They’re feeding off of us. What punishment has Anubis given us?”
“I don’t know,” Anhkra said as he wiped his sword off with a spare cloth, sheathing it. “All I know is that, whatever they are, they’re not friendly. You do know how to use a weapon, right?”
“Have you lost your mind! I’m no more than a scholar!”
“You just grab something sharp and swing it, it’s as simple as that. It died after I cut its head off.”
“What, did you expect it to come after you after you cut its damned head off?” He asked, a short, manic laugh coming from his throat. “Damn, Anhkra; you’ve turned into quite the . . .”
“I don’t care what I’ve turn into,” Anhkra muttered as he grabbed a spear off of the wall. “We need to get out of the city. From the looks of it, it’s contagious, and people turn into . . . These dead things, whatever they are, in a short time.”
“Anhkra . . . What if we can’t get out of the city?”
“We can get out, don’t worry,” Anhkra said, grabbing a short but light spear off the wall and tossing it to Isaiah. “Just make sure you get them in the head or neck, I don’t want to be bit by any of them.”
They had cautiously crept around the city, cutting through houses and other buildings, for a good portion of the night, steadily avoiding the corpses. It was hard, and on more than one occasion, they had run into one or two at a time.
Thankfully, though, Anhkra was good with his weapon, and they were able to secure themselves a spot in one of the larger, two-story houses.
“So, I suspect we’ll be staying here for a while?” Isaiah asked as he sat on a couch, watching as Anhkra finished boarding up the door.
“Yes, Isaiah, we will be . . . Either until they leave or somebody else comes.”
The two of them sat down on the couch and relaxed themselves, grateful that they had finally come out of the hell that was walking around outside. The corpses had wanted to kill them, and it was only their determination which had kept them going.
“You all right, Isaiah? You seem a bit wore out.”
“I’ll be fine, Anhkra. I’m just glad you’re alive. I don’t think I would have been able to make it out of that mess without you.”
He grunted an acknowledgment as he sat down beside Isaiah, unbuckling his sword and setting it on the ground beside him.
“We’re alive, and that’s all that matters . . .” He suddenly trailed off.
“What, Anhkra? What’s on your mind?”
“You know how the scouts were saying that they saw ‘crazies’ in the desert? What if . . . What if the people who were bitten by the scarabs were the ‘crazies’ that the men were talking about?”
“I don’t think I understand what you’re saying,” Isaiah said as he scratched his stubble.
“People were saying that crazy men were attacking the villages. What if those men were like . . . Them?”
He gestured at the door, where the living corpses were walking around. “What if they’re the things that are wiping out all the villages?”
“Maybe you’re right,” Isaiah said as he stood, looking out at the darkness that still hung in the air. “We should get some sleep, I saw a bed in the other room, if you don’t mind sharing it, anyway?”
“Doesn’t bother me, as long as I can get some sleep,” Anhkra said as he grabbed his sword and spear. “It’s big enough for the two of us, right? I’m a fairly large man, you know.”
“You make me look like a needle,” Isaiah said with a laugh as he placed himself on the bed. “We’re safe in here though, right?”
“Yeah, we are,” He assured his friend as he set his weapons against the wall, crawling in next to his friend. “We are.”
Moans . . .
Guttural Cries . . .
And Screams . . .
They had gone on throughout most of the night, and it had kept Anhkra up for a good portion of it. There were no lower windows in this house, the only ones that were in the house were at the top, where nobody would be able to get in.
Anhkra knew that it would soon be morning. He could feel the temperature gradually rising, and soon, it would be just like yesterday: Hell-like.
The heat during the summer months was unbearable, and it wasn’t much different in winter either. At least in winter it cooled off during the day, and it was nowhere near as hot as it usually was.
It would be much, much more difficult surviving in the city, where the peasants and poorer folk lived.
“Isaiah,” Anhkra grunted as he rolled over, “are you awake?”
“I guess you didn’t sleep very well either,” He said as he rolled over, wiping sweat off of his chest, “they kept you awake, right?”
Anhkra could only nod as he placed his hands behind his head, staring up at the ceiling. The walking dead outside had kept him awake. How couldn’t they have? They moaned, and when they found new prey, they screamed. There would be blood out there when and if they decided to leave today, much blood.
It would smell like the slaughterhouse that they used for the lamb meat that the nobles and soldiers ate, but worse: the bodies wouldn’t be lambs, they would be human civilians of this city.
“Something on your mind, Anhkra?”
“Not really . . . Why do you ask, friend?”
“You’re just staring at the ceiling . . . You only do that when you’re thinking about something.”
Anhkra grunted and threw his legs over the side of the bed, sighing. He didn’t want to go back out there, with all the dead that were walking around. He was experiencing an emotion that he rarely ever felt: fear.
“I’m just worried that we won’t get out of here alive, Isaiah. I’m worried about you too . . .”
“About me?” Isaiah asked, crawling over beside his friend. “What do you mean?”
“I mean no offense when I say this, my friend, but . . . Well, you were almost killed yesterday.”
“I know,” He said with a sigh as he threw his legs over the bed, sitting beside his friend. “I thank you for saving me . . . I was almost bitten there.”
Anhkra nodded, patting his friend on the back.
“Don’t worry, we’ll get out of here . . . I promise you that. I won’t let anything happen to the two of us.”
The day came with a sweltering heat unlike anything they’ve ever experienced before. Temperatures reached so high that they could barely stand it, even in the small little house. Knowing this, they knew that they had to get out.
“Why do we have to leave?” Isaiah asked as sweat dripped down his frame. “I feel just fine.”
“Anubis damn you if you say you’re all right,” Anhkra said as he stripped his shirt off, tying it around the metal portion of his sword. “You know just as well as I do that you’re sweating like an animal, and so am I. We’ll die if we don’t get water soon.”
Isaiah could only sigh as he tied his shirt around his waist and picked up his spear, thankfully, the poles of the both of them being wooden, which didn’t absorb heat like the metal did.
Isaiah nodded, and as Anhkra opened the door, he followed the man out.
When Anhkra took his first steps out the door, he carefully made his way along the side of the house, careful to not attract the attention of any of the dead creatures. Right now, it wasn’t as hot as it normally was in the desert, but it would be soon. The sun wasn’t even directly overhead, and when it was, that was the hottest that it ever got.
“Isaiah,” Anhkra said as he looked back at his friend, “do you see anything?”
“No,” Isaiah reassured him, looking around his corner, “nothing, nothing yet, anyway. Why, did you see anything?”
“No . . . But be quiet, if they’re here, they’ll hear us.”
They kept silent as they traversed down a small alleyway, careful to keep their steps silent as their feet hit the sand. Any little noise, as they had learned from before, would attract them. More than one or two would easily overpower the two men, especially Isaiah. He was physically fit for his body size, but he wasn’t as well trained with weapons as Anhkra was. Isaiah would be the first to go down if they were attacked, and Anhkra knew that.
“All right, we’re coming around another corner,” Anhkra said as he took one last look at Isaiah as he turned the corner. “Be on your guard . . . We’re in another part of the city.”
This part of the city was where all the bars and shop stalls were. The bazaar would possibly one of the most dangerous places in the entire city, if the infection had already spread this far . . .
Which it probably already had . . .
Anhkra shook the thought from his mind and looked back at the nervous Isaiah again, giving him another smile.
“We’ll be fine. If we haven’t run into one of them yet, then I don’t think we’re going to.”
Isaiah nodded, but Anhkra knew that his friend was still nervous. Who wouldn’t be in a situation like this?
He shook the thought off, checked to make sure that Isaiah was still following him, and turned down another corner, right into a creature.
It shrieked in both surprise and rage, and as it flung itself at Anhkra, he lost hold of his spear.
He grabbed the creature’s cold, dead hands and wrestled it away from him, pushing it into the wall and diving for his spear. He felt the creature grab at his pants, and when he felt the portion near the knee tear away, he began to get fearful.
As he reached for his spear, he heard a scream, and then the fall of a body next to him.
But when Anhkra turned and looked over, it wasn’t Isaiah that was on the ground, but the corpse.
“Isaiah,” Anhkra gasped as he grabbed his spear, taking his friend’s hand as he offered it, “I thought for sure that you . . .”
“I know. I thought I was going to die too.” He said with a laugh, wiping the end of his spear on the corpse’s clothes. “I’m just glad I was able to get a neck shot. Come on, the noise probably attracted more of them.”
After Anhkra brushed the dust off of his clothes and chest, the two of them ran down the alley, just as they began to hear other screams behind them.
“Keep running,” Anhkra said to Isaiah, looking around for anything that they could get into for shelter. “Look for something we could use as shelter. Don’t get separated from me!”
As Anhkra said this, his eyes darted from house to house, trying to find any place that could be easily fortified in several short moments. The corpse’s screams could be heard from behind them, and if they made one small, false mistake, they would be killed.
“Anhkra! There’s nowhere to go!”
From above, the small clink of stones being fired from slings came. Young boys, Anhkra could see, and they appeared to have been trapped on the rooftop for the whole day, and possibly, the day before. They had stripped down to the loincloths, and their skin was sunburnt so badly that they appeared to be in pain with every movement.
“No!” Isaiah yelled up at them, but as he yelled this, the two boys were startled, and they slipped off of the edge. “Anhkra, we have to . . .”
“There’s no hope for them,” Anhkra said as he grabbed his friend’s shoulder, pulling him along. “Isaiah, come on! You’re going to get us killed!”
Taking one last look at the swarm of corpses as they engulfed the two boys, Isaiah and Anhkra ran.
“We just left them there,” Isaiah said as he sat down on a bed, hearing Anhkra board the door up with various objects. “They helped us, and we just left them there to die.”
“They would’ve been too hurt for us to help them,” Anhkra sighed as he put his hammer down. “Isaiah, what’s wrong?”
“I’m worried about my boy,” He said, turning his head away as tears started to come from his eyes. “He was here when it happened.”
“Isaiah,” Anhkra said as he walked over to his friend, descending to a knee and placing his hands on his friend’s shoulders. “Your boy is strong, he’s a soldier that I trained myself. Besides, he wasn’t in the city when this happened, remember? He had gone out to one of the trading cities to oversee the livestock transportation. He’s all right, I promise you that.”
Isaiah nodded, though Anhkra could tell that his friend was still troubled. Anhkra embraced his friend, and he was relieved that Isaiah, in turn, embraced him.
“Thank you, Anhkra.”
Anhkra nodded, and as the two of them broke the embrace, Anhkra sat on the couch beside his friend, sighing. They needed to get out of this city, even if it meant traveling all day and night.
“We need to make sure we get out here by tomorrow, Isaiah. We still haven’t found any water, and I’m afraid that we’ll die if we don’t,”
“I saw a well out back . . . I’m sure it has water in it, Anhkra. Maybe when it gets a bit darker, and the corpses calm down, maybe we can use the back door to get some of them.”
“Yeah, that’ll work,” Anhkra said, wiping sweat off of his face. “Just as long as we don’t have to wait another day.”
When night came that day, the two of them carefully crept out the back door, the one that hadn’t been barricaded, because the area was too barred off for other people to get into it. It had been the perfect place to put have a well dug.
As Isaiah brought up a barrel of water, Anhkra stood guard, his spear nervously clutched in his hands. His eyes scanned the darkness from what he could see over the stone slabs of fence, searching for any movement or shadow.
Dammit! Calm yourself down, Anhkra. Nothing’s going to happen. You’re just thinking too much. Nothing’s going to come out of the darkness and . . .
“Isaiah,” Anhkra cried. “Damn, you scared me.”
“Sorry, I’m letting you drink first.”
“You’re a bigger man than me, and . . . Well, I suppose that you need more water than I do.”
Anhkra gave a slight nod and accepted the barrel as his friend offered it, handing Isaiah the spear as he tipped the tip of the barrel to his lips. Cool, fresh water spilled down his parched throat, and now, it felt as though he was in some grand oasis, surrounded by beautiful, half-naked women, with a large lake and a cool breeze . . .
“There’s no more water.”
Anhkra blankly stared at the small barrel for a minute before giving a small laugh, handing the barrel back to Isaiah.
“Sorry, I got lost in thought.”
“Do you want me to refill it for you?”
“Maybe in a few moments, but fill yourself a barrel full, I’m not the only one who’s thirsty.”
Isaiah could only shrug as he tied the barrel back on the string and sent it back down the well.
As Isaiah did this, Anhkra looked around at the enclosed yard. The only thing that wasn’t enclosed was the gate beside the stables . . . Which he hadn’t bothered to look at yet.
“Isaiah, stay by the well.”
“Where are you going?”
“Just to look at something. Please, just stay by the well.”
Isaiah nodded as he placed the barrel to his lips, Anhkra making his way over to the stables. Maybe, if he was lucky, he would be able to find something that could help get the two of them out of here. Horses would be great, or even some kind of tame oxen, whatever they could ride on.
As Anhkra peered in and around the stable, he felt his heart skip a beat as he saw two horses, two of them! And when his vision was attracted by another object, he cried in relief as he saw that it was a carriage.
They would be able to get out of here.
As Anhkra and Isaiah were tying the horses to the carriage, the sun was beginning to rise. They had spent the whole entire day making small changes and revisions to make sure that it would smoothly run.
“We’re getting out of here, Isaiah,” Anhkra said as he finished tying the horse’s reins. “We’re finally going to get out of this damn city!”
Isaiah nodded, a smile crossing over his face.
“Yes, we are.”
As the first rays of light broke over the horizon, the two of them opened the gate and whipped the horses into action, their whinnies of excitement starting up as they were put into a speedy run.
As they did so, corpses caught notice of them, and they began to run at the carriage. Anhkra and Isaiah, having been sitting up front, were the ones that they were targeting, and in this, they tried to jump onto the sides to attack them.
“Isaiah, hold onto the reins!”
Isaiah did as Anhkra asked as his friend picked up his spear, thrusting his spear toward them. Screams came as they were thrown from the sides, their bodies being cut apart as a guillotine would do to a man on trial.
As Anhkra was fighting them off, Isaiah fought desperately to control the horses. They were acting on their own accord, and if nothing was done, they would surely throw them off into the road.
Isaiah didn’t wait for Anhkra to reply as he whipped the horses again and again.
Soon, they were nearing the gates, and the corpses were gone.
“Thank the heavens,” Isaiah said as he slowed the horses down as they passed out of the city, “we made it.”
As a man with a mask in the shape of Anubis’ head approached a dead body, he held in his hands a case of tools especially designed for making sure that the dead would forever stay dead. They knew now that it was possible for them to come back to life through the use of strange, unknown scarabs. The disease had started from one bite, and then it had spread like wildfire.
“Anhkra,” Another one of the men said as he picked up the tools. “Are you sure we’re doing the right thing?”
“Yes, Isaiah,” The former man said as he picked up a tool, watching as it glinted in the light. “We are.”
He thrust his tool into the dead man’s flesh and began to tear it apart, his hands reaching into the chest.
The bleeding heart was soon clutched in his hand.