Friday, October 15, 2010
Swarm ……… Flash Fiction
They clawed at the dirt, pushed at the stones, groaning and scrabbling, freeing themselves from the earthy bedchambers grieving loved ones had provided. When the Governor called us in that first week, we stood at the fence and lobbed grenades into the cemetery; thinking it would destroy the things that crawled from the crypts. But how do you make the dead more dead?
Nothing stopped them. They swarmed like locust over whatever was in their path, leaving husks of automobiles and buildings behind. Flesh was easiest of all, and once assimilated, the bones of the freshly departed joined the masses.
They came. And came. Never resting. Relentless. Expressionless. Destroying anything that hindered progress toward some goal that lay in a straight line beginning at St. Basil's cemetery. Television coverage brought gawkers and thrill seekers. As they filmed or photographed, they were rolled over and consumed.
By the second week the skeletal march was a mile wide and four miles long. Lieutenant Christopher was somewhere in the pack. His men held the line at his order. The swarm had gone through his squad like a hot knife through butter. Not even a tank tread was left, anything softer than iron was consumed by the horde.
By the third week what was left of my troop trailed cautiously behind, watching from a distance as the swarm continued its grisly parade. We'd lost both the President and the Governor when the horde had raised itself on its own shoulders, like a macabre version of a cheerleading pyramid, and pulled their helicopter down.
Day and night the horde progressed; bones gleaming in the sun, glowing in the moonlight. The chirping of joints audible like crickets on a summer's evening amplified to a deafening volume.
By the fourth week religious leaders from all over the world were making their way to the only building left standing in the path that now looked like an ever expanding cone, the tip in Topeka, the base falling into the North Atlantic. Satellite photos showed the waters of the ocean churning white as the marching dead continued underwater on their grim journey.
The mathematicians tell us that if the ever widening swathe of destruction continues at its current rate, the earth will be completely devoid of life in six month's time.
Earth's only hope is that there is some clue; a book, an object, protective magic words of some kind secreted in this single untouched building that can save mankind from the skeletal future that seems inevitable.
We're making our way to the building to help. I'll do whatever they need me to do. I'll guard, cook, sweep the floors, hell; I'll stand on my head and sing Swing Low Sweet Chariot if it'll help someone trying to figure out how to save the world.
This looks like our last battle, and I'm much too young to die.
Thanks to Cathy Russell [ganymeder] for the Story Starter inspiration. Her start: Even daytime hours were fraught with peril, now that the dead no longer feared the sun...
I didn't actually use the line, but it jump started the grim frame of mind needed to write it.