Just Like the Movies
by Jaleta Clegg
“Hey, Beauford. How many shells you got left?”
“Four. How ’bout you, Clint?”
“I used them up on that last wave. How many we got in reserve, Travis?”
“This is our last case. I got seven in my pocket.”
“So, tonight, we make our last stand. We die in the name of humankind. We die like Chuck Norris, fighting them zombies with our last breath.”
“You think we’re the last people on Earth? Think the zombies got the rest?”
“I dunno, Clint. We’ve been in this cabin, what, four months now? And them zombies started showing up after the first week.”
Travis stroked the case of shotgun shells. “And now they come in waves, just like they showed in that movie about the zombie apocalypse.”
“You know, we’re more like that guy in that movie about the vampire zombies with the white eyes. Just him and a bunch of kids. Everybody dies. I hated that movie.”
“Except we’re going out fighting with shotguns. We got any beer at all left?”
Clint shook his head. “Zombies ate the tires right off the truck two nights ago. We got what we got.”
Gloomy silence fell in the cabin. Morning sunlight poured through the windows.
Beauford sniffed. “We should sleep while we can.”
“On our last day alive?”
“So go outside and commune with nature, Travis. Put flowers in your hair and dance naked, like them hippies.”
“Shut up, Clint. I was thinking maybe we should pray or something.”
“We’ve got about six hours to sundown.” Beauford stood, stretching. “I wish the TV still worked.”
“Or that we had beer.” Clint stretched out on the battered sofa. Stuffing drifted in the air.
Travis wandered to the window, staring morosely at the peaceful forest. “There’s someone walking up the road. Wearing a long dress.”
“A woman? Here?” Clint bounced off the sofa.
“If that’s a woman, I’m glad we’re dying tonight,” Beauford muttered. “Ugliest one I ever saw. She’s got a beard.”
“Not much of one.” Travis squinted through the shattered window frame. “She’s got no curves, either. You know,” he gestured with his hands.
“That ain’t a woman.”
The three watched the figure for a moment.
“Why’s a man wearing a long dress? He looks stupid to me.”
“I think we’re gonna find out. He’s coming here.” Beauford poked his shotgun through the window frame. “Stop right there!”
The man paused, raising his empty hands. “Come out into the sunlight.”
“To prove you aren’t allied with the forces of darkness.”
“The what?” Travis fingered his gun. “I don’t trust this guy. I think we should blast him.”
The man in the dress scratched one hip. “Are you coming out or not? Zombies can’t stand sunlight. Haven’t you wondered why they only attack at night?”
“Just like in that movie.” Clint grinned. “Zombies have to hide during the day.”
“Okay.” Beauford uncocked his gun. “We’re coming out.” He edged through the battered front door, followed by his friends. “You aren’t one of them preachers, are you?”
The man smiled. “My name is Timothy R. Sutton. I was a history professor until the Earth’s governing fields were reversed. Now, I’m a wizard.”
“I think he’s crazy,” Travis whispered as they took the creaky porch steps to the grassy meadow. Sunlight spilled over the three friends and the self-proclaimed wizard.
“The Earth’s what?” Beauford frowned. “Talk sense or we’ll shoot you on principle.”
“The governing field. The Earth used to operate on the principles of quantum physics. Somehow the field was reversed and now it operates on principles of thaumic dynamics.” Timothy studied their blank faces. “Magic.”
“Crazy.” Travis plucked a grass stem to insert between his teeth. It bobbed as he chewed.
“Magic, like rabbits out of a hat? That don’t explain the zombie apocalypse.”
Beauford waved his hand. “Wait a minute, it does make sense. Remember the flying lizard thingie we saw a month back? The one breathing fire?”
Timothy nodded, his sparse beard bobbing on his chin. “That was a dragon, yes. All sorts of mythical creatures have reemerged since the shift. Including the zombies.
“I have a theory about them. Someone tried one of the old spells and it worked. He created a zombie, which ate his brain, turning him into a zombie. They both ate more brains, creating more zombies. Within a month, you have an enormous horde of the undead. It’s simple geometric progression.”
“Whatever it is, we only got enough ammo for tonight.” Beauford patted his shotgun, face grim. “We plan to go down fighting.”
“That’s where you are wrong, my friend.” Timothy’s smile stretched wider. “I’ve been searching for someone to help me with my research. I’ve got spells that can stop the zombies, revert them back into the people they were meant to be. I studied voodooism for the last six years, you see.”
“You bring any beer with you?”
“I’ve got something better. I’ve got two ancient books of spells. With your help, we can cast them and stop the zombies.”
“I’d rather have beer. I say we just shoot him before he becomes one of them.”
“I think he’s on to something, Travis. I say we give him a chance. We’re gonna die anyway, so what’s the harm?” Beauford lowered his shotgun. “Come inside and we’ll talk.”
“What’s with the dress?” Travis asked.
“Traditional wizard’s clothing. I thought it might help. It certainly doesn’t hurt.”
Travis clapped his arm around Timothy’s shoulder. “Hurts your image, Tim. You look like a really ugly girl.”
* * *
“We set?” Beauford whispered. “Travis, you go check the perimeter, see if they’re coming yet.”
Travis slipped out the front door, into the night beyond the puddle of yellow light cast by the kerosene lantern.
“I wish you’d had the right herbs,” Timothy muttered. “Oregano, lavender, leaves of rosemary, maybe a smidgen of thyme.”
“This is a hunting cabin. We got salt, pepper, and a little bit of tabasco. You see anything?”
Beauford and Timothy crouched by the window, watching intently.
Timothy shook his head. “Nothing yet.” He fingered his makeshift potions, loaded into empty beer cans.
“Clint, you got the ammo ready?”
“Right here, Beauford.” Clint turned a page in Timothy’s Big Book of Spells. “These actually work now? Who’d want to create a penguin out of a zucchini?”
“That can’t be what it says.” Timothy turned.
Beauford grabbed his shoulder. “Focus, wizard. You said you could stop zombies so prove it. Travis is coming back.”
Travis staggered into view, holding his arm and weaving as he ran towards the cabin.
Beauford raised his shotgun. “Dammit, they got him.”
“Wait! Don’t shoot! Let me try curing him first. You can shoot him if it doesn’t work.”
“Fair enough. I’d hate to lose a good hunting buddy to zombies.”
Travis stumbled into the cabin, then staggered to a stop. Blood leaked from between his fingers.
Beauford raised his shotgun, aiming for his friend’s head. “Was it zombies?”
“It was a squirrel.” Travis struggled to control panic. “A real nasty one. Missing half his body, like someone had eaten it. Green foam dripping from its mouth, eyes all twisted and crazy.”
“Zombie squirrels. This is worse than I expected.”
“Next it’ll be zombie pigeons and raccoons.”
“Zombie mice and cockroaches.”
Beauford and Clint snickered.
“If zombification spreads too far, we won’t ever be able to stop it. Everything living will become zombies. Including you.”
“What about trees?” Clint squinted suspiciously, as if he could glare the forest into submission. “Can plants be zombies? They don’t eat brains. No teeth.”
“Hush.” Timothy raised his arms, wide sleeves sliding down to reveal skinny white limbs. He turned his attention to Travis. “This might sting a bit.”
“I can feel it eating me up inside. Just stop it, please.” Travis dropped dramatically to the floor.
“Quit acting like a cheerleader. Be a man.” Beauford fingered his gun. “Maybe I should shoot you for acting like a girl.”
“I require silence!” Timothy tried for booming but got squeaking.
Beauford shut up anyway. Clint went back to the book.
Travis moaned. “I don’t want to die without a last beer. I don’t want to eat brains.”
“This potion should cure you, if tabasco translates correctly into lavender.” Tim dripped red liquid on Travis’ forehead.
“You got it in my eye, you crazy loon!” Travis rubbed his eye.
“Stop rubbing. It only hurts worse. You gotta squint until the tears wash it out.” Clint flipped another page in the book. “Flaming crucible of burning death. That sounds cool.”
“It requires fourteen peacock feathers plucked from a virgin male on the night of the winter new moon.” Tim dribbled potion across the bite marks on Travis’ arm. Foam bubbled up. “Da mihi sis crustum Etruscum cum omnibus in eo. Habetis bona deum.”
Beauford leaned forward, watching Travis. “His eyes are all bloodshot and mean-looking.” He cocked the shotgun.
“Idiot! That’s what happens when you pour tabasco sauce in your eye!” Travis glared.
“How do you feel?” Tim leaned forward, nose almost touching the bubbling arm.
“Like I been bit by a squirrel.”
“A zombie squirrel?”
Travis used words that left smoking blue trails in the dim lantern light. Magic sparked, crackling through the air.
“Well, I’ll be a—”
Tim clapped a hand over Beauford’s mouth. “Be very careful what you say. Words have power now.”
Beauford shoved the hand away. “You mean that might be how the zombie apocalypse happened? Some dimwit said the wrong thing and poof, he was zombified?”
“Possibly.” Tim plucked a stray whisker on his chin. “I think the spell worked. You don’t have a lingering taste for brains, do you?”
“I hate organ meats. I could kill for a fresh skinned rabbit and a keg, though.” Travis lurched to his feet. “I think I’m gonna run to the town and smash up the store and steal us some beer.” He flexed his stringy arms. “Any zombies I meet, I tear in half with my bare hands.”
“That potion’s got some kick to it. Give me a dose.” Beauford pulled the beer can from Tim before the wizard could protest. He swigged a hearty mouthful. “If that don’t put the fire in you, nothing will. Let’s go slaughter us some zombies! We still got an axe!”
“Wait! It’s supposed to turn them back into people! Let me try first.” Tim tugged at Beauford’s sleeve.
“You gotta move fast, wizard. We’re gonna slaughter them and go get us beer!”
Beauford and Travis charged through the front door, roaring curses at the zombie horde lurching up the trail.
“Wait!” Tim hiked his robe over his knees as he ran after them.
Clint turned another page in the spell book. Sounds of slaughter, screams, and chanted magic drifted through the open door.
“You gotta be joking!” Clint’s eyes widened at the illustration on the next page. Buxom women in filmy scarves beckoned from the letters of the title. “This is one spell I have to try.” He scurried around the cabin, collecting a random assortment of objects. He shoved the tabasco bottle into his pocket. “This should work. One can of peaches, closest to sweets we got left. Let’s see. I got flour but no flower. Weevils shouldn’t matter.”
He stacked the items on the floor next to the book.
“What’s a pentagram? Don’t matter.” He set the objects in a lopsided circle and sprinkled the whole array with flour. He grimaced, lips moving as he attempted the spell. “Caelum videre iussit, et erectos ad sidera tollere vultus. Lux et veritas.” His finger trailed over the page. “That can’t be right. I’ll make up my own words. By the powers of the duh-jin, I summon thee, spirits of the air and fire. Make me a woman to please me all the days of my existence.”
The sounds of fighting died abruptly. Silence fell over the hunting cabin. Clint planted fists on hips.
“Where’s my woman?”
Thunder boomed. The cabin shook. Clint clapped his hands over his ears. The earth heaved and rumbled as the thaumic field collapsed, a result of Clint’s miscast spell. The air tasted of burnt tabasco sauce. The lantern swung wildly, light flickering madly.
When everything settled, Clint cautiously lowered his hands. Silence breathed, a waiting silence promising darkness and evil. Clint raised one hand and gingerly stopped the lantern’s swing with his finger.
Footsteps clomped across the porch, slow and ominous. They stopped on the other side of the door.
Clint hurriedly grabbed his shotgun, ramming a shell into the loading chamber.
The door handle turned slowly, creaking softly.
Clint’s hands shook as he raised the shotgun. Sweat dripped from his forehead. “You ain’t gonna eat my brains!”
The door swung open. Two gory figures lurched into the light.
Clint swore as he cocked the shotgun. It jammed.
“Take it easy, Clint. It’s just us.” Beauford’s voice came from the blood-spattered face of one figure.
“You ain’t zombified?”
“Nah. We kicked their butts clean off. Me and Travis, we’re a fighting team. We slaughtered them!”
“More like they started running after that wizard dude sprayed them with tabasco sauce. Too bad that horde of rabbits got him from behind. Ate his brains right out of his head.”
“Funny thing, though,” Beauford frowned. “They was running scared and all the sudden, they just dropped. Like puppets when they got their strings cut.”
“That’s literary, especially for you.” Clint scratched his ear. “Wait a sec.” He spouted a long stream of profanity. He slumped in disappointment. “The magic isn’t working no more. No blue smoke.”
“If Tim were alive, I’m sure he’d explain it.” Beauford clapped a hand on Clint’s shoulder. “Come on. Nothing to stop us from raiding the Kwik Stop now. We get us a good supply of beer, maybe steal us a truck, and then the three of us will have to find some women and get busy repopulating the world.”
“Hey, I could like that last part.” Travis grinned, white teeth shining through the gore.
“Just like in that zombie movie.” Beauford returned the grin.
“But what happened to the magic?” Clint scratched his ear.
“Does it matter? Let’s go get busy. We got a world to repopulate.”
The three men marched from the cabin into the misty gray of a new dawn.
The light breeze ruffled the pages of the spell book. Buxom women rippled. The parchment lifted, revealing neatly cut edges where the woman-summoning spell had been removed. The women fluttered face down.
Beneath, the title of the spell showed a demon in wizard’s robes crouched in the raised pan of a balance, crooked hands shielding it from a rain of fiery darts. An angel stood firm in the lowered pan, smiling benevolently at the instruments cradled in his arms: astrolabe, compass, calipers, telescope, barometer, armillary sphere — tools of science and reason used to conquer the darkness and illogic of magic.
Gold-touched letters glittered in the sun. “Ipsa scientia potestas est.” — Knowledge itself is power.
Copyright © 2010 by Jaleta Clegg