The Funeral Pyre

Matthew Donnellon
Feb 16, 2020 · 7 min read
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Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

Evan’s speech roused the remaining students, but the rain drove us inside, and after the adrenaline wore off many of them realized what just happened. The cried, hysterically as the shock hit them. I sat in the corner of the room, not sure what to do, overcome by the scene. Before the candles were lit, it was just people crying in the dark. They had just seen the slaughter of hundreds of monsters that could have easily killed them. They lost people as well.

Edgar, Martha, and the nurse tried to comfort as many of the students as possible, and while that happened, Evan held a small conference on the next floor with Levi, Emma, Lauren and I.

“What happened?” Evan asked. He appeared calm, but underneath I could tell he was furious.

“There was a group by the gate,” Emma said.

“I saw them on the way out,” Evan said, “it was only a couple. The guys at the gate should have handled them.”

“Another group came later that day,” she said, “it was bigger, but Travis convinced Kevin and Marshall to let them in. He wanted to see how many he could take on. More kept coming, and they overran the gate. Next thing we knew an entire herd was marching at us. We barely got the defenses up, and the people inside. It was chaos. I heard Sam’s rifle going off, and we panicked. I had never seen anything like it before. They just kept coming,” she said.

“Where were you?” Evan asked Lauren.

“I was out front,” she said.

“And you just let Travis walk down to the gate?” he said.

“Yes,” she said, “what was I supposed to do? How would I know he would lose his mind.”

“You should have done something,” he said.

“I should have done something,” Lauren said raising her voice, “I should have done something. Are you kidding me? I was here at least. You were out playing soldier. You should have done something, Mr. Zombie Hunter”

Evan was silent. Lauren had a point. If we had been here, maybe Evan could have stopped this. I could still hear the sobbing downstairs, and I couldn’t help but thinking that if we hadn’t left that maybe any of this had to happen.

“Was Travis one of the ones that…,” Evan said, but Emma cut him off.

“No one has seen him since the attack,” she said. “We found Kevin and Marshall’s bodies near the gate. They didn’t stand a chance.” Her voice wavered a little, and I thought she might break down, but she held it together.

“I want people to keep an eye out for Travis,” he said, “I doubt he survived but if he’s found I want to him brought to me.”

“What are you going to do to him?” Lauren asked.

“Just bring him to me,” Evan said.

The cleanup was awful. I never got an accurate count, but there was well over a hundred bodies that littered the front yard. Evan and Lauren saddled the horses, going to look for any stray zombies on the grounds. I stayed behind to help clean up the mess, giving them the time to patch things up. The rain from the night before turned the ground to mud, and the field turned into a terrifying mix of blood, mud, and body parts. I donned gloves, but the smell was overwhelming. I thought I would get used to the smell but it never lessened; it was never anything other than awful.

I helped the remaining students move the bodies to a secluded area near the woods. While I worked I noticed that many of the students handled the mass death surprisingly well, a fact that upset me more than I wished. People shouldn’t be this comfortable with death. I saw one girl, Cailey, one of the youngest at the camp, a young girl with blond hair and blue eyes, and still wearing the tattered yellow sundress she had on during the first day of the event, and helping carry a small zombie to a pit. It was almost too much.

I worked with Emma mostly. We didn’t talk, bit for some reason it felt better to be close to her. We grabbed zombies and loaded them onto carts, taking them to one of the sand traps on the golf course. The sand was still there but if it weren’t for the withered flag in the middle of the grass, no one would be able to tell it was a hole on a gold course. We piled the zombies one after another, amassing a disturbing collection of human debris. I tried not to look but most of them didn’t look human anymore; it helped, being able to forget that the pile that continued to grow wasn’t a pile of people, but monsters. That’s how I had to think of them; otherwise it would make me sick.

It took most of the day to construct the funeral pyre; Levi spread a few precious gallons of gas around the bodies. Evan and Lauren returned just in time to see the display. Levi lit a torch, said a silent prayer, and dropped the flaming chunk of wood onto it. There was a small whoosh as the gasoline caught and some crackling, and hissing as the wet scraps of clothes burned, but no one looked at the pyre. The second the zombies went up in flames everyone quickly turned to head back to the field house for the funeral.

If I counted Travis, then eight people died in the fight with the dead. Kevin and Marshall, the two kids at the gate, a young girl named Tamara who didn’t make it back to the Fieldhouse in time, a brother and sister name Lyle and Megan, which hit me hard thinking of Lauren and I, and Alex and Kamal, two friend of Travis. Eight graves were dug in the makeshift cemetery near the Fieldhouse, which was already crowded.

Levi stood at the head of the group and started to speak, but there was a rustle in the woods. I reached for something but I realized that I left the belt with all weapons on my bed. Sam, who dug the graves, picked up the shovel, and Levi pulled a pistol from his waistband. Many of the student started backing away, and some looked ready to run.

It crept from the shadows, slow and meandering. Its skin was pale and its eyes were completely yellow, but it was definitely Travis. The former student lumbered towards us, arms outstretched. He, or it, had a long red gash near its neck. He must have survived the initial attack only to die later in the woods.

Levi raised his gun, but Evan stopped him.

“Continue,” he said, and Evan went after the beast. It tried to grab him but Evan ducked, slipping behind him and grabbing it by the shirt, yanking the monster backwards. With Travis on his back, Evan carried the zombie into the woods.

Levi continued to say the prayers for the fallen students, but was interrupted by a sickening crunch. Levi kept going, and Evan returned with his jacket again covered in blood. Levi kept the service going, stopping at each individual grave that was marked with a wooded cross with the person’s name whittle on to it. When he got to the spot marked for Travis, he calmly bent done and pulled the grave marked from the ground and tossed it aside. On that sad day, there were eight graves dug, but only seven prayers said.

Shadowood wasn’t normal for the first few days after the attack. People were silent, and there was fog of sadness hanging over the camp. Levi kept himself, mostly staying upstairs. Edgar stayed with Martha, who fell sick recently. Evan was even more silent than usual. He still hunted, although most of the time, it was by himself.

Emma was quiet too. She rarely spoke, but at night she had started sleeping next to and even though she never said anything, I would put my arm around, trying in some futile way to make her feel safe. She spent most of the night staring at the ceiling, and would only fall asleep in the earliest hours of the morning when she couldn’t hold out any longer. She always woke with a start, and every morning, even before she opened her eyes, she felt for the pistol she kept next to her.

Evan still slept sitting up in the corner, alert as ever, but now when I looked at his eyes, there was something other that the stone cold vigilance. It took me a while but I figured it out; it was sadness.

The camp kept going that way until Levi called us up to his room. His face was wrinkled in worry.

“You know that attack cost us most of the ammunition we had,” he said.

“I figured it did,” Evan said.

“Since we arrived here,” Levi said pulling out a piece of paper, “I’ve kept a careful check on the supplies. Even after the soldiers left we had lots of ammunition, and with the river, plenty of water, but I’m afraid we’re running out of food.”

“So what do we do?” Lauren asked.

But I knew the answer before she even asked the question. We had to go on a run.

The Inkwell

A collection of Short Stories and other fiction work.

Matthew Donnellon

Written by

Matthew Donnellon is a writer, artist, and sit down comedian. He is the author of The Curious Case of Emma Lee and Other Stories.

The Inkwell

A collection of Short Stories and other fiction work.

Matthew Donnellon

Written by

Matthew Donnellon is a writer, artist, and sit down comedian. He is the author of The Curious Case of Emma Lee and Other Stories.

The Inkwell

A collection of Short Stories and other fiction work.

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