“Mum.” Paula called out.
“What is it?”
“I’m going for a run on the hills.”
“Isn’t it a bit late in the afternoon for that?”
“I won’t be long. I’ll be back before dusk, anyway I’m taking Meg, she can look after me.”
“All right then but do be careful. I’ll order a pizza when you get back and we can watch a movie.”
“See you later Mum. Come on Meg, let’s get your collar and lead on.”
Meg wriggled with anticipation as Paula placed the collar around her maned neck. Outside the fresh scent of salt and seaweed had drifted in on the sea breeze, Paula breathed it in. The pair took a shortcut through the park and up the slight incline to the public footpath that led to The Downs.
“Free.” Said Paula as she unclipped the lead from Meg’s collar. Meg began sniffing in the newly mown grass as Paula quickened her pace using the walk to the foot of the hills as a warmup.
They soon reached the long, narrow public footpath that led to the hills above Capital Bay, Jade’s favourite haunt. Paula avoided the squashed empty cans and other pieces of debris that littered the alleyway the smell from which was overpowering at times and made her cover her nose.
On top of The Downs about a dozen sheep were grazing on the short, lush grass intertwined with clumps of sweet-smelling Gorse and an array of wildflowers, Cowslips, Buttercups and Red Clover.
Paula kept to the narrow, worn footpath. Meg trotted on ahead.
About ten minutes had passed when Paula decided to break into a gentle trot.
“Come on Meg, stay close.” She said as the Sheepdog came to her side.
Paula looked out across the hills at the lowering sun sparkling on the water. A breeze had got up and played with her hair sending it over her face, she brushed it off with her hands.
Paula was about to pick up pace when suddenly her steps were halted by something, she saw in front of her.
It looked like a white football.
She thought of kicking it for Meg to chase but then it moved. It moved upward and she could clearly see it was someone’s head covered in bandages. Then a whole body appeared as if coming up from out of the ground. A body covered in bandages. Paula called Meg to her side and hid behind a Gorse bush.
Seconds later a second bandaged figure appeared as if coming up from a hole in the ground. Then a third. Paula counted twenty in all. They gathered in a bunch, looked around and proceeded to walk over the brow of the hill. Paula crouched and followed darting from bush to bush. The wind blew the stench of rotting flesh her way. Meg pricked her ears and her nose began to twitch. Paula covered her mouth in an attempt to stop herself throwing up.
From the brow of the small hillock she could see a dozen sheep with their bellies ripped open, their innards lying on the grass. The group of what she now perceived to be Zombies moving purposefully toward them.
“I think they’re going to eat the sheep Meg. Come on girl it’s time for you to put your sheep herding lessons into practice.”
Paula took Meg by the collar and gently led her away from the gorse bush behind which they were hiding. Paula had got to stop the Zombies from eating the dead sheep and killing even more. She pointed toward the group and shouted.
“Fetch.’ Meg ran hard to the right in a semi-circle, slowed, and then began creeping with her head down toward the group of Zombies. The first Zombie that had appeared and the tallest stopped in his tracks and put his arms out to stop the others. Then the group made threatening noises to Meg. Paula held her breath hoping Meg would succeed in rounding up the Zombies though what she would do with them afterwards Paula had no idea.
Meg’s hackles went up making her look far bigger than she really was, and her eyes went into tiny slits. The Zombies turned tail and ran.
Suddenly a young man came tearing over the brow of the hill on his quad bike.
“Get your bloody dog off my sheep or I’ll shoot it.” He shouted.
“My dog is not on your sheep.” Said Paula.
“Your dog has killed my sheep and I’m going to shoot it.”
“No,” screamed Paula “it was the Zombies.”
“What Zombies?” Shouted the young man.
“Them. “Said Paula as she pointed to the group of Zombies now in full flight followed by Meg.
“Then get your bloody Zombies off my land and my sheep.”
“It’s not your land, it’s common land.” Said Paula.
“Get the bloody Zombies and your dog away from here.”
“They’re not my Zombies.” Shouted Paula.
“Well they’re certainly not mine either.”
The young man drove his quad bike over to Paula.
“Where did those bloody Zombies come from then?”
“I watched them emerge from the hill. Said Paula.
Meg was still circling the group of Zombies, keeping the bewildered looking group away from the sheep.
“Keep your dog busy with them then.” Said the young man as he drove a little closer to the group of Zombies and took out a lasso and caught them with his first shot and gathered them into a tight bunch.
As he did so the rope appeared to go right through them and pull off their bandages revealing their insides. Blood oozed from open wounds and Paula could see the heart of the tallest Zombie beating inside its blood covered rib cage.
The young man pulled his lasso tighter and the group gathered closer and then fell over like a pack of paper playing cards. They landed on the ground in a heap of blood and innards and their bandages flapped in the wind.
“I’m going to have to clear up this mess. I’ll take away the bandages and leave the rotting flesh to the foxes and Buzzards.” Said the young man.
Paula stood both in shock and in awe, her face ashen.
“Where did you learn to lasso like that?”
“Oh, I’ve just spent a month on a cattle ranch in Montana.”
“You did a fantastic job.” Said Paula.
“So did your dog. “Said the young man as he patted Meg. “What’s her name?”
“I’m John from Capital Bay farm, at the bottom of the Downs” He pointed to a small clump of buildings down in the valley.
“Look, would you like to meet up for a drink tonight?”
“Sorry but I promised mum I’d be home shortly after my run and we were having pizza and watching a movie.”
“Tomorrow then?” Said John.
“Yes, I’d like that.” Said Paula.
“Good. Now I’d better go and get my farm hand to give me a hand with these dead sheep. Hopefully your Meg has helped stop the cause of all the sheep deaths I’ve had here lately.
Well done Meg.”
“I’ll see you tomorrow then at The Witches Brew, in the village for a drink or two. Nine o’clock?”
“Yes, I’ll look forward to that. Come on Meg, time to go home now.”