Adam sat at a round wooden table dimly lit by a old glass lantern. He held in both hands, an old leather-bound book with Latin words garnishing the cover. He meticulously went over each word and said it out loud breaking it down to syllables.
“Mor-tu-us est. Am-bu-la-re. Mortuus est ambulare,” he practiced reciting.
Hovering near Adam by the door, pacing back and forth, was Zach. His huge frame towered over the 6ft. door, making it look tiny in comparison. He had a distinct black viper tattoo wrapping around his body with its head ending on his massive forearm. He was muttering gibberish to himself while stopping occasionally to look through the peephole on the door. Gripped tightly in his hand was a large metal pipe that looked like it had seen its fair share of violence.
“We’re trapped. No one’s going to save us. Those puppets are going to….gawd! We’re all going to die in this shit-hole cabin, in the middle of this shit-hole town!” Zach said in a panicked tone.
“Calm down Zach and just take a seat. Evelyn is almost finished with dinner. Once we eat, we can plan on what to do in the morning. If luck is on our side, those ‘things’ will have moved on and we’ll be able to make our way towards the next town,” Adam said in a calm demeanor.
“Oh yeah, and what if they fucking don’t? What if they stay for days, weeks, hell even months! What than Mr. Know-it-all? Fucking Prick. I should have left you to die with the others at that damn refugee camp,” Zach said while glaring at Adam and tightening his grip on the pipe.
Adam and Zach had only known each other for few days before the camp they were stationed at were overrun with Puppets; soulless humans who feed on the flesh of the living in turn, creating more mindless shells that searched for anyone unfortunate enough to cross paths with it.
“Why didn’t you leave me and Evelyn there? Were you just feeling extra generous that day? Oh yeah, maybe you needed someone that actually knew how to pilot that plane we escaped on. I'm going to go out on a limb here and choose the latter,” Adam sarcastically said while still staring down at his book.
“Listen you! “ Zach said as he placed a hand on the back of Adam’s shoulder, gripping it hard.
As Zach was about to pull Adam up to his feet, Evelyn came through the kitchen door holding a large steaming pot. She had an accomplished smirk taped to her face and her eyes were wide with excitement. As she was setting the pot down on the wooden table, she could tell there was some tension that built up in the room and her smile quickly faded.
“Is...everything alright here?” Evelyn asked concerningly.
“Never better!” Adam happily retorted, clapping the book he had, shut.
“Now what on earth is that heavenly smell?”
Evelyn blushed a little and removed her mittens to comb back some strands of hair hanging in her face. She went on a rant on how there weren't enough ingredients left in the cabin and she had to make do with old spices and whatever she could forage from the outside garden. After venting a bit longer she noticed in mid-sentence that both the men’s faces were watering with anticipation.
“And that's why I always travel with salt and….Ah yes, you two must be starving. Enough chatter, let's get to it I suppose.”
Evelyn then proceeded to remove the lid off the pot and soon, a sweet and savory aroma filled the cabin. The two men leaned forward to get a better look in the crockpot. Tomato stew with cubed potatoes and sliced carrots was immediately visible. Various herbs lay sprinkled on the top giving an artistic look to the meal. Evelyn withdrew three plates from the nearby cupboard and placed it on the table. Using the wooden ladle protruding from the pot, she scooped up a hefty amount and placed equal portions into each bowl.
Once Evelyn finished pouring the remaining contents into the final bowl, the two men immediately began wolfing down the meal. Zach took heaping spoonful's, swallowing down each bite without even taking the time to chew. Juxtapose to him was Adam who took his time chewing; savoring each bite trying to distinguish the flavors.
“Well Evelyn, I think you may have outdone yourself this time. The carrots and celery are fan-tas-tic. They practically turn to butter on my spoon. Oh and the potatoes! Don’t even get me started on them,” Adam said while gratefully smiling at Evelyn.
“The one thing I can’t put my finger on... How were you able to make it sweet? I don’t remember seeing any sugar or honey in this place. Did you carry some with you from the camp?”
Evelyn blushed again, not expecting someone to take so much interest in her cooking.
“No no no. Of course not. I just found some fruit nearby and turned it into puree. I used it as the base of the stock among other spices. I'm sure if I did have the proper ingredients though, it’d be much more enjoyable,” Evelyn said unpretentiously.
“I think it’s perfect the way it is. I wouldn’t change a thing. But if you don’t mind me asking, what fruit was it? Canned peaches perhaps?” Adam asked curiously.
Evelyn grinned and stuck out both hands with her index finger and thumb fully extended; replicating a gun.
“If I told ya, i’d have to kill ya,” she chuckled followed by a theatrical wink.
As both of them started laughing, Zachary angrily stood up causing his chair to fall over. He slammed his fist down onto the table making a loud ‘thump’ sound.
“Why don't you both just shut the hell up already! You're making too much damn noise and soon every puppet in this town will be crawling up our asses,” Zach snarled.
Zach proceeded to grab his bowl and slide it across the table to where Evelyn was sitting.
“Aye why don’t you load that up some, and after I'm filled with whatever ‘this’ is that you call a proper meal, then maybe I'll take you out back and show you my generosity girlie.”
Evelyn folded up her arms in disgust and turned away. Just when Zachary was about to make another comment, Adam flung his bowl towards Zach's head resulting in stew to slowly dribble down the side of his face.
“Why don’t you have some of mine? I'm starting to get full anyway,” Adam said in a stern voice.
“You bastard! You’re going to regret that.” Zach barked.
Zachary, already brandishing his large metal pipe, hoisted the table up and flung it to the side. Without hesitation, he casted a swift horizontal swing aimed at Adam’s head. Adam leaned back barely missing the end of the pipe. In a quick continuous motion, he picked up the heavy leather-bound book and slammed it full force into Zach’s face. Blood began gushing from Zach’s nose. Unphased, Zach dropped his weapon and wrapped both hands around Adam’s throat. A sly grin developed on Zach’s face and then he began to squeeze.
“Stop it, you’re going to kill him!” cried out Evelyn, her words falling on deaf ears.
In the midst of the brawl, the lamp that had fallen to the ground, had spilled its contents all over the wooden floors, causing an inferno to break out and engulf a portion of the cabin. The roaring flames began lighting up the black night, and soon it drew in the attention of the Puppets. Large hordes of them came flocking towards the cabin quickly surrounding it.
As Adam fought to ungrasp Zach's hands, he could feel his consciousness fading in and out of blackness. Just before he was about to pass out, Zach’s hands loosened from around his neck and Adam was able to breathe once more. He looked up and saw Evelyn holding the metal pipe in her hands. At her feet lay Zach, planted face first in the ground.
“We have to get out of here NOW!” said Evelyn while coughing on smoke.
Adam got to his feet and gripped his book with one hand and Evelyn with the other. Quickly they made their way to the back room which had a ladder that led to the rooftop. Adam pulled Evelyn towards the ladder and helped push her up. Adam Followed shortly behind but as he was climbing he felt something grab his ankle.
Adam, feeling his weight being pulled down with tremendous force looked down and saw Zach clinging to his leg.
“Where do you think you're going!?” shouted Zach.
A twisted smile was stitched to Zach’s face as he began pulling Adam back towards the earth. Evelyn, just a few feet above, tried grabbing Adam and pulling him back up but Zach was too strong. Just before Zach was going to give his final yank to Adam’s leg, dozens of puppets spilled from the door and windows into the room. Their decayed hands grabbed and clawed at Zach quickly and greedily ripping flesh. Their heads whipped back and forth taking alternating bites. Adam, seeing a window of opportunity, flung his book down hitting Zach's hand forcing him to release his grip. Soon the cabin was filled with grotesque chewing and the sounds of ripping flesh; shortly followed by howling cries.
Adam and Evelyn reached the top of the ladder and pushed open the hatch Door. They climbed onto the rooftop and quickly closed the hatch behind them.
“So what now?” asked Evelyn.
“Honestly I didn't think we’d get this far...Perhaps a mad dash in the cover of night, narrowly avoiding death and barely escaping to the next town?” Adam said thoughtfully.
“Mmm tempting but I think I got a better idea.”
Evelyn walked towards the side of the roof and scanned an overarching branch that was just a few feet away. After reaffirming it was stable, she slowly backed up and paused. Before Adam could say anything, Evelyn sprinted off the roof and onto the branch just narrowly making it. She turned around and smiled at Adam.
“-Kay it's your turn.”
Adam peered down over the ledge and saw the Puppets hadn’t noticed them yet. They were too busy trying to claw their way in, unphased by the growing flames. Adam took a deep breath and backed up. He looked ahead and assumed a runners pose. Just as he began tensing his leg muscles, he felt the roof start to shake and tremble. Quickly without hesitation, Adam sprinted as fast as he could onto the branch just reaching it before the roof collapsed.
Adam and Evelyn sat on the tree branch watching the fire engulf what was left of the cabin. As the flames danced and crackled over the wood, Evelyn started chuckling to herself. Confusingly Adam looked at her.
“What's so funny?” he contagiously smiled.
Evelyn Stood up and plucked something from a nearby branch. She took a bite from it and then proceeded to toss it to Adam.
“Secret ingredient,” she smirked.
Adam looked down and saw he was holding an apple. He stared at it for a brief moment before a smile crept onto his face. He brought the apple up to his nose to smell it before taking a large bite.