Twelve Angry Scavengers

Submitted into Contest #60 in response to: Write a post-apocalyptic story that features zombies.... view prompt

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Drama Thriller

Silence in the gymnasium. Six people sat, dirty faced and exhausted, waiting for something, anything to happen. They stirred from their reverie as one to the sound of footsteps, the way a gazelle might respond to the sound of a branch breaking. 

Three more joined them. Two were armed, one with a handgun, one with a rifle slung casually over his shoulder. The other carried armfuls of canned produce, which he unloaded haphazardly onto a folding table and began arranging them, a single can caught moments before rolling off the table. Several moments later, another trio entered the room. One seemed stoic, the other bewildered and the third brimming with visible fury. This man was armed with a baseball bat.

“What did you find?” the stoic man asked the one arranging cans.

“Beans.”

“Beans?”

“Lots of beans, sir.”

“Great. Love beans” he replied, pacing over to help sort them.

The angry one could withold his rage no more. “There's one of those... Things... In one of the classrooms!” 

Panic. Commotion.

“And they're evolving. She's got wings!” the bewildered woman added.

The angry one turned to her. “What? No. That was a costume!”

“What do you mean?” another asked.

“It's dressed as an angel. White dress, white wings.”

“Did you kill it?”

The angry man shot a venemous glance at their leader, still helping sort cans, seemingly oblivious. “No. He said not to. But I say we take a vote. All in favour of killing the monster and securing our current residence?”

Eleven hands shot up, including his own. Everyone present, bar one. The instigator shrugged with his raised arm. “Sorry cap. The people have spoken.” He turned to leave, clenching a baseball bat.

“No,” came a voice, quiet but firm. Cap got to his feet and turned to his antagonist. “That's not how this works, Liam. That's not how any of this works.” He addressed the room at large. “I've kept you all alive this far, but only because you've followed my orders. You all joined me because you value my knowledge and skills. This is not, nor has it ever been, a democracy.”

“Bullshit!” yelled the other man, whacking the doorframe with his bat. The sound reverberated around the gym. Everyone feel silent, holding their breath. After a few moments with no foreign sounds, debate resumed in a whisper. “You’re losing it, Cap. Few of us have noticed it. And don’t get me wrong, we’re grateful for all you've done. But it might be time for someone else to lead.”

Cap furrowed his brow. He turned in a slow circle, watching eleven dissenting pairs of eyes staring from around the room. He was quiet for a long time. Eventually, he cleared his throat and spoke. “It would be so easy to kill her. She's locked in a room on the far side of the building. She poses no threat to us. Fact is, we would be no safer for her needless death.”

“I agree,” came a soft voice, an older lady. “There's been so much violence already. If it's really locked away, I say we let it be.”

The man with the bat rolled his eyes. Cap turned to her and said, “thank you Annabeth.”

“I’d feel safer,” said another voice. “I don’t like the idea of any of those things lurking around nearby!”

A few murmurs of agreement.

“Things," said Cap, "that's what they've become to us. Aggressive, invasive creatures that track us and kill us without remorse or hesitation. But this one saw us. It showed no signs of aggression. In fact, she looked rather sad.”

“You're basing your whole defence of this bloodthirsty creature on 'it looked sad’?” Liam said mockingly.

“Guy I rode with, out in Philly. Said he'd seen a whole bunch o' them just passive. Walked among 'em. Says they did nothing. Didn't believe 'im, but maybe it's true,” a younger man added.

“Not a chance, Ben. We know what they are. Call them whatever you like, zombies, walkers, the undead, the living dead, ghouls... They have one singular purpose. They're evil. They want to eat us. It's us or them.”

“Carol,” Cap addressed the woman who had entered with them. “You said ‘she’”

Carol looked perplexed. “I did?”

“You did. You said ‘she's got wings’. You didn't see some bloodthirsty monster. You saw what I saw. You saw a young woman.”

“She didn't have blood around her mouth like they usually do. She did look sad...”

“Come on, really! The only reason she... it's not covered in blood like the others is because it's not had the chance. We all know if it gets out that room it's coming for us. We've all seen the movies!”

“Movies?” Cap said, surprised. “That's what you’re basing this all on? Movies? Hollywood’s accurate portrayal of a zombie apocalypse? They feast on flesh, they can only be stopped by destroying the brain, therefore everything else must be right, too?” He once more addressed the room. “These are unprecedented events! We can't allow fiction to influence our choices! Fact is, no matter what we think we know, we’re on our own. Everything we learn about these creatures, everything we observe in their behaviour, we must draw our own conclusions! We cannot allow preconceived notions to tarnish our actions!”

“Great speech, Cap, but the people have spoken," Liam said, leaning on his bat.

A small voice from the corner. “Then let's vote again. I've changed my mind.”

“Seriously, Dave?" Liam's fist clenched around the bat handle. "Fine. All in favour of letting this ghoul live in order to kill us later?”

Fewer hands shot up.

“All opposed?” said Dave, raising his arm.

Cap, Annabeth, Ben and Carol raised their hands to join his.

“It's still five vs seven,” said the man with the bat smugly.

A hesitant hand raised from close beside him. He turned to its owner with a look of revulsion. “Seriously, Ed!”

“What?” Ed replied. “I'm sorry. I know you're my brother and everything and I'm supposed to listen to you, but she's innocent. She hasn't hurt no one.”

Ed’s brother grimaced. “Anyone,” he corrected through gritted teeth. “Anyway, you don't count. You’re not old enough to vote.”

“Strange how that didn't bother you before,” Dave said.

“That make six v six, Liam. Even if we were a democracy, that's a stalemate.”

“I still say we kill it!” came another voice. Francis.

“Could you? Could you walk into that room with a creature that intends you no harm and smash her head in with a bat?”

“How do you know she means us no harm?”

“How do you know she does?”

“They all do! You know this! We all know this! We've all killed at least one. Cap, I've seen you take down dozens!”

“When I had to, Francis. We all fought when we had to. When it was kill or be killed. This is different. If we destroy anything that inconveniences us, that scares us, that's different to us, how are we going to rebuild our society? How are we going to retain our humanity? How are we any better than the mindless zombies that attack us on sight? Are we even worth saving?”

Francis said nothing, but slid back down the wall until he was seated on the floor.

Liam marched into the centre of the room. “It's easy to say those things. But we're not rebuilding society. We're fighting for our lives! We must do what needs to be done to survive. Even if we don't like it. That girl in there? She's not one of us. She may well mean us harm. Even if she were human, would we trust her? Remember Zora? Remember her taking our supplies in the middle of the night? I say any who threaten the group should be dealt with with extreme prejudice!” As he said this, he turned slowly to Cap. “This virus does not understand reason. It does not care for humanity. It's a sickness that threatens to take us all... It's...”

“It is a sickness,” Cap replied firmly. “That girl is sick. She should not be held accountable for her actions whilst sick. Gina,” he said, addressing the oldest woman present, “when you ran out of meds, you became confused. You thought we were trying to rob you. You got hold of a gun. You held it to Ben’s head...”

Ben winced.

“You were sick. It would have been easy to take you down. It would have been easy to leave you behind. But that's not what we’re about. We found you more meds. We forgave you.”

Ben nodded sadly.

“And we paid the price. Yana got killed," cried the man who had brought in the cans.

“Yana got killed because she got greedy in the pharmacy. Yana defied orders. No one is responsible for her death but her!”

Cap had not meant to raise his voice. The room fell silent as they all listened for movement.

“We should leave her be,” Gina said quietly.

“She'll starve to death soon anyway,” someone added.

“Maybe, Henry. Maybe. Or maybe someone, somewhere is working on a cure right now. Maybe she'll even recover on her own. Who are we to deny her that chance?”

“We are the only rational creatures in the building. Or, at least, I thought we were,” Liam said, though the edge had seeped from his voice.

“We are. And as such we have a duty. All of us have lost someone. Friends, family. That girl in there, she's someone’s daughter. Someone’s partner. Someone’s sister. Could you look any of them in the eye and tell them you slaughtered her because she was inconvenient?” Cap looked around the room at the three holdouts. “Ian? Jacob?”

Ian quietly placed a can down and shrugged, then looked at the floor and mumbled something. Jacob was silent.

“We’re all scared. Fear makes us do crazy things. And I'm telling you all, killing that girl is a crazy act. She saw us. She looked right at us. She offered no signs of aggression. If anything, she seemed curious. Every other one we've seen has immediately attacked. She's not like them. She's different. And that's something worth investigating. Maybe not by us, but by people far smarter. Tomorrow, we move out. We leave her be. When we meet up with the convoy we tell them what we found, let them decide how to act. For all we know she could lead to a cure herself.”

The room was silent once more, though not due to fear that their debate had been overheard.

“I say we vote again,” Ed said.

Eleven arms in favour of leaving her be. One in favour of ending her. Just as Cap opened his mouth to speak, the door outside began to rattle. The groans of the undead reverberated around the gym, joined by another from somewhere within the school. All hands shot down. The chains on the door jangled. This was not one rogue walker. Cap looked around and saw Liam had gone. He ran after him, finding him at the door to the angel’s room. The creature within was moaning loudly.

"She's giving us away..." Liam said quietly.

The others joined them, craning their heads to peek at the creature through the window in the door.

"If she keeps going like this, we'll be overrun..."

Cap turned to Liam, a look of understanding on both men's faces. He placed a hand on his adversary's shoulder. “I'll do it,” he said with a sigh.

He took the bat, and after Liam unlocked the door he slipped into the room. The angel stood facing the far corner, groaning at a wall. Cap lowered the bat, propping it against a desk. The zombie turned as Cap raised his hands. It tilted it’s head to one side.

“Don’t be alarmed,” said Cap. “I mean you no harm..."


September 25, 2020 06:09

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5 comments

Dk Marie
22:48 Oct 13, 2020

Intense! This is a great story! Also I love how you took theme of the old movie 12 Angry Men and gave it an update and new twist.

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Vinci Lam
20:07 Sep 28, 2020

Great story! Dialogue is super well done, including the dehumanization details and influential leadership speeches. Cap is a super well-developed character with a lot of nuance. At first he seemed noble for wanting to spare life, but ultimately he held the collective safety to such a high degree of importance that it leaves no room for sympathy. Which is shown with his harsh reaction to Yana. This detail was so significant to me because it makes the ending that much more ominous. I would not be surprised if he does end up ridding the ange...

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John Maygrove
21:36 Oct 02, 2020

Thank you very much. What a lovely comment!

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Rowena Tisdale
23:27 Sep 26, 2020

Well done, John! Great concept, well written, AND an angel zombie! Love this story.

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John Maygrove
21:36 Oct 02, 2020

Thank you Rowena!

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