Gary’s eyes narrowed as the sounds of the battle of the farmhouse continued. Screams, shouts, orders being given. Panic, chaos, fear. He was too far away to sense how many people were still alive in the farmhouse, but he guessed the survivors were dying or injured by now.
Easy pickings, especially since the skeletons wouldn’t fight back against him.
The fact that there were no sounds of gunfire told him everything he needed to know.
“Okay, let’s go.”
He reached down to pick up his shovel where it lay on the grass, whilst at the same time making a move towards the farmhouse.
He was yanked backwards as the shovel didn’t move, suddenly feeling as heavy as an anvil.
Gary frowned and pulled again.
Still, he couldn’t lift Simon.
Perplexed, Gary placed both hands on the wooden handle and pulled hard. Simon didn’t move an inch.
“What the hell?” Gary shouted as he strained against a sudden unexpected weight. Still, his trusty tool wouldn’t budge. It was as if it was glued to the ground. Gary swore and pulled as hard as he could, but he might as well have been trying to lift a boulder.
“What? Oh, right, I get it,” Gary said, “You’re sulking, is that it? Because, what? I raised some dead? Well, I didn’t have any choice, so you can get over that.”
Simon said nothing.
Gary stood back with his arms folded.
“He was going to kill me and they were all in on it!” He argued, “Don’t you see? It’s just you and me against the world now, buddy. That’s how things are. If we don’t kill them, they’ll kill me, kill us. You don’t want that, do you?”
He pulled at the shovel again, with the same lack of results.
“Oh, this is just ridiculous,” Gary raged. “Fine, you know what? I’ll do it myself, then. It’s not like I ever really needed you anyway, is it? You’re just a shovel. And those people, they’re just experience points, they’re as good as dead anyway, you know that, right? That’s what everyone has been telling us all along, and you know what? They were right. How long do you think they’d have lasted without me in the picture? Without us? Huh? They’re as good as dead now anyway, so we might as well make the most of it. That’s what we should have done back at the church, isn’t it? We could be worlds away from here if we had. Who knows what adventures are waiting for us? But no, we just had to play the good guy, didn’t we/ And what has it got us, huh? What’s been the point to any of it?”
Gary’s voice cracked as he spoke, his anger and rage at the betrayals he’d suffered breaking in the face of Simon’s stubborn refusal to budge, or even speak.
He felt judged.
“Come on, Simon, I mean...”
He span round to see a trio of figures standing a few feet away. Gemma and James on either side of Rain, who had either arm on the shoulders of the couple. Her body was still covered in bandages and she was leaning on her right leg, but she was alive.
All three of them were looking at Gary as if he was stark raving mad.
“Gary, what’s going on?” Gemma asked, “Who are you talking to?”
“I, uh.. I was talking to Simon. He won’t move. And he’s not talking to me. I think I pissed him off.”
“Right... and why are there undead attacking the farmhouse? It sounds like people are in trouble.”
“Yeah, I, uh…” Gary’s voice trailed off, “Things got out of hand. My uncle, he was going to kill me and I didn’t have a choice. There were bodies in the ground, the people he’d killed, I had to raise them…”
“You can do that?” James asked, his eyes wide.
“Yeah, well, I mean I can now. I couldn’t before.”
Rain looked at him with a curious expression, one that reminded him of how she’d first looked at him, back at the church. As if studying an alien insect. This time, however, he knew what she was thinking.
‘And he shall command armies of the dead…’
Gary shook his head, pushing any thoughts of the prophecy out of his mind.
“So you let a bunch of undead loose? And now they’re attacking our friends and you’re doing what? Arguing with your shovel? Have you completely lost your mind?” Gemma asked, her voice filled with incredulity.
“I didn’t have any choice,” Gary mumbled again. “What are you all doing here?”
“Rain insisted,” James said. “She thought you might be in trouble, so we came looking for you. We saw a lone figure on our maps and guessed it might be you.”
“You came looking for me? Why?”
Rain shrugged, “As he said. I guessed you’d be in trouble. You know. Being a Gary and everything.”
Rain smiled at him despite his pain. Gary managed a smile at her joke.
Then feelings of shame and embarrassment swept through him. It was one thing to have been counting in the abstract what everyone was worth in terms of experience points, but now faced with James, Gemma and Rain, he realised he couldn’t go through with any of it.
“I was just having a bad moment,” he muttered. “I was just... everything that’s happened, you know? Every time I’ve turned around, someone has been trying to kill me for whatever reason, you know? So what’s the point? In the last two days, I’ve killed four people. No, five, in fact. Don’t you see? I’m already losing track of how many people I’ve killed! And for what? If this is how things are now, just pain and horror and murder and everyone hell-bent on killing me for whatever reason, then why the hell should I bother?”
His question hung in the chilly night air.
“No, Gary, you’re wrong,” James said. “You kept us alive, and that counts for something. You can’t forget that, man. We’d all be dead if it wasn’t for you. Me, Gemma, even Rain here, we’d all be dead.”
“Rain nearly died because of me.”
“Because of your uncle,” James countered, “Not you. That wasn’t your fault. You’re a good person, Gary, trying to do the right thing in impossible circumstances. Maybe it hasn’t played out like it should, but you can’t lose that part of yourself. What was it Martin said?”
“’Just keep fighting for what’s right,’” Gary muttered.
“Exactly. And right now, that means going to help our, well, our friends. Because, however messed up things are, all we’ve got right now is each other. Yes, this is all horrible and you’ve taken the raw end of a lot of it, but that doesn’t mean you just give up. Otherwise, you really are just a zombie and you might as well be one of them. But you’re not a zombie, are you Gary? You’re someone who makes a difference. You’re a good person, despite all the shit you’ve been through.”
Gary’s shoulders sagged as James’ words had a profound effect on him.
At least someone had been paying attention. He wasn’t as alone as he’d thought.
“I mean,” Gemma added, “You’re a bit mad and everything, but my husband is right, Gary. You’re on the side of the angels. Although you know your shovel can’t talk, right?”
Gary started to protest, then let it go.
“Rain, are you alright?”
Rain, now with one arm around Gemma’s shoulders, shook her head. “I can barely walk. It’s going to take me at least a week to recover from the wounds, unless they’re permanent. Nice reality you have here. Interesting weapons.”
“Where are the other two soldiers?” Gary asked.
“Passed out again,” Gemma nodded. “One of them woke up for a minute or so, but then went down again. I think the plate I smashed over his head might have been a contributing factor. We tied them up to be on the safe side.”
“They didn’t seem like a bad couple of blokes,” James said. “But anyway. Are we doing this?”
He waved his sword in the direction of the farmhouse.
“Fine,” Gary said, “Let’s go save everyone. Again.”
“Good. How many undead are there?”
“I think about thirty. Maybe a few more.”
“Bloody hell, Gary. You pulled thirty undead from the earth? Fair play, when you go dark side on us, you do not mess about.”
“Maybe forty,” Gary said, “A few of them didn’t get too far.”
He indicated the scattered smashed bones and bodies in the field.
“Right. Well, that’s the situation, I guess. Let’s go. Oh, and Gary, for the record, if I get killed, don’t you dare bring me back as one of those things, okay?”
James’ voice was serious, but his expression made it clear he was half-joking.
Gary smiled again, “Yeah mate, sure. No problem.”
“Same here,” Gemma said, “Or I’ll make it my personal undead mission to kill you.”
“Like that would be a change,” Gary muttered, “But fine.”
He reached down to pick up Simon.
His hand was an inch away from the shovel’s handle when it leapt up off the ground and into his grip.
“HA!” Gary said, “Tell me someone else saw that!”
But James, Gemma and Rain were already walking towards the farmhouse and the sounds of the battle.