The day’s light gradually diminished in the background. Many deaths this day, the field littered with sword, shield and javelins; bodies pierced and sliced in unusually and dishonourable ways. A strong western breeze blew against Grim’s tattered ebony robes as he observed the field a top of the hill south of the battlefield.
How long has it been? He’s been doing what he does for ages, but he has know idea when it started. His name was lost to him, and whether he had a name to begin with. Do Reapers have names other than what humans call him whenever they get a glimpse at him? Being a six-foot-two skeleton with abnormally large bones, a huge razor-sharp scythe standing at six-foot-six and old tattered robes. As far as he knew he always had them. He’d watch humans kill themselves for over a millennia, well it seemed like a millennia. Time like space had no effect on him as he was beyond them. Their laws only affected mankind and since he wasn’t a part of mankind, he wasn’t constrained by them.
Grim headed down the hill, his large bone feet and robes passing through the grass, not effecting the laws of nature as he passed through. Any second now, he thought heading deeper into the chaos. He always knew who would rise and when one of the many things that perplexed him. He knew many things about death and human nature, but nothing of his own existence. Sensing that someone was about to rise he stopped; his six-sense acted like a homing beacon. He was never wrong. By his feet was a Norman soldier, a knight with a conical helmet and mail hauberk. The man looked about thirty-two with a moustache and goatee. His throat was cut and the blade that did it laid next to him as was the arm that was holding it. ‘Interesting that they love to dismember each other. Stabbing would do just fine, why go to all the effort?’
The sun fell beyond the horizon and on cue, the dead arose. The spirit of the soldier stood up out of his body. The spirit had a purple-blue hue and the scars that he received when he died remained on his spirit. He stared at the large figure in front of him, ‘am I dead?’
‘Yes. Does that concern you?’ Grim answered in a deep hollow voice.
‘Um? I don’t know…Should it?’
‘That’s up to…’ Grim answered.
‘Are you Death?’ The soldier asked. Still weirded out at the large man in front of him, well, a man in a sense. It had the skeleton of a man.
‘You can call me that, I go by many names. Humans seem fond of naming things, why is that?
‘I..I…I don’t know I never really thought about it.’
‘It seems…what is your name?’
‘I..Um…why do you want to know?’
‘I heard that when meeting someone the first time that it is polite to introduce yourself,’ Grim answered.
‘Oh…,’ the soldier lost in thought for a second trying to remember his name, ‘it’s Sam.’
‘Well, Sam you are indeed dead. You do have any questions for me?’
Confused Sam looked down at his body and to his home to the distance beyond the forest further down the hill, ‘what happens next? Will I go to heaven?’
‘I don’t know,’ Grim replied.
‘Wait a minute I thought you know every about the Afterlife?’
‘Why should I know everything about the Afterlife? Do you know everything about life?’ Grim replied in a sullen tone.
‘Um..No, but your Death. Doesn’t that mean you know this stuff because well, your Death?’ Sam asked.
‘Does who I am determine what knowledge I possess? I think not,’ Grim said pointing his right index finger down at him.
‘No, I guess.’
‘Then our time is up.’ Grim closed his fist, Sam protested as his essence was sucked into Grim’s hand. Sam’s soul turned into a wisp of blue-purple energy. Grim rotated his hand and opened it, letting the wisp fly up in the sky like releasing a firefly, the wisp flying up into the sky, now dark, and vanished.
Grim gazed at the field, no other spirits had arisen. Grim took a few steps forward waiting for his six sense to trigger again. Nothing. The silence of the dead suddenly stopped; several corpses broke out into convulsions. Shaking like an unseeable hand has picked them up and was toying with them. The corpses bent and twist in unusual ways, eventually managing to stand like a child standing for the first time. Their flesh a cold-grey, their eyes hollow and empty. After they had arisen the rest of the dead began to rise, that is except Sam’s body.
Grim stood in front of the nearest soldier, scythe in the right hand he reached his left hand through the chest of the feral zombie, it drooling and groaning as it tried to move forward, but it is was stopped by an unseeable force. Grim’s hand did not puncture the flesh, merely pass through it like a gust of wind moving through the body. Grim pulled his hand out, bringing the spirit with. Grim looked down at the face of the soldier spirit, freaking out the ghost, it screamed in Grim’s face. Screaming and screaming, flailing its ghost hands at Grim’s hand. Doing every it could to get Grim to let go. Finally, Grim not wanting to waste any more time let go of the spirit, the spirit returned back its body. The body continued to move forward again unabated.
Somewhat annoyed at the development Grim held the scythe in both hands and brought the curved blade past his right shoulder, without a notion of contemplating the moral implications he sliced through across the mid-section of the zombie. His blade so sharp it didn’t stop when it cut into the armour. The legs dropped to the ground like a puppet master cutting the strings the torso followed shortly after. Wondering what was happening Grim gazed down at the body waiting for the spirit to rise. Nothing. ‘Hmm, the spirit is trapped?’ Rubbing his chin.
His empty eye sockets in his large skull brought their attention to the direction the zombies were heading. They were heading to a town in the distance. ‘Getavix…How interesting?’ Rubbing his jaw, was that action of his doing because he sees humans rubbing their jaw or was something he used to do before.
Getavix was in an uproar, a small village by the coast, population three hundred. Most of the villages were fisherman and the others were shop owners and peasants. During the chaos of the peoples retreat random houses and shops were set alight. Villages and soldiers were gathering whatever they could before the zombies reached them. Shop owners were putting everything they could carry in sacks and running through the town heading for the port in the northeast part of town. The city guards that were staying in the city were doing whatever they could to maintain some idea of order, trying to redirect the villages to the docks. The Captains were bribed by everyone that entered the port; they didn’t care whose many it was, they were making a fortune. Some were willing to stay until the very last second while taking in all the cash they could.
Grim walked through the main street watching all the commotion, villages passing through like he wasn’t there, which to them he wasn’t. Grim wondered many these times during times of chaos if he really was real? Was he made by the creation of man’s on own imagination or did he create himself through some other means greater than himself? As he strolled down the street, he felt eyes watching him and to his right, he saw a young boy staring at him. Interesting, the young never see me. Grim headed over to the boy, the boy looked into the face of the giant.
‘What is your name boy?’ Grim asked kneeling down a foot away from the boy.
The boy opened his mouth, his was tongue was gone.
‘Odd, more dismemberment? Where is your family boy?’
The boy looked down at the ground and shook his head.
‘Are you not afraid of me boy? It’s fine if you are, many men have been.’
Taking his eyes away from the ground the boy looked at the huge empty eye sockets shook his head.
Grim was fascinated by the child, a boy that showed no fear and could see him. Grim stared into the boy’s eyes. The boy’s brown eyes hid something dark behind them. Peering in closer he could see the pain of the boy hid. What have you seen? He pondered. ‘Do you know I am?’
The boy didn’t the answer but his parents always reminded him to be polite to strangers, and the giant was definitely strange. He nodded.
‘Do you want me to end it?’ The rules of fate played their part when a human was supposed to die, there were exceptions to every rule and if Grim was to give this boy this gift there would be a price to pay.
Trying to remain polite the boy nodded.
Brave young man! Hesitating for a moment Grim placed his left on hand the boy’s shoulder. Like before with a puppet master cutting the strings, the boy collapsed to the ground. No one acknowledged or even turned their attention to the site of the boy falling down dead. The boy’s spirit stood in the same location, not even noticing what had happened to him. Grim had seen that when dogs turn their neck, they make people smile and trying to comfort the boy he jarring twisted his head; it almost felt like his head was going to pop off. It had worked as the boy did smile. He turned the boy’s spirit into a wisp and released it.
All done he continued on to the castle and maybe some answers.
Two guards in Norman armour stood on either side of the castle doors opposite a ten-foot bridge that leads into town. The guard on the left had a double chin that stood out like the butt on an apple, while the other guard had large bushy eyebrows.
‘How long do you think we have?’ Double Chin asked Eyebrows to his left.
‘Not sure,’ Eyebrows replied.
‘The missus and I need to get out here,’ Double Chin said giving away his plans. Abandoning your post was a court-martial offense that usually meant death, but since the dead were coming anyway, he didn’t really care.
‘I was thinking the same. You might want to hurry though they’ll be here shortly,’ Eye Brows had the same idea, he was surprised that his mate would be so willing to openly admit what he was planning to do.
‘I’m surprised, I thought that you know… You would…’
‘What? Dob you in, I’m planning on getting outta here right now. Why don’t we leave?’ Eye Brows would leave anyway even if his mate didn’t agree.
‘Good,’ Double Chin said smiling, ‘Lets —’
A sudden scraping sound came from across the bridge alerting them. The guards drew their swords at the ready. Double Chin took a few steps forwards looking into the alley. Unwittingly a black figure jumped out from the end of the bridge towards the other side and letting out a sharp screech. Double Chin and Eye Brow’s jumped in their boots, it was a black cat. Relaxing their nerves, they sheathed their swords. Double Chin turned back to Eye Brows, both of them laughing at the lunacy of their actions. They dropped their laughter just as fast as it started.
‘Now?’ Double Chin asked.
‘Now.’ Eye Brow’s agreed it was time they left. No time like the present, he thought.
Another new sound came from across the bridge, Double Chin span around withdrawing his blade again, Eye Brows following doing the same. The sound was like metal scraping on stone.
‘What is that? Another cat?’ Double Chin asked.
‘I don’t think so. Look I think we should leave like RIGHT now.’
‘I agree,’ Double Chin slowly backed up to Eye Brows and looked at his mate, ‘let’s go.’
Double Chin and Eye Brows turned to the gate about to go inside, Double Chin to get his missus and Eye Brows to get some supplies for the trip on one of the ships, but as they took a step the strength in their bodies left them. They fell to the ground dead.
Grim saw two guards outside, they seemed to be laughing at their fear. If are cat could scare them then how would they handle zombies. Like the boy, Grim figured he’d spare them too. He walked by them tapping them on the shoulder. First dropped the one with the large chin and then the other one. He engulfed their spirits at the same time and let them go. Lucky, he thought heading inside walking through the castle doors like he was nothing.
Thought was all he had, and what was there to do without thought, it was crazy for Mathodos not to think and understand the meaning of the thought. Right now, he would like to understand where the zombies were coming from, well not so much where, they were countrymen but what caused them to rise. And do they think? Is thought even something they are capable of? They seem to have some thought otherwise they wouldn’t be heading to Getavix, logic dictates they would head in any direction and yet they were heading to Getavix. Mathodos was a young Wizard, only twenty-six. He wore a traditional red pointy hat with a trim and gold stars stitched all over in no real pattern, the point dropped back. He wore a matching red gown with the same gold stars. Each Wizard was assigned a kingdom when they graduated. But his school is long gone, it was wiped out a month by the undead. Now the King demanded answers, he hadn’t slept in three days and he still hasn’t come up with anything. A friend of his sent a message by carrier crow which he got earlier that day telling him “that he might want to look at Egypt.” He’s hands were full of spell scrolls, maps, books on arcana and the message from his friend. Heading down the hall to the throne room trying to manage his load he missed the giant figure standing in his way and collided into it, dropping everything. He bent down picking up all his things looking up at the giant, ‘I’m sorry I didn’t see you there Mr?’
‘Grim,’ Grim replied in his deep voice.
Mathodos rubs his right index finger in his right ear at the volume, ‘good lungs you have there.’
‘I have no lungs,’ Grim replied offering the Wizard his hand. Wizards for some reason had an affinity to see him. Another thing he never understood, his best guess is their knowledge in arcane arts was related. The relation between him and arcana was interesting as neither arcana or himself followed the laws of nature, that they are unnatural.
Mathodos took the strangers hand, helping himself up with his papers in his other arm. ‘Are you here for something? You know the zombies are on their way here?’
‘Yes, I am aware. That is why I’m here.’ Grim answered.
‘You’re looking for the zombies? Why is that?” Mathodos weird out by the reply of the stranger.
‘I seek to know where they are coming from. They are heading here so I figured someone would know why then I ran into.’
‘Yes…We’ll the king needs to hear what I’ve discovered. It’s important that I inform him and the Queen at once,’ Mathodos said attempting to step by the cloaked stranger.
‘What have you learned young Wizard?’ Grim asked in a gentler tone.
‘Um… who did you say you were again?’
‘People call me many things; you can call me Grim. Now, what have learned?’ Grim’s tone raised a bit in frustration.
‘I think… I think I heard the source is coming from somewhere in Egypt. A friend of mine informed me earlier today,’ Mathodos wasn’t sure why he told him. He felt the stranger had to know.
‘Thank you, young Wizard, —’
‘Mathodos,’ Mathodos liked it when people knew his name and that he was a Wizard. Rank matters these days.
‘Mathodos,’ Grim placed his hand on Mathodos right shoulder, ‘you should leave immediately. Take a ship at the port and go to Egypt.’ Grim imprinted a little gift on the Wizard, it won’t last long but hopefully, long enough, he thought.
‘Wait a minute I need to inform the King and Queen of —’
‘Don’t worry young Mathodos I will see that the message is delivered you go and pack and leave NOW,’ Grim said pointing his hand back down the hall that Mathodos had come from.
Not wanting to argue with the giant Mathodos headed back to his office. His farming equipment seemed rather large. What would a farmer know about zombies? He thought.
Grim knew what he needed now but before he left, he had to tend to the King and Queen in the throne.
Grim strolled through the corridors, he followed any guard that was going in the same direction he was. Most likely they were going to the throne room, he was right when he turned left at the end of the corridor. He saw men vanishing behind a wall. Closer he saw that it was the throne room, it was obvious when he eyed the King, so-to-speak, pacing around his chair at the back of the room. The moment he stepped forward to enter the room the guards inside slammed the doors shut. Not stopping he passed through the doors and two of guards, entering the room. The zombies weren’t far behind him and he wanted to see how they would react when they got here. Grim saw an empty corner on the left at the end of the room. He stood there watching and listening.
The King was losing his mind, pacing around his throne chair at the end of the room. The double doors to the chamber were sealed with a large wooden beam held on by several C-shaped metal plates. Four guardsmen stood by the door and another six lined up across the room at the other end three-quarters up. The Queen remained in her seat on the left of her husband’s chair and watched him go around in circles.
The King was fifty-six with a long dark grey beard, a red gown covered with gold trim, a large golden crown with red and blue gems littered along the front that run up the rim that was shaped like a tip of a double-edged sword. The Queen was thirty-seven with long brown hair that was braided and run down her back. Her gown was red with a slit running down the side of one leg, allowing for more freedom of movement, it wasn’t proper by any means for a Queen to show her flesh to her people. There were however a few occasions where she was in trouble and unable to run properly because her gown was too tight around the legs. The King commanded the change to her dress for her protection which she protested at first but she appreciated the gesture. He was driving her mad.
‘Will you stop it! You’re driving me crazy, will you sit down and wait for Mathodos,’ the Queen demanded then rubbed her fingers in her eyes trying to get them to refocus.
‘Where’s Mathodos?’ The King asked stopping in front his chair, resting his elbow on the corner of his chair.
‘He’ll be here,’ The Queen said trying to reassure him while trying to reassure herself.
Several loud knocks came from the door, ‘let me in,’ a voice cried out.
‘Who is it?’ The King directing his question at the Guard Captain by the door.
‘Who is it?’ The Captained asked the voice at the door.
‘Let me in, they’re coming. Oh, please God let me in!’ The voice pleaded.
Not sure what to do the Guard Captain looked to his King.
‘Let them in,’ The king ordered.
Moments later after the guards unbarred the door a woman came running in, out of breath and weeping by the Kings feet. The Queen had recognized the woman, it was her maid, ‘what is it, Shirley?’ The Queen asked.
‘The guards are dead. The gate is broken and they’re on their way here,’ Shirley sniffed blinking and trying to clear her sight looking at the Queen. Her man was dead, Double Chin.
Several loud pounds echoed from the doors now sealed again. Unrecognizable moans and groans came through the doors. Without a moment to think the beam sealing the door broke and doors opened letting in a flood of zombies. The guards at the door were taken out an instant. The rest stood their ground, eventually falling back against the wall at the end of the room. The King, Queen and maid huddled up close to one another. The guards chopped through as many as they could, they really were knights of the realm but it was not enough and they have torn apart just like everything and anybody that got in their way. The maid and King were killed by having their skulls beaten in by hands that no longer felt pain and were able to pound into whatever was in front of them as hard as they could. And finally, the Queen died when they piled on her in a mass of flesh, suffocating on the ground by her husband, and the smell of rotten eggs and shit that emanated from the zombies that lay on top of her.
Packing his things as fast as he could Mathodos wondered who that stranger was and how he knew what he did? He still felt the cold grasp of the stranger’s hand on his right shoulder. It caused a cold shiver down his spine. Weird, he thought. That sought of thing doesn’t creep out Wizards normally. Wizards were trained in the art of weird, one of the benefits. It’s was a good way to assure that you will be left alone so no fool will interrupt your studying. Speaking of weird, Mathodos grabbed his notes and book on Egyptian Myth and Legends on his desk and tucked them in his suitcase. He exited his office and headed for the entrance.
He’s suitcase weighed a bit and required both hands and with each step it bopped against his legs, making him waddle like a penguin. His potions, books and scrolls mix-mashing all over the place in the suitcase. The sounds were distracting, so distracting that as he walked down the main corridor leading to the gate, he didn’t notice a horde of zombies trolling he’s way. Before he registered their presence, he closed his eyes hoping not to see their horror as they killed him. But nothing, eyes still closed he could hear them go by. He dared to open one eye, wheeled his pupil like in a trance. Stunned he opened his other eye and found the zombies were passing through him. A large one suddenly appeared in front of him, thinking that it saw him he held his suitcase up in front of his face, a reaction he couldn’t control. And yet no reaction from the zombie. It merely groaned and past through him, he felt its mass go through him like an inshore wave.
He dropped his hands nearly dropping his suitcase, took a deep breath, the zombie just pasted him, stopped and turned around. Mathodos freaked out internally, he did what he could to control himself, standing absolutely still. He heard it groan again, and then silence. Move you, idiot, he forced himself to turn and saw the undead had vanished. He took one more deep breath to collect himself walked out the gate. As he exited, he saw two of the guards on the ground were dead and yet they weren’t zombies?
‘Weird?’ He said bending over to get a closer look, ‘No sign of what killed them. How is that possible?’ Before he could ponder on the answer to the question he heard groans coming from down the street across the bridge.
Taking it as a cue, he increased his waddled and darted for the Port. With any luck, there will be a ship by the time he gets there.
Grim watched as it all played out. Like before nothing happened. After it was over, no spirits raised. What was going on? He wanted answers. What did Mathodos say, something about Egypt? Nothing left to do and no souls to tend to, and send them to the Otherside he figured it was time to seek answers elsewhere.
He waved his left hand in a circular motion, before him a black portal opened large enough to fit him and his scythe through. Time and space meant nothing to him. By entering the portal, he should reach Egypt instantaneously the moment he passed through.
Mathodos reached the pier and it seemed no one had seen or acknowledged his presence either, just like the zombies. One of the Captains didn’t notice him so he figured he might as well should catch a free ride, not that he had any money anyway. As to which ship to take? And if on cue one of the Captains called out, ‘all aboard for Egypt!’
What a coincidence, he thought trudging up the ramp. Villages were backing up behind him and were being stopped by him. In their panic they piled on, pushing Mathodos onto the deck and to the side. During that push he fell over and hit his head, knocking himself out.
Like walking through a door, he exited the portal, grim arrived at a pier off the coast of the Nile. It was night and the stars where out, Egypt compared to where Grim just was night and day, he had more space to move about. There were three more ships at the port and people were piling out heading into the city towards the pyramid.
One caught Grim’s attention, a small red figure with a pointy hat carrying a suitcase with two hands and waddling down the ramp off one of the ships. Grim took a step back surprised, it was Mathodos. ‘I’m unaffected by time and space, how can this be?’
He saw Mathodos heading to the large pyramid at the end of the city. He eased through the crowd and followed behind Mathodos, maybe they will both find the answers they seek in the pyramid.
Fate only knows.