The mist has come down and the swallows are flying low. Their wings brush the edge of the barred window. I am hunkered down below the windowsill trying to catch my breath. They have been coming all day, multitudes of them swarming like locusts. The stench from their ulcerated flesh hangs like a pall over the farm. The anguished bellow of cattle makes me cover my ears. They drink directly from the jugular puncturing the flesh with their sharpened teeth.
We had believed we were too far away for the legions of undead to infiltrate. We were wrong. I close my eyes to dispel the horror of the past few hours. The screams could be heard from miles away but still we were unprepared for the swiftness of their emaciated limbs. The trickle of water from the stream outside seems out of place amongst the sounds of carnage. We were split up. I ran to the packing shed blind with panic. I haven’t been here since I was a child. It was used to store wool and as a shearing shed but we’d closed it up when we sold the sheep.
“Flippin’ takeaways for the locals, these sheep.” My father had growled after a night of losses. My stomach tenses when I think of Dad. My invincible father buried by putrefying figures in a feeding frenzy. That was when we were separated, trapped in our own nightmare. My brother and his wife and my nephew, Blake disappeared in another direction. I stifle the sob, which is threatening to unravel me.
Appalling stories seeped down to the farming community, like surface water into underground rivers, about nine months ago. When it started the cities were the target. Television was the first to go. Now Facebook, Twitter and hundreds of years of technology have been obliterated. Our farm was always off the grid so we missed only the lack of contact with the outside world. The most frightening thing was trying to sift fact from fiction. The problem was that we had no reference points for this reality. I am no better equipped now that I know.
Squeals and grunts leak through the mist and I peer out of the window. I see a small figure running from a wave of shadows. It is Blake. Without thinking I stumble to the huge doors, throwing aside the barricade I’ve created with pallets and boxes.
“Blake here! Quick!” He turns and his mouth is a gaping hole of terror. I catch him in my arms and pull him into the entrance but the dark mass has seen us. I fling him inside whimpering and start to stack the pallets back into place. Drops of blood splatter onto the wood and I look in surprise at my hands. My nails have been ripped out. I feel nothing except the breath tearing from my lungs. Blake is screaming thinly from under a pile of woolsacks. I scramble under them too holding him tightly.
“Blake baby try to be quiet. They mustn’t hear us. I know it’s difficult. I’m here now baby.” My voice is rasping but he quietens trembling in my arms. Snuffling like truffle pigs the mass reaches the door, which starts to shudder as they push against it. I wonder how long the door will resist the onslaught and how it will feel to die. The door gives way with a crack of splintering wood and a familiar stench pervades the room. Blake has gone limp and still against my chest. The woolsacks feel insubstantial around us but I can see nothing. They bump and clatter around upending tables searching for us. I hold my breath and Blake is mercifully silent. After what feels like an eternity the scuffling quiets and I hear nothing. I ease the sack away and look around.
We are alone and safe, for now.