Double Edge part 2

Double Edge... continued from part 1

     The necromancer shoved a torch in his hand. “Hold this.”

     Jarvis stopped his mental scream, and marveled at his grip on the torch. He hadn’t willed his body to move. It was the spell. He was only a passenger in his body, a captive soul to watch the horror he’d be ordered to commit.

     “Here, Ciglio,” one of the zombies said in a scratchy voice. He indicated a box full of farm equipment. The necromancer sorted through the pieces. 

     Jarvis stared at the flame on the torch. The bits of hay on the floor and the dry wood of the building would catch fire easily. 

     Drop it. Just let go! Open your fingers. His body didn’t respond. Fear fluttered at the edges of his mind. He pulled out the family sword and beat it back. 

     I can and… I… WILL, he thought, but still his fingers refused to obey. Their new master’s magic held fast.

     “Hand these out.” The necromancer gestured to the tools.

     His son already held the axe from the woodpile, and his daughter, a knife from the kitchen. The zombie passed a sickle, its curved blade catching the torchlight, to Anna, before handing Jarvis sheep shears. 

     “Get the light, Turen,” Ciglio commanded. “These new ones can stay in the barn.”

     The zombie who had spoken earlier, and seemed to have more free will than the others, stood in front of Jarvis and gave a wide, mocking grin before retrieving the light. He followed his master out into the night. Jarvis knew the beast meant to taunt him, moving as he chose with that smile. He wanted to torment Jarvis, helpless in his dead body, screaming without sound.

     The night slowly passed. Jarvis couldn’t move or sleep. He saw the forms of his family in the darkness. His heart broke thinking that they might be screaming, and none heard, none knew. He couldn’t calm them, or reassure them. He couldn’t help them. As frustration burned, Jarvis thought about his double bladed sword. The only price now was to lose, to remain a zombie, a dead killer. He was determined to end this evil entrapment for his family. Nothing else mattered.

     At noon, they began the slow and shuffling march though a drizzle to the western village. Jarvis had grown used to the smell of rotting flesh and the metallic tinge of exposed blood. The rain sharpened the edge of the retched smell, like overripe fruit. As the drizzle relented, flies buzzed around the marching bodies and feasted on the ripped and torn skin. 

     By twilight, Jarvis saw the outline of buildings among the trees, with the manor house on a hill in the center of Tolhof. Ciglio rode on horseback behind his undead army, sending out the order to kill the villagers on sight, but they must keep the head and limbs intact and connected to the trunk of the bodies they killed.

     Zombies spread out as they hit the town. Jarvis and his family, near the rear of the group, made their way to the manor house before coming into contact with any living being. Turen broke through the front door, taking an axe in the chest from someone inside. Jarvis stumbled in after Anna and Alaric. His wife and son chopped and sliced at the men in the entry hall. Turen headed for the kitchen. 

     Jarvis found his feet tromping uneasily up the stairs. From the corner of his eye, he saw Mina stabbing into a man’s back. A woman tried to run, but tripped and fell, breaking a vessel in the commotion. Liquid from the container mixed with tendrils of blood on the floor. 

     Jarvis reached the landing above the staircase and shuffled down the narrow hall. He banged open a door and found three children huddled inside the bedroom. The oldest grabbed the youngest and dashed around Jarvis. He heard their footsteps down the stairs. It wouldn’t make a difference. The middle child, a blond girl near the age of eight, sat sobbing in the corner.

     Stop! Jarvis yelled at himself without sound. 

     His body moved forward, his hands pulling open the shears. He cut at the girl’s stomach. She screamed and held the red blood that soaked through her white cotton nightgown. Her shrieks turned to moans of pain. Tears screamed down her pale face. 

     Horrified at what he’d done, at the butchering, Jarvis felt hatred for his own body. The sorrow he felt for the girl mixed with disgust at his part in it. Good God! At least finish her. Jab the blade of the shears into her skull! 

     This time, the body did as he commanded. He felt his arms move. He felt the fall and the thud and the spill of blood and brain over his hand. The screams and moans continued from below, but up here, the only sound was the wood creaking. Blood pooled beneath the young girl. 

     Jarvis’ body reached down and grabbed a leg. He dragged her out of the room and down the short hallway, her hair and arms flowing out behind her, a trail of blood staining the floor planks. Jarvis found her empty staring eyes, unnerving. He cringed inside as they started down the stairs. With every downward step, the girl’s head thumped on the hard wood of the stairs, jerking her neck as though she was nothing more than a rag doll.

     Pick her up! The next step, another thump. He willed his body to pick her up, to no end. You’re liable to snap off her poor head, you idiot! Ciglio won’t like that! He willed action again, and this time the girl ended up in his zombie arms. 

     She’d have looked as though she slept, were it not for the dark blood matting her hair and clothing. Jarvis’ throat ached and his eyes burned, yet no tears came.

     As he approached the other dead bodies of the household, he thought, put her down gently. He willed his knees to bend and his arms to lower, but instead, the arms dropped and the girl’s small frame smacked down hard next to a woman’s body, perhaps the girl’s mother. Her little hand sent up a splash, releasing the fragrance of brandy that pooled on the wooden floor beneath them.

     The necromancer stomped through the door, a smug look on his face. Turen was no where in sight. Ciglio thrust the torch he carried into Jarvis’ hands. He inspected the bodies and nodded. Jarvis watched helplessly as the necromancer began his evil magic. He stood by the window, and the curtains fluttered in the light breeze. He gave up willing his uncooperative body, and began willing the curtains to rise a little higher, just enough to reach the flame in his hands. The breeze fluttered in, the curtains rose, but not enough. Jarvis shook in frustration. 

     Shouts and clanging down the street caught Ciglio’s attention. He frowned toward the open door. “Trouble,” he muttered. Leaving the bodies crumpled on the floor, he started for the door. “You,” he said looking at Jarvis, “this way.” Ciglio exited into the dark night. 

     Jarvis began to follow leaving his family behind to stand over the dead, when he slipped on the spilt brandy. His body lost its balance and fell forward, holding the torch lifted up enough from the wet floor to keep it from catching fire. 

     Drop it! Jarvis willed. Nothing happened. Jarvis had no control. But then, he did finish off the dying girl. He did pick her up when descending the stairs. Maybe there was hope. Drop it! Nothing. His body leaned to the side, as though confused, and in that moment, it snapped into place. Jarvis had an idea.

     Get up! Hurry! The master is waiting. This time his body rose as his mind willed, up on his hands and knees. In the process, it flattened his hands on the wet wood, pressing the torch down into the brandy. Fire flared to life and spread over the wooden floor. It raced along the bodies, the new unmoving ones and zombies alike.

     Jarvis lifted his head and found Anna looking at him. Though her face remained emotionless, he saw a glimmer of happy approval in her eyes.

     Ciglio popped his head back into the door and stared at the hissing flames.

     “Get out! Now!” he yelled at his zombies. 

     Jarvis watched as Anna tripped on the bodies between her and the door. Alaric was directly behind, and fell over his mother into the pile of newly dead. Mina tilted her head, but didn’t move as the flame twisted through her hair. Jarvis lost sight of them in the smoke. He looked at his own hands, covered in the roaring blaze. They charred with black and white ash. 

     Somewhere in the distance, Ciglio screamed and yelled, but it didn’t matter anymore. The master had lost his puppets.

     He felt a sense of peace as the tension released. Jarvis dropped the mental sword, victory won, and waited for death’s claim. He heard the echo of his children’s laughter, like a dream, happy and free.

 References: Ciglio, Zombie

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