Chapter Thirteen: Jason Graz
When we awoke in the morning, it was to an awful tapping, scratching noise at the window. Since we knew we wouldn't be attacked by the zombies, as they hadn't come anywhere near the church, we all went outside and tried to figure out what was happening. When we first got outside, it was hot and we started to sweat almost immediately as we stepped foot outside. Then, we made our way carefully around to the window we heard the scratching and tapping noises from. It had wrought iron bars attached across vertically to stop vandalism.
The ground was soft and, with each footstep, we sank into the ground a little further. Graves lay disturbed and headstones flat against the moist soil. As we climbed over yet another grave, I realised that there were tiny foot-prints in the over-turned earth. They weren’t human. It took a while for me to realise that the thin, delicate little lines in patterns actually belonged to a bird. There was a single track of them. The bird was alone.
We moved closer and closer to the stained-glass window from which the tapping had emanated. The design was a huge version of the Virgin Mary, although rather than being bright and cheerfully coloured, it glowed almost magically in the eerie red illuminating skies.
When we finally finished the small trek through the tough terrain, I spotted a figure in the distance. Fog muffled the vision I had of him, but he looked as though he was wearing a suit, and a posh one at that. Over his shoulder was a shovel. I didn’t need much imagination to think about what that might’ve been for. Trying not to go through a mental list of things that he could’ve done or might do with the shovel, I looked around for a clue as to who tapped at the window.
Earlier, when we’d heard it first, it hadn’t sounded human. To be honest, we didn’t know what it sounded like. I thought it sounded like the screams of the dead, damned to roam the world forever. Then again, that might just be me.
As hard as I tried not to, my mind and eyes kept flicking back to the man with the shovel. Even from here in the distance, I could see his luminous yellow Wellington boots. They looked ridiculous, especially on someone his size. My mind began to wander and I did make that list of things he could do with the shovel. He could murder someone, but then again, who is there to murder other than us? Anyway, even if he did want to murder us, why did he not do it now, or while we were sleeping? Something else he could do? How about digging up graves? No, that couldn’t be it. They were all empty. What about defence against the zombies? It might be, but from this distance, it looked as though it wasn’t coated in blood as though it was used in combat. I really couldn’t figure it out. Unless he went digging for fossils as a hobby, there wasn’t anything else I could think of.
We arrived at the window featuring the almost luminous, so-called ‘Virgin Mary'. Light tapping noises could still be heard from the window, the occasional scratching noise joining the symphony. Looking up, I was startled to see a huge, fat, black as sin bird staring back at us. Its beady eye peered at me accusingly as it leant forward – almost as if to examine me. Eventually, the bird had decided to leave me alone and hop back a step or two.
Still eyeing me up, the bird wiggled its leg. It was only then that I noticed a little metal cylinder attached carefully to the bird’s leg. Looking over the bird again, I tried to figure out what type of bird it actually was. It looked like either a crow or a rook. I wasn’t quite sure, until I recalled something, I heard said once by an avid bird watcher: “If you see a rook flying alone, it's a crow. If you see a crow flying in a group, it's a rook.” I glanced around. There were no other birds around. I finally drew the conclusion that this must be a crow.
Gradually, I became aware of staring looks. I turned around. Aria, Kyle and Martha were all looking at me as if to say, “Well go on then. Do something!”
“What?” I exclaimed. “What am I supposed to do?”
Aria sighed and moved past me. Her hips swayed as she walked and she swiftly pushed past me, despite the difficult land. I must have raised an eyebrow as she passed or something; because when I looked up at Kyle again, he looked just about ready to punch me. I held my hands up, spread open and palms towards him in a gesture that I hoped was telling him I didn’t mean whatever it was that I was supposed to have done. He calmed slightly, but only slightly.
The look I read in his eyes made me want to curl up and die. A thought struck me. Why did I want to curl up and die? We were survivors against the world here. Picked out by some creepy dude who wanted us to do his bidding or whatever. I should be worshiped, not scared. Against all odds, I’d come out top when fighting all the zombies and bad guys. I was a legend. Then I remembered the letter again. Maybe it wasn’t so much as luck or power, maybe I was… I mean, we were singled out because we were special in some way. There must’ve been something that set us apart for us to have been picked.
Who was this ‘The Fifth Horseman’ guy anyway? Was he the bad guy? Was he the good guy? Was he even on a side? What about the man I saw earlier? I checked to see if he was still there – nope, gone. Was that man in any way involved with this ‘The Fifth Horseman’? What about his name? Why ‘The Fifth Horseman’? Why not something cooler? What did being fifth or even being a horseman have to do with anything? Why was being a horseman or fifth something to be proud of anyway? I just didn’t understand at all. I hoped that I’d live long enough to be able to find out to be honest.
In the midst of all my thinking, Aria had bent down to the bird and managed to get a really, really tightly rolled up piece of paper out from the tiny cylinder attached to the crow’s leg. Turning to us, she carefully unrolled it and tried to stay calm as the bird flapped wildly and took off. It looked as though we weren't supposed to send a reply back then. Well, we were stuck without any other paper or writing equipment to be fair.
Heavy breath hung in the air and fell to the ground in droplets as the humidity and heat grew. That was at least one positive thing, I thought to myself. At least it's getting hotter. I mean, after all, it is England we’re in. There has never been a hotter day. I just wish there was a lot less humidity – it was stifling.
I watched as Aria’s eyes quickly skimmed the paper as she read what it contained. Her mouth moved occasionally as she murmured important words underneath her breath, never quite saying full words or at least making them audible.
After a minute or two, her eyes stopped scanning and she looked up at Kyle. “Oh no,” She said softly. Taking the letter from her hands, I started to read it aloud.
“Dear Aria, Kyle, Jason and Martha,
You won’t yet be aware of the fact that in case of an apocalypse, such as the one we’ve now, safe houses were built. There are many of these places, most of them disguised as the public made a mockery of the project when it was first announced. Now who is laughing, eh? Anyway, back to business. Most of these places are disguised as abandoned warehouses and look as though they’d not stay up if there were even a brick thrown through the window. In fact, many of these places are rigged out so well that they’d survive a nuclear bombing and so would anything inside the building.
What I want you to do is to head for the nearest warehouse. It is located on Darby Way. On your arrival there, you’ll be given further instructions. Please don’t fail me. Good luck.
The Fifth Horseman.”
It was printed hand-writing, scrawled across the paper in long, thin, spidery letters. I didn’t like the way it phrased things either. I mean: I want you to do. You will be. And the worst of all? “Now who is laughing, eh?” Like an actual conversation. The tone of the letter scared me, but I wasn’t about to admit that, especially not in front of Aria.
Through the entire time I read out the letter, both Aria and Kyle’s expressions changed constantly, whereas Martha’s didn’t change even once. I was beginning to think that she might not be as nice as she looked. Then again, she did look like a ghost. She was a peculiar girl, differing from so many others in her beliefs as she did.
Her shallow, mud brown eyes stared at me, lacking any depth or emotion. They were lifeless orbs, just a tool for her brain to use. Her pale, pale skin seemed to be almost see-through, her veins standing out strongly through the paper like membrane. That is all it was, just a layer that had to be there in order for her to be human. Even as the wind picked up, neither a muscle nor a hair moved, she was mechanical in her actions, yet very strongly opinionated. She didn’t seem to understand human emotion and it made me wonder. Was she even human? Was she merely a tool of this ‘The Fifth Horseman’ guy, put here to spy on us? Put here to make sure we did as he wished, did his bidding?
I found myself studying her closer and closer, unable to tear my eyes away from her inhuman, opinionated, backwards, twisted soul that was born on her face for all to see. She looked back into my eyes and I saw that there really was no life in them. All they were, were tools for show. No emotion was portrayed, no sparkle lit up her face. She didn’t even smile when I smiled at her, she merely stared at me with her head cocked to one side slightly.
When she looked at me, she wasn’t just glancing at me, or even staring at me, no. It felt as though she was looking deep into my head, into my thoughts and feelings, my soul.
I gradually became aware of the fact that Aria and Kyle were walking away, heading for back inside the church. I want to move off and go with them, but I feel drained suddenly. My muscles relaxed, my body sagging. She was draining me of all my energy! I couldn’t find any way to break eye contact although. It is almost as though she was pulling my soul out through my eyes.
I forced myself to look away, to look anywhere but at her. After much effort, I managed to look away and my eyes rested on the place where I saw the man with the shovel before. As I looked again, the mist had cleared slightly, but he was no longer watching. I found it strange that he’d show up and leave out of the blue like that. He didn’t even talk to us, just watch from a distance. If I was honest, I found it slightly creepy. Then again, with everything that had happened in the past twenty-four hours, weird things shouldn’t creep me out.
Turning away from Martha, I ran back towards the church like a dog with its tail between its legs. I was ashamed a reaction like that could be provoked by someone as unimportant as Martha. I mean, honestly.