A lot of the zombies were injured — though, probably, 'damaged' was the more appropriate term — so the arrow in and of itself wasn't remarkable. Many had been shot, or hacked at, or partially crushed, or run into or over by cars. Redhead even had an arrow in her back herself, or at least the part of one that hadn't broken off. But all of those wounds were old, they had happened in the first days when there were people around to resist the hunger of the dead.
Billy-Bob's arrow hadn't been there yesterday.
Alex closed the curtains again and went out in the front yard to get a closer look. Billy-Bob, seeing him, shambled over to the cast-iron fence with arms outstretched, reaching, grasping at air. The arrow protruded from the zombie's chest had a carbon fiber shaft with plastic fletchings; a modern bow-hunter's arrow.
Some passing survivors, probably, nothing more. Early on — after the majority of the horde had departed, following stronger scents than his on the wind — Alex had searched the town, collecting food and drink and other supplies. He had found no other living soul then.
Before too many of the dead collected at his gate, he went back inside to fix his breakfast: canned vegetables cooked over a candle.
Two mornings later there was another arrow in Billy-Bob.
Alex went out into the front yard again, to get a closer look. The second arrow had penetrated clean through the neck, side-to-side. Maybe I'll have to rename him Frankenstein. But more importantly, the bow-hunter is still in town; and he's using Billy-Bob for target practice.
How to find the bow-hunter? He couldn't just follow Billy-Bob: the zombie would turn on him instead of following weaker scents.
Maybe he could use Billy-Bob as a carrier pigeon.
Somewhere, there was a lanyard from the rock festival he'd taken Bev to two years ago; he could put a note in the hard plastic slipcover that holds the backstage pass. If the bow-hunter noticed... though, how would the stranger retrieve it?
Not my problem.
Alex ran into the house and up the stairs. Somewhere in his room? Maybe in the garage? He'd always meant to get one of those adhesive hooks to hang things like that from the wall, but then, he'd always meant to go to more rock shows.
He didn't give much thought to the note, it wrote itself:
Alex Redbourne. I'm at 25379 Old Crescent Road, the big two-story house with the cast-iron fence. I'm armed and have supplies. Low on matches and powdered drinks. Come say hello Mr. Bow-Hunter.He slipped the folded note into the lanyard, stuck into his belt the .32 pistol he'd pulled from the holster of a long-dead cop, and went walked back outside.
This will be easy. No problem. Billy-Bob comes to the fence, I put the lanyard around his neck, he goes on his way and Bow-Hunter sees it. Hopefully.
Alex took to holding the lanyard by the hard plastic part and attempted to sling the lanyard over Billy-Bob's head as if he were roping a cow, all while dodging the zombie's grasping, rotten hands. Finally, after ten or twelve tries — and twice retreating in desperate terror as the hands began to find purchase — the lanyard went around Billy-Bob's neck.
Thank God. Alex took two steps back and sat on the grass to rest, exhausted more from fear than exertion. A small crowd of zombies had in the meantime begun to gather at the fence, and he forced himself to get up and go inside, closing the door behind him, and sealing the FEMA-issue plastic cover to completely cut off his scent so that they would disperse as soon as possible.
Breakfast was a can of green beans, cooked over a candle. and the special treat of a package of peanut-butter crackers. By late afternoon Billy-Bob, along with most of the other zombies, had wandered off.
It was three days before Alex saw Billy-Bob again, and when the zombie finally re-appeared the lanyard was gone from around its neck.
He got it. Bow-Hunter must have gotten it. Or somebody did, anyway.
Billy-Bob hung around for two days without moving more than three feet in any direction. Alex stayed inside, waiting. He tried to read but found it hard to concentrate, tried to sleep but found himself lying awake, resisting the temptation to check at the window for Billy-Bob's possible absence.
On the third day, Billy-Bob was gone.
Breakfast was creamed corn, cooked over a candle. Alex read for most of the day. When he looked out front in the early evening as the light began to die, the zombie was back with the lanyard once again hanging from its neck.
Alex ran outside, grabbing the shovel from its place by the front garden as he went, and waited as Billy-Bob picked up his scent, turned, and shambled over to reach over-top the fence. When it was within reach, Alex inserted the shovel's long handle through the lanyard loop and lifted it off and away from the zombie. He wasted no time going inside before opening and reading the response:
Louis Yang. I'm alone. I don't have much supplies. I also have shotgun but I have only shot it once. I will come and bring what I have if it's OK.Alex wrote a reply in the affirmative, stuck it back in the plastic case, and repeated his earlier dance — including the backing away in terror — trying to get the lanyard back around Billy-Bob's head. The zombie moaned in frustration as Alex backed away after succeeding. With a voice raspy from disuse, he taunted, "You're not gonna eat me, Billy-Bob. Now get lost."
Once again he went inside, closing the door behind him, and sealed the plastic cover over the door.
Five days passed. Alex slept; he read; he ate mixed vegetables again, and peas and onions, and sliced carrots, and even treated himself to some peaches. He counted matches and candles and hoped Louis yang had, and would bring, some of either or both.
When Billy-Bob re-appeared, on the sixth day, the lanyard was gone. The arrow through the neck was broken on one side, the one in the chest was broken off almost flush with the rotting skin showing through a newly-ripped shirt, and there was fresh blood smeared around its mouth and on its hands and down its front.
Storming out onto the lawn, Alex yelled, "Did you eat Louis? Did you eat him? Tell me!"
Billy-Bob wandered over to the fence and reached with blood-stained hands. It moaned, blood dripping from its lips and chin. It didn't give an answer.
Alex fished the .32 out of his belt and shot Billy-Bob through the head. The zombie fell back heavily, what was left of its skull making a sickening crunch as it struck the concrete sidewalk. The other zombies ignored this depletion of their number as they began to gather, attracted by the noise as well as the scent of living flesh.
Alex walked back inside, closing the door behind him and re-sealing the FEMA plastic cover.
Breakfast was Spam and saltines. He only had five cans of the stuff, and he'd been saving it, but he just couldn't take vegetables again.