- 7 -

1K 47 5

But I hear their hisses and hungry growls, and I do turn. I count at least a dozen of them this time, closing fast.

“We’re fucked.”  

“Give me the sword,” says Levi.

“We have to run,” I protest.

“We can’t outrun them,” he says. And he’s right, but I don’t see what choice we have. At most I could take on three of them with my own blade. If this were two days ago, when I didn’t owe the fact I was breathing to anyone but myself (or at least blissfully believed this to be true), I’d have run already.

He reaches out and snatches his weapon from my hand.


Never in a million years could I have predicted what happens next. Have you ever noticed how, when you’re completely taken by surprise, it sort of freezes up time? You don’t know what to say, or how to react, and the whole world just stops until you do? The watch on your wrist keeps ticking away, but it’s about as relevant as a metronome with no music, because everything hangs until something inside you readjusts and kick-starts reality.

As I make a grab for my blade, sheathed at his waist, he hooks his sword arm around my back and yanks me against him. With his other hand he tugs my face forward, and his mouth closes over mine.

His lips are hard and hungry, pressing and opening, and before I’ve recovered from the shock of it, part of his body is inside of mine. My feelings about this are complicated in a way that I’ve tried for three years to avoid, but mostly I’m pissed at him for being nuts and for wasting time. Which is enough to start the clock again, and I shove at the rock-hard chest with all the effectiveness of a day-old kitten. 

But a moment later he frees me from the kiss, lips trailing down my check to my neck, where he bites me hard enough to make me squeal, breathes in deeply, and then suddenly lets go.

My ass hits the dirt.

He makes a sound like something that would come out of a grizzly bear and rushes the flesh-eaters, his sword in one hand and my blade in the other.  

 Now I know I’ve really got to run. Because flesh-eaters, but also because clearly it’s not just screws — all of his mental hardware is loose.

But he’s got my blade, and I’ve fallen into another spacetime freeze watching the spectacle unfolding before me.

I can’t even follow the flash of his blades with my eyes. Flesh-eaters aren’t true zombies; they never died, and they’ve got the circulatory systems to prove it. The savage clash between Levi and the pack has created a mini convergence zone, and blood and gore rain down on everything.

As far as I can tell none of it is Levi’s. Near helpless less than an hour ago, he moves like a man animated by demons. Bruce Banner’s got nothing on him. He severs limbs and hacks torsos in a berserker rage, raising banshee wails of anguish from his attackers.

And then it hits me. Berserker. He’s a goddamn Viking. My mental wiki is pretty thin on Norse mythology, but what I do recall is berserkers supposedly fought in a kind of trance — and blood flowed like rivers. There’s no “supposedly” about it anymore. And finally I get why the government and big biotech cared about resurrecting ancient DNA. I mean the healing power is handy and all. But despite the fact my dad never talked about his job, I get how the military rolls.

It’s an overgrown, weed-choked field we’re standing in, just north of the museum. I remember summer days watching the SCA skirmish on the grass. I got a hunch most of those guys were basement gamers who wouldn’t last a second in a real sword fight, but to a kid, it felt like a glimpse of magic and history. What I’m looking at now is a helluvalot closer to what I imagine was the grim reality of a medieval battle. It’s still a glimpse of magic and history, because we’ve bio-innovated ourselves right back to those times that were called “the dark ages” for a reason. 

RED: Love in the Time of Flesh-eatersRead this story for FREE!