Don’t Turn Your Back: Chapter Ten Of “The Crystal Ship”

We are headed south. Sara has taken up position next to me. She has been keeping up with me rather well. Two more young ladies from the refugees has filed to the front.

I look at Sara. “What’s going on?”

She shrugs. “Want me to find out?”

I look away. “Yes.”

She drops back and begins talking to them. I hear bits and pieces of their conversations. Something about feeling safer and more secure up front. Something is following at the rear of the group. What it is, nobody seems to know. They can just sense its presence.

She returns to her place beside me. “There is something following us. They felt safer up here.”

I look back. “You keep in the lead. I will drop back and see what it is.”

Sara nods. I drop back. suddenly, I realize that the group is ten times larger than it should be. I whistle to get Sara’s attention. And to draw the attention of the ghouls.

I draw my swords. Sara is beside me in a flash. We stand back to back. Swords drawn.

I look over my shoulder at her. “Are you ready for this?”

She turns her head. “Even if I ain’t, I gotta do this.”

I turn back to the matter before me. “Then let’s do this.”

Sara nods. “Affirmative.”

She dances one direction. I dance the other. I silently curse myself for allowing this to happen. I have grown too complacent.

We have the taggers taken care of in no time. But then ghouls and zombies are the easiest of the undead to kill. All you have to become is the human blender. If only they weren’t replaced by more every time they were killed.

Maybe that is only what it seems like. But there sure seems to be no end to them. They just keep coming. They keep reappearing.

We put our swords away. I look at Sara. “We need to inspect the rest of our group. One little scratch from a ghoul or zombie and a person will turn.”

She looks over at me and nods. “Ok. I will walk along and talk to the others. while I do so, I will check them for signs. What will I be looking for?”

I smile. “You saw the puckered black sores on the ghouls?”

she nods. “Yes.”

I look over at a dead ghoul. “Those are telltale signs. It starts out as a scratch. Then it begins to fester. Turns black. And then they get really sick. They seemingly die. Then are seemingly fine…except they keep trying to eat you.”

***

We have resumed our journey south. We had to kill four of our companions. They had already turned. It has been a sad day.

I look at Sara. “We need more helpers. People we can trust to help us defend the rest. Do you think those young ladies behind us are trustworthy?”

She nods. “I think so. Only one way to tell.”

I Look back toward the south. “The next house we come to we’ll stop. I will need you to gather all the metal, leather, and cloth. With their help.”

She looks away. “OK.”

I look over at her. “Will you talk to them and get a better idea if we can trust them?”

She nods. “Yes.”

She leaves my side. I am alone. I decide to drop back and check out our rear. I have learned a valuable lesson today. Never turn your back. Or something bad can happen.

I signal Sara and let her know that I am dropping back. She nods. I sip to the back of our little group. I stop temporarily to look behind us to make sure we aren’t being trailed. But, of course, we are.

But by who or what, I don’t know. I now know that I need more help. Sara and I cannot afford to fight this tide by ourselves. The more help we have, the more we will be able to do.

I move back to the front. And motion to Sara. She rejoins me. she sees the look on my face.

She looks down. “what is it? What did you see?”

I look over at her. “We are being followed. I do not know what or who. Just that we are being followed.”

She shakes her head. “Then we will need more help.”

I nod. “Yes. Now more than ever.”

***

We spot a house with some out-buildings. I know I do not have much time to train my new students. Perhaps a day. Perhaps less.

But I must get them as close to being good at defense as I possibly can. If our followers are hostile, we will need to be able to work as a team. If not, then we will accept them into our group. But I do not want to take the chance that they aren’t only to find out they are…and not be prepared.

Sara and I guide our group to the house. She and I go from room to room to make sure it is safe. We give them the all-clear. They file in. Sara goes to the linen closet and pulls all the sheets out. We head to the barn with our new recruits.

I turn to them. “I am going to need you to help me. I can teach you how to fight. I can make your weapons for you. But we all are going to have to be ready to fight. Our group is being followed. By whom or what, I do not know. But we are being followed. The incident with our group being infiltrated by ghouls made me realize that two of us cannot handle this by ourselves. I have chosen you two to join us.” I look at Sara. “Are there any more young ladies who might be willing to join our band. we have enough material for at least two more. ” She nods and leaves.

The first one looks down. “What if we aren’t good enough?”

I smile. “When I am finished, you will be.”

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