Codex Nekromantia: Section 21

Casimir flopped onto the marble floor of the balcony next to Ravilious and closed his eyes. Emblem came up and over the railing, guided by the hands of their rescuers, and then joined Casimir.

The survivors, as Casimir had come to think of them, clustered around Emblem and Casimir. He listened to their voices as they all spoke at once.

"Where'd they come from?"

"How'd they get into the Museum?"

"Why's his hand all nasty?"

"I can see his junk."

Casimir didn't care about the comments, not even the last one. He only cared about being away from the zombies, their moans and groans, their putrid teeth gnashing at him. This had to rate as the worst day after a long night of drinking ever. And this time, the demons were outside of his head.

"And why'd we haul up this zombie?" someone asked. The voices turned angry.

"Mais non!" Charles-Henri protested. "I am a revenant! How dare you compare me to that swine!"

Casimir turned his head and watched Emblem, who appeared to be asleep, to see if he was going to say anything.

"Toss 'em back over the railing!" yelled the sort of man who is in the back of every crowd, both because he refuses to do the dirty deeds that he calls for and also so that he can be the first to disappear if things turn ugly.

"But I speak! Zombies do not speak!"

Casimir stood up. Two men had seized Charles-Henri by the shoulders and were hauling him towards the balcony while the crowd goaded them on.

"Charles-Henri is not a zombie. The fact that you're arguing with him ought to be proof enough," Casimir said.

"The pantsless boy is right," said the scarred young woman with long hair that Casimir had seen on the balcony. She grabbed Charles-Henri's captors by their collars and pushed them back into the crowd, and stood between them and the revenant like a protective goddess with a spear to underline the stern look on her face.

"Nobody is throwing anybody over the balcony, you understand?"

"And just who the fuck put you in charge?" one of the two men said, stepping forward. His muscles bulged beneath his shirt and a vein throbbed on his forehead.

"Nobody," the young woman said, "but I don't think that we'll get very far by throwing other survivors to the zombies."

"Yeah, well, maybe you should let the men talk, little girl," he said, clenching his fists. Casimir stepped in between them.

"Now hang on," Casimir said.

The man and the young woman both shoved Casimir out of the way as they stood toe-to-toe, neither willing to back down. The man breathed at Amy, then his face changed, suddenly. The crowd gasped. The man backed up, startled. Casimir frowned, confused at their reaction to...nothing.

"What the hell was that?" he asked.

"Absolutely nothing, but I say that we don't throw anybody over this balcony unless you want to join them. Do you understand?"

The man turned back into the crowd, grumbling about how in-fighting would topple their defenses.

"You didn't have to do that," Charles-Henri said, "but I appreciate it none the less. Je m'appelle Charles-Henri."

"Amy Occam," the young woman said, extending her hand. Charles-Henri took it and pressed her knuckles to his lips.

"Charmed, my lady," Charles-Henri said. "And this is Casimir. The gentleman in the leather jacket is Emblem, and the young man in the robe is Ravilious."

Amy and Casimir shook hands. He tried to compensate for his increasingly shredded paper gown by having a firm handshake, but although her fingers were delicate, they wrung his hand like a python with fang decay attempting to brush its teeth with an almost-empty tube of toothpaste.

"Hi," she said.

"He could use a change of clothes," Charles-Henri said.

"I can see that," she said, without cracking a grin. "Let's see what we can find. Come with me."

Amy led him through the crowd and into an exhibit of Central Asian artifacts. Next to a display of an elaborate horse costume was a metal door, painted to blend into the black walls. They went through the doorway and entered a concrete hallway with institutional grey paint. At one end were two doors: one to the women's locker room, and the other to the men's. Amy pushed through the door into the latter.

"Unless you needed a skirt," she said.

Casimir managed a weak smile. To tell the truth, he was glad that she was with him, and that she was armed. Even though the blood stains on the walls and scattered body parts on the floor indicated that this area had been cleared of the living dead, he still didn't want to face one alone. Many of the lockers hung open, but they were all empty of clothes.

"We've needed a lot of tourniquets," Amy explained. "I'm not sure what is left."

Many of the lockers held shoes, however. Casimir selected a pair of running shoes and followed Amy as she found the last three unopened lockers. With a quick rat-a-tat of swift blows from the butt of her spear, she knocked off the padlocks.

The first two were empty. The latter held a pair of corduroys and a t-shirt.

"Sweet, they're my size exactly," Casimir said. "How's that for amazing luck?"

Amy studied the row of lockers while yanked off his paper gown and let it flutter to the floor like a crepe streamer. He yanked on the pants, fumbling for a moment with the button because of his bitten hand, and pulled the shirt over his head.

"You're seriously going to wear that t-shirt?" Amy asked, turning around and grinning.

"What?" Casimir said. He was so excited to hide his thunder that he hadn't even read the shirt. He read it now.

"Team Zombie," Casimir read aloud. He was about to take it off, when they heard a scream from the hallway.

"My aunt Ivy," Amy said, her grin disappearing as she threw herself towards the doorway, her spear at the ready.

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