Codex Nekromantia: Section 23

Casimir ran after Amy, but her long, athletic legs allowed her to spring down the concrete hallway ahead of him. She skidded to a stop in front of one of the doorways that lined the hallway, then ran inside with a rage-filled yell. Casimir followed and saw a great tangle of zombies chasing a small, grey-haired woman down the hallway. She carried an armful of books.

"Drop the books and run, Aunt Ivy!" Amy yelled, jabbing the point of her spear into the milky-white eye of a zombie.

Ivy hustled as fast as she could with the load of books.

Amy pulled the spear out of the zombie's skull. She swung the other end of the spear around, into the kneecap of another zombie, a move which sent it tumbling to the ground.

"I can't drop them, they're too valuable!" Ivy said, stumbling forward. Her glasses hung from a chain on her neck and they bounced against the books that she held to her chest like a mother carrying her children away from the monsterous horde.

Without thinking, Casimir grabbed Ivy's sleeve with his good hand and, using her like a counter-weight, hurled her backwards towards safety while he plunged headfirst into the zombies. He slapped one of the zombies, and it immediately collapsed.

"Keep slapping!" Amy grunted. She'd trapped a zombie against the wall, holding the shaft of her spear against its throat. With a shove, she pushed the sturdy wood through the yielding flesh. The zombie's head detached from its body and bounced off of her arm on the way down, snapping its jaws at her all the way to the floor. She kicked it back into the moving forest of zombie legs.

"Go, get out of here!" Casimir said.

A zombie grabbed him by the shoulder, but he slapped it with his hand and the abomination seemed to lose interest in being a zombie and decided to become a corpse.

For every zombie that Casimir slapped, another two seemed to take its place. Their numbers were growing and, Casimir hated to admit it, he was getting tired. Slinging sandwiches and getting dumped didn't count as aerobic exercise.

"Casimir!" Amy yelled from the doorway, "get out of there! We're going to barricade the door!"

Casimir didn't need to be told twice. He turned and ran from the clot of zombies that lurched ever closer to the doorway. Flying past Amy so fast that he bounced off of the opposite wall, he collapsed while he caught his breath.

Amy and two men pushed a full file cabinet into the doorway, and braced it with splintered pieces of wood. A moment later, like a slow-motion tidal wave, the zombies hit the barricade. The file cabinet rocked but stayed in place. Arms leaked through but left behind strips of flesh on the sharp splinters of wood.

"The story of my day," Casimir said, when he could breathe again. "I just start to relax, and then, bam, zombies. Lots of zombies. Grasping zombies, chewing zombies, and, I think, zombies just trying to fit in with the crowd."

"Where were you, anyway?" Amy asked. She had scooped up the books from Ivy, holding the same giant stack easily in one arm. Ivy had her glasses perched upon the very tip of her nose, as if they were a set of whiskers on a mouse, and peered through them at Casimir's hand.

"Peculiar, very peculiar," Ivy said. "I saw what you did to those zombies."

"Did you go down to the library?"

"Hhhmmm?" Ivy asked, turning away from Casimir. "Oh, yes, I needed to fetch these books. They're some of the finest sources on necromancy."

"I told you not to go down to the library," Amy said. "I told you that it wasn't safe."

"Oh, you did? Oh my, I suppose that it must have slipped my mind," Ivy said.

Amy's jaw muscles bulged as she ground her teeth.

"Aunt Ivy," she said through a forced smile, "I need you to pay attention to where is safe and where isn't."

"Of course I will," Ivy said, already staring back at Casimir's hand. "Were you bitten?"

"Yes," Casimir said. The two men that had helped with the barricade sidled away from them.

"Why doesn't Casimir walk with us while we get you situated and safe in your office?" Amy asked.

"Oh, that would be wonderful, I do need to start on those books," Ivy replied. She began walking down the hallway. Amy jerked her head at Casimir, who got up and they followed Ivy.

They went through the twists and turns of the museum offices. The era of the decor changed as they went up a flight of steps, from the concrete warrens of the 1950s to plaster and dark wood of a previous decade. Frosted glass was inlaid in the office doors. Large black stencils bore the names of their occupants.

Ivy stopped in front of one bearing the name "Ivy Occam, PhD," and beneath, in a smaller font, it read "Curator of Ritual Artifacts." She fumbled for her keys.

"Did you lock it?" Amy asked.

"Of course I did," Ivy said, trying the doorknob to humor her niece. It turned without any resistance. "Whoops."

They followed her into the office, which looked like a slow-motion bomb was in the middle of detonating. Papers lay on the desk, the computer, the chairs, the floor, and sticky notes crawled up the walls like vines. What Casimir assumed to be priceless artifacts teetered on top of the layer of papers, and bulges in some stacks of papers spoke to hidden treasures that had been excavated, carefully preserved, flown to Ivy and then immediately lost within this burial site.

"Sit where ever there is room," Ivy said, gesturing at some stacks of papers atop the chairs.

"And these books?" Amy asked.

"Oh, yes," Ivy said. She took them, one by one, and set them on top of a stack of papers. She turned back to Casimir while he watched over her shoulder. The stack collapsed from the added weight and the books sank into the morass. Ivy didn't notice.

"So, Casimir, your hand," Ivy said, staring at it. "That's quite a thing to be bitten and not become a zombie."

Casimir had taken to awkwardly letting his manky hand hang at his side to avoid calling attention to it. He held it up and, to his surprise, she grasped it in her own slender hand. Also to his surprise, he couldn't feel her touch. And, thinking back, he hadn't been able to feel all that slapping that he'd been doing.

"It is weird," Casimir said, feeling more nervous than when he'd been fighting zombies. At least then the threat had been much more immediate. Would Amy reverse her decision and let the survivors throw him to the zombies on Ivy's advice? Would he turn into a zombie, but only after a protracted illness during which he'd be unable to give a high-five with his right hand?

"Hhhmmm," Ivy said. "I'll have to do some more research on it."

"Aunt Ivy, we don't have time for more research," Amy said. "We need to make some decisions."

"And what decision do you want to make without adequate information?" Ivy replied.

"The decisions that we have to! The zombies won't wait for us to read more books," Amy said. "Our food isn't going to last very long, and we have wounded. Are we going to stay here and let infection and hunger kill us, or are we going to go out there and fight?"

"I don't think that it would be wise to leave the Museum," Ivy said. "My research has suggested that the genesis of these zombies lies with a necromancer, or necromancers. Death magic. A communicable curse."

"Like a virus?" Casimir asked.

"Like a very quick virus. A true virus hijacks the cells of the host to reproduce itself, which takes a certain amount of time. A zombie infection would spread much slower. Amy, you said that victims turned within a matter of seconds?"

Amy nodded, her jaw clenched.

"The only unknown is the source of the source of the magical power," Ivy said, "and what they intend to do with the power."

"There's a necromancer out there," Casimir said. "The dude a few years younger than me, in the black robes, unconscious. We could ask him."

Amy stood straighter. Her eyes bored into Casimir.

"The necromancer, right here?" Amy asked, twisting her hands around the shaft of her spear like she was strangling a snake. Her sinewy, powerful fingers clenched so hard that her knuckles popped out of the backs of her hands. "What're we waiting for? Let's go beat the answers out of him."

She got up and strode towards the door. Before she reached it, however, a strange thing happened: the phone rang.

The sound had become unfamiliar and for a moment, all three of them stared at...well, Casimir wasn't sure where to look, but he was sure that there was a phone ringing in the mess somewhere. After a hasty scramble, they were able to find it.

"Hello, Doctor Occam speaking," Ivy said. "Oh, Dom! How is it up there? What do you mean, you're not at home? You're where? Oh my god!"

Amy snatched the phone from Ivy.

"Muttonhead, where are you? Why are you there? What? Hello?" Amy threw the phone down into the mess. She looked at her aunt.

"The line went dead. Dom's still at the University, not at home. I have to go get him," Amy said.

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