Codex Nekromantia: Section 26

"I still don't feel right about stealing someone's car," Casimir said, sliding around the bench seat and slamming into the windows.

He kept his eyes shut as the car shuddered. Another zombie bit the dust.

"You're such a moralist," Emblem said. "And you can open your eyes. We're getting onto the highway, there won't be any foot traffic here. We're like thirty feet off of the ground. Great shelter, by the way, if you find yourself caught in a downpour. Especially in those angles where the highway rises or falls. And if you find the right set of pillars, they'll even block the wind and you won't even need any soggy cardboard walls."

Casimir opened an eyeball and watched a zombie careen off of the hood and leave a brown patch on the windshield. He snapped his eyelid shut.

"Whoops," Emblem said. "Okay, so there might be a little foot traffic."

Emblem didn't say much after that, and Amy had been quiet after Emblem hotwired the car, which had been a change of pace. Before that all she had talked about was needing to getto the University of Constantinople to rescue her brother Dominic and how they needed to hurry up because they had snuck off and if you were going to sneak off you should do it quickly and hadn't Emblem hotwired a car before and why was it taking so long?

Casimir had tried to avoid rolling his eyes. He wanted to find Jane just as much as she wanted to find Dominic, maybe more. Dominic would always be her brother, but Casimir's relationship with Jane depending on him bursting into her apartment with his guns cutting down zombies left and right while she clung to his mysteriously bulging muscles.

Without opening his eyes, Casimir reached over and felt his bicep. Well, maybe it would get bigger from carrying around the huge gun that he lugged around in his fantasy.

The car had slowed down.

"Why are you going so slow?" Amy asked.

Casimir, who hadn't felt his stomach lurch as it tossed another zombie into the air, tried again to open his eyes.

They rolled through a Constantinople unlike one that he'd ever known.

Only a handful of streetlamps dripped their pools of orange diseased light onto the asphalt. The car's headlights illuminated the feet of the streetlamps as their heads disappeared into the blackness of the sky, like the inverse of the foundations of an oil rig that Casimir had seen profiled on a documentary on deep sea exploration. The shadows of the city felt as absolute and wild as he'd felt when he was a kid and had stared out his bedroom window into the indefinite, threatening darkness of the house's backyard that abutted a forest.

He had only been able to stare out of his window for a few minutes at a time, until he'd have to close his curtains tight and dive underneath the covers. Something always stared back.

The hair on Casimir's neck stood up.

Even Amy seemed shaken up by the darkness. It represented a different, more primal threat than any that the seedy underbelly of any modern city could muster. The threat of a crime, no matter how heinous, paled in comparison to the nightmares that writhed just on the edge of visibility in the shadows. Casimir could see her eyes in the rearview mirror, lit by the glare of the headlights. They were narrowed and flicking back and forth like she was watching a vicious tennis match.

"This is creepy," Casimir said. The pulse of the city had died. The normal sounds of life that he took for granted had stopped, like if all of the crickets on a summer's night had gone on strike. No buses hummed, no sirens wailed, and only their tires crackled against the pavement as they rolled towards their destination.

Amy murmured her agreement.

"What? This isn't creepy!" Emblem roared, breaking the cultivated silence like a burping ninja. "You want creepy, try something with horrible tentacles in a well-lit room where you can see every inch of its sweaty, throbbing thorax."

Casimir and Amy stared at Emblem.

"What? Give me some ambiguity any day. Or hell, not even ambiguity. I know that there are zombies out there," Emblem said. "Plenty of 'em. But they're just zombies. Anyway, we're here."

Emblem had stopped the car in the middle of the street so that its headlights shone towards one of the lots on the street.

They illuminated a church built out of slouching stone. The rigid structure had collapsed and gave the impression of decay and forgotten grandeur. Haphazard rows of gravestones, worn smooth over many years of wind and rain, sank into the mud and hid behind the unkempt weeds in the churchyard.

"Welcome to my home," Emblem said.

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