Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Body Farm; Part Three

Content Advisory: This serial started with a post on the 22nd August. Contains scenes of horror and language some people may find disturbing.

The Body Farm
Part Three

Back in the security booth, four people watched as the dead made a meal of the dead. Only, on closer inspection, they didn’t appear to be eating Lenny. Instead they tore holes in his flesh with their fingers and teeth; ripping, gouging, tearing. The man was a mess of red. Blood covered every part of his skin.

In unison, the things stopped the attack and surrounded him, leaning over the body.

Eleanor frowned and craned her neck closer to the screen. Something white whipped out of the living dead, lashing and slithering into Lenny’s wounds.

“What the hell is that?” said Robert.

“I don’t know,” said Eleanor. “Can we zoom in the cameras?” she directed the question at the older of the security guards. “Get a better shot?”

“Sure.” Jimmy tapped some keys on the computer and the lens of the security camera zoomed.

Even on high focus, they only saw a blur of white movement between the bodies.

“We need to know what we’re dealing with,” said Eleanor.

Robert cocked his head, “What are you thinking?”

“If we can get one on the table, I’ll be able to take a look.”

Kyle rounded on her. “Are you fucking joking?”

“Knowledge is power. If we know what we’re up against, we might be able to understand their weaknesses.”

The young man stared at her, his eyes wide. “You’re insane.”

“No, I’m not. I’m a scientist and I’m doing my job.”

“Well I’m not going anywhere near one of those things.”

“Fine, you stay hiding in here. See how long you last if they figure out a way to get in.”

As though on cue, the lights above flickered again.

On screen, Lenny began to get to his feet.

“Oh shit,” breathed Robert.                

Lenny stumbled, wobbly, like a drunk trying to find his balance.

“Are you sure he’s dead,” asked Jimmy.

Eleanor didn’t grace his question with an answer. Half of Lenny’s face had been torn from his skull. Flaps of skin hung from his arms and legs. Blood coated his skin and there was a dark slick across the floor he’d so meticulously cleaned.

His body jerked, his limbs lifting and realigning, like a puppet settling into position. Beside him, the other bodies lined up, closing around him.
Together, almost acting as one, they headed down the corridor.

They walked off camera, the people in the security office losing sight.
Jimmy frantically tapped the computer keys again, switching security cameras. The small group of the dead had moved further along the corridor, reaching the door at the end—the one leading to the control center. The swipe card to open the room still hung from Lenny’s belt. The corpse pulled the card on its retractable cord and swiped the lock. The red light switched to green.

“Oh shit, how do they know what to do?” said Robert.

Eleanor shook her head. “I have no idea.”

“They’re going to cut the power,” Kyle whined, panic heightening the tone of his voice

“Yeah, but we’ve got back up generators,” said Jimmy.

Eleanor chewed her lower lip. “It’ll be long enough to let some of their friends from outside in.”

Kyle stared around at each of them. “This is insane. You mean those dead people—those fucking zombies!—are intelligent? They understand technology and they have some kind of way of communicating, like telepathy?”

“It might be telepathy,” said Eleanor, biting down her impatience, “but I suspect it’s more like an insect colony, where each member has a job to do. They look like they’re working together, but really they’re just acting instinctively.”

Kyle scowled, “They sure look fucking intelligent to me.”

Eleanor shook her head, her eyes still trained on the screen. “They can’t be; they’re dead. Whatever has happened doesn’t change the fact that those people are dead. I had one of them lying on my slab only an hour ago.”

On screen, the things disappeared inside the control room. Each of the living froze, breath held in anticipation. The lights flickered once again and suddenly they were plunged into darkness.

Somewhere in the confined space, what sounded like a woman screamed, though Eleanor was pretty sure she hadn’t made the sound.

Kyle gibbered, “Oh God, I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die.”

“Pull yourself together, Kyle,” she hissed.

The warmth of Robert’s hand closed over her own. Having his solid presence there gave her strength. The thought of being here alone, with only Jimmy and Kyle for company made her want to crumble inside.

“What do we do?” Robert whispered.

Eleanor answered, “We wait.”

In the cocoon of darkness, Eleanor’s imagination ran riot. In the distance came the clicking of doors opening, the sound of dead feet pounding on the linoleum.

Come on, come on, come on, she willed the generator to get going.

Suddenly the lights came back on, not as bright as before, dimmed to reduce the amount of power used. They all blinked in the illumination, their eyes growing accustomed to the light.

 Eleanor froze.

One of the dead things walked past the security booth’s window, a slow steady gait. The living corpse was small, probably only five-feet-five when it had been alive, but now, in death, it was shrunken and hunched. The level of decomposition made it impossible to tell if the thing had been male or female, but the filthy remains of a red dress hung from its emaciated frame.

Someone gave a thin whine of fear but the thing didn’t hear—if it could hear at all. Its ears had all but rotted away, as had the rest of its face. There was no way this thing could see where it was going.

So how do they know where they’re going? Eleanor wondered.

Still, the thing seemed to be alone.

“Now’s our chance,” she hissed at the men. “Just grab a limb each and wrestled it into the nearest lab. Oh, and try not to get bitten.”

Before any of them had a chance to respond, Eleanor swiped her keycard to open the door and ran out into the corridor.

The men glanced at each other, “Oh shit,” said Jimmy.

They followed close behind.

Eleanor grabbed the thing’s wrist, her fingers closing around its cold, slick flesh. A shriek of rage emitted from its throat and it spun around to face her. She struggled to keep hold, its flesh pulling away from the bone in a spongy mass. Then the men were upon it, grabbing arms and legs. The thing snapped and snarled, whipping its hideous head around, trying to tear a hole in one of its captors.

“In there!” Eleanor yelled, jerking her head toward the lab door beside them.
Things moved beneath Eleanor’s palm, something strong and musculature. She resisted the urge to pull away, already knowing this whole thing was completely wrong.

Robert grabbed the things ankle, pulling it off balance. The creature sprawled on its back, writhing and squirming in blind fury. “Come on!” yelled Robert, one hand wrapped around its ankle, the other around its wrist.
“Get it into the lab and lock the God-damn door.”

Jimmy jumped in and took hold of the other ankle. Kyle stood in the doorway of the security booth, his face pale, trembling.

Eleanor called out to him as they wrestled the creature into the lab, “You coming, Kyle. Or are you staying out here by yourself?”

The young man hesitated, “Oh fuck,” he swore, and chased them into the lab.

Eleanor and the two men slammed the twisting, shrieking corpse onto the cold silver of the table. A tray of dissecting tools sat by the stainless steel sink.

“Hold it down,” Eleanor yelled above the screaming. She couldn’t do anything while the thing fought. Her brain whirred, her scientific mind trying to overcome the part of her that screamed, ‘run!’

I need to stop it moving. I’ll never be able to learn anything like this.

Trying not to think about what she was doing, Eleanor grabbed the scalpel from the tray.

“Flip it over, and then hold it as still as you can,” she instructed the two men.

Robert shot her a look that said, ‘Are you joking?’ But the set of his jaw highlighted his determination and between him and Jimmy, they managed to flip the thing onto its stomach and then held the fighting corpse down on the table.

Eleanor stepped in, scalpel in hand. She pressed the cool metal against the back of the thing’s neck. Using her anatomical knowledge, she pressed the blade down, skillfully finding the joint between the corpse’s vertebrate, slicing down. Because of the state of the things decomposition, the flesh was soft and mushy, easy to cut.

It shrieked in rage.

“Jesus Christ!” exclaimed Kyle. “Its friends are going to hear and come running.”

“Shut up, Kyle,” snapped Robert. “You’re not exactly helping.”

With a final push, Eleanor severed the spinal column. The screaming stopped but the body still writhed and squirmed, like a snake after its head had been cut off.

Breathing hard, Eleanor took a moment to compose herself before stepping back to the table. In a long stroke, she sliced the flesh of the thing’s arm, exposing the bone.

“Look at this,” she said.             

White worms, a matter of only a few millimeters in width wrapped around the bones of the corpse. As she watched, the worms contracted and then spread again, changing in both width and length.

As they moved, the corpse’s limbs spasmed.

She glanced up at Robert, “What does that remind you of?”

“Tendons,” Robert answered immediately. “They look like tendons.”

“It would explain how these corpses are moving when they’re so badly decomposed. These things are acting as a new skeletal muscle.”

“What the hell are they?” asked Jimmy, peering over Eleanor’s shoulder.

“You ever heard of one creature controlling another’s behavior or appearance?” she asked. “It’s common in insects and viruses. Take rabies, for example. The virus is transmitted in saliva so it makes it victim drool, have a propensity to bite, and is terrified of water, which might wash the virus away. And that’s just one example; I could tell you numerous which are even more fantastical.”

“So are you saying these things have taken over the bodies?”

“It sure as hell looks that way. I don’t know if these worms are the mature creature or if they’re just the larvae.”

“Jesus,” exclaimed Robert. “It’s no worm I’ve ever seen before.”

“Sometimes insect pupa can survive below ground for many, many years. Only when the circumstances are exactly right will they spawn.”

“If that’s right,” Robert continued, “how did they get inside the bodies in the building?”

“All the bodies were outside at some point, right? Buried in the ground in some way. I suspect those still in the morgue, the ones that haven’t been buried yet, are still as good as dead… at least until they come into contact with the infected bodies.”

“But how do they know what they’re doing?” asked Jimmy. “When they infected Lenny, he got right up and headed to the control room.”

“When I cut the spinal cord, the movement changed. These things must be making some kind of contact with whatever brain is left and feeding into it somehow. Perhaps because Lenny was only just dead, they fed into his surviving brain and tapped into his intelligence.”

A strange squawk of laughter came from Kyle. “So you’re saying the more people they kill and infect, the more intelligent they’ll become?”

With a sinking stomach, Eleanor said, “It’s possible.”


“We need to figure out what to do,” said Robert. “We’re surrounded by the dead here. At least outside of the walls, there are others living.”

“What about the calls we placed?” said Jimmy. “They didn’t exactly install confidence that things are going great in the outside world either.”

Eleanor shook her head. “No, but at least we’d stand a chance. If we wait in here, it’s only a matter of time. We’ll never be able to kill them all; if they can even be killed.”

“They’re surrounding us,” said Kyle. “How the hell are we supposed to get out?”

Jimmy glanced up. “What about vent shafts? They could take us up onto the roof.”

“Yeah,” said Kyle. “And what do we do when we get there?”

The older man scowled at him. “I don’t know yet. You got any better suggestions?”

From down the corridor came the sound of feet hitting the linoleum. Shrieks rage accompanied the approaching footsteps.

Eleanor shot a glance at Robert. “I don’t think we’ve got time to argue…”


The Body Farm will continue next month...

Like what you've read? Marissa Farrar's short story collection, Where the Dead Live, is available to buy from Amazon for only $0.99.

If you would like to catch up on any of our posts or get a preview of the rest of this month's stories, you can purchase the eBook, Digital Digest, Volume 1, from Amazon and Barnes & Noble for only $0.99!

Marissa Farrar
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Copyright © 2011 Marissa Farrar. All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, locations, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination, or have been used fictionally. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, locales, or events is entirely coincidental. No portion of this work may be transmitted or reproduced in any form, or by any means, without permission in writing from the author.

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