Memories of the Past
“Bring us around, Bones!” Cyclops yelled, water threatened to pierce the bubble of damp he was projecting to allow their old tank to churn through the murky depths of the Atlantic ocean as his concentration wavered.
The skeletal driver waved one boney hand and turned the tank out of the oncoming path of a torpedo, which struck a vehicle behind them, scattering it into a fine mist.
“Where we at, Cy?” yelled Alisha, a recently dead zombie who acted as the tank’s chief gunner.
“Too far to fire, just wait on my orders!” Cyclops ordered. His name wasn’t really Cyclops, but Robert Wilson and he was quite thoroughly dead. His crew consisted of three zombies, including himself and ‘Bones’ a skeletal remnant of a much older corpse that had arisen along with the rest of humanity just a few short years ago. Magic had returned to the land, and this was not a good thing. First to arise were the dead. Of all the billions that had lived before there were quite a few bodies still laying around, the human preference for burying intact remains seemed, at this point, a huge mistake that the living would not be repeating. Every dead creature came back, be it the smallest shrew to the largest whale. The sharks alone were enough to make Cyclopes happy to have the old Sherman armor around his body.
‘It’s like some animals knew what was coming.’The elephants, for instance were doing quite well. Cy had heard their undead were wreaking a savage vengeance on any that threatened their living descendant. ‘That’s just a rumor, though.’ He thought evaluating his current situation.
Intent was everything in this world and machines of war and destruction were highly coveted items, ‘Which is why I find myself fighting in a Sherman tank thrown overboard after WWII ended.’ The tanks had been tossed by the thousands by the allies after the fighting had ended and not just willy-nilly; they had been tossed with precision in designated dumping grounds. The zombies were just the ones to get there first. Unfortunately, the ghouls had shown up shortly thereafter, intent, like the zombie forces, on conquering England.
Ghouls were a whole other form of creature, they fed off the dead, as the zombies fed off of the living. There were more zombies than ghouls, and more skeletons than both groups combined. But the ‘skellys’ had aligned themselves with the zombies. One could ask why the ghouls were interested in the living of England if they fed on the dead? It all came down to procreation; ghouls could only create other ghouls by killing a living person. It was a matter of gaining allies and militant forces to wage war on the other undead. Ghouls ate the dead and zombies were most surely that, but the reverse was not true.
The zombie’s motives were quite clear too; they wanted the living for food, not for children. Truth be told though the fact was after a half-eaten human died they tended to rise as a zombie. ‘We get a double benefit out of the deal, food AND children.’ Plus the zombie’s commanders had said it was paramount to prevent the other undead factions from gaining so many potential recruits. Recently the newly revived Druids of England had repelled the vampires of mainland Europe from taking over the island. The Englanders were thought to be vulnerable from the epic war they had just won, so the other factions were lining up to invade the island and gain the rewards.
All of the dead had the ability to manipulate their environment. Before the fall the living would have called it magic. Now it was called….magic. Everything from Christen priests calling down a rain of undead eating locusts to the Hindu Swami’s summoning undead elephants spirits to crush their enemies, magic had returned in huge way.
The undead were beings of magic; they could use their force of will to defeat their enemies. People like ‘Bones’ were pretty much useless at such work, and the average zombie would be lucky if they could summon a single elephant spirit. But some, like Cyclops, were special. ‘What is the difference between a zombie and a skeleton?’ Cy thought, ‘A few rotten days in most cases.’ But those caught between the two, those few, were special.
The best of the best were known as liches, they could eat the flesh of man if they chose, unlike skeletons who could not or zombies who simple had to devour the living to continue shambling along with a higher degree of mental function. Bones wasn’t quite a liche he was what his crew had dubbed a ‘demi-liche’, an almost God.
‘Better what I am, than what I could have been; a skeletal remnant without any power at all.’He thought. The philosophy of why the dead had risen and why magic had abruptly returned to the world hadn’t been ironed out yet. Cy thought those pursuits would be something that took place during peacetime. For now, there was war.
Some of the better preserved, older zombies, veterans of world war II, had remembered the ordinance dumped in the ocean and intent was power, especially old intent. Again, rumor had it that the druids had faced a mighty foe in the knights of yesteryear that had risen upon their dead steads and Cy himself had seen old gunslingers wielding revolvers that never emptied and shot out bullets that torn through walls six inches thick… ‘No, intent, is not to be messed with.’ All this old equipment was power, and the zombies had just gained a major chunk of it. Then the ghouls showed up.
‘Who knew they would go after the Bismarck?’ Cy thought, ‘or so many of the other sunken ships of past wars? From what I hear this power grab pales in comparison to what’s happening in the Pacific.’ There would be time enough to deal with that problem once the zombie’s position here was consolidated.
The older the weapon; the greater the power. Spears, swords, bows and arrows, even seemingly innocent looking rocks could pack enough punch with their ancient intent to destroy legions of the dead.
The Bismarck, revived and manned by the ghouls was a formidable weapon. Swimming through the sea a league underwater, it fired it’s batteries with ferocious intent and savage results against it’s opponents; a multitude of zombies in tanks heretofore used only on land.
Cy looked through the commander’s port again, estimating the range while he kept one hand on the 76mm gun, feeling it’s intent. He wasn’t in a virgin, untested tank. When Cy and his crew had dived from the yacht, sailed by traditional means to the coordinates remembered in some rotted brain, he had been drawn to this one. ‘This one has seen action. And death. And dealt death out.’ Cy himself had been killed by a rifle shot to the head; he was an infantryman through and through and to be taken out by a despicable sniper was something that still chaffed his hide. ‘If I can find that son of a bitch Kraut, I will kill him again with extreme prejudice.’
Thanks to the experimental preservation techniques the Army used on him Cy came back as an almost liche; most of his generation came back like Bones. “Steady, Alisha. Steady.”
His crew were all veterans of violence, from Alisha who had been a young black woman involved with the seedier elements of the late sixties, to Bones, a veteran of the Great War and finally to Ryan, a warrior from some Eastern conflict who had, ironically, been killed on leave in a car accident. This crew all knew fighting.
Ryan was helping out on the gun, Bones was driving and all Cy had to do was keep the tank moving, evading the enemy weapons. Cy was good at his job, and with his power he could have darted ahead of the pack converging on the Bismarck, but Cy had seen what happened to the leaders, so he held his position well behind the lead elements. One thing he could do, however was fire from a longer distance than his contemporaries.
“Fire!” He yelled, immediately jerking the tank to the left and upwards into a pack of slower tanks.
He guided the gun’s projectile into the previously destroyed culpa amidships and was rewarded by a huge explosion. ‘My intent is good.’ He thought with some satisfaction watching for counter fire. The reaction was swift and violent; the area he was sheltering in was inundated with ferocious fire, destroying swaths of equipment and sending the undead souls back to wherever they had come from before they re-occupied their former bodies. Cy barely evaded the return fire.
“Cy.” Came an all-powerful presence in his head.
Cyclopes pounded his head with both hands, momentarily losing control of the tank, which sank towards the bottom of the ocean like the dead hunk of metal it truly was.
“Cy. Your aggressive diligence is appreciated, but do not fire again until you can volley fire with your fellow tanks commanders.” The presence was gone as quickly as it came and Cy regained control and pulled his tank back in among the pack.
‘I should have known better than to take such a long shot.’ The liches leading this action were not happy, that much he knew.
“Okay Alisha, just keep tracking them. I’ll tell you when to fire next.” Cy told his crew.
“What the hell is that Cy?” Ryan asked.
“I don’t…aircraft! Alisha, man the Browning!” Cyclops yelled, opening the hatch to let her out himself. “They must have been holding back! Fire, fire! Fire!”
He was rewarded with Ryan firing the coaxial machine gun while Bones handled the mundane task of piloting the tank through the water. Left with little to do aside from fretting, Cy concentrated on making Bones’s job easier, lightening the tank, strengthening the water around it to deflect the oncoming bullets from the planes and dodging when even that wasn’t enough. The old AR 196s weren’t alone when they strafed the oncoming attackers; they were joined by everything the ghouls had, from the first Biplanes to ME 109s shot down over the channel.
‘They pulled out all the stops for this ambush.’ Cy thought as his sides ‘surprises’ joined the fray to counter the Ghoul’s advantage. The advanced military aircraft that the zombies had gained from off the coast of north America lacked experience, but the intent...well the intent was there in full force. Designed in peacetime the fighter jets tore through the old planes like candles through spider webs, sending the ghouls fleeing before them and opening up the Bismarck and its accompanying ships to the tanks.
“Charge!” yelled Cy, propelling his tank forward at a breakneck pace well ahead of his surrounding allies. The old ship was concentrating on the jets, not on the lowly Sherman tanks and within thirty seconds he had closed to firing range, along with his peers.
“Fire!” Cy commanded, Alisha continued to man the Browning, and Bones had stepped up to work as loader for Ryan. Shell after shell pummeled the Bismarck meting out destruction on a scale unseen even during its last fight above water. Soon the tanks were crawling over the husk of the ships like maggots on a zebra corpse on the high sienna. The remaining ghouls fled the conflict in the secondary vessels, not even bothering to try and rescue their fallen.
Days later on the Eastern Coast of England, just north of Dover the council of Druids stood above the cliffs looking out into the sea. High Druid Isaac Everson nodded towards the ocean, which was growing agitated as they watched, “It seems our foes did not mis-inform us as to the zombies intent.”
“Why here?” asked one of his third rank assistants.
“This is where the vampires attacked us and gained a beachhead on our lands, this is where so much blood has already been spelled, and this is where the power lies, despite there being easier landings on the west coast for them. This is where the intent of harm is at an absolute peak.” Isaac answered.
“Can we hold them?” another council member asked, his voice wavering as he watched the thousands of sodden vehicles rise to the surface and slowly approach.
“Can we afford not to?” Isaac answered, “To your positions! The second battle of Dover has begun!”