Shuddersome Shorts

Tales of Eerie Terror

#23




Do Not Feed the Zombies

(Part two)

By Talbot Pratt


His eyes shot to the grisly huddle of black figures in the centre of the deck. They stood there even now, barely able to keep their feet with the rocking of the boards. There was no rain, but the wind was a torrent, tearing at their tatters of clothing, and the lightning strobed eerily off their dark, gangly limbs. Though they felt no emotions, they must have harboured some dim sense of their surroundings. Now they all were moaning, a single hideous chorus that sounded a chilling counterpoint to the screaming of the wind.

Waves began to leap over the gunwale. The salt water cascaded onto the deck, foaming and running away through the scuppers. Though the zombies were clustered in the centre of the deck, the briny wash surged about their naked ankles, leaping higher and higher, drenching them and threatening at any moment to reach their slack lips.

Jean Mercure thought about what the ship's master had said. Two choices. He could face the zombies or he could jump over into the sea. He recalled what he had been told about the zombie uprising at the plantation...and cast a bleak, hopeless glance over the side.

But no! There had to be another way. Looking out into the storm, he was surprised to find that the wind had driven the ship toward shore. He could make out trees now and sandy beaches. But he knew he could never swim, not in this wild sea.

He looked back at the zombies. More salty water exploded over the side. It missed them by scant feet. Why, oh, why, had he ever taken this job? Why had he agreed to involve himself in such dark, unholy rites? Voodoo! He cursed it and all it had brought about. Such things were not meant to be trifled with. To turn men into such mindless creatures, to enslave them through magic...through...

...magic?

Suddenly Jean Mercure had an idea. Insane, though it might be, at the moment, what other choice did he have? He reached into his jacket and drew out a small wooden rattle. It was a ouanga, a voodoo talisman given to him by the same bocor who had enslaved these zombies. The bocor had said it would bring him luck, and he had accepted it out of courtesy. Now though, he wondered if it might not bring him more than luck. Just perhaps the same magic which had enslaved the zombies might prove his salvation.

The shore was very near now. In that shoreline, there was the wide mouth of a river. That river would hold fresh water. The storm was already driving him toward the shore--if it could just drive him into that river, he could escape the salty sea and be safe...from the zombies, at least.

He began to shake the ouanga rattle. The rustling sound was lost beneath the howling wind and crashing thunder--even beneath the dismal moaning of the increasingly restive zombies. Some of them were no longer content to huddle with the others, but began to wander blindly about the deck, water pouring from their limbs, increasing the likelihood that they would drink the salty spray. Jean Mercure shook the rattle harder. His knuckles were white, his eyes frantic.

"Hear me gods of voodoo, hear me loa!" he cried. "Baron Samedi! Hear your humble servant! I call upon you to rescue me. Drive this ship into that river! I beg of you, I plead! Drive the ship into the river!"

And to his amazement, the ship indeed began to turn toward that wide river mouth.

"Yes!" he cried. "That's it. Baron Samedi, heed your servant! Save him!"

But now all the zombies were wandering about the deck. They moaned horribly, like lowing cattle. The briny waves shattered over the bow, drenching Jean Mercure but, again, miraculously missing the zombies.

"Save me! Please save your servant!"

Thunder ripped the darkness. Wind bellied the sails. The river mouth grew steadily closer. But then...the ship began to drift past it.

"No!" screamed the foreman.

One of the zombies touched him. It was an accidental touch, very light, but Jean Mercure screamed and leaped backwards. The rattle went tumbling over the side and into the heaving sea.

"Nooo!" He grabbed for it, nearly falling over himself, but it was gone.

And then, he looked up. With a final surge of storm-tossed sea, the ship rushed into the mouth of the river. Instantly, the wind quieted and the waves subsided. The sheltering land served as protection from the worst of the gale. Jean Mercure could hardly believe his fortune. He had made it. He had beaten that damned ship's master. He began to laugh. It was a hideous sound, hardly human in its shrill, screaming ecstasy.

"I made it!" he cried. "The voodoo gods protected me!" Then a look came into his eyes, a fierce vengeful look. "And I know just how to repay them. When I find that ship's master, I'll turn him into a zombie!"

He cast a glance over his shoulder. With the storm lessening, the wretched zombies had calmed down once again. Each had stopped wherever it was, and now just stood there. Dimly, it occurred to him, it was almost as if they were waiting...waiting for something...

Then...crash!

The ship struck some sort of underwater obstacle, a rock perhaps. The force of the collision was awesome. It hurled Jean Mercure over the bow and down into the cold black river. Instantly, he surfaced, sputtering, nearly strangling on the fresh water.

Looking back, he saw the ship heel onto its side, the keel cracked in two. The storm had so weakened the hull that now the whole ship began to come apart. With a sigh of escaping air, it began to sink. He watched it go with wide, disbelieving eyes. He could just barely make out the dark figures of the zombies on the deck, still mindlessly standing there, even as the waves rose slowly up around them. Up and up...and then they too vanished beneath the water and were gone.

Jean Mercure swam to a piece of debris. Catching hold, he was able to rest and regain his breath. He cursed his luck. He had lost the zombies. He was through in Haiti. But at least he had survived. The voodoo gods had come to his aid. And he would have his revenge on that damned ship's master. Oh, yes, he would have a terrible revenge...

At that moment, his grip slipped and he briefly sank under the water. He did not go deep, but came up choking--then a look came into his eyes. A look of horror. The water...it was salty! But that wasn't possible. This was a river. The water should be fresh. How--?

And then, one by one, the barrels broke the surface around him. Shattered by the storm, they now disgorged their terrible white burden through rents in their wooden staves. The cargo--the cargo which Jean Mercure had refused to let the ship's master unload.

A cargo of salt.

It was only seconds after that that he felt, beneath the water, the cold clutching of many eager hands...

The End.

Back to Part One




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Do Not Feed the Zombies is copyright 1999, by Jeffrey Blair Latta. It may not be copied or used for any commercial purpose except for short excerpts used for reviews. (Obviously, you can copy it or print it out if you want to read it!)