Acherontia Atropos Part XIII

The Browning dropped from my suddenly lax grip and fell to the thinly
carpeted floor with a loud thud. I was lucky that it didn't choose that
moment to go off and take me out. Right then, though, I didn't think about
it. I didn't think about anything, really.

I was frozen, completely, staring into the flat, dead eyes of Yan. For a long
moment, I wondered if it were just a new horror that my nightmares had
produced. But no, the sickly sweet smell of rotting flesh was stronger than
ever, accompanied by the dull, wet smell of damp earth and the thick scent
of death. I was awake.

"No." I whispered, my voice sounding strange to my own ears. "You can't
be here. You're dead." For a crazy second, I wondered if I'd dreamed it all,
and that he actually was alive.

No. No. It couldn't be possible.

Yan continued to watch me. There was nothing in his eyes, no vital spark or
hint of reflection. It was like trying to look into the eyes of one of the
preserved animal specimens at the museum.

"What do you want?" I whispered, suddenly very, very afraid. It's not often
that a guy gets visited by the ripening corpse of one of his friends. This was
definitely a first for me.

Yan's mouth opened and moved, as if he were talking. No sound came out
though, nothing but the whistling sound of moving air. My gaze moved
slowly, reluctantly down...I really didn't want to know...oh god, I didn't
want to look. But I did. Yan had been buried in a suit. It still looked
starched and pressed, like he'd just taken it out of his closet and put it on.
The high collar was buttoned and he was wearing a tie, but I could still see a
bit of his neck. The gaping hole was still there; it looked like some giant
had reached down and just scooped half of his neck away. Air was rushing
out through the gap between the collar and his throat.

I covered my mouth with one hand. Of course, he couldn't talk. No vocal
cords. No throat. It all made perfect, logical sense. A hysterical little giggle
started bubbling up inside me, and I fought it off. If I started laughing now,
I'd never stop. Stop. "Please stop." I said, very carefully.

Yan stopped moving his mouth and trying to speak. Once again, he just
stood there, looking at me blankly. There was something else, though, in his
empty gaze, as strange as it seemed. He was expecting something. No, not
just expecting. Needing.

Needing me to command him, to give him something to do. The knowledge
came to me, the thought forming completely unbidden in my subconscious.

Oh shit...he was looking at me for orders. What the hell was going on?

I shivered, suddenly very cold. Static energy was crawling along my skin,
making every hair on my body stand on end. My body was too small all of a
sudden. I was overflowing, there was too much...too much what?

My hands stung, and I looked down at them. Blood was glittering on my
palms, welling up from four cuts that I'd made there with my fingernails. I'd
been clenching my hands into fists in my sleep.

And now that I was awake and looking at the blood, I needed
something. I shook my head, slowly, trying to dislodge the weird thoughts
that were suddenly creeping through my mind. I was filled with the cold,
dark energy again. I could almost feel it dancing along my fingertips in the
moonlight. I had to...

I held out a shaking hand toward Yan. Blood droplets glittered blackly on
my fingertips. I spoke, the words drawn from me reluctantly from the power
that was taking me, the thing I could not understand. "Drink." I said, my
voice husky in my ears. "Take the offering and walk again."

The corpse...

No, that wasn't right.

Zombie. Yes. It was a zombie--don't think of it as Yan, think of it as
something else--didn't need any more urging than that. It grabbed my wrist
and pulled my hand toward it, then began to suck the blood from my
fingers. Its fingers were hard and cold, its skin faintly waxy. A dry, leathery
tongue rasped against my fingertips, and I let out a soft, frightened whimper
and tried to pull my hand away. The zombie clung like a limpet, making a
protesting almost-sound, and continued to lick at the blood. I stopped trying
to get away when its grip tightened enough to make the bones of my wrist
grind together. When it had finished with my fingers, the zombie turned its
attention to the still bleeding wounds on the palm of my hand and began to
drink from them. It looked at me the entire time.

I was caught in its gaze, frozen. With each passing minute, the zombie's
eyes became less flat, less dead. There was something shining in them--not
life, it couldn't be that--but awareness. Knowledge. Self. Just as weird, its
neck healed as I watched, shiny white scar tissue closing over the gaping

My hand protested like all hell when the zombie began sucking at the cuts.
The pain brought me back to myself, and I suddenly realized that I was just
standing there, letting something that must have just crawled out of the
ground drink my blood. Oh God. I tried to pull my hand back again. The
zombie mewled out a pathetic protest. "Let go." I said, sharply.

It did exactly as it was told, and I stumbled back a step and ran the backs of
my legs into Heero's bed. I just wanted to laugh. It was mine, all mine. I'd
created it, brought it to me, and now it was mine to command totally. A
strange kind of elation welled up inside me, and I felt the dark energy stir,
pulling toward the zombie. I wanted to touch it again, to share my blood
with it more, because it was mine. child...

/Stop that!/ I told myself, and shook my head sharply. I couldn'
was too freaky...

The zombie stared at me again. Its lips were dark with blood. We watched
each other for an eternal second, and then the zombie licked its lips,
cleaning the blood from them. It was as if that little bit made all of the
blood, magic, or whatever reach critical mass. Suddenly, the zombie's entire
posture changed. It was no longer stiff and dead, though it wasn't quite
alive. It was...familiar.

It looked at me, and self flooded into its eyes. "Duo?" It said with Yan's
voice, inflections, and everything. "What's going on?" It--no, shit, I couldn't
think of the zombie as an it any more, not when it was looking at me like
that--HE sounded like a lost, scared little boy.

I took an involuntary step back, toward the door. The zombie took a step
toward me.

That was it. "Stay there!" I yelled, my voice cracking. I backed away more
quickly, even though the zombie obeyed my command. This couldn't be
happening. It had to be a bad dream. My back ran into the door, and I let out
a loud yelp. Yan the zombie watched me, a mixture of curiosity and hurt on
his dead face. "Duo, what's wrong?" He asked.

That was too much. I fumbled for the doorknob, not looking away from the
zombie, and managed to get the door open.

I slammed the door behind me as soon as I was out in the hall, then ran the
short distance to Wufei's room. My breath was sobbing in my throat,
coming way too fast. I could feel myself panicking all over again.

"Wufei!" I said as loudly as I dared, knocking on the door. There was no
answer. "Wufei!" My voice was shaking. I knew on an intellectual level that
the zombie would still be back in my room, waiting for the next order...but
my intellect was definitely not at home. I could almost feel the zombie, the
thing I had called, creeping up behind me, reaching out for me in classic
"Night of the Living Dead" style.

I'd created it. Oh god. Oh god. Oh god...

"Wufei!" I gave up any pretense at being quiet. If the other guys in the dorm
had a problem, THEY could go deal with the damn zombie. I pounded on
the door harder. Still no answer, and for one terrible moment, I imagined
that another zombie had come and gotten Wufei, and any minute, the one in
my room would change its mind about obeying me and come and get me
next. My knees gave out and I let out a hoarse sob, crashing up against
Wufei's door and sliding slowly down its smooth surface until I was on the
floor. I continued to hit the door with one hand. The cuts in my palm had
reopened, I could feel it. I was leaving little smears of blood on the door
every time I hit it.

There was a soft sound beyond the door, and it was suddenly jerked open. I
fell over, caught completely off guard, and ended up sprawling at Wufei's
feet. His hair was hanging around his face, and he was wearing only a pair
of pants. "Duo?" He asked, incredulous. "What's wrong?"

I was feeling a little upset. Yan dying, I could handle. Dead was dead, no
changing it, I wouldn't be Shinigami if I didn't know that.
wasn't dead. Kind of. Because of me.

So I went into a round of hysterics.

Wufei handled it pretty well, I think. I threw myself at him and locked my
arms around his waist, and he didn't push me away. Instead, he awkwardly
returned my desperate embrace. He doesn't do that sort of thing very often.
He stood there and half held me and listened to me babble for several
minutes before he realized that I wasn't going to just calm down on my own.
Then he pushed me away slightly, grabbed my arms, and shook me, very

The sound of my teeth rattling in my head brought me back to my senses a
little, forcibly stopping the words that were cascading from my mouth. My
breath was coming in rapid gasps. I concentrated on slowing it down until a
small measure of coherency returned to my thoughts.

"Ok, Duo." Wufei said, a great deal more calm than he had any right to be.
Then again, he didn't know about the dead guy in my room yet. "What's
going on?"

I took a long, deep breath. "Yan." I said, very softly. "He' my room."

Wufei's eyebrows shot up almost to his hairline. "What?"

"Yan's in my room!" I almost shouted, my voice cracking. Tears were
stinging in my eyes, but I wouldn't let them fall. I had to stay calm.

To Wufei's credit, he didn't ask questions or patronize me. I guessed that
after the week we'd all been having, he was pretty much willing to believe
anything now, too. "Can I let go of you now?" He asked.

I nodded, not trusting myself to talk again. He let go of my arms, then
disappeared into his room for a moment. When he came back out, he was
tugging on a shirt one handed and held his sword in the other hand.
Wordlessly, we walked down the hall to my room. Wufei opened my door
and took a cautious look inside.

If he saw anything, he didn't give any outward sign. For a crazy minute, I
wondered if it had been a nightmare, and I'd gotten Wufei out of bed for
nothing. God, I hoped it was a nightmare. If there was a choice between
having a real zombie sitting in my room and being royally embarrassed, I
would happily choose being royally embarrassed any day of the week.

Wufei took a deliberate step back and quietly shut the door. His had taken
on a pale, sickly tinge that I didn't think was entirely due to the dim light of
the hallway. "That," he said, very carefully, "is impossible."

My eyes widened. I hadn't heard Wufei sound like that very often. He was
afraid. The only thing that was keeping him from breaking down like me
was the fact that he was Wufei, and Wufei would never let anyone see him
like that. I fell back against the wall with a solid thump and slid down until I
was sitting on the floor. I wanted to laugh. "Oh good." I said. "That means I
must be imagining it."

Wufei took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Did it attack you?"

I shook my head.

"Did it act hostile at all?"

I shook my head again. "It..." I took a deep breath and tried again. My
words came out in a rush. "It's waiting for me to tell it to do something."

Wufei's eyes widened. "What?"

I scrubbed at my eyes with one hand, the hand that the zombie hadn't
touched. "It's waiting for me to give it orders. It's mine."


"I don't know. Jesus, I don't know." I actually started laughing. I put my
face in one hand and slammed the other into the floor. Hard. The pain
shocked me enough that I managed to pull myself out of another looming
bout of hysteria. "God, Wufei...when are our lives ever going to go back to

Wufei crouched down until he was level with me. "I don't know." he said.
"Were they that normal to begin with?"

I snorted. "God, I don't know how you handle this so well."

"It's happening to you, mostly, not me. I'm only effected because I am your I am at least getting a choice as to whether or not I want to get
involved." he pointed out. "Besides, maybe you only think I'm taking it
well. Maybe once the zombie's taken care of, I'm going to go back to my
room, lock myself in, and draw on the walls for a while."

The comment had its desired effect. I laughed, and it wasn't tainted with
panic in the slightest. The image of Wufei, barefoot and with his hair loose,
drawing on the walls with scented permanent markers was just too
ridiculous. I felt calmer almost immediately, a little removed from the
problem. If Wufei could handle it, so could I. I hoped.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. When Wufei's not ranting about
justice or being taken up in the heat of the fight, God is he one cool

"You win." I said. "I'm ok now." I took a deep breath. No, I wasn't ok, but at
least I was in control. "What do we do?"

"We go inside and see what it wants. It came from somewhere. We send it
back." It sounded so simple when he said it. Maybe it was that easy. I hoped
so. Sometimes I wished I could see the world in simple terms like Wufei
seemed to. There's a fight, so you apply sufficient force to the enemy that
you will leave nothing standing. There is a wrong, so you right it. There's a
pervert groping you, so you kick him in the nuts. There's not enough rice, so
you go buy more. There's a reanimated, ripe-smelling corpse standing in
your friends' rooms, so you go in and ask it what it wants, then send it
home. See? Fits right in.

I nodded shakily and stood up. He followed me when I walked into my
room. It was the bravest thing I'd done all week.