Acherontia Atropos Part 14

The zombie was standing where I'd left it--him. When I came in, he looked
at me, and I only had one name for the expression on his face. He was hurt.
I suddenly felt like a heel, which seemed pretty ridiculous. I was feeling bad
about hurting the feelings of a corpse.

But damnit, corpses weren't supposed to look so...alive.

"Duo?" Yan looked up at me. There was still a strange flatness in his eyes,
like he was lacking some vital spark. Well, duh. But at the same time, they
were still Yan's eyes, and there was still a measure of intelligence and self
awareness in them. "What's going on? What am I doing here?" he looked
confused and lost.

I carefully moved past him and sat on my bed. Wufei stayed standing, by
the door, still holding his sword. "What do you want, Yan?" I asked,
keeping my voice carefully neutral.

If anything, the question seemed to just confuse him more. "Want...?" he
said wonderingly, as if the thought that he might actually want something
was completely foreign to him.

I glanced at Wufei. Wufei shrugged. Big help there. So I tried again. "Why
are you here?" When in doubt, rephrase the question.

Yan suddenly smiled. Boyish. Innocent. All American. If you ignored the
fact that he was dead and smelled, that is. "You called me."

"I *WHAT*?" I nearly yelled. That wasn't the answer I had been expecting.

Yan regarded me unblinkingly. "You called me." he said again.

I looked at Wufei. He shrugged. I resisted the urge to hit him. "Called you
from where?"

Yan hesitated. "" It sounded more like a question than an

I knew THAT wasn't it. I shook my head. "Try to remember."

"But where would I be if I wasn't in my room?"

It didn't seem right for a zombie to sound so...lost. They were supposed to
try to eat people, and stumble around moaning "fresh meat" or something
like that. At least if you believed the movies. Then again, I'd already learned
that movies weren't exactly the best source of information on earth. "I hate
to tell you this, man, but you're dead."

"I am?"

I nodded. God, this was so weird. "A vampire ripped your throat out. It's
hard to get deader than that."

Yan reached up and cautiously touched his neck. His eyes widened. God, he
looked so alive, it was freaky. "I don't remember..."

"That's probably for the best." Wufei murmured.

Yan looked at Wufei. He smiled. He'd always liked Wufei. His attention
came back to me almost immediately, though. I was the focus of his world.
"I'm...dead." He said quietly, as if he were testing out the idea. "My parents
are sad, aren't they."

"A lot of us are." I said, just as quietly. "Some of the guys are out, right
now, looking for the monsters that killed you." Shit. The guys. They
wouldn't believe this.

"Can I go home?" he asked.

I shook my head quickly. "I...don't think that would be a good idea. Your
parents already got a bad shock when you died...if you showed back up, I
don't know how they'd take it."

He nodded. "You're right. So I'm dead." He was so trusting. It only made
me feel worse.

"Yes." At least he wasn't in denial about it. I don't know what I would have
done about that.

"Then I should go back to being dead, shouldn't I." He said slowly. His
voice immediately firmed, and he nodded, as if he liked the idea. "I should
get put back."

Great. Never mind the fact that I had no idea how to do it. Then again, I
hadn't had the foggiest clue on how to bring someone back as a zombie to
begin with. Maybe whatever it was that told me how to start this little
adventure would tell me how to finish it. "Where did you come from?"

Yan shrugged. Big help there.

Wufei cleared his throat. "There's a graveyard a few miles northwest. That
is most likely." I blinked. I hadn't known that. Wufei smirked slightly. "It
pays to be thorough in one's reconnaissance."

I rolled my eyes. Of course. Wufei seriously needed a life if he spent his
time scouting around for graveyards, but I wasn't going to say that,
considering he had possibly just saved my ass. "Ok, then. We'll go there.
Sound good to everyone?" No objections. Great. Take charge, Duo. Go me.
As I stood, a strange thought came to mind. "Wufei, do you have some

Wufei had been turning to leave, but he stopped at my question. "I might
have some in my room. Why?"

"Don't know." I shrugged. It had been a weird, stupid idea that came up
from my subconscious. Considering all the interesting things that had been
coming up from that part of my mind lately, I wasn't going to argue with it.

Wufei obviously was thinking along the same lines as me. "I'll go check."
he said.


When we consulted with a map, we found that the graveyard was closer to
five miles away. Too long to walk with as little time as we had until dawn. I
knew I sure as hell didn't want to get caught walking around with Yan's
animated corpse. That would probably raise some questions that I wouldn't
want to answer. So we hot-wired one of the cars in the teacher's parking lot,
a truck that we were fairly certain belonged to one of the night janitors.
Wufei drove. I wasn't feeling too confident in my ability to do anything that
required any amount of focus right then.

After a little discussion and shuffling, Yan got relegated to the back. As
sorry as I felt for him, I still didn't want to have to deal with how he smelled
in close quarters, even with the windows open. I figured that if the back of
the truck smelled a bit off when we returned it to its place in the parking lot,
well...hopefully the janitor wouldn't notice it. There were all sorts of
cleaning supplies and implements back there. Maybe he'd figure that he
hadn't rinsed his mop out well enough or something. I wasn't going to worry
about it too much, though. Let someone else deal with a damn mystery for

The ride to the cemetery was silent. Yan wouldn't speak unless spoken to,
and neither Wufei or I really felt like talking. Once we got there and
unloaded Yan, we had another problem.

"Where the hell did you get buried?" I asked the dead guy, more than a bit
exasperated. The cemetery was huge. Acres of crosses and weathered stone
angels, tall headstones covered with kanji and english characters, as far as
the eye could see. Looking for one grave would take forever.

"I don't know." Yan shrugged. "I just remember coming to your room."


"This is an old graveyard." Wufei said. "There won't be many new graves.
So we look for freshly disturbed sod or dirt."

It was a better than being completely clueless, but for some reason, the
thought of wandering around in a huge, old grave yard in the middle of the
night looking for a small patch of freshly disturbed earth just did not turn
me on. Call me weird. "Wait, I have a better idea." I glanced at Yan. "Does
your family have a plot in this cemetery, maybe somewhere you guys would

Yan nodded slowly. "I think so. Yes. I remember where it is."

I grinned. "Bingo. Take us there, then." Yan the zombie nodded and chose
one of the gravel paths to walk down. Wufei and I followed him. None of us
spoke; the sound of gravel crunching under our feet was the only thing I
could hear.

I watched Yan walking ahead of me. He had his hands in his pockets. That
was another thing. I thought zombies were supposed to shuffle. And do so
while holding their arms stiffly out in front of them. I would really have to
have a talk with the guys that thought up horror flicks some time. So far,
they were batting zero. I didn't know how I would tell them, though. 'Hi, I'm
Duo Maxwell, and I met a REAL zombie once and this was how he acted...'
No. I'd just have to keep my revelations about the horror movie industry to
myself, I guessed.

Yan's family plot was pretty far removed from the front gate of the
cemetery. It was actually on the outskirts; there were trees on almost all
sides of it, and a fence. End of the road. There were several large grave
markers, all of them covered with the graceful, spidery shapes of hundreds
of kanji. I could only understand about half of them, but the effect itself was
pretty. They glimmered in the moonlight; the characters had been filled in
with silver leafing, it looked like. Yan's grave was the only relatively new
one; I could tell by the lack of weathering on the marker over it. Plus, there
were two wreaths of flowers set up by it, and an easel with Yan's picture on
it. The picture had a piece of red ribbon tied around it. Yan in the picture
was smiling. His hair was slicked back perfectly and he was in his uniform.
His school picture. Shit.

Strangely enough, the earth over the grave wasn't really disturbed. It just
looked like it had settled a little--there was a depression in the grass. Yan
obviously hadn't clawed his way up through the earth like in the movies...

/Geeze, man/ I hissed at myself in annoyance. /enough with the damn horror

Some days, I really wonder about myself. Other days, I know.

I cleared my throat and looked at Yan. "Looks like the end of the road,

He nodded and stood by his grave. None of us moved for a moment. We
didn't know what to do. Finally, he looked at me, his face expressionless.
"Will it hurt?" he asked.

I hesitated. "I don't know." I said honestly. "I don't think it will, though."

He nodded. "Then put me back. I'm tired."

At his quiet words, my throat closed off. I blinked my eyes quickly. Damnit,
I was not going to cry. As soon as I had myself back under control, I took a
deep breath. The air tasted tired, faintly moldy and full of the earthy scents
of fresh dirt and old death. "Ok..." I said. "Ok..."

I glanced back at Wufei. He raised his eyebrows. No ideas there. Of course,
I would have been very shocked if he'd had any ideas. Wufei's an educated
guy, but somehow, I just don't think his repertoire extends to zombies, or
any of the really weird shit for that matter.

So I turned back to Yan, took a deep breath, and let myself go. I didn't have
any better ideas.

As soon as I stopped trying to keep it out, the cool, electrical power crashed
into me and went through me, leaving me gasping as if I'd just been dunked
in freezing water. All of my nerve endings were sensitized; I could feel the
slightest breeze, could almost feel the tiny pressure of the moonlight on my
skin. I couldn’t give it direction, because I didn't know what to do with it, so
it rushed into the ground madly, leaving me tingling with its constant flow.

But it was more than that. I could see underground, into the graves, through
the grass and dirt and wood of the coffins. Skeletons and rotted corpses
caught my attention, and I could see each one in my mind's eye. One
woman, now nothing more than dust, lay in her grave like so, though there
was no longer enough of her left that her position could be discerned with
sight. Another grave held three corpses stacked one on top of each other,
ancient on the bottom, barely fifty years dead on top. I could taste the last
glimmerings of the people that had left the bodies behind, roll the feel of
them between my fingers and tell how old they were, when they died.

"Duo." I heard Wufei say, his voice strained.

I opened my eyes slowly, turning to look at Wufei. All around, small
clusters of lights or mist had sprung from the graves. I knew that they were
ghosts without knowing precisely why. They were the last gasps of
personalities and souls that had long since moved on, but had been strong
enough, angry enough to stain the ground over them with their presence.

"Ignore them." I said, my voice very calm. "They can't hurt you if you
ignore them."

I turned my eyes back to Yan--no, what was left of Yan. There was no soul
there, only the short-lived memory of who he had been moving the body,
using the vital spark of power that I had given him. My zombie. My...child.
I had called him, and now he was tired, ready for to rest once more.

I stepped forward, tearing at the scabs on my hand until one came free and
blood welled from the newly reopened wound in a hot line. The blood clung
to my fingertips. I wiped it gently on Yan's lips. He watched me, his eyes
wide and frightened for a moment. He couldn't understand what I was
doing. I wasn't sure if I understood, myself.

My hand went to my pocket, and I pulled out the small paper packet of salt
that Wufei had found for me. my guess was that he'd liberated it from a fast
food restaurant at some point. That wasn't important though. The salt itself
was. I sprinkled the salt on Yan's shoulders, and he shuddered.

"With blood and earth, I bind thee. Return to thy rest and walk no more." I
said, very softly. I couldn't believe the words that were coming out of my
mouth. I sounded like some kind of weird Shakespearean actor or
something. Too strange for me.

Yan closed his eyes, and finally smiled. "Thank you." He whispered.

I took him by the arms and helped him lay down on his grave. The grass
and soil flowed over him like water until he was hidden from sight.

The power inside me dried up abruptly, and I collapsed to my knees on top
of Yan's grave, my hands shaking badly. Whatever it was that had moved
me before, it was completely gone now. I was just Duo, and it felt pretty
good to have everything back under control.

Well, pretty much. Right then, I just felt like a candle that someone had left
out in their car in the middle of summer.

"Daijoubu ka, Duo." Wufei said. He was suddenly kneeling by me. I hadn't
heard him move.

"Aa, daijoubu." I said. "Now that that little adventure is over with."

"Is it?" Wufei said, enigmatic as always. He gave me a hand up. "I have a
strange feeling that things are going to get worse."

I groaned, laughing. "Don't say that, man! Someone might be listening!" It
felt good to laugh and relax. Things were ok now. The corpse was back in
the ground. The corpse... "Oh god..." I moaned, suddenly stumbling against
Wufei as the enormity of what had just happened hit me like a falling pallet
of bricks. "What the hell did I do?" I'd brought Yan back from the dead...the
boy I'd helped kill...god, this on top of everything else. Was I even human
any more?

Wufei caught me and held me up. "You didn't do anything." he said.
"Everything that has been happening since the beginning of this mess has
been caused by the vampires."

I looked up. He sounded very angry. "Everything." He said again. "They're
the reason that the boy died. They're the ones that...assaulted you." his lips
curled in distaste. I guess it had been pretty obvious what they'd done to me,
even if I'd tried to hide it. "They are why the others are out in the woods
tonight and we're here. Don't try to blame it on yourself." He turned his gaze
on to me, and gave me a sharp shake. "Or I won't be angry with them any
more. I'll save all my anger for YOU."

I nodded meekly. I'd never seen Wufei in a mood quite like this before.


I nodded again.


He half carried, half dragged me back to the truck, and we rode back to the
school in silence. When we were back in the dorms, I hesitated in front of
my door.


He stopped, halfway down the hall. "Yes?"

I licked my lips nervously. This sounded really weird. "Can I sleep in your
room tonight?"

Wufei turned back toward me, his eyes wide with shock. Finally, he
nodded. "As long as you promise not to have any more visitors."

"I'll do my best." I grinned weakly and let him usher me into his room.
Soon, I was ensconced on his bed. Despite my best efforts at keeping calm,
I was shivering, and my teeth were chattering. It's not every day I discover
that I have some kind of weird power that lets me call the dead from the
grave. Or maybe not so much having as being used by some strange
power...I don't know. Either way, I was scared.

Wufei grabbed one of his extra blankets and wrapped it around himself,
then sat on the floor by the door, his sword propped against his shoulder.
"Go to sleep, Duo." He said quietly. "I'm watching over you."

It was like before, when Quatre and Heero had held me. I suddenly felt
warm and safe, because Wufei was there. He wouldn't let anyone hurt me. I
didn't have to be afraid.

I lay down and drifted off to sleep.