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[ Please Note: The context of "After the Flesh" is related to events that take place in Episode 4 of FETIDUS: The Damned Heir. Reader discretion is advised. The following contains adult subject matter. ]

After the Flesh

by Anthony O. Miller II

There was so much flesh, so much on which to feed, so soft, so weak. There were so many choices. The first attack should have been calculated, would have been calculated. A strategic attack. There was a small child seated nearby, in the lowest row, an appetizer really. The feral type 4 perched in the rafters just about to pounce. The cattle will flee in fear, just as they always did. They always scrambled trying to preserve themselves. They abandoned all survival instincts other than to flee. There were no group attacks, no pack hunting, the cattle always depended on the black ones to protect them, SMACK or something the small voice whispered up from the depths of its mind. It didn’t matter what the cattle called them. They were the only true threat. Then the weak brothers lumbered into view, so many of them. Where had they come from? It hadn’t sensed, smelled them there, but they were still moving, parading in front of the cattle. On the stage in front of the cattle 15 or 20 type 3 zombies slowly came into view. There were so many of them. It made no sense.

The feral shredder snarled in rage, this was supposed to be its feeding ground, but now there was competition. It dropped from the rafters with a guttural roar, as it hit the ground it swept its powerful claws through the front row, the cattle being sliced and ripped as it did so. They didn’t run. Confused the shredder actually backed away from its query and looked around quickly, somehow it expected a trap, but nothing happened. There was no ambush, none who defended the cattle. At this moment it spread its mouth in a toothy, fang filled smile as it stepped back up to the child’s destroyed body. Some of the cattle actually stood to get a better look, peering over the seats as it gorged itself on the child, slinging blood and gore onto the nearby humans. It arched its back, raising its head in another inhuman roar, the hunger, the appetite whetted now, and looked about expecting to see its type 3 brothers fighting amongst the humans in a blood-fest, but nothing happened. Again it paused, uncertain as to what was happening. Its instincts told it there was something wrong, something terribly wrong, and it sniffed the air. There was not the familiar smell of its brethren, only the wonderful and enticing smell of the cattle. Mocking you the voice whispered again. Mocking you, mocking the pack, kill them all.

The feral rage erupted. The shredder lashed out at anything within reach, completely lost in the bloodlust. It was no longer about the hunger, about the flesh, its actions was fueled purely by rage. They mock you the voice cried, they think they’re better than you. The first screams finally rang out as it leapt into the nearest human, driving her backward over her seat and into the next row. The feral zombie ripped flesh from bone with its powerful maw, the long, razor sharp, black fingernails that were more claws than fingernails easily sliced through nearby cattle. It turned from its fallen prey and leapt toward the stage, landing easily downstage from the impostors. The type 4 lashed out again, its powerful arms swung almost wildly as it tore into the actors, the impostors. The cattle scrambled now, the chaos that had been expected earlier now erupted through out the theater. The claws raked through the back of an actor, another frantically ran past it and the shredder threw itself forward into the unthinking man, its claws digging into his left arm and chest before he was thrown into the upstage wall, but there wasn’t time to focus on just one target, there was so much flesh around. The smell of it was overwhelming. The intoxicating aroma called and the type 4 charged downstage, shouldering past a woman who stood dumbfounded on the stage, before it leapt into the seats again and rampaged through the cattle.

The chaos was glorious. It was a buffet. The perfect example of evolution, survival of the fittest. The stench of true brethren began to fill its nostrils and it paused for a moment to take in the smell of others as they transformed, evolved from prey to predator. If any of the fleeing and panic-stricken civilians had seen its face they would have again seen the frightening, tooth filled smile. Then the rage returned and with new confidence the shredder ripped into the crowd as it pressed against the doors while they fought to be freed. It did not take long for the humans to finally break free. The fear of being ripped to pieces or eaten alive drove them frantically to escape. Then the doors exploded open, light flooded into the building and the cattle surged out into the open air and the life giving freedom of daylight. They were getting away.

It roared and started forward then paused as the voice called up from the depths again wait the voice commanded. The shredder moved back a couple steps as gunfire erupted outside and tore through the crowd. The cattle fell to the ground, yet they continued to flee out of the building. It was as if they preferred to challenge the protectors outside than face certain death inside. The brethren raced past, pursuing the cattle, as gunfire erupted again and this time a bullet tore through its leg. For a moment the weak voice cried out stay back from the recesses of its mind, but the animalistic rage quelled the weakness and it moved forward. The unparalleled rage replaced what would have been pain. The leg didn’t respond as it should and the anger raced through its veins and it moved forward. It was unable to move with the power and speed it was accustomed to, but it was still faster than any mere human. Stay low, find cover, the voice whispered and the shredder obeyed. Somehow it knew there was wisdom in the thought. It growled with the effort of staying low, and moved quickly out of the building staying ducked lower than the rushing crowd and sought cover behind a nearby vehicle. It paused for a moment as bullets hit the vehicle, the metallic thunking rang out as they struck the other side. Then the guardians turned their focus elsewhere as cries of fear and pain again rose up from the cattle and they fired again. It could hear the cries and roars of brethren as they were gunned down or injured. Flee, the voice whispered more urgently than before. The type 4 moved away, slowly at first, staying low, and then the smell reached it. The smell of something familiar, a kindred, a brother, and it was too overwhelming to ignore. No you fool, the voice cried out, flee. The shredder growled in anger. It was not a coward. The voice was weak. The voice did not know best. The voice was afraid.

There it was, a human moving stealthily past the guardians and skirting the crowd. The shredder moved up the street as it dodged from the cover of vehicles until it was ahead of him and began to cross the street. Then the man turned and faced it. His smell was different from the rest of the cattle, there was brotherhood in this one, one of the pack, not quite changed, not quite evolved, but so close to rising above the prey. A low guttural growl came from its zombie throat and the man turned and their eyes locked. For a moment it paused and watched the man as he uttered a low growl, an unhuman growl. There it was, family, but he wasn’t ready. All he needed was a little prompting to reach the point of transformation, of evolution. Blanchard, the voice said strongly, and recognition passed across the zombie’s eyes for a moment. Not this one the voice whispered weakly not this one, but retreat was not part of its behavior. It was the hunter not the hunted. Powerful thoughts and images of friend and family assaulted its mind, but the shredder fought those images back. This was not a brother. This was another impostor. This was a man denying himself the power of his destiny. It roared powerfully, giving into the visceral cry for blood once more. If this human wouldn’t give in to his evolution then he would die. If he insisted on being cattle then cattle he would be. It started forward, tentatively at first, then it rushed the man. No! the voice cried, much stronger than before and the shredder realized all too late why the weak voice had protested. The man raised his arm and the man pointed his hand at the shredder’s head. The pistol now visible in his hand. It was too late. It would be the prey or the predator that would be slain now. There was no middle ground. The muscles in its powerful legs bunched and flexed as it prepared to leap forward, then there was the sound of thunder and the shredder fell to the ground motionless before it could initiate its attack.

Told you the voice whispered one last, fleeting time, not this one.

[ Original fan fiction by Anthony O. Miller II. Used with permission. Click here to check out Anthony's website! ]