A buzzer sounded. Six men in the sort of protective armor you often see worn by dog trainers approach the mound, collectively holding a long pole with a loop of cord at the end. Then, one of the giant insects, perhaps the size of a bear, crawls out of the hole. Before it can react, the loop is slipped around its bulbous head and tightened. It chirps loudly and struggles to free itself.
It eventually takes another two men in addition to the first six to subdue it. The electric wands are employed, but only seem to enrage it, so it becomes a game of endurance. Finally exhausted, the six legged beast is herded off into an empty stall and strapped down. I now have a good idea of what fate awaits it, and briefly feel a strange sort of sympathy for the ugly thing.
With some questions answered but many more raised, I backed away from the spectacle and turned to make my way to the tunnel entrance. Only to be confronted by Mr. Beady. “Wandered off from the tour, did you?” His voice dripping with acid. I told him of Annika’s leap from the roof and resulting injuries. It seemed to soften him up somewhat.
“You’ve seen it all now. I can’t say as I expected a principled man like you to violate my trust so casually.” I fell over myself apologizing for it and insisted I was no more inclined to breathe a word about any of this now than I was before. The promise of a generous additional sum finally put the matter to rest and, while walking back to the clinic, he addressed the matter of Annika’s erratic behaviors.
“Aside from the standard preservatives, the injections also contain a substance developed for interrogation which suppresses short term memory. Besides the importance of reviving the body before it has significantly decomposed, there is also the problem of doing so within the window of time necessary for the memory serum to be of any benefit.”
I told him I was sure I didn’t understand the connection. “Without the serum, they are paralyzed by madness. They can only be restored to sanity by making them forget where they were before we brought them back.” I thought to inquire about the insects but elected not to press on a sore spot.
He went on about how I may have received an irregular batch with insufficient memory serum, apologized and offered a replacement set of syringes. “If you went to McCullough, he’s likely to send you home with some nerve tonic. He’s a bit liberal with the stuff, but in your case I recommend it.”
Sure enough, upon releasing Annika to my care he produced a pair of green glass bottles shaped like flasks with some soupy translucent concoction inside. The label, covered in decorative flourishes, read “Doc McCullough’s restorative nerve tonic. Appropriate for the treatment of hysteria, insomnia, diminished vigor, possession and rickets.” Bit suspect that he brewed his own, but I thanked him all the same.
Annika curled up next to me as we rode the tram back to the warehouse. Fine little stitches marked where Doc McCullough had gone in to replace shattered bones. I wondered how she could heal so quickly before it occurred to me that she could not heal at all. Must greatly simplify a doctor’s work. As we passed by the tangle of transparent rubber tubing leading up to each of the grave hatches overhead, I inquired what they were for.
“Haven’t you pried enough?” he snapped. I reminded him of my generosity, and once again his lips loosened for it. “A preservative gas is piped up into the caskets. This slows the rate of decay, in advance of potential resurrection orders or in case we need to borrow bits and pieces for…maintenance.” I thought back to Doc McCullough’s windfall of fresh tibias.
Annika resumed her soft, demented giggling. I pushed the tonic on her but could not make her drink. While I was in Beady’s lab writing him a check I meant to compensate for my indiscretions, she wandered aimlessly about the warehouse.
If only I’d kept a closer eye on her. I might’ve seen her unscrew the hose which carries black fluid to the resurrection chambers and lug it over to the gas distribution juncture, twisting it into place before returning to the control panel. A lazy press on the throttle and the black fluid surged up through the clear hoses and into the graves.
An ear splitting alarm sounded. All around the perimeter of the warehouse, klaxons blared and red lights strobed. Beady was on his feet in a flash. “You damned idiot! Get away from there!” He shouted, knocking her to the floor. His eyes bugged out of his head as they traced the re-routed hose to its new destination. Beady withdrew an electric wand from his vest, and motioned as if to jab Annika with it.
A sudden fist to his jaw put a stop to that. No real mass to him, the blow sent him tumbling across the cold concrete floor. I worried I might’ve done more damage than I meant to. But glancing over my shoulder, I spotted curious spectators beginning to emerge from the tunnels to see what the noise was about. Time for a hasty exit.
Rather than bother with the little train, we simply hoofed it down the remaining length of tunnel into the basement level of Beady And Scholls’ office. Once we climbed the stairs and exited onto the street, I located Annika’s carriage and set about lifting her into the passenger seat.
That’s when I heard it. If I stood still for a moment, over the distant echoes of the sirens, something else wafted to my ears from the graveyard across the street. The sound of thousands of little bells, frantically ringing.
We were off as soon as the sun rose. Thick plumes of black smoke rising from various points in the city, desperate cries of terrified mothers searching for their children. The handy little motorbike, Annika perched on the rear seat in a lovely sun dress, proved able to edge around the piled up motor carriages on the way out of the city. Riding up on the sidewalk at times…but then, the police had their hands full with more pressing matters.
At the edge of the city, the voice of an elderly man issues forth from loudspeakers mounted outside the church. “The earth shook, the rocks split, and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many saints who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, went into the holy city, and appeared to many.”
The voice trailed off into the distance, now only empty country road ahead of us. I wondered at just how many graveyards were part of Beady’s network. If there were any city we could settle in after this which was not presently crawling with…unwelcome guests.
If none, I concluded that it would trouble me very little. For I had with me everything necessary for my happiness. The freshly born Summer, a gleaming motorbike, the open road winding about the vast, beautiful countryside…and Annika.
I’d packed only a month’s worth of victuals, not expecting to need more. In the little leather case under my seat, the four remaining syringes rattled about. And next to them, a handsome little pistol.
The End. Why not check out one of my other stories?