Charging into the woods at the bottom of the sloping field, the friends finally halted their panicked flight from the horrors they had just witnessed and hovering around in an untidy group gathered their frightened wits together. Babe noticed his big friend Goliath had a gash along the length of his flank. A little blood was seeping from it but otherwise the horse looked fit as a fiddle, although his eyes did have that just startled look.
The rest of the animals looked absolutely knackered, very few of them were fit enough to continue such headlong flight; Shep and Babe excepted. Babe was pretty good at running because his desire to be a sheep-pig, albeit ambitious for someone with such stubby legs, had made him rather buff, his haunches quite unlike any other pig on the farm. In combination with the fact that his hair was kept short and neat, and his toe nails manicured, his overall well-groomed appearance may have influenced his relationship with Shep. Frankly, all the pig needed was a leather cap worn at a rakish angle and, well, full membership to The Village People was assured. On the other hand, perhaps his youthful, polished looks contributed to the attraction for Simone. Horses for courses, as they say.
“I’m still hungry,” Shep bleated, an irritable frown crossing his face. “If we don’t get something soon, I’m going to have to take matters into my own paws.”
Above Shep’s complaints and the worried mutterings of the others, Babe could hear a noise he’d not heard before. Walking warily towards the sound he was amazed to see what turned out to be a small river flowing past, the sound he had caught had been the burbling of water over the smooth rocks at the edge. His skin crawled and he jumped in fright as the bushes off to his left rustled and shook. Warily he backed up as a figure began to emerge from the thicket. Whatever it was was large, a lot bigger than Babe, its beady little eyes staring emotionlessly at him from a face that looked like a black and white humbug. The vision wore gold-rimmed, half-moon reading glasses that spanned the white stripe down his muzzle and carried a dog-eared book under one arm.
“What’s all this ruckus? Who are you,” he demanded authoritatively in a deep voice.
“Who are you?” Babe echoed, stunned by the creature’s appearance.
“My name is Brick the Badger.”
“Brick? That’s a strange name,” Shep muttered, awed by the creature that wore his own colouring so well, albeit with prickly looking fur that looked like it could do with a good conditioning treatment.
“My father couldn’t spell for shit,” he replied grumpily. “Once it’s on your birth certificate, it’s there for life, you know.”
“Don’t be so whiney,” Goliath barked. “We have important matters to consider.”
The badger turned to the horse and sneered. “Back off, you one ton halfwit. I knew your father, and so I’m afraid your genetic inheritance does not bode well for your future.”
“That’s no way to speak to our friend,” Trude the cow interjected.
“And don’t you go crapping around here, either” Brick snapped. “It’s taken me a long time to get my garden just right; I don’t need any assistance from your arse fertilizer.”
He glared at this motley collection; his second afternoon nap of the day had been interrupted, and just when he had gotten to a good place in his book. His Mastermind skill was reading through his eyelids. Seeing their terror and exhaustion he softened a little.
“Anyone got any nuts?” he looked around. Monkey nuts were his secret pleasure. “No? Alright,” he continued, shrugging a little. “You’d better come into my humble abode and tell me about it.” He tapped his pipe out on the tree stump outside the door and walked in. The animals obediently filed in one by one, until it came to Goliath and Trude. They just stood at the entrance in weary frustration; the burrow wasn’t designed with them in mind. Finally they satisfied themselves with peering in through the window holes. Badger at least made the effort to pull back the curtains, giving them a complete view of the proceedings inside.
The interior of the sett was reminiscent of a posh gentlemen’s club; tallow candles, skewered onto brass candlesticks, dripped onto the floor and offered up a subtle warm glow to the room, while a bookshelf against one wall bowed under the weight of leather-bound books. An old, polished-wood gramophone with a built in radio stood majestically to one side of it. Brick owned a single dark, red leather armchair and an antique Persian rug that lay in front of a gently crackling fire, the smoke wafting gently upwards through a flue dug specifically for the purpose. Off to one side, a tunnel opened out onto what looked distinctly like a bedroom with a huge bed strewn with comforters and pillows. That’s weird, Babe thought absent-mindedly.
Donning his comfortable old smoking jacket, Brick sat down and picked up his tobacco pouch. Smoothing his moustache deliberately slowly he sat back before filling his pipe once again. Looking at his visitors he noticed they were dumbfounded by his little dwelling.
“I like my creature comforts,” he explained unapologetically. “So, is anyone going to enlighten me?”
They all started speaking at once causing Brick to wince with the assault on his ears.
“One at a time, please!” he ordered.
Silence fell at last, until with a clearing of his throat Babe began to speak on behalf of the animals.
“My name is Babe. I’m a sheep-pig.”
“Of course you are,” Brick replied, sarcasm oozing from every follicle.
“Something terrible happened on our farm. Mr Farmer attacked Mrs Farmer and now we are being chased by humans, lots of them. They have gone really strange and instead of feeding US, they have started feeding on us, they have even been attacking and eating pigs! My darling Simone’s family to be precise.”
“Way to rub it in, Romeo,” Shep whispered out of the corner of his mouth.
Babe flushed and nuzzled Simone’s flank by way of an apology before continuing. “They have gone barking mad and now we need somewhere to hide out, at least for a while.”
“And something to eat wouldn’t hurt, either,” Shep added, just in case anyone had forgotten his empty belly.
“I can vouch for Babe’s story,” Goliath added sagely.
Babe just smiled at his old friend.
“It must be true then,” Brick said at last. “If dunderhead, sorry, Goliath says it’s true then it probably is. He hasn’t the imagination to concoct such a tall tale.”
“So can we stay here with you?” Shep asked expectantly.
“Of course you may,” Brick replied. “I’m not sure what I can do for your larger friends, but you smaller ones are welcome inside.”
“I’m happy just here,” Goliath said, gratefully. “It’s not often I get to keep my head dry.”
Trude nodded in agreement, knocking over a delicate crystal vase that had until that moment held a small posy of meadow flowers that had been tickling her snout. Brick rolled his eyes; this lot would be the death of him, especially that bloody cow, he thought. Ignorant villagers, crazed or not, would probably want to kill him simply because she was keeping company with a badger. He knew the prejudices out there.
“Right, then,” Brick began, looking sternly at his fellow creatures. “Here are some house rules. Number one, absolutely no crapping indoors. Subsection one of rule one, no pissing indoors either. Go out to the river if you feel the urge.” Brick addressed Qwackers and Salma in particular. “Just because you mix the streams, so to speak, it does not mean you are exceptions to this rule. Next, rule two, no fornicating. I’ve seen the way you look at your girlfriend, Babe.”
“Busted!” Qwackers shouted gleefully, nudging his buff, porky friend. Babe smiled coyly, looking across at Simone.
“Strangely, I’ve also seen the way you’ve been looking at this little one,” Brick said, eyeing Shep quizzically.
“Twice in a row. Shazzam!” Qwackers quacked, punching the air jubilantly with a clenched wing. This situation was going to get old very quickly, Brick thought.
“Never mind about that, I don’t really want to know,” Brick said tersely, glaring at the duck. “The biggest problem is going to be sourcing enough food for our different needs. I don’t know what you’re going to do, Shep. I don’t have any meat here.”
“Don’t worry, I have some ideas,” Shep replied with a sly, enigmatic grin that suggested he had a plan. “I guess Sid and I will have a little chat later on; after all, he’s in the same boat as me.”
“Fair enough,” Brick agreed, seeming to understand the implication of the dog’s words. “As for the rest of you, I can tell you that I already know what is happening outside.”
“You do?” Babe asked in awe.
“Yes, young man. I read books, I know of these momentous events. The Apocalypse has begun. End of Days, the Lifting Of The Veil, the Revelation from the Book of Daniel, the twenty first episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. I have to say I wasn’t expecting it this week.”
The friends just stood in silence and disbelief. Here was someone who was fully conversant with their current problems and probably knew how to deal with them – of course he probably used Wikipedia a lot.
“Never the less,” Brick continued. “I’m ready for whatever danger comes our way.”
Standing up, he shooed the ducks aside and lifted a chain that had been coiled neatly in a corner on the floor. Bracing himself he pulled at it. It was attached to a board that had been up to now hidden by the Persian carpet. Sliding sideways, it revealed a hole in the dirt floor. Peering into the blackness, Babe’s eyes adjusted to the gloom and then he gasped in surprise. The basement was full of equipment, strange wires that looked like traps, snares and spikey things. Babe understood why all this old tat had been hidden, this stuff was dangerous and could hurt someone; but why show it to them? And then realisation dawned on him. Shep stepped closer and looked over the young pig’s shoulders. He gasped in amazement as he suddenly remembered something he had been told a long time ago.
“I’ve heard of you,” he said looking at the badger, his respect for the creature growing. “Brick the Prepper. And to think I always thought that was an instruction. Well, I’ll be damned!”
“Probably,” Brick agreed.
Copyright © 2014 David Kingsley Roberts
Zombie books by David K Roberts:
The Common Cold: A Zombie Chronicle
The Common Cold: A Zombie Chronicle – Cabin Fever (Sequel)
Return Of A King: A Zombie Chronicle
Return Of A King: A Zombie Chronicle – Z Factor (Sequel)