Friday, May 10, 2013

Re-Deanimator Part 18: When the Dead Talk by David N. Brown Mesa Arizona

Dr. Carradine led Meg into Davey the Goliath, clearly long established as a command center. Ling was talking to Carlos with quiet intensity at the dinner table. “I do not see how I can be any more clear or emphatic, that your strategy is not only ineffective, but quite dangerous,” the Asian said. “Following groups of revenants may seem safe, when they number in the dozens or low hundreds, and I will grant that it was reasonable enough in the initial conditions of the outbreak. But those conditions have been changing, constantly. The groups have been on the move, and we have proven beyond the slightest doubt that they have an inerrant tendency to move towards each other. By following them, you head straight for another group of equal or greater size, and when the two join together, as you are well aware, they fan out over a wider area. With any group larger than a few hundred, there is no way to get behind them. Either you are ahead of their leading edge, or you are in their midst.” He fell silent as Meg sat down on the couch next to Joe.

Dr. Carradine gave a quick and guarded account of what had happened, summarizing, “She clearly believed she recognized the revenant, and she did give an accurate description of the shoe. I had a clear view of the individual in question myself, and I am quite certain that it is not among the bodies here.”

“Let me see that shoe,” Carlos said. “Aye, it's yuppie leather, an' the stuff's better'n a lot that I've seen. Good workmanship, too; my guess is it was made legit, and somebody bought 'em up and slapped the fancy labels on. Thing is...” He took a look at the sole. “It's in good shape. Nothing but normal wear, and not a lot of that. Not what you'd expect if, say, a guy walked more'n a hundred miles cross-country in 'em. Never mind if he did it in less than 48 hours.”

“Where individual revenants have been tracked, they have consistently covered longer distances than their known speeds can account for,” Dr. Ling said. “Often, their feet and footgear appear to be in far better condition than could be expected. Unfortunately, many people feel that the most significant data, specifically reports of individuals being followed by revenant family members, represents hearsay at best and hysteria at worst.”

“Aye,” said Carlos, "just about everybody still 'round has at least one story about one of those things that just homes in on one particular person and stays on the trail. Me, I never seen it, least not that I could attest to m'self. But once, we pick up a new guy, and we end up with a bunch comin’ up from behind. We stop, an' I get out my binoculars an’ check ‘em out. Then without even looking, he describes one in particular, and he starts telling me details even before I can make 'em out. He's seen it before, no question. He says he's been seeing `her' behind him, now an' then but regular, over the last two weeks an' what he reckons to be more'n ten thousand miles. He's sure it was his kid. Most all of them say something like that. But then, how many people see a thing like that wi'out it stickin' in the mind?"

“Very few forensic scientists would accept such an identification as conclusive,” Ling said. “Indeed, it is something of a trade secret that family and loved ones can be very unreliable. All kinds of things can and do happen to bodies. Even a cadaver that remain basically intact can be subject to swelling, shriveling, and discoloration sufficient to render it literally unrecognizable. It is common, if generally unspoken, wisdom not even to invite an identification by a loved one unless one is already reasonably confident. Even then, problems occur. I have had one personal experience in particular, after one of the `disturbances’ between my country and the Soviets, when I was assigned the task of giving a senior Party official the body of his son. Our morgue was filled well beyond usual capacity, and a number of bodies were being stored out in the open, one of which had been left uncovered. I was about to apologize for the carelessness, when the official embraced this body of a complete stranger and `confirmed’ that it was his son.”

Joe shrugged. “So what? All you people look alike anyway.”

“Aye, what it really comes down to is, most of the time, most people see what they expect to see,” Carlos said. “But then, like you said yourself, it works both ways. I’ve thought about that quite a bit. Most people would notice if they’re bein’ followed by a kudlak that even looks like somebody they knew. But what if it’s one that’s too messed up to recognize, or a complete stranger to begin with? It seems to me, this could be happenin’ a lot more than we know about.”

“You do no understand,” Joe said. “You think like white man. White men no understand walking dead men. Fish People know.” All eyes were on him as he rifled in his bag, and expectations clearly went down a notch when he took out a MAD magazine. He opened it to the inside of the back cover, with the fold-over hidden-picture gag.

“A walking dead man is not like ghost,” Joe said. He touched the creases of the page. “Walking dead man go here to here, he cannot fly on the wind, or go to the Place of the Great Spirit and come back down, no, or use white man’s engines. He walk, step by step. But, he can take short cut.” He folded the page. “Many miles. One step.”

Meg was jarred by a memory from when she was a girl. She had read a little science fiction in her preteens, before she dived into her mother’s romance novels because she wasn’t supposed to be reading them. Her interest had been limited as well as ephemeral, but the books of Madeline L’Engle had connected with her, well enough to sustain her interest. “A Wrinkle In Time,” she said. Then she added as the name came to her, “You’re talking about a tesseract.”

Joe shrugged, while Dr. Carradine nodded. “It fits with common elements of Native American folklore,” the professor said. “A number of entities are characterized as physical entities, while at the same time being credited with superhuman or wholly supernatural abilities. For example, the skinwalker, their version of the werewolf, is said to be able to travel hundreds of miles in a matter of hours. Then there are legends connected with Bigfoot in which the entity is said to be able to disappear, a detail which actually is reported in a number of well-substantiated sightings.”

Ling gave Joe a clearly incredulous look. “Let me see if I understand correctly,” he said. “You are suggesting that an ambulatory cadaver has the capability to fold space-time, and that it uses this ability for the express purpose of terrorizing a single waif.”

Joe shrugged. “What would you do with it? Go to the moon?”

“That’d be a bit of trouble,” Carlos said. “The orbit and rotation of the moon are completely different from Earth, and you’d experience the difference as instantaneous acceleration on touch-down. The potential energies’d make a bug on a windshield look like a soft landing. They never talk about that on Star Trek.”

He lifted the shoe, and slapped the heel down once on the table. “That leaves us with one thing to deal with right here and now: What happened to the rev that was wearing this shoe? 'Cause he bloody well wasn't walkin' away. By all rights, there should barely be enough left to twitch.”

“The possibility that the revenants have some capacity for regeneration has been under investigation for some time,” Ling said. “No conclusive evidence has been produced, and no one has had any particularly good ideas what evidence or experiments could prove it either way. Ultimately, the issue is only a symptom of a more fundamental problem, which is that we simply do not know how the revenants function or how much or little damage is truly necessary to eliminate them.”

“Aye,” Carlos said, “but still, any kind of vehicle impact usually does the trick. We find them on the roads all the time, and we’ve run down quite a few ourselves. We see busted heads, broken backs, missing limbs, and never any sign of anythin’ growing back.”

“This one different,” Joe said. He pointed at Meg. “He come for her. Don’t need reason, just her. His strength is her, and he grow strong from her. Then she will get weaker, and he will be bolder, and the others will follow, until she is one of them.”

“Roighta then,” Carlos said, “that oughta be simple enough. So long as we got what he wants, we know where he’s gonna be, and all we gotta do is be ready for ‘im.”

Joe shook his head emphatically. “No. No help her by killing him. Maybe make it worse. Must break the link. Make him go. Only way.”

“Okay,” Meg said, gazing at her own trembling hand. “How?”

“Do not talk to the dead man,” Joe said firmly. “The Law of the Fish People says, do no summon a dead man. If dead man come to a living man or wise old woman, they speak the words to tell him he is dead and return to the dead. But a dead man come to young woman must no say anything, only summon a man or an old woman. For, when a young woman speak to old man, she make him think he is young again, and if young woman speak to dead man, he will think he is alive again, and he return. But if the young woman do no speak, and a man and a wise woman speak the words to banish him, sometimes he go, and no return.”

“If that doesn't work,” Meg said, “then what?”

Joe shrugged. “Don't know,” Joe said. “Maybe you die. Sorry.”

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