I would have preferred it if Telders had shot me dead right there in the mud. That would have been good. A fine ending to a false start.

But there was that thing again. That dark certainty on the other side. I was literally going to Hell. Suddenly being led by gunpoint into the center of zombie central didn’t seem so bad.

Telders poked me in the back with the barrel of his gun. “Take this road,” he said.

Michael seemed different. He wasn’t his usual, jovial, cigar-smoking, womanizing, to hell with the consequences, asshole self. He was a little more… like me. A little damaged. Dangerous.

I had to stay focused. One wrong move and he could easily take me out. If things didn’t go well I had to be able to take him first. After all, God may give him a pass. Probably not, but at least it wasn’t a sure thing.

He stopped and pointed at an abandoned Buddhist temple at the top of a hill. A narrow path snaked up to the main building.

“There’s a giant gong in the sanctuary,” he said. “I’m going to head up there and ring the fuck out of it. That should get their attention.”

“And then what?”

“And then I observe what happens from a safe vantage point.”

“I’m not sure I like that plan.”

“Well, it was your idea, Robertson.”

I dug my heel into the mud. “Yeah, but I didn’t suggest lingering out in the open without any way to defend myself. Those things will attack. And I need a weapon if I’m going to survive.”

“I think you’ll be alright.”

“I’m not the fucking zombie king, Michael.”

Telders growled. “Maybe you are, maybe you aren’t. But you’ve gotten weird, Robertson,” he said, stabbing his finger into my chest. “First you slaughter all those bastards on the Nisshin Maru. That was fucked up, but I was able to see past it. Then suddenly you’re spewing crap about talking fish from future timelines who landed their space pods in Antarctica and started World War Three? I mean, come on. I’ve heard some crazy shit in my time, Wayne… maybe even dropped a little acid… but that’s some far out fucking shit.”

“I’ll admit it’s a little implausible.”

“It’s bat-shit crazy, Robertson!” Telders said, throwing his hands wildly into the air. “But even then I gave you a pass because I could only imagine what being locked away in fucking Antarctica for six months would do to a man.” He shook his head. “But now. Now I track you down to this shit-hole and find your ass dead and rotten in front of that fucking house, and then, just as I’m about to bury you, I literally watch you go from hamburger to regular walkin’ talkin’ Wayne Robertson in a matter of hours. I mean, don’t take this the wrong way, man, but I think you got the Devil in you.”

I cringed. “Yah.”

“Yah,” he laughed incredulously. Michael looked up toward the Buddhist temple for a moment. Finally, he said: “Alright, Robertson. Whatever. You have a right to defend yourself.” He unzipped his duffle bag and fished out something wrapped in a large, white cloth. “This is a Mossberg 500. It’s a shotgun.”

“I know what it is.”

“Good.” Telders pumped the fore-stock. “It’s loaded. And the safety’s on, so don’t forget to turn that shit off when things heat up.”

“Alright,” I said, taking the shotgun. It was remarkably light. I remember wondering why he’d been using a peashooter against the zombies instead of a fucking shotgun, but I didn’t worry myself about it for too long. I’m an idiot sometimes.

“Alright” he replied, reaching for his duffle bag.

Suddenly I realized that I had a clear shot at the back of his head. A click of the safety button would be his only warning. So easy. I could end this charade for good. I licked my lips.

“Good luck, Robertson,” he said, zipping the bag.

I tightened my grip on the Mossberg. This could be your only chance.

Telders heaved the bag over his shoulder.


“Later,” Telders said, slapping me on the shoulder.

“Uh, yah,” I mumbled. KILL HIM!

Michael paused, smirking… then turned and headed up the hill.