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Acherontia Atropos (Part 14)


The zombie was standing where I'd left it--him. When I came in, he looked 
at me, and I only had one name for the expression on his face. He was hurt. 
I suddenly felt like a heel, which seemed pretty ridiculous. I was feeling bad 
about hurting the feelings of a corpse. 

But damnit, corpses weren't supposed to look so...alive.

"Duo?" Yan looked up at me. There was still a strange flatness in his eyes, 
like he was lacking some vital spark. Well, duh. But at the same time, they 
were still Yan's eyes, and there was still a measure of intelligence and self 
awareness in them. "What's going on? What am I doing here?" he looked 
confused and lost.

I carefully moved past him and sat on my bed. Wufei stayed standing, by 
the door, still holding his sword. "What do you want, Yan?" I asked, 
keeping my voice carefully neutral.

If anything, the question seemed to just confuse him more. "Want...?" he 
said wonderingly, as if the thought that he might actually want something 
was completely foreign to him.

I glanced at Wufei. Wufei shrugged. Big help there. So I tried again. "Why 
are you here?" When in doubt, rephrase the question.

Yan suddenly smiled. Boyish. Innocent. All American. If you ignored the 
fact that he was dead and smelled, that is. "You called me."

"I *WHAT*?" I nearly yelled. That wasn't the answer I had been expecting.

Yan regarded me unblinkingly. "You called me." he said again.

I looked at Wufei. He shrugged. I resisted the urge to hit him. "Called you 
from where?"

Yan hesitated. "My...room?" It sounded more like a question than an 
answer.

I knew THAT wasn't it. I shook my head. "Try to remember."

"But where would I be if I wasn't in my room?"

It didn't seem right for a zombie to sound so...lost. They were supposed to 
try to eat people, and stumble around moaning "fresh meat" or something 
like that. At least if you believed the movies. Then again, I'd already learned 
that movies weren't exactly the best source of information on earth. "I hate 
to tell you this, man, but you're dead."

"I am?" 

I nodded. God, this was so weird. "A vampire ripped your throat out. It's 
hard to get deader than that."

Yan reached up and cautiously touched his neck. His eyes widened. God, he 
looked so alive, it was freaky. "I don't remember..."

"That's probably for the best." Wufei murmured. 

Yan looked at Wufei. He smiled. He'd always liked Wufei. His attention 
came back to me almost immediately, though. I was the focus of his world. 
"I'm...dead." He said quietly, as if he were testing out the idea. "My parents 
are sad, aren't they."

"A lot of us are." I said, just as quietly. "Some of the guys are out, right 
now, looking for the monsters that killed you." Shit. The guys. They 
wouldn't believe this.

"Can I go home?" he asked.

I shook my head quickly. "I...don't think that would be a good idea. Your 
parents already got a bad shock when you died...if you showed back up, I 
don't know how they'd take it."

He nodded. "You're right. So I'm dead." He was so trusting. It only made 
me feel worse.

"Yes." At least he wasn't in denial about it. I don't know what I would have 
done about that.

"Then I should go back to being dead, shouldn't I." He said slowly. His 
voice immediately firmed, and he nodded, as if he liked the idea. "I should 
get put back."

Great. Never mind the fact that I had no idea how to do it. Then again, I 
hadn't had the foggiest clue on how to bring someone back as a zombie to 
begin with. Maybe whatever it was that told me how to start this little 
adventure would tell me how to finish it. "Where did you come from?"

Yan shrugged. Big help there.

Wufei cleared his throat. "There's a graveyard a few miles northwest. That 
is most likely." I blinked. I hadn't known that. Wufei smirked slightly. "It 
pays to be thorough in one's reconnaissance." 

I rolled my eyes. Of course. Wufei seriously needed a life if he spent his 
time scouting around for graveyards, but I wasn't going to say that, 
considering he had possibly just saved my ass. "Ok, then. We'll go there. 
Sound good to everyone?" No objections. Great. Take charge, Duo. Go me. 
As I stood, a strange thought came to mind. "Wufei, do you have some 
salt?"

Wufei had been turning to leave, but he stopped at my question. "I might 
have some in my room. Why?"

"Don't know." I shrugged. It had been a weird, stupid idea that came up 
from my subconscious. Considering all the interesting things that had been 
coming up from that part of my mind lately, I wasn't going to argue with it. 

Wufei obviously was thinking along the same lines as me. "I'll go check." 
he said.

***

When we consulted with a map, we found that the graveyard was closer to 
five miles away. Too long to walk with as little time as we had until dawn. I 
knew I sure as hell didn't want to get caught walking around with Yan's 
animated corpse. That would probably raise some questions that I wouldn't 
want to answer. So we hot-wired one of the cars in the teacher's parking lot, 
a truck that we were fairly certain belonged to one of the night janitors. 
Wufei drove. I wasn't feeling too confident in my ability to do anything that 
required any amount of focus right then.

After a little discussion and shuffling, Yan got relegated to the back. As 
sorry as I felt for him, I still didn't want to have to deal with how he smelled 
in close quarters, even with the windows open. I figured that if the back of 
the truck smelled a bit off when we returned it to its place in the parking lot, 
well...hopefully the janitor wouldn't notice it. There were all sorts of 
cleaning supplies and implements back there. Maybe he'd figure that he 
hadn't rinsed his mop out well enough or something. I wasn't going to worry 
about it too much, though. Let someone else deal with a damn mystery for 
once.

The ride to the cemetery was silent. Yan wouldn't speak unless spoken to, 
and neither Wufei or I really felt like talking. Once we got there and 
unloaded Yan, we had another problem.

"Where the hell did you get buried?" I asked the dead guy, more than a bit 
exasperated. The cemetery was huge. Acres of crosses and weathered stone 
angels, tall headstones covered with kanji and english characters, as far as 
the eye could see. Looking for one grave would take forever. 

"I don't know." Yan shrugged. "I just remember coming to your room."

Great.

"This is an old graveyard." Wufei said. "There won't be many new graves. 
So we look for freshly disturbed sod or dirt."

It was a better than being completely clueless, but for some reason, the 
thought of wandering around in a huge, old grave yard in the middle of the 
night looking for a small patch of freshly disturbed earth just did not turn 
me on. Call me weird. "Wait, I have a better idea." I glanced at Yan. "Does 
your family have a plot in this cemetery, maybe somewhere you guys would 
visit?"

Yan nodded slowly. "I think so. Yes. I remember where it is."

I grinned. "Bingo. Take us there, then." Yan the zombie nodded and chose 
one of the gravel paths to walk down. Wufei and I followed him. None of us 
spoke; the sound of gravel crunching under our feet was the only thing I 
could hear.

I watched Yan walking ahead of me. He had his hands in his pockets. That 
was another thing. I thought zombies were supposed to shuffle. And do so 
while holding their arms stiffly out in front of them. I would really have to 
have a talk with the guys that thought up horror flicks some time. So far, 
they were batting zero. I didn't know how I would tell them, though. 'Hi, I'm 
Duo Maxwell, and I met a REAL zombie once and this was how he acted...' 
No. I'd just have to keep my revelations about the horror movie industry to 
myself, I guessed.

Yan's family plot was pretty far removed from the front gate of the 
cemetery. It was actually on the outskirts; there were trees on almost all 
sides of it, and a fence. End of the road. There were several large grave 
markers, all of them covered with the graceful, spidery shapes of hundreds 
of kanji. I could only understand about half of them, but the effect itself was 
pretty. They glimmered in the moonlight; the characters had been filled in 
with silver leafing, it looked like. Yan's grave was the only relatively new 
one; I could tell by the lack of weathering on the marker over it. Plus, there 
were two wreaths of flowers set up by it, and an easel with Yan's picture on 
it. The picture had a piece of red ribbon tied around it. Yan in the picture 
was smiling. His hair was slicked back perfectly and he was in his uniform. 
His school picture. Shit.

Strangely enough, the earth over the grave wasn't really disturbed. It just 
looked like it had settled a little--there was a depression in the grass. Yan 
obviously hadn't clawed his way up through the earth like in the movies...

/Geeze, man/ I hissed at myself in annoyance. /enough with the damn horror 
movies./

Some days, I really wonder about myself. Other days, I know.

I cleared my throat and looked at Yan. "Looks like the end of the road, 
man."

He nodded and stood by his grave. None of us moved for a moment. We 
didn't know what to do. Finally, he looked at me, his face expressionless. 
"Will it hurt?" he asked.

I hesitated. "I don't know." I said honestly. "I don't think it will, though."

He nodded. "Then put me back. I'm tired."

At his quiet words, my throat closed off. I blinked my eyes quickly. Damnit, 
I was not going to cry. As soon as I had myself back under control, I took a 
deep breath. The air tasted tired, faintly moldy and full of the earthy scents 
of fresh dirt and old death. "Ok..." I said. "Ok..."

I glanced back at Wufei. He raised his eyebrows. No ideas there. Of course, 
I would have been very shocked if he'd had any ideas. Wufei's an educated 
guy, but somehow, I just don't think his repertoire extends to zombies, or 
any of the really weird shit for that matter.

So I turned back to Yan, took a deep breath, and let myself go. I didn't have 
any better ideas.

As soon as I stopped trying to keep it out, the cool, electrical power crashed 
into me and went through me, leaving me gasping as if I'd just been dunked 
in freezing water. All of my nerve endings were sensitized; I could feel the 
slightest breeze, could almost feel the tiny pressure of the moonlight on my 
skin. I couldn’t give it direction, because I didn't know what to do with it, so 
it rushed into the ground madly, leaving me tingling with its constant flow.

But it was more than that. I could see underground, into the graves, through 
the grass and dirt and wood of the coffins. Skeletons and rotted corpses 
caught my attention, and I could see each one in my mind's eye. One 
woman, now nothing more than dust, lay in her grave like so, though there 
was no longer enough of her left that her position could be discerned with 
sight. Another grave held three corpses stacked one on top of each other, 
ancient on the bottom, barely fifty years dead on top. I could taste the last 
glimmerings of the people that had left the bodies behind, roll the feel of 
them between my fingers and tell how old they were, when they died.

"Duo." I heard Wufei say, his voice strained. 

I opened my eyes slowly, turning to look at Wufei. All around, small 
clusters of lights or mist had sprung from the graves. I knew that they were 
ghosts without knowing precisely why. They were the last gasps of 
personalities and souls that had long since moved on, but had been strong 
enough, angry enough to stain the ground over them with their presence. 

"Ignore them." I said, my voice very calm. "They can't hurt you if you 
ignore them."

I turned my eyes back to Yan--no, what was left of Yan. There was no soul 
there, only the short-lived memory of who he had been moving the body, 
using the vital spark of power that I had given him. My zombie. My...child. 
I had called him, and now he was tired, ready for to rest once more. 

I stepped forward, tearing at the scabs on my hand until one came free and 
blood welled from the newly reopened wound in a hot line. The blood clung 
to my fingertips. I wiped it gently on Yan's lips. He watched me, his eyes 
wide and frightened for a moment. He couldn't understand what I was 
doing. I wasn't sure if I understood, myself. 

My hand went to my pocket, and I pulled out the small paper packet of salt 
that Wufei had found for me. my guess was that he'd liberated it from a fast 
food restaurant at some point. That wasn't important though. The salt itself 
was. I sprinkled the salt on Yan's shoulders, and he shuddered.

"With blood and earth, I bind thee. Return to thy rest and walk no more." I 
said, very softly. I couldn't believe the words that were coming out of my 
mouth. I sounded like some kind of weird Shakespearean actor or 
something. Too strange for me.

Yan closed his eyes, and finally smiled. "Thank you." He whispered. 

I took him by the arms and helped him lay down on his grave. The grass 
and soil flowed over him like water until he was hidden from sight. 

The power inside me dried up abruptly, and I collapsed to my knees on top 
of Yan's grave, my hands shaking badly. Whatever it was that had moved 
me before, it was completely gone now. I was just Duo, and it felt pretty 
good to have everything back under control.

Well, pretty much. Right then, I just felt like a candle that someone had left 
out in their car in the middle of summer. 

"Daijoubu ka, Duo." Wufei said. He was suddenly kneeling by me. I hadn't 
heard him move.

"Aa, daijoubu." I said. "Now that that little adventure is over with."

"Is it?" Wufei said, enigmatic as always. He gave me a hand up. "I have a 
strange feeling that things are going to get worse."

I groaned, laughing. "Don't say that, man! Someone might be listening!" It 
felt good to laugh and relax. Things were ok now. The corpse was back in 
the ground. The corpse... "Oh god..." I moaned, suddenly stumbling against 
Wufei as the enormity of what had just happened hit me like a falling pallet 
of bricks. "What the hell did I do?" I'd brought Yan back from the dead...the 
boy I'd helped kill...god, this on top of everything else. Was I even human 
any more?

Wufei caught me and held me up. "You didn't do anything." he said. 
"Everything that has been happening since the beginning of this mess has 
been caused by the vampires."

I looked up. He sounded very angry. "Everything." He said again. "They're 
the reason that the boy died. They're the ones that...assaulted you." his lips 
curled in distaste. I guess it had been pretty obvious what they'd done to me, 
even if I'd tried to hide it. "They are why the others are out in the woods 
tonight and we're here. Don't try to blame it on yourself." He turned his gaze 
on to me, and gave me a sharp shake. "Or I won't be angry with them any 
more. I'll save all my anger for YOU."

I nodded meekly. I'd never seen Wufei in a mood quite like this before. 

"Understand?"

I nodded again.

"Good." 

He half carried, half dragged me back to the truck, and we rode back to the 
school in silence. When we were back in the dorms, I hesitated in front of 
my door.

"Wu-man?"

He stopped, halfway down the hall. "Yes?"

I licked my lips nervously. This sounded really weird. "Can I sleep in your 
room tonight?"

Wufei turned back toward me, his eyes wide with shock. Finally, he 
nodded. "As long as you promise not to have any more visitors."

"I'll do my best." I grinned weakly and let him usher me into his room. 
Soon, I was ensconced on his bed. Despite my best efforts at keeping calm, 
I was shivering, and my teeth were chattering. It's not every day I discover 
that I have some kind of weird power that lets me call the dead from the 
grave. Or maybe not so much having as being used by some strange 
power...I don't know. Either way, I was scared.

Wufei grabbed one of his extra blankets and wrapped it around himself, 
then sat on the floor by the door, his sword propped against his shoulder. 
"Go to sleep, Duo." He said quietly. "I'm watching over you."

It was like before, when Quatre and Heero had held me. I suddenly felt 
warm and safe, because Wufei was there. He wouldn't let anyone hurt me. I 
didn't have to be afraid.

I lay down and drifted off to sleep.

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