Jerm used to be scared of crossing bridges when he was a tyke. Their Ma told them stories about the three billy goats Gruff and Jerm was always afraid there was a troll hiding in the creek, waiting to eat them.
“Hey you troll. I’m the biggest billy goat Gruff!” Micha would cry at the foot of the bridge, imitating the fairy tale. “If you come out, I’ll poke out your eyes an’ shit in your brain!” Micah always liked to give his threats some color. “There! Now the troll won’t bother us. Come on!” And they would cross the bridge together to eat the best peaches and bring home the second best.
Micah felt like the troll now, skulking about in the dark, searching for the reverend. The guards were all leaving to the entrances to block off the incoming zombies and refugees. In spite of it being an emergency, he took the elevator to avoid notice. This was a zombie attack, not a fire, after all. Not yet.
“I have two spears,” the biggest billy goat Gruff would say. Micah was dressed in a guard’s uniform, courtesy of the man on the first floor. Nobody would recognize him, and there was blood on the shirt, but a second’s hesitation was all he needed. The guards were all at the door with their rifles. Like fish in a barrel.
“I’m not a zombie!” Micah shouted, raising one hand in the are. He pulled the trigger three times. The last man clipped his shoulder. The blood ran heavy and dark down his arm. Grimacing, he shot them in the head, one by one. He’d heard one of the local boozers call it “buying zombie insurance.” He breathed heavily. Normally, security would be tighter than a hawk’s ass in a nosedive. Perhaps this really was God’s intervention that he was able to get this far. Micah took one of the dead men’s rifles. He kicked at the door, backed up and shot at it. The door began to bust apart. He shot again at the door handle, picked up another gun.
“I have these stones to crush your bones,” said the eldest billy goat Gruff. The door gave way and Micah’s bullets painted the room red. He blinked once, knowing that he should be dead now. These men were all unarmed, shot in the back. They’d probably been praying. Micah tried to swallow down the horrible bile of guilt that threatened to tear apart his guts from the inside out. He closed his eyes and all he saw were corpses. Be strong. This is for Jerm. Cut the beast off at the head.
“Oh, God…” a man breathed, frightened. Did Jerm beg for his life? Did Micah’s brother know the reason why he had to die? This man had been standing at the pulpit, higher up than the others. Micah had only shot out his legs. He must have been preaching. That makes him…
“Father Taddeo. You have sinned.”
“God!” he shrieked. Micah butted the man in the face with the rifle. He surveyed the room, looking for surivors. There was an adjacent room, a kitchen, most likely added by the Rapturists when they moved in. The staff was still there. Micah unloaded his rifle into the room. They were going to die anyway and Micah already had blood on his hands. Better now than in the fire.
“Father, you have sinned,” Micah said with tears his eyes. He reached out, wiping a bloody palm on the man’s face. “Pray for forgiveness.” He dropped his gun, using his good arm to drag the wretch to the kitchen.
“Forgiii-!” he cried in pain.
“What did you say?”
“Forgi-hiv me! It hurts!”
There would be no escape for this wretched man. He would not know why he had to die. He need not know. He would merely suffer and die. The only mercy he would grant him was the gift of not becoming one of the undead.
Micah began by cutting out the reverend’s eyes. “I have two spears,” he said. “To stab out your eyes.” Micah started up the food processor, sticking the reverend’s hand into it. Then the other. “I have two stones,” he said, “to crush your bones.” The troll hiding under the bridge. Micah would have to kill him to protect Jerm. To protect Jerm, so they could cross the bridge together. The bridge, across the creek with the troll. The troll kept screaming. Micah dragged the troll to the meat slicer and slammed his face into it, setting the machine to auto slice. Micah fought with all his might to keep the troll there as the machine sliced him away, a little bit at a time. Finally, the troll stopped struggling. Micah turned on the gas stove and threw him on. He dragged all of the bodies inside the room, corpses to fuel the fire.
Micah walked back into the main room, up to the podium. He looked out the window at the sky.
“The sun is so close, Jerm,” Micah said, tears streaming down his face. “Why’s the sun so close when it’s so damn cold up here? I don’t understand… those peaches tasted good, didn’t they? Bet you’re enjoying one right now, you bastard.” He closed his eyes and put pistol to his temple. Jerm would have to cross the bridge alone.