“She must have buried her way before me,” I said. “She already has her.”
“Well what can we do?”
I looked back at the cabin. Rose was in there. But was it too late? And was it worth the risk of trying? The two of us versus a heap of mind-controlled zombies wasn’t exactly a fair fight.
Suddenly there was movement from the water and I knew the undead were rising slowly out of the swamp, as if they’d been there all along, waiting like alligators. I hoped that at least a few lucky gators got a meal out of them.
Perry whirled around toward the sluicing noise and I shone the flashlight on them, their eyes shining with madness. Yup. The undead.
I was about to tell Perry to run, to take us back to her boat, when I felt a presence behind me. Automatically, I made my body go slack, as if Perry had just dug me out and I was a bit brain-dead still.
“Where do you think you’re going?” Ambrosia said, her hand resting on my shoulder. “I figured the poison would wear off faster with you.” She looked over at Perry, who was frozen in a mix of hate and fear as the zombies came closer and closer. “So you thought you’d come and try to save him. Well, I’m sorry dawlin’, he can’t be saved. And now, neither can you.”
I was grabbed from behind by six strong hands and ripped backward just in time to see a bunch of Ambrosia’s slaves lay their hands on Perry.
I yelled out for her before I was yanked forward and dragged through the dirt to her cabin. The ground disappeared and we had to slog through water to get to the entrance. They threw me up the stairs and up onto the rickety porch. No wonder Ambrosia practiced her magic out here, no one would ever suspect a thing. No one would even hear you scream.
I was shoved back into the cabin where I fell onto the floor covered with feathers, candle wax, and blood. The chicken’s body was gone, nailed to the wall with a knife. They immediately picked me up again and hauled me to one end of the main sacrificial room, whirling me around to face the door. Perry was brought in after me, Ambrosia holding onto one arm, her nails digging in, while another slave held the other. I fought to get free while she fought to get free, trying to get to each other. Our eyes said it all.
There was a groan coming from another small room and we both craned our necks to look. Rose was stumbling out of it, covered in dirt and blood, long, white hair in her face. It was obvious that we were too late. Rose had already lost her mind and free will. She was already under Ambrosia’s control. There was no more Rose.
“I haven’t tried anything on her yet,” Ambrosia explained, watching with clinical amusement as Rose staggered across the room, seeming to have no clear place to go. “You can both witness the dawning of the new Rose, the extent of my power.”
She started chanting loudly in her Voodoo speak, Perry wincing since it was right in her ear. She then yelled, “Rose, this man means you harm.”
For a minute, I thought Ambrosia was pointing at me, but it was a lean, handsome zombie-man to my right. Well, he would have been handsome if he hadn’t looked stoned out of his gourd.
“Rose,” Ambrosia continued, “I am your master, I am your protector. Destroy this man. Bite him, kill him. Tear him from limb to limb.” Then she started chanting again, her eyes rolling back in her head, as if she was calling some dark force to do her bidding.
I eyed a few oily candles in the corner of the room, all burning brightly. I wondered if Rose’s name was on one of them and if hers was the only name. I wondered if this zombie shit was actually going to work. To see them as the walking, yet recently deceased, was one thing. To see one become a zombie, someone that you knew, was another.
Rose had paused in the middle of the cabin, in between Perry and me, in the circle of candles that had melted down to wax. It was almost like she was listening.
Then she turned very slowly to face the man, the man who still had a firm grip on my right arm. This could go nowhere or this could get ugly. I didn’t want to see Rose this way, this hardened girl with her aching heart for her lost love. This wasn’t her.
But this Rose started to come forward, walking jerkily like the drugs were creating spasms. She kept coming and between the strands of her blonde hair, I could see her eyes. Blue-grey and crazed.
Rose stopped a couple of feet away, swaying back and forth as if she needed an extra push. Ambrosia yelled something at her, fire in her evil eyes, and Rose moved again.
She reached out for the man, wrapping both of her hands around his forearm, and bit him. She took a literal bite out of him, her mouth coming away dripping with blood and muscles and tendons. I nearly shit myself and had to look away from the sight, from this Rose that was no longer human. Across the room, Perry sounded like she was about to vomit.
Ambrosia clapped gleefully. “I knew it.”
Rose still stood there, like a robot, the man’s stringy flesh handing from her mouth until Ambrosia screeched another word and Rose lunged at the man again, this time her mouth going for his chest.
All this time, I was wondering if the zombie was just going to stand there and take it. He was still holding onto me. Didn’t he understand pain? What was happening?
He answered that fairly quickly. With one huge swipe of his mutilated arm, he grunted with rage and threw Rose backward until she slammed against the nearest wall. The candelabras shook overhead. Rose collapsed like a rag doll to the floor.
I watched her for a few moments until I saw she was breathing, then I glanced at Ambrosia. A look of surprise was on her face. Apparently, this was something she hadn’t planned for.