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Chapter 9 - Keep

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Lazarus stood up and marvelled at himself. Virtual sensors were on. He could feel the difference in power of a level five body. He flexed his muscles and felt the energy coursing through him. Suddenly he grinned. This has got to stop. I must stop admiring myself every time I go Virtual or I won't get anything done.

Then just for the sheer fun of it, he started running, feeling the speed and agility of the Ranger's body. He moved quickly towards a site he saw on the map earlier where a village was located. Soon he arrived and slowed down. He checked his Energy level. Not even 3 per cent used. He nodded in satisfaction.

Okay. Lazarus pulled up his hood. Here we go.

The minute he entered the village, he knew something was wrong. His hair stood on end and his skin was tingling, instinct telling him to get out immediately. He was being watched. There! And there! He saw movement at a dirty window. Human shadows fading behind trees and broken buildings. The village was eerily silent. There were no stray dogs or cats to be seen. The stockades he had passed by were strangely empty, the broken gates left open and hanging on it's hinges, swinging, creaking as the wind played with it. The buildings he passed were all dark, the farms left abandoned. There were no living things except the shadows. He stopped. This place was creepy.

Then a lone figure limped out a doorway from a ram shackled house. The others hung back, waiting. It was a gaunt man with pale papery skin. He was so skinny, Lazarus could see his bones jutting out sharply from his skin. The old man was dirty and unkempt. As he came nearer, he saw that the poor soul was covered with festering sores and bruises. His sunken eyes gleamed with crazed enthusiasm.

"Hello", Lazarus greeted the man nervously. "I was just passing by and was wondering if I could get some supplies."

This was not the place for him, he decided. Better let him know, get some supplies if possible and go.

"I can pay," he added uncertainly.

Forget the supplies, just get out of here. His whole body was screaming at him to run. It took all his self-control to appear calm.

"We don't get many visitors," the man rasped and gave him a toothy grin. He licked his lips. His mouth was covered with open sores. He held out his hand.

Lazarus paused. "Umm, nevermind. I'll find my supplies elsewhere. Thank you. I'll be on my way."

As he started to back away, the man suddenly extended his bony right hand, his movements jerky and mechanical.

"It's rude not to shake hands, stranger."

The man's grin widened and he blew out his breath. A stench like rotting corpses reach Lazarus's nose. His upbringing overruled good sense and he automatically reached out to shake the man's offered hand.

The only warning he got was a gleeful glint in the man's eyes before he lounged at Lazarus grabbing his out stretched hand and pulling him close. The Ranger felt the old man's razor sharp teeth sinking painfully into his neck before he could push the gaunt man off. Lazarus staggered back in shock. He touched his stinging neck and his hand came away sticky with blood. The old man fell to the ground grinning madly, his mouth full of blood. He licked his bloody mouth making smacking sounds.

Oh my God! All he could think of was the man's open sores oozing yellow pus and blood. But the attack was the signal the others were waiting for. This stranger was edible! They had been so hungry for so long. They attacked as one, hunger driving them from the shadows.

Lazarus got out his sharp hunting knife, the Ranger's body knew what to do. He went to work, slashing and hacking at anything that moved. The bleeding wound on his neck slowing him down only slightly. The starved men and women attacked him with bare hands and teeth, biting and scratching, trying to get a hold of him. He was fresh meat! Literally!

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by Ghost_Lord
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