The shambling body that had been Glenn was having a strange experience. He had developed a higher level of awareness. Not enough to reason the way he had before dying, but more than the primal urge to eat that had driven him so far.
He still wanted to feed on the glittering woman, and as many others as possible. But now, rather than heading where some unknown new sense told him she was, he was forming a rudimentary plan. He knew where he could find more warm bodies, and could somehow comprehend that they would change to join his group.
Sentience ebbed and flowed, but Glenn had a plan that stuck in his head. Despite the itch that told him to head for the black towers off to his left, he had led his companions in the opposite direction. Through back streets, past the old Granada television studios and the Museum of Science and Industry, he was taking them to tent town.
This new awareness had appeared after Glenn had bitten the glittering boy. In the moment’s when it let him reason, he realised there might be a connection. Something good seemed to have happened as a result. It made his hunger for the woman stronger, even when he forgot everything else.
They were confronted by a tall wall of dirty old red brickwork. Glenn stared up at it for a while, the idea that had driven him to this point lost in the fog of death again. There was something about this wall, something that involved food. But every thought, now that he had regressed, was about food. He was forgetting that this particular one had even been special.
His companions were even less aware of the world beyond their hunger. They followed Glenn, because where he went, there was often food. So, right now, they stood and stared at the wall with him.
Off to the left, there were sounds of activity. Traffic and people passed by, cars crawling along as the lights changed to let them move. Someone got frustrated, and a pressed hard on the horn.
That drew Glenn’s attention. Over there, where the noise was, was food. And something more, the idea that it might be important just evading him in his current state. He turned, clumsily, and headed toward the traffic.
The congestion at this end of Deansgate had cleared significantly from earlier in the evening. But the junction under the railway was still a bottleneck, full of cars with frustrated drivers. There were pubs either side of the bridge, and warm bodies in various states of inebriation wandered between them. Sometimes, they would dance across the road, between the standing traffic, rather than walk the few extra metres to the crossing.
It was one of these dancers that Glenn caught. She had wiggled between the stationary cars on the other side of the road, then sprinted across the closer lanes before they filled with moving vehicles. She didn’t slow when she was across, and carried on down the side street a short way before thinking of braking. Not looking where she was going, she ran straight into Glenn, who grasped her arms tight.
“Oh, sorry. I didn’t…. What are you doing? Hey, get off!” Her scream was swallowed by Glenn, as his jaws clamped shut around her windpipe. Her body jerked as he tore her throat open. Blood joined the skin and gristle he was chewing on, a little sauce to help it go down, and he dropped the now limp body and walked on toward the street. The man and woman with him fell on the corpse, gnawing off their own mouthfuls, before realising they should follow him.
Glenn stopped at the side of the road, staring blankly. No-one in any of the cars had seen what had just happened, or they were pretending they hadn’t. The pedestrians on the other side of the road hadn’t been paying attention, either, and there were none near enough on this side. So there was no panic or anger to deal with. Glenn had a quiet moment with the emptiness inside his head.
Something, that inkling of pesky consciousness, was in there with him, trying to get his attention. It wanted him to turn right, and walk under the structure he stood beside. He had to ignore the tempting morsels in their cans or across the road, because there would be more if he went where it told him to.
Glenn turned right, and headed under the arch of the railway bridge. The man and woman with him followed.
Three figures were coming toward them from the other side of the bridge. Another two men and a woman. They stopped and stared at the grisly sight before them, blocking the pavement.
“Woah. That’s fuckin’ awesome makeup, mate. Is it the zombie walk tonight?” one of the men asked. “Lookat that wound on his neck. It almost looks real.”
Glenn grabbed the pointing hand, and yanked it toward himself. When it was close enough, he bit into the muscle of the forearm. The man screamed and tried to bash Glenn away with his free arm. This arm was caught, after several mistimed grabs, by the female zombie.
The second man grabbed his friend and tried to drag him away from the ghouls taking bites out of him. The male zombie got a grip on his hair and arm, and sunk teeth into his shoulder.
The woman had stepped back in shock, then horror. As she started to turn to flee, her foot slipped off the edge of the kerb. She tumbled into the street, landing on hands and knees. Right in front of a van. The driver had hardly had time to move his foot to the brake when he hit her. She was thrown a short way forward, then he ran over her sprawled body. By the time the van came to a halt, the rear wheels had crushed her again, and traced a red line across the tarmac behind them. In some ways, she was one of the lucky ones.
A fourth shambling, bloodstained figure was wandering up to join the fight under the bridge. Muscle memory had her tugging down the hem of her short dress as she wobbled on high, narrow heels. Glenn and the other female zombie had wrestled one of the men to the ground. His friend was trying to throw off the other male zombie. They stumbled and fell at her feet, and all instincts about her dress were lost as she dived on top of them.
By the time shocked drivers started getting out of their cars, or pulled out phones to call for an ambulance, the two men were dead. Glenn, as usual, was the first to leave the feeding, impatient for the next kill. He stood and walked on, and soon, the target he had been aiming for was revealed.
To the right of the pavement, running alongside the railway viaduct and dropping away to the canal that ran alongside it, was a patch of land full of tents. Each of those tents had at least one warm body in it. Some were sleeping, others stoned or inebriated. Even the ones that were awake wouldn’t offer much resistance. But, once they had been feasted on and had changed, they would be a small army.
The tactical reasoning had never really registered with Glenn’s reanimated brain. At best, he had been aware that there were a lot of bodies he could feed upon, close by and poorly defended. Now, even that idea wasn’t occupying space in his head. He simply saw food, and lots of it.
Behind Glenn, newly minted zombies were attacking the shocked samaritans who had come to their aid. Before him, three figures were coming from amongst the tents to challenge him. One of them flicked the baton in their hand, extending it to fighting length. All three of them faltered, however, as they drew close enough to make out details of the gory scene they were approaching.
Glenn was joined by the man and woman he had brought through the back streets, and the girl in the short dress. Most of them were looking beyond the three people approaching them. Even as the woman with the baton pointed it at them. “Hold it right there. What’s going on here?”
The mini-dressed woman stepped toward the Police officer, who just stared at the gash where a throat had been. The officer raised her baton, unsure how she was going to use it. Mini-dress carried on walking. The officer brought the baton in to crack against her ribs, then whipped it up to her armpit, the first move toward locking an arm behind her back.
Before the officer could start levering the woman’s arm around and behind her back, there were fingers around her throat. They squeezed, throttling her and threatening to break her skin. As the men behind her moved to free her, they were set upon Glenn’s other two followers.
Glenn walked around this melee, toward the nearest tent. Someone was struggling out of it, trying to stand up. She found her feet just before Glenn reached her. Short and wiry, face prematurely lined thanks to various addictions, she was currently lucid enough to take in his horrific visage and recognise him.
“Glenn? You fucking shit. What have you done?”
Glenn’s answer was to grab her thin face with one hand, her baggy top with the other, and pull her toward him.