This is the story of a werewolf and a human vs. the endless undead. It is a silly story, told very dramatically. It’s mostly an exercise to see if I can actually discipline myself enough to put an idea to paper that doesn’t involve a tabletop game, though I will certainly be borrowing from those sources to create a mashup of my own.
The story is written in a mix of first and third person perspectives from Amoc’s point of view. If I decide to continue this story in the future, I will probably switch it up and do some writing from Simon’s side.
Amoc carved his way through the horde, cleaving flesh and shattering bone. The five foot long, ten pound blade in his hand was as much club as sword, and when wielded with the strength of a Garou, there was little that could resist it. The pile of gore and rotting corpses trailed behind him, tallying hundreds at this point, but he was slowing down. Red gashes in his hide proved it. The horde was crushing him, and there was no end to them in sight.
Maybe this was the one, he thought. Maybe Death had seen fit to show up to this ritual, and finally claim him. The fight became background noise as Amoc accepted that he would eventually be overwhelmed.
How had he come to this? How had the world collapsed so completely? There had been no warning, no time to try and prevent it or even react. People just… died, then rose as husks with no facility beyond the need to kill the living. Those they killed also rose again. In less than a day’s time, the world had ceased to be the domain of the living. Not even his own kind had been spared. Such was the catastrophic power of the horde that even the strength of a Garou could not stand against it.
Amoc was alone now. He had watched over and over as other Garou had thrown themselves at the horde, in some vain effort to try and undo the apocalypse. He had been there with them through it all. He had been there as their numbers dwindled. He had been there as he realized that he was now the last. His battles had become ritual, fought in cold clarity. Amoc spent his days in war form, seeking an end, but Death never came. So he continued, fighting for a cause that no longer mattered, and no one would remember.
A fresh slash down Amoc’s back broke him out of his trance, and he swung the cleaver around, cleanly separating head from body. Suddenly the horde surged, but in the wrong direction. His next strike missed as the undead suddenly moved away from him. He stood confused for a moment. Nothing had ever pulled the horde away during the ritual. He unfortunately emerged from them each time, after laying them to waste surrounded by the gore and body parts of final death, but never his own.
Then he heard it, a yell, base and guttural. An animal noise. Around the corner of the building in front of him came the sound of glass shattering, and a flare of light. The horde was moving in this direction, and Amoc moved to follow. There he saw the source of the yell and the flare; a living human, stood atop a school bus, holding a bottle with a flaming wick. He hurled it into the horde with another yell. The human pulled out a blade as the momentarily slowed horde began to find ways to climb the bus. There were no more bottles to throw. He began hacking away at them as they climbed, yelling the whole time; no words, just noise. Heads flew off, skulls were cracked open, limbs removed. The horde’s progress was slowed, but they kept coming.
Amoc’s first reaction was anger. The human’s effort was hopeless, and served only to reduce Amoc’s own chances of meeting Death. The human would die, and he would remain, as always. Yet as Amoc stood there, seemingly forgotten by the horde, the human kept at it. There was no relenting, no acknowledgement of Death’s inevitable approach. In those few moments of watching the human, something reignited in Amoc. Something he hadn’t felt since the dead began rising.
Not directed at the human, but at himself. At the undead. Amoc had almost forgotten what it felt like. This human was raging against the long night with everything he had, with such ferocity he thought for a moment that the human might be Garou. He was human, and he was losing roof to the horde. The undead had made it to the top of the bus now, and were slowly pushing him back. More moments passed, and more roof was lost.
“Fuck it.” the words came out of his muzzle suddenly; a decision had been made.
Amoc gripped the cleaver tight, and plunged back into the horde. Death could have him when it earned him. When it earned him and this human.
Amoc plowed a line through the horde with enough force to send undead into the air. The human noticed this disturbance, but could only spare a glance before having to return his attention to the advancing undead. Probably not enough of a glance to see Amoc in the darkness, but he was about to give the human a full view of what was coming to his rescue. Once close enough, Amoc leapt to the top of the bus, spearing directly into the undead that had made it up. The bus rocked under his weight and undead spilled over both sides. He held the cleaver by both ends and shoved it into the remaining undead on top of the bus, sending them over the edge. He looked back at a shocked human.
“Run!” Amoc bellowed.
He jumped off the bus and into the horde without waiting to see if the human had taken advantage of the distraction. Amoc had the horde’s full attention now, and they were surging to this side of the bus, which should have given the human enough space to get away. Amoc, however, was being crushed again. He hadn’t really thought much beyond this point, and likely had just ensured his meeting with Death. There were too many, too close, pushing too hard… every sweep of his cleaver was immediately filled back in with more undead. The clawing and biting was continuous.
It would be a good end, Amoc thought. One last rage against the long night.
A crash of glass and another flare. Then another, close enough to feel the heat this time. The horde sagged to his right; Amoc pushed, and it gave way. He kept pushing; he couldn’t give the horde a chance to close on him again. The smell of burned rotting flesh was joined by the smell of burning fur as he pushed through the flames. A building loomed ahead, he could probably leap to the roof if he could just get a bit more distance through the horde. One more push, and the horde was starting to crush again; this would have to be close enough.
Amoc leapt, reaching a clawed hand out to find purchase. He had no time to think about whether or not what he caught would take the weight of his war form. He found the edge of the wall… just, and caught it. Claws dug in, and his chest slammed into the wall, momentarily removing the air from his lungs. Nothing gave, and his grip held, and somehow he had kept his blade. Taking a moment to look down confirmed the horde was out of reach. He looked up, throwing the cleaver on to the roof. Swinging his now free arm up, he got another hold on the wall, hauled himself up over the edge, and rolled over it on to his back in a heaving, bloody mess. Amoc’s lungs burned, his breath and open wounds steamed the cool night air as he lay there.
He was alive. Death was going to have to try harder than that.
Amoc was also not alone on this roof, he quickly realized. Turning his head to one side, he saw the same human as before, holding an unlit molotov cocktail, face still frozen in shock.
“What?” Amoc rumbled at the dumbstruck human. “Never met a werewolf before?”
What a fucking stupid thing to say.
The voice of the war form was unpleasant at best, words came out guttural and thick. The pitch was so low it was half felt, half heard. Before the apocalypse, its sound alone could cause humans to flee in horror. Here Amoc was, sprawled out on his back in war form in front of a human… making a wisecrack. It was so absurd he laughed, which made the human flinch, but the human remained where he was.
“If you’re going to use that…” Amoc panted, referring to the bottle in the human’s hand, “can you at least give me a minute to catch my breath so I can dive back into the horde on fire? That would be a really fucking metal way to go.”
The human remained immovable. Moments ago Amoc had been wading into a horde intent on dying. Now he was cracking jokes in front of a human. The turnabout was so fast it was making his head spin. That and the impact with the wall, probably.
Don’t stand up yet. Full height might be a bit too much, too fast, for the human. Also I might fall back down and really make a fool of myself.
Amoc’s wounds were starting to heal, but that process took a lot of energy. He slowly rolled up onto his knee. The human took a step back.
Slow. You’re a fucking Garou in war form far too close to a human. The only reason he hasn’t gone running off into the dark is because he knows the only other option is the horde. Every base instinct in his monkey brain is screaming that you’re going to kill him, and you need to convince him otherwise right now.
“I’m not going to kill you.” rumbled forth out of Amoc’s muzzle.
The human took another step back.
Fuck. That was the best you could come up with? Try again.
“My name is Amoc.” came out next, quieter.
The human didn’t move.
Better. Keep it going.
“I…” Amoc almost blurted out that he had come here to die.
No, he doesn’t need to know that. Not yet.
“I saw you on that bus. I saw you raging against the horde, and I just… had to do something. We’re both lucky to be alive, and I’d like to keep that luck going.”
It was mostly the truth, just not all of it.
An awkward silence lingered. Or as much of a silence as it could be with a horde of undead moaning and wailing below. Amoc’s breath was still heavy with the effort of regeneration, and the sound was deafening in his ears. As much as the human was likely fighting against his instincts, he was fighting against his own. They were telling him that this felt wrong. He had spent his whole life living in secret, never showing anything other than the human form to non-Garou. Those humans that saw the war form never lived to tell anyone about it.
He shut it down. It didn’t matter anymore.
“Simon.” the human said, breaking the silence. “I’m Simon.”
“Simon” Amoc repeated. “Nice to meet you. I’m going to stand up now, if that’s okay?”
Simon provided no dissent, so Amoc rose to his full height, towering over the human. Simon was still running on adrenaline, he fully reeked of it, but he stood his ground. Though still wary, for now Simon seemed to have accepted that the nine foot tall wall of muscle, claws, and teeth standing in front of him was, in fact, not there to kill him. Both of them were still in the process of figuring out what that meant, but there wasn’t time to complete that right now.
“Now, Simon…” Amoc began again. “They will find a way up here eventually, so we need to be gone before they do.”
“There’s a possibility.” Simon said, starting to move to the other end of the roof. “This way.”
Amoc picked up his cleaver from where it had landed and followed. That had gone better than expected. He supposed that when facing certain death, even something that looked like Amoc did right now was a better alternative if it wasn’t actively trying to kill you. The world had gone to hell, so a Garou in war form probably didn’t create the same impression it once did.
The other end of the roof offered the best look at where Amoc had come to carry out the latest ritual. It was a school, an old one. The buildings were sturdy brick construction, likely built more than a century ago. It answered why he had been able to make that leaping escape without anything giving way. Schools of this era really were built to last. Looking down, the horde was dispersed, but still very much present. If they jumped back into it, they would have a few seconds of easy movement at best, before they swarmed and started crushing again. Looking around indicated no direction where an escape might be easiest.
“There.” Simon pointed at one of the buildings out in the dark.
Amoc judged the distance through the horde. It was further than he’d like.
“What’s there?” Amoc asked.
“No windows, see?” Simon pointed again. “And the big pipes. It’s some kind of utility building, and the river’s not far. It could be a way through the horde.”
“And if it isn’t?”
“Then I guess we hope it can keep the horde out until something pulls it away.”
No windows, sturdy-looking door… it was possible, but Amoc didn’t like the idea of being trapped in there if he didn't have a way out. He had one more look around, but nothing else seemed like a better idea. Every minute they spent on this roof gave the horde more time to find a way up, and that at least offered what appeared to be a space they could secure to buy some more time.
“How did you get here?” Amoc thought the question relevant.
“I was sleeping.” Simon replied, sheepishly. “The horde woke me, and I realized I was surrounded. They found me and… you know the rest.”
Well fuck, not helpful, but Simon was one lucky bastard to have woken up before they were tearing his guts out. Of course if he hadn’t, I wouldn’t have found him. Some people would say these things happen for a reason. I’m not sure what I believe anymore.
A crashing sound came from behind them, they both knew they had run out of time. The horde was surging again, towards the other end of the building. The horde had found a way up, but it was also giving Amoc and Simon an opportunity: the horde’s density was being reduced in the direction they wanted to go.
“You ready?” Amok asked, tightening his grip on the blade
“No choice.” Simon pulled his blade out as well.
Amoc leapt off the roof, coming down on top of an undead, crushing its skull with the impact. He then started cutting a path to the utility building. A quick glance back showed Simon hustling down the building’s fire escape. Amoc could have reached the building fast enough on his own, but he hoped the surge had bought Simon enough time to follow. He tried to keep his pace measured to create a wake for the human to follow.
What the fuck am I doing, fighting for a human?
The thought rolled through Amoc’s head without permission. His instinct was to make for the utility building at full speed. Again this felt wrong. Again he shut the feeling down.
Doing something that actually matters, that’s what. You came out here to die. You’ve been trying to arrange a meeting with Death for who knows how long now. Who would that have helped? You’ve got gifts this human can only imagine. Fucking use them to fight for the living you asshole!
Amoc roared as he brought the cleaver down on the last undead before the utility room’s door, fully cleaving it in half from head to toe. Simon had amazingly caught up, and was looking like he too was having another fight with his instincts. Humans never got to see what a Garou could do when they let loose, at least none that were still living.
“Sorry.” Amoc apologized. “That one pissed me off.”
He had made a path through the horde, but it was now collapsing back in on them. It would only be moments before it realized where they were and started surging towards them.
“Try the door.” Amoc ordered as he began hacking at the undead again.
Simon tried, it was locked.
“Give me a sec.” Simon said as he took his pack off, opening it to remove a small keyring of odd-looking keys.
“I can get it open.” Amoc said as he removed the legs from another three undead in front of him in one sweeping motion.
“No!” Simon quickly said. “Need the lock intact. Just buy me a few seconds.”
You idiot. What were you going to secure the door with after you smashed it in, hopes and dreams?
The horde was now fully surging in their direction, again beginning the crush. Amoc was strategically dismembering undead, trying to build an obstacle to slow the horde down. It wasn’t working. He continued to get pushed back until he was fully using his body to shield Simon, trying his best to keep any undead from getting around him. One almost did; Amoc grabbed it by the head and crushed its skull in one movement. Simon barely acknowledged it.
“Got it!” Simon yelled.
“On three!” Amoc bellowed back. “One. Two. Three!”
Amoc again took the blade in both hands and shoved with everything he had. The horde rippled backwards, the crush of bodies so thick the force of Amoc’s shove went through it like a wave through water. Simon flung open the door in that moment and dove inside with Amoc directly behind him. He pulled the door shut and engaged the locking bar, plunging the room into pitch darkness.
Long moments passed as they stood there in the pitch black room, the horde pounding on the door. The locking bar and door were substantial. It rattled in the darkness. After what seemed like an eternity, the pounding subsided. Either the horde had lost interest, or they had crushed the few undead at the front that could reach the door. It was a mindless thing, the horde, all reaction and instinct. It could be tricked and managed, circumvented, and even navigated through, if you knew what you were doing. Intelligent, it was not. Amoc had destroyed many during his rituals, to his disappointment. Maybe they had been too successful in those early days, he thought.
A click of metal, a spark and a light flared in the dark. Simon had opened his lighter, and immediately took a step back when he saw Amoc. The light was reflecting off Amoc’s eyes. At this point he was also covered head to toe in undead gore and blood, some of that blood being his own.
“What the fuck are you?” Simon blurted out.
Simon’s adrenaline was clearly starting to thin out, and now reality was crashing down on him. The things he thought he knew about what was real and what was not were all on trial.
“I told you. I’m a werewolf. Or Garou, if you prefer the old names.”
“No, no… no no no.” Simon started rambling.
He’s coming undone. Maybe I misjudged him earlier.
“This is all just one big, seriously fucked up nightmare.” Simon resumed the ramble. “I ruled out a dream a long time ago… dreams don’t last this long. Clearly I’ve just gone completely crazy and now I’m imagining werewolves are real.” he continued, gesturing around the utility room.
Get him back, now.
“Simon!” Amoc barked.
Simon’s gaze, which had been wildly darting around during his rant, suddenly snapped back to lock with Amoc’s eyes.
“I am real. We count ourselves among the living, and I intend to keep it that way.” Amoc paused, hopefully giving Simon a moment to let that sink in. “As to your sanity… the dead rise and wander the Earth, and what you thought was a myth just saved your life. I spent my whole life avoiding humans, because of what would happen if we were discovered. Now…” Amoc paused again, this time offering an open hand out to Simon. “Now maybe we’ve both gone insane, and should just embrace it.”
Fucking metal. Why didn’t I do this before now? Not easy making all that clear in war form, but that kinda made it sound even more metal.
Simon walked towards Amoc after a few moments, cautiously, slowly. He looked at Amoc’s open hand, then up at his head, which was nearly touching an overhead scaffold. Amoc put his ears back and did his best to make the war form look less threatening. Simon looked back down… and did his best to grip Amoc’s massive palm in a handshake. Extremely carefully, Amoc closed his hand around Simon’s.
“I promise you this.” Amoc started. “I will fight for the living. I will fight for you. Until I’m no longer able.”
Amoc released Simon’s hand. The touch and the oath seemed to bring Simon back to reality.
“Right.” Simon said, sounding more confident. “Then let’s find a way out of here.”
They began looking around in the dark. Amoc’s eyesight of course worked better with only the light of Simon’s lighter, but Simon also knew more about what they should be looking for.
I can’t imagine the kind of mental roller coaster he’s on right now. Well, maybe I can. I’m not exactly a shining example of mental stability myself right now.
There were a lot of pipes. Labels indicating flow direction and water sources. A few that called out the river by name. This utility building was definitely connected to the river, the question would be if any of those connections were big enough for them to traverse. The search continued for several minutes. The sounds of the horde outside the door diminished, but didn’t fully go away. They were definitely still out there. Every so often something would bump into the door, and they would both stop to listen, but none persisted.
“Here!” Simon called out in the dark, pointing at a label on a heavy steel cover. “Sewer! This has to be it.”
Simon looked around for a way to lift it, but didn’t appear to be having any success.
“Amoc, some help? Simon asked.
Using my name. Maybe we will get through this.
Amoc had a look at the plate. It had a couple of holes where it looked like a tool was meant to go, but nothing meant for lifting by hand. Made sense, it probably weighed a couple hundred pounds. Not a problem for a Garou. Amoc got a claw wedged in one of the holes and managed to get the plate lifted enough to get his other hand under the edge, and lifted it fully open with little effort. They both peered down the now open hole. Darkness and the sound of running water was all that was observed.
“I’ll go first.” Amoc offered.
Simon didn’t look like he was going to offer, and Amoc didn’t blame him. He had another look down the hole, and Simon held the lighter out. Amoc thought he could see the top of the water about ten feet down. He had no idea how deep it might be, but there was one way to find out. He stepped over the edge. After a moment of free fall, Amoc landed with a splash.
Fuck! The water’s cold. Not as bad as I thought it would smell, though. Benefits of the human race as a whole no longer taking shits on the toilet, I guess.
“About two feet of water.” Amoc said, looking up to Simon. “Tunnel seems to be going the right way. Can’t see anything else.”
“I can’t make that jump.” Simon replied, “Let me see if I can find something to climb.”
Simon moved away from the hole, plunging Amoc back into complete darkness. He waited. The only sound he could hear was the slowly flowing water lapping around his ankles. He hoped there weren’t any undead down here. After a minute the light returned along with Simon, peering over the edge.
“There’s nothing in here, not even a step ladder.” Simon held up a small tube. “But I did find some glow-sticks in a toolbox.”
Simon cracked one of the glow-sticks and offered it to him. Amoc sighed. It was going to be undignified, but it would work. He took the glow-stick with one hand and reached up with the other. He could just about reach the edge of the opening, twelve feet up.
“What?” Simon asked, confused.
“I can get you down. Cinch that pack tight, both feet here.” Amoc began his instructions, indicating his outstretched hand. “Unless you have a better idea?”
Simon didn’t have a better idea. He put his lighter out and cracked another glow-stick, hooking it to a shoulder strap, then cinched it tight. He laid out flat on his chest at the edge of the hole, and swung a foot over, which Amoc immediately supported. Then the other.
“Slow. I’ve got you.”
Supporting Simon’s weight was barely an effort, of course. Amoc began to lower his supporting arm, bringing him further down the hole. He lowered it to the point where Simon’s arms were fully stretched out, gripping the edge of the hole, but he couldn’t quite reach the grab handle on Simon’s backpack.
“You’re going to have to let go.” Amoc said to Simon.
Simon was definitely not happy about it. Again Amoc didn’t blame him, this was not going to be pleasant for the human.
Simon let go of the edge. For a moment he was in free fall as Amoc stopped supporting Simon’s feet and brought his arm around to catch his legs in a vice grip. At the same time he caught the backpack’s grab handle with his other hand, preventing Simon from flipping over his shoulder. Simon had instinctively reached out a hand to brace himself, and was using Amoc’s head for support. He was holding Simon like an unruly child. It was awkward and undignified for everyone involved, but Simon was down safely.
“Fuck!” Simon blurted out. “You could have warned me.”
You could have, yeah. Still working on those interpersonal skills.
Amoc knelt and let Simon drop down into the water.
“Shit that’s cold.” Simon exclaimed.
Simon looked around and then stared at Amoc for a moment. He seemed to be considering something.
“Why are you helping me?” Simon bluntly asked. “It’s really clear to me now that you could have done all of this without me. Hell, you’d probably already be out of here by now. You don’t need me for anything, so why do you care what happens to me?”
It was an extremely fair question.
“You needed help. I was there. Does it matter?”
“Yeah, yeah it does.”
Simon wasn’t buying it.
“There’s been a lot of me trusting you here, not much going the other way.” Simon’s tone was irritated. “Look, I believe you don’t want to kill me, mostly because I’m sure if you wanted to, there’s not a damn thing I could do to stop you. And I want to believe you’re helping me, but I also want to know who or what I’m trusting with my life.”
Brutal, but fair. He’s probably been alone as long as you have, relying only on himself for survival. Just tell him already, he deserves the truth at this point.
“I came here to die.” Amoc blurted out.
“Sorry, what?” Simon was genuinely stunned.
“Most of my kind are dead. I’m the last I know of. I came here to join them. That horde was big enough to arrange my meeting with Death.”
Running water was the only sound for a long moment. The words had come out of Amoc’s muzzle without any thought. It was naked truth, laid out for Simon to judge as he wanted.
“Fuck. I’m sorry.” Simon’s irritation had completely gone. “What changed your mind?”
“You did. That was the truth. So was my oath to fight for the living. I wanted to die, but when I saw you raging against the horde… something changed. I wanted to fight for something again. If I couldn’t fight for my own kind… then maybe I could fight for you.”
Amoc was figuring this out in real time as he said it. The truth was he hadn’t really worked out why he had changed his mind until this point. Now he knew.
“You saved my life.” Amoc resumed his soul-bearing. “That horde was big enough to kill me. I would have kept at them until it did.”
Again a pause, and only the sound of running water.
“Okay.” Simon finally said. “I’m glad you changed your mind. I wouldn’t be alive right now otherwise.”
“We should get moving.” Amoc said after a few awkward moments of introspection for each of them.
They set out in the direction of the river, sloshing through the sewer.
“You’re a shapeshifter, right?” Simon asked, after they had been walking through the sewer for a time. “You can look human?”
Amoc left it at that. Simon had more questions, clearly. Amoc would answer them in time.
“What was your exit plan?” It was Amoc’s turn to ask.
“I have a boat. Docked on the river. It runs, and is actually pretty well supplied right now. We’ll make for it once we figure out where this comes out.”
Maybe they were going to survive this after all. They continued without any conversation. Amoc was lost in his head, and he imagined Simon was as well.
This can work. No one who said a Garou and a human couldn’t coexist had ever tried. I mean, obviously it never would have worked before the undead rose. Someone would have been discovered eventually, and then all hell would come down on us. Now, there’s nobody left to give a shit. Being alone sucks. A lot. So a Garou and a human team up, and keep surviving the apocalypse together. Sounds pretty metal to me.
The thoughts rolled through Amoc’s head. A dim light crept out of the darkness ahead.
“Moonlight!” Amoc exclaimed; he knew that glow well.
Simon rushed ahead, sending water splashing up around him. It thinned out as they reached the exit, and rolled over the edge into the water below. The exit was also covered by a grate that was too small to squeeze through.
“Shit.” Simon rattled the grate. “It would be closed off.”
Amoc deliberately coughed.
“Oh right.” Simon remembered what Amoc was, and moved aside.
Amoc stepped up the grate and started pushing on it. To its credit, the mounting points held, and the grate only bowed outward. He shifted his approach and started pushing the bars open to either side, and created a space big enough for both of them to pass through. There was, of course, one small complication.
“Only way out is into the water.” Amoc stated, looking down into the extremely dark river.
“Was hoping for land.” Simon was nonplussed. “It is what it is.”
Simon took off his pack again, opened it and shifted some items around into what looked like plastic bags.
Living on a boat, makes sense. You want to be ready for a swim at any moment. Me? I brought a blade and my hide. Hope he’s got some spare clothes on that boat when we reach it. When, not if. We’re getting out of this alive, tonight.
“Not too many get to see a Garou swim.” The amusing thought had just occurred to Amoc. “Even other Garou.”
“You can, right?” Simon asked.
“Good. I’m not the best swimmer, but I manage.”
Simon was finished with the pack, and put it back on. He stuck his head out the mangled grate.
“The moon coming out was a gift.” Simon pointed to the left. “I can see a dock that way, maybe a quarter mile. Should be escape ladders on it. Pretty good swim, but I’m guessing you’ll be fine.”
“Alright… let me lead then.” Simon was sounding a bit nervous. “Just in case I need help.”
“It’s going to be cold.” Amoc reminded Simon.
“Yeah. This is gonna suck.”
Simon took a breath and jumped out, splashing down into the water.
“Fuck!” Simon exclaimed after resurfacing. “Damn cold, but I’m good!”
Simon started swimming in the direction of the dock. After a moment, Amoc took a breath and jumped in after him. The cold of the water hit him like a wall. This was indeed going to suck. They swam in the dark, Amoc keeping pace and making sure not to lose sight of Simon. After several minutes, they got close enough to the dock to see one of the escape ladders, which Simon started heading towards. He grabbed it, grabbed hold of the lowest rung to the water, and just stayed there. Simon was exhausted. A quarter mile in cold, open water is not the same as a quarter mile in a pool.
Amoc swam in closer and felt below for a foothold, which he found. He put his weight on it… and it held. He then put a hand under Simon’s armpit and started lifting him up. Simon understood what he was trying to do and went with it, grabbing hand over hand up the ladder as Amoc provided support. The ladder definitely wasn’t rated for their combined weight; every step Amoc took sent vibrations through it, but the ladder held long enough for them to get to the top, where Simon rolled over and collapsed into a heaving pile.
He was going to need a moment. Amoc was in considerably better shape following the swim, but he certainly wouldn’t have called it pleasant. He took a few steps from Simon, and then began shaking his whole body to remove as much water from his fur as possible. The motion was not unlike what a dog would do to dry out. If that dog was nine feet tall, and bipedal. Really not at all like a dog. It would be hours before he was fully dry.
Amoc then turned to look at the exit of the dock area… and saw the horde outside the fence.
Simon was recovering, and leaned up to look in the direction Amoc was looking.
“You’ve got to be kidding me.” Simon’s tone was as exhausted as he looked. “That sewer was a mile long. That can’t be the same horde. Can it?”
“Do you know where we are?” Amoc asked.
Simon got up, slowly. He tested his legs, and stood fully upright after he was convinced they would hold. Looking up, he pointed at an overhead crane.
“I saw that crane before I docked.” Simon said, pointing up to a gantry crane looming over the dock. “I remember the name there. We’re not far. But now we’ve gotta get through another horde. I’m really sick of hordes.”
“Agreed.” Amoc rumbled. “I don’t think it’s going anywhere.”
Fortunately they were too far from the fence line for the horde to notice them, but the horde covered the whole line. The only other way out was back in the water.
“I can’t swim all the way to my boat.” Simon had the same realization. “It’s close, but not close enough for that.”
“Could you see it from up there?” Amoc asked, pointing at the crane.
“Maybe.” Simon noticed the ladder to the crane cab. “Great. More climbing. Give me a few minutes.”
“I’ve got an idea.” Amoc said, looking in the direction of several freight containers. “If you can see your boat, plot a route, memorize it.”
“Should I ask?” Simon was puzzled.
“You’ll see in a bit.”
Amoc set off in the direction of the containers. The nearest one was too rusty. Same for the next. The third looked new. Solid.
This will work. It’s completely crazy… but as long as I can keep moving… it will work. Cutting our way through the horde would be too slow. It would crush us before we got half way. This worked for that TV show way back when. I’m basically a fleshy dump truck. This will work.
Amoc proceeded to rip both container doors off their hinges, as quietly as possible. He bent the lock bars out just enough to turn them into grips. Amoc now had a shield on both arms… and when he brought them together, a wedge. The weight wasn’t an issue of course, but they were a bit awkward. He practiced a few movements holding both doors out in front.
Why have I never thought of this before? This is fucking metal. Literally.
Amoc walked back to the front of the containers and carefully put down his improvised tower shields. He looked up and could make out Simon standing on top of the crane cab, looking intently in one direction. He hoped Simon was seeing his boat, and was creating the mental image of their route he had asked for. Amoc waited in silence for Simon to complete his task. After a while Simon made his way down.
“Got it.” Simon started. “Good news is I could see my boat, and it’s almost a straight shot down the road out front. About a mile, just a couple of turns.” He paused. “The bad news is I’ve never seen a horde this big before. They stretch clear to my boat. How the hell are we going to get through that?”
Amoc made a grand gesture at the container doors.
“Behold.” Amoc said, in a tone as dramatic as the war form would allow.
“Doors?” Simon was again puzzled.
Amoc walked over to the container doors and picked them up by his improvised grips, then held them together in front of himself, in a wedge.
“You want to plow the horde. Literally.”
Great minds, as they say. Simon’s got it.
“As long as I don’t stop moving, it will work.” Amoc moved forward with the doors.
“Have you done this before?”
A pause. Simon was considering it.
“How fast?” Simon asked.
“I’ll be jogging.”
“So a run for me.”
“Well I suppose it’s time I got my morning cardio in.” Simon was trying to be sarcastic, but he was clearly nervous. “I’ve already got my swim in.”
“We can’t stop.” Amoc said, deadly serious. “We stop, we die.”
“Yeah.” Simon realized something. “How am I going to direct you?”
“I can see over the doors. I’ll tell you what I see coming up. You tell me where to go.”
Simon looked unsure.
“Trust me. Take a breather.” Amoc ordered Simon. “You need to be ready for this.”
Simon’s adrenaline was coming back up. Amoc couldn’t have Simon crashing in the middle of the run; there would be no way he could help him and keep the door plow moving. Simon needed to be ready to cover the mile of distance at a constant run. They waited a good 30 minutes. Sunrise couldn’t be far off, but the horde clearly was uninterested in dispersing, as their presence at the fence line hadn’t changed in any meaningful way. They were both getting tired, but sleeping here wasn’t an option with the horde literally at the gates. They had to do this before they both ran out of energy.
“I’m ready.” Simon finally said.
Amoc propped both doors in a position that would be quick to grab, then pulled out his blade one more time.
“I’ll cut the lock on the gate.” Amoc explained. “We’ll let them come in, disperse a little, and then we go. Ready?”
Amoc walked calmly up to the gate and waited for the horde to get his scent. They started banging on the fence line. Almost as if on cue, the moon fully came out from behind the clouds. Amoc looked up at it. The moon driving a Garou’s changes was a popular myth. Truth was it really didn’t have any physical effect on Garou… but there was definitely something about a full moon that made the wolf restless. Which, now that Amoc thought about it, was probably the origin of the myth. Maybe there was some truth to it after all. Amoc looked back to the horde. Nearly the entire fence line was rattling now. It was time.
Amoc cut the lock.
The horde came crashing through as Amoc bounded back to the doors and took them up on each arm. The horde was bringing the entire fence line down as they tried to get through the gate. That worked to their advantage.
“Ready?” Amoc asked Simon one last time, as the human positioned himself at his back.
Amoc brought the doors into a wedge and started driving forward.
“Forward 100 feet, 90 degrees right.” Simon yelled behind him as the doors impacted with the leading edge of the horde.
Amoc barely felt the first impacts. He followed Simon’s directions as he saw where the road started. He could hear Simon’s footfalls behind him.
Keep moving. Do not stop. Stop and we die. As long as we’re moving at this pace, they won’t be able to crush us.
“One thousand feet, car in middle of road.” Simon was right behind him.
He really did memorize the route.
“Got it!” Amoc barked in return.
Amoc angled to go around it, and kept driving through the horde. It was working. The horde was reacting too slowly. The impacts were steady and manageable. It was rather amusing, watching the undead hit the doors and go flying off to either side. Minutes passed. He couldn’t afford to look back, but Simon’s directions kept coming, increasingly out of breath, but still in step. An absurd thought went through Amoc’s head: what was the mile run record for going through a horde of undead?
They turned the last corner… and the boat was there, right where Simon said it would be.
“I see it!” Amoc yelled back to Simon.
In that moment’s distraction, Amoc’s world went sideways. Something crashed into the left door with incredible force, and the door went flying out of his grip as he was bowled over. Amoc rolled over the right door and reflexively brought it back to bear directly in front of him as the rotting hulk of an undead Garou in war form came crashing down on it. This time Amoc was ready; he took the hit and held. There was no time to think about what he was witnessing. They had been stopped. Amoc had lost half the wedge. They were going to die if they didn’t get moving again now.
“Simon!” Amoc yelled.
The undead Garou clawed at the improvised shield, mindless and feral. Amoc kept it pressed in, countering any movements as best he could.
“Here!” Simon yelled close behind him, by some miracle.
“Can you clear a path to the boat?”
“Yeah!” Simon was already hacking at undead moving around behind them.
As Simon hacked at undead, Amoc steadily backed the undead Garou towards the dock. Moving it backwards was more difficult. It had more freedom to try and get around the shield. When it tried, Amoc would bring up a hard edge into a leg or arm. It still managed to get a couple of good claws in, leaving bright red gashes on Amoc’s arms. Simon continued directing him backwards.
“Ten feet! Step down to the dock!” Simon shouted. “Dock is clear!”
Amoc felt for the step and found it. He squarely planted the door in the undead Garou’s chest again. It had no room to maneuver now. It followed them on to the dock, along with more undead. Their combined weight lowered the dock to the point where the deck was almost at water level. Amoc planted his feet on the deck, claws digging up wood. The horde stopped. Bodies were falling in the water as they tried to get at him.
“Simon.” Amoc was straining.
“Get on the boat.”
Simon obeyed without questioning. After a moment Amoc heard an engine start, and he resumed backing on to the dock. It sank lower. Water started lapping around his ankles. Further back he went.
The dock collapsed. Everything on it was plunged into the river.
The door pulled Amoc under, sinking fast and pulling him down with it. He felt one more wild swipe from the undead Garou catch his arm before he freed himself from the door. There was enough moonlight to see which way was up. He gave the door one last kick to send it into the undead Garou, the counter force shooting Amoc up towards the moonlight.
“Amoc!” Simon was yelling his name as he broke through the surface.
“Oh thank fuck!” It was pure relief from Simon. “Get on!”
Amoc swam over, got purchase on the side of the boat, hauled himself over, and hit the deck with a wet thud, fully soaked for the second time that night.
“That thing was an undead werewolf!” Simon exclaimed.
“Yeah” Amoc replied, out of breath. “Yeah it was.”
“Did you know that could happen?”
“No.” Amoc truly had no idea it was possible. “No, that’s new.”
The sky was starting to brighten with the approaching sunrise. The horde wailed at the water’s edge, no longer able to reach them.
They had survived the night.
“It’s not a problem, really.” Simon was saying, rummaging through the closet of a cabin on the boat. “I cleaned out a department store early on, clothes are one thing I have absolutely no shortage of.”
Simon had taken the boat up river after their escape from the city. The steel-hulled fishing boat had been commandeered by Simon at some point after the dead began rising, and he had taught himself how to operate it. Apparently Simon had spent some time as a tour boat crewmember on the river, and this fishing boat was “close enough” to what he was used to.
“It just feels weird asking.” Amoc, now in human form and wrapped in a towel, was making excuses. “I’ve been self-sufficient up until now.”
The transformation had definitely been a bit of a shock for Simon. A lot of movies made it out to be a gory mess of flesh tearing and bones cracking; it wasn’t that, but the reality of the transformation was no less shocking. Amoc had no good way to explain it, no Garou really could, other than to say it was like watching a computer generated morph effect… with real flesh doing the morphing. All Amoc really knew about how it worked is that it was somehow related to a Garou’s incredible healing ability.
“I get it.” Simon started off. “I’ve been there, believe me. I get why you were out there and what you were doing. I’ve thought about it myself several times. That’s done now, though. We’re here, we’re alive, and we’re going to stay that way. And that starts with getting you some pants.”
Amoc laughed. It had been a long time since he had taken human form. A long time since he had anyone to talk to about stupid mundane stuff like pants. There was some sense of normalization in it. It felt good.
“You laugh, but you are wearing clothes on this boat.” Simon said as he shoved a pair of jeans and a shirt at Amoc. “Boxers or briefs?
“Boxers it is.” Simon shoved a pair at Amoc.
“Yes, captain.” Amoc jokingly replied, taking the offered clothes.
Simon exited the cabin, leaving Amoc to dress. The jeans and shirt were a good fit, and it definitely looked like Simon had no shortage of clothing options in the room’s closet. A lot of them still had tags on them. He hadn’t been exaggerating about the boat being well supplied. Food, fuel and oil, spare parts, medical supplies, rain water collectors, and various weapons.
The only reason Simon had gone to the school was to find the one thing that had so far eluded him: seeds. He had been hoping for some kind of school or community garden, which he had found, and showed Amoc the seeds he had protected in a plastic bag. Basic, he had called them, but a good start. Amoc had noted the planter boxes on the deck, and he already had some ideas on how to improve them.
Amoc, of course, could survive hunting wild game. Which had become quite plentiful, with humanity no longer hunting anything. The horde seemed largely uninterested in wild animals, though they still somehow always managed to know he was in wolf form.
Amoc exited the cabin to find Simon waiting.
“That’ll do.” Simon said, satisfied Amoc was no longer nude.
They walked out to the deck and both leaned on the railing to take in the sunrise. Simon had anchored the boat to a convenient pier in the middle of the river, well out of reach of either shore, though there were no undead currently obvious on either side. The mega horde they had encountered in the city had been left behind, it seemed.
The morning air was cool and crisp, and the sunrise for some reason seemed especially beautiful. The world hadn’t changed in any meaningful way, but Amoc’s had. Simon’s too, he was fairly sure. This all felt new. Even if the undead were still the dominant force in the world.
“So what do we do now?” Amoc asked, genuinely curious.
“I don’t know.” Simon started. “You’ve got no problem living off the land, so you’re not going to change the supply situation much. I’m sure there’s a lot I could learn from you about that, so it might even improve some.”
“I noticed the planter boxes.” Amoc said, looking over at the boxes. “I can make them better.”
“I’m no farmer, so have at them.” Simon waved at the boxes, then turned to ponder Amoc. “What might I be able to teach a werewolf?
“I suppose I could help you out with the boat.” Amoc offered, after thinking on it for a moment. “Like piloting it, and keeping the engines working.”
“A werewolf greenhorn, huh?” Simon was amused. “Yeah, I can teach you.”
A few moments went by as they both continued to regard the sunrise.
“You know, you’re not the first I’ve come across.” Simon started, then quickly corrected himself. “Well, the first werewolf I’m pretty sure, but there have been other humans. But they all just… went their own way. Not so much as a ‘how’s it going?’. The most I ever got from one was an uneasy silence while we rummaged through a parts store.”
“Says something about humanity that the first person to actually talk to me is a werewolf.” Simon continued. “It still feels good, though. Feels like we’re civilized again, you know?”
They both had a lot of questions for each other, and a lot to learn from each other. The world was still the domain of the undead, but now it felt a lot less lonely.