Babe’s voice failed him. Not even a twat like Sid the cat could have distracted him after Simone’s voice had overwhelmed his mind. Her presence and aura was like a warm bath enveloping his brain and soothing him; all thoughts of their perilous circumstance or the wellbeing of his friends went clean out the window.
“You’re drooling.” The words slowly penetrated the fog of his thoughts.
“Wha…” he responded, somewhat lamely. His brain’s operating system, Linux for PowerPigs, was rebooting and slowly allowing his senses to respond, the blue screen of death fading from view.
“Silly boy,” came the same wonderful voice that had put him in his trance-like state in the first place. “Are you alright?” Concern was apparent in the voice now.
He shook his head and realised the world had moved on a minute or so. Also, everyone was staring.
Shep had a look on his face that spoke volumes and hinted at more than a little annoyance and jealousy, but Babe couldn’t see that, he only had eyes for Simone. His heart rate had slowed down by now and suddenly he realised the drool comment had been aimed at him. He went down on his front knees and wiped his face on the fresh, cool grass.
“Sorry about that,” he stammered, quickly standing up again and trying to look taller. She must think I’m a complete prat, he thought, his embarrassment growing.
“So what’s your name?” Simone persisted.
“B…, Babe,” he stuttered.
“That’s a nice name, B-Babe,” she replied, smiling sweetly. “Would you like to have some food?”
“That would be very nice, thank you,” he replied politely. At least his speech centres were functioning again. With her beauty she must see his sort of reaction to her all the time.
“Come with me,” the young gilt replied, and led the way over to the others.
“Any chance you have some food I might wanna eat?” Shep asked, sarcasm oozing. He was hungry and getting pretty damn tired of these bloody herbivores having no consideration for others not of their persuasion; things were going to have to change around here, especially if the goddam humans were abandoning the normalcy ship.
He followed as the herd of pigs wandered over to their feeding troughs. The group of friends dawdled further behind, deciding to keep their own counsel; they knew Shep of old, when he got a cob on he was, to say the least, bad company.
A movement at the top of the hill caught Babe’s eye and he looked up in horror. The humans were coming – and there were lots of them. Goliath had been wrong about being safe here. Was nothing sacred, Babe wondered? If I can’t rely on the sage knowledge of the big horse, what else was wrong in the world?
“Oi, you lot!” Shep called to the pigs. “We have to get out of here, like bloody quickly.”
One of the bigger pigs turned around and confronted him. In a deep, bass, musical voice he rejected Shep’s orders. “We don’t take orders from a sheepdog. The operative word there is sheep, which we ain’t.”
“Oh, crap,” Shep muttered to himself. “They don’t know what’s about to hit them.”
“The humans have gone strange,” Goliath waded into the conversation. His slow, caramel-like simple country accent only made matters worse. “I think they want to kill Babe.”
“Look,” the big pig replied, rolling his eyes. “No offence but between you all, you couldn’t outthink a tree stump. I’ll be damned if we’re gonna take any notice. It’s feeding time and right now that’s all that counts. The way things are is the way things are.”
“Wanker,” Shep retorted. That’ll tell ’em, he thought, wishing he’d read that book of classic put-downs he’d found in the farmer’s house.
The pigs kept on walking, Babe and Simone following along behind, their little haunches slightly touching accidentally-on-purpose from time to time. Shep understood why Babe had gone with them – he’d never seen another pig, and to have his head turned by such a little cutie was, well, inevitable. Cutie? He thought. What the hell’s wrong with me? I just thought of a girl pig as a cutie. Then the realisation struck him like a thunderclap, he wasn’t in love with Babe, he was in love with pigs. Deciding to keep that personality trait to himself, at least for now, he tried one last time to connect with the sounder, after all, the last thing he wanted to see was the family group attacked. Well, maybe that fat, arrogant bastard, but not Babe or his new squeeze, Simone.
“Babe! Simone!” he called. “You have to keep away from the humans, they’re not here to feed you!”
Babe stopped in his tracks. Finally, Shep thought. The young pig turned around to his long-time friend, if three months could be considered a long time.
“They’re going to feed us, Barry said so,” he replied.
“Who the hell is Barry?” Shep asked, perplexed.
“The boss pig you were just talking to. He knows everything.”
“My arse he does. You’ve seen what the humans are capable of, how they were staring hungrily at you only half an hour ago. Remember?”
Babe thought for a moment, his freshly rebooted brain checking through his recent memory archives. Then he found what he was looking for.
“You’re right!” he cried, suddenly panicked. Turning to Simone he implored her to come away with him, the humans really were no longer their friends.
“You’re kidding, right? We’re just about to be fed.” She licked her lips in anticipation and Babe’s heart gave a little flicker of excitement. Me so horny, he thought, surprised and wondering where that particular thought had just come from.
“I don’t think so. Earlier the humans were looking at me as if I had a few ribs to spare. That’s why we’re here in your valley; we’re running away from them. And,” he stressed, pausing for effect, “The Master killed Mrs Farmer. They already tried to kill Qwackers.”
Simone looked sideways at him, assessing whether he was pulling her leg. She already suspected that his wonderful, boyish good looks hid the fact that he probably wasn’t all that smart. She looked more closely at the approaching humans. He may have a point, there was definitely something wrong with the way they walked; their legs were strangely stiff – what on earth was that about? Anyway, what put the tin hat on it for her was the fact that the farmer usually drove his truck over, the back full of feed. So why were they walking and why were there so many of them? So many unanswered questions. And on an empty stomach she couldn’t concentrate properly.
“Barry,” she called to the big pig. “The incomers are right. I think there is a problem.”
“Nonsense, the humans are here to feed us. They do it every day. We simply have to think of it and they come, what can be more natural?”
Simone sighed. Looking at the approaching crowd she could see that the last thought on their minds was feeding the pigs; feeding on them perhaps. Their staring eyes looked crazed, even to her young, inexperienced mind. The other thing that was bugging her was that Barry always came across a little overbearing, something she hated in others; just because he thought of himself as a bit of a stud, somehow it followed that he couldn’t make mistakes. Having covered most of the sows in the group at one time or another, he had a power over them he couldn’t, and wouldn’t, ever have over her; certainly not now that Babe was here.
Deciding to reject Barry as the leader, she ran over to the group of sows and shouted at them to stop. All they did was smile in their own patronising way, nuzzle her gently out of their path and keep walking to the troughs for their afternoon chow-down. It was a little earlier than usual but they were just fine with that. Eventually Babe joined his beloved, and together they attempted to browbeat the older ones into stopping, but they were just too heavy, too determined, and too led by their stomachs and circadian rhythms to be interested in listening to the young ’uns.
The gate to the paddock swung open with a clang – the humans had finally figured out how to open simple mechanisms like a gate lock, and so they continued their inexorable and awkward march towards the pigs.
The danger was imminent by now, the bipeds’ walking-speed increasing with their seemingly burgeoning excitement. Their groans were getting faster, and like a drummer boy’s beat, the sound urged their dead bodies on, faster and faster towards their prey.
At the last moment the pigs realised the danger they were in – although what had finally alerted them was not clear – but it was too late, the family was doomed.
Without the usual caution a human used around pigs, the attackers fell on the porcine prey with lightning speed, biting and tearing at their flesh. Heart-rending screams betrayed the ferocity of the attack and within seconds most of the pigs had received fatal wounds. Simone and Babe, already skittish due to their awareness of the approaching danger, somehow managed to stay clear of the initial assault.
Goliath joined the fray, using his powerful hind legs to belt the attackers. When he struck successfully the human would go flying through the air, landing clumsily and remaining inert, the body completely broken. Shep also tried his best to assist, barking and biting at the heels of the aggressors, but they paid him little attention.
Suddenly, through the melee Simone saw her mother, blood pouring from a neck wound as she floundered helplessly in the mud, squealing and whimpering as the man on top of her tore at her flesh with tooth and nail.
“Noooo…” she screamed and ran towards her mother’s attacker who was sitting astride the sow as he continued to tear at the dying animal’s flesh. With a single leap Simone connected with the murderous human and together they fell to the ground, Simone’s little gnashers tearing at the man’s arms and hands. Under normal circumstances her bone-breaking bites would have sent a normal man desperately scurrying for cover, but not now, he knew no pain or fear, and after a moment had grabbed the little pig and held her immobile with his strong, claw-like hands. He was preparing to give back some of her own medicine and his jaws parted slowly. The bloody maw began to close on Simone’s neck.
Babe, anticipating what the new love of his life was about to do, ran into the melee and, although he wasn’t quick enough to stop her attack, he did manage to connect like a cannon ball with the man’s torso, driving all three of them into a ball of flailing hooves, arms and legs. In the turmoil the man let go of Simone and together they scurried out of his reach. He began to crawl towards them, bloody saliva running in a constant stream from his mouth. He was chewing on flesh and for a moment Babe feared it was part of Simone, but looking her over quickly, he realised it was more likely to be part of her mum. Dear God, he thought, what a terrible sight. And poor Simone, she was powerless to intervene although her stout little heart had allowed her at least to try. They ran over to Babe’s group of friends and together all of them fled the terror, leaving the battlefield scene of carnage behind them in the quiet valley.
Silence descended once more, only interrupted by slurping and the crunch of bones as the humans fed.
Copyright © 2013 David Kingsley Roberts
Zombie books by David K Roberts:
The Common Cold: A Zombie Chronicle
The Common Cold: A Zombie Chronicle – Cabin Fever (Sequel)
Return Of A King: A Zombie Chronicle
Return Of A King: A Zombie Chronicle – Z Factor (Sequel)