Bitter 28

The shambling mass of zombies came ever closer. They made a collective moaning sound that wasn’t so much scary as it was disappointed. It was eerily similar to the noise Britta’s grandmother would make when standing in the butcher’s looking through the glass counter.

The branch in Britta’s hand had a solid heft to it but she couldn’t see it taking down a zombie in less than a dozen hits, and she doubted they would just stand there and let her get her licks in.

The gathered adventurers, by comparison, looked ready to kick ass. She wasn’t sure what they were waiting for, but no one had made a move yet. The etiquette was to wait for the zombies to come to them, it seemed

“Does this happen a lot?” Britta asked.

“They put on these events every couple of weeks,” said Diana. “Gives you a bunch of XP and you can pick up a few cool items, if you’re lucky. They did this one before, about two months back. I guess they want to run it again to see if they got all the bugs out. Last time, half the monsters kept glitching out and wouldn’t die.”

Britta looked down the line. Everyone was eager to get started, she could tell.

“What’s everyone waiting for? Shouldn’t we just attack?”

Diana looked down at her and shook her head. “Not yet. We’ve set a trap for them.”

Britta looked back at the approaching mass but she couldn’t see a trap. Perhaps there was a hidden pit they would all fall into, or a giant boulder was going to be pushed off a rooftop. She checked the roofs but saw nothing.

“Okay, get ready,” said Diana.

“Hey, noobie,” called out one of the larger warrior-types further down the line. His tag said his name was ‘Ramdam’. Britta leaned forward and pointed at herself. “Yeah, you. No kill stealing.”

Britta nodded and then threw a questioning glance up at Diana.

“Kill stealing,” said Diana. “It’s when someone puts in all the effort to fight a monster and then just before they can kill it, someone else jumps in and makes the death blow, taking the XP. Bad manners.”

Britta could see that. You didn’t want to be the one who did all the work and then let someone else get the credit. Even though, in her case, it was probably the only way she’d be able to kill anything. Unless there were some mini-zombies among the herd.

She sensed a change in the people alongside her. They were leaning forward, preparing to charge or something. The zombies weren’t very far away now and their open mouths and stretched out hands looked even more cliched than before. You could think of it as a homage to classic horror movies, or you could just call it lazy.

There was a thwip! Sound and a rope lifted out of the mud, stretching right across the street. The first line of zombies went down and the ones behind stumbled into them. There was a domino effect as the herd turned into a pile.

With a roar, the gathered adventurers charged, waving their weapons over their heads. They began hitting the helpless, writhing heap of zombies with extreme prejudice. Not just striking them but really letting them have it. They smashed and pounded and pulverised.

Britta had stayed back to get an idea of how best to fight. Watching the others might have given her a few tips, but no one else was using a branch and their attacks were fairly straightforward—hit it as hard as you could.

Blood and bone, and other stuff that might have been slime or possibly rotting organs, went flying in all directions. Everyone seemed to be really getting into it, relentlessly converting zombie heads into zombie mush. Watching from the outside, it was a bit disturbing. Even Diana was covered in blood and guts and had a big smile on her face.

Britta slowly approached, looking for a small, weak, preferably toothless zombie to kill.

The others had turned the front line into goo and were climbing over the corpses to get at the ones further back. The zombies were at a great disadvantage with their movements restricted and their colleagues in their way. It was a massacre.

A lone zombie moaned pitifully. He was pinned under a pile of other zombies and had been overlooked by the rampaging adventurers. Would it still be kill stealing if she finished off this one? It didn’t feel like she was taking anyone else’s experience points.

She walked up to it. Everything from the waist down was under dead zombies, its arms scratching at the ground to drag itself out. It paid no attention to Britta.

She raised the branch over her head, closed her eyes, and brought it down on the zombie’s head. There was a crack and she felt it connect, sending vibrations through her hands and into her arms. She opened one eye.

The branch in her hands was broken, one half hanging by a sliver of bark. The zombie’s head was at a ninety degree angle to its neck, which looked painful.

It’s only a game, he didn’t feel anything, Britta told herself.

The head, covered in scabs and patchy hair, shook a little, and then snapped back. The zombie looked up at her. A worm wriggled out of an empty eye socket. The game designers probably thought that was a cool touch.

The zombie didn’t look hurt, it looked pissed off. It dug its fingers into the earth with renewed vigour and pulled its lower half out of the mound. Then it started to get to its feet.

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