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The Dead Man's Burden(7)

By:Matt Bird


The first crate disappears behind the wall, itsparachute collapsing. If the converts follow orders, they’ll keepquiet until the last second.I say I hate leading, but, god do I love it when aplan comes together. I wish my girl could see this.Chapter 8So I’m just a head now. That kinda sucks.It happened when we invaded that damn army base.My carrier wasn’t so good on his legs, and he wobbled too far offthe safe path. We hit a mine, and, well...  at least my head gotclear. I’m glad my neck was so badly rotted that I just shot offthe top. And I still have my eye and both of my ears, so woohoo forthat!Yeah. Woohoo.I understand that my philosophy doesn’tconcentrate on purity of form. I mean, we are the purest race ofbeings this planet has ever seen, but...  it really stinks having tobe chaperoned everywhere. I can’t do anything for myself anymore. Istill get to convert savages, so that’s a plus, but I feel morelike a weapon than a man. A holy relic with teeth.And they drop me! That’s the one thing thatreally annoys me. My carriers are chosen because their arms arestill, well, semi-capable. I usually go with someone that I’ve justconverted, because their limbs haven’t locked up. I’m stilldropped daily regardless, though, and my skin’s suffered the worstas a result. I haven’t looked pretty in a mirror for a long, longtime.So now I spend almost all of my days wedged into amodified boxing helmet, the back covered by rubber to protect theremains of my neck, the front reinforced with extra padding. Thankgod I converted lots of creative men and women. Now when I getdropped, I just bounce a few times and wait to get picked up.Granted, a boxing helmet isn’t terribly prestigious for a religiousleader, but, meh. We do what we must.


But enough complaining. This is an exciting day!We’re almost done! I can tell!This may sound like self-aggrandizement, but I’mspecial. I’ve developed a sense for sniffing out savages that’sunrivalled among the converts. It’s probably because I’m theoldest among us: my detection skills are so strong that I can tellwhere a convert is hiding from hundreds of miles away. The itch in mymouth serves as sonar and compass, telling me which way to steer myflock.Before, whenever I paid attention to the itch –and it’s tough to ignore that longing for flesh in one’s mouth –I sensed savages everywhere. The planet was covered in ‘em, and itwas my job to flush ‘em out and show ‘em the way. Now, though...  now the itch is only pointing mein one direction. One last place. And it’s not a normal militaryinstallation, because we’ve picked off all of those. No, this finalfortress of the savages in North America is somewhere below theground, filled with the lingering vestiges of an ignorant species.Which isn’t to say, of course, that I’mignoring of the rest of the world. I’ve never thought that NorthAmerica was the centre of existence, and when it comes to this neworder it’s more important than ever that everyone get on the sameplaying field. So I’m happy to report that the battle is going wellabroad...  and not because of me.I always knew that our kind had the potential tobe more. To use their brains to beat the savages back, rather thansheer numbers – and it seems that a lot of people agree with me.I’ve heard numerous reports from travellers between the continentsthat there are lots of convert leaders, all guiding their own sectsinto joyful battle. It’s great news, knowing that I’m not theonly person holding the banner in this fight.I just hope they lay that banner down when thetime comes. I hope they understand my philosophy, that nobody ismeant to hold power. We are all equal, in the end. I don’t wantanyone to abuse their authority, since authority doesn’t exist inmy ideal world.


And we need to move quickly to reach that idealworld. Because, eventually, all will be dust.But that’s all beside the point. Focus,Balancing Point, focus! The present needs you, not these grimthoughts!I’m inside a bunker, deep below the frozen landsof Northern Canada. My carrier, a pleasantly buxom young naval womanwith one arm, has me tucked under her armpit. It’s all good. Mynose is gone, so any lingering body odour she may have brought intoher conversion is lost on me.I miss my girl, though. She would’ve made melaugh while we walked. This woman’s too stern. Sigh.We proceed past long lines of converts, new andold, waiting outside rooms filled with prisoners undergoing theireducation. Their screams of pain wound me, but the rapture I’llsoon see on their faces will allay any nightmares. Not that I sleep.You can’t really call our stupors sleep.At the end of a blood-smeared corridor I find mymain military man for this campaign: a Navy SEAL. He’s a bulkydude, despite having lost much of his muscle tissue during hisconversion. My converts had to work damn hard on him to convince himthat he was following the wrong path.He salutes as I approach. Old habits die hard. “Mylord, we’ve cornered the last of the savages. They’re penned upin a secured room two hallways down, protected by a laser grid. Toughto penetrate.”I blink twice. That’s my version of a nod. Don’tcriticize folks with no necks. “Any luck with the generator?That’ll shut the power off and let us in.” I don’t want thesepoor savages to starve to death in a corner where we can’t reachthem. That’s not fair to their immortal souls.


“Some. My troops are...  well, you know. Not sogood with their hands. We’re having trouble shutting it down.”I laugh. “I used to be in IT. Maybe I can help.Take me to the generator room.”The SEAL leads me through a maze of hallways andpipes into the bowels of the expansive bunker. Amidst a small sea ofcatwalks and piping sits a turbine, and near it a bank of computers.Dozens of converts are bashing ineffectually at the turbine casing.“Could we just blow the thing up? We have someexplosives, don’t we?”The SEAL hesitates before speaking. “If we do,we’ll probably kill the savages. I’m fine with that, but...  mylord, didn’t you want to convert them?”Double blink. “Yes, I did. Take me to thatconsole there.”My carrier places me in front of the computers,and I verbally guide her mouse clicks. I don’t recognize thesoftware, and don’t have a chance in hell of turning the turbinesoff, but...  maybe... There. That’s the clue, a tiny hint attached toa page covered in technical gibberish. “This turbine is solarpowered. See? They must have solar collectors on the surfacesomewhere. Send the converts up to find the things, they can’t bethat tough to spot.”Again the SEAL hesitates. “What if this base ispart of a grid? The collectors could be miles from here.”I snort. That’s my sign for a shake of the head.“No, they’d need staff to keep the grid up. The only savagesstill in the area are in the base. Besides, have you been outsidelately? There isn’t a settlement around here for miles.”


The SEAL chuckles. “Good point, my lord. Thywill be done.”I wait with my carrier in the turbine room whilethe converts search above, all nestled into thick clothing to keepthe weather from freezing their joints. I listen contentedly to theturbine’s whirring, and blink twice when the SEAL tells me that thecollectors have been found – and smashed.We wait. We’re excellent at waiting. Eventually,after two days of waiting, the turbine fails. There’s a backup, butit’s just a battery, and after two more days it also fails.When my carrier takes me into the laser hall,shortly after the lights went off and the invasion began, I find thefloor covered in converts. Most are still alive, but their bodies areshredded. That’s okay; they can contemplate the walls happily forthe rest of their lives.The final room of the bunker is a blood-stainedmess. There are six soldiers, all being converted, spread eagle onthe ground, their machine guns empty and forgotten. There’s also afamily here, huddled into a back corner, trembling. Poor ignorants,they still don’t realize that this is for the best.I hesitate, however. I remember these people. I’veseen their faces before. I know who they are. They’re famous.They’re as close to royalty as the United States usually gets.My carrier brings me close to the man. His shirtis plastered to his chest by sweat. His eyes are wide. It’s thesame expression I’ve seen a thousand times. It’s the equalizer inthis grand equation, that fear. It brings great men back down toearth. I smile. I only have three teeth left. “Hello,Mr. President. Welcome to the fold.”


This is the last family of savages left in NorthAmerica. I know it. I bite each one, slowly, happily. I transmit asmuch of my love and understanding though the bites as I can. Then,with four patches of flesh in my mouth – ah, it’s still soexquisite – I watch as my converts finish the job.When they’re done, when the president is lyingin a heap amidst his family, the truth already coursing through theirveins, I feel the itch in my mouth recede. It leaves. And for thefirst time, I feel the sublime power of peace.Chapter 9 Life is pretty good right now. Seeing as how I’ma head, that’s saying a lot.A head. Ahead. Both apply, I guess. I’mcertainly ahead of the pack karmically, if you believe in suchthings...  which I don’t, really. I’ve done a hell of a lot morein the last couple years than I ever did at any other point in mylife. I’ve set the world to rights, and that, my friends, is a verygood thing indeed.Not that I can take full credit. I really can’ttake much credit at all. Sure, I came up with some plans andmotivated the troops, but the legions of converts under my wing didtheir own work. They didn’t have to be told what to do. They justwent out and cleansed humanity. They knew what had to be done.That’s the power of the teeth. They have amessage. A good message. I’m glad I was the first person to spreadthat message.And now, now the world is different. Theconversion process isn’t finished, true, but it’s well underway.Give our kind another year or two and I’m positive that everyonewill have seen the light. All the reports I’ve heard point towardsthe end of that decadent society we used to enjoy.