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Fix What's Broken

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He isn’t quite sure how this all happened. He knows he must have been alive at one point, probably had friends and family and maybe even a job, but he doesn’t remember any of that now. There are others like him, he knows that, but as far as he’s aware they don’t know how this happened either. If he had ever been much of a talker, he certainly isn’t now, and most of the others barely seem capable of speech. Groans and grunts are about the extent of their minimal communication with each other, on the rare chances that he happens across one.

The one thing he does know is that life (or unlife, he supposes) isn’t that easy out here. There aren’t a whole lot of dead like him, and not a whole lot of living left, either. The living that do remain tend to keep themselves pretty well defended. Some are enclosed within walls, some hide out in landscapes that aren’t particularly easy to traverse when you’re dead, and the ones that aren’t hiding in safety move through the wastes in modified, armored cars, often hunting the dead for sport.

His kind used to congregate around cities and towns, any collection of people they could prey on, but bit by bit they had picked them off, until the dead were forced to wander in search of what living might remain. Many groups found nothing, and probably withered and died out in the desert without the flesh of the living to sustain them, and many others were picked off by roaming bands of living. He himself had been shot and run over more times than he could count anymore, but he discovered it was easy to pretend you were completely dead when you were already mostly dead, and later found that staying away from groups of his own kind tended to be safer. A shambling herd of corpses was hard to hide (often too stupid to hide as well) and made an easy target, whereas a single dead man on his own was less likely to attract attention and it was much easier to duck away if he heard vehicles coming. Plus, on the rare occasions he caught a person (or animal, or honestly just found anything dead) he didn’t have to fight over it with other corpses. It was all his, and he could hide out and live off it for as long as it lasted.

And so he wanders, waiting and searching for the next meal to come along, just trying to survive even when the odds are mostly against him.

When he’s discovered by a group of living he assumes are roaming hunters, he hopes they’re bad shots and gets ready to play dead-dead as they start to zoom around him. Strangely enough, not a single one fires shots, but they stop their vehicles in a circle around him, and climb out to fight him by hand. They look a little dead themselves, pale and painted up like skeletons, but he knows the scent of the living when he smells it.

They seem to have this down to a routine, one baiting him in front while another tackles him from behind, and sooner than he knows it, he’s on the ground, arms behind his back, and they’re fitting a metal muzzle over his head.

A corpse is hardly a threat to the living if it can’t bite, and he knows this, but he’s just hungry enough to lunge and snap his teeth at them when they let him back up. They fight him off for a while, seeming to have fun with it more than anything, but eventually one drags him back by the chain on his muzzle and hitches him up to the back of one of their cars.

They drive away slowly, a few on the back yelling at him and baiting him as they move, drawing him forward by the deep hunger that he feels in his bones more than his stomach. He keeps up for a little while, stumbling forward as quickly as he can, but when he loses his footing and falls, none of them seem to care, and they continue to drag him along behind them.

His clothes are even more torn up than usual when they finally stop, but he’s only missing a bit of skin and is generally glad he doesn’t feel pain anymore because that probably would have hurt. They hold his chain leash tight and the ground under them suddenly lifts into the air, carrying him and the living men and a couple cars with it. It takes him a while to orient and realize it’s a lift. They bring him up into a massive, natural stone tower and then lead him, laughing and taunting and shoving all the while, through numerous tunnels until they reach a room where they fight him to the ground again, chain his feet together, and hoist him up into the air. He’s so beyond overwhelmed by everything going on around him, his brain mostly processing it but his body hardly able to keep up with what he wants it to do, that he doesn’t manage to put up much of a fight. He’s mostly disappointed that the muzzle means he can’t manage even a single bite, despite his desperate need for sustenance.

They leave him hanging like that, and he heaves a raspy sigh. He doesn’t know what they want with him, but he doesn’t anticipate that it’s going to involve feeding him.