She was hungry.
No surprise. She’d huddled in the old church, in the dark, for days. All the time swimming in and out of a hot fever, dazed from fear. Listening with confusion for the sounds of them, the sounds of the dead shuffling and shambling and groaning outside. Not so long ago Cleo could have strolled across the street for a bag of chips and a soda from the deli, no problem. Tonight, the simple distance—maybe fifty yards at most—might as well stretch half the planet. The flesh-eaters hunted out there. Two weeks ago, they’d taken the one last living person Cleo knew.
She was alone. Alone, tired, hungry. In a small corner church with broken windows and splintered pews no doubt left over from one of the early panic-incited riots. No bodies in here, at least. All the bodies were waking up and walking these days. And that’s why she might starve to death in the dark.
She might be the only human being left alive. Who knew? She’d seen no one else, not at least for six or seven days before the monsters got Howard, the old ex-Marine she’d started traveling with. Now of course, with him gone...
Just as she thought it, however, a sharp banging sounded from the back of the sanctuary. Cleo raised her head, startled like a deer. Someone’s fists, raining against the door.
A panicked voice, male. Another hail of blows. “Is anyone in there? Please, let us in!”
Hardly believing what she heard, Cleo climbed to her feet. She made her way on shaky legs up the center aisle of the church sanctuary, then hesitated.
The banging came again, and somewhere beyond it rose the low murmur of approaching dead. Two voices clamored for attention now, and Cleo’s eyes widened. Two living, breathing people out there? Two of them, really?
A loud crack echoed through the church, making her jump. One of them must have thrown himself at the wooden double doors. A short rattle of gunfire, then another crack. Before Cleo could shake herself out of her disbelief and do something, two men tumbled in out of the fading daylight. They scrambled to their feet and threw the doors closed again behind them, and hurried to pull some of the dusty tables and credenzas out of the corners and pile them against the entrance, barring it against the hungry mob of creatures outside.
They didn’t notice Cleo lingering in the aisle, swaying a little in her disbelief. All thought of food fled her mind. Instead she found a different yearning roaring to life: the need to touch them. To feel their stubbled cheeks and chins and trace the contours of their faces with her fingertips. They smelled of dirt, sweat, and oil—she could pick up the scents even from where she stood—but those were good smells, they were strong and rich and alive against the faded, musty air. It made Cleo want to cry out and even to laugh, and at the same time she struggled not to burst into tears.
In the end, she remained perfectly still, without even blinking, as the young men piled obstacles in front of the doors.
When they finished at last, they wiped their brows and shuffled into the sanctuary proper. They must be exhausted: neither so much as lifted his weapon—both held shotguns—to be ready in case any of the dead already waited in his church.
They came almost within spitting distance before they noticed her. They froze, wild-eyed, and then seized up their guns. Cleo paid little attention to the threat, though. She eyed them in dumb fascination.
The taller man, heartland tan in a simple white T-shirt and beat-up blue jeans, paled at the sight of her. It made recent patterns of scrapes and bruises stand out hard, even in the darkness. His companion was a trim black man in a University of Wyoming jacket. Go Cowboys. His bright eyes searched her from head to toe with a curious and wary hope.
Cleo swallowed. Her fingers came up to twist nervously in the long strands of her hair and she realized how heavily she was breathing. Her previous hunger, a simple, stupid craving for chips, soda, maybe even just a dry cereal bar, all at once seemed trivial and ridiculous. Here stood two living human beings. She could pick out the dust and dirt of violent survival on their skin, cut through in places by clean tracks of sweat. The one in the jacket, his beautiful dark skin looked fine and smooth and hot, like velvet stretched taut over sun-warmed cable. The other one, lean and muscular, tawny as amber fields. She opened her mouth to speak and found no words, and instead considered how much she wanted to taste them. Smell them. Lay her hands on their faces and necks and arms and satisfy herself of their essential physical presence.
She blinked, and her voice returned to her. “What?”
“I said, who are you?” the taller one demanded. His tone told her he’d repeated the question more than once. “What’s your name?”
“Cleo,” she replied. Then, “Are you real?”
“What?” the one in the jacket shot.
“Are you real?”
She took a slow step forward, ignoring the shotguns they still both pointed at her. She felt lighter than air. “Are you really here? With me? Are you alive or am I dreaming you?”
The men traded a glance.
“We’re here.” The big guy lowered his weapon. He sounded relieved now, and gave a sigh. “What about you? How long you been hiding here?”
“Days. Weeks.” She ventured another step closer, lifting a hand to the black man’s cheek. He flinched, but she ignored it to relish the sensation of his damp skin. Her fingers painted fresh tracks through the dust of the road.
Then she turned her attention to the other man. This time she combed a hand through shaggy hair. Like clean, soft wheat. Hard to tell for sure, but she imagined from his sharp, dark eyes and unlined face, there wouldn’t be any gray in that thick mane for a long time yet.
The sour scent of exertion clung to their skin. So much better than the old, stale smells of the abandoned and lonely places where she and the Marine hurried to and hid in for days and days at a time. Oh, oh so much better than the dull, pervasive reek of the dead. Lustful, she inhaled it, relishing it.
“I thought I was alone,” she whispered. Drawn to his heat she leaned closer to the tall one, fingers brushing his. Tossing a glance at the one in the jacket, she added, “I haven’t even seen anyone... not anyone alive, at least... for weeks.”
“I’m Todd,” he said. “And this is Jake.”
“Yes...” Cleo tilted her head to one side. “You...will you just... touch me, please? Please, I need to know you’re real and I’m not losing my mind.”
Todd put down his shotgun, resting it upright at the end of an old pew, and clasped to big, firm, hot hands on her shoulders.
“We’re real, girl,” he told her. “You’re all right.”
Cleo gazed at him. His touch sparked her hunger again, that deeper hunger not for chips or soda or even the full dinner special at Corvette’s, her favorite diner. She heard his heartbeat loud and clear. For a few sweet minutes, all thought of the dead left her mind.
Leaning forward, basking in the pure gift of human presence, she kissed Todd’s dark, soft, wet lips.
He flinched again, though this time more in surprise than anything else. The other man—Jake, the tall heartland boy—touched her shoulder, tugging her gently. She came away without argument and looked up into Jake’s warm eyes, then shifted to lean against him in a grateful embrace.
“I’m sorry. It’s been nothing but them for weeks and weeks. I’m hungry and cold... I can’t believe you’re both here, I just want to... I want...”
The words dried up. She stretched her arms up around Jake’s neck and kissed him, too. Salt, and poor chapped lips. She slipped her tongue into his mouth and firmed her body against his.
“It’s so good...” she whispered between kisses, “...to be able to feel you.”
At first, like Todd, he stiffened. Then, though, he relaxed, and his arms looked around her, like an old lover’s.
“Mm,” she murmured as their lips met again and again. “Please, yes... you’re so warm.”
Behind them, Todd cleared his throat. “Um...”
Without breaking her embrace with Jake, Cleo stretched her hands behind her to take Todd’s and pull him in. She guided him to her hips and tilted her head to kiss him over her shoulder. Soon, his confused hesitation melted as his partner’s had, and he tightened his grip, trapping her between them.
In a space of breaths, Jake stripped her dirty shirt over her head and cupped her breasts in his hands, sliding thumbs under her bra straps to peel the undergarment away. Todd’s palms caressed her belly, eliciting shivers as he explored her planes and curves—skinnier than she’d ever been, now...almost bony. When he pressed close she felt the hard shape of his erection through his jeans, and a blessedly sweet jolt of anticipation rose up through her body.
“I’m sorry if it’s too much,” she whispered, though she already joyfully surrendered to it. “I need it...I’m so hungry...”
Jake freed her breasts and lowered his face to take first one, then the other taut pink nipple into his mouth. She rolled her head back—leaning it on Todd’s shoulder—with a quiet gasp of delight. The heartland boy’s hot tongue stroked and circled each dark point, and he finished each exploration with a soft, sucking kiss. Meanwhile Todd dipped his hands to the fly of her jeans and unbuttoned them, then slid them down.
Cleo hung between them in just her black lace panties then, goosebumps feathering up and down her limbs from the breath of cool night on naked skin. She’d grown wet under her boy shorts, and when Jake’s broad hand fell between her thighs she let out a high, restless moan.
Todd shed his college jacket and shucked his own clothes. As soon as he, too, was naked, he stole her away from Jake to give the taller man the chance to undress. Facing him now, Cleo dropped her hands to his cock, running her palms along its fierce length, fondling the slick, luscious swell of its crown. Todd ran his thumbs over her nipples, then took them between his fingers to squeeze, and tug.
“Ah,” she moaned. She tightened her grip on him, lifting one leg up around his hip to draw him closer. She starved for him; her body cried out, feeling empty and in need of his flesh. She’d never craved anything so deeply. Nothing had ever been so essential.
She pressed him back, nudging him down to sit, knees wide, on the pew. He in turn guided her to her knees before him and led her to his cock, feeding it into her mouth. Cleo tasted salt and the first deliciously bitter glide of cum. It only made her hungrier and she strove to swallow deeper, devour his stiff, rigid organ.
Hands slid up the backs of her thighs: Jake, returning to the play. He stripped her panties away, nudged her knees apart, lifted her hips and spread her buttocks. The soft, thick length of his tongue parted the folds of her pussy and he licked her in one long, smooth motion.
Cleo gave a rolling moan around the cock in her mouth. Jake’s tongue slid into her, curling, fattening, sampling her generous wet arousal. Each pull of his tongue brought her wilder and wilder pleasure...but she wanted more. She needed more. She was so hungry for it.
When he replaced his tongue with a thick, throbbing cock, Cleo arched her back and let out a wild, raucous cry. His deep thrusts met a taut, tight pussy, and he pumped his hips in a violent measure.
Todd buried his hands in her hair and twisted in the dark curls. He pulled her harder up and down on his cock, grunting and muttering low, vulgar oaths. Each fell on her ears like a new, enticing lure.
When he came, he came in a hard, powerful rush. Hot semen filled her throat and she swallowed in greedy joy. He held her down, refusing to let her up—not that she wanted to. Each throb of cum made her wilder for it. Her hunger screamed for every last inch of his flesh.
When Todd’s orgasm ceased, Jake still thrust into her cunt with furious determination. He seized her by the hair and pulled her back; then his palm closed on the back of her neck and he pushed her down, angling her to the floor. His cock drove hard and deep, firing her pleasure anew with every movement.
“Yes!” she cried. “Come in me! I want it! Come inside me!”
As if that were all he needed, Jake’s fingers dug into her hips and her buried himself fully in her pussy. His cock jerked; then hot, coursing orgasm filled her, pouring into her deepest, hungriest channel.
The climax hit her with such force she felt her whole mind tipping, slewing off-kilter. Hunger blazed in her with a black and yellow ecstasy. She hardly realized what she was doing as she sunk her teeth into Todd’s broad, dark calf, hardly heard him as he started to scream.
Cleo woke to sunlight streaming in the dusty windows of the church, and the sweet white silence telling her the hordes of the dead hadn’t yet begun to stir outside. The taste of blood still filled her mouth. Her ravaging hunger, though, was quiet.
She rolled on her side. Two motionless lumps lay still in the shadows of the shattered pews, lumps which might have been old, forgotten duffel bags, or piles of donated clothes left unsorted. She thought the sight of them would make her ravenous again, and she’d descend on what was left of the two men who had entered the church last night and found her, devouring muscle and flesh. It answered the gnawing, needy cry of her belly, just as their cocks had answered that other yearning. Answered...and at the same time only stirred to greater life. She’d never imagined one could be so full, and yet crave so much, so much more, of cock and cum and blood and flesh. This morning, though, the hunger had finally—for a time, at least—gone silent. Just as the dead outside had done.
Cleo lazily rolled onto her side and pushed herself to her feet. In the sunlight streaming through the stained glass, she caught sight of her reflection in the pane of glass at the head of the church: the divider behind which a choir once sat ever Sunday morning.
She didn’t look like the others. She still had the fresh, animated appearance of a human. When had it happened, then? She wasn’t sure. Only that she could see the white, empty marbles of her eyes, like a blind man’s eyes, and she could see the dark traces of veins along her temples and down her throat. They must be new. No way the two who came in here last night would have let her live if they’d seen such an evolution.
Boy, Cleo thought, rubbing a hand over her belly, now slightly rounder, swollen from the night’s indulgences.
I guess I was starving a lot longer than I thought.