Besides, he was well armed, a rapier on one side, a short sword on the other, and feathered armor made to match the hawklike nature of his headgear. And with his concealed identity, he was a well armed stranger.
It would not do.
But it was Anton the Host who had invited him, and that was the only reason that the Hawkman was still present. If not for his influence, they would have forced him to remove his mask or immediately would have had him cast out without a morsel to eat. But Anton said he was to stay, and so he stayed.
Everyone wanted to ask him why he wore the mask, but in their anxiety they all restrained themselves and tried to content themselves with the food and idle conversation.
"The weather has taken a turn for the better, I'd say," said Markus the Stalwart.
"I hear they've discovered gold in the north," said Ulysses the Tall.
"This blowfin steak is superb," said Timothy the Hungry.
Yet the room bore in the air a tension that would not fade, like lines of live wire stretched taut across the room. Everyone had noticed that the Hawkman was not eating.
"Sir, I'm afraid I didn't catch what your name was," Lucille the Delicate said to him.
The chatter ceased, and everyone turned to face him. The ticking of the grandfather clock at the far end of the room counted to five, but he gave no answer.
"Please, my friends," said Anton the Host, "our honored guest's background makes necessary a most unusual measure of privacy. Suffice to say that he simply cannot share his name with you at this time."
Timothy changed the subject. "Might someone pass me some more of that turquoise shelltart. It's incredi-"
"Why do you wear the mask!?" Markus blurted out.
Anton stood to his feet. "Markus! This is outrageous! Silence yourself!"
The Hawkman turned his head and faced Markus the Stalwart directly. The Stalwart, though unable to see the other's eyes in the darkness behind the hawk mask, felt momentarily less stalwart, as though the Hawkman's gaze had skewered his heart through a gap in his steel breastplate. Nevertheless, Markus stood to his feet.
"I demand to know who you are, what you want, and why you wear that ridiculous mask!"
Anton started to speak, but he knew that the merriment of the party was gone and could not be restored. He looked at the Hawkman anxiously to see what he would do.
The Hawkman stood to his feet and seemed about to say something, but suddenly he cocked his head as though listening intently. Instantly, he reached for the rapier at his side and leaped over the table.
Amidst the startled cries of the other dinner guests, Markus drew his own rapier and made to thrust it into the Hawkman's chest, but his opponent was much too fast. The Stalwart thought that he was doomed, but the Hawkman ignored his threat and darted past him toward the front door.
The door burst inward, landing flat on the floor. A mass of animate yellow headed corpses came pouring through from the darkness outside. The man in the hawk mask lunged and put his rapier's point into the left eye of the first one inside. Momentarily phased, it shook its head violently, wrenching the sword from the Hawkman's hand, and it continued racing forward. The swordsman retreated, drawing his short sword from his other side.
"Zombies!" cried Anton. The others began screaming and standing to their feet, but the corpses seemed not the least bit slowed by death. In an instant, the zombies had set upon Timothy and Ulysses, the two nearest the door.
Timothy's neck became a crimson fountain as the monster's teeth sank in. His mouth flew open with gurgled screaming, bits of his dinner flying from his mouth and intermingling with his blood. Ulysses began trying to pummel their attackers with his long arms, but soon the zombies began to chew upon his limbs, and he fainted in weakness.
The Hawkman guided his short sword through the necks of two of the monsters. Their heads flew across the room, one of them landing in the roast hamturkey, and their bodies slunk to the floor.
"We can kill them!" the Hawkman shouted, lunging toward another corpse.
"There's too many of them!" cried Markus, smashing a zombie's head with the hilt of his rapier. "We must retreat!"
The Hawkman decapitated another of the monsters and leaped backwards from another's groping hands. "We have hope until you stop fighting! Keep fighting!"
But Markus the Stalwart turned and ran to the window at the back of the house. Lucille the Delicate tried to follow him there, but a zombie grabbed her from behind and quickly loosed the blood from her neck. She screamed and fell to the ground.
"Damn you, coward!" the Hawkman shouted. "They cannot be infinite!"
"Die alone if you wish," Markus said and disappeared through the window.
Anton the Host fled up the stairs, and the Hawkman followed him. He sliced off another of the zombie's heads before following Anton into the bedroom, locking the door behind him.
"What are they?" asked the Hawkman.
Anton caught his breath and answered. "They're zombies. The living dead. They won't rest until they cover the earth."
They heard banging and growling on the other side of the door.
"Why are they here?"
"I don't know," said Anton. "They do have a commander, but I don't know who he is. Perhaps if we find him, we can put an end to it."
The Hawkman stood thinking. "I will find him."
The banging continued.
"How did they destroy the front door?" asked the Hawkman.
"I don't know that either, but it means that we don't have much time," said Anton, making his way across the room to the window. "Perhaps we can escape down the far side of the hill."
He opened the window and climbed out onto the side of the house.
The door burst open, and zombies poured through. Backing slowly from the horde, the Hawkman cleaved another two of their heads off.
Anton turned, saw the zombies, turned again too quickly, and fell shouting to the ground below.
The Hawkman killed another zombie and leaped through the window. He spread two great wings from the sides and back of his armor and glided softly to the ground. He looked around for Anton, but then he heard a scream.
He turned and saw a group of zombies descending upon the Host. He rushed toward them and sliced one of their heads off, but the others turned toward him, and he was forced to retreat.
The Hawkman leaped into the air and used his wings to propel himself to the roof of the house.
For a moment, the relative peace on the roof was almost serene, as though the zombies were but part of a dream. He looked around himself and saw an immense valley to the east. To the west...
Nothing but fire. The entire countryside in the distance was ablaze. How had they not noticed its glow during dinner?
He heard growling at his feet. The zombies were now clambering up onto the edge of the rooftop.
The Hawkman sprinted to the east side of the house, jumped toward the darkness, and flapped his wings downward as hard as he could. He spread his wings out on either side, gliding over the valley, leaving the zombies behind him.
The growling of the monsters became louder behind him, but then they began to fade. Soon it was completely quiet.
He knew that he was losing altitude, as he could not actually fly, but only glide, but the valley floor continued to descend away from him, producing the illusion that he was rising. He continued to glide as far as he could, hoping to put as much distance between himself and the zombies as possible.
After a long time, he began to see footprints in the ground far below. At first they were quite small, almost invisible, but to his astonishment he began to see larger and larger tracks. The feet that had produced the largest of them had to have been about the size of a small tool shed.
Finally, he touched down at the edge of a river at the valley basin.
He turned. In the darkness, he could not see the house, even with the fire burning beyond it. How far had he gone?
The Hawkman began to make his way south along the river, and soon, he came to a house built upon a wooden platform over the water. He crossed a wooden bridge and came to the doorway.
There was a sheet of paper beside the door. Looking at it, he realized that it was a guestbook. He scanned the list of names.
His own name was on it. A name from another time. He'd been here before, decades ago.
He took the pen and scratched his name out until it could not possibly be read.
The door opened, and appearing in the doorway was a humanoid with the features of an insect, an ant. He walked on two feet and held a cup of tea with one of four arms.
"I knew I heard someone out here," he said.
"Ant-Z," said the Hawkman.
"Come in. It's just me and the missus right now."
The Hawkman made his way in.
"You look like shit."
"Feel like it, too."
~ ~ ~
I feel as though the above is probably poorly written. Oh well. I had a lot to write, and I didn't want to take too long. I don't dream about zombies often. In fact, this might be the first time. But I thought it was an interesting dream, so I put it down on paper.
Not sure what else to say so I'll just stop.