The Corpse-Eater approacheth! How does your character avoid getting torn to pieces by her malicious ravens? Will they bear scars from the experience?
"Coyote and Corpse Eater"
It would have, in many ways, been a less cruel fate if Squirrel had managed to keep him with the rest of the herd.
Squirrel and Moose may have evolved to higher level of consciousness than those they traveled with, but that remained to be seen. Upon leaving Concord they had taken a snake's course into the woods. That is to say they went wherever it was Squirrel decided they should go, and virtually hour by hour she proved unable to make up her worm-food mind. In the end she and moose had driven them as far as White Mountain National Park before they began dropping.
The herd had been modest in the beginning. The easily rounded up bundled into a nice little road package for her (and perhaps Moose) to indulge in while they made an inexplicable trek northward. By the time they made it to the park, however, the weather was unbearable. The last 95 miles had been hellish. Now, there could be no 'ish' negotiated. Hell had frozen over and jutted up in the middle of New Hampshire just for her majesty.
Squirrel took inventory of her options. Between the rocky terrain, thick forests, and the combination of brutal cold and deep snow she (and Moose) had shed too much fodder. They did so at with as much thought as a dog gives to losing undercoat, but now that she looked upon the shadows and bones of what there was left to eat and attempted with great strain and ill-logic to calculate the next time they might run up against the living she was forced to make yet another questionable decision. In the early morning she took off. The wind was right.
She lowered her goggles, took in a brief breath of the frozen air. It went down like razor blades, but she opened her flaps.
"Squirrel? Whacha doin'?"
The branches shook. Needles and snow dropped onto and around the dumbfounded Moose. He watched her shape retreating into the distance for minutes. She was a skeleton, membrane stretched taught between bones to the point that the entire creature was almost translucent, and she disappeared into a shade before Moose's brain could communicate to his hooves that they must follow. Thick, long appendages plunging through the frost. Antlers brushing the bottoms of trees and a dumb, bellowing trumpet often rolling out of his throat as he disappeared away through the forest. It would have been sad, if it weren't also a relief.
They were alone, the poor dumb things. Sugars, miraculously, and about five other physically disabled undead. Not all were as injured as our armless protagonist, but several wandered without eyes, a lower jaw, or a hand. For the first long while their burgeoning co-ordination was completely forfeit to snow and cold. None of them went streaking about hither and yon. Most of them, in fact, collapsed from exhaustion and were buried by snow than ever got the chance to run or jump to any degree.
He got close. He fell off a number of craggy outcroppings and reached some impressive speeds while falling. Lying faced own in mounds of the cold white stuff that was when he got the idea. Maybe it can't be called an idea when it comes from the dead. Maybe when a mound of worms and working a mind like a puppet with bailing twine for string and innovation has to be knocked back to something more base than the noble idea. Maybe he just evolved. Natural selection set in. Growth. Change.
Trees. Those who could started moving through the trees. Three. Out of the ten left by Moose and Squirrel and the perhaps hundred who had left Concord it was only three who made it this far. Our boy. Climbing, jumping and swinging became their means of locomotion for the next sixty miles of travel. They developed rudimentary ambush tactics. They developed into a rather effective little squadron. An immeasurable amount of time passed by. Foraging. Hunting. When prey was too large or too rare they converted to carrion. They almost never forsake the trees for the ground.
But that is where we find him. Collapsed, unmoving, in the new born shadow of a cedar. The sun is rising, setting alight the entire world in brisk white fire. Our scene includes with it the loud sounds of chewing. Voracious smecking and gulping as meat passes whole by sharp teeth and disappears down the coyote's throat in loud gulps. It goes in to take another mouthful of extraneous meat from the pelvic/abdominal region or our zombie. Flesh and sinew separate as it worried its blood-smeared head. Occasionally the lean, starving beast is taken by is starvation so strongly it growls. Growls at nothing. Or, perhaps it knows. Ears twitch.
He wraps an arm around the creature in an attempt to keep it from fleeing. He bites its back legs as it struggles. The other two begin a barrage of attacks. Claws. Bites. One with no lower jaw begins to strangle while our boy desperately bit at the creatures soft underbelly. He demanded, violently, the a return favor for the meal he'd given the furry beast. The fee was blood, and within moments the animal was burst like a blood balloon with a surprise treat of hot entrails slopping into the snow. The coyote, only mostly dead, mewls to be finished as the three desperate ghouls shovel fistfuls of smoulder, slick meat into their mouths. As little meat as can be grabbed from a fellow predator they greedily consume it. Fists into the carcass now pulling at and snapping brittle coyote bones with the full application of their strength. Our boy has begun to get a foot into it when the sound erupts.
It is like thunder. The sound of pure destruction unleashed. It lasts for only a fraction of a thought and then vanishes. Two zombies lift their heads. Paused. Another flops forward into the snow. The others observe it has no head to lift. He pumps more blood onto the snow and without looking for the source of this unexplained head destruction the remaining survivors flee. Trees begin to explode around them. Once friends become curious foes as parts of their trunks shatter apart into wooden splinters. Twice our boy tried to lift himself and twice he is startled from his climb by these constant explosions.
He takes another, much shorted tumble to land stomach down in the snow and when he looks he sees the face of thunder. It had only eyes great and orange but no face. It showed no ears and had no claws. It did not growl, nor hackle, nor bark nor scream. It simply stood amidst the trees on two firm legs and pointed in his direction some long and curious metal finger. Behind her, a black tornado was gathering. It spoke. With a thousand voices it cried all at once. Condemned. Fluttered. The black feathers of birds it had consumed were tossed into the bright air.
He peels his lips back, teeth exposed, in a gesture of hostility whose effect he cannot predict. He is angry and afraid, perhaps, but cannot yet think to run. The tornado begins to break apart, and for a moment he feels something akin to victory. Then, of course, his partner is struck and falls to the ground from the tree in which he'd taken refuge. It thumps to the ground, only visibly injured at first. The orange-eyed one points at him, and then the tornado closes in.
From all sides at once an assault of daggers. Gashes across the skin occur so fast it is as if the undead flesh can no longer be bothered to sustain itself and so splits at every seam. He feels the million beaks across his arms and his back and understands in his way instantly that the blackness surrounding him is birds. He crumbles briefly to the side, preventing them quite accidentally from assaulting him on the one side. They constant attacks on his coiled back shove him forward. Desperation drives him to the tree.
Nub tucked. One hand grasping. He falls.
On his back he lies, the assault him until he is again crawling on knees and with a single forearm. Struggling he crawls blindly until there is another tree. Coiling, whining, he attempts to climb again. He gets high enough to brace his feet and have the entirety of himself hoisted when his feet are knocked loose. He grips, struggles, and is dropped back into the snow.
This cycle continues. It is unbearable. The farther he gets the smaller the hurricane, but the struggle does not lessen. When he finally makes it into a tree, the birds spy a weakness. One of them, then two, dive beneath the zombie's belly as he is buckled over for a jump. They grabbed onto the small, half flaccid ribbon of exposed intestine peeking out from the zombies abdomen and attempted to fly off with it. The problem with that is that not only was there a large amount of intestinal tract for the birds to festoon the forest in but also the tract was not particularly willing to be jerked from its host. Stuck fast it first ripped itself from the beak of the birds who held it, allowing the zombie to make a less than deft leap from one tree to another.
More birds. More resistance. He is drawn back to earth.
As he goes to make another jump there are, this time, enough winged devils and the zombie is both flipped over and thrown back to the snow. They dive in for more guts. Batted away by a single flailing arm. The snow becomes a rich play of red. Bits of meat are scattered about as the birds snip and snipe his internal pieces. They dive at him in a constant, vertical wheel. He climbs once more, higher, and resolves to wait.
The birds are there. They are there for hours. For the first long while they continue to dive in at him, but he has turned his back and is simply hugging tightly to the trunk. His guts hang low, the birds continue to pick. After what maybe hours of continuous and noise assault their numbers begin to diminish. Disinterest. Displacement. Domesticity. All but a smattering leave the empty beast clinging. Those who remain, remain to feed until late in the afternoon.
They are watched. A glimmer deep in glazed, dead eyes. An idea. The dead do not have ideas.