The Grinding

The Grinding by Matt Dinniman

Book: The Grinding by Matt Dinniman Read Free Book Online
Authors: Matt Dinniman
woman stepping toward him, and she went down. The
others pounced, and the dogs barked and growled and jumped, acting very
dog-like and un-zombie-like, which I thought was strange. All these people,
these animals, were no longer connected to the creature, yet they still worked for
it, which was scary as hell.
    I looked out the back of the Jeep as Randy revved
the engine, trying to free us. We were getting nowhere. and the noisy revving
made me nervous. “Stop that shit,” I hissed. “You’re attracting attention to
us.”
    We were too damned scared to get out and jack up
the Jeep. We watched as the people threw the soldier onto the ground and
violently disarmed him. They dragged him, kicking and screaming back toward the
beast, close enough for a tentacle to reach down and pick him up. Like before,
he froze the moment the arm came into contact with his face. Some of the human
drones and all of the dog ones remained detached.
    (Look, I don’t know what else to call them as I
explain this shit to you. They weren’t really zombies like how you’d think. I
mean, the soldier had shot one, and she’d dropped like a bowling ball. An
undead zombie would’ve eaten the bullets and kept coming. This was more like Invasion of the Body Snatchers . Pod
People. Drones, working for a singular entity. So that’s what I’m going with.)
    Anyway, the scene was disturbing on a gut level.
They were all so systematic, so deliberate in their gruesome tasks. The dog
drones pulled the bodies of their fallen human brethren back into the reach of
the Grinder. Other human drones swarmed the crashed Humvee, working together to
flip it over. They organized and talked with one another. They acted normal.
They managed to flip it over, and they pulled out the remaining soldiers, all
of whom appeared dead. They knelt and rifled through their bodies, and they
took their weapons.
    They left the corpses of the other soldiers on the
road. One of the drones climbed into the back of the truck and took position at
the gun, fiddling with it while the others pushed the vehicle into the waiting
mass of the Grinder. A gaping, dripping hole appeared in the side of the
Grinder to swallow the truck, and it ate it whole.
    “That is some of the most fucked-up shit I’ve ever
seen.”
    That was Royce. He whispered it, the fear evident
in his voice.
    I had a more practical question. “Why did they
leave the dead soldiers, but keep their own dead?”
    “I don’t know, man,” he said. He just shook his
head. “Fucked up…”
    The Grinder was eerily still. The sound of gunfire
rang in the distance, ching-ching-ching ,
like a thousand blacksmiths working at once. Even in the car, the air smelled
of sulfur and oil. I suspected the soldiers in the Humvees acted in concert,
and they had attacked from several angles at once. And as we waited, similar
scenes were playing out on nearby streets that also flanked the side of the
beast. Above, the planes had backed off.
    On the street, the dogs still dragged bodies back
to the Grinder. Once a body got there, an attached body reached down and
touched the corpse. Nothing happened at first, but after a few moments, the
dead bodies jerked up and disappeared into the mass, moving in that fast,
staccato way I had seen earlier, like they were controlled by a puppeteer in a
hurry to take a break for a piss.
    The dogs came out again, and they started to pull
at another form on the ground, dragging it back.
    It was a pig missile. Another one was crashed on
the asphalt near the destroyed Humvee, and a third—
    “ Oh, shit ,”
I said.
    The third remained on the ground—outside my
door.
    “We gotta run for it,” I said. “They’re headed
toward us. They’re going to see or hear or smell us...”
    “This was a bad idea,” Royce said. He picked up
one of the black duffel bags and put it over his neck. They scooted over and
opened the passenger-side door, the one facing away from the Grinder. Randy
grabbed the second bag. They

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