“We’re about to have a real problem on our hands, Philip,” Tiberius said.
“I know,” Philip nodded. “I know.”
The two Centurions stood over the main gate of the encampment that had originally belonged to the Second Egyptian Auxiliary Cohort and which the Third Cohort of the Seventeenth Legion now called home, too. The Sun was just beginning to peek over the Eastern horizon and Jerusalem appeared to be at peace. Its citizens would soon emerge from their homes for the first time in a day and a half to begin their week, however. Many would undoubtedly find out the hard way that the walking dead occupied the streets of their city.
Philip and Tiberius had retreated to Philip’s camp the previous day. Philip had brought his cohort through completely intact while only the First, Fourth, and Sixth Centuria of the Third Cohort, who had been deployed outside of the Prefect’s palace, could say the same. The Second Centuria had lost twenty of its eighty men, while the Third and Fifth had both lost about thirty. That left approximately thirteen hundred men against, potentially, an entire city. The odds were not in their favor.
That was not the only bad news. After the men had returned from the graveyard the previous morning Philip had ordered Kosmas to report to the infirmary. He soon developed a fever and about six hours later had become a shambler. One of the guards assigned to watch him had crushed his skull with the butt end of his hasta before Kosmas could do any damage, but the lesson was chilling: even light wounds meant the man who received them had to be killed before he, too, became a shambler.
“Maybe we can find some answers at the graveyard,” Philip suggested.
“I don’t know. But it can’t hurt to check.”
Tiberius thought about it for a minute. “You're right. It can’t hurt,” he finally said. “And the trip will take you away from the city, so it will minimize the danger.”
Half an hour later Philip had assembled his First, Second, Seventh, and Ninth Centuria at the gate of the camp. They quickly and warily set off down the road to the graveyard. It was a short trip, marked only by a quick stop to make sure Gennadios’ corpse had remained where they’d left it. It had.
The graveyard itself had not been so promising, however. The soldiers found the place silent and deserted. Most of the shattered stones from the earthquakes had been moved far enough away to leave the caves they covered unblocked. The lack of movement and noise indicated the shamblers had made the most of their new-found freedom. That meant there were dozens -- or possibly hundreds -- of shamblers loose in Jerusalem.
Philip ordered his men to break in to squads and search for anything that might help them understand what was happening. A few minutes later one of his squads ran up to him escorting a pair of women.
“They have news,” the men reported.
“What is it?” Philip asked. “Who are you?”
“I am Mary,” the older woman said, “My son was executed two days ago, but I just spoke to him. He lives!”
“You…spoke to him?” Philip asked.
“What did he say?”
“He said, ‘Be not afraid,’” she replied.
“He didn’t…attack you or anything?”
“No,” she snorted as if such a suggestion was completely absurd, “Why would my own son attack me?”
“We’ve, um, we’ve been seeing some interesting things,” Philip replied.
“Can’t be more interesting than the dead coming back to life,” Mary replied.
Philip nodded, “That’s more true than you could possibly understand,” he said. “Now, can you tell me where you saw your son?”
Mary pointed down one of the paths. “He’s over there,” she said.
“Thank you, Ma’am.” Philip pointed to the entrance of the graveyard. “Some of my soldiers are over there. Please go see them and they can escort you home.”
“That’s not necessary,” Mary replied.
“Oh, I think it is.”
Philip ordered the men that had brought the two women to him to follow, then headed down the path Mary had pointed out. A minute later they found themselves in front of an open tomb. This one, however, had not opened because of the earthquake. The stone was intact, just rolled to the side.
“What do we do now?” one of the soldiers asked.
“We investigate, I guess,” Philip replied. He took a step forward, then stopped abruptly. A man dressed all in white appeared before him suddenly.
“Be not afraid,” the man said.
“No,” Philip shook his head, “Fuck that, be very afraid. The dead are walking.”
“I know,” the man said. “It is okay.”
Philip suddenly realized who he was looking at. “You’re Yeshua,” he said, “I escorted you from the High Priest’s palace to the Prefect’s palace.”
“I am,” Yeshua responded, “I am indeed.”
“Do you know what has been going on?”
“Yes,” Yeshua nodded. “You have been caught in an unfortunate fight.”
Yeshua nodded again. “You seem like a kind soul,” he said, “Unlike most of the soldiers the Romans have sent to this place. You were certainly kinder to me than any of the other soldiers I saw over the past few days. So I feel sorry that you have been caught in this fight.”
“Can you,” Philip hesitated, unsure of whether or not to even ask the question, “Can you stop this fight?”
“Yes,” Yeshua nodded, “Of course. I am off to do exactly that.”
With that Yeshua disappeared just as suddenly as he had appeared. Philip turned back to his men. He began to ask them if they had seen what he had just seen when he was distracted by the sound of a galloping horse.
“Who is that?” he yelled at the rider.
A moment later the horseman revealed himself. A small Jewish man rounded the corner on a large, black charger. He pulled the horse to a stop just in front of Philip.
“Did you see him?” the man asked. "Did you stop him?"
“Did I stop who?”
“Yeshua.” The man said. “He must be stopped.”
“Wait, what?” Philip asked, confused. “Explain yourself, man.”
The little man dismounted from his horse and walked up to Philip. “I am Joseph,” he said, “Joseph of Arimathea. I had Yeshua put in my own personal grave because I knew that he would arise and try to take command of his army of the undead. I was hoping that the grave would hold him, but it appears I was wrong.”
“Um…” Philip paused, unsure of how to reply. “I did just speak to him,” he finally said. “He told me he’s going to stop this fight.”
“Yes,” Joseph nodded, “He’s going to stop this fight by killing everyone in Jerusalem and turning them all in to his slaves. We have to stop him before he does that.”