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68 Chapter Sixty Seven - A Date That Ended With A Squeal

    Before the end of the world, Dexter couldn't claim to have been a saint nor did he bother to 'keep himself pure' for marriage or the one.  He fooled around here and there, dated a bit, but there was never anyone serious for him.  In a way, after the end came, he sort of regretted not having experienced a serious relationship and sort of didn't regret.  After all it would have been hard if the wife or girlfriend had turned or not survived the initial zombie attacks.

    But after the set up of the bases, as more and more survivors gathered together, hoping to lean on others in order to help them survive these dark times, one thing became very clear; there were far more men than women now.  No one could say that those who died and rose as monsters were mostly one sex or the other, no one would bother to tally that sort of thing even if it were possible.  However, women had natural disadvantages and during the initial period of 'every man for themselves', who had time to protect others from relentless zombie attacks?

    Dexter wouldn't lie and claim that his initial interest in Autumn wasn't due to the fact that three flowers had suddenly appeared in a garden of evergreens.  She was very much his type, soft, curvy and adorable, making it even more difficult to look away.  But this was the end of the world, he couldn't exactly try to get to know her over dinner, especially as she was the chef!  Plus, there had been so many other things to deal with; making sure they had enough warm clothing and enough food to get them over the Winter, which happened to be exceptionally harsh, dealing with attacks from zombies and undead animals, cultivating in order to be stronger and more fit to survive.  So, getting to know the young woman in a closer manner was pushed to the back of his mind.  But it was never something that went away.

    Amazingly, she shared his feelings and he was ecstatic, only, he now had another problem?  How did one date at the end of the world?

    While he wasn't a saint, he also wasn't some bastard, he wasn't going to sweep her off of her feet and straight into bed.  Autumn deserved more than that.  But it wasn't as if they could go to the movies, buy popcorn and tacos and laugh at corny jokes.

    So, instead after breakfast the following morning, he coaxed her outside for a walk in the gardens of the neighbouring property.

    The garden had grown a bit wild, the weeds as prominent in some places as the shrubs, but there was still some beauty to be found, such as the tulips poking through the foliage and revealing their colours.  Naturally, there were also mutant plants here, but apart from the bladed grass, they were not hostile, just odd looking.  The strangest one was possibly once a hydrangea bush, but as some of the tiny flower buds opened, the resulting petals detached from the stems and fluttered upon the winds towards some weaker looking plants, landing upon them for a moment before returning.  The weaker plants seemed quite drained and dry afterwards, as if the vitality had become a little lost.

    Such a dangerous beauty, like a thorny rose for the new age.  The man and woman walking side by side while holding hands didn't pay much attention to it, however and the fluttering petals avoided them as they danced upon the winds.

    The warmth of Dexter's hand was like a loud bell within Autumn's mind, giving both joy and comfort as well as nervousness.  She hoped her own palms weren't sweating and off putting, she could hardly keep her mind on what he was saying.  Actually, it wasn't much, just small talk for Dexter was just as nervous as she for this first date of theirs.  Her lips curved in realisation and at that moment, he turned to look at her and a wide smile lit up his own rugged face, causing her to blush.

    The gardens were quite extensive, probably just as large or just a bit less than Nathan's gardens, but much more of it was landscaped and given to flora or water features.  There was a large pond, near the rear of the gardens, surrounded by willow trees and ornate shrubs.   The only life it held were water favouring insects, however.  The koi within had all died, reduced to skeletons thanks to a couple that morphed into zombie fish.  Those had been dealt with before winter.

    Autumn glanced upward and noticed that a couple of small birds had made a nest within a tree and were chirping quietly.  This was a hopeful sign.  She hoped there were eggs in the nest and that they would hatch and survive to adulthood.  Dexter followed her gaze and squeezed her hand.

    Suddenly, there was the sound of a large crash ahead of them.  The songbirds flew upwards with a panicked cry, before quickly returning to their nest, ready to protect it and whatever it held.  The two humans beneath them drew closer together, Dexter wrapping one arm around Autumn's midriff, while a ball of plasma began to form in the other.

    Two large, angry eyes glanced over the area, looking at them but losing interest just as quickly.  It's glistening snout snorted and snuffled, before a deep squeal echoed from its large throat and it charged forward and away from them.

    Autumn stared after the hairy, large monster with dripping tusks and tapped Dexter's arm in her fright.  "What... what was that?" She gasped.

    "Not sure," Dexter admitted, though he had a feeling the mutant beast used to be an animal a lot smaller.  That thing rivalled an Indian elephant!  His eyes winced as he looked at the wake of destruction of its path.  "But damn, it **ed up the wall!"

    "The wall?!"  Autumn saw the rubble strewn across the ground with leaves and chunks of hedgerow.  "But, doesn't that mean..."

    Dexter glanced at the hole in their defences and sighed.  "Don't worry about it.  Let's get back to the house.  I figure we'll have to deal with that thing before we worry about anything else right now!"

    *****

    The creature was large, at the peak of its hunched spine it was about eight feet high, it's legs were thick and seemed stubby in comparison to its weighty body, which was made heavier due to the thick dreads of hair covering its form.  It's tail, in comparison was wiry with a tuft of hair upon its tip and its lowered head was adorned with two vicious looking, tusks that curved forward and reached beyond its large snout.

    The walls and hedges that surrounded the three properties and also separated them were not much hindrance to it as it burst through and continued onwards to what it sought.  Neither was the hound that burst into its sight in a sudden swirl of smoke, growling at it.

    It stepped back a pace, then recalling that it was not the little swine it had once been, squealed loudly at the ferocious beast, screaming that it was no longer afraid.  It swung its tusked snout, trying to catch the canine off guard, but the beast vanished into fog, before reappearing a few paces away, snapping its jaws loudly.  The mutant flicked its tail in disdain before stomping forward again.

    It fended off the hounds attacks again and again as it continued on, squealing once more in frustration, before its tusks hit the next barrier, another wall.  This wall was not of earth, but its foundations were and the strain of the ground which moved beneath it caused a breech, which its hard tusks easily dealt with.  Its eyes swirled with madness as its nose caught hold of the heavenly scent once more.  Its wild ancestors were omnivores, but it recalled that it had been raised by humans and the mixed feed given was a balance of grain and vegetables.  However, as it snuffled about in the trough, fighting with the others for the best bits, it used to have its own favourite.  It didn't know what it was called, but Nathan did.

    "No!" He cried out as the large, ugly thing dove its big fat nose into the bed of radishes, that were ready for harvest.  "Stop it!"  The thing squealed at him and he instantly fell to his knees covering his ears, the sound was just too painful!  A shadow fell over his crouched form, he glanced up to see the long mane of silken black draping down like a cloak from the confident frame and suddenly felt safe.

    Ren Zexian withdrew his sword, sheltering his lover, ready to fight this monster should it attack.  However it was too interested in stuffing its face with their vegetables.  Ren Zexian frowned, naturally he realised that this was not a good thing.  "Master?" Chang Min appeared beside him.  Ren Zexian nodded and Chang Min began to alter the earth beneath the creatures stubby legs to entrap it.

    However, they had not banked on the fact that it could shake the hardening soil away as if it was no moment.  The two Cultivators frowned.  Ren Zexian glanced down at Nathan, worriedly, but his brave, sweet Nathan tugged at his robes and whispered; "The plants."  Ren Zexian smiled and inwardly sighed.

    "Look after him," he instructed Chang Min and threw a fire ball at the creature.  The scent of burnt hair filled the air and the created shrieked in pain, it's mad eyes whirling.  Its already bent back lowered further as it pawed the ground and began to charge at Ren Zexian.  The cultivator dodged with ease, side stepping and using swift movement to create a distance, before taunting the beast with fire once more.  The mutant was not the same as it once was, but it was also not much different.  Yes it was bigger, tougher and more monstrous than its former self, but it was not all that smart.  Ren Zexian easily drew it away from Nathan's vegetable gardens before he attacked.

    The beasts hide proved to be tough, however, his sharp blade struggled to penetrate it, Dexter's lightning did not hinder it and no earth attacks only slowed it a bit, as it also had this ability.  The fight became prolonged, the creature covered in shallow cuts and singed hair, but not weakened, instead swinging its snout crazily and destructively.  Tyler crept over with Patrick.  Neither considered themselves fit or dumb enough to fight the monster head on, they could only attempt their attacks from a distance.

    Patrick forced the beast down, using gravity to hold it and Chang Min took advantage to reinforce this hold with clay and rock.  Tyler then formed a large bubble of water and surrounded the beast's large head.  It was a cruel death and it was not swift, but they could not be kind to a monster that threatened their food supply and destroyed their haven.

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    Finally, the mad light in the beast's eyes faded and its struggle ended.

    The men gasped for air, grasping their chests, for with the exception of the two Cultivators, this sort of thing they were not at ease with.  In contrast, it was easier to kill zombies as in reality, they were already dead.  This beast had been a living creature.

    Nathan, who'd been lead away by Autumn in the end, came out to see the monster, checking to see that it was dead so it could no longer harm his precious garden.  Satisfied, he wandered over to Ren Zexian and wrapped his arms about the other's chest.  Ren Zexian smiled over his stickiness, gentle running his fingers through Nathan's hair, before leading him away from the corpse.

    Patrick curled his legs into a sitting position and leaned forward, hand on his chin, listening as Dexter spoke to Chang Min about the lost walls.  His eyes fell upon the beast and he finally took a good look at it.  "Say," he said out loud.  "Doesn't this thing kind of resemble a wild boar?"

    "Wild boar?" Tyler tilted his head, thinking over it.  "Wait, isn't that like a pig?"

    Suddenly everyone's eyes were on the dead creature.
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