Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Halloween Tale


They jogged down the street with their weapons held tight. He had a 9mm he'd taken from a twice-killed cop and she had a fire axe she'd grabbed from a fire station they'd broken into a few days ago. It was strange to think the world had ended only a week ago.

He glanced at her, with her brown hair cut short and her eyes alert but tired. They were both tired. They hadn't been able to stop running for awhile.

The sun dipped below the horizon. They'd need to find shelter and soon.

A nearby house stood with a slight lean, faded yellow paint and the windows broken out. He pointed. She nodded.

They scanned the area before darting across the street and up the porch steps. They put their shoulders to either side of the door and looked at each other. With a nod, he pulled open the door and stepped inside.

The first thing he noticed was the smell. Rotting flesh. He took a couple steps in, gun raised, checking rooms. She followed behind, making sure nothing could sneak up on them.

He cleared the kitchen and stepped around an island countertop. Something lifted its head from its kneeling position, looking up. A blond woman with stringy hair, sunken eyes and bloody mouth. Its eyes were red. It moaned. He put the gun to its forehead and pulled the trigger without thinking. The gun jerked. The head snapped back and the body fell.

"Hell?" She asked, moving into the kitchen. "What happened to not wasting ammo or making noise?"

He shook his head and shrugged. "Sorry. Just happened."

She sighed. "Let's clear this place and quick."

A moan came from upstairs along with heavy footsteps.

"Come on," she whispered, walking to the carpeted stairs.

He followed.

The stairs went up to a short landing, jack-nifed and then went up to the second floor. A heavy old guy with its eyes on the man and woman in the kitchen staggered down to the landing and hitting the wall.

"I got it," she said, taking a couple steps slowly and carefully, axe held with white knuckles.

Another moan came from upstairs and the railing creaked.

She looked up as a body dropped on top of her.

"Fuck!" The man yelled.

The body hit the stairs and slid down. The woman fell near the landing and didn't move.

The heavy creature standing on the stairs crouched and grabbed the woman's hair, pulling her head up to his mouth.

Without a thought the man raised and fired. The creature tipped, falling onto its back on the landing.

The man breathed a sigh of relief.

The body that fell grabbed his ankles and yanked.

He fell, banging the back of his head against the tiled kitchen floor and losing the gun.

The creature, a young man once perhaps, now a snarling beast, crawled on top of the man. He struggled, dazed, trying to keep the things mouth away from him until an axe split the things head in twain. It stopped moving and the man pushed it off him, gasping for breath.

The woman stood, bloody axe in her hands, eyes wide.

They looked at each other for a moment. There was no point in asking if either was alright. Of course they weren't.

"Me neither."

She gave him a hand up. "How many bullets you got left in that thing?"

He checked. "Three."

She nodded. "Let's finish it."

They cleared the rest of the house, glancing out windows and noticing movement outside. Their noise had drawn attention.

They moved quickly, searching the place for food and supplies. They found an old can of beans and a box of band aids, that was it. They slipped out the back while zombies broke down the front door.

The sun hung lower in the sky, a darkening purple leaching out across the blue sky.

They snuck from the house down the street a few blocks before sitting and taking a rest.

"We need shelter," he said.

"I saw something in the house. Picture of a school. I think its nearby."

"A school?"

"Might be a decent place. It was summer still is summer. Probably weren't many people in the school when the shit hit the fan. Could be safe."

He nodded. "Maybe food in the cafeteria too."

She nodded back.

"Good idea."

They headed through the town looking for the elementary school. They moved furtively, not down the street but through the backyards of houses, over fences and behind buildings, staying hidden as much as possible.

Meanwhile, he thought about her. He didn't know her name and she didn't know his. They hadn't known each other before the end of the world and they'd both decided it'd be better if they just didn't get attached in any particular way. They helped each other survive and that was that.

They'd been part of a larger group before, but that'd all gone to hell when a group of unliving had found them while they'd been sleeping. Whoever had been supposed to be watching had fallen asleep and the monsters had fallen upon the living like it a fresh meat buffet. In the chaos, he'd run into her and they'd escaped together.

They'd come to trust each other though. You couldn't survive together these days without saving each others' lives a few times. They depended on each other, they were comfortable, that was enough.

The school loomed up on a hill surrounded by sports fields and a short chain link fence. They spotted one lone body, wandering the field without purpose. They quietly went over the fence and up to it. She felled it in one clean blow.

Past the fields lay the back parking lot of the school, a few vehicles here and there, sitting abandoned, an ambulance, a town dump truck, 4-door sedans and a minivan here and there. Left to rust forever in the after-days of the apocalypse?

They spotted no movement and jogged to the back door as only the last dregs of sunlight remained. Darkness swiftly arrived, a pale half moon glowing above.

The back double door had a heavy chain wrapped around the handles but no lock. Must have been a rush job. It held the doors but all you had to do was loosen the chain and unwrap it, leaving the handles free.

They looked at each other, nodded. She would be first this time. They switched who went first every time, just to be fair.

He gripped a handle and pulled one door open. She watched, waiting. Nothing came. She entered.

He followed, wiping sweat from his brow.

The halls within were dark with shadows. Lockers lined the blue-and-white-tiled walls. They shut the doors behind them and the dark hall became impenetrable. A disgusting aroma filled his nostrils.

"Light?" He whispered.


They waited. Slowly, their eyes adjusted to the darkness to the extent they could see the vague shape of the hall. Nothing moved.

She moved forward, step by step, often stopping for minutes at a time, listening.

"Sign," she said.

He pulled a little penlight out and flicked the light on briefly, illuminating the sign. It had two arrows pointing opposite ways in a hall that crossed their own. Beside the two arrows were the words "Cafeteria" and "Gym." He turned the light off and they waited for their eyes to adjust again. They continued.

They came to the cafeteria without incident. The man could feel his pulse quickening. Nothing could be this easy. Nothing had been this easy. It made sense though, it was summer, the school could have been totally empty when the infection hit. It was possible. It could be untouched. But then, why was it locked? What was the smell?

They opened the door and peeked in. There were windows in the far wall but they appeared to have been covered up, moonlight only showing faintly around the edges. The large space within lay shrouded in shadow, impossible to discern anything.

They waited.

"Light," she whispered.

He pulled out a heavy Maglight which would illuminate the room much better than the penlight.

He turned it on. His eyes widened.

"Oh shit," she whispered.

Hundreds of stretchers stood in rows within. Dark smears covered the walls and floor. The stench seemed to spill out of the room, decomposing flesh mixed with human waste and blood, nearly overwhelming.

Bodies. Corpses covered the stretchers and the floor. All dead.

He vomited, causing the light to jerk up and down. He realized what must have happened. The school hadn't been deserted, it'd been turned into a temporary infirmary of sorts after the infection hit. He'd known hospitals had filled past capacity in many places and so other buildings had been used. They'd run into the worst possible place they could have.

They heard scuffling. He turned the light. One of the bodies was looking at them and crawling slowly across the floor. Other bodies were standing up, looking towards the door. A low moan could be heard from hundreds of voices. One scrambled quicker than the others, hurtling toward them on all fours.

He shot it in the face. It fell. The gunshot rang out around them.

"Gethefuckouttahere!" The woman yelled.

They both turned and ran. He kept the light in front of them, illuminating their path. He saw discarded medical trash littering the hall, blood smears on the floor, little things they couldn't have seen when the light was off.

They tried to get to the back door. The moaning behind them grew louder and they could hear bare feet slapping the cold tile of the floor.

They must have missed the turn. He saw a pair of blue double doors lying open and the gymnasium within. More stretchers, more bodies.

"Shitshitshitshitshitshitshit," he said. His heart thudded in his ears as the footsteps behind them grew louder and zombies began pouring out of the gym. "We're fucked." A corpse charged them and he dropped it with a bullet, his ears ringing.

"Here!" She shouted to his right.

He turned.

She was at a classroom door, fiddling with a stuck doorknob. She jerked it open and flung herself inside.

He followed as hands grasped at the pack on his back. He turned and put his hand against the door to shut it closed.

A creature pushed her head inside the room, her hair fallen out, her eyes bug wild and her teeth exposed.

He felt a pain in his arm and dropped the flashlight.

The woman was there, swinging the axe into the corpses' face. It fell back. He shut the door and locked it as fists banged against it.

The dropped flashlight illuminated the both of them, gasping for breath. They looked at each other. They both saw the blood drip. They both saw the bite at the same time.


She raised the axe.

The gun went off.

She fell back.

His body shook.

He put his back to the door and slid down to the floor. He could hear the dead outside. The door shook from their blows.

Her body lay just outside the pool of light. He saw blood seeping out in a dark pool beneath her.

He closed his eyes, took a deep breath. He checked the gun, knowing it was empty. It was. He looked at the bite, still bleeding, the skin red around it. He looked away.

Questions assaulted him. Was he feeling differently or was that his imagination, because of what he knew was coming? How long would it take? How would it feel?

He wished things had been differently. Why had he fired? He should have let her kill him. there was nothing.

He stood and went over to her body. He went through her pockets. He found a wallet in her back pocket. He brought it into the light.

Her name was Anne Mary-Smith, 32 years old, brown hair, brown hair, 5'9'', 140 lbs. His hand that held the license shook. Nerves or...something else? He put the license in his pocket.

He pulled his pack off his back. Inside was a shirt which he ripped and wrapped around the bite and tied tightly. It wouldn't matter but he couldn't think of anything else to do.

He picked up the flashlight and surveyed the room. A large classroom filled with desks, all stacked against the far wall. A blackboard took up most of a wall and a large wooden desk sat in front of it.

He went over and sat on the desk. He pulled out the license and looked at it. The picture looked very different from the woman he'd known, younger, happier, smiling about something. He wasn't sure he'd ever seen her smile.

He jerked, falling off the desk. His body shook uncontrollably.

He gasped for breath, coming back. He reached up to the top of the desk and pulled himself up. He took deep breaths.

He staggered over to the board. He felt...woozy. sick. He vomited on the floor. Bloody.

Thoughts came slowly, through a haze. Disconnected. He dropped the gun. Memories faded.

Was this it? One thought came through, clear. Was it over?

He put the license on the desk and grabbed a piece of chalk. He started writing on the board. He needed to leave something. Anything. Something to tell whoever came after that there were two people in this room who had fought and survived, who had a story. Who had lived. Who had killed each other...

Her....What was her name? He couldn't remember. Jenny...long blond hair, blue eyes, a sharp smile...

He smiled and then stopped, grasping his head. No, that was someone different, someone from before....before what? Saliva dripped from his mouth. So hungry. He needed something to eat. Anything.

He fell back against the desk and the chalk fell from his hand. He fought to clear his mind. At least he had written something, had left something for someone else to find...His mind cleared for a moment, looking upon the blackboard.

He'd written nothing. Gibberish in white chalk.

Why was he here? His stomach growled. He was starving.

A low moan escaped from his lips.

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