Walking through the withered remains of society, my gun hand is steady. My flashlight hand, however, is quivering violently. I pause, listening to my surroundings. I can hear sobbing. Witch. Almost panicked, I switch the light off. The sobbing continues. Good. I look towards the sound and see a crouched shape. I stop breathing and back up quietly. I back out of the alley and into the main street, two blocks away I hear an explosion and see light cast by fire. Right now, it is not of my concern. Still, I am hypnotised by it. That is, until a car flies into the air. Tank. I turn and run away from the wailing car alarms. My heart is racing. I concentrate on it’s rushed thumping. Ba-boom, ba-boom, ba-boom.
I skid to a stop, throwing pebbles over the asphalt. I’m panting. I bend over to catch my breath when I hear a low growling. Shit. It’s a Hunter. I point my gun towards the growling. The Hunter pounces and I shoot at the bloodied blue hood. I’ve missed, because the Hunter crashes into me, (in the process I drop my gun) pins me and gets ready to rip me to shreds. I raise my arms by instinct and squeeze my eyes shut. The ground is vibrating softly. I’m not dead yet. I dare to open my eyes a crack just as the Tank smashes its fist into the Hunter, sending it flying through a second story window on the other side of the street. The Tank is raising its fists. Will being crushed be more or less painful than being ripped to shreds? The fist is coming down as something wraps itself around me and yanks me out from under the Tank. God! Now what!? A Smoker is standing on a nearby balcony. I feel my arms get pressed against my body. Stuck. I yell and kick, but the situation is just getting worse and worse. Wait. I hear gunshots.
‘Hey!’ a gruff voice shouts. I turn my head as I lift off the ground. The man who yelled is wearing a biker vest. He shoots the Smoker in the head and runs up to me. I hit the ground and he grabs my wrist.
‘Run and gun!’ He yells, hands me an Assault rifle and pulls another one off of his back. ‘Now!’ he grabs my wrist again and pulls me away from the Tank. I stumble to my feet and turn, so I’m facing the Tank and sprinting backwards. I shoot at it. An old man backs out of an alley and throws a pipe bomb. Two people, a black man and a girl run out of the alley. The girl sees the Tank, lights a Molotov and throws it.
‘Fire in the hole!’ she shouts. The Molotov explodes on the Tanks face, making it roar. The biker grabs my shoulder.
‘Forget the gun, just run!’ The five of us sprint towards a set of ladders with balconies on the side of a building. The black man reaches it first and has his foot on the second rung when a shrill scream fills the air. The girl shrieks as a Hunter lands on her. The black man is shooting at the Hunter from the first balcony.
‘You two, up!’ the old man orders. I hesitate. The biker grabs my wrist again and launches me into the ladder. I scramble up the ladder without a second thought. I duck behind the black man and leap into the next ladder, which I practically fly up. I sprint to the third one, climb up and help the others onto the roof. The girl is limping slightly but otherwise seems okay. The black man opens a door.
‘And just in here-‘ He closes the door quickly and leans his back against it. ‘Lets not go down there.’ The biker rolls his eyes. The old man pulls a cigarette butt out of his mouth, throws it on the ground, steps on it, pulls out a new cigarette and lights it. He then sits down and looks at me.
‘Who are you?’ he grunts.
‘Me?’ I say. I haven’t said anything for so long that my voice sounds hoarse and unfamiliar. He nods.
‘Stephanie.’ I croak. I clear my throat. ‘Call me Steph.’ Much better. I sound normal now. He nods again.
‘Bill. I hope you’re used to staring death in the face every five minutes, because that’s life as we know it now.’ He says. Whoa, downer much?
‘I’m Louis.’ the black man says, smiling.
‘Zoey.’ the girl says. She sits down and starts bandaging herself. The biker holds his hand out.
‘The name’s Francis.’ I reach out and he shakes my hand vigorously. ‘So, Steph, how’s your day been?’ he asks. I think for a moment.
‘Well, in the last twenty minutes I’ve nearly stepped on a Witch, been pounced on by a Hunter, crushed by a Tank and swallowed by a Smoker. How has my day been? Oh, now I remember. It sucked.’
‘Better get used to it, kid.’
‘I am used to it. Did I thank you for saving my life back there?’
‘Good. Maybe I can surprise you sometime.’
‘Glad to see someone else here has a sense of humour.’ We laugh and Louis strolls up to us.
‘You guys seen to be having a good time. Care to share the joke?’ he says cheerfully. I look him up and down.
‘Is he always this… Chipper after a near death situation?’
‘That’s a shame.’
‘You think so too?’ we laugh again and Louis tried to join in until Francis and I collectively scowl at him.
‘I’ll just leave you guys to it then.’ He says, his hands raised in defence. Zoey stands up with a bandage wrapped around her left calf.
‘So, Steph, how have you managed to survive so long on your own?’ she asks.
‘With great difficulty.’
‘That’s how everything occurs nowadays.’ Bill murmurs. Zoey yawns. Bill looks up at the moon.
‘Time to turn in. Louis, you seem spry, take the first watch. Francis second and I’ll do last.’ Bill says. Zoey smiles and lies down. I do the same. For a few seconds I think that trying to fall asleep is futile but then my eyelids droop.
My eyes open. Day. Morning. I hear a groan and sit up. Zoey is clutching her stomach. Phew.
‘How long is it since we last ate?’ she groans. Louis laughs.
‘I can’t remember!’ He chuckles. Bill nods.
‘Okay kids, time to go shopping. Steph, this is your test. If you can’t keep up, you’re going to be left behind.’ He says decisively. I gulp quietly.
‘And by shopping,’ Francis says, cocking his rifle, ‘He means looting.’ I smile.
‘This is going to be fun.’
Francis, Bill, Louis and Zoey all lean over the edge of the roof. I join them. Bill is pointing at a building.
‘That’s the place. We go down, get food, and come right back.’ He says. I load a shotgun and grin across the roof at Francis. I glance at Zoey getting ready and she tosses me a med-kit.
‘Yeah, lets just hope you won’t need it.’ she says in return. I open the kit and look at what’s inside. Damn, I could’ve used one of these… A few minutes later I’m sliding down the ladder. I hit the ground and face the street. Three Infected are running at me. I shoot the first two and Louis picks off the third. I grunt in appreciation. He shrugs.
‘We’ve got to stick together in a zombie’s world, right?’
‘They’re vampires.’ Francis mutters.
‘Zombies.’ Zoey, Bill and Louis say simultaneously. Francis keeps grumbling as we cross the road. The automatic doors to the mall won’t open, but that isn’t much of a problem seeing as they’re shattered already. We each step through the glass carefully and walk into the mall. I look around and see a distinct pattern in the architecture. The floor is marble, and it’s splattered with blood. The pillars are marble covered in plaster (you can tell from the holes in the plaster) and they’re splattered in blood. Shop windows are cracked, broken and are splattered with blood. We walk through the mall in silence, except for the obvious shooting of Infected. We walk into the super market and Bill stops us.
‘Check use by dates on everything, get batteries and matches.’ He says. I nod and immediately walk to the meat section, paying attentive attention to levels of mould on everything. I see some lamb cutlets, steaks and sausages. I pick up packets of things and start walking to the matches. I pick up seven boxes of matches and shove them into my pockets. I turn around and see a Boomer.
‘Boomer!’ I shout. I hear someone running up behind me.
‘Don’t shoot until you have to.’ Zoey’s voice whispers in my ears.
‘Does it know we’re here?’
‘Then why don’t we leave before it pukes on us?’
‘Great idea.’ We slide out of the aisle. We relax and keep looking for food. We hear Bill’s voice.
‘Cut the horseshit, Francis and get your ass down here.’ We hear Francis swear and I shrug. I look back down the aisle at the Boomer, and see Francis stumble backwards into it.
‘Oh God…’ I mutter. The Boomer explodes, covering Francis and Bill in bile.
‘Ah, shit!’ Francis shouts. ‘My vest!’
‘Get you’re head outta your ass, Francis, we got bigger problems!’ Bill scowls. ‘If you hadn’t been foolin’ around, this wouldn’t have happened!’
‘Don’t blame me! If you hadn’t startled me, I wouldn’t have tripped!’
‘Are they like that all the time?’ I ask Zoey quietly. She sighs and nods. Oh. That sucks. I walk to the entrance of the super market and watch for Infected. I see one. Bam. Another. Hole in its head. A third. I aim, but someone else gets there first. Louis is pointing a rifle at the space where the zombie was.
‘A team can always use more members. Try not to die.’ He says, reloading.
‘I wasn’t planning on it.’
‘Good.’ He holds the gun up again. ‘Look out, here they come.’ The horde runs up and Louis, Zoey and I open fire on them. Eventually I run out of bullets, and the Infected are getting closer. In a flash I’ve pulled out two Magnum Pistols, and am firing again.
‘Reloadin’!’ I hear Francis’ voice shout. I look over at him and shoot a zombie that’s about to get him. He looks up with the loaded gun and sees the Infected fall in front of him. I turn away and keep shooting. God, they just don't stop! Zoey pulls put a pipe bomb.
'Take cover!' she shouts, tossing it. As she runs into a nearby store, each of us rush to do the same; with me ending up in an abandoned pawn shop. I hear the explosion come from outside and I peek through the window. An Infected crashes through the window, and gets up slowly behind me. I hold the guns up at it, and pull the triggers of both. Nothing happens.
'Ah...Shit...' I throw the two pistols at it and sprint through the shelves of the pawn shop, trying to find something to whack it with. A nightstick catches my eye. Brilliant. I pick it up and swing it around. The Infected crashes into the aisle behind me. I whirl and crack the baton against its head. It groans, stumbles to the side and I bring the Nightstick down on its forehead. The Infected collapses. I growl and turn. I walk out of the store and run to the others. They've started shooting again. I pick up my shotgun again and reload it quickly. I start shooting as well. The Nightstick is hanging from my belt when an Infected grabs it and pulls me backwards into it. It bites into my left shoulder.
'Agh!' I shout. I flip the gun over the back of my shoulder and shoot it.
'Cover me!' I yell. I kneel and wrap a bandage around my shoulder. I stand up and start shooting again.
Eventually the Infected disperse and we pick up our bags of food. Louis comes over.
'Are you okay? You look torn up pretty bad.'
'I'm fine.' I grunt. I then glance at my left shoulder and see the bloodied bandage. I conceal a wince and sling the bag over my shoulder.
'Lets just back onto a roof and eat this food.' I say. We jog to the street and climb up the ladders. I sit down and empty my bag. The others do the same. All together we have bread, meat, a few fruit, some clean water, eight boxes of matches and about fifty different sized batteries. Bill bends over to get a fire going. I look at my shoulder again and peel the blood-soaked bandage off. The hole in my arm is about half an inch deep, and two inches wide. It's still bleeding. Zoey comes over and arches her eyebrow.
'Not much of a complainer, are you?' she asks.
'Never really saw the point, to be honest.' I say with gritted teeth. If you ever get a hole in yourself, try and make it somewhere you can reach easily.
'Do you want some help?'
'No, I think I'll just struggle a little while longer.' I scowl. She rolls her eyes and starts bandaging my shoulder tightly.
'No need.' she finishes wrapping the bandage and knots the end. 'You ever been bitten before?'
'A few times. Figure I'm immune or something.'
'Well you would've turned by now if you weren't.'
'Good point.' I look over at Bill. 'He doesn't like me very much.' I say, nodding towards him.
'He doesn't like anyone very much.'
'Then why'd he stick with you?'
'No idea. But he refuses to leave us behind now.'
'We wouldn't last five minutes without Bill.' Louis adds, chiming in. Francis snorts.
'Its true.' Zoey says. I sniff and smell cooking meat. My stomach rumbles. Well, I think it's my stomach. It could've been Zoey's. I stand up.
'My stomach is calling.' I say, then sit down by the fire. Francis sits on my left, Louis on my right. Bill has set up a spit of some sort. I'm not quite sure how he did it, because there's a platter above the fire, which is turning as he rotates a handle. How did he do that? Well, it works. I think I'll ask him.
'Bill, how did you rig this up?'
'You learn a lot of things at war, kid.' he says. War? That would explain his uniform. After a few minutes the food is ready, and each of us has a lamb cutlet to eat.
'What happens now? Do we stay here until we get eaten or do we have somewhere to escape to?' I ask.
'We're heading for the airfield. They have planes taking survivors away, but there aren't many left. So, we are in a hurry.' Bill grunts. I've finished my meat and have started gnawing on the bone. Bad habit.
'So... We're blitzing through the city to fly away?'
'Is there a problem with that?' Bill says. I stop slouching and shake my head.
'Good. Speaking of which, we need to get going. Everyone ready?' Bill asks. Everyone nods and stands up. I pick up an Assault rifle and a Combat shotgun. I weigh the pros and cons of both inside my head, and put the Assault rifle down. It just isn't my style. I slide a Magnum pistol into a loop of my jeans, so it's resting on my right hip. I see another and slip into the opposite loop, against my left hip. I put spare ammunition into my pockets, something that I neglected to do last time. I look at the Nightstick that I had acquired. Where do I keep it?
'Put the handle through the loop on the back of your pants.' Louis says.
'...Thanks.' I say, doing what he suggested. And now, I feel fully equipped. I see another Combat shotgun on the ground. I pick it up. I hold one in each hand and rest the butts against my waist. Now I feel fully equipped. We walk through the streets in silence. The Infected are less excitable during they day, so we can walk wherever, just so long as we don’t make too much noise. Ugh… I hate walking. The Infected probably hate it more though. I wonder what it’d be like to be an Infected. Sometimes you see them doing the strangest things. The other day I was looking for bullets. I walked into a room and saw an Infected. It was under a table, reaching out for something. I bent over to see what it was reaching for. I can’t be sure, but it looked like an ear. But it was moving. Where was I? Oh yeah.
‘Man oh man, how I hate walking.’
‘Me too.’ Francis bleats. Zoey, who is in front of us, looks back and scowls.
‘Don’t get Francis started on hating things, Steph, it’s the best for everyone.’
‘Shut up Francis.’ Bill says gruffly.
‘Hey, quiet!’ Louis says. I scowl at him. He frowns back. ‘No, listen, I can hear crying.’ The five of us stop and look around carefully.
‘This way.’ I say, walking towards the sobbing. The four don’t move. I look back at them impatiently.
‘Come on, we don’t have all day, do we?’ I say. Bill grunts and nods Francis, Louis and Zoey forward.
‘She’s right, ain’t got time to slow down. Safe rooms are always in the direction of Witch’s.’ Bill strides in front of me. I follow him and Louis, Zoey and Francis follow me. We follow the sound into a building. I pocket a pipe bomb and we head up the stairs into a hallway. Bill signals for me to stop and I relay the message back. The five of us stop as the Witch wanders from one room into another. Bill moves across the hall briskly. The Witch wanders back again. I hurry forward and Zoey, Francis and Louis repeat the procedure. We walk across a plank from one building to another and pause in the first room to reload.
‘Was she moving?’ Louis asks. Zoey nods. ‘They aren’t meant to move.’ Zoey shrugs. We head down the stairs of this building and walk back out onto the street. A safe house sign is spray painted onto a nearby wall with an arrow pointing ahead.
Ah, this one. I have plans for this story. It is going places. Lots of places. The characters are complex, they come and go, I've planned things... Ahahaha...