A Good Soldier: Stand-Offish (Chapter 6)

zombie_night

We were fully loaded and ready for battle with handguns, shotguns, lots of ammo and a couple of grenades in our arsenal.  It would have been impressive if our crew wasn’t made up of scared civilians and we weren’t facing an unknown enemy.  Our group probably looked like a bunch of kids getting ready to play war from a tree house.  I pushed aside the cynicism; we had to get out of this alive or at least I did.  By this point, after watching Langley kill Holly and being trapped here because of Meredith, I cared only about myself.  The trouble was we were all trapped together and we were each other’s liabilities.

Langley started asking the cook, Hank, and the 3 college kids – Connor, Brian and Scott, if they knew how to use or had any experience with the weapons he was handing them.  Hank looked reluctantly at the gun and nodded while the boys didn’t really answer him and just looked excited and eager to be given the hardware.

I pulled Meredith aside wanting to try to assess her state of mind but knowing she would be of little use.  She no longer cried and tried to pull away, not trusting me after what she had seen.  I put some distance between us and kept my gun holstered but held a small pistol behind my back.  I asked Meredith if she had used a gun before.  She nodded, saying she had some experience with a hunting rifle but could never bring herself to actually shoot another living creature.  I thought that it was good that the creatures we were dealing with weren’t alive but from her perspective, they did look like living people.  Then the questions I didn’t know how to answer started.

Was the virus we spoke of highly contagious; why did George shoot my friend; why had I killed those women; what did George mean about zombies.  I would need a few hours and a lot more compassion and patience to explain any of this but I didn’t have the time or ability.  She started crying again as the last question came out and I had to decide how to handle the situation and the distraught woman.

“Meredith I know you have questions and you’re afraid.  I’m scared too but it’s getting very dangerous, very quickly.  The virus is only contagious if you are bitten by someone who is infected.”  I didn’t really know how else it could be transmitted but I wasn’t about to tell her that.  “I know what you saw, the killings, it was awful but we had to stop them.  We are doing whatever we can to stop the virus from spreading.  It was the only way.”

“Why, why is murder the only way?”

“The virus makes people…crazy-“

“I heard that earlier but surely they don’t need to be killed.  You could shoot them in the leg or something.”

“No, that won’t work.  They will keep coming.  It’s like they’re on drugs.  They don’t feel pain and they don’t stop even if you shoot them somewhere other than the head.”  The conversation was getting more involved than I wanted it to.

“Are they zombies?”  I could tell she felt uncomfortable asking the question.

“No. Yes.  I don’t know what they are.  The creatures are deadly and will attack and kill us.  There is no reasoning with them and only one way to stop their advance.”  I moved my hand from behind my back and held the pistol out to her.  “Are you ok if I give you a gun?”  She nodded and took the weapon, making sure the safety was on.

Meredith rejoined the others while I stood alone for a moment trying to get my sense of calm back.  The realization of how I had changed since this all started, grown in the last 48 hours from a generic soldier to something like a leader, played in my mind.  I had found my backbone, my confidence and all it took was a zombie apocalypse.  I shook off the reverie and looked around to see how things were progressing with Langley and the others.

The boys were geared up and wore looks of nervous anticipation.  Hank was a big man at about 6’3” and a good 350 pounds but out of everyone in the room, he appeared to be the most uncomfortable holding a gun.  It didn’t help that the weapon looked like a toy in his big hand.  Langley had shuttered the stairway and we were loaded and ready to fight.  I looked around expectantly to see who would say what the next move was.  All of that prep and no one had bothered to look outside and see what exactly we were facing or to formulate a plan of attack.  It would have been comical if the dead weren’t up and walking.  Since I had started to be a leader, I took it upon myself to assess the situation, and then we could figure out what to do.

The quiet of the room, as we all stood waiting for someone to do something, slowly started to fill with the moans of the approaching Shamblers.  I went to the window at the front of the building and peaked through the blinds.  It was darker than it should have been with only the street light where Holly laid dead offering brightness.  Clouds had rolled over the moon and stars and the surrounding building had all gone completely dark; except of course for the police station.  The lights we had left on downstairs surely acted like a beacon in the night.  My eyes adjusted to the darkness but I still couldn’t quite fathom what I was seeing.  I stood for a minute wrapping my mind around the images before Langley finally asked what the hell was going on out there.

“They’re out there.  Looks like maybe a dozen but more might be coming.  I can’t tell.  It’s so dark.”

As I spoke the first couple of Shamblers entered the pool of light illuminating Holly. Langley, Connor, Brian and Scott crowded around the window, each lifting a different slat of the blinds.  I pulled it up all the way figuring if the creatures were attracted to light it wouldn’t make a difference if another one shone out from the already bright building.  Even with most of the street in darkness, I could clearly see the bloody and mangled bodies of the Shamblers in the small pool of light.  I heard Meredith gasp beside me as she saw the zombies for the first time.  I looked around and the college kids had gone white at seeing what real monsters and not computerized ones looked like.  Langley was scared but not astounded like the others.  The only person who didn’t react was Hank.  He stayed away from the window and stood completely still, just looking at the gun, seemingly not aware of anything or anyone around him.  I was beginning to get concerned about the big man.

“Look at them.”  Brian or Connor or Scott spoke up.  I couldn’t remember which was which.  “They’re all dead and shit and moving around.”

“Yeah, like in Dead Island or Dead Rising.  Wicked weird.”  One of the others chimed in.

My concern for Hank quickly shifted to concern about these 3 guys who knew nothing of war and death, except in video games, and they were far from ready for the real thing.  Langley told them to shut up and I finally started to warm up to the cop.  He was taking this seriously, he knew what the score was and what we were facing.  How?  I still didn’t have that answer and I was ok with that as I watched more and more of the Shamblers stumble into the light.  I don’t know if they were drawn to the light but they were certainly being drawn to Holly’s body.

“Oh my god, what are they doing?”  Meredith whispered.

I nearly started to weep myself as I watched the horror unfold.  Six zombies had fallen to their knees and were clawing at Holly’s flesh with disfigured hands. One of the beasts began gnawing on her head, hair stuck out at crazy angles from the creatures jaws that worked hard to break through her skull; I think I even saw some of the Shambler’s teeth fall out during its struggle to eat through the tautly drawn flesh on her head and break through the skull to get at the tender meat of her dead brain.  No one said anything, just watched, frozen with repulsion at what we were seeing.  All of us except for Hank.

What happened next occurred so quickly none of us could have stopped it, even if we hadn’t been grossly memorized by the cannibalism outside.  I didn’t properly assess the room when we headed upstairs and either forgot about it, or didn’t think it mattered but there was door at the far left of the room.  A door, which I soon found out, had stairs leading to the street.  Hank, fucking Hank, had used some hidden stealth and opened the door without anyone noticing.  He was halfway down the steps, just past the wall blocking the view of the street, when I heard the first shots.  In the 5 seconds it took me to reach the door, 2 more blasts sounded.  I was at the top the steps and stopped to see what was happening.  I shouldn’t have stopped, I should have pounded down the steps and pulled the gun away but I didn’t.  In those mere seconds that I failed to act, Hank looked at me with fear then put the gun to his head and pulled the trigger.

The weapon fell between the steps and was lost as Hank slid the rest of the way down the stairway.  His big body stopped moving with the lower half on the wooden steps and his ruined head resting on the asphalt.  Blood poured from his damaged scalp and pieces of brain slithered from the bullet hole like macabre worms in a rainstorm of blood.  Meredith screamed and screamed until a solid fleshy sound stopped her.  I guess Langley hit her but I didn’t see it, I didn’t see anything but Hank and Hank’s brains.  The kids were swearing and panicking, asking what the fuck we were going to do.  I didn’t move until the first zombie stumbled forward and fell face first in front of Hank’s body.  Then I heard the worst sound in the world.  The zombie was lapping up Hank’s blood and chewing on his dispelled brain.  Still, I didn’t move and now Langley stood beside me not anymore sure of what to do than me.  Another Shambler crawled to Hank, pushing the other one aside and fastened its already bloody lips to the hole where blood and brain seeped from the big man’s head.  I’m sure I turned a whole new shade of white at the horror but I totally lost it when I heard, over the slurping and wet chewing, an all too human moan and saw Hank’s arm twitch.  I gagged and puked down the steps but the Shamblers were more interested in their meal than in me.

Langley pushed past me, slipping on the vomit but regaining his composure enough to lift his gun and shoot both zombies in the head.  The cop started down the steps to try to retrieve Hank and somehow save him.  I finally came back to myself and grabbed his arm, telling him it was too late.  Langley pushed me off and started to move again even as more zombies made their way toward us.  I shot Hank in the head, nearly clipping Langley who was bending to pull up the cook.  He didn’t have time for shock and I didn’t have time to lose the only other fighter in the group.  I ran down the stairs and pulled Langley back into the building.  He fell to the floor shaking as I shut the door, yelling at Connor, Scott and Brian to move any furniture in the room against the door.  They did as they were told but the fear of me that they had, had before was back with force now after the 3 of them and Meredith had watched me kill Hank.

We were now effectively trapped.  There would be no escape out the back and I couldn’t know if the Shamblers had or would make their way into the police station.  I hoped that the door would be too complicated for them to figure out.  Meredith had retreated to a corner and made herself as small as possible, sobbing but holding the small pistol firmly in her hand.  The situation and fear had caught up to Langley and he remained where I had pushed him.  The boys, clearly rocked by had happened, were back at the window.   None of these people were going to be able to help me get out here, maybe not even Langley.  They were useless, weak; they were cannon fodder.

I was the leader here, for better or worse, and I knew what I had to do to get out of the police station and the doomed town alive.  I had a plan but I wasn’t sure I had the balls to carry it out.

“Grab your weapons; we’re going out the front door.”

quill

© 2013, Denise Pasutti

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