There it stood, the final obstacle shambling about and stopping my brilliant plan of escape. The fence on its own could possibly be climbed but the barbed wire would make it difficult and it couldn’t be done quickly, if at all. Adding to the problem were the 15 -20 zombies lingering on either side just waiting for easy prey to fall into their bloody maws. Langley leaned to close to me, wafting the world’s worse breath into my face and whispered that we could take out a good number of the zombies from this distance. He said he was a good shot, so was Marla and he assumed that I would be too. Head shots might be hard at a distance but we could probably thin out the group, slow their progress with shots to the knee and create a clearer path.
Everything he said made sense but I had to wonder what would happen when the gunshots brought more Shamblers from the surrounding areas hidden in the woods. Surely there were more. We knew they were behind us and it would be short-sighted to think they weren’t all around as well. This small group was probably a fraction of the creatures that seemed to be aimlessly moving around and waiting for non-infected flesh because they didn’t seem interested in one another. I didn’t need to mention this to Langley and could see the defeat on his face even as he tried to keep his voice positive. I looked over my three companions and knew that even if we could make it across the field, Hunter couldn’t get over the fence, and neither could Marla. Hell, it would be nearly impossible for Langley and me even if we wrapped our hands in clothes from our packs. The razor wire across the top would cut through our protection and tear the shit out of our hands, arms and legs.
“There must be another way around. Has to be.” Marla didn’t even try to look hopeful.
It was stupid, the three of us staring so intently ahead at the fence hoping that the answer would appear before our eyes and not paying attention to our immediate surroundings or Hunter. We noticed him walking away only after we saw him in the field heading northwest. Marla called out, getting the word Hunt out before I clapped my hand over her mouth and pulled her back into the cover of the trees. A couple of the Shamblers halted their aimless shuffling but didn’t move towards us or seem to see Hunter as he stopped moving and looked towards us. The kid’s head barely showed over the top of the overgrown dried out brown grass and it was that which probably kept him from being noticed. The boy remained still and I had to wonder what the hell he had been thinking going out into that field alone with the zombies so close. In answer to the silent question, Hunter looked at us then turned to the right and pointed in the direction he had been walking.
At that moment I understood the simplicity of childhood and that kids are far wiser than adults give them credit for; they see the path clearly without needless complications. And that is what Hunter had done. Off to the right where he pointed, the fence bowed down and rested a couple of feet off the ground. The barbed wire still posed a threat but it could be crossed carefully and Hunter could be lifted over it. A group of Shamblers must have pushed it down trying to get to the other side, probably in pursuit of someone or something I guessed. Whatever the reasoning these mindless creatures had, it didn’t matter. It only mattered that they had unwittingly made a path that would help us escape.
I looked at the fence, straining my eyes trying to make out what was clinging and hanging from the small razors of the curling barbed wire. The more I focused the clearer it became as to what had been left on fence. The zombies didn’t feel pain apparently and had torn themselves up, chunks and strips of flesh hung there, torn from the creatures as they went over the downed fence. I didn’t tell Langley and Marla what I was seeing. They would find out soon enough.
I went numb thinking about these creatures and their lack of anything that had made them human once. There were no remnants of any human traits aside from appearance and even that had been degraded in many of the ones I had seen. They didn’t feel pain and couldn’t be killed unless the brain was damaged. They attacked non-infected somehow knowing the difference, tearing away and eating parts of them before moving on. Sometimes it was after only a simple bite while other times they had taken chunks of flesh. None of it made sense. How could this be reality? I had heard about zombies in Haiti, seen the movie The Serpent and The Rainbow about people being zombified using herbs and toxins but they didn’t eat flesh or spread the affliction through saliva. This wasn’t nature at work, it was science and it wasn’t going to make sense because some people had gotten together and messed with nature and then lost control, leaving us to suffer for that mistake.
Marla shook my shoulder pulling me back from losing my mind as I tried to make sense of what was happening. I looked over and saw that Langley was gone, causing a moment of panic until I saw a depression in the grass moving slowly toward Hunter. He was on his belly crawling forward, keeping low and doing his best to not attract the attention of the zombies. It seemed like a good idea and a bad one all at once. As hidden by the grass as they were, Langley and Hunter were still moving and I knew that movement was a key factor in the creatures finding and attacking people.
It was too late to worry about it now as Langley reached Hunter directing the kid to lower himself onto the ground and crawl toward the bowed part of the fence. Marla touched my chin and turned my head to meet her eyes and I could tell that she was going through the same emotions as me. She knew it wasn’t a good idea to go in so close to the Shamblers and she was scared, the emotion clear in her gaze but all she could do was shrug and nod for me to follow as she silently said – what choice do we have. She turned and dropped down into the grass just as Langley had done and started moving as best as she could toward her brother and son.
I watched her go, following the indented trail left by Langley then I turned back to the fence where the zombies continued to mindlessly shamble. So far they hadn’t noticed the slow movement of my people even though they seemed so close together, at least from my perspective. I should have gone at that moment and stayed right behind Marla so that Hunter and Langley wouldn’t be waiting for us and we could start the treacherous task of climbing over the fence and wire. But I didn’t.
While I understood what they were doing, trying to go without detection, I didn’t know if they realized that once one of them stepped on the fence it was going to make noise. Maybe not a lot but I figured it would be enough to at least piqué the interest of the creatures and the more Marla and the others panicked, the more noise they would make trying to get over and away from the Shamblers and by the time they noticed that I hadn’t followed, it would be late for them to turn back. I hoped to hell that they, rather Marla, wouldn’t risk her life and Hunter’s by coming back for me. It wasn’t a sacrifice I was making – it was carrying out Langley’s plan on my own. I figured that once one of them took the first step on that fence I would begin firing at the zombies farthest from my companions, using the gunfire to draw the creatures away from the opening in the fence and give Marla, Hunter and Langley a chance to get over and start moving through the woods away from the zombies on their side.
The drawback of course was that the shots might actually draw the Shamblers attention to my location instead of toward where the bullets were landing. It was too late to worry about it as I saw Marla reach Hunter and Langley. I had to get ready to help them and possibly doom myself.
© 2014, Denise Pasutti