I enjoyed the relief of rescue for all of 2 minutes before the horror returned with three people emerging from the woods. To my burning and watery eyes they appeared as two shapes moving quickly while dragging a third between them. Screams ripped through the air the closer they got and people in the van yelled at the shapes to hurry while another panicked shout told me to get to the back of the van and out-of-the-way. I stumbled over the seats, tripping over bags until I was right at the back hatch. Wiping the rain from my face and blinking to clear the haze from my eyes, I was able to get a clearer picture of the situation as the screaming reached the van’s door.
The fuzzy running shapes came into view as a man fell through the door, turned around and pulled another man inside, followed by a young woman. I couldn’t get a good look at any them, my eyes not fully cleared of the fog from the smoke and the people were just a mass of hair, dishevelled bandanas and blood. The woman slammed the van door and yelled to the driver to go. The engine roared as a hand smacked the rear window next to my head. After nearly screeching like a child from the surprise and banging my head, I wiped the condensation from the window to see several rain-soaked zombies, some steaming from the fire, surrounding the van. The terror of their charred and melted faces fell away as we started picking up speed, even while hitting several solid objects I knew to be Shamblers.
I turned away from the greasy hand print and tried to ignore what we were hitting as the van sped out of the forest. Splashes of diluted red covered the windows as the rain hammered the van but it was barely audible over the screaming man and people shouting incomprehensibly all around me. I quickly took in my new travelling companions – there was the driver and man in the passenger seat, the three folks who had stumbled in and another woman I hadn’t noticed curled on the floor in the back to my left. She turned her tear streaked face to me then put her head back down, hands firmly pressed over her ears to try to block out the screams.
I felt bad for not noticing her sooner but I was so lost and had a general feeling of being separated from myself and everything around me, somehow not connecting what I was seeing to what I was hearing. I was almost disappointed that the ringing from the earlier shotgun blasts had dissipated and left me open to the noise of the confined space. Thinking about the shotgun and my brief deafness, I wondered what happened to the men that had helped me. It was odd considering the circumstances but I wanted to thank them for helping me.
“Get him quiet.” The driver shouted over his shoulder, his head briefly turned back and I saw the panic and fear dripping off of him.
Blood and gore and rain were being wiped away by the windshield wipers. I couldn’t imagine how the driver must have been feeling as he steered the speeding van over the rutted and muddy ground with rain pounding the windows, the screaming and shouting and plowing into and over the zombies. I wouldn’t think of them as people and I hoped this guy understood that they weren’t human any longer, they were monsters. And those monsters just kept coming at us in blurs of gory flesh as we continued through the woods.
“Hey, do you have a belt?” The woman with the screaming man was looking at me and all but hit me as I stared at her, not registering the question. “Do you have a belt!”
I reached under my dirty wet clothes and removed it, handing it over without a word. I didn’t want to know why she needed it and my wish to curl up in the back like the meek person beside me wasn’t going to happen because the woman shouted at me to help. Taking off my pack, I wormed my way forward to the seats behind the driver, being jostled about and hitting the side of the van. I wasn’t prepared for what awaited me. My head swam and I distantly felt myself saying I ‘can’t help’ even as I leaned over and tied my blood slicked belt around the right thigh of Langley, his lower leg in shreds, pieces of bright white bone visible through the red flood.
I don’t think Langley knew I was there. His face was a mass of pain, dripping with blood diluted by rain and tears, his expression twisted in anguish. I felt helpless but worse than that, I felt guilty, responsible for the agony he was going through. This could be my fault for not following him and Marla when they went into the field after Hunter. Maybe if I had been there I could have gotten his leg free from the fence. I mechanically pulled the belt tightly, wrapping it all the way around his leg once, and then notching it closed. The woman who had asked me to help pushed me aside now and went to work cutting the remains of Langley’s pant leg away, the blood soaked material falling to the van floor with a wet squishy sound. Even with all the gore and violence of the past days, I felt ill watching her expose the full extent of Langley’s wound while she poured bottle after bottle of water over his shredded calf.
My eyes remained fixed on the pulpy mess and my mind flooded with the gore and the slowly declining screams of Langley as I made my way to the back of the van again. I was processing what I had seen, processing the torn skin and missing chunks of flesh from his leg. Had I seen teeth impression on the remaining flesh, on the bone, were they really there or was I being paranoid?
The woman beside me lifted her head and a look I was getting to use to seeing in peoples’ eyes flashed in hers as she watched me pull my gun and load it with a fresh clip.
© 2014, Denise Pasutti