“Tony, he has a gun!” The woman beside me crouched on her knees and shouted, her face animated with panic and fear.
I could feel everyone turn toward me. I did my best to ignore their eyes and the woman’s voice and leaned over the seat keeping my gun pointed at Langley. His screams had become pants and moans, his eyes wide but I wasn’t sure if he saw me or anything through his pain. I dimly heard cursing and felt the van slow down then pick up speed as the driver thought better of stopping. I didn’t have a plan, didn’t really know what I was doing or going to do. I kept the gun trained on Langley, blocking out the voices of panic all around and waited; waited to see if Langley would die or was infected and would change.
The woman tending Langley continued her task, moving with quick but careful movement while trying to watch me, trying to slow the blood flow and ignore the gun next to her head. I was focused on Langley and not paying attention to the world outside passing by in flashes of green but I did notice when we hit pavement. The van rocked hard with the transition from muddy earth to solid ground. My gun hand jerked in the air and I was fortunate, as were the others, that I had not taken safety off, my finger jumping on the trigger. Langley’s nurse used this sudden disorientation to try to get the gun from me. Her blood smeared hands wrapped around my wrists and she jerked them down hard into an armrest, a spike of pain radiated up my arms but I didn’t let go. We struggled with slippery red hands, fighting for control of the gun with neither of us winning. The scuffle ended abruptly with a sharp strike to the back of my head. I didn’t black out at first even as the world faded between light and dark and pain radiated through my neck and crept up through my head with spiky tendrils. The gun finally slipped from my hand as I waivered and had a brief moment to register blood dripping down my neck before the darkness won out.
I slipped between unconsciousness and head-splitting pain being jostled in the back of the van before we finally stopped. I was on the edge of slipping into darkness but came back to the world with a jolt as the back hatch I was pressed against opened. A dull light shrouded by scattered clouds hit my eyes with an unwelcome brightness and a cold stream of rain splashed my face. My vision was foggy from pain and the rush of light but I could still hear fine and picked up a jumble of moans and panicked voices as doors opened and feet stepped on the wet ground, mud sucking at shoes. A gentle whisper and warm breath brushed my ear followed by a soft shaky voice mumbling an apology. My attacker, the woman who had been crying and huddling beside me, flashed past as she got out and dashed away from the van.
From my vantage point, face pressed to the rough dirty carpet, I could see a field bordered by tress and a paint peeling white fence but not much else as the barrel of a shotgun appeared before my face accompanied by a pair of legs wearing hospital scrubs and surrounded by a blood splattered white coat. I sat up slowly riding the wave of nausea and dizziness hoping that I didn’t look as bad as felt but doubted it.
“You must be Tony.” My powers of deduction led me to this conclusion since he was one of two people I hadn’t been able to see before. “Where’s the cop with mangled leg?”
He didn’t say anything or confirm his name, just stood there splattered in mud and blood pointing the shotgun at my chest. Chatter sounded around us and I wanted to look about and get idea of our surroundings, maybe see where everyone else had gone but I had a feeling that maintaining eye contact was important to remaining in one piece and not having a hole put in my chest. I took the opportunity to get a good look at his face to try to assess what kind of man he was. He had at least 2 days of stubble on his face, his eyes bloodshot, heavy bags underneath and stress lines at the their edges. His dark hair was turning silver at the temples and kept short yet stylish. I pegged him to be in his early 40’s. Other than his scrubs, lab coat and shotgun, he had nothing else on him. No ring, no watch and no name tag. He may have been a doctor but right now he was just a man with a gun and will to survive.
Tony remained rooted before me until the woman nursing Langley (he called her Heidi) came to whisper something in his ear. She looked at me, whispered to Tony again and then took a longer look at my head, concern on her face. Feeling self-conscious, I touched my forehead and felt crusty blood, following the trail of wet/dry fluid past my ear and down my neck. I guess I did look as bad as I felt.
“Fine. Look him over, quickly, and then get in the cellar. They’ll be coming.” Tony eased the shotgun as the woman stepped in front of me but his hard brown eyes remained trained on me.
And I thought I had trust issues. I let Heidi examine my head, moving it gently and poking softly near where I had been hit. I grit my teeth against the pain as she looked me over and surmised by the care she took, that she must be a doctor or nurse like Tony. She didn’t wear scrubs or have any identifiers either, it was just a guess given her manner. My head swam a bit as she finished, releasing my head and giving me a weak smile of reassurance. I figured that meant I would survive, the head wound at least; surviving Tony might be a different issue. He tried to shoo Heidi away and raised the shotgun, telling me to carefully grab my gear. Heidi looked stricken and was going to argue but we all stopped in our motions and turned toward the field as a shriek erupted from the woods and two people ran toward the fence.
I recognized them right away – Marla and Hunter. She helped Hunter over the fence, tossed their bags and started climbing while yelling at her son to get his bag and get moving toward the house. I quickly looked behind me and saw the house she meant and the open door leading to an underground cellar, the one Tony told Heidi to get back to. Tony and Heidi looked at the field, ignoring me for the moment. I moved quickly, grabbing my bag and somehow getting the shotgun from Tony without a fight, then made a charge for the field. Tony yelled but I didn’t care as I jumped the fence and told Hunter to keep running. He stuttered to a near stop then kept moving, not looking behind. I tried to ignore the fear on his tear streaked face and put myself in the centre of the field watching as Marla dropped to the ground and struggled with her pack.
Hot on her heels were Shamblers and they were fast, faster than I had seen any move before. Marla passed me, her expression much the same as Hunter’s then she yelled at me to run. I waited. I heard Tony yelling, Heidi telling him to forget the gun and get back to the cellar. One zombie hit the fence with a force I wasn’t expecting. It stopped then slammed its full body weight against the old boards. Three joined it and the fence started to bow. I took a deep breath and pulled the trigger on the shotgun I stole from Tony. One shot and I had taken the head clear off one of them while the second shot was not as good and only partially took off the head of another.
More zombies were coming from the woods and I knew it was time to go. I wasn’t that much of a fool or hero anymore. Marla, Hunter and Tony were already gone into that dirt abyss but Heidi was waiting for me even though I could see a hand pulling on her arm. It took me a minute to get to the door and as I pushed Heidi down and stumbled in, I saw that the Shamblers had destroyed the fence and were moving fast towards us. I pulled the door shut and Heidi snapped a padlock in place. We tumbled down the stairs as several hands heavy, with the weight of the dead, started to pound on the old wooden doors.
© 2014, Denise Pasutti