The situation was not as dire as it appeared when I first stepped out of the RV. There were 10 zombies but it seemed like more because Cal and Heidi were panicking, pushing them around and not calmly taking out the creatures which was leading them to get surrounded. All I had was a gun I didn’t want to use for fear of drawing out more attackers and I knew this was the sort of thing that got people killed -hesitation in the face of immediate danger. I said fuck it and pulled my gun but Parker put his hand on mine stopping me from drawing the weapon and quickly moved forward, slamming a machete into the nearest zombie’s head. He staggered back stunned by what he had done. I grabbed the weapon as it started to slip from his grasp and pushed Parker back to the RV then turned to see that one of the zombies had wrestled Heidi to the ground. The monster was on top of her trying to claw her neck with bloody, ragged fingers as it snapped it’s gore filled jaw near her cheek.
Another one searching out flesh crawled in front of me dragging its mangled bone exposed legs behind it and blocking my path to Heidi. I easily took off the top of the head and pushed it aside desperate to help my friend. I tried to grab Heidi’s attacker but failed as the machete got in the way of a good grip. Split second decision – drop the machete and pull the zombie away or cut its head off and risk dropping it on Heidi teeth first. Its head came off smoothly. The blade was sharp enough and I put enough force into it to not get stopped by flesh and bone.
I was quick but the zombie still managed to rake it’s bloodied fingers down Heidi’s chin and throat as it died. We didn’t have time to worry about the consequences (zombie infection or otherwise) as the other 8 beasts came at us. Cal was doing his best but all he could do was push and punch being less than effectual until he managed to get one on the ground and stomp its head and neck furiously. Crying and bleeding didn’t stop Heidi as she flipped her gun around and used the butt of it to hammer at the zombies,each strike fueled by her rage and fear. We finished the job and stopped, covered in gore and breathless as the last one fell. I scanned the woods and the gridlock of cars and couldn’t see anymore zombies moving around. Cal helped Heidi to the motorhome where Marla waited in the doorway. Parker stood near the front of the vehicle looking paler than usual with an immense fear naked across his angular features. I should have been angry that he couldn’t find the courage to help after killing only one beast but I understood what he was feeling; I had felt it the first I went into the field with a loaded weapon and pointed my gun at another human being. And the first time I had killed another human. I had been sickened by the experience and disgusted and more than anything, I wanted to take it back.
I touched his shoulder and saw the fog slip away from his eyes replaced by guilt. I gently told him it was OK, he didn’t need to be killer (I knew that was not true in the current circumstances) he only needed to help in any other way possible. Parker choked back a sob but didn’t cry and nodded. In silent understanding we headed back into the RV with the others. I closed the door doing everything I could to be as quiet as possible still fearing there were zombies who could be alerted by the softest sound. Marla had the kids at the table and was doing what she could to keep them and herself calm. Cal and Heidi were in the back and Parker grabbed a first aid kit from his bag and couple bottles of water and went to help.
I wanted to go and see if there was anything I could do but the space was small and I knew I would only get in the way. Parker knew first aid and Heidi and Cal had both worked in a hospital; I wasn’t needed. I went to the front of the motorhome to check out outside still concerned about another attack. A few zombies milled about on the edge of the highway near the woods but they didn’t seem interested in the stalled RV. Killing the engine helped conceal us from them but I didn’t know how long we could stay hidden and stalled on the road. I was also concerned about Heidi’s wounds. How long before she turned, would she turn and what the hell could we do about it. Or should we do the logical thing and kill her before we found out and prevent a possible catastrophe if she did become a zombie and attacked us. I didn’t know if she would even be a threat.
Once Cal and Parker were able to wipe away the blood from Heidi’s face and neck, we could see that the wounds were mostly superficial, nothing too deep. Whatever the zombie infection was it didn’t seem to have been transmitted to Heidi through the bloodied fingernails of the zombie. We were nearly certain by this point that she was cleared of the zombie contagion but there was some worry that she could get a bacterial infection from the filth that had been embedded in the creatures ragged claws. Parker’s kit had some low dose antibiotic which would have to suffice to fight off any potential disease.
Parker finished bandaging up Heidi and she moved to the passenger seat allowing Marla to take the kids to the back room after Cal had cleaned up the bloody towels and gauze. I told Marla to bring them back into the main area while we discussed our next move. Everyone looked startled but I didn’t see the point of keeping them out of the discussion about what we were going to do. They were in the thick of this just as much as the rest of us and it didn’t matter that they were children. We couldn’t shelter them from what was happening. We hadn’t been able to shield them from the ravening hordes each time we fled and at this point trying to keep them protected from the horrors was a useless tactic. Marla glared at me but brought them back to join the conversation.
Continuing down this road wasn’t an option and there was no way in hell I would go back into the woods on foot. What had been ahead on that road before recklessly turning away was purely a guessing game and I had thrown us off track and put Heidi’s life in jeopardy without being certain about what I had seen while on the roof.
“So if we can’t go on foot and going through the forest is out, where does that leave us? Stuck here hoping for what, a rescue or that the zombies will just go away?” Heidi’s frustration wasn’t totally directed at me and I completely understood where it was coming from.
Defeat. That’s what it was I was hearing and I couldn’t deny I felt it just as strongly and could tell it was plaguing all of us. We had been here before. That sinking feeling that we were just going in circles and would continue until we finally screwed up or gave up and let the monsters win. I asked them what to do, looking them all over including Marco and Hunter waiting for a solution. It became apparent quickly that no one had anything or any idea about what to do next.
“Fine. We go back and push through them.” I finally said. “Drive through them, don’t stop until we get to the camp or whatever it is and hope help will be there.”
I felt the absurdity of the statement since I had just diverted us from that path, not wanting to barrel through a mob of walking corpses. Confused faces stared back at me but to my surprise they just nodded their heads in agreement; likely from a lack of any other suggestions or simply defeat. No one rebuked me for saying we should backtrack even though I had made the poor decision to divert in the first place. We were at that point where doing nothing would be worse than doing something potentially deadly and stupid.
Cal asked if having two of us up on the roof was possible to shoot the zombies that would be blocking our path and surrounding the motorhome as we moved. I understood what Cal was asking but my mind took a second to process it as I pictured two of us on the roof, rifles in hand like gunslingers on top of a stagecoach in a western movie. I shook off the somewhat humorous image and said yes, we could but that would mean keeping the RV moving at a slow pace so we wouldn’t fall.
“The windows. We can shoot out of them without having to slow down or worry about anyone falling.” Heidi had a point. “And really, we just need to take our chances at this point.”
And there was that indifference again but it was not as hopeless as it had been before. We agreed to use the windows and drive like hell through the horde. This felt like the final journey for good or bad. Some of us might make it and some might not and to add to that, we weren’t even sure what we were heading into.
“Let’s take the rest of the daylight to get ready and head out tomorrow.” Heidi looked unsettlingly ashen as she voiced the suggestion to wait to continue our journey. “We can enjoy one more decent night of sleep before we possibly lose these luxurious accommodations.”
“Good idea. We can prep, eat and sleep and be ready for whatever comes tomorrow.” I couldn’t help but agree, partly from procrastination and partly out of concern for Heidi.
We prepped the weapons, cleaning them and doing our best to ensure there would be no jamming. Extra bullets were put in easy reach of where each of us were to be stationed. Heidi and Cal would take the windows in the back, one on each bed and they would watch the back window even though they couldn’t actually open it. Parker would stay in the main area and fire from the only one there. Marla would drive again and I would be in the passenger seat but going wherever they needed me to be. The kids would be an issue though. As much as I thought they should be a part of what was happening, they were going to be in the way and I didn’t want them to get inadvertently hurt. The best solution was either let them sit near Parker or put them in the small bathroom; my nightmare about being trapped there was still in my head even while I suggested it. Marla asked the boys what they wanted to do. At the same time Marco and Hunter said the bathroom. It was settled, they would stay in the bathroom using pillows to cushion against the walls and stay there until one of the adults told them to come out.
And with that we knew where we would all be and what we would be doing. Parker and I set about blocking out the windows after all the weapons were prepared. Dinner was done by the time the sun set and everyone was exhausted from another tumultuous day and went to sleep almost immediately. Almost everyone. I was anxious and still regretting what I had done; turning us into danger and Heidi’s attack. Over the course of the evening she had slowly started looking more sickly making my guilt and concern worse. I kept thinking we just needed to get to that promised safety zone and Heidi could be helped. She was just suffering from the wounds, blood loss and trauma from being attacked. She couldn’t be infected with the zombie virus. I hoped as I tossed, turned and fell into a restless sleep that, that was true.
© 2016, Denise Pasutti