Attempt #413

I tore open the box. The house shuddered. So did I.

The box was empty.

I tossed it aside. Went looking for the next one. Knew it was here somewhere. It had to be, didn’t it. Otherwise they’d get in. Otherwise there was no hope. The next two were as barren as the first. Empty metal boxes in a room full of them. I only needed one though.

I found it in the third.

Someone screamed. Close by too. I glanced up at the window and recoiled. She was there. Staring at me. Had somehow gotten through the minefield and the electric fence. Over the lake and under the lasers. Clever girl she was. Too bad.

I hit the red button on the wall and watched the machine gun turrets emerge from the ceiling above. She heard them too and looked up. Too late though.

When they were done I checked the glass. Not a scratch. Still solid enough to hold another wave of them, but only if they didn’t bring that thing with the mace for a tail. I twitched as a memory caught me. If I saw him again, I knew I’d run.

I pocketed what I had been looking for and ran back towards the stairs. The cold stone floor hurt my feet. I didn’t know where my boots had ended up. I couldn’t remember where I’d left them. Dani was standing at the top of the stairs, eyes moving, watching the far wall. She heard me coming up, reached out and took the package from me. I could see the tension ease a little in her shoulders.

“So you found it.”

Something crashed into the wall. I threw myself sideways, almost going head first back down the stairs. Managed to catch myself on the railing, holding on as another roar shook the entire complex.

A dozen troops in heavy armour jogged towards us, shotguns and flamethrowers held at the ready. Dani went to talk to the commander, but I found myself staring at the walls. These ones were tinted; not like downstairs, where the trees shaded things enough that you could look outside. Up here you needed the protection of the tinted glass. If you were going to survive.

But it wasn’t the tinted glass that had caught my attention. It was the enormous shadow pacing beyond it. Teeth and claws and muscle and tiny arms. It roared as it got close, then backed away from the wall. It couldn’t come through though.

I glanced at Dani for some sort of reassurance. Then I realised I hadn’t said anything out loud. The soldiers were preparing to leave. Dani had handed over the package. She turned back. Nodded at me. She was leaving too. Talking amongst themselves about going home.

Maybe that was why I was the first to hear it. Hidden beneath roar and shout and fire. The unmistakable crack of glass.

I didn’t look. Didn’t freeze. I ran. So fast and so abruptly that the others all froze to stare at me. Watched me run through them. Watched me take the package and run for the doors on the far side of the wide open room. The stairs that led up into the tower. They watched me run as fast as I could.

So in a way, I killed them.

The glass wall collapsed in on itself, sending shards in every direction. A wave of sound hit me as I reached the door. Then the smell. It had been so long since I had been outside that I had forgotten what it was like. Intoxicating.

I couldn’t help it. I glanced back. Saw them charging forward. Not at me though. At the troops. At Dani. The big one caught her in its claws and tore her apart, tossing pieces back to the shambling hordes that followed. The groan of servos marked each step as it lumbered forward. The sound sent chills up my spine. I slammed the door shut. Couldn’t watch anymore. Had seen it plenty before.

I bolted up the stairs, sliding security doors into place as I went. There were probably still people down there, but fuck it. The worst thing that could happen is that one of them wasn’t eaten, and decided to sue. I rounded the last corner, and skidded to a halt. Its back was to me, focused as it was on a little boy at the end of the corridor. Back pressed up against a door that wouldn’t open for him. I glanced up at the thing in front of me. Couldn’t remember what they called it. Terror something. How the bloody thing had gotten inside with those wings was another issue entirely.

Just past the flying thing was the door I wanted. Next to it was the button that opened the door behind the kid. And next to me was a fire axe. I almost laughed. Picked it up and swung it at the bloody thing’s back. Watched it squirm, squawking and crying out. Not like it had though. Not before. The squawks were more subdued. Less melodic. More a groan.

I shoved it forward towards the kid, just far enough that I could get to the door and the button. Opened it up for him, watched him scramble through. No idea what was on the other side of it. Screaming probably meant something other than the toy shop.

My door led me up more stairs, and a broken glass wall panel. Which I suppose explained the bloody flying thing. I hurried on past before I started thinking about the fact that there were a lot more of them out there. I kicked open the last door. Crossed my fingers that I wasn’t late.

For once in my life I wasn’t. The helicopter was still there. ZJP painted in red on the side. The old man was sitting calmly in his seat. He frowned when I stepped in and strapped myself in, but I showed him the package, and he shrugged.

“At least something can be made of this then.”

The helicopter took off, blades throbbing overhead. The world seemed to spin, and I slumped against the helicopter door, staring down at the remnants of the facility. Watched the gunfire and flames, and the constant waves of shambling hordes. I glanced at the old man. The genius that thought he knew better than Hammond. Thought he could control them. Make it safe.

Never trust a man who thinks Zombies are the solution.

By Tom Wells. © 2011