Authors: Ricky Fleet,Christina Hargis Smith
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Horror
“Fucking wankers,” Mike grunted as the rest of the group disappeared from sight.
“I know, I hate them so much,” Debbie responded.
“You hate everyone. I need to try and sit down somehow, my ass is killing me standing here.” He pushed her away and lowered himself carefully onto the waiting room chair, favouring the undamaged left buttock, facing the door to keep a wary eye on the entrance.
“I don’t hate you,” she complained, hurt by his attitude. She sat down by his side without invitation.
“Jodi has been my business partner for eight years, I can’t believe she has dropped me like a hot potato,” Mike said to himself, trying to justify his growing detachment and anger at his once friend.
“They do that to people. Myself and Peter were happy until they showed up to ‘rescue’ us. After that, he treated me like dirt and is now fawning all over that Paige bitch!” Debbie scratched her own arm, drawing blood.
“Didn’t you say that you wanted to kill him, that being together was a mistake?” Mike looked at her.
A look of disorientation passed over her pinched features. “Umm, yeah I know that, it was. I hated him, he was weak. You aren’t weak.”
“So you mean you couldn’t control him any longer, and you resent that?” Mike deduced and she looked down at the trickling blood on her forearm.
“It’s not like that, I…” she started to protest but he had hit the nail on the head.
Mike turned to her and lifted her arm, licking the blood clean. “Hey, I’m not judging.” He changed tact, cajoling instead of abusing, “I need strong people like you around for what’s to come. The strongest will rule this world, people like us.”
Her eyes lit up at the thought of the power they could wield. “Do you really mean it?”
“Of course. When we reach my brother, we will be unstoppable. He is serving time for murder and controls the prison, drugs, phones, and women. Everything,” Mike explained.
Debbie’s mind went into overdrive. She would be at the top of the food chain, the mistress of Mike Arater. No longer vilified and abused for exercising her right to control people. The very thought was enough to make her moist and Mike wasted no time, unbuttoning her jeans and reaching within.
The signs of damage were everywhere. Glass was broken and shell casings lay on the floor where the soldiers had encountered the Hellspawn. The group used Honey to guide the way after tying a short length of rope around her collar. They cleared the first three rooms and then cut a length of duct tape to put over the door and frame. If anything went into the rooms they had taped, they would know ahead of time and wouldn’t be surprised by an attack. The fourth room was a small examination suite and they guided Peter to the bed before he collapsed. Paige offered to stay and look after him. As they moved away they heard the sound of Paige dragging heavy furniture into place to block the door. They reached the children’s section and Honey sat down and started whining. The group saw the bloody trails that streaked the floor, running under the magnetically sealed security doors. With no electricity, the locks were no longer working and John pushed the left hand door open an inch. Honey growled and whined at the same time.
“We need to clear it out,” John reasoned, knowing the fallen children were the hardest to deal with.
“Dad, I can’t,” said Sam, thinking back to the mystery house and the child zombie that had nearly killed him.
“I understand. Myself, John, and Braiden will clear it, the rest of you watch our backs,” Kurt offered. He hated the young ones too, but it needed doing despite their sensibilities.
They pushed through and the play area was revealed that sat just inside. Sarah remembered waiting with Sam here, watching him as he played after suffering a bad knock to his head. The toys had perked him right up, and after a couple of stitches and some medicine, he had been right as rain. He had even wanted to stay and play for a while longer, much to the amusement of his parents. The door closed and ended the memory.
Honey scratched at the door, she wanted to be with the men. From inside came the unmistakable groans of the zombie children. Quiet patters of shoes on the floor were silenced with the horrific sounds of meat being cleaved. The noises of a butcher’s chopping block carried under the doors and only Gloria didn’t cry. She was too stoic, although inside she was breaking apart. Teaching was her whole world and the suffering of children caused her to question her faith. How could God allow such heinous evil to be unleashed on the Earth? Movement at the door ended her inner dialogue and Kurt emerged, covered in green gore.
“It’s done,” he said quietly and placed the length of tape over the door. Gloria took the roll and cut one more strip, laying it vertically on the other piece, forming a cross.
“God protect the little children,” she prayed and made the sign of the cross. In her heart, she was struggling to justify the action.
“Amen,” came the chorus from the rest, who had bowed their heads solemnly.
Mike pulled his fly up and looked at Debbie who was sweaty and flushed. She smiled at him and wiped her brow. She could still feel the heat in her core and the burning sensations where he pulled her hair and raked her back with his nails. She shivered with delicious memories.
“Why can’t we just leave right now?” Debbie asked, while straightening her bra.
“I have to get payback, Braiden is dead before we leave,” he said with malice.
“I don’t like it. They have guns and watch us like hawks. What if we don’t get an opportunity?” She didn’t like the odds. Hopefully she could convince him to abscond in the night.
“Leave that to me. Tell me a bit more about yourself, you look so familiar,” he pondered, staring at her face.
“I come from Leigh Park, the Bosmere estate. I was adopted when I was a baby after my parents gave me up,” she replied bitterly.
“That must be it. I lived on Middle Park way, in the centre of Leigh Park. My older brother Craig is the one that got locked up,” Mike explained and her face creased in thought before her eyes opened wide with recollection.
“Craig Arater? Wasn’t he the one that beat the man to death in the street?” she asked.
“Yeah. The guy owed my brother money for drugs. Instead of paying up, he got mouthy and got what was coming,” he answered.
The story had been front page news at the time. The victim had been a prolific offender and nobody mourned his passing, but the media had eulogized him, focusing on his younger years as a successful student. The mention of his later drug dealing and violent tendencies had been ignored, as was the wont of news reporting to get the most dramatic headlines. Mike had been there when it had all erupted over the drug money. When the punches had started being thrown, Mike had intervened and knocked out two of the victim’s friends who had wanted to break it up. They lay on the ground, one unconscious and the other nursing his broken jaw. After nodding his thanks to Mike, Craig had punched Aaron to death. The blows had caused a brain bleed and he died on the side of the road, in front of a crowd of gawkers. Craig was sentenced to fourteen years in prison, and Mike had taken over his drug business.
“So why do you work behind the bar in Jodi’s pub?” asked Debbie with bewilderment.
“It’s not Jodi’s pub. We bought it together, fifty-fifty. It’s what I used to distribute the drugs and legitimize the cash. The pub was a total failure, but Jodi never asked why we were so popular with the younger punters as long as the doors stayed open,” Mike explained.
“And she never knew what you were doing?” she asked.
“I think she might have known. How could we possibly make money when the only normal customers were over seventy years old and only had one drink all afternoon?”
Debbie laughed. “What a dumb bitch.”
Mike slapped her across the face and grabbed her around the throat. “Don’t you ever talk about Jodi like that, do you understand?”
Unable to speak from the pressure on her throat, Debbie simply nodded. His fury barely abated with the nod. She was starting to black out and clutched at his hands, trying to free the deadly grip. Mikes arms were like iron and she would be able to do nothing to stop him killing her. A look passed over his face and the compression eased, allowing her to take gasping breaths.
“I’m sorry. Just don’t speak about my friend like that,” he said, then stroking her bruised face. Though his voice was calmer, his eyes were still angry and fevered. Debbie said nothing.
Kurt and the group reached the eastern entrance to the hospital. The doors were blocked by more concrete barriers, sealing that side of the hospital. No amount of walkers could move the blockage. They checked in on Peter who was fast asleep, then returned to the main foyer to take a break before clearing the western block. Mike and Debbie looked like children who had been caught in the cookie jar, shifty and guilty looks were on their faces. Kurt was fearful for the coming hours and days and what the pair planned. After eating and resting they were left to follow the yellow dots into X-ray and the dining areas.
“Follow the yellow brick road,” Sarah sang as they went down the corridor.
“I guess that makes you Dorothy, Mum?” Sam joked.
“I would say Wicked Witch of the West,” Sarah laughed, “And that’s Toto.” She pointed at Honey who grinned at the attention.
“I’m the Scarecrow,” said Braiden, “He’s dumb too.”
“Hey, don’t you say that. You are as smart as anyone I know,” Kurt rebuked the self-deprecation. Braiden smiled and blushed.
“I would be the Cowardly Lion, I’m always scared,” Sam muttered.
Kurt grabbed both boys and held them close. “Sam, you are braver than me, I would never have gone out alone in the dark to get payback. Same goes for you, Braiden. You two are the backbone of this group, we wouldn’t survive without you.”
The boys were happy with Kurt’s confidence in them and moved low through the next doorway into the dining area. Unfinished food had gone beyond mouldy. The food had dried or had fur covering it. The smell was beyond awful. More blood had been splattered in the room and bodies were laid where they had fallen. Shattered brains were spilled over the tables and chairs from the high calibre bullets that the soldiers had used. Whatever clean-up had been put into motion had been ended before they could finish the job, as the children’s wing and the food hall attested.
“Honey, anything?” Sarah asked the dog who was interested in the bodies, but showed no outward signs of fear.
“Ok, let’s go,” Kurt ordered. They stepped carefully over the human debris and broken furniture. Behind the serving counter, more rotting food was still under the heating lamp. The pre wrapped sandwiches were all green, and the fruit had shrunk and withered in the display bowls.
Kurt signalled to the rear doors and whispered, “Kitchen.” He pointed and put his fingers to his lips, telling them to be quiet. They all nodded and Sam took Honey’s lead, walking her to the entrance. Sniffing around the door lining, she still seemed unperturbed at the area.
Gloria swung the door open with the shotgun barrel and Kurt glanced inside. The glass skylights in the ceiling cast pools of sunlight onto the reflective counters and appliances like the spotlights of a theatre. No matinee was taking place, only the silence and abandoned feeling that was so pervasive. By nature, humans are social creatures and they all felt more of the loneliness that would accompany them with each day of their new lives.
“It’s all clear. Come take a look at this,” Sam said, poking at a pile of food on one of the counters.
“What about it, Sam?” Gloria asked. The food was unremarkable; the whole area was covered in it. She gave an ‘I don’t get it’ shrug.
“Look how fresh it is, how long do you think the other stuff has been sitting for it to rot like that?” he added. The food had barely started to fester; the first signs of mould had just appeared on the surface.
“You’re right! Which can only mean there are people in the hospital,” Kurt stated. None of the group showed any excitement, the disappointment of their previous finds had left them cautious.
“Everyone keep your eyes peeled. I haven’t seen any other signs of the living which may mean they have left already,” John explained.
“I hope they are nicer than Debbie and Mike,” said Braiden without tact.
Jodi saw the others were hoping she didn’t take it the wrong way and smiled. “No he is right, I don’t like what this whole thing has done to Mike. I always knew he had a troubled past, but his behaviour is totally beyond the pale.”
Wary of surprises from both the dead and living, they exited the dining room and turned left towards the x-ray department. More holes riddled the walls at head height and the chunks of brain and scalp were still embedded by the bullets. The army had a hell of a battle within these tight, winding hallways. Ultimately, for all their firepower and training, the unsleeping, remorseless advance of the dead had prevailed. Kurt looked at the meagre weapons they held, and felt the immensity of their predicament. The x-ray’s red warning lights were mounted outside the examination rooms, forever dark. Kurt pushed at the first door and met resistance from the other side. It wasn’t a lock, because when he and John put their shoulders to the door it opened a fraction with a grind of protest.