Authors: Ricky Fleet,Christina Hargis Smith
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Horror
“Would you keep your voice down! They are attracted by the noise,” Kurt hissed back, but it was pointless.
“Who do you think you are, trying to tell me what to do?” Debbie carried on the tirade, oblivious to the danger she was drawing down upon them.
Kurt felt pity for Peter. It was bad enough to be trapped in this hellish world. However, it must have been even worse being cooped up with someone like that. Kurt knew the type; overbearing and abusive, never satisfied with whatever her henpecked partner provided. John had circled the block and was driving slowly towards them, closely followed by his pus filled entourage. They were out of time and Kurt could see no point in continuing the conversation. Debbie was still raving and he could see Peter trying to placate her.
“Good luck,” Kurt said to the pair and pulled a U turn, facing back to the estate entrance and ready to move out as soon as John reached them. The shrill voice was now ignored, as much for the awful attitude as for the danger she would pose if she went on a rant in the open. John pulled alongside, having sped up after seeing the strangers were not going to be joining them.
“What happened?” John asked.
“Can’t you hear?” Kurt said and John looked confused. Debbie had stopped shouting and had gone back into the room. “Never mind, let’s go.” Kurt started to drive forward and John prepared to follow but John tooted his horn once and they stopped. Peter was lowering himself from the window after throwing a bag down onto the lawn. Debbie was grabbing at him and attempting to stop him leaving.
“You bastard!” she screamed as she watched Peter make good his escape and drop to the ground, grabbing his bag and running toward the waiting vehicle.
Kurt was tempted to speed off and leave him there. Despite the attitude of his partner, Peter was leaving a defenceless woman to the dead or at least a slow lingering death by starvation. His foot hovered by the accelerator, ready to press it. He hesitated and the back door swung open. Instead of Peter climbing in to escape, he just threw his bag in.
“Can someone help me? We can’t stay here and she knows it, she is just stubborn.” Peter looked at them beseechingly
“Stubborn? That’s an understatement,” Kurt replied. “Peter, she has to quiet down or we will leave you both behind, I won’t have my family put at risk. Sarah, jump in the driver’s seat, we will be right back.”
“Are you sure we have time, they are coming!” Sarah shouted the urgency. The large group of shamblers were only a minute away at most.
“I don’t know, but I can’t leave her to die,” Kurt yelled as he and Peter rushed back to the house.
“Debs, please come with us, we can’t stay here,” Peter pleaded with her, but she had crossed her arms in a gesture of defiance.
“You didn’t care about me when you jumped out of the window a minute ago, why start now?” she said, sounding like a sulking child.
“I came back for you, didn’t I?” He knew their time was up, the corpses were nearly on them and Kurt had run out of patience.
“Get your fucking ass out of that window or stay here! My family are waiting and if you think I will risk them getting hurt for a pompous, jumped up bitch like you, then you are mistaken!” Kurt started to walk away. Peter grabbed him by the shoulder.
“Please wait, look,” he said to Kurt. Debbie was coming, carefully sitting on the windowsill and preparing to jump. They didn’t have time to get her turned around so that she could lower herself before leaping, at that height she would break a leg.
!” Kurt shouted and ran forward with Peter, holding their arms out to try and break her fall. “Ok, now!” Debbie landed with less than athletic grace and her skirt rode up on their arms which drew a glare of disapproval. The putrid monstrosities that reached for them focused her attention and they ran to the waiting vehicles, climbing through the open doors. Sarah pulled away and picked up speed, driving out of the estate that had been their home for thirteen years. Honey jumped down from the passenger seat to give them a warm welcome, licking all three.
“Get away from me you disgusting animal!” Debbie pushed her away forcefully.
“Don’t you touch her, don’t you hurt her.” Paige had grabbed Debbie and screamed in her face.
“Get off you psycho! Peter, aren’t you going to help me?” She was cowering at the verbal assault, unused to being the victim. Peter was making a fuss of the dog who appreciated the friendly contact and it was Gloria that gently pulled Paige back.
“It’s ok sweetheart, no harm was done, look.” Gloria indicated Honey who was frantically licking the laughing face of their new companion.
“Oh my God, she is crazy! She attacked me!” Debbie was babbling.
“She thought you hurt her dog, that’s all,” Gloria tried to explain but Debbie was now furious with Peter, who was still fussing over the yellow furred licking machine.
“Peter, are you going to let her do that? What a poor excuse for a man,” Debbie belittled him.
“He’s kept you alive, I’d say Peter was a hero,” Kurt tried to support him.
“You shouldn’t have touched her dog, she was only trying to say hello,” Peter said, not even looking at her which made her even angrier, but one glare from Kurt was enough. He would happily stop and drop her out of the van. Her volatile attitude was bound to be a problem and he leaned in close to whisper his threat.
“If you don’t be quiet, you will be left by the side of the road, do you understand me?” Kurt met her poisonous gaze and she broke contact first. Satisfied he had made his point, he held out his hand to Peter who shook it and smiled warmly.
“Nice to meet you mate, I’m Kurt. That’s Paige, Sam, Gloria, Braiden, and Sarah, my wife.” Peter nodded to each of them. “And of course you have met Honey.” The dog barked at her new name and laid down, putting a paw onto Peters legs.
“Pleased to meet you all, I’m Peter. That’s Debbie, we are engaged,” Peter explained. Kurt thought at least the zombie apocalypse had stopped the wedding. Debbie merely looked at them all with disdain. Kurt was having none of it.
“Pleased to meet you too, Debbie.” He smiled sardonically and held out his hand once more, but she didn’t take it. He looked at Peter who gave an embarrassed shrug.
“So how did you two end up at home together when it happened?” Gloria asked, trying to defuse some of the animosity that had fallen on the group. Debbie was still ignoring them so Peter took his cue.
“Can you believe we had taken the day off to plan the wedding?” he laughed then quickly fell quiet when Debbie shot him a withering glare. It was plain to the group that the end of the world had not brought them closer together.
“Well I think that’s romantic. Young love,” Gloria continued, sensing the atmosphere and trying her best to brighten the group.
Sarah was concentrating on the route. They would soon be at the bend in the road that led through Emsworth, passing underneath a motorway and railway bridge before turning left at the roundabout that would take them directly towards the Barracks.
“Shit!” she muttered upon turning the corner. Kurt came up to look through the windscreen and why she had cursed was obvious; hundreds had gathered under the concrete overpass, the road was thick with the dead. The group was lucky, the slow approach of Sarah had only revealed the front of the van to the horde and only a small handful broke away and began a leisurely stroll over for their meal.
“So, what do we do now?” Sarah asked and looked at Kurt. John had pulled up and joined them at the driver’s door.
“We try through Warblington or Southbourne. Warblington will be the fastest and the train gates are already broken.” John had heard the tale of their school escape.
“Ok, we go through Warblington,” Kurt agreed and swapped seats with Sarah. John meanwhile returned to the Land Rover and turned around in the road. The small group had now grown into a tide of putrescence; the whole swarm was converging on the van, more appearing from the shadows of the dual bridges as they watched. Kurt wasted no more time and swung in a wide arc, mounting the pavement before dropping back onto the road to continue the journey.
“Jesus, there were hundreds of them. Why were they all under the bridge?” Braiden asked. He still had a hard time speaking without coughing but it was getting better each day.
“I don’t know, shelter maybe? I can’t see why they would need to, they’re dead.” Kurt was at a loss. They looked like the huddled penguins he had watched on the Discovery Channel, sharing heat from their bodies.
Conversations ceased and Kurt concentrated on the task, the roads were clear apart from the occasional body or abandoned car. On small semi-rural villages like this it wasn’t a surprise. The real test would be if they needed to take a main road or motorway. Kurt prayed this wouldn’t be necessary, that the Army would provide sanctuary. The train station was ahead and the pile of electrocuted bodies had been churned up and strewn down the line from a passing train. They tried to avoid looking at the recognisable pieces, staring at the passenger platform instead, which had a lot of zombies on either side, waiting for a train that would never come. They passed the school and it was even more sinister than they remembered; the dark, empty classrooms and echoing corridors haunted Kurt’s waking thoughts, probably as a result of what he had witnessed inside. The family felt for each other, Sarah squeezed Kurt’s arm, Gloria did the same to both Sam and Braiden, unconsciously seeking reassurance from the horror of that day.
As they reached the westward entrance to the village, the concentration of zombies increased and necessitated some careful driving to avoid the thronging masses. They passed no other signs of life, no homes were besieged and no undead were grouped like those under the bridges. They reached the roundabout and it was blocked with cars, some were burned out shells, others had flailing dead inside, safely buckled in against the crash that was now inevitable.
“Hold on tight, I’ve got to punch through the cars!” Kurt yelled and they all braced themselves. He picked out the rear side of a Volvo that had smashed windows and moving occupants, the sound of the roaring engine was a magnet to their reaching arms. He prayed the engine would survive the impact and was thrown painfully at his air bag when metal met metal in a rending shriek. The Volvo was sent spinning and the dead were spared any serious injury by their vehicle
s top notch safety. The van shuddered and stalled. No smoke issued from the bonnet, but there could be oil pouring from a split gasket which he didn’t dare risk checking. Turning the key, the engine cranked but refused to fire.
“Fantastic, you’ve just got us killed!” Debbie shouted at Peter, still seeking to make him feel useless. Kurt had to begrudgingly agree with her. They had entrusted him with their lives and he had failed. The dead were filtering through the available gaps in the traffic, seeking the warm pulsing meat of the stranded survivors.
“Sorry.” Was all he could say, the doomed expedition would soon be at a horrific end. The sound of a blaring horn made Kurt look at the wing mirror. John was frantically trying to get his attention.
“…bloody window down!” John was yelling as Kurt complied. “I will push you
Keep the handbrake off, when you hit the downward slope try bump starting it!”
Kurt raised his hand in agreement and John revved the engine and drove at the bumper. The group felt the contact and John increased the power. Inch by inch the van rolled forward, only the displaced Volvo gave them a slim chance of survival. If there had been any other obstacles they would have ground to a halt. The undead reached the rolling convoy and started to hammer at the glass and side panels, John was totally exposed and if any of the panes on the Rover gave way they would all die screaming. The proximity of the faces and the slime of decomposition they smeared against the clean glass made Kurt gag. He was spending far too much time worrying about the spectators and missed the zombie that stepped out in front of them, a crack of head on windscreen brought him back to his senses. They had still only reached about five miles an hour and even a soft body under the wheels could stop them dead, literally. Fortunately it was rolled and broken by the undercarriage and then, subsequently crushed again by John who couldn’t see the source of the snapping and thumping. Kurt passed a hideous sight, a body stripped clean of skin, flesh and clothing, only a red muscled mess like the images from a medical journal remained. It passed by and left a bloody handprint on the glass before reaching John in the Land Rover. It drew its head back and lurched forward, connecting bare skull to the window and Kurt watched in horror as the glass imploded, covering his father. The zombie’s momentum plunged it headfirst through the opening and only the copper arm guards saved John from the virulent bite that would have meant certain undeath.
!” Kurt screamed and almost put his foot on the brake which would have undone all the speed John had built up. They were so close to the decline in the road he could taste it. The blood sack was now waist deep into the vehicle and John was leaning over to the side, still accelerating and keeping them safe. Their eyes met through the mirror and it was as if time slowed down, all of the grief and arguments of the past few years melting away in an instant. John gave a smile and barely perceptible nod, the downward slope was reached, he had done all he could to give his family a fighting chance.
“Dad, no!” Kurt pleaded, but John’s attention had shifted skyward. He twisted in the seat and got his knees against the chest of the horror, pushing it away as far as possible. Twin blasts of a shotgun punched a gaping hole in the windscreen and the skinless monstrosity’s head was blown apart, the scatter of buckshot had been only inches from John’s legs. Kurt looked back and saw that Peter and Paige had held the ladder to the roof opening for Gloria to climb, where she had then taken her shot.