Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Eleventh Entry: ...And Bad News, And Good News, And Bad News

July 21st

Okay, now that I’ve had "dinner", where was I?

So there I was on the roof, trying to figure out how Sharon was getting in and out (I was assuming the whole time that she was indeed coming and going from the hotel, which in hindsight was kind of stupid of me). Entry was eluding me.

I checked out the large pieces of machinery, thinking that if they were air conditioning that maybe I could get into the ventilation system (it works in the movies), or if they were for the elevators that I could maybe gain entry to the elevator shafts. I couldn’t find anything, or at least nothing that did not require me to have some tools.

I examined the skylights again, and saw that they did in fact open. There were large rusted hinges at the apex of the skylight’s slope. They did not look like they had been opened in years, and I could not see anything like a ladder for getting up and down from the skylight, but maybe Sharon just didn’t leave it set up when she was not using it.

After ten minutes of trying to pry open each skylight I considered another option; maybe she isn’t using the skylight as an entry point. I then considered just breaking the skylight, and jumping down, after all, it’s not like the zombies could get up here and get in that way themselves. Then I considered what I would do if I impaled parts of myself on broken glass, and needed to be rescued myself.

I finally decided that the roof was not the way in, and that there must be another entry point. This means climbing all the way back down the ladder, exposing myself to any zeds that might happen to look in my direction (assuming that they can even see that far), and searching around again for a way in.

Before descending the ladder, I looked down to make sure that there were no hungry ghouls waiting for me at the bottom. I saw nothing threatening down there, so I started my descent, cursing my stupidity the whole way.

As I was passing the second floor the window on my right got my attention. There was no screen on it, and it was just slightly ajar, only about a half an inch. How did I miss this? I guess I was just so determined that the roof was the way in that I wasn’t even looking for anything else.

I leaned sideways on the ladder, and hooked my fingers into the opening of the window. The window slid open quietly and easily, and I pulled myself through, sliding to the floor face first with a thud.

I found myself in a hotel room. It was a nice, but basic; queen size bed, bedside tables with lamps on them, an digital clock radio with a blank face, a phone, and armoire which presumably contains a TV and maybe a mini-fridge, a table, a couple of chairs, and a dresser. The carpet was a slightly lighter shade of beige than the building itself, and the bedspread was one of those nylon (polyester?) jobs that every hotel, no matter how nice it seems, has, this one had a wild flower pattern that looked sort of out of place in such a basic and dignified room.

I let myself out into the hotel’s hallway, which had a deep red industrial carpeting, and was quite dark with no windows to let light in. I tried to catch the door to the room I came out of as it closed, but wasn’t quick enough I was plunged into darkness, and I would need a keycard to get back into the light (do those even work without power? Are the solar panels on the roof enough to power the system?).

I pulled my handgun from its holster at my waist, and started moving slowly down the hallway. I would much rather have been using my rifle as a comfort, but I was keeping one hand on the wall as I walked.

The hallways seemed endless, my hands slid over wall, and over doorways. I tried each door I came to, hoping one would be unlocked so that I ccould get some light into the hall. At one point I ran into a table, knocking the vase of long dead flowers and a telephone to the floor. The noise the vase made as it broke was deafening in the silent darkness.

I moved across to the other side of the hallway from the table, and my hands came into contact with the cold metal of the elevator doors. For laughs, I found the buttons to summon the elevator and pressed them. Nothing happened of course.

The whole time I was creeping through the pitch black, I was wondering exactly what sort of an idiot I was to have forgotten to bring a flashlight. I should have grabbed one of the headlights out of the van before we split up. Oh well, live and learn, right?

In the darkness I heard a noise. I brought my Beretta up, and pointed it in the general direction of the noise. It sounded like a heavy door opening, and then closing. I could hear the hiss of one of those hydraulic door closers as it shut.

My mind panicked, what if a zed was here in the hotel with me? I couldn’t see to fight it off if there was. I thought about shooting, and hoping I could spot the thing in the flashes. It was a stupid idea, but I was all out of good ones at the moment.

I thought I could hear it moving, coming closer. I heard the sound of something metallic shifting. Was it armed like the one outside? It surely could not see me, but could it smell me? Hear my heartbeat? Hear my breathing? Was it stumbling around as blindly as I was, or was it coming right for me?

Then it spoke my name questioningly.

Suddenly it was on me, its arms wrapped around me, pulling me to it. Something hard hit me in the face as it brought its face to mine. The hard object slid away from its face and thumped softly on the thin carpet. It brought its mouth up to my face, and kissed me full on the lips. I was quite frankly shocked. It is a moment that will live on in my mind as long as I live.

“It’s really you! I knew Alex would send you guys to get us!” squealed the woman’s voice. Sharon’s voice.

“Sharon?” I asked stupidly.

“Well it’s certainly not Jimmy.” She replied.

Sharon pulled away from me, and a small but incredibly bright light bloomed in front of me, cutting away the darkness around us. Sharon was holding a small LED flashlight in her hand. She bent down to retrieve the object that she had hit me in the face with, causing the flashlight to project her shadow onto the ceiling.

Even in this light, I was struck both by how beautiful Sharon is, and how much I’ve missed her. Her hair was tied back in a ponytail, and she was wearing a pink t-shirt that probably would have been too tight for her when she left Mallville, but it looked like she had lost some weight in her time away. She was not really skinny to start with, but she was getting there now.

On her hip, Sharon was wearing a large revolver, like something out of Dirty Harry. When she stood upright again, I saw that the object that had been on her head was a set of night-vision goggles,” Where did you get those?” I asked, motioning to the handgun and the goggles.

“Sports store across the street. It’s not a T-Mart, but it has enough stuff in it to survive for awhile as long as no one else comes to loot it. So are the others outside?”

“It’s just me,” I replied.

“What do you mean ‘just me’? Alex sent you alone?” her smile faltered.

I’m sure I have no reason (or at least no right) to be jealous, but why does she keep mentioning Alex? I told her I would come get her; shouldn’t I get some of the credit for this?

“Yes and no. Kaur said we couldn’t waste the manpower to save you, so we worked out a plan for a run to go past here. Once we get Jimmy to the car, we’re going to meet the others at the Bianco’s a couple of blocks away. We’ll all go back as one happy family, and Kaur won’t be able to do shit about it,” I explained.

Her smile returned,” Sounds like a plan. Let’s go get Jimmy then.”

Sharon led me around to the side of the hotel she and Jimmy had been hiding out in. She let us into a hotel room with a keycard, so I guess the solar panels must be enough after all. Entering the room I was greeted by the sight of Jimmy Chen sitting on one of the room’s two queen size beds pointing a shotgun at me, a book casually sitting open on the bed next to him.

Upon seeing that it was me and Sharon coming through the door, he put the shotgun down on the bed next to the book,” Are we being rescued at last?” he asked cheerfully.

Jimmy looked well, but I noticed what looked like the handle of a hockey stick being used as a splint. The piece of wood was fastened to his right leg with a number of Ace bandages. I figure that Jimmy has probably been on that bed most of the time since they got to the hotel.

“Yup,” I replied.

I looked around the hotel room; it was basically the same as the one I had entered through except that it had two beds, and the gaudy bedspreads were gone, leaving just rumpled blankets and sheets. The room’s table and chairs had been moved to the window, and on it were bottles of water, and pouches of freeze-dried foods as well as some plates, cups, and silverware, presumably all appropriated from the hotel’s kitchen. There was also a police scanner and a powered-down laptop computer with a cable running from it across the floor to the wall jack under the writing desk.

On the floor between the beds were a stack of books; camping, hunting , and survival books probably taken from the sporting goods store, but also paperback novels and even a few mangas in the mix. There was also one of those wind-up emergency radios with the built in flashlight, and a couple of boxes of ammunition of different types. There was also a pair of crutched leaning against the nightstand with its disused phone and alarm clock blinking “12:00” over and over.

Over on the room’s dresser it looked like something out of a Punisher comic. Every inch of space was covered with boxes of bullets, handguns, a couple rifles, and large survival style knives (you know, like the kind Rambo used). Leaning against the dresser was a hunting bow, and a couple of pouches (quivers?) of arrows.

“Looks like quite the cozy set up,” I commented.

“It’s not much, but its got running water, and some electricity; we call it home,” replied Sharon as she quietly shut the door.

“Not anymore we don’t. Let the others in so we can get out of here,” said Jimmy, sliding to the edge of the bed and grabbing his crutches.

“There aren’t any others,” I said somewhat sheepishly.

“You came on your own?” asked Jimmy

“No, Alex sent him,” commented Sharon, again talking as if I had nothing to do with this.

“Hashmir said no rescue, so the main group is going on to a scavenging target. We’re going to meet them there, and act like we just happened to pass by here on the way back and pick you guys up. What’s Hashmir going to do once you’re already back inside Mallville?”

“Have us shot?” Jimmy asked in reply.

That sent chills down my spine because it was at the point that I realized that Jimmy did not know about Sara yet. I know someone would have to tell him eventually, but that didn’t mean I meant to volunteer.

“That’s ridiculous,” snapped Sharon.

“Is it? He sent those bikers after us.”

“You have no proof of that!” replied Sharon, and even though I thought Jimmy was right, I said nothing to contradict her. I didn’t need to.

It was at the point that the police scanner on the table crackled to life, reminding me that I had stupidly left my walkie talkie in the car. Mikhael’s Russian accented voice coming through, “I think we may have a problem guys, there’s a group of motorcycles coming up the street towards us.”

“Towards us, or just in our general direction?” responded Gerry McElroy’s distinctive cartoon voice.

“I’m going to say towards us, they’re about two blocks away, and approaching fast,” ask Mikhael finished speaking there is a firecracker pop before he released the talk button; a gunshot.

“Get back in here now!” cried Maria’s voice.

“They’re shooting at me!” yelled Mikhael.

“I see them! There’s at least a dozen of them!” called the voice of Karen Hummingbird,” They’re splitting up. Some are going around the side of the building, the rest are coming to the front!” this statement was punctuated by a rapid series of pops and the sound of shattering glass,”They’re shooting!”

“I’m hit!” shrieked Mikhael.

“Olivia, Daryl, Redd, take the front of the building,” ordered Maria,” Gerry and Josh cover the back door with me. Stay in the building, do not let them lure you out! Stay behind cover!”

“They’ve got fucking Uzis or something!” yelled Redd Waxman, the sounds of more gunfire coming through with his voice.

“Olivia’s down!” yelled Daryl MacGuire.

“Shut up and fight!” commanded Maria.

“Someone help me!” came a pained shriek that I barely recognized as Karen’s voice. More gunfire came through the speaker of the police scanner, but no more words.

After a few minutes the gunfire stopped. A couple of minutes after that the signal from Karen’s walkie stopped; There was just silence after that. It was over.

That was about seven hours ago now. The sun is down, and the power from the solar panels is gone. I am sitting in the hallway outside of Sharon and Jimmy’s room writing this by candlelight.

Sharon made dinner with the hotplate before it got too dark, according to the bag it was Swedish meatballs, but I think that is debatable.
We thought about just getting back to the car and heading for Mallville, but we don’t know if the bikers are still out there looking for us. Could they know the plan? They knew where we were supposed to be going, or was that just coincidence? Could Hashmir Kaur, a mall security guard, really have sent a group of bikers to murder us all?

Sharon does not believe that Kaur could be behind this, but Jimmy I sure of it. Sharon has not been around for the last few weeks, she does not know about Sara, or about that woman in the park. I know she's wrong, but I don't want to get in a fight with her about it.

This is not how this was supposed to happen. This was supposed to be simple; I was supposed to swoop in, save Sharon and Jimmy, and we would all go home victorious. Instead of celebrating back at the mall, I’m sitting here in a dark hallway writing this, and pretty much everyone I’ve come into contact with since lunchtime is dead.

I need to figure out what our story is when we do get home. How do I explain not being killed by the Hell’s Postmen? How do I explain the car not even being damaged? I guess we could maybe take one of the cars in the parking lot, maybe whoever owns them left the keys behind.

I’m going to sleep on it… on the floor. Sure I could stay in one of the other rooms, but I think we should all stay together. Maybe that’s just me being afraid. Maybe it’s just me not wanting to be away from Sharon so soon after finding her again. That’s pathetic.

I smell smoke.

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