Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Twenty First Entry: Trick or Trick (Part 2)

Unfortunately this was not TV, and we did not get a break to figure out what to do. The undead horde marched forward with only Alex's gun still firing carefully aimed shots at the front of the pack.

“The stairs! Try the stairs!” Yelled Alex, as his gun ran out of ammunition as well. Now we were really screwed; no ammo and no exit if the stairs had been sealed at the same time as the doors behind us.

Mitchell started towards the door to the stairwell, and then stopped. He looked at the oncoming zombies, and shouted,” Lisa? Lisa, no!” Suddenly he grabbed up an empty fire extinguisher from the floor, and charged the crowd of zeds swinging it like a club.

The bright red fire extinguisher hit a dark haired female zombie in the face; she went down and Mitchell went down on top of her. The zombies enveloped them both, and Mitchell disappeared into their writhing mass. Maria told me later that Lisa was Mitchell's ex-wife's name.

Tara broke from our momentary paralysis first, realizing that in another handful of seconds that the zeds would be in front of the door to the stairwell, and that option would be cut off. She yanked on the door, and it opened easily towards her.

“Come on!” Tara yelled.

We ran for the door; Gerry, being the slowest amongst us, ended up bringing up the rear. The zeds were only feet away as he entered the stairs.

“Up or down?” yelled Sharon.

Down would take us to the sublevels; parking, storage, the maintenance workshops, and the various machines and tanks that helped Mallville keeps its illusion of modern civilization. Up would take us farther into admin, and eventually to the nicer apartments on the top floor, like Tara's.

“Down! We could find some tools to use as weapons!” yelled Gerry, pulling the door inwards against the zeds now pulling on its handle from the outside.

“Up! I have more guns in my office,” stated Alex.

“I vote for up,” stated Sharon.

“Seconded,” I added.

“Then go, I'll catch up to you,” said Gerry, sounding very noble.

“Really?” asked Milton.

“No! Run!” said Gerry. He let go of the door, and then dodged past Milton heading up the stairs.

We all followed his example as the zeds pulled open the door from the hallway. Luckily the narrow width of the doorway created a bottleneck, causing the zeds to get stuck as three of them tried to get through at once. It only took them a few seconds to be pushed through by the others though, as I could hear their feet on the stairs below us.

Some of the zeds went down the stairs, but it seemed like most of them were following us, attracted to our smell or something I guess. I didn't realize it at this point, but we had just shown the zeds how to get to every floor in the building, so unless the stairs were sealed off, or the individual sections on each floor had been sealed, they could now spread through the building. Oops.

The door to the third floor hallways was not locked, lucky for us if not for some of the people working up there. We blasted through the door, and into the hallway.

“What's going on?” asked a blonde woman with a stack of cheery paper jack-o-lanterns in her hand, presumably for tonight's planned events, “We heard the alarms, but no one has told us what's going on.”

“Building's breached,” Gasped Alex, breathing heavily, “Zeds right behind us. Evacuate, or fight!”

Without waiting for any sort of response, Alex started moving again, a bit slower now. As thin as he is I kind of thought he would be in better condition than my wheezing self. He led us back to his office, we started hearing screams and yelling coming from the direction of the stairwell as we entered Alex's outer office where Tara's desk sits; the zeds had gotten onto this floor.

Alex went into his office, and over to a large gray metal cabinet that was sitting slightly ajar. I had always thought that this cabinet held office supplies, and files and stuff, but when he flung open the door I saw that he had modified it into a weapon's locker. There were three more M-16s, four Mossbergs, six Berettas, and a whole bunch of ammunition in both boxes and clips. I'm not sure how he got the M-16's (the same way as Kaur, I guess), but from the other stuff, I am guessing he was skimming more than just food off of the scavenging runs.

“Load up!” Alex ordered to all of us.

“Any grenades?” asked Maria.

“I wish.”

Maria traded the Mossberg she was carrying with an M-16. Sharon grabbed an M-16, and Milton tried to, but Alex stopped him, giving gave him a Mossberg instead. We all loaded up as much ammunition as we could carry (this was one of the many times in my life that I was glad I buy pants with big pockets.).

“So now what? We ain't gonna go back there, are we?” asked Milton.

“If we let them spread, we're going to lose this place,” explained Gerry, “We have to fight.”

“Yes, we're going back, and we're going to take down as many of those fuckers as possible. If you're too scared feel free to hide under Tara's desk until we come back for you,” offered Alex, “No one's going to think any less of you, even if you are an unbelievable pussy.”

“Of course one of the zeds might come after your scent, and you'd have nowhere else to run,” explained Tara in her absolute coldest voice, “If you bleed on my desk, I'll be very unhappy with you.”

“Fuck! Alright, I'm comin',” replied Milton.

We headed back towards the stairs. I noticed that we were not seeing any security officers up here, which kind of surprised me. The big conference room that was serving as the council's chamber was on this floor, and I thought it odd that no one was up here to protect them.

At the end of the hallway we spotted the first ones; a pair of zeds in grimy clothes shambling down the hallway towards us. Before I could think of anything clever to say, Maria dropped to one knee and expertly put a bullet through each ghouls' heads.

We advanced more; we truly had the upper hand now, at least on this floor. It was bad that they were spreading throughout all of the floors, but spreading out would make it easier to kill them safely so long as nobody did anything stupid like get bit.

Turning the corner back to the stairs revealed where someone had been bit. Bright red fresh blood was spattered across the wall, but there was no body, zed or normal. I don't know whether to hope the wound was fatal or not, I mean all zombie bites are fatal one way or another in the end.

At the end of the hallway was another of the undead heading away from us towards another hallway intersection. Sharon and I both took the shot; one of us hit it in the back of the neck, the other the back of the skull. I think it's possible that either shot would have taken the thing down, but whichever of us got the head shot definitely killed it.

“What do we do now?” asked Gerry, “Try to make sure this floor is clear, or start on the stairs?”

“They're coming from the stairs. That's probably where the bulk of them still are,” offered Maria.

As if Maria's comment summoned him, the door right behind Milton, the one leading to the stairs, swung upon violently, and a zed staggered through. Milton let out a startled shriek as he spun around to look, and then fired his rifle. It was a good shot too, as it demolished the things face, and sent it stumbling to the floor to never rise again.

“Nice,” commented Gerry to Milton.

“We should split up,” decided Alex, “Sharon and Maria come with me to sweep this floor; we need to make sure the council is secure. The rest of you take the stairs.”

Tara nodded, and, practically shoving Milton out of the way, yanked open the door to the stairwell. I think she was angry, but it can be kind of hard to tell the difference between her being angry, and her just being I don't know, stoic? Is that the right word?

Before she was even fully into the stairwell, Tara had started taking aimed shots at the living dead on the landing for this floor. I could see over her shoulder that there were zeds on the stairs going both up and down. We were going to have to deal with them coming from both sides. I guess this was why there were four of us, while only three on Alex's team. Either that or he considers me, Gerry, and Milton to be about equal to Sharon and Maria. That's probably about right actually.

“We go up first,” ordered Tara once she had cleared the landing of zeds,” There's probably less that way. Once we've cleared up to the top floor we can start working our way back down.”

The fight up the stairs was slow and treacherous. Milton and Gerry watched our backs to stop the undead coming up at us while Tara and I took the front. There were not as many of them in the stairwell as I had feared which meant most of them were probably still on the ground floor. That or they had already spread out onto the other floors on the way up.

The dead ghouls made going up the stairs tricky. The stairs are plenty wide enough to allow three people to stand side by side on them, but having to negotiate our way around the bodies slumped on the steps was difficult. We were frankly in more danger of tripping that being bit, as long as the dead zeds were really dead anyway.

The cold terror I had felt when the attack began had been replaced by adrenaline. I would almost say I was having fun at that point, at least until we got to the top floor. Opening the door at the top of the stairs revealed a horrible sight; a small child who was apparently dressed early for trick-or-treating had been caught by two ghouls that had made it all the way up. I guess he was going to be a ghost, as there was a torn and bloody sheet on the ground next to the zeds who were feasting on them.

That may be the most horrible thing I've ever seen; I suppose if I were any sort of artist, I could draw it. One of the zeds had pulled off the kid's left arm, and was eating like corn on the cob. The other had torn into the chest, and pulled out his intestines, and was gnawing at them, shaking the length of organ as it tried to rip a piece free in its mouth, spraying droplets of blood around and onto the wall behind it. The smell was that of fresh blood and rotting meat.

I froze at the sight. I couldn't move, shoot, anything. I wasn't in any immediate danger, as the zeds were far too busy with their meal to bother with me. Tara shoved me roughly out of the way, and shot the two zeds in the back of the head. She then shot the child's corpse to make sure it remained a corpse.

Tara turned on me then, grabbing my shirt with her left hand, and pulling my face to hers, “Don't you wuss out on me now!” she growled coldly, and then gave me a quick kiss. It was like being kissed by a complete stranger; there was none of the warmth or love that are usually in her kisses. It was like being kissed by someone who hates you, which is frankly a little unpleasant.

“So should we check this floor, or work out way back down now?” asked Gerry.

“Without splitting up, there's really no way to check the floors out properly. We will have to leave that to security,” said Tara, “We work our way down the stairs, and try to keep anymore of the zeds from spreading into the building.”

“But what about the people on the floors? I mean, most of them ain't gonna have guns with 'em,” said Milton.

“They need to be able to defend themselves,” said Tara coldly, ”If our taking out the bulk of the monsters isn't enough for them to succeed at even the most basic self defense, then maybe they just aren't suited for this world anymore anyway.”

“That's pretty harsh,” commented Gerry.

“Maybe you haven't noticed, Gerry, but the world's a pretty harsh fucking place now,” Commented Tara, as she headed back into the stairwell.

The battle back down the stairs was a lot easier than the battle up, except for the litter of rotting corpses blocking the steps from our travels up. Milton watched out back while Tara, Gerry, and myself tried to maintain a solid wall as much as the detritus on the stairs would allow us,

By the time we got down to the landing halfway between the fifth and sixth floors, which would be about a dozen steps down from the sixth floor, there were already a couple of shamblers trying to climb the stairs from the fifth floor landing.

One was a teenage girl in torn a dirty black tanktop and black shorts with shredded leggings under them, which is actually how they were probably meant to look when she was alive. The other zed may have been one of the first risen, he was wearing the remains of a hospital gown, and still had a piece of rubber tubing dangling off of the IV needle embedded in his left arm.

“Girl!” I called; we were now calling our shots in order to help conserve bullets. The closed-in space of the stairwell created a sort of bottle neck. Sure, we could only stand three abreast at best, but the zeds didn't even have that much ability, as more than two of them on one step, and they would start tripping over each other as well as over the bodies of those we had already put down.

“Patient,” called out Tara.

Gerry held his fire while Tara and I took our shots at the undead now about halfway between the fifth floor and us. I got the girl right through the left eye, and she fell forward onto the steps like a sack of rice. Tara's shot hit the hospital corpse right between the eyes, and sent him stumbling back a step onto this air, where he promptly tipped over and tumbled down the stairs back to the fifth floor landing.

The farther down we went, the more zombies we ran into. There must have still been a lot of them down on the ground floor to still be flooding the stairs like this. It seemed like we had killed so many of them, but they still just kept coming.

“I'm almost out of ammo,” stated Gerry as we rounded the landing between the third and second floors.

“We'll have to fall back to Alex's office then; I'm running low too,” Agreed Tara.

I was also running out of bullets, but even if we hadn't been, even if we had been using the infinite ammo code, we never would have gotten much farther. The stairs leading down from the second floor were a writing wall of undead humanity. I would shoot one of them, and it would just disappear back into the seemingly endless mass. Even if the four of us could somehow have gunned all of them down, the stairs would have been am impassable wall of corpses.

I was just about to announce that I had put in my last clip when we heard something wonderful; automatic gunfire. Someone, a few someones by the actual sound of it, was letting loose down on the first floor in a way that said that they had no fear of running out of ammunition. There was only two groups it could really be, the army, or Kaur's security force, and seeing as I haven't seen the army in Covenant since the whole thing started, not even on TV, my bet was on the security force.

“Finally!” exhaled Tara.

“I'm almost out,” announced Gerry.

“Milton, “started Tara, “Go back to Alex's office, and get us more ammunition, and be quick about it. If we need to fall back, it will be up towards you, but don't make us do that, okay?”

“Yeah,” said Milton, and took off up the stairs, the thump of his footfalls echoed through the stairwell.

Suddenly we heard Milton's panicked voice yell, “Oh shit!” followed by a single shot from his rifle, and the sound of a body falling down the stairs. Tara and I exchanged glances, I nodded, and bolted up the stairs.

On the next landing up I found Milton lying there on top of a couple of dead zombies. He was clutching his left arm in his right hand, and his rifle was sitting on the floor next to his. Slithering down the stairs towards him was a zombie in a filthy yellow and red Taco Hut uniform. He was sliding down the stairs because his left leg was missing just above the knee. The wound was fresh and oozing; this was because Milton had panicked as he brought his gun up to fire, pulled the trigger too soon, and shot the thing in the leg.

“Keep it offa me, man!” Milton moaned, clutching his, as it turned out, broken arm.

Not wanting to waste a shot from my M-16 if I did not have to, I grabbed Milton's Mossberg off of the floor, shoved the barrel against the things forehead, and pulled the trigger. The back of the things head burst outwards like a water balloon that had been filled with some foul overcooked gray stew.

The sounds of rapid gunfire echoed up the stairwell along with single shots coming from just below us as I helped Milton to his feet,” Are you okay? Did it bite you?” I asked.

“Naw man, it just came through the door when I opened it. Scared the shit out of me, so I tried to shoot it, and lost my balance,” explained Milton in a less than proud tone, “Think my arm's broke too.”

I handed him back his Mossberg, not that I thought he had much chance of shooting it one handed, and told him to wait there while I went back down to let Tara and Gerry know what happened.

“Take him back to Alex's office then,” ordered Tara, “We need to clear out of here anyway. I do not want to be on this side of Kaur's storm troopers when they start shooting their way up the stairs.”

Milton was able to walk on his own, but he would not have been able to shoot anything if his life depended on it, and it would have. I took the lead while Gerry and Tara covered our rear in case any of the zeds suddenly developed the coordination to cross the obstacle course of corpses (obstacle corpse?). Luckily none of them did.

We made our way onto the third floor without any complications. We could see and smell signs that zeds had been on the floor. Not just the zeds we had killed after first re-arming ourselves, but new ones as well, presumably killed by Alex's squad.

We only ran into one live zed; it was right near Alex's office. The thing was wearing a police officer's uniform with a ragged tear towards the bottom of the right leg; probably the source of the infection. The reason I mention this zed over many of the others we killed today is that it was armed.

Unlike the zombie at the Majestic, this one had a pistol instead of a baseball bat. It was a nine millimeter standard issue sidearm for Covenant police officers. Instead of lunging at us when he, it, saw us, he clumsily aimed the pistol and pulled the trigger as fast as his decaying muscles would allow.

Click, click, click, click, click.

The gun did not fire. Looking at the zombie in disbelief, I noticed that the slide on the pistol was locked back showing that the clip was empty. Apparently the monster still knew somewhere inside how to fire the weapon, but did not know how to reload it from the clips that were surely secured in its gunbelt.

The four of us exchanged glances with each other as if to make sure none of us were injured, and aside from Milton's arm we were all okay. We looked back at the zombie who still stood there, facing off against us in the hallway and pulling the trigger of his dead weapon fruitlessly.

“You motherfucker,” commented Tara calmly. The look in her eyes was calm, but chilling as she calmly raised her M-16, calmly pulled the trigger, and calmly blew the undead cop's brains out. He crumpled like a marionette with its strings cut, his pistol tumbling from his hand, and then calmly lying there on the floor, still and unmoving.

We were in the process of reloading our pockets with ammo from Alex's weapons closet when he entered the room with Maria and Sharon, “Oh good, here you are,” he said upon seeing us, “How did it go?”

“We cleared the stairs up to six, but I don't know how many got out of the stairwell and onto the actual floors. We saw some signs of attacks on the upper floor, and some confirmed fatalities,” reported Tara.

“What about down?” asked Alex.

“Too many trying to force their way up. We couldn't get any farther than two, and Milton was injured.”

Alex looked to Milton who was trying to look tough, but whose dark skin had paled considerably, “Were you bit? Are you okay?”

“He fell down the stairs after being scared by a zombie,” explained Gerry with a slight snicker.

“Aw fuck you, man!” cried Milton.

“How did things go for you?” asked Tara.

“There were a few of them up here, but we got rid of them,” said Sharon, “I thought that maybe they had just followed our scent up the stairs, but if they are getting onto the other floors too...”

“Were you able to talk to the council, make sure they are okay and all?” asked Tara.

“No, the door to the conference room was locked, and they are at least smart enough not to answer it, but at least that means that they are secure,” said Alex, “It is strange that the guards are gone though; there was no one guarding the door. There should have been a pair of security officers stationed there,”

“Maybe they had gone down to fight the zeds?” I asked.

“Did you see any of them in the stairwell?” asked Maria

“No, but that doesn't mean they didn't take different stairs. They were probably being coordinated by radio,” suggested Gery, “I mean they are fighting the main force down there now.”

“Yes, they are,” agreed Alex, “and seeing as they are probably going to work their way up here eventually, I suggest that we get out of here to make sure we don't accidentally get shot by a little, “he actually did finger quotes here, “ friendly fire.”

“You don't really think that...” Sharon started, but trailed off.

“I think that fucker had us sealed in with that horde with the hopes that we would be killed, “explained Alex, “I'm sure he would have sealed the stairs as well if he had thought that we would use them. I think the only reason he's even directing his forces to attack the zeds now is because we're no longer in any danger of being fucking eaten, and because there is only so long you can wait to mount an attack before you have to explain it to the council.”

“Not to mention that fact that if he lets them spread too much we could lose the whole community to them,” said Tara, “If too many people get infected, Kaur will want to have them destroyed, and too much of that and we'll have a riot on our hands.”

We made our way out of the section unharmed. In fact we saw no security at all until we were out of the administration area and into the neighboring series of private offices (attorneys, accountants, insurance, that sort of stuff). We did find a security presence there, but other than to ask us if anyone needed medical attention, they let us go, telling us to take Milton to the med center for his arm.

Our group split up. Gerry and Maria took Milton to the medical center, while Alex, Tara, Sharon and I headed to my apartment. We didn't talk much, as the adrenaline now draining out of all of our systems left us feeling exhausted.

I did not stay long at my place; I just grabbed some clothes and went with Tara back to her apartment. Sharon and Alex were both still in my apartment when we left. Sharon was in the shower, presumably trying to wash some of the rotten smell of the undead off of her. I wish her luck with that.

“Are you okay?” Tara asked as we entered her apartment, now much softer and warmer than she had been during the fight.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“You're just really quiet is all.”

“Well, I don't really want to talk about zeds, and that's pretty much the only thing on my mind right now,” I lied.

“Is it that kid?”


“The kid on six,” Tara said.

“Yeah. I guess it is,” I only partially lied; the kid in the costume certainly bothers me, but it was not what I was really focused on. I know that sounds stupid, and I'll never forget the image of those things devouring a small child, but it was not what was at the front of my mind.

How could I tell Tara that her personality change out there, what? Scared me? I don't know if that's really the right word. Off-putting doesn't really sound right either. I do not know the words to express the feeling.

It was like she was really someone else. Tara's body, Tara's lips, but someone else was behind those icy blue eyes. Maybe it's just the first time I've seen her like that since we've been together. I should admire her ability to put her feelings aside and take charge instead of focusing on one odd kiss.

Maybe I just feel that my masculinity, such as it is, is threatened. Sharon was always kind of bossy, but never in that way. Is that a bad thing though?

Tara and I spent the evening together. We put on a movie, but I couldn't tell you what it was; some “comedy” with Adam Sandler. We just sat there and kind of stared at it, you know? We did not talk about today's festivities at all.

She asked me to stay the night, but I told her no. She did not seem upset by that or anything, so I don't know if she really wanted me to, or if she was just saying it because she thought it was the right thing to say. I just needed some quiet alone time.

You know, I never went back downstairs to find out what they are doing about that gaping hole in the wall. I hope we don't get attacked in the night. I guess I'll keep my 9mm handy just in case.

I feel exhausted, but not sleepy. It's almost midnight now. Almost November, but there will be no all holiday music stations starting tomorrow. I am sitting here alone at my kitchen table writing about the worst Halloween ever, at least I hope I never have any worse than this.

It is so quiet in here right now. I want some noise, but Sharon is asleep in the bedroom. I have this really odd urge to go turn on the TV and just listen to the static for awhile.

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