Chapter Eighty Eight

I was firing, shooting from the hip, before the roar of the scream hit my ears. I stepped back, keeping my speed down, despite knowing the bullets were missing each time. Light flashed from behind me and I turned, regret gripping tight across my chest. Ellie pushed Andrew through the door, the kids running after to the place I hadn’t wanted to go back to, but now I knew it was our only sanctuary. I didn’t turn to face the creature, knew it would be a waste of time, a waste of the energy I craved for to give a head start on a creature focused on hunting me down.

Perhaps its stomach was full from its feast, but I didn’t wait to question how I’d made it to the door before I was dead, before it dragged me off by its jaws. It had followed, that was for sure, the run of its legs, the slap of its feet against the floor told me all I needed to know. Still, I grabbed Cassie’s looped arm, my hand catching as she fired past my ear. Through the doors, I dragged Cassie with me, pushing her in front, catching her eye, not able to make sense if she’d hit the target.

The room was bright even though the windows were bared, masked with great sheets of white plastic I could only guess were reinforcing the glass. The plastic inner seal was gone, pulled down and in tatters, its shredded, blood streaked remains discarded to the side. There were no guards, no patients, no nurses or attendants left, just a handful of bodies, each with a catastrophic head wound, a wound we knew was the only way of stopping the dead from living a second time. If you could call being under the control of the zombie cordyceps mould living.

The ten beds were still there, rearranged, disordered, pushed to the side, their blankets and sheets each covered in a different bloody motif. Bandages, thin metal chairs and other debris, the monitors, their screens blank, cables snaking from their mouth, lay shattered across the floor. Shadow whined with pain as he jumped down from Andrew’s lap and as he bared his teeth, a sudden fear gripped across my chest. The pressure welled up and almost turned to tears as his head moved, and limping, he turned his attention to the double doors.

“The beds,” I shouted, and the able bodied took action, all but Tish knew what to do, driven by the same instinct to jam whatever they could against the door we had no way of locking. The door which had no jamb to push against, to hold closed. With the beds pushed up, rolled against the door, they were too heavy to lift, to pile on top of each other, it was a sorry obstacle, one the Cords could summit with such little effort.

The weapons I’d seen the guards carrying were gone and our rushed inventory confirmed we were low on ammunition. With one clip left for the half empty handgun and what remained in the rifle’s magazine, maybe ten rounds, was all we could count on.

The doors cracked hard against the beds with a great bang and we shook as the rattle repeated. With my arms open wide I turned and ushered everyone back to the far end of the room. They ran, wheeling Andrew along. Cassie stayed by my side and looped her arms around mine, gripping tight as we turned and took the slow walk to the end of the ward.

“Shadow,” I snapped as he’d stayed behind. He started his backward step, limping. Bang went the door, soon joined by the dull thud and I pictured the slow soldiers catching up, joining the push against the doors. The beds moved as the gap between the door widened.

As soon as I could see teeth snapping in the gap, I looked again, scouring the room to the rasp of Shadow’s bark. I looked to the ceiling, but found it solid, the stainless steel vents fixed with screws I had no hope of turning. There were no other doors, no cupboard to hide in our desperation. My attention again turned to the windows and I stepped away. I could hear the snapping of teeth, a head, soon several, fighting to get through the gap. I pulled up a chair and threw it at the window, gasps running through the watching crowd as it bounced back, slapping down to the hard floor. Even Shadow had silenced as I pulled up the rifle hanging across my back and fired, hitting the big target, but watched as a neat hole punched through the centre without splitting or cracking the glass, leaving a neat hole as shadows moved across the other side of the windows. Still, I had to hope we were better outside then cramped in here. I launched the chair again and my knees gave way as it bounced off, watching as the barricade of beds swept either side.

I had to get up, had to raise myself high, the body was willing, but I couldn’t get my mind to take control, despite seeing the hungry creatures pour through the double doors. After all that had gone before, could I lay down and not fight to the end? Could I really give up now, not take my place at our last stand?

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Reading out of sequence? Why? Here’s Chapter One

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