The machine gun jumped to life, hot lead spraying in a furious chatter, consuming the belt of finger-length bullets as the soldier swept it across his view in a wide arc. The first shots were too low, the bodies rattling with each impact, but as the spray moved across the line, skull and brain erupted under its power. The first in line were down, rifles picking off those missed in the rain of metal. The soldier’s pause caught us all by surprise, their eyes catching on the next targets stumbling through the red mist as the wind adding a thick metallic hint to the acrid swirl around us.
“Fire,” the sergeant screamed and all rifles joined the chugging rhythm of the machine gun. Shot after shot, round after round exploding flesh as they hit their targets, sending dead flesh to the floor. Slowing their advance, they stumbled, moving to their hands and knees if they still had them, to cross the carpet of bodies, only to be cut down. Shouts went through our line, an excited rumble of voices as the bodies piled ever higher, the gunfire falling quiet when all movement stopped, the masses unable to cross the hill of camouflaged bodies.
Weapons reloaded as the rifles went quiet, voices died to nothing with the slap of metal against metal. The sergeant called the line to order, silence surrounding, letting us hear the low rumbling chorus of moans in the background. A chill ran down my spine and I let my gun drop without a round being fired. I knew my limitations and was pleased enough the advance had halted beyond my useful range. I turned as the van’s engine sprang to life at my back, smiled to Toni in the driver’s seat as she peered out beckoning me toward her with her head shaking from side to side. I pushed my hand to the air, gesturing for just a few minutes more.
The soldier’s were talking amongst themselves, their voices high, excited at their easy victory, not even the sergeant holding them back, until the first screams brought back their silence. Only two remained calm, their heads not snapping sideways, their mouths not hanging down, eyes not wide with questions. The sniper and his companion would have seen it before, had taken them down, had saved our lives. The wretched calls were more distant than we’d heard before, but were no less terrifying, forcing the cold into my bones.
“Get ready,” came the sniper’s voice not turning to the faces that didn’t know what would happen next. I levelled the gun, trying to ignore as my arms refused to steady, the shake of my hands only pronounced by the cold. I knew before the first of the dark shapes sprung high from behind the line, my eyes catching on the second as the first landed. In a tattered orange jumpsuit, the colour only showing between the dark patches, his legs bent like a gymnast dismounting from a pommel horse. His face as dark as oiled hardwood, thick black lines spidering across, a beard of blood matted to the skin around his jaw. His left ear was missing, as was the skin on the top of his head, with it too went the long hair covering the other side, the remaining long brown locks matted and clumped like dreadlocks.
A single shot pierced the air. The sniper the only one not paralysed with fear, but his bullet went wide, thudding a red spray out from the pile of bodies at their backs. The leap of the second, his pasty naked form riddled with the dark lines like roots through snow, taking his attention. Silence returned as the shot’s echo fell, even the moans in the background seemed to pay their respect and quiet. The pause felt as if it lasted for an age, the only movement was their jaws, slow and considered as they opened and closed, keeping time with each other. With the orange jumpsuit’s single step, the pause ended, its companion back in the air, surging.
The line of fire lit the space between us. Hurried shots flashed against the barricade of bodies, ripping flesh from bone, shattering each form, but not those racing towards us. The sergeant screamed for focus between each of his shots as he stood, calling for concentration of fire, splitting the squad, the first pumping their shots to the crazed creature on the ground whose distance had just shortened enough for me to opened fire, the second group to the target high in the air, his form only just falling back to the ground in front of his companion. Fire continued until the explosions replaced with well-drilled shouts at each position as they hurried to reload and take up the battle.
“Bayonets,” was the next call, his voice breaking, but there was no time, they were on us, just the other side. The knifes were taken in hand, the sergeant jumping the barricade, the blade held in his fist with a great warrior call as he ran forward, leaping across the sandbags, leading with the sharpened metal. I stayed my shots, forgetting how many I’d taken as his knife hit high, the creature only catching the advance when it was too late, when the blade was through its temple.
I looked around, everyone turned to see, with pistols, a panic descending as eyes searched for the second enemy. We didn’t find it. It found us. It found the last on the line. The young soldier who met me as we arrived. His screams turned our heads, the blood pumping from his neck turned me away, but not his friends, not his colleagues, they stayed true to their calling, pouncing on the attacker, climbing up with pistols, blades slipping in and out of its skull as the soldier’s heart pumped a fountain of blood over each of them.
The creature slumped down within a moment, but with the damage done, the warrior’s frenzy replaced with a furious activity of hands on the wound, red hands falling inside his neck, until after not too long, it was obvious there was no hope.
I turned away with my eyes closed, the sound of the horn bellowing at my back span me around. Toni’s outstretched arm pointing out turned me back and I watched as the dam of bodies collapse either side, the walking corpses streaming around the edges, massing in the centre, having covered half the distance to us, a stone’s throw away without our notice.
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Reading out of sequence, here’s the rest of Season Two.
Not read Season One? Here it is.