I let the handle drop, slow at first, bracing for the heave of wood, counting down the seconds in my head. After more than I dared to wait, the force hadn’t come, hadn’t pushed back and I gripped the handle tight, holding it down until it went no further. Toni hurried me with her frown and I relaxed my hand, realising I still held the door firm with my back. The wood didn’t push against me, didn’t smash outward, hadn’t forced me to the floor. I relaxed, letting the ache in my hand dissipate.
Nodding towards Toni, she nodded quickly back, her eyes full of impatience. I pulled the door open, holding it firm as I backed into the shadow, shame rolling over me as I hid behind the wooden barrier exposing the room to the horrors of the exposed hallway. With guilt crowding my thoughts, emotion battling in my head, I realised Toni hadn’t fired, hadn’t launched an assault on whatever was coming towards us from the other side. I stepped slowly around the door as she stood, face fixed with anger, the gun aimed into the void.
Their signature carried through the corridor. A low murmur of air vibrating along flaccid throats making no comprehendible sense. Their smell too was easy to spot, the stench of blocked toilets billowing out from where the door had been, but in the dim light their lifeless forms were nowhere to be seen. I glanced a turn to my back and in those few moments the lower quarter of the sun hid behind the houses opposite. Toni twisted, following my gaze, returning with a concern common these last few days and I turned away, taking my first steps over the threshold.
She arrived at my side as I made out the scene, the writhing mass leading halfway up the staircase only just becoming clear, their activity, their clawing in the air, speeding as they caught sight of me. The mass of bodies scraped at the carpet, at each other, laying diagonal as they scratched and scraped for traction. Toni and I swapped a glance, then back at their slow advance, neither of us needed so say we didn’t have long before they would break through.
Splitting, we ran to different rooms. I took the back bedroom, Toni the bathroom and soon she was at my side as I lingered, looking out of the window, peering down the tiles of the extension roof. Toni dragged the chest of drawers, pushing me out of the way before I had taken my eyes off the slope. By the time the plan formed, she already dragged a chair across the carpet for the first step, urging me to climb with a point of the gun. I let my foot rest on the chair before stepping down, not listening to the call of my name as I ran from the room, as I held the front bedroom frame in my hands, calling for the three to come, urging them on with all my will, saying the words I didn’t want the kid to hear only when they wouldn’t budge.
“Run, or you’re going to die.”
The kid was the first, pulling from Mary’s arms, following my pointed hand in Toni’s direction as I stooped, smiling encouragement as he ran past.
“Your choice,” I said, stepping back, peering to the stairs to find only the last third remained uncovered with bodies, holding back as best I could, my shock at their quickened pace. I gave one last look back into the bedroom, raising my eyes, silently pleading for them to wake from their trance, but neither did, their faces fixed and expressionless to the ground. I ran the few paces to the bedroom and found Toni helping the kid onto the chair, holding his hand as he eagerly climbed to the chest of drawers. “Wait,” I said and grabbed the kid under the arms, glaring at Toni, but not saying the words I was desperate to, flinching behind me, my heart rate spiking to find Mary rushing through the doorway.
“You first,” I said to Mary, ignoring Toni’s protests as I held the kid back. “And we’ll lower Andy down to you.” Toni quietened.Mary was easy to get to the roof, made no complaints as we helped her up, as we lowered Andy down, once she stopped slipping down the tiles.
“You now,” Toni said, her head twisting back and forth to the entrance, disappearing one last time into the corridor as I waited, standing on the chair, for her to reappear. She came back a little out of breath, slamming the door of the bedroom and leaning against it with her back. “They’re almost at the top, hurry.”
I paused, hovering my foot over the chest of drawers.
“What about the husband?” I said, but Toni could only shrug. “What’s he doing?”
She shrugged again and urged me on, gesturing with the gun out of the window, but I stepped down to the chair, lowering myself to the floor, watching as she slid across the door, blocking my path to the handle.
“We’ve got to get him?” I said, stepping to the side, but she moved to block again. “He’s in shock, doesn’t understand what’s going on. We’ve got to give him one last try,” I said again with wide eyes, stepping closer. She turned, putting her face right up to mine.
“He doesn’t want to come, he’s given up.”
I could hear the moans and irregular footsteps growing louder in the hallway.
“You don’t know that?” I said, my head overwhelmed at our closeness. I could feel energy sparking across my nerves, blood jetting through my veins. Toni flinched as I licked my lips, a gurgle vibrating out from my stomach as she pulled in a sharp breath.
“It’s too late now,” she said, shaking her head towards the window. “Too late. Go please,” she said, a mix of anger and pleading rising in her voice. I drew a deep breath and was about to turn, flinching as something heavy slapped against the door. Deflated, I turned away, raising my foot leaving Toni to lean against the door, her knuckles white around the handle as she fought against its movement, stopping my climb only when a scream came from the other side.
“Help me. Please help me, open the door.”
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Reading out of sequence, here’s the rest of Season Two.
Not read Season One? Here it is.