I’d like to say I fell gracefully, keeping an elegant line while the chipboard crumpled, while my feet snapped open the plaster beneath. I’d like to say I didn’t scream, didn’t wave my arms wild at my sides despite the pain as I abandoned the previous second of planning. I’d like to say I watched the fall, stared with my expression fixed, a picture of composure as the floor raced towards me, watching as I knocked the ghouls out of the way either side. I’d like to say I didn’t open my eyes only as my legs bent and I arrived cursing the slap of the ground to my knees, broken bones only prevented by the crack of plasterboard catching my fall.
Ryan stood as I raced to my feet knowing either side the creatures would climb to their own. Their slow, toddler awkwardness my only advantage. Fists balled, I stepped forward, eyes fixed on this dazed expression, seeking hope, recognition, searching for any sign of humanity.
I racked my brain for meaning. Was it only a human action? Had I seen the creatures blink?
“Speak,” I shouted, knocking him sideways as I jumped over the mound, my hands landing either side of the cold metal ladder. Still, he hadn’t uttered a word as I swung around, pushing out each half and thrusting it to the floor, my feet already to the second rung as it landed, swaying to the side with rubber resting on the even ground.
Back to the roof, crawling to my front, I twisted, turning, scraping across the sodden board as I landed, peering down below, my hands back to the top rung, ready to hoist it high and out through the hole if Ryan no longer wanted to follow. He stared up, mouth wide and coughed.
The dead didn’t cough.
“Ryan,” I shouted, eyes wide looking to his side where the creatures were on their feet and closing, teetering with traction on the rubble. He blinked, recognition there, he turned, twisted sideways, eyes alarming as he caught the sight. Grabbing the rungs, he sprung alive with action, climbing, feet kicking, slapping away hands before they could get a grip. Dust rained down as he climbed to the edge, following my lead, spreading himself as thin as he could, but I turned away as soon as I knew he was out of their reach, pulled at the aluminium, yanking hard to take it from their grip, hands reaching high and I pulled, Ryan’s hand grabbing hold, pulling up the ladder, swatting, jabbing each wayward, clawed finger.
I climbed to my feet, resting each on the line of the beam beneath, pointing to the edge of the hole as Ryan’s face alarmed. My eyes settled a shape to the floor in the centre from where Ryan had risen. The shape of a gun, covered in a white dusting. I turned, his own had followed.
“I’m sorry,” he said and I turned away.
“As long as you’re all right,” I replied, my voice coming out flat, hands grappling with the ladder, forcing it to fold as I walked along the imaginary tightrope.
“I’m sorry,” he said again as he joined me, the remains of dust floating down as he stepped to where the end beam held firm underneath, his foot sinking as he let his weight settle.
I didn’t reply, stuffing the anger, pushing it down and together we held the ladder, one side each, eyes fixed ahead on the flat roof opposite, slowly lowering until the angle grew too great, its length too far for us to do anything but hold back the fall, guiding the drop with a hope it would reach the other side.
It reached, but only just, the width of the top rung barely at the edge, hands clawing to the air, my eyes alarmed as bloody tips of fingers tapped and clawed against the hollow metal. We had to race, had to get across before something tall, something with long arms come along and grabbed a leg or tipped our bridge as we clambered over.
Looking to Ryan, he nodded across the ladder, showing I should go first, his chest puffing as if to stay behind, to go second would be the more dangerous operation. I didn’t wait, didn’t linger to change his mind. One of us had to go first. I scratched and scraped my soles on the remainder of the felt and put the first of my weight on the metal and slipped, falling forward, the river of upturned foul faces, their clawed fingers outstretched racing to meet me as I descended.
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Reading out of sequence, here’s the rest of Season Two.
Not read Season One? Here it is.