I listened to the lull as the echo died. Watching Ryan and his wide-eyed daze, we fixed our stares, both afraid to move, afraid to rattle the aluminium bell any further, but with the sound, the bass vibration coming clear, even if only in my mind, I jumped to my feet. Holding my hand out for Ryan, he clambered up, pulling the ladder, no longer caring for the noise, we ran.
With a glance to my left and down the side of the house as I arrived at the fence, the crowd had turned, faces pointed in my direction, eyes opening further as they caught my movement, caught my scent. With the ladder planted firmly at the base, I climbed, but my feet tripped as they hit the first step. Swearing under my breath I raised again, taking more care to plant my feet as Ryan held the metal to hold back my shake.
From the top step I ignored the fence, only peering with a glance over the wood before checking back between the houses where the creatures were getting so near. Dropping the baseball bat to the other side, I jumped, a sharp pain rising along my shin as I landed only to look up and see more of the undead this side of the fence walking our way. I looked up from the ground, with no sign of Ryan and rolled out of the place where I’d landed, getting to my knees, raising up and putting tentative weight on my pained foot.
It took my weight and I breathed relief as I saw Ryan rise from the other side; the rifle coming my way as we met eyes, his attention turning to test the top of the fence before I’d caught the rifle in its case midway through the air. Indecision paused me for a moment as the crowd grew closer, but soon I dropped the rifle bag, picking up the bat, raising it high over my head. I took one step, eyes focusing on the pair heading the crowd, a tall woman with a barrel of fat around her midriff, her belly button on show through a rip in her shirt, the fabric open from her chest bone to her hips, a scored, jagged line following the broken material on her pale skin. Two, I said in my head, moving my eyes to avoid her face, instead catching on the tall man at her side, his arms outstretched, milky white eyes fixed toward me, his fingers pointing in different, unnatural directions. Three and I raised the bat higher, stretching out the muscles in my arms just a bit more, trying not to think of who these people had been and on the fourth number counted in my head, I swung down with all my breath.
The middle aged mother of two, her children were doctors, one with a kid of her own on the way, fell to the floor as the wood bounced from the front of her skull, sending a shiver through the bat. The young bank clerk who’d lived with his wife and two point four kids, seemed relieved when the bat cracked his skull open. His eyes fell closed, sending blood and lumps of flesh spraying out with a sound like hitting a melon against the ground. A second swing to the mother whose birthday it would have been tomorrow, and she went the same way while I tried to scrub their made up lives from my memory with a raise of the bat, blood dripping in an arc as I pulled it up, eyes staring on the next two in line, the fairy tale of their lives already forming when the car alarms took up again in near unison.
The front row of two kept up their advance, but the outnumbered crowd at their backs took a slow turn, their arms pointing back out towards the road and I twisted around, racing to Ryan who was at the next fence, holding the ladder ready for me to climb.
We were in the last garden before the alarms silenced, with a line of sight down the side of the house to the teeming mass of creatures only just dispersing in all directions with no single noise to call the herd. Whilst I peered over the wooden fence to the van, I welcomed the thin smell of creosote cutting through the sewerage taste. I turned to Ryan, for a moment watching him peeled off, pulling the rifle from its case.
There it stood all alone. The van I’d wanted to get back to all this time. There it was, a little dirty with red smears and with a few new finger sized holes in the panels giving me concern. Still, there it was, a short run from the other side of the fence and with only a handful of creatures who hadn’t made the journey towards the alarms. An unfamiliar electronic song rang off from the road and I turned, catching Ryan relaxing the rifle down, a wide smile gleaming across his mouth.
Up the ladder before Ryan reached me, I stared out watching the backs of the last few humanlike creatures receding. My eyes fixed on the carpet of bodies, of soldiers, lain across the road, across the path, guilt tugging my insides as I fought with my joy at seeing the discarded pistols, the fingers gripped around the triggers, the rifles, real rifles with deadly bullets. Deadly even for those who’d died once already. I didn’t see these bodies as people, as once I would have done, as now I should. Ryan took hold of the ladder and I landed on bent knees in a spot I’d picked out between two bodies I was desperate to see as someone’s people.
I shook my head, tried to keep to my goal. There would be time to work out how I felt, to work out if I was a bad person, if my experiences had killed my humanity. Now was time for action, time for those we could still save, to warn the community, to warn the country, to tell the tale to the world. I stretched out my fingers, grabbing the cold handle and pulled, but the locked door held firm. My vision filled with Toni in the flash of light. She held the keys in her hand as the patch of red grew around her chest; the smile widening on her face.
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Reading out of sequence, here’s the rest of Season Two.
Not read Season One? Here it is.