Emily led the way into the alley. Spencer stayed close to her heels, but Sarah flailed her arms in panic. Already, the first bloody form that had toppled over the fence behind them was gaining its unsteady feet and jerking toward them like a drunken stilt walker.
Her eyes gazed up and down the alley. For once, the Goddess had thrown some luck their way and the single track pathway appeared clear of the maniacs that ravaged their city. She took a step forward holding the short shovel before her. Spencer’s small hands held his bat and he hovered so close that he could have been her shadow.
They were still a long way from home, but she started east and the others were quick to follow. Sarah still seemed on the verge of having a panic attack, but the moaning half-men stumbling through the yard toward them, gave her little choice but to follow her friends.
Before long, the alley spilled into a paved street. The sounds of screaming in the distance could be heard. Three of the things lurched toward the direction of the scream. The trio clung to the bushes and waited for them to pass. In a few moments, the street before them would be clear, but a half-dozen of the things that had seen them in front of Sarah’s house forced their way into the alley behind them. As the three in front slowly trudged by, the ones behind drew ever nearer.
Sarah grabbed her arm and Emily struggled to keep her friend hidden while the moaning grew louder. The foul sounds filled her young ears. It felt unnatural. Wrong. The scent of death lingered. These things aren’t alive. The thought came from nowhere and screamed inside of her head. The foul bloody moaners behind her were thirty feet away.
The last of the madmen passed by the alley. Emily pushed her brother before her, grabbed Sarah’s hand, and then ran. The stumbling freaks that had just passed them turned at the sound of their movement and with louder groans joined the ones moving behind them in the chase.
They kept running.
The next street was Euclid—A wide five lane street. Three of the things, which were becoming all too common, surrounded an ambulance that had tipped onto its side. Two people perched on top of the vehicle fought back against the bloody hands that grasped at them. The road itself was a mix of staled cars and crashed vehicles. Figures ran through the chaotic mess, but between the dust, sunlight, and smoke Emily could barely tell who chased after who.
An older woman raced up to them. She clutched at her bleeding arm. “You kids need to get out of here!”
Spencer stared opened mouthed. Emily looked at the women and then the ambulance. Two of the mangled figures had heard the woman and broken away. But it was the two things that walked out of the rolling coils of smoke that neared first.
Emily didn’t have a chance to warn the women before two sets of hands pulled her back. The older women lost her balance and went down. Almost at once, she screamed. Emily looked on in complete horror and fingers and teeth dug into the old woman’s body.
It was really happening.
The world had gone mad.
The other two joined the pulling and tearing of flesh. Spencer and Sarah remained in shock, but Emily felt responsible. It was her duty to save her little brother and her damaged friend.
And that was when the moaning woman grabbed her hair.
Emily cried out as she was pulled back away from her brother and best friend. Behind her, she caught a glimpse of a woman wearing blood splattered nurse scrubs. She heard more moaning that she knew it came from the ones pursuing them.
Terror tore into Emily as the nurse’s teeth snapped inches from her face. The blood splashed woman dragged her back into the alley. Emily struggled to push her back with her shovel and again teeth snapped inched from her face.
Spencer’s bat smashed the drooling woman in the cheek and her head jerked back.
It wasn’t a conscious movement. Later she wouldn’t even remember it happening, but the shovel came up and hit the snarling nurse under the nose. It fell back, but still had a grip on her shirt. Using both hands, she swung with all her twelve-year old might. The thing lost its grip on her as it toppled back. When it got back up a third time, her shovel came down like an axe. She wasn’t sure where this last blow came from, but for once the thing didn’t regain its footing and behaved like a dead body should.
Spencer had been throwing rocks at the form of the hollowed out man that couldn’t possibly be alive. More of these things lumbered in from every direction.
How could there be so many, so fast?
Then, despite her wishes, Spencer raced away from the scene into the center of Euclid. “We need to keep going. We need dad!”
Some of the moaners broke away from the woman’s unmoving corpse, looking for the fresh kill. Emily dragged Sarah along. They hurried to stay ahead of the gathering horde. The couple on the overturned ambulance appeared by their side. The women grabbed Sarah’s hand and dragged her along. The man, maybe twice Emily’s age led the way east and smashed one of the bleeding men in the face with a crowbar. It didn’t get back up.
Emily and her brother shared one last look at the growing masses of dead things and then hurried after the others.
To be continued next Saturday…
Emily arrived at the gate and saw her brother hiding behind a water catch barrel. He clutched his bat with a white knuckled grip. She hurried to throw her shorts on over her bikini and had started on her tie shirt when she reached her brother.
“What is it?” she whispered while crouching down behind him. Sarah whimpered as she hugged herself against the wall.
“Shhhhhh,” he hissed.
Then she saw what he couldn’t remove his eyes from. Across the street, three men and two women were bashing a parked car with their fists. Through these people insane growls and moans, she could hear the high pitched wailing of an older woman that was trapped inside.
“She must not have the keys or something,” Spencer said.
Emily looked closer. Another man stumbled toward the car. He, like the others, was covered in blood and acted drunk. She gasped, while a hand covered her mouth. Half of the man’s face was gone. No one could survive a wound like that.
She wanted to scream, but used both hands to hold her mouth shut.
“What’s going on?” Sarah whined. “Why is everyone going insane?”
“Maybe it has something to do with the hospital,” Spencer said. “Saint Jude’s is only a few blocks away and look, like three of those screwed up freaks have those hospital gowns-”
“What are you kids doing out here?”
The sudden voice startled them. Maggy was Sarah’s neighbor and her mom’s best friend. “You kids need to go back inside this instant.”
“But there’s a creepy guy in the back yard,” Sarah explained.
“You had all better come with me then. I-”
She never finished her thought for a moan sounded behind her. Before Maggy could do more than turn, the mangled man was grabbing and tearing at her. This thing was the worse one yet. Its throat was only a bloody red tear. His guts were just gone. Emily couldn’t even be sure how the man remained standing with so much of himself missing.
Sarah screamed and some of the things in the street turned their way. Also, an answering moan sounded from the back yard and Emily saw the man they’d dunked into the pool stumbling toward then dripping streams of water off his clothes with each step.
“Run into my house,” Maggy cried. “Go around back.”
Maggy continued to wrestle with the torn apart man, while the children ran around her and toward her yard. Already a half-dozen shapes shambled at them. In the background, she could hear a man screaming.
They ran into Maggy’s backyard. She bred dogs so the family had installed a chain link fence long ago, but it was only three feet high.
“Maggy come on,” Emily yelled, but the woman yelled louder when the wet man grabbed her from behind and bit her in the neck. He pulled his head away and a huge string a of flesh stretched between the ravaged neck and the wet man’s teeth. Emily screamed.
This time it was Spencer who kept his cool. He pulled his sister into Maggy’s back yard and slammed the fence shut. “We need to get to dad. Some infection must have broken loose at the hospital. We need dad!”
Emily backpedaled away from the fence, but she couldn’t take her eyes off the jerking figures that moved toward them. Moans passed through their blood caked lips. Glassy grey eyes seemed to stare without seeing. More than one looked like it had wounds that no normal person would be walking away from.
The two that had Maggy had brought her to the ground and already the screaming was over. Emily looked on in horror as more of these ghouls hurried over to join the empty and wet man in their feast of Maggy’s still warm flesh.
Sarah must have already run inside for she rushed back out of Maggy’s house while screaming, “She must have left the front door open, there are already some of those things inside!” From inside the house, Emily could hear manic barking.
The first bloody figure and reached the fence. It struggled against it for a moment before toppled over face first.
Emily grabbed he brother’s hand and ran for the alley behind Maggy’s house. “I’m not sure what’s happening, but I know I don’t want to end up like that!” On the way through the yard her free hand grabbed up a three foot shovel. “Come on Spence, let’s get to dad.”
To be continued next Saturday…
See Emily Slay
-Prequel to the Eternal Aftermath Series-
By Michael D. Griffiths
“So what else happened? I can’t believe Steve would be such a jerk to her.” Emily’s toes could just touch the water from where she sat next to Sarah on the diving board. The water felt cool and it was tempting to dive in again, but she wanted to hear what Sarah had to say about Steve.
Her friend’s brown eyes danced with excitement. “Well you know that Steve took Mandy to the school dance, but while she was sneaking shots of Komo in the girl’s room, Steve-”
Sarah stopped and glared at her. “Is that your stupid little brother? He just wants to spy on us in our bikinis. Emily!”
Emily didn’t think twelve year old girls had much to show anyone and Spencer sunglasses were so thick she sometimes wondered if he wandered through the world in a half-blind fog. He wore those three sized too large sunglasses that morning as he pushed his way through the gate and ran into Sarah’s back yard.
“Get out of here, you freak,” were the first words she had for her younger brother, who had yet to be graced with a double digit age.
“No Emily, this is important. Dad called and said he wants us both to go home and lock the doors right now. Something bad is happening.” She only noticed then that Spencer carried his metal baseball bat with him.
“You are such a geek,” Sarah taunted. “You’ll think of any excuse to come back here and spy on us.”
“Spying would mean you couldn’t see me watching you,” Spencer yelled back. “I’m standing right here.”
But Emily was listening to other sounds while they argued. Someone was screaming down the street. Not the type of scream you get when your brother drops a cold ice cube on your back. This scream didn’t stop. It just got louder. “Shhh, do you guys hear that?”
“What that ambulance?”
Emily shook her head in frustration, when the siren blocked out what she had tried to listen to. She wiggled her fingers in Sarah’s direction. “Come on, get up. I should at least call my dad and see if he really did need something.”
Sarah exited the diving board first so Emily could follow. As he reached the deck, she aimed her eyes toward Spencer. “And if he didn’t call, we are going to kick your ass.”
“But my dad did call and-”
A throaty growl caught their attentions and before they could even imagine what it could be, a man lurched into the back yard. He walked like he balanced on kneeless wooden legs, but what caused her breath to catch in her throat was the blood covering the man’s shirt and face.
The man went straight for Sarah.
Her friend screamed and began to run away. In her panic, she fell into the pool. The man stumbled after her and toppled into the water with a loud splash. Fingers clutched and grabbed at Sarah, but the blood covered man didn’t seem to be able to swim. As he sunk, one of his hands grabbed onto Sarah’s ankle.
He jerked at her and her head went under. Fighting and kicking, Sarah was able to take in a breath before he pulled her under again. “Give us your hands!” Spencer yelled, but she was too far away.
Emily’s eyes quickly scanned left than right. She saw the long net Sarah’s family used to scrap leaves off the surface of the pool. She grabbed it quickly. But instead of trying to have Sarah clutch it, she rammed the net end into the sunken man’s face. When he didn’t let go, she did it again harder. On her third try, she put everything she had into the blow. The frantic man stepped back and released his grip.
Emily now used the net to help fish her friend out of what was quickly become a blood bath. Red spread across the pool like there had been a shark attack.
Sarah looked like she wanted to scream, but her lungs full of water wouldn’t let her.
Spencer’s voice seemed three octaves higher, when he yelled, “It think he’s trying to climb the steps out of the pool!”
“Come on Sarah,” Emily pleaded while helping her friend to her feet. “My dad is coming home. He can help us. Your parents aren’t even here. You need to come to our house.” Emily paused to grab up her t-shirt and shorts. She only had sandals, but those went on first.
Sarah looked like she might try to argue until the bleeding man’s head broke free of the pool and gave a wet groan.
Spencer had already headed toward the street and she heard him yell, “Oh no!”
Grabbing Sarah’s wrist with her free hand, she cried, “Spencer!” as she hurried after her brother.
The second time, things went easier. He carved through the roof in little under an hour. Denny moved to help him, but Max growled him away. The rapist took to squatting in the corner of the attic. He muttered vague self-righteous statements, hinged with a sick layer of racism and stereotypes.
When Max could finally poke his head free of the constricting attic, his ears were greeting with the moaning of a hundred throats. The undead were on all sides of him. Before he had even gained his feet, Max realized that as many as two hundred zombies might be surrounding the mansion.
Denny crawled through. Since he only wore jeans, the quickly chilling air had already caused him to hug his arms around himself. “Holy hell, how’re going to get past that.”
Max resisted pointing out that the entire situation was the big man’s fault. Instead he cleaned the clinging insulation off his sword and took in the layout below. Under normal circumstances, dropping to the large porch in back would be the easiest way off the roof. There was a raised rail to the right side of the porch. He eyed it. A two-by-six topped the rail and it led to the far edge of the porch and the woods that stretched north.
Max turned back to Denny. “I have an idea.”
Denny eyes darted side to side. “Will it work? What is it?”
“We have to start on this side,” Max said, while walking to the front of the house. Once he reached the southern eves. Beneath them dozens of undead gashed their teeth and lifted blood soaked arms past their moaning mouths.
Denny was turning to say something when Max pushed him from behind.
The man toppled forward. His knees hit the shingles and he started rolling to the edge. At the last moment, he twisted his shoulders and grabbed at the gutter as his body fell over the edge. Beneath him, the zombies went mad.
Denny looked up at Max as he approached the edge. Terror filled his wide eyes. “What the hell? Come on man, the few of us that are left have to stick together.”
“No we don’t.” Max raised up his sword. Denny screamed once before a blow chopped off three of his fingers.
The shock of the attack caused Denny to let go and he fell back into the waiting jaws of the swirling undead below. His screams lasted longer than Max would have thought possible.
Max raced to the center of the roof and counted to fifty. Then he hurried to the northern side of the house. As he had hoped, the zombies there had thinned as they rushed to join in on the feast Denny’s body provided. Many still lingered, but Max dropped to the railing and tight-roped it to the edge of the porch. Zombies already lurched at him, but he risked a leap to the ground.
He landed in a ball, but quickly rose to his full height and swung his sword at each of the two zombies that moved in on him. He kicked another one into a legless teen that crawled Max’s way. Hands clawed and fingers reached, but he focused on just smashing them out of his way and breaking through.
Seconds later he had reached the woods. Denny’s screams had long since ceased and Max cast a final glance over his shoulder before plunging into the deep forest.