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…