Authors: Matthew Kinney,Lesa Anders
Jack pushed the door open and ran into the lobby, Keith and Marla right behind him.
There were two of the crazed people between them and the elevators and more
coming through the double doors of the cafeteria. Jack’s first thought was to
wonder how Eric had gotten through. Maybe he hadn’t. Dead eyes turned toward
the three of them and he knew that it wasn’t going to be easy.
“Go!” he yelled, taking aim at the closest of the lumbering bodies as even more of
the mutilated people made their way into the lobby from the south hallway.
Keith began to move toward the elevators, half dragging Marla, who kept asking where they were going.
Stopping for a moment to choose a target, Keith fired off a couple of shots, getting a
man in the forehead then clipping the shoulder of a woman in a hospital gown.
He fired again and got the woman in the head as Jack dropped three more.
“Good shots,” Keith told him, noticing that Jack didn’t miss often.
There were more coming but Keith ran for the elevator, dragging Marla along. Once
Jack was also inside, Keith hit the button to take them to the second floor,
holding his breath as one of the bloodied patients almost got his hand in the elevator in time to stop it.
“That was close,” he said. The elevator began to move. “Ready, Jack? I’m not sure
what we’re going to find when that door opens.”
“I’m as ready as I’ll ever be,” Jack said, eyes on the doors.
Keith flinched when he heard the bell chime, announcing their arrival on the second floor. He
waited with his gun ready as the door opened, but he was relieved to find the
area clear. While Jack took a few moments to temporarily disable the elevator,
Keith stood guard outside the door, not sure what to expect. He only hoped that
they could secure the building before the hospital was completely overrun,
otherwise they could end up trapped inside with hundreds of the flesh-eating monsters.
Reaching over the counter at the second floor nurses’ station, Keith grabbed the phone,
pushing the buttons that would send his message to the whole hospital. He
announced that they were in a state of emergency and that anyone acting
strangely, besides Eric Wapowski, should be avoided at all costs. He added that
people infected with an unknown disease were attacking others and that their
bites appeared to be extremely contagious.
When he was done with the message, he dialed emergency, hoping to reiterate the need for some
help. He called three times without luck and he finally hung up the phone, frustrated.
“I just checked the west wing and it seems to be clear,” Jack said. “Maybe we got lucky. I’m
going to check the other hall.”
He took about four steps before saying, “Or maybe not.”
The hallway was filling with the infected and Jack was almost out of ammo.
“Back into the elevator,” he told the others.
They quickly complied, waiting tensely as Jack used his key again to enable the controls.
The elevator car lurched and for one horrible moment it felt as though it were
dropping, then it began to lift, quickly transporting them to the third floor.
When they got out, everything looked normal.
Eric stuffed the candy bar into his mouth and ran as fast as he could toward the open exit. He
wasn’t the fastest runner, but fortunately the infected were slower. He smiled
as he opened the door to freedom, but his smile disappeared as he saw a
blood-soaked delivery man just outside, blocking his escape. The guy had to be
a good four inches taller than Eric and he looked like he had been in pretty
decent shape at one time.
Panicking, Eric grabbed his soda, shook it, and released the tab directly into the face of the
approaching ghoul. The burst of soda into the face of the ex-delivery man
seemed to confuse him or blind him just long enough for Eric to slip through
his reaching arms.
Once outside, he surveyed the parking lot as he sipped the foam that had pooled on the can. He
could see several people milling about but they were all covered in gore and
blood. Spying a Harley Davidson about six spaces down, he ran to the bike and
quickly mounted it, but became frustrated when he couldn’t find the gas pedal.
Realizing that he was starting to draw some unwanted attention, he quickly
dismounted and ran, no destination in mind other than to put distance between
himself and the growing mob that was coming his way. He stopped when he came
across a police car, lights on and still idling.
“Help!” he yelled, searching for the officer. “Anyone there?”
He ran to the other side of the vehicle and tripped over the cop, or what was left of him.
The body had been torn apart at the torso, leaving only two arms and the head
intact. Eric jumped as the partially uniformed body did a bizarre crab walk on
its hands, dragging its severed spine behind it while snapping its jaws at Eric’s feet.
He quickly rounded the car to the driver’s side, the shambling figures slowly closing in
on him. As he jumped into the car and locked the doors, he was completely
unaware of the presence rising in the back seat. He sped away, bouncing several
creatures off the hood in the process, and breathed a sigh of relief.
Eric released his bladder for the second time when the woman in the back seat lunged at him,
smashing her snarling face against the glass barrier used to isolate arrested
passengers. Eric slammed the vehicle to a stop and rolled out of the front
seat, running a couple feet before stopping. The woman’s gnashing teeth moved
to the side window as she followed his every move. Slowly, Eric walked back to
the car. He peered into the back and saw that she was handcuffed. Then, he saw her face.
“Ch-Cheri?” he stuttered. He wasn’t sure if it was Cheri, as he hadn’t seen her for years, but
aside from the whole zombie thing, there was an uncanny resemblance. As more of
the infected began to draw near, Eric reentered the vehicle, figuring his
passenger would be less of a threat behind the glass than those approaching him. He grabbed his radio and keyed it.
“Jack, you there?”
“Eric?” Jack sounded surprised. “You still alive?”
“Yep,” Eric replied. “I’m on the outside.”
Keith cursed quietly in the background.
“These freaks are everywhere!” Eric exclaimed. “I’m going to check on my mom.”
“Go ahead,” Jack answered, relieved that he no longer had to deal with Eric’s incompetence. “If
you see a cop along the way, let him know what’s going on at the hospital. We’re
going to hole up in here. Keep your radio on.”
“10-4,” Eric replied, professionally.
Keith shook his head in disbelief. “The hospital is filled with lunatics tearing people apart
and Wapowski managed to get out safely?”
“If it’s as bad as he says out there,” Jack said with as much empathy as he
could muster, “he won’t last much longer.”
Jack and Keith quickly checked the third floor and didn’t find anything unusual. When they
returned to the nurses’ station, Jack told Marla to stay at the desk while he and Keith checked the other floors.
“I already took care of one on the fifth floor earlier,” Jack told Keith after clearing the
fourth floor. “I talked to the staff at the time, so I’ll be surprised if we have any problems there.”
As expected, the fifth floor was clear as were the stairwells. The employees on floors three
through five were instructed to do a quick examination of each patient and to
notify Jack at once if they found any bites. When they returned to the third
floor, Marla was asked to check the patients on that floor.
“So, it looks like the second floor is our big problem now,” Jack said. “We could just leave
it as-is since we’ve shut down the elevator, but I kind of wouldn’t mind a buffer between us and the first floor.”
“Well, with Wapowski gone, I guess you’re in charge of security now, so whatever you think
is best,” Keith teased, relaxing a little now that they were in no immediate danger.
Jack welcomed the levity amongst all the mayhem.
“If I get confused, I’ll just call him on this.” He lifted his radio for Keith to see it.
“Honestly, I think I keep him around for entertainment. Of course, I’m starting to rethink that, now.”
“It might actually be good that he got out,” Keith said. “He can let someone outside know
what’s happening here, as long as he doesn’t lose his radio or get himself killed.”
By the time Eric pulled up to his mother’s house, the glass partition in the car was covered in
a thin film of mucus as the barrier had done nothing to discourage his prisoner
from trying to consume him. He had been watching her in the mirror with conflicting
feelings of horror and infatuation, contemplating her fate.
What if it really was Cheri? He knew that the chances were slim but he was drawn to the
possibility. As he left the car, he watched her follow him with her eyes. The
eeriness of it made him nervous but he was flattered by the attention. He knew
that he couldn’t leave her in the car, but he couldn’t let her go, either. As
he pondered his predicament, a solution came to mind. He grabbed the keys and
walked around to the back of the car. After digging around for a moment, he
lifted a body bag from the trunk in triumph.
“Yes!” he said aloud.
He unfolded it and walked to the back door, his prisoner’s eyes still following him. He looked
at her wrists and was glad to see that she was still cuffed.
“Okay, Eric,” he said to himself, “be careful.” He opened the door.
The woman’s eyes widened as she lunged toward him, only to fall flat on the ground.
Eric quickly pulled the bag over her head and slipped it down her body, zipping it as he
went. He stood up, watching the wiggling package in front of him. The ominous
forms stumbling toward him gave him a new expediency and he dragged the body
along the driveway to the front porch. He was looking for his keys when the door opened.
“Eric, what on earth have you done now?”
“Let me in, Mom, I’ll explain later!” he said with a sense of urgency.
Eric dragged the squirming package into the house and locked the door behind him.
Mrs. Wapowski examined the moving bag with apprehension.
“Mind telling me what that is?”
“Mom,” he started, “listen to me carefully. What I’m going to tell you may shock you.”
“Eric,” she interrupted, “you’d better not be telling me one of your little fibs!”
“Mom, the dead are coming to life and eating the living. I have one right here.”
She scowled and pointed her finger an inch from his nose.
“I brought you into this world, mister, and I can take you out! I’m sick and tired of your
little stories! Now what in the world is going on?”
He rethought his blunt approach, looking at the bag.
“It’s a dog, Mom.”
“A dog?” she asked.
“Yeah,” he ad-libbed. “A Saint Bernard. You know, the kind they use up in the mountains to
save people who are stranded.”
“Why is it in the bag?” She had a skeptical tone in her voice.
Eric thought fast.
“It got bit by a badger while rescuing some skiers so it has to be quarantined for a while in
case it has rabies.”
“You brought a dog into our home that may have rabies?”
“Mom,” he argued, “it had its shots. It’s just a precaution.”
As he started dragging the bag to the stairway it emitted a low, guttural moan. Eric looked up at his mother.
“Got bit in the throat. Vet says he may never regain his bark.”
“Poor thing,” she said, shaking her head in pity.
She changed the subject and walked toward the window. “There are some strange people wandering around outside.”
“Gang members, Mom. Don’t mess with them or let them in. And close the blinds! See, Mom, that’s
why you should watch TV. You’d know these things. There’s a gang war going on.
That’s why I have the police car. They made me a deputy.”
Mrs. Wapowski looked out the window towards the driveway.
“Well, I’ll be darned,” she mused. “They must be pretty desperate to make you a deputy.”
Eric mumbled something under his breath, which his mother fortunately didn’t hear.
“I remember when this neighborhood was so nice,” she sighed as she watched the shadowy figures wander the street.
“What about the stairwells?” Keith asked Jack. “From what I’ve seen so far, the ones that have
changed don’t seem coordinated enough to open a door, but they could get lucky.”
“I have keys, so we can lock them, just in case,” Jack said.
Keith said, “If we have to, we can always pile furniture behind them, too.”
“Good thinking,” Jack replied. “Are you sure you don’t want a job in security? I’m hoping to
have an opening soon.”
Keith laughed and shook his head. “Somehow, I don’t think I could ever fill Wapowski’s shoes.”
“I don’t think anything but fungus could fill Wapowski’s shoes,” Jack said.
“Any thoughts on how we can clear the second floor?” Keith asked. Without more ammo, it was going to be difficult.
“Maybe we should check around for weapons,” Jack said. “Sometimes employees will stash things
they’re not supposed to have. You wouldn’t believe some of the stuff I’ve found.”
“I can imagine,” Keith said, thinking about Marla’s gun.
“I’ll take one hall if you want to take the other,” Jack said, heading right.
Keith went the other way to see what he could find.
Eric dragged the bag to the landing at the head of the stairs and started plotting a descent. It
was too dangerous to grab his captive by the head, since he didn’t know if she
could bite through the bag, so he positioned her at the top of the stairs and
started to lower her by her feet. Fortunately, there was a railing that he
could hang on to while making his way down the stairs. Slowly, with one arm
holding her feet and one holding the railing, he started his descent. His foot
slipped on the second step and, instinctively, he let go of the bag and grabbed
the railing with both hands. He watched as his prize bounced down the
stairwell, hitting the lower landing wall with a resounding thud. A low moan followed.