Authors: Matthew Kinney,Lesa Anders
Jack was amazed. “I think if we get out of this, I’ll appreciate being alive a little bit more.”
Keith was impressed with the girl and he had to agree with Jack. There wouldn’t be much
he’d be taking for granted if they got out of the crisis alive.
The sound of moans soon filled the adjoining room.
“All right, Lindsey,” he said, “we’ll need you and Autumn to draw as many of those things toward that window as possible.”
He pointed to the half window between the two rooms. It started about waist high and went to
the ceiling of the room. “The more of them that we can get into the exercise
room, the better. I don’t think they can open a door, but I’d feel better if
you lock it behind us when we leave. Jack and I will circle back around and
lock them in. Hopefully most of them will be trapped inside. After that, I’m
sure we’ll still have some cleaning up to do on the floor.”
There were still several of the infected in the hall, clawing at the window, but most were turning
to follow the others into the exercise room.
“Can I ask a stupid question?” Autumn interrupted. “You’re rounding up these zombies so you
can get medicine to the people on the other floors?” She continued before
anyone could speak. “I know you can’t get it all and doesn’t some of that stuff
have to be refrigerated? I doubt you have a fridge big enough upstairs.”
Jack took a breath to reply, but she cut him off. “What’s going to happen when you need
more meds and they finally break that window? Are you going to do another zombie roundup? Why not just get rid of them now?”
“Just how do you propose to do that?” Jack tried not to sound too sarcastic.
“We’re extremely short on ammunition,” Keith explained.
“You led them into here, why can’t you lead them out there?” She pointed to the wall.
“Outside?” Keith asked.
“The fire exit,” she explained, rolling her eyes. “It’s right outside that door you’re going to be going through.
Keith didn’t spend much time on the second floor except to go to his locker, but the layout
was the same for the whole building. There were five floors with two wings. The
stairs and elevators were located at the intersection of the wings, along with
a nurses’ station or information desk on each floor. There was a fire escape at
both ends of the hospital. Since the physical therapy room was at the end of
the hall, it was only a few feet from the door that led to the fire escape.
This time Jack took her seriously. “Okay, what’s your plan?”
“I don’t know,” she said, shrugging her shoulders, “you’re the security guy, why do I have to think of everything?”
Jack made a choking gesture as she turned away. He turned to Keith. “Well, do we stay with plan A or go with girl wonder here?”
“Since we don’t know how long the doors and windows will hold, I’m all for getting the ones
that have been infected out of the building completely. The second floor would
be the lowest level of the fire escape, with just a ladder that can be pulled down to the ground, right?”
“Right,” Jack said. “It’s kept pulled up when it’s not being used.”
“I’ll bet if we could take off the railing at the end of the fire escape, they’d walk right off
the edge. I’m not sure it’s enough of a fall to kill them but at least they’d be out of here.”
“I agree,” Lindsey said. “Chances are this glass won’t hold until the next round. We can’t
all go out there. Jack and Keith, since you have the weapons, why don’t you get
Autumn out of here while I act as bait? I’m in pretty decent shape. I could get
them to follow me out onto the fire escape. If we do like Keith suggested and
disable the drop, I could climb to the next floor before they reach the door.
They sure don’t look smart enough to climb and they sure as hell aren’t fast
enough to catch me. They should all fall off like lemmings, I hope.”
Jack thought about it. “Worse comes to worst, they’ll hang back in the physical therapy and
exercise rooms, and we’re back where we started. But I think you’re right. I
think they’ll tumble and hopefully some of them will land head first. Maybe we’ll
put some of the poor things out of their misery.”
Keith said, “Any thoughts on tearing out that railing, Jack?”
“Most of my tools are downstairs, but I found this little Henry Homeowner crescent wrench
in one of the drawers. It’s worth a shot.” Jack stuck the small adjustable wrench back into his pocket.
“We need to clear the hall first and lock in as many as possible,” Keith said. “Looks like
most of them are in the next room now, so shall we give it a shot?”
“Let’s do it,” Jack said.
Jack went first, slipping out into the hallway. He nodded to Keith that it was clear then Keith
joined him, closing the door quietly. Lindsey locked it from behind then told
Autumn to help her listen for it in case the two men had to come back in a hurry.
“Shall we go play bait now?” she asked Autumn, smiling to hide her nervousness.
“I guess it’s show time,” Autumn replied.
They walked over toward the window but not close enough to get grabbed in case something broke through.
As the two females kept the attention of the zombies focused on them, Keith and Jack snuck
back down the hall, having to duck below the level of the hall window to keep
from being seen from the equipment room. When they reached the door, the last
of the infected had already walked in and the door had swung shut.
“Nice,” Keith said. “We should lock it, just in case.”
Jack held his keys up in the air. “Now which one . . . just kidding.”
Keith was not amused.
Jack quickly locked the door and moments later the pounding began.
“If we live through this, I think you owe me a beer for that one,” Keith told him.
“Beer?” Jack made a face. “Maybe whiskey, that way I can join you.”
“That was almost too easy,” Keith said as they started to walk away. Seconds later, two of the
infected came around the corner from the other wing.
“Guess I spoke too soon.”
Jack had to use two rounds but he made his shots count.
They had to kill a couple of crawlers on the way back but were able to do it using the heavy metal bar that Keith had brought.
“Now, let’s see what we can do about that railing,” Jack said, propping open the fire exit
door. “And let’s hope those windows and doors hold until we’re done.
While Jack got started on the railing, Keith knocked on the door, letting Lindsey know it was safe to open it.
“The exercise room is full and that window won’t hold for long,” Keith said. “So let’s keep
this door open in case you two have to get out fast.”
“Good idea,” Lindsey said, eying the window nervously.
Jack struggled with the bolts, which had obviously been there for decades, rusting in the rain
and snow. He grunted as he cranked as hard as he could on one particularly
stubborn fastener. The wrench snapped in two before the bolt even started to
budge. About that time, a crack appeared in the window and Lindsey had to stifle a scream.
“Please hurry. They cracked the window,” she said, sticking her head out the door.
Keith glanced inside to assess the damage then went back out onto the fire escape. “Let me see if I can loosen it.”
When Jack stepped away, Keith gave it a hard kick. Instead of loosening the bolts, the
whole rail broke free and crashed to the ground below with a loud clang. Keith
hadn’t expected it, and when the rail fell, he followed it, momentum carrying him toward the edge.
He fought to maintain his balance as he looked down upon a sea of the infected, then he felt
a hand grab his arm. Jack pulled him back, which was not an easy task.
Keith stepped away from the edge. “Thanks, man, I thought I was a goner for a minute there,” he said.
“I was going to say, careful with that railing. It’s rusted,” Jack quipped.
“Thanks for the warning. Now we just need to make sure they walk off the edge,” Keith said. “I
wonder if they’ll do it or if they’ll just go back inside.”
“Maybe if one of us hangs out the library window,” Lindsey suggested, pointing to the room on
the other side of the fire escape.
“That might work,” Keith agreed. It would be risky since it was on the same floor as the
infected and it would be possible to become trapped inside the room with no other exit besides the window.
“All right, let’s finish this,” Keith said. They discussed the details of the plan for a few
minutes to make sure everybody knew what they were supposed to do.
For a moment, Eric held his breath, not making a sound as he wondered if he had really heard
what he thought he had heard. His mother’s scream broke the silence. Eric took
his portly body as fast as he could up the stairs. As he opened the door at the
top, the screaming stopped. He found that several of the creatures had entered
the room through the shattered front window and were feasting on his mother.
Rage welled up inside him as he ran at the group and grabbed two of them by the
backs of their tattered shirts and threw them on the ground. Looking down, he could see that his mother was dead.
Two others stopped feeding and turned their attention on Eric, while the two on the ground
slowly stood back up. Eric backed up toward the basement door, cursing all the
way. He could now see that the two he had thrown to the ground were covered in tattoos
and had their pants down below their waists. Anger rushed through him.
He slipped back behind the door and sat at the top of the stairwell. His mind moved back to
another time, to a time when he had still been engaged to Cheri.
They had been at the parking lot of their favorite restaurant, circling to find a parking space.
They had spotted a couple heading to their car and had waited patiently for
them to exit the space. As Eric was pulling into the spot, a car had sped down
the row and squeezed into the coveted space, clipping Eric’s car on the bumper.
Cheri had gotten out and confronted them.
“Excuse me, but we were waiting for that spot,” she had said politely.
Two young men, probably about 18 or so, had jumped from the car. There had hardly been a spot
on their bodies that hadn’t had a tattoo. They had worn tank tops and their
pants had been oversized and had sat below their hips. The driver had let go
with a flurry of profanity that would have made the entire U.S. Navy blush. His
partner had taunted her with sexual references, each one referring to what he could do to her body. Eric had stood frozen.
“Eric?” she had asked. “Are you going to say something?”
Eric hadn’t said a word. Cheri had gotten into the car, the two teens still taunting her, and
had said, “Take me home.”
Eric had complied. On the way home he had explained to her that he was trained to kill.
“If I had intervened,” he had argued, “those kids would have ended up dead.”
She hadn’t believed him. It had been the turning point, she had said later. It had been
when she had lost all respect for him. Unwilling to take the blame upon
himself, Eric had blamed the punks in the parking lot for destroying his
relationship with Cheri. Now they, or someone just like them, had killed his mother.
“Mom,” he sobbed into his hands, “why did you have to go near the window?”
Rubbing the tears from his eyes, he couldn’t help but wonder if she had finished the laundry yet.
As Eric sat on the top step, he realized that fate had granted him a chance to regain his
honor. He ran downstairs to his closet shelf, grabbed a long box, and opened
it. Inside, nestled on a bed of blue Styrofoam, lay a long sword with Japanese
markings. He liked to tell everyone that it was a Samurai sword, but in reality
he had gotten it at the local swap meet for $20 and had added the Japanese
markings himself. If one were to understand the language, they would read, “Do
not submerse in water due to risk of electric shock” as Eric had copied the lettering from an appliance box.
He’d sharpened it countless times but had used it only once on a defenseless cardboard box. He
felt the blade and it was as sharp as he remembered. Heading for the stairs, he turned back to his prisoner.
“This is for you, Cheri, and for Mom.”
His hatred temporarily quelling his cowardly nature, Eric unlocked the door and peered
through the crack. The creatures had lost interest in pursuing him, as there
was fresh meat in the room, which they were again gathered at and fighting over.
Eric dispatched the first one as he brought the sword directly down the middle of its head.
Unfortunately, the weapon became stuck. He stepped on the corpse’s head and
wiggled the sword out, just in time to see that he had caught the interest of
the other zombies. He stopped the next one with a quick jab through the eye
socket. This worked so efficiently that he exterminated the rest of them in the
same manner within a matter of seconds. With the living room cleared, he
surveyed what was left of his mother, which wasn’t much. He dragged her remains
toward the stairway, hurrying when he saw movement at the window.
Jack went up to the third floor with Autumn and opened the fire escape door for Lindsey. The
plan was for her to lead the infected out onto the fire escape then run up to
the next floor. The tricky part would be making sure they followed her outside
but not up the stairs. That’s where Keith would come in. He would hang out the
library window and lure them toward him, hopefully getting them to step off the
fire escape. They all realized just how many things could go wrong, but they had been unable to come up with a better plan.
Lindsey checked the physical therapy room’s hall door to make sure it was propped open then
went to the door between the two rooms. The horde of infected waited on the other side.
Keith watched through the hall window until he saw that she had her hand on the door knob. He nodded, letting her know he was ready.
Lindsey took a deep breath and then turned the knob.
Keith turned toward the library and grabbed the doorknob, only to find it locked. He felt a
wave of panic. The library door was never, ever locked. He opened his mouth to
call to Lindsey and tell her to wait but it was too late. He saw her open the
door then turn to run.