Monday, October 11, 2010

Tales of the Dead Tropics - chapter 18

"We need another vehicle." I knew it was time to get moving again, even though part of me just wanted to stay here forever where it was safe and quiet.  "Any ideas?"
Lucas held up a finger.  "The staff car park?  The keys would be in the staff room."
I stared at him disbelievingly.  "You want to go back into the school?"  The thought of the hundreds of corpses waiting for us there sent a shiver through me.
He shuddered as the same thought obviously occurred to him.  "Um, no.  Not really."
We sat in silent thought for several more minutes.
"We could try some of the neighbourhood homes here." Emma offered tentatively.
 I shook my head firmly.  "We aren't going to take away other people's only chance of escape."
Flipping open the mobile, I rang Kaye.  "Maybe Roy is at my sister's.  He could come get us."  The line was busy.  Frowning, I tried again and got a busy signal again. 

Lucas spoke again. "There's the caravan park across the highway.  I see a lot of resort vehicles coming and going.  They probably wouldn't miss one."
Emma nibbled her lip, a nervous habit of hers.  "There could be zombies there too."
"Considering their proximity, it would seem a likely bet." I agreed as I mulled the idea over in my head.
It did seem our best option at the moment, I concluded unethusiastically.

I sighed. "Let's try the park.  We stay out of sight, get in and get out as quickly as we can, alright?"  Reluctantly, I pushed myself to my feet.  "Can you get us there without being seen, Lucas?" 
He stood up, brushing off his long shorts.  "I think so.  We stick to the gully until we get to the highway, take the underpass and then up the hill and we're there."  Emma watched him with a mix of emotions - pride, fear, love.   He was handling this crazy situation with a practicality that was admirable in one of any age, let alone fifteen.
"When we get the car, we're going to go find mum and dad, right?"
Emma froze and looked at me helplessly.  Stepping forward, I gripped his shoulder.  "I'm sorry, Lucas.  We've already been to your house.  Your parents... didn't make it."  I prayed that he would let it go at that.  I couldn't bear to have to tell him what part I had played in their deaths.

Lucas' eyes darkened as he stared at me.  His adam's apple bobbed convulsively.  Then he nodded jerkily and turned away.  My heart ached for him.  It was so unfair that he had to go through this but, my god, what a man he was turning into.  His courage, quick thinking...his family had every reason to be proud of him.  Lucas started to speak, stopped for a moment and tried again. "Are they really dead" He jerked his head towards the outside. "or are they still out there?"
I closed my eyes.  "They're dead, Lucas." I made sure of that. 

The boy bent down to pick up his bat.  "We should go."  Head bent against the roof of the drain, he moved towards the exit.  Emma's eyes were shiny with tears.  "I just couldn't tell him..."
"I know." I squeezed her arm understandingly.  "It's not a conversation anyone should have to have.  He's an amazing kid, though, Emma. "
She smiled tremulously as she tucked her bat under her arm.  "He is, isn't he?  Did you see how quickly he accepted the whole zombie situation?  It was, like, 'oh, zombies, okay.' "
Laughing, I agreed.  "If only the adults we've met had adapted so well!"

Lucas was cautiously examining the area around the other end of the drain pipe.  He glanced at us as we joined him.  "Looks clear."

Quietly, we left the security of the pipe and stepped into the open.  Under the blue skies, I felt horribly exposed and vulnerable.  If even one zombie spotted us while we were in the gully, it would bring hundreds of zombies upon us.

We placed our feet carefully, taking care not to step on a crackly  leaf or stick while keeping a nervous watch above us.  Occasionally, we froze as we heard a nearby moan or shuffle, but, to our relief, the sounds faded away. 

When we finally reached the cover of the underpass,  I collapsed against the concrete wall.  "Oh hell, I never want to do that again!"
Emma touched the wall appreciatively.  "The great outdoors is definitely overrated."
"We have to get up that  hill over there."  Lucas interjected.  He pointed to a steep incline a short distance from the overpass.  My stomach sank as I realised we would be heading out into the open again.  However, I knew we weren't really any more protected here than in the open.  Any zombies coming along this road would quickly spot us.  The sooner we moved, the better.

Moving forward to stand beside Lucas, I examined our surroundings carefully.   The road we were on circled around to join the highway above us.  The left bank lay at the bottom of a hill while on the right bank, trees and a wooden barrier indicated the boundaries of the caravan park.  In the distance, I could see some figures shambling along the highway.  I shivered, and craning my head, tried to check out the highway above me.  I ducked back quickly as I spotted a zombie shuffling along the bridge above us.  Putting my finger to my lips, I pointed above me and we waited silently for the shambler to pass.

After a few minutes, I cautiously took another look.  It seemed to be clear.  I strained my ears for any sound that would indicate zombies nearby, but all was quiet.  Not counting the constant scream of sirens in the distance.  It would seem the people here were on their own.

"Okay, let's go."  I tried to look confident but my stomach was already churning.  "We'll make for those trees on the bank and then regroup."
Emma raised a brow teasingly.  "Regroup?"
I blushed a little.  "Maybe I watch too many action movies."  I glanced over at Lucas who stood silent and alert.  "Ready?"  He nodded. 

Never had being under open blue skies on a sunny day felt so frightening.  As I ran, I expected to be confronted by zombies appearing out of nowhere at any moment.  About thirty feet down the road, when I felt we were out of direct line of vision of the highway, I turned and headed up the roadside bank. I didn't check but I could feel Emma and Lucas behind me.  The need to get under cover helped me to negotiate that steep hillside in record time.  My calves screamed in protest as I topped the bank and bolted for the nearby trees.

Emma gasped as she fell in beside me, "There was a zombie on the bridge!"  She took a couple of deep breaths.  "It was looking the other way, though.  I don't think it saw us." 
"God, I hope not!"  I didn't know how many more runs like this was in me.  Lucas, of course, barely show any sign of exertion, apart from a bit of pink in the cheeks.

Within the walls of the tourist park, I could hear shouts and screams.  Along the highway, cars continued to race past.  Were they trying to escape, I wondered, or were they still blissfully ignorant of the disaster facing us?  Across the road, I could see a single figure staggering away from us.  In this town, it would be easy for a driver to dismiss the sight as yet another drunk making their way home, but I knew better.

"Looks like the zombies beat us to the park." Lucas said, matter- of -factly.
"Yeah." I agreed, resignedly.  "But it's still our best option."
"The entrance to the park is about a hundred feet down the road." He gestured to the highway running past us.   Walking to the corner of the fence, I peered around it.  The path beside the road had a lot of natural cover in the form of bushes and trees but I did not feel reassured, spotting several small groups of bodies staggering drunkenly down the road.

"It might be a better idea if we just hopped the fence here." I suggested slowly. 
Lucas raised his dark brows.  "Anything could be waiting for us on the other side."
I acknowledged his point and, after some discussion, we decided to do some careful scouting first.  I kept a lookout while Lucas gave Emma a leg up.  She peered cautiously over the fence for several minutes until Lucas said in a strained voice.  "Are you done, Emma?"  She nodded and he released her quickly.  "Man, how much do you eat, Emma?!  You weigh a tonne!"
"Hey!" She scowled at him. "I've just got heavy bones."

Before they could fall into familiar sibling repartee, I interrupted. "Well?  What did you see?"
Emma frowned. "Not much, really.  This end of the resort is pretty empty.  There are a few cabins that seem unoccupied, and that's it.  I couldn't see what was happening at the other end but it doesn't sound good."  No kidding.  The screaming seemed to have escalated in volume in the few minutes we were standing here.
"Good.  That means this is a good entry point for us."  I wished I felt as confident as I sounded.

Lucas cupped his hand and looked at me.  "You first."
"Gee, thanks." I  said, my voice dripping with irony.  Still, it was my idea.  Sighing, I allowed him to boost me up and over the fence.  Landing clumsily on my knees, I scrambled quickly to my feet and looked around.  Nothing exciting, thank God.  In fact, no sign of life whatsoever.  Or the life-less, I thought with a bit of gallows humour.   The absence of any activity in the area was a relief but also somewhat unnerving when the screams continued unabated not too far away. 
"Okay, Emma.  Your turn." I called softly.  A minute later, she landed on her bum with an 'oof'.
"Nice one, Lucas." She muttered ungraciously as she stood up. 
Emma looked up to see our bats come flying over.  "Hey!" She protested.
 With all the agility of youth and long legs, Lucas clambered over the fence gracefully.  "I said 'incoming', didn't I? ". 

As Emma glared at him, Lucas passed out the bats.  "The office is at the other end of the resort." He offered helpfully.  Of course it is.

My plan wasn't very original but, hopefully, it would work.  "If we stick to the trees and bushes, we should be able to make our way to the front unseen."  The other two agreed.  We worked our way from bush to bush, pausing to check the surroundings before making a dash for the next chosen cover.  We progressed maybe halfway across the resort before we saw our first sign of people - and zombies.

From our position behind a grove of palm trees, we watched helplessly as the camping grounds across from us became the killing fields.  Bodies lay strewn across the fields.  Collapsed tents told stories of battles already won or lost.  Not ten feet from me, a man grappled with a slack-faced young woman.  "What the hell!"  He was yelling.  "Get off me, you psycho bitch!"  A little further away, a woman labored to place her screaming children in the car as her husband swung a tent pole wildly in an attempt to keep four zombies at bay.  In a campervan,  I could see the terrified faces of three little kids peering out of the window.  Where were their parents?  Just beyond the caravan, I watched in horror as a pack of corpses brought down a young woman.  As she disappeared beneath them, I had to turn away while I fought to regain my composure. 

I understood now why we had not seen any sign of zombies at the other end of the park.  The campers were proving to be such easy and plentiful targets - tents not offering much protection from flesh-hunting corpses - that the zombies had not yet felt the need to wander deeper into the park.

Taking a deep breath, I turned back and tried to examine the situation objectively.  Some campers had already made it to their car and were fleeing the park .  Others had already lost the battle and joined the zombie horde.  The remaining twenty of so campers were clearly outnumbered by the corpses, three to one. I had to acknowledge to myself that I could not help them, as desperately as I wanted to. 

We were going to have to be even more cautious now.  It was going to be difficult to get past the zombies using the shrubbery, not with the next couple of blocks taken up by utility and entertainment features.  Catching Emma and Lucas' eye, I indicated that we were moving and hurried over to the back of the nearby toilet block.  As we pressed our backs against the wall, I whispered, "If we get separated, we meet at the office.  Okay?"  They nodded, eyes wide and scared.  I swallowed hard and forced myself away from the toilet wall. 

Scurrying like a rat, I ran across the small open space to the kitchens.  I waited for the others to join me and then I slowly inched along the kitchen wall until I reached the corner.  Peering around, I saw a group of zombies standing just a few feet away.  I pulled back quickly and indicated to the others to back up.  We slid back the other way until we reached the other corner.  Emma glanced around the edge of the wall for a long moment and then nodded at us.  I followed her as we slipped quietly into the kitchen. 

A body lay between the camp tables.  A closer examination showed it to be a zombie body, to my surprise.  A cleaver lay buried in its head.  Yay, I thought, strike one for the good guys.  I slid to the far doorway and peeked around it.  The laundry beckoned invitingly about fifteen feet away.  Unfortunately, the route was blocked by zombies hunched over a body, gorging themselves on intestines.  The body may have been male, judging from its length, but at this point, there was not much left to say for sure. 

I wondered briefly what to do next - wait it out or push forward.  In truth, I knew it wasn't really a question.  The camp kitchens didn't have doors so there was nothing to keep the zombies out indefinitely.  Lucas and Emma were looking at me questioningly.  I did the universal sign for zombies - two arms held limply out in front of me - while I wracked my mind for an answer.  We needed a distraction, I decided.  The question was, what?

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