Thursday, September 30, 2010

Tales of the Dead Tropics - chapter 9

Time to go.   My legs were shaking so much, I was afraid I wouldn't be able to take another step, let alone run.  Taking a deep breath, I bit the bullet and charged  around the corner,  focusing on the nearest ambulance. It was parked haphazardly in the driveway only about thirty feet away, but it felt like a mile.  The zombie chewing on a hand turned to stare at me as I raced past him.  I hurtled over the scattered body parts and past the dozen or so zombies standing around. My peripheral vision picked up hands reaching for me on the right.  Squealing, I dodged left and almost ran straight into the arms of a blood-spattered nurse. Her glassy eyes looked at me with indifference even as her hands clutched hungrily at me.  I shoved her away and darted around, my heart pounding hard enough to burst.  A sharp left, a twist around, dodge right, straight run...only ten feet to go.  I was almost there!

No, no, no!  Pale, stumbling figures spilled from either side of the ambulance to form an unwitting, deadly barricade before me.  Slowing, I looked around me and saw a wall of stumbling bodies closing in on me on all sides.  Desperately, I looked for something that could help me.  My eyes fell on a nearby trolley lying against a pillar.  Reaching over, I pulled it in front of me.  With a snarl of pure adrenaline, I pushed the trolley before me like a snow plow, knocking zombies over, left and right,  and pinning several against the side of the ambulance.
As the zombies pulled themselves to their feet and fumbled with the trolley, I wrenched the door of the ambulance open and clambered inside, closing the door quickly behind me.  With trembling fingers, I fumbled for the keys but, to my dismay, they weren't in the ignition.  Where are they?!  Desperately, I searched the floor but it was useless.  The keys weren't in the ambulance. 

I sat up to see grey arms reached through the window.  Gasping,  I scrabbled over the seats and fumbled with the handle of the left door.  As I pushed it open, cold hands pulled me out onto the gravel. A circle of dead, impassive faces stared down at me.  Screaming, I kicked out with every ounce of strength I possessed and felt sudden, wonderful, freedom as the creature holding me lost its grip on me.   In complete, mindless panic, I jumped to my feet, shoved my way past a young girl and bolted for the next ambulance.

Please let this one have keys, I prayed.  It was parked over the curb and had obviously been abandoned hastily.  Zombies converged on me in every direction except the curb side upon which the ambulance was perched.  A hedge ran along the curb blocking the creatures, giving me a tiny  opportunity to escape.  When I reached the ambulance,  I wrenched the passenger door open - and froze in a moment of sickening dread.  A zombie sat before me on the passenger side.  He turned his head and looked at me with dark, soulless eyes.  His lips peeled back from his teeth and he launched himself at me.  I cried out and jumped back, knowing it was too late.  Only, to my desperate relief, the creature did not reach me.  He fell heavily onto the pavement before me, the bloody stumps that remained of his legs scrabbling futilely at the ground.  Still, he reached up for me.  I leapt over him and scrambled into the driver's seat.  Please, please, please. 

I don't think any sound ever sounded sweeter to me in my entire life than the jingle of car keys that greeted me as I fumbled with the ignition.  With a cry of pure joy, I turned the engine over and threw the ambulance into reverse.  Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of a face coming through the window at me. A grey-haired man, with torn flesh where his features once were, launched himself at my throat.  Screaming, I wrenched my head to the left and pressed down hard on the accelerator.  The head disappeared abruptly from the window as the car screeched backwards. 

Shaking with adrenaline, I braked hard as I watched the man slowly sit up. With a surge of pure malevolence, I put my foot down hard on the accelerator and sent my wheels right over his head, relishing the sound of his head exploding.  Take that, you bastard. 

With sheer vindictive pleasure, I tore through the crowd of zombies before me as I headed for the alleyway.  They flew to the side or fell beneath my wheels with eerie silence.  Women, men, some nurses whose faces I knew well - I rejoiced as each one fell beneath my wheels. 

Jim jumped out as I pulled up.  Pulling the back doors open, the others piled quickly into the back of the ambulance.  I watched the approaching zombies through my rear view mirrors and couldn't restrain myself from yelling pointlessly.  "Hurry up!"

With a slam of the doors, Jim hurried around and jumped into the passenger seat. 

With a squeal of wheels, I roared away from the hospital - and towards my daughter.  Jim looked at me and I saw a hint of admiration in his eyes.  "Good job." 
Emma slid the window behind me open, as the vehicle surged forward.  "Oh Lori, you were fantastic!"
The adrenaline that had fueled me was draining now, leaving me feeling shaky.  "Thanks, guys.  All in a day's work, really."  I know I sounded distracted as my thoughts turned to my oldest child.  How would I find her? I didn't have my mobile with me. I didn't allow myself to think for a moment that she wasn't okay.  She had to be.

"So, where are we going?"  Jim's gravelly voice interrupted my thoughts. I glanced at him defiantly.  "Central.  I'm getting my daughter." 
A long pause and then he nodded.  "Do you know where to find her?"
I laughed a little hysterically.  "Not a clue!"
"You need to find a mobile.  Then you can contact her." Emma said quietly from behind me.   I nodded.  But where would I get one?

"My God." I heard Ken say softly.  I blinked and saw what he was seeing.  All along the esplanade, zombies moved towards us.  Hundreds gathered along the green strip.  In the cafes and shops that bordered the other side of the street, blood and flesh splattered the pavement, tables and chairs.  Even as we watched, fresh bodies rose to join the walking dead.
"How far has it spread?" Ken wondered aloud.  I couldn't answer as fear for my daughter clenched my gut into a knot. 

Turning the corner, I saw the creatures staggering down the road towards the business district.  To my amazement, I saw people, real people, still wandering the streets.  My heart flared with hope.  Maybe this madness hadn't reached Michele yet.  Maybe I would be in time.

Ahead, a young girl with a backpack turned towards the car.   Long brown hair fell over her chest but it did not hide the gaping hole where her breasts once were or the glazed eyes.  Deliberately, I swung the car over and drove the car at her. 
"What are you doing?"  Emma gasped.  Whatever it takes, I thought.   The girl stood motionless as the car powered towards her.  At the last moment, I twitched the steering wheel so that the the car only clipped the girl.  Spinning, she flew several feet.  Braking hard, I jumped out of the car and ran back to her.  She lay faced upwards, the bloody hole in her chest mocking me as I knelt beside her.  I pulled out my stake, waiting...Sure enough, her eyes opened and focused on me with the mindless stare I had become familiar with.

"Sorry." I whispered, feeling a momentary ache for the girl she had once been, for the loss her parents had suffered.  Before she could react, I plunged my stake through her eye with an ease that should have troubled me, but didn't.  As he body stilled, I pulled her backpack off and rummaged roughly through it.  My hands closed over a familiar shape and I pulled out a mobile phone.  I sent up a fervent prayer of thanks as I ran back to the car.

Dialling Michele's number, I sent the car squealing forward again.  It rang once, twice, three times.  Pick up! 
"Hello, mum."  My daughter's familiar, faintly mortified, voice coursed through my body like red wine.
"Are you okay?  Where are you?"  I yelled as I drove through a red light.  Vaguely I was aware of a car crash on my right.
"Um, sure, I'm fine."  Michele sounded surprised and wary.  "Why, what's going on?"
I took a deep breath and tried to talk normally.  "Is everything okay at the shops?  Any trouble?"  People running on my left.  A sudden scream.  I blocked them out as I focused on getting to the large shopping centre which was looming in the distance.
"Everything's fine.  Oh, there is something going on in the food hall.  Anna and I were just heading over to see what all the fuss was about."
"No!" I screamed, my heart in my mouth.  "You run the other way right now, do you hear?!  Meet me in the downstairs carpark if you can get there safely."
Michele sounded scared now.  "Mum, what's going on?!"
I took another deep breath.  "Bad people, Michele.  Bad people."
I heard a sharp intake of breath.  "Okay, we leaving now.  Come quick, mum, please."
"I'm three minutes away, baby."