I pushed past a suddenly frozen Emma and moved silently around the large four poster bed. Stepping past the bed, I saw the back of a woman kneeling before another body on the floor. The body's top half was blocked by the woman but I had no doubt who lay there.
"Mum?" Emma choked, moving up beside me. The kneeling figure slowly turned. Emma's mother looked indifferently at us as blood trickled down her chin. Something was clenched in her bloody hand but I avoided looking too closely at it. One look at Emma's father's ashen face made it clear that he was close to death as his eyes fluttered continuously in blood loss shock. "Daddy?"
As Emma reached for her father, I flung out an arm to block her.
"Emma, you need to leave." I pleaded, my heart going out to her. "I'll ...deal with this." I didn't want to deal with this.
Emma wrenched her eyes away from the ghastly scene. "What are you going to do?" She whispered, eyes glazed with shock. Looking at the kneeling woman as she placed something red and raw in her mouth, I swallowed an urge to retch. "Your mother is already gone, Emma, but if we hurry, maybe we can save your father. But I need you to go and let me handle this."
Emma bit her lip and nodded slowly. "Okay." Taking a step back, she took one last look at her mother kneeling in a pool of her father's blood, her face an agony of love and despair. "I love you, mummy. I love you, daddy." Turning, she stumbled out of the room.
Emma's mum watched me as I approached her carefully. Although there was no sign of intelligent thought or fear in her eyes, she followed my movements closely. For some reason she reminded me of a cornered dog. I shifted the parang back to gain some momentum. "I'm sorry, Mrs Jones."
As I swung the parang down, the creature that had once been Emma's mum launched herself forward, knocking me right off my feet. The machete flew out of my hand. Stupefied, I looked up to see the zombie lowering its mouth to take a bite out of me.
"No!" Panicked, I pressed my hands against her chest and, with desperate strength, pushed her up and off me. She gnashed her teeth and flung her head from side to side, trying to reach me. Gone was the endearingly plump and kind face I'd seen smiling at me for years. Now she stared at me through dispassionate eyes even as she tried to savage my body with her bloodstained teeth.
My arms already shaking from the strain of holding her body away from me, I pulled my right leg up and positioned my foot at her hip. With an almighty heave, I shoved the zombie to the side. It rolled away, giving me time to scramble up, grasp the nearby parang and swing around again to face her.
The zombie hurled itself at me again. I met her with all the ferocity I could muster, burying the parang deep in her neck, feeling it sever bone and sinew with the same ease it cut through chicken carcasses. To my horror, she continued to move forward until she stood face to face with me. I stopped breathing as the diminutive Mrs Jones gazed coldly into my eyes, so close our noses could have touched. Tremors ran continuously through my body as I stood frozen in my tracks.
With infinite slowness, her head tilted to the side and then, finally, rolled completely off her neck, remaining attached to the body by one remaining tendon.
Collapsing on the floor, I gulped in huge, sobbing breaths. I couldn't quite believe I was still alive. The memory of how cocky I had been, just a short time ago, about dealing with one or two zombies made me cringe inside. It was a real wake-up call, and I was grateful to still be alive to appreciate it.
As I sat there shaking my head, some sixth sense made me look up. Mr Jones, a gaping hole where his jaw should have been, lumbered towards me, hands reaching hungrily forward.