Friday, October 15, 2010

Tales of the Dead Tropics - chapter 21

I looked around me desperately for a way out of the traffic jam but we were hemmed in on all sides.  "Let me guess!" Lucas yelled.  " We run for it?"
"We run for it!"  I scrambled out of the vehicle and made for the side of the highway.  Around me, people were craning their heads, trying to see what was happening.  For all I knew, it could be a fire or a chemical spill, but I sure as hell wasn't going to stick around to find out, if I could help it. 

The flood of panicked people poured past us.  I struggled to push past them but it was like trying to fight through a storm surge.  For every foot of progress I made, I was pushed back two.  I looked around anxiously for Emma and Lucas.  Several feet away, they were clearly in the same boat.  Emma looked at me helplessly.

An agonised scream shot through the confusion.  Jerking my head around, I saw a woman thrashing on her car boot with a man tearing at her stomach.  Another terrified cry on my left: a teenage boy was being pulled through the back seat window of his car even as his mother clutched desperately at his legs.  Pandemonium broke out as people realised that the zombies were amongst them. 

I was sickened as I realised that this traffic jam would offer up a smorgasbord for the zombies.  The living didn't stand a chance.  The stalled cars offered no protection as the zombies' hammering hands soon broke through the thin windows.  On all sides, I saw people kicking and screaming as they were dragged out of car windows.  Panic-stricken, others abandoned their cars to make a run for it but found themselves struggling to move through the congested gaps between the car.  We were hemmed in on all sides.  Through the mass of people around me, I saw, with something close to panic, the pallid faces of zombies closing in on all sides.  We were sitting ducks.

Desperately, I caught Emma and Lucas' eye.  "Under the cars!" I mouthed.  With a judicious use of elbows, I created enough breathing space to wriggle down to ground level and roll under a car.  Peering around me, I spotted Emma and Lucas crawling up towards me, one car across.

The terrified screams of the people around us flooded my ears.  The zombies picked them off like sharks at a feeding frenzy.  People started scrambling over cars and shoving people over in a frantic attempt to escape the death that surrounded them.  A few feet from me,  a young long-haired woman in t-shirt and jeans collapsed to the road, blood gushing from a ragged hole in her throat.  Two slack-faced zombies fell upon her  As she struggled weakly to rise, they tore with bare hands at her bare stomach.  My gorge rose as they pulled away chunks of flesh.  I closed my eyes and turned the other way. 

A child of about four years was lying on his belly between the cars.  His big brown eyes met mine for a long moment and then he was gone, swept from view by a stampede of feet.

Swallowing hard, I waited until I could catch Emma and Lucas' eye.  I pointed forward.  It was going to be a long and uncomfortable crawl but, as far as I could see, our only option was to make our way to the front of the traffic jam. The other two nodded their understanding.

On elbows and knees, I commando crawled from one car to another.  For once, I was grateful for the Australian tendency to drive bumper to bumper.  Emma and Lucas kept pace with me in the row of cars a few feet away. 

Around us, death poured down on the drivers and their passengers like oil on fire. Bodies fell to the ground, blood pouring from raw wounds, only to rise and attack the people around them.  The cries of pain and terror was unending and unbearable.  I tried to block it out, tried to focus on just getting out of here alive, but every scream shot through my body like a knife.  After fifteen minutes of travelling this way, seeing unimaginable images of suffering, my body started to shake uncontrollably. 

As I paused to rest my arms, the family in the car above me fell under attack.  The mother shrieked as her children were dragged out of the car.  "No, no, no!  Leave them be! Let my babies go!"  The pain in her voice was unendurable as the children's screams abruptly ended.  Blood splattered to the ground around me.  The mother's sobs became a gurgle and then stopped.

For a moment, my throat was so tight with tears, I couldn't breathe.  I looked across at Emma.  Her eyes looked back at me with compassion and reassurance.  You can do this, they said.  I swallowed and smiled briefly at her.  I'm okay.  Taking a deep breath, I crawled on. 

Five minutes on, I began to notice a diminishment in the amount of people - and zombies- around me.  I must be getting near the front of the line, I thought gratefully as my forty year old body was screaming in protest.

As I dragged my trembling arms along the length of another car, a body on my left stirred.  His intestines lay strewn across the bitumen.  I froze as his eyes blinked open.  Then, slowly, he turned his head and looked straight at me.  I stopped breathing as our eyes met for a long moment.  Without blinking, he pushed himself to his knees and moved towards me.  Shit!  I scurried forward as quickly as I could, trying to put some distance between us.  The zombie continued to crawl alongside the cars, never taking his eyes off me. 

From the corner of my eye, I could see Emma and Lucas keeping pace with me.  A hand closed suddenly around my ankle.  I gasped and kicked out desperately with my other leg.  It connected with the zombie's face as he inched under the car towards me.  A second head appeared under the car and another zombie started to crawl laboriously towards me.  Trying to stay calm, I reached back and, pulling my parang out, hacked fiercely at the hand clutching me.  It was hard to get much momentum with so little room but, thank god,  the sheer weight of the parang did most of the work, cutting half way through the wrist on the first swing.  Trying not to panic as the second zombie came closer, I swung again and succeed in severing the hand. With a shudder of revulsion, I shook it off my leg.  As the other zombie's fingers brushed my pants, I rolled away and scrambled into the open.  My limbs ached in protest as I stood up.

A couple of cars down, two zombies emerged from cars, attracted by the noise.  Then another three, no, four, popped their heads up from between the vehicles.  Everywhere I looked, I saw zombies turning towards me.  Oh, this is not good, I thought with a touch of hysteria.  The one armed zombie and his companion started pulling themselves from beneath the car beside me.  Oh no you don't. Stepping forward, I placed a foot on the back of the closest one and, hoisting my parang up,  lopped his head off.  As it rolled away from his body, I moved to the next zombie and, pinning its head with my foot, proceeded to remove it.

Looking up, I could see an empty highway not thirty feet from me.  The road ahead was blocked by a pile-up.  Four smashed cars stretched across the highway, forming a tangled metal barrier.  I felt Lucas and Emma coming to stand beside me while I tried to assess our options.  They looked pretty bleak.

If we could just get to the empty highway, we would have a chance, but to do so, we would have to run a gauntlet of undead bodies.  Even as I hesitated, the gaps between the cars  rapidly filling with undead bodies moving towards us.
"On top of the cars!"  Lucas blurted. "We might be able to make it if we run across the tops of the cars."  I looked at the bumper to bumper line of cars stretching  before us and then at the dead bodies lining the sides.  Without another word, I scrambled on the bonnet of the nearest sedan and leapt onto the boot of the next car.  The thumps behind me told me that my friends had followed suit.  Over the roof and down onto the bonnet and a leap onto the next vehicle.  My heart leapt.   This might just work!

As I climbed onto a truck bed,  dozens of corpses mobbed the vehicle and reached for me.  Carefully, I kept to the middle of the truck bed, avoiding the forest of grasping hands on both sides.  I clutched my parang tightly in my hand as I scaled the roof and surveyed the obstacle course before me.  Eight zombies were grouped around the lower bonnet, hands pawing at the air as their dull eyes stared at me. 

With a deep breath, I launched myself through the air, landed on the bonnet and immediately pushed off again.  I felt hands grasping at my clothes but falling away as I scrambled over the roof of the next vehicle.  Ahead, I could see more and more zombies lining the vehicles like some kind of perverse ticket parade. 

I knew that if I stopped to think about it, I would quail so I just ran.  Over and over, I clambered over roofs and dodged hands.  I had a terrifying moment moving from a volkswagon to a four wheel drive.  For a moment, as I climbed over the back of the larger vehicle, a hand succeeded in hooking itself in my pants.  Holding on with one hand, I viciously lashed out with my parang and buried it in the arm of a young girl of about eleven years old, almost severing it.  Yanking my leg away, I was free to continue my climb over the roof of the four wheel drive.

I drew a quivering breath as I saw the roadblock ahead and, beyond it, the open highway.  A quick look back showed Emma and Lucas just one car behind.  I waited for them to join me as I looked for a vehicle that could negotiate the small gap in the road not blocked by the pile-up.

"Um."  Lucas said hesitantly.  "I have a suggestion."  As we turned to look at him, he pointed at a motorbike lying on its side, blood splattered on the ground beside it. Emma and I glanced at each other and then back at him.  "Can three of us even fit on it?!" Emma asked dubiously.

He shrugged.  "If they can fit a whole family on them in Asia, I think we can squeeze three skinny folks on this one."  Glancing around at the growing group of zombies,  I knew that we were out of time - and options.

Without waiting for a response, Lucas leapt off the vehicle and dashed over to the Honda motorcycle and righted it.  I knew he had a trail bike at home but it seemed to me that this was a whole different kettle of fish.   However, Lucas seemed to think differently and immediately kickstarted the bike into life.  With an ostentatious squealing of wheels, he roared to the front of the car and revved the engine.  It was the signal for us to climb on behind him.  Scrambling down, Emma squeezed onto the seat behind him and I jumped precariously onto the rear section over the exhaust,  clutching Emma's waist tightly.
With a surge of power, the bike roared forward. Instinctively, I leaned over to counter the tilt as we flew past the roadblock and onto the blissfully empty highway, leaving the mayhem behind us.