Climbing over the wooden barrier at the bottom of the stairs, I kept low and moved around to the back of the house. Keeping to the treeline, I made my way across to the elderly couple's home next door. Nothing to it, I assured myself, get them inside and close those blasted shutters, head out the back door and be back home in five minutes. Sliding around the side of the home, I reached the corner and took a cautious peek. A horde of dark shapes filled the street in front of their home. I could see the shapes of the Brands blocking the light spilling onto the lawn.
"Oh hell." I muttered. Before I could rethink the wisdom of my actions, I threw myself around the corner and up the three front steps, shoving the startled couple backwards. I slammed the door shut behind me and bolted it.
"Lori!" Mrs. Brand gasped, her faded blue eyes wide with alarm. "What..." I didn't waste time arguing as I rushed through the hall. "Mr. Brand, where is the remote for your shutters? You need to put them down now!"
"Oh, uh, I keep it in the lounge room." The old man looked flustered and lost but I did not have time to reassure him. Racing through an arched opening into the lounge with its surprisingly modern plasma tv and reclining chairs, I spotted a bunch of remotes on top of a display cabinet.
"Which one, Mr. Brand?!" I yelled, feeling the precious seconds ticking by. I felt sick in the stomach as I heard panicked shouts and screams across the street. Another home, another family.
"The, the silver one." He stuttered. I grabbed it and, for a moment, tried to work out what button to press. Realising that I was wasting time, I thrust the remote in the old man's shaking hand. "You do it, Mr. Brand. Please hurry!"
Nervously, he ran a bony hand through his thin white hair. "Okay, let me think a moment..."
The sound of breaking glass hitting the tiled floors in the room across the way brought our heads up sharply.
"Oh my, oh my!" The little plump woman wrung her hands anxiously. "Why is this happening? What do they want with us?" More glass broke behind us in the direction of the kitchen and then one of the bedrooms. We were surrounded.
Panic threatened to overwhelm me. Running to the lounge window, I peered out, hoping against hope that the route was clear. Just below the window sill, a sea of soulless faces stared back at me through the gloom. As they spied me, their arms reached hungrily towards me like a field of plants bending towards the sun.
Turning back, I saw the first dead figures stumbling through the arched doorway. "Run!" I screamed and shoved the old couple towards the other opening. The gun! I reached into the back of my pants and pulled out the weapon. As more zombies piled into the room, I aimed at their heads and fired. It tore through the side of a zombie's head, causing it to fall backwards into the bodies behind it. Glancing quickly behind me, I saw that the Brands had, for once, moved quickly and were nowhere to be seen.
I turned and headed after them towards the laundry door. The route ran directly past the kitchen. Before I reached it, I heard a pain-filled scream. Holding my gun in preparation, I turned the corner and saw the old man struggling to hold his wife's arm as she was pulled through the narrow kitchen doorway. "Let her go, please!" From Mrs. Brand, I could hear no sounds.
Coming up beside him, a quick look told me that the old woman was already dead. The three zombies filling the doorway were tearing into her throat and face with the enthusiasm usually reserved for free smorgasbords. Beyond them, another twelve or so zombies moaned and pushed in their attempt to reach us.
"She's gone, Mr. Brand. We have to go!" I yelled, knowing we only had seconds to spare. Oblivious to me and the danger, he continued to pull futilely at his wife. Looking around, I saw the first of the zombies from the lounge stumbling towards me through the narrow hallway.
"Mr. Brand!" I tugged urgently at his sleeve. With a snarl, he pulled his arm away. Time had run out. Torn, I turned and ran for the laundry door at the back of the house. Behind me, the hall filled with the clumsy steps of hungry zombies. On my right, I caught a glimpse of bodies filling the hallway outside the bedrooms. A scream, quickly silenced, lent wings to my feet as I reached the laundry door. Flinging it open, I fled into the night, straight into a group of lurching figures.
Screaming involuntarily, I skidded to a stop before the group as they turned towards me. Heart pounding, I spun around and sprinted between the houses towards the road. As I rounded the corner, the light from the Brands' home revealed several figures standing on the lawn like statues. They immediately swayed towards me. Through the rain, I could make out dark figures filling the street ahead. What the hell do I do now! Looking to my right, I saw a man standing in the doorway of the home next door. As I looked at him, he raised his arm to me. There were zombies on his lawn already moving in my direction. I knew it was going to be a close call but I was fast running out of options. I leaped across the flower bed separating the two homes and charged towards the open doorway and the man reaching out to help me.
Acutely aware of the zombies fast accumulating on my heels, I bolted up the steps of the raised home, two at a time. I glanced up at the man blocking the doorway. A large man, he filled the doorway, his head cocked as he looked down at me. Too late I realised it was because a large chunk of his neck had been gored out. I registered a body in the corridor behind him seconds before he lunged at me. Crying out, I stumbled backwards and fell hard onto the pavement, dropping the gun.
In desperation, I drew my legs in and caught the zombie in the stomach as he threw himself on me. Using his body weight, just like I'd learned in a self-defence class, I launched him up and over my head. Jumping to my feet, I saw I was surrounded by a semicircle of zombies coming ever nearer. The gun! Scurrying forward, I grabbed it and backed up the stairs of the home, praying that there were no more zombies lurking behind me. With shaky hands, I aimed at the closest zombie and shot him him through the head. It seemed a futile exercise with so many others ready to take his place but I had to try while there was breath in my body. I'd promised Jessie.
I aimed at another zombie and missed him entirely but the zombies were so close together, that I took out the face of a woman behind him. She collapsed, taking a couple of other zombies down with her. A moan erupted from behind me. Shit! Spinning around, I saw the dead man on his knees about to plant his teeth in my thigh. I jammed the gun into his mouth, baring my teeth in a instinctive snarl, and blew the back of his head out.
Jumping over his fallen body, I ran through the house, searching for the back door. Fortunately, there were no more zombies in the home and I made it to the laundry door unimpeded. Opening it cautiously, I slipped into the welcoming darkness.
Pressed against the back wall, I froze till my eyes adjusted to the dark, straining my ears for any unnatural sounds over the steady patter of rain. Shouts, screams, bangs and thuds could be heard all over the street, making it difficult to isolate closer, more dangerous, sounds.
My peripheral vision caught movement to my right. Figures were shuffling across the landscape, searching for fresh victims. I peered at the forest edge, trying to calculate my chances. Could I make it? I believed I could but what if the zombies had already made it into the trees? There would be no way for me to see a zombie lurking amidst all that shrubbery. I would be a sitting duck. No, I decided, I had to find another way. I almost snorted at my own thoughts. What other fricking way was there?! Up the street full of zombies? I took a deep breath and tried to steady myself. My mind raced through various potential scenarios, none of which ended well for me. Finally, I settled on a solution which at least had a chance of success. I would try for the river.