Thursday, October 28, 2010

Tales of the Dead Tropics - chapter 27

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. 

Tales of the Dead Tropics - chapter 26

The battle sounds disappeared as the skies opened.  The rain fell in a heavy sheet that made it impossible to see beyond our verandah.  It drummed upon the roof in a hypnotic beat that soothed the spirit.  It was impossible to see or hear anything so Mike and I alternated between sitting in silence and making small talk.

I had to admit to myself that I enjoyed his company.  His laidback personality, dry humour and quick reactions made him someone that I had come to depend on completely.  I knew that I could trust him with my life and that added an intimacy to our relationship that I had never experienced with any man other than my husband.  And if I was being completely honest with myself, he was very easy on the eyes.

"A penny for your thoughts." Mike interjected.  Fortunately, it was dark so I was pretty sure he couldn't see the blush on my cheeks.
"Just wondering what's going on over the hill." I lied.    I had the uncomfortable feeling that he didn't believe me but he let it go.
"I doubt a bit of rain will stop the zombies," He said dryly. "but I have to admit I feel sorry for the poor bastards trying to fight them in these conditions."

The sliding door quietly opened.  I peered around to see my oldest daughter standing behind me. 
"The rain woke me and I couldn't get back to sleep." She answered my unspoken question.  She looked across me at Mike.  "Hey Mike."  He tipped his head at her before pulling his long body out of the chair.  "If you'll excuse me, ladies."  As he disappeared inside, Michele flopped into his chair.   
"Man, it's cold out here!" She shivered dramatically.   I agreed, waiting to see what she wanted to talk about.  The nervously tapping fingers signalled something on her mind.

"Mum, do you think Dad is alright?" She blurted out.  I sighed. Of course she was worried about her father.
"I think he is fine, honey.  He is probably having the time of his life fishing."
"But what about when he comes back?  What's going to happen then?"  That was the question, wasn't it.  I reached over and place my hand over hers, holding her eyes.  "There are still too many unknown elements for me to answer that question, honey. What if the army regains control and this is all over tomorrow?  What if Daddy hears something on the boat radio and chooses to stay away until it is safe." Yeah, right.  "All I can say is that I will do everything I can to keep your daddy safe.  If I have to go pick him up myself, I will."

Michele nodded slowly, searching my eyes.  I guess she must have felt reassured because I felt the tension fade from her hand.  Attempting a smile, she pulled back her hand.
"Wait till I tell him how you kicked butt at the shops today."
I laughed.  "He'll never believe you."
She grinned, glancing at me.  "Where did you learn those moves?!"
I shrugged nonchalantly, aiming for supercool mum rather than desperate and lucky.  "You watch enough tv, you pick something up, I guess."
Michele sighed and relaxed back against the deckchair.  She closed her eyes and we sat in a companionable silence for a few minutes.

"Hey, Mum?"
"You know how I always said I was never going to bring a guy around because you would embarrass me?"
I smiled to myself.  At least one good thing appeared to have come out of this disaster of a day.  I appeared to have developed just a little bit of credit with my daughter at last.  "Yes?"
"That goes double now."

Around midnight, as our watch was coming to an end, the deluge faded to a steady drizzle.  Michele had gone back to bed.  I stood at the balcony, straining to see if I could hear or see anything unusual.  Mike came up to stand beside me, little Lizzie sticking close to his heels.
"I can't hear any gunfire."  Mike murmured.
"Thank heavens." My response was heartfelt.  If it was over, we would be safe tonight.
"Hmm.  The question I keep asking myself is  - was the battle won or lost."  A chill ran through my body as I realised the implications of what he was saying.  Was it possible? Could a battalion or two of soldiers have been overrun?  Could the zombies be on our doorstep this very minute? 

The heavy mist from the mountains lay heavy at the bottom of our street, ever so slowly rolling towards us.  Lizzie started to growl.  Mike clicked his fingers and she stopped, but I could see her body quivering anxiously.  Across the street, Jodie's collie, Molly, started barking.  A light came on in the house and I saw the door open.  Jodie's oldest daughter, Jasmine, poked her head out cautiously and, not seeing anything, let the dog out.  The black and white collie raced out and down the street towards the mist, barking frantically.  My heart started to pound.  I had a really bad feeling about this.

Jasmine walked down her front steps.  "Mollie! Mollie!  Come here, girl!"  The dog disregarded her and disappeared into the mist, barking.  The barking became a panicked squeal and then - silence.  My disquiet turned into full-blown alarm.
"Jasmine!" I called urgently into the night.  "Get back in the house!"  She looked towards us, hesitated for a second, and then hurried back inside, closing the door behind her.

"Stay out of sight," Mike murmured, pressing himself against the thick verandah beam.  I followed his lead and tried to merge myself against the building as I peered into the street.  Between the darkness, drizzle and fog, I could see little more than dark shapes.  Across the street, however, the house light illuminated the area around it.

"Switch off your light, Jasmine." I whispered.  If the zombies were here, I knew that they would be attracted by the only lit house in the street.
"They didn't finish boarding up the windows, like I told them to." Mike noted grimly.  Although there were a couple of pieces of wood reinforcing the side french doors, I could still see into the room through the sheer curtains.  If there was anyone moving around in the house, the zombies were bound to see it.

Something moved on the edge of the lit area.  I strained my eyes to see what it was.  I caught a glimpse of a leg passing through a beam of light.  Gasping, I started to tremble.  And then a figure stepped into the light.  A man.  What was left of him.  Half of his body had been torn away, leaving half a torso and one arm. 

He stared at the lit house for a second before stumbling forward towards the stairs.  Another figure followed him.  And then another.  I watched, aghast, as a crowd of zombies quickly grew around the house.  They gathered at the windows and the french doors, anywhere they could see inside.

Moaning, they banged on the glass  More and more figures pressed heavily against the panes.  Then, the sound I had dreaded.  The sound of breaking glass.  Within seconds, the zombies started pouring into the house through the french windows.

Then the screaming started.  Above the rain and the moaning of the creatures, the cries of the women could be heard.  Desperate, petrified, they pleaded for help, for mercy, for god.  I clenched my hands uselessly, desperate to help and helpless to do so.  Through the glass panes, I caught a brief glimpse of a woman disappearing under a wall of zombies.  It was impossible to say who it was.  The desperate cries for help pierced my heart like arrows. I wanted to clap my hands over my ears like a child as the screams went on and on. 

Yet, when there was finally silence, it was so much worse.  I turned away, unable to speak.  In the midst of that heartbreaking silence, I watched in horror as lights came on in house after house down the street.  Next door, I saw the Brands standing in the doorway, framed by the light of their home as they peered into the darkness.
"What are they doing?" I hissed, dismayed.  "They'll draw the zombies straight to them!"
"They don't really understand what they are up against, Lori."
"But we do.  We've got to do something, Mike."
He met my eyes with a look of compassion.  "Our first priority has to be our own group, Lori.  You know that."
I did know that.  I also knew that there was still time to save these people, too.  In my heart, I believed I could do both.  It is, however, quite possible that I am just the world's biggest idiot.

As I saw zombies stumbling out of Jodie's home, drawn by the lights, I made a decision.  I grabbed the loaded pistol off the table before Mike could react and bolted down the stairs.
"Lori!" I heard Mike hiss.