Saturday, October 30, 2010

Tales of the Dead Tropics - chapter 28

I heard the moaning and bumbling sounds of zombies drawing near on my left side.  Time to move.  Dropping to my knees, I shuffled under the raised home, refusing to think about all the spiders I knew would be there.  Cautiously, by feel, I made my way to the front of the home.  I banged my knees a few times and had to swallow a few screams as critters scuttled over my hands.  Finally, I found myself under the front stairs staring into the street. 

Most of the bodies on the street had wandered off.  I could only count four in the immediate area.  However, I could see dark shapes moving across the street, surrounding the home of the family of boys.  It was impossible to see how many zombies roamed further up the dark street.  My best chance was to head down the street and make my way to the river through one of the undeveloped blocks.  Thankfully, being a newly developed area, there were more grassy blocks than homes at this end.

Slowing my breath in an attempt to think more clearly, I plotted my course.  The two blocks on the right of the boys' home were undeveloped so if I could make it across the street safely, I would have a clear run to the river.  While shallow at the moment, the river was fast moving and filled with rocks.  It was my hope that the zombies' lack of coordination would make it impossible for them to reach me in the middle of the river.  I guess I was going to find out if my theory was valid.

Like a horse coming out of the starter gate, I bolted out from under the house, past the zombies on the lawn, across the street and into the grassy field.  The grass was knee high, forcing me into a leaping gait which slowed me down some.  Moans that seemed to come from all sides told me that I had been spotted.  I didn't waste time looking behind me.  Instead, I strained to see the dark shapes ahead that would signal I had reached the trees lining the river bank.

Suddenly, the trees loomed ahead.  Without pause, I dodged the branches and pelted straight down the bank into the fast-moving water.  I fell to my knees on the uneven rocky bottom.  Water splashed into my eyes and mouth.  Pulling myself to my knees, I sloshed through the shallow rapids towards the deeper middle. 

A splash behind me jerked my head around.  I couldn't see anything in the dark but I saw the spray as the sound of another splash echoed through the rain.  Facing upriver, I started forcing my legs through the current.  My pants were soaked and dragging against my skin as the current tried to wash my feet out from under me.  I stumbled and grabbed at a large rock to prevent myself from being washed downstream.  Steady, I told myself, just take it nice and easy. 

Through the rain, I could hear frustrated moans keeping pace with me from the bank.  Another splash but so far no zombie had approached me.  I allowed myself to hope that I might make it.  As long as you don't get washed down straight into their arms, I reminded myself, so focus!

After ten minutes of battling the current and uneven ground in the dark, I was completely exhausted.  I was beginning to doubt whether I could make it all the way to the bridge.  It was only the knowledge that I needed to protect my children that kept me pushing my body upstream.  I became completely focused on placing one foot ahead of each other, blocking out the rain, the moans, the occasional scream.

Amazingly, I saw the dark structure of the bridge suddenly appear before me.  With shaking limbs, I pulled myself up the bank just under the bridge.  I lay there for long minutes, trying to catch my breath and clear my head.  When I felt I could stand up without falling, I pulled myself cautiously out from under the bridge.  The bridge and road appeared to be clear.  No food here, I thought grimly as I stood up on the bridge. 

Our street lay just ahead on the left, with our house sitting high on the hill at the entrance of the street.  I was probably going to have to run a gauntlet to get up the driveway.  The thought of another run exhausted me.  I guess it was a sign of how tapped I was that it was the run, not the zombies, that concerned me most.

Forcing myself into a jog, I headed home, keeping to the middle of the road.  I didn't know if it was the best strategy but I figured most of the zombies would have made their way to the smorgasbord that was people's homes.  I guess I was right as I reached the entrance to our street without trouble.  I hid in the long grass at the side of the road while I tried to work out the best approach to take.  I could see shapes wandering up and down the street, milling around the lit homes or standing still, waiting for a stimulus.

If I stuck to the drain beside the road, I decided, I could make it to our driveway undetected and then I should be able to outrun the zombies up the steep driveway without any problem.  The downside was that I would be drawing attention to our house.  I really didn't want to do that but I couldn't see a safer alternative.  In truth, I knew I was fooling myself if I thought the zombies would never find us; once the babies woke up, it would be pretty clear that the house was inhabited.

Sighing, I decided that I had no other choice.  The drain was less than two feet deep but, lined by long grass, it should be enough to allow me to escape notice at night.  Hunching over, I crept up the drain towards our house, keeping a close eye on the  zombies shambling nearby.  They did not appear to see me, thankfully, although I had a moment of sheer panic as one wandered right up to the drain.  It stood two feet away from me, staring at the houses on the hill.  I held my breath as I crouched, frozen, at its feet.  Finally, it turned and stumbled down the street.

Releasing a shaky breath, I continued my journey up the drain.  Finally, I reached my sister's property.  The house sat silent and dark at the top of the steep driveway.  It seemed so close and yet so far away. A zombie stood at the foot of the driveway while a few stumbled across the sloped garden.  The angle made it difficult for them to retain their footing so every now and then one of them would take a tumble down the slope.

I jumped onto the paved entry and charged up the steep driveway.  It was impossible to move as fast as I wanted to but I trusted that I was still moving faster than the zombies.  My calves burned but I pushed through the pain, focusing on making it to the stairs under the house before the zombies in the garden did.  As I reached the house and prepared to climb over the barrier blocking the stairs, I thought I saw a shadow move beside it.  Pausing,  I pulled out the gun and aimed nervously into the shadows.    Multiple shadows shifted and formed into three, no, four, dead men lunging at me.  Panicked, I fired a shot wildly, missing completely.  Backing up, I found myself pressed against the side of a car.  Trying to still my shaking hands, I took another shot and hit one of the zombies in the face.  As he collapsed, the other three surrounded me.

As their hands grabbed my clothes, shots rang out repeatedly.  Instinctively, I closed my eyes as blood and matter from the zombies' heads splattered on me. 
"Had enough exercise tonight?" A dry voice asked.  I opened my eyes to see Mike leaning over the barricade, looking at me with a familiar raised brow.  Even in the dark, I could see the hint of amusement in his eyes.  I resisted the urge to hug him and just nodded vigorously.  He looked around as he slung his rifle over his shoulder.  "I imagine we are going to have a lot of company in a few minutes so I suggest we get inside.  Only if you're ready, that is."
I scowled at him disdainfully and clambered over the wooden barrier across the stairs.