Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tales of the Dead Tropics - chapter 42

Desperately, she wrenched her arm away but the corpse immediately threw itself on her, knocking Emma to the ground.  As she hit the ground, Sarah flew off.  Immediately, the creature reared up and sank its teeth into Emma's neck.  "No!" I screamed futilely.  I heard a faint agonised cry behind me.  Lucas. 

Emma turned her head to meet my eyes.  So much sorrow and regret.  "Look after Lucas." She mouthed at me.  God, please.  Sarah sat up a few feet away, crying.  I was almost there.  And so was the horde.  They fell on Emma like a pack of hungry dogs.  As other corpses moved past them to reach out clumsy arms for my Sarah, I swooped her into my arms, their fingers brushing my skin as I burst by.  I kept running, knowing it was our only chance.

My lungs burned as I struggled to stay ahead of the dead mob.  Sarah clung to me, crying with fright, as I ran across the road.  If I could just reach the apartment block, we would be okay.  I grabbed the doorknob.  Locked.  Glancing around, I saw them stumbling eagerly across the road.  I ran down the side of the building to the adjoining garage.  There was an internal door, I remembered.  Please don't be locked, I prayed. 

Inside the darkened garage, I felt for the doorknob.  Sweet mercy, it turned in my hand.  As the sound of moans entered the garage, I stepped into the darkened stairwell of the apartment block.  A few seconds later, I was inside the bottom apartment with Sarah. 
Gasping for breath and trying to control my trembling limbs, I listened carefully for movement in the flat.  Thuds on the garage door and the front door made it difficult to hear anything but, nonetheless, the apartment felt empty. 

Carefully, I balanced Sarah onto my hip and held my parang ready as I investigated the flat.  No signs of blood, no body.  It was mercifully empty.  Breathing a shaky sigh of relief, I placed Sarah on the kitchen table and slowly sat down in an old, rickety chair beside her.
"Wan' to go home, mummy." Sarah wailed, her baby blue eyes welling up.  I stroked her curly hair, unable to say anything.  My heart was just too broken.  Emma had been my partner in crime for so many years.  We had worked together, griped together, even gone on girls' adventure holidays.  She reminded me that I was someone other than a wife and mother, as important as those roles were to me, and kept the spirit of fun alive.  And now she was gone.  Dead because she wouldn't sacrifice my baby to save her own life.  Oh, Emma.

The banging on the front door became heavier.  There were more corpses gathering there, I realised, and if they didn't give up, the flimsy door was likely to give way.  And if not the door, the glass in the windows certainly wouldn't hold up for long. I needed a plan for getting out of here.

A click. The back door, I realised, feeling sick.  Spinning around in my chair, I was dumbfounded to see Mike walking towards me, blood dripping from his machete.    "What are you doing here, Mike?!"
"I couldn't not come."  He said simply, coming to kneel beside me and take my hand comfortingly between his rough ones.  God, I couldn't deny that how happy I was to see him.
"Oh Mike, you idiot." The look of tenderness in his eyes made my heart ache even more.  "The others..."
"Ken's using a buggy to take them to the creek that separates the course from the marina.  They've insisted on waiting there for us.  I made them promise to go on if we don't join them in the next half an hour, though."
"Oh God, Mike." I laughed tearfully, horrified and touched in equal measure.  "Without you there, they won't make it.  You know that!"
He smiled at me.  "Yeah?  Funny, they said the same thing about you.  We'd better get back to them, hadn't we?"

I nodded, blinking back the tears.  The sound of cracking glass brought us quickly to our feet.   As I feared, the glass in the window was cracking under the pressure of all the bodies outside.  From the bedroom, came the sound of glass hitting the floor.  Even as we looked at it, the front door splintered.  A hand pushed through a hole in the door.  Mike swung Sarah in his arms and headed into the stairwell, with me following closely behind.  As exhausted as I was, fear has a way of giving you a second and third wind.   

The garage door had already splintered. I could see a head pushing its way through.  Mike sprinted up the stairs, heading for the second floor.  The second apartment on the left was unlocked.  We slipped into the dark apartment and closed the door behind us.  I guess the body is able to hear or see things that the conscious mind cannot register because I knew immediately that we weren't alone.  Mike handed Sarah to me and pulled out his hatchet.

I swung Sarah onto my hip, parang forward, and slid along the wall while Mike walked slowly beside me.  Nothing in the lounge room.  The kitchen was empty.  He jerked his head at the bedroom.  I nodded and followed him down the corridor.  As he pushed open the door, something shot out.  I only just managed not to scream as my brain registered that it was a cat.  As the large grey tabby disappeared, I breathed a sigh of relief. Not much chance the cat could have survived this long in a room with a flesh-hungry corpse.  That only left the bathroom.  The door was closed.  I hesitated.  Maybe I should just leave it like that.  Anything in there wasn't likely to be able to get out.  As I deliberated, Mike slipped by me and pushed the door open.  A moan sent a shiver down my back.  Glancing at Mike, I glimpsed a fleeting look of sadness on his face as he looked inside.  "Stay here." He ordered me as he walked in.  Yeah right.  Putting Sarah down, I gave her a firm 'stay' signal and then I followed him in.

A little girl of about two with dead eyes and a bloodstained mouth faced us. Long dark ringlets framed an angelic, plump face as she stood naked in the bath.  Her mouth opened and shut as she reached futilely for us.  Dried blood pooled on the floor before her and bloody fingerprints marked the walls of the bathroom.   My mind couldn't help but try to join the dots.  I surmised that the child had been infected first and had turned while her mother was bathing her, maybe in an attempt to bring down her fever.  From the amount of blood on the floor and walls, I guessed the child had torn out a major artery when she'd bitten her mother and the woman had quickly bled out and died.  She'd then wandered off, leaving the child trapped in the bath.

"We can't leave her like that." I said sadly.
"I'll take care of it." Mike responded. "You find a way out of here." Chicken that I was, I left him there with her.  Sarah was waiting obediently outside.  Happy to see me, she held up her arms up in a familiarly demanding gesture.

A look out over the balcony showed at least a hundred corpses pushing their way into the building.  Even if we made a sheet rope, there was no way out that way.  I briefly considered going onto the roof but I had not observed a ladder on the outside of the building.  We would be trapped and, come dawn, the corpses were going to be the least of our problems.  At the end of the building, however, I observed a possible solution...

Thud!  I whirled around as the door splintered.  Mike joined me, a few new blood splatters on his t-shirt.
"Things are going to get mighty cosy in here in a few moments." He observed. 
"Yeah.  Follow me.  I have an idea."  Sarah on my hip, I hurried into the bedroom and pushed open the window.  A tall mango tree loomed out of reach.  "If we could just reach the tree, we could climb down."
Mike was silent as he did some calculations.  I didn't need him to tell me how hairy an attempt it was going to be.  A thin ledge ran to the neighbouring balcony.  The tree stood a good distance away from it but it was still within jumping distance.

He tucked his machete in his belt. "As we're going to have to jump for the tree, I'll carry Sarah."
I nodded silently.  The gap between the building and the tree was at least five feet.  Her extra weight would make it very likely that I'd fall short. 

The sound of breaking wood and loud, hungry moans intensified.  Hurrying to the doorway, I saw arms and heads pushing through the splintered door.  I shut the bedroom door.  "We need to go. Now."