Facebook has got rid of my italics and this story is far too long to go through and try to add all of them again right now, so I'll leave it. I don't know if I'll get Keeping Score done tomorrow, but I will try.
This has been amazing to write (and there is more coming, prequels and sequels of their escapades) and although I didn't have any sponsors for this story (I didn't advertise it as Keeping Score was late) I would like to thank: Ross Belcher and Robbie Retallack for waiting with baited breath for this short.
The end was written in a tired state of mind, so may have some mistakes. As usual this is a first draft and needs much re-working, but I hope it entertains you none-the-less.
Demons in Your Doorway (Part of the Six Legged Spider series):
We didn’t realise we could lose until we did. Most of the time when you think of a zombie apocalypse you imagine mindless monsters coming back from the dead and taking over the world. You see a hero in your minds eye, one who is unprepared and untrained, yet still manages to save themselves and several others. You know there will be a death or two and plenty of blood, but nothing really bad will happen to the main character, or at least they won’t fail.
That’s how this situation is different.
This ‘zombie’ infection was created by the terrorist group Am0raX, of which I am now a part. Their goal was to spread panic and to cull the rising population to a reasonable number, it has been their objective ever since I can remember. The spread of the virus happens through wounds of any type, if contaminated with ‘zombie’ blood. Some people have immunity from it, but most don’t. Once you are infected you will take anywhere between five minutes and five days to show signs of turning. The turning itself looks painful and some people seem to have retained consciousness into the ‘zombie’ phase.
I didn’t know it at the time, but all ‘zombies’ immediately drop dead after three days of ‘life’ - this is to stop a worldwide pandemic. There is an extent to all technology. If we had known that back then we could have saved a lot more people, I think.
But I’ve had enough of crying over spilt milk, we all have, it’s time to move on.
There have been rumours before, but this is the full and true story of how the gang known as 'Arachnophor', from Arachn Academy escaped the ‘zombie zone’ city and rescued three other students, plus a teacher.
The story starts, ends and middles with Gorge really. She was the driving force, she always was. When the attack started she was skipping gym to sprint around the school, dodging teachers and prefects like she did it every day. Three or four times a week we all did something stupid like that, it kept us from getting bored. The teachers never cared unless you got caught. My favourite game was sneaking down to the drama basements’ ‘loft’ area and playing with the lights. Everyone used to think it was haunted because whenever anyone came up to investigate I would hide in the hollow part of the ceiling with the control for the old stereo and play songs backwards for the hell of it - oh the joy of being small.
Gorge never got her kicks out of doing anything so boring though, she liked to have things going on. Out on campus there are so many people you have to watch out for and spying has always been Gorge’s strong point. She always used to get into the locked storerooms between the watchers shifts’ and steal stuff for our after school meetings. It was cool, we had everything by the end of it.
You might have guessed it by now but we weren’t quite your average college kids, nor was our college a normal one. Arachn Academy was a college for the gifted, for the most part. You either had the grades or the money to get in, though I think for Gorge it was money, she was shocking in class, mainly because she skipped so much and didn’t revise to make up for it.
There were no Mathematics, or English, or Science classes on our timetables. Instead there was: Drama: A Study for the Gifted Individual; Acting: A Practical Application; Physical Studies: The Body and How To Optimise It; Martial Arts: Self Defence and Practical Offence; Computers: Internal Hardware and Workings, and other interesting, non-typical classes.
What we call ‘gym’, the class Gorge was skipping, was actually called ‘Physical Training: On Establishing Correct Balance and Strength, we just thought ‘gym’ was easier because that was where it was taught.
When the ‘zombies’ first started appearing we got a speaker message shouted out around the school. Something along the lines of ‘Code Three. All students to the Drama Centre as soon as possible. Do not panic and form orderly lines’. Basically the usual, except we had never had a Code Three before and Gorge, being her normal self, went off to investigate.
We had, in fact, been suspicious that something was going to happen for a while, one of our friends - one with lots of money and plenty of prior warning - had been taken out of school. Being who we were we had kept our ears open and Gorge was always our second (or first, depending on the situation) port of call for our knowledge.
So off she went (apparently) to climb to the roof of the Arts Centre Building. It is a pretty safe place to be if you know you are likely to be caught because it is easy to hide if any teachers or tattlers are around. From up there Gorge had seen the panic from outside the school as the ‘zombie’ infestation had, in her words, spread like wildfire. Those who were too slow to escape or didn’t change fast enough were ripped apart by those who had immediately turned.
Gorge pinpointed a block of flats towards the centre of the city as a focus point, meaning that it had stemmed from there, or near there. I hope she didn’t stay any longer than just to figure that out, it must have been a horrible sight.
After finding out what was going on, probably freaking out a bit, waiting while the hoards walked on down to the Drama Centre and then climbing off the roof and sprinting to the door of the Arts Building before she could be caught Gorge found me. We all knew each others timetables, it was important when organising meetings and knowing when to skip, because skipping together was never good. She knew that when she skipped gym I would be in Art: An Exploration of the Inner Mind.
That is where she found me. I had walked out with the rest of my class, but then slipped quietly to the end of the line and doubled back before anyone could notice. A Code Three meant that nobody was meant to take the time to pack up their things, but we had important survival kits in our bags and I was not about to leave mine behind for anything in the world - except maybe a few angry ‘zombies’.
I must have looked a bit of a state because we had been doing some major ‘deep delving’ and I was covered in wet paint. My canvas was sitting beside my table, but the only paint on that was splash from my actual project - myself. My table hadn’t fared as well, it was an inch deep in places with mostly dried paint. It had been my table for fourteen months and no-one else was allowed to touch it unless I said they could.
I never skipped Art.
To her credit Gorge didn’t even blink, she was too used to my painted appearances. You always knew where I had been in the Academy since from art-time until I dried everything I touched became smeared with paint.
“There are zombies!”
I am not lying, that is honestly the first thing Gorge said to me when she burst in. She was excited too, no fear from our fearless Gorge, she didn’t even sound concerned.
When around Gorge nothing seems frightening so my response was a simple ‘you had better ring Tez then’.
Her phone made its way to her hand in record time and she mimed to me to scout the area, our school gates where always locked so I wasn’t too worried about anything having found its way in just yet, but I complied and found the keys to Mrs. Levsons sports car on the desk, I chucked them to a delighted Gorge who started talking a mile a minute to Terence, our self-proclaimed leader.
I learnt from their conversation that he was still in the main building, probably hiding out until he could make it to the over-riding computer room. If he couldn’t get there I knew we would go to our hang-out, but that was dangerous since we would have to pass the Drama Centre and it was bound to be surrounded by teachers and late students.
Gorge was shouting into the phone excitedly as I worked out our most likely P.O.I.A. - ‘plan of immediate action’. We would spilt to avoid attention and try to join with the boys. Frandz and Will where probably together and already at the Drama Centre monitoring the situation and Tez was obviously doing his best to get to some sort of computer. He had been in History: Recent Wars and Why They Occurred, which was a pretty bad subject for him to be stuck with, since all he had to hand were some new-printed books about the uprisings last summer. He hated their current project with a passion.
Gorge hung up on Tez and messed with her phone. “Turn your phone on vibrate, we don’t know if the zombies respond to sound.”
“I doubt they are actually zombies.”
“I doubt I want to watch paint dry, but here I am with you.”
We could have gone on with that forever, but I was too busy trying to find my phone. The finding was helped when it started ringing. “It’s Frandz,” I said, answering it. “What do you want?”
“I couldn’ get hold of Gorge, ‘s everything alright? What’s goin’ on? They haven’ told us anythin’ ‘cept that ‘t’s a Code Three and to keep quiet.”
“Well Gorge says it’s zombies-” I had to wait out the inevitable squeal on the other end of the line. Frandz was this tough, manly guy, but he sounds like a girl when he’s excited or scared. By this point I was pretty sure that our gang was messed up, none of us seemed frightened. Gorge was enjoying herself and Frandz just sounded like a fangirl who had been touched by their idol.
“She’s okay,” I continued when he had calmed down, “she was speaking to Tez, that’s why you couldn’t get hold of her.”
“Oh, what’s plan?”
I looked at Gorge and signed ‘plan’ at her. She shrugged and then gestured for the phone.
“I’m handing you to Gorge.”
From the ensuing conversation it became apparent that Gorge was going to do her thing and raid the locker room for extra supplies of food and stuff in case we got stuck in the building and I was meant to go and meet the guys, check out how long the gates would hold and then go back to Terence, who would hopefully be commandeering the computer room by that point.
When she hung up I took my phone back and slung my bag over my shoulder. Gorge was already out the door, not being one to stick around doing nothing, especially when something exciting was happening.
The Drama Centre was close to the gates so I checked the stats as I went past.
I think I almost had an embarrassing accident when I saw the state of the gates.
Without a care in the world I had just walked out into the school grounds, believing we would be safe for a long time yet. I don’t like it when I’m wrong.
One gate was hanging off its hinges and the other one was lying on the ground, trampled all over the body of some unlucky someone, I slowly looked around, heart thudding in my chest and breath hard to find. I saw movement in the nearby bushes, I sighed in relief when a boy I recognised from my Theoretical Equine Studies: A Guide to Horse Movement class came into view. Then my breathing stopped as I recognised the tint of blood on his sleeve. Apart from that he looked fine... except his eyes, now he was closer I could see them rolling around in their sockets.
I turned and bolted. The fear that had been absent before gripped me now that I knew the threat was real - sometimes you couldn’t trust a thing Gorge said, but these really were zombies.
For a few minutes I forgot completely that I was meant to be going to the Drama Centre for the boys, I just ran, which turned out to be a bad idea, the zombie-things were damned fast. There was no decaying of the body - they were freshly dead, or undead, I’m not sure which phrase is best to use.
I am not ashamed to say that I practically screamed when I almost ran into a pack of them back near the Arts Centre. I had to double around and sprint down to the Main Building. There wasn’t anyone around anymore - everyone had migrated down to the Drama Centre - so I chanced racing across the yard.
The zombies behind me were thankfully not quite as fast as me, I may not love running like Gorge, but I can go fast when I want to. By the time I had reached the other side of the yard and had swung up onto the bins to clamber onto the low porch roof they were not so close and starting to lose interest.
I almost relaxed there until one of the zombies roared and tried to get up onto the bins as well. I knew then that I needed to get higher and get away, but my first duty was to call in an update to Tez, because if I didn’t make it they needed to know these things could run.
I flipped my phone out of my pocket, pressing speed dial and holding it to my ear as I stamped on a zombie hand. It was up on the bins and reaching to grab hold of the roof. More of the monsters were appearing across the yard, drawn by the noise.
“Liss?” A low voice on the other end called out.
“They’re fast! I’m on the Main Building porch, but they’re climbing up, I need to go higher… how do I go higher?”
“Wait a minute.” There was a short pause while I heard him scrambling round. “Look up and to your left, forth window along, top floor.”
My head shot up, I could see him leaning out of the window precariously.
“Use the window and the guttering.”
“It won’t hold my weight.” Plus I don’t really like heights all that much.
“Get up there!”
I made a whining sound, like I do when I’m scared as hell with no easy way out of a situation I don’t like, but his tone was enough to make me obey, he had something authoritative and no nonsense about him, which was why he was our leader.
I can’t remember what I did with my phone, but I must have dropped it because I didn’t have it later on, I vaguely remember trying to stuff it into my pocket, but at that point communication with my friends wasn’t my pressing concern.
The window was a small one, just a thin thing to let the light in, you had to get on a ladder to reach it from the inside so it stayed shut almost all the time. In fact I can’t remember it ever being opened. I shoved my foot onto the sill and threw myself blindly up, grabbing at the guttering on the roof, it creaked alarmingly, but I’m light and it was well attached. My feet dangled down behind me as I hung there, having left the window with the force of my jump, I had no purchase apart from my slipping hold on the guttering, I remember swallowing and refusing to look down.
Skipping classes and climbing into the ceiling compartment in the Drama basement had been good for one thing, and that was my upper arm strength. I don’t think I could have managed to get higher onto the roof if I hadn’t done that so much, but as it was I made it, arms aching and sweat dripping down my face. I was trembling, but I knew I couldn’t stop, there was a service ladder on the side of the Main Building heading up to the higher levels from the ground and I didn’t put it past these ‘zombies’ to figure that out.
Whoever said adrenaline rushes were good was lying.
Thankfully from there on out it was fairly straight forward to get the bit of the roof above Terence.
When I got there I lay down at the edge and looked down, trying to keep my eyes focused on him and not the ground. He twisted his face up so he could me and said “bloody hell, well done”.
“Next time we have a zombie attack I’m staying inside.” I said, still trembling from the adrenaline and everything else that came with it.
“Next time we have a zombie attack I’m learning how to hack the main system beforehand.” Terence replied, giving me one of his frustrated-beyond-all-measures looks.
“How do I get down?”
He thought about it, calculating. “I rang the others just now, they should along soon, Nerro’s back with some guns and the boys have found some tag-alongs. Apparently the Drama Centre was hit, but they got out beforehand.”
“Nerro’s with her. Found her fighting zombies in the locker room.”
“So it wasn’t just me that got caught out?”
He shook his head as well as he could in the odd position.
“Damn, I wanted to make Gorge jealous.”
Tez snorted and drew his head back slightly, looking at the ground. “We’re drawing attention, I’d better get cracking with the hacking.”
I looked down myself, braving the sick feeling it left in my stomach and saw my little friends all milling around in the yard, some looking up and heading our way.
“You didn’t tell me how to get down.” I pointed out before he could duck inside.
“The boys’ll get you down when they come.”
I sighed, waiting on the edge of a roof definitely wasn’t my favourite part of the whole ‘zombies at school’ thing.
By boys he didn’t mean Frandz and Will this time, he meant Nerro and Frandz, Will was even smaller than me and I wouldn’t trust him with my small weight, especially not as high off the ground as I was. Terence hardly ever took part in the more physical side of our situations. He was our plan guy and our computer whizz, but he didn’t have the stamina that the rest of us had and his strength is laughable, so I didn’t trust him to get me down either.
I was glad Nerro was back, him and Gorge were a real tag team, if they were together you knew the job would get done. Nerro was our money, he brought in supplies we couldn’t get ourselves, like the guns he’d brought, though usually it wasn’t anything as violent as that. He was also a damned good fighter, I think he was properly trained, but I don’t really know, Gorge was the only one who knew anything about him back then.
It felt like hours, but in reality I didn’t have to wait long, they guys turned up pretty soon and after much panicking on my part and instructing, grabbing and dragging on their part I was safely hauled inside.
I brushed myself off as I was dumped on the ground and got stray bits of paint all over my hands, apparently I hadn’t fully dried yet.
“Have fun painting the roof?” Gorge asked me as she hugged me.
You knew Gorge was worried when she started touching you, she wasn’t that type of person usually.
“Yeah, it was cool, the other kids didn’t seem to think so though, kept trying to chase me off and murder me, but you know, I got away, it wasn’t that hard. It’s not like I had to scale a building or anything.”
My sarcasm broke a bit of the tension that had started to creep into the room.
I took stock of the situation after that. Frandz and Will had rescued two of the annoying bully-boys from my Physical Training: Stamina and How Best to Build It Up class, along with a Drama teacher and a snobby looking girl I didn’t recognise. All four of them looked look they were about to faint and the snobby girl had lipstick smeared around her mouth.
I wasn’t feeling nice enough to point it out.
“What happened to your hand?” Said Will, who was basically the medic of our team.
I looked down, surprised to see a red smear on my hand, at first I though it was just more paint, but my sleeve was ripped above it and a small gash oozed blood.
“I must have caught it as I was being hauled inside,” I said, scowling at the boys rough handling.
“I ought to clean it. Gorge have you got any fresh water in that bag of goodies?”
She dumped her haul from the locker room down in the middle of the room and rummaged through it, throwing a bottle at Will when she found an unopened one.
He caught it with ease and I shoved the sleeve of my shirt up, it wasn’t a bad cut, but I was used to Will going all medic on us so I didn’t say anything. It was better to have a clean cut anyway.
Whilst Will was tending my wound Frandz piped up with: “’as anyone called th’ Pollys”?
Pollys was our derogatory term for the police.
Terence shook his head.
“I couldn’t get through earlier, they were probably getting too many calls,” Nero replied, “besides their headquarters was right in the middle of the city, anybody left here won’t be much help to us now anyway. We need to get out of the city.”
“What will that do?” Gorge asked, pouting. I think she probably wanted to stay and fight zombies from a vantage point she knew well.
“The outside police have cordoned the whole place off, no zombies getting out of here.”
“So the rest of the world is safe, it’s just us? That’s a bummer.” Will said.
“Yeah, it is a bummer, but so what?” Gorge cut in. “How would be get out anyway, we’re just going to have to wait this out.”
“Wait it out?” I asked. “They’re zombies, they’re not just going to drop dead, they’ve already done that once.”
“Well if the city’s sealed we’ll just have to wait until it becomes un-sealed again. Besides, we have guns now, we can kill the zombies off bit by bit.”
“I’m pretty sure we don’t have that many bullets.” I replied scathingly. Pulling my shirt sleeve down again as Will finished his fussing.
“Can’t we get hold of the outside police and see what they say?” One of the bully-boys piped up.
We all exchanged looks and then turned to Terence.
“Do any of you know the number?”
It became quickly apparent that the only number we knew was the emergency one for our city, outside police were on a different line and we needed the computer the reach them. Now I feel stupid, because even without the main computer we still had Tez’s laptop, which he was using to hack into the school’s main system computer, but nobody was thinking straight and the fact that we could easily look it up on the internet there escaped us. As it was Tez went back to his hacking.
The rest of us settled down and started going through the stuff that Gorge had recovered from the locker room, I’m not sure how her and Nerro managed to carry all of it, or where Gorge got the black bin bags it was all in, but we had food, drinks, a crowbar and some spare phones.
“That’s mine!” Piped up the snobby girl, pointing at a dark purple FriendStat.
Gorge chucked at her and carried on going through the rest.
“How long will we be holed up for?” She asked.
“Hopefully not long,” Nerro said, glancing at the wall clock.
“Shall we eat then?”
“Yes!” Will exclaimed, diving in and starting to sort the food.
“Meeting before food.” Terence piped up behind us.
I started off because the others were too busy glaring at him. “Well they respond to sound, are freakishly fast, don’t look much different to normal and are pretty smart.”
“I saw the veggie girl smash her head against the wall whilst two boys were eating her friend,” Gorge piped up, tucking into a sneaky bread roll. “So I think they retain some mental functions, at least some of the time - though she could have been normal at that point, I’m not really sure.”
She stopped when she saw everyone’s disgusted faces.
“The zombies weren’t paying her any attention, so either she smelt too much of vegetables, or she was already one of them,” she explained.
“I dunno how you eat while sayin’ tha’.” Frandz said.
“I didn’t think you could speak when you were eating.” Will said.
Gorge sent him a rude finger sign and polished off her roll, looking around expectantly.
Nerro picked up the spotlight. “They don’t seem to feel pain.”
“What kind of zombies would they be if they felt pain?”
“Angry zombies,” Will said, laughing. He always did yet annoyed when he hurt himself.
By this point Gorge was laughing too, joining in with Will.
I sighed. “Don’t any of you realise the biggest point? They’re real. We’re surrounded by zombies and they’re real. The… let’s call it a disease… is spreading way too fast. How many people do you see out there?” I asked, gesturing at the window.
Terence looked out and nodded, his chair a higher vantage point than our perches on the floor. “Good point. Why aren’t people hiding? Or are they? Then why are there so many, it’s not like they’re seeking us out?”
“They chased me and if I wasn’t so fast they might have caught me, the fact they can run means that they retain the bodily functions of the person they were.”
“That is a disgusting thought,” Gorge said, grimacing. I thought her comment was fairly ironic, since usually she’s the one describing things no-one else wants to know about and my comment wasn’t even that bad.
“But still,” I said, continuing despite Gorge’s interruption, “there shouldn’t be that many people-turned-zombies out there.”
We glanced around at each other.
“Which means,” Nerro started, “that the ‘disease’ spreads through more than just bites.”
“The zombies rip people apart.” Gorge said, opening the chocolate bar Will chucked at her.
There was a pause where everyone looked at Gorge as if she was slow.
“Gorge,” I ventured, “they are zombies, they tend to do that. Watch the films.”
“I mean,” she said, frowning at me, “that they rip people apart. So how are there so many zombies with hardly a scratch on them?”
I think everyone frowned at that, even the guys we rescued, though I can’t really remember their input into the conversation, we were all too much in shock. I can’t even remember their faces.
“But they’re all injured?” Tez asked.
I nodded hesitantly. “As far as I can tell, although I was a bit too busy running to have a good look.” I looked at the others for conformation, they all nodded like me, unsure.
He studied the ones hanging around the yard. “There are one or two that look a bit mauled, but most have only minor wounds.” He looked worried.
“So,” Nero said, “the spread is through any type of wound?”
Slowly heads turned towards me.
I looked at the cut on my arm, it was slightly above my wrist on the inside, looking completely harmless.
“I feel fine,” I said, though truth be told at that moment I felt far from fine. I felt dizzy and faint and sick.
“I guess we just keep an eye out.” Will said nervously, the others nodded, except Nerro, who stood silently behind Gorge and pursed his lips.
Terence went back to his computer and made a relived sound in the back of his throat as he finally got through to it.
There were a tense few moments as he waited for everything to load, before he connected to the internet and found the outside-polices’ number.
He flipped open his mobile and called them, the rest of us waiting with baited breath.
With the seconds before the call was picked up he started loading the security camera footage onto the screen.
“Police, please.” Terence said, tone hard and voice grim, determined. Business mode. I always thought he looked kind of cool like that. “Yes, it is an emergency.” Another pause. “We are in the middle of it.” Three seconds. “Get someone who knows something on this line right now, I need news from outside and the clearance to hack into the city’s security cameras.” Two seconds. “I know what I am doing.” One second. “Right now.” Five seconds. “Thank you.”
I don’t remember breathing during the long silence that followed.
“Mr. Devin.” I’m assuming he gave his name when answering the phone because for all that Tez was, I know he wasn’t psychic. “Yes, I’m afraid this is an emergency. We are stuck in Arachn Academy, we have reason to believe there are others still alive on site. Yes, I’m looking through the security cameras now.”
He waved a hand in our general direction and pushed himself away from the computer desk on his swivel seat. For one bizarre moment he looked like some kind of evil mastermind. Me and Will leapt up to look at the screen, clicking on various camera headings and playing around.
I heard Tez say: “there was a calling for Code Three, all students and staff to the Drama Centre,” to the man on the phone and took the hint, finding a camera called ‘DRM01NC2’, nothing on that one, it showed an empty corridor. I flipped through the next several cameras, the school had way too many, I had never realised that our security was so tight, whoever manned the cameras must have been laughing their butts off at all of us running around skipping classes all the time.
I was scrolling through the cameras so fast that I zoomed right past the ones situated in the large drama studio. Will cried out with a kind of grunt squeal thing, pointing wildly and I just looked at him for a moment with an eyebrow raised, I heard a coughed laugh from Frandz behind me. From the whole experience that is one thing that sticks in my head like glue.
“What the hell, Will?” I said belated before skimming back slightly slower.
I was about to crack a joke at him, but instead a kind of strangled scream tore itself from my throat as I leapt back. I don’t think I have ever jumped so badly in my life.
“It’s alright Mr. Devin, we just found the footage of the Drama Centre, it doesn’t look good. My associate took a fright… yes I am sure I’m a student at the academy, sir.”
The camera was situated in the corner of the room, but it was turned towards the door. It had been torn off its hinges and flung halfway into the room, several zombies were milling around, looking agitated and very active.
I had never seen such a bloodbath before in my life, I had to look away, but not before I’d got an eyeful I’ll never forget. The amount of mutilated bodies in that room, it was awful. There wouldn’t have been anywhere to go, I’m surprised we didn’t hear the screams. I was gagging when Frandz pulled me back from the screen, wrapping me in his too-big arms and trying to comfort me by singing a nursery rhyme or two, maybe even three, I wasn’t listening in all honesty.
It was probably a little while before I recovered enough to glare at him, sure he has an okay voice and at least he sings in tune, unlike Will, but did he have to sing a nursery rhyme like I’m some kind of child frightened of the monster under her bed? This wasn’t just a stupid nightmare, this was reality and it was quite a bit more terrifying than any nightmare I have ever had.
I might have snapped something about “nursery rhymes” and “not helping” at Frandz before turning to the others and plonking myself down in there midst, with my back carefully placed towards the screens behind me.
“You do realise,” Gorge whispered at me covertly, “that the door was solid metal plate hardwood?”
“Please Gorge, it’s not like you have to make me feel even better about the situation.” I muttered back, glaring at her. “We know these zombies retain the body’s speed and strength, I guess some people are just way whacked up on stimulants.”
“Or they get stronger when they become zombies.”
“You think our door will hold them?” One of the bully-boys chimed in.
I looked at him, then at our door.
“Dude, it’s a solid metal security door. You need a bunch of codes to even get in here, no brute force will get that thing down,” Gorge said laughing.
Frandz looked it up and down. “Depen’s how strong they are.”
I cleared my throat. “Not helping, doom mongerer.”
“Guys please, I’m trying to have a conversation here.” We all turned to look at Terence.
I cocked my eyebrow at him. He was slumped back in his chair, phone pressed between his shoulder and his ear. A notepad and pen were balanced on top of his legs, which he was using as a table, one ankle over the opposite thigh in the man version of crossed legs.
“You look strangely effeminate.” I said.
Will and Gorge collapsed into silent laughter behind me, usually they were the ones to tease Tez, but I needed something to distract myself from the sight of half the school turning into zombies and ripping the other half to shreds.
We were silent for a while after that, listening to Tez talk on the phone. I closed my eyes and pretended me were somewhere else, on one of our old missions that were nowhere near as life threatening.
I guess I haven’t mentioned it yet. Us six, being the strange people we were back then, were a kind of crime-fighting gang. I don’t really know what to call it, but we worked in conjunction with the city special force, which was separate from the police, we helped them solve some of the more involved crimes. It was a way of keeping us out of trouble I suppose, we started off as freelance investigators, but it wasn’t soon before we were stepping on their toes and getting in their way. It was Nerro and Tez that convinced them to let us in on the job the first time round, and then we just proved ourselves.
Our code name is Arachnophor, after the Academy and then our record initials. Gorge said it sounded cool, so we stuck with it.
We didn’t always work with the Specials though, we sometimes did work for the underground, since that was more fun and triple the money. The Specials knew, but they couldn’t catch us, most of them didn’t even want to, there were a lot of criminal-cops on their payroll, it was just that type of force.
We got our nickname ‘Six Legged Spider’ when we became involved with the importation case a year before the zombie outbreak. It was our big breakthrough, everyone was talking about ‘Arachnophor’, but no one in the city knew who we were, only that their were six of us. We became strangely famous, heralded as heroes, though truth be told that wasn’t the hardest case we’ve ever done, it was more difficult to keep ourselves out of the limelight afterwards. Six Legged Spider, with the acronym of SLS, became the common nickname, used by everyone except the news stations.
So now you know why our reactions to this whole mess were so weird, why Gorge was in her element and Tez knew exactly what to do and say.
We would have contacted the Specials, but they always contacted us first and since they hadn’t we knew they didn’t make it. I think Tez probably tried to get hold of them, since he didn’t mention attempting to, he is usually the one with the brains.
We were pretty quiet for a while, I think the situation was beginning to sink in and the novelty (for Frandz and Gorge) was wearing off. Terence rolled on back over to the computer and started hacking into the city’s security, with help from his new friend Mr. Devin, but apart from the click of his fingers on the keyboard, our soft breathing and the occasional zombie-scream everything was silent. For some odd reason that made me feel really tired, I guess the adrenaline was wearing off now we were relatively safe and had the police on the line.
The quiet didn’t last for long though, the zombies down below us started up a fuss after about ten minutes. Nerro went over to the window to have a look and shook his head at the rest of us.
“They’re playing football.”
“What?” Gorge exclaimed, jumping up to see for herself. Will followed.
“That’s disgusting!” He said, his face a picture as he turned back around to the rest of us.
“Disgustin’?” Frandz’ voice was high in curiosity, I swear he was female in his last life.
“Guess what they’re using for a ball.”
The snobby girl shifted, getting our attention. “Body parts?” She questioned, being uncharacterishly quiet for someone of her reputation. I suppose a zombie outbreak does that to you.
“Ew,” I said.
“Yes!” Gorge said, seemingly fascinated. “They have goalies and everything. What the hell?”
Frandz was up and over to the window in no time flat. “They actually are.” His voice was amazed.
I really wanted to go and look, but I didn’t think I could stomach it so instead I said, “I’ll take your word for it,” and tried not to think about the cannibalised football match going on below.
We left Terence explaining this new excitement, as everyone else crowded around the window, even the teacher. We probably sounded slightly unhinged to Mr. Devin at this point. ‘Yeah my friends are just watching zombies play football with mutilated body parts’ and all that.
The time passed quickly after that, with the guys and the two girls choosing opposing sides to support. They became quite recklessly loud, and so it was inevitable for one of the zombies to look up and see the lot of them trying to hang out of the window at once.
I was busy inventorying the food and drink at the time and the others didn’t notice until the game came to an abrupt end. I looked up as soon as it went ominously quiet.
The next few minutes was a whirlwind of activity, everyone crowded back into the room, as far away from the window as they could get, cursing and crying in hushed whispers. Will was sneaking peeks out the window, the only one brave enough to go anywhere near it.
“They’re coming this way.”
I could hear the roars, the frightening crazy laughs, the gurgles and one or two bloodcurdling screams as they took up the ‘chase’.
“They’re pretty smart, they’re beating on the main doors, I think.”
“Will, we don’t need to know!” I shouted at him desperately.
“Yes we do.” Gorge said, creeping over to the window with him. “Some of them are still out there, just watching. I think they’re there in case we run or something.”
I was having a mini panic attack at this point and Frandz was trying to be comforting, I noticed he had paint in him from where he’d hugged me earlier, not really an uncommon occurrence, he was always really touchy feely.
Nerro joined in with the calm, calculating conversation by the window. “I would assume they are highly intelligent then.”
“Definitely,” Gorge said, “they’re heading us off at the other exits too.”
“We’re screwed.” One of the bully boys whined.
Nerro scoffed and picked up one of his guns, prepping it for use. “Gorge, you remember how to use one of these?”
“Would I ever forget!” She exclaimed, eyes shining with some kind of crazy light.
“Will?” He asked, holding out a gun.
“Hey, I’m on medical duty, find some other dunce to join your little front line.”
Nerro shrugged, “even if you’re the third best at shooting?”
“I suck at shooting.”
“Well, you’re our third best. I’m not even asking if Frandz wants one. Friendly fire doesn’t appeal to me when every scratch you get could lead to becoming a zombie.”
I felt Frandz shrug. He was still holding on to me, his big head propped on my shoulder, to be honest I think he might have been hiding.
“I can use m’ knives.”
Nerro shook his head, “too dangerous.”
“If they get close.”
There was a hesitation from Nerro, but after a few moment he nodded, conceding.
“Can I have knives?” Will piped up at the same time as the teacher said: “Why do you have knives?”
“You’re on medical duty doctor.” Gorge snarked at him, ignoring the teacher, which was normal for her, even without the zombies.
“You can have knives if you take a gun and agree to use it.” Nerro said, also ignoring the teach, which wasn’t so normal for him. I think we all just gave up on her since she hadn’t spoken once until the knife question. Even the two bully-boys and the snob had said something.
Will narrowed his eyes at Nerro, considering.
“Hey dude, just think of it as saving lives, namely ours. Take the gun, take the knives… take your weird little sewing kit.”
“Okay,” Will said, giving Gorge the evil eye.
“Did you rescue my bow?” I asked Gorge.
The bow in question was a small disassemblable crossbow, which I hid in a lunch box sized container.
There were raised eyes from the people who didn’t know me when Gorge nodded and chucked it over. I smiled at the painted lid and opened the box with the key from around my neck.
I quickly assembled it and checked it over for damage. It could do with an oil, but it was perfectly usable, as I knew, I took it out every evening to practise and clean. All twenty bolts were secured in the box, I took them out and placed them in their mini-quiver, attaching that, in turn, to my belt. I didn’t load the crossbow, that would be too dangerous.
I looked at Tez. “What about you?”
He glanced over, phone on the desktop in front of him, face grim.
My heart sank, I knew what he was going to say before he said it, I could see it in his eyes.
“I’m not going.”
Someone gasped, probably the teacher.
“I’m giving you a gun,” Nerro said, not arguing. It would be pointless and we all knew it. “It won’t help you much, but it’ll do the job.”
Tez nodded, taking the small pistol, without a word.
“What’s our route?” Gorge asked, trying to dispel the sudden uneasiness in the room.
Tez spun back to the computer, bringing up a 3D map of the surrounding city.
Will groaned. “I’m not going to remember this,” he said.
“You are.” Terence replied, all business.
Will sighed. I felt almost sorry for him, along with being our medical whizz he was also our map guy. He was the one who knew where we needed to be and when we needed to be there.
“I’ll help,” I said. My job in the group was mainly infiltration and flirtation, what with my acting and artistic credentials, but I wasn’t being much use so far with the whole zombie thing, so I thought I had better help out in some kind of way.
Will and I went over to study the maps and the security cameras as the others packed and discussed fighting tactics. One of the bully boys said he went shooting with his dad at home, so he got one of the remaining guns and his friend got the other because he knew how to use it, even if he wasn’t very well practised. The snobby girl choose to help carry the heavy stuff, rather than fight, which was unsurprising. The teacher took one of Frandz bigger knives. I imagine her face would have looked petrified, but I was too busy looking at the computer screen to see it. It’s the one thing I regret.
During all of this we started hearing the zombies crashing about in the corridor, obviously looking for our hiding place.
“We’ll have to draw them away from this room,” I could hear Nerro saying from the other side of the room, before my attention was brought back to my own problems by Will saying: “Remember this route.”
We planned as quickly as possible, waiting for the zombies to come to our door and smell us, or hear us, or see us… whatever they did (probably all three). Me and Will embedded the route firmly into our brains and Tez flicked through several security cameras to give us visuals. We knew the city, so it wasn’t like we could get lost, the main problem was avoiding the congregations of zombies.
Terence would be on the phone to us the whole way, in case the route needed to change, but if the zombies here got to him before we got out we needed to have an idea of which was the best route to follow.
“We hav’ta go,” said Frandz quickly, pulling me and Will back from the computer. We exchanged glances, Will squeezed Tez’s shoulder and I gave him a short hug, then we murmured our goodbyes and went to stand with the others. Once they had wished Terence luck and said their thank yous for being a hero we shrugged bags onto our backs, double checked our weapons and keyed the code into the door.
“How did you get the code to the door?” Whispered the teacher.
I looked at her blankly. “What code to what door?” I then proceeded to inwardly laugh while she tried to figure out if I was serious or not, psyching teachers is fun.
“Liss,” Nerro growled. It seemed like he was our new leader since Tez was staying behind, he always had been the second in command. “Is everyone ready?”
A chorus of whispered affirmatives were his answer and he burst the door open.
One of the zombies from down the corridor snapped its head up and ran at us, mouth open in a silent scream. I may or may not have made a frightened squeaking sound and froze myself to the spot. Luckily Nerro was right in there with a bullet through an eyeball. It didn’t even make it half the distance, but now the other six were baring down on us.
I leapt out into the corridor and slammed a bolt into my crossbow, firing at one of the zombies and then stuffing another bolt in and firing again in quick succession, Frandz stepped out of the way behind me and covered our backs in case any zombies came from the other direction. The bully-boy who knew how to shoot got another zombie. I don’t know who got the other three, but I have a feeling it was a combination of an in-her-element Gorge and a mister-maybe-taught-to-fight-because-I’m-so-good-at-it Nerro.
“Okay?” Was the first thing Nerro said when all zombies were dead and checked over.
We all called affirmative again and Frandz pressed the buzzer on the door, talking into the speaker. “We got th’ ones out ‘ere, Chief.”
“I know, I have you on camera,” came the tinny reply, “Liss get your phone on, I need a point of contact.”
“Give me a sec.”
I looked at the unfamiliar screen of the stolen phone and punched a few on-screen commands, it unlocked without asking me for a password, thankfully, I didn’t know how to hack a phone.
I dialled Tez’s number, knowing it off by heart, even though I had it on speed dial and never had to remember the full code. He answered on the first ring.
“I’m here, have you got earphones?”
“Yes!” Gorge said, hearing him through the door speaker.
She handed me the cheap plastic things and Will chucked me a few plasters so they wouldn’t fall out of my tiny ears. I fumbled when I put them in, trying to rush because I could hear more zombies coming.
“We should have done this in the room,” the snobby girl said.
“Yes, we should have,” I agreed.
“We’ve got you covered, take your time.” Nerro said, but he didn’t have the calming influence Tez always had and his words sounded more like: ‘hurry up you dolt, the zombies are coming’ to me.
Finally I got them stuck to my ears and Terence said a testing line or two. I affirmed his link with a line of acceptance. “We’re good to go guys,” I said, stuffing the phone carefully in my pocket, after threading it down under my clothes.
“Good. Frandz, Gorge, cover us. I’ll go ahead, the rest of you stick to the middle.”
I repressed a sigh, I don’t like leader Nerro.
We ran down the corridor as quietly as we could, which was still pretty loud if you ask me, but then, I’m (in Gorge’s words) the queen of being quiet. There were two zombies coming around the corner behind us, but Gorge got them before they could even think about mauling us. She’s good at the rear on this kind of mission, it’s like she has eyes in the back of her head.
When we turned the corner ahead and got to the stairs Nerro made us wait and listen, sure enough down below there were the sounds of rustling and oddly enough breathing. I was always under the impression that zombies didn’t breathe for some reason, but I get they have to get the breath to roar and scream from somewhere.
“Liss, can you check how many?” He asked in a voice that was barely a whisper, I had to read his lips to get what he meant.
I nodded, heart pounding, and padded down the first few stairs in my soft, soundless shoes. I ventured a glance down the stairs and saw several zombies mulling round at the bottom, five flights down. I retreated as quietly as I’d come and shook my head at Nerro, motioning further down the corridor. He nodded and waved everyone to follow him.
We headed to the next flight of stairs.
“They’ve probably blocked us off at all exits,” Will said.
“Shh,” Gorge said to him in a laughing tone, mocking a glaring Nerro.
I checked the stairwell when we got to it.
“Not so many.”
Nerro signalled us out and I took the lead, scouting ahead on silent feet.
“Don’t forget about me,” said a voice in my ear. “Liss their are eleven zombies down there by the looks of things, get Gorge and Nerro to shoot the ones you can get from the next stair well down, that should give you enough time to get them all. You might need to reload after that.”
“Affirmative.” I said in a ghost of a whisper.
I signalled Nerro ahead when we got down to the next flight and motioned a shooting action, he nodded and waved Gorge and the bully-boys forward. I took position beside them, slotting a bolt carefully into my crossbow, four zombies went down when we fired, only one of our shots missing, all in all it wasn’t too bad a result.
The other seven zombies started up their noise and we fired again as soon as enough of them got into view. Another three went down, it was more difficult to aim now they were moving.
“Twelve, not eleven said a voice in my ear. Five left.”
“Five left.” I murmured to the others. As we moved to intercept the zombies coming up, we abandoned the formation and fired at will. Gorge dropped back.
“Out of bullets,” she said, already restocking her gun.
By the time she was ready again the rest of us were done with our zombies. I went to retrieve my bolts, a gross, but much needed task. So far I hadn’t lost any, if only it could stay that way. I wasn’t hopeful.
“Tez?” I asked.
“Here. You have incoming, they heard the fight, you should be able to get out, they’re heading down the Science corridor. Slowly.”
“We get out,” I said.
Nerro motioned everyone on.
“More are coming, but we can get out ahead of them, we might miss them completely if they don’t realise.”
We ran as fast as we could down the remaining stairs and out into the windowed hallway.
“Go through the windows, you have a clear shot across the grounds, no zombies in sight.”
“Through windows,” I said, already heading for them, feeling adrenaline pumping through my veins. “How far are the new lot?”
“A corridor away, they shouldn’t see you.”
We had to help the teacher, Frandz and the snob through the windows as they were the larger of us and were carrying the heavy things. Nerro was nimble enough to jump through almost as fast as me, along with a beaming Gorge and a swearing Will.
“This is so fun.” Gorge said, bouncing on the balls of her feet like a mad thing.
“Definitely not,” replied Will, looking pale.
“No. Definitely not.” I agreed.
“What?” Asked Terence on the other end of the line.
“Talking to the others, how close?”
“Rounding the corner in a few seconds.”
“We need to go.” I told the others.
We ran across the school grounds and into the woods.
“Zombie at three o’clock.” Terence.
I heard a gunshot behind me.
“No worries, Gorge got it.”
I laughed. It surprised me, and a few of the others as well. I almost gave myself a heart attack it was that unexpected.
We continued on to the edge of the school grounds.
“What now Captain?” I said into the earphones little stupid speaker.
“Climb, you’re okay for a few blocks out, the zombies have mainly migrated into the city further. Good job we’re in the nice edgey parts, hey?” I heard a bang from the other end of the line.
“I’m okay, just one zombie outside the room, I don’t think he knows I’m in here.”
“Stay quiet.” My voice was desperate. I already knew we’d lose Terence, I knew it from the moment I’d seen that look in his eyes. I’m staying, I’m dying, I’m going to be the hero and make sure the rest of you get out alive. But knowing it didn’t make it any easier, Terence had always been there for me.
I hadn’t made any friends at the Academy in my first few weeks, back then I’d been unbelievably shy. I had started late and I was all timid and mousey. Then Tez had found me in the cafeteria on my own and sat down with me, he’s a year older and I guess that shows. He was friendly, but he didn’t scare me and then he introduced me to the others and I couldn’t stay away. That’s the whole story, it’s pretty pathetic really, but I’ve always looked up to him anyway. Even if he hadn’t chosen to stay behind and play the hero he would have always been a hero in my eyes.
“We have to climb.” I said, tearing my thoughts away from the dangerous, zombie infested waters.
We navigated the wall and then the first few blocks out from the school in safety. We drew no attention from anything and we didn’t find any people either. We had a five minute rest just before we got to the more hairy part of our journey, taking a drink and reloading the guns. I checked my crossbow and reorganised my bolts in my pouch, listening to the odd bang from the other end of the phone line.
We started out again slowly, fanning ourselves out in case we had to run, there shouldn’t be many zombies around for a little while yet, but even the chance was making me jumpy. Nerro controlled us with a series of hand signals, we had brushed up while we had stopped and clued in the newbies. They were holding up surprisingly well, considering, but then we hadn’t navigated the infested zones yet.
Tez, Will and I had found that the further out of the city you went the more crowded it became, all the zombies were pushing at the barricades and blockages, which were manned by both the outside police and all manner of special forces, including, probably, a few people we knew from our time as Arachnophor.
Between us Will and I safely had our gang venturing out into the more high risk areas. He had a few zombies run at us, but they were quicken taken down by Nerro and an overzealous Gorge. We made quick work through the city, the way was easier than we had expected.
Until we got half a mile out from the edge. Things started getting hairy around there, more zombies paraded around and we took to the roofs, as Terence had suggested. This was my part, I made my way ahead of the others, checking jumps and handholds and stability and leading them across the maze. A few zombies down below saw us, but we were out of their reach. Some made their way to the rooftops, but they got left behind quick, one or two falling with a roar and a splat. It made me feel sick, but I pressed on trying to ignore both that and the increasing amount of bangs and knocks from Tez’s room.
We kept talking now, we were in relative safety up out of reach and there were less cameras for Terence to see us through.
We got to the last bunch of houses and could see the lines of the police when Tez fired his first bullet. My heart stopped and my feet slipped on their rocky roof purchase, Frandz barely caught me before I tumbled down to the ground, right on top of some unsuspecting zombie.
“Are you all right?” I heard him say, but I was more concerned with Terence.
I called to him for what felt like years before he answered with a breathless “I’m here”.
“Are you okay?”
“I’m in the ceiling. I’m doing a you, climbing into the ceiling.” He laughed, but it was wheezy.
“I’m fine, just, just a scratch.” He laughed again. “Breathe Liss.” I belatedly noticed that I was hyperventilating. “Can you get out from there?”
“I think so.” My voice was small, I knew what was coming next.
“Liss, Lissy take your earphones out.”
“I’m going to disconnect the call Lissy.”
“Don’t-” I heard the line go dead. I couldn’t breathe for a long moment.
The silence on the other end was worse than if I’d heard the final bullet go off.
“Don’t hang up on me.” I said numbly into the headphones as if he could still hear me. Tez always did have this terrible habit of hanging up out of the blue.
The next few minutes were a blur for me, Frandz picked me up and I hung onto his back, unafraid that he’d drop me. I was crying, certainly, or at least I hope I was. I feel like I owe Terence that much at least, but I can’t remember, every thing is fuzzy.
Until the first bomb goes off.
It shocked me out of my stupor and made Frandz wobble, or maybe that’s my fault for jumping at the sound. I sniffed once or twice.
“Put me down.”
He does what I ask and looks around. I follow suit. We’re on the ground and I have no idea how we did that.
Will notices me looking lost and takes my hand briefly. “You’ll be okay,” he says, as if that will make a difference, “you’re just in shock.”
I nodded, more because I had to respond somehow, otherwise he would have just kept on staring at me expectantly forever, than because I believed him.
I smiled at me, but it was a small one. He liked Terence as well. Tez was our friend as well as our leader.
The others were talking through this exchange, later I find out it was about the explosion. This is where Nerro’s story comes in.
It’s a big of a long story so this is the shortest version: He came in on a helicopter to plant some bombs in the middle of the city because the outside world had found out that the zombies responded to sound. He was with two others, who’d both died, mauled by zombies. He didn’t ever tell us how he escaped. So apparently there were a load of bombs just waiting to go off one after the other, there were some closer ones as well, planted by other ‘teams’. He said it was to draw the zombies into one place. Hopefully then a second and a third round of explosives would wipe most of them out.
If I’d have heard him back then I would not have believed him. It’s a long stretch, but for the record it is true, as far as any has told me and it worked, as we were beginning to see at the time.
Zombies were wandering towards the noise. So we up and hid inside a house with a broken window, hoping none of them would come near enough to smell/see/hear us.
That’s when our other little problem surfaced. Nerro.
Another would be hero. Sometime during that daring escape with the helicopter he’d been caught a nasty one on the leg. He’d been taking painkillers, presumably, since he hadn’t seen him limping, and he’d wrapped it tight, but while we were sitting in the living room of this (probably) dead persons house and I was (probably) crying and Frandz was (definitely) singing nursery rhymes Nerro doubled over, choking.
The rest of us jumped into action, fussing over him, even I got up and walked over in a daze.
He pushed Will away.
“You don’t look fine” Will said in his no nonsense doctor tone. “What’s wrong?”
Wordlessly Nerro pulled up his trouser leg, underneath is a bandage, but his blood has stained through. There wasn’t anything on his trousers, as far as I can remember, so I don’t know how he got it, unless he had his trousers rolled up, or changed his clothes afterwards. No one thought to ask him so it will be forever a mystery.
Will swallows and says “how do you feel?” in a way that makes me think he actually means ‘do you think you’re going to turn into a zombie soon’?
Nerro grunts, “I’ll be fine, get off me.” But as soon as he pushes Will out the way he’s dry heaving on the ground, wheezing in breaths of inadequate air.
I just stood there watching in horror.
His hands went to his throat, scratching at his neck like he thought that would help him. Will grabbed his arms but couldn’t hold him. Frandz pushed past me to help. Gorge was by Nerro’s side, her face pale. It was the first time in the whole zombie escapade that she wasn’t enjoying herself.
The change into zombie looks painful and sudden.
Because one moment Gorge is staring down at Nerro in shock and the next she’s screaming and he’s got her by the throat. Frandz managed to get him off and whipped out his knives. Gorge got between them, screaming for us to get away from him, but by this point Nerro is beyond saving and we are attracting visitors.
A few attempts at getting past Gorge to a changing Nerro later we decide to give up, Will dragged Frandz and me back and called the others, who readily get out of the house. Gorge wasn’t coming. I knew that as sure as I’d known about Terence. I started shouting her, not completely in control of myself. Gorge was invulnerable, Gorge was impervious. Gorge couldn’t get mauled by stupid Nerro changing into a stupid zombie because of a stupid cut on his leg.
Then we were running.
The next bit is a blur as well, I remember dodging a few zombies that hadn’t yet been called to the explosions happening all around us, they were disorientated and confused, just like us. We had to fight a bit as we got nearer to the fence, the zombies were thicker, not being drawn away because there was plenty of noise on the other side of that line.
I don’t know how many I killed, I was running on pure adrenaline again.
As we got nearer a small group of police or Specials or whoever they were shot down some of the zombies in our way and opened a small gap in the perimeter fence, they had been half expecting us, half not.
Apparently we met Mr. Devin, who had been talking to Terence, he asked which one of us he was and I shut myself down, turning around to look back at our ravaged city.
That’s when I saw Gorge. She was walking through the zombie throng with a dead Nerro in her arms, struggling under his weight. Shouts went up and no one knew what to do, was she a zombie or not?
She caught my eye across the distance, faltering for a spilt second, her balance tipped, before she stood up tall again and walked my way.
This time I know I was crying.
To Be Continued.