Chapter 7Mature

It seemed that the zombies hissed as one in triumph as they broke through the first barricade. They surged forward, crushing one another carelessly to get closer to the prey waiting for them inside the lobby. Limbs in varying states of decay moved forwards, their approach heralded only by the occasional crash as one walked into something abandoned in the corridor, or the hungry, predatorial growls.

It felt as though an age had passed before the undead appeared, the first one rushing ahead of the others on fresher legs. Before he could react, Chris had already swung an axe down on its head. With a sickening squelching noise, he pulled it free, grinning through flecks of blood that marked the first kill. He stepped back from the body confidently, his eyes flashing an unspoken challenge at Cancer.

Cancer’s eyes narrowed. This was hardly going to be a friendly competition. His attention was dragged away by the others following. Three had rounded the corner and were dragging themselves forward and more followed behind. The confidence in Chris’s eyes faded a little as the corpses threw themselves into the lobby earning only a slash across the neck of one as they passed him. It turned to see him and opened its mouth, snarling. He froze, but only for a second. In a swift movement, his axe took another to a final death.

Jed and Cancer were making much shorter work of the other two, but more were shuffling relentlessly forward. The lobby was quickly becoming the scene of a massacre.

“Watch out!” Chris shouted as a corpse made its way towards Mr Hartness from the right. The balding man dodged the searching fingers that were heading straight for him and sunk the kitchen knife in his hand into its skull. The fragile bone crumpled under the force and the blade slid free as the body collapsed at his feet. He closed his eyes for a moment, swallowing down a mouthful of bile that had risen.

The group had fallen into an almost comfortable routine of working together to kill everything that didn’t still have a pulse. All except Carol, Joe and Cancer. Even Joe’s parents were doing a good job of working as a part of their team. Carol had backed herself into a corner, petrified and Cancer was more concerned about looking out for number one. The only thing that stopped him from letting any of the others fall to the undead was his unwillingness to have to fight off more than he had to. As he backed away from the corridor, all hope of controlling how many came through fleeing as another set upon Chris. He narrowly avoided being clawed by the thing as he trod precariously on rotting body parts.

Joe’s tuft of ginger hair emerged from behind the reception desk, eyes scanning the room. Cancer moved across his vision, unaware of how he was being watched. Yet another pair of zombies were following him, away from Jed and Chris.

One set of bloodshot eyes noticed their watcher, though. It lost interest in following Cancer and started making its way for the desk. Joe ducked back down, not quite able to repress a panicked squeak. He looked frantically for something to defend himself with. His fingers closed around a solid feeling pen, not entirely sure that it would be solid enough. Desperate times called for desperate measures, he decided, hoping that it would simply change its mind and leave him alone.

Mrs Hartness noticed the zombie shambling towards the desk where her son was hiding. She rushed up behind it, pinning its arms to its side with one arm as she hauled it backwards, driving her knife down into its face with all the force she could muster. Nausea flushed her mind momentarily as she dropped the body, but it didn’t matter. Her son was safe for now. She moved back to the group and turned back to the slow, but steady trickle of corpses making their way inside. It seemed like all the zombies on the street had noticed the success of the first few and followed in hope of something to eat.

Joe looked over the lip of the desk again. This time, his eyes met Carol’s. They were wide with terror. One of the zombies had decided she would be easy prey and found its way over to her. She gave an almighty shriek as it lunged for her. Without even thinking, Joe abandoned his hiding place, sprinting towards her to help.

As he knocked into the zombie, it fell off course and slammed into a wall. Dazed for a moment, its eyes searched for whatever had hit it. Joe gave a yelp of sheer panic as it straightened and made for him, its shuffling almost resembling the determined walk of an angered human.

Chris had one of the corpses pinned to a wall, axe at the ready to end its existence. Blood spurted from its head and the crack of bone made his gaze snap up away from his stolen kill. He was met with a cocky grin from Cancer. His expression hardened into an unpleasant mask of anger and denied bloodlust.

The scream that Joe unthinkingly loosed tore the attention of both men away from each other. His arm was being held out tightly and was about to become the starter of a banquet.

“Joe!” Chris yelled. Cancer was already halfway across the lobby, though.

He launched himself at the zombie, crashing down onto the floor with it. His hands grabbed at the thing’s head, smashing it down into the floor with a wordless shout until it had stopped fighting back. Staggering back to his feet, he brought his booted foot down hard onto its head, just to make sure. A final growl of guttural satisfaction vibrated deep in his throat. He was vaguely aware of Mrs Hartness screeching her son’s name somewhere behind him. He glanced over to see that Joe had ended up on his ass, his face a picture of pure shock.

“Damn it, stay focused, guys!” Jed roared from somewhere on the other side of the lobby, as what seemed like it might finally be the last of the zombies stumbled in. He motioned to Rob to follow him and dove down the corridor to see what repairs could  be made while the others finished the dirty work.

Mrs Hartness ignored them, letting Chris and Cancer fight over the last few kills they could make. She crouched beside her son, stroking his face. She wiped a smear of blood from his cheek, barely noticing as her husband moved away from them to prevent Chris and his newfound rival tearing each other apart as they fought to kill the last zombie that was crouching over one of its dead comrades, pulling chunks of its flesh off. He stabbed it with a motion that felt very final. Its fingers twitched once before it fell still. Satisfied, he gave an almost warning look to both Cancer and Chris before rejoining his family at last.

Cancer turned to watch them, settling on ignoring Chris.

“Joe! What happened? Are you okay?” The words fell out of Mr Hartness’s mouth in a jumbled rush, relief and consternation colouring his voice.

“I’m fine, dad. Cancer saved my life.”

Suddenly he felt uncomfortable. He was almost happy to hear the gurgling of a corpse, not quite at rest. Jaw set, he moved over to it, sliding his hunting knife into its head with ease. In an effort to avoid any awkward conversations with the others, Cancer busied himself with ensuring that all the dead were truly dead with one last stab to the head, counting as he went.

He reached eight before Mr Hartness coughed politely to get his attention. Turning, he eyed the man who looked as though he was trying to decide between simply shaking Cancer’s hand, or hugging him. Fortunately, he decided against either and cleared his throat again, “Thank you… so much.” Cancer straightened with a half shrug, not really sure how to respond. Instead of replying, he wandered off to check the other bodies.


The End

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