Chapter Twenty Two: Kyle Richards
Aria kept applying more speed. Every time we turned a corner, she’d try to add another mile per hour to our speed. I didn’t like it, but I knew that if I slowed down, she’d only speed up. She was stubborn like that, which is why she was my best friend, but I wasn’t taking the speed above thirty-five miles per hour. Not for anyone.
Luckily, we hadn’t run into any zombies as of yet. The closer we got to the final safe house in which we could live safely until the end of the apocalypse, the less I worried about running into an army of the heartless monsters. I actually began to believe that we might just make it.
We were only a few more roads away from the warehouse on Goldfinch Close. So that, of course, was when the zombies attacked.
We were about a mile from the safe house, not that far away at all, especially on these quad bikes when we heard the noise. It was quiet at first, hard to hear over the noise of the engine, but soon enough we could hear it louder than the quad bikes.
Their blood-curdling howls into the sky cut through the air, stopping the oxygen from getting into my lungs. I struggled to breathe and, by the looks of it, Aria was also struggling to draw in any oxygen. Fighting the natural reaction to choke, I forced the air into my lungs. After that first, deep breath, it only got easier and easier to breathe again. As I was recovering, I glanced over at Aria. She was breathing normally too. At least that was something I wouldn't have to worry about.
Now I could breathe, I could focus on where the screams had originated. They came from behind us. They weren’t close enough to be of immediate danger, but they were still far too close for comfort.
I disagreed with speeding away on these quad bikes, wary of the slippery, metallic blood splayed everywhere and the scraps of flesh that threatened to get caught up in the wheels and force them to run out of control. I knew that the only way we’d get out of this situation would be to take a risk. To skid around those corners. To pray to god that we’d not fly out of control, that we’d reach the safe house. I think Aria had more chance with the last than I did.
Revving the engine, I made sure that Aria was ready and aware of what I was planning to do. She nodded in confirmation. Taking my foot from the resting position on the floor, holding the quad bike in place, I gunned the engine, pulling on the throttle.
I was almost surprised by how quickly the quad bike picked up speed. I noticed Aria in total control beside me. Her eyes were fixed on the road and she was dodging the pools of red and scraps of grey floating around. I wasn’t as adept as her and soon enough, I was skidding around the place, fighting to keep control. I was fighting a losing battle. No matter how much I tried I couldn’t get the quad bike to respond to me. Whatever I told it to do, it seemed to do the opposite. How was it that Aria was able to control it so well? I recalled the times she’d been to an old dirt track and learnt how to drive them with her older brother. From that point on, I no longer felt as hopeless. I could put it down to lack of experience.
We swerved around another corner, Aria expertly, myself barely. The hideous, hungry howling neared every time we’d to slow down to turn. I yelped as we slid across the current pool of blood. Aria seemed to throw her head back and laugh hysterically. She was loving this, which was more than I could say for myself. At least one of us could enjoy their time left in this condemned world. I rolled my eyes sarcastically, but inside I was loving this. I never got to do anything like this before, before the apocalypse.
Even over the loud noises of the engine, I heard the patter of footsteps. It freaked me out at first and I almost lost control of the bike again. I just about managed to keep it in check as we sped down another slippery surfaced road, the zombie hoard following even closer behind than before. They were gaining on us. Uh-oh. We were in some serious trouble if we couldn’t get to the safe house in time.
I noted our position quickly from the remaining, surviving rubble along the street. It was hard to navigate around this town now that most of the buildings had only rubble left as evidence that there was indeed a building there.
It terrified me just how much damage had been done. In our small group, we hadn’t really focused on the rest of the town, the city, the country or the world. We were only concerned for our own safety, which was understandable, but we should’ve helped more. Guilt washed over me and now, instead of fighting the defiant quad bike for control, I had to fight the tears that wanted to stream down my face. I managed, but only just.
The gap between Aria and me and the safe house was closing, but so was the gap between us and the zombies. There were only two more turns away from the safe house. We were practically within reach of the warehouse turned safe house. It would be awful to fall now, so close from the end of the marathon.
A screech blasted out from one of the zombies as it launched itself at us violently, but it doesn’t seem to be a problem for Aria. She smoothly moved the handlebars of her quad bike and expertly escaped the zombie. Her face seemed unworried below the helmet, but I was willing to bet that she wasn’t quite as calm as she tried to portray. Although she was definitely getting the adrenaline rush from the running, she was still scared stiff. To be honest, I didn’t blame her. She wasn’t the only one who was terrified out of her wits.
The zombies are far too close now. Instinctively, I knew that we wouldn't make it. I’d lost hope. Aria hadn’t, and by the determined look in her eyes, she was going to take The Fifth Horseman down before she perished. She wasn’t going to be denied her revenge due to a lot of zombies who thought they could get the better of her. Even I’d not stand in her way. We skidded around another corner, the zombies still hot on our tails. They could’ve bitten chunks out of the tires, but thankfully they were more focused on us, the actual people riding the quad bikes. There was only one more turn left. We might just make it! I’d hope now. I believed that we could do it.
That was, until more and more zombies started to launch themselves into us. Aria could dart around the attackers, but myself who was struggling to go in even a simple straight line knew that I couldn’t keep it up. I’d get hit sooner or later. As it was, it turned out to be sooner.
I’d managed to dodge quite a few already before one finally struck me. Despite the fact that the four wheels of the quad bike should’ve kept me stable, the weight made the bike tilt dangerously to one side. I scrambled to either make the quad bike stay on all four wheels, or to get off and avoid being crushed. I managed to get the quad bike back onto all four wheels and sliding across the road again relatively quickly.
At the same time, both Aria and I pulled back on the throttle, straining the bikes to go as fast as they could. They rolled forward with increasing speed, but it wasn’t going to be enough. We weren’t going to make it to the safe house. Realisation dawned on me and I lost my vision to the stream of tears forcing themselves out of my eyes. I stopped the flow of tears as quickly as I could. While I was doing that, more and more zombies attempted to throw themselves at us, but rather than it being deliberate like before, I got the feeling that them throwing themselves at us was just for pure luck. For some reason, they were worried about getting us, killing us for themselves. We were knocked a few more times, but nothing to serious. Their plan, whatever it was, however desperate it was, wasn’t working. I didn’t even have to force a smile, it just seemed to stick itself to my face.
Skidding around the last corner, I could really sense the desperation in their attempt at an attack. I shouldn’t have let it happen. I should’ve been more alert. Hell, I should’ve been alert in the first place!
We were only about one hundred metres, one hundred and fifty metres or so from the safe house. It loomed huge in our view, taking up almost all of our range of sight. The walls seemed to beckon to me. Although they were made from bricks and mortar, just like all the other buildings in this town, this one had survived while the others had been reduced to ash. That was because this building was special. It was safe. I knew in my heart that it was.
In another of their last desperate attempts to hurt Aria or myself, I was knocked flying by one of the heavier zombies, from the seat of the quad bike that I was relying so heavily on for survival and my ability to get to the safe house.
I hit the ground hard. Gravel and small, sharp stones dug into my face as I landed on the road. I skidded towards the safe house, carried by some unseen force. Blood ebbed away from me. Black haziness threatened to hijack my vision and shut it down completely. I fought against it, not wanting to fall to the zombies when we were so close to the finish. As I lay sprawled all over the floor, I looked up into the sky. The red seemed to be gloating, taunting me, telling me that I’d never be able to get up and get to the safe house. Never be able to survive. I blinked. Had the sky just pulsed? Like a rock hitting the water, where I’d been looking had rippled and waved across the sky. It had!
Was it just my imagination? Was I hallucinating as the zombies ripped my body to shreds? Was this reality? Was I simply, insane?
Aria hadn’t seen me crash out. She was still going, eager to get to the safety and away from the zombies. I only hoped that she’d make it. I didn’t care whether I did or not any more, I only wanted her to survive. The only thing that alerted Aria to me being sprawled all over the floor was the zombies’ hisses of delight and their cries of glee. These really were evil monsters.
As I lay in the blood and flesh of the dead, the zombies closed in. Their faces only wore delight. None of them seemed to care that I was a living person, or that less than a second ago, they were worried that they’d not have been able to feed. Hands twitched eagerly as they moved towards me, eyes widening and lips peeling back to show what teeth they’d left. All I could do was lie there on the ground, covered in sweat and blood hoping that they’d make it quick.