I felt stunned as the realization of the fact completely sunk in.
Hannah was right. All of our escape routes were blocked by this strange white substance. We were stuck in a zombie-infested high school with nowhere to turn to.
“We’ll all have our brains sucked out by these evil demons!” Michael shouted, curling up into a ball and whimpering. Carson bowed his head and scratched his hair, at a loss for words. Burt, the man with the plan, had nothing to say.
“Get up Michael. We’ll be fine” Steven said, going over to his friend and helping him up.
“Yeah sure. My brain will be decimated but at least I’ll feel fine” came Michael’s reply.
It seemed as though all of the energy we had gained beforehand had just been sucked out of us. I refused to believe that we were trapped, about to die. “We’re busting out of here, no matter what” I declared. “I’m not gonna get torn apart by those mutants”.
“But there’s no way out” Hannah said. “All of our exits are blocked.
“There’s gotta be a way” I replied.
Burt turned around at me with a look of annoyance on his face. “Well Mr. Genius, if you’ve been paying attention you would have seen that the doors and windows are all sealed. No way out”.
“There is always a solution. Perfection doesn’t exist. There’s no way we have zero options right now”.
“Well, why don’t you give us some of those options then, if you know all the answers” Carson replied angrily. “We’re pinned in this damn hallway”.
“Our fate isn’t sealed already”.
Carson took a few steps towards me. “You got a gun in that pocket? An arsenal or sorts? ‘Cause without that we’re fucking TRAPPED here! And your inspirational bullshit isn’t going to save a soul”.
“You can feel free to accept that” I responded, approaching him and getting in his face. “But I’m not one to lie down and waste away. I beat those things once. I’m not giving them a second chance”.
“Because you’ve always looked down on me” he counteracted. “I’m just the unintelligent jock, nothing more, nothing less. All I do is ruin your perfect little word, don’t I?”
“Snap out of it” I heard Hannah say from behind me. “Leave him alone, Carson”.
“It’s not my fault he’s a complete prick. You saw how he was talking earlier—“
“I said I was sorry, Carson, I didn’t mean that” I answered indignantly. “I got out of line. I admit that... and I am sorry”.
“Stop apologizing already” he sighed. “I’m not looking for any forgiveness”.
“Will you just quit it?” Hannah asked, though it was more of a demand.
“What are you supporting him for? He’s done nothing but aggravate us since the beginning of this whole ordeal!”
“He saved us” Hannah said, her voice becoming entirely serious. “He wants to escape. He is willing us to push forward, and unlike some people at the moment, he’s being brave and looking for a way out of this”.
Rachel, seeing a conflict brewing, was quick to stand in between us. “I don’t care what history you two have. Now’s the time to leave all that bullshit behind”. She then proceeded to walk to a point to where she could see the whole group. “I’m with Tyler. We need to find a solution”.
Carson, realizing he was defeated, turned his back to the group. I was stuck staring at Hannah, who met my gaze for a second. I didn’t think we were still close friends… but she stood up for me.
I didn’t quite hear what Rachel had said. I had become detached from the world in a daydreaming-like state. Why just couldn’t I let things with Carson go? Now, in this current situation, petty disputes wouldn’t help at all.
“Tyler?” I heard someone say, returning my presence back into the hell we were in. I turned to see Maria next to me, appearing worried. “Sorry. You didn’t look okay”.
Observing the group around me, I noticed they had all sat down except for Maria and I. Nobody was speaking.
“How crowded is the gym? Maybe they haven’t occupied it yet” Rachel suggested, getting on her feet and indicating the double-doors a few yards off from our position. They led straight into the basketball court; the only other entrance to that complex was from the lobby, which was conversely attached to the cafeteria.
“We get in there, we can grab a bunch of bats and start crushing skulls” Michael said quietly, grinning. “Might as well get some damage in while we’re caught here”. I didn’t try to argue for my cause at this point; everyone had resigned to an eventual death.
“The gym has the best weaponry” Steven added. “If we want to get out of here… we need some stuff to beat the zombies back with”.
“You’re forgetting the doors and the windows” Carson said, gesturing to all of the exits around us. “Sealed shut. No way through”.
I heard a faint banging sound in the distance. The same sort of banging sound I had heard when the zombies were trying to knock down the cafeteria door.
“If we make some sort of battering ram, we can possibly break through” Steven suggested.
“Are you fucking kidding me?” Carson laughed maniacally. I saw a change slowly beginning to appear in his face, clouding his already shaky judgment.
“I agree that we need a way out. But how are we gonna make a battering ram in a high school?” Burt said.
More banging sounds emitted from down the hall. Everyone kept talking about their crazy plans to get out of here. “Guys, quiet!” I snapped. I was greeted by silence.
“What…was that?” Hannah asked, fear in her voice. The banging continued.
“Oh god” Geoff cried, “The zombies are breaking through!”
As if on cue, the door leading to the gym at the end of the hall was sent flying into the wall, landing with a clanging noise on the floor. The zombie horde charged inside the hallway and could clearly see us at the end of it. One of them made a roaring sound, almost like a battle cry, then led the charge against us.
“What do we do, what do we do!?” Michael shouted for an answer. “We can’t fight them!”
“Get in the girl’s lockers!” Trent shouted, running inside them as he spoke. We all were in hot pursuit of him, the only thing flashing in our minds being ‘run, survive’”.
The zombies were moving too fast. Our group was almost all inside the safety of the locker room when the first creature managed to reach us. It lunged out at Carson, who was near the end of the line, and stabbed him in the arm. He cursed, then landed an uppercut on his attacker. Afterwards he bolted inside the lockers.
We kept facing forward, pushing onward, but we knew they were hot on our tails, and the locker door would not stop them for long. Then, I heard a scream behind me.
One of the zombies at the front of the charge leaped out at Michael Laney, who was it the end of the line, and grabbed his foot, tripping him up. He tried to crawl back into the lockers, but the zombies dragged him into their ranks, their tongues eagerly licking their teeth.
“Son of a bitch!” Burt screamed, quickly turning around. He pushed Carson out of the way and ran into the fray, swinging at the infected swarming around Michael.
“They’ll eat me aliveeeeeee!!!!” Michael screamed. One of the zombies stabbed him in the heart and silenced him. Michael rose his head up and stared back at us, cowering in fear in the locker room. His mouth opened one last time, emitting a bubble of blood. A zombie viciously thrust its claw through his skull, the tips of his talons emerging from the other side of Michael’s skull. The mutants then began feasting on his remains, tearing away whatever was inedible.
Desperately, Burt shoved the monsters away from the locker room, then quickly dove inside the confines of the girl’s lockers. There was nothing he could have done.
Carson locked the door, then collapsed on the floor. We had all seen what happened on the other side.
“Michael…” Steven said, pain in his voice. The two of them had been pretty good friends.
Harry cursed, which was unlike him. “Those zombies will bump us off, one by one. We have no way to fight them. Not even a bow and arrow”.
Hannah ran over to Carson. “Are you alright?’ she asked him, noticing the wound in his arm.
“Perfectly… fine” he grunted, getting back up into a standing position. Something was obviously wrong about him though. Some of his skin was peeling off, and he looked deathly pale. I was immediately worried, as these were the same symptoms Chase had before he was infected.
“Let me see that” Geoff said, taking off Carson’s shirt. From what I could tell, the monster’s nail made a perfect, almost bullet-like incision into his body. If that claw had venom on it, there was nothing we could do to help him.
“First Michael” Maria said, “then someone else. Then another. And another. We’ll be wiped out eventually”.
“And an attitude like that will really help us” Burt retorted. He looked around the room. “We got to keep our heads”.
“Sure, with Michael dead and Carson wounded. I feel perfectly happy!” Steven walked over to Burt and their eyes locked. “Look at yourself! His blood is all over your hands!” It was obvious that Michael’s death was taking its toll on him.
“It’s not bad… at all” Carson said, trying to put the argument at rest, grunting from pain as Geoff prodded at his wound.
“Burt’s right” Trent said quietly, but with a tone that silenced everyone. “Not a single one of us isn’t upset over…” his voice briefly trailed off. “But getting worked up about it helps nobody except the zombies”.
There were various sounds heard from outside the door. Maybe the zombies were already breaking in, and if they were that door wouldn’t be standing much longer. They already knew we were cooped up in here… and they’ve proven to be faster and smarter than we believed.
“That doesn’t sound good” Harry said, stepping closer to the door. Rachel pulled him back.
“That thing could fall down any moment” she said. Personally, I think she was just protecting him.
Burt looked around the room, took a few deep breaths, then spoke. “We need another plan” he said. “There must be some sort of way to break that white substance. I think there’s a back door in here that leads back to the janitor’s closet. We can take a back way through the gym, and look around for some science rooms. Maybe there are materials in there that we can use to, I don’t know… what about a bomb?”
“A bomb? How?” Maria said incredulously.
Her question went ignored. As soon as she had spoken, Geoff slowly stood up, his eyes wide as he continued to gawk at Carson’s wound.
“I… I’ve never seen this before” he said, his voice shaking. I positioned myself next to him to observe for myself… and my eyes began to widen.
A variety of crooked, purples lines extended from the injury, running across Carson’s body until they collided with an artery. They seemed to attach to them, slowly turning them a shade of purple as well. We were bearing witness to the infection itself… we were spectators to the disease that had caused this whole ordeal.
“… What is it” Carson asked, afraid to hear the answer. He then looked down at his fingernails, which had noticeably grown and were beginning to take the shape of claws.
He screamed and leapt from his sitting position, startling everyone in the group and unleashing a cry from the zombies outside.
Hannah instantly approached him, hoping to calm him down.
“Carson, please, it’s—“ she began, but she cut off with a shove from Carson.
“IT’S NOT OKAY! I’m turning into one of them! Nothing can stop that!” he yelled. His eyes had become larger and bloodshot, darting around, adding more to his already delusional appearance.
“There could be a cure, remain calm and keep control of yourself” Geoff warned. “The virus will spread faster if you become this stressed!”
“How’s that gonna help? Huh? Just slow the process down a little bit?” Carson reproached. “I need a way out of here now!”
“We’ll find a way out if you stay with us!” Hannah pleaded, now keeping a distance from her boyfriend, who had morphed into a mutant already.
“Yeah, we’re real close to finding an exit. So close that we lost Michael Laney on purpose just for shits and giggles, huh?!” He looked from person to person as though he anticipated someone to support him.
“Who do you think you’re helping right now? Yourself or the infected right outside that door” Harry spoke furiously.
“Carson! Please!” Hannah screamed, her sadness giving away to enter. “Stop being an ass and get back over here! If you want to stay alive… then I promise you I’ll find a cure”.
He glared at her, his now bulbous, red eyes shooting daggers through her. “Don’t say another damn word, bitch. You can’t help me. I can only help myself”.
Without warning, he removed a switchblade from his pocket and charged straight for me! I saw the attack coming only too late, and in a matter of seconds Carson had me held close to him, a blade dangerously close to my throat.
“I am getting out of here now! And this little fucker’s gonna be a nice little distraction for me!” Carson shouted as he backed up towards the door. I didn’t dare to struggle; this crazed teenager held my life in his hands.
“Let him go!” Trent yelled, moving towards Carson rapidly. Burt held him back and glared at Carson, advancing on him at a more gradual, attempting to prevent things from escalating further.
“This isn’t going to help at all. Put the damn knife down” Burt said menacingly.
“Somewhere out there is a cure” Geoff said assuredly. “There is a cure for everything. We can help you” he tried to reason with him.
“There is nothing you can do for me except leaving me alone!”
“There’s gotta be something. Now let’s get going now-“
A loud crash sounded, and the door slammed against the wall, the entrance to the lockers now exposed. The zombies started pouring inside!
I could immediately feel Carson, the closest to the door, being pulled back behind me into the masses of infected. The knife clattered to the ground. I didn’t bother to retrieve it. Carson would distract the monsters long enough to allow me to think of an escape.
We all scattered around the room, trying to find a way out. All I could hear were shouts and screams as everyone tried desperately to find a way to escape. Everything felt sped up and my vision blurred. Then the growls and other inhuman noises resumed, signaling that Carson had perished and they were now hungry for more carnage.
Somehow I managed to locate Hannah amidst all the chaos and grabbed her hand. “This way!” I shouted, guiding her to a back door. I knew from Harry the layout of the girl’s locker room, though I didn’t like knowing it.
I opened up the door and ran inside, then opened another door which led to a hallway the janitor’s used to access the locker rooms. I had forgotten there was a door like this one in the football lockers, and I had almost forgotten there was a back door in the girl’s locker room, but thankfully Burt jogged my memory. If only I knew of the back door when we were in the football lockers… Possibly, it could’ve led to a different plan which wouldn’t have ended in Michael Laney’s death.
I leaned against the wall in the hallway and I slid down into a sitting position. I needed to take a breather… There was no doubt in my mind that everyone in that locker room was killed. No one could have survived. At the same time, I hoped I was wrong. I wasn’t sure how my life would go on without Trent and Harry by my side. I was possibly one of two people still alive in this building. No, not alive… but human.
Hannah stood looking through the little windows of the doubles tears. I could hear her starting to cry. “Of all the things that could have happened… a zombie virus. And now he’s dead”. She sat down beside me and laid her head on my shoulder. “They’re all dead, aren’t they”.
I felt so evil then. I just had to go and save Hannah, to fulfill that stupid fantasy story of mine, not the person she loved or my best friends. Now I was moving in on her. The hell is wrong with me? Why the hell do I act this way?
Maybe I deserved to die by Carson’s knife. I had done nothing but antagonize people… at least that’s how I felt. All of my brave words meant nothing. We hadn’t escaped, not even close. All we did was lose two members of our group.
She must have read that mind, because she said, “There wasn’t anything you could’ve done”.
I shook my head. “I could’ve saved Carson. I could’ve saved Trent and Harry. I could have saved Maria, Steven, Geoff, Burt… I could have… but… but I didn’t…
“You couldn’t have stopped Carson… he was out of control”.
“He was your goddamn boyfriend and I left him to die”.
“He was already dead, Tyler” she replied silently. “The disease was in him… and there was no cure”. She took a deep breath and wiped her eyes. “It-it’s better this way… I’d rather him die then… us having to watch him become…”
I remained despondent. “What does it say about the two of us that he was prepared to throw me into a horde of bloodthirsty monsters”. I smiled out of my own self-pity. “Some friend I am to you if that’s how he felt about me”.
“He was a stubborn ass” she said, shaking her head. “There were times where I couldn’t like him because it’s true, he was a jock… sometimes that other side of him came through… and it was that part of him that I wanted to be around. I kept myself in a relationship just for those moments”.
“Don’t make excuses just to make me—“
She turned and looked at me, her eyes sparkling, holding off tears. “Your incredibly brave, Tyler. This whole time, you’ve kept your cool and rallied us on. You saved my life…twice. You and I, if we work together, we can still make it”.
“At this point, I don’t see a point in it” I offered a weak reply.
For a while we were stuck in an uncomfortable silence. I couldn’t hear anything from the locker room, not even the zombies. Suddenly, she began to speak.
“Do you remember when you wanted me to go to your championship game this year?” she asked.
Bringing back that memory didn’t help me at the time. “No… yes. Yes I do”.
“I showed up”.
I lost my breath. I turned to look at her and she looked completely honest.
“I… I never liked Carson so much. And I knew how much it meant for you… I had to be there. But I didn’t want to tell you or Carson… I knew guys didn’t get along”. She laughed. “You played so well too… and I’ve known you for forever and I know that the one thing you never do is give up”.
I bowed my head. I had let everyone down, let them die, I thought. Her comforting speech meant nothing to me. Then Hannah brought my head up and looked at me again. “You saved me” she said. “We can still do this”.
Seeing her now reminded me she was one of the first friends I ever had… after Trent and I met, she moved into my neighborhood and we started hanging out. I started to like her… maybe I just liked her so much, and we were such good friends… I had to save her.
I was back in that familiar trance from homeroom. I couldn’t help but stare into the emerald sea her eyes contained, admire the long, red hair…
“You’re the one light of hope left right now to me. Please don’t lose hope”.
Before I knew it, our faces were moving closer to each other, our eyes closed. For a moment, a millisecond in time, our lips gently touched. Inside my mind, my fantasy story had been fulfilled… I was no longer in this apocalypse. I was in my heaven.
She immediately pulled back, and I could see in her eyes that she felt guilty… bringing me back to reality. How I dragged her out and didn’t bother saving anyone else. How I left her boyfriend to die, torn apart by vicious monsters.
That’s when we heard the door open and the sound of footsteps coming closer. Immediately I assumed it was the zombies and got up to face them. “Stay back” I told Hannah. But there was no them, just one guy, who wasn’t a zombie.
Burt had made it out.