Our group, after getting all of the casualties and injuries, had endured through this situation long enough to get halfway to our goal: a science room. Once there, we were going to make a dissolving material that would destroy the white substance that blocked the windows and doors.
“I know that there’s one room across the building up here” I commented. Steven sighed.
“The other side of the building” Maria said sadly. “We still have that long to go?”
“Yeah, it’s a long ways away” Geoff said, “But we can make it”.
“I’ve made it this far” Steven spoke, almost as though he was talking to himself. “I’m making it further”.
We trudged down the hallway in quietness, our eyes darting back and forth, on the lookout for an incoming horde of mutants sprinting at us. It seemed all too quiet as we walked down the path, and with all that had happened so far, our paranoia had built up and made us think the smallest sound was our impending doom. The most unfortunate part was our pace had been massively slowed down by the carts: now that we were on foot, making a noise caused much more trouble.
Burt was leading the pack, with Geoff and Maria close by. Trent, Rachel, and Steven were behind them. Hannah and I were trailing at the back of the whole procession.
I had my arm around her, keeping her close to me. I had already lost Harry, and I’d be damned if I lost her.
Unexpectedly, she posed an interesting question on me. “What do you think happens when we get out of here?” she whispered, conscious of our surroundings.
It was a good question, and also one I couldn’t answer. Ever since the beginning of this journey I had thought about the correct response to this inquiry. The truth was… I didn’t know. One thing that was for certain is that we may never recover from something like this.
“Honestly… I don’t know” I said. It was the best thing I could say.
“I don’t care what it is. But you have to be alive for it” she said in a whisper so quiet I hardly heard it. It may not even had been intended for me to hear it.
As we neared the corner, we began to hear the growling, gurgling, snarling sounds we had gotten so used to hearing. There was a zombie horde nearby, and most likely just around the corner waiting to tear us up.
Burt held up a hand, motioning us to stop. “They’re probably up ahead. If we turn the corner, we’re not gonna be in favorable fighting conditions. When we were on the carts, it was a lot easier to mow them down, but now that we’re on foot they have the advantage”.
“Should we just circle around the other hallway?” Steven asked, keeping his voice down.
“We can’t do that. If there’s a group of them here, there’s a group of them there” Maria pointed out.
Trent clenched his fist. “How do we get around them then, other than trying to power through them?”
Burt’s face lit up. “I know. Let’s go get that golf cart back, and a few of us can get on it and plow them over” he said.
“So we just run ‘em down then?” I said. “That should work out. They don’t fare as well against us when we’re riding”.
The infected students we knew were just right about ahead started making more racket as though they were talking. Had they found out we were hiding behind here and were ready to jump out at us? We were learning many frightening facts about these creatures minute after minute.
“Ok, let’s head back to the carts and knock them down” Burt said, slowly moving backwards as he said it. “Don’t make a sound”. We all started to follow his lead, slowly inching away from the horde, when the noises they were making got louder and louder: footsteps now joined the chorus of sounds. Slowly at first, then rushed.
“They’re coming!” I said in alarm, beginning to run full sprint to the golf cart lying seemingly miles away from us. As I thought, the zombies were on to us: now here they came, charging at us without letting up. All of them had the large claws, sharp teeth, and bloodshot eyes look that defined them.
I quickly turned around, having remembered we forgot someone. Steven was too crippled to move sufficiently and I knew he wouldn’t be able to make it. I rushed back to rescue him.
“Tyler, what are you doing!?” Hannah shouted after me. Ignoring her, I charged straight into the horde and beat the mutants off of a figure lying on the ground: Steven. It was a miracle he wasn’t hurt. Now that I was in their ranks, the horde started swarming around me, wolf pack-style. I got Steven to his feet and got into a fighting stance.
The infected ran in all at once. I swung my bat three-hundred sixty degrees and caused them to stumble back, breaking their charge. One zombie came from behind, but I spun around quick and bashed his head in with the handle of the bat. Another charged at me and I met its attack by holding the bat in a bunt position, and the mutant ran straight into it, knocking him back.
Another zombie leapt into the air, trying to dive on me. With a yell, Steven swung one of his poles at it, sending it back into the horde, knocking some of the creatures down.
Although we holding our own against the infected, we would eventually get taken down if I didn’t get out of here.
The roar of an engine erupted from beyond. I knew then that the golf cart was coming, and just in time! Steven and I dived out of the way as Burt and Trent plowed through the crowd of zombies. It only took a few minutes for them and the others to wipe out the horde now that the odds were in our favor. Burt parked the cart next to us.
“Damnit Tyler, let’s not make reckless moves now” Burt said strictly.
“I was just rescuing Steven, if I hadn’t been there he’d be dead” I pointed out, almost out of breath from the onslaught. Steven walked to my side.
“If he wasn’t there, I’d be done. Give him a break” he said.
Burt bowed his head. “I just don’t want you guys throwing your lives in the way so much. There are only eight of us compared to our original eleven, we gotta stick together”.
“Tyler, are you alright?” Hannah asked me. I nodded.
“I’ve had worse” I said, smiling to show I wasn’t bad off. She smiled back.
“Obviously going on foot isn’t the best way to go” Geoff said, “and we don’t have enough carts to transport everybody. So what exactly do we do now?”
Trent sighed. “This whole time, it’s been like a game of twenty questions. We get a problem and we always have questions about it that we can’t seem to answer”.
“Is there any way we can get to a science room without going through the main hallways?” Rachel asked. “I’d have to believe in a school this big there is. Maybe a janitor’s corridor or something”.
Maria shook her head. “Only those two hallways. There is a janitor’s corridor, but it’s incredibly small, and dead-ends”.
Burt started walking down the hallway. “I guess we just power on” he said. We started begrudgingly following him. I could tell from everyone’s faces that they weren’t very happy with the idea, but seeing as there weren’t any other plans or ideas, we decided to keep going.
“They’ll just keep coming, you know” Maria said, “Another horde will pop out sometime or another”.
“We don’t really have any other options now, do we Ms. Positivity?” Burt snapped. Maria kept quiet for a while, and no one said a word.
“No need to be harsh” Geoff stated in response.
Burt glanced at him, but offered no reply, and simply continued to lead us further down the hallway.
The rooms upstairs looked awful: desks, chairs, and anything else that could be thrown or tossed or tipped over lied in various places. Papers were ripped into shreds and littered the floor. Bloodstains splattered against the walls. Worse… some body parts were lying around that nearly made me sick… especially the sight of Mr. Groffe’s head stuck on top of a flagpole. His face was stained with dried blood, only one eyeball still remained, and his mouth was wide open as though frozen from when he cried out in panic. It sickened me that kind, caring people such as him would have to suffer such a horrible death. Even more sickening was the fact that the zombies themselves put the head on the pole.
The others didn’t seem to like the sight of their school turned upside-down. I think they all were just as shocked as me. Burt scratched his head, something he does when he’s at a loss for words or nervous. Hannah’s mouth hanged open in pure shock, Maria was crying softly while Rachel tried to comfort her even though she felt the exact same way. Trent’s shirt was torn up, exposing the skin underneath. His face seemed to have gotten darker. I could see from the way he fought he was outraged at the zombies; maybe his emotions had not only darkened him but his face. I was just as angry at them… They took Harry away. Geoff was scared, but at the same time he seemed to be calculating things in his head. He always looked side to side, his eyes squinting, noticing the smallest details.
Our group just kept walking down this dark, empty, foreboding hallway. We were fully aware that something could jump out suddenly and surprise us, and that we could get killed in an instant. Everything had been going fine for once, no signs of zombies nearby. As we kept moving, I looked into a classroom and saw something that made me jump out of my skin. There was a body in there, but not just any body. I recognized its features immediately.
It was Carson.
His body was ripped open, skin lying uselessly by his side. His eyeballs were bloodshot, his fingernails had become much longer and thicker, and his teeth had grown sharper. I was instantly alarmed, as these were the signs of a person who was or was about to be infected.
Hannah followed my gaze and saw what I was staring at. She gasped, alerting the others of what I was looking at. “Carson!” she said, fear in her voice. She must have noticed like me that he had the signs of being a zombie.
“How would his body get all the way up here?” Trent wondered out loud. Burt waved his hands.
“This doesn’t matter, guys. I know it is his body, but the more we stand here, the easier of a target we become”.
I nodded. “Sorry, Hannah, I know this sickens you, but we gotta keep moving”. She took a deep breath, a single tear trailing from her eye. Then she rejoined our ranks, Burt at the head. That’s when we heard the growling.
“Horde must be close” Rachel pointed out, looking around as she said it.
“No” I said, holding up a hand, “it sounded more like just a few. And it sounded like…” I turned around. “It came from behind us…”
Maria held her baseball bat close and backed up a few paces, Hannah doing the same, covering our back if the infected charged from that way. Rachel remained defiant in the front. Harry obviously left an impact on her. Burt, Trent and I took the head of the group, getting ready to face what could be coming. The growling got louder, then louder, and louder… the zombies were getting closer.
The girls looked behind us but didn’t see anything. I had to have been right then.
With a loud roar, Carson jumped out of the classroom!
“Carson!” Hannah shouted.
He moved quickly towards Hannah and grabbed on to her. She tried to force him off but he had her pinned in a way which rendered her powerless.
Acting as quickly as I could, I punched the zombified Carson in his skull and sent him reeling. He recovered faster than I thought and took another charge at us. He tackled me and pinned my arms down.
“Tyler!” Trent shouted. Carson immediately determined Trent was a greater danger. He switched targets and took aim at Trent, who did not hesitate to knock the head off his attacker’s shoulders with his hockey stick. It flew in the air and landed with an audible ‘thump’ on the ground. Blood from his neck spewed into the air, raining on the ground. Hannah let out another gasp.
“No…” she whispered. Quickly, she pulled me to her side away from the skirmish.
Like Michael Laney and Harry, Carson’s life had been chopped in half then thrown away. Even a character like him didn’t deserve an awful demise such as this, and especially in front of Hannah. At the same time, I knew that the mutated teenager I just fought was prepared to kill me and could have easily done so.
Trent put his hand on his forehead, clearing feeling guilty. “Nothing I could’ve done” he said, talking to Hannah. She nodded.
“I… I know” she said. “It’s just… seeing him-“
“Sorry to break this up” Geoff said, “but I hear more growling just up ahead. And a lot more”.
“What are we supposed to do?” Maria exclaimed, fearful.
“You stay by my side and don’t wander off” Geoff said, holding his lacrosse stick close to him.
Burt cursed. “We’re gonna have to fight them off this time. If we run to the cart they’ll overtake us”.
Steven shrugged. “No other way I guess”. He got himself in a standing position, then carefully lifted his metal poles up. “I can hold my own”.
“I hope you’re all ready” I said, “here they come now”.
Here they came: crawling, limping, and rushing out of the classrooms that lay before us. The fight with Carson must have alerted the horde. The whole lot of them looked just as disgusting as the rest, their skin flapping uselessly beside them as they walked, bloodshot eyes locked on us, and large, thick fingernails poised to kill. It all felt like a scene from a movie: two sides coming together in an old fashioned showdown. This battle definitely didn’t follow showdown rules.
Their chilling sounds grew louder as the zombies began seemingly talking to each other, preparing to go in for a kill, to get ready to feed. We, on the other hand, stood our ground and said nothing at all. We just held our weapons close and awaited the charge that the infected would lead. Oddly enough, they seemed to expect us to do the charging; they made no forward motion towards us.
Finally the zombies leaped at us, almost at once. A few of them aimed for me, and I wacked all of their heads off in one swing. Their bodies flailed around for a brief second, then they collapsed.
Some other zombies went for Maria, and she struck at them viciously as though getting them back for that time one of the creatures got the jump on her. One infected went for her ankles, and impaled him with the baseball bat, killing him instantly.
Steven fought the beasts off of him with his metal poles. One zombie got past him and ran into him, knocking him over. It was as though they knew he was wounded and an easy target.
In retaliation, Burt beat the infected student back with his golf club. He tried helping Steven up, but a zombie stabbed him in his shoulder. After shouting a curse word, he wacked that creature away and got Steven back on his feet.
Rachel tried beating off the zombies, but they had isolated her from our group. She screamed as the infected closed in. Trent cursed, then ran into the circle of zombies and beat them back. He received a stab in the knee and stumbled back, fighting back to urge to fall back from the pain. Rachel was able to get him to safety after knocking some infected back.
Geoff had made himself a shield around Maria. He lashed out at any zombie nearby, and didn’t budge despite the various scratches he was receiving. It was as though he had morphed into a stationary gun turret.
Despite our determination, the zombies had the upper hand in sheer numbers, intelligence, and the fact that they had venomous claws that they happily hadn’t been using. Soon we would all be taken down, I knew it. It would take a Harry-level distraction to get through this.
Trent finally got an idea. “Mr. Tursow’s room is right over there!” he shouted to me. I looked at him incredulously.
“What does that have to do with anything!?” I snapped at him.
“He was a chain smoker!” he replied. “If his body is in there, so are some matches!” He was planning to see how the zombies liked fire.
“Hurry then!” I responded, beating a zombie back as I said this.
Hannah ran over to cover for Trent, blocking the hole he had left. She swung her hockey stick, forcing the zombies to be pushed back. Rachel assisted her, and they were able to send the monsters retreating slightly; a window of opportunity had been opened.
Trent quickly ran inside the classroom. How long he would take, I didn’t know, but thankfully it was swift. It seemed as though as soon as he went in, he came out. In his hand was a lit match.
“Everyone take cover!” he shouted, lifting the match in the air. Just the sight of the fire seemed to halt the zombie forces. Our group dived out of the way as he tossed the flame into the crowd of infected. It landed right in the middle of them, setting them ablaze. They started making horrible shrieking sounds as they caught fire. The stumbled into other zombies and caused them to catch fire too. Soon almost all of the mutants were covered with fire. The infected lucky enough to avoid the fire were staying as far away as they could from it, retreating into the rooms from whence they came. Now, at last, we learned that the creatures had a disadvantage: they were afraid of fire.
We slowly started getting to our feet. “Ha, shows them!” Trent said, triumph in his voice. However, nothing really triumphant followed.
Maria, who had moved over to the right side of the hallway, shouted after them. “You better be fucking scared! I’ll be waiting if you wanna come back!”
For the first time that day it seemed, we laughed. It just sounded like a corny action movie line, and we couldn’t help but laugh.
“Good job, team” Steven said, looking our group over.
We were a team… and we had won as a team. The zombies were running scared, and the advantage, for once, lied in our court.
I noticed one zombie that stood out from the rest. It was on fire, and even with that it didn’t make those horrible noises. Instead it was navigating through the crowd of zombies, making its way towards us. With a shock, I remembered the face of that zombie: it was none other than Chase Davids. Call me crazy, but after I punched him in the cafeteria I think he had a sense of revenge: his eyes were locked on me as he rushed towards me.
“Guys, watch out—“
Chase must have noticed I expected his leap, so he decided to change his battle plan. Crouching low, he leaped into the air and seemed to fly towards us, straight towards Maria! I ran towards her, shouting “Move out of the way!” The others noticed what was going on, but were too far away to offer help. Geoff, however, ran at full sprint towards the leaping zombie, almost overtaking me.
I lunged at Chase and managed to break his leap. Even with that and the fact he was on fire, he wasn’t finished yet. He slashed at my leg, causing me to scream in pain. He prepared to strike again, and I noticed the venom dripping from his claws: if he hit me this time, I’d become just like him.
Thankfully, Geoff beat him back. I couldn’t believe it, but Chase was still standing. His inhuman growls were reduced to rapid breathing sounds, as though he was trying his best to suck in as much oxygen as he could to stay alive.
Maria, who had backed up behind us, now became his target. He jumped over us so fast we couldn’t react, and landed right on her! It had happened as fast as Harry falling off the forklift.
“NO!” Geoff screamed, charging at Chase. He swung viciously at him, along with me, but Chase wouldn’t let go of the death grip he now embraced Maria with. She screamed and struggled to get him off, but nothing would stop him. By now all of the others were helping me and Geoff, and finally Chase gave his final, raspy breath. His hands loosened. However, Maria made no movement or sound.
Burt carefully pulled Chase’s zombified body off of Maria: and we all we greeted by a sickening sight. The whole front of her body had been burnt to the point that you couldn’t even tell that once she had been a young schoolgirl. Her face was completely black, the features no longer there. Her body was a dark gray mixed with the blood that had spilled out of her. I couldn’t believe that she had fallen to this sort of death, especially someone as young as her. I clenched my fists, anger piling on top of more anger. These zombies were taking away my friends, and each time I couldn’t stop their attacker.
I looked over at Geoff. He had always aimed for two goals: good grades and the safety of his younger sister. Now he had failed in that endeavor.
He was crying a stream of tears while pounding on the wall so hard that some of the skin on his knuckles opened up and started bleeding. “God DAMN that mother fucking zombie!” he shouted, pounding the ground with the lacrosse stick he had taken at the gym. He stood up and threw it across the hallway, then he leaned against the wall. “I… I will kill ALL of them. They’ll all pay for this!” he shouted.
“Geoff, we got to-“
He cut me off. “You don’t know who it feels, to fail to fulfill the promise your dad gave you on his death bed. That’s what he said to me… protect her, no matter what”. He gasped, more tears streaming from his face. “Now she’s dead! She’ll never get to live the life she wanted to, the life she deserved!” He bowed his head. “People like her don’t deserve this… dying so young…” he pounded the wall again. “This bullshit shouldn’t have happened in the first place! How the hell DID it happen! Why are we subjected to this!? Why did she have to die!” he screamed. He finally collapsed on the floor and laid there, unmoving.
I couldn’t believe what I just heard. Geoff never spoke of his dad or what happened to him. To learn that he was… I can’t talk about this. I can’t…