Geoff had calmed down and still lay on the ground, crying. We weren’t sure what to do… as we could never in our entire lives understand the pain he felt.
All there was was silence, except for the occasional sob from Geoff. It was as though the entire building had gone into mourning for the loss.
Burt had worked up the courage to speak. “I… I’m sorry… truly. But you know we have to go”. I could tell he regretted saying this, but I knew that eventually someone would have had to. Once again he proved to be a strong man in more than just muscular strength.
Geoff slowly stood up, shaking his head. “I… I am sorry as well… I should not have…” he bowed his head, retrieving his lacrosse stick… and then his eyes fell upon the stab wounds Chase had made in Maria’s arm.
Quietly, nearly inaudibly, he whispered, “Is she infected?”
The silence returned and hung in the air. We were left staring at Maria’s mangled corpse. No one breathed. No one made a single sound. We just stared.
Finally, her body twitched slightly, but visibly. Without warning, Geoff gave off another yell, and sent the pole of his lacrosse stick through his dead sister’s head. Her skull collapsed, its contents spilling across the floor.
Defeated, Geoff took a deep breath and looked back at us. “Let’s just keep moving”.
“Geoff…” Rachel began.
“Just… let’s go” he replied simply. He rejoined our ranks, his normally calculating gaze now fixated on the ground.
We began slowly trudging down the hallway. I couldn’t believe that after all we have been through that we lost yet another person to the zombies. Maria had been the youngest of us and never got the chance the live, much like all of the others we have lost today. I knew now that I couldn’t let another zombie take the life of someone in our group. I don’t care how I go about it; I just know I’ll stop them.
Geoff was out of it the rest of the way, and I couldn’t blame him. After what had happened, he probably didn’t care for surviving much more. Truthfully, neither did I. Although you lived to continue your life, the people that died really leave an impact on you. Seeing Maria’s corpse made me wish it had been me Chase killed, seeing Harry torn up made me wish that was me instead of him.
Not only that… and I wouldn’t admit it… the infected were wearing me out. One would think they would be dumb, slow animals. As I now know… they contain an intelligence level unrivaled with by any other animal. Their attack patterns, strategies, speech, and athletic abilities were simply overpowering for a human.
My comrades weren’t faring any better; all of us were covered head-to-toe in scratches and other injuries, our breathing reduced to panting like dogs. We were out of breath, almost out of hope, and most likely out of time.
Suddenly, I heard Rachel gasp and let out a little laugh, breaking my thought process. She pointed ahead. “Look!” she exclaimed. Right at the corner of the hallway was what we had been looking for this whole time, the thing we had lost people to reach: a science room.
“We’re almost home free” Burt said, “at last”.
I couldn’t believe what I saw either. “Freedom’s around the bend” I said, my hopes of survival finally up to an all-new high. All of my previous pessimistic thoughts were left behind. We were going to make it! Here was the science room, just a quick dissolving material and we’ll break the window and slip out.
Trent took a step forward, then walked cautiously into the science room. “It’s just as messed up as the other classrooms, but the burners with the propane are thankfully intact”.
Hannah looked around the corner. “No zombies nearby either. I can’t hear or see them”.
“Good luck! Would you look at that” Steven cheered. Everyone was starting to get back in the game.
Burt clapped his hands, bringing reality back to us. “They’ll be here though without a doubt. The brawl we had earlier definitely reached them, and we know they can move faster than us. We have maybe a half an hour window”. He started running into the room. “Let’s get moving people!” The rest of us piled in after him.
Burt had been right: those zombies wouldn’t stay in place, and eventually a horde would be upon us. We had maybe thirty minutes to make a dissolving material of some sort. Enough time, but at the same time too little.
“What exactly do we plan to make?” Rachel asked the obvious question.
Ignoring her inquiry, Geoff began heading the process like a true professional. He immediately ran forward and cleared off a table, his head darting back and forth around the room, his face displaying immense concentration.
“Ok, we’re gonna need a strong acid to break through this” he said, still scanning the room.
“Like what?” I asked him, searching through the liquids in the science storage room.
“Just get the strongest one you see. Test out all the ones you find. We don’t have much time!”
Searching through the cluttered room, I discovered a green liquid among a cluster of bottles labeled ‘highly reactive’. I tore a little piece off of my shirt and put it into the liquid. I backed up in shock as the material dissolved inside of it. If this didn’t work, I wasn’t sure what would.
I tossed the bottle to Geoff who caught it and examined it. “I know this. This liquid was discovered just last year, it’s called Protranis Z. It should work out”.
Mixing the strong acid with other materials that we got for him, Geoff began making the dissolving material. It was amazing watching how fast he worked. He had started sweating something awful, but then again I would’ve cracked under so much pressure. He still stood his ground, creating the liquid that would deliver us to freedom. After about ten minutes, he was near completion.
“I’ll be done in about five minutes” he said, his hands looking like a blur as he worked.
“We have about fifteen minutes, we’ll be fine” Trent said, who was standing off to the side watching the door. That later became a huge understatement.
Amidst the chaos, as everyone raced around the room to craft the substance, I found myself standing still in shock. We had forgotten something important. Something that we had planned to do, but did not remember to execute.
If we escaped this building… then what about the zombies? If they could get out of here, they would start a mass infection. Even the army would be hard-pressed against such creatures, and that’s assuming they would win the fight in the end. These infected could outsmart and outmaneuver us. Something had to be done.
We had to make the bomb.
“Guys, what about the zombies?” I asked them somewhat nervously. “We leave the building, there’s no doubt they’ll follow”.
My comment stopped everyone dead in their tracks, making me almost regret bringing the subject up.
Burt face palmed. “God Damnit, we can’t leave them” he cursed. Geoff looked up at us.
“If you guys are making a bomb, you better start now” he said. “I still have to finish this”.
“Can you at least tell us how to make one?” Hannah asked him. Geoff looked up at her incredulously.
“You really think I KNOW how to make a bomb?” he asked her. He shook his head. “I have no idea. None. Zip”.
“You have to know something” she said. Geoff sighed.
“You guys know the basics. Propane, a match, fuse, that stuff. Listen, I have to make this, so you’re on your own”.
Hannah turned to look at us. “We’ll need propane; as much as we can get our hands on. A string for a fuse, and a match, and I think that’s all”.
“We’ll need some other stuff from the storage room” Rachel said, “if we want something big”.
I nodded. “Yeah, go ahead”.
“There are still some matches in Mr. Tursow’s room” Trent said. He ran off to go get some.
I walked around with Hannah to grab propane tanks. I looked around and spotted about six of them under the burners, and there were most likely more than ten in the storage room.
“Hannah, get the tanks in here and gather them up by the wall” I said, pointing towards a giant white spot on the wall. The wall had broken last year for reasons unknown, so putting explosives near a weak wall wouldn’t be a bad idea.
She began collecting the propane and putting it by the weak wall. I went into the storage room and opened up a lower cabinet. Bingo; around fourteen tanks of propane laid before me. Just as I went inside, Rachel ran out with the liquids she obtained. She began adding them on to the bomb. Burt came over to me and helped carry the tanks over to the wall. As we did this, Trent ran in with a box of matches. There was a look of panic on his face.
“They’re coming” he said, breathing heavily, fear in his voice. “I could hear them coming up the stairs”. We all knew what this meant: zombies were on the way, and our time was running out.
“I thought we had more time” Burt said. “We need to make this as quickly as we can”.
Geoff stood up and admired his work. “Alright… This should work”.
Our group followed him as he carried the substance over to the window. He poured a little bit of it on the edge of the window where the white substance was applied to hold it in place.
“If I am correct” he muttered as he put the liquid in its place, “this should work just fine”.
We waited in silence for a minute or two for the liquid to work. Finally, we saw the white substance gradually begin to melt away! Trent began trying to open the window, and after enough of the substance was dissolved, he was able to throw it open.
“Here we are!” he said. “Freedom, just a little drop away”.
“Uh, we have to drop? That’s a little far” Rachel point out.
I clenched my fist. “You’ve gotta be kidding me if we have another problem” I complained.
Burt jogged back over to the bomb we were making. “We’ll figure that out later. If we don’t, let’s just drop. Oh well” he said. “A broken leg is a hell of a lot better than the alternative”.
“I’m not sure about that” Steven said. “I don’t think I’ll be able to jump out of a window and be as better off as you guys would be”.
“Please let’s just make the bomb first” Hannah said, beginning to put more propane in place. We all helped her in this task until all of the propane was grouped together around the substance that Rachel had made to help the explosion.
“Just need a string like a fuse” I said. “Then we can light this up and get out of here”.
The sounds had finally reached my ears… The sounds we had become so used to over the time we had been inside of this school. The zombies were approaching and would be upon us in a few minutes’ time.
I could hear as they slowly crept closer, growling to each other, no doubt wondering what happened earlier. They’d find their infected brethren burnt in the hallway and know a fight occurred there, and then they would track us to this room.
Everyone else began to hear the sounds as well and started panicking.
“Oh God, here they come” Rachel said. “We need to get out of here. Now!”
“I’m not facing those bastards again” Geoff said, helping her prepare things.
I applied a string to the explosives and grabbed a match. “Working as fast as I can” I said as I started lighting it.
As I performed this task, Burt and Trent began walking out of the door.
“If they’re coming” Trent said defiantly, “we’ll hold them back”. I could tell he was already plotting vengeance for the loss of Harry.
I opened my mouth to protest, but Steven stopped me.
“They know what they’re doing. They’ll defend us as we prepare” he said.
I cursed as the first match lit up then quickly dissipated. It had been a dud. I tried lighting yet another match, but it refused to do so as well. I could hear the zombies roaring and screaming. I heard Burt yelling and the sound of metal hitting flesh. The creatures were upon us now.
I finally got one match to catch fire. “Yes, yes” I said, quickly bringing it up to the string.
Before I could do that, the zombies barged into the science room! One of them leaped at me, and I was defenseless to fight them off. The match was sent flying across the room and the flame dissipated. Geoff kicked the zombie off of me, but he was taken down by another mutant. Steven tried combating them with his metal poles, but one slice to the arm and he went down as well. Rachel, too, was taken down, along with Hannah.
Once again, the zombies had swarmed us in an orderly, planned manner. All of them were pinned and I was the only one that could save them in time. I scrambled onto my feet and tried to get to them, to save them, but I was tripped up by a zombie. I punched him back and kept moving forward, but it stabbed me in the knee and tossed me aside effortlessly, as though I was simply a bag of trash. My strength was unexpectedly decreased by the critical blow. The assault happened so wildly I had been caught unawares and with no time to react.
Was this, finally, the end of our campaign for salvation? One sudden burst from the infected students and we were done for? Damnit… if I had recovered fast enough I would have at least been able to attempt something. They were just too quick… a step ahead. Like they always had been.
My vision became blurred as I began accepting the reality of defeat. There was no doubt that Trent and Burt were dead or dying out in the hallway. Rachel, Geoff, Hannah, and Steven were all on the ground, pinned to the floor by zombies. By now, they might have already been infected.
The thought of a zombified Hannah began to pester me as I realized I was unable to save her like I promised myself. I couldn’t bear the fact that she was dead. I couldn’t care
Then there was me, the one who could have saved them all, flat on my back as well. Well, we made it this far, right? I guess we had a good run at it. Maybe if I’m lucky I’ll be spared from dinner and I’ll just become another rank in the infected army. The thought frightened me with the harsh reality of it.
Suddenly I saw a dark figure walking at a brisk pace towards me. None of the zombies made a move to stop him. Was this just another hallucination? Was the Devil coming to drag me down to Hell? As the figure drew nearer I noticed that it wasn’t the Devil… it was, in fact, Harry.
He kneeled by my side and put his hand on my shoulder. “Come on, get up man” he commanded me. “You’re not done yet”. And just like that, he disappeared. It was then I understood: he was giving me a message, giving me strength. Yeah, I know it’s stupid, but I still got the message I needed. I wasn’t done yet, no. Far from it. Harry had never been fully destroyed by the zombies; his spirit lived on to help rally us to victory. Seeing my old friend, even in an illusion, gave me some unimaginable power.
I punched the zombie that was attacking me. I got up on my feet and followed up with a roundhouse kick to the mutant’s face, knocking it backwards into the teacher’s desk. Another zombie took a slash at me, but I avoided it and threw him over my shoulder. I saw Rachel pinned by the window alongside Hannah. Moving quickly, I grabbed the neck of the zombie on Hannah and punched the zombie off of her. I kicked the one on Rachel off of her. The creature tumbled out of the window. I heard an audible ‘splat’ sound. I looked down and saw the zombie had impaled itself on a sharp pole lying by the outside wall.
Steven and Geoff were still around here. “Stay here!” I told the girls as I ran towards the zombies ready to kill the others. I lunged at them, tackling them off of their figures. Geoff quickly got up now that he was free and kicked the head of one of the zombie’s heads so hard it collapsed under the force. I turned around and helped Steven to his feet. He was still okay, but the bandages covering his wound from the locker room were coming off: he needed to get proper medical attention sometime soon.
I looked around at the others. “I think there might have been a rope or something in the storage room” I said, thinking of something that could help some us down to the floor. “Hook it up or tie it up quickly, then go down. Do not hesitate at all”. I started running off towards the door.
Hannah called after me. “Wait, what are you doing?”
I turned to face her. “I have to help Burt and Trent out. I have to” I said. “They might still be out there. Trent’s my friend and Burt’s been our leader, I’ll be damned if I lose any of them”.
She ran over to me. “We can do it together then” she said, unafraid. We both ran outside the door and looked around. There were zombies everywhere moving towards once particular spot. Their point of concentration was where I saw Burt and Trent backed up in a corner with multiple scratches and bruises. They were barely holding their ground.
I ran off towards them, Hannah beating off the zombies chasing after me. I was able to get to them, punching and kicking the mutants in my way. “Over here!” I shouted at them. They began swinging wildly at the zombies as they made their way towards me and Hannah. After powering through the massive crowd of zombies, we made it inside of the science room. Burt slammed the door behind us and blocked it with a desk. Thankfully I noticed the others had followed my instructions and had gone out the window: they had even found a rope.
Now there was only one last thing to do.
I gestured to the rope. “Get down! Now!” I shouted at the others.
“What about you!?” Hannah asked.
“Just get moving, okay?!”
Now was the time to deliver the bad news. I bowed my head. “Someone’s gotta light the bomb”.
Hannah shook her head. “Don’t…”
“I… have to. Either that or the zombies run free” I replied.
She didn’t stop staring at me.
“You’ve got to get going, we can’t delay any longer!” I commanded.
Burt pulled her back and eased her down the rope. He took one last look at me, nodded, then went down. Trent followed him back.
I couldn’t believe what I was doing… but early on in the bomb making, I had realized that someone else would have to perish… another person would have to die. And I decided right then and there it was me. I don’t know why, but I somehow knew it had to be me. Or I thought it should be me… I’m still not sure. You know that sense to be brave in tough situations? I guess it turned on for me. I just couldn’t imagine anyone else taking my place.
The desk was posing only a minor difficulty to the monsters. One of them bashed the window inside of it and grabbed the door handle, tugging with all his might. He must have made some progress because soon enough the door was sent flying open.
The zombies were closing in on me. I beat them back and dodged their strikes and ran forward towards the fuse. They kicked and punched, scratched and slashed, but I just ran through it all as though it didn’t matter. One of the mutants stabbed me in the shoulder, but I didn’t have time to mourn the loss. I quickly lit a match and dived for the string that would blow this place sky-high. I heard a fizz as the flame caught the fuse… the only time I lit the match was when I was going to die. I smiled from the harsh ironic moment, then muttered “game over, zombie bastards”.
I knew in about ten seconds I would be completely obliterated. I laid patiently, preparing for the final blast--when something pulled me back. I was lying down one second, the next one I was being dragged out of the window and down the rope.
I turned to see Trent bringing me down the rope. I couldn’t believe he had risked his life for mine, but there were no time for a thank you card. He pushed me forward as we reached the ground, shouting one simple, yet important word; “Run!”
I wasted no time; I made for the trees at the end of the school parking lot at full sprint. My body seemed to have grown wings and flew me over there. I guess the pressure of a bomb ready to explode in a few seconds makes you run like a superhuman. Trent and I had made it about three-fourths of the way to the parking lot.
“We’re not gonna make it!” Trent shouted to me. He dove behind a car, me doing likewise. Hopefully we would be well protected against the blast.
Just a split second later, the school exploded in a bright red color, emitting an excruciatingly loud booming sound that left me deaf for a moment, my ears ringing.
It had been there one second, then a giant black cloud the next. There was a shower of fiery debris in the general vicinity of the area. The grassy ground was now lit ablaze and blackened. Only a few blocks of the building’s foundation remained standing. Some of it later toppled over.
Trent and I slowly stood up. Miraculously we had avoided any damage from the large blast. We observed the carnage and drank the moment in.
I shouted out triumphantly. “We did it!” The next action I did was give my friend one huge, bone-crushing hug. He had done the impossible and dragged me away from what should have been my demise. Afterwards, we rushed back to the others, who were equally surprised to have seen me.
“Tyler!” Steven shouted, falling over as he tried coming over to greet me.
Hannah ran over to me, crying, and hugged me tightly. “If you ever do that again, I swear I will just kill you myself” she said, laughing. I could do nothing else but return the embrace.
“We just blew the whole thing to bits!” Burt shouted, nearly a scream of triumph. He pumped his fist in the air. He deserved to relish in the moment.
Geoff high-fived me, and then gave me a hug too. “Damn it, we did it. Don’t know how… but we did it”. Hannah went over and talked to him for a bit.
Burt, now too tired for any more words, laid back on a tree. “We’re done with this… finally done…” He offered a small laugh. “Good job team… good job…”
Geoff smiled, and offered a simple “Yeah. We made it”. He would never get over the death of Maria back in the school, and especially the fact that her body was obliterated in the explosion.
Trent took a deep breath, then collapsed on the ground. “We made it…” he gasped. I think he started falling asleep.
Rachel had been silent, then started silently laughing. Eventually, all of us started laughing as the whole adventure we had this morning was nothing but a sick joke played on us. Finally we were done with the zombies, with the deaths, with the injuries. We were all done, and I guess we just wanted to laugh it out in celebration. It was a wonderful feeling... a feeling like I had never felt before.
Hannah walked back over to me, a smile present on her face now. I could tell that she didn’t really approve of me acting like ‘Tyler the Brave’ again and probably meant every word she said earlier. Truthfully, I didn’t like the sudden burst of bravery either. I had just decided to. I owed it all to Trent for saving me back there.
I held her close, she likewise. It all felt like that scene in the locker room back hallway.
“It’s all over” I told her, my voice barely a whisper. She nodded.
“Took long enough”.
We stood there for a few seconds as the others celebrated. She sighed.
“I can’t believe after all of this… life just goes back to normal?”
I held her closer to me. “Much better than that” I said.
Our faces slowly moved towards each other until our lips touched. Unlike last time, our lips connected, and neither of us pulled back. It was one, mind-blowing, passionate embrace, and I found myself lost inside of it.
It felt more like a beginning then closure. Life wouldn’t be the same anymore… Hannah and I would be together. I’d have so many more friends along my side… as well as others that would no longer be there. I knew for sure that we would all be scarred with the memories of this day for the rest of our lives, and I also knew we’d probably be forced to recall the events that had taken place to day for years to come.
As I stood in Hannah’s embrace, one question still lingered in my head: “what happens next?”
Steven must’ve had the same thing bugging him. “Listen, sorry to interrupt our celebration, but we do we do now exactly?”
I turned around to face him. “I’m… not sure” I replied. That wasn’t the best response now wasn’t it…
Trent ran over to us, looking extremely anxious. “Guys, I can hear sirens coming this way” he reported. “If they find us here-“
“The police are coming?” Rachel interrupted. “We’re doomed if they get to us”.
Well great, now the law force was after us, and our celebration was trampled on by their appearance. I knew eventually they would be on their way to investigate the explosion… but I assumed we would have more time to get out of here! The only plan we had at this point was… I guess we just stay and get arrested. If we ran from the police, we’d either get shot or locked up for life. I couldn’t live with either option.
“We better bail” Burt said, the complete opposite of me. “There’s no way in hell they’ll believe our story. They’ll write it down as bullshit and lock us up for life if we’re lucky”. I immediately protested the idea.
“You think we should RUN from the police!? If you don’t think they’ll believe us, they definitely won’t believe us after we try to outrun them!” I exclaimed. How exactly we were going to be proven innocent of a crime when we run from the scene of it? This definitely wasn’t Burt’s best idea.
Hannah backed me up. “I’m not too hot on this idea” she said. Coincidentally, it later turned out Hannah and I were the ones locked up. Oh the irony.
“Remember that you’re dragging me along” Steven said. “I’d rather get arrested and get proper treatment than try and outrun them. I doubt that I could if I tried anyway”.
“We can’t roll the dice with the police” Trent said, “Too much is at risk for that”. He shrugged. “I guess the only option IS to run”.
“Let’s just find another way around this” Geoff said, trying to think of a better solution. We waited a bit as he had a few minutes to think.
Rachel sighed out of frustration. “So close to the end and we still have one more crossroad?”
“We gotta do something, people” Burt said, looking around at us.
I could’ve sworn the sirens were getting louder. Powered by desperation, I had finally come up with an idea… though it involved me throwing myself into the fangs of danger again. “I’ll run from the cops to divert them. You guys can escape while I do that”.
Burt cursed. “Tyler, we don’t need any more of this” he said strictly.
I shook my head furiously. “This time there is a need. You guys need to get out of here. What other options do we have this time?”
The blare of sirens had slowly begun to grow as we stood there discussing what to do: I was sure of it now. By the sound of it, they were maybe a few blocks away. We had maybe a minute to clear out of here, which definitely was not enough time.
I pointed in the direction of the sirens. “Hear that?” I asked them. “That is the sound of police forces closing in on us. If I don’t go out there and cause a diversion of sorts, we’ll all be locked up, and that wouldn’t be good now would it?”
“I really hate it when you do this” Hannah said, defeated.
“There really is no other way” Burt muttered. He nodded at me. “You best get moving then”.
I stood there for a few seconds, looking at my group members one last time. Not a word was spoken, no glances were traded. Then I ran off.
I began jogging down the back parking lot of the school, as that is where I expect the police to come into. I not only heard the sirens now, but I saw the blue and red lights piercing through the trees; they had arrived. As I had predicted, they came rushing around the bend. The drivers had obviously seen me and sped after me. I heard one of them pull out a megaphone and shout at me.
“This is the police! Turn yourself over or we will use force!” Of course, I had to run away from them though, to allow the group to get away. So I turned around quickly and began running much more quickly. They would overtake me eventually, but by that time the others should be safe.
I heard the “click”-ing sound of a gun being loaded, something I didn’t anticipate. They were gonna shoot me! I began running faster, the events in the past few hours flashing by, my life running alongside it. This was it then; after getting out of a zombie-infested high school, I get shot by the law force. I hope the others made it out fine…
I lost Harry. That kiss with Hannah… living through this whole thing. I couldn’t lose after all that! I couldn’t just be shot!
There was no way that I couldn’t have heard the extremely audible shot go off. When death is coming your way, you can hear and see anything. I felt the bullet imbed in the back of my knee. My vision became blurry; I couldn’t see where I was going. I slowed down abruptly, suddenly feeling like a drunken idiot. I stumbled onto the pavement and passed out.
More memories were unleashed: the bus stop, joking with Trent and Harry, Maria killed by the infected Chase… then everything went black.
One last comforting thought went through my mind:
I was still alive.