“Nea, get up.” I was shaken awake and looked around. It was still pitch black but Ruth soon found her torch and lit up the room. I wish she hadn’t.
In the corner of this small closet were the blood covered remains of a small boy who lay slumped with his pants around his ankles. His genitals showed between his legs and there was a large chunk of his face missing. Fragments of lead littered the ground around his head.
I could hear Steph breathing quickly and she started to retch and then collapsed next to us. She curled up into a ball and rocked back and forth, her gun fell next to her.
“Steph,” Tears were pouring down my face. I needed to get out of that room. “We need to go, Steph, come on.” I grabbed at her while Ron opened the door and looked outside. Ron motioned for us to come out and Ruth tried with me to move Steph. “Come on Steph, please.”
Ruth was crying now too and nuzzling Steph’s shoulder. “Come on, come on Stephy!”
I felt Ron’s hand on my shoulder and I looked up to her while trying to dry my eyes with my shirt sleeves. “Let’s take a look outside, she’ll come around.” I nodded and stood up. She handed me her torch and then took out her bayonet and handgun. She held the gun in her left hand and gripped the knife handle in her right hand, blade pointing to the ground. Ron pulled the door open and stepped out. “Come on.”
I followed her out and shone the flashlight around the hall. I heard my boots crunching against the floor and looked down at the black snow. I kicked the fluff around to find it was about three inches deep. “What is this shit, anyway?”
“It’s the end of the world, didn’t you hear? Shine the torch down there, would you?” I could see the room we’d escaped the night before had been torn apart completely and the floor was gone. I shone the light down to see a figure curled up in the snow on the ground beneath us.
“I think that’s a zombie. Look at the trail in the snow leading up to it.” There was a trail, as Ron said, leading into the building through the ruined wall, ending with the blue fleshed and rigid zombie.
“You don’t think the cold kills them, do you?”
“Well, think about it. They’re not exactly living anymore, are they? They can move around somehow, but maybe they don’t heal, or warm up, and once they freeze they’re stuck. Here, let’s see.” Ron kicked some snow down onto the zombie and it started to squirm, but it did not rise or move from its spot. “Maybe winter will save us.”
“Yeah.” I pulled my eyes away from the frozen zombie and looked around. “Are there any zombies down this hallway?” We both looked, but the hall we had come down the night before was clear.
“Let’s walk down this side of the building,” Ron pointed down the hallway we were in, “I want to see how much was destroyed by that tornado.”
“Okay.” I looked in on Steph and Ruth again, but neither had really moved since I’d left. I pulled the door to the room closed and followed Ron down the hallway.
The first door we walked by was open and the wall dividing the room inside from the room we’d escaped last night was gone although the floor was mostly intact. The next two rooms we passed had empty window frames, but no other damage, and the last rooms in the hallway seemed untouched.
“Fuck, it’s like it came right for us.” Ron looked down the other hallway while I stared into the last room. It was full of bodies, all strewn across the floor and covered in crusted blood.
“Really gets your hopes up, doesn’t it? When even the weather comes after you.”
Ron started to laugh, but then stopped and I could feel her tense up, “Turn the light off!”
I switched off the torch and then looked at her. She was crouching in the hallway, looking down the hall we hadn’t explored. I could see nothing but blackness for a moment, but while the darkness cleared away in my eyes I started to notice movements. At the other entrance to the hall, a mass of zombies was coming towards us.
We were both still for a moment, but then I looked more closely at the zombies: as they entered the hall they would walk into the wall and then towards us or away from us. “They can’t see, Ron.” The zombies moved stiffly, in forced motions.
“Well then, give me a light.” I switched the torch back on and she had me point it at the ground while she searched around her. “This will do.” She picked up a gold ring that glittered at her from the ground. She looked at it for a moment and then threw it down the hall. It flew over the first zombies’ heads before colliding with a wall just past the intersection the horde was coming from.
We could hear the thud of the ring from where we stood, and then the second thud and rolling of the ring on the ground from where we stood, but none of the zombies seemed to notice it.
“They’re deaf too. They’re just moving now. I wonder if they can smell us.”
We stared at them for a little while longer, but they were getting close to us, “We should go back, we have to get out of this building. I hope Steph is…” I stopped as I shone my flashlight towards Steph and Ruth’s room. “Oh no!” The hallway we’d just explored was filling with zombies as well. The zombies were walking into the last piece of wall that stood from the ruined room, which was just at the turn in the hallway. There were over 20 in the hall already; a few had already passed the broom closet door. I watched as one stopped and sniffed the air as it passed the door, and then it turned to walk into the door. “No no no!”
I pulled my handgun from my belt and began to fire on the zombies who were gaining interest in the crooked door we’d slept against last night. Ron pulled out hers as well and fired on the zombies between us and the room.
Even deaf and blind, the zombies began to sense us and more started appearing around the corner. I saw the closet door open as Ron and I moved towards it. Ruth poked her head out and screamed before shutting the door again. “We’re coming Ruth!”
The zombies were excited now and were thrashing around in the corridor. One crashed into the door and started beating on it. I fired at it, but the first bullet missed it. I dropped it with a second bullet, but I could feel my gun emptying as more zombies attacked the door.
We stopped when we were 15 feet from the door, but we could not push the zombies back.
I heard Ron drop her gun and she stepped in front of me. Without turning to face me she said, “Get them out of there, Lin.” And then she charged into the crowd.
I saw her knife flashing as it moved from side to side, cutting into faces and chests, but I could not watch her any longer. She was soon enveloped by the horde as she shouted and screamed at them, but they were pushed back to the corner of the hall and many of them advanced no farther. I reached the door and yelled, “Ruth, Steph, we have to go!” I held back the tears this time and turned to fire on a zombie that escaped the crowd and was moving towards me.
The door swung open, but I saw Ruth hunched over, trying to lift Steph to her feet.
“Stephy, come on!” Ruth was shrieking and coughing through her tears, but Steph would not respond.
“Steph, please.” She turned to look at me.
“Go.” She looked at Ruth, “I love you.”
I couldn’t hold it back anymore, I was crying again as I pulled Ruth up and pulled her into the hallway. I looked down the far end of the hallway and saw the zombies from that side had almost reached us. At the corner the zombies were beginning to move again, as well. Both sides were shrieking and excited. I could smell bile from the dead zombies, and blood. “Come on, Ruth” I pushed her to the destroyed room.
“Steph!” Ruth cried out, but she stepped with me onto a floor joist that was sticking out over the hole in the floor. I fired my gun at a few zombies that were getting closer to us, but before I had dropped the last one, there was a click from my gun and I dropped the empty weapon. Ruth turned and fired Steph’s gun at the horde.
“We need to jump, Ruth, come on.” I pushed her arm down and she stopped firing. She looked down at the snowy floor below, and then back at the mass of zombies that was surrounding the broom closet doorway.
Ruth knelt on the joist for a moment and didn’t move. “Ruth…” She stood and jumped down to the ground below. I followed her down and we walked out into the sunlight.
As we bowed our heads to the glare, there was a loud scream behind us and Ruth grabbed at me. I held her for a moment, but neither of us looked back.
“I love you, too, Steph.” She pulled away from me and started to walk out into the street. I followed her away from the building.
They were waiting for us.
I was grabbed from both sides and I heard Ruth yell out as two figures grabbed her as well. I felt a strong blow on the back of my head and I reeled, slumping over in the soldiers’ grasp.
I may have blacked out for a moment, but as I raised my head, finally, I saw we were standing in front of a brick building. It had five floors, each with a wide window across the front of it. All but the third floor windows were intact. I saw a group of soldiers standing on top of the building, and a woman with short brunette hair and a tight dress that clung to her knees. The woman pointed down at us and I could hear Ruth protesting and dragging her feet. She was brought in front of me and carried to the window at the first floor of the building in front of us. I looked back up at the soldiers on the roof and I felt I recognized one of them. He stepped forward and dropped the end of a rope off the roof of the building. He was standing next to another soldier, a white woman with black hair, and while he was looking down at us I watched him push the woman off the edge.
I hadn’t noticed the rope around her neck until she fell, but as I did, I screamed Ruth’s name. My knees were kicked from behind and I fell down on them and one of the soldiers shoved his gloved hand in my mouth. I tried to bite down on it, but it was too tough. Ruth struggled and tried to escape from the soldiers’ grasp, but they would not let go. I saw one of them had her gun, which he tossed aside to grab the rope from the air. He put it over her head while the other held her hands behind her back. After tightening the rope around her neck, the soldier handed a large cable tie to the other and he bound Ruth’s hands.
The female soldier’s neck had snapped as the rope went taut. Her body swayed at the third level of the building, in front of the large open windows.
Ruth’s screams turned to coughs and gags as her feet left the ground. The soldiers on the roof were pulling the rope and they lifted her next to the other woman and let her hang there. Ruth’s feet kicked out and she writhed against the rope; I could not stop myself from watching her. I had no tears left, but I knew my pale face had turned bright red and I bit down harder on the glove in my mouth.
A hand reached out from the darkness in the brick building and grabbed Ruth’s legs and pulled them inside the building. Ruth’s body shook as the now shrieking zombies in the building pulled at her. The soldiers on the top of the building gave one final pull and I heard the cracking as Ruth’s body went limp. They released the rope and Ruth slumped over the edge of the window before being pulled slowly into the building. Before she disappeared completely I saw her head: it was turned too far to one side and her blank eyes stared down at me from her mahogany skinned face. The other woman was bleeding down the side of the building as zombies leaned out and bit off chunks of her.
Arms extended out to her as well and she was pulled in when the soldiers on the roof cut the rope holding her.
My vision became blurry and I felt cold. My head fell forward and I could barely hear the words that were being shouted around me. I caught a woman’s voice saying something about sending the CRA a message, but the words didn’t stick in my head. The soldiers released me and the hand was removed from my mouth, but I stayed on my knees. There was more shouting and someone kicked me to the ground, but I didn’t move. I was on the ground for a few minutes before someone lifted me to my feet and pushed me away from them. I stumbled down the street slowly, and I could hear gunshots and bullets hitting the pavement around my feet.
I don’t know how far I walked but eventually I looked around and could see HQ towering above me.
I stared at it for a moment, and then started walking down the street it stood at the end of. I took a few steps, but I was knocked off my feet and a body was perched on top of mine. I closed my eyes and my thoughts slowed to a stop. Everything became dark.
The End of Chapter H