The thing about noise and food
It’s a killer combo in the zombie apocalypse. Situations, like the one right now in the quadrangle, can go from nothing to epic in seconds. Zombies (grunts) have four states of existence, and they all revolve around noise and food. To their wilted brains when they hear noise they think food – and they’ve got a pretty one-track mind.
These are the stages...
Dormant – like those in the library. Barely existing, almost in hibernation, waiting to be alerted to the chance of a meal. Triggered when they haven’t eaten for some time.
Roaming – your standard zombie mode. Like those to first detect the group from the far side of the quadrangle. Aimlessly roaming for food – slow, random but quick to follow noise. They conserve energy but keep moving and will not stop until they’ve reached that noise, or a louder noise attracts them.
Hunting – they’ve detected food near and they’re on the march to get it. Even in this mode they conserve their precious energy. If they are far away from the source, they’ll move as quickly as they can, directly towards their target. Once they are within range, they’ll go into full hunting mode – single-minded and aggressive. Although they’re never fast, they can close down short spaces remarkably quickly.
Feeding – the ultimate state of a zombie. Self-explanatory. Survival tip No. 1 – don’t be there when this is happening.
So when Elizabeth and her crew were spotted across the quadrangle it only took one noise from one roaming grunt to trigger a chain reaction of zombie noises that alerted every grunt within earshot. Dormants, roamers and feeders all became hunters, leaving the humans on the verge of being mozzarellad near the ‘no food in the library’ signs.
Elizabeth assessed the situation – a laneway lined with zombie arms reaching in from left and right, five mozzarella zombies at one end of the lane and about 15 at the other in a tangled mess on the fire exit door. Her first instinct was to head back to the mozzarellas, but then she realised the other group that had first spotted them would be getting close. There could be many more just outside the exit. It had to be the fire-exit grunts – and fast – before they untangled themselves and found their feet.
“Follow me,” yelled Elizabeth as she made her move. She ducked under a few searching zombie hands from a window on the left, then vaulted over the pile of fire-exit zombies to the end of the lane. She checked the situation beyond – it looked clear. She turned back to the group and urged them forward.
First to follow, Vihaan got within a metre of the fire-exit zombies before pulling out of his jump. Instead, he eased his back up against the resource centre wall and inched his way past their outstretched arms. Zhang was close behind, but instead of following she decided to wait for Sonny to arrive with Abby and the wheelchair.
That’s when the real extent of the problem became clear. Abby’s wheelchair was too wide to push past the gap between the resource centre wall and the pile of zombies twisted up on the door. “We’re stuck,” said Sonny.
“If you’ve got any ideas,” said Zhang, “now’s definitely the time.”
Ms Simmons was backing up towards them, facing the mozzarellas. “Hurry up!”
Zhang leaned in towards Abby: “Abby go boom?” She watched as Abby curled her hands up into fists, closed her eyes and tensed her body. But there was no boom.
“She’s probably still exhausted after the last one,” said Ms Simmons.
Sonny reluctantly moved the wheelchair closer to the fire-exit zombies – the gap was definitely too narrow. They’d have to create more room, or drive the right wheel over zombie heads and arms.
Vihaan cranked out a tune through his speakers and the sound of Katy Parry’s Roar filled the air.
Zhang gave him a pitying look as some of the zombies were distracted by the music. But the gyrating zombies hadn’t solved the problem of not enough space for Abby’s wheelchair.
Elizabeth pelted rocks at the fire exit, trying to keep more zombies from joining the fray. They were amassing in great numbers, blocked by those already tangled up outside. “Ideas? Anyone?”
“We need some sort of ramp,” said Sonny, “to get the right wheel over.”
“Brilliant! We just need some wood. It doesn’t even have to be that long, just sturdy,” said Vihaan as he loaded up his slingshot and let a pebble fly.
His shot landed between two mozzarellas at the far end of the lane and got caught in the stretchy goop, which absorbed the impact and bent back before returning it in Vihaan’s direction with interest. The pebble hit him in the forehead. “Oh, come on!”
As Vihaan doubled over in pain Zhang found the answer. “Your cricket bat!”
“I can’t see right now, let alone swing it.”
“No. Your cricket bat as the ramp.”
“What?” said Vihaan. “No way.”
“Genius,” said Elizabeth as she moved toward the injured Vihaan.
“You can’t, it’s a Gray Nicholls.”
Elizabeth pulled the bat from Vihaan’s backpack and lifted it high above her head.
“Careful,” he cried.
Elizabeth brought the Gray Nicholls down on the head of the nearest zombie. There was an unpleasant gushing noise as the bat settled into the head to form a sturdy ramp. She tried to wriggle it around – it was wedged into place.
“That did not sound careful,” complained Vihaan.
“Hurry up,” screamed Ms Simmons as the mozzarellas lunged close enough to swipe at her.
Sonny pushed into the wheelchair with all his might, aiming the right wheel for the cricket bat. He was successful, and he and Abby went flying over the exit-door grunts to safety.
Ms Simmons followed close behind, chanting something the others didn’t understand, with her wand over her shoulder. It had no effect.
“Move it!” said Elizabeth as she noticed the wood panelling around the door frame start to groan and split. “Now!”
Zhang hadn’t studied physics, but she knew enough about momentum that she decided to wait until Ms Simmons had bolted past and then follow, rather than jumping in her way. It was a wise choice as Ms Simmons felt one of the window hands brush her, looked to see what happened, stepped on something she shouldn’t have, rolled her ankle and came crashing down face to face with the cricket-bat-skulled zombie. She screamed.
Zhang swooped in to help raise Ms Simmons to her feet but the teacher screamed out in pain. Suddenly, something grabbed Zhang by the shoe. She screamed and poked around her feet with her violin bow – it wasn’t having much affect.
The groaning of fractured wall and zombies intensified. The noise was almost unbearable, then a 5m section of the library wall crumbled into the lane, unloading dozens and dozens of zombies almost on top of Ms Simmons and Zhang.