Chapter 9: Klara
A gaping fissure loomed where the French doors should have been. Splintered timbers hung from the jams and creaked in the breeze. Shattered glass littered the patio and interior of the dark room beyond. Shivers coursed their way down my spine. We had French doors.
“Damn,” Dad said. His beam of light flickered across the wreckage. “Mark?” Pause, then louder, “Mark, are you in there?”
Birds chirped while they greeted the new day, the petty problems of the human race not of their concern.
“All right.” Dad exhaled. He handed Susan a revolver. “Bows won’t be any good in there.”
Dad hefted his rebar spear. He pointed his light into the house, squared his shoulders and drew several deep breaths.
“Let’s go.” He stepped over the threshold.
He stabbed his makeshift spear through the head of the nearest moaner. Faint gurgles seeped past its lips. We trod lightly on broken glass and made our way into the house.
“Dad, let’s get out of here.” My clenched teeth ached. My hand gripping the pistol was wet with sweat. Fright I could deal with. Hell, it’s become a constant companion. However, this, this was fucking insane.
“Can’t. I owe it to Mark. We have to make sure. And, Mark has things we need.”
I swallowed hard and followed Dad into the kitchen. It became obvious, inside at least, not all the moaners were immobilized. Using my arrow, I took out a beast trying to push itself off the floor. Susan used her machete and did in a moaner slumped against the refrigerator.
We passed through the kitchen and came to the living room. To the left, a hallway. Dad stopped and pointed his flashlight down the darkened corridor before turning his attention to the living room.
“I don’t like this,” he muttered. “Let’s circle back, and come through the dining room.”
The dining room was free of moaners. We paused at the doublewide entranceway to the living room. Two moaners were in the room. The one closest to us sat on the floor bobbing its head up and down. Behind that, and close to a shattered television, lay another one. On its side, the beast moved its arms and legs.
Dad pointed his spear to the moaner by the television. He passed under the entablature and dispatched the sitting moaner. I ran past him and went for the moaner by the television. Before I could take it out, Susan screamed.
I whirled around. Susan fell to the floor. She whimpered and hammered vicious kicks while she fought to extract herself from a moaner’s grip. Unseen in the shadows, the beast had laid hold of her and vice like hands held her ankle tight. The moaner pulled Susan’s foot toward its mouth. She screamed, lashed out and her foot connected with her attacker’s face. The sickening, dull crack of bones breaking echoed through the room.
I leaped across Dad’s moaner to land next to Susan. With a quick downward thrust, I ran my arrow into its skull. I placed a violent kick at the hand that held her ankle. Wrist shattered, the lifeless hand broke free. Susan sobbed and scrambled from the corpse. I helped her regain her footing and turned to finish the moaner next to the television but Dad had already offed it.
“Nice,” I said, holding up the arrow.
Assuring ourselves that Susan had not sustained injury, we cleared the remainder of the living room. We headed down the hallway and found two closed doors. The door under the staircase led to the basement. Dad pointed to the other door, so Susan and I took up positions on either side. He pushed the door open and entered the room.
We were in the master bedroom. The bed sat against the far wall, tucked between two heavily curtained windows. The odor of decay overwhelmed and I fought the urge to vomit. Dad worked his light across the floor and walls. Clean, this room had escaped the onslaught that had engulfed the rest of the house.
“Daaaad,” Susan squealed.
She had her flashlight trained on the bed. Disgust clouded her face. The bed had a perfectly spread and wrinkle free red and gold comforter covering the mattress. Three large pillows, wrapped in matching pillowcases, lined the headboard.
Not perfect, however, was the corpse under the comforter. I gagged, attempted to avoid the inevitable, gave up and retched on the carpet.
“Hello, Mary,” Dad whispered while I continued to heave.
I straightened up and wiped my mouth on my coat sleeve. I gazed upon the gruesome woman lying on the bed.
Her blond hair, combed and parted in the middle, fell across her forehead and tumbled down her neck to disappear under the comforter. Garish makeup covered her collapsed and decayed face. One single, clean, knife wound marred her forehead.
“Come on girls,” Dad said. He broke away from the horror of the spectacle and pushed me toward the door.
Susan stood silent and still, transfixed by the macabre vision before her. Dad pulled her toward the hallway while she kept her eyes glued on the corpse. Retreating from the room, Dad fell against the wall. He leaned back to take deep shuddering breaths. Eyes closed and with short, gentle taps, he banged his head against the wall and let out a low groan.
“Dad, what the hell was that,” I asked and pushed Susan away from the door.
Dad didn’t even bother to tell me off for cursing, but shook his head and motioned down the hall. He pushed off the wall and led us away from the death room. We found ourselves walking alongside the staircase and back into the living room.
“I guess Mark couldn’t let her go.” Dad shook his head. He opened the closet door next to the front entrance.
He whistled, a low, I’ll be damned sort of whistle. Susan and I peered past him and into the closet. Wow. The closet was full of firearms. Pistols hung in holsters from the door. Shotguns and rifles were stacked against the interior wall. Boxes of ammunition, piled on the floor and two shelves at the top of the closet, were in plentiful supply.
Susan pulled a gun belt off its hook and unholstered the weapon. She slipped the clip from the handle and checked the magazine. Full clip, she snapped it back into place and handed the belt to Dad.
“We’ll pick this stuff up on our way out,” he said.
We sprinted back into the hallway. Dad opened the basement door, and with his flashlight leading the way descended the steps.
“Anna, stay on the stairs and watch our back,” he said as he and Susan went down.
I turned toward the basement when I heard Susan and Dad come back up. Susan shook her head. Damn, the basement had been our last hope. Dad led us back into the kitchen and the one door we hadn’t checked. Well, two doors. The first door; locked, opened onto a closet.
“What the--” I stopped, remembering Dad’s presence. “Who in their right mind would have a locked closet in the kitchen?”
“Your Mom if she thought she could get away with it,” Dad said without a trace of humor.
Susan and I grinned at each other. Dad opened the other door. We found ourselves staring into a spacious garage.
Daylight streamed through the garage door windows. We went down two steps and passed along the nearest wall and a pickup. We walked in front of the truck and came to the empty middle bay of the three-car garage. I dropped to the floor and played my light under the truck. Susan did the same for the car parked in the third bay.
“Daaaad,” Susan exclaimed for the second time this morning.
She pointed her shaking finger toward the car parked in the third bay. Bloody handprints were on the tinted windows and door handle. We couldn’t see past the tinting and shining our lights only made it worse. Dad tried the handle. Locked, of course.
“Stand back.” He smashed the driver’s side window with his spear, tossed it onto the roof, and pointed his flashlight into the car.
“Shit.” He unlocked the door and pulled out his pistol. “There’s a body in there.”
Susan pushed past me, flung the door open, and pointed her revolver at the limp figure in the back seat.
“Is she alive?” I asked in amazement. For a she, it certainly was. She had long, filthy blond hair, which matted with white dust and blood, gave the appearance of belonging on a moaner. The hair hung down her blood-smeared face and fell across her chest.
Susan reached in and lifted the girl’s head. “It’s Klara!”