The Dead are Coming...
Decaying fingers scratched at the glass, the moans of the dead filling his ears as he pulled his wife into the loft. Glass smashed below and he yanked the cord of the stair-ladder, pulling it up to seal them in, to hide them from the ghouls. The frayed cord snapped, the ladder crashing back to the landing. There was a pause, a silent moment that stretched… then the moans intensified, changing course.
Coming for them.
“Damn it!” He looked frantically at Sarah, running her hand anxiously over the bump of her belly, soothing the life within. Her lip trembled, her eyes wide, so scared she couldn’t speak.
Footsteps slapped on the wooden floor. The stench of rotting offal and ruptured guts rose towards them like smog. Sarah covered her mouth, shoulders hunching.
“Sledgehammer!” he cried and darted for a dusty tool box. Tearing the lid open he lifted the heavy sledgehammer, forgotten since he’d re-laid the patio that spring. Lifting the weight with a grunt he rushed back to the square opening in the attic floor.
A woman with lank black hair stared lifelessly back at him. His neighbour, Jill. The skin around the left of her mouth had been torn away, giving her a permanent lopsided grin. Meeting her eyes, he knew Jill wasn’t there anymore. The lively, vivacious woman was gone, leaving only a husk behind. Whatever animated her body, it wasn’t Jill. That was obvious. The woman stepped onto the bottom rung, her moans increasing in urgency this close to her prey.
With a cry, he brought the sledgehammer down with all his strength. The momentum of the weapon almost threw him off balance and for a terrifying moment he was sure he’d fall, but he steadied himself. The blow had caved in part of the floor, splintering the wood.
Another step on the ladder.
Shuffling back he brought the hammer down again, trying to break the flooring, to sever the ladder from the attic.
Roaring he brought the hammer down again and again. The floor shifted substantially under him and he saw the stairs lurch, swinging away from the open trapdoor. He smashed the hammer down again.
Jill’s hand slapped the floor next his foot as she tried to gain purchase… right where he needed to strike. With a final yell, he brought the hammer down, crushing the woman’s hand and sending the ladder plummeting down. The fury of his blow almost carried him down with it, but Sarah grabbed his collar pulling him back form the edge. Throwing her arms around him, she pulled him close hugging him tight. Dropping the hammer he hugged her back, wrapping his arms around her and bringing her as close as her swollen belly would allow. They stayed that way for a while, clinging to each other as they listened to the zombies moan. Sarah was the one to break the embrace, stepping back she eyed her husband. “Are we it? Are we all that’s left?”
He shook his head, “We can’t be.”
“The news made it sound pretty final.”
“They’re just scaremongering.”
“Does that look like scaremongering?” she cried, gesturing at the baying mob below. “They’re back! The dead are back and they’re coming for us. For her!” She stroked her rounded belly.
“I won’t let that happen.”
Sarah sighed and looked around them. The loft was lit only by the grey light coming through the small skylight in the side of the roof. They had been intending to convert the long loft into a bedroom, but she guessed that was off the menu. Especially since they now appeared to be on it. The rest of the loft was full of junk, not all of it theirs. Boxes of old stuff without a home, an old, old looking lamp without a shade. “Shame there’s not an antique sword or two,” she muttered.
“Or a flame thrower.”
“Or a way out.” She looked over her shoulder at her approaching husband. “Zack, what the hell are we going to do?”
“I don’t know, babe,” he dropped his arms back around her and planted a kiss on the top of her head.
She sighed and leaned back into him. “If we’d known the apocalypse was coming we could have cleaned the place, stockpiled some cans. Holed up in here and waited it out.”
“Nobody expects the zombie inquisition.”
She smiled slightly, caressing her bump. “Little Amy here, might be growing up in a world without Monty Python.”
“Never,” Zack declared. “No daughter of mine is growing up Pythonless.”
“So what do we do?”
“Well,” he stepped away, looking around. “Maybe we can find somewhere to hole up if we can get out of here. Like you said, wait it out.”
“What if it doesn’t end? What if this is the world now?”
“One catastrophe at a time,” he crossed to the skylight, Sarah trailing behind. “We can get out through this,” he pointed at the glass, “find a way down the street and make a run for it. Find somewhere…” he gestured futilely.
“Your plan sucks,” Sarah told him. “We’re too inland here, easy to get surrounded. We should head to my mum’s place on the coast. At least we can take a boat out to sea if we have to.” She paused, thinking. “We could you know.”
“Live at sea. Steal a cruise ship with plenty of food on, sail out to sea, drop anchor. Only come back for fuel and food as necessary.”
“And you know how to operate a cruise ship do you?”
She shrugged, “One catastrophe at a time.”
“I like the option to escape land if we need to,” he looked out the window, all colour draining from his face. “Oh, God.”
“What?” Sarah stepped forward anxiously, stepping up beside him and staring out through the glass. She gasped, her heart sinking as she realised just how much trouble they were in. “Oh, fuck.”
The whole garden and all they could see of the street beyond was full of zombies. Hundreds of them. The moans inside the house had grown louder, as if more undead had joined the party.
“Could we be more screwed?”
“They could be in the attic.”
She just looked at him.
“Okay,” he rubbed his hand down his stubbled chin. “We can’t stay here, we’ve no food, no water...”
“We can’t exactly go down there,” she pointed out.
“Then we go up.”
“Across the roofs?” she gaped a little. “Zack, I’m six months pregnant! I can’t go free running!”
Sarah thought a moment, trying to come up with a realistic alternative. “Shit.”
“We’ll go slow.”
“No point in that,” she said. “We need to outrun them.”
“Amen,” he muttered. Gripping the latch, he exhaled heavily and swung the window open. Cool autumn air blew in, carrying with it the scent of decaying flesh. The collective moans of the undead were deafening, an unholy cacophony of despair. With one more look at his wife, he swung himself out onto the roof, scrambling across the tile on all fours.
Sarah looked out tentatively after him, watching his progress. When he reached the top of the roof, he straddled it, looking back down at her. “Come on.”
Sighing, Sarah slid herself carefully out onto the slanted roof. Her bump got a little in the way, but she managed to crawl on all fours up to the top.
Part of her wished she hadn’t.
“God, it’s worse than we thought,” she said, looking around.
They were everywhere. Either side of the house, filling the road, the neighbours gardens. She couldn’t see concrete or grass anywhere, they were so densely packed.
“Maybe we really are the last ones.”
“No.” He didn’t sound entirely certain.
Carefully the couple shuffled along the roof, silently watching the groaning hordes below. Their ripped, decomposing faces turned upward, almost in supplication towards them, made Sarah shiver. There was nothing there but hunger. Eventually they reached the end of the terrace, the roof ending abruptly, dropping off into a garden full of zombies. A tree grew nearby, its slim branches waving tantalisingly close to the roof. Zack’s eyes flicked back and forth between tree and ground. Every inch of earth was occupied by the dead, but the tree’s branches were so thin… He bit his lip, considering the limited options. His wife was more decisive.
“We can’t go down,” she said, frankly. “There’s no room.”
He looked round at her, fear truly showing for the first time. “Can you make that jump?”
“I’ll have to,” she replied.
“We can’t go back!” she said. “We can’t go down. That leaves the tree. Look,” she pointed to the woodland that backed onto their street. “We aim for the woods. If we’re lucky we can go tree to tree.”
“Like monkeys,” she nodded.
“Okay,” he let out a shaky breath. “I’ll go first. That way I can catch you if you’re short.”
“Right,” Zack exhaled. “Here goes.” He rose, arms outstretched for balance and began edging his way towards the edge of the roof.
“Love you,” Sarah said behind him.
“Love you too,” he didn’t look back, instead focussing on his footing. He stopped with the tips of his trainers just peeping over the edge of the roof. The moans of hunger grew. Blowing out a breath he leapt. For a terrible moment he was suspended in the air above the zombies, then his fingers cracked against wood. He winced at the impact but sheer terror helped wrap his fingers round the branch. He dangled for a moment, feeling the air shift below, where zombies reached up, grabbing for him. With a groan of effort he pulled himself up onto the branch. It creaked under his weight, but held. Smaller offshoots and leaves blew in the wind, obscuring his view of Sarah, still perched on the roof. A manic, unhinged laugh escaped him.
“You okay?” Sarah called.
“Fine,” he replied. “Get over here. Maybe this plan’ll work after all.”
Sarah raised an eyebrow at the comment, but didn’t reply. Carefully, trying to ignore the anticipatory sounds of the dead below, she got to her feet. She wobbled slightly, adjusting her balance to accommodate the extra weight she carried. Her heart hammered, her palms sweating as she took her first tentative step back out onto the tile. It felt like it took forever for her to reach the edge of the roof, but she made it. She peered over the edge as her feet nudged over. Arms reached up to her, dead eyes meeting hers. She looked away, squeezing her eyes shut and biting back a scream.
“Come on,” Zack called, reaching his hand out to her. “You can do it Sarah. I’ve got you.”
She looked back to her husband, “Promise?”
“Promise. I’ve got you darling, now get your precious booty over here.”
With a nervous glance back at the zombies, she focussed on her husband and leapt.
Wood slashed at her hand and she knew she’d narrowly missed the branch. Panic hit, then something grabbed her, clenching round her fingers, holding her in mid-air. She looked up to see Zack above her, gripping her fingers. She could feel him trying to pull her up, but she was slipping. Her sweat covered hands making it difficult for him to hold on. She flailed with her other hand, but found nothing to grab onto. “Zack!” she screamed.
“I’ve got you!”
“Don’t drop me! Jesus Christ, please don’t drop me!
“I’ll pull you up,” he yanked upwards and she saw her fingers slide out of his. “No!!” she screamed, feeling the dead beneath her. “NO! You’re losing me!”
“No!” he was as panicked as her. “No! Sarah!” He could feel her fingers gradually slipping from his grasp, but daren’t use his other hand or they’d both fall to their deaths. The dead were massing under her, reaching up, grabbing for her legs, her skirt, anything they could get. Her second knuckle slid through is tenuous grip. She screamed again. Fingers brushed her skirt.
“Fuck!” He let go of the branch, his other hand going for his wife’s wrist.
Her fingers slipped and his second hand closed on thin air.
She screamed as the dead took her. She hit out, her fist colliding with one’s nose, but it had no effect. Teeth pierced her arm and she screamed, looking round to see the zombie tear a chunk of bloody meat from her arm. They were piling on top of her. She couldn’t stand. Screaming at the top of her lungs, she fell, even as her arm was pulled upwards. Joints and ligaments gave and she felt her arm disconnect, agony tore through her shoulder. Hands gouged into her, ripping into her rounded stomach. “Nooo!” she screamed, her thoughts consumed with her unborn child. The last thing she saw was a tiny, red drenched human form lift into the air.Zack was on the floor. He didn’t even think about it. The moment she fell, he dropped from the tree, going after his screaming wife. The horde was so dense he could barely move. Frantically he shoved the dead out of his path, trying desperately to reach his wife. All he could hear were her terrified, pain-filled screams. Something bit into his shoulder and he roared, lunging away. He felt flesh tear and blood pour, but he didn’t care. He had to reach her! Even when the screams stopped he kept shoving. He pushed two more out of the way and there she was. Lying on the floor in a pool of her own blood. She was missing an arm, her shoulder a ragged bloody mess. Her guts torn open and laid bare, the dead pulling out red meat and organs. His wife’s intense hung from one’s mouth. He roared and went for the zombie when a more terrible sight caught his eye. Right before him a zombie held a tiny, human form covered in red, its face partially devoured. Even as he watched, the zombie brought its mouth down, toward the infant. “No!!” Zack roared, as hands grabbed him, pulling him back. He tried to shake them off, to lunge forward, to avenge his family, but they were too strong. Even as he swore to kill them all, they pulled him back, off balance and he fell. Teeth tore into his flesh as he sank, swearing and struggling. Fingers dug into his belly, breaking skin. He felt them tearing his organs out, watching aghast as they began to eat him. As his vision dulled he glared at the zombie pulling out his glistening intestine and swore his vengeance once again…