Chapter 18: State of Emergency
It was unlike anything either man had seen before. It was completely unlike the organized readiness of an oncoming army. It was not even the disorganized wave of a protest march. It was more like a river, bubbling and boiling with the tide, the undead stumbling and collapsing only to be overrun by the next uncaring zombie in line. Vast tributaries of the undead came pouring out of side streets, and somehow flowed into the main current without creating the slightest break in its advance. All in all they were still the slow moving, stumbling wrecks that they were used to seeing, but the sheer number of them combined with the unstoppable force of their movement proved a particularly horrific sight.
Eli did not mean to say the words. They were not representative of what he was thinking, as in fact his mind had gone completely blank except for the image of the oncoming horde. It felt more like somebody had taken control over his body and used it to say those two words.
Matthew apparently did not agree. Turning, he grabbed Eli by the shirt front and yanked him along as he ran in the direction of the SUV. Across the way, Marshall and Daniel were doing much the same thing, though neither of them needed any coaxing. Behind them, a similar wall could be seen approaching from a bit further away, though that distance did nothing to decrease the horror at the sight of it. Devin had started the vehicle but was standing in the door well of the passenger’s side, leaning against the fully open door as he held his M4 raised and ready, pointed at the zombies, waiting for one to get too close.
Matthew, Marshall, and Daniel all piled inside the vehicle. Eli planned to follow suit, but something moved in the very corner of his vision and he stopped.
“Get in the car!” someone shouted from inside, but Eli barely heard them. He had turned and was staring up at the top of a building. He squinted against the bright sunlight, trying to make sure he was not just imagining things. Something that looked like a black cloaked figure seemed to be standing in the shade of a roof access stairwell, and it seemed to be watching them.
“What the hell…?” Eli started to say, but hands grabbing him by the shoulders and yanking him inside the SUV caused the words to catch in his throat.
“Go!” somebody shouted, and Marshall needed no further prompting. He slammed on the gas and headed for the nearest side street. The zombies were quickly closing off all paths, but there was still one opening, and they ripped into it, tires screeching in protest. Everything wobbled as the top heavy vehicle threatened to flip over, but Marshall had made the turn wide enough and the vehicle righted itself again. Despite their efforts, seconds later he slammed on the breaks.
Ahead of them was a third wall of zombies. It was not nearly as massive as the first two, but it was headed straight for them and there were no more side streets to try to dodge around.
“We’ll have to go through them,” said Eli, finally pulling himself together. He leaped up, grabbing the still open side door and slammed it shut.
“Are you crazy? I can’t just drive through a crowd of people!” Marshall protested.
“They’re not people, they’re zombies,” Eli countered, buckling his seatbelt. “And I don’t see any other choices, do you?”
As much as he hated to admit it, Eli had a point. He gave a quick glance around. There was a side street not too far through the zombie mass rapidly approaching them. If he headed for that it would be significantly less to drive through than just going straight. Nodding with a grim determination at this plan, he floored the gas pedal. With a roar, the big white SUV lurched forward and slammed into the nearest zombies. Against the vehicles incredible mass the decaying creatures dropped like flies, but despite its apparent design the vehicle had not been prepared for this sort of violent off-road travel. The SUV bucked and bounced like a crazed bronco as it attempted to find purchase against the never ceasing flow of uneven bodies.
Then there was the pounding.
Unlike normal human beings, who would simply have scattered at the terrifying sight of the vehicle rushing down on them, the zombies were completely undeterred. As soon as the vehicle came in range they turned toward it and began pounding on the sides. Their simple minds – now driven more by instinct and desire than rationality and thought – did not understand the relatively simple concept of opening doors, but that did not stop them from attempting to break their way inside. All their effort, working in what almost seemed like an eerie unison, kept the vehicle rocking easily as much as the bodies they were driving over. Eli was suddenly quite glad he had forgotten to eat on the way into town, because it meant there was nothing for him to vomit up.
Then, just as suddenly as it had begun, the tempest let up. They shot away from the zombies into a clear, open street. Daniel cheered with delight, but his voice quickly caught in his throat.
The zombies had apparently been intelligent enough to figure out what they were doing, and were now pouring out of the perpendicular streets from the direction they had been going only moments before.
“What the hell?” Devin shouted, slamming his fist into the dashboard.
They had come to a dead stop, but Marshall spun the steering wheel to the right and began to head for the still mostly empty side of the street.
“Wait!” shouted Eli, unbuckling himself and leaping into the front part of the vehicle. He pointed off at a nearby alleyway. “There!” he explained.
“We’ll never fit in there!” Marshall growled through grit teeth.
“We don’t have to,” Eli said. “Just pull up along the wall until we can get out to it through the side door. The SUV will act as a barrier between us and them, and we can book it on foot while they try to come after us.”
“That’s not gonna stop them for long,” Matthew commented.
“No, but it might slow them down just enough,” Marshall said, already turning the vehicle to head for the alley’s entrance.
“Exactly!” exclaimed Eli. He leaped over to the side door and grabbed on, readying himself to throw the door open. “We’re faster than them, and if they’re all trying to get down the alley after us they’re just gonna bottleneck themselves and come even slower, like bandwidth on a network.” He let out a weirdly maniacal laugh. “And they said IT would never have real world applications.”
Nobody bothered to ask who “they” were.
Marshall drew the vehicle so close to the walls that a horrible screech was let loose, ripping into their ears and making them cringe, but he made no attempt to stop it. He slammed on the brakes and the car drew to a halt just as the side view mirror hit the wall on the far side of the alley. “That’s going to have to be good enough!” he called, but Eli was way ahead of him. Before the older man had even finished speaking he had thrown open the door and jumped out of the vehicle.
He lit into a full tilt run, just trusting that his companions had the foresight to do the same. He reached the end of the alley where it split off left and right and came to a skidding stop. He turned around and saw that the others were not far behind him. As he had hoped, the zombies were trying to get through into the alley, and the vehicle was visibly rocking under the force of their sheer numbers. Some of the creatures had already begun crawling under it, and some others were even climbing over the top, but none had come completely into the alley way yet.
As his companions approached, Eli motioned to his right. “There’s some cars parked over here. Maybe we can steal one.” They hurried down the short path to the parking lot. The lot was surrounded on three sides by buildings, and the fourth side let directly out onto a street. On the far side of the street was a small park that gave them a view for a couple blocks outside, and thankfully there was not a single zombie in sight.
“Everybody pick a car,” said Marshall.
There were nine cars total in the small lot, which made it fairly crowded for its size, but still easily manageable. Eli selected a small blue car and yanked at the handle. Locked. With a grunt of annoyance he turned and headed for a bright yellow sports car. It would be an extremely cramped fit, but its sheer horsepower might be exactly what they needed. He pulled at the door handle. Also locked. He punched the car in annoyance and instantly regretted it. The metal exterior of the car did not yield in the slightest to the blow, and his hand throbbed with pain as he pulled it away. He shook it off and tried to ignore the ache.
A silver blue truck that Daniel attempted to open let out a shrill alarm, and every single one of them winced and froze. They exchanged glances of annoyance, realizing that not only had this proven a futile effort, but now the alarm might attract the creatures.
“Let’s go,” Marshall said, motioning toward the far end of the park. “Maybe we can still outrun them.”
There were no arguments and the group took off as one, running full force for the far side of the park. By the time they crossed, zombies could already be seen pouring out of the side streets, entering into the area. Time was running short and they still had no plan. That’s when Eli noticed something.
“The police station!” He shouted suddenly, pointing excitedly at the building.
The others looked confused. “I don’t think anyone’s there to help us,” Daniel replied.
Eli was shaking his head before the other man finished. “Their cars! They leave the keys out in the open, easy to get to, so that they can be used in an emergency.”
“Well this sure as hell is an emergency,” Devin said, nodding his head in understanding.
Without another word they changed direction and headed for the station. The front doors were unlocked, and so they burst through them, slamming them shut behind them.
“The desks!” Marshall said, indicating the nearest two work stations.
Devin and Eli grabbed either side of one, while Daniel and Matthew did the same to the other, and they moved the desks in front of the doors. Marshall was hunting for the keys before they even finished. Near the back door on the wall was a plaque covered in key rings. Marshall frantically looked over the labels above each ring.
“This must be it!” he called to the others. They hurried over as Marshall pulled down three keys. He kept one and tossed the others to Daniel and Eli. “Probably gonna need to take three cars, since we don’t want anybody locked into the back.”
“Hey, check this out!”
They all turned to see Devin pulling open a door and reaching inside a room. He pulled out a shot gun, and held it up in the air triumphantly. “Weaponry,” he said, smiling wickedly.
He tossed it to Matthew, followed closely by a box of shells. He then followed suit for each person in the room. Last was Eli, who caught his shotgun by the barrel, holding it away from him with one hand, and stared at it quizzically. He turned and looked to the others, and then at Devin.
“I… um, I don’t know how to use this,” he admitted sheepishly.
“You’ve never handled a gun before?” Devin asked, as though the mere idea was appalling. He had not yet thrown Eli some ammo, and when Eli shook his head “no” in response to the question, he tossed the box of shells onto the nearest desk and let out a frustrated sigh. “Fine. Just leave it then. We don’t have time to teach you.”
The others were busy loading up their guns and storing the extra shells. Eli watched them with some annoyance, feeling suddenly inadequate. He nervously shifted his hold on his baseball bat and felt rather like a child among men.
Devin moved to the back door, his M4 raised upward, pointed toward the ceiling. “I’ll take point,” he said. “The rest of you, just watch where you’re pointing those things.” He shot a glance at Eli and frowned. “I guess you should go last.” With that he opened the door a crack and peaked out, looking around for any sign of trouble. The lot outside appeared to be clear, so he closed the door again and looked to the others. “All right, there’s a line of cars right outside. Let’s just get to the vehicles and get out of here as fast as we can.”
Without another word he pushed the door open and headed outside. Marshall followed close on his heels, then Daniel, and then Matthew. Eli took a deep breath to steady himself, and then headed for the door as well. Just as he was about to reach it, he heard the roar of a shotgun, and then some shouting. He stepped outside as another blast from a shotgun went off, and saw the others running back toward him. “Inside!” Matthew was shouting to him. “Inside! Back! Go!”
Eli practically tripped over himself as he hurried back into the station. He had barely crossed back through the doorway before the others came bursting in behind him. Devin, who came through last, slammed the door shut behind him, and then quickly knocked over a nearby metal cabinet to block it.
“The desk!” Matthew shouted, motioning to the nearest one. He and Daniel lifted it and shoved it into place on top of the upturned filing cabinet.
“What the hell is going on?” Eli demanded. “Why are you blocking our only exit?”
“They’re already out there,” Devin explained. “They were already in the parking lot, and more of them were pouring out from around the side of the building.”
“We needed to get to those cars,” Eli argued. “Now we’re trapped inside of a building with nowhere to run.”
As if to accentuate his point, a loud crash roared out from the area of the front door. They all turned to see a zombie arm flailing through the broken window pane on one of the front doors.
“And they’re gonna be in here any minute.”