Chapter 22: Dead Alive
Eli stepped forward, and kicked the emergency exit door.
He didn’t quite manage to kick high enough to push down the bar, so he was forced to step back and regain his balance. He tried a second time, and this time he had better luck. He managed to push down the handle and continued through with the force of his kick to send the door flying open.
He stepped out into the brightness of the early morning sunlight.
He had spent the night in the pitch black darkness of the store, hunkered down in the corner of a tiny office he had managed to find and waiting for something to reach through the darkness and get him. That something had never come, and so had awoken in the morning to find himself in a second-hand shop.
Amazed at his dumb luck, he had immediately set about gathering up supplies from the various sundry inside the store. His best find was a large canvas bag with a strong leather strap that allowed him to sling it over his shoulder. Into this he put all his food and water that he already had, and the various weapons and useful items he managed to find.
While he had slept, the area around the building had filled up with the undead, almost as though they knew he was in there and just waiting for him to come out. This time, however, things were different. This time, Eli was ready for them.
In one hand, he held a hockey stick, in the other, a replica samurai sword. He didn’t have much faith in either weapon – especially the sword after what had happened in his apartment – but he figured they were still probably the best weapons he had found.
Though he had seen the zombies from up on the second floor, he had not realized just how thick of a mass was waiting for him until this moment. Somehow being down in the thick of it made all the difference in the world. Almost immediately the zombies noticed him, and began stumbling toward him.
Eli did not hesitate, and as the zombies approached he came out slashing. With a deft swing of his left arm the hockey stick cracked open a zombie skull and sent the creature tumbling to the ground. He swung his right arm and it had a similar effect, the blade being clearly dulled, and it broke the jawbone of one of the creatures. That zombie fell into the next nearest zombie, and the two tangled up and fell to the ground together. Eli swung his arms again and again, knocking over or back a zombie with each blow until, annoyingly, the sword cracked and shattered, breaking up into a harmless spray of shiny metal bits. Eli let out a cry of frustration and threw the now useless handle randomly into the oncoming crowd of zombies.
He took the hockey stick in both hands and swung it with full force in a wide arc. These blows had enough strength to knock over several zombies at once. Before long Eli had managed to clear a bit of space around himself, but he could also feel the wood splintering from the sheer force of the blows. When he felt comfortable that there was enough room around him to go for another weapon, Eli reached back and grabbed the first item he could find. Pulling it forth, he quickly discovered it was a crowbar. He frowned at it and considered going for a different weapon, but the numerous zombies closing in around him quickly changed his mind.
He shifted his hold to the bottom of the crowbar, to bring as much force from it as he could into play, and swung it with all his might at the nearest zombie. The creature’s skull practically imploded under the force of the blow. The zombie immediately stopped moving and fell to the ground, now finally completely lifeless. Eli’s eyes rounded out with surprise, but he did not have much time to stop and think about it. With renewed ferocity, he went back to swinging with a more wild abandon for the skulls of any nearby zombie, pushing forward as he did toward a metaphorical oasis he could spot not too far away. The crowbar proved surprisingly effective, knocking over or flat out killing zombie after zombie after only a single blow each time. Within a mere matter of minutes he broke free of the horde and stepped out into the clearing.
It did not prove to be quite the oasis he had hoped for, however. Though it was a relatively clear space in comparison, the creatures continued to follow him whichever direction he went, and they were quickly closing in on the space. Eli spun in a quick semi-circle, looking for a way out. His options were limited: he could simply continue fighting his way down the street, or fight his way down a nearby alleyway.
Eli almost dismissed the alleyway entirely, but something made him pause and turn back to face it. On the far side of the alley he could see an iron gate, and on the other side of the gate he could make out lots of green grass and gravestones.
If he could get over the railing, he could put a physical barrier between himself and the zombies while still allowing himself some space to roam. It might only prove a temporary reprieve, but it would at least give him a chance to have a look around. It might even give him the chance to make his own decision on where to start up his journey again.
If he made it.
Eli took a step back and tucked the hockey stick under his armpit, holding the flat end out like the tip of a battering ram. Taking a deep breath, he charged forward and into the mass of zombies awaiting him.
The hockey stick didn’t really work all that well as a battering ram. Almost immediately he was forced to slow down and simply start attempting to swat the zombies to knock them off to the side. He ran into a zombie head on and the head of the stick snapped off. With a roar of annoyance Eli jabbed the broken edge of the stick into the same zombie, impaling it. He then continued charging forward as best as he could, using the stuck zombie as a slightly more effective battering ram. The weight of the creature proved too much for him, though, and after shoving the zombie into another one he simply let go of the stick and let the two creatures fall to the ground.
With a huff of exertion he continued running forward. The move had cleared just enough space for him to make a mad dash to the cemetery gate. He reached it and leaped into the air, swinging the crowbar up and over his head. The hooked end caught onto the very top of the fence, and somehow, impossibly, Eli managed to keep his grip on the crowbar. He hung there, swinging back and forth a little, laughing triumphantly.
“Crowbars!” He called out to no one in particular, “Who knew?” He was giddy and ecstatic with the usefulness of the small object he had almost ignored. Without knowing why, he found his laugh becoming a little maniacal as he hung there.
With a great grunt of effort, he pulled himself up to grab onto the bar with his other hand. For a brief moment, he had a flashback to the previous week, the day that all of this had started for him, when he had attempted to climb a similar iron-rung fence to get to the pool area in his apartment complex. On that day, it had been nearly impossible for him to climb that fence. Though hunger and exhaustion made his limbs weak in this moment, he still found climbing this fence surprisingly easier to manage. The difference a single week could make.
Zombies continued closing in on him as he pulled himself up. At the top of the fence, two bars ran along parallel across the length of the fence. Once he had pulled himself up high enough, Eli jammed one foot into this gap, and then used that leverage to swing his other foot up and over the fence to hook it in to another such gap from the other side of the fence.
Right then, one of the zombies reached up and grabbed his foot that was still outside. Eli yelped and tried to jump, but both of his feet were stuck. He twisted and lost his balance, which nearly sent him tumbling back down into the mass of zombies. He kicked his foot around until he managed to free it from the bars in the gate. The zombie, however, proved to be significantly less cooperative. The creature held on tight to his shoe and refused to let go. Eli kept kicking, and between the zombie’s pulling and Eli’s thrashing about, the shoe suddenly came right off and Eli’s foot slipped free.
The sudden lack of resistance sent Eli falling backwards. He lost all hold on the gate and fell flat on his back on the ground inside the graveyard. He slammed down hard enough to get the breath knocked out of him, and his vision swam through an inky blackness. For a moment he was completely out of it. As he started to come to and his vision began to clear, he noticed the ground was dropping away below him.
With a start, he realized he was being lifted up. He kicked his arms and legs, but they met no resistance. As his senses began returning to him, he discovered that it wasn’t him but rather his bag that the zombies on the other side of the gate had grabbed on to, and they were pulling on it to reel him in.
Eli squirmed about until he managed to slip free of the bag’s strap. He collapsed back to the ground and attempted to roll away. He could feel the hands of the undead grabbing for him and tearing at his shirt and pants. He managed to place himself far enough out of their reach and turned around to stare at his narrow escape.
Zombies swarmed the fence, pressing themselves up against the bars, their mouths masticating hungrily at the empty air and their hands continuously grabbing for him. The fence was already starting to shake from the sheer force of bodies pressed up against it.
His bag lay just inside the bars, but in order to grab it he would have to risk being grabbed by at least half a dozen zombie hands. His shoe and crowbar were nowhere to be seen.
He swore under his breath. His best hope now was to go ahead and continue with his original plan of using the relative safety of the graveyard to try and get his bearings on the town. With any luck, he could come back later for his stuff and by then maybe the zombies would have wandered off somewhere.
With a sigh of frustration Eli turned and headed further into the cemetery.