Chapter 23: Meet me in the Graveyard
Even with it being the daytime the place was eerie. Probably that had something to do with the living dead walking around. There were zombie stories he was familiar with where the dead literally crawled up out of their graves to attack humans, though these stories were usually less common than ones where only people who died post-infection came back as zombies. Strangely enough, it had never occurred to Eli to even wonder in which type of zombie story he was living until he actually found himself in a graveyard. As he moved, he kept an eye out for any sign of graves having been dug up – from the inside or otherwise. Thankfully, none seemed to have been disturbed, so the only dead he needed to worry about were those already walking around.
He stayed near the gate and walked slowly. This was partly so he did not lose his way, and partly in the hopes that zombies would follow him to an extent and spread out along the fence line instead of continuing to push at the one spot where he had come through.
Before long he had followed the fence to the far side of the cemetery. He turned to follow the fence as it cut a right angle across the grass. As he walked, he kept a look out through the gates for any familiar sights.
Suddenly he stopped, freezing in place. He blinked a few times, as though trying to clear his vision, and then took a couple steps back to get a second look. Leaning forward and squinting, he was able to confirm what his weary mind had only distantly recognized on the first go around.
There, down an alleyway and across an empty lot, was the front of the police station where they had been captured.
Eli could hardly believe his luck. All his random maneuvering through town had somehow landed him right here, exactly where he needed to be. All he had to do was hop a fence and run about half a mile to freedom. He was no more than five minutes from safety, from their lost supplies, from a police car that could drive him back to the camp.
He reached for the fence, but then stopped. He didn’t have his bag with him, which meant he didn’t have any weapons. Which meant that the zombie infested pathway between him and the police station would prove to be a nearly impossible trek. There was no way he could fight his way there bare-fisted.
His shoulders drooped. He would have to go back for his pack. He wondered if enough of the zombies had cleared out around it.
Looking around, he grabbed up some loose twigs and made an arrow on the ground with them, pointing down the alleyway so that he could easily find it again when he got back. Then he turned and headed back the way he had come.
As he went, he crested a hill, and once again froze in place.
Below him, tucked into a little grotto, was the front entrance of a mausoleum. All around the concrete structure zombies roamed about, as though they all wanted to get inside but had forgotten why, or even what they were doing.
“Shit,” Eli hissed under his breath. He took a step back and nearly jumped out of his skin as he heard a crack. Glancing down, he saw he had stepped on a twig. He looked back up to realize that this had been just enough to turn the attention of the zombies on him.
“Shit,” he said again, louder.
He turned and ran, something that proved to be extra painful when done with only one shoe. He immediately slowed down again, realizing he did not need to keep that quick of a pace to stay ahead of the zombies. All their movements, as always, were stiff-jointed and awkward. As long as he kept up a quick pace he should stay ahead of them without worry.
He risked a glance behind himself to ensure that this was, indeed, the case. Certainly enough, pretty much the entire group had come after him, but he was at little risk of them reaching him any time soon. Taking some comfort in that, he slowed down and stumbled along on his one shoe.
He may have slowed down physically, but his mind was racing. With this group of zombies chasing him and his weapons gone, the graveyard was not proving to be quite the reprieve he had hoped. What he needed to do was lose the zombies or find somewhere else to hide until he could go back for his weapons.
After a moment, he realized he had returned to the gate that looked out onto the police station. The compulsion to make a mad dash for the station was even stronger now, but the large mass of zombies between the gate and his destination made it just far too big of a risk. So instead he turned and headed deeper into the cemetery.
The zombies continued to follow him as he changed direction, and they stumbled along and reached out for him as though they expected to be able to grab him at any given moment. Eli picked up his pace a little, looking over his shoulder to make sure he was keeping a good enough distance between himself and his posse. As he did, his shoeless foot caught on a tree root and he stumbled over it.
He hit the ground hard enough to temporarily have his senses knocked out of him. The tree had been on the top of a small rise, and without his wits about him he was unable to stop himself from rolling down the incline. He came to a stop up against a gravestone, and for a moment simply lay there wishing he had just stuffed himself into that tiny car and driven off with the others. It might have been an extremely uncomfortable squeeze for nearly an hour long drive, but at the moment he could hardly care. He was just ready to be done with all of this.
He rose to his feet, and immediately jumped up over the headstone to place it between himself and an oncoming zombie. The zombie crashed face first into the block of concrete, but still continued trying to push itself on towards Eli as though nothing had happened at all.
Eli hurried off once again on short, quick steps, as he tried to keep his shoeless foot off the ground as much as possible. Before long, he came to another corner in the gate, and once again turned to follow along beside it.
A short ways down, he came across the twisted, broken ruins of a truck. It was sticking through the front gates of the cemetery, which it had broken open. Both headlights and the front window were smashed, one of the tires was flat, and most of the front end was caved-in and crushed. One door hung wide open.
Someone, at some point, had clearly driven into the gates in an attempt to bust them open. Most likely they had been trying to get away from a group of zombies that even then were gathered around the empty vehicle, wandering aimlessly. Or that person could have been attempting to get away from the group that was currently following him. In fact, the two groups could have been one group at some point, but some had made it through the gates, while others had simply continued to mill about outside.
Standing there, letting himself catch his breath he suddenly got an idea. The mausoleum, the one he had found the zombies at, was all the way across the graveyard from his current position. If he ran fast enough, the zombies would probably lose track of him. Then he could slip inside the crypt, close the door, and try and wait them out.
The thought of spending the better part of the day inside of a crypt during a zombie apocalypse didn’t exactly fill him with enthusiasm, but as every other direction he could find only led him to more zombies it didn’t really seem as though there were any better options.
Taking a deep breath, he gathered up what strength reserves remained to him, and took off. He hurtled at top speed across the green grass and weaved through the gravestones. He did his best to ignore the fiery pain in his bare foot and barreled onward. He stumbled a couple times, but didn’t let himself slow even once the mausoleum came in sight.
Finally, Eli burst through the door and immediately collapsed to his knees. With one hand he fumbled blindly for the door until his hand gained purchase and he slammed it closed behind him. His breathing was coming in long, labored gasps and his eyes stung with sweat. Once again he was exhausted, without nourishment, and trapped in the dark.
This time, however, he was not alone, as quickly became evident as a sound launched itself out of the darkness to slam into his heart and stop it cold. The sound was short and simple, a mere two word sentence that seemed to echo on into the infinity of the darkness surrounding him.