A sharp pain fills my head. My right cheek feels hot. A second, similar, pain erupts violently from my left cheek. I open my eyes, noticing my butt feeling cold against the ground, to find the frightened and angry face of Guy above me. I’m suddenly aware of my face feeling wet and I notice Stormy at my side licking me urgently.
“Goddammit!” he yells. “No reason a little tap like that should knock a guy like you out cold. Now hurry up and get to your feet! We’ve gotta get this fuel into the van. And fast! I don’t know how much longer I can hold these things off for.”
He turns quickly and bolts off. I slowly track his movement and hazily notice him doing something rather violent looking. Stormy sits on his hindquarters and stares at me while whimpering. Guy runs back to my side.
“Come on, kid!” Guy says as he puts his hands under my arms and lifts me to my feet. “This is no time to get useless on me!”
He runs off again, this time I’m able to track him better. He has a tire iron in his fist, which he swings with great precision in front of him. I watch in mild confusion as the weapon rips through the rotten face of what appears to be an ex-businessman. Everything comes rushing back to my mushy brain and I quickly return to action.
A light yelp escapes my lungs at the re-recognition of reality. I look down at my feet and see I am standing right next to the plastic shelf full of gas. I also find that I’m now next to the gas tank of the van.
I bend over and pick up the hose cautiously, my mind still not quite latching on to what needs to be done. Finally, I begin shoving it into the already opened gas tank before I realize that I’ll have to use that end to create the suction. The other issue I’ve got is that I’ll need to hold the shelf above my head if I could ever hope for it to siphon. And, of course, the stupid gas tank is nowhere near anything to prop the shelf up on.
I look around to see if I can find anything which might help make this process possible.
“What the hell are you doing?” Guy yells over at me as he kicks one zombie down on the ground while caving in the skull of another. I quickly look away, feeling a gurgling in my stomach at the sight of the action. “Get the damned gas into the damned van already!”
“I’m working on it!” I yell in return as I run to the back of the truck. Jumping into the cargo area, I grab the first item I find tall enough to hold the gas shelf up high, the shelf’s plastic frame. I struggle to remove it from under the items which had fallen on top of it and throw it out the back.
Returning to the asphalt, I notice one of the zombies has made it past Guy’s cleared circle and is standing just beyond the shelf frame. She also happens to be eyeing me up like a group of middle-aged men view the seafood buffet when the new tray of crab legs comes out.
A light growl escapes its chest and its gut turns bright red. I hazard a look over to Guy to see if he’s noticed the danger I’m in. He’s in the midst of being overrun by another six of these things, hardly a time to worry him about the one I’ve got. Plus, this one’s not so big. Looks like it used to be a yoga mom before, well, you know, before this.
It jumps forward and trips on the shelving unit at its feet, causing it to flail wildly below me, just inches away from my ankles. I jump back and look down at its empty eyes, now staring up at me as its disgusting hands reach out toward me. I lift my foot, close my eyes, and stomp down onto the ground, hearing an all-too-disturbing liquidy crunch as I do. Without opening my eyes, I immediately vomit all over my chest just from the sound of it.
I freeze. Suddenly I’m reminded of the man who had attacked us before Guy laid me flat. The heaviness of it all hits me like a lead brick. I don’t know what’s going on with these folks and now I’m directly responsible for the end of two of them.
Cautiously, I look down at the woman at my feet, feeling a tear tugging at my eyes. Maybe she could have been cured. Maybe she wasn’t going to eat me, but was just looking for help. Maybe—
A loud scream erupts from below me as the ex-yoga-mom twitches back to life. Her body twists to face me and her arms return to flailing. Without thinking, I stomp at her once again, as though she were nothing more than a cockroach. She instantly stops moving.
Without another thought, I step forward, looking to the distance to avoid seeing my foot’s handiwork. Grabbing the now-somewhat-mangled shelf, I return to the gas tank. Guy runs to my side, covered in what appears to be blood and struggling to catch his breath.
“What,” he gasps, “the hell…is taking you…so long?” At the last word, he falls down beside the van in exhaustion.
“Sorry,” I say softly. “Had to get something to hold the shelf up so it’ll siphon. And, well, never mind,” I stop myself, realizing he won’t care about the one zombie I had to deal with. I also would rather not think about it and risk breaking down so close to completing this task.
“Get it done,” he growls at me as his breath rattles through the air.
“Yeah,” I answer as I place the shelving unit next to the gas tank and work to replace all the pieces into their appropriate holes. Although much more difficult than I would have guessed, I manage to get the thing back together. I lift the filled container and carefully place it on top, spilling more than enough of it on my pants as I do.
Once everything appears steady, I grab the hose, which is still hanging out of the gas tank. One end goes into the amber liquid, the other to my lips. The smell of gasoline and vomit causes my stomach to threaten additional revolt.
I resolve myself to complete the task, recognizing my dislike for the alternative option. Death by cannibalism doesn’t fit on my list of dream deaths. I close my eyes and pull air through the tube. The taste is even worse than the smell, causing me to sputter as I remove the hose from my lips and place it into the gas tank.
The sound comes from the distance, but is loud and disturbing. I look down at Guy, who makes a similar noise of frustration as he attempts to get to his feet and look toward the source of the sound.
“Now what the hell do you think that could be?”
“I don’t know,” I answer. “But I don’t think I want to be around to find out.”
“Good call, kid,” he says as he steadies himself against the truck. “You mind taking the wheel for a while, I’m downright bushed.”
“No problem, Guy,” I answer as I run for the driver’s side door, leaving the gas to finish siphoning on its own. We won’t get nearly as much gas out of the endeavor as we would have if we were to stay behind and help it along. However, the screams coming from down the road cause me to think we’ll have to make do.
I slam the door shut behind me and turn the key, causing the vehicle to roar to life just as Guy arrives at the passenger side door. Stormy jumps into his lap as he sits. The little puppy whines uncontrollably.
“What’s the hold up, kid?” Guy asks urgently. The anxiety builds in his voice with each word.
I’m frozen in place. All I can think about is the terrifying noises which appear to be getting closer. The face of the ex-yoga-mom appears in my mind’s eye as well, causing me to become all the more petrified at what’s going on around me.
“Wake up!” Guy says as he slaps me across the face.
The noise sounds again, the screams with it getting louder. The vehicle rumbles beneath us like a mild earthquake. I wake myself from my fear-induced stupor, put the car into D, and slam on the gas pedal. The wheels spin out in the slick slush before finally gaining traction and the large vehicle lunges forward.
A glance in the side-view mirror shows a hazy glimpse of a large red glow now filling the area we had just left behind.
Guy lets out a loud sigh before finally breaking the unintended silence between us. “What the hell was that?” he asks in a broken staccato which only serves to accentuate how tired he is.
“I’m sorry, Guy. I know I could have worked faster, I just—“
“Oh,” I say softly, not knowing how to respond to such a question.
“Is this a nightmare?” he asks himself.
“If it is, we’re both having the same one.”
“Damn,” I agree.
Go to Chapter Eleven