Slowly, but methodically, I tie the fabric together, using the rhythm of the thud, skritches as a guide. Finally, I have it connected to the bed frame and am ready to attempt rappelling from my hotel room. Only thing left to do is bust a hole in this window. Well, almost the only thing.
I load up my suitcase. It’s probably weird to worry about these things now. All I have is a few changes of clothing, some notepads, a laptop, and the toiletries from the bathroom. Yet, with the end times finally being here, I can’t help but think anything might serve as some use somewhere along the way. I’m probably not thinking straight, but I use that same reasoning in my decision to include the room’s alarm clock, hair dryer, and towels in my packing.
I slide the rolling bag over next to the window. Next I grab the ironing board and prop it next to my bag. No clue how this will serve of any use either, but once again, I’ll take anything I can get. Maybe I could use it as a shield or something? The iron itself is, of course, bolted to the wall.
I take a last glance around the room. In the hunt to find anything else not be bolted down, I notice my phone charger. I laugh and curse myself at the same time. Of course, the one time I actually remember to grab my charger is the one time in which I’ll probably never need it again. I pack it into my bag anyways.
I return to the closet and dress for the impending wintry blast. My hat, scarf, gloves, jacket, and boots all happen to be black. This wasn’t a fashion choice, just due to mere coincidence in what I’ve come across while shopping. Maybe I’ll get lucky and it will work as camouflage against the building. Anything which could keep those bumbling monsters from noticing me as I dangle is a plus.
I take another deep breath and remind myself that this is all necessary. I think of my daughter to gird myself against the impossible task I’m up against. It’s weird enough to think that the world is full of zombies. It’s even weirder to think I’m about to jump out of a third story window onto the back of a truck.
Alright, I guess I’m as ready as I’ll ever be. I rush to the miniature closet to pick up one more item I noticed during my scrounging for supplies, the room safe. With a great deal of effort, I manage to lift one end of the heavy item up off the floor and drag it beside the rest of my gear.
I bend my knees and strain to lift the safe from the ground and just barely manage to swing it up above my head. Groaning under the weight, I walk the two steps between me and the window.
“Here goes nothing,” I say without reason as I heft the heavy metal block at the only thing separating me from the outside world.
The breaking window made much more noise than I had hoped it would. The tempo of thud, skritches increase outside my door. The cold air rushes in, instantly burning my face with its freezing wind. I take a glance out the window to see I have garnered the attention of all the surrounding undead. No time for indecision.
I throw my rolling bag and the ironing board out the window. I don’t even take the time to see if they make it before I grab hold of the linen life line. Allowing a moment for yet one more reassuring breath, I climb out onto the ledge.
I wrap the end of the rope around my wrists four times, wrapping them so tightly that my hands turn white. I jump straight out, hoping to get myself as much distance between me and the side of the building as I begin my fall to the ground. Halfway down, I swing back against the side of the building, hitting my shoulder hard against the cold steel wall.
I bounce three times, barely keeping my grip on the sheets, before I finally regain my orientation. I take a moment to look below me and see my rolling bag made the fall without any noticeable damage. The ironing board, on the other hand, did not. It looks a lot more like a set of spikes waiting to impale me. I question why I thought I would ever need to bring it along in the first place.
Grruuung! I hear from below. I’m beginning to gain an audience. These ugly suckers aren’t fast, but they’re coming in faster than I’d like, and the crowd is growing. The wind rushes underneath me and sends shivers down my spine.
The moving van is only a few steps to my left. I get my feet up against the wall and push myself out. As I swing back to the wall, I kick my legs to make my swings parallel to the building and over the top of the intended landing zone. Once I’ve reached a point in which I don’t believe I’ll be able to swing any closer, I let go. I try my best to rotate my body as I fall in order to land on my backside, instead of any of the more injurable parts of my person.
BAM! is the sound my body makes as it hits the roof of the van. I roll upon impact, causing me to fall off the target, but managing to dissipate the force of landing. Somewhat.
My body makes a wet thud noise as I hit the road and I’m to my feet before I even feel the pain. I look around to make sure none of the walking dead are about to latch onto me. Luckily, I’ve still got about 8 feet to the nearest one of them, but he quickens his shuffling to my location as he spots his new mobile feast.
I find myself frozen, now that I’m getting my first good look at these bad late night movie rejects. Actually, he looks a lot better than that. In fact, he looks almost, well, alive. His skin has taken on a pale green pallor. His eyes are a little more sunken into his face than I would prefer. Otherwise, he looks a lot like any other idiot who would be out walking in shorts and a t-shirt on a sub-zero night like tonight.
That is, until he trips over the remains of the hotel’s ironing board. He pierces himself through the chest with one of the destroyed aluminum limbs. I cringe as a geyser of blood spurts out of his back and onto the ground surrounding him.
I toddle toward him. Maybe I overreacted. Maybe this whole zombie thing was a misunderstanding and he’s seriously injured. Maybe I should call an ambulance.
He doesn’t move. I’m unaware of anything else at this point but the poor man in front of me who has now got a hole where his heart should be. As I tentatively near him, I hear a grunt from behind me. I spin on my heel and find a little girl, not much older than Zelda, now standing between me and the van. She’s wearing pink pajamas covered in adorable monkeys. In her hand she is holding tight to a stuffed monkey toy.
“Don’t worry, sweetie,” I whisper. “We’ll just call an ambulance and I’m sure this man will be okay.”
Her face has, until now, been turned to the ground. As she turns to look at me, I can’t help but notice a considerable chunk of the lower half of her right cheek is completely missing. Her eyes focus on me and she bares her teeth. A frightening hissing noise escapes from her chest causing me to trip over myself as I back away. My foot hits something behind me, which I turn to look and see is the head of the man I intended to help. As soon as I look, the same hiss sounds from within him as well and his head quickly turns to look at me, his sunken eyes grinning with delight.
I scream as he grabs my ankle and, with great strength, pulls it toward his mouth. The girl is now only a foot away from me. The hissing noise begins sounding from everywhere around me. The devilish eyes of a hundred faces are all now focused on me. They all shuffle closer as they wheeze their predatory hiss.
I can’t get the face of that little girl out of my mind. It probably doesn’t help that it’s the face currently staring into my soul as though I were nothing more than a juicy steak. Once again my mind turns to Zelda. Could this be happening to her? Could she truly become one of these hissing beasts?
My resolve returns once again at the thought of my daughter. No matter how afraid I am, I know there is just one thing I have to do. Find Zelda and make sure she’s okay.
A rattling noise fills the air, not unlike that of a rattlesnake. The sound tears into my soul, attempting to stop me in my newfound strength. I close my eyes and picture Zelda before finally forcing the foot that is currently in death’s grip firmly to the ground. I lift my other foot and stomp down onto the wrist below me. With a sickening crack! my foot is released and I stumble forward, bouncing off the monkey-covered evil as I do. I’m surrounded now, the rattling getting louder as the horde grows closer. The only sanctuary left for me is the interior of the moving van. I grab my bag and pull heartily on the door handle, hoping against hope that someone had forgotten to lock it.
It gives and swings out heavily. I scurry onto the seat and reach out to pull the door shut. The little girl’s face appears in the bottom corner of the doorway. Her mouth opens wide with a blood curdling scream. I see more heads turn in my direction. The hissing gets louder until finally the girl’s scream is joined by others. The noise is overwhelming.
I look upon the once-adorable face of the undead in front of me. My face tightens as I say, “Sorry, sweetheart.” Feeling heavy in the pit of my stomach, I kick her right in the forehead, sending her out of the way of the door, which I rush to slam shut.
Thud, chink, thud.
The noise outside is muffled through the steel exterior of this monstrous vehicle. This helps my nerves slightly, but the stifled hisses and screams are joined by a steady pounding against the outside of the vehicle. It’s safe to say I’m fully surrounded. There’s no chance of me getting out of here alive unless something else grabs their attention. Or if I’m somehow lucky enough that someone decided to leave the keys in the truck.
Thud, chink, thud.
I feel under the driver’s side seat, hoping to find a keychain there. Nothing. I open the sun shade on both the passenger and driver’s sides. Still nothing. Glove compartment? Nope. I feel between the seat cushions and still find nothing, except a sticky pen.
Thud, thud, thud, chink, thud, thud.
After all that work getting out of the hotel alive, I’m stuck here in this metal box to live out the last of my days.
Thud, chink, thud.
I lay down across the seat, my head on the passenger side. I guess I’ll have to get used to this. Would have been more comfortable just staying in the hotel though.
Thud, chink, thud.
Hell, at least in the hotel I had water and a mini-bar.
Dammit! Why the hell didn’t I empty the minibar? I had half a hoagie from lunch in there!
Thud, chink, thud, thud.
Thud, thud, chink, thud.
Thud, chink, thud.
That’s not coming from outside. That’s…
I glance across the cabin of the vehicle and see them swinging as the vehicle sways. There they are, right in the one spot I would have never thought to have looked. Keys striking keys. That beautiful chink noise is music to my ears. Hanging from the bottom of them, a hula girl keychain smiles back at me, as if saying, “Is this what you’re looking for?”
A large smile crosses my face. Finally, something is working in my favor. I thank God as I realize how impossible it is that I found an unlocked car. In Chicago. With the keys still in the ignition.
“Now let’s just hope there’s some gas in this sucker,” I say as I cross the bench and sit in front of the wheel. I close my eyes and say a little unspoken prayer as I reach up to grab and turn the keys.
Crrrrr, the engine whines.
Another attempt, crrrrrr…. Crrrrrrrrrrrr grung gung gun gung gung gung gunnnnnnnnn.
“Thank God!” I say hoarsely. Apparently horror movies were right. Car engines never start the first time when up against a horde of angry monsters.
I look out the side view mirror to see my way back, only to find the area behind me flooded with this new zombie menace.
“Here goes nothing,” I cringe as I slide the shifter into R while slamming my foot down on the gas pedal. The wheels skid against the icy asphalt before finally grabbing hold and slamming against the wall of bodies behind me.
The van crawls in reverse as it struggles against the surprisingly strong forces of dead surrounding the vehicle’s exterior.
Finally, I hear a slam as the van presumably hits another vehicle behind me. I turn the wheel to the left and slide the shifter into D, deciding to flip the headlights on as I do. As the lights come on, a look of complacency crosses the faces of the blank bodies in front of me. After a brief moment of questioning, I floor the gas pedal.
The empty faces of a dozen undead freaks disappear under the van and I move forward over them. Within seconds, I’m heading out of the parking lot and freed from the immediate terror.
Fishtailing out onto the road, the van begins tipping onto its side. Struggling against the enormous weight of the vehicle, I barely manage to stop the skid. The wheels slam against the ground and the hotel disappears into the distance.
Go to Chapter Four