Daddy of the Dead – Online Edition – Chapter Two

Thud, thwiff, thud, thud, thwiff.

“What the heck is that?” I mutter to myself as I jerk awake.  After a brief moment of disorientation, I realize the sound is coming from the hotel room door.

“Coming!” I yell, rolling off the bed and dredging the sleep out of my eyes.  Pulling the white robe over my body, I walk to the door.

Thud, thwiff, thud.

I glance over to find the time, but can’t see the lights of the hotel’s alarm clock.  I must have knocked it over in my sleep.

I look through the peep hole to see who could be bothering me at this time of night, but can’t see anything except darkness.

“Who is it?” I ask.

“Grung?”comes a rather guttural response.  It is followed by a quickening of the tempo of thuds with a skritch replacing the thwiffs.

“Hello?” I ask, pressing my cheek against the door.  I’m not sure why.

More groans in response.

Panic sets in as I come to the realization that it’s possible whoever is on the other side of this door might be hurt.

To be safe, I ensure the safety latch is still in place before I open the door.  The door pushes against me from the other side, straining against the latch as though whoever is on the other side is pressing on it with their full weight.

I feel fingers scratching at me in a futile attempt to grab my shirt.

“Are you hurt?” I yelp as panic builds within me.  “Say something!”

The constant groaning now sounds more like a series of animalistic grunts.  The change in sound causes my panic to go into overdrive.  Without thinking I press all my weight against the door in an attempt to return it to its closed position.

Grunts of pain come from the other side as I shove my shoulder against their weight.  Again and again I press into the door until I finally hear a sickening crunch and the door slams shut.  I quickly turn the deadbolt and sigh at the sound of the lock clicking into place.

I fall to the floor, feeling exhausted from fear and exertion.  My heart races as I work through what just happened.  My hands fall to my side and my right hand lands on something cold and slimy.

I jump to my feet and run to the nightstand.  I flick the light switch off and on several times before I realize the lights aren’t coming on.  The storm must have knocked out the power.  Reacting quickly, I find my phone and press the button on the side, causing it to fill the room with a faint glow.

Tip-toeing toward the door, I point the face of my phone in the direction of the floor.

I stop in horror as I see what had caused me to jump.  A gray-skinned hand, ending just past the wrist and covered in sores and blood, lies limply on the floor.  I let out an audible yelp and lose my footing as I back away from the disgusting sight.  My eyes refuse to leave the horrific item while my body tries to gain distance.

After a moment of terror, I laugh at myself for my immediate response, realizing what had just played out.  I’ve heard about pranking the new guy at these sales conventions.  I can’t believe I’m one of the idiots who fell for it.

“Alright guys,” I call out, “you got me.”  I walk toward the door.

‘That’s quite the prop,’ I think as I near the item which nearly caused me to wet myself.  It looks absolutely real.

And gross.  I lean over to pick it up, figuring I should return it to whomever is on the other side of the door so they can go on and prank the next guy.  Maybe it’ll be Petersen.  I’d love to get in on helping prank that guy.

Jeez, this thing feels real too.  I mean, it’s cold, but the skin doesn’t feel like plastic at all.  Maybe it’s some sort of rubber?  I hold my phone up next to it to get a better look just as the pinky finger twitches.

“Shit!” I yell, dropping the hand in response.  “What the hell, guys?!  Smithy?  Is that you out there?”  I know the thing must have some sort of mechanical device inside of it, but holy crap did that get me good.  I’ve got to hand it to them.

I reach down again to pick up the hand as it leaps toward my ankle and clamps down.  I kick at the thing roughly, breaking several fingers off as I remove it from my leg.

I run to the far side of the room near the window.  I have no idea what’s going on here, but even if it is a prank, I’ve decided that I don’t want to be a part of it.  I open the curtains to try to let some light in and take a quick glance out the window.  Enormous floating flakes fill the air; falling to the ground and wrapping the earth in a coat of white.

In the dim visible moonlight, I see hundreds of people standing around in the parking lot.  Many of them have their faces turned to the sky.  In the distance I see the lights of emergency vehicles flashing.  A lot of them.

Thud, skritch, thud, skritch.

I look back at the hand which is now visible in the moonlight from the open window.  The sight of broken bones is obvious even from this distance.  But what really gets me is the liquid that appears to be oozing out of it.  If it’s a toy, it’s an incredibly convincing replica.  Just looking at it causes me to gag.

Thud, skritch, thud, skritch.

I creep past the hand and enter the bathroom.  I hastily remove one of the towels from their spot above the toilet.  Unfolding the towel, I return to the main room.  From the bathroom doorway, I cast the towel toward the hand.  It lands perfectly on top.  I allow myself a quiet cheer.

Thud, skritch, thud, skritch.

As quickly as possible, I leap on top of the hand and wrap it with the soft white cotton.  Jumping to my feet, I rush to the nearby dresser, open a drawer, and shove it inside.  I slam the drawer shut and finally allow myself to breathe once again.  A short self-deprecating laugh escapes my mouth.

Thud, skritch, thud, skritch.

“Okay, guys,” I shout.  “Funny stuff,” I laugh again.  “You got me.”

Thud, skritch, thud, skritch.

“Seriously, you got me, who are we going after next?  If you’re going after Petersen, I want–”

A low growl comes from outside the door, not sounding like anything I’ve ever heard come from a human before.  Again I find myself jumping in surprise.

I return to the window and look out as a way to ignore the continuing annoyance coming from my coworkers outside.  Maybe if I ignore them they’ll go away.

I can’t help but wonder what’s caused all the activity off in the distance.  And why are so many people standing around outside during this swirling blizzard.  The way those flakes are shooting around, I certainly wouldn’t want to be out there.

On the far side of the building, I can just make out something moving along the exterior walls.  It’s a person, climbing through their window to the outside of the hotel.

With perplexed amusement, I watch as the man dangles outside of one of the second story windows.  From the way he’s flailing, I’d guess he’s changed his mind and is trying to get back in.  I consider calling the front desk to alert them to the trouble.  Of course, there’s no real danger involved since he’s got such a short fall to the ground.  I decide, instead, to see how this plays out.

Thud, skritch, thud, skritch.

He apparently comes to the same conclusion I did or just loses his grip.  Either way, I chuckle as I watch him land hard on what I’m guessing is some pretty darn cold pavement.  The limp he showcases as he jumps to his feet and begins running tells me I’m probably right.  Looks like I’m not the only person interested by his activities.  A few of the people standing around out there start moving toward him.

Thud, skritch, thud, skritch.

I laugh to myself when the man slips on an icy patch and lands directly on his ass.  The man slips several more times in his attempt to return to his feet.  I see three more people rushing to his side, apparently feeling more hospitable than me.

Thud, skritch, thud, skritch.

Wait.  The swirling snow blocks my vision, making it hard to be sure, but it looks like all three of the people who came to help him are now piled on top of him.  All I can see now is a blur of flailing limbs.  I think I can just make out the sound of someone screaming.

Thud, skritch, thud, skritch.

Thud, skritch, thud, skritch.

Thud, skritch, thud, skritch.

I gasp in horror as the three people finally remove themselves from him a mere two minutes later.  He’s no longer moving.  A growing circle of red is now coloring the fresh snow around him.  Just as he comes back into view I see many more of the people out there noticing his immobile body and converging on his location

Thud, skritch, thud, skritch.

Thud, skritch, thud, skritch.

What the hell!

Thud, skritch, thud, skritch.

I continue watching in utter confusion as more and more bodies pile on top of what had once been a man.  It’s like something out of an old horror movie.  Everyone down there looks like they’re fighting over the remains of a man as animals might fight over the best piece of meat from a fresh kill.

Thud, skritch, thud, skritch.

My mind goes into shock.  I’m unable to turn away as the circle of bodies grows.  The flurry of activity increases.  The density of people fighting against each other is now too great to get any real idea of what’s happening.

Thud, skritch, thud, skritch.

Of course!  I’m dreaming!  I’m dreaming and these are zombies and they’re taking over the world.  Sheesh.  Finally everything makes sense.  Wonder what I was watching before sleep that brought this on?

Thud, skritch, thud, skritch.

Well, this has been fun and all, but I’m kinda thinking it might be about time to wake up.  Can’t imagine dreaming about zombies eating people outside my hotel room window will mean much for good rest.

Thud, skritch, thud, skritch.

Of course, I have absolutely no idea how one wakes up from a dream like this.

Thud, skritch.

Then again, I don’t really even know how to tell for sure that this is a dream.

Thud, skritch.

Shit.

Thud, skritch.

What if this isn’t a dream?

Thud, skritch.

What if I’m really standing in the middle of a hotel room with nothing but a thin door between me and a horde of zombies?

Thud, skritch.

What if…Zelda!

Thud, skritch, thud, skritch, thud, skritch.

Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit shit, shit shit shit!

I look at my phone and select the call log button at the bottom.  Just as I push on the smiling face of Laura Jones, I see that I’ve got absolutely no service.  Of course.  Why the hell would cell phone service continue to exist for any time at all after the zombies take over?

“The hotel phone!” I shout to no one in particular as I leap over the bed and pick up the receiver.  I hear nothing.

Not sure what I expected to happen.

Thud, skritch, thud, skritch, thud, skritch.

I look at the door.

Thud, skritch.

And then glance at the window.

Thud, skritch.

Why couldn’t they have given me a spot with a balcony?  I walk to the window and look out.

“Three stories.  Three damn stories to the ground.”

Even if I get out this window, there are still three stories between me and the asphalt.  I do have to admit something.  Given the option, death by falling seems much better than death by zombie.  At least I think so, based on what the movies have told me about them both.

The image of Zelda, sitting alone in a room like this, flashes in my mind.

“Dammit!” I yell.

Why the hell did it have to happen now?  Why not last week, or next week, or tomorrow?  Why now, when she’s so far away?

Okay, I have to get a hold of myself.  I take another deep breath.  Zelda’s the only thing that’s important.  Even if this is a dream, I don’t want to wake up thinking I was off flying rocket packs while my dream-daughter was getting eaten alive.

I take a final deep breath and look around the room.  The lighting in here is much better now that the curtains are open.  Of course, the extra lighting does very little to offer me any other ideas on how else I might be able to get out of this room and to safety.  There’s got to be some other way out of here, right?  Like in the case of an emergency or something?  Like… like a fire!

I spring to the door, remembering that every hotel I’ve ever been in has an escape path plastered to the back of it.  I see the outline of some sort of polygonal shape, but can’t quite make out how this is supposed to help me get out of this box in the darkness.  I hold my phone up next to the image and struggle to decipher the diagram in front of me.

Shit!  All this shows me is how to get to the stairs.  How the hell would that help me if the fire is right outside my door?

Thud, skritch.

“Shut up!” I yell.

Well, I think it’s pretty damned obvious that I’m not going to make it out the door.  And even if I could break through any of the walls and get into another room, I don’t see how that’s going to make things any better.  Hell, if those zombie things are in the room I break into, it could actually make things worse.

That really just leaves me with the window, right?  Or… jeez, I‘m dumb.  What about the air vents?

I run to the bathroom, holding my phone up and shining it on all of the walls, looking for the fan.  I’m feeling pretty darn smart as I think of the movies where people have used air vents to get into buildings.  Maybe I can be the first to use one to get out.

Then I find it.  Just inside the shower is a small square of a hole, covered by a thin metal vent-piece, not even big enough to fit my hand inside.

“Damn!” I yell.  I race into the main room and inspect every corner to determine what other sorts of ventilation might be available.  My heart falls as my eyes finally lock with the heating and air unit seated below the window.

So much for that idea.  What happened to the days of common forced air systems in big buildings like this?  I mean, they did have them, didn’t they?

I slowly return to the window, trying to drown out the metronomic thud, skritch which is now the soundtrack to my life as I weigh my options.

Like every other hotel I’ve ever been in, this window doesn’t appear to have any way of opening.  Probably trying to keep depressed Americans from leaping to their deaths.  It doesn’t matter.  I don’t doubt I can break it.  Something in this room has got to be capable of doing that.  And I can fit through it, assuming I make a big enough hole.

That leaves me with just a couple issues.  Issues which seem very important considering what I saw happen outside this window just minutes ago.

Number 1, which just so happens to be the one I’m the most concerned about, is getting down from here.  The side of this building seems to be almost completely flat.  The air conditioning units stick out a bit, which might give me something to hold on to, but who knows if they could hold my weight.

That, of course, brings me to number 2.  It’s freakishly cold out there.  Negative fifteen degrees when I went to sleep.  Who knows how bad it is right now.  I can safely say my fingers won’t be too happy with holding on to anything metal.

And none of that is even considering the worst of the three issues, number 3.  Breaking that window is going to make a heckuva lot of noise.  Noise which will probably sound more like a dinner bell than shattering glass to those things down there.  I’d hate to be seen as yet another frozen human-popsicle sliding down the side of the building and into their bellies.

I still think it’s better odds than facing whatever’s going on outside the door.  I’ll take space, light, and the known over a long dark hallway any day.

I rest my head against the cold glass and feel my forehead begin to numb.  There’s only been one other time in my life where I’ve felt this helpless and that ended with me having to take care of a newborn girl by myself.  That same little girl I need to get to now.

I look down to the parking lot below and see the one item I had been overlooking.  Parked almost directly below my window is what appears to be an orange moving truck.  It’s not perfect, but the roof of that thing has got to have more give to it than the frozen asphalt below it.

Thud, skritch.

Dammit! I yell to myself.  Surely I’ve seen this done in enough action movies to feel at least a little comfortable with the idea, right?

Thud, skritch.

Of course, no amount of action movies can relieve me of the vision I saw earlier.

If only there were some way I could slow my descent.

Bed sheets!

If I tie the bed sheets together, I should be able to do exactly what I need to in order to keep myself from ever having to touch the asphalt.  It might not be much, but it’s at least different enough from what that other guy did to make me feel slightly more comfortable about it.

I rush to the bed side and strip the bed I had been sleeping on of all its coverings.  Good thing I got put in a double.  Double the sheets mean double the distance.

I pull the sheets and comforter off the second bed as well, leaving them in a pile in the center of the room.  I tug on the bed to move it closer to the window. It doesn’t budge.  Jeez, this thing can’t be that heavy, can it?  I need the weight to hold the sheets.  I can get it a good five feet closer to the window, if I could just move it.

I dig my feet into the carpet and pull with all my weight.  The frame doesn’t budge.

“I don’t have time for this!” I yell to myself as I throw the mattress from its place on the bed.  I toss the box spring off next, leaving nothing in its place but the bed frame and the carpet beneath.  I see nothing keeping this thing from moving.

“Shit!” I mutter to myself, coming to the realization of what is going on.  I walk to the head of the bed frame, pulling my phone back out of my pocket and lighting it up.

They screwed the damn bed frame into the wall!

Who the hell screws a bed frame into the wall?  I can understand bolting down a TV or an alarm clock.  There are a hundred things which might be worth trying to keep people from stealing.  But a bed frame?

Alright, fine, there’s nothing I can do about that now, so there’s no reason to get worked up about it.  The plan still stays the same.  Tie the bed sheets together, tie them to the bed, break the window, and escape this place John McClane-style.  I guess I should be happy that, at the very least, the frame shouldn’t break apart under my weight.  There’s a whole wall holding it together.  Somehow that’s still only a minor comfort.

Go to Chapter Three

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