Diary of Descent: April


April 1
April Fools.

I remember when we had time for things like practical jokes and pranks. Back when my biggest concern was getting to work on time and having enough spare cash to hit up the bar. I can't tell you how many mornings I wake up hoping it's April Fools Day, or that it was all a bad dream. It still doesn't feel real. 

I've got plenty of down time now while I recover. Figured I'd update this on just what the hell happened over the last month or so.

The hospital was crawling with freaks, living and dead, roaming the outside trying to get in. I honestly don't know what was more horrific: the noise or the stench. They reeked of death and disease and their howling and roaring was like a ghoulish drone of locusts rising into the sky. It was punctuated only with gunshots from the group of survivors on the roof of the hospital. All the shooting was a great distraction and allowed me to get the propane I'd lifted from the diner underneath the firetruck, but now I had a new problem: all the monsters were heading away from the truck and closer to the hospital. An explosion might make a lot of noise and distract them, but it wouldn't thin their numbers much.

I threw open the door to the cab and noticed immediately that the truck's dome light came on. I threw my hand down on the horn and the blast erupted. Instantly a group of 10 or so turned to face me. They looked almost comical the way they craned their necks, trying to parse what they'd just heard. My fingers rattled across the dash, flipping every toggle and switch I could hit. Soon enough the siren was on, nearly deafening me, while the emergency lights illuminated the entire square. The dead walking responded with their own unearthly scream and I suddenly became aware of thousands of empty, soulless eyes trained on me. 

I sprinted down the street, weaving in between cars to try and slow down my pursuers. I didn't have enough time to turn and fire at the propane; they would be on me before I could even line up my shot, and if I couldn't hit a zombie from four feet away I didn't like my odds of hitting a propane tank under a truck from 30 yards. I fumbled with the rifle while I dodged grasping hands and open jaws. I thought of Val, stuck up there, afraid for her life, and I turned to fire. I was committed to providing a distraction to free her, even if it meant giving up my own life. I wheeled around the corner of the hospital to try and buy some time when I saw the Emergency Room entryway.

There was a group of three of them beating on the doors to the ER. I stopped and brought the rifle up to take aim, but I couldn't focus through the scope with my heart pounding and my breathing so heavy. I closed my eyes and took a breath, then refocused. I lined up the crosshairs of the scope dead center in the back of one of them. My finger tightened on the trigger and I started to squeeze.

Suddenly everything went black and I was spinning to the ground. The shot rang out wild, and I could hear the bullet embed itself in the concrete of the hospital. I fell to the ground and landed on my stomach. Almost instantly I felt a crushing weight on my back. The screams started at the same time as the blows raining down from above. One of those things had come running around the corner and floored me with a punch to the head and was on top of me, pummeling me. I couldn't shake the fog from my brain enough to try and throw it off, my arms and legs were jelly underneath me. I began crawling, slowly, towards the road to try and get away. 

My attacker wasn't deterred, and kept beating my head with her fists. I tried to turtle up and cover the back of my head as best I could but I didn't have the strength to withstand her attacks. Suddenly her screaming stopped and a sick, gurgling sound filled my ears. I felt a hot, wet mass fall on the back of my neck and shoulders. I could feel the warmth of it as it seeped through my shirt and ran down the neck of my shirt. All I could imagine was that bile working into my skin, polluting me with whatever that stuff is. I screamed and something kicked in beyond the truckload of adrenaline already in my system. I rolled and threw the freak off my back and bolted to my feet. Before the runner could recover I took the rifle and brained her with the butt of the stock again and again until she stopped moving.

I glanced up and saw more pursuers coming around the corner. The freaks at the door were headed my way too, but I could tell they were the slow-moving variety. I barreled past them and through the ER doors. Inside was chaos with corpses, many of them still moving, littering the floor and howling in the lobby. I was already furious at the thought of dying and turning into one of those monstrosities from the bitch outside vomiting down my back. I got reckless, hurling myself into a group of them blocking the stairwell doorway. We spilled through the door, a tangled mass of writhing limbs and snapping jaws, and I scrambled to find my feet. I started scrambling up the stairs on my hands and knees, kicking behind me wildly to free my boots from their grasping claws.

I rounded the stairs at the second floor and saw the door blocked with a pile of chairs and a desk. The third floor was a similar situation: a gurney and a filing cabinet blocked a door that was about 1/4 open. A twisting, gnarled mass of arms pulsated from the opening, reaching for me. As I hit the third floor I began to pant and gasp; my malnourishment was catching up to me. I slowed my pace and turned to see if I was still being pursued. Three runners were clamoring up the stairs, but their movements were so furious and erratic they could barely stay on their feet. 

I hit the fourth floor and risked a glance over the railing. They were closing in. My lungs were on fire and my legs were shaking. My eyes stung from the sweat pouring down my face. I pushed myself further using the railing for balance. I rounded the stairwell and came to the 5th floor door. My heart sank when I saw the two freaks pounding on the door. Luckily they were slow movers. They turned to face me as I pulled the pistol out. My hands were shaking so badly it took me seven rounds to put them both down with head shots.

I pulled on the door: locked. The wave of fear that washed over me was paralyzing. I couldn't believe I'd put myself in this situation again. I frantically pounded on the door and tried to wrench it free. Through the small vertical window I could see someone had chained the door to the bench on the opposite wall, making it impossible to open. A scream snapped me back to the moment and I turned around to see the three freaks who'd been chasing me up the stairs. 

I drew my pistol knowing I didn't even have enough rounds in it to take them out if I was a perfect shot, let alone accounting for my terrible aim. I pulled a screwdriver from my pack, determined to die in the process rather than let these things turn me into one of them. They charged, bouncing off each other in the process. I met the first one and brought the screwdriver down into its skull with a horrific wet "thuck" sound. Instantly the freak went into convulsions, its body going rigid. I couldn't pull the screwdriver free to try and fight the others, but the stiff with the spike in his brain was a makeshift shield. 

I struggled to keep the body between myself and my two attackers, but their frantic attacks were overwhelming me. Suddenly I could hear a different kind of screaming. It was a woman. The door was open, and there she stood with a baseball bat, along with two guys urging me to come in. I planted my feet firmly and pushed, catching the two zombies off balance and shoving them backwards and down the stairs. I threw myself through the door, sliding to a stop at their feet. One of the guys secured the door while she helped me to my feet.

"Val," I gasped, trying to find my breath, "Where's Val?"

"How the fuck does he know Valerie?" one of them replied as the chain was locked again while my friends in the stairwell hammered on the door. Before I could catch my breath and recover they'd dragged me to my feet.

"I don't know what you were planning," the woman said to me, "but you're just as fucked as the rest of us now." We headed to the emergency exit and onto the roof. There she was. She was even skinnier than the last time I'd seen her, and her tattered clothes hung loose from her frame. Our eyes met for a split second before she turned away. I followed her eyes and saw James pointing a pistol at me.

"This motherfucker," he growled, "has to die." 

The others didn't know what he was talking about. Seems James had acquired an entirely new band of misfits after leaving the first ones for dead back at the cabin. I could feel their eyes on me, waiting for something to happen. I stood frozen, afraid that the slightest move would put a bullet in my chest.

"Is he going to turn? He's covered in that shit," one of the guys noted. 

"That's not how it works," the woman who'd let me in the door responded, "we've all had that stuff on us at one point or another. It's got to get in your system somehow."

"I don't give a shit," James snarled, "he's the one who killed the group we were with before we met you. He's the one I told you about." Everyone went silent and we stood there, surrounded by chaos and howling corpses, for what felt like an eternity. 

"Val," I said softly, "I came here for Val." 

"How do you know this guy?" one of the men asked her. She only swallowed and looked down at her feet.

"I had to rescue her from him," James spat, "he was holding her hostage. He's a fucking psychopath and he's been following us ever since."

"Why?" the woman asked.

"That's not true," I said as calmly as I could manage.

"Shut the fuck up!" James hissed, and raised the gun to my forehead. I closed my eyes, expecting it all to end any second. 

"James, stop," the woman tried to soothe him, "put the gun down for a second. Let's talk about this." He turned, leveling the gun at her chest.

"Don't fucking tell me to put the gun down! You don't know this piece of shit like we do. You don't know what he'll do," James spat the words with fury. I looked to Val, waiting for her to say something. She wouldn't even make eye contact.

"I came here to help," I said, barely above a whisper.

"Yeah? Well you kinda screwed the pooch there, man," one of the other men lamented sarcastically. "Unless you've got a helicopter coming by, we're boned." 

"I came here to find out what happened to Valerie. She's my girlfriend," I stuttered as the tears started rolling down my face, "or she was." She still refused to look at me.

"Look we're all fascinated by your bullshit guys," one of the men barked, "but we're still stuck on a fucking roof."

"I can help," I said, "if you take the gun off me for a second I can distract those things and get us time to get out of here." James started to say something but the woman in the group cut him off.

"Look, we get out of here and you two idiots can hash this out or go your own separate ways, I don't care. What's the plan?" She watched me closely as I made my way to the edge of the roof.

"Distraction," I said and brought the rifle up, finding the fire truck in the scope. I could see the top of one of the propane tanks jutting out from behind a tire. I fired. For a split second I saw the light of the blast, then the sound wave almost deafened me. I stumbled backwards as a second explosion rocked the street and threw the ass end of the fire truck up in the air and it tumbled over the cab to land upside down, spewing leaking, burning fuel everywhere. I turned to the group. "That's going to drag every one of those things down there to check it out. We should go."

The stairwell was still full, so we made our way to a maintenance ladder running up the side of the building. Not my preferred way to descend, but it was all we had. The group insisted I be the last one down, so I obliged. Val finally looked at me, tears in her eyes, and in a whisper I could barely hear thanked me.

It was then that James spun me around, put the pistol in my gut, and shot me.

April 6

Still not able to sit up for more than a few minutes. Nicole says I'm healing pretty well, considering the circumstances (i.e. her having to patch me up on the fly and no real doctor or medical supplies). The pain has gone from a constant, unyielding agony to just horrible, so I guess that's improvement.

The goal is to get me up and mobile as soon as possible so we can get out of here. Still not sure I want to continue on with this group, but Nicole and Michael saved my life after James shot me on that roof so there's that. We've been holed up in a house about a mile away from the hospital since we got away that night. Not far enough for my taste, but I can't complain since they literally carried my ass here.

I'm still pretty much useless while I recover, but I'm slowly getting to know the rest of the group. One of everyone's favorite games is "what did you do before the shit hit the fan?" Nicole was an EMT. Michael was a culinary student. Hank was a "animal control specialist," which everyone points out is just a dog catcher. They seem to bust his balls a lot, but he was a good enough dude to carry me on his back off that roof. 

There was another woman, Tracy. She didn't make it out of the hospital.

I've asked a few times about James and Valerie, but all anyone will say is they're not part of the group any more. I got Michael to tell me that they tackled James when he came down the ladder and took his gun. He and Val ran off while the others decided to come see if I was still alive.

So far no signs that the stuff that monster puked down my back made it into my gunshot. I think I'd be roaming and groaning by now if it had.

April 12
Little Victories: I stood up for 10 minutes today. Wound still looks pretty gnarly but it's not oozing so much. Doubt I'll ever get the reeking stench of pus out of this room. Nicole says I should slow down so I don't pop a stitch or something, but I'll go insane if I have to stay in this bed much longer.

April 15
May have overextended myself. Tried to cook dinner for the group just to be able to contribute, but wound up passing out. Scared the shit out of Hank, apparently. 

We've had to lie low a couple of times already due to big groups of those things moving through the area. The sooner I can stay upright for a couple hours the sooner we can move out of here.

Sick of feeling useless.

April 19
Big day today. Going for a walk. Hank's coming along with me just in case, but it'll be nice to get outside even if it's raining. Plan is to check out a house down the road for any kind of food we can scrounge up.

April 19

Not a bad excursion, although Hank noted if anyone alive sees me I'm likely to get shot because I move like one of the shamblers now. We made it to the house at the end of the block but I was too wiped out to risk going in and running into a runner. Going to take awhile to get my endurance back up, but this was progress. 

April 23

Michael found some 2-way radios. Now we're able to coordinate a bit when the others are out on supply runs. I'm kind of the unofficial radio operator now when the others are out.

I'm pushing myself to walk a little longer every day. Already dreading when I have to move up to jogging. Luckily these guys have scoured the neighborhood and have had some luck finding food. I can't imagine trying to bounce back from this while starving out there in the rain.

April 24

Hank hasn't come back from a supply run. He was supposed to hit up a bait and tackle shop to pick up some fishing equipment and see if they had any ammunition. Should've been back three or four hours ago. He had a radio on him, but the batteries might have run low or something. Michael and Nicole are debating how to go about getting him. I already got voted out of the rescue; still too slow and that makes me a liability.

April 25
Michael found Hank. Those things got him. I heard the gunshots from down the street when Michael executed them all while they were eating. I knew the final shot was for Hank to make sure he wouldn't turn up as one of those things. Michael told us over the radio that Hank's radio was missing and his legs were broken in multiple places, with bone sticking out of the shin. The blood stains make it look like Hank was trying to drag himself out of the house.

The three of us are still in shock. Who the fuck would do this? Hank was as plain-spoken and good-natured a guy as you could find, especially after everything went to shit. If he'd stumbled across some kind of bandit he'd be just as likely to recruit the guy to our group.

April 26

Someone tested the radio. Had to be Hank's. What are the odds someone would randomly find our channel? We decided not to respond.

April 26

We buried Hank today. I tried to help but couldn't pitch in for more than 30-45 minutes of digging. It hasn't stopped raining for four days now. Nicole brought up leaving this place. We all agreed it was past time. Now all eyes are on me while I get my strength up.

April 28
It was James.

He just talked to us over the radio. He said he broke Hank's legs and left him there. 

He said he's going to kill us all, one by one.


Flickr photo Photokaos - Thème : Japan Apocalypse - Borderline Biennale 2011 Photomaton_test_000000129 by thierry ehrmann used under a Creative Commons License.

1 comment:

dave bug said...

Not positive, but is this the first time zombies were mentioned by name in the journal? I'd been wondering if this was some alternate universe without zombies in pop culture.