A short story by Ironraven, author of Zombie Fiction
He could hear the high-pitched screaming of them outside, it grated on his eardrums and made his head feel like it was going to explode. Reaching down to double check that the axe was resting next to his leg, Adam leaned closer to the boarded up window to peer out through a crack.
“You see anything out there?” Jenny’s voice made him jump and fumble for his weapon. She always managed to sneak up on him somehow. “I wish they’d shut up.”
“No. They’re still hiding.” He shuffled away from the opening, still holding the axe with a grip that made the grain of the weathered wood hurt his hand.
“That’s some blessing anyway. Have you found anything to eat?” His stomach growled painfully in response.
“I can’t keep anything down. I found a bag of Doritos and there’s some canned spaghetti but I think it’s spoiled. The expiration was last week.”
“You’re just stressed after being stuck in here for days.” She moved towards him, looking at him with concern evident on her face and put her hand on his cheek. “You really need to get some sleep.”
She quickly turned to the foodstuffs lying near his feet. “Oh, thank the gods. I’m so hungry I could eat a horse.” Jenny stuffed some chips in her mouth and reached for the can opener. “I don’t care if it’s cold I’ve gotta eat.”
“I’ll go and check the doors, you be careful in here.” Adam walked out of the room with axe in hand, prepared for the worst. Moving along the wall, he peered around the corner. The old house they had taken shelter in was familiar by this point but he still second guessed himself. The screaming from outside was taking its toll on his ability to concentrate. Shaking his head he concentrated on searching the hallway and then the room beyond. Too many openings, too many unprotected spaces and too much danger; Adam tried to comfort himself with the fact that the sound from outside was diminished in this interior room with limited success.
With the entrances to the house double checked for vulnerabilities, Adam returned to the room where he’d left Jenny. “Jen?” He looked around and didn’t see any sign of her. “Jenny? Where are you? This isn’t funny, where’d you go?” The only place he hadn’t looked was upstairs.
Walking past the empty chip bag and half eaten can of Chef Boyardee, Adam paused at the bottom of the stairway, “Shit, everyone knows you don’t go upstairs, Jenny what the fuck were you thinking?” A crash of splintering wood ended his hesitation and he hurried up the stairway, sliding along the wall.
When he reached the top of the landing and opened the door the smell of rotting flesh assaulted his nostrils. Hacking and coughing he forced himself forward. “Jenny? Where are you? Why would you come up here and what’s that horrible stench?” His stomach roiled and he had to stop, dry heaving at the reek of death.
“Adam? Is that you?” Jenny’s quavering voice came from the last room down the hall. “I think you need to see this.” He could hear her violently retching.
“Jenny, what’s going on?” Adam tightened his grip on the handle of his axe. “Where are you?” He walked carefully down the hallway, trying to prepare himself for the worst. As he approached the room where Jenny’s voice had come from the smell became overpowering.
“I’m down here, I can’t believe this. It’s so horrible, please hurry!” Her voice pulled at his heartstrings; it was laced with terror.
He ran down the hallway and met up with Jenny as she was coming out of the door at the end. It had been locked when they had searched the house before but from the look of things she had kicked the door in. She flung herself into his arms and he looked over her shoulder into the mouth of hell.
Dim lighting from the partially boarded window illuminated the floor. Bodies were strewn throughout the room, many unrecognizable from decay. Blood and gore splattered the walls and floor. There were men and women, even a couple of children, but they all shared one common trait. Their heads had all been blasted to pieces.
“Sheri’s in there.” Jenny’s face was buried in his shirt. Sheri was her sister. “Mark and John are too I think I couldn’t stay in long enough to make sure. There are others I have no idea about.”
Adam pulled her away from the grisly scene. “You go down to the other end of the hall. I’m going to try and make sense of this; I have to know if the people who called us here last week are all dead in this room.”
Jenny backed off a few paces and slumped against the wall. “I don’t want to be too far away from you, but I can’t go back in there.”
Adam walked gingerly into the room, trying to hold his breath to block out the smell. He was grateful for the first time that he hadn’t been able to eat for days. Steeling himself, he scrutinized the room and a picture of what had happened slowly took shape.
The first thing that stood out was the killer. A man was in the furthest corner from the other bodies, a shotgun lying next to him. It was clear that he had taken his own life after killing the others; his face was nothing but a bloody ruin from the passage of buckshot. Adam extracted the wallet from the corpse’s back pocket, and dropped it in horror.
Backing out of the room slowly, he could hear a Jenny talking but couldn’t distinguish the words. His entire body trembled with disbelief and shock. Adam let her coax him down to the floor and gradually began to calm himself.
“Hey, it’s going to be OK. Adam, listen to me, we’re going to get through this. Don’t lose it on me, I need you!”
“He killed them all Jen.” His voice was dull and flat, “I don’t know why but my brother killed them all. Your sister, their kids, your parents … everyone. He was behaving like those … things outside.” She gasped.
“I can’t take it anymore Adam. We have to do something. I can’t stay in here anymore. Those things out there look human but they’re so fast. They seem to be talking but it’s totally unintelligible and high pitched. The only thing we know for sure is they want to kill us.”
“Yeah. There have to be some people left out there Jen.” She was sitting next to him now and he put his arm around her, brushing tears off her cheek with the other hand. “But I’m sick of hiding from these fuckers too. Let’s take some of them down.” For some reason seeing her like this began to fill him with rage. The knowledge that his brother had succumbed to the insanity that was infecting the ones outside just made it worse.
“I’m gonna make them pay Adam.” She was trembling and Adam realized that he was too.
“I’ll rip off their arms and beat them to death with them. Let’s kill them slowly.” They stood together, the sheer amount of adrenaline and anger making it difficult to focus. The animal rumble of fury building inside his chest started as a growl and built into an ear-shattering shriek.
Sargent Angela Leno gritted her teeth at the sounds issuing from within what had formerly been a nice little two story bungalow but now resembled a slaughterhouse. Evidence of violence was strewn around the yard; local law enforcement had lost several men here earlier in the week to an Infected mother and her two children. They had been eliminated by a civilian, but her command began keeping the house under surveillance the day after.
For some reason other Infected often showed up where others of their kind had been slain. As per protocol, her unit had been playing the public service quarantine announcement over loudspeakers that repeated every fifteen minutes to make sure any innocents in the area wouldn’t be collateral damage.
Some others in her battalion claimed the noise actually drove the creatures to attack but she hadn’t seen any evidence of that yet. They didn’t even speak any sort of intelligible language; their communication was limited to slow droning strings of slurred mumbling or the frighteningly loud enraged bellowing interspersed with harsh animal barking that was currently coming from the house.
This morning she had seen some shapes slowly shuffling from window to window and now the raving from inside had confirmed their presence. It was only a matter of time before they made contact.
“OK people, this house looks like it’s almost empty. I think there’s only two or three of ‘em in there. Don’t let the slow movements fool you, they’ll suddenly move light lightning and even the children have the strength of at least a dozen men. Remember, they may look like humans but they aren’t. Shoot to kill or you won’t have the chance to pull the trigger.”
The roars of the creatures inside abruptly cut off and the door exploded outwards with no warning. The two men closest to the door were down in an instant. Two of the creatures, a male and a female leapt from the porch in unison bearing them to the ground. Despite her team peppering them with lead, they tore the arms off their victims with dreadful strength.
The female looked at her from eyes that radiated malice and slowly stood, still holding an arm in one hand. “Fuck shoot the eyes SHOOT THE EYES!” She had already drawn her sidearm and began firing. Her first shot was wide, but thankfully her target seemed to be stuck in slow motion and the second shot hit its left eye.
“Both eyes!” She yelled, firing at the right eye. As if the seconds of moving slowly had charged it the creature moved so fast it was a blur, throwing the arm it held hard enough to crush the throat of the soldier next to her. “Jackson, NO!”
In an instant it was in front of her and reaching for her throat. Before the monster could move further she was deafened by a gunshot over her shoulder and the monster’s other eye was blasted out the back of its head.
Without looking over her shoulder she said “Thanks Bridger, good shooting.” Surveying the battlefield she saw the male had been taken down as well. Their recent requisition of shotguns was a godsend, but ammunition was becoming difficult to procure.
“All right, let’s clear this fucking house and get back to HQ.” She paused to see if Jackson had a pulse, but the impact of the arm had broken his spine in addition to pulverizing his trachea. Shaking her head sadly she reloaded her pistol and motioned to the rest of the unit, “Move out!”