Authors: Ryan C. Thomas
Tags: #Action & Adventure, #Horror, #High School Students, #Fiction, #Coming of Age, #Science Fiction, #Adventure, #Zombies, #Horror Fiction
“Not now, Connor.” Mrs. Prudhome ushered him into the living room. “Let’s get going before you get an infection.”
Mark Prudhome led Nicole to the door and swung his flashlight around. “Where are my keys? They were in my jacket. Where’s my jacket?”
“Jesus, Mark, can’t you keep track of anything?”
“Well next time I know our son is going to be wounded in a plane crash—”
“It was a tree, actually, Dad.”
“—I’ll be sure to file them in the appropriate disaster drawer.”
“Well, the wing hit the trees so I guess—”
“Found ‘em! They were in my pocket.”
“Can we please go now,” Mrs. Prudhome said.
Mark opened the front door and all four walked out. Nicole and Connor hung back, Connor’s parents taking the first step.
slap slap slap
of someone running down the street drew their attention. Nicole squinted, and let out a shriek. Connor saw what she saw: two men in tattered rags, their mouths agape, running full tilt toward them. They were only three houses away.
“Inside!” Connor yelled. “
Mr. Prudhome jingled his keys but didn’t move. “What the hell do they want?”
“Dad, get the fuck inside now!”
Mrs. Prudhome turned on Connor as if she might throttle him. “Connor!”
“No, he’s serious,” Nicole said, “They’ll get us!” She was already opening the door back to the house and retreating inside.
The running men were one house away now. Their hissing carried straight to Connor’s ears. Their mustard eyes caught the moonlight for a second and then winked out of existence. “C’mon, go go go!”
Now Mr. Prudhome recognized there was danger, and whirled and ushered everyone back inside. He slammed the door and spun the deadbolt just as it rocked with the impact of something crashing into it with incredible force.
“Who are they?” Mrs. Prudhome yelled.
“From the crash,” Connor said. “I was trying to tell you. Something happened at the crash.”
The door pounded again in its frame, shaking the entire front wall of the house. Again and again. The muffled and rage-filled hissing was incessant.
“Leave us alone! I’ve called the cops!” Mr. Prudhome shouted through the door.
Nicole was having trouble catching her breath but nobody seemed to notice. Connor ran to the window next to the door and made sure the latch was locked.
The front door took a mighty blow, and even in the dark of the house everyone heard the audible crack.
“What do they want?” Mrs. Prudhome yelled. She was steadily backing toward the kitchen, her purse in front of her like a shield.
Mr. Prudhome yanked his phone off his belt and tried to dial 911 with shaking fingers. “Get away from this home right now or I’ll…
” He tossed the phone aside and grabbed a desk lamp off the small end table where they kept a basket for the mail. The cord broke as he pulled it from the wall and held it up as a weapon. The door thundered again, the glass in the small window at the top splintering and falling out onto the front step. Bone-chilling hisses swam into the room.
“Dad, forget it. We need to get out of here. They’re gonna get through.”
“Back door?” Nicole asked.
Connor shook his head. “We’d have to go out the gate near the driveway. They’d see us.”
“Okay, everybody upstairs.” Mr. Prudhome wrapped the lamp’s broken cord around his wrist and pointed up to the bedrooms. “Now!”
Connor, Nicole and his mother raced up the stairs. Mr. Prudhome stayed near the door as it took another blow from the two crazed men on the other side.
“Connor, get up the stairs and lock the bedroom door. Find a weapon. Anything. If anyone comes up that’s not me I want you to hit to kill. Look at me. You hit to kill. Go go go!”
Connor turned and raced back up the stairs, threw himself into his parents’ room where Nicole and his mother were taking golf clubs out of Mr. Prudhome’s golf bag. He locked the door just as his mother looked up. “Where’s Mark?”
It was weird hearing his mother call his father by his real name. It made him realize they had a life outside of being his parents. “He’s…he’s…”
The sounds of shattering glass blared up the stairs. The hissing was suddenly coming from inside the house, like demonic canned laughter in a bad sitcom. Now the sounds of fists on flesh and people being slammed into tables and walls. Furniture screeched across the hardwood floor. More glass shattered, something slammed hard into the stairs, strong enough to shake the entire upstairs. Mr. Prudhome’s gurgled yell—
—was cut off with the wet noise of teeth tearing into his flesh.
Mrs. Prudhome shook her head. “No! What’s he doing?” She ran for the bedroom door. Connor blocked her.
“Mom, you can’t.” He was on the verge of tears and trying to keep from fainting. He pushed past his mother, grabbed the nightstand from beside the bed and threw it toward the closet. It landed on its side, spilling the content of its drawer all over the floor of the nearly pitch black bedroom. Without losing momentum he started pushing the king size bed in front of the door. “Help me!”
Nicole saw why he’d moved the nightstand—to make room to slide the bed—and got beside him and pushed as hard as she could. Together they got the bed in front of the door just as the two men on the other side reached the top of the stairs and slammed into it. The lock on the door held but it wouldn’t for much longer. They shoved the bed closer, butted it against the door. Mrs. Prudhome was shaking her head back and forth, fighting her fear and disbelief. The door took another impact, hissing spilling into the bedroom. The bed moved backwards.
Mrs. Prudhome suddenly snapped out of her shock. Perhaps it was the sight of watching her only son try to save her, or acceptance that her husband was dead, but she was running to help hold the bed against the door.
The two men on the other side were fueled by rage, an advantage that let them push the door open despite the weight against it.
Connor let go of the bed and yanked open the window overlooking the front yard. It opened onto the overhang covering the front steps. “Quick, out here.”
The door slid open further, pushing the bed backwards, and consequently Nicole and Mrs. Prudhome with it. Four arms hooked their way in and grasped for anything within reach.
Nicole climbed out the window and sat on the overhang. She waved for Connor to hurry and follow.
The door slid open further. Two heads burst in, dead eyes visible even in the dark, mouths hissing at nothing. Arms frantically reaching. A leg working its way in.
“Connor, take these.” Mrs. Prudhome drew her keys from her purse.
“Just go. It’s not hard. Make sure the emergency break is off.”
“Mom, I can’t—”
“Connor get out that fucking window and get out of here! Now!”
Tears finally spilled down Connor’s cheeks. He could not believe what he was seeing or hearing.
This was not happening.
He was not losing his parents right in front of his eyes. “Mom, please don’t.”
His mother grabbed him and hugged him harder than she had ever done in his life. “I love you. You’re my angel. Now go. Go!”
The two men were inside the room now, scrabbling madly over the bed. Mrs. Prudhome swung the golf club and connected hard with the nearest man’s face. He stumbled and fell to the ground.
Connor felt himself being yanked backward. Nicole was reaching through the window, grabbing his shirt with one hand and holding the window open with the other. “Please, Connor. We have to go!”
He looked back once, saw his mother swing the club at the second assailant, saw the club bend in an L around the man’s face and knock him off the bed, saw the first attacker up again and tackling her to the floor, the sounds of face cartilage and bone cracking under human teeth filling the room.
He spun and dove out the window, letting it shut behind him just as his mother’s screams of terror and pain reached a crescendo.
Seth and Amanita rushed up the front lawn of her house, constantly looking over their shoulder at the empty street.
Seth was panting. “Hurry. Open it.”
Amanita’s hand shook as she tried to insert her key in the lock. “Stop rushing me. You’re freaking me out.”
“I’m not rushing you, I just don’t want to die.”
“You’re rushing me.” The key turned and she pushed the door open. They raced inside and shut the door behind them, locking it again. Seth drew the curtains on the front picture window and then peeked out through the slit. “I don’t see him. He must be on another street.”
“Well get your head out of the window so he doesn’t see you, idiot.”
“I’m making sure he’s not coming. And stop calling me names.”
Amanita tried the lamp near the door but the bulb gave no light. “Still out.” She moved further into the house, ignoring Seth, who was still peeking out the window. “Mom! Mom!”
Seth rushed after her, found her in a small family room. An entertainment center sat in one corner housing a television and DVD player. A loveseat and recliner were pushed up against the opposite wall. A bookshelf containing more chotchkies than books finished off the décor. “Shhh! You’re screaming too loud.”
Amanita continued to ignore him and moved into the kitchen. Stacks of dirty dishes filled the sink. A collection of cereal boxes were arranged in a row on the small table against the wall. What looked like a pile of newspapers was on the kitchen counter.
Seth peeked out the window over the sink but saw nothing in the small backyard except a couple of plastic chairs and a crabapple tree.
Amanita ran down a hallway and opened the door to her parent’s room. She hit the light switch out of habit but again there was no juice. “Mom!”
“Please stop yelling.”
“They’re not here.”
“I don’t have an upstairs, Captain Observant, unless you built one in the last four seconds.”
She began to retort but cut herself off and went back to the kitchen. She opened the door to the basement and looked down the pitch black steps. Seth stood next to her, feeling the wet, coldness of the cellar creep up the stairs.
“Mom! Dad!” she yelled down into the darkness. “It’s me. I’m home.”
There was no reply.
“What’s down there?” he asked.
“Just a washing machine and dryer. The boiler. I dunno what else. Boxes of shit my Dad refuses to throw away.” She shut the door. “I’m not going down there. There’s no reason they’d be down there anyway.”
Seth shifted uncomfortably and looked at his feet. “Maybe they had to run an errand?”
Amanita pulled out a chair and sat at the kitchen table. “What errand? The car is in the driveway.”
“Maybe they just, um, went for a walk?”
Amanita leaned forward and put her head on her knees. “They don’t walk. They watch the same damn TV shows every night. Why aren’t they here? They hate me. They just left.”
“We don’t know that. Maybe they’re at a neighbor’s trying to use the phone or something? Maybe…” Seth moved closer to her and started to put a hand on her shoulder but stopped, feeling a little awkward. He’d never had to comfort anyone before, let alone a girl. Especially a fiery girl like Amanita.
“They don’t talk to the neighbors.”
Seth gulped. He didn’t want to suggest that Amanita’s parents might have given in to curiosity when they heard the explosion but what other possibilities were left. “Do you think they would have gone down to the crash? Maybe walked down…?”
Amanita looked up. She was stone faced. “If they did, they’re dead. Those…things…probably killed them.” There was a moment of silence before Amanita repeated, “They hate me. They just left.”
Nicole grabbed the edge of the overhang and swung herself down to the steps below, landing with a grunt. “C’mon, Connor. Hurry.”
Connor’s legs would not stop shaking, the wound on his shin now beginning to itch maddeningly. Behind him in the bedroom his mother’s screams turned to gasping breaths, accompanied by the constant banging and thumping of voracious cannibals fighting each other for fresh strips of flesh.
Nicole’s voice came from below. He glanced down and saw her standing on the lawn near the driveway, staring up at him with palpable terror. Her soot-covered face was streaked clean where she’d been crying.
Connor took hold of the overhang and lowered himself down, landing awkwardly on his torn leg but managing to stay upright. He hobbled down the three front steps, raced around the front of his mother’s Camry and hit the lock button on the keychain. The doors unlocked and he climbed in the driver’s seat as Nicole got in the passenger seat, drawing the seatbelt across herself.