Read Infection Z 3 Online

Authors: Ryan Casey

Infection Z 3 (8 page)

BOOK: Infection Z 3
6.96Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads
Sixteen

A
fter three minutes
of staring at it, Hayden was still stunned by the dismembered body lying in front of him.

It was a man. “Was” being the operative word here. He had thick dark hair and a skinny face. Hazelnut eyes. Probably an attractive lad back when he was alive. The kind of guy Hayden used to spend a lot of his miserable days wishing he was more like. Someone confident with women. Someone who caught people’s eye.

Shit. He’d certainly caught Hayden’s eye in his current state.

His face was untouched, and there were no signs of trauma except for his eyes, which bulged bloodshot out of their sockets. The chaos started at his neck. It had been bitten right through to the bone, and like a cooked chicken leg at a buffet, all that remained were little sinewy strings of muscle and tendon.

“What … what do you think did this?” Holly asked. She stared at the man with her wide, terrified eyes, just as stunned and hypnotised as Hayden, even if this wasn’t the first time she’d seen the scene.

Hayden licked his dry lips. He examined the body further. Saw the snapped ribs piercing through the broken skin. Saw the bloody mush where the man’s organs once were. Saw the gnawed intestines, which flies buzzed around and laid their eggs.

He saw the man’s right leg, torn away from the body and bitten down to the bone just like his neck.

“Whatever it was, I don’t wanna meet it anytime soon,” Sarah said.

The sounds of the branches scratching together in the wind rustled in the background as Hayden stared at the body. Even in spite of the blood and gore on show, in spite of the hot acid climbing up his throat and threatening to surface, it was the man’s eyes he kept turning to. The terrified expression. A look like he knew what was happening to him—like he was facing up to the grim brutality of his own death, helpless, defenceless.

Holly stepped around the side of the man and crouched down by his leg. “What’s this?”

“You wanna stay back,” Sarah said. “You don’t wanna—”

A deafening snap of metal.

Holly squealed and fell back.

Hayden knew what it was before he saw it. He remembered the sound when Gary had fallen over. The sound that came just before his pig-like squeal.

The snapping of a trap.

“Shit,” Holly said, her voice shaky. She held her hand away and stared at the trap, which had flipped over beside the man’s leg. “Shit.”

“This is why you shouldn’t go fucking touching things,” Sarah said. She went to step towards Holly, then stopped, looked around the ground. A heightened awareness of a new danger. They couldn’t be careless. Not with traps around.

They couldn’t risk being another Gary.

“What d’you think the traps are for?”

Hayden looked around the grass. He looked beyond the man and at a green metal fence. A hole had been torn through the side of it. The metal curled like something had forced its way through it. Something big.

“Makes sense to catch the undead that way,” Sarah said, walking towards the fence. “I guess. Right?”

Hayden heard the uncertainty in her voice and he understood it. He wasn’t sure if she was right. There was something going on here. Something had torn the zombies up right back in the woods. Something that someone was laying down traps for.

Something big enough to tear a hole in the fence up ahead.

“We should go,” Hayden said. “We … we don’t want to stick around here.”

“Amen to that,” Sarah said.

The three of them walked up to the fence. Holly climbed through the gap first, and Hayden went to follow.

Sarah put a hand on his chest.

She looked him directly in his eyes with narrowed eyes of her own. Her face was pale and gaunt, but those beaming blue eyes looked as piercing as ever. “What happened back there?”

Hayden swallowed the sickly lump in his throat. He turned back in the direction he’d come from. He kept on expecting to hear Gary’s dying screams or see him waddling out of the woods with the trap dangling from his leg.

Hungry.

Undead.

Vacant.

Hayden felt his eyes welling up again and he wanted to tell Sarah. He wanted to tell her the truth. He wanted to spill everything out and he wanted her to help him carry this burden.

But he couldn’t. He couldn’t risk that.

He wasn’t sure anyone trusted him as it was. But they definitely wouldn’t trust him if they knew the truth.

“Shit. Guys, look at this!”

Hayden heard the fear in Holly’s voice. He turned and saw she was standing at the edge of the trees through the fence. She was smiling, and Hayden realised then it wasn’t fear in her voice but excitement.

He climbed through, Sarah following closely behind. “What is it?”

Holly pointed ahead through the thinning trees. Her smile widened some more. “Our way out,” she said.

Hayden saw exactly what she was talking about, and his heart did a flip.

There was a white golf buggy on a dirt track opposite them. Blood was splattered over its side, and there was a man in a blue uniform lying beside it with sharp teeth marks in his neck. He stared up at the sky, his eyes glassy and vacant. But he didn’t move. He showed no signs of life, or of unlife.

The trio rushed towards the golf caddy.

“Jesus Christ, who the hell even drives one of these things?” Sarah said.

“Doesn’t matter,” Holly said, half-laughing. “Thank God for Mr Anonymous golf buggy driver.”

Hayden reached the golf buggy first. He stepped over the dead body of the man lying beside it. The keys were still in the engine.

He held his breath and climbed across the leather seat, which was also dampened with blood. He reached for the key. Felt tension tingling inside him. This had to work. They needed this to work. It could speed them out of the woods, get them back on track to Holyhead.

“What the fuck you waiting for?” Sarah asked, throwing herself into the golf buggy, Holly closely following.

Hayden touched the edge of the keys.

Please work. Please.

He turned the key, and the golf buggy coughed to life.

“Woohooo!” Sarah said. She lifted a hand and high-fived Holly then ruffled Hayden’s hair with her damp palms. “Thank fuck for golf buggy driving nerds. Now where?”

Hayden put the golf buggy into “drive” and pressed his foot down on the accelerator, the cool breeze brushing against his cheeks as they made their way out of the trees down the bumpy, dusty track. “Anywhere but here,” he said.

The three of them left the woods, left the man lying on the side of the dirt track with the deep teeth marks in the side of his neck, left the dismembered man further in the woods.

He lay there in the leaves, dead and still, and a shadow descended over him.

Underneath his collar,
Mike Holliday: Chester Zoo, Animal Feeder
glistened in blood.

Seventeen

G
ary Howarth felt
a crippling pain tear through his right ankle.

He tried to open his eyes but they were heavy, like the time he’d woken up with conjunctivitis as a kid and couldn’t open them for hours. Above him, he could see the faint outline of trees contrasting the grey sky. The right side of his forehead wracked with pain, like he’d been hit. Where the hell was he? And how the hell’d he ended up here?

He closed his eyes again and squeezed them together. Damned hangover, probably. Mary-Anne was always nagging on at him to quit the booze. Well, Mary-Anne, you try delivering six zillion parcels a day and see how you like it. Instead of sitting at home all day sponging off my income on your lazy ass, you try getting up and getting a job instead of flirting with the damned next door neighbour. You try—

“Argh!”

The noise escaped his throat reflexively as the sharp pain wedged further into his right ankle. The fuck? Was he in hospital or something? Some kind of accident? Last thing he remembered, he was behind the wheel. No … no, wait, he was back at CityFast HQ. Back preparing for a day at work. Back …

The memories came to him in a sudden and stark flash.

The dead, walking.

Callum taking Mary-Anne prisoner and forcing Gary to do his dirty work.

Murder.

Death.

Bloodbath.

And then Hayden …

He remembered Hayden with mixed emotions. Part of him told him this Hayden guy was a good guy. An honest man who had everyone’s best interests at heart.

But there was something about Hayden he didn’t like for some weird reason just out of his grasp. Some deep sense of inexplicable hate that he couldn’t explain, no matter what.

He took in a deep breath of the putrid air and felt himself getting closer and closer to the truth when he felt the pain in his right ankle again.

He looked down at his right ankle and just as quickly as he didn’t understand, he understood. He was running away from something. Running away with … that’s it. With Hayden, Sarah, that other girl whose name escaped him right now. He was running away and then … and then he’d slipped. No—he’d stepped in
this
thing. This thing wrapped around his ankle.

A sharp animal trap splitting through his trousers.

He saw his own blood and muscle and he felt a cold wave tumble over him. Dizziness filled his head. There was a lotta blood on the ground around him. Lotta blood he’d lost. Amazing he was still alive. Amazing he was …

And then he remembered something else.

Hayden stopped. He tried to help Gary because—because the zombies were coming. Coming through the trees. That’s right: the zombies were coming through the trees and Hayden was desperate, trying to help Gary, trying and trying to get him out of this mess.

And then Gary heard Hayden apologising and before he could ask what for he felt something crack against his face and then …

Blackness.

His heart raced. The muscles in his jaw tightened. That was it. Hayden had screwed him over. Clubbed him to fuckin’ unconsciousness and left him to die out here. Didn’t matter how damned sorry he was or not, he’d screwed him.

He’d pay. He’d fuckin’ pay.

Gary lifted his body upright. The muscles in his stomach were weak and sore. Every twitch of his right leg made the pain shoot right through his body, split through his spine and the top of his skull. Cold sweat rolled down his forehead, dripped down his face. He had to get out of this shit-trap. He had to get to Hayden. He had to—

A rustling in the trees to his left.

He looked up. Looked at where the rustling came from. Branches swaying in the breeze. Fallen leaves. Even further back, the black thickness of evergreen trees looming large.

But nothing moving.

He looked back at his ankle and the handsaw by its side caught his eye.

He recognised the saw. One of the weapons from Riversford. Sharp as fuck, good enough to split through any zombie’s neck or limb.

Or human’s limb …

He reached for the handsaw and lifted it in his quivering hand. An idea formed in his mind. Damned stupid idea, out here in the cold and the middle of nowhere. But an idea nonetheless. A chance of getting out of here.

He pictured pressing the sharp blade of the handsaw to his leg.

Splitting through the top layer of skin.

Slicing through the muscle.

Scraping through the bone …

“Fuck,” Gary said. He lowered the handsaw. Ain’t no chance he was choppin’ his own leg off anytime soon. Sure, that bloke off
Saw
had survived it enough to spawn six damned sequels, but that was fiction and this was reality.

Chop his leg off and he was done for.

Or … wait.
127 Hours
with James Franco. He chopped his leg off and he lived long enough to make it out to safety.

Or was it his arm he chopped off?

Was it real?

Did it even matter?

Gary felt his teeth chattering as he lay there in complete silence. Silence, but for the rustling of the trees in the breeze. The singing of the last remaining birds, oblivious to the chaos around them.

He looked up at the sky, saw still in his hand, and he shouted: “Hello!”

Figured he was an idiot right away. Didn’t want to attract any zombie attention. But maybe there was someone nearby.

There had to be someone nearby.

He couldn’t saw himself out of this.

He had to saw himself out of this …

He felt tears building up. Felt fear mounting in his chest like a child who’d lost their mummy in the middle of a supermarket. He looked back down at his fucked up ankle. And then he looked at the saw. What other choice did he have? What other damned choice had Hayden left him with?

He sunk his teeth into his lips and he moved the blade over his leg. He tried not to think about what he was about to do. Tried not to think about the repercussions. Cause he was a dead man if he stayed here. He’d bleed out. Or the zombies would get him. Or both. And he couldn’t have that. He was a trier. He’d never die without at least trying to do something.

He pressed the blade against his skin and thought about the games of football he used to play in the CityFast yard with his mates on lunch break. The pile-driver shots to the back of the nets, which were marked by the cardigans of his friends—his friends who had fallen, been corrupted, or both.

He swallowed the frog in his throat and pressed down on the leg just above his ankle. He felt the sharpness right away. Felt warm blood trickle down the blade and onto his fingers. He felt the piercing pain of each tooth of the blade stick into his skin, his flesh, and he grit his teeth even further.

He waited. Waited to pull it back and start the slicing. Because once he started, there was no stopping. Once he started, it was all or nothing.

He gritted his teeth.

Pushed the blade down.

Come on. You can do this. You can do this …

Tensed his upper arm, tightened his fingers.

Three. Two. One …

And then his biceps went weak and he dropped the blade from his fingers.

He leaned forward and he cried. He cried for the people he’d lost and the shit they’d been through. But mostly he cried for himself. Because he was a decent bloke. Hadn’t stolen a parcel in his life. Always smiled at grumpy customers and tried to tame the yappiest of dogs.

What had he done to deserve this?

What had he …

He heard the rustling again.

He looked at the source of the sound. His heart pounded. He couldn’t see properly through the cloudy tears in his eyes. His mind wanted to convince him that there was nothing there. He was okay. He was gonna find a way out of here. Cause it wasn’t his turn to die yet. He’d imagined all kinds of ways his life might end, but all of ’em were peacefully in a deathbed aged seventy-something when it was
time
to go.

But when he saw the thing coming towards him, jet black eyes focused on him, he started to doubt those assurances after all.

He shuffled away. Shuffled away even though it sent splitting pain through his ankle. He whimpered. “Go away. P-please. I don’t mean no harm. Don’t mean no—please!”

He stuck his fingers of his left hand into the soil and tried to yank himself away. He felt the skin and muscle of his right leg splitting as he did, felt warm blood dribble down its side, but still he kept on pulling, just to get away from that … from that
thing
. That impossible thing.

He felt his bladder give way as the footsteps pounded closer, the grunts and growls edged nearer. His bowels followed soon afterwards. But lying there in his own shit and piss, vomit sneaking up from his stomach, he kept on pulling at the sharp teeth of the trap, scraping his skin and muscle away, hot pain splitting through him, desperate not to die, convinced this wasn’t his moment.

When he felt the sharp pain split through the back of his left leg with the force of a million damned animal traps; when he felt the beast rip the muscle away and felt the blood dribble from its satisfied mouth and onto his body, he knew right then that this
was
in fact it. This was the moment he went. This was his swan song.

He started to drift into agonising unconsciousness when the beast came in for another bite of his lower back with its knifelike teeth, and this cycle repeated itself on and on and on for what felt like forever to Gary, who didn’t even have it left in him to scream.

And when he thought it was over, when he was convinced it was done, full, satisfied, he lifted his weak head and he saw more movement coming his way.

A lion cub, coming to join the feast.

BOOK: Infection Z 3
6.96Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Slocum 420 by Jake Logan
The March Hare Murders by Elizabeth Ferrars
Nila's Hope by Kathleen Friesen
Being Zolt by D. L. Raver
The Hawk And His Boy by Christopher Bunn
The Next Full Moon by Carolyn Turgeon
Airs Above the Ground by Mary Stewart
You Lost Me There by Rosecrans Baldwin
To Love a Traitor by JL Merrow