Authors: Ryan Casey
ayden McCall looked
at the crowd of zombies gathered around the green metal fences of the abandoned bunker and felt a familiar sense of deflation.
Sarah stood beside him. They were peeking out of a metal grated opening that looked right out beyond the parking area of the bunker and at the fences. Hayden could see his breath, feel his teeth chattering, but that was just a feeling he’d got used to now. In the week since the rise of the dead, it was a rarity if he
“This is exactly why we can’t just rely on this place,” Sarah said. She was wearing a navy blue coat and blue jeans, with muddy brown walking boots on her feet. Her dark hair was tied back behind her head. It was greasy and shiny, but that was just a normality of a life without fresh water to shower or bathe in. There was a constant smell of sweat in the air. Sweat, urine, shit.
And rot. The decomposition process had well and truly set in on the zombies now.
“How many do you count?” Hayden asked, as he stared across the parking area at the zombies pressed up to the fence. He could hear the metal creaking under their weight, but the fences were strong enough to keep them out. And that’s why finding this bunker in the hills just outside of Smileston and Preston was an absolute godsend.
Sarah puffed out her lips. “Six. Seven. Six or seven too many.”
“We can handle six or seven,” Hayden said. “We’ve handled more. Are you gonna give me a hand?”
Sarah sighed. “It might be six or seven now, but what about when six or seven becomes sixty or seventy? What about then?”
Hayden turned around and looked into the darkness of the bunker. He held his breath. “We cross that bridge when we come to it. For now, all we can do is take every situation as it comes.”
He grabbed the sharp steel pipe that he used to pierce the heads of the zombies pressed up against the fences and stepped to the green door.
“I know you care about Clarice. She’s your sister. So you’re bound to be protective of her. I … I get that, I really do. But we’re freezing here. We’re freezing and we’re starving. There has to be some place better than here. And if there isn’t some place better than here, then … then I don’t know what. But we can’t give up hope on there being other places to stay. Other places to live. We can’t rule that out.”
Hayden pondered Sarah’s words. She was right about his sister. He did want to keep her safe. After losing his mum and dad on the first day of the outbreak—or rather,
his mum and dad on the first day of the outbreak—the will and urge to protect his sister had grown even stronger. He couldn’t lose her. He couldn’t fail her. And right now, the bunker they’d found five days ago was the safest place they had. Safer than the cold treacherous outside, that was for sure.
Hayden turned back around and looked at Sarah. “You’re right. I am protective of my sister. But that’s not the only reason we’re staying here. We’re staying here because we don’t have a choice. Sure, there might be something better out there over the hills and whatever. But we don’t know that. For all we know, this place could be the best place there is now. And we can’t just let it go on the off chance there might be something better. I … I’m not willing to do that.”
Sarah opened her mouth to object. Then, she closed it again, looked to her feet and sighed. The gasps from the zombies gathered around the fences got louder, loud enough to send a person insane through fear if they weren’t dealt with fast.
“Are you going to help me clear the fences?” Hayden asked. “Because regardless of whether we do eventually move on from here or not, I dunno about you but I’m not so happy having a bunch of those things pressed up against the railings. Their gasping, it’ll only alert others.”
Sarah didn’t say anything. She just nodded, walked up to Hayden and grabbed a sharpened pipe much like the one he had in his hand, only this one was a little smaller. The pair of them walked to the door and yanked it open, the metal screeching against the dusty white tiles as they pulled it back.
The cold was understandably much more intense outside. It nipped at Hayden’s itchy, unshaven cheeks, bit away at his protruding kneecaps. The thermal socks he’d fished out in an abandoned house just outside of Smileston on the first day following the infection had gone damp and soggy, but they were better than nothing. It was in times like these that you really came to appreciate just what a luxury central heating was.
Another luxury lost to the zombies.
Hayden and Sarah walked down the slippery concrete walkway towards the green fences of the bunker complex. It wasn’t a huge place. The bunkers themselves were covered with grass and had little watchtowers on top of them. There was enough room for about twenty or so people to stay, but some of the bunkers weren’t in as good condition as the one Hayden, Sarah, Clarice and Newbie stayed in. The damp was so bad inside that it got on Hayden’s chest. Most of the graffiti-covered doors had their locks broken by urban explorers, so it wasn’t the safest place in the world.
But it was safe enough. And safe enough was exactly what they had to settle for right now.
“I hope you’re wrong,” Sarah said, as they approached the seven zombies pressed right up against the fences. Their cold blood dripped down the metal from where they were pressing themselves. Flies buzzed around them. Specks of ice were attached to their skin, which no doubt did something to stop the decomposition—but not enough to banish the smell.
“About what?” Hayden asked. He stopped in front of a female zombie about half his height. She was mixed race, wearing a green jogging outfit. A large chunk had been bitten out of her leg that maggots and other creepy bugs gnawed at.
Sarah lifted the sharp pipe and poked it through the fence at a dark-haired man in an expensive looking black suit. He had a hole in his head. Hayden could see right through his cracked skull at the bites on his brain. But of course, it took more than just a movie bash to the head to kill these zombies. Actual neck damage was required. But it helped to have them down on the ground, paralysed or weakened in some way.
“About this place,” Sarah said. She pressed the pipe into the suited man’s open mouth. Pushed it right back as his teeth snapped at the metal. Cold blood sprayed out as Sarah wedged the pipe even further into the zombie’s throat, twisting it when she reached the back of its throat and slamming it through its neck. The zombie shook a little, its glassy eyes rolled up into the back of its head, and its body went limp and slid further onto the end of the metal pipe.
“Wow,” Hayden said, as he pointed right at the throat of the woman in jogging gear and slammed the sharp end of the pipe into her flesh like a snooker player potting black. “You’re getting good at this.”
Sarah put her boot on the fence and pulled the pipe away. The suited zombie slid away and fell to its knees, crouched with its head on the fence, blood trickling out of its wound. “See you’re still getting to grips.”
Hayden looked at the jogger zombie he’d pierced the neck of. He’d felt the pipe hit something solid, but not hard enough to kill the zombie. It was still moving about, every throaty gasp sending more blood dribbling down its pierced neck. He’d have to try for the neck again—any damage to the neck seemed to be enough to kill the undead, and breaking it was foolproof.
He pulled the pipe away and aimed for the neck again as Sarah moved on to another zombie—a man with ginger hair in his mid-twenties, probably about the same age as Hayden. “Stabbing somebody in the mouth doesn’t come quite so easily to me.”
Sarah half-smiled as the winter sun shone down on both of them. “Let’s just feel fortunate we only have seven of them to deal with. Better hope it comes really easily to you when there’s twice that amount.”
She kept her half-smile, but Hayden could hear the sincerity in her words.
He moved on to the next zombie, a balding man wearing a blood-soaked cream fleece, lined up the pipe at the front of its mouth and slid it into its throat.
He didn’t want to even think about the possibility of a larger number of zombies descending on the fences.
He couldn’t allow himself to consider a threat that might take Clarice away from him.
Everything was okay. Everything was manageable.
He ignored the niggling counter voice whispering, “Sure, it’s okay … for now,” in his ear.
the rucksack and stared at the remaining food supplies.
The four survivors all sat in the darkness of the bunker in the middle of the complex. The door was iffy and rattled on its creaky hinges in the night, but the fences were enough to keep the zombies at bay until morning. In the first few days, they’d rotated sleeping shifts with somebody on watch at all times, but there had been no need so they all just slept through the night now.
Well. They didn’t exactly sleep. At least, Hayden didn’t sleep. Not with the constant overwhelming knowledge that something was outside the fences of the bunker. Not with the occasional begging screams of people in the distance who were trying to get away from the zombies.
Not from the footsteps, the gasps, the groans.
“What’s on the menu tonight, chef?” Newbie asked. He was wearing a long black coat and a grey wooly hat. He rubbed his hands in front of him, every breath clouding in the glow of the dim torchlight in the middle of the bunker.
Hayden swallowed a sickly taste and pulled out two packets of beef Monster Munch. “Just … just Monster Munch.”
“A packet each?” Sarah asked. She grabbed one of the packets from Hayden. “That’ll do me. For an hour. Maybe an hour and a half if I’m lucky.”
“Between us,” Hayden said, as Sarah opened the packet. “Just … just the two packets between us.”
Sarah stopped herself reaching into the bag and looked down at the crisps like a kid being forced to share out the last slices of his birthday cake.
“Knew it was too good to be true,” Clarice said. “Can’t remember the last time I actually ate a proper meal.”
“It’d help if you weren’t vegetarian,” Newbie said. He lowered his gaze and blew barely warm air onto his hands. “Just saying.”
Clarice shook her head. She had short, dark hair. A camouflage jacket hung on her skinny frame. She was wearing grey jogging bottoms underneath, with a bit of skin exposed before the white trainers on her feet. Hayden figured his younger sister must be freezing, but she seemed to be coping with the cold okay. Better than any of them, in fact. “Like me being a vegetarian makes any kind of difference. How many rabbits is it you’ve caught since we got here?”
“Two,” Newbie said, a glimmer of pride in his voice.
Clarice nodded. “Two. Two small rabbits in a week. One of them so skinny there was barely any meat on it. The other undercooked. So don’t crucify me if I choose to stay vegetarian for the time being.”
She reached into the bag of Monster Munch that Sarah held out for her and took a solitary crisp.
The four of them sat and ate slowly. They savoured every single crunch, knowingly or unknowingly. As if by eating slower, they’d absorb more nutrients from the crisps. Nutrients from half a bag of Monster Munch each. Who were they kidding?
“It’d help if Walkers weren’t such dicks about how many crisps they stuff in a bag,” Sarah said. “Only give you half a bag in the first place. So we’re actually eating quarter of a bag each. A quarter of a bag of stale beef Monster Munch for breakfast, lunch and dinner. How the hell did our lives get so shitty?”
Hayden let Clarice have the bulk of his portion of crisps. His body was hungry, and he could feel his jeans getting baggier around the knees, the bones of his face sticking out more, but he just never had an appetite these days. Perhaps something to do with the things he’d seen. The zombies tearing other people apart, spilling their guts onto the ground, stuffing their faces with fresh human buffet.
Or the things he’d done. Putting down his dad’s undead corpse. Holding the pillow over his live mum’s face and waiting for her heart to stop …
Actions that he lived with alone. Because he couldn’t burden anyone else with the knowledge of what he’d done, especially not his twenty-year-old sister.
“We’ll go out into the woods tomorrow,” Newbie said, as half a crisp shook in his quivery fingers. “It’s not easy hunting without proper equipment, but we’ll check the traps and we’ll find something. We have to find something. Failing that, we head into one of the local villages. See what we can find lying around. And failing that, we …”
He stopped. Hayden knew what he was going to say.
We move on.
But they’d argued about moving on already. All of them had their own opinions on this bunker, and the next step. All of them agreed that this place was a good temporary shelter. As good as they were going to find, perhaps.
But it was the “perhaps” that split opinion.
Hayden and Newbie weren’t too keen on taking a risk for a “perhaps.”
Clarice and Sarah seemed more open to the idea of leaving this place and finding somewhere else.
“Any luck with the radio today?” Sarah asked Newbie.
Newbie shook his head. “Nothing but static. Fences all clear?”
Sarah told Newbie about the zombies at the fences. The radio Sarah referred to was an old comms room in one of the three bunkers. It had a load of old radio equipment in there, and Newbie seemed convinced that he could maybe send out a signal or receive a transmission. And Hayden got that. If they found a transmission directing them to a certain safe place, then maybe they’d have to investigate.
But he couldn’t rid himself of the memories of what had happened the last time they’d gone seeking a safe place.
The military dressed in black.
Pointing their guns at Frank and blasting him to pieces.
Hunting people of all ages down.
“You okay, bro?”
Clarice’s voice shifted Hayden out of his thoughts. He looked into her blue eyes and smiled. “Yeah. I … As good as I can be.”
She grabbed his hand with her icy fingers. “We’ll find something. Even if it’s somewhere else—”
“This place is good enough.”
Clarice shook her head. “I know you’re worried. Worried about me. And I’m worried about you too. But if we have to move on, we have to move on. I can look after myself.”
“You won’t have to look after yourself.”
“I managed it for years when you …”
She stopped. Her pale cheeks blushed. Hayden knew what she was going to say. He’d been close to his younger sister when they were in their teens. Hayden had supported Clarice in the aftermath of Annabelle—their older sister’s—suicide.
But then he’d moved away to uni. And after that he’d grown even more distant. His sister’s problems weren’t his problems anymore. He’d let her go off the rails with drugs and booze and guys and girls. He’d left her for Mum and Dad to sort out.
He’d heard her crying out and he’d ignored her. Right up until the day he’d saved her life a week ago.
“I’m sorry,” Clarice said. “I didn’t mean—”
“It’s okay,” Hayden said. He squeezed his sister’s hand tighter. “I’m here now. And I’m not going anywhere. And I won’t let anything happen to you. I promise you that.”
She looked at him with narrowed eyes. “You shouldn’t make promises you’re not sure you can keep. You’ve made that mistake way too many times in your life already.”
Hayden looked away from his sister and leaned back on the cold tiles of the damp bunker floor. He listened to the distant groans of zombies walking around outside. Further into the distance, he could hear something that sounded like shouting, screaming. More meat for the zombies to consume. Another innocent person for them to convert to their army of masses.
“I’m keeping this promise,” he said.
He closed his eyes and tried to clear his mind of thoughts.
The door at the side of the bunker creaked in the cool breeze, and the sounds of the undead armies intensified.