Authors: Ryan Casey
… we need to get back to the bunker. We need to let the others know. Hayden.”
Hayden heard Newbie’s words. But he couldn’t focus on them. He couldn’t comprehend them. He was too focused on what was heading up the hill, heading towards the trees, heading towards the bunker—towards their safe haven.
“Hayden, we can’t stand around here. We have to let Sarah and Clarice know. And we have to get away from here.”
Hayden stepped back over the frosty grass. He kept his eyes on the things approaching. The stench of rotting was strong, the cold wind making it even more intense. The sound of them was unlike anything Hayden had heard, too. A thousand gasps, all echoing over the landscape.
He blinked. Rubbed his eyes. Tried to make sense of what was marching up the hill.
It didn’t make any more sense when he saw it this time, but he understood what it meant.
The fields at the bottom of the hill were filled with undead. They were clearly undead because of the way they were staggering along, the way some of them at the front of the pack jogged up the hill and in Hayden and Newbie’s direction. There were so many of them. More than Hayden had ever seen in one single place.
Shit. More than Hayden had ever seen put together.
Coming for him. For his friends. For his sister, and for the bunker.
He turned and jogged back towards the bunker. His legs were like jelly. As he moved, he couldn’t avoid the sounds of the echoing groans drifting up the hill, drifting towards him. He didn’t know what to do. Where to go. The fences of the bunker had to hold. They just had to lay low. Keep quiet.
The fences would hold strong.
Hayden and Newbie ran through the grass and saw the bunker close by. Hayden just wanted to get back. Back to his sister. He had to know she was okay. He had to be there for her. They had to fight through this, one way or another.
Hayden was so focused on getting back to the bunker that he didn’t see the three zombies approaching through the trees on the left until they were clutching at the sleeves of his coat.
He swung around at them. Pushed the one grasping him away and sent it crashing into the two behind it, and then he kept on running, kept on moving towards the bunker. It seemed like the nightmare he had where the stairs felt like they were stretching further above him. He was tired. Exhausted. He wasn’t sure how much further he could run, only that he had to.
He had to, because he had to get back to Clarice and Sarah.
He had to get back.
Hayden and Newbie emerged from the edge of the trees. Hayden could see both Clarice and Sarah in the grounds in front of the bunker, but they hadn’t seen him yet. He wanted to shout, but he knew shouting wasn’t a good idea because it would only draw the mass of zombies right to their doorstep.
He pushed the gate aside with shaking hands and noticed that the padlock was broken from earlier. Shit. They hadn’t had time to replace it. It wouldn’t hold. The doors in the bunker wouldn’t hold.
Shit shit shit.
Clarice and Sarah saw Hayden and Newbie when they rushed inside the yard of the bunker. Sarah smiled, Clarice frowned. “Guys, what’s—”
“We need to get out of here,” Newbie said, panting. He turned and looked at the trees. So too did Hayden. No movement. No sign of the oncoming mass of zombies yet.
But they were coming.
They’d be here for them soon.
“Wait, slow down,” Sarah cut in. “What’s going on?”
“At the bottom of the hill,” Hayden said, struggling to catch his breath. “There’s …” He tried to put what he’d seen into words. “Zombies.”
“We can handle—”
“More zombies than we’ve ever seen,” Hayden said. “I mean … hundreds. Probably thousands. All—all together as one big group. All coming this way.”
Clarice frowned. She had a bemused look on her face like she couldn’t quite take her brother’s words seriously. “How … what …”
“I don’t know how, I don’t know what and I don’t know why. But we need to get inside the bunker. We … we need to get inside the rear exit tunnel. We need to hide down there and wait for them to pass.”
Newbie turned and frowned at Hayden. “You can’t be serious.”
Hayden could hear the footsteps of the oncoming zombies getting closer. “We … we can’t leave this place. We can’t give it up. We have to hide.”
Newbie’s eyes went red. His lips quivered. “After everything we just spoke about. After everything I just told you.”
“Whatever we do, we can’t frigging stand around here,” Sarah said. “Into the main bunker. Gather our stuff and—”
“There’s no time to gather our stuff,” Newbie said sharply. “Not a moment of damned time to gather our stuff. They’ll be here any second. And we don’t want to be trapped in this place when they get here.”
Clarice looked at Hayden, waiting for his response. Sarah wandered towards the bunker door. The smell of decaying corpses got stronger.
“Hayden,” Newbie said. He stared at Hayden intensely. “You saw them. You stood beside me on the edge of that hill and you saw them. There were hundreds of them. Thousands, like you said. Don’t be stupid here. We need to leave. We need to get as far away from here as possible while we still have the chance.”
Hayden didn’t respond to Newbie. He wanted to, but he couldn’t. Because he knew deep down that Newbie was right. Holding onto this place was stupid. Reckless. Suicidal. And sure, leaving the bunker complex was all those things, but a little less so than sitting here like cattle waiting for the slaughter.
Unless they hid, and hid fast.
“Quick,” Hayden said. “We need to get to the tunnel. We … we decide what our next step is down there.”
The four of them jogged to the entrance of the bunker. Hayden didn’t once turn around. He didn’t want to risk looking at one of the zombies, didn’t want an undead corpse staring back at him. It was like playing hide and seek with his older sister as a kid. He was convinced that if he squeezed his eyes shut, he was more disguised in some way. Didn’t matter if his foot was sticking out or a bit of his hair was on show, he just had to squeeze his eyes and the luck of the game would be on his side.
Only he knew now that was bullshit. That was fantasy.
Reality wasn’t a game of frigging hide and seek.
They rushed inside the door of the bunker. Hayden swung around, looked at Clarice as she got closer to the door, sprinting as fast as she could. She didn’t look scared, just … bemused. Bemused, like she always did in horrible situations. Like life was one big cruel joke and she couldn’t believe the ridiculousness of it.
Hayden grabbed her hand when she reached the door and pulled her inside the bunker. He pushed the metal door shut, but it wouldn’t close properly, another screwed-up lock. Just what they needed right now.
He thought about sliding a table in front of it or something. Not that a desk would do much to stop the progression of a thousand zombies, but it’d give him more peace of mind.
But there wasn’t any time for peace of mind.
. Come on
. We need to get out of here.”
Hayden turned. He saw Newbie standing by the rusty grey door to the dark tunnel. He was looking at him with fear, or was it disappointment?
Or happiness at finally getting a valid enough excuse to push on to Warrington?
Hayden started to walk towards the tunnel door.
And then he saw the shadows cutting through the light on the tiles in front of him.
He held his breath. Turned around. Looked through the rectangular ventilation hatch that the group found more useful as a window.
The mass of zombies was right outside the fences.
Pressing themselves up against the metal.
The fences creaked under their mass of rotting weight, and the undead got closer to the unlocked gate, so so close …
to blot the sounds of the undead groans echoing through the tunnel from his mind as he walked into the darkness.
Clarice, Newbie and Sarah walked with him. They were all holding weapons of choice—the sharpened metal pipes, as well as an individual weapon each. Newbie had an axe. Sarah had a long blade. Clarice had a wrench.
Hayden clasped his hands around the mallet and walked further into the unknown.
“So we’re leaving this place,” Newbie whispered, his voice echoing against the claustrophobia-inducing brick walls. “I’m guessing that much is settled right now.”
“Let’s just … let’s just make our way through here as quietly as we can without tearing each other’s throats out,” Sarah said. “We’re okay for now. But we don’t know how long ‘for now’ is gonna last.”
Hayden and Clarice walked close to one another. He couldn’t hold her hand because they were both carrying two weapons each. But he felt her warmth beside him. Heard her shaky breathing contrasting the grunting, the gasping, the rattling of the fences that surrounded the bunker.
He was here for Clarice. It didn’t matter how weak or how strong or how
she was, he was her big brother and he was here for her. And that’s what mattered.
Newbie coughed a little as they walked further into the dark pit of the tunnel. The temperature seemed to dip completely in here—which said a lot considering how damned cold it was outside. The smell of damp was strong, so strong that it made Hayden want to heave. His stomach churned with hunger, the thought of a spicy curry or spaghetti Bolognese teasing his senses, but his appetite was barely present as the taste of sweat lingered on his tongue.
“Swear I don’t remember this tunnel being this long,” Clarice whispered.
“That’s ’cause you weren’t hiding from zombies when you last came this way,” Hayden said. “It … it can have that kind of effect on a person.”
But Clarice was right. The tunnel was longer than Hayden remembered it being too. In a way, that was a good thing. It meant that the zombies would have some work to do if they were to reach them.
But in another way, it was a bad thing. Because like in his nightmares, Hayden couldn’t shake the feeling that no matter how far he ran, how much he tried to hide, the monsters of the dark would always catch up with him.
“If we’re gonna stop, now might be a good time,” Sarah said.
“We aren’t stopping,” Newbie said. “We get out of this tunnel while the infected are surrounding the fences. We get the hell away from this bunker complex, preferably before they find the entrance to this tunnel.”
Hayden shook his head. “Newbie,
saw how many of those things were out there too.”
“Which gives us all the more reasons to leave.”
“No. It gives us all the more reasons to think about what we’re going to do. Say we do leave this tunnel. What then? Run away from them in the opposite direction to Warrington? How long do you think our undernourished, dehydrating bodies are gonna carry us?”
“We loop around them,” Newbie said defiantly. “We’ll find a vehicle of some kind.”
“Well I’m glad to hear you’re confident. Really. It puts me at ease knowing there’ll be a vehicle casually waiting outside the tunnel for us.”
Newbie stopped and faced up to Hayden.
“Guys.” Clarice put a hand between them. “We’re all stuck here. We can’t tear each other apart.”
“That’s the zombies’ job,” Sarah quipped. Nobody laughed.
Hayden held his gaze with Newbie. He’d come a long way in just over a week. Back in the normal world, before it all went to shit, he wouldn’t have considered standing up to someone. But right now he felt it important to get his views across. For his point to be heard.
“I’m just saying we should wait until … until we know we absolutely have to leave. If the zombies don’t know we’re down here, they’ll just walk on.”
“I know you care about keeping your sister away from the real frigging world, but I care about keeping the whole lot of us safe.”
Hayden’s jaw tensed. “Oh, oh really? And—and this is nothing to do with your daughter? Nothing to do with—with the daughter you failed? Leading us all into a death trap for a daughter you haven’t seen since she was—”
Hayden felt a smack across his face and tasted the strong metal of blood right away. His head went dizzy, his face felt like it was swelling up. The sound of Sarah and Clarice gasping sternly at Newbie to back off rattled in his eardrum.
Hayden put a hand to his face. Felt his cheek. It was bleeding, and stung like hell.
“You don’t dare make this about my daughter,” Newbie said. He was trying to get at Hayden again, but Sarah and Clarice were doing an admirable job of getting in his way. “You don’t make this about my Amy.”
“Then you—you don’t make this about me and my sister,” Hayden said. Just speaking sent a horrible shooting pain right through his jaw. “You … you don’t make this about me trying to protect my family when you’re only trying to do the same.”
Newbie pushed Sarah aside and went at Hayden again with the metal pipe raised.
For a moment, Hayden actually thought Newbie was going to stab him, there and then. The humanity had drifted from his eyes. There was a vacancy in them that Hayden rarely saw in other people, more akin to the blank expressions of the undead.
And then Newbie stopped. Lowered the pipe. Shook his head and turned around. He walked off in the direction of the tunnel exit.
“Newbie, wait,” Sarah said.
“Oh, leave him,” Hayden said, waving him off, blood trickling from his face and echoing on the damp concrete floor. “Let him kill himself for all I care. Let him …”
He felt Clarice’s hand on the back of his neck.
Looked up, saw her peering at him with narrow-eyed concern.
“You okay?” she asked.
Hayden held his sister’s stare. He touched the wound on his cheek with the tips of his fingers then backed away as a stinging jolt shocked his body. “I … I’m sore. Sore, but—”
“Do you hear that?”
Newbie’s voice surprised and annoyed Hayden. He stood up. Looked at him as he stood with his back to the rest of the group in the tunnel. Adrenaline coursed through Hayden’s system. “All I can hear is the sound of a fucking nutcase—”
“Footsteps. Ahead. Do you hear them?”
Hayden stopped. Sarah and Clarice stood still. They listened, but all Hayden could hear was the trickling of water, the scuttling of rodents and insects, and further away behind them, the rattling of the fences and the gasps of the undead. “I don’t hear anything. We should keep quiet. Stay put for now.”
“Sarah, Clarice, you
padlock the rear entrance door when you finished clearing out the bodies this morning, didn’t you?”
Sarah and Clarice looked at one another with widened eyes.
Clarice opened her mouth first. “I … We—”
“We were about to when … when you came running over,” Sarah added. “But … but it’ll be okay. They’re behind us. Right?”
It was at that split second that Hayden heard the creaking of a door somewhere in the distance right at the end of the tunnel.
It was a second later that he heard the fences crash to the ground from the opposite direction.
They stayed still. Stayed still, stunned and in silence.
Listening and praying.
Then: footsteps echoing from the rear exit.
A throaty gasp.
“Run,” Newbie said.