Read The Last: A Zombie Novel Online

Authors: Michael John Grist

Tags: #Zombie Apocalypse

The Last: A Zombie Novel (8 page)

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I drop my weight low and shove him in the breastbone as hard as I can. It's enough to send him tumbling into the bright stools at the bar. There's another crack as his skull bounces off the sharp stone edge, then there's blood pouring down his back and spreading across the floor.

My legs go weak. He's on his knees and I kick him in the chest, driving his head back into the marble again. He manages to snag my jeans leg with his hand, pulling me off balance. I bring the bar down on his forearm with all my strength. The heavy metal snaps through the bones like they were made of Graham crackers, and his arm distends like a marshmallow.

I feel like I might puke. He barely notices. He tries to use his broken arm to get to his feet and instead bends the bones back the other way against the floor. I gag as his now-useless appendage flops like a fish. He looks at it, pushes off the stub of forearm bone so hard it pierces the skin and blood starts coming out there too, and gets onto his feet.

He's like a Terminator. I kick him pathetically in the thigh and hit him again with the bar in the other shoulder. Another cracks rings out as his other collarbone snaps, and now both his arms sag uselessly at his sides. He gets to his feet with them dangling weirdly in front of him.

Shit shit shit, this is too messed up. I want to go back to my room. I notice he's wearing fluffy red slippers with faces on. It's too much. I back up frantically and he follows. His blood is everywhere now, dribbling down his neck and spilling out past the white knob of bone sticking through his forearm, puddling across the dark floor tiles.

I grab the kitchen door and plunge back through it, slamming it behind me.

The hall beyond is lit by a half-light cast through the glass by the front door. I stand with my back to the door, panting and holding tight to the handle, waiting for him to try and force it open. Of course he doesn't. He thumps and shuffles against the door like a zombie. His blood leaks underneath. He hasn't got any functioning hands to open the door with. He hasn't got the brain for it either.

Still, I don't let go of the handle, not even while I puke, not until one of his kids comes bounding down the stairs, Jemima or Janiqua or whatever, her ice-white eyes pinning me like a bug to the door.    

 

 

 

7 – RIDE

 

 

I can't do this.

I let go of the door handle and dart to the left as the little girl rounds the bottom of the stairs. I barrel through another door without a second to think and slam it hard behind me, shaking the walls with a loud bang.

How many goddamn zombies?

It's the living room, with two sofas facing each other, a big-screen TV at one end and a faux fireplace at the other, a coffee table, a big piece of Orwellian-looking art on the wall, and scrabbling around in the middle are two more of them.

Shit. Jemima/Janiqua thumps at the door behind me, her dad thumps in the kitchen, and now I'm looking at the mom and the other kid, and it's horrible. I should have stayed in the goddamned kitchen.

They've got crusty dark blood round their mouths, spattered with bits of purple and pink gut. The mess of it spreads to their throats, their hands, their forearms, dressed in pajamas both. The girl has a weird yellow cartoon character on hers, and there's a big splodge of quivery meat right on the creature's stupid yellow face. Their dark hair clings in ratty bands to their chins.

"Oh God," I murmur.

They look up at me. I crane my neck to see what they've been eating. On the floor, fouling the taupe carpet with its well-chewed red and black viscera, lies what looks like half a tortoiseshell cat.

I puke a little in my mouth. Now I see the clumps of brown and black fur sticking to their cheeks. Oh lord. They rear up and come for me, and I start moving. I get one of the sofas between them and me, and they circle round after me, thankfully both coming the same way, and I go round ahead of them.

Shitting ridiculous, is all I can think as we run round a second time, then a third, with them straining to reach me. I have to time it just right so they're both almost on me, or I risk having them come round both sides at once and pincer me.

I scour the room for a way out. The dumbbell bar hangs slackly in my hand, but I'm not doing that again. There's a dining room stretching out into a conservatory beyond the sofa, overlooking the yard, but I have just a few seconds lead time on them, not enough to open the door if it's locked.

I go round the sofa and they follow.

"Wait a second," I bark at them. It has no effect. "Jemima, Janiqua, mom, just wait a damn second!"

Nothing. I get it in my head that maybe I can herd them, and start planning how I'm going to shove the coffee table here and the sofa there, like constructing a maze, but I was never good at Tetris and I can't figure it.

We hit the fifth time round.

"Arrgh!" I shout, and break for the dining room. They follow. I hit the door with time enough to try the handle, of course it's locked, then I'm back to circling, this time round the gorgeous redwood dining table. They clatter after me, and I pull a chair out and tip it over.

The mom hits it hard in the shin and goes down, then the kid follows. It takes them a second to get back up. I use that time to throw another chair at them.

"Sit down!" I shout at them. "Just take a goddamned seat!"

The chair bounces off the mom's shoulder and she falls back, collapsing on her daughter. I throw another chair and another, shouting inane one-liners like, "Have a break, take a load off!" until all eight chairs are resting on them or either side of them.

A brainwave strikes and I shove the table sideways over them, pressing hard against the chairs and locking them skewed against the thick mahogany dresser against the wall, with the mom and daughter tangled up in them.

I stop and pant. I drop and look under the table. For now they're tangled in each other's limbs and the chairs, reaching out toward me still, but any second they'll break free.

I run to the living room, snatch up the coffee table and carry it back. I slide it under the table and press it up against the chairs as well. I drag the green sofa over too, pressing it flush against the head of the table and bracing in the chairs. I get the TV and press it in tightly above the coffee table. I throw cushions from the sofa to cover them up.

I stop and pant some more in the middle of the now-empty living room. I just made a zombie fort. The furry remnants of the cat stain the carpet by my feet. My dumbbell bar is there and I pick it up. The fort makes creaking sounds, but I don't think they can get free. Maybe they never will.

I creep past them to the back door. It's made of glass, and there's no key apparent. I cover my eyes and hit the glass with the bar. It bounces off and sends a jarring reverberation up my arm, so I hit it harder with a stabbing motion like I've seen on TV. It smashes. I open my eyes and pound, crack, and kick the rest of the glass through.

I step outside. Now I'm outside.

I look into the kitchen, where the father zombie with the broken collarbones is pressing up against the back door. His face leaves bloody smears on the glass. I can see his snapped right collarbone jutting up underneath his robe. I turn to the side and throw up again, hot and acrid.

To the moped. It's a beauty, sitting there on the brushed concrete, bright and limpid as a lily pad. Beside it there's a tiny work shed, a low bank of withered tomato plants, and a big plastic trunk spilling over with kid's toys. I go to the yard gate, slide open the bolts, and put my head out into the backstreet beyond.

Empty. That is a delicious sight. The alley runs left and right in cracked tarmac, at one end meeting Willis and at the other turning onto 143
rd
.

I duck my head back in and close the gate as quietly as I can. Probably it's only a matter of time before they find me. I dart back to the moped and pat down its front, finding the ignition keyhole right at the top of the front wheel's upright axle, set within a classy walnut bevel.

Of course there is no key. I don't have a clue how to hot-wire it. 

At the kitchen window I press my face up close and look for the key. I scan the walls for little hooks, the sideboards for little dishes. The zombie father's face thumps against the glass in front of me, obscuring my view. What an ass.

I slide over and look, soon enough spotting the most likely candidate: a papier-mâché soap dish in the middle of the breakfast bar, within which a tangle of keys and chains lie.

The idea comes easily.

I tip up the yard toy box and carry it back into the living room. With one hand I open the door to the corridor beyond, and with the other I hold up the box. Little Jemima/Janiqua is standing there looking up.

I put the box on her head like I'm cheating at a carney game; dropping hoops over spikes in the back of a cruddy stall, then press down. Her legs give out and she crumples to the floor. I set the box on top of her and weight it down with the TV stand. She thumps but she's trapped. 

I open the front door and look out. Hello, horde. They are crammed in to the right, still staring up at the roof of my building where they last spotted me. I look only long enough to see there's a bit of clear road between me and them, in front of the library, and maybe enough.

I jog back inside, open the kitchen door, then run. The dad lumbers awkwardly after me, his arms swaying like pendulums. I dash out the front door and he follows, out into the street in full view of the horde, where I wait for him to catch up.

Crazy. The horde notices me and members start to peel off at a sprint. Seconds remain before they hit me, and he's still barely clear of the door. I run at him then dart to the side, vaulting over the low green fence and cutting in behind him for the door.

I make it with seconds to spare and slam the door. They hammer against it and I run on, I've probably got moments only, so finding the key is essential. In the kitchen I snatch up the papier-mâché tray and splay the keys out onto the breakfast bar.

Smeared blood and crushed cornflake crumbs mingle on the counter top. I pick through the keys rapidly; house, house, shed, maybe car, another car, surely moped? It has a lime green fob the same color as the moped. I snatch it up, try the kitchen door and thank Buddha it opens. The thumping gets louder behind me and I sail through into the yard, closing the door behind me.

I straddle the moped and fumble to turn and waddle it to the yard gate. I fumble to get the key into the handsome slot. I fumble to open the yard-gate, backing up the moped to let it swing inward. I turn the ignition key, and just as a resounding crack comes from the front of the house, the engine revs into life.

It is the most beautiful sound I've ever heard. I squeeze the handle for gas hard and the moped takes out from under me like rocket, jetting off and throwing itself forward into the alley and me flat onto my back.

"Ugh," I say, as the wind smacks out of me. Sprinkly stars flood across my eyes, black beckons, and I dimly make out a throng of zombies running through the kitchen, to hammer up against the door.

The glass fractures like ice cracking. Dizzily I watch them, beating at the glass kitchen door just yards away.

They look so sad. Their faces and eyes are just dead. I feel like crying, that so many of them have become like this and there's nothing I can do but run.

"I'm sorry," I whisper, because I can't help them, and I'm going to leave the little girl in her box forever. The mom and daughter will stay in that fort until they rot and become trickles of mess on the carpet like their poor dead cat. The father will wander limp-armed around his own home with all his family lost, because of me.

A shard of glass skitters out of the door and hits the ground next to my face. That gets me moving. The glass door cracks outward and the flood pour through, drawing bloody stripes down their faces on the jagged glass.

I jerk to my feet and leap through the gate, slamming it behind me. The moped is thank god still revving on its side, and I pull it up, get on tentatively, and squeeze the handle just hard enough to sneak a squirt of gas into its firing chambers.

It picks up. I stay on. Together we spurt off in an amateurish zigzag down the alley, followed by a crash and a tide of zombies seconds later.

Jesus shitting Christ.

 

 

I burst out onto Willis like a bat out of hell, a good half-block ahead of my zombie comet trail. Turning south I zip past the right turn onto 143
rd
in a blink, briefly glimpsing the mob still flowing away from my apartment, then I'm gone and flying down the silent road, pushing sixty in a thirty zone.

I whizz through the intersection where the Chevy exploded; it's just a black and burnt-out skeleton now. The dark slug-trail of the guy I tore in half is still there but he's gone and so am I.

Wind whips in my hair, and I weave in and out of standing traffic. Yesterday this much stimulation would have killed me. I blink dust out of my eyes and focus on the road, already past 140
th
and closing fast on the Harlem River. There are a few zombies straggling through the intersections limply, a big guy in a brown jogging suit and a young girl wearing bright red spectacles with her hair up in a 70's bob. I swerve to pass them by. They pick up running after me, falling into my wake like jet skiers behind a speedboat.

I blast through intersection after intersection with no red lights to stop me, 139
th
, 138
th
past the gourmet deli where a food truck has knocked over a fire hydrant and there's a wide pond of brackish water.

137
th
, 136
th
, the streets pass by like postcards. Jutting out from the gas station on the corner of 135
th
a white semi-trailer truck lies halted across most of the road and I veer around it, only to drive almost directly into an old lady zombie. I bank hard and nearly throw myself from the moped, pulling to a stop on the hard shoulder.

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