Walking through the withered remains of society, my gun hand is steady. My flashlight hand, however, is quivering violently. I pause, listening to my surroundings. I can hear sobbing. Witch. Almost panicked, I switch the light off. The sobbing continues. Good. I look towards the sound and see a crouched shape. I stop breathing and back up quietly. I back out of the alley and into the main street, two blocks away I hear an explosion and see light cast by fire. Right now, it is not of my concern. Still, I am hypnotised by it. That is, until a car flies into the air. Tank. I turn and run away from the wailing car alarms. My heart is racing. I concentrate on it’s rushed thumping. Ba-boom, ba-boom, ba-boom. I skid to a stop, throwing pebbles over the asphalt. I’m panting. I bend over to catch my breath when I hear a low growling. Shit. It’s a Hunter. I point my gun towards the growling. The Hunter pounces and I shoot at the bloodied blue hood. I’ve missed, because the Hunter crashes into me, (in the process I drop my gun) pins me and gets ready to rip me to shreds. I raise my arms by instinct and squeeze my eyes shut. The ground is vibrating softly. I’m not dead yet. I dare to open my eyes a crack just as the Tank smashes its fist into the Hunter, sending it flying through a second story window on the other side of the street. The Tank is raising its fists. Will being crushed be more or less painful than being ripped to shreds? The fist is coming down as something wraps itself around me and yanks me out from under the Tank. God! Now what!? A Smoker is standing on a nearby balcony. I feel my arms get pressed against my body. Stuck. I yell and kick, but the situation is just getting worse and worse. Wait. I hear gunshots.
‘Hey!’ a gruff voice shouts. I turn my head as I lift off the ground. The man who yelled is wearing a biker vest. He shoots the Smoker in the head and runs up to me. I hit the ground and he grabs my wrist.
‘Run and gun!’ He yells, hands me an Assault rifle and pulls another one off of his back. ‘Now!’ he grabs my wrist again and pulls me away from the Tank. I stumble to my feet and turn, so I’m facing the Tank and sprinting backwards. I shoot at it. An old man backs out of an alley and throws a pipe bomb. Two people, a black man and a girl run out of the alley. The girl sees the Tank, lights a Molotov and throws it.
‘Fire in the hole!’ she shouts. The Molotov explodes on the Tanks face, making it roar. The biker grabs my shoulder.
‘Forget the gun, just run!’ The five of us sprint towards a set of ladders with balconies on the side of a building. The black man reaches it first and has his foot on the second rung when a shrill scream fills the air. The girl shrieks as a Hunter lands on her. The black man is shooting at the Hunter from the first balcony.
‘You two, up!’ the old man orders. I hesitate. The biker grabs my wrist again and launches me into the ladder. I scramble up the ladder without a second thought. I duck behind the black man and leap into the next ladder, which I practically fly up. I sprint to the third one, climb up and help the others onto the roof. The girl is limping slightly but otherwise seems okay. The black man opens a door.
‘And just in here-‘ He closes the door quickly and leans his back against it. ‘Lets not go down there.’ The biker rolls his eyes. The old man pulls a cigarette butt out of his mouth, throws it on the ground, steps on it, pulls out a new cigarette and lights it. He then sits down and looks at me.
‘Who are you?’ he grunts.
‘Me?’ I say. I haven’t said anything for so long that my voice sounds hoarse and unfamiliar. He nods.
‘Stephanie.’ I croak. I clear my throat. ‘Call me Steph.’ Much better. I sound normal now. He nods again.
‘Bill. I hope you’re used to staring death in the face every five minutes, because that’s life as we know it now.’ He says. Whoa, downer much?
‘I’m Louis.’ the black man says, smiling.
‘Zoey.’ the girl says. She sits down and starts bandaging herself. The biker holds his hand out.
‘The name’s Francis.’ I reach out and he shakes my hand vigorously. ‘So, Steph, how’s your day been?’ he asks. I think for a moment.
‘Well, in the last twenty minutes I’ve nearly stepped on a Witch, been pounced on by a Hunter, crushed by a Tank and swallowed by a Smoker. How has my day been? Oh, now I remember. It sucked.’
‘Better get used to it, kid.’
‘I am used to it. Did I thank you for saving my life back there?’
‘Good. Maybe I can surprise you sometime.’
‘Glad to see someone else here has a sense of humour.’ We laugh and Louis strolls up to us.
‘You guys seen to be having a good time. Care to share the joke?’ he says cheerfully. I look him up and down.
‘Is he always this… Chipper after a near death situation?’
‘That’s a shame.’
‘You think so too?’ we laugh again and Louis tried to join in until Francis and I collectively scowl at him.
‘I’ll just leave you guys to it then.’ He says, his hands raised in defence. Zoey stands up with a bandage wrapped around her left calf.
‘So, Steph, how have you managed to survive so long on your own?’ she asks.
‘With great difficulty.’
‘That’s how everything occurs nowadays.’ Bill murmurs. Zoey yawns. Bill looks up at the moon.
‘Time to turn in. Louis, you seem spry, take the first watch. Francis second and I’ll do last.’ Bill says. Zoey smiles and lies down. I do the same. For a few seconds I think that trying to fall asleep is futile but then my eyelids droop.
My eyes open. Day. Morning. I hear a groan and sit up. Zoey is clutching her stomach. Phew.
‘How long is it since we last ate?’ she groans. Louis laughs.
‘I can’t remember!’ He chuckles. Bill nods.
‘Okay kids, time to go shopping. Steph, this is your test. If you can’t keep up, you’re going to be left behind.’ He says decisively. I gulp quietly.
‘And by shopping,’ Francis says, cocking his rifle, ‘He means looting.’ I smile.
‘This is going to be fun.’
Francis, Bill, Louis and Zoey all lean over the edge of the roof. I join them. Bill is pointing at a building.
‘That’s the place. We go down, get food, and come right back.’ He says. I load a shotgun and grin across the roof at Francis. I glance at Zoey getting ready and she tosses me a med-kit.
‘Yeah, lets just hope you won’t need it.’ she says in return. I open the kit and look at what’s inside. Damn, I could’ve used one of these… A few minutes later I’m sliding down the ladder. I hit the ground and face the street. Three Infected are running at me. I shoot the first two and Louis picks off the third. I grunt in appreciation. He shrugs.
‘We’ve got to stick together in a zombie’s world, right?’
‘They’re vampires.’ Francis mutters.
‘Zombies.’ Zoey, Bill and Louis say simultaneously. Francis keeps grumbling as we cross the road. The automatic doors to the mall won’t open, but that isn’t much of a problem seeing as they’re shattered already.