Read Ashton Memorial Online

Authors: Robert R. Best,Laura Best,Deedee Davies,Kody Boye

Tags: #Undead, #robert r best, #Horror, #zoo, #corpses, #ashton memorial, #Zombies, #Lang:en, #Memorial

Ashton Memorial (45 page)

“Hurry!” she yelled back at
Dalton. Her arms ached.

Dalton fired a fourth time. Maylee turned to
watch. The dart thudded into the hippo. It staggered and slumped,
snoring.

“Good job,” she said,
pushing him toward the ladder. “Hurry hurry hurry!”

They climbed back onto the ladder just as
Maylee heard a sea lion jump again. They climbed down as fast as
they could. It was more difficult now that the ladder was bent from
the assault by the hippo. Maylee heard the sea lion land on the
platform and thrash around angrily.

They reached the bottom.
Maylee looked at the hippo, then back at Dalton. “You
okay?”

He nodded.

“Good. Let's go,” she said.
And they ran.

 

Twenty

 

Angie and the others plodded along through
the rain. She wished they had made more progress. She wished she
had food for everybody. She wished a lot of things.

“Where's the food you
promised us?” said someone in the crowd.

“Right next to shut the
fuck up,” said Park.

“We'll find food,” said
Angie. “My guess is Gregory's hoarding it. It can't be a
coincidence that right after I mocked him for not controlling the
Keepers, the Keepers packed up all the nonperishable food and
moved.”

“So where the hell are we
going?” said a woman in the crowd.

“Some place called the
Emergency Backup Station. He let the animals out, and that's the
only place he could have done it from. We get there, we demand food
and we rescue Park's daughter.”

“Then what?” said the
red-headed young woman behind Angie. The one who'd seen the Keepers
leave the Bites.

“Then,” said Angie, “we convince Gregory to step
down.” She plodded along through the wet. The others walked along
behind her. “He won't let people leave. He's gone insane with
power. We force him to let go. Then those who want to go can go.
I'm staying behind and making this place safe again. We can live
here until help comes.”

There were murmurs of assent around the
crowd.

“You really think Gregory
and the Keepers will step down?” said the red-head.

“That's what the weapons
are for,” said Park.

“It's just to scare them,”
said Angie. “And to defend against the corpses and the crazy
animals. We won't have to use them on people.”

“You hope not,” said
Park.

“I know not,” said Angie. “Things can't have gone
that insane. Surely they'll listen.”

Deep down, Angie feared they would not.

The group rounded a corner. Angie held up
her arms for the others to stop. They did. Her chest grew
tight.

A large gray elephant stood in the center of
an open area ahead of them. Its back was to them and it had not
noticed their arrival. It stomped its feet and snorted in the
rain.

“Shit,” said Park. “Not
sure how much use tranqs and shovels are going to be against that
thing.”

The crowd behind Angie muttered nervously.
Angie looked around for an idea. She saw a gift shop to her right.
It was large, taking up most of the area on that side. Angie fished
the map from her pocket and squinted at it through the rain.

“The gift shop,” she said,
putting the map back into her pocket and nodding at the building.
“It has two doors. We can go in there and come out the other side.
Completely bypass the elephant.”

“Don't see what choice we
have,” said Park, taking the rifle from his shoulder and holding it
ready. “Let's go shopping.”

The group slowly walked toward the gift
shop. Angie kept her eyes on the elephant. It stomped and whipped
its trunk around in the rain. It didn't turn and notice them.

They reached the door without incident.
Angie pulled it open and looked inside. It was dark but looked
clear. She looked back to the group and nodded. They all filed
inside.

Angie had only taken a few steps inside
before they were completely enveloped in darkness. She heard the
door shut behind her, indicating the entire group was inside.

“Where the hell are the
lights?” said someone in the crowd.

“Also right next to shut
the fuck up,” said Park. “It's a happening place. You should go
there.”

“The power's off,” said
Angie. “It's off all over the entire zoo, and it’s probably not
coming back. So everyone just stay together, move slow and keep
calm. We'll be fine.”

They all moved through the dark. Angie could
make out dim outlines. Racks of souvenir T-shirts. Shelves of
animal-themed knickknacks. She found herself hating the gift shop
for being so large.

“I think I heard
something,” said the red-headed young woman behind
Angie.

Angie strained to listen. All she heard were
the fumbling movements of the crowd and their mutters.

“I heard it too,” said
someone else in the crowd, farther back.

“Everyone just stay calm,”
said Angie.

Groans erupted from all sides. People
screamed. Angie whipped her head side to side, trying to pinpoint
where the groans were coming from. She saw moving shapes and
realized they were coming from everywhere. Corpses had been
standing in the dark of the shop the whole time. For a moment she
thought she'd killed herself and everyone with her. Then she heard
the sounds of people using the weapons she'd given them. She heard
the clang of shovels and wrenches. She heard corpses groan and
fall. She felt hope.

Then a tightly-wound band of cloth closed
around her neck and pulled tight. She fell backward against her
attacker. The cloth tightened further, pushing the air from her
throat.

Her attacker spoke, and
Angie recognized the voice. The red-headed woman. “Long live the
Keepers, bitch,” she said.

Shafts of light exploded around her and
Angie was convinced she was dying. Then she realized the lights
were real, bobbing around in the dark as people moved.

“I found flashlights!”
someone said. “They still work!”

Angie struggled, clutching at the cloth as
it dug deeper into her neck. She was failing.

Several of the lights fell on her.

“What the hell?” said
Park's voice.

Park rushed over and shoved
the red-headed woman back. She let go of Angie. Angie stumbled
away, coughing and wheezing. She pulled the cloth from her throat
and saw it was a zoo souvenir T-shirt. Angie turned back to the
red-head. Her shirt sleeves had been pushed upward during the
struggle. A crude “K” was carved into her arm.

“Dammit,” said Park to the
red-head. “I knew there was something wrong about you.”

“Did you now?” said the
red-head, looking defiant in the beams of light trained on her.
“Good for you, hillbilly! Too bad you're all going to the wrong
fucking place! You people think you can take over this zoo? All our
true leader has to do is move himself and his daughter and you
fuckers have no idea where you're going. You're a joke!”

“What are you saying?” said
Angie. “Where have they moved to?”

“Where the fuck is my
daughter?” yelled Park.

“Traitor spy bitch!” said
an older man in the crowd. He rushed to the red-head. Angie saw the
wrench in his hand just before he slammed it across the woman's
temple. The woman cried out and dropped to her knees. A split in
her skin showed a crack in her skull. Blood seeped out. She
twitched and moaned.

“What the fuck is the
matter with you!” yelled Angie, shoving the older man back. The
older man looked at her in shock.

“She attacked you!” yelled
the man. “She attacked our leader!”

“I'm not your fucking
leader!” yelled Angie, shoving him again. “Get out! Just get out of
here!”

The man looked bewildered. He would have
looked sad if not for the blood on the wrench he carried. The
lights bobbed in the dark, moving from him to Angie to the dying
woman on the floor.

“But,” the older man said.
“Where the hell am I supposed to go?”

“I don't give a shit!”
yelled Angie. “Just get out!”

The man looked from Angie
to the others. He looked shocked, then hurt, then angry. “Fine.
Fuck you anyway.” He stomped out of view, headed toward the far
exit.

Angie heard the young woman on the floor
moaning. Angie dropped to her knees. She struggled to think of what
to say. She felt guilty. The woman had attacked her, but she'd been
stopped. Angie opened her mouth to speak, then shut it.

“Where the fuck is my
daughter?” Park yelled again, his voice shaking.

The young woman moaned,
blood falling from the split in her temple and onto the floor. “Cat
Country,” the woman said.

“What?” said Angie, leaning
closer. Her nurse's aide training came back to her and she
desperately tried to think of ways she could help. “What did you
say?”

“Cat County,” said the
young woman. “They're going to Cat Country.” Then she slumped, fell
over, and died.

 

* * *

 

Maylee and Dalton stomped along through the
rain. Dalton had his rifle over his shoulder. Maylee had her bat
held down at her side. They passed trees, bushes and empty
exhibits. Maylee heard faint groans, somewhere far off. She also
thought she heard a few growls from somewhere. Again, too far off
to tell.

Dalton spoke, breaking the
silence. “Is this the way to Cat Country?”

“We're coming from the back
way,” said Maylee. “This way we'll be at the top and can see the
whole thing.”

Dalton nodded and kept walking. They drew
near a bend in the path. They approached it silently. Maylee
thought she heard something coming from behind. She turned her head
to look, continuing to walk forward. She saw nothing. She shrugged
and turned back.

They rounded the corner.

Three corpses stood there, moaning and
grabbing at them.

The closest one, a fat man with no skin on
his hands, grabbed at Maylee. His muscles flexed in the rain as he
grabbed and hissed. Maylee brought up her bat and slammed it across
the man's face. His head whipped to one side and he stumbled back.
She brought her bat around and slammed his head the other way. His
skull cracked and he fell to the ground, dead. Black ooze seeped
from his cracked skull.

Dalton screamed. Maylee whipped around to
see him struggling with his rifle as a young woman, missing one eye
and an ear, groped at him. She hissed through her bloody teeth. He
couldn't get the rifle around in time and she grabbed him. He
screamed.

Maylee rushed over through the rain and
slammed the woman in the back of the head. She fell forward,
letting go of Dalton. He scrambled out of the way and the young
woman stumbled in the rain. She turned, hissing at Maylee. Maylee
brought her bat up over her head and slammed downward, screaming as
she swung. The woman's head buckled inward and her remaining eye
bulged. She slumped and fell to the ground. She was still.

Maylee looked at Dalton,
who was standing a few feet away. “You okay?”

He nodded.

A low, dry moan came from behind her. Maylee
remembered there had been three corpses. Hands closed on her
shoulders and pushed her forward. She fell to her stomach, her bat
flying from her hand and clattering across the pavement. She felt
the corpse crawling up her back, moaning in a dry rasp and
preparing to bite. She screamed.

“Maylee!” yelled
Dalton.

Maylee heard a rifle fire.
She felt the corpse on her back jerk and slump. Maylee squirmed
free and scrambled to her feet. She quickly looked at the ground.
The corpse, an old man with leathery skin, lay still. A dart was
embedded in the back of his head. She turned to where her bat had
flown. She ran to it, stooping to pick it up. “Thanks,” she
said.

“It wasn't me,” said
Dalton.

Maylee frowned and turned back.

“Freeze!” said someone.
Maylee squinted through the rain and saw five zookeepers, all
holding rifles. The rifles were pointed at her and
Dalton.

“We got stragglers!” said
one of the zookeepers.

“They could be spies!”
yelled another. “Take them out!”

They cocked their rifles. Maylee tensed,
preparing to grab Dalton and run.

“Wait!” said one of them.
The others kept their rifles trained but didn't fire. The one who'd
spoken stepped forward. It was a young man with greasy black
hair.
Lee
was
written on his shirt.

Lee stepped closer to them. He looked at
Dalton and nodded.

“I recognize this one,” he said. “He was with the
woman when she came to the Bites. She said he was her son. And she
kept going on about her kids when she was on the intercom.”

He looked at Maylee and
nodded. “I'm guessing you’re the other one. You two are coming with
me. Gregory's going to want to meet you.”

Maylee considered slamming him in the face
and running. The rifles trained on her and Dalton said
otherwise.

“Yeah,” he said, nodding
again. “He's definitely going to want to meet you.”

Twenty-One

 

Cat Country was the centerpiece of Ashton
Memorial Zoo. It was built along the side of the largest hill in
the zoo. The lion exhibit was at the bottom. To either side were
exhibits for cheetahs and tigers. Moving up the hill were several
exhibits, all separated with thick glass fences, for various breeds
of pumas and leopards. All with layers of rocks and ledges for big
cats to climb or rest on. Paved walkways ran along either side,
giving visitors many angles to view the cats from. It was by far
the most popular exhibit in the zoo.

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