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Last Another Day
#1 in the Series
First published by Baileigh Higgins in 2016.
Copyright © Baileigh Higgins, 2016.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, scanning, or otherwise without written permission from the publisher. It is illegal to copy this book, post it to a website, or distribute it by any others means without permission.
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The steady thudding of his fists on the door had become a part of her. Like the beating of her heart, she relied on the sound to keep her sanity. It prevented her from screaming and crying, reminding her she was still alive—for the moment at least.
For what seemed like an eternity, Morgan huddled in the shower, arms wrapped around her knees, listening to the constant crashes interspersed with frustrated growls and hisses. An occasional drop of chilly water, from the shower head Brian never bothered to fix, dripped onto her back. She might have sat there forever if a new sound hadn't joined the first.
“No! No, no, no,” she cried, jumping to her feet.
The wood was splintering around the lock on the door at a rapid rate. It wouldn't last much longer before her time was up. Raging adrenaline triggered a desperate need for survival. She scanned the small bathroom for a weapon. Her eyes found the shower rail.
Morgan grabbed it and shook off the shower curtain, ripping the plastic stoppers from the ends. She barely had time to ready herself before the door burst inwards with a shuddering crash.
Immediately, Brian was upon her, moving fast with hands outstretched and teeth bared in a vicious grin. Growls ripped from his throat, and his eyes were bloodshot and crazed. She gripped the rail and thrust it into his chest. He staggered back, regained his balance and lunged again.
Morgan gasped, stumbling backward. Her mind slipped into pure terror. It was a scene from her worst nightmares. Again, she stabbed him with the pipe but the blow skimmed off his shoulder. He jumped on top of her, embedding his fingers into her arms with brutal strength. He snarled and snapped at her face.
She pushed against his chest with the pipe held in both hands as a shield, trying to keep those teeth at a distance. He slammed her up against the wall. Pain exploded through her head as it smashed against the tiles. He had her in a death grip, bloody lips mere centimeters from her face.
“What's wrong with you, Brian?” she screamed. “Please stop! It's me, Morgan.” Time slowed as she stared into his eyes, searching for a sign that he was still human, still the man she loved but his eyes were empty. Brian was gone.
Fear and determination lent her strength. With a monumental shove, Morgan pushed him away, kicking him in the stomach to gain distance. She lifted the rail and used it as a spear, aiming for his throat.
The metal tore into the soft flesh, impaling him. Clotted, black blood spurted from the wound and splashed onto her chest. She pinned him against the opposite wall and slid him around like a dog on a leash until she stood with her back to the smashed bathroom door.
Her newfound strength waned. With no idea what to do, Morgan bolted. Her bare feet slapped a staccato beat on the floor, echoed by Brian's heavier tread. She slid around a corner and headed for the front door, silk pajamas billowing behind her. She slammed up against it and tore at the deadbolt with frantic fingers. With seconds to spare, she unlocked it and stumbled through, pulling the door shut as his body connected with a crash.
Morgan stumbled back on legs turned to water and stared at the peeling paint on the wood. Brian growled with frustration, and she flinched as the now familiar beat of his fists filled the air. However, the bathroom door had been locked while the front door was not. The seconds ticked by as she waited.
Waited for him to pull open the door and lunge for her.
Waited for him to find another way out.
Waited for death.
Her husband had turned into a monster, and nothing made sense anymore. After a while, however, it became obvious he didn't know how to turn the knob. Nor did he have the intelligence left to look for another way out.
In the fresh air, Morgan fought to gain control of her body. Her heartbeat slowed, and she noticed her surroundings. Standing there on the front patio in her pajamas, she shivered, folding her arms around her body.
What the hell is going on? What happened to Brian?
Until today, Morgan would never have believed he was capable of harm. With searching fingers, she touched the marks his hands had left. It hurt, the flesh bruised but intact. The back of her head was tender and swollen.
Morgan turned and stared out into the street. It was chaos. The whole neighborhood was going to hell. She stumbled across the lawn to get a closer look. Were there more people as sick as her husband? Was this a disease? Something that drove them crazy? It was the only explanation her frozen mind accepted.
Whatever it was, it spread with the ferocity of wildfire. A car sped around the corner, tires screeching. The driver never spared her a glance, and she was too numb to care.
To her left, a trio of crazies cornered a woman and ripped away at her flesh. The agonizing screams tore at Morgan's heart before they were abruptly cut off. More bodies lay scattered around on the immaculate green lawns of their front yards and in the street.
A corpse stirred and rose to its feet. He stood there, strips of flesh hanging off of limbs covered in blood. She reeled in shock. It couldn't be.
He can't still be alive!
Dogs barked at the monsters that used to be their owners until they too died in a welter of howls. Wincing at the distressing sounds, she realized anything and everything that moved would fall victim to these things. Further up the street, shots rang out and through her fence, she glimpsed a man herding his family into a car.
Morgan knew that she should move, should try to escape, but her limbs remained frozen to the spot. Something to the right caught her eye. One of the walking corpses clawed at the palisades bordering her lawn. It rasped through a ruined throat, reaching out a bloody hand as if in supplication. Behind it, two more had noticed her.
I'm being surrounded!
This thought galvanized Morgan into action, and she sprinted around the house to the backyard. Brian's truck was the only realistic means of escape. She ran to it and reached for the handle, crying out in frustration when she realized it was locked.
“Shit. Where are the fucking keys?”
Inside the house.
They hung on a board in the kitchen.
“I can't go back in there,” she said, hopelessness overwhelming her.
She had no choice, though. If she moved fast, she could grab them and get out while Brian still battered on the front door. The back door was unlocked owing to her clandestine smoking habits. She had snuck out for a quick cigarette that morning while Brian slept.
Before her nerves could fail, she rushed into the kitchen and ran to the board, searching for the keys. From the front of the house, she heard Brian's growls pause before they resumed in heightened pitch, heading towards her.
Morgan ran trembling fingertips over the keys, heart hammering in her chest until she found the right ones. Grabbing them, she turned to run but fumbled her grip. They clattered to the floor.
“Fuck,” she cried, scrambling on all fours.
The slap of Brian's feet on the kitchen tiles caused her heart to stutter and she snatched up the keys, lunging outside.
A brief glimpse of his pale, inhuman visage tore at her as she shut the door in his face. Morgan crumpled to her knees, crying.
“I can't do this. I can't.”
She reached up and laid a hand on the wood. It shivered beneath her palm from the force of his blows.
"Brian, please come back. What am I supposed to do now?”
She was ready to give up and slumped down but a voice from within nagged at her.
Get up. Run.
“I can't,” she whispered.
Do it. You can't give up now. What of your family? Your friends?
“Oh, my God. Mom. Dad.”
Morgan bolted for the truck, barely noticing the gravel cutting into her bare feet. She pushed the remote button to unlock and jumped in. After a deep, calming breath, she turned the key in the ignition and shifted into gear. At the gate, a mob of infected crowded, clawing through the gaps with creepy yearning. They blocked the exit and left her no choice. She had to go through.
As the gate opened, they flooded inside, swamping her car. They beat on the windows and climbed onto the hood, crawling over each other like insects. She shuddered in disgust as one licked the window next to her face, leaving a smear of bloody spittle behind. For once, she was grateful she'd never gotten to know her neighbors.
Her breath came in small, frightened gasps as she struggled to control her panic. When the gate finally opened, she floored the gas and roared through, biting on her lower lip when she ran over a few. The metallic taste of blood filled her mouth.
A glance at the clock read past eleven. She'd hidden in the shower for far too long. For all she knew, her parents, her sister, everyone she loved, could be one of those
“I'm coming. Please be okay. I need you to be okay.”
The trip through town gave her a good idea of the chaos breaking out everywhere. It was horrific. People tried to escape, loading possessions, kids, and pets into cars. Most didn't make it. Screams rang through the air, confronting her at every turn.
A young mother ran out of her house, dragging a boy by the arm. She spotted Morgan and rushed out into the street. “Help us. Please, help!”
Behind her, a man burst through the door and sprinted towards them, growling.
Morgan slammed on the brakes and leaned over to open the passenger door. “Get in. Hurry!”
The woman ran towards her, feet slapping on the tar road, closing the distance. The little boy was crying, legs pumping as he tried to keep up.
Morgan stared at the scene in front of her, heart sinking as she realized the truth. “They're not going to make it.”
The infected, driven by primal hunger, reached the two and latched onto the boy, ripping him out of his mother's hands.
“No,” the woman cried, stumbling to a halt. “He's your son.”
The man ignored her, pulling the boy close and burying his face in his neck. Blood, bright red and arterial, spurted into the air.
“No!” the woman screamed, her desperate wails stabbing into Morgan's heart.
She wanted to close her eyes, to look away, but couldn't. Instead, she watched as the woman grappled with the infected that used to be her husband, fighting for the life of her child.
Like a rag doll, the boy was tossed aside to bleed out on the asphalt, eyes glazing over in death while his mother was savaged scarcely a meter away.
The spell broke and at last, Morgan looked away. She leaned over and locked the passenger door, the click loud in her ears. With an iron grip on the wheel, she steered the truck around the family and drove away, never once looking back.
The whole time, she whispered, “I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry,” until the words were branded into her psyche.
She didn't stop again.
Morgan headed for the suburb where her parents lived. It lay on the edge of town. If they were lucky, the infection hadn't reached there yet. As she drove, the streets became quieter and her hope grew apace.
A knot of a dozen infected crawled on the front lawn of a neighbor's house. They were feeding. As the group shifted, a bloody arm flopped out. Morgan swallowed as a flood of bile pushed up her throat. She recognized the next-door neighbors, Mr. Robertson, and his wife in the pack. Mrs. Robertson still wore a robe with curlers in her hair, prompting a hysterical laugh from Morgan.
She squeezed her eyes shut. No time for weakness now. Not with her parents and little sis waiting, possibly alive. It was a hope she couldn't let go of just yet.
Morgan stared at the infected and tried to come up with a plan. There was no way she could run past them. Barefoot and unarmed, they'd pull her down and rip her to shreds. However, she sat inside a solid mass of driven metal. The Ford Ranger 4x4 double cab was perfect.
She rammed into the front runners with a sickening crunch. Some bodies bounced off, others disappeared beneath the wheels. The truck plowed through them effortlessly, up onto the lawn into the knot. She shifted into reverse and rolled back, clipping a straggler to the left.
Morgan repeated the whole procedure over again. And again. It was sickening but part of her felt a sense of accomplishment for overcoming such an obstacle. The rest of her felt horrified at the slaughter of innocents. No matter how dangerous.
It brought to mind a medieval battlefield, or worse, with torn and crushed body parts strewn about. A few still tried to move, without success, and it confirmed one important fact—the infected were not sick or crazy, they were dead.
She reversed into the driveway, keeping the nose pointed towards the gate for a quick escape. Morgan unlocked the doors and left the keys in the ignition. Then she dug behind the seats and found a tire iron.
With one last look around, she slid out of the truck and closed the door with a soft click. She felt vulnerable, standing there in the open air imagining what those things could do to her exposed flesh.
With a deep breath, Morgan gripped the tire iron and walked up the driveway to the front door, the concrete cool and rough beneath her feet. She tested it, found it locked and with a muttered curse walked around to the back.
Her nerves jangled. She kept imagining sinister sounds behind her. Only the thought of her family kept her going.
Morgan turned a corner and screamed as she spotted the remains of her parents' domestic worker. The woman was barely recognizable. Bloodstained bandages covered her arms, but the cause of death was obvious: A gunshot to the head.
Hope for her family's safety faded as she stepped around the body with a heavy heart. The back door stood open, and she inched forward to peer inside the kitchen. Her eyes flew to puddles of blood on the floor. The drops formed a trail into the hallway and bedrooms.
She crossed the kitchen and dared a peek into the hallway, then the living and dining rooms. Nothing. It was empty. No signs of a struggle. No sign of her family, either.
Morgan swallowed, her mouth dry, and moved onward. The silence was eerie. A subtle threat hung in the air. She quailed at the thought of being confronted by the sight of her mother or father turned into a monster. Or, Heaven forbid, her little sister.