Authors: Michelle Bryan
"Move your asses," Badger shouts at us from the protection of the doorway. He’s retrieved his gun but he doesn’t shoot. That can only mean one thing. They must be so close behind us he can't get a clean shot.
"Jump," Luke yells over at me and I do just that, leaping through the doorway as Badger springs out of my way. Cal rolls by me like some human bowling ball, as Luke tosses him to safety. The big man himself sails through the doorway next, just as Kelly is about to close it. But a gray clawed arm snakes it way through, preventing it from closing and snags Luke’s pant leg. He hits the floor face first as the creature starts dragging him back through the door.
"Argh!" he yells, clawing desperately at the floor and trying to get some kind of hold. But the slippery surface offers no traction.
Cal's screams to shut the door echo in my ears, as Badger and Kelly strain against the metal barrier, trying to keep the nightmare creatures out and Luke in.
My remaining knife still in my hand, I scrabble to my feet and leap at the mottled arm. With every last bit of strength, I bury the knife into the fleshy forearm, sending dark blood spurting into the air. It has the desired effect. The clawed appendage loosens its grip on Luke and he manages to kick it away. The arm is yanked back along with my knife, and disappears into the hallway as the door finally slams shut with a satisfying
can hear them outside in the hallway, slamming against the steel doors like children throwing temper tantrums because they’ve lost their favorite toy. I flinch at every impact, expecting any moment for the doors to buckle, but Kelly tries to put me at ease.
"Don't worry. These doors are reinforced with an electromagnetic lock. They can't get in."
"Not until the power goes out anyway. Luckily for us, they haven't figured out how to cut the power supply...yet."
This voice of pure optimism comes at me from the other side of the room. I look over to thank the asshat for the real nice words of encouragement, but I actually don't say anything. I'm too surprised by the dozen or so people standing there. I didn't even realize there were others in the room.
A few of the faces I recognize right away. Kelly's crew. The other six or seven are strangers. The only remaining survivors of St. Joseph’s, I'm assuming. So few of them...
"Mike," I yell, as an older version of Gordon steps toward us with apprehension.
"Gordo?" he questions fearfully, knowing full well we’d never be anywhere without him.
"He's okay," I answer, not even knowing if it's the truth or not, but the words seem to mollify Mike and he slumps in relief.
"Thanks for saving our asses, Dude," Luke gets to his feet and clasps Kelly's shoulder gratefully with his beefy hand. "Good to see you. We were starting to think the worst."
"Good to see you too, although I don't know how much ass saving I actually did," Kelly replies dryly. "We've been trapped in here for two days...and now, so are you. Please tell me you have backup waiting outside."
He says it like he’s joking, but the scared plea in his eyes tells us a different story.
"Shit. Kingsley and Gordo," I say to Luke in panic. We need to warn them. I’m pretty sure they heard the shooting. And the screaming. So we don't need them playing hero and come looking for us, only to run smack dab into the hell beasts outside.
Luke's hand grabs at his denim clad hip and pulls out the badly busted up radio.
"Damn it," he cusses, throwing it aside in disgust. "Badger, please tell me you still have your radio, man."
He tosses it Luke's way.
"Kingsley? Gordo?" he says quietly into the radio. "You guys there?"
No response. Dammit. Are we too late? Then a slight crackling as Kingsley responds.
"Yeah, we're here. What the hell happened up there?"
"Some new kind of leech. Do not come up here. I repeat, do not attempt to follow us. Stay hidden. You do not want to engage with these fuckers."
"Understood. What is your position?"
Our position? That question almost makes me laugh out loud. Is "fucked" an appropriate answer? Luke's gaze sweeps the room, over the bunch of survivors and rests on me. I know what he’s thinking. Should he outline our hopeless situation in front of the obviously terrified remaining few? But like me, he realizes there's no other option.
"We’re safe for the moment, but trapped in..." he trails off and looks Kelly's way.
"Psych ward, east wing." Kelly informs him, and Luke relays the info.
"There's no way out man. We can’t go up against these bastards, not with the little ammo we have. These guys are like nothing we've ever seen before."
"Window?" Kingsley suggests.
Luke once again looks Kelly's way. Kelly shakes his head and points to the narrow panes of wire mesh glass. Right. Psych ward—meant to keep people in. No way are we fitting through those.
"Not an option. We’ve found the survivors. Going to brainstorm, see what we can come up with. You two stay out of sight and wait for further communication."
"Roger that," Kingsley responds and the line goes dead. Silence follows as the last crackle dissipates, like everyone is too numb to speak. I guess we kind of are. To hear our options spelled out like that, kind of crushes ones hopes.
"What now?" Cal finally asks, breaking the silence. Good question.
"We could radio the Grand and request more backup. Now that we’re aware of what we're up against, they can be prepared this time to bring bigger fire power. Something that can take those bastards out," I suggest.
Luke nods as if agreeing, but Mr. Optimism from earlier steps out from the group huddling in the corner. He’s an older guy, white haired and bearded with faded gray eyes encased in folds of wrinkles—like he’d spent a lot of years squinting in the sun.
"From what Kelly's told us, the Grand is a couple of days travel, is it not? It took you that long to get here. I'm afraid to say we can't wait that long. We've had no one operating the solar panels these past two days since the attack. They have to be manually moved to follow the sun, so there's no way they’ve been able to produce enough energy to charge the backup batteries. That means the batteries are going to run out of juice-and soon. I'm surprised we haven't already. And once the power cuts off, those doors protecting us..." he trails off, not expressing what he fears. Kelly has no trouble voicing it, though.
"Then those doors will be as useless as windshield wipers on a dog's ass,
Someone in the small crowd starts to cry at the blunt words and I glance over in irritation. A small, willowy blonde stands with arms folded around her midriff like she’s trying to hold herself together. Her loud sobbing grates on my nerves and I instantly snap, "Shut up. That, sure as hell isn't gonna help us."
"You know what, why don't you try shutting up, Bixby," Dom fires back. "I'm fucking tired of hearing your drivel. Especially since this is totally your fault that we're in this fucking predicament."
I stare at him, mouth agape. "My fault? How'd you come to that conclusion, genius?"
"We wouldn't be stuck in this building right now if it weren't for you. Kingsley wanted us to hold off and wait...but did you listen? No of course not. Like you always do, you disobeyed orders and the stupid oaf there followed you like the pussy whipped idiot that he is."
"Oh, would you rather I'd be a fucking coward like you, Dom? Would you have preferred to let Kingsley blow the building instead of trying to save these people? Some of which are our own people, I might fucking add. Ya know, you really should need a license to be your kind of stupid."
"Well at least if we’d listened to Kingsley we wouldn't be trapped in here," Wentworth snarls at me and I'm unprepared for the hatred I see on his face. Dom, yes. But Wentworth's attack is totally unexpected. "And Taylor would still be alive."
"That's enough." Luke's voice is dangerously low as he glowers at my two attackers. "Yeah, what happened to Taylor really fucking sucked, but he knew the risks of entering this building just like the rest of us. And this was my call, not hers."
"This is entirely her fault," Dom argues, pointing my way. "Why are you always defending that skank ass bit..."
He doesn't get to finish. Luke's fist, as it makes contact with his Dom’s jaw, echoes with a resounding
. The smaller man wobbles for a bit, and then crumples onto the floor, staring up in disbelief.
"Oh, shiiiiit," Badger drawls in shocked surprise. I echo that sentiment. I’ve never seen Luke raise a hand to any of our people. What the hell?
The big man stares around at the rest of us. "Anybody else got anything to say on the matter?" He questions, flexing his meaty hands angrily. His question is met with complete and utter silence. Wentworth drops his angry glare, not wanting to be on the receiving end of that fist. I drop my eyes as well. Not out of fear though, but out of self-preservation, because I’m so inanely attracted to that blonde giant right now I'm afraid I may just jump his bones. Right here! Even with monsters lurking outside our door itching to rip us apart, and faced with the hopelessness of our situation, all I can think of is how damn attractive he is right now. Yup, I'm definitely one fucked up bitch.
"That's what I thought," he growls. "So I don't want to hear any more flapping lips unless you have an idea to get us out of this eyeball deep shit."
can't be serious?" The gray haired man, who introduced himself as Dr. Jules Howarth, stares at us like we’ve lost our minds. But it’s not just him. All the hospital survivors are looking at us in that same weird way, as they watch us build a wall out of the musty old mattresses from the patient rooms. "This will never work. The whole idea is insanity."
"You got a better plan, Doc?" Kelly questions, as he helps me throw another mattress onto the pile. "Blowing a hole in the floor makes for a viable and accessible escape route."
The old man folds his arms stubbornly. "Yes, if we survive it. This old building may not be able to handle it, however. Blowing part of the floor may bring the whole building down around our ears. And if not the building, then at least a couple of floors."
I nod. "Yeah, it might. But it's a choice between that or fighting our way through the beasties outside. Somehow I don't think the odds are in our favor on that."
"She's right, Jules," the weepy blonde from earlier says and straightens her back as she nods my way. "It's not a perfect plan, but it's the only plan we have."
You could have knocked me over with a feather as she heads straight for Luke and smiles at him, grabbing the other end of the mattress he's struggling with and helping to toss it onto the pile.
"Jessica," she supplies. "Jessica Lynn. But you can call me Jess."
"Nice to meet you, Jess," he says, throwing a big hand her way and her tiny one disappears in the handshake.
"Really? You two think we got time for that shit?" I question, irritated beyond belief by their stupid behavior. Almost as if agreeing with me, one of the things from outside slams against the door and makes us jump. That reminder seems to seal our decision, and the Doc doesn't argue our plan anymore.
"Last one," Badger interrupts as he and Mike throw the mattress onto the others. "It's now or never."
I survey our work in front of us with a critical eye. The idea sounds great in theory, but the leaning tower of moldy mattresses somehow doesn't instill much confidence. I keep my thoughts to myself.
"Okay, everyone, you know what we have to do. Once that floor gives way and we fall through to the next, get your asses out past the gate as fast as you can. Kingsley won't give us long before he blows the whole place. Got it?" All heads nod as one. Luke gives a huge sigh. "Right. So let's do this. Everyone behind the barrier."
They scramble meekly like herded sheep, behind the wall of mattresses. Mike and Kelly help Cal hobble his way over, and they squeeze in, taking cover behind the flimsy protective wall. Finally it's just me and Luke left standing. Luke pulls out the radio.
"Kingsley, you there?"
"Here," the voice comes back.
"Everything good to go?" Luke questions.
"All good on my end. I've positioned the C-4 as far as I could away from your safety zone, but still angled enough for maximum impact. Once the floor blows you should all drop towards the center of the room and on top of the mattresses, cushioning your fall. And hopefully it doesn't set off the rest of the charges, blowing you all to smithereens."
Luke and I exchange a look. Did he seriously just say that?
"Yeah, thanks for that, man," Luke says drily to the radio. "Really needed that boost of optimism. We're almost ready up here. Blow it on my command."
"Roger that," Kingsley responds.
Luke glances my way. "Let’s get ‘er done," I say and he smiles at me reassuringly, even though I can see the worry in his brown eyes. As sure as he sounded to the rest of them, I know he’s terrified this isn’t going to work. To be honest, so am I.
I head for the wall of cushions, eager to get this over with but he grabs my wrist, stopping me. He opens his mouth like he’s about to say something. I don't get to find out what. The lights suddenly flicker and then finally go out, leaving us in the pale gloom of the evening sun streaming through the narrow windows. The power has finally died out.
Our heads swivel toward the doors. The doors that no longer hold any resistance to the onslaught of the creatures. Almost as if they know what the loss of power means, they slam against the doors and practically fall over each other into the room.
"NOW, KINGSLEY! NOW!" Luke screams into the radio as he leaps on top of me, pushing me into the mattresses and shielding my body with his own. I can hear the clicking of their talons as they scatter towards us, the wet excited gurgling. Screams rise up all around me, though whether it's coming from my own throat or from the other side of the wall, I can't tell.
The explosion shakes the building, jarring me so badly I swear I hear my bones rattle. The wall and ceiling above us shatters and falls on top of us with the force of a rock slide. In that same instant, the floor below us tilts, giving way and the whole room starts sliding downwards with a sickening loss of equilibrium. I cling desperately to Luke as he falls along with me.