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Authors: The Vocabulariast

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This Rotten World (Book 1) (13 page)

BOOK: This Rotten World (Book 1)
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Chapter 33: The Last
Tear

 

The
pounding on the door hadn't slowed down or stopped. Each thump jarred Katie a
little less, until it became more of a background noise than anything else. The
human body can grow accustomed to anything, even the incessant pounding of an
ill child who seems to want to kill people. No wait. He wasn't ill; he was
dead. She knew that now. Even if she hadn't known it, she wouldn't have cared.
He was as dead as dead could be, and her life would never be the same.

She had
helped the old man to his bed, though he had screamed in agony in the process.
There would be no running for him. She had to stifle a laugh when he told her
that his name was Fred... Fred Walker. The irony was too much for her. That's
when she knew her brain was changing, transforming into something alien...
something better able to cope with the impending death that seemed to wait for
her on the other side of the door.

Fred had an
old, pea-green telephone sitting on his night table, but when she had tried to
use it to call for help, there was nothing but a busy signal. They must have
knocked the phone in the living room over in all of the commotion. She sat on
the bed, heavy-hearted and trying to adjust to the new reality.

His covers
were rumpled, and the old man grimaced in pain every time she shifted on the
lumpy mattress. A picture of an elderly woman sat on the nightstand in a black
metal frame. She smiled at the camera wanly; a younger version of Fred had a
yellow sweater on, his arm loosely draped over the woman's shoulder.

"Is
that your wife?"

The thumping
at the door continued. "It was," Fred replied.

"Is
she dead?"

The old
man's Adam's apple bobbed in his throat before he answered, "Darla passed
away a few years ago now. Cancer. She was fine one day, and then she got
diagnosed. A couple of months later, and she was gone."

A tear
found its way out of Katie's left tear duct. It would be the last one she ever
shed. "Do you miss her?"

The old man
sighed heavily. "They say it gets better as time goes on, but I won't lie.
There isn't a damn morning that I don't wake up and miss every little thing
about her. The smell of her hair. The warmth next to me." Fred laughed a
little. "Hell, even the morning breath. I'd trade it all just for one
whiff of that god-awful breath." His eyes drifted towards the ceiling.
"Yeah. I guess I still miss her."

Katie had
heard enough, "Do you have a cell phone? Anything?"

Fred shook
his head. He had never felt like buying a phone. Truth be told, he didn't have
a whole lot of people to call.

"Does
that radio work?" she asked, pointing at an old digital clock radio. It
must have been from the '80s. It had a nice fake wood finish, some dusty
buttons, and a bright red, digital display.

"Every
morning for the last 25 years or so."

Katie began
to fiddle with the radio. She turned the dial, inching it along until she found
something that wasn't music, or what passed for music on the radio these days.
The first station she found was a religious channel. The man on the radio was
rambling about Judgment Day, sinners, and hellfire... it was business as usual.
The second station she found was a little better. It was a news report.

The man on
the radio spoke in his news reporter voice, confident, deep, and somehow
soothing. She took a deep breath as she caught the flow of his words, the
thumping on the door almost fading into the background completely.

"Reports
of widespread violence are dominating the headlines this morning. Some doctors
are reporting some sort of plague..."

The reporter
marched on, speaking of disaster after disaster. The names of the towns were
numerous. The entire country seemed to have woken up crazy, almost overnight,
but it wasn't just the good old U.S.A. that was having trouble. Canada, Europe,
and even Asia had all experienced their fair share of horror stories. Each
description seemed more shocking than the next, but perhaps the most disturbing
thing for Katie was the fact that no one seemed to have any idea what was going
on.

They
brought on a scientist to pontificate on the nature of this new disaster, and
all he did was make educated guesses about what could possibly be going on. In
short, he knew about as much as Katie did. All she knew was that the situation
was sounding pretty damn grim.

"Do
you have any weapons in the house, Fred?"

Fred
smiled, his yellowed teeth gleaming in the dark. "Now what kind of lonely
old man would I be if I didn't have a gun stashed away somewhere?" He
raised one of his leathery arms off of the bed and pointed to his closet.
"There's a safe up there. Top shelf."

Katie
walked over to the closet which was full of a lot of flannel, jeans, and some
old dress clothes shrouded in plastic. Up top she saw a safe with a combination
lock. The combo was simple enough. It was his wife's birthday. Once she dialed
in the third number, she lifted the handle and swung the door open. Inside was
a silver handgun and a box of ammunition. She handled the weapon awkwardly, not
used to its deceptive weight and the impending doom that could burst forth from
the barrel at any given second.

"Don't
worry about it. It's not going to go off. I never keep the thing loaded, and
there's a lock on the trigger. Bring it here."

Katie
brought the gun to him, her hands shocked by the weight and the coldness of the
handgun. Fred reached into the nightstand next to his bed and pulled out a tiny
key on a silver, beaded chain. He unlocked the trigger lock and set it down on
the nightstand. Carefully, he opened the cylinder,  "You see? Like
that." He then popped the cylinder back in place and handed the gun to
her, butt end first.

The handle
was black and criss-crossed with diamond patterned plastic. She held the gun in
her hand, and fumbled with the revolver until she managed to pop out the
cylinder.

"Now
look on the left side of the revolver. You see that lever?" She nodded her
head. "That's the safety. If you're running around and you don't want to
shoot your foot off, it's best to have that in the on position. Get used to the
feel of it."

Fred
fumbled with the box of ammunition. On it was the image of a bald eagle,
soaring through the air, claws extended and wings spread wide. He pulled six
brass cartridges from the box, and handed them to Katie. "Load it
up."

Katie did
as she was told. On the radio, the newsman droned on, "Reports from
England claim that they have shut down all international travel. Whether this
is a quarantine measure or a result of a collapsing infrastructure is still
unclear..." Katie slid the last bullet home and then closed the cylinder.

Katie
jumped as the thumping at the door became louder. It sounded like there were
two people outside. The door shook in the jamb.

Fred smiled
at her. "It looks like we've got a decision to make."

"What
do you mean?"

"I
ain't goin' nowhere. Not like this. But that's not the question. The question
is, 'Are you going somewhere, and if so, are you prepared to do what you have
to do?'"

Katie
looked at the door. It rattled some more, and the wood in the middle of the
door began to splinter. She looked at the gun in her hand, hefting it. She
could end it all here. The safety was off. It wouldn't be that hard.

A fist
thrust its way through the door, catching on splinters that scraped the flesh
off the arm. She recognized the wedding ring on the grasping hand. A simple
gold band, cutting into the swollen dead flesh of her husband's hand. The
creature that was her husband pulled the hand back and there was more pounding.
Katie moved to the far corner of the room, away from the door.

The lock
splintered, and the door flew open, and standing before her was her former
family, her former life, mocking her with blood-stained shirts, gnashing teeth
and outstretched hands. She lifted the gun with both hands and pulled the
trigger.

The first
shot tore through the drywall to the right of the door. She didn't know if she
had missed on purpose or because she wasn't ready. The sound was deafening, and
the kick of the gun caught her by surprise, but she managed to keep from
dropping the gun. She fired again, punching a hole in the stomach of her husband,
but he merely advanced as if nothing had happened.

With her
ears ringing, Katie fired again. This time it hit her husband in the chest.

"Go
for the head, Katie," Fred said gently as he pulled himself to the other
side of his bed, as far away from her family as he could.

Katie lined
up the shot, and squeezed the trigger. She screamed as the bullet entered her
husband's forehead. He fell face forward onto the floor, exposing the spot
where the back of his head should have been.

Her hands
jittered as she tried to line up Kevin for the same fate, but her next shot
went wide, grazing his neck. Kevin didn't seem to care. Painfully aware of
Kevin's proximity and the fact that she only had one bullet left, Katie took
her time lining up the next shot. The bullet shattered Kevin's chin, and left a
gaping mess hanging there, but Kevin kept coming.

Kevin
reached the bed and crawled after Fred who thumped onto the ground on the other
side at Katie's feet. Katie wasn't aware of Fred's screams of pain as she
popped open the cylinder and dumped the empty cartridges onto the ground. She
grabbed the box of ammunition and began trying to stuff a random bullet into
the cylinder. Her fingers were clumsy and the cartridge fell out of her hand as
Kevin reached for Fred, shreds of flesh hanging from his missing chin.

Fred's
screams intensified as Kevin pounced on him. Katie grabbed another bullet and
finally managed to drop it in the chamber. She stalked over to Kevin as she
slammed the cylinder closed. She pulled the trigger but nothing happened. Kevin
was grinding his upper jaw into Fred's defending forearm, as she cycled through
the empty chambers in the gun. Finally, she hit the right chamber, and Fred's
face was splattered with the blood of her two-times dead son.

The room was
silent but for the continuous drone of information from the clock radio,
"Some reports are claiming that... the assailants appear to be reanimated
corpses."

Katie
walked quietly into the living room to see the door thrown open. As she walked
over to close the door, she saw that there were more people in the street, and
they were walking towards the house. She closed the door, as quietly as she
could, but the handful of people in the streets were slowly making their way
towards the house and the lock on the front door was busted. They knew they
were there, hiding inside the house. There were only two ways this was going to
play out.

Katie hung
up the phone in the living room, before she went to check on Fred. She popped
open the cylinder easier this time, and as she began stuffing bullets into the
revolver, she said, "I got some good news, and I got some bad news."

Fred, lying
on the floor and nursing his arm, laughed, "There's good news?"

"Well,
relatively speaking."

Fred sat up
and groaned in pain. "Alright, let's hear it."

"The
good news is that there are no more of them in the house. Whatever they're
talking about on the news is obviously happening here. The bad news is that
there were more of them in the street when I looked outside... and they're headed
this way."

Fred's
smile finally faded from his face. Katie watched the wheels turn in his head,
and then he made his decision. "Hand me the phone."

Katie
picked up the receiver and handed it to him. He dialed 911, and waited
patiently. There was no answer, just a recorded message that had been heard a
thousand times already that night.

In the
other room, the front door banged open. Fred's head sagged, before he said,
"You have to go."

Katie
didn't say anything. There wasn't anything to say.

Fred looked
around his room, "I can't say I'll miss the place."

Chapter 34:
Quarantined

 

Clara sat
in her room examining her surroundings. There wasn't much to examine. Her mind
wandered to Joan. The plans that came to her mind were violent, brutal. She
wanted to smash her face in. She wanted to see her lying on the ground
bleeding. Most of all, she wanted to be out of the room. Clara could hear
banging on doors, and a couple of minutes ago, she could have sworn that she
had heard gunshots coming from somewhere in the hospital.

No one had
visited her for hours. Clara had no idea what time it was; she had lost all
sense of time when she had fallen asleep. She didn't feel like she had slept
for long, but she had slept long enough to dream. They hadn't been good dreams
either. Courtney was in them, only it wasn't Courtney; it was the monster that
he had become.

The door to
her room, her cell, opened and a man in a biohazard suit came in with a tray
full of food.

"What's
going on out there?" she asked him. There was no answer, just an
implacable stone-faced disregard for her that made her barely contained rage
rise to the surface.

The man
placed the tray on the bed table, and then made to leave.

"Where
is Joan? I need to talk to her." The man hesitated at the name of Joan, but
then he walked out of the room, shutting the door behind him. For a second,
Clara had the desire to throw her food at the door like some sort of petulant
child who had not gotten her way. But that's not what she needed at the moment;
what she needed right now was a plan and some food.

She looked
at the tray of food. It was hospital food, but it was good enough for her. She
sat in a chair next to the table and picked up a grilled cheese sandwich. It
wasn't as good as her mother had made, but it did the job. The tomato soup was
a little watery for her taste, and what she really wanted was a beer. She made
do with the tiny cardboard carton of chocolate milk, which made her feel like
she was back in elementary school.

She was
onto the second half of her sandwich when she heard more gunshots, only this
time they were closer. They sounded as if they were right down the hall. She
wished her room had a window. She stood next to the door, listening to the
sounds in the hallway. There was shouting but she couldn't make out the words.
She knew this would probably be her best chance to escape.

Clara
stalked over to the bed table and dumped her food on the floor, sparing a
second to bemoan the image of the second-half of the grilled cheese sandwich
lying on the speckled, white linoleum. The tray was hard tan plastic. It
wouldn't be as good of a bludgeon as a steel tray, but that might be part of
the reason why they didn't use metal. She hefted it in her hands. It was
awkward, but it could do some damage if she swung it right.

More
gunshots. Clara could hear her pulse in her ears as adrenaline kicked in. She
shook while she waited. The shouting was clearer now, she could almost make out
words.

The door sprang
open and Clara brought the tray crashing down on the intruder's head. It broke
in half and Joan tumbled to the ground unconscious.

Clara
spared her a single glance, and successfully prevented herself from kicking
Joan's teeth out of her now bleeding skull. It was hard, but she needed all the
time she could get.

She poked
her head into the hallway to see what was going on. A group of men or women in
biohazard suits, it was hard to tell which, were standing shoulder to shoulder
firing into a group of people. Clara's hand flew to her mouth at the
callousness of the act. She had to get out of there now. But, as she stood in
shock, she couldn't help but notice that the patients that were advancing upon
the group were not falling down dead. Wounds appeared, fingers and hands flew
off, bullet wounds blossomed on their chests, but they kept coming.

Unfortunately,
they were also blocking off the exit. She looked down the other direction and
saw nothing of promise, just more rooms with doors. Courtney was behind one of
those doors, but she suspected that he was lost to her forever. Of course, if
she didn't figure a way out of here, she might be lost forever as well.

At her
feet, Joan groaned as she sat up. She wobbled to her feet and then fell over.
Clara did not lend her a hand. "Do you know of any other way out of
here?"

Joan stood
up groaning and stumbled to the doorway. She looked out into the hallway where
the men in the biohazard suits were busy trying to fend off at least fifteen
patients who seemed to want nothing more than to kill them. Clara cringed as
she saw one of them go down under the weight of three patients. His suit was
shredded and ripped in no time. It was great at keeping out bacteria and
viruses, but a human hand intent on destruction was no match for the thin
material.

The other
men in suits backed up slowly. Apparently, there wasn't much camaraderie among
the security detail. There were only three of them left, and one of them was
out of ammunition.

Clara moved
silently as Joan grabbed her arm and pulled her down the hallway. "Follow
me," she whispered.

Clara's first
instinct was to put her fist through Joan's face. The last time she had
followed Joan was the reason she was stuck in the hospital with a bunch of
murderous freaks in the first place. She didn't follow through on her urge.
There were larger concerns to worry about. Joan ushered her into an office and
then closed the door behind her. There was the sound of air hissing and Clara's
ears suddenly filled with pressure. The light on the door's locking mechanism
turned from red to green, and Joan collapsed in a wheeled office chair.

"Would
you like to tell me just what the hell is going on?" Clara asked. Gunshots
rang through the halls outside, still painfully loud despite the walls around
them. Joan ignored Clara and began fiddling with a remote control. A bank of
monitors sprung to life, and Clara's mouth dropped open as she watched the
carnage on the screens.

"I'm
saving your goddamn life. That's what's going on," Joan spat at her.

Clara
plopped down on the cot in the corner of the room, her mouth open and incapable
of making any sort of sound. She heard the screams in stereo, through the
speakers on the monitors and through the walls. The patients in the hallway
tore through the three remaining men in biohazard suits. The last one died just
outside the office that they were hiding in. He beat upon the door as the
patients ripped his suit into shreds and then did the same to his body.

Clara and
Joan sat in silence. The patients meandered around the quarantine wing, looking
for something, but there was nothing to be seen. Soon the crowd thinned out as
the patients continued on to greener pastures.

"Joan,
what is going on?"

Joan put
her hand up to silence her and then she pointed at the monitor.
"Look."

The last
man to die began to move around. Though he was missing half his face, an eye,
and the lower part of his left arm, he began to rise. Clara couldn't believe
what she was seeing. When he began pounding on the door with his stump of an
arm, she finally acknowledged that she just might have lost her mind. When the
other security guards rose up and joined him, she became positive of the fact.

BOOK: This Rotten World (Book 1)
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