Shells clattered against the sidewalk, echoing through the
empty streets as bullet after bullet lodged within the undead creature. The sixth that had crossed my path today, a new record for this time of Fall. Normally, they only took one clean shot to the
head to go down, but with my aim, it was best not to count on that, which was unfortunate since my ammunition money was long gone, and today I was going through bullets quicker than
The zombie hit the floor with the weight of a dead tree as I pulled the trigger one more time. After a few nervous moments the body had stopped writhing and twitching in that way that always makes me uncomfortable, I knelt down and took off my backpack. My hands sifted through the wadded papers and old trash that littered the bottom of my bag to find the handful of loose bullets I had left.
“Damn.” I mumbled.
In my palm were the final six bullets in my possession. A sigh escaped my lips as I began to pray that I’d make it to the gun shop without having to make use of this final round. I could run from the zombies, I suppose, though running is tiring and not really something I care for, especially with the worn out shoes on my feet.
My hands fumbled clumsily as I loaded the final bullets. Then, in a well-practiced maneuver, I zipped up the backpack and slung it over my shoulder with one graceful movement. It was a shame I had yet to show off this move in front of anyone living. My back straightened after that fleeting moment of pride, although afterward I immediately became nervous at the thought of encountering any more trouble on this long walk.
After a short deliberation with my inner thoughts, I decided it would be wisest to turn back to my house rather than continue the adventure to my pal Ron’s place to play the new House of the Dead game he had called me over to check out.
Ron was not the most responsible person, so I was sure he would have no ammo at all, and if he had, he wasn't exactly the type to spare any. I turned about face, already beginning to reason with myself that I already ran into a fair amount of zombies today, so odds were low I would be running into anymore on the way back.
With a kick in my step, and some pride in my statistical odds, I began the walk home. I pulled the phone from my pocket and tapped the screen to find out about the zombie warnings for my area. My finger tapped on an application named ZWeather. I quickly spun around and surveyed the area around me as the program loaded. I skipped through the list of advertisements for guns, running shoes, and even an ad for shark suits (though now redubbed “Zombie Armor”) until the application began to triangulate my coordinates.
ZWeather updated with a short list of zombie warnings, though there were always a few in well-populated areas. Those are the breaks when you want to live on the lower middle class side of town. I began scrolling past the warnings, and nothing appeared too out of the ordinary, no car crashes or mass cult suicides that would lead to a large, unforeseen outbreak. I switched to the map function, and checked the sighting locations, which were sporadic at best. Of course, it is only as reliable as the people that use the Zweather application.
No sooner had I slipped the phone back into my pocket than I heard the arrhythmic steps of someone ahead of me. I shuddered as I heard the low groan that confirmed my fear I turned to see another zombie shambling towards me through the bushes surrounding a small suburban home. It wasn’t too close, so I had a minute or two to think the situation over. Although, I would have even more time if I could tolerate the stench of these things.
Had this zombie dragged itself down this entire patch of road without anyone noticing, or caring to report it? My mind turned toward the tenants of this sleepy suburb, and how they couldn’t be bothered to simply shoot him themselves. I’m sure he'd been dragging himself around the neighborhood for at least an hour. I'm sure they had more than enough bullets, not to mention the money to learn how to fire a gun properly.
I took a deep breath, trying not to think about whether poor people are more likely to be attacked by zombies, then I took a long look at the zombie walking towards me. Like most around the area, this one looked no more than a few hours old. Despite that, most zombies did tend to die within the first day. The city quarantine control units made sure of that. Well, okay, two days tops.
That goose bump inducing groan fell out of the zombies mouth, sending intense shivers through my apparently too often cowardly body. Despite that, I wondered when it must have passed away. It must have just stumbled out of his home a few houses down. Likely some man who lived alone, died alone, and was now reanimated, alone. His grandchildren probably wouldn’t realize his death for a couple more days when they came for their weekend visit. I felt bad for the deceased man turned undead, something that happens every time I have a chance to concoct elaborate backstories for them. I fired. Only took two bullets, not bad.
I then stuffed the gun back in the new gun holster I thought looked so cool. With my free hand I pulled my phone out and reopened the ZWeather app. I chose the tip button and my coordinates were taken once again, this time with a tag for recent zombie sighting. I stared at my phone, and my eyes focused on the large 'PANIC” button situated in the Zweather app. I had only pressed that button once. It is not the most helpful button. The phones screen timed out, so I freed both my hands, and continued in a brisk pace toward home.
Several blocks later, as I was nearing the halfway point of my destination, the phone began to blare a shrill and unfamiliar tone. I quickly ripped the phone out of my pocket to shut it up. Along with the noise, the screen was flashing an incredibly bright red. I tapped on the screen, wondering if this aging piece of technology had finally called it quits. To my relief, the phone settled down to reveal a strange round symbol reminiscent of the type for hazards and cautions. It was Zweather’s own warning system. This was something I had never seen before.
A screen of bold black text followed.
“Warning for those in the south district of West Eagleland and surrounding areas. Reports confirmed of new genetic mutation seen in the area. Subjects reported from two to five individuals. All considered dangerous. Reaction to guns, fire, or blunt trauma unknown. Please remain indoors or find the nearest safety shelter.
Do not travel alone! Be aware of your surroundings!”
I gazed up from the phone, half expecting to come face to face with some salivating, disfigured beast. Instead I was still surrounded by the same silent roads and quiet homes. I let out an apprehensive shiver and pressed onward, this time with the phone gripped tightly in my hand in case of further updates.
Genetic mutations were not uncommon, and could be based on a strange variety of factors from diet, to genes, and even illnesses. Normally, such a random effect is insignificant, and often detrimental to the zombie. Though, with a constantly growing and changing population becoming zombies upon death, these random mutations have been known be more dramatic on some occasions.
I began to wish the warning could have been a little more informative. I couldn't help but keep tapping at my phone, searching the Internet for any information. Without noticing, my feet had kicked things up another gear, and I found myself making excellent time. The scenery began to blur together as I swung my head in every direction, looking for any irregularities in my surroundings then back to my phone to nervously fiddle with Zweather and keep hitting 'update.'
No monsters seemed to be in sight, but that is always true until the monster shows up. My brain ran away with scenarios, but I decided my panic would best be put to use thinking of a plan, I pushed all my worries back and began to think, but aside from running as fast as I can the moment I saw one of these reported abominations, there wasn’t much else I could think up.
I began to focus on the distance home. Each step a bit closer to safety. I was only three blocks from home now, and once there I could have some food and relax. Hope rose within me that someone would see these mutations and post the footage online, definitely preferring to learn about them second hand.
With each step, my anxiousness continued to rise. It was true I was only a block from home, though it was also true that on the final block was an expansive grassy park lined with trees. The trees along the edges of the sidewalk reached high towards the dreary, clouded sky, and cast soft endless shadows across the ground. The wind rustled through the leaves and the bushes, creating a low clatter of leaves.
A crashing seizure of leaves ripped apart the gentle silence of the wind. My neck swiveled behind me, dragging my body along with it, only to see the same quiet view I had just rushed past. I noticed how heavily my hand was shivering as I yanked my gun from the holster, which ripped the shoddy old leather in two. My eyes shut for a second as I thought about the ten dollars I had wasted on the thing. I composed myself and took aim at the row of bushes in the direction the noise had come from. I stood straight, and anchored my feet, doing my best to regain some composure. My mouth became dry, but all remained quiet. Instinctively, I began to settle the gun back into the holster when I noticed that it was still ripped.
I drew another deep breath, preparing a nice angry sigh, but was interrupted by the sound of wood cracking coming from a row of trees across the street. Sweat from my hands made the gun even more unsteady, and I began walking as fast as possible while keeping both eyes focused on the source of that sound. I only took a few more steps before I heard a heavy splashing of water. I searched all around to suddenly see a withering, disfigured beast gazing down at the murky puddle it had just stomped it’s grotesque foot.
There was no doubt this is what the warning was about. It appeared as a starved man with limbs stretched to a sickening degree by some medieval torture device. He was hunched over, dragging his elongated arms across the ground like an ape. He was dragging his left leg like dead weight, but the beast seemed not to notice, and it caused no apparent loss of pace for it either.
I stared at the creature in silence. Averting my eyes for the slightest fraction of a second to hit the panic button on my phone. My adrenaline was coursing through my body, and it was shaking violently enough to prove that fact. I was prepared to fight, but the dangerous length and speed of this creature, versus my aim, made fighting a poor option, even without the dire situation of ammunition. It appeared that I would have to be running in these shoes after all.
Over my hard footsteps and the heavy pounding of my own heart drumming against my ears, it was impossible to tell if the creature was giving chase. I rushed down the sidewalk until the corner of my eye caught a sudden movement behind a heavy cement park bench.
It was another zombie, built the very same as the one I was escaping from. It quickly noticed me as well, and let out a dark, warbling screech through its broken airless lungs. It leapt over the bench and tumbled towards me at an unbelievable speed. The bones that made up its body stretched and contorted in spindly, unearthly movements as it barreled at me. Even from its dead start the monster caught up in moments. I stopped, and lifted my gun just as the creature bounded through the air towards me.
I let out two panicked shots and the inhuman beast collapsed against the cold cement before my feet. My legs pumped furiously once again, continuing the mad dash past the park, but quickly seized up again as I gazed down the formerly empty road leading home. A third, then a fourth creature appeared in my view just up ahead. Their long bodies stretched towards the sky, with their long arms reaching almost twice the height of their heads, showing their intention to not let me make it past this park. Another coughing scream cried out behind me, a friendly reminder that I have yet to deal with the broken legged one that started this chase.
The pair ahead of me began to propel towards me in their strange, yet efficient four legged dash. I quickly changed directions, bounding over a few small bushes and into the park. The pair separated and a lone creature rushed at me while the second one dashed just out of sight to my right. My legs pounded as hard as possible against the soft mixture of dying grass and dirt of the park. The creature now had a straight shot towards me, his feet and arms pounding against the ground as he closed in. A sudden shock rushed through my body as I felt a sickly grasp that stopped me cold in my tracks. With the adrenaline pumping through my body furiously, the sudden stop sent shockwaves through me, as if my shoulder blades were being torn from their sockets. After the intense shock I looked over my shoulder to realize that the zombie had snatched my backpack in one of its hideous excuses for an arm. My body twisted around to see the second arm lifting into the sky to strike. Contorting my arm as best it could, I fired a single wild shot behind me. Another choked scream escaped the beast as I stumbled away, his grip on me quickly loosening. The monster fell backward in pain, writhing on the floor and violently swinging his clumsy arm, indicating I had got him deep in the shoulder.
I turned my head to where I had last seen the other zombie to catch him moving in from the right along with the one nursing a broken leg. I shut my eyes and do my best to brace myself as they closed in. A moment passes and the shaking of my body continues to become more unbearable.
The injured beast stood silently. He was only steps away, but his focus was no longer towards me. He leaned and wobbled as he put pressure on his leg. The stretching shadow of the beast cast a near paralyzing darkness over me as he straightened his body. He let out a series of low growls as the other creature drew closer.
The beasts began to circle one another, grunting and howling through their decaying bodies. In an instant, outstretched claws swung through the air and the pair of zombies tumbled into one another. Their awkward limbs swung in massive arcs as they clawed and punched and bit at one another with unbound ferocity. Cuts and wounds covered the creatures in every spot that was open to attack. The upper hand shifted relentlessly as they tackled and slammed one another to the ground. A deep screech called out but was quickly halted. A single monster stood.
The surviving creature did its best to stand upright, but failed, his final display of dominance, ruined by his broken leg and failing body. He hunched back over and slowly shifted his body back towards me. He quietly hobbled towards me once again. I was finally staring this strange mutation face to face. He stood motionless before me as I looked him over. All thirst and hunger was washed from the creatures face. I stood motionless, still unsure what he planned to do with me. I stared again at that clothing that was so obscured by cuts and tears. It looked like the remnants of a faded blue hoodie and some strange multicolored shirt. I began connecting the tears in my mind and to my surprise, he was wearing Ron’s favorite shirt. It was Ron, and he was standing before me, still choking out whimpers of pain.
His knees dropped against the damp grass. One of his elongated claws stretched out towards me, pointing towards my waist. Towards my gun. I lifted it and he nodded gauntly before collapsing onto the grass. His eyes glimmered faintly against the clouded sky. I did have one more bullet.
A shot rang out across the empty park, sending a distant hollow echo back at me. I fell to the floor in a daze. I turned my back to the remnants of this scene and slid off my backpack. I threw the gun inside, then ripped my holster from its torn position beneath my coat and pulled my arm back, preparing to hurl it out of my sight. I bet I could return it for my money back though. I placed the holster in my bag as well.
I slung the bag over my shoulder and lifted myself from the cold ground. My phone dropped out of my pocket and landed face down against the grass. I plucked it from the floor and wiped off the dew. I opened the menu to ZWeather and tapped on the tip button once again, and this time left a comment with it.
“High danger alert. Mutated zombies found in the area. Elongated bodies with quick movements and high reasoning.”
I slid the phone away, and a sudden stench began to fill my nostrils. The adrenaline must have worn off since the foul odor had quickly become overpowering. I stepped away from the scene, already gagging from the horrid smell.
As I made the silent journey down the final block and into my apartment complex, I realized I wouldn’t even get to play House of the Dead now.
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