The roads began to weave in and out of each other; the lines of the road began to meld together. “I’m losing consciousness, I think they got me good with that last hit to the head,” I mumbled. My partner Dave began yelling, but my ears rang too loudly for me to hear. Time slowed down, my grip on the steering wheel began to relax and to loosen up; after all, when you’re beaten up this badly it gets difficult to stay rigid. The car of hunters behind us began to swerve, the infected catching up to them. Dave leaned out of the window and fired off a few bursts of his mp5 machine gun. The loud gunfire, followed by the afflicted’s blood-curdling screech snapped me back into focus. “Head crab, straight in front,” said Dave. I spotted the creature in my headlights, a small dome shaped body with four long, spider-like legs, used to latch onto your head. Its mouth, upon its underbelly, was used to dominate your body and transfer the virus to you, turning you into one of the afflicted. The head crabs were the most basic form of the monsters, seeing as how the virus can be caught from all tissue, blood, and all other bodily fluids of the other infected creatures. I reached for my pistol, but just then, I heard an immense pop to my left: The front tire had just blown out. Dave began screaming, firing like a mad man into the approaching crowd of afflicted as the car began to lose speed and stability. Many fell, but we knew only a clean destruction of the brain or spinal column can truly stop the beasts. I tried my best to fight the blown tire, but it was too much, and we careened off the road into a storefront to the left. Amazingly, the air bags had saved us from the brutal impact, but the car was totaled and smoking menacingly. As the other car passed us, they threw a shotgun into the storefront. I picked it up and loaded a shell in. This was similar to my favored model, most likely a knock-off brand, so operating it was almost second nature to me. “Grab the ammo and supplies; we’re going to clear this building and make camp,” I ordered. Dave procured many supplies and much ammo. After some rummaging he managed to find our old crossbow. With his malicious smile, I remembered the many afflicted we’ve pinned to the walls with its piercing bolts. This was more effective than bullets, for they would then be stuck to that spot until daybreak, leaving them to burn in the sun. Locking the door behind us, the inner store was now our bunker for the night. Our last precaution to ebb the approaching afflicted swarm came in the form of our smoking car. It would ignite within seconds, thanks to spare gasoline and a hand grenade. Loaded with kerosene, this car would produce an inferno of hot, blazing fluids. In five seconds it erupted like a volcano behind us, leaving the room thoroughly coated in smoldering embers and blazing fuel. With that explosion, we left the ruined storefront as a barrier to any afflicted attempting to enter our night’s shelter.
Feeling secure, we entered the inner workings of the building. Shotgun at the ready, I headed up the stairs, while Dave took the basement level. The stench coming from the upstairs bedroom was overpowering, as if a thousand tires and bodies lay amass in a field of fire. I had to investigate. Upon opening the door, the scene that met my eyes was horrifying; a stringy, starved, ravenous looking afflicted woman was tearing at the corpse of a fallen man. The woman was in frenzy, ripping and consuming every part of the man she got her hands upon. The blood was upon her entire face, the rotting flesh the disease caused upon its host reflecting weeks of affliction. This creature was on the end of its rope. It was at the point where any and all flesh would suffice as food. Just then, I heard the crack of gunfire downstairs, followed by victorious laughter and more gunfire. This alerted the savage before me, and she turned to fix her rotting eyes upon mine. I tensed, knowing her vision was based on movement. If I didn’t move, she couldn’t see me. She thrashed her head in all directions, trying to catch a hint of movement. Small grunts she issued sounded like that of an enraged bull. Her stringy, decaying hair whipped around her face like curtains to some spectacle of deteriorated flesh. I shuddered when those rotted, degraded eyes, nearly falling from their sockets, rested upon mine again, and she spotted me. The beast emitted a screech unlike any natural being can produce. It was a cry worthy of a creature of Hell itself, one whose undying rage would not subside, and in an instant she sprang towards me. A 10-guage shotgun blast met her jaws inches from my neck. It appeared instinct had saved me this time. The creature doubled back, its face mangled from the blast but not quite dead yet. It thrashed about with every limb, its jaw hanging uselessly from one side, blood and corroded flesh slinging from under its nails and from its mouth. I covered myself fast, pulling the ski mask down and placing on my goggles. If any blood or flesh entered my body, I myself would succumb to the infection. The combat suit I wore was signature of my hunter squad, and protected me from most slashes, bites and infectious material. We volunteered to fight the affliction once this pestilence struck. Loading a slug round into the chamber this time, I pumped the shotgun, ejecting the hot spent cartridge of the last shell onto the ground. This next shot was headed for the creature’s neck. With a point shot and steady hands, I fired the round at the beast, not simply taking the head from the shoulders, but taking it completely to pieces. Fragments of deteriorated tissue sprayed me, and I was glad to be covered thoroughly. Reloading my gun, I checked the remainder of the upstairs, finding nothing but corpses with the heads cleanly severed; this place had recently seen human life. I went downstairs to meet Dave, deeming the upstairs level clear. My way down was surreal. Although many undead littered the place, either pumped full of holes or pinned by the head to the wall with a cross bolt, I saw no sign of Dave anywhere. These dead creatures were all Drones, the first stage of affliction when their movement is slower and clumsier. The final and most brutal stage is the Skreeling, a vicious savage which destroys and consumes any flesh it encounters. This stage only appears in women who obtain the virus. Skreelings only have a life span of around two nights, explaining their extreme aggression. Because it is the end of the host, the virus tries to spread itself as much as possible. They even sometimes attack fresh Drones. The slain monster upstairs was a Skreeling. I came to a hallway and, checking my corners, nearly ran into the head of a Drone. I screamed and fired, blasting the monster’s face to oblivion a mere foot from my own. I then heard intense laughter from behind me, and realized then that the head was simply disembodied and placed on a stake. Dave can be a great help, but he’s a prankster at heart.
Nobody slept that night. Although it was relatively peaceful and tranquil in comparison to an assault, the constant sound of afflicted monsters scraping the doors, windows and walls was enough to unnerve any man, even drive some to insanity. The moaning and yells of the monsters were cryptic, and the worst part was that at times it was almost human. Words were half formed in the mouths of more newly formed undead, such as “food” and “help us.” They knew there was warm, living flesh inside the house, and they were willing to wait forever to get it. The toll was most heavy knowing that these were all once people with lives, values, families…it was the sort of thought that either made or broke a hunter. Some took it as further reason to destroy them, setting their body free of this infection and putting their souls at peace. Others, like me, saw it as a slaughter of the innocent, a mass genocide of those who were once people with beliefs and thoughts, all individual to their minds. This sense of individuality and humanity which I put upon the afflicted in my mind was what kept me of for torturous sleepless nights when I could hear their cries in the city streets. If only there existed a cure, a way to help them instead of severing heads and incinerating bodies. Dave says it’s crazy talk, that we’re doing them a favor. Those beliefs are foreign to me when I think I’ve had monsters who were once children at the end of my barrel. Now ravenous beasts, it was me or them, but the pain and yearning for retribution existed nevertheless. I signed up not to inflict carnage but to help others, yet the massacre is necessary. That car behind us tonight had a family inside, one who managed to hold out all this time in the local supermarket. My solace was in the thought of being their savior. It is truly amazing how reflective thought can get a man through a night of terror either quickly or painfully slowly.
Morning came with the usual: Freshly fried corpses of the afflicted pinned to the walls or decapitated now left to burn in the sun, the quaking fears of the preceding night freshly lingering in your mind, and the stench of death freshly renewed in your nostrils. It would be hours until the rescue convoy would show up-or so Dave told me he heard on the radio. Nothing was left to do now but wait upon the rooftop for the jeep to arrive. It was after all a sunny day after the long storm of last night’s rescue mission. The creatures cannot touch us in the light. It is the time of the living.
© Copyright 2016 rofltaco. All rights reserved.
Poem / Poetry
Short Story / War and Military
Poem / Poetry
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