Jon didn’t even have the door all the way open before Barley growled and let out a hostile bark. Instinctively Jon slammed the door back shut before he pressed his eye against the peephole.
His gut turned as he saw the creature that used to be his landlord stumbling on past. Nate came to a stop before his head rolled over to look right back through that peephole. Cold sweat dripped down Jon’s neck as he felt those bloodshot eyes seemingly stare right back at his.
Then something crashed in the apartment over and Nate began dragging himself towards the source of the sound, a sound akin to a hiss slipping from his rotting lips as he began to claw at the neighbor’s door.
Jon swallowed as he slowly stepped away from the door. “Michael, how’s it looking out there?” He asked, getting nothing in response. Gritting his teeth, Jon spun around “Michael, I swear to god-”
Michael jolted out of his thoughts. “Christ, sorry, just… look out there, Jon. Look,” He pulled back the curtain enough to reveal the hell outside.
Dozens of them. Dozens of people that were probably alive the day before, now bleeding, infected corpses wandering around with no clear destination. Sometime during the night a car had crashed into the convenience store across the street, the driver’s side door still wide open. Jon wasn’t sure if the person inside had made it out or if they’d joined the hoard outside.
Zombies. That word sounded so ridiculous, he was starting to get why TV shows and media went for something like ‘walkers’ or ‘rotters’. Sounded a little less like a kid’s Halloween costume.
But they were people. They were people probably last night.
“I need to get out of here.” Michael got to his feet and over to his packed suitcase. “You can still hotwire cars, right?”
“What, you never learned?” Jon laughed nervously at Michael’s lethal stare. “I’m kidding, of course I can. You sure that’s the best option? Apparently the pile up is pretty extreme going out of the city.”
“I’m not staying here,” Michael gestured outside, “When the same thing is happening back at my home.”
Jon swallowed the lump in his throat as he watched the scene down below. “They’re already making progress in the middle of the city, setting up a barricade-”
“And meanwhile everyone out of the barricade is getting fucked in three different directions!”
Jon grimaced as Michael’s voice raised. “Keep it down, I saw Nate out there,” He whispered.
“Nate? Your landlord?” Michael glanced at the door. “… He’s one of them, isn’t he?”
Jon nodded. “If I’d gone out in the hallway, I’d be in trouble. Don’t know what we’re going to do about Barley though,” He gestured to the German Shepherd keeping guard at the door, “He needs to go out.”
Michael groaned and rubbed his temples. “Great. We now have at least one of them in the building…” He sat down on the couch. “… Maybe we can wait for him to leave. Before we go.”
“My thoughts exactly.” Jon sat next to Michael, resting his hand carefully on his little brother’s shoulder. “Listen. It’s rough right now. But the kids and Marilyn will be fine if they board themselves up and lay low. I promise I’ll get you home to them as soon as we can.”
Michael took a deep shuddering breath before he nodded. “Thanks, Jon. You don’t have to help me-”
“Okay, shut the fuck up before you say something else stupid.”
Michael snorted and the pair almost started laughing when Jon’s cellphone started singing ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’. Frowning, Jon fished it out of his pocket and answered it.
“Lola? You good? Waitwait, slow down, what’s going on? … I’ll be right there. Stay on the phone with me, I’m putting you on speaker.”
Jon pulled the phone away and clicked the speaker. A raspy voice, the kind a woman gets when she’s been a long time smoker, spoke up.
“Jonny? Please, please hurry, they haven’t found me but I’m trapped in here until someone comes and shoos them away.”
Jon hurried to the door, slipping on his boots and jacket. “Baby, why the hell are you at school? It’s been closed down for a week,” He asked.
“I left somethin’ in my locker and was trying to pick it up when a bunch of those… those people came through the glass door. I’ve been in here all night. Please hurry, Jonny!”
Michael got up and joined his brother at the door. “Lola? This is Jon’s brother, Michael. I’ll be going with him,” Michael ignored Jon’s pointed stare and shake of his head, “Just hang tight and try to keep your voice down. They follow noise.”
Lola swallowed before she responded, “S-sure. I can do that. I’m gonna hang up, I’ll text you every few minutes to let you know if I’m good.”
“Great. We’ll be there soon.”
Jon hung up the phone and before he could say anything Michael cut him off with, “I’m not letting you go alone. Not right now.”
Jon only tried for a moment to come up with some sort of excuse or reason that Michael couldn’t come with him. He quickly caved and slipped the phone in his pocket.
“I’m grabbing my gun. Check my bedroom closet, I think Lola left some of her baseball shit in there. Grab the bat. And for once in your life, listen to me, if I tell you to run, you run. You have a family to go back to.”
“You’re my family too,” Michael fired back with before he hurried into the bedroom.
Five minutes later Jon had Barley leashed and Michael had the bat swung over his shoulder. Jon took a deep breath before cracking open the door and peering out. His undead landlord was no where to be seen, save for a few drops of blood and the clawed marks at the neighbor’s door. “He’s gone, let’s hurry,” He said before he slipped out the door, Michael right on his heels.
Jon swallowed the lump in his throat as he looked out into the parking lot. At least three were out there, and for a moment he froze before Michael held up his finger and pulled his shoe off his foot. He reeled his arm back and threw it full force against a car on the opposite side of the parking lot. The loud ‘clunk’ drew the dead’s attention and they all began shuffling over to the new sound.
“All right, go go go!”
Walking a bit awkwardly now, Michael hightailed it for Jon’s car, Jon sliding into the front seat and barely giving Michael the chance to shut his door before he turned the key. They whipped out of the parking lot, barely missing a fallen body that Michael really hoped was just another one of those things rather than a living person.
This side of the city was already going to hell. Several more zombies shuffled up and down the sidewalks, a few lumbered towards Jon’s car as it sped on past. One of them had the unfortunate luck of tripping and landing right in front of the vehicle, Jon instinctively swerved out of the way but the car jolted as they ran over its legs with a sickening crunch. Michael swallowed the bile in his mouth and did all he could to stop from gagging.
The typically ten minute trip to the school was extended to thirty, with Jon driving around thrown together blockades and destruction as Michael regularly checked his brother’s phone to see the texts from Lola.
its quiet rn i hate this Jonny
shiiiiiiiiit there was something walking on past but i think it went into the classroom
im so afraid
im still here
they dont know im here I keep my phone quiet and im not making a sound
i just needed to get my wallet and my motorcycle keys
Jonny thank you for coming to get me
if your not here in an hour i might make a break for it
the sounds are so bad Jonny its making me sick
somethin happened and i think a few left
i dont know why but im not here so many any more i think im hearin a car alarm?
still not leaving till you come get me I don’t know how many are still out there
Michael didn’t know how to respond, so he just kept observing the phone to make sure she wasn’t about to do something stupid.
The school was a disaster, windows smashed and a bloody skidmark in the parking lot. Jon leaped out of the car and snatched his phone back, shooting off a text before he gestured for Michael to follow him. “She’s in the main hall, let’s make this quick,” He said.
“Just keep your eyes open, I don’t want you walking into one of them,” Michael said, right on his brother’s heels.
The school was disturbingly quiet, save for a growling sound coming from one of the classrooms. His heart pounding in his ears, Jon hurried to the source, saw the zombie in the classroom before he slowly closed the door behind it. He didn’t wait to see its reaction, pressing on into the hallway.
Jon nearly bolted when he spotted the janitor’s closet but Michael grabbed the back of his shirt, forcing him to pace himself as they walked past the several open doors, glancing in each one to confirm it was empty of anything dead of alive. Jon swallowed before he quietly knocked on the janitor’s closet door.
There was a beat of silence before the door cracked open and a petite, plump woman poked her head out. Her dark red curls reached just below her ears and she had a rather flat nose and thin lips that were dry and pale. “Jonny?” She said quietly.
“I’m here, come on, did you at least get your shit?” Jon asked.
“Yeahyeah, I got it,” Lola stepped out, taking a deep shuddering breath. “I can’t believe you came for me, I woulda left you for dead,” She joked.
“I know, come on, I’m taking you to my place,” Jon wrapped an arm around her shoulders, “It’s safer together.”
Lola bobbed her head up and down before looking at Michael and smiling. “So you’re Michael. Coming all this way to come save a wretched bitch that you don’t even know, you’re just the man your brother said you were.”
Michael laughed nervously before he started back down the hall. The zombie now trapped in the classroom hissed and clawed at the window as they passed, sounding more like a rabid puma than a human being. Lola sobbed quietly and muttered something about that being a teacher.
Thankfully the trip back was less eventful, Lola silent except for a few more ‘thank you’s’ and how she thought she was a goner. A few more near misses before they were back at the apartment, thankfully the creatures in the parking lot had apparently scattered since they’d left, allowing Michael to open the car door and scoop up his shoe before they parked closer to the door. Lola wrinkled her nose as they parked. “Do I wanna know?” She asked in a deadpan tone.
“Distraction,” Jon deadpanned as they piled out of the car. “Let’s just get in the apartment and-”
The moment Jon opened the door his landlord came crashing through. With a horrifying snarl, Nate tackled Jon to the ground. Lola screamed in horror as Jon wrestled with Nate, the undead man snapping his teeth and coming close to biting Jon’s nose clean off as he struggled to push the zombie off.
Michael felt like he was watching someone else as he took his bat and slammed it into the side of the zombie’s head. The landlord toppled over, allowing Jon to scramble back. The landlord tried to stumble up and this time Michael was fully aware of what he was doing as he brought that bat down again, the sickening crunch as pus and blood splattered across the wood.
Nate fell back on the ground, twitching a few more times before Michael slammed the bat against his skull one more time to put him down. Nate went still and didn’t move again.
The bat slipped from Michael’s numb fingers as the horror of what he’d done sunk in.
I killed him.
Jon got up, shaky but unharmed. “Let’s go inside, all right?”
“That was a person, Jon, I-”
“And you saved my life. If anyone tries to get pissed at you over that-”
Lola cleared her throat, cutting off both men.
“I did it.”
Lola picked up the bat, twirling it around in her fingers and giving Michael a knowing look. “If anyone actually has the gall to ask, it was all me. It’s my bat, ain’t it? Don’t worry ‘bout it, Michael,” She said.
Michael nearly collapsed to the ground as his legs went to jelly but Jon caught him the last second. “Let’s just get the fuck inside,” Jon said.
Michael only had the strength to nod as he was helped indoors by the other two.
Chapter Five (coming soon!)