Zomtropolis Chapter Twenty-two
Selena and I dropped behind a counter loaded with scattered spoons and pots. Both of us breathed quick and short, our breaths echoing the fast beat of our hearts. We looked at each other with wide eyes, knowing the slightest sound would alert the dead to our location. Selena’s lower lip began to tremble. I don’t know why it happened then, of all times, but tears dripped from the corners of my eyes–not because of fear, but of seeing her so scared. I wished so badly I could just wrap my arms around her and shelter her from the undead lumbering into the kitchen, their groans echoing off the walls.
But I couldn’t.
To sit there, eyes closed, pretending we were somewhere else would only ensure our deaths.
So we sat there, as still as statues, hoping the undead wouldn’t shamble around the whole kitchen. If only they’d just leave. The moments ticked by, time seeming to be caught in a slow drip of molasses.
Selena squeezed her eyes shut when a zombie let out a raspy howl. She broke down, sobbing. She did her best to stifle each choking gasp, but the best she could do was make it sound like some kind of inverted sneeze.
The zombies’ footsteps drew closer.
“We’re going to have to run,” I whispered.
She opened her eyes and nodded, her expression clearly displaying she knew it was her fault the undead heard us, her gaze asking me for forgiveness. Even if we were going to die, of course I’d forgive her.
The dead drew nearer and I guessed they were right up against the other side of the counter. How many were there, I didn’t know.
“Arms up and plow through,” I told her. “Let me go first.”
I duck-walked past her then drew my arms up so my forearms were held in front of me like a couple battering rams, my bat held vertical like some kind of flag of land and country. Selena held her cleaver aloft.
“Now,” I said, and stood quickly. Ignoring the head rush, I rounded the counter and propelled myself forward through a pack of zombies about four bodies thick.
“Run!” Selena screamed from behind.
We headed for the kitchen door, leaving the shamblers behind us. We emerged back into the dining room proper, which was now swarming with the undead. Bat in hand, I went to work bringing its razor-covered end into every rotting head I saw. Blood and skin tore from decaying skulls, sailing through the air like a black, red, and gray mist. Selena grunted behind me as she took the cleaver to anything that came near her. Bodies dropped, and I learned a secret to fighting the undead at The Wok: keep moving. You cannot let yourself become stationary when under attack. Just move, move, move and cut your way through like a madman.
My bat sliced open the chest of a woman, the interior of her breasts sliding out like moldy chicken from a couple wet paper bags. I brought the bat up into the stomach of an dead old man, removing his guts, making them drop out to the floor.
“Get to the door!” I said.
“Should have seen if there was a back one,” Selena replied as she drove the cleaver home into a dead teenager’s skull.
“Didn’t see one running off the kitchen.” I took a deep breath, brought my bat against the head of another zombie, then called to her, “We get outside, go right. I think there was an opening there.”
“Not as many zombies.”
With a shriek, I ran for the doors, swinging my bat side to side, its bladed end tearing into some of the undead, other times serving more as a battering ram, helping to clear the way. Selena was right behind me. The blade of her cleaver nicked the back of my arm. I barely felt it; just a mild sting. I don’t think she realized it because she didn’t say anything.
We emerged through the broken front doors of The Wok, the zombies out front ambling about in different directions, the majority, however, stumbling toward the restaurant.
“Move!” I shouted.
We headed to the right as planned, taking out as many of the undead as we could. We only fought those who were too close for comfort. When fighting zombies, you see, you don’t make active work of it. The goal is to get away and do what needs doing in that regard. Try to take them on like some kind of He-Man and you’re dead meat.
Half-eaten bodies lined the streets; all missing their heads. Whether that was from other folks killing the undead or from the undead themselves going after the brains, I’m not sure. Some of the bodies were missing arms and legs. Some just a hand or foot. Guts and blood coated the pavement as if a truck filled with paint cans had crashed and spilled black and red and brown and gray everywhere.
The stench of rot was so thick I think I heard Selena throw up while running behind me. I was about to ask her if she was okay when an dead Asian dude stepped in front of me, hands outstretched. I brought the bat down on his arms, tearing through the rotting skin. The bones within broke and what was left of his arms just dangled there at the elbows. I took the bat to his face and dropped him. Selena and I jumped over the body and kept going.
Finally we were able to turn a corner into an alley. Fortunately, it was open-ended so if worse came to worse, we wouldn’t be trapped.
We stopped and put our hands on our knees.
Selena did have a bit of throw up on her mouth. She must have saw me wince because she quickly brought a hand to her face and wiped it away.
“Sorry,” she said.
“It’s okay. Are you all right?”
“No. Just . . . shaky, grossed out. Sick.”
“I know the feeling.”
We kept an eye on the mouth of the alley as we caught our breaths.
“So thirsty,” I said. “Feels like I’m swallowing a washcloth.”
She nodded. “Yup.”
A shudder ran through me; my legs were weak. I didn’t want to admit it in case Selena was more or less sturdy now. Didn’t want to be the weaker one. Not right here.
“Come on,” I said, and slowly began backing out of the alley the opposite way we came.
“We’re going home, right?” she asked.
Never thought I’d hear her refer to my place as home. “I don’t know. We still need food. I’d rather just get it all in one go instead of coming out later.”
She didn’t reply, and I didn’t want to press the issue in case we’d fight or something.
At the mouth of the alley, opening up onto a new street, I stopped, turned around and surveyed the area to get a handle on things.
I didn’t like what I saw.