The roads became increasingly crowded with abandoned vehicles as we made our way but the plow was making life a bit easier as we jammed through various snags. It slowed us considerably and night had fallen by the time we neared our destination. It didn’t matter anyway.
The rescue station was done. We could tell as soon as it was in sight. It was originally a middle-school but now it was a desolate wasteland. There were huge burn marks and rubble from what we could only assume were grenades and shit. Bodies were mangled and burned everywhere and the playground was a mess of twisted and scorched metal. Even the soldiers here didn’t stand a chance much less any survivors that made it here looking for sanctuary. As disappointed as I was to see that it was gone, I counted us lucky for not having arrived any sooner.
I left Cutty and Junior with the truck and told them to keep their eyes peeled while I went ahead to scout for anything useful.
Junior wanted to come along but Cutty jumped in the conversation and stated flatly, “If Flo-Jo here wan’ go in that bitch alone I’ma let ‘im and I suggest you do da same. Can’t none of us move like dis boy an’ I ain’t tryna lose two of us.”
Junior shot him a shitty look and snapped, “You’s a one-way sum bitch, Cutty… If we lose him then I’ll be ‘lone with yer monkey-ass ‘gain and I’m likin’ the fact that we outnumber you at the moment.”
Here we go again… Cutty moved to face Junior and told him, “I swear ta gawd I’ma knock out yo’ last good toof.”
That was all I needed to hear. I told them if I wasn’t back in 20 minutes, they should just wait longer. That left them confused enough for me to get a head start.
I was in full-on stealth mode as I approached the yard toward the school. I noticed a mangled soldier holding a decent looking pistol… shit if I knew what kind it was but I knew it was better than my little pop-gun. Not sure why I did this but I slipped it out of his hand and replaced it with my old one like I was some welfare version of Indiana Jones. I don’t know… just felt right to leave him something of mine.
I snuck along the wall to the stairs that led to the upper deck of the gym. It was a flight of about 15 steps and when I reached the top I saw a small figure sitting with its knees to its chest in the corner next to the double doors. I raised my new piece and prepared myself to shoot but the figure didn’t move like a deadhead. It just sat there shivering.
I got close enough to see that it was only a boy. He was about seven or eight, filthy, and obviously scared shitless… so was I.
“Psst.”, I hissed at him quietly but he gave no response. I tried again with a whisper, “Hey… kid… you alright?”
Moving up beside him I reached for the door handle and he sprung to life. He snapped his head up and with a wide-eyed stare of absolute terror he just shook it like, NO NO NO but he still said nothing.
I peered in the window and there it was. Down on the gym floor below the bleachers there were no less than two hundred of them… women, men, teenagers, lots of children… all dead… all reanimated. Packed in like cattle, they bumped into one another and stumbled around just waiting for someone to ring the dinner-bell. Ummmmm…
I looked down at the boy and took note of his appearance. Poor kid. He was white as a ghost and flecked with soot and grease. His clothes were those of an average kid and they hung loosely like they were a family hand-me-down. His innocent face burned itself into my brain.
I whispered as harshly as I could, “We gotta GO!”, but he was back to that hundred yard stare again. “Look, it’s dangerous here… WE GOTTA GO!” My voice was more authoritative this time but still whispering.
Fuck it… I grabbed his arm and started to drag him along with me. He sprang to life and freaked out… I mean… he just -freaked out-. Kicking and screaming at the top of his lungs, “NO NO NO NO”
He was fighting me hard, pulling away and just yelling the whole time. Our cover was blown and they came. They came like a flood. Zeds began pouring out of the downstairs doors and before we knew it they were at the bottom of the stairwell.
I shouted at him, “We gotta GO. COME ON!!!”
He kept pulling away as fifty or more deadheads bottlenecked at the stairs and began scrambling up to us. I shot my new piece firing down at them wildly but I knew I was just wasting time. Torn between gauging their distance and one-handedly grabbing at the boy, I glanced to my left at the thirteen foot drop to the ground over the rail. I scooped the boy up, kicking and screaming as they got within an arms length. The timing could not have been more perfect… horrifyingly perfect.
As I climbed up to hop the rail with the boy in tow, a biter got a hold of his foot and the kid’s finger poked me square in the eye. I fell blindly and… he just slipped. He slipped from my hands.
I hit the ground hard but popped up full of adrenalin and started running. His screams quieted to a gurgle in the distance and I died a little inside.
After a hundred yards or so I reached the plow. Cutty already had the engine running and Junior moved into the middle seat so I could get in.
I simply said, “Go.”
Junior piped in as Cutty took off, “We heard shots and it sounded like a kid screaming or sum’n… What happened, boy??? You ok? You bit?”
I stared straight ahead through the windshield as we moved further west trying to make sense of what just happened.
“No… No kid…. Just me.”