Chapter 5 - Entry 2
April 27th cont.
I could hear the wet chewing of meat between gnashing teeth above my laughter as Maliqe ate part of my leg. Unlike normal wounds, my body didn’t shut down the pain from a zombie bite. Agony finally overcame hysterics and something in my mind snapped back into place.
“Once they die, they stop being whoever they used to be,” I’d told Mary. It became a mantra as my legs kicked and thrashed violently against Maliqe’s impaled body. The stone prison around me became a new enemy. A new thing to kill. A new way to end the pain once freedom was reached. I attacked it and the zombie at my feet with equal vigor.
Dust and debris rained down around me as I thrashed, heedless of self injury and focused only on killing both the corpse gnawing on my leg and the stone holding me down. I punched. I kicked. I head-butted. I shifted my weight around like a Greco Roman wrestler trying to get out from under his opponent. Finger bones broke. Stars danced in my vision. Blood flowed from minor cuts everywhere. And teeth found purchase on my leg again.
“FUCK YOU!” I screamed, kicking out until soft flesh and hard bone gave way beneath my booted feet. The stone above me shifted and pain exploded along my previously numb arm. At least it was still attached. I could feel sharp concrete shards gripping my forearm like teeth where it lay pinned above my head. Snarling, I jerked and twisted it back, feeling flesh rip and tear, until it joined the other arm beneath my chest.
Zombie-Maliqe wasn’t done. I felt a hand grip my ankle and jaws lock onto the sole of my boot. Apparently my kicks had simply stuffed her down. Pushed her farther back into the hole. A few more solid stomps freed me from her grip and gave my damaged arm time to heal. Hunger raged inside me, making my movements frantic as raw pain and anger lent strength to injured limbs. Forcing both legs under me into a squat, I pushed up and felt stone move several inches.
Muscles strained as I slowly gained inch by painful inch until there was a good foot of space separating my knees from the concrete floor. Squatting, I took a moment to breathe, body vibrating from strain and exhaustion. The adrenalin was gone. Two chunks of meat were missing from the back of one leg and my right arm felt twisted out of alignment. Good times.
A scraping sound was followed by a long, low moan a heartbeat before I felt Maliqe’s hand brush against one boot. The rock that had pinned my pelvis was too low for her body to fit, having dropped after I’d pulled my legs free. I reached out and grabbed her hand, feeling its cold, calloused flesh in mine.
For several minutes I sat like that, holding her dead hand in mine as wounds healed and hunger grew. A sense of hopelessness threatened to drown me but I crushed it with a snarl. Guilt rose up in its place and the darkness seemed to fill with images of Nathan’s ruined body laid out on the ground before me. My mouth watered as I remember the taste of his flesh. Maliqe’s hand pulled away.
I let the guilt and anger fill me. Pulled from that well of primal wrath where each and every wrong I’d done and had done to me were kept locked away. Muscles flexed as I let lose a ragged scream and surged upwards. A shoulder dislocated. Rebar gouged a deep furrow down the length of my ribcage. My knee popped like a firecracker. Then there was light.
The gray sky overhead lay beneath its blanket of black clouds and seemed somehow blinding as I lifted my gaze. Rain was falling. Lightning danced amid the rolling canopy. Blinking furiously, I slowly pulled myself upwards, clearing the debris to lay atop a pile of rubble surrounded by the apartment building’s partially collapsed walls. Despite the terrible pain ripping through my stomach, I forced myself to lay still and wait until my body had mended itself. Minutes ticked by with agonizing slowness.
I rose after what seemed like hours and stumbled towards a breech in the building’s brick wall, pausing to lean against the stonework and survey the street before me. A dozen or so undead shuffled about but nothing had changed since the quake. I thought of Kate and looked for the bank truck. It wasn’t where we’d left it, giving me hope that she’d made it back to the station.
My weapons were gone, as was most of my clothing and strength. A bit of pipe lay jutting from the rubble so I grabbed it and tugged, revealing a four foot length of lead. Aching, I took a few practice swings and cracked my neck. The first zombie to notice me shambled forward, arms reaching out in a lover’s welcoming embrace. My pipe made contact and part of its skull cracked loudly in the gloom.
Gunshots rang out as a trio of walking corpses neared, one falling away with part of its head missing while a second stumbled forward and fell, guts exploding outwards in a spray of gore. I hopped off a slab of concrete and stomped its head into paste before whipping the pipe around and dropping the third.
“C’mon!” Henry yelled from afar.
I glanced up to see flashlight beams sweeping down from the fire station’s roof. A pair of silhouettes took aim and let lose a steady rain of lead on the zombies below. With weak legs I ran, using the pipe like a cane to hobble quickly across the street towards the door. It was opening just as I reached the stairs, tossing the pipe to free both hands and grab an undead woman’s hair. I pushed her aside and put a boot in her ass, then stumbled inside the station where Kate waited. She closed the door and reached out for me but I snarled. “Stay back.”
Hope ran down the stairs with her rifle in hand as I struggled to rise, leaving a puddle of drool on the floor. “Food. Hurry. Cans. Meat. Just hurry.” Both blinked in surprise.
“Hope go upstairs and get food and water.”
I nodded at Kate’s words and added my own, “Don’t cook. Just bring it.”
Kate squatted beside me a few feet away. “Maliqe?”
“Dead and buried.”
“Were you bitten?”
I looked up and cracked a crooked smile, struggling not to stare at the pale length of her exposed throat or think about the hot blood flowing within. “Yeah. A week ago. Don’t sweat it now. Just need food. Bad.”
Hope rushed down the stairs again with part of a ham and several cans of soup. For awhile I simply ate, devouring meat and downing cold soup with shaking hands. I sent her back upstairs twice before I felt stronger and the pain had faded. Rising slowly, I offered both a smile and started climbing the stairs.
“Where are you going?” Kate asked, trailing with Hope behind me.
“To take a shower and get some sleep.” I looked over my shoulder at both girls and saw uncertainty in their eyes. “It’s ok. Just give me some time. We’re safe for now. Plenty of food and fuel. Zombies can’t get in. I just need to recover. Understand?” They nodded, which was good enough for me at that moment.
I took a long, hot shower and laid down in bed. Maliqe’s scent still clung to the sheets. Despite the emotional and physical exhaustion that lay heavy in my bones, I couldn’t sleep. Couldn’t stop the whirlwind of thoughts whipping around inside my head. I got up and stared out the window, looking down the street to where the apartment building’s shell still partially stood. More zombies puttered about below, flesh chalky white in the flashes of lightning that danced overhead.
A box of Maliqe’s little cigars sat on the windowsill. I lit one and coughed from the harsh herbal sting. Its cherry cast a red glow in the darkened bedroom as I stood watching the rain. “I can’t do this alone,” I whispered out loud, then grimaced at truth given voice. A knuckle busted as I punched the wall, focusing on the pain before it numbed and healed, drawing clarity in that brief surge of chemical release.
“Fuck you Maliqe.” I snarled. “Fuck you for laying all this on me.”
Emotions rose and I punched the wall again, riding the pain and using it to stuff feelings back inside the cage where they belonged. Calm washed over me. Time slowed until I could make out individual drops of falling rain. My vision hyperfocused on a single zombie still wearing glasses, studying cracked lenses and metal frames during flashes of lightning. There was an army out there. Enemies at the gate. Shit needed to get done. The cigar burned down to my fingers and the scent of cooked meat shattered the trance. Snubbing out the butt, I laid back down in bed and closed my eyes, willing myself to sleep. Eventually it came.