I had been here for over two months, and some people had been here even longer than that. So much for that theory.
The dead zombies on the steps hardly resembled people anymore. Two of them were very thin and clearly at the end stages of the virus, but the third one was fat, almost bloated. Froth covered their lips from , and their skin had gone almost gray. Their jaundiced eyes had dark rings around them. Zombies tended to attack and eat each other, so they were covered in bruises, scratches, and bite marks.
The thing I hated the most about zombies was their blood. It was thicker than human blood, as if always coagulating, and it had a weird greenish tint to it, making it look darker and alien.
I crouched down next to the dead soldier, glancing behind me to make sure a zombie wasn’t about to spring to life and grab my ankle.
Harlow and Sommer waited a few steps up as I started searching around the soldier’s corpse. I kept my eyes fixed on the dead zombies, pretending to watch them, but I just didn’t want to see the soldier’s face. I was afraid I might recognize him.
The thick ooze of zombie blood covered my hands, and I grimaced. I finally found the clip, along with his service revolver. He’d been using a semi-automatic shotgun, and it was still in his hands. I pulled it free, hating the way it felt to loosen a dead man’s grip. I stood up and turned back to Harlow and Sommer.
“Do you know how to use a gun?” I asked them.
Sommer was too busy staring down at the dead soldier. I understood her horror, but it didn’t do any good to let it take over, so I pushed it back. Harlow didn’t answer, either, but at least she managed to make eye contact with me when I spoke.
“Aim and pull the trigger.” I clicked off the safety and handed it to her. “And don’t shoot me.”
Harlow nodded and took the gun. I wiped my hands on my jeans. I didn’t need them slippery, and zombie blood is hella gross.
Shoving the extra magazine in my back pocket, I stepped over the corpses in front of me. The stairs were slick with blood, and I gripped the railing.
I’d only made it down a few steps when the gun went off behind me, and I ducked. Plaster dropped from the wall, and when my heart started beating again, I looked back at Harlow. She was half-sitting on one of the steps, and her wide eyes were apologetic and terrified. She’d slipped on the blood and accidentally pulled the trigger.
“I’m sorry,” Harlow said, and she righted herself and stood up straighter. Presuming she learned her lesson about being careful with firearms, she’d do more good with a gun then without one.
“Well, at least we know you can take care of any zombies on the ceiling,” I said, then turned and hurried down the stairs.
Civilians were housed on the second floor, and the first floor was for army personnel and government officials. The medical facilities were in the gymnasium, and I had to get there for Max.
Blood covered the stairwell door-frame, and I leaned against it, looking down the halls of the main level. Zombie corpses littered the floor, but I saw enough swatches of green camouflage in the bodies to know that they weren’t the only fatalities down here.
Even with dead zombies and soldier on the steps, I couldn’t really believe the zombies had made it in this far. I had thought that the infected would be too crazed to formulate a real attack plan. I was probably right about that, but if there were enough zombies charging, then it didn’t really matter how well thought out it was.
The lights on the first floor flashed red. Things looked deserted, so I stepped out into the hall. I noticed movement a few meters down, something crouched on the ground. My stomach turned when I realized it was a zombie gnawing on a dead body.
I raised the gun and pulled the trigger mid-bite. Its head jerked back, blood sprayed, and it collapsed. Sommer screamed, and I cringed. She wasn’t cut out for this, and I wondered if I’d made a mistake letting her come with. I didn’t want to get her – or the rest of us – killed.
“Sommer, maybe you should go back to the room,” I said, looking back at her. “I can’t have you screaming every time something happens.”
“I’m sorry!” Tears welled in her eyes. “Maybe you could give me a warning.”
“As soon as the zombies let me know when they’re about to attack, I’ll make sure to pass the message along to you.”
“They’ll never let me in.” Sommer gestured to herself. Infected blood had gotten on her clothes, and I knew she was right. None of us would be allowed back in that room. The virus was transmitted the same as rabies, through blood and saliva, but people got paranoid whenever they saw zombie blood anywhere.
“You have to be quiet, alright?” I told her as gently as I could. “I don’t want you attracting any more attention than you need to.”
Biting her lip, Sommer nodded quickly, and I turned and walked down the hall. The ground squished under my feet, and I had to look down without really looking. I didn’t want to step on something that would bite me, but I didn’t want to see what we were walking through. I especially didn’t want to see the soldiers. A lot of them had been my friends, and they died trying to protect us.
Gun blasts echoed from around the corner, and I heard men shouting. I took a step back, pressing myself against the wall so I was hidden behind a trophy case. Harlow followed suit, but I had to physically push Sommer to get her back.
Something was happening, and I couldn’t see anything. I just heard a lot of yelling, death groans, and gun fire.
When the guns fell silent, I leaned forward so I could see around the trophy case. About a dozen or more zombies lurched up the stairs. They moved in a pack, something I’d never seen them do before.
But that’s not what made my stomach twist up. They had gotten past whoever was shooting at them, meaning that the soldiers we’d heard yelling were already dead.
“They’re going upstairs!” Harlow whispered frantically. “Everyone is hiding up there!”
I pursed my lips but didn’t say anything. The gun felt heavy in my hands. If I fired at them, I might kill one or two, but I couldn’t kill them all. The soldiers hadn’t been a match for them. A couple kids with guns wouldn’t stand a chance.
“They’re going to kill everyone!” Harlow looked at me, and I shook my head. We were lucky they were going upstairs and not down here after us.
“Getting ourselves killed won’t save them,” I said thickly. “Besides, they locked the door. They might be safe.”