Staying Alive II


Begging for death he squirms. Harsh enough pain frosts the body from the inside out. Summer shivers.
Alex tore the apartments in the building apart one by one, floor by floor, looking for aspirin or ibuprofen. This clustered migraine needs to stop.
But there’s no luck. He comes up empty handed. The time lost looking was just long enough to worsen the migraine. He gives up on the fourth floor and decides to brace himself instead.

Alex bolts the bedroom door. Curls into a ball on a clothes covered bed. A bundle of jeans and shirts are grabbed to squeeze.

It’s been 45 days since the outbreak. It started rough. Humanity’s rules changed overnight. Three weeks it took to fully understand the magnitude of the problem. He’s coasted since then. Until now.

On the verge of passing out and a migrating horde is going to cross the city. Many of the ghouls have changed. They’ve become faster. Stronger. More dangerous. And they can smell uninfected flesh and meat. If they manage to catch Alex’s scent and he’s unconscious, it could spell trouble in big bold letters. The number of ghouls that have turned from rumblers to screamers in the last month alone is enough to tear most of the buildings in the area apart.

The collective shrieking of screamer ghouls buries the whimpering of the grumblers. It hits Alex like nails on a chalkboard, amplified by the migraine. They’ve caught his scent. He opens one eye to assure his lead pipe is nearby. He’s kept the pipe since it first saved his life and remained the one reliable weapon he can use. He tried others, but they didn’t go too well. Like the time he tried to use an easier to wield kitchen knife, but was forced to get too close to a screamer and almost died.

The pipe is there, but fizzy. The migraine makes it hard for Alex’s eye to focus or gather the right amount of light. Things turn out to be fuzzy, nearly shapeless blobs that are too dim or too bright. He grabs it from the edge of the bed where he flung it. His grip tightens around the base of the pipe. “I could do this,” he tells himself.

Alex’s only chance for survival now lies in getting out of the building and away from the horde before they reach him or see him. They’ll inch closer tracking his scent. As long as they don’t lay eyes on him there is a chance he’ll make it. Although, not a good one.

Knowing he’s got to make haste, Alex battles himself off the bed and shambles out of the room. Fading fuzz figures phase in and out as he moves about without a doubt he’ll face trouble.

The ghouls don’t have the motor skill capabilities to find and operate a door. Walking right out the front could be effortless if it’s empty enough of ghouls to go undetected. But if he’s spotted by a single screamer it’s over. It’ll screech its war cry and alert the others that it found something. That’s a death sentence.

Alex then considers a back door alternative. A small enough horde might not have enclosed the building. It could be completely empty.

He leaves the apartment into this dead grey empty hallway. Shattering windows echo up the stairwell. Inspiration strikes and he starts vertical vertigo jogging down.

Half way down the last flight of stairs he sees the faint outline of a ghoul’s brown hiking boots. It’s standing by the hall nearest the stairs. Alex stops, gripping the pipe tight in one hand and the handrail tight in the other. He stiffens. Maybe the ghoul detected him. He observes the ghouls feet move wildly, patternless. It’s curious about the source of the scent. Starved for it.

Having been slowly backing away, Alex has to freeze again when the ghoul shifts his way and stops moving.

“AHHHHHHHH!” it screeches, nearly bursting chunks of its lungs out its mouth. The building begins to quake. Windows shatter faster. Footsteps quickly multiple.

Alex sprints back to the second floor. Apartment A2. He shuts the door behind him. Locks it. Puts a chair to jam the door shut and a dresser to jam the chair.

Ghouls pound on the door. Screams and moans grow louder as more ghouls gather. They won’t stop until they’ve found their meal, or they’ve lost track of him and his scent. The door squeaks with the increasing pressure.  Alex rushes window to window looking for the fire escape, but the ghouls are moving too fast. The door is already cracking. Their tearing through like it’s made of cardboard. He runs to the bathroom and shuts the doors before he’s seen.

The door explodes in the hall. The chair and dresser creak when rubbing against the floor and stumbled over. They’ll soon pick up the scent coming from the bathroom and there is nowhere else to go but out the single window. Whether or not there’s a way to break the fall on the other side.

The moment the door pounds it’s over. He swallows whatever fear he has, goes to the window by the sink and opens it. Looking out he sees a dumpster. Aimed just right he could land inside. Not safely, but it’ll definitely soften whatever impact he’ll receive.

The door behind him squeaks like the other. Deep breath and he’s out the window.

Everything goes black.

The view of the apartment Alex jumped from pulses overhead from inside the dumpster and it fades back to black.