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September 25, 2023

All-Nighter 04

By Lydia Manx

Episode Four


Back then ...

Flame throwers had been brought out by the mercenaries, along with various types of guns, and I was deafened by the sound of all that ammo tearing up the zombies. Nobody was looking at us so I hissed out, "Down Dean! Now!" He turned to me somewhat confused then the sounds from below grew louder and he slowly clued in on what I was telling him.

He fell to his knees crying, "Lindy, what if she's in that crowd? Then she's for sure dead!"

If she was in that crowd, she was beyond toast. "And if they find us up here, so are we. They aren't from any government I know." I'd seen all of the flannel shirts, heavy boots, and well-aged jeans and identified the newcomers as more than likely a local militia, either native born or recently formed. I was pretty sure they'd be less than pleased to know we watched them slaughter a group of people.

It took far less time than I'd figured it would take for them to finish up the zombies. And no, they didn't smell like cooked chicken in the least -- the stench of death was stomach churning, and the cooking bodies wasn't something I'd ever forget.

Dean was reduced to a low, nearly inaudible moaning that was starting to pick up steam. I am not proud of what I did, but blame the scent of corpses flooding my senses, along with a healthy dose of self-preservation. I used my hand and slapped the stupid off him. He stopped moaning and looked at me in wide-eyed shock. Well duh! Holding my other hand over his mouth I hissed into his face, "Shut the hell up, you idiot!"

He gulped and nodded. Slowly removing my hand while still keeping my right fist clenched to apply more direct action if need be, I said, "You really don't want to attract their notice. They will kill us without hesitation and not even worry about being caught. They just fried a bunch of your pizza-eating clients without so much as a how-do-you-do. Now didn't they?"

Dean sobbed softly before saying shakily, "Yeah."

"I think we need to keep our damn asses here for a bit and I will watch the street. You stay here and calm down." I crawled slowly to the vanity I had seen in the far corner of the room and once clear of the window, stood up cautiously. I couldn't see the street, so it meant the marauders down there with the flame throwers and heavy duty guns couldn't see me. It took me a few minutes of opening drawers before I found what I was looking for. I pulled out the small compact and snapped it open to find a mirror along with the small puff to apply the caked makeup on the opposite side. I tossed the puff aside and smacked the caked foundation out into the trash can beneath the vanity. Snagging up a tissue from a fancy box on the top of the dainty piece of furniture, I wiped out the remaining makeup into the trash and had a nice mirror and no pesky makeup to spill out and blind me.

I had an idea of how to peer down, hopefully without attracting any interest. The windows at the front of the house were recessed slightly -- which is why they were an ideal spot to shoot down on the zombies while keeping us out of easy line of fire. But now that was moot since the zombies were crispy critters, and the guys below wouldn't be taking casual potshots if they discovered us, they'd simply torch the front of the house. With no electricity, we hadn't put any lights on during our wanderings, so I was optimistic that the good old boys would assume they were alone in the town. Since they now were pretty much the only other humans walking, it was a safe assumption. They were too organized for my liking, but at the same time they hadn't seemed to be looking around for humans. No, they were here to cook zombies and pretty much hoot and holler at their 'fun.' I lowered back to the floor and crawled back to the window where I'd been before the shooting started.

Taking my time and a deep breath, I worked my hand up slowly until I could catch the reflection of the street below us. Let me tell you, it was not pretty, but nobody was looking up at the house. Nope, the guys were passing around a few bottles of hard liquor they must have brought in with them, while smoking cigars with the puffed-up chests of he-men proud of a day's work. There was one younger man taking his time to shuffle through the corpses and poke them at random. He was using the tip of an old hunting rifle, not one of the deadly semi-automatic guns most the men had. He came to a huge pile of charred remains, and thrust his rifle half-way into the middle, when it stopped and then was pulled from his loose grasp.

His scream rang out clearly to us as he fell backwards and headed towards the ground. A shape from beneath the pile of bodies shifted upwards and swung the gun back to the man, catching him on the side of the head as he was going down, further sending him stumbling away from the charred remains of torched and shot zombies. Strike that, one wasn't yet a remain and the young man was paying dearly for his misconception. As one, the men that had exited from the Hummers turned and shot at both of the figures with a ruthlessness that was startling. Their dying comrade screamed his last bit of agony as the two fell back dead in final death. Most of the man's head was missing, same as the zombie who'd grabbed his gun. The shooting stopped, and the men turned back to each other without any sign of concern.

"Fucking retard. I told him to stay away from the damned bodies until given the all clear by one of us," one of the men spit out while shaking his head.

Another of the flannel-clothed fools replied, "Serves him right. He wasn't doing that much." They all laughed and resumed passing the bottles around and puffing on their cigars and a few cigarettes. Sickened by them, I fell back on my ass, while I found that in my soul I was nearly broken by their complete disregard for human life, even that of one of their own. The sign of the time seemed to be that of death and destruction, in every direction that I could see. I wept for the future, more determined than ever to get away from the zombie town and back to civilization, such as it was.

Dean chose that moment to pop up with, "Should we go down and see if they'll take us out of here?"

"Ah, no. They just riddled one of their buddies with bullets rather than having a simple dialogue of 'hey dude you been bit or something?' which even I could see hadn't happened. He was clubbed with the rifle -- hell, his own rifle at that -- and they shot him."

Dean curled back into his useless ball and asked very softly, "Okay, then when do we do now?"

Trying to keep clear-headed as the waves of exhaustion fought with arc of adrenaline warring with the pain meds wasn't easy, but I answered Dean with a simple, "We try not to die. That sound okay with you?"

He hesitated a nanosecond before saying, "Yeah, it's okay."

I knew that these mercenaries would be smart enough to look inside the homes around sooner or later, just to take the time to glance around for any stray zombies if nothing else. Putting my brain into overdrive, I knew something was bothering me about the house. I hissed, "Let's go back to the master bedroom. Something was off there." I was mentally pacing off the dimensions of the rooms and there were missing feet. Quite a bit once I did the math. I may have been clouded slightly with drugs and exhaustion, but I always did the math. I would have been useless in my job if I lost that skill. Seeing how wealthy these folks were, and the over-the-top cost of everything that we'd seen, I guessed that the mister had put in a safe room -- aka panic room. With the way strong-armed home invasions occurred, it fell logically to the safe room being in the master suite. Mister and missus out cold sleeping, and somebody or four crash through the back door or even the front in a late night breach, the alarms would sound in the master bedroom first and give the folks time to high tail it into their little room. Yeah, I could see it.

Once inside the master bedroom, I noticed it was heavily decorated with large pieces of imported hardwood furniture more than likely custom built for the couple. A few taps and I found one of the armoires wasn't nearly as solid as the other one nor as full. Thinking of how I'd be if suddenly awakened in the middle of the night, afraid, what would be the easiest way to get away? I fell to the heavily carpeted flooring and reached to the bottom right corner of the piece of furniture, and found a switch that I easily toggled -- and the armoire slid to the left, revealing a small doorway. I stood up and walked directly into a room the size of a large walk-in closet, with a few modifications. Noticeably the faint glow of automatic motion-sensor lights, and once both of us were inside, I tapped the large button to the right of the door and the furniture slid back in place, locking us inside without much sound.

Dean's eyes were huge and I smiled at the amenities.

Together we looked around the cupboards and admired the sheer luxury of the dead folks' 'panic room.' The single most noteworthy item for me was the bank of TV monitors that had live feed of what was happening inside and outside the house, with a chair and what looked to me like a computer set up. To my relief, I didn't see any of the men lumbering inside looking for zombies. I knew it was only a matter of time; they'd find dead bodies and if we were lucky, look no further. But I knew there were no guarantees. I was so quitting my job once I escaped West Virginia. After getting a hefty bonus for surviving the zombies and mercenaries -- because I wasn't going away without pocket change at the very least. But either could prove to be the death of me long before I saw home again.

It was odd to me how the zombie invasion didn't freak me out any more. I half blamed the drugs I'd taken for my ankle. But I knew deep down I wasn't very shocked by things that went thump in the night. Thinking about my childhood, I'd cut my baby teeth on scary movies, and even scarier stories once I began reading. Most parents assumed that books in the children's section of the library were all wholesome and little more than the Hardy boys and Nancy Drew mysteries. Children's lit had come a long way since those days, and you could scare yourself silly all before age twelve, when, as every kid knew, was when life really started. Afterward, the happy endings were far and few in between in the children's literature books. Usually the shy friend or the smart ass side kick was sacrificed in the tales, on the grounds it made the hero understand how the real world worked.

Once Dean and I had poked and prodded through the treasure trove of the hidey hole, exhaustion washed over us. They only had one bed in the room, but it was large enough for us both to fall in and not have to worry about bumping into each other. I figured out how to turn on and off lights, and after eating some of the tasty nibbles stored in there, we fell asleep without even changing out of our sweaty clothes. I figured I'd worry about that if I survived the night, or day as it were.

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2016-02-22
Image(s) © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
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