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~~~

Looking through the small, rectangular service window, Sam was frozen in place by the scrunched together faces of the dead who stared back at her. Their hunger-filled eyes feasted upon her flesh. Sam would always remember that horrifying image, like a family photo ripped from a nightmarish album where everyone was pushed together to fit the frame, posed for a moment of crystal clarity as all registered as one what finding Sam meant to them. The caption beneath, written in blood: Dinner at the Eastlake Police Department.

Her worst fear manifested as a few began to test the door, pushing against the flimsy barricade.

Sam low-crawled through the office, found the switch, and shut the lights back off. She hoped the dark would confuse the beasts long enough to slow them down.

This only agitated them as more of the monsters began to push against the door.

Sam was running out of time. If they breached the offices, she’d have to lock herself in the cell block hallway, reducing her to the back door exit or getting forced up on the roof and risk a twenty-foot drop to the street. If these things made it around back, she would be trapped in the cell block. Not an option.

She needed an assessment from the roof and decided on a desperate plan to get it.

~~~

When the lights flickered back on in the cell block, Frank Carman became uncomfortable.

Time’s almost up. Where’s my opportunity?

Brawler began to clap obnoxiously. “Hot damn! Oh this is a good sign, man. Power’s back on so the National Fucking Guard must be taking back the city! When I get out of here I’m going to sue the shit out of these numb-nut cops for keeping us in here, especially that she-man bitch… did you see what she did to my face-”

“Shut up, you damn fool. I’m trying to hear what’s going on.” Frank stood at the ready, maintaining his calm. “The lights mean nothing. You better hope our favorite police officer is still out there or we’re dead in these cages.”

Brawler was about to protest but Carman shot him a threatening look and held his finger to his mouth to shush him.

The lights went back out followed by the sounds of Sam’s footsteps returning to the cell block. She stopped long enough to look at both prisoners and then began to unlock Brawler’s cell.

Carman sighed and said, “Not a good idea, cop bitch. He’s a useless piece of shit who’s going to get all of us killed.”

She opened Brawler’s cell, drew her gun and backed up down the hall.

Brawler raised his hands over his head and said, “Take it easy, lady. I’m not going to cause a fuss. Just do your job and get me the fuck out of here. I’ll do whatever you want.”

“You’re going up to the roof to find out where their numbers are the thinnest, then, you get your sorry ass back down here or I won’t hesitate to lock you up on that rooftop. Understand, shit-bag?”

“Yeah, yeah, I hear you, officer. Let’s do this.” Brawler got up slowly and exited his cell.

Sam motioned for him to pass and head toward the front of the cell block where a wall-mounted ladder led to the roof hatch.

From the offices came a loud crashing sound as the barricade began to fail. Sam was only distracted for a moment. She turned to look toward the offices and Brawler charged at her.

Everything happened so quickly. When Brawler charged, Frank reached out through the bottom of his cell bars and grabbed his left leg causing Brawler to fall. As Sam turned back, almost firing, she lowered the gun as Frank pulled Brawler’s leg through the bars and applied pressure on his right leg until the sound of snapping bone caused Sam to flinch.

Brawler was about to scream but Frank grabbed his head and forcefully pulled it into the bars, knocking him unconscious.

“Let him go, convict!” Sam yelled, aiming her gun at Carman.

Frank smiled, releasing Brawler who fell to the floor in a lump. “You’re welcome.”

Sam was pissed for allowing herself to be distracted. She nervously looked back toward the offices then back at Carman. “We have no more time for games, convict. Do you understand that yet?”

“For once, we are in complete agreement,” Frank said. “Let me go to the roof and help you find that out.”

Sam was still reluctant. Near full-fledged panic, she was considering bolting out the back door with guns blazing.

Frank could see it. “Look, games aside now, I just saved your ass from this stupid man. That should count for something. Also, I did warn you about him. Let me get to the roof before we both end up dead in here… please.”

She could hear what sounded like an avalanche from out front as the barricade was about to fail.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck!” Sam quickly opened Frank’s cell and gave him a wide berth, gun drawn to his head. “Move it!”

Frank simply nodded and went for the ladder. He hesitated, turned and said, “I’ll need the key to open the hatch.”

Sam had already removed it from her key ring. She dropped it on the floor and kicked it toward his feet.

Frank picked it up, climbed the ladder and then unlocked the hatch. It came open with a loud creak as the afternoon sun poured in, painfully flooding his eyes.

“Now drop the key or our little arrangement ends right the fuck here. And I meant what I said… I will lock that hatch if you try anything.”

Frank shielded his eyes from the sun, gave Sam and the barrel of her gun a measured look, then smiled. He dropped the key and climbed up on the roof.

Sam grabbed the key and stood just inside the office area where she could keep an eye on the barricade as well as the open hatch. What was left of the barricade was still holding¸ but the clock was ticking.

“Hurry the fuck up, convict,” she whispered, trying to keep a solid grip on the gun despite her sweaty hands as she controlled her breathing to keep her shaking to a minimum. If they got in, every shot would count.

~~~

“Fuck me.” Frank ran a hand through his thick hair as he watched his futile plans disintegrate in the chaos that was once Eastlake, Ohio.

Black spires of smoke rose up into the partly cloudy afternoon sky for miles around like harbingers of certain death from whatever direction he chose to view. The overlapping sirens of emergency vehicles screamed across the city streets like the last attempts to hold on to order or a final warning to flee. And just beneath the strong scent of burning rubber, fuel and flesh, Frank could smell the widespread panic and understood that madness was assaulting all his senses.

He tried to find an ‘out’ somewhere down in that mess of blood-streaked streets and bodies spread out like a city buffet for the feeders, each crimson-colored massacre breaking down the start and finish lines of failed attempts to escape, but he could not look beyond the indifferent two-legged death machines which owned the block—their numbers were intimidating.

And for the first time, Frank feared the darkness… now that it no longer cared to honor the illusions and boundaries of daylight and had revealed its true form across the devastated city.

Frank looked toward the clouds before it all overwhelmed him, before Panic could claim him and issue him a number while he waited in line for Death to call his name. Even the clouds looked afraid.

Keep your shit together, pussy, and man the fuck up, he reminded himself. Frank Carmen could handle this… whatever this was. He would not go down as one among the sheep.

Frank spotted something he could use. His mind was spinning as he raced back to the roof hatch.

“Cop bitch,” he called down through the hatch, “you’re going to want to get up here. I’ve found a way off the roof. Everything else is a dead-end… and I do mean that literally.”

“Just get your ass down here, convict,” she called up. “All I want to know is where those fuckers are the fewest. I’m not interested in your escape plans.”

Frank did not respond.

“Did you hear me? Get down here! I will lock that hatch, you better believe it!”

Still no answer.

“Shit.” Sam was feeling vulnerable in the station. In between watching the cell block hallway for Frank’s return, she’d managed to push several more desks against the barricade to buy a little more time. Those things knew where she was now. No hiding it. Sam did her best to stay out of sight, reinforce the barricade, and salvage what weapons and ammo she could from the arms locker. She placed two shotguns and four handguns, along with several boxes of ammo for both, near the end of the cell block hallway adjacent to the rear exit. She had quickly loaded all of them in case her last stand occurred in the cell block. She also dragged the unconscious Brawler into Carman’s cell and locked the door.

The monsters out front were relentless. Her only saving grace was the fact that the lobby was so full that their movements were restricted as most of them worked against each other and not collectively advancing on the door. If they could figure out how to work as one force, the barricade would fall immediately. This was a chilling thought Sam tried not to entertain.

“Convict!” she called up again. “Carman, I don’t know what you’re doing but things are getting ugly down here.”

Frank still did not respond.

What if he’s already off the roof? I don’t know how, but what if he wasn’t bullshitting?

If she went up the hatch, she risked giving up the station if they broke through the barricade with no one to watch for it. Worse still, she’d be stuck on the roof with Carman. All he had to do was wait until she came up and attack her when she poked her head out.

Sam looked back at the rear exit. She had no way of knowing what was on the other side of that door. There were no viewports, no windows, nothing to give her an advance warning of what numbers she would face on that side.

“Shit!” Sam gave the office area one last look, saw that the barricade was still holding, and started up the ladder.

Gonna have to be damn quick about this. That fucker better know what he’s talking about.

Sam’s one advantage was her knowledge of the roof layout. Other than an air-conditioning unit to her immediate right, the roof was bare. If Carman was going to attack, he’d do so from the back of the unit where he could hide until she finished her climb.

Sam emerged from the hatch, gun drawn in the direction of the unit, and then quickly scanned the area until she saw Carman crouched low near the edge of the building overlooking the alley.

“Carman,” she called, “stop fucking around and get back here!”

Frank turned and motioned her over, pointing toward something down in the alley.

Sam cautiously approached as Frank used hand motions to suggest she stay low. She reached Frank, keeping her gun drawn toward him and said, “You’re trying my patience, convict. We need to get off this rooftop…”

Sam looked down into the streets and was nearly overwhelmed by what she saw.

Everyone’s dead! her mind screamed.

“This is what I wanted to show you,” Frank said, pointing toward a large half-full dumpster directly beneath them. “That’s our way out of here. The alley’s empty. Your freaks are too busy at the front and rear of the station to notice us slip away. I’ve already checked the back—they’re not clawing at the door yet, but there must be fifty of them between our exit and the parking garage. Out front, there’s three times as many. This is possible.”

Sam considered this and said, “You’re assuming we survive the fall.”

Frank laughed and said, “Yes, well, there is that… only one way to know for sure.”

Sam underestimated the speed of the big man. Frank spun around and dug his muscular shoulder up under her gun arm and locked his arms around Sam’s waist. He then picked her up and rolled backward, using Sam’s forward momentum to toss her off the roof.

Sam belly flopped face first into the center of the large industrial dumpster, as garbage bags and cardboard boxes were crushed, absorbing most of the impact. Her head struck the bottom of the dumpster, knocking her unconscious.

Frank watched her crash into the dumpster with surprisingly little noise. That was good. Sam sank beneath the debris and he waited for movement. Sam remained still. “Now that’s a shame,” he said. “I really thought it would work.” He turned toward the roof hatch.

~~~

“You broke my ankle, you piece of shit!” Brawler sobbed through the cell bars as Frank descended the roof ladder. “Where’s the pig? Did you waste her?”

“Good, you’re awake. Lucky me.” He walked past Brawler, noticing the guns by the back door.

“Where are you going? You can’t just leave me in here! You fucked me and now you’re going to just leave? I was trying to get us out before you interfered.”

“Be quiet,” Frank said while examining the weapons. “You’re going to get those things outside all riled up if you keep letting them know we’re back here.”

“Then get me the fuck out of here!”

“Don’t worry, I’ll get you out… if you can behave yourself. Turns out I might need you after all. Just sit tight and shut your pie-hole so I can hear myself think.”

Brawler was about to protest, but remained silent, finally understanding his predicament.

With shotgun at the ready, Frank approached the dark office area just as the first of the undead began to push through the barrier.

He fired at the first two, splitting the monsters in half. Frank quickly scanned the offices until he found the spare key rack and grabbed a ring full of keys.

More monsters were coming through and Frank emptied the shotgun into them. They continued to come.

I’ve no time for this.

Frank backed into the cell block and secured the hallway door just as the first creatures reached it. They began to pound on the door, demanding their right to feed through guttural groans that sent a chill up Frank’s spine.

“Holy shit! They’re right outside! You gotta get me outta here right now, man. Right fucking now!” Brawler was losing it.

Frank ignored him and went for the guns. He dropped the empty shotgun and then strapped the remaining one around his back. He placed one of the handguns in the waist of his pants and went for Brawler’s cell.

“Hand me that pillow case… now!”

Brawler hobbled over to the cot, retrieved the pillow case and handed it to Frank through the bars.

Frank emptied the ammo boxes, pouring loose shotgun shells and bullets into the pillowcase. He grabbed the remaining handgun, and unlocked Brawler’s cell.

“I’m going to need a hand, man,” Brawler pleaded.

“You going to behave, or should I just put a bullet in your head right now?”

“I’m done fuckin’ around. Just… please… don’t leave me here with those things.”

“Alright then.” Frank used one arm to support Brawler, who carried the ammo, the other remained free to aim the handgun, and together they approached the back door. “It’s going to be a shit storm out there. You ready for this?”

Brawler was trembling. “Yes… yes… let’s just get it over with.”

Frank unlocked the back door and kicked it open. Light poured in, stinging their eyes, followed immediately by a disfigured shape of a rotting construction worker who filled the doorway.

Frank fired three shots, point-blank range, into the creature’s head.

Brawler was screaming as a cold and black liquid splattered his face. “Get it off me! Get it off me!”

“Keep your shit together! We need to move!” Frank forced him forward into the back lot.

Twenty of the dead were already ambushing their position.

“Time to pull your own weight, shit-bag,” Frank said as he pushed Brawler right into the midst of the monsters.

The undead swarmed toward the fresh meat allowing Frank a small path to escape the horde.

Frank Carman never looked back as he entered the parking garage and continued to run, never saw the eyes of pure hatred which stabbed at him right before they were ripped from their sockets. The sounds of Brawler’s screams filled the air, attracting the attention of the undead from two blocks over.

~~~

Next Episode 9-1

Previous Episode 8-3

~~~

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~~~

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 8-4: State of Emergency” Copyright © 2014, 2015 Scott Scherr. From the Novel “Don’t Feed The Dark, Book One: Southbound Nightmares”.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission by the author.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

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