~~~

Wendy and Mark sprinted across the large stadium parking lot. The dead swarmed behind them like a thick wall of rotting flesh, crying out for blood like insane addicts who had gone too long without fulfilling the need to feed. Their collective compulsion for a human fix, along with the fact that the dead toward the back of the massive horde pushed violently toward the ones in the front, gave the blood-thirsty maniacs increased speed as the two terrified souls raced toward the rear of Grand Valley High School, their only chance of escape.

Mark spotted a set of double doors toward the center of the long brick building and pushed harder, feeling like his lungs were about to collapse. He could hear Wendy’s frantic breaths over his right shoulder as they reached the doors, and behind her, the savage howls of the dead, just fifty feet away and gaining.

He grabbed the handles of the doors and pulled.

They were locked.

“Fuck!” he shouted.

“Over there!” Wendy yelled, pointing to a single door off to the right. Ten feet. Maybe twenty feet away.
They ran for the doors, their hearts exploding in their ears.

They were trapped between the length of the school and the wall of the dead. If that final door was locked, they would be crushed before being torn apart.

Mark reached out for the door and pulled hard. The door came open quickly, nearly knocking him off balance.

Wendy grabbed his arm and pulled. “Go! Go! GO!” she screamed.

They just made it inside as the dead crashed into the back of the school. There was no time to secure the door as the monsters started spilling through behind them.

Mark and Wendy stumbled over various equipment and supplies scattered and abandoned by the Army in the large dark space, barely managing to stay on their feet as the moonlight through the open door and low first floor windows lit up a small auxiliary gymnasium.

The dead shattered the windows and started pouring inside, falling over one another as the sheer size of the horde continued to push against the front of the line.

Mark saw an exit door along the front wall, surrounded by elongated shadows of the dead storming through the windows and playing out against the white wall, as if the shadows themselves were about to come alive. Mark shivered as he reached the door. He could hear their fierce shrieks behind them, reverberating throughout the gym.

They exited the gym and slammed into a hallway wall that ran in both directions.

“Which way?” Wendy yelled.

There was no time to decide as the dead started exiting into the hallway, forcing Mark and Wendy toward the right and down the dark hall.

The further into the school they fled, the darker it became.

They struck more walls, stumbled over trashcans, school desks, and whatever else lay scattered around in the darkness. Each time they made a new sound, the dead would change directions and head straight for them. They could hear more and more of the monsters infesting the school as it sounded like they were behind them and in front of them.

They turned left into one dark hall, were cut off. Right, down another, barely escaping the dead by turning at the last second into another hallway. They passed several doors along every hall, refusing to enter any of them, knowing that their deaths were certain the moment they stopped or tried to hide within a classroom. Their only chance was to either reach the second floor or escape out the front of the school. They were disoriented. They got turned around several times.

They doubled back, raced up one flight of stairs, were met by the dead on the second floor, and then raced down another hallway where the dead cut them off at the other end. They panicked and pushed through a set of double doors and almost stumbled off a second-floor balcony before realizing they had found the school theater. The dead stormed in behind them, almost knocking them off the balcony, but the frenzied beasts pushed against each other, falling into the dark seats below.

Mark and Wendy found a narrow flight of stairs down to the first floor of the theater, ran up an aisle toward the stage as the dead continued to rain down from the balcony above. They found an exit door at the back of the stage and kept… on … running.

They almost ran back up another flight of stairs to the second floor, but the dead were already coming down from the top. They turned down another hall instead, narrowly avoiding being trapped in the stairwell.

The almost ran right into the back of another group of the dead, stopped before the creatures turned and saw them, spotted moonlight from within the narrow glass of another set of double doors to the right, entered… and ran into a large plastic curtain within what appeared to be a quarantined main gymnasium.

The dead started entering the gym behind them.

Mark and Wendy struggled to find and opening in the plastic curtain or a way around it and out the other side. Fortunately, the large gym windows provided a little light. Wendy found an opening and they slipped through the curtain as the dead started pushing into the plastic sheet, their mangled and distorted faces pressed against the plastic like some horrific scene out of a horror film where some mult-headed beast started coming out of a wall.

They turned to search for an exit and found gurney after gurney of mutilated dead things strapped down and hooked up to strange machines that were no longer functional. They cautiously walked in between the dead Army test specimens, expecting their eyes to move, their arms to reach out for them, already infecting them with a fresh wave of debilitating fear.

They reached the other end of the gym as the dead pierced the plastic curtain and were momentarily distracted by the specimens.

Mark and Wendy finally found themselves in the front hall of this madhouse and could see moonlight penetrating what had to be the entrance doors into the school. The dead saw them from the other end of the hall as Mark and Wendy pushed with all they had left, and just reached the front doors ahead of them.
They exited the dark labyrinth deathtrap, formerly a local high school, as the cool night air ripped across their faces.

They could not stop. They could not ever stop.

The dead started exiting the school behind them.

Mark and Wendy raced down the school front steps, spotted what looked like a small copse of trees in the yard, headed for them to hide… and then stopped.

Those weren’t trees.

As their eyes adjusted, a scattered group of dead things that were just standing there, staring up into the night, turned and hissed at them… and they were coming. Though much fewer out front than the massive horde that penetrated the school, there must have still been at least two-hundred of them, trickling around from both sides of the school.

“We’re trapped,” Wendy managed between breaths.

They were now running along the front of the school, to avoid the dead pouring out the front doors and the ones coming toward them from the yard.

“We have to make a break through them,” Mark said, pointing toward the yard monsters. “They’re still slower and scattered. We just have to make it beyond the yard, through the school parking lot, and then back to the road.

“I’m not going to make it,” Wendy said with tears, exhaustion finally catching up.

Mark could feel it, too. “We can do this, Wendy.” He grabbed her limp arm as she was about to stop and forced her to keep moving. They bolted toward the left and into the yard, becoming running backs as they dodged and weaved their way through the less dense group of the dead before they closed in on them.

Several rotting arms swung at them as Mark ducked and Wendy followed suit. They zig-zagged around several more and were half-way across the yard when the dead started cutting them off and slowly surrounding them.
“I can’t… I can’t breathe,” Wendy said. “Just… get out. I’m done.”

“You’re not done!” Mark yelled back and yanked harder on her arm, forcing her to keep moving. “Almost there!”

By now the main hub of the massive horde was reforming at the front of the high school, oozing out of every door, shattering and exiting every window, and around both sides of the school, until the wall of the dead was reconnected, swarming across the yard.

Mark’s legs began cramping up. He was so fixed on getting around the next zombie, and then the next, that he misjudged the scattered dead and didn’t see them closing in and cutting off any attempt to make it out of the yard. They were now out of running room, ahead and behind.

“Fuck!” he shouted. “Not like this! We’re so damn close!”

Wendy tore her arm away, forcing them both to stop.

He turned toward her. “What the hell are you doing?”

Wendy dropped to her knees and put her face in her hands. “I’m spent, Mark! Look around you… they have us!”

The dead were almost upon them. The scattered ones from the front were closest as they closed the gap to thirty feet.

The horde would plow through them shortly after the yard zombies reached them.

Stopping caused intense pain in Mark’s legs as he tried to move… but they felt like rubber. “We can’t stop, Wendy,” he pleaded. “Please get up.”

She was unresponsive.

The dead were almost to them.

Mark started spinning his head around, staring at them coming from all directions. There were so many.
We’re done, he finally relented. And only then did he understand how much he longed to live, even in a world destined to make his species extinct.

He raised his hands defensively as the first zombie approached. It was woman, her face was half gone, she was missing an eye, what was left of her conservative yellow dress and short-cropped slimy hair made her look like some ex-soccer mom, previously dropped in a vat of acid.

Whoever she was… there was no mistaking her intent as her sickly arms reached out, long dried-up dirt and blood between her chipped-painted nails, her one eye lusting for his flesh, the blood and drool dripping from her open jaw.

Soccer mom of death, he thought nervously, preparing to fight her off, but knowing that several more would already be chomping into him after that. He lowered his hands and closed his eyes instead, far too tired to fight off this one savage beast. Maybe she’ll hit a vital area on the first bite, he thought, praying for a speedy death.

He refused to think of the alternative.

And then she was there, in all her gruesome detail… teeth reaching for his throat…

Soccer mom’s face exploded, spraying black blood across Mark’s face.

He opened his eyes, reactively wiping the blood from his face with his forearm. He looked at the woman lying motionless on the ground, her face… or what was left of it… completely gone. What the fuck?

The dead in the yard were suddenly shifting direction… as was the horde coming up from behind.

Another shot rang out, and then another.

Mark was still in shock. He hadn’t registered the gunfire yet.

Wendy got up and grabbed his arm. “Look,” she said, pointing off to the left, toward the street.

Mark turned.

Tony was there, rifle raised and firing.

Nine and Diane were close behind, firing their handguns at the closest dead. They were clearing them a path toward the street by luring the dead toward them.

Alysa was firing her bow somewhere off to the right. “Come on!” she shouted, waving them toward her.

It was Wendy this time who pulled Mark’s arm, motivating him to push his dead legs forward.

They ran toward Alysa, nearly collapsing on top of her.

Tony and the others spun back around toward them. The big man got in between the exhausted teens and scooped them up with his large arms. They grabbed on to his broad shoulders and managed to stay on their feet.

Nine and Diane moved in and continued to shoot at the dead, to keep them away. “Where’s Matthew?” Nine asked.

“He’s… gone,” Wendy said.

Tony frowned and nodded. “Can you run?”

“Hell no,” Mark said, and then he smiled at Wendy. “But we will anyway.”

She smiled back.

“Okay,” the big man said. “We move now.” He then cupped his hands and shouted over to Alysa, “Fall back! We have them!”

They all made it back to the road.

The massive horde was right on their asses.

“No more shooting!” Tony barked. “It’s balls to the wall straight to the fucking library! No looking back… just move!”

No one needed a clearer explanation than one quick glance back at the ravenous horde filling the street behind them.

They ran south, Tony and Nine helped Mark and Wendy from collapsing several times.

When the library came into view, Crazy Jim was standing at the open door, waving his arms wildly.

They reached the steps as the dead started swarming around the library.

He noticed the horde and asked Tony in passing, “Are they… real?”

Tony shot him an incredulous look that spoke enough volumes to fill every shelf in his damn library.

“I’ll take that as a ‘yes’.” Jim was the last one inside. He slammed the robust door shut and locked it.

Moments later the dead began assaulting the door.

Tony and Nine lowered Mark and Wendy to the ground and immediately raised their weapons toward the door.

Alysa and Nine were doing the same.

“Can they get in?” Diane asked the strange librarian.

Jim casually walked over to the lounge, sat down on one of the comfy sofas, and then retrieved a book he’d been previously reading before all the commotion started.

Diane gave Tony a questioning look.

Tony looked over at the librarian, who started reading by candlelight.

“Jim!” he barked.

Jim looked up, surprised. “Tony? How are you?”

“Are we safe in here?”

“Safe from what?” Jim asked. He looked very confused.

“From the one-thousand fucking dead things outside, you crazy sonofabitch!” Mark was understandably out of patience.

“Oh,” Jim said. “Oh, yes… that really happened. Sorry. Yes… we’re quite safe in here.”

Diane relaxed and lowered her gun.

The others did the same as the dead continued to pound against the other side of the door.

Jim looked back down at his book and finished, “Of course we’re safe. We don’t even exist in that world anymore… they’ll never find us here.”

Tony looked at the crazy man and wanted to throw him outside. He turned toward the others and said, “We need eyes on the second floor. Let’s find out how extensive this mess is.”

After Nine, Diane and Alysa went up and scanned the streets from the second-floor windows, they all came down with dire looks on their faces.

Nine shared the news. “Tony… we’re completely surrounded!”

~~~

Next Episode 41-7

Previous Episode 41-5

~~~

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 41-6: Siege” Copyright © 2017 Scott Scherr, from the novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Five: Remains. All Rights Reserved.

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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