The drive was mostly silent. As friendly as John seemed, conversation was tough in the circumstances. Every possible topic seemed either trite and irrelevant or far too personal and emotional, and there was no midway point, except for making fun of Chris, and that could only go so far.
When Maria awoke, it was still dark. She looked about, weary and confused, before remembering where she was. The passenger seat was empty and Seb was at the wheel. John was propped up against the back doors at her feet, head lolling on his shoulder. She pushed herself onto her knees and clambered into the passenger seat.
“Sleep well?” Seb asked.
“No,” she responded. “Not really. How long’ve you been driving alone?”
“Not long,” Sebastian answered. “Only a few hours.”
“Well, there’s no way I’m going to get back to sleep. Want me to take over?” Sebastian looked at her, slightly confused. “What? Just because I’m young doesn’t mean I can’t drive. And it’s not exactly like we’re going to get pulled over. I don’t think having a license matters anymore.”
“No, no, of course not. But it’s fine. I’ll be fine. I could use the company, though.”
“Fair enough,” said Maria. “So, what do you think of this group? Are we safe? Can we trust them?”
“I think so,” replied Seb, somewhat cautiously. “For now, at least. I think John’s pretty trustworthy. Liv seems okay, as do the kids back there. And Chris probably means well-“
“That doesn’t mean we should trust him,” Maria interrupted.
“Exactly. And there’s something off about him. I don’t like that gun of his, and not just because of the noise it makes.”
“So, what do we do?”
There was silence for a few minutes as the two of them thought.
“The same thing we’re all doing,” came a voice from the back, making them jump. “Stick together for as long as we feel safe around each other. Try and find somewhere safe. If we find it, stay until we don’t feel safe. Then repeat,” Nick ventured. Sebastian nodded grimly, eyes kept unerringly on the road.
“Agreed. There’s safety in numbers, to a point. There stops being safety in numbers when the numbers become a danger each other,” he said.
There was silence once more as they pondered that thought. Laura stirred in Nick’s arms, eyes flickering under her eyelids. John remained as still as a tombstone.
“We shouldn’t be afraid to split apart if necessary,” Maria thought out loud. “Or split from one person, if that ends up being the case.”
“I don’t think Chris is that bad, Maria,” Sebastian pointed out.
“Not yet, he isn’t. I’m just saying. We should be prepared for anything.”
Silence fell for the last time until dawn tinged the sky to the east, signalling the beginning of a new day.
"Is it really safe? To drive in the dark?" Laura asked.
"Is it really safe to stay?" Chris responded.
"It could be, if we find the right place," Sebastian pointed out. Maria nodded in agreement.
"I’m for driving," John chimed in. "You’re both right, but we need to move out of here anyway, so it might as well be tonight."
"I want to keep moving, too," Nick added. Chris nodded. Laura grasped Nick’s hand and looked at him, half worried, but said nothing.
"I’m not sure," Olive said. "But I’m okay with moving on, I think."
"That settles it, then. Load up and we’ll head off," Chris yelled, excitedly.
"Dude, keep it down!" Sebastian reprimanded him. "Any louder and we’ll have a mob on our trail." Chris looked sheepish and jumped into the driver’s seat of the station wagon. Olive chucked her bag into the boot and slid into the passenger seat.
John took the driver’s seat of the van, and Nick and Laura sat themselves down against the side in the back, next to a pile of supplies. Maria and Sebastian joined them, closing the doors behind them.
Chris revved the engine of the station wagon, and John shook his head.
"God, he’s an ass," he said, turning the key in the ignition. The van shuddered to life, and John followed Chris out of the lot and onto the road. Nick grinned, and Laura chuckled quietly.
"It’s been like this the entire time," Nick explained.
"To be fair, Chris really is an ass," Laura added.
"What’s the deal with that gun?" Sebastian asked.
"Dunno, he had it when we met him," Nick responded.
"Same," called out John. "But I bet it didn’t come to him honestly."
"Using a gun in a situation like this is pretty stupid, don’t you think?" said Maria. "I mean, the zombies are essentially human, right? Who’s to say that they can’t hear? Who’s to say that they won’t react to a loud noise? I mean, it’s not like the other dead are capable of making guns go off, are they?"
"Good point," Sebastian agreed. "How often does he use it?"
"Not often," John answered. "Though I think it’s just because he wants to save ammo. I doubt he even has the ability to think ahead."
"Kinda harsh, isn’t it?" Maria asked quietly.
"He’s not far off the mark," Laura told her. "You’ll see, just spend a bit more time with him. He’s definitely not the smartest of the bunch."
"And yet we agree to his idea of leaving town tonight?" Sebastian queried.
"Just because he’s an idiot doesn’t mean he can’t have a good idea every now and then," John replied. "And although his South Auckland remark was intended as a joke - a rather prejudiced one, at that - he’s right, just for the wrong reasons. If any part of the city is going to get violent and rough, it’ll be the south first. I don’t wanna hang around here too long."
"Makes sense, I guess," Sebastian mused.
"Anyway, some of you, at least, should sleep. I’ll wake someone up when I need to rest; take turns driving," John suggested.
"I’ll keep you company," Sebastian offered, climbing into the passenger seat.
Maria shifted into a corner and slumped down, exhausted. She wouldn’t fall asleep for hours, but at least she could try.
Nick and Laura leaned against each other and silently closed their eyes, faces expressionless. If you were to look closely, you would see the white of Nick’s knuckles as he grasped Laura’s hand.
Sebastian and Maria became acquainted with the rest of their new group in brief conversations with shortened breaths. Aside from Chris, who seemed to be the natural leader, and Olive, who was apparently the designated improvised medic, there were three others; two who were unmistakeably a couple, late teens, sticking together like glue, as would be expected. The third was a middle-aged man in a suit, looking extremely out of place, running down the motorway, hair and clothes scruffy.
The couple were Laura and Nick. The suit was named John.
Laura and Nick had come into the city for supplies and information after coming across a lone zombie in their street. Certainly not the smartest decision, but they had limited information and assumed it was a localised, isolated thing. Didn’t stop their friends falling to the masses of dead they encountered, though. The loss had left them quiet and introspective. Sebastian and Maria were only able to glean a few scarce details from them.
John had been working in his day-to-day cubicle-worker job when the sirens rang out. He had holed himself up in the office building while most of his co-workers left for home. He didn’t know whether they made it or not, but to be honest, he didn’t particularly care. Working for years in the same office had left him jaded and cynical to the point where seeing co-workers – people he had known for a long while – die in front of him didn’t affect him as much as it probably should have. He seemed to have no problem discussing their deaths. He was less open about any family he had in the city.
“You haven’t heard from your family?” Sebastian had asked. John simply didn’t respond. “Wife? Kids?”
Seb’s persistence had been met with glares. He eventually gave up.
Chris seemed to be equally as enigmatic. He didn’t give any details on his job, and when Maria asked where he got the gun, he simply grimaced and said it didn’t matter.
“So, what’s the plan?” Maria asked after at least half an hour’s jog.
“We find transport. Jack a car or two from a dealership. Maybe a van. Something that’ll fit all of us,” Chris explained.
“Seems reasonable,” Sebastian agreed. “But will the roads be clear?”
“We can only hope,” Chris responded. “At least we can hope that the roads further out will be clear.”
Sebastian nodded, and they kept jogging.
It was well into the evening before the group came across a car yard that corresponded with a patch of motorway that was reasonably clear enough to drive on. They had spent five minutes while it was still perfectly light testing how long it would take to move one car, in case they had to later on. With all of them working together, it only took a couple of minutes, and they would surely cut that down in time.
Chris seemed to have intricate knowledge in the details of car theft. He swore it was innocently-gained, but neither Seb nor Maria were sure whether to believe him or not.
After a few minutes’ deliberation, the group settled on one van; the standard utility vehicle, white, two seats in the front and an empty back, and a station wagon. Some argued for taking another wagon, but in the end the expectation of limited petrol cut down their points.
“We have a decision to make,” Chris announced, gathering everyone together in the lot. “We have to decide between driving through the night or finding a place to stay. I’m personally for driving, because I don’t think we can make any of these places safe for the night. Too many variables.”
The rest of the group didn’t look so sure.
“And besides,” Chris added. “I’m not exactly comfortable with staying in South Auckland in the best of times.”
A loud noise reverberated through the tunnel. Be aware that “loud” is an understatement, and “noise”, while strictly true, is not very descriptive. To Sebastian, whose eyes were involuntarily closed, it was as if the entire world had compressed into a single, deep, all-encompassing BANG. He briefly wondered if this was what happened when you died.
He opened his eyes. They were shaking; he could feel them. Everything seemed silent. There was a dead man inches from his feet – double-dead, really.
Seb was vaguely aware of a muffled noise coming from above and behind him. The muffled noise was rather drowned out by the rest of the world’s noise slowly returning, but he turned nonetheless.
There was a man, nothing particularly special about him, standing on top of the bus. A more focussed look revealed him to be holding a handgun of some sort, and that he was young, perhaps a year or two older than Sebastian. He was yelling something incoherent at Seb, and Seb stood. The man nodded and gestured for Sebastian to come behind the bus. Sebastian turned to see the gap had been widened just enough for him to fit through.
Once he was through, he stood still for a few seconds, trying to regain his senses and his balance. The universe had different ideas, and another person grabbed his arm and started pulling. He was aware of someone yelling in his ear: “Are you okay? Are you hurt at all?”
Sebastian looked up to see a teenaged girl with a worried look on her face. He didn’t respond, still shell-shocked.
“Look, if you’re not hurt, then we need to get going!” she shouted, loud enough for him to hear her. “There were more following you anyway, and that shot will only attract more! We don’t want to get trapped in here!”
Sebastian nodded to signify that he understood.
“Maria?” he shouted back. The girl pointed. Maria was standing a few metres away, looking just as worried. Sebastian grinned foolishly to show her that he was fine, before taking a proper look around.
They were an eclectic bunch – for they were a bunch, not just the man with the gun and the girl with the worried face; there were three others. Just as assorted as people one would normally find in the city.
The man got down from the bus by sliding down the wall. He walked quickly up to Sebastian, talking as he walked: “Chris. And you are? Tell me while we walk. Olive, keep an eye on him, make sure he’s okay. Everyone, let’s go before we get stuck!” he addressed the last part to the other three, who were huddled next to Maria.
“Sebastian” Seb yelled, keeping up with Chris.
“No need to yell, mate, we can hear you perfectly fine!” Chris yelled at him. “And the girl?”
“Maria,” Sebastian answered, lowering his voice to a more normalised level. They reached the group of the others and continued walking. The others followed.
“Right, then. We’re leaving. Headed south, hopefully in a car or two. Will you be joining us?” Chris asked. Sebastian looked at Maria. She nodded, unsure.
“For now, at least,” Sebastian responded. Chris nodded grimly and started jogging. The group followed suit, and they began to run out of the CBD, down the south-eastern motorway.
“We’ll head for the motorway,” Sebastian panted as he ran. “It should be easier to use than the back streets. Hopefully not as many zombies. We can head south or something. And when it gets clearer, we might find a working car.”
Maria didn’t respond verbally; she just nodded, saving her breath. She wasn’t exactly sure how safe the motorway would be, but she didn’t know the city well enough to make any other suggestions.
The two ran in relative silence once more, trying not to think about the ramifications of what was happening. It took only a minute or so to get to the nearest entrance to the motorway. The view that greeted them was astonishing.
There were abandoned cars filling every lane; absolutely no way anyone could fit a vehicle through there. The lanes were still; a soft breeze wafted by, bringing with it a sickly stench: something horrible that neither of them wanted to think about mixed with leaking petrol.
“Do we keep going?” Maria asked.
“I was about to ask the same thing,” Sebastian replied. “We could turn back, go a different way. North isn’t a great option for the long-term,” he started to explain. Seb was cut off by the first few dead runners appearing at the top of the on-ramp. “South it is!” he yelled, grabbing Maria’s hand.
The pair scrambled onto the motorway itself, climbing on top of the nearest car and jumping between them. It was a sight to behold, if anyone were there to see it. Two teens, ragged and splattered with blood, heavy bags on their backs, leaping from one roof of a car to another, closely followed by over a hundred people, apparently dead, attempting to do the same. Granted, some of them managed it frighteningly well, scrambling along like animals, others just as they would have alive, but the vast majority of them tried to squeeze through the gaps, slowing them down, to Maria and Sebastian’s advantage.
It was just over a kilometre to the junction which would take them either south, toward the potential danger of South Auckland (even on a normal day) before the potential safety of the Central North Island, or west, toward New Lynn. In normal circumstances this kilometre would be less than a minute’s travel. Normal circumstances involved being in a car, not on top of many, however, so the trip took considerably longer.
It was a good fifteen minutes or so before the junction came into view. It was a vast beast, named for what it looked like on maps: spaghetti. With multiple entrances and exits, the majority of it was underground, and if one didn’t follow the signs properly, one might end up leaving in the same direction they came in. Sebastian hoped it would be much easier to navigate at a walking pace.
In another ten minutes, Maria and Sebastian were inside the tunnel. Petrol fumes filled the air, but they took comfort in the fact that the horde were getting further and further behind them. The pair managed to keep up their pace in the tunnel, adrenaline keeping them going.
They turned a corner and stopped.
“Shit,” Sebastian exhaled quietly.
“Fuck!” Maria yelled.
In the middle of the tunnel, somehow managing to block all four lanes, were two buses, overturned, oil dripping onto the concrete. Glass crunched under Sebastian’s feet as he landed on the ground, stepping closer.
He inspected the bus blocking their lane, quickly concluding that scaling it would result in cuts and gashes, and that there was no real way around it. It had managed to crash in such a way that it was wedged between the wall of the tunnel and the barrier splitting the sides of the road. Another inspection revealed that the second bus had done the same thing, leaving a small gap right above the barrier, in between the two buses. It couldn’t have been more inconvenient if it was organised, Sebastian thought to himself.
“We might be able to get through here,” he called to Maria, looking closely at the small gap. “But we’d need to bend back some of this metal; pressing up against would be likely to give you a nasty gash.”
Maria jumped off the car and ran over to Seb.
“I can probably fit,” she said, pressing up to the gap.
“Try,” Seb responded, dubiously. “But not too hard. I need to make space to get through, anyway.”
“It’ll be easier if I’m helping from the other side!” Maria exclaimed as she slipped through with ease.
“Oh, good,” Sebastian grinned, bending to his knees and trying the metal strips. “Now, I just need to push a few of these out of the way, and I should be able to make it through-“ he started to explain, before getting cut off once more.
“Sebastian!” Maria yelled, pointing. He turned.
The noise of the crowd following them had been echoing through the tunnel for minutes now, so neither of them had noticed it growing.
There was the first of the pack standing on the nearest car, a dumb, animalistic grin on its face.
“Shit,” Sebastian muttered, pressing himself up against the bus.
The zombie jumped toward him.
“You have got to be kidding me,” Maria continued. “Seriously?”
“There’s really no other way,” Seb responded. “Trust me.”
Maria looked doubtful for a moment.
“So, we just jump? Like in TV and the movies?” she asked.
“Well, uh, I dunno,” Sebastian replied. “It’s not exactly something I make a habit of doing.”
Maria was silent for a second.
“Oh, no, of course not,” she finally said. “So, have you done this before, at least?”
“Have I jumped off the roof of my apartment building whilst being chased by a horde of zombies? No, not exactly,” he grinned despite himself.
As if to prove his point, a loud thud followed by a crack emanated from the door.
“Come on!” Seb yelled.
“No time!” he shouted as he ran towards the gap. He leaped.
Sebastian was in the air for a second, at most, but it felt like an age before he landed with a solid thump on the next building. He reached out to Maria.
“Easy,” he called, heart still beating a thousand beats a minute.
“Bullshit,” Maria muttered. She paced away from the edge and turned. She inhaled deeply and burst into a sprint. She was less than a metre away from the edge when she hesitated. “Fuck!” she swore loudly. The door cracked again.
“Don’t worry; just try again – but quickly!” Sebastian encouraged. Maria stepped back again and started to run, just as the door burst open. Maria let out a scream as she jumped, landing and rolling on the other side.
“I did it!” she exclaimed.
“No time to celebrate,” Seb yelled. “It looks like some of them might follow!” He wasted no time in jumping to the next building, and Maria quickly followed; no hesitation this time.
“And where to from here?” Maria asked, panicked.
“There’s a fire escape that leads onto another street – one that should be empty,” Sebastian explained. He rushed to the side of the building and looked down. “There it is! It’s not that far of a drop, too!”
“There’s a drop?” Maria asked, exasperated.
“Well, yeah, it only goes to the top floor,” Sebastian explained, and jumped.
“Whoa!” Maria cried, running to the edge.
“It’s fine, see?” he called up.
There was a series of thuds behind Maria as the horde landed on the roof. Some of them had fallen, and some of them had stayed behind, but most of them followed, and were hot on the pair’s heels.
“Drop!” Sebastian yelled. Maria took his advice, joints jarring as she landed, and she fell to her hands and knees, the cold metal pressing against her palms. Sebastian began to run down the stairwell. Maria recovered quickly and followed.
“Where the fuck are we going, Sebastian?” Maria yelled out.
“We’re not safe in the city!” he responded. “We have to get out! Hit the suburbs, find a safe place to be.”
Maria nodded, saving her breath, and continued running.
The two ran though the empty city streets, feet pounding the pavement, blending with their panting and the hundreds of feet running after them to create an uproar in the quiet city.
“Where the hell are we going?” Seb yelled.
“I have no idea!” Maria shouted back. “Can we get to your apartment?”
“If we take the back way, maybe! But is it really safe?”
“Do you have another idea?” Maria asked, still yelling over the noise.
“Good point!” Seb turned a hard left, dragging Maria with him. A quick glance over his shoulder showed that the mob weren’t far behind, though some of them seemed to have continued on in the direction they were before. “When we get there, we’re going to have to get out as quick as possible,” Seb explained.
“What? Why? How?” Maria was confused.
“If they see us enter and try to follow, I doubt the door will last long. There’s a back exit we should be able to get out of. Worst comes to worst, we can get out through the roof.”
It was a matter of minutes that felt like hours before they reached Sebastian’s door. Though his street was mostly empty, it wasn’t long before the horde followed them, hot on their heels. They were in the door seconds before the first few hit – and they literally hit. It sounded like they were running right into it.
“They must not be that smart,” Seb said, almost quietly.
“How so?” Maria asked.
“A bunch of them didn’t turn that first corner. And they’re trying to barge the door down without trying the handle or anything. I dunno. I’m just assuming. Quick, my apartment’s upstairs.”
Sebastian led the way, sprinting up the stairwell, and unlocked his door as quick as he could.
“There’s another bag through there,” he said, pointing to his room. “Take it if you want. Food’s in the kitchen, along with knifes and things, and if there’s anything else, let me know. Don’t be long; we probably only have a minute or two.”
Maria glanced out the window as she entered.
“Shit,” she muttered. “Sebastian, there are a shitload of them out there now!” she called out, stepping back from the window and rushing to pack her bag. “What’ll we need?”
“Food, water, at least one weapon each, and there’s medicine in the bathroom, just off my room,” Sebastian called from the kitchen. Maria nodded, strode into the bathroom, and began to rifle through the medicine cabinet. She grabbed whatever she thought would come in handy at first: Band-Aids, various packets of pills, tweezers, nail clippers, but then she gave up, and scooped the whole lot into one pocket of the bag, leaving out large bottles after checking them – they were shampoo and soap bottles, definitely not essential. She rushed into the kitchen to find Sebastian sorting through a pile of food on the bench.
“You done?” Sebastian looked up at her briefly.
“Got all the medicine and things, but I still have a heap of space for food and water,” Maria answered.
“Okay, take this, then,” Seb handed her a litre-bottle of water, “and help me figure out what food to take. I mean, healthy stuff is probably better, but I don’t exactly have a lot of healthy food…” he trailed off. Maria looked down at the food spread across the bench. It was typical student fodder; ranging from chips to instant meals. There was a fruit bowl in the corner filled with apples.
“Take some apples, but not too many. They’re kinda heavy, and won’t last long. Take as many non-perishables as possible. A few high-energy things for bursts, but try to keep away from sugary things, or you’ll crash.”
There was a loud thud from below them. Maria started filling both bags, as quick as she could.
“Knives?” she yelled. Sebastian opened a drawer, and Maria took another sharp knife, just in case. The two rushed to the door.
“They’re downstairs!” Sebastian called. “Head up!”
They ran upstairs as fast as they could. The sounds of zombies following them floated up; they were close behind.
“How far?” Maria asked, shouting over the noise once more.
“Only a few more floors!”
In less than a minute they were in the open air once more, slamming the door behind them.
“That won’t hold for long,” said Maria. “So, are there stairs or something?”
“Uh, no, not exactly. There are on that building,” Sebastian replied, pointing to a building two doors down.
“And that helps us, how, exactly?” Maria asked, dubiously. Sebastian just looked at her and grinned. “Aw, fuck.”
Sebastian looked at Maria, flabbergasted.
“I’ll come back? So it’s true, then? They’re actual, real zombies? As in, you get bit, you become one?”
“I’m not certain on the details yet, but yeah,” Maria answered, matter-of-factly. Seb exhaled slowly.
“Wow. I- I read about it, on the internet, but I wasn’t sure if it was serious, and even when I saw them, I thought it was just some disease, some illness, like rabies, you know? And people were just calling them zombies as a joke, because they’re kind of similar.”
“It’s not just an illness. Everyone out there was dead,” she said, gesturing to the door. “I’ve seen people get up off the ground and start walking again.”
“They weren’t just unconscious?” Sebastian asked. Maria paused.
“I saw them die, too,” she said quietly. Seb was struck speechless for a moment.
“Oh,” he said at last. “So, where were you when the sirens went off?” he asked, hoping to subtly change the topic. Maria didn’t say anything. He didn’t push it. “Look, I know it’s dangerous, but my apartment isn’t that far away, and it can’t be that safe here. We should get out of here.”
“We?” she asked.
“Well, sure,” Seb answered. “You can’t stay here forever, you know.” Maria looked unsure. “I have food and supplies. You don’t have to stay. But it’ll be easier for the two of us to get out of here together than separately.”
“Okay. But not yet. Wait until it’s quieter.”
“Makes sense,” Sebastian agreed.
The two waited in the pharmacy for a little over an hour before the dead had thinned, allowing them to slip under the door without attracting attention. Sebastian had to leave the trolley behind, but filled his pockets with batteries and took the hunting knife, handing his own to Maria.
“Just in case,” he said. She nodded grimly.
“Okay, ready?” she asked. The plan was to head for the back door. If they couldn’t get out, they’d run in a loop around the mall, getting the dead to follow them, until the door was clear. It was risky, but should work – at least, they hoped it would.
They walked quickly and quietly, sticking to the walls. There were still walkers about, though most of them were in the shops, making it easier to slip past unnoticed.
It didn’t take long to get to the doors, but they were out of luck. There were about ten or so in the foyer. Some were walking aimlessly, head bowed, while others looked remarkably human. One male was sitting against the wall, head between his legs. If Sebastian didn’t know better, he would have thought he was alive. Even so, it took a lot of restraint for him not to call out.
Maria tugged at his arm.
“Ready?” she whispered. Seb nodded in response.
He ran out into the middle of the foyer and let out a guttural, wordless bellow. The dead turned their heads and started moving towards him; some uncomfortably quickly. He ran back the way he came, following Maria, who led the way around the mall.
The more they ran, the more followed them. Eventually, they turned a corner to find three blocking their way, moving quickly towards them. Maria thought quickly, knife in hand, and stabbed at the throat of one of them. Sebastian, although shocked at her ability to strike out without hesitation, followed suit, wasting no time in kicking one of the walkers to the floor and lashing out at it, slicing through its lower chest. The walker let out a low growl and struggled to push Sebastian off him.
“The head!” Maria yelled, as she pulled her knife out from under a zombie’s jaw.
Sebastian nodded grimly and braced himself as he rammed the blade into the dead man’s temple. He stopped struggling almost immediately, and Sebastian stood, spinning around. The other two lay dead – properly dead; Maria must have taken care of them herself. The crowd wasn’t far behind.
“Quickly!” Sebastian called to Maria. “We’re nearly there!”
He burst into a sprint, looking over his shoulder to make sure Maria was following. It took less than thirty seconds to reach the doors again, and this time they were clear. Sebastian let out a cry of joy as the fresh air hit their faces.
“Don’t stop!” Maria shouted. “They’re still coming!”
Sebastian turned on the spot, breathing deeply, and saw fifty-odd zombies, most of them running at full speed, coming towards the doors.
“Shit!” he cursed loudly and began to run up his street. “This way!”
“No!’ Maria yelled. “Are you blind?!”
Sebastian looked up and saw what she meant. There were more – many more – headed towards them, sprinting downhill. Sebastian froze on the spot.
“Fool,” Maria muttered, just loud enough for Seb to hear, and grabbed his wrist forcefully, dragging him off away from the hordes.
“Fuck!” Sebastian yelled as he ran, feet slipping on the tiled floor. The trolley slammed into a wall as he turned a corner, barely saving it from tipping and falling. He looked over his shoulder.
The mob was still coming towards him. Some moved slowly, dragging a foot behind them, or leaning on the wall, while others were sprinting right at him. He swore again and kept running.
Seconds later, he felt something grab his shoulder. “Shit!” he shouted, struggling as he tried to shake it off, steer the trolley, and pull out his knife at the same time. He managed to get it out, and hacked blindly behind him. He felt the blade hit something, and the grip on his shoulder tightened. He hacked away again, and he hit something once more. He heard a squelch and a grunt, and his shoulder was free.
Sebastian turned as he continued running, and saw a person – one of the dead – on the floor, looking up at him, blood gurgling from her neck.
Seb closed his eyes for a few brief seconds, emotions in turmoil. He didn’t pause for long; the rest of the mob were only just out of reach. He burst into a sprint once more, searching for another exit. There was the front entrance, which, when Sebastian last saw it, was surrounded by the dead, and one other back entrance. He chose the latter option, spinning left around a corner, only to see large planks of wood where the glass doors should be.
“Shit!” he cursed loudly, sprinting back into the open before he could be cornered. Where to go? He could try the front doors, but he’d probably end up trying to push through a crowd of moving dead bodies. It certainly wasn’t an appealing option. The only other was to hide out in a store, keep moving, try to make his way back out the way he came in once the dead – the zombies, he corrected himself – had cleared.
“Psst!” a voice hissed from away to his left. He turned, quickly; the mob was closing in. “In here!”
Sebastian saw a hand waving from under the sliding door of a pharmacy. He ran towards it.
“Lift the door!” he hissed. The hand obliged, lifting the door just enough for the trolley to slip under. Sebastian ducked after it.
Suddenly, he was forced against the wall, trolley pushing into his stomach.
“Were you bit?” The girl asked. She looked young, no more than seventeen, eighteen at the most.
“No,” he responded. “Nearly, but no.”
“Good,” she replied, relinquishing her pressure on the trolley. “I’m Maria.”
“Sebastian. Have you been here the whole time?” he asked.
“No. I came down to get supplies a few days ago,” her answers were short and sharp.
“Oh. Same. Except today,” Seb replied. “So, do you know what’s going on?”
“Of course I do,” said Maria. “I’m not a child. Or an idiot.”
“Oh. Okay. Good. Well, I’m going to get out of here soon-“
“You can’t. Not yet,” Maria cut him off. “There’s far too many. You’ll just get swarmed and bitten. You’ll die, and in an hour or so, you’ll come back.”
“So, zombies,” Seb thought to himself. Still unsure whether to believe it or not, he rose from his desk and checked the kitchen. He had enough food for about a week or so. He’d stay in for as long as he could. If it really was a zombie apocalypse (he laughed internally at the thought) at least the apartment was secure; being on an upper floor made it somewhat more defendable.
In the end, it wasn’t the food running out that made Sebastian leave his apartment. He got restless, bored, needed to get out.
He made sure the street was clear before he left. He took a knife with him; just in case, along with a bottle of water. He wasn’t leaving indefinitely; he just wanted to walk around for a bit, see how things were. The news had stopped broadcasting a few days after he holed up, so he didn’t know what was really going on.
He ducked out the door, quickly shutting it behind him. There was no sign of any movement; the street and buildings were desolate, empty, silent.
Sebastian turned in the direction of the nearest major store. If he was going out, he was at least going to get more supplies. Central Auckland didn’t actually have any supermarkets, regrettably, so the Warehouse, a large department store, would have to do.
He turned the corner onto one of the main streets. It was just as empty as the last, except for a sole body, propped up against the wall, head lolling to one side, blood dripping from her mouth. As Seb drew closer, he could see that her left leg had been broken badly while she was alive; the bone was visible, piercing through the skin. He shuddered. What the hell had happened to this woman? Had the entire city been abandoned without warning?
The closer Seb got to Queen Street, the more bodies there were, all obviously heavily wounded before finally dying. Shop windows were broken in, clearly looted during the chaos.
The entrance to the store was opposite Britomart, the central transport centre, the same place where the crowd was when the sirens went off. Sebastian didn’t like the idea of going there; if anywhere in the city was dangerous, it would be there, out in the open, but the back entrance was closed. The one glass door in the city that he needed to get in, and it wasn’t broken.
He turned the corner onto Queen Street and stopped in his tracks. There were more bodies. More than all the ones he had seen earlier put together. And they were…
“Walking?” Seb whispered to himself, stunned. He took a step back and fell off the kerb, falling backwards onto his hands. One of the dead closest to him turned, jaw unhinged, practically hanging from the rest of its head, and took a step towards him. Sebastian scrambled to his feet and pulled his knife out of his belt. The walking body kept coming at him, feet shuffling along the concrete, and others turned to look, almost curiously, slowly beginning to follow the first in ambling towards Seb.
“Fuuuuck,” Sebastian let out a quiet groan, and turned to run. He couldn’t go back to his apartment, not right away, and seeing as it looked like the zombie theory was accurate, he definitely needed more supplies. He sprinted the hundred metres or so to the closed back entrance of the store, and shattered the glass with the handle of his knife. It took a couple of hits, but it broke cleanly in the end, and he dashed inside. He wanted to be in and out as quickly as possible; getting cornered in here would be one of the worst things that could happen.
He sprinted up the escalators into the Warehouse and grabbed a trolley, filling it with whatever he could grab; food, tools, batteries, everything essential. He turned into the fishing and hunting section, grabbed a knife, and left, keeping the trolley steady as he waited on the escalator (it seemed the electricity was still on in most parts of the city).
He ran back to the door and was stopped once again.
The dead had crowded in the foyer. They turned at the noise. Seb turned and ran.
Q:Are all of the characters in PE kiwis, or are they from other places too, but just in NZ at the moment? Like is Seb just studying from overseas or whatever? just curious
Naturally, the majority of the characters will end up being kiwis (though not all of the people who created them are). Seb’s Australian, so he’s studying in Auckland.
Sebastian was in a lecture when the sirens started going off. They were far enough away for the lecturer to keep on going, but it wasn’t long before the campus’ own alarms started ringing.
“Okay, I guess that’s it. Clear out of here,” the lecturer yelled needlessly over the bustle of papers and the screeching of the alarm.
Sebastian didn’t need to be told twice. He was up and out quick, though he was hesitant as to where to go. The people walking away from the sirens paced determinedly, as if they knew where they were going and why they were going there; some looked panicked or frustrated, while others looked somewhat frightened. Most just looked like normal people in a rush. The people walking towards the sirens looked confused, curious; they definitely didn’t know what was going on.
After a moment’s thought, curiosity got the better of him, and he headed downhill, towards the sirens and the waterfront. He noticed people stumbling about, blood drenching their clothing, and approached one, cautiously.
“What happened? Are you okay?” he asked the woman. She looked at him blankly for a few seconds before responding.
“Uhh, hurt…” she mumbled.
“How?” Sebastian asked. “Here, sit down,” he motioned towards a bench. The lady sat.
“Bit,” she mumbled again, eyelids flickering.
“Bit? You got bitten? By what? A dog?”
“No… not a dog…” she said, faintly, beginning to fall off the seat. As Sebastian was pulling her up, two St John’s paramedics rushed to help.
“Oh, thank god. She said she’d been bit by something, not a dog, apparently. She’s lost a lot of blood,” Sebastian explained.
“Yeah, thanks, mate, we’ll take it from here. Move along,” one of the paramedics ordered.
“You sure?” Sebastian asked, worried.
“Please, move along,” the other said. “Don’t want to overcrowd her.”
“Oh, okay,” Sebastian backed off and continued walking towards the sirens, slightly more worried now.
There were more people with blood on their clothes and wounds on their arms and legs the further he went, but there were paramedics warning him off every time he tried to help someone.
“What’s the deal here, man?” Sebastian asked one of them.
“Mob madness. Officials announced some influenza outbreak and people went nuts. I’d stay away from the injured, if I were you. Don’t want to catch anything,” the paramedic advised.
The further Sebastian walked down Queen Street, the worse the scene got. There were less paramedics and far more wounded. Although he still wasn’t sure, he took the paramedic’s advice and tried to avoid them, but they began to follow him, lurching toward him.
“Shit,” he muttered to himself. He could try get back to campus, but there were just as many wounded behind him as there were in front. Home was about a half hour’s walk away; a small apartment on the edge of the city. It wouldn’t be safe for long, he knew, if this kept up, but at the very least he could find out what was really going on. It certainly wasn’t influenza, he knew that much.
So Sebastian ducked into a side street and ran. Sebastian didn’t know what would happen if the wounded followed him to his apartment, but he definitely didn’t want them there. He ran as far as he could before getting puffed, then slowed to a jog. He was about halfway there, and they didn’t seem to be following him. There were less of them off the main streets, too.
It wasn’t long before he made it home. He ducked inside as quick as he could, hoping, guiltily, that no one saw him from the street.
Sebastian booted up his laptop and checked various news sites. They were all saying the same thing as the authorities; an outbreak of influenza had caused mass hysteria in Central Auckland.
“Bullshit,” he muttered, logging into tumblr. Surely someone on there would have an idea – or at least a theory or two – as to what the hell was happening.
Sure enough, people were rambling on about the “influenza outbreak in Auckland”, except not everyone was calling it that. Clearly, Sebastian wasn’t the only one who didn’t believe the authorities. Opinions were varied, but most people seemed to be going on about how they were stocking up for zombies.