"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.
Regan checked the other rooms in the house before calling out, confirming that the rest of the place was empty and safe. Rowan took a seat on a couch and looked around.
“How did it get in?” she asked.
“The zombie? I don’t know,” Regan paused. “I know I locked the door; I’m sure of it. And there doesn’t seem to be any damage to the door, so it wasn’t forced entry.”
“Were there any windows or anything open? Any other entrance?”
“I checked, and no,” Regan responded.
“Then is it really safe here?” Rowan asked, worried. Regan paused before answering.
“It should be…” he said, cautiously. “At the very least, we can secure a room or two. Keep everything we need close to us. Worst comes to worst, we make a quick escape.”
“That’s not always possible,” Rowan began. “Especially if there’s a lot of them. They swarm; form groups and overwhelm you. It’s not exactly safe to stay here,” she explained.
“Well, where would we go?” Regan asked.
“Away from the city. It started there, so it’ll be spreading from there. It won’t be long before the swarms are commonplace out here. I say we stock up on food and anything else we need, and take the back streets as far out of the city as we can go. Head out towards Helensville.”
“That’s pretty far. It’d be dark well before we’d get anywhere near close. And how’re we going to get food out there? It’s better to stay in the places we know, make the place secure, make short trips out for supplies. Far safer that way.”
“Not when there are crowds of zombies roaming the area! There are already a few, it’ll be a matter of days at most before they’re in the entire area!”
“We’ll lock up tight!”
“You haven’t seen them! They may be weak one by one, but those crowds can and will get through anything, trust me!”
“If we leave, we’ll starve. We’ll have no real shelter. It’s a good few hours between here and Helensville, and there’s pretty much nothing in between. Hell, there’s not exactly a lot out there, anyway. Unless you want to starve, we have to stay around here.”
“And unless you want to get attacked we have to leave!” Rowan exclaimed.
“Well, at the very least, we can’t do anything until tomorrow. You can’t leave for the country in the evening; you’re guaranteed dead like that,” Regan asserted. Rowan paused. “We’ll stay in the lounge and stockpile everything we need here. Take turns sleeping, if you makes you more comfortable.”
Rowan still looked doubtful, but reluctantly agreed.
“I still want to leave. This isn’t permanent. The longer we stay, the more dangerous it gets. You do realise that, right?” she said.
“To a point, yes. But if we can hold out long enough, maybe they’ll die off, or spread out.”
“There’s no way you can know that,” Rowan protested.
“But it could happen. And there’s no way you can know what it’s like out of the city.”
“No, but logically, it’s safer! We already know there are less here than there are in the city; they thin out the further away we go. It’s only logical to keep on going out. It makes sense.”
Regan was silent. He looked to be in deep thought. Either he was genuinely considering Rowan’s suggestions, or he was firm in his decision and just didn’t want to argue over it any more.
Silence filled the air, broken only by the odd bird, fleeting past, never staying.
“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.”
“Wait,” said Regan. “You’re telling me… you were attacked by zombies?”
“Well, yeah,” Rowan replied. Regan was silent for a moment.
“Sorry, but- I just find it kind of hard to believe.”
“You don’t believe me?”
“No, no, it’s not that, really, it’s just hard to take in, I think,” Regan explained cautiously. “How did it happen?”
“We were- the house was swarmed, overrun. There must have been twenty of them. Erm. Yeah. I managed to get out, but I don’t know about the others. I know- I know some of them died,” she ended quietly. Regan thought in silence for a minute or two.
“That must’ve been horrible,” he finally said. Rowan nodded. “I’m staying just down the road; my house. There’s space there, if you want, and it’s got to be safer than here.”
“Where is it?” Rowan asked.
“A minute up the road opposite here,” Regan responded.
“Far enough back from the road, treeline between the house and the road. I’ve been there for nearly two weeks now without problems.”
“Yes and yes.”
“And you haven’t seen any zombies?”
“Not at all. I did nearly get mugged, but that was closer to here than it was to home.”
“Any weapons? Defences?”
“I dunno about defences, but I have my hatchet, various knives for cooking, a hammer, and it’s easy enough to make weapons out of anything. And there’s a hardware store a few minutes away.”
Rowan paused in thought briefly before responding.
Regan nodded and stood.
“I’ll just fill my bag with supplies, and then we’ll leave,” he said, walking through the aisles, starting to make a pile next to the door. Bread, milk, eggs, jam, bottled water, the essentials first, and then a few pieces of comfort; chocolate, juice, and a few packs of cigarettes.
“Cigarettes? Really?” Rowan asked.
“They calm me down,” Regan responded, “though they’re mainly for bartering. If it really is a zombie apocalypse, they’ll be valuable before long, and they don’t take up much space.” He finished packing and opened the door. “Ready?” he strode out the door and looked around. Rowan followed.
The walk to Regan’s took just over a minute. They encountered no one; the streets were just as quiet as they had been for the past two weeks. It was weird, Regan thought; it was hard to imagine them swarmed with zombies, but at the same time, it was extremely easy.
The two chatted idly on the way. It was surreal; the sun was shining, and they got along well, but there was an underlying layer of tension, of fear, the knowledge that it could all go wrong in any second; it already had, in fact – this was the aftermath of shit going spectacularly wrong.
Regan went to unlock the front door, only to find it open. He paused.
“What’s wrong?” Rowan asked.
“The door’s open.”
Regan walked in, slowly and quietly, hatchet in hand. Rowan followed cautiously.
It was in the kitchen, to the left at the end of the entranceway. Just one – one that they could see, at least. Regan stopped in his tracks, staring. It was male, and looked alive, in some aspects. His face was intact – like most of his body – but his eyes were dead, almost unfocussed. He was fully clothed, though his shirt was blood-soaked and torn on the side, revealing a gaping wound in his stomach. He turned toward the two, and Rowan took action, grabbing the hatchet out of Regan’s hands and cleaving it into the zombie’s head with a sickling thud. He fell to the floor as his legs collapsed under him.
“Holy shit!” Regan finally exclaimed.
“You have to act quickly,” Rowan insisted. “These things aren’t always slow. A lot of them move as quickly as we do. There’s no time for hesitation.” Regan nodded grimly.
“I understand.” Rowan handed him back the hatchet and he wiped it with a tea towel.
“So,” said Rowan. “Nice place.”
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.”
Regan turned and began to walk home. He intended to get home and stay home for a while. A long while. Muggers walking about in broad daylight probably meant that it wasn’t safe to be outside. New Lynn wasn’t exactly the safest suburb, but it was normally perfectly fine during the day.
“Society must have degraded a lot. The influenza thing must be serious,” he thought to himself. He passed the Shell petrol station a minute away from home, and paused. He’d need supplies eventually. The doors and windows were intact, but there were no signs of life, inside or out. He decided to come back later, when he really needed to, possibly armed.
Home was just as he left it; secure, safe, empty. He had given up on the idea of his family coming home. If they were alive and safe, they were the kind of people who would have the sense to stay safe, rather than trying to make a trip across town in these conditions. He tried not to think about the alternative.
He hadn’t heard from Ash since he left for Balmoral. Regan assumed the phone networks were overloaded, and had kept his phone off for the most part.
It was just over a week before he left the house again. Electricity was still running, though the television and radio still weren’t broadcasting. News sites were still reporting an influenza outbreak causing mass hysteria in Auckland, New Zealand, though there was plenty of speculation that it was a cover-up. For what, no one seemed to agree on. It ranged from natural disaster (governments covering up their terrible disaster plans, apparently) to a deranged dictator (“John Key gone power mad?” said some of the headlines) to the usual doomsday theorists (“New Zealand Government covering up the Rapture?”). It seemed the rest of the world was operating as normal, though there was literally no news whatsoever coming from the South Island, apart from the automated reports of earthquakes.
Regan strapped a hatchet to his belt and a bag to his back. In the bag was one bottle of water, a torch, and a jumper, just in case he couldn’t return home right away. He was just going down the road, but better safe than sorry.
The street was just as quiet as last time, though there was a weird, sickly smell in the air now.
Regan turned right and headed down to the Shell station. Once again, it was the same as last time; quiet, still. As he crossed the empty road and drew closer, he could see that the main doors were still intact. He walked up to them, expecting them to open, but they didn’t, even though the lights were on inside. Puzzled, he walked around the building, finding a side door. It was locked, and wouldn’t budge, even when he barged into it.
All of a sudden, a face popped around the corner. Rowan’s face. Regan stopped and took a step back in surprise. She opened the door.
“What’re you doing here?” she asked.
“I…” Regan fumbled in confusion. “I came for supplies. What the hell are you doing here?”
“I’m staying here. For now, at least,” she answered.
“I thought you were with family. What happened?”
Rowan fell silent.
“They… we got attacked.”
“Attacked? By who?” Regan was confused.
“What do you think?” she responded. Regan just looked at her blankly. “Wait, you don’t know?”
Nick wasn’t prepared for this, even though he had talked about it and laughed about it many a time before it actually happened. It was a common conversational topic between his friends, but it was never a serious thing. They all had their preferred ‘zombie plans’ – Nick’s was to get an axe and find a nice place in a park that he’d be happy dying in. Carl’s was logical; stay alone, find a safe place to stay in until things quieten down a bit, and then get out of the city. Laura’s was typical Laura; stock up on weapons and kill as many zombies as she could. Erik’s was almost a blend of Nick’s and Carl’s; find a safe place and stay there, only leaving when completely necessary. He’d spend most of his time writing music.
Of course, none of them actually carried out their plans. They were teenage musicians; as intelligent and mature as they thought they were, they really weren’t. When sirens started going off in the city, they were all in their respective homes. Their lives continued as normal; they left their houses and hung out as much as they normally did, against the authorities’ recommendations. So they were together when they properly realised what was going on.
They were at Nick’s house when it happened. In the lounge, upstairs, with two huge windows overlooking the cul-de-sac. Erik noticed it first and pointed it out to the others.
“Hey, look,” was all he said, unable to really put it into words. There was a girl, their age, stumbling down the street. Her shoulder was drenched with blood, and her arm was hanging limply.
“Should we go help?” Laura suggested. “She looks seriously hurt, guys.”
They were out the door and halfway down the driveway when one of the neighbours approached the girl. They were trying to help, that was obvious, but the girl didn’t react well. She ran the final few metres between her and the neighbour and jumped at him, the both of the tumbling to the ground.
“What the fuck?” Nick exclaimed, as the neighbour’s screams filled the air. The girl lifted her head at the noise and looked at the four of them, mouth surrounded by what looked to be blood. She stood and stepped toward them.
“Shit!” Carl yelled, spinning on the spot and rushing back inside. The other three were quick to follow.
“What the fucking fuck was that?” Laura cried.
“Shit, I don’t know!” Nick shouted.
“Guys, calm the fuck down!” Erik yelled over the top of the noise. “Fuck! I can’t hear a thing!”
Everyone fell silent. It lasted a few seconds before Nick spoke up.
“Zombies?” he almost whispered. The others gaped at him.
“Ohhh, shit!” Laura exclaimed. “Fucking zombies!”
“Aw, fuck,” Erik sighed. “Here we go.”