Finding A Way Out

Posted: May 1, 2015 in Book I Terror in Texas
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The group of seven sat or squatted on the small area of decking around the attic access door unsure what to do next. Steve dropped the square of plywood back in place. After covering the opening, the sound of the infected decreased but a tell-tale stench still wafted up from below. Della flicked on the larger flashlight she had retrieved from the closet shelf.

Steve looked from one terrified face to the next realizing he knew only one of the new arrivals. The woman was the receptionist from the first floor. Her hair, usually neat and styled in a sculptured bob, clung to her face in damp ringlets. Her face was pale and streaked with makeup after the terror of their escape from the ground floor. Her clothes were twisted and in disarray. She looked ready to cry.

Steve searched his memory for her name. Audrey, Annie, no…Andy. That was it. “Andy, I’m glad to see you.” Andy nodded and he continued. “You know both Della and me but who did you bring along?”

Andy introduced the others. She nodded toward each and whispered a name. “Sandy, Martha, Jimmy, and Zack, they’re students checking out the internship program. I found them in a classroom a few minutes ago when I ran in there to hide. When we heard the crazy people break through the security door, we ran up the stairs and they followed. I thought we could barricade the therapy room door and we’d be safe. I was wrong.”

“You made it. That’s the important thing.” Steve responded.

He studied each of the kids and realized how really young they were. Both girls stared at Steve with eyes wide with terror. Sandy was thin and fine boned with an oval face framed by thick dark hair. She looked as if she were ready to cry. Steve tried to give her a reassuring smile.

Steve nodded a hello to Martha. She was a little taller and bigger than Sandy with curly blonde hair trimmed short to frame her round frightened face. She kept glancing toward the square of plywood between them.

The kid with blood smeared across his face was Jimmy. He was thin and sported a shock of curly, red hair. He used a handful of tissues Della had shoved at him earlier to stanch the flow of blood. Steve could hear him struggle to breath around the wad of tissue pressed to his face.

The fourth member of the group was a thick-bodied, black kid with a hesitant smile. He probably out-weighed Steve by fifty pounds, so he weighed over two hundred-twenty pounds. He was well muscled with a roundness suggesting a kid in a man’s body. Steve imagined him as a linebacker on a high school football team and hoped he would be able to help if things got dicey.

“We have to figure a way out of here. Where is Della?”

Della leaned around one of the kids and answered. “I’m here.”

Steve nodded. “Okay, we’re at the front of the building. We need to use the back stairway.”

“You mean the one at the southwest corner of the building, near the main parking lot?” Della asked.

“The front stairs is crawling with those dead people. They followed us when we ran up here.” Jimmy commented.

“We know that.” Della pointed into the dark. “That’s why we’re heading to the other end of the building. The back stairs should be that way.”

“Okay, we have to get down from here, and that looks like our best option.” Steve answered. “But before we do, we need to get some weapons and I have an idea where to get them. When we get outside, I have a van that has room for all of us.” Steve began. “We just have to get to it.”

Della moved closer. “Can you manage stairs?” She glanced down pointedly.

Steve shrugged. “Since the elevator isn’t an option, I guess I’ll have to manage them.” Steve asked. “Where is the fabricating room from here?”

Della pointed toward the back wall. “That way, but we can’t get to the door.”

Steve grinned. “We don’t need to. We can go through the ceiling. We have at least a couple strong arms to help make an opening.” He looked to Zack.

“Sure, Man. Just point me in the right direction. I can punch through sheet rock, no problem.”

“I was hoping we could be a little quieter than that.” Steve answered. “Let’s go folks.”

Della stood as did Andy and the teens. Zack leaned over and grabbed Steve under one arm and pulled him upright. He held his arm until Steve was balanced on a rafter and clutching a cross-beam.

“Thanks, Zack. I’m good. Sorry, guys, the blades are new, still getting used to them.” Steve commented as he stepped out and reached for the next rafters for support. “Della, lead out. People, stay on the wood rafters. Don’t step on the sheetrock. You’ll go through.”

Della adjusted the bag on her shoulder and reached out for the flashlight from the utility room. Jimmy handed it to her and she passed the smaller light back to Jimmy.  She pointed the wide cone of light toward a distant wall.

Steve followed with the new arrival close behind. He sighed as he realized he would have his hands full watching out for half a dozen people. Except for Zack, maybe, Steve thought of him as a survivor built like a brick shit-house.

After a couple minutes of everyone stumbling from rafter to rafter, Della stopped. “Here I think. We’re above the fabricating room.”

Steve grabbed a knife from his pocket, eased himself into a sitting position on a rafter and shoved insulation aside. He worried a three inch hole into the sheetrock then sat up and slid his arm across his damp forehead. He looked around and realized everyone else was getting overheated too. They wouldn’t last long in the sweltering heat of the attic.

He nodded at Jimmy. “Sorry I clipped you with the door. How’s your nose?”

Jimmy shrugged. He no longer held the tissues to his face. “It’s good. Little tender, but considering where we are…no problem at all.”

“Glad to hear it. Do you think you can check it out?” Steve pointed at the hole in the sheetrock.


Jimmy stretched out across the rafters and pressed his eye to the opening. After a full minute of moving his head from side to side, he looked up and grinned.

“Nothing moving. Just the work bench and lots of metal, plastic, and tools. No one in the room at all that I can see.”

Della spoke up. “It’s controlled access so it should be fine. No one can get in without a card. The techs leave by noon on Friday. It does have a clear glass door though.”

Andy interrupted. “We can’t go in there. They pounded on the glass downstairs until they broke through in the lobby.” She sniffled. “We haven’t got time for this. I need to get out of here so I can go home to my family.”

“Hush, Andy. We’ll get out of here as soon as we can.” Della hunkered down and studied the inside of the room below. “If we make the opening eight feet back that way, it will be behind the work bench. There’ll be less chance of ME being seen through the glass.” She added.

“Della?” Steve began. “You can’t….”

“Stuff it, Steve. I’m not sending one of the kids, Andy wouldn’t have a clue, and you…well. I won’t even begin to tell you why you can’t do it. Besides if anything happened, who would drive your van?”

Steve shrugged. “Okay, but the first hint of trouble….”

Della sighed. “Let’s get this hole started.”

The team crept down the rafter toward the place Della indicated. “This should be over the work bench but on the back side.”

Steve leaned down and began to saw at the sheetrock with his knife. He quickly grew heated, but kept sawing at the opening despite the perspiration dripping from his face.

Suddenly, a large dark hand covered his and retrieved the red handled multi-tool. “Sir, I got this.” Zack said.

Steve leaned back and wiped his sleeve across his forehead. “You’re a handy kid to have around, Zack.”

Within minutes an opening large enough for Della to slip through provided a panoramic view of the room below. Della stuck her head into the hole and studied the fabricating room.

It’s clear.”

Della sat up and dangled her legs over the edge of the rafter into the hole. Without another word she used her arms to ease herself onto a work bench below. She stood on the bench and peaked over the top edge of the center tool panel at the glass door.

The infected milled around in the hall. They moved in a counter clockwise direction. Each of the monsters seemed to follow the one in front of them creating a swirling mass of bodies. Periodically, one or two of the monsters would stop, cock their heads and appear to be sniffing the air. After a few seconds, they resumed their aimless Wandering.

Della lowered her head and settled her butt on the work bench then eased her feet to the floor. She made a quick survey of the tools and supplies in front of her on the bench. She retrieved two huge screw drivers and hammers and laid them on the bench together.

Next, she examined the supplies on hand. She sighed as she recognized the names on the bins with bits and pieces of prosthetics being fabricated. She grabbed three thirty-inch long stainless steel rods from a side bin. They would never become part of prosthetic limbs now.

All the veterans she had worked with and grown fond of were probably dead or infected. Her heart ached when she thought of them trapped in wheel chairs or hospital beds with no way to escape or protect themselves and their families.

She fought back tears and clinched her jaw. She had a job. She would help Steve get the kids out of this mess. She knew he was a man they could depend on.

Della laid the makeshift weapons on the workbench and pulled a small ladder to the side of the bench. She climbed to the work area. Squatting behind the panel, she looked up to see Zack grinning down at her. She handed up the weapons.

Zack retrieved each piece and passed them to waiting hands. When all seven items were passed around he pointed at a shelf and whispered. “There’s another flashlight on the wall. Can you get it and the roll of duct tape on the counter?”

Della grinned up at the kid and made a circle with her index finger and thumb. She picked up the duct tape and tossed the roll to Zack then slid to the edge of the bench. Still squatting out of sight of the infected, she peeked around the edge of the panel mounted to the middle of the double-sided work bench. For a moment she watched the infected shuffle in a fluid ebb and flow beyond the door.

She studied the movement and decided she would have to time it just right. Most of the infected just followed the monster in front of them, but a few would pause and look through the glass door as they passed. She had to be careful when she reached for the flashlight or one of the more alert monsters would see her. A quick grab at the right time and she would have the extra flashlight. It was worth the risk.

She took a deep breath then leaned toward the wall, her arm reaching for the flashlight. Her foot slid on the slick counter and knee slammed against the bench brushing against a short stainless rod lying on the counter top. The metal rolled across the work bench, under the center panel to the facing work station. Della reached out, lost her balance and tumbled to the floor just as the metal hit the floor in front of the door.

Della landed on the vinyl flooring knocking the air from her lungs. While she lay there gasping to draw breath, she heard a distant voice.

“Get up! Della. Don’t just lay there.” Zack called out. “NOW!”

She glanced toward the door to see faces of the infected pressed against the glass. They looked at her, then slammed hands and arms against the glass door. The infected jockeyed for position at the door, each pounded and pushed against the glass. A cacophony of frustrated moans rose up at seeing prey and being unable to reach it.

“Move your ass, Della.” Steve shouted.

The hammering grew in volume and the first crack raced across the window. Glass began shattering. At first, small pieces rained to the floor.

Della pulled a ragged breath into her lungs as a large piece of glass shattered on the floor. She scrambled to her feet, grabbed the flashlight from the wall and vaulted to the work bench just as the remaining glass shattered and fell to the floor. She raised the Maglite through the opening.

“Get up here now!” Steve yelled.

She reached for the rafters as she stared at the door. Torn and mutilated bodies rushed through the disintegrating barrier. The infected pushed past the remaining shards tearing and ripping flesh in their rush to reach her.

Della pushed up from the table. She kicked up and drew her body into the darkness overhead. She pulled her legs through the opening. Her muscles trembled with strain. When she looked down she saw hands reaching toward her legs still dangling through the hole.

Suddenly, thick hands slid under her arm pits and spirited into the dark gaping maw above. Zack set her on her feet and Della sagged to the rafter at the side of the hole.

After several ragged breaths, she got to her feet. “Oh my God.” She turned on Zack and threw herself at him.

The big black kid’s breath caught in his throat. “I’m sorry. I din’t mean to hurt ya.”

He tried to back away but Della held him for a moment. Finally, she leaned back and planted a kiss on his rounded cheek.

“You’ve saved me twice now. You didn’t hurt me. Thank you, Zack.”

Moans from below grew louder. A foul smell wafted up from the room below. The small group of survivors looked toward the opening and the giddiness quickly faded.

“They smell like an open sewer?” Jimmy complained.

“The news says they’re dead. When a person dies, their bladder and bowel releases.” Della answered. “Stands to reason, they would smell.”

“Ah, shit.” Jimmy responded.

“Yep. That’s what it is.” Zack commented with a grin.

Steve nodded at Della. “Let’s get out of here.”

Della turned from the hole and took a steadying breath before heading across the rafters. The small group followed Della single file across beam after beam to a concrete wall nearly fifty feet away.

“The concrete is the outside fireproof wall of the stairs.” Della announced.

“We’re not getting through the concrete. How are we getting into the stair well?” Andy asked.

Della whispered. “Same as before, through the ceiling. We should be at a side hall at the end of the main hallway in the accounting department. It’s limited access and usually no one is in this area after noon as well. The controlled access door between this area and the public areas should limit entrance. Hopefully, there’s no infected back here.

  1. Melessa says:

    Charlotte, I really like this, I like the way you lay out and describe everything needed in your scene without overdoing it the way some writers do. When I read I imagine I am in the story and if it is written well enough I become lost in it for periods of time and I find that happening with yours. I also like the way your stories are flowing one to another even though the storylines are so different.


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