Into Hell

Posted: May 21, 2015 in Book I Terror in Texas
Tags: , , , , ,

Della pointed the flashlight down between the rafters. “This is it,” she said. “We should come out right next to the fire exit door.”

Steve glanced back from the wall. “What’s that way?” He asked as he pointed about ten feet from the concrete wall. Will it get us behind a door?”

Della glanced back where Steve pointed then back at the concrete wall then answered. “I think so. It should be just inside the manager’s office.”

“Let’s go down there. That is if it’s empty.” Steve answered.

Steve pulled out a pair of fingerless gloves and his multi-tool knife. He settled on a rafter and began sawing at the sheetrock. When he got a hole outlined about the size of his fist, he stopped and punched through the sheetrock. He leaned close. After a full minute of moving his head from side to side to get a better view of the room below, he sat back up and began sawing again. After about three minutes, he was dripping sweat and breathing heavy.

Zack tapped him on the shoulder. “Let me get this man.”

“This shit is tough,” Steve remarked.

Steve relinquished the tool and Zack sawed at the sheetrock until he had made an opening large enough for even him to slide through. He carefully pulled the sheetrock up snapping the last six inches with sheer muscle power. He set it aside then leaned into the abyss. He looked one way then the other. Finally he looked up grinning.

“No, surprises.” Zack announced.

Steve scooted closer to the opening, but Della placed a hand on his shoulder. “Let me go first. Zack can lower me until I only have a foot or two to drop. If there’s a problem he can pull me back up.”

Steve opened his mouth to protest then gave a quick nod. “Sure.”

Della sat down at the edge of the opening with Zack straddling the hole above her. She reached up and let Zack wrap his huge hands around her thin wrists. She released her grip on the rafters and slid through the hole to hang above the carpeted flooring below. Slowly, Zack eased her down. When Zack got her as low as he could, Dell looked up and whispered.

“Let me go on three. One, two, three.”

Zack opened his fingers. Della landed with a gentle thud.

Zack grunted his way upright and grinned at Steve. “No problem.”

From below, Della whispered. “Send Jimmy down next. He can help push the desk across the room. It’ll make it easier for the rest of you to get down.”

Jimmy slid through the hole. His feet hit the carpet with a muffled bump. He hurried to the desk. Together, he and Della slid the desk to rest under the opening. One by one, each of the group dropped to the floor.

The two girls, Martha and Sandy, got through the hole and made it to the office below where they huddled together. Martha whimpered around a handful of tissues resulting in muffled sobs. Every couple minutes, Sandy tried to console her, but it did little to calm her anxiety.

When only Zack and Steve were left looking down in the office below, Steve pointed at the hole. “You next.”

“I can hold you if you have any problems.” Zack answered. “You should go next.”

Steve answered. “I can hold you steady until you get on your feet. We can’t catch you from below.”

“You might be right.” Zack chuckled then moved to the edge of the beam over the hole.

He pulled his legs into the opening and began easing himself through the hole. It was a tight fit between the rafters but he finally squeezed through.

Steve leaned over ready to reach for Zack if needed. Just as Zack eased down and his head disappeared into the room below, his left hand twisted around and slipped. Steve dove for his right hand and grabbed his hand as it slipped from the beam.

Zack teetered on his toes with Steve hanging half out of the hole still clutching his wrist. When Zack was standing on the desk, Steve released his arm and pulled himself back into the gloom. Zack slid off the desk.

“Thanks, man. That’s could have been ugly.” Zack whispered. “Come on down. I’ll catch ya.”

Steve eased through the hole and when his blades touched the desk, Zack grabbed him around the waist and pulled him from the desk. He allowed Steve to balance then released him with a pat on his back.

“You good?” Zack asked with a grin.

“I got it.”

Steve stepped back then made his way to the door. He eased the hall door open and looked toward the exit sign at the tee of the hallway. Walking was getting easier even if the blades were not meant for walking. It was a matter of finding a natural rhythm in his step he decided. He grinned to himself. It wasn’t going to be easy, but he suddenly realized he wasn’t going to be helpless.

“Looks good so far.” He whispered over his shoulder. “Let me look around the corner before anyone comes out. Zack, on my six.”

Zack grinned and gave a sloppy salute as he stepped to the door with Della close on his heels.

Steve stepped through the opening still resting his hand against the wall. He strode with solid sure steps to the end of the hall across from the fire escape door. He rested his hand against the wall and listened for a full minute. He could hear moaning in the distance, but nothing sounded close. He took a deep breath to prepare himself to peek around the corner.

He eased his face to the edge of the wall and slowly leaned forward for a quick glimpse then pulled his body back in a slit second. He paused a moment then repeated the maneuver taking more time to really look at the wandering infected down the hall. They were fifty feet away.

Finally, he turned back to the door and waved Zack and the others forward. Guided by Zack the group made their way to Steve’s side. Steve nodded toward the door.

“The bare tile is a problem. I can’t get any traction with the blades.”

Della stepped forward, but Zack raised his meaty hand to block her. “I got this.”

Steve ordered. “Get through the door and look over the rail. If it’s clear, hold open the door for everyone, otherwise, get back here quick and quiet as you can. Keep an eye open in case the infected at the end of the hall notice you.”

“Got it,” Zack answered as he stepped in front of Steve.

Steve laid his hand on the kid’s shoulder. “Be careful.”

Without a word, Zack tiptoed across the hall to the door. He eased the emergency exit door open then let it slip closed without a sound. A moment later, he reappeared in the opened door motioning the group toward him.

One by one, each of the survivors clutching their makeshift weapons crept to the door. The small landing behind Zack filled. Sandy and Martha refused to move from the landing while Jimmy pressed against Zack’s back to watch the remaining members of the group cross the tile expanse. Andy, clutching a stainless steel rod shuffled across the hall. She pushed through the doorway and tried to push into the already cramped landing.

Della hissed. “Sandy! You and Martha step back.”

Jimmy turned to add. “Make room.”

Della pulled Jimmy back. “You too.”

Steve, the last to cross the hall stepped from the corner of the hallway. He was half way to the door when there was a loud clatter. He looked toward the open door to see Jimmy righting himself.

Jimmy had stepped on Martha’s foot and stumbled. Martha had toppled against Sandy who in turn, stepped off the first step of the stairs and dropped the metal rod she had been holding.  It clattered down several steps leaving Steve the center of attention.

“Jig is up.” Steve hurried through the door, turned around and pushed against the metal barrier.

The door released from the inside and there was no way to keep it closed if the bodies on the other side leaned against the bar in the handle. Steve could see half a dozen blood-covered, infected had turned at the noise and were shambling toward the fire-door.

“Jimmy, get everyone moving down. Be quiet and stay below the window on the main floor. Stop at the bottom and wait for me.” Steve ordered as he pulled Zack toward the door. Zack pushed his toe against the door to hold it.

Martha stood with her hands covering her mouth. A piece of steel rod lay at her feet. “They’re going to get us!” She wailed ignoring Sandy’s efforts to pull her down the steps after the others.

Zack pushed Martha toward Sandy. “Shut up and get going, Martha.” He retrieved the steel rod she had picked up and passed it to Steve. “Can we wedge it under the door against the handrail?”

“Maybe,” Steve answered.

Zack stepped up to the door and jammed the rod under the bottom of the door. The blunt end made it hard to get it wedged in the crack so he jammed it into the corner and angled the opposite end against handrail. He pulled the roll of duct tape from his arm and wound the roll around the end of the rod against the handrail. In careful fluid movements he wound the tape around again and again. When he decided he had enough tape to anchor the rod, he peeled off length of tape to tape the door to the frame.

Steve grabbed Zack’s arm and ordered. “Time to go, man!”

The infected pressed their faces against the glass and began slamming their hands against the door.

“The door’s not going to hold long,” Steve announced.

“You need help getting down?” Zack asked.

“No, just go. It won’t be pretty, but I can manage it.” Steve answered. “Just get going. Get the others out of the way at the bottom.”

Zack raced down the stairs as fast as his bulk would permit. Steve clutched the handrail and leaned over using his weight to propel him downward on the leather-covered palms of his hands. He used his legs to control the speed then stagger around the mid-floor landing. He repeated the process to the bottom landing. All the while, the pounding from above grew louder and more violent.

When Steve landed at the bottom, he righted himself and made his way through the group to the door. He clutched the handle, ready to open it when he heard a crash from above. The door opened with a violent slamming against the wall.

“Fuck!” Steve cursed. “Can’t we get a break here?” He said to no one in particular. Taking a breath, he told the group. “I have a dark blue van big enough for all of us. It’s straight back from the building, half a dozen rows back. Just follow me.”

Andy interrupted. “I’m going home.”

Steve looked at her then shrugged. “It’s dangerous out there.”

Andy answered. “You do what you want, but I’m going to my car and going home.”

He pulled the keys from his pocket ready to push the button on the fob. “Use the side ramp to get inside and move to the back. Zack, bring up the rear. When you get inside, push the red button above the door. Della, ride shotgun.”

Suddenly three of the infected fell to the landing overhead in a heap of tangled arms and legs.

“Time to go!” Steve ordered. “Don’t fight unless you have to. Just run and get to the van. Jimmy, keep up with me, okay? Andy, stay close to us.”

Andy pulled her keys from her purse and slung the strap on the bag across her body. “I’m going home. You worry about them.”

Martha wailed. “I can’t! I’m scared!”

“Then get dead!” Jimmy shouted as Steve flung open the door and everyone bolted out into the afternoon sun. Zack grabbed the screwdriver from Sandy, pushed the door closed and jammed it under the exit door.

“Stay together,” Steve ordered as he moved toward the front of the building.

The first thing the group saw was a body pinned between two cars. It was a young girl about the same age as Sandy and Martha. She struggled against the vice-like grip of the small VW pinning her to an old mud-brownTaurus.

Martha pointed at the infected girl. “That’s Debbie! Oh, my God!”

“No matter now,” Steve answered as he ran from the building door. “Keep moving.”

He and Jimmy made their way to the end of the building with Della and the two girls on their heels. Steve looked around the corner of the building to see dozens of the infected milling around the front door of the building.

“Keep low. Do what I do and be quiet.”

One and two at a time, they crossed the short expanse from the corner of the building to the front of the Taurus. Keeping the Taurus and the VW between them and the infected, they made their way to the back of the front row of parked cars. With just six feet to the next vehicle, Steve again darted across the open space between the back of one car to the front of the next row of vehicles. The rest of the group followed.

Andy stopped, looked at the infected girl then took off toward the back of the parking lot.

“Andy!” Steve whispered.

She ignored him and disappeared around a row of vehicles.

Everyone looked on in horror as the infected girl noticed Andy running away from the group. The diseased girl jerked and swayed as she reached out toward Andy. Then she noticed all of them. Her moans became wails of frustration.

Even though the pinned girl had no way to free herself to get to them she was drawing attention their way. It was a moot point, but Steve swung the steel rod in his hand at the side of her head. It landed with a solid crack and he stumbled against the side of the car. The monster that had been Debbie collapsed to the hood of the VW.

The scattering of shambling infected focused on the group and suddenly they became their only focus.

“I always hated that bitch and now she’s killed us.” Sandy lamented.

“Run!” Steve ordered as he pushed himself upright and away from the car. He sprinted toward the van. He slipped into an easy gate that crossed the distance with little effort. The blades were for running. It felt good running.

Steve glanced over his shoulder and realized he was leaving the others behind so he slowed his pace and called over his shoulder. “Come on people. Get in the van!” He pressed the button to open the side door of the van.

Della darted around the back bumper of a Mini Cooper making her way toward the passenger front seat. Jimmy was four or five feet behind her. Zack herded the girls ten feet after Jimmy.

A man in scrubs with half his face in shreds and missing his right eye stumbled between two vehicles right behind Zack. Zack turned with the rod of stainless steel in his hand to face the blood spattered one eyed monster.

He back toward the girls where they stood whimpering. Zack glanced at the monster approaching then back at the girls. “Keep going!” He pushed them toward Jimmy then turned to face the infected.

The group drew more and more attention from the infected. Faces turned, shambling steps brought at least a dozen of the infected toward them.

“Run, damn it!” Zack yelled over his shoulder. As if suddenly released from paralysis, they darted toward Jimmy.

Jimmy neared the van and saw the ramp lowering. Jimmy grabbed Sandy’s arm and literally threw her through the opening. Martha was close behind. Jimmy pushed her toward the back seat then stood at the door with his makeshift weapon in hand waiting.

“Come on, Zack!”

Zack watched an approaching man. The infected was only five seven or eight with a wide body and a thick middle. He was dressed in blood covered scrubs and his bare pate flopped over his right ear. The flesh of his arms hung in bloody strips. His eyes were cloudy and appeared sightless yet he made his way straight at Zack. He raised his head, sniffed the air and kept moving forward.

“I ain’t got time for this shit, man,” Zack commented as he stepped toward the monster.

He raised the rod in a batter’s stance balancing his weight between his feet and waited the split second it took the man to get close enough then he swung.

The rod connected and the man’s head caved in at the side right above his ear. The body collapsed. Zack didn’t wait to see if the man moved again, he turned toward the van and hurried after the others still clutching the bloody rod.

Steve rounded the front of the van and caught himself against the front grill. An infected woman appeared at the back bumper of the vehicle. She sniffed and her steps quickened as she stumbled toward him.

Steve cringed at the terrible injuries the woman had suffered. Her arms and legs were covered in open wounds where the flesh had been torn out leaving ragged holes. Her face might have been pretty once, but it was impossible to tell now that it was flayed to the bone. Her nose had been torn off taking her upper lip and most of the left cheek with it. She raised her arms and moaned.

Della got to the van and opened the passenger door then noticed Steve standing still at the front of the van. “Steve?”

He raised his hand. “Get in the van and slam the door!”

Della caught movement through a back window and got a glimpse of an infected woman approaching Steve. She slid into the passenger seat and slammed the door.

The bloodied woman turned to face the sudden noise.

Steve took a step forward then swung the rod he had used on the girl a few minutes before. The power of the swing and sudden impact of connecting with her head left Steve off balance. He stumbled and caught himself on the side mirror. The infected woman fell to the pavement.

The jab in his side drove his breath from his lungs. Della grabbed the door handle ready to open it when he reappeared in the window. He righted himself and reached the door handle, opened it and climbed inside.

Jimmy stood guard at the side door until Zack got close, then slipped inside the van. Zack stepped through the open doorway and flopped on a middle seat. Jimmy leaned over and slammed his hand against the red button to close the door. They all watched as the ramp slowly rose while more of the infected converged on the slow closing barrier. The ramp was raised head-high and folded when the first fingers reached over the top edge.

Martha’s screams drowned out the moaning of the infected outside the van. Zack jumped to his feet and began beating at the clinging fingers. The ramp snapped into a locking position. Half a dozen fingers fell to the floor of the van behind Della’s seat.

The sliding door rolled forward swiping away reaching hands.

“Gross.” Jimmy laughed nervously.

Steve grinned over his shoulder. “There was a warning label about keeping fingers away from a closing ramp.”

Steve looked over his shoulder at the group settling in his van. The girls had settled on the single bench seat. The two boys settled on the middle seat.

He turned the key. “Buckle up, folks. This might get hairy!”

“And it hasn’t been so far?” Jimmy commented.

Steve fired up the van, put it in gear then released the hand break. Half a dozen infected made their way to the driver side of the van. Seeing Martha sitting next to the window, they began pounding on the glass smearing blood and gore on the glass.

Martha screamed and wailed. “We’ve got to get out of here! They’re going to get me!”

When she reached down to free herself from the seatbelt, Zack grabbed her hands. “We’re going now. Sit still and be quiet.”

Steve pressed the accelerator and the van rolled forward. He turned the wheel to the right and punched the gas. The van roared away from the nightmare of the V.A. Center.

No one spoke for nearly ten minutes then Jimmy asked. “Where are we going?”

“The Army base?” Zack suggested.

Steve sighed. “I don’t think so. If the military were viable, they would be on the street dealing with this shit. I think this is a lot bigger than just here.”

Martha leaned forward in the seat. “I want to go home. Can you take me home?”

They drove around a roadblock of crashed cars. Everyone in the van looked through the open doors and shattered windows to see blood and remnants of bodies.

From the back seat, Sandy whimpered. “Oh my God, people are being torn apart.”

Della responded. “I think you’re right, Sandy. We’re in real trouble here. Where can we go, Steve?”

“I’m not sure.” Steve answered. After a minute, he picked up his cell from the console and passed it to Della. “Don’t bother with 911, try calling family. We need to find a safe place to go. If you don’t have your phone, use mine.”

After a few minutes, they each came back with the same results. They passed the phones around the van as Steve drove toward the west.

Finally, Della stated. “Same as before; everyone is getting busy circuits. What are we going to do, Steve?”

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