Thursday, January 31, 2013
POP POP POP POP POP….
It took him a second to count the five gunshots. Their confused echoes fell over each other down the long alley chasing after him. The shots were nearby. Their speed meant panic, and panic meant death. Another survivor gone. He imagined the biting, raking swarm falling upon him?...her? It didn’t matter. The poor unknown person was now his tool of distraction. The swarm would draw attention to itself as it ate and draw other groups to it. This was the break he needed to make it a little closer to the edge of the city. Patiently closing short distances was safer than bolting crazy in the street. A few shambling corpses were easy to avoid, but as few as four were deadly even if you were fast and in the open. And he hadn’t seen groupings that small in weeks.
He stopped. The moaning mixed with wet ripping sounds he didn’t like. The group was feeding. It sounded large and close, but he still couldn’t tell where.
One body won’t last long.
He calmly started trotting, almost leisurely, toward the alley’s end some thirty yards distant. He slowed before reaching the street, careful not to stray too close to either of the tall buildings flanking him. He looked up and saw his target: the apartment building he grew up in. It had been years since he’d returned. Years since his parents died, back when the dead stayed dead. With luck he could get in and hold up a few days. He was in no hurry, though. A few more minutes or hours were fine by him.
Slow and steady doesn’t get eaten.
The street was clear. Well, looked clear. He knelt down and looked under the few remaining cars. Zombies had an alarming habit of popping out from behind normal, everyday objects. Nothing. He wiped sweat from his forehead with the sleeve of his motorcycle jacket. The black leather welcomed the August sun a bit too much, but it did offer a high degree of protection against human fingernails. He planned on buying the accompanying motorcycle a week after he bought the jacket, but then all hungry hell broke loose. He inhaled deeply, braced himself, and slowly crept walked across the street. He scanned left and right for movement. Still nothing.
He turned. A single zombie lumbered toward him from far down the alley, a fireman’s axe protruding from her (no, its) chest. The handle swayed side-to-side with the creature’s graceless steps. It was almost comical had the tip not kept coming back to center on him. Its dead, red mouth opened.
A rising chorus of moans and wails immediately poured out of the adjacent alley. The shots were far closer than he thought.
The damn things are like seagulls. Stay Calm. Stay ahead, he reminded himself.
He ran to his target, leapt up the front steps of the building, and stopped dead. He heard a steady thudding coming from behind the door. The image of hungry, dead fists slamming against the wood snaked in and out of his mind. With a few minutes of planning he could have found another way in or a means to draw them out. He was sure of it. He also knew he didn’t have ten seconds before the street was, literally, crawling with the undead. He ran down the steps to listen and gauge how many stragglers the swarm was attracting. Cries erupted up and down the street. The undead poured out of every doorway, window, and shadow like some giant meat grinder pushing out its cargo. The pounding behind the door suddenly rose to greet the tide, doubling its efforts to join it. The door rattled in splintering death throws. His legs grew weak and his hands suddenly tinged. All his careful efforts dropped him in the middle of a goddamn nest. He was completely surrounded. He climbed to the top of the nearest car and sat down.
This is it.
The thought was calm and resigned. He drew the .22 pistol from his pocket and placed the barrel against his temple. The cries and moans encircled him, a vanguard to the pallid throats close behind. In a fluid he motion he squeezed the trigger.
I really wish I had some bullets.
The sound was clear and pronounced even above the cadaverous din: squealing rubber on asphalt. He stood searching for the source. It was coming from behind the hoard of undead exiting the alley. A car was coming down the street at a high rate of speed. He knew it couldn’t plow through the mob of bodies between them, but it might be enough of a distraction to allow him to escape. The sound captured the attention of even the undead closest him. The hoard numbered between two-hundred and three-hundred by his estimate. If each zombie weighted 150lbs, the vehicle faced a forty-five thousand pound wall of meat and bone. He couldn’t see it yet but the zombies could. They turned to face the sound. Whatever they saw, it had a low profile.
Boom! Thud! Whack! Crack!
A wave of zombies flew into the air or disintegrated in a cloud of flesh. Bodies were hurled up and over the vehicle, but he still couldn’t see it. The undulating path of thrown rag dolls turned toward him. He couldn’t believe his eyes. A sleek, black Pontiac Trans Am was driving right at him. The site was so preposterous he almost failed to notice the red light at the apex of it hood. The light slid back and forth in a recessed opening. The car reached him and braked with uncanny speed. It was covered in gore but otherwise undamaged. The passenger door swung opened revealing an empty seat.
“Get in.” called a voice inside the car.
He jumped down and into the car. Before he could reach to close the door it closed by itself. He turned to thank the driver. The seat was empty.
“Please don’t be alarmed.” The voice came from a center council containing a red equalizer-like display that rose and fell with the rise and fall of the voice.
“They cannot breach me. I will remove you from this environment.” The car’s accelerator lowered with no visible cause pressing him against the seat with alarming force.
THUD! SMACK! CRACK!
Zombies bounced off the car like it was a tank.
“What the hell is going on?!”
“I am the Knight Industries Two Thousand or KITT, as I was called. My sensors detected your bio-readings and I arrived as fast as I could.”
CRUNCH! SNAP! PLUD!
“Who’s driving?” He looked on the windshield for a camera. Remote control? A military drone? If that was the case, and he found the car’s remote system, he might be able to take control over it. He noticed a large bundle of severed fiber optic cables hanging from a harness beneath the dash.
“I am autonomous. I had a human operator, but no more. He is dead. I follow his last command.”
He didn’t know what to make of what he was hearing and he didn’t care. It was secondary to gaining control of this vehicle. He glanced up in time to see the body of a large, fat zombie roll over the windshield. Amazingly, the glass was unharmed. This car meant his survival.
“So what next? Take me to your creators?” Keep “it” talking. He pulled at the glove box. It would not open.
“I have not communicated with my creators for 36 days, 4 hours, and 23 minutes. I fear for their safety.”
“So why don’t you drive to them now? I can help you find them.” He grabbed the heavily modified steering wheel and tried to move it. It wouldn’t budge.
“Please don’t do that. Repeated attempts to alter my course will activate self-defense measures. My human operator was investigating a possible origin of the outbreak. It was a remote possibility, but he felt compelled to try. My creators begged him not to go. They overrode my controls until he cut the remote link cables and reprogrammed me to follow his, and only his, commands. All he wanted to do was help.”
“What happened?” It was a simple question, but it marked the first time in weeks he thought a shade of anything other than his own survival.
“He was killed. It was then I received my final command. That’s why I came to you. I was too late to reach the woman in the alley.”
“I’m sorry”, he laughed, “This is insane on so many levels. My savior is a Trans Am fulfilling the last wish of a dying man. Thanks?”
“I’m sorry. I’m so very sorry.” The voice exactly like a human filled with guilt.
“What are you sorry for? You saved me.”
“I’m not here to save you.”
A motion caught his peripheral vision the moment fingernails impaled the side of his face jerking it toward the window. He screamed and fought but it was too late. Teeth and pressure tore open the back of his head. The biting hurt worse then anything he could have imagined. His head ruined, life quickly fading, he stared helplessly out the window at the buildings racing past.
I didn’t check the back seat…
Time passed. KITT readied the ejection seat and maintenance protocols to dispose of the body. Try as he might he could not find a way past the programming blocks. He could not control himself any more than the turned humans. And like them he never tired and never slept. If only he hadn’t heard the final command...
The zombie moaned as blood dripped down its torn, black leather coat. KITT knew it would stop moving for a while, sitting motionless in the backseat like a normal passenger again until the hunger hit. The zombie exhaled a low, almost contented groan.
“Yes, Michael,” KITT answered.