The Din of Battle
Age Rating: 10 +
It was the second day of my battle with the zombie hordes that descended from nowhere onto the formerly peaceful town I had known since I was eight years old. I was holed up in the town's major center of commercial activity: the mall. Though it went against everything the Zombie Survival Guide said, I had little choice in the matter because I was forced to flee Wal-Mart when a group of zombies broke in and started eating every unfortunate human they could get their rotting hands on. Fighting my way through Wal-Mart's parking lot and barely reaching the mall entrance ahead of my pursuers was quite an exertion, and I did not fancy facing the zombies any longer than necessary, so I entered the mall seeking safety and met four allies who seemed to promise it: Bill Watley, Lindsay Veronica Barton, Matthew Wayne Burgoyne, and Mark Daniel Maxwell.
Waking up at 10:00 A.M. to a breakfast of rice, I nervously eyed the main entrance as my friend Dexter handed me a bowl. Those putrid beings were pounding away at the doors and moaning without any perceptible pause, and I was beginning to feel a creeping terror invade my mind. How the glass doors with heavy wooden benches behind them held up to the constant pounding was beyond me, but at the same time I was thankful for their durability. Anything that kept me from joining the ranks of the undead was welcome, but then came another question: now that we had secured the mall, how were we going to escape when the zombies broke in? That gave rise to another question: where would we seek refuge?
Perhaps giving a subtle response to the second question, Dexter said "Bill said that we should look for the plans to this place. Any idea where they are?"
"I think there are in the mall office..." I replied.
"Care to lead the way?" he asked.
"Sure... follow me!" I said as I reloaded and pumped my shotgun.
"Alright, but let's get Bill and Veronica to go with us! The more the merrier!" Dexter said. As he went to gather Bill and Veronica, I looked through the roll-down gates securing the entrance to Belk's and saw a group of the undead pounding at the barricaded glass doors. They were as persistent as their brethren hammering at the front doors, but the barricade held nicely. I looked at them so long that I was mesmerized by them: these simple-minded creatures that "lived" only to feed were once human... what drove them to attack and consume other humans? Muffled moans mingled with bloody teeth and patches of missing flesh to create a horrifying sight that almost nothing else could rival, and to think of getting near them without benefit of a weapon or a barrier made the hair on my neck and arms stand on end!
"Alright! Veronica and I will enter the office and search for the plans. Dexter and you will stand guard at the door!" Bill said as he slapped me on the shoulder.
"Very well then!" I replied, trying my best to shake the frightening thought of the zombies. Leading the group, I walked slowly to the mall office while looking about for any zombies that may have entered through the side doors of the numerous shops and the arcade. Once we reached the office door, Bill and Veronica readied their weapons as Dexter and I took up positions to the left and right of the door. Noticing a trail of blood leading to and ending underneath the door near where I was standing, Dexter counseled the two to use caution and stay ready for anything.
"No problem Dexter! We've done this kind of work for ten years!" quipped Veronica as she duct-taped a flashlight to her shotgun.
With that, Bill kicked the door open and Veronica rushed in a split-second behind him, giving evidence to back her claim of experience. Within five seconds Bill entered as she shouted "We have a zombie in here!" After an ear-piercing shotgun blast, the muffled sound of a body hitting the ground was just barely audible over the panicked breathing of Veronica, who gasped "He was in the shadows three feet from me!"
She continued by saying "He was my ex-husband... what a major-league creep! After he followed me to a movie theater because he thought I was cheating on him with his boss, I filed for divorce! Even then he wouldn't leave me alone... I wondered where he crawled off to after I punched him in the face last Valentine's Day!"
"That shotgun of yours is better than any restraining order!" joked Dexter.
She and Dexter laughed so hard that the din of Bill's rummaging through desks and bookshelves was drowned out, but when he shouted "I found it!" thirty seconds later the laughter faded to silence. Holding his prize in one hand and holding his submachine gun in the other, Bill led the triumphant procession of four as we walked back to the center of the mall where Clint was waiting for us.
"Did you find anything useful?" he asked.
"Did we?! We found the plans to the mall thanks to Jordan!" Bill responded.
"I spent so much time here in the past one could say I lived here..." I replied with a smirk.
"I like malls too! The atmosphere and the activity are simply delightful for a man of action like me! I especially fancy bookstores and electronics stores..." Dexter said.
"My idea of atmosphere and activity is a good fight, and I haven't had one of those lately..." quipped Clint.
Bill, Veronica and I looked puzzled, but Dexter answered the unspoken question when he said "Clint's always itching for a fight. One time he beat up a drunk person in a bar because they accidentally vomited on his boots!"
"That bum deserved it! No one vomits on my alligator skin boots and gets away with it!" Clint shouted, his face turning red with anger as he spoke.
"Moving on..." Veronica said. Then our attention turned to the mall plans. We were looking for a way to the roof, which promised greater safety as well as a clear view of the surrounding area. However, Bill could not find one right away, his gritted teeth and clenched fists showing mounting frustration as Veronica tried to calm him down. While they looked over the map, the three of us walked down to the front door and watched the zombies struggle fruitlessly to get to us. The closer zombies pounded against the door while those farther back in the mob stretched their arms out, flailing and grabbing the air instead of the humans they desired so badly.
"It's sickening to watch them! I'd rather shoot them myself..." Clint remarked as he gripped his revolver.
"It's strange... we're on the inside and they're on the outside. Is this some sort of upside-down zoo exhibit? Are we on display for them, or are they the animals in the cage?" mused Dexter.
"Good question, but what drives them to hunt humans so relentlessly? Are they after human flesh for nutrition, or are they just responding to instinct?" I asked.
"Let me read the Zombie Survival Guide in your backpack..." Dexter said in response.
I handed him the book and he went to sit on a bench pressed against a glass door as if he were in a peaceful library. Sitting with his back to the zombies, Dexter perused my book with a scholarly eye which sought out and absorbed every detail. While he was reading the guide Veronica approached us with a smile, Bill raising a fist as if he had won a gladiator match and was appealing to a crowd in ancient Rome. Dexter handed the book back to me as we walked over to hear the news that gave Bill such cause for celebration.
"I found a staircase leading to the rooftop! The door is down the hallway close to the mall office. If the barricades hold out, we can take our supplies to the rooftop and set up shop there!" Bill said with a tone of satisfaction.
"One small problem, sir..." I added. "The door is across from a glass door down the hallway, and the glass door ISN'T barricaded!"
In an eerie coincidence, we heard glass break and moans echo from down the hallway in question. The five of us rushed to the hallway and saw about two dozen zombies shambling our way! Since the hallway limited them to four abreast, that meant that my four friends could take them out while I kept watch for any who survived the initial barrage. Should any survive, it was my duty to finish them. Readying their weapons, they stood side-by-side as the zombies were similarly constricted.
"Remember, aim for the head..." Dexter advised, his manner one of a strange calmness.
Taking his advice, they carefully aimed and opened fire. Zombies dropped faster than I could count, but more seemed to shamble in for each rank downed! In addition to the inital twenty-four, I saw another twenty-four follow them, but they too were mowed down. While everyone was reloading their weapons after wiping out the second wave, I saw a zombie on the ground wearing a baseball cap turned backwards. Stepping forward, I noticed that its spine was severed as it flailed about helplessly, trying to drag itself towards me with its arms. Before it could raise its head to look at me, I put my shotgun barrel to its head and pulled the trigger.
"That was cold-blooded!" Veronica exclaimed in shock.
"He swindled me in a Texas Hold'em poker game! He only got what another, less peaceful person was going to give him! I only thought I wouldn't be the one to do it..." I said as I coolly pumped my shotgun.
"Good job son... that'll teach him a lesson in manners!" Clint crowed as he patted my shoulder.
There was only a brief hiatus to catch our breath before we walked back to the main area to gather barricade materials. During the walk, I realized to my utter horror that another glass door was right across from the office hallway! Unconsciously increasing my pace from a walk to a run, I ran to the mouth of the hall and saw more undead walking my way! Sliding to a stop, I slipped on a previously unnoticed pool of blood and fell on my back, dropping my shotgun. Pulling my pistol from a side pocket, I fired at their heads frantically while waiting for the others to come to my aid.
Shot after shot missed because of the inability of my shaky hands to steady my weapon, and the recoil did not help accuracy at all. Pushing against the floor with my feet, I scrambled across the tile floor to the carpet but could move no further. The carpet was impeding my frantic pushing, and the eighteen zombies were drawing closer! To compound matters, my pistol had jammed on the seventh shot! My feet moving but my body going nowhere, I simply sat on the floor fumbling with the magazine release and reaching for another magazine as the rotten beings were closing within spitting distance of me...
Just as all hope seemed lost, bursts of automatic weapons fire ripped into the oncoming mass, splattering me with chunks of rotten flesh and congealed blood. The masses fell before me in the fashion of wheat cut by a scythe, which was a display I thought possible only in an action movie. After that close encounter, all eighteen were dead, but I was badly shaken. Bill tried to reassure me everything was going to be fine, but my ears were still ringing with the deep moans of the zombies as they were closing in on me a few seconds earlier. His words blended with the moans and were incoherent as I temporarily lost touch with reality.
Then I came back to reality and climbed to my feet, but my hands still trembled badly as I brushed the chunks of flesh off of my clothes. Reaching for the grip of my shotgun lying on the ground, my outstretched fingers jerked so hard that they sent it sliding out of reach. Not to be denied on account of nervousness, I tried to retrieve it three more times but had the same result with each attempt. At that point the situation resembled the efforts of the mythical Tantalus to satisfy his hunger and thirst with food and water that were always just beyond his reach, and indeed my shotgun was tantalizing. Finally Veronica ended my misery by picking it up and handing it to me with a smile.
"We'll make it through this..." she said in a calm manner.
"I certainly hope so..." I said with an unsteady voice.
In half an hour's time the bodies were put in the makeshift morgue the Shoe Department had become, the zombie bodies being stacked head to toe down the aisles of footwear. Another half-hour later Bill, Dexter and Clint had firmly barricaded both glass doors and were starting to investigate the passageway leading to the mall rooftop. More shots rang out and they reported that four more zombies were killed. Veronica and I hauled the bodies to the morgue, the already vile stench of rotten flesh becoming more potent with each additional body that was laid out. After our unpleasant work was done, we both collapsed to the ground and vomited our meager breakfast.
Now that the hallways were secure once again, we fortified the morgue. Stepping over (and sometimes on) the bodies of the fallen zombies, the five of us barricaded the door and windows with shelves of shoes. The morgue being secure, we set about carrying our supplies of food and ammunition onto the roof in addition to setting up a defensive position there. The process took us three exhausting hours, but it was eventually finished. Standing about and surveying the scene, the opportunity to relax finally arrived after nine-and-a-half hours of routine punctuated by terror.
"It's 9:30 P.M." Bill said as he looked at his wristwatch.
"I guess we should head downstairs to try and sleep..." Veronica said.
"I suppose so..." Dexter added in agreement.
And with that statement another dark and nerve-wracking night of the siege began. It was 10:30 P.M. when I started patrolling the mall, and Veronica joined me around 11:00 P.M. Walking about the darkened mall with Veronica, I felt my hair stand on end once more as we stared at the zombies relentlessly pounding at the front door. The gnashing teeth, the flailing arms, the deep, long moans... they all slowly ate away at my courage as I began to think about them once again.
"Their gnashing teeth remind me of the sharks on TV during Shark Week on the Discovery Channel..." Veronica commented.
"Would you rather face sharks or zombies?" I asked in an effort to make conversation.
"Zombies, because you can at least run from them. Sharks are way too fast to flee from!" she answered.
"You're right... Jaws dampened my enthusiasm for swimming in the ocean anyway! I'd rather face these rotten ruffians than any shark!" I said in agreement. We laughed briefly and then stopped to listen to the moans of the besieging army of undead outside our front door. The moans had taken on the quality of an unholy song, their "song" sounding like an eerie mockery of a hymn or carol.
"There's no silent night around here..." Veronica said to me as we looked at them.
"Speaking of which, Silent Night is my favorite Christmas carol, but the carolers outside our door have overstayed their welcome..." I said without breaking my gaze.
Passing the night in uneasy silence from that point onward, we walked about until Clint and Dexter relieved us at 1:00 A.M. When I laid down I had difficulty going to sleep, but only the knowledge I had to get up at 10:00 A.M. and continue living through an undead siege kept me from leaving bed and joining my two friends. After recounting my close call with death and gazing at the full moon seemingly pressed against the skylight, I slowly went to sleep while clutching my Zombie Survival Guide. As I drifted into an uneasy slumber, in my last moments of consciousness a simple yet puzzling question arose: what would tomorrow hold for us?