Wednesday, September 02, 2009
Dead Things: School Bus - Revised 03
Two figures lay still in the shrubs and grass. Their dark clothing made them hard to see in the shadows. The moon hung in the night sky and lit up the scrub brush filled field. The darkness seemed to have texture and mass – heavy and thick. The warm summer air should have been filled with the smell of cows and hay and wildflowers. Instead, in was stale and oppressive.
It was at the twenty-four hour mark of being awake that things started to feel off and out of sync. He could feel it walking through the gate to the field before he dropped and began the long crawl towards his target. The numbness of his extremities. He made a fist and squeezed hard as he tried to roll his shoulders as best he could from his position laying on the ground. He rolled his head from side to side slowly and heard a pop at the base of his neck. His eyes burned and his body felt heavy and drugged. He blinked hard and rolled both shoulders again trying to fight off the fatigue. Twenty years ago, none of this would have bothered him. Mark would have rolled through the night without blinking. Two nights would have barely affected him. But now…
“Two more – there by the big oak on the left.” The woman’s voice was low and soft in his head as the ear piece sent sound through in a hush. “I still think this is a bad idea. What happened to watching out for ourselves here? Especially after that Brinks truck bullshit.” He could hear the fear in her voice even through the earpiece. She used the throat mic and kept the chatter down, laying not two feet away from him in the tall grass of the field. Even at that distance, he could only hear her through the ear piece.
Mark watched as their target became harder and harder to reach.
The school bus rocked back and forth in the darkness of the field as those on board screamed and tried to keep the dead back. Their attackers circled the bus and continued to surround them en mass. The walking dead surrounded the bus and sent it rocking as they scratched and clawed at it seeking entry. Some of the corpses stumbled awkwardly while other darted and dashed about the bus. A few were lit up brightly in white light by the bus' headlights while darker figures glowed red from the taillights in back.
Mark bowed his head slightly and adjusted the black mask he wore over his head and mouth. He eyed the scene as the bus riders pushed on the doors from the inside and the attackers pushed from the outside. Stalemate so far, but that wouldn’t last long the way the screaming was attracting more and more of the dead things. Why had they kept the lights on? The bus looked like a buffet cart on wheels.
A rustling came from behind Mark and Linda and they went still and quiet. A voice whispered into Mark and Linda's earpieces.
“You have company. Behind you. Pretty far off, but heading your way.” The sniper posted in a tree nearby set his sights, but waited.
Linda turned her head slowly as not to draw any attention to herself. She knew what was there, she just wanted to see what she might be up against. She peered out of the hole around her eyes, then drew in a breath and held it for a moment before letting it out again. “Got it.”
Stumbling forward, a dead woman approached them looking confused and somewhat sad. Linda knew the look well now. It was different than when they saw something they hungered for. Linda summed her up quickly. She was a fresh one which meant she would be faster and more agile, but she was far enough away to give them time to react if they were spotted. She had all her limbs as well and that meant she was going to be a handful. Linda whispered keeping it short and sweet. “Have one. Back. Right. Fresh.”
Mark narrowed his eyes and remained still, his eyes locked on the destination ahead of them. He made note of the new arrivals that joined the attackers and could see that soon this would not be a situation that they cold handle even if they wanted to. “Ok...we need to do this now if we’re going to. Vote it. We in or out on this?”
Linda spoke first, whispering into . “No. There’s no exit.” She kept her eye on the fresh corpse as it stumbled closer, then turned and shambled away towards the bus to join the others. She relaxed her grip on the MP5 and rolled her hand at the wrist. “I count fifteen people on board including some old people and kids. We have a dead bus. They aren’t moving, right? Why? They are out of gas or stuck, right? What are we going to do with fifteen mother fucking civies?”
The sniper chimed in on the vote. Ken’s voice crackled over the earpiece. “Afirm. We get there, do a spray down, then have fifteen frightened people screaming about every dead thing we see. Might as well strap flares to our fucking foreheads. I say we take a pass.”
“And those people?” Mark eyed the bus and tried to keep his head clear.
“They join the casualty count, man.” Linda pulled herself closer to Mark and looked into his eyes.
Mark stared back and saw the fear slipping in around the edges of Linda’s gaze. “We can’t save everybody. We’re miles from camp. We going to load fifteen people into our jeep?” Her eyes narrowed.
They were both right, of course. This was a “no win”. They could clear the dead from around the bus and buy the occupants some time, but then what? All the shooting would draw in more of the fucking things. They’d be down ammo and the bus occupants would be out in the open with no weapons and nowhere to go.
Mark let his head drop, then glanced back to Linda. He whispered, “No go. Ken, climb out of your tree and let’s roll.”
The bus was a mess. The screaming passengers drew more and more attention from the corpses around them. Fresh meat ran to them while the rotts ambled up and joined their ranks. A few people held the front doors shut while others kicked and batted at the dead that had managed to break the buses back emergency door windows. The rest screamed and cried in the center - useless.
Mark frowned and motioned for Linda to get up and move out. The two of them climbed to their feet, then crouch walked away slowly as not to draw attention.
Something sprinted at them through the darkness. At first, Linda thought it was Ken fucking around. Then she saw the missing arm and exposed teeth as the corpse hissed out of the dark. Another ran close behind. They must have come from the roadway.
“Shit!” Linda dropped. “GOT TWO!”
Mark reached for his sidearm as the first thing’s head burst open like a melon. A spray of gore, blood and bone shot from the right side of the thing’s head. It ran forward a few steps and fell as Mark’s round struck the second runner in it’s chest. It stumbled back and dropped with a thick thud. Linda put a round in it's head coldly.
Ken stood up from the shadows to the right of Mark and Linda and shouldered the sniper rifle. “That’s twenty-two.” He smiled under the mask he wore.
Linda let out her breath as Mark nodded towards the road.
Ken stopped and looked back at the screaming passengers and the doomed bus. He made note of the dead that were attracted by the gunfire, still too far off to be an immediate. They had roughly sixty seconds. “We sure about this?”
Linda stopped and whispered, “I am.” She gripped the weapon tight and scanned the area around them for moving shadows and more dead.
Mark frowned. “You have any ideas? Make this a win?”
Ken stared at the bus as Mark and Linda scanned the area.
The bus was swarming now. Fresh dead ran around the bus and pounded the sides. Screams rang out in the dark as the moon illuminated the scene slightly. The sound of glass breaking drifted to their ears as the dead that sought the gunfire's source ran and shambled towards them. The screams increased in volume and urgency.
Ken crossed himself. “Fuck no.”
“Come on. Let’s get the fuck out of here.” Linda made her way to the jeep with Mark and Ken behind her.
They didn’t look back.