I had been working as an orderly for only a month and a half when the outbreak burned through the hospital’s corridors like a fire made of flesh and teeth. “What’s going on?” Mr. Cromwell kept asking me.
“I told you I don’t know.”
“Well, God damn it, get me out of here!”
Mr. Cromwell’s demand went without reply as I was too distracted by the hellish scenes occurring through the open doorways of the rooms that flew by. In room 101, two nurses held down a helpless patient to my bed and snacked greedily on my arms and legs, the patient’s heart monitor’s releasing the endless whine of a flat line. In room 103, a doctor slashed out widely with a scalpel at two approaching patients, blood running from their mouths from the already devoured nurse on the floor. In room 105, all I saw was blood. Mr. Cromwell clasped my hands in prayer as I wheeled me down the body ridden hallways. A heavy sweat ran down my forehead, resulting from a combination of physical excursion and fear. While Mr. Cromwell’s frail body offered little weight resistance, the still wet blood and other bodily fluids under my feet made pushing the wheelchair a considerable challenge. Thump. The right wheel rolled over yet another splayed limb.
“Careful!” Mr. Cromwell shouted. “I almost fell out that time.”
It had been several minutes since the old, crippled man’s constant nagging began to rake across my nerves. If it weren’t for the fact that Mr. Cromwell’s wheelchair was serving as an effective battering ram to clear my path, I would’ve ditched the old man seven irritating comments ago. But when the steel chair slammed open yet another pair of heavy double doors, I found himself unwilling to let go of the rubber gripped handles. Once outside, I planned to ditch the old paraplegic and peel out of the parking lot in the first unlocked car I found. I had no desire to hunt for a van with a wheelchair ramp, and carrying the handicapped codger was out of the question. The wheelchair had use. Mr. Cromwell did not. Without it, he was merely dead weight, and I had no intentions of being held down. The hospital didn’t pay me nearly enough to continue this job after the end of the world. Fortunately, I knew the front exit of the building was just beyond the upcoming set of double doors. My hands squeezing the chair’s handles like two constricting pythons, I prepared for the final gauntlet that separated me from escape. I didn’t know exactly what the last obstacle would be, but it was safe to say they wouldn’t be able to simply saunter out the exit.
“Get ready, Mr. Cromwell.”
The old man said nothing back as the two slammed through the doors. We stopped dead in our tracks. The situation was worse than I had ever expected. The front doors were gone, completely blocked from view by a horde of the infected. I stood frozen behind Mr. Cromwell’s chair, dumbfounded by the extremity of their position. The zombies faced the front door but couldn’t seem to find their way out. They shambled against one another, some stumbling into the walls, others bent over and munching on scattered pieces of flesh and viscera.
“Oh, God in heaven,” Mr. Cromwell mumbled.
“Shut the hell up!” I voice slid through my clenched teeth like a hissing cobra.
My eyes frantically scanned the lobby. To the left was another corridor, leading down to various examination and operating rooms. The front desk sat adjacent to the exit doors, where a nurse or office assistant usually sat and answered an incessantly ringing phone. Now, the chair sat empty, and a pale skinned armed stretched out from behind the corner of the desk.
No help there.
I looked to my right. A short staircase sat against the wall, where it paused at a platform before winding around and continuing up. Though I knew climbing upward would only lead me further into the overrun building, my eyes still lingered on the staircase. But it wasn’t the stairs that held my attention: it was the decapitated corpse lying face down on the middle platform. The man was a police officer, or at least I had been until the moment I lost everything above my shoulders. Regardless of the chaotic circumstances, I did not fail to note the irony of the officer’s thick bulletproof vest that had successfully protected my torso. But the vest was hardly of interest, it was what was in the dead man’s sprawled hand that snatched my attention:
When not giving the elderly sponge baths or pocketing the occasional bottle of prescription drugs, my other interest was guns. I keep a Glock in the glove box of my truck, but that of course was inconveniently tucked away on the other side of the employees’ parking lot. More than once had I cursed the hospital for not allowing me to keep the weapon in my locker. The administration apparently figured I would go on a shooting spree long before the zombie apocalypse. But lucky for me, there was nothing that said an officer of the law couldn’t arm himself to the teeth. With that riot gun in hand, I could blow my away right out the front door.
That is, if I could get to it.
Mr. Cromwell twisted around in my chair and looked up with wide white eyes. Between two wheezy breaths I asked, “What are we going to do?”I looked from the old man to the undead mob. The infected in the rear of the gathering had become aware of their living guests and were starting to turn around. The first began to shuffle towards them, soon followed by another and a third.
The time was now.
I returned my gaze to Mr. Cromwell and smiled.
“Meals on wheels.”
Mr. Cromwell gasped as I shoved me forward as hard as I could. I didn’t wait to see the elderly man collide with the pack of flesh hungry corpses. But as I darted towards the stairs, I could hear everything: the tearing skin, the gushing blood…
I took the stairs two at a time, reaching the cop’s headless body in three quick steps. Snatching the shotgun up from the dead man’s curled fingers, I said a silent prayer as I took aim at my first lurching prey.
“Please let there be ammo.”
My answer came with a deafening boom.
Even as their undead brothers ripped apart and exploded from my nonstop onslaught, the infected continued to take mouthfuls from Mr. Cromwell’s neck and shoulders. The distraction was working even better than I had anticipated. All my marks cared about was the free lunch delivered right into their lap. I pulled the trigger and pumped. Pulled the trigger and pumped. With the infected bent over Mr. Cromwell, their heads were in direct line with the barrel of the shotgun, making them the easiest targets. Still, it took three reloads to finish the job. Fortunately, the headless cop had stuffed my pockets with two full boxes of ammunition. Some of the dead would stagger toward me as I injected more shells into the weapon, but they would never pass the foot of the stairs. By then they were already without their brains, courtesy of the shotgun’s lethal pepper. In a matter of minutes, the lobby was clear. The only body not splayed across the floor was that of Mr. Cromwell, still propped up in my chair. Blood ran down the old man’s neck and soaked the once light blue hospital gown. Though my attention had been completely on disposing my enemies, I had caught glances of Mr. Cromwell under the scratching hands and tearing teeth. The man had made very few sounds after the first initial screams, only a fluid filled groan bubbling from my lips. Most of my painful death was spent twitching, violent seizures racking my entire body as my life slipped away. I stared at the half eaten patient. The feeling of the remorse was fleeting at best.
“Better you than me, old man.”
The gruesome aftermath still holding my gaze, I took a step over the headless policeman. I was still grinning at the success of my wheeled diversion when the floor under my foot rolled across the sole of my shoe. My foot shot forward, propelled by the small, round shotgun shell. I darted my hands out to my sides, releasing the shotgun as I desperately reached for anything to support himself. But there was nothing. Like a cartoon clown stepping on a banana peel, I flew into the air, legs out in front and chest to the sky. I was granted a full second of hang time before crashing back onto the stairs. Somehow, most of my body was spared from the blunt stab of the jagged steps. My legs were still bent upward when I came down, and my curved spine saved the upper part of my back and shoulders. But the same could not be said for the rest of my back. The entirety of my body weight fell upon my lower back, the edge of the top stair centered exactly on the bone. A sharp, deep injection of pain punctured my muscles, shooting down my arms and legs. I cried out in agony. Breath coming in short, sharp gasps, I strained my arms to prop myself up on the staircase. My gaze danced around the lobby, looking for any sort of movement. With the exception of one, all the bodies remained still. And the one beginning to spasm and lift its head was of no concern to the orderly.
The motion was so slight that my eyes initially passed over the sitting corpse. But when the elderly man began to moan, I knew I was no longer alone. The pain filled groan brought with it an initial muscle clenching jolt of panic. The thought that I had somehow missed one of the undead squeezed my heart to a near stop. But when I realized who the moan belonged to, the remaining muscles that still worked instantly relaxed. Mr. Cromwell had turned as quickly as any of those bitten before me, but the fact remained that his legs were useless. Bound to that chair, Mr. Cromwell presented zero threat.
“Sorry old man,” I said to the ex-patient. “But I don’t see a wheel chair ramp. Guess you won’t be eatin’ today you stupid son of a—
Mr. Cromwell stepped up from the chair.
While I crazily flailed for the shotgun, I contemplated what I had just learned about the virus. In resuscitating the recently deceased, it somehow repaired nerve damage as well. If only it weren’t for that little cannibalistic side effect, modern medicine would’ve surely benefited from such a discovery. Sweat pouring down my forehead in beads, my fingertips just barely wrapped around the barrel of the shotgun and pulled it close. Pumping it one last time, I pointed it at the chest of the now walking Mr. Cromwell.
“Hope you enjoyed your little stroll.”
I pulled the trigger. I pulled it again. And a third time.
My soul shattered a little more with every click. The gun was empty. I searched frantically for something, anything I could use to deflect what remained of Mr. Cromwell. I saw what I needed. The cop still had his service pistol. I felt Mr. Cromwell grab my leg. I kicked him back and ran for the gun. I get to the cop and struggle to release the pistol from its holster. Mr. Cromwell was getting closer.
I manages to free the gun and shoot. I doesn’t stop. I fire again, and again, and again. After almost emptying the clip I manage to hit him in the head. Mr. Cromwell falls to the ground. Gone forever.
I stops to catch my breath only for a second before bursting out the front. What I see outside is more horrifying than I could have ever imagined.
Out to the far East I see burning buildings, people screaming, planes crashing, and……and……
A zombie bear.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. Here was a bear eating a little boy. I raise the gun to fire, when I realize the gun is empty.
The bear raises its head and that’s when I see the boy’s face. Recognition hits me and I go white. It was Sam, my 10 year old boy. After my wife Brittany died from cancer, he was the last thing I had. Now he was dead.
“Oh God please no!”
The bear starts running towards me and I run.
I run all the way behind the large building to the employee’s parking lot with the bear right on my tail. I open the door to my truck and hop in slamming it shut just as the bear reaches me. It puts a few dents in my truck before I get my Glock out of the glove compartment and try to fire.
I flick the safety off and fire again. This time it goes off with a loud pop.
The bear drops with a loud thud.
I slide over to the driver’s seat and struggle to pull my keys out of my pocket as I am shaking so bad. After about 5 minutes I finally get the key in the ignition when something slams into my door.
Whatever it was breaks through the windows and before it can get in I shoot it 3 times before it drops. I finally get out and look at it.
“Oh my God!”
It was Sam.
I shot Sam.
The gun drops out of my hand and I start crying hard. I had just killed my only son. The last thing I had in this world and now he’s gone forever. All because of me.
I walked back into my truck crying. I start the truck and drive back towards the city, all while while wondering…..
“What the hell is going on?”
The drive is relatively quiet except for the hum of the truck and scream every now and then. I start thinking, it’s the zombie apocalypse and all I have is a Glock with only 4 bullets left.
Just as the thought crossed my mind I see a sign:
Joe’s Gun Emporium
I pull in turn the ignition off. Steeping out I immediately smell death. I raise my gun and walk up to a window. There doesn’t seem to be anyone in there so I walk up to the door and pull.
I go around back to see if there was another door and thank the heavens there was. Unlike the front door, this one is ajar. I walk in with my gun raised. With everything going on you can never be too careful. I get all the way in and see the array of guns and ammo. I walk around the counter and see what I need.
A HK416 Assault Rifle
“What a beauty.”
I shuffle through the assortment of ammo until I find what I need. Then I hear something.
“Is anyone there?”
I turn to grab the gun so I can load the ammo when I realize it’s locked.
“I cannot get a break!”
I start opening drawers looking for the keys when an old man comes out and starts walking towards me. Maybe he has the keys.
“Sir, do you have the keys to these guns?”
He answers with a weird gurgling noise.
When he steps into the light I realize he is one of them. I raise my gun but he is to close by now and grabs me, knocking it out of my hand. I struggle to get away but his grip is too tight. I grab my gun but it’s too late. He has my arm in his teeth.