Nothing came. Stepping inside, Jane saw that it was one big empty room with a bit of camping gear in one corner.
“Ok,” she said under her breath. John went outside to gather everyone and to check the surrounding area before they had to lock themselves in. An outhouse stood off to the right of the cabin, but the surrounding area was dense forest which would provide excellent cover. Satisfied with his search he joined everyone inside. The space was very small, but the seven of them would fit for however long it took for the group of zombies to pass.
Mika was almost convinced that they had gone in the other direction, towards the town they had just left, but then she heard the moaning. They all seemed to hear it at the same time, stiffening with fear and becoming more alert.
“Keep your voices down if you have to speak,” John ordered. The light outside indicated early evening. “Find what you need now, there will be no lights after dark.” Everyone opened their backpacks to sort out their things, weapons and food. Jane probed the camping gear to find two musty sleeping bags, some matches and a battery powered lamp.
“Looks like they took all the good stuff with them,” she mumbled, discovering that the lamp was void of batteries.
Ready for battle, weapons and ammunition laying at their feet, the group sat in silence as the disturbing noises grew closer. No sun beams found their way past the forest canopy, but the amount of light decreased gradually as the hours past. The walking dead did not move at the most energetic pace due to their decaying bodies, so it surprised no one that it was taking them this long to pass by.
When it became apparent that the leaders of the horde had reached the area of the road that led to their cabin, John raised his head to the small window that faced that direction. He watched for many minutes then slowly retreated. He motioned everyone to gather around, keeping his voice low, he updated their situation.
“ A lot of them are passing by,” he breathed, looking everyone in the eye. “ I can see that some of them have stopped and are just standing by the road where we came in.” This caused everyone’s eyes to go wide. “ I’ve never heard of them being able to detect living people and they could just be stopping to rest.” He turned back to the window again.
Carmine sat against the wall and grabbed at the cross around her neck. Mouth moving in silent prayer, she rocked back and forth to comfort herself. Everyone else went back to where they were once it was apparent that John had said all he had to say. Mika went to his side.
“ What do you see now?” she whispered, watching how quickly his eyes moved.
“ It’s getting hard to see, there are no street lights,” was his only answer. He remained silent for what felt like hours. He sat down eventually, his knees cramping from his weight. Jane took over the watch, although she had to stand and bend because of her short stature.
“ They are still out there,” she said quietly when everyone had gathered around. Because of the dark she could only see them when they moved, but a few of them were just shuffling around the road and not moving on.
“ I count fifteen, that I can see,” Jane said without taking her eyes from the window. “ Shit!” she hissed, quickly dropping from the window. “ One is coming down the path”
Carmine gave a quiet moan and began to pray faster. Nicole went to her and grabbed her hand and both women began to pray. Everyone else grabbed their guns, and Mika her crowbar. There hadn’t been time to offer her a more deadly weapon and she hadn’t thought to ask for one. The crowbar had seen her through her first harrowing experience and was silent, unlike the attention grabbing guns.
Jane watched again as the lone zombie slowly shuffled down the dense path, somehow not tripping over the roots and rocks that stood in its way. He came close enough for Jane to see that his left arm was missing and most of his body was caked with blood. His shirt was gone, revealing a gaunt figure who rasped loudly with each breath. He stopped fifteen feet from the cabin where the clearing began and stared at the building. Jane observed his face, daring not to move and draw attention to them. It was dark enough now that she knew he couldn’t see her. He looked around, his movements sluggish and, Jane realized, he had yet to make the characteristic moaning noises. He turned his head and seemed to be observing his surroundings when he cocked his head and looked right into Jane’s eyes. She inhaled sharply, staring right back at him. This back and forth went on for many minutes, neither party moving until a guttural sound emitted from the zombie. It began in his chest then bubbled out his mouth; the blood curdling moaning growl of the undead. Jane whipped her eyes back towards the road and saw that the noise had attracted others who turned their head in the direction of their comrade.
“ Shit, shit, shit,” Jane said quietly to herself, but everyone else heard.
“ Are they able to communicate?” Brian exclaimed, wiping his forehead on his sleeve. The cabin had become stuffy with all of its new occupants.
“ It appears that way.” John said, his mind buzzing with what to do next.
“ We could go out the door without them knowing. They might think we are still in here,” Mika said as she watched Jane for signs that trouble was immediate.
John nodded. “ If they swarm us there’d be no way to stop them from overwhelming us.”
Everyone gasped and exclaimed at the premise of going outside, out where the danger was.
“ We’re safer in here,” Jane said, still watching. The first zombie had yet to move, as if waiting for backup. She could see that others had begun the journey from the road to join him, all moaning and growling. “ This way we can take them out from the windows and eventually pick them off as they come in that door.”
“ How can we know how many are on the road?” Ed said, feeling around for his ammo. “ We could run out of bullets in here.”
Jane sighed, but remained at her post. “ There’s no right answer here. We escape now and run into more of them at the other end, or they follow us. Or, we stay here and fight, maybe get swarmed, maybe survive.”
“ She’s right. Either way we run into danger,” Nicole said. Everyone looked around. It was dark, but faces could still be made out and people’s expressions showed fear, but also determination.
“ Ok, we stay,” John confirmed and everyone nodded. There were two windows in the cabin, one where Jane was standing and one in the wall to her right. They would be blind on their left side and the back where the door was but at least they could see how many were coming down the path.
“No shots until we know they want to get in the cabin. They could just be curious.” John ordered. He looked at Jane, “what’s happening?”
“ He’s still standing there, but three others are walking down the path.” She studied the face of the zombie who stood there watching her. He had yet to move his head and because it was so dark, she couldn’t see that his eyes still watched her, but could feel them. He suddenly took a step, awkward and shaky, and then another until he began the slow paced shuffling towards the cabin. He ran into the wall, just under the window from where Jane was watching. Carmine cried out but was silenced by Nicole who quickly put a hand over her mouth. They heard him ramming the wall, his moans getting louder as if he grew impatient to reach his prize. The others that came down the path joined their comrade and began slapping the wall, or trying to walk through it.
“More will come,” Ed said under his breath, his voice displaying the fear that they all felt. The sounds they were making would surely attract more and it was hard to see how many still remained on the road. They sat in utter silence, the only noise coming from the zombies outside attempting to get in. The zombies had yet to move from the spot under the window and the group all wondered if they would eventually spread out to the back where the door stood.
They didn’t have to wonder long. Jane swore when she saw that ten zombies were making their way down the path. Once they reached their peers, they were forced to spread out so that all of them could bang against the building in some form or another. Jane sat down, tired from bending, and readied her gun. Mika went to the window in her stead and gasped at the scene. She couldn’t see the zombies that were banging against the cabin, knowing their numbers from Jane’s observations, but, she did see another five making their way down the path towards them. A few limped on stumps of varying lengths, others were missing flesh from arms, torsos or faces. All were gruesome and all had taken up the death rattling moan that chilled Mika to her core. She rubbed her throat in remembrance, a very low, barely audible rumble came from a place she did not recognize.
“ Mika,” John was at her side. There was no point in remaining unseen so he was standing. “ Are you alright?” She remained unmoving for many moments but finally stood. Crossing her arms she looked up at him and smiled wearily before going to where Carmine and Nicole sat. John sent a puzzled look her way before turning to the window. A banging came from the side wall, close to where the deck would be meaning they were making their way to the door. John went to that window and peeked out. Rotting finger tips waved at the window as the hand they were attached to banged on the wall causing John to jump.
“ There are more,” Ed called out, seeing eight more zombies in addition to the ones Mika had seen.
“ Why did they come?” Carmine cried out. “ How could they know?” Everyone looked around: they all had been wondering that themselves. From past experience the walking dead were simple and slow, only attacking what they could see in front of them. They had never witnessed a zombie scout who alerted others like they had seen today.
“ Now is not the time to contemplate the habits of the undead,” Brain said in an attempt to be light hearted but instead came across as gruff. Carmine whimpered and turned against them all to continue praying. Mika sat against the wall by the door, the only wall untouched by the disturbing banging. Her head swam with the idea that this was the end. Memories from before the road where she had awaken were still out of grasp, remaining fuzzy and unclear. Muscle memory was powerful however and she knew the kill spots on the human body making her a little less afraid for the ensuing confrontation. Maybe she had taken a self defense course? Her father’s voice echoed in her head, telling her how to aim and when to run. She assumed it was her father, or her insane mind attempting to create a father-like persona.
Suddenly a banging vibrated up her back as a zombie bumped into the wall that she sat against startling a cry from her lips. She scrambled away from the wall, half afraid and half annoyed that they had taken the last undisturbed wall from her. It also meant that they would soon be climbing the deck.
“ Get ready,” John said turning to the group. “ Jane, you stay at that window and pick them off as they come down the path. We have no choice now to use our guns. It might bring more but that’s something we will have to deal with later. Brain, Ed, stay at the door and brace yourself against it if they finally make it up to the deck.” Both men nodded, the door had no lock.
“ Nicole, Carmine, stay with Jane and make sure she has a gun at all times ready to go.” Nicole nodded but Carmine looked stunned. “ Mika, you’re with me. Do you know how to load a gun?” Hesitating, she searched her memory.
“ Yes, yes I do,” she surprised herself. Going over to where John stood she saw, with what little moonlight came in through the window, that John preferred hand guns. It made sense as they were easy to carry and pack away.
“ Use the flashlights if you have to see what you are doing when reloading but otherwise keep them off.” The light would impair the shooters nightvision.
“ Ready. Aim. Fire” John smiled to himself as he raised his gun to the window and let a shot break the glass. The aim was also to take out a zombie who stood at the edge of the clearing. His bullet found both targets as the glass broke and the zombie dropped. Beside him, Jane did the same, but took out two zombies who had lined up perfectly.
“ Whoo ya” she cried out, showing the only positive emotion Mika had seen from the fiery haired woman. Her mood quickly turned serious as she moved closer to the window and began picking off targets. John had a more difficult angle as most of the zombies on his side were under the window and against the wall. This led to him having to stick his gun and hand out the opening and shoot blindly at the ground. He hit a few this way as the banging lessened on his wall so Jane tried the same tactic once she had taken out all the zombies on the path.
Mika went to Jane’s window, “there are no more on the road!” she cried out. John turned to join her, scanning the tree line.
“ You may be right. How are we for ammo?” he asked the group.
“ Good, Jane only used a few clips,” Nicole smiled, boosting Jane’s ego with the fact that her aim was so good that no bullet was wasted.
“ Ok. It’s time to open the door and clear out the buggers that have gathered in our blind spots.” Everyone gasped at the prospect of breaking the seal of their safety. “ Jane, you stay where you are and watch for more. Ed, Brain, I’m going to open the door and I want you on either side of me. Everyone else, get into the back corner,” he pointed to where Carmine was sitting. Nicole and Mika joined her there.
“ Say your prayers.” John went to the door, grasped the handle, paused only for a moment then wrenched it open. He jumped back to allow him to raise his gun. At first nothing made a move to enter then suddenly a zombie stepped into view from the side of the deck and John fired.
At the close distance a head shot was a piece of cake, the zombie dropping to the ground before it could realize what had happened. And then, they all came at once. All seeming to realize that the opening of the cabin had happened. John, Ed and Brain took care with their shots, their aim true. Once the deck as cleared, only one zombie could come at them up the narrow steps making them easy targets. For a while, the zombies had created their own sort of barricade, the fallen bodies making it hard for others to get to the living.
“ How we doing, Jane,” Brian called out between shots.
“ Only a few so far,” she replied as she took out the few in question with quick succession.
“ Ahh!” A cry rang out from Carmine who felt the cabin move. “ They’re out there!” she cried, pointing to the windowless wall that remained their only blindspot.
John went to the wall and felt the vibrations of many hands and bodies banging and pushing against it.
“ We need eyes out there,” he said to himself. “ Brian, Ed, cover me. I need to see how many are out there.” At the moment, no more zombies made their way to the stairs, the way blocked by the dead. John peered out the door and looked to his right. He could hear the moaning even louder outside and the stench from the pile of bodies make his eyes water. He went to the rail of the deck which extended five feet to the right of the building so that he could get a view of the undead. He did so slowly so as not to attract any attention. Pulling back once he had seen all he needed to, he went inside and shut the door quietly. He motioned everyone to him and lowered his voice.
“ I see about forty of them, gathered by the wall of the cabin,” Carmine made a noise.” I’m not sure why they’ve gathered there, but they seemed to have found a path other than the one we came down from.” He went to Jane’s window, nearly falling as the cabin gave a shudder. Another ten were winding down the path, however many going down the alternate route. The zombies had gathered under the window in numbers, and were now three deep. The cabin shuddered again.
“ It’s now or never. We have to make a break for it.” He said as he turned back to the group. No one moved. “ Now!” he cried, trying to be as quiet as possible. Springing into action, they used the dim moonlight to scramble everything into their packs. Carmine began her prayers again, this time she was more vocal.
“ Not now, Carmine,” Ed hissed at her, the tension of the situation making everyone pushy and agitated.
Only two minutes had passed when John deemed them ready to go. “ I have no idea where those woods lead, but we go fast and in pairs so that we don’t get separated.” Everyone nodded. John went to the door, motioning Brian and Ed into the positions they were in during the first opening of the door. “ We will clear the path for you ladies, so when we tell you, run. Jane, watch our backs when we are moving them,” Jane nodded.
“ Alright, one, two..three” he opened the door again quickly and stepped back. This time three zombies met him, barely giving him time to raise his gun. They had managed to scramble up over the side of the deck as well as over their fallen comrades. John took them all down then went out the door. When it seemed like no other zombies were coming, John went to work clearing the bodies. He tried heaving them all in one great pile, but they were too heavy. Brian jumped over the side of the deck and went to the bottom of the stairs to start lifting bodies from the pile. Ed helped shove them with John. They wouldn’t get them all out of the way, but enough were removed so that they could climb over them. John motioned for Nicole to go first, and after taking a deep breathe, the wisp of a woman clambered over the dead and helped down by Brian. Carmine went next, taking a bit longer than her younger predecessor but landed safely on the other side. Mika went next, but saw that a zombie was coming around the building from the mass that had gathered.
“ Go!” John screamed, pushing her. At that same moment, one of the thought to be dead(er) zombies started to move the pile of bodies that lay beneath Mika’s feet. This caused her to lose her footing and topple over the edge of the stairwell. Luckily she didn’t fall very far as she had been almost down the stairs, but she landed in the path of the stray zombie. Mika kicked out at the dead woman who tried to bend awkwardly to chew at her flesh. Her foot caught the woman in the throat, sending her to the ground. John and Jane descended the stairs rapidly as Brian helped Mika to her feet.
“Are you ok?” he asked her as he pulled her in the direction of the woods.
“I think so,” she responded, in a daze. She felt something warm on her arm. “Shit!” she cried out. When she had fallen a piece of twisted metal that lay in the grass had dug into her arm. She ran as she tried to stop the bleeding. Everyone ran to the woods just as more zombies followed Mika’s attacker.
The brush was thick back there, making it hard to run once they reached the edge of the clearing. But they kept to the plan and broke into twos, with John in the lead, alone. The noises behind them meant that the horde was making chase. Brian held his hands against Mika’s arm as they ran.
A scream rang out and everyone stopped. A lone zombie had grabbed Carmines arm as she ran past and was now tackling her to the ground.
“No!” Nicole cried out as she tried to help her partner. But, it was too late. Even if they killed the zombie, he had taken a bite out of Carmine’s neck.
Jane had been ahead of the pair and now pointed her gun at the zombie who held a screaming Carmine.
“ I’m sorry,” she said loudly over the sucking and slurping and then pulled the trigger. While this altercation took place within a span of one minute, another zombie snuck up behind Brian and grabbed him, burying its face in his back. Brian cried out in pain and anguish as he realized his fate.
“ Wait!” he reached his hand up to Jane who already had her gun pointed at his head. No mercy was shown for her friend as Jane shot off a round into Brain’s head and then the head of his attacker. Brian had luckily released Mika’s arm as he was attacked and now she squeezed her own hand against the wound.
“ Let’s move!” John called to the group; they were being attacked from all angles. They had to shake themselves mentally and physically in order to begin to run: they had just lost two of their people and had no time to mourn.
The brush began to clear and John thought he saw a road up ahead. At some point Ed had begun to cry, his sobbing and panting blocking out the moaning and growls from those who chased them. Nicole ran beside Mika and watched her for any signs of trouble. The bleeding was slowing for now.
A road did appear ahead which let them run a bit faster once in the clearing. It was the main highway, unlike the road they had been following which had been considered a back road.
They continued to run, John slowing them a few times so Mika could catch up but never coming to a full stop. Ed had stopped crying out of sheer exhaustion and now wore a mask of pure stone. A road sign indicated a turn off and a gas station up ahead. John pointed and the rest silently agreed by withholding any disagreements. They would find shelter, rest and hopefully somewhere void of zombies.