The amazing Shelby Scott brought another one of my stories to life on her amazing SCARE YOU TO SLEEP podcast! She nailed it once again. This is the third story I've been honored to have on the podcast. You can find the other two here:
Only a Paper Moon
End of her rope. The end. The ropes end. The end of it. Smoking gun. Caught with the smoking gun. Pain in the neck. Time. End of. End of my rope......
Eyes fluttered open and the owner of them tried to focus in the darkness, but they didn't cooperate. She felt something around her throat and reached up with a shaky hand to investigate.
The rope bit into the pink flesh of her neck and burned with the slightest of movements. It took her a minute to regain what little control she had. First, she felt the cold wood on her cheek and realized that it was flooring and not wall since she was laying on it. Her neck and ribs ached fiercely. Her back felt twisted, but she could move her legs. Something bumped in the hallway and she tried to call out for assistance, but her throat was constricted and pain shot through her when she tried to speak. Everything smelled stale and medicinal.
The dimly lit space was some sort of medical facility by the looks of it. A few gurneys were scattered around as well as a large amount of blood and blood splatters on the walls. It looked like this was some sort of hospital or clinic.
It was dark. Night time?
What the hell had happened? She blinked and tried to sit up. Her head spun and the rope caught under her arm and pulled at her burnt skin when she pushed up. She winced and yanked it from under her arm and shoved – bringing herself to a seated position. She then assessed the situation.
Rope. Broken pipe above her on the ceiling. Hand gun on the floor before her. Her left shoulder hurt almost as bad as her throat. She touched the burnt skin around her neck and glanced up to the broken set of pipes. Had she tried to kill herself? It seemed impossible, yet there she was. But, the gun didn’t make sense. Maybe someone had tried to kill her? Hang her? And she shot them? Her head was muddy and the left side of it throbbed as she tried to think it through.
“What…” she clamped her eyes shut as the sting from her throat ran down her spine. No talking for now. She tasted blood and licked her lip. It was split and slightly swollen.
She blinked hard and slowly removed the rope from her neck. Pain made her wince as she tossed the rope aside. Her whole body ached.
The noise in the hall came again and the situation made her heart beat faster. If this person in the hall had tried to kill her and she had indeed shot them, she’d have to seek help and fast. She narrowed her eyes when she heard footsteps. Obviously, someone was still very much alive.
She rose to her feet and lost her balance immediately. She was shaken and felt dizzy. She thought that maybe she had hit her head on the way down. She reached forward and grabbed the gun and the dizziness made her swoon and she went down on one knee. Her left arm and shoulder were useless – every movement of them made her shudder with pain. She clamped her teeth down hard and pushed herself up. She had to get out of here, wherever here was.
She looked around and saw that the room she was in had another way out. At least another door. She stole a glance towards the footsteps in the hall and saw the growing shadow of what looked to be a woman moving up the wall in the half light. She looked back toward the opposite door and made her way towards it slowly and quietly. Her head was clearing, but she was still very dizzy and almost fell through the door in the back of the room when she reached it.
She slipped around the corner and checked the gun. She didn’t remember much of anything, but her fingers flew over the weapon as muscle memory took over. She spun the chamber quietly and saw that all the bullets were spent. “Shit,” she mouthed to herself as she slid to the floor. Not good. Not good at all. She looked around and saw that the room was nothing more than a large closet.
The footsteps stopped, then she heard them start to move into the room where she woke up. A scan of the closet room showed that there were no other exits. A few random things to hide behind, but no means of escape. The small windows at the top of the room didn't look like they were operable let alone big enough for an adult to crawl through. She listened and tried to keep quiet. The room seemed to grow smaller with each shambling step she heard growing closer. She wouldn’t be able to fight this person in her current state.
The person sounded injured. Hell, if she did in fact empty a gun at them, she must have hit the person somewhere no matter how horrid a shot she may have been.
That’s when she caught the reflection of the figure in a large, steel vacuum propped against the wall on the other side of her. The reflection made her heart beat even faster. She fought back the urge to scream and she stared on with wide open eyes and tried to convince herself that what she was seeing was just due to the head injury.
The person shambling towards her had no right arm. It looked like it was shredded at the end of the nub and bone shone through at the shoulder. Bits of gore hung from it and swung back and forth with each step. The figure made a sick, gurgling and smacking sound as if it were chewing air wetly. It was a woman – a breast exposed and covered with blood with ribs exposed beneath it. But the worst part was the things face. Half of it was gone - pulp with white skull showing through. The one eye the thing had looked like a sharks eye – black and dead.
Memories rushed in with tidal force. She looked down at herself and the uniform she wore. Police. She was an officer. Officer Janet Temple. She was in the clinic and trying to run away from…them. Oh God, she remembered it all now. There were more of these things outside and she had run into the small clinic to avoid them. She had shot the thing in the face when it came after her. Shot it over and over, but still it came. That's when she had run for it and...tried to end herself.
She stood and gripped the handle of the gun tightly, raising it high and ready to hit the thing. She drew in a quiet breath and went still. Janet closed her eyes, wished she were somewhere else, then opened them and waited. She knew she wouldn’t be able to fight for long in her current state. She could barely keep her eyes open and she felt the room spinning under her feet. She braced herself against the wall.
The thing stumbled forward and into the small room. Blonde hair was matted to its head with dried blood. Long scrapes marred her side and exposed ribs and muscle. Janet had seen the look before. This woman – what was left of her – was dragged by a car after being hit. She shouldn’t be up and walking.
Janet shook off the growing fear and concentrated. Her head and throat throbbed with every heartbeat. She stared at the things rotten, gore covered face. Skull shown through and the left eye was a ruined mess.
Janet didn’t move. She felt dizzy, but she willed herself to remain totally still. Beads of sweat appeared on her forehead and upper lip and dripped down the back of her uniform.
The creature stumbled towards the closet. It continued to make the sucking and slurping sounds as its tongue slithered in its mouth and out of the hole in the side of its head. Drool or blood dripped from it like candle wax. It shuffled into the closet and stopped just past the doorway and right next to Janet. It cocked its head to the side. Its hair parted slightly as scalp pulled away from bone. The missing eye socket was an angry shade of red mixed with deep bruise blue and black. It waited, moving its head from side to side slightly.
Janet held her breath, fire raging in her arm still held high with the useless weapon in a death grip. She was inches away from the thing now and the stench made her want to wretch. She stared into its ruined face and prayed that it wouldn't turn to face her. The missing eye saw nothing on the left where Janet stood. She didn’t breathe as she stared at the thing mere inches from the grotesque face. She didn’t make a sound.
The thing raised its working arm, then lowered it slowly with a small whimper. It turned to it’s right and shuffled out of the room. Janet heard it stumble and fall, drag its body back up, then move out of the room slowly.
Janet’s arm slowly slid to her side. She stared forward and took shallow, painful breaths. Her eyes closed, then opened slowly. She bit her lower lip and tried to wrap her brain around what was happening, but nothing made sense. She listened, but didn’t hear a thing. Her stomach was churning and she felt as if she might be sick.
“Ok,” she whispered. She palmed the gun, peeked around the corner, and peered into the dark. Nothing. She moved back into the room and looked up at the broken pipes as she ran a hand over her neck. She couldn’t believe it could be so bad that she’d try to hang herself.
Her belt lay on the floor in the corner and she grabbed it and slipped it back around her waist, slipping the gun back into the holster. No bullets, but she’d sort that out later. The baton she carried was still tucked neatly into her belt’s compartment. She withdrew it and held it tight as she made her way towards the room’s doorway.
The hallway was empty, but that thing could be anywhere looking for her still. She moved quietly and tried to stay to the shadows and darkness.
She glanced out the window and saw other shapes moving there. Other figures stumbling and shuffling in the dark. Part of her thought it might be best to wait in this building until the sun rose, but something inside her wanted out. Wanted to have the option to run if she wanted it. Being stuck in an unfamiliar building seemed like a very bad idea.
The first door she found was heavy and bolted shut. The second revealed her follower from before. It crouched over something small and ate away at it feverishly. Janet didn’t want to think what the small, meaty thing was and moved on down the hall.
The door to the outside stood ajar and light pour in from outside illuminating the hall and the lawn outside. A police cruiser was smashed up against the clinic’s fence and smoke rose from the engine as it idled and sputtered – more dead than alive. Radio chatter poured from the open door of the car and the people’s voices sounded panicked and full of fear.
Figures moved around the car, glancing into it and moving on. Shuffling corpses wandering every which way. Janet counted six around the car and more in the street and surrounding area, but they were slow moving and spread out at a good distance. She felt around in her pocket for the keys to the shotgun, but realized they were on the keyring in the car’s ignition.
Her teeth ground together as she peered around the door jam. Panic gave way to anger. She didn’t like this at all. It didn’t make any sense. The things outside were…dead. They were in various states of decay. This wasn’t happening.
Her arm was pulsing and she glanced back into the clinic wondering if she should try to find some sort of sling or meds to help her fight through the injury. Her eyes narrowed as the follower from before stumbled from the room it had feasted in and spotted her. It made a small, guttural sound and started moving at her down the hallway. Janet looked outside and saw another one of them moving toward her slowly from the small garden to the right of the car.
She drew in a deep breath, nodded to herself then moved into the light of the headlights, out onto the porch, and made her way to the cruiser. She couldn't let the fear overcome her. She had to work through it if she was going to make it.
She pulled the baton from her hip and drew in a deep breath as she raised it up and brought it crashing down on the head of the first dead thing that came for her. It crashed down on its head and it looked like the thing felt the blow. She brought it down two more times as it reached for her shirt. Its hands slid down her front as it fell to the ground and lay motionless.
Janet felt hope for the first time of the evening. At least they could be killed. But, she didn't want them to have to be so close to do it. She needed that shotgun. She set her sights on the cruiser and ran for it. Her head spun and her vision blurred as she fell forward and hit the ground hard. Her eyes lost focus and her vision dimmed. Everything swirled before her as she tried to push herself up and into the cruiser.
Something came at her from the right and she rolled onto her side to see a little boy stomping towards her – mouth wide open and face covered with blood. He grunted and swung his hands around in front of him as his lifeless eyes narrowed. Janet shrieked and swung the baton as he fell onto her. He leaned forward and tried to bite, but Janet shoved as hard as her injured arm would allow and held him back.
Tears streamed down her cheeks as she gripped his hair in her hand and pulled him towards the ground hard, bringing his head down on the sidewalk. He went still with a squish. Others stomped towards her. She screamed and shoved herself up and into the cruiser, then lashed out with her left arm to slam the door closed as another dead thing reached for her. It's fingers slammed in the door, but it didn't seem to notice or care. Janet thought about freeing it, but didn't want to risk opening the door. She hit the auto locks and pressed herself back in her seat. She screamed as loud as she could and pounded her fists against the steering wheel.
Her heart skipped in her chest and she swung her head around to make sure there was nothing in the back seat. It was empty. Her head continued to swirl and spin as the dead man outside pounded weakly at the window with his free hand. His skin was pale and his eyes milky. Blood covered the front of his button down shirt.
Bile rose in Janet's stomach and she clamped her eyes shut. She had a concussion for sure. She gave herself a minute as more of the things start to surround the vehicle. First thing's first. She needed to arm herself. She had left the baton outside. She'd forget about that. She made note of the engine's low fuel, then twisted the keys free. The engine stopped its rattlings and died. She panted as she fumbled with the shotgun lock and smiled a wide smile as it popped open and the shotgun was free.
“Yes....yes....yes...,” she muttered as she slid the extra shells free from the compartment between the seats. She loaded the gun, then slid the rest of the shells into her pockets. She remembered that here were more bullets for her handgun in the trunk, but she'd have to clear the things away from the car before getting them.
She thought through where she was and tried to ignore the thumping of bloody hands against the cruiser's windows. The radio chattered with panicked voices.
“Requesting backup! Large group of dead attacking a bus at Lexington and Commonwealth!”
Janet closed her eyes. There wasn't going to be any help getting to her. She needed to deal with this on her own. She slipped the keys free of the lock and back into the car's ignition. The cruiser started to rock as more and more dead tried to fight their way past the car's windows. Janet thanked God that they didn't seem to be bright enough to use tools.
She turned the key and the engine shuddered and cranked, but didn't turn over.
“Come on, Baby. Come on....mommy loves you...” She tried again and sweat dripped into her eyes. “COME ON!” The engine turned over, clattered and rattled, then died. Janet breathed in deep and winced. Broken rib. She closed one eye and the spinning of her head subsided a bit. She needed help and knew it wasn't coming.
One headlamp flickered and lit up the front yard and porch while the other shone into the sky like some sort of beacon. A woman in hospital scrubs stumbled out of the med center into the light, then fell onto the hood of the car. She pounded at the hood and clawed her way over it to the window. Janet stared into her grey, dead face and milky eyes as the thing clawed at the window. A small smile played on Janet's lips as she thought about asking the woman for help with her injuries.
Janet closed her eyes. She just needed time to think. Time to sort this out.
Janet kept her eyes shut tight as more and more dead things found the cruiser and its contents. They rocked it back and forth and punched and clawed the windows trying to get in.
Janet rocked with the cruiser. Her hand slid up to her neck and across the burn. She just needed some rest. Just some sleep to regroup.
The car rocked and Janet let herself slip into sleep.
The sun rose over the hills and light flooded in and around the town of Coopersmith in a filtered, gray haze. Fires burned wild and out of control and smoke filled the air. Ashes drifted from the dull grey sky like spirits. Dead things walked through the streets.
The rumbling of a truck sent a pack of dogs running. The large armored truck slipped though the street and around obstacles - dead cars and dead people. Figures moved inside the truck and peered out through bullet proof glass.
“Police cruiser. Over to the right.” The man named Jack tapped the glass of the passenger side window.
The driver glanced over as the passenger pointed. “You want to check it out?”
“Could have guns. And that clinic. We could get a few medical kits or something?” He shrugged.
“No. Don't go inside anywhere.” Her voice cracked.
He nodded and truck stopped behind the cruiser.
The small door between the front cab and the back opened and a man shoved his head through. “Why did we stop?”
“We're going to check something out. Keep this door shut.” The driver pulled the small door closed and reached for her gun.
The passenger picked up a metal bat from the floor and glanced around and into the trucks rear view mirrors before opening the truck's heavy, metal door. He kicked hard and sent a dead man reeling backwards, then he jumped down to the street. He slammed the door shut. Beads of sweat dripped down his dark skin as he swung the bat and caught another dead creature in the side of the head. His arms flexed and his eyes scanned the area around him coldly. He swung the bat into anything that came close.
The trucks driver slid over into the passenger seat and slipped the rifle out the gun slot. She watched for any dead that might have escaped his eye, though it was very unlikely that he missed any. She felt sweat drip down her armpits. It was going to be a hot day in hell today.
The bat crashed down again and Jack's eyes narrowed. The driver side door of the police cruiser was open. He peered in and saw that the shotgun was gone. “Shit.” He popped the trunk and looked around. He saw someone moving towards him from inside the clinic. “Hello?” He rested the bat on his shoulder prepping it for use.
A woman stepped out of the shadows. She wore a police uniform and clutched a shotgun. It hung at her side.
“Hey, officer. Sorry – I thought this thing was abandoned.” He pointed to his armored transport uniform and motioned back towards the truck. “We have this armored truck and we were going to try to make it out of town and into the mountains. You can...” He stopped when he saw her milky gray eyes and slack jaw. And angry red line wrapped itself around her neck.
She ran at him with an awkward shuffle step. Her arm and leg had been chewed at and exposed bone and muscle shifted with each faltering step the shotgun stuck around her finger.
He brought the bat back and gripped it tight. There was a loud crack behind him and the officer flipped backwards and into the dirt with a spray of viscera exploding from the back of her head. He glanced back towards the truck, then ran up to retrieve the shotgun.
He winced down at the police officer, then knelt down and patted the her down, quickly removing shotgun shells from her pockets and slipping them into his own. He thought about it for a moment, then dropped the bat and unfastened the belt from around her waist. He shoved her over on her side, and pulled the belt free, absently tossing it over his shoulder as he snatched the bat and shotgun from the ground.
He delicately shifted her back over on her back and read the tag on her chest. “Janet...Temple,” he whispered. "Thank you Officer Temple," he whispered.
“There's more! Let's go, Jack!” The driver took aim at a fresh, fast zombie and shot it as it started off towards Jack. The bullet caught it in the throat and sent it spinning to the ground, but it was up quickly. Others started towards Jack from the street and around the side of the clinic.
“There might be more guns in the trunk,” Jack said as he moved around to the trunk and lifted it. He saw a large black case in the back and a duffel. With the dead streaming towards the truck, he wouldn't be able to carry both. He slipped the duffel over his shoulder and awkwardly ran for the truck. The door opened and he tossed the duffel inside with the shotgun and belt.
“Let's go!” The woman behind the wheel bobbed her head up and down wildly and gripped the wheel with one hand and a handgun in the other. A few loud cracks could be heard from the back of the truck as the people in back thinned the ranks of dead towards the back of the truck.
Jack lashed out with the bat and dropped three more dead things, clearing the area before climbing up and into the cab and slamming the door shut.
The truck rumbled away down the street as more and more dead streamed towards the noise. It was slow going as it swerved its way out of town.
Smoke drifted through through the streets like ghosts as figures ran and stumbled through it. It truly looked like Hell.
Officer Janet Temples cold, grey eyes stared up into the sky as the moaning, gurgling, and distant screams filled the air around her.