Their bloody-faced neighbour was still tied up in the lounge, and the scenes of wanton violence were still flashing across the T.V screen. There were hundreds, no, thousands of zombies right outside in the city and he had no means of escaping them.
These thoughts were forming a vortex of fear and confusion in Vic’s head, and he was having trouble believing what was happening around him was real. The others had left him in a hurry and now he was alone, in close vicinity of what was probably an unconscious zombie.
“No! Think! I have to store water. We are going to need water. They told me to do it… it is my responsibility”
He had never liked being bossed over by anyone, and the thought of being made to slave around on someone else’s direction was slightly infuriating. But at the back of his mind, Vic also realized that this job was necessary, and that the others were likely to resent him if he did not start pulling his weight. He had seen it happening a hundred times, in movies and in TV shows about zombies. There were always a few weak ones in a group. They would start being a burden on the rest of the group and would eventually be abandoned. The weak ones always get left behind; such was the way of natural selection. But he was determined not let that happen. He wanted to ensure that the others, his friends, realized that they needed him. After all, he needed them.
His work was not too difficult, though. The four of them being university students, the entire apartment was full of plastic containers. Their kitchen cabinets were full of empty food containers, soft drink bottles, and old beer bottles and he simply had to rinse them before filling them. He also managed to clean their bathroom tub, and turned on the tap to fill it with water. The thought of having to drink water from it sometime in the future was disgusting, but Kerb had been very insistent he do that as well.
Doing all the chores he had been set could not have taken him more than half an hour, but he already felt quite exhausted. It was, perhaps, the mental strain due to him picturing all the horrible things that could happen to him in this outbreak. He could not yet afford to sit still, though. “Just collecting water!? Being set this sort of task is an insult to my intelligence!” he thought, as he started wondering about what else he could do that to show them that he was just as able as them in these circumstances.
With this thought, he went back to the lounge, to see if there was anything there that needed to be done. Perhaps, something over there could bring his attention to something that had not been considered. He stared around for a minute, but nothing really came to mind. He considered turning on his laptop. The phones were still not working but, perhaps, the internet would still be working and that would allow him to talk to his parents. “They might be able to send me some help”. But his laptop was sitting on the sofa, and he did not want to go anywhere near their neighbour while there was no one else backing him. For all he knew, the zombie Mr. Dowson was just lying in wait for him to approach, to pounce upon him. He wished they had made sure he was dead, or at least left him in his own apartment. “Wait! Mr. Downson’s apartment!”
Vic had suddenly realized that since Mr. Downson was now a zombie, and his family was, well, dead, their apartment was all theirs for the taking. He could use their apartment to store water as well, and gather all the food they had back into their own room. This would not only double their emergency water supply, but also give them additional food, in case the zombie outbreak lasted for long. He could not see any disadvantages, and since this also meant not being in the same apartment as the zombie, Vic hurried over to open the door and go into Mr. Downson’s apartment.
It felt a little strange, being in someone else’s apartment without permission. Even worse was horrible, undeniable guilt that he was taking advantage of someone’s death. An entire family had been wiped out right in front of his eyes, and he was now using their apartment for water storage, not to mention stealing their food. Vic tried not to think about it, even though the thought kept coming back to him. “There will be thousands of families like this, and we will be amongst the casualties as well, if I do not do this” he tried to convince himself. Looking at things this way seemed to make it better, but he still felt a horrible pang in his heart as he passed the bloody body of the child they had left simply lying on the floor.
He proceeded to do exactly as he had in his own apartment, cleaning the bathtub and filling it with water. He went to the kitchen after that, and started searching the shelves and emptying the refrigerator of any food, filling any empty bottles or container he found with water. He found a lot of baby-food in the fridge, which was annoying, but soon he also found canned food, some coffee, and a few packets of cereal. Also useful were the cartons of milk, and the frozen meat in the refrigerator. All combined, it was all enough food to last them a week at least. He still needed to carry it all back to their own apartment though, and with that thought he started searching the apartment for a large bag. Before he could find one though, he heard a strange guttural hissing sound from the lounge, which froze him in his steps. He looked around for some kind of a weapon, but all he found was a TV remote, which he grabbed, moving slowly into the lounge to see what had made the sound.
The door was still closed, and there was no one in the lounge. After quickly scanning the lounge Vic had started to turn around to check the kitchen, when he realized something was missing. The body of the baby! He whirled around back to face just in time to notice a small, blood splattered head starting to appear from the side of the sofa. Its eyes looked strangely hollow, and its mouth was mostly toothless. But the sheer malice on the baby’s face as it bared his jaws at him, a horrible blood-like liquid oozing out of its eyes, sent a cold shiver down his spine. Vic was frozen with terror for a few seconds, as the baby crawled to within a few feet of his legs, and then, just as Vic was starting to be aware of the danger he was in, it pounced.
Vic jumped out of way just in time, and the ‘zom-baby’ slid across the floor, missing him by inches. It turned quickly, like an animal on the hunt, and chased Vic as he darted into the kitchen, looking for an escape. There was nowhere to escape to, and now he was trapped with the zom-baby between him and his way out. But just as it pounced at his legs again, Vic’s instincts kicked in, and he jumped right onto the kitchen shelf. The baby turned its head towards him and let out a horrifying guttural screech, and jumped. Fortunately for Vic, though, he could not quite reach the shelf. It tried again, and again, and again, making Vic whimper with fright as he thought the baby would be onto him anytime now, but it never managed to get onto the shelf.
He needed a weapon, and he needed it immediately. He realized he must kill the zombie. That was the only way to escape and the only way to survive this situation. The thought of pelting off into the lounge and escaping the apartment came across his mind, but having seen the baby pouncing across the floor he was not so sure of his own speed anymore; a moment’s delay and the baby would sink the few teeth it had into him, and that would be it for him. No, he needed to kill the zombie right there. It was only a baby after all. A zombie, true enough, and a vicious one at that, but he was sure he could at least manage this. He looked around for knives, and noticed a few cutting knives hanging by the shelf on the other side of the kitchen. Also hanging amongst the knives was what he really wanted: A cleaver. Perfect, he thought. He still needed to get across to the other side to get it, though, and the distance between the two shelves seemed like a canyon to him with a zombie prowling in it.
He looked on his own side of the shelf, cramped as he was between the roof, the shelf, and the little jumping zombie right at his feet, but found nothing. He looked again, just to be able to resign himself to the inevitability of having to go across the shelves. Looking at the gap, he was he could get to the opposite shelf, but that did nothing to ease his nerves.
“All I needed to do is hang onto the top cupboards and stretch my feet over to that shelf”, he told himself. He said it out aloud, and then pictured it in his head, and once he was completely sure he could do it, he slid his foot over to the other shelf. It was all quite easy in the end.
What was not so easy was maintaining his balance right after; that and gripping his feet on the shelf, given that he hadn’t known how slippery it was.
His foot slid right across the shelf till it hit the wall and he felt his balance shift backwards onto his heels. In a heart stopping moment he lunged, trying to grab hold of something behind him. His hands found the top of the fridge, and he pulled hard at it trying to balance himself, but it was little use. He was tall, and heavy, and the refrigerator was lighter now that he had removed most of the food from it. He felt it getting imbalanced, just as he could feel the zombie baby jumping up and trying to bite him somewhere under his outstretched legs. It tipped over, and then came crashing down with Vic. There was a moment of pure terror. Then darkness came.
The world was spinning. His head hurt terribly. It felt like he had run headlong into a wall.
Then in a flash of memory he remembered that was quite close what had actually happened. He scrambled up onto his feet and felt his way back onto the shelf. The world was still spinning and it was quite hard to make sense of anything with the pain, but he did remember the zombie baby, and remembered that the shelf was safe. He looked around, waiting for his eyes to clear and the throbbing pain to lessen so he could spot what the zombie was doing. But it was rather quiet, and that was quite confusing, and unnerving at the same time. A minute passed, then two, but the silence remained. The pain persisted, but he could see clearly now, and he realized the zombie was nowhere in sight. This situation was somehow even more unsettling than what it had been earlier: He could at least see the zombie. But now it was probably lying in wait somewhere outside.
Vic was in no hurry. He had tried to kill the zombie, and hurt himself. By some miracle he had not been bitten, but he was not willing to easily risk his skin again, so he waited. It had been a full five minutes waiting when Vic noticed something quite peculiar. There was a pool of blood seeping from underneath the fridge on the floor.
Frightened for a moment, Vic ran his hand across his head, and checked his body, but the blood was not his. And then it came to him, in another flash of relief. It was a happy feeling, that quickly permeated him, and eased his nerves.
“By some stroke of fortune, my foe has been crushed by my downfall!” he thought to himself chuckling, “nasty little fucker!” Then he spat, and gathered himself to leave.
His pain evaporated quite quickly afterwards. The lack of mortal danger was put him at considerable ease, and the rest of his tasks started looking much less daunting now that he had known true peril. Now quite determined not to let his trip have been a waste, Vic started gathering whatever supplies he could manage, and stuffed them into the biggest bag he could find. He did not have a bad time of it, since in his mind he went through exactly what he was going to tell the rest of his friends. He had faced a zombie and lived to tell the tale, and this warranted an ‘In your face, Irij!’ at the very least.
By the end of his foraging, the bag was heavy even by his standards. But someone had to carry to carry it back, so it was with all his remaining energy that Vic started dragging the bag out of their neighbour’s apartment, and on towards their own. Then, maybe, once he was safe, he would rest. Finally, he would have some peace.
He waited a moment, catching his breath in front of their door. His key was somewhere in the folds of his pocket and it was always quite annoying having to find it over and over again. He was still digging into his pockets when a frighteningly familiar guttural growl echoed in the stairs. He swung, and looked down at the lower landing, and saw the presumed dead Mrs. Dowson rushing upstairs. The feral look on her face made him panic quicker than he ever thought was possible as he realized that their door was still locked. No escape.
Every living thing either fights or flees in face of danger. And given no chance to flee, even a kitten fights like a wounded tiger. It was in that moment that Vic found this to be quite true: Even before he realized what he was doing, he had lifted the bag he had only been dragging till now, and hurled it straight at the zombie. There was a cacophonous clatter of tin and steel as Mrs. Dowson rolled down the stairs with the bag on top of her. She came to a rather abrupt stop against the wall, with a sickening crunch and did not stir. The bag split open as it fell down the last few stairs and its contents smashed into Mrs. Dowson. She would have been crushed from the heavy cans falling on her, if the fall had not already cracked her skull open.
It was over in a flash before he could even consider screaming, or even running. He stood motionless for a few moments, still staring at the mess of the bag, the body, and the blood. For a moment, he considered getting whatever of the bag’s contents had not been ruined from the fall, but the moment passed rather quickly. Before anything else could happen, he found his key, gave a cry of relief, and slipped quickly into the safety of home.
‘Survive’ Chapter 3
Salman Shahid Khan
Copyright : : Salman Shahid Khan. All Rights Reserved