Part 6 Die Rise
The man stepped from behind the McDonalds counter, his daughter in tow. Conner, Ali, Nikoli and him quickly cleared the area of the last few zombies.
“So we meet again,” Geoffrey started.
Conner lowered his head in shame.
Ali nodded thankfully, “Thank you for saving us.”
A loud murmur of groans emitted from deeper within the mall, followed by a loud screeching. The group turned to see what the matter was and they were met with a frightful sight. People, not rotten like the zombies, but rather they were slightly shorter than the average adult, and their skin was stuck so tightly around their skeletons that they looked like little skeletons. They ran at high speeds, veering right to left in a dizzying zigzag pattern. At times they would emit an ear piercing shriek that sounded like a demented child crying for its mother.
“Less talk, more shoot.” Nikoli informed.
One creature came near the group, but was quickly blown away by Geoffrey’s shotgun. More creatures closed in on the group, each met with a hail of bullets, but there seemed to be an infinite amount of them.
Manny, Taylor, Miah, Erin and Tad stopped for a breather in the high rise. They were at the top. The roof and side wall of the building was blown off, revealing the looming height. All around all they saw was carnage; buildings looked like they had been blown apart. It looked like Cleveland had been bombed. Buildings fell into the one they were in now, and some were toppled all together.
“We need to secure this area,” Manny informed.
The rest of the group obeyed. The floor they were on seemed to be a small office, with a semi-circular desk in the back center. To the left was a large elevator that seemed like it would fall down the shaft if a fly landed on it. The front of the room had the one door they came in and a small set of stairs that led to a door that had debris blocking it. There was banging at the door they came in, and everyone knew that they either had to have a standoff, or somehow flee. Zombies broke through the door, splintering the wood right off the hinges.
“Damn these things are tenacious,” Tad commented.
“Hold them off!” Manny shouted franticly.
They fired on the group of zombies, managing to take out a few, but they just kept coming. At this point their ammo was depleting faster than the zombies.
Manny looked around frantically for an escape route and spotted the elevator.
“Everyone, on the elevator!”
The group obeyed, piling inside. Manny held off a few zombies with his machete, and then dove in the elevator. Their combined weight caused the elevator to break free and slide down the chute. The girls started screaming for their lives and Manny prayed he hadn’t killed them all. The screaming metal death trap of an elevator slammed to halt at the bottom of the shaft. It couldn’t have been more than two floors, and that coupled with the friction of the chute slowed the elevator down, but the impact was still enough to knock them off their feet. Manny got up and helped Taylor, and Tad and Miah got up to help Erin.
“So what now?” Miah asked.
They were in a very small hallway, with doors on either side. Behind some doors they heard knocking and groaning. At the end of the hallway to the right, a bright light shown through.
“What’s that?” Manny inquired.
When they reached the end, they found out what. The side of the building was blown off. Outside the hole was another building directly adjacent to theirs. A patch of the floor was close enough to jump to. Close, but just barely.
“We’re not jumping that way!” Erin objected.
“Fine then, go check the doors,” Manny offered.
They could hear groans and splintering wood.
Erin gulped and looked down the gap. It was a long way down.
“Just gotta take a great leap forward.”
“I’m not going first.” She informed.
“I’ll do it,” Tad offered.
He took a running leap and made the jump nicely, landing safely in the other building. Manny kissed Taylor and made the jump. He came just short, but managed to catch the side. He struggled just to hold on. He was fit, but the ledge was obviously not made for climbing. He could barely get a grip, and was slipping.
“Manny!” Taylor shouted frantically.
Tad ran over and outstretched his hand, which Manny grabbed. Together they were able to lift him into the building.
“Come on Tay, you can do it!” Manny encouraged.
Taylor hesitated, but took the leap, and landed into Manny’s waiting arms.
It was just Erin and Miah now.
“You go.” Erin told him.
“What, no! You. I’ll be right behind you.”
“No, please, just go.”
They heard doors being ripped from their hinges, and zombies burst into the hallway.
“Um, Manny!” Tad said worriedly at the other building.
Zombies started coming around the corners of their building as well.
“DAMNIT MIAH JUST JUMP!” Manny yelled.
Miah shot a few zombies, exchanged a kiss with Erin, then leapt. His hobbit sized body flew through the air and he landed in the next building with a roll, getting up to cap a few zombies.
“Erin, now go!” He shouted.
She looked down again at the steep drop. Her bending over allowed Miah to snipe a zombie behind her that almost bit her. She looked behind her then returned her gaze to Miah.
“Thank me later, go!”
She gave herself enough room to run and went for it. She sailed through the air, frantically reaching for the ledge. Her hand hit the building and she grabbed for it, but her grip failed her. She let out a screech as she plunged towards the ground.
“ERRIIIIIIIIIN!!!!!” Miah shouted, reaching his hand out, as if he could still catch her.
He watched as gravity took her to the unforgiving pavement, her screams drowned out by the wind.
He choked back his tears, but to no avail. They dropped down to meet his fallen girlfriend. “Erin, Erin….” He repeated multiple times.
“C’mon Miah, we gotta go,” Manny urged.
Miah wiped his tears and picked himself up.
“We still need to get to Tower City. It’s not far from here.”
A shriek emanated from inside.
“Shit, we got company,” Taylor noticed.
The little skeletons kept coming. Conner slashed at each one with his katana, Ali carefully picked out each shot with her bow, and Nikoli and Geoff shot at the creatures. Finally the creatures stopped coming. Nikoli and Geoff checked their ammo and found they were dangerously low. Ali carefully removed the arrows from the bodies and Conner checked to make sure they were all dead.
“What the hell were those things??” Ali wondered.
“I’m not sure, but I hope those are the only ones…” Conner replied.
Once they made sure all the creatures were dead, Conner turned to Geoffrey.
“Look, I’m really, really sorry-“
Geoff cut him off, “It’s fine. You were just trying to protect your people. Understand.”
Conner looked at his bandaged hand. Blood has seeped through and dried on the outside. It seemed like a pretty hefty bandage, allowing just enough dexterity to grip his weapon and pull the trigger.
“Is that… Ok?”
“It’s mangled pretty badly, but I’ll live. That’s a pretty strong gun you got there.”
Conner scratched the back of his head and looked away, “Yeah…”
“Well I’ve cleared this area pretty well,” Geoff continued, “But there may be more in other areas.”
“Alright, I’ll go check out the other areas,” Conner offered, then he turned to Ali, “Do you want to come with me or stay back?”
“I’ll come with you,” She looked at the older men, not wanting to stay alone with them.
They went back the way they came, checking each corner, and looking in every store to make sure there were no undead entities.
“Are you ok?” Conner asked Ali.
“Just that you never really liked the prospect of zombies, and how you weren’t doing so well before.”
“Well yeah, I’m doing better now. After all, it’s kill or be killed, and I can’t be freaking out when I have to survive.”
“That’s good. I’m glad you have been getting better. I have to say, you’re pretty good at archery.”
“Well thank you,” she laughed and they both smiled at each other.
They continued to the next floor when they came across the Hard Rock Café.
“This place is great. We came here for my sister’s 18th birthday,” Conner reminisced.
Just then, they heard a noise. Weapons raised, they approached the restaurant.
“If there’s someone there, shout out!” Conner warned.
“Hello?” A voice called out.
Two people, one tall boy, about 16 and a girl the same age, stepped up the spiral staircase that lead to the bottom floor of the restaurant.
“Kyle, Jasmine?!” Conner called out in surprise.
“Conner, Ali!” Jasmine replied.
“Well fancy seeing you guys here.” Kyle remarked.
“What are you doing here?” Ali asked.
“We heard on the radio that this was the place to go, so we came. We found this here as well,” Jasmine pulled up a little portable walkie talkie, “They give out instructions every day at noon.”
“Who?” Conner asked.
“The CDC. Or so they say.”
“How have you guys been faring?”
“Good. We’ve been camping out here, staying quiet so those things don’t hear us. It was easy to stay quiet during the bombings.”
“Bombings?!” Ali cried out in surprise.
“Yeah,” Kyle responded, “They bombed half the city. This side was spared for survivors, but they wanted to try to contain the outbreak.”
“Wow…” Ali seemed worried.
“Have you encountered a lot of zombies? Our group just had to clear an entire horde.” Conner continued his questions.
“Not really, no. We’ve managed to keep quiet for a while.”
“Lucky. We’ve encountered some strange zombies as well.”
“The ones that jump on walls and ceilings?”
Conner turned to Jasmine in surprise, “What?!”
“THEY JUST KEEP COMING!” Taylor shouted, retrieving her arrow from another body.
The group was being attacked by strange zombies. They were smaller than normal zombies, with grey skin and no clothing. The strangest thing about them was that they would jump around the room, climbing on the ceiling and walls on all fours.
“These things are like freaking grasshoppers!” Tad noted, sniping one as it came close.
One jumped at Manny, but he quickly blew it away with his shotgun, but he was running out of bullets. He pulled out his machete, hacking and slashing his way through the jumping freaks.
“Manny!” Taylor let out a frantic scream. One had backed her to a blown out wall and she was in danger of falling. All of her arrows were spent and in various dead creatures around the room.
Manny jumped into action, cutting the creature down and quickly pulling Taylor to safety. Miah and Tad were camping out in a corner, sniping zombies. Tad pulled the trigger, but his clip was empty.
“Crap, no ammo!”
Manny threw his shotgun to him, “Here, take this!”
Tad dropped his gun, and caught Manny’s. A creature jumped at him, but he shot it down, sending its body flying off the building.
“NO!” He shouted.
Manny finished off the last of the creatures with his machete and the group sighed with relief.
“Glad that’s over,” Manny said, re-sheathing his machete.
“Erin…” Miah repeated once again, looking towards the hole in the wall.
“C’mon, through this door,” Manny instructed.
There was a sturdy door at the end of the room. Manny tested the doorknob and found it was locked. He decided to try something he’d seen in movies and games. He lifted his foot and struck the door right under the knob and it splintered and flew open. They entered the room cautiously but found there was no one in it. It was a small break room, with vending machines and three tables. On two of the tables were guns, and lots of them. Three home defense shotguns, two AR-15 assault rifles, five pistols and two revolvers, and an AK-47 assault rifle.
“Holy crap! Looks like they were getting ready for war!” Manny exclaimed.
“Looks like they all died before they could use ‘em. More for us!” Tad gleefully noticed.
On the last table was nothing but ammo. Shotgun shells, pistol and revolver rounds, and of course assault rifle ammo and magazines. The group dealt out the weapons. Tad and Miah got shotguns, and Manny took an AR along with Taylor.
“You think you can shoot that?” Manny asked her.
“I think I can manage.”
They stashed the rest in backpacks that were laid out on the floor. After getting some soda from the soda machines, they went to the door on the other side of the room.
“You ready?” Manny asked, hand on the knob. They could hear groans on the other side of the door.
Everyone nodded and Manny flung open the door. The group let lead fly and the dead bodies fell to the floor.
Conner and Ali lead Kyle and Jasmine in the direction of the food court.
“We’re just down there,” Conner said, pointing in the direction.
“Oh I see,” Jasmine nodded.
“We came up to scout for any zombies. We’re trying to make sure it’s safe.”
“We can help,” Kyle offered.
They continued their search for the undead and came across a corner store. Its two walls up front were made of glass, and they could see inside. The store was a clothing store, with clothing still neatly on the racks. In the center was a group of the small creatures that Conner and Ali fought off earlier.
“Everyone, stop and stay quiet,” Conner hissed.
“What is it?” Jasmine wondered.
“Oh, those are what you were talking about earlier? We call those feeders. They eat literally anything. We saw a group try to eat a chair!” She whispered.
The feeders were crouched around one point, obviously eating something.
Conner readied his weapon and whistled. The feeders popped their heads up and Conner shot each one through the open door before they knew what happened. The group went in the store to investigate. They had been feeding on the remains of a body.
“They apparently eat zombies too. Look, they even know how to kill them,” Conner noticed. The head of the dead body was completely smashed.
“It’s like a whole new ecosystem.” Ali muttered.
The group left, but Conner stood there inspecting the dead bodies of the feeders. Their sinewy limbs lay flat and he felt like they’d spring up any second, attacking without a head. He started to get hot, so he took off his sweatshirt. He heard glass shattering and looked up to see a zombie charging toward him. He let out a startled cry and was slammed to the wall. He struggled with the zombie and felt a sharp pain on his right shoulder.
“Conner!” Ali shouted when she saw what was going on.
The zombie heard her and looked up, giving Conner enough time to pull out his pistol and shoot the zombie before it ate his face.
“Are you ok?” Ali asked, rushing over.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” Conner tried hiding his left shoulder and put his sweatshirt back on despite the fact he was still burning hot, “The shots must have attracted it. C’mon, we should get back. That was my last bullet.”
They left the store when Conner’s phone rang. It was Manny.
“Oh my god, thank goodness you’re still alive!” Conner said when he answered.
“Yeah, me too,” Manny replied, “We got some more guns. It looked like some people were preparing for war. We got you another AK, this one’s full auto.”
Conner hesitated and looked at his shoulder. Blood was seeping through the sweatshirt, “Right….”
“We’re coming up to Tower City now. We see the bus.”
“Gotcha,” Conner hung up and turned to Ali Jasmine and Kyle, “Manny and the others are back, let’s go meet them.”
They rushed to the front door right as Manny and his group entered. Tad was limping, and the entire group was covered in blood.
“There was a bunch of them on the way here. We musta gotten through the whole damn city.” Manny explained the blood.
“Ah, crap,” Tad stumbled, “Damn muscular dystrophy…”
Conner took Tad’s arm and helped him walk.
Ali noticed blood on Conner’s shoulder, “Conner, are you alright?”
He tried to act surprised, “Yeh, why?”
“There’s blood on your shoulder.”
“Must be from Tad.” Conner looked at the four of them, “Where’s Erin?”
Miah bowed his head.
“She didn’t make it when we were traveling through the buildings.” Manny explained.
They made their way to the food court where Nikoli and Geoff where waiting.
“Ah, good to see you guys made it.” Nikoli said, obviously drunk.
Conner took Tad and seated him at the table, wincing when Tad’s arm hit his shoulder.
“Conner there’s something wrong with you, what’s going on.” Ali demanded.
“Take off your sweatshirt.”
Ali turned to Manny, “A little help?”
Manny grabbed Conner by the arms and held him. He completely outweighed and was much stronger than Conner, so it was an impermeable hold.
“What are you doing, get off me,” Conner struggled.
Ali unzipped his jacket and removed it from his shoulder. She saw crimson red blood on his shoulder and stepped back.
“Oh my god. You’re bit.”