The truck rumbled into another town midmorning the next day. It was just as well because they were practically running on fumes. The town was big enough to assume there’d be a petrol station and places in which to find food.
The only problem was that there were lurchers—a lot of them! Kas had run a few over on the journey; since entering the town, he’d already quadrupled that number as the decomposing undead littered the streets. He and Jay were convinced it wasn’t a good place to stop.
“This’ll do. We can find a place to stay and get some provisions together,” Ryan stated.
“Please tell me you’re taking the piss!” Jay said incredulously.
“This place is crawling with lurchers, man,” Kas added.
Ryan shot them both a scathing glance. “Here I was thinking I was in the presence of highly trained militia! Readjust your tampons, ladies!”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Jay muttered with affront.
“It means man the fuck up and let’s take care of the problem. We get into a place where they can only come at us from one direction and size the bastards down. There are six of us here with SA80’s and I’m pretty sure Georgina can muck in. We get them all into a bottleneck and watch them drop like sacks of shit!”
“In theory, it’s a decent enough idea. The problem is that we don’t know how many of them are out there. This is a big town,” Kas cautioned.
“Alright, well I’ll put it another way: how long before the truck runs out of fuel and we’re walking amongst them anyway? While my plan ain’t perfect, it’s preferable to wandering around in the middle of nowhere, hoping to find something to eat before something eats us!”
Jay and Kas looked at one another. As much as they hated to admit it, Ryan was right. If they could clear the town of lurchers then they had a big place they could stay in and scavenge for essentials while they came up with a plan of action.
“Right, we need to find an alcove of some description,” Jay suggested. “Let’s hope this works!”
They soon happened across a pathway leading up to the doorway of an office building. It was wide and long enough to serve the purpose. Despite the risks, Jay was satisfied the building had accessible windows should the lurchers become too much for them to handle. It would be easy enough to climb through and get inside the building.
The windows were smashed and the medics ushered inside. They were told not to come out under any circumstances. Georgina was happy to assist and was handed a mini-MG. She coveted an SA-80, though Ryan convinced her she’d be lacking the strength to handle one given her recent extensive tests at the lab in New Haven.
Ryan, Jay, Kas, and Georgina, along with the other three militants, got into position in the pathway. A few rounds were fired into the air to draw the lurchers towards them and they weren’t waiting long before the first ones appeared: a handful of gawkers moving at great speed with guttural, snarling noises. The guns opened up and sized down the ferocious monsters.
More lurchers followed and the team did a good job of ensuring that they didn’t get beyond the entrance of the pathway. They weren’t over-keen while firing; preservation of ammo was essential.
The occasional gawker running through the growing crowd of lurchers made things tough. Their quickness and nimbleness was tough to keep an eye on as the undead advanced further inside the alcove. The entire team received a shock when the head of one of the lurchers exploded and, with it, took out all of its surrounding fellows. Ryan correctly assumed it must have been a spewer and that its venom was just as lethal to lurchers as it was to humans.
One or two of the team couldn’t prevent retching as the smell of putrefied flesh invaded their nostrils, something which cost them momentum as the distance between the team and the creatures shortened. For every lurcher they killed it seemed that another two joined the horde. The lurchers were literally falling over each other for a chance to sink their teeth into living flesh.
Jay, realising they needed to stem the flow of oncoming lurchers, unclipped a concussion grenade from his belt. “Everybody, get down!” he hollered before launching the canister into the crowd
The ground shook as the grenade exploded and sent a large amount of lurchers flying, some even blown to pieces. It was a risky move as the grenade could have inflicted collateral damage, but it was a necessary gamble and it had worked. The number of lurchers was reduced exponentially and had bought the team some time.
“Keep up the pressure,” Ryan yelled. “We can do this!”
There was a mass of bodies blocking the path that the lurchers were struggling to overcome and it made life much easier for the team as they continued to size them down.
Then, out of nowhere, a gawker leaped over the fallen bodies and came down directly on top of Georgina. She emitted an ear-piercing scream as she went to ground with the decomposing form scrabbling desperately to take a bite out of her.
“George!” Ryan called frantically. He instinctively dropped his gun and threw himself at the gawker, tackling it; however, they rolled through until the gawker was on top of him instead. He was amazed at the strength of the ferocious character. The flesh had all but melted away from its face leaving the muscle exposed. Its unblinking eyes were bright and intense as it yearned to feast on his flesh, long and needle-like teeth snapping vehemently. “Somebody, get this fucking thing off me!” he bellowed.
A couple of seconds later the gawker slumped down on top of him. He exclaimed in disgust as he shoved it away to see Georgina with the barrel of her gun smoking.
“Get up, Ryan; they’re still coming.”
“Thank you, George. I—”
“Leave the gratitude for later! We’ve got business to take care of!”
Ryan nodded curtly, got back to his feet, and retrieved his SA-80 before continuing to fire at the oncoming lurchers.
The deluge of undead soon became a trickle. The alcove was heaving with still bodies. It was impossible to count how many lurchers lay prone. Ryan’s plan appeared to have worked.
The team clambered through the window inside the building to where the scientists were gathered, one of whom stepped forwards. He was an older man with a horseshoe of silver hair and a thick moustache. His face was red with frustration.
“You took your damned time, didn’t you?”
Ryan looked at the man with indignation and was about to speak, only for Jay to beat him to the punch.
“I didn’t realise we were on the clock, Ron.”
“It’s Rod, actually!”
“Whatever, mate! We’re fine by the way. Thanks for your concern!”
“A more adept leader would have known where we were going in the first place and we only have your word to go off that Mel was deluding us.”
Jay stepped right up to the man and towered over him. Despite a look of pure aggravation, he spoke calmly and deliberately. “Your choices are simple, Rod: either you trust in what we’re doing here and get on board with it, or you piss off and try to make it on your own out there. I’m not perfect and I never claimed to be, but my intentions are for the good of everyone here and not just myself, which is more than can be said of Mel!”
Rod swallowed a lump in his throat. His veneer quickly went from hostile to sheepish as he looked up at the towering, brawny man in front of him. He nodded in response and stepped back amongst his team of medical scientists.
Ryan approached Jay. “We need to get these nerdy cunts in order. They’re gonna fuck everything up for us!” he said in a hushed tone.
“Calm down, Ry. They’re scared. They haven’t seen the shit we have. It’s just gonna take some time.”
“Time’s something we’re short of. They need to get a grip or—”
“Or what?” Jay cut in, an edge of sternness to his voice.
“Or they can find their own fucking way once they’ve worked out whether or not a vaccine is possible from the tests they’ve done on Georgina,” Ryan finished off without remorse.
“I suggest you take a breather and calm down before your mouth gets you into trouble! We’re mates, Ryan, but don’t forget who’s in charge around here.”
Ryan watched Jay as he walked away to speak with another member of his team. “For now, Jay. For now,” he muttered under his breath. He went to sit down in a corner of the room and Georgina caught his eye. He smiled at her as she walked slowly over, kindness and caring in her eyes.
Just as she was about to say something, the room erupted in a cacophony of noise. A door leading out of the room was opened by one of the scientists and he was unexpectedly greeted by a lurcher that came straight at him. Nobody could react quickly enough to prevent it from sinking its teeth into the man’s neck and biting a chunk of flesh clean off.
The scientist let out a pained cry as blood erupted from the wound and he fell to the ground. In the commotion, one of Jay’s team managed to shoot the lurcher in the head.
“Get out into the corridor and see if there are any more of those fuckers!” Jay yelled at his team as he went to tend to the scientist.
Ryan slowly rose to his feet and looked over the shoulders of those who were tending to the scientist. Blood splattered everywhere, the jugular having been severed; the scene was gory. He broke out into a wry smile that everybody was far too busy to notice.
“We need medical supplies from the truck,” one of the scientists called out.
Jay turned to Ryan. “Can you get a med-kit from the truck?”
Jay stood, his jaw tensed and quivering. “Are you taking the fucking piss?!”
“The man’s dead, Jay. He’ll bleed out soon. Then what’s gonna happen? He’ll become a lurcher himself! I’m not wasting medical supplies on a dead man. There’s only one way to deal with the problem.”
Jay relented. As much as he hated to admit it, he knew Ryan was right. The medical supplies were better used on the living, something that the scientist wouldn’t be for much longer. He shook his head and stepped back towards the scene. “Everybody move away from him.”
“What do you mean? We need a med-kit now!” Rod said frantically.
“He’s taken a bite; he’s infected. There’s no saving him,” Jay stated sternly, yet regretfully. He looked back at Ryan, the helplessness on his face palpable.
Ryan could only offer a shrug of the shoulders and a slight shake of his head as the scientist’s painful wailing continued.
Jay drew his sidearm and aimed it at the man’s head. “Get back now!”
Everybody moved away slowly and covered their ears. The loud bang brought about an end to the harrowing cries and Jay slumped to his knees beside the dead scientist, the grief flooding through him.
“Welcome to the apocalypse!” Ryan muttered, masking the sadistic humour he felt.
TO BE CONTINUED