Saturday, October 1, 2016

Day 01: Enemy at the Gate

The lights could be seen from the highway. At night, the place lit up like the Rockefeller Center at Christmas. For the last two weeks, he’d been watching and planning. He’d gotten to know the ins and outs of the place rather well and everyone was set in a routine. He shut the walkie-talkie off and retrieved his binoculars from his bag. Adjusting the focus, he gave a look out over the compound, watching as his unknowing prey went about their day.

In three minutes, the two he’d come to know as ‘Spirited Redhead’ and ‘Annoying Jock’ would be making their patrol. They’d pat along the outer edge of the gate, keeping their backs to one another. When they reached the rear of the mountain path they would split up, searching opposite ends of the forest. It would take less than five minutes to make the trek around the compound before they called it and headed back inside.

Right on schedule.

If they were smart, they would have had a better protocol for night patrol. If they were smart, they would have posted more guns at the gate, watching for unwanted vehicles along the outer dirt roads. They’d also not have cornered themselves into a heavily wooded area with just one way in and one way out. If they were smart. A thrill heated his blood as a smile curled his lips. It would be tonight. Waiting for the gates to close and the lock to be set, he scooped up his bag and hoofed it back up the trail.

Porter slid back inside the van, dropping his satchel to the floor. “There are two on right now. Everyone else appears to be going about their day like the world hasn’t gone to fucking shit,” he announced to the others.

“And that’ll be their downfall. We’ll wait for Marshall to get back and make our move.” Joel, the driver, started the engine and moved the van to a more secluded location. At the head of the dirt path, his tires crunched on the loose rocks that continued past the forested area. They had been sitting in wait since four in the afternoon. And soon their moment would come. He parked behind a cluster of trees where no one would see their van. The compound was just ahead.

Checking the load on his Sig Sauer P250, Tyrell placed an extra clip into his backpack and zipped it closed. Porter again slipped out of the van. A crisp, chilly breeze blew over him and he tugged at the last two buttons on his coat. Although the month had been unseasonably warm, the temperature was dropping with the setting sun. Patting his pockets, he checked his supplies. He knew he had what he needed, but he wanted to make sure the plan went off without a hitch. Plastic ties, knife, Taser and mace, check. The rest of the arsenal was in his camo bag. He was ready.

“They’re back,” Joel announced from the front seat. The glare of headlights broke through the dusk and Porter turned at the sound of earth crunching under tires. The trees condensed. Evergreens mixed with the red and gold of turned leaves, as many on the ground as on the trees. Dropping his cigarette beneath his shoe, he rolled his neck until it cracked, then loosened up his shoulders. Finally. The hunt was on.

“People?” Liz repeated as if the word left a bad taste in her mouth. “Why would they turn against the living?”

“Survival,” Matthew answered. “We know most of the stores in the local area have been raided. It’s been hard finding much of anything lately, even in the clothing stores. It’s bad out there. Really bad. Now we’ve had it good here for the last two months but it’s important we don’t let ourselves become stagnant. Trouble could be at our door at any second of the day and I want us to always be ready. I know some of you wanted to call a meeting earlier about concerns you’re having so I want to open the floor to anyone with something to say.”

Amidst the chatter of numerous conversations going on at once, Elise heard a noise outside. She stepped into the hallway, straining to hear over the discussion and her heart dropped to her stomach at the next sound she heard. Glass broke. The back windows were shattered. The hurried sounds of footsteps thundered towards her and she rushed back inside the room. “GUYS!” she yelled, scared and out of breath. “They’re here.”

“Get to the armory!” Matthew instructed, grabbing his gun from against the wall. “Josh and I will hold them back!” Rushing out the door, he quickly took up position beside the front window. Josh moved around him and set up in the hall adjacent to him.

“How many do you think are out there?” Josh asked, pressing himself against the corner.

“Who knows? I just hope we have enough ammo to keep them back.”

A loud explosion erupted near the south gate that made the two jump. The shockwave shook through the entire building, shattering more windows. “Jesus! What are these people using? TNT?” Josh exclaimed. A second blast detonated, this one closer to them. The eruption was large enough to knock out the generator shrouding them in total darkness.

Several fires ignited around the compound and they listened as the wailing of alarms triggered nearby. Peeking his head over the window, Matthew took a look outside but his vigilance was met with gunshots. Quickly ducking behind another wall, he returned fire. Not waiting for their attackers to aim for him, Josh jumped up from his position and joined the fray. Bullets ricocheted off the parked cars. The sound of clanking metal and air could be heard as tires became victims of combat.

The melee lasted for several minutes before they were joined by Liz. “Jake and JC are securing the back, Elise and Roni are getting the kids to safety and Dominic, Troy and Katrina are trying to put out the fires and save what little supplies they can,” she reported, taking position across from Josh.

“Is Natalie with them?” Matthew asked without facing her.

“No. I haven’t seen her,” she replied. Matthew turned to meet Liz’s eyes as her answer finally registered, a sick feeling forming in his stomach.

“What do you mean you haven’t seen her? She was in the meeting room with everybody else.” 

“When the shooting started, everyone jumped up to get to safety. In the confusion I just didn’t see where she went.”

“And everyone else is accounted for?” Liz nodded. “I have to find her.” Josh grabbed Matthew by the arm and slammed him back to the ground just as another round of bullets ripped through the wall.

“Are you crazy? Keep your head down.”

“Matt,” Liz shouted over the gun blasts. “I’m sure she’s ok. Natalie’s a smart girl. She’s probably helping the others at the back.” His heart sank as he looked over at Liz with a nod, pain searing in his eyes as he tried to clear the image of Natalie lying hurt somewhere from his mind.

With renewed rage, he turned his focus back to their attackers outside. Gripping the stock of his semi-automatic sniper rifle, Matthew counted down from five, took a deep breath and jumped to his feet. Before anyone had the chance to stop him, he bolted out the front door. With quick aim he shot round after round at their assailants. The first one fell near the front wheel of his truck. The second ducked for cover behind a stone pillar of the retaining wall.

Josh shook his head as he stepped out to join Matthew. Liz remained behind, keeping them covered. A head appeared near the east wall and Josh fired. The sound was followed by a grunt and then total silence. Matthew moved ahead, searching over the wall. He motioned to the others that the gunman was down and he and Josh quickly started back inside the building.

“How many were on the south gate?” Matthew asked, rushing the halls of their meeting room in search of Natalie.

“Not many; two maybe,” Liz answered. As she and Matthew rounded the corner, they were met with a face full of smoke and flames. The fire had reached the inner rooms and ignited the back wall. Choking on fumes, Matthew ducked low and crawled beneath the clouds of vapor and shouted for the others. No one answered.

Gunfire erupted once again from behind them and Liz tapped Matthew, desperately pulling at his shoulders to drag him out of the blaze before the whole building went up in smoke. “Matt, we gotta go! This entire place is about to come down on us! And if that fire reaches the armory this place is gonna blow!” she urged, finally getting him to his feet. Together, they raced back to the front and Josh.

“I’m out!” JC shouted over his shoulder as his weapon clicked in his hands once again. Jake slid another magazine towards him as he also reloaded. “This is crazy! We can’t hold out here for much longer!”

“I know. The fumes alone will kill us,” Jake said, covering his mouth as he choked again on smoke. “But from the sounds of things, they have us surrounded.”

“Well we need to think of something. Fast!” The smoke had begun to suffocate him, making his eyes water. Dragging a hand over his face, JC cleared his vision briefly and continued firing towards the pond where the gunmen were pinned down. “Wait a second, what is that?” he asked, pointing towards something beside Jake.

“What?” Jake asked, searching the items closest to him.

“This!” JC replied as he crawled over and snatched a small object from the ground. “These are smoke grenades.”

“Dude are you sure? Because that looks like a grenade-grenade.”

“Grenade, smoke grenade, who cares? Either way they’ll get us the fuck out of here.” He rolled one over to Jake and moved back to his position. “Alright, on the count of three we’ll each pull the pin and toss them. You ready?”

“Geez, man. I hope this works,” Jake sighed. “Ready.”

JC counted off and together, they launched the small projectiles towards the water. After a moment, two explosions erupted simultaneously. Several men ran from behind the rock pillar beside the bridge screaming. One fell instantly as his wounds overcame him, another dove into the water to douse the fire on his arm and legs. 

“Uh…I think we may have hit something.” Jake said, as the fire alarm beside him activated.

“We’ll worry about that later. Let’s get out of here.” Using the low lights and fire as a distraction, the two slipped away and towards the west gate.

“What was that?” Veronica shouted, pressing her back against the wall. Jeremiah emulated her as she shielded Nina with her body when a second explosion rocked the ground.

“I think the reserve tanks are going up,” Elise replied, pushing forward to the door. Fumbling around in her pocket, she grabbed the gate key and quickly disengaged the padlock. “Hurry, inside,” she said, ushering Nina and Jeremiah in front of her. The door shut as the rapid sound of gunfire started again. Elise sighed, placing her back against the wall as she waited for her eyes to adjust.

“It’s dark,” Nina whimpered, tugging at the strap of her backpack. 

Jeremiah reached into his pocket and retrieved a small lighter he’d liberated from Matthew’s trailer two days earlier. The narrow tunnel was instantly bathed in a dim, orange glow and the four of them slowly started forward. “We should be safe in here,” Elise said, placing herself directly behind the others as the group continued forward.

“Yeah,” Veronica sighed, “But for how long?” She led the way, thanks to Jeremiah’s light, reaching the halfway mark before the tunnel split into three different directions. “Ok. This is about as far as I’ve ever been in here. Where do we go now?”

“West. It’s the only tunnel I’ve taken. It leads to the reservoir so be prepared to get a little wet.”

Another tremor rippled through the ground and Nina jerked forward, slamming herself against Jeremiah and knocking the lighter from his hand in the process. “Crap,” he muttered, dropping to his knees.

“Hurry, please,” Nina sobbed, gripping onto the first hand she could find. Hideous creatures crouched in the darkness and she twisted herself, covering her face in the sleeve of the person beside her, trying her best to hide.

“I’m trying,” Jeremiah said. Feeling around in the dark, he brushed up against something hard and leathery. He tapped on it, realizing it was someone’s shoe, he felt around it in search of the lighter. “Hey, I think you’re standing on it, move your foot,” he said, tapping the foot again, but it didn’t budge. “Hey.” He pushed at it enough to get his fingers on the object and wiggled it free. “Got it!” 

Thumbing the flint wheel, a dark umber light once again filled the room. The flame flickered as the shadows of five people undulated on the walls. A man, a blur of rotting flesh and bones, leaned over Nina. “AHH!” She screamed, looking up into his obsidian gaze as his slimy, maggot covered hand reached for her face. Her indescribable dread became terror, and she recoiled, dropping to the ground to get away.

Her sobs grew louder as she shut her eyes in the throes of this nightmare. Nina turned towards the group, bringing herself back into the light, but when she opened her eyes, a monster waited there as well. Words caught in her throat as she tried to warn the others of what lurked behind them. But all she could manage was a squeak of fear and eyes wide with horror as she pointed. 

Turning to face the same direction, Jeremiah screamed and tossed the only thing he had in his hand. The four of them were once again engulfed in darkness as they quickly dispersed, moving in separate directions as more zombies filled the tunnel behind them. 

“Hurry it up!” Troy urged as he laid down cover fire for Dominic and Katrina. They were working to secure as much of their food supply as they could. Fires raged on behind them. It had already consumed half of the building in the center of the compound and with it the meeting room and entertainment center. The kitchen, armory and tool shed were next. Tossing another bag to the ground, Dominic rushed back inside for more.

“This isn’t gonna work. There are too many of them,” Katrina said, ducking for cover as the wall exploded with bullets behind her. Troy dropped beside her, exchanging shots with their attackers while Dominic worked on moving the boxes into the bed of the pickup. “We need to go.”

“Wait!” Troy yelled over the din of gunfire and the roaring blaze nearby. He checked the cargo in the bed and realized a significant amount of items were missing. “Is this all you were able to recover?”

“There was more in the pantry in the kitchen but I focused on getting the bulk of the unopened stuff from storage first,” Katrina replied.

“We need to try and get more. With everyone in the group this won’t last us a week.”

Katrina sighed and looked back at the doors pensively, contemplating if she really wanted to risk going back inside that burning building for more. “Alright, I’ll do it.”

“Katrina, no,” Dominic said, tossing his backpack into the backseat. “We’ll be fine. We’ll just have to hunt down more stuff later.”

“No, Troy’s right. Most of the places nearby have been raided to death. We have stuff here, we just need to get it. Start the truck. I’ll be quick!”

Slinking back inside, she listened as Troy and Dominic continued exchanging fire with men positioned near the front gates. They came in waves. They were all well-armed and decently trained. The compound that had been their home for several months had been breached and there seemed no hope for recovering. Turning a corner, Katrina entered the kitchen with two duffel bags in tow. She worked quickly to fill them with canned goods and dry foods that were unopened or barely used. It didn’t take long before both bags were full and many of the cabinets were empty.

“Thank you,” An unfamiliar man’s voice from behind made her jump. “I appreciate you gathering that stuff for me. Now why don’t you be a good girl and toss it over.”

“Please. I don’t want any trouble,” she said, turning to face him. “I just want to get back to my friends.” She could see smoke billowing in the hallway just over his shoulder. The fire had reached the outer rooms and pretty soon, the entire place would be up in flames.

“There will be no trouble if you do as I say. Drop your weapon and hand over the bags.” They stood frozen, staring at each other for what felt like an eternity. Katrina’s hearing blocked out everything but the sound of her own breathing and the throb of her pulse echoing in her ears. Then she saw it. The glint of steel as his hand tightly clutched the weapon aimed at her face. With very little time to react, Katrina dove quickly for the counter, throwing herself against the wall as she fired three shots in the man’s direction. 

The impact of her fall jarred her weapon free and she frantically searched the darkness for her gun. Bullets rang out. One-by-one they split the wood of her hiding spot, shattering the cabinet doors to pieces. She held her hands over her ears. The explosion of sound was deafening and terrifying and it would not end unless she made it.

The gunman’s weapon clicked. He was out of bullets. But so was she. Crawling to the opposite side of the island, her face met with a hard collision of the cabinet door as the man slammed it into her, knocking her on her ass. “You should have just given up,” the man taunted as he stood above her, reloading his Glock 19. “But don’t worry, princess. It’ll all be over soon.” 

“Katrina!” Her eyes darted towards the door at the sound of her name and she watched as Dominic rushed the hall. A burst of adrenaline fueled his steps as he charged for her assailant. Throwing him off balance, his weapon flew across the room and Dominic tackled the gunman into the wall. Taking advantage of the situation, Katrina hopped up from the ground and collected the gun but unfortunately it wasn’t just empty, the damn thing had jammed up. Luckily for her it was the same model of weapon she carried. Releasing the cartridge, she reloaded her gun and aimed at the gunman. 

“Dom, get away,” she yelled. He stumbled backwards, hitting his head on the corner of the marble countertop before pulling himself to his feet. Katrina didn’t hesitate as she squeezed the trigger and unloaded five shots into the man, hitting him center mass. 

Troy heard the shots and came running. “Are you two ok?” he asked, checking out the carnage in the room.

“Yeah. Fine,” Dominic sighed, snatching Katrina’s bags from the floor.

“Good. It’s all clear out there but there’s no telling how long it’ll last. Let’s get the hell outta here while we can.”

“What about the others?” Katrina asked, slipping her weapon into the side pocket of her pack.

“We’re following protocol. We’ll rendezvous at the designated meeting place.”

Katrina nodded, her body shaking like a leaf. The silence finally fell upon them like a heavy burden but Katrina didn’t know whether to be relieved that the fighting was done or afraid that their struggle was just beginning. 



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  1. Loving it, always love your Halloween stories. So great to see you've found some time to write and be expressive again *HUGS*

    1. It definitely took some doing. Still super busy and even with the huge head start I find myself scrambling. Though I must admit, feels good to be back in the saddle again

      Thank you for reading :)

  2. Replies
    1. And hungry for brains!

      Thank you for reading :D

  3. Well damn, that started off with a bang! I can't believe Matthew wasn't more vigilant in not letting them get too settled into a routine. He should have known better.

    Woot so far everyone is maybe unharmed, but hard to tell with the group that encountered zombies. :( Hope all will be okay with them.

    Go Dom! He showed up just in time to save Katrina and she has gotten much better with her shooting since last time. LOL :)

    Can't wait to see what tonight brings.

    1. Yep! Everyone seemed to become "used" to their area and the fact that they had survived this horrific event. No one suspected other humans would be an issue and unfortunately that caused them to drop the ball.

      Currently it does seem as though everyone made it out ok...aside from the missing Natalie, I should say and as you pointed out the group in the tunnels. Scary days ahead!

      Haha yeah she has. That's one thing they did, practice, practice, practice! At least they can protect themselves when push comes to shove.

      Thank you for reading :)

  4. Bah, I've been on vacation so I've got some catch-up to do! Binge-time!

    1. Ooh welcome back :D I hope you enjoyed your vacation!

  5. Ok wow, I will keep on reading as time allows...there's a tv series on hulu right now it's called Freakish or something like that this story reminds me of trailers for the show.