“Brains!!”, Zoe screeched in an inhuman voice that chilled Zed to the bone, even as he tried to fight her off. She had become insanely strong, and clung to his clothing as he shoved her off his body.
Unfazed, she jumped at Zed again, hissing grotesquely and gnashing her bloody teeth. This time, he managed to roll back and get his feet under her. He kicked hard with both legs, launching her backward through the air.
Zoe landed headfirst into the metal bed frame, cutting her head wide open. By the time Zed had stood and pulled his pants up, she was running down the hallway at him, the fresh cut on her head spilling blood into her eyes.
Zed was in the kitchen, and he reached into the sink for something- anything- to defend himself with. As she closed in, he wrapped his hand around the handle of a frying pan and swung it hard. It connected with her head, sending her sprawling into the kitchen counter, hitting her head and falling to the floor.
Zoe lay motionless, and Zed backed away from her carefully, expecting her to jump up at any moment. Suddenly, Zed’s heels hit the edge of their couch, and he fell backward into it. His feet hit the flimsy coffee table, flipping it over and sending bottles and shot glasses crashing across the floor. The sound seemed to rouse Zoe, who raised her head slowly and rested her insatiable eyes on Zed.
Zed reached for the blaster in his ankle holster, and aimed it at Zoe. She began to crawl in his direction, raising her body to all fours.
“Braaiiinnnsss”, she hissed.
“Zoe”, Zed said, his gun hand shaking. “Zoe, I don’t know what’s wrong with you, but you gotta stop. You gotta stop or I’m gonna have to pull this trigger.”
She continued to crawl toward him, sneering. Zoe reached the broken glass, and it sliced her palms and her knees as crawled through it, leaving a trail of smeared blood behind her. Zed noticed she was naked for the first time, and her lack of concern for the pain of the cuts scared him. Zoe was a wuss when it came to pain.
“Zoe, I mean it. I’m going to shoot.”
She continued to crawl, getting closer…
She jumped to her feet and dived at him, screaming violently. Zed pulled the trigger on the blaster, and a burst of light filled the trailer. Her momentum brought her on top of him, and he threw her off in fear. She rolled over, and Zed saw that she’d been shot in the head, her hair blackened and smoking from the energy of the blast.
“Goddamn it Zoe! What the hell’s gotten into you!?!” He bent down and tried to shake her and slap her face to rouse her. No response. He checked her pulse. Nothing.
“Shit, SHIT!”, he screamed.
Zed lifted her limp body off the ground and ran out of the trailer, tossing her over the gas tank of his Harley and firing up to the engine. He ripped out of the clearing and onto the highway with a speed he’d never managed before, not thinking so much as acting on instinct.
The familiar landmarks that appeared relatively normal from the air only minutes before looked strange to him. Cars were smashed against trees or abandoned on the highway. The windows of the houses he passed were broken and the doors pulled off their hinges. Zed weaved through the stalled cars on his bike, and ran over the body of an old woman before he had time to swerve. Her arm had been ripped off and he could see that her skull had been cracked open an her brain missing completely.
“What the hell is going on?!?”, Zed yelled, once again speeding full tilt toward town. He could see the smoke rising from Main Street in the distance, and remembered the burning building. He wasn’t going downtown, though, he was headed to the hospital uptown. It was the only hope for Zoe.
Zed ripped up the hill toward the emergency room. He noticed there were none of the usual cars on the road or pedestrians on the sidewalk. It was as if the whole town had gone missing.
Pulling his bike into the roundabout outside the emergency entrance, he let his idling bike fall to the ground behind him as he carried Zoe into the hospital. The doors zipped open automatically. There’s still electricity, he thought to himself as he approached the check in counter.There was a woman behind the glass.
“Lady! My girlfriend needs help!”
The woman- middle aged and wearing a set of scrubs with overly-cute teddy bears and balloons in a gaudy pattern- looked up at him with the same dead eyes that he’d seen on Zoe. She lunged at Zed, banging her face hard against the glass pane and breaking several teeth. Momentarily disoriented, she picked herself up off the counter and threw herself at him again, smashing her face even worse and screaming, “Braaainnns!” at the top of her lungs.
Zed threw Zoe over his shoulder, and drew the blaster from its holster. Ignoring the receptionist, he ran through the double doors into the emergency room, where he encountered a large group of men and women feeding on the corpses of the unfortunate patients and staff members that had succumbed to their violent attacks. Zed stopped, and heard the doors swing shut behind him. The men and women- no, the zombies he thought- looked up from their meals and hissed at him. Within moments, the entire hoard were running at him, bloody faces twisted into grimaces of hunger and rage.
Zed opened fire, sweeping the blaster back and forth across the zombies with a continual stream of energy. Despite zombies in front dropping to the floor, faces melted off from the heat of the blaster, the zombies in the back kept running toward him, at times tripping comically over the bodies of their counterparts.
Backing through the double doors, Zed spared a moment to weld them together with his blaster, as the crowd of zombies piled violently against the doors, sneering at him through the glass windows. Zed heard a hiss behind him, and spun just in time to shoot a zombie in the chest and face as it closed in.
That one was just a kid, he thought to himself, what the fuck happened here?
Zed’s bike was too damaged to ride, so he ran to the ambulance, opening the back doors, shooting the zombie EMT inside, and throwing Zoe in the back. She was dead. He knew that now. He’d come to his senses and made the decision to get the hell out of town. He’d give her a proper burial out in the country, and when he got some goddamned help, he’d do the same for Amber, laying them in the ground together like they were meant to be.
The engine in the ambulance roared to life, and Zed took off toward Main Street. It was the only real way out of town on the old highway, and he was curious about what was going on down there. He wondered if there was anyone normal left, perhaps fighting zombies the way he was now. He decided to flip the ambulance alarm on to try and draw their attention, if they were out there.
The ambulance tore down Medical Avenue, screeched around the corner to Main. What Zed saw their caused him to stop the van.
There before him, wandering aimlessly down the street in every direction, stood a crowd of thousands of zombies. The businesses along both sides of the street were smashed open, and merchandise was pulled out on the sidewalks, mingling with broken glass and pools of blood. The zombies, sensing that some form of intelligent life must be driving the ambulance, stopped in unison and turned to look in his direction.
Zed’s eyes narrowed, he grinned, and he revved the ambulance engine.
“I’m getting through town one way or another”, he said, “Might as well be through you”.
With that, he slammed the ambulance into first gear and rammed the accelerator to the floor. Zed had reached fourth gear by the time he hit the crowd, traveling at a healthy fifty-six miles per hour. The sound of the first couple zombies smashing against the grill made him laugh, but soon, the hoard became too much for the ambulance, and it lost speed. Zombies bounced up and over the van and piled up sickly against the grill. Every other second, the van lurched upward as a pile of zombies slipped beneath the wheels of the vehicle. To Zed’s surprise, the front of the ambulance was caving in from the constant barrage.
Mere seconds after he’d begun his campaign to plow through the zombies on Main Street, the van came to a stop in the middle of the crowd, front grill smashed in and hissing clouds of steam and the front wheels twisted in different directions.
“Fuck!”, Zed yelled.
The zombies crowded up against the sides of the ambulance. Zed locked the two front doors just as zombie fists began smashing against the windows. The back doors of the van swung open, and zombies poured into the ambulance from behind. Zed blasted them easily, flinging them backward into the crowd with the force of the blasts. More zombies climbed in to replace them, and Zed moved toward the doors, sweeping the blaster back and forth across the crowd to keep the ambush at bay.
Behind him, the driver and passenger side windows were broken inward, and zombies began to clamber into the vehicle through the broken shards of glass. Zed knew he couldn’t hold them off on both fronts, so he blasted the crowd outside the back door of the van until he had enough space to climb on top of the vehicle without being pulled down.
Once on top, he spun around, and saw that there were still thousands of zombies surrounding him in each direction. It was as if the entire town had wound up here. Zombies climbed up the vehicle, and he shot them one by one. He didn’t know of the blaster had much energy left, and he intended to stay alive, so he spared as little fire as it took to kill.
The vehicle began to rock back and forth as the zombies on either side pushed. I’m not gonna make it if this thing tips over, he thought, and he shot the zombies along the sides of the ambulance. More zombies raced up from behind them, and their momentum raised the ambulance to rock even more dramatically.
That’s not gonna work, he thought, I’m fucked.
More zombies clambered up the side of the ambulance. Zed spared more blaster fire. The van rocked back and forth, and he could barely keep his balance. In one sickening lurch, the vehicle tipped over. As if in slow-motion, the ambulance rolled onto the zombies below him, and he heard their bones breaking as he himself was thrust out over the hoard of zombies like a crowd-surfer at an ass-rock concert. He saw their blank eyes and their bloody mouths open wide as their next meal descended on them.
Only Zed wasn’t descending. He was being pulled upward by a green beam of light. One zombie in the crowd had been caught in the beam with Zed, and he spared one blast from his laser gun on it, sending it spiraling down into the crowd in his place.
The familiar cargo doors spun open above him, and he was back on Jim’s ship.
“That was too fucking close”, Jim said over the intercom, “Get your ass up here”.
Zed rode the lift up to the control room, and there sat the tentacle-laden protoplasmic green blob that Zed had begun to think of as a friend.
“Jim!”, Zed laughed, “Why the hell did you come back?”
Jim turned toward him as he came out of the lift. “Jim Croce appeared on the ship and told me I had to go back and get you.”
“What?”, Zed asked.
“Don’t make me explain bro, I don’t understand it myself.” Jim's tentacles whipped across the control panel, and the ship began to move down main street toward the town’s only grocery store.
“We’re not going up?”, Zed noticed, “Where are we going?”
Jim grew angry. “You were right about those goddamned heads”, he said, more angry than Zed had ever seen him, “Those little fucks got into my beer downstairs and exhausted the entire supply. I went down to grab another six-pack, and there they were all drunk and rolling around. It’s enough to make you sick.”
Zed laughed, but Jim remained serious.
“We’ve got to pick up some more beer and get the hell off this planet in a hurry”, he continued, “I just haven’t worked out how we’re gonna get that beer outta the store with all those zombies running around.”
“Leave that to me Jim”, Zed said, “I’ve got an idea".
The saucer hovered over the street outside the grocery store parking lot, and the cargo doors spun open. Zed, knelt down and peered at the parking lot. There was a group of zombies randomly criss-crossing the parking lot, peering in cars and hunting for human brain-flesh.
This should do the trick, Zed thought to himself, and pushed the bag full of live human heads out of the cargo door. They fell to the street below, and the net holding them together burst open, sending them rolling in every direction. One of them looked up at Zed, yelling, “We supported you!”
Zed shifted his attention to the zombies in the parking lot and yelled, “Here’s your brains assholes! Eat up!”
The zombies from the parking lot broke into a run toward the heads, and the heads flailed their necks in a vain attempt to get away. The pile of heads was a zombie smorgasbord, and Zed knew it would keep them busy long enough for him to get the beer they needed.
Jim flew over the entrance to the grocery store and Zed rode the green beam down to the ground... pulling his blaster out and running into the store. He knew the layout well, and ran straight into the back room to grab a large box cart, rolling it directly the the beer aisle. A stray zombie or two jumped out at Zed, but he made quick work of them with the blaster while loading the cart to the hilt with Bud Light, Miller High-Life and a variety of the fancy micro-brews he loved to blow his paycheck on. Running out of the store, Zed saw that the crowd of zombies out on the street had grown exponentially, but they weren’t in the least bit interested in him or the flying saucer. Not with the pile of easy brains right beneath them.
The green beam pulled Zed and the beer into the ship, and without a second to spare, it rose through the clouds and into space, picking up massive amounts of speed as it went.
Zed reached the control room, and sensed that Jim was frantic about something.
“What’s going on man? Why are you so freaked out?” Zed asked.
“When Croce told me the Earth was suffering a zombie apocalypse, I knew what we were up against. I’m hoping we can get the hell out of dodge before they show up.”
“Who? What are you talking about?”
“Just sit tight and let me fly us out of here”, Jim said, “I’ll explain later.”
Zed sat in one of the chairs and watched Jim work. It’s tentacles were crawling over the complex control console, performing the tasks of an entire crew of pilots.
“Is there anything I can do man?”, Zed asked.
“Yeah, you can shut the hell up”, Jim replied.
The saucer buzzed out of Earth’s atmosphere and continued to pick up speed. They were approaching the Earth’s moon, when it appeared suddenly, as if blinking into existence. It was a ship nearly a fourth the size of the moon. It looked like a flying city to Zed, and the intricacy of its sleek black towers and brilliant lights transfixed him.
“Shit!”, Jim yelled, “This is what I was afraid of!”
Jim elbowed Zed in the chest with a tentacle to get him out of the way, and Zed’s chair fell backward, spilling him across the smooth metallic floor. He was about to protest when he got a look at what Jim was doing. It’s body had spread horizontally, and it’s tentacles were a blur, working every machine in the room.
“Hold on Zed”, was all it spared.
The saucer took a sudden and sickening u-turn, pressing Zed into the floor despite the artificial gravity correction. He could hear the alloys of the saucer groaning beneath him.
In the view screen, Zed saw thousands of fighters pour out of the impossibly large ship and head in their direction.
"What the hell are those?" Zed yelled.
“Why so many!?!”, Zed exclaimed.
“I don't know!”, Jim answered, despite the blurred movements of its extremities as it controlled the ship. "They must know what I am!"
“What the hell are you?”
“At the moment”, Jim replied gravely, “I’m fucked.”
(to be continued...)