“You make it fast,” Jenni said to Roger in a low voice.
The pounding on the door was increasing.
“Roger, some help,” Bill said from where he was still stacking things against the door. “Jenni, get us an escape route!”
Roger ran over to help barricade the door. More and more decayed hands were reaching into the room through the slowly opening door.
Jenni looked out the window and saw a fifteen foot drop onto the roof of the first floor wing. The red truck sat silent on the grass just within view.
Sliding the window open, she punched out the screen.
Pulling the mattress off the nearest cot, Jenni pushed it out the window and watched it fall. Satisfied, she grabbed another one off another cot, and also pushed it out.
Bill and Roger turned and ran as the door gave way. The first of the zombies shoved itself into the room.
Jenni pulled herself up onto the window sill, her trembling hands gripping the frame tightly. With a deep breath, she lowered herself as far as she could, then let go. She dropped hard onto the mattresses and felt the wind get knocked out of her. Rolling onto her side, she managed to get to her feet and struggled for her next breath.
Seconds later, Bill fell beside her. Despite his beer belly, he managed a better landing. Climbing to his feet, he scanned the top of the roof they were on, then looked up at the window.
Roger appeared above them, looking terrified. Wordlessly, he began to climb out of the window. The howling of the zombies seemed quite near now. Jenni saw a gray chewed hand reach out from behind Roger and make a grab for him.
“Jump!” Bill and Jenni shouted at the same time.
Roger screamed when he saw the hand about to close on his neck and jerked to one side. He fell wildly. Instead of striking the mattresses, he hit the hard gravel surface of the roof feet first. Jenni not only saw, but heard his legs break as the angry, white splinters of bone erupted from his shins.
“No!” She rushed to his side as he screamed in pain and collapsed.
“Fuck, shit! I shouldn’t have worn the red shirt,” he cried out. Tears streaked his face and she saw his red turtleneck peeking out from his leather jacket.
“I wore red, too. But we’re not going to die!” Jenni turned to Bill, her expression desperate. “Bill, help me!”
Bill was looking up toward the window. “We need to go,” he said in a desolate tone.
“Now, Jenni,” Bill ordered. “We need to go now.”
She looked up in time to see the first zombie plunge out of the window.
Luckily, it landed head first, splitting its skull open. But the second landed on the first zombie and immediately crawled toward them.
Roger looked at her, terror in his eyes. “Make it fast,” he said, his voice cracking. “I can’t jump down to the ground. It’s over, Jenni. Make it fast.”
“No, no!” She tried to drag him, but he kept screaming in pain.
Another zombie landed on the mattresses. Then another. They were tumbling out of the window faster now. Some were crawling across the roof, others struggling to their feet.
“Jenni, do as he says!” Bill’s voice was urgent and stricken all at the same time.
“Make it fast!” Roger screamed at her, his eyes fastened on the zombies crawling toward him. “I don’t want to be eaten alive! Do it!”
Jenni rose to her feet, her gaze sliding to the zombies. Their teeth were snapping together in anticipation of their feast.
She felt her finger pull the trigger and saw him fall back just as one of the zombies grabbed the bone sticking out of his leg.
Bill grabbed her, yanked her around, and they ran together to the edge of the roof. Looking back, she saw that Roger’s dead body was giving them time to escape. The undead were swarming him, tearing him apart.
With a nod, she sat down on the edge of the roof, her legs dangling.
Taking a breath, she pushed off. She landed hard again, but managed to roll. Sharp swift pain hit her side. When she rose, she felt blood on her hands, warm and sticky. Looking down, she saw she had landed on the makeshift bag and something inside had sliced through the fabric and cut a two inch gash in her side.
Bill landed with a thud next to her and managed to get to his feet. “Just run,” he said.
There were zombies all over the front lawn and climbing out of a lower window. The shambling figures were already moving toward them. Bill and Jenni ran, weaving through the dead, avoiding their grasping hands, all the way to the red truck. Leaping inside, they slammed the doors shut.
Bill had barely locked the doors when the banging on the sides began.
Turning on the engine, he floored it before the wave of zombies pouring out of the hospital could block off their exit.
Pulling off her jacket, Jenni tried to staunch the flow of blood from her wounded side.
“Cut myself on something in the bag,” she answered. She lifted her t-shirt to show him the even slash in her side.
Looking into the rear view mirror she could see the throng of zombies crowding the front lawn of the hospital. There had been far more than they realized. They had been incredibly lucky to escape.
They fell into silence as the truck roared down the road. The sun was setting and the sky was ablaze in pinks and purples.
“We had to leave him,” Bill finally said. “His legs were broken. We couldn’t have carried him.”
“I know.” Jenni was crying and her side was killing her, but she had the tools needed to save Juan. At least she hoped what she had salvaged was enough.
An hour back to the fort then Juan would have his operation.
“Did you see the moving van?”
“They must be ahead of us then,” Bill decided. Reaching out, he snagged the CB mouthpiece. Turning it on, a screech filled the cab.
Bill tried to change the channel, but the electronic screech continued.
Finally, he turned it off.
“Must be something interfering. A storm or something,” he said in confusion.
Jenni nodded and checked her wound. It was not bleeding as badly.
The darkness of the night washed all around them, chasing away the brilliance of the sunset and soon they were submerged in inky blackness.
Abruptly, the cab was filled with a bright, white light and they were both instantly blinded. The red truck veered off the road, through the brush, and impacted hard against a fence post.
Chapter 10 1. Full Circle Jenni swam up from the depths of unconsciousness, her mind spinning and her body spasming. She fought to wakefulness, pushing her eyes open, straining to see.
There was a loud ringing in her ears that made her feel sick to her stomach.
Something bad had happened, but fragments of memory eluded her as she grasped for them.
Where was she? Was she in a truck? The truck had crashed! But she wasn’t in a truck; she was on a bed or cot. She had been in a hospital, but they had escaped. Hadn’t they? Suddenly, she wasn’t too sure.
And were there zombies around?
She forced herself to sit up completely, her eyes fighting to close.
Everything was white and bright around her, blurring her vision, making her feel even more woozy. A dark figure lurched toward her and she could barely discern the mottled green that covered it.
With a short scream, she kicked out, striking the shape firmly in the chest with the heel of her boot. She heard it moan and fall back.
Dimly aware of her surroundings, she staggered to her feet and saw another figure moving toward her.
“Fuck off,” she growled, and backed away from it.
It continued toward her and her swimming vision made it hard to see. It grabbed her wrist firmly and it made a noise, but she could not hear it through the ringing in her ears. Her elbow came up sharply into the thing’s face.
With a startled cry, it let go of her, dropping back.
Spinning away from it, she stood on unsteady legs trying to figure out where the hell she was.
Finally, her vision slightly cleared and she made out the red of an exit sign over the door.
Then the door opened and another mottled creature entered. Her hand hit something hard as she scrambled to get out of its way. She grabbed it, with the dull realization that it was the back of a chair. She swung it hard, but the creature was ready and deflected it. Then she saw the dark shape raise something.
Seconds before she lost consciousness, she realized the shape was wearing army fatigues.