It was the young blonde girl that had bitten Patience, she growled fiercely at me, and her eyes were swollen and red. I could see traces of the familiar inky black discharge, caked around her mouth.
She wasn’t alone, six other children accompanied her, all of them chained to the wall by their ankles. The room was freezing, yet they were dressed down to their undergarments, revealing a diverse collection of complexions. They all looked to be in different stages of infection, yet none of them had any bites, save for the blond before me.
Her arms were littered with self inflicted mutilation, and even now, she gnawed at the flesh around her left hand. There was a caramel skinned boy that lay upon the floor, comatose, in a pool of his own vomit. While another small boy stared at me quietly, from a crouching position, his blue eyes filtered in red and hungry for flesh. A small Asian girl was sobbing in the corner, she was sitting on the floor hugging herself, she complained of a burning sensation inside her. I went to step toward her, thinking I could help her, but she started to vomit all over herself.
Buster scratched at the door, and whined, garnering my attention. So I peeked out to see the coast was clear, and we quickly made our exit, the dog quickly started walking to the opposite side of the hall. I wasn’t sure if he found a scent, or if he wanted to get as far away from that room of children as he could. I pondered how the General was administering the infection, as the process appeared to be gradual, that girl was showing symptoms for days.
I knew the man was intent on his cause, but who knew he’d go to lengths such as this? Innocent children? These people had gone absolutely mad. Buster came to stop in front of a door, it was different from the others, and not because it was locked. The door was rusted around the edges, and had dents like it was kicked repeatedly from the inside, I placed my ear against the door but heard nothing. There was a hook, with dog tags hanging from them, so I read the name.
“Lt J. Banks..” I read out loud to myself, and vaguely remembered the General mentioning him but from what I understood, the man was supposed to be dead.
That’s when something large, extremely large, crashed into the door from the other side. I nearly jumped out of my skin, when, whatever it was, roared and clawed at the door, leaving indents in the metal I could see from this side. Buster scurried down the to the end of the hallway, and I was barely a step behind him, clearly there was no helping the Lieutenant either. The rooms we passed on the way, appeared to be set up as a medical ward, but they all were empty.
I heard a scream come from one of the last rooms, so I picked up the pace. I got to the door, and could see a flesh eater attacking Serafi, she was barely holding him back. The door was locked, so I started to ram my shoulder into it, the first attempt was a failure and I only ended up hurting myself. I adjusted my form, and the door buckled, the second go round. I could see her fighting for her life, as I threw all my weight for the third time, and I went crashing through. I stumbled to the floor, unprepared for the momentum, and I heard her scream again.
I looked up to see Saint’s rabid eyes as his teeth sunk into her left wrist, the power of his jaws, strong enough to splinter the bone beneath. I whipped out Hunter’s gun, as I jumped to my feet, and the infected Merc lunged for me. I said a genuine sorry to the man as I pulled the trigger, the blast from the Desert Eagle taking his head clean from his shoulders, splattering blood and brain fragment upon the wall. Serafi sat on the floor clutching her wrist, she was in shock, looking from her wound to her lovers body on floor. I called her name trying to get her to stand, but it was like she couldn’t hear me. I knew time was of the essence, so I left her there, and searched around the room. It was another one of the medi-ward rooms, but they must have emptied it out when they stored their prisoners.
I ran into the hallway, quickly searching from room to room, grabbing supplies as I went. The first room I entered was full of surgical equipment, and I quickly grabbed a utensil that looked like a hatchet. In the room across from that one, I was able to find alcohol, peroxide, and bandages. The third room was pretty much empty, but there were several packages of syringes in the fourth. I sprinted back to Sera to find her crying on the floor, I tossed my supplies on a nearby table, and picked her up. She tried to fight me off, but she eventually just broke down into more tears.
I ripped her left sleeve off, and lay her arm down across the table, she was so out of it I don’t think she even realized what I was attempting. I opened the alcohol and poured it over my hands and the blade. I took my belt off and latched it tight to her arm causing her to look at me, and for the first time, her eyes registered the present situation. It was too late, as I had already swung down hard with the hatchet, severing the bone close to the elbow. I felt a familiar queasiness, but I swallowed the vomit that had reached my throat, gently moving her back from the table.
She screamed, as I quickly poured the peroxide over her stumped arm, the bubbles sizzled as the wound bleed and cleaned out. I inspected it for any of the black substance, and found none, hoping we were in the clear of infection. I ran over and grabbed a wooden chair, breaking off a leg, then took the ripped cloth from her shirt and wrapped it around one end. I poured alcohol onto the fabric, and lit it with my lighter, making a torch. I ran back to where she was bleeding out, and seared the wound with the flame, causing her to let out another painful wail.
“I’m sorry babe, I’m so so sorry, but we’re almost done..” I whispered, trying to sooth her, as I wrapped the wound tight with bandage.
She grit her teeth and let out a sharp groan of pain, her brow was wet with sweat, her cheeks wet with a constant flow of tears. Buster whined as he brushed up against her side, acutely aware of her pain, he didn’t stop till she stroked his ears. Her eyes were on the body of the Merc on the floor, what could I say about that? I didn’t know how I’d break the news to the others.
“What happened here Sera?” I asked her, but she didn’t answer, I looked to the fallen man. “What did they do to you guys?”
“He was eating..” She started, but trailed off into silence.
“Let not talk about that, remember, that wasn’t him.. but you have explain to me how Saint got infected? I need to know.” I grabbed her good arm, and gave her a soft squeeze and a gentle shake, to hopefully bring her back. “I don’t see a bite.. How is the infection spreading?”
I eyed her sympathetically, when I got no response, the girl clearly was still in shock. I could suddenly hear someone coming down the corridor, their clanging keys echoed as loud as their footsteps, and they were heading this way. Buster growled softly at the door, while I hid along the side of wall beside it, leaving Sera where she stood. The door opened and a soldier walked in, his foot hit Saints body, and he went to raise his gun. I pulled the trigger of the DE, catching him in the throat. He flew into the wall, and collapsed to the floor, as he gasp for breath.
I grabbed Sera’s good arm, and pulled her with me from the room, I draped it over my shoulders and carried the bulk of her weight. I whistled for Buster, and he came running along behind us, carrying something silver in his mouth. I bent down and took the metal from between his teeth, dog tags.. Mavis ‘Saint’ Bernard, I hooked it around Sera’s neck, and hurried along.
When we passed the rusted iron door, I was compelled to stop, it was as if I could FEEL the predator within, even though he sit in deadly silence. I tried to rationalize and talk myself down, but these people fucked with us, now it was time to fuck with them. I raised the pistol and let off two shots, aiming for the locks. There was a roar akin to something out of a Jurassic Park sequel, and I got the memo, sprinting as a fast as I could with Sera’s body hugged tight to me. I could hear the beast, breaking the rest of it’s way through the door behind me, as we struggled up the stairs.
Once we reached the top, I followed Buster, hoping he remembered the way back. Just as we passed the kitchen, someone was coming out, I quickly opened the freezer door and closed it behind us. We couldn’t see, because the light went out when the door closed, but I pushed our way past the meat towards the rear. Sera was out of it, but had sense enough to complain of the freezing temperature, I shh’d softly and warned her to keep quiet.
I could hear talking right outside the door, a man yelling questions to someone, it sounded like a list of items. I hugged Sera tight to me, trying not to let any if the meat touch me, the smell alone make me want to gag. I heard the man walk away for a moment, but I figured he probably went to the pantry, so I started to edge us forward through the crowded meat freezer. I heard the man come back, so I brought us low to floor, but something touched my face, so I fought the urge to squeal like a pansy.
That’s when the light came on, I found myself face to face with the dead eyes of a young man, he had Hershey brown skin like my own, on a good day he could have pass as my brother. It took me only seconds later to notice he was just an upside down torso, and unmistakably infected, at least before he had met the true death. So were the rest of the dismembered occupants of the freezer, mostly pieces of men and young children, judging by the condition of some of the bodies they were caught up in the initial wave of infection.
That’s when the man dressed in a greasy bloodstained tank top, pulled several pounds of meat into the cart he was pushing, the bodies hanging in the locker started to sway as he made his selections. I could taste the bile in my mouth, as my face became pressed between two torsos, it took everything not to scream. After a minute or two, the man left, closing the door behind him. The light went out, just as Sera started to regain consciousness, she moved around in a panic.
“Shh.. calm down, you’re safe. We’re in the freezer..” I whispered to her, just as we heard several footsteps running pass, no doubt heading for the basement.
“It’s the food..” She meekly said, wincing from her wound, as she relaxing into my embrace.
“I know, Saint must have had a reaction to the flesh..”
There was scratching at the door, and I let out a sigh of relief to find the dog hadn’t abandoned us, so I quickly picked the injured and fatigued brunette to her feet. We made it through the door, trying in vain not think about what touched us on the way out, Buster barked at us and ran off down the hall. We followed, picking up our step once we could the hear gun shots below us. After a few lefts, and one or two rights, the hound came to a stop, his nose high in the air like he’d caught another scent. He quickly took off, making what seemed like a total detour, I couldn’t find my way out without him, so I followed him with trust. Sera dipped in and out of it, but to her credit, she did her best to find the strength to pull her weight.
My brow was wet with sweat, and as it drained down my face, I could taste the salty secretion in my mouth. The adrenaline caused my heart to thump in my chest, my lungs burning through oxygen, with every intake. We came to the double doors and I could see the mess hall through the small windows, it was packed with people eating, so supper must have been called. I stood there a moment, trying to think of a way to inconspicuously carry Sera’s dismembered body though the room, on out the door. Buster whined and scratched against the door impatiently, and I searched for what he was carrying on about, my eyes scanning the room. That’s when I saw them, my eyes zoning in on two perfectly picked Afro puffs, it’s was our family.
Patience walked by Granny’s side, as they both followed Tzar and Bloodhound, to a table where Husk and Jerry were already sitting. Everyone had a plate, no doubt trying to pack in a good meal before we hit the road. I hadn’t noticed Sera wake from her latest haze, but her eyes zoned in right on our group. She was so fast, I doubt I could have stopped her with a warning, she let me go and burst through the doors, and I had no choice but to chase her and Buster into the room.
Serafi reached the table just as the young girl was about to bite into the meat, using her only hand left, she slapped infected flesh from her grip. Everyone stopped eating and looked as us in shock, then the attention immediately went to her missing limb. Husk was quick to notice what adorned her neck, he stood up and his hand reached out fast to grab the dog tags, where they still hung around her neck.
“Where the fuck is Mavis?!” The Merc screamed at us, as the people surrounding us were starting to take notice.
“Sera your arm.. oh my god.” Balthazar cried sympathetically, reaching out to her but scared to touch.
“Fuck my arm! Just don’t eat the food..” She yelled, getting faint from over exertion, I held her close to me for support.
“Loki, what’s going on?! What’s the meaning of this?” Bloodhound asked, standing to his feet as well, looking for his missing comrade.
Before I could answer, there was a scream across the room, a child jumped over the table and attacked another. A soldier seated nearby grab hold of an ebony skinned woman, taking a bite out her face, tearing flesh from bone. The screams were suddenly drowned out by a thunderous roar, I looked at Sera, she gave me a look that probably mirrored my own, because we both immediately recognized the frightening sound of Lt. Banks. Everyone at the table looked to us for answers, most of the group in shock, from so much happening so fast.
“That was our final call for checkout, we have to get the fuck outta here!”