Thu, 30 April 2009 - 7:30 pm

Banging on our door

I should know better than to mention how quiet it is – it just invites something to rise up and fill the gap. Last night, that’s exactly what happened.

 

I went to see what had the boys on their feet, over by the front window of the restaurant we had settled in. The rain had only just stopped; everything glistened darkly, and lights were dancing down the street. They were dancing in our direction, and the sound of feet slapping at the wet ground drifted to us.

The lights started wavering from one side of the road to the other accompanied by thumps on either side, like drunken pinballs. It took me a moment to realise that the people were trying to find a way inside the buildings.

I had time to say, “Guys, the door,” before they saw our light and beelined towards us at a flat-out sprint.

Thorpe and Matt were the quickest over to the door, while Ben and I scrabbled our weapons out. Sally had rabbit eyes, so I told her to watch the kids. I heard Dillon puffing up indignantly and when I turned he had his little knife ready. My stomach flopped over uncomfortably but, luckily, a request to protect the girls appeased him. Then the light-bearers were with us, banging on our door, shredded voices begging us to be let in.

Thorpe had to shout to be heard over their pleads while he put his whole body behind holding the door closed. Who were they and what the hell did they want?

“Help us, please!”

“They’re coming; they’re crazy!”

“They tore him to pieces. Oh god.”

“Jeez, don’t throw up now. We need to get inside!”

“Please, please.”

“Oh shit, I think I hear them.”

They talked all over each other and it was hard to tell how many voices were out there. I looked at my friends and we exchange glances but no answers. I sighed and nodded at Thorpe, and gestured to the others to be ready in case they were faking it. I couldn’t just leave them out there, but we weren’t letting them in without weapons at the ready. Sally had taken Nugget into the back room and Dillon was peeking around the doorframe. Masterson was the only one of us who looked excited and bright-eyed; I guess adrenaline is a good drug when it’s the highest one available.

 

Thorpe called for them to stop banging so he could open the door, and it went quiet for a heartbeat. The light-bearers all-but fell through the doorway in their haste, then caught themselves to stare at us with our clubs and blades. We demanded an explanation and they begged us to close the door. Close it and lock it and then barricade it with something heavy. We closed it and waited for them to start explaining.

There were four of them, three girls and a guy, breathless and huddling, each bearing a flashlight. They weren’t carrying anything else except clothing and spatters of still-wet blood. One of the girls was pale and shaking, and looked like she was about to pass out.

The steadiest and oldest-looking woman was the first to pull herself together enough to speak. “They – Jean and Scott – they’ve gone crazy. They attacked the rest of us.”

“Why?” Thorpe was unsympathetic.

“I don’t know! They were part of our group, our friends, and then they got sick.” She glanced at her companions, who looked scared and supportive as they nodded numbly. “They were so sick.”

I had to try not to look at my friends, not to think about Sax.

“We- we thought they had died. But they hadn’t. They got up and they grabbed Alex, and they just… shredded him. With their bare hands and, and their teeth. Like animals. Like they weren’t even in there any more.” Tears were starting to track down her cheeks as shock set in and it grew difficult for her to continue. “We couldn’t- there wasn’t anything we could do. So we ran, and I think they’re chasing us.”

“I heard them,” one of the other girls said.

“Please, you gotta believe us.”

All four of them were looking at us expectantly, waiting for our verdict. I took in the faces around me and then asked Ben and Thorpe to check outside. I pointed at a table and told our guests to sit down. They didn’t so much sit as collapse, still struggling too get their breath back, and there were tears all around. They were terrified of something, that much was clear enough.

Ben and Thorpe returned with shaking heads. Nothing out there. We put a couple of tables up against the door anyway, just in case.

Matt went to talk to the quartet while the rest of us tried to work out what we would do. We arranged to stay up in double watches, to keep an eye on our guests and to keep an ear out for this hungry, homicidal pair. It wasn’t going to be a comfortable night.

 

The first thumps came a few hours later, slapping messily against the front wall, loud in the sussurrus of sleeping. I think we all jerked awake at the first thud and were on our feet by the time the second one sounded.

Our guests panicked. Ben and I had to corral them against the back wall, telling them to stay out of the way. I didn’t like to have them there, but they were no use anywhere else. We found flashlights and Thorpe started shouting through the door at them. The only noise we got in return was a low groan, as if there was something hollow outside. Hollow and looking to fill the void.

A thud shuddered the glass of the main window and Dillon made a strange sound when he said my name. His flashlight beam had swept over to find what had hit the window and there was a face framed in it. Slack-lipped, pale and caked in dried blood, it was tipped up as if trying to catch a scent. Someone behind me screamed.

A hand with all of the fingernails torn off came down onto the pane again, leaving a sickly red smear. He didn’t seem to notice the light or try to look at us; his eyes were unfocussed as they roamed. He just lifted his hands ponderously and placed them against the glass, leaning in as if trying to push his way through.

I looked back just in time to see the last of the quartet stumbling out of the back door. They wouldn’t stop until they dropped, not with this at their backs.

They had the right idea. We weren’t eager for a fight and the sightless man with his broken fingers creeped us all out. I don’t remember which of us suggested getting out of there, but we all agreed quickly. We wheeled our scooters out the back door and down the street a little way before we dared to hop on and start the engines. The sun was coming up and we ran after our shadows as fast as those wheels would carry us.

 

Tonight, we’re avoiding talking about it. But we have to. I’m going to make the others do it now. We have to know what this means.

We have to know if Sax wasn’t really dead when we left him behind.

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