Thursday, 4 June 2009 - 7:36 pm

Glass walls

They found us just before the rain today. The supply-searchers were on their way back from their searching with a hefty haul when they stumbled across the shamblers – from the way they told it, almost literally.

They hurried back to the yard and shouted for everyone to get armed. I think it was Dale who pointed out the colour of the clouds, a thickening ochre with purple undertones that meant the rain wasn’t far away. We couldn’t risk getting caught outside in a fight.

We couldn’t run either, so that left barricading ourselves inside and hoping that we could hold out. It wasn’t a great option, because the showroom’s front wall is mostly glass, of course. Sturdy enough against the sorts of things that usually throw themselves at it, but what about the heedless hungry that’s stumbling around now? We had no idea, but there were no other options, so we had to give it a try.

While the clouds swirled together to let the acid fall on us, there was a storm inside as we tried to close up all the entrances. The hardest part was getting the garage doors to come down without power – a couple of the lads had to swing on the metal shutters to get them moving. On the plus side, they seem sturdy enough to stand up against a physical assault. Furniture went up against the front doors – I still had my keys and had locked them, but that’s not much protection against the weight of bodies.


I never thought I would pray for the rain to come. Not this rain with its deadly, disfiguring bite. But watching those shamblers stutter across the car yard, that’s what I did. They bumped into and over the cars, intent on their destination and the food that lay inside. The more I watched them, the more my stomach tightened into a small, roiling knot.

One of them was missing an arm. The torn sleeve dangled in a ruddy stain the extended down the shambler’s side. A part of me wondered if the dismembered arm was somewhere in the group too, fingers wearing down their bones in a jagged effort to keep up.

All of them looked scorched, their skin reddened as if they’ve been out in the desert too long. They’re dry and cracked, and some even blackened. The sun is so filtered by the low cloud-cover that we walked through the heat of summer without needing to worry about it, so I don’t know how they got that way. A man with a blowtorch or a flamethrower comes to mind, but their clothes are unaffected. Some of them even look clean, apart from the bloodstains.

I think it’s their faces that bother me most, even more than the inexorable way they just keep coming, despite logical and physical obstacles. Slack mouths and empty eyes, facial muscles that one held lively expressions now have listless hands. Gazes rove around but fix on nothing, as if looking is a habit they can’t make sense of any more. There used to be a person in there. There used to be a soul behind those eyes, but the window has misted over. I can’t tell if there’s anything left inside any of them, except for the hunger and the animal desire to survive.

That’s what they looked like when the rain neared: animals lifting their heads to scent a threat. Like rabbits or deer, but ugly and slow and with the intent to be predator, not prey. Then they moved faster – barely – and our building was the closest one.

We all flinched when the first ones met the glass wall. They thudded into it one at a time, out of rhythm, and fumbled at the glass for an opening. One pair of hands was scraped down to bones, and the sound of bone sliding over glass set my teeth on edge, like nails on a blackboard. Most of them gravitated towards a door, as if they could scent the opening as well as the meat behind it. Rusty streaks were left across the glass in their wake.


We had naturally put the most effort into barricading the main doors, assuming that they would go there first. It was the logical, most obvious entrance. But that’s not how the shamblers work; they go for the most direct route, the first one they come across. The main door is around the side of the showroom, while the smaller side door is down the other end of the front wall. It split the group outside into ragged halves and we were forced to mirror them.

The doors didn’t hold. They creaked and the hinges squealed before they gave way. We could hear the moans outside as the shamblers crushed up against the doors, trying to force their way in. We were putting our shoulders against the barricade, desperately trying to keep them back. An arm with flaking skin snaked in through the gap between the door and the frame, and waved around trying to grab onto something. Dillon tried to beat it back, but that was never going to work – pain wouldn’t deter it, so the best thing we could all do was push. Push, and hope we could hold them off for long enough.


We almost didn’t make it. We were slipping back, strength was failing and arms starting to shake. Pieces of the barricade were breaking under the strain and a shambler was determinedly hauling itself through a pried-open gap, hand over hand towards us across the braced furniture.

The rain took its legs off. It started so suddenly that we cried out in shock, flinching back from our posts. The shamblers outside had no chance at all and I almost felt sorry for them. Almost.

I was too busy being horrified as they were devoured in front of us. The downpour was so forceful that they splashed against the windows, reddish-yellow streaks peppered with bits of melting bone. I stared, wishing that I could look away but unable to help myself. It took less than thirty seconds for them to be gone completely and the windows to be washed clean of their remains.

I thought I’d be glad of the rain getting rid of the shamblers for us. There was a karmic rightness about it: our two biggest threats cancelling each other out. It just left me sickened and hollow.


The shambler that had pulled itself inside was dispatched by a couple of the boys. One of them had found a sledgehammer from somewhere and I don’t want to think too deeply about that or the mess it made.

Afterwards, we all gathered around and looked at it, while its fingertips twitched brokenly into stillness. No-one said anything. Matt had an arm around my shoulders – he’d strained his healing leg in the mad barricading effort – and I turned to wrap both arms around his middle. It’s strange how we crave contact at a time like that.

Then we had to sort the supplies out. Luckily, we had managed to get the haul indoors before the doors were closed, but it was still a headache to portion out.

Why does everything have to be a battle?