Wednesday, 27 May 2009 - 7:42 pm

Keep swinging

The group that had led the shamblers to us slipped away sometime over the past couple of days. We didn’t care; if anything, their absence was welcome, because we didn’t have to worry about what they’re up to and if anyone was breaking more windows.

This morning, the herd of shamblers they brought to us finally stumbled on the motel. Dillon had been sent to the roof to check on the best route out of here before we left; he was only gone a couple of minutes before Masterson called us over to the window. There were bodies scattered all over the courtyard, upright and stumbling, heads lifted like blind dogs. A heartbeat later, the first thump came from down the corridor as they found the wall and started to try to get in.

Things were frantic then. Our assembled packs were shoved somewhere out of the way and we all grabbed weapons. I asked what we knew about them, how we could fight them, and everyone came back with the same answer: the head. The only time we’ve seen them stop is when their heads have been mangled. Luckily, there wasn’t time to think about that too deeply.

It’s getting harder and harder not to use the z-word. It’s like they want it.

Thump, thump. Thump-thump. Thump-thump-thump. More of them were joining in, and we all knew that the combined pressure of their persistence would break a way in eventually. I wanted it to be sooner rather than later, because the waiting was shredding our nerves, one heedless thud at a time.

And there was something curled up in my chest that wanted the chance to have a go at these things, these monsters that have dogged our steps and haunted the dark hours. They stole our friend and keep trying to devour us. I wanted to hit them and to keep hitting until they stopped coming. A part of me knows that it wasn’t all to do with them, that they were convenient, but I didn’t care at that moment.

I needed to stand and fight. I wanted to tell the world that I had a right to live, no matter what it threw at us.

I was angry for a lot of reasons, some of them far from righteous.


Dillon came slip-sprinting back from the roof, breathless as he gave his news. There were more coming from the back of the motel – there was no way to escape that way. My stomach lurched, partly in horror because I hadn’t even considered it. Running should have been my first option, but I hadn’t even thought about it. I closed my eyes, disappointed with myself.

A door creaked down the hall and metal pinged in protest. They were almost inside. I told Dillon to get back up onto the roof and to take Nugget with him. I don’t know where the damn cat was, but he could look after himself. He always seemed to find us after the bad stuff was over.

Masterson snagged the boy by the arm before he could slip away again. “You could always make yourself useful and throw stuff at them, y’know,” the doctor said.

He was right. I wondered then if the roof wouldn’t be the best place for all of us, until I remembered about the rain. We’d go up there only to have to come down into a shambler-infested motel or be melted by the rain.

Then a window broke and there was no time for such considerations. Just calling to each other and trying to fend off the mindless hunger of yellow-toothed mouths.


It’s harder to break someone’s skull than you’d think. The movies always made it look so easy – one quick whap and down they go. It’s nothing like that. For starters, it’s not easy to hit someone in the head when their arms are outstretched towards you. Then it’s hit and hit and then hit again, until that fear starts to climb up into your throat, wondering if their skull will ever give way. It’s a sickening crunch of bone and the squish of something softer. Then they judder and crumple, their strings snapping.

We almost cheered when the first one went down, but three more had clambered inside in the time it took us to deal with that one. The narrow corridor made it difficult for all of us, but we all pressed on.

I’ve never been good at fighting. Until the bomb went off, I’d never had to before. I’m better with words when it comes to this kind of thing; in combat, I have a tendency to flail. Who knew that baseball would ever come in useful for something like this? But I had never been that good at sports.

One thing no-one ever tells you about fighting is how tiring it is. By the time the second one went down, my arms felt like lead. I kept going because I didn’t have any choice, and my world narrowed to gasps chilling my teeth, the coppery taste of blood, fending off hands and trying to get the bastards to stop the only way I knew how.

At one point, I heard Sally scream. I looked over to see Masterson with a frighteningly furious expression, whipping his metal pipe at the head latched onto her arm. It let go and crumpled. Motivation was a telling factor.

I thought about Sax, corrupted and broken. I thought about Ben, how he had almost joined these things, and how he left anyway. I thought about the others we’d lost, and the sleep that fear had stolen from us. I thought about the compromises we had to make to survive. It helped. It kept me swinging.


There were so many of them, and there were only five of us left. Even with Dillon and Nugget raining pieces of the roof down on them outside, they kept coming. It wasn’t until the other group returned that we managed to really put a dent in their onslaught. I’m not sure where they came from – flushed out of another building and driven back this way, I think – but they didn’t hesitate to join the battle when they reached us. I think they knew there wasn’t anywhere else to go.

Two groups together managed to make headway against the shamblers. There were too many of us for the corridor and so many of them clambering inside from different points that we took the fight outside. Space was our friend: we were able to get around behind them and avoid their reaching arms completely.

Finally, I couldn’t lift my bat any more. It was sticky and matted – which I didn’t want to think about – and felt like someone had filled it with molten metal while I wasn’t looking. We all looked the same: stoop-shouldered and panting. There was a hole in the onslaught and more bodies lying around us than I cared to count. It looked like a twisted version of a warfield.

“We need to go,” I said. There were more coming, moving up the street and lurching in our direction. They were a pressure on our senses, though they moved too slow to be a danger to us once we were in motion.

We dug our packs out from under the bodies and called the kids down from the roof. There was a bounce in Dillon’s step that ebbed away when he got a close-up look at the corpses lying around. The other group looked at us and we looked back, and we moved off in a single clump by mutual consent. We were safer together.

None of us were sorry to leave the motel behind.