Wednesday, 20 May 2009 - 6:47 pm

That wet crunch

We were forced to move today. We could have done with another day or two at least; Ben is weak and Matt’s leg is still healing.

We heard them coming around noon: low moans and the denting of a car being clambered over. A quick check out of the windows reported four shamblers stumbling in our direction, swerving with frightening intent towards the house we had settled in. They could have gone around the car, but it was in their way so they went over it like blind dogs.

These days, we’re never anything but seconds away from being packed. Those of us without serious wounds grabbed the packs of those who couldn’t carry their own. The shamblers were slow, as if working out every motion that pushed them forward required an effort of sluggish genius. But even with Ben and Matt supported on helpful shoulders, we couldn’t move very fast; we were barely be able to keep ahead of them.

It never once occurred to us to leave them behind. Masterson looked like he might suggest something like that, but he kept his mouth shut. I think he knows his audience and it was focussed on finding a way to get out of this.

There weren’t enough of us to try fighting them. We all remembered how strong Sax was, and how hard he was to stop. How do you disable something that doesn’t respond to pain and keeps coming even with broken limbs? It was Thorpe who put it succinctly: “We need to know how to kill them.”

There wasn’t any time to experiment. Dillon said they’d found a big car out back when the boys had been scouting for supplies. I asked them to buy me time and went to see if I could get it started. They were barricading up the front door and windows when I ran out the back.

It seemed to take forever to get the vehicle sorted out. It was a big multi-seat thing, sitting hunched on what used to be someone’s lawn as if it had grown lonely over the past few months. I couldn’t push and start it on my own, so I called the others out once it was unlocked and ready. I could hear wood splintering under those familiar, ominous thumps when the ablebodied of the group ran out. I don’t think we’ve got a vehicle going in such a short time before.

The shamblers were climbing into the house when we went back to grab Ben and Matt. I felt like their shredded fingers were reaching for my back as I hurried out of the door again, half-carrying Ben to the vehicle. Once outside, he groaned and tried to curl up on himself, hiding his face as if the orange-tinted sunlight hurt his eyes. I shouted for help, struggling to carry him on my own.

Dirt spat up behind the people-mover when we were all in. For one terrified second, I wondered if it was stuck and we were sardines in a can for the oncoming shamblers. Then the tyres bit in and shoved us forward, bouncing over the rough ground towards the promise of smoother roads. Masterson was behind the wheel – I don’t know how that happened – and seemed hell-bent on gunning the machine right out of that place.

I looked back as we jigged off the dirt and onto concrete; the shamblers had made it out of the back of the house. They were stopping where the car had been, heads lifted as they searched the air for us. They looked aimless, lost. Then they turned as one and stumbled towards another house. I couldn’t help but wonder whose scent they had caught, my stomach turning over on itself; our escape was someone else’s misfortune.


When I turned around, I caught my breath in surprise: there was a shambler right in the middle of the street. The others started screaming, but Masterson leaned harder on the accelerator. He was grinning. The shambler didn’t even look up as we barrelled towards it.

The impact was less impressive than I was expecting: the shambler’s head cracked the windscreen and then it was right there, clinging onto the vehicle’s blunt nose. I heard it moan over the engine’s roar.

We all shouted at Masterson to get it off. He tried wiggling the car from side to side, whipping the shambler’s legs back and forth. I winced when a parked car took one of them off and felt sick right down to my toes. The shambler didn’t seem to notice. Then Masterson slammed on the brakes and catapulted it off the windscreen.

I think if I’d seen it in a movie, I would have laughed. There was nothing funny about it today, just smears of blood on the windscreen and bonnet.

It was starting to get up when we ran over it. I’ve never been near a car accident, never heard the wet crunch of a body being run over by tons of metal and people, of a skull giving way and spilling its softness. I never want to hear that sound again.

Dillon said that it didn’t try to get up again. He was staring out of the back window as we sped away, swerving around stopped vehicles. Once we were out of sight of it, he threw up. I almost joined him.

I was busy trying to make sure that Ben and Matt were okay. Matt had howled when Masterson hit the brakes; his injured leg had hit the seat in front of him. There wasn’t much comfort I could give him. Ben was pale and clammy, but still awake, at least. It was miles before my heart stopped racing, and I watched the scenery out of the windscreen with a horrible fascination, wondering what else it might throw at us.


We passed another clump of shamblers, more distantly this time. We didn’t pause; we kept going until the vehicle started limping badly. Masterson frowned and gunned the engine, pushing the people-mover on despite its protests. He didn’t stop until sparks were spitting up on one side, where he’d run the wheel rim right through the tyre. The poor vehicle was dented, bruised, smeared and snapped underneath in a couple of places. I don’t think it’ll go anywhere again.

We looked for a place to stay for the night and found a little motel nearby. It was creepy and deserted; all it needed was a house on a hill and some plastic shower curtains, and I’d be looking for a crazy-eyed man with a nice smile and a maternal corpse. There was no house, all the showers have doors, and there wasn’t anyone home. We helped ourselves to room keys after breaking into the office and carried the sick and injured inside. There are beds enough for everyone here.

That’s where we are now, huddling in our rooms and listening to the rain eating the world away. At least the roof isn’t leaking.